You’ve got a friend… Carole King

I am still amazed and almost startled by the fact that my new lifestyle allows me blocks of time to just sit and think.  I can ponder on all sorts of random thoughts and topics.  This week I have been reflecting on the importance of friendships and why some last and some do not.

Friendships can last for a lifetime, but they can also end in dramatic ways.  All through junior high and the first couple of years of high school, I had the same incredible best friend, Gina.  She was smart, funny and beautiful.  We shared the trials and tribulations of learning to navigate the world of bellbottoms and boyfriends. Then she began dating someone who became the center of her life and our time together dwindled.  I was thrilled when she called one afternoon and asked me to meet her halfway between our houses as we had done hundreds of times over the years.  When we met that day and started walking back to her house, she insisted that I tell her what I really thought of her boyfriend.  She said I was her best friend and I needed to tell her what I truly thought.  So I did.  In my opinion, he was not the right guy and was in no way worthy of her. Sadly, the reason she wanted to know was because she was pregnant.  I hugged her and we both cried. She left school, got married, and had the baby.  Our friendship was never the same. 

But more often, friendships simply fizzle out.  We have friends or family who just stop calling or we are the ones who drop the ball.  There surely are a thousand reasons this happens.  Illness, family problems, just plain crazy busy or self-doubt about oneself.  Sometimes people just change.

In my case, I relocated.  I have found it challenging to stay connected with friends after Mr. Smith and I moved several states away.  You are no longer a part of each other’s daily lives.  Everyday intimacy and shared experiences are strong bases for a friendship and without them maintaining a close connection can be much more difficult.  It takes more than Facebook and an occasional text to nurture a friendship. 

Now that I have more blocks of me time than I have had in years, I find myself recalling memories of old friends who were part of my life.  I spend time thinking on whether to try and reconnect with them and wondering if you can recapture lost connections.

You would be hard pressed to find anyone who denies the importance of friendships for your physical and emotional health.  Everyone from the Mayo Clinic to Good Housekeeping writers stress the importance of positive friendships to our wellbeing. While most people are lonely at some point in their life, studies indicate that loneliness, particularly in our sixties, seventies and eighties, is widespread.  It seems a little perplexing because I find older women so fascinating.  We have outgrown much of the drama and competition.  We are stronger and more empathetic.  And probably have more time to nurture friendships.

There are friends of circumstance, folks we meet just living our lives, and they are lovely.  But there are also those friends of the heart, kindred spirits you feel drawn to.  I am an introvert and a bit of a loner, but still long for that connection, a partner in crime.  Someone who allows me to grow and feel good in their presence.  My sister comes pretty close to fitting the bill, but she is 13 years older than me and still sees me as the “little” sister.  Mr. Smith and I are two peas in a pod, but I believe having other people in your life who add additional dimensions make you a better, more interesting partner.  

Australian novelist, Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach reflected, “Old age transfigures or fossilizes.”  I want to be one who is transfigured.  The ups and downs of the past 64 years have made me both stronger and kinder and I have learned the value of women friends in my life.  I haven’t seen my old friend Gina in almost 40 years.  I heard she got divorced and remarried.  I know she has at least two children.  I do wonder if she is also a grandma.  And I wonder if I am in her Friends Hall of Fame, because she certainly is in mine.

C’est la vie.

“Language was invented for one reason…”

I have fond memories of sitting in Mr. Strycker’s English class in seventh grade, diagramming sentences. While others in the class often moaned when we were asked to pull out our notebooks and begin diagramming, I was in my happy place. First drawing a line to separate the subject from the verb, I would then use my trusty ruler as a straight edge to draw precise diagonal lines for the adjectives and adverbs.  Even when it became trickier with gerund phrases and infinitives as noun, I reveled in the challenge. I was a genuine English language nerd. I haven’t diagrammed a sentence since high school, but I do think about subject-verb agreement, split infinitives and dangling modifiers.  Mr. Strycker’s lessons have stayed with me all these years.

