Why I’m not “grandma”

I overheard a middle-aged man ask somewhat rhetorically, “Why don’t women want to be called grandma anymore?” I don’t know where he’s been hanging out, but I know plenty of women who love being called grandma. While, I love being a grandma, it’s not the name my grandchildren use, so I’ll answer his question.

First of all, it’s not about pride. I don’t think people look at me and think “grandma,” but they’re also not surprised to learn I am one. I’m certainly within the age range, and I’m content with that fact. I readily admit to being a grandma so I can talk to you about my granddaughters until your eyes roll. I proudly carry their photos and am ready to whip them out at the slightest mention. Consider yourself warned!

It is, however, a matter of practicality. Babies cannot say grandma. As they approach their first birthday, they can say simple syllables such as da, ma, ha (translated “hi”) and ba (translated “bye”). Between the ages of one and two, they add more words to their vocabulary, like mine and everyone’s favorite, NO!

We make it easy for these little budding linguists to say grandpa, by shortening it to “papa.” However, you can’t shorten “grandma” in the same manner. Babies have ONE “mama” and that’s a sacred relationship.

So, being the practical person that I am, I went in search of a name my grandchildren could pronounce – something simple. I know a few grandmas who are referred to as Mimi. Cute, simple and easy to pronounce, but that’s what my son called me as he was transitioning from saying mama to mommy. Somehow that didn’t seem right, and it’s also the name my son’s mother-in-law chose to use.

With my usual *finesse, I searched the internet and found a site that provides the word for grandma in other languages. I’m the first to admit that I’m pretty much a mixture of anything and everything Northern European. I’m Irish, English, German and Flemish with a tad-bit of Cherokee thrown in. In other words, I’m a mutt. However, since my Irish heritage is strongest, I looked up the Gaelic word for grandma. I found the following translation and definition: seanmháthair, literally meaning “old mother.” Children would not be likely to address a grandmother by this term. They would use instead Maimeó or Móraí.

It’s self-evident that I’m an “old mother,” so I chose not to have my grandchildren announce that fact every time they called my name. Besides, seanmháthair is even tougher to pronounce than grandma. I clicked the on the pronunciation of maimeó and heard, maw-moh. Okay, we have a winner!

My husband and I are Poppa and Mamo, respectively, and our almost two-year-old granddaughter has no problem saying either name. She actually demonstrated this for the congregation at church as her mother was taking her to the nursery midway through the sermon. As they were leaving the sanctuary we heard her strong, sweet voice saying, “Buh-bye, Poppa! Buh-bye, Mamo!” Her mother may have been slightly embarrassed, but it was one of the proudest moments of my life.

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Younger eyes

I’m not trying to kid anyone, including myself. I look in the mirror and realize I’ve aged. Hey, I’m a grandmother – twice! However, it’s nice to have people act truly surprised to learn my age. I’ve even been asked what I do to look younger than my age, and that’s perhaps the best compliment.

I have used several different products over the years beginning in my mid-twenties. I once heard you should always choose products that are available in your grocery store, and have followed that advice for the most part. Occasionally I’d try specialty “serums”, but although they felt really good going on, I didn’t notice that they did a better job than my regular Oil of Olay moisturizer.


Image courtesy of Carlos Porto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I remember when I first began to notice pesky little lines around my eyes. I was in my early thirties and thought that was a little crazy. After all, I’d just gotten used to not fighting pimples. Shouldn’t there be a good decade between pimples and wrinkles? Apparently not.

I began to use more moisturizer around my eyes. At one point I ran out of moisturizer and panicked! The only moisturizer in the house was my Jergen’s hand lotion. I didn’t want to use that all over my face, but I did dab it around my eyes. I found it worked better than my regular face moisturizer, so I continued to use it around my eyes. I also learned that applying the moisturizer with my ring finger was best as it has the lightest touch. Who knew?

petrojellyI was quite happy with my routine until my cosmetologist friend mentioned petroleum jelly as a moisturizer. I did some online research and found some great information at JudyForeman.com.  Foreman, a nationally syndicated fitness, health, and medicine columnist interviewed several dermatologist regarding moisturizers. According to the article, no moisturizer penetrates the skin, but some do a better job of retaining moisture. “Substances like petroleum jelly and oils are quite effective. They are heavy, greasy and work precisely because they sit on top of the skin and preclude evaporation of water.”

I decided to give it a try around my eyes. To make it easier to work with, I spritzed some water on my eyes and then applied a thin layer. I like the results, but because it is heavy and greasy, I only use it at night and only around my eyes. It works AND it’s very inexpensive! Now, that’s fighting wrinkles with *finesse!


