Senior Discount? Heck, Yes!

Yesterday the Crankee Yankee (my husband) took me out to lunch at a local seafood place. We looked the menu over, and noticed that the prices for seniors were about .70 less than the regular prices. We grinned at each other, and said, “woo-hoo–senior discount!” Hey, .70 is .70 cents.

I’m not one bit ashamed of declaring my seniority publicly; I think it’s great. It’s like a special present only for those of us over 60. I spent most of my life paying full price; now I feel like I’m getting payback. Laugh all you want to; I think that senior discounts are the BEST.

After we enjoyed our clam chowder, I leaned over to the Crankee Yankee and said, “do you think that everyone under the age of 60 thinks that this place is just for old folks?” He thought about it and said, “Yup–probably. Do you care?” I assured him that no, I certainly did not.

That’s a double gift–senior discounts and not having to  eat near younger, louder, more-devices-per-person tables busily tweety-tweeting or facedy-facing or playing loud music on their smarty-pants phones and bellowing with laughter over this or that trending YouTube video. Call me old-fashioned, but if I’m going out to lunch or dinner, I prefer an atmosphere where people don’t act as if they are on Spring Break.

Now, there is a side effect to the senior discount. Once the waitstaff hear you ask for the senior deal, right away they start calling you “sweetie” or “honey” or “sweetheart.” Sigh. It isn’t that it’s so terrible being called an affectionate name by a total stranger, it’s just that we need time to get used to losing our former identities. (However, the Crankee Yankee plays right into it, replying with “hiya, love/darling/toots,” which temporarily disorients them. Heh, heh, heh.)

But–a small price to pay for saving .70!

 

What Love Is

When I was young, I made all the usual mistakes young people make, especially about love. It’s taken me years to understand and appreciate what love truly is; it’s no fairy tale, it isn’t Romeo and Juliet, and it isn’t a made-for-TV romance. It’s far from glamorous, it isn’t perfect and it isn’t clear-cut all the time. In fact, I’m still figuring it out.

What I do know about love is this: love is both wonderful and messy, it’s unexpected, it’s less or more than what you think it may be or should be. It can have you soaring above the earth, and yet have your feet planted firmly on the ground. It is agreements and disagreements, promises that don’t all make it to reality. It’s worry and fear and concern and care along side dizzying joy and and blinding happiness.

It’s sitting with a parent in a hospital, waiting for them to wake up after surgery. It’s gripping your partner’s hand and feeling all that strength pour into you when you have no strength of your own. It’s holding your grandchild in your arms for the first time and seeing all eternity in those brand-new eyes. It is rescuing an animal and giving it a home where it is loved, safe, cared for, well fed and healthy.

Love steals away your very breath; love gives you life and purpose. Love is fragile as a spider web, yet strong as steel cables. Love can make you soar like an eagle, or drop you face-down in the dirt.

When I was young, I couldn’t wait to be in love! I imagined all these romantic scenarios, and dreamt of the time I would meet the love of my life. But it turns out that love is often unscripted and capricious, and it isn’t always plain to see. I met the Crankee Yankee (my husband) when we were both in our mid-20s. He was getting ready to marry his first wife, and I was still dating guys to whom I attributed all those things I wanted but actually weren’t there.

Years later, when both of us had been divorced a good long while, we resumed the friendship we had always had over the years. It seems to me now that I had loved the Crankee Yankee for a long time and didn’t realize it. When we finally started dating, it didn’t take us long to fall in love. Neither of us had wanted to marry again; we both had said emphatically “Never again!” But you know how that goes; never say never.

What I know about love right now is that the best and loveliest sounds I ever hear is my loved ones laughing; the Crankee Yankee, my parents, my granddaughter, my dearest friends. The loves of my life are my safe harbor. Love makes me vulnerable; I know I can lose them at any time. But while we are all here together, I am grateful to the heart and soul for all that love in my life. Do I deserve it? I don’t know. But I do know that I am breathless with appreciation, giddy with all this magic in my life, and amazed and humbled all at once.

