Family

Five Of The Seventeen Lessons I learned In 2017

As the title suggests, I don’t plan to share my complete list of these lessons. Rather, in this entry I am choosing to share a few lessons that are already making a difference in my life. My thinking is that if I consider a few of my big breakthroughs, and you consider those and your own lessons, we can all end the year with some needed closure and fresh insight to make 2018 easier. As an adult learning expert I know that confusing and difficult life dilemmas give us an opportunity to learn and grow. I am certain 2017 has been a year when I have expanded my perspective, deepened my thinking and yes, gotten wiser. And I bet no matter what went on in your life you realize you learned some amazing things too.

For me, the biggest lesson was personal, not political, learning. The year began with a thud for my dear sister. She had a fall – not off the wagon, she doesn’t drink much – but a set back in her life that she was not prepared for, caught her totally off guard, and totally surprised Bill and I too. What happened next – the ups, downs, dramas and recovery is where it got very messy but amazingly interesting. While going through a depression triggered by my still not totally conquered codependence, (I have read Codependent No More dozens of times). I wound up realizing that I didn’t know my sister nearly as well as I thought I did. And that much of my initial feelings and then suffering was based on false assumptions about my sister – and about myself.

When we finally allowed things to unfold as they were meant to, we both more clearly understood the essence of each other’s character – and how our different but compatible passions were confusing us. While Wendy will always see justice, and correcting wrongs as central to who she is; I will always consider making things peaceful and calm as the highest good. We both are drawn to different north stars. We just needed to GET that our ideal “outcomes” can often feel far apart but ultimately are not for each other. We both have to turn down our “need for control buttons” and know that we are both OK as long as we allow each other to fix things based on our different passions. This profound lesson has let the remainder of the year work much more effectively for us both – and for us to enjoy and love each other in ways that are truly healthy.

Another of my lessons resulted from what I am now calling the chaos of 2017. There has been so much upheaval in technology, marketing and lifestyles, wrenching surprises everywhere from Washington DC to LA, and long-held expectations turned upside down. No matter what the focus of your year, it was touched by a sea of chaos happening everywhere we looked. Half of us just stopped looking and put on headphones. The rest of us tried to balance letting “some stuff” into our world while claiming our own roads. There wasn’t a set of friends or a family that didn’t put up the “no politics sign” at the entrance to some event. The truth is that the world was put into jet drive — change at the speed of light. And tough, very hard on everyone due to storms of nature or storms of our own creation.

Remember the phrase “you are what you eat”? Turns out you are also what you read, listen to, see and choose to engage with. We KNOW that, but do we really work to shape our input environments even as we respect our needs to keep current and apprised of important events? For many, the reaction to potentially disconcerting news is to shut it out. Logically, if and when something happens that is truly life changing, you will tune in – and of course you vote. Fabulous women vote. High standards – and that includes being a good citizen – are critical to all our futures. But let’s say you are like me: really interested in current events, but still concerned with getting too riled up over day to day nonsense while also worried about offending people I love who may have a different reaction or response to events. Remember I mentioned my need for peace and calm?

The lesson was pretty simple – but surprising – I had missed it till close to year-end. I realized that what I was really interested in was history and big current trends – both economic and political as well as social and artistic. If I am learning and growing (a huge passion) by reading interesting and complex ideas about diverse events and trends – from the Vietnam War to Leonardo Da Vinci (click on the links for specifics); if I am seeing and exploring art exhibits about Dali and Schiaparelli on a recent trip with co-blogger Cathy to Florida; then I am happy and more than satisfied with reading my beloved New York Times every other or third day and just checking headlines in between.

Cathy and Patty at the Dali Museum December 11, 2017

I don’t want to be out of the loop about things that matter – but more critical for me is to have my mind stimulated regularly and deeply. It is odd to me that I missed this very obvious need in myself. I wasn’t missing the details of DC daily as much as knowledge and insight into the world and how I might use that knowledge to help myself and others live happier more productive lives. What I realized that was watching CNN or MSNBC, while somewhat interesting some of the time, often was shrill nonsense and not particularly stimulating.

