Friday, March 30, 2018

"It's All Relative" by A.J. Jacobs

If you've read this blog for a while, you'll know that one of my great interests is genealogy -- researching my family history.

(Yes, I realize it's more than little ironic that my own branch of the family tree will end with me -- but as I have said before, here and elsewhere, I like to think that I'm still contributing to the family tree in my own way. I may not be growing the tree into the future, but I'm still adding to it by documenting and expanding our knowledge of past generations. :)  )

Which is why I found myself drawn to picking up "It's All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree" by A.J. Jacobs at the bookstore last year.

Jacobs is known for pursuing subjects obsessively and then writing about them in books such as "Drop Dead Healthy" (a year-long quest to radically improve his health, from head to toe), "The Know-it-All" (reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z) and "The Year of Living Biblically"(living strictly and literally according to Biblical principles for a full year).  (I had heard of, but not yet read any of his previous books.)

Jacobs's interest in genealogy is piqued when he receives an email out of the blue from a dairy farmer on a kibbutz in Israel: “You don’t know me, but I’m your eighth cousin. And we have over 80,000 relatives of yours in our database.” Jacobs is intrigued by the idea that, if you research far back enough, we are all cousins, and everyone is related in some way to everyone else on this planet.

Then, in a Skype call, he learns his newfound distant Israeli cousin had attended a family reunion attended by 3,000 (!) people. That's the nudge he needs to start planning a family reunion of his own -- not just any reunion, mind you, but the Global Family Reunion on June 6, 2015 -- the world's largest (if everyone is related, everyone is invited!), featuring a keynote address by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Sister Sledge singing (what else?) "We Are Family." Besides trying to break a world record, Jacobs is motivated by the idea that, if we realize we're all connected, maybe we'll start treating each other a little more nicely. (If only, right?)

Organizing the reunion is the thread that runs through the book (with updates at the end of most chapters), while Jacobs researches his own family tree and investigates a broad gamut of genealogy-related subjects -- including (but not limited to) online family trees and research sites, DNA testing, genealogy conferences, family reunions, family feuds (the Hatfields & the McCoys), cousin marriage, blended/non-traditional/non-biological families, Ellis Island, Daughters of the American Revolution and other lineage societies, privacy, twins (and the annual Twins Days festival in Twinsburg, Ohio), black sheep, genealogy and the Mormon church, and the predominance of men vs women in world/family history.

I enjoyed this book -- but, I'll admit, not quite as much as I wanted to, or hoped to. I started reading it over my Christmas vacation, set it aside for something more compelling, and only recently picked it up again, determined to finish what I had started. (Unless I really, really find a book tedious or hard to get through, I do like to try to finish, eventually.)  Perhaps it was the episodic structure, or the superficial (albeit entertaining) coverage of the subject matter (one Goodreads reviewer called it "Genealogy Lite").  It was amusing and interesting, and I suppose that, for the uninitiated, it's a good introduction to a very broad and very complex subject.  I gave it three stars on Goodreads.

This was book #5 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 21% of my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am -- so far! ;)  -- on track to meet my goal.  :) 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Easter week odds & ends

