The Saving Grace of a “Thank You”

I’ve spoken of this before, but really–can we ever say “thank you” enough? I get that people are busy, that free time is rare and that there are often more demands on everyone than is healthy. But seriously, how much effort does it take to say “thank you?”

There is a dearth of thanks in these busy times, and we are starting to see the consequences; civil unrest, disassociation with other humans, lack of gratitude, general hopelessness and the constant, gnawing feeling that all the work we do is largely ignored and unappreciated. It isn’t healthy, and we are suffering from it.

As usual, the only way I can see it is from my own point of view. I seem to have developed this Pavlov’s dog reaction to say ‘thank you’ too many times, but it’s become a habit I do not want to break.

It just seems easier to thank people than to ignore them; if someone so much as holds a door for someone, isn’t that a reason to thank them? Ask yourself this: how does it make you feel when you go out of your way to help someone and they don’t even acknowledge it? How does it make you feel when you go out of your way to help someone and they thank you?

That latter exchange makes for good feelings for both the giver and the receiver–the giver gives, the receiver acknowledges the gift and thanks the giver. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy. Everyone goes away happy.

Speaking only for myself and the company for which I work (part-time), things hum along at a fast pace. The focus is rightly on excellence of product and stellar service for the customers, and when the crunch time comes, everything is pushed into warp speed. There is no time to answer email questions; if you need answers ASAP, then you do it on *shanks’ mare. For my small part of the process in producing manuals for shipments, I have to get up in everyone’s business to get the answers I need. I push, I needle, I beg, I even bribe (chocolate and coffee, mostly) to get what I need to finish the manuals.

Since I absolutely depend on those answers from the right people, I always thank them because 1) they make my job easier, and 2) they may be more likely to help me again if I treat them well.

I also think that a ‘thank you’ is a little grace note that lingers gently on the ear. It may possibly be the one thing in someone’s day that makes them a bit happier before they go to sleep. I know it does for me; I can say to myself, ‘well, I goofed up a few things today, but at least I could help one person–and they said ‘thank you!’

It’s this lifetime accumulation of little moments, tiny shimmering shards of happiness, small in-drawn breaths of appreciation that add up to a life that confirms itself over and over again–‘yes! I am supposed to be here at this time and place.’

Small grace indeed, but huge over a lifetime.

*Shanks’ mare – walking. In this case, it means I put a lot of miles in during work hours to track down the answers I need. Not complaining–I get paid for this AND I get a work-out!

“Smart Phone, Dumb Operator”

A dear friend of mine, Jeannie, owns a smart phone and fully admits that, as much as she loves it, she doesn’t always understand it. (BTW, Jeannie is the author of the saying, ‘smart phone, dumb operator.’) There are so many things you can do with a Smart Phone that generally people our age just roll up our eyes and walk away from it to our trusty land line.

Just yesterday at work, our long-suffering IT guy set up my work laptop so that I can now take it home to work from it remotely when I don’t drive in. I’m a part-timer, so that works out fine. However, as he was explaining what he was doing, he spoke about logging in with my Smart Phone. I said something vastly intelligent like, ‘slow your roll there, Sparky–I don’t own a Smart Phone. I have a flip phone that is just a phone.’

Like any self-respecting IT person, he gave me one of those looks that said, ‘oh great–another techno simp. I’m gonna have to speak slowly.’ No disrespect to him, it’s just that, if it isn’t something I need to know to do my job (writing technical manuals), I just hear ‘…blah, blah, blah, laptop, blah, blah, remote in by typing in blah, blah, blah…’ It just flat doesn’t register in my nearly 64-year old brain.

I have seen my 4-year old granddaughter deftly pull up games and interactive videos on her mom’s Smart Phone, and it makes me feel like the last dodo bird.

For my upcoming surgery next week, I filled out a tremendous online clinical history which took me nearly an hour. At the very end, it stated that, following their receipt of my information, they would “text” me. Well, good luck with that, because 1) I don’t text or get texts, and 2) my flip phone screen is so small that even wearing my reading glasses I can barely make out any messages. So if I get texts or messages I never know what’s in them because I just delete them all without reading them. Yup, I am the dodo bird.

