Our Own Monty Python Moment

Yesterday the Crankee Yankee and I went out on what was a gorgeous (but very cold) day to do some Christmas shopping. We talked about who was going to get this or that and so on; usually we make a quick list of everything, but this time we didn’t; we just went with the old ‘we won’t forget anything; we don’t need a list.’ Needless to say, everywhere we went there were crowds of people just like us who wanted to get gifts for everyone; enough of a distraction for us all.

We stopped for lunch at the new pizza spot in Epping, and discussed who was going to get this, that or the other thing. We made a plan for what we wanted to do, and after lunch we went to the different stores to pick out gifts.

Everything went well until we got a little tired, and, to be honest; a bit forgetful. Note: this is why I usually make lists so that I DON’T forget things. However, I neglected to do that as we only had a few people to buy for.

As we finished lunch, the Crankee Yankee said, “ok, we’re going to go to Marshall’s, and then to the grocery store.” Simple, right? No—no, it was not. He said “you stay in the car and stay warm; I’ll come back with the gift card from <insert name of any store here>, and then we’ll go to the grocery store.”

Fine by me: it was freezing, so I turned on the heat in the car. A few minutes later, the Crankee Yankee came back to the car and said, “I SWEAR I thought that you moved the car!” Turns out that there were quite a few cars that looked like ours. Please note that around that time we were getting a little tired.

We looked at each other and said as one: “this is a true Monty Python moment!” If you have ever seen “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” you’ll know what I mean. Once we stopped laughing our heads off, we got our act together and got everything done.

It just goes to show you this: it’s Christmas time; get your act together, put something unique on your car so that you can find it; say reindeer antlers or a Christmas wreath; and make sure you listen to each other. After all, this is also the season of massive confusion and general fooblety (meaning that we often forget what we are doing and where we are doing it).

And always bring a list. Merry Christmas, all!

YOU Are the Gift!

I wrote this several Christmases ago, and I still stand by it.

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You–yes, YOU–are the gift on Christmas Day, and every day of the year. You are here right now at this moment in time because YOU matter, because YOU are needed, and because YOU are necessary to the lives around you.

There is no one on the earth like you, nor will there be again. You, and all you bring to your life, are important. Whether you think you are beautiful, ugly, tall, short, fat, thin, old, young, deformed, whole–-all the things that make you who you are–-matter.

We have all thought at one time or other, ‘why am I here? Does what I do matter?’ It is human to ask these questions and seek the answers. No matter how humdrum you think your life is, you affect other beings as you live your life.

Case in point: one day I was in a mall and decided to stop and have a pastry and a coffee. It was crowded that day, and there was no place to sit. I had made up my mind that I would just have to stand there and juggle my purse, coat, coffee and pastry when someone from a table called out to me to come sit down. It was a table of two women and their two children, and I thanked them and sat. One of the women told me that they too had had no place to sit when they came in, and someone offered them a place at their table. The person offering said that they, too, had been invited to sit at a stranger’s table, and decided to pass the favor on.

So after my two new friends and their children left, I finished my coffee. A few feet away stood a young man and his wife holding their coffees, and I invited them to sit down. I told them the story before I left. As I walked away, I saw the young man beckon to a stranger to join them. And that’s how we pass on grace to one another. It’s a small thing, but it was a lesson I didn’t forget.

How many times have we seen on the news how people come together to contribute to a pet’s necessary surgery when the owner can’t afford it? Or how about when a neighbor’s house burns down and everyone scrambles to give them shelter, food, warmth and hope? This what happens when people’s hearts are touched and they are moved to help and comfort.

The “power of one” is a powerful force. You matter, you are meant to be here, you are one-of-a-kind and are necessary to the world. We may never see our own worth in our lifetime, but believe me, others do.

Does anyone remember the brief but powerful television show starring Keiffer Sutherland called “Touch?” It always began with this voice-over: “There’s an ancient Chinese myth about the red thread of fate. It says that the gods have tied a red thread around one of our ankles; you are then attached to all the people whose lives we are destined to touch. This thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break.”

