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The perils and pleasures of being a helicopter pet parent

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Ain’t she sweet?

This is really embarrassing to admit but the other day my honey and I had an actual disagreement about the intelligence of our dog, a 3½ pound 7-year-old female Yorkie called Sassy. I truly dislike the name she came with but she’d been named when we got her. She’d been returned by her previous owners who found her energy level unsuitable. I like a name that denotes gender and one that’s easy to yell so I wanted ‘Stella’ (think Streetcar Named Desire). He couldn’t come up with anything better that we both liked, so ‘Sassy’ stuck. I liked my last dog’s name, “Gracie”. It was always fun to sign Christmas cards, “Lynda, George & Gracie” (you have to be a certain age to appreciate that).

She was a dismal failure at puppy school. She’s never been motivated by food or treats (the primary training tool) so when all the other puppies were joyfully dancing and bowing to their masters’ commands, my dog preferred to simply sit there looking cute. Intractable. An embarrassment. There was another Yorkie in puppy school who could do everything but her owner’s income taxes, so my dog’s failings weren’t breed specific.

The other day she walked within five feet of a field mouse on the street and didn’t even see it—completely disregarding the noble, heritage of her Yorkshire Terrier working ancestors who were bred to catch rats in the coal mines in Yorkshire, England. That’s what initiated our conversation about her dubious doggie I.Q. She can fetch a ball but refuses to “give it up”, preferring to shoot it under the couch or coffee table instead. That requires creaky old me or my creaky old husband to get down on all fours and retrieve the ball with a yardstick. I’m not sure that’s what they meant when they said dogs ensure we get our exercise. She can “Sit” but only for three seconds when offered a treat. Then, she ignores the treat and walks away (see what I mean about not being easy to train with treats). Sometimes she carries the treat around for a few days. Or it might turn up a week later in my husband’s shoe or in our bed. She loves stuffing treats down between the sofa cushions so we have to go mining for them (is that the coal mine genes at work?). I can put food down for her at any time during the day and it’ll sit there for hours before she decides to partake.

Being a pet parent is a responsibility not unlike the more serious kind. Pets require food, in some cases expensive special food with special price tags only available from the vet. After seeing a horrifying documentary about the pet food industry called “Pet Fooled”, purchased and shown by a member of our local dog park, I’ve given up on commercial dog food (with the exception of some dental crunchies, from the vet of course) and cook my own with meat and vegetables. Some of us spring for doggie daycare and regular boarding which can run into hundreds of dollars before the week goes by. And those vet bills can be heart-stopping. But boomer pet parents take it all in stride. They’re our fur babies. We love them with stupid devotion that I only wish all animals could receive.

If you’ve ever been to Florida you’ll regularly see seniors pushing their pets around in specially designed pink and purple pet strollers that allow them into restaurants and malls. You can’t leave a pet in a hot car and those strollers make sense. I’ve also seen older, ailing pets enjoying a blissful walk in the Florida sunshine pushed along in their luxurious strollers by their equally ailing senior pet parents.

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Our little valentine.

Non-pet owners love to poke fun at those of us who dress our dogs up. Especially when you have a petite little one, it’s so much fun to dress them up in seasonal attire. In nearly forty years of owning little dogs, I have accumulated a pet wardrobe that includes a Roots baseball jacket, duffel coats, a golf shirt, faux Chanel-styled hoodie, Valentine’s and Christmas outfits, a Halloween pumpkin, a lady bug and a particularly cute muscle shirt imprinted “Security”.  Even larger dogs who spend a lot of time indoors need supplementary winter coats. Raincoats make sense in keeping pets dry. There’s nothing more unloveable than a smelly wet dog when you return from a walk. And the boots prevent painful burns on the pads of their feet from winter salt on the sidewalks. They also prevent pets from licking the salt from their feet and incurring digestive problems, which of course could bring on more of those expensive vet bills.

Then, there’s the cost of grooming. I’m quite capable of doing a half-assed job of grooming myself but it’s never as thorough and lovely as what the professionals do. I hate having to pay $70.00 to get a 3.5 lb. dog groomed but I have to admit those groomers earn their money. It takes a long time to bath and blow-dry, followed by trimming, ear and other orifice cleaning, nail clipping and fine-tuning. I once took a one-day grooming seminar with a friend which gave me an even greater appreciation for the work performed by the pros. So, I give her a bath and mini-grooming every couple of weeks. When Sassy’s too embarrassed by her appearance to go out in public, then we take her in for a spa day.

