Not So Much “Dressed Up” and Just ….Dressed

The other day I went for a walk, and decided to wear the new top I bought a few weeks ago. It’s one of those great three-quarter length sleeve tops with long slits from shoulder to elbow, and with a longish hem. It is striped with lime, turquoise, pink and white, and I wore it with my white denim capris and a new pair of pink sneakers. I looked in the mirror, and thought it looked nice.

Wait—maybe too nice. After all, I was only going on my usual down-to-the-pond-and- back walk. Then I thought, ‘well, how ridiculous….didn’t I buy this because I liked it and knew I would wear it?’

So off I went on my walk, looking good and feeling good. After all, I’m old enough to wear whatever the heck I want. I recognized this ‘wait, I may be too overdressed’ feeling from childhood. Whenever my grandmother and I were out together (usually on a food shopping trip) and she saw someone “dressed to the nines,” she would always mutter the same thing: “humph! Just who does she think she is?”

That always baffled me because I always thought that the lady in question looked good. More confusing was the fact that whenever my grandmother went out of the house, she always wore a good dress and her best shoes, and put her makeup on. She then spritzed on her “White Shoulders” perfume, and she was ready to go. In other words, she dolled up when she knew she was going to town.

Shortly after she died, my mother and I were cleaning out her closet. We found a brand new London Fog raincoat she never wore; it made me sad to think that she might have thought someone would talk about her, saying ‘who did she think she was, anyway?’ What a waste of time and a perfectly good raincoat!

When I was younger, I dressed for other peoples’ approval. But as I got older I began to wear the things that pleased me. Years later, I laugh remembering the people who would ask me why was I so ‘dressed up.’ If that means wearing some great clothes and lots of jewelry, well—so what?

I’m a theatrical sort of person, and enjoy making my own wacky statement to the world. I always love finding fun “costume-y” things such as my lavender velvet ruffled jacket I found in a thrift shop, or the teal and gold “Bollywood” coat I bought on Etsy. Clothes ought to do the following for us:

  • Compliment who we are
  • Be comfortable
  • Make us happy

Looking back, I think that the people who asked me why I was so “dressed up” might have said this because they were not comfortable yet with themselves. It wasn’t because I was so outlandish, it’s just that at a certain time of our lives we want to fit in with others and not stand out.

Speaking just for me, I’m glad I’m past all that and finally can just let people think whatever they want. After all, most of us are too concerned with ourselves and the way we present ourselves to the world to worry about others anyway—am I right?

If that’s so, then bring it on—if you like cowboy boots with a leather skirt, go for it. If ripped jeans and lace tunics are your thing, good on ya. If you swan around in a hot pink sari with embroidered slippers, strut proudly. You and your style are you, and there’s not one thing wrong about that.

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*Husbandus Interruptus

The Crankee Yankee and I were driving somewhere the other day, and, just as I started talking about an issue with the house, he started talking about another subject all together.

Now, as I’ve stated in many posts, I despise being interrupted. Having someone talk over me in my book is just about as rude as someone helping themselves to food off your plate. They didn’t ask; they just reached over, grabbed your food and starting eating it without so much as a “may I?” As if you, the owner of the food, didn’t matter.

Before I reached a slow boil, I had a real “road to Damascus” epiphany; he talked over me because he didn’t realize (or hear) that I was speaking! My getting angry about that would be tantamount to me scolding a blind person for not seeing me.

Now I realize that we are both getting to the age where, if we don’t speak up, we may forget what we were going to say. As I realized this, my anger went away; he really did not hear that I was talking.      

So I told him what I had just learned. The poor guy; he knows how much I hate being interrupted, and he winced, saying, “sorry; I didn’t mean to interrupt you.” Surprisingly, I wasn’t angry, because I had finally realized the real issue: when he has something to say he literally 1) has to say it right now or he’ll forget it, and 2) blocks everything else until he has said what he needs to say.

Now, this may sound like making an excuse for bad behavior, but actually it isn’t. It is one more step up the ladder of understanding a person you love.  The Crankee Yankee is simply wired that way. My complaining about this would be about as smart as complaining about our cats purring too loudly in our ears—it ain’t gonna happen.

Is it still irritating? Of course it is; we both know this. Does it mean that I am the only one in this relationship to make allowances? Nope—not at all. In this life-long game of marriage, I still have the right to say, ‘hey, you interrupted me! Tell me what you need to say, but remember that I get my turn next.”

But this is like playing Scrabble: you can play strictly by the rules on the back of the box and call the other player out when they don’t follow a specific rule, or: you can make up your own rules and have a great time. (After all, it’s not like the Scrabble police are sending drones out to check on all Scrabble players, 24/7!)