This week I read the new Chris Matthews book on Bobby Kennedy. Loved it. There it was – a biography that gave me insight and information to help better myself and have a greater understanding of today. It just doesn’t have to be today’s rundown.

So there you go. Two big lessons I learned. Add those you did. Just in case you’re interested in that list of 17 lessons of 2017, let me share numbers 15, 16 and 17.

15: Stop taking yourself so immensely seriously.

16: The world will always be challenging, so focus on what’s truly important for you.

17: On or near New Year’s Eve/Day, thank yourself for hanging tough this year – and wish yourself the happiest of New Year’s. Cathy and I wish that for all of you – whether you’ve learned anything or not.

Patty

Christmas Presents for Teenage Grandchildren: Gift Cards Again This Year?

My husband and I have five grandkids. Actually, they really aren’t “kids” anymore since they range in age from 16 to 21.

Three of them live in Nashville and the other two in Florida.  We live in North Carolina and generally don’t see them during Christmas (Thanksgiving has been “our” holiday with them over the years). So, we ship their presents by mid-December.

When they were little, we enjoyed shopping for toys and cute little outfits and wrapping them in sparkly bags and boxes, often with candy canes or chocolate Santas.

In those early days, we only made one big gift mistake when our second oldest grandchild, Terra, was around three years old. We shopped at FAO Schwarz and bought a life-sized talking doll that said things like “it’s time to get up” and “let’s play”.  Terra was scared of her doll and told her mom that it was “too bossy”.  Back to the store it went!

Otherwise, we seemed to have done well with the toys and outfits we chose for the five of them at a time when their parents were happy to have our help with Christmas presents.

As they moved into their teens, however, it got more difficult.

My husband’s two daughters couldn’t help much. They had their own problems figuring out what to give their picky teenagers.

A few years ago, we tried outerwear jackets. Apparently they weren’t cool enough. Another year we tried clothes. Ditto.

We started buying accessories like earrings and necklaces and makeup for the girls and belts and wallets for the grandson. These were safer and worked well for a couple of years. But the older they got, the more they seemed to evolve into “fashionistas”.  Grandma Cathy and Papa weren’t too cool when it came to choosing clothes. And, we didn’t really understand what they might want in technology either.

So we did what their parents suggested. We began giving them gift cards so that they could buy what they wanted.

At first we tried to find out which stores they liked so that the gift cards could be “special”.  That wasn’t easy. Ultimately, we bought generic “use anywhere” cards.

We’ve been doing that for a few years, and even though it seems a little impersonal to us, they have all seemed to appreciate them.

So once again this year, as December rolled around, my husband and I found ourselves talking about giving them another gift card.

Then it hit us. It won’t be long before all five of them are out on their own – with jobs, their own homes and even their own families.

At that point, we probably won’t be buying them personal Christmas gifts anymore.

So, this year we decided to go shopping to buy “real” gifts once again. We are going to wrap them in pretty Christmas paper and ship them to their parents’ homes to be opened on Christmas morning.

The gifts might be the wrong color or style.  But that’s OK.  We like to think that they will know that their grandparents picked out each gift – just for them — with love.

Cathy Green

Fabulous At The Holidays

One of my dear friends is turning 60 this coming week.  I sent her a card and assured her it was going to be OK.  I may have been a total mess back in 2010, but with her mature outlook and strong leadership style she will likely only cry a little and get ready to keep on shining as she enters her 60s.  She has a high-powered job and lives in NYC – I think both these things will help Kathy transition smoothly.

Another of my dear friends is turning 70 next week.  She is beautiful, strong, determined and brave.  She just had knee surgery and is recovering from that agony with grace and little fuss.  Barbara has been a FabulousOver60 woman during this last decade.  How will she handle turning 70?  My guess is she’ll wince at her change in decades; and then proceed to do her 70s every bit as well as she did her 60s.  Not sure of the right adjective to use for the 70s yet.  Thankfully there is time for that to come to me as I spend my final 2 years in my sixties starting this January.

