Accordion Lessons From a Door to Door Salesman in the 1950’s

PART 1
I was six years old in 1956 when a salesman came to the door selling accordion lessons. He apparently convinced my mom and dad that I was a musical prodigy. They rented a small 8-bass accordion (the number of buttons on the left side) and bought a first set of lessons.

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I don’t remember those early lessons, but I do remember that they were followed by more lessons and then the rental of a larger 12-bass accordion and then an even larger 48-bass accordion. In time, I was taking lessons twice a week at an accordion music studio not far from my home in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Apparently I was doing well, even if the prodigy part was not yet confirmed.

Both of my parents were musical. My father loved to sing and was a member of a barbershop quartet and the church choir.  My mother played piano when she was young and would occasionally play for us on an old piano in the basement. (We had a small house and nowhere else to put it). I assume they decided that they wanted me to be musical, too.

I recently bought a book called Squeeze This!: A Cultural History of the Accordion in America to see where my own story fit into the bigger story of the 50’s and 60’s. I learned, for example, that the door to door salesmen were fairly aggressive and well commissioned. As they went from home to home in a neighborhood, they would offer tests of children to assess musical abilities.  They would even come around at dinnertime to get both mom and dad involved in the decision. If they made the sale, they could usually count on at least a couple of rounds of lessons and accordion rentals.

This door to door selling was targeted toward middle-class working families and was limited primarily to the Midwest, the West Coast and the upper East Coast.  (A friend in Asheville, however, said that his parents bought accordion lessons for him from a door to door salesman in Atlanta.)

In the 50’s, the accordion was a big deal.  It was one of the most studied instruments in the country and purchases of accordions soared to over 250,000 by the middle of the decade.

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If you grew up in the 50’s, you’ll remember that the Lawrence Welk television show was extremely popular. Mr. Welk (“Wunnerful, Wunnerful!”) played accordion with his orchestra. But Myron Floren, a regular accordionist on the show, was younger and better looking.

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Myron Floren on the Lawrence Welk show, early 50’s

Here’s Myron “live” playing an accordion classic, Lady of Spain.

In the 50’s, there were also hundreds of accordion music studios across the country, an increasing number of accordion orchestras and lots of competitions.

Although two other kids in my neighborhood took a few lessons, neither of them kept up with it like I did. I had my own “music room”, practiced at least a couple of hours each day and more in the summer, and liked being the musical child in the family. I wanted to get better.

And I did.

By the time I was 10, I was playing solos at my grade school band concerts and getting enthusiastic applause from the audience of parents. I played songs like Flight of the Bumble Bee, Lady of Spain and Moon River from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

My grandfather, whose father came to the US from Germany, was a butcher by trade. He was a big man with a big laugh, a love of bratwurst, and an even bigger love of polkas. He insisted that I play polkas at family gatherings to much cheering, clapping and dancing. He couldn’t get enough of the Beer Barrel Polka. I could.

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The movement in the 50’s was toward classical accordion and away from the instrument’s use in barrooms and vaudeville acts with ethnic and folk songs, including polkas. (Accordions were initially introduced to America in the early 1900’s from Europe and took off in popularity around World War I).

As I got older, my parents bought me a much bigger, 120-bass electric, amplified accordion and I began playing classical music – Bach, Beethoven, Vivaldi and more. I was being taught by a Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra violinist, and played once a week in an accordion symphony orchestra which he directed. It consisted of about fifteen 10 to 18-year-olds and we would perform around the city.

The key to playing classical accordion was in the management of the bellows … smooth, consistent bellowing was the gold standard. No standing up and dancing around the room playing crass, low-brow ethnic music! Classical accordionists were seated for performances and braced the bellows on the left thigh for control. Accordions had gone high-brow!

At age 13, I began entering competitions around the state, traveling by bus with my mom. At one of them, I played Sabre Dance, a difficult Russian ballet movement in which dancers performed with Sabres. It was extremely fast, discordant and challenging – which was encouraged by competition organizers in order to score higher points.

Here is my photo and ribbon:

1964 Regional American Guild of Music Competition

1964 Regional American Guild of Music Competition

At age 14, I began teaching accordion at my music studio. In retrospect, I probably wasn’t legally allowed to work, but no one told me that at the time.  I made a little money teaching young kids and even a couple of adults for a year or so.