Here’s the thing about technology for me; I learn new things step by step. If I get confused or disoriented, I will stand on that damn step forever until I figure out where to go. Also, many of the network terms still baffle me.

A word here about being a technical writer in a busy company filled with brilliant people: bless their hearts, they really think that I can understand them at their level. Seriously–I am at about their shoe level. When they start telling me about <insert extremely technical jargon here>, my eyes (and apparently, my ears) glaze over. If they try explaining to me how a frabulator filled with positive ions acts in a sterile environment, I will say something intelligent like, ‘oh, you mean those little floating thingys inside the frabulator?’

You know what? I’m going to hire my granddaughter to help me out with technology from now on. She’s smart, she’s savvy, she knows all the terms, and best of all, I know she’ll work for peanuts. Or those little frosted animal crackers. Or blueberries.


A Surprise, Part 3

Hi again. This is Part 3 of my original “A Surprise” post; my latest breast cancer update.

The plan for me is a lumpectomy, followed by radiation, followed by Tamoxifan. I just found out yesterday that my surgery is scheduled for next Tues., June 2. I am actually looking forward to it because I am feeling so much more positive by having a plan in place.

Sadly, our medical system is absurdly complicated these days. Of course, to someone of my generation, who vividly remembers when doctors did house calls, the current system seems to be all about protecting the medical profession first, patients second.

NOTE: I mean no disrespect to anyone in the medical field. I believe that it is the system that has become badly flawed, not the professionals.

For me, the most difficult part of this is not having a liaison, if you will; a “go-to” person who can answer questions, find out whether or not you have the right information, whether your medical people have all the pertinent details about you, the patient, and so on.

When I first started down this road, I was of course devastated (to say the least) about finding out I had breast cancer. So, while meeting with my assigned group of professionals (oncologist, surgeon, “navigator” and social worker), all I could hear was the blood pounding in my head to the rhythm of “I have cancer, I have cancer, I have cancer!” I literally could not hear more than that. I was terrified, plain and simple.

By the time I left, I was literally left holding a bag (a purple one reading “I am not afraid of storms for I am learning to sail my ship.”) full of things like a pink journal, a few pieces of candy, a scarf (what, were they telling me was going to lose my hair?!), brochures, and so on. Nice touch, but just a roadmap would have been more practical. You know, like who to call once the dust settles in my mind.

The hardest part of this journey has been trying to track down information and hearing, ‘well, you need to call so and so for that,” or “our office hasn’t received that yet,” “I haven’t heard anything.” That alone made this whole experience truly frustrating and scarier than it needed to be.

I understand from my wonderful Reiki master, Marilynn Carter, that there is a book, “Prepare for Surgery” by Peggy Huddleston, that explains a whole process about talking to the body prior to surgery. It recommends bringing the doctors and staff into it as well. I am hoping I can find it before Tuesday. Also, I am pleased that so many hospitals offer Reiki before and after surgery as well. Needless to say, I will be checking the hospital to be sure they offer it.

So–all that said, I think I have clear sailing before me. Again, to anyone reading this going through a similar experience, please know that I am with you in spirit. You are not alone, and neither am I.


Just When I Was Ready to Tear My Hair Out, This Happened…

Yesterday was an epic bad day. I work part time from home, and remote in via my home computer. Let’s just say that there were some “issues” that made it next to impossible to do my job. Frustrated, I decided that I would vacuum the house and then wash the kitchen floor, two chores I heartily hate. But as I was already in a bad mood, I figured, how bad could it be?

Turns out I was wrong. The vacuuming was done with my usual bad grace and swearing, and then I picked up my handy dandy Swiffer Wet Jet–and the bottle of cleanser was empty. I muttered about “people who don’t replace things,” stomped down the stairs and found that the Crankee Yankee had bought a new bottle (damn, do I appreciate that man!).

As I opened the back of the Swiffer to replace the bottle, the battery compartment flopped open and vomited out its four AA batteries–turns out they were DOA anyway. After swearing some more, I went back downstairs and found AAA batteries, D batteries, C batteries and even those hard-to-find 9V batteries–but no AAs. So I called the Crankee Yankee and asked him to pick some up.

