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Gone With The Waist. And frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!

Today I officially acknowledged that I will never again in this lifetime have a waistline. Menopause is irreversible and I have decided to part with 34 beautiful leather belts worth more dollars than I care to contemplate, that will never fit this old boomer body again. I rounded them all up for consignment (the better ones) and the charity bin. I did keep half a dozen on the offchance I’ll get a parasite or the plague and manage to get skinny again. Over the years I’ve collected every width and style of belt ever invented. I’ve kept them all in case they ever came back in fashion, or, miraculously my waistline returns. It’s time I faced facts. And you know the saying . . . “If you’ve worn it once, it won’t work again.” The clothing manufacturers always manage to tweak reincarnations of various fashions so that our old pieces never quite work. And that includes belts.

May they find a forever happy home (well, at least until menopause hits the new owners).
My mother used old kilt pins to secure me in my crib as a baby.

We hang on to old things for various reasons. This morning during my belt purge I came across a sturdy 4-inch long kilt pin that my mother wore in her wool skirts when she was a teenager. She later used that same huge safety pin to secure me and then my brother under the blankets in our crib when we were babies, to keep us covered and warm. Imagine getting that one past Child Services and safety vigilantes today. That old pin is definitely a keeper though and now that I’ve found it I can see it being put to use on one of my many shawls. It could still help keep me tucked in and warm.

My dad mentioned the other day that he still has the Waterman fountain pen he bought himself when he started high school in Cobourg, Ontario in 1939. When he shared this discovery with one of the ladies at the seniors’ residence where he now lives, the next day she produced an old bottle of ink, still in its original box to go with his pen. He’s understandably reluctant to try filling the pen as the internal reservoir has probably deteriorated beyond use and he’d end up with a big mess . . . which we used to use blotters for. Remember those? Please tell me you don’t still have some.

We recently celebrated an Oktoberfest dinner with our friends Mike and Gail. Mike’s mother was born in Germany and they inherited a wonderful collection of original beer steins from the old country which we put to use sipping (??) wine at our dinner. It’s hard to part with our heritage, especially when it can be upcycled to today’s lifestyle. Another friend with a German mother didn’t have the same attachment to her collection of Hummel figurines and I completely understand. I also have my mother’s original roller skates made in 1930 with the leather strap, cast iron wheels, and the original key on a dirty string worn around my neck.

Before menopause . . . and, after menopause.

In an earlier post (Click here to read: Did you ever get rid of something and later regret it?). I expressed some regret about getting rid of certain items over the years. It’s difficult to know what to keep and what to let go of. Will I regret getting rid of those belts? I hope not and perhaps some pre-menopausal young woman will enjoy them as much as I did once upon a time. B’bye belts. Hello spandex.

The other day I watched a young woman trying on jeans in a department store. She had the cutest little bum and before I could stop myself I said aloud, “Ahhh. I remember when I used to look like that!” She laughed and replied that her parents and in-laws were pressuring her to have a baby so she knew her cute bum days were limited. That’s nothing, though, compared with what menopause does to a woman’s body. Ugh! When I was young, I never honestly thought my body would lose its waistline as I aged. We all thought those tight tummies and firm upper arms would last forever. Like those lovely leather belts, I miss my waistline but as they say, focus on your assets. We’re alive; we’re healthy and we’re surrounded by loving friends and family. That’s plenty for me. With or without a waistline. Belted or unbelted.

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Becoming Michelle Obama is inspirational and insightful

How does a lowly little blogger like me properly do justice to a lady like Michelle Obama? Santa brought me a hardcover copy of her memoir Becomingand although it was a hefty read, it was worth it. Like Tara Westover (author of Educatedand J.D. Vance (author of Hillbilly Elegy), Michelle Robinson Obama is a product of humble beginnings and hard work, always a fascinating subject for me. While she didn’t endure the same challenges as Westover or Vance, she faced the constant underlying obstacle of being born black in a country that is still racist. Her advantage is that she came from a strong family unit that stayed together, worked hard and valued education. These intrinsic strengths enabled her to perform at and above expectations. She’s strongly proud of her roots in Chicago’s south side and credits this background with motivating her.

