Speaking of Being Right

If you are new to FabulousOver60 or have been reading it for a long time, you need to know we do not believe that 60 is the new anything other than “the new 60″.

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But while this is something we have gotten “right” Cathy and I often feel we are missing the mark on various minor or even major cultural trends that we don’t “get” but obviously have made it to main stream behavior and thought to be absolutely fine. Think of these examples: changing plans with one’s parents at the last minute; NOT writing a proper thank you note; NOT working for a living and taking personal responsibility to support oneself even if that income is REALLY modest; NOT getting dressed up a bit to attend someone’s graduation, wedding or school event; NOT RSVP’ing to an invitation – or worse – accepting and not showing up — and the list goes on. Common conversation among us fabulousover60s which we just keep to ourselves since we know we are no longer the protagonist of life’s story.

Well, lo and behold (remember that one?) we have had a break — and now a GIFT to give that actually we agree with and can say (if we were obnoxious enough to do so and we are not) “told you so”.

Age 20, according to popular psychologist Meg Jay, is NOT the new 30. The 20s are actually The Defining Decade.

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Now everyone fabulousover60 knows a niece, nephew, grandchild, client offspring, colleague’s son or daughter that is not working, living at home or on their parent’s dime or otherwise not paying attention to what we used to think of as growing up. The most radical thing some of us did was not having children or becoming a lawyer or doctor when virtually no women were. Well perhaps that is a bit of revisionist self-serving history! Like previous generations we “forgot” our “transgressions” — like the reefer we smoked and inhaled along with that commune in 69 and Woodstock. But I digress.

From the Great Recession, to Gen Xers or young boomers and their children being “friends” rather than two different camps the way it was when we were 20 something, reasons abound for the less than fully employed and under committed.

To be fair, and, as a life coach, I certainly know making anyone feel really bad about not doing or achieving can risk their self-esteem — but we fabulous women would tend to agree most younger people have “too much” self-esteem by our standards.

Remember that our parents no matter their background, race or primary language never learned the words “what do YOU think you should do?” So we wanted to say that but NEVER did. Maybe Dr. Jay can say it for us — either by gifting 20-somethings, or their parents the physical book. Or, if they really never read paper books, send them an e-card with a talking animal saying something witty plus the link to Meg Jay’s TED Talk. Good advice seems to be coming back in style — and just in time for the holiday giving season. That’s at least one or two people you can gift with confidence.

Patty

‘Tis the Season! Let’s Hug!

This week, I found myself hugging my hair stylist, my nail tech and a friend of a friend who I had met for less than one hour. Last week, I hugged my personal trainer to wish him a Happy Thanksgiving. At a cocktail party about a week ago, I hugged at least 20 people. While the other person often made the first move, I did my share of moving in for the body grab myself.

I admit it — I like all of this hugging. I always loved hugging my parents, aunts and uncles when I was growing up. I love hugging the grandkids and their parents now. Of course, I love hugging Ray and my dog, Lexie, every day.

These days, there is a lot of hugging going on outside of funerals and immediate families. In fact, over the years … the last 10-15 especially, I think – we have gotten used to seeing hugging in all kinds of new situations. Here’s a case in point:

Former U.S. president George W. Bush embraces President Barack Obama during the inauguration ceremony in Washington

A little awkward, perhaps?

Yes, more hugging can lead to more awkward moments. I’ve had a few of those myself.

  • The guy who had a little too much to drink at the cocktail party and decided to give me a full body hug that lasted a little too long. I don’t think his wife was amused.
  • The friend who likes to run his hands up and down my back when he hugs me. Next time, I’m going to ask him what he’s searching for.
  • The friend who hugged me sideways and began to fall … almost taking me with her.
  • The woman I didn’t know who hugged me and gave me an air kiss and then realized she didn’t know me either.
  • And, the guy who planted a big wet kiss on my lips along with the hug. I sincerely hope that doesn’t become a trend.

Hugging old and new friends at parties is one thing. Business environments are a little more confusing. Is it now OK for men and women co-workers to hug? If so, when? What about customers? Are they in the OK “hugging zone”? Who initiates a business hug? What’s the protocol? And what about group hugs?

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We seem to need some new hugging rules! Emily Post, where are you?

