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Monday, December 12, 2016

What happened to Christmas downtown? What happened to downtown in general?

Going downtown during Christmas was one of the highlights of my childhood. My Mother and I would go to Woolworths for lunch then poke around The Arcade, go to the Mount Cashel Raffle and buy a ticket hoping to win a turkey. Then we would go window to window looking at the decorations and displays.
You can’t do that with your kids anymore because none of it exists!

Granted Mount Cashel is a bad memory, The Arcade and Woolworths are long gone, and downtown is fading from our vibrant history.

It has turned into boutique stores, pricy restaurants and tourist traps. Businesses are closing down and a reasonably priced fish and chips is as hard to find as a parking spot.

There was a time when the downtown businesses only had to compete with the Avalon and Village Malls. Now it’s Stavanger Drive and Kelsey Drive with their big free parking lots where you don’t have to worry about getting a ticket. Then there’s internet shopping!

People need a reason to go back downtown.

The marketing strategy is just not there but it is not that hard to create. Simple adjustments can change our downtown section into the bustling business district it once was. All you have to do is get creative and deal with some issues:

Parking and parking tickets. If you’re lucky enough to find a parking spot you have to keep an eye on the meter so you don’t get a ticket. Simple solution, make Duckworth Street and Water Street one way to ease the traffic congestion.  Keep the traffic on Harbour Dive both ways. Then put parking on Duckworth and Water Streets on an angle to double the capacity. Allow more free parking days or just free parking in general.

Close Water Street to host festivals. When George Street has its music festival the street is closed down to accommodate people traffic which is a great idea! When Water Street has the Busker’s Festival the street stays open to traffic! If Water Street was closed down the City would have more room for Buskers, and families would feel safer if they didn’t have to dodge traffic to see the acts performing. Make this festival an event; organize a parade around it, encourage businesses to set up sidewalk sales, let people have ticket booths and food stands like a “Water Street Regatta.

Host more festivals!!! Surely we can come up with more than the George Street Festival and the Busker’s Festival to showcase downtown. Here’s an idea… New Year’s Eve in June! Bring the fireworks back to the St. John’s Harbour but set them off in June! Put a stage on the Waterfront for musical acts and create a party. It would boost business for restaurants and nightclubs and bring families back to downtown. Wouldn’t you like to see the New Year’s fireworks while wearing your shorts?

Own Christmas! The one thing downtown has over other shopping areas is the history. Here’s how you do it:

1.       Encourage businesses to create a one-of-a-kind window display. Give awards for the best window. Make a big deal over it and advertise it to the public as the one thing they don’t want to miss during Christmas. Downtown traffic equals downtown shopping and eating.

2.       Invest in some new city decorations and lights. You should see downtown from Mount Pearl! Light it up! Make it magical!

3.       Bring back the raffle. Ask a charity to take it over. I am sure the Rotary or Kinsman would love to take it on during December. Ask for proposals and whoever comes up with the best long-term business plan wins the contract for 3-5 years. If they get lazy or do not do a good job they lose it to someone else.

Entice other restaurants to move downtown. I love our local cuisine but sometimes I don’t want to make reservations I just want a Big Mac. Not everyone can afford a $100 lunch. Why isn’t there a McDonalds, Burger King or even a Ches’s downtown? There are lots of pricy places but not a lot of moderate to low cost places to eat.

Enough with the boutiques! I am the queen of shopping but I am also the queen of good deals. Every time I shop downtown I am appalled by the tourist gouging that goes on. The write up on some goods is crazy. I also don’t want to buy socks with “What are ya at?” on them or T-shirts with “Ow she gettin’ on by?” I refuse to shop in stores that don’t take returns. I was burnt by a store downtown last summer when I bought an expensive pair of sneakers as a gift for my daughter on her birthday. They didn’t fit and I brought them back. They didn’t have her size and they would only give me a store credit. They didn’t have another pair that she liked so we ended up wasting the credit on things she didn’t really want. Learned a lesson there!

Entice other clothing stores to move downtown. Why don’t we have a Suzy Shier or La Chateau downtown? Not everybody can spend $3000 on a fur coat. Some people just want to buy a reasonably priced winter coat. Bring in some normal stores. These stores employ local people too and drive the economy.

Not everyone likes George Street. I am a 53 year old Mother. I have no interest in George Street and it seems the City only promotes what is happening there. I never hear them promote what is happening on Duckworth Street or Water Street. If it wasn’t for friends on Facebook promoting restaurants I would not know downtown existed outside of George Street.

Now downtown business owners don’t get upset with me. I know not all downtown businesses target the rich who want lobster for lunch, expensive clothes and tourist items. Unfortunately those businesses get lost in between which is why they are closing down.  We don’t know they exist!

Someone has dropped the ball here.  Downtown needs a marketing strategy that is not so focussed on the brief tourist season, high-end shoppers or party goers on George Street.  You have basically cut out the middle to low income earners. 

That’s too bad because there are more people living in moderately priced homes in St. John’s than there are in King William Estate mansions.  

Go to the Avalon Mall on any given day. The food court is full, parking is free, the stores are busy and the money is flowing.  People are willing to spend money they just need a good reason to spend it downtown. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Join Helen & Shelley for Happy Hour Christmas shopping! This Wednesday night (Nov. 09th) from 5-6:30

Join Helen & Shelley for Happy Hour Christmas shopping! This Wednesday night (Nov. 09th) from 5-6:30.
Myself and Shelley Neville will be at the Masonic Temple. I will be launching and signing my book "I am Funny Like That" and Shelley will be singing songs from her Christmas CDs. Both will be on sale so you can do all your Christmas shopping in in place!
Those who attend can enter their name to win a "Reading Basket" valued at almost $1000 and includes a $315 gift certificate for a NL Pride ring from Campus Rings, a Tocara bracelet, $200 in beauty gift certificates from Signature Salon, Tres Belle Esthetics, and Studio A. Plus lots of other surprises.

