“What’s Your Sign?”

If you follow horoscopes, you’ll find that many of the characteristics of your own astrological sign may sound familiar. I’m a Cancerian, and one of that sign’s characteristics is being a homebody (get it? The crab carries its shell (its home) on his back). As much as I like going to see the grandgirls or my uncle, both are long trips. While away I always feel faintly worried about the house, the cats, etc.

I don’t feel right until I get home; that’s a Cancerian for you. In fact, years ago I thought that I was becoming agoraphobic; that is, a person who has trouble leaving the house. An agoraphobic feels safer at home than out in the world.

However, we are not just all about our star signs and their meanings. It’s fun to check out what your sign means; often you’ll be surprised at how accurate it can be. Many folks dismiss it as sheer hokum, but I find it pretty fascinating. Case in point: when a Taurus (or bull) meets a Capricorn (or goat), you can bet that there will be plenty of arguments and head banging. It’s just who they are and how they operate.

My grandmother would never leave the house until she read her horoscope for the day. She claimed that it made sense to do so to avoid accidents or other unpleasant things. So believe your sign or not, it’s an interesting subject. Back in the early hippie days, it was quite common to start a conversation with “what’s your sign?” Funny, but true. I know a lot of people who married and/or dropped ties with the “wrong sign.”

So, believe in astrological signs or not, it’s fun to see how close your horoscope is to who you are.


There’s No Wrong Way to Do a Right Thing

I was driving past a church the other day, and the sign outside read, “There is no right way to do a wrong thing.” This got me thinking; that’s true—no amount of justification can make a bad thing good. So isn’t the converse true as well; that there is also no wrong way to do a right thing? Think about it. Even if we do a good thing clumsily, it’s still a good thing.

When someone does something nice for you, be gracious and thank them–and ACCEPT it. A gift received is a gift to the giver. We may think that we are not worthy to receive it, but that giver thinks we are worthy.

I used to diffuse an offer of kindness with a smile and a comment like, ‘oh, thank you so much for offering to pay for my lunch, but you don’t need to.” And there I would be, sitting there with exactly enough change to cover my tuna sandwich and a glass of water and a meager tip—-but by gosh I wasn’t going to let them pay for my lunch! That’s just pride talking—trust me, I know pride. I used to have way too much of it, which made me blind to the fact that someone liked me and wanted do something nice for me. That’s so sad and so unnecessary.

This is another example of the Universe, the Divine, God, Spirit, the angels (pick whatever deity you choose) trying to give you something “just because.” Don’t take that joy from the giver; just accept the gift graciously and allow yourself to be glad about it. Accept that you ARE worthy of it.


When I am lucky enough to be able to do something for someone, it makes me happy to see them happy. Often we confuse this with the idea that the giver now thinks that they are somehow ‘better’ than us by doing this; a one-up, if you will. I have been a receiver and a giver, and in my opinion, both are great and equally satisfying. But being a giver now and then, able to give someone something with your whole heart, expecting nothing back; is absolutely wonderful.
Try to keep this mind the next time someone offers you a kindness. And while you’re thinking on that, please remember that so many of us are also doing our best to do the same. Hopefully we will all come to realize that there truly is no wrong way to do a right thing.

“Let It Go, Elsa!”

If you have ever seen the movie “Frozen” then you will be on board with the phrase, “let it go, Elsa.” Of course, in the movie, Elsa is trying to let go of her fearsome snowy powers. But the Crankee Yankee and I frequently use the phrase for when things are too much with us: getting one of the cats to the vet without bodily harm, yanking up all the weeds in the gardens before they choke out the vegetables, paying the bills, and so on.

Sometimes it seems that there is just too much on our plates. It makes us feel as if we can’t (or won’t) do the things that need to be done, and where will the impact of that leave us?

Then there are the eternal worriers like myself. On the occasions when the Crankee Yankee and I go out of town I worry about our cats at home. I worry about getting into an accident and not being able to get home to our cats. I worry about the people I love. I worry about the house burning down (oh yeah, that’s the kind of thought that will keep you up all night).

That’s when the “let it go, Elsa” has to be said. It’s a fact that our worst fears hardly ever come true. When I traveled to Hawaii this past Spring, I worried about flying. I hadn’t flown since 2001. But I did it, I was comfortable, I got to where I needed to go, and everything turned out fine; easy-peasy.

