Stuff About Today’s World

Reflecting On Another of Our Icons – Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple died February 10th 2014 at age 85. While she became a diplomat in the 1960s, she is most known as the darling little girl who lifted spirits during the depression years. She was the most popular movie star in the world between 1935 and 1939 — a good 10 years before we fabulous over 60s were born. At 22 she retired completely from movies although later she appeared on TV in programs aimed at entertainment and development for children.

A recent New York Times column noted Shirley was “the little girl with 56 perfect ringlets and an air of relentless determination”. She had “great energy” long before the phrase became popular. In my world, she was inspiring – not just cute.

Just as we were growing up in the 50s her movies were in revival. Movies like Poor Little Rich Girl , Heidi , Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and The Little Colonel were typical TV fare for us. We all wanted to sing, dance, have those curls and wind up happy BUT also “right” — just like Shirley did at the end of each movie. My Mom like many others tried hard to give me some of those curls with those really stinky early permanents from Toni. But what Shirley gave us was more important than those curls, she gave us the idea that girls could speak their minds, solve problems and get their way as long as they did things decently and with integrity. And those lessons stuck.

Via shirleytemple.com; archive.org

Via shirleytemple.com; archive.org

We lost touch with Shirley at some point – but her determination, strength of character and direct style with adults likely is the basis of some of our ability to “defy” our parents as the 60s and 70s unfolded. Nor did we realize the significance of her holding hands with her “Uncle Bill” Bojangles. She may have been the first white actress to touch a black man’s hand affectionately in a film. The famous dance scene between them in The Little Colonel is still considered a classic — and we remember it fondly even though I didn’t think about its implications at the time. Perhaps many of our African-American fabulous sisters did and have a take that could educate us.

I think we owe Ms. Temple something — our respect — for modeling some strong behavior that seems ridiculously outdated, silly and more racist than radical at this point in history. But as I reflect on those movies, I feel grateful she taught us some level of tolerance for others who were different in some way — and some sense that girls could be more, much more, than just cute.

When I left the theater after seeing Frozen with my granddaughter Morgan over the holidays, I wondered if the images she was seeing and the wonderful sisterly bonds and self-determination shown by the protagonists could really take the place of a little girl like Shirley who was at least “real”. I think the answer is yes. Its “battle” hymn of independence “Let It Go” (which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song on March 2nd) was so intense, and her blasting energy so rocket-fueled it was a bit scary for Morgan (4). But she “got it” I think — I sure did.

Thinking about the world our granddaughters are living in, likely shaking your curls and singing “On The Good Ship Lollipop”  isn’t going to cut it. Long live the new icons.

Lyrics from “Let It Go”:

My power flurries through the air into the ground

My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around

And one thought crystallized like an icy blast

I’m never going back, the past is in the past

Let it go, let it go

And I’ll rise like the break of dawn

Let it go, let it go

That perfect girl is gone

Here I stand

In the light of day

Let the storm rage

Shirley got us going – but “Let It Go” is great to remind us to KEEP it going.

How Does a Fabulous Woman Handle Giving Dating Advice?

Love is desirable – at 16 or 67. And the over-60 set is all for it. Statistics indicate increasing dating and mating in the older age brackets. Which puts us all in a situation we likely didn’t think we would be in much after 30: listening and lending support to our over 60 family and friends out dating/mating.

“Helen” has been single about 8 years, widowed after her husband’s long illness. She has been dating the same guy for about 5 years. He has recently suggested he is “no longer in love with her” but does love her. He is not quite ready for marriage. She is (obviously) dumping him and dating different people.

“Louise” has been single closer to 20 years, divorced after a 25+ year marriage. She has been dating Hal for a few years and moved in with him about a year ago – or rather he with her (her house). She is considering dumping him based on her finding out about his rather “irregular financial past”. Louise is most upset by his deception but open to some connection though no longer wants to live with him.

“Lillian” has been divorced 10 years and starting, as she just turns 60, to try to date again. She is finding it distressing that every guy she meets wants to know on date number one if she is completely financially self-sufficient. She is but is wondering not only how to handle this but if these are men worth dating.

What type of advice/support should a fabulous woman offer her friends?

