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’!

Hula Again!

Last January I posted my experience in trying to go back to dancing hula again. At that time, I found I needed a knee revision as my knee replacement was failing. So much for any type of dance. Also I have shoulder issues (no rotator cuffs on either shoulder) that, if I’m not careful, I can have some painful twinges. Ah well, you live with it and do what you can. So I reluctantly left hula, hoping for the day that I could come back to it.

Well—that day was yesterday! I danced with my teachers, and was amazed that, after all that time away, there were dances I could remember. I learned some new ones as well, and can’t wait to dance again. Sure, my shoulders complained by the time we were done, but it was worth it.

I had forgotten how these beautiful dances could touch my heart. My teachers are not only patient and encouraging, but they help me understand what each dance means. Hula is all about history, people, customs, stories, grace and beauty. When dancing hula, I forget my age, my physical issues; all is lifted up by the grace and joy of hula.

I can’t explain my love and attraction to hula, in fact all things Hawaiian; perhaps I danced it each day in another life. If you like hula and watch the Merrie Monarch festival (check it out on you tube), you will see fabulous dances. Dancers can be little kids, teenagers, young men and women as well as older men and women.

It has been a long journey back to hula, but finally, I am here and loving it all over again.

*Mahalo!

*”Thank you” in Hawaiian.

That Peaceful Easy Feeling…

If you’re a baby boomer like me, you will no doubt remember the Eagles song, “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” The words of the chorus always comfort me:

“I got a peaceful easy feelin’
And I know you won’t let me down
‘Cause I’m already standin’
On the ground.”

These days I have a new perspective of this song. My childhood is over, as are my working days, and I have outlived my parents. However, these days that “peaceful easy feeling” comes from a different place and has a different meaning for me.

For example, one of our beloved and terribly spoiled five cats, Pookie, has developed occasional tremors and sometimes stumbles and/or falls. Our wonderful vet advised two remedies, one of which is taken twice in the morning and twice in the evening. They do help, but from time to time Pookie will stumble and sometimes fall. So far we have been lucky that he has not hurt himself.

Fortunately, he is the one who naps the longest, usually under all the blankets on our bed. As he was the second cat we rescued, he has a special place in my heart. He came from a home with too many children and animals, and, when I adopted him he had a UTI and an eye infection.

It’s hard enough on an animal to be moved into a new home, but worse when they come with afflictions you have to treat to get them better. But we all got through it. Years have passed happily, and, three more cats later, we are a family of the Crankee Yankee, me and the five “kids.”

This affliction of Pookie’s makes me hyper aware of where he is; is he somewhere where he could fall and hurt himself, and so on. Last night I was worried sick about him and couldn’t get to sleep. And then, just like an angel swooping in, came those words:

“I got a peaceful easy feelin’
And I know you won’t let me down
‘Cause I’m already standin’
On the ground.”

In this circumstance, these words mean to me that He who made us all and loves us all is watching over this sweet cat more vigilantly that I ever could. Certainly I will do all I can to keep Pookie safe and healthy, and get him whatever he needs. But also in my mind is that he, like all of us, came from a place where love abides and where there is no death and no pain.

So, remembering this, I could sleep again, knowing that my life, his life; all our lives are not solely our own. As we stand on the ground looking up, I know that this peaceful easy feeling will stay and won’t let me, or Pookie, down.

 

Herons on the Pond

The weather has been perfect the last couple days for walking around the pond. All the fierce-eyed red wing blackbirds are on constant patrol in the cattails on the edge of the pond as their ladies are now busy raising their young. The males keep circling around their nests, calling and protecting their territory.

As I pass by, I always murmur, “you don’t need to worry about me; I wish you and your family nothing but good.”

The young turtles now sun themselves on the long logs on the edge of the pond. Their shells shine in the sun, and they enjoy the warmth so much that even my footsteps don’t move them from their sunny spot.

All the mama ducks are paddling through the pond, their young trailing out behind them. Seagulls wheel overhead, squawking and calling to each other. Sometimes, a rare osprey shows up, like a prize for the day.

The pond is also home to the occasional flock of swans. Seeing them drift on the surface of the pond reminds me of ballerinas in white tutus, twirling in the eddies.

But my favorites, the great blue herons, are back again. They stand, nearly immobile, in places where they can watch for minnows and other small fry to swim by. You can tell only by the small movement of their heads slowly bending down that they are about to spear their breakfast.

