“Adulting Classes” – Really?

Well, what a shocker; the new thing these days is “adulting classes.” Look, I understand that the world is changing, and that schooling and parenting are far different than what I grew up with. Looking back on my own growing up, it was pretty cut and dried:

  1. Your parents were the bosses and you obeyed. Period.
  2. Your allowance was earned; the lesson was that you worked for what you wanted by doing chores.
  3. In school, there was Home Economics for the girls, and shop for the boys. As girls, we learned how to make simple dinners, make homemade jam, how to stick to a budget, how to sew and basically how to run a household. In shop, boys learned to make tables and stools and lots of other practical things. They also learned how to properly use tools and machinery.
  4. Family business was just that; you didn’t tell anyone how much money your dad made or whether or not your mother was beautiful.
  5. If we did something wrong in school and got punished for it, you could bet your life that your parents found out about it, and you got punished again.
  6. You were never to leave the house without telling your parents.
  7. If you had a pet that you had begged for, it was your responsibility to care for it.
  8. If you yearned for a toy or something you really wanted, you worked for it. When you had the money you needed to get it, you treasured it and took good care of it. You experienced what it was like to buy what you wanted with the money that you yourself had earned.
  9. You learned (often the hard way) how to get along with others, and how not be a show-off or a liar. Again, we learned this from our parents.

Of course, there was more, but these are the “regular” things we of the ’50s generation grew up with. When we were old enough to work (to have our own money), we were taught at home first. We learned how to make change, how to be polite to a customer, and most of all, how to do what your boss told you to do.

Now, I never had children, so I probably should shut up about this right now, but here’s the thing: we of our generation were taught what we needed to know mainly from our parents. By the time I went to college, I had learned how to work with people, how to deal with roomates (as I was an only child it was sort of a shock to have a roomate at college, but you adapt) and how get the most out of my classes, and so much more.

It absolutely boggles my mind that parents (for the most part) are just not teaching their children how to work and behave in the world. I nearly fell off my chair one day when I read that a twenty-one year old woman had been fired from her job because she just wasn’t working. Get this: the twenty-one year old had her parents call her boss to get her job back. Color me gobstruck. I wonder how well that went over with the boss…

From Parade:

What Are Adulting Classes?

You may snicker at millennials’ need for such classes, but it’s not really their fault they don’t have the practical life knowledge older generations had at their age. Although their parents and teachers pushed them toward academic achievement—millennials are the highest-educated generation—they too often neglected to teach the youngsters common sense skills needed to live in the real world.

“With kids being busier and having activities, sports and extracurriculars, there’s not as much time sitting around the dinner table and passing down all of that information,” Flehinger says. “And then there’s no more home ec and shop in schools; before, even when [the skills] weren’t being passed down at least school was picking up that slack, and now it’s not.”

Millennials are also saddled with a staggering amount of student debt, which is affecting their ability to financially establish themselves on their own. “This generation is going to be inheriting a lot of economical problems, and they’re also going to be contributing to a lot of economical problems because of their amount of debt,” Flehinger, who at 44 years old is a Gen Xer, says. Add a lack of being able to budget effectively, and their debt becomes a hole nearly impossible to climb out of. “If [parents and teachers] had taught them budgeting, look where they would be now,” Flehinger says.”

The Hairy Truth

When I was in grade school, I was jealous about hair, especially my best friend’s. She could pull it back into a gorgeous pony tail; how I longed to have hair like that! Mine was short and thick, and I always wore bangs. When I was younger my mother let my hair grow, but after a few weeks of her washing and drying it, she went right back to clipping it short. It was a “wash and wear” hair-do, but it worked.

Years later, I decided to let my hair grow. It was a genuine pain; not only did I have to take the time to dry it, but I had to style it as well. I suffered until my hair was long enough to put into a pony tail (I had never gotten over the yearning for a pony tail!), it was ridiculous. Putting it into a pony tail made it look like I was wearing a very thick whisk broom on the back of my head.

