Saturday, April 22, 2017

Condo living, one year later

One year ago today (already!!), the movers arrived at our old house to empty it of our possessions (the ones we hadn't gotten rid of in a frantic attempt at downsizing and de-cluttering), and we took possession of a shiny new (to us -- but still relatively newly built) condo on the other side of the city. (We officially moved in the next morning.)

As you might remember if you've been reading my blog a while, I came to condo living with some reluctance. (I laid out my thoughts on the matter, pro & con, here.)  One year later, here are some thoughts on how I'm feeling now:

What I miss about our old house/community
  • It's funny (especially when you consider how much I dragged my heels about moving), but when I think about it, there's not a lot that I really miss about the house itself. I loved it while we lived there, and I think of it fondly -- and I guess I sometimes miss being in a self-contained space a bit (as opposed to sharing walls with neighbours) -- but there's nothing I had there that I really wish I had here (except maybe a little extra storage space, lol). 
  • OK, one thing: I miss Katie's tree in the backyard. :(  I wish we could have taken that with us. ;)  (This is why I caution other bereaved parents about backyard memorial gardens & trees, scattering ashes in backyards, etc. -- you might think you're going to live somewhere forever, but life takes some funny twists & turns sometimes...)
  • We had some very nice neighbours on the one side of us. I won't say I MISS them -- we weren't exactly buddy-buddy (we were never further than the front entryway in each other's houses in the 18 years we lived side by side) -- but we were friendly & cordial. Dh & the husband chatted together as they both shovelled snow and mowed the lawns, we collected each other's mail during vacations, and watched each other's comings & goings. Most of all, we watched their daughter (Little Girl Next Door) grow up. She was six months younger than Katie would have been, and will be graduating from high school this year. I took a little baby gift over when she was born (which was a HUGE step for me, not even a year post-stillbirth), and she was the first baby I held, post-Katie (when I took the gift over -- I planned it that way -- got that "first" over with on my own timetable & own terms, away from the prying and mournful eyes of well-meaning family members and friends).  I sometimes wonder how she is doing.  
  • I miss the great location. Our house was just a short walk away from a retail plaza where we had fast, easy access to a supermarket, drugstore, dollar store, convenience store, hair salon, nail salon, dry cleaner, several fast-food places (pizza, subs, Chinese) & even a small pub (although we never went there).
  • I miss our walking routine: one of the local schools had a fabulous paved track on its grounds that was used by the entire community and was great to walk on. We would walk up there, do a couple of laps and walk home again -- a nice 40 minutes or so. Very convenient.
  • It was a smaller and somewhat quieter community. Traffic wasn't anywhere near as hectic as it is here (although development was on the upswing when we left) and, after 26 years, we knew our way around and some of the shortcuts. 
  • I miss the local mall. Dh thinks it's a crappy mall -- and it's true it's been hit by a lot of store closures in recent years (Target Canada, I'm looking at you...) -- but there are still two large department store anchors and a lot of other stores there I liked to shop at.  Most of the shopping close by here is of the standalone big-box store variety.  (Which is fine in many respects, but not much fun in the middle of a Canadian winter. My mother is convinced that whoever came up with the idea of big-box shopping developments vs enclosed malls must live in California. It's not a concept that's particularly suited for walking from store to store in -20C weather...!) Dh points out that we have a couple of really good, big (traditional enclosed) malls within a short drive of our new community -- and we do -- but they tend to be focused on outlet stores and high-end brands (where even the discounted prices often aren't something I'd typically shell out for). Some of the mid-market retailers I liked to shop at don't have outlets in those malls, or anywhere else near here.   
  • I REALLY miss the easy access to good transit into the city, with all its amenities (including (still) our longtime optometrist & dentist, and my ob-gyn). I could hop on a bus at a stop near our house and within about 15 minutes, be at the local commuter train station, with trains at least every half hour into the city (& home again) -- a 25-40 minute trip, depending on whether the train was express, partial express or all-stops.
  • We just found a new family dr we really, really like, just before we moved. We have decided he's worth keeping, and so we make the trip whenever we need to see him -- but obviously, it's not as convenient.
  • I miss living close to the lake.  Part of the commuter train route we used runs directly along the lakeshore, so the water and the beach was a twice-daily calming sight for us for many years. In recent years, they have built walking/cycling trails and recreation areas along the waterfront, and dh and I spent some pleasant afternoons there, enjoying the cool lake breezes on a hot summer day.
  • I miss the reassurance of knowing there were not just one but two hospitals within a reasonable drive of our house.
  • I miss being close to the cemetery where Katie's ashes are interred. :(  We visit whenever we're in the area (we still go back for medical appointments and haircuts, etc.), but generally only once a month or two, as opposed to when we used to go every weekend.
What I don't miss about my house/our old community
  • I don't miss worrying about things like squirrels in the attic...! 
  • I don't miss worrying about all the repairs & renovations that our aging house needed.  Neither of us are particularly handy, and the to-do list seemed overwhelming at times. It was actually a bit of a relief to have left that all behind and started fresh with something (almost) brand new. 
  • I do NOT miss the neighbours' (plural, more than one) stupid dogs, who would bark nonstop, including at all hours of the night, and poke their heads over the fence to growl & bark at dh when he was mowing the lawn.
  • I don't miss the neighbours on the other side of us. We both lived on pie-shaped lots and our driveways met near the bottom (leading into the street). Both of us had too much stuff in our )(single-car) garages to park in there (erk!).  They had several vehicles to our one, with cars often sticking out into the street.  Depending on how they parked, it was sometimes very difficult for us to back out onto the street when we were leaving in the morning.  
    • More annoying, they would leave their garbage in unsecure containers by the side of the house -- & then take off to their cottage for the weekend. Inevitably, the raccoons would get into it and scatter it all over OUR driveway & lawn in the sweltering summer heat. Even when the neighbours were home when this happened, they would often just walk around the mess and leave it there. It made me mad, and it drove dh (who often cleaned things up himself) absolutely bonkers.
  • I don't miss the neighbours two doors down from us whose lawn was never mowed and who had junk (pieces of plywood, rusty old appliances...) piled up on the front porch, and generally let their property deteriorate to the point that several neighbours called the city about it. It was an eyesore. :p 
  • I don't miss living close to an aging nuclear power plant. Needless to say, I don't mind putting some distance between that and us! 
  • I know dh does NOT miss shovelling snow or mowing grass!!
  • I definitely don't miss dealing with dh's unhappiness and frustration re: the house and with the neighbours.
What I like about living in our condo/our new community
  • I love, love, love our condo. :)  It is spacious (875 square feet, but it feels spacious), bright, airy and shiny new, with floor to ceiling windows, a small balcony (big enough to fit two or three chairs), stainless steel appliances, a quartz countertop, beautiful laminate & ceramic tile floors, ample kitchen cupboard space and spacious closets (including walk-in closets in the front entryway and in our bedroom).  I love the open floor plan of the main living space -- how I can be behind the counter in the kitchen, keep an eye on what's on TV, talk to whoever's sitting on the sofa, and see what's going on outside. I love all the natural light we get through the big windows.
  • Although our condo is situated on a very busy main thoroughfare, we are at the back of the building, where it's a bit quieter and the view is nicer.
  • I love that there is a lot of open space around us, and we get to see some beautiful sunsets, many evenings. (And sunrises too, if we get up early enough to see them, lol.)
  • Underground parking rocks. :)  No snow to clear or icy windshields to scrape! :)
  • The neighbours that we've met have been pretty friendly.
  • We LOVE being closer to BIL & his family, as well as several other relatives. We get to see a lot more of them now. It's been fun having SIL close by to do girly things with, like shopping, getting mani/pedis and seeing chick flicks together. ;)  And it was so nice to be closer in the months leading up to Oldest Nephew's wedding last fall and to be a bigger part of that than we would or could have been had we still been living further away. Now we're looking forward to Younger Nephew's wedding next year!
  • Despite the lack of conventional malls in the vicinity, there IS great shopping, locally and at a couple of malls that are a short drive away.
  • There is also an abundance of good restaurants, both national/regional chains & local establishments.
  • Also some great local supermarkets, bakeries & gelato shops. :)  Dh is in heaven (and has gained more than a few pounds since we moved here, lol) because the stores are well stocked with the Italian foods and brands he grew up eating. :)
  • We may not live as close to the lake anymore, but there are some scenic forested/ravine areas here that are especially pretty in the fall. 
  • We are closer to the airport, whenever we need to use it.
  • While I may have a few reservations, dh is so, so much happier here. Which makes ME happy.  :)
What I don't like about living in our condo/our new community
  • The storage locker (in the parking garage by our parking spot) is not huge (& it's not climate-controlled -- I sometimes worry about the stuff I have there getting mildewed, etc.). It does fit an amazing amount of stuff  when you cram it all in ;)  but even slightly larger would have been nice.
  • Although we face the back of the property and not the highway at the front, construction work began on a development of about 60 high-end townhouses in the vacant space directly behind us. (We did know this when we bought the condo. Of course, you never know exactly how things are going to play out...!).  There's been a lot of dirt and a lot of noise (starting some mornings by 7:30 a.m., or even earlier...!), and yet -- a year after we moved in -- we have yet to see a foundation poured or a building framed.  
    • On the bright side, we know it won't last forever...!  
  • We haven't been especially impressed with the building's property manager, and we know we're not alone. 
    • On the bright side, steps are being taken by our condo board to deal with this. 
  • Putting up with some of the neighbours. Among other annoyances, we've had cigarette smoke infiltrating our unit; loud voices from across the hall (same unit!!), sometimes late at night;  yappy dogs in the hallways, going out for or returning from walks;  and continuous thumping noises above us.
    • That said, most of these annoyances are periodic & nowhere near as annoying as what we used to put up with from our neighbours at the house (at least yet...!).    
  • (As mentioned above) I mourn the lack of easy transit into the city.  :(  Right now, my main option is to hop on a regional transit bus (there is a stop nearby) that would take 40 minutes to get to a subway station on the edge of the city. It would take another 30-40 minutes to get downtown on the subway from there. Another option is to get dh to drive me to the closest subway station, about 20-30 minutes away (depending on traffic), then hop the subway for a 30ish-minute trip downtown.
    • There IS a subway extension being built nearby that is SUPPOSED to be finished by the end of this year. Needless to say, I am looking forward to that...!
  • While we do have some services, shops and fast food restaurants (McDonalds) within walking distance, for the most part, you need a car to get around here. (While I have my license, I've never done much driving, and haven't done any driving in years... and I'm not likely to resume driving anytime soon, given the local traffic...!) 
  • The traffic here is INSANE -- very congested -- & (IMHO) the local drivers are nuts. :p   Yes, there were bad drivers where we used to live too, but it seems like we encounter more of them, more often, since we moved here.
  • We haven't established a regular walking routine yet (and as a result, we've both gained weight... dh in particular, much to his chagrin...!).  The main roads are way too busy & noisy for pleasant strolls. There are some residential areas nearby that we could explore, and some but we'll probably need to bring our phones & Google Maps with us to find our way around the winding streets...! (Also some conservation areas with walking trails, but we'd need to drive to those.)
  • There is no hospital close by. They are (finally) going to be building one, but it will be a few years until it is finished.
  • This is a much more affluent community than the one we left behind. That's not necessarily a bad thing (and this is probably a reflection of my own insecurities) -- but there's a LOT of conspicuous consumption and keeping up with the Joneses, which makes me very uncomfortable sometimes. At the movies one Sunday afternoon, shortly after we moved here, I nudged dh & said, "Have you noticed that all the pre-show ads are for Mercedes-Benz and BMW and Lexus, and in our old town, they were for Toyota, Volkswagen & Ford??" 
  • As a childless couple, we are definitely in a minority hereabouts (although it hasn't been a real issue so far).
I've said this before & I will say it again: in a lifetime of moving around (albeit most of those moves were made in my more flexible younger years...!), I've learned that there is good & bad everywhere you live;  it's up to you to make the most of it.  I'll admit that I don't feel entirely at home in this new community (yet?).  But I haven't been looking back a lot either.  Overall, we are happy here, and happy we made the move at this point in our lives, while we're still young enough to make the choice and explore freely and enjoy.

