Tuesday, June 25, 2019

"The Man They Wanted Me to Be" by Jared Yates Sexton

Even before I had finished Jared Yates Sexton's "The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore" (which I reviewed here), I started looking for, found and then bought his latest book, "The Man They Wanted Me to Be: Toxic Masculinity and a Crisis of Our Own Making."  And then picked it up & started reading it as soon as I finished "The People Are Going to Rise."

"The Man They Wanted Me to Be" is part memoir, part cultural/sociological study, and part sequel/companion volume to "The People Are Going to Rise". (Sexton refers to some of the same events & observations he made in that earlier book here.) Sexton believes that the "dark heart" of the rage he witnessed during the 2016 election campaign and beyond is primarily expressed by privileged white males, personified by Donald Trump.

Sexton takes a long, hard look at the issue of toxic masculinity through the lens of his own life story.  He grew up amid poverty and domestic violence in Indiana, raised by a single mother. His father lived nearby but was mostly absent in his life until he was a teenager;  he had a succession of three stepfathers who abused him as well as his mother.  Sexton struggled to live up to his family's and community's expectations of what a boy/man should be:
To my relatives I was "different," a word I'd heard then use in a suspicious voice whenever they thought I was out of earshot. They were uncomfortable around me, thrown off by how I spoke and how often I'd ask questions that required more than a monosyllabic "yes" or "no," or one of their customary grunts or groans women had learned to translate out of necessity. I talked about feelings, read books, and when I played with my toys, even the action figures and robots that all came with missiles and machine guns, they spent more time communicating than battling each other. (pp. 4-5) 
I've read a bit about toxic masculinity in the past, but most often in the context of feminism and how it affects women.  It was intriguing to read a well-written, thoughtful take on the subject by a male author who has lived with it and been profoundly affected by it. I was reminded a bit, as I read, of  "Hillbilly Elegy" by J.D. Vance, which I read two summers ago & reviewed here.  (Vance grew up in a working-class family in Ohio, the son of a teenaged mother who became a drug addict & went through numerous marriages & boyfriends. With the support of his grandparents, aunt & some caring teachers, Vance eventually  joined the Marines and then attended university, including law school at Yale.)

Sexton's story -- the abuse he endured as a child, his self-destructive behaviour as a teenager & young adult, and his near-suicide -- is hard to read at times. His hospital visit with his dying father, who gave him his blessing to take a job in far-off Georgia, had me in tears. I was happy to see that, near the end, he offers some thoughts on how change can be facilitated. He admits to being both annoyed and puzzled by his students ("Already, at thirty-seven, I'm of the age where I can barely stand the popular culture of the day,"  he writes on page 238)(lol) -- but he recognizes that young millennials are far more flexible when it comes to gender issues than previous generations. In them, he sees hope for a better future.

This is an important and impressive book.  It deserves to be read & discussed widely -- by men in particular (although we know, sadly, most of them probably won't pick it up...!).  I gave it five stars on Goodreads.

This was book #21 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 88% of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 10 (!!) books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :) 

Monday, June 24, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Annoying things

  • Yet another overcast day with rain in the forecast (after three consecutive weekend days of clear skies & sunshine). 
  • Noticing spots that I've missed on my freshly washed balcony doors/windows. (But it still looks better than it did!!) 
  • Ongoing construction & roadwork both behind & in front of our condo building. (Will it ever end??) 
  • Hot flashes (with increasing frequency), especially at night... I get so hot & kick off the covers -- then I freeze.... lather, rinse, repeat... 
  • Not being able to sleep when I'm very tired and desperately want to. 
  • Listening to BIL & SIL argue the merits of a granddaughter versus a grandson (when I will obviously never get to have either). 
    • Knowing the debate will be settled this coming weekend -- at the gender reveal party! 
  • Very few people posting photos from my high school class's 40th (!!) reunion have included captions that identify who's who!!  I recognize quite a few faces, but not all of them, and I'm sure I'm not alone. (Apparently the nametags were much appreciated by those who attended, lol.) 
  • Not being able to come up with a more original post for this edition of #MicroblogMondays. ;) 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Saturday, June 22, 2019

"The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore" by Jared Yates Sexton

Have you ever chosen a book simply because the title was irresistible?  (Case in point:  "Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons" by Lorna Landvik.  I bought it years ago because, well, how could I not, with that glorious title??  I still haven't read it, though..!)

When I saw "The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore: A Story of American Rage" by Jared Yates Sexton on the bookstore shelf, I had to pull it out for a closer look, simply because of the amazing (if rather ominous-sounding) title.  The cover design pulled me in further (not to mention the subject matter). The author's name sounded vaguely familiar:  he's a creative writing professor at Georgia Southern University and the author of several short story collections, whose journalism has appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, Politico, The Daily Beast, Salon and The Globe and Mail.

I bought the book. And started reading it, not too long afterwards.

"The People Are Going to Rise" is Sexton's personal account and analysis of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, which he followed -- on both the Democratic & Republican sides, with the Green Party thrown in for good measure -- for several different publications. (Parts of the book originally appeared in those articles.)

Sexton leans left politically, but grew up in a working-class family in Indiana. He understood where Trump rally attendees were coming from -- even if what he saw and heard there left him shaken. After his live tweets from one Trump rally went viral, he began receiving death threats. He used alcohol to cope.  (One Goodreads reviewer quipped, "I really worry about Jared Yates Sexton's liver.") The rage he witnessed and writes about here was also evident on the left (Democrat/Green) side of the equation.  (The title of the book comes from a chalk-drawn sidewalk sign he saw at the Democratic National Convention.)

I would recommend this book for anyone wanting a thoughtful, well-written and readable account of what happened in 2016 and why, with a bit of a personal flavour.

I gave "The People Are Going to Rise" 4 stars on Goodreads. My rating might have been a bit higher, but there were several glaring errors in spelling/usage that marred my complete enjoyment (? -- if that's the right word...!) of an otherwise fine and important book (and yes, I'm that picky, lol). It could have used a good proofreading.

Sexton recently published a new book -- "The Man They Wanted Me to Be: Toxic Masculinity and a Crisis of Our Own Making" -- which is billed as part memoir and part cultural analysis. I've already bought it and started reading it. :)

This was book #20 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 83% of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 9 (!!) books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :) 

Friday, June 21, 2019

Friday/First day of summer odds & ends

  • I can't believe it's (supposedly?) summer, and that we're already through 2/3 of June. It hasn't been much of a spring/summer so far, sadly... temps cooler than average, not a lot of sunshine and a fair bit of rain. :p  (Today is pretty nice, though!)  
  • We had planned to spend Father's Day afternoon at the movies last weekend, but BIL invited us over there for lunch and dh said OK.  The nephews & their wives were there, as well as SIL's elderly father & her brother. It was a lovely lunch & we enjoyed the time with the nephews (& the dog, lol) -- even though there was a LOT of baby talk...! 
    • No plans for this weekend, although we may try to go see "Late Night" with Emma Thompson & Mindy Kaling. 
  • Lots of posts & photos about kids' graduations/"moving up" ceremonies/last days of school in my social media feeds. Sigh. 
  • My 40th (!!) high school class reunion is this weekend. (There are already some photos on our class Facebook group.)  I'm not going -- we're heading that way in a couple of weeks to visit my family & celebrate my dad's 80th birthday, and I didn't think I could stretch the visit that far (let alone make two trips in such a short time frame). I'm sure I would have had an OK time if I'd gone, but I don't think my absence will be much noticed. As I said previously:  
I wouldn't MIND going -- I'm certainly curious to see how everyone's turned out ;)  -- but I'm not dying to go either.  Having to explain my childlessness/only daughter's stillbirth (umpteen times, I'm sure...) is certainly a factor in my reluctance.... I'm not sure I would be the ONLY person there without kids -- but I'd definitely be in the minority.  And nevermind the kids -- I know many of my classmates are now (gulp) grandparents!  I only have so much tolerance for admiring other people's kid/grandkid photos & listening to their stories... particularly when they never seem to be very interested in my own.
  • Also coming up soon:  our 34th wedding anniversary. Not sure how we're going to celebrate. Dinner out, at least. :)  Likely something more next year for #35. :) 

Monday, June 17, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Victory is ours! :)

Mel messaged me tonight to ask whether I went to the Toronto Raptors (NBA basketball team) victory parade, & was I OK?  -- because (very sadly) some idiots decided to open fire with guns at the celebration at city hall -- shot two people & set off a stampede near the back of the crowd that injured several more. :( 

It's really too bad, because up until that point, it had been a fabulous day (& they did arrest some suspects & confiscate weapons fairly quickly -- while managing to calm down the crowd quickly & carry on with the show, with the prime minister, premier, mayor & entire team all remaining onstage).