  • It's Easter week/weekend (coming up). (It always seems to kind of sneak up on me...) We've been invited to have Easter dinner on Sunday with BIL & family --  including SIL's family, at SIL's elderly father's house. As usual, I have mixed feelings on the subject: 
    • I am never sure which is worse -- not getting invited anywhere ( = feeling forgotten), getting a last-minute pity invitation from BIL or another relative ( = feeling like an afterthought), or getting invited to FIL's and having to spend the day with stepMIL & her family ( = feeling obligated).  (They are nice people, of course, but it's not OUR family...) 
    • I am somewhat relieved that the invitation came early, and not at the last minute, as it often does. 
    • I am feeling a little apprehensive/weary, because SIL's niece will be there with her 8-month-old baby -- so of course it's ALL going to be about him and his first Easter, right?  (He IS a cute little guy -- we spent Thanksgiving with them at BIL's last fall -- & I plan to bring a little gift for him.)  
    • I do feel a little better (relieved) that they've ordered food for the meal -- (a) because it means SIL & BIL will have less to do & (b) I will feel less guilty/anxious about my own contribution or lack thereof.  SIL (who usually winds up hosting and cooking for all the big events in her family, especially since her mother became ill and died a few years ago) said she refused to cook this time around;  she's got enough to do and worry about with Younger Nephew's wedding coming up shortly. It's still going to be work for her, of course, but we will probably bring a panettone &/or fruit platter &/or bottle of wine (etc.), and I will pitch in & help however I can. 
  • I'm hoping the Easter package I sent to the Little Princesses last week will arrive on time. It contains some chocolate mini-eggs (of course!) & a couple of T-shirts each (matching, of course... although I'm not sure how much longer they will tolerate that...!)  from Old Navy -- including one with butterflies on it. :)  I send them packages for Valentine's Day & Halloween too, as well as birthdays, and will sometimes include small stuffed animals or other small toys that will mail easily, and/or a couple of books, depending on what I see that strikes my fancy. If I can't find anything I really like, I'll just send a card with some money tucked inside (which I am sure goes over equally well, if not more so, lol -- even at ages 3 & 6...!).  I enjoy having some little girls to spoil & buy clothes for -- and I know they won't be little forever -- and I want to remind them that we are here and we are thinking of them between our twice-yearly visits. I'm looking forward to similarly spoiling some great-nieces & nephews, if/when they start to arrive...! 
  • Thank you to Sue Fagalde Lick at Childless by Marriage for reminding us that "Easter is not just for folks with kids:" 
Grownups don’t get Easter baskets. If you’re not religious, it looks like Easter is for kids: making color-crayoned pictures of rabbits or papier-mache eggs at school, dyeing hard-boiled eggs, egg hunts at dawn, encounters with adults dressed in rabbit costumes. Candy, toys, parties. Fun!
It’s another one of those holidays that may sting if we don’t have children, especially if we desperately want to have them. Whether you spend a quiet day with adults or watch everyone else’s kids having fun, it can be hard. Hang on. It doesn’t last long.
  • (Grownups do get to indulge in Easter chocolate, of course, whether or not they have kids' baskets to dip into...! I've been gorging on Lindor chocolate mini-eggs for the last several weeks now....!) 
  • I have a pensioner living with me!  Well, both of us are already pensioners, receiving pensions from our former employer. But dh recently applied for his Canada Pension Plan (CPP) -- which, like most Canadians, he's been paying into since he was a teenager -- and he recently received his first payment. The traditional age to receive CPP is 65, but you can get a reduced pension as early as age 60.  His 61st birthday is coming up shortly, but a combination of inertia & technical difficulties meant he didn't apply until just a few months ago. We've managed pretty well so far financially on our company pensions and some investment income, without dipping into our savings too much, but we've had some additional expenses lately (a special condo fee levy, Younger Nephew's upcoming wedding, etc.), so the monthly CPP payment will provide a welcome cushion. (I still have a few years to go before I can apply for mine!) 
  • My stomach/gallbladder issues have not bothered me in several weeks now. Thank goodness!! (...and KNOCK WOOD!!).  

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Butterfly (song)

Thinking and writing about my memories of doing the Butterfly (dance), growing up, brought back yet another butterfly-related memory.

When I was a kid, we bought a lot of our music on records made by a company called K-Tel. They would regularly come out with compilation albums ("22 Explosive Hits," "Music Power," "Sound Explosion," "Believe in Music," etc. etc.) that were heavily advertised on television, featuring a generous selection of current hit songs. It was a great way to buy a lot of different songs, cheap (certainly much cheaper than having to purchase 20 different 45s)(and if you don't know what 45s were, look it up, lol -- I'm feeling old enough as it is...!).  

Our local skating rink would play one of those K-Tel albums over & over & over again, and to this day, hearing one of those songs will bring back fond memories of skating around in that cold, crisp tin shed with my friends, playing crack the whip and making up routines. "Daniel" by Elton John, "Don't Pull Your Love" by Hamilton Joe Frank & Reynolds, "Wild Eyes" by the Stampeders, "Beautiful Sunday" by Daniel Boone, "Precious & Few" by Climax, "Bad Side of the Moon" by April Wine. 

