Monday, December 5, 2022

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

(Not a "micro" post this week, but it's what I've got...!)  :) 
  • Friday morning, we drove with BIL & SIL to a nearby mall to meet up with Older Nephew, his wife and her mother, and watch Little Great-Nephew have his photo taken with Santa! I will admit I got a bit teary as I watched (while snapping photos madly with my own cellphone camera!) -- but I would not have missed it for the world!! Santa was just wonderful with him -- it was the same Santa LGN had his photo taken with when he was just a few weeks old, that last pre-pandemic Christmas (2019) -- and as we left, I heard him chuckling and saying "Isn't he cute?" to one of the elf assistants/photographers. ;) (Hey, he's Santa!  He should know, right??  lol)  
    • No, we didn't get our photo taken too, lol. LGN had an appointment, and there were other families waiting, so I didn't ask if they could squeeze us in too. It was LGN's day! Maybe another time!  :)  
    • We thought we arrived in plenty of time -- it was just before 10:30 a.m., and LGN's appointment was for 10:45. BIL told us that Santa was at the one end of the mall, so that's where we parked.  This was at the other end of the mall from where I knew Santa had always been, pre-pandemic -- but hey, a lot of things have changed since then, right?  
      • But then, as we were walking in, Older Nephew texted SIL that they -- and Santa -- were near Entrance #X... on the opposite end of the mall. (In other words, right where he's always been!  lol)  This is a HUGE mall -- the full circuit around it is 1.7 km, or 0.85 km from one end to the other. That's approximately half a mile -- and we had less than 15 minutes to get there!  We probably would have been better off going back to the car & driving around to the right entrance, but we wound up speed walking all the way there, arriving just in time!  (Dh, SIL & I were all wearing masks, too -- and none of us are spring chickens...!)  
    • Afterward, we walked back down to the other end of the mall again (near where we had parked) -- at a more leisurely pace this time, lol -- stopping in the Lego store along the way. "HOLY COW!"  exclaimed LGN, dazzled by all the Lego -- especially the models of the Star Wars Deathstar and Roman Coliseum on display!    
    • We all wound up going for lunch together at a restaurant within the mall before we headed back home.  
      • This was the first time dh & I ate in a restaurant since just before the pandemic was declared in March 2020! ( = 2 years, 8 months!)  
      • Not only that -- it was the EXACT SAME RESTAURANT where we'd had that last pre-pandemic dinner out -- with BIL, SIL, Older Nephew, his wife and LGN, who was then about 3-4 months old. How's that for symmetry??  
      • Thankfully, the restaurant was not too crowded (about half full, maybe less) and we were in a section with only two or three other tables nearby, near the door ( = at least some fresh air coming in now & then). I kept my mask on until our drinks arrived, and put it back on again after our plates were cleared. 
      • As mask-wearers, we were definitely in a small minority of people at the mall that morning -- although I was happy to see that it was (surprisingly, for a Friday, in December, 3 weeks from Christmas) not yet that crowded overall. 
  • I splurged (hmmm, seems like I've been doing a lot of that lately...!) and bought an Aranet4 CO2 air quality monitor which Turia recommended in her blog a few months ago.  (It was delivered while we were out at the mall on Friday -- too bad we didn't get it before, because it would have been interesting to have it on hand!)  I'm planning to take it with us on the airplane when we travel in a few weeks' time. Till then, it's sitting on the kitchen counter beside our little hygrometer (which reads the humidity levels -- although the Aranet tracks that too!).  :)  
    • Between the Aranet4 and the Dyson purifier/humidifier we got a few weeks ago, it's been fun monitoring all the data and watching the humidity and air quality numbers go up and down during the day, and how they change if, say, we run the bathroom fan or the essential oils diffuser, or make toast...!  (What can I say, I am my father's daughter -- my dad always did love a cool gadget...!  lol) 
      • Speaking of the Dyson, I am very happy we got one. I love using the app, I like how you can adjust the settings for the purifying fan speed and target humidity, I love getting notifications when the water tank runs out, and I love how easy it is to refill! (Cleaning also sounds pretty easy to do, although I haven't yet had to do that.)   
