Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! If you are my age, you will be wondering if kids will ever know the delicious thrill of trick-or-treating with your friends and without your parents. Walking along the sidewalks in homemade costumes, candy bag already laden with sugary loot, fresh-made popcorn balls and cookies, and the few unwanted apples (to be thrown at doors just before you run home); it was truly a night of awe and magic.

The special spookiness and thrill of fear on Halloween was also the venue of poets and writers. I hope that you enjoy the following.

From “Spirits of the Dead” by Edgar Allan Poe:

“Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness—for then
The spirits of the dead, who stood
In life before thee, are again
In death around thee, and their will
Shall overshadow thee; be still.”

—All Souls’ Night, 1917 by Hortense King Flexner:

You heap the logs and try to fill
The little room with words and cheer,
But silent feet are on the hill,
Across the window veiled eyes peer.
The hosts of lovers, young in death,
Go seeking down the world to-night,
Remembering faces, warmth and breath—
And they shall seek till it is light.
Then let the white-flaked logs burn low,
Lest those who drift before the storm
See gladness on our hearth and know.  

Old Scottish saying:

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us! 

Van Helsing – Wikiquote:

“Even a man who is pure in heart… and says his prayers by night… may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms… and the autumn moon is bright.”

…and my own Halloween Wish:

On this Halloween may you be safe, but not too safe,
May your scary costume spook each passing waif
May you still feel the delicious chill at the back of your neck
That could be tickled by long, green fingernails; oh, heck!
May you hear the steady, stealthy tread
Of the festering, foul and fiendish dead
Before they leap upon you and drink your blood
Leaving only sparse drops from the flood.

…..Happy Halloween…..MOOOHAHAHAHAHA!!!!







When Fast Food is No Longer Fast

I’ll admit it, there are times when I crave a Big Smac or McChickenParts at our local fast food joint. It’s inexpensive and easy; you just drive up, tell the “speaker” person what you want, pay for it, pick it up and drive off.

Until now. The Crankee Yankee and I decided to take a day off and drive up to Franconia Notch the other day. It was a beautiful sunny day with a crisp breeze blowing, and the leaves were sporting all their fall colors.

We didn’t want to take the time to go out for breakfast, and decided to just stop by our trusty fast food dive and pick up coffee and two breakfast sandwiches. The Crankee Yankee went in, then ten minutes later, came back with nothing but a scowl on his face. Evidently the fast food powers that be have decided to “upgrade” to kiosks instead of ordering from humans.

The premise for this is that you can choose what you want from the kiosk; there are buttons for “hamburger,” “cheese,” “tomato,” “pickles,” and so on. This is, I guess to save you from having one of those pesky humans mess up your order. In this way you “design” your meal by interacting with a machine, including paying when the order is complete. No human interaction until an actual person brings your food to your table.

If you’re into that sort of thing, fine. But the hitch is when the place doesn’t have enough actual humans behind the counter (as was the case that day) to make your food and bring it to you. Yes, I said bring the food you ordered on a machine out to you just like the regular non-fast food places do. How very bistro.

Really?! Isn’t the idea of fast food basically that it should be, well, fast? Anyone who has read my posts knows that I am old-fashioned about devices, digital doo-dads and the like. I do have a desktop computer and lately I bought a tablet. Oh yes, and the Crankee Yankee and I both have flip-phones, not smart phones.

There’s nothing wrong with smart phones and other devices; people can have what they want and it’s no skin off my nose. What I do mind is when the choice is taken away; now it’s “robo meals” or nothing. I’m sure that the whole “kiosk” thing is great for business and the old bottom line, but it’s a bit sad that it’s either this way or no way.

I swear, if I end up in a nursing home where a friendly “people-bot” comes trundling up to give me my daily meds, I will pull my own plug.



*Whatever Gets You Through the Night

My mother used to get upset with me when I would come to her, weeping over something I read or heard that bothered me deeply. Usually I would become overwhelmed with pity or grief over an ad featuring starving children in far-off lands, or hurt or neglected animals.

“You can’t bleed for the whole world!” she would say, and go about her business. Sometimes these same things bothered her, too, but she couldn’t (or wouldn’t) give those thoughts any real estate in her mind. I never understood how she did it.

