BOOMERBROADcast

Essays, rants and reflections on life after sixty for baby boomers who rocked life in THE sixties. And lots of book reviews too.


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Is your clean house making you fat?


Every time I come across a new angle or theory on the science of weight loss, I get a little excited thinking maybe there’s some minor tweak I can make with minimal effort in my lifestyle that will give me back the body I took for granted in my twenties. The business of weight loss is a multi-billion dollar industry built around feeding our insecurities about how we look. The health and wellness industries throw out the bait and reel us in.

It’s not complicated. We’re a privileged society. There’s so much food available, much of which is unhealthy, that we overeat and don’t work it off. Menopause throws the final wrench in the works making it impossible to stay trim without constant effort and vigilance. University students are familiar with the freshman fifteen (pounds) just as boomer women are familiar with the meno fifteen . . . or twenty, or thirty that happens when we hit fifty-ish. Four years ago I spent an entire winter attending Weight Watchers, losing ten pounds, only to put it back on again. I’m lucky compared to those who work harder to lose even more and pack it all back on. We spend an inordinate amount of time, money and emotional energy on weight issues. What a waste of resources.

We’re so brainwashed about the evils of consuming carbs that enjoying a simple piece of toast with jam can bring on paroxysms of guilt and shame. I love ACE bread and only allow myself to enjoy it toasted for breakfast as a treat on weekends. Living on vegetables and protein alone is never going to work. I try not bring things like ice-cream and cookies into the house, but sometimes a gal’s just gotta have a hot dog. But, as we all know, cheating is a slippery slope. As soon as bread is declared an all-inclusive health food I’m going to eat nothing but toast a least three times a day, for the rest of my life. In the fickle world of health advice, it is a possibility. I keep hoping.

Could this be making me fat?

Then, a few days ago I read in the newspaper that household cleaners have been proven to affect the gut flora in children. When small children are exposed to high levels of the chemicals in cleaning fluids, the good gut microbes are lowered. According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the gut flora of 757 infants and children up to three years old exposed to cleaning chemicals resulted in higher BMI (body mass index) readings than those exposed to ecofriendly cleaners.

Naturally, this information leads me to conclude (not scientifically, of course) that the reason I’m overweight is because I’ve been exposed to too many chemical cleaning products for more than 70 years. So, that knowledge combined with the inevitable, irreversible menopause fifteen means I’m wasting my time and money trying to lose weight through traditional commercial health and wellness methods. Either I stop cleaning or I risk decreasing my gut flora and I’ll get even fatter. I think the evidence is pretty clear. Don’t clean. Stay thin. Wouldn’t you agree?


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Life is not all political in the Oval Office . . . or is it?


From The Corner of The Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein is not an exposé about the political goings-on behind the  scenes à la Bob Woodward or Michael Wolff. It’s chick lit, for better or worse, and I’m inclined to lean toward better. This memoir is about Dorey-Stein’s five years working at The White House during the Obama administration, including her love affairs prior to and during her time working there and her relationships with fellow employees. As a low-level staffer, she was not privy to confidential meetings with executive staff but she was privileged to accompany the President and his staff on overseas trips, local fund-raisers, family vacations in Hawaii and meetings with foreign leaders.

Dorey-Stein was an under-employed English teacher working several part-time jobs when she spotted an ad for a stenographer on Craig’s List.  Desperate to work at something other than waiting tables, she applied for the job, then blew off the interview. Because part of her past experience included tutoring students at the prestigious Sidwell Friends School attended by Malia Obama, the interviewer followed up and Dorey-Stein was given a second chance to interview.

What she didn’t realize and had not been disclosed in the advertisement was that the job was as a stenographer at The White House, the big one on Pennsylvania Avenue. The job required her to be part of a team that attended every interview, press conference and public speaking event attended by President Barack Obama. His words were recorded and transcribed by stenographers like Dorey-Stein for release to various media sources as well as being kept for historical records. She does have opinions, however. After the Boston Marathon bombing attack, her comments, “You’d think these ‘red-blooded’ conservative congressmen who don’t want equal rights for gays or the right to choose for women would be embarrassed to have the NRA so publicly cupping their balls.” Good one!

Beck Dorey-Stein was there, in the big house, during the saner Obama years.

When she was hired, Stein was advised to “keep her boyfriend” and avoid relationships with secret service agents or fellow employees. Naturally, a young woman in her twenties with raging hormones and a flair for being social found it difficult to adhere to that advice. She was soon romantically involved with a senior member of the executive staff, betraying her boyfriend and her principles. Her new lover, Jason was a chronic and well-known womanizer but she’s already too emotionally involved before she discovers the painful truth about his true colours. Their on-again, off-again affair pulls her under like a drug addiction with no upside other than infrequent good conversation and good sex.

