About Cathy Green

Posts by Cathy Green:

My Husband, Out-Patient Surgery and Strong Drugs

Ray had arthroscopic knee surgery this week to “clean up” some of the weird stuff going on in there like torn meniscus pieces and bone spurs. Hopefully, this will put off the inevitable knee replacement for a couple of years.

My part was to play the dutiful wife and designated driver. This involved arriving at the outpatient surgery center with him at 11 AM, joining him in the recovery room after his 45-minute surgery, and driving him home around 3:30 PM with an intermediate stop at the pharmacy for OxyContin. More about that later.

I felt sorry for him that morning since he couldn’t have anything to eat or drink from the time we got up at 7:00 AM until we left the house at 10:30 AM, so I ate very little. I knew that the center was close to restaurants, so I figured that I could slip out for a nice lunch while he was having his knee roto-rootered. When I mentioned this to the admitting clerk, she squashed that plan quickly.

We require someone to be here at all times ‘just in case’ ”, she said. Her unspoken second sentence was something like “If you were a good wife, you would not have to be told”.

I glanced guiltily into the waiting room. A vending machine. It would have to do.

 

Fifteen minutes after Ray went to the surgery “prep” room, I joined him to pick up a garbage bag stuffed with his clothes and to watch as he was wheeled away.

“The doctor’s ready, so you might want to kiss him now” said his pretty, smiling young nurse. The way he was smiling back, I thought he might like her to kiss him.

Bye, darlin’, I’ll be right here when you wake up” I said. (I didn’t add “I’m not allowed to go anywhere else.”).

Returning to the waiting room with my garbage bag, I joined other dutiful wives, husbands and mothers with their garbage bags and had my 1:00PM lunch of dry peanut butter crackers and luke-warm coffee.

At 2:00 PM, I answered the waiting room phone and was told that “my smiling husband” was waiting for me in recovery.

Sure enough, he was smiling at me as I walked in, buzzed on anesthesia.

That’s a nice scarf you have on” he said as he stared at it. “Thanks. I had it on this morning when we got here”. “You did? Well, it’s really pretty!”

The recovery nurse, Peggy, smiled and gave me a look that said …“Yes, he’s out of it.

Five minutes later, he wasn’t smiling anymore. As the anesthesia wore off, the pain began. “Let’s try some pain medication, shall we?” said Peggy brightly as she headed down the hallway.

Where the hell is she with my drugs!” Ray growled 30 seconds later. I thought it best to stay quiet.

The first hydrocodone “elixir” didn’t do the trick. The next two syringes of fentanyl weren’t enough either. One more syringe of Dilaudid finally sent him back to happy land.

Around that time, the surgeon dropped by to say “we did the best we could”, which didn’t sound as hopeful to me as Ray seemed to think it was. But then again, I wasn’t on his drugs.

In his newly happy state, Ray was ready to go around 3:30. I helped him on with his socks and shirt and pants and shoes, Peggy got him into a wheelchair, I pulled the car to the front door and we shoved him into the passenger seat. Good luck, she said. I was afraid I’d need it.

On the ride home, Ray kept telling me where to turn (even onto our street), pointed out cars turning onto the road and read speed limit signs aloud. “I’ve got it, honey” I said sweetly. Or, at least, I hope it sounded sweet.

At the pharmacy, I asked him if he wanted me to wait for the prescription. “No, you can come back for it later. I want to go home.”

After he hobbled into the house on his crutches, the fun really began.

Can I have some water? Can you get my pillow from upstairs?

Ice, cereal, milk, bedroom shoes, blankets, more water, more ice …. I sprinted around the house, up and down the stairs as our conversation progressed something like this:

Where are my pills? I have to go get them at the pharmacy. Why didn’t you wait for them? You told me not to. Oh, I forgot. When can I have one? Not until 6:30PM. Why not sooner? Because you had pain medication at 2:30. So what? So the doctor said every four hours only. I might need one sooner. We’ll see – just try to rest. I can’t get comfortable. What do you need? Another blanket. OK, anything else? Some more ice. OK, anything else? Yes, a pill. Not until 6:30. What time is it? 4 o’clock. When do I get the next pill after that one? 10:30. Will you wake me if I’m sleeping? Yes. And in the middle of the night, too? Yes, darling.

When he finally got into bed around 10:30 with his pill and I had set an alarm for the middle of the night, given him his water, ice, special pillow and other assorted requested items, I was well into my second pinot noir of the evening and heading toward my third.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Ray and would do anything for him. However, the day reminded me why I never wanted to be a nurse.

