Refrigerator Tales

Mom had a refrigerator that she got around the same year the Crankee Yankee was born. When the ‘fridge turned 65, she reluctantly gave it up and bought a new one. It of course had all the fancy-schmancy new features; ice cube maker, door storage, a larger freezer and so on. When I asked her how she liked it, she sniffed and said, ‘oh, that’s your father’s domain now. He’s bonded with it, so he can deal with it.’

While that still makes me laugh, it makes me think of refrigerators in general. What a wonder it is to have one, to be able to keep food fresh, to have ice when you want it, and so on. We’ve come a long way from having to stash our food in a snow bank and hope that the bears don’t get to it before we do.

Even the most modest of today’s refrigerators come with nifty shelves where you can stash your sauces, dressings, condiments and so on. They also come with a lot of space. While this is good, it is also a hazard. If you are anything like the Crankee Yankee and me, you may stash stuff way in the back of the refrigerator and then forget all about it. These items eventually turn into science projects and I am usually the one who cleans them out; YUCK.

These days there are refrigerators that will let you know what food item is going bad, and probably will shoot it out at you once it expires. I don’t think I want that close a relationship with a ‘fridge that smart. I’d begin to feel that it would start judging me and even make some snarky remarks behind my back.

I once read a story about a demon who had a refrigerator in which he enjoyed food from centuries past; nothing ever went bad in his demonic ‘fridge. Which makes me think of one of Stephen Wright’s monologues in which he says: “I once went to a restaurant where the slogan is ‘Breakfast Any Time.’ So I ordered french toast from the Renaissance.”

Makes you wonder if that came from that old devil’s refrigerator, doesn’t it?



Ah, Change!

Change is hard, no getting around it. Oh, how we would love to just stay as we are and not have to face the changes in life! It starts early on, too. When major changes come into our lives as children, they affect us profoundly.

We have a new granddaughter who will soon be four months old. Her big sister, Ava, at five years old, has been a major player in getting things ready for the new baby, helping Mom and Dad, and just generally being in love with the idea of having a sister.

All well and good until the baby came home. While her parents had always made Ava an integral part of the preparations, having an actual baby in the house was perhaps not what she had envisioned. While Ava was (and is) a spectacular big sister, fetching clean diapers, blankets, etc., it was a life-changer for her.

Sometimes she cries, ‘my mom isn’t paying attention to me!’ It is always kindly explained to her that the baby isn’t a big girl like her who can do things for herself. That in fact, when Ava was a baby, she received the same love and attention. But isn’t this like us all?

Don’t we all want all the attention and love there is for us? Don’t we want things to stay the same? And doesn’t it upset us when there is major change? No amount of crying, stamping our feet or howling at the moon will change this fact: Things. Will. Change.

Change is and will always be part of our lives. We don’t have to like it, but it makes life a lot easier when we come to accept it. Often it’s hard to see the good in the change; we are so busy being uncomfortable and irritated by it that it takes us time to accept it and see its benefits.

In looking back over my own life, I can now see that the changes I went through (or suffered through) were in fact for my benefit. I won’t bore you with each and every one of them, but I can say truthfully that each change made me better and set my feet more firmly on a good path, that is; the right path for me.

When I was married to my first husband, I realized quite early that this man was not who I thought he was. The evidence for that had been clear to see right from the beginning, but I was 36 and thought it was ‘time’ I got married. I conveniently overlooked a lot. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say it was not a match made in Heaven.

Ten years later when the divorce went as smoothly as anything of this nature does, I felt like a tossed salad of emotions: angry, sad, hurt, furious, lonely, stupid and scared. I had a great deal of emotional support from my parents and close friends, which started me on a way to recover.

When I finished beating myself up for what I felt was a huge and messy mistake, I forgave myself (eventually). When I started to move on, I began to see my lost marriage for what it had been: the wrong people at the wrong time. Had I stayed in that mess, I wouldn’t be who I am today, or being with the completely right person for me, my much-loved Crankee Yankee.

Change comes at its own time, like it or not. While change can be uncomfortable, it ‘grows’ us in a direction we might not have taken if left on our own. One of my biggest changes to date was losing my mother to cancer last December. One of the sturdy posts holding up my life came crashing down, and I felt off-balance, adrift, and unanchored. It was as if the North Star had suddenly winked out, never to be seen again.

