Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Book: "Going Gray" by Anne Kreamer

"Going Gray" by Anne Kreamer has been in my to-read pile for some time now -- and after I wrote about my last visit to the hair salon (and after pointing others struggling with this question to this book), I decided it was time to actually get the thing read myself, lol.

Anne Kreamer was 49 years old and had regularly coloured her hair for years (at an estimated cumulative cost of $65,000)(!!! -- she DOES live in New York City...!) -- until she saw a photo of herself that led her to question that decision and contemplate the consequences of "going gray." (Hint: It's not just about the hair.)

The book had its beginnings in an article Kreamer wrote for More magazine -- and it does feel a bit padded at times. Kreamer seems determined to explore every angle she can find related to the decision to "go gray" -- to the point that I sometimes I had to scratch my head and say, "Seriously??" At any rate, she does do a thorough job.

She explores the history of hair colouring, how hair colouring products have been marketed through the years, and the pressures women face to maintain a youthful appearance. She looks at gray hair in Hollywood, in politics, in business and in other countries/cultures (particularly that bastion of fashion, France). Beyond interviewing women AND men (both famous and not) on their opinions about gray hair (can gray hair be sexy?) and their own decisions on the matter, she devised a survey to probe attitudes about age, beauty and gray hair, including photos of people with and without gray hair. With her husband's blessing (!), she ventured onto online dating sites, using photos of herself with and without gray hair, to see which profile generated the most interest. She even went barhopping, first in a wig and then in her gray hair, to see which version of herself attracted the most interest from men. (Sometimes, the results of these experiments were surprising.) She also visits an image consultant, and looks at how colouring your hair can be a slippery slope that leads to other anti-aging measures, such as botox and cosmetic surgery.

If you're wondering whether to "go gray" yourself, this book might give you some food for thought.

An update: I'll be heading home to see my parents shortly, but before I do, I'll be making my traditional pre-trip visit to the salon. ;)  I haven't made up my mind yet as to whether I'll be asking my hairdresser for a cut & colour/highlights, or just a trim -- but I'm leaning towards just the trim. And bracing myself for my mother's reaction, lol.

This was book #11 that I've read so far in 2015.

Monday, June 29, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Graduation blues

It's that time of year. School is out for the summer, pretty much everywhere now. Over the past few weeks, I've been seeing a steady stream of "last day" photos (when I was a kid, we had first day photos & that was it, but nevermind...), prom photos, year-end recital and sports banquet photos, junior kindergarten graduation photos, kindergarten graduation photos, sixth grade graduation photos, junior high graduation photos, high school graduation photos, university graduation photos (including my own nephew's).  Parents posting on Facebook with hashtags that say "soproud" and "growinguptoofast" with sad face emoticons.

Watching from the sidelines, those of us who have lost children, those of us who wanted to be parents but aren't, are watching with a mixture of pride (for the achievements of those kids we know & love), bemusement ("get a grip, mom & dad"), sadness, and yes, a little envy.

I understand that sensation of time passing by way too quickly, a little. It doesn't seem that long ago that our nephew was an adorable, chubby, curly-headed toddler with a soother that seemed permanently stuck in his mouth. And now he's a towering six-feet-something tall, embarking on a new job and saving up to buy his girlfriend an engagement ring. Yikes!  (We weren't able to attend his convocation -- not enough tickets -- but we were still able to watch him cross the stage and receive his diploma via webcast. Three cheers for technology!!) 

But as another babyloss mom has said (in words to this effect), "I really wish people wouldn't say stuff like 'I wish they could just stay little forever.' Believe me, you really don't wish that. I will never see my son's first day of school, or last day or school, or graduation, or wedding.  I will never get to see him grow up. At all." 

This September, my daughter would have been entering her last year of high school. Turning 17 in November.

This time next year, I will be looking at my friends' & relatives' photos of their sons & daughters (at least five or six kids that I can think of, offhand, whose moms' pregnancies overlapped mine with Katie) attending prom, attending graduation, receiving awards, posing with proud parents & grandparents, discussing their plans for the future, talking about university and community college in the fall. 

There are many things about the bereaved parent experience that I've learned to grin & bear, to shrug off, that I've gotten used to, developed coping strategies to handle. Showers, birthday parties, first communions, weddings, Halloween, Christmas -- occasionally, I will have a difficult moment, but these things generally sting far less than they once did.

