The Crankee Yankee and I don’t really believe in coincidence; when something happens that seems like one, we call it a “co-inky-dink.” If you keep your eyes and mind open, you will find them everywhere.

Not long ago, we went out to our local Chinese restaurant. At the end of the meal, we always read our fortune cookie messages to each other. I don’t remember his, but mine read “Always bring your glasses.” Which made me laugh because I can’t read squat without my reading glasses.

There have been so many co-inky-dinks in my life. When Mom was in home hospice care, I thought of how I would miss her when she was gone. Who would ever love me as much as she? Oh, I knew my dad, my husband, my relatives and friends loved me, but how I would miss that “mom love!”

I was driving home one day after helping Dad with her. As I went around the traffic circle in Alton, I noticed that the car in front of me had a license plate that read “URLOVED.” Coincidence? Nope, another co-inky-dink.

This is only one example of the capricious co-inky-dink; there have been many. They are a lot like miracles; if you believe in them, you see them.


“Halloween Kites”

When my parents were running their two businesses, photography and camp patrol, they always rented a small cottage in Maine during July and August. Later on they included most of September, too. It was a way to relax, get away from it all and to spend time together as a couple, not just as two business partners.

They did simple things that made them happy; walks, trips to the beach, going out for dinner, meeting friends, and so on. Of course they always brought their cat with them. Over the years there were three cats (one at a time) who enjoyed those trips.

One year during their vacation there was a huge Monarch butterfly migration. They were everywhere; fluttering their beautiful stained glass wings and floating on the soft summer air. Mom and Dad just sat and watched them, enjoying the grace and beauty of the moment. I remember Mom telling me that Dad said that they looked like Halloween kites.

Halloween kites! That still makes me smile.

I was on the road the other day, feeling blue and missing both my parents. I find that grief comes and goes. Some days it is a weight on the heart, and other days it is a passing thought that doesn’t hurt, but brings back good memories.

As I stopped at a red light, a Monarch butterfly fluttered right in front of my windshield. “That’s one from Mom,” I thought. A few minutes later, a second Monarch flew by, its colors blazing in the sunlight.

I smiled to myself and said, “and that’s Dad!”

Butterflies have always been symbols of transformation and change. They begin as a humble little caterpillar, and as they grow, they develop stripes of orange, black and white. At a time known only to them, they encase themselves in their pupa, which looks like a beautiful jade-green jar. What eventually emerges is a lovely orange, black and white butterfly.

When the former caterpillar works its way out of the pupa, it is a different being. It clings to the remains of the pupa with its new long legs, and slowly moves its damp new wings up and down. By the time the wings dry and furl out to their full size, it is a beautiful butterfly. When it is ready, it moves on, bringing beauty wherever the wind takes it.

May we learn at each stage of our lives to transform ourselves into who we are meant to be and live our lives fully.

butterfly animal symbolism

(From “Animal Symbolism”)

“I Wish I Could Fly”

My step-daughter recently told me that she was awakened by her oldest daughter, 5 year old Ava. She could hear her calling, “Mom! I need you!”

Wondering what might be going on; sickness, bad dreams, perhaps an eagle trying to get in the window, she walked into Ava’s bedroom, scooted her over in bed, and lay down beside her. She asked what was wrong. Ava looked at her and said, “I REALLY wish I could fly!”

After choking down her laughter, she hugged her and asked why she wanted to fly. Ava said, “I want to fly waaaaay up in the sky!” Don’t we all.

All our hopes and dreams begin in childhood, promising magical experiences, animals who can talk, special powers, and more. And why not? Isn’t childhood the arena in which we first try out our wings, our unique talents, our insight on the world and our understanding of the people around us?

I remember thinking that my grandmother was very old when I was a child. I realize now that she was about my age at that time. Even as we grow older, we still feel that inside we are young and strong and that anything is possible.

So while I laughed about Ava wanting to fly—I get it. Haven’t we all had dreams where we fly effortlessly wherever we want to go? At those times, we feel that anything is possible; even flight.

I wish I could fly too, Ava.


Things to be Happy About

Amidst all the *sturm und drang that we in this nation have endured over the past months, it is good to remind ourselves of all that is good around us. Take the amazing sunsets; sometimes the edge of the sky is burning with wide bands of gold, fire-y pink and lavender blue. Other times I can catch the **alpenglow that brightens the horizon with rose-gold just before sunset.

