Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Year in Review

Time for another Year in Review post for 2018! 

I started doing this year-end meme eight years ago -- and, although I feel like many of the answers don't change much from year to year, it's still a great way to look back and keep track. (All of my New Year's/Year in Review posts have now been tagged with the label "Year in Review.")  Feel free to use the questions on your own blog (& let me know if you do!).

1. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I don't really make new year's resolutions anymore -- they tend to be pretty much the same ones, year after year (although I have modified some over time, and even deleted ones that no longer apply). Here are the perennials, and the progress I made (or didn't) in 2018: 
  • Lose weight.  Alas, I am (once again) more or less the same weight as I was this time last year... I go up a few pounds, I go down, I go up again... :p 
  • Exercise more. (And hopefully lose more weight...!)  Massive fail on this one. :(  Still haven't gotten into a regular walking routine here (& probably won't even try now until the weather improves)  or found a yoga class, as I keep saying I'm going to do...!  
  • Write more in my journal (blog??). Haven't written in my paper journal in years. As for blogging, I recently marked my 11th (!!) year in this space.  And I actually did wind up writing more in my blog this year (158 posts, including this one -- an average of about 13 posts per month) than I did last year (139).  In fact, 2018 has been one of my most productive blogging years since I first hit "publish," coming second in terms of numbers of posts only to my all-time high of 172 posts in 2008, my first full year of blogging. Go figure!  
  • Read more of the books that have piled up around the house. Once again, I set myself a goal of 24 books read in 2018 (via the Goodreads reading challenge -- the same as 2017 & 2016). After failing to reach even that modest goal last year, I was happy to hit #24 by mid-November, and will finish out the year with 27 books read to my credit. (All books read were -- or soon will be -- reviewed on this blog under the tag "2018 books.")  I'm hoping to keep up (or even increase) this pace in 2019, although I will probably stick with the same target again, since it seems like a pretty realistic one for me.  
  • Keep the clutter at bay.  (Goal slightly reworded from previous years.) Having downsized from a 1,200 square foot, three-bedroom house (not including basement, garage & garden shed) to an 875-square-foot condo (plus one not-very-big storage locker) in 2016, there's a LOT less clutter than there used to be -- and a lot less space for it to accumulate. But the piles of books are growing, and I'm running out of spare hangers in the closet, which tells me it's probably time to do some weeding again...!  
  • Return to scrapbooking & complete unfinished projects. (Goal reworded from previous years.)  Sadly, I have not done any scrapbooking since fall 2009. And I donated the bulk of my scrapbooking supplies, including most of my substantial collection of pretty patterned paper, to the thrift store before we moved (sob!).  I did keep all my unfinished projects, tools & a few other things, though. (They are sitting in a couple of plastic bins down in the storage locker.) So who knows, I may pick it up again at some point in the future...    
2. What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before?

Enjoyed a long-anticipated and rare girls' weekend away with two former work colleagues in a part of the province I hadn't seen before. 

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No. (But with two adult nephews now married, we are hoping to see some great-nieces and nephews in the not-too-very-distant future...!)(They will get no pressure from me on that front, though!)     

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Yes, sadly, my wonderful father-in-law, at age 89 on Aug. 9th. :(     

5. What countries did you visit?

We did not leave the country in 2018.  (While the United States is less than a two-hour drive away, I have to admit, I have no great desire to cross the border while you-know-who is in charge...)  

6. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?

More travel, even just day trips. More new experiences. I am very much a creature of habit, I will admit, but I do like getting out & exploring too, and whenever I do push myself to do it, I come back exhausted but also exhilarated. 

7. What date(s) from 2018 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

April 14th, Younger Nephew's wedding. :)  August 9th, the day FIL passed away. :(  August 5th & 7th, November 14th and other related dates -- 2018 marked 20 (!!) years since the stillbirth of my daughter. 

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Getting through FIL's diagnosis, decline, death & funeral, with all its reminders of my rollercoaster pregnancy and stillbirth, covering almost exactly the same timeframe, exactly 20 years earlier. 

9. What was your biggest failure?

Over the past several years, I've said, "Not speaking my mind enough, and drifting instead of taking the initiative to get things done that I wanted to do." Unfortunately, I think that still applies. :p   

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

No -- but I'm definitely feeling older these days, with parts of me (knees in particular!) getting creakier and not working quite as well as they used to...!  :p 

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Tickets to see Paul McCartney with my sister. :)  Expensive, but well worth it! 

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir, Canada's ice dancing sweethearts (if not each other's, lol).  Seeing them win an unprecedented second (third, if you count the team competition) gold medal at the Olympics in February was a huge moment of national pride for Canadians.  

The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who turned tragedy (a mass shooting at their school by a fellow student in February) into triumph with their March For Our Lives in March, and their ongoing campaign for sensible gun laws in the U.S.   

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed? 

