Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"Canada" by Mike Myers

Comedian Mike Myers ("Saturday Night Live," "Wayne's World," "Austin Powers," "Shrek," etc. etc.) has written a book paying homage to his home and native land (and mine). 

"In 1967, Canada turned one hundred. Canadians all across the country made Centennial projects,"  he writes. "This book is my Centennial Project. I'm handing it in a little late... Sorry. But it will be on time for the Canadian Sesquicentennial. In 2017, Canada will turn 150." 

"Canada" is part personal memoir, part history lesson, part socio-cultural analysis, and part love letter to Canada -- more specifically, the Canada and Toronto of Myers' youth.  Myers was born and raised in the Toronto suburbs, the child of British immigrant parents, and is just two years younger than me -- so we grew up at relatively the same time with many of the same cultural references, which he lovingly recounts throughout the book. I found myself chuckling and exclaiming ("Oh yeah, I forgot about that!!") over his references to (and photos of!!) the Centennial Train, Hockey Night in Canada,  Remembrance Day and In Flanders Fields, Goin' Down the Road, Eatons catalogue, Stompin' Tom, Canadian Tire, Mr. Dressup and the Friendly Giant, Rocket Robin  Hood, King of Kensington, Lonesome Charlie... 

There are plenty of in-jokes and references that will only be fully appreciated by Canadians, but there's also some insights into what makes Canada and Canadians different from the rest of the world (and the U.S. in particular).

(My favourite in joke: I completely cracked up when Myers admitted that the character of Frau Farbissina in "Austin Powers" was partly based on Lotta Hitschmanova. Only a Canadian of a certain vintage would get that reference. I didn't know about this before, but I most certainly see the connection now...!!) (Another Canadian reference that was a revelation to me: did you know that Paul McCartney is wearing an OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) badge on the sleeve of his Sgt. Pepper jacket?? Mind. Blown.) 

I enjoyed Myers' stories about growing up in the Toronto suburbs, and how he got his start in show business. (He went to the same high school around the same time as Eric McCormack of "Will and Grace," and David Furnish, who is now married to Elton John. There's a memorable scene where Myers encounters Furnish years later at Elton's annual Oscars party. "We're a long way from Scarborough, eh buddy?" Furnish observed.)  He describes his early days working in various CBC television shows (Gilda Radner played his mom in one ad he did), his comic apprenticeship at Second City in Toronto and Chicago, his days in improv in London, and his early days in the cutthroat environment of "Saturday Night Live" -- and the acts of kindness shown to him by Lorne Michaels (a fellow Canadian), Dana Carvey and Conan O'Brien, that helped him survive and thrive there.  

"There's no one more Canadian than a Canadian who no longer lives in Canada," Myers writes. He left Canada in 1983, first to work in England and then the U.S., and he seldom returned after the death of his father in 1991. He admits that he began to feel increasingly out of touch with Canada, a Canada that seemed to have changed from the country he remembered. 

However, he feels that the election of a Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2015 has helped to restored and reinforce the Canada and Canadian values he believes in.  Myers is an unabashed fan of Trudeau (& his father, Pierre, who was prime minister during much of Myers' (& my) growing up years). 

This irks some of the reviewers on Goodreads, who dislike Trudeau -- and yes, my American friends, there ARE people who don't like our current PM!  ;)  There are also some complaints that while the book is called "Canada," it's very Toronto-centric. (People outside of Toronto think that people who live in Toronto suffer from "centre of the universe" mentality -- with some justification, I think. It's kind of like American resentment of the "elites" in New York.) (Of course, I grew up in western Canada. ;) )  There were definitely some cultural references, slang ("Scarborough suitcase"??) & jokes that Canadians outside of Toronto wouldn't necessarily relate to (e.g., references to Buffalo & Irv Weinstein, Honest Ed's, Glenn Cochrane). Even so -- even I, growing up in the west (well before the time of the Internet) and never setting foot in Toronto until I was 22, knew about 1050 CHUM and Sam the Record Man and the CNE.  The book has a solid average Goodreads rating of just under 4 stars (last time I checked), and most of the reviews are positive overall.

If you are Canadian (especially a Canadian of a certain age), &./or a fan of Mike Myers, you will enjoy this book. (Frankly, I don't think you could help it. ;)  ) If you're not Canadian, this book will give you some insight into what it's like to grow up in Canada, and what the Canadian culture and character are all about.

But take it with a grain of salt. ;)

This was book #3 that I've read so far in 2017.

Monday, January 30, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: The big drip

(My apologies -- this isn't exactly a "microblog" post -- but it's what I've got! ;) )

Early last Thursday afternoon, I finished housecleaning and was putting away my basket of cleaning supplies in the front entryway walk-in closet by the front entryway, where we store our Christmas tree, dh's guitar & cleaning paraphernalia (including vacuum cleaner, steam mop, dust mop, etc.), as well as our coats, hats, scarves, etc., and footwear. The electrical panel & modem that control our television and Internet service is also located in the closet wall.