I also decided to call my doctor to see if my surgical appointment had been made yet for my lumpectomy (see my two posts, “A Surprise” and “A Surprise, Part 2” for more information), and of course, no one knew anything about it. I finally tracked down the right person and they said they would call me back (which remains to be seen).

Honestly, when you get a cancer diagnosis, even a stage zero one like mine, you get rattled easily and find it hard to focus because your brain keeps on screaming “I have cancer! I have CANCER!” It would be pretty helpful if, after a consult, someone would say, ‘I know that you are going to forget a lot of what I’m telling you, or who to call for details. Therefore, I am giving you this card with a number to call. You will get a person on the other end who knows all about you and your situation, and can actually answer your questions.’ But of course, that’s not how things work.

Hot, sweaty, frustrated and mad at just about the entire world, I threw myself into my favorite chair and turned on the TV. As I sat there and stewed about how unfair the world was and why was everything turning to crap on me today, a miracle happened.

Our one female cat, Nala, who has been skittery, nervous and prone to biting and swatting all the years we’ve had her (she came to us with fear issues and she actually is better now), suddenly jumped up into my lap. Now she does this with the Crankee Yankee, whom she prefers, but never with me. There she was, warm and comfy, settled into my arms and with her little head nestled against my cheek, purring away.

Well, that was my sign that everything was going to be ok, and that I didn’t have to keep on tilting at windmills that day. Some days are simply harder than others, and relentlessly pushing and shoving doesn’t get answers any sooner. These are the days to lie back, and let it all roll over on you. You will survive, you will get answers, and, if you’re lucky, your one scaredy-cat will climb up in your arms to comfort you.

The Great Good of Getting Older

When I look back at all the mistakes, wasted time, and downright dumb things I have done in my life, I wonder what the heck I was thinking of to be so foolish. It’s taken me years to stop dwelling on these things; my mantra for that is “that was then, and I am not that person any more.” So much of my foolishness was that I was young and didn’t realize the ‘down the road’ effect these things would have on me and others. But that’s part of being young.

There were times when I took unbelievably stupid risks with my life and my health. I have been more lucky than I might have–it’s taken me years to get the message that perhaps I was directed from serious harm because I have a purpose in being here. Oh, I doubt I will write The Great American Novel and be acclaimed by millions. I probably will not save children from a burning building, nor will I dive off a bridge to save someone’s life (I hate heights). Most likely I won’t develop a cure for cancer (how could I? I’m too busy writing!), or initiate world peace on my own.

I am one of those people who does microscopic good when I can. If I know that someone is suffering, has lost someone, is in pain, etc., I send them love and healing energy as well as prayer. I do this with the intention of initiating comfort, calm and healing; where intention goes, energy follows.

We’ve all heard that a butterfly, lazily fluttering its wings in one part of the world, can potentially cause a tsunami in another part of the world, if the conditions are right. If that’s true, than why can’t a simple prayer or thought, sent with good intent and love to another, be its own instrument of peace?

The older I get, the more I see how much time I have wasted in being angry, argumentative, ornery, stubborn, or, as we say in my family, downright *pisserdly. Why waste energy in feeling bad or combative over something as trivial as someone cutting us off in traffic? (Although I will still fall for it if I’m in the right mood.) As I get older, I realize that I don’t like feeling riled up or angry as much as I used to; this is why I can only stand about 5-10 minutes of the news. While I do want to know what’s going on, I don’t want to get all cranked up over something over which I can do nothing.

So these days, at nearly 64 years old (where does the time go? I swear I was only 10 yesterday!), I feel more and more that my purpose for being here at this time is to be kind, to be comforting, and simply to listen. I’m finally getting to where I can concentrate better on listening rather than impatiently waiting for the other person to shut up already so that I can spill my self-perceived pearls of wisdom. I may never reach my goal of being able to always listen first and talk later. But I realize now that my goal is to write more, listen more and talk less. I’m going to be working on that for a long time!

There are many people on this earth who are and will be doing great things to benefit all people. Some will be remembered for years for their good work and how their work changed the world. There are also many people on this earth who are just up to no good, and will try to destroy all that is good and beautiful. And then there are, as my late mother-in-law, Hazel, used to say, a “gracious plenty” who are on this earth simply to be kind and to help keep back the darkness.