Love is a risk, a challenge, and often a plain old pain in the hinder. But living without it would be like being without air. Even now I am breathless with gratitude.

 

Shoveling–the Ultimate Full Body Workout

As you know by now, we in the Northeast have just survived a HUGE blizzard with, as an added gift, very strong winds (which are responsible for some pretty epic snow drifting). The Crankee Yankee (my husband) and I, along with three horrified cats, watched as both our vehicles disappeared in snow. Both front and back outside doors could not be opened completely as so much snow had drifted against them. The thermometer read a warm and toasty ZERO degrees. So we sighed, made a big breakfast and ate it while figuring out our strategies for snow removal, and then bundled up to go out and face the music.

By our reckoning, we got about 30″ of snow. Light and fluffy snow, to be sure–but still, 30″ of it is a lot of snow to move. The Crankee Yankee couldn’t even get to the snowblower, so first we had to shovel; he took the front of the house and I took the back.

A note on snow shoveling: I think that, like a runner’s high, you get a little cranked up while shoveling. I had it in my head that I was going to shovel out until I reached the driveway–no matter what. I have two torn rotator cuffs, but I’ve learned to manage pretty well despite that. I’ve worked out a good snow shoveling technique: start at the top of the snow and scoop light amounts of it until you reach ground zero. It takes longer, but it works.

So about 45 minutes later, the Crankee Yankee and I met shovel to shovel and he was able to get to the snowblower to finish everything off. By this time, my feet, fingers and face were numb, so I stumbled back inside and took a long hot shower. After that, I bundled up in warm clothes, and spent most of the day wrapped in blankets.

Now, here’s the thing about the full-body workout that is snow shoveling in New England: it takes your entire body to do it, especially when your exercise equipment is 30″ of snow. This means that your ‘recovery’ from shoveling a whole blizzard’s worth of snow will take a while, but trust me–you’ll have worked every single shred of muscle you own by the time you’re done.

In fact, I’m taking the rest of the week off from my usual exercise routine. Considering what I put my body through yesterday, I think I’ll even take myself out to lunch. This is really the only thing I mind about getting older–it just takes longer to recover. But that said, I’m glad that the Crankee Yankee and I can still keep up with the snow and the shovels. It’s one of those little victories that make you feel you are still in the game.

As we sat on the couch together last night, all three cats sacked out around us, we congratulated ourselves for surviving both the shoveling and the cold. ‘We still got it!’ we crowed. And then we saw the weather forecast for the end of the week: we are getting MORE snow.

By April, we ought to be able to play our six-pack abs like dueling xylophones…

 

Cats and Snow

Our cats, they do not like the snow–

You put them out, and they say “NO!”

You bring them back–

They give you flack,

They grump and sulk–

And at bedtime, hoist their bulk

Upon our feet, our ankles and our legs–

Until at last one of us begs:

“Oh, kitties, please! It’s not our fault that we have snow,

Or that the wind around the trees does blow!”

But, being cats, they don’t believe us,

And then they fussily up and leave us.

We try and sleep the night away

And wonder why we had all these cats anyway.

The answer? It comes to us fast and faster–

We’re the slaves, and they’re the masters!

 

 

 

 

“Snowmageddon” is Here!

What all the news and weather folk have been yammering about; “Snowmageddon,” is here. Call it a blizzard or just another nor’easter, it’s here, complete with all the *sturm and drang you could possibly wish for. But it’s January, and that’s pretty much what happens in January, or February, or even sometimes in March or April. The media always hypes it up; so don’t panic. It’s winter, so it’s gonna snow. A lot. And be very cold. That’s pretty much what happens in this neck of the woods–Old Man Winter knows that his time is limited, so he throws a few of these New England blizzards at us now and then to keep us on our toes.

We who live here understand that these storms can and do happen. Sometimes we lose power, sometimes we can’t get out, sometimes we have to do without some of our comforts; that’s winter for you.

Just be prepared as best you can. Pay attention to the sensible things when a snowstorm is imminent, i.e.; have plenty of batteries, flashlights, water, suitable clothing and footwear, candles and food. There are a gozillion web sites you can check to make sure you have everything you need, so check them out.

