Monday, May 22, 2017

MPM: An appreciation

My sister recently emailed me a link, with the only commentary being "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  :) "

She'd just learned that one more book from one of our favourite authors will be available in bookstores in July.  :)

Both of us discovered the mystery/thriller novels of Barbara Michaels when we were teenagers in the 1970s (still in junior high school, I think) -- most of them gothic mysteries/thrillers, with a tinge of the occult or supernatural. I don't remember the very first one I read, but my favourite was released around the time of the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976, and clearly written with that event in mind -- "Patriot's Dream," which takes place in Williamsburg, Virginia, and features time travel back to the days of the American Revolution.

Around the same time, we also discovered the novels of another mystery writer, Elizabeth Peters. Eventually, we came to realize that Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels were one and the same person.  The author's real name was Barbara Mertz, a PhD graduate from the Oriental Institute in Chicago, who published two non-fiction books on ancient Egypt in the 1960s. Fans often refer to her as "MPM," and her official website is http://mpmbooks.com/.

The novels she published as Elizabeth Peters differ from the Michaels novels with their focus on art, archaeology & history, as well as their irreverent sense of humour (which often had me chuckling out loud).  Some Peters novels were standalones -- such as my favourite, "Legend in Green Velvet," a caper set in the Scottish highlands.  But she also developed several series that all featured memorable heroines. There was Jacqueline Kirby, librarian turned romance novelist (one Kirby novel has the memorable title "Naked Once More," lol).  There was Vicky Bliss, an American art history professor, working at a museum in Berlin.

And there was Amelia Peabody, Victorian Egyptologist, perhaps the best-known Mertz/Peters/Michaels creation of all. I've always thought the Amelia books would make a delightful movie or television series, if properly scripted and cast :) and the Amelia section of the MPM site includes readers' votes for casting a hypothetical Peabody movie. (Although more than one MPM fan has noted the similarities between the Amelia books and "The Mummy" movies with Brendan Fraser...!) 

I don't remember discovering Amelia until after I was married (late 1980s/early 1990s) -- but once I read the first novel in the series, "Crocodile on the Sandbank," I was hooked, and devoured the subsequent entries, one after another.  I must admit I've fallen behind -- I have not yet read the last few books in the series, although I have an unofficial goal to finish them before the new one comes out...!

Sadly, Barbara Mertz/Barbara Michaels/Elizbeth Peters passed away in August 2013 at her home in Frederick, Maryland. But happily for her fans, she left behind an unfinished Amelia Peabody novel, "The Painted Queen." We started hearing rumours about it shortly after she died, but it wasn't until last fall that publication was confirmed.  MPM's friend and fellow mystery writer, Joan Hess (another author we've both read, whose heroines include Arly Hanks & Claire Malloy), took on the daunting task of finishing it, and the result will be released in July.

*** *** ***

One more reason why I think of Michaels/Peters (and the Amelia books in particular) so fondly.

When we lost learned that Katie's heart had stopped beating inside me on August 5, 1998, my mother flew immediately to be with me in the hospital. My father followed several days later, bearing a gift from my sister -- a hardcover copy of the newest Elizabeth Peters novel -- an "Amelia," called "The Ape Who Guards the Balance," There was a handwritten note inside which read (in part), "I thought Amelia chaining herself to #10 Downing Street would be more entertaining than flowers."  (She was right. :) )

Fast-forward a few months later to later October/early November, with my Nov. 14th due date rapidly approaching. While browsing the books section in the Saturday Globe and Mail, I saw an ad that made my jaw drop: an all-day event on "Crime and Punishment in Ancient Egypt" on Saturday, Nov. 7th -- the 24th annual symposium on Egyptology put on by the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities (SSEA) at the Royal Ontario Museum -- featuring a keynote address by famous author Elizabeth Peters. The public was welcome to attend.

Faster than you can say "Tutankhamun," I was on the phone to the ROM and bought a ticket for $15.

Then I called my sister. :)  I very seldom manage to get the better of her in terms of ruffling her feathers ;) -- so it was beyond satisfying to be able to pose the question, "Guess what I'm going to be doing on November 7th?"  -- and then tell her & hear her pause -- and then shriek "Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!"  And then ask, in a very small voice, "Can you get me an autograph??"

