The Bluebird of Happiness

It’s been years since I saw a real live bluebird. But yesterday as the Crankee Yankee and I were sitting on the porch with our coffee, a bluebird sailed right into our garden. It was as if he knew how gorgeous he was; he perched on one of the pea “tee-pees,” and sang his head off. It was just as if a piece of the blue sky descended to show us how blue blue can be.

This is just one of the little miracles and pleasures we get from time to time. Honestly, it’s like finding a $20 bill on the ground. We often get so tied up in all the ‘should do,’ ‘have to,’ ‘ought to’ stuff that sometimes we miss the beauty and all the other good things all around us.

Yesterday was a gift, seeing that blue bird. Those blue feathers were truly the most beautiful blue I have ever seen.

Now that I have more time to write, to read, to pick up my ukulele and play, to garden, to dance hula again, to see friends, or to just pick up and go somewhere (with or without the Crankee Yankee)—these days are gifts as wonderful as that blue bird.

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Funerals and Children

My mother was never a fan of funerals. Her own mother died of pancreatic cancer when Mom was only 14 years old. She couldn’t bring herself to be at her mother’s funeral, and in fact for most of her life she could not go to funerals. The ones she did attend were hard on her, and she swore that she would never put her family and friends through a funeral for her.

However, when Mom was in home hospice for the last three and a half months of her life, she told me that she finally understood about funerals.

“They aren’t really for the person who died,” she said. “They are for the people who loved that person who died.” And from then on, she planned her own funeral, and actually had a lot of fun doing it.

Mom, being the ultimate organizer, planned every detail, even the music. The last song was “Heaven, I’m in Heaven” (from “Cheek to Cheek” starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers). She and I decided together what she would wear on her last day, and, bizarrely, it was kind of fun. Then she called Dad into the room and asked him to pick out what he should go to his grave wearing.

Honestly, the whole thing turned into a hilarious day. Dad kept walking into the bedroom with suit after suit, until Mom ok’d his “final” outfit.

When Mom died, we had a viewing the day before her funeral. I had promised her that I would do her makeup, and her hairdresser came with me to fix her hair. She really did look beautiful.

When everyone came by to see her, the Crankee Yankee’s daughter and husband came as well. With them was Ava, who at that time was four years old. Her bright spirit, her laughter and her smile cheered up everyone around her. Dad said afterwards that she made the sun shine for Mom.

She came up to me and asked who that was in the “box.” I told her that that was my mother, whom she had met earlier that year. She asked if Mom was sleeping, and I said that she was. She asked if Mom would wake up and I told her that she would not. She looked a little confused, so I had a chat with her.

I told her what my grandmother had told me years and years ago when I was about her age. She said, “when I die, don’t be afraid of what you see in my casket. That will only be my “shell.” The real me will be in Heaven with the angels.”

My grandmother went on to say, “you know, when you go to Heaven, they let you pick out the color of your hair and your wings.” Well, I thought that was wonderful, and asked her what she was going to pick.

She said, “well, I was a redhead, so I think I will pick shiny black hair, and pink wings.” I told her that when it was my time, that I would pick red hair and silver wings.

In telling Ava about this, she asked if my mom had wings yet, and asked what color they were. I said that yes, she did, and that they were deep blue. She asked if she could see them, and I told her we couldn’t, but God and all the angels could.

In my grief in losing my mother, Ava was a beam of bright light. in fact, she was a light and a gift for everyone who was there for Mom. On a day that could have been filled with tears and regrets, Ava in her own way, made it easier for us all.

 

Just Take a Deep Breath…

When all around you is in upset

When your smile can’t be found

When tears are ready to fall—

Just take a deep breath.

When fear overtakes reason

When doubt overshadows hope

When kindness fades—

Just take a deep breath.

When hope has flown

When time seems lost

When anxiety keeps us awake—

Just take a deep breath.

When anger clouds us

When hurt besets us

When compassion is thin on the ground—

Just take a deep breath.

Breathe in hope and love and serenity

Breathe out fear and darkness and hurt.

 

Are You Listening?

Just this week I needed to have a small copying job done, so I went to our neighborhood printing place. I gave them the half-page outline I had typed up and asked them to copy it and laminate it. Simple, right?

Not really. The young guy who took my order began typing my text into his system, which I thought was odd as most places will just scan the original. But I admit I don’t know everything, so I said nothing.

When I got my order, I was on my way to a class and didn’t have time to check it over. By the time I got home and read it, I found some pretty blatant errors in it. There were misspellings, extra commas and capital letters in the wrong place, as well as weird spacing.

I took it back and pointed out the errors and asked for it to be redone. The manager who helped me said that she would send me an email with the proof so that I could read it and make sure it was what I wanted. She said that, once she received my “ok” email, she would go ahead and have my copies printed.

Sounds like a plan, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t. I eventually did get an email with the corrected text, so I ok’d it. The manager replied immediately saying that she had already printed my order—before I ok’d it.

So, what’s wrong with this picture? First of all, there was the first problem with the misspellings, commas, etc. No problem; this happens. But when a manager tells me that she will not print the finals until my approval, but does it anyway, that means that she was not listening.