A fabulous woman does not assume that because she is in a relationship, no matter how long term or personally successful, that she is the new Dear Abby or Ann Landers, those late genius twins of advice. Remember most of us happy in our relationships went into them at twenty or thirty something with as much wisdom as any other young person and just got very lucky. Or, we have reached a place of compromise or peace with what and who we are committed to. Wisdom is not automatic to the long-partnered.

eclan Haun / Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images

Declan Haun / Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images

“When you met Dan at school in 1964 and fell head over heels and then dumped the bastard when he went off with his administrative assistant in 1987” has had a lot of mileage as one of your stories, but is not appropriate at this point to give others advice. In a similar vein, sharing a scary tale of your cousin meeting a mental case on a dating site and being stalked is out. Keep the conversation on the other fabulous woman and resist scary tales of dating/mating.

In my research for this piece there was no one questioning if dating and mating in one’s 60s or beyond was a waste of time or more difficult than most things in 2014. Now that is a change most of us thought we would not live to see — we remember when 25 and unmarried was a flaw or meant a hard struggle to find any good guys who were left! We also remember that stupid statistic about a woman finding love after 40 was less likely than getting killed by a terrorist. The point is, don’t even think of telling your friend she is “a little late to the party” or “hasn’t a chance to meet anyone decent”. Statistics do not support your claim.

As for dos:

1. Support her going forward. If still doubting herself remind her to stop thinking she is still Janis Ian from “At Seventeen”.  Share with her specific best qualities she has – from style to energy; from being a golfer to a professor.

2. Urge her to try or stick with internet — it works for many sane, sophisticated folks. Just saw a site for over 60s that gets a 100 rating — and is not Match or eHarmony. Some of my other disguised friends – “Colleen, Angelica and Rita” have met great partners online. Dating has come a long way since ads in New York magazine were the rage.

3. Finally, share part of yourself that lets your friend know you really understand how vulnerable and challenging this likely is for her. Share some current insecurity or similar issue you may be having now or have had in the past. Share fabulous energy and courage — as well as risk-taking ideas.

That, or tell her to consider this Feng Shui advice I just saw in a local magazine: “Get a new bed if you are ending or beginning a new relationship. From a Feng Shui perspective, the bed is probably the single most important piece of furniture in the whole house.” Some things don’t change.

The Skinny on Note Writing for Fabulous Women!

The New Year and my January birthday always gives me opportunities to do something I love: write to people.  I actually love writing notes and cards — thank you notes for a gift or act of kindness or just to reach out.  Every so often someone in my circle will mention to me how much he/she appreciated a note I sent.  It feels great to know that someone else recognizes what I think is extremely important: taking time to share in writing and to encourage deeper intimacy and closeness.

girl-at-mailbox-getting-mail

The Emily Post Institute actually exists! Emily Post has some lovely relatives who have built a terrific business based on her famous etiquette expertise.  Be prepared if you visit the site: you will be reassured that people SHOULD send thank you notes — but this visit to the site will not necessarily make it any more likely that someone you feel should write that note will actually do so.  Of course sending them a book from the site couldn’t hurt.

book

While doing more poking into my passion for writing notes, I tried the Etiquette Intelligence” quiz on the Jacqueline Whitmore business etiquette website. Again I wanted more support for the “need” or value of writing to people.  And I got that support from Jacqueline too.
 
Just coincidentally, it seems amazingly obvious to me that the woman writing this quiz and being an expert on the subject of business etiquette was both a former flight attendant (talk about a job that puts you in a spot to be mistreated and likely to decide etiquette is the career for you!) and named Jacqueline.  Women of our age can never hear “Jackie” and not think: she always knew what was right, what to write, what was appropriate and what was elegant.

J. KENNEDY

I believe that writing to someone — the time and thought it takes, will strengthen the bonds of any relationship.  By sharing, the reader knows me better — perhaps then my sharing will create more of it on their part — more openness and personal connection that will make the relationship deeper and more uniquely ours.  Besides, writing – especially thank yous, is a way of showing someone in a tangible way that you truly appreciated their effort(s) for you.
 
In the near future according to the new movie Her, people will be able to hire people to write for them. The protagonist of the story works for one such company – BeautifulLetters.com. Apparently people will be paying to have people correspond with others and create intimacy without actually writing anything.  Love letters, letters to people’s children as they grow up – all of this is for hire; and admittedly beautifully done by the star and others working for this fictional organization.
 