But I do now. Over the years I have given what money I could to animal shelters and agencies that helped children in poor countries to have food and education. Each year I donate my handmade jewelry for our local animal shelter’s auction.

After my parents died, I lost my “shield” that kept me from worrying and hurting over helpless children and animals. Many nights I found that I could not sleep for worrying and feeling terrible that I couldn’t help them all. I felt absolutely raw with pity, sorrow and worry.

I finally realized two truths: 1) that worrying and fretting over things that I cannot help or change will not help anyone, including myself. 2) That I have the means and power to help where I can and believe that others are also doing what they can. We can only do what we can do.

When these worries and sorrows threaten to overcome my sanity and health, I say out loud: “they (people/animals) are all right. They are getting the help that they need. They are safe now, and all is well.”

I also found my “shield” again. This is a handy construct to keep in mind, especially if you are prone to worry anyway, or have people around you who continually fan the fires of worry and hurt. These folks, whom I call **energy vampires, will feed on your empathy, your kindness and your strength. Energy vampires can also be sad stories on TV or the Internet.

To keep them from feasting on your strength, build yourself a mental shield. It can be made of anything you choose, and you can make it as ornate and powerful as you like; it’s your personal shield. Put a picture of it in your mind, and when you need it, say to yourself “shields up!” (Yup, just like Captain Kirk on the Enterprise.)

My own energy shield is made from solid and beautiful rock crystal. It deflects negativity, fear, worry and hurt, but it lets in light, air, happiness and faith. Try it out; it really does work. Best of all, the energy vampires can’t get to you.

Whatever gets you through the night, baby.

*Whatever Gets You Thru the Night
“Whatever gets you through the night
It’s all right, it’s all right
It’s your money or your life
It’s all right, it’s all right
Don’t need a sword to cut through’ flowers
Oh no, oh no
Whatever gets you through your life
It’s all right, it’s all right
Do it wrong, or do it right
It’s all right, it’s all right
Don’t need a watch to waste your time
Oh no, oh no
Hold me, darlin’, come on, listen to me
I won’t do you no harm
Trust me, darlin’, come on, listen to me
Come on, listen to me; come on, listen, listen
Whatever gets you to the light
It’s all right, it’s all right
Out of the blue, or out of sight
It’s all right, it’s all right
Don’t need a gun to blow your mind
Oh no, oh no
Hold me, darlin’, come on, listen to me
I won’t do you no harm
Trust me, darlin’, come on, listen to me
Come on, listen to me, come on, listen, listen.”
**From the wonderful Noreen McDonald’s classes. Check her out at http://www.noreenmcdonald.com.

Finding Our Own Style

Does anyone remember (and MISS as much as I do?!) the TLC show, “What Not To Wear?” I loved that show; the premise being that someone who badly needed a makeover (and a boost to their self-confidence) gets one.

The lucky winner was offered $5,000 dollars to go to New York and let Stacy London and Clinton Kelly help find her own personal style. However, the terms of spending the money was based on Stacy and Clinton going through the all winner’s “regular” clothing.

This always meant that every single item went right into the trashcan, along with many snarky-but-truthful comments on style, fit, etc.

Not only did the lucky woman get to shop in fabulous stores in New York city; her hair and makeup were also updated. The winner always looked wonderful afterwards, and would go home to surprise family and friends with her new look.

If I had a dime for each time I sighed, ‘oh, if only I could have Stacy and Clinton dress me!’ I would be swimming in dimes. However, I finally found my own style by myself, and here’s how I did it, one step at a time:

Step 1: I took a long, hard look at my body, and made this assessment: I am “apple-shaped,” which means that I carry my extra weight in my stomach and hips. The tops I wear are either tunics (love the “shark bite” ones) that end mid-thigh, or tops that stop at mid-hip and disguise the width at hips and cover the stomach. For me, it creates the illusion of thinness.

Step 2: I learned to wear the colors that look great on me. Does anyone remember “*Color Me Beautiful?” It goes on the premise that our coloring defines us as Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. I am a “winter,” which means that I look best in bright white, black, and jewel tones; red, purple, turquoise, cobalt, lime, etc.

Step 3: I stopped worrying about what the current fashion trends were; now I wear what I love, not what is necessarily “in fashion.” I lean toward leggings, drape-y tops, kimono jackets, long scarves or pashminas, and loads of jewelry. I like my clothes to be more “costume-y” than current.

