The shock effect

I was pulling around a car to get out of a parking lot recently and while scanning the area for other cars and pedestrians I spied a table of women seated at an outdoor patio (which in itself begs the question, why would anyone want to eat a meal at a table in the middle of a parking lot? Who plants a restaurant patio where the aromas of food mingle with car exhaust? Ok, I digress…but it really cheeses me off!) Anyway, I suddenly gasped, and I mean ‘gasped’; with a huge intake of air. I was so startled by what I saw I was momentarily halted and it was several seconds later that I recovered my composure and resumed my drive out. I did, however, take a last quick glance to make sure I saw what I thought I did.

At the table of three sat a middle aged woman and two younger women, her daughters I speculate. The mother looked average enough, as did one of the younger daughters/women. The other however was a sight, an unsettling sight. Her spiked hair was jet black, unnaturally so, almost like ink toner, and I do not exaggerate when I say there was no place on her face that wasn’t pierced or tattooed. There were earings, spikes, and any number of protruding pieces of hardware sticking out of her eye brows, nose, lips, ears, and even her neck, and I can only describe the overall look as frightening. I’ve never seen anything like it and I found myself wondering why one would do that to themselves.

Now I’m not so naïve about body art. Society is riddled with people ‘expressing themselves’ with everything from purple hair and facial piercings, to full body tattoos. So much so in fact, that these people are not a novelty and no longer warrant the lengthy questioning gazes they once did, but this girl, this was beyond self-expression. Surely she had to know her appearance invited much attention, it so clearly breaches conventional society. So is that what this is, a cry for attention? And does she care what kind of attention she gets, i.e., is it the shock effect she was going for? Because shock is probably the more common reaction she would get, and I’d venture to say once the shock wore off the residual reaction would not be positive. I do not exaggerate when I say this young girl looked like something out of  sci-fi movie.

Now after the initial shock of her appearance wears off I have to admire her guts because parading around in public like that guarantees constant scrutiny and that speaks to someone who is either so confident they care not what others think (good or bad) and proudly strut their stuff, or, they are so painfully insecure they resort to drastic measures to get attention. Either way, this individual has undergone hours of painful body piercing to acquire this body art and jewelry, not to mention the cost, and any subsequent health risks.

Tattoo ink can be toxic and goes well beyond the skin layers so long term effects can be seriously detrimental to health. Piercings too come with risks including infection, allergic reactions, bleeding, and damage to nerves. So you have to ask yourself, how much are you willing to risk in the name of fashion? And should you no longer want your body art what are the chances of removing tattoos and piercing without scars?

The next 4-5 decades will be very telling because the generations that made tattoos and body piercings popular will be approaching middle and old age (assuming they don’t die of body art related illness before then) and it will be interesting to see if they still favour this style. What’ll those tattoos look like on skin that is shriveled with age? And how pretty will those facial piercings look when embedded in wrinkles? Maybe the ‘new’ style of the future will include wearing facial masks. (Now there’s an idea for some budding young entrepreneur. Start up a business for trendy facial masks and in 30 years you’ll be a millionaire!)

I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and no one has the right to criticize another’s ‘style’. And I have to admit I’ve seen some strikingly beautiful art work in the form of tattoos, so it’s not that I’m against body art, I’d just prefer to admire the work framed on a wall, or in the pages of a magazine or book. That way if I tire of it and crave something new, I can easily move on without painful laser surgery and scarring. But that’s just me….. unadorned, unpainted, and un-bejeweled me. I guess I don’t crave the attention, or maybe I lack the confidence to walk in society looking like a Christmas tree, but I’ll bet my life that when this young woman and I are both eighty and wrinkled, I’ll look better than her.

Tattoo.jpg                 Tattoo scars.jpg

Tattoos are just scars with a better story


Is it me or have the creators of commercials run out of ideas? There was a time when commercials were of value. They were informative. They got us thinking about new products, they sparked conversation, and I suspect this was the intention; get people talking about the product  in a positive way and that’s the clincher; ‘positive’ dialogue. That doesn’t seem to be happening much anymore. Is it that the advertiser just thinks the viewers are stupid, or have they truly lost sight of their audience?

