Sneaker Chic Fashion Finally Catches On

thumb_IMG_0322_1024When you stand nearly 6 feet tall, and suffer from sciatica, jumpers knee, and hammertoes, sneakers are your best friends. I wore high heels once in my life- at my wedding. Big mistake! At the aisle just before exchanging vows, the Frenchman hissed, “If you complain about your aching back once more, I am out of here.”

I’ve always been a trend setting, do-it-myself, kick butt kind of girl marching to my own beat.

Fashion finally caught up with me. Sneakers made a comeback and top models, movie stars and celebrities are wearing them down the red carpet.

Sneakers aka athletic shoes, trainers, kicks, tackies come in umpteen designs – low top, high top, slip-ons, wedges, air soled – and are made out of every kind of fabric: synthetic, leather, and textile like canvas.

In a mind-boggling selection, you can pick from Vans perforated black, Steve Madden leopard print, or retro look Nike Vintage Waffles, platforms and wedges. Big heels stuck on sneakers? Not for me, but then I never needed that extra leg length.

In the sixties, we had two choices – black or white, canvas Converse All-Star Hi-Tops, or those flimsy PFlyers. Now Converse All Stars come in every color of the rainbow.

Today you can pick from the top-selling classic brand names to every kind of cool from Vans slip-ons to Nike florals. All are guaranteed to make you jump higher, run faster, and hike longer. A sneaker design exists for every activity under the sun: biking, boating, walking, cross training, skate boarding, basketball, football, volleyball, soccer, tennis, aerobics, and others. One day I bet a weight loss shoe will help you drop pounds by just tying up the laces.

I don’t own a pair of dress shoes; I have kicks for every occasion. My collection consists of twenty some pairs spread across two continents. Most of which I never wear because they make my back hurt due to tender toes and high arches. On a whim when I tried to switch brands, I bought purple trimmed Nike’s, turquoise Adidas, and fuchsia Reeboks. They always ended up at the back of the closet. I am most at home in ASICS.

At last, fashionable footwear made for comfort can be paired with leggings, jeans and even skirts. Black and white Adidas, Sketchers Sweet Spots, Forever 21 Floral Slip On and Converse All Star Plaids are the rage. Top independent shoes companies with names like IPath, SeaVees, Pointer Footwear, Newton, Scora, Supra, Black Spot, Under Armour, Etnies, Superga, Visvim, and Clae are in vogue. Don’t feel bad, the only ones I’ve heard of are New Balance and Under Armour.final four

Since Michael Jordan’s signature epic Air Jordan, elite athletes have elevated the tennis shoes to lofty levels. Finally in 1996, much to my joy, Nike launched Air Swoopes, named after the female basketball star Sheryl Swoopes. National sports heroes in every country have their signature shoe. Switzerland’s Roger Federer’s Zoom Vapor has long been a favorite of tennis players. For a retro look, designers also brought back tennis shoe models from Arthur Ash and Yannick Noah’s (French father of Chicago Bulls star center, Joakim Noah) playing days.

Countless brands lead the global scene. ETQ Amsterdam, the Netherlands footwear, is at the peak of the luxury sneaker culture. Kahru, which means bear in Finnish, makes original and running shoes. Fred Perry, an English menswear brand, turns the sneaker into high fashion. Norman Walsh Made in England has the British flag as a logo. Le Coq Sportif, founded 1888, is one of the oldest brands. It’s named for the French national team symbol, a rooster. Diadora’s Italian brand and Etonic’s, founded in 1876, are also making a comeback.

But I am a simple gal, my go to shoe – ASICS 180 gel cross trainers. With my funky feet finding a shoe to fit is as likely as seeing an elephant hanging out in the North Woods.

High heels take a hike. Give me my tennie kicks any day.

Fanny Packs Offer Freedom

FB2Even though they went out of fashion decades ago, I am a great fan of fanny packs. Actually the name is a misnomer. They should be called crotch concealers; no one wears the pack across their backside. Instead the little kangaroo pouch hangs front and center providing you with instant access to keys, passports, wallets, lipstick and gum.

These waist wallets make ideal travel companions especially for flying in the 21st century when seats have shrunk to the size of chamber pots and overhead luggage must smaller than a Barbie doll suitcase.

Fanny packs also provide agility to navigate through countless airport screenings where you must scan everything except your underwear. Best of all, fanny packs allow you to have all hands on deck at all times. At every security checkpoint, the added dexterity allows passengers to untie shoes, unbuckle belts, and unpack iPhones, iPads, and laptops in record time.

