Tag Archives: Canadian blog

Would You Like Me to Wax the Hair on Your Toes?

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What the fuzz?
Okay, I realize I’m off the charts here with asking you such a boldly bumptious question. Nor do I have any intention of following through on the answer if you say yes.

I’ve been under a wee bit of stress lately and decided I needed some pampering. So I scheduled myself into a day spa for the usual scrub, rub, soak and polish routines. It was deliciously decadent.

Who me?
But then something happened. As I was getting my pedicure, eyes closed, enjoying the ambient sounds of the soothing spa playlist du jour, the lovely young technician interrupted my zoned-out state by asking, “Would you like me to wax the hair on your toes?”

Ditching the cucumber slices on my eyes, I bolted upright! “What did you say?”
“The hair on your toes,” she repeated. “Would you like me to remove it?”

“I have hair on my toes?” I said to her, like she would make such a disgusting thing up. “I can’t see that far down”…I insisted. “I have cataracts, I didn’t know I had hair on my toes. How long has it been there?”

Stay calm and breathe!
“I don’t know,” she said in her spa-soothing voice. “But don’t worry, just relax and it will be gone in a minute.” She proceeded to take care of the big hairy deal with the speed and diplomacy of the professional she was. Then she quickly followed up with a leg and foot massage that made me forget my bushy phalanges and put me right back into a zen state of mind. I left feeling relaxed, rejuvenated, and slippery as a mango pit…my Hobbit feet a thing of the past.

Hair today, gone tomorrow:
What is it about our obsession with body hair and why do we find it so unappealing? Studies have shown that many women hide their depilatory secrets from their partners, too embarrassed or ashamed to admit they keep up high maintenance routines to keep themselves basically as bald as baby kangaroos. The Daily Mail in the UK did an article a few years ago entitled, Top 20 Beauty Secrets Women Hide From Men.” The number one item on the list that women never wanted their partners to know was, “Pluck/Shave hair from the toes.”

Yikes!
We older women usually don’t go baby-kangaroo crazy in our plucking, shaving and waxing pursuits. But with hormone changes, we can have a few surprise visitors in the mirror. Pesky little hair follicles can pop out in unforeseen locations, like chin, nipples, belly, moles, knuckles, shoulders, forehead, upper lip and yes…even our noses and ears, usually reserved for the male species.

Hairy contrary:
Sometimes there are medical conditions that cause this problem, but most of the time it isn’t a problem at all. Just annoying as hell. And some women are embracing their inner-hairiness and growing their own leggings and dyeing armpit hair in rainbow colours. But that’s a post for another day. I worked with a woman many years ago who had a patch of long bushy black hair on the back of her legs above the knee. We wore mini skirts in those days and when she bent over the file cabinet, every chair in the office swung around to check out the view. I always wondered if she brushed it.

Let’s think about this:
So with all the maintenance most of us do to keep the forestry down, let me ask you this. What do you think we would morph into if we were deserted on a south Pacific island with our favourite heart-throb? Picture yourself in a bodice ripping story as a romantic castaway with…(fill in the blanks.) My own personal fantasy includes Nathaniel Bonner, from the book, “Into the Wilderness.” Honestly, I can’t get enough of that man. But I digress…back to the deserted island…

The story continues:
So after a few months or a year under a palm tree in the Pacific, and depending on our own personal speed of hair growth multiplied by genetics and dominant genes – our appearance may be more bewhiskered than bewitching. As our eyebrows spread slowly into a monobrow and we braid our armpit hair to keep it out of the oyster stew, will we still want to frolic on our hairy Hobbit feet into the crashing waves on the beach? And without our dream man’s manscaping routines, will we still whisper sweet and salty nothings as we do the beach tango, like a couple of hairballs in love? Hmmm….

 

Final word:
So the next time someone asks you, “Would you like me to wax/tweeze/shave that?”  know that you’re in the good company of someone from the Secret Society of the Hairy Sisterhood.


See you between the lines and on Twitter @PatSkene

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Help! I Want My Life Back!

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Etched in My Brain

I remember the day in 1953 when we got electricity in our town.

I remember the day in 1963 when President Kennedy was shot.

I remember the day in 2015 when I became obsessed with Donald J. Trump.

It was June 16th when he rode that escalator like a vainglorious king, declaring his candidacy for president and announcing that Mexicans were thieves and rapists.

“How long can this guy last?” I laughed. “It should be fun to watch this asshole crash and burn.” And so my CNN addiction began.

Trump News Junky
Now 2 years later and 190 days into his presidency, I long for the days when I only watched TV in the evening hours; for the days when I spent my time with non-Trumpish things, like reading novels and writing children’s books. Instead I watch cable news and scour the online pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, Politico, The Daily Beast, The New Yorker and the Wall Street Journal for the latest POTUS wrecking ball disasters.

Life was simple before all this frightening nonsense and I wonder if things will ever be the same again. As the alt-right seem to take over the partisan brains of America, I can only hope this is not the new normal.

One Angry Creamsicle
After working 35 years in corporate life, I can’t even imagine treating people like this vulgarian. How can any company survive by encouraging infighting between competing power centres, or by publicly humiliating employees and colleagues? Staffers for Trump are disposable and discarded once they no longer serve his purpose. And he’s a coward. Despite his image, he would rather humiliate someone out of their position rather simply say, ‘You’re fired!”

Plugged In 24/7
Occasionally when I pry myself loose from CNN or MSNBC to venture out to attend to my life, I constantly check my phone for the latest Breaking News flashes and tweet-storms from the bully-in-chief. I’m not proud of it, but I can’t seem to stop.

This Mein Trumpf administration is like a freight train filled with explosives, heading straight for American democracy. Yet there are still many who support him and his vengeful obsession of annihilating all things Obama, destruction of the environment and everything else in life that’s decent and good.

Conspiring Conspiracies
As Team Trump stands firm, I wonder if a mind-altering chip has been inserted into their cell phones – like in the ‘Kingsman” movie. Or has some malevolent drug been drip-drip-dripping into the US water supply? Right now I would believe anything after witnessing the surreal sideshow of this vile Trump Administration.

Vipers and Wiseguys
And just when you dare to think it can’t get any worse, “Tony the Mooch,” gets added to the White House cast of liars and ass-kissers; a character right out of the Sopranos. And while they all slither and hiss like a pit of vipers, vying for his attention – Prima Donald sits on his golden throne tweeting and eclipsing his own agenda. (Update after this post was published…the Trump tribe has spoken and the Mooch is out after only 10 days on the job!)

So What’s Next?
Everyday, this episodic Republican reality show is filled with backstabbing paranoia, attacks on basic values and more proof of dangerous Russian connections. Everyday, I hope this horror show will stop. And everyday, I’m disappointed that once again, I’ve wasted yet another day of my life hoping and praying that the dark hidden secrets of Donald J. Trump will hit the airwaves and catapult him into a jail-cell.

Final Word:
It’s all so mesmerizing and nuclear grade bonkers, I simply can’t walk away until the story ends. Even as I finish this post, Trump continues to humiliate and diminish everyone in his orbit. Yesterday Benedict Donald announced the firing of his Chief of Staff…on Twitter!