My wrinkle fighting *finesse level:  Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert

What’s your wrinkle fighting finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Mom’s 80th

I’m not a professional event planner, but I know some very talented event planners and have worked on some pretty large scale events. So it’s not surprising that when it came time to plan my mom’s 80th birthday party, I was thinking large scale. Nothing elaborate, but something more than our usual family barbeque.

My sister was perfectly happy to stick with the usual and add in a few of mom’s closest friends, but our mother isn’t the type of person to only have a few close friends. Logically, she’s going to have a lot of friends just because she’s been accumulating them for 80 years, but her ability to make and keep friends goes well beyond the logical. She has friends from childhood, high school, work and church. She has family – LOTS of family! She genuinely loves all her friends and family, and does her best to stay in contact with them all.

It became apparent in the early planning process that the guest list could get out of control, and quickly.

“Mom, only invite those who legitimately call you Grandma Dee, not those who only do so out of respect.”

“Really, Mom? When was the last time you spoke to that person?”

Several invitees had to decline due to weddings, family reunions, etc., but we still had close to 100 people present to celebrate mom’s milestone birthday. All three of us kids were there with our spouses, five of her six grandchildren, nine of her 13 great-grandchildren, her two siblings and many of their children and grandchildren.

Her relationship with God is the most important thing in her life, but following a close second is family and coming in third is music. She was thrilled to have all three rolled into one, as my siblings and I sang “Until Then.” We also got her on video playing her signature songs, “Meeting in the Air” and “Goodbye, World, Goodbye.” Boy, those 80-year-old fingers can still run up and down the ivories fast and flawlessly! We also got an impromptu group of family to sing a somewhat less than perfect rendition of “I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.”

Her party is not what I want for my 80th birthday, however, it’s exactly what she wanted (okay, she would have liked every single family member present, but that just wasn’t possible). She’s still overwhelmed with the notes and cards, and just that people took time out of their busy lives to be part of her special celebration.

To still hear her talk warmly about the day nearly three weeks later makes us happy. She’s done so much for all of us through the years, it’s the least we could do for her.


Tennis elbow? But I don’t even play tennis!

I’m not an athlete. Outside of running sprints on field day in grade school, I’ve never really been an athlete (not to brag, but I did win quite a few blue ribbons!). I was a cheerleader, so I was active, but participating in competitive sports wasn’t and isn’t of interest to me. However, wanting to be healthy, I’ve been exercising on a fairly regular basis for several years. Nothing too strenuous, mostly fast-paced walking on the treadmill ramped up to a pretty good incline.

I felt my arms could use a little better workout than just swinging them back and forth while I walked, so I added some 2.5-pound weights while I was warming up. About three months ago, I started experiencing a little pain in my left elbow during these brief exercises. I’m thinking, “For goodness sake, it’s just a little weight. Buck up!”

I should have listened to the pain, but a little story I’d heard influenced me otherwise. According to the story, an older lady liked to sit in her comfy chair doing knitting, or some such activity. She had a side table nearby for her glasses, a cup of tea and a book. One day she reached for her glasses and felt a pain, so the next time she had family visit she had them move her side table closer to her chair. That was fine for a while, but before too long she reached for something on the side table again and felt a pain. As you can guess, her family moved the side table closer to her chair until the chair and table were nudged up against one another. Eventually, the older lady’s world was reduced to that chair and side table.

I’ve resolved not to be that lady. I want to be a woman of *finesse, so I ignored the pain and kept using the weights. When the pain persisted after exercising, I decided to make a doctor’s appointment. My symptoms provided the diagnosis of lateral epicondylitis, more commonly known as tennis elbow.

According to WebMD, tennis elbow affects 1 to 3 percent of the population overall and less than 5 percent of all tennis elbow diagnoses are related to actually playing tennis. It most often affects people between the ages of 30 and 50 (men more than women), although people of any age can be affected. It also affects athletes other than tennis players and people who participate in leisure or work activities that require repetitive arm, elbow, and wrist movement.

Two weeks after the diagnosis I’m still applying cold packs, heat packs, massaging the area, taking ibuprofen, and generally resting my arm. Next up, some physical therapy. From now on I’ll be listening to my body when it’s trying to tell me something.

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)


Just five pounds

Every year I make the same resolution to lose five pounds. I’ve never succeeded in losing the five pounds but, I haven’t gained any weight either. This year is different, however. I’ve mysteriously gained five pounds while doing nothing different from the previous years.

I hear similar stories from other women my age, and many of us wonder if we should just accept this added weight as part of aging and start purchasing clothes one size larger. After all, it’s just five pounds. How bad can an extra five pounds be?

