Monday, November 30, 2015

November -- yay or nay?

So -- it's over! As you all know, November is NOT my favourite month (although it still beats February...!).

So now the big question:  Did November suck (as much as it sometimes has in the past)? Did I hate November or not this year?

Why November still sucks (a bit): 

I have to admit, there were a few parts of November that I could have done without.
  • Near the end of the month, the weather turned colder and gloomier and more November-like.
  • What happened in Paris on Friday, November 13th, was sad & scary. :(  
  • We had to hand over a big chunk of change to get a new car, after our old one (12+ years and counting) was diagnosed with more repairs than we felt were worth spending money on. This, on top of a new fridge in early October, the Painting Project, and plane tickets to see my family Christmas, left quite a dent in our wallet (and this was BEFORE I started Christmas shopping...!). Ouch! 
  • Dh & I spent the better part of two days going back & forth to the local hospital's emergency room. Long story short, he had a piece of chicken stuck in his throat, which had to be removed via gastroscopy/endoscopy.  It was kind of scary -- he could breathe, but he could not swallow anything, including water (!) -- but aside from a sore throat for the next few days, he quickly bounced back to normal, thank goodness.
  • And, of course, November will always be a reminder of my unfulfilled due date, and the little girl who never grew up. :( 
Why November doesn't suck (as much): 
  • I'm not at work!! :)  :)  :) 
You know, I've heard a lot of people complaining about the painful memories that come back to haunt them via Facebook's "On This Day" feature. (Bent Not Broken recently had a thoughtful post on this subject.) So far, I haven't had any real gut-punches -- perhaps because Facebook wasn't even invented until long after I had been through stillbirth, infertility & finally settled on continuing to live without children.

Nevertheless, there have been a couple of surprises -- things I'd forgotten about, funny stories I'd shared that were still funny a few years later. One thing that's plainly evident is how miserable I've often been at this time of year -- particularly in November and particularly late November/early December -- crunch time for year-end work deadlines. Often I'd have similar complaints pop up from various years on the same day!

A few examples (slightly edited):

From November 19th, 2012:
"It's the most wonderful time of the yeeeeeeeeaaaaaarrrrr....." (Sung sarcastically, with looming deadlines for year end in mind... :p )
From November 22, 2010:
...will be very, very, very, very happy when year end stuff is finally finished. :p
From November 23, 2011 (exactly one year later!):
...thinks it totally sucks that the fun of the Christmas season coincides exactly with the busiest & most stressful time of year at work (year end reporting). :p (You would think I would have figured this out & gotten used to it after 25 years on the job, but every year about this time, I feel the need to vent & sulk, lol. The fact that all my American relatives are enjoying turkey tomorrow while I still have to wait another month for Mom's might also have something to do with it...)
Other reasons why November didn't suck (as much):
  • The weather for the first 1/2 to 2/3 of the month was, for the most part, gorgeous. (In fact, I just saw a weather story on TV that showed something like 21 days of above-normal temperatures in November!)  There were a couple of days, early in the month, when I was outside in my shirt sleeves. That DOES NOT HAPPEN in Canada, people (certainly not where I grew up). It was Nov. 24th before I woke up to snow on the ground, and even then, it was just enough to coat the grass, and vanished quickly. (Yes, I know -- global warming, etc. etc.  But still...!)    
  • The Painting Project, which started in mid-October, spilled over into the first part of November. By the time stepBIL packed up his paint rollers and I managed to get my house back into some semblance of order and cleanliness, it was almost Remembrance Day. So the month really flew by.
  • Despite the fact that getting a new car ate up a big chunk of our savings (albeit savings that were budgeted specifically for a new car sometime in the near future), it was, of course, exciting :) and we are enjoying it.  
  • I got a head start on getting into the Christmas spirit, first by getting in touch with my Swedish roots at a Swedish Christmas festival, complete with a St. Lucia pageant (where St. Lucia stuck with tradition and wore a crown of real candles in her hair!) -- then by getting a head start on my Christmas shopping on Black Friday with my sister-in-law. :)  Black Friday is a relatively new phenomenon here in Canada -- promoted by retailers who are desperate to keep us and our dollars from crossing the border in search of bargains -- and the mall was pretty crowded, but SIL is a great shopping companion.  We had fun and yes, we found some bargains. :)
On balance, then: another November that didn't totally suck. :)  How about that?? :) 

#MicroblogMondays: It's a date :)

A couple of weeks ago, after our semi-annual dental cleanings & checkups in the city (no cavities, yay!!), dh & I made a side trip to an exclusive little stationery shop in a ritzy shopping neighbourhood. Not a place where I habitually go to shop, but then, there aren't a whole lot of places around anymore where I can find a calendar insert for my Filofax for the upcoming new year. There used to be several such shops in the financial district where we both used to work, but most of these have gradually closed over the past few years, no doubt a casualty of the growing shift from paper to digital recordkeeping.

Yes, I still use a paper calendar. I've used Filofax (Week on Two Pages) for something like 25 years now. Originally, I used a cheap vinyl DayRunner organizer with a Filofax calendar insert -- but a couple of years ago, after wearing out two of those, I splurged and, for my birthday, bought myself a lovely black leather Filofax Personal organizer (bonus: it was on sale!). Besides the calendar/datebook, it also includes my address book, business cards for our various doctors and other service people, to-do lists, a vinyl envelope containing postage stamps and address labels, a solar-powered calculator the size of a credit card, train schedule, etc. -- and, in case of an emergency, a $5 bill tucked away, lol. (It's been awhile since I put it there -- maybe I should make it $10 or $20 -- inflation!)  Some people go nuts if they lose their cellphones;  for me, if I lost my Filofax, I would be up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

I love filling in a blank calendar for a new year with fixed stuff like birthdays, appointments I've already made, paydays (& then wait for the inevitable bills to arrive & fill those in too, lol).  Birthdays & anniversaries go in red, important stuff like bills to be paid go in black (& when they're paid, they're ticked off in green with the amount paid written beside). Regular appointments are written in blue (and sometimes highlighted with yellow highlighter). The datebook also serves as a bit of a diary:  I make notes about the day's weather in purple, mail sent and received in turquoise, notable phone calls made & received in brown... I use lots of post-it notes too, for little to-do reminders, etc. 

