Monday, July 15, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: It's a....

(great-nephew :) )

We went to a gender reveal party for Older Nephew & Pregnant Wife's baby on the July (Canada Day) long weekend -- the first one we've ever been to.

It's taken me this long to post about it (aside from a brief, non-revelatory post after the fact), partly because they wound up having not just one but TWO reveal parties -- one for our side of the family, and one for the mother-to-be's side, two weeks later. It turned out both SIL (the grandmother-to-be) & dh & I were going to be away for that mid-July date -- hence, the decision to hold two parties. I promised I wouldn't post any photos on social media until the second party was over (this past weekend).  It's doubtful, of course, that anyone involved would be reading this blog (at least, I hope not...!) -- but I decided to honour the embargo here too, just in case...!

*** *** ***

The party was preceded by more than little family drama.  Just to backtrack a bit: we already knew the baby is a boy before the party. :)

I found out by accident two weeks earlier. We were at BIL's on Father's Day, and Nephew's Pregnant Wife was talking about registries & what to register for and looking at stuff on her phone. I get marketing emails from Toys/Babies R Us, and the next evening, I saw one & thought, "Hmmm, I think I'll take a peek and see what she's got in her registry so far."  It took me about three seconds to find her registry -- and what do you know? Along with the due date, etc., there was a message: "IT'S A BOY!"  

I almost started laughing, because -- as you might remember -- I found out she was pregnant from a Pinterest notification. :)  Really, people need to be more careful about the stuff they put online, if want it to be a secret...!  Or maybe I just need to be less nosy??  ;)  (Research always WAS my forte, both at school & at work...!)

I resolved to try to keep my mouth shut & not tell dh, because I knew he'd tell BIL, & then BIL would tell everyone else. (As I've written here before, many times I'm sure! NONE of the men in that family, from my late FIL to dh & BIL to our two nephews, can keep a secret to save their lives!)

But then, a few days later, dh mentioned wanting to look at the baby registry... I guess he could see something in my face, because he started bugging me: "What? What??"  I figured if he was hellbent on looking at the registry, he was going to find out sooner vs later... So I caved and told him.  "I'm getting as bad as you & your brother!"  I said.  We'd all been under the impression it was a girl (or maybe it was wishful thinking??) -- Nephew would start to giggle when we'd ask -- he's as good as his dad & uncle when it comes to keeping secrets ;)  -- so we figured that was a sure sign.  ;)  Dh worried that SIL -- who was absolutely thrilled at the prospect of a granddaughter, after growing up with two brothers and raising two boys -- might not be able to hide her disappointment after the reveal at the party.

On the Saturday a week before the party, dh, BIL, SIL & I went to the mall, and SIL & I ducked into a store to browse. When we came out, dh & BIL were talking excitedly.  And BIL spilled the beans to SIL.  Like dh, he thought she should know before the party.  She DID look a bit disappointed -- but I think she was mostly pissed off that BIL once again failed to keep a secret (!) -- not to mention he couldn't resist rubbing it in about getting a grandson and how "boys are better than girls;  they're less trouble."  :p 

"You told him!!"  I accused dh. Nope, apparently BIL saw Nephew with a baby boy's hat he'd ordered online, and heard that Nephew's boss's son was going to pass along baby clothes to them. (They'd had a boy.)  Nephew more or less admitted to BIL that it was a boy after that, but begged him not to let Pregnant Wife know he knew before the party.  BIL told dh first, and dh told him we already knew too.

At any rate, SIL's dad (the baby's great-grandfather), her two brothers & (other) SIL, stepMIL & stepSIL, who were also at the party, didn't know and so it was a surprise for them. (Not sure whether Younger Nephew & his wife knew -- if they did, they kept quiet about it!)

I'd kind of been hoping for a girl too... even though the idea of a girl born more or less on Katie's due date, following a pregnancy that's been unfolding in the same time frame as mine, might have been (MIGHT have?? -- okay, WOULD have been...) more painful to live with. A boy won't have quite the same resonance.... but that may ultimately be a good thing. Different gender, different outcome (I hope & pray...!)?  And less of a reminder in the future too. 

