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Coop Couture

Here's a heart warming story.   A group of nice ladies who like to knit found an unusual group to dress this winter.  These nor'eastern gals have knitting needles and yarn, chicken are shivering.  It's a win/win!

Many chickens do feel the cold.

 And some seem suited to wearing a custom frock.

That may be.  One thing's for sure, though.  You don't have to be a chicken to look good in a sweater.

Read about the Boston Knitting Bee here.                                          

Special thanks to
A Little Bird Music
The hours of daylight keep growing longer, concurrent to increased bird activity. 

The chorale is warming up. 
There is a road that leads to love.
A red winged blackbird male is on top of a nearby tree
 waving his wings around, screeching and squawking.
  Surely this female is only pretending not to notice.  

This fellow has been singing a sweet simple melody.
He sounds somewhat like a canary.

Snow happens.  It's still winter, after all.  

Flickers have been active for some weeks now.
  It takes time to carve a nest in a tree truck. 
 The early bird gets the first brood.

Bird online. 
It doesn't matter your political beliefs — cyber bullying the president's child is wrong
I'm lucky that I grew up right before Facebook and Twitter existed. Being bullied in school was bad enough. But, for kids today, social media provides another medium for bullying. For kids today, bullying doesn't end when they go home from school for the day.

According to, more than half of young people have experienced some type of cyber bullying. These victims are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem and to consider suicide than those who have not.

Now, imagine being the president's child. Not only do you have to worry about being bullied by your peers, but it's open season to be bullied by adults as well.

For example, when 17-year-old Malia Obama was accepted into Harvard, she was attacked on social media and by commenters on Fox's website. And, even though Donald Trump was only inaugurated a few days ago, his youngest child Barron has already been a victim of cyber bullying.

SNL's "Weekend Update" writer Katie Rich tweeted on Inauguration Day, "Barron will be this country's first homeschool shooter." Fox Sports writer Pete Blackburn tweeted, "Baron Trump has killed no less than 100 small animals" and Comedy Central writer Stephen Spinola wrote, "Barron Trump looks like a very handsome date-rapist-to-be."

This makes me sick! Barron, a 10-year-old who enjoys playing with Legos and golfing, doesn't deserve this! But, thankfully, people from both political parties have come forward to stick up for him.

Even though she's the daughter of Trump's opponent, Chelsea Clinton can obviously relate to what Barron is currently going through, and she came to his defense on Sunday. She tweeted, "Barron Trump deserves the chance every child does-to be a kid."

And arguably the best response was by freelance journalist Edwina Langley on Grazia Daily: "Yes, people are worried about how Barron will turn out. But if anything’s likely to make him turn out like Donald Trump, it's this: repeatedly being told he is him already, and subjecting the boy to the same vitriol as that aimed at his father. Let it not be forgotten that if you bully and ridicule a child, the only lesson they will learn, is themselves, to bully and ridicule."

It doesn't matter your political beliefs. Whether it's a student in your class or the president's son, bullying a child is just plain wrong and disgusting.

Hate does not combat hate. Only love does.

Some months ago, The Daily Puppy made a monumentally foolish decision.  You see, they don't offer a daily picture of a puppy anymore.  They have reinvented themselves.  Now called Cuteness, they offer helpful information.  What had been a delightful daily email has morphed into preschool level edification.  For example.  How do you know if your dog is happy?  Answer:  his tail is wagging.  Worst of all, the photos accompanying the verbiage are just not my idea of quality cuteness- too many people are featured. 

Naturally, I have unsubscribed the Cuteness emails.  Meanwhile, dog pictures are not difficult to come by here at the Bad Dog Ranch.  Come to think of it, we got the inane remarks covered too.  To wit, look at this!  Clover gets a bit chilly when the temperature hits single digits.  Turns out, she looks good in red.

Lily, on the other hand, is completely comfortable without a coat.   

Then there's Henry.  You might say his job is Cuteness.

Lexi Williams: 'I've been begging for help & no one will help me'
"I'm so sorry that no one listened to you. I'm sorry that you had to suffer through that alone. I wish I could've helped," tweeted @DiamondReally.

"It's heartbreaking to see how you begged for help so obviously and nobody took it seriously. May you rest in peace up there," tweeted @TotallyBia.

These are just a couple tweets out of thousands about Lexi Williams, a North Carolina teen who lost her life to suicide. The 16-year-old Ashbrook High School student died on Nov. 21 after jumping from the Cox Road bridge onto Interstate 85 in Gastonia.

I wish Lexi could have known that she wasn't alone before she died, how many people related to her struggle and how many people wanted desperately to help. Maybe then the outcome would have been different.

But that's the thing. When she was alive, people didn't see all of the signs that filled Lexi's social media account. Lexi was practically screaming for help on her own Twitter, writing things like "When you try to talk to your mom about your stress and mental health issues & she tells you to get over it," and "I've been begging for help & no one will help me."

I think people have become more aware of suicide in the last few years. It used to be that people would try to hide the cause of death. For many media sources, it was their policy that you couldn't even say that someone died from suicide. This public outpouring would never have happened a decade ago.

Today, suicide is talked about at funerals and in news articles, instead of swept under the rug. Now, people aren't afraid to openly mourn victims of suicide. And while I think these steps have been crucial in raising awareness, I think there is still just as much of a stigma against mental illness.

It shouldn't be that way. People should take mental illness seriously — and not just take it seriously when someone dies because of it.

But still, when many of us see someone posting things like Lexi did on social media, we think, "You're just seeking attention" or "Get over it" or "Why are you posting about your problems on social media?" instead of actually helping them.

If you witnessed someone having a seizure, you wouldn't just stand there and watch. You would jump in to try and help; you would call 9-1-1. Yet mental illness can be just as life threatening, and, when someone reaches out for help, whether it's on Facebook, on Twitter, in a text message, or in person, it should never be taken lightly.

Via Yours Truly blogger wrote, "There are many more Lexis out there, with suicidal thoughts. I don’t want her to just be another victim of depression and public neglect. ... I am going to do my part, to make sure her death was not in vain.

