Thursday, October 17, 2019

Vacation reading :)

I finished four books during the 11 days I was visiting my parents (and started a fifth!).  Here are some thoughts about each of them, in the order that I read them.

I had been meaning to read "The Baby Matrix" by Laura Carroll for some time now. It's been highly recommended by, among others, Jody Day of Gateway Women & Sue Fagalde Lick of Childless by Marriage, who reviewed it here.

"The Baby Matrix" is all about pronatalism -- the pervasive belief that everyone should have children, and that parenthood is a necessary step on the road to becoming an adult, as well as the ultimate way to lead a fulfilling life. Carroll believes pronatalism is NOT a good thing, and the book explains why, taking some commonly held pronatalist assumptions, debunking them and offering alternative ways of thinking.

Like so many other forms of privilege, pronatalism is something that many (most?) people simply don't see because they are so thoroughly immersed in it.  Often, it's only when you find yourself outside the majority, or what's considered the "norm" ( = infertile, childless, grieving a lost pregnancy, or childfree by choice) that you see it and understand just how pervasive it is.  Carroll is childfree by choice and approaches the subject from this perspective, but there is plenty in her analysis that will be familiar to those of us who are involuntarily childless.

I'm not sure I agree with everything Carroll has to say here.  For example, she believes it should become the norm for couples to adopt as a first choice in family building, instead of having biological children.  As many of us who have tried to adopt or even just investigated the subject of adoption know, there aren't as many children out there available for adoption as some people would like to think...  Should parenting education be mandatory? -- I don't disagree that parenting education would be a good thing, but I think making it mandatory and trying to enforce that would be easier said than done...! 

Overall, though, I think Carroll's central argument -- that our thinking around parenthood & reproduction is outmoded and in dire need of an overhaul -- is valid and well presented. Whether or not you agree with some or all of what she has to say -- and whether or not you're a parent (or hoping to be one someday) -- this book deserves a read and some consideration.  It's thought-provoking and eye-opening, as well as thoroughly researched.

Four stars on Goodreads.

*** *** ***

My D.E. Stevenson online group recently began reading and discussing "Kate Hardy" together.  Unfortunately, "Kate Hardy" is one of many DES novels that are currently out of print, but I was able to find a used copy online at a semi-reasonable price.

First published in 1947, and set in that same post-war time period, the title character is a successful author from London, who impulsively purchases "the Dower House" in the village of Old Quinings from local landowner Richard Morven and moves in, hoping to find some peace and quiet to write in. Morven -- separated from his wife -- is an obvious potential love interest -- but then there's also local war hero Walter Stack, recently returned home and trying to readjust to his modest working-class life as a carpenter. Class, social mobility and post-war social upheaval are major themes here, and while some of the attitudes might seem horribly outdated to our modern way of thinking, these were very real issues being confronted in Britain at the time.

Like most of Stevenson's work, "Kate Hardy" is a fast & pleasant read. The one thing I didn't especially like about it was a subplot with a bit of a supernatural/occult element to it. It was kind of jarring and nasty and felt a bit out of place in the gentle world of DES. I think the story could have done without it.

Three stars on Goodreads.

*** *** ***

I first read "Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro 10 (!) years ago for Stirrup Queen Mel's Barren B*tches Book Tour. I picked it up again because it's the next selection for my upcoming library book club meeting (which will be the first meeting I've been able to attend since June!), and I'm looking forward to discussing it there.

It's hard to write about this one without giving away key plot points. (Be forewarned if you click over:  my BBBT post about the book -- which discusses it from an ALI viewpoint -- is full of spoilers.) Suffice to say it's about the students at a British boarding school called Hailsham -- in particular, our narrator, Kathy, and her friends Ruth and Tommy -- and what happens to them after they grow up and leave school. Hailsham seems like an ordinary place and the students like ordinary kids.

They're not.

I didn't break down in sobs at the end, as I did the first time I read it, but I did still get tears stinging my eyes. It's pretty powerful, and there's a lot here to chew on.

There's a movie version of the book (released in 2010), with Carey Mulligan as Kathy, Keira Knightley as Ruth and Andrew Garfield as Tommy, but I haven't seen it yet -- have you?

Four stars on Goodreads

*** *** ***

I picked up "Normal People" by Sally Rooney earlier this year, after reading rave reviews online and hearing lots of buzz about it. (Rooney is just 28!! years old!)  "Normal People" is both a romance and coming of age story that chronicles the on-again-off-again relationship between two bright Irish teenagers -- rich but social outcast Marianne and poor but popular Connell (whose mother cleans Marianne's mother's house). Their furtive romance begins when they're both students at the same high school, and continues over a period of several years when they both attend Trinity College in Dublin.

I'll admit this book wasn't quite as knock-my-socks off good as I expected it to be. I didn't feel like I could give it a five-star rating. It was difficult/frustrating for me to watch/read about Connell & Marianne hurting each other over & over again. They keep pushing each other apart, when they so obviously really do love each other. It gets a bit monotonous after a while, in that respect.

But it was still a very good read -- beautifully written, with exquisitely drawn characters that you care about. I could relate to the pair's desire to keep their relationship private, and I loved the ending. I understand the BBC is filming a 12-part television adaptation, due in 2020. It will also be shown on Hulu -- which we don't get here in Canada :( but hopefully it will be shown here too, eventually!

Four stars on Goodreads.

These were books #36, #37, #38 and #39 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 163% (!) of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I have completed my challenge for the year -- currently 15 books beyond my  goal -- and I have surpassed my reading total for 2018 by 12 books.  :)

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The rest of my vacation...!

The rest of my trip to visit my family, after the Elton John concert on Oct. 5th, didn't turn out exactly the way anyone expected, to put it mildly...!  Monday & Tuesday we had gorgeous, mild fall weather with temperatures in the range of 15-20C/59-68F, and took advantage of it:  Monday, my sister & I went back into the city to shop at a new-ish outlet mall neither of us had been to yet. Tuesday, we took a quick trip across the border (about 1.5 hours away) to my mother's hometown in Minnesota to have lunch with the one cousin who lives there and another cousin who was visiting, and do some preliminary planning for a family reunion next summer.

Wednesday (a week ago today) was pretty quiet -- our parents were out for most of the day. There were weather warnings & snow in the forecast.  I expected something like we had when I was there last year in October -- a brief blast of snow that coated the backyard patio furniture, but quickly melted again (not unheard of in this part of the country in mid/late October). The further along the week got, though, the more dire the predictions got...!  (I had brought my winter jacket with me -- but no boots!)

It started snowing & blowing on Thursday. My sister's partner/boyfriend was still in the city (about an hour away) and supposed to be coming in time for dinner that day. He made it there -- but told us he passed five cars in the ditch along the way, including a big transport truck/trailer!  It's a good thing he came when he did, because the storm kept getting worse & worse. Really awful. Howling wind, and more and more snow -- the wet, heavy kind.

