No Cat Likes the Vet

If you have a cat (or, in our case, five cats), you know how psychic they can be. If you have to take your cat to the vet, you can be just as quiet as can be; you can oil the hinges of their carrier and not even breathe the word “vet” in any part of the house. You can casually shut the doors to the porch and basement (where the cat likes to hide and knows damn well that you can’t reach him); you can even tell the cat what a sweet baby he/she is and give them a treat (actually several treats).

But they know what you’re up to. You can’t fool them; I swear they can read minds. Personally I think that they pick up on our body language when we are trying so hard not to freak them out because it’s time to take them to the vet. Usually it’s for their shots, nail clipping, blood work, etc. and there isn’t one thing about all that that they like.

Our four boys are of course not fond of going to the vet, but we usually can get them in their carriers and on to the vet. But the hardest one to work with is our one female; Nala. She is nervous by nature, and needs a lot of attention and affection. Generally the Crankee Yankee is her comforter, and she feels safe with him. Every night she sleeps on half of his pillow, and every night she hogs the lion’s share of it.

The night before the vet visit, I sprinkle catnip on the blanket in her carrier. In the morning, I spray it with Felaway, which is a calming mist that reduces anxiety (or so they say). Once we get her in the carrier and into the car, she lets us know that she is not pleased. She also emits pitiful little meows, and she does her best to bury herself in her blanket.

Of course, once she’s actually at the vet’s and we take her out of the carrier to put her on the table, she’s pretty resigned to it. She still however emits little meeps of displeasure. She absolutely hates having her nails clipped, and to hear her, you would think that the vet was clipping off her actual toes. Even if all the vet ever did was to pat her, she would still be pissed off.

However, once she’s home, she gets “sympathy treats,” and lets the other cats and us know that she is not pleased. Frankly, it’s worth a few treats and some sympathy cuddles to soothe her feelings. To be honest, it’s harder on me than it is on her; I come out of there sweating and feeling like an axe murderer. Let’s face it, there really is no way to make a cat understand that the vet visit is for their own good.

For the record, we have the best vet ever. He has been kind, gentle and knowledgeable; he has found naturopathic remedies that have had a wonderful effect on our cats. Because of him, our cats lead long and healthy lives.

But just try telling that to a cat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little “Families” Everywhere

Ever notice how, as we go forward in life, that we sort of pick up “little families” along the way? No, I don’t mean multiple wives and husbands; I mean our friends that share similar interests with us. It could be a book club, a sewing circle, writers, artists, glass blowers, chefs, hikers, bikers, friends, and so on. We sort of become family together from our interests and hobbies; or as I like to say; “*ohana.”

For example, the Crankee Yankee and I belong to a wonderful group, the Bedford Boomers. It’s a group of people who love trains and love putting on train shows so people can see what a great hobby it is. Now while a lot of us older folks grew up with toy trains, it isn’t always something that kids these days follow. Of course, if their parents and grandparents enjoy trains, usually they do as well.

This club is full of remarkable and wonderful people. Over time, they have become a second family to me. We are of all ages, and some of the grandmas and grandpas bring their grandchildren to the shows and to the get-togethers we all enjoy. It’s a lovely and wonderful feeling to know that you have a group of people who are not only fun to be with, but are “heart to heart” friends.

My mother used to tell me one of her great secrets to living a full and beautiful life: “it’s wonderful to have friends your own age. But also remember to make friends with people younger than yourself. They have a lot to give and they make you feel younger as well.” Good point and well taken.

If your family is still intact, that’s wonderful. But if you find yourself alone in the world, remember that there are interesting, loving, kind and remarkable “ohana” people who can become family to you. What a gift!

*”Ohana” in Hawaii means ‘family;’ that is, people who are not blood relatives, but are dearly loved and accepted.

A Little Respect for Customer Service

I wrote this a few years back, and it stands true today.

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Customer service is tough job and is often thankless. I worked as a customer service telephone rep for a few years and it was, well—eye-opening. Frustrated people frequently take out their frustrations on the customer service rep because after all, that’s what they are there for, right?

But as the main goal of customer service is to serve the customer and take care of their complaint or issue, you end up ignoring a lot of insults; it’s just part of the job. You learn quickly not to take it seriously. One of the best bits of advice I got was from an older woman with whom I worked who said, “when someone yells at you and calls you names, just replace your name with the company name in your mind and it won’t feel so personal.”