The next day I went to my hair dresser and said, “cut it off!” When she got done laughing she said, “I told you so!” I learned from my mother that all of the females in our family had the same thick hair. Now while that can be a blessing, it is also a curse. Just imagine all those poor women from way back when; they never cut their hair, they just put it up or braided it. When they shampooed their hair, they just sat in the sun to dry it. Just imagine what life was like back then; long heavy hair, loads of clothing, not to mention all the does and don’t of that time.

When I was on my own and working, there was a lovely woman I worked with who had beautiful long black hair down to her shoulders. I complimented her on it, and told her my own long hair story.

She laughed with me, and told me that she used to have hair down to her waist. Her husband just loved it, and asked her to please not cut it—ever. Well, that worked for a few years until she got into a car accident and broke her arm. While she was healing, her husband had to wash and dry her hair for her.

After a few weeks of this, he told her that if she wanted to cut her hair that was just fine with him; he had had enough. They had a good laugh over that, and she got a beautiful pageboy style after that.

And that is the hairy truth.



Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

I wrote this a while ago; considering what we all are going through these days, it’s a good thing to try and find the bright side.


If the title triggers something in your mind, you’re right: this phrase is from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. While the whole show is hilarious, there is that little phrase, “always look on the bright side of life” that sticks in your head. I’ll admit that in some areas of my life I have been a “doomer and gloomer,” and while it’s sort of satisfying, it doesn’t help at all.

So quite a while back, I decided to actually look on the bright side of life. It isn’t always easy, but surprisingly, it really does help. Example: this year I will be 69 years old; good grief! But on the bright side, all the dumb mistakes I made, all the crappy jobs I had, and the downright awful men in my life; that’s all over! At my age, I can laugh about it all; age really puts a new perspective on life.

This is not a bad thing being this age; not at all. We have lived through sorrow and grief; we’ve won, we’ve lost, and we have made mistakes and learned lessons the hard way. We have laughed and cried, and we have come to a place where we can forgive ourselves. We have learned on the way that we are imperfect beings, but aren’t we all?

So, looking on my own bright side of life, here are my truths:

  • I don’t have to go to work any more.
  • I don’t have to pretend that I am more than I am; who I am is enough.
  • I don’t need to impress anyone.
  • I can wear all the jewelry I want; I really don’t care what others think anymore.
  • I am finally in my own skin and I’m happy with it.
  • I don’t have to answer any questions I don’t like.
  • I don’t have to be right about anything.
  • I can eat a cookie at midnight and not feel guilty.
  • I don’t need to explain myself to anyone.
  • I can embrace my age and be happy with it.
  • I don’t have to be exactly like my mother.
  • I can finally forgive myself and others.

So there we have it; we actually DO have control in our lives; it’s all how we look at it. I’m going to just keep on looking on the bright side of life.


What We Keep

Anyone who has had to clean out a house faces this same situation: what do you keep and what do you let go? We have a storage unit in Wolfeboro, NH that harbors some of the stuff from my parents’ house. Slowly but surely we have been winnowing away what to keep and what to put in auction.

It’s sadly funny when you are in the position of going through your parents’ things; things that you have lived with as a child. Take for example my mother’s love of brass things, especially lamps. I’m not a fan of brass myself, so I am always happy when we can put them in auction.

When Mom was dying of metastatic breast cancer, one of the first things she did was to invite her friends over. She and I put out all of her clothing and jewelry in the living room, and friends were encouraged to pick out what they wanted to remember her by. It was one of those times where you laughed and cried, and then laughed some more. It made her happy to gift the people she loved with her things. This also made me happy as well.

By that time I had already picked out the things that I wanted to keep. That was a day of laughing and crying and laughing some more. And it’s funny how time goes by; after the death of my mother I felt off-course for a while. I grieved her and yet I laughed when I thought about the amazing woman she was and how many lives she touched. She really put the “B” in “ballsy” too; she was a true force of nature.

The same sort of thing will inevitably happen to the Crankee Yankee and I. It will be fun for me to let our grandgirls go through my jewelry and clothes; when that day comes, I will send a lot of laughter to my mother. It reminds me of what she always told me: “things don’t really matter; people do.”


Sooner or Later, You’ll Be the Waiter

When I lived in Austin, Texas, I enjoyed many great singing groups. The one I remember the most was one guy who sang his own songs, one of which was called “Sooner or Later.”

