Sunday, May 31, 2015

Shades of grey

Last week, I went to get my hair cut. I get my hair cut (trimmed -- my style hasn't changed a lot in recent years) every 6-7 weeks or so, and have colour & highlights added two or three times a year -- coincidentally (or perhaps not, lol) just before I head out to visit my parents, summer and Christmastime. And sometimes tying it in just before a special occasion, like a family wedding.

My mother, like many women of her generation, has visited a hairdresser once a week to have her hair washed & styled for as long as I can remember. She has been colouring her hair for years, and has often muttered her disapproval to me about my sister's decision, a few years back, not to colour her hair anymore, after going through a phase of experimenting with various colours (including henna) around the time she turned 40. (My sister is almost two years younger than me but, for the record, far greyer.)  I've always been the more compliant child, my sister more the rebellious one.

I started adding highlights to my hair about 15-20 years ago, at the urging of my then-hairdresser, who was clearly bored with doing the same-old-same-old with me & itching to unleash her creativity. While I intensely disliked having my head covered with a rubber cap & the hairs yanked through tiny holes one bunch at a time with a crochet hook, I did like the results. I continued to have highlights done a couple times a year after our hairdresser moved and left us in the hands of her friend at a local salon (who turned out to be the wife of an old friend of dh's!!), 10-15 years ago.

I did start to notice that the golden highlights were becoming mixed with some silver. My hairdresser began to hint that perhaps something more was needed, that I needed to start colouring my hair to cover the grey. I resisted for a long time, until one day, perhaps 5-10 years ago, when I came to the salon, intending to have some highlights done -- and my hairdresser sat there pouting and glaring at me until I caved and agreed to let her try the colour, in addition to the highlights. She did the highlights first, painting them on sections of my hair & then wrapping the sections in tin foil, and then painting on the colour on the hair that was left. My hair has inexplicably turned darker in recent years;  she made it a warmer shade of brown with golden highlights.

I did like it -- a lot (and I especially liked abandoning the rubber cap, lol) -- so I've continued -- but, as I've said, only two or three times a year. (I did try just the colour without the highlights once, but I missed the highlights.) It's outrageously expensive to colour & highlight your hair, for one thing;  it takes time (particularly when your hair is as thick as mine is);  and I really didn't feel my hair was THAT grey that I really needed to do it more often.

Since I've stopped working, the pressure to keep up a youthful appearance (in an office where the 20-somethings increasingly outnumbered those of us in our 40s and 50s) has lessened somewhat. (Being on a reduced income also makes you a little more careful where you spend your money.)  A couple of times now, I've reached the stage where most of the colour & highlights had been cut off and thought, "This really doesn't look THAT bad..." 

I was at that stage this past week. Our hairdresser asked me if we were doing colour today, and I said no, just a trim, but probably next time, before I went on vacation. As she was finishing, she said, "You know, Lori, it almost looks like you have highlights anyway! I think it looks great! You should just leave it the way it is!" 

"You think so??" I said (remembering that this was the same woman who pouted and scowled at me until I let her colour my hair just a few years ago) -- adding (only half in jest), "Will you tell my mother that??"

As I paid my bill, the receptionist said, "That looks really good!  Are you going to let it stay gray?" 

"I don't know, we'll see," I said.

Dh, of course, thinks it looks fine.

My hair is still more brown than grey... but there's a lot more grey there than there used to be. :p  My aunt (whom I resemble) had gorgeous grey hair (now white);  I figure being grey won't be so bad, if my hair turns out like hers. It's the in-between stage, the getting there, that's the tough part (kind of like growing your hair out, I guess).

I know that other bloggers (Kathy, Mel and, most recently, Lori) have struggled with this issue.

Do you colour your hair, or do you let the grey show?

Friday, May 29, 2015

Letting go, part 2

Having passed along my vinyl music collection to Oldest Nephew, I've started tackling my next (and possibly most difficult) retirement downsizing project: our gargantuan book collection.

I may not have children -- but in some ways, my books have always been my babies. Once a book enters this house, it very rarely leaves. Occasionally,  I have made a half-hearted attempt to get rid of some of them -- but only with great reluctance, and not with much success. (The one exception being the majority of my collection of pregnancy and infertility books, which I donated long ago to our pg loss support group.)(I did keep my copy of "What to Expect" as a "souvenir" of my pregnancy.)  I think I've always had the fantasy that someday, I would have a big house with its own library, with built-in bookshelves lining all the walls.

Our collection has mushroomed over the past 15-20 years. I can point to a few reasons why. First: after a few years in our jobs, we started making more money = more disposable income. (As I've often said: some people spend their money on booze & cigarettes, or maybe shoes;  we spend our money on books, newspapers & magazines.)  Second, we moved from a small one-bedroom apartment into our house in 1990 ( = more room for more books).  Third, our national mega-bookstore chain opened a local store about 20 years ago, and we've spent just about every Saturday night there since then. Fourth, for a long time, I harboured a secret fantasy that I was going to get pregnant again, be put on bedrest, and have hours of time to read -- so why not stockpile some reading material??  Of course, I never got pregnant again, and (reason #5) many of the hours that I once spent reading books are now spent on the computer (cough cough).

I don't even want to think about how many books we have. Enough that I got concerned about the weight on the floors, when we had our bookshelves in a second-floor bedroom, and moved all but one of them into the basement, about 10-15 years ago. We have two full-sized IKEA Billy bookshelves down there, one smaller (more narrow) one, and a metal shelving unit that we had in our apartment.

There's one more IKEA bookcase upstairs, mostly full of photo albums. I did not want to put those in the basement. There are a couple of Rubbermaid bins full of books, too, both in the basement and upstairs. And there are a few book stacks in our bedroom too.

Over the years, the shelves filled up, and I started to stack books in front of the ones that were already shelved. Then there wasn't any more room on the shelves -- so I started just stacking books on the floor in front of the shelves. To put it mildly, it was a mess down there. I was finding it hard to vacuum the floor around the piles. The stacks are random, too -- a few fiction volumes here, a memoir there, which makes it hard to find a specific book at times. (I'm not just paring down my collection, I'm hoping to get it reorganized too.) 

Just as I have had to come to terms with the fact that I am never going to be pregnant again and am not going to have children, I've had to face the reality that if/when we move from here, it is likely going to be into a condo, where my storage space for books will be limited. And I am never going to have time to read all the unread books I have collected over the years (or re-read all the ones I've already read). 

We probably could have made some money if we held a garage sale, or put them on eBay or Kijiji, etc., but we decided we didn't want the hassle. (Of course, there are a ton of other baby boomers out there looking to downsize their stuff as well, for competition.)  There aren't very many used bookstores in the vicinity where we could sell the books on consignment, either. 

So we agreed to donate. The problem was, where? My immediate instinct was the library. I called, and yes, they do accept book donations. BUT.  They wanted the books to be in pristine condition. No textbooks. And no books with a publication date further back than five years ago. (!!! That last one really got me. There are TONS of good books that were published more than five years ago!)(Particularly when the library shelves are full of ancient books themselves...!) 

Thank goodness for the Salvation Army. Their local thrift stores accept book donations.

So, over the past week, I've spent a couple of afternoons in the chilly, dusty basement, going through our books and sorting them into piles, including one section designated "donate."  Dh & I made a few trips to the liquor store and filled the trunk of the car with empty cartons -- they're ideal for packing books, because they're small enough that you can't overload them to the point where they become too heavy to lift. (Although, come to think of it, I could have used some alcohol before tackling this project, lol.)  ;)

I didn't take any "before" photos before I started -- too embarrassing. :p  But, over the past week, we've taken 11 cartons full of books to the Salvation Army. (!!) I haven't counted, but dh estimates that's easily a couple hundred books already. Most of these were the "easy" choices -- books that no longer interest me (yellowing tomes about Canadian politics back in the 1970s and '80s,  souvenirs of my Ayn Rand phase from college...), books that my sister gave me in e-book format ( = the paper copy can go), books that, despite my noble intentions, I know I will never read in a million years (goodbye, "War & Peace," lol). 

There is scope for plenty more to go. But I'm already starting to see spaces open up on the floor and on the shelves, and that's a good feeling. :)

I know it's going to get harder before I'm done. My goal is to reduce the number of books to the point where there aren't any piles sitting on the floor (and I still have some way to go before I reach that goal).  If/when we move, and need to further reduce the collection, I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

But right now, I'm feeling kind of proud of myself for what I've been able to accomplish so far. :)

Monday, May 25, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: They paved Paradise...

I was trying to think of something I could write about for this week's post, when I read Mali's post at A Separate Life, about her love of nature. One person commented, "Perhaps in order to appreciate nature we need the contrast of urban life?"

I can relate. I grew up in small, rural communities -- and like many kids from similar backgrounds, couldn't wait to leave. :)  Over time, though, I've learned to appreciate the merits of the country too. In a lifetime of moving around, I've come to realize that there is good & bad to be found everywhere, advantages and disadvantages in every situation. It's up to us to make the most of things, wherever we wind up.

Right now, we're living in a small town turned bedroom community -- part of what's known as the "Greater Toronto Area" or "Golden Horseshoe" -- an almost continuous string of towns & cities along the shores of Lake Ontario, stretching from St. Catharines/Niagara Falls in the southwest to Oshawa and beyond in the east. While I enjoy living where we do, and having so many amenities at our disposal -- downtown Toronto is a half-hour's train trip away -- I also love that by driving north about 10 minutes, we're out in the country, amid farmers' fields, riding academies and forests.

But urban sprawl is slowly creeping in. Over the weekend, we drove to visit a cousin who lives on an acreage "out in the country" -- and marvelled at how less & less far away it seems these days, as shopping plazas, housing developments and condo towers have started to line the route we drive.

Closer to home, one of the routes we take to the cemetery to visit Katie has been mostly farms and forests for the past 17 years. However, there have been rumblings about development for more than 40 years -- specifically, plans for both residential and commercial development that will expand our local population by 70,000 people. 70,000!! That's basically adding a whole new town to the area.  Eventually, there may even be a major airport built in the vicinity.

We've been hearing about it for so long, it seemed like something distant and far off -- perhaps a bit of a pipe dream.

But last winter, development signs went up along the road -- and over the last few weeks, heavy equipment has started to bulldoze trees and level farmers' fields. 

I suppose you can't stop progress. But it does make me feel a little sad. (And gave me this earworm for today, lol.) 

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

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Letting go

Did you ever see the movie "Almost Famous"?  It's based on the real-life adventures of writer and movie director Cameron Crowe, who was touring with rock bands and writing for magazines like Creem and Rolling Stone when he was still a teenager. There's a scene near the beginning, when William (the Cameron character)'s sister leaves home and leaves her record player and collection to her little brother. There's a close-up of the needle dropping onto the vinyl disc, and that wonderful anticipatory hiss before the music  (The Who's "Tommy") kicks in.

I love that movie. I started crying when I first saw that scene. It made me homesick.

Once upon a time, music was at the centre of my life. It was at the centre of most teenagers' lives, when I was growing up in the 1970s.  I'm not sure kids today feel quite the same way, as viscerally, about music as we did back then. The music itself and the musicians who created it meant so much. It was the soundtrack of our lives.

Of course, we had far fewer distractions back then -- only a few channels on TV, no video games (at least until I was almost out of high school -- i.e., Pong, and a bit later, at university, Galaga, Donkey Kong and Pac-Man), no Internet. We would listen to the radio late at night, dialling around to hear our favourite songs, calling in requests to the DJs -- and we'd buy albums. My sister & I used to pool our allowance to buy ones from our favourite bands. Most of those shared albums are still in my parents' basement (!), but over the years, I accumulated a fair collection of my own. My parents had one of those huge cabinet stereos that took up half a wall in the living room, and we'd lay in front of the speakers or (if our parents were around), plug in gigantic headphones.

I missed the stereo desperately when I went to university. I listened to the radio, but it wasn't quite the same. I envied some of my dorm friends -- mostly guys -- who had huge, towering stereo systems with gigantic speakers -- the bigger and louder, the better!  (Pioneer was a coveted label.)  I begged and pleaded and hinted for a stereo -- knowing it was a hugely expensive item and I might as well be wishing for the moon.

While I was at university, my parents moved to another town, and my dad had a good year in his business. That year at Christmas (1982, when I was 21, on the verge of 22), I got sent on a scavenger hunt. Hidden behind a roll of carpet in an unfinished shower stall in the basement sat a stereo. A Zenith all-in-one -- turntable, cassette player and AM/FM radio -- with two big speakers. I cried.  It was the best and most memorable gift I had ever received. (Maybe even still!)

I had to leave the stereo at home when I went away to grad school, and then when I got married (in 1985), but my parents brought it & my record collection with them when they drove out to visit us a year later. After we moved into our house a few years after that (1990), the stereo sat in what was supposed to be the dining room. The records themselves were upstairs on a bookshelf. Not particularly convenient, so they got played less and less. Of course, by then, vinyl was well on its way out, replaced first by cassette tapes and then by compact discs (and, much later, by digital audio files).

Then I had my piano shipped out from my parents' house, and there was no room for it upstairs anymore. We had (finally) recently gotten a CD player anyway, and were now playing most of our music on CDs. (In some cases, we had LP, cassette and CD versions of the exact same albums...!) So into the basement it went. I would occasionally turn on the radio or put on an album when I was down there cleaning or doing laundry, but both stereo & records have been (sadly) mostly untouched for quite a long time.

Fast-forward to the recent present.  Oldest Nephew (age 26) was telling us about his newfound passion for classic rock music. On vinyl. (Who'da thought, right??) He has a tiny little record player that closes up like a suitcase -- like the first record player I had when I was 6. 

He was going to pay $70 -- SEVENTY DOLLARS!!! -- for a vinyl LP by Pink Floyd!!! 

"For Pete's sake," we told him, "do NOT buy any more vinyl!! Call us first!! Because the record you want is probably in our basement!" 

For the record (no pun intended), I looked, and unfortunately we didn't have any Pink Floyd in the basement (although I know my sister had "The Wall.")  But we did have the Eagles, Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, The Police, The Cars, The Clash, Cheap Trick, Boston, Bob Seger...  (and albums by umpteen Canadian bands that most Americans have probably never heard of, like April Wine, Trooper, Prism, Triumph, Queen City Kids and Harlequin, who used to play at my high school dances).  Over 180 albums, mostly from the 1970s and early 1980s -- some of them dh's, but most of them mine -- gathering dust, along with my old stereo, down in the basement.

Now, I am a packrat. I don't give up my things easily -- especially stuff like records & books.

But I could NOT watch our nephew spending $70 on an album that we probably had in our basement (and paid maybe $7 for).

Besides which, we are talking (again) about condos. If/when we ever move, we will not have room for bulky stereos & album collections. And I would much rather hand my records over to the nephews than to Goodwill. (In a perfect world, I would have been passing this stuff along to my kids... but... well, you know... So this is the next-best thing.) 

So we packed up (almost) all of our vinyl collection, along with the cassettes and my stereo, & and this afternoon, we're taking them to a gathering of the extended family. Nephew will likely not be there, but we'll hand them over to his parents to pass along. 

He was THRILLED when we offered him the records, and the stereo to boot. (And dh -- who is NOT a packrat -- was thrilled to get a few more things out of the house, lol.) I know not everything in the collection will be to his tastes. He may wind up trading some albums with his friends, or selling them.

But maybe he'll listen to a few bands he hasn't heard of before, make some new discoveries, broaden his musical tastes a little. An old auntie can only hope. ;)

I did set aside a couple of special LPs to keep, for now -- including "The Best of Herman's Hermits, Vol. 2," which was one of the very first records I ever got, for my 6th birthday. (I've scoffed at the idea of bucket lists in the past, but if I had one, one of the items on it would definitely be to attend a Peter Noone concert & try to get him to autograph it for me.  ;) )

I feel a bit wistful letting it all go -- the stuff itself, the visceral reminders of my youth, my dreams of handing everything over to my own kids some day.  But I know it's the right thing to do.

(Next: to pare down some of my gargantuan book collection....!)

Monday, May 18, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Victoria Day

It's the Victoria Day long weekend here in Canada.  Apparently we are the only country in the world which still celebrates Queen Victoria's birthday -- a hat tip to her role in our country's history. It's also known as "May Two-Four" -- not only a nod to the traditional celebration date of May 24th (Victoria's actual birthday -- these days, the holiday is celebrated on the Monday before May 24th to give us a long weekend, if May 24th itself is not a Monday) but also to the copious amounts of beer traditionally consumed on this weekend. It's considered the kickoff to summer, the weekend when cottage owners head north to open up their cottages for the season.

Growing up on the Prairies, I don't think I'd ever heard the term "May Two-Four" -- possibly because beer only came in cases of 6 and 12 bottles (that may have changed since then -- or maybe we were just too broke as kids/university students to buy more than a case of 12?? lol). I also don't remember much in the way of backyard fireworks, another staple of the May long weekend in Ontario.  I don't think they were legal in Manitoba in the 1970s. That may have changed too. Here, anyone can & does buy them from the back of a truck in shopping mall parking lots in the days leading up to the holiday. We watch from inside the house, delaying our bedtime until after the explosions have died down, nervously eyeing the trajectory of the light flashes and praying that a glowing ember doesn't land on our roof....! :p

Growing up on the Prairies, the "summer kickoff" connection was also a bit tenuous, because the weather could still be pretty cold. My parents would rarely, if ever, plant their garden (another Victoria Day weekend staple activity here in Ontario) until late May, because the risk of frost was still very real.

Of course, it's been pretty cold here in southern Ontario some years too. I can remember attending a first birthday party some years ago on the May long weekend for one of dh's cousins' kids. There were far too many people to hold the party indoors, but it was so cold (there were snowflakes in the air) we wound up huddled around the barbecue to keep warm.

And tomorrow will mark 25 years (!!!) since we moved into this house on the May long weekend. It was sunny but got quite cold overnight.  And we couldn't turn on the furnace even if we wanted to, because dh's uncle (our real estate agent) discovered that the previous owners had (for some unexplicable reason) removed the filter. By the time we figured this out, it was late on Saturday -- this was before the advent of Sunday shopping in Ontario, a few years later (!) and stores were also closed Monday for the Victoria Day holiday. So we just threw another quilt on our bed that night. :)

At any rate, even if summer is not quite here, this weekend is a sign that it's on its way. Finally.  Thank goodness!!

I'm not a huge Rush fan... but I love their song "Lakeside Park" -- especially the very end verse & musical coda (starting around the 2:30 mark), which references Victoria Day. It brings back great memories of teenaged summer evenings spent around a bonfire on the beach (on Lake Manitoba) with my friends. (I always thought they were singing about the Exhibition Place in Toronto, home of the annual Canadian National Exhibition -- but apparently Neil Peart wrote it about a lakeside park near his childhood home in Port Dalhousie, St. Catharines, Ontario.)

Everyone would gather
On the twenty-fourth of May
Sitting in the sand
To watch the fireworks display
Dancing fires on the beach
Singing songs together...
Though it's just a memory
Some memories last forever

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

Friday, May 15, 2015

Book: "Not My Father's Son" by Alan Cumming

As an avid genealogist, I am a sucker for TV shows like Henry Louis Gates's "Finding Your Roots" on PBS and "Who Do You Think You Are?" on TLC. The shows follow a predictable format -- celebrities in search of their ancestors, with some jaw-dropping revelations along the way. There is much grumbling among us amateur genealogists about how much WE'd like to sail into an archive & have someone waiting for us with a ready-made family tree going back umpteen generations, and a pile of intriguing documents that answer our questions and shed new light on our ancestors' lives. ;) 

Scottish-born actor Alan Cumming -- who has stolen just about every movie and TV show I've ever seen him in -- was invited to appear on the British version of "Who Do You Think You Are?" in 2010. He was curious to find out more about his grandfather, Tommy Darling -- barely remembered by his daughter, Alan's mother, Mary Darling -- who never returned to England after the Second World War and died in a mysterious "gun accident" in Malaysia in 1951.

But just as Alan embarked on this emotion-packed journey into the past, he received some shocking news about another figure from his past:  his long-estranged and now dying father, who brutally abused Alan and his older brother, Tom, as they were growing up.

"Not My Father's Son" goes back & forth between "then" -- Alan's memories of growing up on an isolated Scottish estate -- "now" -- and 2010, where two stories rapidly unfold at the same time:  the filming of WDYTYA, with some stunning  revelations about Tommy Darling's life and death, and Alan's reassessment of his troubled relationship with his father.

It sounds complicated (and it is) -- and the abuse that he describes is hard to read about.  As several Goodreads reviewers put it, there were several points in the book where I just wanted to give the guy a hug.

But I'm very glad I picked this up.  It was riveting reading -- an amazing story, and very well told. I read it in three days & probably could have finished it sooner if life hadn't intervened. ;)  Cumming can definitely add "writer" to his long list of distinguished credits. 

There are many episodes of "Who Do You Think You Are?" available on YouTube;  alas, Alan's doesn't seem to be one of them. If anyone finds a working link that's viewable in Canada, let me know. ;)

This was book #10 that I've read in 2015.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

E-book: "Finally Heard: A Silent Sorority Finds Its Voice" by Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos

When I first started reading blogs some 7-8 (!!) years ago (and eventually screwed up the courage to start my own), the childless/free corner of the ALI community was a pretty small and lonely place. 

That's why I was so thrilled, early on, to find another blogger whose situation so closely matched my own -- and not only that, wrote about it so very well.  As I once described it, finding Coming2Terms by Pamela Jeanne (as she was then known) "was like stumbling into an oasis in the middle of a desert."

In the years since then, Pamela has continued to write about, inspire and advocate for "infertility survivors."  In 2009, she published her award-winning memoir, "Silent Sorority." And now, we have "Finally Heard: A Silent Sorority Finds Its Voice." It's a short read, an inexpensive e-book available through Amazon, and readable on a Kindle e-reader, or on your computer or other device using Amazon's free Kindle software.

Much of the material covered in "Finally Heard" will be familiar to regular readers of Pamela's blog and other writing, but presented here in one cohesive document, it gains new impact. The topics she discusses in this e-book include:
  • the transformative impact of infertility (one that most of us are completely unprepared for), including the effect it has on our relationships with friends and family members;
  • the "blind spots" and hidden biases we all subscribe to, often unconsciously, which set us up for the culture wars that pit parents against non-parents;
  • the pitfalls of the fertility industry, which remains highly unregulated in many countries while raking in money from desperate couples, despite ART failure rates in the range of 70 to 77 per cent;
  • the social stigma faced by those who leave fertility treatments without a baby; 
  • the "indescribably delicious" feeling of connecting with others in the same situation (often through the Internet) -- "kindred spirits" who help create a healing environment that allows many to move forward; and 
  • the weirdness of being a childless woman in a culture where, "if you're not a mother, you don’t rate... For the benefit of all in our society, we need to rethink how we value and characterize the contributions of those who are not parents."
There are also some questions at the very end of the book to prompt classroom or book club discussions. (They would also make great journaling or blogging prompts.)

During her post-IVF "coming to terms" journey, "I craved a mentor or role model who could show me that my life wouldn’t be ‘less than’ or empty for never having walked the well-worn parenthood path – for releasing a cherished dream," Pamela confesses.  But over time, as she encountered other women struggling to answer the question "what's next?" after unsuccessful infertility treatments, she realized, "When no obvious role model exists why spend all my time looking for one? Why not, instead, try to become one?"

Thank you, Pamela, for being such a great role model and mentor, for me and for so many others!

This was book #9 that I've read so far in 2015.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

"Make Your Own Kind of Music"

I was reading & writing online tonight while "The Middle" (starring Patricia Heaton of "Everybody Loves Raymond") played on the TV in the background. I can't say I'm a huge fan of the show, but we often have it on in lieu of anything else more interesting. To be truthful, I find most of the characters annoying -- and the character of Sue, the awkward but eternally enthusiastic middle child/only daughter, downright cringeworthy at times. (Perhaps because she reminds me just a wee bit too much of another awkward teenaged girl I knew a few decades ago? ;) )

Well, in tonight's season finale, Sue graduated from high school. And while disaster loomed (as usual), everything turned out all right in the end, and we were treated to a Sue montage -- set to a very familiar (to me) song.

I remember it as the theme song (& title) of The Carpenters' summer replacement TV series back in the early 1970s... but this wasn't Karen Carpenter singing. A quick search (what on earth did we do before Google??) revealed that it was written by Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil, first recorded in 1968 and popularized a year later by Mama Cass Elliott (of the Mamas & the Papas -- the singer I was trying to identify). 

Next, I Googled the full lyrics. And I smiled. (Remember, this was the late '60s/early '70s...!)

Make Your Own Kind of Music

Nobody can tell ya
There's only one song worth singing
They may try and sell ya
Cause it hangs them up
To see someone like you
But you gotta make your own kind of music
Sing your own special song
Make your own kind of music
Even if nobody else sings along
You're gonna be nowhere
The loneliest kind of lonely
It may be rough going
Just to do your thing's the hardest thing to do
But you've gotta make your own kind of music
Sing your own special song
Make your own kind of music
Even if nobody else sings along
So if you cannot take my hand
And if you must be going, I will understand
You gotta make your own kind of music
Sing your own special song
Make your own kind of music
Even if nobody else sings along
You gotta make your own kind of music
Sing your own special song
Make your own kind music
Even if nobody else sings along
For the record -- I was singing along, lol.  And it struck me that, while the lyrics were certainly appropriate for the character of Sue -- a one-of-a-kind character if there ever was one -- they also fit the situation of those of us who are on this "road less travelled:" "They" may try to tell us that there's only one song worth singing (i.e., parenthood) -- and seeing people like us who flout convention certainly seems to "hang up"/bother some people, doesn't it?

It's lonely, it's rough, doing our own thing, being different from the majority (especially when it's not what we wanted in the first place). But we have to do what we know is right for us. (And it's so nice that more & more people like us are finding their voices and singing along, isn't it?) 

Here's the late, great Mama Cass: 

Monday, May 11, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Voldemort Day 2015

I survived.

This year's Voldemort Day (The Day That Shall Not Be Named) wasn't incredibly painful, as it sometimes has been in the past.  It was just... exhausting. By Thursday, I was complaining to some online friends that I had reached the saturation point:  all the pre-weekend hoopla -- the incessant media ads & store displays, the mounting crescendo of Facebook posts and photos, even the ones directed at ALI-ers -- was starting to get to me, and I just wanted to crawl under a rock (with a carton of Haagen-Dasz) until it was over.

In addition to the lead-up to Voldemort Day, I was recovering from the lack of accumulated sleep while the Squirrel Saga played out (all quiet overhead this week, thank goodness (& knocking wood)....!); increasingly warm & humid weather (which always makes me feel lethargic); the onset of tree pollen and related seasonal allergies (ditto);  and an impeccably well-timed (not -- as usual) visit from Aunt Flo to cope with :p , among other factors.

My usual preferred method of dealing with Voldemort Day is avoidance -- specifically, hiding out in a dark movie theatre. But there weren't any movies right now that I wanted to see (that I hadn't already seen).  I didn't really have any alternate plans in mind -- but in the end, the day unfolded in a pretty nice way.  Dh & I went for our usual morning walk around our neighbourhood, and as we headed home, we talked about what we should have for lunch. We often have eggs for lunch/brunch on Sundays, but we didn't have any in the house. Then the idea popped into my head that if we postponed our post-walk showers (!), we could head to Tim Hortons & treat ourselves to breakfast sandwiches before the breakfast menu expired at noon (Tim Hortons being a far less loaded place, emotionally, than brunch at a nice restaurant would be).  Dh offered to go himself and bring them back home while I cooled off from our walk, and I happily accepted.  After lunch (still in our walking clothes), we headed down to the waterfront for another walk. (We were amused to observe more than one grim-looking dad in the nearby playground, coping with a toddler in full meltdown mode, screaming, "Mommy!!!"  Presumably Mommy was at home, enjoying some much-needed quiet time without the kids, lol.)  And then, since we'd worked off some extra calories ;)  we swung by Dairy Queen for ice cream, before heading home to shower. 

It turned out to be an OK day after all.  But -- TGIO (Thank Goodness It's Over). ;)

How did you cope this weekend?

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

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The squirrel saga :p

Mali recently posted on one of her blogs that there are no squirrels in New Zealand. "You are welcome to mine," one commenter said, to which I added, "You are welcome to ours as well. The rascals love to tap dance on my roof, just above our bedroom, at ungodly hours of the morning. :p "

Squirrels have been rampaging around our yard for the entire 25 years we've been here. Occasionally, we'll see one (usually we hear it first) scampering across our windowsill or shimmying down the drainpipe. A couple of years ago, we woke up to some really weird noises. Dh pulled up the window shade, to be greeted by (I kid you not) the sight of TWO squirrels, doing the (cough cough) wild thing on the narrow brick windowsill. Not exactly what you want to see first thing in the morning. :p  (Get a room!!)  Another time, we pulled up the shade & found a half-eaten, rotting apple sitting on the ledge. (Our bedroom is on the second storey.) Dh managed to pull it down with a rake.

Even so, I never thought too much about our furry friends. Once in a while we'd see a raccoon shuffling down the street or peeking out from a tree early in the morning as we headed off to work (usually on garbage day) & the occasional skunk made his presence known, even if we never actually saw him :p  ;) but those horror stories about animals in the attic and under the eavestroughs? Those things happened to people living in old houses in the densely treed city core, not to us suburbanites. Right?

About three years ago, we had some of the neighbour's trees pruned back to the property line, since some of them were starting to scrape on our recently-reshingled roof. This had the added advantage of making it (slightly) more difficult for squirrels to access our roof.  We were extremely thankful we had done this when a massive Christmastime ice storm devastated trees in the area a year later.

A little over two years ago, stepBIL installed a new bathroom ventilating fan for us, and wound up going up into the attic to do it. "Not a lot of room to manoeuvre up there," he remarked. Apparently it's filled with trusses and crossbeams (and he's a pretty skinny guy). "See any animals up there?" I asked, only half joking. "Oh yeah, the raccoons were having a party," he joked, but added that seriously, no, he hadn't seen anything.  Two summers ago, we our eavestroughs professionally cleaned & a drainpipe reinstalled;  the workers remarked that our roof (reshingled a little over 10 years ago) still looked to be in good shape.


Recently, we've been hearing the pitter patter of tiny feet above our bedroom with increasing frequency (and no, not the kind we once hoped for). ;)  I assumed there were squirrels up on the roof again. (Note I said "ON the roof.") I didn't think too much about it -- until dh started commenting on it. We started getting woken up regularly at 5 and 6 a.m. NOT appreciated. :p 

Last Wednesday night (one week ago), we turned out the lights around 11. And then we heard it again. And then we heard another noise. Kind of like a cat yowling. We both sat upright in bed.

Dh went out into the backyard with a flashlight but couldn't see anything. "I think we need to call someone to come have a look," he said. I agreed. Neither of us slept much -- and we awoke early Thursday morning to the sound of the party going on above us.

We made the call that day and booked an appointment for Friday. (Friday morning's wakeup call was the ungodly hour of 1 a.m. :p ) Later that morning, dh got the brilliant idea of taking a pair of binoculars into the next-door neighbours' yard. He returned to tell me he could clearly see a hole in one of the roof vents. GREAT. :p

When he arrived, the guy from the wildlife control company got out his ladder, went up on the roof & returned about five minutes later to tell us that yes, it appeared that squirrels had gotten into our attic through not just one but TWO of our roof vents. :p  (He showed us pictures he had taken with his cellphone so that we could see for ourselves.)(Is it lame that I still find it cool that people can do these things? 20 years ago, we'd have had to take his word for it.) He also said it looked like they had been there awhile (erk). He recommended replacing the vents & putting protective wire cages/covers over all of them, as well as the chimney, vent stacks, etc., to prevent the squirrels (or any other critters) from getting back in again.

Needless to say, we agreed, and signed the work order.

He then checked out the attic via the trap door in our bedroom closet (from which we'd removed most of the clothes, anticipating he might need access). Like stepBIL, he wasn't able to get too far because the space is so restricted up there -- but he could see a nest under the eaves at the end near our bedroom. Fortunately, he did not see any signs of babies there. Also fortunately, there was not too much visible water damage.
Then he went to work doing the repairs & installing the new vents & protective wire covers. He left one vent unfixed & installed a cover on top of that with a one-way door -- i.e., if there were any squirrels still up there, they could leave but they wouldn't be able to get back in. (Trapping &/or killing squirrels & raccoons, etc., is illegal hereabouts.)  He said he'd return in a few days to check & finish the job. Work is guaranteed for a year.

Total cost: $630+.  :p  Not cheap. But, to be honest, I was worried it would be a lot more. And it was worth it to us, if we could get this thing resolved. 

Shortly after he left, I was in the bedroom & I heard something up there again, although not as loudly as before. As we were settling in for the night, we could hear some noises. Not the rampaging pitter-patter we'd heard before, but more subdued, like scratching & rubbing. I imagine whatever was up there was frightened by all the activity earlier in the day.

"I won't be able to sleep, listening for that all night," dh said flatly. Luckily, we have a sofa bed downstairs -- one of our original purchases when we first got married (& handy to have when company came to visit our one-bedroom apartment). We didn't even make it up properly, just brought down our pillows from the bedroom & threw a blanket over ourselves.

Believe me, sleeping on a 30-year-old sofa bed is a lot more suited to 24-year-old bones than the 54-year-old version. :p  Not the most comfortable sleep. I could practically feel the mattress coils poking through.  But both of us actually slept pretty well, without the constant reminder of our uninvited guests overhead.

Sunday, one of our neighbours across the back fence showed up on our doorstep to tell us that a squirrel had been going round & round the roof all day, pushing on the fascia, chewing on the eavestroughs, trying its darndest to get inside. We called animal control guy (again) & left a message (which was not returned until Monday, grrrr...), and when we did speak to them, they didn't seem too concerned.

The guy showed up yesterday, as promised (after we'd been sleeping on the sofa bed for four nights...!), checked things out, listened to our stories, and seemed pleased by how things were progressing. He said it looked to him like whatever had been in the attic had used the one-way door and exited, and was now trying to find its way back in. He's left it up for a couple more days & will be back later this week to finish the job.

That night, we reclaimed our bedroom, eventually drifted off to sleep and didn't hear a thing all night. Fingers crossed that it continues! 

It occurred to me as we ran the emotional gamut this past week that I could title this post "The Five Stages of Squirrel Removal (a la Elizabeth Kubler-Ross)": 

Denial:  This simply can't be happening to us. They must be ON the roof, right? Our house isn't a showplace, but we do try to keep things neat & in repair.

Anger: Why does this have to happen to us?? Why not the house down the street that has the eavestroughs falling off and the garage door that's never closed??  Why didn't we clue in earlier that this might be a problem?? (See Denial, above.)

Bargaining: If they just get rid of these squirrels for us, and I swear, we will never let it happen again.

Depression:  This sucks. Our house is ruined. We'll never be able to sell it.

Acceptance: So there are squirrels up there. They'll be gone soon;  they have to leave sometime and they won't be able to get back in (& if they do, we'll just call animal control again).  There are worse things in life. (Much, much worse, as readers of this blog well know.) 

(And: Screw this, I'm not spending one more night on a 30-year-old sofa bed. I'm going back to my bedroom where I belong, squirrels or no squirrels.)   

On the bright side: no kids to deal with (our own anxieties and sleeplessness were hard enough to cope with, thank goodness). 

Also on the bright side:  we didn't have to deal with this AND go to work!!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Great reading

This is a great piece about infertility and pregnancy loss. 

And here is a follow-up story with readers' responses.

Siri Agrell's Twitter feed, mentioned in the story, is here. Scroll down -- most of the relevant tweets were posted on or after April 23rd.

Some very powerful and validating reading.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

*  I accidentally posted a (very) rough preliminary draft of this post yesterday & then headed off to the movies.  Thanks, Mel, for the heads up!
*  It's been that kind of week around here...! :p
The squirrel saga (a big part of "that kind of week around here...") has not yet been entirely resolved.  Longer post to come when it is. :p
*  Also part of my week: dh's tinnuitis, dental appointments (fortunately, no cavities), and some crappy PMS symptoms, which seem to be getting worse as I get older. :p
*  The movie we went to see was "Avengers: Age of Ultron." I'm not hugely into comic books, but we've been to the other Avengers/Iron Man movies, which have been fun, albeit slightly over the top sometimes with all the violence, etc. This one was too (both fun & over the top).
* Slight spoiler alert: You wouldn't expect an ALI plot point to pop up in a superheroes movie -- but, there it was, and it made me cry. 'Nuff said.
*  Yesterday was International Bereaved Mothers Day. I tend to roll my eyes at "made up"/Hallmark holidays (but then didn't a lot of holidays begin that way??) -- and the cynical side of me can't quite bring myself to describe myself in terms of my "Mother Heart" (too sappy) -- but I appreciate that someone has made the effort to make us feel special & recognized. Supposedly that other day, this coming Sunday (Voldemort Day, as I like to call it)(i.e., "The Day Which Shall Not Be Named," lol), is for us too -- in fact, if you check the history of the day, it started out that way! -- but it sure doesn't feel that way sometimes...

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

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Article: "You're still nothing until you're a mom"

About a month ago, I asked
Has anyone seen the movie mentioned in the NYT article ("While We're Young")? (It did just open this weekend, and I don't think it's in wide release yet, so I'm not sure too many people have had the opportunity.) Apparently Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play a childless-not-entirely-by-choice couple in their 40s. And while I like them both as actors, and there is some interesting casting in some of the supporting roles, and it's getting some good reviews, I am not entirely sure this is a movie I want to see, depending on how the plot turns out (i.e., do they wind up with a "miracle" pregnancy &/or baby at the end?? :p ). 
(Spoiler alert in the comment section of that post, as well as in the rest of this post!)

"Noah Baumbach’s latest film is a missed opportunity," mourns Michele Filgate in a recent Salon article that takes its cue from this movie.  
I watched it with delight and glee and then, finally, dismay, as it faded into a tired cliché: You can’t grow up until you have kids of your own...

By the end of the film, the message is clear: Being an adult means finally settling down and having kids, whether you give birth to one or adopt one.

What could have been a forward-thinking film that shows it’s OK to not change your mind about having kids instead dissolves into an age-old stereotype. This is incredibly frustrating... 
I have no issue with moms or motherhood. What I do feel incredibly frustrated by is the reminder, again and again, that by not having kids there’s something wrong with me... Where are the fictional role models who are living fulfilling lives without kids?... It’s almost inevitable that when the issue comes up, by the end of the story the person will make the “right” decision and choose to procreate.
Filgate cites examples from popular TV shows that portray childless women as clueless about children ("Mad Men"'s Peggy Olsen, who actually had a baby that was adopted) or self-centred and narcissistic (Carrie Bradshaw on "Sex and the City," versus her friend Charlotte, who only wants to be the perfect wife and mother).  And she points out that nearly half of women between the ages of 15 and 44 did not have kids in 2014 -- a number that continues to increase.
"Obviously some of these women will go on to have kids, but that’s still a very large percentage of the population. Many U.S. citizens are childless by choice—and we need to see more stories that reflect all of the thought that goes into making that kind of decision. A decision not to do something that is largely expected of most people since the beginning of time is a story that deserves to be told. It’s a story that deserves to be heard." [Emphasis mine.]
Amen.  Filgate is clearly speaking about childlessness as a deliberate choice, but certainly those of us who wound up without children after wanting and desperately trying to have them have some interesting stories to be told as well.

The whole article is worth a read.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Memo to self :p

If you think you hear squirrels tap-dancing on your roof in the morning (with increasing frequency), get it checked out sooner versus later.  Chances are they are tap-dancing UNDER your roof -- i.e., in the attic. :p  (Denial, thy name is Loribeth... :p )