I remember the day was dark & rainy, but (for perhaps the first time in months), my spirits were buoyant as I took a train into the city and then rode the subway to the museum. I was uninterested in attending the full day's program (I find the history in the Amelia books interesting, but not THAT interesting...!), but I arrived in plenty of time for Peters' scheduled lecture on "Murder, Mystery and Mayhem in Ancient Egypt" at 4 p.m. -- the final event of the day.

The theatre was packed. (I think I was one of the youngest people there...!) The "lecture" turned out to be a wide-ranging informal interview/conversation with fellow mystery writer Aaron Elkins, including questions from the audience.  I don't remember a lot of what was said, unfortunately, but I do remember that MPM was just as funny and charming and delightful as I'd imagined her to be. The hour flew by far too quickly.

Afterward, MPM signed copies of her books in the foyer outside the theatre, many of which were stacked on tables nearby, available for sale. I had brought the copy my sister sent me of "The Ape Who Guards the Balance" as well as a second copy for her to sign for my sister, and she graciously personalized and signed both books (with hieroglyphics, as well as her signature). I said something stupid about how we had both been reading her books for years, trying hard not to gush too much. (I didn't think to bring my camera with me, & of course, there were no cellphones with handy cameras included back then.)  I left the museum with a broad smile on my face. :)

I (very) reluctantly let go of my complete collection of hardcover & paperback Peters/Michaels books before our move last year, since I also have them all in e-reader format. But I did keep my paperbacks of "Patriot's Dream" and "Legend in Green Velvet, " and a hardcover companion/coffee table book, "Amelia Peabody's Egypt."

And, of course, my prized signed copy of "The Ape Who Guards the Balance." :) (The ticket receipt, day's agenda, and note from my sister are all tucked inside the front cover.)

Are you a fellow Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters fan? Do you like reading mysteries? Any favourite authors to recommend? 

#MicroblogMondays: Let's break the silence on another taboo subject

When I first started working as a 25-year-old staff writer on my company's monthly employee newsmagazine, one of my duties was to coordinate the monthly listings of executive appointments, service anniversaries, retirements and "in memoriams" -- the deaths of both pensioners and active employees. Sometimes the necessary details -- spellings of names, locations, job titles (those pesky acronyms...), etc. -- needed clarification, and I would have to make some phone calls.

I wasn't always prepared for the stories & additional information I'd hear -- never more so than the day, early in my career, when I was breezily informed that the 35-year-old supervisor I was calling about had died in childbirth. Childbirth??!  Who, in 1980-something Canada/North America, with all the benefits and miracles offered by modern medicine (not to mention universal healthcare), died in CHILDBIRTH??

Unfortunately, more women than we might think -- and even more unfortunately, 30 years later, it's still happening with alarming frequency.  Those of us who have endured miscarriage, stillbirth and other forms of pregnancy or infant loss know the silence, the taboos that surround our losses -- not only among family & friends, but in the medical community itself -- the lack of established protocols, reliable statistics and research.

But maternal death (or near-death) remains, it seems, is also an unspeakable subject -- despite the fact that some 700 to 900 American women die every year from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes -- and a further 65,000 come far too close to dying for comfort.  This is a far higher rate than any other developed country -- and almost 60 per cent of these deaths are preventable.

So I was happy to see that NPR & ProPublica have recently joined forces to shed some light on this important-but-overlooked loss-related health issue. They kicked things off with a devastating story, "The Last Person You'd Expect to Die in Childbirth," which focuses on the death of Lauren Bloomstein, a 33-year-old woman whose doctor failed to recognize the warning signs of pre-eclampsia & HELLP syndrome. (Ironically, Bloomstein was, of all things, a neonatal intensive care nurse.)  That was followed by "What We've Learned So Far About Maternal Mortality From You, Our Readers." Item #1:  "We realized that it's part of a pattern:  Treating the death of a mother due to pregnancy or childbirth as a private tragedy rather than as part of a public health crisis," says writer Adriana Gallardo. (Hmmm, this sounds familiar...)

"We're just getting started," Gallardo promises. Want to help them?  Through my 10 years of pregnancy loss support group facilitation, almost 20 years in loss & infertility online forums and almost 10 years of blogging, I know that that many of the loss moms I've encountered were near-casualties themselves. (In fact, I discovered that my own mother had had pre-eclampsia and, in her own words, "We're both lucky we're here.")

If you know someone who died or nearly died in pregnancy, childbirth or within a year after delivery -- or if you ARE that person (whether your baby lived or died) -- consider telling ProPublica your story.  Further information on how to contact them can be found here.

