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A rose by any other name wins by a nose

Scents touch a special chord, not only in our olfactory systems but also in our hearts and in our brains. We all can relate to a certain scent transporting us to another time and place. It’s a magical transformation. The smell of certain things baking in the oven may take us back to our mothers’ or grandmothers’ kitchens. Being near water may remind us of all those carefree days as children swimming in the lake or nearby river every summer. The fragrance of certain perfumes may transport us to memories of loved ones and ones we’ve loved. Whenever I open my late mother’s jewelry box, the lingering scent evokes the inside of her house and memories come flooding back. Sometimes, people who have lost a special person, keep a bathrobe or favourite sweater that carries the scent of that person, to provide comfort.

Ever since the days of owning a single bottle of (cheap) Evening in Paris cologne purchased at the local five and dime store and proudly displayed on my bedroom dresser when I was a teenager, I’ve been charmed and affected by fragrance. I love the different moods each one presents. I adore the beautiful bottles. I feel so feminine and uplifted when I spritz myself each morning. Over the years, I’ve accumulated a sizeable collection and even though many, if not most of my bottles are probably past their best-before date, I cannot part with them.

When I first started working for Bell Telephone on University Avenue in Toronto in 1965, my girlfriend and I used to go into the drugstore behind our office building on our lunch hour and spray ourselves with generous quantities of expensive perfumes we couldn’t afford to buy on our clerk-typist wages. White Shoulders and L’air du Temps were always favourites. I’m sure there were many days when we came back into the office after lunch nearly asphyxiating our coworkers after we’d doused ourselves in lilac or lily of the valley perfumes of questionable quality. As they say, ‘those were the days, my friend’.

I was the in-store representative for Yardley of London at Eatons’ College Street Store in 1970.

There was a time in the ’80s when blooming boomers were encouraged to adopt a ‘signature scent’. Offices were awash in Opium, Red Door, Obsession, and Poison. One of the girls in my office came to work every day drenched in Cartier’s expensive La Panthère. I’ve never been able to limit myself to just one fragrance. Some days I’m in the mood for floral; other days I lean toward citrus or spicey. Does anyone remember wearing Shalimar or Estée Lauder’s Youth Dew in the ’60s? Or Elizabeth Arden’s Blue Grass? We were so sophisticated. When I worked in Eaton’s College Street store’s cosmetics department in 1970, we had people who came in purposely to buy giant bottles of 4711. We also sold a lot of Jean Naté, Yardley’s Lavender and Chantilly in the pink bottle. Remember them?

My favourite fragrance is called Émilie by French perfumier Fragonard. Émilie is a blend that includes my favourite flowers, rose, and jasmine. I first experienced this fragrance in 2012 when I toured southern France with a group of ladies guided by decorating and style guru Kimberley Seldon. We toured the Fragonard factory in Grasse, France where we were able to see how they gather the blooms, then distill and manufacture the various fragrances according to which flowers are in season. I also once toured a small, second-floor perfume museum near the Opera House in Paris and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

After I originally purchased a tiny atomizer of Fragonard’s Émilie and it turned out to be so amazingly beautiful, I went to the internet the following year to order more. A few weeks later, to my great delight, a more substantial bottle arrived in the mail, all the way from France. Sometime later, however, I was disappointed to receive a notice from them that they would no longer be able to send it to me as postal regulations forbid certain chemicals and liquids being sent by mail. I guess I’ll just have to fly to France to restock. It’s available on Amazon from third-party sellers but I’ve never ordered from them so I can’t vouch for their authenticity. I did manage to pick up another bottle a couple of years ago when I was In France which should last me long after I go to the ‘home’. I only hope my fellow residents will enjoy it as much as I do—cough, cough.

Visiting Fragonard’s perfume factory in Grasse, France was a once-in-a-lifetime treat.

