Monday, November 12, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Halfway?

I hesitated to post this, at the risk of jinxing myself...!

Today is exactly 183 days since May 15th -- Day One of  my last full-blown period/visit from Aunt Flo.  Meaning that I am just over the halfway mark to Day 365 -- at which point I will be able to say that I'm officially (FINALLY!!) in menopause.

Just getting to the halfway mark has been a looonnngggg time coming -- considering that today is also exactly two months away from my 58th (!!) birthday. Dr. Ob-gyn has assured me (time & time again) that while I may be at the far end of the spectrum in terms of menopausal age, I am ON the spectrum, and he hasn't seen anything at my annual checkups that concerns him.

That's comforting in one way, and frustrating in another. It's not that I'm looking forward to menopause, exactly (does anyone really "look forward" to menopause??). (Dr. Ob-gyn has teased me that I'm going to "stay young forever"... although the increasing number of grey hairs & lines on my face would suggest otherwise!) I've just had quite enough of Aunt Flo's visits (46 years & counting...!) -- and of feeling abnormal (again). My body didn't do what it was supposed to do in terms of getting (& keeping) me pregnant... and now, it's not doing what it's supposed to in terms of completely turning off that malfunctioning baby-making machine either.

It's time. I'm ready. (I think?)

I'm knocking wood extra loudly, though. I've had a bit of faint brownish/pinkish spotting and PMS-y symptoms (mild crampiness, bloating, mood swings, hot flashes & other fun stuff), particularly over the past week or so. I've noted these symptoms on my calendar (I do keep track of my cycles, still -- which is how I know it's day 183), but I'm not resetting the clock unless something more dramatic happens. Fingers crossed that it doesn't!!

(Even if it does -- I know I'm just that much closer to the day that I do cross that Day 365 mark for good. But still...!)

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

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

"Why I make room for doom and gloom in November"

If you've read my blog for a while, you will know that November & I generally do not see eye to eye. ;)  Only February ranks lower on my ranked list of favourite months -- November, at least, is followed by December, and Christmas. :)  If you need a reason why I dislike November (and there are many), at the top of my list: it should have been the month my daughter was born (but wasn't).  ('Nuff said?)

Nevertheless, while I'm not a fan of November, I still enjoyed this personal essay by someone who is :)  -- and thought she possibly might have a point. ;)  What do you think? 

November is the twilight of our year and a last chance to marinate in everything the preceding months brought. It feels sad because it is sad. Endings are difficult and goodbyes are hard. And November, with its greyness and dampness and waves of endless clouds, forces you to reconcile that what was once alive will wash away. The trees we sat under this summer are sleeping now and the squirrels have begun hiding away. 
Without the acknowledgment of death or of endings, we can’t possibly appreciate the full scope of being alive. Compared to the murkiness of November, even the dullest spring and summer days seem vibrant, beautiful and full of promise. Compared to long and rainy nights, warm evenings spent on patios seem like a rare treat. November, so grey and so sad, gives us a platform on which to appreciate the full scope of our seasons. After all, they say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

Monday, November 5, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Only in my dreams

I had a baby dream last week. I don't know how I got the baby, but there was a baby, & it was mine, or at least mine to care for. I was living in a dorm-like setting (I have a lot of dreams where I am back in my university dorm, or something like it), and I left the baby in the lounge with some of the other residents to go to work.

When I returned, the baby was gone.

I started looking frantically -- & found the baby in a plastic bag in the trash can, head sticking out of the top. The baby was very tiny, and in distress -- sweaty & wrinkled/crumpled up-looking, and crying & frowning. I grabbed a glass of water, and then switched to a bottle, and as she chug-a-lugged the contents (of course it was she; don't ask me how I know that...), she filled out & grew and started smiling and cooing at me adorably.

I haven't had a baby dream in a long time, and I don't know why I had one now, let alone one that stuck in my mind long enough to write about -- but it was very bizarre. :p

Do you (still) dream about babies &/or pregnancy?

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

Sunday, November 4, 2018

"Rage Becomes Her" by Soraya Chemaly

This past summer, I heard about several new books coming out in the fall, dealing with the subject of women & anger. I assumed the surge of interest in this topic stemmed from the 2016 U.S. election and what has transpired since then.

The first book I saw & bought from this list was "Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women's Anger" by Soraya Chemaly. I started reading it the week of the Kavanagh confirmation hearings -- and Christine Blasey Ford's powerful testimony to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Timely or what?

The pages of my copy are covered in yellow post-it notes and dog-eared (when no post-its were handy).

The message of "Rage Becomes Her" is that women are angry -- that we have a right to be angry -- and that we shouldn't be afraid of that anger, or suppress it (as the powers that be would prefer).  Instead, Chemaly encourages us to listen to our anger, and use it productively as a tool to fight against injustice (both personal and political) and create positive change.

"Rage Becomes Her" is an exhaustive, well-researched and well-documented recounting of the many reasons WHY women might feel anger & rage, how that anger & rage has traditionally manifested itself, and the resulting consequences.  It covers a broad spectrum of topics under that umbrella:  how boys and girls are taught from an early age to manage and view anger in different ways, how anger manifests itself physically in women's bodies, "the caring mandate" and how women wound up taking care of everyone else around them, harassment and power dynamics, everyday sexism and discrimination, the importance of women's speech and women's stories,  #MeToo, and (yes) Donald Trump (among other things).  In the final chapter, "A Rage of Your Own," Chemaly suggests ways to develop "anger competence" -- (as opposed to "anger management" -- which implies that anger must be controlled or reined in).

Most interesting from an ALI perspective -- there is an entire chapter on "mother rage" -- the issue of anger as it pertains not only to motherhood but a broad range of reproductive issues -- including birth control, the complex entanglement of "woman" and "mother,"  pregnancy-related complications and deaths, post-partum depression, maternal ambivalence and regret, abortion rights -- AND infertility, loss and both voluntary and involuntary childlessness.

There was much in this chapter that resonated.  These reflections about childfree women could also apply to those of us for whom childlessness was not our first choice:
Despite pressures and objections, more women today are deliberately choosing not to have children than ever before. A child-free woman is never given the freedom from social opprobium that a child-free man is, however. The choice not to have children inevitably means being shamed, insulted, and even bullied, often by family members.  Women who make this decision have to deal with insensitive "jokes," most hiding a genuine discomfort and hostility, about ticking clocks, being cat ladies, or not being "real" women. And people, apparently unable to see themselves clearly in a mirror, ask why more women today are choosing to be child-free. (p. 113)
And there's this passage:
The pressure women feel to be mothers or to fulfill ideals of maternal care, however, is perhaps most powerful, onerous, and painful for women who experience infertility, pregnancy loss, or the death of a child. These experiences can be filled with sadness, exhaustion, guilt, and remorse that are compounded by crushing social silence around loss.  
Roughly 10 per cent of women in the United States experience infertility, and a large number pursue lengthy, physically grueling, and expensive procedures to conceive. Anger can feel like a constant companion in the face of frustration with your body, financial stresses, and the unintentional insensitivity of friends, family, and strangers. It is an almost certain and predictable outcome of dealing with endless tests, schedules, sex on demand, insurance requirements, and interference with work.  (pp. 114-115)
And this:
Women often endure infertility, pregnancy, infant loss, miscarriages, and stillbirths in isolation, because while sadness is a socially palatable response to these often life-altering events, rage, frustration, jealousy, and guilt are not. Some women are able to respond to miscarriages with little or no grief. However, many feel deep despair, with some saying that their feelings of anger and sadness far exceed what most people understand. It is common for women to feel as though they are careening between anger, envy, and sadness from day to day. It is very difficult to talk about how angry and full of shame these losses can make us. When having a baby is seen as a type of success, then not having a baby is a failure that can fill us with feelings of inadequacy. (p. 115) 
(There's more -- read for yourself!)