(Canadian) Thanksgiving was coming up on Monday, and we decided to have our turkey dinner on Friday -- the idea being that then we'd have Saturday & Sunday with all of us around to eat up the leftovers. The storm continued to rage all day, and the lights kept flickering -- but the power stayed on and the turkey got cooked!

We'd JUST finished eating when the power went out, around 7 p.m.  After a while it become evident it was not going to come back on anytime soon -- and we didn't want to open up the fridge or freezer (to keep the food in there cold for as long as possible) -- so we packaged up the leftovers by candlelight & flashlight, & put them out in my parents' attached garage. When it's cold outside, it's like a natural refrigerator out there anyway, and it was certainly colder out there than it was in the house... although it soon started getting pretty cold in there, too!  I was texting with dh & he told me I should turn off my phone to save the battery power & data. Luckily my e-reader was fully charged and it's got a back light, so I bundled up and sat by the candlelit kitchen table & read for a while. I went to bed around 11, wearing my clothes (socks, yoga pants, long-sleeved T-shirt & cardigan) and with an extra blanket to stay warm, but it was pretty cold, and I didn't sleep very well.

When I got up Saturday morning, there was still no power/no heat, and it was colder than ever. (The thermostat isn't digital, but it looked like the temperature inside was about 14-15C/57-59F.)  A lot of people commented we were pretty lucky this was October/Thanksgiving, and not December/Christmas!! It was about -2C/28F outside... cold enough, but things could have been much, much worse!

I turned on my phone to text dh. No service.  Uh oh.  Went to the bathroom, flushed the toilet and... no water! (Just a trickle from the tap.)  Oh dear. Went downstairs & picked up the phone (my parents' landline). Totally dead.

Oh boy.  I've been through power outages before -- but to lose power/heat, water AND phone service -- that was new!!  I knew dh was going to be frantic when he didn't hear from me -- but there was absolutely nothing that I could do about it.  All the highways in & out of town (& throughout most of the province, actually) were closed too. We didn't know it until later, but the premier had declared a state of emergency.

All we could do was wait, & try to stay warm. We brought in the turkey and had turkey sandwiches for brunch (lol).  Thankfully, the snow was starting to subside, and around noon, the water came back (my sister immediately started filling up buckets & water jugs & basins, just in case it went out again). Her partner went outside & started shovelling the wet, heavy snow from the driveway (about a foot & a half, my dad thought) & talking to some of the neighbours. I was very glad that we were there to help my parents out.  (Also glad that I didn't have young children to worry about and to entertain, lol.) 

We played cards all afternoon, wearing our winter jackets & wrapped in blankets, lol.  Our street finally got plowed around 4 p.m., and a few minutes later, a town worker came knocking on the door to see how we were all doing. He told us they couldn't give a definite time when the power might be back on, that it could be another 12-24 hours (!).  He also said there was a boil water advisory in effect, and that we could get bottled water (& coffee, & food, and get warm) at the emergency centre they'd set up. (My parents have a water cooler and had a few jugs in reserve, thankfully.)

After the street got plowed, Dad & my sister's boyfriend went out in the car to see what was going on. The convenience store had power & was open (!) so they went in & managed to grab the last carton of milk and a package of hot dog buns. Then my sister, her boyfriend & I went out for a drive (listening to the radio and charging cellphones & my mother's tablet as we drove around). We drove out to a newer development where we knew the power had been restored to see if we could pick up a wifi signal (sister's boyfriend does work for several of the residents there & had their passwords!) -- but no luck. And then we went to the emergency centre. My sister asked if they had a working phone -- no luck there either, but we were able to get coffee for her boyfriend, and hot water for tea for Mom & me, which made us all happy. Dad wasn't sure how much propane he had left for the barbecue, but he fired it up and warmed up the leftover mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy and cabbage rolls in aluminum foil pie plates, and we had that for dinner with the cold leftover turkey, by candlelight. It was SO nice to have some hot food!!

Around 8, my dad's cellphone suddenly started to ring!! It was PND (Parents' Neighbours' Daughter), mom of the two Little Princesses! She had been storm-stayed for the past two nights at a motel in the town where she works, about 20 miles away, and only got back to her home & family late that afternoon (she told us traffic on the highway between the two towns was down to ONE LANE in BOTH directions)(eeekkkk).  She said they just got their power back and her cellphone started dinging with notifications, so she called to find out if we were all OK. I turned on my cellphone, and sure enough, there was a connection, and the landline dial tone was back, too!  So I immediately called dh, & boy, was he relieved to hear from me. He knew I'd be OK, because he knew I was at home with my family, but naturally he was still worried.

The power finally came back on around 10 (after 27 hours without!)... believe me, we were all holding our breath, hoping it would STAY on, lol. (We'd had a few small hopeful blips during the day, but nothing that stuck more than a minute or two.)  I still slept in my clothes that night, because it was still pretty cold in the house! Things could have been worse... the town where I lived when I was a teenager, about an hour away, was one of the hardest-hit areas of the province, and one of my high school friends was powerless for 54 hours! She said it got down to about 14C/57F in the house, and she lost most of the food in her fridges & freezer.

Sunday was pretty subdued. Everything else was working, but then the cable TV decided to go out (much to my mother's dismay). The grocery store was open and my sister & I went there for a few things. I've been there on Christmas Eve -- this was just as busy as that, probably busier, lol.  They had to throw out EVERYTHING in their freezers, although the reserve freezers in back were OK & they were restocking when we were there.

My flight home was early Monday afternoon. We left plenty of time to get to the airport in the city (a little over an hour away). The roads were fine by then, but we saw lots of tree damage along the way. 

Needless to say, dh was VERY happy to see me -- he told me I'm never going away for that long again, lol.  It was good to see my family, but it's also very good to be back home!

Coming up: Some reviews of the books I read while I was away!

Looking out the front window at the height of the storm on Friday afternoon. 

View of the backyard patio late Friday afternoon.
From left, you can see the patio table, two chairs, hanging basket, clothesline post and barbecue,
all buried under huge mounds of snow.
In the background, the trees HAD some beautiful coloured leaves when I arrived...!  Mostly gone now!
(This is NOT normal for mid-October!!) 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

There are mothers all around you

A Facebook find.
It's Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day (in Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month).
Light a candle tonight at 7 p.m., wherever you are, to create a worldwide wave of light
in remembrance of our babies. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Saturday night's all right for Elton :)

Stage setup before the concert began.  Elton's piano is in the very lower left-hand corner.
It moved around the stage too!  
I just got back from spending 11 days with my parents (a rare solo trip without dh -- he vows I am never going away that long without him again, lol). I arrived on Friday, October 4th -- and the next day (Saturday, October 5th), my sister (who had this week off work & also spent it at at Mom & Dad's) & I headed back into the city to see Elton John in concert on his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour -- which he says will be his last. My sister has seen him twice before (including once with my mother!!) but I'd never been, and SIL & I were unable to snag a pair of tickets to his Toronto shows later this month. My sister & I went to see Paul McCartney together at the same venue last year, and the chance to see Elton -- another of the musical icons of our youth -- on his farewell tour, still at the top of his game (at age 72!), was just too good to pass up.  Our tickets ($250 each) were just above where we'd been for Paul McCartney.

