Baby Boomer's social commentary on life in OUR sixties for those who rocked life in THE sixties.

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Want the secret to a successful career?

The future is no longer in plastics.

If your grandchildren are planning to get a degree in Sociology, Women’s Studies, Art History or Musicology tell them to forget it. They’ll run up tens of thousands of dollars in debt for a degree that will never get them a job in today’s  market and they’ll miss out on an opportunity guaranteed to provide even more secure and profitable work than becoming an orthodontist. And it requires fewer years of education. While they won’t be able to put “Dr.” in front of their name, they will be able to work anywhere, including from home or a small town conducive to raising a family, and make decent money. It’s sad to think that some people keep prolonging their education and growing their debt load to obtain a useless graduate degree in the vain hope it will improve their chances of employment.

It’s getting harder for Boomers to keep up.

The answer to the employability conundrum is called computer software programming. Early last year I wrote a piece entitled “Mothers, make sure your daughters grow up to be coders. A recent article in the newspaper said that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million more software jobs than qualified applicants. Enough said. Get those kids out of career paths directed at philosophy, kinesiology or political science (unless it’s for fun) and get them learning to write computer code. That would never have worked for me because I’m a right-brain thinker and could never get my mind around logical subjects like algebra, physics or chemistry. But I sure need someone to help me with my computer issues. And having that someone in the family (a grandchild?) would make life so much easier . . . and cheaper, assuming they’d help us for free. Or, if they could hack into Trump’s tax returns, that would bring in enough that they’d never have to work again. It’s a no-brainer . . . particularly if you’re a left-brainer.

Click these links:

Mothers, make sure your daughters grow up to be coders.

Both my left and right brain say ‘go for it’

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Is fashion advertising hitting the mark?

The anticipation of diving into my Sunday edition of The New York Times is what motivates me to get out of bed on Sunday mornings. It’s the size of a fire log and nearly as heavy, landing on my doorstep in the dark early hours wrapped in a thin plastic bag. I can’t wait to pour a big mug of hot tea, toast my only-on-the-weekends white artisan bread topped with home-made strawberry jam or unpasteurized honey and sit down at the kitchen table for my weekly love-in. Laying out the thick sections, I usually extract the Style section for a first perusal before moving on. There’s so much delicious reading in the Sunday Times I can usually make it last until Thursday at which time I pass it on to a neighbour.

In what universe is this ad supposed to make me want to invest in a designer purse?

In what universe is this ad supposed to make me want to invest in a designer purse?

It was a designer fashion ad on page three one Sunday that immediately and intensely offended me. My reaction was the culmination of seeing so many ads of a similar nature. As a baby boomer who has retired from the corporate world, I consider myself a fairly average consumer. The ad that triggered such a strong reaction featured pouty, anorexic teenage girls casually tossing off designer handbags worth thousands of dollars, dressed in barely-there whisps of clothing unwearable by ninety-nine percent of women. I’m not suggesting magazines should feature wall-to-wall hags and crones but a few more Ashley Graham types would help us feel we also stand a chance at looking beautiful.

Why do designers and product advertisers insist on always featuring skeletal, spoiled teenage girls in print ads? Are the handbags and jewelry not beautiful and exquisite enough to stand on their own merit or perhaps be modeled more appropriately by women such as Lauren Hutton or Carmen Dell’Orifice? Has the fashion industry ever actually polled their market recently to find out what we the consumers like to see in advertising? When I was a skinny twenty-something, I could relate to Twiggy in her mini dresses with her androgynous haircut. We were baby boomers and we represented the bulk of the buying public. But time marches on.

Who doesn't love Iris Apfel, shown here in a Kate Spade ad?

Who doesn’t love ninety-something Iris Apfel, shown here in a Kate Spade ad from last year.

Baby boomers are still where the money is but the fashion and advertising industry refuses to acknowledge this. They continue to cater to the 18-45 demographic as evidenced by their choice of models and I’m becoming increasingly more irritated and fed up with the assumption that this is what sells. I’d be much more inclined to buy a handbag, a piece of jewelry or article of clothing if it were modeled by a better version of me, not a waif-like, sulky teenager. I loved seeing Iris Apfel in the Kate Spade ads. Diane Keaton has a wonderful, quirky sense of style and when infrequent pictures of her turn up in magazines I often tear the pages out and keep them in my inspiration file.

