One Single Buttercup

Buttercups have always been special to me and my dad. When he and my mom were dating, I was about 3 years old. They used to take me on picnics with them, and whenever we found buttercups, Dad and I picked them together.

It was over a crumpled bouquet of buttercups that I asked him if I could call him “Daddy.” He smiled at me and said that, yes, I certainly could. Months later, on December 27, 1955, I stood with my mom and new dad as they got married in the front room of Dad’s parents’ home.

To be honest, I was far more interested in the wedding cake than the wedding, but I was glad to have my new dad. Mom smiled wider than I had seen in a long time, and my new grandparents smiled as well. Dad leaned down to me and said, “Janie Lou, you are my little girl now.” I was very happy.

Years went by. When we moved into our new house in Wolfeboro, NH, Dad mowed the lawn except for one patch of bright yellow buttercups. He said that they always reminded him of me, and, up to the very last time he mowed the lawn in 2015, he left that patch of flowers alone.

Just the other day I was walking around our house to the back yard. As usual, it was filled with grass, weeds, purple violets, dandelions—and, in one little patch of grass, a single bright yellow buttercup.

I stopped in my tracks, my mind racing back to that first buttercup I picked with my dad so many years ago. Although there were tears in my eyes, I was smiling. I looked at the buttercup, and then up to the sky and said, “Thanks, Dad. I will always remember.”

If You Can’t Believe in Yourself, Believe in Those Who Believe in YOU

It’s easy to get down on ourselves; we don’t like the way we look, we don’t like it that we don’t have the energy we used to have, our house is a mess, and on and on and on. It becomes all too easy to stop believing in ourselves.

Everyone goes through this trial by fire; it’s the human condition. And getting older often makes us feel bad. We remember the young and pretty things we used to be; how confident we were, how we managed to do so much in a day. These days we may get out of bed with good intentions—then flop right back into bed saying, ‘oh, the hell with it.’

As we age, this feeling may get stronger. We have so much less energy than we used to, and these days we often feel like we have run out of gas. (Funny, because at my age I never seem to run out of gas, if you get my meaning.)

This is the time to call out the troops; that is, the people who love us and care about us. These are the people who love us for who and what we are; they fail to see anything wrong with us. They uplift us with their love and support, they tell us to keep on going, no matter what—because they believe in us.

They may or may not be aware of the many faults we find in ourselves, but they choose to love us as we are. Their kindness and acceptance of us makes us feel less alone, less like a failure, and more a person that matters. Those who love and believe in us never see the flaws we do in ourselves. They act as our better angels and remind us who we really are.

Speaking only for myself, I do so love and appreciate those wonderful people who do not seem to see or care about all the times I’ve fallen down, and lost faith and hope in myself. They are my flickering candles in the darkness, the hands who hold mine as I walk blinded by all my mistakes, and who lift me up daily.

So many times, it is those who believe in me who make me believe in myself.

 

Memorial Day – A Time to Remember

Memorial Day has always meant a lot to me. My grandfather was in WWI, and his son, my father; served in WWII. I went to college with boys who went to Viet Nam; some returned and others did not. My step-daughter, a graduate of West Point, went to war right after her graduation in 2001. She had five deployments in all before she came home for good.

I am one of many whose people fought and died for the freedoms and way of life we enjoy today. I can never forget them, and especially on Memorial Day, the 4th of July, Veterans’ Day; actually I think of them all every day.

I grew up in a time where every morning in grammar school we stood, hands on hearts, to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Following that, we sat in our seats, heads bowed and hands palm to palm to say the Lord’s Prayer aloud. It was the routine of our lives, and no one thought a thing about it. In fact, the only division in our little classroom was whether you were Catholic or Protestant.

As the last war was still recent in our history, we had air raid drills daily. This meant that we all had to crouch under our wooden desks, heads down and arms and legs tucked in. This way if the school was bombed we had some protection. When our teacher gave us the “all clear,” we sat back in our seats and went on with the day.

We read avidly about our country’s history, our presidents, our military men and women and our heroes. We developed a deep appreciation of the freedoms we had. We just couldn’t imagine living in a country where you couldn’t speak your mind, go where you wanted to, go to the church you wanted to attend; the rest of the world never seemed as good as where we were in America.