"Lexi Williams will make a difference, she mattered, her life mattered, she meant something and you do too. ... You are not alone. ... Without you the world would be completely different, it would be incomplete. You are an important piece to a large puzzle."

Trump's presidency: The thing that saddens me the most
I'm not one to use my blog to talk about politics. People get that in enough places. But, after everything that happened last night, the thing that saddens me most is seeing how many people want to die.

I stayed up until 1:30 a.m., not watching TV, but instead, talking a friend out of suicide. And it wasn't just a figurative, "I'm so upset I want to die." It was a literal, "I don't want to be alive anymore." And this, for me, was even worse than the results of yesterday's election -- to know that someone I love was seriously considering death because of it.

I have met so many families who have lost a loved one to suicide because they were bullied, felt judged and felt like they didn't belong. And, with all the people who have lost hope, who are terrified of the future and who feel even more marginalized than before, for me, I am most scared that this will cause suicide rates to increase within the next four years.

But as President Obama said in a Buzzfeed video on Election Day, "We've been through tough and divisive elections before and we've always come out stronger for it."

For anyone who is depressed because of the results and who may have lost the will to live, here are some things to remember:

1. Despite everything, there is still hope.
You don't know what will happen tomorrow, so don't give up. You don't know what kind of president Trump will be once he takes office or if Trump being president will actually affect our liberties . So don't give up, don't lose faith, when you just don't know what will happen.

2. Now, more than ever, the world needs you.
For me, the results of the election have given me even more of a reason to live, not less of a reason. America needs people who fight for equality. America needs people who fight for the female, LGBT, Hispanic, black, and Muslim communities. If all the people who believe in the rights of these people were to give up, what kind of America would that be? An even worse one than it is today, I can tell you that. So, instead of giving up, use this life you have, the only life you've got, to take action.

3. You are not alone.
Just look at your social media newsfeed, and you'll know that you are not alone. I have seen so many people say they are no longer proud to be an American because of the election results. But seeing how many of my friends are sad, are taking a stand and are sticking up for others, it gives me hope. It makes me still proud to be an American. There are still more than 59 million people who agree with you.

We are strong. We will make it through, no matter what the future brings. We all just need to unite. We need to fight for each other, instead of against.
Leave My Thumb Out of It

For the last couple of weeks, I've been under a cloud.  That problem I've been having with my thumb has been diagnosed.

No surprises.  Arthritis.  Well, one surprise.  It seems there are grades of arthritis.  I'm in the fourth grade.  How many grades are there?  Four.

So there's been some boohoo poor me. Oh my thumb!  I hate wearing this thumb support thing on my hand.  Oh the pain.  Oh the suffering.  Poor me.

In times of deep self absorption, it often helps to remember that some have it worse.  Like these guys.  It is, after all, Wild Turkey season.

Wild Wind

A couple days ago, areas of Michigan got wind whipped.  A forty mile per hour wind can move things around, that's for sure.  Roof shingles swarmed the sky, roadways littered with branches.  Some people are still without electricity.  This wind visited the homestead.

It blew the top off the duck house!  No ducks were harmed.  They were safely at large.

Remember that delightful tree full of birds?  There's a reason there were no leaves on that tree.  That reason is not because it's still winter.   Well, the big wind was too much for it's deadness to remain upright.

Now it lies horizontal.  Interestingly, birds still perch on it.  Will they sing?  We'll stayed tuned.

How this for wild?  On that windy day, I had just finished tidying up the wood supply, noting that there was room for more wood, planning to gather some.  Then the tree fell.

To Lady Gaga body shamers: You disgust me

So, I can GUARANTEE you that, if I wore tight pants and a midriff-baring shirt, you could see my muffin top from a mile away. And I bet this is the case for most women. Even if you are skinny and fit, if you wear tight pants, yeah, you'll probably have a little pooch. ESPECIALLY if you are moving around or bending forward.

For instance, this model, Anna Victoria, bravely shared a photo on her Instagram of how, yeah, while standing up, her stomach is perfectly flat. I mean, she IS a model. But, even for her, just like with all of us, when she sits, her stomach bends (that's what happens when you sit, after all), and she gets a "roll."

I share this because I am completely and utterly appalled that Lady Gaga has been body shamed for her Super Bowl performance.

Excuse me, what?! Beautiful, talented Lady Gaga?! Who has a rockin' bod and is a complete powerhouse?! Lady Gaga who, get this, is herself an eating disorder survivor?! Fat shamed?! Lady Gaga who is probably AT LEAST 30 pounds lighter than me...and people are making fun of her?!

Like @negan_swing, who tweeted, "Tried to enjoy @ladygaga's performance, was distracted by the flab on her stomach swinging around #SuperBowl." Or @oh_tuesday, who tweeted, "#ladygaga #GagaBowl #fat she looked like a #sumowrestler in the diapers she wore last night. Bad call but her performance was excellent." (There are a lot more but I don't really want to share them. Just wanted to share a couple to show 1. That it's happening and 2. To call out these deplorable Twitter users).

Of course, Anna Victoria had something to say about this: "She looks absolutely amazing in that outfit and I was happy to see her looking healthy and HUMAN. ... You will never please every single person out there so you might as well focus your efforts on pleasing the one person that matters most - YOU."

When women like Gaga are fat shamed, how is that supposed to make the rest of us "normal" people feel?  "Normal," still gorgeous, women who don't get paid to dance and do aerobics in the air. Women who sit at a desk all day or may have had a baby growing inside them! So with this sh**, no wonder so many women have a negative body image. No wonder 20 million women suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder. No wonder beautiful women can't see how beautiful they actually are.

Because women are given these completely unrealistic and, granted, pretty impossible standards. And I can't believe that, even today, this is happening!

But for anyone who may, in turn, feel bad about themselves because of how Gaga was treated, just know this:
1. You are beautiful,
2. The average size for a woman is 12 – 14
3. There are way more people, as evident by all the people who swarmed to protect Gaga, who don’t feel this way
4. Not that it matters, but I’m sure that those fat shaming Gaga aren’t toned, muscular men with six-packs either (most aren't even ballsy enough to show their faces on their accounts). 

