BOOMERBROADcast

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


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The Girl With Seven Names had nine lives


If someone on your Christmas list enjoys books, I have a great recommendation and it’s not too late to have it delivered from Amazon. The Girl With Seven Names is the true story of how a young woman, with no foresight or planning escaped North Korea and became an international advocate for human rights. The book is a beautifully written, first-hand account of life for the average person in North Korea by someone who later came to experience the world beyond the Kim Jong autocracy. During her escape and resettlement, Min-young assumed a series of seven different names as part of the strategy needed to hide her past and create new identities to protect herself and her family still in North Korea. Hyeonseo Lee is the final name she retains.

Min-young was born and grew up in Hyesan, a North Korean town on the northern border with China. Hyesan was separated  from Changbai in China by a narrow river. Locals could wade across the river in waist-deep water or over ice in the winter when border guards on both sides were looking the other way or were sufficiently bribed to look the other way. This arrangement resulted in a brisk black market trade of superior Chinese consumer goods and food items coming across the border that were unavailable to most North Korean citizens. This trade supported Min-young’s family.

As a rebellious teenager of seventeen, Min-young made a decision to cross the river one night to visit the Chinese side, planning to return a few days later. Because of her age and naivety, she gave little thought to the gravity and consequences of her decision. If she had been caught coming or going, she and her entire family would be executed or at the very least deported to a labour camp. A series of decisions resulted in her being unable to return to North Korea. She traveled to visit distant relatives on the Chinese side who provided her with accommodation and help. She was constantly under threat of being exposed as an illegal immigrant which would result in her deportation and execution. An arranged marriage with a Chinese national seemed the only solution but Min-young got cold feet and fled. Over the next few years she assumes various identities and moves across the country trying to stay one step ahead of authorities, criminals and traitors. Through a complicated set of manoeuvres, Min-young eventually manages to escape to South Korea where life is not as she imagined it would be.

Who doesn’t love finding a good book under the tree? For you or a book-lover you know.

Most of us think we live in the best country in the world. Canadians are certainly entitled to feel we won the lottery being born in Canada. Americans have traditionally considered the United States to be the best country in the world, although, in fact, they fall further down the list. Canada consistently ranks as number two and the best is Switzerland, Germany or Denmark, depending on the source of the research. Citizens of North Korea have also been indoctrinated by the Kim-Jong regime to think they’re living in the best country in the world under the benevolent leadership of three generations of the Kim family. Despite famines, starvation and deprivation, North Koreans have no sense of context to compare their lives with the rest of the world. They grow up worshiping their ‘Great Leader’ or ‘Dear Leader’ as a god and their source of life. Those who escape quickly learn that things in the outside world are very different from what they’ve been told.

I absolutely could not put this book down. The author employs a literary J.R. Ewing cliff-hanger at the end of each chapter that further induced me to push on which I often did into the night. Hyeonseo Lee as she is now known has achieved local, national, then international acclaim for her human rights advocacy work, sharing her experiences to help others in similar situations. To be able to view life in North Korea from the perspective of someone who grew up there and compare it with a new life in a once-forbidden world is a rare insight. It’s a harrowing story of injustices suffered by citizens who live in countries without the freedoms we take for granted in Canada—a real eye-opener that will make you further appreciate our Canadian way of life and values. There wasn’t a single page of this book that I didn’t love and in view of the current tensions between the United States and North Korea it’s a timely read.

To order The Girl With Seven Names from Amazon.com click here.

 


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Are baby boomer women becoming less invisible?


Is it a mirage or are we gaining ground? The October issue of Italian Vogue, The Timeless Issue was dedicated to ‘mature’ women and featured Lauren Hutton on the cover. I was hoping to share some of their wisdom and bounty with Boomerbroadcast readers but I tried everywhere and couldn’t score a copy so we’ll just have to take their word for it. The good news is that when I was in Chapters/Indigo in October I did spot the British magazine woman&home (which sounds rather mumsie but is actually refreshingly ‘broad’) and it was all about us. Yes. It’s true. A magazine targeted at and about our generation—the smart, educated and hardworking demographic with a bit of experience under our elastic waist belts and some disposable change in our purses to spend on fashion and lifestyle. Imagine my delight. If you can find a copy of the October edition of British woman&home I assure you it’s worth the hefty $9.99 price tag as it was cover-to-cover full of relevant material for baby boomer women.

Lauren Hutton’s back on the runway and from time to time I see great fashion coverage on the internet of Ali McGraw in all her boho splendiforousness. I don’t normally look to celebs for fashion and style inspiration but Diane Keaton is a major exception along with the amazing Helen Mirren. Maye Musk is high-profile these days and although these ladies are all stick thin (which most boomers are not), the recognition is definitely encouraging.

