Friendship

Why My 45th College Reunion Became My Best Ever

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I have always been a reunion-goer – but selectively.  My extroverted personality style and history as class president/organizer for various events in high school and college both, made me the typical and expected attendee, and naturally, contributor to both schools.  It’s been weeks since I am back from my 45th reunion at St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, IN and I am, at last, satisfied with my reaction to this reunion, that which being my most gratifying.

First, let me mention a few other “facts” of my school and reunion history:

  1. I have attended most reunions at my Catholic, all female high school and college every 5 years since graduation in 1967 and 1971 even though I kept going to various graduate schools, and had left the Catholic Church.
  2. Though I earned an MA from NYU, MBA from Fordham and Ed.D from Columbia – a New York trifecta that I am enormously proud of, no reunion except one at Columbia, once, have gotten me to revisit the old school buildings/connections where I labored and learned for decades.

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High school and then its extension: college – were part of my foundation, my grounding. Those, the core values I developed: values of caring about others, working hard to achieve, being self-disciplined and clear about my responsibility to myself, family and others were Catholic in the broadest sense of the word.  They were also places that friendship and connections played a deep part.  There was learning not just about history and math, but also what it means to be a good person, a citizen, a friend and a leader. Going to reunions at these institutions just made sense to me because I wanted to reconnect and see how my classmates had fared, and get some support for the life choices I was making.  That just seemed like the graduation “contract” I made with these classmates and schools.

Conversely, I expected all of my graduate school education to make me a better professional and hone my knowledge and know-how in my field.  I didn’t see them as places that molded my core values. Of course now, in retrospect, they enormously affected my values — reinforcing them from a humanistic perspective and did serve as places of wonderful relationships and connections.  Because I didn’t see the experiences in this light, reunions did not seem as necessary.  I am beginning to rethink that.

It struck me driving into South Bend, IN a few weeks ago, that it really did not make sense that I attended college in the middle of a cow field.  Not that that is necessarily a bad thing – and SMC was/is a very good solid liberal arts college and such a peaceful setting could launch solid self-reflection and deep thinking.  But still – really?  The truth is, I always felt that the SMC decision was not the best for me – it was good, just not great.

Lake Marion at St. Mary's College

Lake Marion at St. Mary’s College

By the end of high school, my emerging self wanted to go to Wellesley (something bigger, brighter and shinier) – Hillary would have been there as a junior when I started.  She is busy, I hear, so likely she doesn’t miss that huge lost opportunity to be my good friend.  But I did – at least in my fantasies.  And there is the nub of it all – expectations not met causing me to miss the good that came instead.  I realized on this reunion trip, I had always held a little “grudge” against SMC for not being Wellesley.  Which is like resenting Bob your devoted husband because you “should have” married John – your fabulous perfect first love (yeah, right) that dumped you “causing” you to settle and marry OK Bob.

Me with classmates Kerry and Maureen at the reunion

Me with classmates Kerry and Maureen at the reunion

Making a very long story very short, it now appears to me that I never really got comfortable with all the good that I got from St. Mary’s…until this last reunion. While not my dream school, it was an institution filled with strong women leaders (mainly nuns at that time) struggling like all institutions then with dramatically confusing and changing times. SMC was trying to educate us for a world no one really understood – but convinced that with core values of service, giving of ourselves, discipline, hard work and just finishing, we would have what we needed to survive and hopefully thrive no matter what we did.

I realized, facilitating a session on “loss and moving forward” and sharing that platform with a wonderful former classmate, newly widowed, successful executive turned master healer was this: whatever it was or wasn’t, SMC helped support our budding adulthood.  And, the women who went there were smart and thoughtful despite the sexism of the time.  They, like SMC, did the best they could at the time and have continued to grow.

Patty and Cathy

Patty and Cathy

In the decades since, we took our freedom as it became more available, and became women likely SMC and our parents never expected.  I know for sure SMC is trying to make sure they keep doing a great job of supporting women who matter.  Wish I could tell them exactly what the formula is.  Clearly, they were mostly on the right track, even when some of us didn’t know it, couldn’t get it, or hadn’t figured out yet that college, like the rest of life, is mainly what you make of it.  No college, job, love, or unique experience creates us, we create ourselves – and right now I think what we are creating is pretty fabulous.

Bottom line? Consider going back to reunions and focus on being grateful for what good you got from the experience. Forget the rest and any remaining drama – thankfully we are great at forgetting things so we have a head start.  Now to just being grateful – like everything fabulous, that’s hard.

