The Crushing Weight of Everyone Else’s Stuff

What in the world do you do when someone you care for gives you something of theirs that they have cherished all their lives and want you to have because they know that you ‘will cherish it all your life as I have’??? And what if you hate it? Moreover, what if you just plain have no room for it?

Here’s the thing: we may love and adore those folks who want us to have some of their treasures–but we don’t necessarily love their treasures. As I am approaching the time when I start thinking I’d better start weeding out all our stuff, I wonder if my granddaughter will want some of my own treasures. The kid does love jewelry and I have plenty to leave her, so we’re square on that score.

But when it comes to things like my own grandmother’s beautiful old glass goblet from Ireland (the one that rings like bells when you pour red and white striped peppermints into it at Christmas) that I love–who will love it after me? The saying is that ‘you can’t take it with you,’ so as I go along I tend to gift things along the way to others who might like them. It’s the same way I feel about giving a gift to someone–once it passes from my hands to theirs, I no longer worry about it. The gift is the giftee’s now, and if they want to throw it up in the air and shoot it, it’s none of my business.

I have been reading about the recent trend of small houses lately. And by ‘small,’ I mean houses that are literally 250 square feet–and that’s one of the larger ones! I admire people who have adapted themselves to live in them. How did they ever escape the stuff their relatives and friends thrust upon them? I would think that, when all you own can fit inside a 250 square foot house (that no doubt includes a cat or dog or two), you really wouldn’t be interested in things that don’t have multiple purposes.

But back to the question: so what do we do with other people’s stuff? If we hate it but hang on to it because it was Aunt Mabel’s and we loved Aunt Mabel, then maybe we should keep the love but pass on the stuff. Love is so very convenient, and it fits any space. Not only that, but it seems that the human heart can hold a great deal of treasure and still have infinite room for more.

One of my goals this year is to clear the clutter, give what can be given, donate what I no longer need, gift where possible, and throw out what really needs to go. There are some treasures I will pass on when I’m ready to let them go, but I know that the love and memories of the people who owned these things will be stored up safely in my heart. And that, my friends, I can take with me.

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How to Turn the Tables on Those Pesky Phone Scams

I don’t know how often this happens to you, but the Crankee Yankee (my husband) and I often get phone calls warning us that our computer has “reported problems” to them. The earnest-sounding person on the other end assures us that he/she is from <insert computer company name here> and has our best interests at heart and that they really want to help us–for a price.

Well, first of all, I’m no technical genius, but no computer I have ever used has had the capacity to go rogue on me and start tattling to its maker about unauthorized access. Furthermore, when these phone calls started I immediately called the company who made my computer and told them what was happening. They assured me that they do not initiate telephone contact with their customers. They also warned me to never give out our IP address (well, DUH). If there is a scam, virus or other issue, they notify by email or snail mail.

What these phone scams attempt to do is to scare you into giving the caller your IP address (do not EVER do this over the phone–ever!!) so that they can gain access to your computer in order to “help.” If you give them your IP address, you are really going to have problems–EXPENSIVE ones.

When you get one of these phone calls for the first time, it’s scary and if you’re like me, you go right from skeptical to scared in seconds flat. You imagine horrors like having your identity stolen, your bank accounts emptied, and so on. Instead of hitting the panic button, do this: if you have a trustworthy computer guy with whom you regularly work, call him ASAP. We have Steve, who has known and worked with us and three computers for over 10 years. In our case, Steve came over, looked through the computer, ran a few diagnostics and told us that nothing was wrong. He also told us that these types of scams are very popular, and that the perpetrators count on fear to get access to supposedly faulty computers. So having a ‘Steve’ of your own will not only ensure that your computer is running well and has all the protections in place, but will give you peace of mind. Well worth the price of the visit!

So, now that we know about these scams, the Crankee Yankee can’t resist having a little fun with the callers. His latest “reverse scam” goes like this:

Scammer: “Hello, sir? I am calling from <insert computer company name here> to let you know that your computer has notified us that it is having serious problems. You are in great danger of losing all your important information and data.”

The Crankee Yankee: “Is that right? Well, which computer of mine is telling you this?”

Scammer: “What–which computer? What do you mean?”

The Crankee Yankee: “I have a bank of 52 computers. WHICH of them is ‘telling’ you this?”

Scammer: “Wait–wait–you say you have 52 computers??”

The Crankee Yankee: (impatiently) “Yes, I have 52 computers. Now are you going to tell me which one of them is having a problem or not?”

