Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Year in review

Happy new year!  I realize it's been awhile since my last post. What can I say... year end at work, holidays, Christmas, freezing rain/ice storm, travelling DURING the ice storm, etc. etc. etc. I am actually hoping for a slightly less exciting 2014. :p

Anyway...!  I started doing this year-end meme three years ago... although some of the answers don't seem to change much from year to year, it's a great way to look back and keep track. Feel free to use on your own blog (& let me know if you do!).

1. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

As I have said in previous years' posts, I generally don't make new year's resolutions anymore -- they tend to be pretty much the same, year after year. So here are the perennials, and the progress I made (or didn't) in 2013:
  • Lose weight. (Nope -- my weight seems permanently stuck in the same five-pound range. :p)
  • Exercise more. (And hopefully lose more weight...!)  -- Nope.  Probably got a little LESS exercise, since dh now drops me off directly in front of the commuter train station. Since he lost his job, we no longer have to make the daily trek from the parking garage over the bridge across the highway, up & down stairs. On the other hand, I am now carrying my own briefcase for the first time in 23 years -- weight training??)  
  • Write more in my journal (blog??). Haven't written in my paper journal in years. Blogging: not quite as many posts as I wrote in 2012, but almost.  
  • Read more of the books that have piled up around the house. (Need to do better at this... the faster I read, the more I buy, it seems... yikes!) I did a better job on this resolution this year. I read 25books (and am on #26) -- just about one every two weeks -- which is much better than the less than 10 I read last year. I've been bringing my e-reader on the commute, just in case I finish my newspapers and have nothing else to read, and I think that's helped.
  • Tackle some of the clutter that never seems to go away. ("Some" being the operative word...) Took several more boxes of stuff to Goodwill... and shuffled some stuff around (= into the basement) -- but there is still scope to do much more...!
  • Finally do something with the spare bedroom that was to have been the nursery (get new furniture & linens to replace the old castoffs). Still on the to-do list... 
  • Set aside the nephews' scrapbooks for awhile, & start a scrapbook for dh & me (that will hopefully be finished in time for our 25th anniversary in 2010). And maybe (finally) start Katie's, too. Sadly, have not done any scrapbooking since fall 2009. However, a new Michaels recently opened in town, and dh gave me a giftcard for Christmas, so we'll see...!  
2. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?

Went to New York City!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Nobody close-close. But several of my friends & cousins became GRANDPARENTS.  (!!)

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Thankfully (& knocking wood), nobody close. I did attend at least one funeral home visitation that I can think of (for the father of dh's cousin's wife).

5. What countries did you visit?

 The U.S. -- New York City specifically. ; )

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

More calm, less drama. :p 

7. What date(s) from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

April 30th -- the day dh joined the ranks of the unemployed/early retired.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Surviving all the upheaval, both personally & professionally. Really, to quote Danny Glover in the Lethal Weapon movies, "I'm getting too old for this sh**..."  ;)

9. What was your biggest failure?

As I've written in past years, so many things that needed to be done around the house -- projects both large & small -- remain untouched. I did get a few crossed off the list, but it's a LONG list. :p 

I failed too often to be assertive and to express my own opinions & wishes -- in both my personal and professional lives.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

A few colds & crampy days (no thank you, Aunt Flo... :p ) but nothing serious, thankfully.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Nothing major or hugely outstanding that springs to mind -- but I bought a couple of Lucky Brand long-sleeved T-shirts at Macy's in New York that I LOVE (wish I had bought more!). Also bought a lot of jewelry -- all cheap stuff, but fun. :) 

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

Malala Yousafzai. What an inspiration she is! I do wish she had won the Nobel Peace Prize. (Take that, Taliban...)

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

As usual, politicians continue to top my list... Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (and his brother Doug) in particular...!! :p 

14. Where did most of your money go?

Beyond the essentials of daily living, and savings, our biggest indulgence is probably reading materials -- books & magazines.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

My trip to New York. :)

16. What song will always remind you of 2013?

I don't pay a lot of attention to new music these days... and I can't say that I LIKE it... but Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" was certainly ubiquitous. :p 

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?

(a) slightly less happy :p (b) probably more or less the same :p (c) slightly richer -- gotta keep saving for retirement...!

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Last year, I said I wished I had used all of my personal days at work and more of my vacation time.  I lost my two unused personal days (which fall under a "use it or lose it" policy -- although they can also be used a sick days, which is why I tend to save them, just in case...).

Spent more time with girlfriends. The chicks weekend in New York reminded me of  how much I miss female companionship and how much fun it can be.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Worrying. It never does much good anyway...

20. How did you spend Christmas?

In the usual way:  with my family (my parents, sister & her boyfriend). Entertained by near-daily visits from The Princess.  ; ) With the added twist this year of flying out in the aftermath of a major ice storm. :p  Our original flight was actually cancelled, but VERY fortunately, I was able to book us two seats on the next flight out (probably the last two available, since they were right at the very back of the plane...!).  Once we got to Mom & Dad's, there was no freezing rain, but the temperatures rarely got above -20C & often hovered closer to -30C (with windchill values reaching -40C). So we spent a lot of time INSIDE, lol.

When we got back home, more than a week after the ice storm hit, there was still 1/4" to 1/2" of ice coating our driveway, sidewalk, front deck & car, and tree branches down all over our yard.

21. Did you fall in love in 2013?

Never fell out. ; )

22. What was your favorite TV program?

My favourite continues to be The Big Bang Theory. : ) But also:  Sherlock, The Republic of Doyle, and the rebooted Dallas. : )

23. Do you hate anyone now that you did not hate this time last year?

I don't think so. Hate is a pretty strong word. There are certainly some people I think of less than others.  

24. What was the best book you read?

I read a lot of great books this year (& I reviewed all of them at least briefly on this blog). If I was forced to pick out the one that really stood out for me & stayed with me, I think it would be "Into the Silence" by Wade Davis (reviewed here).  Long, multilayered and complex, but tremendously fascinating.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I must admit, I don't listen to a lot of new music. I loved rediscovering The Rascals, whose album was one of the first I ever owned. Seeing them in concert this summer and reconnecting with the music of the 60s was a definite 2013 highlight.

26. What did you want and get?

Reassurance from a financial planner that early retirement is still do-able for both of us, despite dh's arriving sooner than we had planned or anticipated. (Two more years... two more years...)

27. What did you want and not get?

Still waiting on the sunspot vacation and new everyday dishes I mentioned in previous years, and did not get some of the things on my to-do list done that I had hoped to accomplish before we hosted dh's cousins' annual get-together last summer.

28. What was your favourite film of this year?

LOVED "Despicable Me 2." lol. "Silver Linings Playbook' was excellent.  Lots of new movies out over the last few weeks that we're hoping to see too. :) 

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I was 52. As I wrote here, my actual birthday was on a Saturday -- so I took the Friday off work, went to the spa and went shopping. On my birthday, I had a nice dinner out with dh later. 53 coming up shortly...!

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

I had hoped that dh losing his job would remove some of the stress on him... and while it did to some extent, it didn't as much as I had hoped. :(

A little more certainty & continuity at work would have helped too. :p

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?

As I said in 2010, not sure I have one, let alone a new one every year?? 

32. What kept you sane?

As I have said in previous years: dh, weekends, & being able to vent to my online friends. : ) And knowing that, if all goes well, retirement could be as little as TWO (!!) more years away. ; )

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Besides Malala, mentioned earlier, I became a Facebook follower of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield while he was on his space station mission. Since returning to Earth, he's remained funny, classy and... well... down to earth. A great role model for our young people, and a great representative for Canada in the world.

Also, I, like many other people, was captivated by the new Pope Francis. I'm not Catholic, and I know the policies I disagree with have not changed. But how can you not like the guy? He's making a real effort to walk the talk and put the emphasis where it should be, on charity and forgiveness instead of doctrine & judgment. That's heartening.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

It was sad and depressing to realize that the slaughter of more than 20 six-year-old schoolchildren in December 2012 was not enough incentive for the United States to rethink its policies on gun control (or the lack thereof). 