And, as I told Older Nephew as I hugged him in congratulations, "Well, we've already had two pretty cute little boys in the family, and they both turned out pretty well!"  ;) 


Now we know.

Let the shopping begin!!  ;)  (lol) 

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

(I know this post wasn't very "micro," but it's the only draft I had anywhere near ready to go, lol.)  

Friday, July 12, 2019

"The Hot Young Widows Club" by Nora McInerny

Two of the best books I've read so far this year were written by Nora McInerny, host of the podcast "Terrible, Thanks for Asking" (which I still need to actually listen to)"It's Okay to Laugh (Crying Is Cool Too)" and  "No Happy Endings"  (which I reviewed here and here)

So when I heard Nora had published yet another new book recently -- "The Hot Young Widows Club" (which is also the name of the online support group Nora co-founded) -- I went in search of it (and eventually found a copy, in the death & grieving section of the local mega-bookstore).

As a brief summary:  in 2014, when she was 31, Nora lost her second pregnancy, her father (to cancer) and her 35-year-old husband (to brain cancer), all within the space of six weeks. Since then, she's made a career out of talking to other people about their hardest life experiences, and helping us all deal better with grief and loss.

In her previous two books, Nora told her own story and shared some of the things she's learned over the past few years. In this book, she distills and shares that hard-earned wisdom, with topics that include "am I grieving right?", "I feel like I'm losing my mind," things you can do to help someone through their grief, loss of relationships after a loss, the importance of showing up, empathy and listening, tips for your post-death to-do (and not-to-do) list, self care, and much, much more.

You don't have to be a widow (let alone young, or hot!) to read this book or to get something out of it. You just have to be human. As the copy on the inside flap of the book says: 
Welcome to the Hot Young Widows Club. Maybe you haven't lost a spouse (yet!). That's okay. This book is a club of its own. Not just for those who have survived a spouse, but for anyone who has loved someone who died, or who has loved someone who has loved someone who died. It's for anyone who currently loves someone who will die, or who knows a person who loves someone who will die. Like it or not, you'll join it someday. 
This is a TED book, an expansion of Nora's TED talk from earlier this year, which is also fabulous and which I highly recommend watching. I was surprised at what a small, slim little volume it was -- under 100 pages -- but it is chock full of wisdom (and Nora's trademark humour) in every page. (I almost felt guilty for counting it for my reading challenge... until I remembered that I also read all 448 pages of the Mueller Report, lol.) 

I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads. This would make an excellent little gift for anyone you know who has been recently bereaved in some way, or for someone who is supporting someone who has been recently bereaved. If you don't feel like your own grief is being properly supported by the people around you, hand them this book. :) 

This was book #24 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 100%!!! of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I have now completed my challenge for the year, 12 books ahead of schedule! :) (Anything I manage to read after this will be gravy, lol.)  

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The universe is screwing with me, big time

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you'll know that our Older Nephew & his wife are expecting their first child -- our first great-niece/nephew (gender soon to be revealed here! ;)  ).  And that her due date is exactly ONE DAY apart from my own, 21 years ago (November 15, 2019 vs November 14, 1998) -- meaning I am going through this pregnancy with her, reliving my own doomed pregnancy in the exact same time frame.

It's been hard at times -- but the hardest part -- getting through that first week of August, and August 5th & 7th in particular (the day I learned Katie's heart had stopped beating, and the day I delivered her -- the "official" date that's on all the paperwork) -- is yet to come.

And it just got harder.

She's had some difficulty making the transition from her family doctor's care to an ob-gyn -- her original choice was booked solid and not taking any more patients at the moment -- but she was finally able to get a referral and an appointment to another ob-gyn.

JUST GUESS when her first appointment is.

Yep -- August 7th.

This obviously adds to the my levels of anxiety on their behalf around those dates.  It amps up the emotions & stress I'm generally feeling around then.  It also adds a certain level of guilt to anything I want to share about my/our own thoughts & activities to remember our daughter then.