Buddha said, “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth.” Let’s just hope this ancient sage knew what he was talking about.

In the meantime, how do I disconnect and get my life back?

See you between the lines.

Pat Skene

 

 

 

Are Restaurants Too Loud?

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9781612360010_p0_v1_s260x420WHAT? 
Remember when you went to a restaurant and you didn’t come home with a raging headache and hoarse from a night out? Remember when you could talk to your dinner partners and have a meaningful conversation – and not have to shout above the music playing at inhuman sound levels? Can anyone remember those good old days?

Pounding baselines: It’s not just the music in some restaurants that beats your ear into submission. It’s the noise bouncing off the naked surfaces. Somewhere along the line, carpets, tablecloths and finished ceilings disappeared and were replaced with stone floors, wooden tabletops, gleaming chrome fixtures and open ceilings with plumbing and heating pipes on display. So there’s absolutely nothing to absorb the sound as it ricochets from one hard surface to another in booming echoes around the room.

Is it just me? What’s happening out there with this new dining trend? It used to be that I would research a menu carefully before making a reservation to eat out. Now, the menu is secondary, as my first question is always, “Do you have live entertainment?” A live band is the worst, but playlists can be piped-in at absurd volume levels too.

Up close and personal: Did you know that many restaurants play a certain type of music on purpose? First of all, research has shown that a noisy restaurant draws people in because it sounds like a fun place…and we all like fun! Second, studies have also shown that when they speed up the beat, the sound waves energize us, so we eat faster and drink more. That means they make more money on food and drink that we may not have otherwise consumed.  Plus, if we eat at turbo speed, they get to turn the tables faster with more butts in the seats. Certainly a win win for them, but not for our waistlines or our wallets.

I  can’t hear you! The basic principles of going to a restaurant is to enjoy a shared meal and have a conversation – not to sit mute while we listen to music or scream at our partners to be heard. In my view, the guest experience is ruined, when the restaurant is cluttered with room noise. Now I’m not talking about the normal buzz of conversation, the clattering of dishes or the lovely jazz trio in the corner playing soft background music. I’m talking about the musicians who crank up their amps like they’re playing a rock concert for a bunch of teeny boppers. The same goes for music blasting through speaker systems. And even if you ask the wait staff or management to turn it down, my experience is that it won’t happen.

Tweets not talk: Maybe I’m just too old-fashioned about this whole thing and people today like to speak in “tweets” mirroring their online interactions. Maybe people prefer to live more on the surface these days, without the added burden of actually being interested in connecting with another human being. And again…the less you talk, the more you eat…the more you eat, the more you drink…and so it goes around and around. Are you seeing a pattern here? But if the younger generations are becoming accustomed to communicating in this way, are we losing the art of conversation in the process? This is another whole issue for another day.

What can we do?
If we, as paying guests are dissatisfied with any of the above, we should speak up:
1.  Be vocal and tell the restaurant management that we are dissatisfied.
2. Encourage more food critics to add a new category for sound levels in their reviews.
3. Boycott the establishment and tell them why.
4. Post our complaints on restaurant review sites, to draw attention to the issues.
5. Choose a table farthest from music amps and speakers, and near soft surfaces if they have any.

Final word: What do you think people? Have I just passed my best before date or do I have a point here?

See you between the lines,

Follow me on Twitter @PatSkene

From Foxtrot to Technobot

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1396493416Calling me names: Someone recently called me a technobot. In my crusty rusty years, I’ve been called worse. I certainly do love to embrace (or downright cuddle and spoon) new technology innovations with the anticipation and thrill of a teenage kiss. You may have read about these developing passions of mine in my 50 Shades of Mac  post. But back to the business at hand.

What’s up? A couple of years ago I learned how to email money to and from my bank account. The thought of my hard-earned dollars whizzing through cyberspace at warp speed, sent me reeling with the sheer magic of it all. Oh the wonders and conveniences of this brave new world. To think that in my early childhood years I actually lived without electricity or telephones. Hell, my first school bus consisted of two horses pulling a boxy cabin on wheels, while we sat on the benches that lined the interior of the windowless walls. But I digress.

old-telephone-clipartvintagefeedsacks-free-vintage-clip-art-vintage-telephone-old-zjobn5vtA school holiday was declared when electricity finally found its way into our town. Life was simple…and then it all changed. The gaslights were turned off one by one, as the telephones started to ring and television sets introduced us to I Love Lucy.

The year was 1952 in small town Ontario.

So what’s the big deal? Well…now I can actually deposit a cheque to my bank account from my home, using my iPhone! I simply take a picture of the front and back of the cheque, and voila! It’s deposited to my account, while I sit at my kitchen table sipping a cup of coffee! I always feel quite light-headed from the dizzying experience. 1368299830917888001apple-iphone-icon-hi

Don’t judge me yet: Okay, I can hear you thinking…this poor woman has no life, to get so excited about such a silly unimportant thing. Whoa…hold on there Nellie! Yes I admit, new technology turns my crank, juices my engines and puts newfound energy into my yoga pants. And at my age, that’s got to be worth something! But it’s much more than that to me.

The meaning of life: This experience means that as I progress into the scary world of aging, I am learning how to embrace change and enjoy it. It means I can stay current and talk about these innovations with my family, and be connected to their world. In a more tangible sense, it means I can stay home to do my banking, instead of venturing out in the cold and snow. And in some small way, it helps me feel relevant in this rapidly changing world.

Stay tuned: So many seniors I meet are computer savvy. But just as many are not, and resist any suggestion of getting on board. As we age, our worlds often become smaller and smaller, due to illness, physical limitations, financial situations or family circumstance. Just think of the endless possibilities of entertainment, education and communication, if we stay tuned-in instead of tuned-out. The wonders of the Internet connects us with the universe, right from the comfort of our recliners.

Luv U2: I’m sure there are thousands of children and grandchildren out there, dying to give their grandparents a tablet (computer not medical) so they can stay in touch through Facebook, email and texting. And it’s never too late to learn. On the contrary, it’s exactly the right time. How can I put a value on the simple texts I get from my granddaughter to say goodnight, or to tell me she loves me? Phone calls are out with these kids…texting is in.

True colours: I’ve come a long way from living with gas-powered washing machines, wood stoves and hand-cranked record players for learning the foxtrot. In my sepia drenched memories, those days seem like they were a part of a kinder, gentler life. But as a child with those memories, I didn’t have to haul the water, chop the wood, or wrestle the frozen sheets off the clothesline. And I also didn’t have to trudge through the snow, all the way to the only telephone in town, when the doctor called my mother from the city about my Dad’s serious condition in hospital. Just imagine the number of changes in my very short lifetime. From sepia to living colour.

She who laughs: So scoff at me if you will, as I languish in my senior moments of pure cyber-bliss. But you might think of me the next time you stand in line at the bank, or walk across an icy parking lot to deposit your cheques at an ATM. I’ll be at home sipping coffee in my jammies doing the same thing…using my I-Phone. Try it…it’s nothing short of amazing! And we cottonheads need to be amazed now and then. Smoothes out the wrinkly bits.