I wasn't there -- although I did watch all 6.5 hours of coverage (!) on television from our condo, about a 45-minute drive/45-minute subway ride (on a normal day!) from the festivities. I had asked dh if he wanted to go -- he's followed the team from Day One, 24 years ago now, and was ecstatic when they won.  He said maybe if he was 20 years younger, lol. We both knew it was going to be nuts downtown (and it was!) and a pain to get there & get home again -- not to mention standing around all day in the middle of a crowd, waiting for the parade to pass in the blink of an eye, getting hungry and wondering where the nearest bathroom was. ;) 

The TV coverage was slotted from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with the idea that the team would arrive at city hall around 12-12:30ish & they would have everything wrapped by 1:30-2.  There were so many people along the parade route -- an estimated TWO MILLION PEOPLE -- that they didn't even get to city hall until almost 3:30. The shootings happened just before 4 :( and the program wrapped up by 4:30.

I watched several victory parades, live, over the 28 years (1986-2014) that I worked on Bay Street in downtown Toronto's financial district, a few blocks south of city hall. I think the first was in 1987, when sprinter Ben Johnson won a world championship, and paraded up Bay Street to a reception at city hall -- a year before he won the gold medal at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea, and then had it taken away when he tested positive for drugs. 

There were a couple of times when the Toronto Argonauts (CFL football team) won the Grey Cup championship, and a parade of Summer Olympic heroes, back in 2012, I think. Those parades passed directly in front of the building on Bay Street next door to where I worked, and the crowds, while a respectable size, were nothing like they were today. I was able to leave my desk about 20 minutes before the parade was scheduled to pass by, get a prime viewing spot, wave, cheer and take photos as the parade passed, and get back to my desk, all in more or less my allotted lunch hour. :) 

A little closer to this experience (and the biggest parades the city has seen before today), I also went to one of the Blue Jays' World Series (baseball) victory parades, some 26-27 years ago now (they won back to back, 1992 & 1993).  I forget which was which, but one parade was held on the weekend, and one was on a weekday (the one I went to).  My boss said she wanted to go, so she & I walked a few blocks over to a spot on the route during our lunch hour to see what we could see -- which was not much, lol.  The crowds were huge, we were obviously arriving late, and I mostly saw the tops of people's heads as the parade cars passed by. The other thing I remember most about that day is that on our way back to the office, I stopped & bought a sausage on a bun from a street vendor for lunch -- and was sick to my stomach a few hours later. That was the last time I bought food from a street vendor, lol. 

I've always told people that the ultimate parade would be if/when the Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL hockey team) win another Stanley Cup (the last time was in 1967 -- 52 years ago!! -- when dh was 10).  But I'll be honest -- I'm not sure anything could top this!  Check out some of the parade coverage online... the images are amazing. Pretty cool to watch (especially once they got downtown & I knew exactly where they were by the buildings and street signs along the way!).

Have you ever been to a big sports victory parade like this? 

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

Saturday, June 15, 2019

"All the Rage" by Darcy Lockman

Even though I'm not a parent (in the active sense, anyway), I find parenting issues interesting (well, some of them, anyway ;)  ). I enjoy reading about them, and I sometimes find myself wondering what kind of parent I would have been and how I would have responded to the unique challenges of modern parenting.

"All the Rage: Mothers, Fathers, and the Myth of Equal Partnership" by Darcy Lockman reminded me very much of "Fed Up" by Gemma Hartley (reviewed here), as well as Brigid Schulte's "Overwhelmed (review here) and "All Joy and No Fun" by Jennifer Senior (review here), as well as some of the other "women & rage" books I've been reading over the past year.

"All the Rage" tackles one of the more contentious issues of our time:  how the promise of equal partnership in marriage, more often than not, (STILL!!) tends to fall apart once children enter the picture. Lockman quotes journalist Jill Filipovic, who writes that modern fathers remain in "a strange limbo where men's actions haven't totally caught up to women's expectations."

Both women and men shoulder some responsibility for this state of affairs. "Together, we do this," Lockman notes near the end of the book. Some topics Lockman explores here (and some of the quotes that I marked with post-it notes) include:
  • Fathers are more involved in their children's lives and share more of the housework than they used to -- but still don't do nearly as much as women do.  
  • Marital satisfaction tends to decrease with the addition of each child to the family, and division of labour is a primary source of conflict. 
  • The idea that this can be explained by biology (gender essentialism, or nature) -- that men & women are essentially different, that women have an innate maternal instinct, and that men can't change -- is a fallacy that benefits men. Parenting skills are not innate;  they are learned... and "When one parent gets into the habit of quickly responding to an infant's needs, the other is likely to accommodate that habit by failing to respond. This pattern then calcifies over days and weeks and months and years." (p. 87) 
    • As the "default parent," women quickly develop a greater "parental consciousness" -- a greater awareness of the children's needs (i.e., "the mental load"). (p. 139-40) 
  • Men and women are raised very differently, and gender socialization is deeply ingrained in our culture, starting from birth (or even before!). 
    • Fighting this is hard work, and women who fail to conform to gendered norms are subjected to backlash.  
    • It's not enough to be aware of and acknowledge women's greater burden:  "to acknowledge it without trying to alter it is to perpetuate what has already been perpetuated." (p. 131)
  • "The rising status of women outside the home has actually increased our inclination to reinforce male dominance inside it."  (p. 123) 
  • "Men's refusal of responsibility and the cult of female sacrifice." (This was a really interesting -- and infuriating -- section!)(p.153) 
    • "Feminism often plays the straw man in these discussions, as if the very desire for equality were problematic, rather than the fact that equality has yet to materialize." (p. 162) 
    • Women receive positive reinforcement for caregiving from a young age;  men don't. "You adapt in order to survive within a framework. But the framework doesn't seem to be changing... Men are not socialized to feel guilty for having freedom or for not being there for other people." (Boston College psychologist and psychoanalyst Usha Tummala-Narra, p. 164) 
  • Faced with the knowledge that they cannot "have it all," many women are losing interest in marriage and motherhood. Birth rates are plummeting in many developed countries. (p.169) 
  • "Kids are more important than grown-ups," the author's daughter announced one day when she was 5 (!) (p. 174) in a section that explores the modern phenomenon of "helicopter parenting," "intensive mothering" and "maternal gatekeeping."  
    •  "...as the traditional pressure on men to be primary breadwinners has lifted, the traditional pressure on women to be primary caretakers has not." (p. 185)  
    • "Women who can't count on their partners to execute their duties in good faith may feel little choice but to keep the gate." (p.191) 
    • Some women take great pride in their role as the primary parent and find it difficult to give up that primacy ("I like the idea of being irreplaceable," one mother confesses on page 203). 
    • "Men, for their part, don't seem to get quite what they are missing... Mothers and fathers may both have something to lose when men become co-primary parents. But likewise, there is so much that they'll gain." (p. 204) 
  • "Do not ask why change is so slow;  instead, ask why men are resisting." (p. 205) The short answer: it's in their interest to do so.  "In marriage, this requires a stalwart commitment to denial of the obvious: that men simply feel entitled to our labor." 
  • Equal co-parenting tends to happen under only three, often overlapping conditions (p. 218):
    • when there is an explicitly steadfast commitment from both partners to staying on top of parity,
    • when men really enjoy the kind of regular and intimate contact that only mothers typically have with their kids, and  
    • after fathers have taken substantial paternity leave. 
  • Stereotypes of inept fathers may get in the way of men becoming more effective and involved parents ("stereotype threat").  This can be countered by putting a stop to the ways in which we marginalize fathers, and by shining a light on the fallacy of the stereotypes. (p. 224-227) 
  • We need to continue to advance a more egalitarian masculinity, including encouraging men to more fully embrace their identities as fathers. (p. 231-32)
  • Women have become more like men, but men have not become more like women, and show little interest in doing so... "Men see nothing to gain in becoming more like women." (p. 254-58)
  • "Entitlement gets a bad rap, but too little of it can leave one wanting... When not explicitly encouraged to give themselves a break, mothers don't always sign up for one." (p. 268)
(Interesting note, especially for those of us without kids: many of the themes Lockman explores here also apply in the workplace, where women too often get stuck with -- and even volunteer for! -- the jobs that no one else (i.e., men) want to do.)