Just speaking for myself, I think we just need to put positive thoughts in our heads so that we don’t worry so much. I did just that when I got on the plane from Boston, headed for San Francisco. I had a great window seat, and it wasn’t a full flight, so I had the rest of the row for myself. As we rolled down the runway, my body remembered how much I used to enjoy the lift off; that feeling of “*I have slipped the surly bonds of earth.”

And before I realized it, I felt safe and comfortable. My mind and my body had remembered how much I had loved flying. I also felt the same way when I flew back to Boston again.

So when something comes up that makes me worry, I try my best to look on the positive side; that the cats are indeed doing quite well without us at home, that the house will stay up and be unharmed, and that the people I love are still there.

Let go, Elsa; just let it go.

*From High Flight – a poem by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Fun With Gilbert and Sullivan

One of my dearest friends and I fell in love early in our lives with the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. Their songs were catchy and fun, and we listened to them over and over on my little record player. My parents had taken me to see “The Gondoliers” one year, and in the following year, the “Mikado.”

Years later when I lived in Texas, I joined a light opera company where they put on Gilbert and Sullivan shows every year. It was a fabulous experience. My friend majored in theater and later on went on to summer stock. She starred in many Gilbert and Sullivan performances playing major leads. I was (and am still) so proud of her.

But now that we are older and don’t belong to singing groups any longer, we still enjoy singing from the operettas together. One of our favorite “patter” songs comes from Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Iolanthe.” It’s a real tongue-twister and is very fast paced. We like singing it together and whoever flubs up a line, the other one wins (BTW, I am the one who usually flubs up!). If you love Gilbert and Sullivan as we do, here are the lyrics from Iolanthe’s “The Nightmare Song:”

‘Love, unrequited, robs me of my rest’.
Recit: Love, unrequited, robs me of my rest:
Love, hopeless love, my ardent soul encumbers:
Love, nightmare like, lies heavy on my chest,
And weaves itself into my midnight slumbers!

When you’re lying awake with a dismal headache,
And repose is taboo’d by anxiety,
I conceive you may use any language you choose
To indulge in, without impropriety;
For your brain is on fire – the bedclothes conspire –
of usual slumber to plunder you:
First your counterpane goes, and uncovers your toes,
And your sheet slips demurely from under you;
Then the blanketing tickles – you feel like mixed pickles-
So terribly sharp is the pricking,
And you’re hot, and you’re cross, and you tumble and toss
Till there’s nothing ‘twixt you and the ticking.

Then the bedclothes all all creep to the ground in a heap,
And you pick ’em all up in a tangle;
Next your pillow resigns and politely declines
To remain at its usual angle!
Well, you get some repose in the form of a doze,
With hot eyeballs and head ever aching,
But your slumbering teems with such horrible dreams
That you’d very much better be waking;
For you dream you are crossing the Channel,
And tossing about in a steamer from Harwich –
Which is something between a large bathing machine
And a very small second class carriage –
And you’re giving a treat (penny ice and cold meat)
To a party of friends and relations –
They’re a ravenous horde – and they all came on board
At Sloane Square and South Kensington Stations.

And bound on that journey you find your attorney
(Who started that morning from Devon;)
He’s a bit undersiz’d, and you don’t feel surpris’d
When he tells you he’s only eleven.
Well, you’re driving like mad with this singular lad
(bye-the-bye the ship’s now a four-wheeler,)
And you’re playing round games, and he calls you bad names,
When you tell him that “ties pay the dealer;”

But this you can’t stand, so you throw up your hand,
And you find you’re as cold as an icicle;
In your shirt and your socks (the black silk with gold clocks,)
Crossing Sal’sbury Plain on a bicycle:
And he and the crew are on bicycles too –
Which they’ve somehow or other invested in –
And he’s telling the tars, all the particulars
Of a company he’s interested in –
It’s a scheme of devices, to get at low prices,
All goods from cough mixtures to cables
(Which tickled the sailors) by treating retailers,
As though they were all vegetables –

You get a good spades-man to plant a small trades-man,
(First take off his boots with a boot-tree,)
And his legs will take root, and his fingers will shoot,
And they’ll blossom and bud like a fruit tree –
From the green-grocer tree you get grapes and green-pea,
Cauliflower, pineapple, and cranberries,
While the pastry-cook plant, cherry brandy will grant,
Apple puffs, and three-corners, and banburys –
The shares are a penny, and ever so many
Are taken by Rothschild and Baring,
And just as a few are allotted to you,
You awake with a shudder despairing –