Example: “YOU <insert company name here> are useless, stupid, lazy, and obviously not smart enough to hold down a REAL job, you <insert company name here>!”

Great advice, and it works. Granted, there are some terrible customer service people out there, but there are a whole lot of excellent ones, too. Things generally work best if, when presented with a problem, both parties get satisfaction by being at the very least civil to each other. Otherwise, things can spiral out of control, and that’s when tempers flare and nothing gets resolved.

That said, an awful lot of people feel that customer service folk are stupid, have less than stellar educations, and are generally a lower species who thrives on abuse. They feel perfectly justified to yell and scream and berate the person on the phone who trying to help them.

Another job that invites abuse and ridicule is waiting on tables. I paid my last two years of college by waitressing at a local restaurant, located conveniently near my dormitory. This is another job tailor-made to put you on the business end of some pretty ugly behavior. When you are a waitress, here are some of the assumptions many people have about you:

  • You are too stupid to have a better job
  • You have no problem cleaning up the ketchup and mustard some kids squirted all over  the floor
  • You are somehow less a person because of your job
  • You don’t mind it when men get handsy with you
  • You don’t mind if customers’ kids run wild and often cause you to drop full trays of food
  • You love taking orders, even the ridiculous ones (“WAITRESS! My water has too many ice cubes in it!!”)
  • You don’t mind picking up a dirty diaper left smack in the middle of a table
  • You will not have the nerve to mess with customers’ food if the customers are rude to you

Now before we go down the dangerous path of messing with peoples’ food because of their behavior, let me say this: I never saw this happen while I worked at the restaurant near my college, nor did I ever attempt to sabotage any customer’s food. Was I ever tempted? You bet I was–but I didn’t. I truly believe that karma can be a bitch who never forgets. (That said, I also think that is insane for someone to be pissy with those who have anything to do with their food. Why tempt fate?) By all means, if something is wrong, bring it to the manager’s attention. And FYI—blaming the waitress for anything that has nothing to do with her bringing you your food is counter-productive and won’t help the situation one iota.

Now on to the forbidden subject: tipping. A tip means that you have had a nice experience at the restaurant, and that your server treated you respectfully, got your food out on time and took good care of you. Problems in the kitchen, the parking lot, the freezer, the bar, the restroom and other customers’ behavior is NOT your server’s fault. If you can’t afford to tip your server, then don’t go out to dinner and splurge, or just go to a fast-food restaurant.

When I was waitressing, a 15% tip was considered the norm for good service; more than that was a bonus. These days a tip is more likely to be 20%, depending on how you felt about the service. The following (all of which I received while waitressing) are NOT considered tips:

  • candy
  • a written compliment on the bill (but no tip)
  • a free ticket to the local <insert boring function here>
  • the ripped-off corner of a $20 bill tucked on the side of a plate (har, har, har–HILARIOUS! Not…)
  • a religious tract
  • a pile of pennies
  • an invitation to have drinks somewhere

Let’s face it, most of us have had our turn in the barrel doing low-paying or menial jobs; it’s part of our work history. Often some retirees return to the workplace for part-time jobs, such as greeters, baggers in grocery stores, telephone reps, or jobs in maintenance. It’s something that gets them out of the house and seeing people and brings in a bit of cash. These types of jobs may not be crucial or lifesaving, but they are necessary.

There’s an old saying in the theater: the most important person in the theater is the one who opens and closes the curtain. Let’s try to show a little respect for all those curtain pullers.

 

Never Forget

My dad served in the army during WII. My grandfather served in the army in WW1. When I was in Hawaii I took the Pearl Harbor tour, and saw what was left of the USS Arizona. So many young people; men, women and even children were lost when Pearl Harbor was attacked.

Growing up in Wolfeboro, NH, every parade; especially on the 4th of July and Memorial Day, all the military men and women walked down the street proudly. They wore their uniforms; some faded from age. Some could no longer walk and were in wheel chairs or in cars. The crowds would always grow silent, and each one of us honored them by holding our right hands over our hearts.

Whenever I hear of a sacred monument to those who served and died for our country that has been vandalized, I have to wonder where and when that lack of respect and honor went. As kids growing up in the ’50s, every day at school we stood up, hands on our hearts, and said the Pledge of Allegence together. Whenever we heard the national anthem, we stood up and again put our right hands on our hearts and sang along.