On the other hand, the Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage were heartening and moving. (Justice Antonin Scalia's attempts at "humour" notwithstanding.) I blogged about that here.

35. Who did you miss?

As always, my daughter, and my grandparents.

The Princess -- only getting to see her twice a year, and occasionally on Skype, sucks. :p

My childhood best friends. Don't get to see enough of them. :(

36. Who was the best new person you met?

(I will have to think about this one.)

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.

If the food and the conversation are good enough, people won't notice the peeling paint on your backyard shed at your outdoor party. ;)

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

"I don't want to work, I just want to bang on the drum all day..." ;)

New Year's Eve 2007
New Year's Eve 2008
New Year's resolutions for 2009
New Year's resolutions for bereaved parents
New Year's Eve 2009
New Year's Eve 2010

Thursday, December 12, 2013

GRAB(ook) Club: "Catching Fire" by Suzanne Collins

(Warning: This post contains spoilers!) 

Having plowed through "The Hunger Games" earlier this fall, I was compelled to keep going through the next two books in the series.

So, since I had already read "Catching Fire," the second book in the trilogy, I figured I might as well take part in this latest edition of the GRAB(ook) Club -- even though I had to Google a plot summary to refresh my memory a bit (hard to flip back through the book again when you read it on an e-reader...!).  ;)  I have to admit, books 2 & 3 kind of run together for me;  I had a bit of a hard time remembering exactly what happened in what book. (I already provided a mini-review of sorts of both books in early October.)

While Katniss & Peeta emerged triumphant from the Hunger Games, they quickly find out that winning isn't all it's cracked up to be. The people have taken courage from Katniss's bravery and defiant attitude in the Games;  rebellion is in the air, which lands Katniss in hot water with the evil President Snow. The President cooks up something special for the 75th Hunger Games:  imagine an all-star Survivor competition, featuring past winners of the Hunger Games -- including, of course, Katniss & Peeta -- in yet another fight to the finish. Who will emerge victorious this time around? The book ends... with a cliffhanger!

My question: 
I haven't seen "The Hunger Games" movie and am not sure I will see "Catching Fire." Whether or not you have seen or think you want to see the movie, is there a particular scene you would love to see come to life from the book, or wonder how they will pull off?


My answer:

I asked this because while overall, I'm lukewarm as to whether I see the movie or not, I AM curious as to what Katniss's dress-turned-Mockingjay costume would look like and how they would pull off the transformation scene, cinematically. :)  (Unfortunately, the book shows that fashion truly can be a matter of life or death...)

I also keep trying to picture the setup of the arena in my head, particularly the opening setup. I think I have it figured out, but I'd like to see how the filmmakers interpreted it.

You?

After you answer my question, please click over to read the rest of the book club questions for Catching Fire.  You can get your own copy of Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins at bookstores including Amazon.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Elf yourself :p

In the category of “reasons why I’m sometimes actually glad I’m not a parent,” you can file The Elf on the Shelf. ; ) I first heard of the Elf about two Christmases ago and, since then, he’s been popping up with growing (alarming??) frequency in my Facebook feed every December, as increasing numbers of my mommy friends with young children join the crowd, buy an Elf for their family and begin posting photos of his (are there any female Elfs??) daily antics.  
 
Mary Elizabeth Williams posted a great article on Salon last year – recently revived in my Facebook feed – about her loathing for the Elf (headline: "Santa's evil Orwellian spy"). Creepy surveillance aspects totally aside, the very idea of having to constantly come up with new & ever-more creative ideas on where to put the damned thing every single day during December (and then every December to come) stresses me out. (The Salon article mentions how one Elf apparently covered the family toilet in giftwrap;  I had a friend who actually did that last year -- maybe she got the idea from the same place?)
 
My hat is off to those moms who have the time, energy & creativity to do this kind of thing (and keep it up...) for their kids. But even if I WAS a mom, I don't think I'd be one of them. Between year end at work and doing what I can to get ready for a reasonably merry Christmas – albeit one without children -- December is already stressful enough for me as it is. ( I'm sure I'd forget at least one night.)  
 
There was a great blog post circulating earlier this year by Rage Against the Minivan, pleading “Let’s bring the holidays down a notch.” Reading it confirmed for me that it's probably a good thing I never got to be a mom -- because if this is what it takes to be a parent these days, I’d never make the cut.
 
The post was triggered by St. Patrick’s Day (anyone ever heard of a visiting leprechaun leaving gold-wrapped chocolate coins for kids?? -- me either...) and includes mention of the Elf as one example among many of Holidays (or perhaps that should be Parenting??) Gone Wild.
 
Now, I’m all for having fun & making the holidays special – even on what my husband likes to refer to as “Hallmark Holidays” (with accompanying eye roll). My mom has always made holidays like Christmas & Easter special for our family. I fondly remember coming downstairs for breakfast on Valentine's Day to find a little heart-shaped box of chocolates from her, sitting beside my cereal bowl -- I planned to do something similar for my kids.
 
But these days, it seems the pressure to do more, buy more, give more gifts -- on top of all the other pressures of modern life and parenting -- just keep ratcheting upward.  And who is benefiting here? The kids, maybe... but I daresay there are commercial interests at work here that have a vested interest in keeping us all celebrating more and more holidays (that you may never have heard of or barely noticed 20 years ago...), buying their products, doing their marketing for them by spreading the word (I.e., Facebook photos) -- and molding the next generation of parents & consumers to follow likewise. (And yes, I realize the irony that, by writing this post, I am spreading the word too.)  
 
What do you think of the Elf on a Shelf phenomenon and the whole trend to more and more elaborate holidays? If you're a parent, do you have an Elf for your kids? 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

TGNO*

* Thank God November's Over

It's over. It's done. (Thank goodness!!) 

I still have at least a week of hard slogging ahead of me at work.... plus I need to get ready for Christmas. Christmas cards are bought, but not done or sent;  the tree IS up (see photo proof, left -- we did it yesterday) but no presents bought yet to put underneath. December is going to be a rush, stressful in its own way -- but there will be some fun & joy to be had along the way too. :)

Someone asked me awhile back at work, "How many of these (year ends) have you worked on?" I paused for a moment and then the reality of it dawned on me: "Ummm... all of them??!"  This is my 28th year end at work, people -- 27.5 years in the same area of the same department, working on some of the same projects, including 28 year ends. (Some projects have changed -- some have been added, others dropped -- but year end will always come & go, and has probably become more complicated over the years.) 

Yikes.

I've never really felt bored staying in the same place doing the same projects, year after year (which I guess is one reason why I've stayed)... but as I said those words, it occurred to me how very, very wearing it can be, and has been. 28 years of November/December busy-ness, of never being able to fully enjoy Christmas preparations (or take time to fully mourn my daughter, if I felt like it) -- of always being in a rush. Exacerbated, these past 15 years, by the gloom of grief that has always seemed to settle upon me for the month of November, when I should have been celebrating the birth of my daughter.

While my Facebook feed on Thursday filled with words & images of my American friends & families celebrating & feasting together (and then going out to take advantage of some great bargains in the stores -- Black Friday spread to Canada this year too, by the way), I was tied to my desk, working late -- then literally sprinting to hop the 7:15 train home, where I nuked some leftover pasta in the oven. Some of the cousins I went to New York with in October were musing over returning to NYC next year to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade live. "Can we wait until after I'm retired??" I pleaded. "I will never be able to take American Thanksgiving or Black Friday off as long as I'm in this job."  :p 

I have yet to visit Toronto's Distillery District -- shops and cafes carved out of what was once a Seagram's distillery and warehouses near downtown Toronto -- although I go by there on the train twice a day to & from the city. Over the next few weeks, it's home to a European-style Christmas market -- lights, music, food, shopping. Friends have been there & raved. But for me to try to get there after work (& then to the train -- and then get up again the next morning & go off to work again) does not appeal -- and I'm sure it would be nuts there on the weekend (and of course, we have lots to do over the next several weekends anyway).