We revered our military and our veterans. It always broke my heart when, while watching the town’s 4th of July parades, those gallant old military men marched along. Some walked, some limped, some were in wheelchairs, some in cars. But each and every one of them wore the same expression on their faces; dignified, strong and resolute. Looking at them, I always felt inspired to do the best I could with my life.

Today let us all remember those who fought and died for us all. Let us all remember to thank all who served and helped protect our way of life. Let us today remember. Let us be thankful to live in freedom. Let us be glad for a roof overhead, food and water, love and honor, and all the people we love. Let us be thankful today and every single day for all who sacrificed and all who served and continue to serve.

Most of all, let us never forget that our freedoms are not free; they were paid for in blood and sacrifice. Let us thank at least one person today who served and let them know that their time was worth it. Today is the day to remember. Let us remember, but most of all, let us never forget.

 

Back to the Crabby Pants Journal

Way back in September 2013, I started this blog. One of my  pet peeves has always been sloppy grammar, helter-skelter punctuation, mispronounced words and “pop” phrases that just drive me nuts. So I started the Crabby Pants Journal. (it actually should be called the Big Fat Know-It-All Diva Journal, but you get the general idea.)

So here it is again in all its snarky glory. If you find any mistakes in it, feel free to let me know; I ought to be cut down a peg now and then.

This is a list of stuff that really chaps my butt:

  • There is no such word as REE-LA-TOR. It is realtor, pronounced “REEL-TOR.” Also, there is no such word as LIBERRY. It is library, pronounced “LIBE-RARY.”
  • When you fall down in a house, a library, a school, the workplace––in short, somewhere indoors, you say that you fell on the floor, not the ground. When you fall down outside, that is, where there is grass, cement, clay, etc., in short, an outside surface, then you can say that you fell on the ground. It annoys the crap out of me when people say that they fell on the ground when they in fact fell in the house—that is, unless they have grass growing in their house.
  • People who have no idea what the true usage of a word is; that is, they make up some variation of it that makes no sense. Example: I overheard a waiter speaking with a customer who was talking enthusiastically about the new golf course in town. He had had a great game and that waiter, who proclaimed that he, too was a golfer said, “How did you find the degree of difficulticity of the course?” Seriously, people–if you’re going to say it, say it correctly.
  • It is correct to say “It’s not that big a deal.” It is INCORRECT to say, “It’s not that big of a deal.” Period.
  • I heard this one on a TV commercial. A pretty girl, sitting in her bedroom, looks at the camera and says, “When I’m on my period, I take <insert brand here>.” Really––she is ON her period? It sounds like she is ON a motorcycle, or ON a bicycle, or ON a fencepost, etc. It should be “when I’m HAVING my period.” You HAVE a period, you don’t actually GET ON a period. Period.
  • The saying goes: “You have to take the BAD with the GOOD.” Meaning that, for the good thing you like, there is something bad that you don’t like that comes with it. Example: I love my cats. I don’t love it that I have to clean all the litter boxes. But I do so because I love the cats (the GOOD) and so will take the BAD (cleaning the litterboxes). See how that makes sense? So why do I continually hear “You have to take the GOOD with the BAD?” Meaning that, for the BAD thing you DON’T like, there is something GOOD that you DO like that comes with it. Doesn’t make sense, does it?
  • What genius came up with this idea: stuffing a Christmas card with a pile of sparkly confetti? If this is supposed to make me happy, it doesn’t. It just means that now I have to vacuum––and I hate vacuuming. Thanks for nothing.
  • People who chew gum loudly. Honestly, it makes my teeth curl up. If they could only do it with their mouths closed, discretely, I could live with it. But no––we are so often treated to everyone’s dental work as they clop, clop, clop that gum loudly and relentlessly.
  • When did we start ending conversations with “..so..” as if it were a logical end of the sentence? Example: “I bought this cute hat, took it home and put in on and it just didn’t look right, so….” SO WHAT?!? End the sentence already! “So” is no way to end a sentence-–it’s just irritating.
  • People, PLEASE learn the difference between “it’s” and “its!” Check your Strunk and White! If you remember that “it’s” is an abbreviation for “it is,” you won’t make that mistake and piss me off.
  • This world is NOT a trash can. PLEASE pick up your stuff––trust me when I say that the Clean-Up Fairy gave up on you a long time ago.
  • Pick up your dog’s poop. Seriously–if you’re going to have a dog, he/she is going to poop. So do us all a favor, and bring plastic bags with you and pick up the crap.
  • What’s up with the people who NEVER use directionals when they drive? Are we supposed to guess when they want to make a turn?
  • What kind of people think it’s just fine to toss lit cigarette butts out of the windows of their cars (what? That fancy-schmancy vehicle doesn’t come with an ASH TRAY?!)?
  • Why oh why do my cats like to vomit at night? Nothing wakes you up faster than that “hucka-hucka-hucka” sound they make just  before they heave.
  • Then there are the people who drive right through stop signs as if they weren’t there. Those signs are not up there for their health, and STOP means stop. Even if you don’t see a soul on the street, just STOP.
  • People who say “like” all the time – either something IS or IS NOT. “Like” has become an annoying version of “um” or “oh” or “hmmm.” If you are going to say something like this: “So she says to me that I should, like, change my hairstyle because it’s just so, like retro but like not in a good way,” and I am standing nearby, you will probably hear the sound of my teeth grinding.