Why is there water in this bucket??
I don't know what made me look, but there's a bucket (actually two nested in each other) sitting on the floor in the corner by the door with a squeegee and some cleaning rags inside it... and the rags were floating in about two inches of water. I said aloud, "Why is there water in this bucket?"

I looked up -- & I could see a stain spreading out from the little plastic disc that covers the sprinkler head on the ceiling. :(  :(  :(   I felt like crying. My nice little condo!! It felt like a violation of sorts.  Granted, water leaks can & do happen in houses too (believe me, we know...!). But it was hard to feel like my nice little condo, our haven, was being damaged. Also, in a condo building, anything that happens in your unit has the potential to affect other units too (and vice versa).

Called in dh to have a look, & then called the property manger (who is seldom onsite and not especially responsive -- but that's another post/rant...). To his credit, he arrived within 20 minutes, had a look, checked to make sure the leak wasn't coming from the unit above ours, and called a plumber.

(While we were waiting, we emptied the closet of most of its contents, at least the ones sitting on the floor or near the leak site. I guess on the one hand, it's a good thing we just happened to have a bucket right below the leak (!), so nothing that was sitting on the floor got wet. On the other hand, we might have noticed it earlier if we'd stepped into a puddle, right? As one of my friends said, thank goodness it happened NOW & not when we were on vacation for two weeks...!)

Where the leak was happening.
The plumber arrived within an hour and cut a hole in the ceiling drywall to see if he could locate the problem. He agreed that, yes, it was the sprinkler system -- but unfortunately, no, this was something he could not fix. He didn't even want to touch the thing, in case he set off the system & flooded our unit (!! -- ummm, thanks. I think?).  He was emphatic that the property manager needed to call in the experts -- the company that installed the system, or a company that installs & services sprinkler systems.

The sprinkler system guys (two of them) eventually showed up around 5:30 -- and enlarged the hole in the ceiling to get a better look at what was happening. The leak was in a joint in the pipes (plastic, glued together). (After they removed the faulty section, they determined that two sections of pipe hadn't been pushed in together QUITE far enough... water had gotten into it and wearkened the glue seal, which created the leak.)  They kept telling us how very rare & unusual it was for a problem like this to happen, that any such flaws were usually uncovered in the testing phase before the building was finished. Hey, you're talking to Mr. & Mrs. "Rare & Unusual" who have gone though infertility, stillbirth, a bicornuate uterus, a fifth wisdom tooth, etc. etc.  Of COURSE something like this would happen to us, wouldn't it?? :p  

They needed to turn off the entire sprinkler system on the floor -- but by then the property manager had left for the day (!) & there was nobody on call who could or would bring them the keys they needed (!!).  Eventually, they spoke with someone who agreed to bring them the keys in the morning.

They arrived around 8:45 a.m. on Friday (after we spent a night spent listening to the faint drip-drip-drip of water falling into the bucket coming from the closet) and went straight to work. After notifying the fire department about what they were doing, they turned off the sprinkler system on our floor and removed the faulty section of pipe (two sections not quite properly joined together, it seems), which created a gaping hole in the pipework, from which water immediately started to gush. 

They thought it would take a few minutes to drain the system -- a couple of cups of water -- but just to be safe, they brought in one of those big industrial sized plastic garbage cans to catch the water as it came out. I didn't note exactly when they started, but it was probably around 9:30 a.m.

Bin #2 almost full of water...!
(I have video of this too.)  
After TWO HOURS (during which they emptied the water in the bin TWICE), they decided there was no point no point in sitting around watching water drain (plus they had another job they needed to get to). They explained the pipes needed to be absolutely dry before they could install the new section, because otherwise the glue would not set properly and we'd just have another leak (and possibly a flood) on our hands when they turned the water back on. The guy who appeared to be the team supervisor gave me his cell # & told me to call if/when the water got to about the 2/3 mark. They left around 10:45 a.m.

Shortly after they left, the stream of water seemed to slow just slightly. Around 1:45, I called to let them know the water was still coming out of the pipes, but the flow had slowed to a trickle/fast drip, and the bin was somewhere between 1/3 & 1/2 full. They came back around 3:15 to check on us, but of course, the water was STILL dripping.

So they emptied the bin (again) & said they would let it continue to drip (and hopefully dry) overnight, then return the next day (Saturday morning) to replace the faulty section of pipe.

The faulty section of pipe that was removed & replaced. 
And so dh & I got to listen to the "drip... drip... drip" of water for the rest of the day... and on through the night. We also noticed something interesting:  every time we flushed the toilet, the flow of water would increase (!).  We told this to the sprinkler system guy the next morning and he said it was probably because the sprinkler pipes were close to the plumbing pipes, and the vibrations would move more residual water through the sprinkler pipes and into the collector bin. Made sense, but it was still weird to see.

Dh joked early on that it was "like Chinese water torture" -- but after a while it wasn't that funny anymore -- it WAS torture. (I said it reminded me of the Austin Powers movie where Austin first gets defrosted and has to relieve himself -- and keeps going and going and going... ;)  Both of us found ourselves making more trips to the bathroom than usual -- the power of suggestion, lol ;) -- which of course led to more water coming out of the pipes.)  We despaired that the water was NEVER going to stop dripping and that the pipes would never dry out.

