Saturday, March 30, 2019

"Spring Magic" by D.E. Stevenson

My online D.E. Stevenson fan/reading group has been alternating reading & discussing the books in Stevenson's "Mrs. Tim" series with a couple of her other books written & set during the Second World War:  following the initial (pre-war) "Mrs. Tim of the Regiment," we read "The English Air," followed by "Mrs. Tim Carries On," set in 1940.

Our latest read, "Spring Magic,"was first published in 1942 (also the year it's set in), and was recently reissued by Dean Street Press for the first time in three decades. It's the story of 25-year-old Frances Field, who was orphaned as a child and has spent most of her sheltered life living with -- and catering to -- her demanding aunt & uncle. With the support of a sympathetic family doctor, Frances decides to take a holiday -- and chooses the scenic village of Cairn on the west coast of Scotland, simply because she saw it in a painting once.  Frances's arrival in town coincides with the arrival of a batallion of soldiers, and she strikes up a friendship with three military wives -- and with a dashing young officer named Guy Tarlatan.

Overall, I enjoyed this book -- albeit with a few caveats. I enjoyed this glimpse of the home front during WWII, and the war as presented here seemed much more real & detailed to me than "Mrs. Tim Carries On."  Frances is an appealing (albeit naive) character and it's fun to watch her blossom as the book progresses.

On the other hand, the marriage of supporting characters Tommy & Midge (and, in the reverse of what you might expect from their names, Tommy is the wife and Midge is the husband!), and Tommy's utter devotion to her unlikeable and undeserving husband, is somewhat disturbing. It is presented as such in the book, but by today's standards, it's absolutely shudder-worthy (although I have no doubt there are still plenty of marriages around like it). I liked Tommy, but there were times when I just wanted to shake some sense into her.

One thing that struck a chord with me: Frances is unmarried & childless (and doesn't expect that to change). And there are a few passages where (in a society that was even more pronatalist than our own today) this is played up (although -- to Stevenson's credit -- it's the maternal figures who come out looking ridiculous).

In Chapter XI, for example, Frances takes tea with one of her new friends, who has a little boy and demanding toddler girl, who dominate the visit and the conversation. Frances is not used to being around children, and I couldn't help but chuckle when I read this all-too-familiar scenario:
Mrs. Liston was so taken up with her children, smiling fondly at Dolly's antics and trying to coax Winkie to eat [ed. note: "Winkie"??!], that it was quite impossible to converse with her, and Frances could not help wondering why she had been asked to come.  
In Chapter XIII, Frances encounters Mrs. Liston's nanny, Miss Cole, on a train with Winkie. As they talk, she expresses her interest in taking up some sort of work after her holiday:
Miss Cole laughed... "I'm doing work of national importance already. What could be more important than looking after children and bringing them up to be useful members of society?"  
(She continues to expound at some length on the subject. This being 1942ish, the extremely polite & affable Frances agrees with her.  Yawn...)

I gave this book three stars on Goodreads.

Here are my other posts about Stevenson & her books

This was book #8 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 33% of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 3 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)

Friday, March 29, 2019

Cathy is back!

Aaaaccccckk!! Cathy is back! :)  (And I couldn't be happier! :)  )

Over the past year, Cathy Guisewite, now 68 years old, creator of the classic "Cathy" comic strip (1976-2010), has revived her "Cathy" character in single-panel cartoon format, posting them on Instagram & Facebook (the first one read, "Aaaccckk!  Social media!" lol).

For women of a certain (cough cough -- MY) generation, "Cathy" was a touchstone. Not everyone loved her as I did, but she was definitely a trailblazer -- a reflection of the times we lived in and of women's rapidly changing roles & expectations.

Next month, Guisewite has a book of essays coming out, "Fifty Things That Aren't My Fault." Both Cathys were featured in a a recent article from New York Magazine's "The Cut," titled "The Feminist Paradox of Cathy Guisewite."

Guisewite shared the article on social media -- and fangirl me could not resist commenting:  "I was 15 when the Cathy strip began, and it was a touchstone for me my entire adult life. Miss it, and so glad to see you back in the spotlight... Looking forward to your new book! 👍❤️"

So of course I was totally giddy when Guisewite responded, "Thank you so much, Lori. That means a lot to me. ♥️"  Not only a "thank you" but a puffy heart one too. I was in heaven. As when Donny Osmond liked my comment on his Instagram post, I took a screenshot & shared it, lol. To quote a friend's comment:  "AAACCCKKK!!"  ;)

As I said when I shared the article on Facebook, "Maybe Gloria Steinem was the ideal; but Cathy was my reality." I wrote about Cathy & her influence on my life back in August 2010, when I first learned the strip would be ending after 34 (!!) years (essentially spanning my entire adult life, from age 15 to 49) -- and then my (not-so-happy) reaction to the final strip that October.

I sadly sent the books & mugs to the Sally Ann store when we moved to a condo three years ago & had to downsize drastically -- but I am looking forward to buying & reading the new book when it comes out soon! :)

(I was just about to hit "publish" on this post when I saw that Guisewite had posted another article -- this one from Time -- about her & her book.  Also worth a read!) 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

News flash: Aging sucks :(

Last night, around 11, I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth. I've always had floaters in my eyes, since I was a kid (particularly in the right one, which is my weaker eye) -- but there was a big one I hadn't noticed before, swinging in & out of my vision range. I finished up, came to bed, pressed the button on my cellphone to shut it down & turned out the lamp on the bedside table. 

The phone glows as it's shutting down -- but suddenly, out of nowhere, there were a couple of flashes of light, like lightning. I said, "What the heck was THAT?"

I thought it was my phone at first, but then I realized it was my eye.  :(  I found if just I lay in bed & looked around with my head on the pillow, I was OK -- but if I lifted my head too far off the pillow, or got up to go to the bathroom, I'd see the flashes again, right in the outer corner of my right eye.

This scared the crap out of me. I know flashes of light (and the sudden onset of new floaters) can be a sign that the retina is detaching, which is serious stuff. But I also knew there wasn't anything much I could do about in the middle of the night, short of heading to emergency... and I noticed that as the night went on, the flashes got weaker/less intense, which I took to be a good thing.

In the morning light, the flashes were less noticeable -- although if I went into the bathroom without the lights on & shut the door, I could see them flickering at the outer corner of my eye. We showered & had breakfast, and then I called our optometrist's office. We've been seeing him since we first got married -- i.e., more than 30 years! His office is close to where our first apartment was in midtown Toronto. He's not always in the office every day, or all day, but luckily, he was in. In fact, I'd just called there earlier in the week to book our regular checkups (scheduled for next week) -- but the receptionist agreed I should get it looked at now & said the last slot of the day was available to me, at 12:40.

I took it. 

He dilated my eye & did a bunch of scans/photos.  It didn't take him long to tell me I had a "complete PVD" -- posterior vitreous detachment -- in my right eye. I was somewhat familiar with the idea, as both my SIL & sister's boyfriend have had similar experiences over the past year.  Your eyeball is full of gelatinous stuff that's attached to your retina -- it deteriorates & shrinks as you age, and sometimes it will detach/pull away from the retina wall & fall to the bottom of your eye. (!) Not something you want to happen -- but not the worst-case scenario -- and very common as you age, apparently. The dr told me he sees two or three cases like this EVERY DAY. 

Sometimes, as the vitreous pulls away from the retina, it takes the retina with it, or tears it. This can be serious. VERY fortunately, the dr told me the retina was intact, no tears or damage. He doesn't expect I will have any problems in the future.