But here’s the thing about snowstorms–it gives us a little island of solitude in a busy world. With all the distractions and goings-on of everyday life, we often forget about simple pleasures. No TV? No problem. Read a book by candlelight or by the light of your handy-dandy headlamp (this is standard gear for us snow birds). No computer? Get out the Scrabble board. No social networking? Write a letter, or, if your phone is still working, call someone. As for meals, it’s always good to have a little propane grill. You bundle up, take the grill outside (this bit is critical–DO NOT use the propane grill in the house or in a closed-in porch–EVER!), and grill up some hot dogs or burgers or chicken or vegetables or, one of my favorites, a **hobo pack.

For me, the gift a blizzard gives us is the knowledge that we are not in control; we never were. But even as it’s humbling to be in the grip of something so powerful, it’s a reminder that we are only visitors on this earth and we’d better make the most of our time.  No matter what pressing issues are on our plates or where we should be, nothing is as important as living our lives well.

Of course I won’t like it if we lose power and we can’t make coffee. Of course our one indoor/outdoor cat, Plumpy-Nut, will walk from door to door, hoping that one of them will open up to sunshine and flowers. Of course it’s inconvenient (and a little scary) to be without power. But these are transitory things, and as long as we’re prepared, we’re good to go.

Right now, our knights of the snow; all the snowplow drivers, police force, EMTs, firemen, and all those folks who make our towns safe for us–all are doing their best to keep things running smoothly until “Snowmageddon” tires himself out and goes on vacation to Bermuda. These are regular people with families who, unlike the rest of us, have to be at work in all this snow and wind. Bless them all!

Until all this has past, I wish you all safe harbor. For myself, I’m going to go get another cup of coffee before our power poops out.

*German, literally, storm and stress, from Sturm und Drang (1776), drama by Friedrich von Klinger †1831 German novelist and dramatist

**A hobo pack consists of a goodish size square of aluminum foil, filled with some vegetables and chicken or fish (or whatever you like). Toss in some soy sauce or Thai peanut sauce, or barbeque sauce or whatever, and seal up the aluminum foil in a neat pouch. Toss it on the grill for 20-30 minutes, depending on how fast your protein will cook. Unwrap and enjoy!

 

 

Just Do SOMETHING!

This time of year is famous for causing people here in the Northeast to have a good case of the blues, the blahs and the boo-hoos. Everything seems too hard to do, the motivation is just not there, you can’t seem to focus on anything, and your energy level is stuck on Empty. All TV programs seem boring, even that bestseller you just picked up doesn’t keep your interest, no food tastes good, you’re too tired to shower or get dressed–shall I go on? Been there, felt that.

The solution is this: baby steps. Even just making the bed, emptying the dishwasher, washing a load of towels, combing the snarls out of Fluffy’s coat, making a cup of tea, changing a light bulb–all or any of these things will make you feel better. Why? Because it’s an accomplishment in a less-than-stellar day. It’s a tiny little victory you can feel good about even when you felt like doing NOTHING–but you did do something. 

You wouldn’t think that something as miniscule as washing towels could pick you up out of the slump; but it does. You can go to bed that night, saying to yourself, ‘at least I washed the towels.’ It’s strangely comforting to count the little bits of accomplishment in a day where you felt like doing nothing more than just breathing. It sets you up for more successes the next day.

Success is truly where you find it. In my unasked-for opinion, these are things I call successes:

  • cleaning the bathroom
  • dusting the knick-knacks
  • straightening the books in the bookshelves
  • writing a note to someone
  • making a salad
  • sweeping up all the cat hair on the kitchen floor
  • cleaning the crumbs out of the toaster

All little things, I’ll admit. But, like the mighty oak that began life as a humble acorn, little things can become big things. And all these little successes add up until you get it: “I’m ok–it’s just a day,” and you can keep going.