Step 4: I don’t wear anything that makes me feel uncomfortable. Period. I gave up high heels decades ago. These days I buy shoes and boots with low heels that work with my orthotics.

What I have learned over time is this: beauty and style are illusions. Very few of us are born perfectly and permanently beautiful. Looking good is finding what works for you and your own shape and style.

One more thing, as we grow older, our makeup needs to change. The makeup I used to wear stopped working for me, so I set up a makeover appointment with the experts at Sephora. I learned to use a more subtle, gentle look that fits my age and style. I found that less truly is more.

If you should tell yourself that this is a luxury you can’t afford, tell yourself to shut up. Just do it; you are worth it!

*Check out http://www.colormebeautiful.com/seasons/findyourseason.html. A simple online quiz can show you what your best colors are.



*Black Humor

My family has always been famous (or infamous) for loving black humor. Yes, it’s awful and it’s tasteless, but it’s funny in a dark way….a VERY dark way.

One day my mother and I were talking about smallpox, of all things. Mom told me that she read somewhere that, were smallpox to be let loose upon the world now, it would probably wipe out everyone under 30. Immune deficiency, don’t you know.

To which my mother muttered, “how bad would that be?” And then she said, “don’t you dare tell anyone I said that!” Of course, I told everyone; all of whom laughed their heads off.

Yes, I know that’s just awful, but that’s black humor for you. To this day it still makes me laugh. It makes everyone I’ve ever told it to laugh as well.

And from Quora, there are these gems:

“Even people who are good for nothing have the capacity to bring a smile to your face, for instance when you push them down the stairs.”

Patient: “Oh doctor, I’m just so nervous. This is my first operation.”

Doctor: “Don’t worry. Mine too.”

Titanic: “And I’m nominating all passengers for the Ice Bucket Challenge!”

For Sale: Parachute. Used once, never opened, small stain.

What do you get when you cross a rabbit and a pit bull?

Just the pit bull.

My friend surprised me for my birthday with a book called ‘Road-Kill Recipes’. I did find some road-kill the other day, so I cooked it according to one recipe and it was delicious. I’m just not sure what I should do with the bicycle.

“Where exactly are you taking me, doctor?”

“To the morgue.”

“What? But I’m not dead yet!”

“And we’re not there yet.”

My old aunts would come and tease me at weddings, “Well, Sarah? Do you think you’ll be next?”

We’ve settled this quickly once I’ve started doing the same to them at funerals.

Little Johnny: “Mom, can I get a dog at Christmas, please?“

Mother: “No, you’ll be getting turkey, like every year!“

I took my grandma to a fish spa center where the little fish eat your dead skin for only $45.

It was way cheaper than having her buried in the cemetery.

Doctor to a patient: “I have good and bad news for you. Which one would you like to hear first?”

“The good one please.”

“I found the diagnosis of your illness, it means you have two days to live.”

“And the bad one?”

“I’ve been trying to reach you for two days.”

Patient: “Oh Doctor, I’m starting to forget things.”

Doctor: “Since when have you had this condition?”

Patient: “What condition?”

*From Dictionary.com: “black humor is a form of humor that regards human suffering as absurd rather than pitiable, or that considers human existence as ironic and pointless but somehow comic.”

The Magic Phrase

Just think about it; someone can be screaming at you because they don’t like your politics, your religion, your outlook on life, and so on. So what do you say to all that negativity? What magic phrase could possibly make things better?

Just this: “I’m sorry I disappointed you.” I heard this first from a female comic on TV who said that she stopped hecklers in their tracks this way. When you say this, what more is there to say? As the military says, “HUA (Heard, Understood, Acknowledged)”!

I thought about how this would work with people who don’t agree with you, who might think you’re an idiot, or who think you are just *shining your behind. This magic phrase pretty much squashes an argument.

These days it seems like the tiniest thing can set some people off. It used to be that, if you bumped into someone by mistake, you would immediately apologize and smiles would be exchanged and all would be well.

Now that sort of thing today could cause a tornado of expletives, a shove or worse. It seems like so many of us are so full of fear and anger that they make any excuse to take it out on someone.

The older I get, the less I want to cause controversy or anger. When I am out and about, I smile, I look people in the eye and say “good morning/good afternoon.” I do this because I have lived long enough to know that being cranky or self-absorbed or too full of myself (all crimes I have committed over the years) just doesn’t work for me anymore.

