Happy Halloween!

I just heard on the morning news that the term “Halloween” may be offensive to some people. What people? I thought to myself. Well, evidently (and to no one’s surprise), there are many people who don’t care for Halloween (well, fine–no one likes everything), who think that Halloween is evil (that’s still up for debate), or who are just generally offended by the term itself (again–ok, fine).

Well, here’s the thing–how exactly do we know which people are offended by Halloween? Or Christmas? Or birthdays? Or the state bird? Or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?? Hey, it’s not like people are wearing badges that read “I am offended by (check all that apply).” How the heck are we supposed to know?

So, that said, let’s go back to today, which is HALLOWEEN. There–I said it, and I don’t feel one bit guilty about it.

Last night the Crankee Yankee (my husband) and I put out candy for the trick-or-treaters for the first time since we’ve lived here. In our town, the kids go from door to door on October 30 between 4:00pm and 7:00pm. While our much more creative neighbors decorated their homes in fantastic and fabulous fashion, from inflatable Frankensteins and witches to ghosts hanging spookily from every tree, monstrous spider webs on the eaves and carved pumpkins flickering the dark–we just filled a wagon with leaves, a pumpkin and an orange bowl of candy.

But we had fun and got to know more of our neighbors, especially the kids. We were visited by Iron Man, Spiderman, princesses, witches, ghouls, zombies, Freddy Kruger, butterflies, aliens, and one walking toilet. (Yes, really. The kid made it himself, and, since both arms were contained in the costume, his partner (a slice of pizza) obligingly tossed the candy into his bowl after he lifted his lid. He gets my award of best costume this year.)

While our usually quiet neighborhood was overrun with candy-seeking scary folk, the Crankee Yankee and I talked about our Halloweens of long ago. Back then, you could go out in the actual spooky dark with your friends, going door to door (only neighbors you knew, of course) hollering “Trick or treat!” Just being out there in the dark was so much fun, made more so by the fact that you had on a costume and you got candy. Also during those more innocent times, people often made homemade treats like candy apples, popcorn balls, cookies, brownies, fudge and taffy. No one ever thought of anything sinister about this; it’s just what people did back then.

As for tricks, the worst thing we ever did was soap an occasional window, or toss an egg on the sidewalk. Our parents made sure that we understood that egging peoples’ houses or vehicles were strictly off the table. The punishment for doing so was just not worth it; we would have to show up the next day to clean up, and face the neighbor in question to apologize. Even so, you’d hear about your crime well into adulthood. Years later, you’d be back in your home town with your own children, and go visit your old neighbor who was by that time in a nursing home. As you made your hellos and introduced your children, the old man or woman would glare up at you from their wheelchair, pointing a bony finger at you, croaking, “It’s YOU! You’re the little brat who egged my door on Halloween!”

Most of our costumes were homemade back then. I remember only a tiny percentage of kids who had “store-bought” costumes. We went out as ghosts (old white sheet with eyeholes), hobos (old clothes and shoe polish beards), fortune tellers (one of Mom’s old dresses and lots of clinking costume jewelry and makeup), and so on. If Halloween fell on a school day, we got to change into our costumes after lunch and be part of a big parade downtown. It must have been a massive operation for the teachers, but for us kids, it was Halloween heaven.

So, that was then, and this is now. To all those out there who are offended by Halloween–I’m sorry I mentioned “Halloween” so many times in this post. To those of us who still love Halloween, both for what it was and what it is; a happy Halloween to you all!

(….are there anymore KitKats left?)


Let’s Stop the Self-Hatred

I have an idea. Just for today, let’s all stop hating on ourselves. C’mon, join me–it’ll be fun! Here’s what I’m going to do; you can do the same if you like (or make up your own self-talk):

