Monday, July 6, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: 35

Today is our 35th (!!) wedding anniversary!  And -- like most things so far this year -- it hasn't unfolded exactly the way we hoped. 

Usually on our anniversary, we'd at least go out for a celebratory dinner... and we've always made a point of doing something a little more for those anniversaries divisible by 5 or 10: 
(You can see all my anniversary-related posts here.) 

I didn't have any concrete plans in mind for this one earlier in the year, but I assumed we'd do something similar -- a trip somewhere, perhaps -- back to Banff, where we spent part of our honeymoon? PEI? Newfoundland? Montreal? New York? Maybe even (finally!) to the U.K. or Italy for a few weeks, on our own or with a tour of some kind??  

Then along came COVID --  and so much for any thought of going anywhere, even out for dinner. :(  We could, of course, have made a reservation for a restaurant patio somewhere -- they're open hereabouts -- but neither dh nor I are quite ready to do that yet. 

We decided we'd order takeout from our favourite Italian restaurant... only to learn that they're not open on Mondays (!).  

So this afternoon (when it's hopefully less busy/fewer people around), we're treating ourselves to our first gelatos of the season/year (we'll eat it outside of the shop). (The forecast is 32C/90F -- not counting humidity -- and sunshine.)  And tonight, we'll order in from another favourite restaurant that recently reopened for patio dining and takeout/delivery (and offers half-price bottles of wine for takeout orders, lol).  And then hopefully find something good on TV/Netflix to watch.

Over the past 35 years, we've endured some of the hardest things a couple can go through: stillbirth, infertility, acceptance of permanent involuntary childlessness, anxiety and depression (both of us), job loss (x2!), and the loss of a parent. There were times (especially in those early years) when we were flat broke, and up to our eyeballs in debt.  

But we've also had a lot of fun. :)  We've laughed a lot together, travelled a bit, been to some great movies & plays & concerts together (Springsteen, twice), and spent umpteen hours browsing in bookstores (something we both love to do). We've watched two awesome nephews grow up from babies to fine young men, get married, and just this past year, we met our first great-nephew. :)  We've lived in some pretty nice places:  a charming old apartment in the city's upscale midtown district, a cozy suburban house and now a condo. 

We're still here, still together, still healthy (crossing our fingers and knocking wood!). And we hope we'll have many more opportunities to celebrate many more anniversaries. (But hopefully without the shadow of COVID hanging over us...!)    

Who could have imagined THIS back in 1985??!  

Let nothing (including masks) stand in the way of true love, lol. 

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

Saturday, July 4, 2020

"Jane of Lantern Hill" by L.M. Montgomery

This is the cover of the edition of "Jane" 
that I have, purchased in January 1982 
(although I first read the book 
from the library in the early 1970s). 
The Facebook group readathon of L.M. Montgomery's "Rilla of Ingleside" that I took part in recently was such a huge success the organizers have decided we should continue discussing another Lucy Maud Montgomery book over the summer months. 

"Jane of Lantern Hill" is one of Montgomery's later books (published in 1937), and one of the very few books she wrote that's not fully set in Prince Edward Island (parts of it take place in Toronto, where Montgomery lived from 1935 until her death in 1942). Toronto seemed just as far away as PEI when I first read this book as a pre-teen (about the same age as Jane) in the early 1970s, and reading it again today (for the first time in many years) and knowing the city as I do now, it's fun trying to envision where Jane's grandmother's gloomy old mansion in Gay Street might have been located (the Annex? Rosedale?), or what girls' school she had in mind when she wrote about St. Agatha's (St. Clements?), etc. etc. I suspect Eatons or Simpsons department stores (both now gone, although the Simpsons building is now home to both Hudson Bay and Saks Fifth Avenue) was the model for Marlborough's, and when she describes the streetcar, or mentions Forest Hill or the Kingsway or Union Station, I can picture exactly what she's writing about. 

