Baby Boomer's reflections on the journey from living life in THE sixties to living life in OUR sixties.

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Who’s afraid of dying?

Back in the olden days (the seventies), when I still had a waistline, I read a popular book by Erica Jong called Fear of Flying. All I can remember about the book is that I found it overrated and I really didn’t enjoy it. Am I the only person who didn’t find the book worthy of the accolades it earned at the time and confirmed over the decades. Jong has now published another book that is particularly relevant to Boomers.

jongFear of Dying a work of fiction about Isadore Wing’s wealthy New York friend, Vanessa who is suffering a delayed mid-life crisis. Written in the first person, Vanessa describes her privileged life as a past-her-prime soap opera and stage actress. At the age of sixty she’s coping with issues relating to the loss of parents, loss of youth, loss of sex life and loss of loved ones. Considering she’s married to a billionaire and along with her two sisters, they’ve just inherited a New York apartment that once was the home of George Gershwin and is now worth millions, it’s hard to feel a lot of sympathy for the character. Despite my antipathy toward Vanessa, Jong does present some articulate perspectives on issues Boomers can relate to. There’s the dilemma of watching a terminally ill parent suffer in hospital. “What can you wish for as you watch a beloved parent struggling against the end? Should you wish for death, or life? And how much do your wishes matter?” That’s heavy . . . and familiar.

She takes a sentimental yet practical view on becoming a grandmother and coping with her daughter’s different parenting style. New ecological mothering dogma resists earlier generations’ experience and insists “you were supposed to sleep with your baby, transport your baby in a sling, use cloth diapers, and food-process your own baby food. Motherhood had been turned into a time-and-a-half job in rebellion against my feminist generation. Young women felt madly superior to their mothers because of all that slinging, food-processing, co-sleeping and rigid observance of Dr. and Nurse Sears’ method of baby farming.”

Known for coining the phrase the “zipless fuck” Jong questions the focus placed solely on the orgasm and suggests that “American sexuality was too much like American work—goal oriented . . .The whole body was the instrument of the sexual symphony, and most most people missed it.” We often don’t discover this until later in life when the simple pleasures of touching, holding hands and being held are fully appreciated. A particularly interesting chapter was the recounting of the death of her black standard poodle, Belinda. Like most pet owners, we know the end is inevitable and painful but we’re never prepared for the degree of grief we experience at the loss of a beloved pet family member.

Fear of Dying is worth reading if only for the words of wisdom from a fellow Baby Boomer. I don’t know how much of the content is based on Jong’s personal life experiences as she seems to know what she’s talking about when reflecting on serious issues surrounding death. But the story line is silly and unnecessary. She would have been better off writing the book as non-fiction and skipping the superficial plot-line. The author’s own perspective on the fear of dying would have been preferable and more plausible than that of her main character. Vanessa mourns her lost youth and constantly yearns to experience it again. I personally do not share that feeling. Like most Boomers, we’ve grown up and learned that now is really the best time of our lives.



OKA speaks my kinda French

oka1OKA Cheese is rerunning a commercial on television that cracks me up every time I see it (copyright prohibits me from attaching a link). It shows a couple dining in what appears to be a quaint French-Canadian inn or restaurant overlooking the St. Lawrence River. The man asks the waiter for some more of that wonderful cheese “that’s dans my wife’s bouche”. It’s a joy to see someone speak French with the same level of proficiency I possess. After five years of agonizing French classes in high school and more than fifty years away from the classroom, I’ve discovered that the best way to convey myself in our second official language is to say everything in the present tense and if you can’t think of the French word, substitute the English one. At least I’m making the effort and somehow I’m able to make myself understood.

Why didn't I learn more French in the five years I studied it.

Why couldn’t I have mastered more French in the five years I studied it?

I clearly remember how I was so looking forward to learning French when I started high school. To have a second language is such a gift and to be given the opportunity to learn it free as part of our regular school curriculum was too good to be true. That was the beginning of five years of painful, punishing work on verb conjugations which is what I remember occupying most of our classroom time. Interestingly, I have a fairly good recall of obscure vocabulary (I can still remember the word chaumière which means thatched cottage – a word I have absolutely never been required to use, even in English!) but those relentless drills on verbs in every past, present, past-imperfect, future imperfect and other combination of tense left me permanently scarred and soured on learning the language.

french4More than fifty years after those dreadful classes and my teachers’ unflinching efforts at masochism, I still harbour a love of the French language and regret that I cannot speak it with any degree of fluency. During trips to France, however, I discovered that I can make myself understood perfectly well using the technique described above (everything in present tense), but I have a lot of difficulty understanding what is being spoken to me by those in command of the language. For any non-Boomers reading this, please take French in school, learn your verbs and do your homework. It’ll come in handy when you travel.

