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.

The Art of Growing Old…

I’m too old to be young and too young to be old.  This quote from Evelyn in Fried Green Tomatoes sums up what I’m feeling these days.  I’m not ready to start polishing up my obituary, but I recognize I am entering my third act.

When I contemplate the remaining chapter of my life, I know I want to be the author.  When you are a child, your parents write your script.  On my own from 18-23, I had no clear direction. I know there are individuals who in young adulthood take control and endeavor to forge their own paths, but I think they are few and far between. I did make the choice to marry at 23, but in retrospect I think that decision was largely driven by social expectations and limited exposure to our wondrous world. Luckily, I chose a mate well.  Then we had our sons and when you are raising a family, they become your focus and direction. But now, pushing 65, life has grown simpler.  I am lucky to be basically healthy, all our children and grandchildren are healthy, and Mr. Smith still loves me. I’m not naïve enough to think my remaining years will be all champagne and beach sunsets, but I hope to direct them as much as possible.  In looking for guidance, I went to the place I always go.  Books.  

The Art of Growing Old, Aging with Grace by Marie de Hennzel was referenced in several articles I read about aging, so I decided it was time to check it out.  Marie de Hennzel is a French clinical therapist, largely focusing on the art of aging well.  She is also the recipient of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest honorary decoration. I found her book to be positive and heartfelt, drawing from many of her life challenges and personal experiences.

There is no doubt that we live is a society obsessed with youth.  If you feel you have an issue with your appearance, there is more than likely a cosmetic surgery procedure you can undergo.  But Dr. Hennzel believes that in order to age gracefully, we need to dwell less on the physical aspects of aging and focus on the positive emotional changes.  Accepting that we may be slowing down and acknowledging that this slower pace will allow you new observations and insights is just one of the positive aspects of aging.  She doesn’t ignore our inevitable physical deterioration and provides practical life plans for dealing with the fears of becoming a burden on our families, illness and isolation.  

I do think my time spent reading this book was time well spent.  I will share that for me, it read a bit like a research paper full of academic references and studies. What I was really seeking in a book about aging, was something with a more conversational tone.   Like sharing a cup of tea with my beloved Aunt Ruby while she shared her best wisdom for growing older and remaining so loving and kind.  I’ll take inspiration from both.

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.

You're either on the bus or off the bus. Tom Wolfe

This past Wednesday I was on the bus!  This trip I chose to leave directly from the bus terminal and not rely on the Curbside Pickup service (forever to be known as Curbside Driveby!).   My niece, Judy, who lives in Indiana was spending a week in Connecticut and had a free day to meet up in New York City. Who am I to say no???  We booked a couple tours and kept our fingers crossed for good weather.

I boarded the bus in Wilkes Barre before the sun was up and during the trip I watched the sky turn from violet to red to a beautiful blue.  By the time that oh so familiar skyline came into view, the sun was shining with the promise of a great day ahead.  The bus makes a couple of stops on the way into the city and I always marvel at the number of people who use it for their daily commute.   In addition to the commuters, there are folks like the group of four women who boarded in Scranton, heading in to take advantage of NYC restaurant week.  Then there’s the woman I shared a seat with over a decade ago who was on her way to Lackawanna County Prison in Scranton, PA to visit her incarcerated boyfriend.  Along the way she asked to borrow my compact so she could check her makeup before meeting him.  You have to look good for your man.

I met up with my beautiful niece at the lion-guarded New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue for our first tour of the day.  This is something that has long been on my bucket list and I was pumped!  We watched the Visitor’s Film before our guided tour of the three floors of this magnificent Beaux-Arts style building.  This amazing structure filled with marble, soaring arches and incredible artwork did not disappoint.  

The library took ten years to build and opened to the public in 1911. The research collections are unparalleled, including a map collection which includes over 10,000 maps of New York City alone.  Fun fact – During World War II, Allied military intelligence used their map division to research and prepare battle plans.  

After our library tour and a pass through the gift shop, we hot footed it over to the United Nations for our second tour.  Founded in 1945, the four pillars of the United Nations are:

  • Peace and Security
  • Human Rights
  • The Rule of Law
  • Development

Located on a strip of international territory on the east side of the island of Manhattan, this complex has served as the official headquarters of the United Nations since 1952.  The tour was exceptional and I felt humbled in these lofty corridors of international diplomacy and began to better appreciate the work of the UN. 

 I was not aware that in 2015 all the UN Member States adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, “a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone everywhere.”  The members hope to meet these goals by 2030.  Progress has been made, but more ambitious action is needed to deliver these goals on time.  To assist us all in helping achieve these goals, they have issued The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World.

We walked the city, catching up on family news, until it was time for Judy to head back to Connecticut.  We parted ways at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.  She headed downtown and I walked up to Rockefeller Center for people watching and to peruse a couple of shops.  I ended my day in the city by stopping into Morrell Wine Bar overlooking Rockefeller Center for a glass of Sancerre and some delicious French fries.  Then it was back to Port Authority and back on the bus for a quiet ride home, wondering who my next travel companions might be.

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.