I don't think this is going to be one of those things.  

I am not looking forward to it.

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

Sunday, June 28, 2015

"Inside Out," and learning to live with Sadness

Dh & I went to see the new Pixar movie, "Inside Out," this afternoon. (I ventured in to buy the tickets while dh parked the car. "Two tickets, please," I said to the young girl at the box office. "Is that two adults?" she said. "Ummm, yes," I muttered, extremely conscious that every other adult in line had at least one kid in tow.) 

Of course, as it turned out, this is one of those kids' movies that's really not for kids at all. (Bring Kleenex!)

As you may have heard by now, the movie is all about 11-year-old Riley, whose happy life with her parents is turned upside down when they move from Minnesota to San Francisco.  Most of the activity takes place inside of Riley's brain, where the control board is presided over by her emotions: Fear, Disgust, Anger, Sadness, and (especially) Joy (all brilliantly voiced).

This was a good movie (definitely a thumbs up -- dh loved it too) -- but it was also a tough movie for me personally to watch, for several reasons.

First, the scenes of little Riley frolicking with her parents were a painful reminder of everything I've missed out on over the past 17 years with our daughter.

Second, Riley's emotions as a little girl uprooted from her home and friends by her father's career move were all too familiar to me. My sister & I lived in 9 different houses in 5 towns in two provinces before we graduated from high school, moving around every 3-4 years because of our dad's job. The longest I ever lived anywhere, prior to marrying dh, was 6 years. The movie brought back a lot of memories, not all of them good.

Third, the movie was sometimes hard to watch because of the lessons it imparts about our emotions -- in particular, Joy and Sadness -- and the roles they play in our lives. Instead of asking Riley about how she's feeling about the move, Riley's mom reminds her daughter about the stress dad is under with his new job, and says "it would be a big help" if she could just keep smiling. Hmmm, why does this sound familiar? Joy (voice by Amy Poehler) frantically tries to keep Riley happy -- and keep Sadness away from the control board. Yet by the end of the movie (SPOILER ALERT!), it's Sadness who saves the day for Riley. Joy realizes that Sadness does have an important role to play in Riley's life, that sometimes we need Sadness, before Joy can return to our lives again. 

Dan Kois of Slate finds this message "revolutionary." Reading the Slate article (and I would recommend it), I was reminded of Barbara Ehrenreich's book "Bright-Sided," (which I reviewed here), and the constant pressure we feel in this society to remain relentlessly positive and upbeat in the face of all kinds of truly crappy situations -- cancer, death, stillbirth, infertility. Our grief and sadness make others uncomfortable. Like the character Joy, they whirl around, trying to distract us with upbeat chatter -- when often, what would really help us feel better is for someone to sit down beside us, put an arm around us and say, "hey, that's sad" while we cry -- as Sadness does in the movie.

Lori Lavender Luz saw the movie recently with her kids, and had a similar observation about this key lesson:   
We in the ALI (adoption/loss/infertility) community have a tradition of abiding with someone who is enduring a loss or facing a fear. We don’t dismiss the emotions (“it’ll all be OK”) or tell someone to “get over it.” We don’t avoid tough emotions. We sit with a person while she feeeeeeels it. We walk alongside.

Have you seen the movie yet? (Don't forget the Kleenex!  lol)  

Monday, June 22, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Ghosts of Christmas past

This weekend -- after spending the past several weeks going through my book collection and hauling 25 liquor store cartons full to the Salvation Army to date -- I turned my attention to the smallest of our house's three bedrooms -- the one that was supposed to have been a nursery.

Among the junk & treasures in the closet, I found a stack of Christmas cards from 1998.  You know, the cards that were supposed to be brimming with messages of ecstatic congratulations about the baby girl that was supposed to have been born in November.  Of course, 1998 turned out to be probably the crappiest, most turbulent year of my life, made even more miserable by the death of my beloved grandfather in October. 

I hadn't looked at the cards in quite a while. I had only kept the ones that people had written personal messages in. I had sent my own cards extra-early that year with an explanatory letter to pre-empt any enquiries or congratulations about the baby, and thankfully, I didn't receive any of those. 

