George Bernard Shaw said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” If he’s right, I’m gonna live forever! 

Starting with pat-a-cake and peek-a-boo, I have been playing games with my grandchildren for the past nine years and don’t see that ending any time soon.  Who doesn’t love hearing an infant’s delightful little giggles when you “peek” with them!  Cuddling a grandchild on your lap for a round or two of pat-a-cake is fine way to spend some time together.

As much as I revel in cuddling un petit bebe, they certainly don’t stay little for long and quicker than grandma can figure out her iPhone, they become toddlers. As toddlers, unstructured free play presents little ones with endless opportunities to explore and interact with their world. I’ve spent many a morning and afternoon at the playground watching my little ones collect sticks, rocks and an occasional piece of trash into a treasured pile.  We played some simple hide and seek, rolled balls back and forth and had an occasional tea party.

Then even before the twins started kindergarten, we were playing board games like Chutes & Ladders, Candy Land and Count Your Chickens.  Isn’t it marvelous that an afternoon of fun is also teaching them to think strategically, follow rules and develop social skills?  

Playing board games is still high on our list of activities to do together. Currently in my traveling grandma bag I have a Michigan Rummy board, deck of cards and a whole lot of nickels.  I cannot begin to count the number of hands of Michigan Rummy we’ve played in hotel rooms, at Camp Grandma 2018, anywhere we get together.

I brought Michigan Rummy when we gathered for Mr. Smith’s 65th, but I also wanted to have some special games. I started by having a recent photo of him blown up into a poster so we could play Pin the Hat on Grandpa!  

When I couldn’t find quite the hats I wanted, I made my own.  Adapting patterns I found online (what did we ever do before the Internet???), I crafted a mighty fine beret, pirate hat and crown.  I used mounting putty to adhere the poster to the wall and to “pin” the hats on Grandpa.

Our other game was Grandpa Nick Bingo.  There are several online sites where you can create your own customized bingo cards for free! I entered a list of Grandpa Nick centric words and the program created some festive bingo sheets.  I used spray adhesive to mount these onto cardboard to give them a little more substance. Using my Michigan Rummy nickels as bingo chips, we played several rounds before the grand finale of “blackout” bingo.  All my grandchildren excel at yelling “Bingo!”

After pinning a hat on Grandpa or winning a round of bingo, the grandchildren were rewarded with some Grandpa Nick Greenbacks! Like accumulating “tickets” at Chuck E. Cheese, they accumulated these custom-made dollars. When the games were over, they took their Grandpa Nick Bucks to Grandpa to redeem a special prize just for them.

So, if George Bernard Shaw’s quote is true, my grandchildren are keeping me young.  One of my favorite childhood memories is sitting on my beloved Aunt Ruby’s lap while she and Uncle Ike played pinochle with my parents on Saturday nights.  She’d let me throw her cards for her and never seemed annoyed with me (although she may have been.)  Perhaps that’s where my love of playing games with family began, ensconced on the lap of the woman who taught me unconditional love.  I hope I leave my grandchildren with memories as treasured as mine.

C’est la vie.

Buy less, choose well… Vivienne Westwood

My life is about to change. I’m changing location and vocation, so this is a superb time to start transitioning my wardrobe. I have purged my existing closet of many fashion faux pas from my past and am ready to add some fun and reliable wardrobe pieces to perk up a closet full of safe neutral basics. Searching for the perfect transition wardrobe had me feeling like Goldilocks trying to find the perfect porridge. Not too dressy, not too casual, I want just right!

Online shopping is certainly easy (sometimes a little too easy!) but after ordering a couple of items which I thought would be perfect but had to be sent back, I decided to return to good ol’ brick and mortar. One of the benefits of having older sisters is that you can call them for just about anything! Jeanne has been a fashion muse of mine for many years, so it was natural to draft her into my shopping trip. She’s already abandoned the professional suit world, and while neither our styles nor bodies are identical, they are compatible. I trust her to tell me the truth and to push me to try on things I would have certainly passed by. To begin, I did a little research on the best stores for “women of a certain age” and we made a plan.

Be ready to spend A LOT of time in the dressing room!