Women's Health Mag praised Lady Gaga and her fitness regimen: "Not even a super-ripped star like Lady Gaga will have a perfect six-pack from every angle—and that’s not the point of staying fit and healthy. ... Gaga looks healthy, strong, and ready to slay (which she totally did)."

My friend Kimberly Rogers posted this brilliant response on her Facebook,"This is a perfect example of why women are so self conscious and insecure about themselves & why they don't eat for days or fall into having eating disorders. .I say this because I have been there, I know the feeling! ... This is real life. This is what women look like without all the phot-shop and editing. ... If this tiny bit of 'skin' bothers you, they you better look at yourself in the mirror and reevaluate."

"F*ck societys view of a 'perfect' women & kudos to Gaga for going out there strutting her stuff and doing her thing, knowing she has more to offer then a image of a 'perfect girl.'"
Mud and His Eyes

Wintertime at the homestead is a chance to get to those indoor chores, like washing walls and  thinning out the file cabinet.  It has been balmy outside, but you can't work the soil, leaving few excuses to avoid that bucket of suds.  Planting time is still months away- the pile of seed catalogues that have appeared in the mailbox, notwithstanding.

As you can see, the grass is rather green for January.  Just out of camera shot, there is an appalling amount of mud.  Clover regularly plays a game called, I am a Racing Greyhound.  Her race track takes quite a beating.

Returning to matters indoors. (Ah, the late great Mabel, she was a gal who appreciated a comfortable easy chair.)  Speaking of easy chairs, The Handsome One will have to take it easy next week.  Those cataracts have got to go.

 Is it true that blue eyed people are more sensitive to light than darker eyed people?  Beats me.  Eye color is genetic, maybe sensitivity is genetic too.  No matter.  A trained doctor will be using a laser. 
(image)Oops!  We don't have a photo of the doctor on file.
Well, one day at a time, one eye at the time.  My markedly feeble abilities as a patientthoughtfultenderkindly nurse will be tested.  I'll give it my best shot though, for THO.
Woe is Lois

Getting older is no picnic.  Lois is finding that out.  Some of you may recall her knee problems of a few years ago.

An arthritic knee does not improve with time.  Lois' is no exception.

Playing ball is not the joy it once was.  The knee doesn't cooperate, nor do the back or the hips.

(To the tune of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.)
 Lois, the pretty sheepdog
 is very sweet good girl.
 And if you ever saw her,
 you would know that is for sure.
 All of the other doggies
like to run around and play
booboo knees don't let poor Lois,
join in any doggie games.

The most difficult thing of all for Lois these days is getting up from a prone position.  The herculean effort required to bend painful uncooperative joints into position to propel the hind end upward has resulted in, well, some embarrassing incidents.  Sometimes a turd pops out from all that effort.  Sometimes some urine oozes out too.


Consequently, a severe haircut on the latter side of Lois has been necessary.  You forget how bow legged sheepdogs are till they are wet- or trimmed.  Photos of Lois's bow legged look are not available.  We offer this youthful bob instead.

Ah yes, a time when we both had younger joints.
What is a self-esteem attack?
Those who suffer from anxiety attacks show different symptoms.

Sometimes it's talking fast or stuttering. Sometimes it's not talking at all. Sometimes it's unpredictable irritability. Sometimes it's clenching your teeth or wringing your hands. Sometimes it's sitting in a trance. Sometimes it's hypersensitivity. Sometimes it's not being able to stop crying or shaking.

And there are many different forms and causes of anxiety attacks -- maybe OCD, social disorder, agoraphobia, PTSD, etc.

For me, the anxiety attack I am most familiar with is a "Self-Esteem Attack."

For normal people, if they make some kind of mistake, get criticized by someone, etc., they can think, "Okay, I screwed up," and then move on with their day.

For me, and for others who suffer from self-esteem attacks, they don't think this way. Instead of thinking, "I made a mistake," they think, "I am a mistake." When someone doesn't like them, instead of thinking, "Well, that's their loss," they think, "There must be something wrong with me."

And for a few moments, a few hours or maybe even a few days, you're filled with an all-consuming and illogical self-hate. You internalize a circumstance, thinking it's telling of the kind of person you are when, in fact, it does not.

For instance, a couple weeks ago, I missed a meeting at work. I was selected to be on a jury in a trial and I was so nervous that I completely forgot to check my work calendar. And, as a result, I received an email to me and my boss from a pretty pissed off co-worker.

And I started to panic.

"I'm going to get fired. How did I even get this job? I am such an idiot. I'm so unprofessional. Everyone's going to hate me. No one will ever respect me again."

And, guess what? It turned out to be nothing.

I called my boss, who told me, "You had jury duty, You had a lot on your mind, and you've never missed a meeting before. How many times have people stood you up? Seriously don't worry about it."

I emailed the people who I missed the meeting with, profusely apologizing. "Thank you for your email. It's okay. It was only a half an hour," they responded.

With my brain, I had completely blown things out of proportion. My palms started to sweat, my face was hot, and I felt like I was going to be sick. I jumped immediately to the very unrealistic conclusion that I would be fired, homeless and no one would want to hire me again. All  because of very simple, easy to correct mistake.

The Self-Esteem Institute describes a Self-Esteem Attack as occurring "whenever a person with low self esteem does or says something that he afterwards deems to have been inappropriate, stupid, rude, obnoxious, off target, or inaccurate."

"At that time, the person may experience immediate remorse, excruciating anxiety, his heart racing, his face turning red, a sinking feeling of embarrassment, depression and/or devastation."

For me, when I'm having a Self-Esteem Attack, for that moment, I can't see anything outside of how bad I feel about myself. Even though in the back of my mind, I know the things my brain is telling me aren't true, I can't seem to stop. And, when I try to tell myself, "Stop it! You're overreacting!" I only feel worse.

So, what should you do if you're having a Self-Esteem Attack?

