I’m back from my road trip and back to reality. A week off from work seems like such a great idea until it’s that first Monday back at your computer and there are 337 emails in your inbox. In addition to a week’s vacation from work, I also gave myself a week of not obsessing about the details of moving.
Mr. Smith and I have signed a lease on the love nest in the sky and now the fun really begins. We are lucky in that Mr. Smith’s employer will hire a professional to do our packing and moving, but there’s still much work to be done on our part. We’ve been sorting, purging, and discussing what goes with us and what doesn’t make the cut. Then came my moment of panic. Was the apartment big enough??? Had we been hypnotized by the great view and not given enough consideration to the number of cupboards and closets? But then I had a tremendous epiphany. Maybe it wasn’t that there isn’t enough room, maybe we have too much stuff.
We both recently read The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell. After much discussion and negotiation, a journalist and her husband move from London to rural Denmark so her husband can accept a position with Lego. Helen sets out to document her experience and figure out whether Danes really are the happiest people on earth. I was particularly struck by her passage about looking for housing in Denmark. When viewing potential rentals and looking in the drawers and cupboards of the kitchen, she was amazed at the organization and tidiness. They had all that they needed, but not more than they needed. I kept this passage in mind when sorting through our kitchen and felt better and lighter seeing the pile of items that won’t be on the moving truck.
Sorting through just our wine glasses revealed that two people who have lived alone for over ten years somehow owned over 75 glasses between wine and champagne. Some were in boxes in a closet, but many were crammed on shelves in a cupboard and rarely used. The ones in the boxes hadn’t seen the light of day in our four years in New York. Sixteen wine glasses and eleven champagne glasses will be moving on to Pennsylvania. While that’s still probably more than we’ll need, sometimes baby steps are needed. In another step forward, I’m packing up some things that I truly don’t need, but am not quite ready to part with yet. I’m going to store those boxes in my sister’s basement and if they aren’t needed in the next few years, I will donate them to someone.
While I’m not ready to Marie Kondo my life, I will try to make sure that everything we take with us into our next adventure is either useful or beautiful. The decluttering and letting go of things feels right. Besides, a bigger apartment would just take longer to clean!!!
Who is this old woman who looks back at me in the mirror? Ninety is my age, but I can still feel the warmth of the sun as I lie in the field behind my childhood house. I am still a little girl in a patch of brown-eyed Susans, and I liked that no one could see me. I am still the little girl who gloried in a box of eight new crayons that were all mine and a new coloring book to use them in. I am still the 16-year old making my first prom dress and dreaming of the magical dance. I am still a bride – smiling at my love and saying “I do”. I am still the new mother snuggling this sweet baby who grew in my body. He is as soft as a rose petal and I glory in it. I am still the young mother who held each child so close and loved dearly. I am still the young mother with so many children – making time to love them. I am still the young woman who makes time to learn her art. I am still the new grandmother holding my first grandchild and taking in the joy of this being. I am still the empty nester enjoying the freedom of having time. I am still this woman but often feel like a child. I am still amazed of the wonderful things my love and I did. I am still the young woman who could walk faster than any of her children. I am still a daughter as I see my parents age. I still feel as a child as I say my final goodbyes to them.
Time passes to quickly and so much happens. I still remember my last few moments with my love. I still feel the pain of loss. I am growing older, but my mind sees me as young. Who is the old woman who looks back at me in the mirror?
I’m on a road trip sans Mr. Smith. I have visited my grandsons, driven to Ohio with my daughter-in-law, and now I’m spending a couple of days in Michigan with my sister. Yesterday we drove up into the thumb to visit my mother-in-law. We made a casserole, jumped in the car and drove north.
The first time I met my future husband’s mother, I had no idea what a force she was to be reckoned with. Born and raised In Detroit, she was one of eight children. After marrying the love of her life and raising her own eight children, she went on to graduate from the University of Michigan at age 51 with a degree in Fine Arts. Since that time, she’s worked as an artist in many areas including woodworking, painting, quilting and weaving.
She’s been my mother-in-law for forty years and during that time I’ve gotten to know her and discover the many things I admire about her. Here are my top ten (just imagine Dave Letterman’s voice as you read these):
10. She appreciates a good cocktail and loves to receive a bottle of good scotch.
9. She’s an extremely independent woman, strong and direct.
8. She’s a snappy dresser and is admired by many.
7. She’s an impeccable seamstress. For example, she fashioned her own wedding dress from a World War Two parachute.
6. She’s been openminded through decades of cultural changes.
5. She doesn’t complain, even though she faces challenges.
4. She has never interfered in my marriage.
3. She remains open to new adventures and mastering new skills.
2. She thinks my grandchildren are as beautiful as I do.
And the number one reason I admire (and love) my mother-in-law:
She bore my Mr. Smith.