Times have changed, but honor to our fallen and those who currently serve our country deserve our support and our respect; always. Today is a day of rembrance. Let us not forget those who lost everything to keep our country safe. Let us not be blind to the threats to our way of life. Let us not forget our history and how we got to where we are today.

Most of all, let us not forget the sacrifice of many. Because of them, we have freedoms unheard of in many countries. Today, if you see a military person, shake their hand and thank them for their service. Let us never forget the sacrifice of many who kept and still keep us safe and free. They deserve our respect and our thanks.

“Lulu’s Book of Children’s Stories”

Not to toot my own horn, but my book, “*Lulu’s Book of Children’s Stories” has been published by Maat Publishing, owned by Steve and Marilynn Carter. There are six stories in the book, three of which my mother and I wrote together: “The Tummy Ache Bakery,” a poem about a magical bakery, “That Cat Needs a Job!,” about a lazy cat, and “Knittily Natalie,” a poem about a woman whose passion for knitting goes way beyond hats and mittens.

The other three stories are these: “The Nightsinger,” a special being who helps sad and frightened children, “The Adventures of Pig,” in which a little finger puppet pig has wonderful adventures, and “An Alphabet of Awful Children” (an homage to Edward Gorey) about children who are truly awful.

I will be reading from it at the Art Center in Dover, NH on Saturday, June 1st at the Page Turner event from 1pm to 6pm. I haven’t yet contracted with any bookstores, but I will be working on that as soon as possible. It’s a book that kids from 3 years old to 8 years old will enjoy.

Years ago before e-publishing was created, if you wrote a book you felt was worthy of being published, you sent a manuscript to the publisher of your choice. Nine times out of ten, you never heard a word back about your book. If you did, you got a typed letter saying that the book was “delightful, but not something we are looking for at this time. Good luck!” And that was that.

These days, e-publishing makes it possible for writers to get their books out to readers. In the case of Maat Publishing, they are extremely helpful and help in every way to get writers’ books out. Events such as the Page Turner make it possible for people to find out about wonderful new books, and it makes it easier to go to bookstores asking if they would be interested in accepting the books.

The dedication in the book reads: “This book of stories is dedicated to my late mother, Gloria Spaulding Bullock. She and I co-wrote “Shopping at the Ani-Mall, published by Windswept House (sadly now defunct). Together we also wrote “The Tummy Ache Bakery,” “That Cat Needs a Job,” and “Knittily Natalie.” We had a lot of fun writing and rhyming together. Most of the time together included a great deal of laughing. Mom, I know that where you are now, you are still laughing with me.”

 

17th Anniversary

Today is the Crankee Yankee’s and my 17th wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long, but somehow it feels like we have been together for a longer time. Funny isn’t it how time goes by?

I first met the Crankee Yankee when I was 25 and he was 26. He was engaged to be married to his first wife, and I remember thinking, “wow, what a catch!” It turned out that he and his wife made their home in Goffstown, and I lived about four houses down from them. We were all friends, and when their daughter, Adria, was born, I was the first non-family member to hold her.

Years went by. I married my first husband when I was 36, and quickly realized that I had made a huge mistake. I had been fine living alone, and quite frankly I wasn’t sure if I would ever get married. I actually had had three proposals prior to my first marriage, but I just wasn’t ready at the time. At age 36, I thought that I had better get married. It seems funny now, but at the time I felt like my “sell-by” date was expiring.

Long and boring story short, it was a bad marriage. I found out that my husband was cheating on me; that was the end. I got a divorce and was on my own. By this time the Crankee Yankee had also been divorced. I got a phone call one evening; he was in my area and wanted to know if he could take me out for dinner.

You never really know when the love of your life will come to you. I made a lot of mistakes with the men I dated, and especially the one I married first. After my divorce I adopted a “never again!” attitude, and was fine with the idea of living alone for the rest of my life. I felt that marriage just wasn’t for me, and I was fine with that.

Then one night the Crankee Yankee called me, and asked me to marry him. In the micro-second it took for me to run through all my excuses for marriage, I said yes. It was just as though my better angels all got together and whispered say yes! in my ear.

So here we are, 17 years later. Of course we have our ups and downs; what couple doesn’t? But for the most part we are partners and lovers and grandparents and we laugh a lot. It’s been a great 17 years, and I will take all the years ahead with the Crankee Yankee, the love of my life.

 

What Price Comfort?

