Hey, Yoda–There is No Do Without a Try First

Anyone who is or ever has been a Star Wars fan knows Yoda’s stern command to Luke Skywalker: “There is no try; only DO!”

Well, Yoda old buddy, that may work for Jedi knights, but not always for us regular people. Sometimes you have to try before you can do. Say, for example, when my dad taught me how to ride a bike for the first time. He made it look so easy that I didn’t even hear his advice to take it slow–I grabbed the bike, hopped on and promptly fell over. After that, I was much more willing to listen, and try again.

Trying is the first step to doing, Yoda’s advice notwithstanding:

  • If I didn’t try to teach myself guitar and banjo when I was a teen, I wouldn’t be taking ukulele lessons now.
  • If I never tried out for a major part in a play in high school, I would not be the me I am today. Back then, I was headed down the wrong path, and the school plays saved me.
  • If I never married my first husband, I wouldn’t be married to the Crankee Yankee (my current and last and best husband) now.

There’s a story I read a long time ago that got me thinking about trying things out first before doing them.  In the story, a father presented his daughter with a lovely little string of pearls on her tenth birthday. She loved them, and wore them every day. She took good care of them, and each night she put them away carefully in their special silk box.

Two years later when she was about to celebrate her twelfth birthday, her father asked her to give him back the string of pearls. She cried and begged him not to make her give them up; she loved them so. He asked her to think about it, and told her that she would be much happier if she gave him back her treasured pearls.

She thought about it for two days. It hurt her heart, but she knew that her father would never lie or disappoint her. So the next day, holding back her tears, she placed the silk box containing her pearls in her father’s hand.

He smiled at her, and said, “Now I will show you why this will make you happy.” He gave her a small box wrapped in pink paper and tied with a lacy white bow. When she opened the box, there was a beautiful string of luminous white pearls inside, strung with a lovely golden clasp. She gasped, and her father said, “The first string of pearls I gave you was pretty, but they weren’t real pearls. I watched as you took such good care of them and appreciated them. You are now old enough and responsible enough to wear the real thing.”

If we don’t try something first, it’s likely we won’t ever do it. This is what our lives are for: trying and then doing.

We try our best to live well, treat others fairly and kindly, love our families, friends, pets, neighbors, and reach out to the world in our own way. Sometimes in our lives we may be asked to give up something that we care about; only to receive something better. Which we wouldn’t get at all, if not for trying first.

Take that, Yoda!

 

 

Sorry, I’m Not Responsible for Your Perceptions

I’ll admit it, I’m not always proud of the way our house looks. In fact, my nerves are on high alert right now because my computer guy is coming in today to check my computer, do upgrades, backups, etc. and answer a few questions for me. It didn’t bother me much until I took a good look at our back porch–which is what you see when you walk into the door to the breezeway.

Just to name a few things that most folks do NOT have on their back porch, there is:

  • a box of grubby-looking garlic bulbs we harvested from our garden last fall
  • a torn LL Bean bag full of donations for the Salvation Army
  • a dusty bowl of cat kibble (for when the two boys, Pookie and Plumpy-Nut, want to sit out there)
  • an entire shelf filled with the Crankee Yankee’s (my husband) odd bits he’s saving for “later” – rusty hinges, assorted nails and screws, piled-up cardboard flats (because you never know when you’ll need them), a few crowbars and hammers, a dust pan filled with–you guessed it–DUST, and so on
  • four neatly stacked wicker chairs, the top one filled with rags (clean ones, anyway)
  • a wooden wind chime, shaped like a watermelon, with an old wasp nest inside
  • Stacks of boards in assorted sizes (again, because you never know when you’ll need one)
  • our beat-up old dingy white wicker rocker with a black-and-white cushion now covered in cat hair
  • various torn towels and a few old shirts destined to become rags (they just haven’t graduated to that status yet)
  • “Uncle Winklebaum,” our garden gnome, who winters on the back porch but spends the spring, summer and fall standing guard in our garden
  • Likewise, a resin black and white cat, whose eyes creepily follow you everywhere
  • several paint cans half-full of dubious beige paint
  • a crap-brown bureau piled with neatly stacked paper bags (again–ready to use when you need one)
  • various dirty plastic buckets “because I can use them later”<insert eye roll here>

…and the “coop de doo,” the ratty old pleather recliner that the cats have literally torn to shreds (seriously, all its guts are hanging out). It’s out there because FINALLY we are making the living room ready for our two new chairs. (The delivery men are also removing the ratty red sofa that has become so rump-sprung that the Crankee Yankee and I are getting butt cancer from it.)