Eleven-year-old Jane lives in that gloomy old mansion on Gay Street with her beautiful socialite mother, colourless spinster aunt and cold, dictatorial grandmother. Her father is dead -- or so she thinks, until a schoolmate spills the secret that he's actually alive and living on Prince Edward Island. He is a forbidden subject in the house on Gay Street, but Jane hates him because of the pain she sees in her mother's eyes when he is mentioned. 

Then, out of the blue, a letter arrives that changes Jane's life: her father wants her to come spend the summer with him on PEI. She dreads the meeting -- but of course, she instantly falls in love him -- and with PEI.  The only thing that would make life more perfect would be to have Mother there with them...

This has always been one of my very favourite Montgomery novels (sorry, Anne of Green Gables! lol). I love the contrast between gloomy Toronto and glorious PEI... the fairy tale/magical aspects of the story (the wicked grandmother, the tragic princess -- Jane's mom -- locked up in the castle, etc.)... the wonderful relationship that develops between Jane and her father... Jane's growing sense of self-confidence... and of course, those amazing descriptions (especially of PEI)!

I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to re-read this book (I'm not sure I've touched it since I first bought the paperback copy in my collection, 38 years ago...!), but when I picked it up again and started reading, the years fell away and the memories came flooding back. I read the first 90 pages in the blink of an eye. I'm so happy to get reacquainted with Jane again, and discuss her adventures other "Lantern Hill" & Montgomery lovers. 

A few slight caveats:  The book is a bit dated in some respects -- in its attitudes towards divorce, for example (and its somewhat unrealistic wish-fulfillment ending). There's an adoption that marks a happy ending for one secondary character, but the conversation leading up to it will likely give the modern reader (especially one who knows anything about adoption) some pause...!  An episode in which Jane becomes a national heroine is a bit ridiculous.  And there's a certain anti-Semitic slur used that made me wince when I read it. I decided I could not quite give it 5 stars. But overall, I still love it. 
4 stars on Goodreads. 

I will be following along with the Facebook group discussion, chapter by chapter, as I did with "Rilla of Ingleside," and will mark this as a re-read when we're finished. (One way to meet my Goodreads challenge goal for the year, lol.)  ;)  

This was Book #20 read to date in 2020 (Book #2 finished in July). I'm currently at 67% of my 2020 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 30 books, and am (for the moment, anyway...!) 5 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)