What seems to distinguish the Fragonard perfume from so many (and there are soooo many) available on the market today, is the purity of the fragrance. Perhaps it’s just me, but whenever I try a sample of some new fragrance being launched, I find it inevitably leaves an unpleasant chemical smell on my skin, not the clear floral fragrance I’m looking for. So many perfumes today, even from the major perfume houses, contain so many synthetic ingredients that they all smell the same. And, as we all know, each one reacts differently with our individual body chemistry. Chanel No. 5 always smells like ginger ale on me while it’s divine on a friend of mine.

One day when I was in the Hudson’s Bay store’s perfume department, a customer produced a small gold atomizer like the Fragonard one I bought in France, asking the sales associate to find something similar. Her daughter had bought it for her, also in France, and she wanted to replicate it. ‘Good luck’, I thought, as I meandered off. I once read somewhere that Michelle Obama wears Cartier’s Délice which has a delicate cherry essence. I couldn’t get myself off fast enough to Holt Renfrew to spritz myself from the tester, hoping to capture just a tiny bit of her essence.

Even the scent of sheets dried outside in the fresh air is enough to send me into paroxysms of bliss. A whiff of fresh spruce can return me to the Christmas trees in my childhood home. Does the smell of wood smoke remind you of summer camping trips? The smell of Neutrogena soap always puts me in the hands of Dr. Cornish, an old dentist I had fifty years ago, in the days when dentists didn’t wear latex gloves, just washing their hands for every new patient. The unique scent of old-fashioned ivory soap reminds me of time spent as a child at a friend’s cottage.

Is there such a thing as too much fragrance? 

Perhaps my aging nose has lost some of its sensitivity as the years go by. As my sense of smell diminishes, I pity the people fainting in my wake as I stroll down the street in a suffocating cloud of my floral scent du jour, oblivious to those with allergies or an aversion to fragrance. I absolutely adore fragrance and will never stop wearing it. For whatever effect scent has on our brains and hearts, I’m not going to deny myself.

Are you a fragrance aficionado like me? What’s your favourite and what memories does it evoke?

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When you’re retired, every day is Saturday

Productivity is a relative term.

Type A personality types who must be constantly busy and productive must also be constantly exhausted. Or maybe I just wish that so I don’t feel guilty about not being as virtuous as they are. Much as I wish I could be like them, that’s not the way I was engineered. My mother had to register me in morning kindergarten so I could nap in the afternoons and unfortunately, the habit stuck. I still love to nap in the afternoons. It was inconvenient when I was working (!!) but now that I’m retired I am free to do—not entirely without guilt but it helps if no one else is home to make me feel like I should be doing something productive. I guess I’d describe myself as Type D-minus. Having nothing on my agenda and lots of time to devote to it is my idea of a perfect day.

Life wasn’t always a week of Saturdays which is why I appreciate retirement so much. During all those years of getting up in the dark, driving to work in the dark, driving home in the dark, preparing a meal, doing chores and never getting enough sleep I only dreamed of the schedule I enjoy today. Sometimes at work, I’d be so totally exhausted I’d feel like my head was going to thump down on my desk. It was everything I could do to keep my eyelids from slamming shut. Sleep deprivation is a common affliction among working people and we’re made to feel guilty if we aren’t giving our jobs one hundred and ten percent. I think millennials have turned their backs on that attitude, which is another topic for another day. It was different for boomers and even more so for our parents, The Greatest Generation.

Retirement has afforded me the time to be my own boss—a well-earned luxury and a privilege. Spending a day in my own home doing whatever I want is a complete and utter joy. Most of the time I don’t even put the radio on as the news or a talk show that focuses on political or social conflicts only spoils my tranquility. Daytime television is verboten unless I have a pile of ironing to do. Then, I set up the ironing board in the living room and iron while I watch one of my favourite PVR’d shows. I read voraciously; I compose my rants for Boomerbroadcast; I sit in the yard; go for a walk; putter about the house; generally I live my best life.

One of the most pleasurable uses of our time.

