Tag Archives: weddings

Bad Timing Birthday Brings Bonus

 Having a birthday in early June is a matter of bad timing.

I don’t blame my parents (it’s a tad late for that), but for those of you who may now be considering an attempt to conceive a child this coming September for a planned early June arrival, I have these words of advice: “Don’t do it.”

June 2 is the date of my birth. It has not been an optimal one, unfortunately coinciding over the years with many seemingly more important life cycle events belonging to other people.

I have attended many special events on June 2. Instead of having the sole focus on that auspicious date be on ME and MY birthday (“ME” and “MY” are two current favorite words, in high rotation in the vocabulary of my three-year-old grandson),  I have frequently pretended to be happy at someone else’s celebration.

High School graduations, College graduations, anniversary parties, weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, end-of-school-year dinners,  baby showers, engagement events.  All held on the popular early summer date of June 2.

And fyi, if you are a guest at a friend’s big event, it is not considered polite to remark in the middle of their festivities  – “Oh, by the way, it’s my birthday today.” 

No one will care. Instead you have to suck it up and act as if it is their special day alone.

Besides having had to share my birthday more times than I would like, I also have not had good luck with the date itself.

Early June is a busy time. The school year is ending. The summer is starting. Everyone is preoccupied with their own concerns. One year when I was in high school, the only birthday card I received in the mail was from my grandmother. And she spelled my name incorrectly.

(This is true, not because she had dementia at that point in her life, but because I am one of seven grand-daughters all closely clustered in age. So if I received a small, but welcome, birthday check in the mail from my mother’s mother, I was told to endorse it, even it was made out to another of my first cousins.)

At least my grandmother remembered. Unlike some of my other here-unnamed friends and family members who are pretty sure that my birthday falls in early June, even if they cannot quite remember the exact date.

Here it is for you:  June 2. And it is going to be a BIG one this year  —> 65.

A/K/A:

  • The Medicare Year.
  • The Year Your Mail is Flooded With Annuity Retirement Fund Brochures.
  • The Year You Can No Longer Pretend You are Still Middle-Aged.
  • The Year You Have to Stop Saying – “Oh, I’m  in my early sixties.” Because You Are Not. You are now half-way to 70.

Which is fine with me. Because as my Dad likes to say (especially now in his still-early-90’s), better to have a birthday than not.

Earlier this week my Dad’s best friend died. His friend was a brilliant, caring man, a highly respected doctor in my hometown.  He was 91 and sure you can say that he lived to a “ripe old age”, but for him and likely for my Dad, his death came too soon. My Dad, who is far better with words of legal origin than of emotional weight,  cannot bring himself to express his sadness. But he did tell me that with this recent death all of his male pals are now gone. He is the only one left.

All the more reason to celebrate birthdays while you still have them to celebrate. Not to let people forget how important it is to remember that you are still alive, that you still appreciate a carefully-selected card, perhaps a slice of cheese cake with a single candle and a clever email greeting or two.

(Let me state here for the record my firmly held belief that posting a breezy “Happy Birthday” on Facebook after you have been reminded it is a friend’s birthday does not count.  Full credit is awarded ONLY if you remember the person’s birthday of your own accord without a social media prompt.)

And if you are close enough to me that you are considering the purchase of a gift this year, please know that I  already have a drawer full of highly-effective, collagen-building, “youth-preserving” skin moisturizers. Do try to be a bit more imaginative in the present department. Not every 65-year-old woman will gracefully accept the subtle reminder of yet another new anti-aging cream.

But we will gracefully accept being remembered on our birthdays.

On the exact date, if possible. Thank you in advance.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Aging, Aging Parents, Family, Female Friends, friendship, Holidays, Women

Find a Career that Makes Your Eyes Light Up: Advice for Recent and Not-So-Recent Graduates

bowl of candy on desk

So, is there anything about law firm life that you miss?” asked my old friend, Tom, a big deal partner at a DC law firm.

