Choose Your Mood!

Yes, it can be done–you can choose your mood! I know from experience that often when I’m having a pissy day, some stubborn little root inside my heart likes that pissy day, and doesn’t want to change it. It’s the kind of indulgence that feels great at the time; afterward, not so much. There is a perverse pleasure in being Crabby von Crabbenstein for a few minutes, hours, or days. It’s like eating potato chips and chocolate ice cream for two days straight–it’s fun for a while, but it isn’t sustainable.

Contrary to popular belief, bad moods don’t just drop down on us from the sky. Suffice to say that they exist and that we all have them from time to time. The hard part is deciding if we want to stay in that bad mood, or lift ourselves out of it.

For years I couldn’t understand how to do that; how to make myself happy, or at least less miserable. But it is surprisingly simple to make that change. The longer I live, the more I realize that our mental pain comes from fear or resentment or just plain loneliness; no one seems to want to be with us or appreciate us. That’s when it’s time to haul out the cheerleader pom-poms (and no–I never was a cheerleader in high school) and cheer for YOURSELF.

Ever since I had a lumpectomy for ductal carcinoma in situ in my right breast in the beginning of this month, I have felt physically low, with little energy, and doing anything seems to take a lot out of me. While I realize that this is part of the healing process, I still get impatient with myself, thinking that I am wasting time and not pulling my own weight. If I’m not careful, I can fall into the guilts and then start blaming myself.

So here’s what I’ve been doing to at least show myself that I am still somewhat on the ball: I make a list each day. By the end of the day, there may only be things on it such as “I made the bed,” “I emptied the dishwasher,” “I made a pitcher of iced tea,” “I did a load of laundry,” “I brushed my teeth,” and “I wrote and sent a letter to my uncle.” But they are accomplishments, little as they might be. That list cheers me up and lets me know that, even though I still don’t feel like my old pre-lumpectomy self, I am still in the game, and still doing something each day.

One of my favorite saying comes from the wonderful Scottish folk: “many a mickle makes a muckle.” This means that many little things add up to big things, and that’s GOOD.

Additionally, I have learned to talk myself out of bad moods. There is an amazing power to hearing your own voice say, “Now c’mon, that’s enough of being negative. Start thinking about all the many things in your life.” Then what starts out as a little trickle of goodness becomes a flood of good things. Another trick in my tool bag is saying out loud (and it works so much better when you DO say it out loud), “I am NOT going to be in this bad mood! I’m going to have a GREAT day, and nothing is going to stop me from having it!”

Oh sure, if you’re doing this while driving (which I often do), people will probably stare at you, but so what? You are the one who is going to have a great day, no matter what their day is going to be. When some impatient twerp behind me roars by and gets one car length ahead of me, I say (again, out loud), “Good–I’d a whole lot rather have you ahead of me than behind me!” Wish them well and go on with your day.

So can it be that simple to change moods? Yup–it is, it truly is that simple. And if a big old crabasaurus like me can do it, so can you.

Have a great day, everyone!



Don’t Hold in a Sneeze or a Fart

Don’t hold in your sneezes,

Just sneeze them when they pleases–

For it’s widely known

That a sneeze unblown

Can rupture the bits you’d rather keep inside–

Like where your stomach, liver and spleen reside.

The damage done

Will be no fun,

Not to mention

All that tension!

Likewise don’t hold in farts

Or let them out in fits and starts–

Better out than in, I always say

(Although it’s not what Emily Post would say!)

I know it’s odd to talk of such rude stuff,

For which you may receive a cuff–

But please don’t hold it all inside

Until you’ve turned completely pop-eyed–

So, for health’s sake, just go ahead and fart your head off

We’ll all adjust and hold our noses aloft,

And look away whenever you sneeze,

And pretend it was just a passing breeze–

We can’t all be perfect all the time,

Except, perhaps in song and rhyme!

(And even then, a salty old hen like me

Will continue to pen these silly verses for all to see–

To make you laugh til you fart or sneeze,

And go on with your day however you please!)








“Poopy-Doopy, You So Loopy!”

On a recent visit to our granddaughter, Ava, and her parents (and of course the two dogs, one cat and several bunnies), as we were enjoying our “*Double Dad Fathers’ Day” lunch afterglow, Ava wanted to play one of her favorite games, the Rhyming Game.

One person starts with a two-word rhyme, like “wacky quacky,” and on to each person. You cannot stop, you can’t fool around and waste time; when your turn is up, you have to make a two-word rhyme or you’re out–them’s the rules. And of course, we always devolve into the “poop” rhymes just because they make us all laugh. The first time I told Ava “poopy-doopy, you so loopy” I thought she would never stop laughing.

