Turtleneck Sweaters, My Mom and Me

It was 20 degrees in Asheville last night, with the threat of snow. I wore my knee-high boots, a fur jacket and lined gloves to go out to dinner. And, underneath, I wore a turtleneck sweater.

Almost immediately, the sweater started to bother me. It felt tight, hot and uncomfortable.

But it looked good with my winter in the mountains outfit.

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I was a turtleneck sweater woman in my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. I wore them constantly in the fall and winter. I liked how a turtleneck looked with jewelry and belts, and especially how one looked with a business jacket. I bought multiple colors in multiple fabrics: light cotton, polyester and silk. (I am sadly allergic to wool). Occasionally, I would buy a heavier cotton sweater to wear with jeans in a casual sort of way.

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I loved turtlenecks in the 80’s!

 

In my 50’s, I still liked how they looked, and they also helped to mask the chin which was beginning to sag.

But then I hit my 60’s.

I haven’t purchased a turtleneck in several years. I still have a few of them in my closet, and I wear one when it’s cold and when I know that I won’t have to wear it long. They just aren’t comfortable anymore.

I realized some time ago – and was reminded again last night – that this is exactly what happened to my mother.

Mom was an attractive woman who could wear clothes well, especially in her younger years. She never had the money or inclination to buy a lot of clothes, but the ones she owned were pretty and, as a child, I loved to watch her dress up to go out to a party.

She would put on makeup, tease and spray her hair, dab on her perfume (wrists and neck), wriggle into her stockings (snapping them into garter belts, remember?) and then slip on a dress and high heels. I loved the “show” and how beautiful my mother looked when she finally let Dad see her. He would whistle at her and wink at us.

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Mom lookin’ good circa 1963

I remember that she had turtleneck sweaters in her wardrobe that she wore for less fancy events, including shopping trips. I thought she looked very “hip” when she wore them.

In her 60’s, after she lost my dad and began to have health problems of her own, she didn’t have as much interest in dressing up or the money to buy new things. Because I was making a good salary at that time, I bought her clothes on special occasions like her birthday and Christmas.

I remember giving her a beautiful cashmere turtleneck sweater for Christmas one year. She said she loved it.

But when I’d return home to visit, I never saw her wear it.

When I asked about it, she was apologetic.

I’m sorry honey. Turtlenecks just don’t feel comfortable around my neck anymore.

But they look so pretty, I said.

I know they do. I’ll wear your sweater when I go someplace special.

I knew that meant she probably wouldn’t wear it.

I remember being angry with her. Not because she wasn’t wearing my gift. I was angry that she didn’t care enough about how she looked. I wanted my mom to stay pretty.

Now when I look back at those times, I realize how much I didn’t understand about how she felt – not just about the turtlenecks, but about that decade of her life and the next. (She died at 78).

It would be great to be able to sit down with her today, both of us in our 60’s, and talk about life. I’d share with her that I don’t like turtlenecks anymore either and that I’m sorry for wanting her to wear them.

She would probably chuckle.

There are lots of other things I’d like to ask her about being over 60.

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I don’t know if she would have any great insights or advice for me, but I bet we’d laugh together about being this age … that is, if we didn’t cry instead!

Cathy Green

 

 

Carol Turns 60

One of my oldest and dearest friends turns 60 this week. She is fabulous – working creatively full-time, still a size 6, married about 6 years, and at all times both glamorous and loving.  I want to welcome her into her sixties with open arms and share with her advice I have pulled together by reflecting on these last 6 years of growing into my sixties.

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If you have a friend just turning 60, let me suggest you consider this list, or create your own list with your 6 points. Yes, there are losses – see Judith Viorst – but some of those losses are wonderful. It is slightly scary turning 60 – but it actually does seem to get more comfortable and suitable as the fifties become more ancient history.

So Carol . . . welcome to the fabulous sixties!

  • You will get sick of many aspects of working and may decide enough is enough and “retire” partially or fully from work. But you will find that there are some aspects of working (money, freedom, creativity, challenge) that you miss and perhaps are not ready to give up. This is a complex issue not easily solved. It is not easy to be part-time at anything. But with effort and determination there are ways to make part-time or different work, work FOR you. Allocate time to this effort, approach it in a relaxed but straight- forward way and take it seriously. Giving up working in my view works best when done gradually and with careful thought. After 6 years my part-time career is finally working like I want it to. You really cannot rush this process.
  • You will finally give up some long standing battle with yourself. You will accept yourself as you are more fully and just decide to play to your strengths and stop trying so hard to fix that nagging fault – that fault that in the overall picture is no big deal. My nagging fault as you well know is vanity – I accept it, make fun of myself for being the vainest woman in America, but don’t dwell on it anymore – there are MUCH worse flaws.