When you attend my book signing make sure you fill out a ballot. I will be drawing for it at 6:30 PM.
My Special guest is the one, the only Shelley Neville accompanied by the multi-talented Bill Brennan who will be singing selections from her beautiful Christmas CD.
Don't forget it is this Wednesday, November 09th
from 5:00-6:30 PM
at Spirit of Newfoundland
6 Cathedral Street, St. John's
Please join myself & Shelley for food, refreshments, music and lots of laughs as I launch my first book "I am Funny Like That"
If you already have a copy of the book please bring it to be signed. The hard copies will be available for $15.00 at the event.
To order a copy go to

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Congratulations to the 10 Book Winners!

I ran a book give away on Goodreads from September 26 – October 26, 2016 and 1400 readers entered for a chance to win a copy of my first book, I am Funny Like That.

I am very happy to say that Goodreads just sent me the names of the 10 winners and I shipped a copy of I am Funny Like That to each winner tonight!

Shivani Chaudhary, Snohomish, WA
Holly Richards, Frankfort, In
Stacy Rouble, STOUFFVILLE, Ontario
Jim Caffrey, Burleson, TX
Susan Reyna, Kyle, TX
Gloria Burke, North Royalton, Oh
Jennifer Fliegel, Pueblo, CO
Chevonne Tobin, Manitowoc, WI

I hope you enjoy my book.

Helen C. Escott

Monday, October 24, 2016

Who are you calling plus sized?

I am a size 12. Size 10 on a good day. An 8 a week before I go on vacation. A 12-14 when I get back from vacation but that’s it. That’s all my sizes.

I watch what I eat from Monday to Thursday. I eat Ketchup chips like a wood chipper on Friday nights with a red wine, of course. On Saturday we BBQ steaks with fully loaded baked potatoes and wine to wash it down. That’s usually followed by a Costco apple pie or Tuxedo Cake. Then Sunday morning I crawl back on my Weight Watchers scales and start all over again.

If it wasn’t for the weekends, I would be as skinny as a rake because I am really good all week. I watch what I eat. Type everything in to “My Fitness Pal” app on my iPhone. I walk the dog to get my steps in and I drink a bucket of water each day.

So I believe I am doing all I can.

I know I am never going to be a size 2 and I don’t care. I don’t want to be a size 2. I am 5 foot 9. If I was a size 2 I would look like a coat hanger or like I was on heroin. I don’t want to see my ribs when I put on a big wool sweater and I certainly don’t want friends telling me “I have no arse!”

I would like to be more toned but I had back surgery and that means I can’t do sit ups. So I will wear Spanx like everyone else.

I am ok with that.

But apparently the world is not.

I walked into a dress store, automatically turned to my left and began looking at clothes. The sales lady calls out “Excuse me Miss. You’re on the wrong side.”
My first through was “Is this the drag queen side. What side do I look like I should be on?” Maybe I am wearing too much makeup. The stuff that runs through my head. I am not good with confrontation!

“What size are you?” she smiles at me as she walks toward me. I feel obligated to tell her because I don’t know what else to do. “Size 10” I lie. I am bloating and I know I can’t pull this off.

She squints as she sizes me up and down. “Your clothes are on the other side. This is the ‘Plus girl’ section. It’s size 14 and up.”

There were two ladies flipping through the sales rack watching my interaction with this sales lady and I felt like saying “Ok I’ll go, but can I take them too. They are obviously a size 8.” But I knew she wouldn’t buy it. They were clearly in the right section.

I walked over to “my” section and started shopping but I felt bad for the two ladies left over on the other side of the store probably wondering why they were not told to take a walk on the wild side.

Why can’t clothes racks go from size 2 to 22?
Why do we need two sides of a store?
Why isn’t there a bathroom in the same section as the change rooms?

I don’t know!

Did our mothers and grandmothers all agree at some point that the size 0-12’s will shop on the right and the size 14-22’s will shop on the left?

I didn’t buy anything there I went to another store. I was looking for a white blouse. I asked the sales lady in the next store if she had any plain white blouses.
“Are you a professional woman?” she inquired.

“No I am amateur one. A broken one really. I leak.” I confessed to her astonishment and just for fun I put on puppy dog eyes and locked stares with her while I let a little drool fall out of my mouth and roll down my chin.

She looked away first.

“We do have white blouses over here.” She brought me to the rack and disappeared to the back room. I assume to update her Facebook status to let all her friends and family know about the crazy lady in the store.

What difference does it make if I am professional or not?
And what profession was she talking about? I was wearing my Hootchie Momma shorts with heals. But who is she to judge me?

We have so many labels to slap on ourselves! Is that a Michael Kors watch? Is that a Coach purse? Are you a size 8 or an 18? Are you a professional woman or a minimum wage worker? I need to know if I should waste my time showing you our white blouses.

A guy once told me if I lost weight I would look really good because I had a pretty face… I was 8 months pregnant! They haven’t found his body yet.
The bottom line is, I am healthy, happy and I like who I am.

I also find it extremely hard not to laugh at people. I am not perfect. Give me a break.

I do try not to judge. I really do. It’s hard I know… You know… We all know. So if I do judge, I do it in my head only or whisper it to hubby or my BFF Nancy and make them laugh. Then sneak away so they look all “judgy” and I don’t.

My point is, what harm was it to let me look through the plus section. I would have found my way out eventually. I can’t help but think what if I was size 14 and wandered into the 2-12 section? Would she have told me to go to the Plus section? Because if she did I would have grabbed a size 10 jeans and stretched that fabric to the breaking point until I got every last celluloid dimple packed in. Then I would have strutted around like a rooster in that store.

