Wednesday, April 10, 2024

"The Improbability of Love" by Hannah Rothschild

"The Improbability of Love" by Hannah Rothschild (who is, apparently, one of THE Rothschilds), is the April pick for the Nomo Book Club within the Childless Collective private online community

The heroine is Annie McDee, a 31-year-old chef who lives in a small flat in London, recovering from a broken heart after splitting up with her longtime partner. (Warning:  Do NOT try reading this book on an empty stomach! ;)  ) She buys a painting in a junk store for $75 (that she can't really afford) as a gift for a new love interest  -- who ghosts her before she can give it to him. She decides to return it, only to find the store -- and the man who sold it to her -- went up in flames in a suspicious fire, just hours after she left. 

At a London art gallery, trying to learn more about her painting, Annie meets Jesse, a tour guide and artist himself.  As they investigate the mysterious painting's origins together, they are drawn into the murky, cut-throat world of art collectors, dealers and thieves -- many of whom would love to get their hands on the painting, for various reasons. Unbeknown to Annie, this includes the father of her current employer -- an elderly Holocaust survivor and ultra-wealthy art dealer, who rules both his family and his company with an iron fist. 

The story picked up for me midway through the book, when Annie's boss, the old man's daughter, Rebecca, discovers her late brother's hidden notebook, setting off a chain of unexpected events... 

I don't want to give too many spoilers away, but here's one:  "The Improbability of Love" is not only the title of the book, it's the name of the painting itself. (I had to check:  the artist is real;  the painting is not.)   The painting is actually a character in the book who narrates some chapters (!), where we gradually learn more about its history, who painted it and who its previous owners were. (Over time, the painting was often given as a token of love to wives, lovers and beloved mistresses.)  When I started reading the first chapter where this happens, I was hearing a certain voice in my head, and I couldn't figure out where this was coming from?  Then I realized...! I was thinking of an episode of The Simpsons (lol!) -- "Moe Goes From Rags to Riches" -- where Jeremy Irons provides the voice of an ancient tapestry that winds up as a rag at Moe's bar, and then gets adopted by Santa's Little Helper -- i.e., the dog, lol.  

As I read, I was also reminded of a couple of other art-related books I've read in the past -- "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt, for one, as well as certain scenes in "Killers of a Certain Age" by Deanna Raybourn. 

Overall, I wound up enjoying this book more than I thought I would.  It's a little long, and the multiple characters are hard to keep track of (albeit colourfully rendered).  It took a while to pick up some momentum -- but I absolutely tore through the last third of the book. 

3.5 stars, rounded up to 4. 

ALI alert:  Annie reflects on her longing for a child versus her partner's complete lack of interest in fatherhood... and her grief when she learns he's had a child with his new partner (and has now become a doting father, of course...!) Sound familiar?  

This was Book #10 read to date in 2024 (and Book #1 finished in April), bringing me to 22% of my 2024 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 2 books behind schedule to meet my goal.  :(   You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2024 tagged as "2024 books." 

Monday, April 8, 2024

Post-eclipse update!

Update to this morning's pre-eclipse post!  As feared, much of southern Ontario was blanketed in clouds today -- just in time for the eclipse -- after a glorious weekend of blue skies and sunshine (of course...!). I guess it did clear slightly and briefly at Niagara Falls -- one of the prime viewing spots for this event -- where CBC News Network was hosting a live broadcast, with links to reporters in other parts of the country.   

We watched the light changing outside our condo windows, gradually getting duskier and duskier. We were expected to reach peak eclipse -- 99.13% -- at around 3:18 or 3:19. I slipped on some shoes and a jacket, grabbed my phone/camera, and headed out onto our balcony around 3:15 PM, and took a video and a few photos (something I wish we'd thought to do when I saw a total eclipse back in 1979 -- but we didn't have handy cellphones with cameras back then -- cameras generally weren't that great, unless you could afford an expensive 35 mm model, and people just didn't think to take photos of every little thing back then in the same way they do now... plus, film, flash bulbs and photo developing were expensive, kids!  lol).  I noticed the temperature had dropped significantly since we'd been out a few hours earlier -- it was pretty chilly out there!   