Speaking of Emily, when I googled “hugging” this video below popped up. It’s about the first hug given to Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the NFL, during the football draft in 2010. Social etiquette history in the making! Emily Post’s great, great grandson, Daniel Post Senning, gives his opinion in the video. (Hint: a “bro hug” might be better than a full-on hug).

Hugging isn’t going to go away any time soon. For those of us who like to give and receive hugs, that’s a good thing. But, if you happen to be a hugger hater, or a hugger over-thinker, or an Only When Someone Dies hugger, you might want to reconsider.

Some research suggests that there are health benefits from hugs … reduction in blood pressure, strengthening of the immune system, boosting of self-esteem and relaxation of muscles, to name a few.

And, as we head into the Christmas season, remember:

“A hug is a great gift – one size fits all, and it’s easy to exchange”

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Happy Holidays! Hugs to all!

Cathy Green

 

Photo credit: here

Celebrating Gratitude

This Thanksgiving:

  • Bob and Genny (names changed) went to Las Vegas – with their 2 young adult single children – and shopped and golfed.
  • My cousin had 10 of her 14 grandchildren over her house with her own children and their spouses — and yes, cooked the dinner and had them all stay multiple days!
  • My fabulous girlfriend Karen and husband Brad had her granddaughter, her granddaughter’s husband and their two little boys under 3 for nearly a week. It was madness at some level with two tiny little ones, but special and necessary.
  • My sister came and stayed for a week — the longest we have seen each other in one visit in more than 30 years.

It was very much Thanksgiving as it was a unique holiday surrounded by some (and in some cases NONE) of the traditions like football, cranberry sauce and turkey dinner.

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A less traditional Thanksgiving

I felt especially grateful not to be young this holiday because it gave not just me, but many of my friends and family, the freedom to custom design their Thanksgiving holiday.

Genny still works full-time and in her time off wanted to be just with immediate family not an extended house-full. As an apartment dweller driving hours to an event totally food-centered with a multi-hour drive home just didn’t make the cut.

My cousin is a family-centered woman — always a working professional she loves the hustle and bustle of all her children and grandchildren with her at Thanksgiving. She has kept moving to smaller homes – but there is always room at her house when it is Thanksgiving.

My friend’s granddaughter has a troubled relationship with her own mom and my friend often is her “real mom”. While tiring, my friend just knows how important it is to support her granddaughter and great granddaughters at holiday time.

My sister and I spent relaxed time together – we had our nails and hair done together – cooked and watched The Roosevelts on TV — it was just what we needed with both our 2015 packed with some major changes.

I didn’t miss doing what I had done in the past: picking up my suitcase that I had brought to the office so I could work till the last minute before jumping a plane to either my sister’s or my parent’s house for Thanksgiving. While I certainly enjoyed seeing my family, I was often worrying about pressing business and personal issues that I allowed to continually bother me no matter the occasion. I celebrated holidays when young — but I never enjoyed them in quite the same way I do now where each holiday is slightly or in a major way different and related to what is happening in my life right now.

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Something I didn’t miss

This is absolutely one of the best parts of being over 60. Maybe younger people do not feel all the obligations we did — but life WAS different for us. Our families had dozens more rules and expectations of our role at holiday time. One didn’t suggest bagging the turkey for a roast, much less decide to skip one’s aunts and uncles houses. While I have truly wonderful memories of the Thanksgiving while growing up and being a young adult in the 50s, 60s, and 70s — I truly love the freedom of modern life and being less pressured. There really is no perfect photo anymore that says ‘here is what a happy Thanksgiving looks like’ — it really is whatever you can dream of, afford, need to do just this year and have energy to do — and even in tough times that’s a lot of leeway.

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Let me suggest you take the opportunity to make every holiday unique – filling it with what you know is the absolutely perfect thing to do – but only for the current holiday in front of you. Being fabulous means being flexible and open to celebrating in ways that open our hearts and let us sleep longer and more soundly – who isn’t grateful for that?

Patty

Special Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!! What could be more important than reflecting on our blessings and sharing with our families and communities?

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Like every fabulous woman the list of my blessings is long and of course includes my husband Bill, and every one of my family members and all my dear friends. Throw in health (the greatest blessing in many ways – my mother said that 100,000 times and it turns out she was right again) and every person who supports my life in any way from my wonderful hairdresser to amazing house keeper … you get the idea …

But this year I decided to scour my calendar, reflect and then select 5 (of the dozens) of really different things, events, or people that touched my life this year and for which I am particularly grateful. Let me suggest you do the same — you won’t stop smiling!