The song was about a young man and a girl who were on their first date. The young man brought her flowers and took her to a wonderful restaurant where they sat comfortably out on the patio under the stars. The wine was delicious and their food was divine. The young man did all he could to be charming and generous, and he asked her about herself instead of talking about himself.

Everything was going beautifully until the waiter came around and told them that he was terribly sorry, but the desserts they had ordered had run out. He told them about the other desserts they could have, and said that the manager wouldn’t charge them for them. The girl smiled and said that it wasn’t a problem.

But then there WAS a problem; the young man shouted at the waiter and told him he was stupid and lazy, and blamed him for not watching out for the desserts he ordered. The waiter apologized and again said that they could have any other desserts for free. But the young man wouldn’t accept that and kept yelling at him.

Now, at this point in the singer’s song, he stopped playing his guitar and said this: “ladies, if a fellow takes you out to dinner and is charming and thoughtful and kind, but he is rude to the waiter, remember this: no matter how charming and thoughtful and kind he is on your first date, sooner or later, YOU”LL be the waiter.”

We all laughed, but that song stuck with me for years. Of course a couple on their first date are usually thoughtful and kind and interesting; they want to make a good impression. Hopefully have more dates. But this song is the sad truth: if someone treats other people badly, sooner or later, you’ll be the waiter. Watch for the clues.


Does This Bug You, Too?

So—does any of the following bug you? Here is my personal “bug” list:

  • Drivers who never use their directionals or stop for a STOP sign.
  • Smokers who think it’s just fine to flick their cigarette butts out of their vehicle’s window. What, that fancy-schmancy car you are driving doesn’t come with an ashtray?
  • People who say that they are “fusstrated” (it’s “FRUSTRATED,” people).
  • Scam calls saying that you are going to jail because of Social Security fraud (really?!)
  • People who yap on their phones while driving; here in NH there’s a hefty fine for that. And you don’t get a break because you didn’t know that; ignorance of the law doesn’t cut it.
  • There is no such thing as a “Reelator.” It is “Realtor,” pronounced “reel-tore.”
  • Why is it when you are enjoying a program and can’t wait to see what will happen next, your significant other decides to change the channel to watch (insert irritating programming here; sports, news, etc.) something. You can say “hey! I was watching that!” and he’ll say, “oh sorry, I just want to see what the weather is going to be tomorrow/who won the last game/how are the debates going, etc., etc. And you’ve lost the show you were looking at.
  • Why is it when you finally have the time to sit down and read or watch TV, your pet (insert cat, dog, wildebeast, camel, etc.) has taken over your chair, AND is sleeping and snoring in it.
  • You need to pick up something at the store, get in your car and see that you have maybe a tablespoon of gas left. (Usually your significant other didn’t fill the tank; but to be fair it’s usually me)
  • You are enjoying a lunch out by yourself and your server calls you “honey” or “sweetheart” or “darling.” I realize that they are just being friendly, but I have to grin and bear it so that I don’t lash out with what I’d like to say: “oh, sweetie; you just wait.” Trust me, their time will come (insert cackling laughter here)!

Of course there are much more, but you get the general idea. After a while, you just grin and bear it. I am always so tempted to go all British some of those who bug me and say, “thanks, dear—now bugger off!” But I smile and grit my teeth, trying to hold back what I would love to say: “sweetie, you just wait!”

Why I Love Hawaii

Last year at this time, I was enjoying two weeks in Oahu. Every other day I had a tour, and on the days I didn’t have one, I spent my time walking around Waikiki and taking in all the beauty all around me. I now know why Hawaii is affectionately called “Paradise;” the weather is warm and even the little occasional rain showers are warm. Just the trees and flowers and birds alone are worth the trip.

It is said that some of us (or all of us; who knows?) have lived several lives. Who knows if that’s true, but I always wondered why I had such a “pull” to Hawaii. Years ago I had a very vivid dream that stays with me still: in it I was a young *Polynesian boy. In the dream I couldn’t see myself, but I could see a little girl with long black hair and a “haka” (ring of flowers) on her head, smiling up at me.

