Looking Beyond Our Personal Discomfort

As I’ve said before, I have become a huge fan of the Kindness blog (check it out at http://kindnessblog.com), and read at least one entry each day. Yesterday’s post, “Imagine If” by Lucy Williams, pierced me to the heart. She tells about seeing a young man step into a crowded bus she was riding, crying and begging for money or food. She felt uncomfortable faced with such raw need, and didn’t know how to help as she only had her debit card and no cash.

The man said he hadn’t eaten or drunk anything in days, so she gave him her bottle of water. A man helped him into a seat, and another man patted his arm for comfort. The man cried and said he had a friend he could go to who had moved to the next town over, and someone on the bus gave him directions to the center of that town.

At the end of the post she said that she didn’t know how much she and the others had done to help, but hoped that they had helped him in some way.

I know that for me, seeing someone in distress hurts my heart and I don’t always know what to do. It IS uncomfortable to see someone in such need–for me, I feel a combination of sorrow, pity, and, to my shame; fear that helping this person will mean that they will literally hang on me forever. I’m not proud of that last, but there it is. I have and continue to give money where I can, or at least meet the eyes of the person and see them–acknowledge that they are another human on this earth along with me.

Years ago, my dad was doing his usual walk-about on the walking trail in town. He saw a young man sitting on a bench, crying. Dad went up to him, sat down and asked him what was the matter. The young man said that today was his birthday, and that his dad had just died and he didn’t know how to feel. My dad put his arm around him and said that anyway he chose to feel was all right and appropriate.

I am sure that he also told the young man the mix of emotions he felt when he lost his own father. He and his father had had a difficult relationship, and it was hard to communicate or even have much in common. I think that my dad struggled for many years to try and understand him, and later on, to forgive him. I believe he came to see his father as a conflicted man who was in fear most of his life, didn’t know how to show his love, and who came off as being combative most of the time to hide his fear.

It speaks of the great journey my dad has taken in his life to be the man he is today—that he could sit down with a stranger in pain, and comfort  him. I believe that Dad gave him his number if he wanted to talk again. I am sure that that kind moment in time made that young man feel less alone.

It is a hard fact that there always be those with more than we have and those with less than we have. This fact doesn’t have to isolate us. I’ll tell you from my own experience that I’ve learned to listen to my heart (which, by the way, will not lie to you). It tells me when to give, when to speak out, when to look into another person’s eyes. I may feel very uncomfortable about this, but my heart urges me on.

This a time in the world’s history where things can either go very badly or very good. Despite the horrors that the daily news bombards us with, there is a great deal of good in the world. There are a great many people who give as they can, help as they can, comfort as they can. Kindness is a living thing that seeks to grow. That kindness may start with something as simple as giving a thirsty man a bottle of water.

Uncomfortable Word Pairings

My mom and I adore words, or *etymology. We like it that some words are pleasing to say, and others just aren’t. We are interested the origins of words as well. We both love Scrabble, and especially so when we can play not only a high-value word, but a wonderful word, such as zaftig, or hyrax, or penumbra. (Look them up, you’ll see what I mean.)

We also love plays on words, silly words, and now uncomfortable word pairings. I’ll explain. Uncomfortable word pairings are a couple of words which really have nothing to do with each other (they don’t even telephone each other on holidays). Witness the one Mom came up with last night: “Marshmallow Penitentiary.”

Imagine–only really petty crimes will put you in the Marshmallow Penitentiary because they’re just not that serious. You can get sentenced to the MP for things like this:

  • Tap dancing during church services
  • Giving out only black jelly beans on Halloween
  • Having one too many lawn ornaments
  • Farting in a line at the deli
  • Writing “alright” instead of “all right”
  • Wearing both corduroy pants and squeaky shoes at the same time (whisk, whisk, squeak, squeak)
  • Chewing with your mouth open in public
  • Walking around with your butt crack showing
  • Leaving the toilet seat up in the ladies’ room
  • Saying the word “pregnut” instead of “pregnant,” or “ree-lah-tor” instead of “realtor,” or “joolery” instead of “jewELry”

..and so on. Now, if you give the judge any lip for sentencing you to the Marshmallow Penitentiary, he may say, “Keep it up and I’ll give you s’more!

