I used to like to travel by myself for work. I remember a time, when our 4 kids were little, that I looked forward with huge excitement to the occasional business trip, knowing that I would get to watch a movie on the hotel TV, or stay up all night reading if I felt like it–or even take a midnight dip in the pool!
I’ve been doing a lot of traveling for work lately, and, although I still enjoy watching a movie in my hotel room, I’m pretty much over the rest of it. I dread packing and unpacking. I don’t like forgetting to bring toothpaste and having to go downstairs to buy some.
I don’t mind listening to good speakers or participating in helpful workshops, but I can really do without the “networking.” I’ve never really enjoyed talking to strange people about whatever mess we can think up to talk about, but I’ve about gotten to the point where I can’t even fake it any more. And I hate hotel breakfast buffets, full of cold cereal, fake waffles, and tasteless bagels.
Even the hotel lobbies depress me–with their aging carpets and their late-night bars full of conventioneers yukking it up and drinking too much.
They remind me of airports, with their crowds of people walking around, passing each other, all of them unfamiliar, except that I like people-watching in airports, and it’s no fun in the lobby of a Sheraton. There’s something about staying in a big hotel that gives me the same kind of limbo feeling I felt entering John F. Kennedy High School in the tenth grade–the new kid on the block, newly home to the States from our last tour of duty in Germany.
I’m a fish out of water.
I miss my husband. I miss my kids. I miss my friends. I miss my dogs.
I want to be back home, in my own bed, with my own pillow, and with my clock radio scheduled to wake me up to the sound of NPR, instead of a automated wake-up call.
Following Kathryn’s story on Monday, we’re continuing with Part II of E., One Intrepid Senior
E. worked as a model in post-war Manhattan for the Elizabeth Arden Salon and lived in the famous Barbizon Hotel in the mid 1940’s. This glamorous part of her life led her to meet Gloria Vanderbilt, Marlene Dietrich, and her first husband, D.
After marrying D. and living in New York and Cincinnati, E. returned to her hometown of Louisville after the death of D. to start Louisville’s first finishing school. Once the charm school was successful, E. moved on to pursue her true love—art. She and two friends started Talents Unlimited, a company that sold art supplies, taught classes, and specialized in unique Christmas dioramas that E. designed and crafted. These wreaths were hot ticket items, frequently requested and often selling for more than $300 a piece. Each wreath was highly specialized, electric, and musical, and featured detailed Christmas scenes. E. even had one of her more elaborate wreaths, modeled after the Kennedys’ last Christmas in the Blue Room, accepted by the Kennedy Memorial Library. The wreaths have been showcased in museums and craft shows across the country, winning many awards.
E. has traveled to many exotic locales, including Paris, Hong Kong, Haiti, and Thailand. She has had many adventures abroad, including meeting Maria von Trapp and, in a separate instance, nearly being kidnapped. E. and I spent an entire day viewing slides of these beautiful trips to near and far. She will soon be leaving for her yearly sojourn to her condo in Highland Beach, where she will wait out the icy Kentucky winter in the peaceful warmth and light of Florida.
In short, E. has had an amazing life, one worthy of transcribing and well-deserving of the title she’s chosen: Yes, I’ve Had a Life. She is an admirable woman who has made the most of her life. I have found myself inspired continuously throughout the process. Yes, I hope my life will be just as exciting as E.’s, but I also hope to never forget the importance of each person’s life story. I know now that these small anecdotes are always worth observing more closely, no matter how high the pile of surrounding souvenirs may be.
Our friend, Kathryn Wilson is not one of us. She is NOT a woman over 50, but we want to introduce her to you anyway. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky, and is currently enrolled in Pacific University’s M.F.A. in Fiction program. She is an aspiring writer and editor. She hopes to one day relocate to the Pacific Northwest with her boyfriend and two cats.
Kathryn is writing an autobiography of a beautiful woman 85 years old, so we’ve invited her to share part of her work with us. So, sit back and read Part I of this lovely woman called E.
For the past two months, I have been assisting a charming 85 year-old woman with the writing, formatting, and editing of her autobiography. As you can imagine, this is no small task. This lovely woman (let’s call her “E.”) is a somewhat disorganized and very busy woman with mountains of newspaper clippings, photographs, and other detritus that must be incorporated into her story in some way.
Why, you may ask, did I take on this arduous task? There are two reasons.
First, I have always gotten along with elderly folk; I love their stories, their idiosyncrasies, their endearments, and free cookies, so getting paid to spend time with someone from my favorite demographic seemed too good to be true. Secondly, I have always been inspired by my own grandmother’s stories of her life in the coal country of southern West Virginia. My grandmother was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, so I have quickly learned the importance of recording memories. I related to E.’s wish to record her life story for future generations.
E. is, on the surface, just as sweet and amicable as your own grandmother; she frequently calls me “honey” and shares delicious Modjeska candy. But it was in working on E.’s story and delving into the details of her life, that I found she is so much more than a delightful, polite elderly woman who just happens to live in a condo with seven bathrooms.