Death, too, is a change. It is a transition from what was to what is. While that dearly loved person is not with us in physical form, you can bet your last dollar that that person is near us in spirit. While we may grieve our own way and in our own time, there is a level to it that tells us that it is ok to go on living.

It’s ok to laugh at a good joke, feel the sun on our faces and smile, have lunch with friends, let in the sheer goodness of our own life and breath. None of this takes away from the one we loved and still do love.

I can hear my mother’s voice as clear as day: “snap it up and move on, already! I’ll see you later on. Move it!” As usual, she is right. Evidently, my mom’s inherent bossiness does NOT change!

Change comes to us all, so embrace it for what it is, move on and keep your eyes and hearts open to miracles. They are all around us.


The State of Manners Today

When I was 10 years old, I had a dear friend, who, when I met her, was in her eighties. I loved to visit her and listen to the stories of her youth, her family, her career and the highlights of her life. “Churchy,” as we called Miss Gladys Churchill, was what you’d call a “grand lady.” She introduced me to a time older than I knew, where proper manners were part of everyday life, and any etiquette breeches were simply inexcusable. She had a rocking chair I loved, and would unconsciously rock as I sat and listened. Sooner or later, she would say, “Dear, would you mind not rocking? It makes me a little queasy.”

I remember being shocked that what I was doing bothered my old friend. Of course I stopped rocking at once. I began to wonder what else I might be doing without thinking that might bother someone else, or be considered rude. I think of her so often, and wonder what she would think of the world today. Manners seem to be a thing of the past, and feel  as distant as the dinosaurs.

I do understand that ignorance is sometimes the culprit; if someone doesn’t know that something they are doing is rude, that’s one thing. However, once you know that something is rude, there shouldn’t be an excuse to be rude.

Webster’s dictionary defines “rudeness” as:

  1. “discourteous or impolite, especially in a deliberate way: a rude reply”
  2. “without culture, learning, or refinement: rude, illiterate peasants”
  3. “rough in manners or behavior; unmannerly; uncouth”
  4. “rough, harsh, or ungentle: rude hands”
I further define it as:
  1. mentioning something personal about a person that they might not want noticed or mentioned
  2. doing something offensive to others, i.e., picking one’s nose while sitting at the table with others or alone in public, chewing with one’s mouth open (worse, doing this and talking), chewing gum loudly around others, swearing in public, and so on
  3. interrupting people when they are talking
  4. blasting music in traffic or in a neighborhood so loudly that you can feel it in your bones

Before I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, I would get so tired at work that I would go sit in my car at lunch time and nap. During one of these lunch naps I was awakened by a woman rapping loudly on my window; I rolled it down and she said, “you were sleeping.” I said, “I know–that’s why the window was rolled up.” I thought that that was pretty rude. Why in the world would anyone bother a perfect stranger taking a nap in their car?

It comes down to the good old Golden Rule: do to others what you would have them do to you. In the case of the window rapper, it’s possible that she was worried that I might lose my job if I slept in my car too long. She may have been one of those people who feel they can live other peoples’ lives better than they can. But I guess I can file that under “Business, None of Mine” these days.

I am a huge fan of  Downton Abbey, and often in my mind I liken Churchy to Maggie Smith’s portrayal of Violet, the Dowager Countess. No doubt they both would be scandalized by today’s version of manners. But, as with the fall of the Edwardians in Downton Abbey, times change.

Still, I think it wouldn’t hurt to resurrect some of those manners today!




When Did THIS Become OK?

When I first learned to drive, my dad would remind me to be aware of everything that was going on around me. It was, he said, for my own safety and also for the safety of those around me. Driving was different back then. For example, when you saw someone coming up behind you on the highway, you realized they wanted to get by you, and you obliged them. The courtesy was acknowledged back and forth with waves from both cars: “Hey, you’re in a hurry, please go ahead of me.” “Thanks–I appreciate it!” And you both went happily on your way.

Same thing with backing out of a parking space. When you drove into a parking lot and saw that someone ahead of you was backing up, you stopped and let them back up and go. You both exchanged a friendly wave–the previous parker went on his way, and you got to take his spot. Done and done, both drivers happy.