As I recover from a lovely Thanksgiving with only one major upset which is now receding into family history; and start getting into the holiday card, shopping and celebration season, I am reminded of some important wisdom. It is simply this: that any given day in our lives, especially the very hard ones, can be long.  But the years go quickly as we review the years of holidays past come late November and early December.  Which means, having great holidays are not only nice to have, but a must-have for our older selves.  We have no holidays to waste or energy to squander.  Here’s my big three ideas to make it so – please borrow whatever strikes you as sensible and doable for you.

 

Idea #1: Act with a light heart and extreme gentleness.  In this past year we have all seen more bad behavior from leaders at workplaces, in politics, or around one of our own corners than I thought was even possible.  Despite believing I have “seen it all” some of these outrageous acts have really shocked me.   Actions and language have been too rough, crude, and in some cases actually dangerous.  So my first plan is to meditate daily, pray frequently, and approach any actions this holiday with a light hand as well as heart.  I refuse to be drawn into any heated discussions or expose myself to negative energy and overall nonsense.  I am becoming as peaceful as possible and when interacting with anyone at anytime in the next weeks before the new year, my goal is to be soft and kind in every way possible.

Idea #2: Give what you can and want to, but don’t overdo. More simply, put happy boundaries on the holiday.  That means making choices.  I am definitely going to write and send cards – it is something I actually like doing.  It gives me a chance to reach out and touch people I am not able to see or visit with during the year.  Or, a chance to say something I have been meaning to say but just hadn’t had the opportunity to. I am not going to get overwrought with shopping though.  Am limiting who I buy for and what I spend.  There are so many amazing sales it really isn’t hard to act with a conscious and common sense.

My daughter Courtney just helped me out too.  She wrote that our Christmas in New York with all her husband’s truly wonderful family will include the “Secret Santa thing”.  For those of you unfamiliar with this approach, it works like this.  All the adults who are meeting on Christmas will draw names of one other adult who will be in attendance.  Everyone buys one gift for the person they “drew” and everyone gets one gift – a huge break for a fruitcake like me who would normally get something individually for each of the 20+ people who attend. Amen Angels – I thank you with all my heart.

In addition to my fruitiness and nuttiness and due to my compulsiveness I have already shopped for many of those who will be at the event now having a “Secret Santa approach”. SO, I can now use much of what I have bought early as gifts for other family and friends on my list.  Hurrah for me!!!  Forced by sensible relatives to take it all down a notch.

Idea #3: Keep events short, monitor drinking and eating, and spend loving but not too much time with any given family member or friend.  No matter what, the holidays can be stressful.  Sadness at lost family and friends can bring un-prepared tears and sadness; too much sugar and partying can drain our patience; and the volume of noise, running pets and multitude of people in small places can wreck havoc with even a normally calm person’s center.  So plan accordingly.  Going out to dinner one night?  Make the next evening simple, slow and low key.  Lots of visitors on one day?  Try to take in a movie the next day. Balance and pace the time to include all types of love and happiness, and keep it low key enough not to make yourself or anyone around you sick, irritable or grumpy.

Let me take this opportunity to wish you and all those you love and hold dear to have beautiful, peaceful and fun-filled holidays.  May there truly be peace on earth — good will toward each and everyone!

Patty

What Kind Of Overnight Houseguest Are You?

Last week, good friends stayed with us for three nights. They were fun and considerate guests, and we had a great time.

My husband and I love having visitors and especially enjoy showing them around our unique new hometown of Asheville, North Carolina.

We’re lucky to have friends and family who make it easy to host them in our home and in our city. Since we occasionally stay with some of them in their homes, we hope we are the kind of houseguests who are easy, too.

Being a great overnight guest isn’t too difficult. Here are 10 tips for guests who want to ensure a good time for themselves and low stress for their hosts.

1.)  Even if your hosts are retired (or aren’t working while you are there), they may have things they have to do during your stay. It’s a good thing to ask them early about any obligations they may have and be understanding if they do.