I mentioned this dream to a dear friend of mine who is a dream reader and psychic. She told me that I was indeed a Polynesian boy way back in time when Hawaii discovered. My job as that young boy was to keep my little sister safe as her destiny was to become a queen to rule the island.

For years I read all I could find about Hawaii. I checked out the places in Hawaii that I wanted to see and promised myself that I would someday go there.

Last year the Crankee Yankee made me the deal of a lifetime. He had wanted to renovate our ancient kitchen for years, but he knew that I would go crazy being in all that mess. So he said he would send me to Hawaii if he could renovate the kitchen while I was gone. I could NOT pass up a deal like that, so we made it happen.

I hadn’t flown since 2001, and a dear friend of mine told me about what to do and what not to do as so much had changed. I had forgotten how much fun it was to fly, and, as an added bonus, I was able to watch free movies all through the flight!

We stopped at San Francisco for an hour and I had the time to walk around and look out of the windows to see the city. When we all boarded the plane to take us to Honolulu I felt as excited as a child on her birthday; I was finally going to Hawaii!

Hawaii was all I could ask for and more.

*From Hawaii Guide:

“Many historians believe that the Polynesians who settled Hawaii came from the Marquesas Islands, which had forbidding terrain and poor conditions for farming. To aid their venture’s success, they brought many types of supplies. In addition to food for the journey, they brought at least a half dozen plant species to cultivate, like bananas, taro, and breadfruit. They also brought pigs, small dogs, and chickens to raise. Of course, no journey would be complete without handy items like medicinal plants, basic tools, vessels made of gourds, and ropes.”

“Polynesians first landed on the big island of Hawaii, at Ka Lae on the southern coast. The name Hawaii derives from the word Havaiki, the Polynesian name for a homeland they believed they all originally came from and would return to after death. To survive while they waited for their first plantings to grow and mature, they hunted birds, fished, and gathered native foods.”

“Over the years, they spread out over all the major Hawaiian islands. With no written documents and few artifacts to study, little is known about their customs and ways of life. However, we do know that they were the sole inhabitants for several hundred years, until the Tahitians landed around 1000 A.D.”

Why We Need To Know Our History

When I was in grade school, my favorite classes were English and American History. I liked English because I loved to read and write poems and stories, but history was fascinating. I loved reading and hearing about our history as a country, and how we came to be Americans. Everything about it was interesting, and it was amazing to me to know how we left England to have our own country and rule of law.

I admired George Washington deeply; our first president. I read breathlessly of the war that made us Americans. I often wondered how my life would have been if I was born in England and not America.

Back then in the ’50s, all school children started their school day with the pledge of allegience (all of us standing with right hands on our hearts), and then the Lord’s prayer. No one complained about these things adversely going against their own religious beliefs; it was just how we all started our day. Also, every school room had a large picture  on the wall of our first president, George Washington, as well. That’s just how it was back then, and no one ever complained about it.

It saddens me to know that most schools do not have American history. From the New York Post:

“Don’t know much about history . . .,” goes the famous song. It’s an apt motto for the Common Core’s elementary school curriculum.

And it’s becoming a serious problem.

A 2014 report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that an abysmal 18 percent of American high school kids were proficient in US history. When colleges such as Stanford decline to require Western Civilization classes or high schools propose changing their curriculum so that history is taught only from 1877 onward (this happened in North Carolina), it’s merely a blip in our news cycle.

A 2012 story in Perspectives on History magazine by University of North Carolina professor Bruce VanSledright found that 88 percent of elementary school teachers considered teaching history a low priority.

The reasons are varied. VanSledright found that teachers didn’t focus on history because students aren’t tested on it at the state level. Why teach something you can’t test?

A teacher I spoke with in Brooklyn confirmed this. She said, “All the pressure in lower grades is in math and English Language Arts because of the state tests and the weight that they carry.”

She teaches fourth grade and says that age is the first time students are taught about explorers, American settlers, the American Revolution and so on. But why so late?

VanSledright also found that teachers just didn’t know enough history to teach it. He wrote there was some “holiday curriculum as history instruction,” but that was it.