Then there are the phases of the moon at night; anywhere from the sickle moon (what we always used to call ‘God’s thumbnail’), to the half-moon, the three-quarter moon, and finally—the splendor of the silvery coin of the full moon.

Not long ago, I heard on the news that a school in Baltimore, MD is teaching young children how to meditate. Evidently, when some of the kids get disruptive and noisy and wiggly as kids do, they are not sent to the principal’s office. Instead, they go to the Quiet Room where an instructor shows them how to calm themselves; they are also taught basic meditation techniques (deep breathing, eyes closed, imagining being in a safe, calm place and so on). This is a lifelong skill that can absolutely change lives.

How wonderful to know that young kids are being taught how to control their emotions, runaway thoughts and nervous energy, simply by learning a few easy meditation skills. Just think of how life-changing this is! These children now know how to relax, take a breath, change their thinking, and learn that they actually have control over their feelings. I hope that this wonderful practice will spread throughout all schools.

Then there is the gratitude we feel in celebrating special days such as Veterans’ Day. The freedoms we enjoy were bought by the sacrifice of all who fought to defend our country and our way of life. We must never take them lightly, nor forget all those who made it possible for us to live in freedom.

When you can, thank every vet you see for their service. It means everything—they have given everything to help keep us all free. My eternal thanks go to every single veteran.

These are just a few examples of the wonderful, amazing and miraculous good all around us each day. Let’s try to take time, even if it is only for a minute or two—just to feel happy and grateful.

*From Webster’s Dictionary: 1. a late 18th century German literary movement characterized by works containing rousing action and high emotionalism that often deal with the individual’s revolt against society, and 2:  turmoil.

**Definition of alpenglow: A rosy glow that suffuses snow-covered mountain peaks at dawn or dusk on a clear day. Origin of alpenglow: Partial translation of German Alpengl&udie;hen: Alpen, Alps + gl&udie;hen, to glow.


Alpenglow over Mt. Fuji, Japan


Everybody Has Something

Someone recently reminded me that everybody has something; something going for them, and/or something going against them. We can’t see it because all we can see is what is in front of us. The most beautiful person in the world may have the outward appearance of someone who has the world by the tail, and we think (perhaps enviously), ‘they have nothing to worry about; they have it all.’

Well, maybe they don’t. They may be suffering from such low self-esteem that all they see in the mirror is a loser, a failure, an ugly person, a wash-out.

Then there is someone we might not even notice in our daily lives who has a brilliant mind and unbelievable talents; but never puts himself in the limelight. How many times have we been in awe of someone who, say, can pick up a guitar, put their hand on the strings and break your heart with the beauty of the music?

It’s funny how we can so easily discount our own gifts; we become so used to them that we think “well, anyone  can do that; it’s nothing special.” But to the person who can’t do that, it’s an amazing feat.

For me, words come easily. Ideas or thoughts or even one word someone says will spark an idea that turns into a blog post, poem or short story. It took me a long time to realize that this too is a gift; I am better with the written word than I am with actual speech. I stutter, I often don’t get the right words out, I stop in the middle of a sentence and then can’t remember what I was trying to say. Speaking is kind of an effort for me.

When I was in grade school, there were a few kids in my class who were mentally retarded (please excuse me if I’m not using the current ‘correct’ term). Everyone in class knew them, and we just worked with each other the best way we could.

One boy whose name I now forget could barely speak; he had a terrible speech impediment, and it was hard to understand him. However, he had a gift that no one else had. Any knot in any material; string, tape, cloth, etc.; he could unravel it. He would study the knot, humming lightly to himself, and then he would nod as if to say, ‘all right; that’s how to do it.’

Then he would go to work unraveling, and in very little time, the knot was gone. A simple thing perhaps, but definitely special. I think of him often and how that little gift of his set him apart from the rest of us in such a positive way. It wasn’t unusual for someone at recess playing cat’s cradle to inevitably get the string all tangled up, and would call for him to help. As he lumbered over with his shambling walk, he always had a big grin on his face because he knew he could help.

People are so much more than they appear to be. It’s hard not to judge people from what we see on the outside—that may be nothing like what is on the inside. I have learned over years and years of my own arrogance at assuming that some person was this, that, or the other thing. I was wrong so many times that I finally learned to say to myself, ‘don’t assume!’

