Sunday, May 20, 2018

Royal wedding

  • My fascination with the royal family -- and royalty generally -- began when I was in Grade 1 and living in a small town in rural Saskatchewan. We had a pair of young student "practice" teachers who did a unit with us on the royal family. I have been hooked ever since then. :) 
  • We saw the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles & Princess Anne when they visited Manitoba in July 1970 for its centennial. My grandparents came to visit us for the occasion. I was 9 years old, and my sister & I wore the same new dresses we had worn a few weeks earlier for our aunt's wedding (same dress pattern, but hers was lavender & white and mine was lime green & white -- it WAS the Seventies, lol!).  We all attended an ecumenical church service at the fairgrounds in Dauphin, Manitoba (about a 45 minute drive from where we were then living), where Prince Philip read the lesson. The royal couple drove past us in an open-top limousine and my dad got a great picture of the Queen with our Kodak box camera, giving her royal wave with a white-gloved hand. "She was so close I could have reached out & touched her," marvelled my grandfather. 
  • I haven't missed a royal wedding since Princess Anne's (the first one, to Captain Mark Phillips, back in the early 1970s), which I watched as a pre-teen on our NEW colour television set!! (My sister reminded me, when I talked to her this weekend, that we also watched Prince Charles's investiture as Prince of Wales on TV, albeit in black & white.) 
  • I got up at 4 a.m. (Eastern time) to watch the coverage of this latest wedding (even though I'd been up past 11 p.m. watching the Winnipeg Jets game against Las Vegas...!). The wedding didn't actually start until 7 a.m. my time, but of course, half the fun of these things is watching the guests arrive, critiquing the dresses and hats ;)  etc. etc.
  • I figure that by the time the next big royal wedding rolls around (likely George, Charlotte or Louis's), I will be in my late 70s or 80s (gulp), so I'd better enjoy this one now...!  
    • (Prince Andrew's younger daughter, Princess Eugenie, is getting married this October -- also at St. George's, Windsor -- but being a lot further down the line of succession than William & Harry, I very much doubt hers will be televised.)  
  • Some of my friends were attending (and posting online about) early-morning viewing parties, complete with scones, mimosas and fascinators or tiaras. I just watched in my PJs, by myself -- had some breakfast early on & a cup of tea. I did trade comments with some of my friends on Facebook. :) 
  • I will admit I got tears in my eyes when William and Harry emerged from a car and began walking toward the chapel, tall and handsome in their uniforms. Of course I thought about their mom (who was the same age as me) and how very proud she would have been.
  • I adored Meghan's dress -- simple and elegant (and that tiara...!). A few friends on social media expressed disappointment that it was so plain/unadorned and traditional -- but Meghan didn't strike me as a lace and frills type of girl -- and let's face it, this was WINDSOR CASTLE -- you can't get much more traditional than that, right??  ;)  Anything strapless (or even sleeveless) or a neckline that was cut too low or a silhouette that was too revealing would have been out of place (not to mention completely inappropriate). 
  • The music was wonderful -- nothing like a good old Anglican hymn (I could sing along!). ;)  And the young cellist who played while the registry was being signed was amazing -- although his music was so soothing that I felt like I was going to nod off! (I took the opportunity to revive myself by getting up and making another cup of tea, lol.)
  • I also loved all the flowers. I am sure that floral arch over the entryway cost as much as my annual salary when I working...!  
  • The juvenile attendants, including Prince George and Princess Charlotte, were adorable, as expected -- but I think the Mulroney twins, Brian & John, stole the show, carrying Meghan's ultra-long veil.  (Their sister Ivy was also a bridesmaid.)  The photo of one of the twins reacting in delight as the trumpets sounded the bride's entry into the chapel -- complete with a missing tooth, lol -- was priceless. 
    • Most of the American & British coverage I read focused on the twins' mom, Jessica, one of Meghan's best friends. Those of us here in Canada (and especially those of us of an, ahem, certain vintage, cough, cough...!) probably think of them in terms of their famous grandpa, our former prime minister, Brian Mulroney (who must have been busting his buttons) -- or perhaps their equally famous dad, PM Brian's oldest son, Ben, who was not only in attendance but seated in one of the best spots in the house (some thought it was even better than the Queen's!).  
    • It was somewhat bizarre to see Ben Mulroney looming up behind Meghan every time the camera showed her at the altar. He's a very well-known TV host here in Canada. For those of you in the States, think Ryan Seacrest, if Ryan Seacrest also hosted Good Morning America on top of his American Idol and red carpet awards show duties.
    • (I read that Ben remembers Harry's mom, Diana, coming up to see him and his brothers and sister in the nursery at the prime minister's residence at 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa.  Which seems appropriate, when you think that Harry is now Duke of Sussex...) 
  • I enjoyed seeing the guests arrive, although I wish the TV commentators had done a better job of identifying some of them as they arrived. I kept saying, "Umm, umm, I KNOW I know who that is...!" (But could I think of the name? No.)  I was glad to see the Duchess of York (Fergie) there and looking good.  George and Amal Clooney looked as fabulous as ever. Does Victoria Beckham ever crack a smile??  And how about Prince Philip, who will soon be 97 years old?? -- the TV hosts were saying he was likely to arrive on crutches, since he just recently had hip surgery, but he walked in & out of the church unassisted. 
    • I was struck by how grown-up the Earl & Countess of Wessex (Edward & Sophie)'s kids, Louise & James, are now. Both are rumoured to be IVF babies, and I vividly remember that Sophie had an ectopic pregnancy, around the same time I was going through infertility treatment myself. 
    • Princess Anne's daughter, Zara Tindall, was hugely pregnant. Did you know she lost a baby previously? 
    • Did anyone see Princess Margaret's offspring, David and Sarah and their families?  They are not as visible these days (perhaps more so in Britain than hereabouts?) and I haven't seen them in quite some time, so perhaps they were there & (I am sure they were...) and I just didn't see or recognize them. (I took the opportunity to Google them, and yikes, I didn't realize their children are now in their late teens and early 20s. Time flies...!)  
  • Of course, there is already speculation about when Meghan will announce a pregnancy (the anchors on one network (CTV?) were taking bets with each other!!). I even read one headline speculating she is already pregnant!  UGH, give it a rest!! 
Did you watch? What did you think? 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

