The voice of Baby Boomers from a woman's perspective


Are you maximizing your dream machine?

To sleep, perchance to dream. To dream perchance create.

dreams1Could divine inspiration be the result of divine intervention? While watching a program on The Smithsonian channel the other night on TV, I suddenly became aware of a major missed opportunity in my life. There’s increasing evidence that by not paying closer attention to our dreams we’re missing out on a vital source of intelligence, inspiration and creativity. The program described how various scientists over the centuries claim to have taken intelligence that appeared to them in dreams and transcribed this information into working knowledge they relayed to others. Immediately, my awareness of the possibilities related to this theory heightened and I’ve shifted into receptive high-gear.

According to scientists, there’s a whole realm of intelligence and ideas floating around in the psychic energy fields surrounding us and we simply have to open our brain receptors to receive the information. History cites many examples of creative people claiming to have received inspiration for art, science, music and other creative pursuits during a dream:

  • Keith Richards’ inspiration for (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction came to him in a dream. He roused himself from sleep (??) long enough to jot down the basics and finished that now-famous guitar riff, chords and words later.
  • Stephen King’s Misery, with the main character played so magnificently by Kathy Bates in the movie version of the book, came to him while he was sleeping on a plane during an overseas flight. When he woke up he wrote down the nugget of the idea on a cocktail napkin and later, when he arrived at his hotel, wrote a sixteen-page outline in longhand in the middle of the night.
  • Scientist Mendeleev said the final form of the Period Table of Elements came to him in a dream.
  • Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was inspired by a dream.
  • Paul McCartney’s Yesterday, the most covered piece of music in history, came to him in a dream.
  • Jack Nicklaus was able to come out of a serious slump after changing his swing to what he envisioned in a dream.
Do not disturb. I'm inventing something big.

Do not disturb. I’m inventing something really big.

In an earlier blog posting entitled “Feeling uninspired, take a nap”I described how our brains function better in a relaxed state and some of our best ideas come to us while walking the dog, napping in the afternoon, or meditating. Stephen Jobs was famous for using walks and meditation to clear his head for new ideas. The examples are endless but the bottom line is the same. I’ve decided to take this information seriously and make sure my brain is receptive and always open for business.

If I’m even a fraction as successful at extracting inspiration from my dreams as I am at snatching zzzzz’s, then it won’t be long before I’ve come up with the definitive cure for baldness, or perhaps the secret to losing weight on a diet of wine, cheese and chocolate. I just know there’s a solution to the renewable energy issue—perhaps making gasoline from recycled beer (urine). If I eschew caffeine after 6:00 p.m., I’m confident I could come up with a recipe for French bread that results in weight loss. The possibilities are mind-boggling. So, I’m going to pay a lot more attention to my dreams from now on—and not just the lovely ones about me and Liam Neeson or Jon Stewart. The Everley Brothers knew what they were talking about when they sang All I Have to Do Is Dream. 

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Ashley Madison Paris-style

paris1Whenever I see a book recommended by a best-selling author with Paris in the title, I can’t resist picking it up. Such was the case with Tatiana de Rosnay’s A Paris Affair. The author of the exquisite Sarah’s Key really dropped the ball on this one. Don’t waste your money. Unless you also enjoy scouring Ashley Madison’s pitiful list of thrill-seekers, you will find de Rosnay’s book of short stories depressing and even annoying. The book is a series of short stories written in the first person, describing the discovery of infidelity by a variety of characters living in Paris. It’s sleazy and, in my opinion, trite. In the beginning, I tried to find an upside such as the differences in perspective between the French and American or Canadian attitude to affairs. The result is the same. Lives ruined. Families torn apart. And it rarely has a happy ending.


Visiting authors down on the farm

mulmurMy friend Terry and I just spent the most wonderful Sunday afternoon listening to and meeting authors in a pastoral farm setting that was total escapism. We’d read and loved books by Catherine Gildiner and Plum Johnson, were familiar with Terry O’Reilly’s CBC broadcasts about the advertising biz, and were introduced to an author unfamiliar to us, Trevor Cole.

As book lovers, we couldn’t have imagined a better afternoon. After driving through farm country about ninety minutes north of Toronto on Highway 10, we drove into Pegram Farm, a restored farm that reminiscent of a scene from Anne of Green Gables. The large brick farmhouse was surrounded by giant Manitoba maples and rolling fields, and the barn had been completely restored to function as an event facility. About two hundred people were seated inside the barn with warm sunlight and gentle breezes filtering through cracks in the barnboard.

