Changing Times, Fashion-Wise

I was born in 1951, and grew up in a time of great fashion revolution. When I was in grade school I had what they called in the ’50s a “Beatnik” shirt. It was a cotton top with short sleeves and a big pocket in the front like a kangaroo pouch. The colors were splashes of red, gray and black against a white background, and I LOVED it. That front pocket could hold everything from beach rocks to flowers, apples to cherry tomatoes, and once to my mother’s horror, a small toad.

Back then, every woman and girl wore hats to church, and Easter especially was a big hat day. We also wore white gloves, which always made me feel VERY grown-up. There is a picture of Dad and me in one of our  scrapbooks showing me dressed to kill in a woven white straw hat (that looked a little like I had a cake on my head), wearing a black and white checked dress with a white pinafore. On my feet were white socks, turned down once, and my lovely-but-necessary black and white saddle shoes. On my hands were the white gloves, and in the picture I am also carrying a tiny white straw purse. Dad is bent down so that his head was near my shoulder, smiling as if to say, “That’s my girl!”

In the 50s, poodle skirts were still popular, and I always liked to watch the teenage girls sashay along in them, their many petticoats making the skirts swish. Sweater sets, or “twin sets” (a shell, or what we’d call today a “tank top” with a matching cardigan sweater) were popular. The desired jewelry then was either a string of pearls, or a simple circle pin, or “sweater pins.” These last were usually matching enameled flowers, Scottie dogs, cats, butterflies and the like.

What fascinated me above all else at that time was the pointy bras women wore then. Honestly, it made females look as if they had strapped two missiles to their chests. Being breastless myself  at that time, I wondered why all those heavily armored girls didn’t fall forward on their faces.

Later on in the 60s came a huge fashion shift. The hippies, the Summer of Love, the slogans of the day:

  • Don’t trust anyone over 30
  • Make love, not war
  • Flower power
  • Keep on truckin’
  • Keep on keepin’ on
  • Right On!
  • Far out, man
  • Outta sight!
  • Funky
  • Groovy
  • Suppose they gave a war and nobody came

But the fashion industry especially was turned on its head. Girls and women stopped wearing bras, and girdles of any kind were tossed out like yesterday’s leftovers. Some women gave up panties as well. Stockings were out, tights were in. Enormous platform shoes, flowered dresses–either full-length or barely long enough to cover your underpants (if you were wearing any). Big floppy hats and tinted sunglasses were every-day wear. Then the  Beatles struck musical gold, and visited America. Then we all wanted to be British. Teenage girls quickly adopted the “Carnaby Street” look made famous by Mary Quant and Twiggy.

We wore long “granny gowns,” or mini-skirts with long tops and leggings. We cut up our old jeans to make short denim skirts, and we wore them with clunky leather boots. We loved flowery dresses in hot pinks, oranges and greens, and leather sandals that slapped as we walked. Boys wore the new collar-less Nehru jackets, the height of male fashion at the time.

It was both a fun and frustrating time, fashion-wise. I knew in my heart of hearts that I was no hippie, and the idea of “free love” scared the hell out of me. I also knew that I was putting on a persona each day; that my clothes didn’t necessarily reflect the real me. It took a long time to figure out my own look. Honestly, I felt I was a lot happier in my old Beatnik shirt and shorts.

It takes a lot of living and learning about yourself to discover your own style; that what works for you doesn’t necessarily represent the latest fashions. For example, here in New England, “L. L. Bean chic” is always in style; colorful anorak, jeans with the cuffs turned up, duck boots, a turtleneck with a sweater over it. But it took an awfully long time to step away from the dictates of the ‘fashion of the moment.’ There comes a time when you just decide what works for you, what you are comfortable wearing, and best of all–to just be comfortable in your own skin.

But looking back, it was fun to be part of that whole fashion revolution….what do YOU remember wearing during those times?




10 Amazing Reactions to Bad News

I love the Kindness Blog, and I often re-post some of the posts on it that have touched my heart. I share this one with you because my mom is dying of metastatic breast cancer. She may have months, weeks or days, and my dad and I (and wonderful Hospice) are taking care of her.