Women who are able to spend big bucks on high-end fashion items have generally earned the right to do so. We’ve worked, many of us for decades, to accrue the fashion sense and budget to be discriminating about our purchases. I’m insulted and discouraged that the fashion industry chooses to ignore us. Our fashion tastes range from budget-conscious to designer and every price point in between. Before I die I hope that our demographic will once again be respectfully recognized for our potential buying power by seeing inspirational, age-appropriate models that reflect our tastes, our body types and our budgets in the media. Is that possible? Is the fashion industry really hitting the mark or am I missing it altogether?

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The News. Was it good for you?

It's not hard to feel discouraged and helpless.

It’s not hard to feel discouraged and helpless.

Where do we draw the line between morbid curiosity and genuine concern? Each morning as I read the newspaper and then watch the news on television later in the evening, I find myself torn. On one hand I want to remain informed but on the other hand it’s making me feel ill. Watching the horror show on the American political scene is like driving past a fatal car accident. Should we just politely look away and drive on (after all, we’re Canadian and it’s not our problem) but we find ourselves wondering how two cars driving in the same direction on a sunny day on a straight stretch of double lane highway could possibly have created such a tragic mess.

Then, as I watched the news on television last night, they described a vicious racial attack on a young woman and her mother who were shopping at Hurontario and Dundas Streets in Mississauga, not far from my own home. The young woman, who had spent her entire life in Canada, was physically assaulted while verbal racial slurs were repeatedly shouted at her and her mother, traumatizing them both.

immigrants1Every single one of us is the product of immigration, regardless of whether we are white, brown, yellow or any variation of colour. Even our indigenous people once crossed the Bering Strait or the Pacific ocean to populate this continent. The Greater Toronto Area has tripled in size and prosperity since I moved here from small-town Ontario more than fifty years ago. We have immigrants to thank for fostering this growth by providing the human resources to run our farms, provide us with service workers, teachers, health care providers including doctors, scientists and technicians, for launching small and large businesses and for building a country of tolerance and acceptance.

I’m very concerned that the new order south of the border is bringing the haters, racists and extreme right wingers out into the light of day in our own country as well. The alarming new attitudes and policies being accepted as mainstream in the once-free United States is a cancer that must not allowed to take root. An extreme right Catholic television station is gaining traction and expanding in Ferndale, Michigan near Detroit. Their anti-gay, anti-climate change, anti-feminism, anti-Muslim message is within broadcasting distance. And thanks to the internet the spores of hate, intolerance and racism jump across the border and infect our own country

welcomeAs Canadians we can no longer politely look away and drive on. Much as I’m tempted to take one of my regular news sabbaticals, I realize I have a moral responsibility to no longer simply look away. We have to stop the car and provide assistance. While we may not be able to provide medical aid to the injured, we can redirect traffic and provide comfort to the victims. We can make it known that inaction is not an option. The racist policies launched in Nazi Germany began with subtle changes that quickly escalated while the German people opted to look away in the mistaken belief that they couldn’t do anything about it. Given to understand they were “making Germany great again” they soon forfeited their rights and the cancer ran rampant. Hate often stems from a lack of understanding. We have to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself. Promote tolerance and understanding before it’s too late.

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What’s the deal with Canadian weather?

weather1Have you ever known a group of people more obsessed with weather than Canadians? Perhaps it’s because we have such a range of weather extremes and so much of it is shitty. From melt-your-smartphone humid summers to freezing sub-zero winters, we get it all. Maybe it’s a throwback to our agricultural heritage when our farmer ancestors constantly agonized about whether it was too dry, too wet or too cold.  We all know farmers are never happy and they passed along the worry gene to future generations.

The weather report and discussions about the weather are guaranteed conversational ice-breakers and common denominator for all Canadians. “Did you get stuck in that snow storm last Tuesday?” Even when there’s no particular weather to discuss, we discuss it, “Mild isn’t it?”. We are addicted to the weather report and never get dressed in the morning without consulting the radio so we’ll know whether to dig out the long underwear or break out the flip flops. The evening weather reports on television are as vital to our daily functioning as the latest NHL scores and four-wheel-drive vehicles. This genetic imprinting has resulted in certain coping mechanisms unique to Canadians.

