Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Odds & ends

  • The other night, I smelled it again. Smoke. Damnit. (It was Sunday night. Sunday nights seem to be smoking nights across the hall, for whatever reason.)  It wasn't as bad as it has been in the past -- the weatherstripping must be helping some -- but it's still there (although dh claimed he couldn't smell anything until he put his nose right up to the door frame). How annoying. :p  
  • "Poldark" is over for another season. :(  Filming of season 3 is already underway in Cornwall, but no word on when we in North America can expect to see it. Likely not until fall 2017, I imagine.
    • In the meantime, as consolation, the new season of "Sherlock" begins on New Year's Day :)  and "Victoria" on January 15th. :) 
  • Christmas shopping is underway. The sheer numbers of adorable babies & toddlers in the mall can be overwhelming at times.
    • Whatever angst I might feel over so much cuteness, however, is often outweighed by annoyance at the mega strollers taking up space in the stores and in the halls outside -- often two abreast, mothers ambling along with one hand on the stroller handle and the other on their cellphone. Is it just me (is it just sour grapes??) or does this drive anyone else nuts too??   
  • I signed up for the Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge earlier this year, and set myself a goal of 24 books. That seemed like a reasonable number -- two books per month, on average, and about the same number as I've managed to read per year over the past few years. Right now, I'm "on track," with 21 books read, 3 to go. I still have a few weeks to go, obviously, and I usually get a few books read during my Christmas vacation (although not as many as in the days pre-Little Princesses, lol). 
  • I am going for an ultrasound tomorrow. You may (or may not) recall that earlier this spring, I was having some "female problems." Not (just?) the fact that I am almost 56 and STILL GETTING PERIODS, more or less regularly...!!  I would have my period as usual -- but instead of tapering off to spotting and then into nothingness, I would just keep spotting (& cramping), sometimes for a week or more after the main event.  I called Dr. Ob-Gyn and went for an ultrasound in mid-April. As in days of yore (i.e., while I was in infertility treatment & having regular dildocam dates), the left side of my bicornuate uterus & the left ovary were playing hide & seek and the technician couldn't get a clear view of what was going on, but apparently she did see an area where the lining appeared a little thicker than normal -- perhaps a polyp or fibroid?  At my followup appointment/annual checkup & Pap in May, Dr. Ob-Gyn felt it was nothing to worry about and would probably resolve itself (as these things most often do, he assured me) -- but he suggested that, if it made me feel better, we could do another ultrasound in the fall to see if anything had changed. 
    • So off I go.  Most of my periods since my last visit have been more or less normal -- until this past cycle, of course, when I had more spotting & cramping at the end of Aunt Flo's visit.  ARGH.  I choose to believe it is nothing more than midlife wonkiness at work, but prayers &/or positive thoughts & vibes would be appreciated.  

Monday, November 28, 2016

#MicroblogMondays: Damn commercials...

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... which includes Christmas commercials on television. Most of them I just ignore -- a few make me laugh, a few make me roll my eyes.

But every now & then, one of them throws a gut punch. 

Take, for example, this commercial for coffee. You can click on the link if you're feeling brave enough to watch. (SPOILERS AHEAD!)  It shows an older woman with a baby in her arms, cooing, "Grandma is so happy to be here for your very first Christmas!!"  She goes on "I hear you're quite the expert at waking people up in the morning... let me show you how Grandma does it!" She opens a container of coffee & puts it on to brew.  As she shows him an ornament on the tree that his daddy made when he was a little boy, and then a photo of Daddy as a little boy, we cut to Daddy (Grandma's grown-up little boy) waking up to the smell of coffee brewing, coming downstairs to help himself to a cup and watching the pair by the Christmas tree. "Thanks for making the coffee... Really glad you're here, Mom," he says. "Me too," she says.  

And after all these years, all these hits to my poor battered heart, I see this stupid coffee commercial, and my eyes fill with tears.

I will never be that Grandma (or that Mom). (Lots of my cousins & high school classmates are grandparents already.)

My mom will never be that Grandma either.

And (even though she's been gone 17 years now), I still miss MY Grandma (& Grandpa), most especially at Christmastime, when we were always together as a family.

It's just not fair. :(

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

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Right now...

Right now... (an occasional meme): 

Reading:  Mostly online articles via Facebook re: the U.S. election and its fallout. I have several half-started books I need to get back to, including "Jeremy Poldark" by Winston Graham (which, along with the next novel in the series, "Warleggan," correspond with the new season of "Poldark" on PBS right now);  "Canada" by Mike Myers;  and "Mr. Churchill's Secretary" by Susan Elia MacNeil, a mystery set during WWII. And, of course, the to-read pile continues to grow (insert red-faced icon here): I picked up a few more books today, including Robbie Robertson's new memoir, "Testimony."

Watching:  A great new multi-part PBS series called "Soundbreaking," which was shown (on our local station anyway) at 10 p.m. every night last week and will continue part of next week. Apparently, it was a project of the late great Sir George Martin.  Some wonderful stories, footage, and (of course) music. One of the advantage of being retired is being able to stay up "late" to watch programs like this. :)  I might have been able to manage one night of going to bed at 11 when I was working (and getting up before 5), but an entire week would have done me in!

Listening:  To the wind howling outside.. Friday was an unusually (for Nov. 18th!) balmy 18C/64F & we had the balcony door wide open all day. When we woke up this morning, it was -1C/31F and the snowflakes were flying thick and fast. Nothing sticking (yet), but I think we've seen the last of 18C for a while. It was fun while it lasted..!

Drinking:  Water. Haven't been drinking enough of it lately, I think... trying to do better!    

Eating:  Too much junk lately. :p  And the Christmas goodies haven't even started yet!

Wearing:  A cozy cardigan over my T-shirt and yoga pants, and slippers on top of my socks. Brrrr!!

Trying:  Not to cry while watching the Santa Claus Parade on TV this afternoon. I am such a sap...

Searching: For the perfect fake Christmas tree. We got rid of our old one when we moved -- it was still all right, but we'd used it through 18 Christmases (we got it the same year we lost Katie) & it was getting a bit ragged. Plus we think we'd like to get a pre-lit one. Had a look at one store last week, but either the trees were way TOO fake (plastic!!) or the lights weren't to our liking (multicoloured flashing, anyone??).  Dh is indifferent as to whether we have a tree at all, but I love my Christmas tree, and we have four Rubbermaid bins full of decorations in our storage locker downstairs (and this is AFTER I went through & culled my collection...!). The search continues...

Smelling: The lovely, pine-y scent of essential oils in our diffuser. Either the neighbours haven't been smoking as heavily the last few days, or the weatherstripping we installed around the door this week is doing its job. Yay!! (Also: Knocking wood that this continues...!)

Not believing:  That we will be heading home to see my family for Christmas in less than four weeks!!

Contemplating:  What I should write for #MicroblogMondays tomorrow. ;)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Smoke gets in my eyes (literally)

It turns out that air fresheners in the hallway were the least of our problems. :( 

The condo directly across the hall from ours was sold earlier this fall and the new owners took up residence in early October. It was mid-late October when the air fresheners were installed (and then removed, a few days after dh moved the one outside our door further down the hallway).

It soon dawned on us that perhaps the air fresheners were being used to mask another smell. Several times, in late October/early November, I thought I smelled smoke. One night I actually woke up;  I could smell smoke very strongly, and I couldn't figure out where it was coming from. One night, when we were sitting in the living room, dh asked me if I thought I smelled smoke. I said yes, and I'd smelled it before too. It got stronger & stronger, to the point where we were both coughing. My eyes were stinging & my nostrils and throat were raw. There's a strong air current around the door frame of our unit, and when we sniffed around the frame, we could distinctly smell the smoke outside.

So it looks like we have some chain smokers living across the hall from us. (As someone said to me when I told them about this, "How much must they be smoking if it's bothering you that much from across the hall, with two closed doors between you??"). GREAT.  :(  Some evenings have been better/worse than others, but there have been a few evenings now where I've been sitting on the couch with my T-shirt pulled up over my nose because the fumes are so strong. We generally sleep with the bedroom door almost fully closed;  the other morning I opened the bedroom door & the stale, burnt smell of stubbed-out cigarettes hit me like a brick in the face. :(    Pretty awful when neither of you smoke yourselves, right?

To say the least, this has been incredibly frustrating & disappointing, because we've really been enjoying condo living until this point. Unfortunately (as at the house!), we can't choose our neighbours.

The effects of second-hand smoke on bystanders' health has been well documented. I was tested for allergies as a child and told tobacco smoke was one of them (although my father continued to smoke in our home -- things were different in the 1960s...!);  dh had asthma when he was growing up, although it hasn't bothered him in years. Beyond health concerns and just plain old discomfort, I am furious at the thought of my nice new furniture (not to mention my many books, & my clothes) absorbing and stinking of smoke.

(My mother hasn't permitted smoking in the house for many years now -- besides my dad, my sister & her boyfriends both used to smoke -- but before she implemented the ban, dh & I would arrive home from a visit and open our suitcases to the smell of smoke. I would have to toss everything into the laundry whether it had been worn or not, because it reeked so badly.)

We've tried a number of different things to alleviate the situation. We've kept the balcony door open for as long as we could in the evening to air the place out -- and thank goodness the weather has been extremely mild -- although I am sure we are not going to be able to do this much longer...!  (One night we opened the door to let in some fresh air & instead let in the distinct aroma of a skunk outside. Yikes!!)

Last week, we bought a diffuser and some essential oil blends, which add a pleasant natural scent while helping to cleanse the air. I figured they would be less irritating than commercial air fresheners (full of chemicals), and so far, so good, from that perspective at least. Re: the smoke, it's helped a bit, but hasn't eliminated the smell, which can be pretty overpowering at times. 

Today, we bought & applied weatherstripping around the doorframe, which has eliminated the draft and will hopefully eliminate, or at least help to minimize, the smokey smell. If that doesn't work, our next step will probably be to check out air purifiers. (Any thoughts or recommendations on those?) 

So why don't we just speak to the neighbours directly? (1) I am probably the most non-confrontational (cowardly??) person you will ever meet. The very thought makes me cringe. (2) We aren't 100% sure it's the people across the hall (although we are pretty sure). We know some of our other neighbours smoke too -- although they were there long before these guys were, and we never noticed a problem before they moved in. (3) We haven't met these people yet, and we don't want to get things started on the wrong foot. (4) We know smokers can get quite defensive about their habit. Yes, I suppose people have the "right" to smoke in their own units -- but I believe we have an equal right not to have that smoke infringe on the clean air in OUR unit too.

I checked the status certificate and other documentation we received when we bought this place, and there is a rule about how owners, tenants, etc., “shall not create or permit the creation of or continuation of any noise or nuisance which, in the opinion of the board or the manager, may or does disturb the comfort or quiet enjoyment of the units or common elements by other owners” etc. etc.  I think this would qualify as a nuisance, don't you?  Should none of our other efforts alleviate the problem, I suppose we will bring it up with management/the board.  It could be that other neighbours have complained too (who installed those air fresheners in the hallway & why?). This could also have been an issue for other owners in other parts of the building. I'd be curious to know if that's the case and, if so, how the issue was resolved (or not).

Do you smoke or have you smoked in the past? (I assume that most of you don't, since most of you, like me, are or were trying desperately to get pregnant at some point.)  How do you feel about being around smoking/smokers?

(I did experiment a bit with smoking as a teenager, as I'm sure many of us did -- mostly as a half-hearted attempt to ditch my good-girl image -- but I was never serious about it & rarely inhaled. By the time I went to university, where I would occasionally bum a cigarette at parties, I realized was being ridiculous, and haven't touched the stuff in well over 35 years.)

Monday, November 14, 2016

#MicroblogMondays: I got nothing

This is kind of a cheat post. I really have nothing significant to say this week;  I just didn't want to miss a #MM. ;)  I am still, like many of you, stunned and heartbroken and upset by the U.S. election results and subsequent fallout. (And I'm not even American...!) The struggle continues, I guess, but sometimes, you just get tired of struggling... :(   I truly feel for those of you who have had to explain the inexplicable to your children.  :(

No doubt part of the reason I am feeling moody & lethargic is that I sense Aunt Flo hovering in the background, ready to make a splashy (hoping that's not literal) entrance. I have never been anxious to meddle in a natural process, but seriously, how long is this going to drag on??!  I'm going to be 56 in the not-too-distant future;  I have been dealing with AF since I was 11.  45 years of this is really QUITE enough, thankyouverymuch. :p  Am I going to be 60 & still having to put up with this crap??!  

On the bright side, it's mid-November and the weather has (still) been gorgeous. Of course, this is all very likely due to global warming and the impending doom of our planet -- but hey, 13C/55F on Nov. 14th! 

(And as I write that date out, it occurs to me that this was my original due date back in 1998, i.e., Katie's 18th would-be birthday. No wonder I'm in a mood... )

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

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The morning after

On the other hand, I will never have to explain the existence of President Trump to a child...

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

(U.S.) Election Day

Sunday morning, one of my American relatives -- a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton, who knows I am the same -- invited me to join a private Facebook group of Hillary supporters called Pantsuit Nation. When I joined, membership was just over 1.1 million;  by this (Tuesday/Election Day) morning, it was just under 2.5 million. This afternoon, it was 2.7 million.  The group was founded to encourage women to wear pantsuits to the polls today to demonstrate their support for Hillary Clinton and the election of America's first female president -- but (as the story I linked to indicates), it has become so much more. It's a "safe" space where Hillary's supporters can openly share their stories about why they are voting for her and why it means so much to them to be able to vote for the first woman president. The stories are funny and sad, heartwarming and inspirational.

Dh was in the shower this morning and I was scrolling through my feed, looking at stories & photos -- umpteen photos of entire families going to vote, proud mothers with little girls. Tributes to mothers and grandmothers who endured incredible sexism, and survived it all to bring up strong women.

My own American mother has been a staunch Republican most of her life. She abhors Donald Trump, but she has absolutely no use for Hillary Clinton either (although she adores Bernie Sanders -- go figure!!). I don't think she voted this time around, although she did vote for Barack Obama. We were at my parents' house when the Democratic convention was on & she sat there making cutting remarks throughout the rollcall and Hillary's acceptance speech. I finally had to ask her, nicely, to knock it off;  maybe this historic nomination didn't mean anything to her, but it meant something to me. Needless to say, I cannot share my excitement over the possible election of America's first woman president tonight with her.

(Yes, I'm Canadian & not American; we've already had a woman prime minister, 20+ years ago, and I have no vote in this election -- but it's still a pretty frickin' big deal, no matter where you're sitting.) 

So I was scrolling through my feed, and I don't know why this one particular story & photo affected me the way it did -- a photo of a mother and her young daughter -- nothing I hadn't seen  before in the hundreds of other posts that preceded it -- but out of the blue, I started sobbing, with big fat tears rolling down my cheeks.

How I wish I had my (not so) little girl here with me to share this historic night. :(

Monday, November 7, 2016

#MicroblogMondays: Dear America

Like many people, my anxiety levels have been going through the roof recently, in the days leading up to the U.S. election. Yes, I am Canadian, not American, but as most people living outside the States (let alone right next door) are only too aware, what happens in America affects the entire world. As the father of our current prime minister once quipped, "Living next to you [the U.S.] is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt."

Like many Canadians, too, I have family on both sides of the border -- and on both sides of the political spectrum (which has made Facebook a constant exercise in biting my cybertongue over the past year). Whatever the outcome of the election, I suspect the next few months, perhaps years, are not going to be pretty.

I find myself thinking about the closing days of the second Quebec referendum on independence, which was held October 30, 1995 -- 15 years after the first referendum of 1980, and 21 years ago now (!). Like the current U.S. election, it was a vote that had the power to change my life dramatically (and not in a good way) -- but also one that I had absolutely no say in.  The tension in the days leading up to the referendum was almost unbearable. The "Yes" (for Quebec independence) side ran ads showing a falling maple leaf, with a caption in French that translated, ominously, to "In autumn, the maple leaf falls."  A few days before the referendum, there was a rally for the "No" (remain in Canada) side in Montreal. I was in the middle of year-end projects at work and could not go, but I think if I could have, I would have. I remember it was a cold, grey, rainy day, reflecting the mood of the country.  Busloads of people from across the country converged on Montreal, waving huge Canadian flags, with the message, "Please stay." Many pundits predicted it was too little, too late.

I remember the night of the referendum, and the countdown to 8 p.m., when news coverage of the results would begin. I was beside myself, on the verge of tears. Curiously, once the clock struck 8 and the show began (the soothing tones & presence of CBC's Peter Mansbridge, lol), I started feeling better.

It was still a tense evening. It was very, VERY close. The "No" side ( = remain part of Canada) won by an extremely narrow majority of 50.58%.  Believe me, a country can be a very fragile thing -- and your vote DOES matter.

Good luck, America.

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

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Odds & ends

  • It's November.  Will I be writing an "I hate November" post? A lot has changed over the past few years that has had me soften my position somewhat -- although I don't think it will ever be my favourite month. Lots of changes this past year as well. Of course, the outcome of the U.S. election could have a big impact on how I feel, for better or worse...!  ;)  I guess time will tell...
  • My blogrolls are back in the sidebar!! Yay!! 
  • In the continuing saga of the scented air freshener outside our door in the hallway, you'll recall that dh unplugged the thing & moved it down the hall. A couple of days ago,  he noticed that it had disappeared completely. The one at the other end of the hallway was still there, which makes us think that someone down the hall liked having an air freshener outside their door about as much as we did. Hopefully management/the board will get the hint...
  • I recently read this interview in The Atlantic with Belle Boggs, author of "The Art of Waiting" (which I haven't read yet, but really want to now...!). As the tagline says, "Belle Boggs explores the meaning of infertility in a culture that venerates parenthood above all else." I thought they covered some really excellent points. What happens when ARTs don't work?  (Spoiler alert: Boggs did eventually have a child.) Have a read & let me know your thoughts!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

"Just Between You and Me" by Myles Goodwyn

Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, there were few homegrown bands that were bigger in Canada than April Wine.

(Strangely enough, although I saw many of the top Canadian bands & singers of the day -- Burton Cummings (several times), Trooper (ditto), Harlequin (used to play at our high school & university residence dances), Loverboy, Bryan Adams (dh saw him at a bar near the university we both attended, just before he hit the big time), Dan Hill, Max Webster (with Kim Mitchell), Streetheart, Prism, the Headpins, Downchild Blues Band, Powder Blues Band -- I never did see April Wine in concert.) 

You may not have heard of them in the States or elsewhere in the world (although they did enjoy some modest success, in certain markets south of the border as well as in Europe -- I had no idea that five April Wine songs/videos were played by MTV on its first day of existence) -- but the distinctive, instantly recognizable voice of lead singer Myles Goodwyn is part of the soundtrack of my growing up years. "Bad Side of the Moon" (written by Elton John & Bernie Taupin) was played endlessly at the (ice) skating rink when I was about 13; hearing "You Won't Dance With Me" takes me back to junior high dances, where I watched the boy(s) I had crushes on slow-dancing with someone else. (Oh, the angst!!)

Anyway -- for all my familiarity with April Wine's music, I didn't know much about the band itself.   So when I was at the bookstore a few weeks ago & saw Myles Goodwyn's new memoir, "Just Between You & Me" (which takes its title from the 1981 April Wine song of the same name -- which I slow-danced to at university parties -- take that, junior high boys!! lol), I couldn't resist snapping it up.

Born Miles Francis Goodwin in Woodstock, New Brunswick, Goodwyn grew up poor, mostly in Nova Scotia (that fact I did know about him). His mother died of brain cancer at a tragically young age when Myles was 11, and he remembers very little of his childhood prior to that point. Music and nature became his solace, and when he was a teenager, he started playing in bands. He, his neighbourhood friends, brothers David & Ritchie Henman, and their cousin Jim Henman, formed April Wine in 1969.

I especially enjoyed the early parts of the book describing Goodwyn's growing up years and his early days performing. I probably could have done without all the detailed descriptions of the comings and goings of the various April Wine band members through the years (14 over 40+ years) and the making of one album after another -- although those parts did serve to remind me of songs I had completely forgotten about (such as "Right Down on Top of Me," "Cum Hear the Band," and "If You See Kay" -- let that one sink in for a moment, lol). 

Unfortunately, April Wine's enormous success devolved into the all-too-common sad litany of bad management decisions, record company rip-offs, infighting among the group members, drugs, alcohol, ego and burnout, that has plagued so many talented bands over the years. (To quote another April Wine song, "Rock and Roll is a Vicious Game.") Along the way, Goodwyn has dealt with alcoholism (which nearly killed him in 2008) and diabetes, as well as two divorces and their effects on his three children. He speaks out for the first time about some of these things, including why the band first broke up in 1982, and his relationships (or lack thereof) with the other members. He has a reputation for being difficult, and accepts his own share of the blame for the problems he and the band encountered over the years -- but he also comes across here as a straight shooter determined to tell the truth as he sees it, combined with a sense of humour.

Now 68 and a grandfather (!), Goodwyn is still writing and performing music, both with April Wine (on a slightly reduced schedule) and his own band. "Life is good," he says, and I am glad. This has been a hard year for us baby boomers, music-wise, with the passing of so many of our youthful musical heroes (David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Paul Kantor, Prince...). I am grateful that so many of the ones who are still here are still performing and are now sharing their stories with us. Thank you, Myles Goodwyn, for being one of them. :)

If you're a Canadian of a certain vintage, this book will bring back some memories! 

This was book #21 that I've read so far in 2016.

*** *** ***

Naturally, ever since I picked this book up, I've had April Wine songs playing on a continuous loop in my head. ;)  It's hard for me to pick a favourite (there are so many great ones!), but these two (from their 1975 album "Stand Back," which I owned as a teenager) would be right up there. One is harder edged, the other more pop, and I love them both:  "Tonight is a Wonderful Time to Fall in Love" and "Oowatanite."