Tuesday, March 19, 2019

"Where'd You Go, Bernadette" by Maria Semple

As I mentioned in this post yesterday, I had started "Russian Roulette" by Michael Isikoff & David Corn as my next read... but even though it was well researched & written, I was having a hard time getting beyond the first couple of chapters. I figured perhaps I was a little fatigued by current events (do you blame me, right??) and perhaps something lighter was called for.  

So I set that one aside for the time being, and picked up "Where'd You Go Bernadette" by Maria Semple.  I bought it a couple of years ago, when it first came out in paperback, but it's been languishing in the TBR (to-be-read) pile.  I moved it up when I heard the movie version (with Cate Blanchett as Bernadette) was being released on March 22nd.  

As it turns out, the movie release date has been pushed back to August. Oh well. I had already started the book... and it was hard to put down. I breezed through it in two days flat and finished it tonight. It was laugh-out-loud funny in parts (and kleenex-worthy in others), & a good alternative to the heavier stuff in "Russian Roulette" (not to mention what's on the news every night...!).  

The story is narrated by 15-year-old Bee, whose mother, Bernadette, a celebrated architect-turned-stay-at-home-mom (and an increasingly reclusive one at that) has vanished from their Seattle home two days before Christmas, just before a planned family trip to Antarctica.  Through a series of emails, notes & letters, FBI reports, receipts, magazine articles and other documents, Bee reconstructs her mother's story -- and sets out to learn what happened to her.  

Some people might not like the way the story unfolds, going back & forth between documents, exposing multiple points of view beyond Bee's framing narration, and taking the story back into the past. Personally, I loved it. :)  

ALI note & POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT:  It never ceases to amaze me just often pregnancy loss (&/or infertility) turn up in the books I read. (I shouldn't be, considering how commonplace these things really are.)  Bernadette had multiple miscarriages before Bee -- and Bee was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. (No wonder the woman went a little bonkers...!) I always hear that HLHS described as a "rare" heart condition -- and yet there were quite a few bereaved parents who came to our pregnancy loss support group after losing babies this way.  Of course, we always heard about the babies who didn't survive, so it was nice to read about one who did, even though she was a fictional character. :)  

I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads. (It might have been slightly higher but I've docked it a few points because of Bernadette's negative digs at Canadians. ;)  )(Although she does recant somewhat near the end.)  It will be interesting to see just how the story will translate to the screen, and I will look forward to seeing the movie later this summer! 

This was book #7 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 29% of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 2 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)

Monday, March 18, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

  • I know I've done a lot of "odds & ends" posts lately, but I seriously could not think of one specific thing I could build a #MM post around... so you get a brain dump. Again.  :p  ;)  
  • Today was the first day in a loooonnnngggg time that felt a bit like spring. The sky was blue and the temp, while a touch chilly, was a few degrees above 0C ( = 30sF), which felt positively balmy after the cold snaps we've had lately...! 
  • As I mentioned here, I started reading "Russian Roulette" by Michael Isikoff & David Corn at the end of February, thinking the release of the Mueller report was imminent and wanting to be up to speed on the subject (Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election).  
    • That was three weeks ago -- still no Mueller report (*sob!*) -- and frankly, I just could not get into it. It was well written and researched, but I was finding it hard to motivate myself to pick it up. Maybe I've just had quite enough of that particular topic at the moment.  ;)  
  • So I set that one aside for the time being, and picked up the next book in my pile: "Where'd You Go Bernadette" by Maria Semple.  I bought it when it first came out in paperback, and moved it up when I heard the movie version (with Cate Blanchett as Bernadette!) was being released this weekend. 
    • Alas -- I Googled tonight to see if it would be playing anywhere near me -- only to discover the release date has been pushed back to August. Boo, hiss.... 
    • Nevertheless, I've started reading the book & (one not-particularly-funny joke about Canadians aside) am quite enjoying it so far. Much lighter & easier going than "Russian Roulette," lol.
  • BIL, SIL, dh & I went to see "Apollo 11" this past weekend -- a documentary about the first moon landing, featuring some amazing newly found footage. Dh & BIL were enthralled. I really enjoyed it too. (SIL fell asleep... not quite her thing, lol.)  It was produced in part by CNN, which tells me it will likely show up there sooner or later, but I'm very glad I got to see it on the big screen. (I've heard that IMAX is the ideal way to see it, if you can!) 
  • Like many of you (most? all?? -- I hope...), I was horrified by the terrorist shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, late last week, and the murder of 50 innocent people in a house of worship. And so very impressed by the way the country and its leaders are handling the situation. Of course I was thinking about Mali, as well as my penpal of 42 (!!) years, who lives in Auckland. Mali's post at her other blog, A Separate Life, is a must-read. 