Well, this certainly is not the end of the world by any means. All this means is that we need to be present in whatever we are doing. We have all made dumb mistakes from time to time; we are all human. However, we need to be clear in our interactions with other humans so that there is no misunderstanding.

We have all heard the old saying, “when you assume, you make an ass out of “u” and “me!” Or, as an uncle of mine once said, “ever wonder why you have two ears and only one mouth? LISTEN UP aND SHUT UP!”

The Magic of Compliments

Our 7-year old granddaughter, Ava, is not only a smart, funny, talented and loving child, but she is also kind. She looks for the good things in people, and she always finds something in everyone to compliment.

The Crankee Yankee and I were out with her and her Mom and Dad a few years back (before Ava became a big sister to Juliette, now two years old). We were all in a store together, and Ava, being full of energy, was running up and down the shoe aisles. I had just turned the corner to keep an eye on her as she ran up another aisle.

A woman and her little girl, who looked to be about four years old, were walking down the aisle. Ava stopped short in front of them, smiled at them, and said to the little girl, “you are beautiful!

The girl was very shy, but she broke into a big grin. Her mother smiled too and thanked Ava. You could tell that this little girl had not had many compliments. Knowing Ava as I do, I knew she meant it right from her heart.

This is just one of the lovely attributes Ava has. She is innately kind and genuinely looks for the good in everyone. She always compliments people on something about them. Not long ago we were all together, having lunch at Ava’s favorite diner. An older woman and her friend got up from their table and walked by our table. Ava said, “Oh, I love your necklace!”

The woman stopped and smiled at her and said, “Do you know what? This (holding out the pendant on her necklace; a jeweled turtle) is actually a refrigerator magnet I put on a chain!”

We all laughed and complimented her again on her ingenuity. Ava said, “well, no matter what, it’s beautiful.” This little interchange seemed to warm up the whole diner. When we left, everyone was smiling.

Compliments are magic in their way, especially when they come from a kind and loving heart.

Baby Boomer Women

Speaking strictly for me, I am glad that issues like body-shaming, unequal wages, bullying, and more are in the news. For those of us who grew up in the ’50s, there were nearly impossible standards of what girls/women should look like and be like. Since we didn’t know anything different, we just accepted it and felt bad about ourselves most of the time.

The models we saw in magazines were gorgeous in every way. Their hair was always glossy and styled beautifully, their skin was flawless, their lipstick subtle but lovely, and their figures were perfect. They all were slim and tiny-waisted, and their clothes looked as if they were designed for them. No one we knew ever looked like those magazine women, not even our moms.

When the ’60s rolled in, there was a massive change in women. It wasn’t all about the sexual revolution, the music, the hippies, the bra burnings, and all that rhetoric about “if it feels good, do it!” It was more about women accepting themselves for who they were, what they looked like and how capable they were.

The ’60s was a revolution for women; all women. Us baby boomer girls were sort of stuck in the middle; we were raised almost in a Victorian way: modest clothing, always slips under skirts and dresses, no swearing, always respectful of parents and elders, no running around with the “wrong crowd,” no monkey business with boys, in short: we were pretty well bracketed in what young girls were supposed to be at that time.

And how we longed to break out of that Victorian bondage! We wanted to be glamorous but not slutty, we wanted to be smart but not too smart, we wanted boys to like us, but we were much too scared to think of what might happen should we find ourselves alone with a boy.

So we tried to fit in and act like and look like those perfect ladies in magazines. Looking at them, you just knew that they never had a pimple, or a disappointment, or someone telling them that they were fat or unacceptable.

What we didn’t know at the time was that there is always a price to pay for getting what you think you want. For example, when we were old enough to go to college, which meant not living at home anymore, life changed dramatically. We were more free than we had ever been, and we longed to be free—but carefully. 

For example, once we got out into the workplace, it was blindingly clear that, although we were educated young women, we knew nothing about the dark underbelly of the workplace. I’m sure that I’m not alone in enduring being groped in the hallways, told inappropriate jokes, laughed at for being “all emotional” when we tried to give our opinons or suggestions.

Back then, it felt like working in a men’s locker room. I heard more filthy jokes and innuendos than I ever want to remember. It wasn’t at all unusual for men to make loud comments to their co-workers about our bodies and how much they would love to have a “business lunch” with us.

So, having lived through all that, I am very pleased to see so many women standing up for themselves. ALL women; the beautiful, the plain, the fat, the thin, the nerd, the weirdo, the way-too-smart, the compassionate, the driven, the joyous, the brave, the bold and the adventurer.

What is most wonderful to see is how women are changing—to suit themselves. Just look at this generation; they are their own people, with their own looks, style, agendas, interests, talents and gifts. Women of all sizes, shapes and colors and backgrounds have become the glorious norm, and how wonderful it is!

Slowly but surely, we are evolving into who we were always meant to be. Our sex does not define us, nor our looks, our weight, our chosen profession, whether or not we have children, husbands, partners; whether we are transgender, gay, straight: we are who we are. Our talents, our gifts and our unique and magnificent value in this world are changing this world for the better.

Oh, the times they are a-changin’!