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

It's baaaaccckkkkk!! :)

I can scarcely believe I am writing this.

A couple of months ago, I was mourning the accidental deletion of one of my all-time favourite posts, as I was trying to edit it to add a new label & correct a few typos It was a post near & dear to my heart, so much so that I chose it as my pick for Mel's "Creme de la Creme" list for 2012. "I am childless, hear me roar" was written at what I sensed to be a turning point in the life of our ALI community and the childless-not-by-choice segment in particular, summarizing the progress we had made to date, a rising tide of voices saying "I am childless. My life did not turn out as planned. But it's a good life anyway."  

And then I hit the wrong button, and my post was gone. I was depressed about it for days, & resolved to be better at backing up my blog content. (Which reminds me, I need to get back at that project again. 2007 to 2012 have been backed up so far;  2013 to the present need to be done...!)

This morning, I delved into my drafts folder to look at something and wound up scrolling idly all the way through it.

And there it was, at the very bottom of my drafts folder: "I am childless, hear me roar."

I could scarcely believe my eyes. I held my breath & clicked on the title. It opened. I scrolled through the content;  it looked complete (aside from the video link, which no longer works). I noticed the "scheduled" publication date -- May 2012. I tentatively hit "publish" and went to May 2012 in my archive list, and checked.

And there it was. Not only that, it looks as thought all the comments are there intact too. And even the label "Creme de la Creme picks" that I was trying to add when I hit the wrong button and sent my cherished post into oblivion -- or so I thought -- is there.

Here's the link! :)  :)  :)

Lesson learned! And you can learn from my mistake too. Back up your blog!! :)  (And, when in doubt, check the drafts folder, lol.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

"Killers of the Flower Moon" by David Grann

Around the same time that I finished David Grann's "The Lost City of Z" a few months ago (my review here), I heard the author had a new book coming out soon. I made a mental note to watch for it and bought it on sale shortly after its release last month. :)

I'm glad I did.  Entertainment Weekly has called it "the best book of the year so far," (and apparently a movie is already in the works). It's a gripping read, one that kept me up late several nights in a row, promising myself that I would read "just one more chapter..." before turning out the lights... ;)

"Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI" tackles a forgotten -- and extraordinarily shameful -- chapter in American history and the (mis)treatment of American Indians. After being driven off their home territory in Kansas (an event depicted in Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House on the Prairie") in the 1870s, the Osage Indians eventually settled on a reservation in a rocky area of northern Oklahoma. A few decades later, oil was discovered there, and by the early 1920s, the Osage were among the richest people in the world, living in mansions with white servants and sending their children to the finest private schools. The federal government, however, declared the Osage were not capable of handling their own affairs; white guardians were appointed to look after their fortunes and monitor their spending.

And then, one by one, the Osage began dying.

"This is a story that has real evil in it -- evil like I've never covered or ever experienced,"  Grann told "CBS Sunday Morning," which did a story about the Osage murders and the book a few weeks ago.  

"When I began researching this story, I thought of it as a traditional mystery, a whodunnit," he said. "And by the end, I realized this wasn't a whodunnit, this was who-didn't-do-it, meaning so many people were part of this." 

The book focuses on the story of one Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, whose mother, three sisters and brother-in-law were all murdered or died under suspicious circumstances.  It also tells the story of the fledgling Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the agent -- Tom White, from a prominent family of Texas lawmen -- assigned by the bureau's young director, J. Edgar Hoover, to lead the investigation and track down the killer(s) -- many of them the very guardians who were assigned to protect Osage interests -- or others who stood to benefit.

The last part of the book jumps to present day, and Grann's own research for this book. The FBI estimated there were 24 Osage murders between 1921 and 1925 -- but Grann came to realize there were dozens and possibly hundreds more, beginning as early as 1918 and continuing into the 1930s, involving far more people than those who were tried & convicted.  He investigates some of these lesser-known cases and manages to pinpoint at least one likely murderer who was never publicly linked to the crimes.

Unfortunately, the exact number of Osage killed during the "Reign of Terror" (as they call it) will never be known, and most of these cases will never be solved. "The blood cries out from the ground," a current tribe member tells Grann, quoting the Bible in the last line of the book. Chilling.

I will be thinking about this book for a long time.