Patty

 

I’m Not Sleeping and My Cat Knows Why

Last year, I wrote that Ms. Blue, my elderly Maine Coon cat, was keeping me up at night by meowing loudly in my face. I also shared my husband’s thoughts on the subject as he moved to another bedroom!

I asked for help from readers and got some good ideas.

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Here’s an update: For her sake and mine, I decided to lock Ms. Blue in another room at night with her treats, her food and her litter box. It took several weeks for her to understand that howling at the door was not going to get her out of that room and into my face.  

She is doing much better now, I’m sleeping again and my husband is back in our bed.  A happy ending!

Here’s the link to my original blog about my dilemma.

Making New Friends Is Very Fabulous – Don’t Stop Doing It!

In October of 2012 I wrote a piece about making friends (link below).  It was a look back at how we USED to make friends in our youth – they were in our neighborhood, school, parent’s friendship circle – or we hit the bars or other typical youthful endeavor then filled with smoke.

Older now, we sometimes find ourselves pooped out by friendship.  Some “socializing” with old friends has gotten exhausting – some boring, some just a replay not a deepening of sharing.  Time for a friend shake up and shake out – we no longer have time for obligation friends – only friends of the heart, the soul, the common thread.  We need friends to stay grounded, to stay true to ourselves, but also to grow and experience new perspectives. So get the list out, cut the obvious by simply not reaching out to them – people are forgetting so much most won’t even miss you or care.  And start doing things you cherish with those that are left and you know are great ones.  Sprinkle your life with new friends too – the best ones meant to be will be fresh sources of love – doesn’t that sound exciting?

Here is the link to the older post: Making New Friends

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Patty

Who Says Fabulous Isn’t Jealous?

OMG, what more can I say?  I often feel this frightening thought each time I realize it is MY turn and not Cathy’s to write a new fabulous blog post.  It is especially hard when I write the week after one of her blogs hits another high point for our blog readership.  Yes, dear fabulousover60 readers, our most read blogs are written by Cathy Green, not Patty Gill Webber: just the facts.  Her last terrific success was Right On! Teenagers in the 1960’s had the Best Slang, which I loved as much as all the other readers so you don’t need to explain to me why it was so “hot”.

Please do not write to us saying that mine are just as good – while your kindness is appreciated, if readership is a judge, mine are not as universally welcomed.  However, I would suggest each of you that love MY blogs just get 100-1000 of your nearest and dearest women friends to read one of my blogs in the future. Maybe one that looks to have a better shot at fame since it is titled something like: “Why Trump’s Election didn’t shock fabulousover60 creators”; or, “Why women over 60—and not just fabulous ones have the nation’s best sex lives”.  The problem is, I never want to write things like that.  But that implies Cathy does write low life blogs like that which OF COURSE she DOES NOT. Being jealous makes you look and actually become a bit of an ass.

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OK, I admit it, I want what she has: the power to pick GREAT topics people care to read about.  I who consider myself rarely if EVER jealous of any other woman am feeling a tiny tiny bit of green when those numbers are reviewed.  So why not write about how it feels to be jealous of one of your dearest friends?  That is interesting – and, as I reflect upon it, potentially powerful, original, or even mysterious.  Millions of you have been waiting for a jealously blog.

Jealousy is a part of life – like taxes and insane politicians. So if I can share about my bout with jealousy, then maybe that will help you with your next bout with jealousy.

Here goes.  Well, speaking of petty, I feel plenty petty about resenting anything good that comes to another (especially Cathy).  I am a believer that life is very much an individual journey and that each of us has some good, bad and ugly – if not wildly great points, and sad as hell downers.  I also know life isn’t fair, life’s a game, transformation is possible and desirable and we all pretty much get what we give – just to name a few of my favorite clichés.  But being jealous?  That is just too base for me.  And if there is anything that is part and the heart of being fabulous it is this: do not be base and in the gutter about anything, don’t stoop to the lowest denominator—reach for the highest and best in yourself and others!

Blah blah blah –this “advise” about my being jealous is not helping you deal with yours is it?

