Monday, August 31, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: We're everywhere...!

Dh & I went to see "Mr. Holmes" this past weekend, starring the wonderful Ian McKellen as an aging (93 years old) Sherlock Holmes in post-WWII Britain.  I'd read a few reviews when the movie came out earlier this summer (most of them fair to middling), & I knew it was about an older Sherlock Holmes recalling his final case before retirement, some years earlier -- but not much else, so we didn't have many expectations, going into the theatre. And we both liked it a lot. It's not your typical Sherlock movie, but we both thought McKellen's performance was Oscar-worthy.

The one big surprise (potential slight spoiler alert here): pregnancy loss figures prominently in one of the storylines. And grief, loss and regret eventually permeate much of the movie.  Not that it's a big downer of a movie;  as I said, we both enjoyed it tremendously, overall. But I must admit, I was taken aback when the subject was introduced. It's not something you expect to find in a Sherlock Holmes movie, is it?

Have you seen "Mr. Holmes"? What other movies or TV shows have you seen where pregnancy loss (or infertility) were introduced in an unexpected way?

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

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Turn the page

From a friend's Facebook page.
Obviously, my boy-band-loving past continues to influence me as an adult, lol.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Blogging odds & ends

  • I feel like I haven't been posting anything lately (let alone anything of importance), since I got back from vacation, and was thinking I should write some kind of apology. Just haven't felt overly inspired to write.
  • Then I looked and realizef this will be my 11th post in 26 days so far this month;  i.e., I've had a post of some sort just about every other day or so in August.  Granted, most of those posts have been either book reviews or #MicroblogMondays posts. But posts, nevertheless. So I guess I should stop fretting. ;)  The muse will return, eventually...!
  • Over the last few days, I've had the bizarre experience of watching my comments disappear one after another into the ether. It mostly happens on WordPress or self-hosted blogs, it seems. In some cases, I've tried to rewrite/repost the comment -- only to see that one disappear too.  I mentioned this in private emails to Mel & Mali, and both discovered my wayward comments lurking in their spam folders -- but there are quite a few more instances where I didn't get in touch with the blogger. Not sure exactly what I'm doing wrong (and if anyone has any suggestions, let me know...!)(I've run malware and virus scans, just in case, but that still didn't seem to help) -- but if I often comment on your WordPress/self-hosted blog posts and you haven't seen anything from me lately, have a look in your spam folder. There might be something there.  ;)  

Monday, August 24, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: A royally good day :)

I came home last Thursday afternoon to a most welcome voice mail message:  a woman from the courthouse called to tell me my jury duty (which was to have begun today) had been cancelled and I was no longer required to attend. To say I was relieved is an understatement. :) 

Dh decreed that we would spend the day doing something I wanted to do, and so we headed into the city this morning. The Royal Ontario Museum has an excellent exhibit about Pompeii right now (a topic that has fascinated me since I was a kid), and we spent a few hours there. (I am sure you could spend the entire day there and still not see everything.)  We also walked around dh's old stomping grounds at the University of Toronto, and finished off the day with our favourite tourist attraction of all (lol) -- a visit to the nearby mega-bookstore. Definitely much preferable to jury duty.  ;)  

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

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Happiness is...

A Facebook find. :)
A hard lesson to learn (& one I am still learning, to some extent),
but a necessary one.

Monday, August 17, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

Coming up blank for a #MM topic, so here's a dump of some of the stuff running around my brain right now (good old bullet points, lol):

