Sadly, This is What We’re Living These Days….

Does anyone read “The Week”magazine? I like it because it breaks down current issues into easily-read “bites,” such as politics, controversial news, people, international news, as well as art and leisure, business and so on.

But I especially like the Editor’s Letter, written by William Falk, Editor-in-chief, most of all. In the February 17 issue, the letter in its entirety gave me the chills. See what you think:

“An extremely pregnant woman was standing in a crowded New York City subway car, hanging on with one hand as it swayed back and forth, waiting for some decent soul to offer her a seat. No one stood up.

When the mom-to-be—The Week’s managing editor, Carolyn O’Hara—painted this grim tableau for me the other day, I was appalled but not surprised. It’s just another manifestation of what I’ve come to think of as our country’s “eff you” culture.

Norms of civility are eroding at a galloping pace, and giving way to an unabashed rudeness—a me-first ethos in which people feel they owe nothing to anyone. You see it in every aspect of life: drivers who speed up as you try to merge onto a highway, blocking you from “getting ahead”: pedestrians who batter you with elbows, bags, or umbrellas and glare rather than apologize; morons who bray loudly or let their children run wild in restaurants and other public places, oblivious to the irritation of people all around them. Eff you if you don’t like it.

What’s going on? My guess is that several factors are conspiring to make us all more self-centered. Modern workplace culture is brutally Darwinian, with employees knowing they’re disposable at any time; in the struggle of economic survival, everyone is our competition. Our personal electronic devices encapsulate us in a bubble of personal preferences—customized music, videos, news, texts, Facebook updates.

“The commons” of shared information, culture, and basic values is fading away. My reality trumps yours; in fact, your very existence in my space is an intrusion in my *bespoke world. Our politics has become toxic, and laced with fear and resentment; each faction sees the others as existential threats to their way of life who must be silenced, conquered, crushed. Where does this eff-youism lead?

Nowhere good. C’mon people: We’re all stuck with each other, and life is a lot easier—and more pleasant—when we grant other folks the right to exist.”

I realize that in the techno/I-want-it-and-I-want-it-right-now world we’re living in that no one seems to have much patience anymore, but jeez, how does bullying and selfishness make things any better? Answer: things are only better for the bullying selfish jerk who gets what he/she wants without regard for anyone else.

Sadly, no one seems to be appalled (or surprised) by this behavior. It has become a “me first and the hell with you” culture on just about every level.

The saddest thing is that the more selfish and uncaring we become, the less joy we have in life. It’s a lonely life that stubbornly insists on being first in line, first to grab that first hot pizza slice, first to gun the motor when the light turns green, first to bully everyone out of the way.

This may work for a while, but sooner or later, we are going to need help, and where will that help come from if we’ve been pushy, rude, unpleasant, nasty and selfish to everyone? It reminds me of the lion and his pride; once he shows any weakness or should he become old and helpless, the pride will turn on him and oust him for a younger, stronger (more selfish?) leader.

However, it’s not too late to make positive inroads into this “me first” culture. I can’t say that it will be easy, but it can be done, person by person. If we can just remember that putting out good brings good back to you, things can and will change. Of course we are going to run into those folks who don’t want to change, who want to be first at the expense of everyone else; who in fact do not want to waste their time being kind or polite to others.

But how about if we just try? This, like anything else, can become a habit, and habits do often bring about change. I haven’t given up on this country or this world. In fact, I’m going to do my level best to be kind, forgiving, positive and upbeat to a sickening degree. If this doesn’t help bring about change, at least it may help keep me from becoming pushy, rude, unpleasant, nasty and selfish. More than usual, I mean.

*Bespoke: usually this means ‘custom-made,’ as in a custom-made suit. In this case, it means a world you have made specifically for your own pleasure and convenience.

Retirement Chic

I started working in the ’70s, and I wore what all women wore for business at that time; mini skirts, empire waist dresses, platform shoes, fish-net stockings, etc. We were still wearing mod clothes from the Beatles era, including butterfly-sleeved sheer dresses and tons of necklaces. We all looked cute as hell.

The deadly and soul-destroying bland “I’m a responsible working woman” suits came later on….the less said about those, the better.

As the decades went on, we wore the Madonna look, the Cher look, the Annie Hall look, and we followed right along with all the fashion trends. It was a lot of fashion and makeup fun, and we all looked great.

