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I’m glad I don’t have to outfit children for Halloween


It’s a political mine field.

The PC’ers are now targeting Halloween costumes. It has been deemed politically incorrect to appropriate a variety of ethnic looks adapted for Halloweening at school and in your local neighbourhood. Dressing as a Japanese geisha, an indigenous North American or an Arab sheik is considered disrespectful appropriation of other cultures. Don’t even consider outfitting your child in a striped Breton T-shirt and beret to pretend they’re French for an evening of fun. Our go-to home-made costume as boomer kids was usually a tramp because, unlike today where everyone buys their ready-made costumes at the store, we fashioned our own from whatever we could scrounge from around the house. In today’s world that would eliminate a tramp costume in case it disparages the economically underprivileged. Even dressing as a witch supposedly demeans the Wicca religion.

Let me state clearly up front, I agree that Halloween costumes that are intended to negatively represent cultural or religious symbols are absolutely not acceptable. However, some of the most creative and endearing Halloween outfits I’ve ever seen were never intended to demean but most often were aspirational. The children considered their look a compliment, an homage to whatever style they were portraying. Many years ago, a little bi-racial boy in my neighbourhood regularly turned up hand-in-hand with his mother at my door in his dalmatian costume, until he outgrew it. I adored his costume and him. Another little curly-haired brown-skinned seven-year-old was decked out in a three-piece pinstriped suit with crisp white shirt and tie depicting Johnny Cochrane. We may not have admired Johnny Cochrane’s cause, but the costume was brilliant and deserving of an extra treat.

Could this offend farmers?

These issues must present incredible challenges for parents trying to create imaginative costumes for their children. No more cowboys and ‘Indians’; no turbans, no ‘blues’ musicians. Will we be offending a particular group if our children are dressed as rappers or crew members from McDonald’s? If I answer the door dressed as myself, an aging baby boomer in a comfortable T-shirt and yoga pants will I offend my entire generation? That just leaves the graphic not-quite-human comic book heroes like Batman, Spiderman and Wonder Woman. Or would that offend the acting profession? Should we revisit the ethics of actors wearing ethnic costumes of any kind? Would dressing your child as a pumpkin offend farmers? Would dressing as a farmer offend farmers?

When I was little, I dreamed of being a saloon girl, just like Kitty on Gunsmoke. I couldn’t imagine anything better than wearing beautiful, sparkly evening dresses all day every day, feathers in my hair, a handsome Marshall as my boyfriend. I often pretended I was Kitty when playing with friends. But dressing as a benevolent hooker for Halloween in today’s world is unimaginable. I’m just glad I’m not the parent of young children faced with running the gauntlet of political correctness. Oh no! I said ‘gauntlet’. Did I just offend indigenous people? Give me strength. Do I need sensitivity training? Now I can’t even dress up as a ‘Smartie’. I’m so confused. I think I’ll just turn out the lights and hide behind the sofa on Halloween rather than offend someone in the LGBTQ community by giving candy to a small child dressed as a princess.

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Have the feds gone mad?


First it was the farmers. Now it’s the minimum-wage earners working in the retail sector. Can the Revenue Canada bottom-feeders stoop any lower? Their pathetic proposed tax grabs are beyond punitive; they border on masochistic. Canada’s Minister of Finance Bill Morneau obviously did not grow up on a farm, or even keep company with someone who grew up on a farm. If he did, he’d think twice about sticking it to farmers who pay their children a couple of dollars an hour to help in the barn with the milking at 6:30 a.m. before they eat breakfast and go off to school. Or variety store owners and other family businesses whose children work nights and weekends to help keep their businesses afloat.

Now the feds have retail and other lower to middle-income workers in their sights. They’re proposing to tax employees on the value of their employee discounts, a tax grab that is beyond shameful. Retail sales associates in clothing stores are encouraged to wear brands carried by their stores to help promote sales. And the system works. I’ve often been in a store, admired something a sales person was wearing and purchased it for myself. That sales person probably earns minimum wage or slightly more and often spends most of what she or he earns in the store. And now that miniscule benefit has caught the attention of the Revenue Canada rapists.

Unless you’re a McCain or a Weston, most family businesses are marginally profitable and come without pensions and other benefits.

