Lessons For Us All

My oldest granddaughter, Ava, is eight years old and is sensitive, kind, generous and caring. She loves the ocean and all creatures in it, as well as all the farm animals she and her family have on their farm. Her younger sister, Juliette, is three (what her mom calls a “threenager”), and is very different from Ava. She is brash, funny, and nothing much seems to bother her.

Recently their mom told us about an incident with Ava. She is in third grade and rides the bus to school. There is a little boy who is in second grade, and he always ends up sitting with Ava. When she came home from school the other day, and her mother asked how her day went, she said that it was fine except for the bus ride. Her mother asked her why, and Ava said about the little boy, “he spits at me.” Her mother asked if he actually was spitting on her, and she said “no, he does it when he talks.”

Her mother asked her if maybe his adult teeth were coming in and he just couldn’t help it. Ava, who is always kind to everyone, didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but she really didn’t like it that he spit when he talked. So her mother said, “what if he really can’t help it? Can you imagine how hard it would be if you did something you couldn’t control and people didn’t like you for it?”

She could see that Ava was putting two and two together; perhaps this boy just liked talking with her but couldn’t help spitting. It changed her entire attitude about him. The next day after school, her mom asked her how things went with the little boy on the bus. Ava smiled and said, “we’re friends now.” Her mother asked if he still spit, and Ava said, “it’s ok; he can’t help it.”

This is a lesson to us all; don’t judge—we never truly know what is in another person’s heart. We may hurt people’s feelings because we don’t understand them or know enough about them; but judgement does not mean truth. Ava learned a wonderful lesson from her very smart mom, and in the process made a true friend. If only we all could learn that lesson!


The Nor’easter Storm, and the Ocean Waves That Go With It

As you may know, we in the northeast got a whopper of a wind storm the other day. Trees were uprooted, some crashed on homes and on streets, and power was out for nearly a day. Luckily, the Crankee Yankee and I have a generator, and it’s worth every cent. The wind whooped and howled all night long, and a lot of the beautiful fall leaves were ripped off the trees. We were glad to see that no tree limbs had fallen anywhere near us, and happier still that we have the generator.

So, after giving the cats their lunch, we took off to Hampton (NH) to check out the ocean waves and go get a lobster roll for lunch. Well—the waves almost looked like the ones I admired in Hawaii; they were rolling and rumbling and were tall enough for the handful of surfers in the water to stay alert.

The Atlantic ocean has an attitude of its own; it can go from soft green-blue waves that gently shush-shush onto the sand; they may even toss up gifts; beach glass, a shell or a sea urchin—or it can roar in and over embankments and fling salt water into the streets. For Hampton beach, the waves were pretty impressive.

The winds were still strong by the time we stopped at Petey’s, famous for their fabulous sea food. I had a lobster roll with coleslaw and fries, and the Crankee Yankee had fried oysters, onion rings and fries. We had just enough room to share a piece of key lime pie, which was absolutely devine.

Driving home, I remembered one of my favorite poems about the sea; “Sea Fever” by John Masefield:

“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.”

Neither a *Luddite Nor a Techie

My mother always proudly said that she was a *Luddite and wanted nothing to do with modern technology. She and Dad had a regular land line phone, and each of them grudgingly got flip-phones. But that’s as much technology as they could stand. Mom would often call me to look something up on my “damn computer” for her. This way she could get the information she needed without touching a computer. (Well played, Mom!)

I think of her right now since a dear old friend of mine drove all the way up to Exeter from Webster, MA to show me how to get into Facebook. Honestly, I never thought that I would want that in my life, but after a day and a half I have to admit it’s pretty neat. I religiously wrote down everything my friend told me, and behold and lo—I actually am getting used to it! I still can’t figure out how to get my pictures from my phone to put on Facebook (I would just love to brag about my trip to Hawaii this past spring!), though.

Last Christmas my wonderful step-daughter had gifted the Crankee Yankee and I with a “Skylight.” She recently showed us how to use it (surprisingly, not a big deal—we were just too embarrassed to tell her that we couldn’t **figure it out on our own!). It’s pretty neat: once you upload the pictures from your phone (where all my nice Hawaii pictures are), you can add them into the Skylight and hang it up. It becomes a screen that runs the pictures one by one. Pretty cool, huh?