So with that knowledge, I can go forward from this and remember how the Crankee Yankee is wired. Trust me, it makes things a whole lot easier. Is it a “pass” for him to always interrupt? Certainly not. But at least it makes it a lot easier knowing that the interruptions are not meant to wound.

Plus the Crankee Yankee has to put up with all my quirks and foibles, of which there are many. He has to put up often with “*Wifus Irritabilius” Often.

*My apologies to my late and beloved Latin teacher in high school, Mr. Gerald Holden.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

“Remember to Look At the Doughnut; Not the Hole!”

For two weeks one summer when I was a teenager, I worked behind the counter at the local bakery. It was late in the summer, and the bakery had lost some of its help, so they were short-handed. The couple who owned and ran the bakery were somewhat dour, but their baked goods were out of this world.

As the wife of the owner showed me around, I noticed that in the display case, each cookie had a different price. I thought, “How am I ever going to remember all those prices?” (I was surprised that in a very short time, I could remember then all.)

Although it was just a “mom and pop” shop, they ran it efficiently and well. Someone had drawn cartoons that were pinned up on the walls; one of a woman running with a hot pie that was dripping purple juice. The legend read, “Be careful—our pies are juicy!”

There were several others, but the one that stuck in my mind was a picture of a large doughnut with a small frowning man looking at it. The legend read, “Remember to look at the doughnut; not the hole!”

I think of that saying nearly every day. Have you noticed that some people are so micro-focused on the tiniest little detail that they miss the larger, more important details? There are those of us who concentrate their attention on those things that are wrong, and seem to miss all that is right.

I am one to become become obsessed with minute little details, and I have to stop and remember that doughnut hole. Take for example my stand on things left where they shouldn’t be, and things not there that should be.

For example, when the Crankee Yankee needs to sweep up a small mess,  he may take the dustpan and broom that’s hanging on the wall going downstairs to the basement. When I need them, they could be in the basement on his work table, upstairs where we are renovating, outside on the deck, etc.

I got so irritated that I couldn’t find the dang thing when I needed it that I bought three sets of them; one for the basement, one for the deck, and one for the upstairs. The original one is where it’s supposed to be; for now, anyway.

Well, it sort of worked; sometimes they are all where they should be, sometimes not. But here’s my “take-away” on it: I have a husband who is a handyman’s handyman; he can do just about anything. He is so focused on what he’s doing that anything he puts his mind to comes out well.

Because of his skills, we have saved thousands of dollars on home repair and renovation, and he is quick to help our neighbors when they need help as well. He is the first one to notice a hungry stray and put food out for it. In the summer when we have the raised bed gardens, he always has time to chat with passersby who have questions about how to start their own raised beds. Plus he gives away produce generously.

So whenever I think of my short stint in the local bakery so many years ago, I remember that cartoon doughnut. I remind myself to focus on the whole doughnut, and forget the hole in it. After all, it’s the “doughnut” that matters, isn’t it?

 

 

Let Go of Fear

Let go of fear? How the heck do we do THAT? There are terrorists all over the world trying to wipe us off the face of the earth, there are road rage folk who want to go to battle in their cars, there are lone gunmen (or gunwomen, for all I know), there are bears and alligators and killer bees and bugs carrying the Zika virus that are out to do us in, and so on and on and on. Just listening to five minutes of the news will probably give us brain cancer. It seems that everyone and everything is riled up to a fare-thee-well. It’s just plain nuts in the world today.

So, knowing all that, how do we keep fear from taking us over and turning us into lumps of quivering protoplasm, unable to do anything but shake and worry?

Note: I have to interrupt myself here. It’s actually hilarious that I am writing this post about how not to be afraid. I am a big scaredy-pants, worried about things like this:

  • someone will break into our house and take our stuff. Worse, let the cats out.
  • leaving an overhead fan on too long will cause it to eventually burst into flame, and burn down the house.
  • I will step on a large and irritable hermit crab in the dark.
  • I will wake up with a big spider on my face.

…and so on. This is why I am writing this post, to help you AND me.

Upon hearing something fearful, like another attack on another city, the killing of  innocent people, I ask myself, what can I do? If donating blood will help, I will do that. If all I can do is pray for the families of those lost, I will. But beyond that, I don’t know how to help.

If only the newscasters who bring us these terrifying news bits each day would just go off script, look directly into the camera and say: ‘To you watching and listening to this, here’s what you can do to help RIGHT NOW.’ I’m talking about events as large and as devastating as 9/11; so how DO you help?

Here’s what doesn’t help:

  • beating yourself up because you can’t do anything about the latest devastating event.
  • worrying constantly that something bad will happen right here, right now.
  • feeling guilty because you and yours are safe and sound.
  • feeling that you are somehow at fault because you have all that you need and others do not.