Top ten strategies Canadians have developed for coping with our weather:

  1. Tim Horton’s, founded by a former NHL hockey player from the sixties, is our cultural touchstone and year-round mecca for escaping life.
  2. weather4We invented hockey which is played on ice twelve months a year and in the driveway or on the road in July and August.
  3. Insurance companies’ default no-fault policy guarantees no-pay if your vehicle slips on black ice and rear-ends a public bus. Get over it.
  4. Ontario Liberals can claim the usurious price of Hydro electricity is the result of previous winter weather caused by the previous Conservative government.
  5. Icicles are permanent appendages on the noses of Canadian children. Never break one off.
  6. Permanent salt stains up our pant legs make Canadians instantly recognizable in airports around the world. That means we’re not carrying a gun so there’s no need to worry about us hijacking a plane—ever!
  7. Washing your car between October and May is just a waste of money.
  8. We spend $500.00 on winter boots to leave them at the door and walk around in our stocking feet when visiting friends. And, we design the world’s best, most waterproof boots.
  9. Canadians carry ice scrapers and road salt in the trunks of their cars year-round.
  10. Canadian males’ external plumbing is indispensable for thawing frozen car door locks. For those with new vehicles equipped with electronic door locking systems, as we frequently say in Canada . . . sorry!

weather3If a local radio or television station broadcasts fake news of a suspected flurry in mid-July, traffic jams will immediately bring all movement on Highway 401, Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway to a halt. (This can also occur without a snow warning.) And, the snow plow is guaranteed to come down your street and send a four-foot snow bank into your driveway right after you’ve spent the morning shoveling it out. Canadians also take pride in eating in TGI Friday’s outside patio in any kind of weather, enjoying our poutine and latté alfresco year-round.

Perhaps because my husband spent his early years on a farm, he’s a weather junkie. He’ll inform me on a Saturday morning that the “wind and rains are going to start on Sunday at 2:00 p.m.”. I’m expected to mentally file that information and immediately start securing the hatches, tie down the patio furniture and make sure I’m safe and sound inside a hurricane-proof facility within twenty-four hours. He has temperature and humidity monitoring devices everywhere—next to his LaZBoy, on his Blackberry, on his laptop, even next to our bed— so, without ever looking out the window he knows what’s going on, can report to me and prepare us for any potential apocalypse.

weather5I don’t think the great creator really intended her people to actually live above the thirtieth parallel but those hearty adventurers who slogged through thigh-deep snow to inhabit what eventually became Canada evolved into strong, resourceful people. Although why immigrants would choose our shitty winters over a country with year-round warmth and sunshine is beyond me. But, then again, perhaps that’s why we’re so strong and resourceful. Not to mention proud and thankful we live in one of the best countries in the world—despite the weather. But if global warming proceeds at its current rate, we’ll soon see our endangered polar bears vainly foraging for food and habitat on the streets of Toronto and winters will be a non-issue. Now, that’s a truly scary forecast.

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“Odd” jobs build character and provide benefits that last a lifetime

carhop1Reading recently about the summer jobs various famous people had when they were young reminded me of my own assortment of “odd” jobs over the years. Singer Anne Murray worked as a maid at the Keltic Lodge in Cape Breton where her initiation included getting down on her hands and knees to scrub floors. As a result of her strict training in making beds, to this day she rips apart improperly made hotel beds and remakes them before climbing in. Victor Dodig, President and CIO of CIBC (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce) worked a midnight shift at Canada Packers hanging pork bellies for smoking and freezing. From working as dishwashers, tree planters in the north or delivering newspapers at six o’clock in the morning, every job by every baby boomer left a lasting impression that contributed to these people becoming productive, hard-working and positive contributors to society.

Those were the days my friend. But we didn't wear roller skates because the parking lot in front of the Parkway Drive-In (behind the bowling alley) was gravel.

Those were the days my friend, from age 14 to when I left home at 17. We didn’t wear roller skates though because the parking lot in front of the Parkway Drive-In (behind the bowling alley) was gravel. Customers would leave their headlights on when they wanted service.

When Boomers were young and desperate for pocket money (our parents weren’t as flush or as generous as today’s parents), we would do whatever we had to in order to scrape together some spare change. We learned not only how to manage the money we worked hard to earn, but it gave us a life-long appreciation for people working in service or low-paying jobs who perhaps didn’t have the advantages we did. Because I waitressed for three years in high school, I understand how hard it is to be on your feet all day serving people who are not always kind or even polite. Consequently, I am and will always be a generous tipper.