Kudos to CITY-TV’s CityLine and CTV’s The Marilyn Denis Show for including mature and normal-sized women along with the requisite skinnies in their fashion presentations. Seeing an amply proportioned mature woman confidently walking out in stylish fashion is inspiring and gratifying. Blogs and websites for women our age are proliferating. I enjoy perusing these sites and try to share the good ones with Boomerbroadcast readers. It’s where I get most of my personal fashion inspiration since magazines are totally bereft of anything we can relate to. If you come across something you like and would like to share, please do so. We’re all in this together. Stay beautiful mes très chères.


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It’s the most glamorous time of the year


Everyone is busting out their sparkles now for the various seasonal celebrations. There are office Christmas parties—his and hers, black tie charity fund-raisers, family get-togethers and of course, New Years’ Eve. I’m no longer a young party animal. I’m now enjoying retirement and prefer a quiet evening in my LaZ-Girl chair with my little dog in my lap and a nice cup of tea at my side, binge-watching the latest Netflix offerings. Since retiring I’ve passed most of my sparkles and evening dresses on to better causes, tossed the stiletto’s and said farewell once and for all to small talk with business associates and people I hardly know over lavish dinners under mirrored disco balls.

Despite entering this quieter phase of my life, I still can’t resist admiring the bling and excess that confronts us at this time of year whenever we enter a store or mall. I marvel at the gorgeous sequined cocktail dresses and evening bags displayed on the mannequins in store windows. Those strappy silver heels that would cripple this old boomer’s feet after one step still emit their siren’s call. I imagine my former twenty-something body in those shimmery mini party dresses, then sigh at the realization I’ll never look that great again. The upside of the current state of affairs is knowing that I was never as happy then as I am now, so all’s well.

Give me strength, for this too shall pass.

November and December are when the major cosmetics companies bring out their big marketing guns, the AK47’s of the beauty business. Promotions, gift sets and purchase-with-purchase collections abound and I’m a sucker for all of it. Forty or fifty years ago I got a ‘free’ Frosted Apricot lipstick as part of an Estée Lauder promotion at Eaton’s and I was hooked. Miraculously, they still make that colour and it’s my go-to lipstick for all occasions and outfits. Those freebies were so much fun and introduced me to products that I soon incorporated into my ‘beauty’ routine. That’s the genius in their marketing. My biggest weakness with the most potential for being sucked in are those giant makeup and treatment kits offered by Clinique, Estée Lauder, Lancôme, Elizabeth Arden and other cosmetics behemoths in the weeks leading up to Christmas. You know the ones—buy this incredible assortment of products valued at $450.00 for only $65.00 with any Estée Lauder purchase. A dizzying array of blushers, eye shadows, multiple lipsticks (in colours I would never wear), mascara, eye liners, full-size bottles and jars of skin care products are all seductively displayed in a faux-croc travel case (usually in red) for my greedy pleasure. And I love it all.

. . . and visions of sugar plums.

Several years ago I caved and bought one of those purchase-with-purchase combos. Most of the products didn’t suit me so it languished in the drawer for months before I finally tossed or gave away its contents. And the travel case turned out to be neither efficient or practical. Even now, I have an embarrassing inventory of makeup and skin care products in my bathroom that mostly collect dust. As we age, we find that less is better and I no longer need or use so much of what was once part of my regular routine. Smokey eyes, facial contouring and iridescent shadows are and will remain distant memories. Moisturizing eye drops, industrial strength retinol and biotin are now front and centre.

So, if you happen to spot me drooling in front of the Estée Lauder counter with my credit card quivering in my hand, give me a smack and tell me to get myself off to Tim Horton’s and cool my heels. But first, I have to pick up a new Colour Envy lipstick in Defiant Coral at Estée Lauder and a Lancôme Hypnôse mascara with the corresponding eye makeup remover. That should qualify me for the cute promotional bonus. How’s that for step one in my 12-step programme to correcting my wanton ways and creating a better me?

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I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!


Satan made me do it. My first mistake was picking up the President’s Choice  300-gram chocolate bar with hazelnuts (actually I bought three but who’s counting) at The Great Canadian Superstore (just sounds so patriotic doesn’t it?). Thought they’d come in handy over the Christmas holidays. For the record, these chocolate bars are a product of France (good); they’re 3¼ inches wide by 11 inches long (better), they cost only $4.95 (best) and are amaaaazing. The chocolate was so fresh it melted in my mouth and crunching the hazelnuts allowed me to make it last longer. And, as everyone knows, like Halloween candy, holiday treats purchased ahead of time rarely make it to the home stretch. It’s a predictable and unfortunate fact of life.

