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What did you have for breakfast?

Not in my front yard.

Our house is located at the end of an eleven-home enclave on a T-shaped street. It’s tricky to find without specific instructions, particularly on a dark night. Naturally, little Halloween trick or treaters are reluctant to turn the corner where our illuminated pumpkin on the front porch confirms we’re open for business on the big night. I particularly love the little ones who often look bewildered as they’re being toted from house to house in the dark, wearing funny outfits they don’t understand. We ate dinner early to be ready for the onslaught, stacked the goodies by the front door, turned the inside front hall light on and sat anxiously in our his and hers La-Z-Boy® chairs waiting for all the little Cinderella’s, Spidermen, zombies, Big Birds and other assorted costumed munchkins. We turn every outside light on to make the path to our house less scary and more welcoming but despite our best efforts at hospitality we received only two (!!!) visitors on Halloween this year—the 12-year-old boy in camouflage gear from two doors down and a single pint-sized superhero of indeterminate gender. What happened? Were the parents unable to cobble together a politically correct costume for their little ones so they just opted out and stayed home?

I can see I’m going to have to take extra measures to try and lure trick or treaters to our house next year. I could place fluorescent traffic cones along the sidewalk and hire a policeman with white gloves and an official flashlight to direct children to our door. Or does that sound too creepy, even for Halloween? We’re still smarting from the rejection and don’t care to experience a repeat of this year’s poor turnout.

You can never be too prepared.

Last year we had sixteen visitors and our friends at the more visible front of our little court received over one hundred trick or treaters and had to come and relieve us of some of our loot to pass out after they ran out. We’re never quite sure how many will ring our doorbell on Halloween but just to be on the safe side, I stock extra goodies. With the foresight of any good host, my hand-outs are something we enjoy in case there are left-overs. Then, there’s also the issue of the peculiar ‘evaporation’ of supplies before the big night so extra inventory is essential. This year I bought a box of fifty bags of potato chips. I actually prefer ripple chips but they went the way of Trump’s integrity this year and were nowhere to be found—not at the grocery stores, Costco or Wal-Mart. Since potato chips are rather unimaginative, I felt a bit embarrassed and planned to top off the handout with little chocolate bars. Then, at the last minute on Tuesday, I sent my husband out to buy packages of red licorice Twizzlers (see personal preference comment above) in case we or our neighbours ran short.

Because we had only two visitors, I’m now researching how to recycle ninety packages of red licorice that cost $25.00 (that’s what happens when men shop) that are now on sale at the same store for half-price, forty-eight bags of a brand of potato chips I don’t care for, and several dozen little chocolate bars that taste like icky brown wax. Any suggestions? I suppose I could make forty-eight tuna casseroles to crumble the potato chips on. Or use the puffy bags of chips as packing material when mailing packages at Christmas. I’m sure the grandchildren would much prefer bags of potato chips instead of styrofoam pellets in their gift boxes. The chocolate bars could be handy for stabilizing wobbly chairs or table legs. They might even work as temporary glue when I run out of Elmers. With a little zap in the microwave to soften them up they could be repurposed as caulking around our drafty doors and dryer vent. Or, I could keep them in the console of my car as part of my emergency rations when I’m stranded in a snowstorm. The problem with that is emergencies are highly subjective and they might not last until winter. Waiting at a slow red light qualifies, as does going through the automatic car wash. And as we all know, frozen is no obstacle to devouring canned chocolate frosting, cake, cookies and other rations in times of need. We’re experts at adapting stale and otherwise inedible treats to accommodate cravings.

Breakfast of champions.

The beauty of Halloween candy is it keeps forever. I’ll bet the archeologists who uncovered Tutankhaman’s tomb in ancient Egypt found toffees that were still edible after centuries of being stashed in cool, dark urns. In a few years when I’ve passed on and my executors go through my house, they’ll still be able to eat those tiny Mars Bars and KitKats they find hidden in my night table. That’s the advantage of buying quality. It lasts. When you’re having menopause cravings there’s nothing as satisfying in your hour of desperation as year-old Halloween candy. Ask any baby boomer woman. In fact, the calories probably diminish after awhile so the older, the better. I should probably tackle those boxes of goodies by the front door right away as they’re a definite tripping hazard and at my age I can’t afford any broken bones. I’m pretty sure I can find a use for the red licorice but I won’t disclose it here in case my friends at Weight Watchers read this. Or I could save everything for next year. In the meantime, I’m going to have to keep an eagle eye on what my husband eats for breakfast until I dispose of the loot. A woman’s work never ends.

