Month: December 2012 (page 1 of 8)

The last post…of 2012

Dear Readers,

Good lord, how did that happen?

One minute, we were trucking along through 2012, and the next thing you know, bam! It’s December 31, the year is all but over, and here we are, wondering where it all went and what to say about it.

When we started this blog last July (more or less on a whim, at least that’s how Karen remembers it), we had no inkling of what it would become…or of what it would come to mean to us.

We’ve not only found an amazing, supportive, and often like-minded community of baby boomers and others who blog about subjects dear to our own hearts, but we’ve found a new closeness in our own sisterly relationship. Suddenly, rather than writing sporadic emails and indulging in very occasional phone calls, we are DMing, emailing, and Skyping one another like mad—and all of it “legit!” After all, we’re bloggers now.

But the biggest, most important surprise that blogging has held for us is that you, our dear readers, not only read our posts in numbers we couldn’t have anticipated, but respond, engage us in conversations, and let us know how you feel about what we have to say. This means so much to both of us—we know your time is valuable, and we can’t tell you how much we appreciate you allowing us into your busy lives. alt="IMAGE-champagne-glasses-cheers"

So as this year ends and the new one begins, we raise our champagne flutes high, and clink them in your honour. Slainte, l’chaim, skål…no matter what language you say it in, we wish you nothing but the best in the months ahead. And we’ll try to continue to be worthy of you!


Wendy and Karen

Final Sunday of 2012

Dear Readers,

More advice from The Louise Log.  How to Lose Weight:

Rick Mercer at Winter Woofstock:

And finally, Jack Klugman introduces outtakes from The Odd Couple.  If you’ve never seen the show before, seek it out.  You won’t be disappointed:

Happy News Year’s to you all, and we look forward to seeing you in 2013!

Karen and Wendy

Weight loss after 50: It’s all in your head…or is it?

Dear Wendy,

It’s a truth universally acknowledged, that overweight people get this way because we have deep unacknowledged psychological issues that somehow prevent us from embracing the changes required for us to step into the holy light of slenderness.

Or something like that.

Browse the Internet for longer than about five seconds, and you’ll start running across treasures like this: “Diets create stress, which creates emotional blockages. The result is we rebel by self-destructive overeating.” Or “negative emotions cause feelings of inadequacy, which we fix by overeating.” Or “if we don’t allow ourselves to express our healthy anger, we will begin to stuff our feelings down using food.”

While I would never, ever deny that some people suffer from disordered relationships with food—very real, sometimes life-threatening conditions like anorexia and bulimia, for example—I do question the value of trying to apply pop-psych diagnoses to the vast majority of overweight people, most of whom don’t have eating disorders. In fact, I’d go so far as to argue that while depression is pretty common among overweight people, this is an effect rather than a cause of obesity.

It’s become all too easy for self-help gurus to blame obesity on nebulous concepts like “self-sabotage” and “conflicted feelings about being thin,” which can be very hard for most people to quantify, let alone prove or disprove. If I deny that I’m self-sabotaging, but I fail to lose weight, does this mean that I’m really self-sabotaging but unable to see it, or does it mean that some other factors are at play? And how can I tell? And what does it mean? And what should I do about it?

I worry about the pop-psychologization of obesity, because it seems to me that it’s a long, winding road that ultimately leads us nowhere. I worry, too, that blaming obesity on “emotional blockages” and the like is simply another way of pointing fingers at fat people. In polite society, it’s no longer okay to call fat people gluttonous, lazy, or morally inferior; but faux diagnoses like “self-destructive” and “full of negative emotions” have replaced the old terms.

These may sound more compassionate, but really, it’s the same old garbage dressed in nicer clothes. Ultimately, the message is “you’re fat because you’re screwed up.” And far too many overweight people internalize this message, and spend a great deal of valuable time and energy trying to “fix” emotional problems they may or may not even have.

But if overweight people aren’t emotionally crippled, what could possibly account for the current surge in obesity rates?

Well, a host of other factors—socio-economics, medical problems, predatory advertising, genetics, cheap calories, food hyper-palatability, a lack of proper nutritional education, just for starters—contribute to what we now call “the obesity epidemic.” Maybe there’s room in that list for nebulous terms like “self-sabotage,” and maybe there’s not, but frankly, there are so many other factors to consider, I’d really rather focus on things I can actually do something about.