Today is National Grammar Day.  An obscure holiday to be sure, but one I salute.  It was founded in 2008 by Martha Brockenbrough who also founded the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar.  But in today’s world of hashtags, tweets, emoticons and shorthand phrases, does grammar still matter?  

The new generation might argue grammar rules are no longer relevant, they have become obsolete.  If another person understands what you mean, you have accomplished your goal.  Are the rules antiquated, or have we simply gotten too lazy to apply them? In our digital age, everyone is a writer.  In-person meetings and phone conversations are often replaced with emails, text messages and three-letter abbreviations.  Do you ever consider what impression you are giving the receiver of your email or text?

Every time I push ‘publish’ for a blog post, I experience some uneasiness.  I do love grammar, but I am not an expert.  While blog writing is supposed to be relaxed and natural, I still want to show respect for my readers and clearly and concisely deliver my musings.  

So avoid using the word ‘very” because it is lazy. A man is not very tired, he’s exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason boys. To woo women – and in that endeavor laziness will not do. It also won’t do in your essay.

John Keating, Dead Poets Society

So my answer to the question does grammar still matter is yes. It certainly matters to me.

C’est la vie.

                        

Our fingerprints don’t fade from the lives we touch. Judy Blume

Mr. Smith and I were Facetiming with our 9-year old granddaughter, Olivia, this past weekend.  She was excited to show us a charm bracelet which had belonged to her great-grandma Pat.  It was a piece of jewelry Pat had curated during her life and now it is Olivia’s.   While studying the different charms she came across a palm tree.  “Hey, did great-grandma Pat go to Hawaii???”

Grandma Pat’s travel charm bracelet is a wondrous way for her great-grandchild to get to know her better.  Pat was 83 years old when Olivia was born.  When you’re a little girl and your great grandma is in her late 80s, you only see the wrinkled, feisty old woman.  It is difficult to realize she was once a young girl and woman with dreams of seeing the world.

When I asked Olivia about her favorite charms, she happily explained that she particularly loves the hourglass, the tricorn hat, and, of course, the Eiffel Tower.  Pat added the hat when she visited Boston.  Olivia had read a book about the Boston Tea Party and listened to the Hamilton soundtrack and feels drawn to the hat.  Pat’s fingerprints on Olivia’s life. Paris is a destination that Olivia and I hope to one day visit together.  Perhaps she can wear the bracelet when we are there and we can drink a toast to Pat. The hourglass remains a mystery, but perhaps a reminder to all of us of how precious our time is.

Olivia and her Great-grandma Pat at Pat’s 90th birthday celebration.

I do not have a charm bracelet, but I’m hoping someday my granddaughters and great-granddaughters will sort through some of the items I leave behind and take them for their own.  I hope wearing a piece of jewelry or a silk scarf that once belonged to their grandmother who loved them so dearly will give them confidence and comfort. And maybe just a little curiosity about the old woman who treasured both her grandchildren and her mementos.

C’est la vie.

Music & Lyrics…

Most mornings after Mr. Smith leaves for work I tidy up our apartment, either read or write for a little while and then about 11:00 take a break to go to the gym.  Last Wednesday I headed out for my noon exercise class, had a great workout, then headed home.  I was full of endorphins and, as usual, singing along with the radio.  I laughed out loud at myself when I looked down at my dashboard display and suddenly realized I had been singing the wrong words to an Aerosmith song since 1987.  In my defense, in 1987 I was the mother of a seven-year old, a four-year old and a two-year old.  In other words, I was a little distracted.  But my apologies to Aerosmith for mishearing Dude (looks like a lady) and belting out Do Just Like a Lady for the past 30 years!

Apparently, many people mishear music lyrics.  A classic from my generation is Credence Clearwater’s There’s a Bad Moon on the Rise.   So many people heard it as There’s a Bathroom on the Right that the songwriter, John Fogerty, occasionally sang the misheard lyrics in concert. Hold me closer, Tony Danza (Hold me closer, tiny dancer); Sweet dreams are made of cheese (Sweet dreams are made of these); the list goes on and on.  And I’m not sure about her ex-lovers, but Taylor Swift would be insane not to appreciate all the attention Blank Space received because people heard Starbucks!  Apparently even her mother asked her why she was singing about Starbucks.

