The Crankee Yankee’s Guardian Angel Has Gone Home

If you keep up with this blog, you will remember our rescue cat, Pepper (see posts “The Christmas Cat,” and “Love in the Shape of a 12-lb. Cat”). He literally attached himself to the Crankee Yankee (my husband) last December when he was in Pepperell, MA attending a model train meeting. He came running up to Doug, climbed up his pants and sat right on his shoulders. The Crankee Yankee called to tell me he was on the way home with a stray cat, so I called our vet and we took him up. It turned out that “Pepper” (as we began to call him) had hereditary restrictive cardiomyopathy, which could not be cured and would certainly kill him sooner or later. We decided to adopt and care for him anyway. At that point he had already won the Crankee Yankee’s heart, and mine, too.

We got him on the right meds and proper food right away, and aside from one trip to the ER, he was doing well. Not only was he responding beautifully to the meds, but he was eating well and obviously feeling well. He often commandeered the toy box and had a great time tossing catnip mice around and chasing them noisily around the house (usually in the early morning hours). He was feeling good enough to actually be naughty sometimes, chasing the other two cats, Nala and Pookie. His favorite place to be was sitting on the Crankee Yankee’s shoulders, purring loudly in his ear. At night he usually slept with us, often wrapped around the Crankee Yankee’s head and rubbing his nose in his ears.

Last Saturday he stopped eating, and nothing we tried tempted him. Another trip to the vet later, his bloodwork showed no problems, but Pepper just wouldn’t eat. We began giving him small doses of Nutri-Cal (a nutritional supplement for animals) three times a day, but he just wasn’t interested in food, although he continued to drink water. He became more and more weak, and we had to hold a cup of water for him to drink. As he had loved sleeping with us at night, we would place him carefully down on one of the pillows. This way he could be with us and look out the back window of our bedroom, which he always loved to do.

We realized that he was telling us in every way he knew that he was ready to go, to move on to where all of our good animals friends go when their bodies stop working. The Crankee Yankee and I chose 9/26 to bring him to our wonderful and compassionate vet to help our Pepper to leave this life in peace with loving arms around him and words of love in his ears.

Anyone who has lost and loved a pet feels the same way, especially when their care has become a daily routine. And we had so many routines that revolved around Pepper! We put a litterbox in our tiny bathroom because sometimes Pepper couldn’t make it down the stairs to do his business. We kept the bathroom sink filled with water because Pepper liked to drink out of it. When it was time to give him his meds (transdermal, and administered to the insides of his ears), I would gently clean his ears and the Crankee Yankee would rub in the meds. When we were giving him the Nutri-Cal, I would clean his chin and neck afterwards as he was too weak to wash himself. And we would check on him every half hour or so to see if he was comfortable or needed water.

We now feel a strange mixture of grief and relief; sad that our boy is gone but relief that he has  no more pain or discomfort. We find ourselves laughing and crying together, remembering Pepper and all he brought to our lives. The Crankee Yankee feels that Pepper came to him to help him while he was recovering from his radiation therapy for prostate cancer, and I believe it. Pepper was always his cat; Pepper just lit up around him. He sat with the Crankee Yankee for hours on end; a genuine therapy cat who comforted him greatly. When he felt well enough to work around the house again, Pepper kept a close eye on him. We called him the “Safety Officer,” and Pepper seemed to take it in stride.

In fact, a few weeks before Pepper went downhill, we adopted a stray cat who kept showing up in our backyard. We asked around the neighborhood, and no one seemed to know if he belonged to anyone. We took him to the vet, found he had no microchip and wasn’t neutered. So we decided we would make him part of the family. He got his shots and a microchip, plus a a nifty collar with his tags on it. He’s a nice little guy, black and white like Pepper, only fluffier, with huge feet and a curiously S-shaped tail. As he is a roundish, pudgy boy, we named him Plumpy-Nut. As soon as he is neutered, he will be introduced to the two indoor cats, and will be able to go in and out as he pleases. We feel that Pepper chose this cat as his Safety Officer replacement. In fact, Plumpy-Nut follows the Crankee Yankee all over the yard when he is working, so he is already on the job.