I remembered hearing an equation regarding the pressure of extra weight on your joints and decided to do a little research. According to the website Sharecare and several others, being overweight puts huge pressure on your joints. Here’s the equation: For each extra pound of excess weight on your body, you add 3 times that amount of pressure on your knees.

So the answer to my question is, five extra pounds adds 15 pounds of pressure to my aging knees, and that’s certainly not good.  And the pressure is more than doubled when walking up stairs! Instead of multiplying those five extra pounds by 3, you multiply by 7. Fifteen pounds of pressure just became 35 pounds. Over time, the force of those five extra pounds will wear down my cartilage, leading to arthritis. Losing the extra five pounds just moved from a vanity issue to a mobility issue!

From a very practical point of view, losing five pounds in one year is doable – for everyone. The Sharecare website goes on to state that the damage from the added pressure can be stopped and reversed. “As you lose weight and reduce the pressure on your joints, the cushioning between your bones will build back up. A 10 pound weight loss over 10 years may result in as much as a 50 percent decrease in your odds of developing osteoarthritis.”

So summon up a little *finesse and join me in kicking five pounds off the scales this year! Who knows, maybe we’ll feel so good about losing those five pounds, we’ll knock off another five pounds next year! But let’s do this one step at a time. And that may well be a literal statement if you’re carrying quite a bit of extra weight. Maybe the only thing you can do is get off the couch during commercial breaks during your favorite TV show and walk to the sink and get a glass of water. That’s movement and certainly better than sitting motionless for 30 minutes to an hour.

Let me know what you’re doing to lose five pounds and protect your joints.

My wellness finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert               

What’s your wellness finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Hair stylist shares practical tips

I don’t know what I’d do without my friend and hair stylist, Kelly Dowhan. A professional with more than 30 years of experience, Kelly is passionate about helping her clients look their best.  She enjoys researching current hair and clothing fashions, and is especially interested in proportion, hair and skin tone, and practicality when it comes to hair and clothing fashions.  I recently sat down with Kelly to discuss how to age with finesse*.

Q: Kelly, what are the most important things women can do to keep their hair healthy as they age?

A: The most important thing a woman over 40 can do to keep her hair in the best shape is to make sure she’s getting all the right nutrients and enough sleep for her body to produce healthy hair and skin. This would also include exercise. Most of the demise of a woman’s hair, once she enters into peri-menopause and menopause, is due to hormone changes. This can cause hair to lose its luster, become wiry and thin, not to mention the obvious: grey. Diet and exercise can often delay and lower the impact and signs of aging and the inevitable decline of hormones. 

Additionally, take a moment and reassess your hair type and make sure you’re on target.  Are you still treating your hair with the same type of products you used in your twenties and thirties? If your hair has changed, you should change your products.

Shampooing tip (this is a biggie): “Wash the scalp, not the hair. Condition the hair, not the scalp.” When shampooing, tip your head upside down and apply the shampoo onto the scalp by going in at the base of the hair shaft. Two shampoo applications will be necessary: one from the forehead and temples working back, and one from the nape up to the crown. Don’t work the shampoo through the rest of the strands; the gentle rinse of soapy water passing through will do the job. Only apply conditioner to the dry ends, never near the scalp or around the hairline. 

Q: What’s the biggest mistake women make with their hair as they age?

A: TOO BIG!!!  Rein that baby in. 


Q: What are your three top tips for looking our best at any age?

A: “Shower, Shampoo and Shine!” Look like you care. Get up. Get ready for the day. Do your hair. Put on a little make up — especially lipstick (not too dark as you get older; it can look harsh). 

Regarding the “Shine,” pick out something cute to wear — not just/only “comfortable.” One thing I’ve noticed is that many people in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s tend to wear the same clothes for years –like ten, fifteen, twenty years. This is certainly noble and very practical, but it’s one of the things that can really make a person look, well, kind of stale. 

Newer fabrics may be one of the reasons people don’t rotate their wardrobe as often as they should. Some people want to wear items until they wear out, but, let’s face it; some of these fabrics are so indestructible they could out live us all. And because we don’t want to give away a perfectly good item, we end up with huge outdated wardrobes.

To avoid this, make a pen mark on a tag inside the garment or on a notepad, noting the date you bought the item — like you might do with kitchen spices. Do an occasional assessment of your small, but wonderful wardrobe, looking for items that may not yet be worn out, but have worn out their welcome. Aim for a small, steadily overturning, current set of clothes (which, by the way, makes packing a breeze).

My hair/fashion finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert         

 What’s your hair/fashion finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)