If you happened to drive home late at night, you did not blare your radio, honk the horn or screech your tires while driving through a neighborhood. People were getting ready for bed or were already were in bed. It was considered both rude and selfish to disturb them.

If a young person did something careless which caused a possible danger to themselves (or to someone else), it always got back to the parents. Back then when towns were truly a family community, you all watched out for each other. So if you saw your neighbor’s kid tailgating a bus, you made sure the parents knew about it. And generally those parents were glad you told them, and then took care of the problem at home. There was none of this “MY kid would NEVER do that! How dare you accuse my kid! I’ll sue you!” They made sure that the offending kid understood the danger he might have caused to himself or others.

But those were different times. Today I often feel I’m taking my life in my hands driving somewhere. When did it become ok to do and accept as normal the following:

  • Tear out of a side street inches in front of an oncoming car
  • Take sudden turns without using a directional signal
  • Back out of a parking space without so much as looking first (even if your car has a rear-view camera)
  • Rudely cutting off people in traffic
  • Honking repeatedly for any little thing
  • Swerving into someone else’s lane, then acting as if the other person is the jerk
  • Yelling and screaming at someone to move, move, MOVE
  • Road rage; often deadly
  • Racing cars on a public road

When did this become ok? How in the heck did we all get so dang impatient? Call it ‘road rage’ or just pure selfishness, but who does it serve to act that way? These days I feel as though I am putting my life at risk each time I get on the highway. What’s the big hurry? For some, it’s just a faster race to the grave. There’s a whole lot of stupidity out there, and sadly, it doesn’t look like it’s leaving any time soon….or it could just be that I’m older and crabby.

Take care of yourselves out there, and keep your eyes open.

“The 10 ‘Essential’ Clothing Items”

I read this on what I call the “fashionista” page online and had to check out what they deemed the “The Top 10 Clothing Items.’ These are supposed to make you look good for any situation in your life. Ten items of clothing didn’t sound like much to me, but I’m assuming the writer meant the “essentials.” Here is what the fashionistas list as their idea of the “essentials:”

  • the perfect crew neck sweater (black or gray)
  • the little black dress
  • the tunic top (black or gray)
  • the perfect black jacket
  • the perfect black pencil skirt
  • the tailored white collared blouse
  • the perfect black slacks
  • the perfect (and expensive) black high heels
  • the well-fitting jeans (blue and white)
  • the perfect cardigan sweater (black or gray)

The article posed that these are the clothes that will get you through a job interview, an important meeting, airline travel, negotiating prices on a new car, picking up the kids at private school, and so on. There was a time in my life when I would have followed the above list, chapter and verse, to the letter.

But that was then, and this is now, and my priorities have changed. I am no longer hobnobbing with VIPs and others who may give me a lift up the corporate ladder, nor am I attending any PTA meetings. These days it is all about feeling good, looking good in my own idea of fashion, and not trying to impress anyone.

So here is the list of my ten wardrobe essentials:

  • the cozy bathrobe
  • the comfy slippers
  • the black yoga pants
  • the many pairs of knee socks and leggings
  • the perfect orthotics that fit my boots and sneakers
  • the snuggly hoodie
  • the really good (and forgiving) bra
  • the pile of silver jewelry
  • the stack of multi-colored tank tops with float-y jackets to match
  • The perfectly comfortable sneakers

There you go; comfortable, practical, good-looking, and stressless. Plus you don’t have to cash in one of your kids’ trust funds to buy them all.

Some of the Many Perks of Being Older

When I was a teenager, I couldn’t imagine being 64 years old–ever. Like every other teenage girl, I was self-absorbed and very conscious of looks, fashion, and so on. I remember how terribly important it seemed at the time to use the right mascara, eye shadow, lip gloss; what outfit I wore to school, and whether or not I looked “cool.” Like many girls my age, I slept with my hair in those torturous wire and brush rollers, so my hair would be fashionably poufy the next day. Who needed sleep anyway?