I’ll tell you what, the older I get, the more I appreciate comfort. As a kid, a teen, a young adult and then a real adult, comfort wasn’t my highest priority. In fact, I sort of got used to being uncomfortable. I wore very high heels, pantyhose, tight skirts; all of them were uncomfortable. But I wore them because it was fashionable, so I sucked up my discomfort.

But getting older makes you feel that you not only want comfort, but you need comfort. Let’s face it, our skin, our hair, our muscles and everything else is just as old as we are, and they appreciate comfort. In fact, everything works a whole lot better when we are comfortable.

I’m getting so that everything I wear has to be comfortable, from my sunglasses to the Good Feet arch supports for my feet. I gave up itchy sweaters years ago, and high heels have permanently left my closet. No more pantyhose, no tight sweaters, no pretty shoes that pinch, no itchy underwear; anything that makes me uncomfortable gets the old heave-ho.

I want all the comfort I can get. I spent years being uncomfortable and I’m not doing it again. Another plus of getting older is that you realize that you don’t give a damn what other people think. Your idea of comfort may be LL Bean slippers and warm pajamas, or a flannel nightgown that feels like the arms of an angel. But whatever makes you comfortable, go for it.

I spent so much time in my younger years trying to impress others with my clothes and shoes; these days I couldn’t care less. Now this doesn’t mean that I go to the grocery store in my saggy jeans and a ripped sweatshirt; I clean up well for a woman in her later ’60s. As with makeup, less is more. I discovered bamboo capris and tops, and they not only look good, but they are heavenly to wear in hot weather. I have also toned down on makeup; again, less is more.

The best thing about wearing clothes and footwear that really feels as good as they look is that you feel good about yourself and best of all: you’re comfortable. I find that when you make your own style that’s comfortable and suits you, life is good. There is no limit to what you can wear or say or do. And this is the very best thing about getting older; not only are you permanently comfortable, but you don’t need to worry about what people think. Why? Because they are too busy worrying about what you think.

My new motto for “dress for success” is “dress to please yourself!”

Crazy Cat People

The Crankee Yankee and I are crazy cat people. For any of you who have followed my blog, you already know that we are owned by five indoor cats; Nala (our one female), Pookie, Plumpy-Nut, Tinker and Bailey. Each one has their own story, which I won’t bore you with for now, but suffice to say, they all needed a home.

We started with Nala after our 20-year old cat, Blackie, passed on. Nala came from a home with dogs (whom she hated and feared), so she spent most of her time alone in the basement. We were glad to give her a new life, and she seemed pretty happy to have her own place.

Nearly a year later, I read about one of our local shelters who had a list of “Desperate House Cats” who really needed homes. One of them was an all-black male named Pagan, who intrigued me. I went to see him, and he was very shy, hiding behind a desk. One of the workers coaxed him out and I fell in love with him. I took him home that day, renamed him “Pookie” and Nala took to him right away. Unfortunately he came to us with a sinus infection and a few other issues, so we had to give him medications (which of course he hated).

But we got him back to good health, and he and Nala got along well. We were a happy family of two humans and two cats, and life was great. It was around that time that we started seeing cats in our back yard, and we had no idea if they belonged to anyone. That’s when we started our “feeding and sheltering” program. The Crankee Yankee built a neat three-story “feeding station,” where the cats could get food and water and stay out of the elements.

We kept seeing a beautiful big yellow tiger cat in company with a very fluffy black and white cat with a unique tail shaped like a big “S”. We started feeding them, and they got used to us. We asked around the neighborhood if someone owned them; apparently no one did. As fall turned to winter, we had to make a decision: we started letting them into our “under the back porch” walled-in area, and fed them there.

The Crankee Yankee started to socialize them with Nala and Pookie by letting Tinker and Plumpy into the downstairs basement. Surprisingly, they all seemed to get along. By the the time snow fell, we had taken them to our wonderful vet to be spayed, given their shots, and general health evaluations. So they became house cats, and to this day, they are pretty happy about it.

When my mother died, and my dad was left with their cat, Bailey. It didn’t surprise me when, during a visit, he said that he really couldn’t care for him any longer. So we took Bailey home with us, and he became #5. Again, the other four accepted him. As Dad grew more frail, we moved him to our house. He spent most of his time in our bed (we bought a kingsize sofa with a surprisingly comfortable bed and slept in the living room), and we were able to care for him until he passed away on April 22, 2017.