At the end of the year, the old insert gets binder-clipped together and stored in a desk drawer along with the others from years past. I have all my datebooks and wall calendars going back to the early 1970s;  it's great to have them at my fingertips and be able to check what happened when and what I was doing xx years ago on this very day. For example, thanks to an old datebook I found & brought home from my mother's house this past summer, I was able to pinpoint the exact date of the dorm party where I first remember meeting and talking to dh, 34 years ago. :)

I suppose I could have just ordered my calendar insert online (& I may eventually have to, if fine stationery shops keep going the way of the dodo bird...), but it was fun to make the trip and be around all that lovely paper and fine fountain pens. It was just after Remembrance Day, and Christmas decorations were starting to go up;  it was a great way to kick off the holiday season. :)

What kind of a calendar/datebook system do you use?

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

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Uterine transplants & social pressures

There was an article in Ms Magazine's online blog several days ago, about recently announced trials at the Cleveland Clinic that would, conceivably (OK, bad pun), allow women to experience pregnancy and give birth via uterine transplant.

While writer Katherine Macfarlane applauds the efforts to give women more reproductive choices, she also takes note of "the social pressures at play that equate true womanhood with the ability to become a biological mother... pressure to experience motherhood in a very specific way."
I understand the determination to become a mother. Aside from the fact that it’s a natural part of life, socialization makes the experience of motherhood hard to separate from the experience of being a woman...  I know from personal experience that, even when it could pose a threat to your own wellbeing, the chance to carry a baby yourself is compelling... It's hard to let that dream go...  
Uterus transplants will give women who had lost hope a new chance to control their reproductive choices: They can now choose the option of experiencing motherhood through their own pregnancies. 
If women walk into these procedures fully informed of the risks, advised by doctors who will weigh the pressure to experience pregnancy alongside what women want, uterus transplants will represent medical innovation at its best. But questioning the restrictive gender norms that might influence those choices is critical.
The key point here for, for me, was the very specific focus on "biological" motherhood as a norm that women feel pressured to aspire to.  Interestingly, the article does not define any alternatives to "biological motherhood."  It does not encourage women to "just adopt" or consider adoption as an alternative.  In fact, I don't think the word "adoption" appears once in the article. (Other "alternative" routes to motherhood, including the use of donor eggs or surrogacy, are not mentioned either.)  On the one hand, it's kind of refreshing. ;)  On the other hand, when you think about it, it seems slightly odd... if you're questioning the pressures women feel to achieve motherhood biologically, why no mention of the other ways they can achieve this goal? 

Which brings me to my point. I just wish the writer had gone one step further.  It's not JUST the pressure to become a biological mother and/or experience pregnancy yourself that women face -- it's the pressure we face to become mothers, period, by any means possible. Or, if not to actively parent a child, then at least to appear "motherly" and nurturing in other ways, and especially when interacting with other people's children. (I know there was a great online discussion on this subject recently, although I can't for the life of me remember where -- on a blog? On Facebook?  -- if anyone remembers, let me know in the comments!) 

Of course, many people consider feminism to be anti-motherhood -- perhaps the writer and the magazine was trying to avoid that image with this specific focus?

What do you think? -- of the pressures to become a mother, biologically or otherwise, and of uterine transplants as a potential route to motherhood?

Right now...

Sharah recently did a list on her blog, "Right now," that I've been wanting to do here for awhile now. Similar lists that I've long enjoyed are "The Present Participle" by scrapbooking blogger Cathy Zielske (the verbs she uses vary from month to month -- November's list is here) and the "Download" column in the Sunday New York Times Review section (the standard categories are Reading, Watching, Listening and Following, plus a couple others that seem to be specifically tailored to the person featured).

So here's sort of a mishmash/combination/my version... if I remember, I'll resurrect this now & then. ;) 

Reading:  "Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter" by Kate Clifford Larson. Review to come. Also in my to-read pile (among other volumes): the latest memoirs by Elvis Costello, Patti Smith and Gloria Steinem.  Plus, of course, the inevitable magazines & newspapers. ;)

Watching: This afternoon: "Spotlight," a movie that's getting rave reviews & Oscar buzz.  Tonight: Grey Cup, the one & only football game I feel compelled to watch every year -- Ottawa Redblacks vs Edmonton Eskimos (who last met for the championship in 1981). Bonus: this year, it's being played at the new(ish) stadium built on the campus of my alma mater in my home province. :) 

Listening: I haven't listened to it yet, but I picked up Adele's new CD on Black Friday. :) One of the local FM radio stations has switched to an all-Christmas music format, and we've been listening to that in the car a lot, in addition to our usual classic rock station. :)

Following: The progress of Bill 141 through the Ontario legislature. Third Reading debate has been set for Monday, Dec 7th, and a final vote is scheduled for Dec 8th. If you are a bereaved parent living in Ontario, please call or email your local MPP to express your support. There is a Facebook page where you can follow the bill's progress along with me. :)

Drinking: I just realized I have not yet treated myself to a Starbucks Christmas drink!! Must remedy that shortly!  ;)

Eating:  Popcorn for lunch at the movies this afternoon. ;) 

Anticipating: A busy three weeks ahead (yikes!!) until we head home to visit my parents for Christmas. 