To add to your anxiety, in the age of terrorism, the voice of the Transit Security Authority booms over the loud speaker, “Do not leave your baggage unattended!”

You can breath a sigh of relief knowing that your fanny pack will never get left behind or misplaced.

These money bags are ideal for long haul layovers crossing time zones when your body lands in London and your head is still back in LA. During transit, when trying to stay awake to protect your belongings until your next flight is impossible, the fanny pack offers you the luxury of dozing off. Flip it over and slip it around your neck to use as a little pillow.

This carry on item is also perfect for touring European cities where pick pockets prey on tourists. You can outsmart the purse-snatchers and pocket thieves with this versatile pouch wrapped securely around your middle. Buckle up for extra safety on buses and trains.

The bum bag is by far a woman’s most underrated accessory. Handbags are hard to hang on to in crowds. Shoulder bags force you to walk lopsided. Backpacks pull the spine. Totes take a toll. Fanny packs are synonymous with freedom to move unencumbered.

In 1962 Australian Melba Stone invented the fanny pack, which became as popular as shoulder pads in the late 80s and peaked in the 90s, but since then it has gotten a bad rap. In Europe wearing one is considered a faux pas. French view it as part of the fashion depraved tourist attire of those “ugly Americans” who dare stroll down the Champs Elysées clad in tennis shoes and baseball caps.fanny pack 1

But leave it to the Americans to favor functionality and comfort over fashion, especially on vacation. For all practicality, there is no better extra. The waist pack allows you so much dexterity, leaving hands free to round up stray kids, sip drinks, give out snacks, hold books, and hug your honey.

With the Nineties fashion revival in full swing rumor has it that the fanny pack is making a comeback. Models are strutting down the runway with designer pouches slung around their skinny waists. Listen to the advice of the ultimate trendsetter, moi, for a real “groovy” holiday, leave your purse at home instead pack a bum bag!

Smart Phones For Dummies

smartphone-junkie-man-49871925While most people have been using smartphones for ages, I finally inherited a hand-me-down iPhone 5 from my husband’s secretary. At long last, I possessed that amazing little gadget that can do everything but wipe my backside. I can get organized, share FaceTime with family (here is an explanation on how to use it on any Android machine), text message friends and dance my heart out to iTunes. Just one problem, they don’t make smart phones for dummies.

Case in point ME. When I went to phone store center to trade in my antique Nokia, the clerk laughed out loud. “Wow, it’s been eons since I have seen one of these.”

Within 48 hours of activating my phone chip, I made so many gaffs the Frenchman threatened to confiscate it.

While walking home from school, I tried calling the hubby at his printing office in Lausanne; instead I rang my daughter at her pediatric clinic in Minneapolis. That went down real well.

In PE class, I thought I was recording students’ lap times; instead I was setting the alarm clock.

“Who’s calling?” I screamed waking up that night.

“You!” the hubby grumbled. “You set your phone to ring at two a.m.!”

When it comes to technology, I am one step behind and a term or two off beat. When my students told me about that instant messaging thing, I said, “Cool! I need to get what’s up.”

They laughed me out of the classroom.

“It’s not what’s up,” a student said, ‘it’s Whatsapp` an application for free messaging.”

Application? One uses an application to seek employment, to enter university, and to do calculus. What does “application” have to do with finding out, “What’s up, bro?”

It gets worse. During a staff meeting my sweatshirt pouch burst out singing in Janet Jackson’s voice. I swore I turned off my walking-to-school music. Savvy colleagues explained that moving around with an iPhone in your pocket could turn on iTunes.

Texting is a whole other ball game. Seriously, how can anyone text and drive? It’s like diving off a cliff with your hands tied to your feet. Even at my desk with both hands on my device, I have yet to text without falling off my chair. Besides by the time I punch in the correct letters, my brain’s faulty memory bank has already forgotten the message. Even my 81-year-old, nimble-fingered mom can text faster than me.

Stranger things keep happening. Yesterday all by itself my little iPhone burst into song and dance, playing Walk the Line by Johnny Cash…. I don’t even like Johnny Cash. Next thing I know Sandra Beckwith, a marketing guru, is telling me how to sell more books – from a class I took five years ago. My husband, who was watching Netflix on TV downstairs, explained that sometimes it sets off iTunes when the computer nearby is on the same network. Well, how dumb is that?