You’re a regular wreck, with a crick in your neck,
And no wonder you snore, for your head’s on the floor,
And you’ve needles and pins from your soles to your shins,
And your flesh is a-creep, for your left leg’s asleep,
And you’ve cramp in your toes, and a fly on your nose,
And some fluff in your lung, and a feverish tongue,
And a thirst that’s intense, and a general sense
That you haven’t been sleeping in clover;

But the darkness has pass’d
And it’s daylight at last,
And the night has been long –
Ditto, ditto my song –
And thank goodness they’re both of them over!”

Scooter and the Skunk

The Crankee Yankee and I have fed and sheltered many critters over the years in our back yard. Generally it’s stray cats, a few skunks, birds and the occasional raccoon family. For years the skunk tribe lived under the neighbor’s shed on the other side of our back yard. Come nightfall, they would wander over to our place and eat. They were never a problem; the cats went their way and the skunks went their way.

But this year we haven’t seen any skunks, or smelled them. We had decided that the whole tribe moved somewhere else and let it go at that. But yesterday morning as I was walking with Scooter (our black/brown stray cat we have been feeding and sheltering and who will most likely become part of our indoor family come winter) to the back yard, we got a surprise.

A tiny little skunk stood right in the path, and although he couldn’t really see us (skunks have terrible eyesight), he could smell us. As I could think of was ‘oh, no, he’s going to spray Scooter and I’m going to have to go buy a ton of tomato juice!’ But no, he politely moved to the side and Scooter looked him over and decided that there was no threat. (Actually, a baby skunk doesn’t carry much more than a tiny spritz, so that was a relief!)

The little skunk ambled off into the jungle of wild flowers and grass, and Scooter headed for his food bowl. Peace at last in the back yard. I often think that the animals around our house have their own schedule; they know that they are going to have food and water morning and night according to their inner alarm clocks. As with us humans, they too have their own schedules.

It reminds me of that song, “”Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, Life Goes On” by the Beatles. Perhaps that song started with a skunk and a cat in the back yard. Wouldn’t that be a hoot?

And There We Were, Wearing Name Tags!

Yesterday was my 50th class reunion. Needless to say, we are all in our sixties. But even with our silver hair, glasses, knee, hip and shoulder replacements, we are still who we used to be, only wiser and happier. We have changed enough to really need name tags! It was funny to see us all looking at each other’s name tag, then hugging and saying “Hi (insert person’s name here)! You haven’t changed a bit!”

Well, of course we have, but the essential people we are still shines through. All of us have had big life changes. Just about all of us have lost our parents, and we are now the buffers between our young people and the Great Beyond. The handsome jocks of 50 years past are still handsome, the cheerleaders are still perky, and the old friends are as dear to us as they ever were.

I had every good intention to take loads of pictures, but I didn’t; I was too busy talking and listening. In fact, when I actually picked up my “smarty pants phone” the battery was just about out of gas. So the talking and the listening became the focus. I talked with people I hadn’t seen in years, and reconnected with a few. It’s funny to now exchange email addresses instead of phone numbers. Our generation grew up with rotary phones and even operators who directed your call. I’m sure that all of our children and grandchildren roll their eyes on a regular basis when we can’t figure out how to send a photo.

Yesterday felt as if we were all back in school again, but this time with no school strata of cool kids, nerdy kids, and so on. This time we could talk and laugh together with no judgement. We have hugged and kissed and talked and laughed. We have all grown up and have had experiences we never dreamed of when we were in school. Life has moved on and so have we.

But thank Heaven for those name tags!


The Stuff That Used to Matter

Today I am going to my 50th class reunion. When I think of all I did as a teenager to fit in, it makes me tired and a little sad. If the cool girls were wearing green eye shadow, I wore it. If the latest Beatle song was popular, I sang it. If everyone in class loved the Red Socks, I claimed to love them too. Pretty hilarious since I didn’t know squat about baseball and still don’t.

It mattered so desperately to fit in, to be a welcome part of the crowd. Every morning before school I put on the clothes I’d picked out the night before, thinking that they were just the thing. But as soon as I put them on, I would say to myself “loser!” My hair had to be just right, just enough makeup on to look good, not slutty. From the right shoes to the right earrings, every day was a struggle to fit in.

