Tag Archives: storytelling

Eyebrow Wars ©

Battling eyebrows with Shinazy

eyebrowSomewhere in the back of our mind we know this to be true – our eyebrows conspire against us.  Without us noticing, they set-up base camp above our sunglasses and below our caps.  They conduct surveillance on everything we see and everyone we talk with.  Every time we look in a mirror . . . there they are, mocking us.  We need to be alert because our eyebrows have an agenda.

For our eyebrows to carryout their plan they have an arsenal of strategies; one is the art of subterfuge.  As boomers, we wonder:  why is it our eyebrow hairs start to grey, appearing to fade away, just when we’re having difficulty focusing our near vision?  Even when we’re wearing cheater glasses, our eyebrows play peek-a-boo.

To counter this evasive maneuvering, I commandeered a Magnification 20 Assault Mirror to ambush my eyebrows.  It’s a small mirror, no need to see the wrinkles resembling the Grand Canyon, which is another boomer issue, but I digress.  Eyebrows are cunning, even after I assault them with tweezers, ensnaring every visible hair – or so I think – I sometimes discover a spy.  If I’m in the right light, at the right angle, what do I see but a single hair, a banner flapping in the breeze.

Score 1 for the eyebrows.

Another strategy in the eyebrow’s tactical master plan: as hair on my head thins, the hairs in my eyebrows grow to become Amazons.

Eyebrows 2, me 0.

eyebrowFor a few folks eyebrows are allies.  My granddaddy never trimmed his eyebrows – he never engaged in the Eyebrow Wars.  As a child, I would twist his eyebrows into pointed peaks or divide them into little spires.  This action never lost its sense of amusement.

My Aunt Judy was swift and decisive; during the 1940s she conquered her eyebrows and annihilated them.  Not a hair remained.  Today, in her late 80’s she can draw perfectly matching arches.

Rather than a pencil, my weapon of choice is eyebrow mascara – I’m always armed and ready.  I can unify the patches of grey hair into the patches of dark brown hair, camouflaging the tiny calico mascots standing ever vigilant just above my eyes.

Like wisdom teeth, eyebrows have outlived their purpose.  As the human species evolves and Homo Sapiens 2.0 is released, I vote to eliminate eyebrows.  It is time for eyebrows to stand-down.

Game point.

photos courtesy Myki Roventine and janetmck

Climbing Half Dome With Holes In My Socks ©

Preparing to climb Half Dome with Shinazy

Oh, would my mom disapprove of me having holes in my socks.

half domeI remember my mom hanging laundry and inspecting my clothes for anything requiring repair: a missing button, a detached hem, a hole in a sock.  Because my appearance was important to her, I always left the house wearing well cared-for clothes.

Given my upbringing, where clothes represented more than cloth covering skin, it would be inconceivable to see what I wear to go for a run or hike. This morning several of us met at my place to discuss our next adventure.  We were off to hike in the coastal mountains above the town of Pescadero.  My home is a shoe-free zone, so everyone leaves their shoes at my front door.

As we congregated in my living room, chatting about our upcoming trek, Sandy remarked, “Oh, I’m so glad someone else has holes in their socks.”

Our eyes dropped in unison to observe our assemblage of shoeless feet.  It was true – each of our feet was enveloped in what could only be described – at best – as ‘well-ventilated’ socks.  It was in that moment we realized: these weren’t mere remnants of well-worn pieces of cotton-poly and silk-wool blends.  They were the results of actions and efforts, of steps and journeys taken, of goals actualized and achieved.  These socks were the indisputable evidence attesting to the activism of their owners.  They belonged to a group of Bitchin’ Ol’ Boomer Babes who started walking together a year ago.

This year we decide, tick tock, we better attend to our Bucket Lists.

half domeItem #1: Climb Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.

But alas, as it usually is when attempting feats of greatness, our spirits were willing, but our flesh … needed some help!

Between the three of us, we encompassed the full range of inactive, aging babes.  I was recovering from a back injury.  Sandy had been inactive since finishing the Gold Coast Marathon 2 years before.  And, 3 years ago, Bobbi walked 2 miles.

To accomplish our goal – without hurting ourselves in the process – we needed to “train”… the kind of put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other-over-and-over-again type of training, sustained with perseverance, determination, and an occasional massage at the local day spa.