I don’t mind a sales lady giving me fashion advice and suggesting some things that would look good on me. But seriously, you don’t know what my day is like. I go into stores because they are my happy place and I can’t afford real therapy.  I don’t want stress. I definitely don’t want to yell my size across a store.

Finally for God sakes, can’t we find a better label than “Plus Sized?” Why not “Womanly” “Under-Womanly” and “Over-Womanly.” That sounds so much better.

Excuse me miss! You’re too over-womanly to shop here. I could be happy with that.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Win a copy of "I am Funny Like That"

Now on Amazon’s Best Sellers list, Helen C. Escott's hysterical blog "I am
Funny Like That" has come to life in this witty book!

If you have thrown your back out taking off Spanx, planned your husband's murder in your head or screamed through a Brazilian, this book is for you.

If you need a good laugh, or need to smile, this book is better than Prozac it will make you laugh out loud for days after reading it. 

119,000 blog readers can't be wrong! Join in the laughter. 

Win a copy on Goodreads

or buy a copy at Bookbaby or Amazon 

Monday, September 5, 2016

“I am Funny Like That” The blog is now a Book!

I am so excited I can’t breathe!! I am walking around my office in my house coat at 3 o’clock in the afternoon because I know if I get dressed my top will be covered in sweat within three seconds.

It feels like Bob Barker just called my name and yelled “Helen C. Escott! Come on down!”

This blog is now a book! The book is a blog! Oh my God, it’s real!!!!

As of Sept. 01, 2016 the ebook “I am Funny Like That” is available on line. The hard copy will be available by mid-September.

Buy it now at:
iBookstore, Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Baker & Taylor, Copia, Gardners, eSentral, Scribd, Goodreads, Oyster, Flipkart, Ciando, EBSCO, Vearsa

I just had the strangest memory. Sister Alphonsis pointing her bony long finger at me in grade three saying “Being the class clown will get you nowhere but the penitentiary.” Boy did I prove her wrong.

I have always seen the “Funny” in everything I do.

In 2012 I had back surgery and was laid up for almost a year. I could not do a lot of things so I would spend my time on Facebook and Twitter making comments about life, new stories or politics and I developed a following.

Then a friend said to me, you should write a blog. So I created this blog called “I am Funny Like That” in April 2012. I honestly didn’t think anyone besides my husband and best friend would read it.

Now the blog has over 118,000 readers. Most of my readers are in Canada and the United States but they are spread out all over the world: Germany, Ukraine, UK, India, France, South Korea, United Arab Emirates and Lebanon.

People read the blog because they want to laugh. After all, laughter is the best medicine.

The book is a funny look at life. It’s about being a woman and using my sense of humour to deal with being a mother, wife and daughter while going through menopause and trying to have a career while making supper and doing the laundry.

People who read this blog see themselves. They identify with me.

I chose the title “I am Funny Like That” because it describes me: Sometimes I am funny like that in a humorous way and sometimes I am funny like that in a strange way.

If you need a good laugh, if you need to smile today, this book is better than Prozac it will make you laugh out loud and brighten your day. It also makes a great Christmas gift!

Thanks for being a reader. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

How to travel with other people & not throw them overboard

I love people. Actually that’s a lie. I love my dog. I hate people.

Not all people. Some people are ok.

I may hate them more after I travel with them. It depends.

Traveling with others may be the quickest way to lose a good friend. 

Being cooped up in a car with someone for 10 hours or stuck on a cruise ship with them for 10 days, may test the boundaries of your friendship real fast.

Over the years, I have put together some hard and fast rules about traveling with others. The way I look at it, we spend a year or two sometimes, scrimping and saving every extra nickel and dime so we can take a trip together with our kids and sometimes without the kids. So I am not allowing anyone to hijack our vacation.

Feel free to use these rules yourself:

1.       We are not sharing anything. That means a house, a condo, a hotel room or a car. We learned this one the hard way. We don’t share accommodations because when my kids go to bed I don’t want to deal with yours. Once my kids fall asleep I want to relax with a nice glass of wine. I don’t want your overtired kids running around crying, irritating me. Simply put, I also want to be able to come home from an amusement park or long day at the mall, take off my bra and walk around in my nightdress or nothing (if there are no kids). I don’t want to feel like I can’t unwind after a long hot day in the sun. I also don’t want to have to tip toe around if you go to bed early or sleep in late. I definitely don’t want someone knocking on the bathroom door asking me how long I am going to be!

Sharing accommodations may save a few bucks but it will cost you your sanity in the end. Now I know what you’re saying. “I agree with not sharing accommodations but come on we can’t share a car!” No we can’t. If we get up in the morning and decide we are heading to IHop for breakfast, going for a drive or just want to spend time together, I don’t want to ask anyone if it’s ok for me to use the car I paid to rent.  Or if we decide to sleep late I don’t want someone knocking on our door saying they want the car and then we are without one all day. I certainly don’t want to have to stand in a parking lot and “compromise” on where we are going, how long we are staying or when we are coming home. The solution; rent your own accommodations and your own car. We will meet up with you at some point.

2.       I am not babysitting for you. I learned this one the hard way when a couple we were travelling with asked me if I could take their daughter to the pool with my kids while they were getting ready. Two hours later, they still had not shown up and the kid did not want to swim in the pool that my kids were in and kept running to a bigger pool. So I spent the morning chasing this kid leaving my kids unattended at the other pool. When I finally came to my senses and dragged the kid back to her room, the parents were still in bed because “They were not feeling well.”  It was the third time they pulled this one on me. So I put this rule in effect. I tell people up front, it is great that our kids can hang out together, but I am not babysitting, not for an hour, a minute or a second. I came on this trip to spend time with my kids not yours and I am not being responsible for someone else’s kids.