Now that I am retired, I have found my own “retirement chic.” It can (and does) include such things as:

  • black yoga pants (so comfy and so forgiving!)
  • wild-colored tunic tops
  • slim jeans
  • cocoon sweaters
  • ankle boots
  • colorful cotton tops with embroidered yokes
  • stretchy zip jackets
  • sneakers
  • strappy flats
  • cotton socks (wild colors especially)
  • LL Bean jackets
  • colorful gauze dresses
  • sandals
  • LOTS of jewelry

The basis for this fashion trend can be described in one word: COMFORT. Let’s face it, as we grow older, things that never used to sag DO sag. Our perky bits become droopy, our taut faces become a relief map of everything we have experienced throughout our lives, and age spots become the new Connect the Dots game.

My own belief at this age is this: the less skin shown, the better. I really don’t think that people want to see my wrinkled cleavage, my spotted legs or my gnarly toenails. All that is easily covered by a few “retirement fashion tips:”

Love sandals but hate the sight of vein-y feet? Easily solved—buy strappy sandals or flats.

Love tank tops but hate showing your *wubbies? No problem: try cap-sleeved or short sleeve tops instead.

Love low necklines but hate your wrinkled and spotted neck and chest? Easy fix: try the tops with criss-cross straps at the neckline, or the ones with lace inserts.

Love tops that show off your midriff? If yours is still firm and flat, good on you! Show it off. But if the midriff has fallen into disrepair like mine has, cover it up.

There’s no need to stop being fashionable as we grew older. As beauty is 90% illusion anyway, wear what looks good on you with pride. But most of all, comfort is king. I spent the best years of my life suffering in high heels, tight waistbands, and tons of makeup. I’m spending this time in my life in comfort and fashion; my fashion!

*Wubbies—that flappy skin under the arm from elbow to armpit.

 

Pairings

I love cooking shows, especially the contest shows like “Chopped.” I thought I knew a lot about food, but these shows have opened my eyes to many different cuisines as well as foods I had never heard of.

They usually mention “pairings,” as in “things that go well with other things,” like coffee and doughnuts. Which got me thinking about “pairings” I’ve enjoyed over the years, such as some of my own favorites:

  • Macaroni and cheese with a side of sliced raw red peppers
  • Egg salad with crackers
  • Tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich
  • Apple pie with sharp cheese
  • Wheat toast with smushed fresh avocado, topped with salt and pepper
  • Wheat toast with cream cheese and apple jelly
  • *String cheese with red grapes
  • Cut-up Pink Lady apples spread with Teddie peanut butter
  • Spinach salad with toasted garlic naans

…and so on.

For me the whole idea of “pairings” is to enjoy sweet with salty, hot with cold, spicy with mild, etc.

Then there are the frankly bizarre ingredients used in some of the Chopped episodes. For those who don’t follow the show, the basic premise to the competition is this: you get a basket of four ingredients to be used for an appetizer, another basket for an entree, and one more basket for a dessert. Generally, there are 30 minutes allotted to make each dish.

Some of the strangest things/pairings I’ve seen on the show to date are:

  • chocolate-covered crickets
  • goat brains
  • durian (surely the world’s stinkiest fruit)
  • emu eggs
  • squid ink
  • pickled pig lips
  • sheep tongue
  • eel
  • haggis (look up the ingredients—just don’t eat anything first!)

So there you are; pairings from the sublime (for me, anyway) to the ridiculous. By all means, watch some of the shows; they are nothing if not entertaining! And do try out some of my pairings, too; they are pretty good. Feel free to tell me some of yours, too!

*When I say “string cheese,” I don’t mean those gloopy processed faux mozzerella sticks, I mean real Armenian string cheese, made from sheep’s milk. It comes in a salty thick braid, bristling with tiny black mahleb and nigella seeds.

Half the fun of eating it is pulling it apart into chewy strings, and enjoying the light crunch of the seeds.

 

A Permission Slip to Have a Lazy Day

Ever feel guilty when you spend the day doing not much of anything? I’m the kind of person who not only writes “to do” lists, but has to check off each item so that, at the end of the day, I can feel I’ve accomplished a few things.

It’s a bit on the OCD side, but I do sleep better when, at the end of a day, I can say, “There! I did this, this, that, and this, too.” (I feel just a bit smug, too.) The hard days are those when I feel that I wasted a perfectly good day.

It’s not like I’ll get a gold star or anything; it’s that feeling of accomplishment, small as it may be.

Yesterday was definitely a lazy-bum-for-no-good-reason sort of day. It’s only been ten days since my knee revision surgery, and of course there is pain and itchiness all around the incision that’s driving me nuts. Depending on the pain level, I can walk with or without cane or walker. I can manage stairs if I am careful, and I try to keep up with my exercises to keep the knee flexible.