Our plan was simple:  Go longer and longer distances, adding steps and hills to emulate the Yosemite Valley terrain.  We scheduled walks on flat ground along the bay, then the undulating path at Sawyer Camp Trail, next up and down the mountains near the coast.  We did 1 mile, then 2, 3 . . . 8, 9 . . . 14 . . . 18.

Our walking began in late fall through local neighborhoods, admiring the Christmas decorations as we trudged past, dashing through mud and laughing all the way.  We forged ahead during the record-breaking rainfall during a stormy Northern California winter.  We saw the fog lift and felt the sun shine.  Watched banana slugs mosey along on the trail and listened to the tap-tap-tap of woodpeckers on trees.

half domeWe held Half Dome Climb strategy meetings on what became Taco Tuesdays.  Searched the web for descriptions and pictures of the climb.  Read books.  Watched videos.  As the months-to-train became weeks-to-train became days-to-train, we fixed our eyes on the Half Dome webcam hoping to see the snow melt.

On the day we were to climb Half Dome the snow was still on the ground, which meant no cables.  No cables equaled no climbing.  Yet, we went to Yosemite anyway and climbed to the base of the dome.  We named this adventure our “Reconnaissance Trip.”

Returning home, we realized, during our many months of training we became physically stronger and mentally confident, embarking on each hike with holes in our socks.

I think Mom would approve.

photos courtesy  CraigSunter_Click64 and Bobbi Rankin

Water Bob ©

A Water Skiing Story by Cathy Reineke

My younger brother, Bob, can do anything.  Only 18 months separates an uncoordinated, difficult- to-balance-on-one-foot, scared-of-heights woman from the perfect hand-eye coordinated, scared-of-nothing brother I always envy.

waterAt sixteen, as a gawky teen, I determined I would beat him by water skiing on one ski before he did.  I spent one summer dragging myself through all types of conniptions and contorted efforts while my father faithfully and patiently flung me the towrope for yet another try.

The next summer, I still had not mastered the art of slalom skiing.  My good friend, Steve, lived next to us at the lake and his parents had the faster boat.  My brother, knowing absolutely no fear of striking the water face first, declared his intention to be on that one ski behind Steve’s boat by the end of this inaugural ride of the summer season.

In my usually doubting sister style, I scoffed at him.  It was my duty as his older sister to tell him what he could not accomplish.  Bob sat on the dock and reached up to grab the towrope I threw to him.  In defiance of my stated limitation, he threw aside the second ski and put his right foot into the slalom ski while dangling his left foot in the water.

I turned to my friend driving the boat and said, “Look at this.  He’s going face plant.”  My laughter disguised my underlying uneasiness that maybe, just maybe, he would somehow achieve that mastery of the slalom ski.

“Hit it” I yelled and felt the full throttle of the motor as we tore away from the dock.  I watched in expectation. My brother stood up and began a wild wobble on top of that one ski.  Over the course of 100 yards, I keep letting out whoops and saying to my friend, “Oh, he’s almost down.  Oh he’s back up again.”

waterAnd then I saw the look of determination come across Bob’s face.  I had seen it many times.  At five years old, he climbed on my new bike and sailed down the driveway before I had learned to ride it myself.  He bombed straight down steep headwalls of ski slopes and shushed straight up in front of my mother and grandmother with the devil’s grin just to watch them back up as they doubted he could stop in time.

This was no different.  He grabbed the rope with a fierce pull, stood upon the ski, positioned his foot solidly into the back stirrup, and then, without effort, he cut back across the wake.  He came way out to the side, and there again was that devilish grin.  Then he fell back, and jumped the wake across to the other side.  All the while, the impish smile on his face grew.

Is a daredevil born or bred?  We came from the same gene pool. I never did learn to slalom ski.

My brother turned 60 this year.  Each day I thank him for teaching me that when I tell him he can’t do something, he has another opportunity to prove me wrong!

photos courtesy  sheetbrains & toofarnorth

Botox to the Rescue ©

Botox, loved by Malati Marlene Shinazy

My mother had a few warnings that resonate continually in my mind like humming birds dive-bombing past my head on their way to the feeder:

# 1.  If you laugh all day, you’ll cry all night!

# 2. Put on sunscreen or you’ll end up looking like an old leather purse!

botox# 3.  Keep frowning like that and your forehead will stick in that position!