So, now I’m guessing that I can do the same thing on my computer; hook it up with my phone pictures or somehow sucking them out of the Skylight. You see what an idiot I am. And here’s the funny part: the Skylight had a perfectly clear technical manual that explained everything, but did we read it? Nooooo. Funnier still is the fact that I made my living as a technical writer and wrote manuals for years. But let me get a new doo-dad, and will I read the manual? Nope.

So I inch along in technology, much like that turtle on TV who likes the old ways and ends the commercial with “not my thing.” However, I do need to make it a “thing” for me so that 1) I am not always lugging the computer to the tech gods for them to figure out what kind of booberry I did with it, or 2) trying to figure out what I should have done (which gives me a massive headache), or 3) just shutting the damn thing down and let it go until morning.

So there you have it; I am neither Luddite nor a Techie. Let’s just call it “OPT” (Old People Technology).





*From Merriam Webster: Luddites could be considered the first victims of corporate downsizing. The Luddite movement began in the vicinity of Nottingham, England, toward the end of 1811 when textile mill workers rioted for the destruction of the new machinery that was slowly replacing them. Their name is of uncertain origin, but it may be connected to a (probably mythical) person known as Ned Ludd. According to an unsubstantiated account in George Pellew’s Life of Lord Sidmouth (1847), Ned Ludd was a Leicestershire villager of the late 1700s who, in a fit of insane rage, rushed into a stocking weaver’s house and destroyed his equipment. From then on, his name was proverbially connected with the destruction of machinery. With the onset of the information age, Luddite gained a broader sense describing anyone who shuns new technology.


The Pond Walk in Fall

Recently I took a much-needed walk around the pond. While it is always beautiful and uplifting, there’s something special about the pond in the fall. The sky is richly blue with beautiful white clouds that look like trailing angel robes. The air is crisp with a warning snap of cold, and the pond is full of ripples. There are no ducks, geese, turtles or any pond life to be seen. Now and then there will be a lone blue heron, but most of the wild life has moved to warmer places. The turtles and frogs are already tucked down in the mud, sleeping until Spring comes to wake them.

Still, it’s a lovely walk. The reeds have turned from green to silver and brown, all the milkweed fluff has dispersed into the wind, and the pink rambler roses and orange jewel weed have dropped their flowers and are ready for the cold siege. Seagulls wheel overhead, cawing as they go. If you are very lucky, sometimes a bald eagle will soar overhead; that’s quite a sight.

It was my grandmother who taught me about the birds and animals and their habits. She especially loved birds (except for blue jays and grackles; she saw them as the thieves and plunderers they were), and made sure that they had plenty to eat in the cold weather. I always think of her when the Crankee Yankee and I fill up our bird feeder and, in winter, suet trays.

After a walk around the pond, any problems, worries or upsets I had when I started my walk; all are gone, and I am left with a feeling of peace. Nature has a lovely way of calming and soothing us. We can learn a lot from the seasons, the birds, the animals and the pond itself. Nature gives us the gift of serenity, change and appreciation. I never walk back home in a bad mood; Nature has already soothed me.


When Vegans Get Pushy

I am not a vegan myself, but I do admire vegans’ dedication to their beliefs. If it’s better for them health-wise, more power to them. I know a few people who are vegans, and, except for one person I worked with years ago, they are nice people. That one person I worked with was, quite frankly; a pain in the patooty. She was one of those people hell-bent on reforming other people to stop their evil meat-eating ways and become vegan.

I don’t know about you, but the second I hear someone trying to push me toward something I have zero interest in, the party’s over. As I always say, to each his/her own. I do not appreciate diatribes from anyone who thinks that they can live my life better for me than I can live my life. But that’s just me.

This gal I worked with was an absolute annoying twit. Every converstation always revolved around veganism, and that was just about as exciting to me as sports is, and I really don’t care for sports. This gal was determined to shove me into becoming a vegan, saying I would feel so much better, I wouldn’t be endangering animals (the meaty ones), and the real kicker, this: “you would certainly lose weight, too.”

