BOOMERBROADcast

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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Hillbilly Elegy is a quite simply a must read


There’s a reason Hillbilly Elegy, A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance has been on the New York Times’ best seller list for several weeks. It’s an amazing book. If you enjoyed The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, you’ll love Hillbilly Elegy for the same reason. Some might consider Vance a bit young (he’s only in his mid-thirties) to be producing a memoir, but many people including Walls and Catherine Gildiner who was the author of the wonderful trilogy about her early years, have lived young lives truly worthy of sharing. Memoirs by people who have risen above challenging beginnings to succeed in life have always fascinated me and we have so much to learn from them.

J.D. Vance was born into a poor, uneducated, unstable Appalachian family surrounded by a larger community of similarly dysfunctional people. His mother was pregnant at sixteen and although his father didn’t stick around he was never completely estranged. Vance was born into a life anchored by an alcoholic and ultimately drug-addicted mother with an endless stream of boyfriends and husbands, some good but most bad, an assortment of half-siblings and dismal prospects for a better life. The only stable element in his ever-changing life was the presence of an older half-sister and his gun-toting, cussing, mean maternal grandmother who truly loved him. His grandfather, although ultimately living apart from his grandmother was equally loving and loved by Vance and provided a kind moral compass for the boy. He moved back and forth between Kentucky and Ohio depending on his evolving family situation with all its domestic strife, his ever-changing sets of siblings and even changing last names.

Many of the social problems experienced by hillbillies are attributable to their own poor choices in life.

When children are born into a community of people who are always fighting and are disinclined to hold regular jobs or even have ambitions of doing better, they grow up without incentive, without hope and without direction. Those who are lucky enough to find someone in this quagmire of humanity who can see beyond their obvious limits is truly fortunate. Vance possessed a level of intelligence that allowed him to at least finish high school despite poor grades and poor attendance in the midst of his family’s turmoil. Despite their own lack of education, his grandparents encouraged and promoted education helping him by providing a safe home when he needed it, moral direction when he strayed and were successful in regularly putting him back on track. When a cousin suggested the only way Vance would be able to get a college education which was the key to a better life, he opted to pledge four years of his life to the Marine Corps to subsidize his later college education. He ultimately parlayed this into a law degree from prestigious Yale University and through Hillbilly Elegy shares the experience of his journey with others who might benefit from what he learned along the way.

Vance’s enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps was step two in bettering his life after step one which was completing high school.

Vance discovered a world entirely different from what he had always known when he enlisted in the Marines and to a greater extent afterward when he went to university and law school. “When I joined the Marine Corps,, I did so in part because I wasn’t ready for adulthood. I didn’t know how to balance a checkbook” he said. The Marine Corps assumes zero knowledge on the part of its recruits and even accompanied him to open his first bank account. He had received no early guidance in nutrition, fitness/wellness or personal pride during his growing up years and describes himself as a cultural alien. He came to learn and understand the value of interpersonal skills and what he refers to as social capital to help smooth the way through networking. New relationships with friends and fellow students introduced him to a completely new set of social behaviours that were not aligned with his temper and hillbilly upbringing. Most people acknowledge that not all education is gained in the classroom but Vance had no experience with such everyday basics as table manners, how to dress appropriately, how to handle conflict or even how to give and receive love. Interestingly, one of his valued law school mentors at Yale was Amy Chua, author of Tiger Mom.

While he’s circumspect about suggesting solutions to the economic and social problems that are rampant in the rust belt of America, the author provides a rare glimpse into the lives of those people who live hopelessly grim and depressing lives. He knows better than most how they reached this point and why it is so self-perpetuating. Poor life choices, poor role models and social problems breed generations of people with no hope for betterment.  His observations are informed, articulately presented and blunt. What I found particularly revealing was his perspective on how entire generations of rust belt people turned against the Democratic party and put their hopes in the Republicans. Vance explains the misconceptions and clever rhetoric that guide their votes and destroys any hope of a better future. They are told “premature parenthood, drugs, incarceration . . . what separates the successful from the unsuccessful are the expectations that they had for their own lives. Yet the message of the right is increasingly: ‘It’s not your fault that you’re a loser; it’s the government’s fault’.” Untrue and unproductive.

I can’t recommend Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance strongly enough. I learned so much reading this book and only wish the people of Kentucky and Ohio who are described in its pages would also earn from the wisdom he dispenses. I’d give it 10 out of 10.