From an early age Michelle Robinson understood that education and achievement were fundamental to advancing in life. Born with sharp intellect and into a supportive family, she excelled at school to the extent that when she graduated high school, she was accepted into elite Princeton University. Lacking specific goals beyond proving herself good enough and smart enough, she defaulted to studying law. But her career choice proved to be unsatisfying and contrary to her values. The singular outstanding achievement during her time working at a prestigious Chicago law firm was meeting an unusual young law student who worked temporarily for the same firm. His name was Barack Obama.

While Michelle came from a Leave It To Beaver close-knit family, Barack’s family was fragmented and scattered around the world. Blending their different backgrounds took some adjustment. Their early years included marriage counselling, fertility treatments and financial hardship, not uncommon challenges for young couples starting out.

Michelle Obama outlines the experiences they both underwent beginning with their early community service work to ultimately becoming the most powerful couple in the world. She describes each stage of the progression in detail and without restraint. The last half of the book is the most interesting as it covers their political life but reading the story of how they came to be in that position at that particular time is informative and relevant. Any book by a former First Lady is bound to be a best-seller but this one is particularly deserving, written by an exceptionally intelligent, articulate, reflective woman. Do yourself a favour and read it.

To order a copy of Becoming by Michelle Obama from Amazon, click here.

To order a copy of Educated by Tara Westover from Amazon, click here.

To order a copy of Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance from Amazon, click here.

Disclosure: If you purchase a book from these links, I may (hopefully) receive a teeny, tiny commission from Amazon.

 

To order a copy of my new book BOOMER BEAT, click here. Ideal for a hostess gift, beach read, gift for a friend or possible Nobel Prize for Literature.

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Triple feature: Movies for baby boomer audiences

The two months leading up to the annual Oscar ceremony in Hollywood is pretty much the only time of year movies are released that appeal to baby boomers. From December to mid-February there are actually some decent movies in theatres that don’t involve monsters, wall-to-wall violence, sci-fi, zombies or irreversible annihilation of the planet. I’ve recently viewed three movies up for awards that I think you might find interesting:

VICE: Christian Bale is a chameleon. His characterization of former Vice-President Dick Cheney is stunning and so different from the Irving Rosenfeld character he portrayed so well in American Hustleor is it really so different after all? If the current state of America politics doesn’t already make you feel sick, then this movie will put you over the top. Lies, corruption and self-serving politicians aren’t unique to the current administration; it goes back decades and this movie reminds us just how rotten and vulnerable the system truly is. Under George W. Bush, Cheney pulled the strings that manipulated not just a weak, naïve president but entire nations, costing untold lives in a wrong-headed war that benefited his private sector interests.

As a side note here, my friend Louise informed me this week that it was Christian Bale who played the young leading character “Jim” in the wonderful film Empire of the Sun in 1987. It was the story of a young British boy imprisoned by the Japanese in southeast Asia during the second world war. It’s worth checking out on your streaming service too.

GREEN BOOK: Baby boomers lived through the years of racial segregation, civil unrest and demands for equal rights that characterized the sixties in the United States. It’s not news but there’s so much more to be learned from this movie that throws light on current tensions and the ongoing struggle for change. During the 1950s a small green book was available for African Americans in the southern states that directed them to black-only accommodation, restaurants and other services that existed in a racially segregated country.