Well, first of all, as I always say, know that you're not alone. And know that you don't have to feel this way alone. Don't be ashamed of feeling this way, and don't apologize to anyone for your Self-Esteem Attack. Instead, find a friend, a family member or a therapist you trust and you can call whenever you are feeling like this. You are not a burden.

Once you know that there's nothing wrong with feeling the way you feel, slowly and surely, you're start to realize that there is also nothing wrong with you.

Capped Off

The final mow of the year.  For a while at least, no more ducking branches, no more pine needle stab wounds, no more worrying about inadvertently chopping up toads and snakes.   The thistle eating finches have flown south.  Soon the grass will be gray and dormant.

I pulled into the garage, wondering if the area over the septic tank may need just one more trim before putting the snow shovel on the tractor.  I dismounted, brushed the pine needles from my butt and noticed the gaping hole where the gas cap ought to be.

Uh oh.

The cap has come off before, presumably the vibrations of the tractor unscrew it.  It has always remained with the tractor though, hanging from a black plastic tether.   This time:  no gas cap, no tether.

Let's see, how to find the missing gas cap.  Retrace the cutting path...but what if the cap, when free of its tether, was flung into a non cut area?  Chances of finding it then, seem awfully bleak.

For three days I looked for the gas cap.  No luck.  Though resigned to having to purchase a new one, I determined to look for it just one more day, then another.  My persistence was rewarded, for the gas cap appeared smack in the middle of a mowed area.  How I could have missed it, I'll never know.

I suspect my nemesis, the fisher, placed it there for reasons nefarious.
Don't Spook the Deer

The line to vote began at the door and coiled over and over many times before entering the roped section.  Serpentine.  It reminded me of an enjoyable figure skating drill.  Gliding across the ice, crossing one foot over the other, opposite edges of the blade back and forth.  This voting serpentine was slower without ice, needless to add.

It was strangely pleasant packed in that way in this small town, small building.  Strangers and neighbors calmly sardined in line to fulfill a civic duty. 

When the election results came in, Trump won.  "That's not fair!  He didn't win the popular vote!"   Must we review the electoral system for whiny disappointed voters every time they lose?

Now it's time to be sure the PRIVATE PROPERTY, NO HUNTING,  KEEP OUT signs are in place.  Deer hunters are making ready.  When Mabel was alive I used to worry that some over enthusiastic hunter would mistake her for a deer.

I have no delusions that I can protect the deer around here but I sure don't want some lout tromping around my back yard- that includes the neighbors with whom we share a tree line.

One particularly unpleasant tree line neighbor believes that if you fire a gun close to the start of deer season, it will spook the deer.  Yeah.  Sure.  The deer who live around here hear gunfire everyday.  Of course they will be spooked by gunfire in November. 

Never argue with a crazy person.  Our guns are silent.

Bugged II

After picking some tomatoes, the gardener headed toward the house.

Suddenly, out of nowhere.  A hit to the wrist!  A hit to the ankle!

Lily, a witness at the scene said, "it was bizarre.  Totally unprovoked.  A coordinated attack.  Dastardly.  The gardener didn't have a chance. "

"Later",  Lily continued, "I heard the gardener cursing.  It seems that calamine lotion has limited effectiveness on the swelling and itching, especially when spilled on the bathroom rug."

This local resident remarked that some bugs go a little crazy this time of year.
Thank you 'This is Us' creators for portraying a character with anxiety

In 1669, Margaret Hughes was credited as the first actress on the English stage. In 1895, the first gay couple was portrayed in the film "The Dickson Experimental Sound Film." In 1927, actor Lincoln Perry became Hollywood's first black movie star. In 1948, the melodrama "Johnny Belinda" depicted a woman with a disability as the main character and was the first film to bring sign language to moviegoers.

But still, last year, female protagonists made up about a quarter of the heroes portrayed in the top 100 grossing films. Although reconciled this year, last year no black people were nominated in the Academy Awards. Four percent of characters on primetime television were identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual in 2015 and only 2.4 percent of speaking or named characters in film were shown to have a disability.

I understand why it's a big deal when people don't have fair representation in media. There is something to be said for seeing a character who looks like you or acts like you or understands what you're going through.

It makes you feel less alone.

I felt this when I watched the last two episodes of NBC's "This is Us" because it was the first time I have seen a character who suffers from panic attacks.

"This is Us" has tackled a lot of significant issues that aren't so commonly tackled. Obesity. Adoption. Bisexuality. Addiction. And now, with Randall's character, anxiety.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, a panic attack is described as the "abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes." I can't even explain the feeling of seeing a character who, like me, suffers from them.

Seeing Randall in his bedroom crying or sitting in a corner, in the fetal position, I thought, "That's me." The episodes showed how truly debilitating an anxiety attack can be.

In Tuesday's episode, Randall talked about how his adopted father, Jack, kept his anxiety in check. "Whenever I'd get too in my head, he'd take his hands and put them on both sides of my head and he'd just say, 'There you go, breathe with me.' And we'd just sit there, breathing together until it passed."

He said, "It's always been like that. Putting the pressure on myself ever since I was a little boy."

I, too, have had panic attacks since I was little. When I had them, my mom would sit on my bed and rub my back until it passed and pray for the "bad thoughts" to go away. The panic attacks would happen when I was about to go on stage for a dance recital. It would happen when I was studying for a big test. It would happen after I came home from school after being bullied. It would happen when I tried to fall asleep, And, now, it'll happen after a stressful day at work, after I stretch myself too thin or for no reason at all.

I have to say there was something magical about seeing a television character who went through exactly this. No stereotypes. No calling him crazy. Just a man who, when things get to be too much, has a breakdown every once in a while. And it's okay.

I have to say, this really did make me feel not so alone. And I want to thank Dan Fogelman for creating and actor Sterling K. Brown for portraying a character who suffers from anxiety, just like I do.
A Glowing Anniversary

To celebrate our anniversary, The Handsome One and I usually buy something nifty just for us.  Past purchases include a digital camera, a couch and a Don't Tread on Me flag.  This year, we bought a super duper flashlight.