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

To order The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls from Amazon, click here.

To order the third book in Catherine Gildiner’s trilogy, Coming Ashore, click here.

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Airing my dirty linen for the benefit of all


Not all linen is created equal.

I’ve always loved pristine white linen summer blouses as well as the yummy fruity colours that appear in the spring. When I see a linen blouse in the store it’s always just the right degree of rumpled and soft but until recently I couldn’t duplicate that texture at home after laundering. Putting linen in the dryer, even on a low air setting, never produced the kind of soft look and feel I wanted. It came out too wrinkled and some styles just don’t lend themselves to being ironed. I avoid using dryer sheets or fabric softener because they sometimes leave marks on clothing and add a layer of unnecessary and perhaps dangerous chemicals next to our skin. Although freshly pressed linen is lovely, that’s not the look I’m always after. So, I found the perfect way to handle linen so it’s not too wrinkled, not perfectly pressed—just the right amount of softly rumpled and wearable looking.

Here’s what to do.

  1. Put the laundered blouse in the dryer for no more than ten minutes until it’s still damp but a little bit dry.
  2. Lay it out on an ironing board or flat countertop.
  3. Using both hands, smooth the fabric using just the palms of your hands to iron it. Do not use your electric iron.
  4. Hang to finish drying.

Easy, peasey. If it needs freshening up after wearing briefly, simply mist it with water or linen spray and do the hand ironing thing again. Works like a charm. This will work with your partner’s linen shirts too if he’s the kind of guy who’s ‘cool’ enough to wear linen. Enjoy it. You’re welcome.

Footnote: Some linens demand ironing, such as tea towels and because I’m a huge fan of linen tea towels (as opposed to cotton), ironing is de rigueur. Fortunately, I love ironing linen tea towels. With a lovely bottle of scented linen spray, I mist and iron them into a fresh folded pile all ready to go to work. Feels good, looks good and smells good. (My apologies for sounding a bit Martha-like.)

3. Ta da! Just the right amount of soft casual linen hung to finish drying.

1. Not the right kind of wrinkled linen.

2. “Iron” damp linen with the palms of your hands or mist first if linen is dry.

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Don’t toss your skinny jeans just yet. There’s still hope.


When I read the heading of an article in The Globe and Mail “Scientists test blocking menopause hormone” my little heart skipped a beat. Whatever do they have on the horizon for us now? No more hot flashes? No more meno-brain? And best of all, no more weight gain with its accompanying ugly muffin top? According to The New York Times’ News Service writer Gina Kolata, scientists using research with lab mice, (which are a lot like us!! . . we’ll grab on to any ray of hope) have discovered that a single hormone called FSH is responsible for the universal characteristics of menopause including bone loss and weight gain which presents as abdominal fat. Blocking that hormone could not only mean the end of menopausal symptoms but goodbye elastic waists and calcium supplements. More importantly, it could launch a massive resurrection in fashion options for baby boomers. There could be life beyond Eileen Fisher.

Imagine the possibilities. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could keep the shape we so took for granted in our twenties. Would we start wearing mini-skirts again? Bare our midriff in saucy summer crop tops? Even start going sleeveless? Who wouldn’t love to rediscover her hip bones, buried for years under layers of abdominal fat? When I read the article my pulse raced as I envisioned digging out those lovely leather belts I haven’t been able to wear for decades. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so quick to throw out those fabulous size 27 jeans with the red ankle zippers that I loved so much and wore in the seventies. The possibility of tucking a tapered blouse or tee shirt into my skinny jeans again just thrills me to my very toes.

The fashion industry today is irrelevant. It should not be solely the domain of the young and thin. Boomers wanna have fun too!

OMG. Maybe my feet would be also affected by this new hormone discovery and I could wear sassy heels again. Could I? Would I? The possibilities are just too delicious to fathom. Dare I contemplate once more wearing a pretty bathing suit without a giant bathrobe-like coverup? Perhaps I’m being overly-optimistic but already I’m mentally calculating my new pant size. And what if we weren’t restricted to utilitarian bras structurally engineered to minimize back fat, overflow and side boobage. Do I see lace underwear and sexy lingerie in our future? With no hot flashes maybe we could even start wearing sweaters in the winter again—fitted, fine-knit little turtlenecks like we wore in our twenties, in every colour, tucked in. The possibilities are dancing in my head like visions of sugar plums. Would it be the end of cellulite? Do I see shorts in our future? White ones worn with (spray) tanned legs? Would our hair grow back in, thick, shiny and luxurious like it used to be, and I don’t mean on our upper lip and chin? Maybe I could once again grow that gorgeous bob I looked so good in forty years ago. Would my eyesight improve allowing me to drive after dark? Or even stay awake after dark? I’d be happy with that. With our super powers restored, boomers would kick serious Gen X and millennial butt in the business and fashion world. Let them deride us at their peril.