I also thought of the ALI community while reading a discussion of "just world" theory, which I remember several bloggers (Mel? Pamela?) have written about:
System justification is the name given to the emotional and cognitive process that kicks in when a person encounters information or behaviors that challenge their sense of self and world view.  According to system justification and what is called just-world theory,  when evidence suggests the world is not a just place, people with this orientation seek to reassert fairness either by ignoring dissonant information or by blaming people for the ills that befall them. (p. 232)
(Sound familiar?)

I don't think women will find this book too surprising, overall.  On the other hand, I'm pretty sure that most men would learn a few things, if they bothered to read it. (They should.)("If men knew how truly angry the women around them often are -- and understood the structures enforcing women's silence -- they would be staggered,"  Chemaly writes (p.xix).)  For me, personally -- as someone who finds it very difficult to express anger openly, and usually winds up dissolving into tears of frustration (albeit I've noticed I'm becoming less inhibited as I age...!) -- it was familiar territory -- and yet still full of ah-ha/lightbulb/"click" moments, as well as validating moments of recognition and "me too."

I gave"Rage Becomes Her" five stars on Goodreads.  This is an important and timely book that deserves to be widely read, discussed and acted upon.

Related books in my gargantuan TBR pile:
And, coming soon: 
This was book #22 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 92% of my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 2 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Right now

Right now... (an occasional meme, alternating from time to time with "The Current")

Reading:  Currently (still!) reading: Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women's Anger by Soraya Chelmaly. Year-to-date, I've finished 21 books (out of my Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge goal of 24 books (88%), and 2 ahead of "schedule," so far!).  

Recent purchases: 
Watching:  No movies recently, but we've been enjoying CBS's Thursday night lineup:  "The Big Bang Theory," "Young Sheldon," "Mom" and "Murphy Brown."   

We also enjoyed watching "The Great American Read" on PBS over the past several weeks. ("To Kill a Mockingbird" was named America's most beloved book.)  

And I've been watching "The Woman in White" on PBS, which comes on directly after "Poldark." :)  I loved reading Victorian novels when I was at university (and took an entire course on Victorian literature), but I never have read any Wilkie Collins. 

Listening:  To the rain outside, on the windows & dripping off the balconies. Grey & gloomy outside. :(  

Drinking/Eating:  NOT eating the leftover Halloween candy (and missing it!). :(  We didn't bother to buy any this year, since we didn't get any trick-or-treaters at the condo over the past two Halloweens we've been here.  This year makes it three for three. :( 

Wearing/Buying:  A new pair of "skinny" jeans ("Hayden") from Lucky Brand -- one of my favourite stores, which just opened an outlet at the mall near us. (Oh dear, I think I'm in trouble...) The clerk insisted I try a pair of jeans on, along with the tops I was interested in... and they were on sale (buy one, get one half price).... ;)  I really didn't NEED a new pair of jeans (let alone two!)... and believe me, I never thought that *I* would be wearing "skinny" jeans -- the number on the scale would certainly indicate otherwise...!  But, here I am...!  They are definitely tighter/more form-fitting than the boot cuts I normally wear -- but they are slightly stretchy and thus comfortable. Also, I like that these are higher-waisted than most jeans today seem to be -- a bit less of a muffin-top effect...!   

(I realize I have -- & buy -- WAY too many clothes -- particularly as someone who spends most of her days hanging around the house/condo, wearing just yoga pants & T-shirts!  I do try to pare down the contents of my closet occasionally -- but then we go to the mall, and...)

Buying (besides books -- and clothes! -- lol):  Plane tickets west to spend Christmas with my family. I've also already bought my first Christmas gifts -- outfits (on sale) for the Little Princesses, from Gymboree. (They're the easy part of my Christmas shopping, lol.)   And took delivery of my Christmas card order from Snapfish. :) 

Knocking wood: Today is day 172 since Aunt Flo last showed up. In other words, almost six months, and almost halfway to declaring official menopause (and it's only, oh, just 2.5 months before my 58th!! birthday).  I've been having some PMS-like symptoms, however, and just the tiniest bit of spotting last week, so I am knocking wood & crossing all crossables that AF does not show up (whereupon I would have to start the countdown ALL OVER AGAIN...). 

Missing: Older Nephew's Puppy. :(  Haven't seen him since we got back from my parents... they've been sick, and busy (SIL started a new job on Oct.1). Hoping to see him (oh yeah, and the nephews, lol) soon! :) 

Anticipating/Dreading: Next week's U.S. midterm elections. I'm not American, but American politics affect us in Canada too, perhaps more than anywhere else in the world. I can't vote -- but those of you south of the border can. Get out there and make a difference!  

Wanting:  Some sunshine. It's been grey & gloomy the last few days -- November has definitely arrived!! :(  

Loving:  The fall colours, which are starting to go as the leaves fall, but still enough hanging in there to make things pretty. :) 

Feeling:  A bit bored since we returned from visiting my parents. A bit apprehensive, given my usual difficulties with November. A bit excited, thinking about Christmas. :)  (The one good thing about November...!) 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

This blog goes to 11 :)

While I have mixed feelings about Halloween (as a childless person now living in a condo), for the past 11 years, one bright light has always shone for me on this day.

Because it was 11 years ago, on Halloween night, that I published my very first post on this blog. :)

11 is not one of those "milestone" numbers divisible by 5 (as last year's 10th blogoversary was), but it's still pretty amazing, especially in terms of the ALI blogosphere, I think. :) Not everyone who was blogging back then is still around (although some wonderful friends still are -- including Lori, Pamela, and, of course, Mel, who encouraged me to start my own blog after I started leaving comments on hers.) I'm sure I never expected to still be here, 11 years after that first post -- but I still keep finding things to write about -- so here I am...!

You're still here too, reading & commenting, which also helps keep me going. Thank you all!  The road less travelled feels a lot less lonely when I know you are walking along the same (or similar/adjacent) with me.

Blogging stats, 11 years later:

Number of years blogging: 11

Published posts (including this one): 1,412

Average # of posts per year: 128

Average # of posts per month: 11
(So far in calendar year 2018, I've managed at least 10 posts per month, and as many as 18.)

Published comments: Blogger only seem to be showing 1000 comments these days?? But last year, I reported more than 8,800+ !

Page views (tracked since May 2010):  720,000+

Followers (on Blogger):  147

Past blogoversary posts here.

And now (because I simply could NOT resist...!!).... ;)

Monday, October 29, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Haunted

This will be our third (!) Halloween in our condo -- and it still feels weird to be so far removed from all the hoopla.  The Facebook & Instagram photos of my friends & relatives, decked out in Halloween finery for costume parties this past weekend, actually came as a bit of a jolt ("oh yeah, THAT's coming up...!"). The past two years, we bought some candy, just in case (there ARE children living in our building) -- but no trick-or-treaters showed up at our door, so we wound up eating it all ourselves (not entirely a bad thing, I know, right??  lol).

This year, we didn't even bother (now watch the hordes finally descend...!). The Halloween decorations I used to put up around our house remain untouched in our storage locker.  Wednesday night will be... just another Wednesday night around our place.

