The Secret Lives of Stuffed Animals

When I was little, I loved stuffed animals. They were my pals, and I slept with them all every night. In fact, I still have Percy, my first stuffed bear. These days he is in our office on the top shelf, surveying the Internet along with me.

Remember how, when you got a brand new teddy bear, that he/she always had a red felt tongue? When I was growing up, it was a Christmas tradition for me to bring my tongue-less stuffed animals to my grandparents’ house on Christmas Eve. When I woke up in the morning, they all had new tongues! (Thanks, Ba!)

Whenever I received a new stuffed animal, I always asked my mother to name it for me. I felt that I wouldn’t be able to come up with a suitable name on my own. Once someone gave me an enormous red and white bear, and Mom suggested that he looked like a “Ulysses.” It sounded like “Julysis” to me, so “Julysis” it was for all time.

Whenever I was afraid at night, thinking of the usual cast of monsters, I would put Julysis on top of me, facing up. That way, I figured, if a monster did  come into my room, they would only see a big red and white bear in the bed.

The best name Mom ever came up with was for my stuffed toy raccoon; she named him “Calhoun the Maroon Raccoon.” Perfect, as he really was maroon and white. There were many more, and sadly I do not remember them all….which makes me think of that lovely and sad song from the movie “Toy Story.” It was called “When She Loved Me,” written by Sarah McLachlan:

“When somebody loved me
Everything was beautiful
Every hour spent together
Lives within my heart.

And when she was sad
I was there to dry her tears
And when was happy so was I
When she loved me.

 

Through the summer and the fall
We had each other that was all
Just she and I together
Like it was meant to be.

 

And when she was lonely
I was there to comfort her
And I knew that she loved me.

 

So the years went by
I stayed the same
But she began to drift away
I was left alone
Still I waited for the day
When she’d say I will always love you.

 

Lonely and forgotten
Never thought she’d look my way
And she smiled at me and held me
Just like she used to do
Like she loved me
When she loved me.

 

When somebody loved me
Everything was beautiful
Every hour spent together
Lives within my heart
When she loved me.”

 

But I do love the memory of all my old buddies, and all they meant to me. I think that somewhere in our hearts, our old stuffed pals are with us still.

 

 

The “All About ME” Show

I used to work with a woman who constantly talked about herself all the time. Any subject anyone brought up around her quickly devolved into something about her. She found herself the most fascinating person alive, and let everyone know it. It got so that when I saw her coming my way, I would quickly find something to attend to immediately.

Evidently at some point in her life she had been overweight, and over the past years had lost the weight by becoming a vegan, plus exercise and so on. Great—good on her, and anyone who does this; it’s a major achievement and something to be proud about.

She obviously adored her new smaller self, and let everyone know it. If she wore a new sweater to work, she always pulled the sleeves way down to her fingertips and prettily complained how this was the smallest size she could find and still it was ‘just too biiiiiiig!’

I so wanted to say to her, “yes, we get it: you’re a size 000 and everything  is just tooooo big for itty-bitty little teeny-tiny you.” I once made the mistake of complimenting her on a ring she wore one day. Her reply was “it’s a size three!”

She would often pontificate to other people (usually at lunch, where she would look disparagingly at their food choices) about the vegan lifestyle and how wonderful it was, and how it changed her life. Not surprisingly, people began to avoid her and sneak off to the local fast food joint.

Look, making a major life style change is to be admired. I have nothing against vegans per se, just the ones who verbally beat others to death with their convictions. All of her self-congratulatory rhetoric about being a vegan got old pretty fast. I wonder if she ever noticed the herd of people running to get away from her.

I promise that, should I ever become a vegan, I will just shut up about it.

 

 

Let’s All Just Fluff Our Auras

Let’s take the time to fluff our auras

Forget about all the rips and roarers—

Relax and let go worry

And all the other hurry-hurry—

It’s hard on our hearts and souls

You can’t pour your energy out of empty bowls;

It boggles the mind!

So what we do to unwind

Is to stop and think—

Pour ourselves a drink,

Then take that worn-out aura

Shake it smartly, and let it pour a

Ton of peace and good will

Into our hearts and souls; may they both refill

With light, hope and love—

That flows below and above

Just now and then, fluff your aura:

And you will feel the tension no mora.

 

 

 

 

 

Owning It

We are all who we are; made of good things and not-so-good things. But we are here to try to make the best of the life we’ve been given.

When we look at ourselves, what do we see? Are we instantly critical of every little flaw, every mistake we’ve made, every misstep we’ve taken? All of us are fallible; we all try and often fail in living our best life.