Boomers love their pets. Most of us grew up with at least one dog or cat in the family. Back then, however, our un-neutered or un-spayed dog probably slept outside in a doghouse and the cat roamed free and vulnerable to every danger lurking in the neighbourhood. We were emotionally imprinted at a young age by such canine heroes as Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, The Shaggy Dog and who can forget Old Yeller. Now that we’re retired and don’t have to worry about leaving a pet home alone all day, we’ve once again become enthusiastic pet parents—but with a difference. Now we’re over-the-top devoted to our little ones and we don’t care what other people think about our pet-fancying ways. On the plus side, other boomer parents understand because they probably have a fur baby too. We’re all kinda crazy about our pets.

It’s so nice to have each other.

There’s a reason pet therapy is so widely encouraged in seniors’ residences and nursing homes. The health benefits are scientific and well-documented. Having a pet lowers our blood pressure, gets us outside for a bit of walking exercise and bending exercise fetching balls from under the sofa or coffee table. Pets give us something to think about besides ourselves and the lovin’ just never ends. They do make it tricky when we travel and the pain of losing a pet is colossal and overwhelming but the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. My friend Terry once gave me a coaster the says “A house is not a home without a dog”. So true.

Several years ago, when Murphy, my 15-year-old Maltese passed away, I thought I’d take a break from doggie parenthood but the house felt like a tomb. No one waiting for me when I got home, jumping around wanting to go for a walk; no one to snuggle with when I needed some lovin’. I lasted a month, then I went and adopted Gracie, making my life complete again. When Gracie was nearing the end we adopted Sassy and there was a year’s overlap. I must say having the replacement pet already in place  helped ease the pain of losing Gracie, even though the replacement isn’t nearly as obedient, quiet or well-behaved as Gracie was.

Which is how we got into the discussion about whether Sassy is a bit dim or just smarter than we give her credit for. To her credit, she is a brilliant at making herself invisible when I turn on the taps in the laundry tub in readiness for her bath. She can disappear into the teeniest little remote corner of the house which sends us on an endless search—again, more exercise for us up and down stairs. When I tell her I need a hug, she dutifully walks over and positions her body so I can pick her up. Like typical helicopter pet parents, we’re stupidly overjoyed when she successfully uses her overnight pee pad in the laundry room. We think it’s nothing short of genius.

I’d always wanted a Yorkie. After three Maltese in succession, I figured I had time for one more dog before I go to the ‘home’ and I wanted that dog to be a Yorkie. A Morkie (Maltese-Yorkie cross) would have been even better but when we saw the ad in the paper for a Yorkie who had been returned by her previous owners, we did the deed the same day. But, as time goes on and I do the math, I figure Sassy may not have to be my last dog after all. There are so many senior dogs in shelters who need a home. I’ll be in my 80’s when Sassy reaches the end of the line but an older dog would absolutely fit the bill if I can still manage it. After all, a house is not a home without a dog, even one whose level of intelligence is a secret. Or are we just overthinking it like all helicopter parents.

To view the documentary PET FOOLED

about the pet food industry, click here.

 

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Chelsea Handler is getting ready for love

Chelsea Handler with her rescue dogs Bert and Bernice.

The election of Donald Trump in 2016 affected comedienne, writer and late-night talk show host Chelsea Handler so profoundly she altered her entire life to cope with the implications. If you’ve ever watched her late night show Chelsea Lately, listened to her standup routine or read any of her books, you’ll know Handler is smart, beautiful, opinionated and abrasive. Turning forty and the election of Trump forced her to address an inner turmoil that she’d been ignoring her entire life. She suddenly realized that America and herself in particular were going down a very dangerous road. In her own words, “The news was giving me diarrhea.” I can certainly empathize—the news gives me stomach pains.

She put her career on hold for more than a year to focus on leveraging her celebrity status to get women elected in 2018 and increase the turnout of apathetic voters. This transformation happened with the assistance of an effective therapist whom she credits with finally helping her see life through a different lens. Her new book, Life Will Be The Death Of Me” is a recounting of this journey.