One summer, when I was sixteen, a friend and I waitressed at a lodge on an island in the North Channel above Manitoulin Island. We were water-taxied out at the end of June and back to the mainland at the end of August. The proprietor took over management of the resort after her husband passed away and her management style ranged from she-Nazi when she was sober to invisible when she was passed out in her cabin for days on end. Like Anne Murray, we spent the summer washing floors, furniture, dishes and cookware, cleaning silverware and generally keeping the place shipshape for guests. When the chefs quit half-way through the summer, we also took over the cooking duties. Imagine an entire summer resort with docking facilities and cabins being run and managed by a gang of teenage girls who barely knew how to fry an egg. Our diet in the staff galley consisted of toast and tea for breakfast with fried potatoes and bologna for other meals. All food had to be boated in so the good stuff was restricted for guests only. We saw no milk in the staff kitchen all summer and we were too young and stupid to steal what we needed from the main kitchen. Strangely though, we had no qualms about stealing chocolate bars and potato chips from the tuck shop.

Chief Dispatcher for Duff's Taxi was . . . me (centre) from age 8 to 13.

Part-time dispatcher for Duff’s Taxi was . . . me (centre) from age 8 to 13.

From age eight to thirteen (yes – that young!), I was a taxi dispatcher, taking calls and dispatching by two-way radio to my mother or father who were on the road in the family business in our small town. At thirteen and fourteen, I worked briefly during the summer in a carpet factory transferring yarn to a large reel for spinning. I was a carhop/waitress for three years and self-employed for a few days as a worm-picker but nobody bought my worms so I had to give that up. Even after I left home, I had my share of peculiar jobs as well as some amazing ones. My Boomer friends have similar stories that would probably qualify today as exploitive child labour but none of us can deny it did us the world of good. We were always devising creative ways to earn a bit of money so we could buy bubble gum or licorice. Nothing is more character-building than having to do something you would prefer not to do in order to earn your own money. Earned money is worth so much more than handouts because it’s harder to come by and therefore more appreciated.

What’s your odd job story? Did you pump gas (back in the days when they still did that)? Perhaps you babysat kids almost as old as you were. Maybe you were an army cadet or spent hot summer days cutting lawns and trimming hedges, setting pins in a bowling alley or helping a local farmer with the haying or picking tobacco. I’d love to hear what you did to earn money as a teenager and I’m sure my readers would too. Share your stories by clicking in the “Comments” section.

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What’s the ultimate price for Loving Frank Lloyd Wright

frankDon’t you just love it when you get into a book you can’t put down, but at the same time hate to finish because you’ve become so invested in the characters’ lives? Loving Frank by Nancy Horan is such a book.  Historical fiction based on the real-life love affair between renowned prairie architect Frank Lloyd Wright and Mameh Borthwick Cheney, Horan provides a sensitive and gripping description of their relationship beginning when Wright was commissioned to design and build a house for Edwin and Mameh Cheney in Oak Park, Illinois. Wright’s reputation as a modernist architect was matched equally by the events in his personal life and Horan provides context to the early years.

Frank Lloyd Wright and Mameh Cheney began their affair early in Wright’s career when Cheney and her husband were clients of Wright. Both were intellectuals and shared an esthetic value system. Borthwick-Cheney possessed a Master’s Degree and was fluent in several languages. She was an early feminist who felt stifled and unfilled in her personal life as wife of Edwin Cheney and mother to two young children, John and Martha. Her love for Wright was overriding and resulted in her abandoning her husband and children while visiting a friend in Colorado. She accompanied Wright on a year-long trip to Europe where he was working with a German publisher on a print compilation of his drawings and designs.

During a stopover in France, Mameh read a book by well-known Swedish feminist Ellen Key which addressed her on-going guilt about abandoning her children and helped reconcile her decision to choose Frank Lloyd Wright over her family. After meeting Key at a lecture, they developed a personal and professional relationship that resulted in Mameh acting as American translator for Key’s writing. Following an idyllic stay in Tuscany, Wright and Borthwick-Cheney returned to the United States to a storm of hateful press and rejection by society. He had left his wife Catherine, who refused to give him a divorce, and six children and she left her husband and two children which was an unforgiveable sin in the early twentieth century.

How different would be the reaction if their affair had happened in 2014 instead of 1914?