Whenever I travel to France (hopefully I’ll get there again before I croak), I always begin a conversation with “Parlez très lentement, s’il vous plaît, et utilisez des mots très simples”, but I still can’t grasp idiom or most verbs. I wish they’d placed more emphasis on conversational French during those five years in high school, and made the learning process more fun. Perhaps that would have made it plus facile pour moi de comprendre le français and I could then run for Prime Minister, or communicate in secret code avec mes French-speaking friends. Imagine the possibilities. If only I could conjugate those verbs that come out of ma bouche, who knows what path my life could have taken. In the meantime, passez le fromage s’il vous plaît. Merci beaucoup.

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Voicing my opinion on voices




One of my first blog postings two years ago ( was about the changing speech patterns and diction used by many people today, particularly young women. Unfortunately, media is turning some of these people loose on the public and it hurts to listen to them. At the risk of generalizing, young women are particularly guilty of speaking with squeaky little-girl voices that make my ears bleed. I know that Melissa Rauch’s voice (she plays Bernadette) on The Big Bang Theory is part of her character, but I can’t stand it. Same goes for Kristin Chenoweth, although, ironically, her singing voice is amazing. Nasal-sounding, thin or high-pitched voices are extremely irritating and it boggles my mind how these individuals get work in radio or television without at least undergoing some vocal coaching. Much as I love The Marilyn Denis Show, stylist Alexis Honce’s voice grates like chalk on a blackboard. Would someone please get the poor girl some help.

Where did young women ever get the idea that Valley Girl speech inflections were, like, an asset?

Where did young women ever get the idea that Valley Girl speech inflections were, like, an asset?

Naomi Wolf started a discussion on “vocal fry” criticizing young women for engaging in speech affectations that reflect negatively on their intelligence, ability and character. One example of this is turning a statement into a question with a slight uptick in the tone of voice toward the end of a sentence? Another annoyance is the frequent habit of many people for finishing sentences with y’know? or right? Or injecting like into sentences. Sometimes it becomes almost unbearable to listen to someone being interviewed on the radio or television when they continually punctuate their sentences with y’know or like?.

Not that long ago, we made jokes about “Valley Girl” talk practised by a segment of the female population in California. Sadly, it has now become mainstream. And I agree with Wolf. These voice affectations undermine the ability of an individual to be taken seriously. Perhaps that’s the goal, though it’s not an admirable one. In business, using a firm handshake, dressing tastefully and projecting your voice in a clear and well-modulated tone are recognized assets. Little-girl, squeaky speech patterns are a professional liability just like showing an inappropriate amount of skin. President Jimmy Carter and Queen Elizabeth were both coached early on to lower the tone of their voices to make themselves easier to listen to. Princess Diana even took vocal instruction so her aristocratic background was less evident in her speech patterns and she sounded more like “the people”.

Give me strength!

It seems obvious to everyone but the talker.

Let’s not forget those annoyingly loud cellphone talkers who think the entire shopping mall or restaurant wants to hear their side of a personal conversation. I had to trek to the other end of Superstore the other day to get away from a woman in the dairy section making baby talk while Skyping to a toddler on her cellphone. Her voice was loud enough to crack the eggs in the nearby cooler.

Years ago I attended Toastmasters™ classes and that provided an excellent forum for feedback on my own speech patterns. We were encouraged to improve our pitch, projection and enunciation while supportively discouraged from using annoying or irritating speech inflections. I hope the current media attention being given to the issue of vocal fry will alert the guilty to their weakness and encourage them to take steps to make themselves “better heard”. Freedom of speech shouldn’t include too much treble, not only in business but particularly in media. If only all women in media could sound like CBC’s Shelagh Rogers. My ears would jump for joy. Speaking of which, would anyone care to hear me sing? I didn’t think so.




24 Sussex Drive? Git ‘er done!

This old house is a afraid of thunder . . . and well, just about everything.

This old house is afraid of thunder . . . and well, just about everything.

Although I have yet to be personally invited to the Prime Minister’s official residence at 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa, as a partial owner (one-thirty-three-millionth of it is mine as a taxpayer) I feel I have a stake in how it’s managed. It’s scandalous that the wiring hasn’t been updated since the 1950s and the entire structure is in need of a complete overhaul. I do find those portable air conditioners hanging from the third floor windows a bit unsightly but considering the home has no insulation, I can sympathize. I favour renovation rather than a tear-down as I really don’t want some new post-modern McMansion overlooking the river. We kinda like the old limestone homestead.

If you want it done right - the first time - call in the Canuck dream team.

If you want it done right – the first time – call in the Canuck dream team.

Now, in the true Canadian spirit of Dudley Doright riding up on his shiny black Mountie horse, professional fixer-uppers Mike Holmes and Brian Baeumler have stepped up to the plate and offered to do the work as part of a television series. Call in Scott McGillivray and we have an über-hunk trifecta guaranteed to git ‘er done, done right, on time and on budget. They’ve already proven it hundreds of times. Add Brian Gluckstein to the mix for the interior design and we’d have a dream team that would create something that would garner world-wide attention and praise. If Justin and the missus pitched in a few hours of free labour the work would go even faster.