Given all the fuss a post or two ago about Oprah looking for women obsessed with aging and beauty, I am happy to turn that page and introduce you to a beautiful and creative woman over 50 who is far too busy creating cards and more for us women over 50 than being obsessed with aging. Meet Diane English, a self-taught artist who owned a metaphysical book store in St. Augustine, Florida before moving to Asheville, NC 10 years ago. After reading The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron, Diane decided to follow her dream of combining art with her spiritual path allowing her to embark on the next phase of her life. After visiting her in her studio and seeing many of her cool, cosmic characters, I’d say she is living her dream – minus the downtown condo she covets.
Diane is the owner and creator of The Great Cosmic Happy Ass Card Co,and if you’ve never received one of her cards, send yourself one. Why not? They’re inspiring, whimsical and just plain old kick-ass funny. This is one of my favorites. This beautiful woman over 50 has aspired to achieve a higher consciousness along her journey, and not without some help from “years of deep meditation, medication, fasting, prayer and a few bottles of Merlot.” Having had a subscription to her cards, I knew I was in for a treat when we finally sat down in her lovely bright living room drinking coffee and nibbling scones.
Oops50: What made you finally decide to leave Florida and your bookstore, “Dream Street,” and go into the card business?
Diane: About once every 7 years, I did a painting, and one of them was titled, “Reach for Your Stars.” That became my first card, and it sold out in my bookstore. Then, I made more cards and magnets, and soon those sales were accounting for 20% of my gross revenue. That’s when the big box book stores moved in, and I took that as sign to make a change.
Oops50: Kind of like the movie, “You’ve Got Mail.”
Diane: I really wanted to use smart ass but I didn’t feel I could really do that. So, my customers helped me pick the name.
Oops50: So now I’m going to change the subject a little. What’s your fondest childhood memory?
Diane: My grandfather carrying me on his shoulders while walking me to the zoo. He was Irish and English, and we lived in Philly and walked everywhere. When we got to the zoo, there was a blackbird in a cage at the entrance and he said, “Hi, I’m Joe.”
Oops50: What’s was the first record you bought? Diane: It’s a tie between Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto and Bill Haley and the Comets.
Oops50: Any advice for women over 50?
Diane: Well, I’m well over 50 – 68 in fact. Don’t listen to anyone. Follow your heart and do what you want to do. Don’t be intimidated by the “should’s” in life. Oh yeah, and keep your nose out of other people’s business.
Oops50: Right. I need to remember that. So what turns you on?
Diane: A romantic dinner in an Italian restaurant, with Luciano Pavarotti singing in the background.
Oops50: So you like Italian?
Diane: I had an aunt who married an Italian, and I remember wonderful Italian dinners. And I like to cook Italian food–outrageously delicious.
Oops50: What next? Any new dreams?
Diane: A downtown condo with a large patio and a great view of the mountains of Western NC. It should have a cable railing, a fireplace on the left side, a kitchen behind that, and a loft upstairs. The light will be clean and beautiful. And, don’t forget Rachmaninoff playing in the background.
Oops50: Any must have products you can’t live without?
Diane: My Netflix subscription and Roku, so I can download old movies.
Oops50: So what’s your favorite movie?
Diane: “Casablanca.” And have you seen “Sunshine Cleaning?” A very funny movie.
Oops50: So what’s Roku?
Diane: It’s great. A little black box that lets you stream movies from Netflix. It’s great.
Oops50: I’ll check it out. Last question: Any regrets so far?
Diane: Only that I didn’t know in my 20s what I know now. And, that I don’t have the same body as I did in my 20’s.
Nancy, a gentlewoman farmer, beloved friend of Jane, and amazing animal rescuer/healer who has turned her farm into a haven for lost and unwanted dogs, cats, and horses, splits her time between her husband’s Republican farm in Rocky Mount, NC and her Democratic one in Hillsborough, NC. She routinely hustles 6 dogs and 4 cats back and forth with her and has been known to include a chicken in the front seat.
First of all, I’ve been chasing rabbits. No, I’m not speaking in the voice of my awesome rabbit dog Loretta (that’s another story!). I’ve been cutting hay, and although it has been years since I read Watership Down, I think I’ve become the villain. These are baby rabbits, three of them. They always want to run into the grass, the grass that will get cut on the next pass, so I get off the tractor to shoo them across the windrows, preferably into the woods. Two cooperate, but the third runs under the tractor, right up against the tire, waiting to be flattened. When I try to get him from the outside of the tractor, he scurries up even closer to the tire. I have to grab him and then quickly release him, into the direction I want.
Baby rabbits are fragile, and any handling can kill them. As I get back on the tractor, I think of the large copperhead I hit a couple of years ago. After that I wore boots to mow in for a while, but I’d forgotten about that this day. So I have tennis shoes on. The next time I see movement in the grass, I think I’ll just leave that row and go to another part of the field.
Whenever I start to mow, I say a little prayer of sorts–for all the mammals, reptiles, and other living things to leave the field. Like that’s going to happen! But when I can, I try to avoid those little creatures. It helps only a little to think about the food chain–and that what I hit will feed the red tail hawk who sometimes shadows me or the turkey vultures or the fox–or the coyote. Yes, coyote. I’ve only seen them once. I was absolutely stunned when two nonchalantly trotted across the field in front of me. Once, late at night, I heard what could only be a pack singing hauntingly. It was thrilling. Continue reading Beautiful Women over 50: Farmer Nancy on Cutting Hay→