Kathleen Norton

Kathleen Norton

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Every day somebody is inventing stuff that would make George Jetson’s head spin.

 Somebody’s invented a 3D food printer that combines ingredients and produces something edible. Two engineering students came up with a better use for fungi than just being something you serve with crackers when company shows up or something you spray with bleach in the shower and hope it goes away.

 Both of these are cool, and it is about time that fungi got its due.

 But much as I’d like to see this happen, my Baby Boomer heart will never consider any gadget or invention better than then one that helped raise me – the TV.

 Ever go to a big-box store and check out the age range of the people watching the wall of TV sets? It’s not the under-40 crowd – they’re all checking out the gadgets they can stuff into a pocket. The gawkers at the TV wall are Boomers trying to figure out how to get the TV’s that are bigger than Rhode Island into the trunks of their cars.

 If Martians conquered Earth tomorrow, and demanded we give up all inventions of the past century, I wouldn’t blink for a second. It would be TV for this Boomer all the way.

 Sure, you can get it all on a computer now. But the Idiot Box had it all first, and we were the first generation to grow up with TV as a member of our circle of friends.

 I ask you Boomers, is there any better way to chill out than to lay around watching infomercials on a big TV screen and laughing your cares away? Come to think of it, if Martians did show, we could broadcast only infomercials for a few days as a strategy for saving the planet.

“Hopeless species,’’ they’d say. “Let’s cut our losses and head out.’’

Just last week on TV, I saw a stupid infomercial to top all stupid infomercials. It was for Brazil Butt Lift, an exercise routine touted as the “proven way to shape, lift and firm your booty!’’

It sort of sounds legitimate. There was only one problem. The testimonial experts, paid actors who pretended to have used Brazil Butt Lift, were walking around looking quite uncomfortable.

 To put it politely, they looked like they’d sat on something (think sharp object made out of wood and came off a tree and that it was still with them), if you get my drift. I swear the “after’’ results of Brazil Butt Lift were the most awkward-looking poses I’d ever seen.

One of the highlights of the infomercial was a pitch for “Bum Bum Rapido’’ an exercise that will help “Lift your butt fast!’’

 But wait! There’s More! (Sorry. The infomercial lingo is still stuck in my brain.)

 The Brazil Butt Lift people not only have an exercise video, they have a product called “Brazilian Butt Lifting Thermal Panty.’’ It looks like the girdle that every woman wore when I was growing up – with one little change. There are two circle cutouts exactly where the buttocks should be. Make it two little changes. Don’t ask me how this garment works, but my grandmother, who prided herself on a figure made trimmer by an industrial-strength girdle with no cutouts, would turn over in her grave at the sight of the Brazil Butt Lift girdle.

She’d also yell: “Turn off that Idiot Box. It’s turning your brain into mush.’’And I’m afraid I’d have to answer: “Too late, Grandma. Too late.’’

 

Men are courageous souls who bravely face broken septic systems, wheedling mothers-in-law and wives with hormonal swings bigger than the Batman ride at Six Flags.

 

Man facing sick kid

Man facing sick kid

But unleash a kid with a stomach bug on some men and they seem to go – for lack of a better word – a little girly on you.

 

This is a phenomenon that I have witnessed and confirmed with other women during scientific surveys conducted on line at Stop & Shop.

 

“He took off like a bat out of you-know-where,’’ one griped as a flu bounced around our kids like a tennis ball at Wimbledon.

 

Her husband was as valiant as a Green Beret – except when the kids’ heads were hanging over the toilet. We felt her pain.

 

Maybe it was just our neighborhood, but I suspect not.

 

The first time it happened to me was so long ago that we were trying to fix our VCR. As we puzzled over the thing, hoping we could figure out how to tape “Twin Peaks,’’ I heard a strange cough and gag from a bedroom above.

 

“Check on the kids?’’ I said. “One of them is up.’’

 

My man, being the good dad he is, went up only to run back down, hand over his mouth, saying: “Air! I need air!’’

 

This from someone who had manned up to every icky household situation, including the day the entire septic system went kaput beneath the feet of the kids playing in the yard.

 

Up I went to sanitize an entire room and a small child. Then I sat down and had a sandwich.

 

“You can eat after that? I owe you big time! What can I do?’’ he said, which explains why to this day when small rodents make their presence known in the garage or elsewhere, I leave and let him take over.

 

I run screaming if I see a mouse, but a kid with the stomach flu isn’t a big deal. Maybe childbirth rewires mothers’ brains this way.

 

Who knows?

 

Anyway, the “cleanup’’ scene replayed itself over the years until finally, the little gaggers were grown and out.

 

Enter the grandchildren, and the opportunity for history to repeat itself, which it did last week.

 

The man involved was a stranger, not my spouse, who was miles away and safely out of range of the 2-year-old who erupted like a volcano as we sat in a parked car while her mom was in a doctor’s office.

 

Right about then a man getting into another car noticed the hoopla, knocked on the window and asked if we needed help.

 

When I rolled it down a crack he got a picture, not to mention a whiff, of what was going on in our vehicle. He turned green and backed away, which I took to mean his offer was rescinded.

 

The toddler looked at me as if to say: “What’s up with that guy, Grandma?’’

 

There was only one answer.

 

“Oh, honey,’’ I said, wiping her sticky face. “Welcome to the Girls’ Club.’’

Charming, just charming!

Spring is still a few weeks away, but here’s a reason to smile anyway.

Folks have sent in a new batch of entries for “Grand kids say the darndest things!’’

We let some gems from nieces and nephews slip in – they were too amusing to leave out.

Oh, and at the end of this blog you’ll find out I was on the money when I poked fun at New Hampshire – recently named the “No. 1 Place to Retire.’’

It had nothing to do with funny kids, but I love being right. (Just ask my husband.)

First up: Donna and Kevin Gallagher of Poughkeepsie NY.

When they bought a home years ago, they showed their niece around and Donna asked the girl: “How do you like our new house?’’

The girl looked at the house, look at her aunt and asked, “How did you get it home?’’

Donna also said her grandson recently complained about a stomach ache. Then he heard meatballs were on the menu.

“Maybe I can eat a little,’’ the boy said.

“How many?’’ his mother asked.

“Five!’’ he declared.

Here’s a story from Christina McIntire, also of Poughkeepsie, who said a family gathering led to a good laugh.

The hosts were showing off some redecorated rooms when Christina’s granddaughter, then age 3, pronounced the job “charming,’’ much to everyone’s surprise.

Then the tot went about her business. “We all found it quite hysterical that she used that word and in the right context too!’’ Christina said.

Another funny story comes from my pal Sarah Bradshaw. Her little nephew asked if it was OK to drink root beer.

“Of course,’’ Auntie Sarah said.

“But doesn’t it make you do bad things like kill people?’’ the boy wanted to know.

Karen Campbell of Red Hook, NY, wrote that during family several to New Jersey, her husband gets up early to attend a local Sunday church service, and then returns for breakfast.

Though his granddaughters think highly of him, one apparently thinks he’s quite the Superman.

When the 6-year-old realized he was going to a local church, she said, “Oh, I always thought Pop Pop drove back to your house in Red Hook to go to church and then back to my house in New Jersey for breakfast!’’

Last but not least, we have Jacqueline Berghorn, who moved to the Lake Winnepesaukee area of New Hampshire 14 years ago.

The Berghorns were attracted by the lower cost of living, low crime rate and outdoor atmosphere – the same reasons New Hampshire recently climbed the “best place to retire’’ list.

But here, in Jacqueline’s words, is how it played out: “Six months of freezing, no sun, low vitamin D, houses have tripled in value, taxes the same…and this past May, I was attacked by a bear!’’

Jacqueline’s OK, thankfully. She said to get in touch if you’re interested in a ranch house with a pool, nearby golf course and a lake that’s frozen half the year and has a name you won’t be able to spell.

We have not discussed my commission. We’ll see how it goes.

Thanks to all who sent in grandkid stories, and keep ‘em coming. They’re bound to keep us young – or at least chuckling.

I'd like to thank my mother....

Here’s the “best movies” column I wrote for the Poughkeepsie NY Journal, using submissions from blog readers and newspaper readers:

As Hollywood’s glam-fest unfolded on the red carpet and Angelina Jolie proved once and for all she is a stick disguised as a human being, my mind was elsewhere.

It was on the ‘60s and ‘70s movies sent in by local readers and my far-flung Facebook friends.

I had written that “Rocky’’ was as my fave. But the films mentioned most often by those who wrote were “The Sound of Music” (1965), “To Kill a Mockingbird’’ (1962) and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’’ (1969).

Other biggies from my inbox:

“West Side Story’’ (1961)

“Tom Jones’’ and “Cleopatra” (1963)

“My Fair Lady” (1964)

“Dr. Zhivago’’ (1965)

“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’’ and “Torn Curtain’’ (1966)

“Midnight Cowboy’’ (1969)

“Love Story” (1970)

“The Heartbreak Kid’’ and “American Graffiti’’ (1972)

“The Godfather” (Parts I and II, 1972 and 1974)

“The Way We Were’’ (1973)

“Saturday Night Fever,’’ “The Goodbye Girl’’ and “Capricorn One” (1977)

Teddi Southworth of Pleasant Valley NY said “West Side Story’’ was the first grown-up movie she ever saw – with her brother and his girlfriend at Poughkeepsie’s Overlook Drive-in.

“I was mesmerized by the music, choreography and love story,’’ she wrote.

Paul Valachovic saw Alfred Hitchcock’s “Torn Curtain’’ Aug. 12, 1966 on his first date with his first girlfriend – with whom he shared a first kiss.

Cicely Perrotte of Red Hook NY  said “Tom Jones’’ was her man. “After a diet of Doris Day and ‘Gidget,’ Tom was a sensation. It was funny, sexy…and of course there was Albert Finney,’’ she wrote.

Pat Cremins of Fishkill NY said: “Cleopatra entering Rome is the greatest scene ever made for a movie…Liz (Taylor) was a real beauty in that one.’’

Dianne Chambers of Beekman pined for the “The Heartbreak Kid.’’

“Now I’m in the mood to go find the tape. I’ll have to find a VHS player while I’m at it,’’ she said.

Lance Smith of Clinton Corners NY loved “Capricorn One’’ – especially when Telly Savalas flies a crop-duster and curses at Elliot Gould, the first cussing Smith ever heard in a movie.

He went back seven times.

Steve Lynch of Fishkill NY loved the “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly’’ but was also partial to the “The Sound of Music’’ – whose songs he still tries to sing.

And so do plenty of others. One guy said he saw “Music’’ many times over since his grandfather was a movie projectionist. My pal Mary Lynn Fassold said she loved that movie while growing up in New Jersey, while my cousin Kate Fitzsimons, who lives in Australia but grew up in Ireland, said she loved another Julie Andrews’ mega-hit: “Mary Poppins.’’

A few folks singled out “Saturday Night Fever.” “Who could resist John Travolta?’’ wrote another cousin, Kathy Brown in California.

Mary Beth Pfeiffer of Stone Ridge NY loved Robert Redford in “The Way We Were’’ while Joan Baron of Delanson, NY, loved another Redford pairing – with Paul Newman in “Butch Cassidy.’’

Denise Gilhooly-Partrick of Red Hook NY said dreamy Omar Sharif in “Dr. Zhivago” was the best. (Hey, didn’t Dr. Zhivago cheat on his pregnant wife? My man Rocky Balboa would never do that!)

Seriously, thanks to everyone who took part in a boomer stroll down movie memory lane.

And for the record, I still love the guy who got beat up for a living then went home to a crummy apartment to talk to his turtles.

What's not to love?

OK people, get ready for a stroll down movie memory lane.

If it’ll help, grab some popcorn and chase it down with Ginkoba.

In honor of the upcoming Academy Awards, let me know your favorite all-time movie from the ’60s or ’70s. We’ll share here – and in my newspaper column for the Poughkeepsie NY Journal.

You probably don’t even have to think that hard about it.

Saturday Night Fever? Jaws? Love Story? Carrie? M*A*S*H? Easy Rider? The Godfather? The Way We Were? The Graduate?

It may be the first movie you saw with the old “M’’ rating, or the first one you saw with the guy or gal who’d be “The One.’’

It may be the movie you saw four times in a theater that had only one movie showing at a time.

Remember when everybody going into a theater at the same time was there to see the same film?

To get things rolling, this baby boomer will reveal her all-time favorite movie.

It’s the one I have seen at least 45 times – three times when it first came out – but most of my viewings have been on TV.

I simply can’t click past it. I have to stop whatever I’m doing, put my feet up and watch Rocky Balboa beat the you-know-what out of a side of beef before he gets you-know-what pounded out of him in the boxing ring.

I love the movie so much I even watch the sequels – even the one when they kill off Adrian, who of course is on the receiving end of my all-time favorite movie line: “Yo Adrian!’’

Ok, it’s not Shakespeare. But I’m a sucker for an underdog and Rocky led the pack in that category. He still does.

I mean come on, how many barely literate tough guys can melt a girl’s heart simply by introducing her to a couple of pet turtles named “Cuff and Link.’’

And don’t get me started on the “Rocky’’ theme song. One bar and I’m jogging up the nearest flight of steps and at the top, doing the slow-motion Rocky jumping dance.

It used to get laughs in our house. But after 24,867 performances, they don’t even look up.

“Go ahead,’’ they say. “Knock yourself out. We’ll wait.’’

A couple of years ago, we went to Philadelphia and I hit pay dirt. I found a shop that sold Rocky paraphernalia only.

They even sold a fleece throw blanket featuring the scene where Rocky beats up that bloody meat. How’d you like to snuggle with that on the couch?

I had to be dragged out of the shop against my will and don’t remember seeing the Liberty Bell though I am told we went there on that trip.

BTW, the picture you see here is what’s on my favorite T-shirt.

So now you know my favorite movie from the ’60s and ’70s – and possibly of all time. How about the rest of you?

Send them in lickety-split. To get inspired, click here for some scenes from the original Rocky!

Enjoy!

Laugh away your middle-age blues with this hilarious new ebook by Kathleen Norton

Kathleen's new ebook

If 50 Is the New 30, Then 30 Ain’t what It Used To be!

Click here to find out more

Retirement paradise?

Just dragged myself away from Facebook where one boomer friend after another is posting about dreams for retirement.

Some are years away from the end goal. But does that stop us?

Hec, no. This is the boomer generation we’re talkin’ about.

There are 78 million of us – we dream big.

Personally, I would like to live in Ireland half the year in its least rainy season and New York the other half a year in its least snowy season – not the best plan since those seasons would kind of coincide (see above for reference to unrealistic dreams).

Every boomer gal and boomer guy’s retirement dreams differs, except for one major similarity – no boomers ever talk about retiring to colder weather.

That’s why I was shocked to read an online article on Money.com called the “Ten Best States for Retirement.’’

Only one state south of the Mason-Dixon line – Virginia – made the “best’’ list.

As a matter of fact, the state I would have voted one of the least popular for retirees was No. 1.

Ready to know what it is? Brace yourself. It’s gonna be a shocker.

New Hampshire. Yes, New Hampshire, the state with the misquoted state motto.

Everyone thinks it’s: “Live free or die.”

But really, it’s this: “Live, freeze, then die.”

We used to live in Vermont next door to New Hampshire so I know what I am talking about.

We took a drive across the border every spring thaw – at the end of June.

The weather in that part of the country can only be described like this: Nine months of winter and three months of darn, poor sleddin’.

As a whole, New Hampshire is incredibly beautiful and friendly and you gotta admire a place where moose sightings and presidential politics get equal billing.

But most boomers I know are hoping to retire to a place where the coldest day of the year is in the high 60s, not the warmest day.

So what gives with this list? According to Money.com, it was based partly on the cost of living, unemployment rates, tax rates, and crime rates.

I also guess that the person who wrote the article also is about 32 and has only been to New Hampshire for ski weekends and hot tub adventures with his college friends.

Under all these circumstances, I can see why New Hampshire came up at the top of the list.

When you can dig out of your retirement place during those “poor sleddin” months, you’ll be able to get a retirement job, be safer on the streets and pay less for goods.

In New Hampshire, those goods would be endless supplies of woolen socks, enough heating oil to fill a tanker, ibuprofen to offset aches and pains brought on by the cold winters and annual airplane tickets south so you can escape the No. 1 Place to Retire.

And so I ask: How’s New Hampshire’s looking for those golden years now?

Ya, that’s what I thought.

It was the strangest feeling.

Since turning 50, at every hair appointment, it felt like I was putting on a mask on my head.

But I tucked those misgivings away and kept using hair color to cover up streaks of silver and white that had been dogging me for  decades.

My pretense was that time was not marching on, though there was plenty of other evidence to the contrary.

Just ask my upper arms.

Every year, the divide between my real age and my hair’s age got bigger while my hair maintenance schedule took over my life.

“Hair Day!’’ was scrawled on every month of the calendar and no social event was attended without a determination of  whether the roots could be seen in public, or in pictures.

I had vowed to “age gracefully” without unnatural interventions but my policy had an unstated hair exemption.

But last year, several friends stopped coloring.

Some whispered that these women looked older, in tones that suggested they’d committed felonies. But the women themselves were thrilled and said they’d never go back.

Then I went to a social function with my parents’ friends. At least half of the women still had dyed hair.

“I’ll never go gray,’’ one woman confided. “It ages women.’’

She was about 85 and looked not a day over 81.

“So that’s where this is all leading,’’ I considered.

Next, I found pictures of my grandmother and her cousin, now long dead, when they were middle-aged. Both had striking salt and pepper hair and were beautiful.

I envied this generation of women, which had far fewer advantages than mine, but never had to endure this catchphrase: “Fifty is the new 30!’’

Right after this, my sister sent me a link to a video of two California news anchorwomen, on station KPIX, who stopped coloring their hair and went “natural’’ in front millions. They looked far better, more like themselves.

I made a commando decision. “Cut it short and ditch the dye,’’ I said to the hairdresser during the next visit. “We’ll deal with what’s under there.

That was nine months ago. A short, layered cut has helped the colors blend during the tedious, growing out process. On bad days, I turned to hairbands or hats.

I almost faltered once, but hung in there. Now, it’s about 85 percent done with salt and pepper in most places and white streaks in others. I use lots of conditioner and need frequent cuts but the new head feels more like me – we’re both in our 50s.

People’s reactions fall into three categories: Positive reactions. No reaction, which means they don’t care or they’re too horrified to say. And then there’s awkwardness.

“That picture they were using of you with dark hair in the newspaper must have been really old,’’ said one person.

“Not really,’’ I corrected. “My hair just looked younger than it was.’’

So that’s my hair story, ladies and gentlemen. What’s yours?

Post it here or email to: kathleennorton1@gmail.com

I am sure we will have plenty to talk about.

The Ugly American

Americans, on the whole, are nice people. But there is something we need to work on.

Some of us think the way that we do things in our country is the only way to do things and that people in other countries have it all wrong because they are not us.

And, because we are Americans, the “ugly” ones among us are not shy about expressing superiority.

Know what I mean?

I reached this conclusion while standing on line at an airport with lots of Americans and lots of people from the country we were leaving.

It happened to be Ireland, where the national pastime is treating visitors well.

As we waited, an American complained that the line was moving slowly because, as she explained loudly to everyone around us, we were not in America.

Ironically, at the same time she also boasted of her Irish heritage, a tidbit the Irish people on line did not seem particularly happy to hear.

I swear the word “eejit’’ was whispered up and down the line and at least one person “accidentally’’ kicked her suitcase, causing the American to add “clumsiness’’ onto the pile of bad traits she was assigning to this lovely country.

Despite her lineage, she said she was glad that she was a citizen of America, where, she declared, things happen when they’re supposed to.

“Oh, it figures. They’re on their ‘Irish’ time over here. We’ll never get on that plane!’’ she whined.

Really? I wanted to say. An entire country that never gets anything done on time? Sounded like she had never stood on anything but quick lines in America.

I also wanted to remind her that Ireland is an English-speaking country and everyone around us knew what she was saying.

Yet I was afraid to do so and risk the chance that others would think we were together. But that didn’t stop her from speaking to me.

This happens to me all the time. My kids used to cringe when we were in public because total strangers seemed to seek me out for conversation.

Maybe I look very friendly. Maybe I look like I very much need a friend. Who knows? But it happened again at the airport.

Her: “Have you ever seen anything like this?’’

Me: (No answer)

Her: “That guy over there is getting paid to do nothing. We should report him to the authorities. That’ll teach ‘em.’’

Me: (No answer)

Her: “When these people get to America they’ll find out how things should be done.’’

Me: (No answer)

Her: “I’ll be so glad to get back home. What state are you from?’’

Me: (No answer but thinking silently: “Please go away and leave me alone!’’)

Finally, we got to the head of the line where the agents were hospitable to everyone (naturally) and checked us though to the plane that would take us to America.

They appeared to treat everyone in the same pleasant manner, though the Ugly American on our line did seem to get very quick processing.

Maybe the agents were just doing their jobs.

Or maybe, I thought, they were doing their country a favor.

Dreamin' up ways to amuse Grandma

Calling all grandparents.

I’m looking for those funny little stories, those hilarious anecdotes that occur when the “grands’’ come to visit and rock your grandma/grandpa world with their antics.

I should know. I have been recovering from a so-called “rocking’’ and believe me, our three-day visit with our grand-toddler and her baby sister was filled with those experiences.

Like the day after the 2-year-old  missed out on a good night’s sleep because of loud summer thunderstorms.

It was tears, whining and a big “No!” to everything I said. In other words, the Toddler Works.

It prompted me to murmur, “Somebody is ‘Little Miss Cranky Pants today.’ ’’

Bursting into tears and pointing at herself, she cried:

“That’s me Grandma! I’m Little Miss Cranky Pants!’’ as if I had completely missed the point of the meltdown.

Come on Grandma, she was saying. Get with the program!

Maddening from a general point of view. But from a Grandma point of view, it was very funny.

So I said: “Yes, I know you are Little Miss Cranky Pants, my sweetheart. And you’re the best one I ever saw!’’

That took her by surprise, which stopped the tantrum. Then we both had a cookie right before supper, while I whispered: “Don’t tell Mommy!”

Later, I realized I had stumbled on a good crime prevention technique: Lock up bad guys with a roomful of irritable toddlers.

If that doesn’t break a criminal’s spirit, nothing will.

Besides being funny in general, grandkids can even make us laugh about what we see in the mirror every day – evidence that Father Time doing its thing.

One little girl recently asked her grandma, my friend, if they could compare tummies.

So they did, which prompted this question: “Grandma, why is your tummy so ugly?’’

My friend in the Grandma Brigade didn’t yell or cry. She laughed, and so did I when I heard the story.

I’m sure others with an appreciation with the wit and wisdom of children did, too.

Especially if they have their own grandchildren to amuse them while wearing them out to bits during their visits.

We sure need a good laugh when the little ones have gone home with the toys, diapers, sippy cups, animal crackers, plastic blocks, beach pails, little socks, tiny shoes, gazillions of kid books and games and Lord knows what else they brought in and may not have taken out.

(Oops. I just stepped on a stuffed Elmo in the garden.)

So, come on grandparents. Time to share! Post your funny little  grandkid stories here.

Let’s see who can top the Little Miss Cranky Pants Episode or the Incident of the Ugly Tummy.

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