2.)  If you are staying more than a couple of days, rent a car so that you can strike out on your own once in awhile or be prepared to take an Uber or taxi, or hop on a bus or trolley.

3.)  Even though you are traveling to their city/town, don’t make your hosts plan all of your excursions. Learn about the area before you get there. Know what you’d like to see or do. “Whatever you think we’d enjoy” is not too helpful. Hiking six miles in the mountains is considerably different than shopping at a mall. Going to an upscale pricey restaurant is quite different than a casual visit to a burger joint. If they have to choose for you, it’s stressful for them and you might not like what they choose, especially if your health or finances don’t allow it.

4.)  Be willing to do things on your own. If you really want to do the six mile hike and your hosts are couch potatoes, let them know what you’d like to do at the beginning of your stay – or, even better, before your visit – and figure out together when and how that would work best.

5.)  Clearly state your intention to share in the out of pocket costs involved in your stay. Yes, your hosts will no doubt supply breakfast and probably even a dinner or two. But when you’re out and about with them, assume that you’ll split the bill.

6.)  At least once, offer to buy your hosts lunch or dinner. Better yet, just do it.

7.)  Be clear about your eating issues, especially if your hosts are making dinner for you. There is nothing worse than working hard to create a meal and then watching guests pick at the food because they don’t like lettuce, can’t eat gluten, don’t ever indulge in sweets, etc. And if you are one of those people who could fill three pages with what you won’t or can’t eat, talk to your hosts in advance of your stay. Maybe eating out would be the better choice for everyone.

8.)  If possible, show up at the house with a small gift … flowers, a jar of jam, a bottle of wine. It says to your hosts…we are so happy that you invited us to your home.

9.)  Speaking of their home, find ways to compliment your hosts about their surroundings. Go out of your way to notice things: photos of their children or grandchildren, a piece of art that is obviously something they love, a colorful bedspread, a nice table arrangement. Let them know you noticed.

10.)  Always, always, always send a thank you note (not an email or text) to thank them once you are back at your own home.

Of course, the responsibility for a great few days doesn’t rest solely with guests. Hosts need to ask questions to understand preferences and they need to be clear about their own needs, too.

Good two-way communication is the key.

What do you think?

Are these the things that your best houseguests do?

And… are you a great houseguest?

Cathy Green

I Settled For The 99% Eclipse

I made my decision a few days before the solar eclipse.

As you know, on Monday August 21, the moon lined up perfectly between the Earth and the sun and the skies got dark in the middle of the afternoon.

I was happy when I heard that those of us in Asheville, North Carolina would experience a 99 % solar eclipse, beginning at 2:30 pm.

That sounded really good. I could stay home with Ray, have a little lunch, sit on the deck, put on some solar eclipse glasses, look up into the sky and enjoy.

I began to realize, however, that there was a big difference between 99% and 100%.

Here’s what Brian Hart of the Lookout Observatory at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, said:

“When it’s only 99 percent, think about the moon when it’s just a sliver in the sky…. It will be a similar-sized sliver of the sun, a tiny line of light you can see. That’s all.”

The total eclipse, he said, is like seeing a show on Broadway. A partial eclipse is seeing it off-Broadway.

Less than 30 miles away from us, in Brevard, North Carolina, or just 60 miles away in Greenville, SC, there was going to be 100% totality. Experts said that we would be awed by a dramatic switch from day to night, we would view stars popping out in the sky, we would experience a big drop in temperature and we would see the full corona of the sun.

We were tempted … but ultimately made the decision not to join the thousands of people predicted to be on the roads.

Relatives in Charleston, and friends who went to Brevard, Greenville and other towns in the 100% path reported how dark it got, how the street lights came on and how the temperature dropped. Only a few of them were disappointed by clouds.

We were a little jealous… but not much. We invited some friends to join us on our deck for champagne and a shrimp and charcuterie lunch.  We had a clear view of the sun and watched as it got darker, cooler and quieter in the mountains.  And, although we couldn’t see any stars, we did see some lights on a distant mountain.

99% may not have been the ultimate experience … but it was still amazing.

