Thursday, January 21, 2021

Odds & ends

  • On yesterday's U.S. presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C.:  
    • So happy to watch -- and so relieved that everything came off without a hitch!  (I got up late, got watching TV and wound up staying in my pajamas, unshowered, until after 1 p.m...!)  I know my scale would beg to differ (lol) but it felt like a huge weight coming off my shoulders...!  
    • I cried as Justice Sonia Sotomayor swore in Vice-President Kamala Harris. I wish Geraldine Ferraro could have seen this day.  I was 23 years old when she became the first woman nominated for that post (alongside Walter Mondale in 1984);  it's taken nearly 40 years (!!!) for a woman to actually make it to the second-highest office in the land. (Just think how awesome it will feel the day Madam President is finally sworn in...!) 
    • I cried again when I saw a friend's photo on Facebook & Instagram of her young daughter, watching as Harris took the oath of office. I wish my daughter had been here to see this day too. 
    • The first post I saw in my Facebook feed yesterday morning was one of my American MAGA relatives posting "It's a sad day for America." I promptly put that person on snooze for 30 days (and am considering unfollowing altogether...). 
    • I was happy to watch the first edition of what's promised to be a regular, daily press briefing under the new administration, with press secretary Jen Psaki. I like her, and I am grateful for the change of tone -- a real, live, proper, serious press conference, minus the snark and disdain and overall lack of respect for the press we've been subjected to for the past four years. 
      • HOWEVER, that said... I noticed she used the phrase "as a mom" no less than two or three times in the first 20 minutes. Sigh... 
  • On the aging parents front: 
    • When I talked to my parents on Sunday, I learned my 81-year-old dad had slipped & fallen on some ice on Friday, while scraping fresh snow off the driveway. He had to CRAWL into the garage & managed to pull himself up on something in there. No bruising, but he was very sore... and the pain increased over the following days. 
    • My sister called me last night to say he FINALLY managed to get in to see a doctor that day (hard to do, with current COVID-19 restrictions...). He sent dad for an X-ray. Turns out he has two cracked ribs. :(  Not much they can do about it. He gave Dad some painkillers and told them it will take about a month to fully heal. :( 
    • My dad is the glue that holds things together there these days... my mother, who just turned 80, has mobility issues and is easily distracted (among other things), and so he does all the cooking, most of the grocery shopping & errands, etc.  
    • My sister says the buzz is that the provincial government there may be lifting some of the COVID-19 restrictions this weekend, which would allow her to visit them and do some things around the house (including cooking some meals she can leave with them for reheating). If so, she will head out there this weekend to do what she can (and she may just go, even if the restrictions aren't officially lifted).  One of Mom & Dad's neighbours has brought over dinner a couple of times this week, which is very kind of her, but obviously we can't expect her to do that forever. :( 
    • It could have been a whole lot worse... but it still sucks.  And it sucks to be living so far away at a time like this, even without the complicating factor of a pandemic. :(  
  • According to this vaccine calculator, dh & I won't be getting vaccinated until late June/early September (using current calculations, anyway). That means I won't be getting home to see my parents & sister this summer either, for the second year in a row. :(  I'm still hoping for next Christmas, though...! 
  • It's been dark, grey, dreary and increasingly cold outside... I feel my usual post-Christmas/birthday/inauguration funk setting in -- with the additional factor of COVID-19 this year...! :(  
  • We're a week into our latest lockdown/stay at home order... a week past our nomal "due date" for haircuts (7 weeks past our last trims)... and my shaggy, bushy hair is already driving me nuts. :(   And it will be another month, at the very least (and probably longer), before the salons will reopen...! I'm fine with wearing masks everywhere, social distancing, vaccinations, not going out for dinner, not going to the mall, even not going to the bookstore (lol)... but not getting a regular haircut?  HEEEELLLLLLPPPPPP.... 
  • Jody Day of Gateway Women has started a new project to explore life as a "Conscious Childless Elderwoman." Aging is a huge concern for many women facing life without children -- and yet most of the literature out there on menopause and aging assumes there are children and grandchildren in the picture who will help. That just not the case, even for many women (and men) who DO have children and grandchildren. Have a read, and sign up for the newsletter if you're interested! 