The vast majority of cards I received that year made absolutely no mention of the small pink elephant in the room in any way, shape or form.  (To be fair, some had, of course, already called or sent condolences back in August &/or again in October.)  Most of the cards containing messages simply relayed a few tidbits of family news and/or heartily wished us a merry Christmas (yeah, right) and happy 1999.

A few alluded in a general way to the sadness of the past year and wished better things for us in the new year:
  • From one of my oldest and dearest friends: "I'm so sorry for all the grief you have suffered in the past year. You have been in my prayers. I hope 1999 is a much better year for you!"
  • From a high school friend:  "Sorry that your year hasn't been the best and hope that '99 brings you everything you wish for."
  • From my sister's best friend since junior high days: "Although I know this time of year holds sorrowful memories, just remember what you did have and do have -- and remember how many people are thinking of you and wishing you well through the season and in 1999."
  • From my cousin's wife: "We know this has been a difficult year. Hope you find joy this season and the year to come. You both are always in our thoughts."
  • From an old friend (opening line of handwritten letter): "This is the toughest letter I've ever written -- I am so sorry. I can't even imagine what you've been through. You are in my thoughts." (Then she carries on blithely with news about her own family...!)
  • From Cousin/Neighbour's wife: "...We know what a difficult year you've had so we hope that the New Year will bring you many wonderful things." 
My great-aunt (my grandmother's sister -- whom I adored) mentioned the loss of my grandfather specifically, but was silent on the topic of the small pink elephant:
  • "Do hope you and family are able to remember all your past Christmases and the joy of them and of having your Grandfather so many years. Enjoy your togetherness, you are very blessed to have such a good family." 
In fact, the only person who directly mentioned our daughter was an old friend who rarely sends Christmas cards -- so I was doubly touched!: 
  • "I am so saddened to hear of the death of your daughter Katie. I cannot imagine how difficult this year has been for you. The two of you have been much in [husband] and my thoughts since I got your letter. I wish there were more we could do but we send our prayers and thoughts and wish you some peace this Christmas!" 
There were two other messages that I found deeply touching:
  • From my mother's cousin (who had recently lost his own young grandson):  "Remember the good times at Christmas so that peace and contentment may be with you. And know that others share your sorrow and would, if they could, take it from you." 
The message that got me most choked up was one from another of my mother's cousins -- one of my two godmothers. Its opening lines read:
  • "What a year you've had. You have a lot of courage and grace to get through everything the way you have. I'm proud of you!"
Thanks, Godmother. I was (and still am) kind of proud of me too.

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

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Remember how far you have come

Got this from Julian Lennon's Facebook page.
I think he got it from Iman's (the fashion model, aka Mrs. David Bowie). :)

Monday, June 15, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Love & Mercy

Dh & I went to see "Love & Mercy" yesterday afternoon, about Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. There are two actors playing the role:  Paul Dano as Brian in the 1960s, and John Cusack in the 1980s. I am generally a big fan of John Cusack, but I didn't quite see him as Brian Wilson here -- he doesn't look much like the man (although he does a good job with his speech patterns & mannerisms) and it was hard to forget that I was watching John Cusack. Paul Dano, though, was excellent, and it was quite amazing to watch him as Brian -- especially to see him at work in the studio, creating "Pet Sounds," which is regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time today (even if, as the movie reminds us, it was less than a hit at the time of its release).

I left the theatre with Beach Boys songs playing on a continuous loop in my head. (There are worse things...!)  I grew up on the Canadian Prairies, about as far from the ocean as you can get, and while I don't remember being really aware of the Beach Boys until I was almost a teenager, I spent my childhood Saturday afternoons at the theatre, watching Beach Party and Gidget movies -- so the California/surfing sound was part of my personal life soundtrack. My first clear memory of their music was hearing "Surfin' Safari" and "All Summer Long" on the soundtrack of the 1973 movie "American Graffiti" -- which was set in the summer of 1962 and ignited a revival of interest in early rock & roll music. I always loved this exchange in the movie:  

[John turns off the radio]
Carol (played by a very young Mackenzie Phillips):   Why did you do that?
John Milner (Paul LeMat): I don't like that surfin' shit. Rock and roll's been going down hill ever since Buddy Holly died.
Carol: Don't you think the Beach Boys are boss?
John: You would, you grungy little twirp.
Carol: Grungy? You big weenie! If I had a boyfriend, he'd pound you.
John: Yeah, sure.

