Bad Monkey, good book

When a male friend suggested I read a book by Carl Hiaasen entitled Bad Monkey I was somewhat reluctant. Scanning the premise on monkey1the book jacket, it sounded like guy story. Hiaasen resides in Florida and has written a number of books located in various southern cities including Key West and Miami. As I began reading I became increasingly concerned that I was getting into a Miami Vice-type story but I was urged to push on and I’m sooooo glad I did.

Bad Monkey is a well-crafted, excellently-written, funny story about a low-ranking police detective who suspects the discovery of a human arm on the end of a tourist’s fishing line is a potential crime rather than a simple and unfortunate shark attack. The story includes dozens of colourful characters whose lives intertwine in surprising and interesting ways. While the monkey has a rather minor role he is part of a common thread that pulls everything together and he really is nasty.

In fact, I enjoyed the book so much I’m going to read more by this author. Fun, fast read. And I didn’t even have to buy it. I downloaded it from the library. Bonus.

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Grandparenting Boomer-style

Hillary Clinton has recently been the target of much undeserved speculation about her ability and commitment to her future role as candidate for President of the United States. The reason? She’s going to be a grandmother later this year. Was this an issue for Bush Sr., Ronald Reagan or any other President for that matter? Mitt Romney has an entire battalion of grandchildren but no one mentioned that as a liability. In fact, politicians often use their children and grandchildren as props in their campaigns.

Being a grandparent today is different from when we Boomers were growing up. Our grandparents (if they were still alive) were grandmother1grey-haired, kindly souls we visited on Sundays and could always be counted on for treats. Grandmothers were great cooks who baked pies, had old-fashioned furniture in their homes, perhaps treated themselves to a “wash and set” once a week and wore flowered dresses. They taught us to knit and bake cookies. Today’s grandmothers attend yoga retreats, have a large circle of crazy-busy friends, get regular mani-pedi’s, vacation in Italy, run their own businesses, drink a lot of wine and listen to Bob Dylan on their ear buds.

With Mother’s Day approaching, we should take time appreciate the role our mothers and grandmothers played in fashioning the wonderful women we are today. Our lives and lifestyles are very different from what they experienced and our grandchildren will redefine it again. My own grandmother was an enormous influence on my life. As a war bride from England in the First World War, she was strong, broad-minded and spirited. Her stories were the catalyst for my looking at a life outside the small Ontario town I grew up in.

Leah McLaren’s column in The Globe and Mail on May 2nd about the changing role for Boomer grandparents is an articulate and girls weekhonest commentary on the changing face of grandmothering. As Beta Boomer Broads (BBBs – killer Bs), our generation can’t be counted on to bake pies and act “grandmotherly” in the traditional sense. But our grandchildren can count on us to have strong political opinions, be somewhat technically savvy, be physically fit, eat healthy food and dress like we care how we look. We’re probably going to be too busy running half-marathons and flying off for a girls’ week to be there for soccer practices. The thing is, most of our grandchildren are now being raised in cities and even countries hundreds and thousands of miles away, where their parents moved for better jobs. We’re not that accessible in so many ways.

None of my eight step-grandchildren live close by and their lives are also extremely busy with school, activities, friends and life in general. They all have wonderful parents who are doing an amazing job which is a credit to their own mother and father. Before long, they’ll be grandparents too and it will be interesting to see how that generation evolves. I’m pretty sure baking pies will soon become a lost art completely. It’s getting harder to tell parents from grandparents when you see people with children in the mall. dylan1Parents are now having their children at ages when previous generations were grandparents. It just gets more and more interesting. As time goes on, everyone will continue to adapt to our changing social environment. Fortunately for our grandchildren, they’ll hopefully have had the benefit of hearing Bob Dylan played at Grandma’s house. Yes. The times, they are a’ changing.


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Building my own oil cartel

Women’s magazines and the cosmetics industry are always coming up with new and creative ways to separate us from our garnierhard-earned toonies and loonies. Now that BB creams and CC creams have become old and boring (or reached critical mass as they say in the biz) they’ve unleashed new bait to lure us in—it’s oil—and true to character I’m right at the front of the line. Just last night I ripped a page out of a magazine promoting “Our 1st luxurious oil-infused lotion, Garnier Body Oil Beauty, Oil-infused Lotion for dry skin. Argan, macadamia, almond, rose, non-greasy, non-sticky. In our study, 80% agreed their skin has never looked so beautiful.” That does it—gotta get me some immediately!

This morning as I was applying Moroccan Argan Oil to the tips of my parched, high-lighted hair, I cast a glance around my medicine cabinet and started tallying up all the oils required to get me through the day.

