My Titanium Underwear

or How I Exercise With A Bad Back

vintage exerciserThis post is about imagining that you have titanium underwear on when you exercise. (It has nothing to do with the Sia song.)

I have a bad back, which I’ve written about before on this blog. I was immobilized with pain for many years, but with patience and perseverance and the right treatments, I am finally getting to exercise again.

Several years ago I took a Spinercise program, to learn how to isolate and work the special muscles of the pelvic floor and the abdomen and lower spine, so that I could activate my core properly. I had to take the course twice though, because I have a number of atrophied muscles close to my torn discs and I couldn’t quite get them to activate for me.


Ouch! No wonder visualizing a corset hurt

In the workbook that came with the course, there was a diagram that likened the process of activating your core muscles to that of tightening a corset around your body. You were supposed to visualize this corset as you tightened each successive muscle group – pulling the imaginary corset strings in to support your spine.

I used this image for years when I needed to engage my core to lift groceries or do anything that required that I support my spine.

There was an inherent problem with this image, however, because of my atrophied muscles. Instead of activating all the muscles (including the atrophied ones), the imaginary corset forced the healthy muscles to take on an extra strain and overcompensate for the damaged muscles. This strain caused extra inflammation and muscular tightness in the hip and spine area, and ultimately caused weakness and instability.

So even though there was something racy about wearing an imaginary corset – it wasn’t working for me.

Then I ordered some super duper Wolfgang Puck unbreakable wine goblets from the illustrious Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue that were reinforced with titanium in the glass.

Wonder woman

Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman in the 1970s. Note the starry, magnificent and powerful panties – my inspiration


George Reeves as Superman – the epitome of super duper underwear

The idea of titanium being so strong and so light inspired me to think about wrapping my lower spine in titanium.

Then the image of the 1970s Wonder Woman, the 1950’s Superman, and the 1960’s Batman sprang to mind – all of them wore quite spectacular underpants.

Thus the idea of having titanium underwear that fit like the costume Wonder Woman wore, was born. And that image really helps me hold my core in the right place when I am moving, and particularly when I’m exercising.


Adam West as Batman – the best Batman EVER!!

Its not only an image of a nicely muscular and lean tummy and butt, but its an image of strength and power. Yes, I can conquer anything in my titanium underwear!

The power of the mind and using visualization as a tool has been studied and proven for decades, and I’ve gone through phases when I’ve spent a lot of time visualizing myself to be whole and well. Yet, this is the first time that its really helped me in a physical sense.

So I’m sharing my secret to success – when you need to support a damaged spine and build strength, just try visualizing yourself as a super hero with titanium shorts on and maybe you’ll find that with time it will help you like its helped me.

I find that instead of pulling all those muscles too tightly, I visualize engaging the appropriate muscle groups, and then add in my visualization of metal pants. They hold me upright and straight and really help me maintain the correct posture without overdoing it. So when I am weight lifting, doing core work, or on my exercise bike I can hold the right position without straining myself. My atrophied muscles are even starting to work again.


Rolling, rolling, rolling on my roller

Of course there is still pain from the damaged discs and my muscles are weak and tired, and working out makes them ache. So, I spend a lot of time on my foam roller (which can hurt like Hell), and stretching, and doing a short form of yoga to keep things from seizing up.

The important thing is that there is progress. I’m standing taller again and feeling kinda super hero like.

…Every day in every way I am getting better and better… repeat... every day in every way I am getting better and better…

Good luck.


My ultimate goal is to be able to lift someone with one arm over my head.

Molby exercise machine

If you can’t succeed with titanium underwear perhaps this device will help you.






Interesting Flights


I’m sure many people have stories to tell about interesting flights they’ve been on – like the time my husband and I were flying home from England, and somewhere over the North Atlantic the stewardesses came around asking for men’s leather belts to tie a man down. That’s all the details we were ever told. We made an emergency landing in Newfoundland and the guy was unceremoniously hauled off the plane in handcuffs. I figured the guy was just drunk and unruly, but my husband was white knuckled the rest of the way thinking the worst possible scenario – we’ll never know. At least we made it home.