My husband Bill of course told me this is an ideal job for me.  It actually gave me a creepy feeling.
 
But it struck me that this is the sad outcome that may happen if everyone stops writing all together.  I can hear Dr. Phil’s replacement in 2025 saying to a guest – the user of one of these new companies: “How did you think it work out when you never wrote your daughter a single word and she ultimately figured out it was a surrogate note writer and not you that was relating to her?”
 
Hope this moves even one person to pick up the pen more often.
 
Photo credits: here

Christmas Cards … Are They Optional?

Last January I wrote this blog about Christmas cards. I was reminded of it last week when I was re-reading the cards we received.  Ray and I sent at least as many cards this year as last year, and received about the same number from friends, family and co-workers. I enjoyed every one of them – especially those with notes —  and I am even becoming pretty fond of the family photo cards. We did NOT receive many electronic cards this year, so maybe that’s not a growing trend? Hmm….

Before the 2012 holiday season is too far behind us, I wanted to blog about sending holiday cards – addressed, stamped and mailed by the United States Post Office.

A few weeks before Christmas, Patty asked me if I planned to send cards this year. I was surprised by her question since I have never really considered NOT sending cards. Yes, I complain about it every year when the time comes to write notes, stick stamps and return address labels on envelopes, and haul them to a mailbox. But holiday greetings have always seemed like an important part of Christmas to me.

Patty said that over the past few years, she has been sending many more cards than she has been receiving and that younger people are ditching the tradition altogether.  So, I paid attention this year.

My husband and I sent about 200 cards. Fifty were sent to employees, the rest to friends and family.

MC910215612

We received about 100 cards, which means that a fairly large number of our greetings were not returned. Hmm…  There were a few “e-cards” … not many, but more than last year… and I did notice fewer cards from younger people (the ones who sent cards sent the family photo kind, primarily).

I went online to search for statistics and found a recent blog called Sending Christmas Cards: A Dying Tradition.

Here is an excerpt:

Research shows that the pre-baby boomer generations felt so strongly about sending Christmas cards during the holiday season that the average family sent around 300 cards ………..But in recent years, numbers for greeting cards have dwindled. Large companies like Hallmark Greeting Card Company report a 33.7% decrease since 2007 in the numbers of Christmas cards purchased each year. And in a recent survey at Parenting Magazine, only 22% of all households said that they would be sending out traditional Christmas cards………Last year, the American Greeting Card Association compiled numbers that show that Americans on average only sent 8 cards per household……………

I haven’t been able to verify these stats … but it does seem as if Christmas cards might be going the way of letter writing.  I find it sad …it was a tradition I grew up with and still enjoy.

How about you?

It Is Going To Be A Great 2014

While still trying to shake this crazy cold/flu bug that I caught interacting with the million (more or less) people I interacted with over the holidays, I am feeling good about the year ahead:

  • Most, if not all, of my fears are gone. If a bear broke into my house and started chasing me, then yes, fear would return quickly. That aside, I feel ready for anything having coped with the wide range of life experiences. I finally “get” that life is short, unpredictable, and has actual columns with what can be changed and what cannot — and accepting that brings peace. This is big. It is earned wisdom. Finally, a true honest to God wonderful thing about aging has appeared.

 

    • The recession (downturn of 2006/7/8/9/10/11) that brought fear up-close and personal and caused a zillion concrete bad things to happen, appears to be as gone as it ever will be. The world is far from OK and all better, but we can now turn our attention (or not if you do not wish to) to fixing the remaining issues that were made worse by this ugly financial calamity — (for me that includes the minimum wage reform, more workplace reform, and the government helping with more new infrastructure and less guns). We can trust that the worst of the financial meltdown has passed. We could seriously say “Happy New Year” this holiday – and do so with a clear conscious.

 

    • I have goals for the year ahead – and I know which standards I am retaining and which may be carefully put down by the side of the road to be picked up by the “it is OK police”. This yearly review and ‘setting new goals’ process is down to a “Patty science” now. That makes me feel good — if you are still a non-planner then reconsider! An unplanned life is not worth living — is it?