…More Crabby Pants Journal entries to come, because sooner or later, someone will get me wound up enough to post again.

Old Friends and New Friends

Isn’t it funny how the people we went to school with stay in our hearts and minds? I just had a call from an old friend last night, and we talked and talked and laughed and laughed. It seemed like she and I and our other two friends have always had a connection that goes beyond time and space.

Our near and dear friends are always close to us in mind and heart. Back when we were kids, school was pretty cut and dried; you went to grammar school until you were around 12, when you “graduated” to junior high school (now called “middle school”). We all went to our brick and mortar school from grammer school, then junior high and then on to high school.

But, those of us in the eighth grade were in for a major change; a new regional high school had been built and we were the first in junior high students to go there. This was a HUGE change for us all. Previously all of us from Wolfeboro, NH went to the same school, and the kids who lived in the surrounding towns went to their schools.

This new regional high school had been built so that all surrounding towns could send their children to one school instead of many local schools. The new school was at that time a marvel; we had lockers, we had home rooms, we had classes in several rooms in the building, and we had to learn fast where to go. The biggest difference to us eighth graders was that we saw the “big kids,” that is, the high schoolers; every day. At the time they seemed so cool, so sure of themselves and so “with it.”

I remember that, when in my old school, my Sears dresses and white ankle socks and saddle shoes were everyday school wear. I never thought much about it; clothes were clothes. But in this brand new school, girls just a year or two older than me and my friends wore plaid kilts (with every manner of gorgeous pin to keep the kilt from flapping open), sweater sets, and nylons. I also noticed that none of them had hairy legs like I did.

After the first day of being in the new school, I came home begging my mother to let me shave my legs. But at age 13, my mother told me in no uncertain terms that I would not be shaving my legs any time soon.

However, I was so desperate that one evening I got in the bathtub (full of Mr. Bubble suds) with my mother’s razor and started shaving my legs. Of course I made all kinds of nicks which bled immediately. I panicked and called for Mom. She came running in and assessed the situation.

I though she would be furious, but instead she sat on the edge of the tub and showed me how to shave my legs properly so that I wouldn’t keep cutting myself. While she scolded me for going against her will, she said that she understood how I must feel, seeing all those girls nearly my age with shaved legs and nylons.

That Christmas for the first time, I recieved some real “grown-up” gifts; my very own razor (and boxes of those tiny little bandaids), nylons and a girdle (I was thin as a rail and didn’t need one, but this was the time before panyhose was invented). I felt so grown up.

After the holidays, my friends and I compared notes and most of us had been given the go-ahead to shave our legs. We all felt like the young women we were. We loved our smooth and hairless legs and gloried in wearing “big girl” things.

Oh, we were so young and so innocent then! We stayed friends all through high school, and tried to keep in touch through college. Life changed us; we moved into tiny apartments and were so thrilled with having our own homes. And we went on into the world to begin our own lives.

