Simplify Your Life – Again!

We are currently in the process of selling our home in Pennsylvania. Naturally I keep noticing items that can and should be tossed or given away. Books are something all fabulousover60 women grew up with, often treasured, and still gain comfort from. For obvious reasons, most future home owners will have fewer books to toss. Hopefully they won’t instead have 1,000 out of date technology products to sort out that are as much prone to clutter and harder to pick up and reminisce about.

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While scanning the guest room for clutter, there it was – Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways To Slow Down and Enjoy the Things That Really Matter by Elaine St. James. Copyright? 1994. I sat down and re-read the quick read considering how technology has impacted a number of suggestions, but happily realizing the vast majority of suggestions were still absolutely relevant.

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I got curious. What happened to Elaine St. James, the rather glamorous former realtor turned “simple liver” who with her husband honed down her life and kept it simple. Simple in ways as varied as minimal clothing and shoes, healthy sensible food, many less obligations and friendships that added pressure but not grace to one’s life. From reading a NY Times article I figured out she is about 72 now. Hopefully she is still happy, healthy and living in Santa Barbara, California – which is a sensational place to be regardless of lifestyle.

Seems Elaine kept writing – all about various aspects of simplifying your life. Goodreads has 25 of her books listed – and on Amazon she has an author page with multiple books but no photo. Finally found a relatively current website that has a variety of authors and articles where an article she wrote and a photo were published.

It appears that she has come to a place where she is known through her work and not her current personal/professional life. She does not have a Facebook page nor is she on LinkedIn. Her position as the guru of living a simple, less fast-tracked life seems to have faded as many younger gurus and sites like The Frugal Cottage, Zen Habits.net and tidying guru Marie Kondo have their own fresh take on the “simple life” and are younger generations’ sources of seasoned wisdom and thought.

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Though loving her book back in the 90s, I didn’t take much of her advice in my 40s and 50s. But I always thought about it in part because of Elaine St. James. Her work and my inner guide was always urging me to try scaling down and back in ways that made sense for me. I know that in the future there will be more loss, letting go, tossing out and honing down – some of which I won’t like. Some of which I will deal with more successfully because of Elaine’s work

I don’t think I need to read the new gurus of simplicity, though I can always learn something new. I think I got the message loud and clear from sitting in my guest room re-reading Elaine St. James’s book. The packaging changes, the essence of truth doesn’t.

Let’s hope our younger friends, children, relatives, and sister citizens are reading today’s simplicity gurus – and it is OK if they ignore most of their outstanding advice as we obviously did. When they get to be fabulous over 60 they’ll have memories and reminders of having heard and seen from newer gurus how to address shared issues of living: slowing down, making choices, and doing/buying only what is truly important.

I am hoping to run into Elaine on a future visit to Santa Barbara. My sense is, that like most of us now, she won’t mind a few minute chat since she has smartly exited from social media madness leaving more time for face to face connection. What happened to Elaine St. James? What happened to us? She/we got older, wiser and are using the expertise she lived and wrote about. Good for her. Good for us.

Downtown Santa Barbara

Downtown Santa Barbara

Patty

 

In The 50’s, Crackers Were Saltines

While shopping for crackers to accompany a cheese and charcuterie* platter for guests, I was reminded just how many choices we have these days – especially compared to the 1950’s.

Crackers back then were saltines. Remember?

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Not anymore. Since I knew that there would be gluten-frees and wheat-frees at our party (and some lactose-frees, too, no doubt), I thought that shopping at the local gourmet market would be my best bet.

There were 10 shelves of crackers. The choices were overwhelming. Should I buy wheat or rice or sesame or organic or whole grain vegan crackers? Should some of them be gluten-free or wheat-free or grain-free? How about multi-grain, 8-grain, 5-grain, rye, flaxseed, pepper, sea salt, almond flour, asagio cheese, cheddar cheese or parmesan cheese crackers? And, would any non-dieters eat the jalapeno macaroni and cheese crackers?

This headache-inducing exercise in choice made me realize how much easier and faster it must have been for my parents to shop for food in the 50’s. My mother was a terrible cook (see my previous blog post about this subject). My dad would do the grocery shopping using her list. He would buy what she wanted, but would always return with other things, too. In retrospect, it was probably his way of making sure there was something edible in the house at all times.