3.       I am not lending you money. When any family is traveling budgets are tight. Food and eating out take up a big part of your budget and we have to watch every dime. So every $20 I lend you I have to take away from my vacation and I am simply not doing it. Now if you get mugged or you lose your wallet then I will help you out but don’t look at me in a restaurant and say “You get this bill and I’ll get the next one.” Because that never works out. Pay for your own meals and I’ll pay for mine.

4.       Your agenda is not my agenda. If we want to go see a show or a concert and you don’t, do not expect us to cancel our plans. Why, would you? If we want to go to an amusement park five days in a row, don’t look at me and say “I am sick of the parks we are doing something else.” Go do it and we can meet up for drink later. Don’t pick out a list of shows, restaurants and malls you want to go to and expect me to stick to your schedule and don’t criticize me if I want to go shopping several days in a row. Do your own thing and meet up later.

5.       I am not dumbing down my vacation for you. We once traveled with a couple who kept saying “We can’t afford that restaurant, why can’t we go to McDonalds, and we don’t want to spend that much on  a hotel, let’s get one a few miles away from the beach, it’s cheaper.” No way, no how! I can eat McDonalds at home and I came for the beach.

I don’t mind saving a few bucks and I don’t even mind going to McDonalds when we are on the run, but I am not eating there every night to save money. I am also not staying in some flea bag $35 a night motel to save money. When I am traveling, especially with the kids, I want a hotel that’s close to everything and has security. A $35 a night does not offer security or clean beds.

I know what you’re thinking “She’s brilliant or she’s a bitch.” Maybe, but I am a brilliant bitch that’s going to have a great vacation! The bottom line is you don’t save your money all year round to take a vacation then let someone else hijack it. It’s ok to speak up and say thanks but no thanks.

Having said that we have had some amazing vacations with friends. Once you respect each other’s boundaries, it is really fun to have them around. The secret is sit down with those friends beforehand and say “These are the things we are going to do on this vacation if you want to come great, but if you’re not interested that’s great too.” Plan to meet for breakfast before you start out, meet for supper at the end of the day or meet for a drink when you all get back.” Chances are if they are close friends they will want to see most of the shows and events you want to see.

Don’t get miffed if your friends don’t want to go to every show and restaurant you want to. They may have dietary restrictions. For example, my son has a life threatening allergy to all nuts so we are not eating in a Chinese restaurant where they may or may not use peanut oil.

Like I said, you save your money all year round and use your precious vacation days to spend time with your family, not to be at someone else’s beckon call. Don’t feel bad about saying “Thanks but no thanks. We’ll meet up with you later.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

That social media over reaction

This week I became Alice in Twitterland. I got sucked down the social media rabbit hole and ended
up in the nonsensical world of Twitter-rants.

I am not proud of it.

I try hard to keep my social media feeds full of funny thoughts and memes. I pry my hands from the keyboard when things become too political because I know you can’t solve or help the world’s problems in 140 characters. But this week I chased that White Rabbit down the hole and gulped from the bottle labeled “Drink Me” until I became as small as the rest.

I told a Monk off. I told you I am not proud of my behaviour.

I made the mistake of thinking Twitter was like Facebook. Then I realized to late that it wasn’t. Twitter is the Wild West with outlaws and gunslingers and makes Facebook look like Downton Abby.

My crime? I Tweeted “For those who convict Police officers without seeing or hearing facts from the investigation, Lord we pray @UnvirtuousAbbey”

It began an avalanche of hate Tweeted back at me. I had no idea what I did wrong. I really didn’t get it. I also posted it to Facebook and received nothing but love.

Apparently you can support cops on Facebook but not on Twitter.

Anyone who knows me knows I am not a mean spirited person. I don’t take joy in anyone’s pain. I am active in my church, all about family and spend a lot of time helping charities. I try to be a nice person.

I am also the wife of a retired Police officer and I am a retired Civilian Member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. During my career 14 of our members were murdered across this country. I lost track of how many died due to accidents or other means. Three people I worked with committed suicide.

I know what it is like to get out of your car in the morning and look up to see the flag at half-mast then wonder “What happened overnight? Who’s dead? Do I know them? Was it here?” I know what it’s like to sit through the funerals and memorial services and hear the muffled crying of those around you. I know what it’s like to see a tear roll down the face of a man you though was bullet proof and feel the chill going up my spine when you know everyone in the room is thinking “There but for the grace of God go I.”

I know what it’s like to get a call from the Communication Centre at 2:00 AM telling me my husband is in the Emergency Unit again. I know what it’s like to watch your husband leave for work then have your heart jump out of your body every time the phone rings or someone knocks on the door because you know you have to be ready for the worst at all times. I know what it’s like to tell kids “You can open the big gifts as soon as Daddy gets home” or “I am sorry I missed your concert I just couldn’t leave work.”

I get passionate when it comes to standing up for Police.

I made a simple statement that those in policing would understand… wait until the investigation is complete and then decide who is right and wrong. I was called “racist”, accused of “praising murders” and interfering with the grieving process.

I did not know any of these people but they felt entitled to spew their hate and anger towards me. I felt like deleting my Twitter account and felt deflated and attacked for days. It really affected me.

These people felt they had a right to say whatever they wanted on Twitter but I didn’t. I think it is indicative of the world we live in. Where people feel they have a right to walk up to a Police officer trying to do his/ her job, hurl insults at them and then record it on their phone so they can post it to social media to gain sympathy.

What if I went to their work place and hurled insults at them and recorded it and posted it to my social media accounts. That would be called harassment, wouldn’t it?

The Police are held to a higher standard. I know. But maybe the public should be held to a higher standard too.

