Imagine Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory researching the market to find the perfect wife for himself. That’s what I found myself thinking of when I read The Rosie Project by Australian author Graeme Simsion. In his debut novel, Simsion no doubt taps into much of the academic world he lives in to describe the life of Don Tillman, a quirky University Professor of genetics who is oddly unaware of the fact he displays all the characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome. He accepts his idiosyncrasies as a bit unusual and goes about his life in a state of resignation. With his life planned down to the minute and his meals organized by days of the week and sustainability, he lives with the knowledge that he’s “different” and attempts to apply scientific observation to explain his lack of emotion and empathy. While Asperger’s is certainly not to be trivialized, Simsion’s descriptions of daily life and his thought processes is a humorous read that engaged me immediately. When Tillman designs a questionnaire to canvass for potential mates, his requirements for a match are hysterical. He doesn’t plan on a graduate student called Rosie coming along to cause him to re-evaluate his entire life and question the merits of his criteria. The Rosie Project is a fast and fun read.
And don’t forget to order newly-released BOOMERBROADcast:
Get a head start on your Christmas shopping and order my newly-published book, BOOMERBROADcast. Save wear and tear on your feet and your nerves by avoiding the mall and shop on-line using the convenient link below.
Celebrities and movie stars are not my thing. I do not watch ET or read People Magazine (except the free copy while I’m getting a mani-pedi), and I get impatient with the disproportionate amount of media coverage they get for their contribution to life in general. While I enjoy going to the movies and have a passing interest in the industry behind it, I’m not generally a fan. Except when it comes to a few women and one of those women is Diane Keaton. I fell in love with her style in Annie Hall and I have serious respect for her life choices including the big one, which is very unusual in Hollywood—choosing not to have plastic/cosmetic surgery. If you’ve seen any of her movies in the last few years, she’s still quite lovely and despite now being 68 years old, she does not look like she’s trying to look 38. She adopted two children when she was in her fifties and is joyfully raising them as a single mother.
Keaton’s latest book, Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Prettyis a philosophical look life as a new senior citizen and her own life in particular. As evidenced in her movies, on one hand she’s full of insecurities but on the other hand she’s confident and secure enough to wear whatever strange and inappropriate clothes she wishes without embarrassment, much to the chagrin of her 12-year-old son Duke.
The book is a fast read with only 164 pages. Keaton addresses her personal issues with respect to her looks and I found it most reassuring to know that we share something in common. We’re both going bald. She also describes early attempts as a teenager to correct the slight bulb in her nose by trying to sleep with a bobby pin on the end of her nose to flatten it out. I also remember trying to sleep with rubber bands on my teeth to try and straighten them and being jolted when they snapped off. No matter how beautiful or otherwise we are as women, we’re always trying to fight mother nature in our own way.
She admires women for their imperfections and their courage to challenge the popular definition of beauty, citing Lady Gaga, Katherine Hepburn, Diane Vreeland and others. “I’m talking about Phyllis Diller . . . or Joan Rivers getting in the first laugh about herself. . . I’m talking about the flaws that eventually take on a life of their own. The ineptness that makes you who you are. I’m talking about women who make us see beauty where we never saw it; women who turn wrong into right” she writes.
Another experience we both share is being prejudged as a senior citizen when we weren’t expecting it. One time I was waiting in line for a theatre ticket and I was having an internal debate with myself about whether to declare myself a senior citizen and claim the discounted price. I was only 64 at the time which depending on where you are may or may not qualify you as a senior. I decided to take the high road and not go for the seniors’ discount only to find, to my horror when I got inside the theatre that the child who sold me a ticket had indeed pegged me as an old hag and automatically sold me a senior-priced ticket. When it first happened to Keaton, it happened twice in one week. “I suppose it wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but it sure did feel like it” she said.
For more and better insights into her life as an actress, Keaton’s previous book, Then Againoffers more information. But if you would enjoy getting a bit deeper into her brain, then Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty is a worthwhile read. And those ubiquitous turtlenecks she favours? She sews shirt collar stays in the seams to keep them standing up.
Pearl Bailey once said, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor and honey, rich is better.” I know I’ve certainly been poor at times in my life and it was not fun. Not having money can mean living a simple, happy, uncomplicated life but in today’s world it more often means worrying about not having enough to pay our bills, how to save for a home or vacations, or the big one, how to retire comfortably.
After hearing the young author interviewed on the radio, I just finished reading a book called “Well-Heeled – The Smart Girl’s Guide to Getting Rich” by Alberta’s Lesley-Anne Scorgie. Well-Heeled is one of the best books I’ve come across for providing practical advice for young twenty and thirty-something women about how to best manage their money.