The new section of pipe.
By morning (day 3), thankfully, the water had slowed to almost nothing. Even after a flush ;) the dripping would slow down again within a minute or two, which was comforting. When the sprinkler guy arrived -- almost 24 hours after he first opened up the pipes to drain -- he dried out the remaining moisture with towels, and then angled the pipes slightly so that any residual water would run away from the repair site. He installed the new section, securing the joins with glue, and left it to dry. He said it needed to dry for at least 12 hours before he could turn the system back on again -- but since he couldn't return until Monday (day 5!), it would have almost 48 hours to cure.

Even though he assured us we could run water during this time without causing any problems, dh & I were both somewhat paranoid by now (do you blame us??)(although we did have to use the plumbing a few hours after he left). Besides which, the smell of glue was overpowering (& it was too cold outside to leave the balcony door open, even a crack, for too long). We called BIL & asked if we could spend the night on his couch, and cleared out as soon as we could. (Dh did return a couple of times just to check on things.)  We returned on Sunday morning (after the glue had been drying 24 hours)  

Bright and early this morning (Monday, day 5) the knock came on our door. Within minutes, the water to the sprinkler system had been turned back on to our floor -- and our closet remained dry (and has since then -- knocking wood, loudly!!). We shook hands with the supervisor and told him it had been a pleasure to deal with him. That said, I added, "No offense, but I really hope we don't see you back here anytime soon." He just laughed.

The hole in the ceiling remains;  someone else will need to be called in to patch the drywall. (Dh will bring it up with the property manager.)  Until then, there's no point in putting everything back into the closet. (Once again, I am thankful we went for the two-bedroom unit, so we have extra space to store this stuff for now. ;)  ) 

Needless to say, this put a real damper (pun intended) on our weekend. We didn't feel we could leave our unit so long as those pipes were draining water (and I'd already been going a bit stir crazy, with lousy weather keeping us indoors a lot lately). This is one of those times when I'm really glad we're retired and don't have to take time off work to deal with stuff like this.  

So how was YOUR weekend??

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

Thursday, January 26, 2017

You're gonna make it after all

Like so many others, I was so sad when I heard yesterday that Mary Tyler Moore had passed away. She was 80 (!! -- how did that happen?) -- another reminder that the idols and cultural touchstones of my youth are rapidly aging and starting to slip away. (And that I'm not getting any younger either...!)  It also seemed cruel that a feminist icon, someone who pioneered the representation of women on television as more than mothers and housewives, would pass away just days after the historic women's march in Washington.

I wrote about Mary Tyler Moore and her impact on my growing up years a couple of years ago here, after I read the wonderful book "Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted" by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong (a must-read for any MTM fan). As I noted there, besides being single working women, Mary and her sidekick Rhoda were also childless.

MTM herself, in real life, was a bereaved mother:  she lost her only son, Richie, in 1980 to a gun accident when he was 24. Right around the same time, she earned an Oscar nomination for "Ordinary People," in which she plays a mother who, having lost one son in a tragic boating accident, shuts out her husband and other son, who is suffering from survivor's guilt and tries to commit suicide. (If you haven't see it, it's stunning.) She also lost both her siblings -- her sister in 1978, from drugs and alcohol, and her brother of cancer in 1992 after MTM tried to assist him in an unsuccessful suicide attempt. She was a diabetic, and an alcoholic who checked herself into the Betty Ford Clinic for treatment. Since her death, I've seen a quote circulating on social media attributed to her: "You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you." (Well, maybe you can, but it sure is a shock to the system.)

Hearing the MTM show theme song repeated ad nauseum yesterday, I was reminded about how quickly our cultural can evolve. When the show was created, the idea of a single working woman with no romantic attachments, living on her own, was quite a novelty. (The genre was pioneered by Marlo Thomas in "That Girl," but her character, Ann Marie, always had a boyfriend/fiancée on the show.)  In fact, in the original proposal for the show, Mary Richards was a divorcee. That idea was quickly shot down by studio executives -- heaven forbid, people might think she had divorced Dick Van Dyke!! (lol)

The uncertainty around this new kind of heroine was reflected in the original lyrics for the show's theme song, used in the first season (added emphasis mine):
How will you make it on your own?
This world is awfully big, girl this time you're all alone
But it's time you started living
It's time you let someone else do some giving
Love is all around, no need to waste it
You can never tell, why don't you take it
You might just make it after all
You might just make it after all

Compare & contrast with the lyrics that were used in subsequent seasons, the more optimistic, confident ones most of us know & love and sing along to: 
Who can turn the world on with her smile?
Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?
Well it's you girl, and you should know it
With each glance and every little movement you show it
Love is all around, no need to waste it
You can never tell, why don't you take it
You're gonna make it after all
You're gonna make it after all
The promise that "You're gonna make it after all" is one that so many of us have carried through the years & self-doubts & naysayers who would love nothing more than to send us all back to the 1950s. I think the next women's march should feature everyone singing "You're gonna make it after all," and then tossing their pink pussycat hats into the air at the end in tribute. :)   
Thanks, Mary.  :)
(Karen at The NotMom has written her own great tribute to MTM and why she mattered, here.)

