BOOMERBROADcast

The voice of baby boomers, the silenced majority. Rants and reflections on lifestyle, fashion, current events, books and movies.


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One ringy dingy lights up my world


A gracious good afternoon. We need to talk about the use of your instrument.

Remember when Lily Tomlin’s character Ernestine ran the entire phone company single-handedly? From her little PBX switchboard she efficiently dispatched installers and repairmen while simultaneously providing harried customer service, challenging delinquent bill payers and dispensing unsolicited advice to business and world leaders. I actually worked for the phone company in those days and understood her loyalty and determination, not to mention her romantic crush on Vito, her favourite repairman. Back then, I too had a favourite repairman. In fact, I married him. But that’s another story.

Then, along came new technology, a.k.a. cell phones. I’m not a complete Luddite; I bought one of the early ones—the size of a brick—in the nineties. Over the years I’ve tried to keep up as new ones came along but I’m rapidly losing ground. In fact, I’m ready to revert, and I don’t think I’m alone. It requires far too much time and effort (not to mention money) to keep on top of all the newest features and apps, and still have time to pluck my chin hairs.

Jake Howell of The Globe and Mail is on my side. His recent article Dumb, but happy perfectly summed up my position when he confessed to giving up his iPhone 5C in favour of one of the old no-frills, basic phones. When he found his addictive use of the smart phone “akin to a glorified fidget spinner”, he went cool turkey—not completely cold, but severely curtailed. When Candice Bergen produced a ‘flip phone’ on the first episode of the new Murphy Brown recently, it was the source of much laughter and derision, but Jake (I presume) and I empathized. We know a good thing when we see it.

Sadly, the world as we know it.

Maybe it’s because I don’t have kids in school or a cheating husband whose emails and browsing history I need to monitor, but give me that old-time phone service any day. I’ve gone entire weeks without using my cell phone and the sky didn’t fall in. I never have to worry about exceeding my data plan. I’m baffled when I see groups of people sitting together having lunch or dinner and everyone’s looking down thumbing their phones. Young people are going to entirely miss out on the art and joy of unencumbered personal conversation.

I’ve had a smart phone for awhile now but I’m seriously thinking about tossing it and digging out my simple old flip-phone that I bought at Walmart for $14.99 back in the aughts. I’m never sure if my so-called smartphone is on or off and just last week I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off in the dark at the movie theatre. Maybe it wasn’t even on; I can never tell. And, I can never figure out how to access WiFi in public places (my problem, not the phone’s). I haven’t set up the voice mail because the phone’s never turned on and frankly I don’t know how. I keep the phone only for emergencies. Imagine that! My monthly cell phone bill from CARP (Canadian Association for Retired People) costs me a whopping $18.31 including taxes.

Many people have ditched their land lines in favour of cell service only. That’s fine if you want to carry it around in your hip pocket 24/7 (which it seems most people actually prefer), take it to bed with you, into the shower, into the hospital labour room and while having sex. I just don’t get it.

I expect smart phones will soon be implanted as a microchip into our wrists. Until then, if you need to reach me, you’ll probably get no answer. Whether or not I respond immediately is not crucial to world survival. I’m probably on my lunch break splitting a six-pack with Ernestine. And if this is the party to whom I am speaking, then I’ll get back to you when I’m good and ready, after our break.


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My queendom for the perfect eyeliner


Is this too much to ask?

Things change as we get older. I won’t go into detail as you know what I’m talking about, but one issue that I haven’t been able to resolve is finding the perfect eyeliner. Back in the olden days (the 60s and 70s), I could execute a perfect swipe of eyeliner faster than . . . well, the blink of an eye. My eyelids were taut, receptive and beautifully enhanced by whatever I applied, in whatever colour. And I applied plenty.

As we age, less is better. We no longer apply foundation with a spatula, mascara with a broom or blusher with a mop. A delicate touch is now the order of the day. But boomer gals still like makeup and we have a sizeable inventory to back this up. Every so often I purge my supplies while trying not to calculate the money invested/wasted on products that didn’t work for one reason or another. Sometimes when I go through my ‘retired’ makeup and skin care products, I discover I own multiples of the same thing.

Eyeliner is my current challenge. While my eyelids are not exactly ‘crepey’ yet (I’m sure that’s not far off), I can’t get the exact result with eyeliner that I used to. Liquid eyeliners are just too difficult to control and the result is a bit too harsh, even after smudging. Pencils scratch, pull and refuse to stay put. I’ve had the most success with wetting a brush and using cake eyeliner or eyeshadow to apply a line that can be softened with the finger or a sponge wand. But even careful application doesn’t give me nearly the result I used to get when my eyelids were . . . well, you know, young.