1. Read Finding Your Way in a Wild New World, took an online course with the author’s company (inexpensive and great) and kept re-reading it. When some bummers happened – including a serious energy dip in the late summer/early fall, and walking through the journey of a close friend losing her husband – the wisdom of the book kept reappearing and supporting me.

2. Kept up a co-coaching session every 6 or so weeks with a friend/fellow coach. Rebecca and I each got 30 minutes at each phone session to get input from each other on our professional work (we choose this as our topic of choice). Simple to implement — worth a try with a friend, colleague or person you just admire and respect. Keeps you on your toes – the call is always coming up sooner than you think it will.

3. Stopped half-heartedly doing anything related to work. Starting attracting great new clients once I became “fully in” to my decision to do life coaching. Made a fun video about life coaching.

4. Realized a few family events were really worth it (will skip those that were not) — including my granddaughter’s first communion, a first visit to our home from a semi-new relative (discovered in the last number of years and a great addition to the family), spending time with my grandnieces which I rarely do – and finally a trip to my sister’s to help her with some surgery that turned out to be full of fun and giggles.

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5. Stayed committed to writing and experiencing my 60s — especially to this ‘Fabulous’ blog and new Facebook page which makes my eyes, ears, and heart more open to seeing what’s new, what’s different, what brings joy and what annoys in my 60s. It’s a new lens on life that makes all of life more fun. Cathy and I are already planning our co-celebration of our 65th birthdays in 2015 — we are going first class on this one! For sure the celebration will be on next year’s special thanksgiving list.

It was hard keeping my list to 5 — hope you have the same challenge and as many blessings.

Patty

When Is It Time to Throw Stuff Out?

I’ve been in a cleaning mood lately. It’s probably a combination of this early winter weather (cold enough to stay indoors) and my pent-up guilt about the many boxes of “stuff” in the attic that we brought to our new home three years ago.

Here’s what my attic looks like…..

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I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy to decide what to throw away and what to keep, but it’s been much worse than I expected. And, I’ve realized that my age has something to do with that.

Here’s what I have to deal with:

• Dozens of boxes of pictures (printed before online storage) from my 25 years with Ray
• Another dozen cartons of photos from Ray’s previous life and mine, and more left to us by our parents
• Old Christmas cards, some containing notes and family photos
• Lots of cards and notes from Ray
• Letters and mementos from my college years and former jobs
• Several notes from old boyfriends
• Cards and notes from my friend Patty and a couple of other girlfriends
• Hundreds of CD’s and DVD’s (and books that I can’t fit on my bookshelves)
• Old bills, tax records and receipts
• Other miscellaneous weird stuff, including two files marked “stuff I like”!!

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I decided to tackle one large box of paper files first. I was exhausted in less than two hours.

The old bills and tax records from the 80’s and 90’s were easy. Out they went.

The old receipts … wait… should I keep that receipt for the watch I bought in 1992? How about the one for that expensive St. John jacket? No, it would take hours to go through them. Toss them!

Cards, notes and letters from Ray? Of course they stay!

Old work and college stuff? Toss it all.

Old Christmas cards and photo cards? I haven’t finished with these yet.

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A poem from a college boyfriend I haven’t seen or talked to in 45 years? I read it one more time, smiled and tossed it out.

An apology letter from my first husband for being such a jerk? I read it, grimaced and tossed it.

Then I found something that was harder to deal with.

It was a copy of a letter I had written to my mother when I was 29, trying to explain to her why I got divorced and how I was now “in love” with an older man. I have had that letter for 35 years and although it is well-written (if I have to say so myself), it is definitely not an example of my proudest moment. At 29, what did I know? A sad story, finger pointing and hurt feelings. Although I couldn’t really re-capture those feelings, the letter did remind me about the ups and downs of my relationship with my mom over the years.

But, now what? Keep it? Throw it away?

I’m 64. If I keep it … will I look at it again when I’m 74, 84, 94? If so, why? Should the one point in time reflected in this letter stick around as long as I do?

If I had kids, would I keep the letter for them? Would it help them figure out who I was at 29? Would I want them to? And, would they really care?

If I throw it away … am I letting go of an important memory about who I was? Or am I doing the right thing so that someone else doesn’t have to go through these kind of things when I’m gone?

