When Meeting New Friends At This Age, “Memory” Matters!

My husband and I made a decision five years ago to leave Florida and retire to North Carolina.  Leaving friends was the hardest part of that decision. At 65 and 61 years of age respectively, we knew that we would have to be proactive about finding a new circle of friends in our new town.

As a couple, we like to golf, listen to live music, eat at great restaurants and go to (and host) parties. It was important to us to have some friends who enjoyed similar things.

At the five year mark (which we passed in October), we feel good that we have met a lot of interesting people and have developed a handful of special friends.

Initially, reaching out wasn’t easy. We knew only one person when we got to town – our real estate agent. It had been quite some time since we had needed to connect with new people.  It felt like we were starting to date after going through a divorce.

But, we were lucky in several ways: Our neighbors across the street were especially generous with their introductions to new people.  We joined a golf club and attended several events for newcomers where we met other newcomers to the area.  Our real estate agent invited us to a couple of events where we met other friends and clients of hers.   Ray re-connected with a grade school buddy who he hadn’t seen in 40 years and he and his wife have become friends.  We reached out and reconnected with a former business colleague who now lives in Asheville with her husband.  We contacted several people at the recommendation of other business colleagues and Florida friends.  Through these connections, we then met some of their friends and acquaintances.  It’s been fun and interesting.

It has also, at times, been challenging.

As we met people, we had to zero in on those that both Ray and I felt that we wanted to get to know better. Then we had to decide whether to ask them out to dinner, or to our home, or to a concert.

Once decided, we had to “put ourselves out there” and see if they were interested, as we were, in getting together.  Then, once connected, we had to learn things about them to continue to test our mutual compatibility.

Finally, most difficult of all, we had to remember what we learned!

Let me digress.  At this age, neither of us has a great memory.  More than ever, if I don’t write things down, they are likely to disappear off my radar screen. And Ray’s memory is at least as bad as mine.

So, that means that we can have a nice time with new potential friends, enjoy our discussions, decide we’d like to continue exploring the friendship and then promptly forget things we learned about them.

It’s happened more than once – and it happens the other way, too, since many of our potential friends have their own memory challenges.

Here’s an example: While our husbands talked about golf, one woman and I spent close to two hours over dinner talking about our work lives and the fact that neither of us had children but shared daughters and grandkids with our husbands. We also talked about pets and what we like about Asheville.  At our next dinner, about three months later, she asked what I did for a living, whether I had children, how long we’ve been in Asheville, and if we had pets.  Déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would have said!  I have to admit, I didn’t feel good on the receiving end of this exchange.

Since I’d rather not be perceived as a person who doesn’t listen or remember previous discussions, I am doing two things to help myself and Ray.

First, I hone in on four things to remember when I meet a new person or couple:

  1. What did they do in their careers? (Or what are they doing now for work?)
  2. How many children/ grandchildren do they have? (Separately or together)
  3. What do they enjoy doing for fun?
  4. Do they have a pet, and if so, what’s its name?

I think these are important issues to all of us baby-boomers and have found that using one or all of these pieces of information at the next encounter is appreciated – and often surprising. You remembered that?  People seem especially happy if you remember their pet’s name!

Second, I jot down these few tidbits of information in a notebook as soon as I can. Of course, I then have to remember to pull out the notebook before seeing the person/couple the next time!

I don’t think it’s easy to develop new friendships in later life. But, as one of the many baby-boomers who has decided to retire to another city and state, I have come to appreciate how  important it is to make the effort  – even when it’s uncomfortable or when it takes some extra work and memory tricks.

For me, developing new friendships has been a large part of my journey to feeling connected and happy in Asheville.  (Of course, finding the right hair stylist, nail tech and masseuse have ranked right up there too!)

Cathy Green

PS: Here’s an interesting article I found called 6 Ways Friendships Grow More Complicated As You Get Older”.

Never Stop Having Fun, It’s Seriously Underrated

New Year traditions have been overhauled for 2017.

For 99% of my adult life, the end of the year coincided with buying a blank book labeled with The New Year. It was used to write an analysis of the current year just ending (versus the goals and objectives I set out with) and then begin planning and big-picture thinking about the year ahead.  I would create several versions of my goals and often did this for each of what I thought of as “key areas”: health/fitness, business, friends, relationships, family, community, and often a new area like write book, graduate school, new office, move, or some category that related to a particular big area that was going to happen in the coming year.

By the first week of January, I was set to go.  Many items and specific strategies were already in the book and most goals were already memorized and I was set to take action.

I bought a lovely blue blank 2017 book at the end of 2016. It still sits idle and empty.  If you want to give it a home let me know.  Just never got focused on the big end-of- year analysis and next-year planning thing.  Maybe 2016 stressed me out too much, or I just lost interest in over-evaluating myself.