And "Butterfly" by Danyel Gerrard. I couldn't remember his name, but I Googled the lyrics (which I could still remember -- "Butterfly... stay a little while with me") and up it popped. It's kind of a schmaltzy song (apparently it was an international hit, and he recorded it in several different languages) -- but now, many years later, as a bereaved parent, some of the lyrics ("Stay a little while with me") resonate very differently... 

You are bright as a night full of moon
Butterfly you have left much too soon
You have found you have wings and now you wish to fly
Please don't go, oh please don't say good bye.
Butterfly, my Butterfly now I know you must be free
Butterfly, don't flutter by, stay a little while with me.
In your mind there's someone far away
And you'll miss all the fun if you stay
You believe that love is elsewhere to be found
But you're wrong, it's here, just look around.
Butterfly, my Butterfly now I know you must be free
Butterfly, don't flutter by, stay a little while with me.
Look around, look around and you'll see
Better loved than by me you won't be
And if you fly away you break my heart in two
Please don't go -- I'm so in love with you.
Butterfly, my Butterfly now I know you must be free
Butterfly, don't flutter by, stay a little while with me.
Butterfly, my Butterfly now I know you must be free
Butterfly, don't flutter by, stay a little while with me.
Butterfly, my Butterfly now I know you must be free
Butterfly, don't flutter by, stay a little while with me.



(Googling this song, I found references to it being sung by... Donny & Marie Osmond??!!  I was a big Osmonds fan, back in the day, but I don't ever remember them singing this one. You learn something new every day...!) 

Monday, March 26, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

  • Lying awake at 4:30 a.m. the other morning, I had several great ideas for blog posts. Do you think I can remember one of them?? So.... odds & ends it is for #MM (again)...! ;)  
  • I watched the #MarchForOurLives protest marches all day Saturday, knowing that some of you were out there in those massive crowds & cheering you on.  Got teary, over & over again, listening to those amazing kids -- knowing that mine would have been just a little older than most of them.  
    • Moment that made me grin: hearing The Clash on a loudspeaker as the march in Washington was getting started. :)  The kids are alright! (Wait, that's The Who... well, you get the idea...) 
  • Dave Cullen, who literally wrote the book on Columbine, has been writing about (& energized by) the Parkland kids for several publications. He spent Saturday with one of the Parkland students, Daniel Duff, and wrote about Duff's experiences at the march for Vanity Fair.  My not sure if I should laugh or cry moment while reading it:  Duff & a friend pose for a photo with some of the police officers providing security for the march:  
    • As the boys moved on, one of the cops called after them: “Make sure you use the hashtag #USCP when you share it on Facebook.”  The police were out of earshot now, and Duff chuckled and said to Servaites: “He thinks we still use Facebook.” (Kids, right?) 
  • Dh & I had our annual checkups with our family dr last week, and went to a local lab to get some blood drawn. I took the bandaid off a few hours later & couldn't even tell where the needle had been. The next morning, though, I was in the shower and shocked myself when I glimpsed a huge purple bruise in the crook of my elbow. Normally, I wouldn't think twice about it, especially since it's still long-sleeve weather here (and obviously, I had many, many such bruises while going through infertility treatment...!) but Younger Nephew's wedding is fast approaching -- and my dress has short sleeves. Here's hoping the bruising is gone by then...!  
  • An update: I blogged a few months ago about switching to an electric/power toothbrush. I've kept it up and so far, so good. Teeth have retained much of that post-hygienist cleaning smoothness, and the stains have been mostly held at bay. The toothbrush head was starting to look a bit dingy, though, so I switched to a new one a few days ago. Removed the old one, & OMG, the GUNK under there...! It was disgusting. (And that was going in my mouth??)  Yuck. :p  Note to self, need to switch heads more often...!! 
  • The sun has been shining more, and longer, since the time change (and it's made a huge difference in my frame of mind...!)... but it's still been pretty frickin' chilly out there. Hurry up, warm weather, Younger Nephew's wedding is coming up...  
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Butterfly (Dance)

I don't know why it popped into my head, but I found myself thinking about the Butterfly while eating my breakfast the other morning.