This post particularly touched me, because the following ten reactions to bad news are nothing short of amazing. Too often, we just don’t know what to say when someone blurts out, ‘I have (or a loved one has) cancer.’

My mom’s friends have organized a meal schedule for my mom and dad, and they visit or phone often. They are a lifeline for us, and I can’t express how grateful we all are for their dear presence in our lives, and their kindness in making and delivering exquisite meals. Someone will often just drop by for a quick chat, or bring in a bunch of fresh flowers. A neighbor of ours, a retired nurse, has asked us to call her anytime to stay with my mom when Dad or I have to leave the house.

Friends of mine email me or call, asking how things are going. Some give encouragement, some have been through this themselves and share their stories, some simply let me know that they are thinking of us.

Although right now my mom is doing very well, eating well, making jokes and sharing memories with us and her friends, we know that nature will eventually take its course. That is how things are, and we accept it. But oh–the kindness and presence of these all dear, dear souls in our lives make a beautiful difference!

Read on.

“What to Say to Someone with Cancer by Sky Khan

It’s hard to know what to say to someone with cancer. If you’re like most, you blurt an instinctive, “I’m sorry.” Albeit well-intentioned, “I’m sorry” is a sorry substitute for a meaningful connection during a vulnerable time.

Sky Khan knows how to react when receiving bad news. She became an involuntary, repeated “bad news teller” after doctors diagnosed her 4-year-old daughter, Kiki, with leukemia last September.

After hours of face-to-face conversations and challenging phone calls, Sky heard and saw reactions across a spectrum of appropriateness. These firsthand experiences motivated her to reflect on what to say to someone with cancer or facing any sort of life challenge.

Sky compiled her insights into this list to help others. You can read more about Sky, Kiki, and their family by visiting Kiki’s Leukemia Battle Fund.

10 Amazing Reactions to Bad News: The Right Way to Respond to a Friend’s Hardship

Here’s a list of the top 10 things my friends said or did that provided comfort, reassurance, and warmed me to the core. The next time you find yourself reacting to someone’s bad news, have a few responses from this list ready to go and you won’t be left stumbling for the right thing to say or do.

1. Thank you so much for telling me.

A simple thank you was one of the most surprisingly sweet reactions that I received. When a friend felt that it was a privilege to receive my news, it meant so much. Thank you, along with an attentive, calm presence, provided a very comforting result. Sometimes all that’s required in a difficult situation is being a witness to someone else’s anxiety or sorrow. If you only have a few words to offer, saying thank you is a nice alternative to the overdone, ‘I’m sorry’.

2. This really puts things in perspective.

When I was able to provide a friend with the opportunity to reflect on his own health and well-being, it brought optimism to the conversation. It also allowed space to take the focus off of my daughter’s situation, which was often a welcome relief. When a friend was able to express both compassion and a sense of gratitude, the conversation turned hopeful. It is not always easy to appreciate good health while you have it.

3. I’m coming over once a week with a home-cooked meal.

During life’s difficult moments, the importance of food is often overlooked. Not only is it very hard to find the time or energy to eat, cooking is usually the very last thing to receive attention. When a friend committed to delivering a weekly meal along with his company, it became a true lifeline for our family.

4. I’m organizing a meal drop off this month with a group of friends.

When another good friend asked if she could organize our common friends to drop off home-cooked meals every Tuesday and Thursday for a month, I agreed. Sharing the cooking as a group fostered a sense of community and my family felt so uplifted by our friend’s goodwill. Because our daughter’s chemotherapy treatment spanned a long period of time, friends let us decide if the meal plan was still helpful at the end of every month.

Over time, other friends experienced their own roadblocks and among our group, the tradition of a cooking tree has served us well. I’ve now been on both the giving and receiving side of meal delivery and cannot believe how touching the practice is.

5. I am coming to visit.

There is nothing like the physical presence of a good friend amidst a crisis. When a good friend can be a witness, hold your hand, dry tears, ask how you are feeling in this moment, all of this helps on the journey towards healing. When an offer to visit at the hospital or at home came up, I never turned it down. It was especially helpful if friends offered a specific window of availability such as two hours in the afternoon on Saturday or Sunday. The more specific the better.