This was book #8 that I've read so far in 2017, bringing me to 33% of my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Voldemort Day/weekend recap

*  Voldemort Day is over. TGIM! ;)
* Thankfully, it was not as bad as some years. My usual strategy is to hide out at the movies, and my choice this year was "Snatched" with Amy Schumer & Goldie Hawn -- admittedly, a mother-daughter movie, but what a pairing!! It won't win any Oscars but it was mindless fun. (Bonus!:  It was also far less busy at the theatre than it sometimes is -- lots of parking & minimal lineups for tickets & popcorn.)
* I am back to eating popcorn (yay!!), after avoiding it while my endless dental work was underway. :p
* Yes, I wore my new necklace. :)
* Unfortunately, I was in a lot of discomfort all day with midcycle cramping & bloating/mittelschmerz. (It's better today, though still not 100%.)  When oh when will Aunt Flo finally give up the ghost??!!
*  We washed the patio door/windows, which hadn't been done all winter. It wasn't a professional job by any means, but it looks so much better than it did!
*  It's 19C right now and supposed to be 29C by Wednesday!!  Looking forward to (finally!) dusting off my capris & sandals! ;)  (Just in time for the Victoria Day long weekend, too!)  

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

Retail therapy :)

I have always subscribed to the philosophy that "when the going gets tough... the tough go shopping,"  lol. A new lipstick or book has often lifted my spirits after a crappy day at work.

And what could be tougher for a bereaved childless mother to face than Mother's Day (aka Voldemort Day -- That Which Shall Not Be Named) weekend??

Fortunately, some shiny new bling arrived in my mailbox this afternoon to distract me. :)


I have wanted one of these for eons, and I decided recently that I'd waited long enough. I ordered it a few weeks ago from a local Etsy dealer (here's the website, in case you're interested), and happily, it arrived just in time for the weekend.

I don't know whether the post-purchase high will last me through Sunday night... but it won't hurt, lol.

(I guess I could have saved this post for #MicroblogMondays... but I couldn't wait to share it with people who would appreciate it!! lol)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

"Option B" by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant

Four years ago, Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, published a book called "Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead" (which I reviewed here). In the book, she lauded her husband, Dave Goldberg, for being a supportive husband and involved father, and one of her key messages to women was the importance of choosing a partner who would support them at home as well as with their professional goals.

Two years later, on May 1, 2015, Sandberg suddenly became a widow and the single mother of two young children, when Goldberg died suddenly at age 47, while they were on vacation with friends in Mexico.

Another two years has passed since Goldberg's death, and Sandberg, together with her friend Adam Grant, a professor at Wharton University, has written a new book drawing from her and her children's experiences with grief and loss, and how they have rebuilt their lives after this traumatic event.

I knew Sandberg's story and the basic premise of "Option B:  Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy." Still, I was still unprepared for the visceral reaction I had to the first few pages of this book. I started crying as Sandberg described finding her husband's lifeless body on the floor of the resort's gym -- the ambulance ride, how friends had to peel her away from the body at the hospital, the wails & screams from her young children when she told them their father was dead, and again at the cemetery for the burial. The raw emotions she described brought back memories of my own raw grief over the loss of our baby girl -- the wails from my mother when I made the most difficult telephone call of my life, my father's heaving shoulders at the cemetery -- and this was almost 19 years ago now...!

Nevertheless, I was glad to read "Option B" and to see such a well-known public figure address such a difficult issue with such openness and brutal honesty.

Like many of us who have experienced traumatic loss, Sandberg was convinced she would never feel joy in her life again. She begged her friends, especially those who had lost parents at a young age, to tell her that her children would be okay. Her friend Grant assured her that there were things she could do, steps they could take, to rebuild and recover. And they have.

Much like "Lean In," "Option B" blends Sandberg's personal story with stories from others she has met who have bounced back from traumatic loss and other challenging experiences.  Like "Lean In," every story is backed up by academic studies and data, all meticulously footnoted in an extensive appendix. (The sheer volume of stories and facts can be a little overwhelming to digest at times. It's not a long book -- 176 pages of text, plus footnotes & index, etc. -- but it took me a while to wade through it.)

I know some people have pointed out that Sandberg, with her wealth, position, understanding boss and other resources, is far better able to deal with adversity than most. (Since Goldberg's death, Facebook has revised its bereavement leave policies and other support mechanisms for its employees;  few other companies have yet to follow suit and offer more than the standard three-day paid bereavement leave.)  Sandberg herself admits this, and has acknowledged that she clearly was not thinking about the challenges faced by single mothers when she wrote "Lean In."