Here are some of the things I remember about eating at home in the 50’s:

  • There was no such thing as pasta. We ate spaghetti. Covered with red sauce from a jar.
  • Meatloaf and pork chops were weekly staples. Served with mashed potatoes and gravy and succotash (corn and lima beans). Mom would throw in another “healthy” starch once in a while just to jazz up the meal.
  • Pizza was from a box. Pre-made dough, red sauce and parmesan cheese in little packets. (I looked it up. Pizza Hut wasn’t around until 1958 and even then, my parents seemed to have missed it).
  • My dad didn’t like salads. End of story.
  • Yogurt wasn’t invented yet. Or, at least, we didn’t know anything about it.
  • Chicken was always fried. Actually, deep fried. (Just writing this reminds me of that greasy oil smell in the kitchen that lingered for days).

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  • Speaking of oil, there was no palm, sunflower, avocado, sesame, coconut or extra virgin olive oil in our house. Mom used Wesson.
  • Bread was white. Sliced and packaged in plastic. White bread went into everything (like turkey stuffing at Thanksgiving) and could be served with anything (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on two pieces of white bread served as my lunch in grade school and high school).
  • Breakfast was cereal and milk. Period. (Lactose intolerant? What was that?)
  • Fruit was either sliced pineapple or mixed fruit – both from cans in syrup.
  • “Pop” (sodas) all contained sugar. Coke was our favorite because it was so healthy according to the Coca-Cola Company’s ads.

coke a cola

Now that I think about it, I’m glad mom wasn’t a good cook. I would probably have weighed 400 pounds at my high school graduation.

Despite the occasional shopping frustrations, I like today’s choices – both the quantity and the quality of the food I can buy and the stores where I can buy them.

But I am trying to imagine what Dad would have done in one of today’s gourmet groceries with a list from my mom that included “crackers”.

Cathy Green

*Charcuterie … a fancy, French word for cold meats. I’m confident that this is a word no one in my family ever used in the 50’s.

 

On This Father’s Day: Things I Wish I Knew About My Dad

It has been 27 years since I’ve had a dad to call on Father’s Day. He was 60 when he died of a massive heart attack. I was 38 years old and at my home in Pittsburgh when I received the call from a neighbor telling me about the ambulance. An hour later, there was a call from my brother.

I was a career woman, traveling around the country and caring intensely about things that from my current over-60 vantage point don’t seem very important. I was shocked at his death. I was a daddy’s girl from an early age and couldn’t believe he would no longer be around for me.

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I hadn’t seen him for awhile. I moved away when I was 21 and began my life in St. Louis, then on to Detroit, then Pittsburgh. I visited twice a year, and called every couple of weeks. My dad would always answer, we’d have a happy, short conversation and then he’d say “Here’s your mom”.

He grew up in a large family of 7 … the oldest child … with a strict German father. He did well in school, but didn’t go to college. He worked hard. He loved his mom. He was a good son. He thought people should make their own way in the world and had no use for “slackers” or those who looked for handouts. He had a great voice, sang in the church choir and in a barbershop quartet, worked as a savings and loan manager, had a hearty laugh, drank Manhattans, loved bratwurst, enjoyed Cincinnati Reds baseball games, cut the grass with his push mower, went to church every Sunday, fell asleep on the couch watching football and enjoyed his two packs of Pall Malls every day.

And, he loved his middle daughter who shared his love of the English language, enjoyed going to the symphony, sang in the children’s choir, did well in school and wanted to go to college. We even ate Limburger cheese together!

He was also a mystery to me. He didn’t like to talk about himself. When I was young I didn’t care, of course, since life was all about me anyway.

Now, I wish I had known him better. I wish I had learned more about what his childhood was like. I wish I knew if he was happy with the life he chose. I wish I knew more about his friends, his relationships with his brothers and sisters and his father, his time in the service and his choice of my mom. I don’t know if he would have answered my questions, but I wish I had asked.