One of the greatest things about being with Ava is that anything goes. She gives me freedom to be silly, to color pictures with her (and go outside the lines), to make things together, to follow after her when she says, “Lulu, I have something to show you!”

I never had children of my own, but through two marriages I have two amazing stepdaughters, one of whom is Ava’s mom. In fact, I watched her grow up, go to school, become a leader there, go on to West Point and then graduate and go to war overseas. By then her dad, my Crankee Yankee, and I were married. We both held our collective breaths through each of her five deployments.

Now that we have Ava in our lives, our own lives have changed. We now have is this amazing little girl in our lives, for whom we would do anything. I hear her voice in my head, I know when she’s happy, and when she isn’t, my heart hurts for her. I suppose that my revelations are no big surprise to anyone who has had children and then grandchildren–but they are brand-new to me.

There is nothing about Ava that doesn’t seem utterly fascinating, we love to know what she’s up to, what she likes and how she views the world. Right now her life values have been and are still being set. She knows these truths:

  • If you hurt someone’s feelings, you say sorry and give them a hug.
  • There’s no hitting another person or an animal–ever.
  • You always remember to say “please” and “thank you.”
  • She is deeply and vastly loved by her family.
  • She cares about animals and can’t stand to see them hurt.
  • She has an active and vivid imagination, which we all encourage.
  • She has an amazing vocabulary–you often forget you are speaking with a four-year old.
  • She is kind to people.
  • She loves music and she loves to sing and dance.
  • She has no problem walking up to a shy child and introducing herself, and asking them their name.
  • When she sees someone she thinks is beautiful, she tells them. (I have witnessed this once or twice, and the effect of her sincere flattery is incredible.)
  • She has her own chores to do, and is thrilled to be able to mark them off her little chore chart.
  • She understands that a family is a unit where everyone plays their part to help everyone.

And of course there is much more, but these stand out in my mind. For me, a first-time grandmother (or step-grandmother to be specific), this miracle of a child is a treasure and a blessing. I’m a pretty lovey-dovey person, but honestly, I couldn’t have imagined how far love can go or how it would change me. Ava has made me a better person, and I can’t wait to see all the good she will do in the world.

So, having said all that, “poopy-doopy–I’M so loopy!: 🙂

*The Crankee Yankee’s wonderful daughter, mom of Ava, made the favorite meal of both her father and her husband, homemade shepard’s pie.

Flatly I Stood on My Little Flat Feet…

Last night, the Crankee Yankee and I drove to the ocean. We purposely go just before most folks’ dinnertime so that it isn’t so crowded. After passing through all the honky-tonkish spots in Hampton, we drove out to Rye. We stopped for a quick bite, then sat in the car to people-watch.

Shortly afterward, I went down to the water for a walk (the Crankee Yankee preferred to stay in the car). There’s something about standing on that little margin of wet sand between dry land and the ocean–watch the water long enough and you become swept up in the hypnotic rhythm of the waves. A family of brown ducks floated serenely on the swells, and seagulls wheeled and screeched and soared overhead. The sun was still bright, and the water was cold enough to turn your kneecaps blue.

The Atlantic ocean is vast, dark, and frigid even in summer, and it grumbles and roars day and night. It doesn’t pussyfoot in like the Pacific ocean, either. It’s a tough old sea and it keeps you on your toes. It gleefully smashes up any shells that might be found on the shore, except for the odd slipper shell or whelk. Ropy strands of seaweed mark the division between land and sea, and bright pebbles of white, amber, gray, black and taupe spread out on the sand like jewels on a velvet cloth. When I was a kid, I collected many of these little bright stones, and was so disappointed when I found them later; dry and reduced to flat monochromatic shades.

So as I stood there, bare feet in the water and the cuffs of my best yoga pants soaked, all I could feel was just plain happy. Happy for that moment in time when all feels well, where there are no demands or deadlines, no one wanting to go home when you want to just stay where you are and appreciate the sounds and smells of the sea.

I suppose that many people feel like this; part of the rhythm of the winds and tides, feet slowly freezing in the water. I imagine people all over the world who enjoy this simple pleasure, and, for that moment, are content.

Heaven knows that there is a gracious plenty of bad things going on in the world, and I don’t need to enumerate them here. Suffice it to say that there is also an accompanying gracious plenty of good things, too. Little acts of sweetness, kindness, joyful giving and receiving, a smile, a hug, a ‘good morning;’ all little things.

That would be my prescription for a good day: start it or end it with your feet in the sea. It gives you perspective on where you are, who you are, and what gifts you may bring to the world….all that from just standing in freezing sea water? Yup–you betcha! Try it yourself and see.


Courage Is….