But then there are the ‘poor old me’ days when all I want to do is curl up under a blanket, drink lots of cold water and read. My appetite is crap; nothing tastes or looks good; and the poor Crankee Yankee tries so hard to pick up things to tempt me.

I find that for a lot of the time I want to just sleep; which works out great for our five cats. For them I am a person-shaped heating pad, and they cluster all around me, snoring lightly and purring mightily. It’s actually a pretty nice way to spend the day, until that old *nosey parker, Guilt, creeps in along with them.

It whispers, “shouldn’t you being doing something now?” “Don’t you think you’ve slept long enough today?” “There are dirty dishes in the sink, you know!” And so on and on.

Well, after other surgeries in the past that caused me to be sleepy for a long time, I have learned to shut Guilt up. All I have to do now is to say (out loud, of course) “Beat it! This is my lazy day! I’ve EARNED it! Go AWAY!”

Try it yourself, and tell Guilt to take a hike!

*Busy body.

*Husbandus Interruptus

The Crankee Yankee and I were driving somewhere the other day, and, just as I started talking about an issue with the house, he started talking about another subject all together.

Now, as I’ve stated in many posts, I despise being interrupted. Having someone talk over me in my book is just about as rude as someone helping themselves to food off your plate. They didn’t ask; they just reached over, grabbed your food and starting eating it without so much as a “may I?” As if you, the owner of the food, didn’t matter.

Before I reached a slow boil, I had a real “road to Damascus” epiphany; he talked over me because he didn’t realize (or hear) that I was speaking! My getting angry about that would be tantamount to me scolding a blind person for not seeing me.

Now I realize that we are both getting to the age where, if we don’t speak up, we may forget what we were going to say. As I realized this, my anger went away; he really did not hear that I was talking.      

So I told him what I had just learned. The poor guy; he knows how much I hate being interrupted, and he winced, saying, “sorry; I didn’t mean to interrupt you.” Surprisingly, I wasn’t angry, because I had finally realized the real issue: when he has something to say he literally 1) has to say it right now or he’ll forget it, and 2) blocks everything else until he has said what he needs to say.

Now, this may sound like making an excuse for bad behavior, but actually it isn’t. It is one more step up the ladder of understanding a person you love.  The Crankee Yankee is simply wired that way. My complaining about this would be about as smart as complaining about our cats purring too loudly in our ears—it ain’t gonna happen.

Is it still irritating? Of course it is; we both know this. Does it mean that I am the only one in this relationship to make allowances? Nope—not at all. In this life-long game of marriage, I still have the right to say, ‘hey, you interrupted me! Tell me what you need to say, but remember that I get my turn next.”

But this is like playing Scrabble: you can play strictly by the rules on the back of the box and call the other player out when they don’t follow a specific rule, or: you can make up your own rules and have a great time. (After all, it’s not like the Scrabble police are sending drones out to check on all Scrabble players, 24/7!)

So with that knowledge, I can go forward from this and remember how the Crankee Yankee is wired. Trust me, it makes things a whole lot easier. Is it a “pass” for him to always interrupt? Certainly not. But at least it makes it a lot easier knowing that the interruptions are not meant to wound.

Plus the Crankee Yankee has to put up with all my quirks and foibles, of which there are many. He has to put up often with “*Wifus Irritabilius” Often.

*My apologies to my late and beloved Latin teacher in high school, Mr. Gerald Holden.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Actual Stories Told by Actual Travel Agents

A dear friend of mine recently sent me this, and I just had to share it.

FYI: You really should visit the bathroom before reading; they are that funny!

The following are actual stories told by travel agents:

I had someone who wanted to stay at the Bob Newhart Inn in Connecticut.

When I explained that the inn was fictional, the customer became very
irate and insisted “I know it is real, I see people check in every week!”

___I really did have someone ask for an aisle seat so that their hair
wouldn’t get messed up by being near the window.

___A client called in inquiring about a package to Hawaii. After going overall the cost info, she asked, “Would it be cheaper to fly to California and then take the train to Hawaii?”

___I got a call from a woman who wanted to go to Cape Town. I started to explain the length of the flight and the passport information when she interrupted me with “I’m not trying to make you look stupid, but Cape Town is in Massachusetts.”

Without trying to make her look like the stupid one, I calmly explained,

“Cape Cod is in Massachusetts; Cape Town is in Africa.”

Her response … click.

___A secretary called in looking for a hotel in Los Angeles. She gave me
various names off a list, none of which I could find. I finally had her fax me the list. To my surprise, it was a list of hotels in New Orleans, Louisiana. She thought the LA stood for Los Angeles, and that New Orleans was a suburb of L.A. Worst of all, when I called her back, she was not even embarrassed.

