Everybody Eats When They Come to Our House!

We have a little black and gray striped cat

Who shows up morning and night for this and that–

A bowl of water, and one of food–

A box lined with blankets to suit his mood,

If he wants to stay the night

And sleep there warm and tight,

He’s welcome to our hospitality

To keep him in good vitality.

As weather grows warmer both day and night,

I hope he’ll still come by to get a bite—

Knowing he is welcome to a healthy share

Of our good fortune without care.

Of course, there’s the occasional raccoon,

Clever bandit who shows up by the light of the moon–

The odd skunk or squirrel or flock of birds,

They too are welcome, beyond all words.

Come one, come all, both large and small—

The strays know that we will feed them all!

 

 

To Those Who Did Not Grow Up With Rotary Phones…..

Way back in the 1950s, telephones were not as  ubiquitous as they are today. As a child of the ’50s, telephones were kind of awe-inspiring, and rather serious. Hardly anyone I knew just called to chit-chat; telephones were used to communicate important information or to call a doctor, etc. Our telephones back then were heavy, black and had a rotary dial.

It was a rare home that had more than one telephone, and it was a privilege and a grave responsibility to use it. Most telephones looked like this:

VINTAGE WESTERN ELECTRIC BELL SYSTEM F1 BAKELITE ROTARY PHONE - WORKS - ESTATE

The rotary phone had a relatively short cord, which meant that everyone in the area could hear you. Later on, longer cords became available, allowing lovesick teens to drag the phone into a closet or pantry and shut the door. When you dialed the number, forefinger in the correct hole, the dial made a satisfying ‘click-click-click’ as it spun back into place.

The first time I was allowed to use the phone (and yes, back then children did not use the phone without first asking permission), I called my grandmother. When the operator (yes, there were real, live operators back then who manually connected you; see photograph below) answered, saying “number, please,” I said, “692, please,” and was connected.

Often when you picked up the phone, you knew the operator by her voice. It wasn’t at all unusual to recognize the familiar voice of Myrtle, Jeanette, Annie or Trudy. Many people started their conversation with ‘hiya, Trudy, how’re you?’ She’d answer back and then connect you. I remember one time sneaking into the living room to make an unapproved phone call. I got the operator named Annie, who said, “Janie, is that you? You know your daddy doesn’t want you to use the phone! Now hang up before you get into trouble.” I did.

In my circle, it was pretty unheard of for kids my age to use the telephone at all. You had to be deemed responsible enough to use it properly, usually with a parent standing by. Also, if the phone rang, parents generally answered it. I was sternly instructed in ‘telephone etiquette’ early on in life. If allowed to pick up a ringing phone, I was to say something to this effect:

“Hello–this Jane; who is calling, please?” If the call was for my mother or father, I was to say, “Would you please hold? I’ll go get them right now. Thank you.” Anything less than this was deemed rude or worse, frivolous or time-wasting. I was also well aware that using the phone cost money.

As time and telephone technology evolved, there were some changes in the old heavy, black telephones. I remember when the much-desired “princess phone” came into being. It was the dream of most pre-teen or teenage girls at that time was to have that prized possession:

Back in those days, we never dreamed of anything as futuristic as a cell phone. If you were driving somewhere and your car broke down, you had a couple of options: you could get out of the car and hoof it to the nearest store or gas station to use a pay phone, or you could take your chances and hitchhike to the nearest place with a pay phone. No one thought a thing about it; that was just the way things were back then.

I don’t think it ever occurred to any of us that we needed a portable telephone with us at all times. Life went at a slower, more comfortable pace back then. It was actually an oddity to see someone impatient about much of anything. Traffic was a lot lighter, probably because there were far less cars on the road. There were fewer driving accidents, too. The cars driven at that time required the driver to shift gears, manage the headlights, turn signals, and also muscle the car themselves–no power steering in those days. You had to actually pay attention while driving.

I never heard anything about “road rage,” either. The pace of life was slower, and there was time to do whatever you needed to do. It seemed that no one was ever in a great hurry. You knew how long it took you to drive to work, so you planned your time accordingly. People drove with caution, and kept a car-length or two behind the car in front of them. There was no need whatsoever to ride someone’s back bumper, either. The ‘impatience factor’ just wasn’t an issue back then.