When it comes to issues and problems, there’s a right way and a wrong way to solve and deal with them. Then there is that social media over reaction where ever armchair critic in the world can hide behind their keyboards and belittle celebrities for being overweight, athletes who drop a ball, parents who look away for a second and cops who are trying to do their job.

We all take a slug of that “Drink me” potion every now and again, making us too small.

Mahatma Gandhi said “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

I am not deleting my Twitter account. I am also not going to get caught up in the social media over reaction anymore. It is a nonsensical world and not a world I want to be part of.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

We’re going to Vegas Baby! is looking for new style inspiration and invited me to participate in their search for the #UltimateVegasOutfit. If you have Vegas style I would love to see it. So feel free to use this hashtag, too! Let's see if you're a Vegas showgirl!

What do a gal pack for a week of fun, food, drinks, world-class entertainment and pure decadence? I picked out a couple of outfits to wear when I am spending the day in Las Vegas! Well as it turns out I just booked a trip to Las Vegas for October to see Jimmy Buffet at the MGM Grand. So I am already thinking about a week’s worth of outfits! Check out some of the great Las Vegas deals if you’re planning your Las Vegas getaway because I would definitely suggest going to a show.”

So take a seat ladies the show is about to begin….
The Roller Coaster at NY NY is on my list! I am an adrenaline junkie so I will be riding this baby with heights of 203 feet and drops of 144 feet. At speeds of up to 67 miles per hour I will need an outfit that defies gravity which is why I will be wearing these comfy and practical white painter-pants. My cell phone stays in the pocket even when I am upside down.

Next stop the Stratosphere Observation Deck. It is the tallest observation tower in the United States and has an amazing panoramic view over Las Vegas and the valley.

At 1,149 feet it’s the tallest building in Vegas and west of the Mississippi River.

The double-decker elevators travel at speeds of 1,800 feet per minute (that’s three floors a second!) and pop your ears along the way!

 I want to be at the top when the sun goes down and the lights on the world famous Strip come up. I also want to stand out so I will be wearing this bright yellow leather jacket over my black Michael Kors sundress just in case it gets chilly.

No trip to Vegas is complete without seeing the Fountains of
Bellagio. It is  a spectacular show of water, music and light designed to mesmerize its admirers.

It is called the most ambitious, choreographically complex water feature ever conceived and it’s absolutely free for any visitor to enjoy.

It never gets old. I have seen this display several times and I am still in love with this show. You will want to take a seat with someone you love and watch together. I always get this feeling that someone is going to get down on one knee and propose as soon as the fountains start. It's the number one place in the world to ask someone to be with you forever.
The Bellagio is bling! This plaid Michael Kors dress is great for Christmas, New Years or a night at the Bellagio. It shimmers in the light and gets lots of compliments. As a matter of fact, if I don't bring this dress with me to Vegas, it just may book its own vacation!

Our main reason for visiting Vegas is to see Jimmy Buffett live at the MGM Grand on October 15th.

Where ever Jimmy plays it is a tropical paradise.

His fans are loyal and they bring casual to a whole new level.

When Jimmy hits the stage with his Coral Reefer Band they bring the beach and Margaritaville with them.
I will be wearing a grass skirt and coconut bra to the concert but I won't be posting pictures of that! As soon as Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefers start to play, in my mind, I will be on a beach, soaking up the sun and drinking a nice cold Land Shark beer, wearing a bikini and my favourite red hat.

We are staying at the MGM Grand so having supper at Tom Colicchio Craftsteak is a must!
Top Chef personality and James Beard Award-winning chef Tom Colicchio uses only the finest ingredients to create dishes bursting with flavor.
I know hubby will order the 18 ounce Ribeye and I'll have the 18 ounce New York Strip medium well please.  
I love hats! So in Vegas I am wearing my black top hat of course! Where else could I wear it and fit in?
I am not much of a gambler I like to spend my money at a good outlet mall and Vegas is the Holy Grail of shopping. My favourite is the Las Vegas North Premium Outlets. It's an outdoor center with 175 designer and brand name outlet stores. It is conveniently located minutes from the Strip and is serviced by taxis and the bus.
If you are going shopping at the outlet mall, dress comfortably because it is going to take you a whole day to see everything.
My go to outfit for shopping is jeans, a comfortable top, shoes that are easy to take off (to try on more of course) and my Michael Kors big bag to store the tiny shopping bags (like jewellery).
I better hope my airline carrier eases up on the luggage weight and size requirements for my suitcases because I got a feeling I may need a whole section for myself.
There's no vacation like Vegas. Its Disney Land for adults. It has to be on your bucket list. Check out and plan yours!
See you in Vegas Baby!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Retirement - a time to find out who you are

Today was the first day I enjoyed retirement. Which is weird because I retired two years ago. I brewed a pot of coffee, turned the TV on and caught the beginning of a Tom Selleck movie. I curled up on the couch in my house coat curious to see if Tom solved the crime and gets the girl. Here I was at 9:20 AM drinking hot coffee and watching a movie. Three cups of coffee later and close on 11 o'clock Tom solved the crime and gets the girl. I could see that coming. After all, I just retired from a career in policing. I used to be the Senior Communications Strategist with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Now I am Veteran. It feels funny even saying it.

After the movie I did a half hour of yoga and a short meditation. Even now I have knots in my neck and back from years of stress that I can’t get rid of. I learned to meditate a few years ago to help me not kill people who irritated me. It must work because I'm not incarcerated.  I took a long shower and had a brief moment of madness because I shaved my whole leg not just below the knee and I am not even wearing a skirt today. By the time I got out of the shower it was almost 1 o'clock. I am trying to learn to relax but it was irritating me that I accomplished nothing today. I don't know why I consider relaxing as “accomplishing nothing.” I knew I had to get dressed. My daughter would be home from school shortly and I didn't want her to find me still in my housecoat in the middle of the day. I dried my hair, put on some make up and got dressed. There I sat at 2:30 in the afternoon, legs shaved, hair done, make up on and nowhere to go.