And we didn’t have to drive home!

Cathy Green

Also, feel free to check out this link.

How I Recovered From My Scary Depression

My granddaughter Reagan told her parents after a March visit that “Grandma slept all the time”.  Despite taking a yoga class to get me settled into a Zen state, I ran right into a roadside I couldn’t “see” because I was so rattled. Sad, blue and feeling panicky about another tough thing happening from the moment I got up, till bedtime when I dreaded going to sleep knowing I would wake up ruminating about some unknown, but certain, imminent tragedy.  Somehow, a variety of big, and many little, events had tipped me from a “little off” and sad at year end, to depression by late January.

It was frightening, and something I cannot remember experiencing before.  By April I was determined to work like hell to crawl out of it and get back to being my neurotic, but basically very happy, self.  I swore never again would I let myself get in such a dark, disturbing place.  And yes, of course I got “professional help”.  My shrink is not only great, he is funny and comforting.  And he reminds me when I forget that ultimately, much of being better is committing to being better, and taking responsibility to change what is not working for what will.

Am feeling pretty good, if not great, today – and it is mid June.  What happened to lift me back up?  The truth is that since I made that firm decision to heal, multiple decisions, events and pieces of support have all helped to clear my head.  And, like many things in life, luck played a part too.

Mid May we left Tucson for our travelling time.  We live in Tucson, Arizona, but come May when it starts to get uncomfortably hot for us, we travel to other places till about mid October when the weather again suits us back home.  We came to New York in May and rented an apartment not far from our daughter and her family in Westchester County.  The change of scene has been a big part of lightening my mood.  We have already taken a couple of mini trips to further mix up our schedule and get away from depression triggers associated with my home in Tucson, which is where I was when the deep blues hit.  It will be fine to go back come October even if I don’t spend money on a deep spiritual healing of the space.

I have also taken the strategy one of my dear friends taught me: being one with something tangible in a room or place – just keeping my mind quiet and focused on a chosen item for a few minutes is very useful.  I am calling it “the tree is me” strategy – pointing mindfully to a tree ahead while walking and just “urging” myself to stay “with the tree” rather than letting my mind ruminate and repeat endless loops of negative nonsense.

And then, there are my many wonderful friends like Betty who called me everyday once I told her what was going on. Cathy P. wrote me emails and tailored my workouts to include pep talks. There was Janice who held a spiritual session where she worked on me breaking bonds with a sad and dangerous habit I had fallen into.  Donna had me over for dinner and listened when I was pretty awful company. Cathy B. set up a date to meet and go to a spirituality center for a special meditation. Pat told me about her journaling effort during one of her depressions and suggested I try it.  And the list went on from there of friends who I mentioned my sadness to who just turned around and offered love and help.

Another really big help was my 50th high school reunion.  I’d been part of the planning process so I was very much excited and invested in the activities.  Seeing, and more importantly, sharing with women who I had shared my adolescence with was amazing therapy.  We weren’t older versions of ourselves – we were new selves that were developed by our history, the lives we have lived, the choices we have made, and the way we have connected and loved ourselves.  The biggest way to know how people REALLY were faring in life, was to listen and watch for how happy they were with who they turned out to be.

Not everyone or even most anyone has the luxury of having the level of support and caring that I do.  Friends were my priority always (in many ways equal or more than family which I am also close to). Their multiple ways and approaches to helping me, coupled with our ability to create changes of scene, proved the golden recipe for dealing with my depression. I want to end with a quote another friend sent me that summarized the heart of much of the wisdom so many shared.

“There are only two days a year that nothing can be done.  One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow, so today is he right day to love, believe, do and mostly live.” –  Dalai Lama

Patty

It would be great to be able to talk to Mom again on Mother’s Day

This will be the 13th Mother’s Day that I haven’t been able to talk to my Mom or send her cards, flowers, nightgowns, or candy. Emphysema took her just after Mother’s Day, 2006.

At 66, there are many things I’d like to talk with her about, including the challenges of growing older.

