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Enjoy, laugh, rage, disagree or simply empathize with those who lived life in THE sixties and are now rockin' life in THEIR sixties+.


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Who doesn’t enjoy playing house?


Gender roles were more clearly defined growing up in the fifties – or were they really? (L to R) My brother Ron (the victim of a bossy older sister), me and my friend Brenda, dressed for afternoon tea.

When boomers were growing up in the fifties and sixties, gender roles were more clearly defined than they are today. Little girls played with dolls; little boys played Davey Crockett. Little girls were Barbara Ann Scott; little boys were Maurice Richard. Sometimes we strayed into crossover territory though. I clearly remember cherishing my white straw cowboy hat with the chin cord and jeans with the Hopalong Cassidy patch on the pocket. And my girlfriends and I took great pride in being able to out shoot (toy guns were still politically acceptable then), out run and outsmart any of the boys in our neighbourhood.

One of the most common activities we engaged in as little girls was playing ‘house’. We’d play with our dolls in tents set up with clothespins and blankets, play in a corner of the room or the front porch creating little scenarios that for us represented domestic life as we knew it. Fortunately, most of us enjoyed reasonably stable home lives and for those who didn’t, playing make-believe was an escape. We’d push our doll carriages up and down the street, copying our mothers going about their daily chores. We’d prepare fake meals and serve fake tea in little sets of painted tin dishes. Life was simple and uncomplicated. And most baby boomers lived in neighbourhoods teeming with other children our age so we were always busy and socially involved.

Have you ever considered that now that we’re retired we’ve come full circle? Now that I’m free from the working world and the struggles inherent in building our lives, we’re in a very peaceful place. I enjoy the simple pleasures of life—tea in the afternoon with a friend, walking the dog after dinner, even doing the ironing while I watch a good program on television. My everyday routines give me a sense of satisfaction and feelings of pleasure. I’m thankful to be alive, to be healthy and to have options about how I live my life.

As I was cleaning up the kitchen this morning it occurred to me that I’m now playing ‘house’ once again. My life is full of domestic activities, cruising the neighbourhood with friends, matching wits with the men in our lives and those close to us. I can devote an entire afternoon to sitting in the back yard engrossed in a good book if I want. Instead of pushing my doll stroller, I push a grocery cart on a Tuesday morning when it’s not busy or I walk my dog up the street. I serve tea in real china cups now and serve it with real cookies I’ve made. I discuss the various dramas of life with close friends over dinners of lovingly prepared real food instead of pretend. Every so often I dress up in my fancy clothes and go out on a date with my husband, my life’s answer to a Ken doll. It took a long time and no small amount of strife and stress to get to this place in time, but damn, I thoroughly enjoy playing ‘house’.

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Remember when laundry was a chore?


Some friends and I were discussing laundry the other day (our lives really are more interesting than this conversation would lead you to think), making the inevitable comparisons between how it’s done today and how it was done when we were growing up in the fifties and sixties. Our mothers had wringer washers and clothes were hung outside to dry, which was a giant leap in terms of convenience compared to how their mothers handled laundry. My grandmother raised eight kids washing everything by hand and only got her first wringer washer when her eldest son bought her one when he got his first job.

The upside was we could do four loads at the same time.

While living in various cheap apartments and bed-sits during my early working life, I was accustomed to taking the laundry, a box of detergent and a bag of quarters in my bundle buggy down the street a few blocks to the laundromat, or later, when I advanced in the world, having facilities conveniently located in the basement of my apartment building. That was luxury. When my husband and I bought our first (town)house in Pickering in the seventies, the greatest thrill was having my own washing machine and it didn’t require coins. I no longer had to use the same machine as hundreds of other people who’d put heaven-knows-what in the load before mine. At the time, we couldn’t afford five appliances and I really really wanted a dishwasher (my first) so I had to forgo a clothes dryer to stay within our four-appliance budget (fridge, stove, washer, dishwasher). It was three years before I got a dryer to sit alongside my beloved automatic washer. A friend who also bought her first house at the same time installed an old coin-operated washer and dryer that had been discarded from her family’s campground laundry building. She, too, could use it without coins. Such lucky girls. And to think young marrieds today can’t imagine living without all the mod cons including granite countertops.

And they called wringer washers a modern convenience.

