Trying to Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

As the news gets gloomier and doomier, I just stop watching it. I do care what’s going on (and boy; wouldn’t I love to hear this: “Hey, folks guess what; we now have a shot that kills off the corona virus!”), but sometimes too much is just too much. I am very lucky to have the Crankee Yankee, my brother and sister-in-law, friends, neighbors and kitties; without them I don’t know what I would do.

So these days, my mantra is this: “glad and greatful, glad and grateful” over and over again. I can’t do anything about the way things are today, but I do have hope for a cure and most of all, I hope that we learn some valuable lessons on the way. Perhaps we will make some new changes in our lives for “just in case” situations; maybe we’ll make room somewhere to store canned goods and so on, just in case (and if you do, do NOT forget to have a can opener down there as wel!). Perhaps we will not be so complacent. Perhaps we will be more grateful, more understanding and more kind.

When I used to spend weekends as a child with my grandparents, I used to ask my grandmother what it was like during the depression. She would tell me about how fifty cents could buy a loaf of bread, some vegetables, and a precious bit of butter. Ever since, she always put up jams and jellies and so on, kept in the cellar; “just in case.” Now that I too am in a similar situation, I understand her better.

The Crankee Yankee and I are all for the “just in case.” Downstairs we have racks of canned goods; the older ones at the head of the pack to be eaten—also cat food and so on. We have batteries and flashlights, bandages, and the list goes on. Of course, anything can happen at any time, but for the most part, we are ready for most anything.

This isn’t meant to be a “hurry/worry” thing; it is only a reminder about how things can turn on a dime. This doesn’t mean that we have to hoard and keep our guns loaded (and that’s another story for another time). It only means that we need to be aware and be ready just in case.

Just for today, let’s try and look on the bright side of life.

 

From the Kind Blog

From the Kind Blog (which is amazing and thought-provoking), there is this idea to make others happy( which by the way will make YOU happy as well!):

  1. Pay it Backward: buy coffee for the person behind you in line.
  2. Compliment the first three people you talk to today.
  3. Send a positive text message to five different people right now.
  4. Post inspirational sticky notes around your neighborhood, office, school, etc.
  5. Tell someone they dropped a dollar (even though they didn’t). Then give them a dollar.
  6. Donate old towels or blankets to an animal shelter.
  7. Say hi to the person next to you on the elevator.
  8. Surprise a neighbor with freshly baked cookies or treats!
  9. Let someone go in front of you in line who only has a few items.
  10. Leave a gas gift card at a gas pump.
  11. Throw a party to celebrate someone just for being who they are, which is awesome.
  12. Have a LinkedIn account? Write a recommendation for coworker or connection.
  13. Leave quarters at the laundromat.
  14. Encounter someone in customer service who is especially kind? Take an extra five minutes to tell their manager.
  15. Leave unused coupons next to corresponding products in the grocery store.
  16. Leave a note on someone’s car telling them how awesome they parked.
  17. Try to make sure every person in a group conversation feels included.
  18. Write a kind message on your mirror with a dry erase marker for yourself, your significant other or a family member.
  19. Place a positive body image notes in jean pockets at a department store.
  20. Smile at five strangers.
  21. Set an alarm on your phone to go off at three different times during the day. In those moments, do something kind for someone else.
  22. Send a gratitude email to a coworker who deserves more recognition.
  23. Practice self-kindness and spend 30 minutes doing something you love today.
  24. Give away stuff for free on Craig’s List.
  25. Write a gratitude list in the morning and again in the evening.
  26. Know parents who could use a night out? Offer to babysit for free.
  27. Hold up positive signs for traffic or in a park for people exercising outside!
  28. Return shopping carts for people at the grocery store.
  29. Buy a plant. Put it in a terracotta pot. Write positive words that describe a friend on the pot. Give it to that friend!
  30. Write a positive comment on your favorite blog, website, or a friend’s social media account.
  31. Have a clean up party at a beach or park.
  32. While you’re out, compliment a parent on how well-behaved their child is.
  33. Leave a kind server the biggest tip you can afford.
  34. When you’re throwing something away on the street, pick up any litter around you and put that in the trash too.
  35. Pay the toll for the person behind you.
  36. Put 50 paper hearts in a box. On each cutout write something that is special about your partner or a friend. Give them the box and tell them to pull out a heart anytime they need a pick-me-up.
  37. Everyone is important. Learn the names of your office security guard, the person at the front desk and other people you see every day. Greet them by name. Also say “hello” to strangers and smile. These acts of kindness are so easy, and they almost always make people smile.
  38. Write your partner a list of things you love about them.
  39. Purchase extra dog or cat food and bring it to an animal shelter.
  40. Find opportunities to give compliments. It costs nothing, takes no time, and could make someone’s entire day. Don’t just think it. Say it.
  41. Take flowers or treats to the nurses’ station at your nearest hospital.
  42. Keep an extra umbrella at work, so you can lend it out when it rains.
  43. Send a ‘Thank you’ card or note to the officers at your local police or fire station.
  44. Take muffins or cookies to your local librarians.
  45. Run an errand for a family member who is busy.
  46. Leave a box of goodies in your mailbox for your mail carrier.
  47. Tape coins around a playground for kids to find.
  48. Put your phone away while in the company of others.
  49. Email or write to a former teacher who made a difference in your life.
  50. When you hear that discouraging voice in your head, tell yourself something positive — you deserve kindness too!