For example, next time you visit a grocery store, stop and take a good look around.

Yes, it’s possible to fill your cart with good healthy foods, but walking through a typical grocery store, with its endless displays of high-fat, high-sugar, low-nutrition foods, all cunningly arranged for maximum consumer impact, can be a torturous exercise for anyone who’s intent on eating well.

English: Shelves of packaged food inside a Ral...

Look at all the pretty food! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s damn hard to walk past aisle after aisle of attractive-looking food displays, and who among us hasn’t occasionally given in and shoved a packet of something sweet or chocolatey into their carts? Is that self-sabotaging behaviour, or is it simply falling prey to the food manufacturers and sellers, who go to great lengths to persuade us to buy, and eat, their products? After all, there’s big money in food. BIG money.

Obesity Campaign Poster

You want fries with that carbonated sugar water? (Photo credit: Pressbound)

And that’s just one relatively simple factor. Multiply that times about eleventy-billion, and suddenly all the glib pop-psych answers begin to seem pretty foolish and inconsequential. If self-sabotage is any kind of factor in the obesity epidemic, it’s a factor at the macro level—as a society, we have created, and now sustain, a massive food-pushing behemoth called “the food industry,” and now it seems like we’re about to be crushed by it.

Obesity Campaign Poster

Bet you can’t eat just one… (Photo credit: Pressbound)

I’m not saying we aren’t each individually responsible for what we put in our mouths. Not at all. In fact, I’d argue that for us to be fully responsible, we must be fully aware of our opponents, and the power they wield.

More on this next time…but for now, if you’re looking for a blog that’ll give you a good, clear-headed look at some of the very real factors that make healthy living tough for all of us, you won’t go too far wrong with Weighty Matters. Dr. Freedhoff isn’t afraid to tell it like it is, and much of what he reveals can be disturbing…but in a good way.



This post is part of an ongoing series on After the Kids Leave. We’re not health professionals, and these posts cannot be construed as medical advice; they represent our personal experience only. To read earlier posts, please check the Related Articles list at the bottom of this page.


Happy Birthday, Beautiful Boy

Here we are, 3 days to the end of the year and guess what?  It’s Birthday time again!  Yes, it’s that time of year where I brag about that one child of mine born on this particular day, the 28th of December, 1991.

Lars drove me up to the Matilda Memorial & War Hospital on the 27th of December, to spend my final night as a mother of two little girls.  12 hours later (yes, I shall spare you the details of my third C-section), I had in my arms a beautiful baby boy, our lovely little Michael.

Michael’s first school photo

I had shown the ultra-sound photos to Lars a few months earlier, even though he didn’t want to know the sex of our third and final babe.  He took one look at a clear image of the baby’s face and declared, “we’re having another girl, she looks just like Gillian!”. This news would have crushed our building’s watchman, as he had been praying daily for us to be graced with a boy.

Michael, in Pemberton

I didn’t know about this praying on our behalf until Chinese New Year, when the watchman informed me he should receive extra lai see from us, as he and his god were responsible for Michael being a Michael and not a Michelle.  Yeah, right.

Michael in Whistler

Michael was born on the coldest day since HK started recording temperatures in the early 1900s.  It was 6 degrees that morning and Lars was late to the hospital because the car wouldn’t start.  How odd to think that HK gets cold enough to freeze car engines!  I admit to being slightly ticked that Lars wasn’t there for all the needles being plunged into my back – I’m no great lover of epidurals and spinal injections and was in dire need of a husbandly hand to hold that morning – but he did manage to get there in good time.

Taking a break from skiing Blackcomb.

I remember lying on a hospital gurney, waiting for my time to enter the operating theatre, terrified out of my mind.  It was odd, really, as I was more or less an old pro by this time.  However, this was my first time with an epidural, first time in this hospital, first time with this doctor – therefore, it felt like the first time and I was scared.  The nurses assured me I was shivering because of the drugs I’d been given, but I was convinced I should pack up and come back another day to try all over again.  I was obviously too distraught to give birth today…I’m sure I could come back another time, perhaps next year sometime?