I was, they tell me, an accomplished accordionist. The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra was even considering adding an accordion position and I could be a candidate, they said.

And then… just like that … it all ended.

NEXT WEEK PART 2: How the Beatles ended my musical (accordion) career.

Cathy Green

A NON-Partisan Take on What We All Learned from the Debate

As you know by now, Cathy and I do not get into politics on FabulousOver60.  We think there are places for that from the local diner to the internet; or from your own Facebook page to zillions of obscure or heavily-trafficked sites.  I bet if you have read our blog for a while you can guess by now that Cathy leans center right, and I lean center all the way to the left, but it doesn’t matter.  “Fabulous”, as we describe it, is not political – so welcome all. Even if you don’t care about this election, hate everyone running, or planning to vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein.

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Here are the truths barring repeating and the implication for us fabulous women:

1. People don’t change without TONS of effort and work.  Even with extensive work, practice, and a sincere effort to change, it is extremely challenging. 

If you missed the book The Power of Habit – it is time to read it.  If you have read it, just do a quick re-read.

IMPLICATION: Give yourself a break that you haven’t lost that 10 lbs., quit drinking, gone back to more frequent religious services or trying to keep your voice down (one of my continuing but often failed improvement strategies).

2. Sometimes you can’t help yourself – somebody just pushes your buttons.

IMPLICATION:  Do you even know your buttons?  Any fabulous woman should know them cold.  And, before any interactions with potential “button pushers” remind yourself not only not to respond, but plan ahead to avoid tension.  Example: Dinner with your cousin John, the sincere but over the edge supporter of the natural look (he’s a mess and he loves that his wife has gone gray)?? Wear something you consider “the most boring thing in your closet” and do not color your roots.

3. Lying is natural.  But consider the topic.

*We are told roughly around 200 lies per day. *On average, we lie 3 times per every 10 mins of conversation, 60% have a hard time without lying at least once. Most lies are harmless white lies like “nice haircut” or “yeah, all is good!”

IMPLICATION: It is OK to do what I did: to tell my mother, who was suffering from dementia in 1998, that my wedding was in a Catholic Church and Bill had gone to Rome to talk to the Pope and had gotten an annulment.  It is not OK to say tell people stray gossip that is hurtful and vicious.  It is OK to say, for example, “you look awesome”.  It is not OK to say your cancer is ‘“all in your head” and you need to buy supplements from me’. There are lies and then there are lies. Use that fabulous head of yours to comply with “telling the truth” that matters.

4. Manage your facial expressions and your gaze.

IMPLICATION:  Rolling your eyes as your sister tells you she has so many men calling her she doesn’t know who to choose to take her to the most expensive restaurant in town is fine.  But it is terrible to roll your eyes when your grown daughter, niece or dear friend is sharing that she is considering getting a divorce.  Look people in the eye with compassion, keep yourself composed and skip the “schoolmarm” or “queen bee I am above it all look” when tension is flying.

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5. Finally, be smart. Drop topics you don’t want to get into and rise above the nonsense.

IMPLICATION: Being smart in all senses of that word is the essence of being fabulous – along with being kind and “staying on your own yoga mat”.  Avoid or drop subjects of deep division with those you love and those you need to pretend you love. Stand for peace – with or without a sign. Be the model for sophisticated ease and grace.

If you are like us, you are counting the days till November 8th and not because you are worried you will miss the minute by minute polling. But not using this unique opportunity in this contentious election cycle not to brush up on being fabulous would be a big mistake. Thank God no one will be discussing that mistake in a round table of experts later this week, or weeks to come. Oh, but do vote.

Patty Gill Webber

Reflections on Turning 66

I celebrated my birthday last week.

I enjoyed the presents from my husband, the birthday wishes from friends and business colleagues, and the great food and wine at the Inn on Biltmore Estate. I’ve always liked the special attention I get on my birthday and shamelessly promote it, even posting this photo on Facebook.

Enjoying my birthday Cosmo

Enjoying my birthday Cosmo

But this birthday freaked me out a little. It struck me that 66 years of age is now closer to 70 than 60, and the thought of being a 70-year-old is scary.