So–that’s what our computer guy will see when he walks in this morning. At first, I panicked and decided to spend last night cleaning up. How could I let someone see that horrible mess out there? Then I smacked myself in the forehead and realized that no, I was NOT going to do that. The computer guy can think what he wants–it’s not his business. He’s there to work on my computer; that’s his business. If he wants to get upset about the state of my files, well, fine. They are a mess; I admit it.

But until he becomes an interior decorator, he can just shut up about the back porch.

The February Floomp

It’s near the end of February

And more snow makes us wary–

That we’ll slip and slide and land on our butts

Or conk our heads like coconuts.

For me, I am weary

Of days dark and dreary–

Of heavy clothes,

My runny nose

My big and clunky winter boots

And all the salt upon my suits–

But March is soon upon us,

Bringing relief from winter jaundice

Perhaps by then

Temps will be above 10–

Or there may be

Some red-breasted robins to see–

Maybe that will pull me from this winter floomp

And give my spirits a bit more oomph.

I know, I know–the cold will go

Along with the slush and ice and snow–

One day this year

We’ll stand and cheer

That winter’s past

At last, at LAST!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acts of Social Terrorism

If only we knew how our words affect others. But we can’t see inside the person with our eyes; we only see the outside. We often do and say careless things that we may forget in a second, but those who received the brunt of those words or actions may feel them for a long time.

I wish I never heard anyone say to a grieving pet owner who has had to put their beloved companion down, “oh, c’mon. It’s just a cat/dog/gerbil/bird/hamster/etc. Just go buy another one!” Anyone struggling with life-long trauma (PTSD, buried emotions, childhood abuse, etc.) knows that there is no time limit for what they feel. No one but them understands how there are days when they can’t even get out of bed, much less function in the world. Bullying these folks with a crisply spoken “get over it, already!” does no good and a great deal of harm. It makes them feel more isolated than ever.

Our technology today is a great place to hurt and bully people, and the victims will never know the bullies’ names. It’s an easy crime and causes a great deal of pain to the victim. I read where a teen was literally bullied to death by other teens in her school via social media. They taunted her with words like ‘you are a loser,’ and ‘why don’t you just do us all a favor and kill yourself,’ and ‘you are worthless’ to the point where she took her own life. Worst of all, one of the bullies on hearing of her death, posted this comment: “so she’s dead, so what. I don’t care.”

I cannot wrap my mind around such thinking, and wonder if that poor sad child would still be living had just one person sent her words of kindness and encouragement.

While hurtful words don’t always cause death, they do cause pain, and in my book, that’s an act of terrorism. As the object of terrorism is literally to terrorize, this is an act of war on someone’s heart. I wonder what kind of personal pain can cause someone to inflict such acts on another.

Too many times, we judge without bothering to know the truth. I once worked with Jen, a tall redhead who was beautiful, feisty and frank, and was also gradually succumbing to an irreversible disease, *ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Basically, the bones begin to fuse together due to calcium forming in the ligaments and joints. When I knew her, she was still able to drive her sporty little red convertible, which had a handicap plate.

One day as she parked her car at a mall in a handicapped space, two women commented loudly about how “some people will do anything to get a good parking spot, even fake an injury. She doesn’t look like she’s handicapped!” Jen walked over to the women and gave them a brief rundown of her disease, including how it took her and her husband an hour and a half each morning to break up the calcium deposits in her body so that she could move.

By the time she was finished, both women were in tears and telling her how sorry they were. I’m sure that they never made such a snap judgement again.