It was a special treat to have Plum Johnson (left) and Catherine Gildiner (right) sign our copies of their books.

It was a special treat to have Plum Johnson (left) and Catherine Gildiner (right) sign our copies of their books.

The event, hosted by Mulmur Township and Shelburne Public Library, was a first-time venture. Each of the authors read a passage from their book and later responded to a question and answer session. Following the main event, we were invited into the loft to taste local gourmet h’ors d’oeuvres and beverages. Catherine Gildiner has authored a three-volume memoir that is a Baby Boomer’s dream read. Smart, funny and exceptionally adept at being in the most exciting places at the right time, Gildiner entertained us with her true-life stories of growing up in the fifties and sixties. Her reminiscences describe experiences many of us could relate to and some we could only wish we’d had.

Plum Johnson wrote They Left Us Everything, an account of dealing with the detritus of clearing out her parents’ home after they passed away. Located at the foot of Trafalgar Road in Oakville, Ontario, the house is not only architecturally unusual but was the home where her parents lived for sixty years and raised five children. Written with empathy and humour, it is a record of a process that Johnson expected to take six weeks and turned into two years, with plenty of introspection and soul-searching thrown in.

While I’d never read anything by Trevor Cole, his animated and colourful reading from Hope Makes Love, a fictional novel about a baseball player’s divorce and attempts to redeem himself, prompted me to add his name to my “To Read” list. Terry O’Reilly is familiar for his informed presentations on CBC radio about the history and behind-the-scenes take on the advertising industry. Since my friend and I come from advertising and marketing backgrounds in business we both loved his stories about experiences in the trenches.

Unfortunately for BOOMERBROADcast readers, this event has already taken place but I’m writing about it to encourage you to pick up books by these authors. Or, if they’re ever signing books or speaking in your area, do not miss hearing and meeting them. These books would make excellent gifts for your fellow Baby Boomers and they’ll thank you for introducing them to these authors. Click on each book for a link to Amazon:









o'reillycole1plumbook cover










Who’s the boss behind the wheel?

Serves him right!

Serves him right!

Is it the seductive lure of the word tail that induces men to drive six inches from the back bumper of the car ahead? What seems to be a purely male preoccupation with tailgating is a mystery to most women. As we sit in the passenger seat with our right foot on an imaginary brake pedal, we have absolutely no understanding of why men do it. Perhaps it has something to do with that Y chromosome thingie. Our gentle suggestion that he back off a bit is usually met with an instant hostile sideways glance and slightly increased pressure on the gas pedal. Then, there’s the other kind of tailgating which happens in the parking lot at football games. Also highly testosterone-charged and invented by men.

Another clever kind of tailgating - barbecuing over your gas tank in the parking lot at a football game.

Another clever kind of tailgating – barbecuing over your gas tank in the parking lot at a football game.

Everyone knows that women are better drivers. Check with your insurance company to verify this fact. We rarely tailgate, squeal tires or stomp on the brakes at a red light. How many times as passengers have we nearly been pitched through the front windshield when some a**hole ahead of us is supposedly driving too slowly. And for the record, I never let my gas tank go below one-quarter full and risk running out of gas, which is particularly critical in winter when we might get stranded. Those Y chromosomers however, guarantee they’re still good for at least another twenty miles after the fuel tank indicator starts flashing yellow as it bounces on E .

No. I really don't need to see the engine. I assume there is one and it goes.

No. I really don’t need to see the engine. I assume there is one, and it goes.

The differences in the relationship between men and women and their vehicles are legendary. Men like lots of cubic litres and cylinders.  We like lots of cup holders. They like speed and lots of horsepower. We opt for comfort. One of the first questions a woman asks when buying a car is “what colours does it come in?” while men unilaterally prefer black—metallic black is the best. It goes faster. And women will never understand why a vehicle cannot be taken care of and driven for at least ten years. Where is the logic in trading vehicles every two or three years to replace it with another black one that looks almost identical to the one being traded? Oh—of course. The old one needed new tires and everyone knows they cost almost as much as a new vehicle.

Will that be cash or Visa?

Will that be cash or Visa?