It wasn't ideal conditions, and it wasn't a total eclipse. But it was still pretty cool to observe!  :)  

Taken from our balcony around 3:20 PM this afternoon
(peak eclipse at 99.13% totality). 
It was actually a little darker than this photo shows. 
If you look closely, you can see the street lights are on, 
as well as the solar lamps in the parkette area behind our building. 

(Annnnndddd two hours later -- blue skies and sunshine. Go figure...!)  

#MicroblogMonday: Eclipse!

So in case you haven't heard, there's an eclipse happening later this afternoon that will be visible, in total or in part, across a broad swath of North America. It's being billed as a once-in-a-lifetime event.  

Already been there, done that. ;)  I got to see & experience a total eclipse back in February 1979.  I was 18 and in my final year of high school, and my family was living in a town west of Winnipeg, one of the prime viewing areas in the world for the big event. 

(Someone posted a thread on my graduating class's Facebook group last week, asking where we were then and what we remembered about it, and where we'd be and what we'd be doing today. One classmate remembers our English teacher including the eclipse in his speech at our graduation ceremony that June:  he said, "Only this group would conspire to arrange something like a total eclipse to get a day off school." lol!!) 

People came from all over the world to southern Manitoba (and this was in FEBRUARY!!  lol), and were lined up along the main street of town and all along the Trans-Canada Highway west of the city to watch.  There was no Internet back then, of course, or even 24-hour cable news networks like CNN, but there was still a lot of advance hype, and special live broadcasts on TV that day.  We all got the day off school -- presumably the school board did not want to be responsible for whatever we did or saw on that day. We did not have the special protective glasses to safely watch the progress of the moon across the sun-- they were available, but not as readily as they are today (no online shopping!) -- but we could see it getting darker outside, to the point that the street lights came on! -- and when the TV announcer told us we were now in totality and it was safe to go outside and have a brief look with the naked eye, my sister & I did so, heading out to the sidewalk in front of our house. (I couldn't remember my mom being out there with us, so I asked her about it when I spoke to her yesterday. She said she came out onto the front step, turned around and went back inside! lol.)  It was chilly (it was February!) and kind of eerie -- and it WAS pretty cool! 

There was also a partial eclipse here back in August 2017, a little over a year after we moved into this condo. I think we only reached about 70-75% of totality then. It didn't get completely dark, but it did get increasingly and strangely dim and shadowy outside for a while. I took a few photos from our balcony then. (See one below.)  

This time around, we're JUST outside the path of totality -- I found a site that calculates we'll reach 99.13% where we are -- so it will not get completely dark this time either. (Close, but no cigar.) But I'm expecting it will still be darker than it was in 2017.  Niagara Falls, about 1.5-2 hours away, population just under 100,00 (and busy enough on an average summer day), will be a prime viewing area, and is expecting up to ONE MILLION PEOPLE. Officials have already declared a state of emergency, and are warning visitors there WILL be traffic chaos, and to bring plenty of food, water and necessary medications.  (There aren't a lot of main roads going in and out of the area -- look it up on a map -- it's hemmed into a small wedge of land between lakes Ontario & Erie, along the Niagara River and the U.S. border). 

No thanks. I'll be happy to view the effects of near-totality from my condo balcony. (We don't have the proper eyewear this time around either -- and in any case, I have enough issues with my vision as it is, so I'm not going to risk it!)  

How about you? Will the eclipse be visible, in total or in part, where you live? Are you planning to watch or mark the occasion in some way?  (If it's already over by the time you read this, what did you do today?)  Have you seen one before? 