Pepper’s favorite place to be was sitting on the Crankee Yankee’s shoulders; a perfect place for a guardian angel to be. Although we only enjoyed nine months of his company and unique personality, we have treasured that time dearly. It is never the length of life that matters as much as the quality of that life, and our Pepper’s life, short as it was, was quality all the way. We will miss him every day, but know that he is nearby, checking in on us as a good safety officer does.

 

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My Dad is 90 Today

My amazing and incredible dad is 90 years old today. Now what do you think of when you think of age 90? A dried-up husk of a person who only goes out of the house to see the doctor? A doddering old guy with his pants hitched up to the middle of his chest? A tremor-y, frail and forgetful old man in a wheelchair? Dad is none of the above. He is one of the greatest men I know; someone with a rich past, a full and diverse present, and a gleaming future.

Last year when I wrote a post about him on his 89th birthday, I detailed many things I love about him and the many things he has taught me. This year I extoll the strength and character he has shown over the years; of being willing to change, to study, to grow, to learn, and from that learning; teach. From the time he married my mom when I was four, I’ve always felt that we were a single, solid and unshakeable unit of three. We three (and for years, his license plate read “WEE 3”) worked together to become a family that liked and loved each other. In fact, when I was in grade school and listened to tales of other kids’ parents fighting or shouting at each other, I didn’t know what to make of it. There was no fighting in our house, no threatening, no open warfare. In fact, I used to complain to my friends that my parents kissed too much!

My dad has worked hard not just in his work life but in his complete life. He tried hard to understand the parts of his life that had given him problems in the past, and made positive steps to fix them. When he found out that he had hereditary high cholesterol, he began to seek out and study ways to improve his lifestyle. His doctors felt he should go on medication; Dad started his own research on the subject. He sought out information not promoted by modern medicine, and began studying and practicing yoga and meditation. He searched out viable naturopathic remedies for high cholesterol as well as developing a health-promoting and anti-aging lifestyle. He changed his thinking about what makes us sick and what keeps us healthy. He discovered ways to change his negatives to positives by doing all these things, plus he keeps on studying to this day.

Over the years he has become a student of alternative medicine and has sought out life-changing information such as that found in the ground-breaking book, “The China Study,” by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell II. I highly recommend it myself as it reveals solid information about nutrition, diet, weight loss and long-term health. (Read it–it will literally change your life.) He also began reading Eckhard Tolle, who wrote “A New Earth – Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose,” and he also reads the great books of Deepak Chopra.

Dad espouses and lives by the Whole Food Plant-Based (WFPB) diet, and he and Mom enjoy a mostly vegetarian diet. They have seen their health increase in many ways, and find that on the whole they both feel great every day. Even the inevitable aches and pains we all have when we get older are much more manageable for them, thanks to their lifestyle. (Anther terrific book my dad gave me is  “Whole” by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Howard Jacobson, Phd. It shows clearly and plainly how a WFPB diet can literally change your health from so-so to alive and vibrant. In fact, many so-called chronic conditions can be completely reversed by this method of healthy eating.)

To this day, Dad is always studying. My mom and I adore reading books by Robert Goolrich, Mary Kay Andrews, Elizabeth Berg, and so on; we read for entertainment. Dad reads to learn. His love of learning is neck-and-neck with his love of life. He is a person who lives and breathes fully each day. His studies, his daily walks, his bike-riding and skiing keep him mentally and physically fit, and he is both interesting and interested. Dad loves unconditionally, is a big hugger and is joyfully and enthusiastically alive every moment of every day.

As my own life changes to include and embrace my interests in Reiki, healing, metaphysical work and more focused writing, I begin to understand what really fuels and enriches a human being. Dad is one of the most fully alive and engaged people I know. He is not only a 90-year old man, but a 90-year old man who lives richly each day.

May all our lives, long or short, be as full and rich and glorious as my Dad’s. I love you, Dad, for who you are and how far you’ve come.

 

 

How Things Have Changed

I’ll admit it; I am a Baby Boomer. My parents are of the Greatest Generation, and I was raised with their values, which I accepted not just as my own, but those of all others I knew.