There’s a commercial where a young man is stretched across his bed playing a video game when his mother walks in and asks him if his friend is coming over, to which he replies yes. She sniffs the air and announces that his room stinks and it must be ‘cleaned’ immediately. The next scene is the two of them spraying everything in the room with a ‘fabric odour eliminator’, after which his friend arrives and announces that it ‘smells really nice in there’. Really? You took a can of aerosol and masked the odours of his curtains, shoes, dog mat, etc and declare the room to be clean! Wow! How about teaching this kid how not to live like a pig? Open the window to air out the curtains and furnishing. Maybe clean the dogs mat. Put some odour-eaters in those stinky shoes. No, better to just spray vanilla and roses over it all. (how stupid are the rest of us who launder, dust and vacuum…..we could’ve just sprayed all our dirt away)

There’s an adult underwear commercial where a mother (who looks too young to be having bladder leaks) is sitting on her bed lamenting that she has to miss her sons soccer games due to a leaky bladder. (so is she not grocery shopping or going to work either?) She starts wearing this brand of adult underwear and now not only attends his games but later that night is dancing at a club with a new man. Boy, that’s some underwear! (comes with a man…..who needs a dating service?) They even go to great lengths to show you the heavy duty absorbency by pouring a large glass of liquid into a pair to prove there’s no leaks. Just how long is she going to wear these things? They might have tremendous capacity but wouldn’t pushing that to the max cause an odour eventually? (maybe she could spray herself with theodour eliminator’  from the other commercial)  Next thing you know she’ll be flying a plane or skiing down an alp, and all because of this industrial underwear!

A man is glued to a chair in front of his 3rd floor balcony and his wife is unable to get him to come to her because he’s tossing cat snacks and watching the neighbours cat jump up to catch them – he just can’t tear himself away from this entertainment. (either this guy’s got a simple mind or that marriage is in deep trouble)

There’s an ad where two young teens meet on the street. The young man’s face is covered with Skittles candy and he expresses to the young woman that his doctor has diagnosed him with ‘skittles’, after which she picks one off his face and eats it, then shrugs. (well doesn’t that just make you want to run out and buy a bag?)

Yogurt. There’s an ad where a young woman is lying on the floor writhing next to a bowl of yogurt and it’s unclear whether she plans to eat it or roll in it. Then it switches to a photographer lovingly taking a picture of the yogurt and fruit. The music is ominous and the voice over very definitive but at no point does it tell you why you should eat this yogurt, just that you should. What’s the message here? Will this stuff make me look good? Feel good? (Or will it leave me rolling on the floor like the woman in the ad, cause I can get the same result from a good laxative)

And we’ve all seen the commercials that boast a detergent that’ll clean all stains, even blood, and they launder a white shirt with a big blood stain to prove the products capability. Now how often would the average launderer have to deal with that? (Do you think maybe if you’ve got a shirt with a big blood stain on it maybe, just maybe, you have bigger problems than laundry?)

The Trivago guy… anyone else tired of him dancing around on their screen? (makes you want to reach for a giant fly swatter)

In the past commercials were part of the entertainment. They made you laugh, or cry, or think, but they invariably taught you something of value or made you aware of a new product or service – they were informative. Then as they weakened,  they became our opportunity to get a snack, go to the washroom, return that phone call, etc. And now, with final decline of their worth and with the beauty of technology, we simply ‘fast forward’ over  the commercials, bypassing them completely.

You would think then, that the creators of commercials would have to be more innovative, more clever, to make them more entertaining, anything to ensure the audience stays tuned but alas they are not. Todays commercials are lame, unimaginative, and an insult to our intelligence, and until advertisers recognize they can’t peddle their low budget attempts at advertising on a sophisticated audience, the ‘fast forward’ button on our remotes will continue to get a workout.