Arthur, a father in Brooklyn whose kids are in first and second grade at what’s considered an excellent public school, says that’s the only kind of history lesson he’s seen. And even that’s been thin. His second-grade daughter knows George Washington was the first president but not why Abraham Lincoln is famous.

As the parent of a first-grader, I’ve also seen even the “holiday curriculum” in short supply. First grade might seem young, but it’s my daughter’s third year in the New York City public school system after pre-K and kindergarten. She goes to one of the finest public schools in the city, yet knows about George Washington exclusively from the soundtrack of the Broadway show “Hamilton.” She wouldn’t be able to tell you who discovered America.

So far, she has encountered no mention of any historical figure except for Martin Luther King Jr. This isn’t a knock on King, obviously. He’s a hero in our house. But he can’t be the sum total of historical figures our kids learn about in even early elementary school.

For one thing, how do we tell King’s story without telling the story of the Founding Fathers, the Constitution or of Abraham Lincoln? King’s protests were effective because they were grounded in the idea that America was supposed to be something specific, that the Constitution said so — and that we weren’t living up to those ideals.

The Brooklyn teacher I spoke with says instructors balk when it comes to history: They don’t want to offend anyone. “The more vocal and involved the parents are, the more likely the teacher will feel uncomfortable to teach certain things or say something that might create a problem.” Which leaves . . . Martin Luther King.

She cited issues around Thanksgiving, like teaching the story of pilgrims and the Native Americans breaking bread together as one that teachers might sideline for fear of parents complaining. Instead of addressing sticky subjects, we skip them altogether.

As colleges around the country see protests to remove Thomas Jefferson’s statues from their campuses, it’s becoming the norm to erase the parts of history that we find uncomfortable. It’s not difficult to teach children that the pilgrims or Thomas Jefferson were imperfect yet still responsible for so much that is good in America.

Jay Leno used to do a segment on his show called “JayWalking,” where he’d come up to people on the street and ask them what should’ve been easy historical questions. That their responses were funny and cringeworthy enough to get them on the show tells you how well it went.

Leno never asked the year the Magna Carta was published or when North Dakota became a state. He would ask what country we fought in the Revolutionary War, to name the current vice president or how many stars are on the American flag. And yet adults had no idea.

We talk often about how fractured our country has become. That our division increases while school kids are taught less and less about our shared history should come as no surprise.”




Granddaughter Games

Last Sunday the Crankee Yankee and I drove up to see the grandgirls, their parents and the dogs and cats, and of course, their farm. Ava, the oldest, is seriously into dance and is starting to do some acting as well. Since I did quite a lot of acting in high school, one summer with the Barnstormers in Tamworth, NH, and some Gilbert and Sullivan operettas in Texas, I could relate. I told her all my stories of goof-ups and funny things that happened during some of the shows I was in.

I told her about how I was the “makeup lady” while in the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, as well as the funny side of acting, especially the evening when we were putting on “Patience.” For starters, the person who was supposed to unlock the front door of the theater didn’t show up, making us all late to start the show. Finally the guy responsible came and opened up.

About ten minutes later, we all managed to get dressed and put our makeup on. I told Ava how fast I had to put makeup on all the “extras” (the lead roles took care of themselves). Honestly, I still don’t know how we all got it together, but we did, and the show went on.

I also told Ava about quick costume changes. There were many times when I and a few others stood off stage holding clothing for the actors who had only a minute to change. She laughed her head off when I told her how modest some of the men were about dropping their pants in order to get quickly into a new costume.

Later on she and I and Juliette went down to the basement to play. We invented what I called the “Granddaughter Quiddich” tag game (and if you are a Harry Potter fan, you’ll know that Quiddich is a sport done with flying brooms). Whoever held the broom (and usually it was me) had to run around and “tag” one or both of the other girls. It got so funny that we all collapsed on the mat and laughed our heads off.

I often wonder what kind of example I’m giving the girls, but then again, I’m not their parents. I am the goofy grandmother, which seems to suit them just fine. Quite frankly, I am touched that they want to be with me. What they don’t realize is that they are making me a better person. I hope I’m doing the same for them.