When black Jamaican-born concert pianist Don Shirley, otherwise known as Doc Shirley, a classical and jazz pianist played by Mahershala Ali is hired to play a series of concerts in the southern states, he hires tough New York bouncer Tony ‘Lip’ Vallelonga, played by Viggo Mortensen as his driver/bodyguard. The inevitable racial tensions and conflicts arise and remind us that racial intolerance runs deep in the south and continues to some degree even today. As in the movie The Help, I was reminded that these events took place within our lifetime, not that long ago. At the end of the movie, it was revealed that the story was based on real characters and events, which I wish I’d known at the beginning as it would have made the movie even more meaningful.

And, if you haven’t seen Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises about the Russian mafia in London, England, it’s a must-see on your streaming service. If you weren’t already a Viggo Mortensen fan, this one will definitely convert you. But it is a tad graphic.

Can You Ever Forgive Me: Seeing Melissa McCarthy in a dramatic role was part of the appeal of seeing this movie based on the true life story of writer Lee Israel. In her mid-fifties, Israel was a has-been best-selling author who once penned New York Times best-sellers on the lives of Talullah Bankhead and Dorothy Kilgallen. When her biography of Estée Lauder failed to sell she was a broke and unemployed alcoholic. Living with her sick cat in a decrepit apartment and several months behind in her rent, she’s desperate for money.

She accidently stumbles on a scheme to make money writing forged letters from famous people like Fanny Brice and Noël Coward. She discovers there’s a market for such documents and with the help of a similarly down-and-out gay friend John played superbly by Richard E. Grant, they deceive collectors to the tune of more than four hundred forgeries before they are brought down by the FBI. The movie is slow and depressing but I thoroughly enjoyed it. McCarthy was perfection in the role of Lee Israel and the sound track of bluesy music was wonderful accompaniment.

I’m confident you will enjoy any or all of these three movies. While none of them can be called uplifting, they are a must-see nonetheless. Chances are there will be nothing more for baby boomers to go see at the theatre until next December so grab ’em while you can. Or wait and view them on your streaming service if you can manage to enjoy a movie without a bucket of theatre popcorn and an over-priced pail of Diet Coke.

Perry was scandalized.

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BOOMER BEAT

Rants and reflections on lifestyle, fashion, current events, 

books and more, especially for baby boomers.

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Triple feature: Movies for baby boomer audiences
Movie popcorn tickets border as a group of popped corn snacks with cinema ticket stubs in the food as a theatrical symbol for entertainment and the arts on an isolated white background.

10 things I wish I’d known for sure

I was going to title this piece Things I wish I’d known when I was 20. Then I realized the same wisdom applies at age 30, 60 or at any point in our lives. Knowledge is knowledge. It’s all about whether you absorb it and make it work for you. I  wish someone had told me these things (and I’d actually taken it heart) when I was 20. So, Gen Xers, Y’s and Millennials, this is for you. Here are some things I’ve learned for sure along the road of life:

  1. Things dry up as we get older—skin, nails, eyes, vaginas—all our body parts. Appreciate your dewiness while you still have it. It won’t last. That’s why there’s a multi-billion dollar cosmetics and pharmaceutical industry—to keep us lubricated and functioning.
  2. Your hair is the best it will ever be. As we get older, our hair thins, loses its shine and is never as luxurious and abundant as it was when we were twenty. That’s why we have expensive salon treatments that become increasingly more expensive as we age.
  3. Menopause symptoms are not a short-term inconvenience. They can last for years. In my case, the hot flashes were never-ending and lasted more than 20 years. The accompanying weight gain is practically irreversible. Try not to beat yourself up. Millennials, Gen-X’s and Y’s—consider yourselves warned. You’re not immune and this too will happen to you, no matter how many ab crunches you do.
  4. Being assertive in business is a good thing. If I learned nothing else after 40 years in the corporate world, it’s take of yourself first! Men have no qualms about asking for raises, a company car or an extra week of vacation. Boomer gals were raised to be polite, compliant and patient, hoping our rewards will come. Didn’t really do us a lot of good. Put yourself first.
  5. Loyalty to your employer is not in your best interest. I think most men understand the basic premise here but women tend to take some convincing. All those late nights working to meet a deadline, family time traded for priorities at work? Not worth it. Your tombstone won’t read “Loyal Employee”. See Item 4 above.
  6. Manage and promote your personal brand. We’d never heard of those things in the workplace when boomer gals were trying to get ahead or even survive in those last decades of the twentieth century. We were raised to believe that’s it’s wrong to self-promote. It’s wrong not to.
  7. Catch that 5 lb. weight gain before it becomes 10 lbs. or 20. Once you hit menopause you’re screwed and it’s nearly impossible to lose weight. That’s just life.