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  • Some people who never did matter or don’t matter anymore will simply exit your life. While we often through our fifties wonder about what happened to so and so, or why this or that relationship just didn’t work out, you realize in your sixties that it doesn’t matter anymore. The people who have come and stayed in your life, or are new friends who just arrived and are pulling you in are just the right people for you to be with now. You will miss no one and enjoy who is now present in your life if you just let friendships (and other things) unfold as they are meant to.

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  • Whether you decide to go to religious services more often or just start practicing yoga or reading more about spirituality, you will become more philosophical and spiritual – looking at and contemplating the big questions. Yes, I now definitely spend more time thinking about life after death, my legacy, or just how to be happy every single day and live in the moment. Gone are the pestering questions about this or that job situation or the horrible client. Since personal gossip never was my thing, it being totally absent is great. Nonsense (the little things: see many books on (don’t sweat the small stuff) really doesn’t seem worth worrying about. You finally lose this – the need to “figure out” why this or that personal thing is happening. You just deal with it.

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  • You will finally realize that love doesn’t conquer all, but it helps to love deeply and fully and have a tight inner circle. Having a great partner, as Cathy and I both do, is awesome, but its ups and downs is not the central story line anymore. Our partners called us back, we married them, and it is all good. No complex “love stories” will ever fill our minds with worry ever again – even if/when we are single again – the drama is just not the same. It is a loss – love dramas are so much a part of one’s earlier life, but I have found it is one of the greatest positive losses of being in my sixties not to think about that stuff anymore. You will wonder but be kind to yourself about all those hours of anxiety spent in “love drama”.

 

  • High standards become more important than ever. You realize that many of those tough boring disciplined approaches to life actually do matter. The fact you took your makeup off every night and put on cream matters now. The fact that you went to the gym at dawn really matters now. Having written thank you notes, called after a dinner party, followed up with a friend’s request have given you the habits and spine to keep at these now central means of staying whole, sane, purposeful and happy. What were hard to fit in disciplines, now are center stage as the real activities most important to do each day – thank God you know how to do them. I see in my sixties those that never had that discipline floundering as they age. Those who are disciplined thrive.

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Carol, it is a bit scary turning 60. And you will find it more unlike your 50s with each passing year. I was slightly traumatized by it – the loss of my youth.  The result of my fear turned into writing FabulousOver60 with Cathy. What you will do is not yet clear, but it will be unique, much like you. Know this: buckle your seat belt – it is going to be quite a ride.

Patty

 

 

 

Should We Get a Second Dog?

Ray and I have begun talking about getting another dog.

Lexie, our Labradoodle, will be 9 years old in July. That’s close to 2/3 of the way through her expected lifetime.

She is the sweetest, smartest dog in the world. I know that’s what everyone says about their dog, but she actually is the sweetest and smartest.

Lexie, 2015

She has a sweet life, too. Because Ray and I are essentially retired, she is with us almost around the clock. When we are home in Asheville, we never leave her for more than a few hours. And that isn’t often. She loves to ride in the car, so we take her with us in her Jeep even when we run errands. Yes, that wasn’t a typo. The Jeep is hers. We bought it several years ago to make sure she has a comfortable riding experience.

She is intimately acquainted with all of the restaurants in town that allow dogs on their outdoor patios and decks, and she gets treats from lots of people who work in dog-friendly stores.

She has three of her own Orvis dog beds, and has learned that our living room couch, chairs and even our bed is not off limits as we cautioned her when we brought her home eight years ago. She gets groomed monthly, her “servant” Greg lives with her when we are out of town, and she is allowed to demand her walk every day at 4pm by nudging, spinning and barking.

Basically she is a diva.

And, we love her and get tons of joy out of watching her run, play and go crazy when we come home.

So, why would we consider a second dog?

Good question. We think a second dog might keep Lexie active and playful as she ages. We think it would be fun to get double dog licks and even more unconditional adoration. And, maybe most importantly, we think it might help us when the time comes for Lexie to leave us.