You see, those scrawny flashlights that serve just fine indoors are of no use to illuminate the woods surrounding the homestead. So we got this fantabulous LED flashlight with ergonomic pistol grip to handle the job.

Now Lily has some gleaming back up.  Those ugly accusations of her being all bark at the dark, will see the light of day, so to speak.  Now what the heck she is barking at will be on full brilliant display.  Yes, if something is lurking, it will be in our spot light.

What is glowing out there?  It's the little oak!

Lily has prepared a statement.

I wasn't barking at the oak tree, for crying out loud.  Tell you what.  I'll keep barking.  You keep waving your fancy flashlight around.  Together, maybe we will dispel the vast shadiness surrounding us.  Don't let my life's work be in vain.  I'm counting on your collaboration here.

OK Lily.  We got the power of brightness and aren't afraid to use it.  Check out this wall mounted holster!  Team Effulgent is ever at the ready. 

Besides the young oak tree, what have we gleamed upon so far, you ask?

Well, the awesome flashlight has illuminated a couple of deer, and an assorted bunch of nothing. One night though, there was something skulking under a tree near the duck house.  With trepidation, I cocked and aimed the super flashlight expecting to behold the evil visage of my nemesis, The Fisher.

It was only a opossum.  A benign presence.  This time...

Next time may be of a different light...
How to be there for someone who is grieving

I have a friend who asked me to write about how to react (and how not to react) when someone is grieving.

This friend wants others to know that, sometimes, a person who is grieving isn't ready to talk about it. Sometimes, letting someone be alone is the best support you can give. And sometimes, calling to ask for a play-by-play of the tragedy or texting "Are you okay" until the person responds doesn't help. Sometimes, in fact, it does the opposite.

I'm guilty of being the person who wants to help. If something bad happens to someone and they don't respond to my text messages, I'm guilty of freaking out, thinking the worst possible outcome. "They're dead in a ditch somewhere!" or "Oh my god. They're mad at me! I said the wrong thing!"

Once, my friend was grieving because her grandmother only had a few days left to live. And, being that all four of my grandparents have died, I tried relating my own experience to hers and telling her that I understood what she was going through.

But she got mad at me. She didn't want me to tell her I understood. All she wanted, at that moment, was for someone to listen.

And I felt bad because my feelings were hurt.

But that's the thing -- when someone else is grieving and is going through a struggle -- it's not about YOU! It's THEIR feelings that matter.

Different people grieve in different ways. And they will probably act differently than they would in normal, everyday circumstances. They may have a lot of people asking to help, and they may feel like they're living in a fish bowl. So, don't take offense if they don't want your help, or don't want to talk about it. They are dealing with a loss and, no offense, but trying to make you feel better about yourself is the LAST thing on their minds.

So, what do you do when someone you care about is grieving?

How about this: Ask them what they need from you. 

And honor their response. Maybe it's, "Can you call and talk" or "Can you come to the funeral" or "Can you bring me chocolate?" or "Can you just hug me?" But if they say, "Can I have space" or if they don't respond at all, don't just show up at their house or keeping texting, "Are you sure you're okay?" At this moment, just give them what they asked for.

Here are some more tips by licensed counselor Megan Devine in an article on Huffington Post:

1. Stay in the present. Don't bring up the past or the future.
Don't tell your own stories, like I did. And don't say, "Everything will be okay in the end" or "He or she is in a better place." These statements minimize their feelings of loss. Instead, just say, "I love you, and I'm here for you."

2. Don't try to fix the unfixable.

3. Lessen the burden of "normal" life requirements, whether it's shoveling their snow or mowing their lawn or taking their dog for a walk or bringing over groceries. But make sure you ask first.

4. And when you are doing these things, don't expect to be appreciated or praised. In this time of their life, they are unable to be there for this part of your relationship. Don't take it personally or take it out on them. Instead, you need to find another person to lean on.

5. Listen more than you talk.

6. If someone asks how your friend is doing, educate but be subtle. Don't give details that aren't yours to give. Devine writes, "You can normalize grief with responses like, 'She has better moments and worse moments and will for quite some time. An intense loss changes every detail of your life.'"

7. Check in weeks or months later. Your friend may be inundated with support right away and so they don't need your help right now. But, remember to check in later because grieving doesn't just last a couple days. It's a slow process.

"Offer your help, but don't force it," editor Laura McMullen writes in an article on US News.

"He may be fielding back-to-back-to-back phone calls and visitors at the exact time he's trying to make sense of a world that's likely turned upside down. Let him take a breather and remember that everyone grieves differently.

To educate yourself on the grieving process, visit

Pop Culture Frenzy, Round 53

Welcome once again to Pop Culture Frenzy.  Our question today involves the 1944 song, Baby, It's Cold Outside.

  For those who wish to review the lyrics, Steve and Eydie are on hand.

Hostmaster:  there have been demands that this song be rewritten.  Why?

It's about date rape.
Hostmaster:  correct.  A couple from Minnesota say that the whole "what's in this drink"  left a bad taste in their mouth and the song doesn't let you know if she got away from the guy after saying no.  They seek closure and empowerment and to raise awareness about consent and urge everybody to volunteer at sexual assault shelters.
That sounds all very socially concerned
 but according to the lyrics, she says,
 "I really should go.  I ought to say no."
  That's flirting. 

I'm confused.  Did hooking up go out of style?
That's not flirting.  She said no! 
 He said don't hurt my pride.
He also said he would be filled with life
long sorrow if he let her out into the blizzard
 and she caught pneumonia and died.
See?  It's all about him!
  He gave her the date rape drug!

She asked what's in this drink so
you declare it's the date rape drug?!
Did they even have the date rape drug back then?
Hostmaster:  so, Cyndi.  How should they rewrite the song?
She says no and he lets her leave.
If that had happened Steve and Eydie
would never had gotten married!
 Steve and Eydie didn't say no,
so they had to get married.
 A cautionary tail!
Hostmaster:  so, Cyndi.  He lets her leave in a snow storm?  Does the song go on to explain if she got home ok?
Outside, alone, at night,
 she was raped by
a group of refugees.

Darn cultural differences!