Although we didn’t always keep in touch, we never forgot each other. The warmth and joy of those friendships made it easier for us to make new friends. It did not mean that we forgot our old pals; we never did. So at this stage of our lives, as mothers and grandmothers and aunties, we are still friends.

Plus, we have enriched our lives with new friends as well who have become as precious as our old friends. In fact, we find with each new friend that our hearts and souls expand to include them in our hearts and minds as we do our old dear friends.

All I can think of is how rich in friends I am. How lucky I am to have these magnificent women and men in my life. I honestly do not know who I would be without them. So, if you are reading this, my dear and beloved friends, please know that you are always in my heart and you have made a huge and wonderful difference in my life.

 

“I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!”

Remember all those commericals where someone has taken a fall and can’t get up? It’s funny unless it happens to you personally. Yesterday I was weeding one of the garden plots in my too-large sandals (but hey—it was a warm day). The Crankee Yankee was working on the “pea tee-pees” (a great structure he made for when the peas come up and start twining) two plots over.

I got up from one side of the plot I was weeding, and as I moved to the other side, my sandal caught on something and I took a spectacular fall backwards. I was at least smart enough not to fight it, but I landed on the crushed rock that surrounds all the plots. Unfortunately I also hit the back of my head hard against the aluminum ladder that was leaning against the house.

Now a funny thing happens when something unfunny happens. In my case, I immediately thought ‘it’s ok, I’m all right; I can feel everything, I know what day it is, and so on.’ Then I realized that I was really hurting. The Crankee Yankee came flying over and tried to get me back on my feet, but I told him I just needed to lie there for a while.

In a few minutes he helped me up, and I wasn’t dizzy. But the back of my head, my bad right shoulder and my lower back were yelling for attention. Once inside the house I applied cold packs and took some Aleve.

I thought about whether or not to go to the ER to get checked out. Nah, I thought, it wasn’t all that serious. Then I remembered about Liam Neeson’s wife, Natasha Richardson who died after she hit her head in a fall while skiing. She kept refusing help or offers to take her to the hospital. By the time she finally decided to go to a hospital, it was too late.

So I asked the Crankee Yankee to take me to the ER to be checked out. Long story short, my brain CT was fine; no injury or brain bleeds.

So why did I choose to write about this? I decided to because I almost did a very stupid thing in thinking I didn’t need to go to the ER. I felt fine; I was walking and talking. In researching Natasha Richardson, she too was walking and talking. In fact, doctors have a phrase for this when people have falls and don’t go to the ER called “walking, talking, dying.”

Of course any fall can be serious. But as I am looking at age 67 coming up in a few months, I didn’t want to take any chances. So if the same thing should happen to you, go straight to the ER ASAP. It’s a short time out of your life but it can save your life.

Oh yes, and don’t wear sandals while weeding. Who knew that was a health hazard? You learn something new every day!

 

Near Misses

Ever wonder what might have happened or could have happened if this, that or the other thing happened? For example, if we weren’t born to the parents we had, who would we be? If we had been born in another part of the world, what would our lives be like?

If we had never taken that trip to the ocean and had seen the green flash on the water as the sun slowly dipped below the sea, would we ever have had that “wow!” moment? If we never had children, what would we be like? If those of us who never had children had had children, what would we be like?

My mother once told me about what had happened to her when she was a teenager. She was sitting with her friends on the warm grass in late Spring, and they were all watching a baseball game going on in the field next to them. As Mom was talking to her friend, she leaned back to get something out of her purse.

At that moment, she felt a strong breeze brush her bangs. It was a hard-thrown baseball that had gone over the fence. If she had not bent back at that very moment, it would have struck her square in the temple and killed her instantly.

What are the odds? Had that happened there would have been no me, no life with my dad (nearly 60 years of marriage), no life at all. It makes me wonder: what other near misses have been in our lives? Something to think about, isn’t it?

Years ago when I lived and worked in Massachusets, I was driving home on the highway at dusk in the winter. I was in the slow lane and was coming up to my exit. It was nearly dark and the roads were getting slippery. Suddenly a car to my left pulled out in front of me, ostensibly to take the same exit.