When Boomers were growing up in the fifties and sixties, credit cards were not part of our vocabulary or our parents’. Visa and Mastercard did not exist so other than Diners’ Club for traveling businessmen, everyone paid cash for everything they purchased. I clearly remember paying cash to my dentist in the late sixties ($35.00, which was half my weekly salary) when I went for checkups and cash to my doctor for piercing my ears (the old-fashioned way with a needle). We paid cash for shoes, clothes and gifts. Charge accounts at major department stores were available but of no use to anyone in our small town where there was no Eatons or Simpson’s store. We did have mail order offices for Eatons and Simpsons but it was rare for anyone to use a credit card back then. Business was strictly cash.
As a result of not having the option of charging frivolous purchases to credit cards , we were perhaps more cautious with our pennies. Boomers started working full-time in the mid-sixties and when we saw a blouse we liked, we either had to go to the bank on our lunch hour and withdraw the cash from our savings account (and banks were only open between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. back in the olden days) or write a cheque which involved the inconvenience of filling out a detailed information form and having it approved by the store manager. I remember once at the old Savette store at Dundas Street West and Roncesvalles purchasing a kitchen table. When I wrote a cheque for it they even took my picture for future reference.
I’m horrified as I watch Gail Vaz Oxlade’s Til Debt Do Us Part show on television. The show often features young couples who, despite receiving sometimes as much as $200,000.00 in wedding gift money have managed to rack up $90,000.00 in consumer credit card debt. Did no one teach them about managing money? I think the more likely cause is that parents were always there to give these young people everything they wanted and bail them out when they ran into financial trouble. I finally had to quit watching the programme as I got too frustrated and depressed watching the idiocy. Financial troubles are a major cause of breakups among young couples. It is very important to not only be smart about money yourself but to make sure your partner is on the same page.
If young women would listen to only one piece of advice it would be to stress the importance of financial independence. And the simple reason is that having a nest egg means you have options. When I was in my fifties during the recession that lasted most of the 1990s, I was broke. It was difficult to find work and it was incredibly stressful because I had no financial resources to draw on. After reading Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin I decided to give up self-employment and re-enter the corporate world. This would assure me of a regular paycheque, health benefits and a chance at building some retirement equity. It worked. But I wish I’d been more frugal in the 70s and 80s when I was blowing my hard-earned bucks on $800.00 ultra-suede power suits and silk blouses. Being able to distinguish between needs and wants is an important first step. Scorgie outlines more steps young women can follow to achieve security.
Being a financially-savy young woman is not only smart, it’s sexy. The late Helen Gurley-Brown, former editor of Cosmopolitan magazine said that one of the reasons her husband David Brown (producer of such block-buster movies as Jaws) was attracted to her was because he appreciated that she had been smart enough to own her own (used) Mercedes that she’d paid cash for. When we’re fifty years old and out of work or wanting a life-style change, the credit card debt we accrued buying that Coach handbag or “I-just-needed-to-get-away” trip to Cuba will be an enormous ball and chain around a young woman’s ankle. In Scorgie’s words, “If it’s on your ass, it’s not an asset!”
In the course of reading Well-Heeled even this old Boomer learned a few things I didn’t know, such as, you can arrange for your bank to automatically transfer the money out of your chequing account to your credit card on the same day you make the purchase on your credit card so you will have zero balance at the end of each month. That means you know exactly where you stand on a daily basis. I often get confused about my credit card balance as it’s shown on my on-line statement and when it is due. They never seem to jibe. When I got my first credit card in the seventies, I diligently kept a running list on a piece of paper in my wallet, like a cheque book, of every purchase and the amount spent each time I used my credit card so I wouldn’t have a heart attack when the bill arrived. Scorgie also provides several excellent website addresses for tracking, planning and saving tools such as Mint.com and bank websites. I plan to check out the one she recommends for calculating how much retirement income we’ll need.
Lesley-Anne Scorgie is an excellent example of what can be accomplished by young women with smart financial planning. She has guested on Oprah and other television programs as a result of her personal successes. Well-Heeled is written to get young women started on the right foot or get them back on track if they’ve fallen off the rails. If you have a daughter or granddaughter or know a young woman who could benefit from learning how to better manage her money, please get on-line (here’s the link “Well-Heeled – The Smart Girl’s Guide to Getting Rich“) and send her this book. Everyone deserves to have the options and freedom that financial security can bring.
Albert Einstein was once asked a simple question for which he did not have the answer. The world-renowned genius’ response was, “I don’t clutter my head with things that can be found in a book.”. I knew there was a reason that story has stayed with me. And I certainly don’t clutter my head with anything I can do without.