Can you believe . . . nothing in my vast inventory works.

While I keep searching for the definitive, perfect eyeliner solution, I decided to go through my existing inventory and was shocked at what I already own. Any thoughts of purchasing something new were immediately wiped out by the humiliating sight of an entire tray of assorted eyeliner products. You name it—I’ve tried it. What I’ve invested in eyeliners alone would probably pay off the national debt of a third world country. And that doesn’t include skincare products, hair products and makeup. I’m not proud of it. Just stating the facts.

I recently had my eyebrows microbladed which will hopefully take care of the brow pencil issues. And don’t even suggest getting my eyeliner tattoo’d on. There are just too many downsides to that procedure for me to even consider it as an option. In the meantime, I need to figure out what I’m going to do with a queen’s ransom in eyeliner pencils that I don’t use. I’d be interested to know what brand of eyeliner works for you, my fellow boomers? Let’s share.


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November 11, 1918. A celebration of two anniversaries.


My grandmother’s wedding day in Folkestone, England, November 11, 1918.

On the same day that the Armistice ending The Great War, WWI was signed on November 11, 1918, my English grandmother married my grandfather, a young Canadian soldier in Folkestone, England. “It all started on The White Cliffs of Dover,” he used to say at noisy family Christmases. That date forever has an extra special meaning for us on Remembrance Day.

Grandma loved to tell us about how all the church bells were ringing and people were dancing in the streets when they walked out of the photographer’s studio after their wedding. She thought everyone was celebrating her wedding but in fact, the Armistice had been signed while they were in the photographer’s.  She was engaged twice previously—once to an Englishman and once to another Canadian, before marrying my Canadian grandfather. Both of her previous fiancés and a brother had been killed in France. In 1919 she left England behind and boarded a ship bound for Halifax with hundreds of British war brides sailing to join their new husbands in Canada.

Soldiers were commonly billeted in civilian homes during WWI.

My great-grandmother was a widow with sons who had enlisted for service and she was left at home with three daughters, the eldest being my grandmother who was in her early twenties at the time. Tens of thousands of young men enlisting to train and fight in The Great War (WWI) resulted in a shortage of barracks. One day an army officer knocked on the door of their terraced house and asked how many soldiers my grandmother’s family could accommodate.  Her mother’s reply, “Probably two or three”. My grandmother described how the Major asked to go through the house and then informed her mother that they would be taking 17 soldiers into their home. They received a stipend for housing them and providing meals.

What would your reaction be if a military officer showed up at your front door and told you he was going to billet a dozen soldiers in your home for an indeterminate length of time, and you had to provide meals and laundry service for them? And you had no choice in the matter. Families willingly accommodated them One hundred years later, billeting soldiers in private homes seems unimaginable. But it was a widespread practice during the First World War and every family “did their bit”. She described how some of the young men were illiterate miners from the north of England who had never been exposed to such things as how to use table cutlery and basic hygiene such as bathing and brushing your teeth. She and her sisters enjoyed the social life which included going to dances with all the soldiers.

This touching painting depicting bloodshed hangs in a Canadian war museum we visited in 2014 in Dieppe, France.

Later on in the war, as the various allotments of soldiers were rotated out to cross the channel, their house was requisitioned to provide accommodation for Belgian refugees —women and children. My grandmother had many amazing stories about these experiences. Now that she’s gone and I’m older, I can think of so many more questions I wish I’d asked her.

We recognize November 11th with special reverence. Our own family includes many veterans who served in both wars, including one uncle who was captured during the Japanese siege of Hong Kong in 1941 and served four years as a Canadian prisoner-of-war in Japan. As a baby boomer, we all grew up with friends and schoolmates whose fathers, uncles, cousins and grandfathers served overseas. Remembrance Day services were and remain very personal.

Watching the news on TV today about the horror of the ongoing wars in this tired old world and the living conditions of other innocent citizens in regions of conflict, we need to always be thankful for being born in Canada. Hopefully an army officer will never knock on our doors and tell us we have 17 soldiers moving in. We welcome new Canadians. We live in a peaceful country and for that we can be eternally grateful. Remembering 100 years ago today. Happy Anniversary Grandma and Grandpa . . . and thank you for everything.


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Bohemian Rhapsody will rock your world


To be honest, I really wasn’t a follower of Freddie Mercury and QUEEN so part of my reason for going to see the movie Bohemian Rhapsody was to educate myself. QUEEN rose to fame just as I was passing out of my rock n’ roll phase—by then I was well into my thirties. As one of the early-born boomers I’d certainly heard of QUEEN but by the seventies I was listening to Meatloaf, ABBA and other musicians.