I obviously kept stuff like this letter all these years in order to revisit my earlier life at some point in my later life.

But now I am in my later life.

Ultimately, I decided that I didn’t need to keep the letter to my mom. But I know there will be more of these decisions as I continue to tackle those boxes in my attic.

When is it too soon to throw things from the past away? I really don’t know, but I’m moving on to photos next week.

I’m already exhausted.

Cathy

p.s. Patty … I kept some great notes from you, girlfriend!

OK With TV Getting Dumped; But Relationships?

When the Torrisi family got a color TV in the 60s my family of 4 couldn’t wait to get invited to see Bonanza with their family of 8. Most of us boomers remember when our families got their first TV and then a color TV.

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A TV in the center of the living room, then called the “den” and eventually the great room, is something that has been part of mainstream décor ever since.

This piece suggests that millenials and their smart toys have essentially put an end to TV viewing as we knew it — watching TV on a mobile device just makes more sense to them. Seems to me this is more a ho-hum than a tragic loss. The loss of a central TV as an organizing principle in people’s family lives has worn out its welcome. In many ways it was an old idea trying to keep people “together” while essentially they had often stopped being together a long time prior. It always disturbed me to go to someone’s home and find the hosts watching TV and thinking I might want to join in. Why would I go to their house to do that?

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Now, people gather by twitter or at the movies, or even in front a big screen TV when an event, movie, story, concert, or big game is actually of shared interest. Great stories — and games can be stories too — thrill us. And, my guess is they always will. Great content is a draw no matter the means to view it. I (and many boomers) loved The Roosevelts, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and House of Cards.

Won’t spoil Interstellar for you but it makes my point that some things (values, really) are worth keeping and will never go out of style: love, commitment, honesty, boldness, persistence, hard work, risk. Things that were just “how it was” do and maybe “should” tend to melt away — like a TV as the center of life shared. Loved how a 124 year old re-invents life in this movie – it is such a boomer dream. While it isn’t going to happen for us — how it happens in this movie will likely reinforce our fabulous style of continuing to try and not holding on just to hold on. Curious what you think!

Another article made me cringe, and weep. Seems like many millenials are shying away from real life tangible relationships and supplanting them with virtual quasi relationships. One example was a man who “fell in love” (or something of that sort) based on multiple texts, sexts, and phone calls with a woman. Both decided to drop their current mates and connect in person. But the man changed his mind at the last minute realizing he couldn’t live up to his virtual, more perfect, self.   This article blows my mind, as we used to say. Am at a loss on this one.

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Makes you sort of miss casual sex back in the 60s or 70s which was always at least IRL (in real life). Of course whether you miss it or not, you can create your own history about it — who’s going to know without Facebook and smart phones?

Patty

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I Love Fall! (Or Is It Autumn?)

Fall is my favorite season. I have loved it since I was a young Cincinnati girl growing up on Vittmer Avenue, a cul-de-sac lined with large oak trees that turned bright yellow, brown and orange in October.

When I moved to Florida in the late 80’s, I missed fall so much that I traveled with Ray to Maine trying to “time” the peak colors each year. When we finally bought a home there, we stayed until mid to late October when our “leaving” tree would tell us it was time to go. That’s what we called a beautiful birch tree in our yard that turned bright colors before shedding its leaves and ushering in the beginning of winter.

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And now, living in one of the most desirable “leaf peeper” cities in the country – Asheville, NC – I get to see the spectacular changes in color at several different elevations over about six weeks. Traveling on the Blue Ridge Parkway almost every day – only 5 minutes from my home – is incredible.

Here are a few of the reasons that I love fall so much…

  • The changing colors of the leaves always amaze me. I take more pictures in the fall than in any other season and most of them are of yellow, red and orange trees glowing in the sunshine. My cell phone has at least 100 of those photos right now. Here’s one:

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  • The air is crisp and clean. I have good hair days, I can wear light jackets and there’s a spring in my step. Lexie, our Labradoodle, is thrilled because she gets to be outside with us – running around the yard, hiking or going to festivals called Pumpkinfest, Octoberfest or Pecan Harvest Fest in small cities all over Western North Carolina.
  • I enjoy a fall wardrobe. I look better in sweaters and scarves, and they feel “cozy”. Bathing suit and bare legs season is over (thank god!) And, fortunately, orange, yellow and black clothing looks good on me.
  • Halloween is a great holiday. I like the scary ads and ghost stories, the Halloween pop-up stores, corn stalks, pumpkins, candy corn and parties. I don’t go to the haunted houses, but I read about them and might just get courageous enough to walk through one someday.
  • A fire in the fireplace on those first cool evenings is a special treat. The hypnotic flames, combined with the smell and warmth of a fire, makes me want to bundle up on the couch with a blanket and listen to James Taylor and Bruce Hornsby.
  • It’s time for crockpots and chili – my kind of comfort food! And, I love the strange looking squash, the thousand varieties of apples and the weird-shaped pumpkins that are everywhere – in stores, restaurants and at roadside vegetable stands.
  • It’s great to decorate the house with fun things … witches, ghosts, black cats, pumpkins, candles, cinnamon brooms, door wreaths and mums. And, the color orange – a bold, optimistic and uplifting color – is everywhere you look!

Just one thing has been bugging me this fall. For the first time that I can recall, it dawned on me to question why this wonderful season – unlike the others – has two names: fall and autumn. If you don’t know the answer to this either, I found a blog that seems to provide an answer. It seems to be one of those British vs. American things!

Whether you call it fall or autumn – it’s a great time of year, so enjoy!

Cathy Green

 

Tricks, Treats and the Day of the Dead

My memories of childhood and Halloween don’t seem to be infused with any sense of loss, failure, upset, commotion or mixed results. It was always fun — and simple. And, as other holidays in the 1950s there were certain recurring traditions. Costumes of course! Hand made or inexpensively purchased with a witch hat or skeleton smock, these costumes were standard fare of an All Hallows Eve or All Saints Eve. Looks from the dead – witches, devils, ghosts or goblins were strongly represented – as were a few common TV or comic book characters like Superman and Roy Rogers. So while many of us remember innocent and less commercial Halloweens, the truth is that even by the 1950s popular culture was seeping into the low key and inexpensive fun.

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We packed little bags of goodies. And while going around the neighborhood families greeted small groups of children they mostly (if not exclusively) knew. Some people went “all out” and served some cider or donuts. Houses had 1 to 3 pumpkins carved with smiling faces and candles inside. The streets of suburbia or the halls of apartment buildings were alive with laughing and sometimes pushing children and some small number of dads (some with flashlights). It started and ended pretty predictably with large bags (pillow cases were often employed) initially empty filled with all that is bad for you and some few apples or pennies that came in those goody bags. Then of course bedtime – perhaps a few parents stayed up with a glass of wine – but I sort of doubt many did. By 9PM it was MORE than a wrap if the children were under 10 and everyone was going to bed and awaiting another entirely predictable day. Hey it was the 1950s and there was no “breaking news” ever!

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While it sounds almost sad in comparison to the myriad of costumes, adult parties and of course Halloween apps to download. This is one holiday that really isn’t all that different from that of our childhood. It is still very much about children, family, and having silly fun – and of course getting some great treats while still avoiding tricks – toilet paper draped on trees or smashed tomatoes were frowned upon both then and now.

There was a time in the 60s up through the 80s when Halloween got creepy in a different way — pins, needles and some poisoning hit the media. Some of the innocence and fun was drained as parents and some older people thought the end of Halloween as we knew it was upon us.

But by the 21st century a traditional tide seems to sweep the country in a good way – as least as it relates to Halloween. TV anchors dress up:

Matt Lauer as Paris Hilton

Matt Lauer as Paris Hilton

Costumes got fancier and yes, single people and adults got into partying, but the mainstream celebrations returned to neighborhood trick or treating and an emphasis on family fun. Of course there is always people going to extremes — think Yandy.com – yuck! I put up some inexpensive silly decorations and plan to be here to greet any trick or treaters.

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My move to Tucson and advancing age has found me ever more fascinated by the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday.

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Maybe because more dead people are closer in age than ever, I find a holiday all about having fun and also honoring the recent dead a winner. My thinking is be there for the young trick or treaters and then pour me some wine while we go look at elaborate or informal shrines and altars — as well as parties in Mexican influenced neighborhoods and restaurants — or hang out watching the Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village with friends.

Halloween is a holiday without guilt, ridiculous family dynamics or overblown competition — add in a big nod to the Day of the Dead and you have a holiday made in heaven. Don’t worry – drama is coming: Thanksgiving is just around the corner.

