Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Year in Review

2016 was an eventful year -- for the world & for me personally,  And I can't believe it's almost over..!! Time for another Year in Review post!

I started doing this year-end meme six years ago -- and, although I feel like many of the answers don't change much from year to year, it's still a great way to look back and keep track. (All of my New Year's/Year in Review posts have now been tagged with the label "Year in Review," if you ever want to check out the older posts.)  Feel free to use the questions on your own blog (& let me know if you do!).

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

As I have said in the past, I don't really make new year's resolutions anymore -- they tend to be pretty much the same ones, year after year. So here are the perennials, and the progress I made (or didn't) in 2016:
  • Lose weight.  Alas, I am (once again) more or less the same weight as I was this time last year... I go up a few pounds, I go down, I go up again. :p 
  • Exercise more. (And hopefully lose more weight...!)  We really fell off the wagon on this one. :(  Not as many places nearby to walk (at least, that we've yet discovered) in our new neighbourhood, and in our new place, we got into new habits that didn't include walking.  I still think about finding a yoga class at a local rec centre or yoga facility. Just need to find one and give it a try...   
  • Write more in my journal (blog??). Haven't written in my paper journal in years -- although I did keep a bit of a journal on our road trip this summer, tracking our mileage & expenses, where we stopped, the hotels we stayed at & restaurants where we ate, etc. Blogging: I didn't post quite as much as the 150 blog entries I wrote in 2015, let alone my all-time high of 172 in 2008, my first full year of blogging. But I still scratched out a very respectable 133 (including this one), which averages out to about 11 posts a month. I'm satisfied. :)
  • Read more of the books that have piled up around the house. (Need to do better at this... the faster I read, the more I buy, it seems... yikes!) I set myself a goal of 24 books read in 2016 (via the Goodreads reading challenge), and (thanks to Christmas vacation!) I met it! All the books I read have been reviewed on this blog (or will be soon -- I still have the last 3 to do).  I will probably set a similar goal for this year, since it seems to be realistic. My best "books read" count since I started keeping track a few years ago was 27 in 2015.  Which, I am sure, is WAY lower than my tally would have been in pre-Internet years.
  • Tackle some of the clutter that never seems to go away. ("Some" being the operative word...)  This is one resolution that I think I can say a definite "Yes!" where I've made progress!  Downsizing from a 1,200 square foot, three-bedroom house (not including basement, garage & garden shed) to an 875-square-foot condo (plus one not-very-big storage locker), I pretty much had to. We had one of those junk removal services come to the house (twice!!) before we moved -- and the first time, they had to take away a full truckload & come back for more (erk!).  And that doesn't include the dozens and dozens (maybe hundreds) of boxes and bags of books, clothes and other household items we took to the thrift store ourselves to donate in the weeks and months before we moved, and the bags of junk we simply threw out with the garbage. I could probably still pare things down a bit further (and dh would probably concur -- that storage locker isn't very big, and it's full to the brim...) -- but really, I think I did pretty damned well for a lifelong packrat. ;) 
  • Finally do something with the spare bedroom that was to have been the nursery (get new furniture & linens to replace dh's college apartment castoffs).  This is now a moot point, since we've moved and no longer have a spare bedroom/would-have-been nursery. We do have a second bedroom in our condo, but it is very specifically an office/library. Dh's college apartment castoff furniture & the double mattress & boxspring that was our very first bed in our very first apartment all went in the junk removal truck.  I will probably remove this item from the list after this year.  
  • Set aside the nephews' scrapbooks for awhile, & start a scrapbook for dh & me (that will hopefully be finished in time for our 25th anniversary in 2010). And maybe (finally) start Katie's, too. Sadly, I have not done any scrapbooking since fall 2009. And I donated the bulk of my scrapbooking supplies, including most of my substantial collection of pretty patterned paper, to the thrift store before we moved (sob!).  I did keep all my unfinished projects, tools & a few other things, though. (They are sitting in containers down in the storage locker.) So who knows, I may pick it up again at some point in the future. (As I said last year, I'd better finish the nephews' books before any great-nieces and nephews start showing up!)  ;)   
2. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?

(Officially) Retired!! (lol) Downsized my stuff in a major, major way (see above).  Moved into a condo. :)  Got a smartphone and a PVR (and learned how to use them). Took a long road trip with dh.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Nope, no new babies within my circle of close family & friends. Oldest Nephew & his Fiancee/Bride bought a puppy just before their wedding. :)

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Dh's uncle (his father's sister's husband) died last spring (just as we were settling into our condo), and his aunt in Italy died early in the summer. I only ever met her once -- she visited Canada shortly after we were married. That was about as close as it got. (Thankfully, knocking wood...)

5. What countries did you visit?

The U.S., including Michigan, northern Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota. And North Dakota, very briefly ( a few minutes en route from Minnesota & crossing the border back into Canada :)  ).  Within my own country, we drove from my parents' home in Manitoba through northwestern Ontario, over the northern shore of Lake Superior -- a three-day trip. Isolated, but stunningly beautiful in spots.

6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?

A little more stability. I've had quite enough upheaval and newness to last me for quite a while, thankyouverymuch. ;)  And I still haven't been able to travel as much as I would like to (roadtrip notwithstanding). I guess there's always next year...!  

7. What date(s) from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

April 22nd -- the day we moved out of our house (our home of 26 years) & into our condo.

October 1st -- Oldest Nephew's wedding!! :)

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Surviving!!! I do NOT do well with change -- and there was an awful lot of it to absorb.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Last year I said, "Not speaking my mind enough, and drifting instead of taking the initiative to get things done that I wanted to do." I think that would apply again. :p 

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I had a few more colds than usual earlier in 2016. I am chalking it up to stress and allergies, related to moving (lots of dust flying around!! lol).  And my gallstones reasserted their presence after lying relatively dormant in recent years. I've also had some nagging "female issues" on & off that Dr. Ob-Gyn has been keeping an eye on. But thankfully, nothing serious. (Knocking wood again...!)

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Our condo. :)  Our new furniture (especially our table, chairs & china cabinet!). And my dress for our nephew's wedding. I loved it!!

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

I had trouble thinking of something to put here. Isn't that sad?? 

Thankfully, all the year-end review shows on TV reminded me about Gord Downie, lead singer of the Tragically Hip, who (as I blogged earlier this year) was diagnosed earlier this year with terminal brain cancer. He could have chosen to just stay home and enjoy what time he has left with his wife (herself a breast cancer survivor) and their four (!!) children. But earlier this summer, he went out on one more (perhaps final) cross-Canada tour with the band, which thrilled their legions of fans. By September, fans had raised more than $1 million for a fund in Gord's name to support brain cancer research. 

And in October, he surprised everyone by releasing a new solo album, accompanied by a graphic novel. The Secret Path tells the story of Chanie (Charlie) Wenjack, a 12-year-old indigenous boy who died in 1966 after running away from a residential school in northwestern Ontario, trying to return home. Proceeds from the album and book are being donated to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation project at the University of Manitoba (my alma mater).  The book and the music also inspired an animated film, broadcast by CBC, which can be viewed (along with a panel discussion) at cbc.ca/secretpath.

There's a sad but inspiring half-hour interview that Downie did last fall with Peter Mansbridge of CBC TV, which was rebroadcast over Christmas.  You can watch it at http://www.cbc.ca/news/thenational/gord-downie-exclusive-interview-1.3804422 .

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

The people who bought our house. :p   'Nuff said. :( 

(Need I say it?)  Donald Trump & co. It still boggles the mind that he was elected president of the United States.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Buying the condo, and new stuff for it.

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

While it was hard to leave our home of 26 years and shed so much of our stuff, it was also exciting to move into our lovely new condo. I knew as soon as we walked in that this was "the one." I still sometimes look around & think, "It's mine!! We LIVE here!!" lol  ;)  

Nephew's wedding in October, and all the activity related to it (including the bridal shower in July).

My family reunion in July, and getting to meet my 4th cousin from Scotland!  We first "met" online through our genealogy research. Our great x2 grandfathers were brothers (born in Ireland but moved to Scotland);  mine left Scotland more than 150 years ago. To have these branches of our family reunited again after all these years was cool beyond words.