I’d seen Rami Malek who portrayed Freddie Mercury interviewed earlier on The Graham Norton Show , which increased my curiosity about the movie and the man. We’d heard mixed reviews about the movie and at the last minute doubted our choice but decided to give it a shot. And I’m so glad we did.

As the non-traditional son of Tanzanian immigrants to Britain, Farrokh Bulsara/Freddie Mercury joins a pub band in England and soon blossoms into the front man and entertainer who made the band famous. His unorthodox personality and bisexuality were radical even by seventies standards but the power of his singing voice was undeniable. Much of Queen’s music became the anthem for the seventies and their last-minute appearance at the Live Aid concert in 1985 was the pinnacle of their performing careers.

Me and my girlfriends absolutely loved the movie and I won’t over-share the experience here so you can go and judge for yourselves. I think I missed out on something amazing in the seventies.


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How much can a parent withstand?


On October 10th I was honoured to be a guest speaker on The Joy of Retirement at an alumni luncheon for former employees of Coca-Cola Canada Ltd. in Toronto. I was preceded by a former employee of Coca-Cola, Debbie Sands, who had written a book about her family’s challenges with their second daughter, Amy. A Moth To The Flame is the story of Amy’s struggles with what was most likely Borderline Personality Disorder, a mental illness that Amy seemed to display from the time she was a baby but went undiagnosed.

How does a parent cope when they do all the right things and their best efforts are met with extreme anger, defiance, antisocial and destructive behaviours? How could a beautiful little baby grow into such a troubled adult? Debbie Sands and her husband Ed struggled with these questions from the time Amy was born until she died tragically at the age of 27. And they still struggle with the what ifs, hows and whys.

Amy Sands was a sweet baby but prone to unprovoked and intense temper tantrums. She would have periods of calm but they were only temporary and as she grew, the problems also grew. In elementary school she was bullied for being overweight. A couple of years in a closely monitored private school helped but when she returned to the public system, the wheels fell off. Before long she was running with the wild crowd, neglecting her school work and despite being bright, funny and talented in music and dance, the demons ruled.

Before she finished high school, Amy was involved in drugs, drinking and assorted antisocial behaviours. She had also blossomed into a beautiful young woman with little resemblance to the awkward young girl she had once been. With her family’s support she managed to graduate high school but because of her self-destructive habits was unable to hold down a job or attend college successfully. She was a pathological liar who turned her accusers into enemies and was soon involved in a series of abusive relationships and criminal activity.

Debbie Sands was constantly searching for answers and solutions to work through her daughter’s problems. She read books, consulted with teachers, other parents and tried every resource at her disposal to try and help Amy live a normal life. Naturally, Amy’s aberrant behaviour affected the entire family including an older daughter, Stephanie and a younger brother, Michael. All the love in the world can’t fix certain problems. As parents, Debbie and Ed Sands expended extraordinary amounts of time, emotional energy and money trying to help Amy function in a normal way. But she fought, defied and abused them constantly, only to retreat, apologize, then begin the whole cycle over again.

After hearing Debbie’s presentation at the Coca-Cola luncheon I thought I was familiar enough with Amy’s story that I didn’t need to read the book, but when I picked it up one evening and started reading I couldn’t put it down. It’s educational, heartbreaking and yet redemptive, a must read for any parent who is having trouble with a son or daughter who has fallen off the rails.

The panelists on CTV’s The Social recently discussed a 13-year-old boy who had been an ongoing problem for his parents. He’d stolen the family car (not the first time) to go visit his girlfriend, after first disengaging the home security system and internet/phone system. His mother was criticized for taking his bedroom door off its hinges, grounding him indefinitely and actually taking off her belt to hit him when she caught up with him. While it’s tempting to condemn her for using physical force, it’s easy to understand her frustration and lack of options. This was not an isolated incident and parents of difficult teens are frequently stretched beyond normal boundaries.

Mental illness is chronically under-diagnosed in many young people and parents are often unaware of the root of the problem and the resources available to help families with these struggles. I commend Debbie Sands for writing this book and encourage you to read it or pick it up for someone you know who has similar problems in their family. It has already helped parents with daughters like Amy and will not doubt resonate with others who read it in the future.

To order A Moth To The Flame by Debbie Sands from Amazon, click here.