Decades later, I still love my washer and dryer and it’s probably because I clearly remember when laundry was not such an easy chore for me and my boomer friends. When I was in high school in the early sixties and I did the household laundry it was in the “cellar” with our wringer washing machine sitting alongside a dual-tub concrete laundry sink. For those readers who weren’t born then, all the washing was done with the same tub of water that was recycled into the left laundry tub before being pumped back into the machine for each subsequent load and so on until darks were washed last. After several loads of sheets, towels and clothing, the darks were the least likely to show the residual effects of washing in water recycled from previous loads. This handy feature was called a “suds-saver”. The right side of the concrete laundry tub was then used for hand-rinsing the clothes in cold water before being manually fed into the wringer. A wooden stick was handy for keeping your fingers out of the rollers but not always successful and many women suffered painful hand injuries.

As kids, we thought frozen longjohns were hilarious.

In summer we hung clothes outside in the breezes where they dried quickly and the sheets and pillowcases smelled heavenly when you put them back on the bed. In winter, the clothes froze solid on the outside line and always made us kids laugh at jeans and pyjamas stiff as boards when we brought them in. When clothes weren’t dried in a warm dryer, everything had to be ironed—socks, underwear, towels, even pyjamas because everything was stiff and wrinkled. In the days before steam irons, everything had to be ‘dampened’. Remember that? At our house we used an old Pepsi bottle filled with water and a corked sprinkler gadget in the neck. We’d sprinkle all the clothes and roll them in damp towels that waited rolled up like cordwood in the bathtub until they were ready to be ironed. Cotton was the primary fabric used in clothing then (wool was hand washed in cold water) so wrinkles abounded.

They call this work? Not in my world.

Recalling those sequences of work with my friends reminded me of how lucky we are today. Not only do we have so many fabrics that require minimal care and no ironing, we are blessed with washing machines and dryers that do everything but dispense our wine. I load the machine, tap a setting and with a few ping ping pings, technology does all the work. But old habits die hard. I still hang sheets outside and I’m genetically programmed to always do the darks last, even though I don’t need to. No more cellars, no more recycled water, dipping hands in freezing rinse water, feeding clothes into the wringer one piece at a time, dampening everything for ironing and blessedly, no more work. Even our laundry rooms now get ‘decorated’ to be cheerful, efficient and enjoyable. I may not know how to use my cell phone to its full capability or how to program all the settings on my TV but I sure know how to tap out those laundry settings. And how to pour a nice cold glass of wine while technology does all the work. We’ve come a long way baby.

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You know you’re a senior when . . .


Baby boomers came of age at a time when the mantra was never trust anyone over thirty. Ouch. Some of us now have grandchildren over thirty which means we’ve come a long way since then and have learned a thing or two along the way. We’re brutally aware of our age, particularly when we start doing or saying things that sound like they’re from another era or generation. Here are a few real-life examples experienced by baby boomers that drive this message home. You know you’re getting old when:

  1. We’d like doggie bags and separate cheques please.

    Closing a place means getting home from a Saturday night out on the town at 8:30 p.m. not a.m.

  2. We go out to lunch instead of dinner because a) it’s cheaper, and b) we don’t like to drive after dark.
  3. We take leftover restaurant food home in a doggie bag for dinner that night (see Item 2 above) or lunch the next day.
  4. Celebrating New Years’ Eve is iffy because we can’t stay up until midnight. Then, there’s the driving after dark issue.
  5. We prefer talk radio to rock radio.
  6. Out of our mouths pops, “Boy, when we were young . . . “ followed by comments about how spoiled, entitled and lazy so many young people are today and how terrible today’s music is .
  7. Sturdy arch supports beat out stiletto’s.
  8. Sourcing cheap booze is the result of having the time to price shop instead of having no money.
  9. We’re thrilled we qualify for seniors’ rates at the movies, on public transit and special days at Shoppers Drug Mart. That means extra money for Item 8.
  10. We opt for electrolysis on our upper lip and chin hairs instead of getting a Brazilian.
  11. Major chunks of the monthly budget are devoted to getting our colour done.
  12. Major chunks of time are devoted to hiding fashion and beauty maintenance costs from our life partner.
  13. You turn out the lights and hide in the den on Halloween instead of going to a crazy party.
  14. You’d rather just skip Christmas and head south.

    We still know how to close a place but now it’s at 9:00 p.m.