When I was in my 20s I was flying a lot due to summer jobs, internships, and family visits.  Most of the time I was traveling alone, and to my happiness found myself sitting next to interesting people. We’d end up sharing a few drinks and have lively conversations. It was a great way to pass the time.

These days, with the way airlines squash you in like sardines, there is a constant dread of being stuck next to someone who snores or who spreads out into your tiny space with arms and legs and loud music in their ear buds. But I can’t recall any such bad experiences back then – funny how that is.

Here are some short accounts of some of my more memorable flights:

I was flying from Toronto to Washington, DC and was in the window seat just behind the First Class partition wall and I found myself sitting next to a senior officer of the US Air Force. I instantly noticed him and his staff when they entered the plane because they looked very serious and were in full uniform carrying briefcases. I didn’t know enough at the time just by looking at his ribbons and stars who he might be, but I knew he was high in rank.

glider pipistrel usa

A glider is a completely silent plane that literally glides on air currents. image from Pipistrel USA

He told me that he had been in Ottawa on official business and was on his way back to the Pentagon. We chatted about my internship at the Smithsonian, and he told me about all the different fighter jets and other aircraft that he’d flown.

Eventually I said that I always thought that it would be wonderful to go gliding.

I told him about how a glider had landed not far from where my parents lived and that I’d seen footage of flights that looked incredibly beautiful. He said that he loved gliding and that he’d love to take me up there sometime. He gave me his card and told me to call him at the Pentagon and he’d take me.       Wow.

I chickened out and never called. I missed a golden opportunity – a lifetime adventure – too afraid of going out with such an impressive and powerful man. (Stooopid me)


On a flight from Athens to Toronto I sat next to the editor of a travel magazine.


I went on a great trip to Santorini. image from

We chatted for several hours (its a long flight) and had several glasses of wine and a couple of meals. We  talked about her work and her trip to Greece. I told her about my work on digs, and my travels around the country, and at the end of the flight she offered me a job writing for her magazine.

Just like that!

She gave me her card and told me to call her, and when I was ready, I’d have a job.

Life was too busy for me at that time, and I never followed up. I was in the midst of writing my thesis and finishing my degree and couldn’t fathom adding to my already heavy work load.  And then –  life just moved on.


On my first flight to Athens (from Halifax)  I was traveling with a friend and we were very late for boarding our flight on Olympic Air.

Olympic 747 staircase (

Spiral staircase on Olympic Airline’s 747. (image from

We ran all the way to the terminal and by the time we got there, there were no regular seats left, so they took us up the spiral staircase to the top floor of the 747 to First Class.

We were the only passengers up there for the entire flight, and we even had our very own stewardess. From where we sat at the front of the plane, we could look into the cock pit.

This was in the ‘olden’ days when cock pits weren’t locked. The pilots came and went, visited with us and the stewardess, and invited us in to see the view.

We were served champagne and great food. It was amazing.

Two poor University kids on our first big adventure to Greece, going First Class all the way.



An example of a modern, carved Iconostasis

On another flight from Athens to Toronto I sat next to a Greek Canadian artist. We talked about art and Greece and our travels. It turned out that he designed and created the massive and intricately carved screens (Iconostasis) for Greek Orthodox churches and that he had commissions all over the world.

It also turned out that his brother was a film director for CBC, and had filmed a documentary on my father – small world!


Barbie doll stewardessOn a flight from Toronto to Washington DC I sat next to an off duty American stewardess. She had perfect blonde hair, perfect makeup and perfect clothes and was very pretty. She looked like a Barbie doll stewardess. She was really nice and fun and we talked and talked during the flight.

She told me about her training, and all about the things that she’d seen go wrong on her flights – fires in the galley, medical crises, and on and on. It was fascinating, but it was also unnerving to hear how often emergencies happened on airplanes and the passengers never knew.



On a flight from Ankara to Athens I didn’t sit next to the dog – the dog had a seat of his his own across the aisle from me. He was a big blonde dog and he had a very elegant, wealthy lady sitting in the window seat next to him.