  • Look in the mirror and smile at yourself. No judgement, no tsk-tsking over any flaws or droops or wrinkles or extra pounds or stray hairs–just smile at YOURSELF. Add a compliment if you like (my personal favorite is ‘Hiya, gorgeous!’).
  • Talk out loud to yourself as if you were comforting a dear friend who is sad or upset. You can say something like, ‘it’ll be all right,’ ‘this, too, will pass,’ ‘I love you just as you are,’ and so on.
  • Forgive yourself (again, out loud) for anything you still feel bad about. If you can make it right, do so. If that isn’t possible, forgive yourself–OUT LOUD.
  • If you did something as a child about which you still feel bad, let it go by saying to yourself (again, please–out loud) “I was a CHILD. I didn’t know then what I do now. It’s all over and I am letting this go for good.”
  • Go buy yourself something that’s just for you. I don’t care what it is; a new lipstick, a pair of snuggly socks, a new coat, those sparkly earrings you’ve been craving but keep telling yourself you have no place to wear them; a strawberry milkshake, a bouquet of flowers you love, some perfume; you pick. But be sure you LOVE it. As you pay for it, say to yourself “I deserve this!” (And don’t weenie out later on and take it back.)
  • Put on your favorite outfit and go somewhere. Even if it’s just to the library or grocery store, go with your head up, shoulders back and a smile on your face. Don’t scuttle, don’t hang your head, don’t avoid making eye contact, don’t act as though you want to hide yourself–walk right in there as if you’re the Queen of England…or Beyonce.
  • Be as kind to yourself as you would to a friend or loved one.
  • Understand that others around you may feel insecure, scared, worried, unsure of themselves; in short, anything you’re feeling, you can bet others feel it, too. Give yourself the break you’d give others.
  • Do your best to kick judgement to the curb. Please try not to judge others by how they look, what they are wearing, how they carry themselves, how they speak; if someone judged you by those things you would feel hurt and offended. You would think, ‘they don’t know me! They have no idea what I’ve suffered, what I’ve lived through and how I feel.’ Try your best to put yourself in their place.

BIG SERIOUS NOTE: Please know that everything I’ve outlined here–each and every thing–are all things I personally am working on each day. Sadly, I have not become as loving, wise and kind as the Dali Lama, as peaceful and serene as Gandhi, nor as elevated as the angels. But I am trying.

Just for today, let’s give ourselves the kind of break we would gladly give others. We are WORTH IT.

Paper Towel Noses and Other Annoyances

There are some things in life that bug me for no other reason than that they just DO. Here are some of the heavy hitters for our household annoyances:

  • Paper Towel Noses: these happen when you buy those rolls of paper towels with perforations in them so that you can simply tear off a half sheet. Great idea–unless someone is careless and leaves one of those long triangular “paper towel noses.” Personally, I can’t rest until I’ve destroyed it.
  • Toothpaste Goobers: these are the globs of toothpaste left in the sink by a careless person. If left long enough, they turn to cement and you have to chisel them off.
  • Soap Curlies: these happen when someone washes their lower forty last and leaves the evidence embedded in the soap.
  • Tine Stickies: these happen when whoever feeds the cats leaves bits of meaty goo on the fork tines. They, like toothpaste goobers, turn to cement. And they stink.
  • Food Boogers: this happens when someone forgets that we have no garbage disposal. The stray onion strings, potato peelings and chunks of tomato stuff up the drain, and then someone has to fish them out (usually ME). Urgh.
  • Splatter Cement: this happens when someone making spaghetti sauce, soup, etc., leaves blots and splashes of it to harden on the stove.
  • Coffee Wee-Wee: this usually happens early in the morning when we are too tired or distracted by cats hollering for their breakfast to pour a cup of coffee straight. This leaves rings and splashes that look like the aftermath of a paint ball session.
  • TPLs (Toilet Paper Lice): I hate to get too graphic in my posts, but this must be brought to light. Long and disgusting story short, when one cleans one’s hindquarters too assiduously after “the event,” the toilet paper wads up into little balls and spliffs. These often fall where they may. Ewwww.
  • Mud Clots: These happen when people wearing work boots with lots of ‘waffling’ on the soles (think of actual waffle-holes) track in mud and dirt. The mud and dirt pack handily into the waffling in the soles and just as handily drop out once the wearer walks indoors. 
  • Rubber Cement Boogers: You how you get your new debit card or AARP card or whatever-card in the mail? It comes attached to the paper with rubber cement. The Crankee Yankee (my husband) loves to pull these off the paper, roll them up into roundish ‘boogers’ and place them in hilarious places such as my keyboard or the phone receiver.
  • Shower Curtain Liner Mold Blossoms: This occurs when a wet shower curtain liner gets stuck to the shower curtain for too long. Prolonged contact gives birth to ugly blackish mold ‘blossoms.’ Time to get the bleach out!
  • Computer Screen Snow: This happens over time–the computer screen is victim to sneezes, coughs, bug splats, etc., and pretty soon you’re looking at images of Hawaiian beaches that somehow are covered in snow.
  • Paper Towel Wads: The Crankee Yankee is famous for this one. He carefully folds up a sheet of paper towel and puts it in his pocket (note: this is repeated for each and every pocket in each and every pair of pants). These wads can be used to pick up a sudden spill, catch a sneeze, sop up coffee spray, etc. Unfortunately, I seldom think to look for them when doing the laundry. The result is that the former paper towel wads morph into white shreds that cling to EVERY piece of clothing in the dryer.
  • Cat Foofies: These are the constant fluffs of fur that end up everywhere in our house. Our one long-haired cat, Plumpy-Nut, is the main perpetrator. His attitude about it is this: “Hey, I could have swallowed these, but I didn’t, therefore saving you hundreds of dollars in vet bills.” Sigh–he does have a point.