Friday, July 3, 2020

Friday night odds & ends

  • Life in the age of COVID-19 chugs along. Most days I'm fine with staying at home -- but there are days when I start to go a little stir crazy... and it's even harder for dh. (We haven't even been able to go out walking this week, because it's been so horribly hot & humid.)
    • I think it's hard (a) because it's been going on for so long now & (b) there's some semblance of normal life starting to unfold out there now (patio dining & malls reopening, for example). It's tempting to think that things ARE back to normal -- and I think some (a lot?) of people have deluded themselves that they are. (A CNN report I saw earlier today said Canada is "crushing the curve."  I said to dh, "I'm not sure we can really say that." He told me I was being too typically Canadian, lol.)  
    • The numbers are (finally) heading in the right direction, but we can't afford to be complacent. The virus has not disappeared (as certain parts of the U.S. are sadly finding out). And so we slog along... 
    • We visited the hair salon last week for the first time in 17 (!!)  weeks, and we've been seeing a little more of BIL & family lately (including Great-Nephew :)  ) -- still not hugging, but not exactly distanced either -- but that's about as far as we've ventured beyond the confines of our condo, other than dh's weekly grocery/pharmacy/takeout dinner expeditions. 
  • We WILL be venturing further afield next week, to midtown (where we lived when we were first married).  Optometrist appointment for me to check on my wonky eyes. I still get flashes in both eyes, but it's not that noticeable (I mostly see them when I turn out the lights & get into bed). 
    • I probably could also use a change in my prescription (something we discussed the last time I was there -- I've had my current glasses for almost 6 years now), but I'm not sure I want to hang around the office longer than I have to, trying on new frames (& then come all the way back into midtown again to pick them up, while COVID is still a factor). (I know there are stores like LensCrafters where you can shop for frames too, but I've always just bought them from my optometrist... he has a pretty good selection!) 
    • The office called a few weeks ago to change the time of the appointment by a few minutes (to allow for social distancing, they said), and then again this week to confirm and to remind me to wear a mask. 
    • I've worn glasses since I was 7, and both of my parents as well as my sister wear glasses. Dh has had them since he was in his early 20s. I always wonder whether Katie would have had to wear glasses too... genetics were probably not in her favour in that respect! 
  • I spilled a glass of water the other day. It was sitting on a coaster on the corner of the coffee table. I'm not quite sure how it happened. It not full, thankfully (and it didn't break), but there was still enough water in it to wreak some havoc. While some of the water splashed onto the top of the table & onto the floor below, most of it (unfortunately) wound up inside the coffee table drawer (which was open) and on top of the things inside, including my Filofax datebook, which was open to the week's two pages. The ink is all smudged and blurred now, and one of the post-it notes I had in there is now permanently glued to the page, it seems -- and the edges of the last several pages of "Daisy Jones and the Six" got soaked -- but I quickly emptied the drawer of its contents, wiped everything down and soaked up the water inside with a rag, and then left the drawer open for a few hours to dry it out thoroughly. It could have been a lot worse, but I still hate when stuff like that happens...! :p 
  • The wonderful people who organized the recent "Rilla of Ingleside" Facebook readathon have invited us to participate in another FB readathon of a Lucy Maud Montgomery book, and it's another of my LMM favourites: "Jane of Lantern Hill." I even have a copy in my collection here (with the date of purchase, January 1982, written with my name in the flyleaf, although I first read the book back in the 1970s).  It's been quite a long time since I read this one, so I am looking forward to revisiting it again in the company of other Montgomery fans. :)  Comfort reads rule! (and especially right now!)  ;)  

Thursday, July 2, 2020

"Normal People" (again) by Sally Rooney

Thank you for bearing with me as I watched (& raved about, here on this blog, lol) the television adaptation of Sally Rooney's novel "Normal People" these past six weeks.  I watched the final two episodes yesterday, and then finished re-reading the novel. I'd been following along as the episodes unfolded, two at a time.

I sobbed through the last 10 minutes or so of that last episode (much to dh's bemusement, lol)... not just because of Marianne & Connell's story, and how beautifully it was unfolding on screen, but also because it reminded me of my own youth & my own story, mine & dh's.

I did not have Marianne's abusive family issues (thank goodness!).  But I could relate to her insecurity and lack of self-esteem. Like her, I was considered "smart" and bookish as a child/teenager, and thus regarded as a bit of an oddity in school. Thank goodness for school band and drama club in high school, because otherwise, I didn't really feel like I fit in. In many ways, life for me began at university (as it did for Marianne).

My relationship with dh (whom I met in my third year) was nowhere near as fraught as Connell & Marianne's, but we did find ourselves thrust into a long-distance romance that summer, when he didn't get accepted into the MBA program at the university where we met (but did get accepted to two other schools elsewhere). I stayed in Manitoba & finished my four-year bachelor of arts program while he went through the first year of business school. This was in the early 1980s, long before the Internet, or even cheap long distance telephone calls. We wrote & sent each other actual pen & ink letters (all of which I still have), and called each other on the phone once a week for an hour or so (and then I hustled like crazy for tips at my part-time waitressing job at a pizza restaurant, so I could pay the phone bill without asking my parents for extra money, lol). And he came to visit me a couple of times, over Christmas & study week.