I spent the summer of 1981 living in a basement apartment with my sister, back in the town where our family had lived, 1974-80.  Our parents had moved, but we were able to find summer jobs and this apartment in familiar surroundings. I wound up spending a lot of time that summer with a girl I'd known only slightly in high school. Her dad had a gorgeous new, shiny yellow Camaro, which he let her drive, and we would cruise up and down the main street of our town, drawing appreciative glances from the guys (for the car, if not for what was inside, lol).  I have since lost touch with her, but I still think of her every time I hear "Fun, Fun, Fun" ("Well, she's got her daddy's car and she cruises to the hamburger stand now... and she'll have fun, fun, fun till her daddy takes the T-bird away...").  

The next summer (1982), I actually saw the Beach Boys in concert. The warm-up act was a rising star just on the verge of hitting the big time, a young homegrown talent named Bryan Adams. (Dh actually saw him several months earlier, before we started going out together, playing at a bar near the university we attended.) I met dh in the fall of 1981 and we started going out in January 1982, but he had gone home for the summer. He had applied to business school and hoped to return in the fall -- alas, he didn't get in, and our summer apart turned into a three-year long distance romance before we both finished school and finally got married in the summer of 1985. (And this was long before the Internet -- or cheap long distance, for that matter.)

Perhaps it was because the Beach Boys were coming to town, but I heard a lot of "Wouldn't it Be Nice?" on the radio that summer, and it always made me think of dh -- and still reminds me of that time in our lives, whenever I hear it now:

Wouldn't it be nice if we were older
Then we wouldn't have to wait so long
And wouldn't it be nice to live together
In the kind of world where we belong

You know its gonna make it that much better
When we can say goodnight and stay together

Wouldn't it be nice if we could wake up
In the morning when the day is new
And after having spent the day together
Hold each other close the whole night through

Happy times together we've been spending
I wish that every kiss was neverending
Wouldn't it be nice

Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray it might come true
Baby then there wouldn't be a single thing we couldn't do
We could be married
And then we'd be happy

Wouldn't it be nice

You know it seems the more we talk about it
It only makes it worse to live without it
But lets talk about it
Wouldn't it be nice

Good night my baby
Sleep tight my baby

Do you have a favourite Beach Boys song?

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

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Some recent reading & listening

I've read some really excellent books & articles lately related (at least in part) to ALI subjects... and kept thinking, "I should flag this in my blog."  There have been so many, I gave up on the idea of individual blog posts about each one -- but settled for the list below. ;)  I may be missing a few that I was thinking about, but these links should keep you busy for awhile...!  ;) 
  • The National Post had an article about how governments & political parties in Canada (& no doubt elsewhere too) lavish attention & perqs on families with children but ignore the needs & concerns of the rapidly growing population of singles. (The headline in my Facebook feed read: "Attention, singles of Canada: You are being screwed!")  My one quibble about the article is that couples without children are completely ignored here. Yes, I realize the article is supposed to be about SINGLES, and I'll concede that couples' double income is a financial advantage vs single income earners -- but beyond that, there's an awful lot here that sounds familiar. At any rate, it makes some excellent points and is worth a read. (Looking at some of the stats at the end of the article, I was amused -- but not at all surprised -- to find I live in one Canada's top 10 ridings with the fewest singles.) 
  • I know I'm on a quest to reduce the number of books in my library ;) but e-books don't take up physical space. ;)  So when childFULL blogger (her preferred term) Justine Froelker mentioned that her book (like her blog, called "Ever Upward") was available in e-book format for a limited time for just $1.99, I couldn't resist the opportunity. Thanks, Justine, I look forward to reading it soon!  (I have a Kobo vs a Kindle, but you can download a free Kindle app at Amazon that lets you read Kindle books on your PC, smartphone, etc.)  
  • The U.K. seems to be miles ahead of North America when it comes to media discussions about ALI issues, including childlessness -- and some very good, thoughtful coverage, to boot.  The BBC recently had not just one, not just two, but THREE radio programs devoted to the topic of what happens when IVF doesn't work and how do you make the decision to stop. Blogger & therapist Lesley Pyne was interviewed on two of the three shows -- and on one of them, she's joined by her husband, Roger, who provides that elusive male perspective.  Links to the webcasts of all three shows, as well as some other interesting links and thoughtful commentary, can be found in this post from Pamela at Silent Sorority.  Lesley has also written about the experience on her blog, here.  
  • I just found this & haven't had time to watch yet -- but Jody Day of Gateway Women recently interviewed Christine Erickson, author of "The Mother Within," an e-book which I reviewed here.
  • It seems that governments are (finally!) starting to clue in to the fact that they have rapidly aging populations to deal with -- including a sizeable and growing number of people without children to assist them.  Gateway Women's Jody Day is a founding member of an advocacy group called Aging Without Children, which is working to raise awareness in the United Kingdom. And CNN recently ran an article on its website about the rising population of "elder orphans" in the United States. (Thanks to Msfitzita for bringing this one to my attention!)
  • The lack of empathy others have for those of us with infertility & loss issues is a common complaint among those of us in the ALI community. So I was intrigued by this opinion piece in the New York Times, "Imagining the Lives of Others," which asks whether it's really possible (or even desirable) to put ourselves in someone else's shoes and see things through their eyes.  There are some interesting thoughts in the comments section.  What do you think? 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Favourite things