Fans of The West Wing and HBO’s VEEP starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus will love this book. In fact, even if you’re not familiar with those television shows, I think you’ll love it. That’s why it’s a New York Times best-seller. While we learn nothing salacious about White House operations during her tenure, it’s a fascinating read nonetheless. Being a fly-on-the-wall observer at a low level, the author treats us to a rare view of life in the West Wing of The White House. We follow her steps through rooms, corridors and offices, journey along on trips within the United States and internationally aboard Airforce 1 and experience personal exchanges with POTUS through her eyes.

From The Corner of the Oval is a fun beach read about the love affairs and working relationships between Obama-era staffers. You won’t learn any dirty secrets or inside political skullduggery but you will enjoy the observations of an articulate young woman who was there. And her Epilogue is titled, Send in the Clowns. Pour yourself a glass of wine, put your feet up and escape. I’d rate it 7 out of 10.

Click here to order From The Corner of The Oval by Beck Dory-Stein from Amazon.


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Juliet, Naked does not involve nudity (sorry!), but you might want to take a peek anyway.


There’s a reason I haven’t posted any movie reviews lately. That’s because until now there was only one movie in the entire year of 2018 that I thought was worthwhile for baby boomers to see and that was The Book Club. This is not to be confused with The Book Shop which I saw a couple of weeks ago and wasn’t worth the price of admission. I went to see The Book Shop is because it starred the wonderful Bill Nighy and was obviously about books so it offered two potential possibilities. It was an adaptation of Penelope Lively’s novel that really didn’t merit being made into a movie. In fact, there’s such a dearth of movies for boomers that I’m probably going to have to watch The Book Club again just to see something remotely relevant to me.

Anyway, this week I went to see Juliet, Naked starring two of my favourite actors, Ethan Hawke (loved him in Maudie) and Chris O’Dowd. Rose Byrne plays Annie, their mutual love interest. O’Dowd is Duncan, a hapless university professor who has a peculiar obsession with a former rock star called Tucker Crowe, played perfectly by Ethan Hawke. Duncan worships Crowe’s old music and lyrics and hosts a blog for the few Tucker Crowe fans left in the world. As old rockers devoted to sixties music, baby boomers can relate to Duncan’s fascination—who among us isn’t still marveling and analyzing Procol Harum’s A Whiter Shade of Pale.

Duncan’s partner, Annie doesn’t share his fascination and when she posts a derogatory comment on the blog, the elusive Tucker Crowe who has been hiding for more than twenty years in the United States, responds and they become internet pals. Then things get complicated and at times comical.

I won’t give away the complete story line, but I did enjoy the movie. It was fun; the writing was not too cliché and the British setting in a seaside town was cool to watch. The white cliffs of Dover were visible; the movie’s British origins is what prompted me to give the movie a try. I’m glad I did. It’s light, funny and a lovely way to pass a couple of hours with a bucket of popcorn and pail full of Diet Coke.


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Are our senior citizens really OK?


The other day I posted a book review that included a condemnation of our tendency to judge people without knowing their background story. In fact, my entire blog is a form of judgement. I did it again this week, at the grocery store. I’ll give you the details and let you be the judge.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for fresh local produce. Does everyone have access?

It’s harvest season in Ontario, the season for juicy, fresh beefsteak tomatoes, peaches and no end of wonderful local produce. Shoppers are checking out with bushels of Roma tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and fruit for preserving. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year for fresh food.

As I was standing in the produce section husking corn into a giant bin in the middle of the floor, a small, very elderly, very frail gentleman approached. He was probably in his nineties and his face was sweet and kind looking. His grocery tote was a hand truck he’d brought with him with a single reuseable vinyl grocery bag propped open on the base. He was wearing worn, comfortable shoes and socks, a short-sleeved plaid shirt and beige shorts. His shorts were held up with striped suspenders and where one of the suspender’s clips was broken, he’d used a bit of twine to tie the suspenders to the belt loop of his shorts. This simple piece of twine touched my heart as it reminded me of how resourceful and practical his generation is—those who grew up in the Depression—so different from the obscene consumerism of subsequent generations.

For a few minutes I was transfixed as I watched this stooped gentleman pick three ears of corn and place them in his vinyl shopping bag. An Asian woman standing nearby helped him dig through the bin to find some nice ones. All of a sudden I found myself contemplating his entire back story in my imagination. Where did he live? Did he live alone? Did he drive himself here? Did he walk, pushing his hand truck? How does he manage in winter? Particularly in a large city it’s so easy for these vulnerable people to be forgotten.