16. What song will always remind you of 2016?

 It's not a song FROM 2016, but "Changes" by David Bowie. Possibly because Bowie was one of many musical icons from my youth that we lost in 2016 :(  but also because some of the lyrics seemed to apply. "Turn and face the strange," indeed.

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

Happier, and about the same for both b & c.  

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

Travelling, besides our road trip. But there's always next year...

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

Several times in the past, I've said, "Worrying. It never does much good anyway..." I think I need to remind myself again this year...!  :p 

20. How did you spend Christmas?

 I'd like to say it was in the usual way, and it was, sort of. We were with my family (my parents, sister & her boyfriend) in the cold & snow of the Canadian Prairies. There was lots of good food & some fun card games. But... (see my recent post about Christmas).

21. Did you fall in love in 2016?

Yes, with Oldest Nephew's new puppy. :) (Which does NOT mean we are getting our own dog!  ;)  )

22. What was your favorite TV program?

Poldark! I also got hooked on the final season of "Downton Abbey."  Of the new fall shows, I am enjoying "Designated Survivor."  And I still love The Big Bang Theory, Bob's Burgers and Modern Family.

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

No -- although our buyers and their lawyer did not exactly endear themselves to us. :p

24. What was the best book you read?

I read a lot of good books this year (see #1), and reviewed them all here, using the label 2016 books.  I read more novels by my old favourite D.E. Stevenson, re-read some of the Poldark novels by Winston Graham (in conjunction with watching the BBC/PBS TV series), and savoured a new Flavia de Luce mystery by Alan Bradley. :)  A few infertility-related books, and a few on feminist themes. And lots of memoirs and biographies, probably my favourite genre. ;)  Hard to pick favourites, but I think my #1 pick would have to be Bruce Springsteen's memoir "Born to Run," which I reviewed here.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

As in the past, I must admit, I don't listen to a lot of new music...

26. What did you want and get?

I did not particularly want to move into a condo -- but if dh was determined that we should do it, I insisted that it had to be a two-bedroom unit in a lower-rise building, preferably not on a main thoroughfare. We ARE on a main thoroughfare, but we don't face it. We do have two bedrooms, and it's on the fourth floor. And we have more natural light and closet/cupboard/storage space than just about any other unit we saw during our search. Overall, we are very happy with our new home.

Also -- we got several pieces of our new furniture (a table, chairs, a china cabinet, TV stand/entertainment unit and a narrow bookshelf, which we use for our CDs & DVDs) custom made by a local furniture maker. We used to visit their workshop, many years ago, and for 30 years, I have lusted over the ads they regularly run in the TV guide that comes with the local paper. I was tickled to finally fulfill my longtime dream and buy some of their stuff! (In fact, we may be back in the new year... our 30+-year-old end tables & coffee table are looking a bit worn... ;)  )

27. What did you want and not get?

Still waiting on that sunspot vacation. ;)  And more travel in general. I was hoping for a return trip to New York, but the year ran away on me.  I may just wait and see how the U.S. election aftermath shakes out before venturing Stateside again, though. :(  Particularly to downtown Manhattan. Tiffany's, I love you, but the neighbours leave something to be desired....  :p  ;) 

28. What was your favourite film of this year? 

We saw just 16 movies in 2016 (versus 23 in 2015) -- although we may see one more on New Year's Eve (SIL mentioned the possibility of going to the movies). What can I say, it was a busy year...! They were all pretty good:  Star Wars: The Force Awakens;  The Big Short;  Brooklyn;  Hail Caesar;  Whiskey Tango Foxtrot;  Captain America: Civil War;  The Nice Guys;  Florence Foster Jenkins;  Star Trek Beyond;  The Secret Life of Pets;  Snowden;  The Girl on the Train;  Inferno;  Dr. Strange;  Arrival;  and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Hard to pick a favourite, but I'm sentimental so I would have to say "The Force Awakens." As I said at the time, THAT was the Star Wars sequel I waited 30 years to see!

(ETA:  Make that 17 movies in 2016 -- we went to see "Passengers" on New Year's Eve.)

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

I was 55, and we went to our favourite steakhouse for dinner.

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

A little less anxiety/angst, from both dh & me. Much of it was totally unnecessary -- but then, anxiety is rarely rational, is it?

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?

I spend most of my days now in yoga pants (or shorts, in the summer) & T-shirts, lol.  So I'm not sure I have a "personal fashion concept"??!  Let's just say most of my clothes these days come from Old Navy. ;)

32. What kept you sane?

Staying busy and getting out of the house most days, particularly during the LONG winter. :p

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

See #12.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

The U.S. election and all its related fallout, including the rise in outright threats and discrimination to none-white non-Christian non-hetero non-males. :p  The increase in blatant sexism and anti-women behaviour and attitudes is something I take very personally;  the silver lining, as I see it, is that a lot of young female eyes were opened as to why feminism was not an outdated and no-longer-needed thing, that sexism and discrimination against women is sadly still very much alive and well, and needs to be battled against constantly. 

Also -- having many family members & friends on both sides of the political spectrum -- I find it difficult to post about politics on social media -- but one issue I have no qualms about posting on is the rise of "fake news" & how to spot it, and the looming threats to press freedom and the First Amendment. This is an(other) issue that is highly personal to me, as a one-time journalist and communicator, and SHOULD be one that goes beyond partisan loyalty.  Contrary to what some would have us believe, there ARE such things as facts, and they ARE relevant!!

35. Who did you miss?

As always, my daughter, and my grandparents.

The Little Princesses.  Only getting to see them twice a year, and occasionally on Skype, sucks. :p Time goes by too quickly, and they are growing up way too fast. :(

36. Who was the best new person you met?

I really haven't met an awful lot of new people lately;  at least, none that I see often.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016. 

I do not like change. I am not "good" about change. There was a lot in my life that changed this year, and in most cases, I had to be dragged to it kicking and screaming, or at least with some reluctance. But sometimes good things can come about because of change, no matter how difficult the process. And as I often like to say, it's not always a case of life being better or worse because of those changes. It's just different, and it can be good on its own terms, if you let it. :)

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

As above: "Turn and face the strange."  :) 

(Not to mention "Look out you rock 'n rollers... Pretty soon now you're gonna get older," lol. Believe me, it happens!! lol) 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

"It came, just the same"

Sorry that I missed #MicroblogMondays this week. We were coming to the end of a 10-day Christmas visit to my parents (got home yesterday). I brought my laptop with me, and there are several other computers in the house that I can use -- but my mother has started insisting that all computers must stay in the basement family room (and off of her dining room table). Invariably, someone is napping in the basement family room & not to be disturbed, which puts a bit of a cramp on computer time. (I did have my cellphone, but I find it impossible to type more than a few sentences on there -- it just takes way too long.)

It was a weird sort of Christmas. For one thing, my mother was sick with a really nasty cold/sinus infection the entire time we were there. (Just like the Queen -- which I think sort of tickled her.)  As a result, this year, there was only one Christmas tree (vs the usual two, one upstairs in the living room and one downstairs), one kind of shortbread cookie instead of two, no perogies on Christmas Eve or cabbage rolls on Christmas Day (although we had both before, as well as with the leftovers on Boxing Day), and a lot fewer presents under the tree and in my Christmas stocking, which she usually helps Santa to stuff.  Which didn't bother me that much (I have more fun shopping & giving than receiving anyway) -- except that it was an unwelcome reminder (not for the first time) that my parents are getting older (and so am I). :(  

My dad picked up the slack on the cooking front (he usually cooks most of the time anyway -- and is a really GOOD cook himself, lol), and my sister & I pitched in on the dishes, cleaning, decorating, grocery shopping, errand running and gift wrapping front, as well as making Mom cups of tea & heating her magic bag in the microwave and putting eyedrops in her eyes (poor Mom also developed a bacterial infection in not just one but both eyes at the same time she had the cold). One night we were sitting on the floor of the basement family room, wrapping presents. "Why didn't you get out the card table to sit at??" my mother asked us. Answer: we couldn't find it in the crawl space. My sister (54 to my 55/almost 56) quipped: "Sitting on the floor -- not a problem. Getting up? That's another story." (She was right!!)