See you between the lines,

Pat Skene

 

I Beaned Him!

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Here’s my story:

Gather round and hear my tale,      smileyEmbarsassed
My secret past, I must unveil,
The day I faced my deepest fear,
And beaned a groper in the ear.

Now please don’t judge my actions then,
I’ve never done that deed again,
But I can really be a witch,
When I’m provoked to be a bitch!

Looking back: I consider myself a peaceful woman who abhors violence or physical aggression of any sort. In my growing up years circa 1950, our household was always that of a quiet loving family. And other than whacking my older brother across the back with a broom when I was 8 years old, and knocking the wind out of him – violence was never part of my life.

Fast forward: Now let’s move ahead to a summer day, circa 1990 at the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto on a Saturday afternoon. The place is quiet, as most downtown market shoppers are early morning people. I have my 15 year-old niece with me. Hubsey is upstairs on a bench holding all the bags filled with cheeses, fresh fruit and fish, chowing down on a market-famous bacon-on-a-bun.

What a deal! Downstairs I find an end-of-day sale on fresh garden vegetables. My niece stands off to the side while I stuff a large plastic grocery bag full of green beans, for the price of $2. I’m delighted with my purchase and reach over the counter to hand my money to the vendor.

Horrors! Just then, I’m jarred, as two hands come from behind and grab both my breasts. I see the filthy fingernails and realize it’s not Hubsey in a moment of unbridled passion. I whip around and look straight into the face of the filthiest looking derelict; his leering grin 2 inches from my face; his rotten teeth the colour of a dirty urinal; his breath like a distillery sewer.

Besmirched: I stand there in shock. He removes his hands from my body and with a disgusting grin on his face, he simply walks away. His clothes hang like rags, and his hair is matted and covers half his face. I glance at my niece a few feet away; her hands are clamped over her mouth; her eyes the size of dinner plates.

No escape! I watch as this disgusting piece of filth approaches the doors to leave the market and I am suddenly enveloped in a sea of black rage – and I snap! th

Kapow! I take off after him, swinging my bag o’ beans in wide circles like a Spanish bola, gaining momentum as I run. His back is to me so he doesn’t see me coming. He’s about to push the doors open to leave, when I make contact with his head. I bean him smack on his right ear and he howls like a banshee.

Big trouble: He whips around and screams in my face, “Hey! What the hell did you do that for!” (Is he kidding me?) It was then I notice he has a buddy with him. I back up as the two of them clench their fists and start walking toward me, their eyes locked on mine.

Solo act: Now don’t forget, Hubsey is upstairs enjoying his bacon-on-a-bun, oblivious to the rumble in the jungle downstairs, so he’s no help. My niece is still in teenage shock with her feet super-glued to the floor. Thankfully she’s turned to stone and stays put! It’s late afternoon in the market with not many people around. Truthfully, it all happened so fast, I can’t remember to this day if there was anyone who witnessed the assault, except my niece and me. But I digress.

Oh no! As the two thugs get closer, I can’t drop my beans and run, leaving my petrified niece there, so I have to think fast. All I know, is that I’m on my own to defend myself. I’m a small woman with no real physical strength or black belt credentials, so all I can hope for is insanity.

Release the hounds! So I stand my ground and face them dead on, legs apartth  in an aggressive stance while I scream obscenities and wave my fists in the air. (Like the way you do to make yourself bigger to scare away wild animals in the woods.) I go totally berserk and don’t budge an inch from my spot. My face is red-hot and I’m spitting saliva as I spew forth my venom, calling them all the vile words I can muster.

Eureka! Well, I’m happy to say it worked and the two thugsters look at each other, turn on their heels and leave the building…muttering something about a crazy bitch.

My violent past: I am not a violent person and I have never in my life hit another human being…other than my brother-of-the-broom incident of course…and oh yes, the time I punched my boss in the stomach. But that’s a story for another day.

A black place: The experience at the market rattled me for weeks. It wasn’t just the physical assault on me that kept me awake nights, although that was bad enough. It was my blind-rage reaction that scared the green beans out of me; a sheer black rage that brought forth that scary witch who came screaming out of my body to seek vengeance for what he had done to me. No woman should ever tolerate sexual assault in any form. And more women should bring forth their inner scary witch, or their own personal bag o’ beans weapon when it happens.

Buried deep: I don’t know from whither she came and thankfully, I’ve had no need of her services since then. Something tells me she would resurface if my daughter or granddaughter were in jeopardy. But she’s one scary broad and it’s no wonder that those two losers thought better of taking her on. Although in retrospect, I think they were supremely hung over and just wanted the screaming to stop and the drinking to begin.

Pressure cookers: I guess we all have a bit of that black rage simmering quietly below the surface. Some control it better than others. Some don’t control it all. And some get sick from holding it all in, in an effort to keep the lid from slipping off. There’s a fine line here as individual as each one of us.

Final word: My green bean story has gone viral in my family over the years and as I recently started writing my memoirs, it was time to write it down. We all have pieces of ourselves we will never get to know. Sometimes, those pieces are better left alone. As for me, I was frightened by my aggressive actions, but sometimes it takes a bag o’ beans in the ear to show them you mean business.

So that’s my tale, it’s sad but true,
He groped my boobs, what could I do?
I whacked that deadbeat in the head!
He should have grabbed my beans instead.

See you between the lines and on Twitter @PatSkene

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My Christmas Meat Pie Story

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free-vector-beautiful-christmas-tree-vector_025000_3‘Twas the day to make meat pies, the onions were sliced.
The ground pork was sizzling, the mushrooms were diced.
When, what to my family’s surprise should appear,
But me in an apron and snorkel mask gear!

Cyber-confessions: With Christmas looming large on the horizon, I look forward to our annual meat-pie-making ceremony. It always signifies the start of the holidays for our family. And at this ripe old age, I must confess into the blogosphere that I can’t cook. Never could. Never would. Never wanted to. But in an idiot savant kind of way – I can cook a fabulous French Canadian tourtiere (meat pie).

Practice makes perfect-pie: The truth is, I’ve had exactly 25 years experience making this one dish every Christmas. It all started in December 1991. So I should be good at it by now, with tons of beef, pork and mushrooms under my belt. Well, not literally you understand or my dress size would outnumber my age. But I digress…

Back to the pies: When I say I can’t cook, I mean I can’t cook anything that doesn’t appeal to a child under the age of ten. Over the years, I managed to make all the simple standards; enough to keep my daughter fed and the Children’s Aid from my door.

Soufflé or sauté: But when it came to dinner parties and trying recipes that required any skill at all – I didn’t know flambé from flamenco! Eating-out or catering-in was always the wisest choice back then. During my working years, Hubsey often threatened to turn our kitchen into a library. He said the wasted space taken up by the stove and cooking areas could be put to better use. I thought it was a brilliant idea, but alas he never followed through.

Hungry motivation: And so over the years it came to pass, that for reasons of pure self-preservation, Hubsey decided to take over the kitchen reins and I gladly relinquished my apron. Well it wasn’t really an apron – I never had one of those. It was more of a long silk shirt that fluttered elegantly as I wafted through the kitchen to top up my glass of wine.