I have informally evaluated the year in my head – more than once. Many down arrows around plans – I had to jump start a work project that has been in fits and starts for nearly 15 years, one quite odd and one very tough health issue happened along, a plan I kept pushing never jelled, a different and very successful 45th college reunion was special. But then lots of up arrows around all I learned and all the fun and experiences from the first year of traveling all over for half the year.  I don’t seem to want to put it all down on paper much less get my goals out from the start of 2016, and check off the ones done and those undone.

What’s going on?

 

As I soon approach my 67th birthday on the 20th, I seem definitely less inclined to elaborately plan and set multiple goals in multiple areas anymore.  I am not feeling bad about what I used to do – just don’t feel in my heart it is what I need to do now.  Complexity doesn’t thrill me anymore.

It appears that I am now “getting” the big (but unoriginal) insights most people get when they are aging – even fabulously as my partner Cathy Green and I do.  Here’s a few: we all are going to die, and likely it won’t be a blast and it will be decades from now; everyone we know is in that same boat; we absolutely positively cannot and will not change anyone but ourselves. Changing ourselves can still happen – but we must get very strong, disciplined and focused. The standards we have for how our nieces, nephews, children, grandchildren, and people in general, should handle things is not just a complete fantasy and waste of time thinking about. It can take too much bandwidth, as my one friend says, and make you lose focus on what you can control: your own life.

Yes, the BIG insight has come through – success in life means staying on your own yoga mat.  Or, as our mothers’ used to say: mind your own business.  It wasn’t exactly the same point, but it worked for them. The yoga mat is more in keeping with being fabulous, since it implies we have to stay focused on ourselves and have to do it with discipline – our long-suit anyway. We would not be fabulous now if we hadn’t been super-disciplined then.

Here’s my new plan and goals for 2017.  Short, sweet, and I hope, freshly fabulous. My hope is it gets you thinking about your 2017 – in a new, light and happy way.

  1. Make money on the product I (and my partners) have focused on for 15 plus years. Get leverage from years of work already finished. Continue to make it better as it takes off. New technology will allow us to sell it quickly (January and February launches are set) see what works, what doesn’t and what maybe never will.  Dump it or celebrate it.
  1. Feel as good as I can every day. Exercise, meditate, pray, give time and attention to those in need who are present on my road. On the days I can’t do these things, take a longer nap.
  1. Use some new inputs for spiritually, reflection, growth – mix it up a bit. Get off old lists, or emails and get on newer ones. Constantly curate my world.
  1. Continue to write. Continue to read good books. Watch more Netflix. When in doubt or any distress, listen to classical or spa music.
  1. Have as much fun, find reasons to laugh and do as many new things as possible – both alone and with those I love. Travel frequently but lightly.
  1. Coach people I love and know I can influence – keep that group very small. Let my tribe thrive (those who matter) and keep those close who care, and detach from those who don’t, without any thought. If something needs a great deal of analyzing, skip it.

Guess I am set – I feel a little naked with this short a list.  But as I continue to be challenged by aging and its numerous losses and surprises, I recommit to the less is more approach. Focus on what matters. Forget everything else. Never stop changing as the situation demands, and absolutely never stop having fun.  It’s seriously underrated.

Patty

Don’t Forget To Write Thank You Notes For Your Holiday Gifts!

Here are four things that I believe are important about sending thank you notes. I hope you’ll agree!

  1. Do it SOON. Although sending notes is better late than never, there’s no time like NOW. The gift-giver probably spent more time picking out your gift than you spent opening it. So spend a few minutes right away writing a thank you note. This week would be a perfect time.
  2. Don’t use email, texts or voice mail messages. Sorry, these just don’t work for us fabulous women! If you’re a teenager, maybe it’s OK. But once you are an adult and are giving gifts to or receiving gifts from other adults, you’ll need to send a note in an envelope with a stamp! (I think teenagers should send handwritten notes to grandparents and other adults, too, but that’s another story.)
  3. Make your note personal and sincere. Tell the gift-giver why you like the gift and/or how you’re going to use it.
  4. Write a note even if you’ve thanked the gift-giver in person. It takes so little time and will generate such great feelings.

Family members and friends who gave me gifts this holiday season deserve a few minutes of my time, a card or piece of stationery, and a stamp. Don’t yours?

Cathy

2017 Is Almost Here, But 2016 Keeps Surprising Me!

No, this is not going to be about the election.  If you are one of the 3 people who are still frequently following the news on the political front, God bless you, but don’t contact me.  I, like most, have temporarily shaken off “the real state of affairs” and put it on a shelf to deal with later… much later.