The good news is that I know a lot of women and men in their 70’s (both friends and public figures) who are vital, sharp, attractive and happy. I also know people in their 70’s, however, who spend a lot of time unwell or unhappy or both.

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Since I definitely want to be among the former types of 70-year-olds, I started thinking about what I’ll need to do in the next few years as I sneak up on that big number.

First, I know I’ll need to stay active. I don’t like to exercise. Never have. Never will. But I have worked out in a gym twice a week for years, pushing myself to lift those weights, do those squats and get on and off benches and floors. A personal trainer once told me that “making friends with the floor” is one of the mantras that older people should adopt in order to be able to handle falls in later life. Sigh!

I also walk most days, a task made easier because my labradoodle won’t have it any other way. (Maybe dogs are the answer to keeping us in shape?)

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I will need to do whatever I can to stay healthy. Although there’s no way to guarantee it, I’ve had enough experience with my own health and the health of people close to me to understand that a combination of eating well, having annual check-ups and staying aware of my own body’s signals can make a big difference.

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I will need to stay closely connected with the right friends and important family members. Superficial relationships are OK once in awhile, but the key is being with people who are positive, curious, caring and involved in enjoying life. They are the ones who will help keep me positive, curious, caring and involved.

I will need to continue to live in a place that makes me happy. Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to live in three places and in three homes that I truly loved. Now, at 66, I enjoy living in the mountains in a home that makes me smile. I also enjoy Asheville and will need to continue taking advantage of what it has to offer.

This is my favorite artist’s painting of Asheville. Jeff Pittman

This is my favorite artist’s painting of Asheville. Jeff Pittman

I will keep caring about looking good. Not obsessively — no multiple plastic surgeries, for example. But I’ll use good skin cream, I’ll dress up to go out to dinner, I’ll spend more money than I should to get a good hair cut and color, I’ll continue to have my nails done every couple of weeks, and I’ll occasionally buy a new pair of black pants (what else!) or a new handbag and shoes.

I’ll continue to write, although maybe not this blog.  Patty and I started the blog site when we both turned 60. She asked me the other day whether I thought we would be up for writing “Sensational Over 70” blogs. I’m not sure. But writing is something I’ve always enjoyed. It keeps me thinking and it just makes me feel good, so in some way or another, I’ll keep doing it.

Lastly, I’ll continue to make it my number one priority to enjoy being with Ray. I know I’m lucky to be able to be growing older with the love of my life.

And, even better, he’s already 70 and doesn’t seem to care that I’ll be joining him soon.  He even told me I looked beautiful on my birthday.

He’s a keeper, right?

Cathy Green

September 2016

Do We Still Need “Best” Friends?

Friendship has been a cornerstone of my life since the earliest days.  In 1953, at age 3, I met my best friend Michelle at a half way point (a large rock) between our suburban homes which were 4 houses apart.  At that stage I somehow knew that life without her wasn’t as much fun, and we both understood we could share anything and everything and it was just between us.  Our friendship did not survive forever – though a few years ago we connected by phone and tried to “catch up”. It was a great call, but Michelle no longer is the only one I want to be with.  And that is OK.  She was an awesome “best friend” as a little kid.

In 8th grade, I met Joan at a “Math Fair” at a college connected to the private high school we were set to attend together come 9th grade.  Not sure why, but we just “clicked” and became lasting and incredibly joined at the hips best friends who shared and grew up together as teens, figured out being smart together, how to be  good people, how to share and explore feelings, and also how to be grown up career girls as soon as we could.  Many wondered at our closeness — I was an outgoing and bold girl, Joan was quiet, introverted and rather risk adverse.  But we became BFs and explored so much of life together before we were nearly middle-aged and drifted apart as our life choices and life experiences pulled us in different directions and locations.  Am planning to see Joan next year at our mutual 50th high school reunion next year – we will hug and always know we shared a unique special bond.  She really was an awesome best friend when I needed one.