1. Neutrogena Body Oil so my skin remains attached to my dermis and doesn’t flake off.oil3

2. Above-mentioned Moroccan argan oil for split ends.

3. Tea-tree oil for my eye-lashes (I’ll explain later).

4. Cuticle oil for – well, you know.

5. Eardrop oil for when maintenance falls behind.

6. Bath oil

So far I’ve managed to stay clear of the new facial cleansing oils, oil-enriched shampoos, oil hair conditioners, primer oils and oil body washes. Then there are the dozens of other oils essential to daily living—fish oil capsules, olive, canola, grapeseed, sesame, coconut and sunflower oil for meal preparation. Not to mention diffusing oils to make my home smell like a spring meadow and special oils for my Lampe Bergere for the times I want to substitute one unpleasant smell for another.

Earlier this week I mentioned to my eye doctor that I was having a problem with dry, itchy eyes and he informed I could have invisible mites in my eyelashes that are causing the problem. The solution? Tree tree oil of course. I purchased a packet of tee tree oil-based wipes to use on my closed eyelids twice a day for a month in hopes of returning my eyeballs from red to white.

I’ve already been using Oil of Olay serum for years and because I don’t really look like a 90-year-old I guess it must be working. An oil5Oil of Olay tank truck pulls up to my front door once a month. And we’re not even taking into account all the oils that make my husband’s world go ’round like WD40, 10W30 and various other mysterious oils lining the shelves of his workshop. I could go on but I think you get the picture.

Now that I’ve brought your attention to the industry’s nasty strategy, perhaps we can resist the urge to go out and buy the latest and greatest. This is made easier by the fact the new Garnier Body Oil I covet doesn’t seem to be available in Canada or U.S. yet. I saw the ad in RED, a British magazine. Or maybe I could try going on-line and having it sent . . .




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The age of acquisition, too much of a good thing

The other day a friend mentioned that she was having a hard time picking out a new washer and dryer because of the profusion of choices1choices available. It was all so confusing—front loader, top loader, steam feature, stacking, pedestal? Then there are the hundreds of models, manufacturers, price options and warranty issues to sort out. In a less costly version of the same scenario, I stood in front of the hair conditioner section in the drug store the other day and felt faint when confronted with hundreds of bottles of varying sizes, colours and claims that basically all do the same thing. If I make the wrong choice will I wake up bald? Our range of choices for material and consumer goods in today’s market is obscene. Sadly, I am as guilty of being sucked into the materialism vortex as anyone.

I heard on the radio the other day that a recent study concluded that people are more positively materialism3affected and left with longer-term feelings of happiness as a result of experiences rather than things. A girlfriend once planned to buy her mother a silver tea service for her 65th birthday, something her mother had always wanted. When she ran the idea past her mother she was surprised by the response. “I wanted it when I was younger” she said “but now I realize it’s not important and I really don’t want to be bothered polishing it.” I think we are now understanding the significance of this.

As Boomers get older we also get a bit smarter (quelle suprise!). We are now reaching a point in life where we’re lightening our load, or at least trying to. We’re looking for smaller, more materialism2efficient houses or condos. We’re hauling bags of clothes and household goods to Good Will and keep promising ourselves we’ll stop impulse buying. Trips to the mall are fraught with temptation to buy more crap we do not need and have no room for. Who among us needs another pair of black pants or black shoes. When I find myself lusting after some cute top in a store or a gorgeous pair of shoes, I find I’m now realizing that I already have something almost like it at home.

I have more white blouses, black sweaters and black pants than I’ll ever need for the rest of my life. As a teenager in the early 60s I owned one good white blouse —a hand-me-down from a friend. I wore that blouse to death. I clearly remember washing it by hand on a Saturday morning, hanging it outside on the clothesline, bringing it in to iron it and wearing it still damp (we didn’t own a clothes dryer) in the afternoon to meet my girlfriend Bronie at Long’s Restaurant for our Saturday afternoon Coke fix, the old-fashioned kind that comes out of a fountain and can be flavoured with cherry, vanilla, chocolate, maple or strawberry syrup.. Today I probably have no less than 20 white blouses. How far I’ve fallen.

materialism1One of my weaknesses is magazines and I subscribe to 18 per month, which get recycled to girlfriends. But all that advertising suggesting that I could have better, shinier hair, smoother skin, more fashionable clothes, longer, thicker eyelashes, a thinner body and a more rewarding lifestyle is just downright depressing. My mind is being bombarded with too many choices which makes choosing anything a stressful endeavor. And the message that I am not good enough as I am is not only wrong, it’s dangerous.

Perhaps we’ve now reached the point my friend’s mother reached about the silver tea set. Most things being promoted as the key to eternal happiness, I don’t need, no longer want and don’t want to maintain. The things I truly enjoy the most are experiences that cost next to nothing. For example:

1. Sitting drinking multiple cups of tea while I read The Globe and Mail in the morning and not having to watch the clock to rush off to work. I’m retired.