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At the same time, we have discussed the cons.

Lexie and the new dog might not actually become the buddies we want them to become. Lexie might resent an interloper and consider us the only companions she needs. If they do become buddies, we might be surprised how much trouble they can get in together. And, the cost is not insignificant. As someone once told me, “Two dogs are 10 times the work and 100 times the cost”. Vets, grooming, food, pet sitting, Orvis beds…. the list goes on and on.

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Searching the internet, I found three questions that dog owners should ask themselves about this important decision …

  1. Do you have the financial means to have a second dog?
  2. Do you have the time to train another dog?
  3. Are you healthy enough to take on the physical activity a second dog will require?

Financially, we can swing it, although we have avoided looking too closely at what we’re spending on Lexie. (The Jeep certainly skews the total.) We have enough time, too, since we are in our semi-retirement years. Healthy? So far so good.

Basically, we could do it. But do we really want to?

Here what I’m asking myself:

  • What will it be like having another 55-60 pound dog in the house? (Yep, we both like big dogs)
  • What about having two dogs in the back seat of the Jeep?
  • Would we really take two big dogs to restaurant patios?
  • Will dog-friendly friends feel a little less dog-friendly at the greeting they will no doubt get at our door?
  • Will we be lucky a second time around in finding a dog with Lexie’s temperament and smarts?

We haven’t made a decision yet… although not deciding is kind of like deciding, isn’t it?

All I know is that every time we see a cute little puppy… or two fun-loving dogs playing together … the urge strikes again.

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Opinions welcome. What do you think?

Cathy Green

p.s. Here’s a cute site about the pros and cons of two dogs.

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66 This Week: Time for Dream Analysis

Most of us have read or studied something about dream analysis. But if the last time you thought about dreams was when you took undergraduate psychology in the 60s and studied Jung and Freud, it is likely time to take another peak. Consider looking at www.dreamdictionary.org and get informed again as I am.  Actually I hadn’t thought about analyzing my dreams in a quite a long time. Two things happened that got me “re-focused”.

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First, a sermon at Church a number of weeks ago suggested a fresh look at our dreams as a way of working on oneself to understand more of who one is, and how one can improve or grow in faith and action given the insights of dreams. Referring to the Bible’s obvious use of dreams as a means of providing motivation for action, the idea of paying a bit more attention to my dreams seemed like a good idea for my own faith journey. Since this year for the first time I am writing NOTHING about my weight on my plans for 2016, dream analysis seemed like a good idea to fill in that open space.

Second, I have decided to have a “tune up”. For those of you who have never gone to or considered going to therapy – a “tune up” is a return to the well of wisdom otherwise known as Dr. Judy in my case, or Dr. Whoever in yours. I tend to go back for tune ups every 5 years or when I think I need support for staying the course of continuous learning, growth and sanity as I age. It hasn’t failed me yet. Most of us by our fabulous 60s have figured out our recurring weaknesses but like having another fresh reminder to “let it go”. And also, we hopefully know our greatest strengths – the good stuff that makes us magical, unique and wonderful. We often need a reminder of that too as external events get us mired in complex situations, health challenges, or just off track as life often can – especially when one is older.

Keeping track of my dreams, I started quickly after the Church sermon struck me as good fodder (or content?) for my therapy tune up. My goal was and still is to discover what am I still doing, or in the case of dreams, still thinking/emoting/stressing about that I should have long ago just put to rest or resolved. While tempted to share more graphically I will not. Another person’s dreams are about as interesting as watching your best friend get a pedicure. Somethings, not nearly the number younger women think, really honestly do need to be about you alone. Dream analysis is on that list.

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My point is, try it. I was skeptical but between writing down dreams (and the website mentioned above will give you guidance on remembering if you don’t already remember your dreams), re-reading them and just reflecting on some rather obvious themes that recur, I am finding myself getting a fresh and real picture of what I need to work on to feel and be better as 2016 unfolds.

Like everything else, we don’t have time for 20 years of therapy anymore than we have 20 years to date someone or stay married to someone we don’t love, pretend to go on a diet – or, do dream analysis and therapy. With experience comes insight and perspective. And, of course discipline and appropriate focus on real issues and shooing away the rest.