I don't often mention Katie, our loss (or pg loss in general), or our involuntary childlessness on social media (let alone "in real life" conversations with non-ALI friends & family members) -- but there are a few times during the year that I feel compelled/entitled to do so:  Mother's & Father's Day. Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day/Month in October. Sometimes around what should have been her birthday in November.

And August 7th.

Now I'm feeling like I can't do anything, at least this year. If I post anything on THIS August 7th, it will only serve to remind our niece and nephew (not to mention BIL & SIL) that not all pregnancies have a happy outcome, and increase their anxiety around this initial ob-gyn visit/checkup. Of course, they already know what happened to us -- they know about pregnancy loss, in a theoretical way (just like we all did, until it actually happened to us...!) -- but would posting about our daughter then be like rubbing it in their faces at a critical time? BIL keeps saying he just wants them to "relax" and warns all of us not to do or say anything that will stress them out too much. I don't believe he was thinking of dh & me or talking about Katie specifically -- but I'm sure anything I say or post that day might well be taken the wrong way.

If it were anyone else but our nephew & his wife, I wouldn't be so anxiety-laden on this point -- but I adore those kids and would never want to do anything to hurt them or add to their stress levels right now.

(I suppose I could still post something, and fiddle with the privacy settings to prevent them & other family members from seeing it -- but I've never done that before, and it seems rather complicated.)

I kicked dh under the table when the date was mentioned. He didn't clue in WHY I did that until later, when I mentioned this to him (duh -- men!!).  He reminded me that, apart from some headaches, nausea and heartburn, and one fall, over a month ago, she's had a much better/far more normal pregnancy so far than I did. (By this point in my pregnancy, we knew things were not progressing normally... things were very much up in the air.) The baby has been healthy & growing at every ultrasound & checkup so far. The mom is already much bigger than I was at this point. That's all good. There's absolutely no logical reason to believe that the similarity in dates means the outcomes will be similar too. (In fact, there's a huge part of me that believes that OF COURSE, things will be fine -- everyone ELSE due on/around Nov. 15th gets to walk away with a live, healthy baby -- just not me.)

It's just hard. :(

No doubt there will be more anxiety-laden posts to come from me between now & August 7th.  (I'm grateful that we're going to be away for 2+ weeks between now & then -- out of sight, out of mind? -- although I'm sure it's going to hit me big time when we get back...!) Thanks in advance for your patience & any support you can lend between now & then (as well as prayers & positive vibes for the parents-to-be & their baby, of course).

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

"Mrs. Tim Gets a Job" by D.E. Stevenson

Over the past year, my D.E. Stevenson online fan/reading group has been making its way through the author's four popular, semi-autobiographical "Mrs. Tim" books, interspersing them with other books by the author (to give people a break from Mrs. Tim and the diary format, which some group members enjoy and others don't). So far, we've read "Mrs. Tim of the Regiment" (first published in 1932), in which we were introduced to Mrs. Tim (Hester) Christie, her British army officer husband Tim, their two young children Bryan & Betty, and other friends;  and "Mrs. Tim Carries On," first published in 1941, which brings Hester & family into 1940 and the Second World War. 

The third volume in the series, "Mrs. Tim Gets a Job," was first published in 1947. The war is over, but Tim is still in Egypt. Bryan and Betty are both off at boarding school, and the lease on the family's home is being terminated by the landlord. Where will Hester go and what will she do?  Fate intervenes in the form of a job offer, helping the prickly Miss Erica Clutterbuck -- a friend of Hester's friend Grace -- run a small hotel out of her ancestral home in Scotland.

Like most of DES's novels, this is a "comfort read" -- short on plot and long on characterization, humour and wonderful descriptions. I enjoyed catching up with Hester and seeing her in this new setting, facing new challenges. Erica Clutterbuck (what a name!) is a wonderful character whose bark turns out to be worse than her bite. And Tony Morley (now a Brigadier, and still obviously carrying a torch for Hester) drops by for an unexpected brief visit.

We're also privy to Hester's thoughts and some interesting discussions on a number of different subjects. For example, Hester finds herself debating the American vs British definition of happiness with an American hotel guest (which several Goodreads reviewers have commented on -- is happiness a right or a privilege?).

