The End of the Year

Well, my friends, 2016 has come to its end,

And we face a brand new year in which to learn and bend

Our old ways into new ones,

Our bad habits into good ones,

And hope that change will stick throughout the new year—

It’s all in our attitude, ability and strength to fight the fear

Of failure or laziness or doubt or worry—

In any case, let’s not be in such a hurry

To change just for change’s sake—

There will be plenty of time to make mistakes

And regret the road not taken or challenges met;

(After all, the new year hasn’t begun quite yet)

The coming new year is yet young and strong

So let’s not worry so much about being wrong—

How about this year we give ourselves free reign

To free ourselves from worry, hurt feelings and bane—

To be who we are and do our best in all things

And see what all this new year brings?

 

 

 

Book Ban — Really?!

I have heard that some schools have decided to ban “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee and “Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain. Why these books? Because they have “racial slurs” in them. Not only are these books classics, but they reflect the times in which they were written.

Because they are reflecting those times, readers will find in these books now politically incorrect words such as the “N” word. At the time these books were written, that was just how things were. I’m not saying that this was right, but I am saying that these were far different times than those in which we now live.

We may read these two books today and exclaim: “how awful! How could people treat other people like this? How could they use such insulting language?” But again—these books were written in another time, not our present time.

Here is my issue with banning certain books: where does this end? Are we to become so obsessed with not hurting anyone’s feelings or offending anyone that we start banning any book with the slightest hint of political incorrectness? These books and many others are part of our history—like it or not.

History stands as it happened, with no clever cover-ups or sanitizing what happened. History is how things happened, and this is why we need to know our own history, warts and all.

If we do not learn our own history, we are certain to repeat the same sorry and damaging things we have done in the past. The whole reason that books like “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Huckleberry Finn” exist is to show us how things used to be; in other words, the history of those times.

We need to better explain why books like this are important. Those who spend precious time looking to be insulted surely will be—but that is not the intent of these books.

I fear that, if we keep the current course, the next thing may be burning books. That would truly be a tragedy and a sign of mass ignorance. Please let’s not let this happen.

Remember the saying: “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

 

 

 

Ukulele Magic

When my mother died last December 16, I gave up a few interests. All of a sudden, I no longer wanted to make jewelry or play the ukulele; I’d been taking lessons and loved it. I even gave up reading for a while as well. There was no real reason I stopped; I simply lost my joy in doing those things.

But time passed, as it always does. Although I will always miss my mother’s presence in my life, I feel her lately urging me on to reclaim those hobbies I so enjoyed. I am now making jewelry again, and am back to devouring books.

This Christmas, my five year old granddaughter, Ava, got a little ukulele from Santa. For the first time in over a year, I felt I wanted to play again. I tried to remember how to tune a ukulele and couldn’t, and of course all my finger callouses were long gone.

But a tiny flicker of interest started me thinking; maybe Ava and I could learn to play together. When I got home, I blew the dust off my ukulele and tuned it once I remembered how.

I picked up my favorite music and started to play. After a half hour, my fingers were aching, but I was again in love with my ukulele. I played several of my favorites, and began looking up lyrics and chords to take with me when I see Ava again.

Every day since, I’ve been playing. I am going to buy Ava a beginner’s ukulele songbook, and I promised us both that we would play together. A ukulele is a wonderful instrument, and it’s relatively easy to learn how to play it.

My joy in playing has returned full force. I have also been inspired by Grace Vanderwaal, the 12 year old winner of America’s Got Talent. She taught herself to play the ukulele and began writing her own songs. Her unique voice and passion really caught fire, and I am sure that thousands started playing because of her inspiration.

In fact, two of her songs, “I Don’t Know My Name,” and “Light The Sky” are my favorites. Funny how two little girls have inspired me to pick up my own ukulele again. There’s real  magic for you!

 

Yesterday’s Coffee

 

Before the Crankee Yankee and I married, I told him that I loved waking up to the smell of fresh coffee brewing. In fact, that is the first thing I want when I get up; a steaming cup of fresh coffee. Since he is usually up before I am, it’s a great deal for me.

However, nearly 15 years of marriage later, I find, more often than not, that the leftover coffee from the day before is the general bill of fare in the morning. Maybe it’s just my spoiled brat thinking, but it never tastes good.