There are other uncomfortable word pairings out there, and we are making it our business to find them.  Mind you, they are not mere **oxymorons, such as:

  • Almost exactly
  • Alone together
  • Clearly misunderstood
  • Diet chocolate cake
  • Extinct life
  • Freezer burn
  • Good grief
  • Living dead
  • Minor catastrophe
  • Near miss
  • Passive aggressive
  • Pretty ugly
  • Sweet sorrow

No, the uncomfortable word pairings are a different species all together. Don’t worry–my mom and I will continue to search them out and bring them, screaming, into the light of day. I’ll keep you posted. Until then, please do your best to stay out of Marshmallow Penitentiary. I hear it’s a pretty sticky place.

*1. the derivation of a word.
Synonyms: word origin, word source, derivation, origin.
2. a chronological account of the birth and development of a particular word or element of a word, often delineating its spread from one language to another and its evolving changes in form and meaning.

Synonyms: word history, word lore, historical development.
3.the study of historical linguistic change, especially as manifested in individual words.
A Family Factoid: Mom once asked me how to remember the difference between ‘etymology’ and ‘entomology.’ I told her, ‘Easy! Entomology is the study of ents [ants–get it?].”
**a figure of speech by which a locution produces an incongruous, seemingly self-contradictory effect, as in “cruel kindness” or “to make haste slowly.”





What We Need Around Here Is a Wife

Even though snow is falling at the end of March, we feel that old primordial urge to Spring clean. The Crankee Yankee and I decided we would do the following:

  • Vacuum the rugs and floor
  • Clean the kitchen counter tops
  • Clean the stove top, burners, lift the lid and clean under there
  • Wash the kitchen and bathroom floors
  • Put the new kitchen cart together

So, off we went. The Crankee Yankee vacuumed the rugs and the floors (this after picking up about a hundred cat toys and moving all the cat furniture temporarily off the floor), and I got going on the kitchen counters. Then I tackled the stove. Let’s just say that the Crankee Yankee and I have decided that cleaning the stove once every seven years is probably not something we want to wait that long to do again. More on that later.

The Crankee Yankee had brought home a fabulous kitchen cart; thick, heavy bamboo top, three sturdy wire shelves underneath for all our pots and pans, and made from strong and beautiful bronze metal. We have at least two bottlenecks in our kitchen, the biggest one is when we both need the side board. So this kitchen cart/portable sideboard is perfect, and it liberated real estate on the top of the stove.

However–you know how it is when you get just one new thing: everything else in the house looks like a poor relation. So that sparked our cleaning frenzy–as if that would somehow make the rest of the house look better (well, cleaner, anyway). As the Crankee Yankee vacuumed, I changed the sheets, scrubbed the kitchen counter tops, the microwave and the kitchen table. The stove, however, was a showstopper. The metal pans under each burner had virtually disintegrated into metal flakes. Ancient grease had built up under the stove top, and every surface needed some serious attention. Even the walls near the stove had splatters.

As I was scrubbing and cursing our own procrastination, I said, “How can we LIVE like this?” I turned to the Crankee Yankee and said, “We live like tree-dwelling, knee-walking, knuckle-dragging troglodytes!” He agreed, but also said that we were certainly capable of cleaning up our act, not to mention our house. All the while the new and pristine kitchen cart just stood there, looking disapprovingly at us. I muttered to it, ‘just you wait–you think this can’t happen to you?

At the end of the day, when we both sat around exhausted, me on the floor to get the kinks out of my back, we said at the same time: “We need drinks. Big drinks!” But the house does look a lot better. (We don’t look any better, but at least the house does.) And the cats really don’t care one way or the other. Once I re-scattered their toys for them and re-catnipped the cat furniture, they were happy.