Monday, January 18, 2021

"The Jane Austen Society" by Natalie Jenner

I wouldn't call myself a Jane Austen expert, but I have read and enjoyed three of her novels (so far...!) -- "Emma" (for a class at university), "Pride and Prejudice" and "Sense and Sensibility" (on my own).  In the early days of ALI blogging, we read & discussed "The Jane Austen Book Club" by Karen Joy Fowler for our Barren B*tches book club

So I was predisposed to pick up "The Jane Austen Society" by Natalie Jenner (who, I discovered from the jacket copy, is a British-born Canadian, who owns an independent bookstore in Oakville, west of Toronto). (It didn't hurt that it was on sale for 40% off -- or that Anne Bogel/Modern Mrs. Darcy recommended it either, lol.)  

The story is mostly set in the English village of Chawton just after the Second World War. Chawton is a real-life place, where Jane Austen spent the last several years of her life and wrote her three final novels. More than 100 years after her death, she continues to attract visitors to the village. Loosely based on the story behind the real-life Jane Austen Society, the book follows a number of different (fictional) characters -- locals and others -- and how they come together to form the society to help preserve Austen's legacy. I'll admit I had trouble keeping all of them and their storylines straight, at least at first. By the end of the book, however, they had all become very dear to me, and I was cheering for them all (even as some of their storylines wrapped up in rather predictable ways...!).   

The book makes liberal references & allusions to Austen's novels, and it would probably help if you have at least some familiarity with her work.  If you haven't read any Austen previously, I'm betting you will probably want to pick one of her books up after you finish this one!  There are echoes here of "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" (which I've read a couple of times, and reviewed here) -- the similar post-war time frame, English village setting and the love of literature. 

**SPOILER/TRIGGER/ALI ALERT BELOW**:   

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There is a pregnancy loss in this book, and themes of grief & loss are prominent throughout.  

Four stars on Goodreads 

This was Book #3 read to date in 2021 (and Book #3 finished in January), bringing me to 8% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 2 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

"If they die, it isn't as bad"

Further to my #MicroblogMondays post, I found this thread on Twitter... honestly, sometimes I feel like a sitting duck as a childless woman... :(  







Indeed... :(  

#MicroblogMondays: "I have kids!!"

On Friday, I saw some of the officers who were at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on January 6th interviewed on CNN. One officer said the mob was beating him up and trying to take his gun (yelling, "Kill him with his own gun!"), and he was trying to figure out a way to humanize himself to them, establish a rapport with them, appeal to their humanity. 

Just guess what he yelled out to them?  "I HAVE KIDS!!"  

I can't blame him, of course -- and I guess it worked -- it didn't hurt, anyway. He's still here -- and I'm glad for that. 

But I couldn't help thinking, "What could *I* do in a situation like that?" And if somehow they found out I didn't have kids, would they still give me a pass? Would they think as kindly of me as they apparently regard a parent?  

The pronatalist privilege here is breathtaking -- the deeply embedded assumptions (a) that all/many of the people in the mob would have kids and thus be able to relate to him that way, & (b) that his life would somehow be deemed more valuable and worth saving because he was a parent. 

Thoughts? 