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Related tangent:  All the eclipse talk stirred up a hazy memory for me, of reading a Bobbsey Twins book that had belonged to my mom & uncle when they were kids in the 1940s/50s (and then to me & my sister), which a band of gypsies (!) who were convinced they were going to lose their sight if they do something the bad guys wanted them to do... not knowing that a total eclipse was on the way.  

I had to do some Googling and digging around, but I finally found a discussion that helped me identify the right book!  -- "The Bobbsey Twins on the Pony Trail" (1944).  "In it, a group of gypsies are being cheated out of their land. A speculator claims he will remove their vision if they don't sell. He knows about the upcoming total eclipse in the area where the story was set. Mr. Bobbsey helps to prevent the injustice."

The Bobbsey Twins were a staple of my early childhood reading. I haven't read any of those books in years & years, but some of the stuff in the older volumes that belonged to my mom & uncle would never past muster these days. Another example (ALI alert!): in "The Bobbsey Twins and Baby May," first published in 1924 (!),  a baby girl is mysteriously left on the Bobbsey family's doorstep (!).  (No wonder people have so many misconceptions about adoption, right?)  I don't think I ever read the revised version published in 1968, but from what I understand, the story was completely rewritten except for the title, and Baby May became... a baby elephant, lol.

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

The eerie half-lit sky outside during the solar eclipse of August 2017,
which reached around 70-75% max hereabouts.
(The crane, partly visible, left, is from another condo building nearby, then under construction.
Also under construction then: the townhouses behind us, partly visible, right.) 
Our balcony doesn't get the direct afternoon sun
(and we didn't have the proper eyewear to view the eclipse directly anyway)
but I took a few photos from the balcony to record the effects. 
I'll probably do the same this afternoon! 

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Saturday night odds & ends

  • It's still more than a month away, but the onslaught has begun...!  I remember thinking, while out shopping during the week before Easter that, come Monday, all the Easter displays and paraphernalia would be replaced by Mother's Day stuff.  
    • I was right. On Tuesday, we were at our local mega-bookstore -- which, these days, has as many tchotchkes for sale as books, it seems...! -- and, even though I had predicted it, it was kind of like a slap in the face to see... 
  • Sara Petersen unpacks the fine art of "momfluencing" in her Substack "In Pursuit of Clean Countertops."  In a recent entry, "Who do these jeans think I am? A Very Serious Investigation,"  she dissects an Instagram ad for "mom jeans." The top-rated comment asks "why any adult woman would willing buy a pair of jeans called Mom Jeans," (and -- naturally! -- pointed to the infamous Saturday Night Live sketch...!) 
    • My response to that comment:  
Especially when something like 20% of adult women are not mothers and never will be (and that number is growing). The ones who chose that life will likely not be happy to have the "Mom" label slapped on their jeans; the ones who wanted to be mothers and couldn't (for whatever reasons -- and that includes me!) don't need that reminder of what they wanted and didn't get. 20% and growing is a big chunk of your market, jean manufacturers...
    • I was pleasantly surprised to see it's been "liked" half a dozen times to date, including by Sara herself, who also commented (in all caps!), "GREAT POINT."  Thank you, Sara!   
  • I'm about 80% of the way through Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, following the "slow readalong" at Foonotes and Tangents. (We'll finish by the end of the month -- then move on to the next book in the series!)  In Chapter 14, "Devil's Spit," Lady Jane Rochford (married to Queen Anne Boleyn's brother George) comments to Thomas Cromwell (the main character of the book):  
"Have you ever observed that when a man gets a son he takes all the credit, and when he gets a daughter he blames his wife? And if they do not breed at all, we say it is because her womb is barren. We do not say it is because his seed is bad."  

(Of course, these words were written in 2009, when we know the truth of Lady Rochford's words.  Yet the stigma still persists, doesn't it?) 

The passage goes on. Cromwell speaks: 

'It's the same in the gospels. The stony ground gets the blame.' 