My aunt was in the area this past week, and I'm glad we were able to see her at least once, at her granddaughter's birthday party last weekend. "We really should invite them over," dh sighed as we drove home. We should have -- I know. But I find it challenging enough to get to get through this time of year and get to all the social events we've been invited to -- let alone entertain the notion of entertaining others right now.

In my vision of the Perfect Christmas, I am the Perfect Hostess, holding a holiday open house for all of our friends & relatives in a beautifully decorated house (which has miraculously doubled or tripled in size to accommodate them all, lol), carols playing softly in the background, dazzling them with my Christmas baking. I gave up trying to do Christmas baking (or any baking, for that matter) some years ago, when it occurred to me that (a)  trying to get it done at an already-busy & stressful time of year was just stressing me out further and (b) I really didn't need all those calories hanging around the house (& then around my hips), anyway.

How have I done it, for 28 years?? I don't know -- but I'm tired. And it makes me tired just to think about it. ;)

Two more years... two more years... (I hope).

I have opened this blog every day, and noticed the increasing length of time between postings... but even if I had time to post, I just haven't felt the muse lately. :p  Just wanted to say I'm here, I am way behind on my blog reading & commenting (as well as writing), but hoping to catch up later this month when I'm finally off for a few days.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Recent reading

So many great news articles... so little time. There have been a couple of really good ones lately, though, & I managed to flag some to share here later: 

First, I loved this Remembrance Day/Veterans Day article from the Washington Post about a group of bereaved mothers who take comfort in their weekly visits to the graves of their soldier children at Arlington National Cemetery, and the friendships they have made there. A very different kind of loss than mine (yours too, I imagine) -- and yet, there is a common thread that runs through all kinds of grief that makes it easy to empathize with these women. I understand the comfort they take from visiting the cemetery every week (dh & I still do), and how their grief has changed with the passage of time. And the friendships they have formed remind me so much of the friends I have made since losing Katie 25 years ago -- "in real life" through our support group, and through message boards & blogs. (Although we don't make a habit of meeting in cemeteries.) (I have seen some of them there by chance, though.)

I understood this:
Davis knows that her family and many of her friends think that she would be better off not visiting the cemetery every week.  
“It doesn’t make me sadder,” she says of her weekly visits. “On anniversaries and birthdays it can be sad. But this isn’t a sad place for me. It’s hard for them to understand.”
*** *** ***

From the New York Times, a rare visit to "the island of the dead" -- Hart Island, where more than one million New Yorkers have been buried in a potter's field since 1869 -- including thousands of stillborn babies. In fact, the article is seen largely through the eyes of Elaine Joseph, who has been searching for the body of her baby daughter for more than 30 years. There are strict rules governing visitors to the island;  however, the article suggests these policies may be changing.  Let's hope so.

In the not-so-distant past, it was common practice for hospitals to whisk away the bodies of stillborn infants to be buried in common unmarked graves. Even today, I still hear occasional stories of shell-shocked parents who agree to let the hospital "take care of things" for them, without realizing exactly what this means.

This article is difficult, yet fascinating reading. It reminded me of the Children's Garden at Toronto's Mount Pleasant Cemetery, where the support group we attended holds its annual Walk to Remember every fall. I wrote about the garden, its origins and the walk here, back in 2008.

Beware the comments.

*** *** ***

The New York Times's Motherlode blog has been running a lot of posts lately related to infertility and pregnancy loss. 

Since earlier this summer, Amy Klein's Fertility Diary has been a weekly feature. Forty-something Amy has walked readers through her IVF cycle and the two-week wait, announced a pregnancy -- and then, sadly, a miscarriage -- addressed the "why not adopt?" question,  confessed to baby envy and had her husband take over for a week to answer questions about his experience.  This week's post is something some of us know well -- finding support on Internet message boards.

Sometimes Amy's posts can seem a bit disingenuous -- but overall, I enjoy them. I'm glad the New York Times is giving regular profile to this subject, and I am sure a lot of readers are getting an education in what infertility is really like.

Beware the comments -- some of them have been quite harsh (including ones from people who have dealt with infertility themselves). 

Yesterday, Jennifer Massoni Pardini addressed the difficult issue of finding out, 23 weeks into her pregnancy while living in Chile, that her unborn son had a life-threatening congenital heart defect, and the heartbreaking choice she was faced with making.

And today, main blogger K.J. Dell'Antonia finds herself unexpectedly telling her children about the sister they lost.
I was sad when the baby died. I am happy to have my daughter. I could not have had both... As adults, we take these contradictions, and we just sort of prop them up in the corner of our mind and look at them now and then, hoping that maybe another angle will give us some clarity.


*** *** ***

I don't always care for Leah McLaren's columns in the Globe & Mail, but I loved last Saturday's piece about the taboo topic of miscarriage.
When a wanted pregnancy ends, a world of desired possibility is destroyed. A doorway to an imagined future of laughter, music and silly dancing is slammed shut.  
These silent tragedies are around us everywhere; they are the blood stains on the discarded bath towels, and the pillowcases soaked with 3 a.m. tears. They are real and unacknowledged and, most important, they are absolutely not our fault. We need to believe this, and then we need to talk about it.


*** **** ***

And finally, the now-infamous New Yorker article by Ariel Levy (which McLaren references in her column), detailing the premature birth & death of her infant while she was on assignment in Mongolia (of all places). Melissa at Stirrup Queens wrote about this article here. (ETA: Andrew Sullivan at The Dish also has a thread about miscarriage, prompted by Levy's article.)

The writing is so beautiful, so honest, so relatable to anyone who has suffered pregnancy loss. The certainty that nothing could go wrong (so why NOT fly off to Mongolia when you're 19 weeks pregnant??), the denial, the disbelief when the realization sets in that something is going very, very wrong indeed.
I had been so lucky. Very little had ever truly gone wrong for me before that night on the bathroom floor.


And this, near the end:
But the truth is, the ten or twenty minutes I was somebody’s mother were black magic. There is no adventure I would trade them for; there is no place I would rather have seen.


Me either.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

This year's model (2013)

I had already browsed the Christmas card displays at the card shop downstairs in my office tower a few times before today (even though it seemed WAAAYYYYYY too early to be looking at Christmas cards before Remembrance Day). I saw a few cards that I liked, some of them very pretty. They were cards that I knew I could probably be happy with sending, if I didn't find anything else. But usually, I know "the" card when I see it, immediately -- and nothing I saw was grabbing me in that way. It made me a little sad.

I wasn't intending to buy anything when I stopped by at lunchtime today. I was just browsing. I looked at the boxes of cards near the front of the store, and as I worked my way through the aisles, I saw they had more cards near the back.

And that's when I saw it. It wasn't the prettiest box of cards in the store. And, in hindsight, the message inside -- "Best wishes for a holiday season and a wonderful New Year" -- kind of bugs me. Shouldn't it be "Best wishes for the holiday season" or "Best wishes for a happy holiday season" or something like that?? (Spoken like a true English major, lol.)

(And while we're quibbling, the title on the website is "Decorated Moose." It looks more like a reindeer than a moose to me. A reindeer would certainly make more sense. What do you think?)

But, no matter. It was "the" card. I knew it right away when I saw the little girl on the sled.

 
 

(And now, as I wrote last year, to find time over the next month or so to write the darn things...)
 
2010 card was a photo card of me & dh on our 25th wedding anniversary : )

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Annual Whine (2013 version)

Last year, on Nov. 14th, my post began, "It's a little earlier than usual for my annual "I hate November" whine." 

Well, today is Nov. 11th -- a cold and rainy Remembrance Day (& I actually started writing this post a week ago) -- so what does that tell you??