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

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Post-birthday odds & ends

  • Thank you for your birthday wishes (here and elsewhere). :)  Despite the fact that I was turning 60 (!) -- and wasn't on a beach somewhere, as I had hoped/planned (or doing much of anything else, because of COVID-19...!) -- it was a nice day. We went to the bank in the morning and stopped at the supermarket on the way home to pick up some of our favourite soup & pizza slices for lunch (the first time we'd had some since March!), as well as cupcakes for later, in lieu of a whole birthday cake (my request -- red velvet with cream cheese icing). 
    • Turns out I could have skipped the cupcakes -- a group of online friends that I've known for 15-20 years arranged to have a box of half a dozen pastries from a local bakery delivered to my door that afternoon. They also organized a Zoom call to wish me a happy birthday later that evening. We got to know each other on several different scrapbooking forums, following each other from one site to another, and I've met most of them "in real life" too. Not all of us scrapbook these days, but the friendships remain. :)  
      • Out of the 8 of us currently together on a Facebook group, there's just me and one other woman (who turned 60 last year) who are childless. At one point during our Zoom call, all the moms started talking about what their kids were doing for school (remote or in person or a combination thereof? how many classes per term? etc. etc.) -- and between that and all the wine I was drinking, I just about went to sleep (lol).  Then one of them said, "Hey, it's Lori's birthday and we're all talking about ourselves!"  Ummm, yeah!  (lol) It was the first time we'd tried a Zoom call, so everyone had a lot to catch up on -- I realize it was NOT all about me, even if it WAS my birthday -- but...! 
    • Our favourite Italian restaurant was closed for kitchen renovations (!), but we got takeout from another favourite local restaurant. (This is the same Italian restaurant that was closed on our wedding anniversary last summer, and the same restaurant we wound up ordering dinner from that day too.)   
    • My parents & sister called me, and my childhood best friend -- who doesn't do social media & is not that great about keeping in touch otherwise -- actually emailed me, which totally made my day. We don't see or hear from each other often these days, but whenever we are in touch, it's like we just saw each other yesterday, and we pick up where we left off. :) 
  • The same day as my birthday, the premier announced a new state of emergency and mandatory stay-at-home order for the next 28 days, adding further restrictions to the current lockdown that began at Christmastime. A friend noted this "present" when she emailed to wish me a happy birthday. I told her a stay-at-home order is better than insurrection at the Capitol, which is what my (American) mom got last week for her 80th birthday...! (or a multi-pronged terrorist attack, which is what my sister got for her 39th birthday on 9-11-01...!). 
  • The day before my birthday, we made the long drive down Yonge Street (Toronto's "main street," which divides the city into east and west sides) to our midtown dentist's office for cleanings and checkups. We hadn't been there since this time last year: our next scheduled appointments in July were cancelled because of COVID-19;  we later rescheduled for mid-November, but I rescheduled (again) so as not to jeopardize my scheduled diagnostic d&c. 
    • Both of us were slightly nervous to be at the dentist's during a pandemic -- but I didn't want to wait too long for a checkup... plus, the tea stains on my teeth were embarrassing. (Not that I've been many places for people to see them... and I'm generally wearing a mask when I'm out anyway...!)
    • The extra precautions they've taken were pretty impressive:  masks all round (of course), a virtual waiting room outside and a socially distanced one inside, plexiglass barriers and plenty of hand sanitizer in the reception area, treatment cubicles sealed off from each other with plastic sheeting and special air purifier/filter units in each one. The hygienists were not allowed to polish our teeth -- creates too many aerosols, apparently -- but mine promised she'd do her best to scrape off as much of the stains as she could, and she did a fabulous job. 
    • It ultimately turned out to be a good thing we went when we did:  my X-rays showed a small cavity developing below one of my oldest crowns. (I must admit I was flabbergasted -- I had no idea such a thing could happen.)  So I'm going back in a few weeks' time to have the crown removed, the cavity filled, a new temporary crown made and fitted, and then again a few weeks after that to have the permanent crown installed. (Again. UGH.)  I guess it's better than waiting too long and winding up with a root canal...?!  
    • I was sad to see how many more empty storefronts there were on Yonge Street along the way since the last time we drove down there last summer. :(   A sign of how the pandemic is negatively affecting businesses (both big & small) and restaurants. :(  

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

60 (!)

Sixty. I am SIXTY (60) YEARS OLD today. 

How can this be??  (Okay, some days my knees definitely feel it, but there are many other days I swear I'm not a day over 22...)  

I find myself thinking back to other "milestone" birthdays in my life. 

18 was "legal" age in my home province when I was growing up (still is). Being a January baby, I was the first one of my friends to turn 18 (in January 1979), and at any rate, many of my closest friends were actually a year younger than me, in my sister's class. 

(I'm not sure I've told this story on this blog, but here it is...!) One of our friends hosted a surprise party for me, with all of our friends (from school band) attending. Despite the fact that all of them were younger than me, there was alcohol. My sister's best friend, who had just turned 16 -- the Baptist minister's daughter, no less (!) -- had little experience with drinking, and had two different guys bringing her drinks (without each other knowing) -- and was downing them like they were Kool-Aid. She got very, very drunk, threw up all over herself, and passed out. She had a curfew -- and her parents started calling to find out where she was. At one point, we dumped her in a cold shower to try to sober her up. Her parents called again to say they were coming to get her. One of the guys had to carry her out to the car -- she was heavy and he DROPPED her in the snow, right in front of her horrified father -- who promptly took her to the hospital, where they pumped her stomach -- and then tried to pump her for information as to who had been at the party and who had served her the alcohol. She said she couldn't remember (and she probably didn't...!). 

Needless to say, the party broke up soon after they left -- which was a good thing because, since she was a minor, the hospital notified the police -- who paid the party host a visit, well after midnight. They woke up everyone in the house and confiscated the contents of my friend/host's mom's liquor cabinet (which I still feel guilty about, 40+ years later -- she was a lovely lady...). As I said, I was the only person at the party who'd been of legal age. I was terrified that I'd be held responsible, and jumped every time the phone rang for weeks afterward...!  

