High Hopes

Back in the middle of the previous century, Frank Sinatra had a hit called “High Hopes.” The lyrics start with an ant trying to move a rubber tree plant – among other impossible feats of determination.

Just what makes that little old ant
Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant
Anyone knows an ant, can’t
Move a rubber tree plant

But he’s got high hopes
He’s got high hopes
He’s got high apple pie
In the sky hopes

On family road trips in the Chevy Falcon (bench seats, no seat belts that I can remember) we loved when that song came on the radio, especially the choruses, because the last line repeats three times and it was fun to sing along:

So any time your gettin’ low
‘Stead of lettin’ go
Just remember that ant
Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant
Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant!
Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant!

When the first lockdown in my state began, we talked about “flattening the curve.” For the most part, we achieved it. But people took liberties when things loosened up a bit, and then all the bickering and denials and maskholes appeared, and then things got exponentially worse through the summer on every front, and now we’re all exhausted right when we need to really toughen up and gut this damn thing out. Health care workers are cracking, and in some areas, the health care system is on the brink of collapse.

When I saw photos and video of yet another unmasked superspreader event in D.C. yesterday, it was all I could do not to scream “why don’t you go back to your double-wide and fry something!” If I had been there as a counter-protester, and succumbed to temptation, I’m sure I would have gotten the same treatment Candace Bergen did after she yelled that line in Sweet Home Alabama – Reese Witherspoon decked her.

This perpetually combative state of fury and frustration has taken its toll, and threatens to destroy the last shred of civility I could muster.

I won’t give up. I want to find something to hang on to, some way to keep going, some example of courage or determination or resilience or kindness, that health care and other essential workers display daily.

That fox up there in the image? One day I was astonished to see him leap to the top of that wood fence, and trot confidently along the top of it, toward my neighbor’s front yard.

Another day, he came sniffing around the chicken coop (I said “sorry dude, they’re long gone”). I roared and “made myself big,” putting my hands up and stomping on the deck. I was concerned about Angelic Daughter, who likes to sit out on the deck (when it was warm enough just a few weeks ago) and enjoy the back yard. The foxes around here have been unnervingly bold lately.

I kept yelling at the fox.

Then he did this:

That is not something I thought foxes could do.

He seemed to decide the tree wasn’t his best exit route, and jumped down, running toward the chicken coop again. I yelled at him again, and he ran straight for that chain link fence.

And jumped over it.

He’s big for a fox, but I didn’t think a jump to three times as high as he was long was possible. That’s determination.

I hope when this damn pandemic is over, I can jump the fences between me and people who disagree with me. My high hopes, inspired by that high jumping fox, are that I’ll be able to treat people I disagree with civilly, even when it’s impossible to “respect” their point of view.

Back when I worked an advocate for intellectual freedom, I would frequently get yelled at on the phone by people who thought the organization I worked for was trying to corrupt young minds by making books they disagreed with available. (Callers were people who believed that books like The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, by famed Christian thinker C.S. Lewis, was un-Christian, because it depicted magic).

I’d let them yell it out (sometimes holding the phone at arm’s length), and then I’d say, “I may not be able to make you happy, but I can give you some information that might help you understand our position.” Then I’d explain that their freedom to read about and express their beliefs was only protected if the same freedom extended to those on the opposite side.

Sometimes, it worked.

Maybe it still could.

Hopeful, I remain,

Your not-a-Pollyanna-but-determined-to-get-through-to-better-days,


P.S. – I’ve updated my 27 Things page with a new listicle. Hope you get a kick out of it.

Mrs. McWhiny’s Pity Parlor is Closing

So, about that last post. Aren’t we quite the little drama queen, with our little pity party?

Sorry about that.

I really was feeling that way and was writing from the heart, but I can feel my New England ancestresses (one of whom lived as a widowed schoolmarm for over 45 years) are pissed off at me from the next world. They want me to

So, OK, enough Mrs. McWhiny – it’s time to put the big girl pants back on (wait a sec, I am big girl, so I kind of wear them all the time, but whatever), pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get your big ass into gratitude gear.

You’ve probably seen this one, but it bears repeating:

So, yes, my daughter and I (that’s the first thing I should be grateful for — I am not, in fact, alone – I live with an angel; a beautiful, resilient, patient, kind, caring, forgiving angel) have been through some big stuff, but:

  • we’re alive
  • today, we have a roof over our heads
  • today, we have food
  • today, the power works and the faucets produce clean water, hot when needed
  • I have a reliable car that will be paid off by next October
  • I have two brothers, one of whom lives close enough to come and help out
  • that closer brother weatherstripped doors today, so we’re less freezing in here
  • handy closer brother also tested the back-up sump pump he installed, and it works
  • this year’s mother-daughter Christmas downtown excursion is planned and booked
  • I lost a pound by not eating dinner last night – intermittent fasting works for me
  • I had an opportunity to do a small, unnoticed but kind thing today, and I did
  • I have gotten this far through the day without accidentally hurting myself

I am grateful for these things. I am grateful for the wise, kind WordPress friends who have shared their wisdom and kindness with me – you guys rock. I love your blogs. You know who you are (and anyone who reads this should too, because there’s a list of blogs I follow over there in the sidebar – or at the bottom if you scroll down, I think).

I am grateful for small accomplishments and meeting modest daily goals.