As a teen, I felt desperately un-cool. I laughed at the wrong things, I was too passionate about other things no one cared about, and I wanted so badly to fit in. I wanted the popular boys to like me, and to be as cool as the really popular girls. But at that stage of my life, I was clumsy and awkward. Due to all the books I read, I spoke like some weird adult girl.

But all that was years ago. Today I look forward to seeing so many people I went to school with. Everyone has a story, everyone has a life that couldn’t be imagined when we were all in school together. And now, fifty years later, we be together and remember (or forget) who we were then and who we are now. Age and loss will have changed us. Wisdom, strength and experience will have shaped us to be the people we are now. We will have become who we were meant to be.

And all that old stuff that used to matter? It doesn’t mean squat now. We are all older, more experienced, a little wiser and with a much different perspective in life. Most of us will have grandchildren and all of us will have stories to tell. We can now look back and laugh.

And hopefully, we will look ahead and be happy with what we see and who we truly are.

If It’s Broke, Fix It So It Ain’t

I am lucky to be married to a handy guy like the Crankee Yankee. If any of you enjoy the Canadian program “Red Green” you can appreciate the line at the end of the show: “if you can’t be handsome, be handy.” Fortunately, the Crankee Yankee is both.

Years ago we splurged on a really good refrigerator, and it’s served us well over time. However, the two drawers (you know, one for meats and cheese and one for vegetables and such) at the bottom of the ‘fridge are having sticking issues with the tray above them. The tray is cracked in a couple of key spots, and it takes quite a bit of shoving to get the drawers in under it.

So we pulled everything out of the bottom of the ‘fridge and made the decision to pitch the offending tray above the the drawers. The Crankee Yankee has a large piece left over from the new countertop that just fits where the tray was; sheer serendipity. And both drawers fit nicely underneath. So problem solved at NO expense.

The Crankee Yankee always keeps boxes, because you never know when you might need one. Case in point, we feed what we call the “outdoorsies,” which are mainly cats; all though in the past there have been skunks and the odd raccoon or two. The cats have several “custom built” shelters in case they get caught in the rain or snow, and we use those boxes under our porch and in the garage. I line them with old towels and blankets (which, like an idiot bed and breakfast owner, I wash every few days), and they have safe and comfortable digs plus food and water.

We have a garden every year, and the Crankee Yankee ‘McGyver’s’ wire fences to allow the peas and cukes to have something to climb up on. I call them the “Pea Palace” and the “Cuke Cathedral.” Everyone who drives by our house usually stops now and then to compliment us on the unusual (but always fun) garden.

The Cranky Yankee over the years has discovered many ways to refurbish and re-use a lot of stuff that many would just toss out. But, staunch New Englanders as we are, we just can’t help but keep stuff that we are positive we will use—eventually. We figure that over the years we have saved quite a bit of cash by fixing stuff ourselves or using what we already have. We both grew up in homes where the watch phrase was always this: “use it up, make it do or do without.”

Call us cheap, but it works for us.




The Bitchy Grammarian

I would bet my favorite ring that grammar in schools today are, for the most part, as dead as the dodo bird. It’s not like I took a survey of every school in the area to find this out; bad grammar and terrible usage is everywhere. I’ll also bet that the Strunk and White Elements of Style book is as obselete as the dodo bird’s mom.

Back in the day where grammar and English classes were mandatory, we learned how to speak properly and effectively. Not stuffy, mind you, just easily understood proper English.

But in these days, language, grammar, and just plain talk has become a whole new ‘thing.’ I will admit that I just don’t get ‘street speak’ or ‘techno speak.’ And I swear that one of these days if I hear someone salt and pepper their speech with a gozillion “likes” I will scream.

When Webster’s dictionary began accepting these so-called “modern” words and phrases, I felt as though it was the end of the world as we know it. For someone of my age, it seems ridiculous to slouch up to someone saying “s’up?” In my book, that’s right up there with fist bumps. I am no longer young and do not wish to speak the lingo of the times. Call me old-fashioned, but there you are.

As I like to say, I don’t particularly give the fuzzy crack of a rat’s buttocks who says street lingo or worse. Just don’t say it to me or expect me to understand it, or worse: speak it.

Annnnnnd that’s why they call me the Bitchy Grammarian.