I don't mean "a" butterfly, the kind with wings. (The kind that's taken on an entirely different meaning/significance in my life these past 20 years, given their association with pregnancy and infant loss and bereavement.)

"The Butterfly" I'm thinking about is a dance -- a staple of every social (dance/party) & wedding I attended when I was growing up on the Canadian Prairies (pre-Chicken Dance, pre-Macarena). The fun part was you needed three people to do it. As a trio, you would hop-step around the dance floor, arms around each other, to some slowish fiddle music (I seem to remember "My Bonnie lies over the ocean" and "How much is that doggie in the window,"  lol).

Then the music would pause, & the fast music would start. It was the duty of the person in the middle to swing the other two people around -- first one person, then the other, then back to the first person again... until the slower music started up again, and you'd link arms & continue to hop-step around the dance floor. Until the fast music started up again. By the end, you were pretty much staggering around the dance floor ;) and it could get pretty interesting, depending on how much you'd had to drink (which is probably why butterflies were usually played later in the evening, lol). You also had to watch out not to crash into the threesomes around you, depending on how crowded the dance floor was.

I Googled "butterfly dance" to confirm my memories & see what else I could find out about it. I suspected it was probably a "Prairie thing," since I don't think I have ever done one in the 30+ years I have lived in southern Ontario. Socials are not a "thing" here, and although I've attended umpteen weddings, mostly for dh's Italian relatives, the DJ/band has never played a Butterfly at any of them. (I haven't been to too many weddings or socials "back home" in recent years, either, so I have no idea whether the Butterfly is still a thing there either, although I suspect it probably is.)

From Wikipedia, I found this:
The butterfly dance is a dance move in which the dancer's legs move like butterfly wings. The move originated from the music genre Hip-hop and is also commonly seen in reggae type music.[1] The dance is a female move but male individuals have been seen to execute the move. This dance move originated in the 70s.

Ummm, no. That's NOT it.

I found some references to a Hopi tribe butterfly dance.  That's not it either.

I eventually found a couple of Yahoo Answers posts and a Google groups conversation (by changing the search term slightly to "old-fashioned butterly dance") that explains what I was thinking  about.

I thought the Butterfly might be a Prairie/Ukrainian thing. One person suggested it could also have French-Canadian roots. 

However, I also found several references to a "butterfly waltz" (here and here) in the U.S., in Texas and Missouri (whose roots were said by one source to be German!)  and to a similar dance known as "The Flying Dutchman."

Here's a video clip of "my" kind of Butterfly dance:



This video only shows one round of the slower music & one round of the fast, though... typically there would be a couple rounds of each.

Have you ever heard of/done the Butterfly dance (the kind I've described -- definitely not the hip-hop version, lol)?? 

*** *** ***

(Writing about this, another butterfly-related memory popped into my head: a song. I will write about that in a future post.)

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Two lines, 20 years later

Exactly 20 years ago today, I peed on a stick -- a home pregnancy test.

We'd been trying to have a baby for more than two years, without success.

Almost immediately, two bright blue lines popped into view. Positive. 

I took a blood test at my family doctor's office the next day, and the day after that, he called to tell me he had "good news." 

Thus began the roller coaster ride...

I wrote about those two blue lines 10 years later, i.e., 10 years ago (!) on this blog, here. I don't feel the need to rehash the details of what happened all over again, today. 

But it's amazing to think how two blue lines totally changed my world -- and in ways I could never have imagined at the time...

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Monday, March 19, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Lucky

Dh & I had our annual physicals with our family doctor today. Everything went well, and I was reminded just how lucky we are. 

First, we're both extremely lucky that we enjoy relatively good health (particularly since we're both now firmly into middle age -- and even seniors, by some definitions...!).