During that discussion, I would have to admit that I didn’t fully “get it” when she was in her 60’s and 70’d and told me about the aches and pains (and indignities) of aging.

I definitely get it now, I would tell her.

I think she would laugh.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

Cathy

Mom and me, 2005

My Husband’s Advice to His Daughters

My husband, Ray, often writes thoughts and stories in one of the many journals he has owned over the 28 years I’ve been with him.  Sometimes he writes about growing up in a small town in South Carolina, sometimes about music, sometimes about a great night on the ocean or in the mountains, and sometimes even about me. He’s a great storyteller and writer and I’ve enjoyed reading what he has shared with me and others.

On January 21, 2010, he wrote some advice for his two daughters. They would have been in their late 30’s at that time, with children of their own.

I asked him if I could share this journal entry with Fabulous Over 60 readers. He agreed.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

“Some Random Notes about Class and Style and Life”

By Raymond Green

Being wealthy doesn’t give you class or style. Class and style are about wit, manners, intelligence, the people you spend time with, the way you entertain others, the books you read and the way you handle key events in your life.

Class is treating everyone with dignity and respect.

Class is being well-spoken and well-dressed.

Class is having good manners, knowing what’s right and doing what’s right.

Someone of quality shows empathy, not just sympathy. Empathy goes well beyond being well-mannered.

Spend your time seeking wisdom and always share that wisdom with your children.

About money – make it, invest it, spend it, and give it away.  Remember: “From those to whom much is given, much is required”.

About giving money away:  It’s interesting. When you give it away, it seems to keep coming back.

Sometimes you will want to give with no strings attached and no expectations of a return. Be clear if it’s a gift.

Give money where you want to have a voice … your church, a political cause or candidate or a legal fight to oppose some wrongdoing.

You will not be able to give equally to your children; they will have different needs at different times. Don’t keep score.

If you loan money to your children, insist on being paid back. It will teach them to be responsible. You can always give it back or forgive the debt later.

From Walt Whitman…”Read the leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life; re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in books, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul”.

About Religion:  It’s more important to be spiritual than religious.

About Friends:  Choose them wisely and stay in touch with them often.

About Your Word:   Say what you will do and do what you say. Your word and your actions have to be exactly the same – there are no exceptions.

About RSVP’s:  Answer them. And, if you say you will be there, then be there. If you must cancel – speak to the person(s) directly – always.

Never show up empty-handed if you have been invited to stay in someone’s home. They have carved out a place for you in their world. It means that they consider you a special and trusted friend. Honor that decision.

About being on time:  There are no acceptable excuses for being late. Your children will learn from your example.

About People:  Everyone’s important, but there are some you will not want to spend time with. That’s OK. You will know who they are.

About Thank You Notes:  Always write them. There are no good excuses not to.  And, always be timely. Never email a thank you message. Write a note. Teach your children to do this, too.

Remember to treat others as you’d like to be treated – but understand that sometimes others won’t have the resources to treat you exactly the same.

Find as many opportunities as possible to watch the sunrise and the sunset and to smell the ocean and the mountains.

Always be fully engaged in life and celebrate!

Ray Green, 2010

Changing My Perspective

So how do we do it? How do we take our lives as they are now, filled with reminders of aging, and health issues whether we want them to be or not, and keep our perspective upbeat, happy and balanced toward the positive?  How do we stay fabulous, engaged, and forward thinking despite twists in our life path we didn’t see coming that were or are real and hurtful?

I think the answer is that we need to change our perspective on life.  Most of us have not really changed our perspective on “how life works or should be” for a long time.  That needs to change.

Our perspective should now include the likelihood that we WILL live another 20 years or more – because most of us who are alive in our fabulous 60s will make into our 70s, 80s if not our 90s.  While we may be starting to think “life is short”, the reality is that for most of us our lives are not going to be short.  We are going to have to start right now getting used to the fact that there is a lot more to our lives ahead than we thought – and that our perspective has to start including visions of ourselves in the years ahead in many different possible scenarios.