The problem arose when I opened the package for just a “little taste”. Less than twenty-four hours later, the entire chocolate bar was gone. If I were Catholic I could go to confession and God’s representative would absolve me of my sin. In his great magnificence, he would probably wipe out the accompanying calories too. But because I’m not Catholic I’m forced to live with my transgressions in a seething, swirling vortex of shame, guilt and self-hate.

Forgive me for I have sinned and will probably continue to do so. Seeking salvation.

In my defence, I’m convinced the manufacturers of those chocolate bars include a highly addictive narcotic in the ingredients so we mere mortals are powerless against its pull. I can personally confirm that the same ingredient is also present in red licorice twizzlers (as evidenced by ninety little bags disappearing from my house a few days after Halloween), and Black Jack Cherry ice-cream. My rationale is the sooner I dispose of it (i.e. eat it) the sooner it’s no longer a temptation and household hazard. I realize I should know better than to even allow these goodies into the house, but sometimes a healthy diet of oatmeal, fruit, vegetables and  organic food just doesn’t cut it. It’s hard to avoid those special sweet-loaded holidays like Halloween and Christmas. And there’s nothing wrong with buying your own Valentine chocolates—I’m just confirming that in advance. Some diet advocates say we should allow ourselves little treats on a regular basis so we don’t feel deprived and won’t binge. That’s exactly what I was trying to do—just a little taste. While my intentions were honourable, my little slip-up turned into a major pig-out and I’m now considering converting religions so I can continue to live in peace with my conscience. I think those Catholics are on to something.

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What would you do if you had $800 million lying around?


Soon to be Scotiabank Arena for only $800+ million? By comparison, Rogers bought former SkyDome for a mere $25 million.

Scotiabank should be ashamed. They recently had a bit of extra change overflowing their vaults from all those service charges to customers so they decided to invest it in marketing. They’ve purchased the rights to have the Air Canada Centre, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team and Raptors basketball team, renamed Scotiabank Arena. I find this business decision to be an appallingly poor use of nearly a billion dollars. Let’s face it. We have five banks in Canada and because of excellent federal regulation our banks are strong and all five pretty much play on a level field. One’s as good as the next and they’re all pretty good. They pay reasonable dividends to investors and are less prone to financially raping their customers with dodgy lending schemes than the greedy American financial institutions. Therefore, how much do they need to market to a captive audience? To the tune of more than $800 million?

Off to a hockey game at Scotiabank Arena.

As a retired Corporate Marketing Manager I totally understand the merits of marketing and attaching your corporate name to a high-profile sports venue. Let’s leave that to the McDonald’s, the Coca-Cola’s and other brands like the beer companies who have a stake in the business. In the case of Scotiabank, their name on the Air Canada Centre would be flaunted in the faces of hundreds of thousands of commuters and visitors who drive past the old hangar on the Gardiner Expressway every day. Their head office tower in downtown Toronto with the reflective windows containing real gold is already an icon on the Toronto skyline. Do banks really need to promote to a captive audience with the kind of exposure offered by a sports and concert facility?

Imagine what else Scotiabank could have done with such an enormous amount of money if they put it to better use within the communities where they sell mortgages, finance car loans and invest our life savings. Have they ever considered a network of shelters for victims of domestic violence and homelessness? Scotiabank Shelters. Or what about investing in after school programs in economically and socially challenged neighbourhoods? Scotiabank Investing in Lives  programs. Many young people go to school hungry every day. Scotiabank Healthy School Meals. A large segment of our population is financially illiterate and have no hope of climbing out of the poverty and/or debt cycle. Perhaps support for education, mentoring and interning in financial institutions for young people? Scotiabank Banks on Futures.

Just imagine . . . Scotiabank Cancer Treatment Centre emblazoned on the front of the building.

More significantly, what about emblazoning the Scotiabank logo on a dedicated new cancer treatment facility? One billion dollars would fund one heck of a fine building. It could even include accommodation for family of out-of-town patients affected by onerous accommodation and parking costs at Toronto Hospitals—something like Ronald McDonald House for families of adult patients. Or they could build smaller facilities in rural communities that don’t have access to local treatment centres. I found Scotiabank’s choice of allocating nearly one billion dollars to having their name attached to a sports venue that charges hundreds and even thousands of dollars for tickets to events affordable by only the elite to be shameful and inappropriate. Banks have a greater corporate responsibility to serving their community and Scotiabank could have done so much more. It’s just wrong. Or am I?