Second, we're very lucky that -- after our beloved family doctor of 29 years retired in 2014 -- we were able to find a new family doctor/practice quickly. Unfortunately, the new doctor left the clinic after just 9 months (!) -- but they quickly hired a replacement for him and asked if we'd like to sign on as patients with him. (Yes, please!) 

Turns out we like this guy even better. ;)  (Yes, we're lucky!) He's young, up-to-date, and has a great bedside manner -- spends most of each visit simply talking with us and encouraging us to tell him about our aches & pains, no matter how trivial they might seem. The catch being that the clinic where he works is just a five-minute drive... from our old house, on the other side of the city. It's now a 30-40 minute drive to see him from our current location -- but we think it's worth it. ;)  We decided to stay with him after we moved, mainly because we like him so much, but also because we know how lucky we are that we were able to find a new family doctor quite quickly after our old one retired.  We hear all the time about how there's a shortage of family doctors, in both urban and rural areas of Canada.

We're lucky that our doctor works out of a modern, well-run clinic that uses all the latest technology. We have rarely had to wait past the appointed time to see our doctor. If we need to see him on short notice and he is off that day, or fully booked, we can see one of the other doctors, if they have an opening. There is also a physician's assistant on staff -- a relatively new position in Canadian medical circles -- who can see and treat patients with uncomplicated concerns, such as colds, fevers, sprains and skin rashes. 

And we are so, so lucky that all we have to do is hand over our provincial health cards to see the doctor and receive treatment. No one has ever asked us how we plan to pay, because just about everything is covered through our government healthcare plan. It is not a perfect system, but I would not trade it for anything -- and I wish my American friends & relatives were as lucky as I am in this respect. 

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

Friday, March 16, 2018

Becoming...

Another Pinterest find. :)
I'm not sure about the "Or you don't" part --
but I love "blue and lonely section of hell." 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Seriously??!!



I saw this on Pinterest.

My jaw literally dropped. 

I have spent the past 20 years trying to rebuild my shattered life, after it became clear the life dh & I had originally planned was simply not going to happen. 

And yes, it's a pretty good life, when all is said and done. I wouldn't say it's better (or worse). Just different.

But you cannot -- CANNOT!! -- tell me that God "took my daughter away from me" -- first, because I don't believe God (at least, the God I believe in) would ever be so incredibly cruel as to deliberately "take away" my daughter from me -- and second because I could never, ever believe God had "something much better" in mind for me than to let me be a parent to my daughter and watch her grow up.

I mean, seriously??!!  SERIOUSLY??!!

Stuff like this crap is what gives religion a bad name... :p 

Monday, March 12, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Is it spring yet??

Why did this weekend suck? Let me count the ways:

  • I was bored. I'm not often bored, but I was this weekend. 
  • My new family tree program has lots of great features -- but it's significantly slower than my old program. (Or maybe my 8-year-old laptop is too slow to handle it properly?) Anyway, I was trying to work on my genealogy research, and it was incredibly frustrating. 
  • The winter seems like it's never going to end. This weekend was mostly grey & chilly. (Which, granted, is better than the big dump of snow I know so many people elsewhere got over the last few days. But it still sucked.)  I am so incredibly tired of having to bundle up in a winter coat, gloves, etc., every time we walk out the door. 
  • Donald Trump is still president of the U.S. (Enough said?) 
  • And we are not immune to bad political choices here north of the border. The provincial conservative party has been a mess for the last while now... to explain everything that's happened over the past few weeks would take too long (and it's one of those "you can't make this stuff up" sort of situations...)(if you're interested, here's a timeline, & you can follow the links to related stories). Anyway, the party held a leadership convention this past weekend, using a complicated new voting system, which turned into a complete fiasco. It was a very close race, the results were challenged, and they delayed announcing the winner for so long they eventually had to boot people out of the venue, because they'd only booked it for the afternoon & the staff had to get ready for a wedding. (Seriously??!) The icing on the crapcake: by an extremely narrow margin, they gave the shaft to the competent, experienced woman candidate and elected a loudmouthed bully businessman who's prone to announcing grandiose schemes that never quite pan out. Where have we heard this before, right?  (What could go wrong??) He's not premier (yet -- election coming up in June), but it's still utterly depressing. 
  • It was Mother's Day in the U.K., and the posts & tweets from my friends across the pond reminded me of what's to come in about a month & a half's time. 
  • We were talking about train travel on a (non-ALI) online group I'm on... I was telling the others about how my mother used to take the train to come visit me, and how she loved to chat to all the people she'd meet along the way. Then I had a flashback 20 years (this time of year, too, late March): she came to visit me about a week after I'd called to tell her I was pregnant. Dh & I went to meet her train, and I think every person getting off with her came over to congratulate me while we waited to collect her luggage. I hadn't thought about that in a long time. The memory made me smile, and wince at the same time. 
  • Not one but TWO fertility clinics in the U.S. lost several thousand frozen embryos & eggs over the past few days. My heart goes out to those poor would-be parents whose hopes for a family may have been permanently dashed -- and who just saw the thousands of dollars they spent retrieving those eggs and keeping them frozen for potential future use, going straight down the drain. :(    
  • We switched back to Daylight Saving Time this weekend. I don't care which way the clock goes, spring or fall, even when I'm not working and don't have to get up early -- it's an adjustment, and I'm really not sure why we're still doing it.  :p  
  • And... it's spring break this week here!  (Just when you were relieved that Family Day was over...)  Which means hordes of parents & kids will be roaming the malls, the aisles of local stores, and the streets this coming week. (Family Day times 9, 10 if you count all the parents who took their kids out of school on Friday -- apparently it's the busiest day of the year at the airport...)  I'd love to hide out indefinitely, but I don't think I can do it for a whole week.  We have groceries to buy and errands to run -- and I have cabin fever bad enough as it is... 
And how was YOUR weekend??

(What do you do when you get the blues? How do you chase them away?)

(On the bright side, we did get to see Older Nephew's puppy on Friday night, which never failes to put a smile on my face. The sun did shine for a while on Sunday. And we had crock pot roast beef, potatos & carrots for dinner on Sunday. Yum!)

(ETA:  Feeling much better since I drafted this last night... but since I have nothing else ready for #MM, this is what's getting posted...!  lol) 

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

Thursday, March 8, 2018

International Women's Day -- for childless women too

It's International Women's Day, which was never much of a thing when I was younger, but has gained momentum as an event/day of note in recent years. I suspect this is largely due to two factors: (1) the latest wave of the women's movement, fuelled by #MeToo, etc., and (2) IWD-related marketing campaigns by corporations seeking goodwill from their female customers and prospects.

Jody Day of Gateway Women in the U.K. has a great post about IWD from the childless-not-by choice perspective, and I'd encourage you all to read it (& watch the embedded TEDTalk video too, if you haven't already seen it).

Of course, "Celebrating women means childless women too!"  I think most people would reflexively agree (as I did at first).

But does it, really?

Jody reminds us that as many as one in five (20%) of women do not have children (the majority not by choice) -- and yet "womanhood and motherhood are routinely conflated" -- in particular by employers (who seem to believe that "family-friendly" policies, by definition, mean "woman friendly");  by marketers, who routinely target "Mom" in their ad campaigns;  and by politicians, who love to talk about their "family values" and policies that benefit "hard-working families."

"It’s time that marketeers and social policy thinkers understood that not all women are mothers or grandmothers and that not everyone has a family poised to take care of them in old age," she writes.

I did (thankfully) see plenty of inclusive tributes to women on my social media feeds. But after reading Jody's article, I couldn't help but notice how many of my friends were posting tributes to & photos of their daughters (as well as their mothers) -- and how many references there were to "raising the next generation." I even heard (via my CNBC friends & sites) about IWD events where motherhood and support for mothers was the main topic of discussion. Ugh.

As someone said in a Facebook comment on Jody's story, "On a day like today I expected a much wider scope -- it's International Women's Day not International Mothers' Day.'"