But death and grief are a great leveller -- they come to all of us, eventually, and no amount of money can shield us from it.  I believe Sandberg is sincere in her desire to use her experience -- and her public profile -- to help others and get people talking about grief, loss and adversity more openly. Much of what she has to say will be familiar to those of us who have walked a similar path -- but her words could be a lifeline for those who are newly bereaved. (It's also a good book for those who want to support struggling friends & family members in a more meaningful way.)  And most of the tips and strategies she & Grant offer in this book are things that anyone can try, that don't cost any money -- things like creating and posting a new set of "family rules," keeping a gratitude journal, finding a support group, and even just getting plenty of sleep.

I remember when Sandberg wrote her infamous Facebook post, 30 days after Goldberg's death, talking about what she'd learned about grief and loss, I wondered here on this blog whether 30 days was a little early to be making definitive "what I've learned" statements. Part of me similarly wonders whether less than two years is a little early to be making definitive pronouncements about what works and what doesn't when it comes to learning to live with loss. I would be curious to check in with Ms Sandberg in the years to come to see what, if anything, she would change or add to her book, as her relationship with grief (and that of her children) evolves.

In the end, I'll reiterate what I said then:  if Sandberg can get people talking about grief and loss issues with this book in the same way that "Lean In" fuelled new discussions about women and work-life balance, it can only be a good thing.

Sandberg is donating all proceeds from "Option B" to OptionB.org, a nonprofit initiative to help people build resilience and find meaning in the face of adversity.

This was book #7 that I've read so far in 2017, bringing me to 29% of my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Watching "The Handmaid's Tale"

Like many of you, I'm sure, I've been watching the new television series "The Handmaid's Tale," based on Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel (which we read & discussed almost 10 years ago (!!) as part of Mel's Barren Bitches Book Brigade -- my contribution here). In the U.S., it's being shown on Hulu, which we don't get here in Canada -- but it is being shown here on the Bravo channel, which I do get as part of my cable TV package. Hulu releases new episodes on Wednesdays, currently up to episode 4;  Bravo broadcasts the show on Sundays and we just saw episode 3 last night.

There's a lot in both the book & the TV show that I can relate to -- and not just because (even though the book was written over 30 years ago) so many of the events & themes depicted seem to be pulled straight from the headlines. :(

For one thing, the show is filmed in Toronto;  I often recognize the buildings in the background (particularly in the "before" segments, where June/Offred is out & about in the city) and I can make a good guess at which part of the city the Waterfords' house is in. Which makes the story all the more eerie for me -- if you find yourself thinking "it could happen here" as you watch, I can REALLY picture it happening HERE, because it already has, on the TV screen...!

So many of the infertility themes resonate too. Mel posted recently about identifying with Serena Joy, her resentment of Offred and her fertility, and her humiliation over her presence in her bedroom. This week's episode (#3) had me wincing when Serena Joy & Martha were hovering over Offred, whose period is late (they seem to know it before she does...!) -- giving her extra food & flowers and quizzing her about pregnancy symptoms, preparing a nursery (already!!), their faces full of hope & expectation -- and then the disappointment when she tells them she's got her period. OK, I didn't have anyone waiting breathlessly on the outcome of my cycle (besides me & dh), because we never told anyone when we were going through treatment -- and I was never shoved to the floor & banished to my room when a pregnancy failed to materialize -- but the feeling of being watched hopefully by others for any signs of pregnancy (the endless hints...!); the feeling that I was letting people down when month after month, year after year, there was no baby; the feeling of being sidelined, dismissed, ignored (if not exactly outright punished) for my childlessness, my lack of fertility, my failure to reproduce -- all that sure seemed familiar.  Contrast the experience of Offred being punished and sent to her room (hidden, unseen, unvalued), while Janine/Ofwarren (poor, deluded Janine...), who did produce a baby for her Commander & his wife, gets ice cream...!

There's so much more I could say about this show, but this is supposed to be a microblog post, so I think I'll stop now. But I'll probably return to "The Handmaid's Tale" in future posts!

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

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Right now

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

Reading:  "Option B" by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant. Review to come when I finish. Next up (possibly -- decisions, decisions...!!): another recent purchase, "Killers of the Flower Moon" by David Gann (who also wrote "The Lost City of Z," which I read & reviewed here earlier this year).  