Many of these warnings were meant to scare us children into one behavior or another, so we generally ignored her.  Little did I know, however, how genetics lends some credence to caution # 3.

Recently, Shinazy, BOBB’s publisher and my sister, wrote a story, ‘Botox ‘n Duct Tape’, proudly promoting the secondary use of various tapes for reducing frown lines.

“Ha!” I thought, suddenly envious, “Easy for you to say.”

“While we both inherited extraordinary breathtaking beauty and brilliant minds (place smile here); you inherited most of the best genes in our family“:

“You are the marathon-running-every-continent-on-earth sister.”

“I am the sister who, like our grandmother, trips over small twigs and pebbles.”

“You are the sister who has hardly-worth-mentioning salt-and-pepper hair.”

“I am the sister with super-wide silver streaks at my temples — resembling a skunk ready to ruin everyone’s day.”

“And, while you can joke about those itty-bitty lines between your brows that you affectionately refer to as wrinkles,”

“My brow creases would need surgical retractors to hold them apart.”

botoxI’m not sure my mother’s warning that my tendency to chronically worry and frown as a child, adolescent, young adult, and older boomer would force the corrugator supercilii and procerus muscles to fix into permanent contractions.

To me it hardly matters.  When my staff kept asking me if I were angry or upset upon arriving at the office first thing in the morning – after I’d had a great night’s sleep, peace-inducing meditation and a satisfying cup of coffee, I started my hunt for Botox® Cosmetic.

Now, periodically, I invest in a Botox® treatment– the savior of genetically compromised sisters.  I advise the younger members of our family to entrust their foreheads only to professionals like a Registered Nurse at a Board Certified Dermatologist or Cosmetic Surgeon’s office.  — I have found that these specialists unfailingly inject the Botox® in such a precise manner, it removes involuntary scowl lines, yet still enables me to animate my face — unlike many celebrities we know who sport a fixed-expression countenance after their Botox® treatment.

And, I give thanks to all those scientists who discovered at least 20 medically critical uses for Botox® before they found its benefit for people like me, a boomer who wants to look happy and cheerful whenever I am happy and cheerful.

My sister may have a few genetic advantages.  I have Botox® Cosmetic.

photo  courtesy TomiTapio


Botox ‘n Duct Tape ©

Duct tape uses by Shinazy

Granddaddy was a practical and handy guy.  He believed there’s a simple solution to every problem and he applied his philosophy to repairing everything.  Even his gifts represented his viewpoint.  When I graduated from high school he gave me a toolbox that contained his favorite tools: hammer, flathead and Phillips screwdrivers, and a roll of duct tape.  botoxHe told me the tape would become indispensible.  At age seventeen, I thanked him with a smile and when I turned my back, the first of many frowns appeared on my then uncreased, pre-botox forehead.

As the years passed, I carried duct tape everywhere – there is a roll in my car, a roll in my office desk, and another roll in my first aid kit.  It is at the top of my “Things To Pack” when I traveled.  I was thrilled when 3M released duct tape in colors so some of my repairs could appear ‘fashionable’.  Duct tape is always within reach; I can mend the many worn and broken parts of my life.  Yes, duct tape will only patch my worn and broken stuff; the things that make me mad / sad are beyond duct tape’s effective adhesive ability.

And it‘s these mad-sad experiences, these unrepairable events that cause me to clinch my teeth, or droop the corners of my mouth – with the accompanying squeezing of my eyebrows.  When one is a Boomer, one has had decades of eyebrow squeezing resulting in an ever-deepening cavern, otherwise known as a Frown Line.

botoxGranddaddy would not approve of the current remedy for frown lines – Botox – a neurotoxin botulism bacterium protein.  And, I would never tell him that I went for Botox injections only to discover I’m Botox resistant, not just BXT-A, but also BXT-B.  Oh, joy!  I had no way to iron my frown lines.

When faced with a challenge I’m intrepid.  So, I tried Frownies that “Reverse the signs of aging – naturally!” skin smoother.  I was unable to get the little triangle to stay put, especially the pointy corners.  But they were sticky.  Ah, ha, sticky, what else is sticky?  Tape!  So, I tried Scotch Tape.  But it stuck to my pillowcase and hair better than my frown line.