(I can't believe it's already been a whole year, though... time flies...!!)

*** *** ***

ETA:  After hitting publish (& doing a few things around the house), I thought of a few more pros & cons to add! ;) 
  • I have a love/hate relationship with the glass shower cubicle in the master ensuite bathroom. It looks fabulous, but it's a b*tch to clean :p  (I call it "my nemesis"...!). Although I must say I do get a certain sense of satisfaction when it's all finished and shiny clean. ;) 
    • (As an aside -- two bathrooms were not on our "must" list when we were condo hunting, but it's turned out to be a big plus to have them!) 
  • I love doing laundry here. :) It's so easy! The front-load washer & dryer are stacked inside a closet off the main living space. It can be a little noisy while they're running -- but no lugging baskets of laundry up & down stairs, no straining to hear the "done" signal; no shivering in a dark, chilly basement. The laundry closet is just steps away from my kitchen counter, and when the clothes are dry, I stand at the counter and sort & fold them before putting them away.  
  • The lack of stairs, generally, is a big plus for my deteriorating knees!  ;)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

"He needs a cousin"

It's no secret that all of us are crazy about Oldest Nephew's adorable puppy.  :)  (Can I still call him a puppy, now that he's about 9 months old??).  Dh, BIL & SIL never grew up with pets, and find it hard to believe how head-over-heels they've fallen for the little guy. We all dote on him. Just as I took scads of photos of the nephews when they were growing up, I've been filling my Facebook & Instagram feeds with photos of the puppy over the past few months (in fact, he has his own album on my Facebook page, lol).  (One friend suggested that he needed his own Facebook account -- I said I'd leave that one to his parents...!) 

Needless to say, along with all the comments about what a cutie he is (and he is!! lol), I've been getting plenty of subtle -- and not-so-subtle -- hints and questions about when dh & I are going to follow suit and get a dog of our own. The most recent example came earlier this week, when a dog-crazy friend commented on one of my puppy photos, "I think he needs a cousin!" 

"Now where have I heard THIS before??"  I thought, rolling my eyes and biting my cybertongue before typing out a light-hearted response along the lines that Puppy seems to be enjoying having all the attention to himself, thankyouverymuch. ;) 

"Well, what do you expect when you post all those photos?" Dh asked when I complained to him.  No doubt had social media been around when the nephews were growing up, I would have been sharing my photos of them there too... and no doubt that I would also have endured a crapload of nudge-nudge comments about how THEY needed a cousin, too. (I got enough of those IRL back then as it was...!)

Still, I have to laugh (ruefully). Even when it's clear that children are not part of your life and won't be in your future (for whatever reason), why is it that you then have to endure the same sorts of comments that you once endured about kids re: the lack of pets in your life??  Why is that people seem to think that childless couples -- and women in particular -- "need" SOMETHING -- a man, a baby, a pet?? -- to "complete" them?? Why am I, myself, never enough?