Statistics indicate that nearly eighty percent of car buying decisions are influenced by women. Despite that, men still wield most of the power in the design, engineering, marketing and retailing of vehicles. And their decision-making process when considering a trade is totally different from a woman’s. We consult our budget, do the math, pro-rate the cost over the anticipated life of the vehicle, compare gas efficiency, factor in capitalization, study the safety features and cargo capacity. Men see a big, shiny new toy and are immediately “sold”. And the new vehicle is sitting in our driveway before we’ve even had a chance to ask, “What colours does it come in?”.


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The Green Road serves up plenty of Irish angst

Green roadIrish authors have a magical way with words. When I’m reading a book by an Irish author I can almost hear the lilt in the story-teller’s voice. They do, however, have a tendency to write rather bleak stories that rarely have a happy ending. Not that this is a criticism; it’s just that when I read I like to be uplifted. Many years ago I tried to get through Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. After reading several chapters of depressing narrative about dead babies, cold, damp tenant housing, starving children and drunken out-of-work husbands, I finally gave up. Despite the superb writing I just couldn’t take any more grief. In a way, Anne Enright’s The Green Road is true to the same genre of troubled Irish families but not nearly as dark and something compelled me to keep reading in case things turned around.

Rosaleen Madigan married beneath her station and produced four children, two boys and two girls, Constance, Dan, Emmet and Hanna, with her husband Pat in a west-coast village in County Clare. Rosaleen loved Pat and she loved her babies. But she ran into trouble when the children grew older and presented her with their individual challenges and personality quirks. As a result, she grew defensive and passive-aggressive. Her behaviour reminded me of Marie Barone from Everybody Loves Raymond. She martyred herself, became overly dramatic and frequently simply abdicated her responsibility. Family life was a troubled affair.

The lifestyles of her four children as adults were completely divergent. Unmarried son Emmet spent most of his time trying to save the world as an aid worker in Africa. Conflicted Dan moved to America to avoid having to confront his mother about being gay, and Canadian readers will enjoy the scenes from his life in Toronto. Constance, the eldest, married a local builder, had children of her own and enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle living near her mother, while enduring their strained relationship. Hanna, the youngest was the bohemian of the family. As a frustrated actor with a baby, she struggled with depression and a drinking problem, a source of stress with her partner.

Anne Enright writes in a way that I really enjoy reading. In fact, I find she accomplishes what everyone says Alice Munro does so well, but I find Enright’s prose more compelling. She describes seemingly mundane, colourless everyday scenes and activities with a delicate painter’s brush—frayed nerves during antagonistic family conversations in the kitchen; frustrations with simply trying to do the grocery shopping the day before Christmas; accepting the realization that life did not turn out the way you hoped it would. These are experiences we can all relate to and Enright makes them engaging. The Green Road is basically a character study and is a fast read. I enjoyed it and if you like to read about family dynamics in today’s world, I think you’ll enjoy it too, with its gentle touch of Irish angst.


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The fashion fascists are laughing at us

Isn't she lovely! Can't wait to get me some of these.

Isn’t she lovely! Can’t wait to get me some of these.

Whoever those fashion fascists are who tell us each season what is hot and what’s not, I’m on to their cruel joke. You know what I’m talking about. This season they told us rompers were all the rage and showed us endless pictures of anorexic teenage girls wearing them in all the fashion mags. I nearly coughed up my Geritol when I saw that one. Can you imagine an average woman with an average body strutting around in rompers? Not to mention having to get completely undressed to go to the loo, while the whole thing lies in a pool of yuck at your feet. I’ve been noticing signs recently of the latest bit of absurdity they’re going to try coaxing us into wearing. I’m talking about loose-crotch jeans, the kind that make you look like you’re carrying a load, with lots of room for a package if we had a package. At least they’d be comfortable when I go to the movies and need to make room for downing a bucket of popcorn and a gallon of Diet Coke.

Can't wait to get me some baggy crotch jeans. If Halle Berry wears them, they must be great.

If Halle Berry wears them, they must be great. No?

These absurd fashion dictates are surely the result of too much inhaled hair spray and other questionable substances. The scary part of this hoax is, however, that I inevitably get sucked in. A few years ago, when I’d accumulated a few nice pairs of boot-cut jeans, they hit us with skinny legged ones. Never, I told myself. By the next season, I was happily lined up with everyone else at the checkout with an armful of new skinnies—in blue denim, white, black, grey and red. The same routine played out for platform soles, jeggings and even further back, stirrups. It’s only because of my age and physique that I was forced to forgo crop tops and short shorts. If I’d ever succumbed to the boyfriend jean, I would have been mistaken for a dumpy dumpster diver.