Several years ago I worked for a company that provided free parking to employees in the company-owned lot beside the building. The tax auditors tried to extract taxes on an obscure estimated dollar value of that benefit for an amount the employees didn’t even receive. Premiums for supplementary health benefits provided by employers are taxed. Support payments to single mothers that have already been taxed are re-taxed when received by the parent with custody of children. Child support payments are obviously a huge windfall for struggling parents. When is the insanity going to stop? We elect our politicians to represent the people but it seems we’ve elected an economically elite group of Marie Antoinette wanna-be’s who are completely out of touch with how real people live and try to make ends meet. I have no objection to going after the high rollers; that’s the nature of a capitalist society. But picking on the little guy, the ninety-nine percenters is just plain immoral.

Taxpayers must remain vigilant and not let the government get away with their dirty tricks.

I don’t know what the answer is. If I thought elected officials actually listened to the constituents who pay their salaries and grotesquely generous pensions I’d suggest writing, calling or emailing your member of parliament. But they’re probably too busy trying to figure out how to tax the income on your child’s lemonade stand. But it’s worth a try. Unless we storm the Bastille, the elite in Ottawa are going to step up their dirty work. We must remain vocal and invested in what they’re trying to sneak past us. I think they’ve gone mad. They’ve certainly made me mad.

 

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Breaking up is still hard to do


As more of our generation is retiring, accepting early golden parachute offers or even sadly, being made redundant through restructuring, I thought I would republish a piece I wrote a couple of years ago. The message endures.

Bette Davis is famously quoted as saying, “Getting old ain’t for sissies”. Retirement is a natural by-product of getting old and requires attention. For some, it’s wonderful; for others, not so much. I definitely fall into the former category but for those who are forced to retire before they’re psychologically or financially ready it can be devastating.

You’re out! You’re no longer part of the team.

At the risk of generalizing, I think it’s often more difficult for men than women to retire. The Boomer generation and our parents’ generation is characterized by men who devoted their entire adult lives to their work. Perhaps it was a family business, a demanding occupation like medicine or maybe it was a prestigious corporate position. Retirement means these individuals have lost not only something to do every day but their very identity. Gen X’ers and millennials watched their parents (us, Boomers) doing this, got the message and have flipped that psychology on its ear.

When you’re retired, people are no longer impressed by what you once did for a living. When you’re not Mr. Big, President of ABC International Corporation it can create a huge vacuum. Because you no longer have the power to improve the lives of your former coworkers they drop you from their social and business circle. This alienation can be devastating. The 2002 movie About Schmidt with Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates clearly illustrates the shock of transition. When Schmidt, played by Jack Nicholson attends his retirement party, the speeches and platitudes from his coworkers at the insurance company where he had dedicated his life were so cliché and familiar it was heartbreaking.

My friend David worked in the marketing department of a giant international corporation. The corporate culture was casual and creative with frequent product launches, brainstorming sessions, corporate retreats and big-budget product promotions . Co-workers often socialized outside of work hours going on skiing weekends and attending parties together.  When David retired he expected his former coworkers to keep him in the loop but the invitations stopped. He was understandably confused and hurt that people he had always considered friends as well as co-workers no longer wanted his company.

business lunch2

Business associates and friends are not the same thing, despite what it seems.

Another executive I know from the financial services sector was similarly affected when suddenly dropped by his circle of business friends when he retired. He felt abandoned and couldn’t understand why his calls weren’t returned and no one wanted to join him for lunch anymore. Once the unspoken message became clear, he was forced to accept the truth—he was no longer a somebody. His business friends were in fact not real friends at all but merely business associates and when he could no longer do anything for them they no longer needed or wanted his company.

This particular aspect of retirement can result in feelings similar to divorce. The entity that has been a huge part of your life is gone and no longer cares to associate with you. Like divorce where you lose being part of a couple, loss of some friends, probably your home and assets, you lose a large component of your life. A new strategy for moving on is required.  For some individuals it might take the form of part-time consulting work to keep a hand in the business world, albeit to a lesser degree. Others may prefer a more relaxed approach, taking time to enjoy all the activities that working did not allow for. This can include golf and other sports, taking courses, spending time with the grandkids, pursuing hobbies or perhaps a part-time job.