Reading Handler’s book reminded me of the special dynamics inherent in families with many children. Handler is the youngest of six children. Her oldest and favourite brother Chet was killed in a hiking accident when she was nine and she never recovered from that loss. As I read about the Handler family’s experiences I was reminded of the colourful childhood of David Sedaris who also grew up with multiple sisters, a brother and parents trying to cope with a demanding family.

Handler was unhappy with her life, always being on the offensive, sabotaging relationships, both romantic and otherwise, and being generally frustrated with the state of the world. She took great pride in her independence and the fact whatever she had achieved had been done without the benefit of a college education, connections or financial support. She’d worked hard and apologized to no one. After the November 2016 election she was so depressed she felt she had to take some responsibility for the state of things. “How could Americans have turned their back on decency, and why was I so misinformed? How did I not know this outcome was even a possibility?” she says early in the book.

Recognizing herself as a privileged white elitist, one of the entitled one percent who was incapable of managing life’s simple chores by herself (despite her blue collar upbringing), she concluded she was part of the problem and set about remaking herself. “I couldn’t carry on the way I had been carrying on, just coasting and cashing checks for essentially being a loudmouth.”

Previous attempts at therapy had not been successful, mainly because, like so many troubled people, she hadn’t connected with the right therapist. Then, she met Dr. Dan Siegel who patiently introduced her to new possibilities, perceptions and an action plan for moving forward in a more positive way. Through intensive psychotherapy, Handler identified the source of her anger, defensiveness and frustration. What could easily descend into psycho-babble does not. The science is intriguing and it’s worth reading about the process she underwent. It involved a lot of time building trust in her therapist, then slowly uncovering and mitigating the causes of her anger.

Chelsea Handler’s first rescue dog, Chunk, flew first class.

With her typical humour and intelligence, Handler not only walks us through her transformation but throws in many bits about her personal life that were enlightening and funny. Her drug and alcohol problems have been well documented in her earlier books and this time around she is once again frank and honest about her use of cannibus in particular. Like many people without children, she has enthusiastically adopted a series of rescue dogs to satisfy her need for nurturing and love. The stories about her various canine pals are hilarious and she is equally generous in exposing her shortcomings in stories about her relationship with her domestic staff and family members.

This book also describes her handling of the death of both her mother and father but the early death of her oldest brother when she was nine years old was particularly significant. She also recognizes that her failures in romantic relationships are completely the result of her unwillingness to accept other people’s shortcomings while acknowledging no one is perfect. Part of the purpose of this book is to right this wrong and in typical Chelsea Handler fashion she dedicates the book to “My Future Husband”. She prefers older men and in particular has a crush on Robert Mueller.

Matchmaker me

C’mon! You’d be so good together.

If we were real life BFFs, I’d be encouraging a relationship with Bill Maher. I’m a hopeless (and probably the world’s worst) matchmaker. I know how difficult it is to meet “the right person” so I’m always trying (unsuccessfully) to fix people up. I know Handler and Maher have been friends for years and I’m hoping now that she’s done all this work on herself she’ll open her eyes to the possibilities of my suggestion. Just once I’d like my matchmaking to work. She prefers older men and Bill Maher’s about 20 years older than her; they’re both political and very smart; neither wants children and both love dogs; they both are passionate about the environment—and weed. Bill—pick up the phone. I think she’s ready.

I loved this book and read it in less than two days. In my opinion, it’s a 9 out of 10. Let me know what you think.

To order Chelsea Handler’s “Life Will Be the Death of Me . . . and you too  from Amazon, click here.

Disclosure: If you order from the Amazon link shown here you will receive Amazon’s best price and I may receive a teeny tiny commission. Thanks.

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What’s on your summer reading list?

Best-selling author Jennifer Weiner’s recent Op-Ed piece What’s Your Favorite Book? in The New York Times questioned the validity of criticizing other people’s choices in reading material. In particular, she was disappointed that Stephen Colbert made fun of the so-called bodice-ripper books by Georgia politician Stacey Abrams written under the name Selena Montgomery. When asked what book U.S. presidential candidate Mark Buttigieg would take if stranded on a desert island he named James Joyce’s Ulysses. Whether he was sincere or just showing off is moot because according to Weiner whatever we read (and write) should be respected simply because we’re reading. And I couldn’t agree more.