IWD is a day when (unlike Mother's Day) I would expect to feel solidarity with all ALL my global sisters.  I hope that, as IWD continues to grow in prominence, it doesn't become another "holiday" where (along with Mother's Day, Father's Day and now Family Day) my "otherness" gets rubbed in my face.  Let's keep IWD focused on the progress and achievements and common interests that bring ALL women together, regardless of their childbearing status.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

"Educated" by Tara Westover

You all know that I love me a good memoir -- and I was intrigued when I saw "Educated" by Tara Westover at the local mega-bookstore on Saturday night.  I'd heard nothing about this book before then, but the blurb on the inside flap & praise on the back cover intrigued me (plus, it was on sale, lol), so I bought it. 

While sometimes I dither when I buy a new book (do I want to get into this one now? should I read that other one first?), I dived right in.  By the time I went to bed a few hours later, I was almost 2/3 of the way through. I picked it up again yesterday afternoon and finished it later that evening. (I probably would have finished it sooner than I did, but we went to a movie on Sunday afternoon, and then it was time for the Oscars. ;)  )

Westover grew up on an isolated mountain property in southern Idaho, the youngest of seven children. Her family was Mormon, in a largely Mormon community -- but her father's bizarre beliefs about the Illuminati, the evils of government and the need to prepare for the imminent end of the world set her family apart from the mainstream. Guns, ammunition and gasoline tanks were stashed all over the property. Westover helped her mother can endless jars of peaches in preparation for the coming end times and (like all her siblings) slept with a "head for the hills" bag, ready to run from evil government agents at a moment's notice. She did not have a birth certificate, was not immunized, never saw a doctor and never attended school. Her education consisted mostly of reading texts by the Founding Fathers of the United States and Mormon prophets. She spent most of her younger years helping her mother (a midwife and homeopathic healer) deliver babies (ALI note & caveat: there are some disturbing stories about semi-disastrous deliveries and prematurely born infants) and brew up essential oils and herbal remedies.

Later, as a teenager, she worked with her brothers in her father's junkyard.  Scant attention was paid to workplace safety, and many of the Westovers (including Tara herself) endured some horrific injuries and accidents as a result (which were ultimately chalked up to "God's will" and tended to by her mother).  As she grew older, her father became increasingly radical in his beliefs (and likely mentally ill), while one of her brothers grew increasingly violent -- towards Tara, as well as others. Her parents made excuses for him and tried to convince Tara that it was all in her imagination.

Encouraged by one of her other brothers, Westover taught herself enough to pass the ACT (a standardized college admissions test, similar to the SAT) and was accepted to Brigham Young University in Utah when she was just 17. To say she was unprepared for the challenges she would face there -- academic and otherwise -- is an understatement.  (Prime example: She stunned her professor and classmates when she asked what the word "Holocaust" meant.)  Gradually, she found her academic groove ("read the textbook" turned out to be excellent advice).  Her hunger to learn and to explore the world took her from BYU to Cambridge, Harvard, and back to Cambridge again, where she eventually earned her PhD in history.

Inevitably, Westover's education and growing sense of self drove a wedge between her and her family.  She began to ask herself: what do we owe to our families? to society? What do we owe to ourselves? And what do we do when those obligations come into conflict with each other?  (These questions ultimately formed the basis of her PhD thesis, as well as this book.)

I gave this book five stars on Goodreads. It was intense and powerful, at times disturbing, and beautifully written. Ultimately, it was a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

I will be thinking about it for a long, long time.

This was book #4 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 17% of my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am -- so far! ;)  -- on track to meet my goal.  :) 

Monday, March 5, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Let's talk Oscar

So who watched the Oscars last night?  If you've read my blog for a while, you'll know that while my interest in other awards shows has waned over the years, Oscar night has always been (and still is)  pretty much sacred at my house, and that I haven't missed one in the 45+ years since I started staying up late (on a school night!!) to watch with my mother. I never get to see too much of the red carpet show, because it bores dh silly and we only have one TV now, but once the orchestra strikes up the music and the main show starts, it's all mine....! 

