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