Tuesday, February 27, 2018

"Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder" by Caroline Fraser

I was happy to finally get my hands on a copy of "Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder" by Caroline Fraser -- one of the best-reviewed books of 2017. Like many of you, I grew up reading Wilder's Little House books (over & over again), and I watched the sugarcoated TV adaptation in the 1970s (although I was not as rabid a fan of that as some -- I preferred the books).  My own ancestors came to the prairies of northwestern Minnesota around the same time that Wilder and her family moved from southern Minnesota to the plains of South Dakota, and it thrilled me as a child to realize that my family too had been homesteading pioneers like Laura Ingalls and her clan. In later years, one of the happiest memories I have from my pregnancy is sitting up in bed & reading "Little House in the Big Woods" aloud to my growing belly, as dh watched from the bedroom doorway, a huge smile on his face.

As an adult, I've enjoyed learning more about Wilder and her family, and have read several relevant books about her life and influence, including "Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography" which I reviewed here. That book included both the manuscript of "Pioneer Girl," Wilder's handwritten memoir, which formed the foundation of the Little House books, as well as the story of how Wilder and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, worked together to shape the manuscript, plus extensive footnotes verifying the historical accuracy of the people, places and events referenced.

Like "Pioneer Girl," "Prairie Fires" is a multifaceted book.  It's not just a biography of Laura but also the story of her family -- her family of origin, including her parents' families and roots, and also that of her husband, Almanzo Wilder. It's also the story of Laura & Almanzo's headstrong daughter, author/journalist Rose Wilder Lane, whose relationship with her parents, and especially her mother, was highly complex and even dysfunctional. The two women collaborated closely on the writing and editing of the Little House books (and Lane borrowed freely from her mother's stories for her own writing projects), and we learn more about how they worked together and how the books took shape.  Finally, the book places Laura & her family in the context of the times in which they lived -- with some themes that continue to resonate today, 150+ years after Laura was born.

Prior to reading "Pioneer Girl," I hadn't known very much about Rose Wilder Lane, and I learned much, much more from this book. She does not emerge as a very likeable or sympathetic figure. She was a harsh critic of her mother's writing, even as she plagiarized it for her own purposes & projects. She held extreme right-wing views (Ayn Rand was an acquaintance) and preached the virtues of self-reliance and independence -- even as her life became inextricably entwined with her parents'.  (She promised to support her parents for the rest of their lives, and built them a new house they never asked for -- while, at the same time, she borrowed money from them to pay down her own debts.)  She lived with them on their farm near Mansfield, Missouri, on & off throughout her life, until 1936 (eventually settling in Danbury, Connecticut).  Her father never saw her again:  she did not return home to visit (despite his offers to send her train fare) until his funeral in 1949.

However, I will admit I am inclined to give Rose at least a little slack: like both her mother Laura and grandmother Caroline, she lost a baby -- a boy, stillborn in 1909 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (The child's death certificate only surfaced recently.) 
For a young woman, such a painful and chaotic experience must have been made even more traumatic by the fact that she was miles from home, family, and friends. She may have known her husband for only a year or so. She had probably never seen the inside of a hospital before.  
After that loss, under circumstances never explained, Lane underwent a surgical procedure in Kansas City sometime during the winter of 1909-1910. Recovery after a stillbirth can be difficult, and in this case there were apparently complications -- perhaps bleeding, infection, or retention of part of the placenta in the uterus, which often results in blood poisoning and can be fatal. Rose would never write about the experience in detail but would later describe her state of mind as "a kind of delirium." She was not physically "normal" between 1909 and 1911, she would say, or mentally fit until 1914. The surgery may have left her unable to have children. (pp.213-214)
Eventually, Lane experienced a nervous breakdown, and plunged into a deep depression that was to plague her, on & off, throughout her life, until her death in 1968. She never had another child or remarried after her divorce (in fact, she became bitterly anti-marriage) -- although she "adopted" several young (mostly male) proteges throughout her lifetime, most notably her eventual heir, Roger Lea MacBride, who ran for President on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1976. (He was endorsed by none other than Charles Koch -- yes, THAT Charles Koch.) None of Laura's sisters -- Mary, Carrie and Grace -- had children either -- so the Charles Ingalls family tree ended with Laura's daughter -- just as the branch of the family I grew up in will end with me and my childfree-by-choice sister.

I would like to say that if you are a fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder, this is an absolute must-read book. A cautionary note, however. Several reviewers on Goodreads -- while acknowledging the impressive quality of the research and writing -- admitted they could not finish the book, or found it a difficult book to read. The reality of Laura's life was much more harsh, dark and complex than the one portrayed in the books -- or, perhaps more accurately, the warm & fuzzy memories they conjure up. Caveat emptor.

Personally, I found this book fascinating and hard to put down (although it did take me a whole month to wade through it). :)  (Long and detailed, but utterly absorbing.) I will admit to reaching for the Kleenex box at several points. :) 

This was book #3 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 13% of my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am -- so far! ;)  -- on track to meet my goal.  :)  

Monday, February 26, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Good stuff, bad stuff...

First, the not-so-good stuff:

  • Aunt Flo is here. Again. :p (Boo, hiss...) 
  • It's STILL February... (for a short month, it's been a loonnngggg month...) 
The good stuff: 
  • It's been milder and the sun has been shining these past few days (yay!).  I left my coat unzipped as we walked across the parking lot from the car to the supermarket today (living dangerously!!  lol).  Dare I hope that spring might (just might) be on the way?? 
  • (FINALLY!) Taking the subway downtown from the new extension station near us (a 10-minute drive from our condo). 
  • Spending time with dh's extended family over the weekend, including a birthday celebration for a beloved aunt.  
  • Older Nephew's puppy going nuts when he sees me. :)
  • Dress for Younger Nephew's wedding is ready for pickup at the seamstress, where I've been having some alterations done. :)  
  • Lindor milk chocolate mini-Easter eggs. :) 
  • A record 29 Canadian medals at the Olympics to celebrate, including gold in ice dancing and bronze in both pairs & women's figure skating. :)   (We won't talk about the curling, lol...)  
  • Oscar night is Sunday!!  :)  
  • The amazing kids from Marjory Stoneman Douglas school in Parkland, Florida. They've blown me away with what they've endured and what they've been able to accomplish in such a short period of time -- and they give me a glimmer of hope for America's future. 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Lena Dunham & making tough reproductive choices

I should start by saying that, while I know who Lena Dunham is, and that she is a somewhat outspoken & controversial celebrity figure, I have never watched an episode of "Girls" or formed my own opinion about her. I had heard about her struggles with endometriosis, and that she recently had a hysterectomy to try to resolve the problem permanently.

I just read Dunham's essay about her experience from Vogue magazine. I have never had to deal with endometriosis (although I have wondered, sometimes...), but there was much in her article that was familiar -- from the doctors who held out hope even as Dunham herself knew better, to coming to the end of a long-held dream, only because the pain (physical for her, emotional/mental for me) of hanging on got to be too much, to making a "choice" that creates a new kind of pain at the same time that it resolves another kind.
But I know something else, too, and I know it as intensely as I know I want a baby: that something is wrong with my uterus. I can feel it, deeply specific yet unverified, despite so many tests and so much medical dialogue. I just sense that the uterus I have been given is defective. 
And while I’ve been battling endometriosis for a decade and this will be my ninth surgical procedure, no doctor has ever confirmed this for me. They’ve told me I have a slightly higher chance of miscarriage. They’ve told me not to wait forever to “get it going.” But through the 40-plus vaginal ultrasounds where I’m forced to stare at the black emptiness of my uterus, they say things like “Look at those egg follicles! You better be careful or you’ll have a baby next week!” Their goal is to preserve my fertility. That is what they consider to be their job. And I laugh and smile, but I know that the blank space, the black hole that is an empty womb captured on-screen, is all I’ll ever see...
In the operating room the lovely Haitian anesthesiologist, Dr. Lallemand, lets me select a favorite Rihanna song, and I try to absorb the gravity of the moment—at least a dozen people dressed in blue scrubs with face masks, the fact that I could run right now but instead I am choosing to stay, choosing this. I have to admit I am really choosing this—I gave up on more treatment. I gave up on more pain. I gave up on more uncertainty.
Dunham's hunch about her uterus was vindicated by the results of her hysterectomy:
I wake up surrounded by family and doctors eager to tell me I was right. My uterus is worse than anyone could have imagined. It’s the Chinatown Chanel purse of nightmares, full of both subtle and glaring flaws. In addition to endometrial disease, an odd humplike protrusion, and a septum running down the middle, I have had retrograde bleeding, a.k.a. my period running in reverse, so that my stomach is full of blood. My ovary has settled in on the muscles around the sacral nerves in my back that allow us to walk. Let’s please not even talk about my uterine lining. The only beautiful detail is that the organ—which is meant to be shaped like a lightbulb—was shaped like a heart... 
Because I had to work so hard to have my pain acknowledged, there was no time to feel fear or grief. To say goodbye. I made a choice that never was a choice for me, yet mourning feels like a luxury I don’t have. 
She still holds hope of having children, perhaps via egg freezing,  perhaps via adoption. I wish her luck.

*** *** ***

I came to Dunham's essay in a roundabout way, via an article from Slate:  "The Only Certainty in Reproductive Health Is Uncertainty."  "As a gynecologist, I am grateful whenever celebrities publish articles about their reproductive health,"  writes Anna Reinart.
These women, whose lives and bodies are already the focus of incredible public scrutiny, are laying bare one of the most private and vulnerable aspects of their life—all for the sake of raising awareness about a medical condition they share with other women...  
They also tend to receive a hefty amount criticism for doing so. Dunham’s piece certainly did, which is unsurprising, since her story highlights some of the most uncomfortable themes that I’ve encountered as a women’s health care provider—namely, the issues around reproductive self-determination and the capacity for informed consent.
(I am hearing here all the echoes of "Oh, don't give up!!" and "Have you tried/thought of...?")  I had an "ah-ha" moment of recognition/deja vu when I read:
At the core of the impulse to question Dunham’s choice is the myth that if women just try hard enough, they can achieve reproductive self-determination. We all want to believe that Lena Dunham has the ability to conceive and carry the pregnancy that she eloquently describes herself as having always dreamed of. We all want to believe that she has a right to parent the biologic children that she desires. But in the fight for women’s reproductive freedom, in our efforts to remove external constraints on women’s reproductive choices, we have forgotten the one internal constraint over which even medicine is often powerless: biology... I have comforted women suffering through [various fertility-related scenarios], trying to reconcile her long-standing belief that she had control over her reproduction with the reality imposed by her biology.
Reinert concludes:
...many times, there are simply no good answers. So before you judge Lena Dunham, yourself, or anybody else for the decisions they have made about their reproductive health, remember—we have influence, but not control over our biology. We can hope for the best, but we can’t expect it.
I've cherry-picked the passages from both articles that spoke most directly to me, but I encourage you to read them both in their entirety. And let me know what you think.

Monday, February 19, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Family Day (bah humbug...)

You might think I would be grateful for a long weekend in February -- and I am (and I most certainly was, when I was working).  But unlike Christmas, Thanksgiving, Canada Day, St. Patrick's Day, or just about any other statutory or "Hallmark" holiday (outside of Mother's & Father's Days), there is nothing about Family Day that I really enjoy or look forward to.

I've written (ranted?) about Family Day, and why it bugs me so much, every year for 10 (!) years now, since it was first implemented in Ontario in 2008.  (  My primary objection is certainly not to having a long weekend during the dreary days of February (who could object to that, right??), but rather the fact that it's a completely made-up holiday, slapped with a "family-friendly" label by politicians hoping to score political points -- conveniently ignoring that the warm & fuzzy name they chose excludes those of us who don't fit the definition of a traditional family. I would have much preferred something that gave at least a perfunctory nod to Canadian history & heritage, as the U.S. does with Presidents Day, or as my home province of Manitoba does (today is also a holiday there -- not Family Day but Louis Riel Day, which honours an important -- albeit controversial -- Manitoban and Metis leader from the 1870s & 1880s).  Perhaps an official Flag Day?  (February 15, 1965, was the day the now-iconic red & white maple leaf flag was adopted as the official flag of Canada.)

This year's Family Day weekend (thus far) has included one reminder after another of why I dislike it so heartily.  First, the days leading up to the long weekend have been full of media reminders about what's open and what's closed, and about the special activities being offered (many of them free or discounted) to promote quality family time -- fun things that parents and kids can do together. Now, sure, dh & I could lace up our skates (if we had any...!) and take to the ice for the "family skate" at a nearby arena sponsored by a local politician (for example) -- but (a) we hate crowds, (b) do we really want or need to be confronted with yet another reminder about the family we didn't get to have ourselves? and (c) we've heard too many stories about suspicious parents giving stink-eye (or even calling the police!!) when adults without kids start hanging around THEIR kids at parks, etc.

Second, most schools hereabouts also had Friday off (for teacher inservices/Professional Development Day/Professional Administration Day/whatever you call it in your area).  This means the streets, parking lots, malls, stores, movie theatres, restaurants and community centres have been crawling with hordes of parents & kids for not just one day, not just two or three (= the usual three-day holiday weekend), but FOUR WHOLE DAYS.

Dh & I have been doing our best to stay close to home and avoid the mobs -- and having lots of Olympics to watch on TV helps ;)  -- but four days is a long time to play couch potato;  sometimes, you've got to get out of the house. ;)  We usually go out for dinner on Saturday nights -- early (as in 4:30-5:00 p.m.), to avoid the crowds (which can be big, even on non-long weekends), but we knew most places were going to be insane no matter when or where we went.  I suggested we just go out for burgers at our favourite fast-food gourmet burger place -- in & out, quick and easy (right??). We asked BIL & SIL if they wanted to join us. They did -- but by the time we picked them up and got to the burger place, it was well past 5:30.

The burger place is directly across a vast parking lot from the local mega-cineplex (19 screens).  Saturday nights are pretty busy there at the best of times -- and not only was it Family Day weekend, but (we'd forgotten) it was also the opening weekend for the much-anticipated and extremely well-reviewed superhero movie, "Black Panther."

The place was PACKED.

By some miracle, there was one empty table for four right at the very back. It was freezing cold (we had to keep our jackets on), but slightly less noisy than the main seating area.  Dh & BIL saved our seats while SIL & I placed our orders & then returned to the table, waiting for our numbers to be called. The time on my receipt was 5:50 p.m., and we overheard the clerk tell another client that it would be at least a 10-minute wait for their food. It seemed to be taking a lot longer than that, though, and it was at least half an hour before SIL's number was finally called.

We expected to be next -- but they skipped over our number & called the next one. And another one after that.

"WTF??" said dh, taking our receipt & heading to the order counter. There is nothing that he hates more than someone who arrived after us getting served first... and that goes double when it comes to food...!  ;)

It turns out they had LOST OUR ORDER.  It was at least another 15 minutes before we finally got our food (long after BIL & SIL had finished theirs).

Family Day... bah humbug...

P.S.  Thanks to The NotMom for their recent post about Family Day!

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

Monday, February 12, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends from the dead of winter

  • Anxiety has been rearing its ugly head again lately and running rampant through my brain. Not sure why. (Well, I suppose I can guess at a few reasons:  reminders of 20 years ago, midlife perimenopausal hormones (still!! at 57!!), dreary, crappy February weather ( = extreme cabin fever)... )
  • On that note: This seems to be The Winter That Will Never End.  (I'm sure I say this every winter, but seriously -- I am so over winter at this point...)  The snow does look pretty when it falls softly outside our windows & coats all the trees... but then it turns to freezing rain and then slush, making it difficult (& dangerous) to get out & around. Ugh. SO. READY. For this to be over!!  (Although I'm sure I still have a while to wait...!) 
  • The Winter Olympics are providing a welcome distraction. Figure skating is my longtime love, of course, but I could happily watch just about any of the winter sports (including the much-derided curling -- never played myself, but I spent a LOT of time in curling rinks when I was a kid, watching both my parents play). As I mentioned in a comment to Mel,  I've harboured a longtime secret desire to take a ride in a bobsled.  (You will never catch me on a luge or skeleton, though... I think those guys are NUTS.)  
  • Counting down the weeks to Younger Nephew's wedding. I took my dress to a local seamstress last week for some alterations. It's going to cost a little more than I thought, but I did get a good deal on the dress, so I suppose it all evens out. She told me it was a beautiful colour on me (teal green), which was a confidence-booster. :) 
  • Younger Nephew texted me this weekend (a happy thing in & of itself).  He's working on the slide show they're doing for the wedding reception, and wanted to know if I happened to have any of the (hundreds & hundreds of) photos I took of him (& his brother) as a baby/kid in digital format. I'd given his mother duplicate hard copies over the years, but of course, digital copies would save him a lot of scanning work. I was SO HAPPY to be able to tell him that I had ALL of his photos, going back to Day One, in digital format. :)  (I haven't quite gotten as far back as his older brother's baby photos.... they didn't do a slide show at their wedding, and I was disappointed, one, not to be asked to provide photos, and two, not to have an excuse to get them digitized ASAP.)  I spent all day Sunday on my laptop, going through 25 years of photos & copying them over to a thumb drive for him to pick & choose from. To say I am happy to be able to do this for him & his fiancee, to contribute to their wedding in some small way, is an understatement. :)  #auntietotherescue  :)  
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.  

Friday, February 9, 2018

"The Grave's a Fine and Private Place" by Alan Bradley

What better way to brighten up the dreariness of early February than to dive into a brand new Flavia de Luce mystery by Alan Bradley? 

It's been almost 10 years since I first discovered Flavia, the precocious 12-year-old chemist/detective from early 1950s Britain, in her first adventure, "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.Unlike most previous Flavia novels, "The Grave's a Fine and Private Place" is not set at Buckshaw, the family's crumbling estate. Instead, Flavia, her two older sisters and their loyal family servant, Dogger, are trying to recover from a devastating tragedy by taking a boating holiday. Even on vacation, though, it's not long before Flavia stumbles onto a corpse -- and the fun begins again...

This book marks something of a turning point in the relationship between Flavia & her sisters -- and her relationship with Dogger, which was always a highlight of previous books.  And there's the promise of more fun to come in the future as the book ends.

This was the 9th volume of Flavia's adventures, and my understanding is the author has at least one more planned. I can't wait. :)  

(If you haven't read any of the previous Flavia novels, I recommend you start with "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie," and continue from there in order. The mystery in each novel is self-contained -- but the plot itself plays second fiddle to the characters & the wonderful writing.  You will learn more about Flavia, her family and friends, and appreciate them more, if you start at the beginning and follow her adventures in order.) 

I don't seem to have reviewed the initial book in the series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, on my blog, but here's where I've written about the others: 

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag (#2)
A Red Herring Without Mustard (#3) 
I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (#4) 
Speaking From Among the Bones (#5) 

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (#6)
As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust (#7)
Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd  (#8)

This was book #2 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 8% of my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am -- so far!! ;)  -- on track to meet my goal.  :)  

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Day 1, 20 years later

It's THAT day again. Exactly 20 years ago today (TWENTY YEARS!!) I got my period. Nothing unusual or notable at the time -- but my life was about to change forever.

I'd been getting periods since I was 11 and I had just turned 37. I had thrown away my birth control pills a little over two years earlier, and the excitement of those early months of trying to conceive -- unsuccessfully, one month after another -- had given way to a nagging feeling that time was rapidly passing, I wasn't getting any younger, and perhaps this motherhood thing wasn't going to happen after all.

I was about to be proven wrong.

Or so I thought...

February 8, 1998, will forever be branded in my memory as my "LMP date" -- the first day of my last period before I became pregnant for the first and only time -- a 26-week rollercoaster ride of joy, anxiety and raw terror -- which abruptly ended in stillbirth in early August.  That was followed by profound grieving (over many years, the intensity eventually subsided;  the grief, however, remains)(and always will);  increasing desperation, infertility testing and treatment; enormous stress, crippling anxiety and debilitating panic attacks.  Eventually, there was resignation to and, finally, acceptance of, our permanent childlessness.

10 years ago, I relived my pregnancy in detail on this blog with posts tagged "1998 memories."  I don't intend to do that again (once was enough...) -- but that doesn't mean the memories won't be there, or that I won't revisit them from time to time as significant milestones present themselves, again. (You have been forewarned...! ;)  )

Monday, February 5, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: "I'm doing it for my daughter"

I am loving the second season of "Victoria" on PBS... but having Victoria play the mommy card in last night's episode, about the Irish potato famine of the 1840s -- dragging her prime minister, Robert Peel, into the nursery to look at her new baby daughter & plead the case of the Irish people and their children with her baby in her arms and tears in her eyes -- was a little much.  I don't remember if she used the exact words "as a mother" but Peel responded emotionally that he too had children. (Apparently Victoria did do more for the Irish than has commonly been thought -- but I rather doubt she dragged her prime minister into the nursery like that...!) 

This reminded me of a thought-provoking New York Times opinion piece that I flagged a few weeks back for potential blogging material.  It was written prior to this year's Women's Marches, and titled "You Don't Need a Daughter to Want a Better World."  Writer Jill Filipovic noted how many women marchers had said, "I'm doing it for my daughter," & how this is a common sentiment -- the reason women give for so many things they do. 

"This is not a bad impulse, and there remains much to do for girls around the world," Filipovic writes. (Boldfacing here added by me for emphasis.) 
"But it can also undercut women’s progress. A woman’s value doesn’t derive from her status as a mother. We are entitled to rights and liberties by plain virtue of our humanness. If 2017 began with women marching for their daughters and ended with a tidal wave of female rage directed at predacious men, perhaps 2018 should be the year women resolve to go after what we want and deserve — simply for us. Imagine what could be if we did the same things we say we do for our daughters out of our own self-interest." 
She also makes this point:  
"When we do pursue what we crave, the consequences of saying so out loud can be stark: pity the poor woman foolish enough to say that she doesn’t want children because she’d rather spend her money traveling the world, or had an abortion because she just did not want a baby...  Those women are self-absorbed, greedy or deceitful; if they’re also self-identified feminists, they know to filter their truths carefully, so as not to risk undermining the entire cause they are fighting for with the suggestion that feminism might be motivated by unvarnished self-interest.  And so we focus on the next generation of not-yet-women."
Read the whole thing, & tell me what you think! 

(Caveat emptor re: the comments... there ARE some really good ones -- but also ones like: "With all due respect, the writer clearly does not have a daughter. Having a child profoundly changes you... All I can say is - you will understand when you have a child, niece, foster child, etc in your life that you would die for....") 

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

Friday, February 2, 2018

The waiting is the hardest part...

Our Oldest Nephew & his wife, both in their mid/late 20s, together for almost 10 years & married now for a year & a bit, have baby fever. His (only other)(besides Katie) cousin, who got married a few months before he did, had a baby last summer, much to the delight of the entire extended family. The baby is now about 6 months old and at that really cute stage where he's aware of what's going on around him, but not yet mobile.  ;)  Both Nephew & his wife love to hold the little guy when he comes to visit. Would-be Grandpa BIL keeps grumbling, "Hurry up!!" to them.

"Dad," Nephew reportedly told him a little while ago, "we really want to have a baby... but how can we, right now?"  His wife recently lost her job and is currently unemployed;  he's in a trade and making some good money -- but that's a relative thing hereabouts, where two salaries are pretty much mandatory to make ends meet, and the cost of housing is astronomical (nevermind all the other associated costs of living).  They live with their dog, rent-free. in a tiny apartment that BIL carved out of his basement for them, trying to save enough money to afford a down payment on, if not a house, then perhaps a starter condo (which can still go for $400,000+ around here).   

I would love to be a great-aunt, of course. :)  (Our nephews grew up way, way too fast...!)  Dh is chomping at the bit to be a great-uncle, too -- and has dropped some hints in that vein.

But I have vowed that our nephews & their brides will never get any pressure on that subject from me. I remember only too well the hints & nudge-nudges and raised-eyebrow enquiries that started as soon as we got back from our honeymoon. It was hard enough to deal with then, when we assumed we would be parents someday, at a time of our choosing.  It became excruciating once it dawned on us that parenthood might not be a given after all...

I also remember, only too well, what it was like to be young, newly married and completely, utterly broke -- wanting babies, yes, but knowing full well that we simply couldn't afford one at that point of our lives. You hear a lot these days about the millennial generation & how they are having a difficult time launching into adulthood -- but things weren't exactly easy when dh & I came out of university in the early 1980s either.  Unemployment and inflation rates were both very high; at one point, mortgage rates were a sky-high 21%.  (I knew several guys who were engineering students when I was at university. I remember hearing that, going in, there were three jobs for every engineering graduate. By the time they graduated four years later, though, there were three graduates for every available engineering job.)

Unlike our nephews, dh & I didn't have the advantage of living for free in our parents' basements.  (For one thing, it was simply a lot less common/acceptable back then to live with your parents after you finished school, whether you were single or married.) I was unemployed for the first six months after our wedding (and didn't make a heck of a lot of money once I did find a job);  dh left his salaried job with an insurance company for a trainee position with a brokerage company (salaried at first but eventually completely commissioned). To the horror of his relatives, we spent the first five years of our marriage paying rent on an apartment.  Buying a house as newlyweds was simply not in the cards -- and, shortly after we were married, the local housing market took off like a rocket. Even when FIL helpfully stepped in with some down payment assistance, it took us five years before we were making enough money to handle the monthly payments (at 11.75% interest -- and that was at a discount, because I worked for a bank). And even after we got the house, there were the mortgage payments, and other expenses related to owning a house, and the 10-12 hour workdays and 2-3 hours of daily commuting -- and prospective daycare costs. (Maternity leave was just 9 months back then, and only the first few weeks were paid.)  I knew that I was on my own as far as family help & support went -- my mother-in-law died before I met her, & my own mother was 1,000 miles away. And so we procrastinated, and postponed, and delayed...

Part of me thinks maybe I should speak up, warn them, tell them there's never a perfect time to start a family, that time (those fertile years) slips away much faster than you might think.

But I think they know that. After all (unlike me & dh), they have a cautionary tale right in front of them: us.  :p

So for now, I'm continuing to keep my mouth shut. (They get enough hints from other people aruond them as it is, anyway.)  But looking forward to the day -- hopefully not TOO many years down the road -- when I can happily and whole-heartedly go nuts with my credit card in the baby shops. ;)

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Right now

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

Reading:  To date, just one book completed towards my Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  :p  But I am hoping to increase that total soon!  

I am currently midway through (and quite absorbed in) "Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder" by Caroline Fraser, which was on several "Best of 2017" lists, including The New York Times. 

Still planning to finish Jann Arden's new book, "Feeding My Mother" and  "It's All Relative: Adventures Up & Down the World's Family Tree" by A.J. Jacobs. (Eventually... ;)  ) 

My sister recently procured a e-copy of "Fire & Fury: Inside the Trump White House" by Michael Wolff for me ;) and I recently purchased David Frum's "Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Empire."  And there's a new Flavia de Luce mystery ("The Grave's a Fine and Private Place") by Alan Bradley due out this week!  

Watching:  Hugely enjoying season 2 of "Victoria" on PBS! 

Coming up: two solid weeks of the Winter Olympics from Pyeongchang, Korea. :)  

And, after that, the return of "Designated Survivor" (which hasn't been on since a mid-season cliffhanger back in November). I find my interest in this one has dropped sharply -- too many ridiculous plots & subplots, many of which get dropped just as they start getting interesting -- but I will probably keep watching, just to see how things turn out. I like Kiefer Sutherland, and Maggie Q rocks as Agent Wells. :) 

One show we've been enjoying that I don't think I've mentioned in past posts:  Dh & I have been fans of "The Big Bang Theory" right from the beginning, and when I heard they were doing a "Young Sheldon" spinoff, I wasn't sure I was going to like it --  but it's actually turned out to be a very sweet little show. A little more of a traditional family sitcom than TBBT (very different tone) -- but good in its own right. I did not realize until just recently that Zoe Perry, who plays Young Sheldon's mom, is the real-life daughter of Laurie Metcalfe, who plays Sheldon's mom on TBBT!  

On the big screen: this past month, we've seen three movies at the theatre, all of them really, really good: "Star Wars: The Last Jedi,"  "The Post" and "Darkest Hour."  

Listening:  To... nothing in particular lately...   

Following:  Progress on the townhouse construction project behind us.  Framing work continues;  I'd say about half of the 59 units are now visible as actual townshouses in some form. We recently saw two units listed for (re)sale (already??) online. One listing says it will be ready for occupancy in February 2018 (HAHAHAHAHAHA.....) (there's been progress, but not THAT much progress...!.  The other says June 2018, which seems somewhat more likely, although I'm thinking late summer/fall would be a better guess. 

Feeling:  Sick & tired of winter (and it's far from over yet...!).  :p  Welcome to February, my least-favourite month... and January was long & dreary enough as it was... 

Eating:  Latest thing: Miniature/baby potatos, skins on, cut in half, tossed in a bit of olive oil, sprinkled with salt &/or garlic powder & then roasted on a foil-covered pan in the oven, to be served alongside whatever else we're having. (You could probably add in some chopped-up veggies too.)  Generally, 20-30 minutes at 375-400F or so does the trick. Yum!      

Wearing:  A long-sleeved T-shirt from American Eagle, which I picked up in the after-Christmas sales for $10:  dark mauvey-pink and incredibly soft, cozy fabric, with the words "ROCK STAR" on it in big bold black letters, lol.  Perfect with yoga pants for hanging around the house on a cold winter's day! 

Buying (besides books, lol):  New makeup, in preparation for Younger Nephew's upcoming wedding. When I was getting ready for his fiancee's recent bridal shower, I realized I needed some new foundation & concealer -- because what I had was either separating a bit (the foundation -- the expiry date on the bottle was two years ago...!) or drying up (the concealer). It was the same stuff I'd had when I was still working (i.e., at least four years old). Clearly I am not using up my makeup as fast as I did when I was working and wearing it every day (even then, I didn't always use it up). 

So off to the Clinique counter I went... and I will probably be back again before the wedding for a few more things. I kind of hate to spend so much money on stuff that I am not going to use up before it gets old (they should sell sample sizes -- less wasteful) -- but I also hate to start experimenting with cheaper brands at this point in my life.  I've used mostly Clinique (& some Estee Lauder) skin care products & cosmetics for years and they've always worked well for me. I threw out a lot of my older makeup when I lost my job, and again when we moved -- and then again after the shower (clearly, I needed to do it again...) -- but I still have an embarrassing amount of stuff. Most makeup doesn't come with an expiry date, so I've started labelling any new stuff I get with the date I got it (month/year, or at least year) to help me decide what needs culling when. 

Trying:  Not to fret over stupid stuff that's mostly beyond my control anyway (which I've been doing more again lately -- not sure why...?).

Wanting:  To turn off my overactive brain for a while. :p    

Loving:  Cabin fever aside, I do love being cozy at home while the snow falls outside our big floor-to-ceiling windows.  :) 

Enduring:  Yet ANOTHER visit from Aunt Flo -- this time after just 28 days (previous absence was a record 146). I've never been a 28-day cycle girl in my life... and she decides to start NOW, when I'm 57 frickin' years old??!!  :p  GO. AWAY.  :p     

Hoping: That Yahoo Groups will fix whatever gremlin has been screwing up their operations lately, pronto... several of my groups are having difficulties. Activity has been sporadic, although not for lack of posting on our part... The messages that we try to send/post disappear into the ether, sometimes permanently, sometimes resurfacing days later. VERY frustrating! 

Dreading:  The launch of another "anniversary" cycle -- this time marking TWENTY YEARS -- on February 8, which was my LMP date for my pregnancy with Katie in 1998 -- the visit from Aunt Flo that kickstarted everything that led me down this road less travelled to where I am today...