Mel occasionally posts about her favourite things, and asks us to post about ours. As I was commenting on her recent post, one thought led to another & I realized I'd be better off doing my own blog post instead of writing a gargantuan comment. :) So here are a few of my favourite things at the moment:
  • Olive Oil & Sea Salt Mini-Crisps, made by a local bakery, but I'm sure you could find something comparable wherever you live. They have different flavours, and you can serve them with dips and spreads like any fancy cracker, but dh & I prefer this flavour, straight out of the resealable bag. We just discovered these last week, and we are already addicted.  
  • Entertainment Weekly magazine: This is actually a long-time, ongoing favourite of mine. Dh has asked me if I could only subscribe to one magazine, what would it be? And this would be my answer. It's a spinoff of People magazine, but it's less about showbiz personalities and gossip than the entertainment business itself -- what's new and notable, and critics' recommendations on must-see movies, books and television, etc. But I've never actually subscribed -- when I was working, the newsstand downstairs would receive its weekly shipment of new magazines on Thursday mornings, and I would head downstairs at lunchtime to pick up my copy, and then enjoy it on the train ride home that night. I still have my copy of the very first issue from 1990, and I still pick up a new copy every week (usually on Saturday nights now, at our favourite megabookstore -- these things take a little longer to get to Suburbia, lol).
  • Lucky Brand:  I discovered Lucky Brand clothing at Macy's in New York City when I was there in October 2013. I bought two long-sleeved rib-knit Henley T-shirts there that were so cute & comfortable, I wished I'd bought a few more. I did an Internet search & was happy to learn they had some stores in Canada, including one at the Eaton Centre close to where I worked in downtown Toronto. It's pricey stuff (and even pricier in Canada than on the U.S.-based website) -- but I love the fabrics & styles, and while some of the styles are perhaps a little "young" for a 50-something lady like me :p I have found & bought some cute tops that don't look too bad on me ;) as well as some great jewelry. (Their jewelry can also be found at some Hudson's Bay stores.)(Haven't tried their jeans.) I generally watch for sales -- there's usually a sale rack at the back of the store, as well as regular promotions. My latest purchase, originally $49.50 ($39.99 US on the website), was $39.99 on the sale rack, and then marked down a further 50%. So, including taxes, I wound up paying a much more reasonable $22.59. Their website has a much broader selection than their store (at least the store that I've been to) -- and they do ship to Canada -- but the prices are in U.S. dollars, so if you're in Canada, you will wind up paying exchange, as well as shipping & duty, which could add up. Caveat emptor.
  • Columbia sports sandals:  The photo in the link shows a pair similar to ones I bought a few years ago. They were so incredibly comfortable, I bought a couple more pairs in different colours. I can walk in these for a long time. Pricey, but worth it!   
  • Moxies:  I've been to Moxies with my parents in Manitoba several times -- it's been in Winnipeg for years -- but the chain is gradually expanding eastward, and recently opened a location near where I live. And (knocking wood) so far, so good: we've enjoyed every meal we've had there to date:  the food has been good & the service has been excellent.  Perhaps slightly more expensive than some of the other restaurants around here, but then, you get what you pay for. ;)
  • Body Shop Pink Grapefruit Shower Gel:  I've always been a bar soap user, all my life (and dh still is) -- but as part of my decluttering project, I've been trying to use up some of the skin care & beauty product miniatures that have piled up in recent years from freebie samples, gifts with purchase, etc.  I'd received a couple of gift bags from the Body Shop through office Secret Santa exchanges, etc., and one of them included a mini bottle of this shower gel, along with a shower puff.  I tried it & found I liked it -- enough to buy myself a bottle once the mini was used up. My mother made the switch to body washes long ago & swore it left much less soap scum on the tub & tiles, making cleaning that much easier. As usual, Mom was right. ;)  The citrus scent is a nice wakeup and perfect for summertime.
How about you? Any good finds lately?