And so it goes….


The Zen of Cats

The Crankee Yankee (my husband) and I have three cats. After our dear Pepper passed on last month (see “The Crankee Yankee’s Guardian Angel Has Gone Home”), we adopted Plumpy-Nut (see picture below), a stray we had been feeding for months. (Personally, we feel that Pepper picked him out just for us.) He is now a happy (and neutered!) and healthy member of the family, and comes in and out as he pleases.

Cats are generally a calming influence on people, and mostly, ours are. However, ours are also pretty darn sure that everything in the house belongs to them. They feel that our bed is theirs and become hugely offended if we want to stretch out in it. They understand that breakfast and dinner are served around the same times each day, and yet they constantly bug us for treats in between meals.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you go off schedule even once, they will hound you forever because you did it ONCE. END NOTE: The same goes for kids.

They are very interested in whatever we are eating; Nala, our one female, especially. Whatever is on our plates, they want to check it out and sometimes eat it (or at least lick it). They seem to feel that part of their jobs is Food Inspector.

Our living room is filled with cat toys, perches, comfy kitty beds, scratching posts and pads. Oh sure, they enjoy them, but they also feel that every thing else in the house is for them exclusively. They aren’t shy about rearranging things, too. Last night Pookie (one of the boys) jumped on the kitchen table where the Crankee Yankee had sorted out coupons and bills and scattered everything to the four winds. He looked pretty pleased with himself, and if he could talk, he would have said, “You’re welcome!”

Cats make napping an art form. Any surface is is fair game; I’ve found cats snoozing in the sink, on window sills, on our pillows, in boxes, on a metal rack in the closet, on top of a new leather purse, under the bed in the middle of several dust bunnies, in the middle of a pile of clean laundry I haven’t sorted and put away yet, and sometimes in their own carriers. One cat I had a long time ago was found sound asleep on the kitchen counter in the fruit bowl (on top of three bananas and an orange).

Grooming is an important pastime for cats. Ours get pretty offended when we attempt to brush them (except for Plumpy-Nut, who is so round that he needs help cleaning his under carriage); they glare at us as if to say, “Do you think you can do a better job cleaning us? You don’t even use your tongue when you wash!” Once every bit of fur is in its proper place, they can settle into a day-long nap. They would prefer it if we refrain from patting them post-bath, however.

Surprisingly, cats seem to enjoy technology. I call Pookie my I.T. Guy,  because each time I sit down to my computer, he stretches himself out between the screen and my keyboard. Which is fine as long as he lays low…I guess. My best friend and I have text terms for this, too:

  • KOC = Kitty on (or near) Computer
  • KOL = Kitty on Lap

That way we know to excuse any weird spelling in our emails. Sometimes Nala like to send her own emails. She once wrote one to my best friend which read: “HI &annk i99999999999999999df  dnbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb 3489388888888888888888 sdsssssaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.” [punctuation supplied by me].

So, there you have it–in our house, anyway–the zen of cats. Which essentially means: “We do what we like when we like, and if you don’t like it, TOO BAD.”