I gave this book four stars on Goodreads. It was well written (a fairly easy read) and very well researched. (My copy is stuffed with yellow post-it note flags.) My rating might have been even higher, but I'll admit I found my eyes glazing over with some of the academic studies quoted (particularly in the section about biological differences between women & men).

Also, while the book was excellent in analyzing the problem thoroughly, it came up discouragingly short in terms of solutions (although, of course, there are no easy ones!), and kind of peters out at the very end.

"Only once we begin to see all sexism as blatantly hostile will there be pushback, an end to justification in each imbalanced home," Lockman writes. (p. 273-74) She points out that group attitudes always drag behind societal change, "But exactly how long is that lag supposed to last?" (p. 274)

"Equality is not so much an end point as a process," she concludes. "But responsibility for the process must be shared. This is not one more thing for mothers to spearhead alone." (p. 275-76)

All I could think was "Yes -- but who's going to convince the men?"

Nevertheless -- this was an excellent book overall, about a problem that plagues many of the mothers I know (as well as some non-moms!), and a great starting point for discussions and efforts to change.  I would encourage both women AND men to read it, think about it, talk about it -- and DO something about it.

If you're wondering whether you'd find the book interesting, you might want to try reading Lockman's recent viral New York Times article on the same subject:  "What ‘Good’ Dads Get Away With."

This was book #19 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 79% of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 9 (!!) books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :) 

Friday, June 14, 2019

Book addict :)


I had to laugh when I saw this recent tweet from Anne Helen Petersen, because it's SO TRUE!!  lol  (for me, anyway!)(Read the comments!)

My bookshelves weren't always groaning with unread books.  We certainly had books around the house when I was growing up, but they were pretty much all well read (often more than once) & well loved.

(As I wrote a while back, in this post & this post, bookstores were far & few between back then -- if anything, it was a rack of paperbacks in the drugstore -- and most of them Harlequin romances, at that...!  We relied a lot on the library for reading material.)

When I look back, I can pinpoint the approximate time frame when our book collection took off, and my TBR ("to be read") pile grew completely out of control (= mid/late 1990s) -- and a couple of reasons why.

First, that was about the time that mega-bookstores came to Canada (think Barnes & Noble, those of you in the U.S.), under two brands, Indigo & Chapters (which both still exist, but now under the same ownership). We'd had at least half a dozen bookstores (both chains & independents) within walking distance of the midtown Toronto apartment where we'd lived in the late 1980s, and there was a Coles in the local mall in the suburb where we moved in 1990 (also now under the same ownership as Indigo & Chapters)... but THEN, around 1995-ish, they opened a Chapters in the neighbouring suburb just down the road. (Drool, drool...) A Saturday night browse after dinner out became our new weekend routine -- and we rarely left without a bag in hand. I received a "Lifetime" iRewards card fairly early on (10% discount on almost all purchases, on top of any other discounts the store might be offering), and it's been so well used, the magnetic strip has worn out. Clerks' eyes widen when they see the "lifetime" designation -- they don't give those suckers out anymore!! (They now have "Plum Points" cards, but I've been advised by more than one clerk that my iRewards card is a MUCH better deal, and to hang onto it!) (It actually has an expiry date on it -- 2025 -- which seemed like a LONG way off when I first got it...!  I'm hoping they will still honour the "Lifetime" designation at that point... guess we'll see...!)

(Of course, a few years after that, along came online booksellers, including Chapters/Indigo and Amazon, and then e-readers, which meant that just about any book you wanted was available, somehow, somewhere... my 10-year-old mind would have boggled at the thought...!)

Second, by the mid/late 1990s, dh & I had both been working for a decade or more, and paying down our mortgage for more than five years. We had more disposable income to feed our addiction, lol.  We reasoned that some people blow their money on beer and cigarettes... (and, necessarily, on diapers, tuition fees, etc.) ...we spend ours on reading material. :)

Finally, there's an ALI-related reason (you knew there had to be one, right?).  I distinctly remember thinking, after our daughter was stillborn in 1998 and we began trying again, that my next pregnancy might be high risk... I might have to spend some time on bedrest. Best to stockpile some reading material, right? (Well, that was my excuse, anyway...). It's 20+ years later, & I am still stockpiling...!  ;) 

I may never get to the bottom of my TBR pile (because it just keeps growing...!) ...but it's a good "problem" (and a "first-world" one at that...!) to have...  ;) 

Can you relate to this tweet too?  When was the last time you reached the bottom of your "to be read" pile? (HAVE you ever reached the bottom??) 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Influential

A Facebook find. :)  I love this. :)
I think it's something we need to remind ourselves as childless women,
when we feel invisible and insignificant and overlooked,
when we feel sad about whether we'll be remembered
and what kind of a legacy we'll leave when we're gone.
Sometimes the little things matter as much or more than the big stuff. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Someone else's survival guide :)

A Facebook find. :)
What I've been trying to do here on this blog for the past 11+ years. :) 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

"Happily ever after" vs "Just after"

** THIS POST CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS FOR "THE HANDMAID'S TALE"**

Sunday night, I watched the first two episodes of Season 3 of "The Handmaid's Tale" on Bravo Canada, broadcast back to back.  As a bit of a summary:  Emily succeeds in escaping to Canada with June & Nick's baby, Nicole.  They wind up living in an apartment in Toronto's "Little America" district with June's husband, Luke;  her best friend/former Handmaid/Jezebel, Moira; and another former Handmaid that Luke has befriended, Erin.

All of them have been traumatized in some way by their experiences in Gilead. Moira appears to have found some solace & purpose in helping other former Handmaids deal with what's happened to them and adjust to their new life in Canada.

Emily seems (understandably) dazed, and is hesitant to contact her wife, Sylvia, who was able to leave Gilead for Montreal with their son during the early days of the new regime.

“I’ve seen a lot of release reunions and they’re not always storybook endings,” Moira tells Emily in episode 2. "But nobody’s talking about happily ever after, just after.”

