Don’t Forget To Write Thank You Notes For Your Holiday Gifts!

Here are four things that I believe are important about sending thank you notes. I hope you’ll agree!

  1. Do it SOON. Although sending notes is better late than never, there’s no time like NOW. The gift-giver probably spent more time picking out your gift than you spent opening it. So spend a few minutes right away writing a thank you note. This week would be a perfect time.
  2. Don’t use email, texts or voice mail messages. Sorry, these just don’t work for us fabulous women! If you’re a teenager, maybe it’s OK. But once you are an adult and are giving gifts to or receiving gifts from other adults, you’ll need to send a note in an envelope with a stamp! (I think teenagers should send handwritten notes to grandparents and other adults, too, but that’s another story.)
  3. Make your note personal and sincere. Tell the gift-giver why you like the gift and/or how you’re going to use it.
  4. Write a note even if you’ve thanked the gift-giver in person. It takes so little time and will generate such great feelings.

Family members and friends who gave me gifts this holiday season deserve a few minutes of my time, a card or piece of stationery, and a stamp. Don’t yours?

Cathy

2017 Is Almost Here, But 2016 Keeps Surprising Me!

No, this is not going to be about the election.  If you are one of the 3 people who are still frequently following the news on the political front, God bless you, but don’t contact me.  I, like most, have temporarily shaken off “the real state of affairs” and put it on a shelf to deal with later… much later.

What I am talking about is how, even in these waning days of 2016, things are happening that seem uniquely odd, sad, strange and surprising. That which makes us wonder again and again: what’s going on with this crazy year?  Here’s a few situations from my own last week.

I hadn’t paid a bill on time and got a late charge and note from my account – Saks Fifth Avenue of all cards!!  Ah some things do NOT change.  In any case, I missed the payment in all the Christmas crazies but decided on December 26th to give them a call and start arranging to have money just taken out automatically.  A warm voice greeted me.

“Hi, I’m Helen from (popular credit card company), how can I help you?”

Helen needed my birthday to proceed and when I gave it to her (1/20/50 in case you may have forgotten), she got even warmer and said, “you know I have a January birthday too and turning 62 – and just think it is time for makeover/do-over of my looks”.  15 minutes later we were still talking about makeup for women in their fabulous 60s and I hadn’t even paid my bill.  Then we got “down to business” and she just told me she was waving my late fee and interest charges – and all I had to pay was $x – it was done quickly.  We wished each other with happy New Year and hung up cordially.  I was wondering if an angel had sent this woman to me or I was talking to one of the few service people who makes your heart sing.  What was THAT about?

Guess it proves that any woman can connect with another woman other even when they are total strangers.  Isn’t that fabulous and surprising?  Right now, if Cathy Green, my Fabulous blog partner is reading this she is shaking her head and saying: “that isn’t surprising at all for you Patty – for anyone else, yes, a total shock”.

Someone I know is going through a divorce.  Yes, getting divorced over Christmas is only slightly less disturbing than the absolutely biggest nightmare you can ever imagine. Why anyone would divorce during the holidays is astonishing to me.  Nothing is going right. The players are acting, shall we say, “strangely” and the fallout is breaking hearts and confusing even the most even-tempered and spiritual of the inner circle.  Do people have to been so cruel to each other NOW – as one of the toughest years ever is ending?  It is breaking my heart that I can’t help the situation.

A friend I met through church is retiring and also having a big birthday.  I thought that I could be so helpful to her now – after all, I am a life coach (does the phrase ‘who cares’ come to mind?).  Point being I thought “she needed me”.  We had a great lunch – she was everything fun, mature, thoughtful, loving, sophisticated in her thinking and offering some solid advice to ME about handling a few things.  So much for me being needed – my lunch FOR my friend was a surprise – it was a lunch WITH one fabulous woman who I obviously needed to listen to.  Not that I didn’t already know that.  But still.

And then there was a long overdue call with a friend from back east, who unfortunately had a bad fall down some hard to see steps early in December and was recovering.  A surprising event for anyone; but the accident itself seemed sadly typical of 2016.  But here is the really surprising thing: my friend’s accident seemed to not just be a royally painful episode in her life, but had a transformative positive effect on her personally. It opened her up to learning and healing in a way that was going to definitely redefine 2017 for her. Yikes – someone actually DOES turn lemons into lemonade.