  15. Your peers at the community centre sixties dances look so much older than you. They’re all old, fat and bald and they dance funny, like they don’t know they’re old, fat and bald.
  16. A good parking spot now means closest to the mall entrance rather than down a country road after dark doing things our parents wouldn’t approve of.
  17. The definition of an ideal mate is no longer cute and a good dancer. It’s healthy and a good RRSP.
  18. You get your political jollies sitting in your pyjama bottoms and reading the editorial page in the morning paper instead of marching in your bell bottoms and waving a placard.
  19. The criteria for a good bra are comfort and coverage not black lace and transparency.
  20. Grannie panties feel divine.

And the list goes on. But you get the picture. The bottom line is we’re lucky to be here celebrating the best years of our lives.

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Never send your husband to the grocery store unsupervised. The sequel


Early cave men were traditionally known as hunter-gatherers, bringing home the wild bacon and mastodon steaks to feed their families after a rough day on the tundra. Their wives then took over roasting the kill over the family fire and kept the cave swept clean in case company came. Things haven’t changed much as I discovered this past week with the tundra now replaced by Real Canadian Superstore. It’s common knowledge among women (gained from years of experience) that men cannot be trusted in grocery stores. They take leave of their senses and the stupid gene kicks in. Before you can stop them they’ve loaded up the cart with giant bags of Cheesies, popcorn, Pub Mix, sugary fruit danishes and gallons of nutritionally questionable beverages.

I’ve written about this issue before (click here to read the original Never send your husband to the grocery store) and it’s obviously a genetic flaw that was passed down through the centuries and endures to this day. When medieval wives screamed that they had enough fermented mead beer already, hubby kept sneaking it in, stashing the barrels behind the pig pen and enjoying a flagon or two when mummy went to visit a girlfriend. Whenever I go away for a few days, I’ve no sooner turned the corner at the end of the street when my husband peels out of the driveway and heads to KFC, after which he and the dog blissfully survive on a bucket of greasy chicken bones and fries. By the time I get home, the recyclers have carted away the evidence.

Men have a different concept of healthy eating.

The hunter-gatherer reemerged this week. It was with a great deal of hesitation and reluctance that I asked my husband to pick up a pork tenderloin on the way home from golf. Sounds simple. There were four of us for dinner (the fourth does not eat meat) and I figured that would be a perfect amount to barbecue with a bit left over for the dog.

Along with the meat, in he came with a super-sized bag of Chicago popcorn, two giant bags of Brookside chocolate-covered blueberries, a bag of Kilimanjaro deluxe chocolate nut mix (“it’s the healthy kind with 70% cocoa”), two bags of ripple chips (“but they were on sale just inside the door”), a bottle of Italian salad dressing, a jar of extra spicy salsa and for good measure, a $20.00 lottery ticket. And, instead of getting a tenderloin, he’d bought an enormous full loin of pork that was so huge I could hardly lift it out of the bag. I really didn’t know pigs had loins that big. We have enough to feed mushu pork to all of mainland China for the rest of the year. After cutting it up, I bagged enough pork chops for fifteen (15) meals. My honey still isn’t quite sure what he did wrong and in fact is rather proud of himself. Needless to say, the dog is ecstatic.

If you haven’t seen it already, check out this hilarious YouTube video Don’t Send a Man to the Grocery Store from YouTube by Jeanne Robertson. Click here.

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Boomers are singin’ a different tune these days


When Jim Croce sang Time in a Bottle in 1973, he wanted to “save every day ’til eternity passes away just to spend them with you”. How I would dearly love to capture time in a bottle but now it’s for general living. As an early baby boomer, I turn seventy this year. It’s a big number and I’m now confronted with the horizon in ways I never anticipated. Remember when we were children and teenagers? We were always wanting to be older, bigger, further along the continuum of life; we were five and three-quarters years old, or nearly sixteen. As young adults we couldn’t wait to leave home and start our own lives, get our first apartment, get married and have children. Then, we found ourselves planning ahead to pay off the mortgage or even counting off the years or months until the kids left home and we were free again. I clearly remember during my working days that I could hardly wait for Friday, counting down the days until the weekend when my real life kicked in. Although we listened to those who warned, “Don’t wish your life away”, it has now taken on real meaning.