Because he was buying groceries, he obviously does not live in an assisted living facility. Perhaps he lives in a nearby apartment or maybe he’s still living in the same little bungalow he bought in the 1950s and is unwilling to leave. Does he have children? Do they visit him and help him out? Is his wife still alive or did she pass a few years ago? Is he lonely? Does he need help? So many questions swirled around in my head for the few minutes I observed him.

I found myself thinking of my own father who is 92 and lives in the most wonderful assisted living residence I could imagine. He’s happy, healthy, well taken care of, still drives and is mentally as sharp as ever. His residence overlooks the Trent Canal in front and Ranney Falls on the Trent River behind the building. It’s an idyllic environment and he’s surrounded by kind, caring people and fellow residents he’s known for decades.

I worry about whether our vulnerable seniors are being cared for.

My dilemma concerns my judgement of the elderly man in the grocery store. My initial reaction to seeing this man was sadness. I found myself wishing he could be living carefree in a residence like my father’s. Then, he wouldn’t have to worry about grocery shopping, cooking meals, cleaning or even getting his clothes mended. But perhaps I’m wrong to cast judgement. Maybe he’s living the life he chooses, independent and busy with the simple rituals and routines of daily life. Perhaps my concern is misplaced and he’s happily living his best life. I wonder if and how my husband I will be coping when we’re in our nineties—which isn’t that far off anymore, and if we make it that far. Once again I found myself casting judgement on someone I knew nothing about, however, sympathetic my intentions. I’m still thinking about him, days later. I can’t get him out of my mind, wondering how he’s doing. Is he OK? Are they all OK?

 


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Wash your face and get your life together


When I saw Rachel Hollis, author of Girl, Wash Your Face interviewed on CTV’s The Social recently I was impressed by her enthusiasm and energy. But what does a 35-year-old Christian mother of four children with a type A++ personality have in common with me? I wondered the same thing when I started reading her book but soon became so engrossed I couldn’t put it down. I read the entire book in a day. And despite it being less than 300 pages (depending on the font size on your e-reader) I had dozens and dozens of pages bookmarked.

Rachel Hollis grew up in an all-white middle-class small town in California. Her father was a pastor and her life was seemingly typical of 1980s America. Except her father had a hair-trigger temper, her troubled older brother committed suicide at sixteen and she lived in constant fear of disapproval. She focused on doing well in school so she could graduate early and leave her home town. At the age of seventeen (the same age I was when I left home) she moved to Los Angeles where she expected her life to take a positive turn. But our problems have a habit of following us regardless of our geography.

Young women often have a naïve life plan for themselves—love, marriage, babies, living happily ever after. Rachel Hollis was no different. When her plan started to go off the rails, the stress caused physical reactions including Bell’s palsy and vertigo which forced her to reevaluate her entire life. Along the way she made many mistakes and learned valuable lessons which she generously shares with readers.

Each chapter of the book sets out to debunk a common myth that sets women up for disappointment and even failure, starting with the title’s tag line: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become Who You were Meant to Be. Hollis begins the first chapter with Lie #1: SOMETHING ELSE WILL MAKE ME HAPPY and each subsequent chapter follows the same theme. She articulates a lie, describes her personal experiences with this misconception and delivers the beef, summing up each chapter with point-form THINGS THAT HELPED ME. . . The book is filled with so many wonderful bon mots:

  • Comparison is the death of joy. (One of my favourites.)
  • Our words have power but our actions shape our lives.
  • Take care of yourself first.
  • When you’re looking for a community of women, look for the ones who want to build each other up instead of tear each other down.
  • Someone else’s opinion of me is none of my business.
  • Bras are the devil’s work.

Rachel Hollis and her husband Dave are the parents of three sons and one daughter.

We’re never too old to learn

One of Hollis’s lessons learned hit me smack in the face the other day at the hairdresser’s. There was a little boy around six or seven years old in the next chair who refused to get his hair cut. Despite the best efforts of his dad and the stylist, the little guy kept whining and wiggling, squirming his way out of the chair. My first reaction was to judge the child as spoiled and the father as indulgent. When baby boomers were children, if we’d have displayed similar behaviour our parent would have simply slammed us into the seat, ordered us to sit still and that would be the end of the discussion. We’d be too terrified to move.

Instead of casting my usual disparaging judgment and shooting the father the evil eye, I considered for a moment that the child might have special needs and challenges. Perhaps he had sensory issues. Maybe the man was a “Big Brother” and the child was from an abusive home and didn’t like being touched. Thanks to Rachel Hollis, I cast the father a sympathetic smile and went back to reading my book. We should never judge the actions of others without knowing their particular back story.