Could this be the future me?

Single hormone blocker could topple worldwide economy

If this hormone blocker works, the worldwide economic implications could be massive. For starters, the absence of hot flashes would mean the global collapse of the entire ceiling fan industry. Duvets might even make a resurgence. Millions of yards of fabric in third-world sweat shops would no longer be needed to cover expanding boomer bottoms, upper arms and waistlines. Air conditioning in homes and public buildings around the world could be turned down to normal levels, conserving energy and eliminating the need for heavy sweaters and coats in malls and restaurants by non-menopausal customers. The effect on the environment would be better than anything The Paris Accord could have ever dreamed of. The entire diet industry would be threatened if boomer gals no longer had to worry about losing that last few pounds for their high school reunion or a family wedding. Diets would be redundant for an entire generation.

Call me.

Back to the present. The mice in the studies had their ovaries removed and produced no estrogen at all.  Instead of losing bone density and getting fat the test subjects who received the FSH blocker actually lost large amounts of fat which sounds like a boomer broad’s dream come true. The study undertaken by Dr. Mone Zaidi a professor of medicine at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine in New York comes with a caveat though. But (and there’s always a ‘but’), researchers caution that tests conducted on mice often do not produce similar results in humans. I don’t care. Sign me up as a test subject. I still have all those fabulous belts languishing in my closet. I’m tired of saying ‘no’ to dessert and foregoing ice-cream for carrot sticks. I’m sick of living on salads, kale chips and quinoa. I want to strut out once again in my skinny jeans with red high heels and a saucily tucked-in silk shirt over a lacey French bra. I don’t care if I develop a preference for nibbling cheese in dark corners under the baseboards. At least I’ll feel and look great rockin’ my newly slender old bod, and who doesn’t love cheese. Dr. Zaidi? Call me. Immediately.

Click here to read “Scientists test blocking menopause hormone”.

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Why do some people soar under adversity and others stumble?


It’s been several years since I read The Glass Castle an autobiography by New York journalist and author Jeannette Walls and it still ranks as one of my favourite books. Walls grew up in a creative but highly dysfunctional family. Her mother was an artist and her father, quite simply, a dreamer who kept promising his family he was going to build a marvelous home for them out of glass and spent an inordinate amount of time working on the plans for his unrealistic scheme. Both parents were intelligent people but totally unequipped and unsuited to raising four children. As a result, Walls and her siblings frequently went hungry, lived an itinerant, unstable existence and were forced to parent themselves. Surprisingly, they all survived and surpassed their parents in making a success of themselves. How that happens and why some people rise above their beginnings while others fail is a subject of endless fascination to me.

Jeannette Walls’s personal story has now been made into a movie of the same title as the book starring Woody Harrelson as her alcoholic father Rex, Naomi Watts as her misguided mother Rosemary and Brie Larson playing the adult Jeannette. The movie is true to the book. Unfortunately two hours is not enough time to cover all the details of her complicated and erratic life but it still does an excellent job. Anyone who has lived with alcoholism in the family will understand the pain and uncertainty that accompanies loving a family member with an addiction. The story also serves as inspiration for those who are trapped in a difficult family dynamic. Jeannette Walls learned that her only escape lay in getting an education and extricating herself from her family. In a pact with her siblings, they agreed to support each other and build a better life for themselves. Which they did. Go see the movie and you’ll understand why I recommend it.

P.S. As if I didn’t get my fill of child neglect for one day, I doubled-down and because there was nothing else on television that night I watched Angela’s Ashes. The true story by Frank McCourt of his neglectful and abysmal childhood growing up in Ireland is eerily similar to that of Jeannette Walls, in a different decade in a different country. No money. Poor parenting. Alcoholic father. Vulnerable siblings. Blessed are the children.

Click here to read my original review of the book The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

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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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