Up early, we ate an energizing breakfast to sustain us on our mission. I made sure to dress in easy off/on clothing with minimal jewelry and we were off in search of clothing that would make me look and feel good. Earlier when discussing what stores we wanted to explore, I mentioned that I thought we could bypass Talbots. Talbots was my go-to store for many years for office-appropriate wear but their latest catalogs did not inspire me. It seemed there were lots of pastel scallops on items and I sensed they might make me feel dowdy or little girly. The same day I told her we could bypass Talbots, I received a Talbots email featuring a new linen collection! I was disappointed that many things in their linen collection weren’t available in the store, however, luckily I did score three great pairs of pants. These included a pair of summery coral colored chinos, something I never would have picked out. The pants were not my choice of color, but my pushy sister insisted I try them. They looked great which goes to show you need to try on things that are outside your comfort zone.

Stepping outside your comfort zone means you’ll probably end up trying on a few clunkers. I tried on this dress just to make my sister shut up!

I tried on a few tops, but didn’t purchase any even though my sister noted how great she thought this one looked on me:

While the blouse didn’t call my name, I think I’ll get lots of wear out of the pants I purchased.

Our next stop was Chico’s. I have never purchased anything at Chico’s, however with my change in lifestyle, we decided to give them a try and I’m glad we did. Along with a couple of cute casual tops, I came away with this fabulous linen shirt. The tag says “no iron”. We shall see.

In the past, Ann Taylor has also been a perpetual go-to for me. That seems to be changing or maybe their buyers have changed viewpoint. Anyway, I was able to find a great basic white linen tee-shirt.

At this point we broke for lunch of yummy lettuce wraps and fueled with coffee to continue.

Our next stop was J Jill. While not a huge fan in the past, the last few years I have been more and more drawn to their styles. I still need to keep in mind that the item must be flattering to me and not too shapeless or oversized. I was thrilled to find chocolate brown (they call Kona) linen pants and soft v-neck matching sweater that I believe will be a dependable addition to my wardrobe throughout the summer into fall. The pull-on flat front style of the linen pants has just a little stretch in them making them extremely kind to my 63-year-old middle!

Thanks, J Jill!

Our next stop was across the parking lot to the youthful Anthropologie. Many of their colorful boho-chic choices remind me of high school years when I rocked a bathing suit made out of bandanas! While admiring many of their lovely choices, in the past I tended to invest more money in sensible work wear. When we walked into Anthropologie, Jeanne was immediately drawn to some blowy, fabulous palazzo pants and I made a beeline towards a more tailored pair of ivory slacks with chic buttons all down one side (very Frenchy). I hadn’t worn anything like either of them before, but decided they were both worth a try. I loved (and bought!) both.

Anthropologie palazzo pants with J Jill linen sweater.

It was a great day and I have no buyer’s remorse.

  1. A shopping buddy with a view you trust is a great thing. Be open to their comments and take them seriously.
  2. “Casual” doesn’t mean cheap. I was looking for quality items that would hold up over time. Be sure and check the sales in the better shops. You can always add a bit of spark with more fun, trendy, affordable accessories. Some of the new plastic earrings are very cool and you never know where you’ll find them.
  3. Don’t look at sizes, look at the fit. Try on! Try on! Try on!
  4. It’s worth your time to come up with a wardrobe that makes you feel marvelous.

C’est la vie.

Life is a highway…

The Sunday after Mr. Smith’s birthday, I left on a solo road trip.  My SUV was filled with boxes to take to store at my sister’s in Michigan and several household items that were going on to Elliot’s house in Indiana. It was so fully packed that my suitcase was strapped into the front passenger seat, keeping my company on my drive. I had a full tank of gas, a bottle of water and a chicken salad croissant for lunch provided by my lovely husband.

I traveled the Southern Tier Expressway across New York.  It winds through green mountains dotted with dairy farms and deep forests and past the exquisite Chautauqua Lake.  I drove across New York and into Pennsylvania where I eventually stopped at a rest area to enjoy a quick lunch before soldiering on through Ohio and up to Michigan.

My sister lives in a charming shall town in southern Michigan. We were delighted to have several days together with few obligations. We drank good wine, ate yummy food and shopped! I went to a movie in the middle of the day in the middle of the week! 

These statues in front of the Art Center always make me smile..
And I love any town that has one of these.

On Friday, my sister and I set off for Indiana to meet up with our brother and his wife and our niece and her family.  We visited, ate pizza and watched the movie, Billy Elliot.  I think I loved it even more than when I saw it originally.  Plus, it segued perfectly into my next day when I headed to Indiana to see my fabulous granddaughters.