What I am talking about is how, even in these waning days of 2016, things are happening that seem uniquely odd, sad, strange and surprising. That which makes us wonder again and again: what’s going on with this crazy year?  Here’s a few situations from my own last week.

I hadn’t paid a bill on time and got a late charge and note from my account – Saks Fifth Avenue of all cards!!  Ah some things do NOT change.  In any case, I missed the payment in all the Christmas crazies but decided on December 26th to give them a call and start arranging to have money just taken out automatically.  A warm voice greeted me.

“Hi, I’m Helen from (popular credit card company), how can I help you?”

Helen needed my birthday to proceed and when I gave it to her (1/20/50 in case you may have forgotten), she got even warmer and said, “you know I have a January birthday too and turning 62 – and just think it is time for makeover/do-over of my looks”.  15 minutes later we were still talking about makeup for women in their fabulous 60s and I hadn’t even paid my bill.  Then we got “down to business” and she just told me she was waving my late fee and interest charges – and all I had to pay was $x – it was done quickly.  We wished each other with happy New Year and hung up cordially.  I was wondering if an angel had sent this woman to me or I was talking to one of the few service people who makes your heart sing.  What was THAT about?

Guess it proves that any woman can connect with another woman other even when they are total strangers.  Isn’t that fabulous and surprising?  Right now, if Cathy Green, my Fabulous blog partner is reading this she is shaking her head and saying: “that isn’t surprising at all for you Patty – for anyone else, yes, a total shock”.

Someone I know is going through a divorce.  Yes, getting divorced over Christmas is only slightly less disturbing than the absolutely biggest nightmare you can ever imagine. Why anyone would divorce during the holidays is astonishing to me.  Nothing is going right. The players are acting, shall we say, “strangely” and the fallout is breaking hearts and confusing even the most even-tempered and spiritual of the inner circle.  Do people have to been so cruel to each other NOW – as one of the toughest years ever is ending?  It is breaking my heart that I can’t help the situation.

A friend I met through church is retiring and also having a big birthday.  I thought that I could be so helpful to her now – after all, I am a life coach (does the phrase ‘who cares’ come to mind?).  Point being I thought “she needed me”.  We had a great lunch – she was everything fun, mature, thoughtful, loving, sophisticated in her thinking and offering some solid advice to ME about handling a few things.  So much for me being needed – my lunch FOR my friend was a surprise – it was a lunch WITH one fabulous woman who I obviously needed to listen to.  Not that I didn’t already know that.  But still.

And then there was a long overdue call with a friend from back east, who unfortunately had a bad fall down some hard to see steps early in December and was recovering.  A surprising event for anyone; but the accident itself seemed sadly typical of 2016.  But here is the really surprising thing: my friend’s accident seemed to not just be a royally painful episode in her life, but had a transformative positive effect on her personally. It opened her up to learning and healing in a way that was going to definitely redefine 2017 for her. Yikes – someone actually DOES turn lemons into lemonade.

The last days of 2016 aren’t exactly comforting.  Could there be more of living life in a salad spinner coming up in 2017?  I am not sure what’s ahead, and I do want to wish everyone love, peace and hope in the New Year.  It seems to me that maybe our old standbys like loving ourselves, giving ourselves a break, being there for others and not expecting to be able to solve their issues, and to just trying to lighten up our hearts to hear and experience the unexpected with grace is going to be the very best we can do.  But you know my dear fabulous women, this list is more than enough.

We aren’t the center of the world anymore – let’s take one of the REAL benefits of aging: letting the next generation figure out how to make things work as we enter 2017.  While we don’t want to just have our lives be waiting for a Publisher’s Clearing House contest to make it all better, a little bit of the old song “what will be will be” is in order.

Don’t let that scare you like it scared our parents.  Just try your best to have a happy new year!  Trust me, 2017 is going to be fabulous.  That would be a wonderful and much-welcomed surprise we really need.

Patty

Feelings of the Season

In the first few minutes of the movie La La Land, you are brought back to your own struggling youth and the intensity of feelings so as part of being in one’s 20s.  It was a rush – and the rest of the movie doesn’t disappoint, if you are as big-hearted and romantic as I know most of you are!

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La Land

In the middle of Manchester by the Sea, you groan as you feel a pain so intense you can’t remember feeling quite that awful for another human being that you don’t know personally.  While tough to watch in parts, I felt a gift from the director and actors of this intense film about personal struggle and the work of redemption.  You have to feel this movie in this season – puts any of your own agonies in perspective.

Casey Affleck

Walking through the supermarket door I saw the bell ringer and the Salvation Army kettle.  This is a tradition that doesn’t seem to be going the way of every other tradition.  I put in a bill, not just a few coins.  One can’t look at a Salvation Army kettle and not feel blessed – truly as our parents told us “there by the grace of God go we”.