*  It's HOT. And HUMID. July-type weather. Even at 8 a.m. in the morning. Makes it hard to go for our regular walks. Thank goodness for air conditioning (although the a/c in the car is starting to go...!).
*  The back-to-school posts on Facebook started last Monday (Aug. 10th)(!!) among my U.S. friends & relatives. I find the back-to-school hoopla hard enough to deal with (and especially this year, as I blogged a few months ago), and it doesn't help matters when it starts in mid-August & stretches right through mid-September. :p  School doesn't start here until after Labour Day, thank goodness. I do feel sorry for the kids (& teachers!) who have to go in August, when everyone else is still on vacation -- although, granted, they also tend to get out of school in mid-May while kids here go right until the end of June. I guess it all evens out in the wash... But September does seem to be a more fitting time for back-to-school stuff. I guess I'm a traditionalist. ;)
*  I keep having recurring dreams along the same theme (had another one last night): I run into someone from my old office, and they tell me it was all a terrible mistake (i.e., letting me go) & they want me back. So I go back to work (and my old desk & files are in a horrible mess :p ), but everyone is giving me stinkeye & wants to know what I'm doing there -- so I slink off in embarrassment again. :p  It's been over a year, already;  I wish they would stop. :p  I know I am better off these days without the stress (which has only multiplied since I left, or so I hear) -- but I guess being told you're not wanted after 28 years of loyal service & mostly good work is a real blow to the ego. :p  And I guess my subconscious is still smarting, and processing that. :p
*  Between the never-ending U.S. 2016 election campaign and our own Canadian federal election (which was called on Aug. 2nd -- for an election on Oct. 19th!! -- that's a very LONG campaign in Canadian election terms, one of the longest in history), I am already thoroughly sick of politics and politicians. :p  I used to adore politics;  I added political science as a second honours subject when I was at university because I loved it so much. I was a card-carrying member of a political party for a few years, and I seriously thought about trying to get a job on Parliament Hill in Ottawa or at Queen's Park (the Ontario legislature) after graduation. I guess that's the naievete (sp?) of youth for you -- I am so glad now that I didn't. It's a very high-pressure, cut-throat sort of atmosphere, and I have learned that I am just not that kind of person. (I wound up getting enough of that in the job I did eventually land, lol.) 

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

Friday, August 14, 2015

Book: "Between a Heart and a Rock Place" by Pat Benatar

Pat Benatar's first album, "In the Heat of the Night," came out in 1979, just as I was graduating high school and starting university. To say it was a huge hit would be an understatement. She quickly became THE female rock star of the era -- lithe, sexy, fierce, and wow, what a voice!! As proof of her influence, her video of "You Better Run" (a cover of a 1960s Young Rascals song that was on one of the first albums my sister & I owned as kids) was the second video ever played on MTV (right after "Video Killed the Radio Star" by the Buggles).  

Much as I loved Benatar's music back in the day, I hadn't thought much about her lately -- until I recently watched a video clip where she and her husband/guitar player, Neil Giraldo (also known as "Spyder"), talk about the first time they met. (It was love at first sight.)  That reminded me that I had Benatar's 2010 memoir, "Between a Heart and a Rock Place," in my gargantuan to-read pile (the digital one, on my e-reader). I was looking for something light to read on my e-reader while waiting for SIL at a lengthy dental appointment recently -- and I finished it later the same day. (It's not a long nor difficult read.)  The meeting that Benatar describes in the video also forms the introduction of her book, and led to a partnership that has lasted more than 35 years.

Any respect I already had for Benatar was magnified by the time I finished reading this book. In some ways, this is not your typical celebrity/rock star memoir. There's rock & roll, for sure, but very little sex and no drugs -- she cheerfully admits she's boring. (Probably the biggest trouble she admits to getting into was as a teenager, when a clam boat she was on got into an accident and had to be towed by the Coast Guard, making her four hours late for supper.)

Benatar does, however, have plenty to say about her battles with the music industry, over everything from contracts to proper recognition for Giraldo's contributions to her albums to the blatant sexism she endured.  She clashed multiple times with the record company over the sex-kitten image they were determined to promote on her behalf, fended off invitations to sit on radio DJs' laps and was even chased around a piano by an ardent industry executive. She drove the label executives nuts by refusing to keep her romance with Giraldo a secret (female rock stars were supposed to project "availability"), and then getting pregnant. When Benatar started, radio stations wouldn't play two women singers back to back;  in the 1990s, she played some dates on Lilith Fair tours, where she proudly connected with a new generation of strong female music stars who had been inspired by her example.