You gotta have friends…

Have you ever unexpectedly run into an old friend?  Was it awkward?  Uncomfortable?  Or did the good memories wash over you and come flooding back?

When by chance my sister Jeanne and I are able to spend Christmas together, we have a tradition of heading out on the 26th in search of half-priced holiday treasures and other bargains, along with a tasty lunch and day of no cooking or cleaning up!  This past December 26, our agenda included fabric stores.  One of our first stops was Ann Arbor Sewing Center.  Jeanne had a question about her machine and I was checking out their fabric offerings.  While meandering through various rooms, I passed a display of different sewing machine models, and there she was at the end of the row.  A beautiful, used, older model Husqvarna, so very much like my old friend, my eyes felt a little misty.  

In 1979 when I was newly pregnant with my first child, I bought my first used Husqvarna, a good quality brand from Sweden.  It was my partner in creating an overabundance of open bottom sleeping bags for baby-to-be and other layette items.  I then graduated to nightshirts and rompers for toddlers, chair pads and curtains for our home, halloween costumes and even a few pieces of clothing for me.  I made pillows, sewed patches on lettermen and band jackets, and mended many a tear.  

One December long ago I was frantically trying to finish up several pairs of Christmas flannel pajamas. Flannel fabric has a tendency to shed or pill and you end up with lots of annoying fibers clogging your sewing machine.  I decided to take a break from sewing and clean it.  Unfortunately, in my over-zealous effort to clean out my machine, I took it apart one step too far and was unable to get it back together.  With my kids napping, I was in no position to load up the machine and the kids and head to the dealer.  So, in desperation, I phoned for help.   I am not a mechanically inclined person.  It amazed me that in the next 30 minutes, that very kind and patient person on the other end of the phone was able to direct me step by step until I had put machine back together and me back sewing before the end of nap time!

I received a badge for sewing in 4-H when I was in grade school.  In junior high, I took Home Economics and made a ghastly 1970s polyester skirt that my instructor deemed “too short!”  During my high school years, I was intent on making halter tops, hot pants and maxi dresses, items that weren’t available in small town Indiana.  Sadly, I drifted away from sewing until I bought my machine in 1979.  For the next thirty years, we enjoyed a marvelous friendship.

So it’s understandable that it was a sad day for me when I realized that I needed to retire my trusty old machine.  It was used when I bought it in 1979, and in 2017, much had changed in sewing machine technology and no one wanted to work on mine anymore.  I eventually bought another machine, another brand, a plasticky, computerized one.  We never bonded.  

“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Maybe it’s because I have more free time or maybe it’s the influence of Project Runway and all the fabulous sewing blogs, I find myself eager to jump back into the world of creativity. And now I have my new used machine.  When I was at the counter completing my purchase, I asked the clerk if they used to be on Main Street in Ann Arbor.  Why yes they did!  I was buying my second machine from Ann Arbor Sewing Center.  If this friendship works out half as well as the first, I will be a very satisfied seamstress.

C’est la vie.

Hot fun in the summer time…

With the holidays behind us, I can now turn my focus to Camp Grandma 2020!  The hard part is done.  The venue is booked and all our children have the week blocked off on their calendars.  Now it’s time for the fun stuff.

Our immediate family consists of 8 adults and 7 grandchildren. With all of us together for a week, getting everyone fed and keeping kids happily occupied are my main objectives.  Since my husband and all our sons are great cooks, the meal planning seems to happen pretty seamlessly.  No one has ever gone hungry at Camp Grandma.

I am most in my element when planning activities and crafts for the grandkids.  This is their week with their cousins, their aunts and uncles and of course, their grandparents and I while I want the main emphasis to be on that experience, I like to have some planned activities.  They look forward to these activities as much as I do and it’s a special part of their Camp Grandma experience.

We have done many projects over the years including making terrariums, building steppingstones on the beach, and making items from clay.

I’ve begun my research for activities for this year.  We’ll have 37 acres to run and play on, so I’m putting together a “field day”, keeping the emphasis on fun and not competitiveness.  I have my work cut out for me there and if anybody has any ideas, I’d love to hear them.

My grandkids all like to work in the kitchen, so there will be some culinary fun.  As research, I’ve been watching episodes of Kids Baking Championship, partially to remind myself of how much kids are capable of without my hovering!  Again, my goal is to morph this into a fun experience and not a competition.  I’ve ordered up some cake decorating tools – tips and bags – and I’m going to enlist the help of my daughters-in-law in teaching a cake decorating class and maybe making some macaroons.   

One of the days I’m going to have the grandkids help me decorate the pool house and make and serve appetizers for a little pre-dinner party for their parents.    I did something similar a couple years ago when we had a dance party.  I went to a party store and bought a slew of decorations off their clearance table.  Nothing matched – there was no theme – but they were all fun and festive.      

I am all too aware of the passing of time.  At the first Camp Grandma in 2012, Henry and Eli were running around in swim diapers and this year they will be 10.  Mr. Smith and I know there will come a day that Camp Grandma won’t be feasible and we’ll have to figure out another way to get everyone together.  But not this year!  This year it’s on.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

C’est la vie.