Things change all the time, of course, and many changes are for the better. But there are some things I’m sad to see go by the wayside, with apparently no one to keep them going. These are things I took for granted growing up:

  • No one would ever think to drive down the street after dark, blaring their music out the open windows. People living on those streets demanded to know who you thought you were to bother others. No one put up with that kind of selfishness.
  • You didn’t see children being openly insolent to adults or teachers; they were taught to respect anyone older than themselves simply by virtue of the fact that those folks had lived much longer and knew more.
  • You never had to tell people to sit down in their seats during a ball game; everyone did it so that everyone could see.
  • You never heard of people removing their shirts or socks and shoes traveling on an airplane or train; it was just plain rude.
  • You never saw people yawning widely, displaying all their unlovely dental work to the world at large because no one ever told them to cover their mouth with their hand. This comes under the title of Basic Manners (and by the way, what has happened to them?).
  • No one who was “raised right” chewed their food with their mouths open.
  • Everyone knew the magic words, “Please” and “Thank you.”
  • If you received a gift and did not send a hand-written and appreciative thank you note, you didn’t deserve another gift from that person–ever again.
  • Everyone knew  the Pledge of Allegiance by heart, and everyone stood, removed their hats and placed right hands over hearts for the National Anthem. This was (and still is) a mark of respect.
  • The Golden Rule (basically, ‘do to others what you want done to you.’)
  • As a child, you did as you were told. Period. If you asked why politely, you might get the answer. Ask rudely, your answer was “Because I’m the parent, that’s why.”
  • Time-out meant sitting in the corner for an appropriate amount of time to think about whatever crime you committed.
  • You ate what was put in front of you, and everyone ate the same thing. (As my mom used to say, “This ain’t no bar and grill!”)
  • No reading at the table allowed. Taking your plate into the living room to watch TV was not allowed. Mealtime was family time when everyone caught up on each others’ day.
  • You were not allowed to help yourself to food in the refrigerator or pantry without first asking permission. And “no” meant no.
  • Parents did not try to be their children’s best friends. Parents did the hard work and raised adults, not babies. In my house, there were strictly-kept consequences for stepping out of line. If you did thus-and-so, the consequence was that-and-so; period, the end. The rule never changed.
  • Kids had chores. As part of the family, you were expected to pull your own weight. If you didn’t do your chores as well as expected, you did them again (and again) until you did it right.
  • No talking back, sassing your parents, slamming doors or whining when you didn’t get your own way.
  • Swearing was not allowed. If you did and your parents heard you, your mouth was washed out with soap or there was another appropriate punishment.
  • If you got in trouble at school, you also got in trouble at home. You were expected to behave the same way, no matter where you were.
  • You were expected to take care of your things. In fact, if you wanted something above and beyond what your parents gave you, you found ways to earn the money to get it. Once you put in your own sweat into obtaining it, you took good care of it.
  • It was your parents who taught you life skills such as correct manners, how to treat other people and how to work. It was unheard of for the school or any organization to attempt this instead of the parents. Likewise with sex education.

I’m not saying that all the above was always right, but it sure gave everyone the same playing field. There are some great improvements in child-rearing and development today, which I thoroughly support. However, being raised the “Boomer” way did have its good points, one of which was that everyone was on the same page. We knew what to expect, we understood the consequences of our actions, and for the most part, we toed the line. It may have been harsh, but it was effective.

When we were ready to leave our parents’ house for good, we had the basic skills we needed to live on our own. When I had my first little apartment, I knew how to handle my checkbook, how to clean, cook, sew and wash my own clothes. I knew how to interview for a job, and work on a job. I didn’t expect my parents to come argue with my boss over not giving me a raise; I either pushed for one myself, or I left for another job. Since I had learned at home that life wasn’t fair, I didn’t expect it to be out in the world.

Don’t get me wrong; I made plenty of costly mistakes on my own. I had the basic tools and skills I needed; heck, my dad taught me in one week when I was nine years old how to change a tire, start an effective campfire and put it out, and use a knife without cutting myself.  I was raised at a time when everyone seemed to understand the basics of life; we didn’t have all the political correctness and big-brother-ishness we have now.