As near-future old people, our days are filled thusly: the Crankee Yankee (retired) works on our house; repairing, renovating, and replacing old stuff. He also does a lot of work for his model railroad club, and is always ready to help anyone who needs it. I (semi-retired) work part-time and have a 145 mile round-trip to work, plus I write daily for this blog, make jewelry for my Etsy store (www.janesjools@yahoo.com.etsy.com), and I do most of the day-to-day chores such as laundry, dishes, mending, dusting. We both cook.

However, we think that what we really need is a wife. You know, just for all that daily work I can’t/won’t get to.

(Everything except the bedroom….)

It’s Time For Some Jokes

I don’t know about you, but the news has been pretty awful and it’s getting me down. So I rummaged around in the Prairie Home Companion jokes files and found a lot to make me laugh this morning. If you could use a few chuckles, read on!

“Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Cows go.
Cows go who?
No, cows go MOO.

Will you remember me in an hour?
Will you remember me in a day?
Will you remember me in a week?
I think you won’t.
Yes, I will.
Knock, knock!
Who’s there?
See? You forgot me already!

In what state was Abraham Lincoln born?
Naked and screaming like the rest of us.

Two women friends had gone for a girl’s night out. They were drunk, walking home, and they needed to pee, so they stopped in the cemetery.
One of them had nothing to wipe with, so she thought she would take off her panties and use them.
The other friend didn’t want to ruin her panties, but she was lucky enough to squat down next to a grave that had a wreath with a ribbon on it.
They went home and the next day one of the women’s husbands called the other and said, “These girls’ nights have got to stop! My wife came home with no panties!!”
“That’s nothing” said the other husband, “Mine came back with a card stuck to her butt that said…..
“From all of us at the Fire Station. We’ll never forget you”

The reason the Mafia had Einstein killed was because he knew too much.

Have you heard of the garlic diet?
You don’t lose much weight, but from a distance, your friends think you look thinner.

It was two years ago I got married and we got a new dog.
The dog is still happy to see me.

An archeologist makes the best husband because the older his wife gets, the more interested he is.

The singer came out on stage and sang the first song on her program and the audience was clapping and yelling, ‘Once More! Once More!’.
The Singer sang the song again and the audience screamed for her to sing it again. So she did. And they yelled for her to sing it again. She thanked them and asked why —- and someone yelled, ‘It’s getting better.’

It’s terrible for a singer to realize that he can never sing again, but it’s even worse if he doesn’t realize it.

How can you tell if a plane is full of sopranos?
When the engines stop, the whining continues.

One day in heaven, the Lord decided He would visit the earth and take a stroll. Walking down the road, He encountered a man who was crying. The Lord asked the man, “Why are you crying, my son?” The man said that he was blind and had never seen a sunset. The Lord touched the man who could then see… and he was happy.
As the Lord walked further, He met another man crying and asked, “Why are you crying, my son?” The man was born a cripple and was never able to walk. The Lord touched him and he could walk… and he was happy.
Farther down the road, the Lord met another man who was crying and asked, “Why are you crying, my son?” The man said, “Lord I’m a high school choir director.”
… and the Lord sat down and cried with him.

How many church choir directors does it take to screw in a light bulb?
No one knows, because no one was paying attention.

If you throw the accompanist and a church choir member off the top of a tall building at the same time, which one hits the ground first?
The accompanist, of course. The choir member has to stop on the way down and ask the choir director which way to go.

What Do You Call A Person Who Plays The Viola?
A Violator.

What’s the similarity between a drummer and a philosopher?
They both perceive time as an abstract concept.

What do a lawsuit and a saxophone have in common?
Everyone is happy when the case is closed.

What’s the difference between a bassoon solo and a goose fart?

What’s the difference between a horn player and a conductor?
Two measures.

What’s is another term for “trombone”?
A wind driven, manually operated, pitch approximator.

Why do people play trombone?
Because they can’t move their fingers and read music at the same time.

How do you get a trumpet player to play softly?
Take away his instrument.