The stony places, the thorny unprofitable waste. Jane Rochford is childless after seven years of marriage. 'I believe my husband wishes I would die.'  She says it lightly. He does not know how to answer. He has not asked for her confidence. 'If I do die,' she says, in the same bright tone, 'have my body opened. I ask you this in friendship. I am afraid of poison...'


(Mantel -- as I've pointed out previously -- was childless herself.)    

  • There was an interesting article in the Globe and Mail recently about a new chain of fertility clinics, backed by venture capitalists, with offices in Vancouver and Toronto (so far), that focuses on "improving the patient's experience while driving superior outcomes... The ultimate goal is to ensure it takes less time to have a baby, and it costs less to build your family.” Gift link:  "Twig Fertility aims to close the gaps in care for Canadians trying to conceive." Excerpt:  
Twig’s approach includes using technology, as well as staff recruited from complementary industries, such as the hospitality sector, to minimize wait times for patients, while allowing doctors to focus on procedures rather than paperwork. The company is using AI technology, including software designed by an Israeli company, to support decision-making and operational efficiency.

Twig takes a luxury hotel-style approach to treatment, with soft touches such as robes and slippers to slip into when a patient arrives at the clinic.

(No word on whether their success rates to date are any better than at other clinics...!)  

In 2024, it should not be seen as an affront if people lead a slightly different life from the narrow confines of what is expected: other people’s choices are not a judgment on your own. Reproducing is one of the biggest, life-altering decisions we can make, with a profound impact on our time, freedom, career and finances. We should all be thinking carefully about whether it is right for us on an individual level. Even among those who do want to start a family, the costs are prohibitive: more and more young people are being priced out of parenthood. Last month, the birthrate fell to a record low.

Yet having children is so societally ingrained that non-parents continue to face stigma and are expected to justify their lifestyles in a way that parents are not. The main objections to dinks appear to be that they post smug social media updates, and that they travel too much. But do parents not post proudly about their bundles of joy? And isn’t having children the worst possible thing you can do in terms of CO2 emissions?

At the heart of this judgment is an insulting insinuation that some lives are worth more than others (commenting on tragedies “as a mother” does not make your viewpoint more valuable, as writer Amy Key has pointed out). Being a parent, or not being a parent, is not intrinsically more or less moral. This is not a battle of parents versus non-parents, childless versus childfree. Instead of entrenching ourselves further into camps, we should be moving towards a future where all choices are seen as equally valid – with highs and lows, regrets and joy – and that it is simply not up to other people to judge.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Right now

Right now...* 

*(an occasional (mostly monthly) meme, alternating from time to time with "The Current"). (Explanation of how this started & my inspirations in my first "Right now" post, here. Also my first "The Current" post, here.)

March showed glimmers of spring!  There were even a couple of days when the temperature reached 18C (about 65F) and we were able to go outside in our shirtsleeves! But there were also (lots of ) days when it was grey, rainy and bitterly cold.  We had several days where it snowed -- which is to be expected in March in Canada! -- but always seems to surprise people when it happens. We got more snow on March 22nd -- about 10 cm, or 4 inches -- than we had the entire winter to date! 

Case in point:  Early in the month, there was an article in the Toronto Star noting that the city had experienced the warmest winter ever recorded (thanks to El Nino as well as ongoing climate change).... followed by another article noting that "This winter was warmest in Canadian records by a huge margin" (ditto). Sigh...

Pandemic diary/update: March marked FOUR YEARS (!) -- 48 months -- since the COVID-19 pandemic began -- and people around us still getting sick, many of them for the first time. :(   Mid-month, Older Nephew's Wife/Little Great-Nephew's mom came down with it, for the second time (they all had it around Christmastime 2021). We remain covid-free (knocking wood, loudly...), and continue to mask in stores and most other public places, especially where there are a lot of people (although there were a couple of exceptions this month).  