But he told me I'm not to do any heavy lifting or strain myself for the next while. It may take a few weeks for the flashes & floaters to settle down -- but if I start getting more/intense flashes or a sudden influx of new floaters, or a shadow/curtain coming down over my vision, I'm to call him immediately... and if I can't get hold of him, we're to go to one of the hospitals in the city that is known for dealing with these things.  Fingers crossed it will never come to that! Our checkups next week will also serve as a followup on this for me.

Dh's theory was that this was caused by too much screen time (laptop/cellphone). I asked the dr. Answer:  Nope. (lol)  Nevertheless, I will admit, I HAVE been spending too much time on screens recently (it's been a loooonnnnggggg winter...!!), & both my eyes are a bit dry, sore & strained. So I'm trying to limit my screen time a little more than usual, until things get back on a more even keel. I'm already behind on blog reading & commenting, so if I've been absent from your comments section lately, this might be why.

Please keep your fingers crossed for me that things continue to go well!  (And if you ever start seeing a lot of floaters or flashing lights in your peripheral vision, please, get thee to an optometrist/opthamologist/emergency room, pronto!) 

(Aging sucks.) 

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Reading reflections

Thank you, Raven Rambling, for this meme!  :)

1. Who was your first (or only) literary hero?

In terms of characters? -- Nancy Drew.  :)  I inherited a copy of "The Clue of the Tapping Heels" from my mother, and the first book I can remember buying with my own money was "The Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes." I was 7 -- I bought it at Eatons when I was with a church group for a youth rally in a larger town a few hours away from mine -- & I believe it cost something like $1.29 of my carefully saved allowance.  :)  My collection grew from there, and I also read Nancy Drews from the library or borrowed copies from friends.

In terms of my first author hero(ine)s, that would be L.M. Montgomery, author of "Anne of Green Gables" (as well as "Emily of New Moon," "Pat of Silver Bush," "The Blue Castle" and so many other wonderful books).  The fact that she was Canadian was a plus. :)  As an adult, I have read a lot about her life. She was a complex woman, and my admiration & respect for her and her accomplishments has only grown as I've learned more about her life and all the obstacles she had to deal with.

2. What book changed the way you looked at life?

I read "Looking Back" by Joyce Maynard when I was about 12, which I've written about in this blog before, here. The idea that someone just 7 years older than me could write a book, so well -- and one about her own life, experiences and observations, no less -- was mind-blowing to me. Not to mention that I could relate to so much of what she was writing about -- the Beatles vs the Stones, SRA labs at school, and most especially her loathing of phys ed class and team sports. :)

3. What book(s) can you read over and over?

I don't re-read a lot of books these days.... too many other books waiting to be read!  But I've read some of L.M. Montgomery's books multiple times. I do like to read "The Blue Castle" again every several years. :)

4. Hardcover, paperback or e-book?

I will read any & all of the above. :)  Hardcovers seem so much more substantial :)  paperbacks are cheaper & not as heavy, and e-books are great because they are so portable and don't take up much space (or luggage weight, when I'm travelling/commuting).  Most of the books I buy are paperback, but I will buy hardcover if it's an author I really like &/or a book I really like and don't want to wait to read until the paperback comes out.

5. What are your earliest reading memories?

My mother & grandmother both used to read to me, before I could read myself. I do remember the neighbour lady who lived across the street helping me sound out words in a book. (We studied phonics when I was in grade school, and I am a firm believer!) We had lots of Little Golden Books & other books in the house. My favourite (which I still have, although it's pretty beat-up) was called "Alexander Kitten" -- a present from my paternal grandparents (their names are inscribed on the inside cover). It's about a little orange & white kitten who lives on a farm and who is constantly getting into trouble. (Memorable line:  "MEOWCH!"  cried Alexander Kitten... And away he skittered!)(I will sometimes (still!) say this whenever I have an "ouch!" moment, lol.)

(I just Googled it -- I can't believe I found it on Goodreads!! See the cover, above.)

It wasn't too long before I was reading myself. I think I was 4. I was reading Bobbsey Twins & Nancy Drew books by the time I got to school, and I remember lugging my paperback copy of "Gone With the Wind" to school with me when I was 11 or 12. :)

6. What are you reading right now?

I am still plugging along on "Russian Roulette."  My D.E. Stevenson reading group is starting its next selection, "Spring Magic," soon. And I'll be reading the next selection for the local library book club in time for its late April meeting -- "The German Girl" by Armando Lucas Correa.

(Speaking of the library book club -- I went to my first meeting at the library last night. We were discussing "Beartown" by Fredrik Backman, which I read & reviewed here. The meeting was an hour & a half long. There were a LOT more people than I thought there would be, about 18 -- 17 women and one man, lol. A few looked to be in their late 40s or 50s (like me), but I would say most were in their 60s or older (one older lady was shocked! SHOCKED!! by some of the language the boys in the book used, lol). With that many people around the table, there tended to be a lot of side conversations going on, & every now & then, a chorus of "SHHH!!"  would start.  Nevertheless (as a one-time group facilitator myself), I thought the librarian leading the discussion did a pretty good job of keeping the commotion down & making sure everyone who had something to say got a chance to speak. I will be back!)

Thanks for reading along, and feel free to answer the questions in the comments (or on your own blog). I’d love to see your responses!

Monday, March 25, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: A disclaimer??!

Over the weekend, someone on a childless/free forum I follow shared a first-person essay about coming to terms with childlessness  that they'd found on It was originally published on Red.

"How I accepted my 'childless' life" by Lorna Gibb traces Gibb's journey from infertility to acceptance. I thought it was a great article overall, covering some all-too-familiar territory and insights.

However, I was somewhat taken aback by a disclaimer printed in boldface type below the headline & photo, before the actual text of the article began:
Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.
All I could think was "Seriously??!!"  As I commented, "They felt it necessary to put a disclaimer on an article about accepting childlessness and to say that it doesn't represent their views??!"

Another commenter responded, "As if childlessness is such a controversial 'point of view'. I hope it's a standard disclaimer and not just for this topic..."

I went over to & clicked on a few of the other articles in the Lifestyles section there, ones on topics that I thought some might find controversial in some way, about breastfeeding, veganism, etc. I checked out some other first-person essays in the same section ("My ex-boyfriend helps me raise my child").  I could not find a similar disclaimer on any of them (let alone right up front in bold type!).  (And the disclaimer is not present in the source article on Red, suggesting it was added by

Maybe I'm being overly thin-skinned.  Maybe I'm missing something here. But... 

In some ways I find this hilarious. In others, infuriating.


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

Saturday, March 23, 2019

"The Right Way to Follow Your Passion"

I don't know why (and I apologize in advance to any of you who may feel differently)(how very Canadian of me, lol), but whenever anyone starts blathering on about "finding your passion" and how we (especially when "we" = a corporation) are "passionate about [whatever],"  I habitually find myself rolling my eyes. Maybe because it was something I heard far too often and was compelled to include as a buzzword in far too many documents during my career as a corporate communicator (especially in later years). And of course, part of my resistance no doubt stems from the fact that I "followed my passion" to start a family -- and wound up a complete & utter (and still childless) wreck.  I've come a long way since then, of course, but it's not a time in my life that I'd care to relive anytime soon.