There is one final countermeasure – Duct Tape.  I have yet to try it, but I know Granddaddy would smile at the thought of me applying his repair principal and he was right, Duct Tape is indispensable.

photo courtesy Jim J

S’mores ©

Roasting S’mores with Shinazy

s'moresWhen I hear the word “Camping” I think s’mores.

To my six-year old unblinking eyes Bucks Lake was a playground dwarfing my corner park.  But instead of playtime, the first night required setting up shelter before dinnertime.  Dinner?  How was my grandmother going to cook dinner when there was no stove in sight?

From the back of my grandparent’s sky blue 1949 Plymouth emerged a black, crusted cast-iron caldron.  Were witches coming to dinner?  Was I going to be dinner?  I think Gigs could see I was going into shock because she handed my cousin Donny & me the pot and told us to unpack it.  It took both hands for me to lift the pot’s lid.  My struggle was rewarded; there inside I found Treasure.

As I stared at the chocolate bars, graham crackers, and marshmallows I knew these supplies were for more than one night’s worth of sweet heaven.  The visual delight swept my mind – no more recurring dread concerning toilet tissue hanging from a bent branch hidden in the forest pretending to be a bathroom.

I would have been happy eating the chocolate directly from the wrapper, but first we had to go on a hunt for the perfect stick.  It seems the Art Of S’mores requires a twig long enough to avoid scorched fingers and thick enough to withstand several roasting.  (After a few stick-scavenging years I learned the best tool had a knob toward the end to keep the marshmallow from sliding into the fire.)

Dinner in stomachs.  Sticks in hands.  Logs a blazing.  We were ready.  But we had to wait.  Painfully wait.  Wait until our bonfire waned to a soft yellow-orange glow dancing among the embers.

s'moresDonny and I were the same age, but we had different approaches to the art and science of s’more building.  He enjoyed plunging his stick into the tiny surviving red flame to create a marshmallow torch.  His charcoal mess would ooze off his stick, dissolving the chocolate. His fingers and hands covered with goo … and dirt.

As if preparing for a culinary cook-off, I laid my ingredients in line on a napkin, snapped my graham crackers in half along the indented crease – no odd spaces.  There had to be four, not three or five, chocolate squares.  And there was the skill of the roast, resulting in Goldie Locks pillows, still cylindrical in shape, and clinging to my stick.  Delights: hot creamy inside, warm crusty outside.

My latest s’more experience was at the Half Moon Bay Ritz Carlton, sitting by the cement-block fire pit, with a box in my lap containing artisan dark chocolate, organic crackers, and non-gelatin marshmallows.  There’s no stick hunting at the hotel, they provide bamboo skewers.  I’m a dark chocolate lover and an organic food supporter, plus I like the idea that my food contains no animal hooves, but I miss the ritual and anticipation of childhood s’mores.

Wait … no one is stopping me from going camping and capturing this memory.  I’m ready.  Let’s pack the car and go, but first I need to stop at Whole Foods for authentic s’mores supplies.

photos courtesy  ChritopherS_Penn & JuliaManzerova

Back To School ©

Back to school thoughts by Shinazy

back to schoolOn a popular social media website I watch my friends with school-age children chat about all they must do in preparation for sending their babies back to school.  In addition to buying clothes that fit better than the ones they bought six months ago, they must buy backpacks, classroom supplies, sports equipment, study guides, and textbooks.

How different the current back to school activity is from when my grandmothers or I returned to the classroom.

During a shopping trip to buy my sensible Saddle Oxfords, my grandmother, Nana, reminisced how she looked forward to the new dress signaling the first day of school.  She was born in the Philippines, on the island of Mindanao, in a tiny village.  In 1906, her future had one option: Become a wife and exist.  But Lola, her mom, designed a different destiny for her only surviving child.  Saving the colorful parts of the burlap sacks that contained their flour and sugar, Lola hand-stitched pretty school outfits.  In unaccented, enunciated English – which I rarely heard – Nana admitted, when she walked to the missionary school, although her bare feet were strolling along a dirt road, she felt like a princess entering a fairytale.

back to schoolFor my other grandmother, Pauline, aka Gigs, going back to school was a frightening experience. She was the third generation to live in San Francisco; however, her mother insisted no one utter a single English word in her house.  The land surrounding their homestead isolated them from other families.  On the first school day, Pauline viewed the black wall where she had to write her name.  She did not turn to face the class when she introduced herself as she wondered, “How will these children pronounce my name?”  The horror persisted, every year the back to school time meant trying to remember the English words she learned before summer break.  She continued to suffer as an outsider, longing for graduation day.