Perfect pair: Now back to Hubsey’s foray into cooking. I’m happy to report that he’s done an admirable job at this cooking thing and over the years has developed into a very creative and adventurous chef. So I continue to sit back in my post retirement years; bib tucked firmly in place and my knife and fork at the ready – eager to sample anything he gets the urge to create. We make quite a team! He loves to cook and I…don’t!

Keep out: Now back to my meat pie story again. Hubsey doesn’t get involved. This is the one dish he leaves to me and my daughter to prepare and wisely stays out of the kitchen. He knows it’s been a bumpy road to get me to this exalted state of meat-pie-cooking-nirvana and he doesn’t want to upset the delicate balance of this rare mother-daughter cooking achievement. How well he remembers the first time we tried this recipe. What a disaster! But in my defense, the snorkel masks were my idea and they did help with the onions.

Check it out: Years ago I wrote an article about that first tourtiere-cooking experience. It was published in several magazine and newspaper publications and you can check out a-toast-to-tourtierehere. And for those of you who find your mouth-watering curiosity too much to bear – click here for my toutiere-recipe

I’ve passed this recipe on to scores of people over the past 25 years – with rave reviews by all. This truly is the best holiday meat pie ever. And if I can make it…well, you know the drill.

Now away I must fly like the down of a thistle.
I think I just heard my stove-timer-thing whistle.
So let me exclaim as I blog out of sight,
“It took me 2 decades…but I got it right!”

picejuxsjMerry Christmas to all and to all a good bite!

See you between the lines and on Twitter @PatSkene

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The Red Angel

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I need to tell you a story:   

Prologue: The other day, I sat in the lobby of my condo building waiting for Hubsey to pick me up at the front door. As I sat on the bench, I admired the beautiful Christmas decorations all around me. A team of dedicated volunteers take time out of their lives every year to do this, and it truly is spectacular…inviting and festive to all residents and visitors who come through the lobby.

Main character: An elderly woman I didn’t know was sitting beside me, and I commented on how beautiful everything looked. She harumphed and said, “I hate that red angel on the top of the tree.”

The lines in the woman’s face deepened as she glared at the angel and added, “They should have put a white one, or a gold one, but not that cheap looking thing! It ruins everything!”

Point of view: Now the tree had to be 15 feet high, so from where I was sitting I had to really squint to see the details of this monstrosity she was talking about. But what I saw was a beautiful angel in a red velvet dress trimmed with white fur, sporting a set of magical feathery white wings. She was beautiful and angelic as angels should be, and simply perfect for the treetop.

Motivation: I thought about this woman for the rest of the day…I’m still thinking about her. Why was she so unhappy with this red angel and how could it possibly “ruin everything” as she said. And while I know deep down it wasn’t about the angel at all, I can’t help but wonder  what made her see the little red angel in that particular way?

Perhaps her children don’t call at Christmas?
Perhaps she deals with pain every waking moment?
Perhaps her shoes were too tight?
Perhaps Santa has forgotten her too many times?
Perhaps she is lonely?
Perhaps her father was a nasty drunk every Christmas?
Perhaps all her old friends have died?
Perhaps she has outlived her money?
Perhaps the colour red makes her see red?
Perhaps she was simply constipated?

Epilogue: Whatever the reason, the fact remains that we see the world from where we sit…together with all our glory and carbuncles. And our view is distorted by the amount of baggage we choose to drag along behind us.  Life’s a bitch, there’s no doubt about that! It’s how we deal with the successes, failures and challenges that defines how we see life’s ever changing landscape.

Serendipity: Coincidentally, someone tweeted this picture recently, which I would like to share with you. I don’t know the tweeter, so I apologize if I am using the picture without permission, whoever you are. But it’s a great message and if I knew who the woman was that I met in the lobby, I would stick it under her door. It’s never too late to see the beautiful red angels in our lives.

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See you between the lines and on Twitter @PatSkene

 

 

 

 

 

10 Senior Secrets Unplugged

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baby boomerAll hail my aging flower children!  Oh get a grip…you know you are, even if Miss Clairol is still your best friend. I have some inside secrets to share with you today;  real living-large secrets to help us through the crusty/rusty years. And I don’t mean the obvious stuff like eating right, getting regular exercise and seeing your doctor. I’m talking about the hard core, inside scoop on making everyday count and being the best we can be.

10 Top Senior Secrets

1. Crush it!  Chalky-type pills and vitamins can be difficult to swallow.  Cutting them in half doesn’t work because the sharp edges can slice your throat with surgical precision on the way down. Try using a mortar and pestle to crush the pills and put the powdery residue in your tea. So easy peasy!  (Check with pharmacist before doing this with prescriptions.)

2. Extend it! If you’re having trouble bending over to get your shoes on, there are extendable shoehorns on the market. Most extend to 24 – 30 inches and retract 12 – 18 inches. But there is one product called, Ease Squeeze that extends to 32 inches and retracts to 6 inches, so you can put the shoehorn in your pocket for visiting and medical checkups etc. Have shoehorn, will travel!

3. Pump it!  As we age, we lose circulation in our extremities while we sleep. Before getting out of bed, pump your fists open and closed for a few minutes and circle your ankles around in various positions to get the blood flowing before you get up. Works wonders for low blood pressure too. Play it safe!

4. Poop it! As you learned in The Scary World of Aging, when we get older, our hair gets whiter and our poop gets tighter. Ground flaxseed in your daily diet guarantees that you will hear the voice of angels on a regular basis. Try it in oatmeal, salads and in your baking.  Hallelujah!

5. Surf it! Learn  to use the Internet for more than sending jokes. Surfing around the world can do wonders for your outlook and feelings of connectivity with the universe. Research shows that more seniors than ever are using the Internet and Facebook to stay connected with friends and family. So get your surfboards out and let your fingers do the talking. Kowabunga!

6. Pluck it! Listen up codgers. You simply have to own a good magnifying mirror to check for rogue follicles. Women – check your chin, upper lip, neck and (dare I say it) your boobs for stray whiskers. Men – for all that’s holy, check your nose and ears for overgrown tufts and mini-bushes. All together now…pluck, shave, tweeze, clip, wax and do what it takes to search and destroy. Zap the nasty beggars.

7.  Say it! It’s easy for the voice of seniors to get lost in the loud noises made by the many masters of the universe. What we have to say matters and we need to make ourselves heard. Don’t just complain to your spouse and family. Tell your MP’s and town councillors, write a letter to the editor,  call the people at the top and don’t give up until you make contact. Don’t tread softly and always carry a big stick!

8. Use it! Do you have  “good things” sheltered away in a dusty old cedar chest waiting for special occasions? Newsflash! Every day is a special occasion as we enter the dawn of the golden era.  So don’t save it…use it or give it away. You can’t create memories with something that isn’t active in your life. Our “things” are only as precious as the memories they create. Share the joy so you can see the joy!