The biggest reason for my road trip was getting to attend Olivia and Emily’s dance recital. I didn’t know until I got there that two-year old Elizabeth would be making her stage debut! After a week and a half of lessons, she was ready to go out there and perform to Animal Crackers in My Soup! All three girls did a spectacular job and melted my heart.

The dancers and their grandmas!
Grandpa’s Emily…

On a solo road trip, you have all the freedom and all the responsibility.  You chose when to stop and where.  You chose music or no music.  Traveling alone, I thought about how spoiled I am when I travel with Mr. Smith and never have to think about whether I have enough gas or keep track of the car keys.

Many hours alone in the car also gives you time to think.  I thought about how my road trips are always about the destination and not the journey.  I’m going from point A to point B and while I do admire the scenery, I rarely venture off the route.  I hope that one day soon on this highway of life, I manage to take the road less traveled.

C’est la vie.

Celebrate the little things…

Many years ago; I hosted a bridal shower luncheon for the daughter of my friend, Lou Anne. After our yummy Waldorf chicken salad lunch and the opening of gifts, we lingered over dessert and a glass of wine. Then going around the table we gave the bride-to-be our best marital advice. One suggestion that stuck with me was, “Celebrate the little things.” The big things take care of themselves, but we need to remember to sometimes honor the everyday. It’s a simple concept that often falls by the wayside in our busy lives.

  1. Take a walk in your local park or just around the block. With all the blooming flowers right now, it’s a treat to round a corner and be greeted by the sight and smell of lilacs or peonies.
  2. When checking your email in the morning, take a couple of moments to send a quick “good morning” email to a friend or relative. It perks up my day when sifting through my emails from every advertiser on the earth to find a welcome personal message.
  3. Buy yourself some flowers for no reason. Or go out in your yard and cut a stem or two if that’s an option for you.
  4. Surprise your family with fresh pancakes, waffles, or your family’s favorite breakfast on a weekday.
  5. Give a card or note in recognition of a small success, no cavities at a dental checkup, meeting your workout goal, or perfect attendance record. What may seem a small success to some of us, may be huge to someone else.
  6. When spending the day doing errands or knocking items off your to-do list, take a moment and stop in a favorite cafe or coffee shop and savor a lovely cup of coffee or tea.
  7. Use the good stuff. Whether its a special face cream, exquisite candle, or decadent chocolate, there is no need to always save for a special occasion. You can make any day special with a little indulgence.
  8. Pop by to surprise a friend with a small treat, particularly an elder who may find it difficult to get out. Perhaps a muffin, a flower or even just a visit to brighten their day.
  9. Take a walk at night with loved ones or alone to admire the moon and search for constellations. My grandchildren have delighted in spotting the Big Dipper.
  10. Set a beautiful table with your favorite dishes and feast on a meal accompanied with good conversation. Ditch the electronic devises and connect with each other.

These are just a few ideas. If you have discovered other ways to make a simple day special, I’d love to have you share.

C’est la vie.

I’m on vacation…

This past Friday, May 31, was Mr. Smith’s official birthday. We both had to work, but went out that evening for a lovely dinner at The Boatyard Grill and dined on delicious surf and turf! Back home, I had made a cake and he sang happy birthday to himself!

Carrot cake, the official Smith family birthday cake.

Saturday we were busy getting me ready for another road trip! I’m taking some items to store in my sister’s basement to see if I miss them or should just donate and some things to Elliot and Becky that we won’t be using in the new digs. Packing the car is always a treat, a bit of a game of Tetris!

But now I’m on vacation, hanging with my sister and enjoying her fabulous hospitality. Friday we will head down to see our adored niece in Indiana and have a girls’ night. And then Saturday, the big reason for the road trip, I’ll head to Becky and Elliot’s and get to attend Olivia and Emily’s dance recital! I don’t get to go every year so that makes it a special treat!

Vacation, sister, granddaughters. Life is good…

C’est la vie.