And, I’m starting to think about that possible knee replacement surgery. An in-home nursing care service maybe?

Cathy Green

Ray is doing great! He got off the strong stuff quickly, began some exercises three days after surgery and is walking pain-free and without a limp five days later. Hopefully, he won’t need more surgery for a long time!

Lexie the Dog’s Blog: A New “Good Girl” Comes to My House

My name is Lexie. Or sometimes Lexie Girl.

Lexie, 8 years old

I have been with my mom and dad for a long time. We lived in a really warm place for awhile (it was called Florida) where I chased lizards and birds in my backyard and took long walks through the neighborhood searching for cats and squirrels.

Then they bought me a house in the mountains and I was really, really happy. I have lots of grass and trees and bushes, and I can run and run and run and chase squirrels and turkeys and growl when I smell bears.

They also bought me a Jeep so that I’m comfortable riding around town with them. I know every restaurant in Asheville that will let me hang out, and the people at the place called Home Depot like me a lot and give me treats. They tell my dad that I’m such a well-trained dog and that makes me very proud.

I like the good food my mom feeds me, even when she throws in oily stuff that she thinks is good for me, and I put up with a bath and a really loud hair dryer once a month. For some reason, mom and dad like my smells better after I come home from that place than when I roll over and over in all of the great smells in my backyard. I don’t understand that.

I’m a good girl. I know this because they tell me all the time. Dad calls me his girlfriend. Mom calls me her pretty baby. I wait politely for my dinner and I know how to sit, stay, lie down, leave it and hunt.  I know what “come” means, but I don’t like that word too much so I pretend I don’t hear it most of the time.

They tell me I’m a free-thinking dog. That sounds good to me.

They also tell me I’m the best dog ever and I know that I am.

That’s why I was not very happy when I came home from a short Jeep ride and there was another good girl in my mountain house. She was small, smelly and not very polite. She didn’t know how to sit, stay or anything. She couldn’t even go up and down the stairs. It was pretty funny watching her trying to figure out where she was and what she was supposed to do. Mom and dad called her good girl. I definitely didn’t like that.

I thought that she would be leaving, but she’s still here and it’s been many, many nights and days.

She wants to play with me, but I’m not having any of it. I stare off into the distance, I ignore her, and I look meaningfully at my mom and dad to let them know that their good girl Lexie is still their good girl, but that I’m not very happy with this other girl in my house. I’m still hoping they will take her away.

Kayla, 6 months old

They call her Kayla, but she either doesn’t like her name or doesn’t know it. She doesn’t seem very smart to me. She bites on rugs, she chases her tail and she steals my toys. I am trying not to get mad, but it’s difficult and I chased her and bit her once or twice. Mom and dad weren’t happy with me, but I didn’t bite her hard and she really deserved it.

Even though I’m not happy about it, I’ve tried to be helpful since mom and dad aren’t very good at teaching her things. For example, I taught her how to go up and down the stairs by showing her over and over and over again. She finally got it. But of course, she now runs up the stairs in front of me which is not very respectful. I have also tried to show her how to sit and stay, but so far, she only sits.

What I really don’t like is when she pees on the rugs and mom doesn’t yell at her. If I did that, I would be in big, big trouble. But Kayla just gets shooed outside and mom cleans the rugs. I don’t think that’s fair.

Unfortunately, it is starting to look like Kayla is going to stay with us in the mountains. Mom and dad are trying not to call her good girl since it makes me jealous. They are calling her good baby girl or good Kayla. They think that will fool me. Ha!

And, they are encouraging me to play with her. I’d still rather not do that, but at least I’m trying to be a good girl and not bite her anymore.

If she doesn’t leave soon, it looks like I’m going to have to be sharing my backyard, my Jeep and my mom and dad with her for a long time.

She cannot, however, play with my Lamb Chop toy. I have to draw the line somewhere.

And, I am still going to be the best dog ever. Mom and dad told me so.

Lexie

Cathy Green’s Labradoodle, guest blogger

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

It has also, at times, been challenging.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cathy Green

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

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

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

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

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

Cathy

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

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

1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2

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

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

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

3

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

4

These days, the teenage grandchildren want gift cards anyway.

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

5

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

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

Not so much.

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

Cathy Green

6

Thanksgiving in the 50’s at Grandma’s House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2

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

Looks like I was already suspicious of my Grandpa Coyle!

Looks like I was already suspicious of my Grandpa Coyle!

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

32
Happy Thanksgiving!
Cathy Green

Why My Husband Really Needs Me

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

1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4

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

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

I suspect the answer to all of these is yes.