The journal Psychological Science reports that tests on university students who hand-wrote their class notes instead of typing them on a laptop had better retention of what they were learning. The Cleveland Browns of the NFL have put this knowledge to practical use and now require that their players write team strategies by hand. According to Dr. Daniel J. Levitin, author of Organized Mind, professor and neuroscientist at McGill University in Montreal, our brain has only so much capacity for retained information so we should not clutter it with useless information. The human brain works much like our laptops. We have ROM for functioning and RAM for storing data and I certainly wouldn’t like my RAM to jam. It might affect my ROM and then I’d be royally screwed.
On an everyday level we can all relate to the importance of “To Do” lists in our lives. If we write down a task and enjoy the act of stroking it out when it’s completed, we feel satisfied and less stressed. Taking this a step further, Dr. Levitin suggests that making “To Do” lists is a kind of mental clutter that should be dispensed with in favour of breaking down the tasks. We should put each task or piece of information on a separate piece of paper such as an index card to free the brain from what he calls “rehearsal loop” or replaying of an idea or task repeatedly to remember it. Students practise this technique by writing and rewriting information on flash cards or index cards to etch it in their brains for exams. Stupid me—I just tried to memorize everything and was rewarded with dismal results.
However, maybe I have genius potential after all. A few years ago, after I retired I ditched my “To Do” list system in favour of putting sticky Post-In notes on my kitchen cupboard doors. After I complete the ironing sticky note, I gleefully rip it off and stash in the drawer for re-use next time. This system works beautifully and keeps me organized and stress-free. Perhaps Dr. Levitin would like to research my brain. I’m amazing at retaining garbage but have trouble remembering the simple sequence of the three buttons I need to push on the remote to engage my PVR. Fortunately, I wrote it down on a stickie that I keep beside the remote. Otherwise my life would be chaos. Now it’s Guide, Record, Select. Simple, but I can only retain that information as long as it’s written on a yellow stickie. It’s genius.
Digital e-readers are becoming increasingly more popular and are available in different devices to suit most individual preferences and pocketbooks. A divide does exist, however, between those who have embraced the new technology and those who prefer the traditional hard or soft-cover paper version. I have one foot firmly planted in each camp. On one hand, I love the convenience of downloading books from a retailer or the library from the comfort of my LaZ-Girl chair with a lovely cup of tea at my side. On the other hand, I’m a dedicated fan of cracking open a wonderful new book, the old-fashioned kind with ink imprinted on paper. I admit to sometimes even bringing the paper version up to my face so I can smell the wonderful musty aroma. Older books have a very special warm-sunny-day-sitting-in-a-chair-by-the window dusty smell that only enhances the reading experience.
Over the past few years I’ve acquired four e-reading devices and I’m still not satisfied that I’ve achieved e-reader nirvana. Here’s an outline of the steps in my quest for the ultimate, perfect device:
My first e-reader was a rather hefty and expensive (at the time) Kindle that I purchased shortly after they launched. I incorrectly concluded that bigger and more expensive would be better and would minimize the obsolescence factor. I found that first Kindle to be too big and heavy and passed it along to a grandson.
The smaller, pocket-book-sized Kindle proved to be perfect for toting along in my purse but because of Amazon’s proprietary software I couldn’t download library books. Back to the mall.
The next, and most expensive step was to purchase an iPad so I could add e-mail capabilities, colour screen, durability, reputation and web-searching benefits to my list of performance enhancers. I loved being able to carry it around for web-browsing and e-mailing but before long, I again found it too big and heavy for everyday reading. Start the car! (Unlike a trip to IKEA, this quest is costing a lot of money.)
The Kobo seemed like the next logical step. Available at Chapters/Indigo, they had several models with various features and a wide range of price points. Previous experience with my first Kindle and iPad told me that bigger and most expensive was not necessarily the best way to go, so I opted for the Kobo Touch which is their least expensive version. I’m embarrassed to say that I still have not achieved e-reader perfection. My new little Kobo is a joy to carry around as it’s light as a feather and takes up hardly any room in my purse but it’s a bit hard to read in low light, such as reading in bed with poor lighting.
Looking back at my checkered past in e-reader experimentation, I now think I should have purchased an iPad mini or similar Kobo device with internet, colour and web-browsing capabilities. These devices will never replace my laptop for word processing but they definitely have value and are a joy to use. My second little Kindle would have been perfect except I’m now a colour-screen snob who likes to download from the library and my little Kindle can’t accommodate that.
In the meantime, I’ve pre-ordered an old-fashioned hardcover copy of Ken Follett’s Edge of Eternity, Book Three of the Century Trilogy. At more than eleven hundred pages, that should keep me busy for awhile and keep my mind off the tempting virtues of an iPad mini. I absolutely can’t wait to dig into Edge of Eternity and by the time I finish I should have steroid-worthy biceps and snoot full of lovely paper and ink smells. By then it should be Christmas-e time.