He didn’t buy me drinks or offer to take me somewhere interesting, but he made quite an impression on me.

The airline was Turkish Air as I recall, and it wasn’t a big airplane. The dog and I and the elegant lady (and whoever sat next to me) were in the front row.

athens airport

image: athens-airport-info

When the plane came in to land at Athens, it took a sudden sharp turn and plunged like a sea eagle does – straight down all at once. The engines were roaring and the entire plane was violently shaking all over. The seats were shifting and sliding around, stuff was falling, and I remember people screaming and praying and crying.

I looked over at the blonde dog across the aisle from me and he had braced himself for landing with great dignity. He had forced all four of his feet into the seat to secure himself during the precipitous descent. His composure during those few terrifying moments kept me from complete panic.

Then the plane suddenly raced to a forceful and abrupt stop. We’d landed. We were alive. People cheered and wept.

The elegant lady was hysterical and shaking as she and Mr. Dog got out of their seats and went down the metal stairs to the tarmac. Then Mr. Dog calmly found an appropriate spot and peeded, and the journey was over.

Best person on a flight ever – Mr. Dog.


Mr. Dog was a Saluki – a sight hound, also known as a Persian Hound. It is one of the oldest breeds of hunting dogs. image:








1980 Atlantic Folk Festival – post 3

I found this clipping from 1980 in some old things I was going through recently. Since people seem to be very interested in my previous posts about the 1980 Atlantic Folk Festival I thought you might be interested in reading it – just click on the image to get a full screen version.

1980 Folk Festival article complete

1980 article about the Atlantic Folk Festival and the Outlaw Bikers Convention

my two previous posts about the Festival:

Queen and Adam Lambert World Tour


Betty 1978

Happy Me in 1978

All I want to listen to these days is Queen, and its all because I went to see Queen and Adam Lambert on their World Tour two years ago in Calgary in 2014. Yup, two years ago and here I am still going on about it…

You see, the sheer energy and brilliance of the music re-lit a fire in me and brought me back to my true self. My happy self. It was life changing.

I know this sounds overly dramatic… but its true – it was a powerful turning point for me.

Like everyone who listened to rock in the 1970s and 80s, Queen was a significant part of the music landscape back then.

And as the years passed, their music became the backdrop of my entire adult life. In a way I took their music for granted because it was ubiquitous; not that I didn’t love their music, but it was just such a familiar part of my life.

All four members of the band were amazing songwriters and musicians. Their blended talents produced some of the most original and memorable music of the Rock Era.

Queen 70s

A great shot of Queen from the 70s – I love how destroyed Roger Taylor looks. From left to right Roger Taylor, Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon.

When Freddie Mercury died in 1991 it felt like Queen died too.

But Queen is still very much alive – even without Freddie and John Deacon.

Adam Lambert has been touring with them as their new front man, and they rock…

Queen Adam Lambert Idol 2009 finale

Brian May, Adam Lambert and Roger Taylor, 2009 Season 8 of American Idol finale performance. photo Rolling Stone

During Season 8 of American Idol, we watched Adam Lambert dominate the competition with his intense artistry and powerhouse voice. We cheered for him from his first audition to his final performance. And when Brian May and Roger Taylor joined him for a finale performance, it was exciting to see the blending of such great talent. There seemed to be a natural and intuitive bond between them. We knew that if Adam Lambert ever toured with Queen we had to go.

And lo and behold – they joined forces, and as soon as the tour was announced, and the minute the tickets went on sale, we got online and frantically started trying to buy seats.

We lucked out. Our seats were near center stage, only several feet from Brian May and Adam Lambert. We were close enough to see their expressions as they performed, and even close enough to see May’s tears as he spoke of the late Freddie Mercury during one of the more emotional moments of the show.

Queen setlist calgary 2014

Setlist from the Saddledome/Calgary concert 2014, image from (I’m pretty sure they played I’m In Love With My Car at the concert – one of my many favorites – but it doesn’t appear on this list).

The first song they played got lost in the rotten acoustics of the Calgary Saddledome – it took a few moments for the crowd and the band to find a balance, and then we were off…

Queen and Lambert

Adam Lambert and Brian May – and you can barely see Roger Taylor on drums.

I sang and danced and laughed and cried throughout the entire concert just like everyone in the boisterous crowd. It released a pure joy from the very core of me that I hadn’t felt in decades.

I’ve been to other concerts and seen other famous musicians in person before, but in some cases it felt like they were just phoning it in – bored with having to repeatedly play their big hits, and road tired. But Queen and Lambert took on the show with commitment and energy. Each song built on the next, and one hit after another continued to amp up the crowd. It was clear that everyone onstage were of one mind and heart as they played.

INGLEWOOD, CA - JULY 03: Musician Brian May (L) of Queen and singer Adam Lambert perform at the Forum on July 3, 2014 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Brian May of Queen and Adam Lambert  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

And something that’s new to me – the crowd was comprised of all ages – grandparents all the way down to toddlers – which surprised me, though in retrospect its not so surprising given that Queen music is timeless and known to many generations now.

You hear performers say that they feed off the energy of the crowd, and I’d say that it goes both ways. The crowd got louder and more vibrant as the band and the vocalist threw themselves into each song.

Queen has never shied from the campy, and much of their lyrics are rich with humor; these qualities shone through. Lambert sang and performed with his superb voice and vibrant personality.

lambert killer queen

Adam Lambert singing Killer Queen – he’s an incredibly entertaining performer and a killer vocalist (and he has great outfits too).

And though no one can replace Freddie Mercury, Adam gave all the best of himself and he was truly amazing in his own right.

At one point, at the end of a particular favorite, the crowd went wild and Lambert turned back from center stage to walk back to May. You could see May gesturing and telling him that it was for him – to go back – take his bows – and revel in the mad hysteria of admiration that was flowing from the crowd. It was a surprisingly humble moment to witness. To see Lambert, who is such an incredibly talented and experienced performer, be so unassuming in front of the roaring audience. It was also telling evidence of May’s generosity of spirit and comradery.

I know I sound like a fan girl (my kids call me that) but Brian May’s solo Last Horizon, was some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever experienced.


Dr.Brian May performing his solo on the guitar he built with his father when he was a teen – the famous Red Special. Dr May has been busy all these years. After the concert I looked him up online and found out about all his accomplishments including his PHD in Astro Physics; the scores he’s written for films, TV, radio and stage; his passion for stereoscopic images; his dedication to animal rights; and his commitment to social reform. Plus he keeps on rocking and not just with Queen, he’s had a successful solo career and plays with many other bands and solo artists who want to work with the great one.

It felt like it flowed directly from him across the crowd and into my heart, lifting me from myself – freeing me from the present. It was moving, sensitive, powerful and visionary.  I have never heard the guitar played with such mastery.

The images projected on the screen behind him were of the stars and the vastness of space and they helped pull you into the music, but his presence on stage superseded all the lights and special effects.

He played his piece with passion and soul. He was present in the moment and yet seemingly lost in his own world. The guitar was really a part of the man, and the artist was sharing something private from deep inside.

I was rapt…

… that is… until I was interrupted partway through the piece by my daughter who wanted me to go with her to the washroom. It was extremely hard to pull myself away from where I stood.  But May and his music were filling the entire stadium and I found that even as we hiked across the floor and up tiers of stairs to the tiled washroom, his music was just as powerful.

It was that performance more than any of the other numbers that made a lasting impression on me. It was a privilege to be there.

I found out what so many other people already knew – that Brian May is a masterful musician – a true artist.

After the concert, I began in earnest to listen to the recordings of Queen again. It was with a fresh perspective and newfound enjoyment. Being able to look back and understand the eras in which they worked and know who their peer musicians were, their music has taken on a new dimension for me.

queen-band-aid May and Mercury

Freddie Mercury and Brian May performing at Live Aid in 1985. Queen’s performance at Live Aid has been called the greatest rock performance of all time.