Among other things this month, we
  • Attended Little Great-Niece's FIRST birthday party on March 2nd, at her (maternal) grandparents' house, along with BIL & SIL, Older Nephew, his wife and Little Great-Nephew, and Younger Nephew's wife's sister and her family (18 people total).  
  • Had a consultant from Blinds To Go visit us at home on March 8th to help us pick out new window coverings (fabric vertical blinds), take initial measurements, provide an estimate and take a deposit from us. 
    • An installer came by briefly the following day to take exact measurements. The blinds are now on order. The material we chose was on back order, but we should have them ready for installation by early/mid-April.  
  • Spent the day with Little Great-Nephew at his grandparents' house on Monday, March 11th -- he was off school for the week on spring break. Fun, but tiring!!  lol  
  • Picked up LGN's grandparents (BIL & SIL) at the airport later that night, as they returned home from a well-deserved week's holiday in the Caribbean. 
  • Dropped by the house the next day for coffee (and to spend more time with LGN!)  and see vacation photos. 
  • Saw my longtime optometrist in midtown Toronto on March 13th for a regular checkup. He can see traces of the nodules that were surgically removed two summers ago, but assured me there's nothing to worry about, and he will continue to keep an eye on things. Otherwise, my eyes (and dh's) are fine! -- my prescription has changed very little -- I am still wearing the same glasses I got almost TEN YEARS AGO!! -- and I don't have to come back for another two years (after my 65th birthday -- GULP!) -- after which the cost of my eye exams will be covered by the provincial health plan. (Dh, at almost 67, is already covered.)(They used to be covered for everyone, but the government reduced funding in 2021. Boo, hiss...) 
  • Drove to our old community the next day (Thursday, March 14th) to see my family doctor & follow up on the red patch on my left cheek -- which is better than it was when I was there in February, but (annoyingly) still THERE. I also told him the topical gel he'd prescribed last fall for the rosacea in my T-zone really hasn't done much -- so he gave me a different prescription for a cream ointment to try for a month. It's two weeks later and the redness is still there, although it's a little better than it was before I started this latest regime. I'll give it another two weeks and then see if I need to make a follow-up visit. (The doctor said the next step would probably be a referral to a dermatologist.)  
    • Before heading there, we stopped at the cemetery to change out the decorations on Katie's niche from Christmas decor to an Easter/springtime theme.  :)  
  • Went for a browse at Chapters (bookstore) on March 19th, and picked up at tea latte for me & coffee for dh at the in-store Starbucks cafe on the way out. ($9+??! -- the same order would have been about $7, pre-pandemic...!).  
  • Had lunch in a restaurant at the nearby mall on March 21st with a high school friend who was in town for a few days.  (No masks involved!  But it was (surprisingly, and thankfully) not too busy, in both the restaurant and the mall generally.) 
  • Lost heat early on the morning of March 22nd and had to call in an HVAC technician to diagnose the problem. Fortunately, he was able to come later that morning, and managed to get it restarted (yay!). A replacement part is now on order and he (or one of his colleagues) will be back to install it when it comes. 
  • Returned to the mall on March 26th to walk around, shop and have an early lunch in the food court. Stopped at the drugstore on the way home to pick up a prescription. 
  • Spent the Saturday of Easter weekend (March 30th) at BIL & SIL's house with the nephews, their wives and the kids. A good time was had by all.  :)  
I also mourned the loss of my uncle & godfather, mid-month -- my mother's younger brother and only sibling, not long after his 81st birthday.  :(   

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** 

Also right now:  

Reading: I finished 3 books in March (reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads & StoryGraph, & tagged "2024 books").  
This brings me to 9 books read so far in 2024, 20% of my 2024 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books.  I am currently 2 books behind my goal.  :( 

Current read(s): 
Coming up: Most of my book groups have their next reads plotted out for a few months in advance -- and listing them here helps me keep track of what I should be reading next. ;)  
  • For the Notes from Three Pines (Louise Penny mysteries) Readalong: The last discussion was for book #3, "The Cruellest Month," posted June 7th -- no further posts/books since then.  I've continued dipping into the series on my own, between other book club obligations. Book #6, "Bury Your Dead," is the next one on my list! 
A few recently purchased titles (mostly in digital format, mostly discounted ($5-10 or less) or purchased with points): 