Now, "passion" has its place -- I will admit to being "passionate" myself about certain things (even if I might resist using that particular term, lol). I might even say I am "passionate" about connecting with other childless/free women and sharing what I've learned about this life, and learning more from you in return. :)

Perhaps it's the stoic Scandinavian in me ;)  or the practical Capricorn influence. But I worry that far too many people (and young people in particular) equate "passion" with "career." (Isn't that what we always hear? -- "do what you love and the money will follow"?)  They bounce from one academic program to the next and from job to job in search of that elusive spark of "passion" that will make their life perfect. Or they do find a way to turn their passion into profits, but eventually, the daily grind drains the joy from something they once loved.

I recently shared a meme I found about how the pressure to "find your passion" is messing a lot of people up. (I was also reminded of a story I found once (& shared here), which carried one of my all-time favourite headlines:  "Follow Your Bliss, Right Off the Cliff.") So my interest was piqued when I found this article in the New York Times a few days ago, which addresses some of these topics:  "The Right Way to Follow Your Passion."

I was especially interested in the author's thoughts about when "passion" becomes obsession, and the difference between "harmonious passion" and "obsessive passion."  Does any of this sound familiar??:
Research shows that obsessive passion is associated with burnout, anxiety, depression and unethical conduct. One reason for this is that people who are obsessively passionate tie their self-worth to outcomes that are often outside their control. Being passionate about — or, perhaps better put, a slave to — the achievement of an external result that you cannot control creates a volatile and fragile sense of self. The consequences are often disastrous.
I also appreciated this point, near the end:
Embrace acute failure for chronic gains. If you take the long view and focus on a lifetime of progress instead of point-in-time results, then failure shifts from being something terrible to a source of rich information and an opportunity to grow.
Not everything in this article applies to infertility ;) but there is plenty of food for thought. I'd love to hear yours!

I usually recommend caution when reading the comments ;)  but some of them are instructive too.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

So why aren't there more of us? (part 2)

There was an interesting recent conversation on social media (mostly Twitter but also Instagram), between Katy at Chasing Creation, Erik & Melissa at the podcast LiveChildfree, and others, on the question of why so few people openly embrace a non-parent identity, especially those who initially wanted children.

It started when Erik & Melissa posted a new podcast episode pondering this topic, and asked the same question on Instagram (also on IG here).

Then Katy asked, on Twitter,
@LiveChildfree mentioned on a podcast I recently listened to that they were surprised at how many people reach out to them but are only sharing privately. Do you guys have thoughts on this?
This is a subject that those of us who have been around this community for a while have pondered in the past.  I knew I had written something on this topic here before ;)  so I dug through my blog archives & found it  :)  -- "So why aren't there more of us?"  (from January 2012)

The stats show that we are NOT an insignificant part of the population. In January 2014, Jody Day at Gateway Women reassured us: "You’re Not the Odd One Out." [emphasis mine]
Although when you look around you in the street, amongst your friends and family or in the media you may sometimes feel like the only woman who isn’t a mother, the surprising fact is that 1:5 UK and US women born in the 1960s reached 45 without having had children. And, as the first of those born in the 1970s turn 45 in 2015, we’ll begin to see if the statistic rises to 1:4 as it already is in Italy, Switzerland and Finland. My hunch is it will, but the data’s a few years off yet.
The last time the rate of childlessness was this high in the population was for women born around 1900. Research has shown that this was due to two factors: the large number of women who remained unmarried due to the loss of so many men in the First World War, and the effect of the Great Depression of the 1930s on both fertility and finances. Rather shockingly these were known as the ‘surplus women’. 
The fact that it took the most devastating war this world has seen in terms of loss of life, coupled with the Great Depression, to suppress birth rates to this same extent before shows that we are indeed living through a period of massive social change. It really isn’t ‘just us’.
Despite these large and growing numbers, however, the percentage of childless/free women (and men!) who are openly embracing a childless/free identity, online & elsewhere, is still, curiously, very small.


While I think most of the points I made in my original post are still valid (please read them over there!), there are a couple more thoughts that have come to me that I wanted to throw out.

We still live in a hugely pronatalist society that is only just beginning to become dimly aware of us as a large and growing group with legitimate concerns, needs and interests apart from those of parents. The glorification of pregnancy and parenthood, the assumption of parenthood as "the norm," is something many of us without children are only too aware of -- but when you're a parent, it's something you tend to take for granted and don't question. Creating awareness, changing the culture, changing firmly entrenched, long-held attitudes toward childless/free people (let alone policies and practices that affect them) is a lonnnnngggggg sllllllooooowwww and often painful process (as activists from visible minority groups, LGBTQ communities, and the feminist movement at large will tell us...!).

And it's not just parents who have a blind spot on these matters. Many people without children, even if they're struggling with painful feelings, are only dimly aware that they're part of a large and growing group, and that they have a right to be sad -- and, yes, even angry sometimes! -- about the way their lives and concerns are minimized and ignored by others around them. It's not surprising. After all, when you're going through infertility treatment, the focus is on getting a child. Nobody wants to talk about the possibility that this isn't going to work. You hear very little -- from the clinic, from other infertiles, from your family & friends, from the culture around you -- that suggests a life without children could be an acceptable (even positive) outcome. (There's no money in that for the clinic, of course...!)

Over time, there HAS definitely been progress in changing the culture and encouraging the childless/free to speak up -- and there will continue to be more. When I think about the resources that were available to me back in 2001, when we closed the door on infertility treatment, versus what's out there right now, there is just no question that things have improved.  Maybe not enough! ;)  -- but there HAS been SOME progress.

I believe our numbers will continue to grow, and attitudes will continue to change. One reason why I believe this:  On LiveChildfree's IG post, Sistergoldenhair924 made an interesting observation:
When we were growing up people like us were just kind of pitied and no one talked about it! Now, women and couples openly tell the world that they are infertile and use social media as a tool for support and advice, as well as education. So I think a result of that is that women have become more comfortable being open about ending their quest for a baby since we have been sharing everything else. 
I think she is absolutely right.  I do think we are STILL pitied and not talked about/ignored, lol.  But I think she's nailed it here, about how social media is making it easier (a) for CNBCers (and childfree-by-choice-ers, for that matter) to find & support each other & (b) to speak out more openly about these subjects to others outside of ALI circles, if they choose to do so.

For some of us (like me), this is (still) difficult to do.  I'm not as worried as I used to be about family members and friends stumbling onto this blog (as one did a few years ago)... but I'm not gonna hand out the address either, lol.  I think it's partly a generational thing. I am 58;  I've noticed that some of the younger emerging CNBC bloggers & social media activists are in their 30s & early 40s -- i.e., I AM OLD ENOUGH (or almost old enough) TO BE THEIR MOTHER (eeeekkkkkk).  I was 35 when I got my first personal computer & went online for the first time. I was 37 when my daughter was stillborn, 40 when we stopped treatment, 46 when I started blogging, 48 when I joined Facebook, and 55 when I got my first smartphone and joined Instagram & Twitter.