-Patty

 

Being a Bit Naïve – Not Always Funny!

I am not a “been there/done that” sort of woman. Things have and still seem to surprise me. When young, naïve was an understatement to describe my lack of sophistication and savvy. My all time “who knew” story was being asked by a guy at 22 to meet him at the Harvard Club. Yes, I did manage to find it, and yes, I asked for “John Smith” who promptly appeared in the lobby area.

Unfortunately the idea of Harvard as a private club somehow eluded me — I commented to him and a few of his friends that it was interesting that the “Harvard Club” – a public place in my mind – looked and felt like everyone on the walls in those rather grim portraits, and right now standing in the lobby could have ACTUALLY GONE TO HARVARD. Looking at me now as a sophisticated woman of a certain age it seems impossible I could have uttered this HUGE faux pas — but yes sister fabulous women, I did.

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Harvard Club

Needless to say John sneered and sent me packing. I tell the story to remind myself and others in my life that I was not born at Saks Fifth Avenue nor raised on the main line of Philadelphia. But interestingly, though much more “seasoned” and exposed to all sorts of people, places and things, I remain more or less a trifle naïve. Not necessarily about which fork to use, or knowing Peter Michael is a great chardonnay not just a guy’s name, I mean naïve in the sense of wondering what in the world is going on here — how could this be happening?

Here are some recent shocks to my system. Am curious if you share my shock or just want to shout to me Patty, snap out of it – don’t be so naïve! More pointedly: when is it OK to be naïve and when does it literally become dangerous?

Shock One: Ben Bernanke was turned down for a mortgage. Yes, it seems the bank he applied to used an algorithm to block new loans to those just changing jobs — even if he is in the one percent and the former head of the Federal Reserve Bank.

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This article makes the point that common sense needs to come back into the mortgage system. Can you blame me for having missed the fact that human factors are no longer used in giving people mortgages? That amazed me — sure you can get a line of credit or a mortgage online, but when did your ability to demonstrate your reliability and financial responsibility lose out to a formula that excludes any personal judgment? This knowledge allows for a great deal more empathy to those who are still being told they can’t have a mortgage. Just laughing at the stupidity of the bankers who rejected Bernanke is not the point.

Shock Two: A long ago corporate client called me out of the blue this weekend. The call came 10 years or so after he had a personal crisis and retired from corporate life to get his life back in order. He indicated his wife was scheduled for surgery this week that is extremely serious — and he wanted me to know that even though we hadn’t seen each other in forever he was using the “wisdom” (his word) I had imparted to him years ago about corporate change and transformation and was using it to help he and his family deal with this stunning negative turn of events in their lives.

I was hugely flattered but amazed. I certainly never thought my corporate consulting work would help someone deal with the possible death of a spouse. Or, maybe I did or at least hoped whatever good I was doing went beyond just good things for the institution. And, it reminded me that what we say – and what we have said – really does matter always.

I was wrong to underestimate the impact I had on people I worked with and naïve to think that my words and actions at work did not have enormous impact.

Shock three: The Canadian capital of Ottawa is the scene of violence today and the story continues to unfold. Terrorism seems to be at issue here. Watching the historic Ottawa Parliament building in lockdown is unnerving. While ISIS did seem far away it is getting unnervingly close. The whole idea of people being “radicalized” and traveling to join various terror spots makes me uneasy. How could the story of freedom and democracy we grew up with fail to connect with a troubling number of people here, in Canada and Europe? What part have we all played in alienating some people so much that they want to join in a crusade against what we see as decency?

While being naïve can be very funny, it can also be dangerous. It can leave us unconcerned with issues that we seriously need to reflect upon and take action upon. As fabulous women we have to know when to laugh, but also when to stop laughing at women wanting to marry ISIS soldiers – and rather contribute to creating bridges of understanding in our own communities so even the thought of this is impossible. Fabulous women know when to be serious and take responsibility for modeling important interest and passion. Or we should.

Patty

50th Reunions: To Go or Not to Go? That is the Question!

Two weeks ago, I attended a 50th grade school reunion. Our Lady of Lourdes was part of a Catholic parish in a small Cincinnati, Ohio neighborhood. About 100 of us – boys and girls – spent Grades 1 through 8 together and about half of us attended the reunion.