Donald Trump & Co.  Need I say more??  :p  

Ontario Premier Doug Ford (older and meaner brother of the late crack-smoking Toronto Mayor Rob Ford), who is following in Trump's footsteps, and sorely testing the theory that Canada is a kinder and gentler place than the United States. :p  

14. Where did most of your money go?

Beyond the usual bills -- and books, lol -- we had a few large expenses during the year.  There was our nephew's wedding (including my new dress & the alterations -- which cost as much as the dress itself! -- and  gifts -- bridal shower, wedding & housewarming).  We spent a lot more on gas & road tolls, travelling back & forth across the city more frequently over the spring/summer months to visit FIL.  And I wound up buying a new laptop and printer when my old laptop started acting up more frequently.  

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Our nephew's wedding. Seeing Paul McCartney with my sister. :)  The opening of a new subway extension at this time last year, with a station nearby, making it much easier to get downtown.  

16. What song will always remind you of 2018?

"Havana-na-na-na..."  I can't even tell you what company used that song for an ad, but it's an earworm I wish I could get rid of...!  

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?

More or less the same, on all three fronts.     

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? 

Travelling. FIL's illness & passing threw a bit of a monkey wrench into even our plans to travel to see my family this summer.  And then going to see them in the fall instead precluded a trip anywhere else.  But there's always next year... 

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Sitting around the house. :p 

20. How did you spend Christmas? 

As usual, we spent Christmas with my family on the Canadian Prairies, where a white Christmas is practically guaranteed! (Still here for New Year's!)  Ham dinner & presents on Christmas Eve with PND & the Little Princesses, stockings and turkey on Christmas Day. 

21. Did you fall in love in 2018? 


22. What was your favorite TV program?

We enjoyed the Thursday night lineup of The Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon, Mom & a reboot of Murphy Brown (albeit it hasn't been quite as good as I'd hoped). 

Designated Survivor, season 2, wasn't as gripping as the first season -- but I kept watching anyway. ;)  It was cancelled by ABC, but has been picked up by Netflix. 

And I enjoyed the latest seasons of Victoria & Poldark on PBS, and The Handmaid's Tale on Bravo. 

23. Do you hate anyone now that you did not hate this time last year? 


24. What was the best book you read? 

While I didn't read a huge amount of books this year (albeit more than I did last year -- 27 -- see #1), most of the ones I did read were pretty good. As usual, I read a lot more non-fiction than fiction:  9 fiction books to 18 non. Four of those 9 novels were by my old favourite, D.E. Stevenson, for our online fan/discussion group. On the non-fiction front, I enjoyed several excellent biographies/memoirs (one of my favourite genres); feminist writing, including several books on the subject of women and anger; and several books related to current U.S. politics and the Trump presidency. 

It's always very hard for me to pick a single book as "the best," and this year, there were quite a few that would contend for that title. They would definitely include: 

  • all the books I read on women & anger (variations on the theme, all very well written and absorbing);   
  •  "Educated" by Tara Westover (my review here
  • "Prairie Fires" by Caroline Fraser (my review here). 
25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

As in the past, I must admit, I don't listen to a lot of new music. I did enjoy rediscovering Queen -- they weren't one of my favourite bands when I was growing up -- but they were THERE -- and seeing "Bohemian Rhapsody" at the movies (and being able to sing along with just about every song in it) made me realize all over again that I was soooooo lucky to grow up listening to some pretty fabulous music. :) 

26. What did you want and get?

A new computer. A white Christmas. :)  

27. What did you want and not get?

Still waiting on that sunspot vacation. ;)  (Or any kind of vacation that doesn't involve visiting family, lol.)    

28. What was your favourite film of this year? 

We saw 15 movies in the theatres in 2018 (compared to 16 in 2016 and 2017, and 23 in 2015)(listed here in the order we saw them in):  Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Post, Darkest Hour, The Shape of Water, Black Panther, The Avengers: Infinity War, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Ocean's 8, The Incredibles 2, Christopher Robin, Crazy Rich Asians, Fahrenheit 11/9, A Star is Born, First Man, and Bohemian Rhapsody.

As with books, it's hard to pick a favourite -- we enjoyed them all!  "Bohemian Rhapsody" didn't get great critical reviews, but we both enjoyed it hugely -- also "A Star is Born" (both featuring great music!). I also enjoyed "Crazy Rich Asians," possibly even more so than the book. Nice to see a good rom-com again! :)  And while the sequels will never top the originals, I LOVED seeing Mark Hamill & Carrie Fisher again in "Star Wars: The Last Jedi." 

Least favourite? That's easy:  "The Avengers: Infinity Wars." A real downer, not at all what I expected, and NOT what I needed on Voldemort Day.  :p 

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I was 57, and it was two days before our nephew's fiancee's bridal shower. The weather was absolute crap, but I still managed to get out of the house for a manicure & pedicure, lunch & bookstore visit, and then dinner out later. :)  58 coming up shortly (!).

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

A little more travel beyond the limits of the Greater Toronto Area. 

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018? 

It hasn't changed much in recent years. Comfort counts more than being fashion-forward!  Since retirement, I spend most of my days in yoga pants (or shorts, in the summer) & T-shirts, lol.  Lots of Old Navy. ;)  And they opened a Lucky Brand store at the mall near us. Love their stuff!  

32. What kept you sane?

(This question assumes sanity on my part, lol.  ;)  ) Once again this year, I would credit a good mixture of downtime at home, and getting out of the house.  We were tied to home more than usual because of FIL's illness, which added to our enjoyment of the times when we were able to get out & do a few fun things. 

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

UPDATE See #12. 

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

In last year's answer to this question, I expounded on the issue of freedom of the press and media bashing.  The shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland on June 28, and the murders of five employees (including four journalists), made me LIVID in a way I very seldom get. I could literally feel my blood pressure going through the roof as I watched the early reports on television, and wound up dosing myself with a "stress release" blend of essential oils trying to calm myself down. I was thrilled to see that they were among TIME Magazine's featured "Persons of the Year" -- "The Guardians and the War on Truth."  

The other political issue that is near & dear to my heart is the whole issue of equality and women's rights, which are (once again) under threat. It was great to see so many women elected to Congress in the U.S. midterm elections this fall!  

35. Who did you miss? 

FIL. We still go to visit stepMIL every couple of weeks, but the house feels strangely quiet & empty without him there. 

36. Who was the best new person you met?

As I answered last year, I really haven't met an awful lot of new people lately;  at least, none that I see often/regularly. I would love to have a good different answer to this question in 2019!

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018. 

This year brought home to me, once again, that while the days & weeks sometimes drag, the months & years go by far too quickly. Enjoy them while you can! 

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

I will have to think of this one.... 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Hi-yo Silver! ;)

It's a "William Tell Overture" kind of day.

When I was working, and trying to get everything done that needed to be done in the days & hours before I went away on vacation -- both at work and at home -- I always felt like I was making a mad dash to the finish line (generally the moment when I collapsed into my seat on the airplane).  (This was doubly true at Christmastime.)

Attending our support group's holiday candlelighting service for bereaved parents (in past years) & dealing with the lingering grief over a baby who was supposed to born just in time to fuss over for Christmas, but never made it here.  :(  Finishing up projects at work. Writing up a status list for my boss to tell her where all my projects were at, where the files were located on the common drive, who the contacts were for each item, my emergency contact info, just in case (thankfully, I never did get a call). Remembering to leave an out of office message for my email auto-reply and voice mail.  Attending umpteen Christmas lunches and parties and coffees with colleagues and trying to think of appropriate ideas for the office Secret Santa exchange (on top of all the other gift-buying I had to do).  Trying to finish my own Christmas shopping. Making sure I had the year-end issues of People and Entertainment Weekly magazines for reading on the plane.

Doing some last-minute cleaning, so we won't have to face the dust and dirt when we get back. Doing laundry and planning what clothes and other stuff (books!) to take. Making sure we both have enough of our prescription medication to last the trip (and, if not, getting refills). Trying to eat up what's left in the refrigerator & cupboards before we leave, and throwing out what doesn't get eaten and will spoil while we're gone. (A lesson we haven't forgotten since the early days of our marriage, when I left some potatos in the cupboard of our non-air-conditioned apartment while we went away for two weeks in July. By the time we got back, they had not only sprouted, they had turned to mush. :p  It took DAYS and a lot of scrubbing with various cleaners and airing out & setting out dishes of vinegar to finally get the smell out of my cupboard...!)

Checking what bills will be coming due while we're away and setting up payments on my online banking app. Getting some cash for the trip from the ABM at our regular bank branch (yes, there are ABMs where we'll be going, but not my own bank's, and I refuse to pay  the extra fees to another bank if I can help it...!) Packing up my laptop files before we travel. Bringing up our suitcases from storage (in the basement, at our old house;  in our storage locker, here at the condo). Actually packing (something I generally don't do until the day before we leave). Exchanging gifts with BIL & family, and giving him an extra set of keys for the house/condo and asking him to check in every few days.  Asking someone (our neighbour at the house, BIL for the condo) to pick up the mail. Arranging transportation to the airport (generally BIL, if we're travelling on a weekend;  booking an airport limo otherwise), and calculating when we'll need to be picked up, and when to set the alarm clock so we'll have plenty of time to get ready. Doing the advance check-in, 24 hours before we travel.

I would tell my colleagues "It's a William Tell Overture kind of day,"  because I could actually hear the strains of the "William Tell Overture" (you might also know it as "The Lone Ranger" theme, lol) in my head as I frantically dashed around, trying to get things done and crossing them off my to-do list. (We used to play this piece of music when I was in school band, and I can actually see the notes on the page as well as hear them, lol.)

Thankfully, I don't have to worry about work anymore (and this was always our busiest, most stressful time of year, nevermind that it's Christmas too...!). I don't have children & all their Christmas activities to worry about.  And I have had most of my Christmas shopping done for a while now, other than a couple of stocking stuffers that I'll probably pick up once I get to my parents'.

But a lot of the other stuff still applies, and still has to get done. I met two former work colleagues downtown for our traditional pre-Christmas lunch yesterday, and then went to BIL's for coffee later that evening, bringing along our presents for everyone, and dropping off a set of our condo keys. I called to book an airport limo this morning, and I'm in the middle of an estimated half-dozen loads of laundry today.  Trying to fit in a viewing of "Springsteen on Broadway" on Netflix before we go. Housecleaning & packing, coming up...

Cue the music.

Hi-yo Silver!  Away!!*  (lol)

* Please note -- I may be old (lol) but I am not QUITE old enough to remember the original run of The Lone Ranger on TV, with Clayton Moore & Jay Silverheels (1949-57, for the record -- several years before I was born). But I did watch it in reruns as a kid. :)

Monday, December 17, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: 30 years an auntie

Thirty years ago, on a frigid December afternoon, dh called me at work & greeted me with the words "Hello, auntie!"  Our first nephew (his younger brother's first son) had finally arrived, making us an aunt & uncle for the first time. (A second nephew arrived not quite four years later.)

We were thrilled, and we couldn't wait to get to the hospital that night -- along with every single relative from both sides of dh & BIL's extended family, as well as many of SIL's relatives as well.  (Our nephew was the first baby born into both families in several years.)  The din in the hallway from all those excited relatives was unbelievable.  The horrified nurse chased us out of the room where poor exhausted SIL was sleeping after her C-section. Babies were still being kept in the nursery back then (vs staying with their mothers), and BIL tapped a card on the window so the nurse would bring the right baby over & hold him up so we could see him. I remember how our nephew opened his eyes and gazed at us for the first time, with a slightly annoyed expression that clearly said, "Who are all these people, and why did they wake me up from my nice nap??"  ;)

One year later, we drove through a barrage of ice and snow across the city to celebrate that adorable baby's first birthday.  We have yet to miss one of his birthday celebrations.

This past weekend was birthday #30 (gulp).  His wife organized a surprise party -- and he was actually surprised!  (lol)  I remember thinking we would have to sing "Happy birthday" extra loud this year to compensate for the absence of FIL's booming vibrato.  Nephew was named after FIL &  FIL never/rarely missed one of his birthday celebrations either.

I could never have imagined all the twists and turns life would take over these past 30 years. (The days & weeks & months sometimes drag... but wow, the years really do go by so quickly.)

I am sad about Katie, and the other children we never got to have during those years, and the grandchildren we will never have. And I wish we had made more of our aunt/uncle relationship when our nephews were younger (and we still thought we would have a family of our own to dote on and do fun family things with).

But I am so very thankful for the blessing of our two nephews, and so very proud of the wonderful young men they have both grown up to be.

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

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Annoying thing(s): The condo edition

Right around the same time the secondhand smoke from our neighbours across the hall ceased to be an issue (not to mention the screaming matches)(!)(they have since moved out)(yay?), a new annoyance came along to take its place: noise from the neighbours directly above us. (Insert eyeroll icon here.) 

We first became aware of what sounded like a lot of hammering & drilling overhead (renovations, maybe)?  Then, a series of rapid thump-thump-thumps -- not so much the pitter-patter of little feet as perhaps a small herd of elephants?? -- sometimes louder, sometimes more muffled.  We also noticed a pattern: first thing in the morning, then again in the late afternoon (beginning around 3:10 p.m., to be exact), and on & off throughout the evening, most days. 

We've decided that it must be a couple of small children creating all or most of the noise -- who else could be that energetic that consistently, right??  (As further proof, we've also heard childish voices from the balcony above ours, during nice weather -- not to mention faint wails overhead some evenings -- clearly, someone who is NOT happy to be informed that it's bedtime!) We've concluded that the mid-afternoon noise must signal their arrival home from school/daycare. We think we encountered the likely culprits in the elevator once:  a weary-looking mother with two children -- a boy who looked to be about 6-8 and a little girl several years younger.  

We have debated whether to knock on the door and complain/ask (nicely -- at first, anyway...!) if they could tone things down a bit.  So far, we haven't (although we still might). Some days we notice it/it bothers us more or less than others.  We figure that eventually, energetic young children turn into lethargic teenagers staring at screens, who will move off the couch only under protest. ;)  

That day is still several years away, however...!  We know that kids will be kids, and we are willing to cut people SOME slack. At the same time, we believe we are entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of OUR unit too. Right? :p  

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A blast from the past

I was at the local mega-bookstore earlier this week, browsing the women's health section, when a familiar title caught my eye.

It was a 20th anniversary edition of "Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health"  by Toni Weschler (first published in 1995; revised & expanded in 2015, and popularly known as "TCOYF").

I had first seen this book around the time it first came out -- which happened to be around the same time I'd stopped taking birth control pills.  I'd assumed I'd be pregnant within a few months -- but that wasn't what was happening. I'd taken surreptitious peeks at the book during bookstore visits, but I was too squeamish to show up at the cashier with such a title in my hand -- an admission that we might need some help.  ;)  I eventually did get pregnant in early 1998 without consulting it.  

Of course, you all know what happened next.  By the time our daughter was stillborn in August 1998, I was 37, fast approaching my 38th birthday, and hyper-aware that my biological clock was ticking louder and louder. My first question to Dr. Ob-gyn when he visited my hospital room, post-delivery, was "When can we try again?"  

I bought my copy not long afterward, while I was still on leave after Katie's stillbirth, along with the recommended basal thermometer. I ripped out the temperature charting template page at the back & took it a Kinkos across the street from the hospital, the day I had my six-week post-partum checkup with Dr. Ob-gyn, & had some copies made (since I wasn't yet back to work with easy access to a photocopier).  (These days, there's a TCOYF companion website, with downloadable charts and even an app, along with Weschler's blog and an online community.)

TCOYF was "the Bible" of the subsequent pregnancy after loss e-mail group I joined that fall, where everyone was either pregnant after a loss, or desperately trying to be. There were many conversations and questions among the list members about "ewcm" (egg-white-like cervical mucus -- an indicator of ovulation), cervical position (high? low? open? closed?), dips & peaks in basal thermometer temperature, and other such intricacies. 

I know several list members swore by TCOYF and credited their subsequent pregnancies to the knowledge they gained from it.  Needless to say, it didn't work for me. After a year of charting and trying to conceive on our own, I knew there was no further time to lose, and pressured dh into consulting Dr. Ob-gyn -- which sent us down the slippery slope of fertility testing, a referral to Dr. RE, several rounds of clomid and three IUI cycles with clomid plus injectable drugs (all unsuccessful). Even though I was told it was not necessary, I continued to chart through it all, and for some months (years??) after we abandoned fertility treatment, secretly still hoping for that elusive "miracle baby."

Eventually, I stopped doing that too. The book, which sat in the pile by my night table for so many years for easy consultation, went into a plastic bin full of (in)fertility books in my closet, along with the folder of pages and pages of carefully plotted monthly charts.  I think I still have the book (along with my keepsake copy of "What to Expect While You're Expecting"), although the charts went into the shredder some years ago.  

Even though it didn't result in a baby for me, I am still very glad I read the book, & I still recommend it. I learned so much from it about my body and how it works, and I still automatically recognize the signs of when I'm ovulating and when my period is coming. I think it should be required reading for all young women, fertility issues or not (& probably young men, too).  

Was TCOYF part of your (in)fertility journey too?  

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

"How to Build a Life Without Kids"

I saw this article on the cover of "The Walrus" (a Canadian magazine) a while back while browsing the magazine racks at my local mega-bookstore... thought I would see if I could find it online... and (of course) completely forgot about it by the time I got home. :p  ;)  I found a link while browsing an online forum.  It's an intelligent & sympathetic look at how women without children -- both by choice & otherwise -- are coming forward, finding each other and working to challenge pronatalist perceptions about their lives. It refers to/quotes some well-known leaders within the childless/free community, including Melanie Notkin of Savvy Auntie,  Jody Day of Gateway Women, Laura Carroll (author of The Baby Matrix), Karen Malone Wright of The NotMom (last year's NotMom summit in Cleveland is a focal point of the article),  Catherine-Emmanuelle Delisle of Femme Sans Enfant, Lisa Manterfield of Life Without Baby, and others, as well as interviews with several (mostly Canadian) women without children who are building happy and meaningful lives.

Well worth a read!

Monday, December 10, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Small pleasures

  • Spending time with family this past weekend:  with Older Nephew's dog on Friday afternoon :)  with BIL & SIL at the mall later that day;  and with Younger Nephew & his wife (as well as BIL & SIL again) on Saturday. 
  • Mailing my Christmas cards last Tuesday, and getting our first Christmas card in the mail on Thursday. 
  • The pretty lights on our decorated Christmas tree, and on all the houses in the nearby neighbourhood. 
  • Feeling like I actually have a good handle on my Christmas shopping this year! 
  • Getting absorbed in Michelle Obama's great new memoir
  • Seeing dh absorbed in reading "Killers of the Flower Moon, which was one of the best books I read last year (review here).  
  • Looking forward to lunch with friends downtown next week. 
  • Counting down a dwindling number of days until we head west to see my family (and until Christmas!).  :) 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Early December odds & ends

  • After several days of spotting & cramping... she's back to haunt me. :p  Yes, it's Day #206 (!) & Aunt Flo has returned.  It was fun while it lasted...!  Back to square one (sigh...). :p  (Did I mention my 58th (!!) birthday is 38 days away??) 
  • Perhaps it's the hormones, perhaps Christmas is getting to me, perhaps it was watching former President Bush (#41)'s funeral (Sully the companion dog!!) earlier today on TV...but I've been teary on & off all day. 
  • The coup de grace: a Facebook post from a high school friend: photos of a Christmas cookie baking session with both her mom AND her little granddaughter. A photo I will never get to take. :(  
  • A little over two weeks until we head west to see my family... and I'm starting to feel a little stressed when I look at the calendar & see all the things I need to get done between now & then (although I'm actually quite pleased at how much Christmas shopping I've already done!). Items on the agenda:  more Christmas shopping, dental appointments (cleaning & checkups), a possible trip to the Toronto Christmas Market with BIL, SIL & one or both nephews & their wives (depending on who can get off work);  a pre-Christmas visit to stepMIL, pre-Christmas haircuts, a visit with Katie at the cemetery (& change to Christmas decorations for her niche), flu shots, Older Nephew's 30th (!!) birthday, annual Christmas lunch downtown with a couple of friends/former coworkers.  I may also try to cram in: a mani-pedi,  a visit to the art gallery where I have a membership (exhibit closing this weekend that I wanted to see -- may not get there in time...), and some cookie baking. We'll see...
  • Savvy Auntie has released a fascinating new study on the growing social & economic influence of what founder Melanie Notkin calls "Generation PANK"-- "Professional Aunts, No Kids." (This includes women who are childless by circumstance, choice or challenge.)  PANKs are a sizeable group -- 28% (more than 1/4) of all women in the United States between the ages of 20 & 50.  "While PANKs represent huge opportunity, this hidden demographic often remains overlooked, misunderstood and unappreciated by marketers and society-at-large," the report observes.
  • Looking for a Christmas present for yourself (or a childless-not-by-choice person in your life)?  ;)  Mali has put together a book of No Kidding wisdom -- selected quotes from her blog, along with some of her lovely photos. Find out more & how to order here

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Thinking about Christmas

I was comparing notes about Christmas (and how to survive it) with several other childless bloggers/activists recently. And that got me thinking.

I love Christmas. It's always been my favourite holiday.  But I'll admit Christmas has not always been very joyful, these past 20 years. Those first couple of years after we lost our baby -- and gradually came to the realization there would be no others -- were very hard.

But I've never had the desire to run away from it. I've spent every Christmas of my life with my family, and I'm not about to try to make drastic changes now (especially now that FIL is gone, and my parents are close to 80). I always reasoned that dh's family could (& can) easily see us any other time of the year;  I want to be with MY family at Christmas -- and I'm grateful that's how things have always worked out. (I did secretly think that, perhaps, once dh & I had kids of our own, my parents & sister might come to be with US for a change. We all know how THAT worked out...!)

But even so, our Christmas celebrations have evolved and changed over the years as our family changed. Change is difficult for me -- but I've come to realize that it's inevitable (and not always bad, or as bad as I had feared).

Twenty years ago, I thought my family of origin was expanding. What actually happened: it began to shrink. I lost the baby I was expecting that November, and then my grandparents, one after another, within a year of each other, and eventually I had to face the harsh reality that there would be no new babies joining us, ever.

But at the same time, our chosen family has grown, and enriched our Christmases immeasurably. We've been incredibly fortunate to have Parents' Neighbours' Daughter (PND) spend at least part of every Christmas of her life with our family.  When she was an adorable baby & toddler (and dh & I were newlyweds), she relieved some of the pressure on us to produce a grandchild ASAP. As a young teenager, her cheerful presence helped alleviate some of the sadness of that first Christmas in 1998, when not only was there no baby for Christmas (as my mother rapturously exclaimed when I told her I was pregnant) but also no Grandpa, for the first time in my 37 years (and then the next year, no Grandma either). These days, now in her mid-30s, she's mom to the two Little Princesses, who continue to distract & entertain us and partly fill that grandchild gap.

As my parents have aged, we've continued to gather at their house, but my sister & I have taken on more of the responsibilities for shopping, decorating, and food prep (my sister has learned to make gravy as well as my mom, and I'm told she made the pastry for the butter tarts this year too!) & cleanup. We tend to be sticklers for tradition -- and yet, over the years, some traditions have evolved or been set aside, and new ones adopted. For example, there's a huge mugo pine tree in my parents' front yard that my dad used to decorate with strings and strings of coloured lights. Over the years, he had to start asking his neighbour, my sister's partner and PND's husband to help (teetering precariously on a tall ladder & using a contraption -- a hook on the end of a broom handle -- to maneuver the lights into place). It just got to be too much of a chore, so these days, the lights just frame the doors of the house and cover the shrubs.

As another example, my mother decided she's not decorating two trees this year. Over the past 25-30 years, she's had one upstairs in the living room, with our family's treasured old, traditional ornaments, and one in the family room downstairs that's more of a "designer" tree with mostly silver ornaments, supplemented by others that she received from her students while working at the local school as an aide. She & Dad recently got a big screen TV that takes up a lot of room in the basement;  also, the basement tends to be where the two Little Princesses like to run around.  I told her that while it's nice to have two trees, I'm not sentimentally attached to the downstairs one in the same way that I am with the upstairs one.

Our own tree at home has evolved over the years, too. In the years after we lost our Katie, we bought one ornament for her -- and then another -- and another. We attended the memorial candlelighting service run by our pregnancy loss support group ever year for about 12 years straight, I think, and at each one, we took home a pair of baby booties, handknit by volunteers. Our tree was covered in teddy bear angels, Classic Pooh ornaments from Hallmark, and little white baby booties, lol.  Then, three Christmases ago, we moved to a condo, and bought a slightly smaller tree to fit our smaller space. Not all the ornaments I used to put up fit on the new tree -- so now there's just one representative pair of baby booties instead of the full dozen. I'm not sure I'd have handled that very well 20 years ago, but I'm (mostly) OK with it today.

Once my parents are gone, I don't know what's going to happen to our Christmas celebrations. Will we still head west to be with my sister (assuming she gets a bigger house, because right now, her 600-square-foot house does not accommodate guests very readily)?  Will she come here? Will we try to nose our way into dh's family's celebrations, with BIL & SIL & the nephews and their family?  Will we run away to spend Christmas at a nice ski chalet somewhere (minus the skiing, lol), or try something completely different like a beach? (I absolutely cannot imagine Christmas without snow, but there's always a first time for everything...!)

We'll cross those bridges when we get there (hopefully not for a while yet). Meanwhile, I try to just appreciate what we have right now and help out my parents & sister as much as I can.

I guess if I had one piece of advice to offer, it would be to do whatever you feel inclined to do -- no more, no less. Some years can be better/worse/easier to handle/more difficult than others, when you're grieving your children (whether or not they were ever conceived) -- so don't feel you have to do everything you think you're supposed to be doing, or that others are telling you to do.  And don't feel you have to do the same things you did last year -- whether you did anything last year, or not. Losing Katie (with a November due date) -- plus the fact that November/December was always our busiest time of year at work (fiscal year end reporting) -- meant I had neither the time, nor the energy, nor (quite often, especially those first few years) the inclination to take part in many of the Christmas activities I wanted to immerse myself in -- or felt I *should* be doing. I had to take a good hard look at what was most important to me, and plan my Christmas season accordingly.  I've always enjoyed putting up a Christmas tree, sending cards (staying in touch with far-flung friends & relatives) and going home to see my family -- so I focus on that. Anything else that I have time or energy or inclination or money to do -- more elaborate decorations, baking, Christmas-related outings, parties, etc. -- is gravy. I have more time to do more now that I'm retired -- and the grief is not as intense as it was, 20 years ago -- but that still tends to be my philosophy today, lol.

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If you're looking for further reading on the subject of holiday survival, here are a few posts by some other bloggers/activists to get you started:

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My own past Christmas-related posts are now tagged "Christmas" -- but here are some of the main ones you might want to explore (from the most recent working back):

Monday, December 3, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Close encounters of the Instagram kind :)

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll know that I am a fan of the TV show "Designated Survivor," with Kiefer Sutherland as the Housing Secretary who winds up becoming President of the United States. The show was cancelled by ABC after two seasons, but has been picked up by Netflix. (I'll admit, the second season was not as gripping as the first, but I like Kiefer and Maggie Q, so I've been hanging in there!)

Turns out that Donny Osmond is a "Designated Survivor" fan too!  :)  Friday night, he posted on social media:
I normally don't binge watch TV shows, but Designated Survivor is an exception. Funny thing is, now I've got everyone on the #DMHolidayTour hooked! We can’t wait for the 3rd season. Anyone else a fan? 
Kiefer Sutherland, you are my new hero. Is there anything you can't do?
I first saw Donny's post on Instagram -- so I "liked" it & responded: "Love that show;  happy that Netflix has picked it up!"

I couldn't believe my eyes awhile later when I got a notification: "Donny Osmond liked your comment."  WHAT??!!!  (I had no clue how to take & save a screen shot on my phone -- but believe me, this sent me scrambling for my "device help" app to figure out how to do it, lol.)

If only my 12-year-old self could see this...!!  I could never have imagined such a thing happening back then (45 years ago!! -- gulp...), when posters of Donny & his brothers graced my bedroom walls, and "Puppy Love" and "Yo-Yo" were permanent fixtures on my record player turntable. (Kids today have NO idea...!)  Ah, the power of the Internet to connect us -- even, sometimes, to the teen idols of our youth!

(To make things even more fun, I notice that Kiefer Sutherland liked Donny's post on Facebook. I wonder if Donny was as thrilled by that as I was by his??  lol)

Have you ever connected with a favourite celebrity online?

(Past post wherein I reviewed one of Marie's books and confessed my enduring affection for all things Osmond, lol:  here.)

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

Sunday, December 2, 2018

"Fed Up" by Gemma Hartley

My latest reading has continued on the theme of women and anger. :)  While "Rage Becomes Her" by Soraya Chemaly provided a broad sociological look at the topic and Rebecca Traister's "Good and Mad" examined women's anger from a political perspective, "Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward" by Gemma Hartley looks at women and emotional labour (and why we're justified in feeling sick and tired of doing it).  And, like those other books, it is an excellent exploration of this particular topic. :)

