About Cathy Green

Posts by Cathy Green:

Easter in the 50’s: Candy, New Clothes, Church and Grandma’s House

Growing up in the 50’s, Easter was my third favorite holiday after Christmas and Halloween. I especially liked the fact that it came around in springtime, which meant that Cincinnati’s long, cold winter months were really over.

I also liked that everyone in the family got new clothes so that we could dress up for Easter Sunday church services before visiting my two grandmas’ houses.

But the most exciting thing was having an Easter basket full of chocolate bunnies, coconut cream eggs, dyed Easter eggs and jelly beans show up on the dining room table on Easter morning. Baskets were left by the Easter Bunny, we were told, although we weren’t quite sure who that was or why he brought us goodies. And, do rabbits lay eggs, we wondered? We weren’t stupid, though, and happily went along with the bunny stories.

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The days leading up to Easter Sunday were filled with anticipation for me, my sister Chris and my little brother Tom. First, there was Lent which began on Ash Wednesday and lasted until Holy Saturday. As good Catholic children, we had to give something up for those 40 days in order to repent for our sins. Since the three of us were all under 10 years old, we didn’t have much to repent for or much to give up, either.

Candy or ice cream or cookies were the obvious choices. I usually chose candy and then salivated for 40 days every time I saw a friend eating a candy bar. Such torture! But as far as I can remember, I stuck it out and didn’t eat candy until the basket showed up on Easter Sunday morning.

I remember the strong smell of vinegar a couple of days before Easter when we would open up our egg decorating kit, drop purple, red, green, blue, orange and yellow tablets into coffee cups of vinegar and then dip our eggs into the cups with a spoon because the metal dipper that came with the kit never worked.  My mother would try to minimize fighting by having us take turns with the colors.

Sometimes we would draw on the eggs with a “magic” wax crayon before we dipped them. I’m sure that was when mom realized that that none of us had any artistic promise.

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Or, we would wait until the eggs were dry and then select a design sticker from the kit and hold it in place with a towel. That was supposed to imprint the image on the egg. The trick was holding it steady enough and long enough that it wouldn’t blur.  When you are under 10, you don’t have much patience so that didn’t work very well either.

I remember two popular songs about Easter in the 50’s. They were all over the airwaves (yes, we listened to radio in our homes back then).  One was Easter Parade, written in the early 30’s, but made especially popular when Judy Garland and Fred Astaire performed it in the 1948 Easter Parade movie,

The other was Here Comes Peter Cottontail, recorded by Gene Autry in 1950. We knew every word.

About my new clothes: I don’t remember going to a store to buy a new dress for Easter until I was in my teens, so I think my mom went to the store on her own or had our dresses made by a neighbor. I don’t remember being picky, but when I look at this photo, I think I should have been.  Check out the puffy sleeves and the weird “Easter bonnet”.

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Cathy, Easter, circa 1958

Here’s another photo of me and my sister. I’m on the right. No, we are NOT twins. She is actually a year older. But obviously, my mom found it easier to buy us the same clothes. And, unfortunately, this wasn’t the only year she dressed us alike.

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Christine and Cathy, Easter, circa 1956

Did you notice the gloves? They were a big thing in the 50’s.  And the cute little bobby socks were, too. I have no idea where that center part in my hair came from, but I think in this case an Easter bonnet would have been more attractive.

At church, everyone was in celebration mode. Not only had Jesus risen from the dead, but weren’t we all looking great?  Shades of pink, yellow, blue and green were everywhere. New dresses, hats, shoes, and purses were overtly checked out, sometimes with envy and sometimes with snickers.

After church, our family would drive to one of my grandma and grandpa’s houses, where we were met with oohing and aahing, posed for Kodak pictures, and ate lots of food and candy. Next, we’d drive to my other grandma and grandpa’s house where there was more oohing and aahing, more snapshots, more food and more candy.

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Mom and us kids, Dad always took the pictures

And then, Easter was over. In a few days, all of the candy was gone and the eggs were too old to eat.

After Easter, there were no more imminent kid-friendly holidays.

The only thing we could do was to look forward to summer vacation, think about what we would wear on Halloween, and glance over our shoulders to see if Santa was watching.

Cathy Green

Spring Cleaning Must Be In My DNA!

People who know me would never call me Mrs. Happy Homemaker.

I’ve never watched Martha Stewart on TV, I’ve never constructed a table arrangement after a visit to a craft store, the one and only cake I tried to bake was a total disaster, and Ray would prefer that I stay away from knives when I’m helping him in the kitchen since I never know which one to use and am prone to vegetable-cutting accidents.