Hester -- who was initially ambivalent about taking on a job and doubtful of her qualifications -- unleashes a surprisingly spirited feminist (for the day) rant directed at Tony, who voices his strong disapproval of her job:
"I don't like it at all!"  exclaims Tony suddenly.  
"I like it quite a lot, Tony."  
"Nonsense," he says. "There is no need for it. Tim said I was to make you chuck it."  
"It's most unsuitable," says Tony, looking down his nose.  
"You're old-fashioned, that's what's the matter with you. You're the sort of man who likes a woman to sit with her lily-white hands folded in her lap -- or embroidering a tapestry -- while her lord and master rides out to do battle in her honour."  
Tony says he didn't know he was that sort of man.  
"Well, you are!" I cry in annoyance. "You would have liked to find me at Winfield, dropping tears over my needle-work -- you know you would!"  
Tony says not tears.  
"Tears," I repeat angrily. "Tears and idleness and lily-white hands. What sort of life is that for an active woman?"  
Tony says it sounds a trifle dull, but --  
"Of course it's dull -- dull as dishwater!  Isn't it a hundred times better to do something useful? How would you like to have nothing to do, day after day, except cook and dust the drawing room?"   
(From Thursday, 4th April) 
(A small point of order:  Hester, like many women of her time & class, actually had household help to do the cooking & dusting for her -- but you get the idea, lol.)

Tony attends church with Hester and gets into a deep conversation with the minister afterwards about Eastern religions and Taoism in particular. Hester comments on Tony's ability to talk to all sorts of people about all sorts of things. I enjoyed this exchange between them:
"Mr. Weir knew at once that I was really interested and came half-way to meet me. When people go half-way to meet each other something happens -- something important." [Tony says]  
"Yes -- but what is it?" I ask with interest. 
"You give a bit of yourself and receive a bit of the other fellow, and you're both richer... That's one reason why it's worthwhile to be alive," continues Tony. "It's a sort of immortality we can all achieve."  
"Yes. We all want to achieve immortality. We all want to leave our mark upon the world. What use is it to have lived if we leave nothing behind us when we die. One way to achieve immortality is to have children, another is to write or paint -- but not everybody can achieve offspring or works of art." [emphasis mine]
"I'm beginning to see."  
"It's easy," declares Tony. "If we go about the world giving bits of ourselves to people we meet... it's worthwhile having lived... we leave something behind us which goes on -- and on."  
(From Saturday, 6th April) 
Interestingly for me, Erica Clutterbuck claims she doesn't like children (although she winds up getting along famously with Hester's daughter Betty):
"And I might as well warn you," says Erica in her usual downright fashion, "I may as well warn you that I don't like children." 
"You don't -- " 
"No," says Erica firmly. "I can't bear the little darlings. They bore me stiff. You may think this very unnatural -- I can see you do -- but it isn't as unnatural as you might suppose, nor so common. A great many people don't like children, but few have the courage to say so...."
(From Wednesday, 3rd April) 
This seems pretty daring for the mid-1940s (let alone our own times!), doesn't it?

Unfortunately, I felt the book sort of petered out toward the end, with a brief and somewhat unsatisfying visit from Bryan and a rather abrupt conclusion that had me thinking, "That's it??"  This probably knocked a few points off my Goodreads rating.  Three stars.  Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable read from one of my favourite authors.

The fourth and final book in the Mrs. Tim series is "Mrs. Tim Flies Home," from 1952,  Before our group reads that, however, we'll be tackling "Kate Hardy" (1947) -- both books share the post-war setting of "Old Quinings." Unfortunately, this one hasn't been recently reissued, but I managed to obtain a (rather yellowed) used paperback online at a semi-decent price, and look forward to taking part in the discussions about that book this fall.

This was book #23 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 96% of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am 11 (!!) books ahead of schedule to meet my goal -- one more to go!! :)

Monday, July 8, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: 34

Saturday was our 34th (!) wedding anniversary. We didn't have anything special planned for this year -- no weekends away (although I suppose we could have organized something -- and probably will for next year). A lot going on right now, and I just didn't have the energy.