However, the smallest gesture, the briefest kind word, or a quick smile can do worlds of good. If we can put aside judgement and assumptions, perhaps it will help us choose better words. We can’t know what is really going on inside a person, but we can choose to lift someone up instead of putting them down, compliment instead of denigrate, help instead of hurt, and offer a word of encouragement now and then.

It costs us nothing to be kind but a moment, but that moment may last a lifetime to someone else.

*Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is a type of progressive arthritis that leads to chronic inflammation of the spine and sacroiliac joints. It can also affect other joints and organs in the body, such as the eyes, lungs, kidneys, shoulders, knees, hips, heart, and ankles. However, AS primarily affects the axial skeleton, including the ligaments and joints.

This disease causes stiffness, aching, and pain around the spine and pelvis. The disease can eventually lead to a total fusion of the spine. This occurs when the vertebrae (spinal bones) actually grow together fusing the spine due to calcification of the ligaments and discs between each vertebrae. If the vertebrae fuse together, the spine is robbed of mobility, leaving the vertebrae brittle and vulnerable to fractures.

Source: Ankylosing Spondylitis | University of Maryland Medical Center http://umm.edu/programs/spine/health/guides/ankylosing-spondylitis#ixzz3SibWmQKL
University of Maryland Medical Center.

 

 

What Are Your Favorite Sounds?

I often tell the Crankee Yankee (my husband) that my favorite sound in the whole world is him laughing. He laughs with his whole heart and soul; his face lights up, and, if something really tickles him, he slaps his knees as well. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve fallen in love with him all over again just because of that laugh.

There are so many wonderful sounds in my life, and I know that there are in yours. Take a minute to review them. Here are some of mine–besides the Crankee Yankee’s laughter, that is:

  • My granddaughter giggling
  • My mother howling with laughter over a shared joke
  • My dad telling mom and me that his favorite sound in the world is us laughing together
  • The wind sighing through bare branches
  • Ukulele music–no other instrument has that delightful plinky-plonky sound
  • The pages of a book whispering as I turn them
  • The sound of coffee brewing
  • The purring of cats in my ear
  • The little clicking of beads as I make jewelry
  • The foghorn sound a glass bottle makes when you blow across the top
  • The sussurus of blowing snow in the frigid air
  • The sound of the peepers in spring
  • The call of the loons
  • Mozart’s music
  • The ‘gloop gloop’ sound of bubbling soup
  • Plumpy-Nut’s (our most recent cat) snoring
  • Ocean waves
  • Screen doors slamming in the summer time
  • The ‘scraaaaaak, scraaaaaak’ of blue herons as they fly off over the water
  • Etta James singing “At Last”

…and I’d give anything to hear my grandmother’s old coffee percolator again.

So–what’s yours? Don’t those sounds take you right back in time?

Oscar Night

The Oscars are tonight–

One wonders who will fight

For glory and fame,

And an eternal name,

Upon a golden statue

(Or in reruns, or what have you)

It’s plain to see

(Well, it is for me)

That talent trumps beauty–

And those who flaunt their booty,

Will eventually fade away

To lives dull and gray–

Back to all things ordinary

And leave the extraordinary

To the current high flying adored,

Who slouch about, looking bored

Sipping wine from crystal glasses,

While deliberately ignoring the masses

Who scream for their heros

(And nothing for the zeros)

They live for fame and recognition,

That revolves around these conditions–

That you stay thin and young

(Despite the fact your breasts have hung

Down longer than a plum-bob)

And that you stand and hob-nob

While well-wishers shriek and caper

For your lipsticked name upon a paper–

(Which will likely last better

Than your thousand dollar sweater)

Good luck with the fleeting game

Of Oscars, gift bags and fame–

It all could end

With this phrase, my friend–

“And the Oscar goes to–

NOT YOU!”

 

 

 

 

 

“Sorry, but…” Doesn’t Cut It

A true apology is an art. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it–it is simply a statement of apology, said sincerely, such as “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, and I’m so sorry for that. I hope you can forgive me, and please know that I will think before I speak from now on.”