  • After almost a month of smooth sailing, Bloglovin' is out again this morning (eyeroll & SIGH...).  
  • I recently mentioned that Margaret Atwood is now writing on Substack! A couple of her recent posts have been absolutely priceless -- albeit perhaps best appreciated by citizens of Toronto and/or Ontario...!  ;)  She will also be writing about... writing! 
  • Jake Gyllenhaal, the actor, has written a children's book! Click on over -- you'll want to see the subject and why he wrote it. :)  Thank you, Jake!  Putting this on my to-buy list (for Little Great-Nephew -- and our new great-nephew or great-niece!) when it comes out next September (2023)! 
  • I was gutted when I heard about the death of Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac this past week.  :(  I couldn't believe she was 79!!  (In her 70s, yes -- but 79??)  Everyone raves about Stevie Nicks, and yes, she's great, but I always thought Christine McVie was amazing and never quite got her full dues by comparison (although the obituaries have been effusive).  
    • I bought "Rumours" when I was in high school (I think I paid something like $4.99 for it, at the Bay in Winnipeg)(and several other FMac albums after that) -- I played it constantly for years, and I still play it now & then (the CD version, now that Older Nephew has all my vinyl, lol). "Songbird," Christine's signature song, from that album, is one of my all-time favourite songs. (Mick Fleetwood has said he wants it played at his funeral.) I never got to see FMac in concert, but apparently it was the standard closing encore number -- just her and her piano, and that beautiful, crystalline voice. Sheer perfection. (Her maiden name was Christine Perfect, by the way...!)
    • And of course, she was "one of us" (Stevie Nicks too) -- i.e., childless, not entirely by choice. There's a quote that was circulating widely in the CNBC community this past week, in which she said, "There were never any children [for me]. There was always a career in the way. It was a case of one or the other, and Stevie would say the same. The lads went off and had children but for Stevie and I it was a bit difficult to do that. So that was never able to happen. And I never found the right man. Not through want of trying." 
  • About a week earlier, I was also sad to hear that Irene Cara died at the too-young age of 63 -- also apparently childless. I loved the movie "Fame" (which she starred in), and while I know most people remember her for the title song (as well as "What a Feeling" from "Flashdance"),  my personal favourite from that movie is "Out Here on My Own," which was written by the late, great (also childless) pop singer from the 1960s, Lesley Gore.  :)  
  • The New York Times had an article recently about the growing numbers of aging Americans (baby boomers & Gen-Xers = ME!  lol) who are living alone, and the mismatch between their needs and available housing. Some of the people in the article are parents, but some are not, and the issue of aging without children is specifically mentioned (albeit not elaborated on in any significant way). It's the first time I can remember reading about this issue in a mainstream North American publication! and it's nice to see it's getting some attention!  
  • And... a SECOND NYT article on the same subject!! (specifically focused on "kinless" seniors). (Someone please pinch me, lol.)  I think this one is even better than the one above, to be honest. As I said, SO nice to see this issue finally getting some attention!!  
  • Speaking of aging:  I listened in to a New Legacy Radio podcast recently, live, where Christine Erickson talked with Patricia (Trish) Faulks (of the blog "Just Me & Lilley") about "Embracing Solo Aging While Confronting Pronatalism and Ageism." You can listen in on the website and on most podcast platforms. (Christine has a new or repeat episode on a childless/free-related topic every Tuesday at 1 p.m. Eastern time.) 
  • Jody Day of Gateway Women appeared on a popular lunchtime program on BBC Radio 2 on Friday, Dec. 2nd to discuss Jennifer Aniston. unsuccessful fertility treatments and involuntary childlessness, followed by a call-in segment with some great callers. :)  She's the first guest, starting at about 1:06 into the program. You can listen via the link until the end of December. 
  • More Jennifer Aniston, including the voices of other IVF survivors who didn't get their "miracle babies": this time from the Huffington Post. Some great quotes here... and I particularly liked this observation in the narrative: 

