Craks, Bams, Flowers, and Winds – Doing What Makes You Smile

I was looking for a way to connect with my new upstate New York community, to meet people, make new friends.  I had played the ancient game of mah-jongg many years ago in Westchester, where I raised my family for 25 years, but really didn’t have the time to hone my skills.  Dinner needed to be cooked, laundry needed to be done, homework needed supervision, the dog needed to be walked!  My husband, while helpful, is not me.  I am a controlling individual, so have no one to blame but myself for always being pressed for time. Enter retirement!

Mah-jongg dates back from the Quing Dynasty, an ancient Chinese game of tiles being made into suits of flowers, dragons, winds, craks, and bams (short for bamboo) Even suits, odd combinations, singles and pairs, consecutive runs, etc. One lives and breathes the Official Standard Hands And Rules card, which you are allowed to keep in front of you while playing ( $9 sold by the synagogue with proceeds often going to worthy Jewish causes such as Hadassah) issued by the National Mah Jongg League, Inc now in it’s 81st year.

The game was brought to American shores in the early 1920’s.  The theory is that with the advent of immigrants coming to this country, it was a way of tying folks together.

Much like Chinese food, which we all know Jews eat on Christmas Day, the game became synonymous with this cultural group of middle aged women.  In the 1950’s when bungalow colonies were popular as summer vacationing destinations, ladies sat around the pool and played in groups during the week, waiting for their husbands to come up on weekends from the hot city.  My own family did this (not that my  mother played mah-jongg-she wouldn’t dream of it!) while my father toiled in Harlem running a drug store with his brother.

Every Monday, since I returned from winter in Mexico, I drive to Temple Israel in Catskill, NY (where else?!) to sit with a group of women, some older than me, some younger, make that none younger!  I may not have much in common with them, but we all share our fascination with this ancient, somewhat exotic game of strategy, focus, tactics, and a bit of luck!  Getting good tiles from the onset doesn’t hurt.  There is casual banter among the players and one must come with $5 in quarters for the betting (big stakes poker this is not!) plus $3 as a contribution to the snacks that are set out on a table every week.  Cake from someone’s birthday the previous weekend, cookies, trail mix, brownies, etc.  Jewish women like a nosh!

I am getting to know people from week to week and I like the challenge of the game, in addition to the fact that we are mostly of the same faith so share a certain simpatico. We play from 12-4 on Mondays with a break for lunch and I am sitting at the beginner’s  table for now. The women are patient and someone comes over to look at my hand pointing out possible combinations, since  I am still a newbie. There is something captivating about the click clacking of the tiles.

Amy Tan wrote in “The Joy Luck Club”, of her mother asking the question, ‘What’s the difference between Jewish and Chinese mah-jongg?” Her mother replies, “Entirely different kind of playing…Jewish mah-jongg they watch only for their own tile, play only with their eyes.”

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It’s even said when the last member of a mah-jongg group dies, it’s her job to bring the mah-jongg set with her to the world to come.” Now, that’s dedication!

 

 

If you think this game will make you smile, here’s how to get started – thanks to our friends at Amazon!  Just click the image below.

 

Today’s Takeaway…

What is that you love to do?  What haven’t you had the time for during all those many years raising a family?  Is it gardening, bridge, a book club, ceramics, painting?  Maybe, it’s mah-jongg. Follow your passion.  Now is the time! Maybe, you’ll make a new friend or two.

. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Pick up a tennis racket, even if you’ve never played.  Pickle ball, which Barclay and I are both learning.  Who cares if you look silly or make a mistake!  You have nothing to prove.  You’ve lived a successful life and can do whatever makes you smile. 🙂

Enjoy the ride

xox Barclay & Joy

 

The Skin We’re In – Part 2: Self-Tanners Revisited

“What’s that smell?”  Tracie grimaced.   We were sitting at a table of teachers waiting for the building meeting to begin.

“Ew….what could that be?!”  I responded looking around the conference room with quizzical and slightly accusing eyes.

Truth was I knew EXACTLY what the smell was.  I just had no idea it was emitting from my skin so enthusiastically.

It was the early days of self-tanners and that morning I had lathered some on my winter white legs.  Apparently I needed to be less aggressive with the application.

By the time I got to my tennis group that evening, the smell was less pungent.  However, when I took off my warm up pants, my legs were not golden tan as I envisioned – they were orangey yellow – a color not found in nature.