The house stays clean with help from Laverne, my occasional housekeeper, and I’ve learned to keep everything straightened up and tidy in order to live in harmony for 26 years with my neatnik husband.

However, when late March rolls around, I get the urge to start “spring cleaning”. I begin looking around the house, considering what to get rid of and planning some major dust and dirt extraction projects.

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I overheard Ray tell his brother that when I mention getting rid of the couch or some of the junk in the garage, he tries to stay out of my way. He’s afraid, he said, that he might get on my list of stuff that has to go. Such a funny guy, huh?

But he’s also a smart one.

I asked him a few days ago why his trout fishing waders have to hang in the garage. He wisely answered that they really didn’t have to and that he would move them to the basement.

I then mentioned that I was thinking about either getting rid of our bedspread or getting it cleaned. “Whatever you want to do is fine with me”, he said, although I know he doesn’t have a clue why the bedspread needs to be cleaned.

Officially, spring begins on Sunday, March 20. But since daffodils have been blooming in our yard in Asheville for a couple of weeks already, my spring cleaning urges obviously started early.

I remember my mom in the 50’s tearing the house apart around April of each year. Everything would come out of the closets so that she could clean (not just dust or sweep) all of the shelves and floors. The kitchen and bathrooms would be thoroughly scrubbed, too. Draperies, rugs, appliances … nothing was left untouched. Newspaper ads like this spurred her along.

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My dad – a smart guy like Ray – would keep out of her way and we kids would make ourselves scarce. She never asked for help. She preferred doing it alone because she liked to throw things out and didn’t want any second guessing. Our garbage cans would be overflowing.

In later life, I asked her why she hadn’t kept some of my old toys, like my Barbie doll or my Chatty Cathy. She just looked at me and said all that needed to be said: “Spring cleaning”.

I am sure that her mother, and her grandmother and her great grandmother and her great-great grandmother also performed the spring cleaning ritual. And I’m sure that if I had had a daughter, she would be carrying on the tradition.

So, where did the tradition come from?

One explanation is that the concept of cleaning and preparing a house for the coming of spring dates back to the Persian new year, Iranian Nowruz. They called it “shaking the house”.

Another theory is that spring cleaning came from the ancient Jewish practice of purifying and cleansing the house before the arrival of Passover.

Others say that the Chinese are responsible since they would dust, sweep and organize their houses to prepare for the Chinese New Year, inviting good luck into their homes.

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Regardless of where it started, it seems to be a common practice throughout many cultures and countries.

In the old days in our own country, people would keep houses shut up tightly in the winter and the heat produced from coal, oil and wood would make things quite dirty and dingy. Spring was the time to open windows and doors and clean houses from top to bottom.

Today’s climate-controlled homes make this less of an issue, but we still have lots of dust and chemicals that supposedly get trapped over the winter. So, a great spring day with sunshine and a light breeze beckons us women to open things up and clean things out.

By the way, although I can’t prove it, I bet that at least 90% of spring cleaning is done by women, who then delegate some of it to reluctant men.

So, it’s spring cleaning time at the Green residence.

The bedspread is going to the dry cleaners, along with several area rugs.

I will be thoroughly washing the shelves and cabinets in the kitchen and bathrooms.

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I’ve already started to fill bags with old towels, sheets and clothing for Goodwill.

And, I just told Ray that he needs to tackle the garage and basement…soon.

Smart guy that he is, he just smiled and nodded.

Cathy Green

I’m Binge-Watching Again. Am I Addicted?

I just completed Season 5 of Nurse Jackie. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a seven season TV series originally aired on Showtime from 2009 to 2015. Jackie is an ER nurse in New York City who is addicted to pharmaceutical drugs. I stream it from Netflix on my iPad or computer, or even on a TV when Ray isn’t around. I have 10 more episodes to go.

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I didn’t watch the show when it was airing in real time. I read a review calling it a great series for online streaming, and liked the fact that it had a real (somewhat controversial) ending. I estimate that it has taken me a couple of months to get through five seasons. I’ve interspersed something else in the mix from time to time … an Amazon original series called Mozart in the Jungle. Interesting, but it hasn’t hooked me like Nurse Jackie.

Which is the point of this blog post.

I’m hooked – on the characters and on the story line. It is funny and not so funny at the same time. There are serious life and death moments, comic relief in the form of several doctors, nurses and patients, family problems, teenage angst, sex, friendship and weird ER emergencies.

I admit it. I want to see what happens to drug addict Jackie. Does this make me an addict, too?