My, my, how things have changed.

 

Whatever Works for You – Do It!

I don’t know about you, but there are times I feel like my skin is too tight, my mind is too full and all I can think of is how much I’d like to be at the ocean. You know how there’s a special place or restaurant or town or mountain or lake or <fill in the blank here> that just soothes you and makes you feel as if you really can go on when you think you can’t? The ocean is what does it for me.

Here in the Northeast, we don’t have those long, lovely white sand beaches with heartbreakingly turquoise waters you find on the west coast or tropical isles. Our ocean up here is rough and angry, steely blue-gray with flecks of yellowish foam. The waves are short and choppy, the water is eyeball-freezing cold, and the beaches are filled with shards of shells, gray-green seaweed, and pointy little pebbles that love to dig into your feet. Even the seagulls have bad attitudes; they are as aggressive as bullies in a schoolyard. It’s never a good idea to have a picnic on the beach, either–Heaven help you if you dare to eat a sandwich in front of them (go head, try it–I dare you). That said, the pound and roar of the waves are hypnotic, and the smell of the salt sea is what loosens the knot in my stomach–every time.

I have walked the beautiful beaches of Florida and California and have admired their singular beauty. Compared to our roughshod oceans here, they are peaceful and placid. They politely offer up pretty treasures like a duchess presenting a teacake on a bone china saucer; a whole unbroken sand dollar, an orange-bellied whelk, a pristine white angel wing or a barnacle-encrusted fragment of startlingly cobalt blue glass. The very pebbles are smoothed and shiny, and never so much as dent the bottoms of your feet. Long translucent blue waves roll lazily in, giving you plenty of time to move if you don’t want your feet wet. The sun is always perfect, and the waves lull you along with their quiet and steady susurrous.

No question, these beaches have it all over the Atlantic ocean for beauty and grace. But, having been born in ME and raised in NH, my heart belongs to the rough and tumble chant of my ocean. The salty sting of its harsh breath on my face is astringent and vitalizing. It’s the slap I need to make me remember who I am and why I’m here. It scrubs away the cobwebs and refreshes my spirit in a way that nothing else can; reminding me to take a deep breath and go on.

If you don’t already have a “go-to” place to rest and rejuvenate, find one. This may be one of the most important things you do for yourself and your peace of mind. Your go-to place can also be in your head if you like; it’s up to you. You will know you have come to the right place when that knot loosens. And when it does, just enjoy it and let it do its own brand of magic on you. You are worth it.

 

Yes, It’s Your Right to Wear What You Want; Just Understand the Consequences

Years ago when I and two other women ran a Tae Kwon Do school, I also did self-defense seminars. I held them for young children, for teens, for adults and seniors. For each seminar, I handed out my “*Everyday Weapons” cards for reminders (see this at the end of this post). Without question, the most difficult group was the teens, especially the girls.

The girls greatly objected to the idea that how they dressed had any relevance to how they were treated. They hotly argued that it was their right to dress as they pleased; they had good bodies; why not show them off? I listened to all their complaints, then told them that all actions, no matter how insignificant, have consequences. Example: dress like a slut, you will be viewed as such. “But that’s not fair!” they cried out. I told them that I couldn’t agree more, but we have no control over what other people think.

I also told them that preparation is everything. Here are some of the tips I gave them:

“Prior to going on a date, you need to understand that the way you dress and act sends clear messages about you. If you wear tight, revealing clothes on a date, you are sending a clear message that sexual advances are probably welcome. Perception is everything. You may be a nice and decent person who simply is looking forward to going out for dinner and a movie, but dressing provocatively gives the clear impression that you are looking for more than that. It isn’t fair, but that’s reality.