 


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How to hamper those Halloween pantry raids


You know what it’s like. Every year we pick up Halloween treats from the grocery store, usually two or three weeks before the big night and for some reason the supply mysteriously evaporates before October 31st even arrives. This strange phenomenon is particularly puzzling when it’s something you like. Boxes of Smarties, tiny Mars Bars and potato chips are highly vulnerable while raisins usually remain safely stacked in the pantry.

We have to be so careful about what we dispense these days. When we were kids, the best treats were the always the home-made ones—sugary maple walnut or chocolate fudge, taffy and peanut butter cookies were freely passed out in little orange and black paper bags with witches on them. Our closest neighbours used to pack “special” bags for us “special” kids who lived next door and they were always the best. Now everything has to be commercially sealed and inspected for tampering before being consumed. It’s amazing we survived.

Every year I’m never sure how many kids we’ll get at our door but I plan and hope for plenty as I love seeing the little ones stuffed into their costumes stretched over winter parkas and toques. We live at the end of a dead-end courtyard and are very tricky to find, despite leaving all the outside lights and illuminated pumpkins on. Last year we had only two visitors; one little boy from two doors down and another little 3 ft. superhero of indeterminate gender. I’d stocked up on chips and chocolate bars, then at the last minute sent my husband out to buy red licorice—just in case there was an unexpected deluge.

The bottom line, to my everlasting shame is that last year I ate 90 little bags of red licorice during the first few days of November, all by myself. How else was I supposed to get rid of them? Consign them to landfill? Then, at lunch the other day, my friend Deb made an innocent comment which is a brilliant solution to the annual problem of preventing the inevitable evaporation of treats before the big night, and how to dispose of Halloween candy afterward.

JUST BUY WHAT YOU DON’T LIKE!

Genius! Why didn’t I think of that? One of the guys I used to work with was mortified every Halloween when he was a little boy because his dentist father handed out toothbrushes to his trick or treating friends, and their house inevitably got egged. That’s one approach.

Or, I could distribute sealed bags of kale chips or packets of hand sanitizers. Even stickers might work but I’m afraid of my home being egged if I gave out something like pencils or pens. I’d be happy with that but kids today are far more affluent, more discriminating and not as happy with any old thing as we boomers were. And furthermore, I’ve already stocked up on Smarties and little chocolate bars. Maybe I could eat the Smarties and chocolate immediately (for the sake of the children, of course ) and replace this year’s handouts of candy with recipe cards. Parents and their little ones could then make their own politically correct, nut-free, non-GMO’d, gluten-free, fair trade chocolate treats. Heaven knows, I’ll never use the recipes. And, hold the eggs!


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White Teeth are regular characters in Zadie Smith’s British romp


British author Zadie Smith is not everyone’s cup of tea. I gave up on her novel NW after several tries (thought it was an absolute mess) but I enjoyed Swing Time. I was in a bit of a reading dry spell waiting for several books to become available at the library so I decided to have a go at Smith’s first novel, White Teeth. It’s the multi-layered story of three generations of immigrants living in Birmingham, trying to cope with blending old country cultures and values with their new life in England.

Story lines are built around Archie Jones and Samad Iqbad who first met during World War II when they were both serving in Greece. Working class Archie from Birmingham and Muslim Sammy from Bangladesh bond over a moral dilemma during the war and when Sammy immigrates to England he naturally seeks out his old army buddy Archie. Sammy meets his young bride Alsana on the morning of his arranged marriage and they set up house in London near Archie who is now married to his second wife, a much younger Jamaican girl by the name of Clara, daughter of a devout Jehovah’s Witness.

While Alsana doesn’t think she has anything in common with Clara, they find themselves both pregnant at the same time and soon become friends. The British-born second generation of the two families is when the real fun starts. Archie and Clara’s daughter Irie is slightly less peculiar than her mother, the lapsed Jehovah’s Witness. Sammy and Alsana’s identical twin sons are opposite in personality which causes no end of anguish for their parents, particularly Sammy who vainly wishes them to be traditional and devout Muslims.

Author Zadie Smith.

The book is written in a somewhat satirical style and Zadie Smith has a brilliant ear for local slang and contemporary teenage dialogue. I could so easily picture the conversations and conflicts that transpire between the parents, their offspring and the other colourful characters in the story. She beautifully articulates the Caribbean patois of Clara’s religious mother Hortense, who grew up in Jamaica, with brilliant tongue-in-cheek exchanges between Hortense and her granddaughter Irie. Sammy’s wife Alsana is one of the most interesting characters and I would have liked to see more of her. She’s opinionated, has a temper and is unpredictable.

I really enjoyed White Teeth. For something different and a taste of satire, give it a whirl. I’d rate this book 8 out of 10.

Click here to order White Teeth by Zadie Smith from Amazon.