Another reason it was a weird sort of Christmas is that we didn't see as much of Parents' Neighbours' Daughter & the Little Princesses as we normally do, or would. (And perhaps it's just as well, with my mother being sick.)  The main reason being school ended late this year, on Dec. 22nd (PND is a teacher), and we arrived almost a full week before that. I hadn't even thought about school schedules when I booked our flights and organized our visit.  I suppose it just goes to show you how completely out of touch I am with such matters, as a childless 50-something.  :p By the time PND picked up the girls from daycare, got them home and had dinner, there wasn't a lot of time (or energy) for her to schlep them over to my parents' house for even a brief visit (which would inevitably wind them all up) before their 7:30 p.m. usual bedtime. Still, she did bring them over (one or the other or both) almost every other day on the weekends and once her Christmas break began, and they spent Christmas Eve with us, as well as time to open the stockings Santa had left for them with us on Christmas Day afternoon.

(My mother wanted to postpone stockings to Boxing Day -- she thought it was all just "too much" when she wasn't feeling well.  My sister, PND & (especially) I overruled her. She was NOT happy -- but my sister thought it would be better to get it all over with so we could have Boxing Day to be lazy and rest up before we had to head back home (and, on her part, to work). As for me, I'm a traditionalist -- stockings are meant to be opened on Christmas Day -- particularly when there are little kids around. I guess there is so little about my adult life that is traditional -- no children, no grandchildren -- that I cling desperately to my family of origin and the traditions we have shared together for so long.) 

The silver lining, for me, was my sister -- doing things with her, commiserating with her, talking with her, cracking up over her sarcastic sense of humour. (I may be "the writer" in the family, but when we were kids, all my best story ideas and lines came from her.)  I've often said, here & elsewhere, that we don't have a gushy "Hallmark" sort of relationship. She generally prefers to hole up in a corner of the basement family room with her laptop or e-reader than to sit around the table & visit -- but she shocked me by cheerfully (well, as cheerfully as she does cheerful, lol) pitching in and getting whatever jobs needed to be done, done. She played cards with us, twice, without having to be dragged to the table, and even helped me decorate the Christmas tree. She refused to touch the tinsel -- has long said it makes her hands itch -- but she helped me string up the lights and put on the ornaments. I cannot remember the last time she went anywhere near the Christmas tree, and I was frantically motioning to dh to get the camera & take photos so I'd have proof of this historic event. ;)  Clearly, she is getting soft in her old age, lol.  (She did stick her tongue out her tongue at dh when she saw the camera -- some things don't change, lol.) 

My mother was moaning on Christmas Eve about all the things that didn't get done this year. I was sad about those things too, and I hope we'll get to do them, or at least some of them, again next year. But when I looked around the dinner table at the faces I love and the good food that was there (despite a few missing items, believe me, we did NOT starve!!), I was reminded of "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" and how Christmas "came just the same," despite the Grinch's best efforts to stop it -- and how Christmas means a little bit more than presents and tinsel and sweets. I thought about that first awful Christmas (1998), after the loss of our Katie AND my beloved grandfather, when everything was different and yet still comfortingly familiar -- and somehow, it was still Christmas. And again the next year after that, when my grandmother was gone too, and our dinner table was shrinking instead of expanding, as we had hoped and expected it would.  :( 

I think ahead to the inevitable day when my parents will no longer be here, and worry about what we will we do at Christmastime then?  Will I still go west to be with my sister, or will she come here? Will BIL & the nephews take pity on us and take us in, even though we have never spent Christmas with them?  It all seems too overwhelmingly sad to think about -- and so I don't. (I have a childless friend who was recently widowed and faced with the same sorts of questions.  She wound up taking her likewise childless single sister to New York City over the holidays to see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. I haven't heard yet how that went.) 

I take comfort in the fact that I've survived other times when Christmas hasn't been so very merry -- but it always comes, and we can always find a way to make it special, if we try. Maybe it won't be special in exactly the same way as before -- but it can still be special in its own way and on its own merits, nevertheless. 

How was your Christmas?

Monday, December 19, 2016

#MicroblogMondays: A Canadian Christmas scene


We arrived at my parents' house this weekend to -25C temps (-31C with the windchill)... but today was a balmy -3C. Sitting in the living room reading, something outside caught my eye. There were four young children frolicking in the snow, with several adults hovering nearby. One lady was brandishing a camera, taking photos.

"Shouldn't they be in school?" I said (school here doesn't let out for holidays until Dec. 23rd). 

"Oh," said my mother, "those must be the refugee children."

Apparently several churches in this small Prairie town have banded together to sponsor a Syrian refugee family to come to Canada (as many community groups across this country have been doing over the past year). The family just arrived last Tuesday (!) & have moved into the house directly across the street from my parents. They have four children under the age of 10, who will start school in January, after the Christmas break.

We recognized one of the adults with them as my parents' next-door neighbour. He uses a motorized scooter to get around, and he was towing the children on a couple of sleds behind him, going around & around the circle. They were clearly having a blast. :)  Another neighbour emerged from his house with two hockey sticks in his hand, and within minutes, the young boy had learned the fine art of the slapshot. ;)

They were all out there for a good half hour before a van pulled up with several more adults, two of whom were clearly their parents. They were all carrying bags and had obviously been out grocery shopping while the children were being entertained. After a few minutes, everyone went into the house.

My heart was full as I watched the scene unfold. Could you imagine anything more Canadian, or more in keeping with the spirit of Christmas?

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

Monday, December 12, 2016

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

*  Dh & I went to the cemetery this week to visit Katie and decorate her niche for Christmas. What we hadn't counted on: rainfall had accumulated in the little bud vase attached to her niche -- and the stem of autumn leaves we had left in the vase on our last visit was firmly encased in several inches of solid ice!  So we returned home with the glittery Christmas stem I had brought for the vase, leaving the autumn decorations where they were. We did, however, manage to hang up her little miniature red felt Christmas stocking and an ornament, so things did look a little more Christmas-y, and I don't feel quite so guilty.
*  I must admit I've also been feeling a bit guilty that we haven't been able to visit the cemetery anywhere near as often as we used to, when we lived closer (12 km/15 minutes then, vs 50-60 km or 30-45 minutes now, depending on the route we take). That said, we were there, almost without fail, every week for almost 18 years;  I don't think anyone could accuse us of neglect. ;)  Even when we led our support group, there were some parents who were amazed that we visited every single week. A few hadn't been since their child's funeral;  they just couldn't bear the sadness and the guilt. Everyone's feelings & experiences are different...!
*  Dare I say/write it? I think I am almost done my Christmas shopping!  Tree is up and cards are in the mail.  No Christmas baking done -- but not that I really needed it... ;) 
*  We got our first major dump of snow over the weekend. (As I've said many times before) It gets pretty old pretty fast... but I must admit it feels more Christmas-y around here now (and doesn't feel like Christmas without it!).
*  I have something to look forward to in the new year: a recently widowed childless/free girlfriend (whom I've known for over 30 years -- we were both reporters in the same small market, before either of us got married) & I have bought tickets to a lecture series that features inspiring women sharing stories about their lives & experiences. (Coincidentally -- or perhaps not?? lol -- several of the speakers are childless/free -- including Julia Gillard, Australia's first female prime minister, who took a great deal of flack over her "barren" state.)  It will be nice to have an "excuse" to get together with her more often, particularly when she's someone with a similar frame of reference who will be happy to discuss subjects other than children and grandchildren with me. ;)

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

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Lights of my life

I try to be environmentally conscious. I separate my trash, I send my paper and plastic and cans to recycling and my food scraps for composting. I try to remember to take my reusable bags into the grocery store with me. I reuse dryer sheets. ;) 

But I have a dirty secret -- I despise those newfangled light bulbs that are supposedly more energy efficient. Okay, they ARE more energy efficient, unquestionably.