I not only enjoyed this book, I devoured it which proves this old boomer still has room to grow and learn. Rachel Hollis is so inspiring and a perfect illustration of what we can learn from someone we perceive as having nothing in common with us. She admits to being an impatient mother who sometimes yells at her children. She has bad habits like the rest of us (i.e. Diet Coke) and describes how she works on fixing her shortcomings. Her writing, like her personality, is fast, full of relatable personal experiences and surprisingly mature for someone only 35 years old. I can only imagine what lies ahead for this young woman. I’d rate Girl, Wash Your Face 9 out of 10.

Click here to order Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis from Amazon.


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Don’t buy into the multi-tasking myth


Don’t you believe it!

Science is now confirming what we’ve long suspected—that multi-tasking is not only an overrated virtue but can in fact be counter-productive. Women in particular have been brainwashed to think we should be able to juggle work, home, community and social activity balls simultaneously and efficiently without dropping a single one in order to be deemed successful mothers, wives and human beings. Well, it’s all bull crap. Multi-tasking only results in an outcome that is less than it could or should be. This realization prompted me to dig up a posting on the value of down-time that I published a few years ago. Let’s not fall for the multi-tasking myth and instead allow ourselves the time and space we need to properly manage and in fact, enjoy our lives.

Feeling uninspired? Take a nap

Leah Eichler’s Women@Work column in The Globe and Mail was a source of inspiration and affirmation better than most I’ve read in a while. Eichler maintains that we often get our best ideas when our brains are off-duty. Haven’t you ever been struck with a brilliant idea just as you’re about to drop off to sleep or when you’re walking the dog through the park? According to Eichler we should allow ourselves more down-time to allow these bursts of inspiration to emerge. Research has shown that we need quiet time for our brains to arrive at the state of zen conducive to new ideas.

It's all in there somewhere. I just have to create the right level of nothingness to let it out.

It’s all in there somewhere. I just have to create the right state of nothingness to let it out.

I agree wholeheartedly with this philosophy. For that reason, I keep a pad and pencil on my night table and another in the map pocket of my car so I can write down these flashes of genius when they happen, or at the next red light. Fortunately I’m very good at zoning out. And to think teachers used to yell at us for not paying attention. Just think of all the earth-shattering discoveries and inventions they probably killed when we were daydreaming in school.

Multi-tasking and “busyness” are considered virtues in today’s world of 24/7 cell phones, e-mail and texting but these activities are ultimately counter-productive. Thomas Edison would regularly sit on his boat dock holding a fishing pole and line in the water, with no bait. He needed time to think. Bill Gates used to isolate himself at his cottage to free his mind for creativity. Gordon Lightfoot would check into a hotel and stay in his room for days to be free from distractions so he could write songs. And, Winston Churchill is well-known for his afternoon power naps that freed his mind from the stresses of trying to save the world from destruction.

This is my idea of being productive.

This is my idea of being productive.

When I was working, I always found the activity and noise inherent in daily office life to be distracting. My best ideas always came when I was doing some non-work-related activity. I needed my head to be free of clutter and my brain to be in a happy place to be truly productive.

So, with that in mind, please excuse me while I go take a nap. There are major world problems that need solving and I’m pretty sure I’m just on the cusp of finding the key to cold fusion—right after I summon up that Nobel-prize-worthy literature bubbling away in there somewhere. Maybe checking into a Four Seasons Hotel in Bali with the scent of fragrant blossoms and the sounds of surf outside my window would help. It certainly can’t hurt.


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The September issue blows


September 2018

Every year I look forward to writing a bitchy critique of the famous September issue of Vogue magazine. At upwards of 800 pages, it arrives with a heavy thud in my mailbox (a couple of years ago the postman actually rang my doorbell and personally handed it to me) and usually gives me a couple of hours of entertainment.

Most of what Vogue offers up is utter nonsense and completely irrelevant to the average woman. Despite this, somehow I usually manage to find one or two tiny sparks of inspiration in its superficial pages. This year? There’s nothing to write about. No inspiration. Nadda. Zero. Rien. Ziltch. Not a single thing. There is an article about an upcoming HBO series on Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan quartet, but otherwise, the September 2018 issue of Vogue is barren of anything relevant or worthwhile to this old boomer.

Is it just me or are fashion magazines seriously out of touch with their readers? I’m becoming increasingly fed up with fashion media, despite their few and infrequent pathetic attempts at recognizing older readers, a.k.a. baby boomers. As the saying goes, “I don’t know why I botha’.“. Who’s out of touch? Me? Or them?

Links to relevant reads:

Is the fashion media still relevant?

The September and other irrelevant issues

The September issue has arrived