My own take on our time on this planet is that we are all given gifts that are uniquely ours. We may share them with the world as did Mozart and Einstein and Jane Goodall, or we can keep them to ourselves to nurture and grow our gifts until we get to a place where we can feel good about sharing them.

But we are often so hard on ourselves! We are all works in progress; we may try and fail over and over again, or just plain give up—only to wearily pull ourselves up to try again. Whoever we are, whatever we do in life, we must own it. If we make mistakes along the way, we can choose to own it, make the change and move on.

Or we can choose to let that mistake hold us back from having an authentic life. I call that path the “sack of stones” syndrome: oh no, we can’t have a good relationship because (stone #1) we hurt too much from the last failed one and we are afraid we’ll get hurt again. Oh no, we can’t try to get a better job because (stone #2) the one we have is better than nothing, so why upset the apple cart? Oh no, we shouldn’t buy that expensive (but  gorgeous) pair of shoes because (stone #3) they may cause unwanted attention. And so it goes, and we end up losing so many chances and opportunities.

At one point in my life, I hauled around my own heavy bag of stones and used them to excuse myself from, well; life. Even something as simple as taking a sample cookie in the grocery store was an issue. I would smile and say, ‘no, thank you.” And I really did want that cookie, but would always feel that I didn’t deserve it.

Or I would try on a dress that was more than I planned to spend, but it made me look fabulous. After admiring myself, that old school marm voice in my head would say, “now you really don’t need that, do you?” Sighing, I would put the dress back and go home.

Well—those days are over for me. It took me a long time to realize that I am truly the captain of my own life. Who’s judging, anyway? If we are the ones judging ourselves, then we have the power to kick that judge right out of our heads.

If I can answer ‘no’ to these questions:

  1. Is what I’m doing going to hurt anyone?
  2. Is what I’m doing bad for me?
  3. Is what I’m doing illegal?

…then I can say yes to the cookie, yes to the shoes, and yes to the dress. Then it really is ok to just OWN IT.

 

Speak Up!

This may sound redundant to some, but if something upsets you or is confusing to you, speak up. I say this because for years I did not speak up.

Recently the Crankee Yankee and I looked at cabinets and counter tops for our decidedly old-fashioned kitchen. It was fun, and we decided on light maple cabinets with doors (our old ones have no doors) and gray and white quartz counter tops.

We got an estimate on everything, and, since the cabinets are now on a great sale, we decided to buy them and store them until we are ready to install them. All was well up to that point.

Then the Crankee Yankee (a fan of total deconstruction) said that, if we were going to do that, we might as well take down the old ceiling, remove a few doors and put in pocket doors instead, tear down all the wallpaper, sheetrock and paint, and so on.

Well—that was not what I was expecting. For me, new cabinets (with doors) and new counter tops as well as new flooring (I love this house, but that yucky green linoleum has got to go!) was PLENTY. But the Crankee Yankee likes to start fresh. This is when I started hyperventilating. All that noise and mess; just thinking about it made me feel nauseous.

Recently I asked the Crankee Yankee how he felt when on a construction site; he said “invigorated!” I get that; I feel that way when I get on a roll with writing. Suddenly I feel lit up from inside and the words flow like Niagra Falls. I get it, I really do.

However, kitchen renovation doesn’t do for me what it does for the Crankee Yankee. So I spoke up when he told me that the most important room in the house is the kitchen. I disagreed; the most important room for me is the bedroom. That’s the place where I read, find peace, snooze and wake up with at least three cats on the bed with me.

The kitchen IS important, but we have come to an agreement of sorts. The cabinets and new flooring first, then a bit at a time. To think that all I had to do was just—speak up.

Who knew?

 

The Logical/Illogical Battle Between Men and Women

After being married to the Crankee Yankee for over 15 years, I have learned a lot about woman logic vs. man logic. We may both be humans, but we definitely do not think alike. Using the example of our marriage, here’s a sample of what I have learned:

Woman Logic: 

If you shut the windows at night, lock them. If you’re not going to lock up, what’s the point?

If you use the last sheet of toilet paper, put on a new roll.

You are in charge of cleaning out your pockets; when I do the laundry I will not check your pockets. Nor will I turn your socks right-side out; if you throw them in the laundry that way, you’ll get them back cleaned and still inside-out.

No, it is NOT ok to wear your dirty old overalls when we go out to lunch.

If you bring a dirty plate to the sink, put it in the dishwasher. I am not your maid.

Do NOT leave used Kleenexes on any surface; throw them away. We have lots of Kleenex. You don’t need to re-use them.

Do it my way; it’s the best way.

Man Logic:

I shut the windows at night. You made yourself the security officer, so it’s your job to lock the windows.