The last time I saw most of these classmates was at a 20th reunion when we were in our early 30’s. Now, thirty years later, we were all 64 years old.

Despite the fact that I told everyone I was “coerced” into attending by a girlfriend on the planning committee who I’ve stayed close to over the years, I was actually looking forward to it … and ended up having a good time.

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Here are a few snapshots: The party was held in the school cafeteria where it felt weird to be drinking wine and beer; familiar late 50’s and early 60’s music played in the background; I told one of the guys that I had had a crush on him in 8th grade (it made his night, he said); another guy told me I was “hot” back then (who knew?); a girl I sang with in a quartet reminded me about a road trip with our choir director and his wife to a boy’s college when we were in the 8th grade; another one told me a funny story about my dad; one of the twin brothers who drove the teachers crazy with their pranks told us about a nun “clocking” him while he was running in the hallway; a life-size poster of the pastor of our church at the time – a much-disliked curmudgeon – was dressed up in hats and boas throughout the evening; and our favorite nun, Sister Mary Myra, now nearly 80 years old, shocked us by admitting that the nuns didn’t like him either! We also walked up two flights of marble steps (slowly, to accommodate arthritic knees) and toured a tiny 1st grade classroom, marveling at how we could have been so young and small.

In retrospect, there are several things I decided about 50th reunions:

  1. A 50th reunion is different. If you’re going to go to any reunion, this is probably the one to attend. By this time of our lives, posturing about jobs, financial success and our wonderful children is pretty much over. Instead, we’ve all made it this far in life, we know what we’ve become, it is what it is, we feel OK about it, and we’re at the reunion for reasons other than showing off or bragging. (Well, except for the grandkids.)
  2. We are at a more reflective and nostalgic time of our lives. Those of us who attend a 50th reunion either have stories to share or want to revisit some of the stories we’ve forgotten. Most of us have lost our parents – some many, many years ago – and no longer have the connection to the past that they provided. We’re curious about what went on in our lives in those early days and have an interest – unlike in our younger years – in remembering what we did and how we felt back then.
  3. We share a connection with these classmates that is different from the one we share with later-life friends. We are all the same age (how weird is that?), we spent many years together in a small space, we dealt with the same authority figures, we all learned to get under our desks in case of a nuclear war, we shared the same childhood insecurities … and in the case of our class, we ate the same delicious jellyrolls from the bakery across the street. (The bakery is long gone, but someone found a source and brought jellyrolls to the reunion. How great is that?)
  4. Everyone thinks they look 10 years younger than everyone else. 50th reunion attendees are grateful to be healthy enough to attend an evening reunion, although most of us want to be in bed by 11:30pm. And, we feel that we’ve done OK in the aging department. In fact, better than most, if we have to say so ourselves! Actually, we don’t see 64 year olds anyway when we look at other attendees — we see the kids we used to be!
  5. It’s all about the good memories. Yes, we had things happen to us in school that we’d rather forget. But, those things aren’t what anyone wants to talk about at this age. 50th reunion attendees are more interested in remembering fun stuff and sharing a laugh or two or three.

So, go ahead and attend your 50th reunion – grade school or high school. And, if you do, here are some suggestions based on my recent experience:

  • Look at the eyes! You’ll be more likely to “see” the kid you knew.
  • Don’t say “Do you know who I am?” while hiding your name tag. Introduce yourself. You might be pleasantly surprised if people remember you before your self-introduction, but if not, at least you won’t get blank stares. (Ladies … Use your maiden name. It’s the only one your classmates will know or care about!)

hello

  • Spend some time in advance of the reunion coming up with a story you can share. If you have photos or school albums, they’ll jog your memory.
  • Use the time you spend with classmates asking them to share stories and memories. You could find a few gems among them.
  • Don’t talk about your health problems. We all have them and we don’t want to talk about them. (And … if someone isn’t there, don’t speculate about whether they died. Assume they had another commitment or, better yet, that they are on a luxury cruise to Tahiti!)
  • Tell everyone they look great … why the hell not!
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Cathy (center) with two grade school friends at our 50th reunion

My 50th reunion didn’t change my life – and it probably won’t change yours either. But with the right attitude and approach, it can be a pleasant way to take a little stroll back in time and uncover some of the things that made you the person you are today.

And … you might even get to savor some jellyrolls or other goodies from the past!

Cathy

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