For the record, Puppy won't be getting a "cousin," now or anytime soon. (I'm hedging my bets and not saying "never," lol.)(But I'm pretty sure!)  I haven't changed my position since I wrote this post about pets (almost exactly four years ago).  Dh has softened his position since then (under Puppy's influence), and sometimes says it would be nice to have one of our own. But like me (and having just turned 60)(!), he's not THAT eager to give up the freedom we've come to take for granted during almost 32 years of childless marriage (and not quite three years of retirement together), and assume the responsibility that goes with pet ownership. As with babies, sometimes it's nice to cuddle and spoil a friend or relative's pet -- and then hand them back over and let someone else clean up the mess they inevitably make, lol. (The difference being that babies eventually do get toilet trained...!) 

Some might argue that, since we're both retired now, we have more time to devote to a pet. Yes, we do -- but maybe (having freed ourselves of the responsibilities and stresses associated with work) we don't want to take on the responsibility for another living creature, particularly at this later stage of our lives?

And if we didn't have a dog when we had a huge backyard for him or her to romp around in, why would we buy one now, only to confine it to the 875 square feet of our condo, several floors up from the ground, with periodic leashed walks outside (in all kinds of weather) for exercise and bathroom purposes? I know many people in our building do have dogs -- we see them in the halls and on the elevators and on the grounds (and believe me, we hear them sometimes too...!) -- but I'm not entirely sure it's really fair to the dog. (Plus, I have seen what nephew's puppy, adorable as he is, has done to the floors of his apartment -- and he's in a basement with an easily accessible walkout to the backyard. ;)  Not eager to see the same thing happen to my lovely shiny new laminate!)

You have to admit, though... he is pretty darned cute. ;)  :) 


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Mugged

Even before Easter weekend was over, I was starting to see signs of the approaching Voldemort Day onslaught. The local mega-bookstore had a table full of mom-themed knick-knacks on prominent display -- scented candles, patterned scarves, pretty teacups and mugs, etc.  Some of the mug slogans read "Best Grandma (Ever)," "Best Mom (Ever)" and (ugh, don't get me started...!)  "Only the greatest Moms get promoted to Grandma!" 

Over in the mug section proper, there were also mugs for "Best Sister (Ever)," "Best Wife (Ever)" -- and the male counterparts "Best Husband (Ever)," Dad, Grandpa, Brother -- and Uncle.  Dh got an "Uncle"-themed mug from one of the nephews for his recent birthday.

Needless to say, every time I pass one of these mug displays, all I can think is, "Where the frack are the mugs for aunties??" After all, as Melanie Notkin, founder of Savvy Auntie, has pointed out, aunties (& particularly PANKS like me -- Professional Aunts, No Kids) are an underappreciated -- and highly lucrative -- market segment for those smart enough to recognize it.

Today, we were at a different outlet of the same mega-bookstore chain than the one(s) we usually frequent -- and guess what I found??  :)

 
It was actually hiding behind some other mugs... I moved it up to a more prominent spot at the front of the shelf, beside the "Best Uncle" mug. ;)  This was the first time (at least in a long time...!) I've ever seen one of these!!  I don't know if they're just incredibly popular (haha)(or...??) -- or whether the nephews will ever think to look for/buy one for me... but it's nice to know they do exist...!

Monday, April 17, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Easter weekend

Outside of Christmas (which we have always travelled to spend with my family), holidays & I have had a bit of a rocky relationship over the years. That Mother's & Father's Days are difficult for us goes without saying -- but the two other big "family" holidays, Thanksgiving & Easter, have also been tough for us to deal with  -- due in part to our lack of children, in part to the distance from my own family, and in part to dh's family situation, which sometimes means we are left at loose ends (MIL died before I ever met her; FIL remarried & has a stepfamily to deal with;  BIL has his own inlaws to accommodate...). 

This was, thankfully, not one of those holiday weekends. For a while, it was looking like it might be -- even though we now live closer to BIL, he doesn't always have room to include us if SIL's family all show up too. The agenda & details were up in the air until almost the very last minute, which put me on edge. Hello, anxiety, my old friend...

But once things got rolling, I found myself enjoying it. On Good Friday, BIL was busy helping out with a church event, but dh, SIL & I made the trek to see FIL and had a nice visit with him, stepMIL & her family.  Saturday, we went with BIL & SIL to visit one of dh & BIL's cousins & his family. I hadn't laughed that much in a long time. :)  Yesterday/Easter Sunday, we had lunch at BIL's house.  (Not all of SIL's family could come, so there was room for us after all. ;)  ) We stuffed ourselves with a great meal, played with the puppy (who got most of the attention, lol), visited with the nephews & their partners. It's almost exactly one year until Younger Nephew gets married, and wedding plans are already in full swing. The bride-to-be has already chosen her dress and shared a photo with SIL, me & Oldest Nephew's wife.  It was so nice to feel included. :) 

And this weekend will mark one year since we moved into our condo.

It was a good holiday weekend after all. :) 

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Why this was a good weekend

*  Got my hair cut on Friday -- feeling much less shaggy than I was a few days ago!
*  Dh's 60th (!!) birthday is this week, and we celebrated on Saturday night with BIL, SIL, our two nephews & their partners. (And Oldest Nephew's puppy, lol.)  We ordered in Chinese food for dinner. An aunt, her daughter (dh's cousin) and her family dropped by later on to share in the cake & coffee. Lots of laughs. :)  Being closer to family was a big reason why we moved here, and seeing dh so happy made ME happy. :)
*  My own favourite gift that dh received was from Oldest Nephew & his bride -- a framed b&w photo from their wedding last fall, of dh & me with the handsome groom. I LOVE IT. :)
* After what we hope was a final blast of winter on Friday (freezing rain and snow, high winds and COLD), the weather was (FINALLY!!) gloriously mild and warm, reaching 18C on Sunday afternoon. It's supposed to reach 22C today (mid-70sF)!! YAY!!
*  Went to see a movie on Sunday afternoon, which we love to do and haven't done enough of lately.  "Going in Style" won't win any Oscars, but you simply can't beat the cast:  Michael Caine, Alan Arkin and Morgan Freeman -- AND Ann-Margret, who still looks gorgeous at 75, and sings (in a karaoke duet with Arkin!)!  
* After a week in which I completely lacked blogging inspiration, I managed to draft a post for this week's #MicroblogMondays.  ;)  :) 

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

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Right now...

Right now... (an occasional meme, alternating from time to time with "The Current"): 

Reading:  I'm between books right now, and trying to figure out what I want to read next. I was hoping to read "The Zookeeper's Wife" by Diane Ackerman before seeing the movie that just came out, but that might not happen, since we haven't been to a movie in eons and it's the only one playing at the local multiplex that we're really interested in seeing. ;)   "Mr. Churchill's Secretary" by Susan Elia MacNeil continues to languish on my coffee table, partially read. I was considering "Dark Money" by Jane Mayer, but I feel like I've had more than enough of U.S. politics lately...!

Among the most recent additions to my library (also still to be read, of course...!):  I picked up "A Fiery Heart" by Claire Harman, a recent & well reviewed biography of Charlotte Bronte, after watching "To Walk Invisible" last week. After seeing the author of the book (Mark Harris) and producer of the documentary series now on Netflix, I ran out & bought "Five Came Back." I also picked up "Northern Light" by Roy McGregor (about Canadian artist Tom Thomson, his mysterious death, and the woman who loved him).

