Is Chrissy Metz really . . . just like us?

We can forgive Chrissy Metz, who plays Kate in television’s Just Like Us series, for using a ghost writer (Kevin Carr O’Leary) to help with her autobiography. This Is Me, Loving the person you are today is well-written and full of wisdom. Her struggles before becoming a famous actor carry into her current adult life and she doesn’t hold back. Metz was born in Gainesville, Florida, the third child and second girl of a navy father who wanted only boys. Consequently, she refers to her biological father by “Mark” as he provided little to no support of any kind in her growing up. Her parents divorced when she was eight years old leaving her mother in a desperate financial situation. Consequently, her mother makes unwise romantic choices in an effort to provide for her three children which eventually grew to five.

As Chrissy was growing up, she experienced a disproportionate amount of negative feedback but uses those experiences to dispense wisdom to help others who are struggling. Acknowledging that we all experience challenges in life, Metz is honest and generous in sharing hers. She stresses the importance of having an ‘attitude of gratitude’ which personally I’ve also found to be valuable when we’re feeling defeated. Through years of verbal and emotional abuse by a step-father and suffering alienation by her peers because of her size, Metz developed a strong backbone and learned to adapt. Even her own mother was not always supportive in misguided efforts to keep her family housed and fed in a modest trailer park lifestyle.

Chrissy Metz stars as Kate on tv’s This Is Us.

Life often sends us on a circuitous journey to success. When she took her sister to a talent search audition, Metz struck up a relationship with the agent that landed her a job wrangling young talent. Traveling to Los Angeles with little money and a broken down car with her work, she leveraged the opportunity to market her own talents. But she spent more than ten years doing menial work for low wages behind the scenes. Like any young woman, she wanted love in her life and connected with a like-minded Scotsman she met through a computer dating site. Their marriage was loving but fraught with difficulties that eventually resulted in divorce. When Metz was cast as Kate in This is Us her life began to resemble what we would call success.

I really enjoyed reading This Is Me by Chrissy Metz. Her story is written with humour and is an easy read delivered in a hip, contemporary tone. The strongest recommendation for reading this book is its inspirational value. It serves to remind us that despite life’s challenges, we don’t have to accept negativism and defeat. Metz offers an abundance of solid suggestions for rising above adversity without being preachy or self-righteous. I’d give this book 9 out of 10.

Click here to order This is Me by Chrissy Metz from Amazon.


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Girls just gotta have shoes

The objects of my affection.

It was love at first sight. As soon as my eyes landed on that incredible pair of Jimmy Choo python pumps in the May issue of Vogue I found myself longing not only for the shoes but for my twenty-year-old feet to put in them. Even though it’s been years, or more like decades since I’ve been able to strut my stuff in killer heels, the old longing and feeling of empowerment bestowed on us by stilettos never leaves us. I could so easily picture my former self wearing those python beauties around the office in my power suit or slipping them on with skinny jeans (the jeans, not me) for a stylish stroll through the mall on a Saturday. Just looking at those babies made my heart beat faster; my imagination conjured up fantasies I haven’t had in years. There was a giant smile on my face just thinking about the possibilities those beauties could bestow on my life. Boomer women totally understand how Cinderella was completely transformed as soon as she put on those magic glass slippers. It’s no fairy tale.

If only we could buy new feet.

In the late sixties and early seventies I lived and worked in downtown Toronto. Too broke and too cheap to invest in subway tokens, I hoofed it everywhere—in heels, usually on the run. From Bloor Street to Front Street I made my way around the downtown core to and from work, to meet friends, to shop and out at night, always on foot. And those young, size seven feet were always shod in the latest fashion. I’ve twisted ankles falling off my platforms, caught spike heels in sidewalk grates and suffered burns and blisters on the balls of my feet from the heat of summer sidewalks burning through thin leather soles. Not once did I think my feet would outlive their best-before date.