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The saga continues

This month marks one year since we put my 88 year old mother into long term care and it’s interesting to reflect  on her progress this past year.

To date she has never tried to leave. My father visits her regularly and she seems to accept without question that he eventually must go and she cannot – this is a blessing. That said, it is unlikely that she even knows he’s  her husband. He just seems to be that nice man who comes to visit, and yet she knows she was married. We know this for certain because she’s lashed out in jealousy when other patients were with a man, a man she believed to be her husband.

My sister (the primary contact for the home) has received frequent phone calls advising my mother has belted yet another resident for no good reason, and they need to up her medication to calm her. At the moment these are the only signs of aggressive behaviour but according to the doctor, it’s likely to escalate. There is a very distinct pattern of behaviour within the stages of Dementia.(none of them pretty) Patients are prone to wandering, and stealing. On one visit we noted my mother was sporting an arm full of various bracelets. Apparently she roamed other residents rooms rummaging through their things and collected all their ID bracelets because she liked them. This is not uncommon. They take each others clothing, food, and toys, like children.

In the past 8 years we’ve seen my mother decline from competent, mature adult, to confused and addled old lady. And in the past year alone, she has been further reduced to a babbling, incoherent, and unpredictable child, prone to tantrums and rash behaviour. Life really does test us.

If she were of sound mind she would be mortified at her own behaviour so I guess it’s very fortunate, for her, that she has no conscious knowledge of her own existence. For us however, it’s a constant reminder of the one we lost and with each day it gets harder and harder to remember when she was healthy and vibrant – it seems so long ago. Her behaviour gets more  irrational and shocking with each day, and it’s hard not to let that image take over…..but fight it we must because she lived a strong, proud, and accomplished life, and that deserves a respectful memory.

When I visit my mother I struggle to appear normal, happy even, but truth told, I feel sick and I can hardly wait to leave. I’m not proud of this reaction. I love my mother. She gave me life and taught me how to live it, with love. I don’t know who this woman is and I don’t know if I ever will because in my heart my mother is already gone. I pay homage to this childlike old woman simply out of respect for what was her life, and because I think no one should be abandoned in old age (or any age for that matter)

So I will continue to visit this unfamiliar old lady/child and cling to my memories of the woman who once was. And when the home calls my sister to say she’s taken a punch at another resident (she never actually hurts anyone, much too weak) we thank God she’s in a place that can manage her. As for her childlike behaviours, the kleptomania, the playing with dolls, we have to laugh, because  these are the harmless activities of a deteriorating mind, and if you don’t laugh, you’ll just cry, and we’ve done enough of that.

angry old lady

Diary of a dieter

I have a dear friend who suffers the same affliction I do….a healthy appreciation for food and an ever growing waistline, and after a summer of indulgence (and notable expansion) we’ve decided to tackle the battle of the bulge together! Maybe being held accountable to someone will give us the will power we need. Or, maybe the idea that the other could best us in the competition will deter us from cheating. Whatever the motivation, we’re in it together and determined to succeed.

I should point out too, that neither of us is idle so exercise is not the issue. I include a brisk 60 minute walk in my daily routine and a 20 minute yoga regimen (not for weight loss, rather just to keep things moving, kind of like lubricant for my joints) but age, menopause, and gravity have conspired against me (the latter being my biggest offender)  And weight loss doesn’t necessarily guarantee our youthful figure will return intact. Things have a way of shifting around, (kind of like melting butter immediately placed in the fridge – it congeals in globs at various locations) and all the lycra spandex on the planet can’t move it back to where it belongs. But we have to try, and it’s only twenty pounds. How hard can it be?