Contemplating: What happened to October & November and how did we get here, with Dec. 1st just two days away and Christmas less than four weeks off??! 

Loving: Seeing the sunshine flooding into my living room.  Makes November feel less Novemberish. ;)  

Monday, November 23, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Farewell to a dinosaur

Dh & I recently joined the 21st century: we got a new 48-inch flat-screen, high-definition LED television set. I'd resisted getting one for quite a while;  our 12-year-old, 32" Sony TV worked perfectly well and I saw no reason to get a new one.  (Not having kids, we might not be as susceptible to peer pressure as our parent friends are -- although we took plenty of ribbing from BIL, who's probably bought three flat-screen TVs in the time that we've had our Sony.)

Having finally succumbed to the charms of the flat screen, the question became what to do with our old dinosaur of a set. It had a flat screen (of sorts), but it was probably one of the last batch of picture-tube TV sets to be made, and even though it works perfectly well, NOBODY wants these things anymore. Our nephews just laughed when we asked if they wanted it;  most of the local charities I checked won't take picture tube TVs.

Dh & stepBIL lugged the set out to the garage shortly after the conclusion of the painting project, with the idea of hauling it to the dump along with the other garbage generated by the recent renovations. StepBIL warned us, however, that the dump charges according to weight (they weigh your car as you arrive and then again when you leave). This was a BIG TV -- just 32" wide but, with the picture tube, probably almost 32" deep.  I think it weighed at least 100 lbs; stepBIL is a strong guy, & together, he and dh were struggling to carry it out of the house.

Tomorrow is garbage day & dh decided he would try setting it out at the curb. We weren't sure the garbage guys would take it (would they even be able to pick it up??), but there are a lot of local scavengers who drive around the night before garbage pickup, scouting for treasures, and we hoped one of them might take it. Dh managed to slide it down the driveway to the curb all by himself (!), and there it sat for a few hours, looking forlorn.

A little while ago, dh looked out the front window: "Hey, someone's trying to pick up the TV!"  And (surprise!) he was struggling. Dh didn't want to let the guy drive away empty-handed (!), so he pulled on his shoes and went outside & offered to help the guy. "This s*** is heavy!" was the man's bemused remark. He went away happy with his find;  dh was ecstatic that we finally got rid of the thing.

It still sort of bothers me that something that still worked perfectly well is probably going to be sold for scrap -- but on the other hand, it's out of the house and not our problem anymore.  And our new 48" set is so thin and light, I can probably pick it up with one hand.  ;)

(We still have a small 12-inch picture tube set -- an 18-year-old Panasonic. It was in our bedroom but we rarely watched it anymore, so since the paint job, it's been sitting in the basement. But that one's much easier to take out to the curb, if/when we decide to part with it.)

What sort of TV set do you have and how old is it? When did you get rid of your picture tube set, or do you still have one? Do you share my guilt over getting rid of stuff that may not be the latest & greatest, but otherwise works perfectly well??   

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

Thursday, November 19, 2015

"N or M?" by Agatha Christie

I'm on an Agatha Christie kick lately. ;)  The second "Partners in Crime" novel by Christie to be filmed for television was "N or M?" and, as usual, I wanted to try to get the book read before part one of the TV adaptation was broadcast earlier this week on Bravo here in Canada. I started it just before part one aired, and finished it a few days later. Parts two & three of the TV show are still to come. :)

"N or M?" is another adventure featuring Tommy & Tuppence -- the same couple from "The Secret Adversary." "The Secret Adversary" took place in post-WWI Britain; "N or M" picks up some 20 years later. It's 1940, the Second World War is in full swing, and Britain is expecting a Nazi invasion at any time. Speculation is rampant about "the Fifth Column" and German spies lurking everywhere.

The Beresfords are now a long-married, middle-aged couple and the parents of young adult twins (a boy & a girl, both involved in the war). Their old friend Mr. Carter enlists Tommy's help:  British intelligence believes there are two Nazi spies operating out of a quiet seaside boarding house, laying the groundwork for an imminent invasion of Britain.  Who among the staff and guests are they?  (Of course, Tuppence finds out what he's up to and gets in on the action...!)

By the end of the book, I had figured out the identity of at least one of the spies. But, in true Christie fashion, there were still enough twists & turns and surprises to keep things interesting. The ending, with Tommy & Tuppence out for dinner & dancing with their adult children, is rather amusing, although beware! -- there is a groaner of an ALI angle to the story at the 11th hour. :p

As I said, I've only seen the first of three parts of the TV adaptation of "N or M?"  As with "The Secret Adversary," the producers seem to have taken a lot of liberties with Christie's story:  the action has shifted to the Cold War years of the 1950s, and instead of fending off a looming invasion, the Beresfords are now trying to locate a nuclear bomb. Somehow, it's not quite as exciting as a looming Nazi invasion.

Unfortunately, it seems that others agree with my assessment: "Partners in Crime" has been cancelled by the BBC, after just these two adaptations. It's been fun (re)reading the adventures of Tommy & Tuppence, though, and I may still carry on with the remaining volumes, even if there's no longer an impending TV episode to serve as a reading incentive. :)

*** *** ***

Side note: I started reading this book shortly after the events that unfolded in Paris on Friday, Nov. 13th.  Among the story's prime suspects is a young German man, a refugee from Nazi persecution whose (non-Jewish but critical of Hitler) family is now in a concentration camp. Imagine my reaction when I started reading & found a few exchanges like this:
"...You take my word for it, this refugee business is dangerous. If I had my way I'd intern the lot of them. Safety first."  
"A bit drastic, perhaps."  
"Not at all. War's war. And I've got my suspicions of Master Carl... He's a Nazi -- that's what he is -- a Nazi." 
As the French say, "Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose." (The more things change, the more they stay the same...).