Watching:  World figure skating championships, all weekend long, on CBC TV. :)   (The one sport I follow and will watch on television!!)  I was THRILLED to see not just one but TWO Canadian women on the podium!! -- Kaetlyn Osmond (silver medal) & Gabrielle Daleman (bronze). Canadian women have struggled on the international stage for almost as long as I have watched figure skating (which is to say, most of my life...!).  The last Canadian woman to win a medal at worlds was Joannie Rochette in 2009 (silver);  she was also the last Canadian woman to win an Olympic figure skating medal (bronze, 2010). Before her, Elizabeth Manley won silver at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary and silver at the world championships that followed. The last Canadian woman to win a world figure skating title was my original skating heroine, Karen Magnussen, back in 1973.  No Canadian woman has won Olympic gold since Barbara Ann Scott in 1948.

Following: The medieval world of Donaeld the Unready on Twitter, with a supporting cast of Twitterers that includes Aethelflaed, The Jorvik Times, The Breitbart Chronicles, Wulfgar the Bard, the Mercian Resistance, Sean Halfwity, Falwell the Younger, Njall Fromage... check it out!

Eating:  Lots of easy-to-chew stuff, including lots of soup, in deference to my poor choppers, which have taken quite a beating lately...! :(   (See "Recuperating," below.)

Wearing:  I live in yoga pants these days (and when I'm not in yoga pants/when we go out, jeans). Found a couple of comfy sweatshirts on sale at the Gap to keep me warm during these last days (we hope...!) of winter-ish weather. 

Recuperating:  From having a temporary crown put on the tooth I had the root canal on a few weeks ago. Permanent will go on in about two weeks. Then we'll repeat the process on ANOTHER tooth that I broke back in February...! Did I mention that Aunt Flo decided to tag along to the dentist's office with me? No wonder I'm feeling so drained. :p 

Wondering: How much longer winter will go on. :p  We had some snow flurries on Thursday afternoon. They didn't stay, thank goodness. It hasn't been the worst winter in terms of snow or cold, and we haven't had to shovel or clear off the car before we go anywhere, thank goodness, but I am thoroughly sick of it and more than ready for milder weather!

Looking forward: To warmer weather, and to getting a new walking routine established. We've both been way too sedentary over the winter!

Enjoying: Oldest Nephew's puppy (the miniature dachshund they got before their wedding last fall). :)  Dh and his brother never had pets growing up, but it's hilarious how all of us adore & dote on this little guy.  Endless entertainment. :) 

Planning: Our social calendar for the next few weeks, which will include dh's birthday (his 60th!!), Easter and stepMIL's grandson's first communion. All occasions fraught with reminders of the not-so-little girl who should be here with us but isn't. :( 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Ariel Levy interview

Ariel Levy, author of "The Rules Do Not Apply" (which I just reviewed in my previous post) discussed the book and her life on Charlie Rose's interview program on PBS today (at least, it aired today on my local PBS station). You can watch the interview here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

"The Rules Do Not Apply" by Ariel Levy

"When thirty-eight-year-old New Yorker writer Ariel Levy left for a reporting trip to Mongolia in 2012, she was pregnant, married, financially secure, and successful on her own terms. A month later, none of that was true." 

[Flyleaf copy, "The Rules Do Not Apply"]

*** *** ***

A couple of years back, I read an absolutely stunning first-person article by Ariel Levy in The New Yorker called "Thanksgiving in Mongolia."  Nineteen weeks into her first pregnancy, on a business trip to Mongolia (!), 38-year-old Levy delivered a tiny baby boy on the bathroom floor of her hotel room. He lived for just a few minutes.  And, as the passage above suggests, after the loss of her baby, Levy's life fell apart.

I found myself nodding throughout the article -- especially as I read, near the end:
...the truth is, the ten or twenty minutes I was somebody’s mother were black magic. There is no adventure I would trade them for; there is no place I would rather have seen.

I still find myself thinking about the article, more than three years later.

*** *** ***

"The Rules Do Not Apply" includes and expands upon the material from "Thanksgiving in Mongolia," including Levy's memories of growing up with her unconventional parents in the liberated 1970s and 80s, the aftermath of her fateful trip to Mongolia, and revealing some details that hadn't been included in the article (including a bit of a surprise twist near the end).  It's not a long book, just over 200 well-spaced pages in a generous type size.  As with the article that preceded it, the writing is beautiful, at times stunning in its impact.

Like so many young women born in the latter half of the 20th century, Levy grew up feeling unencumbered by the "rules" imposed by society on past generations. But also like many of us, she discovers that freedom still has its limits and limitations. Her story of how swiftly a carefully constructed life can fall completely apart is something those of us who have experienced traumatic loss will well relate to. (Although I will admit that, for me, the trip to Mongolia & its aftermath were more interesting and compelling than the earlier part of the book.)

I nodded as I read:
When I hear that someone has lung cancer, Did he smoke? comes into my head midway between the syllables can and cer. Obviously, I don't say it out loud, but I want to know, because I want to believe that if only my loved ones and I refrain from smoking, we will be ineligible for lung cancer (and, ideally, every other kind of cancer).  
"Have they figured out what happened yet?" people keep asking me about my own medical defeat.   
"Yes," I tell them. "I had bad luck."  
That is not what they want to hear. They want to hear that I had a bad obstetrician. Or that I took something you are not supposed to take, or didn't take something that you are. They want to hear that I neglected to get an ultrasound. Or that I have some kind of rare blood disorder that can be fixed with the right medicine or surgery or iPhone app. They want to know what they have to eat to keep from being me.   
And since I have done something that sounds bad, people -- even people who really love me -- persist in saying things like "Next time, you're not getting on any planes." It doesn't matter if I tell them that every doctor I've consulted has said unequivocally that there's nothing wrong with flying when you're five months pregnant. They want to believe that everything happens for a reason.  
Some people need to believe this to indemnify themselves -- against miscarriage, or misfortune in general. Some people need to believe it so they can say, "You'll get pregnant again and everything will work out fine," because they want to comfort me.  
But in a strange way, I am comforted by the truth. Death comes for us. You may get ten minutes on this earth or you may get eighty years but nobody gets out alive. Accepting this rule gives me a funny flicker of peace. 
Pre-Mongolia, in her early 30s, Levy interviewed New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd -- then 53, single, a Pulitzer prize winner with an amazing apartment. She was "intoxicated by her peculiarity, independence, and success."
I asked if she'd ever wanted children. She told me, "Everybody doesn't get everything."  
It sounded depressing to me at the time, a statement of defeat. Now admitting it seems like the obvious and essential work of growing up. Everybody doesn't get everything: as natural and unavoidable as mortality.


(So far as I know, Levy, now in her 40s, remains childless.)

This was book #6 that I've read so far this year, bringing me to 25% of my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.

Monday, March 27, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Binging

I've never really been one for "binge-watching" television. It certainly wasn't a thing when I was growing up. Your favourite shows came on the air, and if you missed an episode, too bad, maybe you could catch it in reruns. VCRs weren't a "thing" until I was in university. We got our first one in 1989. BIL & SIL gave it to us as a thank-you gift for being Oldest Nephew's godparents.

We don't have Netflix (although we're considering getting it, because I am dying to see "The Crown"...!), and until we moved to our condo last year and switched cable providers (& got an excellent package deal), we didn't have a PVR. We did still have an old VCR (not the original, but its successor), but when we got a fancy new box for our cable system a few years ago, we couldn't figure out how to incorporate the VCR into the hookup. We actually weren't using it that much anyway in those last few years. We didn't have a DVD player for many years, and we don't use it that much either. I have a few DVD boxed sets that I could presumably bingewatch (the Beatles "Anthology" series, season one of "The Muppet Show," the entire series of "That Girl"), but in fact, we still haven't hooked up the DVD player since we moved here. (!)

