Unsolicited advice from an aging Duchess…

This post is not for the mature woman who strives to look 30 despite her hair greying and thinning, and her skin slowly wrinkling and acquiring Pollack like age spots. This is for the ladies who accept aging as a gift (the opposite is the grim reaper) and settle into the advantages of attaining the high numbers (remember 100=perfect). While it seems our younger sisters and brothers believe growing old is a dire fate, many of us that have reached the exalted heights discover there are real pluses up here. 

Dylan Thomas, phrase, “Do not go gently into that good night” does not suggest torturing your body with cosmetic makeovers and extreme diets in order to attain the ‘you look so rested and 10 years younger’ look. Let’s look to the positive side…the advantages to growing older…maturing…surviving in spite of your kids…winning!

Yesterday I was pre-shower when the whimsical thought flitted through my brain, should I perform the boring task of shaving my legs. I noticed that thanks to poor eyesight and less hormones my leg hair is thinning and disappearing.  Yeah thought I, a perk for growing old. No longer a slave to the stupid pastel ‘feminine razor’. So what other perks have I been overlooking.

Our bodies. Ladies surely you have noticed that the shape you have at 50 is pretty much your shape. Almost none of us is satisfied but as all the articles lecture us…live with it or change it and I’m guessing mostly we continue to grumble and do not really accept it. That soft tire around our middle is not going to go away…mine makes me think I’m 4 months pregnant again…and I smile. I liked being pregnant. I consider it my grandmother silhouette. The plus is we have a new creative chore though not always easy, to discover which clothing styles suit and flatter our new shape. Believe me there really is something for everyone.  You can camouflage your loss of a waist, if that’s your issue, by finding flattering tunics in fetching (good word, right) colors or neutrals. One rule for myself (sadly, quite short in stature) is to dress in the same color top and bottom. A monochrome outfit adds inches to my dumpy frame. Yes, like my ancestors…I’m dumpy but fun. Look at magazines for pics of mature actresses…they have talented stylist to assist them but they can be a great source of inspiration.

Another fabulous advantage to aging is Mother nature gives you the trendiest hair color for free. Embrace the silver, love the grey…tons of teens are stealing our color palate. Plus there are dozens of different shades of grey. It also gives you an excuse to acquire some new wardrobe pieces in yummy soft greys, creams and blacks to freshen up your look. Add a bright pop of color scarf for meetings and evenings out and add some great silver earrings to compliment your hair.

Okay…now cosmetics. Buy less!  If you wear makeup, time to ease up. You should be wearing less because your finer skin may nor support heavy coverage. You will look fresher and younger with less. And it saves you time and lots of money but do purchase a good moisturizer. Your local drug store has several very effective reasonably priced ones. The days of peacock eyeshadows and heavy red lips are gone. They may still be fun for 20 year olds but a soft lip gloss, brow pencil, if needed and a brush of mascara should easily get through most days unless you have a hot date or are accepting an Oscar!

Now let’s address our foundation…not girdles or makeup ladies, our feet.  Our doctors and science tell us ‘high heels ruin our feet and our backs’, so unless some fab shoe designer is slipping you thousands of greenbacks to model his 6” stilettos, now is the time to discover comfort. There are thousands of cool and comfy footwear styles to choose from on this planet.  Women speak with their wallets. Demand for more comfortable footwear is a result of our buying power. This has led to wide spread acceptance of flats and athletic shoes. The younger generation led the way on this one, Bless them. Check out red carpets and the Met Ball. Gold sneakers are the bomb!  SAVE your back and SAVE your feet.  You’ll thank me later.  However ladies, if you must have a heel, my favorite, the kitten heel is back making a welcome reappearance. They’re feminine but not torture.

Time now becomes our most valuable asset.  If you no longer have a 9-5 and have more control over that valuable asset, you may now choose what, where, and how to spend those valuable hours. Catch up with friends and family, books you have put off reading, hobbies or sports you have always longed to try, there are neglected movies and music to enjoy.  All the things you delayed doing or experiencing because life, jobs and kids came first. Volunteering can be great fun. The library, your local hospital, charities or schools always need help. A wonderful advantage besides feeling useful is you will discover lots of new friends and lunch buddies. 

Now admit it ladies…you are wiser. That ol’ chestnut is really true. It’s as if without the everyday stresses and demands of our earlier lives our brain somehow relaxes. It may not be scientific but we senior chicks just know it.  We often see issues and problems through a  historical lens…been there, done that, or certainly seen it or heard about it.  Experience and age…gifts we now have.  A wealth of ideas, knowledge, thoughts and opinions are inside those aunts and uncles, grandparents, and elder friends that can prove a source of wisdom if any brave soul will inquire. I think the most intriguing attribute we seniors have is often a firm opinion…the ‘funest’ of all.  

So the lesson to be learned is…aging can be pretty okay. Shave less, spend less on unnecessary crap, do things you have put off, buy a few new duds. Appreciate and care for your body and soul and best of all share the thoughts and opinions that have been piling up in your cerebellum for all these years, even if no one asks. We’re old, it doesn’t matter who is listening. We no longer give a damn!


I got to be moving on…

The movers arrive Friday to pack up all our worldly possessions.  On Saturday, they will load them onto a large truck and drive away.  While preparing for our move to Pennsylvania, Mr. Smith and I have been spent snatches of time the last couple weeks visiting some of our favorite places in the Ithaca area, saying “goodbye” to this chapter of our life and this beautiful location.  The Finger Lakes area is absolutely gorgeous (Ithaca is Gorges!) and we have sweet memories of the lakes, wineries and restaurants.  We will definitely miss Aurora Street and its plentiful choice of al fresco summertime dining  and cozy cafes for winter.