It was worth the trip and every single penny.  :)  He played for three solid hours -- most of the songs you'd expect to hear and a few you might not have (set list here) -- and changed outfits three times.  :)  (Kind of reminded me of when my mother, grandmother, great-aunt & I went to see Liberace back in the early 1970s, lol.)  The platform his grand piano sat on actually moved around the stage!! so we got a slightly better look at him than we thought we would!  ;)  His band was absolutely fabulous too (some of them have been with him for 40-50 years!), and I had almost as much fun watching his percussionist, Ray Cooper, as I did watching him.

My sister said you never leave until he's played "Your Song" -- which is his traditional last song (also probably my favourite of his, and a runner-up for the first dance song at our wedding). But this time he went from that into "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," which is the theme of the tour & appropriate when you listen to the lyrics. He said 10 years ago he never would have thought he would stop touring -- but that was before he had a family (two young boys), and he wants to spend whatever time he has left with them, watching them grow up. (Everyone applauded at that.) At the end of the last song, he got into this hydraulic lift thing & it went up the side of the screen as he waved, and then a little door opened and he disappeared through it, lol. When we came in at the beginning, the big screen had the "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" cover picture on it... I didn't notice at the end as we were leaving, but my sister said she saw it came to life.... the Elton figure turned and smiled and then walked off down the yellow brick road & disappeared!  Cool. :)

Before the concert began, we met up with an old friend -- the cousin of our best friends from growing up -- as well as her husband & one of her adult sons. Haven't seen her in years & years, but she & I reconnected on Facebook a while back, and when we realized we'd both be at the concert, we arranged to meet up before the show started and chat for a while. Bonus!

You can read the local newspaper's review of Friday night's concert here.

I meant to do a post about the concert for #MicroblogMondays LAST week, but (as often happens when I'm visiting my parents) my time is not my own & the days pass far too quickly when I'm there. More adventures from my trip to come in a future post (and there WERE adventures!) -- also, reviews of all the books I read!

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

Confetti rained down on the audience during "Saturday Night's All Right for Fighting,"
the final number of the concert (before the encore). Really cool to see!
(I got some video footage of it too.) 

Thursday, October 3, 2019

"The Education of Brett Kavanaugh" by Robin Pogrebin & Kate Kelly

I started reading "The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation" by Robin Pogrebin & Kate Kelly a year to the day after Christine Blasey Ford gave her riveting testimony to the U.S. Senate Judicial Committee, claiming that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanagh had assaulted her when they were both teenagers in the early 1980s.

New York Times reporters Pogrebin & Kelly broke some important stories during the confirmation process. In this book, they go over what happened, how Ford decided to come forward and how she wound up testifying in Washington. They also bring new information to light, including witness accounts that were never pursued by the FBI, and testimony from others who have not spoken publicly until now.

I thought this book was well written, and a pretty thorough and fair/even-handed account, presenting information to support and challenge both Kavanaugh's & Ford's stories. In the final chapter, the reporters weigh in with their own thoughts about what happened.

Jill Filipovic's review in the Washington Post says it all better than I can, lol.  :)

Four (4) stars on Goodreads.

Inspired by the coverage of the Kavanaugh nomination & Ford's allegation, I wrote last year about my own memories of growing up and partying in the late 1970s/early 1980s & how different things were then, here.

This was book #35 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 146% (!) of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I have completed my challenge for the year -- currently 11 books beyond my  goal -- and I have surpassed my reading total for 2018 by 8 books.  :)

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Right now

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

Reading:  5 (!) books in September (all reviewed during September on this blog):
Current read(s):
Coming up:
  • Unfortunately, roadwork outside of our building (& changing schedules) meant access in & out of our driveway was blocked last night starting around 7 p.m. -- which meant I was unable to leave to attend my library book club at 7, as planned. :(  (Actually, I probably could have left -- just not sure we would have been able to get back in again!)  We were discussing "Everything I Never Told You" by Celeste Ng, which I'd already read earlier this summer & reviewed here
    • October's selection will be "Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro, which I bought & read 10 (!) years ago for Mel's Barren B*tches Book Tour (my post from then here). Debating whether to do a complete re-read or just a skim to refresh my memory? 
  • "Kate Hardy" will be the next read for my online D.E. Stevenson fan group, before we move on to the final book in the Mrs. Tim series, "Mrs. Tim Flies Home."  Both books share the setting of "Old Quinings" in post-WWII England. 
My Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge YTD total now stands at 34 books -- 7 more than my goal of 24 (142%).  :)

(Some) recent purchases/additions to the TBR pile (that I haven't read yet):
Watching:  In-theatre movies seen in September:
  • Downton Abbey (if you loved the TV series, you will love the movie).
  • Judy with Renee Zellwegger as Judy Garland, near the end of her far-too-short life. If you know anything about Judy Garland's life, you'll know this movie is not exactly cheerful stuff. But Renee's performance is amazing (she sings, too -- she's no Judy Garland in that department, but she's not bad either...!). 
On television:
  • The final season (#5) of Poldark began this past weekend on PBS.  This season is straying beyond the material in Winston Graham's books, picking up where the last season of the TV show left off (which covered up to the end of book #7, "The Angry Tide"). Book #8 ("The Stranger From the Sea") takes a leap in time of 10+ years -- a gap the producers apparently felt was too big for the current cast to take -- and so they've used the screenwriter's imagination to continue the story (this article explains).  We'll see how it all works out...!
  • We both thoroughly enjoyed Ken Burns's recent series on the history of country music on PBS.  I wouldn't say I'm a huge country music fan, but I've gained an appreciation for it and some of its artists (Patsy Cline, Roseanne Cash, Dolly Parton...) as I've gotten older.  I surprised myself by how many of the artists I knew & how many of the songs I could sing along to...! 
  • I am beyond thrilled that CBC has brought back Battle of the Blades! -- a reality competition show, which pairs hockey players (both male & female) with figure skaters, skating for their favourite charities. One pair gets eliminated every week, through a mixture of public voting and judging decisions. Outside of Canada, you can't view entire episodes, BUT, apparently you can view individual performances on YouTube, and vote for your favourite team each week!  (It's still early in the competition, but I am thinking Ekaterina Gordeeva & Bruno Gervais are looking like the team to beat -- and I have a soft spot for Manitoba-born Sheldon Kennedy & Kaitlyn Weaver!) 
Crossing my fingers: A touring production of  "Hamilton" is FINALLY coming to Toronto in February for a couple of months... subscribers to the full season of programming get first dibs on the tickets and then the rest of us get to fight it out for what's left, once they go on sale (sale date still TBA). Wish me luck!!

