Tag Archives: seniors for living

Arriving Naked

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RetirementTelling Lies: During the 1980’s when conspicuous consumption was the flavour of the decade, an insidious marketing slogan saturated our spongy boomer-brains like a pop-culture virus. It promised us freedom from life’s miseries when we arrived at the magic age of fifty-five. We aspired to live like the advertisements and longed to become the beautiful retirees lounging in oceanfront hot-tubs and roaming the golfing green pastures of everlasting fun in the sun. But life is full of Mrs. Cleaver’s sweater-sets and pearls until one day reality comes of age and bites you on your assets.

Reality Check: Now we find ourselves in an ongoing economic downturn where many people are ‘fretting 55’ instead of planning their escape route into nirvana. Like programmed humanoids, we continue to think that if we aren’t rich and free by middle-age, we have failed in our life’s mission to hurry up and do nothing. Get real folks!

Easy Money: In the 1970’s, financial institutions came out of their cash-closets and made it easy for people to borrow money. Since then, credit has been increasingly used to supplement income so we could all buy now and pay later. Years later! And even today, boomers still hold the biggest bag of debt.

Time to Pay: So what are we going to do about it? Stop whining for starters. Stop spending and start living a life we can afford…especially as we age. Debt makes the lenders rich, not the customers. So it’s up to boomers to cut the crap and the plastic.

Empty promises: Exacerbating the whole credit issue is the repository of bare bones left buried in so many savings portfolios. With the downturn in the economy and interest rates, much of our anticipated nest eggs have been cracked open and left to rot in dried up investment pools. If I hear, “You have to think long term,” one more time, I‘ll barf up my worthless stock certificates. It’s the standard line used by investment hounds to keep your hard earned pennies from escaping into the nearest woolen sock.

Taking Charge: So how do we know when it’s time to relax a bit and switch gears? Sometimes we make a conscious choice and sometimes it whacks us up the side of the head. In today’s climate, most people need or want to work after 55. And with the future of our government pension plans up for grabs, and more companies opting out of cushy pension perks, there should be honour in working at whatever we want to for as long as we can.

Arriving Naked: But starting over and exploring new options after decades in the workforce – whether by choice or not – is a scary thing to do. Who are we without our retired job titles, our network of contacts and our social grids? It’s like being reborn at mid-life and arriving naked without a business card. I left the raw-bone stresses of my corporate job for health reasons when I was in my fifties. It wasn’t an easy thing to do, but I plunged into my post-corporate life and reinvented myself to become a writer. I let go and never looked back.

Digging Deep: Finding new ways to live and work can be a daunting experience as we age. But every one of us is standing on a mountain of life experiences. Whether it’s setting out to find a passion we want to follow, or doing an about-face into a new career or volunteer position – it’s all good. We just have to go deep and be fearless.

Anything Goes: Many seniors are taking on jobs in retail and service industries, after years in a professional workforce. Some need the money and some simply need a place to go each day. Either way, if that means slinging java at a coffee shop, becoming a neighborhood crossing guard or doing the meet-and-greet thing at a department store, why the hell not? There’s less stress, simple hours, and at some places – a cool uniform.

Freedom to Choose: Each one of us should have the courage to choose when the time is right to arrive at our various destinations in life – naked or not. Freedom is about living life to the fullest; the good and the bad of it and on our own terms. It’s about choosing our lifestyles wisely and having the courage to simplify when we have to. And it’s about not thinking too hard if we have to back-up to go forward.

Bottom Line: So is there freedom after fifty-five you ask? Damn right there is! It’s all in our head!

See you between the lines and on Twitter @PatSkene

Check out my children’s books at www.pressheretostartpublishing.com

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Leaf Blower Blowback!

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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

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Fit…bit by bit

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k15661613Serious condition; Have you ever noticed that many seniors suffer from flat buttocks? It has less to do with sagging gluteus maximus muscles, and more to do with lazy-asset syndrome. I’m not talking about our lagging mutual fund portfolios, although in today’s market they’re probably flatter than our backsides. No, I’m referring to the act of vegetating in our recliners for prolonged periods of time.