6. I’ve located a support group that might be helpful.

There are many online listservs, hangouts, communities and support groups that focus on a variety of topics. Often in the midst of tragedy, there is little time to reflect on or locate helpful resources. This can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed or isolated. Connecting with others that are going through the same thing often provides insight and relief from suffering.

One friend located and suggested I join a cancer support group on Facebook that focused on the very specific kind of childhood cancer my daughter had been diagnosed with and while I initially hesitated because I thought it would clog up my feed, I now find the updates informative and it has also led to new friendships and a sense of shared humanity.

7. I will help with fundraising.

Illness, death and other tragedies often incur unanticipated expenses. When a friend offered to help set up a fundraising site for my daughter, and another spread the word about it, the tender messages and generous donations that came in through the site moved us tremendously and were so practical in helping us face the mounting expenses of travel and medical bills. There are now so many wonderful websites that enable point-and-click fundraising for a loved one in need.

8. You are constantly in my thoughts.

When a friend offers positive, healing thoughts, it is a caring, supportive act that can transcend spiritual affiliation. I’ve had friends put my daughter’s name on Tibetan prayer wheels, lift our family up through Christian prayer groups, speak of her health in both Jewish and Muslim religious ceremonies, and even send Reiki distant energy healing. I’ve always welcomed all good-intentioned, positive thoughts.

At my lowest points, whenever I received a spontaneous text or email that informed me we were in a friend’s thoughts at that very moment, it was incredibly moving.

9. Is there an opportunity to celebrate?

There may be an opportunity, when some time has passed and bad news is not so fresh, to recall a positive memory or mark an occasion related to the situation. I received a small handmade book of photo memories from birth through year four on the occasion of my daughter’s 4th birthday. Receiving this thoughtful collection of photos amidst her health crisis, reminded us of happy times. In addition to her birthday, we also managed to mark Halloween by celebrating ancestors that passed before us and Thanksgiving by incorporating a daily recording of what we were grateful for during the month of November.

While I did not feel as celebratory or festive during these events as in past years, going through the familiar motions and traditions encouraged hopefulness within that we would get through this.

10. You are amazing. You are so strong. You will get through this.

A positive affirmation is often the most straightforward way to offer support. Don’t hesitate to remind your friend how resilient she is. Frequently repeat a sentiment that you sincerely believe and soon your friend will also believe those words. Remind her that while it may be a difficult year ahead, she will get through it because she is strong. She is amazing. And she will be even stronger after persevering through the experience.

When responding to bad news, do not put the onus on the person enduring the hardship to tell you what you can do to help. These recommendations are all examples of effective words and actionable items that will allow you to contribute. Try one of these ten recommendations the next time someone needs you to be there in a meaningful way.”

Sky Khan is a founding member of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care and an active presence at the Haven Hospice in New York City’s Bellevue Hospital where she provides compassionate care for the terminally ill and dying. She is the founder of and a speaker, author and educator on the topic of generosity. She is also an advisor to, and


Changing Roles

As you once held me close in your arms and kept me safe, I now do the same for you. I am careful to lift you up on your pillows so as not to stress the sore places. I keep my arms around you when you walk into the bathroom, and sit you down carefully. I now know how to lift you up without causing you pain.

I understand the importance of a fresh clean, newly-made bed, made up with my and Dad’s loving hands.

I can see the difference that a clean nightie makes, as well as your warm fluffy pink socks you like on your feet at night.

I can’t kiss you enough, tell you I love you enough, or hold your hand and smile with you enough.

We talk through so many memories and good times, and we laugh and marvel over our lives together.

I see my dad care for you so tenderly and with such love—there is nothing he would not do for you. His love for you has been true for 60 years, and yours for him. The bond between you is so strong that it is forever and eternal, and will stand forever.

Your wonderful friends visit and call, and let you know constantly that you are loved and cared for, and wonderful and delicious meals are prepared and delivered from such loving hands and hearts.