A few dreams of drowning, running away or just stewing in your own juice with characters from recent movies or your own life makes it clear that dream analysis isn’t rocket science anymore than most things are. With our years of dreaming, our years of thinking about our faults, problems, issues, family, ex loves, current loves, private sorrows and the knowledge about what we have to change, most of us can relatively quickly diagnose our dreams and use that information, with or without professional guidance, to do the necessary work we need to do on ourselves.

If there is anything that fabulousover60 women have learned it is this. Be brutally honest with yourself, figure out the issue/problem, and take personal responsibility to fix it. It never was easy and it isn’t easy now. But at least at this point, we aren’t thinking there is “an answer” out there that doesn’t involve hard work on our own part. Most of us tried that approach – and have given it up for good now: at least that is what we tell ourselves – and each other. Sweet dreams!

Patty

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Nails, Hair and Body Maintenance: Men Just Don’t Understand!

I just got back from a nail appointment. Here was my conversation with my husband Ray:

Your hair looks nice.

Thanks, but I didn’t have my hair done today.

Oh, I thought today was hair day.

No, today was fingernail day.

I thought that was last Friday.

No, that was pedicure day.

Didn’t you get a facial last week too?

Yes.

So, where are you going tomorrow morning?

To get a massage.

Poor guy. Ray has never been able to keep track of my body maintenance appointments. I don’t fault him. I can barely keep track of them myself.

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On a maintenance scale ranging from Low to High, I consider myself a “Low High”. I don’t think I’m a true “High” since I don’t do some of the things that many others do regularly … Botox injections, body scrubs, body hair waxing, spray tanning, etc. I would never, however, be accused of being “Low” maintenance since I have not let my hair go gray or allowed my fingernails to revert back to high school days.

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It’s a tough job being a Low High.

Here’s how it works:

  • I get my hair cut every 5 weeks and my color done every six weeks. (It takes too long to have both done on the same day. Don’t judge me, please.)
  • I get my acrylic nails done every three weeks. More about that later.
  • I get a pedicure every 8-10 weeks. I’m a sandal person after having spent 25 years in Florida, so this is not optional.
  • I get a facial every couple of months (a true High would have a regularly scheduled facial), usually when I want to have my eyebrows shaped. (Come to think of it, I don’t think Ray even knows about eyebrow shaping.)
  • I get a massage only when I need one. “Need”, of course, is quite subjective and variable. Recently, a muscle issue in my right leg has upped my need factor to about twice a month.

Sometimes, of course, this kind of schedule means that there’s a “perfect storm” of appointments very close to one another. That’s when it becomes quite noticeable to even semi-observant husbands.

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About those fingernails:

I started getting “acrylic” nails in my early 30’s when one of my sales reps pointed out that she got a manicure weekly to save time and to stay “neat and polished”. I thought she was probably giving me a not-so-subtle hint, since my nails were always messy, broken and dry.

I couldn’t just get a basic manicure, however, since my nails were very thin, unlike my mother’s nails which were always strong, thick and naturally “half-mooned”. I learned about acrylics in the 80’s — fake nails, but not as fake as press-on nails, I thought — and the rest is history.

Being in the Low High maintenance category is costly. When I think about the money I’ve spent in the last 35 years on nails, hair, pedicures, facials, massages and other body maintenance treatments – well, actually, I’d rather not think about it.

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Just to be clear. My current body maintenance regimen is NOT related to being over 60. There’s nothing I do now that I didn’t do in my 40’s and 50’s, except maybe schedule more frequent hair color appointments for my “base” (a salon euphemism for “gray roots”).

The difference, I think, is that I used to fit my appointments into my work schedule so that they blended into my overall busy life. Today, they ARE my work schedule.

Maybe I should just tell Ray I’m going to work and skip any further explanations.

Cathy Green

Holiday Leftovers

There are, as always the good, the bad and the ugly. Let’s talk a little. To get in the mood, click here for the iconic theme song of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Starting with “the ugly”. Nothing is uglier than leftover cookies, chocolate covered pretzels, formerly glorious food, or half gallons of some holiday punch.   It is past time, to have thrown out any leftovers having anything to do with the holiday season. That includes opening the freezer and tossing out those packets of cookies and leftover pie thrown in there while in a sugar haze as a sort of post holiday stash for one or another tough days ahead when a glass of wine is not enough and eating a bunch of sugar is the only possible “therapy”.

