Thursday, July 19, 2018

                    Stores I Can No Longer Shop In

     It is so disheartening to accept the fact that I am of the age when I can no longer frequent some of my favorite stores. I am now about three years past squeezing the youth out of this frame. No matter how I frame it, I can no longer pass for 60. Yup, 60. Who ever dreams of wishing people think you are 60? Moi. I love Free People, but I am no longer "free" to be you; I am, unfortunately, "free" to be me, and that's not necessarily a good thing in this context. 

     Tonight, I tried to tell myself that the sweet little floucy number at Free People was not too short or too youthful, but Mr. Wonderful, who is buying my birthday dress, set me straight. “Too short,” he smiled sweetly, but I knew he was really thinking, “Wtf is she thinking? Is she trying to be Taylor Swift?” So, I didn’t buy the sweet little number that showed my elephant knees. 

     Then I went to Macy’s to the big girl department. All the dresses were for women, for heavens sake. Who dresses like this? Ralph Loren? Karen Kane? Eileen Fischer? Grown women, that’s who. This is a difficult concept to swallow. Apparently, someone thinks that just because you are 75, you are a grown woman. Those dresses are for my grandma who would wear black tied clunky shoes and thick hose that looked like bandages. Oh, my. This is hard, folks. Old is hard. 

     Believe it or not, I did find a darling little number in the Ralph Loren department at Macy's, and we got the Maycy's.  I think it was really a Free People that had sat around for a while, so they put it out to hang with the big girls. It’s pretty cute, and I don’t even look like my Grandma in it. I loved my grandma more than anything, but fashion was never her gig. She preferred meatballs and lutefisk. 

     So, here I am with my pretty new dress ready for my birthday dinner out with Mr. Wonderful. Problem is that no one dresses up anymore. The dressiest I have seen any woman over 50 is a pair of white capris and a silk tent with glitter. I don’t care. I haven’t lived this many years to conform. I will dress up however I want, and if people choose to judge, let them. I won’t be aware of them after my first sip of giant Cosmo, so stare your heart out, folks. (Like anyone’s really watching)


     Finding a nice new pair of stilettos is even harder than a cute little dress. The new style is block heels. I saw a darling young woman wearing some tonight, and I must admit she looked cute, but they are too thick for me, and I don’t like the sound. It sounds like someone approaching on 2 x 4s. Nope, give me the little feminine click-click any day. I did find a darling pair of sandals, exactly like I was seeking. They were $495. Oh my. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

     There are so many things wrong with this picture from 1965. The first thing wrong is that I cannot be that old, and I have no idea who that person is sitting in slacks from some foreign country consignment store. And what’s with the peter pan collar? Is that one of those free-standing collars you stick into a sweater to look cool? Well, it didn’t work. 

     I don’t ever remember studying in bed. And why was someone taking my picture? My wonderful room-mate must have been playing tricks on me. We had such fun together! The best part is that we just met up in Berkeley, California after 53 years! She looks the same, adorable. Thank heavens, I do not. 

     And what about the dirty feet? Was I in a mud race before I returned to the sorority house to study? At least, I had the vertical stripes going, which I desperately needed in those days. 

     The photo placed so high up on the wall, you need a ladder to see it, appears to be a shot of my mother in some sexy pose from the 40s. Why on earth would I have hung that? I didn’t even like her, and she was always criticizing me so why would I want her up there? Oh, my. 

     This is so wrong, but hilarious! Believe it or not, it’s the only photo I have in 3 years in the sorority house at the University of Michigan where I had so many fond memories. I was the song leader, and we won the IFC Sing one year with my clever arrangement of Chattanooga Choo Choo with the Beta boys. I remember that my eyesight was so bad, I could barely find my way to the stage to get our trophy in the Angell Hall Auditorium. 

      As my grandson prepares to begin Loyola University in Chicago in less than a month, I remember well the butterflies in my stomach as I checked into my dorm for the first time (this was before Sorority Rush). It was with mixed emotions that I start a new life as a university student. I was scared, but excited. Soon, Ann Arbor became my home, and eventually the Alpha Delta Pi house replaced the dorm as my fun place to be. 

      I am confident that my grandson will find his niche quickly, and we will be even more proud of him than we already are. He is strong, focused and kind. As a matter of fact, he was voted the most KIND in his class. What an honor. Not the coolest, not the smartest, but the most kind. He is cool and very smart, but kind is a real honor in my book. The beauty is that he is very humble, and I pray he stays that way.