Francis Joseph (“Joe”) Pille on a trip to Hawaii, 1983

Francis Joseph (“Joe”) Pille on a trip to Hawaii, 1983

But, growing up, we didn’t ask things like that in our family. Dad was dad and that was it.

Once, when we were talking on the phone and he was having a coughing spell, I asked him in frustration   “Dad, why don’t you quit smoking? It’s going to kill you!” I will always remember that he laughed and said …”Honey, everyone has to die of something!” And, he did.

Every Father’s Day, I wish I could call him.

Interestingly, I married a man much like my dad. He doesn’t share a lot of information about himself with his two daughters.

I hope they get to know him better… before they can’t.man

Cathy Green



The Best Present to Give Your Best Friends

When our friends turn 60, 65 – or 75 or 55 – we want to make sure whatever we give to them demonstrates not only love for them, but makes it clear we know them. Nothing ends a weak friendship or forced relationship quicker than a tacky, and/or off base gift that says “I have no idea who you really are and what you would really want.” Quick, list the worse present(s) you ever got on a holiday or your birthday?

No chance Cathy and I do not know each other, but getting “just the right thing” for our recent joint birthday celebration in Napa wasn’t easy.

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After trial and some error and ideas that sounded great at first fizzled, it dawned on me that what I had NEVER given Cathy was a real list of the reasons she means so much to me. And, what I had also had never shared was all the many things/experiences I pray for or wish for her as time passes. Actually I started with the thought of sharing 65 things I love about her – it got complicated around 27 – HOW many more do I need to think of? Or, make up? After age 25 I would think this “great idea” wouldn’t be.

That led to my final birthday idea for Cathy’s 65th: a list of the 6 things I love most about her – and 5 things I most wish for her. Obviously this idea can be simply edited for nearly any birthday – but from our experience I would highly recommend you save it and use it for a really special birthday. Or for when you feel you need an intimacy injection in your relationship.

It was “a keeper” as Cathy described it. It was also insightful. I actually wasn’t sure what I was going to write till I tried working on the lists several times. Keeping it to 6 and 5 is harder than it seems – and reflecting on the unique aspects of our friendship gave me greater appreciation not just of Cathy – but for other friends as I discarded something that might better fit another relationship in my life – or just wasn’t “exactly right” for Cathy.

Friends are absolutely not interchangeable – and this exercise proved it. Friends are chosen with care from the dozens or thousands of people we “run into”, live near, go to school with, work with, are somehow related to, or otherwise encountered and then later chose to have stay in our lives. Why did we make this choice? That is what writing the list is all about – finding out and confirming the why her (or him) in the relationship.

Something very special happened after I gave Cathy this gift on our trip. She not only told me she loved it, but then weeks later surprised me by sending HER list of 6 things she loves most about me and her 5 wishes for me. I just cried. It is sitting on my desk and will be saved in my chest (no, I never had a “hope chest” – but I DO have a rather large chest that I keep special memories, photos, cards, trip and other information in).

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All relationships we cherish should be handled with care. They deepen and grow with good communication and wither from misunderstandings and neglect. No secret there. Taking time to actually write down what we love about someone, or about what we wish for them, provides us a rare opportunity to tune in to the best in others. It also answers that question many fabulousover60 women have asked themselves.

Do I love Barbara just because she says I look great in everything, never reveals a secret or because she makes the best margaritas? Don’t keep it a secret anymore. Oh and be prepared to be surprised – when someone tells you about a trait that they love about you and you hadn’t even considered as valuable, you will feel a sweet calm and happiness that can only be described as utterly fabulous.

Patty

Blogging For Fun or Blogging For Money?

Last week, my blogging partner Patty and I decided that we aren’t interested in making a million dollars from this blog site. In fact, we aren’t even going to shoot for a few thousand or a few hundred dollars. Why?

Well, to be perfectly honest, a million dollars would turn our heads. But when we checked into the “blogging for money” issue, we realized that making money is a lot of work! More importantly, it doesn’t match our reasons for having the site.

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If you’ve read “Creating Fabulous over 60” you know that the idea came from a discussion we had on an annual spa trip a few years ago about the good, bad and ugly of being over 60. We thought – and still do – that the 60’s are a very interesting time for women and that sharing some of our thoughts, stories, ideas and complaints would be fun for us and might be interesting and maybe even helpful to some other over-60’s.