I’m a baby boomer who considers the current years as the best years of our lives. Since I retired, I’ve enjoyed good health, a comfortable lifestyle, the love and companionship of amazing friends and family and all the benefits of living in a safe, free country where we take care of each other. What more could any person want or need? Material goods have diminished in importance and value. Having the latest fashions, the most expensive jewelry or the fanciest toys no longer has the same appeal as it did when we were in our thirties and forties. We accept our personal shortcomings with good humour. I’ll never look like Christie Brinkley and I’m fine with that.

The fact that we have time at all is a gift not to be squandered.

In the Frank Sinatra song It Was A Very Good Year, he’s, “in the autumn of the years.” I would like to think of myself as more than vintage wine from fine old kegs. In fact, I feel every verse of that song is part of my existential life today. On some level I still feel like I’m in my twenties but relieved that I’m not. We’ve picked up the wisdom inherent in aging but kept our curiosity and vigor for learning and growing. It’s the best of both worlds—feeling content with the status quo while reaping the benefits of experience.

We need a new anthem

The Rolling Stones have gathered quite a bit of moss and taken heat about still being rockers at an age when they should be rocking on the front porch with a cup of hot cocoa. When Paul McCartney penned When I’m Sixty-Four he had a romantic, unrealized vision of life at that age. Boomers were under the assumption we would live forever, that we would always be young, hip and rockin’. Youth comes with a sense of invincibility but time’s now slip slidin’ away far too quickly. Perhaps it’s time for Mick Jagger to update “Time is on my side” to something closer to our reality. That may no longer be our truth and we need a new anthem. Time is no longer just about the love of our life but about the time we have and the love of life itself.

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DUNKIRK . . . was it good for you?


We watched Dunkirk on opening day in an IMAX theatre where the sound system vibrates your seat and unless you’re sitting in the back three rows it’s difficult to take in the entire panorama. The only thing missing was the sprays of water like you get in the Pirates of the Caribbean theatre in Disney World. In retrospect I wish I’d watched it in a regular movie theatre as my head kept bobbing around trying to take everything in and the volume level gave me a headache. According to the reviews it’s a great movie. While I enjoyed it, I didn’t love it. And a couple of friends who also saw it on opening day shared my reaction. We really didn’t think it measured up to the hype.

The movie focuses on the activities of a small number of soldiers and civilians who played a role in the Dunkirk evacuation in early June 1940 at the beginning of the war, before America was involved. When allied troops were defeated and driven to the western shores of France, the navy commissioned every type of civilian owned fishing and pleasure craft to cross the English Channel and retrieve 300,000 allied troops from the shallow beaches, not accessible by military ships. It was a massive civilian effort and allowed the allies to bring the men home to regroup and rebuild to again face the enemy. The action centres on a hospital ship, a few battle ships, three Spitfires and their pilots, the crew of a civilian pleasure boat used in the rescue and half a dozen ground troops who were trying to escape France. The story is filmed from three perspectives, the shore troops, the Spitfire pilots and one civilian rescue boat. The actors playing the ground troops were all good-looking young men with dark hair and I had trouble telling them apart. Despite the use of a title screen showing which day it was, I was confused by the switching from day to night and back to day again. I’m a proponent of chronological order.

What they left behind.

The threats, challenges and dangers were accurately and brutally depicted. The tension was high and the action seemed real but personally, I found the focus too narrow. Considering the availability of employing extensive special effects to recreate the horror and scale of the evacuation, the movie makes the Dunkirk evacuation look smaller than it really was. The allies abandoned thousands of vehicles and tonnes of military equipment in the chaos, which was not depicted in the movie. Filmed on location at Dunkirk, the beaches are pristine with long lines of quiet soldiers standing in the water awaiting rescue. I would have liked a few real-life old newsreel shots of the actual evacuation thrown in at the end of the movie to tie everything together. Perhaps my judgement is unduly harsh and I have a feeling my impression may not represent the majority of movie goers. There will be a great deal of esoteric analysis of the film by Christopher Nolan. Was it moving? Was it representative? Did we get the meaning? When you see the movie, let me know what you think. I was rather underwhelmed.