 

    • Keeping myself physically strong and looking as good as is sensibly achieved will continue to matter. The right shoes, makeup, and great clothes matter to me and I am okay that the world at large is not with me and that many see this as shallow. But I need to be with me — it is part of what defines me. “How I do this part of my life is how I do everything in my life”. Thank you Martha Beck, sister life coach, for this great insight!

 

    • The planned year ahead was conceived with little guilt or overblown expectations. The very best part is that I know that I can and will drop any of my plans instantly, if I need to, and turn my attention to where it needs to be. My priorities have never been clearer.

 

    • I’m planning to do more general downsizing in my life and it is thrilling to think about. No, I am not really ready for some of the radical things I am considering, but I am certain that the direction toward less is more.

 

  • I am not sure January was ever this sane, calm and starting with less absolute must-have expectations and strong tangible goals. Maybe I won’t even worry about my weight. Well let’s not go nuts here. Cathy would call me out even if no one else commented on it.

Photo credit: here

What We Learned In 2013

  1. We still love writing ‘Fabulous’ and are more excited than ever to be sharing our own discoveries of life in our 60s. We think we’ve just begun to get in the groove of this project.
  2. Losing people we love hurts even more than we thought it would. But, rather than just causing sadness, it is helping us to live with purpose.
  3. Millennial’s are the next Boomers. We are OK with that. Their tastes will prevail — except when it comes to the décor of “senior living” homes.
  4. We can say with absolute certainty we no longer look “hot” — but we still seem to “simmer” for a couple of guys — let’s call them Bill and Ray.
  5. Time has sped up. We know that’s true because we have a hard time keeping up with everything – even though there is less to keep up with.
  6. Letting ourselves off the hook is OK, as long as we don’t stop remembering birthdays of dear friends, celebrating the holidays with some style, and embarking on our perennial new year’s diet.
  7. Work is still fun and a hoot. But in small doses. We wish Hillary well — but we are too exhausted to even think about running for neighborhood association chair much less President.
  8. We care more about important things and less about nonsense – but the definitions of what those are keep shifting.
  9. There is always more good in the world than bad. Unfortunately, the bad seems to trend on social media more often than we like. (Miley Cyrus is the number one trend. No comment.)
  10. A new year is wonderful — we can still pretend we are starting all over again despite evidence to the contrary!

happy_new_year_color

 

Patty and Cathy

Merry Christmas! Don’t Underestimate Gift-Giving

Many people are now donating to charities in lieu of gifts and cards. Who can argue against this trend? That said, I have learned not to undervalue giving gifts that are personal, demonstrate insight into who the recipients are, and make those recipients feel special.

Gifts013

 

One year when things were particularly hectic (still working full time) I thought of doing the “charity in lieu of gifts” thing. I still sent cards, but skipped the friend gifts and sent them a notice of our choice and information on the charity. Someone I love very much told me she was disappointed because she looked forward to the gifts I had given her. My righteous choice didn’t make the season merry — just easier for me. I should have known better.

The art of giving includes knowing who to splurge on, who to call and talk with and who to just send a card and a funny note. Another lesson learned: I don’t have to keep the giving “even” – just personal.

 

Even re-gifting is OK if you know the recipient would like such a gesture. Every once in awhile I give someone a book that I bought and loved – and in that book I write a note to them about why I chose to give it to them for Christmas. Time and effort absolutely count.

Here are a few more thoughts on holiday giving for women like Cathy (fellow blogger and friend) and myself who are or trying to be fabulous even if they are exhausted by the holidays!

  • Do send a card, personal note, or give a call to all relatives and close friends over 65 — they will appreciate it and really want to put your greeting up on their bookshelf or hear your voice at the holidays. If you can afford it, send them a gift too like flowers. It will bring joy.
  • Buy a small thoughtful gift for people who have made your life special this year. This should not become a permanent forever list but a list that should change yearly. Tell them why you wanted to get them something and how their kindness made you feel — it will touch their heart.
  • You may have to choose between sending each cousin a card/note (even the ones who never are in touch) OR instead sending something small to your elderly single neighbor, your hairdresser, or favorite store owner. Always choose the people who have helped you or need you — you are not living somewhere and interacting with people for no reason. Your cousins likely don’t care.
  • When in doubt over gift-giving, here is a “test” I give myself. I think of what would make this person smile, or what she or he would want, need or be thrilled by. If I do not care what they think, want, need or would be thrilled by then I pass.