Here are some tips that may help (this covers women of all ages):

  • Decide before going on the date what you will and will not do. Don’t let circumstances or your date decide for you.
  • Do not arrange to meet someone you don’t know well at night. Have a lunch date instead, preferably at a popular, well-attended restaurant.
  • Stay sober. You don’t need alcohol or drugs to have a good time.
  • Always carry a credit card or enough money to get yourself home if your date drinks too much or uses drugs.
  • Know who you are with. Double-date with someone you know if you don’t feel comfortable.
  • Even someone you know well and feel you can trust can be tempted by the right circumstances to do something wrong. Avoid going to remote areas where there are no people, stores, or houses.
  • Make sure that your date understands that “No” means NO.
  • Keep something with you that you could use as a weapon if you have to.
  • Never go by appearances. Ted Bundy, the infamous serial killer of many women looked like a nice all-American boy.

I don’t know to this day if any of the girls learned anything from their seminar; I hope that they did. I still believe that everyone can benefit from a good self-defense course. With the advent of all the amazing technology we now take for granted, it’s more important than ever to be alert when we are outside in the world. I stand by my dad’s constant refrain to me when I was growing up: “Be aware!”

*Everyday Weapons

Believe it or not, you carry potential weapons around with you every day. Here are some of the most common ones, and how they can be used:

WEAPON USE
Keys Jab into attacker’s eye, or in the hollow at the base of the throat.
Comb Scrape hard under attacker’s nose.
Pen/Pencil Jab into attacker’s eye, or in the hollow at the base of the throat.
Fingernails Make your first two fingers rigid, and jab into attacker’s eye.
Heels of shoes Stamp down hard on attacker’s instep (if they are wearing light footwear, such as sneakers). If grabbed from behind, scrape the heel down inside of attacker’s leg, then stamp down on attacker’s instep.
Rolled-up magazine or umbrella Poke hard into attacker’s throat (in the hollow at the base of the throat), gut, or *groin.
**Fists Punch hard into attacker’s throat.
Feet Kick attacker’s shins and knees hard.
Elbows If grabbed from behind, drive elbow as hard as you can into attacker’s midsection.
Yell Yell “FIRE!” This will get attention where yelling “Help” or “Rape” probably will not.

There are at least two good reasons to attack the attacker and leave a mark–it can slow or even stop the attack, giving you time to run. It also makes identifying the attacker much easier for the police.

Consider carrying any of the pepper spray canisters available today. Be aware of your state’s laws regarding carrying Mace or teargas.

** Fists: when you make a fist, always keep your thumb on the outside of your fist; don’t tuck it in your fist. If you don’t, you’ll probably break your thumb.

NOTE: Regarding kicking a male in the groin: if you’re going to do it, you’re going to have to do it hard enough so that he can’t get up. You can’t afford to go halfway here; you will only infuriate him if you don’t follow through.

 

Bless Their Hearts — They Just Don’t Know Any Better!

Have you ever driven behind someone who swerves erratically, changes lanes willy-nilly and appears to be constantly leaning over to the passenger side groping for something? You’re thinking, “Sheesh, what an idiot! Does he/she realize how dangerously he/she is driving? And why the heck don’t they pull over to find whatever it is they’re looking for?!” And you get even more irritated because they are in front of you.

It’s easy to take it personally, as if they have been set right down in front of you just to ruin your day. Chances are, they don’t realize what they’re doing, much less if what they are doing endangers others. They are probably juggling stuff in their minds as we all do, but doing it on the road (where you really want to keep your mind as uncluttered as possible).

How about the kid on a skateboard with his hat on backwards wearing gigantic headphones, perfectly oblivious that he is causing a major backup on a side road? What about the exhausted-looking parents who bring all four screeching kids into the restaurant you came to for a quiet dinner? Or my favorite; the older lady in front of you at the salad bar at Sapphire Sundays, shuffling along and s-l-o-w-l-y picking out each and every lettuce leaf, green pea, carrot shred, sliced black olive, chopped mushroom and so on–carefully and artistically placing every single item on her plate while your stomach snarls audibly.

Well, here’s the deal: the poor things really do not realize what they’re doing is annoying or inconveniencing anyone. They are in their own little world and not thinking of you or me–just themselves  and their immediate thoughts and needs. They, like us, may be worried about a sick child, or are dealing with aging parents, their job, too many bills and not enough cash, and who knows what-all else. We really can’t know what’s going on in someone’s head or what their story is; all we see is what they are doing and how it affects us.