     So what’s the point? Be careful who you let photograph you. There were no deletes in those days:)


      

     

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

     Have you ever thought about the people who directed, encouraged or changed your career direction? Sometimes, someone shows up in our lives totally unexpected and gives us advice or says something offhand that can change our perspective.

     Last week-end, we had dinner with friends, and we got on the subject of career paths. We each talked about the people who played major roles in our careers and how.

    Mr. Wonderful was talking about a couple of people whose advice he heeded, and it made all the difference in his career. One man was a Management Recruiter who told him that he should go back to school. He said that he was wasting his time becoming a draftsman; he had too much talent. As a result, Mr. Wonderful did go back to school with no money in his pocket. He worked three jobs and went to school full time. It took him 5 years to graduate, but as a result of this man’s advice, Mr. Wonderful began his career as a Quality Control engineer with Ford Motor Company. While there, an upper level executive invited him to work on a new project which gave him opportunities to climb the executive ladder. Mr. Wonderful would never have retired after 40 years in the business as a successful Vice-President of Sales & Marketing, had those people not reached out to him and encouraged him to pursue the path he did. We never know who’s watching us.

     One of our friends talked about an incident when she was in Nursing School. Because she had the highest grade on a particular test, the professor called her in and told her she should pursue Med School instead of Nursing because of her extreme talent. Instead of being inspired, she was angry that the professor belittled the nursing profession, so she didn’t go to Med School. She had a very successful nursing career, but she said she regrets not having followed his advice. Happily, her son just graduated from Med School, and her husband is a very successful ENT surgeon. 

     I finished up the conversation by telling the story of being inspired by a flunky boyfriend from high school. We had dated a few times in high school, but he was older and I gave up on him. After I went away to Music School, he came by on Christmas break to tell me he was going to a low-level community college in Detroit. He spoke about a Philosophy professor he worshipped who had turned him onto academia. When I told him about my classes in Music School, he said, “Are you learning anything besides music?” I started thinking about it, and I decided that maybe my focus was, indeed, too narrow, and besides there were no cute guys in the practice rooms. So, because of that conversation, I changed my major to French (the only other subject I was good in and that I liked). As a result, I became a French teacher and enjoyed over 35 years in the classroom and traveled and studied in France at least 17 times. Not for a day have I ever regretted that decision, and my French teaching became my most prized accomplishment. 
Who knew? He was a D student. The ironic part of the story is that he later went on to Medical School where he was class president, and he became a doctor. I never found him to thank him, but it just proves that we never know who will guide us in our paths.

     Who inspired or discouraged you? Who can you inspire or encourage? 


     

Monday, July 16, 2018

    How do your friends influence you? Hopefully, the influence is positive. Reading an article in the New York Times about the company we keep, it suggests that we consider the three friends closest to us and ask how they influence us, if at all. The point is that our closest friends are generally those who influence us in positive ways. If they are doing the opposite, the question arises:  Why are we spending time with them? Sometimes our most toxic friends are ones with whom we spend significant time. Why would we do that? Habit? History? Masochism?

     It offered a short quiz in which you had to answer questions about yourself and your three closest friends. Interesting that I don’t know the eating habits of my friends, and I wasn’t sure about the exercise routine of one. The point of the quiz is that we are usually closest to those of like mind or ones whose minds we would like.

     For me, I can’t be close friends with someone who doesn’t listen or with someone who isn’t as interested in me as I am in them. I can’t be friends with negative people. There is enough negative in the world—I don’t need it in my face. I can’t be close friends with people whose values are not similar to mine. I cannot frequent people who brag, posture or embellish to the point of absurdity. I can’t be friends whose interests are so far removed from mine that I have nothing to discuss. There are many good people in the categories I have eliminated, but it is human nature to be attracted to those with whom we have the most in common. 

    Well, this may all be common sense, but the point of the article was how positive or negative people influence us. For example, if one of my close friends is talking about shoring up her exercise routine, I may go home and do the same. If a close friend is excited about a new way to market her product, I may go home and try to come up with some new creative ways to market mine. If my close friend is constantly doing kind things for others, I am more likely to focus on others whom I may have forgotten. Positive is contagious, if our minds are open and if we frequent the right people.

     I said to a woman at a meeting the other day, “If the person to whom I am speaking doesn’t leave our conversation feeling good about herself, then shame on me.” I have been accused of interviewing people for the purpose of writing about some topic on my blog. Well, what’s wrong with that? As long as I don’t use their names, and the message is positive or complimentary, what’s wrong with spreading the positive? 