This, however, is NOT an apology: “Sorry, but you asked my opinion, and you know me–I don’t pull any punches. So if you didn’t want to hear the truth, you shouldn’t have asked.” (This was actually told to me by a former boss of mine, and thinking of it still pisses me off.)

Oh—there is so much wrong with that statement! Basically, it blames the person to which you’re addressing the apology, as though it’s their fault that their feelings were hurt. It’s a crap apology, and it isn’t worth the spit to say it. Too many times our apologies end up being passive-aggressive–“well, I’m sorry you didn’t see things my way.” That’s not what an apology is.

Years ago when I was a customer service phone rep for a school supply company, every other phone call I got was abusive. Once I got past total strangers yelling at me, what I began to hear were people who were frustrated and just wanted to be heard. No matter whose fault it was, they wanted to be heard and acknowledged. They first wanted to hear someone at the other end apologize for their trouble, and then help them fix the problem. They did not want to hear that their problem was their own fault.

Regarding customer service in general: sometimes the customer is NOT right. Sometimes they haven’t done the necessary work on their end to avoid the problem they had. However, it is still the role of the rep to first and foremost apologize for their trouble. It is astounding how just apologizing right off the bat can help diffuse the angriest of phone calls. From that point on (unless of course the customer is psychotic), steps can be taken to address and solve the issue.

Once I looked at customer service in that way, everything changed. Oh sure, there were plenty of aggravating and downright mean people who called, but mostly they just wanted someone to 1) listen, and 2) help.

It’s the same with an apology. The person being apologized to is already hurting, so why add more grief by offering a “sorry, BUT” useless apology? It accomplishes nothing but let that person know that you don’t care that you hurt them, and that somehow their hurt is their own fault. Not acceptable–ever.

As Thumper the rabbit, Bambi’s best friend once said, “If ya don’t have somethin’ nice to say, don’t say nuthin.”

What We Come Into This World Already Knowing

When I was in college I took a couple of great philosophy classes. I had them with a wonderful Indian professor who opened my eyes to some of the great philosophers. Her delightful sing-song-y voice brought glamour and depth to the different philosophies. When I learned about Rousseau’s “tabla rosa” (Latin for “blank slate”) theory; that is, the idea that we are born into this world knowing nothing, I immediately thought, ‘That isn’t right.’

After class I went to my professor and told her what I thought. She looked at me pityingly and said that this was not so, and of course she had years of training and education to back that up. Still, I felt my theory was correct–but stopped talking about it.

I believed then, as I do now, that we do come into this world knowing everything. I believe that we forget things as we get older, and I think that most of the forgetting happens when we are still children. There are people I’ve met in my life with which I had an immediate ‘soul recognition’ and was drawn to them; I felt I had known them forever. Then there have people I met to which I had an instant aversion; they felt somehow toxic to me, and my guard went up any time I was near them. My only explanation for this is that we are born to and with this knowledge.

There were many things I saw, heard and thought as a child, and of course I thought that everyone else in the world saw and heard and thought as I did. Where I grew up, there was a beautiful field across the street full of tall grasses, wild flowers and the smell of what I later learned was chamomile. I spent a lot of time in summer in the middle of that field, lying on my back and making shapes out of clouds. Birds and bugs were busy in it, and as I lay there motionless, they seemed to forget I was there. Grasshoppers sprang from my ankle, to one of my knees and then to the other; a bypass for them through the waving heads of flowers. Once a tiny gold finch landed beside my hand.

One day as I lay in my field, sun-dazed and happy, thinking of nothing in particular, I realized that I could see things in my mind. I’d hear a boat zooming along the lake front and knew that a family of five was in the boat. A plane would fly overhead, and I’d think to myself, ‘they’re flying to someplace in the mountains.’ A neighbor lady would call out the window to her husband, and I knew that they had just been fighting.

Now, I had no way of knowing if any of these things were true, but they seemed so to me–there was a kind of certainty about it. Later on, I also began to see colors in and around people; anger was red, pain was purple or pink, blue meant that something needed attention, grass green meant health, pea green meant sickness, and gold or white meant happiness.

