Self-reflection

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

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

 

In Our 60s, It Is Time To Recreate Ourselves!

After a rocky start to the year, my head is getting straightened out.  Am realizing that changes need to be made to continue my journey of being more fully my fabulous self.  Finally letting go of “Dr. Pat, Inc.” the company that has been my safety blanket identity since I finished my doctorate.  No matter how little or how much it succeeded, it existed.  And that existence took energy – writing a blog, doing paperwork, talking to potential clients, working with clients and otherwise catering to its multiple small business demands.  Like children, friends, and pets, owning a small business takes more time and effort than one expects.  With my constantly shrinking and limited energy, and the serious belief that my separate online coaching business’s time has FINALLY come, I am in the process of dismantling the world of Dr. Pat and welcoming the new Dr. Patty.

It is going fairly well.  As I tell my existing coaching clients, they are taking the news well.  They understand I will always remain there for them, but won’t be handling new clients.  My wonderful accountant for Dr. Pat and I have decided to talk once a year, even though our business relationship is ending with my 2016 final return.  My social media/marketing wizard is OK with new work opportunities including doing something in our online coaching business and its upcoming new launch.  In reality, the disappearance of Dr. Pat isn’t having much of any impact at all.  My sister – whom everyone knows who reads this blog understands I am close to, didn’t even know my Dr. Pat business was separate from E-Coach Associates (ECA), the owner of QwikCoach, our online coaching tool.  Obviously my professional identity wasn’t clear, strong or differentiated.

When we identify with a definition of ourselves that is not current with where we are now, we limit our ability to reshape our identity to new realities.  By holding onto Dr. Pat Inc., I was limiting my ability to be “all in” with our online coaching business.  I had to divide my professional self when in reality I have barely enough energy to do one business well.  Since ECA is having a new launch soon, I need now to focus my energies there introducing myself to new clients as the Chief Content Officer of this enterprise.  That new title speaks differently to people who now will know that my most important professional role is making sure our QwikCoach product has the best content possible.  And that is what I want them to know.  My LinkedIn profile will definitely be reframed.

By re-naming ourselves, we re-create ourselves and hold ourselves accountable as well as “explain” who we are.  And this is happening personally as well.  Until now I had a business card/personal card that had my Dr. Pat business on one side and FabulousOver60 on the other.  The Fabulous side of the card listed me as Patty Gill Webber, Co-Creator of FabulousOver60.  That card is no more – and I am thinking when I do have a new card, my fabulous identity will be left out.  No one will know me in my fabulous incarnation except those reading our blog on Facebook or on our site directly – which is fine – we have been promoting FabulousOver60 for years and have a following we are happy with.  No need to keep pushing this identity.  And, as Cathy and I have stated before, we are not sure if we are going to float on from this blog when our 60s are behind us.  That is getting closer since we both will be 68 on our next birthdays.

I’m calling myself Patty now professionally – at my Church, in my neighborhood and in nearly every new situation I find myself in.  When we first joined 10 plus years ago, I was Pat and Dr. Pat and did some work for the Church under that identity.  Now, I don’t want to be more than a helper at Church – wanting my newly selected volunteer work to have me meet and mingle as just an individual person – so Patty it is.  Patty is my childhood name, my most casual name, and a name that says: she is perky and nice and maybe smart and maybe sophisticated and maybe fabulous (but not necessarily style conscious).  But Patty is someone to get to know – the name doesn’t say much except born in the 1950s. It is a humble name, and I am ready more than ever to be humble.  Running a business didn’t feel quite right as Patty, while volunteering and focusing on others’ needs it seems perfect.  I am even ‘Grandma Patty’ – so much softer than ‘Grandma Pat’ – don’t you think?

Identity is a powerful thing.  I have spent most of my adult life trying to be seen as equal to men, a professional heavyweight, independent, capable, kind but tough when I need to be, woman.  Other than being the Chief Content Officer of our online tool, I just want to be someone who lights up other people’s lives, and in doing that lights up my own.  When not working part-time for ECA, I want to love and be loved as a friend, sister, aunt, mom/grandmother, neighbor, a member – not necessarily leader of any band.  I want to be accepted and judged by how human and humane I am and how much I give away emotionally and spiritually.  Only thing I want to keep from that earlier self is my fun side – my slightly wacky personality that has served me well over the years both professionally and personally.  I, Patty, will try to keep people relaxed and laughing, for no other reason than it makes me happy.

I have to ask – who are you now??  Yes, time to rethink about that.