The next spring, I applied to several journalism programs and got accepted to one at a school two hours by train away from his. It was a year-long program that started in May and went through to the next April (with breaks in August and at Christmastime). We saw each other just about every weekend -- in his city or mine, or we'd meet up on the train and travel into Toronto to visit his family.  Then we both graduated (and got engaged, and started planning a wedding for the following year).  He went back to Toronto to look for work, and I went back to live with my parents, and unexpectedly found a reporting job there to fill my time and pad both my pocketbook & my resume until we were married. (Living together was not an option for us, and with no jobs and no money, we didn't have a whole lot of choices.)  My parents & I spent time with him & his dad that summer when we came east to attend my convocation.  He came west for visits later that summer, and for Christmas, and for our marriage prep weekend, and I came to Toronto later that spring, before our wedding, to apartment hunt.

And next week we'll have been married 35 years. Sometimes these things do work out. :)

Four Goodreads stars (again) for the book. Unlimited stars for the TV version. Seriously, if there is justice in the universe, it will win every award it's eligible for. It's wonderful. :)

This was Book #19 read to date in 2020 (Book #1 finished in July). I'm currently at 63% of my 2020 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 30 books, and am (for the moment, anyway...!) 5 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Right now

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

June was Full Month #3 (going on 4) of life in the age of COVID-19. I FINALLY got my hair cut last week!! and we've been to see BIL & family (including Great-Nephew) three times, but otherwise (aside from walks around the neighbourhood), we've stayed pretty close to home since March 12th. Dh continues to make 
weekly (or so) expeditions to the supermarket/drugstore, and for takeout on Saturday nights. 

I feel like some of these answers will be repetitive from previous months, since not a lot has been going on... but here goes!

ReadingMy COVID reading drought/slowdown continues, although I did better this month than last.  All I can say is thank goodness for online book groups, and re-reads. ;)  

I read 4 books in June (reviewed on this blog & tagged "2020 books"):  
So far this year, I've read 18 books.  I'm currently at 60% of my Goodreads 2020 Reading Challenge goal of 30 books, and (despite slacking off somewhat) I'm currently 4 books ahead of schedule.  

Current read(s):   
  • "Normal People" by Sally Rooney (a re-read along with episodes of the BBC TV adaptation -- see "Watching," below)(previous blog review here).
  • "Daisy Jones & the Six" by Taylor Jenkins Reid, which I read & enjoyed last year (blog review here), and which the newly rebooted Gateway Women book club is currently reading & discussing. 
  • "White Rage" by Carol Anderson, which has been in my TBR pile for a very long time, and which I finally opened after the events in Minneapolis and elsewhere in late May/earlier this month. 
We still haven't been back to our local mega-bookstore since March 12th.  :(  It reopened on May 19th, but we've been in no hurry to return...! I have, however, been buying e-books for my Kobo e-reader and Amazon Kindle phone app -- most of them older titles bought at deep discounts ($5 or less), but some recent releases too.  A few recently purchased titles:  
Watching:  I so enjoyed watching "Mrs. America" on FX (Hulu in the States), which ended in mid-June, and would highly recommend it :) (although I understand Gloria Steinem was not impressed, lol).  It's about the 1970s battle to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, with Phyllis Schlafly and her Eagle Forum versus Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm, Bella Abzug and a host of familiar (and not-so-familiar) feminist figures of the time. Even though it depicts events that happened 40-50 years ago, it explains a lot about the current political situation in the U.S.    

And if you loved (or even just liked) Sally Rooney's novel "Normal People," 
which I read last fall, you MUST watch "Normal People," the TV adaptation.  Here in Canada, it's available on the CBC's Gem streaming service -- two half-hour episodes released every Wednesday for six weeks (10 of the 12 episodes available so far -- I will be watching the final 2 later today!). (It's on Hulu in the States, and was on the BBC in the UK earlier this year.)  I almost always find myself preferring the book to the TV or movie version, but this is amazing. Paul Mescal & Daisy Edgar-Jones, who play Connell & Marianne, are sheer perfection in the roles -- they have wonderful chemistry together, and deserve every award available for their performances. I am very sorry to see it end. (I've been re-reading the relevant chapters of the book after I watch each new episode!) 