An orchestra is rehearsing a piece in which the tuba has a solo after 84 bars rest. At the point where the tuba should start the solo, nothing happens. So, the conductor stops and tells the tuba player, “We just went past those 84 bars of rest.” The tuba player says, “Well, how should I know that?” The conductor says, “You can count, can’t you?” The tuba player looks at him and says, “If I have to count, I don’t call that a rest.”

As you pass a playground, you can tell which kid will be a trombonist.
It’s the kid who has trouble with the slide and can’t swing.

What do you call a nun who walks in her sleep?
A roaming catholic.

A priest asks a nun if he can walk her back to the convent. She says, “Just this once.” Upon arriving, he asks if he can kiss her. She replies, “Well, alright, as long as you don’t get into the habit.”

So this nun with hiccups went to see the doctor and he told her she was pregnant.
Really. And was she?
No, but it sure cured her hiccups.

A Jewish grandmother is giving directions to her grown grandson who is coming to visit with his wife:
“You come to the front door of the apartment complex. I am in apartment 14T. There is a big panel at the front door. With your elbow push button 14T. I will buzz you in. Come inside, the elevator is on the right. Get in, and with your elbow hit 14. When you get out I am on the left. With your elbow, hit my doorbell.”
“Grandma, that sounds easy, but why am I hitting all these buttons with my elbow”?
“You’re coming empty handed?”

Seymour Kittleman was a good man, and he went to Heaven and the Lord Himself greeted him at the pearly gates and asked him if he was hungry.
“I could eat,” said Kittleman. The Lord opened a can of tuna, and they shared it.
Kittleman said, “Lord, I  am very happy to be in heaven, but —- I thought I’d get something more than a can of tuna.”
The Lord said, “For just two people, it’s too much trouble to cook.”

If at first you don’t succeed, you must be a programmer. The language that all programmers know and use is profanity.

In the Programmers dictionary, under Endless Loop, it says: n., see Loop, Endless.
Under Loop, Endless, it says: see Endless Loop.

You know you’re spending too much time online when you wake up at 3 a.m. to go to the bathroom and stop to check your e-mail. And you think of going to the bathroom as downloading.

You’ve heard of Triple A. I belong to AAAAAA – American Association Against Acronym Abuse Anonymous.

RAM DISK is the name of a disk. RAM DISK is not a step in the installation procedure.

One man’s constant is another man’s variable. One man’s bug is another man’s feature.

Because computer science is not a science, it’s a mystery, and that’s why we’re moving it into the School of Theology.”

(Th-th-th-th-that’s all, folks!)



Peace is Already in Our Hands

After a monumentally challenging day yesterday; one that challenged both mind and mood, I had a real “road to Damascus” epiphany. Everything at work had gone sideways, I was given a project I’d never seen before and was told I had to get it done in 24 hours, and I hadn’t slept well the night before, so was feeling dragged out and exhausted.

It seemed that everyone I ran into had issues with the workplace or home. It was as though a dark cloud hung over our building, refusing to leave. I began to feel quite put-upon, especially about the hurry-up-and-just-do-it project that for some reason wasn’t on the schedule. I got that tight feeling in the back of my throat that tells me that panic is just around the corner, plus I felt a heavy cloak of indignation settling over me.

Then, like sunshine bursting through rain, it came to me: I can do this. I can handle this. I can make things happen because I have done it before. Anyone who has ever been in a play, learned their lines perfectly, then got on stage on opening night and froze has felt like this. A calming, cooling, relaxed feeling settles over you, and you realize that you already know what to do. All that practice has paid off, and the words come out perfectly, and there you are–right smack in the zone.

So I mentally stepped back, took a deep breath, and did what I do every day–I put the pedal to the metal and outlined my project. Once I let go of the resentment (“how can they do this to me? This mess isn’t my fault!”), the anger, the fear and doubt–the rest was easy. After all, when something has to be done quickly, the automatic trade-off is that it might not be perfect, but it will be enough.