Another lesson I learned in my self tanning journey is to go easy on knees and elbows, while avoiding the underside of your forearm.  It takes a few days for wayward streaks and blotches to fade and in the meantime people think you have an unsightly skin disease.

Also, don’t ignore the tops of your feet.  Your tan ankles should NOT come face to face with white, veiny feet!

And need I remind you to wash your hands after applying?  And to exfoliate your skin with a washcloth before?

So how do self-tanners work?

According to the Mayo Clinic, “The active ingredient in most sunless tanning products is the color additive, dihydroxyacetone (DHA). When applied, dihydroxyacetone reacts with dead cells in the skin’s surface to temporarily darken the skin and simulate a tan.” The FDA has approved the external use of DHA and Mayo Clinic assures us that self tanners are safe.

But that DHA smell!  Most self tanners cause neighborhood dogs to sniff the air, confused yet intrigued.

But wait…

Last winter I discovered a self-tanner that I absolutely LOVE!  And it smells GREAT!  The price is $26 – $27 but it’s worth it!

Naturally there’s a website devoted  to self tanners – with the ingenious name of selftanning.com.  That’s where I found Tanceuticals Self Tanning Body Lotion.

The golden tanned gals at this site give it high praise –

“The tan it gave us was truly gorgeous– a smooth and natural, darker shade of bronze. It’s easy to apply, dries quickly and feels great on the skin. We also  love that this self tanner has cosmeceuticals in it (instead of just a bunch of chemicals).  It lasts nearly 7 days, which is longer than just about any self tanner we’ve ever tried.   Tanceuticals smells absolutely wonderful!  We love the smell of coconut! We had a hard time finding anything we didn’t like about Tanceutcials.”

They had me at “cosmeceuticals”!  An under-used word if I ever heard one.

So, fellow Baby Boomers, our moms were right about applying 50 SPF sunblock.  But that doesn’t mean we have to be pasty white!  Or turn orange.  Or have dogs follow us.

I buy my Tanceuticals from Amazon.  Click the picture below if you want to do the same.  (This particular link is for the dark shade.)

The only one who does not give this product 5 stars is Codie, my beloved Golden, who misses that odd smell of days gone by.

Today’s Takeaway –

-In the words of L’Oreal, we’re worth it!  Looking at my tanned legs and smelling the coconut is one of my YIPPEE moments today!  (See previous post!)

-Happiness does not lie in the perfect self-tanner, but hey, God is the ultimate gift-giver and maybe this is a small token of his love.  Or maybe he just got tired of that weird smell!

What’s your YIPPEE skin product?

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

Mother’s Day 2018

Joy —

Today being Mother’s Day calls for a special post.  Barclay and I have been experimenting on co-writing certain posts.  We feel jointly our own individual memories and perspectives make for one hell of a great read!! (all modesty aside)

Mother’s Day, to me has always been about celebrating my own mother, not my motherhood.  It took me many years and sadly the death of my own mother to understand that this is my day too.  Funnily enough, as my good friend Christine would say, my own mother, Muriel (of previous blog fame!) thought these holidays were silly.  She always said, “the greeting card industry invented them” and “every day should be about celebrating your mother.”

I always remembered to say I love you and to be mindful of how special a person Muriel was (quirky, a bit odd, a character for sure, but the best mother I could have wished for, if I had ordered her up) So this day, May 13th, 2018, I recall the very first Mother’s Day without mine. (Muriel passed away Feb 21, 1990.)

I changed my mind and decided not to be teary and remember that first Mother’s Day, but rather to reflect on the unique character that Muriel was.  She was trapped in the 1950’s, but secretly had a yearning to break out..  She didn’t care for other women that much, small talk, swapping recipes, and ladies lunches.  My mother preferred to  take her Tuesday off from motherdom and wifedom (though she didn’t work), ride the #4 bus downtown, shop at Lord & Taylor, and eat lunch at the Birdcage restaurant, probably collecting her thoughts and dreams. She then would prepare my father’s shrimp cocktail  for when he came home serving him as he sat throne like waiting for his food.

She was a great listener and old ladies (probably a few years older than me now!!) loved telling her their problems.  She was compassionate, thoughtful, and kind hearted. She wore a girdle, though she was thin all her life, never accentuated her curvature of the spine (born with it) by wearing form fitting clothes, and sat in the window of the bathroom where the natural light was best to apply Max Factor pancake makeup, false eyelashes in the 60’s and thereafter, as well as pressing it all onto her skin with ice wrapped in a tissue.  Oh, the things we do for beauty! She used Noxema every night to wash her face, applied cold cream, and wrapped her bouffant hairdo in toilet paper to keep it in place until next week’s beauty parlor appointment.