But spelling? He would definitely miss me!

Cathy Green

Part 2: How The Beatles Ended My Musical (Accordion) Career

On February 9, 1964 at 8:00pm, I joined over 70 million Americans watching The Beatles live on the Ed Sullivan Show. I was 13 and would turn 14 that September. For weeks before their appearance, their songs were all over the airwaves. I Want to Hold Your Hand was the #1 song on the Billboard charts. My 8th-grade class was buzzing with excitement.

Paul, George, Ringo and John, 1964

Paul, George, Ringo and John, 1964

Ed Sullivan introduced The Beatles to his audience of teenagers as the “youngsters from Liverpool” and the girls screamed. In front of our TV, mom, dad, sister Chris and brother Tom were glued to the screen. As soon as George, Paul, John and Ringo started singing All My Loving, Chris and I joined in the screaming, 10-year-old Tom got caught up in the excitement and dad was making fun of the haircuts and outfits but seemed to be having a good time, too. Mom just looked mystified by it all.

The Beatles played three songs in the first half hour of the show (Including She Loves You… Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!) and two in the second half hour, including my favorite I Saw Her Standing There.

Here’s how the performance started:

The British invasion was underway and although I didn’t know it right then, my 8-year accordion-playing career was about to be over.

In Part 1 of this blog, I wrote about how my parents bought accordion lessons for me at the age of 6 from a door to door salesman and how I became a very good classical accordionist by my teens, performing with an accordion symphony orchestra and competing in solo events around the city and state.

Me … a little girl with a big accordion! Circa 1958

Me … a little girl with a big accordion! Circa 1958

The Beatles, and the British rock and roll bands that followed them like The Rolling Stones, The Animals, and Herman’s Hermits, were all about guitars and drums. Teenagers all over the US were listening to this new music and many of them were yearning to be in their own rock and roll bands, preferably playing guitar like Paul, John or George.

In the book Squeeze This: A Cultural History of the Accordion in America, the author wrote:

“By 1963, the accordion had reached the height of its popularity, but America’s youth were beginning to embrace new music and new instruments. Playing the accordion became, for all intents and purposes, uncool”.

At 13, I really liked boys, I was experimenting with makeup, I wanted to wear short skirts and I played Beatles records constantly with my friends.  I also started to rebel against authority (i.e. my parents). I was a true teenager.  I definitely didn’t want to be uncool.

I started to complain.

There’s nothing I can do with the accordion… … I have too much homeworkI want to go out with my friends …. I don’t want to play polkas for grandpa anymore.

And then, sometime in late 1964 or early 1965, I quit.

I don’t remember how hard my parents fought with me about this, but I don’t think they fought too much. They, too, were seeing the change in musical tastes and didn’t have an answer for me about what I’d be able to do with accordion skills.

1

My brother began taking guitar lessons. The money my parents had spent to develop my musical skills were now transferred to developing his.  He grew his hair long, got an electric guitar and drove us crazy. I was jealous. Playing guitar was definitely cool. I would have liked to play, too, and even bought an acoustic guitar and taught myself some chords. But in my family, Tom was now the guitar player so I didn’t get any encouragement. (He became an excellent guitarist, played with several bands, has a great tenor voice, gained recognition as one of the best guitarists in Cincinnati and still plays gigs at age 62.)

Brother Tom’s publicity shot in the early 70’s

Brother Tom’s publicity shot in the early 70’s

I was busy being a teenager anyway.

Over the years, I have had a lot of guilt about quitting after my parents had spent so much money and I had spent so much time. I’ve also been asked why I didn’t transfer my accordion playing to the piano, an instrument that provided more practical career opportunities, even in rock bands.

Those of you who have played accordion understand that this is not as easy as it may seem. Although my right hand played on a musical keyboard similar to a piano, I played buttons with my left hand. The transition could have been made, of course, but not without a lot of work, more lessons and a good piano in our home. At that time, I didn’t have the will to learn a new instrument and my parents didn’t have the money to encourage it.

I have to admit that my recent reading about the accordion’s popularity in the 50’s and its subsequent demise in the 60’s and 70’s made me feel a little better. Sales of accordions dropped to an all-time low in 1964, around the time I stopped playing.  I was not alone in being caught up in the new music wave.

I’ve never regretted my years of musical training, but I’ve often wished that my parents had gotten me started on a piano or guitar.