I understand there's been a huge clamour for a sequel (to the TV show, if not the book itself) -- a "season/series 2" -- which Rooney says she has no interest in doing. I'm with her. Sequels are, by & large, disappointing... some things are perfect in & of themselves, even if they don't wrap everything up with a neat little bow, and leave you wanting more. BUT -- the Mescal & Edgar-Jones did recently reprise their characters of Marianne & Connell in a short film for a fundraiser in Ireland -- along with another character from another beloved British show, which I haven't seen but have heard enough about to get the joke. ;)  The complete video is embedded in this story, here. (They even SING... seriously, is there nothing these actors can't do??) 

Listening:  (Not right now, because it's daytime, but...!)  To fireworks going off. Almost every night lately. All the usual big civic displays have been cancelled because of COVID, but people can still buy and set them off on the traditional holidays (Victoria Day, Canada Day)... and some people, it seems save them up & set them off year round (!).  We could see fireworks from our windows on Father's Day (??) & for several nights afterward. Monday night, I got woken up around midnight by some loud bangs that sound like they were coming from very close by. Last night, the noise (& some displays, visible above the trees behind the townhouses) started just after sunset. It sounded like a barrage of artillery fire. And Canada Day evening isn't even until tonight!!  Sure, I enjoy a good fireworks display -- but on the appropriate occasions, and at a reasonable hour -- not EVERY FRICKIN' NIGHT!!  (Rant over...!) 

(Un)Following:  I feel a bit guilty about this, but I actually snoozed someone on Facebook recently, and am considering making it an "unfollow" once the 30 days of the snooze period are up... a very nice (slightly) older woman we both know, who never posts anything overly political or otherwise offensive (unlike most of the other people I've unfollowed, or been tempted to unfollow!)... but who floods my feed daily with dozens and DOZENS (I'm not exaggerating, I actually counted -- there were something like 60 (!!) posts one day and 40+ posts another!! -- and that's typical...!) of memes, videos, and reposted memories, mostly old photos of her kids and grandkids. I don't feel like I'm missing anything consequential so far.

Drinking: Iced tea, on the balcony, with a good book (when it's not too hot & humid out there). Ahhh!

Eating: Restaurant patios are now open hereabouts (albeit not the dining rooms themselves) -- and although I think I'd feel safer on a patio than inside, we're still in no hurry to head out to eat where there are other people yet.  We have been ordering takeout and enjoying a bit of variety (and a reprieve from cooking!) on recent Saturday nights. :)  

Thinking:  About what to do to make our upcoming 35th wedding anniversary at least a LITTLE special (if only a special takeout dinner, lol).  

Buying (besides books, lol):  (Still) Not much! Most stores & malls are now open here (with social distancing measures in place), but I am still not in any big hurry to go shopping. I wrote about my recent attempt at online shopping here. ;)  As I commented to Mali there -- even if my online shopping experience was better, perhaps it's best for my wallet that I don't do it too often...??  ;)  

Wearing:  Still mostly wearing denim shorts and capri-length yoga pants around the house & outside for walks. I got out my denim capris for the first time since last summer to wear to visit BIL/Great-Nephew and then to the hairdresser's. I have not been on a scale since early on in the pandemic, and I kind of held my breath as I put them on, but fortunately, they still do fit!  #winning 

Walking:  Not enough lately. We started doing some walking again in April, didn't really get into the regular habit until the last week of May, were doing pretty well for most of June (at least half an hour, 3-5 times a week)... and then the hot, humid weather hit. Ugh!  

Wanting:  A little more variety in the day (without sacrificing safety too much) would be nice...?? Dh is bored silly right now. I generally do better than he does on that front, but even I can get a bit stir-crazy from time to time. (I'm generally a homebody... but this is ridiculous...!)  ;)  

Enjoying:  My short, cool, easy to care for, nicely trimmed hair (again!)!! 