Your room now is filled with sunflowers bright enough to rival the sun, and cards and notes come each day, speaking their love for you.

You take joy in giving away your beautiful clothes and shoes, jewelry, coats, gloves, purses–all transitory at this time, but you have such fun in enjoying others’ enjoyment of them. Best of all, your spirit and energy abides in these things, and those you have gifted will feel that energy and love forever.

Although we know that time is passing, each day is a gift and a blessing. There is such peace and joy within you that lights us all. You are only going on ahead to get everything ready for us all to join you. Where you go, time as it is on Earth has no meaning and no hold on us. The love we have for each other and our own unique and wonderful spirits live on forever.

As a daughter, you have taught me so well and so carefully that you can go on, knowing that I will be fine. I will only miss you until I see you again; radiant and beautiful and immortal.

Shakespeare, wise man of words, described our time on Earth thus:

“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”

From Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” Act 4, scene 1, 148–158, spoken by Prospero.



Did Anyone See the Super Moon?

The Crankee Yankee and I just came in after going out on our porch to watch the super moon eclipse–amazing! Earlier, I had driven home from my parents’ house at dusk and got to see the enormous super moon rise like a big silver coin.

As it sat between the continuum of pale blue and rose pink sky, it looked as if it had come close enough to kiss the earth. As it grew darker, the moon glowed luminous and lit up everything in its path. All I could feel was happiness in being able to witness this incredible sight.

At around 10pm the eclipse had nearly covered this super moon in a mist of coppery-red, as though it was coyly drawing a silky veil across its face. Breathtaking! I heard that this event will not happen again until 2033–by that time I will be 82 and the Crankee Yankee will be 83–imagine that!

What a gift to see this–I hope that everyone got the chance to experience this wonderful event. By the way, just for fun, here are some words that rhyme with moon:

  • June
  • Rune
  • Monsoon
  • Tune
  • Baboon
  • Honeymoon
  • Typhoon
  • Loon
  • Goon
  • Soon
  • Spoon

True Story – My Angel Visit

This actually happened to me–I had an angel visit. Rather, I had TWO angels visit me once. Here’s what happened:

I was in my late 20’s, living in a nice little second floor apartment in Goffstown, NH. I had a good job, a boyfriend and was making a comfortable living. One day I was informed that the company was cutting back due to the recession, and as I was the last one hired, I was let go.

No problem, I thought–I can get another job. So I interviewed, and interviewed…..and interviewed. I couldn’t get a job as soon as I wanted one, so I took on two “pick-up” jobs to pay the bills. I did housekeeping for a family in the next town, and worked as a laborer for a neighbor friend of mine (who later became my Crankee Yankee, funnily enough). He and his crew were demolishing a building in nearby Manchester, so I stripped wallpaper, swept floors, cleaned tile; whatever was needed.

It soon became apparent that I couldn’t make ends meet. My parents and my grandfather gave me money to cover my rent and expenses for two months; I thought ‘surely I’ll have a job by then!’

But no full-time job appeared, and I grew worried. The day came when I sat at my kitchen table, looking down at a crumpled $5 bill and a $1 bill. My little savings was gone, and that was all the cash I had. I felt I just couldn’t ask my family for more money. However, the rent was due again, the electric company was threatening to shut my lights off, and my used car badly needed two new tires.

On top of all this, my boyfriend had just informed me that he felt that we ‘should see other people for a while.’ So I told him to see all the people he wanted to; I was done seeing him. True, the relationship wasn’t perfect, but I missed having a “someone” in my life.

I thought, “I’m doing everything I can to get a job, I have a college degree, I have two part-time jobs, my family has helped me out and I still can’t get on my feet.”

I remembered how thrilled I had been finally to have an apartment of my own. My good-sized bedroom had old-fashioned rose-patterned wallpaper that I loved, a big window opened out to the back yard, and there was a sprawling lilac bush that grew right beneath it. In the spring its scent wafted through the whole apartment. My kitchen was perfect for one person, and my little living room had a built-in bookcase for all my books and seashell collection. I hated the thought of having to leave this first home of mine if I could no longer afford it.