9. Stretch it! Okay, so I’m a big supporter of yoga for seniors as per my Dem Bones Dem Bones post. But seriously, if you only try one item on my list, make it this one. Choose a class that teaches  “therapeutic yoga” and get the best physiotherapy ever. This type of yoga will teach you how to scan your body for stress, how to safely exercise and stretch your back, muscles and joints – and how to  breathe energizing life back into your body . Ommmmm…

10. Hear it! It’s easy to become disconnected in group conversations as we age. It can be challenging to keep up with how fast everyone seems to speak, as our ear-intake valves slow down. But if we compound that factor with hearing loss, it’s a downhill slide into isolation, as our ability to interact with others deteriorates. We shouldn’t let our vanities and intolerance for change, keep us from getting hearing aids. Listen up and stay involved!

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See you between the lines,
Follow me on Twitter @PatSkene 

Good Lord America – What Are You Thinking?

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images-10An Open Letter to Donald Trump Supporters from a Canadian

As your Canadian neighbour, we’ve been friends for a long time. We haven’t always agreed, but most of the time we’ve respected and accepted each other’s differences…more or less. Our beer is still better than yours and we have poutine.

But now you’ve really got me baffled and I’m doing my best to appreciate your point of view on this whole Donald Trump thing.

Mi casa su casa:
Now you could say it’s none of my business because I live in Canada. And you might be right except for the fact that we share a border and (I thought) many of the same values. Plus as my neighbour, if you blow up the barbecue in your backyard, you can be sure it will set off a firestorm of shrapnel into my yard as well.

Trump: “I love the poorly educated.”
I’m really struggling to understand how you can allow a narcissistic man like Trump to live rent free in your brain.  Don’t you know that he’s manipulating you through fear and empty promises? I know The Donald has admitted he doesn’t like to read, but PLEASE do yourself a favour and read about his background, his lawsuits, his bankruptcies, his bigotry, how he has treated women and the miles of destruction (and people) he has left in his wake. And if you say to this that you don’t care…why don’t you care? What’s wrong with you?

I know that both candidates have their baggage. But when you compare the backgrounds and selfless work one candidate has done for decades, to the selfish work of the other, surely you have to feel ashamed when you look into the mirror. And really, what terrible things has Hillary actually done? Why is she disliked by so many Americans? Hillary Clinton is the devil? Seriously?

Covert operations:
The media isn’t talking about this, but I think there is still a strong gender bias for the POTUS position and many males of all ages still cannot accept that a woman could run the country. It’s been a man’s world since forever and all that testosterone just can’t handle being told what to do by a mere female. Is this why so many of you men out there will take anyone, even the likes of the Trumpster, rather than choosing to support a very competent woman? Shame on every one of you.

Or maybe you’re simply supporting Trump because you’re pissed with the establishment and want to teach those Washington bureaucrats a lesson? Okay, you’ve made your point but it’s time to let go. Giving the reins to a madman won’t help your cause and will only ensure that you will be treated exactly like the many people who have been shafted by this charlatan.

Bizarre realities:
Look – I know that my simple little blog post isn’t going to make any difference. But I can’t stand by and do nothing. I rather like being your neighbour and consider us friends. And so I’m truly trying to understand your motives in wanting to put a demagogue and his Stepford wife into the White House. And by the way…where the heck is perfect wife number 3 these days? Certainly not beside The Donald. Her website was taken down this week after it was discovered the FLOTUS hopeful was also a liar about her educational credentials, in addition to being a plagiarist. And then her nude photos hit the newsstands! Oh dear…

The ultimate reality show:
Okay, I understand Trump boosts television ratings and gets way more air time than he deserves. So are you watching him on TV and attending his rallies out of a macabre sense of curiosity, because you know he’ll say something outrageous? Maybe you’re not really going to vote for him and all you want is to be able to tell your friends that you were there when he said that. And let’s face it – the man does aim to please the masses. It’s like watching a Jerry Springer Show unhinged!

Trump: “I could shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”
It could be that you like seeing a crass politician saying outrageous things and calling people demeaning names that you wouldn’t allow your child to repeat in the schoolyard. Or perhaps you’re a Trump groupie who loves his celebrity status and can’t get enough of that orange comb-over and his tiny little Twitter fingers. Or just maybe, deep down you really are a mean-spirited bigot and misogynist who is using Trump as a means to validate the darkest corners of your soul. Am I hitting a nerve here?

Whatever your motives, it’s time to dig deep and think about what you’re doing. If Trump wins and the world becomes a divisive, angry, dark place because of your vote – what will you tell your children? How will you feel when they behave just like the new President of the United States? Will you be proud, or will you be terribly terribly ashamed that you helped to make this part of history happen?

Final word:
So don’t you think it’s time to turn back and rethink your motives? Please, for the love of everything you want for the future of your country – disconnect yourselves from Trumpmania NOW and run as fast as you can away from this egotistical monster of a thousand faces. And to all you senior Republican leaders who have held your noses and endorsed Donald Trump – shame on all of you for mutely standing by and allowing the devil into your house.

And one more thing. If you really do end up voting for that big-mouthed racist bully and he becomes President – we don’t want you here in Canada when you see for yourself that his promises were just a big stinking smokescreen…like his grand entrance at the RNC. You can stay right where you are and boil in your own Trump-infested juices!

Yours sincerely,
Pat Skene,
Your Canadian Neighbour

P.S. To find out more about how Donald Trump is manipulating the masses, click on this excellent article.
Neuroscientist Explains the Donald Trump Effect

 

 

My Dirty Little Secret

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Cover16I can’t believe I’m going to tell you this!

I’ve chosen today to blab about my secret because I need some serious frivolity in my life. I’m going a little batty in this heat, trapped inside my condo with the AC cranked up. Plus I’m exhausted from listening to recent world events and disgusted by what I’m seeing in U.S politics. So bear with me as I create a diversion and tell you something I never talk about. Something I thought would go to the grave with me. Something I hide in my biggest sock under the bed.

Just say it!
Okay here goes…I love watching The Young and the Restless. There, I’ve said it and now my secret is in your hands.

I’ve been a fan of this soap opera for over 35 years. Obviously when I was working, I wasn’t a regular viewer as we didn’t have PVR’s back then and thankfully I had no idea how to work our VCR. But occasionally I would catch up and see an episode or two during holidays or on a sick day. There was always a degree of shock and awe, as I gobbled up the outlandish story lines where life was even more manipulating and bizarre than the corporate jungle where I spent my days.

Oh the drama!
But now that I’m retired and at home, I admit to taping and watching every episode. And after each daily plot shocker, I go to bed pondering the real meaning of life. I think about big questions, like how many times has Victor divorced and remarried his beloved Nikki, and will she take him back yet again? When will poor trusting Jack realize his scuzzy wife is having an affair with his younger brother Billy? And will Phyllis ever forgive Victor for replacing her husband with a doppleganger on her honeymoon? All this and more – dishing daily on The Young and the Restless.