We may never realize the affect we have on others, but the simplest thing; say, a random act of kindness to a stranger–may re-direct a person’s life. I have a dear artist friend who makes incredible jewelry who has taught me many lessons in love, kindness and generosity over the years. Each year she makes gifts of her lovely earrings to those people in her life who help her throughout the year; the woman in the post office, the receptionist at the doctor’s office, the girl at the drive-up window, and often total strangers. These gifts are given not just in thanks, but in the hope of making another person happy.

Because of her beautiful influence in my life, I now do the same thing–not because I am such a good person, but because she is.

Whoever you are, whatever your circumstances, remember that you matter to us all.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Living With Pushy Cats

The Crankee Yankee and I have a queen-size bed, which is a good size for two people. However, when you are owned by five cats, a queen-size bed just doesn’t cut it. We usually have at least three cats (the big ones, too) who insist on sleeping with us. They have no bed manners at all; our big boy, Plumpy-nut, sprawls out between us, purring loudly. Our youngest, Scooter, camps out at the foot of the bed, so the space where our feet normally go is, shall we say, compromised. Nala, the oldest and the only female, wraps herself around the Crankee Yankee’s head. While this is very snuggly, it doesn’t do much for a good night’s sleep.

No one enjoys entitlement like our cats. As you will remember, cats were once revered as gods and they have never forgotten this. The difference between cats and dogs is this: a dog will do whatever it takes to please their owners. Cats, on the other hand, do whatever they want to as long as it suits them. That’s pretty much it.

There is really no way that you can successfully train a cat because they just won’t do anything that doesn’t have a good payoff. If they could speak, the conversation would go something like this:

Person: “Ok, kitty, get off the bed now, I want to sleep.”

Cat: “Me, too. Move over.”

And if you bring bribery into the conversation, it would go this way:

Person: “Kitty, I have a nice piece of steak for you if you get off the bed.”

Cat: “Sounds great. Make it medium-rare, and let me know when it’s ready.” Snore…

So that’s how it is; you have cats, they take over the house. It’s just the way they view the world: all of the good stuff is theirs, and they know it.

 

Snow, Snow and MORE Snow!

No big surprise here in Northeast; we have more snow. Luckily it’s the kind of light snow that gently floats down and doesn’t make huge piles everywhere. It’s pretty to look at, and even if it snows all day, it won’t need much more than a shoveling here and there.

The tall pine trees across the street from us are decorated with snow, and look like proper Christmas trees. Looking out of the windows, you can see bird, squirrel and cat tracks. They are all going about their business and the snow doesn’t seem to bother them at all.

Nor does it bother us, either; we are happily and gladly retired, so it can snow all day for all we care. When I remember all the hurry-worry I had when I was working, retirement is absolutely wonderful. If we like, we can sit by the window all day, admiring every little snowflake.

When I was a lot younger, I would look at my grandparents and wonder what they did all day. Now I understand: we can do whatever we like. This is the time in life where less is more, laughter is an everyday joy, and baking and cooking is just plain fun. There’s no longer a need to rush around; we are done with that.

So today we are enjoying the snow.

The Reason For the Season

I’ve only met a couple of people who hate Christmas, whom I jokingly call the “bah humbuggers.” Ah well, everyone’s entitled to their opinion. Many people have not had good experiences with Christmas, and that’s too bad. I know a few people who lost loved ones on Christmas day, and I can’t imagine how sad that must be.

Whether or not you go to church, Christmas is a beautiful thing. Forget about all the hustle/bustle of shopping and gift wrapping and planning a holiday feast; that’s not only what Christmas is about. It’s more about how we feel about each other; and it’s more about forgiveness and hope. Lastly, it’s about redemption; meaning that whatever we have done or undone can be forgiven. It’s hardest of all to forgive ourselves, but it can be done.

Christmas reminds us of our childhood and how we looked forward to that one magical day. Whether or not we are religious doesn’t matter; the Christmas season affects us all in some way or another. It brings kindness and hope to us and those around us. It makes it easier to forgive each other, and forgive ourselves.