Watching:  "Designated Survivor" has been getting a bit silly (every time they get remotely close to figuring out who's behind the conspiracy, someone gets killed), but I'm in this far, I'll be following it to the season finale (which should be coming up soon)...!  Dh & I started watching "Genius" last week, about Albert Einstein. He knows way more than I do about physics and Einstein, but it's more soap opera than science ;)  and (two episodes in) we're both enjoying it. And of course, "The Handmaid's Tale." Watched the first two episodes on Bravo last Sunday night and looking forward to the third this weekend.  I understand that the series will eventually move beyond the Atwood book, & I'm not sure how I feel about that (I find most "sequels" are usually pretty disappointing), but for now, it is riveting television. 

Eating:  Still eating lots of softer stuff and chewing VERY. CAREFULLY. Got my final permanent crown earlier today. Regular six-month checkup & cleaning in another three weeks from now (!!), after which I hope I don't need to return for a loonnnnnnnggggg time (at least another six months...!)!! (I've lost five pounds since all this started with a broken tooth back in late February. Not exactly the weight loss method I'd recommend, though...!)  

Wearing:  Bought myself a denim jacket at Old Navy a while back (when it was still winter) & have been delighting in finally getting to wear it when we go out lately. I had one back in the early 1990s (from Levis) -- eventually gave it to Goodwill, and have been kicking myself ever since then....! 

Smelling:  Recently purchased essential oil blends from Saje:  yesterday it was After the Rain;  today it's Spa Spirit. I am enjoying our diffuser far more than I ever thought I would.   

Wondering:  When the rain is going to stop (we've had a lot lately, and there is a lot more expected over the next few days -- some properties along the lakeshore are actually sandbagging!!).  

Enjoying:  Being able to sit with the balcony door open (sometimes even when it's raining). 

Looking forward: To dusting off my capris & sandals, and getting my first pedicure of the season, within the next few weeks. :)  :)  :)  

Planning:  How best to avoid Voldemort Day. We often hide out at the movies on days like these, and I think that will probably be this year's strategy too.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

"Maudie"

Back in the mid/late 1990s (come to think of it, approximately the same timeframe as my pregnancy with Katie & its aftermath), the bank I worked for announced a major cultural sponsorship in the province where it had been founded. I had never heard of Maud Lewis before this, but over the next year or so, I found myself writing several articles for the staff newsmagazine about the sponsorship, which included a long national tour of Lewis's paintings; the restoration of her tiny, simple home -- every spare inch of it decorated with gaily painted flowers, birds and butterflies; and its installation in a new permanent gallery within the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax, along with a considerable collection of Lewis paintings. Employees wrote to tell us about their own Lewis paintings and how they'd acquired them -- often purchased directly from Lewis or her husband at their home for $5 or $10 each (! -- they're now worth a whole lot more than that!!)(bidding on a newly discovered Lewis work recently topped $125,000). There was something hugely appealing to me about Lewis's simple, folksy style, which some have compared to the work of Grandma Moses in the United States. Apparently, her work hung in the White House during President Richard Nixon's time there.

When dh & I went to Nova Scotia in September 2010, a stop at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia was high on my to-do list. We weren't disappointed. Even dh was enchanted by Maud's colourful, whimsical portraits of cows & oxen, cats, horses, deer, birds, flowers and butterflies. We sat on a wooden bench and watched an old CBC documentary about her, peeked inside her tiny house (no bigger than some garden sheds), and marvelled that this shy, tiny woman, who suffered from debilitating arthritis her entire life, managed to create paintings that reflected such joy, cheerfulness and delight in the world around her.  If you are ever in Halifax, it is well worth a visit. 

A few months ago, a trailer popped up in my Facebook feed for a new movie about Lewis called "Maudie," starring British actress Sally Hawkins as Maud & Ethan Hawke (!!) as her cantankerous (and sometimes abusive) husband Everett. Dh & I went to see it this past weekend. It's one of those quiet little movies, focused more on character and relationship development than plot or action, but we both enjoyed it.  The performances are touching, the scenery is lovely (although, as purists will tell you, it was filmed in Newfoundland, not Nova Scotia), the music (including songs by Mary Margaret O'Hara and the Cowboy Junkies) evocative. Spoiler alert:  there's even an ALI subplot -- apparently based in fact -- which was a complete surprise to me. (Maud & Everett had no children together.) There's a brief film clip of the real Maud & Everett at the very end of the movie, and images of Maud's paintings are interspersed among the closing credits.    

