The Wisdom of Mad Men

I’m behind the curve. I just started watching Mad Men a couple of weeks ago, and I’m into Season 5 of the seven seasons. Mad Men premiered in 2007. I was busy with a toddler in 2007 and didn’t spend a lot of time watching TV. The series ended in 2015. After watching the first two seasons of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel recently, I was in the mood for a show set in the early 60s, and someone recommended Mad Men.

If you have never seen it but think you would like to, purchase it on Amazon Prime Video. It’s about men and women working at an advertising agency in New York in the 1960s…their professional and private lives, but it is centered around the life of Don Draper, the creative genius behind the agency’s most successful ad campaigns.

The late 1950s/early 1960s are the era when television was becoming influential, and the general public was just starting to enjoy air travel. We were beginning space exploration, and everyone was looking to the future. The cold war was in full swing…and Vietnam was real. Lots of it reminds me of my own childhood in the late 60s and early 70s.

And it is good…really good. The characters are well-written. The sets are glorious. The storylines are intriguing. And even though it is the 1960s, there are so many things happening in these people’s lives…they could be our friends, our neighbors, or even ourselves.

I love it for any number of reasons…the dashing, charismatic Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm; the storylines; the wardrobes; the incredible 1960s sets; New York City; and the wisdom…yes, the wisdom.

Since I wasn’t born until 1967, I wasn’t alive in the early 60s, but it still seems familiar. The console televisions…and when they turn them off, the screen shrinks down to a dot of light. The smoking. The beautiful ashtrays that were sometimes a freestanding piece of furniture and sometimes colorful decor. The green and orange sofa pillows. The rotary dial telephones. The wood paneling. The green kitchen appliances.  The old automobiles. The office politics. The constant day drinking. The social climbing.

But what has surprised me most is the wisdom of some of the characters. It seems Mr. Cooper, the head of the agency, is a wise, well-read and well traveled man. Many of the quotes I love can be attributed to him. Yes, I know he’s not a real person. I know the show’s writers actually write the lines I love so much, but nevertheless, I find some of them to be enriching.

And here, some of the wisdom of Mad Men:

  • “You haven’t thought this through. When you threaten someone in this manner, you should be aware of the fact that if your information is powerful enough to make them do what you want, what else can it make them do?” –Don Draper to Pete Campbell, an account executive with the agency, after Pete tried to blackmail him. I really love this one. It might just be my favorite quote from the series so far. I think this is a quote everyone should ponder…especially before they try to manipulate someone else. You want to get a reaction from me? It might not be the reaction you want. Trying to blackmail someone? They might just kill you instead of complying. I will definitely use this quote at some point in my life! I can think of some instances I should have used it in the past!
  • “Don’t waste your youth on age.” This was immediately a favorite. It is the wisdom of Mr. Cooper. One night, another partner, Mr. Sterling, has a heart attack at the office after hours, and Mr. Cooper calls in the office manager to help send telegrams to clients. She arrives at the office with an older gentleman in tow but quickly tells her companion to leave. She and Mr. Cooper send the telegrams, and as they are leaving, he imparts this bit of wisdom on her in reference to her date. I like to think he’s telling her to spend her time doing youthful things while she’s young.
  • “I know people say ‘life goes on,’ and it does, but no one tells you that’s not a good thing.”–Betty Draper, Don’s wife. This quote is from an episode in Season 1. Betty lost her mother a few months before, and her father has just introduced her to his new lady friend. Anyone who has lost someone understands this. Yes, life goes on, but there are lots of times life’s progression without our loved ones is difficult…we wish we could turn back time.
  • “One never knows how loyalty is born.” –Mr. Cooper. This is another one from the old man, and I like it. I don’t even remember to whom he was speaking or what it was about, but I liked it enough to write it down. It’s true, though. I’ve found loyal friends in the least likely places, and sometimes I’ve learned about their loyalty in the strangest ways. Sometimes we find out about a lack of loyalty in the least expected places too.
  • “The faintest ink is more powerful than the best memory.” –Paul Kinsey, quoting a Chinese Proverb to Don and Peggy in a meeting about ads for telegraphs. While memories are fantastic, proof of those memories is even better, because it solidifies them for us. It makes them permanent. I have childhood memories of being at my grandfather’s house, but when I look at pictures from the era, it backs up my memories. I have cards and letters from my mother. I can’t converse with her, but I know she wrote the messages in those cards and letters. They are permanent.
  • “People tell you who they are, but we ignore it, because we want them to be who we want them to be.”–Don Draper, in his memoirs. Oh my, this is so true. Throughout my life, as I’ve met people, they have told me their flaws early on, but often, I’ve chosen not to believe them. I’ve chosen to think those flaws don’t exist, when in reality, they do. Therefore, when I tell you I often say the wrong thing, and I’m often way too direct, believe me. And if you’re single and dating someone who tells you their flaws up front, believe them! Do not think they will be different with you.