But I think they look awful. :p

Unfortunately, the day is approaching when I'm going to have to start using them for all my lighting needs. As of January 1, 2015, the Canadian government banned the manufacture or import of 60 and 40 watt incandescent light bulbs (75 & 100 watt bulbs were phased out earlier). When I first heard about the ban (pre-2015), I started stocking up on 60-watt bulbs. I still have a bit of a stash, but of course, it's not going to last forever.  

We only ever used incandescent bulbs at our old house. Part of me debated replacing them all with CFLs or LEDs before we moved, so that I'd have an even bigger stash to take with me ;)  -- but I abandoned that idea when I saw the prices...!

I haven't opened up all the light fixtures in our new condo to inspect the bulbs, but I can tell just from the quality of the light they give that they do not use incandescents (not to mention that the condo was completed right around the time the ban came into place). I thought these newer bulbs were supposed to last longer than incandescents -- decades, even -- but recently, not just one but BOTH bulbs in our en suite bathroom fixture burned out, one after the other. (Our building is less than two years old; I'm assuming the bulbs were installed when the lighting fixtures were.)  When we opened up the fixture, we saw that it used those twisty-style compact fluorescent bulbs -- which contain mercury and require special disposal at a hazardous waste depot (!). (Not to mention that you're supposed to turn off your heating/ventilating system, open a window -- which we don't have in this bathroom -- and vacate the premises for several hours if you break one. Yikes!!)  We couldn't even figure out how to remove them -- they would only unscrew so far, and we were afraid of forcing and breaking them, for the reasons listed above. Thankfully, handyman BIL came to the rescue with two new LED bulbs (which cost a whopping $42!!!)(taxes included, but still...!!). He showed us how to unscrew the bulb a half-turn and then pop it out. Apparently some of these newer fixtures and bulbs do not screw in like the old incandescents -- they have little plug-like knobs on the bottom. Who knew??

I am saving and using the last of my dwindling stash of incandescents in the table lamps in our bedroom, office and living room. I've been hoping that, in the meantime, the engineers would come up with a better LED or CFL, one that more closely matches the lighting properties of the incandescent bulb. I'm told that the newer bulbs do, but I'm not impressed with what I've seen so far. 

(Halogen is another lighting option -- but I bought a halogen desk lamp for my office once -- and almost immediately started having headaches and problems with my vision. I mentioned this to my optometrist and asked if there was a connection. "Get rid of it," was his sharp & immediate response. He told me halogen lighting is the worst for your eyes.) 

I know I sound like a crochety old lady. :p  Once my stash is gone, I suppose I will have to make the switch. I know it's more energy efficient, better for the planet, and cheaper for our power bills. But I will mourn the last of my incandescent bulbs when they finally burn out. :( 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Oh Christmas tree

Dh & I bought and put up a new Christmas tree last weekend. This is the third (artificial) Christmas tree we've owned in 31 years of marriage. We didn't have a tree at all the first year we were married. Dh could probably care less whether we had a tree or not, but I cared -- a lot. ;)  Even when we went away to spend Christmas with my grandparents, my family would always put up & decorate our own Christmas tree. My parents still use some of the same ornaments they've had since THEY were first married, and I still love to bring them out & decorate the tree with them when I arrive "home" to spend the holidays with them. 

So the second year we were married, dh & I bought a small, slightly scrawny fold-up tree for $50 at Canadian Tire (it's not just for tires, lol). We had that for 12 years, then bought a new tree at Sears in 1998, the year we lost Katie. I wrote about how it became our "Katie tree," here.

After 17 years of use, the tree was still OK, but starting to look a just little ragged and tired. I was also tired of wrestling with strings of lights year after year (many of which were burning out -- we were facing investing in a whole new set of lights this year), and casting longing looks at the pre-lit trees in the stores. ;)  So when we were getting ready to move, we decided to get rid of the old tree and find something new for our new home.

That proved to be easier said than done. We shuttled back & forth between several different stores, comparing trees and finding fault with most of them. This tree looked TOO fake... that tree looked great but had flashing lights on it (I wanted steady clear ones). That tree over there was nice but WAY too expensive. We finally found a tree (again at Canadian Tire -- although for a lot more than $50 this time, lol)  that we could both live with. (Well, that *I* could live with... at that point, dh just wanted to go home, with or without the damned tree, lol.)  It's 6.5 feet, not too skinny but not too wide for the corner we wanted to put it in; a little plastic-y, perhaps, but easy to set up and glorious looking when lit up -- no light-string wrestling required! (Yes, the lights are clear, warm & steady.)

Because this tree is 6.5 feet tall versus the 7.5 feet of our old tree, I didn't have room for all the ornaments I've used in years past. For example, each year at our support group's holiday candlelighting service, attendees would be invited to take home a pair of hand-knit baby booties off the Christmas tree as a memento. Needless to say, after 10 years of attending the annual service, both as a client and as a facilitator, I'd amassed a substantial collection of booties -- and I used them ALL on my tree, year after year. Having a tree full of baby booties might seem kind of weird, but I didn't care.

This year, I decided that one pair of booties would do, versus the entire collection. ;) Likewise, I used to have enough teddy bear angels (most of them Ty Beanie Babies) to form almost a complete circle on the floor around the tree -- an honour guard of sorts, I used to think of it. ;) When we were getting ready to move, though, I had to take a good hard look at a lot of my collections of stuff -- and I decided that most of my Beanie Babies could go. I did save a few of the really special/favourite ones, though. Most of the Classic Pooh ornaments I've amassed over the years are still on the tree -- although I'm sorry to say a couple got broken or chipped while decorating.  Alas, those lovely laminate wood floors are far less forgiving than carpet. :(   (But while the new tree is smaller, all the really important ornaments are still on it!)

It seems weirdly appropriate, somehow, that we got a new tree the year we lost Katie -- a year in which everything (and nothing) changed for us -- and now, in a year in which so much changed in our lives again, that we got a new tree again.  A lot has changed in our lives this past year, these past 18 years. Change isn't easy for me, but you learn to adapt, and certainly the passage of time has helped make it easier. I didn't use all the booties or teddy bears or other ornaments that I once did. That might have been a whole lot harder, 15 years ago or 10 or maybe even 5 -- but I did it now, and the world didn't stop turning.  ;)  (It's still very much a Katie tree -- perhaps just not quite as much so as it was in years past.) Time passes, life moves along, and the unthinkable becomes, if not welcomed then OK. Traditions can evolve. (Sometimes, lol). We all come to readiness and acceptance in our own sweet time.

And I guess I had to leave off a few of the old ornaments to make room for some new ones, too. :) 


A Hallmark find. :)
 
The decorated tree in a corner of our condo.
 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Hello darkness, my old friend...

(After originally writing this post several months ago, I felt a whole lot better. But I saved it to publish if/when I was in the mood again. Here it is.)  

I often feel on the verge of tears lately. It doesn't take much to set me off.  I cry at the drop of a hat.

Dh tells me I look sad far too often these days. :(

I don't mean to. Really, most of the time, I'm a pretty happy girl. Why wouldn't I? I'm comfortably retired, with the stresses of the working world behind me. I've got a great husband, and a lovely new home, with some beautiful new furniture. I've got a wonderful extended family who loves me, and some pretty great friends, both online & "in real life." I've survived stillbirth, infertility, involuntary childlessness, job loss -- AND the Greater Toronto Area real estate market!! lol -- and lived to tell the tale.

But (as I confessed to dh recently) -- all of the above aside -- I'm increasingly plagued by constant feelings of anxiety, and deep unworthiness. :(  I can't shake the feeling that I've done something wrong -- or that I'm going to -- that disaster is going to strike, and it will be ALL MY FAULT. (What exactly it is that I've done wrong, I have no idea, of course.)  I've never been a very decisive person, but I find myself paralyzed with indecision lately, to the point of ridiculousness (see my recent (at the time of original writing) post on trying to choose a paint colour...!). I'm overwhelmed by the "what ifs" -- what might happen if I make the wrong choice? Even when it's something as relatively insignificant as paint colour (that can always be painted over again).