I should confess that Nurse Jackie is not my first binge. (Does that sound like I’m in a 12 step program?). My very first was The West Wing. I watched all seven seasons over several months and had a great time. I had always liked the show when it aired from 1999 to 2006, but I was busy with work and travel and didn’t get to see it often. There weren’t any recording options back in those ancient times, remember?

I thoroughly enjoyed working my way through the series and still think it’s one of the best ever produced on TV.

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And then there was The Good Wife, which was a great binge option. I watched 6 seasons and am waiting for the seventh to hit Amazon streaming.

I’ve watched Orange is the New Black, House of Cards and Doc Martin, all of which have additional episodes coming soon. I couldn’t get into Breaking Bad (too violent), but I’m investigating a couple of others right now so that I’m ready when Nurse Jackie ends.

By the way, there is some controversy about what constitutes “binge-watching.” Some say that watching two episodes or more at a time is bingeing. Others say that at least 4 episodes in a row is the magic number.

I think if you’re intently following a series and watch it at least a few times a week, you can probably be accused of bingeing. Mea culpa.

But am I a full-fledged addict?

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There is a fairly common theme running through the articles and blogs about TV series bingeing. They say that it can interfere with real life, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot. It can cut down on time with friends or family, isolate you from others, interfere with work productivity and generate feelings of guilt.

And, although it probably doesn’t lead to depression, it can be one of the warning signs.

I’m not depressed, and bingeing doesn’t seem to be keeping me from doing other things like spending time with Ray, playing golf, going out with friends or writing blogs. So, I don’t think I’m addicted – but of course, that’s what Nurse Jackie says!

I do, however, have one big guilt trip hanging over me related to my new habit.

I am reading fewer books.

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I have always loved to read, especially fiction and biographies. Right now, I’m reading one of each, but it is taking me longer to finish them because of Netflix and Amazon.

Video bingeing is kind of seductive, but I definitely want to continue reading. Any suggestions, fabulous readers?

Cathy

Turtleneck Sweaters, My Mom and Me

It was 20 degrees in Asheville last night, with the threat of snow. I wore my knee-high boots, a fur jacket and lined gloves to go out to dinner. And, underneath, I wore a turtleneck sweater.

Almost immediately, the sweater started to bother me. It felt tight, hot and uncomfortable.

But it looked good with my winter in the mountains outfit.

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I was a turtleneck sweater woman in my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. I wore them constantly in the fall and winter. I liked how a turtleneck looked with jewelry and belts, and especially how one looked with a business jacket. I bought multiple colors in multiple fabrics: light cotton, polyester and silk. (I am sadly allergic to wool). Occasionally, I would buy a heavier cotton sweater to wear with jeans in a casual sort of way.

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I loved turtlenecks in the 80’s!

 

In my 50’s, I still liked how they looked, and they also helped to mask the chin which was beginning to sag.

But then I hit my 60’s.

I haven’t purchased a turtleneck in several years. I still have a few of them in my closet, and I wear one when it’s cold and when I know that I won’t have to wear it long. They just aren’t comfortable anymore.

I realized some time ago – and was reminded again last night – that this is exactly what happened to my mother.

Mom was an attractive woman who could wear clothes well, especially in her younger years. She never had the money or inclination to buy a lot of clothes, but the ones she owned were pretty and, as a child, I loved to watch her dress up to go out to a party.

She would put on makeup, tease and spray her hair, dab on her perfume (wrists and neck), wriggle into her stockings (snapping them into garter belts, remember?) and then slip on a dress and high heels. I loved the “show” and how beautiful my mother looked when she finally let Dad see her. He would whistle at her and wink at us.

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Mom lookin’ good circa 1963

I remember that she had turtleneck sweaters in her wardrobe that she wore for less fancy events, including shopping trips. I thought she looked very “hip” when she wore them.

In her 60’s, after she lost my dad and began to have health problems of her own, she didn’t have as much interest in dressing up or the money to buy new things. Because I was making a good salary at that time, I bought her clothes on special occasions like her birthday and Christmas.

I remember giving her a beautiful cashmere turtleneck sweater for Christmas one year. She said she loved it.

But when I’d return home to visit, I never saw her wear it.

When I asked about it, she was apologetic.

I’m sorry honey. Turtlenecks just don’t feel comfortable around my neck anymore.

But they look so pretty, I said.

I know they do. I’ll wear your sweater when I go someplace special.

I knew that meant she probably wouldn’t wear it.

I remember being angry with her. Not because she wasn’t wearing my gift. I was angry that she didn’t care enough about how she looked. I wanted my mom to stay pretty.