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I’ve hit an existential wall. Am I the only one?

Do you ever get the feeling that everything is just too much? Too much bad news. Too much media. Too much poverty and abuse in the world. Too much crime, conflict and consumerism. Too much Trump. The wars are unending. Cancer is rampant and still impacting far too many lives. I’m personally spending too much time on Facebook, too much time reading newspapers and not enough time being productive, whatever that is. So many issues are pressing on me to take a moral position—the new niqab laws in Quebec, political rhetoric, women’s issues, saving the environment and bettering humanity. Are our politicians ever going to actually represent the interests of the people and not just their own political interests? And now, O.J. Simpson is back out on the dating scene, living the high life. Are we on the eve of destruction or have things always been this bad? And, as a baby boomer, I remember the protest riots against the Vietnam war, racism and threats of nuclear war we experienced in the fifties and sixties.

The irony is that I am happier than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m retired with a comfortable home, a great husband and financial security. But television commercials, billboard and magazine advertising are always reminding me that I should be better, do better and generally live my life better. Despite my best efforts to the contrary, I still fall far short of the best me. I still drink Diet Coke from time to time. I do not practise yoga or lift weights to build bone density. I do not volunteer time to help my community and I should probably give more of my time and energy to worthy causes. I’m now about three months into my latest television news sabbatical which spares me listening to some of the wretchedness of the world. And reading the newspaper with my morning pot of tea allows me to skip over the parts that cause me stress.

Am I a bad person?

I never miss Real Time With Bill Maher on HBO on Friday night. His liberal (to be clear, that’s a small “l”) perspective is interesting and thought-provoking. But last week he wacked me upside the head with his final comments at the end of the show slamming our obsession with digital media—Facebook in particular (YouTube link below). It was a reminder that FB can and has been a dangerous tool in mind-control for political purposes. It’s largely an exercise in vanity and ego inflation. He suggests it has moved away from its original purpose of sharing—in a good way. Ouch! I know I spend too much time on Facebook. I use it to extend the reach of my blog and post little to no personal content. I also enjoy keeping track of people I have little other contact with, scoring great recipes from time to time and seeing what friends and acquaintances are up to on FB. I can’t disagree with him but I still love Facebook and the internet. Does that make me a loser? Am I part of the problem?

What does one have to do for a living to be able to afford this kind of disposable income.

Consumerism is superseding community

I love to follow blogs for baby boomer women and in the course of my searching have come across a few sites that are shockingly materialistic. In particular, one blog resells designer purses, shoes and accessories and quite frankly following the postings is one of those guilty pleasures I can’t resist. When I read that someone is selling a $1,200.00 pair of Valentino cage heels because she’s bored with them after one or two wearings, I’m practically apoplectic. Or what about the top half of a teeny tiny boring little Gucci bikini (she lost the bottom half!!!) that cost more than a thousand dollars for a few square inches of boring navy fabric. The other day there was a $12,000.00 Rolex watch for resale (not sure what the original price was). My posted comment “What on earth do you have to do for a living to afford accessories like this?” was removed by the moderator. I feel ashamed to even read these postings but my indignation keeps my blood pressure surging. There are obviously people out there with problems that do not involve global warming or worrying about whether Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee are going to nuke us off the face of the earth.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are the advocates of minimalism and much as I admire their ethic, it’s not something I could ever achieve. While it’s lovely and virtuous to imagine living with one good jacket, the perfect pair of jeans and a few tee shirts, it’s not going to happen in this household. And for that I feel guilty. I feel guilty that there are clothes in my closet that are never worn but for a variety of reasons (you know what I’m talking about) cannot part with them. I feel helpless when I see the endless ads on television asking for money for children living in poverty overseas. I know there are so many people in the world who have miserable lives and I’m so blessed.

The more I hear, see and read about, the more stressed and depressed I get. This is despite the fact I’m retired and no longer facing daily workplace stress, sexual or gender discrimination, financial difficulties or serious health problems. But because so many others are, I cannot clear my head and find a way of living with peacefully with my blessings. At the same time, I don’t want to isolate myself from what’s happening in the world by eschewing media completely. Perhaps it’s time to dig out my gratitude journal and start making daily entries again. Am I alone in feeling this way? How do you cope with the wall of bad news we encounter every day?

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There’s no business like shoe business

While we can understand Carrie Bradshaw’s appetite for shoes, most of us don’t have her budget.

