A Truly Relaxing Sunday

The Crankee Yankee and I had every intention of cleaning the house last Sunday; vacuuming especially was in order. With five cats and an old house that quite literally bleeds dust everywhere, vacuuming on a regular basis is critical.

Not only that, but I promised that I would clean the bathroom as well. Understand, our downstairs bathroom can be cleaned top to bottom in less than 15 minutes since it’s so small. I did manage to run a load of dishes in the dishwasher, and I also liberated four “science projects” in the ‘fridge. While I do keep a white board on the door stating what eatables are in there, some do slip under the radar. (Enough said…..phew!)

We had planned to dedicate ourselves to vacuum the rugs and the floors, and to dust and polish the furniture. (Oh, and I did make up the bed, but then I always do so I suppose that doesn’t really count.)

However, the Crankee Yankee found the British program “Top Gear” on TV, and the vacuuming, dusting and polishing were rescheduled for another day. Why? Well, because it is arguably the funniest show I have ever seen (look it up and watch an episode; you will either laugh until you wet yourself or roll your eyes and say ‘what a total waste of time!’). Personally I find that most things British are hilarious, but then again I grew up with Doctor Who and Monty Python and the Goodies.

I can honestly say that both of us have never laughed so hard and so long in our lives. All the cats just looked at us and then took naps, probably thinking ‘stupid humans.’ Both of us laughed until the tears were pouring down our faces. (BTW, I am laughing right now as I write this).

Eventually we got around to cleaning, but the laughter was far more important than cleaning at the time. It’s all about the priorities!




Our Old Computer is Dead—Long Live the New Computer!

Well, it was bound to happen; our old desktop computer had finally slipped its mortal coil, taken the big dirt nap and has gone to the happy hunting grounds. In short, our old desktop finally bit the dust.

So we now have a wonderful new Apple computer with an enormous screen. Our faithful IT guy got it all set up for us and we are still learning the machinations of our new computer. However, here’s what I always think of when I am faced with something new in my life: My Two Weeks At the Bakery.

When I was a teenager I worked at our local bakery for two weeks at the end of one summer. It was run by a man and his wife who had absolutely no sense of humor. Oh, now and then the wife would utter a low ‘hah-hah-hah’ now and then, but they both were focused on their work. Everyone from miles around loved that bakery; everything from donuts to pies to muffins to bread and fancy cakes were sold there. They also made fabulous cookies, and each kind of cookie was priced differently.

As the place was always packed, there was no time to go looking up the price of a chocolate walnut cookie vs. an oatmeal raisen cookie; you just had to memorize them. Which is exactly what I did; I never thought I could do it—the bakery sold dozens of different cookies. But I did do it; I managed to remember each and every price of each and every cookie.

From that time on, whenever I had a hard job or task to do, I would remember how I memorized all those cookies. Then I would say to myself, ‘well, if I could memorize the prices of all those damned cookie, I can do THIS!’

Which is exactly what I’m doing now; learning how to navigate this wonderful new computer. Wish me luck!


Our Night Visitor

If you read my blog, you will know that the Crankee Yankee and I are owned by five cats. It didn’t happen all at once; they just sort of showed up over the years, and we took them in. Each one had a story, and all sort of saved each other; and us.

We also feed the strays in our area; we have a “feeding station” in the backyard. The Crankee Yankee put it together with wood and plexiglass, and everyone seems to like it.

The top tier offers birdseed and cracked corn plus a bowl of fresh water for the birds and squirrels. The middle tier has one of the *heated pads I bought for our cats, plus a bowl of food. The ground floor features a wooden box fitted with one of the pads and a blanket, plus food and water.

We also put food and water on our front deck, in the garage and under our back porch (all walled in so it is relatively snug). We like knowing that our “guests” (and even the indoor/outdoor cats who actually have owners) have access to these comforts, especially in the cold weather.

One of our “regulars” is a largish gray and black tiger cat we call Stripey. We honestly don’t know if anyone owns him, but he has been a frequent diner all through the fall and winter. Just recently, we noticed one of our cats staring fixedly down on the front porch (it is protected by a roof and plastic sheeting all around so that the Crankee Yankee can go out and work on the siding in fair weather.)

We looked down, and there was Stripey, nestled into one of the short stacks of the insulation (fortunately not the glass type). We figured that he has been sheltering there most nights. So during the daytime I put out his very own bowl of food and water, close to where he sleeps. As we have been having some pretty cold and windy nights, I added a thick fleece blanket on top of the insulation. As of this morning, he is snuggled up in it, so I guess he’s happy about the addition.