When they are done fishing or are disturbed, they utter a grumbling “heerawk!” snd they lift their large wings to fly off, long legs trailing behind. They like quiet spots, the herons do, and they are likely to choose quietude over good fishing. Each time I am lucky enough to see herons, the day goes right for me after that.

 

Phooey on the “Five Second Rule”

I am not usually creeped out by a lot of things, but the thing that gives me the heebie-jeebies is the “Five Second Rule.” To any who are not familiar with this, it means that, should you drop a piece of food on the floor, you can still eat it if you pick it up within five seconds.

YUCK! It has been proven over and over again that germs jump on that bit of food faster than a pit bull on a pork chop. I don’t care if the last delicious onion ring/piece of succulent salmon/the last chocolate chip pancake/deviled egg falls on the floor, you can’t write me a check big enough to eat it.

Sure, we humans have great immune systems, but really, it is never a good idea to eat things that have fallen on the floor. Just the hot second a piece of food touches the floor, bacteria is all over it. Every time I hear someone call out “five second rule!” my entire digestive system curls up like a bad permanent.

Seriously, does anyone really believe that the germs will be as chivalrous as an Edwardian headmaster and politely leave the dropped piece of food alone? No, bacteria is an evil bully who loves it when you believe things like this. Just as that piece of food goes tumbling off your plate, the floor bacteria have a bead on it and are arranging themselves for the attack.

Here’s what I think happens:

Food: “Oh no! I fell off the plate and I’m headed for the floor!”

Bacteria: “INCOMING! Prepare the troops!”

Food: “Oh, YUCK! I see dirty foot prints, cat hair and—OMG, is that PEE??

Bacteria: “MOOHAHAHAHA—You are now unfit for human consumption!”

Food: (speaking from the floor) “Don’t touch me; I’m a goner. Save yourself!!!”

Yep, I think it may play out exactly that way. So, phooey on the Five Second Rule. Just let that bit of food fall where it may and put it right where it belongs—in the trash.

 

Bullying – It Has to Stop

By now you may have heard Delanie Marcotte, a 5th grade student at Pollard Elementary School in Plaistow, NH, deliver a tearful and heartfelt message to the school board about bullying. She had looked forward to being a 5th grader very much, but she said that it certainly isn’t what she hoped for.

This beautiful and brave little girl was told that she “should be shot in the head with an AK-47 and buried in her backyard.” She is often kicked, punched and tripped at school for no reason. She began to dread going to school, and finally she had had enough. She appealed to the school board to take bullying seriously and to do something about it.

Her father has said that she is a very kind girl, and does her best to stand up to bullying. When she sees it happening to another child, she asks the bully to stop and to say sorry. This is pure courage, especially in one so young.

I am sure that this young girl will do great things in her life. The fact that she is not taking the bullying anymore speaks to her upbringing and her loving spirit. She may be too young to understand that people who do or say mean things are often hurting inside. It is a sad truth that hurt people hurt people. Bullying is just one part of it.

We may never know or understand what makes a bully, but this amazing girl is facing the bullies head on. The very fact that she made her experience public shows not only courage, but a kind of dignity you don’t often see in children—or adults, for that matter. She knows that she does not deserve to be bullied. She knows that other children are bullied, too, and she does her best to stop it.

I may not see a real bully these days myself, but I know a hero when I see one. Delanie Marcotte is a hero with the virtues of kindness, compassion and respect for others. I hope with all my heart that someone (most likely her parents and family) tells her every day how magnificent she is and how brave.

I hope that one day soon we will see the end of bullying in schools or anywhere else. This little freedom fighter will not be the only one to stand up to bullies. This kind of hatred needs to stop and soon.

I have hope for Delanie’s generation. I hope that there are more Delanies out there.

Stop, Look and Listen!

While growing up, this was drilled into us each day in school (and often at home, too): “STOP. LOOK. LISTEN.” Although this used to be on signs by railroad crossings, it holds up for just about everything.

Considering how dangerous driving has become, it would serve us well to remember old “STOP. LOOK. LISTEN.” It used to be that, if you were making a turn into a driveway or parking lot or a friend’s house, the person behind you slowed down to let you make that turn safely. These days you risk your life when you do the same thing; the person behind does not slow down, nor does he/she give you much room to turn.

When approaching a stop sign, I’ve seen countless people drive right on through. Just because you don’t see anyone coming, does not mean that you don’t have to stop. “Stop” means STOP. What people do not realize is that things like this become a dangerous habit. The day will come when they sail right through a stop into someone’s car or child.