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** 

  • Season 10 of "Finding Your Roots" on PBS. 
  • The World Figure Skating Championships from Montreal, the week of March 18th.  Broadcast coverage was limited (boo, hiss), but fortunately, I was able to watch just about everything I wanted to see on livestream on the CBC website! (I didn't get much else done on those days, but hey, it only happens once a year...!)  
  • Dh has been watching the world curling championships! -- the women's earlier this month, and now the men's, which just started this weekend. I've been watching a little with him too.  Curling is very popular in Canada, and Canadians have always done very well at the world level of the sport.  Both my parents (& especially my dad) used to curl, and they watch a lot of curling on TV. We started watching when curling became an Olympic sport -- I've never curled myself, but I was amazed at how much of the game I had absorbed through simple osmosis, and how much I could explain to dh about what was going on. These days, I'd say he was more knowledgeable about it than I am!  ;) 
Listening: We've been listening for -- but thankfully not hearing -- any more dripping/tapping noises from the bathroom since the last incident about two weeks ago. Fingers crossed!  The property manager suggested she could have a plumber cut a hole in the drywall wall and/or ceiling of our bedroom walk-in closet (!) to have a look and see if there was any visible water or water damage coming from the tub/shower drain directly above ours in the unit upstairs. Granted, that would be a lot easier than going directly through the tiled ceiling of our shower! -- BUT!!  Needless to say, we're not really keen to have to take everything out of the closet, clean up all the drywall dust and debris afterward, and then wait for it to be patched up again before we could put everything back in the closet! -- even though the building would pay for the exploration and for the drywall repair. 

To Heardle Decades: Stats as of  March 31st:    
  • Heardle 60s:  75.9% (413/544, 173 on first guess), down from last month. Max. streak: 15.
  • Heardle 70s:  82.2% (287/236, 128 on the first guess), down slightly from last month. Max. streak: 18. 
  • Heardle 80s: 44.7% (71/159,  26 on the first guess), up from last month. Max. streak: 4. 
  • Heardle 90s: 28.0% (76/271, 15 on the first guess), down from last month. Max. streak: 4. 
Following:  I've followed Connie Schultz on Facebook for a few years now. She's an Ohio journalist and the wife of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown. A few months ago, I learned she has a Substack newsletter (doesn't everyone these days, it seems??), "Hopefully Yours," and I'm now a (free) subscriber. I just love her writing. :)  

Eating/Drinking:  There was a yummy catered dinner for Little Great-Niece's first birthday party, including two kinds of pasta (red & white sauces -- because of my tomato allergy, I could only eat the tortellini with alfredo sauce), porketta, fingerling potatos, veggies and caesar salad, as well as lots of pastries and fruit -- and cake, of course! (And we all took home a box full of leftover pastries, including ricotta & chocolate chip cannolis. Yum!)  

My mom mentioned they'd enjoyed chicken tetrazzini for dinner from the subsidized communal meals program where they get meals several times a week now. My sister found them an easy recipe and now my dad is making it at home too!  That prompted me to look up an easy recipe for us to try out., and it turned out pretty well! -- albeit, warning, it is pretty rich/gooey -- definitely not for the lactose intolerant and/or calorie-conscious...!  We used leftover Swiss Chalet rotisserie chicken. I would probably use a little more chicken than what we had left over -- also, probably more peas/veggies and more garlic seasoning.  

We had Easter dinner at BIL & SIL's last Saturday (March 30th) with the family:  they ordered in veal cutlets & pasta in tomato sauce (and made pasta with garlic & olive oil and a chicken breast for me). There were also grilled veggies, salad and fruit, and traditional Italian Easter sweet bread to go with coffee/tea, and SIL & I both indulged in a glass of white wine. The company was the best part of the meal, though!  