She loved me dearly, though not overly affectionate (my father made up for that) and I always knew I could go to her for whatever upset me. I always wanted my relationship with my daughters to be what I had with my mother and I have been blessed to have that.  So this Mother’s Day, 2018, I think of you mommy, but also know it is my day too.

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Barclay —

Sometimes I am asked how I came to live in the midwest.  The answer I give is that I attended college in suburban Chicago and then “settled” here (as if I am Laura Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie).  The real answer is I was trying to get as far away from my mother as possible.

This was a positive.

States between us — I now have an entire file drawer filled with birthday cards – she was fond of Snoopy – and notes that begin with “Dearest Barcs” or better yet, “Barcsy” and end with hand drawn hearts, the emojis of yesteryear.   I also have letters written in careful cursive on yellow legal paper – all ending with the word, love.

 

Love wasn’t a word Peggy used with wild abandon.   But she did love fiercely without sentimentality.  A friend of hers once told Charlie (my brother) and me how proud she was of us – to the point of boasting.  For some reason she could only direct such thoughts to her pen or to Florida friends.

But…

At the end we discovered that Peggy had her own file drawer.   In it we found clippings from college tennis, letters from camp, articles written, birthday cards – featuring the Peanuts gang of course.  Evidence of pride.  Of love.

When Mom passed away one October evening in 2010 we held her hands standing around the hospice bed – something she would have recoiled at.  She would also have been aghast at not wearing lipstick.  Yet she looked radiant as she stepped onto gold pavement.

Surrounded by Love.

 

 

“To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow.” – Maya Angelou

 

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No takeaways today, just enjoy the day.  If you are a mother rejoice in being lucky enough to have children.  If you want to have them, may your prayers be answered to have them.  If you are fortunate enough to still have a mother to call, go ahead and pick up the phone.  No text, no email, just let her hear your voice.

Enjoy the ride

xox Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

 

 

YIPPEE Moments

Joy and I are big fans of Maria Shriver.  We look forward to reading The Sunday Paper – her inspirational essay that comes to us each week via email.   The writing style is engaging, the voice authentic, and the content both mind stretching and heart warming. Oh and it’s free.  (Click here to subscribe.  You will love it!)

 

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A couple of weeks ago, Maria talked about celebrating life’s daily “Yippee!”  moments.  Even in the midst of a dark season, such moments are there to be discovered.

“We all need more joy in our lives,” says Maria. Yippee-Joy, she defines as “a moment you consciously celebrate. It’s a moment where you decide that you get to feel joy-filled.”

Maria suggests we  recognize these Yippee’s at least once a day.  And the reason we DON’T do this, she adds, is a matter of where our focus is.

“Most of us are so bogged down getting through life and attending to life’s never-ending stream of responsibilities that before we know it, we aren’t playing anymore. We aren’t celebrating anymore. We aren’t thinking “yippee!”

Instead, we have our heads down in our computers or phones. We’re dealing with evolving relationships, changing kids, sick friends, our own health, aging parents, and bills. Lots and lots of bills. Sure, you can stay on this path and say, “well, that’s just life.” Or, you can consciously decide, like I have done, to find a daily “yippee!””

And in case you’re not in a Yippee mood, check out this research study from 2003.  There were three groups – one listed blessings; one listed hassles, and the third did nothing.  The results showed that the gratitude group reported improved happiness, increased motivation, and better sleep! It turns out there’s a causal relationship (not just correlational) between an attitude of gratitude and a better life.

The Bible tells us to “Rejoice always!” .  If we didn’t quite get the message (since we were too busy worrying), it reiterates, “Again, I say, Rejoice!”   Sounds rather like a command, doesn’t it?

So in the words of Becca, the Bachelorette, “Let’s do the damn thing!”

Here goes…

YIPPEE!  Spring is  here!  Buds are bursting from seemingly dead branches.  I’m seeing colors of unspeakable beauty, fat robins flitting and chatting.

YIPPEE!  Yesterday my husband AND my grown daughter took a walk through Millennial Park in 80 degree sun and then shared a meal at Veggie Grill.

YIPPEE!  I have 3 new library books sitting on my bedside table ready to befriend me.

YIPPEE! I am now enjoying 3 racket sports (pickleball, paddle, tennis) that provide the company of wonderful women – and cold beer.