Patty

On Second Thought

Long story short, the part-time work I am doing turned into “full time” work for a time.  It is happening now, as I write this. In fact, I am beginning day 2 of the second set of days – did 10 days earlier in the month, then had a 5 day break. Now back “on the job”.

Working “part-time” as you know can mean anything from staffing the volunteer booth at the hospital 6 hours a week, to working 4 days a week as a litigation attorney in New York City.  My part-time work has gone on for years.  It consists of coaching a few clients at all times, and working anywhere from 8-24 hours a week writing.  All work for years has been “from home” or at my convenience, except for scheduled coaching sessions and very occasional meetings with my partners or clients in my online coaching business.

Already, on day two of working in LA, I am getting déjà vu – all over again!

Up early, hit the gym, small breakfast, read/reply to emails and changes in issues for the day-long video creation work.  Already my partner is delayed in LA traffic.

At the gym this morning, a 25 year old guy put the treadmill next to mine on the highest setting and pounded for 35 minutes – while I strained to hear a little morning news going 3.5 on my own treadmill.  This didn’t bother me when I was 55 – now I was dreaming of getting to go workout outside of when working people do.  It’s busy in there at 7 AM!

Last night after work was done, I was pretty beat.  Bill is with me on this trip – that’s my retired husband for those new to the blog.  Naturally, we needed to go out to dinner – which we did, nearby, casual place. But I did have a glass of wine and we tried to keep to our commitment not to discuss the President and also chatted about the pace and issues of the workday.  In my consulting days, I could work alone for a time when the formal workday ended, order room service and not drink or talk or do anything till dawn the next day.  That was sort of a drag in one sense, but it helped me keep stay in shape and stay focused.  I remember one of my clients once sharing: “you know Pat I thought my life was boring until I met you”. OUCH!

We are starting shortly, so we have already been reviewing scripts – 60 pages of which we hope to film today – and I am already getting that full-time work feeling I haven’t had in a long time: Is it Friday yet??

On second thought, doing lots of full-time work may not be as great as I thought it would be.  Although I have to admit there is a certain charge and adrenaline rush when you are up, with a full face of makeup, in a grown-up person’s clothes that are not gym clothes and people are counting on you to actually ACCOMPLISH something on a timeline.  If there was a way to do this once a month for 3 days it would be ideal – any ideas for a job where that could work?

Got to go – I am being called to the set! ACTION!

Patty

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

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

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

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

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

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

It has also, at times, been challenging.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cathy Green

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

Never Stop Having Fun, It’s Seriously Underrated

New Year traditions have been overhauled for 2017.

For 99% of my adult life, the end of the year coincided with buying a blank book labeled with The New Year. It was used to write an analysis of the current year just ending (versus the goals and objectives I set out with) and then begin planning and big-picture thinking about the year ahead.  I would create several versions of my goals and often did this for each of what I thought of as “key areas”: health/fitness, business, friends, relationships, family, community, and often a new area like write book, graduate school, new office, move, or some category that related to a particular big area that was going to happen in the coming year.

By the first week of January, I was set to go.  Many items and specific strategies were already in the book and most goals were already memorized and I was set to take action.

I bought a lovely blue blank 2017 book at the end of 2016. It still sits idle and empty.  If you want to give it a home let me know.  Just never got focused on the big end-of- year analysis and next-year planning thing.  Maybe 2016 stressed me out too much, or I just lost interest in over-evaluating myself.

I have informally evaluated the year in my head – more than once. Many down arrows around plans – I had to jump start a work project that has been in fits and starts for nearly 15 years, one quite odd and one very tough health issue happened along, a plan I kept pushing never jelled, a different and very successful 45th college reunion was special. But then lots of up arrows around all I learned and all the fun and experiences from the first year of traveling all over for half the year.  I don’t seem to want to put it all down on paper much less get my goals out from the start of 2016, and check off the ones done and those undone.

What’s going on?

 

As I soon approach my 67th birthday on the 20th, I seem definitely less inclined to elaborately plan and set multiple goals in multiple areas anymore.  I am not feeling bad about what I used to do – just don’t feel in my heart it is what I need to do now.  Complexity doesn’t thrill me anymore.

It appears that I am now “getting” the big (but unoriginal) insights most people get when they are aging – even fabulously as my partner Cathy Green and I do.  Here’s a few: we all are going to die, and likely it won’t be a blast and it will be decades from now; everyone we know is in that same boat; we absolutely positively cannot and will not change anyone but ourselves. Changing ourselves can still happen – but we must get very strong, disciplined and focused. The standards we have for how our nieces, nephews, children, grandchildren, and people in general, should handle things is not just a complete fantasy and waste of time thinking about. It can take too much bandwidth, as my one friend says, and make you lose focus on what you can control: your own life.