The possibilities are intoxicating.  Mike, Brian and Scott understand and have built to sensitive environmental and energy standards. They’re sticklers for building to code or even exceeding it. They have a support network of resources second to none. After all, they have done amazing things in only half an hour on television. And if Brian Gluckstein did the interiors, it would never go out of fashion and 24 Sussex would be eternally tasteful for entertaining foreign and local dignitaries.

Fortunately for Canadians, 24 Sussex is not a gas plant so there's a chance it will be completed and completed without blame, shame or screwing of the taxpayers.

Fortunately for Canadians, 24 Sussex is not a gas plant so there’s a chance it could be completed, and completed without blame, shame or screwing of the taxpayers by another Liberal government.

All levels of government are notoriously inept at managing construction projects. Just look at the ridiculous pace of highway repairs and construction, the Gardiner Expressway fiasco, Ontario gas plants and the “Bridge to Nowhere” as perfect examples. I’m sure the National Capital Commission has numerous stories of shame and mismanagement that we never even hear about. Bring on our own team of Canuck-hunks and just watch them whip old 24 Sussex into shape. It would be a source of national pride, built to code, energy-efficient, family-friendly, showcasing Canadian materials and workmanship and restoring our national pride. Heck, I’ll bet we could even include a granny flat for Maggie who’s getting up there and will probably soon need a little help (after all, she’s my age), a fumoir (wink, wink) and a legal basement apartment for some refugees. And it could all be done before Justin’s daughter becomes Prime Minister. Just say the word, Justin. Make the call.



Mirror mirror on the wall. . .

Love means just doing what your wife wants without all the drama.

Love means just doing what your wife wants without all the drama.

The purchase started out as a cost-saving measure. Our bathroom is not particularly well-lit and when I gently suggested to my honey that we install a series of modern puck lights in the ceiling to even out shadows and provide better overall lighting for makeup application (a time-consuming and onerous task at my age), his response was predictably male. He immediately detailed the tiresome list of potential problems that could arise. We’d have to completely tear up the ceiling and lord knows what horrors that would uncover. We’d have to hire an electrician and everybody knows how horrendously expensive they are, not to mention the actual cost of the light fixtures, switch and wiring. Let’s not even get into the mess it’ll create. And maybe we’ll even need a permit and have to include the work on our deed of property. You get the picture. Within thirty seconds of opening the discussion, I knew that new puck lights were not in my future.

Holy crap! What have I done?

Holy crap! What have I done?

So, at less cost and theoretically involving an easier installation process, I landed on the idea of buying one of those wall-mounted illuminated makeup mirrors that flips from regular to magnified. Emboldened by my obvious brilliance, I perused the selection on and selected a little beauty by Danielle that would make my dreams come true. It flipped to ten-times magnification, had a circular light around the mirror and came with a price tag that was manageable. Problem solved.

Then, as inevitably happens with our home handymen, mine installed the new mirror so high I had to stand on my tiptoes and tilt the mirror down to even see myself. A certain amount of domestic discord followed, resulting in three open drilled holes in the wood that are still awaiting woodfiller. When the time is conducive and the mood safe, I may suggest the holes be repaired—or more likely, I’ll just attend to it myself.

mirror4Sadly, my new mirror came with an entirely new set of problems which became immediately apparent. Have you ever seen those photos of the moon showing its pocked surface with massive craters, debris fields and surface scars? Or perhaps a pot-holed, rutted dirt road somewhere in the countryside? Then, you’ll understand what my face looked like when I first glanced at it in my new ten-times magnification illuminated makeup mirror. The 10X magnification also meant that I had to be within two or three inches of the mirror and squint to see anything, and what I did see was not pretty. I could only scrutinize sections of my face at a time, not the entire picture at a glance. It’s perfect for weeding out those stray chin whiskers but useless for assessing overall makeup application at a glance. I have to scroll around and check out my reflection pixel by pixel.

mirror6I should have never ordered that damn mirror but my money’s already been spent, the packaging trashed and my self-image brutally assaulted. Those little blonde chin hairs have become towering birch trees on a forest floor of dry, cracked leaves. If you see me on the street, on my way to trauma counseling, and my eyebrows are lopsided and drawn half-way up my forehead or my blusher looks like a slash of blood, it’s not my fault. Ladies, unless you’re into S&M or other destructive past-times, never, ever buy a suicide-inducing 10X magnification mirror. Mirror mirror on the wall. Who’s the stupidest, vainest, ugliest Boomer of all? You’re lookin’ at ‘er.



What planet does Kathleen Wynn’s government come from?

Please tell me I’m not the only Ontario taxpayer who is enraged and disgusted that $3.7 million was paid to the Teachers’ Union for negotiation costs. What on earth are union dues (which are no small sum) for? What’s next? We pay the autoworkers to negotiate with GM? That’s too much pizza for my taste. What planet does our Ontario Liberal government hail from? Certainly not the real world. And don’t get me started on Ontario Hydro/OPG! Contact your local MPP and set them straight.


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