Now when I look back at those times, I realize how much I didn’t understand about how she felt – not just about the turtlenecks, but about that decade of her life and the next. (She died at 78).

It would be great to be able to sit down with her today, both of us in our 60’s, and talk about life. I’d share with her that I don’t like turtlenecks anymore either and that I’m sorry for wanting her to wear them.

She would probably chuckle.

There are lots of other things I’d like to ask her about being over 60.

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I don’t know if she would have any great insights or advice for me, but I bet we’d laugh together about being this age … that is, if we didn’t cry instead!

Cathy Green

 

 

Should We Get a Second Dog?

Ray and I have begun talking about getting another dog.

Lexie, our Labradoodle, will be 9 years old in July. That’s close to 2/3 of the way through her expected lifetime.

She is the sweetest, smartest dog in the world. I know that’s what everyone says about their dog, but she actually is the sweetest and smartest.

Lexie, 2015

She has a sweet life, too. Because Ray and I are essentially retired, she is with us almost around the clock. When we are home in Asheville, we never leave her for more than a few hours. And that isn’t often. She loves to ride in the car, so we take her with us in her Jeep even when we run errands. Yes, that wasn’t a typo. The Jeep is hers. We bought it several years ago to make sure she has a comfortable riding experience.

She is intimately acquainted with all of the restaurants in town that allow dogs on their outdoor patios and decks, and she gets treats from lots of people who work in dog-friendly stores.

She has three of her own Orvis dog beds, and has learned that our living room couch, chairs and even our bed is not off limits as we cautioned her when we brought her home eight years ago. She gets groomed monthly, her “servant” Greg lives with her when we are out of town, and she is allowed to demand her walk every day at 4pm by nudging, spinning and barking.

Basically she is a diva.

And, we love her and get tons of joy out of watching her run, play and go crazy when we come home.

So, why would we consider a second dog?

Good question. We think a second dog might keep Lexie active and playful as she ages. We think it would be fun to get double dog licks and even more unconditional adoration. And, maybe most importantly, we think it might help us when the time comes for Lexie to leave us.

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At the same time, we have discussed the cons.

Lexie and the new dog might not actually become the buddies we want them to become. Lexie might resent an interloper and consider us the only companions she needs. If they do become buddies, we might be surprised how much trouble they can get in together. And, the cost is not insignificant. As someone once told me, “Two dogs are 10 times the work and 100 times the cost”. Vets, grooming, food, pet sitting, Orvis beds…. the list goes on and on.

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Searching the internet, I found three questions that dog owners should ask themselves about this important decision …

  1. Do you have the financial means to have a second dog?
  2. Do you have the time to train another dog?
  3. Are you healthy enough to take on the physical activity a second dog will require?

Financially, we can swing it, although we have avoided looking too closely at what we’re spending on Lexie. (The Jeep certainly skews the total.) We have enough time, too, since we are in our semi-retirement years. Healthy? So far so good.

Basically, we could do it. But do we really want to?

Here what I’m asking myself:

  • What will it be like having another 55-60 pound dog in the house? (Yep, we both like big dogs)
  • What about having two dogs in the back seat of the Jeep?
  • Would we really take two big dogs to restaurant patios?
  • Will dog-friendly friends feel a little less dog-friendly at the greeting they will no doubt get at our door?
  • Will we be lucky a second time around in finding a dog with Lexie’s temperament and smarts?

We haven’t made a decision yet… although not deciding is kind of like deciding, isn’t it?

All I know is that every time we see a cute little puppy… or two fun-loving dogs playing together … the urge strikes again.

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Opinions welcome. What do you think?

Cathy Green

p.s. Here’s a cute site about the pros and cons of two dogs.

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Nails, Hair and Body Maintenance: Men Just Don’t Understand!

I just got back from a nail appointment. Here was my conversation with my husband Ray:

Your hair looks nice.

Thanks, but I didn’t have my hair done today.

Oh, I thought today was hair day.

No, today was fingernail day.

I thought that was last Friday.

No, that was pedicure day.

Didn’t you get a facial last week too?

Yes.

So, where are you going tomorrow morning?

To get a massage.

Poor guy. Ray has never been able to keep track of my body maintenance appointments. I don’t fault him. I can barely keep track of them myself.

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On a maintenance scale ranging from Low to High, I consider myself a “Low High”. I don’t think I’m a true “High” since I don’t do some of the things that many others do regularly … Botox injections, body scrubs, body hair waxing, spray tanning, etc. I would never, however, be accused of being “Low” maintenance since I have not let my hair go gray or allowed my fingernails to revert back to high school days.