This sucks :(

My father-in-law is slipping away from us, mentally and physically. :(  Once energetic and restless, the life of the party (he was still mowing his own lawn -- and it's a large one -- when he was 84, and  insisted just four or five years ago, when he was 85, that he could go up on the roof and fix the chimney at stepSIL's house!!), he has been going downhill over the past couple of years, and has deteriorated in a shocking way since Younger Nephew's wedding last month -- particularly over the last two weeks. Dh notices a visible difference (and not a good one) every time he visits -- and he's been visiting more often since we learned the extent of FIL's health issues last week.

The nephews and their wives visited their grandfather last weekend, and reported that FIL did not remember Younger Nephew, nor the girls. :(  But he's never not recognized dh, until today. He thought dh was his younger brother at first (i.e., dh's uncle).  There IS a strong family resemblance -- and Uncle had been there to visit earlier in the day.

But still... :( 

Dh told me today that FIL asked him, "Do you have any kids?"  (!) :(  His heart just sank, and he thought, "I'm not getting into THAT with him...!" so he just said, "No, Dad."

FIL looked puzzled and said, "You never got married?"  (!)

"No, Dad, I'm married, we just don't have any kids."

A while later: "So how many kids do you have?" :( 

I burst into tears when he told me this. :( 

FIL was so, so happy when I was pregnant.  I can remember him coming up the front walk of our house with this huge grin on his face & putting his hand on my stomach & asking, "So how's my baby??"  And then when I lost her, coming up the walk again with this horribly sad expression on his face. I started crying when I saw him because I remembered the other time and how happy he was.

After Katie's funeral, when we paid our first return visit to the cemetery, FIL had already beaten us there. The plaque with the little bud vase attached was not yet mounted on Katie's niche, but there was a bouquet of flowers duct-taped (! -- typical FIL, lol) to the granite wall, with a little note that said (in Italian) "Your grandparents." I don't think he's ever been back there since then -- but I'll never forget that he was the first. 