I pondered that line over & over as I tried to go to sleep. (I always need to take some time to wind down after "The Handmaid's Tale" ends... I'm usually just too keyed up to go to bed right away!) I don't live in Gilead (yet?!!) & haven't experienced the kind of trauma the Handmaids have... but infertility, pregnancy loss & involuntary childlessness can be traumatic experiences in their own way.

My own experiences have kind of put a damper on my belief in fairy tale endings/"happily ever after."  I'm not sure there is such a thing. No one -- or very, very few people, anyway -- gets through life without some measure of loss and grief and sadness. It's called being human. And some of us get a little more than our fair share than others.

Don't get me wrong. I do think it's entirely possible to be happy, to live a happy life, to find joy in life again after trauma. But I think it's unrealistic to think we can or will be happy all the time. And finding happiness again doesn't just happen, or happen overnight. It takes time, and it takes some work on our part. We can't always do it alone, either -- sometimes, we need some help.  And when you're just in the initial stages of dealing with your grief, "happily ever after" can seem like a pretty impossible goal.  Sometimes we need to focus on taking small steps to make life better here and now, before we can tackle the scary big picture stuff of "ever after" (i.e., the future).

As an article in Bustle summarizes, "No matter how Emily and Sylvia's reunion goes, their "after" has begun, and that's what's important."

Thoughts?  (Did you watch?)

Monday, June 10, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Fear, relief and revelations

Friday night, I was checking Instagram, and our 17-weeks-pregnant niece-in-law (Older Nephew's wife) had posted a photo of a glum looking puppy curled up beside her, with the caption "Home from the hospital and this little weenie won't leave my side."

!!!WTF??!!  Dh immediately dialled BIL. Apparently she fell as she was walking up the cement steps at the side of BIL's house from their walkout basement apartment to street level, on her way to work that morning. :(  Landed on her side, not her stomach. Nephew drove her to emergency, where they spent several hours and finally got an ultrasound.

All is well (although it's going to take me a while to truly believe it, and to peel myself off the ceiling...!).

(Nephew was terrified. His dad told him to get used to it, this is parenthood...!)

On a lighter note -- not only did they confirm that baby was OK, they were able to learn its gender. They're not telling anyone yet, though -- they want to have a gender reveal party, possibly on the Canada Day long weekend. (Oh joy!!  :p ) 

(Although -- I wouldn't be surprised if Nephew spills the beans before then, lol -- NONE of the men in that family, including dh & BIL, can keep a secret!!  ;) -- neither could my late FIL.)

I've never been to a gender reveal party -- my own pregnancy was almost 10 years pre-Facebook & other social media, and well before the advent of such Instagram & Pinterest-inspired events. ;)  Have you been to one? Does one bring a gift? Details, please!

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

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Guilt trips

This past week -- after consulting my mom & my sister, and much agonizing over airline websites, considering different dates, flights, times, etc. -- I finally booked our trip west to see my family next month (which will include my dad's 80th birthday celebrations). I emailed the details to everyone concerned (parents, sister, etc.) and was feeling rather pleased with myself for crossing that item off my to-do list.

Until the next evening, when my dad called: "Why don't you change your flight & stay an extra week?  You don't have anything else going on, do you?" He mentioned helping eat up the garden vegetables (bribery!! lol) & spending more time with the Little Princesses, who will only be around for part of our scheduled visit.  

Awww, Dad....!  Talk about mixed emotions. 

I teared up while we were talking. He always wants us to stay longer than we do. ;)  They don't have any grandkids' visits to look forward to. There's just my sister & me (and our partners).  Dh & I generally get there twice a year, for a week or two at a time. 

I also suspect (I know!!) part of the reason he wants us to stay longer is that he & my mother are finding it harder these days to keep up with everything that needs doing around the house & the yard... they could use our help. 

Part of me feels guilty for not just saying "Of course!" It IS his 80th birthday, after all.  Knock wood, there will be many more birthdays to come... but logically, I know there won't be as many as I would want...  

It's true, we don't have anything going on here that we need to be back for during that extra week. (Obviously, we don't have any kids or their activities to worry about.) It's a lot easier to leave a condo for an extended period of time than it was to leave our house -- no lawn to mow, for one thing.  BIL is close enough to pop by & empty the mailbox and check on our unit now & then. 

I checked the fine print on our ticket advice:  to change our flights would cost $50 per person per direction (= $100) -- plus any difference in the cost of the tickets themselves, of course. 

BUT. On the flip side...

I'll admit that part of me was a little pissed off (NOW you tell me??).   

I always agonize over picking dates & flights and getting everything organized -- and I'm getting anxiety all over again, just thinking about going in & trying to change everything.  The fear of screwing up looms large...! 

Plus -- three weeks away is a pretty long time -- & we do have a life here & our own home to tend to.

Plus, it's not just three weeks away from here -- it's three weeks IN my aging parents' smallish house (with my sister & her partner also there for part of that time), in a small town (where I only lived briefly myself, 35 years ago) without a whole lot to do -- and with the added stress of a party to plan and carry out.  Can we stay that long without everyone getting on each others' nerves?? (Let's just say it's happened before, and in shorter time frames...!) 

There's the possibility that I (or both of us) might make another trip around (Canadian) Thanksgiving again.  Last year, my sister & I went to see Paul McCartney;  this year, she has two tickets to one of Elton John's farewell tour concerts, and one of them is mine if I want it.  (And of course we will be going back in December for a week or more at Christmas.) 

And next summer is my parents' 60th wedding anniversary (!), and possibly a family reunion to attend too. I said to dh that maybe we could plan to stay a bit longer then -- maybe make it a road trip again, like we did a few summers ago. 

Guilt may yet win out ;)  -- but right now, I'm leaning towards just sticking to the current agenda.   

*** *** *** 

One other guilt-related item:  a Facebook friend recently posted a photo of her grandkids on social media recently with the caption, "The joys of being a grandmother."  

I could not bring myself to "like" it. 

That night, I had a dream/nightmare... I can't remember the whole thing or just what the issue was -- but in the dream, she was mad at me!!  lol  Even in my dreams, I feel guilty!! 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

"The Three Weissmanns of Westport" by Cathleen Schine

"The Three Weissmanns of Westport" by Cathleen Schine is not something I probably would have picked up to read, were it not my library book club's selection for June. The great thing about a book club, of course, is that you're exposed to books /& authors you might not consider reading if left to your own devices -- and sometimes, you find some real gems.

On the flipside, the not-so-great thing about a book club is sometimes the current selection is not one that really interests you at first glance -- and the more you read, the more your first impression is confirmed, and you have to either abandon the book altogether (something I dislike doing) or slog your way through to the end, so that you can still take part in the group discussion in a meaningful way.

Unfortunately, for me, "The Three Weissmanns" falls into the second category.

As the story opens, Betty Weissmann's wealthy husband of 48 years leaves her for a much younger woman and (despite promising "I will be generous") cuts off her credit cards and household accounts, and edges her out of their Central Park apartment in Manhattan. As a woman in her 70s who has never worked a day in her life and has become accustomed to a certain standard of living, Betty is at a loss, until a cousin offers her his rundown beachfront cottage in Westport. Meanwhile, Betty's 50-something daughters from a previous marriage, Annie & Miranda, are facing financial difficulties of their own, and wind up moving into the cottage with their mother.

Several of the cover blurbs/reviews of this book point out that it's an homage to Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility," and it does follow the plot of that story loosely. (I read S&S some years ago -- also saw the movie with Kate Winslet & Emma Thompson around the same time -- which is notable for being the only movie I've ever dragged dh to that he really, really did not like in the end!) I found myself agreeing with the Goodreads reviewer who notes, "You should never pay attention to a blurb that reads, "...homage to Jane Austen." It will invariably set you up for a big letdown. Because the truth is, nothing is as good as Jane Austen."

It wasn't a really BAD book, but I didn't think it was really great either. The prose was crisp, the characters were well drawn. I just didn't find them particularly appealing, interesting or sympathetic, and there really wasn't much of a plot to draw me in either. It picked up a bit toward the end, but...

Right now, it has a rating of 2.91 on Goodreads, with most of them (about 40%) falling squarely in the three-star middle range. I would say that's about right.  I gave it 3 stars (2.5, rounded up).

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

(I won't be back from visiting my parents in time for the next book club meeting, and there is no meeting in August... not sure what September's selection will be!)

This was book #18 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 75% of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 8 (!!) books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :) 

Monday, June 3, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: How I know it's (FINALLY) spring/summer


  • Mild enough that we can have the balcony doors open. 
  • Turned on the air conditioning for the first time last week. 
  • Landscapers making a lot of noise outside -- mowing the grass, trimming the shrubs, mulching the flower beds & planting flowers, etc. 
  • Wore capris & sandals for the first time last week (yay!). 
  • Went for a pedicure (after having a good look at my sockless feet -- yikes!!). ;) 
  • Already been out for gelato several times over the past few weeks. 
  • Booked flights to see my family in July. 
  • Hockey is ALMOST over with (!!). 

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

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Right now

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

Reading:  I read 5 (!!) books in May (they're all reviewed here on my blog):  

My Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge YTD total now stands at 17 books -- well on the way to reaching my goal of 24, and a whopping EIGHT (!!) books ahead of schedule, which is a VERY nice surplus to have...!

Earlier this week, I attended my second meeting of the local library's book club, where we discussed "Little Fires Everywhere." Our book for June (and likely the next read in my TBR pile) is "
The Three Weissmanns of Westportby Cathleen Schine. (Anyone read it? ) 

Recent purchases/additions to the TBR pile: 
Watching:  Saw "The Avengers: Endgame," "Long Shot" and "Booksmart" at the movies in May.  "Booksmart" is a teen comedy -- directed by the actress Olivia Wilde -- about two unpopular girls aiming to crash a big party the night before their high school graduation. Kind of like "Superbad" (which we also loved) but from the female perspective, as one critic put it. It was funny, well done and a refreshing change from the usual male focus.  

On TV:  Looking forward to season 3 of "The Handmaid's Tale," beginning shortly (next weekend, I think?) on Bravo Canada!    

Listening: Looking forward to episode 1 of The Full Stop podcast, which will be launching on June 9th, with guest Jody Day of Gateway Women. I recently wrote about this new podcast here

Following: Our Toronto Raptors (pro basketball team) made it to the NBA finals for the first time in their 24-year history (against the Golden State Warriors)!! Not a huge basketball fan, but it's one of those things you have to watch. ;)  The city is going nuts... the only thing that would top this would be if the Maple Leafs (hockey team) made it to the finals &/or won the Stanley Cup (the last time they won was 1967, when dh was 10 years old -- 52 years ago!!) (The Stanley Cup playoff finals are also in full swing, but I lost interest after both the Leafs & my beloved Winnipeg Jets were eliminated in earlier rounds. Plus, I think it's ridiculous to still be playing hockey in June...!)  


Drinking/Eating:  Even though the weather hasn't been exactly hot (or even warm) yet, we've already been to the gelato shop a couple of times.  :)

Buying (besides books, lol):  The glass & tile shower cubicle in our ensuite bathroom looks gorgeous... but it is a total B*TCH to keep clean!! -- and it badly needed a good scrubbing after several weeks of neglect while I recuperated from my PVD (the optometrist warned me not to strain myself too much for the first few weeks afterwards, & dh took his instructions to the extreme...! so I was only able to give it a perfunctory cleaning).  I've been using a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser -- works wonders on soap scum -- but of course it requires a lot of scrubbing/effort on my part.  This past week, I bought myself a new toy -- a Turbo Scrub rechargeable power scrub brush -- & used it with a little Lysol spray cleaner. Worked like a charm, & with considerably less of a toll on my fingers and on my back & knees (there's even an extension wand, so you don't have to bend over). (I follow up the scrubbing with a hot water rinse -- sometimes hot water & vinegar -- & then a good squeegee-ing of the glass.) 


Enduring:  A cooler and greyer than usual spring... :p  We only just turned on the a/c a couple of days ago (& I'm not entirely sure it was completely necessary yet...!).


(Not) wearing:  While I was wearing my capris & sandals on May 1 last year,  I have yet to put them on so far this year. :p  :(   (There's been the odd day when it's been warm enough outside to wear capris, but they're been sadly few & far between...!) I recently bought a couple of pairs of capri-length yoga pants & have started wearing those around the house/condo... progress!!  lol  


Desperately needing:  A pedicure! 

Planning:  Our annual summer trip to see my family, and trying to work out the logistics... among the considerations: Dad's 80th birthday (and a potential party with family & friends), my sister's scheduled vacation plus vacation time restrictions (important project at work = vacation blackout for late July & August), who can do airport pickup/dropoff for us, etc. etc...

Also trying to figure out how to work in a visit with an old friend from high school (mother of two, grandmother of FIVE... so far...!!), who keeps commenting on Facebook, "We MUST get together next time you're home!" I think I would actually enjoy visiting with her... but she lives about 45 minutes away from my parents -- & I don't drive and I feel rather embarrassed to admit that to her (especially since she was probably in my high school driver's ed class with me!).  I suppose if she really does want to see me, she won't mind making the trip?  

Wanting:  To sit on my balcony with a book & a cup of tea (or a glass of iced tea)... the weather still hasn't been overly warm so we haven't bothered to haul the chairs & little table upstairs from the storage locker yet. 

Loving:  The milder weather, and being able to have the balcony door open -- even if it's been rather gloomy & rainy lately. :p  Progress?! 


Feeling:  Relieved that I don't have to go back to the optometrist for another 6-12 months (unless I notice anything unusual again), and that my recent checkup & bloodwork with my family dr went (relatively) well. I got a mild lecture about my weight, which has steadily climbed in recent years & is at its highest point yet. :(  I could probably stand to lose a good 40-50 pounds, but the dr suggested even just 10 would help. Also, my bloodwork showed I have high levels of uric acid in my blood, 
which puts me at risk for developing gout (!).  This could be a side effect of my blood pressure medication... plus genetics are not on my side, as both my parents have also battled gout in recent years. This aging stuff is not for sissies...!  :p  

Friday, May 31, 2019

"Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine" by Gail Honeyman

"Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine" by first-time author Gail Honeyman is this month (June)'s pick for our Gateway Women online book club.  It was a good read (I went through it relatively quickly), very well written (an impressive debut!) & I would recommend it -- but I'll admit, it was not entirely what I expected.

The reviews on the back of my paperback call "Eleanor"  "wacky, charming... hilarious and moving" (People), and   "satisfyingly quirky" (New York Times).  Yes, it is all these things... but I'm more inclined to agree with the blurb from Purewow, which calls it "simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking." I was expecting a comedy -- and yes, there is a lot of humour in Eleanor's narration, in her complete lack of social awareness and the resulting faux pas.  But there's also sadness, and dark undercurrents that rise to the surface as the story progresses.

Eleanor is 30, lives in a flat by herself furnished with castoffs, and has an unexciting office job that she's held for the past nine years. Her routine rarely deviates -- except for Wednesdays, when she talks to Mummy, and on weekends, when she picks up a pizza for Friday night's dinner -- and two bottles of vodka, which she drinks to help make the time go by faster until it's Monday and time to go to work again.

Little by little, we come to learn more about Eleanor and her life story -- and that she's not quite as "completely fine" as she appears. Three things happen that shake up Eleanor's carefully calibrated  world: first, she develops a crush on a local singer and begins plotting how to meet him.  Second, she gradually develops a friendship with her affable coworker Raymond. And finally, she & Raymond come to the rescue of an elderly gentleman -- a simple act of kindness that changes everything.

"Eleanor Oliphant" reminded me of another Eleanor (Rigby), and "all the lonely people... where do they all come from?"  Loneliness and social isolation are major themes of this book.  Eleanor is different -- and as the story progresses, we learn some of the reasons why.  Her coworkers think she's weird, and she's often the butt of their jokes. There's nothing in this book that's directly related to the ALI world -- and yet I was reminded of the social isolation we often experience as infertile people, as bereaved parents and as non-parents, and the inappropriate comments and questions and assumptions we are often subjected to.

We don't always know the full story.  Sometimes, we need to skip the speculation and the judgment, and just give the other guy a break.

"Eleanor Oliphant" is one of Reese Witherspoon's book club picks, and apparently she is making it into a movie (Americanized, no doubt -- what a pity!)(I could hear the British/Scottish accents in my head as I read which, for me, was part of the charm). I will be interested to see how they cast it.

Four stars on Goodreads.

This was book #17 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 71% of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 8 (!!) books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :) 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Odds & ends

  • No #MicroblogMondays post this week... I didn't get anything prepared in advance over the weekend, & yesterday & today were busier than I expected. Maybe next week...? 
  • Yesterday (Monday), I was back in the city at the optometrist. Floaters & flashes are still there, but not as noticeable/intense as they were a few weeks ago.  Unless they suddenly get worse or something else happens that concerns me, I don't have to return for another 6-12 months. Yay! 
    • I did have to call him this morning -- because, much to my dismay, my right pupil was STILL dilated from the drops he put in some 18 hours earlier (!).  He told me not to worry, it would return to normal, eventually. (He thought he might have used a stronger drop than he had previously.) It's not quite back to the same size as the left eye yet (almost, but not quite...), but it HAS returned to a much more normal size, thank goodness.  
  • Last night was my library book club meeting to discuss "Little Fires Everywhere" (which I reviewed here). The discussion was... interesting. Lots of conversation along the lines of "what makes a mother?" and about motherhood and surrogacy and adoption and who the baby at the centre of the custody case should ultimately go to. I didn't get into my own story much, but I did throw out a few comments. 
    • One other woman (older than me) said she didn't have children (I think it was by choice) and voiced the opinion that most people have children for themselves, for selfish reasons/their own benefit (& not necessarily the child's). Let's just say not many people agreed with her, lol.  
  • Lots going on in the childless-not-by-choice world lately! :) To highlight just a few things I've seen & listened to recently: 
    • I'm excited to share a new monthly podcast with you, created specifically by & for the childless-not-by-choice community!  Berenice Smith (Walk in Our Shoes), Sarah Lawrence (After the Storm) and Michael Hughes (Married and Childless) have teamed up to bring us The Full Stop podcast. The first episode is scheduled for release on June 9th, but you can listen right now to a 24-minute introduction. The podcast is too new to be listed on iTunes or other podcast apps yet, but with our support, it will soon be easier to find!  Meanwhile, you can sign up for the podcast newsletter and listen to the intro on the podcast website
    • Another podcast worth listening to (as recommended by Gateway Women's Jody Day):  this episode of M's the Word, featuring Rebecca, who is living without children after loss & infertility. In this case, "M" refers to miscarriage, not motherhood. :)  I hope to find time to listen to other episodes soon! 
    • A couple of years ago, Pamela at Silent Sorority teamed up with documentary filmmaker Irina Vodar to organize a forum in New York City called "The Cycle: Living a Taboo," at which she and other childless-not-by-choice advocates spoke about their experiences. 
      • Luckily for us, their presentations were filmed, and are now being made available on YouTube as a series of short videos called "Infertility Tales."  You can find the available episodes here and subscribe to get notified of new ones as they're released. 
      • Pamela is featured in Episode 2 (The Blogger/Author), and recently wrote here about her experience. 
      • Irina's documentary about ARTs and the taboos surrounding them, "Anything You Lose," premiered at Fertility Fest in London earlier this month.
    • Being in Canada, I was sadly unable to attend Fertility Fest... but through the miracle of technology, I was happy to watch "Fertility Fight Club" via Facebook. :)  Well worth viewing!    
    • (Lots more, but I think that's enough for now...!) 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

"No Happy Endings" by Nora McInerny

After getting my book club obligations out of the way (& -- happily -- they were both good books!), I was glad to get back to "No Happy Endings," the second memoir by Nora McInerny, host of the podcast "Terrible, Thanks for Asking" (which I still haven't listened to... yet!).  It's a sequel/followup to "It's Okay to Laugh," which I read (and loved!) just a few weeks ago & reviewed here.

"It's Okay to Laugh" was about how Nora met & married her husband Aaron and became a mother to their son, Ralph -- then lost her second baby, Aaron and her dad, all within a few weeks' time in 2014, when she was just 31 years old. "No Happy Endings" is about what came next: adjusting to life as a single mom, dating again, meeting and marrying "Sophie's Hot Dad," Matthew, and how they blended their families -- including Nora's subsequent pregnancy after her miscarriage. Those of you who have also experienced subsequent pregnancy will probably relate, a lot, to Nora's feelings of joy, ambivalence, depression and sheer terror, in these chapters. (Chapter 20, "Memorial Day," had me in tears.)(By coincidence, I read it on the American Memorial Day weekend this year.)

I was predisposed to like this book because I enjoyed "It's Okay to Laugh" so much -- and I was not disappointed. It's more of the same mix of humour, hard-earned wisdom and brutal honesty. I adored Chapter 32, "Feminist Agenda." :)  And the final chapter, "Yes, And" reminded me of what Justine Froelker calls
...the complicated grey... the permission to change the but to an and. Giving ourselves permission to feel it all, all at the same time; the anger and acceptance, the  joy and the longing, the fear and the hope. The permission to walk into the muck of the gray between the certainties of life; allowing ourselves to hold both truths, as difficult and uncomfortable as that is, we will awaken to life in color.
Nora embrace of "yes, and" will resonate with all of us who grieve what we've lost, the life we thought we'd have, while simultaneously embracing and celebrating the life we do have now: 
And is where I am now. 
And does not deny the past, or the pain. And makes room for it, in a way that but does not. And allows for the future, too... 
Yes, I have a life I love, and a life I miss.  
Yes, I am filled with happiness and gratitude, and with an eternal ache.  
Yes, Matthew is my husband, and the love of my life. And so is Aaron. 
Five (5) stars on Goodreads.

This was book #16 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 67% of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 7 (!!) books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)  

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

"The Keeper of Lost Things" by Ruth Hogan

"The Keeper of Lost Things" by Ruth Hogan is this month's book club selection (the very first book club selection, actually!) for the Gateway Women private community I recently became part of. Jody Day will be leading a live chat about the book for community members this coming weekend. (Main criteria for GW book club selections:  no miracle babies! lol)  It's not a book I would likely have picked up otherwise... for one thing, I'd never heard of it or Hogan before this, even though it was well reviewed and was nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award for Best Fiction in 2017.

(I Googled Hogan while writing this review. Would you believe we share the EXACT SAME BIRTHDATE?? -- day, month & year!)

"The Keeper of Lost Things" is a multi-pronged story. There is Laura, a divorced, childless, middle-aged woman who has lost her purpose in life -- until she becomes the assistant of writer Anthony Peardew. Anthony lost his beloved fiancee, Therese, 40 years earlier -- as well as an important keepsake she'd entrusted to him. Since then, as a form of atonement, he's made it his life's work to collect all kinds of lost things, in the hope of eventually reuniting them with their owners. And, in the process of carrying on Anthony's mission to find where the lost things belong, Laura winds up finding herself.

Interwoven with the story of Laura & Anthony, there's also the story of Eunice, assistant to publisher Bomber, and how their relationship unfolds over a period of some 40 years.  And then there's Anthony's stories about the lost things themselves -- which may or may not be true. The book bounces around among these three threads, eventually bringing them all together. (And as if that's not enough, there's a bit of the supernatural thrown in for good measure too...)

This was a warm, rather quirky/whimsical story, with underlying themes of grief and loss, and some lovely writing.  I enjoyed it overall -- but it did meander a bit, and it took a while to start making the connections between the various threads and figuring out what was going on. Best enjoyed with "the lovely cup of tea" (a catchphrase from one of the book's characters :)  ).

Three stars on Goodreads (three & a half, if I could give half stars).

This was book #15 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 63% of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 6 (!!) books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)  

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Happy retirement, Dr. Ob-gyn

I made my last visit to Dr. Ob-gyn today -- almost exactly 21 years to the day since I first walked into his office in May 1998, when I was about 12 weeks pregnant. He's retiring at the end of June, after a long and stellar career at this hospital (along with his wonderful office manager and his nurse, both of whom have also been there the entire time I've been his patient).

After confirming I was pregnant in March 1998, my former, longtime family dr (who retired about five years ago himself, after being our dr for 29!! years) referred me to Dr. Ob-gyn. "He delivered my three boys -- I can't give you any better recommendation than that,"  he told me, smiling. Dr. Ob-gyn also came highly recommended by my university roommate, who went to him throughout her own pregnancy, a few years earlier. He has top ratings on all those "rate my doctor" websites (and -- I checked! -- is currently ranked #2 of more than 620 gynecologists in the city!).  Calm, patient and kind are just some of the adjectives patients use to describe him (myself included).

Dr. Ob-gyn and his staff were there for me though the ups & downs of my rollercoaster pregnancy (see my "1998 memories" posts). At my followup appointment after the stillbirth of my daughter, he invited me to continue to visit his office for my Pap smears & other gynecological issues (something I knew my family dr was happy to let him do, lol).  After a year had gone by without another pregnancy (and my 39th birthday fast approaching), we called him for help. He shepherded us through a basic infertility workup, and referred me to Dr. RE when he'd done all he felt he could. When one of my Paps showed some suspicious early changes, he reassured me and kept me coming back for checks and colposcopies every few months until the situation finally reversed itself, as he had thought it might.  In recent years, he's reassured me through my wonky perimenopausal symptoms and an obnoxious Aunt Flo who just keeps showing up, even though I am now 58-frickin'-years old.  :p

I suppose some women who have lost a pregnancy (& wound up childless) dread seeing their ob-gyn again. I'll admit that seeing all the happy pregnant couples (& sometimes newborns) in the waiting room isn't always easy, but I've appreciated the continuity of care - and great care, at that. There are so few people who remember my pregnancy, and beyond me & dh, there's probably no one else who was so intimately involved with the details (even if he doesn't remember all of them now -- and who can blame him, 21 years and hundreds or even thousands of patients later).

(The fact that he moved his office to a different building a couple of years after my daughter's stillbirth has helped, I think. His old office had the ubiquitous newborn photos papering the walls, but there are no photos in new digs, aside from a few framed photos in his private office of his kids & grandkids, as well as a set of quintuplets (!!) he delivered in the early 1980s. I think he earned that one...!)

Sometimes we don't know when "the last time" we see certain people is going to be. I'm glad I knew this would be my last visit, and got to say goodbye and to tell Dr. B. & his staff how much I've appreciated their help and how much I'm going to miss them. As I said to him today, I wasn't always there for happy reasons, but I always appreciated the care I received.  I brought a card for them in which I thanked them for their support over the past 21 years, and let them know I've made a donation in their honour to the hospital foundation's programs for women & children.  There were hugs all round. :)

Another chapter of my past, closed....

Monday, May 20, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: We are amused :)

Today is Victoria Day, a statutory holiday unique to Canada that celebrates Queen Victoria's birthday & her role in our country's history. (Her birthday was actually May 24th, but as has become common in recent years, the powers-that-be changed the official holiday to ensure we get a long weekend in May to unofficially kick off summer.) 

Her Majesty, of course, was famous for supposedly saying, "We are not amused." But what's more amusing/fun than a long weekend?? 

I will admit that my life lately has not been particularly exciting... but here are a few things/small pleasures that are amusing me right now:  :) 

  • Watching traditional Victoria Day fireworks in the neighbourhood every night this weekend from the windows/balcony of our condo (and there may be more later tonight). The kid in me still loves a good fireworks display. :)  
  • Older Nephew's dog -- always entertaining. :) Got to spend some time spoiling him and taking him for a walk on Saturday. 
  • After-dinner gelatos with dh, BIL & SIL on Saturday night. 
  • Playing Internet detective & trying to track down some old school friends I've lost touch with via Google. 
  • Following the reviews & social media reaction to the "Game of Thrones" finale -- even though I've never watched a single episode myself. ;)  
  • Endless games of Spider Solitaire on my cellphone. 
  • Watching reruns of "Bob's Burgers."
  • Books. Always books. ;)  And spending time at the local bookstore (it was open today, even though most stores are closed).(New review coming shortly!) 

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

Saturday, May 18, 2019

They went there...

Yep, they went there. :p  As I feared, after 12 seasons, "The Big Bang Theory" ended -- with childfree-by-choice Penny not only pregnant (an "oops" pregnancy after a night out drinking at the Cheesecake Factory) -- but happy about it.

There was absolutely no explanation about her  sudden change of heart. Nothing to show us how Penny got from point A (adamantly childfree) to point B (happily pregnant).  Husband Leonard said something to Sheldon along the lines of  "She didn't want kids, and now she does."  Well, allrighty then... easy peasy...

Perhaps this abrupt shift in character development wouldn't have been quite so eyebrow-raising/infuriating if Penny wasn't the show's SECOND childfree-by-choice female character to wind up pregnant.  Howard's wife Bernadette also didn't want kids (perhaps even more vocally so than Penny) -- and yet wound up having not one but TWO.  And in a week full of bad news out of the U.S. about the extreme limits some states are trying to place on reproductive choice... it just left me very disappointed. (Not that I would expect an abortion discussion in the series finale of what is, after all, a comedy... but...)

I found several articles that agreed with me, or that at least pointed out that this was entirely out of character for Penny.  Said Vanity Fair:
The Penny story is not necessarily a problem on its own; some women do change their minds about wanting children after learning they’ve conceived by accident. The issue is how it all unfolded: viewers find out Penny has been secretly pregnant, and never see her find out the news or contemplate what it means for her. Instead, they see a character who has repeatedly stated her desire not to have children suddenly do an about-face for no discernible reason—cheerful and ready to bear children. Given the recent, alarming wave of punitive abortion restrictions cropping up across the country, including one that passed in Alabama just this week, this might might be the worst possible time to drop a story in which a female character gets accidentally pregnant and does not once contemplate her options... 
The uncharitable read on all this would be that both a female character’s emotional experience and the option of abortion were both rendered invisible to pay off a male character’s fantasy of getting his hot neighbor pregnant with his babies.
From Vulture:
...it’s hard to overstate how much this plot — which was surely intended as a sweet, hopeful end — instead comes off as thoughtless and tin-eared at best, dismissive and condescending at worst. In an otherwise heartwarming finale for these characters, after 12 years spent together on one of TV’s most popular shows, it’s infuriating and unfortunate that The Big Bang Theory would essentially erase a woman’s right to choose from her own narrative.
Of course, many viewers were ecstatic:  I saw lots of comments on Twitter and in news stories along the lines of "FINALLY!" and "It's about time!" Some were disappointed that Amy didn't announce a pregnancy too (oh, brother... she only just won the Nobel prize, but nope, her life is not complete...)(although we learned on a past episode of "Young Sheldon" that he & Amy do have children -- so that would have been a more "in character" pregnancy announcement than Penny's, in my mind).

Said one commenter on the Vulture story: "Until you decided to make it political it never even crossed my mind." (Seriously?) My own husband rolled his eyes at me when I moaned "OF COURSE" at the TV screen, and said he thought it was a sweet way to end the show.

I've loved this show, and there WERE some funny and touching moments in the finale.  It's just disappointing that the ending was so completely, utterly predictable and cliched (happy ending = MUST HAVE BABY!!).  SO MANY TV couples who struggle with infertility wind up with a "miracle" baby (even though we know that real-life "miracles" are not quite so frequent), and those who say they don't want children somehow wind up with them, and becoming cheerful, loving parents.  Just off the top of my head, I can think of Doug & Carrie in "The King of Queens" (in the series finale, they adopt a Chinese baby and immediately, before they even leave China, find out Carrie is pregnant);  "Rules of Engagement" (in the series finale, immediately after the birth of their baby via surrogacy, Audrey tells Jeff she's pregnant), and "How I Met Your Mother," in which the series ends with childfree-by-choice Robin marrying Ted after his wife dies and becoming stepmother to his two kids (= she gets to be a mom after all!). (I'm sure there are others!)

Women's lives are complex. Not all women want to be mothers. Not all women who want to be mothers get to be mothers. A happy ending does not always have to include a pregnancy/baby.
It would be nice, just once in a while, to see a few stories where the infertile couple winds up without children (and a good life regardless), and/or the childfree-by-choice characters remain childfree and happy.

Come on, Hollywood, surprise us!!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Midweek odds & ends

  • Older Nephew's (Pregnant) Wife's bloodwork came back with no red flags (yay!).  Later the same day, they made things Facebook & Instagram-official and posted ultrasound photos.  She is almost 14 weeks now.
  • BIL has already ordered the furniture for his forthcoming grandchild's nursery. Even dh said (privately, to me) that might be a LITTLE premature (although he's not going to tell BIL that!! & the furniture WILL take a couple of months to arrive). 
  • Speaking of babies, I made some notes for a post that never got written after the recent birth of the world's most famous newborn:  the royal baby, aka Baby Sussex, aka Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. Mostly it was things being said on TV that raised my ALI hackles. On CBC News Network, one middle-aged female host commented on why Meghan might have wanted to hold off on the first public appearance, saying, "Ladies, you ALL know what I'm talking about!" (Ummm, no, we don't.)  Another female host was heard to say, "Are we REALLY making all this fuss over a baby??  We ALL have babies!"  (Ummm, no, we don't.)
    • The media comment I loved most was a woman expressing admiration that Meghan was daring to wear a WHITE dress, two days after giving birth!  ;)   
    • Side note:  "Archie??!!" (Just writing it, I hear Edith Bunker's voice in my head, lol.)  
  • I am both horribly angry & horribly depressed over the news coming out of the U.S. lately. All I can say is "The Handmaid's Tale" is SUPPOSED to be fiction... 
  • The weather has not been helping my mood. It's gradually getting a bit milder (albeit still not quite capris & sandals territory) -- but it's been mostly grey, grey, GREY.  Even dh admits it's been getting to him...!  It's our long weekend coming up this weekend too -- the traditional kickoff to summer.  We'll see...!  
  • I still love my condo -- but I've been thinking that anyone with a high intolerance for noise might want to think twice before moving into one. There's been the usual construction noise (from the townhouse construction project behind us and the highway widening/rapid transit project in front), the ongoing thump-thump-thumps overhead, the barking dogs in the hallway going to & from the elevators (and then outside as they're being walked/exercised). We also seem to have a new baby/toddler living down the hall (guess how we know THAT!). The night the Raptors won Game 7 & moved on to the next round of the NBA playoffs, I nearly levitated off the couch from the sudden loud shouts emerging from more than one neighbouring unit. ;) We occasionally get woken up late at night (and not just on weekends!) by the sound of people partying on a nearby balcony.  (I overheard every word of a conversation about mortgages one night... it was 3 a.m., and my window was not even open! I'm willing to cut young people some slack on a Friday or Saturday night, but 3 a.m. is way too late for this kind of crap, even on a weekend!)  And the other night, we were awakened at around 12:30 a.m. by the sound of a young woman screaming & crying outside, and looked out the window to see two cop cars parked directly below us. Still don't know what that was all about...!  Funnily enough, most of these things really don't bother me (much), and certainly bother me less than the neighbours' dogs barking at all hours did when we lived in our house. But when you start listing it out like this, you realize everything you put up with...!   
  • Hiding out at the movies on Voldemort Day, dh & I found ourselves counting the number of ads:  SIXTEEN (16), including DURING the coming attractions (but not counting the "please turn off your cellphones" and "please don't kick the seat in front of you" PSAs, or the ads during the "pre-show," which really is just one big long ad itself, isn't it?).  I know I am dating myself here (what else is new, lol), but I remember the days when there were no ads, just the coming attractions. And I remember when they started introducing ads and people used to boo & hiss at the screen. This went on for quite a while too. I suppose we knew even then that resistance was futile :p  but it's sad to see how what began with one or two pre-show commercials has turned into SIXTEEN...!!  

Monday, May 13, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Voldemort Day* recap

Well, it wasn't great (never is...!) but it wasn't as bad as it's sometimes been either.  ;)  My usual choice of activity is to spend the afternoon hiding out in a dark movie theatre ;)  and thank goodness there was a comedy playing that I thought might be fun, & that's been reasonably well reviewed:  "Long Shot" with Seth Rogen & Charlize Theron. Some of it was kind of raunchy, as Rogen's stuff often is -- but it was actually kind of cute overall, & they did have chemistry. I don't think I've seen Charlize Theron in a comedy before.

But first -- would you believe when we walked into the theatre, they were playing a clip montage as part of the pre-show:  movie scenes featuring (what else??) moms & kids (Shirley Maclaine & Debra Winger in "Terms of Endearment," Meryl Streep & Amanda Seyfried in "Mamma Mia," etc.).  "Happy Mother's Day from Cineplex."  I couldn't believe it. I go to the movies to hide out from this stuff!  :p

Earlier in the week, it was both nephews' wives birthdays (they were born on the exact same day, same year -- what are the odds, right?).  BIL & SIL invited us to come over for dinner (homemade pizza, including a tomato-free option for me!). The kids were there, and we had birthday cake to celebrate. The dog was deliriously happy to see us all. :)  Thankfully, they'd already exchanged Voldemort Day gifts before we arrived.  I wished the girls happy birthdays when we came in, & Oldest Nephew's pregnant wife started to say "Hap--" and then caught herself. :p  Oh well.  It was a good time overall... but I was exhausted by the time we got home. I can do these days/events -- but they (still) do take a toll! 

Hope you all survived too!

*  Voldemort Day = my personal nickname for That Painful Sunday in May (Just Passed) Which Shall Not Be Named  :) 

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