The Night Before Easter

My grandmother always made a huge feast for each and every holiday. Of course, birthdays were a priority, but she always made the holidays extra special. Easter meant a lot to her, and although she never made a big deal about religion, she saw and understood God in all things.

Years ago when I attended an Episcopal church, the minister would ask for people to volunteer to spend an hour with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. We would pick an hour to sit in church as if we were there in the garden with him. I always chose the hour from 3:00 am to 4:00 am. In that time sitting there in church, I thought about what it must have felt like to be facing death in the next day.

Even though Jesus knew who he was and what his mission entailed, it had to have been frightening to know what he would face the next day. He asked his disciples to come with him, and was saddened that they fell asleep while he wrestled with the thought of what was to come.

We humans feel fear and doubt, anguish, sorrow, loss and betrayal. It is hard for us to face unpleasant things, and often we do whatever we can to avoid that pain and sorrow. But unpleasant things are part of life, and I’ve come to realize that it is those hard times that make us stronger and more flexible. We are all fallable beings; we don’t like pain or trouble or fear or loss, but these things are part and parcel of our lives.

Fortunately, there are so many good things in our lives that they help us get by the hurt and fear of the bad things that come our way. In times when I have felt lost or misunderstood or forgotten, I think of my friends and what family I have left. I know I am not alone in the times I too am in a garden of my own Gethsemane.

May this be a wonderful Easter for us all.
















Rompers for Men??

Ok, I’ve seen everything now. I honestly do not know where this particular fashion statement came from, but evidently the following are the new “casuals” for men. I kid you not; check these out:

AIDEAONE Mens Casual 3D Printed Short Sleeve Rompers Zip Jumpsuit with Pocket S-XXLUideazone Men Summer Shorts 3D Printed Bro Romper Jumpsuit One Piece Romper OutfitsRAISEVERN Men's Rompers Male Zipper Jumpsuit Shorts 3D Printed One Piece Slim Fit Outfits Bro Short Sleeve OverallsONSEME Male Romper Summer 3D Printed Short Sleeve Bro Jumpsuit Overalls One Piece OutfitsUideazone Men Summer Shorts 3D Printed Bro Romper Jumpsuit One Piece Romper OutfitsLoveternal Men's 3D Printed One Piece Jumpsuit Button Short Sleeve Pants Rompers Overalls

Evidently, these “man rompers” are casual dress for around the house, mowing the lawn, playing with their similarly dressed toddlers, or, Heaven help us—doing the shopping. Am I missing something here? Aren’t these togs sort of a big baby’s onesie?

Look, I’ll admit I’m not up to date in the latest fashions, but really—who are buying these and wearing them?!?

Life During a Kitchen Renovation

As you may know from my previous posts, the Crankee Yankee kindly sent me to Hawaii for two weeks in order to renovate our 1953’s kitchen. It was a great deal; I stayed in Oahu and took wonderful tours every other day, and I loved every minute of it. While I was basking in the Hawaiian sun, the Crankee Yankee and his brother were demolishing our old kitchen. According to him, it was a majorly dirty job. As he puts it, “you really do not want to know what we had in the walls (i.e., mice and bugs and their “leavings.” Yuck.)

When I came home, everything was stripped to the bare boards, all ready to be covered in plywood, then covered in formica. Actually, it didn’t look bad at all, and since I came home on March 13, we have been in major fixit mode. The formica is up on the walls, as well as the gorgeous gray cabinets with beautiful nickel handles. I’ve unpacked all our dishes, glass ware, utensils, etc. and put them all up in the new cupboards. So far, there is loads of room for everything.

As our new countertops and sink are not ready to install, so we are still using paper plates (so much easier not to have to wash dishes in the bathroom sink!) and cups, and using our microwave and Keurig coffee maker. Funny how you get used to things like this; seriously, it’s not bad at all. As the stove isn’t hooked up yet, we go out to lunch or dinner more often than usual, but for the time being, it’s not bad at all.