Retiring for me, however, meant total and utter freedom at last. Now I have the time to read voraciously, entertain at my leisure, get together with friends, take vacations whenever I please and do dozens of other things I’ve waited for my entire life. Fortunately, it was and is the best time of my life and just keeps getting better.

Over the years I have observed people approaching retirement with different attitudes. Some were looking forward to european travelhaving the time to travel and do things with friends. Others were bewildered and had no constructive plan for filling their time. Those who were not prepared were often the ones who developed health issues that may have contributed to an early demise. Interestingly, many of the retiring career women I have worked with were often the ones who had a Mediterranean cruise or a tour of Ireland scheduled for the week after they finished work. They had plans to volunteer at a library or hospital and hit the ground running. These are generally the people who live the longest and have the richest, most fulfilling retirement.

Enjoying retirement does not have to involve memberships in expensive golf clubs or Mediterranean cruises. The most simple things now give me enormous pleasure. There’s nothing better than enjoying a second cup of tea as I take my time over the morning paper.  The luxury of being able to go grocery shopping minus the crowds on a Tuesday morning or hanging sheets outside on the line to dry in the morning breezes still give me great pleasure. The novelty of enjoying a ladies lunch with a chilled glass of Pinot Grigio and not having to rush back to the office has still not worn off. Entertaining friends is much more pleasurable when you have the luxury of time to shop, cook and prepare for your guests.

Just like in a divorce, breaking up with your employer can be devastating or it can be yourhippie boomers2 “get out of jail free” card. When that door slams behind you, the outcome is entirely up to you. I say, crank up the 60s music and let’s rock n’ roll. As Boomer Broads we’re living our best years now.

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Dear Margaret: I was wrong. I’m sorry.


It was a scramble to finish reading the book Alias Grace before the television series aired as I didn’t want to preempt any of the deliciousness of the story line. Written by Margaret Atwood more than twenty years ago, it took me a long time to get to the book because I’d been put off by her later writing, including The Handmaid’s Tale. I disliked The Handmaid’s Tale as I found it too dystopian and weird when I first read it in 1986. Times have changed; the world is becoming scarier and The Handmaid’s Tale is no longer as remote from reality as it once seemed. I’m loving the television series and can’t wait for the next season.

Alias Grace is historical fiction (my favourite reading genre) based on the true story of Grace Marks, a pretty, young Irish immigrant housemaid in Toronto in the mid-1800’s. Put out to work by her alcoholic, abusive father at a young age, Grace secured employment as domestic help in a well-to-do Toronto household where she made friends with Mary Whitney, another young employee of the household. Life was not easy for domestic servants and they were frequently exploited by their employers. When Mary Whitney dies from a botched abortion, Grace is tainted by virtue of her friendship with Mary and is forced to leave and accept a position further north in rural Richmond Hill working for a bachelor ‘gentleman’ Thomas Kinnear. His relationship with his existing housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery soon becomes evident and presents complications for the entire household. Nancy is mercurial, swinging from overly friendly to mean and jealous.

In July 1843, while Kinnear is away from home, Nancy informs Grace and the handyman James McDermott that their services are no longer required and she intends to dismiss them before Kinnear returns. Then the story gets muddy. Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery are murdered but no one is sure who did it; James? Grace? Or both? The resulting murder trial is a major scandal in nineteenth century Upper Canada. McDermott is condemned to death by hanging and because of Grace’s vague testimony that was highly manipulated by her pro-bono lawyer and her young age (she was only fifteen), she receives a life sentence in the harsh federal penitentiary in Kingston, Ontario.

The complex characters of Grace Marks and James McDermott make it difficult to get at the truth.

During her incarceration, a number of well-meaning citizens and professionals attempt to extract the truth from Grace about the day of the murders but without success. Many people feel she is innocent and lobby for her release. Famous novelist Susanna Moodie even took a stab at getting to the truth (sorry for the bad pun) in her book Life in the Clearing but it was generally acknowledged that Moodie’s tendency to exaggeration and belief in spiritualism heavily coloured her account. After fifteen years of incarceration, Atwood introduces a character called Dr. Simon Jordan who specializes in studying mental health issues (such as they were at that time). He undertakes interviewing Grace over a period of months in an attempt to extract the truth once and for all. Although uneducated, Grace is obviously highly intelligent and articulate which makes it difficult to sort out fact from fiction.