Wait.  I know what happened.  He wouldn't let
 her leave so she kicked him in the shorts and
  left him writhing on the floor where he
 died three days later of gangrene. 
Did she go to prison?
No.  She ended up homeless,
 sleeping in a washing machine box
 under an underpass selling her body for drugs.
She should have taken the date rape drug.    

One more time.

Round 53
Fluffy/Molly  21
Bryan/Cyndi   21

If you think you deserve better, then you probably do

For many of us, we have a deep rooted belief that we don't deserve good things.

Whether it's a toxic relationship, a dead-end job, a one-sided friendship, etc., we don't walk away when we know we should, stand up for ourselves, or look for something better or more fulfilling. Even though, in the back of our minds, we know we deserve better, we still don't actually believe it. We let others treat us like we're disposable because that's how we view ourselves.

According to an article in Psychology Today, "Feeling undeserving comes from situations in your past that have influenced your outlook or 'inlook.' ... Feeling undeserving creates resistance to positive change."

But, as author Barrie Davenport says, "Low self-confidence isn't a life sentence. Self-confidence can be learned, practiced, and mastered, just like any other skill. Once you master it, everything in your life will change for the better."

So, how do you change this?

1. Recognize that you have self-esteem issues.

The first step is admitting that you feel undeserving. Sometimes, people don't even realize that they are letting others treat them badly. Like one of my favorite quotes says, "If you aren't being treated with love and respect, check your price tag. Maybe you've marked yourself down. It's you who tells people what you're worth. Get off the clearance rack and get behind the glass where they keep the valuables."

Peter Economy writes on Inc, "If you are constantly bashing yourself and saying you're not good enough, aren't attractive enough, aren't smart enough or athletic enough, and on and on, you are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. ... The next time you hear that negativity in your head, switch it immediately to a positive affirmation and keep it up until it hits the caliber of a self-confidence boost."

2. Identify what made you start feeling undeserving in the first place.

Were you bullied in school? Were you told you weren't good enough? Did you have parents or teachers that didn't support you? Were you in a mentally or physically abusive relationship? It can be painful to look back on but, when you realize what made you start feeling this way, only then can you change it.

3. Have compassion for yourself.

Remind yourself, "Just because I was treated badly in the past, that doesn't mean I deserved it." The past is the past. Stop letting it control your future.

4. Take a realistic look at the lives of others you feel are more deserving than you.

"Ask yourself if they are truly innately more deserving of good things than you are. No one has any more value at the time of their birth than anyone else has," an article on WikiHow states. "In fact, a quick look at the news will reveal plenty of people who are materially successful even though they are well-known liars, cheaters, or thieves. If people who are clearly dishonorable can obtain happiness, there is no reason to think that you don't deserve your own happiness."

5. Talk to yourself as if you're talking to your best friend.

Would you ever talk to a loved one the way you talk to yourself? Then why do you talk to yourself that way?

6. Stay away from negativity.

Evaluate your inner circle. Get away from people who degrade you. Surround yourself with people who encourage you and make you feel happy. Cutting out people who put you down is not being selfish.

7. Fake it until you make it.

Smile at people. Make eye contact. Stand up straight. Even if you aren't feeling confident, act like you are and soon, you will begin to believe it too. According to an article on, "The mind can be tricked, and you can balance your life on that little hack. ... Even therapists use it all the time for patient’s suffering from depression. Though it might feel artificial and forced in the beginning, soon it will become more natural until you are happier and healthier."

Stop doubting yourself. Make a list of all the things you love about yourself and all the things you are good at. You are smarter than you think and the way you feel matters, no matter what anyone else may tell you. This is the only life you've got -- so trust yourself and look out for yourself once in a while.
Purple Finch

The Purple Finch is not purple. The male has a pink head and chest.  The rest of the feathers are brown and white.  The female (and the juvenile) are brown and white.  A stocky finch, with a melodic though not highly remarkable voice, is fairly common throughout its range.  The Purple Finch is seen year round in the eastern half of the US and in California.  Some travel to Canada in summer.

Purple finches live in coniferous and mixed woodlands, suburbs, orchards, parks.  They gather in large flocks in fall and winter.  In spring, they pair off to mate and raise young.  The female builds a nest of twigs, grasses and animal hair in pine trees, deciduous trees, or tangled vines anywhere from 3 feet to 60 feet off the ground.

Some Purple Finch Facts

- length:  4.7-6.3 inches
- wingspan:  8.7-10.2 inches
- 4-5 eggs, 2 broods per year
- incubation (by female only) 12-14 days
- nestling:   2 weeks
- food:  seeds, bugs, berries, flowers

A Little Bird Music
The hours of daylight keep growing longer, concurrent to increased bird activity. 

The chorale is warming up. 
There is a road that leads to love.
A red winged blackbird male is on top of a nearby tree
 waving his wings around, screeching and squawking.
  Surely this female is only pretending not to notice.  

This fellow has been singing a sweet simple melody.
He sounds somewhat like a canary.

Snow happens.  It's still winter, after all.  

Flickers have been active for some weeks now.
  It takes time to carve a nest in a tree truck. 
 The early bird gets the first brood.

Bird online. 
What do you think about this Tweet posted by The Onion?
(image)We live in a world more concerned with political correctness than the generations before us. Sexist jokes, racist jokes and calling someone the n or the r-word are just not okay. Sometimes, people say Millennials are "too sensitive"or "can't take a joke." But to me, most of the time being politically correct is common sense and is about just being NICE to others.

For me, the thing I'm most "sensitive" about are jokes related to suicide and mental illness. Mental illness is something people can't control.  It's a disease. And, with suicide, that's someone's LIFE you're talking about. Joking around and saying things like, "You should just kill yourself"  it's not funny. Because...what if someone did?

The website The Onion is a satire news organization known for pushing the envelope on political correctness. And I think a photo they tweeted Monday crossed the line.

A friend of mine brought it to my attention and even reported it (although nothing was done). The Onion tweeted a picture of a dog with a noose in its mouth. The Tweet reads: "New Program Provides Depressed Americans With Suicide Assistance Dogs" and references one of their old articles.