(There's also a few shots against the Irish throughout the book. Full disclosure: my family background is 1/4 Irish. ;)  )

*** *** ***

This was book #25 that I've read to date in 2015.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Are you a bereaved parent living in Ontario?

In the "it's about time" category, Mike Colle, MPP for Eglinton-Lawrence (in Toronto), introduced a private member's bill (Bill 141) this week -- the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness, Research and Care Act, 2015.

If passed, this bill would require the Ontario Ministry of Health to undertake research on pregnancy loss/infant deaths, in order to establish & expand counselling programs to bereaved mothers & families, and to undertake comprehensive, wide-ranging research into the best practices available in risk reduction and causes of pregnancy loss & death. It would also establish October 15th as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day in Ontario (something I thought had already happened several years ago).

The National Post published a great article yesterday about this new (and long overdue) initiative. In addition to mentioning that one in three women will lose a pregnancy during her lifetime (which I have heard before), it quoted another figure that floored me: 37,000 parents in Ontario lose a baby at some point during their pregnancy every year. 37,000!! That's enough to fill a good-sized town. Assuming two parents per child, that's about 18,000+ lost pregnancies. In Ontario alone. Every. Single. Year.

That's a lot of grief and loss, people. :(

As the article states:
Many of [these parents] struggle with a system that often lacks support and training, as well as families, friends and even health care providers who don’t know what to say. Then their grief is compounded by a lack of answers and insufficient research to provide them.
You can bet that if 37,000 parents were losing their children each year to automobile accidents or playground accidents or airplane crashes, there would be a huge public outcry, and swift action would be taken to investigate why this was happening and what could be done to remedy the situation.

Why should things be any different just because those children died before or shortly after birth?

Those of us who have experienced pregnancy loss know how badly an initiative like this is needed.  But if this bill is to be passed, public support will be critical.  You and your families can show your support by:
  • signing and submitting petitions to Mike Colle's office (here's a link to a sample petition).
  • sharing this news on social media and asking your friends & family to share and show their support. (I don't often post about loss-related matters on Facebook, but I have been sharing the heck out of this since I learned about it.)
  • calling, writing or emailing your local MPP, the Minister of Health, and the Premier. (I just emailed them all tonight. I can't remember the last time I contacted a politician about an issue I felt strongly about. But this, of all issues, is worth the effort.)
I know this is a taboo subject. I (still) find it difficult to talk about publicly, even after 17 years. (Blogging to strangers, though -- well, that's different, lol.)  But it's just too important NOT to take action when we have this opportunity to make a real difference.

Let's get this done!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Birthday girl

Saturday night, dh & I walked into a local pizza restaurant for dinner. It was early (late afternoon) & there was a birthday party going on -- a table full of giggling pre-teen girls and pink & purple balloons.

That's when it hit me.

Saturday (Nov. 14th) was my original due date in 1998. In other words, it might have been, could have been, should have been, Katie's birthday. Her 17th birthday. It was written in my datebook, but I hadn't really thought about it all day, until I saw the balloons & heard the giggles. (Bad Mommy!!)

After the waitress took our order, I told dh. He looked sad, & we held hands across the table as the girls sang "happy birthday" to the birthday girl on the other side of the room.

It was a weird feeling. Ten or 15 years ago, I probably would have been devastated -- both by my forgetting & by being confronted with a little girl's birthday party on this day of all days.

But I just felt sad, and a bit wistful, thinking of everything we've missed out on these past 17 years, and how different things might have been.

#MicroblogMondays: Paris

Dh & I had dinner on Friday night with BIL & SIL at a restaurant near their home, then went back to their house for coffee, where we turned on the TV and learned about what had happened in Paris.

Scary and disturbing news any time, but -- thanks to good old Facebook -- even more so, because we knew that two of dh & BIL's cousins, their spouses and a few of their friends were in Paris that day -- they'd just arrived the day before for a few days of fun and milestone birthday celebrations, posting giddy shots of plane tickets and wine glasses from the airport lounge.

I immediately went on SIL's computer to check my Facebook feed. (Times like this are when Facebook can be a really good thing.) Thank goodness, one of them had posted just minutes before to say they were all together and safe. They had been on a dinner cruise, completely oblivious to what was going on, until news filtered through. They had to WALK back to where they were staying -- because everything, including transit, was shut down -- spent a sleepless night huddled together in one room, and managed to get a flight home the next day.

Paris sometimes seems very far away, but needless to say, the events of this past weekend hit just a little too close to home for comfort.  We are thankful that our family members returned home safely -- but we're also all too conscious that many, many others did not.  :(



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

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Punk rock reading

(Me, as a 19-year-old university student in my dorm room, going to a punk rock social (dance), February 1980, and trying to look appropriately sullen & smouldering, lol. You can't see it, but I'm wearing safety pins in my ears -- carefully sterilized in rubbing alcohol (I wasn't THAT much of a punk...!) -- instead of earrings. My sister was visiting for the weekend & took this photo with her new Nikon SLR camera, & there must have been some static on the lens, because there is this cool lightning burst effect happening all around me -- which seemed kind of appropriate in the context of the event, lol.  Photo & caption previously used in this post from June 24, 2009: "Pat Benatar, I wasn't.")

Around the time I was in high school in the late 1970s, with my boy-band phase on the wane, we started hearing about a strange new movement in the British music and fashion world called punk rock. I asked my British penpal about it, and she obliged by sending me a tape with the Sex Pistols' "Pretty Vacant" on it.

