It’s Not My Fault (Or Yours, Either)

Just the other night I was watching one of my favorite TV shows. The Crankee Yankee was long gone to bed and was sound asleep. Around 9pm, the phone rang. Now, two things: any phone call after 8pm usually means bad news, a death in the family, a trip to the ER, and so on. Do bear in mind that I was born in the ’50s, and no one ever called after 8pm unless it was an emergency.

Yeah, yeah, I know: those days are long gone. However, us baby boomers grew up this way and it’s a bit hard to shake the things we grew up with. These days when we get a phone call in the evening on or after 8pm, it’s either a scammer or an emergency. So when the phone rang at 9:02pm, I went right into ’50s mode. I answered the phone snarling, “who’s calling at this time of night?!”

Turns out it was an old friend of the Crankee Yankee’s, who was merely answering the voice message the Crankee Yankee had left him several hours ago. Well, I felt badly about my surly answer—for about one minute. Seriously, we truly stick by our old habits, one of which is don’t call after 8pm unless it is a dire emergency. 

Here’s the thing: at my age I still strive to be civil to people who call us; that is, except scammers. It’s an old habit to shake, but seriously, who calls late at night unless it’s an emergency?

That said, I didn’t feel all that bad about snapping at the guy on the other end of the phone. Of course, should I meet him in person, I will apologize for my snappishness. But seriously, I’m not going to waste my time worrying about offending someone who called late at night. That just not something I’m going to fret about. So I use the magic phrase “it’s not my fault,” and I feel better. There’s no sense swimming in guilt. I spent way too much time in my earlier life beating myself up over something stupid I said or did.

These days, I do my best not to offend anyone or be rude to anyone. BUT should I bark at someone who calls after 8pm at night, well—-that’s different story and I’m not going to waste my precious time worrying about offending the late-night caller. As I often say: not my zoo, not my monkeys.

 

Don’t Forget Your Neck!

I wrote this a few years ago, but it’s still true—don’t neglect your neck!

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Ah, the neck––so often covered up by scarves, turtlenecks, high collars and massive necklaces. If you are older as I am, you will need to pay good attention to your neck as well as your face. What do I mean by that? Just this: if you wash your face morning and night, also wash your neck morning and night. At night, after moisturizing your face, don’t forget to moisturize your neck as well. The same applies with sunscreen; put it on your face and neck; ears, too if your hair style doesn’t cover them up. Even on a cloudy day, you can get UV damage which can age your skin.

 

It’s a sad fact that our necks start to poop out a lot sooner than we’d like, so it’s important to treat the neck as nicely as possible. It doesn’t like getting older any more than you do. Neither does our upper chest; how many times have you seen wrinkled cleavage?

Speaking of things that should remain unseen, I find it a lot easier to cover up more; it’s easier on everyone.Where I used to wear shorts in the summer time, I now wear capris or cropped pants. Where I used to wear low-cut tops, I now wear simple v-necks. Shoot, I don’t even wear ballet slippers anymore because 1) I need my Good Feet inserts, and 2) I don’t even like my toe cleavage these days.

The older we get, the more we need to cover up the wrinkly bits. But since we can’t always wear scarves or turtlenecks or chokers, we can at least give the neck the same attention as our face. Another trick I use is to hold my head up as high as I can. (This way perhaps no one will notice my neck, but will appreciate my good posture!)  But we still need to give the neck its due morning and night. A decent cleanser, skin toner, moisturizer and sunscreen does wonders. Every so often, you can treat your face and neck to a good facial scrub prior to cleansing. If you enjoy *facials as I do (I generally give myself one once a month), you can use it on your face and neck, and they won’t cost you a dime (see below).

But I digress. Necks need attention as well as our faces because, let’s face it (no pun intended), it makes our faces look worse if our necks are neglected. It’s a lot like putting a really cute hat on a monkey–while you love the hat, it’s still a monkey wearing it.

*Here are my recipes for facials for both dry and oily skin:

For dry skin: Mix one egg yolk with two tablespoons of olive oil. Apply to face and neck for about 10 minutes or when it dries. The combination of the rich yolk and oil help lubricate dry skin. Wash off with mild soap and water, and follow with toner and moisturizer.

For oily skin: Apply one beaten egg white to face and neck for about 10 minutes or when it dries. The egg white acts as a drawing salve to pull out oils. Wash off with mild soap and water, and follow with toner and moisturizer.

