Tuesday, May 31, 2016

"All the Single Ladies" by Rebecca Traister

As someone who's been happily married for more than (gulp) 30 years, you might wonder why I was interested in reading "All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation" by Rebecca Traister, who writes about women and feminism for Salon, among other publications. 

Of course, all married women were single once too -- and will more likely than not be single again at some point in our lives. Married, single, widowed, divorced, cohabiting -- whatever your status, the main reason you should read Traister's book is that it's a fascinating read with messages that are applicable in many ways to all women.

Traister uses historical and statistical research as well as personal anecdotes from a diverse range of women (including herself) to trace the experiences of unmarried women throughout the centuries, and makes the case that they have been a driving force behind many of the political, social and economic changes that have shaped life as we know it today in the 21st century. There are chapters on friendship, work, race, class, geography, money (or the lack thereof), sex, marriage and parenthood (including the role of ARTs and egg freezing). 

Of course, single women run the gamut from those hoping to someday be mothers to the adamantly childfree by choice to single mothers. The last full chapter of the book ("Then Comes What?") is devoted to the question of motherhood and the role it plays in single women's lives.  It even carefully explains the distinctions between women who are childfree by choice and those childless by circumstance.

Overall, there was much in this book that I, as a childless married woman, could relate to, particularly in the attitudes of others and the way we are treated by society -- the weird mixture of both pity and snarky enviousness, the accusations of "selfishness," the assumption that all women want to be and will be mothers someday, the constant inquiries as to the status of my uterus... 

I enjoyed this book so much that I've picked up Traister's previous book, "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women" (i.e., the 2008 U.S. election) for my next read. I'm enjoying it tremendously as well -- although it's somewhat depressing to realize how little progress has been made over the past 8 years. A review will be forthcoming once I'm finished.

This was book #8 that I've read to date in 2016.

Monday, May 30, 2016

#MicroblogMondays: Decisions, decisions...

Dh & BIL are chomping at the bit to paint the condo -- the main space, anyway -- and to get it done before the arrival of the new furniture that we've ordered. I'll admit it's easier to paint now, before we get any more furniture that will need to be covered up with dropcloths & moved around, etc. -- but part of me thinks we should wait & then pick a colour that pulls everything together. Or am I just being picky?

Right now, the walls are a very pale shade of blue, almost an aqua shade. In some lights, it looks a bit grey. It really complements the sandy brown laminate wood floors & the black, grey & white (& stainless steel appliances) in the kitchen.

I've always been fond of blue, and the cool shade is a nice change from the warm colours we've had in our house for the past 26 years. And the building is only a little over a year old.

So why (re)paint? 

First, it's not the greatest quality paint nor paint job -- and there are holes in the walls left by the previous owners' artwork, mirrors, photos, etc., that need to be filled and covered. And while I love the colour generally, I think maybe it's just a tad too pale.  I'm thinking pale blue, again, but perhaps just a wee bit darker/more colour than what's on the walls right now. Right now, I'm dithering between two shades of light blue/grey. I was going to post links & have you all weigh in, but the colours on my screen actually bear NO resemblance to the paint chips in my hand -- argh!! :p

Decisions, decisions... (never my strong suit...!). :p  ;)  SIGH.

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

Monday, May 23, 2016

#MicroblogMondays: Motown moment :)

I often find myself mouthing the words to the music that's playing in the background as I'm shopping. Last week, I was in a bookstore & found myself not only vigorously lipsynching along with Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell ("Ain't No Mountain High Enough"), but having to restrain myself from dancing in the aisles. ;) 

Then I realized someone behind me actually WAS singing along. I'm not even sure she realized she was doing it. I stifled a giggle as I envisioned the whole store breaking out in song & dance, like an episode of "Glee" or a movie musical. ;)

Later in the week, I was in another outlet of the same store, quietly boogie-ing down among the stacks to Stevie Wonder's "Uptight (Everything is Alright)."

Ah, the power of Motown. ;) 

Please tell me that I'm not the only one who finds herself singing in public (or desperately stifling the urge to??) (And does anyone else think Marvin Gaye was damned sexy??)