I don't know how much play "Maudie" will get outside of Canada, or even outside of the Maritimes and a few larger Canadian cities (although I am sure it will eventually show up on CBC television someday...!), but it has been well received by critics, and got two thumbs up from dh & me. :)    

Monday, May 1, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: It's not (always) about you

Like many of you, in the aftermath of stillbirth, infertility & involuntary childlessness, dh & I found ourselves drifting further and further apart from a lot of friends & family members -- sometimes the very people we had thought we could always depend on for support. It was obvious that many of them didn't know how to deal with our situation, and felt uncomfortable around us. It was hard not to take their absence from our lives personally.

But in the last few years/months/weeks/days, we've started reconnecting to some of these people again. Beyond any discomfort they may have felt being around us and our sad situation, we have realized that many of them were just busy with building and raising their own families, and didn't have much time or energy for anyone outside that immediate circle. Now their children are growing up, or have grown up and left home for college (and the grandchildren haven't started arriving yet, lol...!), and they find themselves with more time for people and interests they once set aside.

In some cases, we've learned there were other things going on in their lives -- illness, mental health issues, marital difficulties, problems dealing with aging parents -- even infertility problems of their own! -- that they (like us) had difficulty sharing with others.

It just goes to show that:

(a) you never know what's going on in other people's lives

and

(b) it's not always about you.

So, like the Internet meme quote goes -- be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

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

Thursday, April 27, 2017

By request :)

In a recent post, I wrote about dh's 60th birthday, and that
* 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. :)
In her comment, Mel wrote:
Okay, I have a post idea -- I would like to read WHY you like the picture. We all have those pictures that we look at and instantly love, but pinpoint the why. Why that one and not another. I think it would make an interesting post :-)
I hesitated before deciding to go ahead with this post -- because it was obvious to me that it's hard to write about a photo and why I like it without showing you the photo itself. I don't put a lot of personal photos on this blog, and the few photos I've shared of our nephews here have generally been ones where they're only visible in profile or from the back, etc.

But the idea was irresistible ;) so here's the photo:


Why I like it:  :) 
  • I love b&w photography. I wouldn't want ALL my photos to be b&w, of course -- but I think it looks great here, especially with the black frame & white mat. (And sitting on my b&w quartz countertop, lol.) 
  • Dh & I are all dressed up (a rarity these days!!) and looking pretty good for an old married couple, if I do say so myself. ;)  (As I wrote in this blog -- several times, I think!! lol)  I LOVED my dress;  it totally rocked and gave me enormous self-confidence for a very important family occasion.
  • As a family historian, diarist and occasional scrapbooker, photos are very important to me. Taking, sharing and preserving photos (and the stories behind them) have long been a part of my life. I took most of the photos that exist of both nephews when they were growing up -- they were my favourite subjects. Unfortunately, although I took tons of photos on Nephew's wedding day, I didn't hand over the camera & get someone else to take a photo of Nephew with dh & me. So I was completely tickled that he & his Bride thought to give dh a photo from their wedding as a special gift on his birthday. 
  • I will never have a photo of myself with my daughter on her wedding day. :(  But this is probably the next best thing. :)
  • Dh & I were included in several official photos that day -- there were photos taken of us with Nephew, with Nephew & the Bride, with both nephews and their parents, etc. I am not entirely sure why they chose this photo of us with Nephew alone, and not one that included the Bride too.  I know that the Bride, who is highly self-critical, didn't like how she looked in most of the photos they got (! -- silly girl...! ;)  ), so I suspect that may have had something to do with it. ;)  But I also think they may have chosen it because it's a great photo of the three of us, and a reflection of the love & the special relationship we share.
  • We adore both our nephews, and have special relationships with them both, obviously for slightly different reasons. Oldest Nephew will always be special to us in part because he was the first and (because we lived closer to his parents when he was born) we got to spend more time with him as a baby than we did with his brother. We are also his godparents, which (as you know from the movies, lol) is considered a great honour in Italian culture. We have never missed one of his birthday celebrations. He was an adorable baby -- and, as you can see here, he has grown up to become a very handsome (and, more important, kind and thoughtful) young man. We are so very, very proud of him (and his brother). I think you can see that pride and love reflected in this photo. :) 
  • I love how our heads are all close together (as directed by the photographer) -- and how he's so tall that mine is resting on his broad shoulder, lol. I love that it doesn't look awkward. I love the big grins that all three of us are wearing.
  • Oldest Nephew's wedding day was a huge, joyful event in our family -- and this photo is a wonderful reminder of that day & how happy we all were.  (And I'm hoping to get a similar photo about a year from now, when his brother, Younger Nephew, gets married!) 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Dinosaur