We started Fabulous Over 60 as “…a place online to share and discuss being in our 60s and wanting to create and maintain terrific lives…. We welcome all women who see themselves as fabulous, or who just want to dish with other smart, strong women who have a sense of proportion and humor.”

Our first blog was in September of 2012. For a couple of years, we posted pieces whenever we felt like it and sent them out to relatives and friends, some of whom sent them to their friends. Some women even found us on their own as they searched for sites like ours. Then a year or so ago, we began posting them – and occasionally other information or links – on our own Facebook page. More people found us there and our number of readers every week has gone up. We now post something every week.

Do we have thousands of readers? No. But we do seem to have a growing number of “likes” on Facebook and more regular followers on our site.

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As we began to post on Facebook, however, we received a couple of inquiries about whether we would be willing to endorse products. Then, we started to get more.

Most recently, a body lotion company sent us samples of their product and suggested that we might want to mention it in a blog. They were also willing, they said, to provide giveaways to our readers.

Patty and I did some research. If we wanted to make money with our site, it would first require that we get many, many more followers. We’d have to work the site like a real business – investing lots of time in reading and commenting on other blogs/websites while also investing even more time in our own site’s content.

Then, we could pay Google to find advertisers, and pay Facebook to advertise our blogs more widely. And, when we built a huge follower base, we’d need to negotiate directly with advertisers or develop our own products –the two most lucrative options.

This is what we decided:

  • We don’t want to endorse things we don’t believe in, whether in exchange for samples, giveaways or money.
  • We are doing this for fun and enjoy having some “likes” every week and hearing from some of our friends.
  • We enjoy sharing our over-60 journey with others, both friends and strangers, and reading their interesting comments and personal stories
  • We like learning about each other. The site has brought us closer together.
  • We both like to write and the site provides us with the discipline to do it.
  • We don’t want the site to be a “job”, so when we don’t want to do it anymore, we won’t.
  • We will continue to mention products, places and services in our blogs when we really like them and want to share them with our readers. But, when we do, we won’t be taking any money for those mentions.

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And, if we ever do decide we want to make money, we’ll come up with our own product(s). Fabulous Over 60 Age-Defying Body Lotion, anyone?

Cathy Green

 

OUCH LESSONS: Learning when to say “no” when you’re over 60

Scene one: spa trip, time to exercise, chose step dancing class – average age of participant: 27-30.

The music starts, the instructor goes over the basic foot motions and body motions, and we all are dancing along to the beat.

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The beat picks up and then picks up some more. The whole process speeds up and each of us focus to speed ourselves up.

I miss the step, go down hard on my foot, twist it badly and spend the rest of the spa trip putting ice on my foot and limping to diet meals, skipping exercise I could have enjoyed.

Scene two: “Giggleberry fair”. Just like it sounds – play area with a decibel count of 500 filled with toddlers to 10 year-olds. Games, rides and “magic mountain” – up to the ceiling, rope and netting obstacle course for children with lots of twists, odd levels, plastic obstacles, slides, squeezing through tight spaces, dead ends and mirrors designed to confuse…

Giggleberry Fair

Giggleberry Fair

My granddaughters, 9 and 6, want me to go with them to the top. I agreed to do so – why not? I am a YOUNG 65.

9 days later the pinched nerve I got hitting my arm and shoulder somewhere up the mountain still hurts making it hard to type this.

Now to “the ouch lessons”.

  1. If it isn’t designed for people vaguely your age, skip it. Exception is the 92 year old woman who just ran a marathon.
  2. Just because you look young, feel young, and used to do lots of physical things does not mean you can run, jump and carry on like a 9 year old – or a 27 year old.
  3. It is once again time to learn to say no to a new set of things that haven’t come up before – and that doesn’t mean we are old or not fabulous.

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The time one loses recovering from things not worth doing in the first place is the biggest lesson. That time needs to be spent doing just the things that one has analyzed are important, valuable and basically safe.