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OK, here’s another way of looking at it.  Maybe if you have never been jealous, even a tiny bit, you aren’t being honest with yourself.   There are so many fabulous women  to be jealous of that being jealous actually makes sense: their hair, their accomplishments, their mega brains, their ability to rise above things, their bodies, their perpetual Zen state, their genius, their fame and/or fortune, their children, their car, their amazing partner, their saintliness, their honesty, their integrity, their clothes, their vacations, their health, their optimism, their plastic surgeon, or even their courage and willingness to give all they have to a meaningful and truly important cause. Come to think of it, it is amazing we aren’t all a great deal more jealous than we are.  And so that’s my gift to you – realize that if the biggest thing you do badly is feel slightly envious of someone you loves’ luck, energy, success or break in life, good for you – it is a minor thing really.

While I admit this piece is highly unlikely to win any awards, it was fun to write it and funnier still to realize how easy it is to stop being fabulous in any given moment.   I guess what I learned from this blog post is profoundly simple: it is harder to be good all the time – to be truly fabulous – than it looks. Especially when you do so many other things as perfectly as I do.  Cathy – it’s your turn!

Patty

Reconfirming what’s important in my 60’s: Sedona Reflections

I’m at the center of world – energy wise – I am literally in Sedona Arizona.  Sedona is home to the bright red and orange sandstone formations and many spiritual paths to inner (and outer) health, wellness, peace and balance.  For many years people have come here for inner renewal.

Of course I am having a privileged time (like most things in life, gaining peace and serenity and an awesome massage continues to get more expensive every year) with Bill and a couple of our special friends who with us are thrilled to be surrounded by the intense beauty and calm of this place.

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Sedona is fabulous.  There is no doubt about it.  Over 4 million people visit Sedona each year: 60% indicate it is for a spiritual experience.  That is all I need to know to make it fabulous.  If millions come here to find deeper calmness and roots, it is more than doing its role in helping humankind everywhere.  The newly calmed and centered people make the world a better place.  Many of you likely would like to reserve some calm and centered people for your church, club, synagogue, or canasta group.  You can’t help but leave Sedona with improved intentions about all that is good.  My guess is most of us slip quickly off the wagon of resolve – but we are, despite ourselves, still better than we were before our chance to grab this energy.

Yes, it belongs on your/my new Fabulousover60 List! (See below).  This is my name for a subset of the Bucket List (see movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson) that focuses on those experiences, ideas, people and places that seem musts for any fabulous woman over 60 who wants to keep the journey and being fabulous going.

This resolve to create a new FabulousOver60 List is increasing.  It is striking me weekly if not daily, that aging gracefully and being an internally/externally beautiful, good, centered, living in the present moment person is 100% harder than it sounds – and harder than ever to achieve as you age.  Here’s my solution: by creating a new list of places to go, books to read, reflections to have, joys to share, ideas and experiences that are just better as we age, it seems I will automatically feel better about all the work that continuing to be fabulous entails.

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Once I leave Sedona (tomorrow) my resolve to get the list going may fade.  But I don’t think so.  I have this crazy feeling, confirmed by a strong tingling vortex vibe I felt this morning on a hike, that we all owe each other a hand to keep feeling and being fabulous.  As the world spins, we need each other’s good energy and good ideas. We also need to work together to make sure as many of us who want to continue to be that beautiful centered caring and daring woman we continually dream and strive to be can be a wider reality for more women – not just those very privileged.

New List for staying FabulousOver60:

Entry one: Don’t quit caring about yourself in the special way we all deserve.

Entry two: Do quit all the things you know you need to quit – just stop it.

Entry three: Come to peace with losing things that inevitably come with age – but keep looking for new gems of wisdom and ways to have fun to support the continuing journey.

Entry four: Go to Sedona sometime – or at least look it up and think about it.

The list continues . . . just like we do.

Patty

Carol Turns 60

One of my oldest and dearest friends turns 60 this week. She is fabulous – working creatively full-time, still a size 6, married about 6 years, and at all times both glamorous and loving.  I want to welcome her into her sixties with open arms and share with her advice I have pulled together by reflecting on these last 6 years of growing into my sixties.

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If you have a friend just turning 60, let me suggest you consider this list, or create your own list with your 6 points. Yes, there are losses – see Judith Viorst – but some of those losses are wonderful. It is slightly scary turning 60 – but it actually does seem to get more comfortable and suitable as the fifties become more ancient history.

So Carol . . . welcome to the fabulous sixties!