That’s finally what I’ve come to believe that getting older is for–to help keep the lights on.

*Our collective word that encompasses being angry, having to have one’s own way, and being argumentative, stubborn, pig-headed, ornery, etc.

“Tomorrow-land” – A Personal Review

The Crankee Yankee and I went to see “Tomorrow-land” yesterday, starring George Clooney. Since we only go out to movies once in a blue moon, it’s always an adventure, especially when deciding what we want to see.

Of course, what we REALLY want is for each of us to go see the movie of our choice, then meet up afterwards. But as yesterday was our anniversary, the Crankee Yankee graciously gave up his choice of seeing the new “Mad Max” movie so that we could see “Tomorrow-land” together. Honestly, the clips I’d seen on TV just captivated me, so I really did want to see it. (My thanks, as always, to the Crankee Yankee’s generosity.)

Now when we were kids, movies were pretty straight forward: there was a newsreel, then a cartoon or two, and then the movie. Bing, bam, boom–that was it. You usually spent about .15 cents on a small bag of popcorn and a candy bar, and the movie itself was at most .50. You were in and out in under an hour and a half (the exception being “Gone With the Wind.” That sucker took hours!).

But these days, you watch nearly 30 minutes of movie trivia, ads, pleas for donations, and several clips from several movies. By the time that your inner kid is screaming “SHOW THE MOVIE ALREADY!” the real movie begins. Oh, and snacks, even modest ones like the Crankee Yankee and I had, one medium drink and small bag of popcorn; will cost more than your ticket. These days movie-going is an investment.

But back to the movie. In a few words, it was magical, breath-taking, illuminating, and had great special effects. Without spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t seen it, the premise is about how dreams can fuel new realities. It was perilously close to the current world pessimism in which we seem to be embroiled–it seems that most people have given up on peace, working together for a greater good, and striving to make life better for us all; a world community, if you will. This is how things stand in the beginning of the movie. One of the more memorable lines was something to the effect of how easy it is to succumb to inaction, despair, ennui, pessimism and hopelessness. How much harder it is to say, ‘no, wait a minute–we can change things here!‘ and then try to make that positive change happen.

Now if you feel I’m getting too hippy-dippy here, too bad. No matter how bad things get, I still have hope for this world and for this country. You may not like this movie yourself, but as for us old farts–we loved it. I walked out of it feeling hopeful, happy, and wonderfully inspired. Movies tend to have this effect on me–especially if it’s as hopeful as Tomorrow-land was.

But then, I’m the kind of person who sobs during the National Anthem, and especially at the sight of those few remaining glorious service men and women, now fragile with age, standing at attention on Veterans Day, Memorial Day and Independence Day.

And on this Memorial Day, I thank all who have served and all who still serve so diligently to keep our freedoms and way of life alive. God bless each and every one of them.

Back to the movie, I hope you see it and enjoy as much as I did, and that the message inspires you as it did for me.


To the Crankee Yankee on Our 13th Anniversary

I’d follow you to Russia, I’d follow you to France

I’d follow you through wind and rain only wearing my pink underpants–

My love is true,

And between me and you–

The thirteen years that we’ve spent wed

Are far better than a TemperPedic bed–

Or a dedicated cleaning lady

To clean up all our corners shady–

Or a new truck that’s good on gas

Or a silver set of demitasse–

Or trips to Spain and London and Peru,

They’d mean nothing if I couldn’t be with you.

Diamonds, rubies, emeralds and pearls–

Mere trinkets compared to those eyes of yours.

Your hand holds mine through thin and thick

And all those times that you’ve been quick

To love me, despite my many flaws

(Even when I show my teeth and claws!)

You’re my rock, my hero and my friend

You’re the love that never ends–

You make me laugh and give me hope

Even when I feel I’m on the ropes–

There’s no one else with whom I’d rather be

Then thee; my love, my light–than thee.