Younger people have grown up immersed in this stuff. They are used to sharing their lives openly on social media and have little/no hesitation about doing so when it comes to infertility too. (Certainly less of it than my peers & I did, and perhaps still do.)  And while I have difficulty sharing my story (outside of the adoption/loss/infertility community), I am glad others don't. :)  I think it's a good thing overall. :)

I also think that, even in this age of social media & greater sharing of our personal lives, some people are (still) simply unaware of what's available out there -- or even just that there IS support available online. In the comments on my original 2012 post, Jamie commented:
To be honest, it surprises me when I come across someone who ~isn't~ a blog reader. I have a co-worker friend who had been going through the IF journey and asked me if I had ever heard of a HCG "trigger" shot. I was like, "Seriously? Do you just not have internet access at home?" 
Shocking as it seems in this day and age but I wonder if there aren't women out there who don't know where to go for support. Because, you know, it's a topic that is still taboo to talk about. Along with IF, loss, etc.
I had a similar experience(s)/reaction during the 10 years we led our pregnancy loss support group.  Many (not all, but a good number) of our clients were also dealing with infertility issues, and I was shocked at how ill-informed some (not all, certainly, but definitely some) of them were on these matters. Granted, this was 10-20 years ago, and the online world has evolved significantly since then -- but there was still good information & support out there for those who chose to look for it and ask questions. My own approach, whenever I'm dealing with an issue that's affecting my life in a major way, is to research the hell out of it.  ;)  I sometimes forget that not everybody is like me and does this. :)

What are your thoughts? If you've written a post about this, now or in the past, I would love to read it -- please share a link here!   

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

"Where'd You Go, Bernadette" by Maria Semple

As I mentioned in this post yesterday, I had started "Russian Roulette" by Michael Isikoff & David Corn as my next read... but even though it was well researched & written, I was having a hard time getting beyond the first couple of chapters. I figured perhaps I was a little fatigued by current events (do you blame me, right??) and perhaps something lighter was called for.  

So I set that one aside for the time being, and picked up "Where'd You Go Bernadette" by Maria Semple.  I bought it a couple of years ago, when it first came out in paperback, but it's been languishing in the TBR (to-be-read) pile.  I moved it up when I heard the movie version (with Cate Blanchett as Bernadette) was being released on March 22nd.  

As it turns out, the movie release date has been pushed back to August. Oh well. I had already started the book... and it was hard to put down. I breezed through it in two days flat and finished it tonight. It was laugh-out-loud funny in parts (and kleenex-worthy in others), & a good alternative to the heavier stuff in "Russian Roulette" (not to mention what's on the news every night...!).  

The story is narrated by 15-year-old Bee, whose mother, Bernadette, a celebrated architect-turned-stay-at-home-mom (and an increasingly reclusive one at that) has vanished from their Seattle home two days before Christmas, just before a planned family trip to Antarctica.  Through a series of emails, notes & letters, FBI reports, receipts, magazine articles and other documents, Bee reconstructs her mother's story -- and sets out to learn what happened to her.  

Some people might not like the way the story unfolds, going back & forth between documents, exposing multiple points of view beyond Bee's framing narration, and taking the story back into the past. Personally, I loved it. :)  

ALI note & POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT:  It never ceases to amaze me just often pregnancy loss (&/or infertility) turn up in the books I read. (I shouldn't be, considering how commonplace these things really are.)  Bernadette had multiple miscarriages before Bee -- and Bee was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. (No wonder the woman went a little bonkers...!) I always hear that HLHS described as a "rare" heart condition -- and yet there were quite a few bereaved parents who came to our pregnancy loss support group after losing babies this way.  Of course, we always heard about the babies who didn't survive, so it was nice to read about one who did, even though she was a fictional character. :)  

I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads. (It might have been slightly higher but I've docked it a few points because of Bernadette's negative digs at Canadians. ;)  )(Although she does recant somewhat near the end.)  It will be interesting to see just how the story will translate to the screen, and I will look forward to seeing the movie later this summer! 

This was book #7 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 29% of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 2 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)

Monday, March 18, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

  • I know I've done a lot of "odds & ends" posts lately, but I seriously could not think of one specific thing I could build a #MM post around... so you get a brain dump. Again.  :p  ;)  
  • Today was the first day in a loooonnnngggg time that felt a bit like spring. The sky was blue and the temp, while a touch chilly, was a few degrees above 0C ( = 30sF), which felt positively balmy after the cold snaps we've had lately...! 
  • As I mentioned here, I started reading "Russian Roulette" by Michael Isikoff & David Corn at the end of February, thinking the release of the Mueller report was imminent and wanting to be up to speed on the subject (Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election).  
    • That was three weeks ago -- still no Mueller report (*sob!*) -- and frankly, I just could not get into it. It was well written and researched, but I was finding it hard to motivate myself to pick it up. Maybe I've just had quite enough of that particular topic at the moment.  ;)  
  • So I set that one aside for the time being, and picked up the next book in my pile: "Where'd You Go Bernadette" by Maria Semple.  I bought it when it first came out in paperback, and moved it up when I heard the movie version (with Cate Blanchett as Bernadette!) was being released this weekend. 
    • Alas -- I Googled tonight to see if it would be playing anywhere near me -- only to discover the release date has been pushed back to August. Boo, hiss.... 
    • Nevertheless, I've started reading the book & (one not-particularly-funny joke about Canadians aside) am quite enjoying it so far. Much lighter & easier going than "Russian Roulette," lol.
  • BIL, SIL, dh & I went to see "Apollo 11" this past weekend -- a documentary about the first moon landing, featuring some amazing newly found footage. Dh & BIL were enthralled. I really enjoyed it too. (SIL fell asleep... not quite her thing, lol.)  It was produced in part by CNN, which tells me it will likely show up there sooner or later, but I'm very glad I got to see it on the big screen. (I've heard that IMAX is the ideal way to see it, if you can!) 
  • Like many of you (most? all?? -- I hope...), I was horrified by the terrorist shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, late last week, and the murder of 50 innocent people in a house of worship. And so very impressed by the way the country and its leaders are handling the situation. Of course I was thinking about Mali, as well as my penpal of 42 (!!) years, who lives in Auckland. Mali's post at her other blog, A Separate Life, is a must-read. 

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

Sunday, March 17, 2019

"Just enjoy the trees"

A Facebook find :)
and something I think we as childless women feel especially pressured to do,
in lieu of having children to focus our energies on. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