Last year I turned 70. I’m in good enough shape for a gal of my vintage years, but some days I feel every one of the 26, 876 days I’ve been on this earth. And as much as it hurts some days when I shake my booty, it hurts even more when I don’t. So I might as well get on with it and keep moving.

Fit…bit: If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know that I’m a technobot. New electronic gadgets really turn my granny-crank. (And this from a little girl who grew up without electricity.) So at Christmas, my lovely daughter gave me a Fitbit – a wearable fitness tracker device. It’s like a 24/7 Uber pedometer, and you wear it like a wristwatch.

So what? Now you might be thinking…why does an aging boomer like me need one of those gadgets? It’s not like I’m at the gym every day sweating into my stretchy spandex, or even give a damn about measuring my BMI. Nor am I looking to develop a six-pack, other than the one I get from the beer store.

And yes, I’m sure the companies peddling these activity trackers have a younger audience in mind. But there’s a whole market of seniors out there who could benefit from wearing one of these devices. Seriously! Stay with me on this…

Senior alert: Retirement is lovely. Not having to go to work is even better. Watching commuters slip-sliding through snowstorms from our warm cozy chairs, coffee in hand, better yet! Been out there, done all that for nearly 40 years! But this aforementioned lazy-asset syndrome can creep up on us and before you know it, there’s a deep indentation in the seats of our recliners as our aging derrières flatten out like pancakes. What’s the cure? We need to get up and MOVE!

Ginny-walking-clipartWalking gunslinger: Strapping on my Fitbit changed everything for me. Suddenly I’m aware of how many steps I actually take in a day. And it tracks my heart beats, the stairs I’ve climbed, the calories I’ve burned and how I sleep at night, just to name a few features of this wickedly excellent contraption.

Simply put, the Fitbit has changed my behaviour:

  • I’m aware of how sedentary I am when I don’t make a conscious effort to MOVE.
  • I’m motivated to park the car further away from my destination to get my steps in.
  • I’m encouraged to get out of the car a few blocks from home and walk, when Hubsey is driving.
  • I’m reminded to keep my heart rate within my max range when exercising.
  • I’m incented to take the stairs instead of the elevator to achieve my daily goals.

Game on: It’s also fun to challenge friends who wear one of these gadgets to help you stay focused. You can cheer or taunt those in your group, which sounds rather hokey but is so much fun. I’m in a group with my daughter, my niece and a friend in B.C. We may not all achieve our goals every day, but we do what we can and support each other in the process.

Each person sets their own step goals. I started at 4000 steps one month ago, and now have reached the 7000 steps a day level. That’s about 5 km a day, or just over 3 miles. Not a lot but enough for me. FYI…the default is set at 10,000 daily steps. But everyone is different with individual limitations and health conditions.

Good vibrations: The big reward when you meet your daily challenge is what I call a Fit-gasm. When I reach my daily step threshold, the Fitbit vibrates on my arm to let me know I have achieved my goal. It’s oddly rewarding to get that sexy jiggle on my wrist and I must say, getting a few Fitgasms every week is a very satisfying feature indeed.

Last word: As a result of all this, I have walked 112 kilometres to date with my Fitbit – which is apparently the same distance as the March of the Penguins – the annual trip emperor penguins make to their breeding grounds. But I digress…I’m hoping my ongoing condition of lazy-asset syndrome will dissipate, allowing the seat cushion on my recliner to retain its shape for many years to come. And who knows, it just might breathe new life into my buttocks as well.

See you between the lines and on Twitter @PatSkene

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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

 

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? Recently 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…today I actually deposited a cheque to my bank account from my home, using my iPhone! I simply took a picture of the front and back of the cheque, and voila! It was deposited to my account, while I sat at my kitchen table sipping a cup of coffee! I am feeling quite light-headed from the dizzying experience. 1368299830917888001apple-iphone-icon-hi

Don’t judge me yet: Now 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, okay 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. Prevents blindness.