You’ll definitely feel less guilty about what you spend on shoes when you learn that design mogul Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. just shelled out $1.5 billion to buy Jimmy Choo Ltd. I know I felt vindicated when I compared that shoe purchase to my own weakness for buying too many pairs of FitFlops™. At least my brand of choice provides a level of comfort. Fabulous shoes are like little magic carpets. When we’re wearing great shoes we feel like we can soar above the crowds. We achieve a level of fabulousness that is unmatched and unrelated to size. Yummy shoes are works of art, transporters of emotion, a reflection of our personality. Regardless of our waistline, when our feet look great, we feel great.

It’s obvious to women that most shoes today are designed by men. The styles offered are tantamount to foot binding and even that’s illegal in a certain country not known for a strong history of human rights. Do the stores actually sell those five-inch heels to real women, of any age? So many shoes today are not designed to actually walk in but should be displayed in a curio cabinet or alongside the crystal decanters on your diningroom buffet. And who uses crystal decanters any more. They’re obsolete; their practicality has been usurped by their lack of practicality, which is why I see so many Louboutins, Valentinos and Jimmy Choos on a resale site I like to spy on (my guilty pleasure), with the notation “worn once”.

This must be what heaven looks like.

Boomers are past wearing stilettos. We had our day several decades ago when we could run to work in high heels, eschew arch supports and gad about town in flat-footed cheap sneakers. Who among us hasn’t fallen off our platforms and twisted an ankle? We’re now in the market for industrial strength arch supports and deeply cushioned soles. Many of us swear by Birkies although my foot doc isn’t a fan saying Birkenstock soles are too hard. Others prefer sneakers. I’ve had good luck with Eileen Fisher shoes (only when I can get them on sale) while anything by Franco Sarto cripples my feet. One thing I have learned over the years is that good shoes are worth the extra money. They’re more comfortable; they last longer and they generally fit better. Quality leather is flexible and it breathes. If you’ve ever been afflicted with plantar fasciitis (an inflamed ligament running from the ball of the foot to the heel which generates severe pain when you put your heel down) or other foot ailments, you’re forever diligent about footwear.

With some research and consultation with friends, stylish, comfortable footwear can be found. The internet and various fashion blogs for baby boomer women are helpful in finding what is comfortable and fashionable for our generation. It’s not mission impossible. My personal favourite brand is FitFlop™ designed by a British foot doctor. I own several pair of the sandals and now that they’ve started producing sneakers and other shoes and boots, I’m expanding my inventory. The soles are soft with a slight rise at the heel and good arch supports. I normally wear a size 7 shoe but FitFlops fit large so I wear a size 6 in the sandals and a 6.5 in shoes. Absolutely love ’em. Here’s a link to Amazon if you want to check them out. Click here for FitFlop on Amazon.

I’m not sure Michael Kors got good value for their $1.5 billion investment in Jimmy Choo but we’ve all made our share of mistakes in shoe purchases over the years and have the dust collectors in the backs of our closets to prove it. Shoes evoke such intense attachments, even our mistakes are hard to part with. I’d love to hear your comments on what footwear works and doesn’t work for you. Tell me your stories (click Leave a Comment, above, top left), the good, the bad and the ugly so we can share and learn from our experiences.

What shoes work best for you?

 

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I’m glad I don’t have to outfit children for Halloween

It’s a political mine field.

The PC’ers are now targeting Halloween costumes. It has been deemed politically incorrect to appropriate a variety of ethnic looks adapted for Halloweening at school and in your local neighbourhood. Dressing as a Japanese geisha, an indigenous North American or an Arab sheik is considered disrespectful appropriation of other cultures. Don’t even consider outfitting your child in a striped Breton T-shirt and beret to pretend they’re French for an evening of fun. Our go-to home-made costume as boomer kids was usually a tramp because, unlike today where everyone buys their ready-made costumes at the store, we fashioned our own from whatever we could scrounge from around the house. In today’s world that would eliminate a tramp costume in case it disparages the economically underprivileged. Even dressing as a witch supposedly demeans the Wicca religion.

Let me state clearly up front, I agree that Halloween costumes that are intended to negatively represent cultural or religious symbols are absolutely not acceptable. However, some of the most creative and endearing Halloween outfits I’ve ever seen were never intended to demean but most often were aspirational. The children considered their look a compliment, an homage to whatever style they were portraying. Many years ago, a little bi-racial boy in my neighbourhood regularly turned up hand-in-hand with his mother at my door in his dalmatian costume, until he outgrew it. I adored his costume and him. Another little curly-haired brown-skinned seven-year-old was decked out in a three-piece pinstriped suit with crisp white shirt and tie depicting Johnny Cochrane. We may not have admired Johnny Cochrane’s cause, but the costume was brilliant and deserving of an extra treat.