So, go do little things. Even if all you feel like doing is lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling, do something. While you’re lying there, you can pat the cat who decided to climb in bed with you. You can pick up the phone and call dear old Aunt Phoebe. You can meditate, you can dream, you can wiggle your toes. You can recite the old James Whitcomb Riley poem you memorized in the second grade, “Old October’s Purt’ Nigh Gone:”

“Old October’s purt’ nigh gone,
And the frosts is comin’ on
Little heavier every day–
Like our hearts is thataway!
Leaves is changin’ overhead
Back from green to gray and red,
Brown and yeller, with their stems
Loosenin’ on the oaks and e’ms;
And the balance of the trees
Gittin’ balder every breeze–
Like the heads we’re scratchin’ on!
Old October’s purt’ nigh gone.”

Get it? Good–do it!

What Ever Happened to Manners, or Are There Any Ladies Left?

Is it only me, or have manners gone the way of the dinosaurs?

I learned manners and basic social behavior from my mother, my grandmother, my aunts and my special mentor, Miss Gladys Churchill, whom we affectionately called “Churchy.” She was an old lady when I met her, and she made a big impression in my life.

From her and all the strong and wonderful women in my life who influenced my growing up, these are the things that were “manners standards” for what a young girl should aspire to—that is, to be a lady:

Things a Lady Never Does:

  • “root” in her purse like a pig snuffling out truffles
  • swear or pick her nose in public
  • leave the house without underwear
  • speak in a loud or “common” voice
  • sit with legs open or one leg slung carelessly over the other, joggling the foot
  • wear excessive makeup
  • slouch
  • tell family secrets outside the home
  • get drunk in public (I’m guessing that being drunk at home was ok)
  • gossip
  • chew food with the mouth open
  • scratch oneself like a monkey in public
  • yawn without covering the mouth
  • wink at men
  • burp or fart in public
  • get caught in a lie
  • bray like a donkey when laughing
  • make a fool of oneself
  • chew gum in public like a cow chewing cud

Things a Lady Does:

  • sit with legs demurely crossed at the ankle and with the back straight
  • speak politely and clearly
  • acknowledge people with a polite ‘hello, how are you?’
  • ask after a person’s family
  • be polite at all costs
  • cover the mouth when yawning
  • overlook another person’s mistakes or *faux pas
  • resist any urge to swear, scratch, burp, fart, or have that one more glass of wine
  • ignore a flirtation (especially with a married man)
  • smile without showing too many teeth
  • tug at her underwear
  • never get caught in a ‘**compromising position’

If this sounds too Downton Abbey-ish, well–that’s how things were when I was growing up. Although some of these things seem impossibly fuddy-duddy-ish now, they existed so that everyone would feel comfortable and know what to expect of themselves and everyone else. These social graces and pleasantries kept everyone in a familiar atmosphere and on a level playing field.

These days, you never know what you’re going to hear and see on the street, in someone’s house, on TV or at work. It’s almost like living in a permanent Jerry Springer show–people spit, swear, urinate and fornicate in public, shoot people, crash their vehicles into homes and offices, go on rampages just for the hell of it, steal, lie, cheat, and so on. And when they’re caught and called out, are they sorry? No! They blame it all on someone else, or they have some sort of excuse for what they did–a nutritional disorder, or they are off their meds, or their daddy beat them when they were little–it’s never their fault.

I lived through the 60s and 70s when most of our social order went to hell. Oh, I didn’t burn my bra or attend any sit-ins or love-ins, nor did I attend Woodstock. (I was invited to go to it, but outside of the fabulous musical talent, I had no interest in sleeping on the ground, using a Port-O-San, or going without clean clothes, thank you very much.) Just about everything I had learned as a child turned upside down in those days, but I never forgot my lessons from the great women in my life.

At that time, ladies were ladies, a good reputation was vital, and everyone moreorless understood basic manners and pleasantries. I’m not saying that those days should or would come back, but at that time it was familiar and comfortable.

Oh, Churchy–what in the world would you think of things today?

*embarrassing social mistake, such as spilling a glass of wine or peeing on the floor
**be alone in a room with the door closed with a man, single or married, etc.