Speaking of ugly, I worked with a trainer yesterday. Upon seeing my new tiny (perspective is everything and I am calling it “tiny”) fat roll dripping over my super tight exercise tights (that now are about 75% of people’s wardrobes), the trainer said: “Patty, we are going to get rid of that holiday fat roll starting with some of these”. She demonstrated an exercise so hard I can’t share it without getting upset. Reminded me of why we have to pay someone to exercise with us if we have the means. If we do not have the means we know in our hearts we would be thin and more fabulous if we had a live-in coach. Here’s the truth from 50 plus years of thinking about weight – a truth ALL of us know absolutely to be true: get out there and walk frequently and eat healthy and small portions. The ugly part of this is just the knowledge that it really is that simple – and that hard.

Some of what I gave people didn’t work – let’s call that “the bad”. Amazon made billions – no joke – read this article to realize once again how much stuff we all actually buy despite our pleas that we can afford this that or the other. A technology gift for my granddaughter doesn’t work and is in the process of being exchanged. Even Amazon, the savior of all working, non-working, last minute Louis’s and Louisa’s made a few errors. That was disappointing but look at the positive side of this happening: even the “perfect” online retailer makes mistakes. But knowing Jeff Bezos and his company they are already learning from their mistakes – unlike most of us. My guess is they will be stronger than ever next year and of course do a great job of replacing my granddaughter Reagan’s kindle Fire. My own promises of being less controlling of others and better to myself are more in doubt.

Lowering one’s expectations of others, while keeping your own high is always THE recipe for success in a fabulous life. Let us remind ourselves of that truth AGAIN as we “deconstruct” the holiday’s leftover memories.

“The good” of the holiday leftovers is still in process. While my friend Debra has already sent the perfect hand written thank you note on a beautiful card, I haven’t started. I think the good has to include still writing thank you notes even if they are mailed January 20th (big day for me – I am 66). Do not feel guilty that one or another person actually remembered you – and you didn’t even send a card or note. Selectively write or call those that truly did seem to think of you and that you want to keep in your friendship circle/s.

So send notes, make calls, or send an email (now as old fashioned as writing a note) as late as you need to but do reach out – there are only a few of us left in the universe who bother; but let’s have someone be able to say at our funeral: “Patty never forgot to send a follow up note”. Better than much that could be said.

More about the good of holiday leftovers: I now let the holidays dribble closed. Not possible when you have a pressing full time demanding job. Remember when we all used the scorched earth policy of the holidays? This means everything – even a still alive poinsettia has to go by the first working day of the New Year. It also helped with those bad and ugly memories – simply pretend they never happened—focus on today’s phone messages or back in our day – our Day Timers – oh my who lived without a Day Timer?

I empty the house in stages now – which gives me time to enter the new year more slowly, and purposefully. It is not necessary to have my resolutions finished and in progress on January 2nd. But I do want to do some planning and thinking about how to be even more fabulous despite all the chaos in the world at large, the country at large or even in our extended friend/family circles. Peace on earth. More meditation – am staying with that one if it kills me. That comment shows how much I need daily meditation. More yoga, more reading, more prayers and a lot less advice for people whose lives have too much of the wrong type of stress.

Let the holidays end happily on any day you choose. My choice is January 10th – that’s my end of the good, bad and ugly – with the most emphasis on what I hope will be a wonderful and good year filled with behavior change on my part – the ONLY strategy for changed outcomes. Thank God gave us Dr. Phil to remind us of that eternal truth.  Something not right despite your repeated efforts – “so how’s that working for you?” Change darlings, we must change to get different results!! But it’s your choice what that looks like. Happy New Year other fabulous women!!

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Patty

The Best Gift in the World to Give (and Get)!!

I’m taking a break from the holidays to think about what I want to say to you our fabulous sisters – women everywhere who are in the their 60s and are celebrating (or not) a religious holiday and/or 2015’s passing and 2016’s start. new-year-images-2016-4[1]

Message one: you are perfectly wonderful.  Just keep reminding yourself of that and as calls, emails, messages, cards, or a blazing LACK of some arrive in the coming end of the year, rejoice!  You got and will get just what you were meant to – and you are happy, content and free of any criticism.  No one was in touch?  Well they were thinking of you but their life got so crazy they just didn’t get around to writing cards.  Their not sending you a card has nothing to do with you. You got emails instead of cards?  Well hey, someone who lives in one of those parallel universes to yours stopped his or her schedule for two seconds to send you a message. Many folks got less.