Besides, I find that if I put some good vibes out in the world, they tend to come back to me. Of course, the converse is true as well; put out bad vibes, and they will rumble right on back to you. I can make the choice of COCI (Crap Out/Crap In) or GOGI (Good out/Good In). Believe me; GOGI is so much better!

And when an angry person wants to rage at you for something you did or did not do, the magic phrase will go a long way in deflating the situation. As my wise and late mother-in-law used to say, “it couldn’t hurt.”

*This is an old Irish saying for someone who brags or boasts or otherwise calls attention to themselves. My grandmother was Irish to the core, and her version of this saying was always, “just who do they think they are?”


In Gratitude

I woke up this morning to a rose-gold dawn; everything was bathed in that beautiful light. It had rained the night before, and that pink light filled every raindrop. In our office where I write my posts, there are two windows to my right. Across the street there  is a stretch of grass sheltered by tall spruces where the cardinals like to roost. In between them are maples dressed in gold and red leaves. I never get tired of looking at that peaceful view.

Each one of our five cats has claimed their morning space after enjoying their breakfasts. Tinker, the big yellow tiger cat, is already stretched across the window sill purring and snoring loudly.

The Crankee Yankee, always up before me, has poured me a cup of strong black coffee. The ceramic pen holder, shaped like a cat, is on my left. It belonged to my mother, and she always kept her pens and pencils in it, as I do now.

On the kitchen counter, there are two large bowls filled with the little green cherry tomatoes we picked yesterday; the last of the tomatoes this year. This week they will be transformed into green tomato relish (surprisingly good on hot dogs), and curried tomato soup.

Our neighbor’s black and white cat, Marley, has stopped by our deck to have some of the kibble and water we leave out for our four-footed guests. Bailey, cat number five, has already given him the stink eye from the desk window. Marley couldn’t care less.

This week we will be pulling up the worn-out tomato vines, and unearth the rest of the leeks, cutting back the peonies and then covering the gardens in a blanket of straw for the winter. All summer long, and even into the fall, we have enjoyed our bounty of produce: garlic, onions, beets, bell peppers, tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, lettuce, broccoli, radishes and herbs: sage, oregano, parsley and chives.

The garden is populated with the Crankee Yankee’s beloved pink plastic flamingos, our old garden gnome, “Uncle Winklebaum,” and the guardian of the *memorial lilac bush, “Scrumpy,” the fat little cement cat. This year we added all of my parents’ “garden-age:” the beautiful and enigmatic **Quan Yin statue, the cement sundial, and all the pretty scrolled black and white ironwork chairs and fences.

I get to see all this beauty every day. I wake up early enough to appreciate the sunrises, and in the evening, the unique scroll of the sunsets, the rising of the moon, and the few shy stars that appear before nightfall. Early in the mornings, one bird will sound to mark the start of a new day, and the rest follow in song.

I get to walk around in this still-strong body, see with both eyes, hear with both ears. I can still walk, dance, sing, write, read, laugh, cry, and appreciate all those I love and care for. Although I have lost most of my family, I know that they are still near me. I am lucky enough to have both old and new friends, and my companion of over 15 years, the Crankee Yankee.

I am filled with gratitude each day. Every morning I think of what my favorite uncle (still living at age 92!) used to say to his staff when he walked into work each day, a big smile of his face: “This is the day the Lord hath made! Rejoice and be glad in it!”

Oh, I do, Unkie: I do.

*A dear friend sent us this lilac bush as a living memorial to my parents. I treasure it.

**Goddess of mercy and compassion.




*The Road Not Taken

Back when I was in grade school, we often memorized poems. Robert Frost was always a favorite, and over the years I still remember reciting “The Road Not Taken” with the rest of the class.

This little ritual was part and parcel of the times, and I have to say that reciting poetry didn’t hurt any of us. Speaking just for me, I found that reciting a poem out loud made wonderful word pictures in my head. “The Road Not Taken” became one of my favorite Robert Frost poems.

To this day when I think about that poem, I wonder about my own roads not taken. I think that we all look back from time to time, wondering what would have happened if we had done this or that? How would those things affect our lives then and now?