The last days of 2016 aren’t exactly comforting.  Could there be more of living life in a salad spinner coming up in 2017?  I am not sure what’s ahead, and I do want to wish everyone love, peace and hope in the New Year.  It seems to me that maybe our old standbys like loving ourselves, giving ourselves a break, being there for others and not expecting to be able to solve their issues, and to just trying to lighten up our hearts to hear and experience the unexpected with grace is going to be the very best we can do.  But you know my dear fabulous women, this list is more than enough.

We aren’t the center of the world anymore – let’s take one of the REAL benefits of aging: letting the next generation figure out how to make things work as we enter 2017.  While we don’t want to just have our lives be waiting for a Publisher’s Clearing House contest to make it all better, a little bit of the old song “what will be will be” is in order.

Don’t let that scare you like it scared our parents.  Just try your best to have a happy new year!  Trust me, 2017 is going to be fabulous.  That would be a wonderful and much-welcomed surprise we really need.

Patty

Feelings of the Season

In the first few minutes of the movie La La Land, you are brought back to your own struggling youth and the intensity of feelings so as part of being in one’s 20s.  It was a rush – and the rest of the movie doesn’t disappoint, if you are as big-hearted and romantic as I know most of you are!

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La Land

In the middle of Manchester by the Sea, you groan as you feel a pain so intense you can’t remember feeling quite that awful for another human being that you don’t know personally.  While tough to watch in parts, I felt a gift from the director and actors of this intense film about personal struggle and the work of redemption.  You have to feel this movie in this season – puts any of your own agonies in perspective.

Casey Affleck

Walking through the supermarket door I saw the bell ringer and the Salvation Army kettle.  This is a tradition that doesn’t seem to be going the way of every other tradition.  I put in a bill, not just a few coins.  One can’t look at a Salvation Army kettle and not feel blessed – truly as our parents told us “there by the grace of God go we”.

An old friend sent another less than card/email with the note: “as part of my cutting back, you are getting this message – happy holiday”.  I totally get my friend’s decision not to send cards. But somehow I wish he didn’t say it was about him – maybe an email that said “thinking of you and hoping you and Bill are great, lots of love, Bob” would not have struck me as not as self-centered and missing the point of the season.  Feel generous this holiday (the world needs holiday fun more than ever) – no matter how you REALLY feel.  Give less with joy.

Someone sent me a quick email message apologizing for taking more than a week to respond to a birthday card we sent her for her December birthday.  It was SO sweet and thoughtful – late, even the New Year late with positive thought, is more than ok and feels great.

This year we are going to a totally different Christmas celebration — a special friend asked us to join her and some of her family and friends.  After spending most of the year traveling, and not going “home” for Christmas, this invitation touched my heart.  Nothing old or traditional, but filled with love, joy and for sure laughter.  That’s the ticket – something different, with or without family is perfectly wonderful this holiday season. Show deep appreciation for those invitations – even general invites to your neighborhood association, your synagogue, casual friend or church –  and feel honored to be asked anywhere.

Though not going overboard on tons of gifts, the few we are giving are being deeply appreciated… with feelings!  We sent Cathy (my partner here at Fabulous) and Ray’s Labradoodle some special treats and she sent me a text thanking me. Now, someone’s dog sending you a text REALLY feels great.  Maybe help your cat or dog send a good text – because I know someone loves that pet as much as you do and would feel so good getting a text from them for the holidays.  Yes, feel that silly, it is good for you.  Merry merry everyone!

A more clear pic of Cathy’s dog, Lexie:

 

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.

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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.

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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.

thumb_gyno

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

Why My Husband Really Needs Me

Since this blog is about my husband and may possibly contain some information that he finds less than flattering, I should start by pointing out that I am very lucky to have a great partner who shares responsibilities around the house and in our lives.

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Here are a few things Ray does really, really well:

He cooks … excellently. He makes a great Bolognese sauce, a killer bouillabaisse, and to-die-for crab cakes, for example.  He even cooks day-to-day meals.  I can’t cook and don’t like to cook, so this is a really important thing in our lives. (Actually, he began cooking out of self-defense. See my blog about this subject.)

Here’s one of Ray’s weekday meals: pork loin with veggies

Here’s one of Ray’s weekday meals: pork loin with veggies

He drives 99% of the time when we are together, whether around town or on a road trip. He refers to himself as my chauffeur and I shamelessly take advantage of him.  Although I think I’m a good driver, I drive 5 mph slower than he does and I don’t like to parallel park – which means we arrive somewhere later than he wants or I spend too much time looking for easy parking options.