There are also so many scenes without great quotes that communicate “wisdom.” For example, the horror on Pete Campbell’s face is obvious when a coworker says, “Harry told me you said I married for money.” Pete didn’t say it, but Harry did…and he put his words in Pete’s mouth. Any viewer could see through it, and hopefully, we all thought of ways to prevent it from happening to us in the future. The disappointment displayed by Betty Draper in Season 5 when she realized her attempt at revenge on Don and Megan…telling her daughter about Don’s previous marriage to Anna…had failed. Don and Megan taught us all a lesson about how to handle that type of thing…don’t give them the satisfaction of getting you upset. Megan was right when she reminded Don that if he called Betty, he would be playing right into her hands…she would get the satisfaction of knowing she had upset him…because sometimes, the best revenge is living well.

Oh…so much wisdom…

And these are just from the first few seasons. I’m sure I’ll garner more wisdom as I continue to watch. I am absolutely enthralled. If you can’t find me over the next week or so, it’s because I’m still watching Mad Men.

 

***Photo from the Huffington Post***

 

 

 

 

One Year of Blogs

I say it all the time, and the older I get, the more true it is: time flies.

It has been one year since I started “blogging.” I started it as my own form of therapy a month after my mother died, and I do believe it has helped me cope with her death. If you had asked me about that this past December, I might have said otherwise. The first anniversary of her passing was extremely difficult for me…maybe harder than when she actually died. I think I was in so much shock after her death that I didn’t fully digest what had happened. At the one year mark of her death, I was heartbroken. Fortunately, the holidays are a busy time, so I could find lots of things to occupy my mind: shopping, parties, wrapping gifts, spending time with family, spending time with friends. I still grieved throughout the year. There are still times I think I’m losing my mind with grief. But the blog was also a big help.

The blog has morphed somewhat over the year. Originally, I wanted it to be a place where I could share great things I had found and share the stories behind them. There has been some of that, but sometimes, I find myself just sharing stories. I love a good story. I also have a pretty good memory, so I have a story for lots of things that happen. I don’t profess to be a great storyteller, but I appreciate folks who are.

I love writing about my favorite products, but my favorite pieces are stories about my life, my friends, or family members. Yes, I have favorites. I’ll list them at the end of this piece.

Just when I think I’ve run out of stories or new things to share, something else pops up. Lots of times, I see someone or something that reminds me of something else. I make a note in my phone, and then, when I get time, I sit down and write about it. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Some things are easier to write about than others.

But here’s the thing: I write for me. Do I like that people read it and sometimes reach out to me? Of course I do! Does that make it more fun? You bet! But I’m really writing it for a selfish reason: my sanity. It’s a great outlet. If I’m mad, sometimes I write about it. I might not ever share it, but it’s saved in my “drafts” folder. If I’m sad, I write about it, and again, it might not make it past “drafts.” If I’m happy or amused, I might write about that too! In fact, I just took a look at my drafts folder and found that I have about 240 blogs in that folder! And I’ve published just over 140. And hopefully, one day, when I’m long gone, my daughter will still have some of my stories.

Thank you for reading me. I never expected this to become “the next big thing.” I expected it to help me get through the first year without my mother. And it did. Now, I hope it will help me through the second year without my mother. Readers have sent me messages about how some of my stories remind them of things that have happened in their own lives. That’s what I enjoy. I enjoy the feedback. I enjoy the interaction.

So thank you. I’m grateful.