Message two: At this time, you should not share anything with anyone that isn’t full of joy, gratitude and appreciation for whatever small crumbs or huge diamonds came your way this past year.  Don’t bitch and don’t brag.  Getting a new dog, car, or taking a trip? Keep it to yourself unless someone pulls it out of you because they truly love you that much that your happiness honestly makes them happy (trust me this is a VERY VERY small group). Having the worst holiday of your life? Just take a deep breath and let it pass.  Or get a dog. Always great to have a dog to talk to – they just get it.

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Stop sharing unless you can say with certainty that the person you are talking to will be enormously happier after you share.  You will not tell anyone about even any minor complaints or problems you have.  You will save them up in a box that is imaginary and put that box in your deepest messiest closet.  You will never find it since by the time you start looking much more will have happened and you are not going to share any of that nonsense either.

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Message three: we are all exhausted.  I have a feeling you are just about out of gas on 2015 – maybe completely out of gas. The country, if not the world, is exhausted.  Whether traveling or staying home, grab the comfy PJ’s, the cup of tea and get ready for serious down time and some TLC – for both yourself and others.

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This is where I share the secret.  What is the absolute best gift to give anyone you love truly and absolutely unconditionally?  This gift will also be the most superb one you will get from anyone you love truly and absolutely unconditionally.

TADA – It is taking care of yourself, your mind, your physical health, your life.  Make your life the absolute best it can be – and give that health and happiness in a package that says on the card:  “Thanks sis/brother/niece/nephew – am feeling great this year – all is well and I want to thank you for all the help and support you gave me to make things this great for me”.  OR, “Merry Christmas Karen, I stopped drinking – thanks for caring.”  OR, “Happy new year Harry – I am going back to school to finish my degree – appreciate all the support you gave to help me make that decision.”  Or even this: “Happy holidays – my gift to you is six months of not complaining about anything”.  TRUST me, your family will LOVE IT.  When we care about ourselves we give the best gift – the gift of not worrying our family and our friends.  People do love us – and what they want is our health and happiness.  Give it to them.

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Then, come New Year’s you can share your resolutions that really press their happiness button — all of them are things that will make you a happy, healthy, peaceful, calm person who won’t be worrying any of them about anything.  Less worry equals more happiness and peace of mind.

AH… that feels good doesn’t it??

Patty

One Last Magical Night With Santa

Last year, I wrote a blog post about Christmas Eve, 1959, when I knew for sure that Santa was real. I’m reposting it today as Christmas Eve approaches. I hope you enjoy it!

Growing up in the 50’s, I loved everything about Christmas: the chilly Cincinnati weather; the fragrant freshly-cut tree in our living room decorated with soft glowing multi-colored lights, glass ornaments, tinsel and icicles; the possibility of snow on Christmas Eve; the anticipation of school vacation; Christmas carols on the kitchen radio; sugar cookies shaped like snowmen; the Andy Williams Christmas Show and Santa. Especially Santa.

Such a wonderful, magical man who could fly through the sky with his reindeer, sneak into our homes when we weren’t looking and bring beautifully wrapped presents to us because we had been good — dolls and toys and bicycles and jewelry boxes and musical instruments and more. It was so exciting!

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As the 50’s were coming to an end and my 10th birthday was getting closer, I began to hear rumors that Santa wasn’t real. Some of my grade school friends bragged about knowing for sure that the North Pole, the elves, the sleigh, the reindeer and Santa himself were made-up stories. I didn’t say anything. My 11 year old sister believed. My 6 year old brother believed. I believed, too. Mostly.

But I started paying closer attention.

Christmas Eve, as long as I could remember, started with three hyper-excited kids getting dressed in our Christmas outfits, coats, gloves and boots to walk next door to the neighbor’s house. Hazel, Lillian and Florence lived there – two sisters and a friend. People called them “old maids” at the time… and they were definitely old. At least 45! Hazel was the cook and back-scratcher, Lillian was the drill sergeant with the hearty laugh and Florence was the quiet knitter who made us pink, blue and yellow “booties” each year for Christmas. Because they were alone with no kids and few relatives, Mom and Dad always accepted their invitation to Christmas Eve dinner.

Although we kids were much too excited to eat, we were keen to get to their house because that was when Santa would know that he could sneak into the house and leave our presents. Every year, after dinner, carols and the exchange of presents with the ladies, we would throw on our coats, jump into our boots and run back over to our house. Every single time, Santa had snuck in during that couple of hours and eaten our cookies, finished his milk and left lots and lots of shiny packages under the tree.

Cathy in the early 50’s at Lillian’s house with a new doll and a horn

Cathy in the early 50’s at Lillian’s house with a new doll and a horn

That year, 1959, I was watching closely. Just as we were about to leave to go to Lillian’s house, Dad said he’d forgotten to check the furnace and that he would be there soon. It occurred to me that dad was always the last to leave the house. Every year there seemed to be something he had forgotten to do or a call he had to make. Before, it hadn’t been a big deal. This year, I was very, very suspicious. Checking the furnace on Christmas Eve?

I spent a lot of time with Hazel as she cooked dinner that year so that I could keep a lookout through their kitchen window. It was directly across from my living room window and I knew that Santa would have to walk by to place the presents under our tree.

Dad finally arrived and it was time to take the turkey out of the oven and sit down to eat. I decided to sneak one more peek and… there he was! A big man dressed in red in my house, bending over to place our presents under the tree. I shrieked! It’s him! There’s Santa!

My brother and sister and mom and dad came running to the window. Brother Tom saw him. Sister Chris wasn’t sure. Mom said she couldn’t see anything. But, my dad saw Santa. Yep, that’s him, he said.

I was delirious with joy. Santa was real. He was in my house. I ran outside to see if I could spot the sleigh and reindeer …I must have missed them, but it didn’t matter. I had seen Santa!

When we finally opened the door to our house that night, the presents were piled everywhere. The cookies were gone. The milk glass was empty. It was an evening full of smiles, exciting new toys and presents for everyone!

By the following Christmas, mom and dad had told me that Santa wasn’t real. They said that I should keep the secret so that baby brother Tom could still believe.

But I saw him! And so did Tom. And so did you, Dad! I protested.

Dad explained that he and mom had figured it out later that night. Apparently, Hazel – a heavyset woman who wore a bright red dress that year – had been bending over the oven to remove the turkey just as I looked out the window. The right timing, the right lighting and my 10 year-old desire to believe produced the reflection that became my miracle.

Now, so many Christmases later, I remember how clearly I saw Santa that night and how magical it was. Who knows, maybe dad and mom were wrong. Santa still seems to know where I live because gifts keep showing up under my tree every year!

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Cathy Green

More Fabulous Holiday Traditions

Cathy got me thinking about getting into a great mood for Christmas with her reminder to love “what is” versus what should/could/won’t or otherwise can’t be for the holidays. Deciding to love “what is” this season and reminding ourselves of what we are most thankful for is the first holiday decision worth making.

Here’s a few more fabulous ideas that I am planning on doing . . .

  • Remembering my elderly Aunt and Uncle (95 and 100), a dear friend who had serious cancer surgery, another who lost her husband, and even the woman who years ago took care of my aging parents before they died back in 2003 are first on my list of doing and/or/getting something for.
  • Calling at least 5 people this month that I typically do not and surprise them with time on the phone to catch up and share. Rather than a card, these are people who I just didn’t have time for this year but deserve my time and attention – especially if I hope to keep them in my circle of friends. Just got a surprise call myself and loved it – and interestingly it was from a fabulous guy over 60!
  • Keep reading the New York Times every day and skipping watching any news on devices – that is on TV or computer or on my phone. When you can’t sleep thinking one of the people you watched on a debate will be our next president, don’t blame me – I will be sleeping thinking that the universe/God/someone will create an election result that makes sense. None of these people will be under my skin or in my brain because I refuse to watch them!
  • Keep writing notes and cards through the 31st of the month if need be – a few a day. And again, say something to people: share one thing I’ve/we’ve learned or experienced (like emptying our house and changing home base), wish them well on something they had happen. I figure a personal note will mean more even if late than the perfect photo card on time.
  • Look fresh, put together and festive when I can this holiday every time I leave my home. Few here in Tucson are listening to me on this one. This is our new home base. I think many women here post 60 don’t even think about how they look and appear to others. No one will convince me that how you look and present yourself does not matter. It does if you want to be fabulous.

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  • Give generously to anyone homeless, or looking distressed. I want to smile, and act like we are participating in this world and are responsible for it. Because we are.

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  • Giving myself a special, unique and fabulous gift. I have decided that my gift to me is to treat myself with the same love and kindness I treat others with – that is going to be hard for me. Just being me for so long has made me a bit compulsive and other directed – those that know me, including Cathy are now saying “a bit?????”
  • Am going to support every one of you fabulous women who have the same or an entirely different list, or just aren’t sure yet what being fabulous means to you this holiday season.

Being fabulous is actually getting clearer to me. It remains – like the success, lessons learned or achievements of our pasts – something that takes work, commitment and a sense of purpose and direction. Nothing comes easy – in fact, I am finding the older I get (66 this January) the harder it is to be fabulous. But that gives me/us something to strive for: to look as fresh and sharp as we can, to keep being kind – not giving up on ourselves or others because we have our shortcomings physically and mentally.

Happy fabulous Christmas/holiday/season of joy. Thanks for supporting me/us in being fabulous. Cathy and I appreciate it and consider it a gift of motivation from all of you. Our gift to you is to keep writing. Ideas always welcomed this holiday or any day.

Patty

 

I’m in a Bah-Humbug Kind of Mood and it’s Time to Change My Mind

It’s the second week of December and I’m not yet into the Christmas spirit.

Ray says that I go through this every year and that I just need a few more days. Hmmm.

When you’re a kid, Christmas can’t get here soon enough. The 365 days until it’s time to decorate the tree again, watch anxiously for snow, count the days until school is out, and hope you get the presents you want seems like an eternity.

At this age, it seems like Christmas was yesterday. Wasn’t I just recently sending cards to friends, trying to figure out what to get the five grand-kids and getting irritated by loud, inane TV commercials?

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I really don’t want to be a curmudgeon about Christmas. It has always been my favorite holiday. I love the smell of a Blue Spruce tree in the living room, the soft glow of lights around the house, poinsettias everywhere and the chill in the air.

So why am I not in the mood for Christmas?

Maybe it’s the news. It’s certainly not easy to be happy when so many bad, sad things are happening around the world and in our own country.

Maybe it’s politics. The “race” for the presidency this year is a slow, agonizing slog… no one on either side makes me want to ring bells of joy.

Maybe it’s buying presents for teenagers. The five grand-kids want gift cards. Period. How boring.

Maybe it’s because I couldn’t find a Christmas card I liked … even though there are thousands of them to choose from.

Maybe it’s the impersonal feeling of buying things online. It’s easy, sure. But there’s no touching and feeling the gifts (one of my favorite things), there’s no temptation to pick up impulse gifts, and there’s no satisfied feeling of carrying shopping bags to the car in the crisp late afternoon air.

Maybe it’s the busy about being busy syndrome, feeling inundated with a lot of “stuff to do”.

Or… maybe it’s just me being nostalgic for the good old days.

Whatever the case, I’ve still got a couple of weeks, so here’s what I’ve decided to do to get me out of my bah-humbug mood:

  • I’ve planned three outings to sites that are Christmas-y. I’m lucky to live in Asheville NC, so one of those outings will be to a Candlelight Christmas evening at the Biltmore House. The lighted trees, carolers and musicians throughout the house are magical. In addition, an evening walk through the NC Arboretum’s Winter Lights show is part of my plan, as well as driving through the holiday lights display at the NC Agricultural Center.
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Biltmore House on the Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina

  • I’m going to attend and enjoy several parties during the holidays, and I’m having one of my own with lots of sweets and some new holiday music.
  • I’m going to spend several hours shopping with Ray for a couple of gifts. We used to surprise each other with presents under the tree. These days, we’d rather have things we can actually use and enjoy the experience of shopping together.
  • I’m going to write holiday greetings on Christmas cards, stamp them and send them to people I like — old-fashioned as that is.
  • I’m going to buy the grand-kids’ gift cards … but I’m also going to send each of them a book chosen especially for them. I’ll feel better about sending something unique to each of them (while doing my part to keep real books in circulation.)

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  • I’m going to contribute more than I had planned to a favorite local charity before the end of the month, and I’ll put money into any Salvation Army bucket I see.
  • I’m going to reach out to family and close friends to let them know I love them.

And, most of all, I’m going to be consciously grateful for what I have – rather than what I don’t. A beautiful home, a wonderful partner, a fire in the fireplace, a Blue Ridge mountains “eye party” out my window, a healthy and happy family, great music and friends and fun times together …..

Bah-humbug? Me? Never mind!

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Cathy Green

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