YIPPEE!  Kacie, a cranky shih tsu lies at my feet, chilling in the morning sunlight.  Codie, of Golden love, stares me down, saying “Let’s do THIS damn thing!” Meaning, I should give over my damn cereal bowl so she can lick the remaining Grape Nuts.

These knucklehead doggies exude yippee-ness!

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So let’s embark on a 14-day YIPPEE Challenge.  Join Joy and me in the discipline of listing YIPPEE moments each morning.

AND THERE’S MORE…

If we also smile broadly while compiling our lists, then we will be exercising our facial muscles and REDUCING wrinkles. Some call this Face Yoga.   (Check out our post called, Exercising Your Face – It’s a THING!” )

The only response to that is YIPPEE!

 

 

Today’s Takeaway-

– Life is short.  Claim all Yippee’s while you can!  And then don’t forget to subscribe to The Sunday Paper. Click here.

-Maria’s essays are now compiled in a best selling book called, I’ve Been Thinking.  Click the book image below to order from Amazon.  $11.99 well spent!

 

 

Enjoy the Ride

xox   Barclay and Joy

The Skin We’re In- Part One

“Crepe.”

I had never heard this word before.

Was it pronounced the French pancake way?  Or was it pronounced “creepy”?  Probably the latter considering the disturbing images of elephant-like skin – alongside an ad for a miracle cream to eradicate this Baby Boomer plague.  (Which of course I bought. Which of course didn’t work.)

Isn’t it enough that our underarms boast a certain jiggle which answers to many names — Hi Jane’s, Bat Wings, Bingo Wings, Lunch Lady Arms??

And isn’t it enough that our mothers were right when they yelled, “Get out of the sun!  Wear a hat!  You’ll get wrinkles!” ??  We Baby Boomers are embarrassed to admit that not only did we lay in the sun for hours, we also held up reflectors (cardboard wrapped in tin foil) to accelorate the process.

Did you also know that as you age the contour of your smile can actually turn downward?  Meaning, we look grumpy when we’re not.  It could be a result of our aging teeth not granting support to our sad mouths.  As they turn yellow.

And who knew that as you age your hair will stop growing where you want it to and boldly go to places it’s never been before??

So lest we get too depressed, let’s focus on some things we CAN do.  For now, we will address the infamous Hi-Janes.  Future posts will tackle other Baby Boomer maladies.

My friend Lisa is fond of saying, “The best exercise is the one you actually DO.”

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Here is a 28 day challenge for arm toning that is worth doing.  Yes, It looks daunting.  (When they say 70 push-ups, it’s obviously a typo.)

We will have to channel my disciplined mother, Peggy, who said you MUST keep moving.

And I never saw Peggy’s arms flapping.

Only her tongue — as I held my reflector high.

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Today’s Takeaway –

-Be grateful for make-up.  Just think of men who have to face the world each and every day sans concealer or foundation.

-Love the skin you’re in!   And practice Self-Care.  You ARE beautiful!  Just wear a hat when you’re in the sun.

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

To Work Part Time or Not Work Part Time — That is the Question?!!

A year ago at this time…

 

My husband and I had come back from our first winter in Mexico. I was tanned and rested. It took several months to work on those dark under eye circles that give one’s state of sleep or lack thereof away.  I was not sure what I was going to be doing with my time back home in rural up state New York. 

 One of my very close friends reached out to me and asked me if I’d be interested in coming back to my former company part time. A lot had happened during the 5 months I was gone and the company was going through a rough patch.  The very job that I had been counting the days until retirement came, wanted me to consider coming back. Wow! Never thought about that, but me being a big believer in “Everything happens for a reason” thought about that one more go around and said sure.

The deal was to work from the city 3x per week and be on my laptop the other 2. Now, in my mind and definition of “part time”, this was more full time, but okay. I was game.  And so I returned to the workforce for 7 months. I had never even considered this, but when opportunity knocks, I’m a good listener. Maybe, this was my chance to do it over again, segue into retirement slowly, rather than cold turkey. I had given this early retirement a lot of thought but, perhaps, I had expected too much of myself, to adapt to this new phase of life so quickly. Maybe, doing it like a 2 step program might be better for someone who had worked all their life.