***Some of my favorite pieces from the past year (click on title):

 

 

 

 

 

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Turning 50

Next weekend, I’m going to a friend’s birthday party. She’s turning 50, quite a milestone birthday. I asked her recently if she is as excited about her 50th birthday as I was about mine, and she said she’s not sure how she feels about it.

I turned 50 last year. If you didn’t have to tolerate me then, I will tell you I was pretty obnoxious. I was almost as excited about turning 50 as I was about turning 21…almost. I’ve never been as excited about one of my own birthdays as I was about turning 21. Turning 50 was a close second, though.

When my friend, Nikki, said she wasn’t sure how she felt about fifty, I thought, “She’s got this.” She’s a young fifty. She lives life to the fullest and has a positive outlook on life. All those things point to being happy about a milestone birthday.

Maybe I’m weird, but I look at fifty as a positive.

Of course, I look for reasons to celebrate. Fifty was the perfect excuse for celebrating myself! Fifty deserves Champagne at lunch and anytime I want it! Trust me, almost anyone who has had lunch with me in the past year will tell you I love Champagne with lunch.

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Bellinis in some adorable stemless flutes my friends, Jenn and Neill, gave me.

When I turned fifty in May of last year, I took full advantage of the fact that I was having a big, important, milestone birthday. My husband had turned fifty the year before, and he wanted no fanfare. I honored that. He didn’t really even want it mentioned. He did, however, go to the beach with some friends one weekend near his birthday. Judging by the late night phone call I received, he had a good time.

I didn’t want “fanfare” in the way of my husband throwing a party. Some sweet friends did come together and surprise me with a small dinner party, and some other friends took me out to lunch and to see Smokey and the Bandit (its 40th anniversary) on the big screen. Both events were great fun, as we had fun at the dinner celebrating my birthday, and we lusted after a young Burt Reynolds in the movie theatre after lunch. I wore a “50 Looks Good On Me” sash and black feather boa at dinner and a Smokey and the Bandit homemade t-shirt at the movie. ***Note: black feather boas shed, and if you have any sweat on your chest, the loose feathers will stick, making it appear as though you have a hairy chest.***

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Proof that shedding feather boas can make you appear to have a hairy chest

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My sweet friends humoring me by wearing Smokey and the Bandit t-shirts at the movie

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Drinking Dr. Peppers my friend smuggled into Smokey and the Bandit

My husband gave me a gift I planned: a trip to Los Angeles with my daughter and one of her friends (taking the daughter and a friend gave me lots of time to do whatever I wanted)…staying at my favorite hotel, where we had a lovely suite with a beautiful, gigantic patio that I enjoyed every…single…day. I love outdoor spaces; the hotel gifted me with a glorious outdoor space unlike any other.

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On my glorious patio at the hotel, recreating Faye Dunaway’s pose the day after she won the Academy Award. She posed by the pool, but she was a young, tall, skinny Hollywood star. I posed on the private patio, because I’m not.

While we were there, I visited with a friend who had just turned 40, and we traded “war stories” over dinner while watching celebrities dine. I also had the chance to meet two hot gentlemen, Tony Romo and Chace Crawford, and pretend I was just meeting them so I could take a picture of my daughter and her friend with them.

I embraced turning fifty. I see it as the age of respect. I have knowledge I didn’t have at 20, 30, or 40. I have experiences I wouldn’t trade. As a result of those various experiences, I have wisdom. If you’re thirty and want to tell me about “real life,” be prepared to get, “Bless your heart. I’m 50. Let me tell you about real life.”

There’s also something relaxing about being fifty. When you’re twenty, you worry about what other people think. When you’re thirty, that becomes less of a worry. You understand that when you go to a party, other people don’t really care what you’re wearing…they’re more concerned with what they are wearing. In fact, I like to think that at 30, that all went out the window with me. Some people refer to 40 as their “kiss my a** age” (I heard someone say that on David Letterman’s show years ago), meaning they stopped letting other people influence them and stopped caring so much about what other people think, but I think mine was 30. Some people who knew me in my 20s might argue that it was earlier.

If my mother were here today, she would tell you I was the “classic strong-willed child.” I didn’t cause problems, but I was stubborn. I was known for it in my family. Daddy always talked about it and wondered aloud where I got that lovely trait. He would often say, “If she doesn’t want to do something, or if she doesn’t agree with something, she is not going to give in.” Generally speaking, I didn’t care what other people did, but I wasn’t going to do something I didn’t want to do, and I wasn’t going to be talked into changing my mind about something.