Getting Over the “Get Over It, Already!” People

If you have ever suffered the loss of a beloved person or pet, lost a job you depended on, or lived through a life-changing incident, you know how hurtful it is to hear someone say dismissively, “oh, get over it, already!” Many may also be haunted by trauma experienced years ago, and still may be having trouble dealing with it. There is no time limit on grief or pain; it is very personal to each of us.

I once read about a tribe of people who grieve in this way: when they have lost a loved one, they garland themselves in the large and fragrant leaves of a tree that only grows in their land. As long as the leaves are worn, it is understood that those wearing them are mourning. When the leaves began to wither and fall away, it means that the time for grief has passed. Simple, right? However, we have no such device in this country, and we all have our own ways to cope–or not.

I won’t waste time here talking about *therapy or meditation; obviously we have to do what we can to help ourselves. My point is that no one but us can decide time limits on our feelings. I try hard to live by this rule: if no one asks me directly for my opinion, I don’t give it. I might think that this, that or the other thing may be perfect to help the other person–but that’s an assumption on my part. I’m not in that person’s skin, nor can I see inside their heart. I might think that what is bothering another person is silly or trivial; but to that person, it’s dead serious. I don’t have the right or authority to judge anyone’s feelings but my own.

It wasn’t until my own heart was laid wide open and I was utterly helpless in grief so deep and dark that I really got it. It was an ‘aha’ moment that changed me forever. I was forced to take the time necessary to heal. Since that time, my outlook has changed completely, and I know that you can’t always just ‘get over it.’

The “get over it, already!” folks may mean well, but it is a slap in the face to someone who is suffering. Their attitude and words assume that there is something deeply wrong with you, and that you are both weak and stupid if you can’t handle it. It also assumes they are somehow better than you because such things don’t bother them. However, it is far more likely that those people either haven’t suffered or have not delved into the depths of their own pain. I also believe that these folks may be so uncomfortable around grief or pain that they really don’t know what else to do; they keep on believing that you can move on.  This alone keeps me from getting too upset with them–they don’t get it and they are doing the only thing that they know how to do. Best to forgive them and go forward.

Trust me on this: you can bury your hurts and fears for a long, long time, but sooner or later they will emerge and won’t go away until you deal with them directly. I covered up my pain for decades; when I finally faced it, it was far easier than I thought to work through it.

Look, I come from generations of strong and determined people, and they believed in hard work, helping themselves and not relying on others.  Most would rather have died than ask for help. My genealogy includes hard-headed and tough women who took their destiny in hand and scraped out their lives as best they knew how, mostly on their own. So naturally I felt terrible when something came up in my life I couldn’t seem to handle. But comparing ourselves to others is a slippery slope, and will only make you feel worse. Just concentrate on you and give yourself credit for taking baby steps.

We  can’t blame ourselves for our pain; that’s really pouring salt in the wound. From my experience, it’s better to turn away from the people who assume that they can live your life better than you can. Let that ignorance roll off your back, and please don’t let it add to the pain you already feel. Let the “get over it, already” folks go on their way, and try your best not to let them get under your skin. They really don’t know any better way to bridge the gap between their ignorance and/or fear and your suffering. Let them go, and go do what you need to do for you.

*Do get the help you need when you need it, whether it’s therapy or medication. There are some things you need help with to get over, and there is wisdom in knowing who to ask for help and when.

Erroneous Assumptions

The Crankee Yankee (my husband) actually coined this phrase. It was after dinner, and I asked him if he had locked up the downstairs (which goes out to the backyard) for the night. He said that he wasn’t sure if he did, but thought so. As I’ve heard this before, I went downstairs to check and also to see if the washer had stopped.

Well, the door was still unlocked (and the washer was still washing), so I locked up, then came upstairs and told him the door had not been locked after all. He peered at me over the top of his glasses, and said, “It appears that my assumption was *erroneous.”