Scammer: “Um, are you a business?”

The Crankee Yankee: “Yes–I am a business.”

Scammer: “What kind of business are you?”

The Crankee Yankee: “A cyber security business.”

Scammer immediately hangs up.

Years ago, before we were married, I suspected that the Crankee Yankee had a talent for stuff like this. One evening we were enjoying dinner and chatting when the phone rang. It was a telemarketer from a telephone company offering “great new low rates” on our long distance service. The Crankee Yankee listened politely, and at the end of the spiel the telemarketer asked if he could sign us up for this wonderful deal. The Crankee Yankee declined, saying that we were quite happy with our present long-distance service. The telemarketer asked what our provider’s services were, and the Crankee Yankee answered, “Two Dixie cups and a string.” They NEVER called back.

Look, I realize that people have to make a living and that the ones who cold-call don’t have it easy. Telemarketers must know that, when they go into that business, the majority of us aren’t going to appreciate their calls (which oddly enough always seem to be right at dinnertime). It’s part of the job.

The scammers are another story. I have no respect or sympathy for those who knowingly and willingly attempt to steal from people using fear as their motivation. This isn’t honest work–it’s criminal. Frankly, I think it serves them right to get a Crankee Yankee on the phone to wind them up now and then. Or maybe it will just make them scarier and more persistent. Be that as it may, it sure did knock the socks off the last guy who tried to scam us!

Besides, remember the old karmic law: what we put out to others comes back to us THREEFOLD!

 

 

 

The Power of Amazement

Have you been amazed lately? If not, why not? There is amazement all around us. Just for today, take a good look around. No, really–a GOOD look. Look up at the sky–that sweet, promising fragile blue shot through with wisps of white clouds. It’s prettier than a Wedgewood vase.  Take a look at the trees–they know it’s spring, and they are already working on their tender green leaves. It will look like fuzz on a newborn’s head, but it’s there. On those brown patches of ground where the snow has receded, blue jays and robins are busy scratching away, searching for treasure.

If you live near the water, there will be a constant symphony of the remaining ice breaking up–it crackles and creaks and moans; it knows it’s time to go. Ducks and geese fly overhead in honking Vs, and the seagulls bob on the open water. Cardinals begin  their sweet songs just before daylight, and invade our early morning dreams with the promise of warm weather to come. Just the other day on my drive home there was a turkey buzzard soaring over the highway, gently riding the thermals, its immense wings spread wide.

Amazement is not only relegated to nature. It is everywhere–we just have to open our eyes. When you see your child recover from an illness and smile again, that is wonder, joy, gratitude and amazement. When you hear a favorite symphony and you thrill to that beautiful music, that’s amazing.  A loving word given at the exact time you need to hear it is a gift and a blessing. When you visit a parent and see their eyes light up simply because you are you, that is a singular amazement.

You don’t need to go far to be amazed. Sometimes in the dead of this very long and very snowy winter, I craved the sight of flowers and lush greenery. I Googled up “beautiful tropical flowers,” and feasted on their beauty for a wonder-filled hour. The same with breath-taking scenery, wildlife, sunsets, sunrises, the Northern Lights, landscapes around the world–well, there’s just no end to the amazement.

The Crankee Yankee (my husband) and I have skunks that live close to our property, and we put food out for them (and all the other critters who come by) under our porch. Now that warmer weather is on the way, we often see them waddling down the bank in the back yard to come and feed. The fact that they seem to know us and often stand in full view (at a respectful distance) while we put food down for them is both comical and amazing.

Sometimes amazement comes in the simplest forms: a cold drink of water when you’re thirsty, a great book that holds you for ransom until you finish it, a hot meal when you’re hungry, a fleece blanket when your legs are cold, one of the cats cuddling down beside you, a cool breeze smelling of new greenery, the first flower spotted in the thin snow of March–all amazing.

Let’s let ourselves be amazed today. Let’s not be the kind of people who shrug and say, “Whateverrrrr…” dismissively. Imagine for a moment that your senses are all brand new: new eyes, new ears, new nose, new mouth, new skin. How wonderful would be the first sight, sound, smell, taste, touch? Today let’s let wonder and amazement fill us and push out any resentment, sorrow, anger, fear or worry. If we let ourselves to be full of good things, there is no room left for bad things–only amazement.