There’s more? There’s always more to learn and now I’m into the whole social media frenzy, keeping busy with Twitter, Facebook, 2 blogs, and my website...while still writing books for children. When I take my last gasp…with any luck, I’ll have my computer keyboard stuck to my fingertips!

See you between the lines…and on Twitter @PatSkene

 

    

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 soft ceilings disappeared and were replaced with stone floors, wooden tables, gleaming chrome fixtures and unfinished ceilings. 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

There’s Nothing Like a Dame

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“Never be afraid to laugh at yourself.  After all, you could be missing out on the joke of the century.” Dame Edna Everage. (81 years old)

Hello Possums! Sometimes there are moments in life you need to capture and swallow whole to keep them inside you. (Sometimes, there are moments you need to masticate into mush and spit out into the nearest spittoon.) Well, thankfully, I have one of the former moments – one of pure zen, that I want to tell you about.

Eureka! I was watching television with my 12 year-old granddaughter the other day, when an advertisement for gigastar, Dame Edna and her Farewell Tour flashed on the screen. There she was, her Edna-ship, complete with perfectly coiffed mauve hair, rhinestone-studded wingtip glasses and outlandish wardrobe. My granddaughter jumped out of her chair and said, “Nan! That’s totally you – on the inside!”

How awesome is that? For someone like me who values imagination, creativity and freedom of expression as my raison d’être, it was the highest compliment possible. My eyeballs were sweating tears of purple glee. What more could a grandmother want in life, than to know her granddaughter thinks she has a colourful, funny, nut-ball of a Dame Edna lurking on the inside?

Shake it up! As we get older, it’s easy to become crotchety and bad-tempered, as we deal with deteriorating bodies, death of spouses and old friends, and of course, lack of identity and loneliness. It becomes too easy to feel forgotten and left behind, as we see younger people around us enjoying a more robust lifestyle. And it’s natural to be afraid to step out of ourselves; outside of our comfort zones to try something new. Sometimes the only difference between a recliner and a grave is the view!

Inner Dame: In my opinion, we all need to channel our inner Dame Edna to shake us awake and make us feel alive. There’s nothing like boredom and complacency to cause wrinkles ladies…and for the men out there…Dame Edna is really Barry Humphries, so there’s a message in here for you too. And no, I don’t mean cross-dressing! Although, if it’s something you’ve always wanted to do…?

Outer Dame: So to celebrate this momentous gift given to me by my granddaughter, I bought some new face furniture – a pair of purple cat’s eye glasses, trimmed with pearl. So cool! But for now, I’ll keep my hair white and leave the “wisteria hue” to the Grand Dame!

See you between the lines,

Follow me on Twitter @PatSkene

She Put a Spell on Me

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music_noteAnnie Lennox sang at the Grammies last night. WOW! Can that broad belt it out! And she sang with a real voice, without all the pyrotechnics we see and hear today with so many of the talent-impaired.

I think any beautiful female with a provocative costume, powerful thigh muscles and satanic dance moves might be fanciful entertainment for those of us practicing our couch-potato routines at home. But when it comes to wearing the big girl pants, you need real talent like Annie to show us how it’s done. Sadly, performers today keep upping the stage-ante, by adding special effects in the form of dancing human bulls ( Grammies) or ridiculous wiggling sharks (Superbowl) to name a few. All this in an effort to wow an audience into a trance-like state of shock and awe.

Okay I get it – I might be of the aging cogerette era and still love the old songsters like Tina Turner, and the soothing voices of yesteryear with classic crooners like Roy Orbison and yes, God help me…The Everly Brothers. But I also love listening to tunes of any era and any genre, including the talents of so many new voices in today’s music, thanks to my granddaughter. It’s really too bad most of these superstars need to uber-up their routines until we can’t hear the pure goodness of a beautiful voice at it’s best.

When I listened to Annie belting it out and simply being Annie, I thought…now there’s a timeless talent to be reckoned with. I had forgotten what a force she was years ago with the Eurythmics. And she has truly improved with age. When she sang I Put a Spell on You last night, she put a spell on me and I downloaded her music. Now that’s what I’m talking about!

