Saks Fifth Avenue

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

Being a Bit Naïve – Not Always Funny!

I am not a “been there/done that” sort of woman. Things have and still seem to surprise me. When young, naïve was an understatement to describe my lack of sophistication and savvy. My all time “who knew” story was being asked by a guy at 22 to meet him at the Harvard Club. Yes, I did manage to find it, and yes, I asked for “John Smith” who promptly appeared in the lobby area.

Unfortunately the idea of Harvard as a private club somehow eluded me — I commented to him and a few of his friends that it was interesting that the “Harvard Club” – a public place in my mind – looked and felt like everyone on the walls in those rather grim portraits, and right now standing in the lobby could have ACTUALLY GONE TO HARVARD. Looking at me now as a sophisticated woman of a certain age it seems impossible I could have uttered this HUGE faux pas — but yes sister fabulous women, I did.

harvard_club1

Harvard Club

Needless to say John sneered and sent me packing. I tell the story to remind myself and others in my life that I was not born at Saks Fifth Avenue nor raised on the main line of Philadelphia. But interestingly, though much more “seasoned” and exposed to all sorts of people, places and things, I remain more or less a trifle naïve. Not necessarily about which fork to use, or knowing Peter Michael is a great chardonnay not just a guy’s name, I mean naïve in the sense of wondering what in the world is going on here — how could this be happening?

Here are some recent shocks to my system. Am curious if you share my shock or just want to shout to me Patty, snap out of it – don’t be so naïve! More pointedly: when is it OK to be naïve and when does it literally become dangerous?

Shock One: Ben Bernanke was turned down for a mortgage. Yes, it seems the bank he applied to used an algorithm to block new loans to those just changing jobs — even if he is in the one percent and the former head of the Federal Reserve Bank.

President_Barack_Obama_meets_with_Federal_Reserve_Chairman_Ben_Bernanke_4-10-09

This article makes the point that common sense needs to come back into the mortgage system. Can you blame me for having missed the fact that human factors are no longer used in giving people mortgages? That amazed me — sure you can get a line of credit or a mortgage online, but when did your ability to demonstrate your reliability and financial responsibility lose out to a formula that excludes any personal judgment? This knowledge allows for a great deal more empathy to those who are still being told they can’t have a mortgage. Just laughing at the stupidity of the bankers who rejected Bernanke is not the point.

Shock Two: A long ago corporate client called me out of the blue this weekend. The call came 10 years or so after he had a personal crisis and retired from corporate life to get his life back in order. He indicated his wife was scheduled for surgery this week that is extremely serious — and he wanted me to know that even though we hadn’t seen each other in forever he was using the “wisdom” (his word) I had imparted to him years ago about corporate change and transformation and was using it to help he and his family deal with this stunning negative turn of events in their lives.

I was hugely flattered but amazed. I certainly never thought my corporate consulting work would help someone deal with the possible death of a spouse. Or, maybe I did or at least hoped whatever good I was doing went beyond just good things for the institution. And, it reminded me that what we say – and what we have said – really does matter always.

I was wrong to underestimate the impact I had on people I worked with and naïve to think that my words and actions at work did not have enormous impact.

Shock three: The Canadian capital of Ottawa is the scene of violence today and the story continues to unfold. Terrorism seems to be at issue here. Watching the historic Ottawa Parliament building in lockdown is unnerving. While ISIS did seem far away it is getting unnervingly close. The whole idea of people being “radicalized” and traveling to join various terror spots makes me uneasy. How could the story of freedom and democracy we grew up with fail to connect with a troubling number of people here, in Canada and Europe? What part have we all played in alienating some people so much that they want to join in a crusade against what we see as decency?

While being naïve can be very funny, it can also be dangerous. It can leave us unconcerned with issues that we seriously need to reflect upon and take action upon. As fabulous women we have to know when to laugh, but also when to stop laughing at women wanting to marry ISIS soldiers – and rather contribute to creating bridges of understanding in our own communities so even the thought of this is impossible. Fabulous women know when to be serious and take responsibility for modeling important interest and passion. Or we should.

Patty

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