Now, onward, ever onward. We stand ready to begin the next chapter of our lives.  We are excited to be living 125 miles from our youngest son. It also puts us closer to our DC kids.  While we’ll still be about the same distance from Elliot and his family, I’m going to take a bit of a break from full-time employment and am anticipating a visit or two to see my marvelous granddaughters!

Moving is a pain and change is rarely without its challenges.  Mr. Smith and I have made plenty of moves and plenty of challenges during our forty years of wedded bliss.  We feel lucky that we’ve been able to weather the impediments without killing each other and grateful that we still get along!

So I’m putting on blinders to any irritations that may pop up during the moving process and focusing forward.  I want to remind myself of the new adventures that lie ahead and what I’m looking forward to in our new home:

1. Living closer to New York City!

2. Reconnecting with some old friends and meeting new people.

3. More time to devote to writing.

4.  Sitting in our new light-filled apartment and reading a book.

5. A break from the 9-5 and taking a moment to breathe.


Please check out the blog on Sunday when my sister, Jeanne, muses on the advantages of aging…

C’est la vie.

“Everything I learned, I learned from movies.” Audrey Hepburn

Whether it’s at the cinema with popcorn or your own home with much more affordable – and quite possibly better – popcorn, most of us enjoy a good movie.  Movies allow us to escape. They take us to places we’ve never been and they broaden our horizons, offering us a window into wider worlds. Over the past four decades, Mr. Smith and I have indulged in many an afternoon or evening at the movie theater.  However, these days it seems to take something quite tantalizing to entice us away from our comfy sofa and pay the hefty ticket price. Plus, there’s always a chance of sitting next to someone who thinks he must narrate the entire film to his friends.

Today, with Netflix, Hulu, iTunes and all the numerous services available in the comfort of our own living room, we have too often chosen to hunker down at home and take advantage of the unlimited inventory of movies available online. On any given evening while perusing what’s assessable, we often check out the perspective films’ ‘Rotten Tomato’ ratings, then make a choice and hopefully don’t fall asleep! 

 Recently my movie watching stars aligned and I found myself at an actual theater three times within a two-week period. Here are my quick impressions of some current theater fare.

Book Smart

On my last road trip, I spent a Wednesday afternoon at the theater seeing Book Smartwith my sister and her daughter-in-law.  Directed by Olivia Wilde and written by four women, it is a coming of age/end of high school romp.  Two academic overachievers and best friends are shocked to discover that students they had labeled as losers had somehow managed to balance hard work and play during their high school years. They had gained admission into good colleges and universities despite partying their way through high school and weren’t doomed to spend the rest of their lives asking, “do you want fries with that?”  Because of this revelation, the bookish friends set off to cram four years of fun into one night so they won’t graduate without ever having attended a wild party.

Chandler Levack, Globe & Mail, wrote “Book Smart is a love letter to any young woman who has ever stayed home on a Friday night to watch a Ken Burns documentary.” 

 I think I may be a little too old to entirely bond with this movie.  I was hoping for something a little more bookish, but there are certainly many hilarious and poignant moments.


Father’s Day turned out to be a rainy, chilly day, so Mr. Smith and I ventured out to our local independent theater to see Non-Fiction,written and directed by Oliver Assayas. This gabfest of French sophisticates is sexy, witty and fun!  I’m not always a fan of movies that are dialogue heavy, but I found Non-Fiction to be marvelously entertaining.  It revolves around a revered Parisian publishing house and the future of books and literature in the internet age and who is sleeping with whom. Lots of talk and plenty of sex. Word to the wise: if you are going to use your affairs as fodder for your novel, you may want to be careful who you are sleeping with!

Late Night

Mr. Smith was out of town and I was drowning in house moving details, so what’s a girl to do?  I went to the movies!   I left work a few minutes early on Wednesday to grab the 5:00 showing of Late Night, written by Mindy Kaling and directed by Nisha Ganatra. The talented Mindy Kaling wrote Late Night specifically for Emma Thompson, despite never having met her but hoping she would accept the part!  It was in inspired choice as Ms. Thompson played her part with just the right amount of elitism despite being a late-night talk show host whose ratings are in a nose dive and has been informed she’s on her way out the door.  With a reputation as “the woman who hates women”, Thompson, hired Kaling as a writer for her show to prove she doesn’t hate women and per her producer’s suggestion, fills a “diversity” slot. Late Night deals with many familiar workplace issues, illustrating that diversity is also about class, gender and age.  At first the all-male writing staff seemed hopelessly chauvinistic, but as their separate personalities emerged, the tensions eased. As in many good movies, there is more going on than meets the eye.  You have an opportunity to see people in more than one dimension, complete with their flaws and frailties.  

For awhile I thought I was going to have a private viewing of Late Night, but I was eventually joined by six others!

The Rotten Tomato ratings for these movies were relatively high.  But what is Rotten Tomato?  I always thought it was a movie review company. Turns out it is the leading online aggregator of movie and TV show reviews from critics.  The Tomatometer score is based on the opinions of hundreds of film and television critics.  

I was surprised to see Book Smart had the highest Rotten Tomato rating of the three movies at 97%.  I’m guessing they got the youth vote.  Next was Non-Fiction at 89%, followed by Late Night at 79%.  Personally, I give them all two thumbs up.  They provided a much-needed break from the current chaos of my life.  Even with all that’s available on your TV at home and no matter how big your TV is, I don’t think people will ever give up the occasional trip to the movie theater. As I read somewhere, people still go to restaurants even though they have a kitchen in their home.

C’est la vie.


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.