Click here to listen to Annie: www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZEChv1AaOk

See you between the lines,

Pat Skene

 

Bully for me…and for you!

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(Portrait of a Bully)

Fob Ford, scaring the crap


 

Rant du jour: Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. Sadly they’re in our lives to stay, because there will always be damaged human beings and egos that need constant feeding on the entrails of a kinder gentler folk.

Big and bold; Some bullies are larger than life, like Toronto’s jackass mayor, Rob Ford (ROFO) and his dumb ass brother, Doug (DOFO.) You might get the idea that I don’t care for Toronto’s mayor…I tried hard to be subtle.

Vicious in black: Some bullies come in tiny packages, like Sister Alicia, the 4 foot 8″ nun in a black and white habit who tormented students daily in the girl’s school I attended a half a century ago. Bullies like this feast like gluttons on the intimidation and fear they create in our lives.

Unbridled ubiquity: During my life, I have met threatening and abusive doctors, nurses who ran their own domain of terror, Nazi receptionists, barking-mad grade school teachers, obnoxious waiters, engineers with explosive egos, pit-bull lawyers, alcoholic bosses, and on and on and on…you get the picture. Bullies come in a variety of disguises in all professions. Sadly, we meet them on a daily basis.

Badge of honour: After surviving decades as a female-executive in the male dominated war-zone of banking where testosterone saturates the boardroom, I developed a wonderful life-saving condition called BBS…or to the lay person, “Bully Block Syndrome.” This condition took years to develop and has now left me immune to the slings, arrows and emotional tactics of any bullies I now meet in my life. In short, they can’t hurt me anymore. I don’t fear them and as an added advantage of this condition, I can smell a bully at a hundred paces.

Dangerous liaisons: Bullies have different modus operandi. Most of us vividly remember the bullies who taunted us in the schoolyard with hard knuckle punches to the nose and even harder verbal punches to our feelings. But bullies aren’t always an overt threat, especially as they age. Young bullies often grow up to be professional bullies, where they work covertly in stealth mode and become even more cunning and more dangerous.

Bully spotting: Some bullies merely stand in a confrontational pose with fists clenched and a hard stare (like ROFO), daring anyone to challenge them. Others use their positions of influence to bark orders at underlings and leave no room for being questioned (like ROFO). Some intimidate and threaten their long-suffering wives into submission (like ROFO.) Many avoid sharing knowledge, in an effort to overpower and keep others dependent on them with a tight grip on their control, (ROFO has no knowledge of anything). Some take the coward’s route behind the anonymity of the computer through cyber-bullying, (ROFO doesn’t know what a computer is). And still others take every opportunity to treat you as a friend, while they secretly discredit you behind your back. (ROFO has no friends.)  These are all the acts of a despicable bully.

Prime targets: While children are thankfully being taught all about dealing with bullies in school…you know what? As a senior, we are just as vulnerable to bullying, because they… the grown-up professional bullies…think we won’t fight back. We’re much too weak , too stupid, too old.

Pushing back: Well they’re wrong! We all need to stand up, face them nose-to-nose and hold our ground.  And we can’t be shy about it. Call it what it is. We’ve lived long enough not to have to put up with that crap anymore.

Speak out: So the next time you snag a bully in your bully-radar, tell them exactly what you think of them! You’ve earned the right! And so have I. And as a final word…if you live in Toronto, for everything that’s holy…don’t even think of voting for another “FORD MORE” years of  that red-faced  buffoon below!

See you between the lines…Pat Skene



Rob Ford red face

Ford ford finger

It’s Spring Dammit!

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Rant Du Jour: Okay, I’m just as sick as the rest of you about this winter thing. And yes, I’m watching with my nose pressed    against the glass for even the slightest sign of spring. But today I made a big decision. Screw it! As far as I’m concerned, the calendar says it’s spring…so it’s spring!

Looking back: Some of it was fun while it lasted. I have to admit that watching marathon episodes of Breaking Bad, while chowing down on ice cream and cheesy nachos was a decadent winter indulgence. And furthermore, I enjoyed it guilt-free because of the raging blizzard outside. Nowhere to go, nothing to do and even if there was, can’t do it anyway in weather like this. It’s a beautiful thing.