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

Sunday, March 17, 2019

"Just enjoy the trees"

A Facebook find :)
and something I think we as childless women feel especially pressured to do,
in lieu of having children to focus our energies on. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

(More)(childless/free living) Odds & ends

  • The private Gateway Women community recently moved to a new platform, as Google+, its home for the past few years, is shutting down on April 2nd. I always found Google+ a bit daunting, but I've been hanging out a bit at the new site, and I'm quite enjoying it!  :) 
    • The GW community is a safe, private space for childless-not-by-choice women.  Highlights include unlimited topics and special interest sub-groups, topic filters, events, a monthly "fireside chat'"with Jody just for members, live comunity chats, online courses, and more! 
    • You can access the community online, or via a specially designed app!  
    • To ensure it remains a safe space for all, new members are ID checked. 
    • The first month is free, after which there is a monthly or annual subscription fee. 
    • More than 260 GW members have already made the move to the new space.
    • Beyond the private community -- if you are childless not by choice, you simply MUST check out Gateway Women's public website, which is home to Jody's blog and a ton of excellent resources, including information about GW meetup groups and Reignite weekends, excerpts & purchase information for Jody's book ("Living the Life Unexpected"), links to videos, podcasts, media, recommended books, blogs and support organizations, and much more! 
  • I enjoyed listening to Jody talk about "rediscovering joy after infertility" on the Magnificent Midlife podcast recently. 
  • I think I found The Uterus Monologues blog through Jody/Gateway Women. Wonderful writing... A couple of sample posts:  "Hello from the other side" and Empty-nest syndrome. Sample passage:  
When babies don’t arrive as expected, what you start to feel keenly is a slow loosening of the usual social rituals, an absence of structure outside of the foregone conclusions of post-hospital visitors, christenings, first birthday parties and so on. Accordingly, you start to realise that there are things you had been counting on children to bring into your life – chaos, routine, celebration, warmth, visitors, play, noise, joy, meaning, belonging – and you may have no choice but to create them for yourself, in some shape or form. 
So perhaps that’s what the empty-nesting is about, that’s why it feels therapeutic – it’s the forging of a slightly different kind of family home, in recognition that you are already a family, right now. Instead of waiting for your real life to begin. Saving things for best, always.
  • Another new blog with some great writing, as pointed out by Jody: Chasing Creation.  I especially like her post, "Do you have kids?" and how she's detailed her thinking on what to respond, when & why. 
  • Brooke alerted me to a CNBCer I should check out. Tia has a blog at Forever, Orchard, but these days, she is mostly on Instagram, and devoting her energies to organizing an infertility summit in suburban Chicago on April 27. (Anyone planning to attend?)  
    • Personally, I can't imagine ever describing myself as "infertile AF" (infertile, yes, but "infertile AF"?)(And I don't think the "AF" here stands for "Aunt Flo," lol). I guess it's a generational thing (at 58, it occurs to me that I am old enough to be Tia's mother... GULP). Nevertheless, I wish them luck with the conference! & I will be following Tia on IG.
    • Tia authored this December 2017 article on IVF Babble, telling her story and explaining why she & her husband chose to walk away from infertility treatment, and the chance at parenthood. Excerpt: 
This is not the life I want to live anymore. 
After five incredibly taxing years, searching for the right combination of medication, lifestyle and luck, we are walking away from the path to become parents... 
I keep writing and sharing my story because, although IVF is typically the golden standard on the road to parenthood, it doesn’t always work out that way. And that’s okay. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Odds & ends