Teen best friends

Teen best friends

As a 34-year-old single working woman, I met Alayne when I moved to a small town near NYC and went about growing my work expertise and expanding my business. We lived in the same apartment building on the same floor – she, newly broken up with a long-term boyfriend and was working successfully — me into my career with a complicated love life.  In any case, we spent lots of time together and bonded as special and yes “best” friends.  We both were at a place in our lives that made  “hanging out together” and constantly sharing and talking the easiest and simplest—and yes, best way, to handle our lifestyles and pressing life issues.  Alayne was in my wedding in 1998 and a few years later literally dropped out of my life – she moved, I tried unsuccessfully to stay in touch with her, but she clearly wanted or needed to disappear.  I was extremely sad over this loss, but again treasured the times we had as “besties”.

My “best friends” Michelle, Joan and Alayne played important roles in my life.  They were part of who shaped me and part of how I became pre-fabulous.  The importance and enduring memories of our times together will always be a source of big smiles and a tug to my heart.  But now, as a fabulous over 60 woman, you may have found, as I have, that the concept of a “best friend” isn’t really relevant anymore.  Friends are more essential than ever, critical to our lives and our health, but defining one person or several as “best friends” seems somehow not just old- fashioned but childish and diminutive.  Being best friends was all about exclusion and needing absolute acceptance and reinforcement of ourselves as we were developing but hardly yet independent. Now, as interdependent older women, we need intimacy, support, and closeness – but we no longer need or want relationships that exclude others nor find it useful or beneficial to have friends who can’t disagree with us.

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Patty and Cathy

Friendship is a MUCH BIGGER concept to me than it used to be.  Friendships now include a variety of relationships – each unique and special and necessary, but not filled with nagging or long-practiced obligations.  I now recognize that every friendship forms and evolves – some last, others do not.  The reasons these friendships last or not are endless but ultimately unimportant.  We have wonderful friends in our lives at this stage because we want to.  We actively choose these special people to spend our shrinking and valuable time with.  We “release” those who are no longer a fit as friends, just wishing them well on their life journey. Sometimes a “friend” is a new person we just feel compelled to know and “be with” and we make it happen.

Patty with friends

Patty with friends

FabulousOver60 women have learned to comfort ourselves. We still need support and comfort from those we love, but we don’t need to be rescued.  Great friendship expands us now.  It helps us be smarter and better people.  The relationships are fun, supportive, and respectful of our own lives and needs – as well as supportive of our friends’ lives too.  We don’t ask our friends to be our mother, shrink, or solvers of problems and challenges that are our own responsibility.  We ask for advice from some, we avoid asking others.

We listen carefully to our friends.  We “read” when they need us and get ourselves THERE — and we know how to allow our friends the space and privacy they need till ready to share.  Our friends are those who accept us as we are.  We, in turn, accept them as they are.  No one is likely our ‘bestie’ anymore – we know all the great friendships we have are the surest way out there to add joy, peace, calm, insight, support and laughs to our lives.

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I am always saying “less is more” in Fabulous blog posts — let me take that back when it comes to friends.

Patty

 

 

Welcome “Just Turned 60” Fabulous Women!

Last night our charming waitress shared she was turning 60 “very soon”.  She had that panicked look I did when I was in that same rather terrifying situation 6 plus years ago.

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It struck me that many of you might be JUST turning 60 or have a friend who is and need some support as you tip over the line into being truly FabulousOver60.

Cathy and I have been writing our blog for quite a while – so we are VERY comfortable being FabulousOver60 and are almost (though not quite please GOD) thinking about coming up to SensationalOver70 – no plans on that for at least 3 or 4 years!

So you are turning 60. . . Happy birthday!