Now what? So it’s time to put away the stew pots, the pizza pans, the bread maker and all things that scream comfort food. It’s time to get off to the grocery store and load up on fruits and vegetables before scurvy sets in. If you’ve already lost a tooth – I recommend an immediate infusion of lemon-gin and tonic.

Growing pains: And that leads me to our great Canadian winter waistlines! Our bodies are our biggest asset…but bigger doesn’t always mean better, even in these cold Canucky temps. Size does matter, regardless of what anyone tells you. We need to drop our tracky bottoms with those ever-expanding elastic waistbands, and slide into a pair of last summer’s pants to assess the damage. Reality sucks!

Mixed messages: Now if you’re like me and still have your Christmas arrangements outside…don’t even consider putting a few painted eggs in with the holiday ornaments to make nice with the Easter bunny. Throw them out! And do it this week or the evil winter witch will camp out at your door and invite all her witchy winter friends to party on. It’s still too cold to enjoy our beloved tulips and daffodils out there, so put them in the window to welcome the spring-angels of mercy. God help us all.

Get out! And finally – for all that’s holy – let’s get off our assets and walk in the fresh spring air, regardless of the temperature. And if you’ve still got snow, pretend it’s a beautiful white sandy beach. We’ve all closed our eyes and thought of England at some point in our lives. Well it’s time to exercise that skill again…we just need to change the thinking location to the Bahamas. All those butt-busting exercises we’ve been avoiding because…blah, blah, blah…are no longer valid. Time to shake and bake our booties!

So? It’s spring! Winter is over and that’s all there is to it! Now let’s get out there and enjoy it, dammit!

Pat Skene

See you between the lines.

 

 

 

Hanging Out With Mary

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Happy International Women’s Day: To celebrate this event, I attended a dinner this week where Canadian comedian Mary Walsh spoke to over 700 people…in a black bra! There was nothing sexy about it.

What’s this about? Mary is an entertainer of a certain age, who changed her costume in front of the audience, as part of her routine. She simply stood there in her underwear with all her jiggly bits jiggling, as she kept right on talking. It was a hysterically funny and incredibly beautiful thing.

Just hanging out! Now I don’t normally get excited about seeing an middle-aged woman in her underwear. But the sheer comfort and confidence Mary displayed, with her muffin tops muffin-topping, and her cellulite and wrinkles winking at the crowd…well, it was a vision of divine intervention. Especially for anyone in the room wearing Spanks, body shapers, control top pantyhose and all things that pinch and squeeze us into unholy togetherness.

Starving for attention: What a refreshing change she was from just a few nights before, when I watched the beautiful people of Hollywood parade their botoxed, surgically altered Oscar worthy bodies up and down the red carpet. The fact that many of them can no longer smile…or eat for that matter…doesn’t mean a thing. All that does matter is for someone to ask, “Who are you wearing?”

Mirror, mirror: Our obsession with perfect bodies is like a social piranha, eating away every day at our confidence and self-respect. Yes, the magazine and movie industries have nurtured this obsession, but so do we, as we continue to buy and watch and compare…in the mirror. And as we age, as Mary is doing, graceful acceptance of our sagging bits and bobs is a rare gift. We need to learn to embrace our softer squishier parts without wrestling them into a spandex torture chamber or underwire harness.

Key note: Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t strive to have as healthy a body as we can. That goes without saying. But if only we could be more like Mary…and let it all hang out with pride and humor. And while I enjoyed the entertainment value of Mary’s keynote address at the dinner, her confidence and charisma while standing there in her black bra and middle-aged body, said more to me about International Women’s Day than anything in her evening performance. It was downright liberating, even for a tough old broad like me.

Seriously: Mary made us laugh at her, with her and at ourselves. We need more women like that. And more real women who can stand in front of 700 people in a black bra ala muffin tops, and not give a damn. And as I am reminded by the sign on my desk, “She Who Laughs, Lasts.”

Pat Skene

See you between the lines.