Monday, June 8, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

The book project is going pretty well. To date, we've hauled 21 (!!) liquor store cartons full of books to the Salvation Army. (Plus a big garbage bag full of stuffed animals and a 30-year-old, seldom-used toaster oven that's been driving dh crazy by taking up too much cupboard space in the kitchen.)  There are still some books sitting on the floor, but the difference is notable, and it's starting to look much tidier/more spacious down there.
*  Aunt Flo is here. Again. Right on schedule. And I feel like crap. :p  You would think 43 years of this would be enough? :p  I have not been sleeping well lately either, which I understand can also be chalked up to (peri)menopause.
*  Looking forward to the day when I can add my books on peri/menopause to the Sally Ann pile. ;) 
*  It has been pouring rain all through the night and this morning.  We've had some sun on & off the last few days, but the weather has not been overly warm to date. Which is good in one way, I suppose, but the in-between-ness is frustrating at times. It's not cold enough to have the furnace on, but it's not warm enough for the air conditioning to kick in too often either. And speaking of not sleeping well -- if I pull up the quilt on the bed, I get too hot;  if I don't have it on, at least partway up the bed, I sometimes get too cold. And the towels in the bathroom never completely dry out, so they get musty, and I have to remember to change them more frequently. Bah, humbug.
*  Dh & I have been to a couple of good movies lately. Last weekend, we went to see "Tomorrowland" with George Clooney.  We didn't have many expectations as to what it was about -- and it turned out to be a kids' movie (Disney -- you think we would have clued in...) -- but we both enjoyed it a lot. 
*  This weekend, we went to see "Spy" with Melissa McCarthy and a very funny Jason Statham. (Who knew??)  Two thumbs up.

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

Saturday, June 6, 2015

15 albums

H/T to Almost Batten, who recently posted a list of 15 albums she listens to that will always stick with her. (It's actually "15 albums in 15 minutes," because you're not supposed to spend too much time thinking or writing about it -- but of course, brevity has never been my strong suit, lol...!) I told her this was a timely topic for me, since I just went through my vinyl album collection before handing it over to Older Nephew -- not that we don't still have a sizeable CD collection too. ;) 

Here are mine (in no particular order):

(I thought about adding links &/or thumbnail cover images, but I didn't want this post to take forever, lol -- if you're interested, Google or YouTube are only a click away...!):  

The Best of Herman's Hermits, Vol. 2:  Christmas 1966, my sister & I received a fabulous gift:  a record player, with two albums to play on it: the soundtrack from Mary Poppins (which we had recently seen), and (I detect a theme here...) an album of Christmas carols by Julie Andrews. But it was the 60s, and my mother had already taken me to see the movie "Help!" starring the Beatles, followed by "Hold On!" starring Herman's Hermits, thus beginning my lifelong love affair with British Invasion bands & music.  :)  And a few weeks after Christmas, I got this album for my 6th birthday.  It included a poster of Herman (Peter Noone), which has sadly gone missing over the years. The cover is battered & the record is scratched, but it's one of the few albums that I didn't turn over to Older Nephew, even though I have a Herman's Hermits greatest hits CD that includes most of the same songs. Peter Noone occasionally plays concerts at the local casinos;  I am determined to get to one of them one of these days & get him to sign the album for me. :)

Groovin' (The Young Rascals):  Following the Herman's Hermits LP, this was probably the second rock album my sister & I owned, and it's still somewhere in the depths of my parents' basement, although I recently managed to snag a CD version. As I blogged at the time, all four original band members reunited a couple of years ago for the first time in more than 40 years, and I dragged dh to see them here in Toronto. It was a fabulous show -- despite all those years apart, they were still in fine form -- and I could still sing along.  Perhaps the original blue-eyed soul band.