 

Here’s some of my latest new perspective on being fabulous at 67, gained from much introspection and work since 2017 began.

My Fabulous perspective is a state of mind, not body.  Looking healthy and being healthy is my perfect way to look.  I will spend money to look as good as I can in my own eyes, but feel much less compulsive to be perfect-looking.  Some aging is just the facts: women my own age or older no longer automatically depress me.  Some of them actually look great to me.  My perspective includes being open to new ways of dressing – but never not caring about how I look.  

Any medical issues, feelings of being tired and stressed, can be dealt with if I just accept feeling good 80% of the time versus expecting or wanting to feel great all the time.  Based on some recent experience it is also my perspective that it is often best to just ignore little physical problems.  Things seem to resolve with just being kind to myself.  I am not afraid of dying and don’t ever plan to be.  Suffering is out – and my perspective is that suffering can be handled and I will have that help.

My Fabulous vision includes thinking of myself as strong, capable, and willing to be flexible. Just because I leave the refrigerator door open when not meaning to, or keep forgetting actors’ names, does not mean I am not strong, capable and willing to be flexible. 

I definitely am believing in more of what is intangible than what is tangible – the woo-woo zone.  Not a bad thing, it is a way of thinking that suggests everything or anything is possible.  We may have had past lives.  Maybe there are angels, or lives “on the other side” who may be sending us thoughts of peace or good will.  Or maybe there is a spiritual reason for one or another bad thing happening.  Maybe things truly ARE “meant to be”.  And faith – my perspective includes having some strong faith and more faith always.  It helps make it clear to me that life is not all about me, by any means.

My perspective includes visions of me as a much older women with lots of comfort in my life and things I want to do.  I could handle and enjoy being single if that happens.  I could date again, or fall in love again.  I can live lots of places and enjoy them and/or downsize.  There is no place I must be to be happy and secure.  There is no “has to be” ending.  There is only “has to end” happily and peacefully.

Finally, my perspective includes no expectations of life being easy, simple or a sea cruise.  I am committed to being healthy in mind and heart and working on myself.  This year has been hard for me – but it is getting easier because I am clearer about what thought processes I have that have to go.  Fabulous women wash not just their hair, but their minds.  They know letting go of what doesn’t work is another of life’s secrets to being truly happy.

Patty

 

Me, a Snowstorm and the Heating Guys: Two days in “Hell”

First, let me say that I know absolutely nothing about heating systems or hot water tanks or blowers or boilers or valves or thermostats. And anything involving electricity totally freaks me out. Changing a light bulb makes me nervous.

So, it is not surprising that I panicked when the heat stopped working a couple of weeks ago.  I was alone at the house with our two dogs and one cat. Ray was on a business trip and a frigid March weather system was bringing snow, ice and falling temperatures into the mountains of Asheville.

Actually, the heat didn’t totally stop working.

Even before Ray left, we knew we had a problem with one of the two ways we heat our house. We have pipes running through our floors that use heated water to warm things up.  I’m sure there’s a better way to describe that, but I’m doing the best I can here.

Skip, the floor heating guy, had already told us that his best “guess” was that we needed either a) a new blower in the boiler or b) a new control panel in the boiler or c) a new boiler.  Ray had previously decided to try the new blower first and it was on order.  I, of course, didn’t know a blower from a boiler.

We also have an electric heating system that is supposed to be used when the floor water heating system can’t handle the cold temperatures or when it isn’t working.

See how complicated this is getting?

So, without floor heat, I turned on the electric heating system.

The upper level was fine.  The main level, kitchen, living room and dining room, however, were not. It was getting colder by the hour. I called the electric heat company we had used before. Their technician couldn’t get here until the following day.

So I called Skip and learned that the blower was in and he could come over right away to fix the floor heat.

Day 1 in Hell:

Skip showed up, happy and smiling. He had the new blower and seemed to be looking forward to doing his manly stuff as the snowstorm loomed.

He had been to the house before, so he proceeded downstairs to the basement’s “utility room” with its tanks, pipes, valves, switches and other scary stuff. I call this room Hell.