Here’s what does help:

  • Wishing well and/or praying for those in the midst of crisis—where intent goes, energy follows.
  • Be good to everyone as best you can, including yourself.
  • Be thankful for each breath, each hug, each kiss, each day—they are gifts.
  • Be compassionate as much as you are able.

So about being in fear—it takes effort, but you can train your brain to NOT fear. This doesn’t mean that you stop being careful and using common sense. I realize that I can lose my life at any second, but I’m not going to live as if it’s going to happen right NOW.

Here is a little trick I learned from Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love.” She talks about meditation and how hard it is to focus; to keep your mind from wandering, and especially to keep destructive thoughts out of your mind. So she pictured herself as a beautiful island, full of lovely palm trees, golden sand, brightly colored birds, delicious fruit, and so on.

In her mind she built a harbor for her island; this was the only way onto the island. At the mouth of the harbor was a large sign that read something to the effect of “anything good and useful and beautiful may come in to my island. Any ship bearing anger, or illness, or worry, or fear, or resentment may turn around and leave. You are not welcome on my island.”

When I have absorbed bad energy from something or someone, this is what I keep in my mind: that lovely and peaceful island. No one and nothing bad can come in; only good. I see big ships painted with words that say “disaster!” or “FEAR!” or “worry!” or “anger!” or “resentment”–all trying to dock at the harbor, but all being turned away, back out to sea.

I constantly have to let fear go because I know that I have done what I could and cannot make myself sick over what I know I can’t help. When 9/11 happened, in my mind I saw myself as a super hero, running into the flames and destruction over and over again to save all those people. I swooped down to catch all those who jumped, I carried person after person out of the flames, murmuring, ‘it’s all right, you are safe, I won’t let you die.’ How I wish that had been true.

But I have no super powers except the love and good energy I send out. Sometimes that is all we can give. And if that truly is all we can offer in the face of so much upheaval, suffering, and hurt, then we have done SOMETHING. Having done that something, we must let the fear and hurt go so that it does not poison us. This does not mean we don’t care; we do care, deeply. It means that we are doing all we can, as well as saving our own sanity and focus, therefore making us able to keep radiating positive energy.

It isn’t just letting go of fear, it is choosing a life that lets us help where we can, and help as we can.

To Meditate or MADitate?

I try to meditate often; I really do. As often happens, my mind wanders. This is a pretty common thing when you are relatively new to meditation. My standard deal is to get in a comfortable position, close my eyes, and think “peace, peace, peace.”

But minds love to wander, and mine is no exception. I have to keep reeling it in, thinking “peace, peace, peace” as a mantra to stay focused. Meditation (for me, anyway) is a way to keep stress low and relax. Now, those of us who believe in angels and spiritual guides often get messages and inspiration while in this relaxed state. So far, so good.

The tricky part is when your mind wants to focus on something someone said to upset you, a bill you weren’t expecting, an argument you had with a friend, the time earlier in the day when someone in traffic cut you off and gave you the one-finger salute. These thoughts can make you so upset that all you can seem to focus on is how crappy life has been to you lately.

That’s the state I personally call “maditation;” that is, you focus on all that’s bad in your life. It’s easy to do, and you can slip into it very easily. “Maditation” makes you feel worse than ever, while meditation makes you feel relaxed and grateful for all the good things in your life.

So, how do you stop “maditation” from creeping into your meditation? It’s way too easy to get irritated, riled up and angry over many things. Last September, I was hurt and furious when I was let go of my job of three years. I felt that I had been doing good work, helping our customers, being cheerful and upbeat; in short, being a good ‘corporate citizen.’ Worst of all, only one of the people with whom I worked closely ever called or spoke to me again. Needless to say, I went into serious ‘maditation.’

However, once I cooled off I realized that I had actually been handed a gift. It was around that time that my mother went into Hospice home care; her metastatic breast cancer was back and we knew she was on borrowed time. Now that job of mine was a 145 mile round trip for me, and even as a part-time worker I often worked nearly a full week at a time. There was no way possible that I could do this and be with my parents during Mom’s final illness.

I spent those following weeks and months visiting and staying overnight once or twice a week to help with Mom. Dad and I became a team, with help from the wonderful and compassionate Hospice nurses, we helped Mom’s last days be comfortable and good ones.

Most of all, those precious weeks and months meant the world to me. No job could ever mean more than the privilege and honor of being able to be there with my parents during this bittersweet time.

The difference between meditation and ‘maditation’ is simple; feeling good or feeling bad. I have so much to be thankful for that it gets easier all the time for me to drop ‘maditation’ like a poisoned hot potato. I embrace meditation not just to calm down, but to focus on all that is good, wonderful, amazing, beautiful and satisfying in my life.