I Am the Laundry Queen!

I have always loved doing the laundry; there is something satisfying about it–in with the dirty clothes, out with the new, fresh clean clothes. Even folding the clothes, sheets, towels, what have you—it’s all good. Once all those nice clean and fresh-smelling items are put back in place, I feel that I done something worthy.

The Crankee Yankee gets a kick out of how I herd up as many dirty items as I can; hey—the more, the merrier! There is nothing like fresh, clean towels and sheets, too. However, I have to be very casual about putting clean sheets on the bed. Our yellow cat, Bailey, is a fool for fresh sheets. If he sees me strip the bed of well-used sheets, he knows what comes next: a wonderful romp on the naked bed while I’m trying to put the new clean sheets on it.

And don’t we have it easy these days as far as laundry goes! As a child, I used to help my grandmother wash clothes in an old-fashioned washer, wringer and “dryer.” Below is pretty much what my grandmother had to wash clothes in. The “wringer” on top was there to squeeze the water out of the clothing:

WOW! VINTAGE MAYTAG WRINGER WASHER ELECTRIC WASHING MACHINE MODEL N2L

I heard this a hundred times: “don’t put your hand in the wringer!” (Why would I?!) Once all the clothing was squeezed to dampness, it was time to put the clothes on the line outside with wooden “pins.” After that, the sun did all the drying. That was all well and good in the warm months, but the same had to be done in the cold months as well. Believe me, it’s no picnic hauling in clothes that are literally hard and icy.

But all that aside, I have always loved doing the laundry. There is something satisfying about it that makes me happy. The Crankee Yankee now calls me the Laundry Queen. I told him that I am still waiting for my crown!

New Books!

Yesterday the Crankee Yankee told me that he wanted to take me to Barnes and Noble to buy some new books. As he put it, he was sick and tired of me re-reading all my Harry Potter books over and over again. Since the corona virus rudely upset our collective apple cart, plus the fact that our library is deep into renovation (and Heaven only knows when they will be done and open again), the only way to find new books is to go buy some.

After a long and enjoyable visit and a bag full of six new books, I couldn’t wait to get home to start reading. It’s a funny thing—when things change so drastically these days, we all seem to go to our own “spaces” to get away from all this *sturm and drang. For some, it’s exercising, or gardening, or writing, or reading and so on. Whatever gets you through the nights or days is a good thing.

I remember one of my teachers way back in grammar school, who wrote on the blackboard this that I have never forgotten: “There is no frigate like a book.” There is something both soothing, comforting and exciting about reading a really good book. It truly can take you away to another place and time.