Then again, as I wrote in my previous post, "...it's been the week from heck... (I was ready to start writing my annual "I hate November" post/vent in October, lol.)" Maybe next year??

The usual elements of "the annual whine" (which still apply to this year's version) include:
  • November 14th (or 20th, or 25th, take your pick), 1998, was my unfulfilled due date. Every November brings the reminder of what might have been, but wasn't and never will be. As I said in my 2009 whine, I feel cheated.
  • It's late fall, almost winter. The trees have lost most of their beautiful coloured leaves and are bare and stark against the sky.
  • It is cold, chilly, often rainy or even (gulp) snowing. (None yet... but there will be... soon...)
  • The days are getting shorter, and the time change means it gets darker a lot earlier. SADD, anyone?
  • November is always our busiest time of year at work (and this year is even busier -- longer rant on that point to follow...!).
  • Because of this, for the past 27 years, it's been impossible for me to start getting ready for Christmas and enjoy the season in the way that I'd like to.
  • While I love Christmas, I get irritated when the ads start the day after Halloween. And especially when, even if I wanted to think about Christmas, I just don't have time for it yet.
Additional whine elements this year:
  • My unemployed/early-retired dh is bored silly and driving me nuts at times.
  • My company is undergoing a leadership transition -- one CEO retiring, another taking over -- which has added considerably to our already-heavy workload at an already very busy time of year.
  • As a result, until just recently, not enough time or attention has been paid to our usual year-end projects (many of them with inflexible regulatory/compliance-related deadlines attached), which are nevertheless unfolding under the usual tight timelines and consuming the usual considerable amount of resources (human & otherwise).
  • The above has been made even more "interesting"/stressful because of the several layers of management above me who are new in their positions and haven't had to deal with our particular version of year-end before. 
Specific things that happened within the past week to prompt me to write this post now:
  • It's Monday. (It was when I started writing this post... and it is again... which tells you what my time has been like lately -- one more thing to whine about, lol.)
  • As I said to a coworker, my (last) Monday started at the dentist -- and went downhill from there, lol. :p  ;) 
  • I was at the dentist. For a filling. :p  (I've had way too many fillings for my liking in the past few years.)(Also two crowns.)
  • He started drilling and had to give me a second shot of freezing because I was still jumping in my seat. You would think by now he'd know just to give me a double shot right up front because I almost always need one.
  • The freezing took about four hours to completely wear off.
  • My coworkers were giggling because (due to the freezing) I was lisping ridiculously in my post-appointment meeting.
  • My arm was still slightly sore from my flu shot the previous week.
  • While under deadline pressure to write & edit some critical documents, I left my finger lingering on the shift key too long -- thus turning on that bane of my existence known as "filter keys," rendering my keyboard completely useless, and resulting in a frantic call to tech support. :p 
  • The powers that be, which decided to let me have an extra (much-needed) filing cabinet just outside my cubicle when we completed our office renovations about two years ago (even though my position didn't warrant one), did an about face and decided that said filing cabinet was a safety hazard in its current spot & needed to be moved. (I said I didn't care, so long as I had some additional filing space, somewhere.)
  • However, before it could be moved, I had to empty everything out of it. :p 
  • The movers showed up almost an hour after they said they would -- and then I had to put all the files back IN to the thing. (Did I mention before how busy I am with other stuff at this time of year??)
  • I wound up taking a later-than-usual train home. 
  • Went on FB for some mindless distraction, only to find the gleeful announcement that dh's cousin's daughter is expecting Baby Number THREE. Her other two are 3 & 1 (!!).  (She claims to want FOUR.)
  • Also saw the photos that one my high school girlfriends just posted from her GRANDSON's first birthday.
So that was last Monday. Also this week:
  • Grandma Coworker has made it gleefully known that her daughter & son-in-law are trying for grandbaby #2.
  • Another coworker is due in less than a month and so her depature on mat leave -- and workplace baby shower/celebration/send off -- will be coming up shortly.  
  • The Second Cup had their Christmas menu & advertising up on October 30th -- like, not even waiting until after Halloween.
  • Even the Legion began selling Remembrance Day poppies earlier this year.
  • We are so far behind that I brought home work this weekend to try to catch up a little. :p
  • Did I mention that Aunt Flo is here? And that's she's still visiting me like clockwork every month? And that I'm going to be (gulp) 53 in another two months? I mean, seriously?? I thought she'd be long gone by now. :p  
  • Some good news:  I FINALLY got my Christmas vacation approved, on Oct. 31st. The accompanying bad news: this was the latest ever that management approved my Christmas vacation dates. I usually try to have my plane tickets home booked by (Canadian) Thanksgiving, & I don't think I've ever booked later than Halloween before. As a result, I was unable to book tickets for the dates that I wanted (at least, at a semi-reasonable price).
(Still, we are going home. I am thankful for that. Something to look forward to.)

This concludes the annual whine (2013 version). Thanks, I feel better already. ; )

November 2012:  The annual whine
November 2011: (Not) the most wonderful time of the year :p
November 2010: Black Friday
November 2009: November blahs
November 2008: November again
November 2007: November: The cruellest month  

Thursday, November 7, 2013

GRAB(ook) Club: "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn

Wow. Well.

I had heard the hype about "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn -- so many people seemed to be reading it & raving about it -- and so I kept debating whether it would be worth buying the hardcover or waiting for the paperback (which seems to be taking forever to come out...!). Then Mel added it to the GRAB(ook) Club agenda, so I wound up getting an e-book version via my sister.

And, as many reader reviews I've read alluded, this was a hard book to put down. Adding to the allure -- reading an e-book (particularly on my almost-original model Kobo) made it more difficult to flip ahead & sneak a peek at the ending -- incentive to keep reading!! By Monday night, I was getting close to the end. I was so eager to finish (particularly when I had a post to write before the book discussion posts went up Thursday) that I set aside my usual newspapers & continued to read the book on my Tuesday morning commute. With just a few pages to go as we pulled into the train station (curses!), I speedwalked to my office, threw down my briefcase, & finished off the book in my cubicle before I even turned on my computer.  ; ) (I read the papers on the evening commute home.)

I liked this book. It's definitely a page-turner. I did NOT particularly like the main characters, Nick & Amy, each with their own flaws (although I found Nick slightly more sympathetic than Amy).  (Disturbingly, I found myself thinking of serial killers/rapists Paul Bernardo & -- especially -- Karla Homolka, at one point.)

But I couldn't help but be drawn into their story.  And think about the strengths & weaknesses of my own marriage, even as I watched theirs unravel.

Amy disappears on the day of her & Nick's 5th wedding anniversary -- and guess who's the prime suspect?  The story unfolds in alternating "he said, she said" style, between narration from Nick and past diary entries from Amy.  Whose account of the relationship do we believe? Or does the truth lie somewhere in between?  Plot twists and surprises galore along the way. There are even subplots/references to pregnancy loss and infertility. (Melissa already asked one infertility-related question related to the book.) 

*** *** ***

So here's my question(s):

One of the recurring threads in the book is the tension and contrast between city & country/small town life. Nick grew up in smalltown Missouri; Amy in New York City. The two live a charmed life in Manhattan -- until they both lose their jobs and their finances take a nosedive. When his aging parents require care, Nick persuades Amy to return to his hometown with him.

Would you ever want to move back to your hometown (if you don't already live there)? Both Nick & Amy voice some stereotypes about smalltown life and people;  likewise, their family members & neighbours have their own ideas about what life in the big city must be like. Do you think these observations (on either side) were true, or fair?

I know dh sometimes feels guilty that I am living so far away from my family. "We can move back," he sometimes offers.

My parents actually moved to the small town (population about 2,500) where they now live almost 30 years ago, when I was finishing university. I only ever lived there with them for a little over a year before I got married. But even though it's not one of the towns where I grew up, suffice to say, it's close in location, size and ambience, lol. The largest town I lived in, before going to university, was 12,000 people.  Dh, on the other hand, grew up in Toronto and has spent his whole life in the Greater Toronto Area, aside from the years he went away to school.