    How can we learn about others, if we don’t ask questions? If you never ask me a question, I will not offer you anything but the superficial. Some people will just tell all, appropriate or not. There’s more of that in our culture than need be. I don’t need to know your life story to like you or to have empathy for things that have happened to you. In order to really know you, however, I need to understand the lens through which you see your world. 


      Think about the close friends you frequent and how they influence you. Hopefully, you walk away from them smiling, feeling good inside or being motivated in some positive way. More importantly, they are walking away from you feeling that way. Is it time to distance from some of the negative, toxic ones? Unless you are a therapist, you don’t need to solve everyone’s problems or listen to their constant venting. A little whine goes a long way. Cheers.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

           



         Next week-end, I will host a performance of my one-woman show in my home for 20 people, and two days later, I will host a wine and cheese book signing for 14 ladies. What else would I do to celebrate my 75th birthday? Some people would go out for dinner with family or friends; others might take a trip. Still others might hide under their beds. Not me. Nope, I need to put myself out there a few more times to prove to myself and everyone else there that I’m still thriving in my golden years. 

       I’ve mentioned previously that when I was in my late 20s, I sat on my grandma’s couch and asked her what it felt like to be her age. (She was probably in her late 60s at the time). She said, “I feel like I’m 25. I don’t feel a day older.” I was startled, as she certainly looked a lot older, but when you’re twenty-something, everyone over 30 looks “a lot older.” Well, guess what? I feel like I’m 25 too. I sure don’t look it, and I wouldn’t want to. Some women my age stretch their faces and spend thousands of dollars to try to hang on to their youth.
I’ve done a few things, but I’ve moved into the “acceptance” stage of aging, and I now just try to look the best I can with what I have left. (That would be about one ounce of collagen and a few lame hair follicles.)

     A young woman approached me at a meeting yesterday and said, “I love your outfit. I hope I look like you when I get older.” There was a day when that compliment would have depressed me, but it was a beautiful thing to say. I thanked her, and I walked back to my seat thinking, “Yup, that’s good enough.”

     When I was young, I never thought about aging. I had no conception of how fast the years would fly and how things I took for granted, like a smooth neck and a visible waistline would disappear. I never thought about good health or strong bones. My father used to tell me that if I didn’t have my health, I had nothing. I just shrugged and went about living on the edge. 

     I no longer compare myself to 50-somethings; I prefer to stand next to the 90-somethings. I try to expect less of myself and cut myself some slack when I can’t remember a name or a date. I try to keep my ego in check and my checks in balance, although i don’t write checks anymore.
I count my blessings daily, as I never know from one day to the next what will disappear, hurt or break. I am losing friends to horrific diseases and praying daily for those who are suffering. I think about all the things I can do, all the friends whom I treasure and the family who I don’t see often enough. 

     Age is a number. It can feel like a cruel number, but it really has no label unless we put one on it. My father lived to be 92, and he was healthy and thriving well into his late 80s. He never stopped doing his favorite things—playing golf and playing his piano daily. He ballroom danced with his significant other until he was close to 90. He always wore a handsome sport coat and elegant tie to the dance hall, and everyone loved him, especially me. His thick silver, wavy hair was always neat and his clean-shaven face always wore a smile. He was my hero.

     I hope that there is a small part of me that my children and grand-children will cherish and miss one day when I’m jogging up in heaven. (My knees will regain their resilience up there.)

     In the meantime, I have lots of performing, dancing, living to do. I can’t be sitting her typing all day. This isn’t a rehearsal, you know. Oops, yes it is. Performance in 7 days:)

     

     
       



Friday, July 13, 2018

     Time to clean the house. Our friends who are visiting tonight get the academy award for clean. They may not be expecting the house to be pristine, but I feel like it has to be so I will be on my knees scrub-a-dub-dubbing until my back cries out “WTF?!” 

     I will pepper my cleaning chores with fun things like planning the surprise birthday party for myself and rehearsing my lines for my upcoming show. Hmm. This is good, as my show is next week, and the house will be mostly clean for the 20 people who will enter ready to mess it up.


     Somehow, I will fit in some meditation, 2-3 minutes of Yoga for sore backs and a molasses cookie. 