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  1. It takes getting used to so don’t expect a big bell to go off and you arrive in fabulous land. Your 50s went on a long time and were filled with much turmoil as is typical of the age.  Working remains front and center, shifting family relationships cause lots of planned and unplanned change, and fighting the menopause nightmare 30 lbs. keeps you up if the first two don’t.  Relax, you can finally lose the weight without cutting your head off and you get very used to personal and professional change and have it in greater perspective.  If you aren’t used to constant change by now you haven’t been paying attention.
  2. Don’t dwell too much on this being the beginning of the final third of your life. It is, but there is so much going on that preparing for the end is just a bit premature.  You are not in denial as much as just knowing that if you lasted this long, you likely have a way to go.  But do get a copy of Younger Next Year – taking care of yourself is definitely a major priority now.
  3. Remember that the way your Mom, Aunt, or cousin handled their 60s will likely not offer much relevant guidance. 60 is not the new anything except the new 60 – but options have increased, change is not only more rapid but more comfortable than ever. That is, unless you stopped growing as a person somewhere in your 40s. If that is the case, get thee to therapy – you are NOT ready to be FabulousOver60.
  4. Less is more is not only true, but as you go through your 60s you will find the urge to purge growing more intense. You will love throwing out things at the same level you used to be thrilled buying things, and you will have a simple phrase to use to make decisions. You don’t need MORE, but you do need higher quality everything.  Better shoes, a better handbag, better friends who are not just in your life due to the fact that they always have been, better manicures, better more thoughtful books, conversations, and value.  The sooner you get to this place the better.
  5. A new life – yes, a new life filled with new and fresh choices. It is time to travel, move, consider alternatives, start or stop dating, recommit to your marriage or get divorced, actively engage with your faith preference, renew your commitment to being a great citizen and overall being a better, finer person.  Like wine you go bad or you get awesome.  Choose wisely – we can tell you that all of these things make being 65 very sweet – or just another birthday.

Welcome to the club.  It is a wonderful place to be if you take personal responsibility for making it your best decade ever.  One thing is for sure – and we keep saying it here at FabulousOver60 – it’s all about your attitude and your effort – it always has been about that hasn’t it?  So somethings do NOT change, which is a good thing.

Patty

Cataracts? Could It Possibly Be That Time Already?

Here’s the good news!

Dr. Sean beamed at me as he pushed back from my eye examination.

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He is probably in his mid- 30’s, but he looked like a 12-year old who had just completed the final level of a video game.

Your eyes are healthy!

Great! Now I braced for the bad news.

Well, it isn’t really bad news.

Your cataracts haven’t grown much, so the light flashes you’ve been experiencing in that left eye are due to dryness and irritation from your contact lenses. I’ll be prescribing antibiotic eye drops for a month. And, there’s no sign of glaucoma or macular degeneration… yet.

Yet?

The dry eye and antibiotics information barely registered. That seemed pretty benign. And glaucoma and macular degeneration sounded like things I could put off worrying about for awhile.

Instead, I focused on the part about cataracts. They haven’t grown too much? That means they’ve grown, right?

Dr. Sean patiently explained that all of us (how nice of him to include himself, don’t you think?) will get cataracts as we… cough, cough… get older.

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They get worse over time, but it’s not a big deal, he said.  At some point we just have to have them removed from our eyes.

Removed …  that means cut out.

So, when will I need to have it done?

He smiled and patiently explained that my cataracts could suddenly grow larger or it could take another few years

We’ll know when it’s time, he said kindly and I thought he was going to pat me on the head.

When I got home with my antibiotic eye drops, I went immediately to my primary self-diagnosis website, WebMD.

“Cataracts cloud the lens of the eye, and can affect people of any age, but are most common in men and women age 65 and older.  Approximately 75 percent of people age 75 and older have cataracts.”

 

So, I’m definitely in the age zone. But what exactly are cataracts?

“A cataract is a progressive, painless clouding of the natural, internal lens of the eye. Cataracts block light, making it difficult to see clearly.”

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“Over an extended period of time, cataracts can cause blindness”

Now that’s scary.

Here’s what else I learned, in no particular order of additional scariness:

  • Outpatient cataract surgery involves removing the clouded lens via suction. (Suction in my eye?)
  • The lens is replaced with a clear, artificial, plastic one. (I’ll have plastic permanently residing in my eye?)
  • It’s the most frequently performed surgery in the US, with 1.5 million surgeries done each year. (That’s a lot of Porsche payments for ophthalmologists.)

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  • At least 90 percent of people who have cataract surgery have vision improvement. (What about the other 10%?)
  • The operation lasts less than one hour and is almost painless. (Almost?)
  • Most people choose to stay awake during the operation (Are you kidding me?)
  • Someone will need to drive you home. (As if you have to make a special point of this?)