Listening:  To the Stingray classic rock channel we get as part of our TV package. The other day they were playing "Black Water" by the Doobie Brothers. Not a song I especially loved, growing up, but one I heard a lot of... it was there, like the wallpaper, lol. There is something very comforting about the music of your youth, I think. (Even when it's something less mellow than the Doobie Brothers -- like Led Zeppelin, lol.)

Following:  The unfolding impeachment drama in the U.S. Funnily enough, I think my memories of Richard Nixon's impeachment investigation (1973-74, when I was 12-13 years old) are much clearer than Bill Clinton's, when I was in my late 30s. Maybe because the Clinton inquiry unfolded throughout 1998/early 1999... when I was (cough) otherwise preoccupied.

Drinking/Eating: (Canadian) Thanksgiving turkey dinner with my family, soon!

Smelling:  What I thought was a skunk... but apparently is more likely pot (especially since we're smelling it in the hallways as well as through the open balcony doors...!).  I didn't realize until chatting with my sister this summer, but apparently today's pot does not smell the same as the stuff  that used to waft through the halls of my university dorm, 35-40 (*cough cough*) years ago. (And we've been smelling "skunk" a LOT more frequently since cannabis was legalized here in Canada earlier this spring...!  "Thanks, Justin!" dh says, rolling his eyes.)(So THAT explains why there seem to be an awful lot of skunks hanging around our building lately, lol...)

Buying (besides books, lol):  Birthday & Halloween gifts to take for the Little Princesses, and adorable outfits for my soon-to-born (as yet unnamed) great-nephew. My most recent find:  I couldn't resist a red & black flannel lumberjack-style onesie and tiny matching plaid flannel-lined jeans with the cuffs turned up, both from Baby Gap.

Wearing: I managed to get through September without having to put on my long jeans, socks & shoes (remaining in my beloved capris & sandals).  (Loving that!)  Sadly, though, I think those days are coming to an end very soon... if not here in southern Ontario, then definitely when I head home to Manitoba to visit my family shortly...!

Trying:  To avoid the current federal election hoopla, lol.  Counting the days until it's over (on Oct. 21st)! It seems like it's dragging on forever, and yet the entire campaign from start to finish is 40 days (which is pretty much the average for Canadian election campaigns -- I found this Wikipedia entry on Canadian elections, which says, "The length of election campaigns can vary, but under the Elections Act, the minimum length of a campaign is 36 days and the maximum length of the campaign is 50 days." ).  I don't know how the Americans do it...!!

Wanting:  All the roadwork & construction hereabouts to be DONE, ALREADY!!!  It's been dragging on almost since the day we moved in 3.5 years ago, and we are SICK OF IT!!! (See also "Reading," above, lol.)

Feeling: Excited to be heading "home" to see my family soon, albeit slightly anxious to be doing it solo (my first solo trip in a long while).

Wondering:  How it got to be October 1st and where 2019 went?? -- it's already 3/4 over!! Yikes!! 

Monday, September 30, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: "Diversify your identity"

A fellow CNBCer shared this article on a private forum recently. It's about identity and how so many of us wrap ourselves and our sense of value and self-worth up in one particular idea of who we are supposed to be -- a successful business man, a professional athlete.

"If you invest all of your identity in one basket, then you put your self-esteem and emotional well-being at risk," the article says.

"Many of us get fixated on certain aspects of our identity more than others. Social pressures can also force us into over-identifying with a certain aspect of our identity, which then drowns out other areas of our lives."

The article quotes Tim Ferriss, author of "The 4-Hour Work Week," who mentions a concept called “identity diversification:”
When you have money, it’s always smart to diversify your investments. That way if one of them goes south, you don’t lose everything. It’s also smart to diversify your identity, to invest your self-esteem and what you care about into a variety of different areas — business, social life, relationships, philanthropy, athletics — so that when one goes south, you’re not completely screwed over and emotionally wrecked.
Of course, the woman who posted this article (and those of us who read it) viewed it through the lens of infertility and childlessness. For all the progress women have made in so many spheres, many of us still stake a huge part of our identity and self-worth on motherhood and our children. What happens when that particular part of our life vanishes (when the children grow up and leave the nest) -- or (in the case of infertility & loss) never materializes to begin with?

Read the article & tell me -- what do you think?

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

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

"The Vagina Bible" by Jen Gunter, M.D.

If you haven't been following Dr. Jen Gunter on social media, you should be. :)

I will admit to a small bit of bias when it comes to Dr. Jen: she is from Winnipeg, Manitoba (my home province) and attended medical school at both of my alma maters --  the University of Manitoba and the University of Western Ontario (albeit a few years after I graduated from both institutions).

Moreover, from an ALI perspective, Dr. Jen is "one of us."  She lost one of triplets during her pregnancy, and her other two sons -- now teenagers -- were born extremely premature.

"I found separating the facts from the fiction difficult and I am a doctor, so I started thinking if this is hard for me how does everyone else manage?" she writes in her online bio. "It put the bad information that my own patients were bringing into the office in perspective. I know people sit up late at night Googling things and fall down rabbit holes of misinformation because I’ve been there!"

After writing "The Preemie Primer," based on her experiences with her sons, she decided to turn her attention to reproductive health, "because it seems the Internet is infested with snake oil and malignant misinformation." She first came to public attention when she began challenging the "wellness" industry -- in particular Gwyneth Paltrow's business Goop, and its promotion of jade eggs, coffee enemas, vaginal steaming and the like. More recently, she's been an outspoken advocate of reproductive choice in response to draconian new laws being enacted in the United States (including refuting outrageous claims about ectopic pregnancies being made by certain politicians).

If you're in Canada, you can watch "Jensplaining" on CBC's Gem streaming service: 10 episodes of 10-15 minutes each, tackling topics such as menstruation, menopause, childbirth, vaginas, sex, weight loss, vaccines and beauty products.  Dr. Jen provides facts, debunks myths, smashes taboos and questions the patriarchy -- all with humour and plain old common sense. I've watched all 10 episodes on my laptop, and loved every one of them.

Last month came Dr. Jen's latest book:  "The Vagina Bible: The Vulva and the Vagina: Separating the Myth from the Medicine." This is her area of expertise, and it shows.  It's a thorough, detailed, entirely readable and easy to understand book (written in non-jargony language) about every aspect of this often-misunderstood part of the female anatomy, which debunks myths, educates and empowers readers.  Some of the topics covered include definitions/an anatomy lesson, cleaning & maintenance, menstruation, menopause, sexually transmitted infections, conditions (everything from yeast infections to pelvic organ prolapse) and symptoms.

I particularly loved the last section, "Putting It All Together," in which Dr. Jen gives us a peek inside her medicine cabinet, tells us how she'd edit ours, advises us on getting reputable health information from the Internet, and challenges some persistent myths/old wives' tales. (Sample: On coffee enemas for anything (!):  "Dear God, no... I. Just. Can't. Even.  First of all, this is a waste of good coffee.")