I help the Crankee Yankee as much as I can, and honestly, it’s all kind of fun. Who knew?


The Pond in Spring

It’s been a while since I walked around our town pond, so I bundled up (the wind was pretty fierce as well as cold) and headed down there. In my mind, our pond is a lot like Garrison Keilor’s tales of Lake Woebegon. I call our pond the “Pondillaquent,” and I always come up with stories about the inhabitants and their habits.

All the ice has gone out, and the edges of the pond were full of bright green algae. There were no turtles or blue herons or frogs to be seen yet, but there was a couple of ducks and a pair of cormorants on the water. Seeing as how they were dipping below the surface, there must be enough of something to eat.

One lone redwing black bird was scouting the reeds on the edge of the pond for his lady-love’s future nesting ground. As he was the only one, I’m sure he got the best spot for his future kiddos.

As always, there were plenty of seagulls soaring overhead. I often imagine their chats as they fly over the freezing water: “Hey! Why did we leave the ocean to go to this pond? It’s WAY more cold than the ocean! AND there are no fish here!”

When I walk around the pond, I always think of my grandmother, who taught me everything she knew about the habits of bears, rabbits, squirrels and birds. She taught me kindness and empathy for these creatures, and how to approach and respect them. I realize now that she probably was sort of an animal empath; all creatures seemed to come to her, knowing that they were safe.

Every evening, my grandmother would load up a large pie plate with leftovers. She would remind me to stay quiet and move slowly as to not spook our dinner guests. Usually the raccoons came for the first “seating,” and I remember the thrill of patting a real live raccoon (fortunately he was too busy eating to get upset about it).

She once told me about the skunk who got his head stuck in a peanut butter jar; he was trying to lick up the rest of the peanut butter at the bottom of the jar. She heard him bumbling around, opened the back door and said: “go up to the stone wall and swing your head into one of the rocks, and you’ll be free.”

And wouldn’t you know, that little skunk somehow understood. He managed to break the jar in two neat pieces, finished up the peanut butter, and went on his merry way. These and so much else I remember when walking the “Pondillaquent.” These are my own “Lake Wobegone” stories.


A Must-Read Book

Recently I picked up a book called “Please Stop Laughing at Me,” by Jodee Blanco. I quite literally could not put it down. It is a true story about how Jodee was cruelly bullied in grammer school and high school. From the back cover of “Please Stop Laughing at Me:”

“Activist and youth advocate Jodee Blanco has written the book that has inspired a movement in our nation’s schools, and that is swiftly becoming an American classic. It is the first book written by a survivor of peer abuse. Inspired by the thousands of letters she receives from students, parents, teachers, and adult survivors, Jodee has committed her life to turning her pain into purpose, becoming one of the nation’s most sought-after keynotes speakers, seminar presenters, and crises consultants. Her story of survival and forgiveness has drawn the attention of the national media, as well as recognition from the United States government. Jodee is also the author of “Please Stop Laughing at Us…One Survivor’s Extraordinary Quest to Prevent School Bullying,” the sequel to this book. Please visit Jodee’s Web site, for more information.

I cried my way through this book, and I also looked up Jodee Blanco’s website. Scott Pelley did a segment about Jodee’s work with children, and it was outstanding. It is said that many school shootings happen because the shooter was bullied to the point that he/she could not live with the pain and hurt any longer. This of course does not warrant all school shootings that sadly have happened too many times.

Should you read Jodee’s book, it will change your life forever. I am going to attend my 50th class reunion this summer, and, although I was never really bullied, I certainly did not fit in with the “cool kids.” There was a boy I worshipped and I used to pray that he would talk to me, get to like me and even take me out on a date. I told my dad about my little fantasy and his brutally frank reply was this: “You aren’t his type. He won’t ever date you, because you’re not a cheerleader or part of the school elite.”