(More)(childless/free living) Odds & ends

  • The private Gateway Women community recently moved to a new platform, as Google+, its home for the past few years, is shutting down on April 2nd. I always found Google+ a bit daunting, but I've been hanging out a bit at the new site, and I'm quite enjoying it!  :) 
    • The GW community is a safe, private space for childless-not-by-choice women.  Highlights include unlimited topics and special interest sub-groups, topic filters, events, a monthly "fireside chat'"with Jody just for members, live comunity chats, online courses, and more! 
    • You can access the community online, or via a specially designed app!  
    • To ensure it remains a safe space for all, new members are ID checked. 
    • The first month is free, after which there is a monthly or annual subscription fee. 
    • More than 260 GW members have already made the move to the new space.
    • Beyond the private community -- if you are childless not by choice, you simply MUST check out Gateway Women's public website, which is home to Jody's blog and a ton of excellent resources, including information about GW meetup groups and Reignite weekends, excerpts & purchase information for Jody's book ("Living the Life Unexpected"), links to videos, podcasts, media, recommended books, blogs and support organizations, and much more! 
  • I enjoyed listening to Jody talk about "rediscovering joy after infertility" on the Magnificent Midlife podcast recently. 
  • I think I found The Uterus Monologues blog through Jody/Gateway Women. Wonderful writing... A couple of sample posts:  "Hello from the other side" and Empty-nest syndrome. Sample passage:  
When babies don’t arrive as expected, what you start to feel keenly is a slow loosening of the usual social rituals, an absence of structure outside of the foregone conclusions of post-hospital visitors, christenings, first birthday parties and so on. Accordingly, you start to realise that there are things you had been counting on children to bring into your life – chaos, routine, celebration, warmth, visitors, play, noise, joy, meaning, belonging – and you may have no choice but to create them for yourself, in some shape or form. 
So perhaps that’s what the empty-nesting is about, that’s why it feels therapeutic – it’s the forging of a slightly different kind of family home, in recognition that you are already a family, right now. Instead of waiting for your real life to begin. Saving things for best, always.
  • Another new blog with some great writing, as pointed out by Jody: Chasing Creation.  I especially like her post, "Do you have kids?" and how she's detailed her thinking on what to respond, when & why. 
  • Brooke alerted me to a CNBCer I should check out. Tia has a blog at Forever, Orchard, but these days, she is mostly on Instagram, and devoting her energies to organizing an infertility summit in suburban Chicago on April 27. (Anyone planning to attend?)  
    • Personally, I can't imagine ever describing myself as "infertile AF" (infertile, yes, but "infertile AF"?)(And I don't think the "AF" here stands for "Aunt Flo," lol). I guess it's a generational thing (at 58, it occurs to me that I am old enough to be Tia's mother... GULP). Nevertheless, I wish them luck with the conference! & I will be following Tia on IG.
    • Tia authored this December 2017 article on IVF Babble, telling her story and explaining why she & her husband chose to walk away from infertility treatment, and the chance at parenthood. Excerpt: 
This is not the life I want to live anymore. 
After five incredibly taxing years, searching for the right combination of medication, lifestyle and luck, we are walking away from the path to become parents... 
I keep writing and sharing my story because, although IVF is typically the golden standard on the road to parenthood, it doesn’t always work out that way. And that’s okay. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Odds & ends

  • It is spring break hereabouts. (Insert eyeroll icon & cue the "Ride of the Valkyries" music.) So far, the crowds haven't been TOO bad when we've been out & about... but we expect that to change as the week goes on...!  
  • Not only was Sunday the switchover to daylight saving time, our building had a 6-hour planned power outage from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (which wound up actually lasting from 9:30 to 2:20) while the local power company did some work just up the street from us (no doubt connected to the never-ending road/rapid transit line construction work that's been going on almost from the day we moved here...!).  No TV, no Internet, no heat (fortunately, it wasn't too very cold outside...), no hot water (we set the alarm clock so that we'd have time for breakfast & showers before they pulled the plug on us).  We thought about going for brunch & a movie ("Captain Marvel" opened this weekend... although reviews have been mixed...)  but... did I mention it's spring break hereabouts??  :p  We decided to skip the movie -- went for brunch & a bookstore browse instead. The first restaurant we went to had a lineup out the door, so we tried another one, which was also busy but we did get seated right away. And the bookstore was not as busy as I feared it might be, thank goodness!  :)  
  • Cristy alerted me to this site -- Table for Two. It's noteworthy for some of the recipes alone (yum!), but it also covers other lifestyle topics. The blogger, Julie, is childfree by choice, and recently wrote a post on the subject (which is why Cristy sent me the link -- thanks, Cristy!). And even though Julie never wanted children, there's a lot in her post that sounds familiar -- check it out
  • (POTENTIAL SPOILERS)  Anyone see last week's episode of "Young Sheldon?" In a nutshell, Sheldon's mom Mary discovers she's pregnant. Now, we KNOW Sheldon only has two siblings -- older brother Georgie, twin sister Missy -- since we've met them in adult form on "The Big Bang Theory."  No others have ever been mentioned. I said, "Uh oh, miscarriage." Dh (ever-optimistic, despite our own experiences and 10 years as a pregnancy loss group facilitator) said, "Nah, it's a comedy. They'll just figure out it was a mistake and she wasn't pregnant after all."  And of course, it WAS a (very early) miscarriage. (And relatively well handled, as these things go on TV, which was nice to see!)  
  • "Mad About You" is returning to TV! -- albeit some obscure U.S. streaming service. I do hope some channel from our cable package picks it up here in Canada. From what I've read, Paul & Jamie Buchman, played by Paul Reiser & Helen Hunt, will be empty nesters after their daughter Mabel goes off to college.  
    • I wrote about this series & the eerie parallels between Paul & Jamie's life and mine & dh's (up to a point...) several years ago, here.  
    • A few commenters remembered "didn't they break up at the very end"?  I guess, like "Roseanne," they will just ignore that inconvenient storyline, lol.  
    • Some commenters wanted to know if Murray the dog would be making an appearance. Not likely, because Murray would be at least 25 years old now!   
    • One commenter wisecracked "I guess Nat the dog walker won't be making an appearance."  (Nat was played by Hank Azaria.  He and Helen Hunt lived together for about five years, got married in 1999 and then split about 1-2 years later.)  

Monday, March 11, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Our neighbours' keepers

This article was right out of the "my worst nightmare" category. :( 

An elderly man in Ottawa spent the ENTIRE WINTER snowed into his house, living off whatever food he had on hand. A concerned neighbour (finally!) called the police, who found an entire winter's worth of snow piled high in the driveway (& Ottawa got a LOT of snow this winter!), blocking access in & out of the house. They removed the snow, brought the man some groceries and arranged for further support going forward.

All I could think, reading it, was, "That could be me in 20-25 years." Well, maybe not if I keep living in a condo (snow removal is not an issue, thankfully!)  ;) ...and that was one reason why we moved here -- to eliminate chores such as snow shovelling and be closer to family as we age. Plus, while I can be rather stubborn at times and I like my independence, I like to think I would call someone for help if I needed it. (Although I know that not all elderly people recognize when they need help, or know where to call for it.) 

Nevertheless, I think this is many childless women's secret fear -- that we'll wind up living alone, helpless & forgotten.  :(  Please, everyone, check in on your neighbours now & then, especially if you know they are elderly &/or living alone or otherwise vulnerable!  

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

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Happy birthday, Thomas :)

Mel mentioned in yesterday's Friday Roundup that today is Random Acts of Kindness for Thomas Day.  I met Thomas's mom Kristin (aka Msfitzita) through blogging (and I've been fortunate enough to meet her in "real life" too), and she has become a dear friend. Thomas would have been 14 years old today, and each year, Kristin & her husband Sandy ask their friends to do random acts of kindness in his memory. (And goodness knows, the world needs all the kindness it can get these days...!) 

If you'd like to join in, it's not too late! :) You can sign up through the "sign up" link on Thomas's RAK Day Facebook page.  You don't need to be anywhere specific, or spend any money... just look for opportunities to be extra kind to others today. :)  And, if you like, go back to Thomas's page later and tell Kristin & Sandy what you did. 

For my part -- I've already sent donations to two small charities I thought the parents might appreciate, contributed to another friend's 14-year-old daughter's school trip fundraiser, and gave my hairdresser a larger-than-usual tip when she cut my hair earlier this week.   And I'll be looking for any other opportunities to be kind and do good later today, too.

Here's a post I wrote four years ago for Thomas's 10th birthday. :)  His story appeared on the front page of the Toronto Star that day, and his parents reached their goal of 10,000 RAKs in his name that year. :) 

Go forth and be kind. :) 

Friday, March 8, 2019

Happy International Women's Day!