Blowing soap bubbles
I’m happy to say, watching the lives of the Newmans and Abbots on this show has most certainly not been a waste of my time. A wide array of valuable life lessons have bubbled up over the years from the brilliant writing on this show, and  I’d like to share some of my learnings with you:

  • Contrary to medical reports, complete face transplants are performed all the time.
  • It’s quite normal to marry your stepmother, your sister’s brother and your father-in-law.
  • Amnesia is far more commonplace than we realize and happens routinely every day.
  • An evil twin has many lives and is much harder to kill than a good twin.
  • A coma is a medical state that occurs when someone is about to reveal a big juicy secret.
  • It’s normal for kids to skip from toddler to teenager in 15 months.
  • Breaking into a lab to change DNA/paternity test results is a piece of cake.
  • It’s fashionable to wear winter boots in the house and put your feet up on the sofa.
  • It’s glamorous to sleep in full make-up and a lacy under-wire bra. 
  • A non-pregnant woman can be drugged into believing she just gave birth to a baby.
  • Just because people watch you die and attend your funeral, doesn’t mean you’re dead!
  • And my personal favourite – it’s okay to lock someone up in a cage in your living room or abandoned warehouse for months on end. (Don’t these people ever poop?)

Final word:
So there you have it…a few important lessons I would never had known, had I not invested the time and energy to watch this important program over more than three decades. And judge me as you will, but you have to agree – I would never have acquired this type of sophisticated knowledge on the PBS or History channels. I’m just saying…

Now I know there are many more of you out there hiding in your soap cupboards. Come out, come out, wherever you are!

See you between the lines and on Twitter @PatSkene

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Pat Skene

Leaf Blower Blowback!

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th

It’s that time of year again when we shake, rattle and roll to the sounds of spring. 

My rant du jour is all about those insidious leaf-blowing contraptions engaged in the ritual of combat gardening. And most days it does sound like a war zone out there, as men prepare to battle mother nature with leaf-blowing devices strapped to their bodies like missile launchers.

Few inventions in history have been as useless and annoying as the leaf-blower…in my not-so-humble boomer opinion.

It’s bad enough when spring is sprung, that we endure the onslaught of noise from gas mowers, whipper snippers, hedge trimmers, lawn tractors, and all things garden beautiful. But when we add the incessant roar of leaf-blowers to the mix, it’s enough to make a person escape to the bottom of the pool for quiet relief…like Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate!

Now besides the ear-shattering, brain twisting noise, what’s so bad about leaf-blowers you ask?

1. Pollution: A 2 cylinder gas engine leaf-blower is a major contributor to pollution. It creates 299 times more hydrocarbon emissions than a pickup truck and 93 times more than an average sedan. Seriously!

2. Allergies and illness: In addition to pollution, wind blows from the nozzle of an average gas leaf-blower at approximate speeds of 180 MPH. It pulverizes everything it comes in contact with, releasing air clouds of dust, dirt and contaminants into the air we breathe:  contaminants like mould, bird and rodent feces, fungal spores, insect eggs, pollen, and toxic chemicals from lawns and gardens…all right up into our noses!

3. Danger to workers: Not only can the force of wind from the blower throw rocks at cars and people, workers are not always well protected from the hazards of using this equipment. But ironically, workers themselves strongly favour using them. Perhaps a bit of manhood symbolism is at play here…or maybe your garden variety gorillas are just too damn lazy to use those archaic things known as brooms and rakes!!!FHQJfVigUmmAANu-556x313-noPad

4. Poppycock: Leaf blowers have been banned in many communities throughout the United States and Canada. There are ongoing online petitions nationwide to expand the ban of these ridiculously annoying devices. But lawn and garden companies continue to fight back hard, citing efficiencies as the main point of reason…clean-up will take more time with rakes and brooms and therefore, more expensive to the user etc. Can failure to manage leaves with leaf-blowers mean unattractive lawns, falling home prices and perhaps the end of civilization as we know it? Sheep dung! I have watched the leaf-blower operator outside my condo numerous times, as he chases a single leaf back and forth across the parking lot in an effort to blow it into a sewer grate or back into the garden! How can that be more efficient than bending over to pick the blasted thing up or sweeping it into a bag?

5. Big money: The proliferation of leaf-blowers has more to do with marketing than efficiency. They are cheap to produce, priced to sell and aggressively marketed. This device was originally invented in the late 1950’s for use as an agricultural crop duster. From there it evolved into a leaf clean-up tool in the fall, to the current use – the ubiquitous summer weapon attacking our summer peace and quietude. The real function of leaf blowers is to line the pockets of the corporations that make them. For shame on them and all of us who buy them!

Final word: The humble rake and the much-forgotten broom offer so much more to the user than the mind-numbing noise of the leaf-blower. Rakes and brooms are quiet, more precise, far more tenacious – and help the operator keep fit by offering an excellent form of exercise while burning at least 50 calories per half hour. And as an effective peacekeeper, rakes and brooms would never think of blowing crap into your neighbour’s’ yard!

Long live rakes and brooms! Long live a peaceful summer!

I’ll see you between the lines.
Follow me on Twitter @PatSkene

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Dem Bones, Dem Bones…

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13653755-yoga-position-funny-cartoon-and-vector-isolated-illustrationDo brittle bones drive you insane?
Does bending put your back in pain?
How are your hips, your neck, your knees?
Do you need help? Keep reading please…

(originally posted November 2012)

What now? Last year, I noticed that everything in my body was tightening up like the sticky lid on a honey jar.  The doggerel lyrics of that old song about how the toe bone’s connected to the foot bone and the foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone, etc., blasted away in my brain. A cruel reminder that I was coming of age.

All pain, no gain: Every morning, my stiff joints and rigid spine felt like they would crack wide open if I moved too quickly. Well, I wasn’t happy about this decrepit state of affairs. Yes I was Living with Lupus, but I was swimming and walking regularly, so what more could I possibly do and why wasn’t my exercise routine working?

Out of the blue: Then my doctor recommended yoga classes…which in itself was a refreshing thing for a doctor to do!  Thank goodness for our new younger female doctors who know how to think outside the pill-box. But seriously…could yoga really help me?

Well-kept secret: What is it about the word “yoga” that conjures up images of skinny contortionists in leggings, eating raw carrots and tree nuts…while standing on their heads? Think again! Yoga is becoming a serious contender for seniors – to improve strength, endurance, balance, joints and spine. In my experience, it’s nothing short of amazing.

Scaredy Pat: At first I was reluctant because it had been 25 years since I uttered the Ommmm mantra. I would make a fool of myself without a doubt, and I wasn’t even sure I could get down on the floor – or more importantly – get back up again. But fear notwithstanding, I strapped my new yoga mat over my shoulder and hit the yoga scene with my aching bony knees a knockin.’

A big relief!  Thankfully my yoga instructor was excellent and he modified each pose to the comfort level of the participants. It wasn’t pretty at first. I initially had to do some positions with the help of a chair and some poses were easier if I leaned against the wall, instead of getting down on the floor. But that was only in the beginning. There was a natural process from there to feeling stronger and eventually finding my way down to the mat.