I’ve never been a real aficionado of music (I don’t know much about the technical aspects of composing, playing and recording) but I can now, with age and experience, appreciate the creations of this unique group of artists and more deeply feel the music and lyrics and vocals better than I ever could when I was younger.

In the 1970s their music was revolutionary and was part of the British scene that came over to North America. We only ever heard their big hits like We Are the Champions and Bohemian Rhapsody on the radio and at sports venues, even though they have a huge catalog of original music (including 18 number one albums, 18 number one singles, and 10 number one DVDs*).

Back then, albums were often conceived as fully realized works of art. From the cover to the careful planning of the progression of sounds and songs, the albums deeply reflected what the musicians wanted to express with their music.

queen Brian and Freddie

Freddie Mercury is consistently voted one of the top Rock vocalists of all time and Brian May is regularly voted one of the top Rock guitarists of all time. May and Mercury wrote many of the group’s biggest hits.

Nowadays with the downloading of music you can choose which hits you want on your personal playlist – which has its merits. But the unique flavor and vision of the artist somehow seems more watered down without the almost operatic rise and fall of the plot of a fully realized collection of works.

Within Queen’s oeuvre you can find a full range of styles and themes – hard rocking pieces like Tie Your Mother Down and Hitman; soft ballads like ’39; tender love songs like Love of My Life and Bijou; comical songs; songs about life and death – love and loss (Who Wants to Live Forever); humanity. These aren’t superficial pop songs – they’re far more intelligent and complex than most of the rock music out there (and yes, Fat Bottomed Girls is a smarter rock tune than most of the junk on the radio today).

Freddie and Daffodils

1,001 yellow daffodils and Freddie Mercury. A still from the video of I’m Going Slightly Mad, from the album Innuendo.

It has been a remarkable reawakening for me – to rediscover this band after so many years – its like they are brand new to me again.

Lately I’ve been listening to Innuendo, the last album that Queen recorded with Freddie Mercury. Knowing that Mercury was suffering with the last stages of HIV/Aids at the time of the recording only adds more depth to many of the lyrics and music. His voice can bring tears to my eyes in The Show Must Go On and These Are The Days of Our Lives. While the song Don’t Try So Hard seems to come from a man who wants to share what he’s learned about life.

Queen_Innuendo Headlong, Ride the Wild Wind and Hitman from Innuendo are my favorite driving songs now – they’re great for speeding along the highway and singing out loud, (and also great for dancing in the kitchen).

And the song I’m Going Slightly Mad sums up my general state of mind at this stage of my life.

I’m grateful that these artists shared themselves with the world. It takes a real bravado to do so – to create something completely new and gift it to everyone out there.

And it takes a real commitment to their art to continue working and performing and honing their mastery.

Like many great artists Queen has suffered blistering reviews from critics, but they weren’t making their music to suit the critics or go with what was the next in-thing – they followed their own path, making music that was true to themselves – never getting into a rut, never just making the same old sound over and over again to sell records.

queen adam lambert adamlamberttv blogspot

Roger Taylor is also a prolific and incredibly talented musician. In addition to being a song writer, vocalist and drummer for Queen, he has released several albums of his own. Like Brian May he is a multi-instrumentalist and performs with many major artists. Image from:

And like all real art, Queen’s music stands the test of time.

There have been multitudes of rock bands over the years but in my opinion few have the same breadth of talent, breadth of material, and incredible musicianship of Queen. I guess I really am a fan girl after all.

Queen AL and crew hollywood treatment com

The entire band on their World Tour: left to right: Neil Fairclough on bass, Rufus Taylor on percussion and drums, Adam Lambert lead vocals, Roger Taylor drums, Brian May guitar, Spike Edney keyboard

Note: You can still catch the tour in Europe this year if you’re lucky – everywhere they play they get rave reviews and perform to sell out crowds (wish I could go again!). For a full listing of venues check out Queen online at

To finish, I’m including some quotes that speak to Brian May’s unique and brilliant musicianship: 

“May delivers the magic dust that makes the music insanely interesting and provides an everlasting durability.”