Over time when I would go to our library to pick up some good reading, I would first go to my favorite authors. After that, I’d take a chance at a few new authors just to see if I’d like them. Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t. But all in all, it was always wonderful to dive into a brand new book.

Perhaps there is another purpose to what’s going on these days; perhaps we are meant to be in our houses together; perhaps we will get to know each other better and be more tolerant and find that we are living our days without the usual hurry/worry. Perhaps a few hours with a really good book may make all the difference in our attitudes and new way of life.

*From Merriam Webster: Sturm und Drang comes from German, where it literally means “storm and stress.” Although it’s now a generic synonym of “turmoil,” the term was originally used in English to identify a late 18th-century German literary movement whose works were filled with rousing action and high emotionalism, and often dealt with an individual rebelling against the injustices of society. The movement took its name from the 1776 play Sturm und Drang, a work by one of its proponents, dramatist and novelist Friedrich von Klinger. Although the literary movement was well known in Germany in the late 1700s, the term “Sturm und Drang” didn’t appear in English prose until the mid-1800s.

Garden Stories

We have had blazing hot weather for over a week, and now that it’s cooled off some, we’ve noticed that our tomatoes, peppers, corn and cukes have benefited greatly. The tomatoes are still tiny, but they’ll be coming along soon. So far the critters haven’t bothered them, but as always there are slugs (yuck).

To give the cukes a leg up, the Crankee Yankee has gently strung them up with string so that they will cling to the fencing; works every time. The peppers are coming along well, and, in the sunniest plot, the corn is growing fast. The tomatoes are always the first to show up; the big show-offs.

There’s something soothing and comforting (and sort of zen-like) about having a garden. Once the produce starts coming along, we always find that we can’t possibly eat it all. So we put out a few baskets with a sign saying: “fresh produce; help yourself! (But please don’t take our baskets.)”

Whenever I am in the garden, plucking out the grubs and encouraging the worms to do their thing, I remember the gardens that my grandmother and my mother had. It was wonderful to get out in the early morning to pick what was ready, and know that it would be part of our dinner later on.

It always amazes me that one tiny seed can develop into something as delicious as a sun-warmed tomato. If you’ve never gardened before, give it a try. It isn’t that hard, and you won’t be paying for produce from the store.

Now, if only we could grow avocadoes…

 

The Best Uncle Ever

At this stage of my life, I have lost my mother and father, my grandparents, some friends, and aunts and uncles (and cats, of course). But I still have my favorite uncle, whose name is Raymond, but I have always called him “Unkie.” I have loved him always; he always told the funniest jokes and stories. When he came down from Maine to visit with me and my parents and grandparents, it was a wonderful time.

So many times he would tell me about how, when I was born and he and Mom were worried doing all the right things, he asked the doctor how to handle me. According to Unkie, he said, “just keep her warm and dry, and hold her like a football.” (That always cracked me up!)

When he came to visit, especially for Thanksgiving and Christmas, it was such a special occasion. I loved him so much, and loved the way he would tell the funniest jokes. My favorite one was about the lady who was going to fly for the first time, and she was worried about missing her flight. She got to the airport as early as possible so that she wouldn’t be late.

As she sat down and waited, she noticed that the man sitting across from her carried with him a violin. He wanted to get a cup of coffee, so he asked her if she would watch his violin for him. When he left, the lady kept looking at the violin. She wondered how hard it would be to play a violin. She looked around to make sure that no one was watching, and she opend the case and drew out the violin. She tucked the violin up to her chin and picked up the bow. She drew the bow over the strings, and was delighted to hear the sound that it made. Satisfied, she put the violin back in the case.

It was getting close to the time to start boarding, and she had to go to the bathroom. She asked the man behind the counter how much longer it would be to board, and he said that they would be boarding quite soon. It was then that she realized that she really had to go to the bathroom. So she ran to the closest bathroom, and was embarrassed that she farted all the way.