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It’s a tough job being a Low High.

Here’s how it works:

  • I get my hair cut every 5 weeks and my color done every six weeks. (It takes too long to have both done on the same day. Don’t judge me, please.)
  • I get my acrylic nails done every three weeks. More about that later.
  • I get a pedicure every 8-10 weeks. I’m a sandal person after having spent 25 years in Florida, so this is not optional.
  • I get a facial every couple of months (a true High would have a regularly scheduled facial), usually when I want to have my eyebrows shaped. (Come to think of it, I don’t think Ray even knows about eyebrow shaping.)
  • I get a massage only when I need one. “Need”, of course, is quite subjective and variable. Recently, a muscle issue in my right leg has upped my need factor to about twice a month.

Sometimes, of course, this kind of schedule means that there’s a “perfect storm” of appointments very close to one another. That’s when it becomes quite noticeable to even semi-observant husbands.

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About those fingernails:

I started getting “acrylic” nails in my early 30’s when one of my sales reps pointed out that she got a manicure weekly to save time and to stay “neat and polished”. I thought she was probably giving me a not-so-subtle hint, since my nails were always messy, broken and dry.

I couldn’t just get a basic manicure, however, since my nails were very thin, unlike my mother’s nails which were always strong, thick and naturally “half-mooned”. I learned about acrylics in the 80’s — fake nails, but not as fake as press-on nails, I thought — and the rest is history.

Being in the Low High maintenance category is costly. When I think about the money I’ve spent in the last 35 years on nails, hair, pedicures, facials, massages and other body maintenance treatments – well, actually, I’d rather not think about it.

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Just to be clear. My current body maintenance regimen is NOT related to being over 60. There’s nothing I do now that I didn’t do in my 40’s and 50’s, except maybe schedule more frequent hair color appointments for my “base” (a salon euphemism for “gray roots”).

The difference, I think, is that I used to fit my appointments into my work schedule so that they blended into my overall busy life. Today, they ARE my work schedule.

Maybe I should just tell Ray I’m going to work and skip any further explanations.

Cathy Green

One Last Magical Night With Santa

Last year, I wrote a blog post about Christmas Eve, 1959, when I knew for sure that Santa was real. I’m reposting it today as Christmas Eve approaches. I hope you enjoy it!

Growing up in the 50’s, I loved everything about Christmas: the chilly Cincinnati weather; the fragrant freshly-cut tree in our living room decorated with soft glowing multi-colored lights, glass ornaments, tinsel and icicles; the possibility of snow on Christmas Eve; the anticipation of school vacation; Christmas carols on the kitchen radio; sugar cookies shaped like snowmen; the Andy Williams Christmas Show and Santa. Especially Santa.

Such a wonderful, magical man who could fly through the sky with his reindeer, sneak into our homes when we weren’t looking and bring beautifully wrapped presents to us because we had been good — dolls and toys and bicycles and jewelry boxes and musical instruments and more. It was so exciting!

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As the 50’s were coming to an end and my 10th birthday was getting closer, I began to hear rumors that Santa wasn’t real. Some of my grade school friends bragged about knowing for sure that the North Pole, the elves, the sleigh, the reindeer and Santa himself were made-up stories. I didn’t say anything. My 11 year old sister believed. My 6 year old brother believed. I believed, too. Mostly.

But I started paying closer attention.

Christmas Eve, as long as I could remember, started with three hyper-excited kids getting dressed in our Christmas outfits, coats, gloves and boots to walk next door to the neighbor’s house. Hazel, Lillian and Florence lived there – two sisters and a friend. People called them “old maids” at the time… and they were definitely old. At least 45! Hazel was the cook and back-scratcher, Lillian was the drill sergeant with the hearty laugh and Florence was the quiet knitter who made us pink, blue and yellow “booties” each year for Christmas. Because they were alone with no kids and few relatives, Mom and Dad always accepted their invitation to Christmas Eve dinner.

Although we kids were much too excited to eat, we were keen to get to their house because that was when Santa would know that he could sneak into the house and leave our presents. Every year, after dinner, carols and the exchange of presents with the ladies, we would throw on our coats, jump into our boots and run back over to our house. Every single time, Santa had snuck in during that couple of hours and eaten our cookies, finished his milk and left lots and lots of shiny packages under the tree.

Cathy in the early 50’s at Lillian’s house with a new doll and a horn

Cathy in the early 50’s at Lillian’s house with a new doll and a horn

That year, 1959, I was watching closely. Just as we were about to leave to go to Lillian’s house, Dad said he’d forgotten to check the furnace and that he would be there soon. It occurred to me that dad was always the last to leave the house. Every year there seemed to be something he had forgotten to do or a call he had to make. Before, it hadn’t been a big deal. This year, I was very, very suspicious. Checking the furnace on Christmas Eve?