Um, excuse me? What sensible, minding-their-own-business person wants to hear that? And, was it her way of telling me that I was FAT?! While that presumption hurt my feelings, I had to dismiss it because after all, that gal was not only pushy but downright rude, and I always walk away from rude people.

She was also the kind of person who talked non-stop about herself. One day when I was in a pretty good mood, I walked by her desk, and noticed that she was wearing a very pretty amethyst ring. I complimented her on it, and she said smugly “size FOUR!” Well, whoopdie freakin’ do, I thought to myself; aren’t you a precious teenie tiny little thing. I just smiled and walked away.

Look, if you’re a vegan, good on you. Who am I to judge anyone’s life-style? I just don’t care for it to be shoved down my meat-loving throat. Then there are those who embrace veganism for themselves AND THEIR PETS! Dogs and cats need the protein from meat; they are carnivores. *Ask any vet and he/she will tell you that giving your dogs and cats only vegetables can seriously hurt their health and well-being.

This post is not a punch to the tiny bellies of vegans; not at all. Again, I admire anyone who follows a lifestyle that suits them. What I don’t admire is some zealot trying to convert me to anything I’m not interested in. By all means, be who you are and embrace it.

But just remember, “no means NO.”

*From Web MD: “Lew Olson, PhD, author of Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs, makes this analogy: “Trying to feed a cat a vegan diet would be like me feeding my horses meat. You’re taking a whole species of animal and trying to force it to eat something that it isn’t designed to handle.”

Potential Problems

The risks of feeding dogs or cats vegetarian or vegan diet include:

  • Inadequate total protein intake (less than the 25 grams per 1,000 calories recommended)
  • Imbalance of the certain amino acids, such as taurine and L-carnitine (dogs and cats) or essential fatty acids arachidonic acid (cats only), in particular
  • Deficiency in vitamins and minerals (such as B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, and iron) that are obtained ideally, or only, through meat or other animal products

If allowed to continue long enough, these dietary problems can lead to serious and sometimes irreversible medical conditions. The one veterinarians mention most often is taurine-related dilated cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart with weak contractions and poor pumping ability). Low taurine can also lead to reproductive failures, growth failures, and eye problems.




The Aftermath of Grief

People our age have usually lost one or both parents. Grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles; they are gone as well. Sometimes we lose some of our friends to illness or accident. You go through a sort of “grief/relief” process; grief because they are your people and you love and miss them, and relief because they are no longer suffering.

While it’s never easy to watch one of our loved ones get old and infirm; we understand that this is part of life. Both my parents were in Hospice care at the end, and I was grateful for their help and kindness.

My parents were very accepting of death. As Mom slowly but graciously declined, she would get impatient now and then and drum her fingers on the sheets. I’d be sitting with her, and ask her what was going on. Her answer? “Let’s GO already! I’m ready to go!” Then we would laugh. I told her that even all of her bossiness could not speed up time, and to just relax and let things happen as they would.

A dear friend of hers kept making Mom her favorite cake (one that her aunts used to make), called “Southern Black Chocolate Cake.” Basically it was a rich chocolate cake in a 9″ square pan topped with marshmallows cut in thirds. When the cake was completely cooled, it was covered in a chocolate frosting that was nearly fudge. It was devine, and Mom couldn’t get enough of it. Her friend kept on baking those cakes for her until the end.

The few times Mom would get a bit depressed about leaving this earth, all any of us had to do was ask her if she wanted a piece of cake. That always perked her right up. Dad and I figured that, after she passed on, she had eaten most of the nine Southern Black Chocolate Cakes herself.

So what about the aftermath of grief? For me anyway, it is being reminded each day that both of my parents had good and full lives; that makes me happy. They lived and loved, and when their time came, they were not afraid, but looked toward the next adventure.

Of course, losing loved ones is hard; we go through a “grief/relief/grief” cycle. It’s normal; we miss them and we feel bad about the relief that we feel. But actually there is nothing bad about it; it’s a natural process. If our people who have gone on could speak directly to us after death, they probably would tell us that they are happy, that they love us always, and that when our own time comes, we will be amazed.

When I get sad and miss my people and pets, I put this thought right out in front of me: amazement. How bad could that be?