Sometimes I think about it. It would be nice to be closer to my family. I miss the friendliness and simplicity of small town living (no traffic jams! affordable housing!!)(well, affordable when compared to Toronto, lol). But then I think about the lack of choices, the lack of privacy, the lack of tolerance of different viewpoints (although you don't always get that in a larger centre either)...

The thing is, I have lived enough places in my life to know that there is good and bad everywhere you go; it's up to you to make the best of things wherever you are. Some stereotypes are true and some aren't. Amy observes in the book something to the effect that many of the North Cartharge people had opinions about New York without ever having gone near the place, and I find that's very true. Whenever I go back, people will ask me, "So how's TORONTO?"  in a slightly snide tone of voice, as if they can't really believe anyone would ever want to live here (Toronto being the city that everyone in Canada loves to hate)(even long before Rob Ford ever became mayor, lol). And of course, a lot of them have never set foot here.

Of course, city people can be incredibly obtuse and condescending about smalltown life too.

So to answer my own question -- I'm not really sure I'd want to move back to the same town where my parents live. That might be a little too close for comfort. ; ) But I might not mind living in a larger town or smaller city. closer than where I am right now. ; )

*** *** ***

One more question I can't resist asking: 

I remember reading quite awhile ago that the movie rights to "Gone Girl" had been purchased by Reese Witherspoon. Maybe it's the blond thing ; ) but I naturally assumed she would be playing Amy.  (Although -- likely because of the name -- I kept seeing Amy Poehler and her sly grin as I read the book, lol.)  However, in Googling "Gone Girl movie," I learned that the movie will be released in the fall of 2014, with Ben Affleck as Nick and Rosamund Pike as Amy.

What do you think of this casting? Who would you nominate to play Amy? Nick? Any of the other characters?

After you answer my question, please click over to read the rest of the book club questions for Gone Girl.  You can get your own copy of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn at bookstores including Amazon.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Now we are six

Yesterday was my six-year blogoversary. :)  Because it was Halloween & because it's been the week from heck, I wasn't able to get anything posted before this. (I was ready to start writing my annual "I hate November" post/vent in October, lol.) 

Anyway: 

Number of years blogging:  6
Published posts (including this one): 765
Published comments: almost 5,800
Page views (tracked since May 2008):  almost 187,000 
Average # of posts per year: 128
Average # of posts per month:  11
Followers:  140
Feelings of gratitude for what 6 years of blogging has given me:  Priceless : )

Thank you all for reading/listening, commenting and just being here.

Blogoversary #5 (2012)
Blogoversary #4 (2011)
Blogoversary #3 (2010)
Blogoversary #2 (2009)
Blogoversary #1 (2008)
First post

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Things I learned from 54.5 hours in New York City


The skyline of lower Manhattan.
Taken from the "Top of the Rock."
Empire State Bldg., Freedom Tower and
a very tiny Statue of Liberty.
In a recent post, I mentioned that I would be taking the week after (Canadian) Thanksgiving off -- and hinted that part of the week's agenda would involve some travel. I also said I would tell you about it afterwards.

So now I'm telling you. : )

I went to New York City for a weekend.

With EIGHT other women -- my SIL & our husbands' female cousins & cousins' wives.

We had a blast. : )

We touched down at LaGuardia around noon last Friday, & left around suppertime on Sunday night - about 54.5 hours. (Of course we had to sleep for some of those...!)

New York has been both a source of fascination & fear for me over the years. As I recently wrote in a review of Patti Smith's memoir, Just Kids:
New York City back then was a dark, forbidding, foreign, seedy, dangerous place -- especially in the eyes of a sheltered teenaged girl from a small town on the Canadian Prairies. It was the city of Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets and Taxi Driver, and Saturday Night Fever.
Growing up at the time & place that I did, I didn't know too many people who had been to New York. Those who did invariably got (a) lost (b) mugged or (c) both. Eventually, the city cleaned up its streets & its act and by the 1990s, I was reading articles that raved about how safe New York had become.

Then along came September 11, 2001. It took awhile before I started thinking that I might like to visit New York again -- but eventually the travel itch returned. 

New York is close enough to Toronto that a lot of people go there for business, pleasure or both. SIL had been on a bus trip with some cousins a few years ago, mostly to shop. I'm the third or fourth person in my office to visit New York this fall (including one mother-daughter weekend & one pre-nuptial bachelorette weekend).

A couple of dh's cousins went a few years ago, and they got talking about it at the family get-together in August that we hosted in our backyard. Someone said, "why don't we...?" & then "are you in?" 

"Absolutely!" I said, not really sure that anything would come out of it.

But the next day, the e-mails starting flying. One of dh's cousins' husbands travels a lot for work, & was able to get us a great deal using his frequent flyer points. Round-trip flights and two nights in a four-star hotel near Times Square (three rooms with three people each in them) = $550 (Canadian) each. Not bad!! 