I spent a lot of time with Hazel as she cooked dinner that year so that I could keep a lookout through their kitchen window. It was directly across from my living room window and I knew that Santa would have to walk by to place the presents under our tree.

Dad finally arrived and it was time to take the turkey out of the oven and sit down to eat. I decided to sneak one more peek and… there he was! A big man dressed in red in my house, bending over to place our presents under the tree. I shrieked! It’s him! There’s Santa!

My brother and sister and mom and dad came running to the window. Brother Tom saw him. Sister Chris wasn’t sure. Mom said she couldn’t see anything. But, my dad saw Santa. Yep, that’s him, he said.

I was delirious with joy. Santa was real. He was in my house. I ran outside to see if I could spot the sleigh and reindeer …I must have missed them, but it didn’t matter. I had seen Santa!

When we finally opened the door to our house that night, the presents were piled everywhere. The cookies were gone. The milk glass was empty. It was an evening full of smiles, exciting new toys and presents for everyone!

By the following Christmas, mom and dad had told me that Santa wasn’t real. They said that I should keep the secret so that baby brother Tom could still believe.

But I saw him! And so did Tom. And so did you, Dad! I protested.

Dad explained that he and mom had figured it out later that night. Apparently, Hazel – a heavyset woman who wore a bright red dress that year – had been bending over the oven to remove the turkey just as I looked out the window. The right timing, the right lighting and my 10 year-old desire to believe produced the reflection that became my miracle.

Now, so many Christmases later, I remember how clearly I saw Santa that night and how magical it was. Who knows, maybe dad and mom were wrong. Santa still seems to know where I live because gifts keep showing up under my tree every year!

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Cathy Green

I’m in a Bah-Humbug Kind of Mood and it’s Time to Change My Mind

It’s the second week of December and I’m not yet into the Christmas spirit.

Ray says that I go through this every year and that I just need a few more days. Hmmm.

When you’re a kid, Christmas can’t get here soon enough. The 365 days until it’s time to decorate the tree again, watch anxiously for snow, count the days until school is out, and hope you get the presents you want seems like an eternity.

At this age, it seems like Christmas was yesterday. Wasn’t I just recently sending cards to friends, trying to figure out what to get the five grand-kids and getting irritated by loud, inane TV commercials?

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I really don’t want to be a curmudgeon about Christmas. It has always been my favorite holiday. I love the smell of a Blue Spruce tree in the living room, the soft glow of lights around the house, poinsettias everywhere and the chill in the air.

So why am I not in the mood for Christmas?

Maybe it’s the news. It’s certainly not easy to be happy when so many bad, sad things are happening around the world and in our own country.

Maybe it’s politics. The “race” for the presidency this year is a slow, agonizing slog… no one on either side makes me want to ring bells of joy.

Maybe it’s buying presents for teenagers. The five grand-kids want gift cards. Period. How boring.

Maybe it’s because I couldn’t find a Christmas card I liked … even though there are thousands of them to choose from.

Maybe it’s the impersonal feeling of buying things online. It’s easy, sure. But there’s no touching and feeling the gifts (one of my favorite things), there’s no temptation to pick up impulse gifts, and there’s no satisfied feeling of carrying shopping bags to the car in the crisp late afternoon air.

Maybe it’s the busy about being busy syndrome, feeling inundated with a lot of “stuff to do”.

Or… maybe it’s just me being nostalgic for the good old days.

Whatever the case, I’ve still got a couple of weeks, so here’s what I’ve decided to do to get me out of my bah-humbug mood:

  • I’ve planned three outings to sites that are Christmas-y. I’m lucky to live in Asheville NC, so one of those outings will be to a Candlelight Christmas evening at the Biltmore House. The lighted trees, carolers and musicians throughout the house are magical. In addition, an evening walk through the NC Arboretum’s Winter Lights show is part of my plan, as well as driving through the holiday lights display at the NC Agricultural Center.
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Biltmore House on the Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina

  • I’m going to attend and enjoy several parties during the holidays, and I’m having one of my own with lots of sweets and some new holiday music.
  • I’m going to spend several hours shopping with Ray for a couple of gifts. We used to surprise each other with presents under the tree. These days, we’d rather have things we can actually use and enjoy the experience of shopping together.
  • I’m going to write holiday greetings on Christmas cards, stamp them and send them to people I like — old-fashioned as that is.
  • I’m going to buy the grand-kids’ gift cards … but I’m also going to send each of them a book chosen especially for them. I’ll feel better about sending something unique to each of them (while doing my part to keep real books in circulation.)