Baby boomer women now have a different set of criteria when shopping for shoes. Toe cleavage and strappy high heels have given way to arch supports and low heels with rubber soles, and not the kind the Beatles sang about in 1965. Back in the day, our shoe purchases were treated like decadent works of art, affirmation of our sexiness and stylishness. I’d actually set newly purchased shoes on the diningroom table to admire them when I brought them home. Or I’d place them on my night table so they’d be the first things I’d see when I woke up in the morning. Talk about getting a high. Gorgeous shoes were like little magic carpets that carried us into a fantasy land where we were invincible. And, unlike dress or pant sizes, shoe size was immaterial. In fabulous shoes, our feet looked great no matter what size they were.

After clomping around in rubber sandals I recently squeezed my feet into a pair of stylish suede boots that don’t see much action these days. My back hurt from bending down to put the socks and then the boots on and my feet felt like they were going to explode by the time I got home from shopping. Mes pieds are just not used to such harsh discipline and they object strenuously to any form of confinement. I soooo miss the feet I had when I was twenty years old.

I wonder if those python Jimmy Choos come with industrial strength arch supports and cushy rubber soles? If I win the lottery, perhaps I’ll buy them and prop them up on my mantle, just to admire them like the works of art they are. I could reflect back on the days when I used to listen to the original Rubber Soul in my Mary Quant mini skirts and platforms—back when I could still wear fantasmic shoes. As the Everly Brothers sang so eloquently and in perfect harmony, “All I have to do is dream. Dream. dream, dream”, the siren song of Jimmy Choo and those fabulous shoes.

You’re beautiful mes très chères.

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It’s March Madness time again

For the benefit of new readers I’m reposting my annual March Madness message.

march-madnessPlease tell me I’m not the only person in the world who thought March Madness was about special annual retail sales—like Black Friday. For weeks leading up to the big event and for the duration, I’ve been waiting for the flyers from my favourite retailers to arrive in my mailbox. With visions of bargain-priced sugar plums dancing in my head I couldn’t wait to hit the mall to stock up on half-price bras and underwear and my favourite jeans. Surely all the big cosmetics companies would be having extra-special promotions with yummy new shades of lipstick in their give-aways.

Excitement turned to disappointment when my husband gently explained that the “real meaning” of March Madness was about sports— the narrowing down of basketball teams competing for ranking in their respective cups—as in athletic. Yes, Virginia. There is a Santa Claus, but not in March.

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“Odd” jobs build character and provide benefits that last a lifetime

carhop1Reading recently about the summer jobs various famous people had when they were young reminded me of my own assortment of “odd” jobs over the years. Singer Anne Murray worked as a maid at the Keltic Lodge in Cape Breton where her initiation included getting down on her hands and knees to scrub floors. As a result of her strict training in making beds, to this day she rips apart improperly made hotel beds and remakes them before climbing in. Victor Dodig, President and CIO of CIBC (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce) worked a midnight shift at Canada Packers hanging pork bellies for smoking and freezing. From working as dishwashers, tree planters in the north or delivering newspapers at six o’clock in the morning, every job by every baby boomer left a lasting impression that contributed to these people becoming productive, hard-working and positive contributors to society.

Those were the days my friend. But we didn't wear roller skates because the parking lot in front of the Parkway Drive-In (behind the bowling alley) was gravel.
Those were the days my friend, from age 14 to when I left home at 17. We didn’t wear roller skates though because the parking lot in front of the Parkway Drive-In (behind the bowling alley) was gravel. Customers would leave their headlights on when they wanted service.

When Boomers were young and desperate for pocket money (our parents weren’t as flush or as generous as today’s parents), we would do whatever we had to in order to scrape together some spare change. We learned not only how to manage the money we worked hard to earn, but it gave us a life-long appreciation for people working in service or low-paying jobs who perhaps didn’t have the advantages we did. Because I waitressed for three years in high school, I understand how hard it is to be on your feet all day serving people who are not always kind or even polite. Consequently, I am and will always be a generous tipper.