My Phantom Daughter…

In the spring of 1986, I was the stay-at-home mom of three little boys, all under six.  It was an active, noisy household to say the least! My daily routine consisted of picking up, laundry, cooking, cleaning and MORE picking up all while negotiating peace in the valley. My sister-in-law, Patrice (also a member of the mother of three boys club), provided some welcome distraction from the everyday minutia of family life one day that spring when she sent me the best kind of card – a card for no reason.  Tucked inside my card was a newspaper article she had clipped from The New York Times, My Phantom Daughter.  The author of the article had named her first child a somewhat androgynous first name.  The wife of one of her husband’s law partners concluded from that name that the baby must be a girl and sent a gift of a pretty little pink dress.  The new mother whose new baby was a boy, ended up keeping the dress which was eventually joined by a pink cardigan and other “girly” items.  She kept these items tucked away in a bottom drawer for reasons of her own.  For reasons of my own, the article truly resonated with me.  Even though I was perfectly happy being the mother of my three sons, I had my own “pink box” tucked away.  I read and reread the column a few times and then tucked it away with some other keepsakes.

Over a decade later I pulled that column back out.  I wanted to use it and other writings I had saved through the years as party favors for my book group.  Back in 1986 the author’s name hadn’t meant anything to me.  In 1999, I was astonished to see it was written by one of my favorite authors, Anna Quindlen! In the intervening years, I had devoured her novels Object LessonsOne True Thing and Black and Blue. When she wrote the column I had squirreled away so many years ago, she was spending several weeks writing the Hers column for The New York Times.  This was a forum for writing by women featuring a different author every few weeks. I no longer have the column my sister-in-law had so kindly snipped for me, but thanks to the digital age we currently live in, I was able to find it in a New York minute on the internet. My Phantom Daughter.

Ms. Quindlen went on to have three children – two boys and a girl.  In 2016, she joined me in the grandmother club which led her to write her delightful book, Nanaville.  As always, she writes from her heart, with a combination of humor and intelligence.  

Nanaville is filled with the author’s wit and wisdom about grandparenting, along with vignettes of moments with her grandson Arthur. Most grandmothers will relate to many of the moments she shares and identify with the extraordinary relationship.  I knew exactly what she was feeling when she wrote “Sometimes Arthur sees me and yells “Nana!” in the way some people might say “ice cream” or “shoe sale!”  No one has been that happy to see me in many, many years.”  Those words are very similar to some I have shared with Mr. Smith in the past when talking about my own grandchildren and how it feels when they call your name and greet you with a full body hug.

A pesky challenge in grandparenting – one that challenges the best intentioned of us – is how and when to give our progeny the benefit of all our hard-earned parental knowledge. Ms. Quindlen was relating to her good friend what had transpired between her and her son when she ventured to give her opinion on sending her new grandson to preschool.  Her son pushed back hard, politely, but hard.  The friend just looked at Anna and said, “Did they ask you?”  And therein lies the lesson of this book.  “Where once I led, I have to learn to follow.”

It is obvious from the book that Ms. Quindlen treasures her new role as Nana, even as she endeavors to find her exact role and where the boundaries are.  But isn’t that pretty much every relationship in life?

I no longer have my pink box, nor do I have any need for it.  Life has gifted me with three beautiful daughters-in-law who have welcomed me into their lives, starting even before Emily married Emmet when she invited me to go wedding dress shopping with her and her mother.  

And I am now grandmother of four fabulous granddaughters.  Four little firecrackers who bring a whole new dimension to Mr. Smith and my lives.  They are more likely to choose “rainbow” as their favorite color than pink and believe me, they all think outside the (pink) box.  

C’est la vie.

A celebration of epic proportion…

This past weekend we celebrated Mr. Smith’s 65thbirthday.  Three generations came together and created some lasting memories. We played in the pool.  We walked part of the Towpath Trail. We played Pin the Hat on Grandpa, Grandpa Nick Bingo, and countless hands of Michigan Rummy. 

Pin the hat on grandpa!
Ring around Grandpa…

Before we devoured Becky’s delicious cupcakes,Emmet and Elliot both toasted their father with words that brought tears to his eyes.  Adam co-opted Elton John’s  Your Song, and sang  Your Sons  – …And you can tell everybody that we are your sons…and that brought tears to my eyes!

As parents, Mr. Smith and I delight in seeing our sons together, interacting with each other and each other’s children!  Seeing our grandchildren playing together and creating bonds is priceless.  Celebrations are a brilliant way to show children where they come from. It’s a big, beautiful circle of life.

Our sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren gave Mr. Smith what he wanted most for his birthday – their time.  No matter where we move or where we live, there will always be space for our cherished memories.


C’est la vie.