The Beatles, 1962-66 and 1967-70:  Released in the mid-1970s, these two greatest hits compilations are commonly known as the Red Album & the Blue Album. I grew up listening to Beatles music, but they broke up when I was 9 years old.  These albums were released a few years later, as I was entering my teens ( = prime record buying years), and they were actually the first Beatles albums I owned. I think this also holds true for many of my contemporaries (unless they had older brothers & sisters with copies of "Rubber Soul" and "Sgt. Pepper").

Dreamboat Annie (Heart): I wrote about this album two summers ago as part of my review of Ann & Nancy Wilson's memoir, "Kicking and Dreaming."  To recap: I LOVED "Crazy on You" and "Magic Man," which received radio airplay, BEGGED for it and got it for Christmas or my birthday when I was about 15. I loved the wailing guitars, and loved being able to sing along with a female voice (for a change!).  I still love this album.

IV (Led Zeppelin):  I bought this album when I was in high school for one cut alone: "Stairway to Heaven" (of course), which was always, always the last song played at every high school dance I ever attended. If you heard the familiar strains of "Stairway to Heaven" starting, you knew the night was over. and if that cute guy you'd been eyeing hadn't asked you to dance yet, well, better luck next time. But while it was a little "heavier" than my usual musical fare at the time, I grew to appreciate some of the other songs on the album too. It was an iconic album of its time, and was probably in most of my friends' record collections.

Rumours (Fleetwood Mac): This album was huge -- HUGE! -- when I was entering high school. I bought it at the Bay for $4.99 while I was staying at my aunt's house in the city to attend a provincial high school science fair, and my aunt came into my bedroom to find her toddler son (now a successful chiropractor) sitting on the floor & giggling over the photos of a google-eyed, beareded Mick Fleetwood on the back cover. ;)  Hearing the lazy, druggy intro to "Dreams" immediately sends me back to the beach, laying in the sun tanning and listening to the song on my transistor radio.  And while I bow to Stevie Nicks and her charisma, my all-time favourite Fleetwood Mac song is actually "Songbird," which closes the side one -- just Christine McVie at the piano with her soaring, crystal-clear voice. Amazing.

Boston (Boston):  One of my favourite scrapbooking gurus/bloggers, Cathy Zielske, recently devoted an entire blog post to the marvel that is Boston's first album. I loved this album when it first came out and played it to death. I still play it often, especially when I'm housecleaning, and anytime one of its cuts comes on the radio, I turn the volume up & sing along. (I wrote about this album before, here, as a segue to a more ALI-related topic.) 

Living in the U.S.A. (Linda Ronstadt):  As I wrote in this review of her memoir a few years ago, I adore Linda Ronstadt, in all her many incarnations -- country, rock, pop standards -- and have owned quite a few of her albums. This one was, I think, the first. With a wide range of cover tunes by artists as varied as Chuck Berry, Elvis Costello, Elvis Presley, Smokey Robinson and Warren Zevon, it showed off her amazing versatility.  The cover, showing Ronstadt in a pair of short-shorts, silk bomber jacket and roller skates, made her a sex symbol too. I am so sad that she can no longer sing because of Parkinson's disease -- but oh, what a legacy! 

Live at Budokan (Cheap Trick): I eventually had several Cheap Trick albums, but this was the first, and the most iconic, complete with hordes of shrieking Japanese girls in the background. I got to see them in concert a few times myself and while I don't think I ever screamed ;) I always enjoyed the show tremendously.

Breakfast in America (Supertramp):  Supertramp was a huge band during my teenage & college years, and this album was a smash hit, just as I was graduating from high school.  I took a trip to Ottawa in May that year, courtesy of the local Rotary Club, and whenever I hear these songs, I think of Ottawa and of driving around with my billet family's teenagers & their friends.  They couldn't understand why I wanted to go see the boring old Parliament Buildings instead of hanging out with them, lol.

The Cars (The Cars):  Another album I played to death and still love to sing along to. Probably the first "new wave" band I remember liking. Let the good times roll, indeed!