If the perfect girl beamed into our televisions via nonstop syndication couldn’t have a baby, then, truly, it could happen to anyone. And if she picked up the pieces of that heartbreak and went on to have a successful career and a fulfilling life — what might that mean for the rest of us?

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

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Right now

Right now...* 

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

Pandemic diary/update: November was Month #32 (going on #33) of living with the COVID-19 pandemic. Although our medical system is currently swamped with a triple whammy of covid, flu and RSV, there (thankfully!) have not been any huge increases in the covid stats provided. (On the other hand, there haven't been any significant improvements either...)  The provincial government announced today that it would extend the distribution of free rapid covid tests (which was supposed to end later this month) until June (2023)

Since June 16th, the government has cut back on its data reporting from daily to weekly (on Thursdays). :(  Certain data categories (such as new case numbers and test positivity rates) are no longer reported. (And of course, the numbers we ARE getting are vastly under-reported). My main source of covid data is the Toronto Star, which tracks the currently available stats here, updated weekly.  Among the latest stats (last updated Dec. 1st):  
  • Hospitalizations (people in hospitals testing positive for covid) decreased from 1,969 on Nov. 1st (peak numbers for the month) to 1,210 on Dec. 1st, up 1.1% over the previous week. Low point was 1,174 on Nov. 24th. 
  • There were 131 patients with COVID-19 in Ontario's ICUs testing positive for COVID-19 or there for COVID-19 related illness on Nov. 1st, and 118 on Dec. 1st, down 9.2% over the previous week. Peak was 146 on Nov. 13th;  the low point was 117 on Nov. 29th.   
  • There were 10 deaths on Nov. 1st, 27 on Nov. 30th and 20 on Dec. 1st. Peak was 39 on Nov. 3rd. The most recent 7-day average was 13.3, up 4.5% over the previous week. (Total pandemic deaths reported: 15,269.) 
  • On Dec. 1st, 87.3% of Ontario's total population has had at least one vaccine, 84.0% had at least two, but just 52.5% had received a third dose. (No stats are provided for fourth or fifth doses.)  These numbers have remained mostly static for months now.  
On the personal pandemic front: This was a busy month for us! We remain covid-free -- although we had a close call...!  We are still masking in public places (albeit we usually don't in smaller family settings). On top of dh's solo trips to the supermarket for groceries (about once a week), and for occasional takeout lunches & dinners: 
  • We visited SIL & Little Great-Nephew at BIL & SIL's house several times -- including our (mostly) regular Wednesday morning visits on Nov. 2nd, 23rd and 30th. 
    • We also dropped by one Saturday morning (Nov. 5th) when both nephews were there to change their tires to winter/snow tires -- they store them in BIL's garage. LGN came with his dad. :) 
    • We stayed with LGN there for several hours one Monday morning (Nov. 14th) when both SIL & BIL were feeling sick and needed to rest, until his mom could come pick him up. 
    • And (although I'm nudging into December territory here...!) we were there again today for four hours (!) while BIL took SIL to a medical appointment in the city  LGN refused to take a nap (!) but was otherwise really good as gold (as usual!).  
  • We went to the supermarket together 3 times. (I haven't spent much time in supermarkets over the past 2.5 years, and frankly, it's a little daze-inducing -- especially at the clip dh races up & down the aisles...! I keep telling him to slow down! --  I'm a browser at the best of times, and I want to take it all in and reorient myself, lol.)(He tells me I'm cramping his style, lol.)   
  • On Nov. 4th, we went shopping at Carters/Oshkosh and ToysRUs for LGN's birthday present(s), and also popped in to a kitchenware store, the local mega-bookstore (which was PACKED) and the drugstore (ditto). 
  • We got our fifth covid shots (bivalent boosters) AND our flu shots at a clinic run by our family doctor's office in our old community on Nov. 5th. 
  • We made the one-hour trip to Older Nephew's house on Nov. 7th to bring an ailing LGN some children's Tylenol that dh had made up at a local compounding pharmacy.  :) 
  • We ventured into our old neighbourhood in midtown Toronto for dental checkups & cleanings on Nov. 10th. :p  
  • We attended a party with dh's mom's side of the family on Nov. 12th -- without masks (!) -- after which at least one attendee tested positive for covid. (Fortunately, not us!) 
  • We visited the drugstore, Mark's Work Wearhouse (clothing), Reitmans (women's clothing) and Chapters (megabookstore) on Nov. 15th. (See "Buying," below.) 
  • Dh took BIL to the hospital for a procedure on Nov. 17th (although he couldn't be in the room with BIL and wound up waiting mostly in the car for several hours!).
  • We returned to Older Nephew's house on Nov. 18th for LGN's 3rd (!) birthday party with BIL, SIL, the nephews and their wives.  All of us took (and passed!) covid tests in advance. 
  • We made a trip to Canadian Tire (which sells much more than tires!) on Nov. 28th to buy a new pre-lit Christmas tree, after our previous one conked out on us! (see "Buying," below)  
  • Stopped in at the drugstore again on Nov. 30th en route to see SIL & LGN to check up on one of dh's prescriptions, and picked up a few things while we were there. 
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** 

Also right now:  

Reading: I finished 5 books in November (all reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads, & tagged  "2022 books").  
This brings me to 46 books read so far in 2022, which brings me to 102% of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway) 5 books ahead of schedule. :)  

Current read(s): 
Coming up: 

Most of my book groups have their next reads plotted out for a few months in advance -- and listing them here helps me keep track of what I should be reading next. ;)  
A few recently purchased titles (mostly in digital format, mostly discounted ($5.99 or less) or purchased with points):  

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

Watching: The last two episodes (9 & 10) of season 5 of "The Handmaid's Tale." One more season after this, and then the same producers will begin work on adapting "The Testaments," Atwood's 2019  sequel to "The Handmaid's Tale" (reviewed here)!  

Coverage of the U.S. midterm elections, earlier in the month (mostly on CNN). 

The 109th Grey Cup -- the championship game of the Canadian Football League (CFL), in which the Toronto Argonauts defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Regina, Saskatchewan, by one point!  I was cheering for the Bombers -- as I have since childhood (as much as I pay attention to these things, which isn't a lot...!) -- but I was not UNhappy that the Argos won. The CFL is a much bigger deal out west than it is here, and in a market where more people follow the more glamourous NFL than the homegrown league, they need the win and the publicity more than the Bombers!  

The Grand Prix of figure skating -- several events this past month;  finals next weekend in Turin, Italy. 