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  • I’m going to contribute more than I had planned to a favorite local charity before the end of the month, and I’ll put money into any Salvation Army bucket I see.
  • I’m going to reach out to family and close friends to let them know I love them.

And, most of all, I’m going to be consciously grateful for what I have – rather than what I don’t. A beautiful home, a wonderful partner, a fire in the fireplace, a Blue Ridge mountains “eye party” out my window, a healthy and happy family, great music and friends and fun times together …..

Bah-humbug? Me? Never mind!

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Cathy Green

Are You Confused About What To Eat, Too?

My husband returned from a doctor’s appointment with the ominous news that he has to go on a low-acid diet. His acidic body is apparently the culprit in recent arthritis attacks in his feet.

What’s a low-acid diet? I asked.

I don’t know. He responded. I guess I’d better look it up.

So began his 5 minute internet research project.

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He printed out an article containing a sample list of acid-forming foods which should make up a very, very, very small portion of his overall diet.

The list of no-no’s contained beef, chicken, seafood, lamb, pork and turkey. What else is there?

It also contained all fruits except avocado, grapefruit and rhubarb, all dairy products, most oils except hemp oil and primrose oil (whatever they are), all drinks including beer, liquor, fruit drinks and coffee, most nuts, all candy and sweet stuff, white anything (like bread and pasta), and condiments like tomato sauce, mayonnaise, eggs, honey and vinegar.

Well, what can you eat? I asked.

Vegetables, lentils, tea and water, he groaned.

We looked at each other.

A rigid low-acid diet, of course, isn’t going to happen in our house.

Ray is the cook. I have never liked to cook, which means that in the early days of our relationship he had to learn to cook or starve. These days, whatever he cooks I eat.

He loves steak, pasta Bolognese, hamburgers, bread, fruit for breakfast and a couple of drinks in the evening. He hates vegetables, lentils, tea and water.

We already attempt to watch how much “white” stuff we eat, we avoid desserts more often than we’d like to, and we don’t have steak or hamburgers all that often. We eat a lot of chicken and fish (OK, I eat fish), we have salads fairly often (OK, I have salads), we eat some veggies with every meal (OK, I eat veggies with every meal) and we drink non-sugary drinks or water (OK, I drink water).

So, now what?

He says that he is going to “cut down on some things and eat more vegetables.” I can’t wait to see how that goes for us.

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Since I hadn’t heard of an Alkaline Diet, I decided to Google diet plans to see how many others I hadn’t heard about. WebMD lists 107 of them.

The list is in alphabetical order, starting with the African Mango diet and ending with The Zone. I had heard of the Zone, but couldn’t resist looking into the African Mango diet. It’s actually a supplement made from the seeds of African Mango trees. The research is almost non-existent, but expensive pills are available everywhere.

Like the Zone, I’ve heard of the Dr. Oz Ultimate Diet, Jenny Craig, The Atkins Diet, The South Beach Diet, The Grapefruit Diet, the Slim Fast Plan and Wheat Belly. (A friend recently gave me the Wheat Belly book and I’m now overly conscious of the puffiness of my belly, especially when I’m with her.)

Others on the list sound really weird, like the Baby Food Diet, the Cheater’s Diet, the Morning Banana Diet, The Raspberry Ketones Diet, the Skinny Vegan (is there such a thing?) Diet, the Fruit Flush Diet and the Hallelujah Diet.

The only ones I like the sound of are the Cookie Diet, the Fast Food Diet and The Lemonade Diet.

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I haven’t looked into all of these, but I know enough from my many years of investigating diets that if I want to stay healthy AND lose weight AND enjoy food, I probably won’t find one I’ll stick with very long.

I have actually given up the quest for major weight loss, even though a 15 pound drop would probably make my doctor happy. Instead, I stay within 5 pounds of my current weight and feel OK about myself except at swimsuit season. I have developed my own simple diet when my weight creeps up a couple of pounds. I call it the BBC diet. It has no relationship to the British Broadcasting Corporation but the acronym helps me remember what food to avoid.

Here it is: No Bread (or pasta, potatoes and other white stuff), no Booze (including wine) and no Candy (which includes cakes and cookies). When I don’t eat or drink these for a few days, my belly gets less puffy and a couple of pounds drop away.

Feel free to steal my diet if you’d like.

But if you want to check out the 107 A to Z diets on WebMD, here they are: 107 Diets.