Tempus fugit: Now here I am one year later, still attending yoga classes twice a week and loving every minute of it. And listen up!  The improvements to my knees, back and hips is nothing short of amazing. This is serious stuff! I still have some neck problems, but I’m working on that.  And although I will never perform advanced yoga postures, my progress to date is remarkable. But most remarkable of all is how good I feel and how much I look forward to every class…the postures, the deep breathing and the meditation.

The secret’s out: I simply wanted to tell you and pass it on. And do I recommend yoga to everyone out there who wants to slow down the aging process? Absolutely! And not just for flexing your arthritic joints, or lubricating your dried out vertebrae. Yoga also teaches us relaxation techniques and everyday coping skills for life  in general.

Things I learned: But before you run out and book your class – here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Do your homework: Start by researching the different kinds of yoga in your area…at community centres, YMCA or yoga studios. You may not be up to trying a “hot yoga” class where you sit in a 105 degrees Celsius room and sweat out the garlic from last night’s dinner. Instead, I suggest that you look for a yoga class with the words, ‘gentle’ or ‘beginners’ or ‘therapeutic’ or even ‘chair’ yoga if you have more serious disabilities.

2. Speak to the instructor: Before you book your classes, make sure the instructor is willing to modify the poses as you go along, to accommodate different levels of ability. Ask if you can attend  a trial class to see for yourself how that will work.

3. Choose the right class: While there are many places offering yoga for the 50+ crowd – as long as the instructor is open and accommodating, a beginner’s class for all ages should be fine. You might want to avoid the ersatz yoga classes – where the attendees are all lulu-lemoned-up and the focus is more about image than the practice of yoga principles. Use your good sense to sort out the fakes.

4. Don’t compete: Don’t worry about your abilities to keep up with the class, if others around you are more flexible. It’s not about who can twist themselves into the tightest knot, or do the most impressive downward dog while trying to locate their third eye. Push hard, but pay attention to your body and don’t go beyond the edge of your ability. Go at your own pace and I promise you – the benefits are awesome at any level.

5. Ignore the scale: Yoga classes are all about relaxation, stretching and toning. Your motivation should not be weight loss, but overall good health and healing from the inside out. This is the greatest gift from you to you.

6.  Be committed:  Try to go once or twice a week. But if a live class is not available to you, there are many level-appropriate DVD’s out there you can purchase. And while this is a viable option, nothing can replace the positive energy you get from a class of like-minded people and a qualified instructor.

7. Stick with it: Don’t get your yoga pants in a pretzel if you don’t get instant results. Be patient and committed, even on those days when you’d rather stay in your stretchy sweats and eat a tub of rocky road. And although you should feel results in 6-8 weeks, please give it a good year. I promise you a better, more flexible body, with less pain and a noticeably improved sense of well-being. Have I ever lied to you before?
(Okay maybe i-Lied once about being i-Crazy…but only that once.)

8. Be brave, be bold and be healthy: You may want to google “yoga for seniors” and read more about this important emerging trend. Yoga should be safe for everyone. However, if you have specific health issues, you may want to check with your doctor before beginning.

Final word: This has been my story. I know it’s easy to dismiss all the reasons why you need yoga. But all I can say to that is, blah, blah, blah! We boomers and zoomers need all the help we can get! Our aging bodies are going nowhere but down that long mudslide to perdition. (I’m just thankful wrinkles don’t hurt!) So get off your sorry excuse, stuff your chakras into your sports bra – and give it a try! You won’t ever be sorry you did.

This message brought to you by Pat,
Was dreamed up on her yoga mat,
For this, she doesn’t charge a fee,
‘Cause bloggers do it all for free.

See you between the lines and on Twitter @Pat Skene

Please sign up or Follow for new posts. Thank you.

Shock-a-Bye Baby

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buildingblocksTurn on the music and turn off the noise.
Pull out the building blocks, puzzles and toys.
Stick to the basics and you’ll be okay.
‘Cause rock-a-bye baby, is high-tech today.

                        

Don’t panic: I spotted a friend in the baby aisles of a department store the other day. She had the wide-eyed look of a frazzled shopper in the throes of a panic attack. As I approached her, she hollered at me, “What the heck has happened to our babies?”

False alarm: Well I guess the sales girl and a few nearby shoppers thought this was an Amber Alert in the making – so you can imagine the kerfuffle that ensued. Once the fracas died down and she explained that we in fact had no babies, I took her for a cup of tea to calm what was left of her nerves. It appears she had just become a new grandmother and simply wanted to buy a few things for her grandson.

Gizmos and Gear: My poor unsuspecting friend was completely overwhelmed by the complexity of all the new high-tech baby merchandise that morphs into various contraptions as the baby grows. And as useful as this sounds, I often wonder how the parents of today know when to ‘Snap ‘n Go’, ‘Sit n’ Stroll’, or simply ‘Mop n’ Glo’? What has happened to our babies, indeed!

Looking back: As I hauled my friend out of the grandbaby gap, it brought back a deluge of shopping memories of when I became a grandmother thirteen years ago. It all started in the same way…standing alone in the baby aisles, looking desperate and feeling overwhelmed. But in time, I adjusted and learned to let my daughter do the heavy lifting when it came to making complicated baby-product decisions.

You’ve come a long way baby: Thankfully, we’ve travelled some distance since the days of treacherous baby cribs and toys filled with lead. The better care and feeding of our babies should always be the driving force behind any change to the nursery set. And the new mothers and fathers of today have a plethora of choices to make and many new adventures to behold.

5 Things I learned:

1. Strollers are like hot rods: My first stroller simply strolled with a squeaky wheel or two. Today, babies travel in style in trail-blazing strollers that promise easy release hand-brakes, front and rear suspension, multi-position reclining seats and all terrain wheels. It’s an amazing sight to see how the simple stroller has evolved into a deluxe rock n’ roll system, with the features of a souped-up automobile!

2. Car seats kick butt: Good grief! We didn’t even have car seats! Today, there are forward facing seats and rear facing seats and seats that go by the pound. There are latch systems and universal anchorage systems and space-age cockpit turbo-design booster seats for big kids. And if you purchase the travel model with the handy removable seat, you can jump out of your car – pop the whole ‘kid-and-car-seat’ package right into a  stroller base thingy and jog around the block, while you talk mergers and acquisitions on your cell phone!

3. High chairs collect points: My daughter’s old wooden high chair was as tippy as a canoe! And the removable tray kept sliding out and crashing to the floor. In today’s world, high chair designs have miraculously evolved into 3-point restraining systems, 4-point reclining systems and 5-point height adjusting systems. And, like the car seat and stroller, it can transform into just about anything, if you have an engineering degree.

4. New mothers are brave: Gone are the cold clinical hospital deliveries we had on baby-D-day. Today young women have birthing centres and many employ the services of mid-wives and doulas to have a more natural experience. Even my lovely daughter, who has the pain threshold of a gnat and gets sedation to have her haircut – tried the au naturelle route of birthing at home. But that’s a story for another day when my daughter isn’t reading my blog posts.

5. New fathers are nuts: Back in the day, most fathers kept their distance from mothers and babies and played the role of  being useless very well. Today, new fathers are fully involved in baby routines – from birthing to burping and all things in between. But my son-in-law was a bit ‘two diapers short of a pail’ if you get my drift. Before leaving for groceries one day, he instructed me on how to help my daughter breast feed! My advice: never have a milky-nipple discussion with your son-in-law!

