Monday, May 28, 2012

A Royal Millinery Retrospective

Meet me June 18th at the Paletta Lakefront Park and Mansion, as we celebrate the Queen's Jubilee with an exhibit of royalty inspired 1960's fashion hats.

The Mobile Millinery Museum's '60 Hats for 60 Years' Exhibit features high fashion hats from the 1960's, similar in design to many worn by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II during that decade.

  • The Paletta Lakefront Park and Mansion, 4250 Lakeshore Road, Burlington, ON
  • 11:00 A.M. - 2:00 P.M. June 18th, 2012
  • Free Admission 
The Mobile Millinery Museum...we bring history to you!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

60 Things I Learned from a 60 year old Cheerleader.

Cake by Corinne Shephard 
by Ardra Shepinetz

1.  That there is no one else like me.
2.  That I am talented and special.
3.  That you must do what you love.
4.  That dressing up is fun.
5.  That 2 days are more believeable than 1.
6.  That dogs are not optional.
7.  To always check the ingredients.
8.  To challenge myself.
9.  To be extravagant.
10. To be extravagantly generous.
11. To laugh. Loudly.
12. That retail therapy is better than conventional therapy.
13. To always carry emergency chocolate.
14. That traditions are important. 
15. That pie is a legitimate breakfast food and popcorn can be dinner.
16. To read.
17. How to pluck my eyebrows and shave my legs.
18. That learning and knowledge are exciting.
19. To be curious and ask questions.
20. To say "Please" and "Thank you"
21. That accessories are essential.
22. That it doesn't matter if you suck at math. Focus on what you do excellently.
23. That it's good to be Queen.
24. To never hide my sparkle.
25. That you are only as old as your boobs.
26. To be unconventional.
27. That I have many blessings.
28. That I don't have to do anything I don't want to.
29. To be excited.
30. To look for the joy in everyday life.
31. That being messy is completely justifiable if you are creative.
32. To make time for myself.
33. That it's just money. (And you can just get more)
34. To be optimistic. Even when it seems crazy.
35. To be joyful.
36. How fortunate I am to have a sister and a brother and a father who love me.
37. That the dishes can wait.
38. That I don't always have to be nice.
39. That every decade gets better than the last.
40. That there is usually something funny in even the worst situations.
41. To be impulsive.
42. That if you don't want anyone else to read it, don't put it in writing.
43. That it's not gossip. It's information.
44. To never brush my teeth with pumice.
45. To suck in my stomach and stick out my boobs.
46. To surround yourself with beautiful things.
47. That practicality is overrated.
48. That sugar is a food group.
49. That watching soap operas is an acceptable pursuit if you are watching "for the fashions"
50. How to use a public washroom without ever touching a thing.
51. How to eat maple syrup from a bowl (no pancakes necessary)
52. That Christmas morning starts at 4am.
53. To never stop dreaming.
54. To always carry an up to date passport.
55. That nothing is impossible.
56.  How to pack a suitcase.
57. That excitement and joy are contagious.
58. How to see the positive in a challenging situation.
59. That she will always be on my side.
60. That there is no one else like her.

Happy Birthday Mom!  I love you.
Well the big day has finally arrived. I partied with friends under a super moon and enjoyed multiple blessings courtesy of my family. What does sixty look like? I'd say sixty looks like love.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Creepy, but Fun

Still shot from the movie Never Cry Werewolf
I watched the first horror movie of my life last night. Yes, I went to the Exorcist when it was first shown on the big screen, but I passed the time sitting in the lobby. I'm not a fan of the scary stuff.

Well, last night while I sat at the computer, dutifully working on the exhibit for an  upcoming installation of hats (The Mode in Millinery 1899 - 1946), Jim discovered a made-for-TV movie (while flipping through channels), that was filmed in Hamilton. Yeah, that's cool, but we often see film crews in the city these days, so I was mildly interested when he insisted that I, "Come see this".

Oh my gosh, the film was actually set in a house we used to live in. THE house we used to live in—the creepy one with the big porch—where we only lasted six weeks. Actually the girls and I only spent three weeks there as we were in France the rest of the time.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, our old house at 149 Stirton St. was the very appropriate setting for Never Cry Werewolf.  If you happen to find this film or Google the promotional images, take a look at the driveway and imagine the sound of a lawnmower being wheeled along those uneven stones at 3:00 A.M. I can still see Jim jumping out of bed to chase the thief down the sidewalk.

I don't think they had to do a single thing to enhance the ick factor of this house. The basement was certainly the same, and from what I could see of the downstairs kitchen (yes, there were two) it was unchanged. They didn't show the cool rooms, like the huge, bookshelf-lined dining room or the conservatory at the back of the house where poor old Quincy perished, so my bad memories of the three-story monstrosity are intact.

I was excited to call each of the kids and tell them to watch. I can't wait to hear what they have to say. It's interesting how life can turn a bad episode in your life to an evening of family fun years later.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


If you havn't experienced Aradia yet, check them out here.  This is uplifting, and not just because the red-headed soprano is my daughter Ardra.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Remembering Emily Dickinson and Andrew Svoboda

Toronto's Walmer Road Baptist Church was the perfect venue yesterday for a concert by organist Imre Olah and Soprano Ardra Shephard, who performed (among other pieces) Andrew Svoboda's choral composition of Emily Dickinson's famous poem, My Life Closed Twice.

The church's accommodation for parents with small children couldn't be more comfortable, although I would caution parents to avoid sitting under the curled strips of peeling paint that add charm to such an old building.
Staircase leading to the curved balcony
The sanctuary with all of its curved wood provided perfect acoustics, which even the baby enjoyed for a full two hours. The organ concert was outstanding. We alternated between playing with the baby on the floor and sinking into the soft leather couch at the back by the doors.

I recommend you check out this church even if there isn't a concert going on (they are held twice yearly), the interior of this beautiful old building deserves to be seen, maintained, and utilized.

And wouldn't it be an ideal location for a historic fashion exhibit? As I looked around, I couldn't help but remember the days when such a church would be filled weekly (balcony and all) with ladies and gentlemen in their Sunday best. And ooohh, the hats!

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Monday, April 9, 2012

Edwardian Post Card, Rotary Photographic Series  

For my grandfather, Cpl. Henry James Hillyer 73rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Highlanders, killed at Vimy, 95 years ago.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter

An Edwardian Post card from 1903, sent from my Great Uncle Jim to my Grandma Jane. 

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Preparing a Museum Installation

Edwardian widebrim
Betsey Johnson on getting older: “Are you going to be alive and miserable or alive and happy?”

Words to live by. Have I said yet, that I get my philosophy fix from Fashion Television and Vogue Magazine

Moanday is behind me, so if you're interested, Betsey, I choose alive and happy, which is why I'm surrounded at the moment by hats, vintage velvet hat stands, graphic cardstock hat boxes from the 30's and 40's, and millinery mannequins.

You get the picture: shallow crowned cartwheels, ostrich feather wig hats, Victorian bonnets and movie-worthy slouches, doll hats, and Eugenies call out to me from between protective sheets of acid free tissue paper, as I make final selections for a millinery retrospective that will open in May and remain in place for a full year. I'm also making final selections for a touring exhibit of Titanic-era fashions.  

Although there are a number of chapeau that I've rejected—not iconic enough, too similar to another selection, recently exhibited in another location—I hesitate before sending them back to the archives. I believe the artefacts enjoy being seen. Besides, they make me too darned happy. 

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Moody Moanday

Monday, or Moanday as my friend Brenda calls it, is behind me now. I usually embrace Mondays as I love my work and am always eager to get back to it, but yesterday I had a bad case of the grumbles.

Is there a stylish way to gripe? If there is, I haven’t discovered it yet. I alienate everyone around me and end up in a state where even I can't stand myself. My mother's outlet of choice was to throw china. She made no apologies for smashing tea cups (cheap ones) against the wall. She reveled in watching the broken fragments fall to the floor, despite the fact she'd be the one to have to clean them up.

Maybe it's because she knew her moods would chase everyone out of the house and she'd have the place to herself, with no-one to mess it up, ask her to type out an overdue assignment, or whip up a last minute party dress—things she lovingly and obligingly did on a regular basis. (Once, during a thunder storm when the power went out, she made my father tea by candle heat.)  

With Palm Sunday behind us, I'm coming into Holy Week feeling anything but holy. In some European countries, Palm Sunday is called Willow Day or Flowers Day. If Mom were still alive, we could have celebrated her name day (Iris) with every Daisy, Rose, and Lily in France and Bulgaria. Then yesterday, I could have grumbled to her. She would have put on some tea, listened, and made me feel better. 

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Making a Bible Story Game Board

Teacher Sharon Smith
shares a bible story with
 one of the children.

Each season at St. Matthew's, church school teacher Barb Wasiljew prepares an original craft session in keeping with the curriculum. I enjoy these craft days which remind me of the projects I participated in as a kid.

Last week, Barb taught the children to make their own bible story game boards, complete with dice and player pieces. The large variety of coloured stick-ons she prepared, allowed the children to be quite creative in their selection and configuration of their game board pathways.

Game Rules 
The goal of the game? To reach the donkey (that's the Palm Sunday connection) at the end of the pathway, by advancing a game piece, square by square.  

As a player lands on a fish, temple, water, star, or other biblical symbol, s(he) is required to recount a bible story relating to the image, in order to move ahead by two.

I am pleased to say that as Barb quizzed the kids on their knowledge of biblical stories related to the symbols, plenty of hands shot up.

I'm looking forward to the day that my new granddaughter is old enough for Sunday School. It can be great fun.

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Prepping for Palm Sunday

The donkeys are coming back to St. Matthew's! Yesterday, the children were excited to rehearse for next week's Palm Sunday celebration. I'll be honest; they were excited just to be outside, but we did rehearse. Here's the plan for next week:

The children will lead the procession out of the church and onto the driveway, where Reverend Derek will bless the palms. Our Hosanna path will be along the front of the church, from the east doors to the entrance on the West side, with the children handing out palm crosses to the congregation who will line each side of the driveway. We are praying for more good weather, as our rehearsal went very well today.

Following our trial run, the children selected their costumes (we have plenty of extras for anyone who wasn't there yesterday), and the Youth Group girls scooted off to the kitchen where they made cheese biscuits for their April open house.

Evidently, the aroma of fresh biscuits was too much for some members of the Outreach Committee who commandeered them for their fundraiser. Oh well, back to the floured cutting board.

I'm looking forward to seeing everyone next week for Palm Sunday—one of my favourite days of the year—but this year I’m especially excited about seeing the donkeys.

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Mania for Cloth Bound Collectibles

Title page from Volume I of an Earl's Edition
of the works of Benjamin Disraeli  
When I was eight years old and the family hired movers to help us relocate, my father’s personal library was catalogued and found to number over 5,000 volumes. I inherited a portion of these in 1989, and donated some to Casa Loma, whose library shelves—believe it or not—were filled with wooden replicas. (I discovered this while mounting an exhibit of 20th century wedding gowns at the famous location.) I have carefully stored many of the remaining books, displaying and enjoying them by rotation. 

Recently, feeling the press of post-holiday excess and frightened by an episode of Hoarders, I attempted a purge of my 19th century book collection, but instead, I ended up adding to my library of second, third, and special edition classics. As I reacquainted myself with these cloth-bound beauties—running my fingers through deckled, slightly yellowed pages, and lifting the occasional translucent sheet to gaze at hand-colored illustrations—I fell in love all over again. The marbled endpapers of one volume alone reawakened my passion for such literary treasures.
Alison Hoover Bartlett, author of The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, (a fabulous read) believes “the allure of any book is in large part sensual.” Indeed, the thingness of books has appealed to collectors long before digital technology threatened to make bound paper obsolete.In a dedicated search for first editions, collectors and bibliomaniacs often overlook later edition classics, but these are often the very books with the most decorative covers, as publishers were often more willing to cover the extra cost of decorative bindings once a particular title had become a sure thing. 
The purge will have to wait. I love books too much not to bring them along with me into my sixties. 

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A License to Pick Up Narcotics

I’ve seen my husband through a few surgeries over the past few years, the latest—last Wednesday—being the repair of an inguinal hernia. He’s suffering a slight complication today, which required a new prescription for pain killers.

When I dropped off the script for Tylenol #3's at the pharmacy, I was told that under new regulations I would require two pieces of photo ID in order to pick up the drugs, as they were deemed narcotics. Seems like a good policy; one that is simple enough to comply with, for people who possess the required documents.  

Today I used my passport, but as for fulfilling the second obligation by producing a plastic card that reveals both my photo and my current address, I came up short. It's not like I can show them one of my hard-cover books with the author's photo on the back (although I did try that at the border once).    

My health card is one of the early ones with no identifying photo—there’s that age thing again—so there is no picture of me (pink-haired, behatted or otherwise) to prove my identity. Just the iconic, Canadian, red and white markings and a bunch of numbers. It looks like I’ll have to get a driver’s license, if only for the credentials.

I know. I can hear you screaming, “You don’t have a license?” I do not. Any of you who have heard my husband recount my driving exploits, know why I gave the practice up. I admit to my shortcomings. I was a terrible, inattentive driver, continually thinking of hats or dreaming up fictional plots in my head, while entire legions of angels kept a lookout for my safety.

Once, in the 80’s, I was involved…Strike that, I caused an accident that prompted me to ask the constable, “How many cars did I hit?” She answered, “You only hit one, Dear, but you struck it twice.”  

Tomorrow I’ll bus it to the Motor Vehicle Bureau, or whatever they call it, and tell them I want to apply for a license to pick up narcotics. Do you suppose they’ll take my picture and hand me a card?  

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy Spring

Embossed Edwardian Post Card
I visited the office of a friend yesterday. On her desk was a bouquet of miniature irises she had taken from her mother's garden. Yes, spring has come that early here in Burlington. And isn't it grand.

I have never grown irises, but I was raised by one. My mother, Blanche Iris Jane Thomas Hillyer, went by her second name. She acquired it in an unusual fashion. My grandmother had chosen several names for her daughter, but none of them sat well with the rest of the family.

After numerous arguments, my grandmother settled the matter by calling for a newspaper. "The first female name I come across," she announced, "will become the name of this child." Lucky for Mom, someone named Iris was featured that day.

One of my favourite things to do with Mom in her latter years, was to go through her mother's souvenir postcard album. That's where I found this Edwardian post card (c.1909) with its lovely embossed image of a spring bouquet.

If there are no irises in your garden, I hope this image will help you think of spring.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Paddy's Day Pink

Edwardian Post Card c.1909

On a day when almost everyone is wearing green, I went out in pink—hair that is. I get mixed revues on my do, but this afternoon as I was filling the cargo hatch with groceries, a young guy in a hoodie flashed me the peace sign, and stopped long enough to say, “I’m diggin’ your hair. Stay rad, Man!”

Had he been into the green beer? Perhaps. Was he a time traveler from the sixties? Possibly...but I don’t care. It made me laugh. Evidently my crazy hair did something for his spirit, and his compliment did something for mine.  

Some weeks ago, Liza Fromer, a Toronto morning-show personality, asked the following question: “Is it appropriate to give a stranger a compliment?” It seems that on her way to work that day, our television host had seen a smartly dressed woman on the street, and wanted to compliment her look, but felt shy about it.

I say go for it. Show your colours. Especially on St. Paddy’s Day.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

My Modeling Career

Norma at 18 
As a nursing student in the 70’s I belonged to the glorious sisterhood known as Beta Sigma Phi, Nu Phi Mu level. In addition to selling game day programs at CFL games, one of our fundraising charitable activities involved runway modeling.

We were responsible to style the outfits with our own accessories, a task I would have no trouble with today, but back then I had no real stash of jewelry. I was able to find a cheap little gold lamé dog collar, made out of the same stuff as my shoes and clutch purse, to wear with this yellow tulle ballgown. (Those were the matchy-matchy days). I think I paid $5 for the choker, and took home the gold lamé purse and block-heeled sandals (how very 70’s) for another $25.    

The only dog collars I own now are actually used by the dog, and the shoes are so out of style they resemble the vintage collectibles I now ask other people to model for the Mobile Millinery Museum. I do miss the blonde wig, which was one of my all-time favourite fashion items.

By the time I graduated nursing, I had left sorority behind. It was hard enough passing chemistry, microbiology, and psychiatry, without being tested on secret handshakes and the Greek alphabet. I became a mom and must have modeled a few good things, because all three of my children are wonderfully charming, accomplished, and caring people today. OK, Jim might have had a bit to do with that.

I know I modeled some not so good stuff too, and I hope they will forgive me for that. My new modeling career is all about how to do 60. Please wish me luck with that.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Still Steamed, But Can't Drink My Tim Horton's Tea

You Facebook followers probably know that Jim went in for surgery yesterday—for an inguinal hernia repair. We arrived at and left at (pretty good), but by a.m. I was ready for an Earl Grey tea. (See how his pain and suffering becomes my ordeal?)

Anyway, the coffee shop in the hospital (Jo Brant) is a Tim Horton’s, so I lined up and placed my order for a travel-mug refill. I handed over the green plastic mug, but hung onto the lid.

The cashier told me I HAD to relinquish the lid, because of a safety concern (apparently, they can’t carry open hot drinks at that location).

I resisted because I’m fussy. Plus, I’ve never had this problem before. Never. Not at other Timmie’s, drive-thrus, William’s coffee shops, or Starbucks. But here’s the thing: I had seen the server sneeze, and you know what I was thinking,

Sure enough, she’s carrying my precious green comfort mug in one hand, and my home-sterilized lid in the other (yes, I’m that fussy) and the server sneezes into her arm. Anyone who has seen time-lapse photography of that scenario, knows where the shmutz goes.

I quietly told the cashier that that was the reason I wanted to hang onto the lid, and she shouts to her cohort, “This lady says you sneezed on her lid.” After that, they double-doubled me with rudeness. (Have they never heard of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and auto-immune disorders?) I grabbed my mug and left. I don't know whether I was more upset at the sneeze, or at being told I HAD to hand over the lid, but I didn’t drink the tea.   

I’ve been a happy Tim's customer for years. In fact, I was at the grand opening of the first location. (Boy, does that admission make me sound old.) I was about 12 at the time, and my friend and I were as excited about meeting Tim Horton—can you believe it?—as we were about the donuts. We showed up, autograph books in hand, expecting to find our hockey player in a Leaf’s uniform. He was sitting with a bunch of suits, though, so we didn’t know who was who.

I left disappointed and too shy to speak up for what I wanted, on that day too.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Retronyms, Monikers, and the Pink Haired Lady

I attended with my husband at the hospital yesterday for his pre-op exam. While he was getting an ECG, I staked out the gift shop and ran into a former acquaintance of mine. Although I recognized her right away, (she has the cutest little pixie face that would look awesome under a hat), I couldn’t determine the context. 

Our conversation began with, “Excuse me, do I know you?” We progressed through the when’s and where’s, summarizing the last 29 years, and ended up exchanging business cards.

That’s a lie. She gave me her card (it’s impressive), and I dug through my purse but came up empty. If you’re not well organized by the age of 59, will you ever be?

My former cohort felt she needed to explain the fact that her email address contains the word ‘cougar’, so I got to thinking about how much we worry about the impression we leave with others. After all, when she knew me before, I was working as a nurse, and now I’m the pink-haired hat lady. What must she think?

How much of ourselves do we reveal through our selection of online monikers, blog titles, and Facebook images? And how much do we care? Are we free to be playful with our internet identity? When I registered for this blog, the titles I wanted—Hat Chat, Frock Talk, Vintage Verbiage—were unavailable. I considered Freelance Floozy, but what impression would that leave?

I enjoyed re-connecting with my former acquaintance today; a girl I knew from the days before retronyms like ‘snailmail’ became part of our lexicon—back when the impression we made on others resulted from our day to day, face to face, human interactions.    

Does anyone else agonize over this sort of thing, or is it just me?

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

My Dog, the Surgeon

Auggie Doggie as a pupp (an anniversary gift from my husband )
Who says veterinary bills have to be high? We have just returned from the dog doctor and it only cost me $26 bucks! Better than that—Auggie, my Border Collie/ Australian Shepherd mix, didn’t require any treatment. It seems he took care of the problem himself.

Two weeks ago I noticed a small growth on my dog’s chest while I was petting him. It freaked me out (although not as badly as the time another dog of mine ate some carpet, and had trouble pooping it out. How do you put a dog in a cab when there are 18 inches of nylon coil hanging out of his arse?) 

Anyway, I immediately put Auggie (short for Auggie Doggie) on a raw foods diet and budgeted for the worst. Although I worked as an RN for 18 years, I couldn’t bring myself to examine the area, so I had a friend (formerly a vet in Bulgaria) take a close look at this ugly black protruberance. He advised me to clip the hair around the area, clean the spot (it now looked like a nipple) and apply some antibiotic ointment twice a day for a week, after which he promised to take a second look.

That plan fell apart the first day. There’s no way Auggie would keep a cone on. Actually, I could only stand five minutes of him racing back and forth shaking his head, so I stopped with the ointment and let him lick the darned thing.

I found out on Friday that he could do more than just lick the area. I heard a yelp, and discovered he’d bitten off whatever was there. Bigger freak-out! I made an appointment with the veterinary hospital, (surely the base of this would have to be excised), but the doctor told me there is nothing left to remove or biopsy. Probable diagnosis: a wart. Let’s hope it doesn’t grow back.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Husbands and Boyfiends: Keeping it Straight

Yesterday, a former boyfriend (notice how I avoided the word "old"?) was featured on the front page of our local newspaper, for—of all things—reaching the age of 60. The firefighter-turned-human-rights-complainant has been forced into early retirement. See what I mean about cultural expectations?

Besides making me a believer in synchronicity, the article got me thinking about the fact that I had a life before Jim (my husband), whereas now I have a life because of him. I am a mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, writer, museum director, entrepreneur, and a whole lot more. None of these things can be taken away from me just because I’ve reached a certain age.

We need to plan for each life stage, so that we don’t retire from life before our time. Lots of on-the-job skills are transferable to new occupations or hobbies, and it is entirely possible to learn new skills, as anyone who tries to keep up with the latest techno-gadgets can testify. Well, that’s enough navel-gazing for now. I have deadlines to meet, an installation to prepare for, and a dog to take to the vet.

For today, that’s what becoming 60 looks like. 

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Back to the Future

Norma at Six Months 
I've decided to take a look back before going forward. Check me out. This was me at the same age my granddaughter is now.

There are no props to look at, no context really. This diaper-clad cutie is not surrounded by hats and books, cameras and computers, dolls and dresses, as I am now. Just Norma; just her, just me.

I recognize the eyebrows, the lips, and the long waist.  I've still got the cleavage, and can pick things up off of the floor with my curly toes. All good stuff. The pinch-able upper arm flesh is kind of back, though, so I'd better get to those push-ups.

As babies go, there's not much of a bum there. Still isn't. In our family, we call that particular genetic trait "The Thomas Bottom". Distinguished sounding, don't you think? It comes with great legs, so I've never really minded not being able to properly fill out the ass of my jeans.

That's a happy-looking baby, with no idea of what lies ahead for her. I think I'll try and recapture some of that, starting today.

It's hard to believe I used to inhabit her little body. Is reincarnation just a gradual process?  What do you see when you look at your baby pictures?  

Wayne Gretzky, Jean Béliveau, and Gary Carter

Leaving the Chidren's Hospital, 1974 

Wasn’t it Gretzky who said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”? Well, I took a shot and told a few of my friends about the blog I have started. This morning, when I checked my emails, I found the very response I’ve been dreading: “You are not turning 60 this year???”

It’s a nice message, oozing with incredulity. But isn’t that’s the problem? If people can’t believe I’m turning 60, why tell them? Will my older friends think I’m a wuss? Will my younger friends consider me too old to hang around with? Last week I heard the news that Gary Carter died. For an afternoon I relived my former life as a Montreal Expos fan. I met Carter shortly after I graduated as a registered nurse. It seems a lifetime ago, and I guess for Carter, it was.

I felt the same way a few days ago when I heard the news that Jean Béliveau had been hospitalized following a stroke. I was with my youngest daughter at the time. “Who is that?” she asked.

That’s right, folks. I am old enough to remember (a very active-on-the-ice) Jean Béliveau. He also made regular visits to the teen ward of the Montreal Children’s hospital, where I worked at the time. (That’s me above, leaving work after a day shift in 1974.)

In the 70’s, I was the kind of hockey fan that took autographs, stood front row at the Stanley Cup parades, and went to the airport when the Canadiens won ‘away’ games during the playoffs.

I have lots of stories, but rather than bore my daughter, I decided to keep the memories to myself.

Maybe that’s it…getting older simply means we have more stories. Take a shot at something, and let me know how it turns out. At the very least, you'll end up with a great story.

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Making the Case for Vintage

Making the Case for Vintage

The template arrived a few days ago for the layout of a museum installation I’m mounting in May. Six glass cases, their shapes and dimensions sketched out for me on a couple of 8½" x 11" fax pages, will hold an as-yet undetermined number of vintage hats, which will be on display over the next year.

I’ve been pulling millinery marvels out of the Mobile Millinery Museum  archives for some time now (at least a hundred of them are in a holding pattern at the moment), and I’ve spent time considering which pieces to select for the year-long exhibit. What a joy it is to lift the lids on so many decorative hat boxes stacked in rows according to their size and shape, and find the tissue wrapped, forgotten treasures inside. Often, the labels are as intriguing as the hats themselves  Once the final decision is made, I’ll be happy with my choices, but space restrictions being what they are, many beautiful pieces will have to be left behind.  

The same can be said of my life. The cases, empty and transparent at the moment, remind me of the years ahead. How will I fill them? What experiences and pursuits will I bring with me from the past into this new adventure? Time being what it is, some things will have to be left behind. 

Can anyone offer advice on this process? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Project Life: The Seventh Decade

So far, this sixty thing that looms large and fills me with trepidation, is a blank slate. The big day is two months away—May 6th, to be precise—but I’ve been thinking about this big old landmark birthday for a while. It’s not that I mind turning 60 (well, I do a little bit), but it’s what everyone else expects of 60 that bothers me.

I thought I might handle the whole affair by throwing myself a second 50th birthday party. That would give me another decade to get used to the idea. I figured that anyone who attended my original 50th birthday party, might raise an eyebrow or two, but be too polite to bring the subject up. And wouldn’t it be fun if a few of them thought that they were going crazy?

I discussed the plan with my oldest daughter, figuring she’d go for it in a big way. After all, if I’m shaving off ten years, didn’t that give her license to do the same? She reminded me that the local press was at my first 50th to document the event, complete with pictures. I dismissed that argument. Who remembers a newspaper article from a decade ago?

“Why don’t you take off twelve years like you usually do?” she asked. “You know, just go with the age of your boobs.”

I explained that this wasn’t about being cute, but that I was having real trouble knowing how to best spend the next ten years. ‘I know how to do my fifties,” I stressed. “I could easily do them again.”

“But the world needs a road map for what sixty looks like,” she said. “I’d like a road map.”

And so here I am, the Queen of Denial, about to show the world what sixty looks like.