I wound up making reservations at a nearby Italian restaurant we've been wanting to try for a while now. (If it wasn't for all the construction and traffic hereabouts right now -- plus it was a really hot, humid day -- we could have walked there.)  We live in one of the most Italian areas of Toronto (just outside the city proper, actually), if not all of Canada;  we've been here three years now & -- apart from one fabulous pizzeria we've discovered -- have not yet dined at a proper Italian restaurant (!).  We invited SIL & BIL (who was our best man) to come with us, and we had a really nice time. Dh, SIL & I all had the spaghetti aglia e olio (garlic & olive oil) with rapini, which was wonderful (BIL had risotto). We went to another place afterward for gelato for dessert.

I didn't do a lot of reflection or reminiscing on this anniversary, because we've been so busy -- but I found myself looking at dh & thinking about how very lucky we are to have found each other at a relatively young age (I was 20 & he was 23 when we met, 24 & 27 when we married) & to still be together after 34 years of ups & downs, including stillbirth and infertility.

I know that not all marriages survive these tragedies. I know that not all women who want a partner find one, let alone have the children they hoped for. And even when you do find someone to share your life with, the years pass far too quickly. One of my high school friends lost her husband (about the same age) to cancer last year. Enough said.

I am profoundly grateful.

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

Monday, July 1, 2019

Right now

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

Reading:  I read 5 (!) books in June (all reviewed here on my blog):  

My Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge YTD total now stands at 22 books -- getting closer (92%) to reaching my goal of 24 for the year (already! -- just two more to go!!), and a whopping ELEVEN (!!) books ahead of schedule!

Last week, I attended my fourth meeting of the local library's book club, where we discussed "
The Three Weissmanns of Westport."  I was amused that most of the group members shared my own "meh!" reaction to this selection. ;)  I won't be around for the July meeting, and there is no meeting in August, so our next book & meeting won't be until September.  

(I chose not to read the July selection -- "A Guide for the Perplexed" by Dara Horn -- since there's plenty in my own TBR pile to keep me busy on vacation...!  Has anyone read that one? Should I have taken it out anyway??) 

Current reads:  
  • Mrs. Tim Gets a Job by D.E. Stevenson (for my online D.E. Stevenson book club/fan group --  related past posts here
  • Living the Life Unexpected by Jody Day (for a Gateway Women Community reading group -- we are going through it & discussing it, chapter by chapter, with some video guidance by Jody herself.). I read an earlier version of this book in 2013, "Rocking the Life Unexpected," and reviewed it here. An absolute must-read for anyone struggling with how to build a life without the children we'd wanted/hoped/expected to have. 
(Some) recent purchases/additions to the TBR pile: 
Watching:  We saw not just one, not just two, but THREE movies in June!

The first was "Rocketman," the "musical fantasy"/biopic of Elton John, whose music was a staple of my teenage years in the Seventies. (The guys at my school were CRUSHED when he came out as bisexual in the mid-70s... like the crazy outfits & glasses weren't a clue??  Of course, we were pretty innocent -- stuff like that just was not seen nor talked about back then -- maybe in New York or San Francisco, but definitely not in smalltown Prairie Canada.)  We both enjoyed it a lot.  I have never seen Elton in concert (tried but failed to get tickets to his farewell tour shows here in Toronto), but my sister has two tickets to his farewell tour concert in October, and says one of them is mine if I want it (and want to make another trip home). Dh looked at me as the credits rolled and the house lights came up and said, "You HAVE to go to that concert."  Let's just say I'm leaning heavily toward YES. ;) 

The second movie we saw was "Late Night," with the always-amazing Emma Thompson, in a part written specifically for her by her co-star, Mindy Kaling. Can I just say how great it was to see a woman my own age kicking it onscreen?? I think she deserves, if not an Oscar, at least a nomination. 

And the third was "Yesterday," which I mentioned in my latest #MicroblogMondays post, here. (Short take: we loved it!) 

There is not much on TV at the moment, but I've been watching season 3 of "The Handmaid's Tale."  I'm not sure my parents get Bravo (the TV channel it's on here) so I'm going to set the PVR while we're there. I may try to stream the episodes on my laptop as they become available, but their Internet service is not particularly high-speed, so we'll see...! 