While I sat there in front of my $6, I looked up at the top shelf of the hutch, where my angel collection was displayed. My grandmother had given me an angel figurine for each birthday and Christmas for years, and I loved them all. We had shared a strong belief in angels and loved to talk about them. My grandmother, whom we all called “Ba,” had died the year before, and I still missed her and the angel stories.

“Angels show up when they’re needed,” Ba always told me. “They watch over us and sometimes they even visit us.” Gloomily, I thought of how nice it would be if angel showed up with a good job for me.

I got so tired of worrying about everything that I put my head down on the table on my crossed arms, and I must have dozed off.

The sound of a loud muffler just outside my window woke me up. I looked out the window, and saw a big white car covered with red dust parked at the curb beside the house. A large older woman with reddish-gray hair squinted up at the window and waved; I waved back. A short balding man got out of the passenger side.

“Can I help you?” I called out.

“Are you Jane?” the woman asked. I wondered how she knew my name, and answered, “That’s me. What can I do for you?”

The woman smiled up at me, and waved a small booklet and said, “Do you still have that turquoise jewelry you advertised?”

“Um, sure!” I said, and ran down to unlock the door.

As the couple walked in, they introduced themselves, and I put on a pot of tea.

As it was steeping, the woman said, “Today is our 40th wedding anniversary and my husband said I could have anything I wanted.” Still smiling, she flipped to a well-worn page in the booklet, and said, “So, do you still have the turquoise squash blossom necklace, bracelet, earrings and ring for sale?”

“Is that the Super Penny Saver?” I asked. The man and woman nodded. “But I put that ad in a year ago, and they don’t keep ads that long.”

“Well, this is an old copy, but I’m hoping you still have everything,” said the woman, her blue eyes shining. I remember thinking how bright and clear those eyes were; like the untroubled eyes of a happy child. I told her I did indeed have everything and went into the bedroom to get the box containing the jewelry.

I showed them both the heavy silver and turquoise necklace, and the matching bracelet, ring and earrings. The woman  exclaimed over everything, and her husband just smiled and sipped his tea.

“I love it all!” the woman exclaimed happily. I gave her a hand-mirror so she could admire herself in the earrings and necklace.

“We’ll take everything. How much?” asked the husband. I had priced the whole set at $450. I thought it was a fair price, but doubted they would want to spend that much. But I thought of the rent, the electric bill and two tires I needed, and hoped that the price wouldn’t be an issue.

To my surprise, they didn’t bat an eye. The husband nodded, and took out his checkbook. I was speechless; I couldn’t believe that this was actually happening. It was then that the woman looked at me with those clear blue eyes, covered my hand with her large freckled one, and said, “now that our business is over, I want to know all about YOU.”

For some reason, I  felt so comfortable with them that I told them everything; how I had lost my job and my boyfriend, how hard I was trying to find work, and how much I missed my grandmother. To my surprise, I found I had tears in my eyes.

The woman said, “You know, in our little town I’m known as something of a ‘people reader.’ You are a strong young woman, and you haven’t let these temporary problems get in the way of trying to improve yourself and your life.” She looked into my eyes and said, “And you’re not afraid of hard work, either.”

I thanked her and was a little embarrassed about getting so emotional in front of two strangers. The woman smiled and said, “I think you are going to be very surprised at how quickly things will turn around. Something wonderful is right around the corner for you.” She patted my hand and her husband wrote me a check for $450.

By this time I felt like we were old friends, and the woman hugged me, and said, “our names and address are right on the check. I want you to write to us and tell us how you’re doing.”

She hugged me once more and told me again that things were going to change soon in my favor. I didn’t believe it for a minute, but I felt a lot better after their visit. The $450 paid the rent, the electric bill, the tires and bought several bags of groceries.

In exactly one week, I had a new job, earning more money than I ever had in my life. Once my expenses were paid, I could be even save some money. I also adopted a small gray cat who was wandering the street were I did my laundry, and I named her Billie. I realized for the first time that I didn’t miss my old boyfriend at all.