How do you know when it's time to retire? I get asked that all the time by my old coworkers. The truth is… you just know. For me, I was sitting in a meeting when a supervisor made what I considered a bad decision about my Communications Unit. A few months earlier that would have enraged me. We would have battled over it for weeks. But I just sat there taking notes saying nothing, being silent. I went back to my office and my partner at the time asked “What happened? You didn't say anything.” I realized I didn't say anything because I didn't care. I always said when the job wasn't fun anymore, I would retire. That day, was this day. It wasn't fun anymore. There was no fight left in me. I was burned out. I knew it was time to take my ball and go home. I called HR and asked “How do I retire?”

That last day I walked out of headquarters conflicted, it felt like I was going through a bad divorce. A divorce I wasn't even sure I wanted. I felt like I loved the husband I was about to leave but I knew it was time to let him go. I had a knot in my stomach thinking what if I want to go back? Would he take me back? Will he replace me as soon as I leave? Because I thought I could never be replaced. Eventually they did post my job and replaced me. I felt disappointed because I really thought the RCMP would close down without me. Eventually the husband I wasn’t sure I wanted to divorce replaced me with someone half my age, more educated and bilingual. Someone who probably shaves her whole leg every day.  

I ran at freedom like an escaped convict. I felt the need to fill every moment of my day with stuff to do. First thing I did was book a trip with the husband I hadn’t divorced. We went to Florida and took a wonderful cruise through the Caribbean. While my husband whined about returning to work, I had no idea what I was returning to. A few weeks later I took my daughter to Toronto to see her favourite boy band in concert. It was so different to spend time alone with her without my BlackBerry constantly ringing. Even now I can still feel the vibration of my Blackberry on my left hip and I reach to answer it.

A week after I retired I bought a gym membership and hired a personal trainer. He was a 22 year old university student who kept barking orders at me and shouting “push yourself.”  By day five I fired him. I was honest when I said “It’s not you. It’s me.” I explained “You’re 22. I am 50. Pushing myself means putting on a pair of Spanx and control top pantyhose.” It was too much too soon.  

Then one day it happened… The meltdown. While watching the evening news a story about the RCMP came on. “Why aren’t we reacting?” I shouted at the TV. We should have someone out in front of this with media lines to give our side of the story. I was enraged and I immediately reached for my BlackBerry preparing to go in to crisis communication mode. But there was no BlackBerry.  The next morning I went into headquarters for a veterans meeting. I ran into my old partner and tried to have a conversation about the news the night before. I told him he needed to pull out my old media lines. I explained “You need to do this! You need to do that!” He stood there politely listening to me. Then he dropped the bomb… “You know I can't discuss that with you.” I realized I had put him in an awkward situation. He couldn't discuss a police operation with a civilian. I know that. We both walked away. It was then I realized I was on the outside now. The divorce was final. I was just served my papers.

I had to find something to do with myself. I can’t handle “alone time.” I had been writing a blog
called “I am Funny Like That” for a few years and decided I would focus on it more. I figured there must be somebody who wanted free communication advice. I had always been a volunteer in our church. Now I dove in. I wrote a communication strategy to bring people back to church. I targeted minority groups especially the long neglected LGBT community. I mean if I can spin police stories then of course I could bring families in by the droves on Sunday morning.  Laugh if you want but it actually worked to the point that that Bishop said we were getting too much publicity and to tone it down.

I started volunteering with my children’s Air Cadet Squadron and took on the Duke of Edinburgh program. I now have 19 cadets in various levels and I spend my weekends hiking the East Coast trail with them. At the same time I volunteer as communications director for another charity. I spent the last two years creating communication strategies around fundraising and I was extremely successful. I am very proud of everything I have accomplished since I retired.  The problem is, I created a full-time job for myself.

Just recently after a grueling fundraising effort I asked myself “Why did I retire?” If I want to work full-time I should've stayed in the RCMP. I realized I had to retire from my retirement. I need to learn how to relax. I need to learn how to retire.

The best advice I received was from a fellow Veteran. He told me retirement gives you a lot of time to think. He advised that one day I will be doing some menial task around the house and all of a sudden I will remember something that happened 10 or 15 years ago. A meeting where I overreacted. A partner that I snapped at. Something I would like to do over again. He advised, “Then you will beat yourself up for the rest of the day thinking “Why did I say that?” “Why didn't I do this?”  He advised me to let it go. Think about something else and he was right. It's like your brain downloads everything you went through at random times. I am glad he told me that because it really does happen and you need to be prepared for memories that can keep you up all night.

I joined a line dancing group (don’t laugh, it’s fun) because I was wanted to stay social. I went out for lunch with this group of women. One of the ladies was having a “crisis” because the oven in her stove was broke. She went on and on about the oven. I sat there staring at her. I didn't know how to react to a broken oven. I was thinking “A year ago I was giving media advice on major cirme investigations, read situation reports on horrific acts of child abuse and the month before I retired three of our Members were murdered in Moncton.” I wanted to say something but I couldn't. I couldn't relate to this woman’s crisis. She was too normal.  I sat there, smiled and pretended I could relate to her “crisis” knowing I needed to redefine “crisis” now.   

I decided to stick to the friends I already had and focus on my family. I started baking cookies in the afternoon so when my daughter came home from school she would have afternoon snack with me. Maybe we could talk and get to know each other. It worked. After a while I found she was actually a nice person. It took retirement for me to realize that I raised the daughter I always wanted. I had no idea how funny, intelligent, thoughtful, and amazing my daughter had become.