We stood chatting late in the evening at a wedding reception a few weeks ago. Guests gathered by the dessert table; I was debating between the little parfait glasses filled with chocolate mousse or the fruit tarts. Or both.

No, not really,” I responded without giving his question much thought, my mind more focused on the tiny red velvet cupcakes as another option.

Tom tried again, “Really? Nothing at all about practicing law that you miss?”

O.K., so we were having a real conversation here, not just a polite inquiry among haven’t-seen-you-for-awhile old friends.

I countered, “Well, I did like advising clients. I always liked telling people what to do.”  I laughed,  “And I liked the paycheck. So did our mortgage company.”

Pause for a moment of silence while I recalled the thrill of my first sizeable law firm paycheck.

I also liked the candy. I miss that.” I told him.

You miss what?” Tom asked, with a puzzled look on his face.

(perhaps they didn’t have as much candy at Tom’s law firm as they did at mine?)

So I explained. “You know, the candy in the bowls that people kept on their desks.”

Every afternoon around 4:00 p.m. I would take a break and do a “power walk” around our law firm’s small office, stopping for brief chats with colleagues and staff and to select my daily rewards for making it through most of the work day. Susan could always be counted on to have a seasonal assortment, candy corn, turkey-shaped chocolates or peeps. Ned specialized in mints. David shared Tootsie roll pops.

The thing is that I don’t really even like candy.

Likely, though, that Tom doesn’t rely on candy as a work-day incentive. He is the kind of lawyer who loves what he does. I did not.

I thought of my conversation with Tom the other day while reading an essay by novelist Jonathan Odell, offering excellent, if unexpected, advice for graduates titled –  “Never Get Good At What You Hate.”

Odell, who left a successful corporate career at midlife to become a writer, reasons that if you do become good at a job that you don’t much like, then you will be asked to do more of it. And the more you do of it, the more you will be asked to do, and the more unhappy you will grow.

I recognized myself in his essay. I, too was very good at a career I didn’t much like. I didn’t hate it – I just didn’t love it. And what made it harder for me was being surrounded by colleagues who really loved being lawyers.

How could I tell?

Their eyes lit up when they talked about a new project, they relished a tough legal debate, they eagerly worked those long hours –  all because they had found that love for the law that bypassed me.

My law firm colleagues, Tom and my Dad, too, (now age 92, still practicing law at a firm he founded) – – they all share that gut level passion for the law that I lacked.

Over my lawyering years it became increasingly obvious that I was getting very good at what I didn’t like to do. It made me feel like an imposter, and while I hoped that no one around me noticed – I am sure that they did.

After 33 years of working hard, becoming a partner, earning the respect of my terrific clients –  it was only through the “luck” of having a defective heart valve go seriously awry 2x, that I was involuntarily de-lawyered.  I suddenly had all the time in the world to consider what I really wanted to do – return to my childhood passion, writing that does not involve any legalese.

Which makes me (if not my mortgage company) very, very, very happy. My eyes now light up (so my husband and friends tell me) when I talk about my latest writing projects.

I offer this cautionary tale for recent and not-so-recent graduates to ponder. And a question: how can you possibly know at age 22 or 25 – or at 58 or 62 what you will really like to do if you haven’t had the chance to do it?

Try this test with a few close friends. Let them sit in front of you. Then tell them about a few different work/life paths you’ve been considering.

Which one will make the work day go so fast that you won’t need candy as a mid-afternoon reward?

Which one will make your eyes light up?

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1st Job, Adult Kids, Baby Boomers, Careers, College, friendship, Law firm life, Lawyers, Midlife, New Grad, Semi-Retired, Women in the Workplace

Love, Marriage and Social Media

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One of the best parts of reaching a “certain age” is that you get invited to weddings all over again. This time around – it is to the weddings of our friends’ how-did-they-grow-up-so-fast adult kids.

After an in-depth analysis based on my recent attendance at a grand total of two weddings this spring, I can confidently state that some things about nuptials remain the same. But some have changed. And for the better.

Let me explain.