World Cup soccer -- well, dh is watching, lol. Italy did not make it there this year (gasp!! -- the locals are NOT happy!  lol), but Canada did!! for the first time in nearly 40 years!! (and I think that was the first time ever then?). They didn't win a single game, and only scored one goal total  -- they've now been eliminated -- still, it was great to see them there! :)  

We finally got around to watching a documentary about Gordon Lightfoot, "If You Could Read My Mind" (also the title of one of his most famous songs). He recently turned 84 (! -- he's older than my dad, in fact!!), and that beautiful crystalline voice is mostly gone -- but he still packs them in at Massey Hall every year in downtown Toronto (he was the last act to perform there before it closed for renovations a few years ago, and the first one back when it reopened last year) -- and in his prime, he had few equals as a singer-songwriter. (He was also something of a Canadian sex symbol when I was growing up in the '70s, lol.) If you're in Canada, you can stream it on CBC Gem.  

(Someone on the show called his "Song for a Winter's Night" "the most Canadian song ever." I'm not sure about that, lol -- but I do love it!)  

(NOT watchingAfter reading the book, I PVRd "Magpie Murders" on PBS, but haven't watched any of the episodes yet...! And I STILL haven't progressed beyond the first two seasons of "The Crown"...!) 

Listening:  I'm still enjoying the daily Heardle challenge(s), including the decades versions -- although (as you'll see from the stats, I do MUCH better on the 60s & 70s versions than the others...!). Current stats as of Nov. 30th:  
  • Heardle (original/all decades): 30% (36/120) correct, including 9 on the first guess. 
  • Heardle 60s:  82.7% (67/81), including 36 on the first guess. 
  • Heardle 70s:  67.8% (59/87), including 38 on the first guess. 
  • Heardle 80s:  45.1% -- (37/82), including 14 on the first guess. 
  • Heardle 90s: 34.1% --  an improvement from last month's 31.5% and 26.7% in September!  -- (28/82), including 7 on the first guess.  
Eating/Drinking:  This was a good eating month. :)  
  • The catered menu at the party celebrating dh's cousin's marriage and forthcoming baby included lasagna (which I couldn't have, because of my tomato allergy), tortellini in cream sauce (which I could), chicken cutlets in mushroom sauce, potatos, mixed vegetables, salad, and an amazing array of fresh fruits and desserts. (We all went home with plates full of leftover cannolis and biscotti.)   
  • LGN's mom/Older Nephew's wife -- who is a great cook! -- also had quite a feast for us all for LGN's 3rd birthday party mid-month, including homemade gnocchi and alfredo sauce (in deference to my tomato allergy), sausages with potatos and peppers, and a delicious salad with balsamic vinegar dressing. The cake was an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen. :)
  • And for Saturday night takeout recently, we had that uniquely Canadian treat, available only at this time of year -- a Festive Special from Swiss Chalet!  lol  It's a quarter chicken (white or dark meat, cooked on a rotisserie), served with dipping sauce, stuffing, cranberry sauce, a dinner roll, choice of french fries, potatos or salad, and a small box of Lindor chocolates. (In the past, the special included mini-Toblerone bars instead of Lindor chocolates.)  This year, the meal also includes a $10 cash voucher, redeemable at a future visit.  
    • I'd never heard of Swiss Chalet before I came to Ontario -- it was the first place Future Dh & I went for dinner when I first arrived in London (Ontario) for school in May 1983 -- and while it has a presence in other provinces now, it still seems to be a mostly Ontario thing. Despite the name, there's not much that's "Swiss" about it -- although years ago, the waitresses used to wear dirndl dresses! It's a chain of  "family" restaurants, with a reasonably priced menu which, although it has expanded more in recent years, has always specialized in rotisserie chicken. 
Buying (besides books, lol):  This was an expensive month...!  
  • Plane tickets home for Christmas.... ouch!  Much more expensive than our Thanksgiving trip ('tis the season, I guess...!). I'm not sure non-Canadians realize just how expensive it is to travel within Canada (which seems such a shame, being a disincentive for Canadians to travel more within our own country... going to Florida, or Las Vegas, or New York City, etc., is often cheaper, and I know many people here who have been to those places regularly, but never been to Halifax or Banff or Vancouver). There are only two major national domestic carriers (Air Canada and WestJet), so they have a virtual monopoly.  Dh once did a rough estimate of just how much money we've spent going back & forth to Manitoba to visit my family, over the past 37 years -- generally twice a year, summer and Christmas. OUCH. We could have done a LOT of other travelling (or other things) with that money... but... you can't substitute time with family (and, these days, aging parents)... or at least I can't. I know people who haven't been "home" to visit their families in years, but that's just not me. 
  • I bought myself a new Advent calendar. It's marketed for children, but I'm a big kid myself when it comes to Christmas (lol), so...! I've had another one for years that I love -- a felt tree, with grommets to hang little felt, looped ornaments on -- but they easily fall off, which is something of a nuisance. With this one, both tree & ornaments have velcro on them!  -- so we'll see if it works out better! 
  • I also treated myself (once again!) to an "Advent calendar" from my favourite sterling silver jewelry maker -- one beautifully wrapped surprise to open every day for the 24 days leading up to Christmas -- including jewelry pieces (bracelets, earrings, necklaces and rings) she's created especially for this project, plus other items from local craftspeople that she loves. It's a pricey splurge -- but a bargain at less than half the full cost of paying for all 24 items individually. I missed the first one she did in 2020, but got one last year (and posted about it here several times during the holiday season!), and it was a wonderful present to myself!  "Opening a lovely new surprise every morning was a real boost to the spirits, and I only wish I had bought one [in 2020], the first time it was offered. I highly recommend the experience! (and if jewelry isn't your thing, there are lots of other cool advent calendars out there for cheese, wine, perfumes, cosmetics -- and chocolate, of course!),"  I wrote here
  • Presents for LGN's birthday. :)  I ordered him a counting book -- "Dozens of Dachshunds" (I knew even if he didn't like it, his mom would!  lol) -- and we bought him some clothes. 
  • Christmas presents. :)  So far, I've bought something for SIL, something for my sister -- and a pawprint ornament kit for Older Nephew's dog, lol.  It's a start...!   
  • I took advantage of a Black Friday/Cyber Monday week sales to do some online shopping:  I ordered my Christmas cards, stocked up on my favourite foot cream from L'Occitane. and bought a couple of Tile tracking tags to try out in our luggage. :)  
  • Pre-Black Friday, I ordered some holiday-scented essential oils for my diffuser and some lip balm online from Saje
  • Dh actually let me drag him into Mark's Work Wearhouse, which carries women's clothing but is primarily known for men's casual and workwear. We walked out with two pairs of sweatpants and two long-sleeved tops. (Yay me! lol)  Wearing jeans (especially for extended periods of time) is irritating the eczema on his legs :(  -- and it's a LITTLE too chilly outside now to be wearing shorts!  lol  He wears flannel PJ pants around the house (he has several pairs, most of them plaid or otherwise patterned), but I suggested he might want to get some dark-coloured sweatpants to wear outside the house for trips to the supermarket, etc. 
  • And we wound up having to buy a new (artificial) Christmas tree (as described here). 
Wearing:  Despite my qualms about the risks in attending dh's cousin's party on Nov. 12th (well founded, as it turns out...!), it WAS fun to get (relatively) dressed up for the first time in eons, and put on makeup (ditto!).  I wore dark blue Lucky Brand jeans and a black camisole under a pretty floral print blouse that I got on the sale rack at Zara for just $14.99, pre-pandemic, and had never worn. Of course I forgot to take photos. One of the cousins did take a photo of dh & me as we were leaving. I was hoping he might send it to us, although he hasn't yet...! 