These feelings are nothing new. When the stress of infertility treatment brought on a series of debilitating anxiety attacks, almost exactly 16 years ago now, I came to recognize that I have probably been an anxious person for most of my life. I just didn't have full-blown panic attacks, and I didn't have the labels or the tools to analyze it when I was younger.

These feelings are not constant. They come & go... albeit more frequently again these days, it seems. :(

Maybe it's the effect of so many major life changes and stresses all at once over the past year or two -- losing our jobs, retiring (officially), turning 55 (becoming, by some definitions, a senior citizen -- eeekkk!!), moving (not just to a different neighbourhood, but to a different community, and not just to another house but to a condo, which meant getting rid of tons of stuff -- old, familiar, comfortable stuff). (Shopping for new stuff should be making me happy, right?  Instead, it often just makes me feel more anxious. More decisions to be made...!)

Maybe (quite possibly!!) it's those damned (peri)menopausal hormones at work.  Every time I go on a crying jag, I'm reminded of (and cheered up immensely by, lol) a classic episode of "All in the Family" where Edith is going through "the change,"  much to Archie's consternation. ;)  

Or maybe (very likely) it's just "that time of the month" coming -- which is hard to tell these days, because the aforementioned (peri)menopausal hormones have made my cycles increasingly erratic and hard to predict lately. I have definitely noticed that these feelings seem to intensify around "that time of the month," especially during that notorious two weeks (or so) wait leading up to Aunt Flo's return.

Whatever the reason I'm feeling this way -- I know it will pass.

(And return to haunt me. And then pass again.) 

What do you do to chase away the blues?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

"Hey, Mommy..."

Last week, I was walking through the local mall, when a smiling young girl hawking some kind of hand cream from a kiosk in the middle of the aisle tried to get me to come over to sample her wares.

"HEY, MOMMY!!" she cooed at me seductively.

"MOMMY??!!!" I thought as I walked grimly past her.

Some of my thoughts (in no particular order):
  • "Good Lord, am I old enough to be her mother??!
    • ("Yikes, I guess I am...!")
  • "Do I LOOK old enough to be her mother??!" 
  • "Do I LOOK like I'm a mother?? Or is it just because I'm a woman of a certain age and young people assume that all women my age must be mothers??"
    • "WHY does everyone assume that all women of a certain age must be mothers?" 
  • "Hey Chickie, only one person in the world has the right to call me "Mommy" -- and she left this earth long before she was ever able to utter that word."  
  • "Did she think she was complimenting me??  
  • "Did she think that calling me "Mommy" is going to make me more likely to come over to talk to her??" 
  • "Since when did "Hey, Mommy!" become a sales pitch?? (And does it actually work on some people??!)"
  • "Is "Hey Mommy!" better, worse or about the same as being called "Hon," "Sweetie" or "Ma'am," particularly by people less than half my age?"   
Your thoughts??! 

*** *** ***

Coincidentally (or perhaps not?), I came across this piece from Slate's Double X blog:  "How Being "Mom" Became Cool." The writer, Elissa Strauss, explains that, "According to a story in the New York Times, calling someone “mom” has become the highest form of flattery, a softer sister to sobriquets like boss or queen, and applicable to everyone from tweens to grown women regardless of whether they care for a child."

Strauss sees this trend "as a reflection of the positive changes in the way we view moms, and the way moms view themselves."

"I’m just happy to be living in a time and place in which “mom” represents a figure of comfort and power, the kind of woman non-moms would like to get know," she concludes.

Hmmm. From MY perspective as an older childless not-mom (not to a living child, anyway), I see it as one more example or reflection of how motherhood is glorified and placed on a pedestal in our society -- and how those of us who don't have children (by choice or otherwise) are shunted aside, regarded as lesser or lacking, by comparison.

Calling me "mom," even if it's meant as a compliment (??), is just one more reminder of the title that I wanted so very much but never had (not really, not the way I wanted), of the little girl who might have called me by that name. It's yet another reminder (as if I needed one) that my life didn't turn out quite the way I wanted or planned. It's a reminder of the hole that will never be filled, no matter how much I try or how good my life is in other respects.

You don't hear women calling each other "auntie" as a term of endearment, now, do you?? (Although maybe they should...!)

Again -- thoughts??

Monday, December 5, 2016

#MicroblogMondays: And in the end...

Dh, SIL & I went to a funeral today, for Oldest Nephew's new bride's grandmother. Nephew was one of the pallbearers, and the Bride did a reading with one of her cousins. The grandmother was eulogized by her son and by the priest, who both praised her for her dedication to her family, and noted how much she was loved by her children and grandchildren, who took up the first several rows at the chapel.

As always on these occasions, I can't help but thinking about my own funeral (hopefully many years hence...!).  And I can't help but think that it's not going to be a very big one -- and that makes me sad. Families are generally a lot smaller these days than in generations past. Dh & I, of course, have no children who will survive us. We only have one sibling each;  we only have the two nephews. Most of my extended family who might otherwise come to mourn me live too far away (I have more than 30 first cousins on one side of my family -- and just two on the other), and I don't have a lot of very close friends hereabouts.

I'm planning to be cremated, so I don't have to worry about rounding up enough strong young men to carry my casket. ;) I know what kind of service I want, and what music (a mixture of traditional Anglican hymns -- and The Beatles' "In My Life," lol). I know that I want a party/reception afterwards, and for people to laugh and tell stories about me while they eat & drink.  I know where my mortal remains will wind up -- in a niche not far away from Katie's, which we purchased some years ago.

(The niche next to ours already has a plaque up with an inscription from Pink Floyd's song "Time" -- "The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say."  As a classic rock fan, I can think of worse ways to spend eternity, lol.)  

But -- who's going to eulogize me? What will they say about me? Will they have known me well enough to say the things I'd like to have said?  Will they note that I WAS a mother, albeit to a baby that nobody else ever knew, except through us? 

I guess if they don't, it's nobody's fault except my own.

Do you ever contemplate your own funeral?

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Odds & ends

  • The other night, I smelled it again. Smoke. Damnit. (It was Sunday night. Sunday nights seem to be smoking nights across the hall, for whatever reason.)  It wasn't as bad as it has been in the past -- the weatherstripping must be helping some -- but it's still there (although dh claimed he couldn't smell anything until he put his nose right up to the door frame). How annoying. :p  
  • "Poldark" is over for another season. :(  Filming of season 3 is already underway in Cornwall, but no word on when we in North America can expect to see it. Likely not until fall 2017, I imagine.
    • In the meantime, as consolation, the new season of "Sherlock" begins on New Year's Day :)  and "Victoria" on January 15th. :) 
  • Christmas shopping is underway. The sheer numbers of adorable babies & toddlers in the mall can be overwhelming at times.
    • Whatever angst I might feel over so much cuteness, however, is often outweighed by annoyance at the mega strollers taking up space in the stores and in the halls outside -- often two abreast, mothers ambling along with one hand on the stroller handle and the other on their cellphone. Is it just me (is it just sour grapes??) or does this drive anyone else nuts too??   
  • I signed up for the Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge earlier this year, and set myself a goal of 24 books. That seemed like a reasonable number -- two books per month, on average, and about the same number as I've managed to read per year over the past few years. Right now, I'm "on track," with 21 books read, 3 to go. I still have a few weeks to go, obviously, and I usually get a few books read during my Christmas vacation (although not as many as in the days pre-Little Princesses, lol). 
  • I am going for an ultrasound tomorrow. You may (or may not) recall that earlier this spring, I was having some "female problems." Not (just?) the fact that I am almost 56 and STILL GETTING PERIODS, more or less regularly...!!  I would have my period as usual -- but instead of tapering off to spotting and then into nothingness, I would just keep spotting (& cramping), sometimes for a week or more after the main event.  I called Dr. Ob-Gyn and went for an ultrasound in mid-April. As in days of yore (i.e., while I was in infertility treatment & having regular dildocam dates), the left side of my bicornuate uterus & the left ovary were playing hide & seek and the technician couldn't get a clear view of what was going on, but apparently she did see an area where the lining appeared a little thicker than normal -- perhaps a polyp or fibroid?  At my followup appointment/annual checkup & Pap in May, Dr. Ob-Gyn felt it was nothing to worry about and would probably resolve itself (as these things most often do, he assured me) -- but he suggested that, if it made me feel better, we could do another ultrasound in the fall to see if anything had changed. 
    • So off I go.  Most of my periods since my last visit have been more or less normal -- until this past cycle, of course, when I had more spotting & cramping at the end of Aunt Flo's visit.  ARGH.  I choose to believe it is nothing more than midlife wonkiness at work, but prayers &/or positive thoughts & vibes would be appreciated.  