Weiner’s comments got me thinking about what book I would take to a desert island. Would it be humour, historical fiction, biography or perhaps a fictional family saga? One thing I know for sure; it would be fat. I love books of more than a thousand pages that engross me for days or weeks at a time. It’s like savouring a great meal or life experience by making it last as long as possible. Any one of the Ken Follett  Century trilogy (Pillars of the Earth, Fall of Giants, Winter of the World) would be a strong possibility; historical fiction is my favourite genre. And (surprisingly) I also loved the Russian classics like Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Go figure.

To order These Foolish Things from Amazon, click here.

​Some books are just so good they warrant re-reading. I’ve read These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach at least three times. That was the book the movie The New Marigold Hotel was based on and much as I enjoyed the movie, the book was soooo much better. The characters were more eccentric and multi-dimensional. The book was also funnier than the movie. But then, movies never measure up to the joy of reading the original book. Our imaginations are so much better at painting scenes than any movie could ever convey in 90 minutes.

David Sedaris is another author I could and do read over and over. His humour, while not to everyone’s taste, is in my opinion brilliant. Catherine Gildiner’s trilogy (Too Close to The Falls, After the Falls and Coming Ashore) outlining her life story was delicious beyond words for baby boomer readers.

There are just too many books to narrow it down to just one I would take to a desert island. I think the only solution would be to negotiate taking my iPad Mini or Kindle loaded with all my favourites. I’d need a solar charger of course but we could talk about that too. The bottom line is I can’t imagine life without reading; it’s my absolute favourite activity in the world. Just like some people love golf, tennis, running, crafting, football or creating art, my deep love of reading is organic, part of my DNA.

I have a spreadsheet on my laptop summarizing all the books I’ve read and want to read. It’s pages long and organized in columns:

  • Title
  • Author
  • Brief Description
  • Name of person or source who recommended the book
  • Date Read
  • Rating 1-10

Most of them are rated at least 8 because I don’t waste time on something I don’t love. I’ll never get to them all before I die so I may have to take my iPad to the grave with me to catch up. I’m always on the waiting list for at least half a dozen books at the library and sometimes it takes up to six months before I get something I’ve requested. Then, two or three land at the same time and I’m panicked about how I’m going to get through them all in my three-week allotted time frame.

My circle of boomer gal pals generally shares my taste in reading and we trade books (and magazines) back and forth. Not only do we get to enjoy the books while we’re reading them but we get to relive the joy while rehashing the story over lunch. I’ve never had much luck with book clubs because I’m very particular about what I read and I don’t have time to read and discuss a book I’m only luke-warm about.

Fortunately curriculum and teaching styles have vastly improved since boomers fell asleep in English class during the early sixties.

English literature was boring and boringly taught back when boomers fell asleep in English class in the sixties. I must say I’m so glad I studied classics like Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities but I could have lived without Steinbeck’s The Pearl and Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native. Later generations enjoyed J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and other contemporary novels by the likes of Margaret Atwood and Margaret Laurence. Boomers were doomed to read only the classics in school—which isn’t a bad thing—but some fun books in the mix would have been welcome to inspire and encourage our love of reading.

This summer I plan to reread P.J. O’Rourke’s The Baby Boom. It’s hysterically funny and a must-read for baby boomers—like a trip back in time. I would also like to reread Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely FineIt’s a perfect rendering of that understated British sense of dark humour that I enjoy so much. What’s on your summer reading list?

Disclosure: If you order from these links, you will receive Amazon’s best price and I may receive a teeny, tiny commission. Thanks.

 

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The Music Shop is run by a peculiar man on a street of peculiar people

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce is a quirky little story with a quirky little cast of lovably, eccentric characters. One of the reasons I love British authors (and British television shows) is their absolute mastery of understatement and irony. I adored Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine for the same reason. Rachel Joyce also wrote The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry which I must now add to my list of books to read. A good writer can turn the most mundane everyday events into something you become immersed in and don’t want to put down. As I read The Music Shop I enjoyed a good belly chuckle about every second page for most of the book, until toward the end where it took a different turn.

Set in Margaret Thatcher’s England of right-wing politics in the late 80’s, The Music Shop is about half a dozen people living on a little dead-end street in London called (ironically) Unity Street. Their local pub is called England’s Glory. One side of the street is row housing occupied by long-term residents who can either no longer afford to keep up their properties or have simply lost interest. The other side of the street referred to in quaint British terms as ‘the parade’ is a series of barely surviving shops. There’s a disagreeable tattoo artist, a pair of peculiar undertakers, a Polish baker, a defrocked priest who sells religious objects like plastic statues of Jesus and leather religious bookmarks, and a music shop that sells only vinyl. A purist to the core, Frank, who owns and manages the music shop, refuses to carry cassettes, CDs or another paraphernalia related to music that is not recorded on original vinyl.