During the time we had Dad with us, Bailey would often jump up on the bed to visit him. Don’t tell me that cats aren’t loyal; Bailey knew that Dad was dying, just as he knew when my mother was dying. He stayed close to her, and he also did with Dad as well.

Now he lives with us and the other cats. I call him my “Reiki cat” as he always seems to know when I need a cat on my lap. Actually, he’s the only one who does this. And, as always, we are still feeding and sheltering the “outdoorsies:” Scooter, a black and brown male, TwoTone1, a tan and white female, TwoTone2, a butterscotch and white ?, and Stripey1 and Stripey2, whom we haven’t gotten close enough to check their gender.

But all’s well; they have food, water and shelter, and we pick up the tab. So we are unabashed crazy cat people, and we really don’t care who knows it. There are cat people, dog people, horse people, bird people, snake people (ick), hamster people, and so on. It’s a lot like what happens when we fall in love with our one-and-only: we love whom we love, and we just can’t help it, be it human or animal.

When Things Are Just Too Much

If you read my blog on a regular basis, then you know that the Crankee Yankee and I are renovating our kitchen. It started when I left in February to go to Hawaii for two weeks; while I was gone, the Crankee Yankee and his brother tore everything down to the bare boards. The ceiling, too, came down. Long dusty and dirty story short, they prepped everything so that the new cabinets and formica could go up.

I never expected the kitchen to be completely done while I was gone, but for now the new formica and all the cabinets are up, as well as the new ceiling. All our dishes and glasses, etc. fit in beautifully with room to spare. There are three (count ’em, THREE) lazy susans, and they are filled up with our tons of spices (fact: the Crankee Yankee has never met a spice he didn’t like).

So now we are in the process of prepping the walls; the Crankee Yankee is doing it, and it’s a long process, but well worth it. All this means is that when it comes time to paint the walls (which is a gorgeous lemon yellow; fabulous with the gray cabinets and light gray formica), it will all go on smoothly.

And yes, I do get frustrated from time to time as I am washing glasses and dishes and pots in the bathroom sink (and yes, if you’re wondering, we do use a lot of paper plates). But the effort is well worth the time.

This adventure we are on reminds me of an old story I read a long time ago. Many years ago in a small village, there lived a man and his wife. Their children were grown up and gone, and they ran a small farm. The wife began to feel as if her home was just too small, and wondered what it would be like to have a bigger home. Whenever she brought this up to her husband, he just laughed and said, ‘Woman, when our children were here, we could have used a bigger house. But they are gone and have their own families; this house is big enough for you and me.’

But still, the woman wanted a bigger house. She knew that it was useless to argue with her husband about it, so she went to her priest and asked his advice. The priest listened to her, and said, ‘I can help you with this.’ The woman was very happy, and leaned forward to hear what he had to say.

The priest said, “go home and bring your cow inside your house.”

The woman thought she heard wrong and asked why she should bring their cow into the house. The priest just smiled and told her to do as he asked. So she walked home, and brought the cow into the house. You can only imagine how things were: if she thought her house was small before, it certainly felt much smaller with the cow in it!

Still she wanted a bigger house. A week went by, and she went to her priest and told him about the cow. The priest smiled at her and asked her to bring in the chickens, and then he bid her good day.

She walked home shaking her head, but she believed in her priest, and brought all the chickens into the house. Each week she went to her priest to ask for help, and each week he told her to bring another animal into her house.

Soon the house was filled with the woman and her husband, the cow, all the chickens, the goat, the two sheep, a pair of ducks and their horse. There was hardly room for any of them.

The woman went to her priest again, and told him that all of their farm animals were now in their house. The priest nodded and smiled, and told her to bring the cow out of the house. Each week when the woman went to her priest, he asked her to bring out the chickens, then the goat, then the two sheep, then the ducks and finally the horse.

When she came to visit the priest the next week, he asked her how things were going. The woman gave him a big smile and said, “it’s wonderful! I don’t know why I was so set on having a bigger house; we have plenty of room!”

So there you have it; it’s all in the attitude. Any of you who have lived through a major home project will understand how it feels to have so much up in the air. But you do get through it. The Crankee Yankee is doing his usual good job, and a good job takes time. My part in this is to help all I can, and keep smiling. This sort of thing is never easy, but well worth it.

Best thing about it? We only have five cats in the house; no cow, no chickens, no goat, no sheep, no ducks and no horse. I can live with that.