     Cleaning sucks. Who came up with this idea anyway? Have you ever seen on a tombstone, ‘Died from dirt?” Nope. I didn’t think so. We end up in dirt so if we were destined for it, why are we spending our lives trying to get rid of it? How many diseases come from dust? How many ailments come from not Windexing every inch of glass? Who dies from a dirty veggie drawer? I rest my case.

     I could be spending this day out in nature, soaking up the sun, inhaling the fresh air, smelling new buds on the crocus (what is that anyway?) But no. I need to Swiff and scrub like Cinderella. Where is my effen knight when I’m done? I think he’s playing pickleball. 

      When I was a wee thing, my parents thought it would be “cute” for me to learn how to vacuum  north to south. What were my grandparents thinking with these two? Why would they be interested in learning such stupid things right off the boat? They should have been writing down the recipes for Swedish porridge and braided coffee bread. But no. 

      I remember my mother saying, “You aren’t going anywhere until you’ve cleaned your room.” Since March 7, 1951, I have resented cleaning my room. It seems to have carried over to all rooms, not just my room. Apparently, all the rooms are now “my” rooms. I hated cleaning mine then, and I hate cleaning all of mine now. By the time I’m through cleaning them all, I am too exhausted to go anywhere. Funny how those voices just won’t shut up. 

     I gave up yelling at my teen-age daughter to clean her room. I just closed the door. The spoons stood at attention under the bed stuck for weeks in hardened oatmeal. Now when I visit her home, she’s constantly sweeping the floor under my barstool.

     My father used to say, “Just get to work, and stop thinking about it. The doing is much easier than the thinking.” This is true. But just think about this:  Who gives you credit for cleaning your own house? I no longer get an allowance for it. I don’t get a certificate, and there’s no press release, “Sandy’s house is clean. Hallelujah! Amazing woman!” Nope. It’s just an “expected” job that pisses me off and wears me down. I think I’ll start with the cookie and think about whether any of this is worth it. 


      

Thursday, July 12, 2018

     Sometimes life gets complicated and messy. If we are patient (and I’m not), these times pass, and the sun shines through the clouds. Mr. Wonderful will occasionally say, “Why is this happening?” or “All this is happening at once.” Yup. That’s the muck of life; it has no boundaries regardless of how we try to set them.

     This has been a challenging week so far, but facing and enduring the challenges is all part of the wisdom we gain and the strength we muster. When something huge confronts us and we can maneuver through it, we chuckle when a little problem appears. I have not been chuckling, nope, no chuckling here.

     I believe that all the stress we endure in life (much of it our own making) can wear us down both physically and emotionally. We sometimes get physically sick after a stressful event, or we find ourselves struggling to focus. This is all normal based on the research I’ve done. “Normal” doesn’t help me cope; it just makes me mad that I’m not smart enough to have figured it out without dealing with the consequences. I guess that’s the beauty of sharing our problems and strategies with friends who can see things more clearly as they aren’t involved.

     I had lunch with a dear friend yesterday. We talked for hours as we always do about many things. She made a couple of simple statements that jumped out at me. One was a quote from a book she’d read, and the other was an observation that only an observant person could have offered. I immediately felt validated, and that helped me resolve my feelings of frustration over the issue I was struggling to understand. I will now call this “Thera-friend.” 

     Another friend messaged me this morning on her way out of town. This friend is dealing with physical issues way more than I could handle. She sent me a note about how to put my stress in perspective. Should I listen to her? You bet your life I should. She knows way more about dealing with crises than me so when she speaks, I listen. Both friends shared with love the wisdom and strength they’ve gained by their own life experiences. 

      I am the first to get my shoulders up when someone tries to tell me what to do, but when the someones offer out of love and caring, I pay attention.

     This morning, I woke up with huge black and blue marks on my arm. My aging skin can no longer endure turning over in bed, I guess. I looked at my ugly marks and immediately grimaced. I thought to myself, how must my friends with cancer feel when they wake up every morning with hair on their pillows or ports in their bodies? I will touch up my arm with make-up and move on. 

     Somewhere in my naive thinking, I thought that the older we got, the smarter and wiser we would become. I thought that by the time you were my age you wouldn’t have any problems other than just staying alive. Well, guess what? That’s really stupid. Problems don’t stop just because you’ve had enlightening life experiences. New ones crop up all the time. We have to adapt, regroup, shore up, man-up, cheer up. It’s all those “ups.” 

      Maybe the term should be “ther-up-y.” All I know is “down” is not fun, so I choose to UP-start my day and look for the sunshine.