One summer, when I was sixteen, a friend and I waitressed at a lodge on an island in the North Channel above Manitoulin Island. We were water-taxied out at the end of June and back to the mainland at the end of August. The proprietor took over management of the resort after her husband passed away and her management style ranged from she-Nazi when she was sober to invisible when she was passed out in her cabin for days on end. Like Anne Murray, we spent the summer washing floors, furniture, dishes and cookware, cleaning silverware and generally keeping the place shipshape for guests. When the chefs quit half-way through the summer, we also took over the cooking duties. Imagine an entire summer resort with docking facilities and cabins being run and managed by a gang of teenage girls who barely knew how to fry an egg. Our diet in the staff galley consisted of toast and tea for breakfast with fried potatoes and bologna for other meals. All food had to be boated in so the good stuff was restricted for guests only. We saw no milk in the staff kitchen all summer and we were too young and stupid to steal what we needed from the main kitchen. Strangely though, we had no qualms about stealing chocolate bars and potato chips from the tuck shop.

Chief Dispatcher for Duff's Taxi was . . . me (centre) from age 8 to 13.
Part-time dispatcher for Duff’s Taxi was . . . me (centre) from age 8 to 13.

From age eight to thirteen (yes – that young!), I was a taxi dispatcher, taking calls and dispatching by two-way radio to my mother or father who were on the road in the family business in our small town. At thirteen and fourteen, I worked briefly during the summer in a carpet factory transferring yarn to a large reel for spinning. I was a carhop/waitress for three years and self-employed for a few days as a worm-picker but nobody bought my worms so I had to give that up. Even after I left home, I had my share of peculiar jobs as well as some amazing ones. My Boomer friends have similar stories that would probably qualify today as exploitive child labour but none of us can deny it did us the world of good. We were always devising creative ways to earn a bit of money so we could buy bubble gum or licorice. Nothing is more character-building than having to do something you would prefer not to do in order to earn your own money. Earned money is worth so much more than handouts because it’s harder to come by and therefore more appreciated.

What’s your odd job story? Did you pump gas (back in the days when they still did that)? Perhaps you babysat kids almost as old as you were. Maybe you were an army cadet or spent hot summer days cutting lawns and trimming hedges, setting pins in a bowling alley or helping a local farmer with the haying or picking tobacco. I’d love to hear what you did to earn money as a teenager and I’m sure my readers would too. Share your stories by clicking in the “Comments” section.

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Sometimes . . . you just gotta have a hot dog

McKeith's bullying was scary but effective.
McKeith’s extreme bullying was scary but effective.

Deny. Deny. Deny. Not only was it Bill Clinton’s favourite mantra, but too often our daily food choices are based on the dictates of healthy eating which are more about denying ourselves the pleasures of eating rather than indulging. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could live like Sumo wrestlers who equate big and fat with powerful and strong? Sadly, the dogma of healthy living is so ingrained in Boomers’ brains that every time we enjoy a wonderful, heaven-sent slice of German chocolate cake, crispy bacon or a deliciously overflowing and dripping butter pecan ice-cream cone, we are so consumed with guilt that it almost negates any sensory pleasure we might experience.

A few years ago I watched a TV program called You Are What You Eat featuring British health guru Gillian McKeith. Her commitment to educating common folk on the error of their eating habits was both inspiring and off-putting. She once produced a galvanized bucket of salvaged pig parts including snouts, teeth, eyeballs, tails, anuses and other lovely bits and informed us that this amalgam represented the contents of a wiener. That visual was enough to put me off eating hot dogs for years. We are constantly warned not to eat deli meats, to eschew sugar and bad carbs, and avoid anything processed or packaged lest we burn in hell while downing a Big Mac. What’s the fun in going to the movies if you can’t enjoy the chemical-laden popcorn and a gallon of ice-cold Diet Coke?