I’m not saying this to excuse bad or dangerous behavior. Also I’m not perfect and I’m pretty sure I’ve ticked off plenty of drivers behind me who have wished that I was ANYWHERE but in front of them. I laugh my head off when the Crankee Yankee (my husband) is driving: when someone creeps up too close behind him, he/she is a jerk. When someone is too slow in front of him, he/she is an idiot. I’ve tried pointing out that other drivers may feel that same way about him, but it doesn’t seem to register…..

The bottom line is, those who make us angry on the road, in line at the grocery store, in a restaurant or wherever are really not out to give us a bad day. They are in their own world, doing what makes sense to them. We may not agree, but understanding that what they do is truly not personal may take the sting out of our knee-jerk reactions. I learned to look at people in a whole new way when I left New England for the first time in my life. At the time, I was married to my first husband, and he got a job in North Carolina and we found a house just over the line to South Carolina.

Living in the Carolinas for a few years changed my views on people, and I discovered a whole new lifestyle that changed my attitude forever. I was born in Maine, and grew up in New Hampshire, and the pace for us Easterners is usually pretty fast. We don’t waste a lot of time with idle pleasantries or chit-chat–basically we want to get out, do our stuff and get back home STAT. So moving down South was an eye-opener to me. These folks just love to talk and talk, and nothing goes fast down there. If you bought a carton of eggs, a head of lettuce and a jug of water it could take up to 20 minutes to ring up and get out.  I’ll admit it took some time, but gradually I stopped being angry that these genial folks were not responding to my Northern impatience. Nothing I said or did made them move any faster. I finally accepted the pace and then grew to enjoy it. They have a saying down there that I love which applies to the people who aggravate us in so many ways: “Bless their hearts; they just don’t know any better.” And then they would laugh. Amazing how that cleared the air!

So, that’s my response these days. Just saying that simple and funny phrase out loud does wonders for my mood. I even have my own voice for that phrase and I use it each time I say it. I conjure up dear old Minnie Pearl (from the Grand Ole Opry–remember? She always had on a hat with the price tag flapping off it, and would look straight at the camera and yell “HOW-DEEE!”) and say in her Southern-fried accent, “bless their hearts, they just don’t know any better!”

Try it out. You’re alone in your car and no one’s listening. Go ahead–you’ll feel better!

A New Way to Remember 9/11

After reading Phyllis Ring’s wonderful post today on BoomerCafe.com, “Remembering 9/11, and the importance of family,” I remember my own experiences on that day 13 years ago. I didn’t lose anyone I knew, I wasn’t in New York City, and I, like the rest of the world, was shocked and horrified at the day’s events. Later on came anger, fear and sadness, but the overriding emotion was the knowledge that hundreds of thousands of us were feeling the same things at the same time.

It has been 13 years today that my generation’s version of Pearl Harbor happened. When we meet with friends, we recall where we were the same way we recollect the day that President Kennedy was assassinated. I have never been able to visit the memorial in New York, and I don’t know any of the family members who faithfully appear each year on this day to remember the lost. This event changed our country absolutely; not only have many security measures been instituted that hadn’t been before, but we all came together from that day on as a more united country. To this day, 13 years later, flags are flown en masse; not just today or the July 4th or Memorial Day, but every day. It’s a reminder of who we are, where we came from, how hard we fought for our freedoms, and the hard fact that freedom is never free.

Today I offer my own way to remember 9/11; me, who lost no one and who wasn’t in the middle of New York City or anywhere near the Pentagon. I started today as I do each day now since I became a Reiki II practitioner; with the Gassho meditation (the heart of the Reiki Ideals):

“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.”

These humble words clear my mind, open my heart and awareness, but most of all, it reminds me of what’s important. I think of all the positive things that have happened on any year’s September 11 since 2001: babies born, marriages, animals adopted out of shelters, new businesses begun, children adopted, birthdays, new cures for diseases found, and the list goes on and on.

As with any life-changing event, the date of September 11 will always be important. After 13 years, I hope with all my heart that many, many wonderful things have happened on all the following September 11 dates. Today is a day to remember, and also to hope.