Celebrating Kirsten’s birthday in a Vodka Fridge

Lars was doing a good job patting my shoulder with the husbandly hand and I was calm enough to go through the doors and be operated upon, while totally awake.  No pain, however, which made it all very surreal.  I remember even being in charge of my pain relief, so I cranked that button up and down with gay abandon, sometimes feeling a twinge, and other times falling asleep and snoring like a Formula-1 car revving its engine.

Within minutes, Michael was born.  He was quiet, scored well on his first ever test (the Apgar) and looked around at us all with great interest.  All three of my children were born slightly jaundiced, but to me, they all looked like they’d just been away on a Caribbean holiday, returning with golden tans.  Michael, with his big blue eyes, suited his jaundice perfectly.  He was beautiful.

Michael, at my 50th Birthday party

While I was being carted back up to my room, Lars rang the girls to tell them they had a new brother.  Kirsten was the first on the phone; aged 6 years, she was the spokesperson for the girls and took her responsibility seriously:

Lars:  Hi Kirsten, it’s Daddy.  Guess what, you’ve got a baby brother!

Kirsten:  What?  But we wanted a baby sister, not a brother.

Lars:  Well, there’s nothing we can do about it now.  His name is Michael, he’s really sweet and you’ll love him as soon as you see him.

Kirsten:  …….well…okay…but can we still dress him up like a girl and pretend he’s our sister?

Lars:  Sure you can.

And thus was Michael introduced to our family.

He has grown a little since that day 21 years ago.  Besides being the youngest and the tallest, he’s also an incredibly sweet, warm, empathetic, silly and charming man.

Our family, complete.

When he was four, he asked if he should start shaving soon as he felt a little stubble on his upper lip; when he was 6, he sent out birthday invitations asking all the boys attending his party wearing suits and ties; when he was 10, he wanted a pipe and a Deerstalker hat. He hasn’t given up asking for a walking stick; now living in London, chances are great he’ll get one soon.  He loves musical theatre, Russian history, Flashman books, computer games, Lyra and Blue, and his sisters, who came round and adore him as much as he adores them, which is to say, a lot.

Gillian, Michael, Kirsten – they never did get him to wear dresses, at least, not once he grew taller than them.

Michael, the final child, the one who completes our family, the young gentle man we bully, tease, and ask to reach all the things too high up for us to reach on our own…

Happy Birthday.

With much love,



Thrum mittens: Canada’s secret weapon

Dear Wendy,

So you remember, no doubt, that time I gave you your birthday gift—a rather handsome grey cable knit pullover—in the form of many balls of yarn, which I tossed at you one at a time? Well, Rachel has been carrying on the proud Irving tradition. In a manner of speaking.

Her friend Peter has long been whining pleading for a pair of what he calls “squid mitts,” known to everyone else on the planet as thrum mitts. (Why does he call them this? Beats the hell out of me. He says it’s because they’re “all squiddy inside.” Okey-doke.) They’re a Newfoundland specialty–they originate in the northern parts of that province, where they definitely know from cold. And squid.

Thrums are small bits of unspun wool, which are folded into neat little loops, and knitted into the mittens so that they form a soft, pillowy, cold-proof layer of insulation. The mittens themselves look rather like knitted boxing gloves, and they’re not great for any task involving manual dexterity, but they are seriously warm. Just the thing for this part of the world at this time of year. I’ve kept Rachel supplied with these wonders of woollen engineering since she was in Grade 3, and so I guess it’s inevitable that her friends would covet them.

Anyway, what with Peter moaning about his lack of such mitts, and me being a knitter, and the holiday season upon us, Rachel decided that the time was right to offer her friend the gift of warm hands. We located the requisite ingredients, and yesterday she presented Peter with a small packet of yarn and unspun fleece. She didn’t pelt him with it, much to my disappointment, but it’s the thought that counts.

And now, it’s all up to me.


First, I make a goodly supply of thrums. These are basically just unspun wool, which I’ve formed into loops. They look a bit like woolly onion rings.


As I knit each mitten, I twist the thrums, and knit them into the fabric, with the loopy bit facing inside.


Looking into the mitten, you wonder how a human hand will fit in there. It will, don’t worry. And it’ll be glad it did.


Inside out, it looks nothing short of demented. Cool, but demented.

I should be able to finish the first mitt today, all other things being equal. A worthy way to spend part of my winter holiday, don’t you think?



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