I hit my brakes as hard as I could, but the ice on the road caused my car to spin to the right. The man driving the other car had tried slow down and went into a slow spin. I was too scared to think straight, in fact, I don’t remember thinking at all. I heard myself saying over and over again, “no, please, no!”

What happened next still mystifies me. Both cars were both in a slow spin, and somehow we both ended up on the side of the road, out of harm’s way, tail to tail. We wobbled out of our cars, and there was no damage to either vehicle. We looked at each other and grinned, and, at the same time we said, “I am so sorry! Are you ok?”

I think that we both were just over-the-top thankful that nothing worse had happened. To this day I don’t know why we escaped injury or damage to our vehicles. All I know is that someone or something was watching out for us. I think that it is those near misses that teach us, remind us how precious life is, and keep us on our toes.

Just another thing to think about…

Servers Aren’t Slaves

Ever wonder how people in the restaurant business manage to keep it together when customers demand over-the-top “special” service? Or the ones who gobble down every bit of food on their plates and then berate the waitress/waiter about how lousy the food was and that they should be comped for every bite? Or the ones who stiff their servers after an evening of impeccable service?

I waitressed during summers and college to pay for my tuition, and trust me: food service can bring out the worst in some people. However, back then if a customer made one of those ‘I didn’t like the food, the service and how the server rolled his/her eyes when I snapped my fingers for him/her to come to my table” remarks, the manager stood up for you.

But sadly it seems that those days have gone by. Those in the restaurant business often live and die by word of mouth or *positive or negative reviews on Yelp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and so on. In order to stay in business, most places do whatever they can to appease the customer, even when they are dead wrong.

By the way, the old standard phrase, “the customer is always right” isn’t always true.

When I lived in Texas, there was a very popular steakhouse that was full each night. The food was fabulous, the waitstaff friendly and accomodating, and the atmosphere was upbeat.

One night I went there with a friend. The table beside me was filled with several loud and obnoxious pseudo cowboys. Not only were they loud, but they were snarky to the server and kept saying that she “had to” bring them beer “pronto, or else.” When the server came by to take our order, I asked her why her manager tossing their butts out.

She sighed, and bent down to tell me quietly that 1) they were friends of the manager and had in fact gone to school with him, and 2) the last time they were in they ordered an enormous amount of food, ate it all and left without paying or tipping.

I said, “then why in the world would you ever let them back into this restaurant?” She sighed again, and said that her manager ok’d it. She walked away, shoulders down and looking absolutely defeated.

All I could do was send the “boys” dirty looks and leave a big tip on the table for her. Seriously, how do people who act this way get away with it? I’d like to think that there is an extra-special place in hell for people like this.

*If being horrible to the waitstaff and not tipping them isn’t bad enough, many people who love to write negative reviews about restaurants will often put the name of the server in their review. Because of that, many decent and hard-working servers have lost their jobs. This is simply being vicious for no good reason. Of course, if the experience actually DID include a hostile or rude server, that’s something else. But to be the reason that some server loses his or her job just to be vindictive is being what my mother would call “a prick of misery.”

Thankful Things

Thankful things are anything that makes our lives better. Thankful things can be people, pets, situations, time and place and so on. What makes a thankful thing is something that changes your life for the better.

Thankful things can include the following:

  • catching the last rim of pink-gold sunset over the mountains that takes your breath away.
  • hearing your grandchildren scream your name with joy.
  • your pet snoozing peacefully in your lap.
  • a friend calling out of the blue just to talk.
  • a full moon on a warm summer night.
  • a hug and a kiss from someone you love.
  • sinking into freshly-washed sheets after a long day.
  • listening to the warbles and trills of a cardinal.
  • watching the little brown bats fly just before dark.
  • the scent of baking cookies.
  • a beautiful card in the mail.
  • watching a blue heron sail across a pond.
  • the joy of playing a musical instrument.
  • reading a really good book.

The list can go on and on, of course. Thankful things can often include learning a hard lesson that you realize was actually a good thing. Sometimes it’s hard to pick out the good when you’ve been through a hard time. It may take years to understand that the experience taught you something you couldn’t have learned any other way.

Keep your eyes open for all those thankful things. There are plenty of them to go around.