2. Getting together with friends and girlfriends in particular.reading3

3. Sitting outside in the shade reading my books and magazines with my little dog on my lap.

4. Having a conversation with my husband about whatever and anything.

5. Having my husband to share my life.

6. Sliding into nice fresh outside air-dried sheets at the end of the day next to my honey and reading some more.

7. And I love blogging. I even managed to get my internet provider to lower my monthly service fee because I’m not a huge consumer of data bytes.

I’m so happy that one of your choices was to read my blog—and it didn’t cost you a thing or add clutter to your home. Thank you for reading “mes pensées” whoever and wherever you are.


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Dear John: I love you

John’s Doyle’s regular column in The Globe and Mail is always an interesting read. Despite my cranky relationship with TV service providers, I genuinely enjoy watching television—well, certain programs anyway. I despise the usurious rates charged by the cable, internet and satellite companies which cost more per month than heat and hydro for my home and rank far lower on the scale of necessary utilities.

Back to my buddy John Doyle, the Globe’s TV critic. We seem to be like-minded in our television tastes and opinions. I don’t like reality shows. I love PBS which fortunately is free. I do enjoy Canada’s basic networks like CBC, Global and CITY but I hate that we can’t live-stream angry old woman2their news programs when we’re visiting in the United States. (I’ve been e-mailing everyone under the sun about this issue for years, to no avail.) I also love HBO, the History Channel and even the Military Channel with its excellent documentaries on World War II. And I’m going to miss Stephen Colbert not being Stephen Colbert any more.

According to Doyle it’s just as well I missed Seth Meyers’ interview with Lena Dunham. I’m a huge fan of Dunham because she’s so (and I hate to use this overworked word) authentic. She’s also incredibly smart, creative and energetic and I’m surprised she didn’t stomp all over Meyers.

In his May 1st column, John Doyle laments the inattention paid by the TV media to white males of a certain age. Do the program decision-makers actually make use of market studies? Why is it that the 18-45 demographic is still targeted as the holy grail. Their market research must date from 1971. Boomers are a much larger slice of the pie and we probably have more money to spend on the drugs, step-in bathtubs, vacations and incontinence products touted by their advertisers. Therefore, we deserve to be catered to and listened to—white males and females, crones, codgers and boomers alike.

tv1Back to my beefs with the cable and satellite sharks. I’ve tried by-passing the service providers by watching via my laptop but that’s not yet a perfect system. A friend gave up on cable years ago and relies on rabbit ears with a fair level of success. But the only way to get HBO and other programs I like is to send Bell Xpressview a gigantic slice of my pension and a pound of my wizened old flesh every month. I’m watching with interest to see what happens with Amazon getting into the movie and TV show rental business.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the current proposal is passed by the government to force service providers to unbundle television channels. Consumers deserve a break and being allowed to pick what programs we are willing to pay for should be a given. Although I’m confident even then they’ll screw us by charging more for what we want.  I currently pay about $25.00/month to PVR programs that are on too late at night or that I’m not home to watch. In the U.S., much as I have my list of beefs with Comcast, I can call up any missed program free on channel 1 or 300. I asked Bell about whether they had that option the other day when I was talking to them about another issue and the guy didn’t know what I was talking about. Nothing is free here – not even choice. All I’m asking for is the ability to watch what I want, when I want and to pay accordingly for those choices.

And in closing, John, I feel so validated to think that you share my opinions. Obviously you’re very smart.

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I did it. You’re welcome.

Today as I was standing in the supermarket-style lineup to check out at the Hudson’s Bay store in Square One in Mississauga, Hudsons BayI heard an announcement that nearly knocked me on saggy old fanny. “Attention shoppers. If you cannot find the size you need in our store, we will search other Hudson’s Bay locations and have it sent to your home” or words to happy computer userthat effect. I’m convinced this small step toward customer service is entirely a result of my blog in November gently advising the retail industry how they could improve business, followed by my  Retail Rant Hits Home blog. After all, I’m also convinced that millions read my blog and take action when required. The store manager actually responded to my e-mail at the time which impressed this old broad to no end.

One tiny glitch in today’s transaction (which is a fairly significant one) is that the cashier failed to give me my Bay Day 25% discount on the clearly marked sale price and charged me full price for both items. My bringing it to her attention—despite the fact the store is emblazoned with red and white banners and sale signs—reduced my final bill by 50%.happy shopper

We’re making progress Boomer Broads, one small step at a time. Perhaps some day Hudson’s Bay stores will have enough staff that the sales associate will have the time to walk around the counter, hand me my bag, smile and say thank you. Let’s just say, I too have a dream.

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