Monday, January 22, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Gallery of memories

Mali's post about missing visits to the art gallery made me think about my own relationship to them. I have very little real artistic ability in terms of drawing & painting, etc. I don't remember art class being offered in school once I got beyond junior high and, growing up in small towns no closer than about 50 miles from the nearest city, art galleries weren't something I grew up visiting. (Museums, both large and small, were something we frequented more often.)

The first time I remember visiting an art gallery was when I was about 17. The Winnipeg Art Gallery was hosting a rare touring exhibit from the Hermitage in Russia -- this was in the late 1970s, peak Cold War years -- and one of my artistic friends was keen to go, so she, her sisters, mine & I all went. There were lots of Old Masters, names we'd only ever heard from books, and it was a pretty impressive experience.

As I've gotten older, I've come to appreciate art & art galleries more. Living in Toronto, I've been to the Art Gallery of Ontario several times, usually when there's been an interesting exhibit on. (They will soon be hosting the Infinity Mirrors exhibit that Mel wrote about a while back.) I especially enjoy their collection of Group of Seven works, and they had an Emily Carr exhibit a few years ago that I quite enjoyed.

For some reason, I have known about the McMichael Canadian Art Collection since I was a kid. I think I saw a documentary about it on CBC television, and I was enchanted by the idea of a log house out in the country transformed into an art gallery. Since I moved to the Toronto area, I would see stories about it from time to time in the local media. Dh & I finally took a day off & went to see it one fall day at least 10-20 years ago, and we both really enjoyed the experience.

As I've mentioned in some previous posts, we now live within an easy drive of the McMichael. Last year, I decided to take out a membership, and I am so glad I did. Two visits per year, and the membership pays for itself. We've already been there several times to view new exhibits, attend lectures, and just stroll around the lovely grounds (the fall colours, in particular, can be spectacular). 

It occurred to me, as I was writing a comment on Mali's post (which currently seems to be languishing in moderation...! ;)  ), that Robert & Signe McMichael, the couple who generously donated their beautiful property & art collection to the people of Ontario, did not have any children. I did some Googling and found Robert McMichael's obituary, which does not mention any offspring among his surviving family. (I also learned that Signe McMichael used to personally greet groups of schoolchildren visiting the gallery.)

But what a legacy!

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.  

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Different realities

Dh & I were at a local mall yesterday, and there were signs in the parking garage, reminding drivers to lock their cars, check the back seat, etc. 

"They have to remind you not to forget your kid in the back seat??" dh remarked.  

"Well, it could be that,"  I acknowledged (we've all heard the tragic stories of babies & toddlers accidentally left strapped in car seats in cars on hot summer days...), but then I added, "but it could also be a reminder to, you know, check when you return to make sure nobody is hiding out there, waiting for you." 

HE HAD NEVER HEARD OF THIS. Like, it had never occurred to him. EVER.   

I said, "Seriously??!" 

I think every woman old enough to drive has had this drummed into her head ad nauseum, don't you?  

It just drove home to me (certainly not for the first time) how men and women live in completely different realities sometimes...  

(I don't suppose he's ever walked through a dark street with his keys interlaced between his fingers either...?)  

Have you ever had any moments like this, when you realized what different realities men & women sometimes inhabit? 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

"How soon is too soon?"

There was an interesting article in the Globe & Mail recently that posed the question "How soon is too soon?"  Apparently comedian Patton Oswalt is coming under fire for getting engaged (and then remarrying) a little more than a year after the sudden death of his wife at age 46.

There doesn't appear to be a concrete answer to the "how soon?" question, but if you cross that line, you'll probably hear about it...!

And yet... I keep thinking the people who are crying "too soon!" about adults acquiring a new partner/spouse are probably the very same people who would tell parents who have just suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth, "You can always have another baby" or "The best thing you can do is to get back on the horse (!) & have another baby as soon as possible."  (This used to be -- and might still be, for all I know -- common post-loss advice from doctors, nevermind your mother or best friend or neighbour.)  Right?

Thoughts?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

"The Tall Stranger" by D.E. Stevenson

Yay, I finished my first book of 2018!  :)   And what better way to ease my way into a new year of reading than with a new (to me) novel by one of my favourite authors, the ever-reliable D.E. Stevenson.  

I've read & reviewed several Stevenson books on this blog before. Until her death in 1973, DES, a distant cousin of Robert Louis Stevenson, wrote charming light romances featuring well-drawn characters (with strong females being a specialty) and lively dialogue, often set in the vividly described Scottish border country. I loved reading her books during my teenage years, and I was happy to rediscover her a few years ago:  some  of her books have recently been reissued in print, e-book and audiobook formats (alas, not all -- yet!!), and there is a Yahoo group devoted to reading, discussing and promoting her work.  