  • You will get sick of many aspects of working and may decide enough is enough and “retire” partially or fully from work. But you will find that there are some aspects of working (money, freedom, creativity, challenge) that you miss and perhaps are not ready to give up. This is a complex issue not easily solved. It is not easy to be part-time at anything. But with effort and determination there are ways to make part-time or different work, work FOR you. Allocate time to this effort, approach it in a relaxed but straight- forward way and take it seriously. Giving up working in my view works best when done gradually and with careful thought. After 6 years my part-time career is finally working like I want it to. You really cannot rush this process.
  • You will finally give up some long standing battle with yourself. You will accept yourself as you are more fully and just decide to play to your strengths and stop trying so hard to fix that nagging fault – that fault that in the overall picture is no big deal. My nagging fault as you well know is vanity – I accept it, make fun of myself for being the vainest woman in America, but don’t dwell on it anymore – there are MUCH worse flaws.

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  • Some people who never did matter or don’t matter anymore will simply exit your life. While we often through our fifties wonder about what happened to so and so, or why this or that relationship just didn’t work out, you realize in your sixties that it doesn’t matter anymore. The people who have come and stayed in your life, or are new friends who just arrived and are pulling you in are just the right people for you to be with now. You will miss no one and enjoy who is now present in your life if you just let friendships (and other things) unfold as they are meant to.

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  • Whether you decide to go to religious services more often or just start practicing yoga or reading more about spirituality, you will become more philosophical and spiritual – looking at and contemplating the big questions. Yes, I now definitely spend more time thinking about life after death, my legacy, or just how to be happy every single day and live in the moment. Gone are the pestering questions about this or that job situation or the horrible client. Since personal gossip never was my thing, it being totally absent is great. Nonsense (the little things: see many books on (don’t sweat the small stuff) really doesn’t seem worth worrying about. You finally lose this – the need to “figure out” why this or that personal thing is happening. You just deal with it.

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  • You will finally realize that love doesn’t conquer all, but it helps to love deeply and fully and have a tight inner circle. Having a great partner, as Cathy and I both do, is awesome, but its ups and downs is not the central story line anymore. Our partners called us back, we married them, and it is all good. No complex “love stories” will ever fill our minds with worry ever again – even if/when we are single again – the drama is just not the same. It is a loss – love dramas are so much a part of one’s earlier life, but I have found it is one of the greatest positive losses of being in my sixties not to think about that stuff anymore. You will wonder but be kind to yourself about all those hours of anxiety spent in “love drama”.

 

  • High standards become more important than ever. You realize that many of those tough boring disciplined approaches to life actually do matter. The fact you took your makeup off every night and put on cream matters now. The fact that you went to the gym at dawn really matters now. Having written thank you notes, called after a dinner party, followed up with a friend’s request have given you the habits and spine to keep at these now central means of staying whole, sane, purposeful and happy. What were hard to fit in disciplines, now are center stage as the real activities most important to do each day – thank God you know how to do them. I see in my sixties those that never had that discipline floundering as they age. Those who are disciplined thrive.

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Carol, it is a bit scary turning 60. And you will find it more unlike your 50s with each passing year. I was slightly traumatized by it – the loss of my youth.  The result of my fear turned into writing FabulousOver60 with Cathy. What you will do is not yet clear, but it will be unique, much like you. Know this: buckle your seat belt – it is going to be quite a ride.

Patty

 

 

 

Holiday Leftovers

There are, as always the good, the bad and the ugly. Let’s talk a little. To get in the mood, click here for the iconic theme song of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Starting with “the ugly”. Nothing is uglier than leftover cookies, chocolate covered pretzels, formerly glorious food, or half gallons of some holiday punch.   It is past time, to have thrown out any leftovers having anything to do with the holiday season. That includes opening the freezer and tossing out those packets of cookies and leftover pie thrown in there while in a sugar haze as a sort of post holiday stash for one or another tough days ahead when a glass of wine is not enough and eating a bunch of sugar is the only possible “therapy”.

Speaking of ugly, I worked with a trainer yesterday. Upon seeing my new tiny (perspective is everything and I am calling it “tiny”) fat roll dripping over my super tight exercise tights (that now are about 75% of people’s wardrobes), the trainer said: “Patty, we are going to get rid of that holiday fat roll starting with some of these”. She demonstrated an exercise so hard I can’t share it without getting upset. Reminded me of why we have to pay someone to exercise with us if we have the means. If we do not have the means we know in our hearts we would be thin and more fabulous if we had a live-in coach. Here’s the truth from 50 plus years of thinking about weight – a truth ALL of us know absolutely to be true: get out there and walk frequently and eat healthy and small portions. The ugly part of this is just the knowledge that it really is that simple – and that hard.