I don't really remember what I did when I turned 20 in 1981. I *think* my boyfriend at the time (not dh) & I went out for pizza and to a movie. I remember the next birthday (21 in 1982 -- which is also a milestone birthday, in some jurisdictions!) much better. I went out for dinner with a girlfriend & then we went downtown to see the (very long, but wildly romantic) movie "Reds" with Warren Beatty & Diane Keaton at one of those grand old movie palaces that are in sadly short supply these days. I think we even sat in the balcony!  And then we walked (across a bridge near the beautiful legislature building, in softly falling snow) to an ice cream parlour in a trendy section of the city and had sundaes. :)  (Needless to say, on a cold winter's night in January, we had the place to ourselves, lol.)  And then back to my dorm at the university, where my sister (who lived in another dorm on campus) was waiting with a cake that my mom had given her money to buy. My dorm floormates all sang "Happy Birthday" to me and gave me the "royal bumps" before having cake. It was a great birthday. :)  I had my entire adult life ahead of me -- and, within days, I would go to a social (dance) where I'd connect with a cute guy from Toronto, whom I'd met earlier that fall at another party. ;)  (Guess who?)  I didn't know it then, but my life was about to change in some pretty big ways.  I still think of those years at university as some of the best times of my life.    

My mom turned 50 less than a week before I turned 30 (in January 1991), and we shared a cake when I was home at Christmastime.  Mom had NOT been happy about turning 30, 20 years earlier (in January 1971).  This was back in the days when young people were telling each other not to trust anyone over 30, and 30 seemed like "over the hill." (I KNOW, right??) As a gag, the neighbours (all of them older than she was) presented her with a box full of things she'd need as she turned 30:  a pair of old-fashioned lace-up shoes (with a note attached: "For your old feet"), a pair of wire-rimmed "granny glasses" ("For your old eyes"), a corset ("For your old body"), etc.  Mom saved the box and its contents, and when one of those friends' daughters turned 30 -- a few years before I did --  she was presented with "the box." As soon as I unwrapped "the box" myself, I knew what it was, lol.  

I had a good job that I liked, we'd been married five years and just bought a house that spring -- and I knew that sometime in the next few years, we'd start that family we'd always wanted. The future was wide open... 

What a difference 10 years makes. Turning 40 (in January 2001) was another matter altogether. I was still in the same job, same house, but right in the middle of fertility treatments -- a last-chance, desperate attempt to get pregnant again, following the stillbirth of my daughter at 26 weeks, 2 & 1/2 years earlier. I spent my actual birthday getting pampered at a downtown spa (massage, facial, manicure & pedicure and lunch) -- but I spent part of that weekend at (drumroll please...) a baby shower for one of dh's cousins. Just what every bereaved mother/childless-not-by-choice/infertility patient wants to do on her FORTIETH birthday weekend, right??  

A week or two later, I noticed this funny, burning/itching bubbly-looking patch on my neck. Dh happened to have a doctor's appointment the next morning, so I tagged along and asked if the doctor could have a quick look at me too. He took one look and said, "I think it's shingles."

SHINGLES?? He told me it can be stress induced. (Stressed?  Who, me?? Why on earth would I be stressed, right??  :p  ) He promptly wrote me a prescription, which helped nip the spread in the bud, thank goodness.... but it took them a few weeks to disappear.  

I regard my 40s through a haze, as a kind of lost decade. Six months after my 40th birthday, my third IUI cycle failed. A few weeks after that, I had a scary episode that I thought might be a heart attack, but turned out to be a panic attack. Then I had another one, and another. I knew I couldn't continue with fertility treatments & stay sane (never mind the drain on our bank account...!).  We went on vacation for a few weeks to the serenity of the Oregon coast, surrounded by loving family members, and when we returned, we never went back to the RE's office.  

It took me a good five years to come to some level of acceptance that I was not going to have children, that this was my life now... so now what? 

I think I'm still trying to figure out the answer to that one... 

By the time I turned 50 (in 2011), I had discovered blogging. (You can read my thoughts on turning 50 here.) I spent the day at the spa, again. When I look back now, it feels like my early 50s were mostly about socking away money and surviving the increasing pressure I felt at work, with the goal of early retirement at 55 (or 56, when I'd been with the company 30 years). MAYBE 60. (Because, as someone who didn't have kids to feed, clothe or send to college, I could!)(Silver linings...)  