"Is this a joke?" I remember one of my friends saying at the time. It didn't sound much like music to us. It was raw and angry and dischordant. (Of course, we'd been listening to Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles and Steely Dan (not to mention the aforementioned boy bands, lol)... the Sex Pistols were like a bucket of cold water in the face, by comparison.)  The musicians and their followers LOOKED angry, with their spiky hairdos and spiky jewelry, smudged makeup and torn clothing held together with safety pins. It was scary -- but fascinating at the same time, particularly to us teenagers from conformist smalltown Prairie Canada. (How conformist, you ask?  As an example: it was a Very Big Deal to wear anything other than jeans to school or one of our school dances. "Dressing up" meant wearing your corduroy pants ("cords") instead of denim -- and you'd only do it if at least two of your friends agreed to do it too, lol.) 

Needless to say, the Sex Pistols never got much airplay on the radio stations I listened to. By the time I graduated from high school & entered university, though, I was enjoying, if not hard core punk rock, then its slightly more palatable cousin, New Wave. Among the bands I listened to at that time -- late 1970s/early 1980s -- was the Pretenders, fronted by a girl (!!) -- a tough looking chick named Chrissie Hynde.  I assumed she was British, but it turned out she was American -- from Ohio (as in "My City Was Gone" -- "Ay, oh, way to go, Ohio..."). 

Now in her early 60s, Hynde has written a memoir, "Reckless," which I snapped up on sale the week it came out in September.

Hynde grew up in post-WWII Akron, Ohio, and vividly describes her childhood there. She fell in love with rock & roll at an early age -- her first kiss came from Jackie Wilson at one of his concerts. Mitch Ryder, David Bowie, Jeff Beck, Paul Butterfield and Iggy Pop were among her musical heroes.

After high school, she went to Kent State University, ostensibly to study art, but mostly to party. (Yes, THAT Kent State -- and she was there on May 4, 1970, when the National Guard opened fire on a protest gathering, killing four students.)  Hynde had no ambitions and no idea what she wanted from life, except to have a good time.

While there's some sex in the book (including a violent encounter with a group of bikers that's become the source of much controversy, not only for what she's written about it but her subsequent comments and media reaction) -- and certainly rock & roll -- the one thing the book has in spades is drugs. Lots and lots of drugs, including copious amounts of alcohol. (Hynde admits she waited until both her parents were dead before writing a memoir, because she didn't want them reading the truth about what she had been doing.)  There are some colourful stories about her drug-fuelled escapades, but it does get kind of monotonous after a while. Different times...!

For me, the best part of the book began once Hynde moved to England in 1973, became part of the fledgling punk scene and, eventually, formed and found success with The Pretenders. It's fun reading her observations about the differences between American & British culture, and her encounters with punk rockers like The Clash and The Sex Pistols. (There's an amusing story about how she almost married first Johnny Rotten and then Sid Vicious, primarily as a way of solving her visa problems.) 

Unfortunately, she doesn't get to England until about 3/4 of the way through the book. The story of the all-too-brief rise and fall of The Pretenders rushes by all too quickly, and the book ends abruptly after the drug-related deaths of band members James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon (with whom Hynde was once romantically involved). 

Bizarrely, I felt torn between feeling glad that I'd finally come to the end of a very long, convoluted, meandering journey, and wanting to read more. It's a flawed book, but still an interesting read, and I don't regret having spent the time on reading it. In retrospect, though, I probably could have waited for the paperback. ;)

*** *** ***

A few chapters into "Reckless," I had a pedicure appointment. I didn't want to lug a heavy hardcover along with me, so I slipped my Kobo e-reader into my purse & selected a book that someone had recommended to me as a memoir that included some ALI themes -- "Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys" by Viv Albertine.  (And I never noticed until I added in the photos of both book covers how similar the poses are!!)

Can I say I had absolutely no idea who Viv Albertine was? None. Nada. (How about you?) From the blurb on the back of the paperbook version I saw at the bookstore, I gathered she had been involved with the punk movement in Britain in the late 1970s in some way. Sounded good to me (and anyways, the title was irresistible). 

(There are some books that I feel compelled to buy simply because of the title alone. One of my favourite novel titles (I bought the book but have yet to read it) is "Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons."  Isn't that great??)

Turns out Albertine's book was a good companion volume to Chrissie Hynde's (and, actually, a better book overall).  The two women knew each other in London in the '70s and hung out with many of the same people. Hynde turns up in Albertine's book and vice versa (although the appearances in each other's stories are strictly small cameos).

As a teenager in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Albertine was a fan of John Lennon & The Beatles, The Kinks, and later David Bowie, Marc Bolan and, later still, Patti Smith. At art school (because -- like Hynde -- she had no other ideas about what she wanted to do with her life), she met Mick Jones, who later became part of The Clash and wrote "Train in Vain" about their relationship. Like Chrissie Hynde, she was close to Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, and knew many other key figures of the period, including Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, whose shop, Sex, was the source of many key pieces in the trend-setting outfits Albertine describes in loving detail  (the "Clothes" part of the title).

Hanging around musicians so much, it was probably inevitable that she would eventually become one herself -- even though there were very few women rockers as role models in those days, let alone punk rockers. "For the first time, I felt like myself," she writes about lugging her newly purchased electric guitar home on the bus. Never mind that she couldn't play a note at first, although she eventually developed her own unique style. Initially, she joined a band called The Flowers of Romance (with Sid Vicious, pre-Sex Pistols);  later, she became lead guitarist of an influential all-girl punk band called The Slits.

After The Slits disbanded in 1982, Albertine went to film school, wrote and directed TV shows and movies, and created sculptures. She met and married a man she refers to as The Biker (and later The Husband) and went to live with him in the country. In her late 30s and desperate to have a child, she sold most of her keepsakes from the punk era (including letters and other things Sid Vicious had given her) to pay for IVF treatments. Eventually, she did have a daughter, but not before enduring a great deal of loss and heartbreak.