Innocently, I started talking about the colors with other kids at school and what they meant. It didn’t take me long to realize that I should keep these thoughts to myself. I rapidly gained fame as a liar and a showoff, neither of which endeared me to kids or teachers. Once I realized that no one else saw what I did, I stopped talking about it. After a while, I also stopped seeing the colors. It took a long time before other children asking me, ‘hey–ya see any colors on me? Is my head green or what?’

My answer was always the same, ‘nope, nothing.’ After a while the novelty wore off, and they found other kids to pick on. Decades later, when I began taking *Noreen McDonald’s wonderful metaphysical classes, I realized I wasn’t crazy; that I actually had a gift. And what do you know–the colors came back!

I still believe that we come into this world knowing a great deal. Also, I now know that many people can see colors, hear things, feel things, and know things because that is their particular gift. I am sure that these gifts were part of us as we came into the world, and that we are meant to share and use them.

The best thing I learned was that what we may first view as a curse often turns out to be our greatest strength.

*To find out more about Noreen’s classes, please visit her website at http://noreenmcdonald.com.

 

Resentment – The Party Pooper of All Emotions

It’s so easy to feel resentment, isn’t it? When things don’t go our way, it’s all too easy to feel put-upon, left out, passed over, not invited to the party, and so on. You begin to categorize your resentments and, with each addition to the list, you feel more and more resentful:

This person makes more money than you do, and you do much more and work harder than he does. That celebrity is an idiot and if only you’d had his lucky breaks, it would have been you at the Oscars.

You go to your favorite restaurant, the one that serves your absolute favorite entree, the incredible wild mushroom tart with caramelized onions. You’ve waited all week for this special treat, and then, after your wine arrives at the table, you order your favorite–only to find out that the table ahead of you ordered the last one.

On a whim, you buy a scratch ticket. You win $2.00. The guy behind you wins $1,000.

Your friend buys herself a new car, just the make and model you’d love to have. She even picks the color you’d have picked out–bright lime green.

Oh, the rank unfairness of it all! It seems that no matter what you do, you come out empty and nothing seems to go your way………….

Ok, at this point you’d think I’d have some smart and clever verbiage about cheering yourself up, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, sucking it up and moving forward, right? Well, I don’t. The sad fact is that often many things just don’t go our way. It makes us angry, sad, hopeless, depressed, and we feel like giving up. That’s just how life is–sometimes things go our way, and sometimes they just don’t.

However, (well, ok, I actually DO have some things to mention that may help) the good thing about things not always going our way is that, sooner or later, they DO. We can help that along by keeping as positive as possible, looking on the bright side, and trying to see the good in the situation. Take the guy who won $1,000 on that scratch ticket that you didn’t buy. What if his car badly needed repairs he couldn’t afford? Bingo–he gets $1,000 to fix his car! Although that didn’t happen to you, it happened to someone, and that’s great.

That friend of yours that bought “your” car? Do you remember decades ago, when she was just starting out in her career? She could barely make the rent, and often had to choose between feeding herself or her cat–and always chose the cat. She struggled for years, and finally after hard work, dedication, and determination, she became successful. She worked hard and sacrificed, and when you look at it that way, she’s paid her dues and then some. She deserves that car.

When we look at situations in a new way, all those teeny-tiny little cogs in our brains start cranking out new attitudes. As jealous or resentful as we can get, just acknowledging the wonder and amazement that someone got a break, a windfall, a bit of good luck–changes us and our outlook. My personal mantra that helps me during these times is this: “good for him/her, GOOD for him/her; they deserve it.”

I may start that with clenched teeth and elevated blood pressure, but it always ends up making me feel better. Plus that whiny old party pooper, Resentment, shuffles off to sulk by itself in a corner.

 

My “Eat, Pray, Love” Petition

I’m a big fan of Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love,” and have been inspired to become more proactive in asking for help as she did. For example, her soon-to-be-ex-husband was dragging his feet in signing their divorce papers; they had had a hard time agreeing on the terms of the divorce, and things were at a standstill. A friend of hers suggested that she write a petition to God/the universe for what she wanted to happen.