My going back to school was less terrorizing, I say ‘less’ rather than ‘not’ because it involved clothes shopping, lots of it.  I was a scraped-knees-with-bruised-shins girl, who preferred climbing trees to shopping.  However, the ‘Fall Fashion Season’ was important to my mom, so shop we did.  She would find the adorable wool sweater-set with matching wool-pleated skirt, the stylish wool jumper, and the charming wool knee-high socks.  Now, if we lived in New York City all this wool would have been perfect, but this was San Francisco where autumn low temperature hover in the mid 50’s.  I may have been over-heated, but I looked like a proper young lady returning to academia.

How do the children of my Facebook friends feel about getting ready for the new school year?  Maybe, regardless if it’s yesterday or today, the back to school activity involves a time of change and we each embrace, resist, or tolerate it in our own way.

photos courtesy  Oilbac and JJLosier


Palette Of Possibilities ©

A Story by Pauline Hosie

paletteAs my train pulled out of the station, the happy faces of my daughter and sister disappeared from view. Momentarily I held their images in my mind. The beauty of the rising sun drew me into the present, as it caressed the sharp edges of tall buildings, gently nudging the sleepy city into wakefulness. Buildings came briefly into view, and then rushed past as a blur. Within minutes Melbourne became a memory.

A flickering palette of yellows and reds danced through my compartment as the sun exposed more of its potential light. The small brown table situated in front of me beckoned me to write. Not yet … time to enjoy the spectacular morning sun. Totally captivated by the artistry of the sun, the world before my eyes woke to another day. Suburb after suburb painted with sunlight.

An hour into the journey, distant farmhouses, horses and cows waited for shadows to melt into light. A kangaroo watched as the train glided by. Breakfast dishes were being collected when the announcement was made. “There is a tree across the track; we will have to stop at Seymour.” A few passengers muttered in frustration. Ten minutes later we pull into Seymour. Resigned to a short wait, most passengers remain seated. Half an hour later another announcement.

“We apologise for the relay, but removing the tree will take longer than expected. Buses will be organised to take you back to Sydney.” Moans from unhappy passengers, as one by one we file onto the platform. An hour later, disgruntled groups huddle to complain. Further down the platform I notice a small group of people gathered around a lady sitting on a small stool. Deciding to investigate I am amazed to discover the woman is painting two passengers as they chat.

palette“Are you a professional artist,” I ask? “ Yes. I Am.” the lady replied. “Rather than sit in the carriage, while my son is asleep, I decided to make the most of the stop. It has been a challenging trip. My family and I were booked on a flight back to Brisbane, but my son who has Aspergers Syndrome, refused to catch the plan. Travelling by train was our best option, but changing onto a bus will distress him terribly, he dislikes social interaction. We really need to get back to Brisbane.” She continued, “Our home may be flooded with all the rain we have experienced in Queensland.”

Wow! I thought of all the train passengers this lady has the most reason to be upset by the ongoing delay, yet here she was painting a beautiful picture of two passengers who had made the most of the stop by getting to know each other. So impressed was the elderly women with her portrait that she bought the painting from the Brisbane artist.

The buses appeared at 2PM that meant we would arrive in Sydney after midnight. As I boarded my bus, I noticed the blonde artist beside a tall teenage boy, whose face was shielded by a hood. What an inspiration she was ~ creating a palette of possibilities from what most passengers saw as a nuisance in their life.

photos courtesy Pauline Hosie

Road Trip ©

Shinazy’s first road trip

road trip Before the age of 6 my universe boundaries consisted of the Sunday drive to Nana and Granddaddy’s.  Peering through the car window I saw no division between cities, one community melded into the next.  All space was filled with houses, stores, and people.  Pruned trees shaded front porches or held a swing.  When it rained, water flowed down the streets disappearing into a grate at each corner.