From the Crankee Yankee’s point of view, it’s thrifty. Why make another pot when there is (in his mind anyway) perfectly good coffee left in the pot? But to me, it taste like motor oil….OLD motor oil.

It could all be in my mind; perhaps there’s nothing wrong with “used” coffee. It just tastes stale and somehow flat to me. This means that one of us has to give in and make a new pot of coffee.

We do own a Keurig coffee maker which the Crankee Yankee won in a raffle for a $10 ticket. I thought, ‘fabulous! This ends the leftover sludge in the morning; each of us can have as many cups of fresh coffee as we like, and as many flavors as we like!’

Sadly, that did not work out. Why? Because the Crankee Yankee doesn’t like to buy the coffee pods, claiming that they are too expensive.

I said, “Are you kidding?!? You won a Keurig coffee maker for $10 when they sell for nearly $100—we can afford coffee pods!” He grudgingly agreed, so we went out to buy some pods, and this happened:

Instead of getting a few different flavors to try (personally I wanted egg nog, coconut, and French vanilla), we ended up with a small pack of hazelnut pods. I tried to explain that the whole idea of having a Keurig is that you can have a whole selection of coffees to choose from.

But what are you going to do? The man is thrifty, and he is good with money. This is a classic case of the old saying, “take the bitter with the sweet.” And boy—is that old coffee bitter! So, when I just can’t drink any more sour old coffee, I ninja into the kitchen before I go to bed and quietly pour out most of that morning’s coffee.

It’s all part of my secret evil plan. Don’t tell the Crankee Yankee.

The Scent of New Year’s Resolutions

Now that Christmas is behind us, the next big holiday is New Year’s Day. With that usually comes the list of New Year’s resolutions. If, at the beginning of each year, New Year’s resolutions had a smell, it would smell like hope and resolve.

We begin looking over the past year and deciding where we went wrong. Here are some of the resolutions we may have tried to keep this year:

  1. Join a gym. (Nope.)
  2. Make amends with those who offended us. (Nope.)
  3. Read at least one of the classics. (Nope.)
  4. Help out at a food kitchen. (Nope.)
  5. Clean out the basement. (Nope.)
  6. Start a diet. (Nope.)
  7. Grow our hair long, then cut it off to donate to Locks of Love. (Nope.)
  8. Take piano lessons. (Nope.)
  9. Find a better job. (Nope.)
  10. Make friends with the neighbor across the street with the yappy dog; hoping that friendship will somehow make the neighbor realize that the dang dog from being so yappy. (Nope.)

If you flunked out on any or all of these, be of good cheer. Most of us don’t make our resolutions stick because we hoped rather than planned. 

If, at the end of each year, New Year’s resolutions had a smell, it would smell like shame and regret.

As 2016 winds down to its end, I have decided to make my own resolutions easy; that is, be a better me than I was last year. This includes pretty simple things, such as:

  1. Initiate kindness – it doesn’t have to be a big deal, either. Just a smile or holding a door for someone will do.
  2. Listen to those mental hints and nudges; they happen for a reason.
  3. Start each day by doing something useful, such as making the bed right away.
  4. *Each morning, look into the mirror and say, “**Hiya, good-looking!”
  5. Do something productive each day; it doesn’t have to be a big thing, just something.
  6. Whistle more; it’s a cheery kind of thing.
  7. Treat yourself to a really good cup of coffee (or tea, etc.) now and then; take the time to really enjoy it.
  8. Call your mom and/or dad, or a dear relative or friend at least once a week.
  9. Take up an easy hobby that makes you happy.
  10. Say your thanks often.

By the end of 2017, let’s check in with ourselves and see how we did. I’m in—how about you?

*Over time, you will be amazed at the long-standing good feeling you get from doing this.

**or “gorgeous,” or “beautiful,” or “handsome,” or el Fabuloso;” your choice.

Post-Christmas

Well, Christmas Day has come and gone

And brought us all that we were hoping on—

Whether with family, friends or on our own,

The Christmas spirit burns bright in hearts and home.

The love we feel for family and friends

Is a love that lingers, lasts and never ends—

It brings us back to Christmases past

The fond memories and joys that last and last,

The real gifts are those we love and who love us back—

(Plus the usual cache of otherwise forbidden holiday snacks!)

