Monday, November 26, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Reasons why November hasn't sucked*

(* so far... too much...)(lol)
  • No year end stuff at work to worry about!!  
  • (No work to worry about, period.) 
  • The month has been going by fairly quickly. 
  • We've had a few really cold days, and some very gloomy ones (like today...! :p ) -- but overall, the weather hasn't been too bad (yet!) and we've had some occasional days with clear blue skies & sunshine. :) 
  • Read some good books (completed my Goodreads 2018 challenge!), seen a few good movies, spent some time with the family (and with Older Nephew's dog, lol). 
  • I'm starting to feel Christmas-y:  I've already made a dent in my shopping, and we're planning to put up the Christmas tree on or just before the weekend.
  • Less than one month to go before we're home for Christmas with my family. 
  • Maybe this month could be better... but it could also be a whole lot worse...! ;)  
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

"The Marrow Thieves" by Cherie Dimaline

Mel recently wrote about the importance of diversity in our reading. One thing about book clubs, whether online or "real life," is that you sometimes find yourself exposed to reading books/authors and topics you might never have otherwise considered.

"The Marrow Thieves" by Cherie Dimaline is one of those books. I doubt I would have picked it up on my own -- but a Facebook reading group I follow recently picked it as the first selection in what we hope will become a monthly book club feature, and I decided I'd pick up a copy so that I could take part in the upcoming discussion.

"The Marrow Thieves" is young adult fiction. It's a dystopian/survivalist novel, which reminded me at times of "Never Let Me Go" and "The Hunger Games" and every book I've ever read about the Holocaust. It's also a novel by a Canadian author of Metis descent, set here in Ontario. It was published last year (2017), and has won several awards and recognition, including a Kirkus Prize and a Governor-General's Literary Award. Earlier this year, it was a selection in CBC Radio's Canada Reads program.

The plot:  Some years in the future, global warming and catastrophic climate change have wreaked havoc on the planet.  Amid the chaos, people have lost the ability to dream -- except for Indigenous peoples.  The secrets of dreaming are believed to lie in their bone marrow -- and because of that, they are being hunted down and imprisoned in "schools" -- ominous echoes of the residential schools of the 19th & 20th centuries -- where their marrow is extracted. In order to survive, the dreamers flee north, learning once again to live off the land and scavenging supplies from abandoned resorts and cottages they find along the way. The story is told from the perspective of 15-year-old Francis (Frenchie). Besides the dystopian stuff, it's about growing up, about the families we're born into and the ones we create for ourselves.

 As I said, I likely wouldn't have picked up this book on my own. I have read and enjoyed some dystopian fiction, but hiding out in the bush, etc., "survivor" style, is not exactly my "thing," and overall, it was kind of a dark story -- although there are glimmers of hope along the way, particularly near the end. The premise was interesting, and the characters were well drawn.

I rated it three stars on Goodreads.

This was book #24 that I've read so far in 2018 -- meaning I have reached my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books!  (Yay me!! :)  )  Any other books I read between now & Dec. 31st will be a bonus. ;) 

Monday, November 19, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

  • Last Wednesday (Nov. 14th) was my original due date, 20 years ago (i.e., Katie's might-have-been birthday).  We didn't do anything to mark the occasion -- August 5th-7th is usually the focus of our remembrances.  But of course I thought about her. And marvelled once again: 20 YEARS. 20. YEARS.
  • In 20 MORE years, I will be... (gulp)... 78 years old. (fingers in ears: lalalalala....)  
  • Anyone see the new Walmart Canada Christmas commercial, with the adorable teddy bear, set to "Bring it on Home to Me"??  I cried the first time I saw it. So cute. I imagine by the time Christmas actually gets here, I will be thoroughly sick of it, but for now... 
  • Then there's the Elton John Christmas commercial from England, which doesn't seem very Christmas-y in the beginning ("Your Song," anyone?? -- actually, my favourite Elton song!), but just watch... Also had me in tears. 
  • I actually made use of my neglected Netflix subscription on Saturday night to watch "The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society," the movie version of the novel I recently re-read & reviewed here. They changed a few things around to simplify the plot and up the drama.  Amelia is a much more negative character in the movie than she is in the book. Mark Reynolds was an American army/intelligence officer, not a rival publisher, with a much bigger role in the movie than he played in the book, and Juliet actually accepts his proposal in the movie, after rejecting him in the book. I loved Matthew Goode as Sidney.  And Dawsey was much more handsome than I had envisioned him -- not that I minded, lol. The book was (obviously) better, but it was an enjoyable way to spend two hours. 
  • We spent Sunday afternoon at the movies watching "Bohemian Rhapsody," the story of Freddie Mercury & Queen.  The reviews have been mixed, and yes, the script is pretty basic -- but the casting is stellar (Rami Malek as Freddie is amazing, and all the guys playing the band members are dead ringers for the real ones) and of course, there's that glorious music. :)  It ends with an almost complete recreation of the band's set at Live Aid in 1985, which gave me goosebumps. (Live Aid took place exactly a week after our wedding, while we were in Calgary, wrapping up our week-long honeymoon in Banff & Jasper before flying to Toronto to start married life.  I don't remember seeing Queen, but we did watch parts of the show, including the opening and closing, from our hotel room.) 
  • Sunday was also the Santa Claus Parade here in Toronto -- the original, and still the best!  ;)   I know for some people, Nov. 1st marks the beginning of the Christmas season... for some, it starts after Remembrance Day, for others, after U.S. Thanksgiving, and for others, Advent.  This does it for me. ;)  I won't put the tree up until around Advent, but I'm currently diffusing Saje's Peppermint Twist blend. It's a start. ;)  
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Saturday, November 17, 2018