One slight monkey wrench.  I now lived 105 miles north of the city, (city girl meets Green Acres) so had to take Amtrak in to work. My former company and new boss couldn’t have  been nicer and offered to put me up in the corporate apt for the nights I was in the city. Everything that could have been an obstacle was taken away, so off I went back into the work world as a freelancer. Work Redux! I also did feel badly that my husband, who had been waiting patiently for me to join him in retirement, had to wait a bit longer. What was 7 months in the span of a lifetime? Not much.  After all, he wanted what was best for me and he could see I wasn’t happy.

Going back to a job at a company I worked at for 18 1/2 years comes with pluses and minuses. Had I forgotten the people who annoyed me, the back stabbing, the political infighting, jockeying for position, the fact that this was a business rapidly changing and redefining itself?  Financial publishing, need I say more? Of course, just like anything else in life, there were people I was happy to see, office friends, women you chatted with in the bathroom. The company had made a major move uptown to the heart of midtown, and now boasted beautiful high tech offices, the kind cool ad agencies have or tech companies. My one more round gave me the opportunity to experience this.

What would I wear? I had given much of my work clothes to charity 5 months before never expecting to need them again. Luckily, we were going into summer so a few skirts and blouses could work and shopping  was always a fallback if I absolutely needed to spice it up.

The corporate apt had 2 bedrooms so I couldn’t count on having it all to myself. Me, a woman in the sixth decade of her life sharing a flat with a 20 something male journalist.Think Mrs. Robinson, but in reality just a wee bit awkward and contrived.  The decor was circa 1970’s; hey it was a bed to lay my head down at night, not somewhere I would want to spend time. What happened to the image of “The Corporate Apt” in the movies? This wasn’t it! It was free though, so beggars can’t be choosy!

It took me a couple months to get back in the groove. Things change quickly in business. Lingo that I hadn’t used or metrics that I had forgotten about as I played all winter,  came slowly back to me. It was good for my brain to have to think fast on my feet again, to complete proposals, to achieve targets. Did I like this because I wasn’t staff anymore and could march to the beat of my own drum? Being a freelancer, you’re not really part of the political shenanigans that go on and you know you’re leaving within a certain period of time. All good. I could look at my former colleagues and say I’m outta here in 7 months no matter what.

I completed my stint, made some money, and had a second chance to evaluate my decision. I’m glad I did it and it served me well, mentally and physically. Not many people get this opportunity to go back. I think it saved me from the therapist’s office and gave me that confirmation I was looking for in the first retirement phase. The extra money will pay for a trip to Italy in May and a spa vacation in Sonoma in Oct.

So in the words of an old Frank Sinatra song, “I Did It My Way”,

Today’s Takeaway—

. Always maintain an open mind.  Listen to offers that people direct your way. Rigidity is bad for the soul and might cause you to miss out on an opportunity.

. Do what feels right and always listen to that little inner voice within your head!  She knows you better than anyone else.

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

On Being a Shelf-Parent

My wise friend, Carol, once counseled —  when your child becomes an adult, you must “stay on the shelf”.  What she meant was we parents need to grant space for our 20 and 30 something sons and daughters to plot their own path.  We must resist the urge to butt in, lend advice, aggressively check in.  

We are now cheerleaders. Nodding. Affirming. Saying things like, “I just know you’ll figure this out.” And “What do you think?”  

Staying on the shelf means not over-texting and not freaking out when your texts are not responded to immediately. It means living your own life to its fullest and not thinking about what __ is doing right now.  It means taking your kids off the Worry List while of course keeping them on the Daily Prayer List.   Letting God take care of them.

Shelf-Life has its perks though.  

Recently I spent 3 days with Alex in Miami.  We walked on the beach, ate amazing food, played tennis, watched movies.  This was Mother-Daughter time that she requested during her week off between jobs. Who cared that it rained one day or that Alex got sunburned to the point of actual pain?  Our Miami girls-getaway is now etched in the book of treasured memories.

And I think (can’t be sure of this) I may have caught sight of a picture of Alex and me on the beach on the face of her iphone —  the prominent picture you see first when looking at your phone.

It’s true that you’re “always a parent”.   And it’s also true that it’s hard (for me) not to jump off that shelf and glom onto my kids.  

But then I have Miami memories to glue me down.  And anticipation of who-knows-what adventures to come with my grown kids and my amazing daughter in law!

All while I seek my own adventures and peer down occasionally from my Shelf.

Today’s Takeaway –

– Get rid of the Worry List.  It will give you wrinkles.

– While on the shelf, find your fun.  (Joy is taking up a Mah Jong.  We are both discovering Pickleball.) And resist the urge to check your phone to see if your kids have texted.  Chances are, they have not!

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy