Kathleen Norton

Archive for the ‘Boomers’ Category

As beefcake photos go, it was not the most revealing.

The subject was covered from the neck down in pants, a winter coat and a scarf.

He also sported minor jowls, a head of hair that is surely dyed and lines around his eyes that crinkled like tissue paper.


He looked so good that I did not mind if my neighbors saw me standing at the mailbox gawking at Robert Redford, an AARP Magazine cover boy.

Normally, I would stuff the magazine under my jacket, run into the house and say loudly, “Look! They put this stupid thing in our box again by accident!’’

Then my husband would say, “Guess that AARP card in your wallet is there by accident, too.’’

But not this time. There was no discussion at all. Not with those blue eyes staring back at me from the front page.

Who cared if anybody saw me at the box as the music swelled inside my head and Barbra Streisand began the lyrics to “The Way We Were.’’

Me and Bob were in a time warp, and there was no escape.

It was the 1970s and I was one of three teenage girls huddled in a tiny bedroom, plotting a huge undertaking:

Convincing our mothers that we were old enough to see the new Redford-Streisand movie.

That was Plan A.

Our Plan B was the usual – fib to our mothers, sneak in and see the movie anyway.

It was rated “M’’ for mature audiences, which meant you didn’t have to show any proof of age but you had to be ‘’mature,’’ which was up to your parents.

Up to then, we were seeing movies that featured cartoon characters, talking or flying cars and singing nuns.

Now we were asking to see a movie that might have a scene where a man and woman were in a room with a bed.

Our mothers surely did not think we were “mature’’ enough to handle that and they were already mad about one thing or another.

So they did the worst thing that mothers can do. They conferred with each other.

There’s only one thing worse than a suspicious mother: A suspicious mother who calls in reinforcements.

We don’t know what they said to each other, but our imaginations ran wild.

One mother might say she’d heard there were love scenes involving Robert Redford. The second mother would confirm this. The third mother could suggest that the girls were forbidden but the three of them should go and not tell.

We were in a panic. What if that really happened? Now we were afraid of Plan B (fibbing and sneaking) because we may run into our mothers.

Talk about a pickle.

As expected, we were told we could not go. We enacted Plan B anyway. We figured Redford was worth the risk. And he was. That smile practically melted the theater screen.

Whether our mothers snuck around on us, too, we never found out. But I sure hope so now that I know what it’s like to raise teenagers.

Today, everyone in this story is on the AARP mailing list – mothers and daughters alike – and history is repeating itself.

We’re all in a trance, this time at our mailboxes, thanks to Robert Redford.


They all look so innocent

Let me apologize ahead of time.

This column could end quite suddenly because complete and total exhaustion is taking over my body.

Running a marathon or climbing a mountain did not cause this. Those things are a snap compared to the real cause of my fatigue: A visit with a human phenomenon that packs more energy into her body than a nuclear reactor.

In others words, a toddler.

They are deceivingly adorable little people who babble excitedly and blow kisses even from far away thanks to the wonders of Skype.

But “Skyping’’ does not hurt your lower back. Reality does. And we have a heating pad on its last legs to prove it.

Our path to pain began with good intentions.

“Hi Grandma!’’ and “Hi Papa!’’ our 2-year-old granddaughter exclaimed to us not long ago from the computer screen.

Her cuteness factor was off the charts and before we knew it, the car was packed and we were off to collect some real kisses instead of settling for virtual ones.

Me: “I can’t wait to hug her!”

Him: “Me first!”

Me: “She loves me best!”

Him: “We’ll see about that!”

With all our gushing, we forgot the most important thing – a stint at Grandparent Boot Camp where the motto is, “The Few. The Proud. The Upright.”

At Grandparent Boot Camp, you do squat thrusts from dawn until dusk.

“You wimps think THIS is hard! Wait ‘til you’re squished in some kiddy chair for a tea party!’’ a drill sergeant screams.

At Grandparent Boot Camp, you are familiarized with the operation of a car seat fit for an astronaut.

“Wrong, you idiot!’’ the drill sergeant screams as you fumble with buckles. “Fifty more squats for you!’’

At Grandparent Boot Camp, you take a crash course in complex toys like Potty Time Elmo, whose miniature potty makes realistic sound effects.

At Grandparent Boot Camp, you are immersed in rescue and retrieval so you are ready when a toddler sprints away from you at the mall and does a long jump over another stroller.

“Run you wimps! Run!’’ the drill sergeant screams as you stumble and fall.

Unfortunately, we experienced this very mall escape scenario and it goes without saying that we were not prepared.

“Get her!’’ I yelled at my husband.

“I can’t keep up!’’ he huffed. “Besides, she loves you best, remember?’’

We caught her in the Disney store and then we had to load a cranky, nap-free toddler into a car seat and fill the trunk with a stroller, diaper bag, giant Dora doll, crates of snacks, the stuffed animals of the week, a Minnie Mouse purchased at the mall, plus everything else needed for a 30-minute outing with a 2-year-old.

All without benefit of Grandparent Boot Camp.

Our conversation on the way home was quite different than on the way there.

Him: We’re too tired to drive.

Me: I’ll press the pedal. You steer.

Him: How did we survive our own kids?

Me: We were 25.

Him: Ahh, 25. I miss 25.

Me: This is crazy but when can we go back?

Him: After traction.

Me: And Grandparent Boot Camp?

Him: Definitely  Grandparent Boot Camp.

LaLanne success story

His only props were tight pants, great abs, a German shepherd named “Happy” and a chair.

Always a chair.

Combined with his personality, they gave him the staying power to be the star of the longest running fitness show in TV history.

Boomers, you know who I mean. He was a fixture on the black and white TVs of our childhoods.

Sometimes our mothers did squat thrusts and push-ups along with him. Sometimes they contorted their mouths as part of his anti-aging face workout.

Sometimes, they just stared.

Cigarettes and coffee cups in hand, they put down the laundry basket or the mop and the vacuum and sat on the couch, watching him bend and stretch.

Their staring seemed odd to us kids.

Why did our mothers stop everything? Why did they pause in their rants about the Idiot Box? Why did the act like zombies at a certain time of day?

It made no sense.

Later, we understood. Jack LaLanne was that kind of guy.

Wavy-haired, muscular and clean cut, he did jumping jacks to corny music and urged America’s housewives to cure themselves of “pooped-out-itis.’’

He was the boy-next-door and a fantasy gym teacher all rolled into one.

“You can do it!’’ he’d cheer. “Get up on your feet!’’

And if you were watching, you thought that you could.

Even if you were watching with a ring of smoke around your head and a cup of caffeine on your lap while your kids ate heaping bowl of Frosted Flakes with Ring Ding chasers.

For decades, Jack was called the “godfather’’ of fitness though by the time he died last month at age 96 you’d have to say he was more like the great-great grandfather of the fitness movement because of how many followed his TV footsteps.

Do you think Leotard Queen Jane Fonda’s or Gush Master Richard Simmons would have made it without Jack? Bob Greene? Denise Austin? Chuck Norris? Dr. Oz?

They owe him big time. And don’t think for a second that the “The Biggest Loser’’ doesn’t owe Jack for planting the TV seed for all the shows to come about fitness and second chances.

Jack did it without gimmicks or any shtick.

He had no sexy dancers mimicking his moves, no movie star status to cash in, no tropical beach as his backdrop and no machines doing the work.

He had only an anatomy chart he’d point to on TV, a common sense workout and an amazing personal childhood story.

Did you know that our energetic, smiling Jack once tried to attack his brother with a knife and set his house on fire?

That after he’d been thrown out of school his desperate mother took him to a lecture on the benefits of healthy eating?

That lecture changed everything. He went from sugarcoated teen to exercise impresario, advising vigorous workouts and body building regimens.

Some called him a crackpot but Jack had the last laugh on national television. Maybe he’s the reason so many Boomers have an age-defying attitude? We had a good teacher.

So rest in peace, Jack LaLanne. We’ll remember your style. We’ll remember your advice. We’ll remember your pants.

And we’ll remember your chair, too.

This 'vintage' roast is delicious!

Marriage vows are heavy on the “L’’ word, which is all fine and dandy.

“I love you. You love me. ‘Til death do us part. Yada, yada, yada.”

But does anyone mention the other “L’’ word? The one that has been known to wreak havoc on marriages since the beginning of time?

I refer to “leftovers’’ – last night’s meatloaf, Monday’s pot roast, Saturday’s spaghetti.

Toss or save? Reheat or chuck?

How a bride and grooms works out those dilemmas tells more about their compatibility and odds of surviving marriage than any Love Quiz that Cosmo Magazine can invent.

Yet, nobody warns them that the honeymoon period for every couple ends the night they find themselves going head to head in front of the fridge over 9-day-old lasagna.

One thinks that lasagna is ”vintage.” The other thinks it is fungus.

One argues: ‘“We’ve got to stretch the food budget.’’ The other replies: “Yes, but food is not Spandex.’’

It is a story as old as time.

It’s well documented that a cave woman invented fire solely so she could warm up last night’s din-din.

But her caveman had other ideas.

“Old meat bad!’ he roared when the remains of a wooly mammoth roast became a minced mammoth casserole.

“Old meat good!’’ she roared back. “And if you don’t like it, invent a PBJ. Knock yourself out!’’

Sadly, things have not changed much and “tossers” always seem to end up marrying “savers.”

Leftovers are always a sore subject in our house, and I wish pre-marital counseling had broached this touchy topic.

We could have done “rock-paper-scissors’’ on other things – like whether we wanted to bring other humans into the world or who would control the checkbook.

In those areas, things have turned out fine.

But we’ve never been able to find a middle ground on the nights when I wanted to toss every leftover in the fridge into one big bowl, add grated cheese and dig in.

I will admit that early in our marriage, I gave my leftover creation an unfortunate name.

“It’s ‘Garbage Salad,’ ‘’ I chirped, thinking I was so clever. “Yum!’’

“I cannot eat anything with the word ‘garbage’ in it,’’ he pronounced and knew he had married a woman who enjoyed the very thing that made him gag: Unidentifiable aging food in little plastic containers.

You should see us on “Clean Out The Fridge Day.’’

“Save,’’ I say to everything. “Toss,’’ he says at the same time.

It’s a real hoot.

We’ve tried to adjust. I’ve gotten better at hiding leftovers in creative dishes, casseroles and soups. And he’s gotten better at throwing leftovers away when I am out of the house.

So let this be a warning to all the young couples out there.

Go on and talk about future kids. Talk about money.

Talk where you’ll go on Thanksgiving and whether her mother can clean the bathroom every time she visits.

But for the sake of your love, don’t forget to work this out, too:

Just how many encores are acceptable for the Sunday chicken dinner.


Treadmills are begging for mercy this month as we all try to reverse the diet damage done around the holidays.

Gateway to holiday overeating

And I would like to say that while turkeys, hams, sweet potatoes, eggnog and lasagna are partly to blame for those extra pounds, the greatest instigator of all that gluttony are sugar cookies.

Or, as I call them, Seasonal Weapons of Mass Destruction.

This is not an exaggeration. These WMD’s may be small and plain and innocent looking. But they are like the marijuana of the junk food world – a gateway to everything that is bad for your hips and thighs.

Think about it. You go to a holiday party determined not to make a pig out of yourself. But suddenly, a plate of sugar cookies is passed around the crowd.

You think: What harm could be done by a little cookie fix?

But before you know it, you’ve had seven cookies, the buffet table looms ahead and you’ve tossed your self-control and your Weight Watchers points guide into the flames of the roaring fireplace.

This year, I thought I’d truly beaten the sugar cookie at its game because for months we’d made a serious attempt to cut back on sugar. We figured that by the time Christmas rolled around, we wouldn’t even want sugar.

And we were wrong.

Not only did I want to consume every cookie in sight, I wanted the house to smell like them all the time so I baked and baked and baked. And when I wasn’t baking, I was snacking on raw cookie dough while I watched a lady doctor on TV warning me of the danger of eating raw cookie dough.

“It’s Christmas, sister. All bets are off,’’ I sniffed.

Being that I am a generous person, I would like to share the blame for my holiday eating binge with two others.

The first person at fault is Martha Stewart.

I am not a big fan of Martha’s, generally speaking, but she is an excellent businessperson, quite possibly the most successful ex-inmate of all times, and as it turns out, a superb hypnotist.

In her calm, soothing voice, she speaks to us from TV throughout the season.

“It’s a good thing,’’ she croons, which is her hypnotic signal for us to begin turning household junk into ornaments, planning Christmas brunches for 40 while at the same time baking 35 types of cookies for a cookie tower.

This year, I made her cranberry sugar cookies to give as gifts. But the only one who received any was me and by the time I was done
“giving’’ myself the cookies there weren’t enough left for anyone else.

But Martha is not the only culprit.

My good friend Ellen showed up with a plate of sugar cookies infused with ginger so addictive that people have been beating down her door for the recipe.

The recipe is below. Don’t say I didn’t warn you when the ginger cravings set in.

I traveled miles to find the exact ingredients, one of which cost more per ounce what I spent on all our holiday gifts together.

And now, here I am, killing myself to sweat off the calories that were packed into those little cranberry and ginger WMD’s.

Thanks Martha and Ellen. Thanks a ton.

Or in this case, five to seven pounds, to be exact.

Ellen’s Incredible Ginger Cookies

Note:  Chill dough 1-2 hours before baking

2 c. all purpose flour

¾ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

2 tsp ground ginger

½ tsp Saigon cinnamon (or regular)

1/8 tsp ground cloves

½ c. butter or margerine, softened

1 c. Sugar in the Raw

1 egg

¼ c. Dark Karo Syrup

1/3 – ½ c. Sugar in the Raw for coating dough balls

Combine flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves in medium bowl and set aside.

Beat butter and 1 cup Sugar in the Raw in large bowl with mixer at medium high speed until well mixed.  Beat in egg and corn syrup until smooth.  Stir in flour mixture.

Chill dough 1-2 hours or until easy to handle.

Shape dough into 1” balls and roll in 1/3 – ½ cup Sugar in the Raw.  Place balls 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets.

Bake in preheated 350 deg oven for 9 – 11 minutes or just until golden around the edges.  Cool on wire racks.

To speed chilling, place dough in freezer for 15-30 minutes.

The time: New Year’s Eve.

The setting: Our house.

The situation: Two middle-aged Baby Boomers who cannot remain awake past 11 p.m. though they desperately want to believe they still can.

But no matter what, our eyelids begin to close well before Leno and refuse to open until dawn. Apparently, we need our beauty sleep so desperately that Mother Nature gives us no say in the matter.

She just steps in and renders us unconscious.

What happened to the good ol’ days? What happened to the good ol’ us?

Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, our weekend nights routinely began AFTER Saturday Night Live was over at 1 a.m.

And New Year’s Eve was no different. But now, on Planet Middle Age, things are quite the opposite.

I have my flannel jammies on as soon as the sun goes down, which this time of year is before dinner. And he is slumped over the latest biography of Lincoln while I rally to stay awake for “Glee.’’

The last time I can remember staying awake on New Year’s Eve was to ring in  2000, and that was only because Y2K madness and mayhem were predicted.

If we were going to lose modern civilization, we wanted to be awake for it.

Even with that hanging over our heads the kids were nudging us on the couch because we kept dozing off. They were disgusted that their parents were so old they could not remain awake on such a momentous occasion.