My Take on Reiki

I am a Level II Reiki practitioner, which means I have been trained by my excellent instructor, Marilynn Carter (Reiki Master and Teacher) in the first two levels of Reiki. I won’t go into the important (and interesting ) history of Reiki; I’m afraid that I won’t do it justice. Suffice to say that my training has changed me and made me not only a practitioner, but a lifelong student.

Simply put, Reiki is a method of treating bodily disorders and restoring spiritual balance in which a practitioner places the palms of the hands on a part of the body so that healing energy will flow in that area. There is no disrobing and no touching if the recipient doesn’t want to be touched; it can be done over, not necessarily on; the body areas. Any disease or pain we have is the result of blocked energy that for some reason isn’t flowing as well as it should. Reiki allows the movement of energy through the entire system and can help relieve pain or discomfort.

NOTE: Reiki is not a substitute for medicine. Reiki is energy work.

My own experience with Reiki has been enlightening and illuminating. Reiki has helped me greatly, and I am happy to be able to help others when I work on them.

Reiki practitioners are different; each one knows the general patterns to follow, but they may do it differently. For example, some practitioners prefer to keep quiet during sessions. In my sessions, I can’t seem to shut up. When I close my eyes and put my hands over a part of the body, I can see colors in my mind: red or purple or burgundy mean pain, blue means the area needs attention, grass green means healing, pea green or a sickly yellow means serious sickness, black denotes an emptiness, pink means new healing and comfort, and white and/or gold is God light and healing. Seeing these things, I tell my client what I see and what it means.

Since the Crankee Yankee is my main client, I will tell you what I could ‘see’ after he had radiation therapy for prostate cancer last year. He had been diagnosed about 10 years ago with prostate cancer, and had his prostate removed. Everything went perfectly and he had his PSA checked each year afterward. All was well until last year when his PSA began rising again. It was discovered that there was one lone cancer cell that somehow had been left over from the surgery. Radiation was advised, and he had an 8 week course of it. Following that, his next couple of PSA tests were less than zero.

However, the doctors wanted a scan done to see if everything was clear. The night before he had it, he asked me to check to see what I could see. What I saw was this: a clear grass green area with a small black hole in the middle. My immediate thought was, ‘it’s gone–the cancer cell is gone.’ The scan confirmed it; he was cancer-free.

This color thing is not unique to me; many other practitioners see colors as well. Some hear things, feel things, and so on. One of the great benefits of Reiki is how relaxing it is; it can literally take you out of yourself, calm your mind, and ease discomfort in the body.

Many people do not believe in the healing power of Reiki, and that’s fine. It isn’t for everyone, and if I were to work on someone who wasn’t comfortable about it (but I certainly would hope they would say something about it!), that energy would simply go straight to the earth. But as a practitioner, I absolutely love the fact that I can help someone else feel better. I talk during my sessions, and I speak of what I see and feel. Often I will ask up front what is bothering the person, what pain are they having, and so on. Knowing this, I will work more on those areas.

My hope is that by telling you what I know and experience from Reiki, that it might take some of the mystery and/or apprehension out of the equation for you. I find Reiki to be as important and as relaxing and rejuvenating as massage or meditation.

If you decide to try a Reiki session, keep your mind open, ask questions and simply enjoy the experience.

Try Some Self-Compassion

I found this gem, “Self-Compassion,” in the Kindness Blog (and endless source of inspiration) by Leo Babauta. It really struck a chord for me, and I hope it will for you as well.

“When we’re frustrated with others, or feeling bad about ourselves, we often turn toward habit that comfort us, such as distractions, food, shopping, smoking, drugs/alcohol, etc.

These don’t often work, because they tend to make us feel worse in the long run. We become unhappier, more stressed, and then need to seek comfort in these things again … and the cycle continues. These are sometimes the only ways we know of comforting ourselves! I know this because for a long time I always turned to all of the above for comfort when I was feeling stressed or bad about myself. It made me very unhealthy and it took a long time to change my patterns. Today I’d like to suggest a method of self-compassion that I’ve been learning, that has worked wonders.