Once more I got caught up in what others wanted (like my darling grandgirls) or what I thought made me still very youthful (joining a class where no one was near my age) rather than being comfortable enough in my own skin to say the hardest word for many of us to say: “NO”.

Many of us struggled with saying no to friends, family, civic and volunteer associations as well as bosses and clients. Now some of us still struggle with new areas where we need to say no. We fabulousover60 women must start keeping promises to ourselves to truly put ourselves first – because our wisdom development demands it. Wisdom development means adopting beliefs like this one: the ability to give starts with giving to oneself.

While many fabulous women have long ago learned this critical lesson, I needed ouch lessons to get it and believe it. Hopefully you haven’t hurt yourself learning this same lesson. It feels good to finally get somewhere with the “no” issue – will feel even better when my neck stops hurting.

Patty



A Perfectionist Tackles The “Game” of Golf

I never wanted to play golf.

No one in my immediate family played, or even mentioned golf when I was growing up. I didn’t have any friends in high school or college who played. I tried it once in my early 20’s and concluded that it took too long to play, I didn’t like men scowling at me on the course, and the clothes and shoes were not flattering.

And then one day a few years ago, as my husband and I were beginning to take more time off from the business and could envision the possibility of retirement at some point he said: Why don’t you take golf lessons so we can play together when we move to Asheville?

I told him I’d think about it and then promptly decided not to think about it. But a good friend, who is also a psychologist, told me that I might want to consider Ray’s suggestion in another way. How many men, he said, invite their spouses into their lives this way? I had to admit that I didn’t know many.

So, I decided to give it a try.

Did I mention that I’m a perfectionist?

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My first lesson on the driving range didn’t go well. I kept missing the ball, no matter how big the golf club head was. I was sure the guys around me were laughing and hoping they never had to play behind me on a course.

Keep your head down, the golf pro said. Down where? Keep your body still but twist your hips, he said. Huh?

Somehow, because of or despite those directions, I finally managed to hit the ball – or more accurately, I hit the ground behind the ball which caused the ball to dribble a few feet. By the end of the hour, I was hitting the ball about half the time and knocking it erratically but at least a little further.

My second lesson was better. I seemed to be getting the “swing” of it and I actually hit the ball 50 yards or so a couple of times.

Ray thought I was ready to play. On a real course.

Will there be any players behind us, I asked. Yes, that’s the way it works, he said. Men? He gave me one of those “of course, darling” looks. But don’t worry, he continued encouragingly, we’ll just pick up your ball and move it along with us on the cart, OK?

Riding around in the cart with my ball – that sounded like something fun to do for 4 hours.

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Let me digress a little. Ray played on a college golf team, but only played occasionally throughout his business career. He once lived on a golf course, though, so I figured he knew everything there was to know about golf and that he had learned everything needed to pick up the game where he left off.

During our first game together, I moved my ball along many, many times in the cart, lost at least 5 balls in the woods or the water, scowled back at the guys behind us and kept tugging on my ridiculous golf “skort” – an item of clothing that should never be sold in any size over 4.

Ray seemed to be playing well, although I was a little surprised that some of his shots weren’t all that straight and some didn’t go very far. Was I interfering with his game, I wondered?

And then he hit an incredible drive. It sailed through the air, maybe 200 yards, perfectly straight – a thing of beauty! And, before I could censor myself, I said…

Why don’t you hit it like that every time?

I knew right away that this was not an appropriate response to his great shot. He scowled in silence. But then he seemed to realize that I had actually made this remark in total sincerity. I really thought that once you learned the game of golf, you would be able to hit the ball well – every time!

Cathy, he said, if I hit the ball like that consistently, our lives would be much different. I would be on the road with the Senior PGA Championship Tour and we would be friends with people like Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer! (I had actually heard of some of those guys).

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Point well taken.

I have now been “playing” this game of golf for a few years. Not often and not well. I threaten to quit every third time I play. I have learned not to make remarks about others’ shots. I occasionally still miss the ball, but if I can get away with it, I pretend it was a practice shot.