Sample passage about loss & infertility (from a chapter titled "Hell"):
I am wildly, insanely bug-eyed crazy with grief. I don't want to live. I think of ways to kill myself. Throw myself under this passing car? Jump off Chelsea Bridge and drown in the Thames? Or just lie face down in this puddle and stop breathing? Poor, poor Hubby, he is hitched to a raving lunatic. But he is my rock, solid, grounded, steady. I love him so much that life is just about still worth living. If it's just going to be me and him, so be it. 
We keep on going to the Lister [clinic]. I keep on trying to get pregnant, months turn into years, fail after fail after fail. I am not a person. I'm a shadow, creeping along walls, quivering along pavements, my body itching, my mind wild, my patience stretched tight, ready to snap at the slightest provocation. I can't stand to look at pregnant women. I hate them. I can't even bear pregnant friends -- I stop seeing them. If anyone walks too close to me in the street or at a bus stop, I want to kill them...  
Lying on the doctor's table, week after week, my feet hoisted up in stirrups, I transport my mind outside of my body: I'm not here, it's the woman who is longing for a baby who's lying down there, legs wide apart with a man she's never met before sticking his arm right up inside her.
(Is that not one of the most completely raw, honest descriptions you've ever read of infertility & loss and what it can do to you? And that's just a sample.)

By midlife, numbed by the turmoil she had lived through and the minutae of suburban domesticity, her marriage falling apart, she entered into an emotional, long-distance quasi-affair with the actor Vincent Gallo. The relationship ended badly, but it reignited her creative spirit and gave her new courage to begin to write and play music again, both in a reunited version of the Slits as well as a solo artist. Would you have the courage to not only pick up the guitar again in your 50s, after 25 years away from it, and sing your own compositions at open mic nights at local bars??

Albertine, now 60, has led a rather messy life, and her book includes graphic descriptions, not only of her pregnancy losses, infertility treatments, abortion and struggle with cervical cancer, but also fellatio, crabs, her periods and other bodily functions. There were passages in this brutally honest book where I winced or cringed. But the more I read, the more I grew to admire this woman for her everything she has endured and survived, and I very much enjoyed the book overall. It's not just about being a punk rocker;  it's about growing up & being a woman in the latter half of the 20th century. "Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys" won several awards in the U.K. and was nominated for more, and deservedly so, in my opinion.

After reading this, I looked up some YouTube videos, both of The Slits (interesting & energetic, but dated) as well as Albertine's more recent solo stuff, which I quite liked, and also some interviews. Check out "Confessions of a MILF," below (her old love, Mick Jones, plays guitar on the track, although he's not in the video):




*** *** ***

Speaking of Patti Smith, her latest book, "M Train," was released while I was reading these two books. Like Chrissie Hynde's book, it was on sale for $25, and like Chrissie Hynde's book, I couldn't resist, lol.  I read & reviewed Smith's first memoir, "Just Kids," here.

And then a week later, Elvis Costello's memoir appeared on the bookstore shelves -- "Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink," which is getting rave reviews. So I have plenty of reading material to last me for quite a while to come (as if I didn't already, lol). 

*** *** ***

These were books #23 & #24 that I've read to date in 2015.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Golden Girls revisited

The Globe & Mail is running an excellent in-depth series this week about "The Boomer Shift" --  the baby boom generation (of which I am a tail-end member), aging and retirement. I've been watching with interest to see whether the issue of aging without children would be addressed -- so far, it hasn't.

However, one of today's articles was this: "Meet the new Golden Girls (and guys): How boomers are coming up with creative living arrangements."

For me, this is old news:  as I wrote on this blog five years ago, living together in a "Golden Girls" house has long been a private semi-joke among my longtime childless living message board chums. It's been fun to see this idea gaining more currency in the media lately, and not just among those of us without children -- although of course, creative living arrangements where residents commit to looking out for one another would be particularly ideal for those of us who are aging without offspring.

What do you think? Does the idea of a "Golden Girls" communal living arrangement of some sort appeal to you?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Trainwreck, indeed...

(POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT!)

Dh & I went to see Amy Schumer in "Trainwreck" a while back. I've never really liked her stand-up comedy specials on TV -- too crude & cringe-inducing for my tastes -- but I think her sketch work is brilliant, and while "Trainwreck" may be a tad raunchy for some tastes, we both enjoyed it hugely. There's a subplot involving grief and loss that I found quite touching and realistic. 

Anyway, it's coming out on DVD this week -- and I ran across an item on Facebook this morning from Entertainment Weekly that had me fuming.

(I'm generally a huge fan of Entertainment Weekly -- it's probably my favourite magazine, the one I would buy if I could only pick one. I actually still have the very first issue from 1990, with k.d. lang on the cover.) 

"Amy Schumer gets maternal in deleted ending scene from Trainwreck," the headline read, under a photo that showed Amy cuddling a sleeping baby. The copy above the item read, "This would have been an adorable ending for Amy Schumer's Trainwreck!"

Ummm, no -- no, it wouldn't. :p  For one thing, if you've seen the movie, you know that it would have been totally out of character for Amy (the movie character, if not Amy Schumer herself personally). For another, the original ending was happy and funny and perfect in itself.

Director Judd Apatow is quoted in the article saying, "It's always wise to shoot something with a baby. Who hates a movie that ends with a baby? Just Darth Vader.”

Well, call me Darth, I guess. :p  (Although let me be perfectly clear -- just because I dislike the idea of ending a movie -- and this movie in particular -- with a baby does NOT mean that I (or anyone else who gagged over this story) hate babies themselves -- there's a difference. :p )   I just get a bit weary seeing so frickin' many romantic comedies these days ending with a baby or a pregnancy. I mean, why???