As life has gone on, I’ve become less rigid, more relaxed, and most of the time, I don’t sweat the small stuff. I like to think I quit sweating the small stuff when I was in college. My parents used to say, “She might have been ‘switched’ at college” (a reference to Switched at Birth), meaning a different person came back than the one they dropped off four years before. Whatever happened, I had gained wisdom in those four years, and I’ve gained even more since…I don’t care who is right and who is wrong…unless, of course, it negatively affects me, my child, or my family. Then…well, you already know about Mama Bear.

For me, with age has come peace. I have peace in knowing God is in charge. I truly have peace in knowing there are some things over which I have no control. I have peace in knowing that I, generally speaking, try to do the right thing. I will admit that I’m perfectly capable of being petty, but I try to do the right thing most of the time. I have peace in knowing I have a nice family and good friends. I have peace in knowing I’m trying to raise my daughter to take care of herself and others. I have peace in knowing a small act of kindness can mean a lot to someone. I have peace in knowing my brother and I will talk almost everyday, whether we have something to say or not. I have peace in knowing he is happy. I have peace.

So, to my friend, Nikki, and all my other friends who will be turning fifty in the next year or two, this is my gift to you: Embrace the 5-0! Tell everyone you see you are enjoying your 50th birthday! Enjoy it! And don’t just celebrate it for one day; celebrate the whole dang year! Find the peace you deserve at 50!

My 51st birthday is approaching one month from today, and I have called this past year The Year of Me, this year that I am 50.

Unfortunately, I lost my mother during this year, but she laughed and laughed last May at how I embraced turning 50. She had a great sense of humor, and she was happy I was celebrating life. She was glad I took some extra vacations (my favorite thing to do), and she was glad I was spending time with friends and family during the year. She encouraged me to enjoy every single day. As my parents used to tell me, “Life is not a dress rehearsal. Make it good the first time around.” I’m certainly trying.

Friends, enjoy every day. Be glad you’re turning fifty. It’s a milestone. Eat cake! Cake is for winners! (Nikki knows what that means.) It should be a celebration.

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Now, let’s pop the Champagne!

Cheers!

 

Why Write Now?

 

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”

–Anne Frank

Yesterday, it occurred to me that it has been two months since my mother died. I remember when Daddy died, when things would happen, I would think, “And Daddy’s missing this.” Now I’m doing the same thing, “Mother’s missing this.”

I started my website/blog about a month ago…a month after Mother died. I find myself wondering what she would think. She loved to read blogs on Facebook…especially Sean of The South by Sean Deitrich. If you haven’t read his blog, you should. You can find it on facebook here.

Looking back at my posts, I know which ones she would have enjoyed. She’d have loved the one about Sunflowers, for sure, but she would be especially happy about My Favorite Rescue. Of course, that story could not have happened if she were still with us. I like to think she is smiling in Heaven about her dog’s homecoming. I know Sam (the dog) misses Mother, but she sure is happy to be home, and she loves living with my nephew. Thank goodness my brother agreed to bring her home.

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Mother loved stories, and she loved to laugh, so she would love any of my blog entries that made her laugh. Pee in my shoes during the kindergarten play? She would have remembered it, and she would have laughed out loud about it.

The story about the cute waiter in Boone would have made her smile. She always rooted for the underdog. We would have discussed that one a hundred times by now, as each of us made up different stories about what might have happened to Ricky. Did his day get better? Did he marry the out-of-his-league girl? Is he traveling the world, leaving great tips for servers everywhere he goes? The possibilities are endless.

What I find myself wondering, though, is WHY did I start my blog after Mother died?! WHY didn’t I start it sooner? She would have given me honest feedback, so why did I wait?! I had wanted to do a blog for a long time, but I was hesitant. Why now?

Maybe I was afraid of her honest feedback. Maybe that’s why I waited.