 

Let Fear Go

Fear is all around us, and the news is full of it–a plane full of people goes missing and their poor families wait in unimaginable agony for news of any kind. An apartment building blows up in NY, killing some people, injuring others and leaving them homeless. A madman runs into a school, shooting everyone he sees.  So many people are out of work and, despite their best efforts, just can’t get a break. Our loved ones get sick or die on us, our computers get hacked, someone steals our identity, and on and on it goes. It seems that fear is right in our face, 24/7.

The biggest fear of all seems to be the big bad “What If?” We hear all this terrible stuff in the news and wonder if our up-until-now pretty great lives are at stake–what if any of this stuff happens to us? Letting that first fear in is just the beginning. Then comes the worrying about ‘should I never fly again? What if my home blows up? What if a shooter comes to my kid’s school? What if I lose my job? What if my husband/wife dies? What if someone steals my identity or my car or my purse? What will I do???’

But look at it this way–if they haven’t happened yet, they may not ever happen. This does not mean that we should skip merrily along life’s winding road and not prepare for possible emergencies. But it doesn’t mean that we have to live our lives in constant fear, either. Don’t even let that fear get a toehold.

The best we can do is to be positive, but not blind. We can prepare the best we can for emergencies in the usual ways:

  • Have a 72-hour emergency kit packed and ready [see “72-hour emergency kit” under Good Tips in General, posted September 5, 2013]
  • Have copies of your important papers stashed somewhere safe
  • Be sure that every family member knows the meeting place and phone number(s) in case everyone gets split up
  • Have a ready stash of cash in case banks and ATMs aren’t functioning
  • Make provisions for pets and their care
  • Have medications ready to grab
  • Keep the vehicles in good shape and gassed up

You can adjust to what suits your situation. When that’s done, there’s one less thing to worry about. We certainly can’t control the things around us, but we can control ourselves. It just isn’t possible to prepare for each and every thing that might happen; that way lies madness.

Here’s the thing: we just can’t afford to live our lives in fear. We can’t afford to waste our time with petty things that don’t matter (i.e., squeezing the toothpaste tube in the middle vs. from the end can be irritating, but it isn’t life-threatening). We can’t worry endlessly, and we can’t let fear rule our lives.

The most we can do is to prepare the best we can, be positive, live our lives, love our families and friends and reach out to those who need our comfort and support. If we can remember to give as we’ve been given to, help as we have been helped, and love as we have been loved, we will move a long, long way from fear.

“Duly Noted!”

Ever have someone come up to you and give you unasked-for (and unwanted) advice about your children, your job, your politics, your food choices, your vehicle and so on? If you’re like me, you have to wonder, ‘what is it about me that makes these people think I need their help?’

It’s one thing if you actually ask for help or someone’s opinion, but when advice is given without so much as a ‘if you don’t mind my saying so,’ ‘did you know that,’ or ‘the Know-It-All Weekly Gazette says that,’ then–no, thanks.

I used to work with a woman who was full of facts and figures about everything, and wasn’t shy about saying so to anyone who would listen. She regularly button-holed people and talked at them until they got that unfocused ‘please kill me now’ look in their eyes.

I really tried to give this gal the benefit of the doubt, and even considered her opinions now and then. I tried explaining my own position to her, I tried avoiding her, and I tried faking a call on my cell phone. Nothing worked. Here’s what I finally did: I would give her a good 60 seconds to talk, and then look her in the eye and say, “Duly noted,” then walk away.

“Duly noted” means ‘I heard you, I don’t care to engage, and we’re done here.’ If the person persists, keep on saying “duly noted” until they go away. Works for me.

 

Tweezing and Freezing in the Northeast

As you may know, we in the Northeast are experiencing our second polar vortex (I could have lived without knowing that word, also “wind chill” and “heat index”). Some of us are sneezing, others are wheezing, all of us are freezing, and I myself am tweezing. I’ll explain.

A friend of my mother’s received a birthday gift of an unexpected nature this year; light-up tweezers. She was less than delighted.

However, my mom and I immediately thought, ‘wow–great gift!’ Now that I’m old enough to 1) have gone through menopause (a fast depilatory all over, let me tell you) and 2) have had cataract surgery in one eye, I really appreciate a good pair of tweezers. So, being that the only hair I have that still grows is on my head, toe knuckles and around my mouth, light-up tweezers sounded GREAT.