Toys on steroids: Did you know that some of the little-girl dolls of today can give birth, breastfeed and poop? Did you know that some little-boy dump trucks can break-dance in a flashing display of lights and music?  And don’t even get me started on the brand new just released “Hello Barbie” – an interactive doll with artificial intelligence that talks and works using your WIFI. Where is George Orwell when you need him? This is nothing short of just plain creepy!

Just imagine: Children might love these multi-tasking toys. But it raises the question of long term consequences on their ability to focus on a singe task – not to mention their ability to learn language. Most of these types of toys are designed to entertain and distract – rather than engage the child. The imagination is a powerful playmate. And if the toy does too much, the child does too little – and the imagination shrivels up and dies. A very sad death by starvation.

Finding the balance: We live in a complex world. And it’s wonderful to see the new products that keep baby safe, and the educational toys that help baby enjoy an enriched and comfortable environment. We can marvel at the new studies just out last week, that stated nearly every child under 4 years old uses electronic mobile devices to keep them busy. And while we may be grooming them to be masters of the universe, there’s also something to be said for the pure joys of simplicity.

Final word: So what has happened to our babies? Nothing. Babies aren’t any more complicated than they used to be. It’s this world we live in that’s become more complicated. And I believe it’s up to each one of us to bring back some small pleasure from our own childhood and introduce it to our children and grandchildren. You just never know what simple goodness you might find.

So don’t be in shock on becoming a Grand,
With new-fangled stuff that you don’t understand.
Despite all the gizmos, the gadgets, the gear,
Our babies are babies – the same every year.

 And may I remind you, in case you forgot,
The best toys are those that do diddly-squat!
And books are for reading and shouldn’t talk back.
Just stick with the program – you won’t go off-track.

See you between the lines and on Twitter @PatSkene

For The Love of Clowns!

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closeup_color_clown_vector_154422Okay, listen up! As I sit here propped up by my funny bone, I’m thinking about clowns. Oh get a grip all you wackadoodle clown-hating people out there. I’m talking about the good old-fashioned kind of clowns; the big footed Bo Bo’s that made us laugh before they morphed into twisted freak shows.

Good clowns: Some people feel a cold wetness, like a leaky grave, when they think of clowns. But when I think of clowns, I remember the Ringling Circus clowns in baggy britches doing walkabouts in the hippodrome between acts, and making me giggle until cream soda gushed out of my nose. I think of the endearing pantomimes of Red Skelton’s tramp clown, ‘Freddie the Freeloader,’ who made my whole family laugh and cry with his brilliant TV performances. And I think of rushing home from school to watch Clarabell the Clown cause all kinds of horn-honking mischief on the Howdy Doody Show. Yes, I’m that old and those were the clowns of my generation.

Bad clowns: Okay, so maybe these ‘Joeys’ do have a gruesome past. Centuries ago, clowns were crude and often gruesome entertainment for adults, not meant for children. And we did have a few bad seeds over the ages that gave Chuckles a twisted rep. Unfortunately, we seem to remember those more than the many who made us laugh.

Freaky clowns: Sadly clowns around the world have been victimized by the movie industry, producing clown-hating psychological horrors like Stephen King’s ‘Pennywise Dancing Clown’ in IT and the mind-rotting antics of ‘Twisty the Clown’ in American Horror Story. After seeing these violent graphic images, they become recorded in our brains, and remain in a constant state of replay, replay, replay…making it difficult for many to separate fact from fiction.

Clown sickness: We even have a name for this irrational fear of clowns…coulrophobia! And while clown-fear is spreading at an alarming rate, thankfully it is not recognized as an official disorder. (No, you cannot take sick time from work!)

Send in the clowns: Early in my lifetime, clowns clomped around in exaggerated shoes and made us laugh as masters of slapstick and pure silliness. And even today, bullfighter clowns are the brave souls who risk life and butt to save rodeo riders from being stomped to death, by some angry snot-snorting bovine with his balls in a twist! And really…is there anything funnier than a gazillion clowns tumbling out of a small car? C’mon Coulrophobics…loosen up and admit the humour in that one.

Bravo! In my view you’ve simply got to be a great person to dress up like a clown, hidden behind all that tomfoolery, and simply want to make people laugh…not kill, maim or drop from the bedroom ceiling in the dead of night to slice you into bloody bite-sized chunks…but simply make you laugh.

Final word: Harry S. Truman once said, “Never kick a fresh turd on a hot day.”

But I’ll bet if a clown did it, it would crack you up and release you from the dark side.

Now don’t wait for a fresh turd to cross your path – come into the light and let a good old-fashioned clown make you snort cream soda out of your nose.

See you between the lines and on Twitter @PatSkene

 

Is Cursive Writing Obsolete?

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imagesCursive writing is dying and kids can’t sign their names.
This sentence hurts my heart. There is a strong school of thought that believes penmanship is an obsolete skill that kids will never need.

How did we let this happen? For some time now, most schools in North America no longer teach cursive writing as part of the school curriculum. Rather, basic printing and typing skills are favoured instead. Now I realize we live in a digital age and computer passwords have become our identities for accessing personal data. But unlike signatures, which are unique to each individual with their loops, swirls and dots – passwords can be hacked, duplicated and identities stolen.

It’s not enough: I know there is only so much teaching time in a classroom. And students need to learn new skills and become proficient with computers, a much-needed tool in today’s learning environment. But there is a real world outside of the classroom, and there are still many situations where people of all ages need to sign (not print) their names, hopefully not with an X. In my view, the very basic form of writing in any civilized society should still be a core learning for every child.

The nuts and bolts of it: How will this generation sign passports, bank documents, last will and testaments, or personal legal documents? How will they write a cheque or read a letter from their grandparents? How will they write Christmas Cards, or is this obsolete now too? Will they ever need to write a letter of condolences or congratulations to a dear friend? In some of life’s circumstances, a printed note or text message just doesn’t do the trick. Are we relying on computers, retinal scans, fingerprint technology and other digital identifiers to totally replace our individuality as flesh and blood human beings?

Talk to the hand: My mother had beautiful penmanship. And I’m proud to say, I have developed a nice writing style over the years, similar to hers. When I sit down to begin a new book project, I always write my initial thoughts by hand. There is a strong connection between the pen in my hand and the creative process in my brain, and I don’t move to the keyboard until this connection has been fully explored.

It’s important: For children, learning cursive writing not only stimulates the brain and helps to develop fine motor skills – it gives them back that uniqueness that is so easy to lose in the ubiquitous world of computers. So let’s get back to basics here and do what we can to encourage those in the educational system to bring cursive writing back into our children’s classrooms.

Double dog dare: And to all those who say…it’s a waste of time, it’s obsolete, they’ll never use it…I challenge you to try not using your signature (or cursive writing of any kind) at home and at work for at least one full month…and get back to me on that!

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See you between the lines and on Twitter @PatSkene

Check out my books at www.pressheretostartpublishing.com