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Are the fashion experts crazy or am I?


Boomers just wanna have fun with fashion too.

Call me a bitch but one of my favourite old lady past-times is sitting in my LaZgirl chair mocking and debunking the fashion advice I see on television and in many ‘women’s’ magazines. I love watching CITY TV’s CityLine as well as CTV’s The Marilyn Denis Show and The Social. I truly enjoy those shows but lordy lordy, am I the only one who thinks much of their fashion advice is a lot of hooey? To their credit, many of the models and makeover candidates featured have normal (a.k.a. not stick thin) bodies which makes it easier for we mortals to relate to the fashion challenges presented, but, the ‘before’ pictures are sometimes better than the ‘after’.

The Marilyn Denis show. My favourite host and everyone’s girlfriend.

Peter Papapetrou and Alexis Honce on The Marilyn Denis Show are my favourite targets. Sometimes Papapetrou nails it, but most of the time the outfits he comes up with are jokingly inappropriate. I like Greta Monahan but much of her fashion advice is just plain weird. Last week she took a top-heavy, tall, solidly built woman who wanted to minimize her ample bust area and Monahan put her in a faux-fur vest. Granted, it was in a dark colour but wouldn’t a light-weight fabric have been more flattering? And what woman alive can tolerate the heat generated by spending the day in a fur vest unless you live above the sixty-nineth parallel? Tracey Moore’s fashions could be better. I love her clothing supplier, Freda’s, but her choices often miss the mark. And, I have to seriously question the sensibility of anyone who would be a fan of jumpsuits, which she is. Have you ever tried going to the bathroom in one of those things? I’ll spare you the details.

One of my biggest beefs is the choice of shoes with wide ankle straps on women with short, heavy legs. Then, the fashion experts compound the disaster by putting the ladies in flouncy skirts or dresses. Or, what about the short-waisted women they insist on outfitting in belted dresses or tops with the sad little belt peeking out two inches below the bustline? Much as I criticize Marilyn Denis’s inflexible choice of jeggings and maternity tops on nearly every show, at least she recognizes she has issues with her waistline and tries to accommodate it. Once in a while she opts for a skirt and shows off her gorgeous legs but she should do it more often. And I rarely see anything on The Social’s ladies that I would wear, but then I’m not their age. I do admire their courage though.

CityLine’s Lynn Spence can generally be counted on for good advice.

Lynn Spence is a generously proportioned woman and she understands the difficulties normal women have in trying to dress fashionably. Most of her choices are not too bad but often she seems to favour promoting the retailer more than the interests of fashion for real women. I miss Sandra Pittana. Her taste is more off-beat but always fun to watch. Lisa Rogers has a reasonable fashion sensibility and I generally enjoy most of her choices. Jessica Mulroney’s tastes lean toward styles geared to women who look like her—wisp-thin young working mothers who could wear a tea towel with a bit of string and look great. She shouldn’t have done whatever she did to her upper lip though.

When these so-called fashion experts have access to an entire mall full of clothing or even a single retailer, how can they make such dreadful choices. I’d love to have the resources they do. I find myself screaming at the television, “Is that the best you can do?”. And the fashion magazines are even worse. Where’s the inspiration for real women in a sea of anorexic teenage genetic flukes?

And while I’m ranting here, does anyone recognize that there’s a whole generation of women out there called Baby Boomers who are completely ignored as a potential target market? The majority of makeovers are new mothers returning to the workforce, looking to regain their business chic while coping with postpartum bodies. Boomers are a huge demographic with the time and the money to spend on fashion, not to mention the time to watch daytime television and cruise the malls after a ladies’ lunch. But who am I to criticize? Are the fashionistas living in some parallel universe that I don’t get or is it just me being a fashion-illiterate bitch?

It’s only because we care, sweetie dahlings. Just want to keep the economy rolling along.

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I never thought it could happen to me . . . but it did . . . and it could be you.


Never ever leave your purse unattended.

Never leave your purse unattended.

Just the other day I listened sympathetically to the story of how my ninety-one-year-old aunt had her purse stolen as she was loading her groceries into the back of her car last week at the supermarket (hopefully I have those genes that will allow me to still shop on my own and drive at ninety-one). It’s a horrible experience for anyone much less someone in their nineties. Sympathetic as I was, I also felt a bit smug because I’m overly cautious about my own purse in public. I use a metal purse hook that hangs on the side of a table which is handy in food courts and restaurants so my purse is always practically sitting in my lap and safe. (Yes, honey, unlike men who own only one wallet, women need more than one purse.) When we travel, I wear a money pouch under my clothes and carry a small change purse with a few foreign currency bills zipped in an inside pocket of a multi-compartment cross-body bag, which I always wear across my stomach. Thieves would need a couple of hours to mine through all the zipped compartments to find my meagre stash. I also leave all my credit cards at home except one.