Mom got a *pair for herself and a pair for me. I am now a tweezing fool. I was more than a little horrified to find that what I’d once thought were harmless and unnoticeable hairs beside my lips were actually dark. I’m sure that anyone younger than me has already been sickened or stricken with laughter about them; I just plain didn’t see them. But now that I do, I have the perfect weapon for those little suckers.

Honestly, those tweezers are fabulous. They may sound as tacky as light-up slippers (which, now that I’m older, actually don’t sound as corny as they used to), but boy–do they work!

Of course, if you don’t mind having that little Fu Manchu mustache, then by all means, go natural. As for me, a-tweezing I will go!

* “Tweezers” are another one of those odd nouns that, like pants, are single at the top and plural on the bottom.

Expect the Best and You’ll Get It

Yup, it’s that easy. Pick any day and go about in it expecting the best things to happen–then watch what happens. It’s both a law of physics and of karma; what you put out into the world comes back to you even more so.

Example: I currently have a great part-time job that is terrific in every way, except that it’s a 72.5 mile trip one way. Now, I could waste a lot of time and energy bemoaning the cost of gas, the wear and tear on my 12-year old car, the sheer time it takes, the traffic, etc. But for all those true things, here are some facts about that long drive that are also true:

  • The scenery up North (in any season) is absolutely gorgeous.
  • I get to listen to books on CDs and the time flies.
  • I have the chance to belt out Broadway tunes all the way to work and back if I like.
  • I have the perfect time to ‘think my thinks,’ as my grandmother used to say
  • All that uninterrupted time is great for me to plan my schedule, weekends, and so on.
  • I have the time to be grateful.
  • I often see wildlife I wouldn’t see near home; coyotes, foxes, hawks, even an owl or two.

Any day that we begin by grousing about this, that or the other thing pretty much sets us up for a miserable day.  I strongly believe in speaking and thinking positively because it WORKS. It’s become a habit to say out loud several times, “Everything today is going to go GREAT!” And things do go great.

Ever hear the old saying, “Look at the doughnut and not the hole?” It’s still true. When we automatically look for trouble and all its nasty little minions (Griping, Complaining, Moaning, Weeping and Wailing, etc.), we will surely find them. Even if things all around you appear to be in utter chaos, there is always something GOOD, too.

Don’t get me wrong–I can gripe and complain with the best of them. But I have worked hard to counter-attack with my magic potion I call my “Happy-Happy,” which is amazingly simple to make:

  • Look, really LOOK for all that is good.
  • Express thanks for a hot shower, a great bowl of soup, a funny joke, a pink flower, etc.
  • Listen to something that inspires you.
  • Sit outside in the sun for five minutes.
  • Breathe.

Add other positive ingredients as you see fit, and keep it with you at all times, whether in your head, heart or on a piece of paper.

Any time that doubt, fear, or worry kick in, JUST SAY NO. I mean it–say it: “I am NOT going to feel this way, I’m going to feel good and positive!” Pick a phrase or word that reminds you to look for the best wherever you are; say it and believe it.

There is nothing selfish in wanting the best for ourselves, our family, those we care for, and so on. There is no need to go through life all droopy and sad, saying ‘I don’t deserve this or that,’ ‘I could never afford this or that,’ ‘I don’t have what it takes to do this or that,’ and on and on. The limits we put on ourselves are what hold us back. What if we just canceled all those limits and decided that, from now on, we were going to expect good things, happy things, positive things? How would that change our lives?

Keeping a positive outlook and expecting the best for ourselves is a learned habit. We learned how to read, write, hang up our clothes, wash our hands, feed ourselves, and so on–we can learn this just as easily.

Even if we are currently in a situation where our choices and freedom is limited, our minds are still free. I’m sure I mentioned this in another entry–experiments have been done for years that actually measure energy. One of the simplest ones is to drop a stone in a pond. Instantly, the action of the stone in the water causes ripples to fan out to the edges of the pond. (Well, that makes sense, doesn’t it?) But here’s the amazing part: the ripples that come back to the center of the pond are even stronger than the ripples that went out from the center of the pond! Proof positive that what goes out comes back with more power!

It’s the same thing with us. Put out a negative thought, and it will surely come back to its source. Put out a positive thought and it, too, comes back to the source. Which would you rather experience?

We ALL have a choice to expect the best and get the best. It’s as easy as saying out loud, “I expect the best, and I get the best.” Really–it’s that simple. I’ve tested this out over and over again for myself and it never fails. Give it a try and see what happens. You will amaze yourself!