Check out the blog this Sunday when Patricia Ann Smith is my first ever guest blogger.
One year ago today I woke up in a hotel room in Washington D.C. My sister had flown in from Michigan, I had driven down from New York and we rendezvoused in D.C. We got up early that chilly morning, had coffee, showered and dressed, then headed downstairs for breakfast. Dressed in winter layers and wearing comfy shoes, we stepped out into the sunny, crisp morning air and headed towards the March for Our Lives area. We were amazed by the crowd that kept growing the closer we got to Pennsylvania Avenue. We joined the thousands of incredibly diverse participants gathering to rally against school gun violence.
Unfortunately, we all know the impetus for this student-led demonstration. The February 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead. Seventeen young students and teachers and an aftermath of anger and frustration for the survivors. Surviving students who should have been concerned with SAT scores and future colleges, instead decided they had to do something in response to the horror they had just witnessed. It started small, but with tremendous celebrity and corporate support, the rally in Washington D.C., as well as sister rallies in other locations, was organized.
All the speakers that brisk morning were high schoolers or younger. It amazed me that they had the steel composure and elegant poise to speak in front of such a massive crowd. Listening to Martin Luther King’s eldest granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King, brought tears to my eyes.
But I think the most powerful speaker that day was Emma Gonzalez. She spoke for just two minutes and then remained silent for four minutes and 20 seconds, before concluding her speech.
“Since the time that I came out here, it has been 6 minutes and 20 seconds. The shooter has ceased shooting, and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape, and walk free for an hour before arrest. Fight for your lives before it’s someone else’s job.”
Mine is not a political blog. I am not an expert on the issues surrounding gun regulations. There are political pundits and news commentators who you can listen to argue gun issues for hours if that’s your thing. But I am the grandmother of children in the public-school system. I am the mother of a public-school teacher. And this I do know. Gun violence should not be a political party issue.
It is outrageous that I am no longer shocked by a school shooting, I’m just profoundly sad. How can we say the children are our future, when our leaders can’t put aside their political banners and come together for our children’s safety? That too, makes me profoundly sad.
They say winter always ends, but on this first day of spring in upstate New York, winter lingers. Luckily for me, I can pop into a local florist or the floral department at our favorite grocery store and buy beautiful bunches of spring flowers, tulips and pussy willow being two of my favorite harbingers of spring.
After many years of working in a flower shop, I can assure you that tulips are flowers that don’t particularly want to be “arranged”. I have no desire to use a wire on their stems in an attempt to make them do something against their nature. I’d much rather put a large bouquet on a vase or other container and enjoy their natural beauty, floppiness included! After they settle in, I can always add another stem or two if the arrangement doesn’t feel quite right.
After bringing your fresh flowers home from the market, you will want to rinse any dirt from their stems and the trim them about 1” using sharp sheers. If you can cut them at an angle, that gives the stem more surface area to soak up water. If you change the water and retrim the stems every other day, you should be able to enjoy your spring blooms for at least a week.
Another joy of spring is “forcing” branches indoors. I’ve had wonderful results with forsythia and pussy willow, although I’m on the lookout for some dogwood or flowering almond. You’ll want to choose young healthy branches with plentiful flower buds. With branches as with flowers, you will need to recut the stems, but for branches you should also make a vertical slit in the stem using a sharp knife. Place the cut stems in cold water. Frequently misting the branching and changing the water often will enable you to enjoy your branches for quite some time. That said, I recently read some online advice to not put pussy willow in water, so I decided to try it and see. I’ve had this bunch for almost a month in this pitcher with no water and they are doing quite well.
So, if there are no bulbs pushing up in your yard or buds popping on your trees and you need a bit of spring, you can book a flight south, stroll through an arboretum, or buy yourself a bunch of tulips and think spring!
For years I carried around a list entitled “Stormy’s Rules for Living.” Sadly, that list has “gone missing”. And while I don’t remember everything on it, I do remember one rule that is an amusing holdover from my finishing school days.
“Your shoes should never be lighter or brighter than your hemline.”
Happily, the fashion rules of 2019 are more flexible, but I’m still inclined to look to them for gentle guidelines. I do enjoy fashion and it’s often on my mind these days as I begin to transition from working full time in a professional office to semi-retirement in the not too distant future. This will take some thought and reevaluation on my part. After so many years of dressing for the legal field, I find myself habitually drawn to the more tailored, conservative items. My sister, Jeanne, in an attempt to assist with my transition, will often email her response to a fashion choice I have sent her way with a simple “That just screams OFFICE!”