    Financial independence = FREEDOM.
  8. Financial security is paramount. It’s tempting to spend, spend, spend when you’re young and making good money. But when you hit mid-life you might want to change careers or take a sabbatical. Financial security and ultimately financial independence equips you with options later in life. That cool car or those expensive shoes and purses you couldn’t live without in your twenties are long gone and forgotten when you’re reading your bank statements with enormous regret at fifty. Save, save, save. It’s only when you’re financially independent that you’re truly free.
  9. Be yourself. You’re a worthy, whole and valid person without changing your personality for the sake of someone you think you love. Love yourself first.
  10. Be healthy. Everything in moderation. A little bit of this; a little bit of that, without overindulging in all the things we like—wine, desserts, sugar, bad carbs, red meat etc. Taking care of our bodies will pay off as we get older. Smoking causes cancer, a raspy voice and zillions of wrinkles. Keep drinking under control, keep moving, stay curious and take care of yourself.

I’m not sure I would have listened to any of this advice when I was young but for what it’s worth, here it is. Like most people, I did some things right and a few things wrong but overall, baby boomers are the healthiest, most financially secure generation ever. Was it our music? Our parents? Hard work? Whatever came together to create our generation, we have a lot to be thankful for.

To order a copy of my new book BOOMER BEAT from Amazon, click here.

 

 

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Today’s lesson for Boomers. . . 1 + 1 = 1

Math has never been my strong suit. I’m a consistent 20% tipper in restaurants because it’s easier to calculate 20% than 15% in my head (and because I was a waitress a long time ago, so I appreciate the value of tips to servers). But, as baby boomers age, we realize that it’s easier to get through life with two people than it is with one. I was single for ten years before I married for the first time and spent seventeen years between husband number one and number two, so I’ve had a total of twenty-seven years of experience being single and on my own. And I’ve come to the conclusion that as we round out our third quarter, as The Beatles so eloquently put it, “we get by with a little help from our friends”. And that includes husbands, partners, neighbours, family members and even pets. They all help us get through the day. They filled the void during all those times I was on my own and continue to do so. The much maligned phrase uttered by Tom Cruise in Jerry McGuire, “You complete me,” is suddenly not so corny.

I’ve written before (click here to read I’m not OK. Are you OK?) about the downside of certain aspects of aging. Being forgetful or absent-minded is natural—rather like defragging our hard-drive. Our brain has to dump old data to make room for new input. Regrettable but understandable. But my honey and I have recently experienced too many memory faults and error messages to write them off as simple updating of our ROM. Just last night we were sitting at dinner and couldn’t figure out what year we moved into our house. Was it two years ago or three? The mental exertion soon proved to onerous so we moved on to dessert.

Never again.

One day when I was checking out of a big box store I got caught with 12 items in my cart and only 11 items on my bill. I’d picked up two bags of pecans and accidentally only rang up one. I naively thought I was intelligent enough to handle the self checkout but obviously I over-estimated my abilities. To make it worse, just as I was standing there sorting out the issue with the checker at the door, while the lineup of impatient shoppers grew even longer behind me, I hear “Hi Lynda”. My friend Jeannette happened to be passing by just in time to witness my embarrassing shakedown by store security. Two lessons emerged from this experience:

  1. I am incapable of managing self-checkout without supervision
  2. Henceforth, I will always check out with a cashier because, a) they not only do a better job, but, b) I’m saving a job. Self-checkouts and other self-serve functions deprive someone of a real job and that’s not good for anyone.