Eventually, Benatar & Giraldo were able to take control of their career and use some hard-won lessons to their advantage. As Benatar herself says near the book's end, "While I made a pretty good rock star, I made an even better businesswoman."

Over a 35+-year career/professional partnership/marriage, Benatar & Giraldo have managed to stay focused on their music and on maintaining a normal family life. In later years, tours were limited to the summer months to accommodate their kids' school schedules.

Perhaps they value family so much because theirs was hard won. Yes -- what do you know???  Pat Benatar is "one of us." She does not mention fertility treatments, but she and Giraldo tried to have a baby for two years before their daughter Haley was born;  it took nine more years to conceive their second daughter, Hana, with an ectopic pregnancy in between.

Pat, you were a hero to me 35 years ago, and you're even more of a hero to me now that I've read your story. :)

This was book #20 that I've read to date in 2015 (which equals the total number of books I read in all of 2014!)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Book: "All That is Bitter & Sweet" by Ashley Judd

Someone once told me they thought I looked like Ashley Judd (!). I don't quite see it (maybe 30 years and 50 pounds ago??) but I took it as a huge compliment. I've always enjoyed Judd in all the movies I've seen her in, and I've always thought she was beautiful. Beyond acting, I also knew she was a strong feminist, an activist, and that she went back to school in her 40s to get her master's degree in public administration -- from Harvard, no less!!  And, of course, she's the younger daughter & sister of country singers Naomi & Wynonna Judd.

Judd is also the author (with Marianne Vollers) of a 2011 memoir, All That is Bitter & Sweet, based on her personal diaries. I thought it might be an interesting read, and picked it up about a year ago. I only just now finished it.

I've mentioned before that I have a fondness/weakness for Hollywood/celebrity memoirs. This was not one of them -- at least, not a typical one. Yes, Judd does discuss her acting career and some of the famous people she's met along the way -- but that is not the focus of this book, or of Judd's life, for that matter. Acting may pay the bills, but Judd's life passion is clearly for her humanitarian work, particularly on behalf of women and girls, and mostly in concert with Population Services International (PSI), which has taken her to slums, brothels and clinics in developing countries such as Cambodia, India, Rwanda and Congo.  The book describes her travels on behalf of PSI and the sometimes horrifying personal stories of the women and children she met in mind-numbing detail.

It's overwhelming for us to read -- and it has been overwhelming for Judd to live through. After a couple of years of such trips, and finding it increasingly difficult to cope emotionally, she realized she needed to resolve the needs of her own neglected inner child. In 2006, she checked herself into an intensive 42-day rehabilitation program at Shades of Hope, a treatment facility in Buffalo Gap, Texas, where she tackled deep-rooted issues of depression and co-dependency. Growing up, Judd was bounced around among various relatives and often left to fend for herself while her mother worked as a nurse and doggedly pursued a career in country music with her older daughter.

At the time she wrote the book, Judd was married to race car driver Dario Franchitti, and she describes how they met and got married in a Scottish castle. He's more absent than present in this book, however, and since its publication, they have divorced.  No doubt their busy careers and the long spells apart that Judd describes in the book had something to do with it.