After some thought, she wrote down what she considered a good petition, and read it to her friend. The friend approved, and then said, “I would sign that.” Then the friend quickly amended that she had already signed it in her heart. She asked Elizabeth who else should sign it. Between them, they began naming names, from Bill and Hillary Clinton to the Dali Lama and Jim Henson. Just as soon as they named each name, they declared that each person too had signed the petition. By the end of the day, her lawyer called her to tell her that her husband had finally signed off on the papers, and it was a done deal!

This got me thinking about the things I would like to happen in my own life. Our house was built in 1953, and since we moved into in 2007, there has been a TON of work done (by the Crankee Yankee [my husband], and with most welcome help from his younger brother), and there are a couple of tons more work still to do. Since I really can’t help with the heavy lifting part of renovation, I focus on the inside of the house and what I can do to help there, plus those things I would love to see happen.

So I am going to take a leap of faith here in front of all of you and make my own petition and ask my own list of people to “sign” it. Here goes:

“Dear God,

Would You please help us with the repair and renovation of our house? We need help with building materials, cash flow and patience. I know that You are extremely busy with this planet and all people and animals on it, and that there are so many more people than us who need help. Compared to many, we are very fortunate. I feel guilty in asking for more when we already have so much (family, friends, shelter, food, water, hope, love, comfort, the great privilege of living in America, etc.), but am asking all the same.

I would very much like to have the following:

  1. a new box spring and mattress (our current ones are circa 1999)
  2. a new sofa (the one is a hand-me-down from Mom and Dad; it’s not only cat-picked to a fare-thee-well but is getting damned uncomfortable as well)
  3. a new recliner to replace the horrible pleather-with-stuffing-hanging-out-of-it we now have
  4. a new floor for the kitchen (the current puke-green linoleum one is so old, scuffed and dirty that a team of dedicated cleaning women armed with razor blades couldn’t scrape up the ancient dirt)
  5. new cabinets to replace the old crappy wooden ones that have more layers of paint on them than the Sistine Chapel

I believe with all my heart that good things can and do manifest when we do all that we can on our end; then ask for help with the rest. If I am not working hard enough on this, then please help me to work harder and be more understanding. I do not want my frustration in the state of the house to adversely affect our marriage and friendship in any way, and I ask You to please help us with this.

In closing, it is my heartfelt request that You help us in this situation. This, I feel certain, will help us in our lives to be better people who in turn can give from our own abundance to others. Please also help me be an instrument of Your peace, and help me to help where I can.

With love and respect and gratitude,

Jane”

Here is my own list of those I want signing my petition:

  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Tina Fey
  • The Dali Lama
  • Special Agent Pendergast (from the fabulous Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child books)
  • Mother Theresa
  • Gilbert & Sullivan
  • Gordon Ramsay
  • Candace Bergen
  • Kate Middleton
  • Johnny Depp
  • Julia Child
  • Jeffrey Dean Morgan
  • Taylor Swift
  • Ellen Degeneres
  • Albus Dumbledore
  • Harry Potter
  • George Washington
  • Clive Cussler
  • Diane Chamberlain
  • Ray Bradbury
  • Stephen King
  • Queen Elizabeth
  • Lady Gaga
  • Robin Williams
  • John Belushi
  • Gilda Radnor
  • Grumpy Cat
  • Anyone kind enough to read this blog

..and probably more when I think about it.

BUT GET THIS—before I even finished this list, #3 and #4 have already happened. My wonderful parents surprised us with two beautiful new chairs; a Canadian rocker for me, and a fantastic recliner for the Crankee Yankee that not only reclines, but rocks and swivels. Plus the company delivering them will also take the crappy recliner and the cat-picked sofa (so I guess that I can also count #2 as a done deal as well–we really won’t need a sofa with the advent of two comfy chairs). And the ‘coop de doo’–my amazing stepdaughter gifted us with 250 feet of gorgeous floor tiles; enough to cover the kitchen, hallway and bathroom!

So, people–try out the Eat, Pray, Love petition–it really DOES work!

(You should know that right now I am singing “I’m a Believer.”) 🙂