But back to telephones. Even seeing an old 1950s rotary phone brings me back to my childhood. Those days are far behind us now, and I wonder if all our new technology is doing us more harm than good……..plus I miss that friendly old click-click-click of the rotary dial!

Don’t Shame the Sweaty Bettys

Last year at this time, I found out that I had DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ) breast cancer. Luckily, after I had a lumpectomy, my mammogram came out clear months later. Although I understand that this can re-occur at any time, I felt I had dodged a bullet. Prior to this, I was taking a homeopathic hormone which reduced my night sweats and hot flashes to nearly nothing. It was heavenly not to be hot all the time, or suddenly break into a dripping sweat–which, by the way, always seemed to happen when  I was around lots of people. There is just no hiding turning instantly soaking wet.

Because of this brush with cancer, I had to stop taking my wonderful hormone therapy and now am officially a Sweaty Betty. I cannot take any kind of hormone for five years, which means that I have and probably will spend most of my time dripping wet. This happens in any type of weather or season (even in the dead of winter), and especially when there is no moving air.

To say that it is embarrassing just skims the surface. I hate it that I have no control over it–I will be fine and dry and than BOOM—soaking, wringing wet. The ends of my hair drip sweat down my face and neck, and I wish that I could just sink out of sight.

I know quite a few women who also must live with this. For now, all we can do is to grin and bear it, or like me, make jokes about it when I want to run and hide my sweaty self. But this is my life for the next five year or so, and like it or not, I am going to be caught blotchy and sweaty from time to time and there isn’t a whole lot I can do about it.

I carry a paper fan wherever I go, plus lots of cloth handkerchiefs to mop myself off. There are times when I am home that I will just open the freezer door and stick my head in there to cool off. I confess to feeling envious of all those women who can walk around confident that sudden sweat is not on their radar. While I wish them well, I am jealous as hell.

So, the next time you see someone like me walking around dabbing at her face and neck, cheeks bright red and looking as though she would love to be invisible, remember: this is probably something they just can’t help. They are all too aware of what they look like, and staring at them, or worse; commenting about them is hurtful. We wouldn’t laugh or whisper about someone in a wheelchair or someone with a prosthetic leg, would we? Believe me, the SBS (Sweaty Betty Syndrome) is about the least funny thing I can think of.

I once saw an inscription on a tombstone that read, “Where you are now, I once was. Where I am now, you will be.” I used to think it was pretty mean-spirited, but now I apply it differently. I’d love to have a button that reads: “Where you are now, cool and dry, I once was. Where I am now, hot and sweaty, you may be.” No judgement, just fact.

So, to all of you normal ladies out there, enjoy your blessed dryness and cool comfort. To all you fellow Sweaty Bettys out there, I feel for you and I am with you, wet or dry.

Personal Style

I remember when I was young that I was terribly concerned about fashion, makeup, hair styles, perfume, shoes and so on. I wanted to look as fashion-forward as possible. I went through the Carnaby Street British look in the ’60s when English rock groups like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones ruled the music world. I also developed a mild form of dress to fit in with the hippie crowd. Not that I wanted to be a hippie per se; I just liked their long dresses, flowers in the hair and tie-dyed t-shirts.

Styles come and go, and if you live long enough, the old fashions come back. Then you will laugh about how you wore this or that way back when it was  all new. Each year I get a kick out of seeing that last year’s long shorts have now become this year’s denim underpants, then the next year it goes back to long shorts and so on.

However, you get to a point in life where what other people are wearing doesn’t seem to matter much any more. Priorities change. I gave up my 3″ high heels decades ago, along with panty hose and those ubiquitous business suits. These days I wear what I like and what’s comfortable.

As more of my body has gone to wobbly bits, freckles, sun spots and other age-related weirdness, I cover up more than I used to. I do NOT wear anything that shows my upper arms, cleavage (which, sadly, has become wrinkled), or thighs. These days my casual warm weather wear is silky capris, usually black (actually they are pajama bottoms, but who’d know? Well, now YOU do.), and one of several loose-fitting short-sleeved cotton tops I like in solid colors like hot pink, turquoise, lime, purple and cherry.