Monday, January 23, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Advice, please...

Later this week, someone close to me is having a hysterectomy. I have no first-hand experience to offer her, but I know some of you have had the same operation. Any advice/tips on recovery that I can pass along? And any advice/tips for me on how to support her? Things I can do/bring over to her? (Things NOT to do?)

She expects to be off work 4-6 weeks... I've already told her to take the 6 and not hurry back. ;)  


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

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Odds & ends: Inauguration weekend edition

  • Dh & I went to see "Hidden Figures" at the movies last weekend, about black women mathematicians who played critical roles at NASA back in the early 1960s. He's been a NASA/space program geek since he was a kid, and I'm always a sucker for these previously unknown slices of history, particularly when they're focused on women. 
  • We'd just watched President Obama's farewell address a few days earlier -- and the movie features a snippet of one of President Kennedy's speeches about the space program. In both cases, all I could think was, "THAT was a president. THAT was an orator. THAT was inspiring." Which of course made what was about to come all the more painful by contrast. :(
  • (The movie was really good, by the way. Lots of parents there with little girls. Our two thumbs were way up.)
  • Dh usually has the TV on CNN for most of the day -- but I had him turn it off yesterday morning as 12 noon drew near. I just couldn't stomach it, and I didn't want to contribute to the ratings. I noticed my friends were much less active on social media today, too.
  • Happily, yesterday was also the kickoff for the Canadian national figure skating championships. :)  It also happens to be the weekend of the U.S. national figure skating championships. Needless to say, our PVR is getting a workout. ;) 
  • I was all set to attend the women's march at Queen's Park (the provincial legislature) in Toronto today -- a sister march to the big one in Washington. I'm generally not one for rocking the boat, and I've never attended a protest before, but I figured this was as good a place to start as any. ;)  I have a friend attending that I could have met up with, and dh was even willing to drive me to the closest subway station (a half hour away -- transit sucks hereabouts, although there's an extension being built that will improve things dramatically when it opens, supposedly at the end of this year).
  • But wouldn't you know? The subway line I need to take is CLOSED this weekend for maintenance. :(   If I didn't know that these things are generally planned way in advance, I'd think there was some kind of conspiracy at work. :p  ;) 
  • So I will be cheering everyone else on from my living room couch this afternoon. I am already heartened by the photos & videos of plane after plane full of women, heading for Washington!!
  • I have friends, both "real life" and cyber, marching in Washington, Chicago, St. Louis, Toronto, London (England) & Auckland (New Zealand), and probably a few other places I didn't hear about -- some of them sporting pink "pussy" hats. ;)  So proud of you all!!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Saying goodbye

I read a great opinion piece/personal essay today about saying goodbye to the idea of President Hillary Rodham Clinton (and, at the same time, coming to terms with the reality of President Donald Trump). As I read the article, though, I had a weird sense of deja vu.

And then I realized. The feelings the author was writing about -- the sense of loss and betrayal, of having to cope with a completely different and unwelcome outcome than what she had expected -- were the same things I felt about my lost pregnancy, 18+ years ago.

Read the article yourself. Then consider: 
  • "Like many others in the New York bubble, I was in no way prepared for the outcome on November 8." 
    • (Like many others in the bubble of a blissful pregnancy, I was in no way prepared for the outcome when I went for my ultrasound on August 5, 1998.)  
  • "Like so many women around the world, I felt like I knew Presidential Candidate Clinton... Hers would have been a feminist presidency..."
    • (Like so many pregnant women, I felt like I knew my baby. I knew the kind of little girl, teenager, young woman, that she would grow up to be.)  
  • "We can only dream of the capability she would have brought to the White House. We can only imagine the perfectionism she would have brought to the presidency." 
    • (I can only dream of the things my little girl would have done. I can only imagine the light she would have brought to our lives and to the world.) 
  • (THIS line in particular -- added emphasis mine.)  "There will be a Madam President someday. But I wanted this one: this ball-busting, sharp-witted, stereotype-defying legend of a woman, this “anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better” beacon of determination, who was so adept at smashing glass ceilings."
    • (People told me there would be another baby someday. (There wasn't.) But even so, at the time, I didn't want to hear that. I didn't like people offering the carrot of another baby as an easy solution, a panacea to my pain. I didn't like the feeling that they wanted me to have another baby ASAP, if only so I'd shut up and not remind them about the one I just lost & the grief I was feeling. As I have heard other bereaved mothers say -- I didn't want just another baby -- I WANTED THAT ONE. I knew there might be another baby someday (there wasn't), and yes, I wanted another baby. I wanted to be a parent -- the parent of a living child. But I also knew that even if I had a dozen other children, they would never fill that particular void in my life. There would never, ever be another Katie.) 
  • "Though there’s a good chance I’ll cry every time I see her for the rest of my days, it’s time to lay my Clinton Presidency dreams to rest. But we should never lay to rest the ideas she embodied: that ambition is healthy and women can do anything they want to do." 
    • (Though there's a good chance I'll cry every time I think about her and what might have been for the rest of my days, I know that, at age 56, I have laid my dreams of parenthood to rest. But I will never lay to rest the certain knowledge that I had a little girl named Katie, once;  that my grief over losing her was and still is justified, normal and healthy;  and that I am a mother, whether or not the world knows or chooses to acknowledge it.) 
Am I reading too much into this?  What do you think?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Recent reading (more Poldark!)

My reading year began the same way the last one ended ;) with a good dose of the Poldark novels by Winston Graham, set in Cornwall in the late 1700s.  I picked up where I left off at Christmastime by reading books #6 & #7 in the series, The Four Swans and The Angry Tide.

"The Four Swans" takes its title from the swans on the river in Truro, observed by both Morwenna & Ross. To Ross, they seem to represent the four main women in his life (Demelza, Caroline, Elizabeth and Morwenna), each of whom faces challenges in her life and her marriage in this book.  For Demelza, it's her attraction to a handsome young naval officer, rescued by Ross in France (who has a way with a pen);  for Caroline, it's dissatisfaction in her marriage to Dwight because of his devotion to his medical career and his patients;  for Elizabeth, it's George's jealousy and suspicions about their son's parentage that continue to overshadow their marriage;  and for Morwenna, it's a loveless arranged marriage to a pompous young minister (who has a foot fetish, no less!!).  Demelza's brothers, Sam & Drake, are back too, and both dealing with broken hearts in their own ways.

As Goodreads reviewer Marilyn says, "Whatever else you might think of Winston Graham's writing, his characters are sterling. They screw up, redeem themselves, then screw up again. Real people, fascinating in their human-ness."

"The Angry Tide" continues these storylines, with Ross now a member of Parliament, and there is a good chunk of the book that takes place in London, as seen through a visiting Demelza's eyes. I could have done with a little less of London, but overall, I loved this book, and I loved the characters' pronouncements on life, love, marriage and death.  The last part of the book ties up several ongoing storylines, as the 18th century draws to a close and another century dawns, and Ross faces his 40th birthday. It packs one emotional wallop after another, with a stunning ending. If you love these books & these characters as I do, you will want to have Kleenex on hand. (And while I never want the books or the TV series to end, I vividly remember how the 1970s TV adaptation ended -- and there's a part of me that cannot wait to see how the current cast & producers handle the challenge!)

The next five novels in the series after these two take a leap forward in time 10 years, and focus more on the lives and loves of Ross & Demelza's children. I read all of them years ago, with the sole exception being the 12th & final novel, "Bella Poldark."  The producers of the "Poldark" BBC/PBS TV series have said they are not sure they will continue filming the novels past this one (because of this leap in time), so I am not sure I will continue to re-read the later novels;  at least, they will not be a priority for me in the same way the others were. I will probably look to read something else next. But I would highly recommend the whole series. :) 

These were books #1 & #2 that I've read to date in 2017. I have set myself a goal, through the Goodreads Challenge, to read 24 books in 2017.

Monday, January 16, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Blue Monday

Today is supposedly "Blue Monday," the most depressing day of the year, as first determined in 2005 by a professor in Wales who looked at factors that included the weather, debts, time since Christmas and motivation.(Apparently, the idea was also popularized by a travel company as a marketing ploy to sell sunspot vacations.)(!) 

I was reminded that today might be "Blue Monday" by a story in my Facebook "On This Day" feed, and did some Googling, which confirmed that yes, it is indeed today. Not only that, several British newspapers were of the opinion that this year's Blue Monday could be even gloomier than usual, because of all the upheaval caused by Brexit and the election (and upcoming inauguration) of Donald Trump in the U.S., along with the large number of celebrity deaths over the past year -- including, most recently, George Michael & Carrie Fisher -- that reminded aging baby boomers and Gen-Xers like me of our mortality.

While the papers might have a point in that respect, personally, I'm not feeling it today. True, it's a bit of a grey day (with freezing rain in the forecast for tomorrow -- UGH), but it's a relatively mild 3C outside, and we even had the balcony door open a crack for a little while to air the condo out. We ran our usual Monday errands -- a visit to the bank ABM/ATM, lunch & then grocery shopping at our favourite supermarket, a stop at the drugstore to pick up a few things and then a browse at the bookstore, with Starbucks coffee/tea lattes in hand -- and dh is making his favourite beans & rice for dinner tonight. We had dinner last night at BIL's, with both nephews there and entertainment provided by Older Nephew's adorable puppy. Last week was my birthday, and they all came over for cake & coffee -- puppy included. It's been a very long time since I had anyone besides dh around to celebrate with me on my actual birthday, which helped make up for the fact that I was turning another year older.

I find my own low point usually comes a few weeks from now, in February, when it seems like the winter is never going to end. Although I will admit I had a few "screw you, winter" days last week when both bad weather and a visit from Aunt Flo conspired to keep me at home for three claustrophic days in a row. 

How about you? Is today a Blue Monday for you?

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

Monday, January 9, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: The fools who dream

My newsfeed was abuzz this morning with Meryl Streep's speech at last night's Golden Globe awards. Political commentary aside, I was struck by how she emphasized the value of the actor's job -- the artist's job: "to enter the lives of people who are different from us, and let you feel what that feels like...  we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy."

She also said, at the very end, "As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia, said to me once, take your broken heart, make it into art." 

In her most recent blog post, Pamela made the obvious connection that also came to my mind:  "Not surprisingly, when I heard that expression our stories, our blogs came to mind.  Many originated from broken hearts. Each, I believe, is a form of art — a beautiful expression of the human experience. Story-telling from one person and one generation to another is one of the oldest, most powerful forms of shared communication."

One reason I didn't watch the Golden Globes is that SIL & I went to see "La La Land" together yesterday  (neither of our husbands being big fans of movie musicals -- silly boys ;)  ).  It's an old-fashioned movie musical (dancing among the stars, anyone?) with some very modern twists and a decidedly modern ending. It also stars the wonderful Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. I thought they were fabulous in "Crazy Stupid Love" a few years back, and was delighted to see them teamed up again. Their photos should be in the dictionary alongside the entry for "chemistry."  :)

There's a song that Emma Stone sings (filmed live, all in one take!) at a big audition near the end of the movie that ties in nicely with Streep's words -- and with what so many of our blogs are all about:

Here's to the ones who dream
Foolish, as they may seem
Here's to the hearts that ache
Here's to the mess we make

It's a song about pursuing your dreams.

It's also about the cost of those dreams, the toll that pursuit can take.

We know all about both, don't we?  Here's to us, then...!

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

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Mom'd, again...

It happened again yesterday. Same mall, same young girl all dressed in black, trying to lure me over to her kiosk with a sample held in her outstretched hand. "For you," she said. I smiled and shook my head and walked on.

"You can take it with you, Mommy!"  she called after me.

I kept on walking -- but here is my new year's resolution:  if she ever calls me "Mommy" again, I am going to stop, look her in the eye, and politely (I am Canadian, after all, lol...) but firmly tell her, "I am NOT your Mommy. Only one person in the world gets to call me that, okay? I know you mean well, but I think you had better think of a new sales pitch."

(Or words to that effect. But definitely "I am NOT your Mommy."  Good grief...!)   

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Current

(An occasional meme, alternating from time to time with "Right Now.")

Current Book(s) -- I have three books currently half-finished -- and I just realized that two of them were (still) half-finished when I wrote my "Right Now" post of Nov. 20th (erk). I did do some reading over the Christmas holidays, but clearly, it was other stuff. ;) The two holdovers from November are "Canada" by Mike Myers; and "Mr. Churchill's Secretary" by Susan Elia MacNeil, a mystery set during WWII.  Also "The Four Swans," by Winston Graham (book 6 in the Poldark series).  And of course, a cast of thousands waiting in the wings...!

Current Playlist -- I don't have any digital music on my phone, and mostly listen to our local classic rock station on the radio. The most recent music I was playing on the stereo were some Christmas CDs, pre-vacation. I have a fairly sizeable collection of Christmas CDs (plus a few cassettes...!) that I've collected over the years. Two recent picks: I love to put on "A Charlie Brown Christmas" by Vince Guaraldi when I'm putting up the Christmas tree, and we also enjoy Blue Rodeo's Christmas album, which came out a year or two ago.

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure -- "Helping" dh finish off the container of Lindor milk chocolate balls that Mrs. Santa put in his stocking. ;) Also finishing off the chocolate chip panettone that BIL & SIL gave us. Dh doesn't like panettone, so I've been eating most of it. (It's a tough job but someone has to do it, right??) ;)

Current Color -- Lots of burgundys & greys.

Current Drink -- Starbucks tea lattes (tall non-fat Royal English Breakfast). Would you believe I didn't indulge in one of their holiday drinks this year??

Current Food -- Dh has a sore throat, so lots of his favourite bean, chickpea & lentil soups this week.

Current Favorite Show -- The new season of "Sherlock" began last Sunday night on PBS Masterpiece -- yay!! Only three episodes :( but in this case, quality vs quantity. ;) "Victoria" also starts this month on PBS Masterpiece -- looks interesting. 

Current Wishlist -- More space in our storage locker -- because I'm not sure how the Christmas tree is going to fit in there, once we take it down (we got rid of the old one when we moved and bought a new one this Christmas, so we will need to make room for it). :p I think it WILL fit, but not without some reorganizing (or some grumbling from dh...!). :p

Current Needs -- I can't think of too much that I desperately need at the moment. We're probably going to go back to the furniture outlet where we got our other furniture earlier last year and get two new end tables & possibly a coffee table to match the other stuff (we're still using the tables we bought when we were first married -- = 31 years old, & kind of scratched up). I want a coffee table again, but dh is pulling for an ottoman instead.

Current Triumphs -- SIL & I had discussed going out for dinner on New Year's Eve (with our husbands, obviously, lol)... but we didn't get around to doing anything much about it until the day before. I decided to take things in hand, and made a reservation for the four of us at a local chain restaurant that was offering a special prix-fixe NYE menu. (By then, the only available time slots were before 6 or after 8, but that was OK with us; we normally have a fairly early supper anyway.)  Everyone enjoyed the meal, albeit we all got overly stuffed -- the meal included a choice of appetizers (which we don't usually order when we eat out), choice of entrée, and choice of dessert (something we also don't normally order), which came with a celebratory glass of prosecco. BIL, who isn't a great fan of eating out, said several times that he was glad we were doing this. So I consider that a triumph in my books! ;) 

Also, we went to see a movie after dinner ("Passengers").  Dh & I usually go to the movies on Sunday afternoons (sometimes cheaper & often less crowded), so dinner AND a movie are a rare occurrence! 

Current Bane of my Existence -- You would think that since Christmas is over, the stores, parking lots, etc., would be a lot quieter? Well, Monday was a bank/government holiday hereabouts -- and local schools didn't get out until Dec. 22nd -- which means they're not heading back to class until next Monday, Jan. 9th. Which means a lot of people are still off work this week... which is why the stores are still pretty packed, with long lineups at the cash registers. Ugh!!

Current Celebrity Crush -- My previous picks (Aidan Turner (aka Ross Poldark),George Clooney, Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and Sam Elliott) still stand. :)

Current Indulgence -- See "Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure," above. ;)

Current #1 Blessing -- No snow to shovel or clear off the car (underground parking!)!! Dh is ecstatic every time it snows & he doesn't have to clear it, lol.

Current Slang or Saying -- Hmmm, not sure I have one.

Current Outfit -- Black yoga pants from Reitman's and green waffle-weave long-sleeved holiday-themed PJ top from Old Navy ($8!).

Current Excitement -- Hmmm, not much that I'm excited about at the moment. My birthday is coming up soon, which means a day to do what I want & dinner out -- although it also means I'm yet another year older (yay?).

Current Mood -- Still feeling some of that post-holiday glow -- but bracing myself for the inevitable post-holiday/post-birthday/endless-winter blues...

Monday, January 2, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: "Passengers"

Dh, BIL & SIL & I went to see the movie "Passengers" on New Year's Eve (after a great dinner out). I like both Jennifer Lawrence & Chris Pratt, the sets & special effects were pretty good (we saw it in 3D), and the premise is intriguing (albeit I found it, and particularly the film's climax & resolution, to be pretty implausible).

In case you haven't heard, the plot involves two passengers (guess who) aboard a spacecraft headed to another planet. The catch is that all 5,000 passengers and crew are "asleep" in hibernation pods;  the journey will take 120 years and the ship is on autopilot -- that is, until a technical malfunction wakes up our hero (Jim) & fellow awakened passenger, Aurora, 90 years ahead of schedule. As malfunctions begin to pile up, it's up to Jim & Aurora to find a solution, not only to save themselves but the ship's human cargo.    

Glitzy sets & pyrotechnics aside, what grabbed my attention were a few intriguing lines of dialogue that pointed to a major underlying theme of the movie. Underlying the whole "fight for survival against impossible odds" storyline was the idea of two people finding themselves thrust unexpectedly into a life they never thought they'd be living -- that they'd rather NOT be living -- a future that's completely different than the one they thought would be theirs. And coming to terms with that, and making the most of the life you have, even if it's not the one you planned or expected or originally wanted.

I found an "official' quote from the movie that illustrates this theme perfectly:
  • Aurora: "You can't get so hung up on where you'd rather be, that you forget to make the most of where you are."
Another quote that I remember (I'm paraphrasing here): "This life may not be what we planned -- but it's ours." There's a whole long soliloquy at the very end along these lines, too.  (I would love to find a script, eventually, to be able to read the whole thing & quote it accurately.) :) 

Needless to say, I sat there in the theatre with my mouth hanging open, thinking, "Hmmm... now where I have heard THIS before??"  ;) 

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

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Recent reading: A plethora of Poldark ;)

The last three books I read in 2016 were from Winston Graham's Poldark series. As I've written before, I first read the Poldark books and was a big fan of the original BBC/PBS television series, back in the 1970s. I began re-reading the series when a new television series based on the books began airing on PBS a couple of years ago.

The series began in 1780s England, with Ross Poldark returning to his native Cornwall from fighting in the American Revolution. He finds his father is dead, his estate is in ruins, and his sweetheart, Elizabeth Chynoweth, thinking him dead, is now engaged to his cousin, Francis. To the horror of local society, Ross takes in an abused miner's daughter named Demelza as a kitchen maid, falls in love with her and marries her. 

As the series continues, the French Revolution casts its shadow over England. The poor are getting increasingly poorer and more desperate, and the forces of industrialization and commercialization -- represented here by the upstart Warleggan family -- are challenging the dominance of the old order. 

Jeremy Poldark & Warleggan, the third and fourth Poldark novels, formed the basis of the BBC TV series season that just recently ended on PBS in North America. As with the previous novels, the storytelling is masterful. The characters and relationships are complex and wonderfully drawn, and you learn a lot about the history of the time and how people lived.

As "Jeremy Poldark" opens, Ross is facing trial for inciting the locals to loot and riot after a ship owned by the Warleggans runs aground in a storm, and Demelza is desperately maneuvering to save him. The trial, the recent death of his daughter Julia, a lingering attraction to Elizabeth place a strain on Ross's relationship with Demelza, just as she discovers she is pregnant again (with the title character). As a bereaved parent who saw many of our support group friends and clients go through subsequent pregnancies after loss, I was impresssed with the very realistic way parental grief is portrayed in this book. Like many parents, Ross & Demelza find themselves grieving the loss of Julia and approaching the prospect of having more children in very different ways, which drives a wedge between them. Grief is not a major plot point but, as it often does, it forms a backdrop and informs other events that follow. 

 In "Warleggan," cousins Ross and Francis embark on an ill-fated partnership to revive the family mine, Wheal Grace, and free themselves of the influence of their enemy, George Warleggan. When Ross's relationship with Elizabeth deepens, a furious Demelza retaliates by encouraging the attention of a handsome Scottish officer. The relationships between men & women and how easily misunderstandings and damage can occur is a recurring theme in this book.

The Black Moon, the fifth Poldark novel, takes its title from the black moon (lunar eclipse) that takes place as George Warleggan & Elizabeth's son, Valentine, is born. Great-Aunt Agatha Poldark, nearing her 100th birthday, pronounces it to be a bad omen -- something she reiterates with great relish to George later in the book.  There is a long interlude in France, where Ross risks everything to rescue his friend, Dr. Dwight Enys, from a French prison. And we are introduced to two of Demelza's brothers, Sam, a devout Methodist, and Drake, who forms an unlikely (and socially verboten) friendship with young Geoffrey Charles Poldark, son of Francis & Elizabeth -- and with his governess, Elizabeth's cousin, Morwenna Chynoweth -- adding to the existing tensions between the Poldark & Warleggan families.  

"The Black Moon" and part of the next book in the series (which I am currently re-reading), "The Four Swans," will be the basis of the next season of Poldark, which is now filming in Britain. Air dates TBA. Needless to say, I can't wait! 

These were books #22, #23 & #24 that I read in 2016, for a final total of 24 books read, meeting my Goodreads challenge. :) 

Blogging year in review & favourite posts of 2016

A hat tip to Mali, whose post "2016: Looking back on the blog" inspired this one. Also to Mel, whose Crème de la Crème lists from 2007 to 2012 prompted me & other bloggers to review our posts from the year past & pick out our favourites to share.  (There was a list in 2006 too, but that was before I started my blog.)  If the Crème de la Crème list still existed, one of these posts would probably be the one I would have submitted. :)

(I've gone back through the posts I submitted for Mel's lists and tagged them all as "Crème de la Crème picks" so that you (& I!) have an easy way to find them all. However -- in trying to tag my posts, I somehow seem to have deleted my 2012 list pick -- which was titled "I am childless, hear me roar" from May 2012 -- along with all the wonderful comments. :(  :(  :(  It was one of my all-time favourite posts.  And no, I have not backed up my blog. :(  (New Year's resolution for 2017!)  Any idea if/how I can get it back?? :(  ) (I know, not likely...!) :(

*** *** ***

As I mentioned in my year in review post, I published 133 posts in 2016.  In addition to posts about childless/free issues, I tried to do a "Right now" or "The Current" post every month or so, and participated in 43 out of 52 #MicroblogMondays (hmmm, I thought I did better than that...).  I reviewed 21 of the 24 of the books I read in 2016 (the last 3 will be coming shortly), and wrote about news items (usually ALI-related) that piqued my interest.  I also wrote a lot about what was going on my life, some of which touched on aspects of ALI/childless/free living and some that didn't, including aging, (peri)menopause (and Aunt Flo's continuing appearances!), official retirement, moving, downsizing and life in a condo.

Here are a few of my favourite 2016 posts (going back from newest to oldest):
  • It came, just the same, about my not-quite-the-same-as-usual Christmas, and how Christmas can still be enjoyed even if it's not perfect or what you expected.
  • Childless/Condo Halloween, reflecting on Halloweens past & present.
  • Survivor?  Are those of us who have experienced pregnancy loss survivors?
  • The power of awareness & education (i.e., about infertility & pregnancy loss).
  • 31 -- using my wedding anniversary to look back on the highs and lows of a turbulent year.
  • Fifteen years (!) on this road less travelled -- reflecting on both my personal journey and the growth of the childless/free community in the 15 years since I stopped infertility treatments.
  • Parenting transitions -- a #MicroblogMondays post about being a parent to a dead child, and how that relationship has evolved over the years.
  • Pregnancy loss = disability? -- Is pregnancy loss a disability? (An Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled yes!)
  • Tick, tock... -- in which I pass along a family heirloom that I had hoped would go to my own child(ren).
  • Condo conundrum, continued -- in which I wrestle with the decision to sell our house and move into a condo.