I actually know quite a few people who have had cataracts removed.  They’re happy. They say they got instantaneous great results. They say they should have done it sooner. They say it’s a piece of cake.

I’m glad for them, but I just don’t like the thought of eye surgery for me.

I was never one of those people, for example, who was brave enough to do LASIK eye surgery to correct my farsightedness, even when it was trendy.  I had enough problems just getting used to my contact lenses and remembering where I put my glasses.

But since I plan to be around into my 90’s, playing golf and streaming videos on my iPad (or its equivalent in the 2040’s), this surgery doesn’t look like it’s going to be optional.

But I think I’ll opt not to be awake.

Cathy Green

My Vagabond Summer (Of Love)?

Some of you may know our lifestyle changed in 2015 to owning just one house in Tucson, Arizona.  We have spent this summer of 2016 trying to get out of the Tucson heat – obviously that hasn’t worked too well.  The whole country seems to be sizzling or pouring rain – sometimes both.  We have driven or flown to various places renting apartments, houses and also staying in between rentals with family and friends.   We have been in Santa Fe, NM, Yardley, PA and Long Island, NY – still ahead are NYC, San Francisco, White Plains, NY, Asheville, NC and Atlanta – all before returning home to Tucson in October. Like most plans, much of what we were certain would happen did not happen (we did not mind being in the witness protection program as one of our dearest friends described this lifestyle), and new things came up that have turned into gems of experience.

Here’s a few highlights:

  1. We confirmed our love for Santa Fe. It is a magical, artistic, historically a very Hispanic town with charming architecture, warm people, nearly perfect weather and a real liberal vibe.  Spending time there is like taking a course in the country’s colonial past, art history, and kindness. We made new friends with an old friend of mine from college who I had forgotten lived in Santa Fe – she and her husband fit all the descriptions above.

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  1. We rented a house in Yardley, PA without a washer or dryer. I referred to this in an earlier blog.  The surprising event was becoming friends with the manager of the store and her niece who helped us figure out how to get back in the groove of Laundromats – we discussed work, getting raises, school, politics, and life and got along famously.  I found the connection with these great people that we have little externally in common with, super interesting and amazingly comforting for the future of our country.
  1. Episcopal churches are everywhere and yet extremely consistent. The churches are beautifully traditional and, of course, old (many were built when towns were founded), situated in the heart of downtowns, and only occasionally more than half full.  One is always greeted by people who recall the 1950s style we grew up with – charmingly formal in the sense of respecting boundaries and not assuming “being your new best friend” – softly open and welcoming, low key and anxious to make you feel you belong. It is the America some of us grew up in frozen in time.  I love these church visits and the sensitive sermons and people – like Stacy, the manager of the laundromat, comforting in these loud mouthed, obnoxious times.

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  1. I read serious books that touched my soul. Among them were Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me; Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, and The Winter Fortress: The Epic Mission to Sabotage Hitler’s Atomic Bomb by Neal Bascomb.  I feel I actually learned something real, intimate and important about being/growing up African-American, Chinese-American, and Norwegian.  The bravery of these books, their glimpse into realities of people I could never really know expanded my sense of what it means to be a human being.
  1. Finally, I fell in love. With John (not his real name of course), a late 50ish beyond handsome physician (sort of a mature JFK Jr) who is neighbor and friend to friends of ours.  Like the old time falling in love of 1960s it was both intensely sexy (in my dreams) and totally innocent with absolutely no basis in reality of any kind.  I saw him playing fetch with his black lab on the beach looking happy and carefree.  He then was introduced to me and I knew “he was the one”.  Though of course he is totally someone else’s.  Like our fabulous teen/young adult love for Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, and Rock Hudson it was both unrequited and impossible. A reminder that the pure joy of hearing “see you in September” is coming up next.

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Being a vagabond is working for us.  I could share so many more stories about how being loose and moving frequently is making us stay in the present moment and give up judging others.  But to be honest, I admit some nights I am looking forward to being HOME.  We fabulous women love change, our treasured summer memories, and yet miss our comforts too don’t we?

Patty

Do I Use The Word “Great” Too Much?

Golf course attendant: How was your golf game today, Ms. Green?