  • It is spring break hereabouts. (Insert eyeroll icon & cue the "Ride of the Valkyries" music.) So far, the crowds haven't been TOO bad when we've been out & about... but we expect that to change as the week goes on...!  
  • Not only was Sunday the switchover to daylight saving time, our building had a 6-hour planned power outage from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (which wound up actually lasting from 9:30 to 2:20) while the local power company did some work just up the street from us (no doubt connected to the never-ending road/rapid transit line construction work that's been going on almost from the day we moved here...!).  No TV, no Internet, no heat (fortunately, it wasn't too very cold outside...), no hot water (we set the alarm clock so that we'd have time for breakfast & showers before they pulled the plug on us).  We thought about going for brunch & a movie ("Captain Marvel" opened this weekend... although reviews have been mixed...)  but... did I mention it's spring break hereabouts??  :p  We decided to skip the movie -- went for brunch & a bookstore browse instead. The first restaurant we went to had a lineup out the door, so we tried another one, which was also busy but we did get seated right away. And the bookstore was not as busy as I feared it might be, thank goodness!  :)  
  • Cristy alerted me to this site -- Table for Two. It's noteworthy for some of the recipes alone (yum!), but it also covers other lifestyle topics. The blogger, Julie, is childfree by choice, and recently wrote a post on the subject (which is why Cristy sent me the link -- thanks, Cristy!). And even though Julie never wanted children, there's a lot in her post that sounds familiar -- check it out
  • (POTENTIAL SPOILERS)  Anyone see last week's episode of "Young Sheldon?" In a nutshell, Sheldon's mom Mary discovers she's pregnant. Now, we KNOW Sheldon only has two siblings -- older brother Georgie, twin sister Missy -- since we've met them in adult form on "The Big Bang Theory."  No others have ever been mentioned. I said, "Uh oh, miscarriage." Dh (ever-optimistic, despite our own experiences and 10 years as a pregnancy loss group facilitator) said, "Nah, it's a comedy. They'll just figure out it was a mistake and she wasn't pregnant after all."  And of course, it WAS a (very early) miscarriage. (And relatively well handled, as these things go on TV, which was nice to see!)  
  • "Mad About You" is returning to TV! -- albeit some obscure U.S. streaming service. I do hope some channel from our cable package picks it up here in Canada. From what I've read, Paul & Jamie Buchman, played by Paul Reiser & Helen Hunt, will be empty nesters after their daughter Mabel goes off to college.  
    • I wrote about this series & the eerie parallels between Paul & Jamie's life and mine & dh's (up to a point...) several years ago, here.  
    • A few commenters remembered "didn't they break up at the very end"?  I guess, like "Roseanne," they will just ignore that inconvenient storyline, lol.  
    • Some commenters wanted to know if Murray the dog would be making an appearance. Not likely, because Murray would be at least 25 years old now!   
    • One commenter wisecracked "I guess Nat the dog walker won't be making an appearance."  (Nat was played by Hank Azaria.  He and Helen Hunt lived together for about five years, got married in 1999 and then split about 1-2 years later.)  

Monday, March 11, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Our neighbours' keepers

This article was right out of the "my worst nightmare" category. :( 

An elderly man in Ottawa spent the ENTIRE WINTER snowed into his house, living off whatever food he had on hand. A concerned neighbour (finally!) called the police, who found an entire winter's worth of snow piled high in the driveway (& Ottawa got a LOT of snow this winter!), blocking access in & out of the house. They removed the snow, brought the man some groceries and arranged for further support going forward.

All I could think, reading it, was, "That could be me in 20-25 years." Well, maybe not if I keep living in a condo (snow removal is not an issue, thankfully!)  ;) ...and that was one reason why we moved here -- to eliminate chores such as snow shovelling and be closer to family as we age. Plus, while I can be rather stubborn at times and I like my independence, I like to think I would call someone for help if I needed it. (Although I know that not all elderly people recognize when they need help, or know where to call for it.) 

Nevertheless, I think this is many childless women's secret fear -- that we'll wind up living alone, helpless & forgotten.  :(  Please, everyone, check in on your neighbours now & then, especially if you know they are elderly &/or living alone or otherwise vulnerable!  

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

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Happy birthday, Thomas :)

Mel mentioned in yesterday's Friday Roundup that today is Random Acts of Kindness for Thomas Day.  I met Thomas's mom Kristin (aka Msfitzita) through blogging (and I've been fortunate enough to meet her in "real life" too), and she has become a dear friend. Thomas would have been 14 years old today, and each year, Kristin & her husband Sandy ask their friends to do random acts of kindness in his memory. (And goodness knows, the world needs all the kindness it can get these days...!) 

If you'd like to join in, it's not too late! :) You can sign up through the "sign up" link on Thomas's RAK Day Facebook page.  You don't need to be anywhere specific, or spend any money... just look for opportunities to be extra kind to others today. :)  And, if you like, go back to Thomas's page later and tell Kristin & Sandy what you did. 

For my part -- I've already sent donations to two small charities I thought the parents might appreciate, contributed to another friend's 14-year-old daughter's school trip fundraiser, and gave my hairdresser a larger-than-usual tip when she cut my hair earlier this week.   And I'll be looking for any other opportunities to be kind and do good later today, too.

Here's a post I wrote four years ago for Thomas's 10th birthday. :)  His story appeared on the front page of the Toronto Star that day, and his parents reached their goal of 10,000 RAKs in his name that year. :) 

Go forth and be kind. :)