Yep—we are a couple of suckers for animals, and don’t they know it. Whenever we find out that one of our “strays” actually belongs to someone, we are glad—and they are still welcome to food and shelter at our place. When spring and summer roll around, we also have our resident skunks who come toddling out at dusk. When our gardens are at their peak, they like to “shop” the garden for the occasional snack. After all, we have plenty of produce.

A note to indoor/outdoor cat owners: please seriously consider getting “break-away” collars for your cats. Make sure that they have a medallion on the collar with their name, your name, address and phone number on it. It is also a good idea to add “shots up to date.” This way, people know that they have had their rabies and other very necessary vaccines.

It is also an excellent idea to have them micro-chipped and registered on HomeAgain. This is a service helps get your pet back home to you safely, should someone find your lost pet. Even if you have indoor only cats, should they get out of the house, you have a far better chance of getting them back.

*These are great; they are made with an interior layer that reflects a cat’s own body heat to keep them warm; no plug required. Plus they are machine washable.

The Last Day of February

Yesterday we had a miraculously warm day; 65 degrees—unheard of in February! I took advantage of it and walked around the pond. A lot of the ice has melted, leaving a few slabs to sink slowly out of sight. The ducks were back, chattering and bickering (no doubt about how cold their feet were in the icy water!), paddling around in the open water.

Overhead, six black birds dive-bombed a huge hawk out of their area, squawking as one for it to move on. The intruder finally got the message and took off, and the black birds settled into the tree branches, boasting about their triumph.

Of course, this early in the season, the turtles and frogs are still sleeping soundly in the mud. They won’t surface until their internal clocks go off, letting them know that the water and air is warm. The herons will come back to stake out their favorite fishing spots, and, later on in the summer, perhaps the swans will return in all their fluffy white glory.

There were two red-winged blackbirds swaying on the reeds, scoping out real estate for this spring’s nests. At this time, they are placid but still wary. Once spring and nesting time is in full throttle, the males will be very aggressive in keeping everyone and everything away from their nests. But for now, they merely eyed me as I walked by.

Even now the pussy willows are budding out in their silvery-gray glory. The branches look as though they are filled with tiny gray kittens resting on the limbs. The sun is bright, and even now there is a shift in the air; a faint scent of spring to come.

Each time a new season rolls around, it is breath-taking. We’ve seen it happen over and over again, and yet it never gets old. Every season brings its own special gifts with it. While winter is ending, spring is beginning. Oh, you can’t see it quite yet, but it is coming along.

When, in the last day of February, I see even one red-winged blackbird in the reeds, I know that spring is on the way. All creatures of water, ground and sky know it. And if we are wise enough to stop; listen, catch the scents on the wind, see the subtle changes, watch the creatures, we will know this as well.

On Assigning Blame

I know that we all have different beliefs, different ways of looking at things, different reactions and different methods of processing information. We are all different; we all have opinions, biases, fears, beliefs, truths and untruths. These things can divide us or unite us.

In the aftermath of the school shooting in Florida, we are at turns saddened, outraged, angered, hurt, scared and worried. How do these things happen? What makes a person turn his anger and hurt and neglect into the cold-blooded and systematic murder of  innocent people?

This post is not about this single incident in our history. It is not even a diatribe against those who failed to act when they could have saved lives, and those who should have spoken up and followed up but didn’t. It is not political, it is not about laws, it is not about ‘see something, say something.’ This post is about assigning blame.

Upon hearing so many say, ‘where was God in all of this? How could He have allowed this to happen?’ This and all other horrible and senseless acts like this, in my opinion and in my heart, is not about God. It is about people. What I personally believe is this: we were born into this world with all of our talents, gifts, our good and our bad things, our potential and our attitudes. We were also given the gift of free will.

Free will means that God or any other deity does not run our lives; we do. It is our choice to be wonderful or horrific, good or bad, kind or unkind, honest or dishonest. Certainly who we are also hinges upon how we were raised, what are our circumstances were, who were our role models, did we have parents who cared about us and taught us how to be decent people, or were we orphans with no one to care for us? Did terrible things happen to us to make us hate ourselves and everyone else? And the list goes on.

When we decide to do something good or bad, worthy or destructive, kind or malicious; that is a decision we make. It isn’t as if we are all programmed with a “STOP!” button when we chose to do harm. If so, we would all be robots with no will of our own. Free will means that we are responsible for our own actions. This also means that, too often, innocent people are affected.

With all my heart, I mourn the loss of the innocents. I cannot wrap my head around what makes a person launch an attack against others. I weep for those lost, and for all those who are in the agony of those losses. God or whatever deity anyone believes in did not cause this or any other terrible thing to happen; people cause these things.

Free will is both a gift and a double-edged sword. Let us use it wisely.