Yes, there is too much commercialism – but don’t be miserly either. Fabulous means joyful, generous, caring and fun. Oh damn — I can’t just get those Starbucks Gift Cards for everyone I know if I follow my own advice.

Are Restaurants Making Us More Disconnected?

By the 70s, like many boomers I was dining out (well maybe not dining but eating out) weekly or multiple times in diners, casual places and sometimes even in restaurants with table clothes and “wine lists”. I try not to think about the wine choices I made then. Based on that great combo of zero knowledge coupled with few funds, I likely wouldn’t cook now with bottles I thought were great then. But life has been good to me and between 1971 when I left college and 2013 I have been to about 2000 or more restaurants from The French Laundry to IHOP.

We have seen the farm to table movement, the energy of the industry and its increasingly sophisticated chefs, plus the public’s enormously changed food consciousness and sense of adventure. Restaurant food continues to get better at all price points.

About five years ago I began to feel something was different about being served beyond the food, decor shifts, menu trends and less formality. And, while there may be greater differences between the top restaurants and all the rest, this feeling was something I experienced everywhere – not just at one or another style of restaurant. But I couldn’t put my finger on it.

About a year ago it came to me. A fundamental way of serving food and clearing tables has taken hold.

Servers move and take plates as the individual finishes — not when all in the party have finished a course and have cued the servers by placing one’s utensils “properly” across the top of the plate. During any given course servers can and will be moving in and out frequently as some finish quickly and others linger over the salad, octopus, duck or sorbet.

While there is likely a long list of reasons why restaurants operate this way now — from keeping the space in front of a guest free of finished/half-finished food, to being more efficient, to letting each patron feel she or he is being paid attention to; to me, it means much more interruption in conversation and much less feeling like we are truly talking and sharing together.

While I don’t often dine with people glued to their phones, it is clear from a quick look around that focusing only on the other diners at one’s table is not a universally shared value. I am not sure that bothers me as much as the servers handling us separately — if an individual is so self-absorbed that she has to be on her phone while she is supposed to be participating in a group event, then she has herself to blame for a lame evening.

But when the servers are hustling about making sure everyone, on their own, is able to move at his or her own pace, then the restaurant is to blame for some of the disconnectedness happening at shared dinners.

Maybe restaurants ought to reconsider this approach and offer patrons an option: “would you like everyone served and cleared together – or each diner handled separately?” God help the family member or friend of mine that suggests it is everyone for himself. With the holidays coming that would be a very self-destructive thing to do.

Additional photo credit: Gordon Stillman

There Is a Middle Ground to Celebrating the Holidays

Tis the season to be merry; or flipped out; or hugely annoyed. Or ’tis the season to be simply working like heck on achieving that “Zen approach” to holiday bliss that usually alludes us. Let’s agree to ignore the discussions and musings about the standards that have slipped away. No, you will not get thank you notes. Yes, you will get email greetings, and too many photos of gorgeous children. And yes, some people will be stupid and cheap.

Back to Zen work – breathe deeply and then say out loud: “om shanti”.

holiday blog shopping yoga

What makes a woman fabulous at the holidays?

Yes, looking good — a new slinky dress or a pair of ‘holiday wow’ shoes can’t hurt. Please skip anything that is a sweatshirt and has decorations on it. I had one with reindeer – it is resting in peace. And new candles and self-pampering treats never hurt.

But, while self-love is a golden rule of ‘fabulous’, this really is the time of year to focus on others. Fabulous at the holidays means using all that over-60 knowledge to be part of the happiness of the season – no matter what is going on in your own life. Don’t be a doormat (never fabulous) but don’t buy into the “no one cares anyway” dark approach either. Over-60 women have hurt ourselves by acting through many things — but at the holidays, a little (or a lot) of acting may be just the right thing.