(P.S. While I try to restrain myself in public, I DO sing along to the radio in the car. And sometimes in the shower.) 

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

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Right now...

Right now... (an occasional meme): 

Reading:  "All the Single Ladies" by Rebecca Traister. (Yes, I was reading this the LAST time I wrote a "Right now" post, lol. But I did finish a few other books in the meantime.)

Watching:  The suppertime news on TV.

Listening:  To the rattle and hum of construction equipment. (Which brings me to the next subject:)

Following:  Progress on the construction of a new luxury townhouse development behind our condo building. It's sometimes noisy around here during the day (especially with the windows open), but it's been interesting to watch things progress. I've been taking photos & posting them in a separate album on Facebook. Not sure anyone else finds it as interesting as we do, but, whatever. ;)

Drinking:  Water. Lots of water. Trying to maintain a good intake. The new condo is quite dry -- we've only been able to crack 40% on the hygrometer once or twice, and it's been as low as 23%. We've bought a humidifier, but it's pretty noisy :p so I try not to put it on unless I have to. Of course, it's likely the summer weather will soon be so humid we will be using the air conditioner to DEhumidify things. ;)

Eating:  For dinner tonight: oven-baked pork chops, baked potato & broccoli.

Wearing:  Still in my retirement uniform of yoga pants & T-shirt, lol.

Anticipating:  The upcoming Victoria Day long weekend (although every weekend is a long weekend when you're retired...!), and getting into my capris & sandals, very soon!!

Contemplating:  Whether I want to paint, before or after we get our new furniture (now on order), and what colour(s)? 

(Dh & BIL think we should paint before the new furniture arrives;  I appreciate there would be less stuff to move around & cover up, but I also like the idea of waiting & picking colours that actually go with the furniture. ;)  The main living space is currently a very pale shade of blue;  I kind of like how light & airy it makes the place look and how well it sets off the black & white & stainless steel of the kitchen, as well as the laminate wood floors -- but I'm thinking we should go just a shade or two deeper and possibly a little more grey than blue. Our house was mostly painted in warm shades for the entire time we lived there, so I'm thinking something a bit more cool toned would be a fun change. What do you think?) 

Wishing: Aunt Flo would just begone from my life, already. :p  

Coughing:  I went for the last few years at work with hardly any sick days (& most of those Aunt Flo-related  :p ). I'm currently on cold #4 since Christmastime and definitely #3 since we put our house up for sale in March.  (I'm thinking stress may be playing a role here, as well as seasonal allergies). Bah, humbug. :p

Loving:  Our new condo (if not the horrible traffic hereabouts...!). 

Monday, May 16, 2016

#MicroblogMondays: Reminders I don't need...

...about the life that might have been mine (and my daughter's):
  • An online friend in the U.S. just posted a photo from her son's high school graduation (boy, you finish school early there... grad here won't be until late June!).
  • Dh's cousin's son -- just a few weeks older than our Katie would have been -- announced on Facebook last week that he's been accepted to a prestigious Canadian university. 
  • Another cousin's son, also set to graduate high school this year, is being scouted by U.S. colleges for a sports scholarship.  
  • Malia Obama -- whom I only recently realized is the same age Katie would have been -- made headlines when her decision to attend Harvard was announced recently.
  • Even one of my favourite cartoon strips -- Between Friends -- is featuring the angst of parents Harv and (especially) Susan over their daughter Emma's forthcoming graduation -- and her determination to attend an out-of-province school this fall.
    • It doesn't seem that long ago that Susan & Harv, like me & dh, were going through infertility.
    • Emma was adopted. It was a closed adoption, but I remember an interesting series of strips where Susan encounters the birth mom, who was watching her & Emma in the park. The adoption hasn't been brought up in the strip in many years, though.
  • Glad to be away from the two high schools that Katie might have attended, and their front-lawn signs that announced every event she would have been involved with -- including prom and graduation this year. (Also glad that there aren't any high schools near our new condo to remind me either.)
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.       

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Odds & ends

  • This weekend, we did something we hadn't done in a LONG time (pre-real estate madness). We went to see a movie:  Captain America: Civil War.
    • This was only the sixth movie we've seen so far this year. We're slipping!! 
    • Best part of the movie  (mild spoiler alert):  when Cap kissed a girl -- and the little boy in front of us voiced his displeasure with a loud "SERIOUSLY??!"  Dh & I both cracked up. I still laugh when I think about it. ;)
  • On another Captain America-related note, Agent Carter, one of my favourite mindless fun TV shows from last season, was cancelled. Boo, hiss. :( 
  • This weekend, I (also) spent an afternoon with a half-dozen fellow loss moms, online friends who were in town for their annual meetup. The topic of pregnancy loss rarely came up in the four hours we spent together (and when it did, it was in a mostly peripheral way), but there's an instant comfort level that comes from being with your tribe, isn't there??  :)  
  • We are enjoying some amazing sunsets from the balcony of our new condo. For example: 

  • The same amazing people who pushed Bill 141 into law here in Ontario just before last Christmas have now coordinated an all-day summit on pregnancy loss at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto tomorrow. The conference is full (and I was sadly unable to attend anyway), but the good news is it will be live streamed!  so I'm hoping to catch at least some of it. :) Details will be forthcoming on the Bill 141 Facebook page.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Recent reading

"Clapton: The Autobiography" by classic rock guitar hero Eric Clapton was one of those books that I started a long time ago, put down to read something else, and then came back to in increments. I finally finished it just before our big move. Dh is a big Clapton fan, particularly of his more recent blues stuff (the "Mr. Johnson & Me" album, for example), and of course he's been a part of the soundtrack of my life, from the Yardbirds through Cream, Derek and the Dominos and his solo stuff. I'd also read the memoir written by his ex-wife, Pattie Boyd (also his best friend George Harrison's ex-wife -- therein lies a tale...!), which I reviewed here, and was interested to see how the two stories compared.

Clapton has a intriguing personal story -- and what do you know, he's half-Canadian. :)  His birth father was a Canadian soldier who impregnated his mother, Patricia, when she was a teenager during the Second World War. Clapton grew up thinking of Pat as his older sister and his grandparents as his parents. He discovered the truth when he was a boy and it obviously had a profound impact on his relationships with women throughout his adult life.

Reading about Clapton's adventures as a fledgling musician in London in the early 1960s was fun. Slogging through the stories about his eventual addictions -- first to heroin and then to alcohol -- not so much. Fortunately, his second attempt at rehab was successful, and he has helped many other addicts regain sobriety through his Crossroads treatment centre in Antigua, which he has funded through the occasional sales of his guitar collection and other memorabilia.

As many bereaved parents know, Eric Clapton is "one of us" -- the horrific loss of his toddler son, Conor, in 1991 inspired the hit ballad "Tears in Heaven," and he writes starkly and movingly about his grief over the little boy's death. A relapse might have been understandable, but he vowed to live a life that was worthy of his son, and has remained sober for well over 20 years.

In recent years, Clapton has found redemption in his marriage to a much-younger woman, with whom he has three daughters (now teenagers). He ends the book on a note of profound appreciation for the life he now lives.

Overall, the tone is a bit dry and matter of fact, but I appreciated Clapton's honesty and sense of humour. 

*** *** ***

Anyone who knows me knows about my lifelong fascination with the Kennedy family, and it's been great in recent years to see the Kennedy women getting a share of the spotlight. Just before Christmas, I read & reviewed a new book about one of the lesser-known Kennedys, oldest daughter/sister Rosemary.  And over the past few weeks, I tackled "Kick Kennedy:  The Charmed Life and Tragic Death of the Favourite Kennedy Daughter" by Barbara Leaming.  

I read an earlier biography of Kick from the library some years ago, called "Kathleen Kennedy: Her Life and Times" by Lynne McTaggart (which I remember as very good -- alas, it is sadly out of print now), as well as other books about the Kennedys, so I was familiar with the story of Kathleen, or Kick, as she was known to family members & friends. This new book skips over Kick's childhood entirely: it begins with her arrival in London in 1938, when her father was appointed the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, and focuses on her life in England. 

Kick, then 18 and full of the Kennedy charm, was an instant hit among her peers in the aristocracy, who were fascinated by how different she was, and she enjoyed an active social life. (Leaming interviewed many of Kick's friends and in-laws -- just in time, as many have since passed away -- and was privy to some previously unknown details and insights.) After making her debut and being presented at court before the King and Queen with her mother and sister Rosemary, Kick quickly attracted the attention of many suitors, but soon fell in love with Billy Hartington, the oldest son & heir of the Duke of Devonshire, and a member of one of the wealthiest and most influential families in Britain. The Devonshires, however, were staunch members and leaders of the Anglican Church;  the Kennedys, of course, prided themselves on the image they presented as a model Catholic family. Neither family encouraged the romance. 

With the coming of the Second World War, Joe Kennedy sent his family back to America. Kick spent the next several years writing to Billy and searching for a way to return to England. When she finally did return in 1943, as a Red Cross worker, she & Billy realized they still loved each other. Dazzled by the prospect of becoming a duchess and the political and social role she could play, as well as by love, Kick finally agreed to raise her children as Anglicans, and the couple was married at a registry office in May 1944, in the presence of Billy's family, who had also grown to love her. The lone Kennedy family member to attend was Kick's older brother, Joe Jr.  Sadly, both Joe Jr. and Billy were killed in action just a few short months later.

I could relate to Kick's grief over her loss and the sudden turn of events that changed her life. She had many so many drastic changes and sacrifices in her life already in order to marry Billy;  now she would have to rethink her role and identity all over again. I could also relate to the pressure she felt to produce an heir in the short time she & Billy had together. After his death, she had to endure the stares & whispers of the locals who wondered whether she was pregnant (when she already knew that she was not). Ugh!!

Sadly, Kick's life also ended in tragedy a few short years later. I did find the last chapter of the book, detailing the final year or so of her life, a bit rushed. Many details I've read elsewhere are curiously missing here:  for example, the fact that her mother (who had threatened to disown her when she announced her plans to marry yet another aristocrat -- this one not yet divorced, with a reputation for womanizing) sent cards to friends asking for prayers for Kick's soul (indicating her belief that Kick was paying for her sins by languishing in purgatory); the Kennedy family's general silence thereafter on the subject of their daughter and sister; or the poignant epitaph on her gravestone in the Devonshire family plot, chosen for her by her mother-in-law, the Duchess:  "Joy she gave; joy she has found."

I found Kick to be a fascinating woman -- someone who defied her family and her church to marry the man she loved, who was attracted to the idea of playing a public role in the life of her community (there were hints that she was potentially just as gifted a politician as her brothers), who wasn't satisfied just being a "Kennedy girl" and was willing to risk everything she held dear -- her family, her faith and her spiritual salvation -- to explore and carve out a meaningful, independent life for herself.

Incidentally, Kick's sister-in-law, Deborah (Debo, nee Mitford -- one of THE infamous Mitford sisters), who DID become Duchess of Devonshire, suffered several pregnancy losses, and wrote about them in her memoir, "Wait For Me!" It's in my to-read pile;  perhaps I need to move that one up closer to the top. ;) 

These were books #6 & #7 that I've read to date in 2016.

Monday, May 9, 2016

#MicroblogMondays: THAT day (again) :p

Some years, Voldemort Day (That Day Which Shall Not Be Named) sucks more (or less) than others.

This was one of those years that it sucked. Big time. Although by the end of the day, I had worked through most of my angst & was feeling better. I chose to hide out at home all day with my laptop, catching up on my blog reading & commenting, trying to ignore all the happy/#blessed posts on Facebook, and playing solitaire on my cool new toy (errrr, smartphone).

Hope the day was kind to all of you, whatever frame of mind you found yourselves in.

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