As much of a crusher as that was, it made me realize my real social worth. However, our school started a drama club and pledged to have two shows every school year. Each year there would be a musical and a dramatic play. The first musical was “The Music Man,” and I got the lead role of Marion the Librarian. From that time on, right until the last of my senior year, I was in plays. Sometimes I got a lead part, other times I was in the chorus. But it didn’t matter; theater changed my life and gave me a goal, a purpose and something to be good at.

On stage, playing a part, I wasn’t me; I was the character I portrayed. It was so much easier to be that person than be me. In a show, you learn the lines and know what lines the other people in the play have. You know what’s coming, and you know exactly how to react to the other players. It’s nothing like real life where you don’t know who is going to say what and when. Theater was my safe haven, and no one and nothing could hurt me while I was in a play.

These days with social media and cameras on everyone’s phones, no one in school can be sure that they won’t be photographed naked in the shower after gym. They can’t be sure that someone may betray their trust by emailing everyone a private talk only meant for one person’s ears. It has to be nerve-wracking to be a school kid today.

In the segment Scott Pelley did on Jodee Blanco, she said to her student audience: “It isn’t about the bad things you do, but all about the nice things you don’t do.” I have been so moved by this book, and I hope that you will take the time to read it yourself. It is a massive eye-opener.


Reading With Our Eyes, Not Our Pens

I wrote this a few years back, and I still get steamed about the “self-appointed grammer and spelling cops” among us.

I am an avid reader and writer. One of my favorite places is the local library, and it seems every week I am either checking out new books or returning them. Although I have great respect for the library, the librarians and the books themselves, I have been occasionally guilty of ruining books by my own carelessness.

One book was permanently destroyed by the cup of coffee I was drinking while reading (note to self: do not drink and read!), another one fell victim to a large splash of onion soup, and yet another succumbed to a blob of grape jelly (add to previous note: do not eat and read!). In payment for my sins, I turned myself in to the surprisingly understanding lady behind the desk, and paid for each book (which I now own). These are sins of over-confidence and carelessness.

However, there is a worse sin being committed in our libraries that has been going for quite some time -–self-appointed grammarians who feel it is their responsibility to make corrections in PEN to published books.

Before I go on, I will admit to being a grammar and spelling snob myself. I have corrected countless menus over the years (and do you know, the owners are NEVER grateful for it?). Some of the bloopers have been astounding, such as:

  • cramberry sauce (translation: cranberry sauce)
  • super juice (translation: soup or juice)
  • paste with all oil (translation: pasta with aioli [garlic-flavored mayonnaise])
  • chocolate buzzard (translation: chocolate blizzard [ice cream concoction])
  • mice pie (translation: mince pie)

I’ll admit that I have tsk-tsked over published misspellings or grammatical errors, but these things happen. But writing in a library book defaces it, devalues it, and quite frankly, pisses people off (well, me anyway). One book at least had penciled-in corrections (all of which I angrily erased),  but the ones in ink are inexcusable. I  guess it wouldn’t bother me so much if they were correct (and if so, why not just contact the publisher instead of ruining a book?), but so many I’ve seen are grossly incorrect.

For example, I am currently hooked on the Douglas Preston/Lincoln Child books and the one I’m reading now, “Still Life With Crows,” has inked corrections to colloquialisms. So it’s a double-whammy for me; ink in my book and corrections that show the ignorance of the self-appointed grammar cop. (Note to said grammar cop: if you don’t understand the lingo of the characters, you shouldn’t be correcting anything. And stop reading with a pen in your hand!)

That’s my rant du jour. I realize that there are far more serious crimes in the world, but this one strikes close to home for me. Reading a book with an eye toward criticism is right up there with sitting in a movie theatre, loudly proclaiming that this or that “couldn’t really happen,” and so forth. Whatever happened to that glorious and freeing phrase, “willful suspension of disbelief?” Let’s read with our eyes, and not with our pens.

The High Flying Adored

Remember that song, “High Flying Adored” in the musical “Evita?” Some of the lyrics follow:

“High flying, adored
So young, the instant queen
A rich beautiful thing of all the talents
A cross between
A fantasy of the bedroom and a saint
You were just a backstreet girl
Hustling and fighting
Scratching and biting

High flying, adored
Did you believe in your wildest moments
All this would be yours?
That you’d become the lady of them all?”