The little neighbourhood is threatened by developers, a common occurrence in large urban centres. But the residents and shop keepers on Unity Street are united in keeping their little corner of the world intact and serving their particular and peculiar needs. Then, one day a lovely young German woman in a green coat faints in front of Frank’s store and it sets off a chain of events that have a life-long impact on their lives. The plot is minor; the events are mundane and the characters, while totally ordinary in that quirky British way are made colourful and fascinating by Joyce’s loving, sensitive and descriptive narrative.

Music lovers will especially enjoy the dozens and dozens of references to classical, rock, heavy metal, soul and other types of music described in the book. Music is the language that binds so many of these odd characters together and the author dispenses a great deal of knowledge about music, composers and musicians. I can’t claim to have any knowledge of music beyond knowing the words to every single sixties pop piece ever released but I learned a lot of background reading this little book. I was tempted to start writing down many of the recordings described to listen to so that it would give me a greater understanding of the depth of particular musical pieces.

Toward the end of the book, the humour drops off in preparation for a tumultuous finale. I thoroughly enjoyed The Music ShopMusic is not a subject I would have normally have been inclined to pick up a book about, but Rachel Joyce’s warm and sensitive writing made it fun and informative. I’d give it 8 out of 10 because it surprised and informed me more than I expected.

Disclosure:

If you order from these links, you will receive Amazon’s best price and I may receive a teeny, tiny commission. Thanks.

 

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Do you “get” fashion magazines like Vogue or InStyle?

Exactly who are they serving? I have no idea.

I’ve added a new section to Boomerbroadcast called My Favourite Things to the menus at the top of the page. One of the subsections is Fashion Favourites which I intend to expand as I discover fashion items friendly to boomers. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them. I’ve also included Links I Like for blogs and Facebook sites for baby boomer women’s fashion advice I enjoy following. There’s such a dearth of inspiration out there for baby boomer women in the world of fashion, that we have to share whatever we find. The magazine industry has forsaken us. It’s not as if I look to Vogue for the latest in how to camouflage boomer waistlines (or lack thereof) or the best high fashion shoes with industrial strength arch supports, but I do look to magazines for basic inspiration and find them sorely lacking.

I clearly remember my very first magazine subscription. It was Chatelaine, the ubiquitous Canadian magazine for the so-called modern woman. The wonderful feminist and women’s advocate Doris Anderson was the editor. The year was 1968 and I was living in my very first apartment by myself, on Vaughan Road in Toronto after spending the previous three years living with a series of agreeable and not-so-agreeable roommates. I was so proud of that place because it was all mine. It was a bachelor apartment in a prewar three-storey walk-up with no elevator, no communal laundry room and no counter in the tiny kitchen. It did have two old white enamel sinks on the kitchen wall and a genuine old clawfoot bathtub (no shower, naturally) in the tiny bathroom. It also had an unlimited supply of mice which I gave up trapping after I’d disposed of nineteen of the cute little creatures. Subscribing to a ladies magazine was an affirmation that I was an independent grownup, a career gal who could be trusted to be at the address I gave them and pay the annual subscription fee.

Over the years, my love of magazines developed into a bit of a problem. I became a magazine junkie. At its peak, not that long ago, I subscribed to eighteen magazines a month. I’d be truly annoyed if a day went by and there wasn’t a new magazine in my mailbox. I loved magazines—their editorial content, their glossy pictures, the quality of the paper, the fold-over perfume samples, even the advertisements. I couldn’t wait to make a pot of tea, sit down with my marker pen whenever a new one arrived and go through it slowly, page by page. It was even my dream to be a magazine editor in my next life.

Things have changed. Just like my favourite women’s shows on Sirius XM radio, the good ones started disappearing. MORE magazine, one of my favourites was cancelled about three years ago. Easy Living from the UK was cancelled but I managed to replace it with RED, which is similar and I get it online cheaper and faster than waiting for it to arrive at Chapters/Indigo. Then, some of the decorating magazines that I got from the U.S. like Veranda and House Beautiful just became too weird or too arty so I let them go. But, out of patriotic loyalty, I kept up my subscriptions to Canadian decorating mags like Canadian House and Home and Style at Home. But their too-frequent features on mid-century modern and reviving 70’s avocado green and macramé are starting to concern me.