But by the time Birthday #55 rolled around (January 2016 -- relevant blog post here), I had lost my job. My severance package was on the verge of running out, and my early retirement pension was about to kick in, and we were about to put our house of unfulfilled dreams on the market (after 26 years living there), move across the metropolitan area and buy a condo -- with my dh dragging me there, kicking & screaming all the way. In retrospect, it's been a good move for us -- got us out of the rut we'd been in, and closer to dh's brother and our nephews. We love the condo, and while not everything has been perfect, I am glad we made the move (and cleared out our house), and did it now and not 20 years from now. 

It's hard to believe we've been in this condo almost five years. Our two wonderful nephews are now grown up and married, and we have an adorable little great-nephew who brightens all our lives. Sadly, our time with him in this first precious year of his life has been cut short by the COVID-19 global pandemic. Likewise, any thoughts we had of FINALLY getting to do some of the travelling we've been talking about for years have been postponed. :( 

This time last year, looking out the window at grey skies and freezing rain, I vowed that my 60th birthday would (finally) be spent on a beach somewhere.  Oh well...!  

Sixty years goes by fast, people.  One day you're 20, then you're 40, and suddenly you're 60. Enjoy your life, and make the most of your time here. I haven't always done that (and COVID sure isn't helping matters...!) -- but for every 2020, there's also a 1982 (see birthday #21 ;)  ).  And as long as there's a tomorrow, we can just keep on trying. ;)  

Monday, January 11, 2021

#MicroblogMondays: A (not so) happy birthday, Mom...

Last Wednesday morning, we took down the Christmas tree. I called my (American, once-staunchly Republican) mother just before lunch to wish her a happy 80th birthday.* After lunch, I took my shower, and shortly after 2 p.m., I settled into the easy chair with a cup of tea and my laptop to browse my social media feeds. It wasn't too much later that I saw a post on Twitter and exclaimed to dh, "The Capitol is on lockdown." He turned on CNN, and we spent the next several hours watching in horror as an insurrection -- incited by the President of the United States himself -- unfolded on live television. 

My mother is American, my father is Canadian. I was born in Canada (in a small border town) and have always identified as a proud Canadian. Nevertheless, the United States and American culture loomed large in my life -- as it does for most Canadians, I suppose. After all, 90 per cent of Canadians live within 160 kilometres (about 100 miles) of the U.S. border. We go to the U.S. to shop and vacation and visit friends and relatives (at least, we did, pre-COVID -- the border has been closed to non-essential traffic since mid-March). We grow up absorbing books, movies and TV from the U.S., often to the detriment of our own culture.  As one former prime minister (current PM Justin's father Pierre) put it so well, we're like a mouse "sleeping with an elephant." Many Canadians know more about U.S. history and politics than we do about our own. 

I got an extra dose of Americana, of course, because of my American mother & relatives and spending several weeks of every summer in Minnesota, when I was growing up. I gobbled up books about Abraham Lincoln, Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone ("On Indian Trails With Daniel Boone" and "By Secret Railway," both by Enid LaMonte Meadowcroft, were HUGE favourites of mine) -- and of course the Little House on the Prairie books. I took American history as an elective in Grade 11 (Canadian history was mandatory in Grade 10).  I've wanted to go to Washington D.C. ever since I read "The Bobbsey Twins Go to Washington," lol. (I would still love to go there someday -- hopefully in a calmer political climate...) 

My grandparents went to Washington D.C. for the day when they went to Baltimore to visit my Grandma's youngest sister (my great-aunt), who was living there at the time. This was somewhere around 1974-75 (and I just realized, as I typed that, that my grandmother would have been 60 in 1974 -- the same age I am going to be later this week... GULP...). My mother's cousin/Grandma's niece and her boyfriend took them into the city and showed them the highlights. They were thrilled. They had their picture taken in front of the White House, and drove by the Capitol. They sent my sister & me postcards from the Smithsonian museum with pictures of the First Ladies' dresses on them (Martha Washington's and Mary Todd Lincoln's, if I remember correctly).

I kept thinking about that, and about them, on Wednesday. Those beautiful, historic buildings, and the awe and reverence my grandparents had for them. 

They've both been gone for more than 20 years now.  I miss them every day. But I am glad they were not around to see what happened. :(  

* (After this post was mostly written, I had a flashback to emailing my sister, shortly before 9 a.m. on the morning of her 39th birthday. And then dh calling me a few minutes later to tell me that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Centre. It was September 11, 2001. Yikes!)   

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