Actually, now that I think about it, they were teenagers then and were pretty much disgusted about everything, especially if it had to do with us.

We could have been leading the New Year’s Eve charge at Times Square and they would have been disgusted about that, too.

At least in 2000, we gave it the old college try. We wore party hats and made onion dip and roused ourselves to shout “Happy New Year!’’ when the ball finally dropped after what seemed like the longest night of our lives.

Since then, we’ve called it an early night and mumbled something about “getting over serious colds’’ when confronted by other middle-agers who party on New Year’s Eve because they go by the Second Childhood Approach to Middle Age.

But this year, we came up with a new scheme. We choose to ring in the New Year according to a different time zone.

We decided on Brazil because their clocks are several hours ahead of our own and because it is the kind of place we are very likely to never visit.

A quiet round of golf in upstate New York is more our speed so this would kill two birds with one stone.

We have no clue how they really celebrate in Brazil.

Based on the pop-up ads we have seen for “Brazilian butt lift’’ exercise routines, it’s probably pretty good.

After all, if they can invent aerobics look make you look like that, they probably can throw a great party.

Besides, just saying we had a Brazilian New Year’s Eve, even if it only means we rang in the New Year a few hours early, sounds lots better than the reality:

Warm jammies, a New Year’s toast with hot cocoa and bedtime before 11.


The Christmas of 1967 was the best Christmas ever – or it was the worst. It depends on who’s telling the story.

For a 10-year-old schoolgirl, it could not have been better. I hit the jackpot that year, in more ways than one.

By a miracle, my previously clueless parents had decided it was OK for me to have a Barbie, a doll that in their words, “looked like a sexpot.’’

Now I’m not sure how the word “sex’’ came to be paired with the word “pot.” But it sure packed a punch.

And I miss words like that. It gives me goose bumps when I think back fondly about how parents would shout: “Get in here missy and change that outfit! You look like some kinda sexpot!”

Anyway, Barbie appeared on Christmas morning, sitting in a miniature swing and hanging from a branch of our holiday tree.

I called her Swinger Barbie and nobody blinked. Today, that would mean I’d been peeking at porn Web sites.

Swinger Barbie was a departure from my other dolls, which looked like babies. Barbie wore things I’d been told I wouldn’t be allowed to wear for many years, possibly well into my 30’s.

These clothing restrictions had already caused me to endure what to this day remains one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.

Just weeks before Christmas, I had been pulled out of line in church so Sister Maria could show everyone what a “good girl’’ should dress like on Sundays.

So even if I couldn’t wear mini skirts, having a doll that did really helped. But Barbie was only the beginning of my best holiday season.

A day or so later, my younger brother raced wildly around the living room and knocked the tree over at a bad moment –just as food was served at a luncheon my mother was trying to pull off for an old friend.

“TREE DOWN! TREE DOWN!’’ we yelled and Mom ran from the kitchen and sprang into action. She mopped up gooey, piney water from the tree stand and picked up smashed glass ornaments before anybody got hurt.

A trip to the emergency room might have been better than what happened next. Just as things were calming down, my younger sister pointed to the holiday guest and asked loudly: “How come you’re so fat?”

The party was over.

The tree wrecker and the mouthy preschooler were sent to their rooms. I couldn’t have been more thrilled. There is nothing an oldest child enjoys more than proof that he/she is superior to the younger ones.

And with two fewer to watch over, I spent the day plotting to get Barbie-like clothes for myself.

Poor Mom had a 7-year-old capable of mass destruction, a smart aleck 4-year-old, an insulted friend, a huge mess on her living room carpet and a 10-year-old who aspired to look like her new sexpot doll.

Plus, there was another solid week left to the school vacation and a huge blizzard was on its way.

Nobody would be leaving the house anytime soon.

Yes, 1967 may have been my best Christmas ever. But I’m guessing that Mom remembers it differently.

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