Some of what I gave people didn’t work – let’s call that “the bad”. Amazon made billions – no joke – read this article to realize once again how much stuff we all actually buy despite our pleas that we can afford this that or the other. A technology gift for my granddaughter doesn’t work and is in the process of being exchanged. Even Amazon, the savior of all working, non-working, last minute Louis’s and Louisa’s made a few errors. That was disappointing but look at the positive side of this happening: even the “perfect” online retailer makes mistakes. But knowing Jeff Bezos and his company they are already learning from their mistakes – unlike most of us. My guess is they will be stronger than ever next year and of course do a great job of replacing my granddaughter Reagan’s kindle Fire. My own promises of being less controlling of others and better to myself are more in doubt.

Lowering one’s expectations of others, while keeping your own high is always THE recipe for success in a fabulous life. Let us remind ourselves of that truth AGAIN as we “deconstruct” the holiday’s leftover memories.

“The good” of the holiday leftovers is still in process. While my friend Debra has already sent the perfect hand written thank you note on a beautiful card, I haven’t started. I think the good has to include still writing thank you notes even if they are mailed January 20th (big day for me – I am 66). Do not feel guilty that one or another person actually remembered you – and you didn’t even send a card or note. Selectively write or call those that truly did seem to think of you and that you want to keep in your friendship circle/s.

So send notes, make calls, or send an email (now as old fashioned as writing a note) as late as you need to but do reach out – there are only a few of us left in the universe who bother; but let’s have someone be able to say at our funeral: “Patty never forgot to send a follow up note”. Better than much that could be said.

More about the good of holiday leftovers: I now let the holidays dribble closed. Not possible when you have a pressing full time demanding job. Remember when we all used the scorched earth policy of the holidays? This means everything – even a still alive poinsettia has to go by the first working day of the New Year. It also helped with those bad and ugly memories – simply pretend they never happened—focus on today’s phone messages or back in our day – our Day Timers – oh my who lived without a Day Timer?

I empty the house in stages now – which gives me time to enter the new year more slowly, and purposefully. It is not necessary to have my resolutions finished and in progress on January 2nd. But I do want to do some planning and thinking about how to be even more fabulous despite all the chaos in the world at large, the country at large or even in our extended friend/family circles. Peace on earth. More meditation – am staying with that one if it kills me. That comment shows how much I need daily meditation. More yoga, more reading, more prayers and a lot less advice for people whose lives have too much of the wrong type of stress.

Let the holidays end happily on any day you choose. My choice is January 10th – that’s my end of the good, bad and ugly – with the most emphasis on what I hope will be a wonderful and good year filled with behavior change on my part – the ONLY strategy for changed outcomes. Thank God gave us Dr. Phil to remind us of that eternal truth.  Something not right despite your repeated efforts – “so how’s that working for you?” Change darlings, we must change to get different results!! But it’s your choice what that looks like. Happy New Year other fabulous women!!

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Patty

More Fabulous Holiday Traditions

Cathy got me thinking about getting into a great mood for Christmas with her reminder to love “what is” versus what should/could/won’t or otherwise can’t be for the holidays. Deciding to love “what is” this season and reminding ourselves of what we are most thankful for is the first holiday decision worth making.

Here’s a few more fabulous ideas that I am planning on doing . . .

  • Remembering my elderly Aunt and Uncle (95 and 100), a dear friend who had serious cancer surgery, another who lost her husband, and even the woman who years ago took care of my aging parents before they died back in 2003 are first on my list of doing and/or/getting something for.
  • Calling at least 5 people this month that I typically do not and surprise them with time on the phone to catch up and share. Rather than a card, these are people who I just didn’t have time for this year but deserve my time and attention – especially if I hope to keep them in my circle of friends. Just got a surprise call myself and loved it – and interestingly it was from a fabulous guy over 60!
  • Keep reading the New York Times every day and skipping watching any news on devices – that is on TV or computer or on my phone. When you can’t sleep thinking one of the people you watched on a debate will be our next president, don’t blame me – I will be sleeping thinking that the universe/God/someone will create an election result that makes sense. None of these people will be under my skin or in my brain because I refuse to watch them!
  • Keep writing notes and cards through the 31st of the month if need be – a few a day. And again, say something to people: share one thing I’ve/we’ve learned or experienced (like emptying our house and changing home base), wish them well on something they had happen. I figure a personal note will mean more even if late than the perfect photo card on time.
  • Look fresh, put together and festive when I can this holiday every time I leave my home. Few here in Tucson are listening to me on this one. This is our new home base. I think many women here post 60 don’t even think about how they look and appear to others. No one will convince me that how you look and present yourself does not matter. It does if you want to be fabulous.