Then, about two weeks ago, "Designated Survivor" resumed after being on hiatus since Christmas (one of the few new shows I've been watching this season). I had missed but PVRd the last few episodes. Or so I thought. When I went to watch them, I realized there were actually FIVE episodes I'd missed, only two of which I'd PVRd. I wound up cramming in all five episodes in one afternoon (while dh was out, visiting his father), two on PVR & three online on my laptop, before the new episode aired later that night.

This past weekend, our local PBS station aired a "Downton Abbey" marathon, the entire series from start to finish, starting Friday & ending early Sunday evening. As I've mentioned before, I didn't start watching DA seriously until the final season, so this was a great opportunity to catch up on some (not all, but some) of the seasons/episodes I'd missed (& relive some that I'd already seen). I sobbed once again as Mary & Edith finally came to a truce, the children played by Sybil's grave in the cemetery, and Mrs. Hughes led the servants in a chorus of "Auld Lang Syne" as the clock struck midnight and Edith & her Marquess drove away for their honeymoon, happy at last. 

After that concluded, I watched a two-hour movie about the Bronte sisters & their alcoholic brother, Branwell, called "To Walk Invisible." It was beautifully filmed -- but intense and bleak (like the sisters' novels) -- and I found myself straining to listen to and understand the thick Yorkshire accents. Needless to say, by the end of it all, I was drained. I still feel a bit off-kilter, physically & emotionally, this morning. Time to get out of the house for a while...!  ;)

Are you a binge-watcher? What you have you binged on lately?  What's in your viewing queue?

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

Monday, March 20, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Equinox odds & ends

*  When in doubt re: what to blog about, bullet point odds & ends always work in a pinch. ;)
* (My apologies for the lack of true posts lately, let alone ALI-related ones. My blogging mojo seems to be on vacation. :p  )
*  It's the first day of spring... about time!!
*  I survived last week's root canal (although I'm not sure my credit card can say the same... OUCH.... and it seems I have already maxxed out my dental coverage for this period, with regular checkups/cleanings still to come -- not to mention two crowns, which are not covered at all). My jaw was sore & my mouth was tender for days afterward, though, and I only just started eating relatively solid food again (lots of soup last week!!).  I feel like I lost an entire week in recovery. And I'm still trying to be careful until I can get crowns placed on the tooth with the root canal, as well as on the broken tooth I had repaired a few weeks back.
* Adding to the "getting back to normal routines" vibe, spring break is over & the kids are back in school today. :)  The weather is also starting to get a bit nicer. Looking forward to starting a regular walking routine again, and exploring our new neighbourhood, and working off the extra pounds that have crept up on both of us (& dh in particular). We have both been way too sedentary over this winter...
*  SIL was supposed to return to work today too, but she's still not feeling 100% (recovering from surgery in late January) and has had her leave extended another few weeks. She was complaining to us about how HR screwed up her short-term disability payments, and as a result, her first week back will be unpaid. I wanted to tell her I know ALL ABOUT how HR can screw up a leave, but decided not to dig up an old personal grievance (and an uncomfortable reminder about my lost pregnancy) and make it all about me.

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

Friday, March 17, 2017

Your loss is a loss

A Facebook find. By the way, Tim Lawrence rocks!! :)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Monday, March 13, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Dental daze

Three weeks ago, I broke a tooth -- a molar on the lower right side of my mouth. On a piece of lasagna, of all things (!)(an overcooked piece of pasta at the edge). (This was the fourth time I've broken a tooth -- and the second time that same tooth has been broken. Twice a popcorn kernel was the culprit, once it was a hard candy -- but lasagna??)

Fortunately, the dentist was able to see me the next day & fix the tooth, but recommended I get a crown put on it. Before making an appointment for that, we sent a treatment plan to my dental insurance company to see what they would cover (nothing, as it turns out -- I opted for the cheapest plan when I retired, the others being eye-poppingly expensive. Figures...).

Meanwhile, this past Thursday, I started noticing some sensitivity to both heat & cold on the upper left side of my mouth. This has happened before, but it's usually been temporary. The sensitivity continued Friday, and subsided slightly by Saturday afternoon. But then Saturday night after supper, I brushed and flossed my teeth, and OWWW!!!  The pain ebbed & flowed all through Saturday night and all day Sunday. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would say it ranged from about a 4 up to about a 7 at some points. I popped ibuprofen, I rinsed my mouth with saltwater, I applied ice packs. Sometimes it helped, sometimes it didn't.

Of course by then, our dentist's office, which is open on Saturday mornings, had long since closed. It's not open on Sundays. There is an emergency dental office, about a 20 minute drive away, but obviously, I preferred to have my own dentist look at it, if at all possible.

So I suffered through approximately 36 hours of intermittent toothache until my dentist's office opened on Monday morning. Thankfully, by Sunday night, it had started to subside again, and my mouth was feeling relatively normal by the time I called the dentist. Luckily, he was able to see me a few hours later. The verdict? Root canal, to be followed by a crown (which will be my third).  (The crown he originally recommended after the broken tooth three weeks ago will have to wait).  This office doesn't have a full-time root canal doctor on staff, so I was referred to another office. Luckily (??) again, they were able to squeeze me in later this afternoon. I am writing this at home between appointments, before we head out again. I figured I might as well get it over with ASAP (& hopefully get back to some semblance of order). Plus, just to make things interesting, we're expecting a snowstorm to start later this afternoon & continue through tomorrow.

I know stuff happens. But it's another unwelcome reminder that I'm getting older, and stuff (MY stuff) is wearing out (like my knees :p ). (The exception to this rule being Aunt Flo -- she just keeps chugging on & doesn't seem to know when to quit...!)  Of course, since when has my body actually worked the way it should, right??

But, as I try to remind myself, getting older it is a privilege denied to many. Yet another friend of ours, not much older than I am, was recently diagnosed with cancer. So I will try to quit whining. Thanks for listening to/reading my vent, though...! ;)

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

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The stigma of a childless/free life

Amanda Marcotte at Salon recently posted an interesting article, flagging a new study that examines attitudes towards childfree people. Despite the fact that an increasing number of people remain childless/childfree, the social stigma attached to a life without children remains strong.

Marcotte was citing new research done by Leslie Ashburn-Nardo, an associate professor of psychology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. (You can read the entire study here, and a press release about it here. Childfree by choice blogger & author Laura Carroll also posted about the same study, here, as did Karen at The NotMom, here.)

"Our data suggests that not having children is seen not only as atypical, or surprising, but also morally wrong, "Ashburn-Nardo said (emphasis mine).  Not only are people expected to HAVE children, they are expected to WANT to have children -- and those who don't conform with these expectations are viewed not just with disapproval but with "moral outrage" (!).

The press release continues:
The findings are consistent with other studies of backlash against people who violate social roles and other stereotypic expectations. When people violate their expected roles, they suffer social sanctions. Given that more and more people in the U.S. are choosing to not have children, this work has far-reaching implications.
(Ummm, yes, I'd say so...!)

In the study, Ashburn-Nardo notes the perception that children are a necessary ingredient for a fulfilling life -- despite the existence of several studies showing that parents are significantly less satisfied with their marriages than non-parents.

Apparently those of us who are childless/free not by choice get a pass and are viewed somewhat more favourably than those who dare to buck social norms by deliberately rejecting parenthood altogether. (Yay?)  (Interestingly, there appears to be no significant difference in the level of scorn heaped upon childfree men versus childfree women.) 

But even if people recognize that it is or may not be our "fault" that we don't have kids, I would venture to say there's still an element of judgment (and perhaps even superiority) involved when they compare our life to that of parents (including, presumably, themselves).  They "feel sorry" for us because they perceive our lives to be lacking/lesser-than in some important ways.