International Women's Day has never been much of a "thing" in Canada or the United States. I only started taking note of it maybe a decade ago, when my company started making a bit of a fuss about it.  IWD was more of a "thing" in our international locations, initially -- and I suspect the powers that be seized on it as and expanded our activities as a way to shore up their credentials as an "employer of choice" for women. There would be stories in the staff newsmagazine and internal online communications, perhaps a special guest speaker for the women's network group (which was, unhappily, only open to those at the management level & above -- meaning I never got to go), and donations to charities that benefited women & girls.

I never thought or wondered much about why IWD wasn't celebrated as much in North America vs the rest of the world -- or why Mother's Day is so feted here, but not quite as big a deal elsewhere -- until I read this article from today's New York Times. (In short, the reason is political.)  Eye-opening, to say the least. They had me at the subheading: 
Forget Mother’s Day. Today we celebrate women as friends, sisters, workers and comrades, too.
And this paragraph: 
For my part, I despise that Mother’s Day values women only as mothers. It reinforces the idea that this is our most important role: giving birth and sacrificing enormous amounts of unpaid labor toward raising the next generation of citizens. We are more than our wombs.
Some have tried to tell me that Mother's Day celebrates ALL women who nurture & encourage the next generation. Hmmmm, nice try, but I don't entirely buy it.  (Maybe it SHOULD be that way, but it doesn't always work out that way.) 

But IWD is (or should be) about ALL women, and all that we are -- not just our roles as mothers & caretakers.

(I wrote an IWD post last year along these lines.)

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Odds & ends

  • There was a great article in Harpers Bazaar recently that asks "Is infertility the last taboo in cinema?" and cites two recent films on the subject: "Private Life" (now on Netflix) and "Only You," which will be released on July 5th.  I haven't seen "Private Life" yet, but I hear (from other ALIers) that it's good. I love Paul Giamatti, and I'm glad it seems to be a well-done look at infertility & childlessness, but I think I'd have to be in the right mood to watch it... How about you? 
    • Sample quote:  "Ultimately, our society can be held accountable for this dearth of movies about infertility: reproducing is so bound up in the accepted human experience that daring to spotlight the alienation of couples without children takes guts... 'Having a child is hailed in the media as an incredible feat and any woman who doesn't have one is questioned and pitied.' ”
  • Jody Day of Gateway Women flagged this great article from a New Zealand publication in which she is quoted:  "Women childless by circumstance shamed and misunderstood."  Lois Tonkin, a New Zealand academic & grief counsellor who wrote a recently published book called "Motherhood Missed," is also cited. 
  • As a former journalist & communicator, I'm a big fan of the CNN Sunday morning show about how the news gets made, "Reliable Sources," and follow the host, Brian Stelter, and his wife, Jamie (who co-hosts a morning show on a local New York City TV station), on social media. They have an adorable toddler daughter named Sunny, and Jamie just announced Sunny will be getting a little brother or sister in August. They have been very open about their struggles with infertility and pregnancy loss, and I loved Jamie's Instagram post, thanking people for their good wishes, but admitting that "getting here was not easy" and "we all need to take a beat and think about how we relentlessly ask women about having (more) children — or worse, asking them if they're pregnant. (please, don't do this.)"  Worth a read
  • (Non-ALI-related:)  I was in a bookstore recently, and as I moved along the row of shelves, there was a man nearby. As I moved nearer to him, he caught my glance & pointed indignantly at the shelf in front of him. It was a whole row of copies of Michelle Obama's book. "Look at that," he said in a withering tone. "Those people have lots of money already and now they're making more. They shouldn't be allowed to do that... It's disgusting..." and continued ranting in that vein. I just sort of raised my eyebrow, shrugged & moved away. All I could think was, how much anger must you be carrying around to vent like that to a total stranger having a quiet browse in a bookstore?? What made him think I'd be receptive to listening to that? -- did he think I'd agree with him??  (And this was in Canada!!) 
  • Dh & I went to see "The Favourite" on Sunday afternoon.  The acting, costumes & sets were superb, and Olivia Colman's Oscar was richly deserved, albeit the story was a rather dark one.  As I wrote right after the Oscars,  I'd been alerted that the Queen's 17 pet rabbits were representatives of her 17 (!!) lost babies/children/pregnancies, so that part was not a surprise, but it was still an emotional moment to hear her tell the story, and to hear her plaintive comment to the effect that "everyone I love leaves me."  I did a bit of reading, and the rabbits were a bit of film-making embellishment, but the 17 lost children is sadly true. An article I found about the real history behind the movie had this to say: 
"Of course, pet rabbits would never have been found lolloping around a royal bedchamber: they were an early 18th-century foodstuff and pest. Their function is instead historically symbolic, representing an adult lifetime of pregnancies endured by Anne that only ever resulted in miscarriage, still birth, or the premature death of newborns, infants or children. 
"Until rescued by more recent historical revisions that recognise both her political and cultural legacies, Anne was a queen who was badly treated by history, subject to quick caricatures that portray her as being frail, ungainly, emotionally needy and ineffective. Her incredibly traumatic obstetric history was often rendered as a footnote, or yet another item on a long list of regal failings levelled against her. She was labelled as the ‘childless’ queen – despite her bearing and burying child after child after child after child. In The Favourite this aspect of her life and reign is brought much more firmly into our vision. Personal pain and court politics come together in the form of the rabbits. The pets remind us of the impact that so many dead heirs must have had not only on the queen as an individual, but also on her court, her reign, and the future of the crown and constitution. No one will leave the film having missed the rabbits. No one will leave without an emotive sense of Anne’s antenatal agonies."

Monday, March 4, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Golden Girls, for real :)

Our local TV news had an item a few nights ago that piqued my interest.  An Ontario MPP (Member of Provincial Parliament) has introduced the Golden Girls Act 2019, aimed at making it easier for groups of unrelated seniors to share housing.

There have been a couple of recent cases in Ontario where groups of seniors (generally women) wanting to set up housekeeping together have met opposition from municipal politicians.
“Municipalities should not be trying to get in the way of seniors with innovative solutions,” said [Lindsay] Park, an MPP with the governing Progressive Conservatives. [Park is the sponsor of the Golden Girls Act 2019.]  
“Seniors living together can reap significant health, economic and social benefits and seniors are the fastest growing part of the population, both in Durham Region and provincewide,” she said.
Check out these news stories on and the Toronto Star for more about the act & how some Ontario seniors are making "Golden Girls" housing work for themselves.

Personally, I think it's a great idea. Nothing that I've read has addressed this in terms of aging without children, but I think it's a particularly relevant possible solution for our growing segment of the population.  I've written previously about Golden Girls-style living arrangements on this blog, in 2010 and 2015.


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

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Memories of my teachers

Brooke was writing recently on her blog about some of her most memorable teachers and profs: 
I'm so curious about good teachers and scary teachers and whether you went to school when kids still got paddled and whether you remember things in vivid detail from grade school the way I do.
I told Brooke in my comment that I'd probably have to write my own blog post to answer her question. ;) So here it is. :)  It's been hard to write specifically about teachers without getting sidetracked with school memories in general... I will try not to digress too much!