Worse yet, every time he receives a call for another crisis at work, my phone rings too.

And if these phones are so smart, how come they get lost all the time? Mine has little electronic legs and never stays where I put it. When I misplaced it at school, I stayed up all night worrying that a techie teen would crack my code and access my top-secret contact list.

But you know me; I am always willing to give it a go. So send me your cell number and I’ll ring you the next time I’m in your neighborhood, if can catch that darn phone that keeps running away from home.

Meanwhile my brain becomes more muddled; numbers scramble, fingers freeze on the keyboard, … applications, smapplications, crapplications…will I ever understand that mumble jumble tech speak?

I am convinced my iPhone 5 is possessed, so I am upgrading as soon as they invent that smart phone for dummies.

Log Out Tune In

IMG_4535_copyDo you wonder what happened to me? I logged off Internet and tuned in to life. I didn’t plan to be away from social media for the month of August, but things kept getting in the way – a bad back, an ongoing illness and a big family.

Unlike wine, the spine does not get better with age. Twice a week, I went for treatments to relieve the pain of bulging, herniated, degenerating discs or whatever you want to call smashed vertebrae. I rode the rollercoaster of a chronic disease searching for ways to balance my lifestyle during the flare-ups.

I devised a back plan – swim, walk, stretch, recline, ice, baby, ice – in attempt to retain mobility. With age, it is a losing battle. Gravity pulls my body parts earthwards but I refuse to go down without a fight to stay upright.

I tweaked a medical plan -pulsed antibiotic regime supported by dozens of vitamins, supplements, anti fungal pills, and probiotics – to keep the bug that outsmarts modern medicine at bay.

Most importantly, I filled a memory bank with traditions: sipping coffee with my mom, reminiscing with my dad, swimming with my daughter, niece and sister, walking with my sibs, sailing with my sweetheart, hiking with my son, kidding with my bros, yakking with my gal pals, and laughing so hard my ribs hurt.

 

Our beloved cabin needed a revolving door to accommodate the traffic coming and going. On weekends it felt like we were running a B & B as our young adult « kids » and friends drove up or over for a few days of solid comfort in God’s Country.

Technically I wasn’t « working », but I kept a hectic pace. I drove to doctors’ offices and cruised grocery store aisles. I grilled boatloads of brats and burgers and boiled bushels of corn on the cob. I baked dozens of cookies, whipped up hundreds of salads and washed thousands of utensils. I fed the « vultures » that swooped into the trouth (aka kitchen counter) at meal times and soared back to the lake before dish duty. TGIP – thank God it’s paper plates again.

No time for napping. Like Laura Ingalls, I always had another chore to do in our Little Cabin in the Woods — water jugs to fill, bedding to change, laundry to wash, floors to mop, garbage to dump, towels to hang, cans to crush, meals to prepare.

In exchange, I started every morning stretching on the dock in front of a mirror of glass. To the background beat of wailing loons, rustling chipmunks, and knocking woodpeckers, I did the downward dog and breathed in the peace.

And as the setting sun burst into a flame casting a golden glow over my day, I ended every evening in a prayer of gratitude.

I didn’t get anything done on my summer -to -do list. I didn’t journal, post blogs, grade papers, plan lessons, or research articles. I didn’t take an online class, join another social network or write a bestseller.

Instead I logged out, tuned in and attended to life.IMG_4937_copy

Family That Boats Together Floats Together

IMG_3747_copyBack in the good old days when my grandparents ran Ney-A-Ti Boys Camp in the 50s and early 60s, the only way a boat would propel forward was by our own manpower. The camp was sold, but luckily they had the foresight to build a cabin on the property for generations to enjoy. We kept camp hand me downs -a rowboat and an Old Town wooden canoe – tied to the dock. But over the decades the McKinzie family grew and each new member added another boat to the mix.

In his first visit to America, ze Frenchman fell in love with water skiing and twenty years later purchased our first used motorboat, so he could to share his passion with his kids, nieces and nephew. The boat that never started on the first try became the bane of our existence.Image 14_copy

Born and raised by the sea in Normandy, Gerald also loved sailing. His little Butterfly was traded in for bigger 445 sailboat and finally the Hobby 16 catamaran. No one other than Nathalie, and my brother-in-law Cliff, a veteran of the US Coast Guard, has a clue how to maneuver it so it only sails 3 weeks a year. But oh boy, ze Frenchman is the talk of the town when locals see his tail hanging in the wind, his sail soaring like a giant yellow bird.