Celebrating:  Canada Day, today! (albeit the celebrations will be very subdued this year...!)  So thankful for my country!

Trying:  Not to think too much about what we're missing out on (see below). Trying to be grateful that we're in a position to sit tight and stay safe at home, and that the numbers here are trending downward (albeit more slowly than we'd like).

Missing:  M
y family. Right now, I should be counting down the days to our departure west, and calling my sister to wrap up last-minute details for our parents' 60th wedding anniversary party. It feels very strange not to have a summer visit home to look forward to, and to not know when that next visit will be. I'm reminded of summer 2018, when I didn't get home either for the first time in many years (because of FIL's final illness and then death in early August).  But even then, I knew that we would probably be heading home to see my family for (Canadian) Thanksgiving in October, or Christmas (as usual) at the very latest. Right now, I'm not keen to fly... and more importantly, there's not much point in making the trip so long as Manitoba's 14-day quarantine for all out-of-province visitors is in place. 

I know that even Christmas is by no means guaranteed. Just crossing my fingers and hoping and praying that the situation will improve by then... :( 

Loving: Being able to see little Great-Nephew again more regularly. :) 

Feeling:  Mostly upbeat, but occasionally despondent over the state of the world right now. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

"Katherine Wentworth" by D.E. Stevenson

"Katherine Wentworth," first published in 1964, is the latest book we're reading & discussing on my D.E. Stevenson fan group. 

Katherine is a young widow in Edinburgh, mother to a teenaged stepson and lively boy/girl twins. A chance meeting with her old school friend Zilla leads to a new friendship with Zilla's older brother Alec, as well as a delightful family holiday at Zilla's cottage in the Scottish Highlands. Meanwhile, Katherine's stepson Simon receives an unexpected letter that has enormous implications for his future, and for the family as a whole. Themes of independence versus duty and family expectations run throughout the book and through the lives of several of its characters. 

I wouldn't say this was my favourite Stevenson book, but overall, I enjoyed it. Like most of her work, it's perhaps a bit old-fashioned, but full of well-drawn characters with strong morals, and wonderful descriptions. Some of the plotlines seemed a bit ludicrous (so many convenient coincidences, and developments that you can see coming from a mile away...) -- and there are two characters who are so narcissistic and controlling it made ME feel suffocated! -- but Katherine herself is a sympathetic character, and I appreciated her determination to live an independent life and to bring up her children the way their father would have wanted. The book doesn't dwell on Katherine's grief over her husband's untimely death, or how difficult it must have been for her to rebuild her life with only her "elderly" (at 60!!) aunt to support her, but there are some hints of these themes here and there. 

I've often described Stevenson's books as the literary equivalent of comfort food... and goodness knows we could all use a bit of comfort right about now!  

3.5 stars on Goodreads, rounded up to 4.  

We'll be discussing the sequel to this book, "Katherine's Marriage," a little further down the road. (From the title of that one, you can probably guess at how this one ends, lol.)  

This was Book #18 read to date in 2020 (Book #4 finished in June). I'm currently at 60% of my 2020 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 30 books, and am (for the moment, anyway...!) 4 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)

Monday, June 29, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: COVID hair, begone!!

Last Friday was the long-awaited day!!  SEVENTEEN (17)(!!!) weeks after our last haircuts on Feb. 28th (!), and one week after hair salons were allowed to reopen locally, we were back in our regular stylist's chair to (FINALLY!)  get rid of our "COVID hair"!

Before:  taken the morning of our hair appointment, before showering.
I posted this on social media, and a few friends said they rather liked the look of my longer hair! 
It actually doesn't look that bad in this photo...
but LIVING with it hanging in my eyes & face was another matter entirely...! 

Taken (by dh) after I washed my hair & combed it straight down.
You can see how long it had become! 
(I didn't use any styling products before my appointment either.) 

SO much better!!! 

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