I was better prepared for staying up to the end this year, since I got lots of practice over the past two weeks, staying up till midnight or later watching figure skating at the Olympics. ;)  Also, it helps to be retired and know you can sleep in the next morning, lol.  ;)  (Personally, it was worth staying up to the end to see Helen Mirren aboard a jetski, lol.)  I didn't think it was the greatest Oscar show ever, but it wasn't the worst either.  And while both the actress & supporting actress won for mom roles, and there were plenty of the usual shoutouts to Mom & the kids in the acceptance speeches, there wasn't a lot of gushing about the wonders of motherhood (as there has been in some years past), which was a relief....!

I'm not sure I would want to go to an actual Oscars party -- I love watching by myself at home, curled up on the sofa with a bowl of popcorn and a bag of chips, blank ballot at the ready to mark off the winners as the envelopes get opened.  Which is not to say I don't enjoy hearing what other people have to say. :)  I belong to an annual online Oscars pool organized on Facebook by some online friends, & there's a running winners' tally & commentary on FB during the telecast. I've actually never entered the pool (and I should -- I think I would have a pretty good chance, because even if I haven't seen the nominated movies myself, I've usually read a lot & know who all the favourites are...) but I love following the conversation. So I keep my laptop close by and check out various live blogs & Facebook for commentary while the commercials are on. 

So let's have some day-after conversation here in the comments.  Did you watch? Thoughts? Favourite dress?  Dress that made you wince? Favourite speech? Moment(s) that made you cheer? Cringe?

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

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Right now

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

Reading:  To date, I've finished three books (out of my Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge goal of 24 books).  Haven't started another one yet (decisions, decisions...). 


Watching:  Well, the Winter Olympics are over -- time to get off the couch, lol.  I always adore watching the Olympics & especially the winter edition, but by the end, I am always somewhat relieved to get back to normal and away from the TV set, lol.  Too many late nights. I'm still catching up on my sleep...! 

I caught up on the episodes of season 2 of "Victoria" on PBS that I'd PVRd during the Olympics in time for the season finale. The wait begins for season 3....!  (By the way, I noticed PBS will be showing a new adaptation of "Little Women" this spring. The catch?  The first episode airs May 13th -- i.e., Mother's Day....!) 

I dived back into "Designated Survivor" this week, which hadn't been on since a mid-season cliffhanger back in November. Plots still as ridiculous as ever, but still I watch...! 

I still have to watch CNN's multi-part documentary about Patty Hearst, which I PVRd (it was on at the same time as both "Victoria" & the Olympics). And I have not made much use of my Netflix subscription lately. 

On the big screen: We didn't get to the movies at all during the Olympics, although we are hoping to see" Black Panther" soon (waiting for the crowds to die down a little bit).  We've seen just 3 of the 9 Best Picture nominees for this weekend's Oscars:  Darkest Hour, The Shape of Water, and The Post.  Looking forward: to watching the Oscars on Sunday night (as I always do!)! 

Listening:  To... nothing in particular lately. I subscribed to the Pod Save America podcast recently, because it sounded interesting, but I haven't listened to one episode yet.  Just not something I'm in the habit of doing, I guess.    

Following:  I WAS following the Olympics. What now? 

Feeling:  A little bored and restless. (What can I say... it's been a loooonnnngggggg winter....)   

Eating:  We'd laid off on eating tortellini/ravioli for the last year or so, because dh was sick of it, but it's back on the menu (as well as gnocchi), with pesto sauce & parmesan cheese (because I can't eat tomato sauce).  Yum! 

Also: Lindor chocolate mini-Easter eggs. (Double yum!  :)  ) 

Wearing:  Winter coat. Still. SIGH. :p  

Buying (besides books, lol):  Birthday gifts!  Within less than three days this past week, we went to birthday celebrations for dh's aunt's 85th and his uncle's 80th.  We took a plant for his aunt, who lives in an assisted living facility, and a nice bottle of wine to his uncle. 

Enduring:  Yet ANOTHER visit from Aunt Flo, just 33 days after the last one. :p  I am starting to think she is really never, ever going to go away (despite the assurances from my gynecologist that she will, eventually...).   

Grateful:  That February is FINALLY over...!!  (Yes, it's not an "-ing" word, but it's how I'm feeling...!)