Could this offend farmers?

These issues must present incredible challenges for parents trying to create imaginative costumes for their children. No more cowboys and ‘Indians’; no turbans, no ‘blues’ musicians. Will we be offending a particular group if our children are dressed as rappers or crew members from McDonald’s? If I answer the door dressed as myself, an aging baby boomer in a comfortable T-shirt and yoga pants will I offend my entire generation? That just leaves the graphic not-quite-human comic book heroes like Batman, Spiderman and Wonder Woman. Or would that offend the acting profession? Should we revisit the ethics of actors wearing ethnic costumes of any kind? Would dressing your child as a pumpkin offend farmers? Would dressing as a farmer offend farmers?

When I was little, I dreamed of being a saloon girl, just like Kitty on Gunsmoke. I couldn’t imagine anything better than wearing beautiful, sparkly evening dresses all day every day, feathers in my hair, a handsome Marshall as my boyfriend. I often pretended I was Kitty when playing with friends. But dressing as a benevolent hooker for Halloween in today’s world is unimaginable. I’m just glad I’m not the parent of young children faced with running the gauntlet of political correctness. Oh no! I said ‘gauntlet’. Did I just offend indigenous people? Give me strength. Do I need sensitivity training? Now I can’t even dress up as a ‘Smartie’. I’m so confused. I think I’ll just turn out the lights and hide behind the sofa on Halloween rather than offend someone in the LGBTQ community by giving candy to a small child dressed as a princess.

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Have the feds gone mad?

First it was the farmers. Now it’s the minimum-wage earners working in the retail sector. Can the Revenue Canada bottom-feeders stoop any lower? Their pathetic proposed tax grabs are beyond punitive; they border on masochistic. Canada’s Minister of Finance Bill Morneau obviously did not grow up on a farm, or even keep company with someone who grew up on a farm. If he did, he’d think twice about sticking it to farmers who pay their children a couple of dollars an hour to help in the barn with the milking at 6:30 a.m. before they eat breakfast and go off to school. Or variety store owners and other family businesses whose children work nights and weekends to help keep their businesses afloat.

Now the feds have retail and other lower to middle-income workers in their sights. They’re proposing to tax employees on the value of their employee discounts, a tax grab that is beyond shameful. Retail sales associates in clothing stores are encouraged to wear brands carried by their stores to help promote sales. And the system works. I’ve often been in a store, admired something a sales person was wearing and purchased it for myself. That sales person probably earns minimum wage or slightly more and often spends most of what she or he earns in the store. And now that miniscule benefit has caught the attention of the Revenue Canada rapists.

Unless you’re a McCain or a Weston, most family businesses are marginally profitable and come without pensions and other benefits.

Several years ago I worked for a company that provided free parking to employees in the company-owned lot beside the building. The tax auditors tried to extract taxes on an obscure estimated dollar value of that benefit for an amount the employees didn’t even receive. Premiums for supplementary health benefits provided by employers are taxed. Support payments to single mothers that have already been taxed are re-taxed when received by the parent with custody of children. Child support payments are obviously a huge windfall for struggling parents. When is the insanity going to stop? We elect our politicians to represent the people but it seems we’ve elected an economically elite group of Marie Antoinette wanna-be’s who are completely out of touch with how real people live and try to make ends meet. I have no objection to going after the high rollers; that’s the nature of a capitalist society. But picking on the little guy, the ninety-nine percenters is just plain immoral.

Taxpayers must remain vigilant and not let the government get away with their dirty tricks.

I don’t know what the answer is. If I thought elected officials actually listened to the constituents who pay their salaries and grotesquely generous pensions I’d suggest writing, calling or emailing your member of parliament. But they’re probably too busy trying to figure out how to tax the income on your child’s lemonade stand. But it’s worth a try. Unless we storm the Bastille, the elite in Ottawa are going to step up their dirty work. We must remain vocal and invested in what they’re trying to sneak past us. I think they’ve gone mad. They’ve certainly made me mad.

 

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Breaking up is still hard to do

As more of our generation is retiring, accepting early golden parachute offers or even sadly, being made redundant through restructuring, I thought I would republish a piece I wrote a couple of years ago. The message endures.

