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!)

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  • 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

Yosemite’s Beauty Reminds Us Of Our Own

As some of you may know, there was a forest fire on Tuesday at Yosemite National Park. Our sincerest condolences go out to the family of the pilot who went down while trying to provide aid, as well as anyone else who may be affected.

Have just been at Yosemite National Park. There are few signs there, only modest markings in the park, no trash anywhere not specifically noted for recycle/reuse, no video arcades or much action of any kind beyond being and experiencing the quiet, beauty and vastness of nature. We saw majestic mountains and miles of elegant trees rising high and deep on twisting, relatively empty roads. Because of the many gifted photographers of this site we both felt we knew it well — but were truly virgins in this place — open to the newness of actually being in the park and not seeing it second hand.

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Yosemite (like all national parks) feels a bit like our 50s childhood: barely commercial, all about being outside, low key and old-fashioned. While multiple languages were spoken everywhere in our hotel and in the park, aside from photos being taken from smartphones, it was essentially low key/low tech. While no setting is immune from the constant site of people more engrossed with their phones than real life happening around them, there was much less of that in Yosemite. The scenery just begged to be looked at and admired – even if you can get every perfect photo Ansel Adams ever took on the web anywhere and anytime you want.

The days are long and soft with a feeling that “this is just someplace everyone should see”. There seems no other reason to be at Yosemite but to soak up the magic and serenity of wilderness. It is a truly spiritual place — a place that exists to help us experience deep peace, calm and remind us to tap down the relentless striving inherent in our culture. Places that remind us that we are unique and beautiful in ourselves — when we recognize and accept who we really are at core with unique gifts and life stories. It struck me as I visited Grace Cathedral in San Francisco soon after we left Yosemite – that this beautiful cathedral and the vistas of Yosemite have much in common as centering places. It also became clear how important it is especially in our 60s to visit these sacred spaces.

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Yosemite is a perfect place to think, reconsider what you are doing in your life and with your life, and a spot to recommit to doing the right things — from exercising, to keeping everything and ourselves as beautiful and unspoiled as possible and to keep our own life focused on just those few things and people that matter. We remember and can reconsider recommitting to the respect for institutions we grew up with in the 50s. It is comforting to see people of every stripe and age respecting a place as they still do in Yosemite – there are few shouting tourists or obnoxious children — everyone is calmer for being in awe of something clearly bigger than any visitor.

It has been 150 years since President Lincoln in 1864, consumed by the war then ripping the USA apart, took time to give a gift so enlightened – it is hard to believe it came from Washington, D.C. Come visit or visit again sometime and gain or regain any perspective you may have lost. You can’t be here without knowing where you fit in to this world of ours – not at its center, but in a perfectly fabulous place where you are exactly meant to be.

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Patty

What Not To Say

One of our readers sent us a great piece about what not to say to another over 60 woman if she is involved in a change in her relationship status. We loved it and have it here. If you have comments and ideas to share with Sue about her story feel free to comment on this post or send us a message and we’ll get it to Sue.

The story got us thinking about what else not to say in difficult and often changing situations.   And, as we age, there are more “awkward” situations that test our ability to show support and sympathy but without offense. Even changes in weight or looks can cause an otherwise fabulous woman to say something inappropriate.

My favorite story of saying the wrong thing was back in 1977 at my 10 year high school reunion: “So Mary — when is the baby due?” You got it — I will never forget her face and comment “I am just fat Patty.” Alas less than a year ago – some 30 plus years later, I slipped again. Sure enough – Gloria wasn’t pregnant either. Now unless the woman is in the process of delivering I am not mentioning her having a baby.

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Here’s a few more tips — essentially here’s what NOT TO SAY when people are grieving.

Skip comparisons and bringing in your similar experience. Here are some examples I know you have heard or said. I too admit to a few slips.

  • “You know my Dad had the same cancer and they got it in time.”
  • “I was so distraught when Jan left me – I feel your pain.”

Skip assuming how other people feel — I have definitely made this mistake.

  • “You must be relieved after all the time you have been caring for h/h”
  • “It was her time – she was ready.” Having said this once and gotten my head bit off let me suggest extra caution on variations on this theme.

Forget references to the afterlife unless you are absolutely 100% positive they are believers. Even if they are believers — the timing could be off.

  • “You’ll see Harry in paradise some day soon”. A variation on this for my mother in law got a book thrown at my head.
  • “They are in a better place.”

Don’t downplay or make the person feel they were a fool ever to have gotten involved with the person, job, house or whatever it is that is now gone. And remember, just because something is absolutely TRUE, doesn’t mean you should say it!

  • “She was a bitch and everyone knew it – except you obviously. You’re well rid of her.”
  • “You won’t miss that corporate job — sure it paid the bills, but it ate your soul.”
  • “You couldn’t save him — he had to save himself.”

The older I get the more I believe in the point: less is more. Here’s a suggestion of what to say that could work in literally dozens of situations. It conveys concern and sympathy/empathy, but avoids remarks that while well-meaning, could potentially backfire.

Look the person in the eye, put your arm out to touch them in a light way — unless of course you already know they are one of those few folks who never want to be touched. Pause, and then starting with their name, speak softly and directly to the person.

“Bob/Carol I am so sorry about what you are going through (likely they are still suffering in some way). I am here to listen and help in the way that would be best for you.” Wait and determine if they do or do not want to talk, share or ask for help. Some people welcome a chance to share, others are more private, or in many cases too upset or tired to keep repeating the same “tale” multiple times.