Day one – I decide early in the day that I’ll only have two meals today, a late breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, and cheese. Great for a lumberjack – not so great for the start of a diet, but we’re going to a dinner party later that evening so I need something to sustain me until the evening, where I will exercise portion control. Dinner was lovely, rich and delicious, and I almost made it out on track but then dessert came out. Forgive me father, for I have sinned……there was cake. Really good cake….so when they offered to send us home with several slices I had to accept. (it would be rude to refuse, yes?) I’ll start my diet again tomorrow. It’s only twenty one pounds. How hard can it be?

Harder than I thought.

Day two – I start my day with a healthy breakfast of assorted fresh fruit and coffee. This should hold me until lunch, which I’ve already decided will be a salad of some kind. I’ll supplement with water, lots of water.

My darling husband has decided today is the day he wants to spend with me, i.e. NO golf. We’ll go for a drive in the countryside he says, and have lunch. He’s played golf the last 98 of 109 days and today is the day he decides to treat me for lunch, and not just any lunch; this is lunch at a charming little bistro we favour about an hour from home. (Surely you can see my dilemma? I may never get this offer again) We brought along a dear friend who’s good company and we knew would enjoy the outing (and provide me with some much needed distraction) I’m already mentally scanning their lunch menu recalling they offer a great seafood salad.

Determined not to lose my resolve, I focus on the scenery the whole ride up, chatting distractedly and ignoring my grumbling tummy. (ok, maybe I should’ve had something more substantial than fruit for breakfast) We stop at a couple of roadside farm markets (God, I love those) where I peruse the strawberries with one eye and secretly scan the baked goods with the other. Fresh biscuits – is there anything more heavenly than the scent of fresh baked breads? (I bet they’d taste good even with the plastic wrapper) I glance hopefully at my husband who mercilessly reminds me of my diet, and silently (ok, not so silently) I curse him, stepping away from the baked goods and feigning interest in the various lettuces, yum.

Securing my bag of vegetables, I trudge back to the car taking one last huge sniff of the baked goods as I walk by. I can do this I remind myself. Exercise some self- control, that’s all. After visiting various points of interest we finally arrive at the little bistro and I almost leapt from the car anxious to satisfy my now ravenous appetite. Now, I could lie and say I had the salad, but I didn’t. They were offering a brunch option so I ordered smoked salmon eggs benedict, on thick crusted bread (I knew I’d get it in somewhere on this trip!) served with a hearty pile of fried potatoes. I’ll have salad for dinner, I vow.

But then the friend we were traveling with invited us to dinner, serving up a nice oven baked chicken, potatoes, and salad, and had I stopped there maybe I could’ve salvaged the lunch disaster, but I didn’t. There was leftover cake from our previous days dinner which I brought . (I had to eat it. How would it look to bring a dessert and then not eat it?)  God, grant me the will power to do this I plead, and I make a solemn promise to start again tomorrow….. after all it’s only twenty two pounds. How hard can it be?

Painfully hard.

Day three. I awake with a renewed resolve… today is the day! I have a healthy but light breakfast, get my walk in, and exercise. I have guests coming for dinner, but that’s alright because I can control the menu; grilled lamb with potatoes and a big salad. I made a peach pie for dessert knowing it would be easy for me to resist because pies are not my first choice for sweets. After serving out wedges of pie for my guests, I cut off a sliver for myself, just to taste it. It was good, really good. Good enough to lop off a big chunk and inhale it. God help me! Where is my self control? Shamed by my weakness I go to bed swearing tomorrow will be the day. It’s only twenty three pounds. How hard can it be?

Apparently much harder than I imagined.

Day four. I wake up, pour myself some coffee and polish off the rest of the pie. Then I go shopping for stretchy clothes, and typically a day of shopping makes me very happy (my husband’s not so happy, but I love it) but I came home feeling totally dejected. (who said fat people are jolly?) I sadly toss my new purchases into a drawer and scan my closet admiring all the clothes that no longer fit, and then I got mad. At myself. When did I lose my self control. Where’d my will power go? It’s not like I’m dealing with a major task here. It’s only twenty four pounds. How hard can it be?

Damn near impossible. (wonder how my fellow dieter is faring?)

Day Five. I have three full days before my weigh in. I decide to do a ‘cleanse’ of my system. I read an article in a magazine recently that boasted a liquid only diet for 3 days not only cleansed the body of unwanted toxins but showed immediate weight loss, kick starting a healthy diet. (also a good way to camouflage my previous 4 days of delinquency) I bought a variety of herbs, spices and teas, convinced I could survive on a liquid diet as long as it had flavor. By 11am I’d ingested 4 litres of various warm brews none of which satisfied my now growing hunger. I open my fridge looking for inspiration, all the while wondering how to liquefy a loaf of bread. I spot a container of left over pasta and without hesitation take it out of the fridge, warm it up and settle in for a nutritious and delicious, not so liquid meal. Without any guilty feelings I clear up the dishes and head out for my daily walk determined to remain true to my routine even though I have once again, sabotaged my diet. I’ll find a new strategy. There has to be a diet out there that I can live with….and after all, it’s only 25 pounds. How hard can it be?

On the way out I pass my husband who is applying some sort of grease to the door frame. Puzzled I stop to ask what he’s doing, to which he replies (foolishly) “I’m just greasing up the doorways to make sure you can get back in”.

Day six and seven.  I ate three healthy meals, exercised, and weighed in at 2 pounds under my original weight! So it’s good news all around! I finally found my groove… and the doctor says my husband should be able to eat solid foods in just a few weeks!

Weight loss

Mans best friends

Family pets are just that, family. Whether you have a dog, cat, rabbit, bird,  gerbil, whatever, they find a place in your heart and in the family. Personally I’m a dog lover. It’s what I grew up with and what’s familiar but I respect any animal lover because those who value life in any form benefit from the relationship. All living things enrich our lives. (except reptiles, they’re ugly and creepy….nothing ‘lovable’ about them….and they belong in the wild not a human home)

Over the 15+ years I had my dog there was a lot of turmoil in our lives. I had three young children, we had moved halfway across the country for my husbands job (far from all family), and like any young family, we struggled financially with paying a mortgage, saving for education, and just living.

I am a private person, not one to confide my insecurities to anyone, but we all need a trusted confidant. Mine was my dog. I can still picture him sitting next to me on the front porch of our home. I would talk to myself verbalizing my deepest thoughts, fears, feelings, issues of concern, whatever was on my mind, and every now and then he’d nudge me and tuck his head reassuringly under my arm. It’s like he understood my innermost feelings and was offering me support. He  listened intently as I spoke and sensed that I needed comfort.

In return he asked for nothing. His joy was in going for his much beloved walks through the woods, or playing fetch with his favourite rope toy, or sitting patiently by my feet as I cooked, hoping I’d drop something. In short, he was a selfless creature whose sole purpose in being was to enjoy life and help his keepers enjoy theirs.

Sometimes in a fit of anger or frustration I’d lash out at my beloved pet, (he was never the target of my anger, of course) and he would sit and watch me as I’d blow off my steam, patiently waiting for my energy to expire. He had a way of leveling a gaze on me that immediately made me look at myself through his eyes. Then he’d trot over, tail wagging, and I’d hug him humbled by his forgiving nature and grateful that his love was so unconditional, and I’d feel so ashamed at my emotional outburst.

When my dog passed I remember the pain. I could actually feel my heart breaking and the sudden realization of what he had meant in my life came crashing in. He wasn’t just my dog. He was my confidant, and I can only hope that I brought as much joy to his life as he did to mine. Three years have passed and I regularly walk that wooded path that was his favourite, and I could swear I feel him trotting along beside me and I can’t help but smile.

Whatever animal you to bring into your home they will inadvertently leave a mark in your life. Love them as you would your child and pay attention to their behaviour because it will be in direct response to your emotional needs. They are intuitive, sensitive, and more ‘knowing’ that we could ever imagine. We could learn a lot about ourselves  from animals.

Bing Sept. 6, 2014