Says Dr. Jen:
The patriarchy and snake oil have had a good run, but I'm done with how they negatively affect and weaponize women's health. So I am not going to stop swinging my bat until everyone has the tools to be an empowered patient and those who seek to subjugate women by keeping them from facts about their bodies have shut up and taken a seat in the back of class. 
That's my vagenda.
This is one of those books, like "Taking Charge of Your Fertility," that I wish I had had when I was growing up and starting to learn about my body, and one that I think all women need to read, or have on hand to dip into when they have questions. (Men would learn a thing or three or ten if they read it too.) It's a fabulous and much-needed resource that deserves to be widely read and shared. We need more Dr. Jens.... and I hope she will be writing many more books like this one in the future.

Five stars on Goodreads.

This was book #34 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 142% (!) of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I have completed my challenge for the year -- currently 10 books beyond my  goal -- and I have surpassed my reading total for 2018 by 7 books.  :)

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

"She Said" by Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey

"She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement" by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey was one of those books that I snatched up as soon as I saw it on the bookstore shelf, and dived into reading as soon as I had finished my current book. It's not a terribly long book (260 pages of text), and it was a compelling read. I blazed through it in just a few days. 

"She Said" is the story of how these two New York Times reporters investigated longstanding allegations of serial sexual abuse against  Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, culminating in a ground-breaking story published on October 5, 2017. There are no huge new revelations here (although several previously anonymous sources agreed to go on the record and be named in this book for the first time).  It's a behind the scenes look at how these two fine journalists pursued their story, cultivated their sources and encouraged them to go "on the record," uncovered disturbing patterns of behaviour that occurred over decades, and gradually built the case that led to Weinstein's downfall. 

The book also chronicles the fallout from their reporting, the rise of the #MeToo movement and other related stories, including Christine Blasey Ford's allegations against Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings in September 2018.

As a one-time journalist/communicator myself, books like this are like catnip to me. :)  These women are as much my heroes (heroines?) now as Woodward & Bernstein were to me when I was a teenager. :)  Several reviewers, in fact, have drawn parallels between this book and Woodward & Bernstein's classic "All the President's Men" (reviewed here). Both books are classic case studies in how journalists do their jobs. (The technology used may have changed, but the basic techniques have not.)

Some reviewers have questioned the inclusion of Christine Blasey Ford's case in this book (as another example of women's testimony challenging powerful men, in the wake of the Weinstein revelations). I will admit, I felt like this was stretching the story out a bit -- but the behind-the-scenes look at Ford's decisions to come forward and then to testify, and her trip to Washington to do so, was irresistible.  Likewise, the final chapter -- a meeting Kantor & Twohey convened with many of their main sources at Gwyneth Paltrow's home in Hollywood to compare notes and share what had happened to them since the Times' stories were published -- might have been a little contrived, but it was still amazing to read about. (Oh, to be a fly on the wall...!)  It also reminded me of the comfort -- and power -- women who have gone through similar traumatic experiences gain when they find each other & tell their stories -- both online & in "real life" -- something those of us in the ALI community know very well! 

Five stars on Goodreads

This was book #33 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 138% (!) of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I have completed my challenge for the year -- currently 9 books beyond my  goal -- and I have surpassed my reading total for 2018 by 6 books.  :)

Monday, September 23, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Getting ready

Yesterday afternoon, we picked up SIL to go see the "Downton Abbey" movie (if you loved the TV series, you'll love the movie), & then dropped her off again later. We went into the house to say hi to BIL, & he urged us to go upstairs & see the progress they'd made on the baby's room.  (Older Nephew & his wife have been living in the basement, but will be moving upstairs once the baby arrives in mid-November, taking over the two bedrooms that were once occupied by both Older & Younger Nephews.)

It's not finished yet (with a little under two months to go till due date)... but it's coming along. Between them, Older Nephew & BIL have painted the room in two different/complementary shades of grey-blue (and Pregnant Niece-in-Law, who has a degree in fine arts, plans to paint a mural on one of them). BIL found, bought & installed a light fixture shaped like an airplane. The comfy rocking chair we'd bought them as a gift sat in the corner. There's an IKEA cube shelf fixture full of toys & children's books that belonged to Older Nephew & his brother (some of them gifts from dh & me).

The crib and chest of drawers they'd ordered arrived last week.  BIL & dh picked it up and hauled it all upstairs, piece by piece, and BIL & Older Nephew assembled it. There's no mattress or bedding yet. 

It's beautiful.

I gave dh a bit of a hug as we stood there, looking at that crib. 21 years ago, during that brief time of reprieve, when we got an all-clear on our amniocentisis results after weeks of anxiety and uncertainty, we'd gone looking at nursery furniture, but hadn't yet ordered anything when our world came crashing down around us.

I closed my eyes and felt tears sting, briefly, thinking of the baby and the nursery that never materialized.

And then I thought about the new little great-nephew who (God willing, and knock loudly on wood) will be sleeping in this very crib in another several weeks. And I opened my eyes, and smiled.

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

Saturday, September 21, 2019

"Up Beaver Creek" by Sue Fagalde Lick

"Up Beaver Creek" by Sue Fagalde Lick is this month's selection at the Gateway Women private community's book club (online discussion coming up next weekend).  Sue is a fellow CNBC-er who blogs at Childless by Marriage (as well as Unleashed in Oregon), and the author of several books.

Those familiar with Sue's blogs will recognize that "Up Beaver Creek" is drawn from her own life experiences. As the book begins, our heroine, Cissy Soares -- recently widowed, 42 years old and childless -- has quit her hospital job in Missoula, Montana, put her belongings in storage, rented out her house, cut her hair, gotten a tattoo, changed her name to P.D., and headed to Oregon with the goal of starting a new life and becoming a singer. She winds up house-sitting near the coastal town of Newport, for a landlord who promptly disappears into the ether, leaving her to deal with quirky neighbours, cranky cats, power outages, intermittent cellphone service, leaky roofs -- and other, more consequential disasters. 

The pace was a bit slow to start, as P.D. gradually settles into her new life, but things pick up midway through, and I found myself zooming through the last few chapters to find out what happened next.  I was initially thinking 3-3.5 stars, but I ultimately gave it 4 stars on Goodreads. :) 

I've vacationed in Cannon Beach on the Oregon Coast (about 2.5 hours north of Newport) several times, and it's one of my favourite vacation spots ever (the ominous tsunami evacuation route signs notwithstanding...!) -- so I had a pretty clear picture of the area Sue was describing. I will admit I was probably predisposed to like this book on that point alone.  ;) 

What I really like & appreciate about this book is its honest depiction of life as a single, widowed, childless woman, rebuilding her life, coping with all kinds of problems by herself, and finding an inner strength she didn't know she had. I am fortunate enough to be married, but Sue's depiction of P.D.'s grief over the loss of her husband and the life she thought she'd have with him was spot on and something I could very much relate to.  Heroines like P.D. are far & few between;  books with characters like her that don't wind up with a wedding (although there are hints of possible romance in the future) &/or a baby are rare indeed. :) 

This was book #32 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 133% (!) of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I have completed my challenge for the year -- currently 8 books beyond my  goal -- and I have surpassed my reading total for 2018 by 5 books.  :)

Haystack Rock, a Cannon Beach (Oregon Coast) landmark.
(Taken from our hotel, just north of  the town of Cannon Beach proper,
in August 2005, the last time I was there (too long ago now...!).)
When the tide is out, you can walk out to the rock and look at the starfish, anemones and other sea life.  