He takes care of our beautiful gardens.  I hate snakes, moles, hot weather, cold weather, thorns on our rose bushes, bugs (especially caterpillars), rubber gloves and just about everything there is to hate about gardening.

He also likes to run errands, take our clothes to the dry cleaners, stop at the grocery store and mail packages.  Lucky me!

Of course, I do a lot of things for us too. I manage all of our bills, order things that we need online, take care of the house, make our travel arrangements, and orchestrate our social calendar, for example.

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We’ve never really had to “decide” who does what, either.  It just kind of happened over the years.  Things get done. We both do what we do. We have a pretty equitable and easy arrangement.

But there are a few things that he REALLY needs me for …

1.)  He swears he can’t run the dishwasher. We’ve been together 26 years. We’ve had three homes and several short term and long term rental homes and apartments. Not once in all that time can I remember him running the dishwasher.  We have been in our current home for five years and nothing has changed.

Here’s our Bosch dishwasher panel. Relatively simple, yes?

Here’s our Bosch dishwasher panel. Relatively simple, yes?

2.)  Ditto #1 for the washer and dryer. Again, he says he just can’t figure out either of the machines. Too many options. Too many buttons. Too many decisions.

3.)  He can’t remember the number 9. Every time he answers the phone to buzz someone into our gated community he asks me what number to push on the phone. It’s #9 and has been #9 since we moved here five years ago.

4.)  He can’t spell.  I am a former English teacher and a writer. Let’s just say he found the right person to marry. Even with spell-check he doesn’t get close enough to the spelling of words for the auto correct function to do much good. I really don’t mind helping him out, but I do get a little annoyed when he gives me a word like hydrangea, bouillabaisse or hors d’oeuvres and thinks I should be able to rattle the spelling off quickly.  I’m also not too happy when I attempt to spell one of those difficult words for him and he then tells me that his spell-check corrected it.

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I like being needed, but I have learned over the years that I should never give him unsolicited advice. His sarcastic response is that he really doesn’t know how he ever survived before he met me.

On the subject of survival, if I leave this world before he does, I wonder if he’ll be able to run the dishwasher and the washer/dryer and if he’ll be able to remember the number 9.

I suspect the answer to all of these is yes.

But spelling? He would definitely miss me!

Cathy Green

Post Traumatic Travel Disorder

Last Thursday evening, after 5 months away from home base in Tucson, we arrived home.  If you read any of my blogs these past few months you know it was lots of laughs and fun – along with learning lessons about what not to do (and what definitely TO DO) when you are on the road for 5 months in multiple cities.

Sunday I backed out of the garage and knocked down our mailbox (yes, one of those steel ones with a concrete base that desert communities are fond of) even though I have a backup camera in my new car.  The car got a few “boo boos” too. YIKES. Upon reflection, I think I have a bad case of PTTD — the mind melt and trauma that happens when you do not plan to travel differently, and plan easing back in after travel as a FabulousOver60 traveler.

                  This is not actually me but found it fitting

Post Traumatic Travel Disorder is an affliction that I have noticed has been increasing in my life. While working full-time I traveled often for work – typically several trips per week flying to various places for consulting assignments.  At a certain point, I had it all down to a science.  Always packed bag ready, just what I needed and nothing else, and a clear focus on getting where I needed to be and doing what I was being paid to do.  My days were pre-planned and many evenings as well – mostly I scheduled in working out to keep my stamina high.

Now, I continue to travel – increasingly as many of us boomers are – as part of being semi-retired or completely unemployed and finally having the time and resources to take off here, there and anywhere – or, at the least somewhere.  But rather than having the travel “down to a science”, every trip seems like a fresh opportunity to over-pack, plan too many things for too little time, and making sure that any possible friend is visited or connected with when going to “their neck of the woods.”  This is of course in addition to returning home not to the same routines, but often returning to my life and home that is ever evolving to meet our changing and evolving needs.  In other words, travel used to be routine, now it is anything but.  We have to plan for it differently, not attempt to go back to how we used to travel.

I truly believe that I backed into our mailbox because of PTTD (Post Traumatic Travel Disorder).  Am going to see hitting my mailbox as a gift going forward – it helped me reflect and share what I now believe are important tips on being a fabulous traveler over 60, as well as for avoiding PTTD.

bags1. Unlike business travel, the reasons we travel now are more varied and sometimes complex, combining several agendas. Sometimes it is a family obligation (Uncle Ted’s funeral), or a social obligation (your 50th college reunion, where you also are on the board, not just attending the reunion). Or then again it could just be for fun (we’ve never been to Cleveland). That being with new or different friends with new and different routines and expectations of what matters when traveling (the Kelly’s love dawn running wherever they are).