This Christmas is like no other. Each Christmas is something new and something to celebrate. It can be a time of kindness and hope, love and understanding. It’s not all about the presents, the tree, the lights and so on; it truly is more about how we feel about each other. It is a time to remember the past and look forward to the future.

May this Christmas bring you joy in every way.

Good Stuff Goes a Long Way

Somewhere I read that a butterfly’s wings beating on one part of the world may cause a tornado in another part of the world. True or not? Who really knows? However, I believe that, unlike the butterfly, good things and good intentions really do have a global effect. Consider this: an unexpected act of kindness can not only change lives, but change attitudes as well.

Every so often we’ll hear of something lovely, such as a waiter who is given a thousand dollar tip “just because.” Or we see a young boy on televison who decided to make sandwiches and bring them to the homeless people in his town every day. This boy used his allowance and money from his lemonade stand to help others in his town who were hungry.

We have heard stories of kindness all over the world; the policeman who saw a homeless man with no shoes on in winter and took off his own socks and boots and put them on the homeless man’s feet. There are probably millions of acts of kindness all over this world; some we hear about, and some are not heard, but the kindness is still there.

Funny thing about kindness: it not only makes others happy, but it softly pushes us to be kind to others, including ourselves. People aren’t always what they seem, either: that angry old man who never responds to your “good morning” may just be lonely. The Downs syndrome girl who always asks how you are is not to be pitied; for she is working and helping people every day, and she is proud of her job.

Kindness costs nothing, but brings great and humbling change to us all. Even though the world seems in constant turmoil, there is still kindness out there. And while we tend to forget the turmoil, we don’t forget the many kindnesses we’ve seen or have been given. And it’s such a little thing; opening a door for someone who arms are full, or telling that helpful girl at the bank how pretty her hair looks, or pulling a can of soup off the top shelf in the grocery store for someone who can’t reach it.

Kindness is truly part of all the “good stuff” that is around us each day. It more than makes up for the bad stuff, believe it or not. When I was working, I tended to always be in a rush; I felt I had to do everything right now. The man in the cubicle next to me was a Korean gentleman who always seemed relaxed and happy. He would see me running around in my usual hurried way, and say, “please—come sit. Relax.” And he would pull out a chair for me. He would say, ‘relax, breathe, no need for hurry.’

Amazingly enough, he was right. Just a few minutes of kind talk and looking at his serene face made my whole being relax. I never told him this, but his kindness made my day so much better. To this day when I let myself get all worried and hurried, I think of him and I relax, breathe and realize that there is no need for hurry.

It is a kindness for us to take a break, relax and breathe. All of us deserve kindness, even our hurried ourselves.

 

Fighting the Flood

We had a ton of rain the night before last. When I opened the downstairs door that leads out to the area under the back porch, there was at least 18″ of muddy water. Since I always have my rubber boots on, I didn’t get soaked. But what a mess!

As you may know from other posts that the Crankee Yankee and I feed and shelter a couple of outdoor cats. Under the back porch, we have a large area where our freezer is, and there’s plenty of room for shelters, food and water bowls. Usually at least one cat always crawls out of one of the shelters to greet me each morning. I make sure that there is plenty of dry food and fresh water for them; the same with the shelters and food and water in our garage and on our front porch.

So I went back in, and hollered up to the Crankee Yankee, saying “we’ve got a real no-kidding FLOOD out here!” It took literally a few seconds for him to barrel down the stairs and get the pumps working.

Well, it took all day to pump out the water and clean up. Of course, the good side is that the pumps cleared up the water and the outdoor cats we feed each day got more food and clean water in their bowls. The bad side is that this will probably happen again, but as our dear old friend always says, “watchagonnado?”

If anyone knows the very popular Canadian show, “The Red Green Show,” you will know his mantra about being a man: “if you can’t be handsome, be handy.” Lucky me; the Crankee Yankee is both handsome and handy!