If I forget to put on a new roll of toilet paper, we have paper towels in there that we can use in a pinch. (Ewww.)

I’m too busy to check my pockets or my socks. Isn’t that your job?

Why should I get all dressed up to go out to lunch? I’m only going to go back to work when we come back.

The reason that I put dirty plates in the sink is so that you won’t gripe about them not being brought into the kitchen.

What can I say; I blow my nose and then leave the Kleenex there because I might use it again.

Do it my way; it’s the best way.

And, as my dad used to say, ‘there we are.’

Mrs. Goody Two Shoes

Yes, that’s me—Mrs. Goody Two Shoes. I stop at all stop signs, even when they are in parking lots. The Crankee Yankee claims that stop signs “don’t count” in a parking lot. If so, why are they there? So I stop.

If the speed limit is 70, I drive 70; on occasion I may go all the way up to 75. If my cell phone rings while I’m driving, I pull over, stop the car, shut off the engine and then answer it. (I don’t worry about texting; I have never sent or received a text in my life, and I’d like to keep it that way.)

Since the Crankee Yankee and I live on a residential street with no sidewalks, we are aware of all the speeders who take our little 20 MPH road as a fast shortcut to the nearby golf course. I can’t tell you how fast they are going, but I know it isn’t 20 MPH. Call me naive, but if the posted speed limit in a residential area is 20 MPH, why in the world does anyone need to drive faster than that? (This is of course a rhetorical question….)

My standard answer to these speed demons is usually this: they must 1) have a woman in labor in the car, or 2) they must really have to pee.

If someone is ready to cross the street on a walkway, I stop. I don’t park in loading zones, handicapped spots or No Parking places as I am not loading or unloading anything, I’m not handicapped, and No Parking means no parking. 

I honestly don’t understand people who, when ticketed for parking somewhere where it clearly states “No Parking” get all bent out of shape when they get a ticket.

“But I was only in the store for a MINUTE!” they wail. No excuse—you get a ticket because you are not supposed to park there—that’s why there is a SIGN.

So why am I boring you all with my Mrs. Goody Two Shoes-ness? It’s because I believe in following the law, reading the signs and accepting that rules are rules. I don’t like being in trouble, so I do my best to avoid it. Ignorance (or just plain willful disobedience) of the law is no excuse. It’s not that I think that I am better than anyone else, it’s just that I try to avoid conflict whenever possible.

I also use my directional signals; always. The Crankee Yankee thinks I am silly to do this; he feels that many times the direction is just “assumed” by the cars behind me. But I don’t assume anything; especially drivers who may not pay attention. Using directionals has become habitual with me, and I’d rather have it be a habit than not.

One day a few years ago, I was on the highway on the way to my new eye doctor’s building. I’d only been there once, so I had the directions printed on a piece of paper so I wouldn’t get lost. Well, I must have glanced at it once too often because a state trooper pulled me over. He asked me if I had been texting and driving.

I told him that I hadn’t, explained my situation, and showed him the paper with directions. He was happy that I hadn’t been texting, but admonished me to be careful and keep my eyes on the road.

I was a bit embarrassed, but I told him I would be careful, and I thanked him for watching out for those who do text and drive. That was my fault; I should have just memorized the directions.

I’ve been a Mrs. Goody Two Shoes for so long now that it’s an ingrained habit. It’s sort of a personal pact I make with myself each day. I’m sure that I’m not the only Goody Two Shoes out there, but being one makes me feel that I’m doing something right each day!

 

Sticky Situations and Warning Bells

When I was about 14, a friend of my parents introduced me to his nephew. “Nephew” was a good-looking boy of about 17 years old, and he paid me a flattering amount of attention. I remember feeling mesmerized by this person telling me how beautiful I was, how smart I was, and so on. I had never had a boy pay so much attention to me before.

Long story short, I had a gut feeling about this nephew; I couldn’t have put words to it, but I felt deeply that something was “off” about him. I didn’t think much more about it, but I wondered why I felt the way I did.

My parents ok’d a skiing afternoon for me and the nephew; my dad said that he would drive us to the town ski slope, and would ski with us. To my 14 year old self, it sounded exciting and just a bit dangerous. But my dad was with us, so I felt safe.

After a few runs, the nephew wanted to try one of the many trails on the slope. There were several, but the one he asked about was the most difficult one. I’d skied it before; it was very fast and a bit narrow, and you had to keep your ski poles in tight so that they wouldn’t snag on any branches.

After Dad skied down, we headed for the trail. Halfway down there was a tiny spot where you could stop if you needed to fix a binding or just rest a while. The nephew steered me into it, and started talking to me about something I really had no interest in; world politics.