I’m not concerned about “dressing my age” but more interested in finding my true personal style, probably more playful and relaxed while still looking like I give a damn. Although some people poo-poo the importance of dressing well, I find it helps my confidence immensely when I feel well pulled together. The famous New York fashion photographer Bill Cunningham is quoted as saying “Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of life.” I couldn’t agree more. Like it or not, our clothing tells the world a story about us and I want to write my own story.
The internet is awash with thousands of fashion bloggers. Some have suggested that you choose three words or phrases that you want to describe your style. While I would choose interesting, creative and casual elegance as my three, what would you choose? How would you like your wardrobe to reflect you, your values, your aesthetic and your lifestyle. I want people to admire my outfit, but I still want them to see me. A cardinal rule, tried and true, is you should wear the clothes not the clothes wear you.
Of the many fashion bloggers out there, three that I have followed consistently for the past several years are Over 50 Feeling 40, Une Femme d’un Certain Ageand A Well Styled Life. I have found them all to be both inspiring and instructive. Jennifer Connolly of A Well Styled Lifeoffers a personal styling service via email or virtual personal styling. She can help you put a look together or assist in figuring out which pieces may go with other pieces you may already have in your closet in order to create a flattering look. You can click on the Style tab of her menu bar to find out more about how she can help.
One rule I do embrace is fit is everything. The correct fit can make the difference between an exceptional outfit and a so-so outfit. A good tailor is a great resource. And don’t get me started on the importance of a good bra. The high school my sons attended has a “grand march” before the spring prom each year. The couples are introduced and parade through the gym in their finery. Every year I attended this event, I wanted to stand up and scream to these young women how much better their new dress that they put so much effort into selecting would look with the proper undergarments! With the abundance of shapewear these days, there are garments that can enhance almost every outfit.
Another rule I do follow faithfully is quality over quantity. With Mr. Smith and I “downsizing”, my closet isn’t getting any bigger. And truly, it doesn’t need to be any bigger. I believe the statistic that states we wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time. Obviously, there’s room to curate and if I simply purged 50% of what’s in my closet there would be more than enough room. Being a woman of a certain age, I no longer feel a need to follow every trend or try to fit into some arbitrary societal standard. I have lived through more than one fashion faux pas on my part and am delighted to be more willing to follow my gut and stick to what works for me.
In addition to the abundance of information available online, I also have great role models in my everyday life and hope you do too. My mother-in-law is 90 and takes great pride in her appearance. My sister has taught me much about looking for quality fabrics and classic items and remembering to stay open to a bit of whimsy. I have a fellow fashionista friend at work who has taught me the joys of Poshmark, thredUp and other online selling/buying opportunities, making fashion more affordable.
Happily, great style is ageless and not limited to the young. It is inspiring to be surrounded by many public figures and actresses I would consider contemporaries looking so relevant and fabulous. I recently watched the movie, The Wife and thought Glenn Close looked elegant and beautiful. Her wardrobe was simple and never upstaged her. And Ellen of TV fame relies on slacks, jeans and jackets, but is always pulled together in a casual way. If you admire how someone dresses ask yourself, what is it that seems to be working for that person and is it something you might want to incorporate into your wardrobe.
So as Spring is about to arrive it’s fun to think of ways I can spark up my warm weather apparel. While I tend to avoid many prints, it may be fun to incorporate a lovely spring floral through a new scarf or two. Your wardrobe is an ongoing adventure, one that can be fun or a chore. In our society you are required to cover yourself with fabric so why not have a bit of fun if it’s only a crazy pink tee shirt or those amazing sandals you saw in an ad.
Please check out Wednesday’s post when I’ll be sharing a little hint of spring.
Happy Wednesday. The week is certainly rolling along. I’ve been working on the correspondence kits for my grandchildren. I’m collecting note cards, stickers, stationary and other fun items for each of them, hoping to inspire some letter writing on their behalf. As is everything in my life, it’s a work in progress. The “box” I had originally envisioned has become a zippered folio envelope that I will emblazon with their names.
I’m excited to get these kits finished and in the mail to my darlings. I’m taking it a bit easy on myself (and them) the first time and sending them “fill in” letters – favorite color, favorite sport, I wish I could … I’ll provide them with a grandma-addressed, stamped envelope and wait for their responses to start filling my mailbox.
I used something similar for Camp Grandma 2018. A couple of weeks before Camp Grandma, I wrote them all letters asking some questions like a meal they’d like to have at Camp Grandma, their favorite snack or a craft they would like to do when we were together. Mr. Smith printed me some Camp Grandma postcards addressed to Camp Grandma Headquarters for the grandkids to respond with. It was always a good day when I found one of their responses in the mail.
I find this type of keeping in touch with my grandchildren priceless. I’m not giving up email or texting, but nothing will every fill my heart like finding a handwritten letter from one of my beloved grandchildren in my mailbox.