Last Saturday we drove from DC to Brooklyn to attend the wedding of the son of my best pal from law school. The ceremony was at 4 p.m. in a darkly beautiful, historic gothic church in Brooklyn Heights followed by a reception in Prospect Park.

One step inside the Park’s Picnic House and I knew this was a millennial-designed reception.  No assigned seating, no name cards, no receiving line, no formality. Instead a group of very happy friends and family members clustered around a drinks’ table featuring a curated selection of local craft beer and personalized mixed drinks.

AND in a prominent place a boldly lettered sign providing the following social media instructions for guests:

 

For Instagram, please use #GroomLastNameBrideLastName

Social media instructions are very 2015. But some things about weddings – thankfully – REMAIN THE SAME since I was a May bride 37 years ago.

1. A wedding always involves a happy couple.

And as guests, we get to bask in the reflected glow of their happiness, watching as they recite their vows and pledge their troth. (whatever that is, they still pledge it.) And vows they still say, even if they leave out the part about “obey” (I did, too, to my husband’s lasting regret.)

2. After the ceremony comes the reception – and hors d’oeuvres will be served.

I am a huge fan of tiny appetizers.  While you may be among those wedding guests whose first priority is to get your first drink, or to offer congratulations to the bride and groom, my first reception task is to determine from which door the waiters carrying the fresh trays of hors d’oeuvres will emerge.

On Saturday night, I lucked into an excellent reception location, about eight to ten feet from the swinging door so that all of the waiters had to pass right by me as they entered with trays of miniature potato pancakes topped with chives and sour cream, petite crab cakes and tiny goat cheese tarts.

(pro tip: please do not block me, if I get to the spot closest to the appetizer entry door. I can be fiercely hors d’oeuvres-protective.

3. There will be sentimental toasts.

The bride’s sister on Saturday night charmingly told a story about her younger sister in pigtails. The groom’s sister welcomed the bride into her family. And the best man embarrassed the groom with a reference to tray stealing from the college cafeteria. Guests applauded, champagne was served.

 

But some things about weddings  – thankfully – HAVE evolved.

 

1.No one blinks an eye if the happy couple are from entirely different backgrounds. 

33 members of my husband’s extended Macedonian-American family traveled from Michigan to Connecticut to see us get married by a rabbi under a chuppah; that was unusual in 1978, although my parents and relatives did a lovely job of welcoming my husband’s family.

Now in May, 2015, inter-everything marriages are the norm and differences in heritage are celebrated.

Early in the evening of Saturday night’s reception, the bride, the Korean-American daughter of immigrants, and the groom, whose forebears served as officers in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, both donned Korean wedding attire for a paebaek ceremony where they sought and received blessings from both sets of parents. After they bowed to their elders and drank ceremonial wine, their parents tossed chestnuts (symbolizing boys) and dates (symbolizing girls) in the air which the bride tried to catch in the apron of her dress to signify how many children she and her new spouse will have.

All of the wedding guests crowded around the paebaek ceremony, applauding and cheering –   I did spot my friend, the mother of the groom, flinch slightly when as it was announced that the newlyweds should expect 6 male and 8 female children.

2. No bouquet was tossed nor garter was thrown.

Saturday night’s couple, both medical residents at a major hospital, did not partake in these antiquated traditions. No one seemed to miss them. It was clear to everyone that this was a marriage of equals, of two young adults who take joy in each other’s accomplishments, yet intend to support each other in times which are sure to come when disappointments will outnumber successes.

3. Love is even sweeter the older you get.

When I was making the rounds of the weddings of friends in the late ’70’s and ’80’s , a wedding was pretty much a party. A chance to dress up, to eat the aforementioned hors d’oeuvres, to dance the night away. Now – after years of seeing our friends through divorces, second marriages, more divorces, the deaths of spouses and of elderly parents, I leap at the chance to go to weddings.  Purely happy events come less frequently as we get older, so any opportunity to share in the happiness of our friends in the glow of young love is particularly treasured.

To all of my friends whose adult kids are not yet in serious relationships, may I say with all due respect: HURRY UP.