At the end of summer number six, my grandparents, Gigs and Bussie, took several of us grandchildren on our first road trip.  We drove across the San Francisco Bay Bridge; as long as I could see the bay everything looked the same as home.  As the sun moved to shine through the windshield, our Plymouth turned away from the water and my world changed forever.

Passing a lonely, windowless building I saw nothing but dirt … empty space.  Now and then a house with a long driveway or a cluster of shops with fading letters would appear and disappear.  Large animals chewed on grass as their wire enclosure stretched for hours.  Driving through the Sacramento Valley even the occasional tree vanished.  The scenery’s monotony was a lullaby and upon awaking a never-ending lot of giant Christmas trees enfolded me.  Everything was green.

road tripWhen we stopped for the evening, at what I now know to be a tributary of the Feather River, I could not understand where all the flowing water had come from.  When did it rain?  Where was this water going?  And, where was our bathroom?  My bed?  Walls?  While Bussie unloaded the car, Gigs handed me a roll of toilet paper and pointed to the shadows.  Why I did not get lost or die from a bladder condition is a sign of our survival instincts.

Forest sounds grabbed my attention and curiosity.  Something was in the bushes.  Something was outside my vision.  Something was overhead in the trees.  Cuddled in my sleeping bag filled with flashlight warmth, a bit of security returned.   Here I could pretend I was home in a blanket tent.

That evening, with Gigs encouraging me to turn off the flashlight and step out into what I knew was blackness, my reality transformed, again.  Although my only desire was to keep my eyes closed, I had to peek.  There above my head were more wishing stars than my imagination could invent.  I rapidly ran out of wishes and yet stars continued to fly across the sky.  I decided I could live here and make new wishes, forever.

I have a secret.  One of my wishes was to stop being scared of this thing called a ‘road trip’.  This wish was granted for all my days since.

photos courtesy  JoelinSouthernCA & Shinazy

Act 2 ©

A Story by Jill Kay

BOBBblog_Act2 by donna&andrewMy grandparents met in 3rd grade.  My parents met in 5th grade.  By the time I graduated from college I felt like an old maid.  I wanted to get married, have kids and raise the “perfect” family – like my parents and my grandparents before them.

When I finally met my future husband, we had what is called a “cute meet.”  Visiting our respectful friends at a beach house one summer weekend, he asked if he could trade his lounge chair for my raft.  The rest was history…2 children, a dream house in the suburbs, a dog, and the white picket fence.

I loved my family.  I loved being a wife and mother.  I loved our life.

Apparently my husband didn’t.  I’ll never forget the words he said the day my world would change forever… “I wasn’t where I said I was last night”.

End of Act 1.

He could have hit me with a sledgehammer and it wouldn’t have been as painful – the wind was knocked out of me.  And, with it, went all my confidence and self-esteem.  I was an empty shell of a person. Eventually I managed to pull it together for my children.

I was ready for my Act 2

Divorced a year later, I moved to another state for a fresh start. It turned out to be a great move (no pun intended).  Next, I needed to go back to work.  I looked for something I could do from home.

At this time, my father was working with a woman who recently started a side business with a company called Arbonne.  She told him how within six months she was making a significant income. My father’s response to her: “Call my daughter”.  My father’s email to me: “This sounds too good to be true…”

But what if it wasn’t?  I was hesitant to get excited, but my wheels started turning with the possibilities of this opportunity.  That night, after speaking with her (even though I knew nothing about the industry and had never heard of the company), I jumped right in. And boy, am I glad I did!

Best.  Decision.  Ever.

JBOBBblog_Act 2_ArbonneI initially started my business for financial reasons but it has given me so much more – I now wear an Invisible Cloak of Empowerment:  when I look in the mirror I see a strong, confident woman.  And, everyone else does, too.

I am happier now than I’ve ever been.  I love my family of 3, I have a wonderful boyfriend, and I love what I do.   And, if I can turn back time and someone should ask me to trade their lounge chair for my raft, I’d still smile, and say “sure”.

Dad, thank you for asking Linda to call me.  Kids, thanks for being my biggest cheerleaders (and yes, Rebecca, you can join my Arbonne business when you’re 18).

And, to everyone reading this, you’re welcome to join me too.  Jump in just like I did….the water is very warm!

photo courtesy  donna&andrew