I’ve taken many more lessons from many more pros: Keep your head down; keep your head still; place the ball closer to your left foot; twist your body; make sure your belly-button ends up where you want the ball to go; use your shoulders when you putt; chip without bending your wrists; keep your arm straight on the backswing; follow-through; keep your weight on your left foot; don’t sway; lead with your left hand… and on and on and on. I write everything down and usually forget what it means.

But occasionally, just occasionally, I hit a shot that is incredible, if I have to say so myself. The club hits the ball with a solid “thwack”, it soars through the air and lands perfectly in the middle of the fairway and I am close enough to the green that I might actually feel good enough about this hole to put a score on the scorecard. I’ve even been known to pump my arm like Tiger Woods. And, when I make one of those shots, I’m hooked enough to schedule another round with Ray.

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I can’t say I’ve learned to love golf, but the perfectionist in me continues to think that it will “click” one of these days. Who knows? Maybe it will. Most likely, it won’t.

And the clothes? I still don’t like them.

Cathy

p.s. The other day, Ray and I attended a woman’s professional golf tour. As one of the golfers walked up to the tee, Ray whispered … you would look good in that skirt. I stared at him. Did he really mean the silky, form-fitting, short, pink polka-dot golf skirt that was being worn by a tall, thin and athletic 21-year old? He smiled at me and I realized he meant it! I decided to keep my mouth shut. It’s nice to know that he thinks it could be true.

Cathy - May 2015

Cathy – May 2015


50 Is Fabulous Too

As many of you know Cathy and I just got back from celebrating our 65th birthdays in the Napa Valley.

Home for less than a week Bill and I went out by ourselves to dinner at Hamilton’s Grill Room, one of our local favorites.

Hamilton’s Grill Room – on the PA/NJ border in Lambertville, NJ

Hamilton’s Grill Room – on the PA/NJ border in Lambertville, NJ

Walking in I noticed the front table by the window was filled with 6 great looking young (a relative term as you know) women and one chair completely filled with presents and balloons labeled 50! Naturally (to Bill’s discomfort) I had to stop and tell the “birthday girl” how great it is to be 50!!

On cue, they asked my age and appropriately gasped in surprise when I said 65.

It was sweet and just good manners for them to say how good I looked. But in reality, my bet is these kind, sophisticated women were thinking about themselves in the sense of wondering how great (or not) they looked, felt and were doing for 50. At milestone times all sensible and sensitive people long to have some confirmation that they are “doing OK” or “more than OK” and “going in the right direction.” Since I asked their permission to write about them in a blog, let me tell you what I hope I communicated to these women from Hamilton’s. Am sending it to them as well – so here’s to each and all of them.

1.) Yes, they each looked great. BUT NO, you did not look 40. You do not and will not look and/or feel as young and healthy at 50 as you did at 40. We age – slowly if we are smart, blessed with health and discipline to keep exercising and eating right, and paying for all those lotions and procedures/surgery our budgets will allow. Trust that you will look as good at 60/70 or 80 as you can – but only if you work on it in your 50s. The work in your 50s is the foundation for your looks and health for the remainder of your life.

Harpers Bazaar - 3 of the Fabulous At Every Age finalists

Harpers Bazaar – 3 of the Fabulous At Every Age finalists

2.) While 50 is not the new 40, it is closer to 40 than to being 60 in terms of work-life. At 50 one is still essentially in the game – still the protagonist of the story (a shocker for many of us at 60 is that we are, with some exceptions, no longer the protagonist of the story at 60 and beyond) – this is true at home, at an office, in a school, or a hospital. One’s 50s are about work, achievement and helping raise a family or live comfortably alone or with others. It is not generally a good time to stop contributing and become a taker or semi retired. 50 year old women have it all: experience, savvy, and if still healthy, some genuine stamina. It is the time to figure out your strengths and play to them professionally and personally. Dreams can no longer wait: write the book, launch the business, run for office, go for the promotion, or get back to work, and use the entire decade to focus tightly on what you really want to achieve financially and professionally. Some women keep going into their 80s – but not all – or even most. Surely one’s 50s is too young not to be focused on accomplishment.