I am not getting any younger and though I tweet with aplomb, if you want me to become an instagram expert too, I had better start learning now.

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Filed under Adult Kids, Aging, Aging Parents, Baby Boomers, Family, Female Friends, friendship, Husbands, Marriage, Moms, Raising Kids, Women

Dancing like a Tree into 2015

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It was at a party at the newly co-ed Williams College where I slipped on a beer-soaked dance floor.

I came down hard, twisting my right knee, while dancing to the song “Sympathy for the Devil” (raise your hands in the air, woo, woo! woo, woo!). A slightly torn meniscus that has always bothered me.

But that has never stopped me from dancing.

It may come as a surprise to those who remember me as the winner of “the most uncoordinated person we have ever had in the 8th grade” gym class prize, but I like to dance. No ballet or ballroom, just your old-fashioned, bar mitzvah, wedding, party-style dancing to rock music. The music comes on and I am one of the first leading my husband by the hand onto the dance floor.

Not that anyone has ever called me a good dancer. When I was in high school, I spent a summer living with a family in Mexico as an exchange student. We went to a quinceañera party where a boy I danced with told me I danced “como un arbol”, like a tree. Not a compliment. But I like to say that what I lack in elegance on the dance floor, I make up for in enthusiasm.

This is where my husband’s eyes will roll when he reads this.

JP is the better dancer in our family, I admit.  He can follow choreographed steps, I cannot. Probably because of his family traditions in the Macedonian region of Northern Greece where they do circle dances called “oro”. These are similar to but more complex than the Jewish hora of my heritage. And by the time my husband became officially Jewish some 15 years after we married (what can I say? sometimes he is a s-l-o-w learner), he had long since picked up the steps to the hora with ease.

Last summer my husband was asked by his best friend to lead the traditional Macedonian wedding bread dance at his daughter’s wedding held on a family farm. This was one of the most lovely weddings I have ever attended.

Think Martha-Stewart-Citified-Elegance-Meets-Indiana-Rustic.

We spent the night dancing to a terrific rock dance band imported from Chicago playing inside a huge tent next to the lit-up red barn and the corn fields.

Late in the evening, the father of the bride grabbed the mike and announced that we would be doing the bread dance in honor of the bride’s 91-year-old grandfather and his elderly aunts who sat beaming from the side of the very crowded dance floor.  So to a taped recording of a Macedonian folk song, my husband, holding a white napkin aloft in his right hand, led the dancers, all holding hands, while someone else held the circular-shaped bread in the air over the heads of the happy couple.

(Note: The bread they used that night looked suspiciously like a Jewish challah. Perhaps it was one. Sometimes I think the Macedonians copied pretty much everything from us?)

I joined in the dance, trying to keep up, but my feet only knew how to do the hora. Dancing next to me was the bride’s aunt who actually knew how to do the oro. My right foot was obviously in the wrong place when her left foot came down on mine.  Big bruise the next day, I’m fine now. No apology needed, Karen; it was my fault.

When you get older, said a recent article in the Washington Post,  you may have to modify your prior physical activities. If you could run a marathon when you were in you twenties, then as you age, perhaps you can only do a half-marathon. Not a concern for me; no marathons in my past or future. But my knee still bothered me, so I went to see an orthopedist who asked me if I knew that my knee problem was aggravated by the limited range of motion I had in my right hip? News to me.

A physical therapist then gave me a set of exercises. Which I am mostly doing.  She told me not to take up running (phew) and then reassured me that neither my knee injury nor my inflexible hip will prevent me from lighting up the dance floor at all the future weddings and parties I plan to attend.

Which is good. Because I don’t intend to give up dancing.

My husband’s office is having its’ annual New Year’s dinner and dance in late January.  I will be the one moving awkwardly but with great enthusiasm, dancing the night away like the mature tree I now am. Think of dancing as a metaphor for aging.  I don’t dance gracefully. I don’t plan to age gracefully either.

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Filed under Aging, Baby Boomers, College, Family, Holidays