An old friend sent another less than card/email with the note: “as part of my cutting back, you are getting this message – happy holiday”.  I totally get my friend’s decision not to send cards. But somehow I wish he didn’t say it was about him – maybe an email that said “thinking of you and hoping you and Bill are great, lots of love, Bob” would not have struck me as not as self-centered and missing the point of the season.  Feel generous this holiday (the world needs holiday fun more than ever) – no matter how you REALLY feel.  Give less with joy.

Someone sent me a quick email message apologizing for taking more than a week to respond to a birthday card we sent her for her December birthday.  It was SO sweet and thoughtful – late, even the New Year late with positive thought, is more than ok and feels great.

This year we are going to a totally different Christmas celebration — a special friend asked us to join her and some of her family and friends.  After spending most of the year traveling, and not going “home” for Christmas, this invitation touched my heart.  Nothing old or traditional, but filled with love, joy and for sure laughter.  That’s the ticket – something different, with or without family is perfectly wonderful this holiday season. Show deep appreciation for those invitations – even general invites to your neighborhood association, your synagogue, casual friend or church –  and feel honored to be asked anywhere.

Though not going overboard on tons of gifts, the few we are giving are being deeply appreciated… with feelings!  We sent Cathy (my partner here at Fabulous) and Ray’s Labradoodle some special treats and she sent me a text thanking me. Now, someone’s dog sending you a text REALLY feels great.  Maybe help your cat or dog send a good text – because I know someone loves that pet as much as you do and would feel so good getting a text from them for the holidays.  Yes, feel that silly, it is good for you.  Merry merry everyone!

A more clear pic of Cathy’s dog, Lexie:

 

Christmas Gift Buying: Did It Really Used To Be More Fun?

As I wandered around shopping for gifts today … online that is, not at the mall… I started to get nostalgic for the good old days when I would stroll purposefully from store to store looking for perfect gifts for my family and friends.

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There were always some “special” gifts to shop for during those years.

When my mother was still living, for example, I would buy her several gifts from four or five stores.  One gift, at least, would be something she wouldn’t expect like a silky bathrobe, a new watch or a beautiful sweater that wasn’t in her budget.

Then there was my girlfriend Patty. She and I exchanged Christmas gifts for many years before deciding a few years ago that we had about everything we needed at this age and that we would only exchange birthday presents.  Before that, however, I was always trying to find the perfect gift for her at boutiques, or Saks or Nordstrom’s. It had to be different, it had to be classy and it had to be great.

(I can’t decide if the gift hunting for Patty or for my mom was hardest – it was probably a tie. Patty said she had the same issues buying gifts for me.)

In the early days of our starry-eyed romance, when we were struggling financially as we started a new company, gift-giving between me and my husband Ray was special. He loved to surprise me; I loved to surprise him. He once bought me a size small vest that could have fit me when I was 10 years old – maybe.  I liked the fact that he saw me as a small woman even though I’ve never been one.  And, I once proudly presented him with an expensive brown cashmere sweater, which he said he loved but never wore.  I now know brown is his least favorite color. We had so much fun shopping for one another that we would even take $20 on Christmas Eve day, ride together to the mall, go our separate ways for thirty minutes and shop for stocking stuffers. So romantic!

By the way, Ray and I have only had one rule over the years:  no more than 5 gifts.  He has always given me at least 8 gifts and I’ve always stuck to the rules (which tells you a lot about us).

Presents under our tree last year – almost all of them for me and Ray. Someone cheated. Hint: It wasn’t me.

Presents under our tree last year – almost all of them for me and Ray. Someone cheated. Hint: It wasn’t me.

And then there were Ray’s two daughters, their husbands and our five grandchildren who came into the picture in the 90’s and 00’s.  It was such fun to shop for all of them! Beautiful sweaters, blouses and jewelry for the girls or sometimes household items like serving platters that they wouldn’t buy for themselves as they started out in their new lives with husbands and babies.  There were also carefully chosen shirts and pullovers for the guys. And, we’d buy toys and more toys for the grandkids. (We still cringe about the time we bought one of the first life-sized dolls that could be “programmed” to talk. It was even able to say Happy Birthday to your grandchild on the correct day of the year. When our granddaughter woke up the day after Christmas and the doll said “Let’s play”, she got scared, said the doll was too bossy and refused to play with it again. Obviously, grandma and grandpa had gone overboard.)

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In my memory, I had a great time searching for all of these gifts, along with presents for my siblings, nieces and nephews, several employees and a few friends. I would go from store to store, smiling at little kids on Santa’s lap, enjoying the ringing of Salvation Army bells in the distance, being part of the hustle and bustle of the Christmas crowd, and inhaling chocolate, cinnamon and evergreen scents swirling in the air.

If I’m really honest about this whole gift buying thing, however, I spent a lot of time agonizing over finding the right gifts and even more time getting irritable as my feet started to hurt, as the shopping bags got heavier and heavier and as I stood in line behind people trying to use a $5.00 off coupon that expired two months ago.

And I’m not even going to talk about gift-wrapping, other than to say that Ray would conveniently find something else to do far from the house when I started getting out the paper, bows and scotch tape. No amount of Christmas music or scented candles ever got me in a good enough mood to wrap what seemed liked hundreds of gifts at the dining room table with an aching back.

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So, maybe I’m not that nostalgic. Online shopping is easy and fast. I can quickly scan a lot of options, I can use an auto-fill function to put in my address and credit card numbers, and I can even get things gift-wrapped and sent directly to my relatives and friends – with delivery tracking included.

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These days, the teenage grandchildren want gift cards anyway.

Ray’s daughters, now in their 40’s,  have all the clothes and household items they need, so restaurant or entertainment gift cards purchased online seem to work well for them and their husbands.

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Ray and I still buy gifts for each other, but let’s just say we give each other a lot of coaching and “hints” about what to buy, then act surprised on Christmas morning. By now, he knows the clothing brands I like, and I know his. I tell him every year that I’m allergic to wool. He tells me every year he doesn’t need underwear. We get gift receipts. We talk about how many gifts to exchange. He still doesn’t stick to the rules. We buy about half of our presents for each other online and watch carefully for the boxes being delivered to our door so that only the addressee opens them.

So, I’ve been asking myself. Do I really miss shopping malls? Santa? Salvation Army bell ringers? Mingling with busy shoppers in various states of good and bad cheer?

Not so much.

But what I do miss is coming home exhausted but satisfied after finding those few perfect gifts for the very special people in my life – gifts chosen with love and care and sore feet!

Cathy Green

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Hurrah – It’s December!

I am really hoping we can go back to being fabulous this December.  That means understated but caring buying, sending good wishes by any means possible and respecting any approach to celebrating the religious or non-religious meaning of the ending year, and the start of a new one.  And of course, enjoying the heck out of YOUR traditions from stringing lights to giving to charity.

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November can be a cruel month.  Remember November 22, 1963 and President Kennedy’s assassination?  Of course you do.  It is a classic, tragic, shared boomer memory.  President Kennedy’s death united us all.  And much of what we began to understand as “fabulous” was defined by his young widow’s grace and dignity in her own, and the country’s, loss.  Jackie was a woman many of us began to admire greatly for her public restraint and calm.  Of course she was devastated, but she was private in her grief.  If social media existed, we can’t imagine Jackie sharing anything but short poignant statements and calls for healing.

abbie-rowe-white-house-photographs-1963-for-web-01_0

This November’s election was the shocker of our political lives.  Whether you are a Trump or Clinton voter, things this month have been tense, weird, and more than a bit confusing.

I never prayed so much for help to NOT SAY what I so desperately wanted to say; and, for the wisdom and guidance on what to say to my friends and family no matter how they voted. I had a few harsh words with one of my closest friends which I quickly regretted. A few minutes on social media demonstrated that standards of being elegant, restrained, and otherwise fabulous were much less common if not non-existent.  Seeing some “reactions” to events this month, made me, the eternal optimist of human positive behavior, feel fabulousness was perhaps a lost dream that our own daughters, nieces, and grands would never be able to emulate.  Yikes – November must end!

But wait, there’s more – as they say on infomercials. My business partner called to tell me he had been injured over Thanksgiving weekend, on the mend but in pain.  A member of my family who shall remain nameless had one of those dysfunctional family holidays that may win Bill and my annual prize for the most ridiculous family event in 2016.  A close business associate shared that her company was turning upside down with a complete new CEO and team — she’s the CIO trying to keep it all working.  Being fabulous? Taking things in stride? Seeing humor and hope in every event – however odd, hurtful or just stupid?  November has tested us.

But, as noted, I am THE eternal optimist.  I believe we CAN be fabulous again this December by getting quiet before all the hoopla and listening to our higher selves whisper to us – ‘it is all OK’.  We need to remember fabulous women we admire – from Notorious RBG – the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, to the shining star Jennifer Lawrence, who keeps showing Hollywood that women do deserve the same rewards as men, and are still at full speed fabulousness.  There are women being fabulous in business, non-profits, politics, fashion, and just leading ordinary lives.  What they all have in common is calm, grace and a focus on what they can control; and most importantly in this self-important, post-truth time, not taking themselves too seriously.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Jennifer Lawrence

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Jennifer Lawrence

My dear friend Betty and I spoke this morning.  We agreed it is time to “think local” and get involved – seriously involved – in what matters to us.  That and of course, continuing to try to feel great, look great, and give thanks for all our blessings – while having a sense of humor about ourselves.  People who lack a sense of humor and can’t laugh at themselves will never be fabulous.

I never thought I would be looking forward to the rush: writing too many Christmas cards, shopping and trimming the tree. Whatever the world is up to, I am not reading about it as avidly as I did pre-November.  Rather I am sending light and prayers to help situations I cannot control.  Then I sit down and have a great glass of wine, alone or with friends – and strategize about new ways to keep being fabulous in December.

wine-1

Here’s to tinsel – shiny but completely uncomplicated!  And Netflix, thank God we can binge watch series’ between stressful moments.  Happy December everyone!!

Patty

Thanksgiving in the 50’s at Grandma’s House

In my memory, Grandma’s house is really big. It sits on a hill in the West Price Hill section of Cincinnati with at least 20 concrete steps from the road up to the porch. The front door opens into a main living room, dining room, and kitchen, a steep staircase leads up to the bedrooms and bathroom, and an equally steep set of stairs descends to the basement and garage.

I now know that the house was actually small (less than 1200 square feet) and very narrow. But from the time I was born in 1950 until my mid-teens, somewhere between 15 and 30 family members gathered noisily at my Grandma and Grandpa Coyle’s house for Thanksgiving. Mom and Dad showed up with the first two grandchildren, me and my sister Christine, and then later with my little brother Tom. Mom’s four younger brothers were there with girlfriends, then wives, then an ever -expanding number of children … about 13 of them (added to our three) by the mid-60’s.  Did I mention we were Catholics?

I remember the smell of roasting turkeys (at least two of them) and the sound of silverware clattering as Grandma and the women prepared the stuffing, potatoes, green beans, corn, gravy, biscuits and desserts – all from scratch. I remember the loud voices of the men as they watched football on television, drank liquor and snacked on pretzels and potato chips.  As the years went by, the commotion of babies crying and young kids running up and down the stairs added to the chaos.

It always seemed to take way too long for Grandma to call us to her huge dining room table. Having smelled the food cooking and salivating for what seemed like hours and hours, we were ready to eat and hurried Grandma to finish the Thanksgiving prayer.

Once the food was passed around – the turkey piled high and everything else in large steaming bowls – the noise level went down considerably as we dug into the feast.  There was always plenty of food for everyone, and more than enough for leftovers later that night.

A “basic” turkey with stuffing. Nothing fancy from Grandma!

A “basic” turkey with stuffing. Nothing fancy from Grandma!

Grandma is the best cook in the world, I thought.

Actually, she wasn’t. Grandma only cooked “basic” food – food her mama taught her to make as she was growing up in what she called the “hills of Kentucky.”  Nothing fancy, not many spices, no decorative touches … just good, old-fashioned turkey, stuffing and “all the fixins.”   Simple but delicious.  And dessert? Her pumpkin and apple pies, made from scratch and bubbling hot as they came directly from the oven, made our mouths water. (Later in her life, she was the cook for the priests and nuns at Saint William Church, who got to appreciate them too.)

I have many images and memories of Thanksgiving at Grandma’s house, but five of them stand out from all the rest.

Story #1:   Little Cathy pees on the floor.   My dad loved to tell this one. Apparently, when I was about 2 ½ years old, in the middle of Thanksgiving food preparations, I didn’t get something I wanted. According to Dad, and other witnesses including my uncles, I got mad, stomped my foot, cried and peed on the dining room floor – deliberately.  I got swatted, Dad said and “…that’s when I knew she was going to be a pistol!”Story #2:   Uncle Jim, Whiskey, and a Toaster.  My uncle Jim, who never married, worked for GE, played softball in an adult league and lived with Grandma and Grandpa until his early death, was like a big kid. He didn’t watch football or hang out with his brothers and my dad. Instead, he played with his nieces and nephews. On Thanksgiving, he would sneak “cocktails” to us — 7 and 7’s, made with 7-Up and what probably amounted to less than a teaspoon of Seagram’s Seven whiskey. We went along with the game, giggling and promising not to tell our parents (who of course knew what he was doing).  I especially remember the year when one of us got up the nerve to ask Uncle Jim what happened to his right hand. We were fascinated by the fact that he was missing a couple of his fingers (from birth, we found out later). In a low conspiratorial voice, he told us that he stuck it in a toaster when he was a little boy.  We were horrified!  I don’t know about my cousins, but I never looked at a toaster in the same way from that day on.

