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!

Freedom to Read How to Get Kids On Board

kids reading-2_copyThe right to read is often taken for granted. Not everyone grows up having free access to information. Not every child will have the chance be educated. Just ask Malalia Yousafzai what it cost her. When the Taliban took over part of Pakistan, forbidding girls from getting an education, Malalia fought for the right to attend school. When she was shot on the bus, no one expected her to survive. Yet, she recovered and wrote her memoir, I am Malalia, How One Girl Stood Up For Education and Changed the World inspiring others to take a stand, too.

Even in the United States where education is valued, books can be challenged. At the end of September, The American Library Association promotes Banned Books Week to foster the freedom to express one’s opinion and help make students aware that opportunity to read is not a given. Find out more about it in my previous post Celebrate Books the Memory of Mankind.

At my international school, we line the halls of our English floor with bookshelves filled with paperbacks, so our students can “grab and go.” We also celebrate the Reading Challenge during winter and summer term using every effort to promote reading.IMG_0272

I love that Free Little Reading Libraries movement has gone global. I found one in front of the fitness center in Divonnes-les-Bains,France where I swim. To promote the initiative, students painted old dressers and filled the drawers with free books. These bright-colored chests were placed around town where kids hang out: beside the lake, on the village square, in front the skate park and by public schools.

For someone raised in a family where the love of reading was passed down through the generations, I find it hard to fathom why anyone would not want to read. But not everyone grows up surrounded by tomes in a houseful of educators.

With all the other distractions today, it is becoming more difficult to interest kids in reading. Consequently, the number one question parents ask me at our teacher conferences is, “What can I do to get my child to read?”

“Do you read?” I ask.

When they tell me, “No,” I am not surprised that books are not their children’s priority either.

Here are few suggestions I offer parents to entice kids to crack open books.

  1. Take time out of your own busy schedule to read. Kids model adult behaviors.
  1. Make reading material readily available. Buy one of those old-fashioned bookshelves and fill it.
  1. Newsprint may be dying, but until then, let magazines and newspapers lounge around the house.
  1. Read to young children. No time? Too tired? Enlist the help of older siblings and other family members. Ask a grandparent if there is any greater joy than reading a favorite tale to that little body curled up in their lap?kids reading_copy
  1. Connect with kids on their turf. If they hate the schools’ recommended reading list, create a new one. Taper it to tap into their interests. For example, if they love sports, pick up an autobiography penned by one of their favorite athletes.
  1. If your child has difficulty reading, give them audio books. Or have them read stories at a lower grade level.
  1. Get a library card. And use it. Going to the library is a great, fat-free, low cost, healthy habit.

Of course, reading off Kindles, iPads and other devices is okay; however, in our hyper fast-paced, electronic-laden lifestyles, is there any better way to escape the rat race than by losing oneself in the pages of a good book?kids reading-3_copy

Be a rebel. Buy a book. Log off and read.

What are you reading today? Do you have any recommendations for a read-a-maniac like me or for any of the young adult readers that I teach?

Our Engineer Off to Carnegie Mellon

mark CMI thought no one in the world could be smarter than my big brother until his son was born. Mark McKinzie astounded us from an early age.

Years ago when my sister was driving Doug and Julianne’s children to our family’s cabin, she suggested they play name the states game to pass time. Not only could five-year-old Mark label the states, but he also listed them in the time order that they became part of the union.

You would never know he was such a brainiac for like his dad he is so unpretentious. Like most high school teens, he was involved in extra curricular activities, but what set him apart was that he spent summers at elite academic and engineering camps at Hiram College, Purdue, and Ohio State University. In school he excelled so greatly in math that by his senior year he was taking courses at CASE Western University.

An avid sports fan, he played baseball growing up and could recite the stats of every team and player, not only in baseball, but in basketball and football too. I once asked Mark to help me recall the name of the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys and then chuckled overhearing our son and Mark proceed to name every major player on every team in the NFL.Summit Lake w kids & Rachel's grad June 2013 060

At Shaker Heights High School, Mark played Wind Ensemble as principal clarinet, and tenor saxophone in the Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Band and Shaker Heights Marching Band as well as the church bell choir. He was awarded best musician in school his senior year.

Mark exemplifies what can happen when nature and nurture meet in the best of circumstances. His parents, who enhanced his education with lots of hands on learning at home, can be credited with helping foster such a bright mind. They traveled abroad. They visited every state, and countless museums and historical sites with Mark leading the way for like his dad, he could read a map like the back of his hand.

In early childhood, Julianne home schooled him enriching his program with trips to the library, theathre, and concerts. Then they lived in Australia for 2 years. When they returned to the States, they bought a house in Cleveland’s best school district so he could attend Shaker Heights High School where he thrived. Mark continued globe- trotting by traveling to Europe on two SHHS marching band tours and as part of the summer exchange program in Goslar, Germany.

Yet he still found time to give back to the community as a volunteer tutor of at-risk elementary students, a youth basketball and baseball league coach, a vacation Bible school and Shaker Heights band camp counselor. On a youth mission trip, he helped construct houses.

He aced the ACT and was awarded a Merit Scholarship for his stellar results in the SAT. Whereas top college programs recruit high school star athletes, Mark received offers from USAs finest engineering school. Torn between Cornell, Purdue, and Carnegie Mellon, the latter sealed the deal awarding a four-year Presidential academic scholarship.

Mark graduated with a boatload of honors: National Merit Scholar Finalist, American Mathematics Competition Top Scorer for SHHS, AP Scholar with Distinction, Michelson-Morley Award (Case Western Reserve University) for his outstanding achievement in math and science.

Yet he is an all around good kid, sensitive and insightful with a dry sense of humor.In spite of all his accolades, he remains humble and unassuming. He could calculate any logistical problem in a snap, yet never made me feel foolish for being bewildered by numbers. With a sly grin, he’d produce the answer as if it were as easy as breathing.

 

Hertzlichen Glückwunsch dear nephew. Go out and rock the world!

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.