I always played it safe; I wasn’t a risk-taker. I was raised in a time where I was often told the outcomes of hasty decisions. Cautionary mottos were everywhere, such as “look before you leap,” and “pride goeth before a fall,” and so on. Back then, I took the safe and reliable road, not the road I didn’t know.

Years passed, and after surviving a bad marriage, I said that I would never marry again. I wasn’t going to risk my heart again, and I was going to live life my way and live alone. At the time, it seemed like the best course for me, and I looked forward to not having to put up with anyone else. At that time, it was welcome freedom.

And then the Crankee Yankee came back into my life.

The Crankee Yankee and I had known each other for years; he was 26 and I was 25 when we met. He married my then best friend’s older sister, and we all ended up living four houses away from each other on the same street in NH for years. When I married my first husband, we moved to MA.

Two years after my divorce, I was living in Garland, TX. One evening the phone rang and I heard a familiar voice on the other end. It was the Crankee Yankee, now a long-distance trucker. He said that he was coming through TX the next day and would I like to go to out to dinner with him?

By this time, he too was divorced. I was happy to see my old friend again and catch up. We met at a Mexican restaurant, and we talked and laughed until they started putting the chairs up on the tables. We had said our goodbyes, and I wondered if I would see him again.

A few months later, he called and asked if I would like to be his date to his daughter’s graduation from West Point Academy. As I hadn’t seen his daughter in years, I accepted. As we walked the campus together, the Crankee Yankee told me that his daughter was getting married that September, and would I like to go? I did.

Between the graduation and the wedding, we talked on the phone a lot. We talked about old times and laughed a lot. One evening I got a phone call from the Crankee Yankee, and it sounded as though his cell phone was breaking up. When he said, “will you marry me?” I thought I was hearing things.

Still feeling burned from my failed marriage a few years ago, I thought I would never marry again. And then I heard myself say, “yes—yes, I will.” All my fears about commitment and being hurt again vanished.

That was over 15 years ago, and I have to say that I finally took the road not taken; am I glad I did!

*The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

“Love Is Our Soul Purpose”

My Dad had a decal on his car that read “Love Is Our Soul Purpose.” I’m not one for bumper stickers or decals, but this one always resonated with me.

My dad’s childhood was not ideal; as he put it, his mother loved him too much and his father, not enough. He came into this world with a rare blood type that could have ended his life before it began. But he was given an emergency transfusion which saved his life.

In those times, when a woman gave birth, there was usually a minister or priest in the delivery room who would bless the baby as soon as he took his first breath. Before my father received the transfusion, the priest told the doctor that he should bless the baby immediately because he was going to die soon.

At that, my grandmother reared up on her elbows on the delivery table and shouted, “the HELL he will! He’s going to live; I’ll MAKE him live!”

When my dad, newly transfused and looking much better, was back in his mother’s arms, she told her husband how things were going to be from then on. She was going to keep her new son close to her for the next few months, and if her husband didn’t like it, he could sleep on the sofa.

My grandmother loved Dad fiercely and without question. For months she carried him in a sling day and night. For those months, cuddled next to her heart, he began to thrive.

Dad was the apple of his mother’s eye, but love between he and his father was sparse and difficult. My grandfather was gruff and forbidding, and it was rare to see him smile. Dad told me that his father never once ruffled his hair or told him what a good boy he was.

I suspect that Dad was a sensitive boy with a tough exterior. His parents fought over many things, one was that his father felt that he was being over-coddled by his mother and that he should “toughen up.”

This alone was cause for many loud arguments between his parents. When Dad was out of the army and on his own, he was sure that he would never marry. The marriage he saw growing up was angry, loud, hurtful and with little love and respect.

But years later, after living nearly 60 years with my mother, he had become a kind, loving and wise sage. He often said that love was what really mattered; that every problem in life could (and should) be handled with love and understanding. He had grown into his true self; a man of great kindness, forgiveness and gratitude for every sunrise and sunset.

I loved the conversations we shared, which always centered around love and how important it was. He truly believed that love is indeed our “soul” purpose.

Dad has been gone now six months to this day. But I still feel his love, his compassion, his wisdom and his views on life. I believe that, where he is, there is endless love and understanding. I am also sure that my crusty and aloof grandfather has had plenty of time to accept love and give love.

After all, love IS our soul purpose.