The book expands on Hartley's September 2017 article for Harper's Bazaar -- "Women Aren't Nags—We're Just Fed Up" -- which went viral.  The article began with an anecdote from Hartley's personal experience:  all she wanted for Mother's Day was for her husband to find a housecleaning service. It wasn't just a clean house she wanted, but (for once) not to have to do research, make phone calls, vet each service, get quotes and recommendations, make a decision, arrange payment and schedule appointments. Perhaps predictably, her husband made one call, blanched at the price, bought her a necklace and told her he would deep clean the bathroom
In his mind, he was doing the thing I had most wanted—giving me sparkling bathrooms without me having to do it myself. Which is why he was frustrated when I ungratefully passed by, not looking at his handiwork as I put away his shoes, shirt and socks that had been left on the floor. I stumbled over the large Rubbermaid storage tub of sitting in the middle of our closet. My husband had taken it down from a high shelf days before... To put it back, I had to drag a kitchen chair and drag it into our closet so I could reach the shelf where it belonged. 
“All you have to do is ask me to put it back,” he said, watching me struggle. 
It was obvious that the box was in the way and needed to be put back. It would have been easy for him to just reach up and put it away, but instead he had stepped around it, willfully ignoring it for two days. It was up to me to tell him that he should put away something he had taken out in the first place. 
“That’s the point,” I said, now in tears, “I don’t want to have to ask.” (pp. 2-3) 
Hartley's definition of emotional labour is fairly broad (much broader than Arlie Russell Hoschild, who coined the term in 1983, originally meant, as she explains in a recent article in The Atlantic)(thank you to Ellen at Miss E's Musings/South City Sadie for pointing it out to me!). Says Hartley:
Emotional labor, as I define it, is emotion management and life management combined. It is the unpaid, invisible work we do to keep those around us comfortable and happy. It envelops many other terms associated with the type of care-based labor I described in my article: emotion work, the mental load, mental burden, domestic management, clerical labor, invisible labor.  
Whether it all falls under the umbrella of "emotional labour," it's clearly labour of some kind that's primarily done by women -- and often under-recognized and under-valued.

The book is divided into three sections: emotional labour at home, emotional labour at large, and the way forward. Some of the subjects covered include societal programming and expectations; "the mother load" (how having children increases the amount of emotional labour women do, and exacerbates the divide between men & women); gatekeeping/control and perfectionism (Hartley points out that having to discuss emotional labour with our spouses is, in fact, emotional labour itself); emotional labour in the working world;  emotional labour in politics and government (including the 2016 U.S. election);  emotional labour, rape culture, abusive relationships and #MeToo; are women really better at "this stuff"? (nature vs nurture); how to talk about emotional labour with spouses;  creating awareness and finding balance.

This was a thoughtful, very readable exploration of a complex and timely topic, citing both both research and personal experience, and offering some guidance on a path forward to truly shared responsibilities, and more fulfilling, connected lives for both women and men. I gave it five stars on Goodreads.

(I previously wrote this post about emotional labour from an ALI/childless perspective.)

This was book #25 that I've read so far in 2018 -- meaning I have surpassed my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books by 1 book, or 104%!  :) 

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Right now

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

Reading:  Currently reading: "Fed Up:  Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward" by Gemma Hartley. Almost finished;  review to come. :)  I've already reached my Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge goal of 24 books! (this would be #25).

Recent purchases:
Watching:  Another season of "Poldark" is over (sniffle).  This was season 4, which brought us to the end of the first 7 books in a series of 12 by Winston Graham. The next novel in the series, "The Stranger From the Sea," takes a leap in time of 10 years and focuses more on the children of Ross & Demelza, their friends and relatives. There will be one more season of "Poldark" with the current cast (filming is now under way), but it will be set within that 10-year gap -- in other words, it will be almost entirely written from the imagination of the scriptwriters, based on clues in the later novels as to what happened during that time. (I'm assuming both the actors & the producers felt they were too young to play older versions of their characters just yet.)  This makes me a little nervous -- although it seemed to work fairly well this past season with "The Handmaid's Tale," as it went beyond the material in Margaret Atwood's novel. I guess we'll have to wait and see how it all turns out...!

Listening:  To Christmas music. I have a lot of Christmas CDs, but some of our favourites to listen to while we're decorating include A Charlie Brown Christmas (of course), Blue Rodeo's A Merrie Christmas to You, Pink Martini, and Bing Crosby.

FollowingAfter seeing the movie "Bohemian Rhapsody" recently, I looked up Queen on social media. One thing led to another and I'm now following both Brian May & Roger Taylor (guitarist & drummer), as well as the actors who played them & the other band members in the film.  Judging from their Instagram posts (and their comments on each other's posts), they seem to have had a great time filming and promoting the movie together. Among the gems I found:  a Lego version of the movie trailer (Brian May loved it), a "Wayne's World"-inspired deviation from the original "Bohemian Rhapsody" music video that didn't make it into the movie ;)  and a lifesized cardboard cutout version of the actor Ben Hardy (who played Roger Taylor in the movie), which accompanied the other celluloid band members on a promotional tour (you have to see the posts!).

Drinking/Eating: Still haven't had a Starbucks gingerbread latte yet. :)  I like to have at least one during the season. :)

Wearing:  My winter jackets again. :(  So far, though, I haven't had to pull out my boots!

Buying (besides books, lol): Christmas presents! :)  Not done yet, but I've made a good dent in the list.

Trying: To get used to LED light bulbs. There are only two 60-watt incandescent bulbs left in the house, being used in our living room lamps. :(   They are no longer being sold in Canada, and I've exhausted my stash. (Previous blog whine about the incandescent phase-out here.)

Wanting: To get to the nearby art gallery where I have a membership before one of the exhibits closes soon.

Loving: My Christmas tree, now up and decorated. :)

Feeling:  Christmas-y. :)