I had to re-introduce myself to my husband. He must have thought “Who is this woman who bakes cookies and shaves her full leg?”  We had been married for 20 years and I had no idea who he was now. I was just too busy raising kids, having a full-time career and being that woman who had it all. We must've liked each other at some point, we had two children together! For years, I passed him in the hallway in the mornings. I would see him briefly in the evening while I was running to dance with our daughter and he was running to cadets with our son. One night I sat on the couch watching him furiously answer emails on his BlackBerry. I think it was the first time I really looked at him in years. He was actually quite handsome. I don't know why that surprised me. He was good looking when I married him 20 years ago! I realized then, it took retirement to make me fall in love with the man I had already been in love with for 20 years.

Today, I retired from my retirement. I have given up most of my charity work with the exception of the Air Cadet’s Duke of Edinburgh program. I enjoy working with teens. I find they breathe life back in me and it’s truly rewarding to see them achieve their goals in this program.  I have learned to say “No” I am not available to others and I try not to feel bad about that.

My next quest is to find a balance between my family, my volunteerism and discovering who I am now. All in all, retirement is great.  It just takes time to let go of your old life and find a new one. There is a normal grieving process. I have learned that enjoying retirement means it’s not a waste of time to cuddle with Tom Selleck in the morning and have a fully shaved leg in the afternoon. It’s time well spent. Some advice for those about to retire, stay away from personal trainers. After all, you just retired from a career where someone barks orders at you. Buy a good pair of Spanx instead.

*** This article appeared in the Atlantic Women in Policing newsletter Summer 2016. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A fake tan is like big fake boobs. Everybody laughs behind your back

My friend Karen told me “Brown fat is better than white fat any day” and I totally agree. So before I
go on vacation, I buy a tanning package. I figure if I am ridiculously brown I’ll blend in with the sand and no one will notice my muffin belly. Works like a charm. Until recently.

I went to a dermatologist. He told me that I am 100% at risk for skin cancer because of my tanning booth use! “What? I don’t abuse it!” Seriously I don’t. I go once or twice or three or four times a month to maintain a base coat and I go a little more if I am going down South and during Christmas so I don’t look too pasty in that low cut party dress. But I don’t abuse it. It’s not like I’m going every day.

He gave me a stern talking to about how he just attended the funeral of a 36 year old patient who died of skin cancer and explained how I was playing Russian Roulette with my life. He ended it with “The 80’s are over. Let them go!” That was harsh.

So began my quest to find the perfect self-tanner.
The problem with self-tanners is they are a lot like over-sized fake boobs. Once your back is turned everyone will point at you and laugh but no one will tell you how ridiculous you look…. Except your children.

My first self-tanner turned my bathroom in to a spray booth. It was the kind you sprayed all over your body and waited until it dried before you got dressed. It took a long time and left a thin film of orange all over my bathroom floor and walls. After ten minutes I was convinced it was dry so I put on my pajamas. The next morning I got out of the shower excited to see my golden glow in the mirror. Except it wasn’t the golden glow promised on the tin. I didn’t wait long enough for it to dry and it wasn’t even. Now I looked like an orange zebra. I had to get back in the shower and scrub my stripes until they came off or bled.

I decided that I would retry the spray but this time outdoors. I waited until dark and ran out in my back yard where no one could see me. I dropped my housecoat and stood there in only underwear (ugly ones of course, I wouldn’t ruin a good pair). I sprayed myself from head to toe and figured the wind would dry me in a hurry except that night there was no wind. So I jumped up and down trying to get the paint to dry. Hubby came to backdoor wondering why it was open so late at night and almost locked me out. I yelled “Don’t lock that door!” He looked out to see his mostly naked wife jumping up and down behind a tree in the backyard and all he said was “Oh it’s you. If this is another menopause thing I am going to bed. I don’t want to see how this one ends.” It didn’t end well. The next day in the bathroom light I realized that the front of my legs where extremely brown. The backs where white. My arms were brown but my chest and back were white. I looked like a menopausal panda bear. I spent another half hour in the shower trying to get back to my original colour.

Back to the drug store. I found a rub in cream. That night I rubbed every inch of me with this
“guaranteed natural tan” cream. When I got out of bed the next morning I was shocked to see my shadow still laying there. The tanning cream had rubbed off my body onto the white bed sheets. It had left a perfect outline of my body on the bed. It was like a tanning crime scene.

I was surprised that my tan was perfect. After my shower it looked even better. I was delighted with myself until later that day when my son asked if I was running for president. “What are you talking about?” I exclaimed. “You look like Donald Trump. You’re orange.” I looked towards hubby who was trying desperately to avoid eye contact. “Am I orange? I am not. I look good right?” All I got was “Oh no the BBQ is on fire” and he ran out of the house. The BBQ wasn’t even on.

I ran to the bathroom and looked in the mirror again. Maybe I was a little orange. I had to think back over my day and who I met with. How many people were laughing at my big fake boobs, I mean tan.

It took a good three days to scrub the orange off. It took months to stop my kids from constantly reminding me about it.

After some research and lots of trial and error I discovered St. Tropez Self Tan Luxe Dry Oil. It’s about $50 at Shoppers Drug Mart. But spend the extra $10 and buy the application mitt to put it on right. It’s a mousse that rubs in and the results are instant. It’s so convincing that when I went back to my dermatologist he started to lecture me again about tanning beds. He couldn’t believe my colour was a fake-bake.

There’s nothing funny about cancer. I stopped smoking over 20 years ago because I didn’t want lung cancer so I would be foolish to continue to use tanning beds after all the information that is available on them. 

