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. :(