For the record, I do have some very vivid memories from my early school days (in the mid/late 1960s), and yes, corporal punishment was still a thing then. I remember my Grade 1 class being taken into the principal's office, where he opened his desk drawer & took out The Strap and showed it to us. I guess it was meant as a deterrent to bad behaviour, and for me, anyway, it was effective. ;)

Kindergarten was not mandatory or included as part of the public school system back then, but my mother paid for me (and then my sister, a year later) to attend a private kindergarten that was run out of the basement of the Catholic church. Unless the weather was bad, I walked there, sometimes with a friend, but usually by myself, about six blocks, across a highway. (You have to remember this was smalltown rural Saskatchewan in the mid-1960s and not at all unusual for the time & place.) One very vivid memory I have of kindergarten is that whenever there was a funeral going on in the church upstairs, we were all told we had to be VERY QUIET -- we spoke in whispers and tiptoed around, lol.

I loved my Grade 1 teacher, Miss MM. She was young and kind and pretty, and she got married that summer and changed her name (to Mrs. H.).  We spent several art classes that June making flowers out of kleenex to decorate the wedding cars. (Does anyone do that anymore?? -- decorate wedding cars and/or make flowers out of kleenex??) Apparently there was some discussion between her and my parents about whether I should skip first grade, since I already knew how to read. My parents decided I should stay with kids my own age (and thank goodness -- I got enough bullying because I was "smart" -- I imagine it might have been a whole lot worse if I'd been thrown in with older kids...!), and Miss MM would give me "enrichment" work to do so that I wouldn't get bored. I didn't know this until my mother told me years later. I do remember her calling me up to her desk and asking me to do things for her while the other kids worked on something else. I never questioned it, but it did make me feel special. I Googled her a while back... she eventually became principal of the school. (I Googled her again while writing this & found an obituary for her husband, who died last year.  It said they were married in August 1968 -- yes, the summer after I finished Grade 1!) 

My favourite teacher of all time was probably my Grade 4 teacher, Mrs. D.  It was actually a mixed Grade 4/5 classroom, in a portable (we called them "huts"). I was also in a mixed 5/6 classroom in a hut for Grade 5... I suppose some kids might have found it distracting, but I always enjoyed being able to listen in on what the older group was doing. ;)  (There weren't enough kids for two separate classrooms, but to put us all together would have been way too many kids, so I guess this was their solution... and class sizes were generally pretty large as it was back then.)  Mrs. D. was pretty, with long blond hair, and young -- back then, you could teach after attending a "normal school" for a year or two after finishing high school. She wore mini skirts (!!), and had a charm bracelet with a beer stein charm that her husband had given her for her 21st birthday.  She turned 22 while she was our teacher, and we had a birthday party for her. Back then, it was customary that the teachers would read aloud to us from a book, a chapter at a time, right after lunch, and during that year, she read us all of the "Adventure" books by Enid Blyton. She did a great voice for Kiki the parrot. :)  She had a beautiful singing voice, and sang in the choir at the church my family attended.  She curled mixed doubles on a team with my dad & my best friend's dad, and I was beyond THRILLED when they won a bonspiel and she came to party afterwards AT OUR HOUSE, and I got to show her my bedroom!!  All of us adored her. We were the last class she taught at that school before she & her husband moved to an isolated community way up north. She eventually had two boys, and I was incredibly sad to learn that she died of cancer in 2007 at the far, far too young age of 58. :( 

I didn't have a male teacher until Grade 7, when we began having different teachers for different subjects. One of them was Mr. S., who taught us math and lived down the street from us. His wife was our 4-H group leader who taught sewing for two years to me, my sister and a couple of other girls from the neighbourhood.  He was tense and explosive at times, and he did not get along with one girl in particular, who came on the bus from a native/indigenous community about 35 miles north of us. (They had their own elementary school, but had to be bused to our town for Grades 7 & up.  Not many of them finished high school. I can imagine the long twice-daily bus trips alone would have been quite a deterrent.)  She had quite an attitude, and used to chew gum in class, which was verboten, and drove him up the wall. One time, he had her spit out the gum into his hand -- and then stuck it into her hair!! I believe she complained to the principal's office, although I don't remember what if anything ever came of it. Nevertheless, it was shocking to us -- both that a teacher would act that way, and that a student would dare to challenge a teacher's authority like that. I can only imagine the outcry if a teacher tried to do that to a student these days!!

After Grade 7, we moved to another town, where I attended Grades 8 & 9 at a K-9 school, and then high school.  Over those five years (in the mid to late 1970s), I had three different phys ed teachers -- one man and two women. I was not at all athletic or good at sports, and I loathed both the class & my teachers. None of them seemed to have any empathy for or interest in those of us who struggled. I actually didn't mind doing solo activities that I could do at my own pace, like gymnastics or aerobics or archery, or cross-country skiing -- our school was a short walk from a man-made lake, and we could sign out canoes & skis on lunch hours & spares -- but unfortunately, those units were infrequent and short in duration. Team sports (or skills drills for those sports) dominated -- soccer, baseball, volleyball, basketball, field & floor hockey -- and I was regularly humiliated by both the teachers & my classmates for my ineptitude (and was almost always the last person picked for a team). My first phys ed teacher in high school gave me a D on my first term report card, which sent me home in tears. My mother wound up going to the school to speak with her. She agreed that so long as I TRIED & showed a positive attitude, I should get at least a C for effort. That was the one & only D of my entire school career. Nevertheless, my self-confidence (never strong to begin with) took a beating, and to this day, I have little interest in sports and have a difficult time motivating myself to be more physically active.

Our music teacher throughout high school, Miss M., was a no-nonsense Brit who commuted from the city to teach us. In addition to classes, she ran the after-school honour band that encompassed kids from schools all over town, and produced our annual spring musical.  She was strict, but she knew her stuff, and we came to both like and respect her. She told us that her parents were killed in the Blitz during World War II and her father had made pianos branded with the family name. She taught at schools in the city's north end for several years before she came to us, and we were thrilled when she found out that Burton Cummings of the Guess Who (who was just then launching a solo career) had been one of her pupils, a decade earlier. She showed us her yearbooks to prove it  :)  and I have heard/read him mentioning her several times over the years.

I was blessed with some great English/language arts teachers. I wrote about Mr. N., my Grade 8 teacher, here.  In Grade 10, I had Mr. P., in Grade 11, Mrs. Y., and in Grade 12, Mr. P & Mrs. Y co-taught one large class. Additionally, Mr. P. was our yearbook advisor and Mrs. Y. was our school newspaper advisor.  They weren't wildly popular with my classmates (too strict for their liking), but I respected them and I thought they were good teachers. Together and apart, they had similar teaching styles and curricula, which tended to reinforce certain lessons over time. One thing I remember in particular was that each year, they would spend a class going over how to write an essay with us -- how to structure an opening, how the body of your essay should provide proof points for your thesis, and how to wrap everything up with a conclusion. My appreciation grew even greater once I got to university and realized just how much better prepared I was than the vast majority of my class and dorm mates, who didn't have a clue about how to research or structure a proper term paper, let alone citations. (I spent a lot of time coaching them and lending them my high school English notes, lol.)  About 10-15 years ago (when Mr. P was principal of the school), I did something I'd been meaning to do for a long, long time -- I sent him an email to express my appreciation for the excellent grounding he had provided me. I am so glad I finally did it, before he retired. (I wrote about Mr. P & Mrs. Y previously, here.)