One night as I was getting ready for bed, I pulled out the address I had from the check that the man and woman had given me, and wrote them a letter. I told them all about the new job, Billie, and how much I enjoyed meeting them. I told them that they were right—good things had happened. I dropped the letter into the mail box the next day and thought no more about it.

Several days later, the letter came back stamped “No such persons/no such address.”

“It couldn’t be,” I thought. I had put the check in the bank and it had cleared with no problem. How could this be? They had sat right in my kitchen and had even drunk tea at my table. Who were these people?

Then I thought of Ba and how she always said, “angels show up when they’re needed, and sometimes they even visit us.”

“What do you mean, you don’t have chocolate chip cookies??”

These days my life is pretty much all around my mom and dad (please see “The Last Days of a Legacy: Part 1”). Mom is dying of metastatic breast cancer, and I am up there in Wolfeboro each day and stay overnight a few nights. While mom is doing remarkably well, her mobility is limited and she tires easily. She is basically either in bed or in one of her chairs; dining room, living room and den. We have wonderful Hospice care for her, and that is helping my dad and I greatly.

Now, while I am there with her, in addition to helping Dad, doing the occasional load of laundry, getting meals ready, etc., I also like getting Mom what she wants. These days, it’s all about the sweets. She expressed a desire for chocolate chip cookies the other day, and, being too lazy to make them myself, I made a run downtown to one of our local bakeries.

The one I would have thought would have been the epitome of cookie-age was a huge disappointment. I walked in the door, saw the trays of pastries, buns, croissants, and so on. I asked the girl behind the counter for a dozen chocolate chip cookies, and she looked at me as though I had lobsters crawling out of both ears.

“Um–chocolate chip cookies? Do you, like, mean the tube of cookie dough?”

I did a visible head shake.  Did I mean the tube of cookie dough? Seriously?!? Why on earth would I go to a bakery to ask for a tube of cookie ick when I could have gone to the grocery story and bought one? For that matter, why would I even BE in a bakery if I wanted a tube of cookie dough?

So, speaking slowly and enunciating clearly, I said, “No, I am looking for BAKED, READY TO BUY chocolate chip cookies. Do you have some for sale?”

The girl goggled at me again, and said, “no, we don’t have those,” as if I were absolutely crazy to think that a bakery would carry baked cookies, especially chocolate chip ones….is there some kind of chocolate chip cookie persecution going on these days that I should know about?

So I thanked her (for what?) and left. I drove to the local bookstore, *The Country Bookseller, which is not only a terrific bookstore, but a font of local information as well. I threw open the door like John Wayne storming into a saloon, and asked, “Where can I find really good chocolate chip cookies?” Both women in there looked at me and said as one: **’Butternuts’!”

I thanked them and tore over to Butternuts and grabbed up a dozen and a half of delicious fresh chocolate chip cookies and brought them home. The look on my mom’s face was well worth the running around.

But honestly, can you even believe a bakery that not only does NOT have (or, from the tone of the girl with whom I spoke, will probably NEVER have any) chocolate chip cookies? I mean, she looked as if I’d asked for a kidney.

…hey, I never thought of this before now, but maybe that bakery is a front for buying and selling kidneys! Who knew??

*The Country Bookseller is indeed a stellar bookstore, but also sells the most delicious deep dark coffee and some great pastries as well. If you are in Wolfeboro, please stop in and check out their books. You will be both amazed and very happy.

**Another great local store, selling not only great chocolate chip cookies, but fabulous bread (get there early before they run out), soups and salads and every kind of cooking utensil you can imagine.

There May Be a Blip in Service..

Hi everyone. As you may know, my mother is dying of metastatic breast cancer. Since June, she has steadily declined with mobility issues and bone pain. She is mainly in her bed, or in a chair, and while she is chipper, positive and extremely funny and has many visitors and phone calls, nature is taking its course.

I am up there at Mom and Dad’s house each afternoon, and stay until she is ready for bed. For now I am staying overnight two days per week, and may have to increase that. So if I miss posting each day, please forgive me. As I love this blog and love all of you, I hope that you will understand.

To anyone out there on this same journey–I am with you, and you are in my prayers. We walk together, and we will get through this together. Let’s enjoy the time we have.