Try this “self-compassion method” now if you’re feeling stressed, frustrated, in pain, disappointed, angry, anxious, worried, or depressed:

  1. Notice. Take a moment to turn inward and notice your pain in this moment. Now notice where it is in your body, and how it feels. Describe the pain to yourself in physical terms, in terms of quality, in terms of color or shape or motion.
  2. Accept. Now tell yourself that it’s OK to have this pain. It’s perfectly OK to feel bad about yourself, to feel bad about your body, to feel frustrated with someone else. Let yourself feel the pain.
  3. Comfort. Now treat this pain with compassion, like you would with a friend who is suffering, or your child who is in pain. Be gentle with it, kind to it, like a suffering child. Comfort it. How would you comfort your friend whose parent just died?
  4. Smile. Finally, try wishing your pain well, wish it happiness. Give it love. Smile at your pain in compassion.

This method takes a lot of practice, for sure. I’m still learning it myself, and I don’t claim to be an expert at self-compassion. But I’ve found it to be truly amazing, because we very rarely do this for ourselves. We’re good at being kind to others when they’re having a difficult time, perhaps, but not always with ourselves.

And it can be transformative. If you practice compassion with your pain, it becomes less of a burden. You realize that it’s temporary, you feel less bad about being frustrated. And you feel loved–by yourself.”

I am working on this very method myself right now. As I come closer to a surgical date for my lumpectomy, I realize that my bursts of anger, tears, frustration and distractions are all part of the process. I find myself feeling helpless more often than not; worried about how this will change my life, how this will affect my husband, my work, and so on.

It’s time for some self-compassion, and I’ll bet you could use it, too. I tell you what–I promise to try those four steps myself. I’d love it if you joined me.


Shaming Kids or Saving Their Lives?

When I was growing up, parents were parents and not friends (if you’re lucky, the friend part comes later). Parents saw to it that they raised adults, not perpetual children. We children of that time, learned our manners, our habits, our values, our responsibilities from our parents. There were definite consequences for misbehavior–the rules were consistent and when we got out of line, we were punished appropriately. I’m not talking spanking or being locked in a dark closet–I mean sensible, reasonable, ‘did you learn anything?’ type of punishment.

This seems to have gone out of favor these days. Parents who act like our parents did are constantly accused of being too mean, too bullying, too restrictive, and so on.

Personally, I applaud the following two mothers who refused to let their children get in trouble; Ms. Graham of Baltimore, MD, and Val Starks, Denver, CO mom, as outlined in the following quotes:

“In the video Ms. Graham is seen repeatedly hitting her child. The initial blows appear to be part of her effort to physically drag her son away from the [Baltimore, MD] rioting, which is certainly understandable…..Graham should be praised for being a caring parent with pure intentions. If more parents dragged their teens away from violence, the world would be a much more peaceful place.

A Denver mother’s (Val Starks) video on Facebook is going viral after she shamed her 13-year-old daughter [on Facebook] for posting racy pictures and saying she was 19 years old. “You’re 13,” the mother says to the girl. “So why does your Facebook page say that you are 19?!”

I’m sure that that young girl was embarrassed nearly to death by that, but I see a mom who would rather embarrass her child than have to identify her raped and brutalized body in a morgue.

We know that our brains do not fully develop until age 24; up til then, we can make some pretty stupid decisions. It is our parents who keep vigilant to keep us safe and who remember to be parents, not best friends. A child may have many friends, but only one set of parents.

When I was in grade school, there was a candy store right across the street; a huge temptation to us all. We were strictly told not to leave school property to go there or anywhere else. One day a girl not only went over there, but she stole candy. The owner reported her to her parents and to the principal. The principal took her by the hand, told her to keep her other hand open, displaying the candy she’d taken.

He walked her to each and every classroom, opened the door and explained that this is what a thief looked like. Harsh? By the standards of that time, it was right and just punishment. This was the ’50s, and parents raised adults, not entitled babies. If the child did something they knew was wrong, there was punishment–swift and effective. I don’t know if that girl ever stole again, but after seeing that I decided I would never steal anything, ever.

Maybe the next time a riot breaks out in Baltimore, that boy won’t be part of it, remembering how his mother literally slapped some sense into him. Perhaps that young girl will some day get over her embarrassment and anger at her mother, but live a long life.

God bless the parents who actually parent!