The person who swerves in front of you on the road with no signal might be rushing to the hospital after finding out that their father just had a heart attack. The woman who pushed in front of you in line at the grocery store might have just gotten a bad diagnosis. We don’t know what’s going on in anyone else’s heart and mind; all we see is the outside.

I’ve mentioned this in another post a few years back but it bears repeating: a man got on the city bus with his four very rowdy children. He himself appeared to be in a trance of some sort while the kids ran amok. They chased each other up and down the isles screaming, they knocked over a lady’s cane and didn’t apologize; they were out of control.

One angry traveler spoke to the father saying, ‘can’t you control these kids? They are driving us all crazy!”

The man looked at him and said, “I’m so sorry. You see, their mother just died at the hospital and they don’t know what to do. Neither do I.” Needless to say, the annoyance changed quickly to compassion.

Everybody does have something; good or bad. It is not always apparent, but you can be sure it is there; we just have to look.


Happy Camper

When I was a little girl, Mom and Dad and I used to go camping together. At the time I was small enough to fit into the green leather wheel well of Dad’s ivory MG-TD. All of our canvas tents and camping gear were lashed to the running boards, and to this day the smell of damp canvas takes me back to those days. I don’t remember where we used to go, but as long as we went together, it was a lot of fun.

We had what I called “camp food” for supper; hot dogs roasted on forked sticks over the fire Dad made, followed by Mom’s baked beans and coleslaw. Dessert was marshmallows toasted on sticks; as many as you could eat. It was what we’d call today a “staycation,” meaning vacationing close to home. But for me it was adventure of the best kind; I was “out in the wild,” but safe and sound because I was with my parents.

When we camped during a full moon, it seemed extra exciting. In the glow of that gigantic silvery moon, all things seemed possible. Even now, decades later, the full moon seems mysterious and beautiful to me.

As a child, it was exciting to sleep in a tent and not in my bed at night! The twilight sounds of the birds and other creatures settling in for the night, as well as the haunting trill of loons on the lake; were soothing to my ears. In my imagination I thought of bears sneaking up in the dark to rummage through our supplies. It was scary but safe—my parents were with me, so what could possibly happen?

Often in the morning I was the first one up and awake. It was both mysterious and fun to emerge from our tent into the swirling morning mists. There was usually plenty of other tents in the area, and it was fun to imagine the people inside those tents.

For me, camping was a real walk on the wild side; imagine—sleeping outside where any monster or fiend could get you! But it always felt that our tent was a safe place against all scary things.

When we came back home, things always seemed sort of flat for a few days after risking life and limb sleeping out in the wild…..but now I understand truly what “happy camper” means!



Fresh Sweet Corn

If you love Garrison Keillor and his famous “Prairie Home Companion” show as I always did, you will no doubt have heard him sing the “Sweet Corn” song:

*”O that fresh sweet corn that the Lord sent down
So we know how heaven will be,
No grief, no tears, just the young golden ears
Plenty for you and for me.
Though the road be hard and deep is the night
And the future we cannot see
Take my hand, dear Lord, and I’ll be all right
If you’ll save a few ears for me.”

Having said that, this year the Crankee Yankee and I planted corn for the first time. I had never done this; in the three years we’ve had raised bed gardens (this year, seven beds were used), we’ve always tried something new.

Now I have seen corn growing in fields, noticed how one day you see actual corn silk (and did you know that each tiny strand of corn silk is attached to each tiny kernel of corn?) begins to form. One day when the corn silk has turned golden brown, you know that the corn is ready to pick, shuck and toss into a bath of scalding hot water.

Our first batch of butter and sugar corn tasted exactly like that; sugar and butter. The buttery kernels pop between your teeth, and the sweetness of the corn is a gift and a blessing. We have taken to eating corn nearly every night, and it just gets better and better. There is more than we can possibly eat, so it’s a pleasure to bring some up to my dad, and a neighbor or two.

I have enjoyed corn on the cob all my life, but I swear that no corn ever tasted as good as the corn we planted. It amazes and humbles me that you can plant little dried-up corn kernels in the ground, water them and cover them with dirt—then weeks later, you have corn to eat. Gardening is miraculous to me for the very simplicity of it, and the rewards you reap later on.

I don’t wonder why good old Garrison sings about fresh sweet corn; it is a taste of heaven.

*This is just part of the song, but to me, the best part of the song.