The whirlwind day goes by in countless memories and love—

With those still here and those above

The season of love, it never ends—

With all my heart I wish you well, my dear friends!

 

 

 

A Christmas Carol For Today

My hands-down favorite Christmas movie is Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” starring the incomparable Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge in the 1950’s version.

As many times as I have watched this wonderful (and surely the finest version of “A Christmas Carol” movie), I still laugh, clap and cry through it all. This movie (and the book) is all about redemption.

The promise of redemption is true for all of us, no matter how hard we have become or what we have done. Up until the day we take our last breath, there is always hope for us.

Redemption is a two-way street; you must make some changes in your life to have your own life change. It’s too easy to become immersed in our own lives, and why not? We have our families, our jobs, our responsibilities, and so on.

In Webster’s Dictionary, the word, “redeem,” means ‘to recover ownership by paying a specified sum.’ It also means ‘to set free; rescue,’ and ‘to make up for.’ In Scrooge’s case, he was warned by the ghost of his business partner, Jacob Marley, to mend his ways; to redeem himself while he had time.

He went on to tell Scrooge that, unless he changed his attitude, he would be doomed, as Jacob was; to walk the earth and be forced to see how his actions affected and harmed others. As a spirit, he was constantly tormented for not being able to make amends, as much as he now wished to.

But Scrooge, being Scrooge, declared it all “*humbug!”

If you have never read “A Christmas Carol,” do; it’s a worthwhile tale. Scrooge willingly put his business first before everything in his life, therefore losing out on love and marriage and friendship, as well as a close relationship with his only living relative; his nephew, Fred, son of his late beloved sister, Fanny.

Years and years went by, and Scrooge’s entire life revolved around business and money. He viewed other human beings as insignificant and bothersome. He showed no one mercy or kindness, and was hated by everyone.

However, following Jacob Marley’s visit where he was told that he would be visited by three spirits in the night, Scrooge went to bed declaring it again a humbug. But visited he was that very night.

The first spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Past, showed him his lonely childhood; sent off to school by a father who blamed him for the death of his wife, who died giving birth to Scrooge. He later saw his younger self, going into business for the first time.

He was also saw the love of his life, Alice. At that time, the only ring he could afford was a cheap one, but, as Alice said, it was made beautiful by their love.

Gradually he was shown how his growing avarice and ruthlessness in business eventually cost him Alice. She told him that gold had become his God, and gave him back his ring. As he left her, she said, “May you be happy in the life you have chosen.”

The second spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Present, showed Scrooge how the world embraces Christmas, rich and poor alike. He showed him that his Alice had never married, and had devoted her life to helping and comforting others.

Before he left, he warned Scrooge about the dangers of want and ignorance, and how he should consider that mankind was indeed Scrooge’s real business.

The third spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, visited him last. This spirit showed him the market place, with Scrooge’s business associates talking about someone they thought would never die, but indeed did die the night before.

He watched helplessly as his housekeeper, Mrs. Dilber, took his velvet bed curtains and best linen nightshirt to sell. He asked the spirit if what he saw was what would happen or what might happen. In answer, the spirit took him to a lonely graveyard, and pointed out a large tombstone.

“Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name, Ebenezer Scrooge.

Said Scrooge:

`No, Spirit. Oh no, no.’

The finger still was there.

`Spirit.’ he cried, tight clutching at its robe,’hear me. I am not the man I was….Why show me this, if I am past all hope?’

For the first time the hand appeared to shake.

`Good Spirit,’ he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: ‘Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life.’

The kind hand trembled.

`I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone.’

After communing with these three spirits all through the night, Scrooge awakens in his own bed. He rejoices to be alive, and grateful that Mrs. Dilber in fact did not sell his curtains and nightshirt. He then celebrates Christmas largely.

This is just a fragment of the beauty, richness and redemptive spirit of this wonderful book. If you read it, you will gain much from it. If you watch the movie, you will also profit from it. Most of all, the message is clear: there is truly hope, love, joy and redemption for us all.

And regarding Ebenezer Scrooge, “…and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as **Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”

Merry Christmas to us all!

*Nonsense or drivel

**The crippled son of Scrooge’s clerk, Bob Cratchit.