My brother-in-law, Dick, an avid outdoors man, living in the fitness capital of the country, bought a kayak and got us into that sport. Then Cliff added a couple mini kayaks for his grand kids to tool around in.

In 2014, a pedal boat was a parting retirement gift from my sister’s Yorkville High School teacher friends. Darn it all if we didn’t throw our backs out carrying it down the hill to the water for its first launch.

Poor Grandpa used to love to putz around the garage when the cabin was invaded with noisy grand kids. But he lost his garage. It turned into a dry dock boat storage: 4 kayaks, 2 canoes, (no one can part with the Old Town, which hangs from the rafters) a pedal boat, a rowboat and the new used Glastron GT185 motorboat.

But what goes round comes round back to “man”powered watercraft. Rumors have it that Dick bought a used stand up paddle board, the latest sport.

lakes pics-2The inflated tractor tire was the all time favorite floating device. The finest activity of summer was standing on the inner tube while balancing by holding arms and seeing who would be the first to teeter off into the icy water.

One thing led to another, as our family grew, so did our state of the art dock. We kept adding sections to accommodate our toys. At this rate, our dock will soon be called the McKinzie Bridge linking one side of the lake to the other.

From our earliest memories of rowing the boat with Grandma, to taking children for a maiden voyage in the tippy canoe, to balancing a kayak with Kizzie (family dog) aboard, to watching kids learn to ski, our memories of floating and boating on beautiful Summit Lake bind us together.

 

Every summer we travel thousands of miles just to float together.

Happy Father’s Day – Thanks for the Swimming Lesson

My dad taught me to drive a car, shoot hoops, catch frogs, paddle a canoe, and swim laps. When I was just a hyperactive little kid, he tired of shooing me off the “dangerous” dock. Finally, he reasoned it would safer to teach me to swim than to keep track of my free spirited meanderings near the lake and in the woods.

He held my hand as I stepped off the sandy beach into the icy lake. Together we walked out over my head. While my dad’s strong arms held me afloat, I put my face in the water and blew bubbles. He taught me the crawl stroke, flutter kick and to cup my hands. “Reach forward, pull back.” He helped me master the trickiest part – how to breathe without swallowing half the lake.

Though I never had a near drowning experience, swimming saved my life. After a bad bike IMG_2175_copycrash and later a debilitating car accident, I became trapped in a body that no longer worked quite right. My hoop dreams disintegrated. My aspirations of skiing down mountainsides and running marathons dissolved. I hung up my high tops, tennis racket, baseball glove; I set aside my football, basketball, volleyball.

I was condemned to the pool where the buoyancy of the water kept me from further injuring my spine and joints. Early on, I became a has-been athlete plagued with bad feet, bad knees and a broken back. The scars of my past calamities never really left me; the sharp twinges and shooting, throbbing, stabbing aches remained. But magically, weightless in water, I became pain free.

To an athlete being confined to a pool seemed like a death sentence. Yet, after every misfortune, I retreated to the healing waters. Gradually, it seemed like my savior; swimming became my solace, my meditation, my prayer.

As a child I learned to swim at my grandparents Camp Ney-A-Ti on Summit Lake. In my teens, I swam through summers at the old Emerald Hill pool. In adulthood, when pregnant – and ordered to bed rest for 3 months to prevent premature births – I begged the doctor to let me swim. In a Parisian pool, I bonded with my unborn child, gliding in sync alongside the baby kicking inside me.swimming at SL

Over the years, I even saved a few lives as a lifeguard. And I once dragged the semi conscious high school quarterback from the pump room when he became asphyxiated from the chlorine. But the real hero of my swimming story was my dad. He taught me to believe that no matter how rough the seas or how high the waters, I would never sink.

With each stroke of my arm and kick of my leg, I repeated the mantra he ingrained, “Never give up.”

Dad thought he was showing me the frog kick, freestyle, and breaststroke, but really he was teaching me how to survive.

IMG_0999_copyAs a child, my dad let go, so I could take my first strokes solo. IMG_1693_copyNow as an adult I swim in bliss from one side of the lake to the other. Dad, like a lifeguard, sits on the dock, observing each stroke as if he could save me should a boat comes crashing into my path, or a leg cramp pull me under.

We have come full circle. We both know there is no way that my 83-year-old father could rescue me especially when I am swimming 150 feet from shore at the far end of the lake. But I feel safer, just knowing he is there, watching over me with his benevolent eyes.