There is a word to define these misheard lyrics.    It’s a mondegreen.  This usually happens when a person is listening to a poem or song.  When the listener is unable to clearly hear a lyric, they simply substitute words that sound similar and seem to make some kind of sense.  There are difference reasons why we sometimes don’t hear the song lyrics that the writer has toiled over.  The singer may not be enunciating very clearly.  Without any visual clues, is difficult to interpret when words are run together.  And you may be listening on lousy stereo equipment. I have a memory, albeit hazy, of being at a party circa 1975 when I’m Not in Love by 10cc start playing.  The party tunes were obviously being played on a better stereo system than I had, because when the chorus of “Big boys don’t cry, big boys don’t cry” came on, I thought, huh, so that’s what they’re saying!

As it turns out, mishearing lyrics goes back to my childhood.  I remember watching I love Lucy and The Bozo Show, but I don’t remember Here’s Geraldine.  But I obviously watched it because the theme song is still stuck in my head today.  On our recent visit with our grandsons I thought it might be fun to teach them the song and they could sing it for their parents.  While the tune is ingrained in me, I could only remember the first couple of lines:

                        Be kind to your parents, you know they deserve it.

Thanks to the wonder of the Internet, I was able to pull up the lyrics and couldn’t believe how wrong I had been.  And I wondered, did I sing it for my parents?  Did they chuckle in private at my faux pas?  The actual words are:

                        Be kind to your parents, though they don’t deserve it.

We are governed by familiarity and if we aren’t sure of lyrics, we fill in with something recognizable.  I was a docile and obedient child.  It wasn’t conceivable for me to think a children’s program theme song would say parents don’t deserve respect.  I didn’t teach it to my grandsons.

There are websites devoted to the subject of mondegreens. There are online quizzes, studies on “auditory illusions” and YouTube videos galore.  You can spend hours on the Internet reading misheard song lyrics.  But now Mr. Smith is home so…

Excuse me while I kiss this guy…

C’est la vie.

Technology is anything that wasn’t around when you were born. Alan Kay

I have slowly accepted technology into my life. I’m certainly not a computer whiz, but no longer consider myself a complete Luddite. I cherished my first cellphone, a lovely flip phone, but Mr. Smith converted me to an iPhone several years ago. I have a few apps on my phone such as Instagram, Messenger and Apple Music, pretty basic stuff. Mr. Smith, on the other hand, has a more extensive inventory on his.

This past Saturday morning we headed down to the D.C. area to visit our kids and grandkids who live there and celebrate Sam’s seventh birthday. We stayed at a hotel that is part of the Hilton family. Mr. Smith had made our reservation online through the Hilton app. Using this app, he checked us in online and received a message back asking if he wanted to use his smart phone as his room key. Of course he did! He received a text when our room was ready, and with no need to stop at the registration desk, we used Mr. Smith’s phone in the elevator to access our hotel floor, and unlock our hotel room. While it was pretty slick, when traveling solo, I think I’ll visit the registration desk to check in and get a key.

After unpacking, we headed over to see the birthday boy and his family. We took a walk, played at a playground, dug up rocks, and shot some hoops. The weather was beautiful and we spotted many daffodils poking through, promising that spring is not far off. That night we went out for pizza and then headed back home for cake and presents.

The next day I got to hang out with my grandsons while their parents went out for a belated Valentines day lunch and massages. The boys and I frosted cookies and spent a little time cleaning their rooms. Sam’s choice for dinner that night was a Japanese steak house and no technology was needed to keep kids occupied as the hibachi chef provided the entertainment, flipping food at them and squirting water in their mouths.

Back home after dinner, the boys quickly changed into their PJs. I hit the jackpot with two of them being in particularly cuddly moods that evening. There’s nothing like having your grandchildren vying to sit on your lap. Our grandsons love technology so grandpa and I told them about things from our past that they will never be able to fully grasp like party lines. In a world where the vast majority of adult Americans have a cell phone and seem to be on it constantly, it seems a bit like science fiction to our grandsons that we used to wait to make long distance calls after 5:00 p.m. or on weekends because the rates were lower!