Monday, November 28, 2016

#MicroblogMondays: Damn commercials...

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... which includes Christmas commercials on television. Most of them I just ignore -- a few make me laugh, a few make me roll my eyes.

But every now & then, one of them throws a gut punch. 

Take, for example, this commercial for coffee. You can click on the link if you're feeling brave enough to watch. (SPOILERS AHEAD!)  It shows an older woman with a baby in her arms, cooing, "Grandma is so happy to be here for your very first Christmas!!"  She goes on "I hear you're quite the expert at waking people up in the morning... let me show you how Grandma does it!" She opens a container of coffee & puts it on to brew.  As she shows him an ornament on the tree that his daddy made when he was a little boy, and then a photo of Daddy as a little boy, we cut to Daddy (Grandma's grown-up little boy) waking up to the smell of coffee brewing, coming downstairs to help himself to a cup and watching the pair by the Christmas tree. "Thanks for making the coffee... Really glad you're here, Mom," he says. "Me too," she says.  

And after all these years, all these hits to my poor battered heart, I see this stupid coffee commercial, and my eyes fill with tears.

I will never be that Grandma (or that Mom). (Lots of my cousins & high school classmates are grandparents already.)

My mom will never be that Grandma either.

And (even though she's been gone 17 years now), I still miss MY Grandma (& Grandpa), most especially at Christmastime, when we were always together as a family.

It's just not fair. :(

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

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Right now...

Right now... (an occasional meme): 

Reading:  Mostly online articles via Facebook re: the U.S. election and its fallout. I have several half-started books I need to get back to, including "Jeremy Poldark" by Winston Graham (which, along with the next novel in the series, "Warleggan," correspond with the new season of "Poldark" on PBS right now);  "Canada" by Mike Myers;  and "Mr. Churchill's Secretary" by Susan Elia MacNeil, a mystery set during WWII. And, of course, the to-read pile continues to grow (insert red-faced icon here): I picked up a few more books today, including Robbie Robertson's new memoir, "Testimony."

Watching:  A great new multi-part PBS series called "Soundbreaking," which was shown (on our local station anyway) at 10 p.m. every night last week and will continue part of next week. Apparently, it was a project of the late great Sir George Martin.  Some wonderful stories, footage, and (of course) music. One of the advantage of being retired is being able to stay up "late" to watch programs like this. :)  I might have been able to manage one night of going to bed at 11 when I was working (and getting up before 5), but an entire week would have done me in!

Listening:  To the wind howling outside.. Friday was an unusually (for Nov. 18th!) balmy 18C/64F & we had the balcony door wide open all day. When we woke up this morning, it was -1C/31F and the snowflakes were flying thick and fast. Nothing sticking (yet), but I think we've seen the last of 18C for a while. It was fun while it lasted..!

Drinking:  Water. Haven't been drinking enough of it lately, I think... trying to do better!    

Eating:  Too much junk lately. :p  And the Christmas goodies haven't even started yet!

Wearing:  A cozy cardigan over my T-shirt and yoga pants, and slippers on top of my socks. Brrrr!!

Trying:  Not to cry while watching the Santa Claus Parade on TV this afternoon. I am such a sap...

Searching: For the perfect fake Christmas tree. We got rid of our old one when we moved -- it was still all right, but we'd used it through 18 Christmases (we got it the same year we lost Katie) & it was getting a bit ragged. Plus we think we'd like to get a pre-lit one. Had a look at one store last week, but either the trees were way TOO fake (plastic!!) or the lights weren't to our liking (multicoloured flashing, anyone??).  Dh is indifferent as to whether we have a tree at all, but I love my Christmas tree, and we have four Rubbermaid bins full of decorations in our storage locker downstairs (and this is AFTER I went through & culled my collection...!). The search continues...

Smelling: The lovely, pine-y scent of essential oils in our diffuser. Either the neighbours haven't been smoking as heavily the last few days, or the weatherstripping we installed around the door this week is doing its job. Yay!! (Also: Knocking wood that this continues...!)

Not believing:  That we will be heading home to see my family for Christmas in less than four weeks!!

Contemplating:  What I should write for #MicroblogMondays tomorrow. ;)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Smoke gets in my eyes (literally)

It turns out that air fresheners in the hallway were the least of our problems. :( 

The condo directly across the hall from ours was sold earlier this fall and the new owners took up residence in early October. It was mid-late October when the air fresheners were installed (and then removed, a few days after dh moved the one outside our door further down the hallway).

It soon dawned on us that perhaps the air fresheners were being used to mask another smell. Several times, in late October/early November, I thought I smelled smoke. One night I actually woke up;  I could smell smoke very strongly, and I couldn't figure out where it was coming from. One night, when we were sitting in the living room, dh asked me if I thought I smelled smoke. I said yes, and I'd smelled it before too. It got stronger & stronger, to the point where we were both coughing. My eyes were stinging & my nostrils and throat were raw. There's a strong air current around the door frame of our unit, and when we sniffed around the frame, we could distinctly smell the smoke outside.

So it looks like we have some chain smokers living across the hall from us. (As someone said to me when I told them about this, "How much must they be smoking if it's bothering you that much from across the hall, with two closed doors between you??"). GREAT.  :(  Some evenings have been better/worse than others, but there have been a few evenings now where I've been sitting on the couch with my T-shirt pulled up over my nose because the fumes are so strong. We generally sleep with the bedroom door almost fully closed;  the other morning I opened the bedroom door & the stale, burnt smell of stubbed-out cigarettes hit me like a brick in the face. :(    Pretty awful when neither of you smoke yourselves, right?

To say the least, this has been incredibly frustrating & disappointing, because we've really been enjoying condo living until this point. Unfortunately (as at the house!), we can't choose our neighbours.

The effects of second-hand smoke on bystanders' health has been well documented. I was tested for allergies as a child and told tobacco smoke was one of them (although my father continued to smoke in our home -- things were different in the 1960s...!);  dh had asthma when he was growing up, although it hasn't bothered him in years. Beyond health concerns and just plain old discomfort, I am furious at the thought of my nice new furniture (not to mention my many books, & my clothes) absorbing and stinking of smoke.

(My mother hasn't permitted smoking in the house for many years now -- besides my dad, my sister & her boyfriends both used to smoke -- but before she implemented the ban, dh & I would arrive home from a visit and open our suitcases to the smell of smoke. I would have to toss everything into the laundry whether it had been worn or not, because it reeked so badly.)

We've tried a number of different things to alleviate the situation. We've kept the balcony door open for as long as we could in the evening to air the place out -- and thank goodness the weather has been extremely mild -- although I am sure we are not going to be able to do this much longer...!  (One night we opened the door to let in some fresh air & instead let in the distinct aroma of a skunk outside. Yikes!!)

Last week, we bought a diffuser and some essential oil blends, which add a pleasant natural scent while helping to cleanse the air. I figured they would be less irritating than commercial air fresheners (full of chemicals), and so far, so good, from that perspective at least. Re: the smoke, it's helped a bit, but hasn't eliminated the smell, which can be pretty overpowering at times. 

Today, we bought & applied weatherstripping around the doorframe, which has eliminated the draft and will hopefully eliminate, or at least help to minimize, the smokey smell. If that doesn't work, our next step will probably be to check out air purifiers. (Any thoughts or recommendations on those?) 

So why don't we just speak to the neighbours directly? (1) I am probably the most non-confrontational (cowardly??) person you will ever meet. The very thought makes me cringe. (2) We aren't 100% sure it's the people across the hall (although we are pretty sure). We know some of our other neighbours smoke too -- although they were there long before these guys were, and we never noticed a problem before they moved in. (3) We haven't met these people yet, and we don't want to get things started on the wrong foot. (4) We know smokers can get quite defensive about their habit. Yes, I suppose people have the "right" to smoke in their own units -- but I believe we have an equal right not to have that smoke infringe on the clean air in OUR unit too.

I checked the status certificate and other documentation we received when we bought this place, and there is a rule about how owners, tenants, etc., “shall not create or permit the creation of or continuation of any noise or nuisance which, in the opinion of the board or the manager, may or does disturb the comfort or quiet enjoyment of the units or common elements by other owners” etc. etc.  I think this would qualify as a nuisance, don't you?  Should none of our other efforts alleviate the problem, I suppose we will bring it up with management/the board.  It could be that other neighbours have complained too (who installed those air fresheners in the hallway & why?). This could also have been an issue for other owners in other parts of the building. I'd be curious to know if that's the case and, if so, how the issue was resolved (or not).

Do you smoke or have you smoked in the past? (I assume that most of you don't, since most of you, like me, are or were trying desperately to get pregnant at some point.)  How do you feel about being around smoking/smokers?

(I did experiment a bit with smoking as a teenager, as I'm sure many of us did -- mostly as a half-hearted attempt to ditch my good-girl image -- but I was never serious about it & rarely inhaled. By the time I went to university, where I would occasionally bum a cigarette at parties, I realized was being ridiculous, and haven't touched the stuff in well over 35 years.)

Monday, November 14, 2016

#MicroblogMondays: I got nothing

This is kind of a cheat post. I really have nothing significant to say this week;  I just didn't want to miss a #MM. ;)  I am still, like many of you, stunned and heartbroken and upset by the U.S. election results and subsequent fallout. (And I'm not even American...!) The struggle continues, I guess, but sometimes, you just get tired of struggling... :(   I truly feel for those of you who have had to explain the inexplicable to your children.  :(

No doubt part of the reason I am feeling moody & lethargic is that I sense Aunt Flo hovering in the background, ready to make a splashy (hoping that's not literal) entrance. I have never been anxious to meddle in a natural process, but seriously, how long is this going to drag on??!  I'm going to be 56 in the not-too-distant future;  I have been dealing with AF since I was 11.  45 years of this is really QUITE enough, thankyouverymuch. :p  Am I going to be 60 & still having to put up with this crap??!  

On the bright side, it's mid-November and the weather has (still) been gorgeous. Of course, this is all very likely due to global warming and the impending doom of our planet -- but hey, 13C/55F on Nov. 14th! 

(And as I write that date out, it occurs to me that this was my original due date back in 1998, i.e., Katie's 18th would-be birthday. No wonder I'm in a mood... )

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

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The morning after

On the other hand, I will never have to explain the existence of President Trump to a child...

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

(U.S.) Election Day

Sunday morning, one of my American relatives -- a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton, who knows I am the same -- invited me to join a private Facebook group of Hillary supporters called Pantsuit Nation. When I joined, membership was just over 1.1 million;  by this (Tuesday/Election Day) morning, it was just under 2.5 million. This afternoon, it was 2.7 million.  The group was founded to encourage women to wear pantsuits to the polls today to demonstrate their support for Hillary Clinton and the election of America's first female president -- but (as the story I linked to indicates), it has become so much more. It's a "safe" space where Hillary's supporters can openly share their stories about why they are voting for her and why it means so much to them to be able to vote for the first woman president. The stories are funny and sad, heartwarming and inspirational.

Dh was in the shower this morning and I was scrolling through my feed, looking at stories & photos -- umpteen photos of entire families going to vote, proud mothers with little girls. Tributes to mothers and grandmothers who endured incredible sexism, and survived it all to bring up strong women.

My own American mother has been a staunch Republican most of her life. She abhors Donald Trump, but she has absolutely no use for Hillary Clinton either (although she adores Bernie Sanders -- go figure!!). I don't think she voted this time around, although she did vote for Barack Obama. We were at my parents' house when the Democratic convention was on & she sat there making cutting remarks throughout the rollcall and Hillary's acceptance speech. I finally had to ask her, nicely, to knock it off;  maybe this historic nomination didn't mean anything to her, but it meant something to me. Needless to say, I cannot share my excitement over the possible election of America's first woman president tonight with her.

(Yes, I'm Canadian & not American; we've already had a woman prime minister, 20+ years ago, and I have no vote in this election -- but it's still a pretty frickin' big deal, no matter where you're sitting.) 

So I was scrolling through my feed, and I don't know why this one particular story & photo affected me the way it did -- a photo of a mother and her young daughter -- nothing I hadn't seen  before in the hundreds of other posts that preceded it -- but out of the blue, I started sobbing, with big fat tears rolling down my cheeks.

How I wish I had my (not so) little girl here with me to share this historic night. :(

Monday, November 7, 2016

#MicroblogMondays: Dear America

Like many people, my anxiety levels have been going through the roof recently, in the days leading up to the U.S. election. Yes, I am Canadian, not American, but as most people living outside the States (let alone right next door) are only too aware, what happens in America affects the entire world. As the father of our current prime minister once quipped, "Living next to you [the U.S.] is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt."

Like many Canadians, too, I have family on both sides of the border -- and on both sides of the political spectrum (which has made Facebook a constant exercise in biting my cybertongue over the past year). Whatever the outcome of the election, I suspect the next few months, perhaps years, are not going to be pretty.

I find myself thinking about the closing days of the second Quebec referendum on independence, which was held October 30, 1995 -- 15 years after the first referendum of 1980, and 21 years ago now (!). Like the current U.S. election, it was a vote that had the power to change my life dramatically (and not in a good way) -- but also one that I had absolutely no say in.  The tension in the days leading up to the referendum was almost unbearable. The "Yes" (for Quebec independence) side ran ads showing a falling maple leaf, with a caption in French that translated, ominously, to "In autumn, the maple leaf falls."  A few days before the referendum, there was a rally for the "No" (remain in Canada) side in Montreal. I was in the middle of year-end projects at work and could not go, but I think if I could have, I would have. I remember it was a cold, grey, rainy day, reflecting the mood of the country.  Busloads of people from across the country converged on Montreal, waving huge Canadian flags, with the message, "Please stay." Many pundits predicted it was too little, too late.

I remember the night of the referendum, and the countdown to 8 p.m., when news coverage of the results would begin. I was beside myself, on the verge of tears. Curiously, once the clock struck 8 and the show began (the soothing tones & presence of CBC's Peter Mansbridge, lol), I started feeling better.

It was still a tense evening. It was very, VERY close. The "No" side ( = remain part of Canada) won by an extremely narrow majority of 50.58%.  Believe me, a country can be a very fragile thing -- and your vote DOES matter.

Good luck, America.

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

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Odds & ends

  • It's November.  Will I be writing an "I hate November" post? A lot has changed over the past few years that has had me soften my position somewhat -- although I don't think it will ever be my favourite month. Lots of changes this past year as well. Of course, the outcome of the U.S. election could have a big impact on how I feel, for better or worse...!  ;)  I guess time will tell...
  • My blogrolls are back in the sidebar!! Yay!! 
  • In the continuing saga of the scented air freshener outside our door in the hallway, you'll recall that dh unplugged the thing & moved it down the hall. A couple of days ago,  he noticed that it had disappeared completely. The one at the other end of the hallway was still there, which makes us think that someone down the hall liked having an air freshener outside their door about as much as we did. Hopefully management/the board will get the hint...
  • I recently read this interview in The Atlantic with Belle Boggs, author of "The Art of Waiting" (which I haven't read yet, but really want to now...!). As the tagline says, "Belle Boggs explores the meaning of infertility in a culture that venerates parenthood above all else." I thought they covered some really excellent points. What happens when ARTs don't work?  (Spoiler alert: Boggs did eventually have a child.) Have a read & let me know your thoughts!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

"Just Between You and Me" by Myles Goodwyn

Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, there were few homegrown bands that were bigger in Canada than April Wine.