Last week I mentioned to my husband that the windshield washer tank in my car was empty. When I kept pushing the lever, nothing happened. He was inappropriately smug and a tad too condescending when he informed me later that I’d been pushing the wrong lever.

And the list goes on. I gathered some girlfriends recently to watch a Christmas movie and swill wine but my television froze. Nothing worked. A couple of days later when the cable guy came out, it was a loose connection on the back of the receiver—which I had already checked, several times. He was very understanding, under the circumstances (dealing with an old lady).

But the pièce de résistance came earlier this week when my laptop computer died. It’s only 18 months old and when I bought it I also purchased every warranty and service package available to humankind for just such occasions. I checked the power outlet to make sure it was working, even moving it to an outlet in the kitchen to double-check. I changed the battery in the mouse and double-checked that the mouse was ‘On’. I couldn’t even reboot, which usually solves most problems, because it wouldn’t turn on or off. I pushed the laptop’s On/Off button multiple times with varying degrees of pressure and lengths of time in futile attempts to achieve ignition. No luck. Like Monty Python’s parrot; it was dead—not resting, not asleep—definitely dead!

So, I called Microsoft and the nice man informed me I might have a faulty display driver and suggested I take it to the Microsoft store where they would address my problems and perhaps replace my laptop. I was thankful for my brilliant foresight in purchasing those expensive warranty and service contracts. The next morning I made a 45-minute drive to the store. When I explained my situation to the little boy working there, he laid a nice protective pad on the counter, placed my dead parrot on the pad . . . and . . . TURNED IT ON. It worked!!! Heaven only knows why I couldn’t do the same thing pushing that little button; maybe my laptop just wanted to go for a nice long car ride and be fingered by someone with a gentler touch. Even my technically challenged husband now takes great delight in offering to turn my computer on.

I’ll get by with a little help from my friends.

As I said earlier, I’m not a math whiz; in fact I’m a complete ditz but when it comes to numbers. Fortunately my husband is amazing so he helps me. But he’s not good with the English language, written or spoken so I’m always available to bail him out with spelling and pronunciation issues. It’s the perfect yin and yang. We support each other’s shortcomings. Watching my parents as they grew older, I began to appreciate the value in having someone alongside to help shoulder the load. Now we’re in the same boat. What one can’t do, the other usually can. We muddle through. My friend Terry showed me how to use the timer on my oven; Gail’s our social convener; her husband Mike’s our go-to I.T. guy. I’m the source of new Britcoms on television. When we’re feeling discouraged or in need of a little moral support, who do we call? Our friends.

The challenges of aging aren’t what John Lennon and Paul McCartney had in mind when they penned “I’ll get by with a little help from my friends” but even then they understood the depth of meaning in the words to When I’m Sixty-Four. So far, he still needs me, still feeds me (twice a week when it’s his turn to cook), and still sends me Valentines. Mine for ever more. The reciprocal shortcomings of two people added together equals a whole in any equation. That’s not just science; it’s life. Maybe Jerry McGuire wasn’t so stupid after all.

To order a copy of my latest book BOOMER BEAT from Amazon, click here.