Rio (Duran Duran):  I was already in college when Duran Duran hit the bigtime, so I was a little beyond following them as teen idols. But the music was catchy, and those videos...!  I had both of their first two albums, and often played them in my dorm room as I was getting ready for parties. :) 

My Aim is True (Elvis Costello & the Attractions):  I actually first heard "Alison" in a cover version by Linda Ronstadt (see above). Eventually (having heard "Pump It Up" and "Radio Radio" played at various university socials (dances) and seen photos of this geeky looking guy with the King's name & a punk rock attitude) I decided to check out the original -- and I have been glad I did ever since then.

Darkness on the Edge of Town (Bruce Springsteen):  I had to get a Springsteen album in here, lol. It was hard to pick just one, but this was dh's favourite at the time we started going out, and it also included the first Springsteen song I remember hearing, when I was in high school (and still one of my favourites), "Prove it all Night." It also includes classics such as "Badlands" and "The Promised Land."

American Idiot (Green Day): I was in my 30s by the time Green Day came around, in the early 1990s. By then, my interest and ability to keep up with current music was fading :p -- but I came to like Green Day because their punky, hooky sound reminded me of some of the stuff I loved in high school and university. It was a refreshing jolt amid a lot of dance music and rap (which I loathe).  "American Idiot" blew me away -- the music, the concept, the messages, the attitude. I was glad to see them enter the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this year.

This was not as hard as I thought it would be ;) -- I could probably have written about more. What are some of the influential albums of your life?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Sheryl Sandberg on grief & loss

By now, you've probably seen Facebook executive/"Lean In" author Sheryl Sandberg's extraordinary Facebook post, marking 30 days since the death of her 47-year-old husband, Dave Goldberg. But if you haven't, I urge you to have a read. It's kind of a manifesto, on the theme of "What I've learned about grief."

Part of me thinks 30 days might be a little soon to be making definitive statements about "what I've learned" -- because I'm afraid there are probably more lessons lurking around the corner for Ms Sandberg. Grief can be sneaky like that. Perhaps she should have added a qualifier -- "(so far)"? But I have to admit, she does cover the bases very well here, and while our losses are very different, I found myself nodding over just about every sentence. I read one article that suggested Sandberg may ignite a public conversation about grief in the same way that "Lean In" got people talking about women and work-life balance. We can only hope...!

Women who find themselves living without the children they had planned for and dreamed about often talk about finding their "plan B." So I had to smile a little when I read the last few paragraphs: 
I was talking to one of these friends about a father-child activity that Dave is not here to do. We came up with a plan to fill in for Dave. I cried to him, “But I want Dave. I want option A.” He put his arm around me and said, “Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the shit out of option B.”  
Dave, to honor your memory and raise your children as they deserve to be raised, I promise to do all I can to kick the shit out of option B. And even though sheloshim has ended, I still mourn for option A. I will always mourn for option A.

I will always mourn for my option A too. I never was a great kicker, as my many school gym teachers and soccer teammates will affirm. ;)  But I too will do my best to kick the shit out of my personal option B. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: VP Joe Biden on grief and loss

Most people can't fathom losing one child -- let alone both your child AND your spouse in a single day in a tragic car accident, which critically injures your two other children as well (presenting the very real possibility that your entire family might be wiped out) -- at Christmastime, before you've even turned 30 years old.

U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden lived that nightmare, back in 1972, just as he was launching his career in the Senate. And over this past weekend, one of his two surviving sons from his first marriage, Beau, passed away from cancer at age 46.

I think I first heard about the Biden family's story around the time of the 2008 election. If I remember correctly, both Beau (who introduced his dad at the Democratic national convention) and his father referred to the tragedy in their convention speeches.

A couple of years ago, I caught the VP on the news, giving a speech unlike any other I could ever recall a politician making. He was addressing a group called TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors), which offers support to anyone grieving the death of someone who served in the military. He spoke frankly about his loss, and how it had affected him personally. And he offered hope to the bereaved:  things do get better, eventually.

It's an amazing speech, and if you have 20 minutes to watch the full thing, here it is:

If you only have a few minutes, watch this excerpt that was shown on Rachel Maddow's show:  

My heart goes out to the Biden family as they mourn the loss of their son. 

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