My love affair with fashion magazines however is in serious jeopardy. I much prefer ELLE Canada over the American edition but their targeting of the 18-35 demographic continues to annoy and frustrate me. LouLou is gone. Maclean’s has cut back from once a week to once a month and after more than fifty years of subscribing to Canada’s stalwart Chatelaine I’m actually considering not renewing my subscription. They’ve cut back to bi-monthly and it’s a pretty lean publication geared more to young mothers who probably don’t have the time or inclination to even read Chatelaine. What’s a boomer gal to do?

In what universe is there even one thing in these images that we can relate to or draw inspiration from?

Vogue is the source of most of my delicious criticism, however. I love to poke fun at Vogue and I’ve concluded that the only reason I still subscribe is because Vogue has become my most prized source of derision. And, the September issue alone costs as much on the newsstand as my entire year’s subscription. What would I have to bitch about if I didn’t get my monthly Vogue? Its level of irrelevancy is astounding. Where fashion magazines should be inspirational and somewhat aspirational, Vogue is an exercise in complete idiocy. I still like the folded perfume samples but only the old classic French scents. As an old classic myself, most of the new fragrances all have a common chemical kind of smell that makes it impossible to distinguish one from another. Maybe my nose has lost its sensitivity but I don’t think I’m that old.

How do the fashion mags retain their credibility and more importantly their readers with the ridiculous nonsense they put out each month? It’s no surprise magazine publishing is in peril. Boomer gals love fashion—after all, we’re the ones who launched mini skirts, platform shoes and pant suits in the workplace in the sixties. But once we pass the age of 35 we’re suddenly invisible. I still have to wonder how the under-35 demographic can relate to $5,000.00 handbags and scraps of rags photographed on anorexic teenage models leaping over garbage cans. I also subscribe to InStyle but I find their emphasis on skinny, young celebrities in evening gowns off-putting. Hard to relate. Rod Stewart sang our tune perfectly so long ago when his Dad said, “We looked ridiculous”. That’s what most fashion mags are offering up today.

Back in the sixties and seventies when we were all whipping up our little A-line dresses and flared pants on our handy-dandy Singer sewing machines, we considered Vogue patterns the epitome of style and taste. Butterick, Simplicity and McCalls patterns were good for everyday fashions but for a special event a Vogue pattern tipped the balance for chic. We got our fashion inspiration from Vogue magazine and our lifestyle guidance from Cosmo’s Helen Gurley Brown. Easy peasy.

In the sixties, those of us with sewing machines could replicate Vogue high fashion on our own.

Where does a boomer gal go for fashion inspiration today? We used to rely on quality magazines like Vogue to provide us with reliable fashion direction. Most of my own fashion inspiration these days comes from like-minded bloggers and observing street fashion when I’m out and about. I frequently approach women on the street or in the food court and ask where they got a particular item they’re wearing, or who cut their hair. Fashion magazines offer nothing relevant to baby boomer women. We’re forced to find our own inspiration outside the publishing industry. I’ll never understand why the Anna Wintours and Grace Coddingtons of the fashion world are so revered. Perhaps there was a time when their declarations held water but exactly who are they serving today? Certainly not real women. Definitely not me and my boomer gal pals. I’m tempted to dust off my old Singer and see if I can’t create something on my own that is wearable, flattering and inspired.

There are a few retailers now who are addressing our demographic. Chico’s recently came to Canada but I’m still waiting for others who are sensitive to our taste in fashion. Chico’s has an affiliate lingerie business SOMA that has wonderful, appropriate lounge wear, lingerie and bathing suits for women our age, but so far they’re only in the U.S. J. Jill is another one which hasn’t arrived here yet but has great fashions at affordable prices. They both have wonderful on-line stores but the cost of importing and shipping combined with dollar exchange is often prohibitive. I’ve also had great luck buying Eileen Fisher pieces on sale at various on-line sites but it requires patience and an American delivery address. I’ve scored some EF pieces at up to 70% off which puts her fashion items more within reach of our budgets.