3.) Set personal and professional goals for yourself – new ones every year or every 5 – but have goals. And it doesn’t matter if you don’t achieve them all – the goal police will not arrest you (the women said they absolutely LOVED this line – so enjoy it too). But without goals, focus, and some strategy to get somewhere your life can too easily become mediocre, boring, safe but stale. Take some smart risks both personally and professionally. It is your time – you know what you want or MUST find out, so execute and make it happen. Though it can be said “it is never too late” my experience says at some point it really is too late to achieve what you want to achieve – don’t let yourself off the hook now.

Goal-quotes-life-quotes-Dont-let-life-change-your-goals-because-achieving-your-goals-can-change-your-life.

4.) Rather than resent the losses and inevitable changes of life, encourage and accept changes/losses – with grace, charm (underrated now but a great skill) and strength of character. Yes, Jason is off to school, or Ali is in love with someone you don’t like, or your husband is losing his job, or you have to move out from your current situation or your father is dying – WHATEVER. Things are going to happen – remember this – you are not a victim because all your dreams did not come true — use the changes around you to keep reinventing yourself into a better person. And please, act in ways that model adulthood – that is, self-awareness, self-responsibility and self-control. Trying to fight against, stop or control everything in your life is simply impossible and will age and exhaust you faster than some appropriate acceptance. Accept change as part of life – as part of your particular journey. Not easy but essential for mental and physical health.

5.) Choose a great life coach. Only kidding (for those of you who know that I am one). Of course a life coach can be a great help if you are the type of person who likes that kind of support – but my final message is not to sell you something, but to remind you to trust yourself. At 50, you know you. You love you. You know what you want and need — or are going to do what it takes to find out. Now go make it happen. Your girlfriends are right there beside you! And if you have no friends at 50 probably a life coach isn’t going to be able to help you figure out what you should know by 50 – love and good healthy relationships shape the quality of your life at every stage and age of your life.

Happy Birthday to all 50 and 50-something women out there – fifty can be fabulous too. Cathy and I certainly were – but way too busy to write a blog about it.

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Patty







Our Napa Celebration

Think Cathy and I were getting a tiny bit tired of the “Happy 65” toasts we had on our Napa Valley/California celebration in early May. But it was a good time filled with delicious wine – we visited Honig and Far Niente wineries in addition to ordering wine with our dinners. We ate amazing luscious California food. Bouchon, El Dorado Kitchen, Mustards and Bottega were among the spots we included in our time together.

It was all great. And when we parted it felt as it always does: bitter sweet. We love spending time together and there is never quite enough despite talking for give or take 48 plus hours straight. Bill and Ray get it – sort of. They know we love the talking/sharing but like most men the sheer volume of it is a bit bewildering. We literally WANT each other’s advice – and of course, each other’s support. Because of that we can just go on asking, listening, posing questions and then of course coming to some agreement – which we do on most topics other than politics.

napa

Here’s a few things that were different at this year’s 65th celebration than previous birthday experiences.

1.) We didn’t have the extra glass of champagne to start or finish the evening with. Yes, we had some wine, but we simply drink less – on purpose. Feeling really good everyday is an absolute priority. Drinking too much is simply OUT.

2.) We exchanged gifts. But rather than the biggest and best – which we admit we have often done in the past (great jackets, bags, blouses, jewelry etc.) – the gifts were about memories, or capturing a new memory. Cathy ordered a bottle of my favorite wine a month or so ago, emptied it (meaning she and Ray drank it), and had a bracelet made with the cork as a permanent memory of the trip and my favorite wine. I gave her, my most musical of friends, a bracelet made from piano wires and a list of 6 things I love most about her and 5 things I wish for her in the years ahead. Less money than usual – a lot more personal thought.

3.) We shopped – but quickly and in a targeted way – got something we “needed” and were in and out in 40 minutes. We exercised by walking and talking together instead of heading for the gym. And we explored places like wineries and the country side rather than having a massage or a manicure. We wanted to savor the time together rather than be pampered separately.

Cathy's gift

Cathy’s gift bracelet

Not rushing to be 70 – but Cathy and I will likely do a big celebration for that makes it a tiny bit better. Wait… another toast to 65!!!