That’s not to say I’m anti-social or inactive. Not at all. Lunches with girlfriends are great fun. We now have the time and energy required for entertaining at home from time to time. Attending seminars on subjects of personal interest, visiting friends and indulging in hobbies are all part of retirement life. Even having the luxury of being able to go grocery shopping on a quiet Tuesday morning is an utter joy. There are always new sights in the city to see, new movies to check out or author readings to attend. Many boomers are dedicated volunteers, contributing generous, unpaid hours to various community services.

But there’s nothing quite as delicious as a day chez moi. Too many of those days would, of course, be sad but that’s not what we’re talking about. I’ve spent considerable time and a little bit of money getting my home to be a place of complete comfort and joy. My boomer gal pals have also created colourful, creatively decorated homes that they too enjoy and enjoy sharing with friends. We’re nesting and loving it.

Now that I’m in my 70s (Yeoww! That number still blows my mind), I’ve become philosophical about my time left. It could be 20 years, which will fly by far too quickly, or it could be 20 minutes. As we’ve watched some of our friends cope with illness and others pass away, we have a greater appreciation for the time we’re enjoying now. Every day is truly a gift, wherever and however I choose to spend it. And for that, I am truly grateful. How do you spend your days of eternal Saturdays?

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10 signs that baby boomers have finally hit that perfect sweet spot

Creaky joints, back pain and stiff shoulders are a way of life for many boomers as we now enter the third period of an unpredictable and tough game. Bumps, bruises and the odd metaphorical concussion over the years have taken a toll and we now rely on our innate skills of playing the game like pros to get us through each day. It takes a little more effort to hoist ourselves up from our LaZgirl chair and leaping up stairs two at a time is a distant memory. When we reflect back on our younger working days with stressful jobs, families and little to no time to ourselves, we wonder how we had the stamina. The answer is simple. We were young.

At last!

That’s not to say this stage of life isn’t without benefits. Many years ago when I asked my Aunt Lois to describe the best and happiest time in her life she unhesitatingly answered “When your Uncle Ron and I first retired”. That’s the stage most baby boomers are at right now and speaking from personal experience, I couldn’t agree with her more. There’s no place I’d rather be than now. There are so many benefits:

  1. We’re finally our own “boss of me”. No more daily grind, going to the workplace in overpacked subways and buses or sitting in traffic jams on overcrowded highways.
  2. Seniors discounts—all over the place—at certain retailers on particular days of the week, movie theatres, public transit. Even the fee-hungry, greedy banks give us free chequing, just for being, you know, old.
  3. OAC (old age pension) and CPP (Canada Pension Plan), lovely little automatic deposits into our bank accounts every month, after a lifetime of payout.
  4. Time management is now purely a matter of personal choice. We’re no longer subject to the tyranny of report deadlines, sales quotas or production schedules. We can now choose if and when we want to golf, play tennis or go to yoga classes. This includes the ability to say “No” without the accompanying guilt.
  5. We can toss the Spanx and stilettos because we’re no longer beholden to the latest fashion fads. We finally know what works best for each of us and can opt for comfort.
  6. We’re financially comfortable. As my friend Margaret likes to say, “I have enough.” We realize that relationships are the true foundations of happiness. With close friends, a roof over our heads, a warm bed and assurance of three squares a day, we’re in heaven.
  7. No longer sleep deprived, we can stay in bed as long as we like on cold mornings and grab a few zzzz’s in the afternoon if we feel like it.
  8. Even though we occasionally forget where we left our keys or why we entered a room, we’re considerably and blessedly smarter and wiser now. No more worries about making bad choices in romance, fashion and lifestyle. We’ve finally sorted things out and disposed of most of the crap in our lives.
  9. Thanks to the movement started all those years ago by Tommy Douglas, we have universal health care. And because we’re Canadian, we don’t have to sell the car or mortgage the condo to pay for a hip replacement or refill our cholesterol and gout meds.
  10. Our #metoo days are pretty much behind us and that’s a good thing. No more competing for jobs, recognition and attention from the opposite sex. At our age, most boomers are now well beyond the scope of predators. We know we’re fantastic and that’s good enough for us.