As we come closer to our uniquely American tradition of Independence Day on the 4th of July, I am reminded of what true courage means. I grew up in a very non-politically correct time; no one batted an eye at ethnic jokes, no one worried about offending anyone, no one ever disrespected the flag, and so on. I’m not saying that those were perfect times; I’m just saying that that is the time in which I grew up. My parents taught me right from wrong, who set my values and ethics, and it was them, not the government, who told me what I should and shouldn’t do.

For example, I came home from school one day with a joke involving a Polish man that I thought was hilarious. I told it to my parents, and neither of them laughed or smiled. My mother said, “Did you know that your Uncle So-and-So was Polish and lost all his family during WWII?”

I had always loved history, and in school when I learned about Nazi Germany and the concentration camps, I wept. When I heard about my uncle, I immediately remembered that joke and realized at that moment that nothing about it was funny. I knew then that there are some things you just don’t joke about; real live people are involved, and they matter.

My family taught me all the values and beliefs that I still hold dear to this day.

Courage is:

  • Standing up for the right, even when no one else will stand with us
  • Showing love each day, even if someone we love hurts us
  • Speaking out about a wrong that must be made right
  • Going to sit with the new kid at lunch
  • Admitting our faults and working to change them to positives
  • Being a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves
  • Choosing to do the right thing, not the popular thing
  • Giving the other guy the benefit of the doubt
  • Waving or saying ‘hello’ to a homeless person, even if we have nothing else to give them
  • Forgiving ourselves for being human and imperfect
  • Standing up and putting our right hand over our heart when during the Pledge of Allegiance, or when the National Anthem is sung
  • Forgiving those who offend us (it’s not easy, but it is doable)

Courage isn’t always about charging into battle without regard for our own lives. It’s often just small but significant actions that speak volumes about the person who stood by his or her convictions. It was my parents who made sure that I understood that actions have consequences.

One day in high school they were serving slices of pizza, which in itself was pretty terrific.When I got my slice, I saw that it was practically raw. Being the hothead that I was then, I made a huge and foolish deal about it, and, long story short, I told off the kitchen staff about the poor quality of their food and demanded a “good” slice. It caused a minor uproar, and of course the kitchen staff were upset and talked loudly down the line about getting this girl her “special slice.” I remember feeling a small curl of unease in my stomach, and I don’t remember even eating the slice of pizza.

It turned out that one of the lunch ladies was the mother of one of mom’s friends, so the story of my foolishness was home that day before I was. My parents sat me down and explained to me what I had done. It was my dad who said, “Did you ever think that, in getting lunch ready for all you kids, that one tray of food might not have been cooked enough and that your raw slice wasn’t personal? Did you ever think to show the raw slice to one of the ladies and ask politely for another one?” I was dumbstruck, and all at once I saw the rude and selfish thing I’d done, and for what? Looking good for five minutes to the kids at my table at lunch? I was mortified that I had hurt someone’s feelings, and also knew that these poor ladies never got much respect or thanks for being there each day to feed us.

I don’t remember now if I wrote a letter or went to the kitchen staff face-to-face to apologize for my behavior; I only remember how I felt when I realized what I’d done and that I had hurt people unnecessarily.

What I do remember from that day was how my parents gently but firmly demanded courage from me so that I could make a wrong right. It is because of their courage that I became courageous myself. It was in that moment in time that I realized what courage  really is–it’s not as easy as you’d think, but it isn’t as hard as you’d think, either.

Courage is like a muscle; use it or lose it. And we are so much less when we don’t use it!

The Fine Art of Semi-Retirement

The Crankee Yankee is fully retired, and has been for a few years. He divides his time between repairing and renovating our circa 1953 house, planting and tending our raised bed gardens, being part of his model railroad club, and being a terrific grandfather, plus my husband and best friend.

I, on the other hand, am semi-retired. I work on site two days per week and work remotely from home on the other three days. I’m a technical writer, and have been for years.

So, that said, there is a great pleasure in having one foot on the ‘almost retired’ club yet still work. For instance, when I’m home, I can take breaks to make lunch, run a few errands, paint my toenails, hem a t-shirt while I’m waiting for an answer on a manual, tend to the cats, do some laundry, and so on.

I also have time to join the Crankee Yankee in the early morning to have a cup of fresh coffee on our porch. Sitting in our rockers, enjoying the birdsong and the freshness of a new day–it’s a great start. I have the time to appreciate the beauty of our gardens, where the herbs, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, cukes, spinach, radishes and onions are already popping up. Still to be planted are the peas, leeks, lettuce and beets. One garden on the other side of the driveway is dedicated to a bed of garlic, which is now gifting us with delicious scapes.

In preparation for the bounty of vegetables to come, I made two big pans of roasted vegetables last night for dinner, and they were absolutely delicious (see the *recipe below).