While slipping into my auto-pilot mode, I realized that all negative thoughts and resentment just gum up the works and nothing gets done. No one likes to be taken for granted or be pushed beyond their job description, but it’s going to happen sooner or later. So why make it worse by digging in our heels and coming up with all kinds of excuses for why this, that, or the other thing cannot be done? There will inevitably be a compromise; after all, things done at the last minute will not always be just so. But again, there is no time for arguing or fighting because time’s a-wastin’.

So–we can face these occasional challenges to our sanity with insanity, or we can put the craziness in a box and tape it up so that we can accomplish what needs to be done. Although it doesn’t always feel that way, the choice really IS ours. We can choose to be panicked or peaceful.

And for me yesterday, in all that sturm and drang, I chose peace. And do you know what? It was there all the time!



When the World Gives You Crap

When the world gives you crap

Stand up straight and fling it back.

Stress will come and stress will go,

It’s all about how we handle it, you know.

When everyone seems mad at you,

And then you get to feeling blue

Just think—they may be sad

Or upset or scared or mad–

They may take it out on you

(But it’s really not about you.)

Try not to take their hurts to heart

Instead, try and go for a brand new start,

And let those those slings and arrows slide right off–

As well as any who may jeer and scoff.

Mad and sad go hand-in-hand,

But don’t let those two negatives land

Upon your heart, your soul, your mind–

Take a breath, then smile, be kind.

And even though they may not show it,

Those hurt ones will come to know it

As the comfort it was meant to be–

And perhaps go back to harmony.

Life is short but fear is long

Don’t let that keep you from a  song

Of love and laughter, joy and hope–

Don’t let others make you sit and mope,

Set your eyes on the brightest star,

And be glad you’re you and all you are!








Best Sleep-Over Ever!

The Crankee Yankee and I recently babysat our granddaughter, Ava, while her mom and friend went to a concert in Boston. We had a ball; we all made our own pizzas, we watched Disney’s “Brave” on TV, we played some games and laughed a lot. At about 8:00pm, Ava announced that it was time to go to bed–all of us. She walked around and turned all the lights off, let the dogs out for one more time, and after they came in we went upstairs.

Ava looked at us and asked, “where’s your jammies?” We told her we weren’t staying over night so no jammies, just the clothes we had on. She insisted we brush our teeth. She handed me an orange brush that lights up when you press a button. (That was pretty neat. I may get one myself!) Once she inspected my teeth and said I did a good job, we were ready to settle in for the night. I read her “Jack and the Beanstalk,” and “Too Many Rabbits.” She asked the Crankee Yankee to please let the dogs come up; M-Cat the cat was already in bed making himself quite comfortable.

With all five of us piled into one suddenly-too-small bed, we were pretty cozy. The dogs groaned and muttered into sleep, the cat purred, the Crankee Yankee began to snore, and I waited for Ava’s breathing to slow. She spooned up against me, her head right below my chin (there is no sweeter smell in the world than a little girl’s hair), and kept a hand on the Crankee Yankee’s chest as she drifted off.

Once she was out for good, we tiptoed downstairs, and later on the dogs and cat joined us. As we watched a movie and talked, we snoozed on and off. At about 1pm, I heard Ava cry out, and ran up the stairs saying, ‘it’s ok, it’s ok, I’m here, don’t worry!’  There she was standing by the bed, forlorn and sobbing. She said, “Wuwu, I woked up and you wasn’t there!”

After cuddling her and telling her that I was sorry to have scared her, and that she was the best kid in the whole world and that I loved her more than anything, she magnanimously forgave me and asked for a story. I told her two more “Ava the Brave” stories, and she giggled each time I said “Ava the Brave.”

A half hour later, her mom and friend were home, and Ava came down the stairs to greet them. After countless hugs and kisses, we were on our way home. It was almost 2:00am, we were punchy and silly, and kept saying “best time EVER!”

Like Sally Fields accepting her Oscar, we said, “she [Ava] likes us! She really likes us!”