The first day of Grade 12, there was a huge buzz in the halls about the cute new guy in school. Imagine our consternation when the cute new guy turned out to be Mr. W., our math teacher. :)  He WAS good looking, just 23 years old, fresh out of school, and he was wearing white jeans & a black polo shirt, all of which set him apart from all the other male teachers at the school. The reality of math class eventually diminished some of the luster, lol -- next to phys ed, math was probably my least-favourite and worst-marked subject. I missed a lot of school that spring, between band trips and my trip to Ottawa with the Rotary Club, among other things, and had to write several make up tests.  My math grades were borderline -- you needed a 65 average or better, or else you had to write the final exam in June. I remember writing a test I'd missed for Mr. W. and then sitting anxiously in the empty classroom while he marked it and then figured out my average. I JUST squeaked under the wire. I was so happy I could have hugged the guy. Unfortunately, he and some of the other younger, popular teachers lost their job after that year -- job cuts, and they didn't have enough seniority (last in, first out). One of my friends ran into him in the city at the theatre, years later. He was still teaching, in the city, and was now sporting a beard!!

At university, I was set on majoring in English... until (influenced in part by my Ottawa trip) I took a first-year introduction to Canadian political science with Professor FD. I enjoyed it so much that I wound up doing a double honours program in both English & political studies -- so thank you for that, Professor FD.

One of my favourite poli sci profs was Professor T. -- I wound up taking classes with him in second, third AND fourth year. He was (& I think still is) a go-to commentator on federal and provincial politics for local media (he'd be on TV every election night), and I still see his byline in the newspaper now & then when I'm visiting my parents. I believe he's now retired or semi-retired, with the title Professor Emeritus. One memory of those classes with him:  Towards the end of term in second year, we did an all-day simulation, debating free trade with the United States. (Plus ca change...).  We were all assigned roles and positions to research, and then spent a day doing the simulation, debating and negotiating. I was leader of the opposition, and delivered a speech opposing free trade. I have absolutely no memory of who won the debate, but I do remember three things about that day:  (1) the guy who played the U.S. president placed an American flag and a jar of jelly beans on the lectern before delivering his speech (Ronald Reagan was president at the time, lol), (2) one of the key players -- a provincial premier, I think? -- was "kidnapped" by a rogue group of players & (3) we eventually adjourned to the student union pub, where a good time was had by all, including Professor T. :)

The difference a good prof can make was driven home to me in third year. I had to take two English classes, and for one, I took Shakespeare, which was, I think, mandatory. For my other class, I had the choice of studying Milton, or Restoration & early 18th-century literature. Milton seemed both daunting and boring from what I heard (especially on top of Shakespeare), so I opted for Restoration & early 18th century literature. (Yes, I managed to get an honours degree in English without ever having to read a word of Milton...!)  I had absolutely no idea what was in store for me, and in the hands of the wrong professor, it could have been a deadly class. To be honest, I don't even remember the prof's name -- but he was British, with that wonderful dry sense of humour and a dramatic flair, and he was instrumental in bringing the material to life for us. Much of the material we studied -- I remember poetry and prose by Donne, Pope and Swift and the play "The Country Wife" by William Wycherly -- was very much of its time, in archaic language, full of topical references to people & politics and events of the day -- all of which would have been totally meaningless, had the professor not taken the time to patiently explain the background & all the allusions and references and jokes for us. I wound up enjoying the class tremendously and got a B+.

Finally, I found an old post in which I wrote about one of my journalism school/graduate program instructors, who gave me a boost when I needed it. I was 22, fresh out of undergrad (only a few weeks between handing in my final essay & leaving for J-school, a year-long program which started in May and wound up the following April) and one of the youngest and least journalistically experienced students in the class (I got in by putting my name on a waiting list & then accepting an opening when it miraculously came up!):
...I remember doubting myself and my abilities, and wondering what the heck I was doing here. The first several months of the program, we had two main profs teaching us the basics of reporting [M&M]. Both of them were veterans of the newspaper business and longtime buddies, who initiated us into the mysteries of the newsroom (not to mention the bar at the press club). One was a gruff Lou Grant type (whose bark was far worse than his bite);  the other was somewhat more kindly (but no less hard-drinking).  He and I sat down to review an assignment that fall -- and I will never forget him telling me (with an encouraging smile) that I had "a real nice style," and to keep up the good work, I was going to make a fine reporter. Exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right moment.   
Coming back for the winter term, I was shocked to read in the local paper that he had passed away over the Christmas holidays. Our class arranged to have a framed photo of him mounted on the wall of the lounge. The accompanying plaque read "Teacher, mentor and friend."  
(Thanks, M. :)  )

Friday, March 1, 2019

Right now

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

Reading:  I read 3 books in February (and reviewed them all here on my blog):  "Beartown" by Fredrick Backman, "The Golden Tresses of the Dead" by Alan Bradley, and "Parkland" by Dave Cullen. This brings my Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge YTD total to 6 books (goal:  24).

Current read: "Russian Roulette" by Michael Isikoff & David Corn. It's been in the TBR pile for a while now, & I figured I should (try to) get it read before the Mueller report gets released, lol.  ;)

Recent purchases: "Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland" by Patrick Radden Keefe and "Mourning Has Broken" by Erin Davis.

WatchingThe Oscars (last weekend).  :)  I've been enjoying season 3 of "Victoria" (season finale this Sunday night!) and the new season of "Finding Your Roots" on PBS.

Sadly, we didn't get to the movies at all in February. Nothing out (or at least playing locally) that both of us wanted to see. Maybe this month...! The local multiplex just got "The Favourite" and brought back "Green Book" -- no doubt influenced by the Oscars they won.

Listening:  I am not a big podcast listener -- just haven't gotten into the habit -- but I recently found one that I am enjoying and wanted to share with you here.  Erik & Melissa are a California couple living childless/free after infertility.  They started podcasting about it anonymously at "How Did We Get Here?" but recently went public and changed the name of their podcast to "Living Childfree with Erik & Melissa." They cheerfully admit to being amateurs at podcasting, and frequently interrupt and bicker with each other, but (for me anyway) that's part of the charm. ;) I am looking forward to listening to more from them in the future.

Just before Christmas, Melissa & Erik also told their story on a Huffington Post podcast about infertility, IVFML (and I think when you hear it, you'll understand why they decided to stop pursuing infertility treatments!). (They tell the same story, in greater detail, on episode 3 of their own podcast.)  Hosts Simon & Anna (parenting after infertility) really seem to "get" that this story is not one that people going through infertility want to hear, and that it's difficult for childless people to live in a world that's built around parents and children. That was REALLY refreshing to hear!!  (Slowly but surely, our messages are starting to sink in...!) 

Following:  Four different Instagram pages devoted to dachshunds. ;)  (Crusoe the Celebrity Dachshund is hilarious!)

Drinking/Eating: Too many chocolate-covered pretzels, as the numbers on the scale will attest...  :p (I do love the combination of chocolate & salt, though... yum!)

Wearing: Some beautiful new bracelets, handcrafted in sterling silver by a friend of Msfitzita's and purchased on sale. I find her stuff irresistible! & she provides excellent customer service as well. Check it out here!

Buying (besides books, lol):  I recently scored four cute new tops from the sale racks at the Lucky Brand outlet for $75, including tax!  Yay me!  ;)

Trying: (& failing) To get to bed a little earlier. 

Wanting:  Spring. Soon. :p   Pretty please??

Loving: Spending time with family... especially our grown-up nephews. (And the dog, lol.  ;)  )  We ran into Oldest Nephew at the supermarket on Family Day Monday, getting takeout lunch for him & his wife. It was a nice little unexpected encounter, and one of the good things about living here.

Feeling:  Sick & tired of winter!! (And I'm sure you're all sick & tired of reading it from me...!  lol)  Relieved that February is (finally) over.