Tip? Taking a bit of time before a trip to think about what is most important for you to experience from the trip, or a piece of it, is critical.  It helps you with choices while planning, and for remembering that every choice includes excluding things – not just choosing things.  A wise woman has expectations matched to her needs – and her plan.

2. Most of us feel blessed to have so many fewer obligations other than hobbies, or work we are truly passionate about, that we make the mistake of thinking it should be EASIER to do everything, including traveling.  But novelty (a true key to being fabulous) often means doing things differently, and doing things differently adds stress – albeit good stress.

Tip? Be much more aware of how your travel now involves unique things that, even when fun or exciting, can be tiring and stressful.  Plan to ease into going and ease into returning – rather than trying to recapture the head spinning efficiency of hitting the ground running when going or returning from trips.

3. God has helped create FedEx and the USPS. Use these services to pre-ship stuff to you destination – and ship home after the trip.  There are no more points for filling the car completely or taking two carry-ons weighing 40 lbs. each on the plane.  Not only pack more lightly but think about your neck, shoulders, and back for those times between, when you do have to carry things with you.  Less is DEFINITELY more.

Tip? Ever lighter luggage is in, and all your old suitcases/trunks or old work travel bags are for Goodwill or its equivalent.

4. Do not bring the ugliest, most boring things you own with you – thinking the boring nature of what you are wearing will make it easier to keep having to wear the same thing over and over.

Tip? Bringing  just those things that really flatter you and are light (terrific scarf, interesting gloves, simple dress, great earrings) and that you love wearing guarantee you can stand to repeat your clothes again and again and feel good as well as look good.  You want to come back with memories that include you looking reasonable and happy with yourself.  Packing right really helps.  And attitude too of course – that fabulous attitude of looking at the bright side of the newness of everything.

5. Make friends with one department store cosmetics person – go to them twice a year for the best cosmetics for you. YES, this does have to do with travel.

Tip? These ‘wizards of looking good’ will give you samples of everything great or want to try.  When it is time to travel you have lots of samples of everything you need to travel – make this a conscious effort and you will win on multiple fronts besides just travel.  Your makeup will be up to date and help support the image you want.  You will have someone to ask for advice on what works and doesn’t for you, and your lifestyle, and to help you decide what to toss and keep so you never have expired cosmetics.  If you have decided to stop wearing makeup entirely – well, Cathy (co-creator/partner of FabulousOver60) and I want to suggest to rethink that one.

Thankfully PTTD is an unexpected syndrome that can be edited out of your life.  We are so smart in so many ways – many of us just need to rethink outdated assumptions about travel in our 60s.  There is a fabulous way to do it – and a not so fabulous way to do it. Coming home stressed and ill-prepared to take it easy and let the trip ease you into your home priorities is not conducive to being fabulous.  Just ask my car dealer.

– Patty

Note: PTSD is a real and serious issue. This blog post in no way is meant to minimize or dismiss it.

Part 2: How The Beatles Ended My Musical (Accordion) Career

On February 9, 1964 at 8:00pm, I joined over 70 million Americans watching The Beatles live on the Ed Sullivan Show. I was 13 and would turn 14 that September. For weeks before their appearance, their songs were all over the airwaves. I Want to Hold Your Hand was the #1 song on the Billboard charts. My 8th-grade class was buzzing with excitement.

Paul, George, Ringo and John, 1964

Paul, George, Ringo and John, 1964

Ed Sullivan introduced The Beatles to his audience of teenagers as the “youngsters from Liverpool” and the girls screamed. In front of our TV, mom, dad, sister Chris and brother Tom were glued to the screen. As soon as George, Paul, John and Ringo started singing All My Loving, Chris and I joined in the screaming, 10-year-old Tom got caught up in the excitement and dad was making fun of the haircuts and outfits but seemed to be having a good time, too. Mom just looked mystified by it all.

The Beatles played three songs in the first half hour of the show (Including She Loves You… Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!) and two in the second half hour, including my favorite I Saw Her Standing There.

Here’s how the performance started:

The British invasion was underway and although I didn’t know it right then, my 8-year accordion-playing career was about to be over.