Patty

Note: For more information about having a bracelet made with your favorite wine cork: Ashville Recorked (Artisan quality cork jewelry design) Rachel Newman, Designer – rnewman87@gmail.com

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A Mother’s Day Story About My Sister Christine

About eight years ago, I wrote a short essay about becoming a mother to my mentally disabled sister Christine when our own mother died. Later, It was published in the St. Petersburg Times in November of 2009 with the editor’s title: A New Parent; An Unlikely Child.

Since Mother’s Day is approaching, I re-read the story today.

Much has changed, including Christine’s engagement with people (very low), her mobility (not great), her financial situation (much better since I  found a Medicaid program that covers her assisted-living housing and care), her love of bingo (not so much these days) and her “mom” in the story (now deceased).

She still has the caregiver I found for her years ago (her current local “mom”), but the nurses give her insulin and take care of her pills.

She still likes candy, watches TV most of the day and doesn’t like to shower.

Since Christine and I are sisters in our 60’s, I thought I’d share our story on this site.  I hope you like it.

Here it is:

At 56 I became a first-time parent. Christine is about 10 years old, generally. She gives herself insulin injections, for example, but would have a hard time filling a syringe. She can bathe herself, but she doesn’t do well with time so she always thinks she took a shower yesterday. She can write a short note on a birthday card, but can’t remember how to address the envelope. She knows she has diabetes, but she doesn’t understand why she can’t have cookies and candy like everyone else.

I always knew that someday Christine, just a year older than me, would be more than my sister. Our father died more than 20 years ago, and my mother did the best she could as her own health deteriorated. Although it was more and more difficult for her to take care of my sister, she resolutely stayed in her own home until the last week of her life. I now realize how much of a gift that was to me and my brother. Instead of expensive care in a nursing facility, she held on to her money market account and her home for Christine.

I didn’t have kids of my own, but I knew that I would inherit a child someday and would need money to care for her. Now, more than two years later, Mom’s savings are gone.

Me and Christine at her apartment, 2010

Me and Christine at her apartment, 2010

Most of the time, that seems like the easy part. I’m also Christine’s health care advocate, her caregivers’ manager, her phone friend, her motivator and her disciplinarian. Yesterday, I made a deal with her about how many times a week she’ll wash her hair. Last week, I talked to her eye doctor about the pros and cons of a lab test. Two weeks ago, I worked with her caregiver to manage the amount of allowance money she spends on stuffed animals.

I sometimes feel angry about having to take on this responsibility. I remember my father telling me not to worry because he had taken care of Christine’s future. I’m sure he thought that her Social Security check, the money he left to my mother and the proceeds from the house would be enough. How could he have anticipated the cost of care 20 years later? Christine lives in an independent care facility in our hometown of Cincinnati and has a private caregiver 12 hours a week. The cost is high — more than $40,000 a year — and growing.

I’m glad that I’m in a position to help her live well. She loves the other residents, except the one who eats too loudly in the dining room and the one who smokes too much in the garden. Since she is by far the youngest, she is watched over by both residents and staff members. Every day, twice a day, she walks through the same hallways into the same dining room and is greeted warmly by her many friends. “Hello, Christine” and “How are you today, Christine?” She knows all of their names. She can tell you who lives in “independent” and who lives in “assisted.” She happily repeats all of the staff gossip. She loves bingo. She gets a big kick out of visits from Elvis. And, in her room, she watches Bewitched, Gilligan’s Island, black and white movies and Dancing With the Stars.

I’ll have many more decisions to make about her care and her health in the coming years. Will I move her closer to me when I retire? How will I continue to support her financially? What will happen as her health worsens? I don’t dwell on these things too much, though. They are just there, as they’ve always been.

For now, I talk to Christine every day. I ask her if she has taken her pills. I visit her as often as I can. I talk to her caregiver weekly. I send her cards and gifts every holiday. I mark her doctors’ appointments on my calendar. I tell her I love her.

The last time I was in Cincinnati, she introduced me to her table-mate Audrey. “I call her mom,” she told me later. “I’m going to get her a Mother’s Day card. I think she would really like it. Do you think that’s okay, Cathy?”

“Yes,” I told my sister, “I think that’s perfectly okay.”

 

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