Here are some of the things I learned in 54.5 fun-filled hours in New York City:
  • While the trip by train from Union Station to Grand Central Station is about 12 hours (!), by plane (once you're in the air), it's less than an hour & a half.
  • LaGuardia Airport is ancient. If any of you ever visited the "old" Terminal One in Toronto before it was torn down and replaced, it's like that, but probably even older.
  • There isn't much there in the way of shopping or restaurants, so eat before you leave!
  • It's also nail-bitingly close to water. "Are we going to land in the water??" SIL hissed at me as we swooped down over the waves and clutched the armrests.
  • Riding in a stretch limo for the first time was as fun as I thought it would be (particularly when the driver is a natural tour guide, pointing out all the landmarks along the way & regaling you with tales of all the people he's driven, including the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills...!). 
  • The crystal ball that gets dropped in Times Square every year on New Years Eve stays there year round until the next Dec. 31st, until it gets hoisted & dropped again. Who knew?? (This was one of the things the limo driver pointed out to us as he drove us through Times Square.) 
  • A stretch limo is also not that terribly expensive when it's split 9 ways. ; )
  • Riding in a New York cab is also everything I thought it would be -- and feared. Thank goodness for seatbelts and grab bars in the back. I was hanging on for dear life and praying the door wouldn't pop open as we rounded a corner, because I was sure I was going to go flying.
  • I really can be a hick sometimes. Three of us shared a cab to LaGuardia for the flight home... our driver was a speed demon & we were hanging on for dear life... and yet I still let out an "ooohhh, look! It's the United Nations building!"  as we went flying by. The cousin I was with said she thought she was going to pee her pants.
  • On the positive side, cabs were plentiful -- although, trying to hail one on Broadway near Macy's, we did have to get over our Canadian politeness and fight to get into one before it got picked off by an aggressive New Yorker. 
  • Never assume there will be another opportunity to take the photo. I should have taken a picture of the limo as we were loading up at LaGuardia. I figured I could do so when we go to the hotel. What I didn't realize was that very few hotels in New York (that I saw, anyway) have official driveways or loading zones. Our driver basically stopped in the middle of the (one-way) street & let us off there as horns honked all around us. Welcome to New York!
  • Chicks weekends can be lots of fun. It's been waaaayyyyyy too long since I've had one.
  • You CAN visit too many shoe stores -- particularly if, like me, you have extra-wide feet that are extremely difficult to fit and can only look on while the others try on pair after pair.  (For the record, I lost track after about the fifth store.)
  • Clarks shoes may not be the height of fashion, but they're extremely comfortable, especially when you're doing as much walking as we were.
  • It's great to go to NYC for the first time with people who have been there before & know their way around.
  • You won't go far in New York without passing by a Starbucks.
  • One cousin in particular must have a Starbucks habit, because she was rarely seen during the trip without a cup in hand.
  • My SIL is seriously one of the nicest people in the world. :)
  • It's possible for nine women to get up early in the morning, shower, dress and do makeup, and get going without being too late.
  • "Kinky Boots," the play we went to see on Friday night, deserved all the Tonys it won. The number of theatres around Times Square  (sometimes two or three in the same block), featuring plays that you've heard about and read about but never dreamed of seeing, is mind-blowing.
  • It's also mindblowing that everywhere you turn, there is a historical or cultural or retail or architectural landmark -- sometimes side by side by side.
  • Rockefeller Center is right across the street from Saks Fifth Avenue, which is right across the street from St. Patrick's Cathedral.  
  • St. Patrick's is under renovation at the moment, but even with the scaffolding, it was awe inspiring.
  • I'm not even Catholic, but I had tears in my eyes as I walked down the aisle. (I'm not sure if my jaw was hanging open, but I think it would have been understandable if it was.)
  • The lineup to buy tickets to go to the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center is much shorter if you use your credit card to buy at an automated kiosk.
  • It's $27 but the view is worth it. (See the photo at the top for proof.)
  • The skating rink at Rockefeller Center is already open!
  • The gold statue overlooking the rink is of Promethesus (sp?). (This factoid came from our bus tour guide.)
  • Many of the stores we were in -- Nine West across from Radio City Music Hall, Swarovski at the Rockefeller Center, Aritzia in SoHo -- had lounge areas where we could sit while others in our party shopped. I don't know if that's a New York thing, or just a tourist-area thing, but it was much appreciated!
  • It's possible to bargain down a $57 double-decker bus tour ticket to $50 if you (a) pay in cash and (b) have nine people in your party.
  • Do NOT stand up when you are sitting on the top level of an open-air double-decker tour bus. We passed directly below street signs and stop lights that were so close, I could have reached up & touched them, and we actually had to duck to avoid tree branches on some streets.
  • It pays to be a movie fan:  we were walking from our hotel to Macy's when I exclaimed, "Hey!  I know EXACTLY where we're going! 'Miracle on 34th Street'!!"  lol
  • Macy's on a Saturday afternoon in October is like the Bay on Queen Street in Toronto on the Saturday before Christmas, times about five. The crowds were unbelievable.  
  • It is extremely easy to meet or exceed the $800 duty-free shopping limit Canadians are allowed after spending 48 hours or more in the States.
  • Even though we have a Tiffany's store in Toronto, there is nothing like walking into the one on Fifth Avenue.
  • You simply CANNOT leave Tiffany's without one of those little blue bags in hand. (And I didn't, lol.)
  • The cheap stuff (i.e., "cheap" for Tiffany's...!)(= silver) is on the third floor. (You're welcome.)
  • The doorman at Tiffany's is very cute. He's also very nice and willing to take your photo. Or pose with you in a photo, if you prefer. ; ) 
  • Contrary to the popular opinion of New Yorkers as rude, we were impressed by how friendly and helpful all the store clerks and waiters we encountered were.
  • If you're looking for a great place to eat in SoHo, try the Spring Street Natural Restaurant. A store clerk recommended it to us and we had a lovely meal there.
  • The Plaza Hotel is simply stunning. (We had breakfast there on Sunday morning.) Even the bathrooms are opulent.
  • Even the doggy bags at the Plaza are elegant.
  • Do NOT stop to talk to the street vendors or people hawking CDs in exchange for "donations" in Times Square. One of the cousins found that out the hard way. Thankfully, she managed to extract herself without any harm to herself or her wallet.
  • You never know who you're going to see on the flight to or from New York. George Stromboulopoulos (and if you're Canadian, you'll know who I'm talking about -- although he did have a show on CNN this past summer) was sitting across the aisle and one row behind me, (I almost dropped my suitcase on his head while trying to load it into the overhead bin above his seat, erk!! -- not sure the CBC would have appreciated that!)  A couple of the cousins had their photos taken with him.  
  • 54.5 hours is most definitely nowhere NEAR enough time to see & do everything you'd like to do in New York. Like, not even REMOTELY close.  
  • But -- it's still enough time to have some fun.
  • And enough time to know you want to return someday. :)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Liebster Award from Melissa

Melissa at Stirrup Queens recently nominated me for a Liebster Award (thanks, Mel!). Here are the questions she asked me to answer.  Feel free to answer them yourself! (and let me know if you do!):

Longest you’ve ever gone without a shower.

I am a pretty consistent daily shower taker. The first thing that popped into my mind was when I had my wisdom teeth out about 20 years ago -- all four at once. My tummy did not take kindly to the Tylenol 3s with codeine that I was given as a pain killer. After throwing up every hour for almost a full day -- unable to keep anything down -- and calling the dental surgeon, I stopped taking the meds on his advice. My tummy finally settled down, but I was weak as a kitten for a few days, could barely get out of bed for a day or two, never mind shower. I had expected to be off work for two or three days & wound up missing an entire week.

Tell us about a recent disappointment.

Our favourite go-to restaurant of many years (a chain outlet, but even so...) has been going downhill lately. Our last several visits there have been less than satisfying -- lukewarm food, rock-hard baked potatos, slow service, etc. We are on the verge of abandoning the place completely. Sad. :(  And, yes, disappointing.

Tell us the person you’d most like in the car with you for a road trip.

Dh. :)  Lots of places we haven't yet explored.

Which do you like better: goats or sheep?

I have very little real-life experience with either. But I would probably have to go with sheep. I have several PJs with sleepy sheep motifs. Also, I had a sweater back in the '80s with a bunch of white sheep on it, and one black sheep facing the other way. Princess Diana had a similar sweater too. : )

Do you like to watch scary movies?

No.

What do you call yourself when you’re talking to yourself inside your head?

I don't think I call myself anything? Maybe "idiot" when I'm mad at myself?

Name someone from your kindergarten class that you wonder about to this day.

I don't remember his name (Kenneth?)... but there was a little boy on the first day of kindergarten who wouldn't stop crying. His father came & took him away & we never saw him again (!).  Kindergarten was optional back then -- my mother paid for me to go, and it was in the basement of the Catholic church.  There were two schools in town that had Grade 1 classes;  presumably he went to the other school.

I do sometimes wonder about some of the kids I went to kindergarten with... I was in grades 1 & 2 with many of the same kids too. We moved away after that and I haven't managed to stay in touch with any of them. I have tried Googling a few of them, but no luck -- common names, probably married & changed their names, etc.  Also, I'm of an age where it's not uncommon to know people who just don't use the Internet much, or at least as much as I do. ; )

The last time we went back to that town, I was 14, starting Grade 9. My mom went for coffee with my one friend's mom, and my friend & I went downtown together looking for another friend, who was working at her aunt's shop. The first friend said, "Do you remember her?" I said, "It's been awhile!" and giggled, and she said, "That laugh! I'd know it anywhere! It's Lori!"  lol 

I also wonder about my "boyfriend" from those days, David. He was Ukrainian and had that kind of Nordic hair that was so blond it was almost white. I did Google him & picked up a business address but nothing much else.

What is the best song for picking up your mood?

Anything by the Beatles usually puts a smile on my face. : ) 

Two non-Beatles songs:  My Best Friend's Girl by The Cars and More Than A Feeling by Boston. (I had both albums when I was in high school & nearly wore the grooves out.)  Anytime those songs come on the radio, I have to crank up the volume & sing along. Instant mood brightener.

How do you organize your socks?

In a drawer, grouped together by colour. (Although they are mostly black & navy, with some grey, brown & white for good measure.)

When no one is home, do you close the bathroom door?

No.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Liebster Award from Shlomit

Shlomit at Telling a Different Story nominated me for a Liebster award (quite) awhile back... and then Mel nominated me more recently. (Thanks to both of you!)  I figured I should answer Shlomit's questions first (I did have most of them answered already)... Mel's questions & answers to come shortly. : )

Here are the rules from Shlomit:
1) Tell 11 things about yourself.
2) Answer 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you.
3) Post 11 questions for those who will be nominated by you.
4) Nominate 11 bloggers.
5) Get in contact with those bloggers to inform them that you nominated them
Rules are made to be broken. ;)  I am going to skip #1,3,4 & 5 -- if you read this, consider yourself nominated and feel free to answer the same questions posted here. 