This sucks. :( 

Monday, May 14, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Voldemort Day*/weekend recap

Not the greatest weekend, I'm afraid:
  • FIL (age 89) has been in declining health lately, and (most troubling to us) has no appetite and has barely been eating lately. StepMIL took him to the hospital last week, where they ran some tests, and then on Friday, dh & BIL went with them to an appointment to review all the results. Without getting into all the details, the prognosis is not good. At 89, you know his days are numbered anyway -- but knowing the end will be coming sooner vs later is depressing, to say the least. 
  • We spent Saturday afternoon with BIL, SIL & one of dh's aunts, visiting not just one, not just two, but THREE cemeteries scattered across the city where various relatives (including my late MIL) are buried. How's that for cheery?? (Aunt was happy & grateful to us for taking her, and we all did have a few laughs together in the car.) (We did not visit the cemetery where Katie is -- (a) it's further out of the city proper, (b) nobody suggested it (aunt probably doesn't even known she's IN a cemetery...) & (c) dh & I had already visited there earlier in the week.) 
  • Voldemort Day itself, however, was just for me -- and we decided to deal with it our usual favourite way -- avoidance, lol -- i.e., spending the afternoon hiding out in a dark movie theatre with a big bag of popcorn. We decided to go see "The Avengers: Infinity War" -- we've seen & enjoyed most of the other Avengers movies and have been waiting a few weeks for the initial crowds to die down. 
    • The popcorn, at least, was excellent...
    • There was a still a healthy dose of the wisecracking humour we love (some very funny moments).  
    • BUT. (Spoiler alert here!)  I had already heard the buzz that not all of the Avengers make it out of this one alive...  But I was not prepared for the very dark tone overall, or for the very bleak ending. Not what I needed today -- (no) thank you, Marvel. :p  
  • Came home and started scrolling through my social media feeds. I wound up just skimming & not "liking" or commenting as much as I usually do, because quite frankly it was too much;  I was getting weepy.  
  • To cheer myself up even further (not), I finished off the day by watching the latest episode of "The Handmaid's Tale."  I suppose I could have PVRd it and gone to bed earlier, but I have enough stuff backlogged on there already. Dh says not to watch if it depresses me. It does, but I almost feel like it's my duty as a woman to watch. ;) (It's also really, really great TV, even if the subject matter makes me want to crawl under the covers & stay there. And it seemed like a weirdly appropriate way to finish off Voldemort Day -- the fetishization of pregnancy, and the tension between those who get pregnant and those who can't, taken to extremes.) 
  • I sense Aunt Flo's impending arrival... cramping, and extra weepiness (although I think all the other stuff this weekend was probably reason enough to feel weepy...!). 
  • On a slightly lighter note, dh & I went to an outlet of the national mega-bookstore earlier this week. I was amused to see that all the mom-related stuff had already been cleared out (or at least moved to a less conspicuous location?) to make room for all the Father's Day-focused stuff.  ;) 
  • And on a VERY bright note, my Winnipeg Jets won their series against the Nashville Predators, and won their first game against the Las Vegas Knights on Saturday night. Game 2 tonight!! (also in Winnipeg). 
    • If they win this series (Western Conference final), they go to play for the Stanley Cup!! -- which would be a dream come true for every Jets fan. (You can read the story of the Jets here.) 
And how was your Voldemort Day weekend??

* Voldemort Day:  As in Harry Potter, That Day Which Shall Not Be Named, lol.  

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

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Voldemort Day

A Facebook find. :)
"A world and a system that has tried to keep us small."
Yes, this.
Thinking of you all today, and wishing you some modicum of peace. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

"The Musgraves" by D.E. Stevenson

"The Musgraves" is the latest selection from my D.E. Stevenson fan group -- discussions will begin shortly. :)  I procured a yellowing and slightly musty used copy of a paperback edition via the Internet and plunged in. Most Stevenson novels are not a particularly difficult read, and I finished the entire thing -- 256 well-spaced pages of a pocket-sized paperback -- in two nights. It's set in the same village as part of "The Tall Stranger" was, and features a couple of the same characters.

Stevenson's novels are generally short on plot but long on character -- and this is probably one of her slighter novels (that I've read, anyway), plot-wise. The story (first published in 1960 -- and reflecting its era) revolves around Esther Musgrave, a widow with three daughters to worry about. There's Delia, the oldest at 26, prickly and bored. She joins the local drama club and wins a role in its forthcoming production of "The Mulberry Coach."  Middle daughter Margaret is married to the wise and steady Bernard... but something is missing from her happy little home. (Just guess...!!)  And youngest daughter Rose is home from school with no idea of what she wants to do with her life. Their lives are thrown into upheaval when their stepson/stepbrother Walter arrives from South Africa after years of absence -- with a startling proposition for Delia.

It's all a tempest in a teapot -- but it's an easy, gentle, pleasant read, and (surprise!) everyone gets a happy ending. :)  As I've said before, the literary equivalent of comfort food, or perhaps a nice cup of tea.  Three stars on Goodreads. :)

This was book #9 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 38% of my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am -- for once! ;)  -- AHEAD of schedule to meet my goal!  :)  

Friday, May 11, 2018

"I Am Not a Mother. But I Am Something."