___A man called, furious about a Florida package we did. I asked what was  wrong with the vacation in Orlando. He said he was expecting an ocean-view room. I tried to explain that is not possible, since Orlando is in the middle of the state.

He replied, “Don’t lie to me. I looked on the map and Florida is a very
thin state.”

___I got a call from a man who asked, “Is it possible to see England from
Canada?”

I said, “No.”

He said, “But they look so close on the map.”

___Another man called and asked if he could rent a car in Dallas. When I
pulled up the reservation, I noticed he had a one-hour layover in Dallas.

When I asked him why he wanted to rent a car, he said, “I heard Dallas was a big airport, and I need a car to drive between the gates to save time.”

___A nice lady just called. She needed to know how it was possible that her flight from Detroit left at 8:20am and got into Chicago at 8:33am.

I tried to explain that Michigan was an hour ahead of Illinois, but she could not understand the concept of time zones. Finally I told her the plane went very fast, and she bought that!

___A woman called and asked, “Do airlines put your physical description on your bag so they know who’s luggage belongs to who?”

I said, “No, why do you ask?”

She replied, “Well, when I checked in with the airline, they put a tag on my luggage that said FAT, and I’m overweight, is there any connection?”

After putting her on hold for a minute while I ‘looked into it’ (I was actually laughing), I came back and explained the city code for Fresno is FAT, and that the airline was just putting a destination tag on her luggage.

___I just got off the phone with a man who asked, “How do I know which plane to get on?”

I asked him what, exactly, he meant, to which he replied, “I was told my flight number is 823, but none of these darn planes have numbers on them.”

___A woman called and said, “I need to fly to Pepsi-cola on one of those computer planes.”

I asked if she meant to fly to Pensacola on a commuter plane.

She said, “Yeah, whatever.”

___A business man called and had a question about the documents he needed in order to fly to China. After a lengthy discussion about passports, I reminded him he needed a visa.

“Oh, no, I don’t. I’ve been to China many times and never had to have one of those.”

I double-checked, and sure enough, his stay required a visa. When I told him this, he said, “Look, I’ve been to China four times and every time, they have accepted my American Express.”

___A woman called to make reservations; “I want to go from Chicago to
Hippopotamus, New York.” The agent was at a loss for words.

Finally, the agent said, “Are you sure that’s the name of the town?”

“Yes, what flights do you have?” replied the customer.

After some searching, the agent came back with, “I’m sorry, ma’am, I’ve looked up every airport code in the country and can’t find a Hippopotamus anywhere.”

The customer retorted, “Oh, don’t be silly. Everyone knows where it is. Check your map!”

The agent scoured a map of the state of New York and finally offered, “You don’t mean Buffalo, do you?”

“That’s it! I knew it was a big animal!”

…And This Happened

I had a right knee revision surgery this week. What this means is that my original total knee replacement (which was done last October) started  breaking down, causing pain.  This happens in about two or three total knee replacement surgeries per 250 in any given year.

In cases like mine, the original knee replacement is removed, then replaced with a new one; this one with a longer bottom piece. So far, everything looks great and I already feel much better. I am doing regular physical therapy as I did before, and it’s going well.

In my session yesterday, the young woman working on me remarked that I had a “positive attitude” about all this. I told her that I had had a *wonderful metaphysical teacher who taught me how get and keep a positive outlook on life in general, no matter what circumstances pop up.

We laughed, and agreed that the right people come into our lives at just the right time. This went on to more chat about how, when you learn that you can actually control your emotions, life immediately changes for the better.

Keeping a positive attitude is not hard to learn, either. Basically, you come into it with a willing heart and spirit. The “techniques” begin with something as simple as looking into your mirror every day, and saying “hi, beautiful!”

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, it is and it isn’t. People are always surprised at how hard it is initially is to do this; they are too used to seeing flaws and complaining about them. It takes a bit of time to change your negative thinking into positive, but it soon becomes a habit, and we all know how habits can stay with you.

As you follow this simple practice each day, you develop a positive attitude, and then a feeling of self-worth. You start to feel better about yourself, and before long, you understand that you can change your moods from bad to good. You become positive.

Life takes on a new meaning when you realize that you have control over how you look at the world and the things that happen in your life. Of course this new replacement set me on my heels at first.

Was I upset initially about having to go through the process all over again? Of course I was! But things like this happen, and when you learn to just accept and move on, you can face just about anything.

*My teacher was Noreen McDonald in Wolfeboro, NH. Check out her website at http://www.noreenmcdonald.com.