Being semi-retired also means that I have more time for family and friends, which I deeply appreciate. As a long-time technical writer, I can tell you that manuals usually are needed either all in a big bunch, or one every so often. This allows me to adjust my schedule for family, friends, doctor appointments, and so on.

When I was younger and working full-time, I found that I missed a lot–I made my job my priority, and I now see how that can become a dangerous habit. Of course we should treat our jobs seriously and perform it the best we can; that’s what we’re paid to do. But our families, our friends, our neighbors, our community–these are all important, too.

We just found out that our oldest neighbors, John and Dottie (both in their 90s), have had some trouble recently. Dottie fell and badly injured her hip (thankfully not broken) and is in a rehab facility to recover. John, who is very deaf (even with hearing aids) still is out and about, walking their little dog. They have three grown children who visit regularly and are helping out, but we were worried about them. One neighbor has made it his business to bring meals over to supplement John’s Meals on Wheels. We have asked him to let us know when we can help out, too.

Our little neighborhood is important to us; almost like family. This, our family; my parents, the Crankee Yankee’s daughter (my stepdaughter) and her family, our friends and of course our pets are all precious to us. Being semi-retired gives me a new chance to be more present with them, to enjoy them more and to reach out as I can.

So now that I am semi-retired, I take new joy in being able to have that first wonderful cup of coffee on the porch in the generous light of morning with my Crankee Yankee. We know and appreciate this neighborhood and all in it. We are grateful for the symphony of cardinal song and those of all the nesting birds and their new families. We even get to see the odd rabbit or two in the field across the street, and now and then we’ll see one of “our” raccoons high-tail it across the street in that odd and funny humpbacked way they run.

Who would have thought that this stage of my life would become one of the sweetest times in my life?

*Oven Roasted Vegetables

Mix the following together:

Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, rosemary leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper (just mix up as much as you think you’ll need for the amount of vegetables you plan to use).

Cut up zucchini and summer squash in thick slices (I like to cut the squash in half, then cut long slices about 1/2″ thick), mushrooms, red and green peppers, purple onions, whole cloves of garlic (trust me, you’ll want TONS of these–they roast up so sweetly!), plus anything else you feel like adding in.

Spray your biggest pan with cooking spray (or line it with aluminum foil and then spray to save yourself some cleaning!), stir up the cut vegetables with the oil and vinegar mix til the vegetables are fully coated, then dump it all in the pan. Roast at 475 degrees for 30-40 minutes; check them and stir once or twice. No matter how much you think you’ve made, they will get eaten up FAST!

Do Small Things With Great Love

I just read the following article, “Do Small Things With Great Love,” in the Kindness Blog, posted June 23 by *Ron Clinton Smith. It is an encouragement not only to do good where possible, but to remember that anything given in love is more precious than gold.

For me, reading this article came at the exact right time, and I hope that it resonates with you, too.

“Are we frustrated by all we cannot do to help the world? There are so many needs, pains and tragedies, so much suffering, and we’re willing, yearning to go at them with eager hearts, but feel we’re coming up short.

“There are so many of us, and if each of us made a small effort toward salvation, what couldn’t we accomplish for the human race in one day?

“The misguided souls of the universe need our help. We are the ones who must do it. Ignorance, wars, the suicidal madness of terrorism, insatiable greed, not just for material things, but to rule the world with ideas, religions, government policies, militant actions, stalk and haunt and threaten us all. Nothing good or permanent will ever come from these things.

“It is only with day to day humble acts of love that we are redeemed.

“We’re idiots to go the other way, to follow the thread of fear that leads to aggrandizement of power at any cost. It’s human nature to want more, to have more, but what is more when humanity itself loses itself? There is a balance that must be tempered with love, or the whole thing will fall on its head and crack open like an egg.

“We must do small things with great love.

“That is the answer. And small things, done every day, done well and enough, pile up and become bigger ones. They are contagious. They are within reach of every one of us. When we see the good deeds, the time taken by good people to help others in need, the homeless, the hungry, people suffering in other countries where disasters have occurred, such as Haiti, and more recently Nepal, our effectiveness increases by the contagion of wanting to lift up others, and it lifts us up.

“It isn’t grand gestures that save the world, though we need those too. It is the small things, the unseen words and touches and acts. We can do this at home, in our neighborhood, on the street, in a parking lot, anywhere we are. We carry great power in our smile, in our willing hearts, helping a child or the elderly, the most vulnerable among us. Any small aid given to anyone, any small encouragement, any kindness, creates ripples across the universe.

“We carry the fate of the world in our souls with simple acts of great love.”

*Ron Clinton Smith is a film actor, recently seen in True Detective, a writer of stories, songs, poetry, screenplays, and the novel Creature Storms.