Some people thought the Tweet was funny. Others thought it was in poor taste. For instance, Twitter user Althea Atherton, who is a suicide attempt survivor, said it could also be "empowering to suicidal thoughts."

"It's a bad attempt at a pun with physician assisted suicide and assistance dogs. Not even a good one," she tweeted.

Julie Brethauer tweeted, "Making fun of depression and mental illness is not funny. Unfollow," and Patricia Latendresse ‏tweeted, "I laugh at 99% of your articles. Count this in the 1%. Bad taste."

I am always very conscious of things that may be a "trigger" for those suffering from depression. If just one person considers suicide because of a joke you told, is the joke really worth it, even if hundreds of people found it funny? I'm thinking no.

For instance, in an article on The Mighty, contributor Deborah Greene wrote about one of her suicidal triggers  people making light of it.

"Survivors of suicide loss spend much of our days dodging triggers. We sit down to watch a television show only to have a joke made about suicide. ... We try to tune into election coverage only to hear words like 'political suicide' tossed about," she wrote.

"We survivors are everywhere. And there is nothing funny about the loss we are learning to live with. So how about we stop treating it like a punch line or a reasonable response to a moment of frustration. How about we treat it like the serious and painful issue that it is; an issue that claims another life every 12.8 minutes in this country."

For anyone who saw this Tweet and it triggered something, first of all, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. And please know this  there are more people who found it in poor taste than who thought it was funny. Know that you are not alone and that many other people feel the same way as you do. And please don't think you are being "sensitive" for feeling the way you feel.

My feedback to The Onion is this: There are some things and topics we should joke about, and there are some we shouldn't. This, The Onion, was one of those times where you shouldn't have.
Superheroes suffer from mental illness too
Has anyone ever made you feel weak because of your depression or mental illness?

Has your depression ever made you second guess your own strength?

Well, tell me this: Would you consider superheroes, like Batman or Thor, weak?


Well, get this. They have suffered from depression too, at least according to their comic books this year. 

Batman #12, which was released earlier this month, reveals that Bruce Wayne cut his wrists with his dad's razor blade and attempted suicide at age 10.

Batman writer Tom King told Inverse, “When you’re in that kind of depression, the first thought is ‘I’m the only one who’s ever experienced this’ and if that’s your last thought, you drown under it."

Kotaku Australia writer James Whitbrook says, "The contrast between the machismo of the action and emotional vulnerability of someone who attempted suicide is palpable. ... It was the metaphorical death of Bruce Wayne which allowed him to be reborn as the person who would become the Dark Knight."

And, this year, Thor lost his title and his ability to lift his hammer in the series Unworthy Thor.

"Reading the Unworthy Thor drink and fight his way through his self-loathing seems almost too relatable for many of us," writes Matt Kim in Inverse.

 These story lines humanize the characters. But they don't make them "weak."

After all, approximately one in five American adults experience mental illness in a given year. And depression has many different causes, including impaired mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events and chronic health problems, according to Harvard Health Publications -- all of which are outside of a person's control. It has nothing to do with being "strong" or "weak."

While it may not seem like a heroic task, what makes a person strong is choosing to get out of bed in the morning when every fiber of your being is telling you to hide under the covers. It's putting on pants, when all you want is to stay in pajamas all day. Strength is going into work or taking that exam, when you'd rather stay home. It's choosing to go to the gym or eat healthy, when you'd rather cry on the couch and drink wine. Strength is finding the silver lining in your mental illness and using it to help others.

And, most importantly, strength is choosing, each day, to keep living.

Stop using the word 'crazy' to talk bad about someone
"Why didn't it work out between the two of you?"

"Because...she was crazy."

I have lost count of the times I have heard guys describes girls as "crazy." I have seen jokes on memes, like, "All girls are psychotic. You just need to find the one you can put up with."

To me, it's not funny. And the word "crazy" should never be used as a joke or as a derogatory term against someone.

I wouldn't be surprised if guys I've dated  have called me "crazy" behind my back.

My last ex-boyfriend, I'm sure, when talking about me to his friends, the word "crazy" was thrown around. After all, he would call me crazy to my face. If I was having a panic attack or crying, he would tell me to, "Stop acting crazy." know...saying that would make me feel so much better.

Why is it that the word "crazy" is thrown around so freely? Why is it that showing your emotions is considered "crazy?"

It's because it's become a norm in our society to act like we don't have emotions. We're encouraged to act like we don't care.

Don't let people see you cry. Don't act like you care about someone or have feelings for someone. Have casual sex but don't be upset when they don't call you. Wait a certain amount of time to respond to a text message. Don't ever say, "I miss you" or "I'm excited to see you." Talk about movies or the weather or your favorite food or what you did last weekend. But don't ever talk about emotions or what you're thinking. know...that's considered, "Crazy."

I once had a guy tell me it made him uncomfortable because I say what I'm thinking and how I'm feeling. "People just don't do that," he told me.

If not being a robot makes me crazy and if choosing not to hide who I really am is crazy, then, yes I'm crazy. And I'm proud to be "crazy."

Please, don't let anyone make you feel like there is something wrong with being who you are or feeling the way you feel. Because it's not.

Having a tough exterior and acting like you have no feelings and calling people "crazy" because they're "emotional" or "sensitive," doesn't make you strong or tough. It, in fact, makes you the opposite.

I think, the people who are the strongest are the ones who are not afraid to be themselves in a world that tells you to be someone else. The strongest people are the ones who ask for help when they need it. The bravest people are the ones who say, "I love you" or "I care about you." They're the ones who are passionate. They talk about things that matter and, yes, even let people see them cry.

People may not like you. You may make them uncomfortable. And they may call you "crazy." But...maybe...that's not such a bad thing.
The Return of the JWs

The bespectacled women of middle age wearing a modest skirt and boring blouse, brought to mind an old style schoolmarm.  It was no mistaking what she really was though.  She got out of a car stuffed with people. 

They're baaack.