I don't think Ashburn-Nardo's conclusions are news to those of us without children (for any reason). But her study does provide some concrete evidence to back up our perceptions of stigma.

There were some interesting and thoughtful points made in the Facebook comments on Marcotte's page (so far, anyway...!) (versus the Salon FB page (don't even go there), or the comments made on the article itself).  Some remarked that perhaps it's not surprising that 18-year-olds would be so idealistic about having kids in the future "before having to really think about what sacrifices that might entail."

One commenter noted the "dearth of articles from people past childbearing age about their childfree lives. A lot of stuff I see is from people in the 20's and 30's who may just be delaying childbearing (not saying all, very aware there are people who know from a young age they don't want have kids.) Just think more narratives from those on the other side of it (past childbearing age) would be meaningful."  One more reason for those of us in the childless/free world to keep writing and speaking out about our experiences (particularly as we age)! 

Ashburn-Nardo plans to continue her research about the growing childfree demographic. I look forward to hearing more!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

#MicroblogMondays (on a Tuesday): Odds & ends

*  Squeaking under the wire with a #MM post on Tuesday...!
*  Seems I've been going through a bit of a lull (again) when it comes to blogging, blog reading & commenting. :(  I know from past experience that these periods come and go, and come and go again. It's just a little discouraging:  I had my blogreader almost wrestled into submission couple of weeks ago -- under 100 posts (including the political blogs I read, which tend to rack up numerous posts during the day). And then I started sliding. Again. (Sigh.)  I know many of you can relate...!
*  After more than FIVE WEEKS, the hole in our entryway closet ceiling is fixed!  (Well, almost -- the drywaller is coming back tomorrow to sand it down.)  It may be a little while longer before I can move the contents back in, though -- the ceiling will need to be painted, and dh thinks we should take the opportunity to paint the entire closet. The question is -- what colour?? Here we go again...!
*  My girlfriend & I thoroughly enjoyed our evening at Unique Lives with Linda Ronstadt last night, which I mentioned in a recent post. (Hence, the #MM post on a Tuesday. ;)  ) While the topic was billed as "living with Parkinson's disease," it was actually a multimedia tour of her life and legendary career, featuring photos, sound & video clips as Linda told stories about her life, the people she met & sang with along the way and why she chose the various paths that she did. The presentation was based on her memoir, Simple Dreams, which I read and enjoyed a few years ago, and reviewed here, and was followed by a Q&A session. It was clear that she prefers not to dwell on the disease that robbed her of her singing voice, but she did answer a few questions about it. She leaned on the arm of her manager to enter & exit the stage, and her speaking voice was not especially strong, but she was funny (blunt at times -- particularly in her comments on American politics...!), and had some great stories to tell. All things considered, I thought she looked pretty good. She is 70 years old now (can you believe it??!!). 
*  Next week is spring break in Ontario... i.e., the malls, stores, restaurants & movie theatres will probably be overrun with mobs of frazzled parents & kids.  :p  Which means WE will probably be staying close to home...! ;) 

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

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Current

(An occasional meme, alternating from time to time with "Right Now.")

Current Book(s) -- Having just finished "Shoulder the Sky" by D.E. Stevenson, I am bookless at the moment. (Well, not really, with a whole wall full of bookshelves in the next room, lol, but you know what I mean...!)  I still haven't finished "Mr. Churchill's Secretary" by Susan Elia MacNeil, but it's not calling my name at the moment. I won't lack for choices of unread books in my collection, though...!  I also have a backlog of magazines to tackle.

Current Playlist -- I don't have any digital music on my phone, and (despite a shelf full of CDs) mostly listen to our local classic rock station on the radio. I have recently started listening to "The Axe Files" podcast with David Axelrod, former adviser to President Obama. Some really interesting guests and thoughtful, full-hour conversations.

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure -- Finishing off the Coke & big bag of potato chips that I bought for Oscar night.  We try not to keep either item around the house, unless we're expecting company, but, Oscars. ;) 

Current Color -- I've been wearing lots of blue in various shades lately.

Current Drink -- My favourite Starbucks tea lattes (tall non-fat Royal English Breakfast). :)

Current Food -- Dinner tonight: pasta with chickpeas.

Current Favorite Show -- "Victoria" on PBS Masterpiece -- season finale this Sunday night (sniffle!).  A new season of "Who Do You Think You Are?" starts Sunday night too (hopefully not at the same time...!).  And "Designated Survivor" is back next week -- although I still have a few episodes PVRd from before Christmas that I need to catch up on first...

Current Wishlist -- Get the rest of our artwork/framed photos/etc. up on the walls. I think after 10 months here, it's about time, don't you??

Current Needs -- There's nothing that I need desperately at the moment, but we really do need to get some window coverings for the living room/main living area. I want something that doesn't interfere with the great view and the light, but that we can close up in the evenings for privacy -- particularly once the townhouses behind us are finished being built. I'm thinking vertical blinds, which we had at the house in the dining room.

Current Triumphs -- I recently solved a genealogical mystery that had been bugging me for a long time:  I was looking at a "Find a Grave" entry for one distant past relative, checked the cemetery index to see if his wife was buried there too, and not only found her grave but that of her father, another distant relative I had long wondered about.  He's not absolutely critical to my family tree, but I am glad to have found him at last!

Current Bane of my Existence -- Remember the leak from the sprinkler system in the ceiling of the walk-in closet in our entryway?  The leak was fixed FOUR WEEKS AGO, and yet the hole in the ceiling remains, despite repeated emails and visits to the property manager's office.  Supposedly someone is (finally!) coming to do the work tomorrow... fingers crossed!!  It's not just about the hole, of course -- when we first discovered the leak, we emptied the closet of almost all of its contents, and they've been sitting on the floor of my spare bedroom/office ever since then. It will be nice to finally get everything back where it belongs.

Current Celebrity Crush -- OK, this is going to sound totally geeky (and it's not a "crush" in the George Clooney sense, lol)(and maybe this should go in the "Current Favourite Show" category) but I am loving watching "Reliable Sources" on Sunday mornings on CNN with Brian Stelter, and am now a daily newsletter subscriber. As a former journalist/communicator (who is old enough to remember Watergate and its aftermath, and was inspired in part by Woodward & Bernstein and "All the President's Men"), issues related to journalism & freedom of the press are very important to me, and they are more important than ever right now. Brian always has great guests to discuss these issues that are near & dear to my heart. Plus, he & his wife are expecting a baby this spring, after two miscarriages and IVF.  :) 

Current Indulgence -- Bought new undies at both the Gap & Victoria's Secret last week, even though I don't really need them (I can barely close the drawer where I keep them, it's so full...!). ;) 

Current #1 Blessing -- Living close to dh's brother and his family. :)  It is so nice to see our nephews more often, and to be able to help SIL as she recovers from her surgery.

Current Slang or Saying -- Hmmm, not sure I have one.

Current Outfit -- Black yoga pants from Reitman's and comfy periwinkle blue sweatshirt from the Gap. I loved it so much I went back & bought another one in a different colour.

Current Excitement -- Planning my next Unique Lives & Experiences outing, featuring one of my all-time favourite singers, Linda Ronstadt!!  She'll be talking about living with Parkinson's disease, which has sadly robbed her of the ability to sing. The friend I bought season's tickets with is away right  now, but another friend has agreed to come with me and meet me for supper beforehand. I'm looking forward to it!