Atwood’s story alternates time frames and narration. We’re often presented with the story in Grace’s own words as well as from the perspective of Dr. Jordan and a third party. I’ve never understood why some writers eschew quotation marks when employing dialogue some of the time but not all of the time. I suppose it’s a technical issue beyond my uneducated grasp but it does make for a bit of confusion at times sorting out conversations. Whoever said Canadian history is boring is just plain wrong. Just as I was wrong in discounting Margaret Atwood’s writing after The Edible Woman published in the mid-sixties and still my favourite Atwood novel. Alias Grace is a wonderful read. You’ll find plenty of touchstones you can relate to and the mystery surrounding the double murder will keep you engrossed in the book beyond the last page into the “Afterword” by Atwood. Millions of book buyers can’t be wrong.

To order Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood from Amazon.com, click here.

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How to prevent a cold . . . and not get fat


Colds are not fun.

A couple of years ago I posted my personal treatment program for the common cold (Step right up, try my guaranteed cold remedy). I can now take that advice a step further and suggest how you can prevent getting a cold in the first place. And, in the course of my research it was revealed that my latest discovery has a marvelous spin-off benefit—preventing weight gain. In medical circles I think this is called “off-labeling” where a treatment for one ailment has an unexpected side benefit. That’s what happened when the experts noticed that the medication used to treat glaucoma also grew thicker, longer eyelashes. Voila: Latisse.

Whenever my husband and I travel on vacation, he always gets a cold. Usually he catches it on the plane going over but on our latest vacation he held off until the final couple of days before we came home. Three years ago he generously shared his germs with an entire bus load of more than forty people touring French and Belgian war sites with us. We were very popular. This predilection for getting sick on vacation is so assured that he loads up on Canadian cold remedies from the drugstore before we leave to take along with us. I must confess right up front here that when I get sick he’s a virtual Florence Nightingale. He brings me soup, runs the household and generally gives me the time, space and resources I need to recover. He’s sympathetic, helpful and nurturing. When he gets sick, however, I turn into an evil witch. I chastise him for not washing his hands frequently enough; I refuse to touch him or anything he has touched; I avoid his air space and generally treat him like a pariah. And this is a guy who toughs it out with minimal complaining when he gets sick; he’s not one who displays the typical behaviours of a “man cold”.

France’s secret defense system against sickness and obesity.

Anyway, back to the point of my story. We recently celebrated my seventieth birthday and his seventy-fifth by taking a trip to France. We spent a few days in Paris where it was cold and wet (while it was 30 degrees C in Toronto) before traveling to catch a river cruise down the Rhône River to Marseilles. Everything was going well until a couple of days before the end of our trip when he started to complain about a sore throat and started blowing through forests of Kleenex. The barriers flew up. I washed my hands obsessively. I turned my head when he sneezed. I only touched common door knobs, taps and other items through the protection of a sanitizing wipe. (Fortunately, I’d stock-piled a supply of President’s Choice wipes before we left.) I employed my usual regimen of avoidance/prevention measures.  In the past, these measures rarely worked and I always still managed to catch his cold. This time, for the first time ever, I did not. We’ve been home for several days now so I’m past the typical three-day incubation period for catching a cold. I’m miraculously symptom-free and he’s now better.

The only conclusion I can derive from this experience is that a trip to the south of France is the secret to preventing colds. Essential to this regimen is obviously the daily consumption of copious amounts of fresh French baguettes, pounds of exotic frommages, particularly sharp blue and Camembert, crèpes set alight with generous splashings of Grande Marnier, gelato at least twice a day, delectable wines with every meal and at various times throughout the day, regular consumption of crème caramel or crème brulée, and assorted chocolate and pastry treats daily. And, when we weighed ourselves after we arrived home, we were practically the same as when we left. I can only surmise that all the walking we did from the gelato shops to the cafés and patisseries kept us fit, so similar exercise is definitely an essential component of the plan.

The French lifestyle is obviously highly conducive to healthy living.

This doesn’t account for why he got a cold under the same conditions I experienced but that’s not the issue. I didn’t. Therefore, my research is anecdotal but I’m not one to nit-pick. French women have it figured out. Not only do they stay slim as gazelles on a daily diet of crusty baguettes, delicious wines, exotic cheeses and assorted patisserie treats, they probably don’t get colds either. So, the next time my honey starts sniffing, I’m bolting for the south of France. It works for me. Merci beaucoup mes chères.