And... I've been wearing my Old Navy waffle-weave Christmas PJ tops around the house since mid-month!  (I've assembled quite a collection over the past few years, and ordered a few new ones this year too!)  I wore one of my newest ones, with big Christmas trees on it, today when we were babysitting LGN, who seemed fascinated by it.  :)  (The top by itself doesn't seem to be available anymore, but here's what it looks like.  :)  ) 

Noticing: How much earlier it's getting dark outside now, since the time change earlier this month -- like, around 5 p.m. :(   And of course it's going to keep on getting darker until we reach the winter solstice later in December. 

Appreciating:  Our new Dyson humidifier/purifier (which we bought last month). It's gotten a lot chillier and dry-er over the past month, and the humidity in our unit has been as low as 37% some mornings (we haven't been leaving it on overnight, although we might eventually have to...!).  It's been fun playing around with the settings -- we can do it remotely on an app too! -- and so far the maintenance/refilling has been a breeze. 

Enjoying:  The extra time we've been able to spend with Little Great-Nephew this month.  :)

Wondering:  Whether he will remember any of this when he gets older??  (He's 3 now... I remember a few things from when I was 3...!)

Wanting:  More time to get everything done that needs doing this month...!! 

Prioritizing: Christmas stuff... especially since we'll be heading west in just a few weeks' time (eeekkkk....!!)!  

Contemplating:  Whether I have time to do any Christmas baking this year?? (Not that we need it...!) 

Hoping:  To get to the mall next week to do some much-needed Christmas shopping...!  We haven't been to the one I'm thinking of since the pandemic hit (and I can count the number of times we've been to any other malls since then on the fingers of one hand...!). 

Trying (and failing!): To think of something to write for this prompt!  lol   

Loving:  Our Christmas tree... the extra lights on the tree really brighten up the room (especially when it gets so dark so early now...!).  

Feeling: A little depressed by the advent of early darkness and colder weather -- but looking forward to the holiday season, and to going "home" for Christmas!  Thankful that November doesn't suck quite as much as it once did (lol).  