Since fashion mags don’t address what we’re looking for in fashion (and we do have money to spend), I’m sharing some sites that I’ve found to be targeted to our specific tastes, requirements and lifestyle. Check out Links I Like at the top of the page and under My Favourite Things, open the Fashion Favourites section for some brands I like. I’ll keep adding to these menu items as I discover new sources. If you have any suggestions to share, I’d love to hear them. You’re beautiful mes très chères.

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Do you “get” fashion magazines like Vogue or InStyle?
Exactly who are they serving? I have no idea.

Who was the woman in Hitler’s bathtub and how did she get there?

Elizabeth “Lee” Miller was a fascinating woman and I love books about fascinating women. The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer describing the life of Lee Miller in the city of light is such a book. Miller’s glory days were spent in Paris between the wars when she was the lover, muse and assistant to the famous artist and photographer Man Ray. In a classic tale of servant becoming the master, the author takes us on a fictional journey based on Miller’s real life—historical fiction, my favourite genre.

Lee Miller was born in 1907 in Poughkeepsie, New York, the middle child of an amateur photographer and his wife. She had an unusually close and somewhat peculiar relationship with her father who often photographed her and encouraged her artistic nature. By the 1920’s she had moved to New York City where she modeled for Vogue magazine, recognized for her beauty and style. Wanting to expand her career as an artist and leave modeling behind she traveled to Paris. Despite having no connections or referrals, she had ambitions of living amongst the bohemian crowd and developing her career as an artist. In the beginning, she was lonely and unfocused. At a café one evening she meets some American expats who introduce her to an assortment of Parisian free-spirited and creative people at a hedonistic party in the home of a local arts patron. At this same party, she is introduced to Man Ray.

Lee Miller was as talented as she was beautiful.

Attracted by her beauty and genuine ambition to learn more about the art of photography, Man Ray hires her as his studio assistant. Their relationship naturally evolves beyond that of mentor and student. Soon they are lovers and Man develops intense feelings for Miller which are reciprocated by the impressionable young woman who is at least two decades younger. As with many creative people, their emotions are intense and mercurial. Both professional and romantic jealousy regularly complicates their relationship. Living, working and socializing together soon becomes more difficult to manoeuvre and they quarrel easily. His ego ultimately supersedes his love for her.

The book begins with a brief chapter on Lee Miller in later life, definitely not her best years. She evolved through several careers over her life time. Beginning with modelling, she then earned a reputation as an accomplished photographer and during World War II was an accredited war photojournalist working for Vogue Magazine. Her war experiences included witnessing horrifying scenes of war and she was among the first photographers who entered Buchenwald and Dachau when they were liberated in April 1945. These experiences left her permanently traumatized (today recognized as PTSD) and she self-medicated with alcohol. Later, she became a Cordon Bleu chef and wrote respected columns on food and domestic life for Vogue.

At the end of WW2 Lee Miller was famously photographed taking a bath in Hitler’s bathtub.

At the end of the war she was given access to Adolf Hitler’s private apartment in Munich where she and a fellow war correspondent spent a few hours alone going through the personal belongings of Hitler and Eva Braun. Miller famously disrobed and took a bath in his bathtub, her first after three weeks in the field, and washed off the dust and grime from visiting the concentration camps.

After the war Miller lived in England where she married and had children. Her life never was as full or as productive as it was in the years prior to 1946 but she soldiered on trying different ways of earning a living. Despite being an accomplished journalist and photographer, she was often remembered only for her relationship with Man Ray. It was the fate of many talented women over the course of history to be remembered only for their association with a famous man and this has resulted in the loss of so many fascinating histories.

The Age of Light was absolutely my cup of tea. I loved every page and wish there had been more. It’s hard to believe this is Sharer’s first novel; the writing is excellent. The research required to string together the life experiences of Lee Miller into this fascinating story is impressive. It’s the nature of historical fiction, however, that certain assumptions and sequences of events that are the creation of the author’s imagination. As soon as I started reading and throughout the book, I found myself checking Wikipedia and Googling Lee Miller’s photographs to bring many of the events to life. I intend to read more about Miller and her fascinating life. I’d rate this book 8 out of 10. Loved it.

To order The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer from Amazon, click here.

(Disclosure: If you order from this link, you will receive Amazon’s best price and I may get a teeny tiny commission. Thank you.)

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Who was the woman in Hitler’s bathtub and how did she get there?
At the end of WW2 Lee Miller was famously photographed taking a bath in Hitlers bathtub.
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