Click here to read Step right up . . . try my guaranteed cold remedy.

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Gotham Steel’s pasta pot is really cookin’


If you’ve ever checked out the My Favourite Things section of my blog, you’ll see I’m a fan of Bonne Maman raspberry jam, Red Rose tea, FitFlop sandals and a few other things. I can now confidently add something else to the list of items that I love. Perhaps you’ve seen the television commercials for the Gotham Steel no-stick, no-scratch cookware with the orange lining. Like most promotions, their commercials are annoying and make you wonder whether the products they’re shilling are as good as they claim. When I saw a pasta pot with double handles that lock into place for draining pasta, cooked potatoes and other hot foods, I was intrigued.

Who doesn’t love a fast and easy pasta meal?

I’ve always wanted a pasta pot that eliminated the need for a separate colander for straining the liquid, then transferring the food back into the pot for final preparation. Gotham Steel’s pasta pot has holes in the apron of the lid that line up with a drain spout and when the handles are rotated into the lock position, the water can be safely and cleanly drained off. The price was only $29.95 plus shipping and as a special bonus I would receive a 9.5-inch frying pan for an additional $6.95 shipping charge. At that price I figured it was definitely worth a try so I went on line to order and for an extra $5.00 I upgraded the pasta pot from four-litre to five-litre. Bigger is usually better when preparing pasta. Both pieces and shipping came to less than $50.00.

Gotham Steel’s cookware is one of my new most favourite things.

A week later the bounty arrived at my front door and I was anxious to try it out so our menu that night was spaghetti. We boiled the pasta and when it was done, locked the lid into place and easy peasey, drained the liquid. Then, I added the prepared hot pasta sauce (I keep portions of home-made spaghetti sauce in the freezer) into the same pot, stirred everything together and bam! It worked. And I love it. Actually, I should credit my honey as he’s the superior spaghetti cooker in our family. The surface of the pan is slick as silk and doesn’t have the same sticky, porous feel as early Teflon pans. It’s easy to wash clean and I’m thrilled with both the five-litre pasta pot and the 9-inch frying pan.

Just wanted to share this with Boomerbroadcast readers. I absolutely do not get any commission or kickback for promoting this cookware. I just like it and that’s a fact. Some pieces are available at Walmart and Bed Bath & Beyond but at a higher price. Here’s a link to their website if you want to order.

https://www.gothamsteelpot.ca/?mid=8859785

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Does The Widow know more than she lets on?


Ordinarily I’m not a reader of psychological thrillers. Historical fiction is more my thing. And I had already started reading another book when I received an email from my local library that my copy of The Widow by Fiona Barton was ready to download. I was anxious to dive into The Widow so I put the other book aside. Two days later I was finished. I really enjoyed Barton’s style of writing and this book was a page-turner for sure.

I have mixed feelings about the book though, which opened with the widow’s husband getting killed by a passing bus in a London suburb. Right up front it’s clear she is relieved to be rid of him and what she describes as “his nonsense”. The title’s namesake Jean is a naïve young hairdresser when she meets and marries tall, dark and handsome Glen Taylor. She can’t believe her good fortune. Soon, she becomes slightly uncomfortable with his micromanagement of their marriage and Jean finds it easier to assume the role of Stepford wife to keep their perfect union rolling along. Then, a toddler is kidnapped and her perfect husband is one of the main suspects. She’s shocked and disappointed to discover he’s an on-line troll with a preference for kiddie porn, but true to form, she plays the role of supportive wife throughout a lengthy investigation, judgement and incarceration.

Jean Taylor’s life is no longer what she thought and she finds herself and her husband ostracized by friends and neighbours. The character of the investigating police detective is a bit cliché in his dogged determination to prosecute the offender but we soldier on expecting an eleventh-hour surprise revelation, that never happens. Barton presents the story from three perspectives, beginning as Jean written in the first person, from the point of view of the detective, and through a female journalist who tries to ingratiate herself to Jean in order to get to the truth. It was a fun summer read for a couple of days and kept me away from wasting money at the mall. That’s good enough for me.

To order a copy of The Widow from Amazon.com, click here.

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