Me: Great! Thanks.

Waiter: How was your dinner this evening?

Me: Great! Thanks.

Anyone:  How are you doing today?

Me: Great! Thanks. 

I think I’m overusing the word great, but I’m not sure what to say instead.

According to the dictionary, I am using great in its informal variation which means very good or satisfactory.

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If suppose I could use “very good” more often.  Or maybe “fine”. But they sound quite a bit less great than great.  How are you doing today? Fine.  (Hmmm… what’s her problem?)

Saying “satisfactory” is even less satisfactory.  How was your dinner? Satisfactory. Thanks. (Alert: smaller tip on the way)

If I were younger, I could say “awesome” or “amazing” or “incredible” like the millennials. But at my age?

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If I were older, I could say A-OK, super-duper or honky-dory, but only my assisted living roommates would get it.

I suppose I could say “delightful” or “splendid” or “lovely”, but those sound pretentious. How was dinner?  Delightful, my dear. Such a splendid trout almondine.

I could also say “fantastic”, “fabulous*”, “terrific” or “marvelous” but those are considerably more bullish sounding than the word great, so I’d have to be in a really, really great mood to use one of them. (There I go again).

*This blog site is called Fabulous over 60. Great over 60 would have sounded a lot less fabulous, don’t you think?

I’m obviously not alone in my overuse of the word “great”.  

In a column by Asheville Citizen-Times columnist Nancy Williams called Surviving the Other Party’s Convention, she writes about a competition she had with her sister during both presidential conventions this year:

Competition. We play Exer-jargon, a game we made up where we each pick a word for the other sister, who has to do a sit-up every time the word is said. Couldn’t be a proper noun. I picked “country.” She picked “great.” I didn’t keep count of who did how many sit-ups, but I’m telling you politicians need some synonyms for great. It’s overused. I just stayed on the floor and waited. I got several double-whammies for things and people who are great, great whatevers.

Exer-jargon sounds like fun. Certainly a lot more fun than watching the conventions.

I searched the internet for lists of the most overused words. To my surprise, great was NOT on any of them, but awesome and amazing and incredible were. Take that, millennials!

By the way, some of the most overused words on recent lists were:

Literally

Seriously

Absolutely

Basically

Really

And…

Whatever!

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I seriously would never use the word whatever, but I absolutely use the others a lot. Really!

So, even though it didn’t make the overused words lists, is it a great idea for me to be so greatly dependant on one single word to describe a great dinner, a great conversation, a great day or a great golf game?

Or is there a great alternative?  Help!

Cathy

Grandmother Blues

Saw my granddaughters Reagan (10) and Morgan (7) this weekend.  The weather was horrible, we are in a rental a few hours away and it seemed we did more driving than visiting.  Although we did have time for a great dinner at home, watching the movie Zootopia, and playing a game that involved headbands and guessing about the card you could not see placed in your headband.  When we left (in less than 24 hours) I felt that I just didn’t get to share as much as I had hoped.  But, we had long standing dinner plans, so that made us feel we needed to stay with our plans and leave.

The truth is, the lifestyle we have now is not making it easy to be a fabulous grandmother.  We used to have a house in the northeast, which though a couple of hours away from our daughter and her family, allowed them to come visit for a weekend multiple times in the late spring and summer months. Having sold that house and having our home base now in Tucson while we spend the late spring and summer in various rentals around the country, we do not have a convenient home base to host our children/grandchildren.  Of course we can visit them, which we are doing, but we can’t have them “come to our house” except for their trip/s to Tucson – which is far away from their base in the New York suburbs.

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There are several reasons we made the choice to switch up our lifestyle that include age, health, and preferences of how we want to spend our older years.  We do believe we have made the best choice for us.  But I am beginning to own that it was not the best choice for our granddaughters.  They just don’t have the casual time in our house they used to and really do not get as much quality time with us as they did.  And that is making me blue.

It seems this is like much of life – making a choice for one thing, means something else, or someone else gets less.  And certainly this is the case here.  And now, I am trying to get my balance about that.  Trying to reconcile being fabulous while being a bit less so in the grandmother role.  What I am slowly discovering is that I need to get more creative – and lose the guilt. Guilt doesn’t help and truly I do not need to feel guilty for choosing an option that essentially is best for my husband and myself.