Among the costume party photos on social media:  photos of my dad, carving pumpkins with the Little Princesses -- just as he did with me & my sister when we were growing up. He looks forward to this every year & has everything planned and organized well in advance. I am not sure who has more fun (...OK, I know, it's Dad, lol).

I'll admit, I got teary. He would have been such an excellent grandpa. :(

(The Little Princesses regard him as a third grandpa, and call him Grandpa. But of course I'm thinking about MY kids. :(  )

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

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Unpaved roads

A Facebook find. :)
Love the image, and the last sentence, in particular. :)
Unpaved roads, indeed. ;)  

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Class reunion?

Brooke recently wrote about attending her 20-year high school reunion, and asked about her readers' reunion experiences. It's a somewhat timely topic for me, because my (GULP) 40-year class reunion (yes, FORTY!) will be next June.

I'm not one of those people who LOVED high school (although I didn't hate it either). I was not part of the "popular" crowd. I know I was regarded as a bit of an oddball. I was "smart," at a school where athletic ability was valued -- something I decidedly did not have. I read lots of books;  I used big words; I was shy. I was bullied, albeit not as much as I was in elementary/middle school.  My mother told me that things would be different when I went to university (and they were). The prospect of better things to come was far more alluring than what I had to get through to get there.

In retrospect, it wasn't all bad. I had some good friends, and some good times, particularly in music class & the school band, drama club, and our lunchtime Reach for the Top club sessions. (I was on the team that was sent to the TV show tapings in Winnipeg in Grade 12. We won our first round and lost the second.)  I was editor of the student newspaper, and worked on the yearbook. But I never find myself wishing I was back in high school. (University, maybe. High school, definitely not.)

In the summer of 1980, the year after I graduated (& the same year my sister graduated), the school hosted an all-class reunion to mark its 75th anniversary.  One year wasn't exactly time enough to invoke any huge feelings of nostalgia, but it was nice to see some of the kids I knew from the classes a few years ahead of mine, and catch up with my own classmates. I went to the variety show and parade -- and I brought my (pre-dh) college boyfriend to the dinner & dance held for 1970s grads at one of the hangars on the nearby air force base. I had never had a real date or boyfriend all through high school (one kinda/sorta boyfriend, briefly, in Grade 12) -- and this guy was gorgeous (not to mention a really nice guy -- I think the fact that he agreed to go to my reunion with me is proof of that, lol).  To see jaws literally DROP when I walked into the party with this really good-looking date on my arm was and still remains one of the most satisfying moments of my life. :)

I went to my 10-year reunion in June or July 1989, when I was 28, and had been married for four years. (My graduating class included 102 people;  about 50 attended. Many of the no-shows were the people who lived in town -- go figure.  One guy came all the way from Edmonton, 16 hours overnight on the bus, to be there. He turned around & went all the way back again in time for work on Monday.)  Dh was (understandably) not interested in attending with me, so I hitched a ride and shared a hotel room with one of my best friends, whose dh was similarly uninterested.

I had a better time than I thought I would, and had nice conversations with several people (guys as well as girls) who hadn't given me the time of day when we were all classmates. At that point, not everyone was married yet;  not everyone had kids (although two of my female classmates who got married straight out of high school had FOUR KIDS EACH by that point). We toured the school on Friday night & then gathered at a local bar, where they played 1970s songs for us. Saturday night was a dinner, '70s fashion show & dance, and Sunday there were baseball games and barbecues on a nearby farm owned by a classmate's family.

There have been other reunions & class gatherings since then, both for my class and the entire school, but I haven't been to any of them.  And I'm not sure I will get to my 40th next summer either.  I wouldn't MIND going -- I'm certainly curious to see how everyone's turned out ;)  -- but I'm not dying to go either.  Having to explain my childlessness/only daughter's stillbirth (umpteen times, I'm sure...) is certainly a factor in my reluctance.

I know, I know -- we've all had our own life disappointments and tragedies to deal with by now.  For example -- one guy I always had a bit of a crush on was hit by a car -- drunk driver, grrrr.... -- while jogging, a few years after we graduated, and has spent the years since then in a wheelchair. One of the girls I remember as both very pretty & friendly died from breast cancer.  I know another female classmate and her husband adopted two children from Romania back in the late 1980s/early 1990s. I understand that many children adopted from Romanian orphanages at that time (the Ceausescu era) had severe attachment & developmental issues. I have often thought about her over the years and wondered how she/they were doing. (Those kids would be young adults now, of course...!)

I'm not sure I would be the ONLY person there without kids -- but I'd definitely be in the minority.  And nevermind the kids -- I know many of my classmates are now (gulp) grandparents!  I only have so much tolerance for admiring other people's kid/grandkid photos & listening to their stories... particularly when they never seem to be very interested in my own.

Probably the biggest reason I haven't been to a reunion in 30 years, and probably won't be going this time either, is timing. Most of the reunions have taken place in late June or early July, to take advantage of the summer vacation period. (One all-school reunion fell on/around July 6th, 2005 -- which happened to be my 20th wedding anniversary. Needless to say, that's NOT how my dh wanted to spend the day!!)  Dh & I are usually "home" in late July or early August, around the time of my dad's birthday.  Next July, he'll be turning 80, so I'd like to be there for that one, if I can. I don't think I can hang around for a full month in order to make it to both events -- and since I haven't won any lotteries recently, I don't think the budget can stretch to include two round trips so close together.  Also, I don't drive, and unless dh is willing to take me (a big if...), I would have to beg rides with one of my girlfriends again.

It's not like I haven't kept up with (some of) my classmates over the years. I'm actually in touch with more of my high school friends than the ones from my university years and, thanks to the Internet (lol), I've been able to find out about some of the others I wasn't as close to.  I grew up long before personal computers and the Internet, of course, but a good number of my peers are on Facebook these days.  I'm Facebook friends with most of my best friends from my class, and a few others who "friended" me out of the blue. We have a class Facebook group, where people organize get-togethers and post photos later.  For example, there's an annual Christmas dinner for the locals and anyone else who happens to be in the area, which more than 20 people attended last year -- and a half-dozen of the girls drove to Minneapolis together this past summer to see Jimmy Buffet & the Eagles in concert. (We DID grow up in the Seventies, after all...!)

How about you? Have you been to a school reunion? Would you LIKE to attend one?

Monday, October 22, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: "First Man" & a father's grief

(*Warning: spoilers*)

Going to the movies on Sunday afternoons is one of our favourite things to do, and yesterday's pick was "First Man," starring Ryan Gosling as the astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.

Dh has been a NASA geek since childhood (he was founder & president of his junior high rocket club), & I well remember watching that first moon landing at my grandparents' house in Minnesota (I was 8). Together, we've seen (& loved) "The Right Stuff" and "Apollo 13."  This movie fits in between those two, timewise.

I vaguely remembered hearing, when Neil Armstrong died a few years ago, that he & his first wife Janet (played in the movie by Claire Foy -- Queen Elizabeth in "The Crown")  had lost a little girl to cancer... but I did not expect grief and loss to be the centrepiece of this movie.  It was more of a personal portrait than a space epic (to dh's disappointment)(although there are plenty of scenes of rocket launches and moonwalking too -- mostly from the astronauts' perspective). Armstrong was a stoic and reserved man who did not show his emotions easily, even to his family -- but the death of his toddler daughter obviously affected him deeply -- as did the untimely deaths of many of his test pilot/astronaut friends and coworkers.

Now I'm tempted to pick up the book that provided the source material for the movie. (Another one for the TBR pile...!)  I want to know if the scene near the very end of Armstrong's stint on the moon is true, or a Hollywood embellishment.

What movies have you seen lately?

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

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

"The English Air" by D.E. Stevenson

The latest novel under discussion in my D.E. Stevenson online book club is "The English Air." The story opens in 1938 coastal England, as the Braithwaite family is preparing for a visit from their German cousin, Franz von Heiden.

Franz has an ulterior motive for reconnecting with his late mother's British relatives:  his father is a high-ranking official in Hitler's Nazi party, and has instructed his son to report to him on the thoughts/mindset and morale of the British people. Steeped in Nazi teachings and culture, Franz is convinced of the Fatherland's superiority -- but gradually, he warms to Britain and its people -- especially Wynne Braithwaite, the daughter of his mother's cousin -- and he begins to question the truthfulness of what he's been taught to believe. When Hitler invades Czechoslovakia in March 1939 -- after promising not to do so -- Franz is devastated. Ultimately, he is faced with a difficult choice.

I enjoyed this book a lot.  "Home front" novels about the two world wars have always interested me, and "The English Air" is a rare "slice of life" book, covering the period from 1938 to early 1940 and published later that year. The Second World War was just getting under way;  nobody knew then what the outcome would be. Understandably, it has a bit of a propaganda ring to it.

Stevenson's novels tend to be on the light side -- and while this is not a "serious" novel, it's certainly more serious than most Stevenson books tend to be, in both tone and subject matter.  It's also unusual, in that Franz, the German, is the central character, and we see much of the story through his eyes.

While this book is nearly 80 years old, some of its themes remain relevant today (at times, uncomfortably so): the folly of blind devotion to a charismatic leader; the power of opening one's eyes and heart to new experiences, to different ideas and different ways of life. "There is too little kindness amongst us today," Franz's Tante Anna tells him, and that too rings true. 

I rated this a solid four stars on Goodreads.

(For my other DES-related posts, click on the label below.)

This was book #21 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 88% of my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 2 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

"Fear: Trump in the White House" by Bob Woodward

"Fear: Trump in the White House" -- the highly anticipated, recently released book by Bob Woodward -- is similar in many ways to Michael Wolff's "Fire & Fury" (which I read earlier this year & reviewed here) -- both of them fly-on-the-wall looks at the Trump White House during its first two years.

The difference, of course, being that this was written by BOB WOODWARD, of Woodward & Bernstein fame -- you know, the guys who doggedly investigated a mysterious little break-in at the Watergate Hotel in Washington back in the early 1970s, which eventually led to the resignation of a  president. I've read several of Woodward's previous 18 books (with & without Bernstein & others), including the first (and best), "All the President's Men" (which I re-read last year & reviewed here).

We might be able to brush off the gossipy books written earlier this year by Wolff & by Omarosa Manigault-Newman (who clearly had an axe to grind).  But when we hear the same sorts of stories from Bob Woodward, distinguished Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, it's clear that something is happening at the White House, and that we should all pay careful attention.

As Woodward himself said in an interview with CBS Sunday Morning, "People better wake up to what's going on."

In anecdote after anecdote, example after mind-numbing example, Woodward demonstrates that (as Chief of Staff John Kelly is said to have remarked) "We're in crazytown." 

“The reality was that the United States in 2017 was tethered to the words and actions of an emotionally overwrought, mercurial and unpredictable leader,"  Woodward writes. "Members of his staff had joined to purposefully block some of what they believed were the president’s most dangerous impulses. It was a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world.”

Unlike Wolff & Manigault-Newman's books, Woodward's was meticulously researched and documented, with his methodology explained up front, and notes and an index at the back.  As Woodward explains in the Notes section, most of the book is based on "multiple deep background interviews with firsthand sources." "Deep background" means the source agreed that all the information provided could be used without his or her identity being revealed (although it's not hard to identify who some of the sources might have been).  Most of the interviews were taped with the sources' consent (and later transcribed). Meeting notes, files, personal diaries and both government and personal documents were also used to provide a fuller picture. (Not only does Woodward describe how Gary Cohn and Rob Porter conspired to remove a critical letter from the President's desk before it was signed and sent -- from which we can infer that Cohn, Porter or both told him about the incident, in great detail -- he actually shows us an image of the unsigned letter.)  Other sources are documented in the notes section at the back.

The final sentence of the book is a killer.

I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads.

This was book #20 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 83% of my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 2 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal!  :)

Monday, October 15, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

  • While I'm happy for the Duke & Duchess of Sussex (aka Prince Harry & Meghan Markle), who announced today that they are expecting a baby, did they really have to do it on Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day?? (And here I always thought the Brits were ahead of us in North America when it comes to awareness of these issues...!) I am sure it was unintentional on their part, but it just goes to show we still have a long way to go when it comes to awareness of these issues. 
  • Yes, today is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day (in Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month).  Around the world tonight,  bereaved parents will be lighting candles at 7 p.m. local time and letting them shine for one hour, providing a continuous "wave of light" for 24 hours in memory of our babies. I actually haven't participated in the candlelighting in recent years, but I think I will do it again this year. 
  • Trying to get back into our usual routine since returning from visiting my parents last week.  Last Monday was (Canadian) Thanksgiving (a statutory holiday);  Tuesday we travelled home;  Wednesday we went to the supermarket to restock our cupboards & fridge/freezer (which we usually do Monday). I had a hard time remembering what day it was! Hoping this week will be a little more "normal!"  
  • Dh & I went to see the most recent version of "A Star is Born" this weekend, starting Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga (as well as Sam Elliott -- sigh!! -- Dave Chapelle, and Andrew Dice Clay (!!) as Gaga's dad (!!))(and he was really good!!).  I remember seeing the Barbra Streisand/Kris Kristofferson version when I was a teenager, and crying buckets over it... and I cried at this one too. Cooper can sing (& direct), Gaga can act, and together, they have fabulous chemistry. I predict Oscar nominations to come... 
  • Younger Nephew & his bride have been living in her parents' basement since their wedding in April, but this weekend, they moved into their recently purchased townhouse -- two bedrooms, two levels, and about two blocks away (a 5-10 minute walk) from our condo building. Dh & BIL both think they paid wayyyyyyy too much money for it -- and they probably did -- (is there any other kind of real estate, hereabouts??) -- but I understand their desire to spread their wings & get their own space.  We went there to see it yesterday. I still think of  YN as an adorable, curly-haired toddler with a soother stuck permanently in his mouth, and it's somewhat bizarre to realize (not for the first time) that he's now a married adult with a mortgage.  
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Horror story

Did anyone else see this story about a funeral home in Detroit where the decomposed bodies of 11 infants were found in the ceiling, after an anonymous tip??

This is every bereaved parent's nightmare, I think. (One of them, anyway...) How did this happen? Obviously, this is NOT standard/proper funeral home procedure...!!  But what did the parents think the funeral home was doing with their babies' bodies??

One possible explanation (& something that has long bothered me):  I know many hospitals (even still today) will offer to "take care of things" for the parents of babies who are miscarried, stillborn or die shortly after birth.  The idea of planning a funeral for an infant is an overwhelming prospect for newly bereaved/totally in shock parents -- you were supposed to be planning a baby shower, a christening, a nursery!! NOT a funeral!! -- and many are grateful for the offer;  grateful to be able to shove the whole thing out of their minds.

Most don't realize this means their babies will likely be buried (or their ashes interred) in a common, unmarked plot, perhaps months after their deaths. I have heard stories -- not as frequently these days, thank goodness, but certainly when I was newly bereaved -- of parents who later wanted to know where their babies were buried, and were horrified when an exact location could not be provided.  I recall one blogger, a decade ago, who signed a form to release the bodies of her twins -- changed her mind shortly afterward -- and was then told the hospital could not locate the bodies!  (They were eventually found, thank goodness.)

(Years ago, some parents weren't even told that it was an option to plan their own funeral -- the dead baby was whisked away immediately after birth -- without ever being seen or held by the parents -- and parents were merely advised to get on with their lives and "have another one.")

This is why I am an adamant fan of having standard procedures for how to deal with pregnancy & infant losses in place across all hospitals -- nationally, if possible, and certainly state or province-wide -- and of parents being provided with a broad array of options and suggestions by their caregivers during the brief, precious time they get to spend with their babies.

I remember my mother suggesting, tentatively, over the phone, before she even got to my side at the hospital, that perhaps we could have some sort of funeral or memorial service for Katie at the church dh & I attended? I hadn't even thought about that part of things, and the thought did give me some comfort. The hospital staff told me that because our daughter was past 24 weeks gestation, we were REQUIRED to arrange for burial or cremation. I didn't view it as a burden; it was actually kind of a relief to know that I was going to be able to do this for my baby, and I will be forever grateful for that.

I know everyone's experience & feelings will be different -- but I am sure that whatever the stories of those babies & their parents, this was NOT what they thought was going to happen!!  :(

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Childlessness & "The Big Bang Theory"

Childlessness -- voluntary or not -- is a topic not often explored on TV -- and when the subject is touched upon, it's often handled in a disappointing way.  More often than not, even female characters who say they don't want children wind up having them.

The question of children and the choice to have them (or not) reared its head on a recent (Oct. 4th) episode of "The Big Bang Theory," now in its 12th & final season. Penny & Leonard finally got around to talking about having children... and guess what? Leonard wants kids;  Penny doesn't. (You would think they would have discussed this BEFORE they got married, right? They've certainly known each other long enough by now...!) 

After Leonard stormed out of the apartment, the couple eventually made up & Leonard told Penny he can accept not having children. In the meantime, however, Penny was subjected to enormous pressure, not just from Leonard but also from Amy (they were supposed to be pregnant at the same time!!  their kids were supposed to be besties too!!!) and her dad (angered at the prospect of not being a grandfather). 

The eyerolling coup de grace for me, though, was seeing Bernadette -- who was originally completely unenthusiastic about having children, and still doesn't show much enthusiasm for motherhood since having not just one but TWO kids in quick succession! -- hand Penny just about every cliche in the book -- all the usual lines that parents use to try to convince the childless/free about the superiority of a life with kids.

(Even Sheldon & Amy are, apparently, fated to have children -- an episode of "Young Sheldon" last season ended with a voiceover from the adult Sheldon, talking about his love of contracts -- including the fact that he uses them with his children.) 

I will be curious to see whether there's a pregnancy announcement -- from Sheldon & Amy, or Leonard & Penny, or both -- before the season & series ends.

(We watched this episode while we were visiting my parents, who are also big fans of the show -- with them in the room. Awkward...!)

Here's a recap of the episode that I found online. (Note the headline: "Is Leonard and Penny's Marriage in Trouble?" -- even though they make up in the end -- and the editorializing: "Leonard apologizes for freaking out, then tells Penny he can accept not having children. (Hmm… we’ll see about that.)")  (As always, beware the comments...!)

Anyone else watch? Thoughts?

(I wrote/ranted about how the show "How I Met Your Mother" handled the issue of Robin's childlessness, here, here and here.) 

Friday, October 12, 2018

1 in 4

Many of my friends from the babyloss world (both online & in real life) have been posting this meme on their Facebook walls and other social media sites over the past few days, marking Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month (& Day, coming up on Monday, Oct. 15th). 

I did too. 

It's hard sometimes to "go public" with my ongoing grief -- to remind others of our loss (and that, yes, we are not "over it," 20 years later!) -- but if not now, then when, right? 

I am one of the estimated 1 in 4 who have lost a baby, through miscarriage, stillbirth, ectopic pregnancy or infant loss. (That statistic could potentially be higher, since many women miscarry before they are aware they are pregnant.)

I am also one of the (approximate) 1 in 5 to 1 in 4 women of my generation (born in the 1960s & 70s in developed countries) who does not (and will not) have (living) children -- both by choice & not (as was the case for me).  No "I am 1 in 4" memes for us (yet?), although I am sure there will be soon...! 

Just for fun, I Googled the phrase "1 in 4" to see what would pop up.  It wasn't what you might expect:

  • One of the first links to pop up .  It took a bit of searching through the site to figure out exactly what the site was for, but it appears to be an initiative to shed light on domestic violence issues in the Hamilton, Ontario area. 
  • There were several links related to mental health issues, including: 
  • supports people who have experienced child sexual abuse and trauma in the U.K.  
As I clicked on, here are some of the other "1 in 4" links I found: 
I gave up after scrolling through 10 pages (!) of Google results, without finding anything related to pregnancy & infant loss awareness (and remember, this is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month!), or childlessness.  All of the above links represent important issues -- but so too are the loss of much-wanted children (often for reasons that can never be explained).  1 in 4 is a pretty big chunk of the population. For all the progress I have personally witnessed on issues of pregnancy loss, infertility and involuntary childlessness over the past 20 years (and there HAS been progress), we clearly still have further to go to get our stories heard (let alone adequately understood!)...  

Thursday, October 11, 2018


This should have been my #MicroblogMonday post, since Monday was Thanksgiving here in Canada. But the day/weekend went by far too fast. Of course, gratitude should be a 365-day-a-year thing -- so in the ongoing spirit of Thanksgiving, here are a few things I am thankful for right now:
  • Family -- his, mine & extended. :) Besides my parents & sister (as well as Parents' Neighbours' Daughter and the Little Princesses), I got to see my aunties (my dad's two sisters) & a cousin I haven't seen in several years while I was out west. None of us are getting any younger, and I cherish the time we can spend together. 
  • Being able to spend Thanksgiving with my family, for the first time since we were married 33 years ago (!). (I was actually home in both October 1998 & 1999 for my grandparents' funerals :(  but my grandfather died after Thanksgiving, and turkey dinner was not a priority while we were planning & assembling for my grandmother's funeral.)(Besides which, we were in Minnesota, where they don't celebrate until late November...!) 
  • Spending precious time with my aging parents, and being able to lend a hand around the house & yard. 
  • Seeing the Little Princesses, spoiling them with cute new clothes I had fun picking out for them (and then seeing them wear some of what I'd bought), and celebrating the Littlest Princess's 4th birthday. :) 
  • Getting to see Paul McCartney in concert -- and WITH my sister (reliving our teenage years...!).  :) 
  • Having a computer expert in the family (my sister's partner) that I can call on anytime for tech support. :) 
  • Dh. (He's not the best traveller, and I am also thankful that our travel experience this week went relatively smoothly...!) 
  • Being retired early and still being able to live a comfortable lifestyle. 
  • Our lovely condo & all its comforts. 
  • Shelves full of books to read. :) 
  • Being on track to meet my Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge goal. :)  
  • Getting to wear capris and sandals for one more day, thanks to balmy temperatures. ;) 
  • Gorgeous fall colours starting to emerge. 
  • Good friends, in real life and in the computer. :) (Thank you all!) 
  • The good fortune to be born and to spend my life in the best country in the world. :) 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Right now

Right now... (an occasional meme, alternating from time to time with "The Current")

Recuperating: ...from a visit to my parents in Manitoba over (Canadian) Thanksgiving (hence, the lack of recent posting/commenting...!). ;)  Got back home last night.

Reading:  Finished: "Fear: Trump in the White House" by Bob Woodward while I was away. Review to come, eventually.  ;)  Year-to-date, I've finished 20 books (out of my Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge goal of 24 books (83%), and 2 ahead of "schedule," so far!).  

Currently reading: Rage Becomes Her:  The Power of Women's Anger by Soraya Chelmaly. Extremely timely!  ;)  

Recent purchases: 
Watching:  I tend to be somewhat wary of reboots, since so few of them live up to the originals, but I have watched the first two episodes of the return of "Murphy Brown." So far, not as good as the original :(  (...but then what is??), although it's great to see everyone again. Also happily watching: season 4 of "Poldark" on PBS! :) 

Most recent big-screen movie: Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 11/9."  (More of the same, if you've ever seen any of his stuff.)

Listening:  To stories (& reading them too) from women I know about long-ago ...., in the wake of Christine Blasey Ford's courageous testimony before the Senate committee recently.  During my visit "home," I heard an almost 40-year-old story for the first time from my own sister about an experience she had during her first month of dorm living at university in the early 1980s. It wasn't rape, and I suppose back then we had no idea what to call it, but these days it would definitely be classified as sexual assault. :(  

Drinking/Eating:  Still recuperating from the great eating while I was at Mom & Dad's ;)  including Thanksgiving dinner, with all the trimmings, on Saturday night. :)  Turkey with mashed potatos, stuffing & gravy;  mashed turnip, peas, coleslaw, buns and a cottage cheese salad my mom has made since we were kids (that's really almost more of a dessert). And apple & pumpkin pies for dessert.  

Wearing:  I had to borrow my mother's winter jacket while we were out west, since it was pretty chilly the entire time we were there (including some SNOW!!).  I had only brought my denim jacket and a slightly warmer fall jacket. It was 5C when we left Winnipeg yesterday;  27C/36C humidex when we arrived in Toronto. (Somewhere, there has to be a happy medium...!)  The forecast for today is similar (although it will chill out again after that). Guess my capris & sandals will get one more wear today, before they're washed/put away for the season...!   

Buying (besides books, lol):  Groceries, later this morning. We always try to leave the cupboards & especially the refrigerator as empty as possible whenever we got away, and they are both pretty bare at the moment!  

Wanting:  A good night's sleep. :p  I was hoping I would sleep better, being back in my own bed again, but (despite being exhausted last night) I was awake before 4 & up before 5. :p  

Feeling:  Sad to say goodbye to my parents again, but happy to be back in my own little condo. (And looking forward to returning at Christmastime!) 

Loving:  Going to a concert again after so many years -- with my sister again, like when we were teenagers - AND that the concert was Paul McCartney, to boot...!  (I wrote about the experience here!)  

Thinking ahead: To October 2019. My sister just got two tickets to Elton John's farewell tour for October 5th. (I really think it's ridiculous to have to buy concert tickets a WHOLE YEAR AHEAD, but, whatever...!). SIL & I tried and failed to get tickets to his recent farewell concerts here -- and I/we could stay for Thanksgiving again too ;)  -- so it's a very tempting prospect...!  

Playing: A lot of cards while we were at my parents' house :) -- mostly a rummy game we've played since I was a kid, for quarters. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Yeah, I'm amazed...

It was the dream of a lifetime come true:  seeing Paul McCartney in concert. (Even better, seeing it in my "home" city, along with my sister, who shares my love of the Beatles & so many of my Beatles-related memories from growing up in the 1960s & 1970s.)

I tried taking a few photos & videos, but most of them didn't turn out very well. I mostly let my phone sit in my purse, and just let the music and emotions (and there were many) wash over me.  (Set list here.)

He and his fabulous band opened with "A Hard Day's Night." I had flashbacks to seeing the movie for the first time in a theatre re-release in the early 1980s, to watching the Beatles cartoon show with my sister & cousin as a child, and to my mom taking me to see "Help!" at the movie theatre when I was a pre-schooler.

He played "Maybe I'm Amazed," quite possibly my favourite of his solo songs and a strong contender for our wedding first dance song (although we wound up picking something else).

He sang "Let 'Em In," and I remember my grandpa singing along & chuckling over "Auntie Jin" (he had an Aunt Jinny too).

They played "Band on the Run," and I was a young teenager again, listening to the song on the radio and to the album in my friend's basement rec room.

They played "Live and Let Die," complete with explosions, and I thought of how much the world had changed since he wrote the song in the mid-1970s for the James Bond movie of the same name. (Frankly, both my sister & I were surprised the explosions were still allowed, in this very different day & age...!)

We all sang along to "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" -- and he ended off with the ultimate singalong -- "Hey Jude" (of course) -- and I remembered all the junior high dances where that was always the last slow dance, desperately hoping someone would ask me to dance. (They never did.) And I thought about how cool it was to be sitting in an arena, more than 40 years later, singing the same song along with Paul & 14,000+ other people. I wondered if Paul imagined, back in 1968, that 50 years later, he'd still be singing that song in front of thousands of people. I know that 14-year-old me from 1975 would never have imagined the day when Paul McCartney (or any Beatle, for that matter) & I would share the same space.

(He & the band then came back for a kick-ass encore set that started with "Yesterday," and wound up with (of course) "The End" -- "And in the end the love you take/Is equal to the love you make."  Perfection. :)

Probably my favourite moment of the night (among so, so many memorable moments) was when when he came out to the edge of the stage with an acoustic guitar and played "Blackbird." The lights dimmed, the glow of hundreds of cellphones lit up the arena like tiny stars, and the stage rose up and up and up into the air, high above the audience. It was magical. It was hugely emotional. I blinked back tears.  He told us he'd written it with the civil rights marches of the 1960s in mind (and I couldn't help thinking of the present day, and of Christine Blasey Ford & all the brave women who have come forward with stories of courage and survival). "All your life... you were only waiting for this moment to be free."

And then he sang "Here Today," which he wrote after John Lennon was murdered, saying all the things to him that he never got the chance to say, and the stage slowly lowered back to its regular height.

His voice is not quite what it once was... but he played for three solid hours, bouncing from his famous Hofner bass to electric guitar to acoustic guitar to ukelele (George taught him how to play it) to grand piano to upright -- back & forth, and telling stories along the way.  Did I mention the man turned 76 years old (!!) this summer??!  We should all be so energetic at that age...

He clearly still loves doing what he does, and I hope he keeps on doing it for as long as he's willing and able.  I feel so very lucky to have lived almost my entire life with Beatles/Wings/McCartney songs as a major part of the soundtrack. And so very lucky to have finally seen him in concert.

Concert review & newspaper photos here.

One local couple got the ultimate photobomb for their wedding album! :) 

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

He's hard to see here ;) but that's Sir Paul McCartney himself, singing "Blackbird" with an acoustic guitar
on an elevated stage (with larger images on screens on either side of the stage). 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

#MicroblogMondays (on Tuesday night): Odds & ends

  • I am late with my #MM post. The last week or so has been busy... 
  • Younger Nephew & his bride just closed on the purchase of their first home -- a two-bedroom condo townhouse. They paid a ridiculous price for a two-bedroom townhouse -- but then all real estate hereabouts is ridiculously priced, and it was about as "affordable" as local real estate gets.
    • We still haven't seen it yet but we did go shopping with Younger Nephew on Saturday. We told him to pick out a piece of furniture or appliance as a housewarming gift (within a semi-reasonable price range).  He picked... a vacuum cleaner. 
  • In response to a "wait until you have kids" comment from his dad (BIL), Younger Nephew said, "Actually, Dad, kids might not be on the table."  I am pretty sure he said that just to get a rise out of BIL (because I can't imagine his wife not wanting to have kids). ;)  But I think everyone was surprised when dh said to him, "That is ENTIRELY up to the two of you to decide!" (Not sure how BIL felt about THAT! lol)  
  • SIL & I went to a free taping for the Marilyn Denis show downtown yesterday (one reason this post is late). Marilyn is a well-known TV & radio personality, locally as well as nationally, and we had a good time. (Afterward, we went for lunch at a nearby cafe and then to a big downtown mall to shop.) 
    • For those of you who live in Canada and can watch, the show will air this Thursday morning. :)  (See if you can spot me!) It was mostly prepared clips from her recent visit to Ireland. They also taped a Halloween-themed cooking segment for a show that will air on Oct. 25th.
  • It's always great when a new blog post from an old blogging friend shows up in my reader.  :)  Welcome back, Miss E/South City Sadie!  
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Memories of campus life

Stories in the news about U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanagh & Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused him of sexually assaulting her at a high school party, have included accounts and photos from Kavanagh's fraternity days at Yale in the early/mid-1980s.  A photo of some of Kavanagh's frat brothers hoisting a flag made of pilfered women's underwear brought back memories of my own college days -- some funny, some unsettling.

I graduated high school in (gulp) 1979 (almost 40 years ago!!) & went to university that fall. (NOT Ivy League -- an ordinary Canadian university, an hour away from where my family then lived.)  The women's movement had been a presence all throughout my youth and teenage years -- the Equal Rights Amendment had just been defeated in the U.S. a few years earlier -- so feminism was part of my consciousness -- things were starting to change -- but slowly. To give just one example, this was the era of what was then known as "jiggle TV" -- think "Charlie's Angels" and "Three's Company" and Daisy Duke. It was long before Anita Hill (that's a whole other set of memories...!), workplace and campus harassment policies, "no means no" and #MeToo.

I spent all four years of my undergrad career living in an all-girls dorm, connected to a larger dorm that was half coed & half all-guys by a third building that housed (among other things) the administration office and the cafeteria where we all ate. Fraternities and sororities were not a big thing at my university, but at most of the residences on campus, a rowdy party atmosphere prevailed. Helicopter parents were unheard of in those days and seldom seen on campus. There were no personal computers, Internet or cellphones. I telephoned my parents once a week, usually on Sunday nights, when rates were cheaper (long distance was expensive!).  Not everyone had TVs.  I had a 12-inch black & white set with rabbit ears that picked up three or four local stations. Just a very few students had colour TVs -- I remember the one who did on my floor dragging her set into the lounge so we could all watch the infamous "Who shot JR?" episode of "Dallas" together in colour.  :)

Guys and girls roamed in & out of each others' rooms at all hours. "Overnight guests" were not unheard of.  There were beer bashes every Friday afternoon (50 cents for a beer ticket, if I remember correctly), and dances & parties, somewhere on campus, every Friday &/or Saturday night, with pre-parties and after-parties in dorm lounges and rooms. The drinking age was 18 (kids coming from places where the legal age was 19 or 21 went wild). Bar-sized mini-refrigerators were not uncommon in dorm rooms, but some of the guys had full-sized refrigerators, stocked with beer that they sold to other students.  (Others who didn't have fridges kept cases on the windowsills in the wintertime -- a natural refrigerator/freezer!)  They made furniture out of the empty cases. Some people grew marijuana plants in their rooms -- not many, but I did see them.

The movie "Animal House" had been released the previous year, and it both reflected the atmosphere I found at university, and influenced it. (Yes, I went to a few toga parties!). I can only remember one near-food fight at the cafeteria, where a couple of dinner rolls got tossed around... but I do remember witnessing many "beltings," in which unfortunate students would be dragged over to the conveyor belt which carried our trays of used dishes into the kitchen, tossed on, held down and stuffed through the opening.

There were also "shaftings." Most of the victims were guys from the other dorm, but that building was just three storeys and had no elevators (that I remember)(it was built in 1912, and this was before mandatory accommodations for people with disabilities) -- so these took place at our girls' dorm, which was built in the early 1960s, with nine floors and two elevators. The victim (usually a guy, although I remember at least one girl) would be stripped to his underwear, tied to a chair and covered with shaving cream & lipstick, sent up in the elevator, and then down, with stops on every floor, where both girls & guys would be waiting with garbage bins full of water to throw in (and cameras to record the event -- I have a few such photos in my collection...!). (My parents once arrived to pick me up in the aftermath of one of these "shaftings." You can imagine their reactions...!) Everyone would pitch in afterward to help clean up the mess (fortunately, we had a very good-natured caretaker), but needless to say, all that water was not great for the elevators & repair crews would often have to be called in.

Once a year, usually sometime in the late winter/early spring, there would be a raid on the girls' dorm. Not a panty raid (although I do remember one of those, and seeing dozens of pairs of women's underwear strung across the cafeteria dining hall afterward). There were pass keys floating around (Lord only knows how many...) that gave the user access to all the rooms in the building, and once a year, the administration would look the other way (!!) & they would be used.

Each raid was elaborately planned.  There was actually a list you could ask your proctor/residence assistant to put you on, if you absolutely objected and did not want to "take part" -- although the pressure to "be a good sport" was enormous. Consequently, the "no raid" list was usually pretty small, maybe just a few girls on each floor.

An advance party would be sent over in the wee small hours of the morning -- typically after 2 or 3 a.m. -- to roll up rugs,  move lounge furniture out of the way, and fill all the bathtubs up with freezing cold water. (We had common bathrooms for the entire floor -- a big bathroom with several toilet cubicles & sinks, a separate shower room with several shower cubicles, and two separate tub rooms.) Often, someone going to the washroom or up late studying would hear the tubs running, or see the rolled-up rugs -- or some sympathetic guy would call a female friend -- and she would call a few friends to warn them, who would call a few friends... if you woke up to the sound of phones ringing all over the floor, you knew what was about to happen (and had a short window of time to prepare yourself... imagine if you slept in the nude??).  One year, my room had a view of the hallway that ran along the front of the third building, connecting our two dorms -- and I witnessed the daunting sight of hundreds of guys running through it towards us. Yikes.  The sound of hundreds of thundering footsteps and loud male voices would get louder.... Resistance was futile.

Once the guys reached your floor (both by elevator and up the stairwells), they'd use the passkeys. A half-dozen or so of them would haul you out of bed, drag you out of your room and down the hallway to the tub rooms and dump you unceremoniously in the tub of cold water. Most girls refused to submit without a fight, and the guys got almost as soaked as we did. As with shaftings, both guys and girls would pitch in after each raid to mop up, although I'm sure there was still a mess waiting for the caretaker & maids when they arrived to work that morning.

I only took part in one raid. In first year, my roommate was married (!) (long story) and her husband was NOT impressed when he found out about the raid. He installed a deadbolt lock on our door, and the night of the raid, we used it and sheltered several of our floormates in our room. We yelled to the guys trying to open our door that the door was bolted & they weren't going to get in, and they finally gave up. (Two years later, I wound up in a room next door to that room -- the deadbolt had been removed, but the hole my roomie's husband had drilled into the door frame for it remained.) In second year, I was sick in bed with the flu. It was a stroke of luck that I was good friends with the ringleader of the group that burst into my room. I pleaded with him that I was sick, really sick, and really not up to this. I guess I must have looked & sounded pretty pathetic because they actually retreated, closed the door & left me alone!  Third year I got dumped in the tub -- but not before joining the other girls from my floor to lay in wait & douse the guys with wastepaper baskets full of water first (if we were going to get wet, so were they...!).  :)  By fourth year, I'd had enough & added my name to the "no raid" list -- and was left alone. (Nevertheless, I still didn't get much sleep because of all the commotion going on outside my door...!)

I imagine (I hope!!) these raids have long since gone the way of the dodo bird. (The coed/guys' dorm was decommissioned as a residence a few years ago, and is now home to the school of music!)  The raid was a "tradition" and supposedly in the spirit of "fun" -- but the idea that the administration would turn a blind eye to such antics (effectively sanctioning such behaviour) was somewhat disturbing/unnerving to more than few of us, even in those less enlightened times. One girl once commented how easy it would be, in all the noise & chaos, for some guy with dishonourable intentions to use the pass key -- & then close & lock the door behind him. I'm sure she wasn't the first person to have those thoughts.

Because there was a darker side to campus life that surfaced periodically.

Fortunately, the really dark stuff was not something I ever experienced, and seldom heard about, but I did see & experience things that made me uncomfortable.

There was the "three-man lift" trick, which I saw performed every fall at a big "beer & skits" gathering during frosh month. One guy claims he can lift three people, single-handed. He offers to demonstrate and asks for three "volunteers" -- two guys, who may or may not be in on the joke, and one unsuspecting victim -- a frosh/freshman, sometimes a guy, but also sometimes a girl. They lie flat on the floor, arms linked, with the victim in the middle -- helpless to do anything as the guy takes his beer & pours it down the front of his or her pants.  I only avoided becoming the victim of this humiliating prank because I was warned by my proctor/residence assistant not to volunteer or go along with it.

There were the older guys who preyed on the incoming frosh/freshmen girls every fall. (Unfortunately, I had some experience with this.)  They'd pick you up at a party, stick to you like glue, make out with you in your room or theirs afterwards (depending on the roommate situation), disappear until they saw you at the next party (seldom ask you out on an actual date)... and eventually (when they got what they wanted -- or got bored when they didn't), unceremoniously dump you.  Then you'd see them the next September doing exactly the same thing to yet another innocent frosh girl.

There were guys who would follow me around at parties and stick to me like leeches even when I made it clear (I thought??) that I wasn't interested.  Shortly before I met dh, I met one guy who shoved his tongue down my throat after a couple of dances at a party. Then he started showing up at my table in the cafeteria every day, and hanging around my room. Then he started calling me. When I asked how he'd gotten my number, he confessed he'd looked at the dial when he'd been in my room (we used to have our phone numbers written in the middle of the dial). At a dorm outing to see "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," he plunked himself down beside me, uninvited.  It soon became quite apparent he had no interest in watching the movie. I did (I hadn't seen it before). I had long since decided he was not for me, and he didn't seem to be taking the hint. He finally got the point, though, when I elbowed him the ribs, hissed, "Cut it out!" and then pointedly ignored him when the lights finally came up and everyone began leaving. A couple of nights later, in what I assume was an act of attempted revenge, he tried to penny the door to my room shut as I slept inside. I heard my doorknob rattle, woke up with a start & started yelling, "Who's there??" loud enough to wake up my next-door neighbour.  He fled, mission unaccomplished, leaving a few pennies lying on the floor in front of my door. (I knew it was him, because he'd told me about how he and some of his floormates had done the same thing as a prank on someone else.) (He found someone else at the next party who found his attentions more welcome, and ignored me from then on. Good riddance...!) (I wrote about this incident, in part, in a previous post, here.)

There were lurid prank calls.

There was the guy (actually someone I'd known in high school) who got my name in an inter-floor Secret Santa exchange -- and gave me a copy of Playgirl magazine.

There were whispered stories about a drunken guy who seduced a drunken girl in the bathroom while his floormates listened at the door.

Perhaps the most serious incident I can remember:  There was a golf course that bordered the university and separated it from the highway where many kids lived in off-campus apartment buildings. There was a well-worn path between a hedge and a chain-link fence along the border of the golf course, and many students would take a shortcut through there en route to classes and then home again later. (It was also the fastest and easiest route to a popular off-campus bar.)  One fall -- I think it was when I was in my third or fourth year -- several female students were attacked by a guy who would lay in wait for them at the end of the path. They were easy prey, effectively trapped there in a leafy tunnel with no easy way out.

Word spread about what was happening -- there were stories in the newspaper -- and all the girls from both dorms were summoned to a meeting.  I don't remember anyone telling us about what action was being taken to ensure our safety -- or even any tips on what we could do ourselves.  I do remember an earnest young woman from a local women's group, who reminded us that our bodies belonged to us,  that we had the right to say no. She told us a story about a date who pressured her into staying at his apartment overnight, and how shitty she felt afterwards. I felt bad for her, and I agreed with what she had to say (I'd read enough to have already absorbed that message, but I don't ever remember someone specifically delivering it to me & my peers before), but it didn't feel particularly relevant to the specific situation at hand. (The girls who were attacked may have said "no" but I don't think the guy was listening.)  What I wanted to know was what the police and the the university were doing to find this guy and to protect others from being attacked. That was not made clear. And even then, I also remember wondering why just the girls were getting the talk -- how about the guys?  Shouldn't someone be saying something to them too?? (Of course, they weren't the ones being attacked.)  Nope, the onus was solely on us.

Times were different then -- much different. I cannot imagine that students today would get away with half the stuff we used to do. (I hope?) It was all (mostly?) good fun... at least, I think that was the intention. I have a lot of great memories from that time, and made friends I still have today. (Not to mention I met my husband there!) 

But when I look back on those days now, I do sometimes shudder at what people got away with, and how naive and trusting -- and very, very lucky -- I was.  There was a lot of alcohol and a lot of kids, living away from home for the first time, getting very drunk and doing very dumb things.

For example, I used to walk home by myself from parties on the other side of campus, late at night, through the underground tunnel system that connected different buildings to each other (and protected students from the bitter cold during the winter). I knew I was taking a risk walking home by myself, whether above or below ground. But I still did it. (Speedwalking all the way...!) Even back then, there was a campus escort system, but nobody I knew ever used it.

I remember one time when I was the only girl in a room with a dozen guys and a whole lot of beer. It may have entered my mind that that maybe I shouldn't be in that situation -- but it was hard to believe that anything bad might happen to me, because I thought of these guys as my friends. (Plus it was still early in the evening, the door was wide open & I didn't stay very long.) I knew some guys were jerks, but I knew most of these guys pretty well. They were nice guys, and I trusted them. I don't think I ever seriously considered that they might do something bad to me.

Luckily for me, they were, and they didn't. But not all girls were as lucky as me.