And here are Shlomit's questions to me, with my answers:
1. What did you want to be when you grew (grow?) up?
I went through the usual stuff that a little girl growing up in the 60s & early 70s wanted to be: a nurse (!! -- THAT was pretty short-lived...!), a teacher. But from a fairly early age, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I loved books so much, and I loved to write my own stories. As I got older, I realized that not too many people got rich & famous, let alone made a decent living, from writing books -- so I decided I would become a journalist. I even knew which paper I would write for -- The Winnipeg Tribune. I even wrote a letter to the editor -- who was a woman, a rarity at the time -- when I was about 13, asking for her advice -- and she kindly responded. (I still have the letter -- recently retrieved it from a drawer at my parents' house. It's here in my house now.) 

Sadly, the Trib closed, along with several others owned by the same chain, in August 1980, just as I was going into my second year of university. My parents were moving from the town where I had spent my junior and senior high school years, and my mom, sister & I were packing up the house. I felt like my whole world -- past, present, future -- was crashing down around me.

I did go to journalism school a few years later, and I did work briefly as a reporter on a smalltown weekly newspaper before I got married and moved away. Back then, very few of my J-school classmates went to work in what's now known as corporate communications, but that's where I wound up and where I've been working for the past (gulp) 27 years.

2. What style of underwear are your favourite?

Cotton briefs or bikini undies. 100% cotton, or as close to it as you can get, and no (or minimal) lace trimming. Sounds simple, but I'm finding it harder and harder to find underwear that fits the bill these days. Once in awhile I will find something at La Vie en Rose (Canadian lingerie chain). Victoria's Secret finally arrived in Canada a few years ago and I tried and liked some of theirs, although the fabric seems a bit thin/flimsy. Still, I think I got 7 pairs for something like $27 -- you can't beat the price.

I desperately need to get some new bras. I won't tell you how old mine are... too embarrassing! What I really need is a fitting, because I have no idea what size I really am anymore (and I remember n Oprah show based on the premise that a huge percentage of women aren't wearing the right size bra anyway). I was a 34B forever, until I got pregnant. I went up to a 38C and then after I lost Katie, those were too big. I just started wearing the 36C bras I had bought during my pregnancy and I've worn that size ever since then, but I have no idea if that's really the right size for me or not. I am very picky about my bras as well -- I have never worn underwires, except in strapless & special bras I wear with dresses for special occasions -- and there seems to be a very limited range of styles without them. I used to buy all my bras in a certain style by Wonderbra -- which of course they don't make anymore. :p  Sigh.

3. What's the best thing about being an adult?

Having the (relative?) freedom (and the income) to go what I want & do what I want, when & where I want -- within reason, of course. Sure, I can stay up until 2 a.m. on a work night if I really want to... but I will pay for it later. ;)

4. What's the worst thing about being an adult?

Having to be the grown up... having to hold it together and deal with the hard stuff of life -- to do the adult & responsible thing -- even when you just want to curl up in a corner somewhere and have someone else take care of things and make the tough decisions. (I HATE making decisions.)

5. What does spirituality mean to you?

It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with organized religion (although it can). It means paying attention to that small, still voice within you -- and also taking time to appreciate the wonder of the world around you. It's recognizing that you are not at the centre of the universe, that there is something bigger and more important out there than your own life and concerns.

6. What's your favourite food?

If you mean food type (as in Chinese, Thai, etc.), it would have to be Italian. Which is good, since I am married to an Italian. ; ) Unfortunately, I've developed a tomato allergy in recent years (!!), which has interfered with ability to enjoy Italian cuisine somewhat. Thank goodness for pesto sauce, pasta alla olio, and pasta alfredo. ; )

I also love me a good steak now & then. Medium well with a baked potato, butter & sour cream on the side, please & thank you.

And of course, CHOCOLATE. ; )

7. If you had to be another person for a day, who would you be?

This was a tough one. Anne of Green Gables (the musical) springs to mind: "Gee I'm glad I'm no one else but me...." lol. I normally wouldn't want to be a politician or world leader, but since it's just for one day, I'd love to do that and spend the day making decisions that would help others -- instead of screwing things up as so often seems to be the case. :p

8. What do you first notice when you meet somebody new?

 Their smile (if they smile).  9. What's your favourite season and why?


I don't have a clear favourite season. There are things I appreciate about each one -- even winter has its charms, at least to a certain point (which usually comes somewhere shortly after Christmas &/or my birthday, lol). And there are things I dislike about each season as well. Dh clams fall is his favourite season. I do love the beautiful colours, & the weather is often still nice enough to enjoy -- and there's (Canadian) Thanksgiving turkey to enjoy.

But there are several reasons that keep me from saying fall is my favourite. For one thing (and this goes for spring as well), I find that in this period when it's too warm to have the furnace running but too cold to keep the air conditioner running, the bath towels never dry out and get all musty, and I have to change (& wash) them more often. :p  It's year end at work, which I always wind up surviving, but have come to dread more and more each year. :p  And fall is inevitably associated with death and endings and loss in my mind -- not just the reminder that winter is on its way, with the plunging temperatures, falling leaves and increasingly barren trees. In October 1998, I returned to work after several weeks off after the stillbirth of our daughter. A few days later, I had to bow out of work again when my beloved grandfather passed away. My grandmother died almost a year to the day later, and then my uncle (my father's sister's husband) died a few days after her funeral. His funeral was held the day my mother went into the hospital for a planned hysterectomy.

So it's sort of a melancholy time of year for me. I'm hoping that once I retire and work is no longer an issue, I'll have more time to enjoy the beauty of the season and that will help to chase away some of the lingering melancholy.

That didn't really answer the question, did it?? ; )

10. What happens after we die?

I don't know. I LIKE to think there is some kind of an afterlife and that I will see my daughter & my grandparents & other people I love. I hope so, but I really don't know. And I'm sure that if there is something afterward, it's probably very different from what we think it might be.

I've always said that if there is a God & a heaven & I eventually get there, He & I are going to have a VERY long talk...!!

11. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? In a small town near a big city somewhere in Canada, close to family (but not TOO close, lol). And preferably on a waterfront. I love a lakefront view.


Coming soon:  Mel's questions!

Silly Halloween blog meme

From Melissa at Stirrup Queens. : )

This is how it works.  Take the categories below.  Open your blog.  Look at the first comment on each of your last 10 posts.  Fill in one name per category (keeping the order of most recent post to 10 posts ago) and link their name to their blog.  Then hit publish.  If you have a post without a comment, skip to the next one.  And then chide your readers for screwing up your meme: obviously, they need to step it up and leave more comments.

So, in honour of every horror movie made in the 80s:

1. Decides the creepy house is safe. (Melissa/Lollipop Goldstein -- this does NOT sound like you, lol!)
2. Screams like a Banshee. (Another Dreamer)
3. Scares you as a joke. (Mali)
4. Goes into the woods and gets killed. (Illanare -- sorry!)
5. First to go insane. (Wolfers)
6. Murdered saving someone. (Brooke -- how heroic!)
7. Has your back no matter what jumps out. (Areyoukidding me -- thanks!)
8. Has a solid survivor plan no one listens. (Mali)(strangely enough, the same person in Mel's meme for #8 also had the #3 slot...!)
9. Runs off screaming never to be seen again. (Amel)
10. Is the real killer. ( Mali! -- so you were just joking, huh?? ;)  )

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Great expectations

Is managing our expectations the key to happiness? That was the tagline to an article from the British newspaper The Guardian, shared on Facebook by Gateway Women.

"How can happiness be influenced by things we don't have, were never going to have, and wouldn't have missed, if the thought hadn't occurred?" asks the writer Oliver Burkeman. 