By the time she was finished and ran to the counter, she found out that her plane had aready boarded! She asked the man if there was any way she still get on the plane. The man looked at her and said, “well, you fiddled around and farted around, and now you missed your flight!” To this day I still laugh my head off about that joke.

Last year when I took my Hawaiian trip, Unkie warned me about people who tried to get you to buy a condo in Hawaii. As everyone now knows, it’s harder to get rid of a condo than it is to get rid of herpies, so I promised him that I wouldn’t fall for that.

Unckie is in his mid-90s now, and is living with my cousin Marie and her husband, Joe. Unkie is, as he says, “ready to go.” He asked me once if his wife, Dottie (who died many years ago) would be waiting for him in Heaven, or would she be back with her first husband (who was terrible to her)? I told him that he shouldn’t worry about that, and than I was positive that she will be waiting for him with a big smile on her face, and her arms open wide.

He is my last remaining uncle; the best uncle ever. While I dread that final phone call letting me know that he has passed away peacefully, I know that he will be with his wife, my mother and father, his parents and his friends. As I believe that God is good, I believe that when we pass on we are met by those who have gone on before us, arms open wide and smiles on their faces.

American Accents

When I was in college I had a professor who was fascinated by accents. In fact, he had traveled from Maine to California, bringing a tape recorder with him. He made stops in each state, and asked people to say the words to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” One day he brought the tape recorder to class and had us listen to all the accents all throughout the country. It was amazing!

Each state has its own accents and sayings. Take for example Maine and New Hampshire; you’ll hear the natives say “ayah,” which is their way of saying “yes.”

When I lived and worked in Texas, I listened to people’s accents; so different from New Hampshire. Then there are little sayings everywhere that you would only hear in Texas, such as “do whut?” That’s their way of saying, “excuse me, I didn’t quite hear what you said. Could you please repeat it?” Another one always tickled me: “why, he’s just as happy as a possum in a cow plop!” And there was this that I heard all the time; someone would say that it was time for him/her to go grocery shopping: “Ah’m fixin’ to go git groceries.”

Although it has been decades since I graduated from college, I still remember how interesting it was to hear so many accents from Maine to California. Even my granddaughters now have Maine accents. I nearly died laughing when I heard the oldest one tell a friend of her parents that her name was “Ava Paka Hon.”

Amazing, isn’t it that each state has their own accent?

 

Doing the Right Thing

I don’t know about you, but I am amazed and chagrined to see so many people refusing to wear a mask these days. I’ll admit that I don’t always watch the news, but I sure am on board about wearing a mask outside or in crowded places. I am appalled to hear that so many people are carping about how they are “losing their rights” by being told to wear masks.

I have to wonder; would they be happier not wearing them but dying off like crazy? I mean, if you are suicidal and you want to die, then by all means don’t wear a mask. As Americans we do have certain rights and privileges, but wearing a mask these days can actually save your life.

The way things are is our current “normal.” It’s not a whole load of fun, but there it is and we can certainly adapt. Let’s face it; this “new normal” is just how things are right now. I have no doubt that someone somewhere will come up with the right drug to kill off the virus. But until that day comes, let’s be smart and wear a mask.

Personally I am sickened to see statues being torn down, riots going on, police being attacked when they are trying to do their jobs to keep people safe. While there is a lot wrong going on now, there still is a lot of good going on. There are young kids who are doing nice things in their neighborhoods. There is kindness where there used to be hatred. There are volunteers who help others who need help. There are doctors and nurses who are doing their almighty best to help those who are suffereing from the corona virus.

Imagine having a loved one in the hospital, knowing that they can’t go in there and hold their loved one’s hand. But there are doctors and nurses who are doing all they can to comfort those who are sick and those who are dying. But the some of the doctors and nurses, as busy as their are, take the time to sit down and hold the hand of that someone who is dying.

This situation is scary as hell, and wearing masks these days is the new normal. Granted, it’s not a load of fun to wear a mask wherever there are people around, but just speaking for myself, I’d rather wear a mask than die. Please, let’s all do the right things; wear a mask if you go outside or in a crowded place, wash your hands often, and have a little compassion. Believe it or not, this too will pass. And when it does, let’s not forget that things like this can happen again.