When I’m Sixty-Four

When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a Valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine
If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four
You’ll be older too
And if you say the word
I could stay with you
I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride
Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four
Every summer we can rent a cottage
In the Isle of Wight, if it’s not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee
Vera, Chuck and Dave
Send me a postcard, drop me a line
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, wasting away
Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four
Songwriters: John Lennon / Paul McCartney
When I’m Sixty-Four lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
With a Little Help From My Friends
A little help from my friends
What would you think if I sang out of tune
Would you stand up and walk out on me
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song
And I’ll try not to sing out of key
I get by with a little help from my friends
I get high with a little help from my friends
Going to try with a little help from my friends
What do I do when my love is away
(Does it worry you to be alone)
How do I feel by the end of the day
(Are you sad because you’re on your own)
No I get by with a little help from my friends
Do you need anybody
I need somebody to love
Could it be anybody
I want somebody to love
Would you believe in a love at first sight
Yes I’m certain that it happens all the time
What do you see when you turn out the light
I can’t tell you, but I know it’s mine
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends
Do you need anybody
I just need somebody to love
Could it be anybody
I want somebody to love
I get by with a little help from my friends
Yes I get by with a little help from my friends
With a little help from my friends
Songwriters: John Lennon / Paul McCartney
With a Little Help From My Friends lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
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Old Victorian house is major character in Barbara Kingsolver novel

When I read Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible (which I absolutely loved) several years ago, it was the first time I’d heard of the author and immediately became a fan. Her newest book, Unsheltered is not quite as engrossing but it’s still a wonderful read. It’s the story of life’s plan not working out quite the way the characters hoped it would but coping and adapting along the way. Normal life.

Willa Knox is a middle-aged science writer married to a university professor who never quite makes the tenure track. Willa forgoes her own job security and the family moves multiple times over the course of their marriage chasing her husband’s elusive job security. The price they pay is financial insecurity bordering on destitution and discontented adult children who in no way turn out the way their parents hoped or anticipated. Things reach a critical point when they find themselves in middle age returning to live in her late mother’s dilapidated Victorian home in Vineland, New Jersey, caring for her husband’s elderly, irascible father, Nick, who has multiple chronic illnesses associated with old age and poor lifestyle choices.

Their son Zeke seems to have landed on his feet, but not for long. He lives in Boston and has a baby son with his partner who is a successful lawyer. The Knox’s daughter has been living a hippie lifestyle in Cuba for an extended period of time and is mostly incommunicado. Then, Zeke’s partner commits suicide leaving him unprepared and unwilling to be a father to his infant son. As any mother would, Willa steps in to take care of the baby just as their daughter returns from her mysterious sabbatical in Cuba. The entire extended family ends up living together in a 150-year-old house that is literally falling down around them.

Old Victorian homes appear romantic but generally come with a history of unseen problems.

In an attempt to access financial support for repairing the house, Willa befriends a local historian and together they research the home’s history in an effort to justify the historical designation application required to finance major repairs. She learns the original owners one hundred and fifty years earlier were similarly challenged the way Willa and her family are. Personal conflicts, precarious job security, influential neighbours and financial insecurity are just some of their shared dilemmas. The two stories run parallel in alternate chapters.

Reading this book also reminded me of how lucky I am to be Canadian with universal health care. A major source of stress and conflict in this story stems from the lack of available, accessible universal health care in the United States. The difficulties encountered by working Americans in obtaining everyday health care for elderly parents is an ongoing tragedy. Despite the fact the family has a health insurance, their financial problems are exacerbated by the chronic health problems of Willa’s father-in-law, a rabid Republican who is oblivious to the Herculean efforts expended by his daughter-in-law to obtain basic health care for him. It’s not an issue for Canadians and that reality hit home as I read of the family’s struggles.

The house itself is almost a metaphor for life and its struggles. It has a beginning, a middle and an end with many complications in between. We can patch the roof, paint the porch and replace the electricity but ultimately no amount of intervention will forestall the inevitable when the basic structure is crumbling. But the death of a house doesn’t mean the end of life itself. As Mary Treat, a nineteenth century neighbour once pointed out, “Without a roof, you’re open to the sky and all its glory”. Unsheltered is written with sensitivity, intelligence and insight. Kingsolver’s observations through her characters are at times funny and always engaging. I’d rate it 8 out of 10.

To order Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver from Amazon click here.

To order The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver from Amazon click here.

To order a copy of my latest book BOOMER BEAT from Amazon, click here.

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