Takeout dinners this month included wood oven pizza, Swiss Chalet rotisserie chicken, and California Sandwiches (veal cutlet with tomato sauce for dh, chicken cutlet for me). 

Buying (besides books, lol):  
  • New vertical blinds for our three floor-to-ceiling/wall-to-wall windows, from Blinds To Go. 
  • New tires for our 8-year-old car. (BIL got dh a good deal from some friends who run a garage.) 
  • A couple of new T-shirts for myself from Lucky Brand. 
  • Goodies for Little Great-Nephew & Little Great-Niece's Easter bags.  :)  They both got books and bunny ear headbands (lol). LGNephew got a new colouring book and some assorted chocolate (including a big KinderEgg with a toy inside, which he loves);  LGNiece is too little for chocolate yet, so she got a few new T-shirts instead. 
    • I wasn't sure how the bunny ears would go over with LGNephew -- too babyish/girly? But he was thrilled!! (-- and thus, so was I!  :)  )
  • (and enjoying! lol)  Easter chocolate for us!  (lol)  We're partial to Lindor milk chocolate eggs and Cadbury Mini Eggs.  :)  
Wearing: It's frequently been chilly inside as well as outside this month -- so long sleeved shirts (often under a cardigan), socks and slippers have (still) been a must! 

Noticing:  The number on the scale going up again... .grrrr.... 

Trying:  To be at least a LITTLE more active, especially as warmer weather arrives...! (Note "Noticing," above... also "Eating" and "Buying" re: Easter chocolate...!)  

Worrying:  About my elderly parents, and (right now) especially my dad, who is having hernia repair surgery done soon.  I know it's a very routine operation and (assuming all goes well) -- because it's considered a "day procedure" -- he'll only be in the hospital for a few hours (which my mother thinks is horrifying) -- but he IS almost 85.  Luckily, my sister is able to take a few personal days and can then work remotely from their home while he recovers. As I've mentioned before, my parents live in a split-level house, and there are no bathrooms on the main level (where the kitchen, living room, laundry room & entryway are) -- and (so far, anyway) my mother has absolutely refused to consider moving. I guess we'll see what happens...!  

Prioritizing:  Family. My sister thinks she'll be able to handle Mom & Dad herself (on top of working remotely from their house) after my dad's upcoming surgery... but I've told her if she needs me to let me know, and I/we'll be there as soon as I/we can. 

Wondering:  How much longer Mom & Dad will be able to stay in their split-level house (despite my mother's refusal to consider moving)?  

Appreciating:  Our condo, the more I think about my parents' situation...! (Even with mysterious noises coming from above!  lol -- after all, plumbing emergencies happen in houses too...!)  

Wanting: More hours in the day (and more motivation!) to get things done...!  

Waiting:  To hear back from the HVAC technician about the new part for our HVAC unit, and for our new blinds to be ready for installation. 

Hoping: That my cousins will be able to arrange a Zoom link for my uncle's Celebration of Life service, so that those of us who can't make it there in person can still be there virtually. 

Loving:  Spending time with family (and especially the great-niblings) this month (at LGNiece's birthday party and for Easter).  

Feeling: Happy that spring is here! -- officially, anyway (lol).  But it looks like the weather is finally starting to change too, the skies are brightening up a bit, and that makes me very glad. :)  

#MicroblogMondays: Easter goodies

We spent this past Saturday of the Easter long weekend at BIL & SIL's with the nephews, their wives, and Little Great-Nephew and Little Great-Niece. It was a very nice day -- busy and chaotic and a whole lot of fun. Lots of food and lots of laughs. 

(We spent yesterday/Easter Sunday recuperating!  lol -- There were a lot fewer emails in my inbox over the weekend, and I was happy for the chance to catch up on those, and on my other reading!)  