It seems like the Hollywood “elite” are our “high flying adored” these days. Celebrities have their own version of life that the rest of us don’t have. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a hard road to fame and many of the celebrities have worked very hard to get where they are. However, I think that some of them have the idea that, because they are celebrities, the usual rules do not apply to them.

I always think of that song from the show, “Evita,” when I hear that this or that celeb has done something outrageous and gotten away with it. If any of us common folk did the same, we’d be in jail in a hot minute. I have to wonder why this is tolerated. The last time I checked, if you do something wrong, you will have to pay for it, one way or another. Oh well, as my step-daughter often says: “not my zoo; not my monkeys.”

I remember a quote from the sadly departed Gilda Radnor of the original Saturday Night Live fame. She was a fabulous comic, and once she was asked if she would rather be funny or beautiful. Her answer: “oh, funny always. Beautiful is just too hard!”




S.P.A.S. (Stupid People Avoidance System)

I had a great idea the other day, and brought it up with the Crankee Yankee. As there seem to be so many people on the road who are not paying attention, fiddling with their phones and so on, how about we outfit our cars to protect ourselves (and our vehicles as well)?

Often some of the ferry boats used to hang old tires all around it. This way if any other boat came too close, the ferry boat would not get scraped up; the tires being a good buffer. See the *picture below:

Old fisherman boat with tall building back ground. Old fisherman boat in the sea with tall building background in Hongkong stock photo

So I got thinking. Why can’t we do the same thing with our cars? I have no idea whatsoever how the police would view this, but wouldn’t you think that this might keep a lot of accidents from happening? Say you are driving along the highway, minding your own business and your car was protected by lots of old tires all around it. Suddenly, someone bangs into your car because they were not paying attention. What happens? Nothing happens to your car, and the other car just bounces off. No harm, no foul.

See where I’m going with this? It’s a handmade “accident avoidance system.” Instead of the fancy technology that wants to drive your car for you, change your air to make you think you are in a Hawaiian garden, play the tunes only you like and so on; this would keep people alive, their cars out of the pricey repair shop, and cut down on distracted driving.

Of course, I’m sure that our police force would have some issues with this low-cost SPAS idea. There’s probably some old blue law somewhere in the dusty books that would take issue with the “improper use of old tires,” but hey—wouldn’t it give the police a few chuckles?

*Old fisherman boat in the sea with tall building background in Hongkong.


Dos and Don’ts After 60

I wrote this post years ago, but it still stands the test of time.


As I get older, I tend to write myself little “rules of the road” for this stage of my life. I find that, instead of a rapidly dwindling amount of choices, there are many I never thought about. Generally I’d say that you couldn’t write me a check big enough to be 20 again, but of course if what I know now….but we all know how that one goes. As the wise Penn-Dutch say, “We grow too soon old, and too late smart.” Ain’t THAT the truth?

In my 20s, anything went–I could wear anything and look fabulous, I could wear makeup or not and look wonderful, I could try my hand at riding a unicycle, fall off it and look adorable, I could make great statements about the world at large and be more-or-less listened to (probably just patiently indulged), I could dye my hair purple and be cute, and so on. I could get away with damn near anything. Youth gives you some pretty major leeway that you don’t get later on in life.

WARNING: Way before you even get to spitting distance of 40, don’t make beauty your only ticket to this show called Life.