As for footwear, I have a pair of those stretchy sneaker-like casual shoes (my Good Feet arch supports fit fine in them) for most days, and a couple pairs of nice sandals. As always, I seldom wear less than 16-17 items of jewelry. Why? Why not? I love the jangle of silver bangles I wear, lots of “statement” rings, dangly earrings and so on.

I’m thinking that, when I turn 70 I may just start a new fashion trend of wearing colorful saris, salwars, and floaty, filmy kimonos. In fact, I’ve always preferred costumes to clothes any way! Let people say what they will–this is my own style and I’m sticking to it.

After decades of dressing for a job, other people and being a slave to the current fashion, it’s a pure pleasure to wear whatever the heck I want to wear. My priority these days is to be comfortable, not stylish. I find myself these days looking at older women who have their own style and panache; they are amazing.

The following women have the look I aspire to–and aren’t they fabulous?

Iris Apfel, age 93.

Linda Rhodin, age 68.

The incomparable Helen Mirren, age 70.

Image result for older women fashion

 

“Good Out, Good In”

I’ve said this many times: the tiniest pebble thrown into a pond causes ripples to fan out from where the pebble went in. Watch: when the ripples hit the boundaries of the pond, they will head back to the source stronger and larger than before. This is plain old physics for you, as well as Karmic reasoning.

When we are in a sour mood and everything looks black and dreary to us, we radiate that energy out. Thinking of the pebble; all that sourness and drear comes back to us even stronger. Who needs that? In order to change what comes back to us, we have to change our outlook and our projection of what we want.

Surprisingly, this isn’t hard to do. All it takes is the smallest bit of positive thinking. If we get out of bed with a groan saying, ‘what a crappy day this is going to be,’ it probably will be. Words have their own energy, and negative words actually do make us negative. Conversely, if we start the day saying something like, ‘today is going to be GREAT,’ then we’re setting the stage for a great day. The formula for success is simply this: put good (good thoughts, positive words) out and we get good back; good out, good in. 

We don’t have to be Pollyanna or little orphan Annie singing “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow;” all it takes is a simple attitude adjustment. When we want good in our lives it is as easy as putting good thoughts, words and intentions out into the universe. Smiling at people you don’t know makes a difference, too. It doesn’t matter if that person smiles back; this is US putting out great energy that will touch others and energize ourselves.

This is the perfect opportunity to be selfish in a good way. If your best and dearest friend were standing right in front of you crying or saying how bad she feels, wouldn’t you want to comfort her? It may sound simplistic, but we can see ourselves as that crying friend and comfort her.

And here’s something else: even if you put out 1,000 watts of positive energy and goodness out there, you still can have negative things happen. This does not mean we give up, it only means that we are being ‘sharpened’ for another purpose. Say for instance that you are on your way to work and there is a huge traffic snarl. You know that this is going to make you late to that early morning meeting you have scheduled.

You have two choices: 1) sit there and fume and swear about this situation which you can’t fix, or 2) turn on the radio and sing along with the hits and say out loud ‘that’s ok; this is going to clear up and I will be on time.’ Hint: you must BELIEVE this; don’t just say it while rolling your eyes over the seeming absurdity of it.

I know a woman who lives 35 miles away from her job. Due to the nature of that job, she absolutely has to be there on time each day. One morning she left at the usual time, and there was a major accident five miles up the road. Traffic was at a standstill, and she knew she would be late. Wouldn’t you just know it, she also forgot to charge her cell phone the night before, so she couldn’t call into her work.

Here’s what happened: before she got too worried or panicked, she took three deep breaths. Then she said out loud (BTW, the ‘out loud’ part really helps get your intention moving), “Everything is fine. I’m going to get to work in plenty of time.”

She repeated this mantra to herself several times (to put an intention to work, say it out loud at least 15 times). All around her people were honking their horns angrily, and everyone looked angry and upset. Unperturbed, she kept repeating her intention. Suddenly, the accident was cleared up and traffic began moving again. She got to work that day five minutes early.