Just in time for Voldemort Day (my preferred name for That Day Which Shall Not Be Named), the New York Times has published a moving opinion piece: "I Am Not a Mother. But I Am Something."

Paula Carter has no children. She had been in a long-term relationship with a man who had two sons -- but when the relationship with the father ended, so (sadly) did her relationship with the boys. 
I was not the boys’ mother — they had one of those; I was not even their stepmother. But, I was something... 
When we don’t have the words to name something, it is as though it doesn’t exist. Maria Popova, in a beautiful post on her website Brain Pickings, wrote, “To name a thing is to acknowledge its existence as separate from everything else that has a name; to confer upon it the dignity of autonomy while at the same time affirming its belonging with the rest of the nameable world.” 
When you realize you are outside of what has been deemed normal, what has been named and defined, these are the things you feel you lack: Dignity, autonomy, belonging. And a shared understanding of the role you play.
Carter's story is different than mine -- but it speaks to all of us whose stories are more complex than most people are comfortable with -- those of us outside the norm, whose life experiences haven't followed the generally accepted trajectory, who don't neatly fit into the usual categories, who sometimes lack a definitive label (who don't LIKE the labels we've been assigned...!).

Read the whole story, and tell me what you think.

Happy Voldemort Day. (Hang in there, it will soon be over...!)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

"A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership" by James Comey

Continuing to work my way through the stack of current events-related books I've accumulated recently ;) I just finished "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership" by former FBI Director James Comey.

The most-publicized sections -- about Comey's dealings with the Trump White House -- are only a small part of the book, towards the end.  The rest of the book is all about how Comey got to that point, and his reflections on the different people he has worked for throughout his life (starting with his very first boss, Harry Howell, at the local grocery store)  and the examples of leadership (both positive and negative) they provided, as well as other interesting characters he encountered along the way. I very much enjoyed his stories about Sammy "the Bull" Gravano and other mob bosses, Martha Stewart (!), Rudy Giuliani, Presidents Clinton, Bush (45) & Obama,  Vice-Presidents Dick Cheney and Joe Biden, Attorneys General John Ashcroft, Eric Holder, Loretta Lynch and Jeff Sessions, to list just a few names you might recognize.

This is probably the last book where you'd expect to find an ALI (adoption/loss/infertility) angle -- but nope, there it is:  Jim Comey and his wife Patrice (who are roughly the same age as I am) are bereaved parents. They lost their fourth child, Collin, in August 1995 to a Group B strep infection. Those of us who are also bereaved parents will recognize ourselves in the moving passages that describe Collin's brief life and death, and its aftermath, including Comey's reflections on why bad things happen to good people and how this relates to the justice system (channeling grief into purpose). Patrice became an activist, launching a nationwide campaign to ensure all pregnant women and babies born in the United States are now tested for Group B strep:
Patrice wrote publicly about our son and traveled the country supporting efforts to change the standard of care... She didn't do anything alone, but her voice, along with the voices of many other good people, changed our country. All mothers are tested now, and their babies live. Something good followed unimaginable bad. Other mothers will never know what might have been, which is as it should be. 
[As an aside: after my own loss three years later, I can remember reading stories online from other bereaved mothers whose losses were the specific result of a Group B strep infection. A couple of years later, Cousin/Neighbour's Wife told me about her pregnant sister -- whose first baby was born exactly one day after I delivered my stillborn daughter -- and how annoyed she was that her birth plan was being changed because she had tested positive for Group B strep and would need antibiotics administered during delivery. "I'm sure the doctors know what they're doing," I murmured through clenched teeth, thinking, "Does this woman know just how f***ing lucky she is??"]

Comey does come across as a bit of an annoying Boy Scout/Dudley Do-Right sometimes (and he admits he has a healthy ego) -- but let's just say I am more inclined to believe his version of events than the current occupant of the White House, and that he made the best decisions he could (and there were some pretty tough ones with no truly good outcomes) with the information he had at the time. His basic sense of decency and integrity, his belief in the rule of law, his affection for his colleagues at the FBI, and his love for his wife, family and country shine through the pages of this book. At the book's end, he states his optimistic belief that the country will survive Trump and overcome the damage he has created. I hope he is right.

I gave it four stars on Goodreads.

This was book #8 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 33% of my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am -- so far! ;)  -- on track to meet my goal.  :)