Yes, the BIG insight has come through – success in life means staying on your own yoga mat.  Or, as our mothers’ used to say: mind your own business.  It wasn’t exactly the same point, but it worked for them. The yoga mat is more in keeping with being fabulous, since it implies we have to stay focused on ourselves and have to do it with discipline – our long-suit anyway. We would not be fabulous now if we hadn’t been super-disciplined then.

Here’s my new plan and goals for 2017.  Short, sweet, and I hope, freshly fabulous. My hope is it gets you thinking about your 2017 – in a new, light and happy way.

  1. Make money on the product I (and my partners) have focused on for 15 plus years. Get leverage from years of work already finished. Continue to make it better as it takes off. New technology will allow us to sell it quickly (January and February launches are set) see what works, what doesn’t and what maybe never will.  Dump it or celebrate it.
  1. Feel as good as I can every day. Exercise, meditate, pray, give time and attention to those in need who are present on my road. On the days I can’t do these things, take a longer nap.
  1. Use some new inputs for spiritually, reflection, growth – mix it up a bit. Get off old lists, or emails and get on newer ones. Constantly curate my world.
  1. Continue to write. Continue to read good books. Watch more Netflix. When in doubt or any distress, listen to classical or spa music.
  1. Have as much fun, find reasons to laugh and do as many new things as possible – both alone and with those I love. Travel frequently but lightly.
  1. Coach people I love and know I can influence – keep that group very small. Let my tribe thrive (those who matter) and keep those close who care, and detach from those who don’t, without any thought. If something needs a great deal of analyzing, skip it.

Guess I am set – I feel a little naked with this short a list.  But as I continue to be challenged by aging and its numerous losses and surprises, I recommit to the less is more approach. Focus on what matters. Forget everything else. Never stop changing as the situation demands, and absolutely never stop having fun.  It’s seriously underrated.

Patty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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These days, the teenage grandchildren want gift cards anyway.

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

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

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

Not so much.

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

Cathy Green

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Hurrah – It’s December!

I am really hoping we can go back to being fabulous this December.  That means understated but caring buying, sending good wishes by any means possible and respecting any approach to celebrating the religious or non-religious meaning of the ending year, and the start of a new one.  And of course, enjoying the heck out of YOUR traditions from stringing lights to giving to charity.

holiday-banner

November can be a cruel month.  Remember November 22, 1963 and President Kennedy’s assassination?  Of course you do.  It is a classic, tragic, shared boomer memory.  President Kennedy’s death united us all.  And much of what we began to understand as “fabulous” was defined by his young widow’s grace and dignity in her own, and the country’s, loss.  Jackie was a woman many of us began to admire greatly for her public restraint and calm.  Of course she was devastated, but she was private in her grief.  If social media existed, we can’t imagine Jackie sharing anything but short poignant statements and calls for healing.

abbie-rowe-white-house-photographs-1963-for-web-01_0

This November’s election was the shocker of our political lives.  Whether you are a Trump or Clinton voter, things this month have been tense, weird, and more than a bit confusing.

I never prayed so much for help to NOT SAY what I so desperately wanted to say; and, for the wisdom and guidance on what to say to my friends and family no matter how they voted. I had a few harsh words with one of my closest friends which I quickly regretted. A few minutes on social media demonstrated that standards of being elegant, restrained, and otherwise fabulous were much less common if not non-existent.  Seeing some “reactions” to events this month, made me, the eternal optimist of human positive behavior, feel fabulousness was perhaps a lost dream that our own daughters, nieces, and grands would never be able to emulate.  Yikes – November must end!

But wait, there’s more – as they say on infomercials. My business partner called to tell me he had been injured over Thanksgiving weekend, on the mend but in pain.  A member of my family who shall remain nameless had one of those dysfunctional family holidays that may win Bill and my annual prize for the most ridiculous family event in 2016.  A close business associate shared that her company was turning upside down with a complete new CEO and team — she’s the CIO trying to keep it all working.  Being fabulous? Taking things in stride? Seeing humor and hope in every event – however odd, hurtful or just stupid?  November has tested us.