I've been increasingly frustrated with my online experience lately. I wondered whether I needed a new computer -- my laptop is almost seven years old. Some of my issues:

  • I'd be reading blogs (particularly WordPress blogs) & up would pop a security warning re: expired certificate -- but whether I clicked yes, no or whatever, nothing would happen -- everything was frozen up. I'd wind up hitting control-alt-delete, losing all of my tabs, & starting all over again. :p  I'd clear my cache, run virus & malware scans -- nothing seemed to help very much. 
  • On certain Blogger blogs (such as Brooke's), I'd go to comment, but I couldn't get a comment window to open. If I could, in the little drop-down window where you'd usually see "Comment as (Google, LiveJournal, WordPress, etc.)" there would be... nothing. I couldn't leave a comment. (I could do it on my cellphone, but I hate typing more than a sentence or two on there unless I had to...!). 
  • I was also having issues with commenting on certain blogs & message boards where my keyboard seemed "sticky." I'd be pounding the keyboard & nothing would appear. 

I finally realized that maybe it was a browser issue. Confession time: I'm probably the last person on earth who was still using Internet Explorer (current version 11).  I've been a faithful user of IE since... well, ever since I was dragged kicking & screaming from Netscape Navigator at least 15 years ago, lol.  (Likewise Microsoft Word vs WordPerfect, lol.)  I am certainly more tech-savvy than, say, my 76-year-old mother, but in other respects, I am the 56-year-old woman I am, lol. I tend to stick with what I know, what works for me, what's "good enough." Until it's not.

Anyway, I downloaded Google Chrome earlier today, imported all my IE bookmarks, set up my usual opening tab set, & started clicking on the same sites that had been giving me grief. Works like a charm. I've had a few moments where I'm not sure what to do or where to look for something (e.g., it took me a few clicks to find "clear browser history") but so far, so good. Fingers crossed...!!

Anyone else out there still an IE holdover?? Or a techno-dinosaur like me in other ways?? ;)  (Please, someone say yes, lol... ;)  ) 

Monday, April 24, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Selfish?

The childfree by choice blog "We're (not) having a baby!" posted recently on a familiar theme: the persistent myth (and it IS a myth) that people without children are selfish.

As I read, I thought about the unmarried childless woman of our acquaintance that dh & I ran into last week. Retired for several years from a well-paying (& well-pensioned) job, she lived with her parents until they died, helping to care for them in their last years -- and now she lives with and cares for a disabled sibling. She has several nieces and nephews (and great-nieces and nephews) and always remembers them with gifts on holidays, birthdays & other special events.

I couldn't help but think of the research done by Savvy Auntie, which showed (among other things) that 1 in 5 American women today is a "PANK" (Professional Aunt, No Kids) -- a sizeable (and growing) demographic with a high average annual income. Contrary to popular mythology, Savvy Auntie's research demonstrated that the vast majority of PANKs love children -- and they are able – and happy – to offer meaningful support to the children in their lives. In fact, in terms of dollars and cents, PANKs spend an estimated annual average of $387 (!!) on EACH child in their lives.

I thought about our two nephews, and all the other children in our lives (children of cousins, friends, coworkers...) that dh & I have spent money -- and time -- on over the past 30+ years -- birthdays, baptisms, first communions, confirmations, graduations, bridal & baby showers, weddings; Valentine's Day, Easter & Halloween (chocolate & other tchotchkes);  trip souvenirs -- and other stuff, just because.

Our two nephews are a little too old for Easter chocolate these days ;) -- but early this month, I popped a package into the mail for the Little Princesses that included colourful new spring/Easter outfits for each of them, sidewalk chalk, and (yes) chocolate. ;)  Last week, we braved the aisles of Babies R Us (our favourite store -- NOT!! lol)  to purchase a gift from the registry for an expectant mother whose baby shower I'll be attending soon. And this past weekend, we attended a first communion celebration for stepMIL's grandson. Dh & I drove Oldest Nephew & his Bride to the party (even though they're adults who both have their own cars), and dh spent a few hours doing their taxes for them (even though they're old enough to learn how to do them themselves...!)(he vows that, next year, they will!).

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

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. :(