I’m grateful for weird dreams that amuse and puzzle me.

I’m grateful that through online shopping I figured out cheap, functional, stick-on, OK looking LED vanity lights for my dressing table, so I didn’t have to hire an electrician to tear up the wall.

I’m grateful for my old, fat, warm, soft cat Sophie, even though she ignores her claw-sharpening carpet remnant and continues to destroy the good rugs, and sits on my face when I’m not ready to get out of bed yet to feed her.

I’m grateful for the really good, really beautiful sacred music my choir director selected for the Christmas concert, and the challenge of learning it and the joy of singing it with a really good choir. You may take that as a shameless plug for our concert, which is a bonus add-on to my gratitude about it, because I really am grateful.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be grateful, and, because I’m breathing, the chance to be happy, one moment at a time. I hope I can maintain the happiness long enough to send a little love out into the word.

They say what goes around comes around. You reap what you sow.

In the bleak midwinter – what can I give?

….give my heart.

Trying to send love in little bits and pieces, I remain,

Your loyal, devoted, sucking-it-up-and-snapping-out-of-it,


Resilience, or, Time to Turn Off the Water

“Do not go gentle into that good night,…
Rage, rage against the dying of the light…”

 – Dylan Thomas

It was 20 degrees (Farenheit) this morning. Some of the first snow still has not melted.


A few weeks ago I remembered to shut off the water to the outside faucets, and to unscrew the hoses – which I left (not neatly coiled) on the ground. The hoses might freeze but HA! the pipes won’t.

I’m the last house on the block with a lawn completely blanketed in golden leaves, because my day for the lawn guys was Friday, and Friday was the day it snowed. They’ll come this week for the last round of lawn maintenance (“Fall clean-up”) this year, and they’ll do the gutters too.

Mike used to do the gutters, and insisted on going up on top of the house even when he could barely stand up for more than 5 minutes. It’s a guy thing, I guess. Like shoveling snow. He did that too, until he nearly fainted again.

I must have been thinking about that when I was puttering around in my flannel nightgown  on this cold, (but sunny and lovely, in that low-slanty-light, late autumn way) morning, when I wandered into the downstairs bathroom, off the kitchen, to ponder the state of the peeling wallpaper.

And was stopped in my tracks by that cutesy turkey towel, and the little scarecrow-in-a-jar Mike and I bought on some long-ago fall excursion, staring at me. I got them out right after Halloween, in accordance with the Thanksgiving Rules (no Christmas decorations, or Christmas music, until the day AFTER Thanksgiving. Over the River and Through the Woods, Now Thank We All Our God, We Gather Together: GOT IT?)

Oh dear. It appears there’s a faucet I haven’t quite managed to turn off.


Not sweet, sentimental, “aww, remember? Isn’t that cute?” tears – these were real tears, coming from sudden, unexpected burst of despair.


I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “Anne, maybe it is finally time to see someone (“see someone” being that dodgy euphemism for “get a therapist.”)”

I’m one of those people who thinks I should be able to snap out of it on my own. Figure out what’s setting me off and fix it, right? Have some backbone, clean something, paint something, get crackin’ cutting those logs in half –  you’ll need them for the fireplace soon. Feeling sick? Blue? Get your ass outdoors and go for a brisk walk.

Or, at least, head over to the fitness center and work it out.

Which I did, and I feel better. Much better.

I also figured out what hit me this morning, and why seeing that towel, and the gorgeous gold leaf-blanket all over the lawn, turned the tear-faucet on. It’s the same thing that happens every year when autumn slips away.

Not that I don’t love what’s coming next, ho, ho, hark the herald and all that, but I always feel cheated – I want more of these crisp, blue sky, golden fall days.

The best seasons are always the shortest.

That must have gotten wrapped up in my subconscious with losing Mike too soon.

He wanted to make it to October, so he could die under a bright blue October sky, but it didn’t work out that way. He died on a hot August night, almost exactly at the halfway point between the 18 and 24 months of time the oncologist had estimated he would have.

His birthday is in October, and now both he and October are gone, and the last blaze of autumn is frozen in the yard, the trees are bare and the gutters need cleaning, to keep the ice dams of winter at bay.

I pulled myself together before I came out of that bathroom, so my daughter wouldn’t see I’d been crying again, and noticed that my favorite grass in the front garden, IMG_20181113_130206.jpgwhich had been completely flattened by the wet snow, had bounced back.

It bloomed very late, the last week of October, with pretty pinkish tufts of fluff at the top.

Then, almost as quickly as it had bloomed, it dried up, but still stood there, adding structure and height where other flowering plants and shrubs had drooped or died back completely.

And there it was this morning, revived, out from under that hummock of wet, heavy snow, standing tall again. All by itself.

The lawn guys whacked it off very early last spring, when I wanted to enjoy it’s structure for longer, but it came all the way back.

Well, dammit, I thought – if the grass can do it, so can I.

I’ll enjoy that tuft of grass until it gets flattened by snow again, and then I’ll enjoy it in the spring until it gets cut back again, and I’ll delight in it when it comes back and blooms late again. World without end, amen.

That beautiful slanty-light sunshine is supposed to last through Friday, so maybe there will be a few more brisk walks before the cold and snow set in for real.

Until then, I remain,

Your spine-stiffened, spigot-stopping, about-to-embark-on-another-paint-job,