I’d a whole lot rather be ‘med’ than ‘mad!’

 

Little Bites

The Crankee Yankee and I live in a relatively small house, and we have more stuff than space. The main issue is organization, which takes time and thought, not to mention discipline. What I have learned over time is not to take it on all at once, but in a series of what I call “little bites.”

For example, our desktop computer sits in the middle of our office table. Over the years, I’ve taken over the left side of the computer to keep items I use frequently, and the Crankee Yankee has the right side for his stuff. It is amazing how quickly both sides can turn to debris.

So I have had to become an archaeologist, sifting through layers of those things that have accumulated on my side of the computer; finding both trash and treasure. But, over a mere two days’ time, I managed to organize what I need and toss the rest. I’ve also been able to start working on the three shelves over the computer table.

I found things I’d forgotten we had, such as those great little sticky notes; good for leaving the Crankee Yankee messages like “Did you take your vitamins today?” I also found loads of scotch tape refills, labels, push-pins and more. All the time I was working on bringing order to chaos, I was muttering, ‘why in the HELL did I wait so long to do this?’

Then I stopped to take a look around the whole office, not just my little bit of it. There is a LOT to be done, more stuff to sort through, and stacks of stuff I’ll bet we never needed in the first place. For example, we have a small bookcase full of old phone books. Seriously–phone books–from 2007 on! Needless to say, they are going right into the old burn-it pile.

I truly admire those who can take on an entire room and have it whipped into shape by the end of the day. Now my mom could do that easily. Unfortunately, it looks like I haven’t inherited that particular gene. But what I have learned is that I work best when I work in little bites. This way I see the progress and am encouraged to do more the next day. Most of all, I don’t feel overwhelmed.

There are more areas in the house that need help, too, but I plan to just ‘little bite’ my way through the whole thing. Here’s the thing: we are who we are, with our own particular tools and talents. Some of us can break down a messy and disorganized office in a day, others of us need to divide it into smaller parts.

I work successfully when I do things my own way, not the way others would. There’s no sense beating myself up over it; it’s just who I am and how I work. Take from this post what you will, but also know that we are more successful when we are true to ourselves. There is a reason why we are what we are—let’s not fight it, but learn to work with it.

 

Change of Face or the Dancing Bunny Conundrum

Did you ever notice that, when the news media shows a picture of a criminal on TV, you automatically see them as one? We may think or mutter to ourselves, ‘humph–he LOOKS like a criminal!’

However, if the same face is on the news and the commentators are praising him to the skies for running into a burning building to save a toddler and his puppy, we think, ‘wow–what a hero!’ After hearing that, he LOOKS like a hero to us.

It’s the same face. What makes the difference between viewing him as a criminal or a hero? Although much of it is perception, I’d say the bulk of what we believe is what we hear. If I hear and  see someone whom the media is damning for a  criminal, that’s how I see him. The converse of course is true; if touted as a hero, a hero is what I see.

It is fair? Probably not, but there it is. I read once that if crabs could talk, and you picked one up and said, ‘you crabs are all alike; you all even look the same.’ The crab would probably reply indignantly, ‘not so! I am special, unique and different from all other crabs! Just look at the green spots on my claws; have you ever seen such a beautiful design?’

No matter that each and every crab has the same pattern of green spots; this individual crab would protest how different and special he is. (Sounds a lot like people, doesn’t it?)

Our media today is honed to such a fine point that we can nearly see a crime before it happens. Policemen and women are wearing body cameras now, there are drones who can gawk into our lives at any time, there are security cameras everywhere, and anyone who has a cell phone can snap pictures or take videos of live action at any time.

It’s interesting to speculate on what exactly makes a criminal a criminal and a hero a hero. Our hearts are warmed when we see videos of dads or moms returning from the armed forces and surprising their children at school. We love our heroes. But our hearts turn sour when we see or hear of someone who has committed a heinous crime or hurt another person.

We usually don’t know these people, so we cannot make an honest judgement. But remember that the job of news media is to not just impart the latest information, but to shape it in the most sensational way possible to get and hold our attention. I call it the “dancing bunny *conundrum; i.e., ‘watch the dancing bunny while I distract you from what is REALLY going on.’

While we are getting wound up over things for which we can do nothing, there is real life to be lived, real situations where we can help, and real people with which to interact. I don’t know about you, but I’m trying harder to ‘get real’ these days.

Wish me luck!

*Conundrum:

  • 1:  a riddle whose answer is or involves a pun

  • 2:  a question or problem having only a conjectural answer, or an intricate and difficult problem