I will admit to a moment or two of wistfulness, looking at those two tall, kind, handsome young men (where have the past 35 years gone??), and their two beautiful children, knowing they're not my kids or grandkids -- and knowing that that is something we'll never have. I'll never be a mom, or a grandma. But I do get to be an aunt and a great-aunt. (And I've been able to dote on these kids in a way their other aunts & great-aunts, preoccupied with their own kids & grandkids, never have and never will.) That is pretty special too!  And I'm very grateful that BIL & SIL, and now the nephews, have almost always, right from the start, included us in their special holidays and celebrations. 

Two standout moments made the day extra-special for this very proud great-auntie: 
  • Among the stuff in the goodie bags I brought for LGNephew & LGNiece:  they each got a headband with bunny ears from the dollar store. :)  I was a little worried that LGNephew might think that was "for babies" -- he's gotten SO grown-up since he started school last fall! -- but he was THRILLED!  (And so was I!)  "BUNNY EARS!!"  he shouted gleefully as he pulled them out of the bag, and immediately put them on -- AND let me take his photo! :)  
  • LGNiece was wearing the Easter outfit I'd bought for her and included in her goodie bag for Valentine's Day. She looked adorable. (Of course she'd look adorable in anything, right?)  You can see part of the outfit in the photo below.  

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

Little Great-Niece, age 13 months. :) 
Easter ensemble courtesy of Great-Aunt Loribeth. :)
(If you look closely, you can see little bunnies & carrots on the skirt. 
There's also a bunny on the front of the shirt.) 

Friday, March 29, 2024

"No One Talks About This Stuff" edited by Kat Brown

Although things have improved since loss, infertility and permanent childlessness entered my life 20-25+ years ago, there's still a cloak of silence when it comes to public discussion of these matters in the broader culture.  

"No One Talks About This Stuff: Twenty-Two Stories of Almost Parenthood" is a welcome addition to the growing body of literature shedding light on these difficult subjects.  The collection was spearheaded, crowdfunded and edited by British journalist Kat Brown. "This is the book that I wish I'd found in the bookshops when my husband and I were trying for a baby," she writes in the introduction. 

The 22 writers -- women and men, mostly British -- who contributed personal essays (including some names familiar to me, such as Jody Day, Yvonne John and Stella Duffy, as well as others new to me) form a diverse group covering a broad range of reproductive experiences. If pregnancy loss, abortion, infertility, disenfranchised grief and/or childlessness are part of your story, you will find something here you can relate to!  I loved them all;  it would be very hard to pick a favourite, although I did think that Jody Day and Stella Duffy's essays, coming first and last, were the perfect bookends for the rest of the content. One (very) small quibble: I would have liked to see the two essays written by a wife and husband about their lost pregnancy placed back to back in the book --  but as I said, that's a very small quibble.  :)  

Content warning:  Some of the writers already had living children before the losses they write about here, and some of them did eventually become parents.  

Brown has helpfully included a "trigger index" at the back of the book -- covering everything from abortion to trisomy 2 mosaicism -- that readers can consult if there are particular scenarios they might find difficult to read about. There are also lists of resources (albeit most of them are U.K.-based).  

Disclosure(s):  I was among those who contributed to crowdfunding the publication of this book, and my name is included in a list of "Supporters" at the back.  In exchange for my contribution, I received an e-copy in early March, and a paperback copy a week or so later. :)  It was published in the U.K. and Australia on March 21st, with e-versions available in Canada and the U.S. via Kobo and Amazon on that day as well. Paper copies will be out July 2nd in the U.S., and July 12th Canada. 

Also,  it was a pleasant surprise to see Jody Day mention me in her essay (along with Pamela Tsigdinos and Lisa Manterfield) as a childless blogger who supported her own early blogging efforts on Gateway Women.  :)   

5 stars 

This was Book #9 read to date in 2024 (and Book #3 finished in March), bringing me to 20% of my 2024 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 1 book behind schedule to meet my goal. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2024 tagged as "2024 books."