Here’s my Uncle Jim playing a game with me and my sister

Here’s my Uncle Jim playing a game with me and my sister

Story #3:   Christine rushed to the ER.  My sister Christine, one year older than me, was mentally retarded (or mentally challenged, as it’s called these days). At seven years old, she always seemed to get herself into trouble. That year, with Mom, Grandma and the other women preparing food in the kitchen, Chris took a glass of juice outside on the concrete porch.  Somehow the glass broke and cut her hand. Blood was everywhere. She was screaming.   The cousins were screaming.  Grandma and Mom rushed out with kitchen towels to wrap up her hand as Dad scooped her up and drove her to the emergency room (911 wasn’t around in those days). He brought her home a couple of hours later with stitches in her hand and thumb and her arm in a sling. The glass had cut a tendon and muscle at the base of her lower thumb – a thumb she still can’t use to this day. Although we had Thanksgiving dinner, it was later than usual and a whole lot quieter.

Story #4:  The Sacred Heart of Jesus and my Great Grandmother Brinegar.  Grandma Coyle was a devout Catholic.  Hanging above the TV in her living room was a large framed picture of Jesus with long flowing hair, penetrating eyes and a glowing heart wrapped in thorns.  It is an iconic picture in the Catholic religion.

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As kids, it was hard to even think about being bad with that picture staring down at us. To make things worse, Grandma’s mother — Great Grandma Brinegar —  sometimes joined the family at Thanksgiving when she wasn’t at one of her other five children’s homes. She didn’t like little kids and would sit on the opposite side of the room dressed in a long skirt and old sweater, her braided hair hanging down her back and her hand gripping a walking cane. She would stare at us as if to say “Just try doing something wrong”.  Jesus on one side of the room and Great Grandma Brinegar on the other made the living room an uncomfortable place to play. The kitchen and dining room were off limits, we weren’t allowed upstairs and the basement was too scary. We would often head to the small backyard even in the coldest late November weather.
Story #5:    Grandpa the Gangster.   I grew up knowing what my dad and my uncles did for a living. But I never knew what my Grandpa Coyle did, even though I always suspected that it was something unusual. He was an introverted man, he seemed pre-occupied much of the time and he died young of emphysema after years of cigarette smoking. One Thanksgiving, when I was old enough to begin to understand, I overheard the men talking about Grandpa doing the books.  Unfortunately, that didn’t mean he was an accountant. He was, it turned out, a bookie.  I later learned that he would gather his “boys” around that same Thanksgiving table to figure the payout to winners and to dole out everyone’s cut of the action. My mom would rarely talk about it, but she once told my brother that a car’s tires squealed around the corner one day when she was a little girl and Grandpa “threw” her back into the house “just in case”.

Looks like I was already suspicious of my Grandpa Coyle!

Looks like I was already suspicious of my Grandpa Coyle!

All in all, my memories of Thanksgiving in the 50’s are great ones. I loved my Grandma Coyle and she seemed to “fancy” me (as she would have put it).  I loved the smells and the tastes of Thanksgiving food.   I loved leftovers. I loved watching my dad watch football on TV and joke around with my uncles. I loved seeing my mom and grandma working together in the kitchen.  I loved my Uncle Jim and the sneaky 7 and 7 drinks he gave me with that little splash of whiskey.
But mostly, I just loved the feeling of belonging to the family.  Even with my Gangsta Grandpa!

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Happy Thanksgiving!
Cathy Green

My Mixed Reviews On Being Fabulous

Am I fabulous?  Am I keeping myself strong both personally and professionally? Pulled together? Sharp? Am I doing what I want in ways that are sane, fulfilling and that mark me as a woman who is handling her sixties with grace, style, wit and proper modesty?  Am I continuing to grow, keeping my head and heart and body strong and functioning, or am I just — well, you know — just another NOT fabulous women.

Let me share some feedback.

Scene one: Doctor’s Office/Having yearly physical.

Nurse: Now, try to remember these three words: Table, Apple, Fence.  We’ll come back to those in just a few moments.  Blah blah blah for 5 minutes.

Nurse: What were those three words?

Me: Hmmm… was Apple one of them?

Review: Mixed, very mixed.

thumb_gyno

Scene two: Doctor’s Office/Yearly physical

Doctor: You still weigh 105+ (feel free to guess, I am not sharing).

Doctor: It is great how your weight is so stable.

Me: Thanks, said softly

Me thinking: stable is good — 5lbs less than this stability would be better.

Review: Pretty— good.

Scene three: Home, Bill searching for his newly opened cookies, myself reading in bedroom.

Bill: Honey, where are the cookies?

Me: In the closet – near other crackers and cookies.

Bill: No they are not.

Moments later, Bill continues… Oh, wait, they are in the refrigerator – you must have put them there.

Me: REALLY?

Review: Mixed, very mixed.

Scene four: My Home office/Call with new business partner to discuss new offer to potential joint clients.

Partner: Sounds good Pat – use your judgment with making the offer. We’re both flexible.

Me: OK, will keep you posted next week.

Me, post call: rethinks proposal and writes email to partner discussing next steps.

Review: Really good, quick, professional job.

via drpatgillwebber.com

via drpatgillwebber.com

Scene five: Home Goods store.

Me: Looking around for something for my house that my decorator says is “a must”.

Other shopper bumping into me: Oh sorry miss, I didn’t see you.

Me: Glowing having heard “miss” – oh no problem.

Review: Probably better than mixed – at least I wasn’t shopping in an outfit that marked me as “over the hill” or “helpless and lost” – which in Tucson is a VERY low bar, trust me.

Scene six: Home, Arizona lizard on the loose inside – small but still a lizard.

Me: Damn it – that makes 4 tries with no lizard caught – trying to do the drop the cloth over the lizard and grab him strategy suggested by those who help me run the house.

Me: Oh the hell with it – I will get someone else to catch the lizard.

Review: Delegation – getting better at it all the time.

clarks-spiny-lizard-1

Summary review: Hanging in at times by a string and at other times fantastically.  Consistently Fabulous may need some revisions to its definition.  Either that or I have to keep finding more people to delegate everything to except when I am feeling the urge to work on something that was always my long suit – which is hardly every day.  I am close to ready to give up trying to be fabulous on things I never was fabulous at to begin with.  Time to take a nap and think it all through.  Or at least time to take a nap.

lady-sleeping-white-pillow-xlarge

Patty

Why My Husband Really Needs Me

Since this blog is about my husband and may possibly contain some information that he finds less than flattering, I should start by pointing out that I am very lucky to have a great partner who shares responsibilities around the house and in our lives.

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Here are a few things Ray does really, really well:

He cooks … excellently. He makes a great Bolognese sauce, a killer bouillabaisse, and to-die-for crab cakes, for example.  He even cooks day-to-day meals.  I can’t cook and don’t like to cook, so this is a really important thing in our lives. (Actually, he began cooking out of self-defense. See my blog about this subject.)

Here’s one of Ray’s weekday meals: pork loin with veggies

Here’s one of Ray’s weekday meals: pork loin with veggies

He drives 99% of the time when we are together, whether around town or on a road trip. He refers to himself as my chauffeur and I shamelessly take advantage of him.  Although I think I’m a good driver, I drive 5 mph slower than he does and I don’t like to parallel park – which means we arrive somewhere later than he wants or I spend too much time looking for easy parking options.

He takes care of our beautiful gardens.  I hate snakes, moles, hot weather, cold weather, thorns on our rose bushes, bugs (especially caterpillars), rubber gloves and just about everything there is to hate about gardening.

He also likes to run errands, take our clothes to the dry cleaners, stop at the grocery store and mail packages.  Lucky me!

Of course, I do a lot of things for us too. I manage all of our bills, order things that we need online, take care of the house, make our travel arrangements, and orchestrate our social calendar, for example.

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We’ve never really had to “decide” who does what, either.  It just kind of happened over the years.  Things get done. We both do what we do. We have a pretty equitable and easy arrangement.

But there are a few things that he REALLY needs me for …

1.)  He swears he can’t run the dishwasher. We’ve been together 26 years. We’ve had three homes and several short term and long term rental homes and apartments. Not once in all that time can I remember him running the dishwasher.  We have been in our current home for five years and nothing has changed.

Here’s our Bosch dishwasher panel. Relatively simple, yes?

Here’s our Bosch dishwasher panel. Relatively simple, yes?

2.)  Ditto #1 for the washer and dryer. Again, he says he just can’t figure out either of the machines. Too many options. Too many buttons. Too many decisions.

3.)  He can’t remember the number 9. Every time he answers the phone to buzz someone into our gated community he asks me what number to push on the phone. It’s #9 and has been #9 since we moved here five years ago.

4.)  He can’t spell.  I am a former English teacher and a writer. Let’s just say he found the right person to marry. Even with spell-check he doesn’t get close enough to the spelling of words for the auto correct function to do much good. I really don’t mind helping him out, but I do get a little annoyed when he gives me a word like hydrangea, bouillabaisse or hors d’oeuvres and thinks I should be able to rattle the spelling off quickly.  I’m also not too happy when I attempt to spell one of those difficult words for him and he then tells me that his spell-check corrected it.

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I like being needed, but I have learned over the years that I should never give him unsolicited advice. His sarcastic response is that he really doesn’t know how he ever survived before he met me.

On the subject of survival, if I leave this world before he does, I wonder if he’ll be able to run the dishwasher and the washer/dryer and if he’ll be able to remember the number 9.

I suspect the answer to all of these is yes.

But spelling? He would definitely miss me!

Cathy Green

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