But things do change when we get older, say 60-ish. There’s a lot to be said for acting your age, but as “60 is the new 40,” there is no need to be an old poop, either. There are a whole lot of options for us now that weren’t before, such as:

  • Travel–even taking a day trip up in the mountains will give you a refreshing change of pace.
  • Devote yourself to a really fun hobby–you pick.
  • Mentor someone.
  • Read at least one great classic.
  • Listen to some really good music each day.
  • Change your attitude and bloom where you’re planted.
  • Never tried surfing  or paddle boarding? Try it now. If you fall, you’re only falling into water.
  • Join a book club.
  • At least once a day, put yourself first.
  • Volunteer at an animal shelter or wherever you like. The rewards are tremendous.
  • Start walking, either alone or in a group. Not only is it good and gentle exercise, but you start noticing so much around you. I call them Appreciation Walks.
  • Speaking of the above, invest in some really good walking shoes. They are well worth the cost.
  • Speaking of that above, buy better-made (read that more expensive) shoes. They will feel better, last longer and be comfortable far longer. Better to have one great pair of shoes for $100 than ten pairs of cheap shoes for $10 each.
  • Make a date at least once a month with a few of your best friends. Go out to lunch, go shopping, pack a lunch and sit on the rocks facing the ocean. Before you go your separate ways, make the next date.
  • Get a pet.
  • Keep a journal.
  • This is the age around which we begin to lose our parents. We may end up caring for them ourselves. This is a tough and often heartbreaking job, but it can be a time to make peace, let old issues go, enjoy simple conversations, and so on. When the parent(s) pass on, take the time to grieve and breathe. This is a time when not only your family, but your old friends as well can be your safe harbor.
  • Go through your home and weed out the clutter (Note to self: this one’s for ME). Make a Donate pile, a Yard Sale pile, a Throw-away pile and a Give to Relatives pile. This, along with making your will and getting your important papers in order, is a gift to your children.
  • Move on! Don’t waste your time on a bad relationship, a bad job, a bad book or movie, or a bad situation. You don’t get points for hanging on.
  • Always wanted to dump your late grandmother’s old fur coat? Donate it. Where Grandma is now, she’ll not only understand, but approve.
  • If you’re comfortable with it, become a hugger.
  • Treat yourself to a good massage at least once a month.
  • If you are able, dance and sing as much as possible.
  • Take some classes; Chinese cooking, painting, Tai Chi, gardening, pottery, jewelry-making, etc.

There are, however, things that really should be avoided at this age, such as:

  • Do not under any circumstances try the latest dance craze in public. You will embarrass yourself, your children and grandchildren. People watching will feel uncomfortable pity for you. If you persist and do this anyway, you’d better have a one-way ticket for Costa Rica for the next day. You won’t want to be around for the backlash.
  • Do not wear ridiculously high heels. You’ll fall and break a hip.
  • Do not wear bright red, orange or purple lipstick–you’ll look like a creepy clown.
  • Do not put a mirror on your lap and look down. (Trust me on this one–do it by yourself and you will be horrified by how cruel gravity can be. Do yourself a huge favor and lie down, then get the mirror and look. You’ll like the view much better.)
  • Do not natter on and on endlessly about how much better things were when you were growing up, or at least choose your audience well. This is a great topic for old friend get-togethers.
  • Do not put your butt over your head unless you are 1) extremely limber, 2) practice yoga on a daily basis, and 3) do not have low blood pressure.
  • Do not be surprised when you fart each time you bend over. That’s the true sound of the 6os.
  • Do not believe those ads that promise you that their gel/cream/serum/lotion, etc. will make you look instantly younger. They won’t. The only thing they will do is to lighten your wallet.
  • Do NOT use teenage lingo, and quit saying “Awesome!” and peppering every sentence with “like.”
  • Stop whining about how pretty you used to be. You’re fabulous the way you are RIGHT NOW.
  • Do not bring up hot flashes, night sweats or prolapsed bladder issues with anyone other than your true friends. Believe me, no one else wants to hear about them.

Most of all, let’s embrace our age, and let go of the my-oh-my-how-my-looks-have-changed attitude. Ever hear this apt little verse by Edward Lear?

“As a beauty I’m not a great star,
There are others more handsome by far,
But my face, I don’t mind it,
Because I’m behind it.
It’s those out in front that I jar.”

So let’s make friends with the mirror and enjoy who we are right now.