"Good and Mad" by Rebecca Traister

Gotta love that cover...! ;) 
Since the 2016 election of Donald Trump, the explosion of #MeToo in the public consciousness, and (more recently) the Senate justice committee hearings that elevated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, people have (finally??) noticed: there are a LOT of really, REALLY angry women out there. (Moreover, they have a lot of really good reasons to be angry.)

Several recent books have added fuel to the discussion, including "Rage Becomes Her" by Soraya Chemaly (which I recently read & reviewed, here), and "Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger" by Rebecca Traister, which I picked up immediately after finishing Chemaly's book (which was published a few weeks earlier).  Beyond my interest in the timely subject matter, I've read & enjoyed Traister's two previous books, "All the Single Ladies" and "Big Girls Don't Cry" (reviewed on this blog, here and here).

The books obviously share some similarities in subject matter. But while Chemaly's book takes a broad, sociological look at women & anger, Traister's has a more specific focus: in her own words, "this is about the specific nexus between women's anger and American politics, about how the particular dissatisfactions and resentments of America's women have often ignited movements for social change and progress." (p. xviii)

"In the United States, we have never been taught how noncompliant, insistent, furious women have shaped our history and our present, our activism and our art,"  Traister comments. "We should be." 

Traister leads us on a journey through American political history and current events: the early suffragists, second-wave feminists like Gloria Steinem & Florynce Kennedy, Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Lee, Phyllis Schlafly and the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, Anita Hill, the subsequent "Year of the Woman,"  Pat Schroeder, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Maxine Waters, Elizabeth Warren ("nevertheless, she persisted"), Michelle Wolff, Thelma & Louise, Harvey Weinstein (Traister has her own personal Weinstein story to tell) and #MeToo, Parkland and Emma Gonzalez and March for our Lives; and so much more. She write about how women of colour have led the way in so many progressive movements that have benefited all Americans, about the (mostly white) women who cling to the proximal benefits of patriarchy, and the male backlash and discomfort with women's anger: 
Rose McGowan, one of Weinstein's earliest and most vociferous accusers, recalled being asked "in a soft NPR voice, 'What if what you're saying makes men uncomfortable?' Good. I've been uncomfortable my whole life. Welcome to our world of discomfort.” (p. 199)
As someone who has a difficult time making decisions, this passage was an "ah-ha" moment of recognition for me: 
Erin Vilardi, the head of VoteRunLead, which trains and supports women running for state and local office... also noted that until recently, women have had no road map for what to do with their resentments and furies. "Women are not allowed to scream from podiums, not allowed to slam doors in workplaces," she said, acknowledging that this expressive limit is part of what's earned women the reputation as more benevolent bosses. "But that's bullshit," she went on. "Because if you look at all those studies about how women are better bosses, they're better at everything except in areas of decisiveness, and that's because we don't get to have that split-second, I'm-the-goddamn-boss-that's-why gut reaction. We have zero role modeling in channeling our anger into decisiveness or 'That's just the way he is' stuff people said about Harvey Weinstein. We don't get any of those passes." (p. 221-222)
Near the end, Traister writes about the bonds women have formed as they channel their anger into activism:
This is one of anger's most important roles: it is a mode of connection, a way for women to find each other and realize their struggles and frustrations are shared, that they are not alone, not crazy. If they are quiet, they will remain isolated. But if they howl in rage, someone who shares their fury might hear them, might start howling along. This is, of course, partly why those who oppress women work to stifle their anger. (p. 230)
As I read this section, I thought about how this applies to us in ALI-land, too -- how our hurt and anger over the injustice of our losses, and how we are treated (ignored) by the fortunate fertile in a pronatalist world, has led us to find each other and use our individual and collective voices to comfort each other -- and work towards change, in both small and big ways. 

I closed this book feeling exhilarated.  My copy is covered in yellow post-it notes.

I gave Chemaly's book five stars on Goodreads, and I gave this one five stars as well. I loved both books. Both would rank among the best books that I've read this year, I think. If I had to give the edge to one over the other, I would probably pick this one, simply because I am a bit of a political junkie ;)  and I also really like Traister's writing.  But they are both excellent, and both deserve to be read, discussed, pondered -- and acted upon. I highly recommend them both. :) 

(You might enjoy this review of both books -- by a male critic -- from the Washington Post.) 

This was book #23 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 96% 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, 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...!)