Bette Davis is famously quoted as saying, “Getting old ain’t for sissies”. Retirement is a natural by-product of getting old and requires attention. For some, it’s wonderful; for others, not so much. I definitely fall into the former category but for those who are forced to retire before they’re psychologically or financially ready it can be devastating.

You’re out! You’re no longer part of the team.

At the risk of generalizing, I think it’s often more difficult for men than women to retire. The Boomer generation and our parents’ generation is characterized by men who devoted their entire adult lives to their work. Perhaps it was a family business, a demanding occupation like medicine or maybe it was a prestigious corporate position. Retirement means these individuals have lost not only something to do every day but their very identity. Gen X’ers and millennials watched their parents (us, Boomers) doing this, got the message and have flipped that psychology on its ear.

When you’re retired, people are no longer impressed by what you once did for a living. When you’re not Mr. Big, President of ABC International Corporation it can create a huge vacuum. Because you no longer have the power to improve the lives of your former coworkers they drop you from their social and business circle. This alienation can be devastating. The 2002 movie About Schmidt with Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates clearly illustrates the shock of transition. When Schmidt, played by Jack Nicholson attends his retirement party, the speeches and platitudes from his coworkers at the insurance company where he had dedicated his life were so cliché and familiar it was heartbreaking.

My friend David worked in the marketing department of a giant international corporation. The corporate culture was casual and creative with frequent product launches, brainstorming sessions, corporate retreats and big-budget product promotions . Co-workers often socialized outside of work hours going on skiing weekends and attending parties together.  When David retired he expected his former coworkers to keep him in the loop but the invitations stopped. He was understandably confused and hurt that people he had always considered friends as well as co-workers no longer wanted his company.

business lunch2
Business associates and friends are not the same thing, despite what it seems.

Another executive I know from the financial services sector was similarly affected when suddenly dropped by his circle of business friends when he retired. He felt abandoned and couldn’t understand why his calls weren’t returned and no one wanted to join him for lunch anymore. Once the unspoken message became clear, he was forced to accept the truth—he was no longer a somebody. His business friends were in fact not real friends at all but merely business associates and when he could no longer do anything for them they no longer needed or wanted his company.

This particular aspect of retirement can result in feelings similar to divorce. The entity that has been a huge part of your life is gone and no longer cares to associate with you. Like divorce where you lose being part of a couple, loss of some friends, probably your home and assets, you lose a large component of your life. A new strategy for moving on is required.  For some individuals it might take the form of part-time consulting work to keep a hand in the business world, albeit to a lesser degree. Others may prefer a more relaxed approach, taking time to enjoy all the activities that working did not allow for. This can include golf and other sports, taking courses, spending time with the grandkids, pursuing hobbies or perhaps a part-time job.

Retiring for me, however, meant total and utter freedom at last. Now I have the time to read voraciously, entertain at my leisure, get together with friends, take vacations whenever I please and do dozens of other things I’ve waited for my entire life. Fortunately, it was and is the best time of my life and just keeps getting better.

Over the years I have observed people approaching retirement with different attitudes. Some were looking forward to european travelhaving the time to travel and do things with friends. Others were bewildered and had no constructive plan for filling their time. Those who were not prepared were often the ones who developed health issues that may have contributed to an early demise. Interestingly, many of the retiring career women I have worked with were often the ones who had a Mediterranean cruise or a tour of Ireland scheduled for the week after they finished work. They had plans to volunteer at a library or hospital and hit the ground running. These are generally the people who live the longest and have the richest, most fulfilling retirement.

Enjoying retirement does not have to involve memberships in expensive golf clubs or Mediterranean cruises. The most simple things now give me enormous pleasure. There’s nothing better than enjoying a second cup of tea as I take my time over the morning paper.  The luxury of being able to go grocery shopping minus the crowds on a Tuesday morning or hanging sheets outside on the line to dry in the morning breezes still give me great pleasure. The novelty of enjoying a ladies lunch with a chilled glass of Pinot Grigio and not having to rush back to the office has still not worn off. Entertaining friends is much more pleasurable when you have the luxury of time to shop, cook and prepare for your guests.

Just like in a divorce, breaking up with your employer can be devastating or it can be yourhippie boomers2 “get out of jail free” card. When that door slams behind you, the outcome is entirely up to you. I say, crank up the 60s music and let’s rock n’ roll. As Boomer Broads we’re living our best years now.

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