 

When WE Become the Elders

When we are children, our “buffers” are our parents, siblings, grandparents and aunts and uncles. We feel secure in the knowledge that we are loved and protected. We know that we belong to a family and that we can count on all those wonderful people who are in our lives.

Then we grow older, and go out into the world on our own. But we still have family members and friends. We grow older still, and lose our “protectors” over the years. All of a sudden, we find ourselves at wakes and funerals. We realize that we are truly on our own, and, if we are lucky, our families have prepared us for this.

Of course, it doesn’t make it any easier to lose a loved one. But life does go on. When we become the “elders,” we realize that we have choices; we can be well-versed in kindness, empathy, humor, and can now be both strength and comfort our young people. Even if we are not thrilled to be older, it’s a gift and a privilege to listen to and help our young ones go through their trials and tribulations, their good and their bad times.

Our life experiences can do much to help or at least comfort those who are coming up behind us. We now are the “parent birds” who urge their young out of the nest. We can assure them that they can do it, and, hopefully; see them through.

There is nothing wrong with being an elder; in fact, it’s a wonderful time. We have retired from work, and use our time as we please. We can finally take time for ourselves and enjoy the life we have and the lives all around us. At this time of our lives, we realize that the bothersome and petty little things that used to aggravate us are nothing at all, just minor annoyances. We may have lost our “looks” and have gained or lost weight; but we have learned to live comfortably in our own skin.

As elders, we have learned what matters and what doesn’t matter. We have a choice to be all we can be. We can now look in the mirror and laugh at wrinkles, hair loss, more or less weight; as elders we realize that the petty things just don’t matter. What does matter is how we live the “elder life” and how we treat other people. Most of all, we finally can see ourselves for who we really are: well lived, well loved, well meaning and well met against the tides of life.

 

On Kindness

I fear that we have become a “me first and the hell with the rest of you” nation. It seems that kindness is getting pretty thin on the ground, and that’s a real shame. I recently read an article about people who recline their seats all the way back on airplanes with no regard for the comfort (and safety) of the person behind them. They don’t even bother to look behind them when they recline.

The person behind the recliner may have a laptop or a cup of coffee on their tray, and so on. Would it hurt to just ask the person behind if it’s ok to recline? We know that, unless you pay for first class seats, you are going to be somewhat uncomfortable. But there’s no need to be selfish and just plop your seat back so that you are comfortable—at the expense of the person behind you.

Then there are the drivers who realize that they are either on the wrong road, or they’ve passed by the store they meant to go to, and so on. In their minds, they think it’s completely fine and dandy to make dangerous moves while driving, such as running through two traffic lanes to get to where they want to go. It’s a risky thing to do and can be quite dangerous. So when you are driving and make a wrong turn by mistake, DO NOT flub up traffic trying to scoot over to another lane. Doing this could cause an accident. Just man up, take a safe turn and get out of traffic; it’s not like a few more minutes of your time is going to kill you. However, doing risky things can kill you or innocent others.

I would hate to see the death of kindness. However, I still believe that many, many people are kind and compassionate. I still believe that kindness still exists. I still believe that, in spite of all appearances, people are basically good. My granddaughters have given me hope and joy in the way that they treat their parents, their friends and each other, and us, their grandparents. They want to help others, they are kind to animals (living on a farm as they do, they love and care for every creature from yaks to chickens), and they believe in the power of goodness.

I still believe that kindness exists. It would be nice to see more of it, but still—kindness is still there. And it can come from unexpected people or places, too. Just yesterday the Crankee Yankee and I drove up to Wolfeboro (NH) to tag the stuff in our storage unit; what to keep and what to auction off. After that, we drove into town and visited the cemetery where my grandparents and parents rest.

I had asked the funeral director who buried my parents when my dad’s military footstone would be placed quite a while ago. But yesterday, there it was. And of course I burst into tears. Just at that time, an older lady drove up (I found out later that she was looking for her own father’s headstone). The lady saw me crying and said, ‘no crying, now; it’s all right.’

And you know what? She was right. Another act of kindness!