I'll have what she's having.
I’ll have what she’s having.

Generally, I’m very conscientious about what I eat. I do all the right things, most of the time, but let’s face it, what’s life if you can’t treat yourself to half a dozen Timbits once in a while. So after years of abstention, I recently descended into the depths of hell and bought myself a Costco hot dog . . . and giant Diet Coke. They were soooo wooooonderful. Sure, they made me feel bloated, burpy and uncomfortable afterward, but, damn they were good. And at less than two dollars for the combo I should get a Canada Council Grant for my economic virtue. The wiener was long, fat, hot and juicy and the steamed bun was warm and soft thanks to the (in some countries banned) azodicarbonamide (rubber used in yoga mats and sneaker soles) content. I piled on the fake, chemical and sugar-laden condiments and enjoyed a feast of culinary and nutritional depravity. To misquote Marie Antoinette, “Let us eat cake”, before we lose our heads. What harm can it do at our age.

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What’s the ultimate price for Loving Frank Lloyd Wright

frankDon’t you just love it when you get into a book you can’t put down, but at the same time hate to finish because you’ve become so invested in the characters’ lives? Loving Frank by Nancy Horan is such a book.  Historical fiction based on the real-life love affair between renowned prairie architect Frank Lloyd Wright and Mameh Borthwick Cheney, Horan provides a sensitive and gripping description of their relationship beginning when Wright was commissioned to design and build a house for Edwin and Mameh Cheney in Oak Park, Illinois. Wright’s reputation as a modernist architect was matched equally by the events in his personal life and Horan provides context to the early years.

Frank Lloyd Wright and Mameh Cheney began their affair early in Wright’s career when Cheney and her husband were clients of Wright. Both were intellectuals and shared an esthetic value system. Borthwick-Cheney possessed a Master’s Degree and was fluent in several languages. She was an early feminist who felt stifled and unfilled in her personal life as wife of Edwin Cheney and mother to two young children, John and Martha. Her love for Wright was overriding and resulted in her abandoning her husband and children while visiting a friend in Colorado. She accompanied Wright on a year-long trip to Europe where he was working with a German publisher on a print compilation of his drawings and designs.

During a stopover in France, Mameh read a book by well-known Swedish feminist Ellen Key which addressed her on-going guilt about abandoning her children and helped reconcile her decision to choose Frank Lloyd Wright over her family. After meeting Key at a lecture, they developed a personal and professional relationship that resulted in Mameh acting as American translator for Key’s writing. Following an idyllic stay in Tuscany, Wright and Borthwick-Cheney returned to the United States to a storm of hateful press and rejection by society. He had left his wife Catherine, who refused to give him a divorce, and six children and she left her husband and two children which was an unforgiveable sin in the early twentieth century.

How different would be the reaction if their affair had happened in 2014 instead of 1914?
How different would the reaction be to their love affair if it had happened today instead of 1914?

They retreated to an isolated life in rural Wisconsin in a house Wright designed and was building for Mameh. He commuted to Chicago for business and hired local trades people to work on the construction of their private compound named Taliesin. But life together was challenging. Not only were they reviled for their love affair, but Frank was a terrible business person and his financial affairs were in constant turmoil. His excessive ego and casual attitude toward paying his bills were the source of ongoing disputes and conflict. He owed money to workers and suppliers on his new home and he wasn’t getting new commissions because his personal life with Mameh was deemed to be sinful.

Anyone who has any knowledge of Frank Lloyd Wright and the history of his personal life will be gripped by the little-known story of his relationship with Mameh, who many consider to be his one true love. For those readers who are not familiar with their story, I won’t spoil it by giving you the ending. Nancy Horan wrote a beautiful book about two tragic characters by inserting herself into the mind of Mameh Borthwick Cheney. I couldn’t and didn’t put it down until, sadly, I finished. I give Loving Frank ten out of ten.

To order a copy of Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, click here.

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