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A tip of the toque to our good ol’ CBC


Our very own CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for my non-Canadian readers) has finally come up with some excellent television programs that I’ve been recommending to friends. Is it because the government has cut their funding and they’re becoming more resourceful or did we just get lucky? Whatever the cause, we’re the beneficiaries. I’ve been sending friends weekly reminders to watch three shows in particular that I love and thought Boomerbroadcast readers might enjoy them too.  I’ve always been a big fan of our particular brand of Canadian humour. It’s smarter than American humour and borrows heavily from dry British humour. Newfoundlanders like Mary Walsh, Rick Mercer, Shaun Majumder and Cathy Jones are brilliant interpreters of our peculiarities. Many of our comedy geniuses including Mike Myers and Jim Carrey migrated south but we still have our own  at-home stash. Feminist humour has a different edge and two new shows featuring Canadian comediennes are definitely worth watching.

On Tuesday nights at 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. depending on your time zone, check out Baroness von Sketch on your local CBC channel. Starring Aurora Brown, Meredith MacNeill, Carolyn Taylor and Jennifer Whalen, it’s a series of comedy sketches covering everyday issues women can relate to. And the fact that the main characters are all so relatable and normal looking —no giant fake boobs, giant fake lips, giant fake hair or obvious plastic surgery—makes them even more appealing. (Have you noticed how all the American shows feature genetically perfect female specimens playing detectives, doctors, politicians and even neighbours? Normal-looking human females need not bother auditioning.) It’s shot in Toronto and if you live here the locations will look familiar. This week’s show opened with a group of girlfriends gathering at a friend’s cottage for a weekend of trash talking and all the therapeutic soul-sharing we love about girls’ weekends. You know what I mean. The hostess kicks things off by listing all the onerous rules and special procedures associated with a weekend at the cottage—everything from don’t flush for number one to don’t eat snacks inside the cottage for fear of attracting rodents. Her exhaustive list of complicated decrees induces her guests to immediately pack up and head home. One way to discourage weekend guests at the cottage.

Workin’ Moms is a satire on the challenges faced by young working mothers in a world that puts them in a moral vice between helicopter parenting and juggling an I can do it all career. The show stars Catherine Reitman, Dani Kind, Juno Rinaldi and Jessalyn Wanlim who are excellent in their roles. While boomers may not relate to the subject matter, they can certainly identify with the issues as mothers of offspring who are experiencing these challenges. It’s not a comedy per se but has hilarious moments that even our generation can identify with. One of the women who has returned to work after mat leave is trying to regain her foothold in the corporate rat race by proving she is up to any challenge her male counterparts can handle. It’s hard to be taken seriously at work when sitting in a boardroom meeting with a dozen men and you’re leaking breast milk through your corporate silk blouse. Long hours at the office and having a baby at home are not always compatible, even when you have a stay-at-home dad, as one character does. And I’ve just heard that Jann Arden will be playing the role of mother to one of the Workin’ Moms next season. That’s reason enough to start watching the series which follows directly after Baroness von Sketch on CBC on Tuesday nights.

Gotta love Dick and Angel’s spirit.

The third show I absolutely love airs on Wednesday evenings at 8:00 p.m. also on CBC. Escape to the Chateau is a must-see for anyone who dreams of living in France and enjoyed reading Peter Mayles’s My Life in Provence books. The series stars a real-life British couple, Angel, who’s a colourful, somewhat eccentric designer and her partner Dick Strawbridge, a professional engineer and retired colonel from the British military. Accompanied by two toddlers and her retired parents, they purchase a 45-room abandoned Chateau in southwestern France for the price of a small flat in England. The once-grand chateau, located on twelve acres that includes an orangerie, several outbuildings and a moat had been abandoned for about fifty years. Dick and Angel envision restoring it on a tight budget by doing much of the work themselves, and turning it into a tourist wedding destination, starting with their own wedding. Dick is one of those husbands we would love to have (except maybe minus the moustache). He can turn his hand to anything and despite some initial minor grumbling, he generally carries out Angel’s fantasy plans for the chateau. They both love what they’re doing and I love watching them.

Tuesday and Wednesday nights on CBC.

It’s gratifying to see some of our tax dollars actually doing some good. CBC has traditionally not been known for being the most efficiently run public broadcasting organization, but it’s still all we have that focuses on Canadian talent. Considering these three shows, two out of three ain’t bad and the third is a close relative. Give them a watch. I think you’ll be glad you did.

Click here for Baroness von Sketch

Click here for Workin’ Moms

Click here for Escape To The Chateau

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