Well, here’s what I think: I used to talk to Mother every day…mostly in the car, because that was the only time I was alone and could actually converse without interruption
(except my husband has some sort of phone radar and ALWAYS calls when I’m on the phone…Mother and I used to laugh about it). I can’t talk with her anymore. I think this blog started as a coping mechanism. Writing, for whatever reason, helps me deal with grief. That’s what I think. I just realized that yesterday as I sat down in front of my laptop again. I’m channeling some of the conversations I would have had with Mother into this blog.

When Daddy died in 2006, I didn’t cope well at all. I was younger, of course, and while I’d lost grandparents, losing Daddy was huge. Oh, I struggled. Thank God I had good friends and family around who helped me. My daughter was almost three when Daddy died, and I was 39. Fortunately for me, I had some great friends and family, near and far, and we had the very best playgroup ever. They were the people with whom I had daily interaction after coming home from Daddy’s funeral.

Our playgroup was full of kids about my daughter’s age, and all the moms were in their late 30s. We were a hodgepodge group from all over the country. Lots of states were represented: Alabama, South Carolina, Virginia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maryland…we were all different, but  we rallied around each other. In talking with my friend, Jenn, recently, we laughed about our playgroup, because it was really for the moms. The kids got to have REAL unstructured playtime, because for the most part, they were free ranging wherever we were. People talk about how kids don’t get to have unstructured playtime anymore; well, ours did. My daughter is an only child, so I feel like those friends in the early years of playgroup felt like siblings to her, so she experienced that to some extent.

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Most of the time, we were at Wendy’s house, because it was most kid-friendly, and frankly, Wendy can cook. Jenn can cook really well too, but back then, Wendy always had something on the stove or in the oven. Her mother is Italian…from the North End in Boston…real Italian…she can cook. So while our kids played, the moms gathered in the kitchen and talked and sampled dinner. Recently, Jenn and I laughed about just how unstructured the kids’ play was. Usually, they were in a playroom, while the moms were gathered in another room. If anything happened, one of the kids would come get us.

I think the loss of my daddy was one of the first big crises we had experienced together as a group of friends. My coping skills were less than great, but my friends rallied and got me through it. I remember being at Wendy’s house one day soon after he died. Jenn was there too. I’d had a headache for DAYS. They talked to me about the stress I was dealing with and sent me upstairs to bed…in Wendy’s house…before noon. They fed me and my family, and they helped ME.

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Playgroup moms, children, and a couple of aunts and grandparents gathered for Halloween Birthday Party for Wendy’s dad. I dressed as Hester Prynne.

We’ve been through a lot together. One mom suffered a late miscarriage before Daddy died. Several members of our group moved away. A few have survived divorces. One lost her mother to ALS. Some of their husbands lost their jobs during the financial crisis in 2008/2009. One almost died from an allergic reaction at lunch with me in California Pizza Kitchen. My husband had two brain surgeries. One studied for and passed the NC State Bar Exam. We got all our kids enrolled in school…some at public, some at private. Broken bones. Surgeries for children. Sleep issues. And one friend from our group has battled cancer for years, but she is one tough chick. She moved away years ago, but we wish she were in Charlotte, so we could help her. Fortunately, she has a very supportive family in Boston, but we miss all of them in Charlotte. We are all still friends, and those of us who remain in Charlotte still try to get together with the kids a few times a year, and every time, the kids are thrilled to be together.

I’m fortunate to have great friends in Charlotte and elsewhere…lots of friends who recently sent me cards, letters, and food when Mother died, and friends who called or visited. I have friends who have listened to me cry and tell story after story. I have friends who came to the hospital and sat with me and held my hand, and I have friends who honored Mother’s memory by placing her cup of Bailey’s and coffee on the bar when a group of us gathered. I have friends who know when to stop by for a cup of coffee. People are kind. Every single person and every single gesture has been a part of learning to face life without my Mother.

So maybe I’m writing to cope. I have a degree in journalism, and I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I haven’t been doing a lot of writing in the past few years. I know Mother would be proud that I’m doing something related to that degree she and Daddy financed.

If you enjoy the blog/website, please invite friends to read it. So far, I’ve loved sharing ideas for different things, and I’ve laughed (and cried!) while telling stories. Grief after Mother’s death led me here.

Mother would be proud that I’m writing and proud that I’m coping.

Thank you for helping me cope.

Kelly

NEXT POST, WEDNESDAY: Fun provisions for a stay-in weekend with a friend or friends.