Every day is a gift and we’re now the best we’ll ever be. This is the best perk of all. As Mary Pipher said in a recent New York Times article, “Many of us have learned that happiness is a skill and a choice. We don’t need to look at our horoscopes to know how our day will go. We know how to create a good day.” Let’s just to it.

Our music has stood the test of time. And we can still dance to it. I’m constantly amazed at how much I’m enjoying this stage of life. We’ve earned an ice advantage, there’s no pressure to score. Post-menopausal women over the years have often touted their lives after menopause as being the best but I think they predated it a bit. It’s actually when we retire that we hit the real sweet spot. Keep your stick on the ice ladies. As baby boomer women we are now playing the best game of our lives. And it’s oh soooo sweet.

To order either of my books, click on the links below:

BoomerBeat or Boomerbroadcast

Visit Amazon.com or Amazon.ca

Amazon.ca

 

 

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What’s up in men’s underwear?

Have you taken a close look at men’s underwear lately, other than what turns up in your weekly laundry? I had occasion to peruse the men’s lingerie section of a major department store the other day and I can’t tell you how much fun it was. The names the marketing people come up with to describe men’s skivvies are just too hilarious. They surely deserve a Nobel Prize for creative fiction. The brand names are all riffs on size, power and even calibre! Check these out:

  • Magnum
  • Big Eagle
  • Champion
  • Colt
  • Performance
  • Prodige
  • Hero
  • Urban Touch (seriously??)

What I didn’t see was:

  • Crop-duster
  • Skidmark
  • Babyface
  • Rust belt

I don’t think I’ve ever seen women’s underwear with similarly ambitious names. Our frillies are usually just called “Thong, Bikini, Hi-rise leg” or a similar fairly obvious description. Maybe there’s an opportunity here for creative marketers to jump on the bandwagon with new names for women’s underwear:

There could be a considerable difference between what’s advertised and what’s in the package.
  • Stud buster
  • Steel magnolia
  • You wish
  • Secret treasure
  • In your dreams

Men’s underwear names are ego-enhancing and denote power, which I am pretty sure is not always reflective of the contents or the wearer. But then, most women know men’s egos need constant stroking! Baby boomer women were raised to be good listeners. As soon as we started dating we were coached to ask our dates about themselves, and they were only too happy to oblige—for hours and hours and hours. We’ve already proven our staying power.

I know it’s always risky to generalize but when I read about dates-gone-bad in the agony columns in local newspapers, the challenges never change. Even enlightened millennials are forced to suffer through painful first dates with guys who are so self-absorbed it never occurs to them that we might have something of value to say as well. “All he did was talk about himself; his work, his car; his sports” is a common complaint from women in the dating market. And they wonder why they’re ghosted.

Some things never change, including what’s up in men’s underwear. Until attitudes change and women start insisting upon proof in advertising, we’ll just have to double check for inferior goods and not fall for false claims. If they aren’t willing and happy to meet us on equal ground and recognize that we’re also worthy of such labels as Heroine, Boss Lady or Conqueror, then just leave ’em on the shelf for some other less discriminating poor soul. Thank heavens we were born women and don’t have to suffer the stress of constantly stroking our ego, through our underwear.

Deb from Milton thinks it rocks!

To order a copy of my new book BOOMER BEAT from Amazon, click here.

 

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Thoughts on A Room of One’s Own

Spoiler alert: this is not a book review so relax and enjoy some thoughts on serenity. Virginia Woolf knew what she was talking about when she penned her famous story about the importance of women having their own private space in the home. Hers was devoted to writing and reflection. She recognized and advocated for financial independence and privacy in women’s lives. When she was alive in the first half of the twentieth century women were considered second class citizens. Many could not vote, work outside the home, have their own bank accounts or divorce their husbands. Twenty-first century women have much to be thankful for, although we still have a long way to go. Woolf would be pleased to see the progress we’ve made but, time has only confirmed and reinforced her vision. Experts suggest it will be another one hundred years before women have full equality.

My own personal space.