Here’s “the rest of the story” about accordions:

Accordions made a comeback in the 80’s and 90’s and since then have found their way into rock bands like Bare Naked Ladies, Counting Crows, and Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band. Bruce Hornsby, Tom Waits, Billy Joel, Pete Townsend and Eddie Vedder play accordion, too.

Bruce Springsteen with band member Mark Metcalfe

Bruce Springsteen with band member Mark Metcalfe

Backstreet Girl by the Rolling Stones features an accordion and Sheryl Crow plays one for the song Are You Strong Enough to Be My Man?

Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow

A January 2014 article in The Atlantic entitled Accordions So Hot Right Now reported that the last remaining accordion manufacturer in the US is selling 60% of its accordions to people under the age of 30 and is having trouble keeping up with production.

My accordion playing days were obviously in the wrong century!

By the way, I learned recently that both Paul McCartney and John Lennon played the accordion before the guitar. Somehow, that tidbit of information about the Beatles didn’t make it into the press releases at the time.

I’m pretty sure that it wouldn’t have made a difference to 14-year-old Cathy anyway.  Being cool was just too important!

Cathy Green

PS… Friends have asked me if I have ever wanted to play accordion again. I remember picking up my old accordion when I was  in my 40’s and realizing how little I remembered and how poorly my hands worked on the keys and buttons. I had lost the ability to read the sheet music, too. When musicians tell you that practicing constantly and consistently is critical, believe them!

Accordion Lessons From a Door to Door Salesman in the 1950’s

PART 1
I was six years old in 1956 when a salesman came to the door selling accordion lessons. He apparently convinced my mom and dad that I was a musical prodigy. They rented a small 8-bass accordion (the number of buttons on the left side) and bought a first set of lessons.

12

I don’t remember those early lessons, but I do remember that they were followed by more lessons and then the rental of a larger 12-bass accordion and then an even larger 48-bass accordion. In time, I was taking lessons twice a week at an accordion music studio not far from my home in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Apparently I was doing well, even if the prodigy part was not yet confirmed.

Both of my parents were musical. My father loved to sing and was a member of a barbershop quartet and the church choir.  My mother played piano when she was young and would occasionally play for us on an old piano in the basement. (We had a small house and nowhere else to put it). I assume they decided that they wanted me to be musical, too.

I recently bought a book called Squeeze This!: A Cultural History of the Accordion in America to see where my own story fit into the bigger story of the 50’s and 60’s. I learned, for example, that the door to door salesmen were fairly aggressive and well commissioned. As they went from home to home in a neighborhood, they would offer tests of children to assess musical abilities.  They would even come around at dinnertime to get both mom and dad involved in the decision. If they made the sale, they could usually count on at least a couple of rounds of lessons and accordion rentals.

This door to door selling was targeted toward middle-class working families and was limited primarily to the Midwest, the West Coast and the upper East Coast.  (A friend in Asheville, however, said that his parents bought accordion lessons for him from a door to door salesman in Atlanta.)

In the 50’s, the accordion was a big deal.  It was one of the most studied instruments in the country and purchases of accordions soared to over 250,000 by the middle of the decade.

123

If you grew up in the 50’s, you’ll remember that the Lawrence Welk television show was extremely popular. Mr. Welk (“Wunnerful, Wunnerful!”) played accordion with his orchestra. But Myron Floren, a regular accordionist on the show, was younger and better looking.

1234

Myron Floren on the Lawrence Welk show, early 50’s

Here’s Myron “live” playing an accordion classic, Lady of Spain.

In the 50’s, there were also hundreds of accordion music studios across the country, an increasing number of accordion orchestras and lots of competitions.

Although two other kids in my neighborhood took a few lessons, neither of them kept up with it like I did. I had my own “music room”, practiced at least a couple of hours each day and more in the summer, and liked being the musical child in the family. I wanted to get better.

And I did.

By the time I was 10, I was playing solos at my grade school band concerts and getting enthusiastic applause from the audience of parents. I played songs like Flight of the Bumble Bee, Lady of Spain and Moon River from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

My grandfather, whose father came to the US from Germany, was a butcher by trade. He was a big man with a big laugh, a love of bratwurst, and an even bigger love of polkas. He insisted that I play polkas at family gatherings to much cheering, clapping and dancing. He couldn’t get enough of the Beer Barrel Polka. I could.

3

The movement in the 50’s was toward classical accordion and away from the instrument’s use in barrooms and vaudeville acts with ethnic and folk songs, including polkas. (Accordions were initially introduced to America in the early 1900’s from Europe and took off in popularity around World War I).