Say what you will; that this was just a coincidence, etc., but putting something good and positive out will always bring something good and positive back to you. Mind you, it may not be the outcome you wanted, but when you look deeper, you will find that the right outcome happened. I’ve tested this too many times not to believe it.

It’s up to US to decide what kind of day we’re going to have; good/bad, easy/hard, clear/crazy, etc. Being positive does bring about positive results. Remember the pebble in the pond; stronger ripples come back than went out.

 

 

 

“It’s an Eagle! It’s an EAGLE!!!”

My mother enjoyed nature, especially when it stayed out of her house and minded its own business. She liked the seasonal birds who ate out of the feeders she provided (of course the birds never knew that the reason she put them up in the first place was to entertain the cat), and was fine with the occasional butterfly or luna moth–again; as long as they stayed outside.

She was always impressed by large birds. One winter’s night when I was in grade school, we were driving home from my grandparents’ home. At the time, Dad drove a beautiful little cream-colored MG-TD with green leather seats. I was still small enough to fit in the well behind the two front seats.

The hood ornament on the MG was quite large, and on that night as we drove home, a big gray barn owl flew up and landed on it. It stared at the three of us–and all four of us were transfixed for the moment. Then it flew off, and, the spell broken, Mom exclaimed, “It’s an eagle! It’s an EAGLE!” To her, any big bird was an eagle.

Prior to 1962 when we moved into the first (and only) house we ever owned, we lived in a wonderful apartment with a large sun porch overlooking the lake. We loved that sun porch with its wonderful view of the lake. During thunderstorms we would quickly gather up all the pillows we could find and sit on them on the porch to watch the lightning dance across the water.

There was a long rolling hill down to the water with a dock. On warm days I spent a lot of time diving off it, swimming , or just lying on a towel in the sun reading. Dad’s canoe was tied up there, and we took it out many times during the summer. One misty morning, Mom was enjoying a second cup of coffee on the sun porch. All of a sudden, Dad and I heard her yell, “It’s an eagle! It’s an EAGLE!”

Of course, we went thundering out on the porch to see it. There on the dock stood a great blue heron. Not an eagle, I told her. “Well,” she said. “It’s as big as one!”

Dad mentioned recently that one time when they traveled up to Maine, she happened to see a moose with a huge set of antlers. Excitedly, she shouted to Dad, “it’s an eagle! It’s an EAGLE!” (I’m thinking she saw the huge antlers as wing span.)

Just the other day as I was talking with a friend on the phone, I saw an enormous blue heron sail across the sky and land right on the top of a big spruce across the street. I starting laughing because I just knew that Mom was somewhere saying; “it’s an eagle! It’s an EAGLE!”

It just goes to show that just because someone has passed on doesn’t mean that they don’t still have their sense of humor!

Back Porch, Front Porch, Deck, Breezeway, Landing—?

I’ll be the first to admit I know next to nothing about residential construction. Any “house-y” type things I need to know about, I ask the Crankee Yankee. He has been an excellent carpenter all his working life, and continues to use his considerable skills in repairing and renovating our circa 1953 home.

However, the terms often confuse me. The other day the Crankee Yankee announced that he had bought a couple of brackets for hanging flowers on the “deck.” I said that I thought we were going to put hanging flowers up on the front porch roof (when we have a roof, that is). He replied that, yes, that was the plan once he puts the roof on the front porch.

“So where exactly are these brackets going to go?” I asked.

“On the deck,” he replied. “Won’t that look good?”

“Hmmm….the deck; do you mean the part of the front of the house where you walk up the stairs to get into the breezeway?” I asked. (I told you–terms confuse me.)

“Yes, that would be the ‘deck,’ ” he replied patiently.

“Ok, so—the hanging plants will go on the deck then?” I asked. He nodded, hoping I finally got it.

“Yes, that would look pretty nice.”

Now we are speaking the same language.

This is just a sample of what we go through at least once a week. When he tells me he is going to clean up the back porch (which, by the way, he built himself a few years back and it looks great), I now know that he means that he is going to bring out all the shelves of seedlings he planted weeks ago and plant them in the gardens….not actually ‘clean up’ the back porch.

When he says that he is going to put a ceiling on the breezeway and sheetrock the walls, I now know what to expect and I plan accordingly. This means I either go to a movie (a LONG movie) while all the banging and sawing and hammering is going on, or I take a book down to the pond and read for hours. Or do something else to get me out of the house. I know he knows exactly what he’s doing, but he also understands that I can’t help him and that the noise will drive me nuts.

The Crankee Yankee also knows that I have absolutely no vision when he describes what he plans to do on this or that part of the house. Long ago when he told me he was going to put “dormers” on the second floor (this used to be two small bedrooms with a half bath in between.) Now it is one open space (still with the half bath) which will eventually become a small guestroom and a storage/crafts room. What I see from what he’s done is that there are now two cute little windows facing the back yard. Yup, those would be the “dormers.”

The Crankee Yankee also knows that my house repair knowledge is just a few degrees of understanding past your average caveman. When he explains in detail how he is going to do this or that and my eyes start glazing over, he just says, ‘trust me–you’ll like it.’ And I usually do.

The man is both handy and handsome (a line you will no doubt understand if you watch “*The Red Green Show”).

*The Red Green Show is a Canadian television comedy that aired on various channels in Canada, with its ultimate home at CBC Television, and on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) stations in the United States, from 1991 until the series finale 7 April 2006, on CBC.

The Red Green Show is essentially a cross between a sitcom and a sketch comedy series, and is a parody of home improvement, do-it-yourself, fishing, and other outdoors shows (particularly The Red Fisher Show). Reruns currently air on CBC Television, The Comedy Network, and various PBS stations. It was produced by S&S Productions, which is owned by Steve and Morag Smith. Directors on the series include Steve Smith (who plays the main character, “Red Green”), Rick Green and William G. Elliott.

Red Green’s ending line of each show is “if you can’t be handsome, at least be handy.”

Change of Face or the Dancing Bunny Conundrum

Did you ever notice that, when the news media shows a picture of a criminal on TV, you automatically see them as one? We may think or mutter to ourselves, ‘humph–he LOOKS like a criminal!’

However, if the same face is on the news and the commentators are praising him to the skies for running into a burning building to save a toddler and his puppy, we think, ‘wow–what a hero!’ After hearing that, he LOOKS like a hero to us.

It’s the same face. What makes the difference between viewing him as a criminal or a hero? Although much of it is perception, I’d say the bulk of what we believe is what we hear. If I hear and  see someone whom the media is damning for a  criminal, that’s how I see him. The converse of course is true; if touted as a hero, a hero is what I see.

It is fair? Probably not, but there it is. I read once that if crabs could talk, and you picked one up and said, ‘you crabs are all alike; you all even look the same.’ The crab would probably reply indignantly, ‘not so! I am special, unique and different from all other crabs! Just look at the green spots on my claws; have you ever seen such a beautiful design?’

No matter that each and every crab has the same pattern of green spots; this individual crab would protest how different and special he is. (Sounds a lot like people, doesn’t it?)

Our media today is honed to such a fine point that we can nearly see a crime before it happens. Policemen and women are wearing body cameras now, there are drones who can gawk into our lives at any time, there are security cameras everywhere, and anyone who has a cell phone can snap pictures or take videos of live action at any time.

It’s interesting to speculate on what exactly makes a criminal a criminal and a hero a hero. Our hearts are warmed when we see videos of dads or moms returning from the armed forces and surprising their children at school. We love our heroes. But our hearts turn sour when we see or hear of someone who has committed a heinous crime or hurt another person.

We usually don’t know these people, so we cannot make an honest judgement. But remember that the job of news media is to not just impart the latest information, but to shape it in the most sensational way possible to get and hold our attention. I call it the “dancing bunny *conundrum; i.e., ‘watch the dancing bunny while I distract you from what is REALLY going on.’

While we are getting wound up over things for which we can do nothing, there is real life to be lived, real situations where we can help, and real people with which to interact. I don’t know about you, but I’m trying harder to ‘get real’ these days.

Wish me luck!

*Conundrum:

  • 1:  a riddle whose answer is or involves a pun

  • 2:  a question or problem having only a conjectural answer, or an intricate and difficult problem