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

The tale of the tree

We had to go out to buy a new (artificial, pre-lit) Christmas tree yesterday.  We bought a new tree -- our first pre-lit model, and only the third tree we've had since we were married -- when we moved to our condo, six years ago. (I love real trees, but they are not allowed under our condo bylaws, and at any rate, it wouldn't be safe to leave one up when we're away over the holidays.)  Last year, we noticed that some of the lights on the bottom had burned out -- but we turned the tree and it wasn't too noticeable.  

I read somewhere that the average pre-lit tree lasts just seven years... (!) yikes!  I was hoping we could get at least one more year out of it (this would be Christmas #7) -- but when we opened up the box and started taking out the sections, we found the top section had snapped in half -- probably when we were trying to cram it into the box after Christmas last year.  :(  I thought maybe we could still salvage the situation by duct taping the two sections together?? and then disguising the duct tape with a strategically placed ornament?? -- but when we plugged the tree in, only the middle section lit up. Dh & I looked at each, and dh said, "Well, I guess we're going shopping!" 

Off we went to Canadian Tire (which is where we got our last tree -- and our very first one too, come to think of it).  (Canadian Tire, for non-Canadians, stocks a LOT more than just tires!)  We eventually found a tree that we could both live with, on sale (although still at a somewhat ridiculous price..!).  We assembled it yesterday afternoon and decided we'd decorate it this morning.   

Now to backtrack a little: before we went out to buy the tree, dh went out on the balcony & brought in the two chairs & little table that sit out there during the summer. I wiped them down, and we took them down to the storage locker on our way out to go shopping. 

Picture this: the storage locker is located just behind our parking spot in the underground parking garage downstairs. It's kind of like a big closet.  We access it through a heavy metal door set in a concrete wall behind our parking spot. We have boxes and other stuff stacked up high along the back wall (which is also concrete). There is JUST enough room for the door to swing open (it opens in, from the left side to the right), and a little wall space on either side of the door where something flat (like a folded up chair) can lean up against the wall. 

Dh put the two chairs folded up against the wall on the left side, slammed the door shut & locked it -- and as he did, we heard something crash. "Ummm -- did that chair just fall over?"  I said. 

"We'll get it when we get the decorations tomorrow," dh said.

I had a bad feeling about this -- but I bit my tongue (for the time being).  

Sure enough, we made the trip down to the storage locker again this morning to retrieve several plastic bins full of Christmas decorations -- and the door was jammed!  One of the chairs had fallen over -- we couldn't see it, but we knew it was there somewhere...!.  As a result, we could only open the door about six inches or so -- wide enough to peek in a little ways and stick your arm through (and turn on the light switch, which is right beside the door on the left-hand side), but not your head or torso.

Dh retrieved a golf umbrella from the back of the car and poked it through the door blindly, trying to find the chair with it, with the idea of using it as a kind of lever. We could see his golf clubs sitting in the corner, in front of the boxes on the left side of the locker.  Too far away to reach in and grab one, but he managed to use the umbrella to lift one up & bring it out of the bag without dropping it (!) -- and we tried using THAT to poke around, thinking we could maybe hook it on the chair and lift it up. Nope, no can do.

What to do?  

I thought we were going to have to call the property manager -- but I'm not sure what they could have done. It's a solid metal door, surrounded by concrete, and the hinges are on the INSIDE. I suppose maybe someone knowledgeable could take apart the (metal) door frame?  But even if that was possible, I'm sure it would cost a small fortune -- and we'd be the ones paying the bill. 

I also thought maybe the property manager could contact one of the people whose lockers are on either side of ours?  There's just wire fencing in between the units, albeit most people put up plywood or a tarp or something like that for privacy, so you can't see into each others' spaces. I thought maybe if we were able to access one of those other lockers, we could poke something through from the other side and lift the chair up that way? 

Dh was starting to get frustrated and mutter about how we  (*cough* -- *I*) have "too much stuff" and that maybe it was just going to have to stay in there forever... 

We were both getting tired -- but I finally thought of something else to try.  I simply dropped to my knees and shoved my hand through the opening along the floor to see if I could actually feel the chair there. 

I did! And I managed to grab enough of it and lift/move it enough while dh leaned against the door enough for it to FINALLY swing open.  What a relief!!   

We retrieved our decorations and put the chair back in the locker -- VERY carefully this time around!  We both agreed that, once the weather gets nicer again, in the spring, we really do need to go down there and see what else we can cull. 

But... all's well that ends well. We got the stuff we needed. The tree got decorated.  

It was worth it. :) 

New tree, cherished old ornaments. :) 

Monday, November 28, 2022

#MicroblogMondays: Ho ho ho!! :)

BIL called dh last week and asked if we'd like to go with him & SIL -- and Older Nephew & his wife, and Little Great-Nephew -- to a local mall later this week (they have the day off work) -- to watch LGN get his photo taken with Santa!!  