On the ALI front (you knew there had to be an ALI angle to this, right?? ;) ), Judd is childfree by choice.  In the book, she explains:
The fact is that I have chosen not to have children because I believe the children who are already here are really mine, too. I do not need to go making 'my own' babies when there are so many orphaned or abandoned children who need love, attention, time, and care. I have felt this way since I was at least eighteen and I had an argument about it with a childhood friend…I figured it was selfish for us to pour our resources into making our 'own' babies when those very resources and energy could not only help children already here, but through advocacy and service transform the world into a place where no child ever needs to be born into poverty and abuse again. My belief has not changed. It is a big part of who I am.
I admire Ashley Judd hugely for all she has accomplished, personally and professionally, and overall, this was a thoughtful and absorbing book. It's a worthy read, especially if you are interested in her life & work, or in global feminist/humanitarian causes generally. But it's not an easy book to get through (there's a reason why it took me a full year, on & off...!). The subject matter, while worthy of attention, is difficult (you probably NEED to take a break from it every now & then); the language, while powerful and eloquent, includes a little too much spiritual and 12-step recovery movement jargon for my liking. At 470 pages (!), it probably could have been 100 pages shorter, and still gotten its messages across effectively. 

I'd give it three stars out of five.

This was book #19 that I've read to date in 2015.

Monday, August 10, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: I, the jury...

The summer is flying by -- and my enjoyment of what's left of it may potentially be further shortened by the prospect of JURY DUTY, starting in a couple of weeks' time!!  I had to fill out a form last fall to be entered into the pool for the next 12 months -- I had almost forgotten about it, but the summons was waiting for me when we got back from our anniversary getaway. :p 

Dh is encouraging me to look at this as an adventure. Part of me is curious, of course -- I've watched enough courtroom dramas & read enough novels, lol, and I did attend a few trials during my days as a journalism student.  And yes, I know it's my civic duty, etc. etc. -- but I'm really reluctant to serve on a jury, particularly if it's a nasty sort of case or something that's not very clear-cut. I have trouble making decisions affecting my own life as it is -- I really don't want to be (partly) responsible for making an important decision that could affect so many others' lives. :p 

It's the uncertainty that is really gnawing at me. Dh & I were talking about a fall getaway, but we've had to put our plans for the next few weeks/months on hold until I find out what's going to happen. (They couldn't have called me in the 28 years that I was working, & dying for an excuse to get out of the office??)  Friends have been asking about get togethers, & I've had to tell them I don't know when I'll be available.  I could be there for up to a week, I think, and be dismissed (which is what I'm hoping for). Or I could be selected for a trial that lasts days, weeks, months.

It's also slightly inconvenient. The courthouse is about a half-hour drive away.  I don't drive (that far, at least -- and we only have one car, so I couldn't leave dh all day for days on end without one), so dh will be driving me & picking me up. If we'd both still been working, I would have had to rely on public transportation (commuter train & bus).  

Have you ever been called for jury duty or served on a jury?

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

Friday, August 7, 2015


This week always seems to sneak up on me. Maybe that's for the best.

What can I say? The years fly by, and it doesn't seem possible that so much time has passed. She's still and forever my baby, my wee baby who never drew a breath -- but she would have been almost grown up now. In less than five weeks, she would have been starting Grade 12 (senior year). She would have turned 17 in November, if she's been born alive and on schedule;  she would have been going to prom and graduating next spring. This time next year, she would be (presumably) be getting ready to start university or college, possibly away from home (although we have some excellent schools in this city).  Dh & I both have several friends & cousins whose kids are 17 or turning 17 and starting Grade 12 this year -- I can think of five right off the top of my head. Needless to say, I am not looking forward to all the coming social media reminders of what we're missing. :(

We got some flowers this morning and visited the cemetery. "So here we are again," I remarked to dh as we stood by Katie's niche. Then we went for brunch.

It's been a quiet day. I'm glad.

*** *** ***

On a related (but much lighter) note: 

Katie's impending 17th released several earworms in my head -- songs with "17" in the title and/or lyrics. The more I thought, the longer the list grew: 
  • Janis Ian, "At Seventeen" ("I learned the truth at seventeen, that love was meant for beauty queens...")
  • Stevie Nicks, "Edge of Seventeen"
  • The Beatles, "I Saw Her Standing There" ("Well she was just seventeen, you know what I mean...")
  • The Cars, "Let's Go" ("And she won't give up because she's seventeen...")
  • Meatloaf, "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" ("We were barely seventeen and we were barely dressed...")(OK, maybe I don't want to be thinking about this one in the context of my would-be teenaged daughter...! lol)
  • ABBA, "Dancing Queen" ("Young and sweet, only 17...")
One of the songs that first popped into my head was by (cough!) the Bay City Rollers (the One Direction/'NSync/Backstreet Boys/New Kids on the Block/you get the idea... of my day ;) ) -- opening lines: "It's a teenage dream to be seventeen and to find you're all wrapped up in love..."

"My" special Roller was Woody (AKA Stuart Wood, who was only four years older than me -- the same age as my husband, actually! -- and still a teenager himself when he first joined the group), the bass player in the white jacket and red pants, standing to the left of the lead singer. A penpal from Britain sent me a much-coveted gigantic poster of him, wearing nothing but a very long & strategically placed tartan scarf, which I hung on the wall directly over my bed, much to my parents' displeasure. (The poster, not the scarf, lol.)  This was pretty racy stuff for a teenaged girl in 1977. I wonder if it's still in my closet at Mom & Dad's??

Going even further back, The Archies' first album had this little gem: 

One more, by The Stray Cats!  I had a couple of their albums back in the day, but hadn't heard this song in years, and I'm not sure I ever saw this video before. What fun! :)

Any others you can think of?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Summer reading

It was a good vacation for reading:  I polished off five books over two weeks, bringing my 2015 total to 18. :)  Here are some capsule reviews, with ALI relevant-themes noted. 

(FYI, I accidentally posted a draft of this post earlier tonight;  my apologies to anyone who got a notification in their reader & then wondered what happened.)  

 "Watch Me" picks up where actress Angelica Huston's first memoir about her growing up years,"A Story Lately Told" (which I reviewed here), left off, in the early 1970s.  Like the earlier book, it's a fun read, chock full of famous names and interesting stories about Huston's life and career in Hollywood.  As an actress, she's probably most famous for her Oscar-winning role as Maerose Prizzi in "Prizzi's Honor" in 1985 -- but I had quite a few moments where she mentioned working on some movie or TV show or another where I thought, "Oh yeah, she was in that too!" (Would you believe "Laverne & Shirley"??!) 

After fleeing from an abusive relationship with a New York fashion photographer, Huston went to live in Los Angeles with her father, director John Huston, and his wife Cici, and decided to start acting again. Not long after her arrival (as the book begins, in 1973), she attended a party with her stepmother where she met Jack Nicholson. They had an on again, off again relationship over the next 17 years.

While I loved Huston's stories about the people and projects she's worked with over the years (she's a good storyteller), for me personally, the most interesting parts of the book were her frank discussions about her (ambivalent, ultimately unsuccessful) attempts over many years to have a baby and her thoughts about motherhood & childlessness (although I don't entirely agree with some of them). Despite her growing awareness of Nicholson's philanderings, "I wanted to be with him and have his children. I thought that having a child might create an intimacy between us, and eventually I began taking hormones for in vitro therapy, although I was unsure that having a baby would dispel the issues of Jack's chronic unfaithfulness or my own past indiscretions," she writes in Chapter 17.

Huston never did become pregnant, and finally ended the relationship in 1990, when Nicholson confessed to her that he had fathered a child with another woman:
The fact that Rebecca Broussard had become pregnant where I had failed made me feel inadequate and bitter. The path to discovering what was wrong with me, and why my reproductive organs were not functioning, was a long and arduous one. The fertility doctors had discovered that I had endometriosis, and had probably had it since my teens. I had undergone a laparoscopy, followed by a hysteroscopy, but a child was not to be. As hard as I might try to visualize it, I found the idea of having a baby frightening, and could never truly imagine such a thing as pregnancy happening to me. I think much of what a woman is has to do with procreation. And to find oneself infertile somehow renders one useless as a woman, in the grimmest set of the mind's eye, so I was very conflicted.  
I was never completely sure until my late thirties that a baby was what I really wanted, or if it was more about pleasing my mate. I still felt like a child myself, maybe because I'd lost my mother so early. Selfishly, I didn't want to grow up to be someone else's mother. Jack had been enthusiastic about trying in vitro, but we agreed that having intercourse by the numbers was a turnoff...  
Although in many ways it was not logical, the sense of betrayal was overwhelming;  I felt abandoned and dejected and humiliated. I was not yet forty, but in magazine articles, I was described as the older woman. We were now living separate lives, but I had always thought of Jack as family.
This specific part of Huston's story reminded me of Patti Boyd (whose memoir I reviewed here), who tried for years (unsuccessfully) to have a baby with both her famous musician husbands, George Harrison and Eric Clapton. She too left Clapton after he fathered a child with another woman. Despite their ups & downs, Huston has stayed friends with Nicholson and thanks him in the book's credits for allowing her to write about their relationship. 

In the early 1990s, Huston met and married the sculptor Robert (Bob) Graham (who died in 2008). They, too, tried to have a child together.  "I was now in my mid-40s, and this was my last chance to consider motherhood... Maybe a child could be part of our new adventure together," she wrote.  She underwent another laparoscopy, hysteroscopy and several rounds of IVF.
It was something of an ordeal. I felt like a human pincushion, giving myself shots of progesterone and Premarin several times a day, as well as going to the Alhambra for fertility acupuncture with a Dr. Peng. I remember praying that the outcome would be positive. Bob and I made the attempt to implant several times, but it had not worked. I felt like an animal experiment;  the whole process was a trial and felt unnatural.  
The last time I underwent in vitro, at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, it was with several of my own fertilized eggs. The doctors recommended that I lie on my back for a week following the procedure. Everything felt good until day five, when I felt a change and knew instinctively that the effort had failed. I believed that it was not meant to be, and decided that I was not going to try again.
Although Huston never became a mother, she is close to several of her siblings (particularly her much-younger half-sister, Allegra, who was only 4 when their mother died), and she is obviously proud of her nieces and nephews, whose faces fill the photo section. Near the end of the book, now in her 60s, Huston reflects:
I never thought I would get this far and have so many years behind me: life's kaleidoscope of colours, its sounds, emotions and special effects, its memories receding like rainbows. I have no children of my own, but it is daunting to realize that by now I might be not only a great aunt but a grandmother. I think of how children tie us to the earth, how hard it must be to parent them and then let them go.
*** *** ***

Celia's House is another charming novel by D.E. Stevenson, whose novels I read as a teenager and rediscovered around this time last year.  As I wrote then, "[Stevenson's books] are perhaps a little old-fashioned, very much products of the time & place they were written -- but still, well-crafted and realistic stories -- funny, charming romances, comedies of manners and family dramas featuring engaging characters."

"Celia's House" is very much in this vein -- old fashioned, eyerolling in some respects, but overall, warm, cozy, gentle -- the kind of book that's easy to read, but hard to find these days.  (Some Goodreads reviewers have noted its resemblance, plotwise, to Jane Austen's "Mansfield Park.") 

I don't remember reading "Celia's House" in the past, but it was recently reissued in paperback & ebook versions. Written in 1943 during the Second World War, it's the story of Dunnian, the Dunne family estate in the Scottish border country, and several generations of its occupants. It's my DES online group's pick for reading & discussion this month. :)

The story opens in 1905 with 90-year-old spinster Celia Dunne meeting with her nephew, Humphrey. She reveals to an astonished Humphrey that he, and not her other/older nephew and presumed heir, Maurice, will inherit Dunnian upon her death. The catch is that Humphrey, in turn, must leave Dunnian to his daughter Celia. The fact that Humphrey does not have a daughter named Celia (yet??) does not deter his aunt;  she assures him he will. The story follows Humphrey, his family and Dunnian through the years leading into WWII. 

As a childless infertile person, this book raised a few of my hackles. The childless couple, Maurice & Nina, are clearly set up as villains here. It's not JUST their lack of potential heirs that make them unsuitable, of course -- they are greedy snobs who clearly can't wait for Aunt Celia to kick off so they can get their hands on that big estate and "modernize" it. (But why is it always the childless couple who are the villains??) Likewise, Celia's confidence that Humphrey WILL have another daughter is jarring to anyone who has been through infertility. And (SPOILER ALERT!!), while there is an infertility subplot near the end of the book, it's resolved in the predictable, obligatory fashion (remember, this WAS 1943!). 

And yet -- Aunt Celia, while childless and elderly, is a strong character, beloved by her servants & neighbours, and determined to do what she believes is right for Dunnian and its future, tradition be damned. I loved her for that. Her grandniece and namesake shows similar strength of character, determined to wait for the right man and not "settle," even as she enters her 30s.

There are a couple of corny touches -- the lady that young Mark sees on the staircase, the visitor at the book's end. But, if you're willing to suspend disbelief, cast your mindset back to Britain in the first half of the 20th century and accept the book on its own terms, I think you might enjoy it.   

*** *** ***

I wasn't sure whether reading "They Left Us Everything" while vacationing at my aging parents' overstuffed house (as they contemplate downsizing) was a great idea, lol. Granted, my parents are both still here and well (in their mid-70s), and hopefully they'll be around for awhile yet.  Their small-town split-level is nowhere near as big as author Plum Johnson's parents' 23-room house (!) on the shores of Lake Ontario near Toronto -- and they've only lived there 30 years versus more than 50.

But my parents have also inherited stuff from THEIR parents -- and still have stuff in their basement that was mine and my sister's (!). And if/when they move (as they no doubt will, sooner than later), there's going to be an awful lot of purging and decluttering to be done (although we did make a bit of a start, a few years back...!).  

Anyway, despite subject matter that hit a little too close to home for comfort, I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend this book. You might think, given the subject matter, that this would be a depressing read. While there is sadness, frustration and anger in its pages, there is also warmth, fun, humour and love. Johnson thought it would take her about six weeks to clear the house and get it ready for sale;  it wound up taking 16 all-consuming months. She mothballed her house in Toronto and moved back into her childhood home, sorting, purging, cataloguing, documenting and reflecting. Despite the gargantuan task, Johnson says she now encourages parents to leave everything behind for their kids to sort out, because of what she learned about her parents, her family and herself along the way.

"I know why I needed to spend so much time in this house," [Johnson tells a friend near the book's end].  "It wasn't about untangling the stuff -- it was about untangling myself from Mum. The clutter wasn't hers... it was mine." 

I cried as I read about Johnson's final "sibling supper" in the house with her brothers, and their "Hong Kong Farewell" walk around the grounds. But it was a good cry. :)

*** *** ***

As you've probably guessed, I have a weakness for Hollywood/show biz bios & memoirs. "There Goes Gravity:  A Life in Rock and Roll" by Lisa Robinson, one of the first and best-known women writing about rock & roll, was irresistible, but I managed to wait for the paperback (& I'm actually glad I didn't spend the extra money on the hardcover). It's a light, gossipy insider's look at the last 40+ years of rock & roll and some of its main figures.

I can't say I came away with any earth-shattering insights or bombshell revelations, which was slightly disappointing (as some Goodreads reviewers complain, this book could and should have been so much more...) -- but there are some fun stories here. The chapters are loosely organized around Robinson's encounters with specific bands or genres of music, including the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie & Lou Reed (she introduced them), John Lennon, Michael Jackson, the Clash, U2, Eminem and Lady Gaga (who cooked her a pasta dinner in her parents' New York City apartment).

(Re: the Stones, Robinson adored the band's keyboard player, the late Ian Stewart. He was part of George Thorogood's band when I saw him in the early 1980s;  I remember a huge cheer going up when George introduced him. I don't think I'd even heard of the guy before that, but I certainly have since then.)

As a one-time journalist myself, I enjoyed hearing about how Robinson approaches an interview, particularly that she still uses cassette tapes vs digital recorders (I did too, as long as I was working) and always brings at least three recorders to each interview as a precaution, in case one fails. Her references to the scads & scads of boxes of tapes, notes and photos in her collection had me drooling.

*** *** ***


Having read Mel's mini-review of The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins earlier this summer, I already knew that there were some significant ALI plot points at work in this book. Alcoholism, job loss, marital infidelity and maternal ambivalence also figure heavily. In other words, it's not really an "up" sort of read, and none of the characters are particularly likeable, nevermind reliable narrators.

I didn't like that the book pits a pathetic childless, infertile woman and a smug uber-mommy against each other. A bit too close to home, perhaps?  However, I could totally relate to the book's gimmick: the main narrator, Rachel (there are actually three, which you might not realize from the title alone), travels to & from London every day on a commuter train, observing the scenes outside her window and making up stories about the people she sees.  One day, she sees something shocking, and goes to the police about it, setting off a chain of events that nobody could have foreseen. I kind of guessed whodunit before the end, but there were still some twists (literal and figurative) at the very end that I hadn't seen coming. Overall, a good read, especially if you like thrillers. If you're depressed about your infertility, though, you might want to wait until you're in a slightly better frame of mind.

Having taken a commuter train to & from work for 25 years, I can tell you that the parts of the book that take place on the train were SPOT ON. Dh & I saw the same people on our daily commute, day after day, and had private nicknames for some of them (as I am sure some of them had for us). The only thing approaching criminal that I ever witnessed was an occasional cluster of pre-teen boys standing  along the tracks after school, throwing rocks. Once, they shattered the window near my seat. It's tempered glass, so no flying shards, thank goodness, but the noise alone is enough to scare the crap out of you, especially since you're usually half asleep or deeply absorbed in your paper. (Little brats...!!)

I've been on trains that were delayed because of criminal investigations, though -- once, a fire in a junkyard along the tracks;  other times, "trespassers" (often suicides). Probably the most startling thing I ever spotted from the train: a completely naked guy, coming up the hill towards the tracks from an area known to locals as an unofficial nude beach. ;)  However, they've since built walking trails along the lakeshore in that area & I seldom see nude sunbathers there anymore.

As I said above, this brings my YTD 2015 reading total to 18 books. :)

What have you been reading this summer?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

That's OK

Well, it's not entirely OK. It will never be "OK" that I lost my daughter.
But even though it's not the life I planned, it's the life I wound up with.
And on its own terms, it's still a pretty good life, all things considered.
(From the Purple Clover Facebook page.)  

Monday, August 3, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Post-vacation odds & ends

*  Back from a two-week visit with my parents. I had my laptop with me, but my time on it was limited. Not necessarily a bad thing. ;)
*  Got five books read :)  & will be writing some reviews shortly.
*  Flew home straight into the path of a big thunderstorm that we had no idea was coming. Sometimes ignorance is bliss... We had to circle outside the city for about half an hour before we got clearance to land, and could see some big black clouds & lightning bolts not too far away. Happily, it was a smooth landing & all was well.
*  Got home in time to watch the season ender of "Poldark" on PBS Masterpiece. Having read the books & seen the 1970s series, I knew what was coming, but I still bawled my eyes out. ALI caveat emptor! 
*  I think the show was doubly emotional for me because we are just days away from Aug. 5th & 7th.  :(  It always seems to sneak up on me, particularly when we've been on vacation.
*  And it doesn't help that Aunt Flo arrived this morning, several days earlier than usual. :p 
*  Dh has gone to see his dad, so I am enjoying some quiet time on the loveseat, readjusting.  I always find myself in a bit of a daze for a day or so after travelling, even when it's not a very long flight.
*  I have a blog reader full of posts to be read, so it's going to take awhile to catch up. What have I missed??

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