Current Mood -- Going a bit stir crazy and chomping at the bit for spring to arrive...!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

"Emotional labour" and childless women

Cathy at "Slow Swimmers and Fried Eggs" recently wrote a thought-provoking post about "emotional labour" -- the social expectation that we will be attentive to the needs and feelings and comfort of others. There's a whole list of examples of emotional labour in one of the articles I've linked to -- things such as remembering birthdays, anniversaries and appointments;  noticing that we're almost out of soap and adding it to the grocery list; planning family get-togethers (even with a small, informal gathering, you want to make sure the house is reasonably tidy and that you have some refreshments on hand to offer your guests); listening to a co-worker's problems; remembering your kid's bake sale is this week at school and making sure they have something to bring for it. All the little details we take care of that, individually, might not seem like a big deal, but taken collectively, can be exhausting.

I was familiar with the concept of "emotional labour" -- and the argument that women do the vast majority of it, often to the detriment of their own personal and professional well-being (not to mention the idea that failing to do it makes us "bad" or uncaring in the eyes of some -- while men who fail to do this kind of labour are just "busy, important, or pre-occupied.”). 

But then Cathy made a really great point, something I'd never really considered (at least not in these explicit terms) -- an "ah-ha moment" for me:  "To me [she wrote] the social construct can certainly be expectations of women (as nurturers) versus men, but also of parents versus non-parents."  She points out that people without children are expected to provide a great deal of support to parents -- "yet there is a lack of reciprocity towards those struggling with infertility who are not parents." This, she says, reflects the importance of parenthood in our society -- which is highly publicized, idealized and celebrated -- versus the invisibility of infertility, a loss that is not recognized or deeply understood by others.

Shortly after Cathy's post, a blogging friend posted an article on her Facebook page which has nothing to do with emotional labour specifically (let alone infertility or childlessness), but which included a highlighted passage that I thought was thematically resonant with Cathy's article:  "I am constantly asked to consider the full humanity and emotional circumstances of women who are never asked to consider mine. If they do it at all it is magnanimously. I have to do it to survive."

Around the same time, Jody Day of Gateway Women flagged an article on Facebook outlining "50 Ways People Expect Constant Emotional Labor from Women and Femmes." As I read through, I kept thinking about what a similar list specifically about childless women might look like. Here are a few points that I came up with:
  • If women's time is considered less valuable than men's, childless women's time is devalued even more so. For example, there is an expectation that we will cheerfully pitch in to cover for parenting coworkers who need to stay home with a sick child or leave early to attend their child's school event.  Our own requests for flexibility are often deemed less important or "legitimate".
  • In the same vein, there's an expectation that childless women will be available to care for aging parents, help them with errands and take them to appointments, more so than our siblings with children (even if they live closer to Mom & Dad than we do).
  • Parents assume that, because we don't have children, we have a lot of discretionary income to spend as we please.
  • We are expected to show interest in the children of our siblings, friends and relatives, and to listen attentively and sympathetically to parents' problems and stories about their children -- while our own interests and problems are often dismissed as less worthy of attention or ignored completely.  
  • We are expected to defer to parents in all matters related to children, even if we have our own knowledge and experiences to guide us and to share (e.g., childless teachers are often told they don't know anything about children, even though they spend the entire day a room full of them, 9 months a year, year after year).
  • Parents expect us to attend gender reveal parties, baby showers, christenings, first communions, confirmations, graduations, weddings and birthday parties to celebrate their children and the milestone events in their lives (oh yeah, and bring gifts!). Yet our own birthdays or other milestones are not always marked or celebrated in the same way.  
  • If we decline invitations to these events or fail to show sufficient enthusiasm for them, we are expected to provide explanations and/or made to feel like something is wrong with us. 
  • We are expected to justify our decision to continue living without children, while parents are rarely expected to justify why they decided to have children. Similarly, we are expected to explain why we didn't pursue this or that path to parenthood ("Have you thought about adoption? surrogacy? donor eggs?") -- even within the infertility community, where childless living (still) remains an unacceptable outcome for many pursuing treatment or adoption.  
Thoughts?  (On emotional labour generally, and/or how it relates to infertility and childlessness specifically?)

Monday, February 27, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Oscars edition

I had planned to write something about the Oscars today -- but I never expected they would end the way they did.  That was pretty wild, huh??  I felt bad for the people from both movies -- "La La Land," flush with victory, only to discover, through no fault of their own, "oops..." -- and "Moonlight," no doubt disappointed to lose, only to find out, "hey, we screwed up, you won after all."  Not exactly the way they pictured winning, I'm sure. I thought the guy from "La La Land" was very gracious, all things considered. 

As I've written before on this blog (here and here, especially), Oscar night has always been sacred at my house. Since I was a kid, I've always cut a ballot out from the newspaper (or a magazine, or these days, I'll print one off online) & ticked off the winners as the show progresses, keeping track of how many Oscars each movie wins. The only thing missing this year from my usual routine was the popcorn:  I usually have a big bowl beside me to munch on as the show opens (along with a big glass of Coke, with ice -- we normally don't keep soft drinks around the house, but we make an exception for Oscar night) -- but I broke a tooth on Monday (!!). I got it filled the next day and will be getting a crown just as soon as the insurance company provides an estimate of what it will cover, but I'm trying to be careful in the meantime. So I had potato chips instead. ;)  This was the fourth tooth I've broken -- and apparently, it's one I broke in the past too (I thought it was the one next door), so hence, the recommendation to cap it. The very first tooth I ever broke was on a piece of popcorn on an Oscar night past;  I also broke a tooth while eating popcorn at the movies (perhaps ironically, it was "Something's Got to Give" with Diane Keaton & Jack Nicholson), and the third time was on a piece of Werthers candy. 

Anyway, envelope screw-ups and potato chips vs popcorn aside, I thought it was a pretty good Oscars, right up until the very end. I thought the dresses were just the right mixture of "Wow!" and "Seriously??"  (Charlize Theron's gorgeous metallic silver dress was probably my favourite.) There were some great speeches -- and actually a lot fewer political comments in them than I thought there would be (and most of what was said was pretty restrained and well put). I thought Jimmy Kimmel did a good job as host -- and wouldn't you have loved to be one of those people from the tour bus that got to walk through the auditorium & take selfies with the front row?? I thought it was the best Oscars stunt since Ellen ordered in pizza a couple of years ago. 

And, best of all, being retired, I didn't have to get up and go to work this morning. ;) 

Did you watch the Oscars and what did you think?? (Of the snafu at the end, and/or anything & everything else?)  (And, Oscars aside, have you ever broken a tooth??)

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

Friday, February 24, 2017

"Shoulder the Sky" by D.E. Stevenson

"Shoulder the Sky" (also known as "Winter and Rough Weather") by D.E. Stevenson is the third volume in a trilogy my DES Yahoo group has been reading and discussing, including previous selections "Vittoria Cottage" and "Music in the Hills."   

Newlyweds James & Rhoda, whose on-again-off-again romance unfolded in the pages of the previous two books, return to the Scottish border country to run Boscath Farm, adjacent to Mureth, the sheep farm owned by James's aunt & uncle, Mamie & Jock.  It is beautiful but isolated, and a huge change in lifestyle for Rhoda, an artist who has been living in London, but gradually, she adapts. She & James make friends with the new young doctor in town & his sister, and she takes a special interest in Duggie, the son of Mamie's housekeeper and a budding artist himself.  A big winter storm becomes the catalyst that brings several conflicts and mysteries to their resolution. 