Now that baby boomer women are retiring, a room of one’s own has taken on practical dimensions. In fact, my own special room is literally ten feet wide and eleven feet long. It contains bookshelves loaded with years of loved books. There’s a comfortable off-white twill settee for reading, a computer desk and chair for working on my blog, memory-evoking pictures on the walls including a street map of Paris and a shadow box with a rose from the bouquet my husband gave me on our first Valentine’s Day together. There’s a television that never gets turned on but it’s there if I need it. A cream and taupe rug covers most of the dark hardwood floor and of course, there’s a wee little dog bed for our Yorkshire terrier. A lovely wide window looks out over my husband’s gorgeous hydrangea bushes, a linden tree and a blue spruce we planted the year we moved in. My little room is a genuine slice of feminine heaven and I spend several hours in there every day.

Not only do we need our own space, but so do our husbands or partners. It’s an equal opportunity situation. The high-tech digital age means laptops and televisions are now allocated to individual members of the household. In the case of retired people like ourselves, we each need our own space for working on our computers and I’ve discovered the secret to a happy marriage is separate televisions—one for news, weather and sports (his) and one for HGTV, PBS and other women-friendly channels (hers). Consequently, my honey also has a room of his own with his LaZboy, television, desk and computer. It’s a happy arrangement.

A wee slice of heaven outdoors.

When weather permits (this is Canada, after all), my favourite private space of all is sitting outside in the shade surrounded by flowers and trees in our back yard. I can listen to the birds, feel and smell sweet, warm breezes and maintain a sense of peaceful balance. I can read my books and even tip back in my cushioned faux wicker LaZgirl from Canadian Tire and have a delicious snooze. Life is sweet.

Virginia Woolf’s understanding of the value of quiet time and private space is as relevant today as it was nearly one hundred years ago. Women still need private space and financial independence. The only difference is technology. And we have to be careful that we don’t let technology encroach too much. Do you have a favourite or special spot in your house where you can read, paint, write, knit or simply be? Perhaps it’s a corner of your livingroom, bedroom or kitchen. Maybe it’s a spare bedroom. I hope you are lucky like me and have managed to carve out your own private space. Where’s yours?

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It’s the most wonderful day of the week

Mondays come with multiple benefits. Not only because I’m retired and no longer have to get up at the crack of dawn and go to work but also because Monday is change-the-sheets day. When we’re retired, it’s often those simple things that give us enormous pleasure. I”ll never understand how people can wake up in the morning and go to work or start their day without making their bed. The only thing lovelier than sliding into nice, smooth, cool sheets at the end of the day is when they’re freshly changed. In our house, that happens on Monday. When I change the sheets, I hang the freshly laundered ones outside to dry—screw the local bylaws. It’s environmentally friendly and they’re hung below the fence line where no one can see them.

Don’t you agree there’s nothing more delicious than sliding into a freshly made bed with crisp cotton sheets that have been air-dried and the pillow cases ironed with a spritz of lavender linen water? I even cheat and change the pillow cases mid-week to rush the experience. Is it a boomer broad thing, or am I the only peculiar one? My friends and I even have an acronym for it—CSD—clean sheets day. My friend Margaret loves the experience so much. she immediately hops in and has a snooze on CSD.

Bonne nuit.

I’ve yet to meet a man who understands our pleasure. My mother always loved CSD and my father was oblivious. My husband doesn’t get it either. Maybe it’s because we’re usually the ones who do the laundering and changing so we’re true aficionados of the ritual. Oprah gets it; her sheets are changed every second day, which is particularly gratifying when you have staff to do the work. The only downside I’m finding is that as I get older and my back gets weaker, it’s becoming harder to pull and lift the heavy corners of the mattress to tuck in those fitted sheets. I need Oprah’s staff to give me a hand, or better still, do it for me.

The reward will come tonight around 10:30 when I slide into bed, propped up with a good book in my hands (it’s currently by Zadie Smith, but more on that another time), snuggled up with my honey and my little Yorkie and a smile of satisfaction on my face. It’s a well-earned and delicious pleasure. Sweet dreams mes chères.

Click here to read There’s work and then there’s ironing

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