WOULD we??!!  Of course we will!!  I said to dh, "I'll probably cry -- but I wouldn't miss it!"  lol  

Asking us was Older Nephew's idea. :)  Just to be included, that they thought to ask us, means so much!!    

LGN had his photo taken with Santa when he was just a few weeks old, in December 2019 (mentioned in this post), but I'm not sure he's had one done since then (because, covid & pandemic restrictions...) -- although BIL dressed up as Santa for him & SIL's great-nephew last year on Christmas Eve. (LGN, then just turned 2, KNEW it was Nonno/Grandpa!  lol -- he's way too smart!). Should be fun to see his reaction!  

Of course, we never got to take Katie (or any other child) to have her photo taken with Santa.  And we were never asked to go see the nephews get theirs taken either. I suppose it never occurred to their parents  (or us either, probably) that we'd be interested (and anyway, we'd have our own kids to take someday...) -- and by the time we'd gotten through our grief over loss, infertility and permanent childlessness (when watching kids with Santa was a horribly painful thing for me -- albeit a form of self-torture I often inflicted on myself over the years -- as described in an early post on this blog, here) -- they were both well beyond the age of Santa. 

For that matter -- neither dh nor I ever had OUR photos taken with Santa when we were kids. I'm not sure why dh never did (BIL -- who is five years younger -- did, with one of their cousins). I suspect photos with Santa were not on the radar (nor in the budget) of their immigrant parents when dh was small.  

As for me, I grew up in small Prairie towns in the 1960s and early 1970s -- no department stores for miles around. Santa usually did visit at church &/or school Christmas concerts, special kiddie movie matinees, etc., and we would usually get a chance to tell him what we wanted for Christmas and perhaps get a small bag of candy -- but nobody was taking photos back then at these events, not even parents (handy cellphones, or even pocket cameras, still being some years away...!). 

I said to dh, "It's never too late! -- you & I should get our photos taken too!"  lol  (We'll see...!).  

Did you have your photo taken with Santa when you were a kid?  (Would you do it now??) 

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

Friday, November 25, 2022

"The Light We Carry" by Michelle Obama

I made a special trip to the bookstore the day Michelle Obama's new book -- "The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times" -- was released. I had very much enjoyed her previous memoir, "Becoming" (read & reviewed here), had read some of the excerpts and other press related to this new book, and was interested in what she had to say.  

"The Light We Carry" is not so much a memoir -- although Obama tells lots of personal stories from various stages of her life to illustrate her points -- as it is a self-help volume of advice and inspiration. Obama reflects on the changing, turbulent times we live in -- as well as the uncertain times she grew up in -- and how she gets through with a personal "tool kit" of habits, practices, attitudes and beliefs. 

"...I do believe that there's value in learning to identify the habits that keep us centered and grounded versus those that trigger anxiety or feed our insecurities," Obama writes (page 16). "My hope is that you'll find things here to draw from -- selecting what's useful, discarding what's not -- as you identify, collect, and refine your own essential set of tools." 

Among the topics she discusses:  

  • the power of small things and small victories (Obama details how learning to knit helped keep her grounded during the covid pandemic), 
  • dealing with fear and anxiety, 
  • "starting kind" (including kindness towards ourselves), 
  • feeling seen -- visibility and invisibility, belonging, and dealing with difference, 
  • "my kitchen table" -- the importance of friendships, and face-to-face connection, 
  • partnering well (including some interesting insights into her marriage), 
  • "tried and true maxims" from Michelle's mom, Marian Robinson, 
  • vulnerability, authenticity and sharing our whole selves, 
  • "the armor we wear":  being prepared and adaptable, and balancing toughness with vulnerability, 
  • "going high" -- what does it mean?  

There's nothing in here that's really original or profound or earth-shattering -- but nevertheless, it's well-synthesized, sound, practical, timely advice and encouragement -- well written and delivered in a warm, personal and ultimately optimistic voice. Overall, this is a highly relevant book for the times we're living in, and I very much enjoyed it.  

5 stars on Goodreads. 

This was Book #46 read to date in 2022 (and Book #5 finished in November), bringing me to 102% of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books! I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 6 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2022 tagged as "2022 books."  

*** *** *** 

ALI notes:  Obama discussed her personal experiences with loss and infertility in "Becoming." It comes up again here, but mostly just in passing. Still, so much of what she had to say -- particularly her reflections on difference and otherness -- seemed highly relevant and relatable for those of us living with loss, infertility and/or childlessness, or who feel "different" or "othered" because of how we managed to build our families (or not).  

On the downside, I will admit I winced a little -- and felt a pang of envy -- in the chapter about friendships, in which Obama says "I was bolstered by my friends, especially those whose kids liked to play with mine... Among us, the message was always I got you, I'll be there." (page 123)  Those of us without kids, of course, are not automatically plugged into those "mom networks," and have to work harder to find, make and keep meaningful friendships. 

Not related to the book, but to Michelle Obama: I was recently adding/changing some tags and making some fixes to some old posts, and stumbled on this post from 2009, about the rumours that the then-First Lady -- 45 years old at the time -- was pregnant (!). 

It's interesting to revisit this now in 2022 -- especially in the recent wake of Jennifer Aniston's interview with Allure magazine, where she revealed she underwent unsuccessful IVF treatment while under the most intensely public "bump watch" imaginable. We now know, from Obama's memoir, "Becoming," that she had a miscarriage and wound up using IVF to conceive both Malia & Sasha. How hurtful/annoying/plain old eye-rolling those pregnancy rumours must have been to her!

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

#MicroblogMondays (on Tuesday): Is Substack the new blog?

A few years ago, it seemed like everyone was starting a podcast. I remember readings several articles that suggested "podcasts are the new blogs."    

These days, though, it seems like everyone is starting a Substack newsletter. (Is Substack the new podcast -- or the new blog?  I would say there are a lot more similarities between blogs and Substacks than blogs and podcasts...) 


I know a few people have specifically mentioned they are starting a Substack newsletter as an alternative to/escape valve from Twitter, as that platform seems to be on the verge of self-destruction. I'm not exactly sure how the two equate (you can post a whole lot more than 280 characters on Substack...!), but I'm all for thoughtful longer-form writing and civilized conversation. 

I took a look at my Substack profile and realized I currently subscribe to.... 27 Substack newsletters (5 of which are paid subscriptions). Many Substacks are free altogether, and most offer at least one free post every week, with more content and perqs for paid subscribers.  

(And yes, I signed up for Atwood's immediately, as soon as I heard about it. Because... Margaret Atwood, people!)  

Erk. No wonder I never get anything done -- especially when you add in blogs, social media, etc...!

Of course, there's also this to consider from the New York Times recently: "Are We Past Peak Newsletter?" (They wrote a similar article about podcasts in 2019, lol.) 

Do you subscribe to any Substacks?  (Not that I need anything else to read, I suppose...! lol) 

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

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Updates, odds & ends

  • Update on my last post: We're (still!) fine: we tested before we went to LGN's birthday party yesterday afternoon (at the request of Younger Nephew & his pregnant wife -- we all did).  Negative. And feeling fine.  :) 
  • Yes!  It was LGN's THIRD birthday this past week!! Older Nephew & his wife invited us all there for dinner & cake last night. LGN was bouncing off the walls with excitement -- it was so cute to see.  :)  (The dog was excited to see us all too!)  He kept demanding his cake all through dinner... and once the candles were blown out and pieces cut, etc., he didn't eat a bite, lol. Too distracted by his new toys. Toddlers!  ;)    
    • (How much longer can I refer to him as "Little" Great-Nephew??)  And if Younger Nephew's child -- due in February -- is a boy, I guess I'll have to start referring to them as LGN1 & LGN2, or something like that? And if it's a girl, I guess I'll have to spell out Great-Nephew and Great-Niece to make myself clear?? LGNe & LGNi??)(Which brings to mind "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and "the Knights Who Say Ni!" -- but now I'm really getting off track...!  lol)  
  • Speaking of covid -- one of my uncles (my dad's next-oldest sibling, who is about 85) is currently in the hospital with covid. :(  He is hearing impaired and cannot speak (at least, not clearly enough for most people who don't know him to understand him) -- married later in life, but his wife died about two years ago. No kids. The homecare workers couldn't reach him to get into his apartment, so they contacted one of my cousins (married, childless, a nurse in her mid-50s) who lives nearby and keeps an eye on him. She left work and drove over to where he lives (about a half-hour away), found him barely responsive, and took him to the hospital (I think the same one where she works?), where he is now in acute care. Thank goodness for her. And *&^% covid.  :(  
  • More Jennifer Aniston fallout:  
  • Jess at "A Different Path" had a great piece published on Insider.com about labels (the difference between childLESS and childFREE):  "After years of trying to have a baby, I consider myself 'childless not by choice' ." 
    • I struggled with the childless/childfree labels very early on in this blog -- in fact, it was the subject of my THIRD blog post here
  • Recent reading: Jill Filipovic spells things out very clearly in a recent edition of her Substack newsletter:  "They're coming for contraception. They're coming for IVF." Read and share! Sample passage: 
...make no mistake: Leaders of anti-abortion organizations are either opposed to IVF, or silent about it — perhaps biding their time.

...there is a longer-term strategy here. The pro-life movement knows that banning IVF and many popular and highly-effective forms contraception would be wildly unpopular, enough to create huge political backlash even on the right. So they’re using the same strategy they used for abortion rights: Take the question out of the hands of individuals, and even out of the hands of voters; chip away at rights at a steady clip to acclimate the public to the very idea that these rights are up for debate; install members of a reactionary minority into positions of power and have them rule over all of us.

There is not a single major pro-life organization in the United States that openly supports contraception use and access. There is not a single major pro-life organization in the United States that openly supports IVF as it is routinely practiced.