I didn’t accompany him since I like to avoid HELL at all costs.

This is not my “hell”, but it’s similar

Four hours later, Skip was still in the basement. I wondered what he could possibly be doing. We have a TV on our lower level. Was he watching a movie?

I thought I’d better check on him, so I descended into HELL.

It was worse than I thought.

The blower wasn’t the fix he had hoped for.  “It’s inconsistent”, he said.

What’s that mean?

Asking a question was a BIG mistake. Skip happily began explaining the ins and outs of the boiler (which is called a Munchkin, believe it or not) and its connection to the water tank, the valves, the pipes and the thermostats.

30 minutes later, I was dizzy with information.

All I really had to know is that the boiler was integral to the workings of the system and it wouldn’t stay running.

The house had warmed up by several degrees while he worked on it, but it wasn’t going to continue to work through the day and evening.

“Do you want me to show you how to trick the boiler into coming on so that you can have heat tonight?” he said.

I should have said no.

Did you know that there is FIRE in the boiler?  That there are electrical wires pretty close to that fire? And that the fire has to be sparked into burning? And that air helps it spark?

Skip showed me how to turn an Emergency switch on and off (something I never hoped I’d have to do in my lifetime) and then how to hold my finger over an air intake switch INSIDE THE BOILER while looking closely into a little hole to see if the FIRE catches and burns.

This is the actual switch I had to touch. Scary, huh?

Just come down here once in a while and see if it’s burning , he said cheerfully.  If not, go through this routine.

Was he kidding?

The boiler was burning brightly and the snow was falling heavily when Skip left the house.

After he had pulled out of the driveway, I went down to HELL and the boiler was eerily quiet.

I steeled myself to try the “trick”.  The dogs were looking at me like… do you really know what you’re doing?

Eureka! It worked! For two minutes. Then the flame went out and the boiler died. Even though I forced myself to go down to HELL three more times that evening, it never worked again.

The floor began to get cold. The electric heat limped along. I wrapped myself in heavy blankets and went to bed.

Day 2 in Hell:

“Steve” showed up in the morning, pulling into our snow covered driveway. Actually, I’m sure Steve wasn’t his name, but I’m also sure I could not have pronounced the Russian equivalent.  It was obvious that our communication would be somewhat hampered by the fact that he didn’t speak much English. I glanced outside into his truck. No one else was with him.  It was just me and him.

I tried to explain the situation. He smiled and cut me off.

Where is unit? He asked with his heavy Russian accent.

What unit?

For heating.

Oh… outside under the deck.

No … where is inside unit?

There’s an inside unit? I guess it’s down in the basement.

Where is basement?

Obviously, he hadn’t been to the house before, so he wasn’t the guy who had installed the thermostats a few months ago. I had a bad feeling about this.

I led Steve down into HELL, where I glanced at the dead boiler.

Ah, here is unit. I work now, he said dismissively.

I saw him pulling off the front panel of a large ugly tank of some kind. Inside were multi-colored wires, lights and other assorted scary looking things.

Four hours later, I wondered if he was downstairs watching a movie.

Here are other snippets of our conversation during the day.

Him: Where is instruction book?

Me: For what?

Him: For thermostat.

Me: Should I have that?

Him: Yes …you should have.

Thankfully, I did.

Me (several times over several hours): How’s it going?

Him: Going very good.

Me: Are you going to be able to fix it?

Him (while reading instruction manual):  Yes … I fix.

Me: Are you ever going to leave?

I really didn’t say that last thing out loud.

Finally, Steve told me that everything was fixed. I didn’t understand his explanation, but I think he mentioned something about a burned coil (burned?) and “bad installed” thermostats.

By that point, all I cared about is that I had heat and Steve was leaving.

The outside temperature was nose-diving, the snow continued to fall, and the living room was getting warm and toasty.

I had a pleasant evening snuggling with the dogs in front of the TV, watching the snow, and drinking several glasses of pinot noir.

I didn’t return to HELL that night and I hope I never have to return there again.

Cathy Green

 

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