His conclusion is that "happiness equals reality minus expectations. Raise expectations beyond reality's capacity to meet them, and misery follows."

Burkeman connects his theory to the millennial generation, trying to reconcile the inflated expectations they grew up with (thanks to their baby boomer parents, for whom things turned out pretty well, overall) with the current economic reality. And as I read (of course), I couldn't help but think about the subject of inflated expectations and the ALI world -- particularly in the context of my own niche in the community -- those of us living childless/free after infertility &/or loss, whose hopes & expectations were raised by ARTs but ultimately dashed.

I've written about expectations before, although perhaps not in so many words. Infertility might be a little different in terms of Burkeman's "things we wouldn't have missed, if the thought hadn't occurred." I mean, even among people who ultimately decide that they really don't want children -- how can the thought of having children NOT at least occur to us, given societal expectations and the current worship of all things pregnancy, baby and mommy-related in magazines, ads, TV shows, movies, etc. etc.? 

For those of us who have difficulty fulfilling those expectations of having a family, the proliferation of ARTs, the continuing advancements, combined with the headlines about women giving birth in their late 40s & 50s (whether with their own eggs, the articles often don't say, but that's another matter...), have served to inflate our expectations of what's possible through science-- not just our own expectations, but (perhaps even more so) those of the people around us, who so badly want to see us happy -- want us to have what they have so easily -- but don't really know or understand on a visceral level exactly what we are going through to try to make those dreams come true. 

We might SAY that we're not going to get our hopes up -- but really, how can we help it if we inevitably do?  Low success rates might be staring at us in the face, but it's really, really hard not to imagine ourselves on the right side of the odds, especially when it's something that we want so very, very much.

"The chicken was fine," Burkeman concludes, referring to his disappointment that the promise of pasta for dinner on an airline flight wasn't fulfilled. And while it might seem a little ridiculous to compare chicken to children -- the childless/free life can be pretty good too, once you manage to look beyond the disappointment that children aren't going to be on the menu of your life.

Read the article and tell me, what do you think of Burkeman's theory?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Recent movies, books & upcoming holidays

  • Dh & I went to see "Gravity" this afternoon, in 3D. It was a better 3D experience than my first one earlier this year, "The Great Gatsby," which left me with a headache. (Although it WAS Voldemort Day.) This is the kind of movie where 3D really adds something to the experience. (Besides, who can argue with George Clooney in 3D??)  
  • SPOILER ALERT:  I already knew, from reading reviews, that Sandra Bullock's astronaut character was the mother of a little girl who had died. That didn't make it any easier when she started talking about her and what happened. Bring Kleenex!
  • I recently finished reading books #2 & #3 in the Hunger Games trilogy, "Catching Fire" and "Mockingjay" (which were books #21 & #22 of the 23 books I've read so far this year). I've been trying to start a full review, but I'm finding it hard to say anything about the books that I didn't already say about "The Hunger Games."  (More spoiler alerts!)  Overall, I enjoyed all three books, although they didn't quite grab me the way the original did. I didn't like the idea of an "all-star" Hunger Games at first -- and then I realized, hey, Survivor does it, so why not? ; )  The whole idea of having a camera crew following Katniss around in her "Mockingjay" role was brilliant -- I have read that Collins worked in television, and it shows. The books do have a sort of cinematic, media-savvy quality.  And there's a great deal of cynicism about governments & leaders that seems tailor made for our own cynical age.  
  • One more week of work, and then I'm off for a week. : ) I'm not sure my superiors are very happy about me taking time off right now... aside from the fact that it's year end & always a busy time, there are a few other issues in the mix this year that are making it a particularly challenging time right now.  I don't think my new boss realized just how busy things could get when she approved these dates, in the early days after she took on this role. But I asked for the time off a long time ago, even before dh lost his job, I think, and certainly long before these other issues came up. And I have taken time off at this time of year before, and the roof didn't cave in. If I've learned anything over the past (gulp) 27 years working in this department, it's that there is never a "good time" to take a vacation, so you might as well take the time that's owed to you and enjoy it. And I still plan to do just that. ; )
  • For once, we will not be at loose ends for (Canadian) Thanksgiving this year. We've already been invited to BIL's. : )  It's not often these days that we get to spend time with our nephews (who are now -- eeekk -- 21 & almost 25, both with girlfriends), let alone both together, so we are looking forward to it.
  • I do have at least one (other) very special thing planned for my time off. : ) It involves some travel.  And I will tell you about it -- afterwards. ; )

Thursday, October 3, 2013

"Simple Dreams" by Linda Ronstadt

Growing up in the 1970s, Linda Ronstadt was THE female voice on the airwaves.  (And what a voice!) I had quite a few of her albums. When I was in university, I got my own stereo for my dorm room, and I would often put on an side of "Mad Love" or "Get Closer," turn out the lights, slip under the covers, and drift off to sleep to the soothing sounds of Linda singing "Talk to Me of Mendicino" or the spine-tingling harmonies of her voice entwined with Dolly Parton's & Emmylou Harris's singing "My Blue Tears."

Country, rock & roll, opera & operetta/Broadway, pop standards, Mexican folk music (in Spanish) -- Ronstadt could do it all (and did, much to the record company's dismay)(until they saw the sales figures). She introduced me (and, I'm sure, many others) to an amazing spectrum of great music.  In many cases, I heard her renditions of songs by Hank Williams, Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan, Smokey Robinson, the Rolling Stones, Warren Zevon & Elvis Costello before I ever heard the originals. Through her, I went on to discover these and other songs & musicians that broadened my musical horizons. I had long scoffed at my mother's Frank Sinatra records -- but when Ronstadt put on a 50s-style prom dress and started singing some of the same sort of songs with Sinatra's arranger, Nelson Riddle, I listened -- and then started listening to Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney and, yes, Frankie. ; )

So I was thrilled to hear that Ronstadt had joined the growing ranks of rock stars to pen a memoir,  Simple Dreams -- apparently without the help of a ghostwriter. It is not a long book (about 200 well-spaced pages) but it is well written. I am glad I didn't wait for the paperback. :) 

The subtitle of the book is "A Musical Memoir" and the focus is definitely on the musical side of Ronstadt's life (which is, of course, quite substantial and interesting). If you are looking for lurid details of her personal life, this is probably not the book for you -- although she does include a few good stories, including one about trying to ditch a very drunk and belligerent Jim Morrison. (Another good, albeit non-romantic story concerns a girl she & Nicolette Larson befriended while roller skating -- who turns out to be a member of the Manson Family!!) She actually uses the phrase "keeping company" to describe her relationship with Jerry Brown (then & now the Governor of California). (!!)

(I had an album by Nicolette Larson in my college days too. I loved her song "Rhumba Girl" & used to put it on and dance to it while I was getting ready for parties in my dorm room.)(That, and the album "Rio" by Duran Duran, lol.)  : )

Despite her many well-publicized romances, Ronstadt has never married. In her 40s, she adopted two children, a boy & a girl. There is a picture of her with her daughter as toddler, and she mentions them in passing, primarily in terms of their musical inclinations. You won't find any insights into adoption or single motherhood here.

It's hard to believe the Queen of 70s Rock is not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (!) -- even though she's been eligible for more than 20 (!) years. Ronstadt claims she doesn't care. In the book, she brushes aside the "Queen of Rock" title: "[it] made me uneasy, as my musical devotions often lay elsewhere." Her personal pick for "the first fully realized female rocker" is Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders.)

The book ends before Ronstadt's recent discovery -- & public revelation -- that she has Parkinson's disease -- and can no longer sing. I find it incredibly sad, knowing that amazing voice has been silenced.  But what a legacy she has left us!

A couple of my favourite Ronstadt songs (so hard to pick just one...!): 





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This was book #23 that I've read so far this year -- I'll write about books #21 & 22 in a future post.