Food courts and restaurants are ripe targets for purse thieves.

Food courts and restaurants are ripe targets for purse thieves.

Unfortunately, I let my guard down last week. Just before leaving to meet a girlfriend for lunch at Panera Bread across from Sherway Gardens Mall in Toronto, I switched purses, from a compact efficient one, to a large sack-like bag that turns digging for my wallet into a spelunking adventure. (If you’ve seen the Subway commercials where the girl disappears head-first into her bag, you’ll know what I mean.) After placing my order, I paid the cashier with cash from my wallet, took the little electronic thingie the waiter uses to find me with my food and walked to a table. I put the electronic device down on the table to stake my territory, picked up the paper cup and my purse and headed for the drink dispenser. When I came back, instead of securing my purse safely on its hook in front of me, I casually dropped it on the floor beside my feet.

Toward the end of the lunch, a young couple arrived at the table next to ours. She was wearing a very bad wig, large black sunglasses and a very short black dress. When she sat down, she specifically moved her chair until its back was practically touching the table between me and my friend. At the time, I shrugged and thought nothing more of it. Until I arrived at my next stop, the grocery store, and tried to find my wallet in my purse. Gone. Disappeared. Nowhere to be seen, no matter how much I ripped through the contents of my purse.

thief5The reality of what had happened hit me when I got home and dumped my bag to confirm I’d been robbed. Anyone who has experienced a wallet being stolen knows how devastating and terrifying it can be, not to mention inconvenient. Losing cash is painful but minor compared to losing the security of credit cards, identification, drivers’ license, OHIP card and other valuable items. Fortunately, about a year ago, I removed all the important cards and ID from my wallet and put them in one of those ubiquitous, accordion-fold metal containers designed to thwart electronic data skimmers. That saved my fat old fanny, somewhat. Apart from some cash, my wallet only contained my Scene movie card, some seniors’ tickets for Toronto Transit, my blogging and home business cards, and two or three blank cheques for emergencies. That meant going to the bank to cancel all my chequing accounts, flagging them for fraud and being reissued new accounts. I’m still waiting for all the fallout from preauthorized payments for utilities and other expenses when they start bouncing.

I called Panera Bread twice afterward to see if anyone had turned in a wallet, to no avail. I also went back and asked the manager if they had a security camera that could throw some light on what happened. She was sympathetic but said they can only access security videos under orders from the police department.  Hard lesson learned.

Here’s what you can do to help prevent theft:

It only takes a second.

It only takes a second.

I never thought this would happen to me but it did because I let my guard down just once. Please take this as a lesson and protect yourself. Here are a few things you can do:

  1. If you don’t already have purse hooks (see below for how to purchase), get several and put one in each purse. Be sure to use them whenever you’re in public. Yorkdale Shopping Centre in north Toronto has ingenious little double hooks on the underside of the tables in their new upper level food court especially for hanging purses and bags. USE THEM. I have no doubt a woman instituted that little design accoutrement. I wish all restaurants and food courts had them.
  2. Never put your purse on the floor where it can be surreptitiously accessed or taken altogether. We all know someone who has had this happen.
  3. There is no such thing as being too careful.

    There is no such thing as being too careful.

    Separate your cash from credit cards and I.D. Keep cash in a wallet or change purse and secure your cards and valuables in a separate secure metal holder. This is moot if your entire purse is stolen, but it partially saved my bacon this time.

  4. Make it hard for thieves to find your wallet(s) by zipping them into inner pockets of your purse or handbag.
  5. Backpacks are easy targets for thieves.
  6. Never let your purse off your shoulder or arm when shopping. Ensure it’s buckled, locked, zipped, clasped or whatever keeps it securely closed at all times.

These suggestions might help you avoid what I experienced and I’m sure there are more ideas for staying safe and secure. I’d welcome your feedback in the Comment section of this posting so I can share your advice with my readers. Be careful and be safe fellow Boomers.

 

 

There are many places to get purse hooks. I ordered a whole box of them a few years ago from a company called Chatt.com but here’s a link to one from Amazon: Click here or here for another one. At less than $4.00 each, they’re a good investment. I keep one in every purse I own.

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