How different would the reaction be to their love affair if it had happened today instead of 1914?

They retreated to an isolated life in rural Wisconsin in a house Wright designed and was building for Mameh. He commuted to Chicago for business and hired local trades people to work on the construction of their private compound named Taliesin. But life together was challenging. Not only were they reviled for their love affair, but Frank was a terrible business person and his financial affairs were in constant turmoil. His excessive ego and casual attitude toward paying his bills were the source of ongoing disputes and conflict. He owed money to workers and suppliers on his new home and he wasn’t getting new commissions because his personal life with Mameh was deemed to be sinful.

Anyone who has any knowledge of Frank Lloyd Wright and the history of his personal life will be gripped by the little-known story of his relationship with Mameh, who many consider to be his one true love. For those readers who are not familiar with their story, I won’t spoil it by giving you the ending. Nancy Horan wrote a beautiful book about two tragic characters by inserting herself into the mind of Mameh Borthwick Cheney. I couldn’t and didn’t put it down until, sadly, I finished. I give Loving Frank ten out of ten.

To order a copy of Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, click here.

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Dear Santa: It’s me again, Lynda

Santa obviously didn’t get my letter last year. Perhaps his internet was down. So I’m resending my message again this year in the hope that his service provider has restored his service:

kindness1Dear Santa, c/o North Pole, Canada HOHOHO:

It’s been more than sixty years since my last letter, but things have been a bit challenging this year and I thought I’d try to enlist all the help I can get to make this the best Christmas ever. First of all, thank you so much for the Monopoly game you gave me in 1956; it went a long way in helping me understand the business world, the perils of borrowing money from the bank, and the importance of carefully managing my assets, a particularly relevant issue now that I’m retired. I eventually outgrew the skates you gave me but not before putting a lot of miles on them in frozen ditches and puddles, the outdoor rink at the school and the little pond at Indian Hill behind the fairgrounds. Those lovely new red flannelette pyjamas with snow flakes on them that you left for me every year were wonderful too because the bedrooms on the second floor of our house were not heated; the better to snuggle with.

Ralphie's mother was right. Guns are never a good thing.

Ralphie’s mother was right. Guns are never a good thing.

This year, however, my wish list is a little different. I’ll keep it brief as I know you’re busy and time is running out:

  1. Could you please leave a package of reassurance for those selfish, narrow-minded people who think every refugee escaping death and destruction in their homeland is a potential terrorist. We know that the odd crazy will always find a way to slip through the security net but remind the doubters that no one chooses to leave their home, their livelihood, their friends and families to walk down dusty roads and risk their lives in leaky rubber dingies with little more than the clothes on their backs unless they have no other choice for survival. Living in fear is no way to live.
  2. We’ve come to accept that politicians are pretty much a lost cause when it comes to watching over our best interests and making the world a better place but perhaps you could give them the gift of walking in our shoes. Maybe then they would better understand what it’s like to struggle to pay the bills at the end of the month without a nameless reservoir of taxpayers to cover their mistakes and errors in judgement. And maybe they could do what we actually elected them to do.
  3. Please put a little bit of compassion and understanding into the stockings of Americans who do not understand the necessity and value of universal healthcare. To be one of the few countries on earth that does not take care of its citizens in times of need is beyond my comprehension.
  4. If you could drop a candy bag full of kindness, compassion and empathy on all the bad people in the world, I will never ask you for anything ever again. Help them to understand that their actions are misguided and like George Costanza, if they do the opposite of what they have been doing, everything in life will get so much better.
  5. Peace on earth.

    Let there be peace on earth.

    When you drop down that universal chimney in the sky, leave a note beside the milk and cookies suggesting that women run the world. Men haven’t done such a great job what with all the wars, pollution, abuse and violence. Be particularly thorough in distributing this message throughout the Middle East, Pakistan and Russia.

  6. Finally, please assign a senior elf to look over the helpless and needy. Not everyone in this world has been blessed with the advantages and gifts I’ve received over the years so please direct all of your resources toward helping those who truly need it. And then I will truly live happily ever after.

Your friend, Lynda

P.S. If you could see your way clear to remove the calories from all the Christmas goodies I plan to consume over the next couple of weeks, I promise I’ll be an even better girl in 2017. Thank you, and hugs to all.

Christmas cookies on wood background realistic vector