As I got older, my parents bought me a much bigger, 120-bass electric, amplified accordion and I began playing classical music – Bach, Beethoven, Vivaldi and more. I was being taught by a Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra violinist, and played once a week in an accordion symphony orchestra which he directed. It consisted of about fifteen 10 to 18-year-olds and we would perform around the city.

The key to playing classical accordion was in the management of the bellows … smooth, consistent bellowing was the gold standard. No standing up and dancing around the room playing crass, low-brow ethnic music! Classical accordionists were seated for performances and braced the bellows on the left thigh for control. Accordions had gone high-brow!

At age 13, I began entering competitions around the state, traveling by bus with my mom. At one of them, I played Sabre Dance, a difficult Russian ballet movement in which dancers performed with Sabres. It was extremely fast, discordant and challenging – which was encouraged by competition organizers in order to score higher points.

Here is my photo and ribbon:

1964 Regional American Guild of Music Competition

1964 Regional American Guild of Music Competition

At age 14, I began teaching accordion at my music studio. In retrospect, I probably wasn’t legally allowed to work, but no one told me that at the time.  I made a little money teaching young kids and even a couple of adults for a year or so.

I was, they tell me, an accomplished accordionist. The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra was even considering adding an accordion position and I could be a candidate, they said.

And then… just like that … it all ended.

NEXT WEEK PART 2: How the Beatles ended my musical (accordion) career.

Cathy Green

Reflections on Turning 66

I celebrated my birthday last week.

I enjoyed the presents from my husband, the birthday wishes from friends and business colleagues, and the great food and wine at the Inn on Biltmore Estate. I’ve always liked the special attention I get on my birthday and shamelessly promote it, even posting this photo on Facebook.

Enjoying my birthday Cosmo

Enjoying my birthday Cosmo

But this birthday freaked me out a little. It struck me that 66 years of age is now closer to 70 than 60, and the thought of being a 70-year-old is scary.

The good news is that I know a lot of women and men in their 70’s (both friends and public figures) who are vital, sharp, attractive and happy. I also know people in their 70’s, however, who spend a lot of time unwell or unhappy or both.

01

Since I definitely want to be among the former types of 70-year-olds, I started thinking about what I’ll need to do in the next few years as I sneak up on that big number.

First, I know I’ll need to stay active. I don’t like to exercise. Never have. Never will. But I have worked out in a gym twice a week for years, pushing myself to lift those weights, do those squats and get on and off benches and floors. A personal trainer once told me that “making friends with the floor” is one of the mantras that older people should adopt in order to be able to handle falls in later life. Sigh!

I also walk most days, a task made easier because my labradoodle won’t have it any other way. (Maybe dogs are the answer to keeping us in shape?)

02

I will need to do whatever I can to stay healthy. Although there’s no way to guarantee it, I’ve had enough experience with my own health and the health of people close to me to understand that a combination of eating well, having annual check-ups and staying aware of my own body’s signals can make a big difference.

03

I will need to stay closely connected with the right friends and important family members. Superficial relationships are OK once in awhile, but the key is being with people who are positive, curious, caring and involved in enjoying life. They are the ones who will help keep me positive, curious, caring and involved.

I will need to continue to live in a place that makes me happy. Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to live in three places and in three homes that I truly loved. Now, at 66, I enjoy living in the mountains in a home that makes me smile. I also enjoy Asheville and will need to continue taking advantage of what it has to offer.

This is my favorite artist’s painting of Asheville. Jeff Pittman

This is my favorite artist’s painting of Asheville. Jeff Pittman

I will keep caring about looking good. Not obsessively — no multiple plastic surgeries, for example. But I’ll use good skin cream, I’ll dress up to go out to dinner, I’ll spend more money than I should to get a good hair cut and color, I’ll continue to have my nails done every couple of weeks, and I’ll occasionally buy a new pair of black pants (what else!) or a new handbag and shoes.

I’ll continue to write, although maybe not this blog.  Patty and I started the blog site when we both turned 60. She asked me the other day whether I thought we would be up for writing “Sensational Over 70” blogs. I’m not sure. But writing is something I’ve always enjoyed. It keeps me thinking and it just makes me feel good, so in some way or another, I’ll keep doing it.

Lastly, I’ll continue to make it my number one priority to enjoy being with Ray. I know I’m lucky to be able to be growing older with the love of my life.

And, even better, he’s already 70 and doesn’t seem to care that I’ll be joining him soon.  He even told me I looked beautiful on my birthday.

He’s a keeper, right?

Cathy Green

September 2016

%d bloggers like this: