Thursday, August 30, 2018

"Together they built a life they loved" :)

It only took us 2.5 years of living here to get the pictures hung...!!
(Although I only got the one on the left earlier this year --
as I wrote on my blog, here. ;)  )

Monday, August 27, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Duh...

Last week, seeking a return to some semblance of "normal" after being absorbed with FIL's escalating illness and then funeral, dh & I headed to a nearby mall, as we often do in an effort to get out of the house & get some exercise (not to mention -- at least in MY case, lol -- indulge in some retail therapy...!).  It felt like quite a while since the last time we'd been there -- but it didn't take us long to realize something was... different.

Now, one of the perqs of being retired is being able to do things like going to the mall at off-peak times -- and a midweek morning is usually that -- but the parking lot seemed a lot fuller than usual -- and, we soon realized, there were a lot more people wandering around too -- many (most?) of them with kids in tow. We usually split up and then meet in the food court around 11:30-45 for lunch (before the noon-hour rush begins), but by 11:20, dh was texting me, "Waiting in food court. Already PACKED." 

It eventually dawned on us that it was late August -- and these people (a) had ALSO suddenly realized it was late August -- and were trying to cram in all the activities with their kids that they hadn't done in all the previous weeks of summer, &/or (b) were engaged in some frantic back-to-school shopping. 

Not having any kids, of course (and having attended my last day of school almost 35 years ago now),  things like back-to-school shopping are only a hazy memory, and something we're only reminded of when we stumble upon it, as we did last week, or when friends with kids mention it on Facebook. (I don't know why we're always so taken by surprise by stuff like this, but we are.)  I used to be somewhat more aware -- I used to note the first day of school and what grade Katie would be entering in my datebook every year, but stopped doing so once she would have graduated from high school and started attending university or college. (For the record, she'd now be entering her THIRD year of university/college -- assuming (and both of us do, lol) that she went.) 

Needless to say, it was a shorter visit than usual. ;) Looking forward to a little more than a week from now (school starts the day after the Labour Day long weekend hereabouts) when the malls will (hopefully??) be a lot emptier and quieter, and the avalanche of back to school photos & posts in my social media feeds will slow to a trickle...!

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2018


  • Thank you for your condolences and kinds words on the death of my father-in-law... really, for all your support over these past several difficult months. I did a lot of venting on this blog.  Thank you for your patience in hearing/reading me out! :)   
  • The funeral went as well as funerals generally go... 
    • FIL looked pretty bad at the end -- painfully thin & gaunt -- but he looked better than we expected after the funeral home worked its magic, so we decided to leave the casket open (as is generally the tradition in dh's family). 
    • We were overwhelmed by the number of people who turned out to pay their respects to FIL at the visitation (two hours in the afternoon and three hours later the same evening).  There were FIL's brother & sisters & their families, dh's mother's relatives, stepMIL's relatives & neighbours, BIL & SIL's neighbours and their friends from work & church, our nephews' inlaws & friends, friends from FIL & stepMIL's social club, "paisan" who had known FIL from Italy...
      • Dh counted the number of entries in the guest book later... 267. That's ENTRIES/lines/signatures -- not people. Many of those entries were for two or more people. We figure 400 people would not be an exaggeration, possibly more. About 100 attended the actual funeral the following day.  
      • (I couldn't help but think of Katie's small funeral, almost 20 years to the day earlier. We deliberately kept it to immediate family only, as I didn't think I could deal with others' grief on top of my own. Still...)
      • (I also couldn't help but think -- not for the first time -- that my own funeral is going to be MUCH smaller too. Maybe not quite as small as Katie's, but...) 
      • My cousin & his wife, who live on the other side of the city from me (and still a good 30-45 minute drive from the funeral home), were among those who came. They were the only people there specifically because of their relationship to ME, and I got genuinely teary when I saw them making their way up the aisle through the crowd towards us. 
    • The visitation, funeral service (conducted by a Catholic priest, although mass was not served, since it was not a church) and burial all took place at the cemetery, in its funeral centre. After the service, most of us walked over to the burial site. It was a very hot, humid day, but there were trees to shade part of the way, and a bit of a breeze. Many people commented to us what a nice thing it was to do. We agreed. 
    • Afterwards, we went back to the funeral centre for a reception/lunch. This is NOT something dh's family usually do, but I am very glad we did it. BIL raised a glass and toasted his dad, saying, "He probably wouldn't have eaten anything here [FIL was a notoriously picky eater!]... but he would have loved the company!"  :)  (Yes, he would have!) 
  • Some members of the family are dealing with their grief better than others... we are trying to be patient with them. I keep thinking about what dh & I learned about grief through our support group, and also about what Lesley Pyne had to say about it in her book -- namely that you have to face your grief and deal with it, eventually. You can't just keep stuffing your grief into a box and trying to sit on the lid; eventually, the lid is going to pop open and the grief is going to spill out, possibly in unexpected and maybe even harmful ways. 
  • Dh is feeling a bit at loose ends, I think... since he lost his job & then retired, five years ago, he made a point of going to see his father once a week or so by himself, in addition to our visits with BIL & SIL every other weekend or so... and those visits became more frequent as it became clear the end was coming sooner vs later. Suddenly, he has a lot more free time on his hands. 
  • Dh & I are making plans to head west to see my family in about a month's time.  I may have missed out on our usual summer visit -- sitting on the patio, going to watch the Little Princesses at the swimming pool, Dad's fresh garden vegetables -- but as consolation, I will get to go see Paul McCartney in concert with my sister, and eat my mom's amazing turkey, gravy & stuffing for (Canadian) Thanksgiving. :)  

Monday, August 20, 2018

#MicroblogMonday: Of coffee cups & caskets

33 years ago in July, we returned from our honeymoon to our newly rented midtown apartment, and on Monday morning, dh went off to work (I had yet to find myself a job in my new city). I was surprised when the buzzer rang and my new father-in-law appeared at the door. He wouldn't stay -- but he handed me a bag containing an espresso pot, six espresso cups (with saucers and spoons), a can of espresso coffee and a couple of packages of ladyfinger cookies (great for dunking). I still have those cups -- albeit one is chipped and I use it as a teabag holder, lol.

FIL loved his espresso coffee and continued drinking it almost until the very end (even after he'd mostly stopped eating) -- so when we were trying to think of something to put with him in his casket, an espresso cup was a logical choice. We buried him last week with one of the cups and saucers he'd given us, along with a small espresso pot and a pack of his favourite brand of cigarettes.

We will miss you, Dad. ❤️❤️❤️

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

One of six espresso cups & saucers FIL delivered to our door
one July morning, 33 years ago.
"We brought you your coffee, Dad," SIL whispered with a smile
as she tucked it into the casket beside him at the funeral home last week.  

Sunday, August 19, 2018

"Crazy Rich Asians" by Kevin Kwan

I've written before about the deja vu I've been experiencing lately -- the almost eerie parallels between the events of this summer and that awful one of 20 years ago.  We lost Katie on August 7, 1998 and interred her ashes that August 19th;  her grandfather died on August 9, 2018, and we laid him to rest with dh's mother/Katie's nonna on August 16th.

After losing Katie, I was desperate for distraction, and picked up "Bridget Jones's Diary" by Helen Fielding. It was the perfect, light-hearted tonic I needed -- it made me laugh at a time when I wondered whether I would ever laugh again -- & I still think of it fondly.

Fast-forward 20 years, and my current light-hearted distraction: "Crazy Rich Asians" by Kevin Kwan. Once again, I was looking for something fun & frivolous to read as FIL entered the palliative care ward and then passed away shortly afterward. Also, like Mel at Stirrup Queens, I knew the movie was being released this weekend, and wanted to read the book before I went to the theatre. (I finished the book last night and we saw the movie this afternoon -- see below.)(Plus, the paperback was on sale at the local mega-bookstore.)

"Crazy Rich Asians" will never be mistaken for high-minded literature, but it does keep you turning the pages. It's a satirical romp through the world of the ultra-rich residents of Singapore, as seen through the eyes of Rachel Chu, a California-raised economics professor now living in New York City. Rachel agrees to spend her summer with her boyfriend Nick in Asia, kicking things off by heading to Singapore for Nick's best friend's wedding. Little does she realize that her history professor boyfriend is from one of the wealthiest and most socially prominent families in Asia, and the most eligible bachelor on the island...!

I enjoyed learning more about Singapore, its history and culture through the pages of this book. I enjoyed seeing it all through Rachel's middle-class American eyes, and I got a kick out of her feisty Singaporean friend, Goh Peik Lin.  (Spoiler alert!) I enjoyed seeing certain characters get their well-deserved come-uppance in the end.

But I will admit that, even though I realize the book is a satire, the characters' snobbery and obsession with money and what it can buy was somewhat offputting. This is SO not me and the way I was brought up or live now (although I currently LIVE among Crazy Rich Asians -- except they're not Asians & not QUITE so fabulously rich as the people in the book. Nevertheless, the obsession with money (and food!) and doing things in a certain way -- having the perfectly designed house, wearing designer labels, driving certain kinds of cars, throwing big, splashy weddings -- it all sounds very, very familiar...!)

(Case in point: when we first moved here, dh & I were at the movie theatre, enduring the parade of ads that appear before the coming attractions and then, finally, the movie... and I whispered to dh, "Have you noticed that all the car ads back in Old Community were for Ford and Nissan and Toyota, and all the ones here are for Lexus and BMW and Audi??")

I am not sure I will regard "Crazy Rich Asians" with quite the same affection I have for "Bridget Jones's Diary" -- I could relate to Bridget and her world far more than Nick's relatives, even the nicer ones -- but it was a fun read and a pleasant diversion. There are already not just one but two sequels (both also on sale right now at the local mega-bookstore... I think I will be picking them up the next time I'm there, although I'm not sure I'll be rushing to read them right away).

I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads (perhaps even stretching it to a 3.5 :)  ).

This was book #17 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 71% 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!  :)

*** *** *** 

With the book fresh in my mind (I finished it last night!), dh & I went to a matinee showing of the movie version of "Crazy Rich Asians" this afternoon. The movie has been well reviewed with a lot of buzz, particularly since it's the first Asian-focused movie with an all-Asian cast made by Hollywood since "The Joy Luck Club," 25 years ago. (A few possible spoilers below!)

I enjoyed the movie hugely, perhaps even more so than the book.  While I think reading the book first gave me a leg up in terms of recognizing the characters and following the subplots, dh enjoyed it a lot too. There are ostentatious displays of wealth, of course, but somehow, for some reason, seeing them onscreen didn't bother me as much as reading about them (more showing vs telling -- not as many labels tossed conspicuously around?).  Constance Wu is endearing as Rachel, and Awkwafina (never heard of her before "Ocean's 8") steals every scene she is in as Rachel's friend Peik Lin -- and her role (and that of her family) has been expanded from the book.

The movie was pretty faithful to the book -- right up until the last several minutes, which are quite different. There's a mah-jongg game between Rachel and Nick's formidable mother, Eleanor -- which apparently is even more significant if you actually understand mah-jongg. (I don't, but I hugely appreciated this article explaining exactly what was going on).  And while the book's ending is ambiguous but hopeful regarding Rachel & Nick's future, the movie ending is more emphatically happy/Hollywood/fairytale (surprise!).

There's a brief scene amid the closing credits where Nick's cousin Astrid exchanges significant looks with a man at a party. The young girls in the audience all squealed in delight -- I couldn't figure out why. I thought maybe he was some hot Asian actor I'd never heard of -- and apparently he appeared on "Glee" (which I watched only sporadically during its first few seasons)?  I didn't clue in just then, but apparently he was supposed to be Charlie Wu, Astrid's first love, who plays a significant role in the book (that was cut from the movie).  Supposedly this bodes well for a movie sequel. Guess I'd better get reading those two book sequels, then...!  ;)

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Love you, Dad

My wonderful FIL went into palliative care on Wednesday morning and passed away on Thursday night, 20 years and two days after his only granddaughter was stillborn. :(   He was 89.

We thought he might put up a fuss about going to the hospital, but apparently he said, "Yeah, maybe it's time to go see the doctor..." (!). (He did start asking, after a few hours, when he was going home again.)

We went to see him on Wednesday night and again Thursday afternoon. He opened his eyes once while we were there, but was mostly asleep/out of it and did not speak. The doctor told us he didn't think he'd make it to Monday -- but we didn't expect him to go THAT fast. Two of dh's cousins were there to see him and called BIL to tell him FIL was gone. They told us he went peacefully.

FIL came of age in the ruins of post-WWII Italy, and came to Toronto in the 1950s in search of work and a better life. He spent the next 30 years working as a bricklayer and contractor, as the city grew and flourished. (Driving around the city, he would often point out the many buildings and housing developments he'd worked on to us.) He lived in a house owned by his cousin, who'd arrived in Canada a few years earlier, with a dozen other Italian immigrant relatives (and one bathroom), until he'd saved up enough money to buy his own a house a few years later (and then welcomed other family members to live with them until they too could afford their own house).

Like other Italian immigrants of the time, he & his relatives were viewed with suspicion by the citizens of the conservative, WASP-dominated Toronto of the time. They did not speak English; they were Catholic; their food smelled funny; they drank a lot of wine (which they made themselves). They were harassed by the police; their employers used them as cheap labour and took advantage of them. (Hmmm, why does this all sound familiar...??) Their children have their own stories to tell:  growing up in the 1960s & 70s (in the era of "The Godfather"), dh was subjected to ethnic slurs at school;  my SIL remembers throwing away the panini lunch her mother had made her when she got to school, because the other kids made fun of her for it (it wasn't Wonderbread!). (Of course, paninis are sold everywhere these days in cafes for ridiculous prices...!)

They persevered, and their families flourished. Everything we have today, we have because of FIL.

He was a small man, shorter than me, and wiry, but he had a huge heart and a personality to match.  He was kind and generous (the first time I met him, he handed me a $50 bill -- a small fortune for a poor student in 1983 -- and told me to buy myself a cup of coffee). He had a wonderful smile. He was Italian, but as the French say, he had a "joie de vivre" -- an exuberance, a zest for life. He loved to sing -- loudly! (he sang to us a little as he lay in bed at home, near the end, which made tears spring to my eyes) -- and would embarrass his sons by getting up & singing with the band at weddings when they were growing up.  He loved his garden (which he only gave up about two summers ago) and his espresso coffee, which he still drank until almost the very end, even when he'd lost his appetite for food. He loved his family, especially his grandsons, and got a huge kick out of watching them grow taller and taller until they towered over him.

Ti amo, Dad. We will miss you. Give Katie a hug from me.

BIL, FIL & dh, taking a walk while at Older Nephew's engagement party.
August 2014. 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Thank you

Thank you for your kind messages on Katie's day earlier this week. As usual, the anticipation of the day was worse than the actual day itself.

Dh & I drove to the cemetery that morning... only to find a work crew digging around in the flower beds RIGHT BESIDE the wall structure where her niche is. Talk about bad timing!! So instead of the leisurely visit and walkaround, and freeflow of tears I had anticipated, we only stayed a few minutes, whispering to each other the whole while -- long enough to change the niche decorations & leave the flowers I had brought. (Pink roses -- from the supermarket, but the girl at the floral counter arranged & wrapped them up beautifully, with a tulle ribbon, without me even asking.  I also found and bought a lovely butterfly ornament there that I left hanging from the niche vase holder.)

After leaving the cemetery, we drove to a nearby cafe where we used to have lunch sometimes, when we lived in the area, and had chicken caesar wraps. Then over to the local outlet of the mega-bookstore (which, IMHO, is bigger and much better stocked than the one where we now live) for a browse. Then dh insisted on going BACK to the cemetery before we headed home. The moment had passed, so no outpouring of tears, but we were able to take our time, and take a few photos, before we left.

We were both exhausted & went to bed early. I felt a bit guilty, like I hadn't done enough for her -- I didn't even take out her box of things and go through them, as I often do at this time of year -- but hey, we do what we can...

(On a somewhat related note: FIL's condition is rapidly deteriorating. We've been doing a lot of driving back & forth across the city over the last few days to be with him. Please keep FIL in your thoughts & prayers, if you pray.  Many thanks.) 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

"No One Tells You This" by Glynnis MacNicol

I don't know why I picked up "No One Tells You This" from the shelf in the biography/memoir section in the mega-bookstore last week. I don't remember hearing about it, or its author, Glynnis MacNicol (although I later realized I'd recently read an article she'd written for the New York Times), but I'm always looking for interesting new memoirs. Maybe the stark cover design piqued my interest, or perhaps the complimentary blurb from Rebecca Traister (a feminist writer I admire, and author of "All the Single Ladies," which I reviewed here) on the cover?

Then I opened the inside flap -- and read this: "If the story doesn’t end with marriage or a child, what then?"

SOLD!!  (lol)  I started reading it as soon as I finished my current selection, and blazed through it over the next four  days.

MacNicol, as it turns out, is a Canadian, from Toronto, who has lived and worked in New York City since her early 20s. She's now in her early 40s, never married, no kids -- and (finally) happy with her life. "No One Tells You This" centres on the time around MacNicol's milestone 40th birthday, and how she comes to terms with "the husband-shaped hole" in her life (not to mention her lack of children) -- while at the same time juggling the demands of work deadlines, friends & extended family. Most critically, her mother is diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and dementia;  her sister is pregnant with her third child, newly separated from her husband, and needs Glynnis's help when the baby arrives.

My one minor quibble about the book: I felt it went on perhaps just a teeny bit too long.  Part of me felt like the logical ending was probably at or around the end of Chapter 19, with Glynnis settled into a gorgeous new Brooklyn apartment, the envy of all her friends.  But of course, real life isn't always like that, is it? with a happy ending all tied up with a pretty bow. And I did enjoy hearing about what came next: her impromptu trip to a Wyoming dude ranch (because she could!), and about what happened to her mother (as well as her sister and father).

I started writing a longer review, pulling quotes and identifying some of the "aha!" moments of recognition I got while reading this book -- but it got to be a bit long & messy -- and so I decided I should probably let you read the book yourself and draw your own lessons/conclusions. :)  Whether you consider yourself childLESS not by choice, childFREE by choice or something in between -- or even if you're just a woman (married or not, kids or not) whose life hasn't turned out exactly the way you thought it might -- I think you will find yourself relating to this book in some way. I loved it. Thumbs up, 5 stars on Goodreads. :)

This was book #16 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 67% 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, August 7, 2018

It was 20 years ago today...

Twenty years now
Where'd they go?
Twenty years
I don't know
Sit and I wonder sometimes
Where they've gone

-- Bob Seger, Like a Rock  

I don't know either, Bob. ;)  I guess there are a few of the finer details that have faded from my memory -- but most of my memories of that time are still pretty clear, and some of them are (still) pretty painful.

I wish things were different. I wish she was here. She'd be all grown up now, a young adult, likely at university, maybe with a boyfriend. (I was 20 when I first met her father, after all...)  I wonder what she'd look like, and who she'd look like, and how she'd be like me and how she'd be like her dad.

But she's not here.

Still, I would not wish away these past 20 years, painful as some of them have been. I am so proud to be her mother -- even if it's not the motherhood experience I had envisioned or expected. I have learned so much about myself, about people, about life and about the world -- about what truly matters -- things I probably would never have known or understood so well, had it not been for Katie.

To throw in another Sergeant Pepper/Beatles/classic rock metaphor (beyond the title of this post)  ;)  if there's a reason I've survived these past 20 years, it's because I've gotten by with (more than) a little help from my friends, both in real life and in the computer. ;)  If you are reading this blog, then you are probably one of them, and there aren't words enough to thank you all and tell you how much you have all meant to me. How much you all still mean to me.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. And thank you again.

And sometimes late at night
When I'm bathed in the firelight
The moon comes callin' a ghostly white
And I recall
I recall...

Monday, August 6, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: The Summer That Sucked

  • An update to a recent post: my high school girlfriend's father passed away last week as she held his hand, exactly four weeks after the death of her mother. :( 
  • Another (non-ALI, online) friend lost her brother a few days ago. She also lost her MIL earlier this summer.  :( 
  • StepMIL is contemplating whether it's time to send FIL to the local hospice. :( Dh & BIL have told her that's her call to make, as she & stepSIL are the ones caring for him 24/7 at this point (with the help of visiting nurses & home care workers -- but still...).  I don't think he will last very long away from home. :( 
  • It has been horribly hot & humid again this weekend. To say I am thankful for air conditioning is an understatement...! 
  • The "back to school" rumblings have started, particularly among my friends & relatives in the States...! 
  • I can't believe the summer is almost over, and we never got "home" to see my parents & the Little Princesses, and do all the summer things we usually do there. :(  
  • The daily news is so damned depressing, with the Orange One wreaking havoc south of the border, and Dougie & Co. following much the same playbook here in Ontario. Sometimes I despair for humanity. Kindness, generosity, civility and just plain sanity seem to have gone out the window. 
  • I broke my glasses yesterday when I was cleaning them!! They are wire frames, and snapped right where the lens piece joins the nose piece. I don't think they're fixable (dh's broke in the exact same place two years ago) -- I'm hoping the manufacturer still makes the frames, because then I can just order a new one & have the old lenses popped in. If not, I will have to get an entirely new pair of glasses. :p  I have had these ones for not quite four years. (In the meantime, I am bouncing back & forth between my computer/reading glasses and an older pair -- and getting slightly woozy from the less-optimal prescription...!)  And it's a long weekend (of course...!), so the earliest I can call the optometrist about them is tomorrow. And (of course), I probably won't be able to get in to see him until at least Wednesday -- not the least because... 
  • Tomorrow will be 20 years (TWENTY YEARS!!) since I delivered my stillborn baby girl. :(   (And THAT is my #1 priority on the agenda!) 
  • I am starting to think of this as "the summer that sucked."  :p  
  • It hasn't ALL sucked, of course. We had a nice time on our wedding anniversary. I got downtown for lunch with some girlfriends. We've had a few fun get-togethers with family. We celebrated Younger Nephew's birthday this weekend, and had a lot of laughs while we did. Spending time with Older Nephew's miniature dachshund puppy is always a mood booster. We've been out for gelato. I connected with some fellow CNBCers and made a great video about IVF at 40 (check it out, if you haven't already done so). I've read a few good books, and seen a couple of fun movies. 
  • But for sure, the last few weeks/months have been more memorable for the bad stuff than the fun/good stuff. :(  
  • (Sorry to be a downer, but that's my frame of mind at the moment...) 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here. 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

"Christopher Robin" and the saddest day

Yesterday was a hard day for dh & BIL. They went to see their dad -- & then went with stepMIL to the funeral home/cemetery to begin pre-planning dad's funeral. :(  When they came home, they picked up me & then SIL and we went out for dinner.

It was SIL who suggested we should go see "Christopher Robin." BIL rolled his eyes, lol. Dh was willing to do whatever we wanted. I wanted to go see it -- but I would have preferred to go just with dh -- because I KNEW I was going to cry.  (As I mentioned in a recent post, Katie's nursery theme was to have been Classic Pooh, and I still have several Classic Pooh-themed items in our home, particularly in our bedroom.)

And I did cry. I sat between dh & SIL & cried through the entire opening sequence (young Christopher Robin leaves the Hundred Acre Wood to go to school, grows up and does not return), as well as other points throughout the movie. Not sure if SIL or BIL saw me crying -- and even if they did, I KNOW they did not make the connection as to WHY I might be crying (other than that I am an emotional sap, lol). Anyway, it was a cute albeit somewhat melancholy movie, beautifully filmed, & I'm glad we went -- although I think the adults in the audience probably got more out of it than the kids.

In the movie, Pooh calls "today" "my favourite day." Today, August 5th, 1998, was the day I went to my 6-month prenatal visit and heard the words no pregnant woman ever wants to hear.  Two days later, August 7th, 1998, is the date I delivered my stillborn daughter, the "official" date that's on her niche marker and on all the paperwork. It's the date we'll officially mark, on Tuesday.

But 20 years ago today was actually the saddest day of my life -- the first of many awful days that were to follow as, one by one, my dreams crashed around me. August 5th, and 7th, will never be my favourite days.

"I always get to where I’m going by walking away from where I’ve been," says Pooh in the movie. After Tuesday, I will resume walking down this road less travelled to wherever it is that I'm going. But just for a few days, I will wallow a little in where I've been.

(Don't get me wrong, I haven't been sitting around by the Kleenex box all day. But I'm definitely feeling rather subdued. And glad that I don't have any reason to leave the house/condo today.) 

Saturday, August 4, 2018

"Mrs. Tim of the Regiment" by D.E. Stevenson

"Mrs. Tim of the Regiment" (also known as "Mrs. Tim Christie") is one of D.E. Stevenson's earliest works, first published in 1932. It's the first in a series of four "Mrs. Tim" novels, and the current book under discussion by my online Stevenson fan group.

As Stevenson explains in an introduction to the 1973 reissue, the book is based on her own diaries and experiences as a young officer's wife with two young children. Nothing hugely consequential happens in "Mrs. Tim" (or most of Stevenson's novels, for that matter), but it's a charming read nevertheless.

Mrs. Tim Christie (whose name is Hester) receives a diary as a Christmas present from her brother Richard, and uses it to detail the minutae of life as a military spouse over a six-month period. She visits the other officers' families, hosts semi-disastrous dinner parties, struggles with managing the servants, is exhausted by the antics of her two lively children, spends a weekend at a stately manor house (a la Downton Abbey), goes house hunting when her husband is transferred to Scotland, and vacations in the Scottish Highlands with her neighbour (among other activities).

Some of the members of my group have confessed they dislike books in diary format. I've always loved reading other people's diaries, whether real or fictional, and for the most part, I enjoyed "Mrs. Tim." I did struggle a bit with some of the military jargon and British-isms (and dated ones at that). For example, in one section (a weekend at a manor house), one of the guests suggests to Hester and Tim that they should "beat up Tony" -- i.e., go find Tony. That gave me pause...! (Later in the same diary entry, spotting one of the female guests coming downstairs late at night with a man who is not her husband, Tim comments that if he were the husband, he would "give his wife a good beating." – that REALLY gave me pause, even if she WAS being unfaithful and even if Tim meant it in a (sort of?) joking way…!)

I also struggled with Hester's privileged lifestyle. Group members have defended her, pointing out that she's frequently overwhelmed in her diary -- wrangling with the servants, running the household (without the convenience of modern appliances, etc.), managing the children, entertaining and visiting the "married families" of her husband's underlings, etc. And yes, today, we do have the advantage of more modern conveniences, and life for most of us is not quite so formal. And I know a lot of modern military wives find it difficult to get and keep a job because employers know they will likely not be around for too long.

Still, the vast majority of women today have to do most of the things Hester did (albeit perhaps in a slightly different way), plus the work once done by the servants (which, in Hester's case, included a cook, governess, maid & husband's "batman"). Plus deal with children every day (very few modern children, at least in North America, head off to boarding school for months at a time, as Hester's son does) -- plus hold down a job to help contribute income to the family.  I know it was a different time (and part of the charm & fascination of DES's books is the glimpse they give us of a very different past & a very different culture from modern North America) -- so much depends on what we're used to and what's considered "normal" in our communities -- but I will admit I find it hard to feel too terribly sorry for Hester and her domestic and social dilemmas. I can relate to her emotions (human nature does not change), but the circumstances that provoke them -- not always so much.

Whatever shortcomings the book has, it's redeemed by the wonderful (as usual) writing, wry humour and rich, detailed portrait of a military wife's life in 1930s Britain. I gave it three stars on Goodreads, & would have given it 3.5, if I could figure out how to assign a half-star...! ;) 

Many of Stevenson's books are out of print, but I was able to find a recent (2010) reissue of this title at a very reasonable price via Amazon. The other three Mrs. Tim books, however, are long out of print and fairly expensive on the resale market, but there is a rumour afoot that they may soon be reissued too. Fingers crossed!  (The next volume in the series, "Mrs. Tim Carries On," published in 1941, follows the further adventures of Hester, Tim and family during the Second World War, which I would love to read.)

This was book #15 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 63% of my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am (for the moment, anyway...!) one book ahead of schedule to meet my goal!  :)  

Friday, August 3, 2018

Birthday gift

Today is Younger Nephew's birthday -- his 26th (!!).  I've been thinking a lot lately about the nephews when they were little boys, how cute they were, how quickly they grew up. And thinking about how his birthday & Katie's stillbirth are forever linked in my memory.

Twenty years ago, Younger Nephew was turning 6 and we were at his backyard birthday party... me 6 months pregnant, wearing a cute one-piece maternity shorts romper outfit in grey & white floral denim (I loved that outfit). Despite the knowledge that all was not completely well, I was pretty much clueless about the hurricane that was about to engulf us at my ob-gyn checkup, a few short days later.

As I wrote in a blog post 10 years ago, remembering that day:
As was my habit, I was taking photos, when our nephew said, "I want to take YOUR picture." I handed him the camera & dh & I posed for him. He's aiming up at us & we're looking down at him (& from this vantage point, my belly looks ENORMOUS!), but it's a great photo. It is also the only photo I have of myself visibly pregnant. Thank God I let him take it. Someday when he's older, perhaps I'll tell him that. 
It occurred to me that I'd never shared that photo here before. No time like the present...!  Here it is. (OMG, both of us 20 years younger, lol... so few grey hairs!!)  Thanks, Younger Nephew. It may be your birthday, but this photo was a gift for ME. I owe you.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

A Facebook find :)

Pretty good advice, if you can get past the source ;)
(how about "The Brave Art of Living Without the Children You Wanted"?)
Easier said than done sometimes, of course...

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Right now

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

Reading:  "Mrs. Tim of the Regiment" (also known as "Mrs. Tim Christie"), the first in a series of four "Mrs. Tim" books, and the latest read for my D.E. Stevenson online book group. Year-to-date, I've finished 14 books (out of my Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge goal of 24 books)(this will be #15). 

Recent purchases: 
Watching:  Not much on TV, since season 2 of The Handmaid's Tale ended....! Time to get reacquainted with my Netflix subscription... We haven't been to a movie on the big screen recently either. I am thinking "Christopher Robin," coming out this weekend (appropriately!) might be a good pick if I'm in a weepy mood. (Katie's nursery was going to be Classic Pooh themed.) 

Listening:  I will admit to indulging in some vintage Bay City Rollers songs via YouTube since Alan Longmuir's untimely death last month. ;)  

Following:  Construction has begun on the last several townhouse units behind us (basements poured, framing ready to begin). None of the 59 units is yet anywhere close to being finished. I'm thinking some MIGHT be ready to move in by later this fall... It's been noisy & dirty, and it's taken WAY longer than I think any of us had anticipated -- but I have to admit, it's been kind of entertaining too...!  (Should you like to be my neighbour, you'd better have a fat wallet -- I've seen resale units on for anywhere from $900,000+ to $1.2 million (they were advertised at "from the low $600,000s" when we moved in two years ago). For a TOWNHOUSE. About 15 feet wide.  On a handkerchief-sized lot.)

Drinking/Eating:  Not as well as I should lately. :p  More veggies needed, I think (and it's prime time for them right now, too -- although the local farmers' market is held at an inconvenient time for us -- Saturday mornings, 9-1. Even though we're not working anymore, I still think of Saturday morning as a time to laze leisurely around the house/condo in my PJs. The market in our old community was held 10-2 on Tuesdays, which was much more better).

Wearing:  A couple of gorgeous new bracelets I just HAD to treat myself to... one silver, one made of moonstones & one denim blue lapis lazuli stones. Handcrafted by a friend of Msfitzita's. Gorgeous stuff, excellent customer service. Check it out here!  (I don't wear a lot of necklaces these days, but bracelets? The more the merrier, lol. ;) ) 

Trying:  To enjoy the summer while it lasts, even if we need to stay close to home because of FIL. 

Buying (besides books, lol):  Some new placemats, a new tablecloth & new teatowels for the kitchen (many of mine are years old, & worn thin). 

Wanting: A getaway. Soon. (But I'll likely have to wait for a while...)     

Loving:  My family.  

Anticipating/dreading:  The upcoming long weekend, and the 20th "anniversary" of our daughter's stillbirth. 

(Is it really awful to say I am secretly afraid that FIL will pass away on the same day -- not only piling more grief onto what is already the saddest day of the year for us, but overshadowing the already-too-small presence she has on this earth??) 

Feeling:  Grateful for summer (even when it get hot & humid). Sad that I'm not able to enjoy part of it with my parents (particularly since my mother tells me the mosquitos are practically non-existent there this year, lol).  Sad because of why I haven't been able to get there (FIL's failing health). Sad because FIL is not likely to be with us much longer. Sad thinking about my daughter, the 20 years (!!) she's been gone, and how different our lives would have been, if only...