R.I.P. Tinker

The Crankee Yankee and I recently lost one of our six cats; our big orange boy, Tinker. He and his pal, Plumpy Nut, were strays years ago, and we fed and watered them all through the spring, summer and fall. We never knew if anyone owned them. When winter came, we felt that we had to take them into the house. We couldn’t bear the thought of them being cold with no place to go. So we took them in, got them to our vet for all the necessary cat stuff, and they became part of the family. At the time, we only had our only female; Nala, and our only male; Pookie. They all got used to each other, and we loved having four wonderful cats.

Later on, we got Bailey, who had lived with my mom and dad. All five cats got along well, and we were a happy cat family. Earlier this year we also adopted Scooter, a black male with a white spot on his chest. Long story short, he had belonged to someone in the neighborhood; someone left the door open and he ran out. He had been on his own for about two years, and we took him in. So there we were, with six happy, healthy cats.

But last Saturday, our Tinker stopped eating and drinking. We tried everything to entice him to eat; nothing worked. By evening we were very worried about him, and we took him to the emergency animal hospital. It appeared that he had lung issues, and had somehow eaten something with fleas; which once inside an animal turn to nasty parasites; worms actually. The vet there did all he could to rid him of the worms, and when we got Tinker back, he seemed better.

But he wouldn’t eat or drink. He was lethargic and slept most of the days. Our own vet checked him out, and did all he could to get him feeling better. But once at home, again he wouldn’t eat anything.

Then the other evening, he suddenly stood up, howled and then coughed up some blood, fell to the floor and died. The Crankee Yankee and I were beyond shock and grief; we honestly thought that Tinker would eventually get better. We cleaned him up, and placed him on a clean blanket in his carrier and took him to the emergency vet for the last time.

An autopsy showed that he had had a heart attack; I didn’t know that cats could have heart attacks. We left our dear boy there for cremation and wept for him. His best pal, Plumpy Nut looked for him, which of course broke our hearts.

Some good news: Plumpy has bonded with our Pookie, who is as shy as Tinker was. They have what we call “the boy’s club” down stairs; Plumpy sleeps on the table I fold laundry on, and Pookie sleeps under the table in his cozy cat bed. They and the other three cats; Nala, our only girl; Bailey, and the latest kitty, Scooter, are our family now.

Any pet owner knows that eventually our pets will die. It’s a sad but true fact—all of us with die sometime. It always hurts to see them go, but often it leads to adopting another pet who badly needs a home. A new pet can never be a substitute for the one gone; but he or she can quickly become part of the family.

The thing that comforts me most at this sad time is something I heard from an animal behaviorist. She had had many dogs in her life, and she studied them; how they live their lives, how they eat, drink and sleep, how they quickly become part of the family; and, interestingly enough; how they “communicate” with their owners. When their time to leave comes, animals are intuitive about the coming change. They know that they are now old, tired and sick and their lives are waning. The animal behaviorist explained how animals view dying; it’s as though they realize that they no longer have the strength and energy they used to have. If they could speak, they would say “this body no longer serves me.”

That one phrase comforts me. I’ve always thought that animals were wiser about life and death that we are; this confirms it for me. The Crankee Yankee and I are are slowly recovering from Tinker’s death, and we miss him dearly. Tinker loved to sleep with us every night, and he was a real bed hog. Often one of us would wake up in the night with cramped legs, and saying, “Tinker! Move over!” How I miss that.

Be happy, Tinker. We will always remember you and will love you forever. Until we meet again…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wisdom of the Birds

Yesterday around 4pm I went out to buy birdseed. As I loaded the bag into the car, I looked up and saw a huge flock of birds flying together against the waning blue of the sky. As I drove home, I saw two more flocks of birds. They all flew together, and now and then one or two would fly up to the front, letting the last “front runners” fall back. There was an easyness and comraderie among them; you could tell that this is how they roll together. It made me think of a little story I heard a long time ago about the wisdom of birds:

“A long time ago in a little forest, one year there was a fiercely cold winter. The animals and birds who lived in the forest made ready for the coming cold as best they could. For the most part, the animals knew where to shelter and stay warm. The large birds, such as the blue herons, the eagles, the raptors and all, just flew away to warmer climes. But the pigeons and the little birds; the sparrows, the chickadees, the nuthatchers and all couldn’t fly away fast enough before a chilling snowstorm began to howl.

The little birds came to the pigeons and said, “you pigeons are so strong and warm, could we please shelter up under your wings?” Many of the pigeons immediately agreed and each lifted a warm wing. The little birds gratefully huddled up against the pigeons’ warm bodies, sheltered under each large wing.