Like many DES novels, not much really happens in "Shoulder the Sky."  It's a light, fast read from a different, simpler time (first published in 1951) -- but it's engaging writing and endearing characters. It's just the thing to curl up with on the couch on a cold winter's day, with a cup of tea close at hand. :) 

This was book #5 that I've read so far this year, bringing me to 21% of my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Et tu, George?? (Odds & ends: The celebrity pregnancy edition)

  • George Clooney (age 55) & his lovely (and highly accomplished) wife Amal (age 39) recently announced that they are expecting -- not just A baby, but (of course!!) twins -- a boy & a girl.  I have to admit, I groaned when I heard. (Et tu, George?) 
  • Factoring in the ages of the parents & the fact that it's twins, I'm going to take a wild guess and assume it's likely that fertility treatments were involved. In other words, definitely not an "oops" pregnancy. 
  • Until now, of course, George had been famously adamant that he was not cut out for fatherhood -- and I believed him. Of course, he was also once famously adamant that he would never get married again, so perhaps we should have taken his other "never" pronouncements with a grain of salt. :p  ;)  
  • Both Laura & Karen at The NotMom posted recently about the Clooney pregnancy. (Both worth a read.)  As Laura said, "We’re looking for others who share our experiences. Women without children, whether they’ve made the choice for themselves or had it made for them, are just looking for others who understand. And when those others are celebrities, we feel proud and excited... we don’t have that any more. We feel betrayed even though we have no right or justification to feel that way."
  • I am not going to begrudge anyone a baby if they really, really want one... and I realize that everyone has the prerogative of changing their minds.  But it would be really, REALLY nice to see a celebrity who says they are happy without children... and stays that way. (Jennifer Aniston, I'm looking at you... ;) )
  • The other celebrity who is pregnant with twins right now is, of course, Beyoncé. I will never forget how she announced her pregnancy with Blue Ivy at the MTV awards in 2011, ripping away her jacket to expose her pregnant belly -- which, in case we didn't get the picture, she proceeded to massage with a huge, self-satisfied smile on her face. 
  • This time, she announced her pregnancy by releasing a series of over-the-top photos that showed off her expanding belly (including lingerie, veils and enough flowers to stock a small florist shop). 
  • As if that weren't enough, she turned the recent Grammy awards show into a celebration of pregnancy & motherhood (hers most of all -- her outfit & performance were obviously designed to show off her pregnant belly to the max).  I didn't watch, but I saw photos & clips later.   
  • "At the Grammys, Beyoncé and Adele Talk Up Motherhood," the New York Times noted, gushing that "Beyoncé was a serene fertility goddess, her gold headdress and necklace sparkling, exulting in the bonds of maternity and the power of a woman’s body to give life."  "Stunning," read other headlines that I saw. (I was stunned, all right...)
  • Yes, I have a bad case of sour grapes. :p
  • As Karen wrote, "I like to think that I am “past” the grieving that childless-by-chance women endure. I’ve found acceptance, right?... And yet, Beyonce’s news made me think, “Good Lord, does she have to get everything?!” "
  • I do realize that she had a miscarriage before Blue Ivy... and the presence of twins, and the age gap between them & her daughter probably indicates that they are the result of infertility treatment. Somehow, though, that doesn't make me feel better. 
  • Please tell me I'm not the only one to react to these celebrity pregnancy announcements like this... 

Monday, February 20, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Family Day 2017

It's Family Day here in Ontario (& several other Canadian provinces) -- a holiday which (as I have often complained in the past ;) )  the politicians made up about 10 years ago so that we could have a much-needed mid-winter break (OK, I can live with that... ;) ) -- but then slapped a label on it to demonstrate their "family-friendliness." And you know when they envisioned "Family Day," they weren't thinking about families that deviate from two parents (preferably one of each gender) and at least one kid. Certainly not "families of two," such as dh & me.

So I was grateful to one of my Facebook friends (whom we met through our pg loss support group) who posted this definition of "family" earlier this morning:


Much more inclusive, don't you think?  :)

I hope most if not all of you (at least those of you in North America) have a holiday today, & that it's a good one. :) 

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

Thursday, February 16, 2017

"The Lost City of Z" by David Grann

The Lost City of Z:  A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann had been languishing in my to-read pile for the last few years. I was finally prompted to pick it up when I learned about an upcoming movie adaptation (to be released in April) (and I love that, in the trailers I've seen, they pronounce "Z" as "Zed," in the British/Canadian fashion!).

I don't know why books like "The Lost City of Z" (and, for example, "Into the Silence" by Wade Davis, a few years back) fascinate me so much. I loved learning about North American explorers such as Samuel de Champlain and Pierre de la Verendrye and Alexander Mackenzie when I was in school -- and Daniel Boone was my childhood hero! -- so maybe it's the allure of discovering new worlds. (Or perhaps it's because I know it's something I would never, ever do myself, lol.)

"The Lost City of Z" tells the true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett, who made multiple trips to the Amazon jungle in the early part of the 20th century -- first to map the region for the Royal Geographic Society, and then to pursue his growing obsession with finding a lost city of untold riches. Some called it El Dorado;  Fawcett called it Z. Fawcett, along with his son Jack, disappeared into the jungle for the final time in 1925 in search of Z. The book also tells the stories of subsequent expeditions mounted to learn what happened to Fawcett -- including the author's personal journey to pick up the trail, more than 75 years later.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. Having said that, I'm debating whether to see the movie. Be forewarned, this is not a book for the squeamish (it doesn't overly dwell on the "ick" factor -- but it's there...), and I can just imagine how it will translate onto film...! Reading about the bugs, snakes (like Indiana Jones, I HATE SNAKES), parasites, piranhas, cannibals (!) and other creatures that have made exploration of the Amazon so difficult was cringe-inducing (and reminded me why I haven't been camping in 40 years, let alone trekking into the Amazon).  Fawcett and his men (not to mention their poor horses and other animals) endured incredible hardship, and it's amazing to me that he returned not just once but several times over the years (he came to believe he was invincible). It was also sobering to read the author's descriptions of what's happened to the Amazon in the years since Fawcett first explored the area:  huge swaths of the jungle have been clearcut or burned in the name of commerce, altering the ecosystem, perhaps irreversably.

The ending was not quite what I expected, and still leaves many questions unanswered -- but it was satisfying in its own way.  (Kind of like life after infertility & loss, lol.) 

This was book #4 that I've read so far in 2017, bringing me to 17% of my Goodreads Reading Challenge Goal for this year of 24 books.

Monday, February 13, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Things I am happy about today

Okay, I will admit I've been wallowing in my annual "I hate February" mode lately, perhaps a little too much. ;)  Time for some positivity!  Taking my cue from Mali, here are some things that are making me happy today: 

*  Aunt Flo is taking her leave after her latest visit (and good riddance, lol). (I suppose it's too much to hope that it might be for the last time??)
*  Watching America go gaga over our prime minister as he visited Washington today ;)  (and, more importantly, watching him more than hold his own in his public appearances with The Donald).
*  It's after 6 p.m. as I type this... and the sun is JUST starting to set -- i.e., it's staying lighter longer again. Progress! 
* There's even a bit of a sunset visible tonight :)  -- something we haven't really seen in a while.
*  We even saw some sun today, after snow all day yesterday.
*  (While I'm getting pretty tired of the snow, it WAS kind of pretty, watching it coming down yesterday.) (AND -- we don't have to shovel it!!)
* Living close enough to BIL & family that he can call us to come over for coffee (as he did last night after supper) -- and we can hop in the car and be there 15 minutes later. 
*  Being able to stop by to visit with SIL regularly as she recovers from surgery, and bring her the occasional treat from Starbucks or soup for lunch.
*  Chatting with an old friend on the phone today.
*  Looking forward to a trip to the mall tomorrow.
* Tomorrow is also Valentine's Day :) 

What's making you happy today?

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

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The best-laid plans...

Pretty much...!!  ;)
(A Facebook find from Intelligence is Sexy)