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Believing that my responsibilities include being a good, if not great, grandmother, dictates that I consider the consequences of some of my choices and adjust.  So I am now committing to more of iPhone’s FaceTime, and virtual connection and more visits and special trips planned in advance that build quality time.  I am going to stop being blue and start being more organized about having my granddaughters always know I care about them and see them as a priority.  Which means, that my total flexibility to see lots of different friends when we are in rentals near our children has to get cut back – I cannot see all the people we want to and meet my top goals.  I now realize that I have to be willing to do that even though it means some friendships will have to fall by the wayside to make room for being more available and flexible for our granddaughters.

This blog has been hard to write.  I keep waiting for things in my life to get easier.  But life keeps reminding me that as Dr. Scott Peck said: “life is difficult” and takes persistence and work and moving parts around the table and changing and readjusting.

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No, I don’t have to stop making the best choices for Bill and myself, but I have to admit and rearrange my life to make sure what is second, third and fourth in my life can all get done.  While the lure of whining is great – the truth endures.  Watch what happens when choices start to bring consequences (every one of them does) – and make the adjustments you need to.  Life really is a continuous round of learning – and learning always has been at the heart of being fabulous.  I can go back to being a fabulous grandmother if I make the right adjustments.

Yes, dear fabulous sisters, it always comes down to this sometimes very uncomfortable truth – WE have to do the changing.  Fabulous doesn’t work any other way.

Patty

If In Doubt…. Don’t Press Send!

Emails have been in the news a lot these past few months… and not in a good way. Just this week, Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was found to have sent emails that shouldn’t have been sent and which she does regret sending.

It reminded me of a blog I wrote in late 2013 about the importance of being careful using emails in emotionally charged situations. Although they appear to be a great way to have quick communication, they also have an incredible power to disrupt both friendships and careers. Here is my original post.


I was reminded this past week about the potentially destructive power of email. Two couples … friends of ours and of each other … are no longer speaking. The rupture is so bad that it’s difficult to imagine how it can be repaired.

The issue isn’t as important as how it was handled. The first couple – who now admit that their first email was a mistake – sent it anyway. The response from the second couple was highly emotional – “scathing” is a word I’ve heard used to describe it. In fact, the clear message was that the friendship was over. The first couple sent another email apologizing and explaining. There has been no response.

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I haven’t actually seen any of the emails and I’ve only talked to the first couple about them. However, I think I understand the situation well enough to say that the emails … all of them … should never have been written or, more importantly, sent. In fact, I suspect that they were difficult to write and that both parties wrote at least a couple of versions of them. I also suspect that if everyone was being totally honest with themselves and others, they would say that they wish they could take them back.

Not too long ago, I was angry with an out of state friend. Again, the reason isn’t important. I immediately sat down and wrote an email. Then I wrote another version. I didn’t think I had the right tone, so I wrote it again. This one was better, but I still had a nagging suspicion that it didn’t capture the issue well enough. I decided to wait and try later. The issue weighed on me the rest of the day. I composed different versions of the note in my head. And then I began to think about receiving it as if I were my friend.

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That’s when it hit me. This issue was not an email issue. It required a phone call… a real discussion. So the rest of that day and the next I thought about the conversation rather than the words I’d use in an email. It was difficult to pick up the phone to call… but it was absolutely the right thing to do. I learned that my friend felt conflicted by the issue too. We had a great discussion and resolved it easily. A weight had been lifted off my shoulders and we were better friends than ever.

I can’t say that I’ve never sent an email I regret. But I think I’m even less likely to do it in the future given the recent sad story of my two friends.

When I talked to Ray about it, he said that Billy C. Owen, his Master Chief in the Navy, used to say: “Once you pull the trigger, you can’t get the bullet back in the gun.”

The wrong email is like a bullet you can’t get back.

So, I have a new rule for myself: If an issue is potentially emotional, if it’s difficult to write, or if it could be misinterpreted, I’m going to pick up the phone or … even better, if possible … have a face-to-face discussion.

I wish one of our sets of friends would do that now. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not too late?

Cathy Green

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