Good luck.

Cathy Green

Halloween in the 50’s: Better or Worse than Today?

This past Saturday, I dressed in 1920’s cocktail attire for a “wake” at a local speakeasy. It was the first time in years that I had participated in a costumed Halloween celebration and I enjoyed playing the part of a grieving relative along with other women in their feathers, headbands, sequins and diamonds, and men in their black suits, shiny shoes, silk bow ties and fedoras.

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The next day, while looking at photos posted on Facebook by relatives, friends, friends of friends and total strangers*, I was reminded how much the celebration of Halloween has changed since the 1950’s when I was trick or treating around Vittmer Avenue in Cincinnati, Ohio.

A lot of those Facebook images showed children in elaborate costumes enjoying a neighborhood party before sunset with their parents, many dressed in larger versions of those same costumes. Kids of all ages were also shown gathering candy from stores in the mall, or partying at large school or church events. And, of course, there were photos of ghoulish house decorations: witches with lighted eyes, ghosts flying through the air, creepy mechanical vampires and zombies and, as one friend reported, the sounds of chain saws and screams.

What I experienced in the 50’s was very different.

First, there weren’t any parties, except for some small celebrations at school as teachers tried to keep us calm as we waited for the big night.

And… yes, Halloween trick or treating was always at night. It had to be almost dark, no matter how much we were bouncing off the walls with anticipation. It just wouldn’t be spooky enough to go out earlier.

We stayed around our neighborhoods and our parents didn’t go with us once we were old enough – around six or so, I think – to carry our own pillowcases. They didn’t really want to go and we didn’t want them to either. And they never dressed up or went to their own parties.

Instead, they stayed at home to give out candy and sent us on our way with a few warnings. In my case, they went something like …. “Don’t cross the main street, stay in the general vicinity, don’t lose your younger brother, and be home in a couple of hours”.

I can’t remember any store-bought costumes. I think they became more available in the early 60’s. Although we could get some accessories like masks, face paint or costume jewelry at Woolworth’s Five and Dime, we’d have to shop at home to find things that, with a little imagination, would make us look like a pirate, a princess, a ghost, a witch, a cowboy, a rabbit or a clown. One year, I was a hobo (there’s a word you don’t hear anymore) and borrowed clothes from my dad’s closet that had to be safety-pinned everywhere so that I could walk. I remember my brother wanting to be a mummy and my mom cutting up strips of old sheets to wrap around him. It didn’t take long for those strips to begin coming apart and I had to keep re-wrapping him, which was annoying since it took up too much of my candy-gathering time.

Typical 50s costumes

Typical 50s costumes

Ah, candy! Getting chocolate bars was a big deal. Most of the treats were popcorn balls, candy apples (which we didn’t want because they would melt in our pillowcases), bubble gum, candy cigarettes (remember those?), candy corn and pennies. We had to go to a lot of houses to make sure to get enough of our favorite chocolates like Hershey bars, Milky Ways, Baby Ruths and Butterfingers. And, when we got them, they were full size chocolate bars … not like today’s little bitty versions.

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Jack-O-Lanterns, carved by our dads with kitchen knives, were everywhere. I can still remember the smell and feel of the slimy seeds and stringy pumpkin fibers and I can see the pumpkins melting toward the end of the evening after candles burned in them for hours. Almost every house had at least one Jack-O-Lantern to indicate that trick-or-treaters were welcome. And, there was an occasional ghost made from a sheet or a tombstone made out of cardboard.

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1950’s style Jack-O-Lantern

I tried to find even one photo of me in costume as a kid. I have many Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and birthday pictures, but apparently Halloween wasn’t a particularly important holiday to my parents. And, they didn’t have the pressure of social media requiring them to post pictures of their precious kids for friends and relatives.

Halloween was always a magical night, though. Keen anticipation, a little fear, a lot of greed, glowing pumpkins, and a dose of independence made it exciting. When I’d dump my candy on the floor that night and realize that I’d be able to have a sugar fix for days, it was a satisfying reward after an exhausting night.

I don’t think that Halloween in the 50’s was necessarily better than Halloween today. In fact, I wish I could have been a much more authentic mermaid, or rock star, or superhero. And, it’s no doubt a good thing that parents are more involved and cautious these days.

It might not have been better, but it sure was a lot simpler.

Cathy Green

*When I first “joined” Facebook to see photos of the grandkids and a few friends, those are the only photos I saw. Now, the ads and videos are overwhelming and the photos of strangers who are in some way connected to the people I’ve “friended” are getting really irritating. What happened to Facebook?

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