Driving these days is more dangerous than ever. There appears to be no courtesy, no kindness, no manners, no patience. And don’t even get me started about texting and driving. It has become an exercise in survival, and that’s not good. Whether it’s ego or impatience or whatever, we see too many people driving too fast and too carelessly.

I now drive defensively because I have to. If I have the chance to get out of the way of the speeder, the impatient driver, the speed demon, I do. These days when I’m driving and there is someone behind me obviously ticked off at me because I’m not driving 100 MPH in a 50 MPH zone, I just pull over and let them pass. I would a whole lot rather be behind someone like that than in front of them.

Sometimes there is a reason for speeding. If you have a pregnant woman in active labor in your car, or you are experiencing an incipient bowel event (it happens), then ok—by all means speed. Just be careful and pay attention.

Then there are the dear souls who love to walk and run with headphones or earbuds, listening to their music, etc. That’s perfectly fine if you are in a safe place, say, running track at a school. However, a lot of people “tune out” while running or walking and do not seem to be aware of anything or anyone around them.

I used to teach self-defense, and even back then I was telling people to be careful and to be aware of their surroundings. It is incredibly easy for someone in a van to come up on a runner who is not paying attention and pull them into the van. It happens all the time, and often the person grabbed is never seen again.

Look, I’m not trying to be a harbinger of doom. I still think that the old “STOP. LOOK. LISTEN” is as true today as it was decades ago. It is ALWAYS a good idea to know where you are and who is around you. Trust me, the world will not watch out for you, so you had better watch out for yourself.

 

 

 

 

For the Love of Pets

Pets, no matter what they are; dogs, cats, gerbils, parrots, hamsters, fish, etc. are a significant part of our lives. Unlike family members, we choose them; or at least it seems that way. My own belief is that they choose us.

When I was living in Texas, my beloved female cat, Billie became too old and too sick to live a good life. I knew that she was suffering, and I knew what I had to do. She had been a tough old gal, but enough was enough.

The worst part of taking your beloved pet to the vet for the last time is that there are memories all over the house and in your heart. You think that you will never get over the pain of loss, and you swear that you will never ever fall in love with a pet again.

But there comes a day when you feel like going to an animal shelter. You can tell yourself that you are “just looking.” What you don’t realize at the time is that the animals are looking at you.

So there I was, in the San Antonio Animal Shelter, walking through the cat rooms. I saw a lot of nice cats, happy cats, crazy cats, sleeping cats and so on. I walked into another cat room where there were lots of perches and transoms for the cats to enjoy.

As I was looking around, I felt something bump my head. Startled, I looked up and saw a beautiful all-black cat sitting on a perch above me. She had gently head-butted me as if to say,  “Hey! Look at me!”

I did, and I fell instantly and hopelessly in love. Blackie had lived at this shelter for four years. When I asked why she had been there so long, one of the volunteers said, “well, it’s because of her looks.” It was then that I noticed that Blackie had extra long incisors, and a crumpled ear. I thought she was beautiful.

She had a sweetness of spirit that touched my cat-hungry heart to its core. I knew I would adopt her and make up for those four years of being passed over.

Blackie and I were pals from the start. I took her home and bought her toys, treats, a soft bed and the best cat food I could find. She slept with me every night, curled up against my right side.

When the Crankee Yankee and I moved back to New Hampshire, Blackie of course traveled with us. When we moved into our house in Exeter, Blackie made herself at home.

Blackie was with us until she was 20 years old. By this time she was nearly blind, and had to be kept in our office where she couldn’t fall and hurt herself. I slept in there with her to keep her company.

When the time came to let her go, our vet came to our house to put her to sleep. Although it broke my heart, Blackie let me know that she was ready to go. I held her in my arms and whispered all my love for her in her ears and she slowly and peacefully went on to where all good and sweet pets go.

My vet once told me that the reason our pets die before we do is because they are smarter than us. They know all they need to know in their life spans, and they know when it’s time to go. But they never really leave us; each cat I have loved and lost are deeply and forever nestled in my heart.

And do you know what? Those clever little buggers let us know from the Great Pet Beyond that there is a special pet waiting for us. They know when it’s time for us to engage again, and give a deserving pet a home, love, security and family. Don’t doubt for a moment that they can make this happen. They know what we need and when we need it. It is their gift to us so that we may again have another pet (or pets) to love.