How About We Use the “Talking Stick?”

I’m a big fan of the Kindness Blog. I wonder how much anger could be stopped by using a “talking stick.”

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From the Kindness Blog:

NOW’S THE TIME FOR ‘TALKING STICK’ THERAPY ~ BY MIKE O’CONNOR

The talking stick, also called a speaker’s staff, is an instrument of aboriginal democracy used by many tribes, especially those of indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast in North America. The talking stick may be passed around a group, as multiple people speak in turn, or used only by leaders as a symbol of their authority and right to speak in public” (Wikipedia)

When’s the last time you had a real conversation?

When was the last time you told someone your raw truth? Spoke with vulnerability about your deepest pain? Your hopes? Or your fears?

Maybe you’re tired of talking about things that mean nothing to you. TV soaps, sport, fake celebrities, the weather, fashion, what’s happening on social media and on and on. Just endless ‘noise’, free of content that has any depth. Thousands of words spoken every day, countless words heard, but still you’re left unfulfilled. Without your heart being touched or challenged. Or even changed.

The pandemic has caused many of us to take stock, of what’s important, of what matters to us and which of the things in our lives are simply distractions.

We need to communicate.

Personally, I want, no, NEED, to speak my truth. I NEED to hear yours. In times of isolation or societal upheaval, more than ever, we need to get honest and listen to one another.

There are family homes today where each member of the clan sits in a different room, on their phone or iPad.

We’re close to each other but miles away from one another.

It saddens me.

I think it’s time we bring back the talking stick and use it so that we can practice truthful speaking and mindful listening. So we can draw close again.

Imagine…if regularly, all members of a household, friendship group, couples in relationships, or working colleagues put everything down, turned everything off, sat together quietly and began truly listening to each other.

What would we hear? Maybe a promise might be made? An overdue apology offered? Might there be a confession? A reconciliation? What funny story would come to light? Could you hear the reality of someone’s job or the importance of a special friendship? Would we pick up on something that wasn’t being said? That we needed to hear? How much more would we understand and empathise with one another if we slowed down and stopped for a little while to listen?

What will you talk about, when the talking stick is placed in your hand?

Using the Talking Stick – Some Pointers;

  • We listen deeply. No sitting there, wondering how to reply. We don’t get to speak till it’s our turn so, instead, we listen to whatever is being said with our full attention.
  • We practice patience. We certainly don’t talk over someone, we wait quietly, listening to the other’s words, their tone of voice and meanings.
  • Conversation will slow. It will deepen. If you’re in a conversation and you spend most of your time thinking about what you’re going to say in reply you’re certainly not listening. If you’re not listening, what might you miss? Slow down. Breathe deeply. Pay attention.
  • Set an agreed talking time (preferably with a gentle alarm/tone/alert) to remind us that our turn is coming to an end. Suggested time for each person is 10-minutes to start but you can adjust this up or down as you become familiar with the practice and settle in.

There’s no need to go out and buy an actual talking stick. You could use a small branch you find fallen off a tree. Any basic object will do – a feather, a stone, a pencil or a paperweight. The point is that the stick gives the person holding it the POWER to speak and to be heard.

What do we talk about?

It’s totally down to you and yours. Perhaps, to set the scene, you could light some candles, switch off all electric gadgets and become quiet.

There’s only one ground rule: You can’t speak unless you’re holding the talking stick.

You could think about having a talking stick session without any pre-agreed topic. A freestyle session, if you like. Or, you might like to decide in advance to share thoughts about your friendships, love, grief, faith, science, your childhood, God, aliens, what you’re scared of, where you come from, your career, who has hurt you, who you admire, who you can’t forgive or anything else that you wish.

Play with the subjects and talk about whatever is important to you.

The talking stick will help you to understand more about the people in your life and you will be understood. You will be heard and you will listen. Your relationships will deepen.

What are you waiting for?