Some readers may recall, some months ago, I complained that the Jevoah Witness brigade found me here at the homestead.  Frankly, I'd forgotten about the intrusion until recently when they returned.  They've ramped up their efforts, before it was only pamphlets, now there's face time.

There's a sign on the fence near our back porch that reads:  Warning Bad Dog.  Schoolmarm asked if the dogs were indeed bad.  I said, of course not...towards those who belong here.  Schoolmarm looked confused.  Then she asked if I found comfort in God.  Of course, I said.  She said my neighbors didn't seek comfort in God.  Sorry to hear that, I said.  She read a line from one of Paul's letters off of a handheld gadget.  Then she gave me a pamphlet.

A couple months later as I was carrying groceries into the house, that car stuffed with people crept up the driveway.  The Schoolmarm got out.  I'm in the middle of taking in groceries, I told her.  This will just take a moment, she said. What do you think of when you think of Heaven? 

I said, I think about that part in Revelations at the throne and angels singing Holy Holy Holy.  I also like the lion laying down with the lamb stuff.  Where's that?  Isaiah?

She didn't answer.  She read a snippet from another of Paul's letters from a handheld gadget and gave me a pamphlet.

Later, I read the pamphlet.  There wasn't much information about Heaven.  The New Testament was put in quotes.  Jesus was referred to as Michael.  Then there was a wispy description of the qualifications of some guy with a French name who apparently did the translation of the Gospels for the JW's.  It was explained that the Catholics got the translations wrong because they clouded their thinking by studying philosophy. 

When the Schoolmarm comes back, I'm going to ask about her views on philosophy and if she noticed that Paul calls Jesus Jesus rather than Michael. 

And I'll wish her Merry Christmas.
Pop Culture Frenzy, Round 52

Welcome once again to Pop Culture Frenzy.  Thanksgiving is next week.  Now, I don't want to hear Cyndi talk about small pox blankets and how Native Americans got screwed.   Let's talk about the meal.

What is the ultimate side dish at Thanksgiving dinner?

A shapely little Irish Terrier.  Oh. And stuffing.

Hostmaster:  hm, a redhead.  I always figured you preferred blonds.

That was before I teamed up with a blond.

Hostmaster:  ha!  I feel your pain, pal.


What?  Wait.

She's not a real blond.

I am too!
**** you, *****.


See, she has always felt she was a blond
trapped under a mousey brown head.
Peroxide did the rest.

Hostmaster:  inside and out? 


That's bull****. 
 There are much safer lighteners. 
 And I'm not a bulimic, ****** it!

Hostmaster:  the holidays can be so stressful for some folk.  Oh well.  Back at it.
What's the ultimate Thanksgiving side dish?

I've only had hearts and gizzards. 
 Can you believe no one else wants them?

Hostmaster:  eating gizzards is something of which no bird can conceive.

You eat turkey, don't you?

Hostmaster:  of course.  Birds have no problem with cannibalism.  And eating the heart of an enemy is a given.  Eating the gizzard, however, is another matter.
Anyway. Ultimate side dish.

Marshmellow Sweet Potatoes

I'm confused.
  Aren't sweet potatoes sweet enough?

Personally, I think marshmellows
 are pointless.

Bryan, have you never been camping? 
Marshmellows are pointless EXCEPT to make Somemores.
One thing's for sure, marshmellows are very sweet
 and do not belong on vegetables.

Cranberries are sweet.

Cranberries are fruit.  You are on to something
though.  Cranberries are only sweet because
 sugar is added.  Hey!  I know! 
 Let's add marshmellows to cranberries!


Hostmaster:  please pass the glazed carrots.

 Thanksgiving dinner is just another
example of women being exploited.
They prepare all the food and after the
meal they do the dishes while the men
watch violent football.
Fewer guys are watching football thanks to
all that dissing the flag stuff.
Maybe they could watch those guys who kick and
punch each other instead!
You want violence?  Ever
see the damage canine teeth
 can do to a lib?
Whoa.  She's on your team....
Teachable moment.
If Bryan wasn't a mean dog,
he'd be an alt right wing zealot.
Hostmaster:  sure glad I didn't ask about saying Grace.
What I am, is alt indifferent.
Let's end this round.  I'm hungry
for a heart.  
Bless us O Lord and these
thy gifts which we are
about to receive from thy bounty
through Christ our Lord.
Round 52
Fluffy/Molly  21
Bryan/Cyndi   20

How horror films can help people suffering from anxiety
In the last couple months, I've watched the movies "Psycho," "Nightmare on Elm Street," "Scream 1," and "Scream 2" for the first time.

I know what you're thinking. "What took you so long to watch these classics?"

I was the little girl who was terrified of Ursula the Sea Witch as a kid. So, honestly, I put off watching these movies because I was scared.

But upon watching them, I realized something I never knew before. That, while watching horror flicks, my anxiety dissipated.

(image)Any thoughts that would normally stress me out would completely vanish and instead, the only thought that would consume my mind was, "Oh my god! Is Johnny Depp's character going to die?" or "Is Norman Bates or his mother the murderer?" And something about this was welcoming, even therapeutic, compared to thinking about real life stressors.

I have since found that this feeling is  common.

As one Reddit user said, "It creates a different anxiety, an anxiety that isn't about me, ya know?"

Researchers have actually found that scary movies can help reduce the anxiety of people who suffer from the disorder.

Psychology Today reports that adrenaline created by an abrupt blast of stress, like by watching scary movies, "sends a flood of oxygen-rich red blood cells through your body, boosts your immune system, and signals your brain to start releasing painkilling dopamine and endorphins."

Abby Moss, writer for Broadly, interviewed Dr. Mathias Clasen from Aarhus University in Denmark, who has been studying the psychological effects of horror movies for 15 years. He told Moss, "Exposure to horror films can be gratifying when the negative emotions caused by the film are manageable. ... We know it's not real. "

"The genre allows us to voluntarily—and under controlled circumstances—get experience with negative emotion."

There are many different treatments for anxiety. Medication. Exercise. Being outdoors. And even scary movies. There is no wrong way to cope. Just find the therapy works for you.

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