“Brian May plays very dynamic solos. His riffs are often just running scales, but he does it with incredible variances in timing and attack. Other guitarists can attempt to copy his style, but they fall short of his abilities. He injects such emotion into his work that the listener not only hears his solos, but feels them, as well – often with lightening bolt intensity. He rises above most all other rock guitarists and certainly deserves a spot in the top ten.”

“…the greatest guitar-god fans say Brian May is one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, guitarist of all time…”

“Even other guitar greats admit they cannot replicate what BM does. His sound is unique, his solos so intricate and clever, his playing is precise. He dips under the radar because he operates in his own incomparable universe.”

(the quotes are from the following website:

* statistics from

Dress Ups

I had a recent revelation about a favorite painting of mine called Dress Ups by my father, the late artist Bernard Safran. I think its because I’ve been examining my parents’ lives more critically in the last few years while working on this blog, and I see things from a different perspective than I did when I was caught up in earlier family mythologies.

For years I’ve looked at the painting as a beautiful and poetic work – which it is. But now the painting also says something different to me. I don’t normally read meaning into an artist’s work (especially my own father’s), and yet I can’t help but see sorrow in this painting when I look at it.

My sister and I are featured in the almost life-size painting. I am 7 years old and she is 12. We are wearing beautiful old dresses that my mother bought at the Salvation Army. The hat I am wearing was made by my paternal grandmother for my mother.

Dress Ups by Bernard Safran 1967

Dress Ups by Bernard Safran, oil on masonite, 1967. The horizontal lines you see in the paint are ridges of damage caused by someone packing the painting in corrugated cardboard when it traveled across Canada for the 1976 Olympics show.

In the painting, I stand facing the viewer holding an old baby doll. The doll’s name was Billy and he belonged to my mother (and her sisters) back in the late 1920s or early 1930s. Its head and hands were made of a composite of saw dust and glue and were finely crafted to look real.  I particularly liked his little hands because they were the little chubby fists of a young baby. The body and arms and legs and feet were made of cotton and stuffed with something heavy (probably sawdust or sand), and when you held the doll it felt weighted like a real baby. Billy felt solid and warm.

Dress Ups by Bernard Safran detail of baby doll

Dress Ups, detail of baby doll

I remember that my mother found Billy in the attic to give to me because I’d been whining and complaining that I wanted an antique doll. Both my sister and older cousin had inherited beautiful bisque dolls with long ringlets and silky dresses, and I was jealous.

So my mother found Billy and gave him to me to play with, and even though the doll had some awful cracks in its head I loved him and played with him far more than I did with my own little baby doll that I’d had for years.

I suppose that my father saw me with the doll and saw something more in it than I did.

The doll, in retrospect, was very grim and looked like something you might see in a horror movie today. The head had deep fissures with curled edges; some of his fingers were broken off; the surface was peeling; the back of his head had a hole in it; and only one eye still opened and shut.

Dress Ups by Bernard Safran, detail 7 yr old

Dress Ups, detail 7 yr old

I see now that the broken and damaged baby doll could be viewed as a kind of Memento Mori – a brutal reminder of death set in stark contrast to the clear beauty and innocence of childhood.

I see that the children are dressing up to pretend to be adults; longing to be older and yet not understanding the consequences of age.

And I see that the darkness of the background surrounds and isolates the girls and emphasizes their vulnerability.

Even my own face is more meaningful  to me now – the gaze of this 7 year old is direct and unflinching; the expression somber. I look less like a child and more like a sad, world weary grown up.

Dress Ups by Bernard Safran detail 12 yr old

Dress Ups, detail 12 yr old

And why does my sister stand apart from me and look off to the side? Is it that at 12 she is ready to leave childhood behind?

Something even more troubling to me is the knowledge that my parents lost their third baby when I was small – it was full term and was born dead. Does this painting somehow echo that grief that I know my mother never recovered from…

My father painted Dress Ups in 1967 not long after his first solo show in New York City failed, and not long after leaving the safety of Time Magazine with all its perks and prestige. It was well into his years of depression and paranoia.

I don’t think its a stretch to say that Dress Ups reveals a deeper, darker meditation on life and death than I ever wanted to see before.