Listening: I thoroughly enjoyed episode 1 of The Full Stop podcast, which launched earlier in June, and am looking forward to episode 2, coming soon. (Until then, there's a bonus episode -- outtakes from episode 1 -- available on the podcast website.) 

Drinking/Eating:  After three years living here, I finally persuaded dh to try a little cafe that is within a short walk of our condo (like, under five minutes)(even WITH all the construction that's making it more difficult for us to walk there right now!). The community where we now live is predominantly Italian, but this little eatery features Argentinian as well as Italian & other foods & sweets. They are open for breakfast & lunch, and their specialty is empanadas!  I haven't tried one of those yet, but so far, I've tried the quiche & salad special and a tuna melt sandwich on rye bread;  dh has already fallen in love with the grilled cheese sandwich. Once the road construction hereabouts ends (sometime later this year), I predict we will become regulars!

Buying (besides books, lol):  New summer clothes (badly needed) for dh :) -- including three pairs of new shorts, a pair of black Dockers and a new summer shirt.  

Wearing: My summer wardrobe... finally!  

Trying:  To figure out how to cram in everything I want & need to do before we leave on our trip west to see my family...! 

Wanting:  To get back to the McMichael Gallery soon (where I have a membership) to see their new Maud Lewis exhibit. I wrote about Maud, her work, and the recent movie based on her life, here

FeelingThat familiar "William Tell Overture" pre-trip feeling coming on, lol... 

Loving:  My family -- the one I came from, our west, and the one here that I married into. :)  

Canada Day odds & ends

  • It's Canada Day #152.  My country is not perfect... but it's more perfect than a lot of places on this planet, lol.  ;)  I feel incredibly lucky to be here. 
  • It's been a busy few days. (I am EXHAUSTED.) Saturday was the gender reveal party for Older Nephew & his wife's baby.  It was mostly just an excuse to get together with family, eat & then cut the cake to see what colour the filling inside was. 
    • They're doing ANOTHER reveal in two weeks for her side of the family -- various issues made it difficult/impossible to hold just one party -- and they asked us not to share anything on social media (or elsewhere!) until that one's over. I know it's not likely anyone would find out via this blog... but I'm going to hold off, just in case.  ;) 
    • It was mostly fun, especially just being together with the nephews & their wives, although all the baby talk does wear me down after a while. The hardest moment, for me, was when everyone started talking about how much fun it's going to be to have a baby around at Christmastime. I remembered telling my mom I was due in mid-November, and her rapturous sigh: "A baby for Christmas!!" 
    • It was also their dog's 3rd birthday. :)  Dh & I brought him a present -- 3 cucumbers, tied up with a ribbon (his favourite treat -- SIL cuts them up into little cubes for him and puts them his dish, and he gobbles them right up).  He's brought so much joy to the family in these past three years!  :)  Dh & I have vowed to give him some extra spoiling once the baby is here... we're all wondering what his reaction is going to be to this new addition to the family...!  
  • Yesterday, dh, BIL & SIL & I went to see.... "Yesterday," a rom-com which imagines a world where only one person remembers the Beatles & their music -- and then proceeds to make those amazing songs famous all over again. (There's a couple of other things that are different about the world too, that are kind of funny.) It's the kind of movie where it's best not to think too critically about the hows & whys, and just enjoy the ride. ;)  And there are a couple of scenes towards the end -- one in particular -- that pack an emotional wallop. (I needed Kleenex.) I often read a lot of reviews, etc., before I go to a movie. I didn't get around to it before this one (although I knew the movie's basic premise), and I'm kind of glad I didn't. (Past Beatles-related posts here.)  
  • I found out my aunt is in town (well, on the other side of the city, about an hour's drive away), visiting her son/my cousin (my only relative in the vicinity). We were in the throes of dealing with FIL's illness when she was here last year, and weren't able to meet up, and we have lots to do between now & when we head west in a few weeks.  If I don't get to see her here, I hope to see her there...!   

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