For some reason, that cracked me up. So that lead into a discussion of what constitutes a real erroneous assumption. Here’s our short list (so far):

  • That common sense still exists
  • That kids understand cause and effect and get it the first time
  • That we really do learn from history and do not make the same mistakes again
  • That cats don’t mean to barf on rugs rather than floors
  • That all the abuse we subjected our bodies to won’t come back to haunt us later on; i.e., torn rotator cuffs, bad knees, worn-out ligaments, etc.
  • That our ex-husbands/wives/partners will finally see the error of their ways and apologize for what they did to us
  • That texting and/or drinking while driving are ok
  • That we will never need glasses
  • That good intentions mean good actions
  • That politicians tell the truth
  • That unasked-for advice is always welcome
  • That you will never fart in public
  • That the “25 MPH” sign at both ends of our street actually mean “52 MPH”
  • That those of us who never raised children know everything about raising them
  • That our prom dress will always fit
  • That we will always remember all the words to “The Times They Are A’Changing”
  • That others really want to hear our opinions
  • That we make a mistake and never do it again
  • That cats love the water and being bathed
  • That the same telemarketer/survey person/scam artist will never call again
  • That our toddler will never have a meltdown in a public place
  • That we can still drink the way we did in college and not be out of commission for days afterward
  • That words speak louder than actions

…and of course there will be more erroneous assumptions made all over the place…just wait and see.

*According to Websters Dictionary; “wrong or mistaken.”

“Can’t You Just Do It MY Way?”

I just spilled a torrent of tiny little pills on the kitchen floor. They are just Arnica, a common homeopathic for general pain. But it’s nothing I want my cats getting into, so I immediately (after swearing) went to where our handy-dandy brush and dustpan hangs on the wall in our stairwell going down to the cellar. My hand grasped NOTHING because the Crankee Yankee (my husband) had used it and put it somewhere in the sixth dimension. I sure as heck couldn’t find it.

My constant rant is that if you pick something up and use it, don’t just put it down somewhere thinking you’ll get to it later on; YOU WON’T–SO PUT IT BACK WHERE YOU FOUND IT. I love the Crankee Yankee more than jewelry and the cats, but I swear I will jerk a knot in his tail when he gets home. This happens ALL. THE. TIME. If I had a dollar for each time I found one measly sheet of toilet paper on the roll (with a brand new 4-pack of toilet paper sitting right on the shelf above the toilet), I wouldn’t have to work again–ever. Same with paper towels. And hand soap. And ketchup. And peanut butter. The Crankee Yankee feels that, as long as there is the merest scrape of peanut butter still in the jar, he doesn’t have to put a new jar out.

My modus operandi has always been to replace stuff before I run out of it. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t just want to stay one 4-pack of toilet paper away from running out; I want at least four 4-packs stashed away. If we are low on something, I stock up. If a storm is coming our way, I stock up. If I come into an unexpected windfall, I buy more stuff to stash away; my favorite soap, facial moisturizer, night cream, etc. I suppose if we had more room, I’d get into extreme couponing as well.

I always keep my favorite pen (black Sharpie fine point–always) on the left side of the computer. When the Crankee Yankee strolls in to the office, takes my pen out to the porch to write something down, he will just stroll off on his merry way, leaving the pen–somewhere. It drives me nuts–I want it back where it belongs, pronto. Yes, I am anal about such things. Yes, I feel that my way is the most efficient way to do things.

Then there is the shopping list. When I can’t do the shopping myself, the Crankee Yankee kindly does it, and I appreciate it. However, it is as inevitable as day follows night that he will always come home without at least three items on the list. This absolutely floors me. Hey, I get it if the store doesn’t have it; it happens. But it appears that he will just capriciously not pick up these things for some reason known only to himself. Again, here is my anal outlook again–IF IT’S ON THE LIST, GET IT. Seriously, why would you not?? And sometimes, if I make a new list the include the missing items, he may or may not get them, or he may forget some of the new items.

Then there are the “table issues.” Our kitchen table has become a holding area for coupons, mail, the camera, cards, and stuff to go downstairs. I put something out there, say, a bag of potatoes, and ask the Crankee Yankee if he would be kind enough to please take them downstairs. He replies that yes, he would be glad to. Two hours and three trips down the stairs and the bag of potatoes is still sitting there on the table like a wallflower at a prom.

I believe that not long ago I published on post extolling the people who do not stubbornly become ‘right-fighters’ (or in the words of good old Dr. Phil, ‘Do you want to be right or happy?’), and here I am, being the right-fighter I despise.

Sigh. It would be so much easier if everyone just did it my way. <queue up “My Way” by Frank Sinatra here>