I still believe brown fat is better than white fat any day, except now my muffin belly is a painted on brown. But the boobs… the boobs are real so don’t laugh.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Keep Calm and Go to London

What a week to visit London, England! It was Gay Pride Week, the British voted to leave the
European Union, the Scots voted to stay, then Donald Trump came to visit! But even without all the hoopla London would have been just as exciting!

If you love history, if you love food, if you love entertainment, if you love beer, if you love walking tours based on serial killers and Rock-n-Roll history, if you love life, go to London.

Here are my travel suggestions:
1.       If you are an employee of a police force (civilian or police officer) join the International Police Association. You will get lots of travel discounts. Membership is $35 a year. My membership entitled me to stay at the historic Union Jack Club. Now it’s not the Ritz Carlton but it is a good sized, clean room for a discounted Price.

2.       Order the British Oyster Card and The London Pass. If you are landing in Gatwick Airport order
your Gatwick Express.

The London Pass: The London Pass® is a sightseeing city card which gives you entry to a choice of over 60 popular tourist attractions in the city. Available for either 1, 2, 3, 6 or 10 consecutive days, it makes sightseeing easy and affordable by giving you access to top sights in the city with one card. It also gives you a fast pass into some attractions so you don’t have to wait in line. It saves you time and a lot of money.

Oyster Card: Gives you unlimited travel in central London. Get The London Pass + Oyster Travel card for the cheapest way to travel around the city. The Oyster Travel card covers journeys on London’s public transport network including underground, buses, overground trains and the DLR - any time of day, any day of the week!

The Gatwick Express: The Gatwick Express is a non-stop train
between London Victoria train station, which is in the heart of Central London and London Gatwick Airport. It takes only 30 minutes - perfect for a quick and easy journey to catch your flight or if you’re looking to start your London adventure as soon as possible. You will save money and spend less time at the station by booking your tickets online. This is the easiest way to get from the airport to your hotel. There are lots of people at the station that will help you find your way. Don’t get a taxi it can cost your over a $100 British pounds.

3.       Go to a West End Show. I went to see Wicked and it was wicked! London’s West End is on par with New York’s Broadway. You have to see one of these award winning shows to enhance your experience of London. After all London is all about culture. Experience it.

4.       Watch TV. Why would you pay all that money to travel to London just to watch TV? Because it
is funny. It’s actually beyond funny. It’s hysterical. After a day of running from attraction to attraction put your feet up and turn on the telly. British humour is the best. I spent a good two to three hours every night watching British reality shows ("On Benefits: Life on the Dole") or mock newscasts to the real news. You will love the reporters in Britain. Catch the morning news before you head out. These reporters are vicious. When they ask questions they demand answers. I loved them.

5.       Fashion is huge! I have never seen a population of men so smartly dressed. No I didn’t mean women. Walking through London I was gobsmacked by how handsomely dressed the men were. They all wear blue suits and ties with walking cane umbrellas and closely cropped hair styles. Picture hundreds of Benedict Cumberbatchs walking toward you as you cross the London Bridge. The women also hold their own. Whether you’re touring the Tower of London or walking through the shopping district, the ladies are dressed to kill. If you are going out for the evening for dinner or a show, be prepared to dress up! Even the kids are fabulous. England still has school uniforms and they are stunning. Students of all ages are smartly dressed in blazers, skirts, ties and black leather shoes. It’s like Harry Potter came to life.

6.       Do the touristy stuff. Here are the top 10 things to do in London. Try to do
as many as you can.

7.       Getting around: London is the easiest city in the world to get around in. Don’t rent a car. It’s hard enough to drive on the other side of the car on the other side of the road but driving in London is crazy! Leave it to the taxi and bus drivers. But why would you want to? The tube and bus system is the easiest thing to use. Put your destination in on Google Maps on your phone and it will tell you what bus or tube to take and how long to get there. It is intimidating at first but by day two you will be an expert.

8.       Order afternoon tea and fish & chips. Most restaurants will offer an afternoon tea and fish & chips on the menu. Order it just for fun. Afternoon tea is three trays of finger sandwiches, raison tea buns, cookies & cupcakes and of course a big pot of English tea. It really is nice. Before ordering the fish & chips ask if the skin is left on the fish and if it is deboned. Twice I
ordered it and found the bone was left in and the skin was left on.

9.       The British Pound compared to the Canadian dollar is ridiculous! I confess, I did not buy a lot. I mostly picked up souvenirs and caved at the end to get this amazing red leather jacket. I did not buy one pair of shoes! First time ever. Right now one Pound is worth $1.80 Canadian. So when you spend 10 Pounds at a pub for a sandwich, it will be $18 on your credit card statement. One 100 Pound purse will be $180 on your credit card statement. Why buy when you can go home and order on line in Canadian dollars? Get your souvenirs and if you see something you know you can’t buy anywhere else, go for it. Other than that. Watch your money.

10.   Talk to people. The British are very nice and polite. Here’s a scenario for you. A Canadian bumps
into a Brit on the London Bridge. They eventually exhaust themselves from saying “I am sorry”, “No I am sorry”,  “No it was my fault”, “I think it was my fault”, “But even if it is your fault, I will apologise”, “I couldn’t have you do that, I apologize.” You get my point.  The British are more polite than Canadians. Everywhere we went people thought our Newfoundland accent was from Northern Ireland. Whenever we asked someone for help they were eager to offer assistance. Tell them you are from Canada and they will tell you about their relative who lives somewhere in our country or they will tell you about their service during the war and how they served alongside a Canadian.

11.   Go see the making of Harry Potter We loved this tour. It’s a must if you are visiting London with teenagers. It will take up a full day but well worth the money.

12.   Last thing to do, drink beer in a pub. It’s the national pass time. It’s a great way to end a long day or start one.

Cheerio! Enjoy your trip to London.