I’m sure some of our reminiscing bored them, but they still snuggled. I am aware that the day will come when grandma’s lap won’t hold the same appeal, but until then I will treasure every bony wiggle, no app required.

C’est la vie.

It’s not like 50 is the new 30. It’s like 50 is the new chapter. Sharon Stone

I will turn 65 this year.  At one point in time, I thought of 65 as ancient.  That I would be sitting in my rocker, easy listening music on the radio and waiting for my children to make that occasional, obligatory phone call to mother.  Boy was I wrong…

I do spend some time sitting on my favorite perch, looking out at the world below me, wondering what I’m going to do for my third act.  My children are all independent and thriving, there are no aged parents to care for and with the least responsibilities I’ve had in a long time, I’m searching for my next endeavor. This past Sunday I took several online quizzes with regard to life expectancy and it seems the internet believes I’m going to live to be 92.  I want to spend however many years I have left continuing to evolve and grow.

I’m not keen on being identified as a senior citizen.  The term congers up visions of someone who drives too slowly, dines at 5:00 p.m., and fills her evening with crocheting.  An alternative for senior citizen for women is “a woman of a certain age.”  Urban Dictionary defines that as “Ironically polite term for a woman who does not want her actual age known.”  The Oxford English Dictionary describes “a certain age” as a time “when one is no longer young, but which politeness forbids to be specified too minutely: usually, referring to some age between forty and sixty (mostly said of women).”  With all due respect to Urban Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary, I am claiming my age!  I am shouting from my 10th floor apartment “I am 64!” 

I don’t need you to dance around my age or give me a cute moniker. Please know that when I am obviously more than a decade older than you, I find your addressing me as “young lady” condescending and obnoxious.  I am not afraid of growing older and prefer that you look at me and recognize my countless life experiences that have brought me this far.  Aging is simply moving forward in life. 

In 2020, there are more women over 50 on earth than there have ever been.  The ones I know are pretty amazing.  For the next four months, on the first Sunday of the month, I will introduce you to a woman who has made powerful changes in her life at “a certain age”, sometimes through choice, sometimes not.  Please visit my blog on Sunday to meet Julia, a woman who is truly evolving, personally and professionally.

C’est la vie.

Surprise!

I’ve read the articles. I know that the first things you should do when you wake up in the morning are hydrate, stretch, meditate.  I break all the rules and reach for my phone.  I check for text messages and then quickly scroll through Facebook and Instagram, first and foremost looking for pics of my grandkids, but also happy to keep up with what’s happening with friends, family and the world in general.

This past Sunday morning I was doing a quick scroll through Instagram when I thought – hey, that looks just like my shower!  What a surprise, there on Mr. Smith’s Instagram feed was a photo of our shower.  

I have a great shower.  It’s the best shower I’ve ever had in my whole life.  Every morning, I relish in the luxury of this shower and how good it makes me feel when I start my day.

Then he posted a picture of a soap package.

And then I ran into this bar of soap at the store and became familiar with “The Right to Shower” and their mission.  It’s a great bar of soap, but more importantly, it contributes to an effort to make a decent shower accessible to those who normally wouldn’t have access, in particular, the homeless.

The Right to Shower is a charity project of Unilever.  It is based on the premise that access to cleanliness is a fundamental human right.   Their products include body washes and bar soap, made in the USA and not tested on animals.  I plan to check out the Hope Body Wash to “…feel soothed from the caring and pampering effects of creamy aloe and dewy moss with a touch of avocado, sweet clover and sage…”

My husband has surprised me many times over the years with his thoughtfulness and his insights.  There have been bouquets of peonies, bottles of bubbly, and special dinners.  We often read the same book and our subsequent discussions have been eye opening and surprising as he often has a different perspective than mine.  Seeing a photo of our shower on his Instagram feed Sunday morning was simply the most recent of over 40 years of surprises.

But perhaps what I should be most surprised by here is not that he still surprises me, but that I’m surprised when he does.  We are lucky people.

C’est la vie.