You likely feel much better now that you have read this wonderful therapeutic blog — or, maybe not. Let me just say – be well, be happy and enjoy the day — and if the blog helps you, great — if not, just delete it.

Patty

Women in the Workplace Still Need Role Models and Mentors

When Deeanne Colwell wrote to us about her experience in the aviation industry where she worked as a pilot for 30 years, Patty and I thought it could be a good time to suggest to fabulous women over 60 that we might be in a great position – even if we are retired or about to retire – to encourage, support and advise younger women as they face continuing career challenges.

Many of us have built expertise in a career or other endeavor while learning important (and often difficult) lessons along the way. We’ve faced glass ceilings, lack of respect, gender assumptions and more. Sharing ways we’ve dealt with these issues – whether successfully or not – could be very valuable to those who are coming up behind us. Maybe we should even think about this as an obligation – something we owe to other women as Deeanne suggests in this inspirational story.

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Welcome to Reality!

By Deeanne Colwell

For those of you who do not know me, my name is Deeanne Colwell.  I have just retired from an incredible job.  Yes, for 30 years I was a pilot at a major United States airline.  My dream shot that came true after giving up a career in medicine to pursue my life’s passion.  Although we are a minority in the aviation community, I never felt as though I was a role model, a trail blazer or any other feel good term.  I was a woman airline captain just doing what I loved.

Due to federal mandates I had to retire at age 65, give all this up.  It wasn’t the money or any prestige, it was my passion.  After the retirement process I thought to myself, time for a new adventure, a new challenge, a new life. But every time I thought of returning to graduate school or becoming a bartender my love of aviation would keep creeping into my thoughts.

I am saying, OK girl, if you cannot fly go teach, you just might have something to offer to the aviation community.  What the heck, you might even inspire another woman to take on this challenge. OK, let’s not push it yet.

As luck would have it, I found an international flight training company that trained corporate pilots from all over the world to fly.  I applied and was given an interview.  My first thought was I have nothing to wear to an interview – I went out to an upscale women’s shop, bought a nice suit and now I am ready.

I go to the interview, was greeted very professionally by the staff, this was so comforting to me since I had not been to an interview since the mid-80’s.  All was well until the interview room started filling with men. Men asking me very mundane questions, actually they were very easy to answer. Then the subtle attacks and flanking maneuvers began.  I began to see where this was going. I was asked very condescending questions, questions that a student pilot could answer.  It was almost like they were saying to me, “OK sweetie why are you really here?”  But what they didn’t realize is I love a challenge, I love a confrontation. I held my ground.  Finally one man asked me, what do you really have to bring to this organization?  I looked at him square and said, EXPERIENCE.

The interview ended very cordially, with the standard “we have many other candidates to go, we’ll be in touch”.

After leaving, on my drive home, many thoughts were going through me. Thoughts like where did I go wrong, could it have gone better.  Then I said to myself, woman you did great, if they don’t hire you it’s their loss.

The reality of all this hit me after 30 years, the reality of the “glass ceiling”.  The reality of this still “macho” business.  I’ve been sheltered all these years and the “glass ceiling” was just a term for me.  What this interview has awakened me to do is to become active in being a role model, a motivator for some young girl who wants what I had, to even become a fighter pilot or maybe an astronaut.

I suppose we all owe something to someone, some time.   Dee.

 

YES, Dee, we do. It is what makes us fabulous at any age!

Cathy

P.S. Patty recently found an organization called Take the Lead whose mission is to do what it takes to achieve leadership parity for women across all sectors by 2025. Thought you might like to check it out.

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Fighting People, Boredom and Burnout

Went to a cocktail/dinner party about a month ago – we knew the hosts but no one else. Twenty or so people were in attendance – ages varying from 40-70ish. The house, food, setting was superb — but on the way home we found ourselves, while not exactly complaining, at least wondering why we found the people nice but boring – except for our host friends whom we adore.

cocktail party

My husband and several of our/his friends have a group called the “I hate people club” because at this point they are exhausted by “@ss#oles“ they keep meeting. The women in the couples cringe when we hear this – but at some level we get it.

When younger, much of what we found interesting and really fun was sharing and learning about what we were interested in at those points in time:

  • How to meet that great looking woman/man to date, become friends with or have a potential business exchange with.
  • What can I learn from others also juggling family, work, and working at XYZ?
  • Am I keeping up professionally, personally, in any way and every way with “what’s happening now”?
  • Can I get some tips on makeup, hair, traveling, new restaurants — even politics — because we really did used to have conversations about candidates without anyone getting crazy.

Two big changes have happened. Nowadays, the “answer” or information about anything is available online. You don’t need as many other people’s advice because you can get tons of advice on any and all subjects whenever you want it. And secondly, perhaps more importantly, we don’t care as much about others’ views, or feel quite the pressure to be better, different, or more open.

fall_cocktail_party_ideas_1345509418

Actually, I think the problem is in the questions — or the lack of questions we want to ask, think to ask, or know how to ask. Maybe we are really curious why Jim is still with Mary after all these years, or how Tom is coping with his illness or Carol with the loss of her mate. With new folks we wonder how to break the ice without stumbling in the killer conversations about Washington DC, money, fears or inability to retire and so forth.

Maybe we just need to stop analyzing and just get back in the habit of being interested in others, and interested in things that are new, different and maybe pushing us a bit out of our comfort zone. That and maybe accept that some forms of socializing don’t work anymore – and do more of what does work: more time with friends who challenge us but love us unconditionally. Being fabulous is turning out to be more about depth and insight. Because, really, who cares that boots are in or that Spirit is the hottest restaurant in town?

Patty Gill Webber

Photo credit here, here

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