The irony of this ridiculous situation is that ninety-nine percent of us do not possess the physique to pull off these bizarre fashion follies. Retailers would move so much more product if the manufacturers designed for people like you and me—Boomers who finally have a few bucks to spend on what we’ve learned looks flattering on our well-traveled bodies. Give me comfort. Give me a bit of flash and fun. But give me something that will make me look mahvelous. And if you ever spot me in a lineup with a pair of baggy-crotch jeans, you’re welcome to slap me upside the head—preferably before I’ve paid for them. The current fashion scene is a riot of “don’ts”. I only hope I don’t succumb. And I mean it. Did I hear a snicker behind me?


The road to love from Murphy Brown to Candice Bergen

candice1Boomer gals universally looked up to Murphy Brown as our hero and inspiration from 1988 to 1998. She was gorgeous but consistently dateless; smart but frequently inept; strong yet oddly vulnerable; in short she was an interesting, flawed and relatable character. Much like ourselves. Candice Bergen, who played Murphy Brown possessed some of these characteristics but playing Murphy with all her faults and fabulousness was the definitive role for which she will always be remembered. A Fine Romance is Bergen’s account of her life as a mature actor, her courtship and marriage to award-winning French movie director Louis Malle, motherhood, being widowed and building a new life, then marrying again later in life.

Born to a beautiful young mother and Swedish father, Edgar Bergen, who was famous himself in the entertainment business as the ventriloquist who brought us Charlie McCarthy, Candice Bergen grew up in a privileged environment. As a young woman she modeled, worked as a photographer for Esquire magazine and played supporting roles in several movies. It wasn’t until she was cast as Murphy Brown that she hit her stride and became the touchstone for a generation of Boomer women.

A Fine Romance is a fascinating read by a woman who is honest, intelligent and self-deprecating. Bergen is forthright in admitting to her shortcomings and mistakes. She suffered serious empty-nest syndrome when her only child, Chloe went off to college, acknowledging the value of her supportive network of girlfriends. “And thank God for my friends. Mothers in their fifties—running to beefy now, the traditional thickening through the middle—we clumped together in our middle-age camouflage: black pants, long sleeves. . . . compensating with wit, attention, intelligence, experience. Bringing to bear not the extra fifteen, twenty pounds we all seemed to be packing but our confidence in who we were. The sizable weight and force of our personalities.” We all understand the importance of girlfriends.

It was Murphy Brown's flawed character we loved the most.

It was Murphy Brown’s flawed character we loved the most.

Bergen is also a dog lover which endeared her to me even more. In fact, she acquired one of her dogs, a Golden Doodle named Jerry, from a Mennonite breeder near St. Jacob’s west of Toronto, driving up herself to pick him up and take him home. What further impressed me was the opening paragraph in one of her later chapters: “Let me just come right out and say it. I am fat. In the past fifteen years, since I’ve married Marshall, I have put on thirty pounds.”  She also mourns the loss of her once-luxuriant full head of hair, “because if my hair isn’t fluffy on this pea-sized head, I look like a golf ball on an enormous buoy.” It seems I’m not the only Boomer woman who worries about getting fat and going bald. Who can’t relate to that and admire her honesty.

Daughter Chloe works as an associate editor at Vogue magazine.

Pictured together with daughter Chloe who works as an associate editor at Vogue magazine.

In describing her marriages to Louis Malle and later to Marshall Rose, Bergen is frank in describing the high, lows and in-betweens. When Malle died, she devoted herself to being the best mother possible to their daughter Chloe and is justifiably proud of the fact Chloe grew into a caring, smart and capable woman in her own right. Many of the struggles Bergen endured are not that different from what each of us has experienced over the years with career, aging parents, loss of a partner and life’s disappointments. While she moved in socio-economic circles very different from most of us, her story confirms that life is complicated for everyone, including Murphy Brown and Candice Bergen. The book was an absolute joy to read. Although it seemed a bit slow at the beginning, once she got into the specifics of her life and its various iterations, it was totally engrossing. I highly recommend it.


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