Because in our pronatalist culture, happy ending = baby, baby = happy ending. It may be "wise" from a box office perspective, giving the people what they want (or, perhaps more like, what they've been conditioned to want, or expect). But it's an easy out -- it's mindless and it's lazy. It's what you do when you can't think of a more original way to end the movie (which Apatow actually did, in the end).  I think it's much more memorable when a movie doesn't turn out exactly the way you expected it would.

I felt slightly better when I actually watched the clip (after sending it off, along with a rant, to several childless/free friends). (SPOILER ALERT!)  It's not, in fact, Amy's baby (it's her niece), and she retains her trademark snark. ;) She stays true to her character.

And having watched the scene, I can see why they decided to scrap it and go with the ending they did -- adorable baby aside, it seems extraneous (lame, even) & really doesn't add much to our knowledge of the plot or characters. (There's an adoption joke in there too, which is kind of a cheap shot and which some may have found offensive.) Amy's voice-over narration rambles and kind of trails off -- I'm thinking it was probably ad-libbed. She doesn't sound that "into" it, which makes me wonder whose idea the alternate ending was -- hers or the director's?

But still. The fact that this scene was even filmed or considered as an ending to an otherwise delightful movie that bucks so many other stereotypes and plot conventions makes me realize how far we still have to go as a culture towards accepting the idea that there can be more than kind of happy ending -- that not all women are mothers (or can be mothers, or even want to be mothers), and that they can still lead happy and full and fulfilling lives, regardless.

#MicroblogMondays: Curse you, Facebook... :p

Just what I needed... a paid ad in the sidebar of my Facebook newsfeed for GRANDMA BRACELETS. :p  Header reads: "Are you a Grandma?"

No, and I won't ever be -- and thank you (not) for the reminder (as if I needed one). :p

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

Friday, November 6, 2015

Odds & ends

  • It's November. And so far, I haven't had the urge to write an "I hate November" post. ;) Of course, the month is young...! But so far, so good. ;)
  • November got off to a good start, weatherwise (which helps, of course!). We had several days in a row with sunshine and temps in the 17-20C range. The windows were open (great when you're painting, as we were) and I was outside in my shirtsleeves. IT'S NOVEMBER, people!! In Canada!! I realize this does not bode well in terms of impending catastrophic climate change :p -- but it's still enough of a novelty that I can't help but enjoy it. (Especially knowing that it's bound to be short-lived...!)(Case in point: today is still mild, but rainy & windy.)  
  • Our painting/reno project is DONE after 2.5 weeks of living in chaos.  We are now in the middle of a massive (much-needed) cleanup & reorganization, which may take a few days itself.  
  • Although we are taking a well-deserved day off today! & heading out for awhile. I've barely been out of the house while this was going on, & have developed a bit of cabin fever... and it's not winter yet...! 
  • To date: 53 boxes (and an uncounted number of bags) full of stuff donated to the thrift store, including 33 of books alone.
  • Right now all my books are sitting on the basement floor :p -- I had to unshelve them all so that we could move the bookcases away from the wall so it could be painted. I'm going to try to pare them down further as I put everything back over the next several days. Sigh...
  • I adore my kitchen. I always have (it's what sold me on the house in the first place), and I am just so happy with the way it turned out. Aside from the new tile backsplash (which IS a big change), nothing too dramatically different -- the walls were already a sort of pale sage green (Benjamin Moore Camouflage) -- I found myself wishing we'd used a darker shade, so that's what we did this time around (Benjamin Moore Herbes de Provence). Goes beautifully with all the dark wood cabinets, wainscoting & trim. We decided to restain the cabinets instead of painting them (or ripping them out altogether -- which was probably a wise decision -- a 2.5 week paint job was stressful enough;  I can't imagine how we would have coped with a full-scale, teardown renovation...!) and added new handles, as well as a new range hood (white, to match the other appliances -- the old one was early-1980s yellow-beige). The cupboards look great -- colour (Minwax Antique Walnut) is very similar to what we had, but richer and brighter, and the stain covers up most of the scuffs & scratches accumulated over 30+ years.    
  • I began seeing Christmas ads the day after Halloween. :p  Seriously??!  Can't they wait until after Remembrance Day, or the Santa Claus Parade?  I know I am going to be thoroughly sick of them, well before the big day actually arrives. :p

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

"The Secret Adversary" by Agatha Christie

Like many of you, I'm sure, I gobbled up Agatha Christie mysteries, one after another, when I was a teenager.  The details of the plots faded as the years went by, but I remembered the books fondly. My favourites were not the adventures of Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple (although dh & I watched "Poirot" with David Suchet on PBS faithfully for years), but the lesser-known husband & wife team, Tommy & Tuppence Beresford -- aka "Partners in Crime."

Unlike some fictional characters, Tommy & Tuppence aged as the series progressed through four novels and one collection of short stories: the first Tommy & Tuppence book, "The Secret Adversary," was Christie's second novel -- published in 1922 and set in contemporary post-WWI Britain;  the final volume, "Postern of Fate" was Christie's final book, published in 1973 and set some 50 years after the events of the first book.

I was delighted to read, earlier this summer, that the BBC was bringing some of the Tommy & Tuppence mysteries to life in new adaptations. The new series recently started showing on Bravo here in Canada (and on Acorn in the U.S), and I thought it was timely to revisit these two old friends, some 40 years (eeekkk!!) after I first read about their adventures. The first three episodes of the BBC series are an adaptation of "The Secret Adversary," so I decided to start with that. (The second set of three episodes adapt "N or M?" and further episodes are in the works.)