My mother, impatient at me for being nearly late for the bus because of all my primping, would say, “You know, the entire world is not holding its breath, waiting for you to stroll out of the front door like Loretta Young! (see picture below)”

Loretta young studio portrait.jpg

But that’s how youth is, and youth can’t imagine being old. In my teens, I thought that “old” meant being over 30. At that time, 30 seemed so far away. And you know what? At this age, 30 still seems far away–only it’s gone the other way….

What I couldn’t know then was that your outlook, attention and focus change as you get older. You accept yourself as you are, from head to foot, warts and all. (That may take a while, but it does happen.) In fact, when I looked through our family album recently I said to myself, ‘what the heck was I worried about? I was a good-looking kid!’ Funny, isn’t it? You never give yourself credit for who you are when you’re young.

However, getting older is a whole lot more fun than I could have imagined. These days, I actually don’t give two hoots about what other people think of me. In fact, it’s hard to remember when that did matter. Once you grow up, have some real life experiences–many of which are big and scary–you change your focus. These experiences change you in that you become more aware of your mortality; that your time is limited and you’d best get the most out of it.

There are definitely things to look forward to as those birthdays begin to blur by. So, at the surprisingly glorious age of 64, I am grateful for all the “perks” I have, such as:

  • Family–it is EVERYTHING
  • Senior discounts (love them)
  • Less makeup to wear (trust me on this one; less really IS more when you’re older)
  • You buy shoes for comfort, not for looks
  • You cherish people far more than things
  • You notice nature a lot more and appreciate it
  • You read for pleasure and for information
  • It’s a lot easier to spot people who will only bring you pain, problems and bad karma
  • It’s very satisfying to hang up on people you don’t want to speak with, i.e., political surveyers
  • You realize you don’t need to waste time with people you don’t like
  • It becomes fun to give your stuff away
  • You laugh with people your own age because you realize you sound just like your parents
  • If you haven’t worn it, used it or even remembered it in a year–toss it!
  • Bad jokes are even funnier than when you first heard them
  • You learn to agree to disagree with good friends; it’s the friendship that really matters
  • You view those silver hairs as your own personal tiara
  • You realize that you don’t ever, EVER have to do something you hate because someone else wants you to
  • You find it’s really ok not to clean and dust every single day
  • You take up some new fun hobby and enjoy the very hell out of it
  • You take a good hard look at your Bucket List, and transfer some items to the F***it List (hey, you weren’t ever going hike Kilamanjaro, were you?!)

So, there you have it–age is what you make it. And there are all those perks, too!



Love Many Things

“Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.” — Vincent Van Gogh

Don’t you love this? I do, because I too am a lover of many things. Every so often we ought to take a few moments to consider those things that we love. They are part of our lives, and we can’t help loving them. They are part of who we are and why we are here, doing the things we do.

Those things change over time, too–when I was a baby, I loved my stuffed bear, Percy. (For the record, I still have him, and I still love him.)

When I was growing up, I loved my parents, grandparents, friends, my cat, my bicycle, seashells, marbles, minerals, jewelry, reading and writing, climbing trees, singing and acting, going to summer camp, crafts—the list went on and on.

As I became older, went to college, then moved out of my parents’ home to a place of my own, I loved other things. I loved that I had my own little home and could set it up any way I wanted. I loved it that I could make my own meals, then sit at my own table (a wooden one whose legs I painted a buttery yellow–I called it Big Bird) and read a book while dining. I loved it that I could rescue and adopt a sweet gray cat of my own. I named her Billie, and we lived very happily together.

Now that I am at this stage of my life, I love still more things. I still love reading and writing, jewelry design, walking, seashells, minerals, etc. But now I also love playing the ukulele (adequately), dancing hula, doing Zen Tangles and more. I love my Crankee Yankee and our four cats; Nala, Pookie, Plumpy-Nut and Tinker, and I love all the people in my life.

I love the sunrise and sunset, the moon and stars, the ocean, and every season of the year. I love how it makes me feel to walk down to the pond and see all the life there; herons, geese, ducks, seagulls, cormorants, swans, an occasional bald eagle, turtles, minnows, and the one muskrat I call Von Muskratty. I love that each season of the pond has its own unique beauty and magic.

I love all the possibilities of life, and pray that I don’t miss any of them. There is so much to love in this life, and I hope I get to love it all. I want to make this year full of more love and less resentment, hurt, fear and worry.

Anybody with me?