But some of the pigeons said, “no! I’m not going to waste my body heat on you little birds; I need it for myself!” And they flew off to perch in the tall pine trees. The other pigeons, each with their own little bird tucked safely under their wing, settled in to weather the storm.

The next day, the storm had passed, and the sun shown brightly over the sparkling new snow. All of the pigeons who had sheltered the little birds were warm and safe, as were the birds; they had warmed each other. But the pigeons who had refused to shelter the little birds were dead; frozen stiff.”

The moral of this story is this: like it or not, we need each other. We need friendship, love, companionship, understanding and occasionally, some help. Sometimes we are too proud to ask for help. Sometimes we are too full of ourselves and think that we are smarter than others and can manage everything ourselves. But taking a lesson from the birds, there is wisdom in sharing our “warmth” with others.

 

Fleeing From the Fleas!

Our six cats (yep—count ’em; SIX) are all indoor cats. That said, they are not immune to getting fleas. How is this possible? Well, while they don’t go outside, we do. It’s either me going out in the mornings and evenings to feed and water the strays, or the Crankee Yankee working the in back yard.

We learned the hard way to get some flea spray and spray our pant legs going out and coming in. We had an incident with our big boy, Tinker,about 48 hours ago. I saw him vomit and it wasn’t just a little spit-up; it was full-fledged vomit. Not only that, but he was having a hard time breathing. So the Crankee Yankee and I put him in his carrier and took him to our emergency vet hospital.

It turned out that not only did he have fleas, but also tape worms! The poor guy was sick and scared, and thankfully the wonderful people there got him back on his feet. As of yesterday, he still didn’t want to eat, but he should get back to his old self soon. He was given some meds that greatly helped him as well.

Here’s the thing: fleas are still around when the weather starts to turn cold; they can even hang around after the first frost. Don’t make the same mistake that we did; if you are going outside in bushy areas or tall grass, get yourself some flea spray (the one we got was pleasant-smelling, too!) and spray your legs and feet. When you get back in the house, wash those clothes in hot water and soap.

Always check your living areas and spray rugs and padded furniture just in case. Even cat toys should be washed in hot water or thrown away if you even think that there might be fleas on them. Fleas can give your pet a very bad time, and you don’t want that to happen. Emergency animal hospitals can be quite expensive, so be prepared. But your beloved pets are worth it.

Our National Anthem: Becoming Obsolete?

Way back in the dark ages (that is, the 50s when I grew up), any time you heard our national anthem you stopped in your tracks, placed your right hand over your heart and stood at attention. Why? Because we were raised to respect our national anthem, our flag and our country. We lived in a time where to do less was unheard of.

Oh, these days you can dismiss our national anthem as old-fashioned, divisive, old-school, or whatever. But for us old farts who grew up in the 50s we always stood up during the national anthem; it was called respect for our country. You can say that we who were raised back then to respect our country in every way are just a generation of old fogies clinging to a bygone era.

But think of this: what else in America will suddenly be seen as old-fashioned, divisive, old-school and be torn down? Many schools have dropped American history, which is not only a shame but one more way to ignore our past. And as we have sadly learned, to ignore the past is to repeat the worst of history.

When I was in grade school, I read about the holocaust, the wars, the atrocities done to the innocent and more. I went to my dad, who had served in WW2 and asked him how these horrors came to be. Long story short, he told me this: “if you think that these things are over and done with, know this: they can and probably will happen again.” I asked him how we could stop this. His answer? “Pay attention and read your history.”

We are already losing monuments, statues and other reminders of days gone by. We may not like them or agree with their presence, but like it or not, they are part of our history. They are reminders that we have made mistakes in the past and we need to learn from them. If everything that offends everyone is gone, we will no doubt make the same horrendous mistakes of the past all over again.

I don’t need to list all the wrongs that we Americans have done or not done; our history teaches us this; that is, if you read history. Knowing our own history in this country is not only a way to not repeat errors of the past, but to learn how to live with each other, respect each other even if we don’t always agree on everything.

Speaking only for myself, I would be heartbroken if our national anthem became obselete. Below is the complete version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” showing spelling and punctuation from Francis Scott Key’s manuscript in the Maryland Historical Society collection:

“O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight

O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket’s red glare, the bomb bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep

Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,

What is that which the breeze,

o’er the towering steep,

As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,

In full glory reflected now shines in the stream, ‘Tis the star-spangled banner –

O long may it wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,

That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion

A home and a Country should leave us no more?

Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand

Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!

Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land

Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,”

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”