"The Secret Adversary" (the book) begins with the 1915 sinking of the Lusitania. Women & children are being evacuated first, and a young woman accepts & agrees to deliver an important package from a desperate British agent.

Cut to post-World War One London, as Miss Prudence Cowley (aka "Tuppence") runs into a childhood friend she nursed during the war, Tommy Beresford. Both are at loose ends, looking for work and for excitement, and decide to go into business together, calling themselves "The Young Adventurers." They get a little more than they had bargained for, as they are drawn into the search for the missing woman from the Lusitania and her precious cargo. And, of course, there's romance.

The dialogue is horribly dated ("Tuppence, old thing!" "Tommy, old bean!"), and I found myself rolling my eyes over Christie's idea of how an American would talk. The plot is likewise dated and a tad melodramatic, involving a Bolshevik plot to overthrow of the British government -- and I had a pretty good idea fairly early on as to who the mysterious villain "Mr. Brown" might be. But there were still enough twists and turns to keep me interested. It's a fun, light read with an engaging hero & heroine and I finished it with a smile.  

The new three-part BBC adaptation of "The Secret Adversary" sets the story in 1950s Cold War Britain.  Tommy & Tuppence are already married and have a son (briefly seen before he heads to boarding school). The program LOOKS gorgeous, with keen attention to period detail. As Tuppence, Jessica Raine, with her pixie haircut and red lipstick, reminds me a little of a young Elizabeth Taylor, and her wardrobe is to die for.

While Tommy & Tuppence the book characters are certainly amateurs who stumble into a mystery, they tackle their task with gusto. The TV characters, however, are obviously in way over their heads, and the script plays up their ineptitude. It makes for some laughs, but ultimately feels unsatisfying. I read one review that wondered whether the writers had trouble making up their minds whether to play things for laughs or thrills, and so the story winds up being a bit of a mishmash. There are some slightly gruesome scenes with the bad guys that seem at odds with the lighter stuff. It also doesn't help that Tommy & Tuppence here are a long-married, somewhat sedate couple in their late 30s or early 40s, instead of the energetic Bright Young Things described in the book. Tommy in particular comes across as a slightly henpecked, bumbling husband.

It's entertaining in its own way (and I still haven't seen the third & final episode) -- but I felt like it could have been better, and I wish it had followed the book a little more closely. I'm willing to give "N or M?" a viewing, though (and hope to read that book before it starts!).

What's your favourite Agatha Christie book/character? Have you read or seen "The Secret Adversary" yet? Thoughts?

This was book #22 that I've read so far in 2015 to date. (I actually read one other book before this, but that review is still to come & will be counted then!)

Monday, November 2, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: There will be DUST :p

I used to think infertility & stillbirth were the toughest things my husband & I could go through -- that if we could survive THAT, we could survive anything.

And then -- we decided to paint the house.

Just kidding!! (Well, sort of...)  We're not even the ones doing the work. We attempted to paint the house (inside) ourselves 11 years ago this month, and let's just say we learned our lesson. We thought it would take us about a week (yeah, right), and took precious vacation time to do it. We managed to get the first floor done (including scraping multiple walls full of wallpaper left by the previous owners) before dragging our exhausted butts back to the office (vacation? what vacation??), and then spent the next 11 years cringing over our all-too-visible errors. (We completed the bedrooms over the next several weekends, and hired a pro to finish off the floor-to-ceiling stairwell. We DID get better as we went along.)

This time around, we hired stepBIL (a handyman who renovated our bathroom seven years ago) to paint inside and out, refinish our kitchen cupboard doors and put up a backsplash, along with a couple of other details. He estimated it would take him a week, maybe two. 

What was that about the best-laid plans, etc...?  We're now into week THREE, and there's still a couple of days' work left to do. Granted, we're getting there. Both the top and bottom floors have been painted, and the basement (which hasn't been touched since FIL finished it for us in 1999) is partly finished. (Finishing it is going to involve unshelving the contents of four IKEA bookcases into piles on the floor, and then reloading them after the paint is dry and the shelves put back into place.)  We have a spiffy new ceramic tile backsplash in the kitchen and the cupboard doors are in the midst of being sanded, restained and updated with new handles. The outside shutters, panel above the garage door have been painted, and the front door will be painted to match shortly. (Unfortunately, some of the shutters need to be redone, after they were hammered by the remnants of hurricane Patricia, which left the fresh paint job peeling & bubbling.) The outdoor lighting fixtures have been replaced, and new smoke detectors installed. 

While stepBIL has obviously been doing most of the work, dh and I have not been entirely idle (hence, my absence from the blogosphere the past two weeks).  We've made multiple trips to Home Depot, stripped the last of the wallpaper (a hangover from the previous owners, 25+ years ago), moved stuff from one room to another (and up & down stairs)(and will be unloading & reloading said bookshelves today or tomorrow), taken advantage of the opportunity to go through and set aside stuff to be donated, and wiped down dust-coated furniture and cupboards -- over & over & over again. (OMG, the DUST!!!)(And, most important, made daily afternoon coffee/tea runs to the nearest Tim Hortons, lol.)

We get along pretty well with stepBIL -- but let's face it, three adults tripping over each other in a smallish (1,400 square foot) house, with regular routines completely disrupted, stuff out of place and scattered all over the house (including two nights spent sleeping -- or TRYING to sleep...! -- on an uncomfortable 30-year-old sofa bed while the paint dried in our bedroom) -- 8 hours a day, six days a week for two weeks straight (and counting) -- can get to be just a LITTLE stressful.

Let's just say I'm glad we didn't decide to go for a full-scale renovation. Eeekkkk!!

(An earlier version of this post was prematurely published (& then reverted to draft mode) on Sunday... apologies for any inconvenience to anyone who saw it.)

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