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  • Give generously to anyone homeless, or looking distressed. I want to smile, and act like we are participating in this world and are responsible for it. Because we are.

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  • Giving myself a special, unique and fabulous gift. I have decided that my gift to me is to treat myself with the same love and kindness I treat others with – that is going to be hard for me. Just being me for so long has made me a bit compulsive and other directed – those that know me, including Cathy are now saying “a bit?????”
  • Am going to support every one of you fabulous women who have the same or an entirely different list, or just aren’t sure yet what being fabulous means to you this holiday season.

Being fabulous is actually getting clearer to me. It remains – like the success, lessons learned or achievements of our pasts – something that takes work, commitment and a sense of purpose and direction. Nothing comes easy – in fact, I am finding the older I get (66 this January) the harder it is to be fabulous. But that gives me/us something to strive for: to look as fresh and sharp as we can, to keep being kind – not giving up on ourselves or others because we have our shortcomings physically and mentally.

Happy fabulous Christmas/holiday/season of joy. Thanks for supporting me/us in being fabulous. Cathy and I appreciate it and consider it a gift of motivation from all of you. Our gift to you is to keep writing. Ideas always welcomed this holiday or any day.

Patty

 

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 Surprising Enough People?

My niece, her husband and family just left after a terrific family trip here in Tucson.

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A few things my niece Kelly said, and her husband Steve said, surprised me. Sorry, I do not want to share. Nola, their youngest, came out with a surprising notice of a dog on a calendar that she remembered she had seen (a Labrador) when she last visited us years ago in our New Hope house (we visited a farm and she saw a dog just like the one on the calendar). Oh, she’s 5 by the way – this memory was from when she was 3. Maggie, Nola’s big sister also surprised me with a very sophisticated understanding of what she might want to do professionally (teach) and why she wants to do that. At 8 years old her explanation was more soul-searching than what I hear from workplace executives who actually have no idea why they are doing what they are doing.

Got me thinking about being fabulous and being surprising.

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It seems to me that what makes one really fabulous, and we haven’t mentioned or talked about at all in this blog is simply this: being fabulous means having some mystery about yourself – and being a bit surprising.

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Sadly, most of us, and most of who we know, have “their act” – which may be slightly flawed, lovely, or even over the moon wonderful – but it is predictable. TOO predictable. No one wants a friend or family member who is constantly providing surprises – that is unnerving and perhaps caused by some personality disorder or inability to accomplish or stick with anything. That is NOT what I am talking about.

I am talking about surprising people in ways that are good, if not great, but that they would “never” or “rarely” believe is something we/you would do.

Here’s one: if you are a fabulous woman, but never ever NOT cook up a storm, give up cooking for one holiday event – or scale way back giving others a chance to shine in the kitchen – or not.

Or, if you are a fabulous woman who NEVER cooks, let me suggest you actually prepare (which by the way is the easiest part of entertaining – preparing food is not creating food, as creating food is being a chef) something simple but elegant and bring it to an event during the season. Simple and elegant by the way is another wonderful definition of fabulous that I plan to write a piece about. If you can’t find a great, simple and elegant recipe then I am convinced you are not living in this century – or the last one.

Or maybe let’s go deeper, even more unnerving for those that know you – but in a happy way. Maybe you’re fabulous but a little bit late all the time. Aim to be the first to arrive and look at people’s surprised faces.

If you always make a point of giving books – how about champagne? THE BEST you can afford. Now that will surprise people.

For a really profound surprise if not SHOCK, tell someone that you have never forgiven, or never listened to (in a low key non-big-deal voice) that you realized it is time for you to alter the issue that you know bugs them. And you know what? You are already making a change based on their advice and loving the results!! Yes, you are both apologizing for your most annoying tradition or attitude or approach and letting someone who has been pissed for years about you and this act know, that you are changing. But changing with a tiny twist: noting that the change is for them AND it is for you too! That makes you both unexpectedly kind, but also mysterious and surprising.

This holiday season, this Thanksgiving, don’t give someone a heart attack with your new approach, but do surprise them just a bit. Have them wondering and thinking: “you know, I really don’t know everything about her.” And they don’t.

Patty

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