While I wondered why he wanted to stop and talk about this, he got closer and closer to me. Suddenly I felt in danger. I started to move away from him, but he edged in closer. I tried to agree with him so that we could just finish going down the trail, but he wouldn’t stop talking.

An internal alarm bell I didn’t even know I had sounded in my head. Suddenly I felt that I had to get away and fast. I babbled something about being cold and wanting a cup of hot chocolate down at the lodge. I didn’t even listen to his answer when I edged around him and took off down the rest of the trail as fast as I could go. Luckily, I ran into Dad who had been waiting for us.

After I told my parents what had happened, they immediately put a stop to their friendship with their friend after telling him what his nephew had done. It wasn’t as if he threatened me, but he did scare me, and that was enough for my parents.

Being so young and inexperienced, I felt that I had done something wrong and that the encounter was my fault. My mother quickly told me that it wasn’t, but that this was a lesson to remember: if you feel that something is wrong, it probably is.

I was very lucky that nothing happened that day, but I did learn from it. Never again would I go against my instincts when my own warning bell went off. I never knew what happened to the nephew and what his life turned out to be. But I never forgot that “fight or flight” feeling I had with him.

Again, if you feel that something is wrong, it probably is.

 

 

 

This Veterans’ Day

Today is the day to remember all of our veterans, past and present.

I am sorry to say that many veterans come home to nothing; no family, no home, no comfort. Many of them live on the streets and make their way as best they can. They often don’t have the resources or the help they need to get them through what used to be called “battle fatigue” or “shell shock.” This is now called PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

Many of them turn to drugs and alcohol to get them through the days and nights. Many returned home with physical and mental wounds that the rest of us cannot possibly understand. Considering what they have been through, I can understand the attraction of numbing themselves.

Last month the Crankee Yankee and I met a remarkable veteran, Peter MacDonald, who is currently helping homeless veterans in his own way. He heads the Veteran Resort-Chapel Tiny House Project in Lee, NH. After talking with him and seeing how he and his group are making life easier for these warriors, I asked what we could do to help.

“A letter to the editor in the local papers would help,” he said. So I put the following letter together regarding this project, and am waiting on his reply to send it off to the local papers. I hope that you will be moved by what Peter and his group are doing to help our heroes and also give them a sense of home and peace.

***************************************************************

 Regarding the Veteran Resort-Chapel Tiny House Project

“My husband and I went to the last day of the Deerfield Fair on October 1. There we met a man, Peter Macdonald, who is doing all he can to help homeless warriors by building a community of tiny houses for veterans who have no place to go.

Every male in my family served during WWI and WWII. Several of my friends were terribly injured and/or died in Vietnam. My own step-daughter, a West Point graduate, had five deployments in the middle East, starting with the downfall of Saddam Hussein.

The military is close to my heart, and what Peter Macdonald is doing is angels’ work. I personally never served, but I have a good life because of those who did and do serve. I can’t imagine what it is like to be in a war and then come back to try and life a ‘normal’ life.

In America, we enjoy freedoms unheard of in many countries. We cannot and must not forget the men and women who put their lives on the line for us to keep our freedoms. Too often, these brave ones come back from wars and conflicts broken physically, mentally and spiritually.

The fact that so many vets are homeless is shameful. I understand that many people are put off by having vets in or near their communities. Many people dismiss the vets as “drunks or druggies or worse.” They don’t want them anywhere near their homes; ironic when you think that we Americans have the good lives we have because of those who survived conflicts we can’t even imagine.

(If you are curious as to whether I and my husband would welcome previously homeless vets to live next door to us, the answer is YES.)

When my husband and I talked with Peter, I learned many things about the homeless vets. Besides needing medical and psychological help, they need peace and quiet. Peter told us that they are far more comfortable in small spaces, and that they feel safer in the quiet woods. Also, in this peaceful setting and in a place they can call home, they may be able to find a way to live out their lives in dignity, comfort, safety and hope.

Please take the time to visit the website, www.veteranresortchapel.com to see what is being done for those vets who served and came home to nothing and were forced to live on the streets. And if you’re thinking, ‘why don’t they just go to shelters?’ Some of them just can’t.

Why? Because there are specific rules and regulations that they must adhere to, and sometimes this is just too much for someone who has had to see and do things we civilians can’t imagine.

Peter Macdonald and his ‘little house movement’ would greatly help some of these brave and shattered men and women and give them peace, comfort, safety and time to heal.

For more information on Peter Macdonald’s “little house” movement, please read the article in the Baysider on June 2, 2016, “Veteran embraces the little house movement to shelter homeless warriors.”