In Part 1 of this blog, I wrote about how my parents bought accordion lessons for me at the age of 6 from a door to door salesman and how I became a very good classical accordionist by my teens, performing with an accordion symphony orchestra and competing in solo events around the city and state.

Me … a little girl with a big accordion! Circa 1958

Me … a little girl with a big accordion! Circa 1958

The Beatles, and the British rock and roll bands that followed them like The Rolling Stones, The Animals, and Herman’s Hermits, were all about guitars and drums. Teenagers all over the US were listening to this new music and many of them were yearning to be in their own rock and roll bands, preferably playing guitar like Paul, John or George.

In the book Squeeze This: A Cultural History of the Accordion in America, the author wrote:

“By 1963, the accordion had reached the height of its popularity, but America’s youth were beginning to embrace new music and new instruments. Playing the accordion became, for all intents and purposes, uncool”.

At 13, I really liked boys, I was experimenting with makeup, I wanted to wear short skirts and I played Beatles records constantly with my friends.  I also started to rebel against authority (i.e. my parents). I was a true teenager.  I definitely didn’t want to be uncool.

I started to complain.

There’s nothing I can do with the accordion… … I have too much homeworkI want to go out with my friends …. I don’t want to play polkas for grandpa anymore.

And then, sometime in late 1964 or early 1965, I quit.

I don’t remember how hard my parents fought with me about this, but I don’t think they fought too much. They, too, were seeing the change in musical tastes and didn’t have an answer for me about what I’d be able to do with accordion skills.

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My brother began taking guitar lessons. The money my parents had spent to develop my musical skills were now transferred to developing his.  He grew his hair long, got an electric guitar and drove us crazy. I was jealous. Playing guitar was definitely cool. I would have liked to play, too, and even bought an acoustic guitar and taught myself some chords. But in my family, Tom was now the guitar player so I didn’t get any encouragement. (He became an excellent guitarist, played with several bands, has a great tenor voice, gained recognition as one of the best guitarists in Cincinnati and still plays gigs at age 62.)

Brother Tom’s publicity shot in the early 70’s

Brother Tom’s publicity shot in the early 70’s

I was busy being a teenager anyway.

Over the years, I have had a lot of guilt about quitting after my parents had spent so much money and I had spent so much time. I’ve also been asked why I didn’t transfer my accordion playing to the piano, an instrument that provided more practical career opportunities, even in rock bands.

Those of you who have played accordion understand that this is not as easy as it may seem. Although my right hand played on a musical keyboard similar to a piano, I played buttons with my left hand. The transition could have been made, of course, but not without a lot of work, more lessons and a good piano in our home. At that time, I didn’t have the will to learn a new instrument and my parents didn’t have the money to encourage it.

I have to admit that my recent reading about the accordion’s popularity in the 50’s and its subsequent demise in the 60’s and 70’s made me feel a little better. Sales of accordions dropped to an all-time low in 1964, around the time I stopped playing.  I was not alone in being caught up in the new music wave.

I’ve never regretted my years of musical training, but I’ve often wished that my parents had gotten me started on a piano or guitar.

Here’s “the rest of the story” about accordions:

Accordions made a comeback in the 80’s and 90’s and since then have found their way into rock bands like Bare Naked Ladies, Counting Crows, and Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band. Bruce Hornsby, Tom Waits, Billy Joel, Pete Townsend and Eddie Vedder play accordion, too.

Bruce Springsteen with band member Mark Metcalfe

Bruce Springsteen with band member Mark Metcalfe

Backstreet Girl by the Rolling Stones features an accordion and Sheryl Crow plays one for the song Are You Strong Enough to Be My Man?

Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow

A January 2014 article in The Atlantic entitled Accordions So Hot Right Now reported that the last remaining accordion manufacturer in the US is selling 60% of its accordions to people under the age of 30 and is having trouble keeping up with production.

My accordion playing days were obviously in the wrong century!

By the way, I learned recently that both Paul McCartney and John Lennon played the accordion before the guitar. Somehow, that tidbit of information about the Beatles didn’t make it into the press releases at the time.

I’m pretty sure that it wouldn’t have made a difference to 14-year-old Cathy anyway.  Being cool was just too important!

Cathy Green

PS… Friends have asked me if I have ever wanted to play accordion again. I remember picking up my old accordion when I was  in my 40’s and realizing how little I remembered and how poorly my hands worked on the keys and buttons. I had lost the ability to read the sheet music, too. When musicians tell you that practicing constantly and consistently is critical, believe them!

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