Monday, September 16, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

  • I saw a comment on Twitter this week referencing "the Caroline Calloway essay" and had NO clue what they were talking about (or who Caroline Calloway was, for starters -- how about you??). After seeing several such posts, I did some Googling and came up with this piece from New York Magazine's The Cut.  I was reminded of when I first started hearing about the Kardashians -- who were these people, and why should I care?  I eventually found out who they were (unfortunately, lol) -- but I still don't care (lol) and I'm really not sure why others do.  
  • A childless friend mentioned she'd recently confided in a co-worker about her sadness over not having children or grandchildren to look forward to. The response? "Yep, nothing compares to your kids and grandkids." !!!  It's hard not having what comes to others so easily, but comments like this -- the total, utter lack of empathy -- makes it so, SO much worse...! 
  • A relative was tagged by one of her other friends in a group photo on social media this past weekend. (Glasses of wine were being raised.)  I don't want to quote the caption in full here, but it was a gushing tribute to "mommy friends" (including a "blessed" hashtag). (I also recently got to listen to another relative rave about the group of mom friends SHE's connected with and travelled to Florida with on a girls trip.)  
    • Part of me was rolling my eyes at the "mommy friends" label. But yes, I'll admit, part of me was jealous. (The post went "unliked" by me.)  What must it be like to have a ready-made source of (at least potential) friendships like that? As a woman without children, I will never know...
  • Did you know this is the third annual World Childless Week? Every year I have great intentions of doing some special blog posts in line with the week's themes... and every year... oh well...! ;)  Thankfully, others have not dropped the ball.  ;)  Go to the WCW website to learn more about all the good stuff that's going on -- including webinars (listening to one right now as I prep this post), blog posts and special WCW meetups (many of them happening in the UK -- you lucky women!).  Jody Day has a blog post summarizing some of the WCW events & activities too.  
    • World Childless Week is also the subject of the latest episode of The Full Stop podcast episode. Tune in to hear hosts Berenice, Sarah & Michael chat with WCW founder Stephanie Phillips and several of the WCW champions.  
  • In the sad and sadly growing category of "The Musical Icons of My Youth are Dropping Like Flies:"  I read last night that Ric Ocasek of the Cars had passed away. The Cars' first album came out in the summer of 1978 (a fabulous year for music), just as I was going into my final (senior) year of high school.  I played it to death, and it remains one of my all-time favourites (and their second, "Candy-O," is pretty fabulous too). Put it on, if you want to put a smile on my face. Sheer perfection. 
  • In the same sad category:  Eddie Money also died this weekend. :(   "Two Tickets to Paradise" (my favourite of his),  "Baby Hold On" and (later) "Take Me Home Tonight" (with Ronnie Spector) were huge hits in my youth. I was lucky enough to see him in his prime. In my memory, it was an all-day concert in the early 1980s -- but I did some Googling, and it turns out it was actually almost exactly 40 years ago -- late August 1979, the weekend before I headed off to university. Canadian rock icon & local hero Burton Cummings was the headliner, along with local band Harlequin (who played at our high school dances) and another Canadian band, Max Webster (with Kim Mitchell, who later had a solo career, and later still DJ-d the afternoon show on our local classic rock radio station). Four great bands/singers, all for $10!! I think I remember it as an all-day concert, because there was no assigned seating, so we drove into the city early and spent several hours lined up outside the venue in order to snag a good spot, once the doors finally opened.  We sat on a blanket on the concrete sidewalk and played cards to pass the time. (No cellphones in those days, kids!)  
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Saturday, September 14, 2019

"American Carnage" by Tim Alberta

While I was able to whiz through Margaret Atwood's "The Testaments" in under 24 hours (review here), it took me a full month & a half to slog my way through "American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump"  by Tim Alberta, the chief political correspondent for Politico magazine.

The book has been well reviewed, both in the media and on reader forums such as Goodreads (current average rating 4.21 stars).  I gave it four stars on Goodreads myself.  I found it interesting -- full of great tidbits and insights -- well written and well sourced, with contributions from (among others) John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeff Flake, Mitt Romney and Will Hurd. It's a compelling explanation of how American politics evolved (devolved?) over the past decade or so to its current sorry state.

But... it was LONG -- almost 700 pages (!) -- including more than 600 pages of text, plus acknowledgements, footnotes and index. Plus, it wasn't just 700 pages -- it was 700 pages ABOUT TRUMP. I rest my case, lol. (I was amused to turn to the acknowledgements section at the end and find it began with a "Whew" and an apology for the lengthiness, lol. As a long-winded writer myself, I could relate...!) There were also some typos throughout the book that detracted from my enjoyment of it somewhat. (Do publishers not send books to proofreaders anymore these days??  I am seeing so many more errors than I used to lately...!) Thus, four stars and not five.

The book is pretty much as the subtitle summarizes:  a detailed, critical look at the power struggles within the Republican party in the age of Trump. It begins with the election of Barack Obama in 2008, details the rise of Donald Trump and how the Republican Party establishment gradually bent itself to his will, and ends with the 2018 midterm elections and their fallout into early 2019.  As the book's description on Goodreads puts it:
How did a party obsessed with the national debt vote for trillion-dollar deficits and record-setting spending increases? How did the party of compassionate conservatism become the party of Muslim bans and walls? How did the party of family values elect a thrice-divorced philanderer? And, most important, how long can such a party survive?
It's both amusing and eye-rolling to read quotes from prominent Republicans who denounced Trump, pre-nomination and election in 2015-16 -- only to wind up, post-election, either strangely silent, praising him (*cough* Lindsay Graham), and/or even serving in his White House (e.g., Mike Pence, Reince Priebus, Mick Mulvaney...).

It was somewhat mind-numbing to read through the litany of Trump's/the Republicans' triumphs and disasters over the past several years, however well-chronicled.

And it was chilling to read former Speaker John Boehner's prediction, in the book's epilogue, that it will take another 9/11 -- or something even more catastrophic -- to restore Americans' sense of national unity and purpose.

Let's hope not. But overall, the book's sobering message is clear: it's going to take some time -- perhaps a long time -- for the pendulum of American politics to swing back to a more reasoned, moderate mode.

This was book #31 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 129% (!) of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I have completed my challenge for the year -- currently seven (7) books beyond my  goal -- and I have surpassed my reading total for 2018 by 4 books.  :)

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

"The Testaments" by Margaret Atwood

When I think about it, Margaret Atwood and "The Handmaid's Tale" is one reason why I began this blog, waaaayyyyyy back in late October 2007.  ;)  I'd been lurking for a while on Melissa's Stirrup Queens blog and commenting here & there. I think Mel & I corresponded a bit by email as well, and she encouraged me to think about starting my own blog.  At that time, Mel ran a regular online ALI-themed book club (then known as "The Barren Bitches Book Tour"), and I was dying to participate -- which was one reason why I eventually decided to set up my blog & hit publish on that very first post.  The next book club selection, which we discussed in early December that year, was (you guessed it) "The Handmaid's Tale." (You can read my contribution to that book club discussion -- including the story of my one brief encounter with Atwood herself, some 30+ years ago -- here -- and my other Handmaid's Tale-related posts here.)

And here we are, almost 12 (!) years later, "The Handmaid's Tale" is even more of a phenomenon than it was when it was first published in 1985 (the year I was married), thanks in part to the amazingly well done television adaptation (and NO thanks to The Donald & Friends!!) -- and now there's a long-awaited sequel, "The Testaments," released on Sept. 10th.

I snapped up a copy early that afternoon at the local mega-bookstore, on sale for a reasonable $25. (It came with a limited edition souvenir cloth tote bag -- the cover of the book is on one side, and on the other, the phrase "Under His Eye," lol.)  I decided I was going to finish the book I'd been slowly working my way through, before picking this one up... and maybe even do a re-read of "The Handmaid's Tale" first. Of course, I couldn't resist sneaking a peek... and before I knew it, it was four hours and 200 pages later, lol.  I finished it in less than 24 hours.

By now, you have probably heard a few things about the book. I don't think I'm giving away too terribly much if I tell you the events take place some 15-20 years after the end of "The Handmaid's Tale," and that the story unfolds through the different perspectives of three narrators -- a Gilead Commander's daughter, a teenaged girl from Toronto (fun to read the local references to Queen Street and Parkdale, etc.), and.... Aunt Lydia -- the one and the same character from the earlier book.

(Apparently Ann Dowd, who plays Aunt Lydia so wonderfully on the TV version of "The Handmaid's Tale," is one of the narrators of the audio version of "The Testaments" ...I have not yet gotten into audiobooks, but this might be a good one to start with, lol.) 

I'm giving this one a solid 4 stars on Goodreads. I might have rated it slightly higher -- but it's hard to top the original.  It's a very good book, but I don't think it quite matches the original's greatness.  The plot that plays out in the last 100 pages or so is a wee bit on the improbable side (I kept thinking Margaret's been watching the TV version too much, lol).  The tone is lighter and far more hopeful than the original -- not quite so grim -- which, of course, is not a bad thing!

Overall, I enjoyed the book hugely, and I will admit to wiping my eyes at the end. If you wind up reading it, I would love to hear what you thought of it! 

This is book #30 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 125% (!) of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I have completed my challenge for the year -- currently six (6) books beyond my  goal -- and I have surpassed my reading total for 2018 by 3 books.  :)

Monday, September 9, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: I survived!

Pregnant Niece-in-Law's baby shower was yesterday -- almost exactly 21 years after mine was supposed to be held. I was surprised that I didn't feel more angst about it than I did.  I had the odd ouch/eyeroll moment (if I hear one more woman talking about how grandchildren are just THE BEST!! I might throw something...!) but I survived, quite nicely. I think I was partly too busy helping out, partly too tired by the end of it all (lol), partly just happy for Older Nephew and his wife, and partly just plain thrilled at the prospect of a new baby in the family to spoil. I will never be a mother, let alone a grandmother -- but I've been lucky enough to watch two wonderful nephews grow up -- and the idea that I get to do it all over again with a new generation (and hopefully do it even better this time around) makes me very, very happy. :)

The weather was a bit chilly, and there was a bit of rain before the guests arrived (lunch & games were supposed to be on the patio/terrace) but the sun eventually peeked out a bit & all was well. There was tons of great food to eat (appetizers, lunch & goodies with coffee), some fun people to visit with and not too many dumb games to endure. ;)  Overall, it was a lovely afternoon.

Nevertheless -- at the end of the day, after everyone else had left, the one future grandmother turned to the other and said, "For the baptism -- I say we go to a restaurant!"  lol

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

(Some of) The Haul from yesterday's baby shower.  Note the stacks of diapers!
Everyone who brought a package of diapers
(& most people did, along with an actual gift from the registry)
had their names entered in a draw to win a beautiful gift basket.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

First day of school

Yesterday was the first day of school hereabouts. (Likely the first day of Katie's fourth/last year of university.  Undergrad, anyway.  ;) )  Photo after photo after photo of adorable kids, dressed to the nines (and when did those chalkboard signs get to be a thing??);  comment after comment exclaiming how much they'd grown, etc. Some parents relieved to have the kids FINALLY out of the house after an entire summer, some moaning that they did NOT want the summer to end, did NOT want to send their kids back to school, they LIKED having their kids with them ALL THE TIME.

I "liked" them all (well, most of them ;) ) but as the day went on I was feeling more & more fatigued by the onslaught.

One of my CNBC friends posted a funny photo of an exhausted-looking guy and the caption "8736th day of work" (lol). Which gave me an idea. ;)

I took my e-reader (book:  "American Carnage" by Tim Alberta) and afternoon cup of tea out onto the balcony, did a bit of "days since" calculating via Google, and came up with this photo and caption, which I posted on Facebook & Instagram:

First day of school for some... day 1,869 of retirement for me. 😁😉😂
Enjoying the mild (albeit overcast) weather on the balcony while it lasts... 
I got a lot of "likes."  No comments. ;)  I imagine a few people reading my post probably thought to themselves, "Must be nice!"  Just as I, looking at the photos of their lovely children, thought about what it must be like to have such a beautiful family, to be able to watch their kids grow up and take photos of them...

Someday, they too will be retired and sitting on their balcony/patio/deck... their children may have grown up and left home -- but most of them will be back to visit at least once in a while, and maybe even bring grandchildren with them.

That's something I will never have.

For now, let's just call it a draw & both be thankful for what we do have, shall we?

Monday, September 2, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Labour Day musings

  • It used to be that a statutory holiday like Labour Day was truly a holiday, i.e., just about everything would be closed.  For dh & me, though, today has been a normal Monday, more or less:  the bank was not open (although cash was readily accessible from the ABM) and traffic was somewhat lighter than usual -- but the supermarket & bookstore/Starbucks were both open. Both were busy, and the supermarket in particular was a mob scene, with families stocking up on supplies for school lunches, etc. 
    • August/September hereabouts is also "tomato time."  This is a predominantly Italian community, and the parking lot garden centres, which were full of flowers & seedling vegetable plants in the springtime, have given way to racks of bushel baskets full of ripe red Roma tomatos, which people buy for processing & canning homemade tomato sauce. When dh was growing up, the tomatos would be ground up via handcranked machine (which the kids took turns cranking). These days you can buy electric-powered machines that do the job in half the time, pulverizing the tomatos and separating the seeds & skins from the pulp and juice. Personally, dh & I have never "done" the tomatos in the 30+ years we've been married (although I am sure we would have, had his mother still been alive) -- and of course, I'm allergic anyway.  :(  Many of his cousins look on it as drudgery but many nevertheless continue the tradition.   
  • Two of dh's cousins took their kids to university over the weekend & got them settled into their dorms (as we saw via "empty nest" posts on Facebook & Instagram). 
  • This brought back memories of my own (much less emotionally fraught, as I recall) drop off at residence & first days at university, 40 (!!!)  years ago this week (as I posted yesterday). I pulled out my photo albums (not yet digitized) & smiled at the snapshots of my floormates and some of the hijinks we got up to during that first year. Not very many photos of ME (1/ we didn't take as many photos then as we do now -- film & processing were expensive, especially when you're a poor student...!  and 2/ selfies not being a thing back then, lol) -- but I did have the good sense to take photos of my dorm room, both when it was newly set up (with posters of Peter Frampton and the Muppets' Dr. Teeth & the Electric Mayhem on the wall, lol) and then again just before I dismantled it and headed home for the summer. 
  • Bracing myself for the fresh onslaught of back to school photos tomorrow...! 
  • Wondering whether I need to swap my white purse for something more fall-appropriate yet (brown or black). Does the "no white after Labour Day" rule still apply these days?? 
  • Wondering how much longer I can get away with wearing capris & sandals... temperatures are already starting to feel cooler... :(  
  • Trying to accept that, for all intents & purposes, summer is over (even if there are still a few weeks of it left officially on the calendar). :(    

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

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Right now

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

Reading:  After zooming through 6 (!) books in July, I read a grand total of ONE book in August (reviewed on this blog): 

My Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge YTD total now stands at 29 books -- 5 more than my goal of 24 (121%).  :)

Current reads:  

(Some) recent purchases/additions to the TBR pile: 
Watching: Dh, BIL & SIL & I went to see "Blinded by the Light" a few weeks ago -- about a teenaged Pakistani boy in Margaret Thatcher's Britain of the 1980s, who improbably becomes a Bruce Springsteen superfan (based on a true story). It was corny but really cute, and of course there was all that glorious music. :)  Watching it, I was reminded of the early days of our relationship, with dh playing his Springsteen albums (on cassettes, even!) for me in his dorm room and singing along with them to me. :)  We all left with smiles on our faces. 

I also watched the last few episodes of season 3 of "The Handmaid's Tale." The finale was quite satisfying in most respects, the last 20 minutes or so had me sniffling, and I will look forward to season 4, whenever it arrives. (Although seriously, how many times can June ALMOST get out of Gilead??)  (Looking forward to: getting & reading "The Testaments," Margaret Atwood's sequel to The Handmaid's Tale, which continues the saga of Gilead, albeit not Offred's story. Expected publication date: Sept. 10th.) 

Wondering (on a related note...):  (a) Whether I have time to read Donna Tartt's "The Goldfinch" before the movie version comes out on Sept. 13th... (b) Whether I really WANT to read the book... (c) Whether I really want to see the movie either??  Have you read the book? Thoughts?  (I read "The Secret History" by the same author years ago, & was quite impressed with that one.) 

Listening:  I HAVEN'T listened to any podcasts recently, and I have a big backlog to catch up on!!  including new episodes of "The Full Stop" and "Live Childfree with Erik & Melissa."  

Following:  Dr. Jen Gunter, author of "The Vagina Bible" (see above), on social media.  She is an awesome common-sense advocate for women, their health & their reproductive rights, a loss/preemie mom -- AND she's from my home province and the med school of my alma mater. :) She's also frequently hilarious. :)  I am hoping to check out some episodes of her new online show soon.  It streams on CBC's Gem service, and it's called "Jensplaining." (Unfortunately, it may not be available to viewers outside of Canada.)(Now you know how WE feel re: all the stuff online that we can't view here!)    

Drinking/Eating:  Obviously too much, judging from the numbers on the scale lately.... :p  (Actually, I think my issue is probably lack of exercise, more than what I've been eating...)  

Buying (besides books, lol):  I bought my plane ticket back to Manitoba in October to visit my parents for (Canadian)Thanksgiving & attend an Elton John farewell tour concert with my sister. (I also get to be there for one of the Little Princesses' birthdays.) Feels funny to be planning a solo trip -- the last time I travelled by myself was five (!) years ago now, to Minneapolis to attend my uncle & aunt's 50th wedding anniversary (I met up with my parents & sister there).  But my plane ticket plus the cost of the concert ticket were pretty expensive... plus I think dh is still recovering from the 17 days we just spent there in July, lol. I did used to spend time there on my own when we were first married and getting established in our jobs, and he didn't have as much vacation time as I did. And I travelled solo to attend the funerals for both my maternal grandparents, 21 & 20 years ago, respectively (both also in October). It's just been a while...! 

Wearing:  I've had to start bringing a cardigan or jacket with me when we're out in the evening... a touch of coolness in the air that tells me summer is (almost) over... 

Planning: What to wear for Older Nephew's Wife's baby shower (next weekend).  Probably a blue floral print sundress that I bought on sale at the Gap earlier this summer and haven't yet had a chance to wear anywhere. Weather permitting, the shower will be held outside on the beautiful patio where we celebrated the couple's engagement, five years ago.  (Also thinking about what goodies I can bake to bring along for the sweet table!)  

We already bought them a rather pricey rocking chair for the nursery -- but I didn't want to go empty handed (goodies aside), so I bought them a baby/memory book... and a copy of "Go the F*ck to Sleep,"  lol.  I think it will appeal to both Older Nephew & his wife's senses of humour.  ;)  (And if you haven't heard it as read by Samuel L. Jackson on YouTube, you're in for a treat!!  lol) 

Trying:  Not to let all the back-to-school & empty nest posts on social media get to me. (MUCH more to come over the next week or so, though...! -- most schools here start on Tuesday, after the Labour Day long weekend.)  

Remembering: It was 40 (!!) years ago this weekend that I moved into my dorm & headed off to university. It was a little scary, yes, but exciting, too, and my memories of it all are still very clear. I still think of those four years as the best time of my life. :)  I am so glad that I am back in touch with my university roommate. (I'm also in touch with her ex-husband, whom I also met that week -- I introduced them! -- and two of our dorm neighbours.)  

Wanting: I know I've said this before but it's really what I'd like:  a decent night's sleep!  lol  I really can't think of much that I seriously want that I either don't have or can't easily get. I suppose that makes me pretty lucky. :)  

Feeling: A bit creaky, especially in my left knee. :p  But overall pretty happy at the moment.

Loving:  The slightly cooler temperatures and the drop in humidity. We've been able to have the balcony door open almost all day, every day lately.  My idea of summer perfection!  (But also, sadly, a signal that summer is almost over...!)