(Strangely enough, although I saw many of the top Canadian bands & singers of the day -- Burton Cummings (several times), Trooper (ditto), Harlequin (used to play at our high school & university residence dances), Loverboy, Bryan Adams (dh saw him at a bar near the university we both attended, just before he hit the big time), Dan Hill, Max Webster (with Kim Mitchell), Streetheart, Prism, the Headpins, Downchild Blues Band, Powder Blues Band -- I never did see April Wine in concert.) 

You may not have heard of them in the States or elsewhere in the world (although they did enjoy some modest success, in certain markets south of the border as well as in Europe -- I had no idea that five April Wine songs/videos were played by MTV on its first day of existence) -- but the distinctive, instantly recognizable voice of lead singer Myles Goodwyn is part of the soundtrack of my growing up years. "Bad Side of the Moon" (written by Elton John & Bernie Taupin) was played endlessly at the (ice) skating rink when I was about 13; hearing "You Won't Dance With Me" takes me back to junior high dances, where I watched the boy(s) I had crushes on slow-dancing with someone else. (Oh, the angst!!)

Anyway -- for all my familiarity with April Wine's music, I didn't know much about the band itself.   So when I was at the bookstore a few weeks ago & saw Myles Goodwyn's new memoir, "Just Between You & Me" (which takes its title from the 1981 April Wine song of the same name -- which I slow-danced to at university parties -- take that, junior high boys!! lol), I couldn't resist snapping it up.

Born Miles Francis Goodwin in Woodstock, New Brunswick, Goodwyn grew up poor, mostly in Nova Scotia (that fact I did know about him). His mother died of brain cancer at a tragically young age when Myles was 11, and he remembers very little of his childhood prior to that point. Music and nature became his solace, and when he was a teenager, he started playing in bands. He, his neighbourhood friends, brothers David & Ritchie Henman, and their cousin Jim Henman, formed April Wine in 1969.

I especially enjoyed the early parts of the book describing Goodwyn's growing up years and his early days performing. I probably could have done without all the detailed descriptions of the comings and goings of the various April Wine band members through the years (14 over 40+ years) and the making of one album after another -- although those parts did serve to remind me of songs I had completely forgotten about (such as "Right Down on Top of Me," "Cum Hear the Band," and "If You See Kay" -- let that one sink in for a moment, lol). 

Unfortunately, April Wine's enormous success devolved into the all-too-common sad litany of bad management decisions, record company rip-offs, infighting among the group members, drugs, alcohol, ego and burnout, that has plagued so many talented bands over the years. (To quote another April Wine song, "Rock and Roll is a Vicious Game.") Along the way, Goodwyn has dealt with alcoholism (which nearly killed him in 2008) and diabetes, as well as two divorces and their effects on his three children. He speaks out for the first time about some of these things, including why the band first broke up in 1982, and his relationships (or lack thereof) with the other members. He has a reputation for being difficult, and accepts his own share of the blame for the problems he and the band encountered over the years -- but he also comes across here as a straight shooter determined to tell the truth as he sees it, combined with a sense of humour.

Now 68 and a grandfather (!), Goodwyn is still writing and performing music, both with April Wine (on a slightly reduced schedule) and his own band. "Life is good," he says, and I am glad. This has been a hard year for us baby boomers, music-wise, with the passing of so many of our youthful musical heroes (David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Paul Kantor, Prince...). I am grateful that so many of the ones who are still here are still performing and are now sharing their stories with us. Thank you, Myles Goodwyn, for being one of them. :)

If you're a Canadian of a certain vintage, this book will bring back some memories! 

This was book #21 that I've read so far in 2016.

*** *** ***

Naturally, ever since I picked this book up, I've had April Wine songs playing on a continuous loop in my head. ;)  It's hard for me to pick a favourite (there are so many great ones!), but these two (from their 1975 album "Stand Back," which I owned as a teenager) would be right up there. One is harder edged, the other more pop, and I love them both:  "Tonight is a Wonderful Time to Fall in Love" and "Oowatanite." 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Childless/Condo Halloween

My feelings about Halloween, as a bereaved childless parent, have been complicated. Unlike some bereaved parents/childless-not-by-choicers, I have never wanted to opt out of Halloween completely -- turn the lights out & hide, or spend the night at the movies. I've always enjoyed carving a pumpkin and setting it out on our doorstep on Halloween night, and handing out candy to adorable little trick-or-treaters.

(Which is not to say I haven't felt some pangs or closed the door with tears in my eyes over the past 18 years.)

At the same time, while I did set out the pumpkin & put up a Halloween-themed wreath on the door & cut-outs in the windows facing the street, we never went all out with the decorations, as some of our neighbours did. I just didn't have the energy (or the desire, to be honest). Which only added to my guilt -- clearly, I was not cut out to be a suburban mom, right? (Although I am sure that, had we had children, I would have made more of an effort to be more festive for their sakes.)  And while I loved dressing up as a kid, and during my student days for our annual Halloween parties, as an adult, it's always seemed like more of a chore than anything else to think up, shop for and put together a costume. I haven't done it in years.

Halloween was very different for us this year. As I said, I've never wanted to avoid Halloween -- but living in a condo makes it an entirely different experience than we had at our house. Security doors, plus bylaws against solicitation and holiday decorations on doors and balconies, plus the absence of all but a very few children living in our building, meant no decorations, no trick-or-treaters knocking at our doors. (By now at the house, most of our trick-or-treaters would have come & gone, so I think I can feel safe in typing that, lol.)  We did buy a box of treats to have on hand, just in case, but it looks like we're going to be eating it all ourselves. (Oh, the horror!! Right?? lol )

I suppose we could have carved a pumpkin this year, if only for our own enjoyment. But dh has never been keen on the whole pumpkin thing -- he only went along with it to humour me -- and I insisted on it because, tradition!! & how else could we signal to the trick-or-treaters that we were open for business?? This year, even I had to agree it was pretty pointless. I do have a fake pumpkin that lights up inside, but I lacked the energy & motivation to dig through our storage locker in the parking garage to find it. :p

It was a very strange day.

In past years, at least, we had a bit of a presence on the periphery of all the Halloween hoopla. This year, I felt totally apart/shut out from everything -- nose pressed against the glass, watching from a distance as life went merrily on without me, oblivious to my presence, while Facebook & Instagram paraded an endless stream of fun photos & reports from my friends & relatives. What was once a special occasion, a date to be circled on the calendar & to be planned and prepared for (candy & pumpkin to buy, decorations to haul up from the basement) -- a link to my own childhood, a fingerhold in the life that might have been mine as a parent, something I could participate in along with the rest of the world -- has now become just another day. It's harder, in a way, to be watching completely from the sidelines, at a distance, than it was to be handing out candy to little trick-or-treaters and seeing in them and their proud parents the life that might have been mine with our daughter.

My hope is that, in a few years' time, we'll have some great-nieces and nephews, and that their parents will bring them over so we can ooh & ahhh over their costumes and shower them with treats. :) (Or invite us over to see them before they head out for trick-or-treating.)

Until then, I'll be the one watching from the sidelines, stuffing my face with chocolate, and living vicariously through other people's social media posts. 

#MicroblogMondays: 9

How's this for scary -- it's not just Halloween today, it's my blogoversary. My NINTH blogoversary. Yikes!!

As I said at this time last year, "I'm not always sure how I keep coming up with things to write about, but hey, I'm still here...!" 

Here are a few updated stats to ponder:

Number of years blogging:  9

Published posts (including this one): 1,115
Average # of posts per year: 124
Average # of posts per month: 10
Published comments: more than 8,090
Page views (tracked since May 2008):  471,000+   
Followers (on Blogger):  143

As always -- thank you all for reading/listening, commenting and just being here.

Blogoversary #8 (2015)
Blogoversary #7 (2014)
Blogoversary #6 (2013)
Blogoversary #5 (2012)
Blogoversary #4 (2011)
Blogoversary #3 (2010)
Blogoversary #2 (2009)
Blogoversary #1 (2008)
First post

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