Our group's current discussion is focusing on "The Tall Stranger," originally published in 1957. We already met two of the main characters previously in "Five Windows," and there is a visit to Ryddelton in the Scottish border country, the setting of  several other DES books.  

("The Tall Stranger" is currently out of print but, thanks to the Internet, I was able to source a slightly musty used copy at a (relatively) reasonable price -- although the shipping -- all the way from New Zealand, as it turned out! -- cost as much as the book itself...!)  

The plot of "The Tall Stranger" is predictable in some ways, but the characters are so well drawn & the story moves along so easily, it's forgiveable.  Successful interior designer Barbie France is laid low, mentally & physically, by illness, so her roommate and best friend Nell arranges to send her to her Aunt Amalie's home to recuperate. While there, she has her teacup read and is told to beware a tall stranger -- perhaps Henry Buckland, whom she meets at a friend's wedding?    

ALI notes: Adoption, loss & infertility matters are not major plot points, but do figure somewhat prominently in this book.  Barbie's Aunt Amalie is a childless widow who raised both Barbie (daughter of her late brother) and Edward, the son of her late husband, as her own (and secretly hopes they will marry someday).  There's Agnes, a neglected waif who lives with her flighty mother, Glore, across the hall from Barbie and Nell. (Much as I disliked Glore and the way she (mis)treated her daughter, I also found it somewhat jarring how blithely Barbie & Nell assume they could easily arrange to have Agnes removed from her mother's custody and adopted. Oh, the innocence of the 1950s...!)  And there's Bet, who claims to have a mysterious (imaginary?) playmate named Rose Ann. 

This was the first book (#1) that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 4% of my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am -- so far!! ;)  -- on track to meet my goal.  :)  

Monday, January 15, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Heinz 57

Last Friday was my (BIG GULP) 57th birthday.  And like the Heinz 57 of my post title ;)  my emotions are mixed about turning another year older. Perhaps because I'm rapidly approaching the 20-year mark since my one & only pregnancy (LMP date February 8, 1998), cut short by stillbirth 26 weeks later in August.

Twenty years is a frickin' long time. My daughter, had she been here, would be 19 going on 20, and no doubt in university or college.  Her peers -- the babies & toddlers of my friends and cousins and coworkers -- are now grown up, or at least teenagers, and many of them are having kids of their own now too.  There is so much that dh & I have missed out on -- although the reminders don't seem to come as thick and fast as they once did. (But when they do, they can still hurt...)

There's no getting around the fact that 57 years represents a big chunk of time that has passed since I made my debut on this earth. There are days when I feel every bit of my age. (In my knees, in particular...!)  My hair is getting greyer (although my YOUNGER sister still has more grey hair than I do -- a fact that gives me some comfort, lol) -- the fine lines around my eyes are getting more noticeable. I don't bounce back from colds, or from one too many glasses of wine ;) , or from late nights, as quickly as I did when I was in my 20s.

But as my wonderful grandma used to joke about birthdays, "Consider the alternative...!"  As the saying goes, old age is a privilege that is denied to many. I think about our hairdresser N., who died last fall at 55;  the mother-in-law I never met, who died at 53;  and so many others who, even if they had kids, never got to see them marry or hold their grandchildren. 

Aging -- with or without children -- isn't always fun. But on balance, I'm glad to be here. :) 

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.  

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Worlds collide

This past weekend, while I was watching television and aimlessly scrolling through Facebook on my cellphone, my cousin shared a photo on my timeline, without explanation. It was of a middle-aged guy, grinning directly at me through the camera.

My first thought (which I typed out as a comment) was "Am I supposed to know this person?"  He looked vaguely familiar, and my first thought was that it was possibly another distant relative of ours. I found myself focusing on the university sports team shirt he was wearing, and trying to figure out how both my cousin & I would happen to know a person from that geographic area.

Then it all clicked.

I DID know this guy. I went to high school with him, some (mega-gulp...) 40 years ago now...! What's more, I knew/know his wife, from an even earlier part of my life in yet another town. We all wound up at the same university residence together, & I watched in bemusement as these two people from totally different parts of my life struck up a romance. Several years later, they showed up, married, at my 10-year high school reunion. It turned out they were living in the same town/area where my aunt & a couple of my cousins lived (and still do). It's a pretty small place and I kind of figured they all probably knew each other. 

So it wasn't all that surprising that they would eventually wind up at a party together and figure out they had me in common. Still, it was a weird feeling when it finally happened.  I tried to imagine how the conversation unfolded that led to my name entering the picture, and what they told each other about me (!). ;)  My classmate is a good guy, one of those people that everyone liked. We just moved in different circles and never really had much to say to each other.  (You know what high school can be like...!)

Naturally, I wound up creeping both his and his wife's Facebook pages ;) and while most of their information is private, I saw enough to figure out that they have two grown-up kids -- including a daughter who appears to be exactly the same age that my Katie would have been.

Of course. :p  Ouch. :(

The world is a smaller place than we think sometimes, and smaller still since the advent of the Internet. For the longest time, I was used to living a life that was divided into neat, separate little compartments. There were all the different places where I lived, growing up and going to school.  There was my life at university and my life at grad school. (People who had only known me in high school and encountered me at a university party were shocked to find out that I could actually be kind of fun...!).  After school, there was my life at work, and the people who knew me there. There's my family, 1,000+ miles away, and dh's family closer by (and within those categories, various sub-categories:  my mom's side, my dad's side, his mom's side, etc. etc.).  There's my public identity -- a middle-aged retired woman without children or grandchildren -- and my private identity as a bereaved childless mother, which has flourished under pseudonyms in various outlets on the Internet over the past 20 years. Each compartment comes with its own cast of characters and presumably its own perceptions of me, and seldom the twain has met.

Or did. The advent of the Internet, and social media in particular, has brought together the various strands of my life in sometimes weird and sometimes wonderful ways.

For example, for a long time, I resisted accepting Facebook friend requests from coworkers -- and blurring the lines between my personal and professional lives. Eventually I did accept a request from a former coworker. And of course, it wasn't long before I realized that we had a friend in common -- a woman who had attended our pg loss support group. Eventually, of course, my coworker friend noticed too and asked how I knew this other woman. (They had known each other for years and played and coached soccer together.)  Gulp. So I told her. She was shocked, of course, and practically in tears over it the next time we met for lunch.  We hadn't started working together until a couple of years post-Katie... then she got pregnant.  Bringing up the subject of my own failed pregnancy seemed like rather poor taste, and obviously nobody else had ever mentioned it to her (turnover being what it is, many of them probably didn't know either), so she had no idea I had lost a child.

Once, two of my friends -- one from high school, one another former coworker -- started a somewhat heated debate on FB. I suddenly realized that they (plus yet ANOTHER friend who wasn't involved in the conversation) actually had something in common: all three of their mothers came from the same very small rural town (I knew that at least two of the moms knew each other).  One way to change the topic in a hurry. ;)   

Some people are used to this, of course:  they have lived in the same small town for all or most of their life, where everyone knows everyone and half the town is related to each other.  Even in a big metropolitan area like this one, it's not that hard to figure out that you have mutual acquaintances. For example, dh quickly figured out that he'd once worked with the sister of the woman who co-facilitated our support group with us. Another support group example: not only did one client's parents live just down the street from FIL & stepMIL, they all frequented the same social club. The sister of one of dh's coworkers on FB is FB friends with one of his cousins. And on & on it goes... The Internet has just made it faster & easier to figure out those connections.

I will admit that I haven't always liked it when the different parts of my world collide... but that's the way of the world, it seems...

How about you? Have you ever had your worlds collide like this? 

Monday, January 8, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Some annoying things

  • Missing the last several #MicroblogMondays due to Christmastime busy-ness and not being organized or inspired enough to write some posts in advance. 
  • Not being able to go outside without donning a heavy coat, scarf, hat, gloves and klunky boots. :p  (And then tracking melting snow & salt onto the tiles of our condo's entryway.) 
  • Ice buildup in the corners of all the windows.  
  • Getting a bad cold on Boxing Day, and having it drag on... and on... and on... (I still have it, although I did start feeling a lot better late last week).   
  • (REALLY annoying thing:)  Dealing with a visit from Aunt Flo at the same time (after an absence of 146 days, just two weeks out from my 57th (!!) birthday). 
  • Going to the movies & finding that most of the people at the ticket purchase counter have been replaced by automated kiosks that require a debit or credit card. (Naturally, that's just made the lineups for the one or two humans who are still working at the counter that much longer...). 
  • Knowing we have to wait at least another year to see the next Star Wars movie. :(  
  • People who stand in the aisles of the supermarket &/or pharmacy chatting on their phones or to someone with them (right in front of the section where you need to get something, of course...), completely oblivious as you try to maneuver (sp?) around them. 
  • Having too many current & upcoming expenses and obligations to escape the winter to a sun destination, even for a week. :( 
  • Seeing photos on social media of all your friends & relatives who have done it.  :p  
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.