But, as noted, I am THE eternal optimist.  I believe we CAN be fabulous again this December by getting quiet before all the hoopla and listening to our higher selves whisper to us – ‘it is all OK’.  We need to remember fabulous women we admire – from Notorious RBG – the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, to the shining star Jennifer Lawrence, who keeps showing Hollywood that women do deserve the same rewards as men, and are still at full speed fabulousness.  There are women being fabulous in business, non-profits, politics, fashion, and just leading ordinary lives.  What they all have in common is calm, grace and a focus on what they can control; and most importantly in this self-important, post-truth time, not taking themselves too seriously.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Jennifer Lawrence

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Jennifer Lawrence

My dear friend Betty and I spoke this morning.  We agreed it is time to “think local” and get involved – seriously involved – in what matters to us.  That and of course, continuing to try to feel great, look great, and give thanks for all our blessings – while having a sense of humor about ourselves.  People who lack a sense of humor and can’t laugh at themselves will never be fabulous.

I never thought I would be looking forward to the rush: writing too many Christmas cards, shopping and trimming the tree. Whatever the world is up to, I am not reading about it as avidly as I did pre-November.  Rather I am sending light and prayers to help situations I cannot control.  Then I sit down and have a great glass of wine, alone or with friends – and strategize about new ways to keep being fabulous in December.

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Here’s to tinsel – shiny but completely uncomplicated!  And Netflix, thank God we can binge watch series’ between stressful moments.  Happy December everyone!!

Patty

Thanksgiving in the 50’s at Grandma’s House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looks like I was already suspicious of my Grandpa Coyle!

Looks like I was already suspicious of my Grandpa Coyle!

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

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Happy Thanksgiving!
Cathy Green

My Mixed Reviews On Being Fabulous

Am I fabulous?  Am I keeping myself strong both personally and professionally? Pulled together? Sharp? Am I doing what I want in ways that are sane, fulfilling and that mark me as a woman who is handling her sixties with grace, style, wit and proper modesty?  Am I continuing to grow, keeping my head and heart and body strong and functioning, or am I just — well, you know — just another NOT fabulous women.

Let me share some feedback.

Scene one: Doctor’s Office/Having yearly physical.

Nurse: Now, try to remember these three words: Table, Apple, Fence.  We’ll come back to those in just a few moments.  Blah blah blah for 5 minutes.

Nurse: What were those three words?

Me: Hmmm… was Apple one of them?

Review: Mixed, very mixed.

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Scene two: Doctor’s Office/Yearly physical

Doctor: You still weigh 105+ (feel free to guess, I am not sharing).

Doctor: It is great how your weight is so stable.

Me: Thanks, said softly

Me thinking: stable is good — 5lbs less than this stability would be better.

Review: Pretty— good.

Scene three: Home, Bill searching for his newly opened cookies, myself reading in bedroom.

Bill: Honey, where are the cookies?

Me: In the closet – near other crackers and cookies.

Bill: No they are not.

Moments later, Bill continues… Oh, wait, they are in the refrigerator – you must have put them there.

Me: REALLY?

Review: Mixed, very mixed.

Scene four: My Home office/Call with new business partner to discuss new offer to potential joint clients.

Partner: Sounds good Pat – use your judgment with making the offer. We’re both flexible.

Me: OK, will keep you posted next week.

Me, post call: rethinks proposal and writes email to partner discussing next steps.

Review: Really good, quick, professional job.

via drpatgillwebber.com

via drpatgillwebber.com

Scene five: Home Goods store.

Me: Looking around for something for my house that my decorator says is “a must”.

Other shopper bumping into me: Oh sorry miss, I didn’t see you.

Me: Glowing having heard “miss” – oh no problem.

Review: Probably better than mixed – at least I wasn’t shopping in an outfit that marked me as “over the hill” or “helpless and lost” – which in Tucson is a VERY low bar, trust me.

Scene six: Home, Arizona lizard on the loose inside – small but still a lizard.

Me: Damn it – that makes 4 tries with no lizard caught – trying to do the drop the cloth over the lizard and grab him strategy suggested by those who help me run the house.

Me: Oh the hell with it – I will get someone else to catch the lizard.

Review: Delegation – getting better at it all the time.

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Summary review: Hanging in at times by a string and at other times fantastically.  Consistently Fabulous may need some revisions to its definition.  Either that or I have to keep finding more people to delegate everything to except when I am feeling the urge to work on something that was always my long suit – which is hardly every day.  I am close to ready to give up trying to be fabulous on things I never was fabulous at to begin with.  Time to take a nap and think it all through.  Or at least time to take a nap.

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Patty

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