The danger for over-60 fabulous women is to give into one or the other extreme styles that seem to be trending. One of those extremes I will call the “had it up to here and not going to do anything style”. These women dump holidays by the side of the road completely and make it clear they don’t approve of all the “waste” or “overindulgence”. They decide making themselves happy is what is most important. Being selfish, letting yourself completely off the hook, or being cheap is never fabulous. At the holidays it is obnoxious.

greed

The other extreme are those over-60s traditionalists that can’t think of having any holiday celebration that is not filled to the brim with all that was, or all that has to be. This being the case even if half the family doesn’t care or is bored silly. Let’s call these women the “holier than thou holiday scolds”. These women disapprove of any celebrations not focused on their own religious beliefs or narrowly defined explanation of how to have a “true” Hanukkah or a “true” Christmas or true Solstice celebration. For this style there is no “season” but rather a narrow view of what makes for proper celebrations — and they are going to a place of worship, a bar, or nowhere but their kitchen where everyone agrees with them.

 

The holidays, with all its drawbacks (overdone, sad for many, over-commercialized, too much food and drink, and just an excuse to shop till we drop) are a time when everyone who matters should rise to the top of our lists, and everyone that doesn’t can wait till 2014.

We should use some of those old 60s tunes to get us in the mood — the Chipmunk Song anyone?

Additional photo credits here, here and here.

Women Over 60 Are Great at Friendship, But Can We Help Others Do the Same In the Digital Age?

The capacity for and strong preference for intimacy and privately shared experiences was something we developed by “how it was” when we were young. “Dates” with friends, family members or potential or actual romantic partners were private, personal and involved sharing that was limited and in some cases closely guarded. Being friends meant a special intimacy and access that was limited — having friends necessitated judgment and consistent effort. Mistakes were punished in ways that often still linger. Betraying a confidence or making bad friendship choices had serious implications.
 
As for “sharing”, we had to consciously decide whether sharing something was “worth it”, “appropriate” or “important” given time, the value of a particular relationship and/or our need to bring (or not) someone “closer to us”. The great news was there was NO or virtually no possibility that anyone would share about us without talking with us first — the only exception being one’s mother or a soon to be “ex-friend”! For many of us, this limited and valued intimacy helped us learn to carefully choose and then create deep personal bonds of friendship with some people — after failing (and privately reflecting upon what happened) with others.
 
Most over-60s can relate to these types of friendship stories and could share similar ones back to me.
 
Sometime in the middle of our trip to Asheville, Ray (co-blogger Cathy’s husband) said to me – “remember when you were at the beach with us and we went out to get cigarettes and you and I smoked the whole pack?” I remembered the evening fondly, the next morning not so much. It was a night of special sharing that formed the base for many more — without cigarettes. Just for the record: I stopped smoking in 1985 and Ray prior to that.
 
We visited our friend of over 13 years Peter and his daughters in San Francisco. In the middle of the trip I took our God-daughter Emma out shopping while Bill and Peter went out to lunch separately. While getting close to a final choice for Emma — a pendant we were saving tons of money on due to a terrific clearance sale — Bill and Peter jumped from behind some racks and yelled BOO! We were startled, but hysterical. Thankfully we didn’t have our cameras recording for others what will be one of all our favorite private friendship memories.
 
At dinner in San Diego my former client, now dear friend Darian, regaled us with stories of real estate connected to the recent sale of her and her husband Wally’s home. It was such fun to listen to Darian share about “personal” and relatively unimportant stuff after our long history of “serious business discussions and strategic coaching sessions”. The time was both reinforcing of our relationship and enriching too as we found ourselves comparing notes of interactions with younger women we were coaching – especially those we thought were missing some critical skill sets and instincts: self-awareness, intimacy, connection and yes, making and sustaining friendships and relationships of depth.
 
The challenge for us fabulous “friendship” and “relationship” generation is to figure out how to share the characteristics of intimacy, trust and communication. That is, to share it with people never exposed to the privacy, quiet self-reflection and intense introspection which allowed us to develop these traits. We need to achieve this “wisdom transfer” without being negative about the wonders and advantages of the digital age.
 
For over-60 women, there were those moments when each of us was alone with ourselves for hours, or spending time talking with just one other girlfriend and that just was and is “the real stuff” of deep connection. Doesn’t everyone need this level of intensity and intimacy in their life even if we aren’t sure yet how to help them get it?

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