Monday, April 29, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Reading update

My last post was a review of the 12th book I've read so far this year.  Four months into 2019, I'm FIVE books ahead of schedule and halfway to reaching my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books. (As I said in the comments to Jess, "Now watch me tank out for the rest of the year...!")

I've had the same Goodreads challenge goal for a couple of years now. I reached 24 books in 2016, fell short at 17 in 2017, and then exceeded my goal with 27 books read last year. I did wonder if I should set a slightly more ambitious goal this time around, but decided to leave it the same for another year & see how I did this time. If I manage to exceed 24 books this year, particularly if it's by a significant margin, I'll probably increase my goal for 2020.

What's made the difference for me, so far?  (The list of "things that help me read more books" that I posted a year or so ago still applies.)  I think all the book clubs/challenges I've been joining have certainly helped. The Goodreads challenge has helped keep me on track and mindful of my goal, for sure. Joining the local library book club earlier this year means I'm reading at least one book a month I wouldn't have read before. (I'll be attending my second meeting tonight!)  My D.E. Stevenson group goes through about several of the author's novels a year, with a chapter by chapter discussion. There are a couple of other book clubs/discussions I may be taking part in soon, too.

The trick will be to maintain the incentive and participate in the clubs/challenges, without making it become a chore/too stressful.  Reading is supposed to be fun, after all...!

What are you reading lately? Are you taking part in any challenges or book clubs? 

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

Sunday, April 28, 2019

"Daisy Jones & The Six" by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I will admit there was a big part of me that was feeling skeptical as I picked up "Daisy Jones & The Six" by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I'd heard the hype around the book -- there are some RAVE reviews on Goodreads, and a friend said it was the best book she'd read so far this year -- and I wondered whether the book would live up to it.

Also, I was a teenager in the 1970s (when the book takes place). From her photo, the author looked... far too young to remember the Seventies. ;)  (I did some Googling, and found an article from the Los Angeles Times in which Reid says, "Alex and I met in 2008. He was 23. I was 24." = she is now 35 = born in 1984.)  Was this some millennial's rose-coloured glasses/romanticized view of  what the Seventies were like?

(I recognize this is kind of a ridiculous bit of prejudice on my part -- I've read & enjoyed all kinds of historical novels written by people who weren't around for the events they write about. Somehow, though, it seems different when it's YOUR history and YOUR memories that someone is trying to depict...!  I guess it was just another unwelcome reminder that I'm getting older, lol.)

"Daisy Jones and The Six" is a fictional book about a fictional band, in the form of an oral history. Think of it as a transcript of a "Behind the Music" episode. This format might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I enjoyed it. In this respect, it reminded me of "Edie" by Jean Stein & George Plimpton -- a great 1982 book about Edie Sedgwick, a 1960s model & Andy Warhol protege. I was also reminded of "Almost Famous," the movie based on Cameron Crowe's experiences as a teenaged reporter for Rolling Stone (with Billy Crudup as Russell Hammond, the quintessential '70s rock star, Kate Hudson in an Oscar-nominated role as groupie Penny Lane).

While the band may be fictional, there have been a lot of comments from critics, as well as the author, about the resemblance/parallels to the real-life Fleetwood Mac of the "Rumours" era.  (The author has admitted Fleetwood Mac was an influence, as well as the band The Civil Wars, which I am less familiar with.)  You can picture Daisy -- with her skimpy tank tops, bracelets and big hoop earrings -- as a young, feisty red-headed version of Stevie Nicks (and Karen, the keyboard player in the background, as the dark-haired doppleganger for the much underrated Christine McVie). (My very favourite Mac song is "Songbird." Just Christine McVie and her piano and that amazing, crystalline voice. Perfection!) 

I was also reminded of a short-lived band from the early 1980s that I liked a lot, Lone Justice, whose lead singer was a charismatic young thing with a powerful, bluesy voice named Maria McKee. (Check out their videos for "Ways to Be Wicked" -- written by Tom Petty -- or "Sweet Sweet Baby.")

In many ways the book was what I expected, almost to the point of cliche. There is sex (in closets, even). There are drugs. (Way too many drugs, and alcohol. And trips to rehab.)  There is rock & roll. And all the drama that goes along with those things.  The story traces the rise (& fall) of The Six,  and what happens when they're joined by Hollywood wild child/budding singer/songwriter Daisy Jones. (Sample quote: “I had absolutely no interest in being somebody else's muse. I am not a muse.
I am the somebody. End of f***ing story.”)  There is chemistry, there are clashes of oversized egos and massive blowups. (Spoiler alert:  There are pregnancies, there is a female character who is childfree by choice (and a saintly madonna figure, for contrast), and there is an abortion.)

But in other ways, it was not what I expected at all -- both for better, and for worse. I don't want to give too much away here... but I found the ending just a bit flat. In some ways, though, it was probably pretty true to life. For every Fleetwood Mac (still going strong after 50+ years, albeit with only two of the original members), there's a Lone Justice -- a band that records a handful of brilliant albums, & then combusts and fades away. Not all bands last as long as Fleetwood Mac;  not everyone's dream is to still be a rock star when they're 65 or 70. Some people are happy to take the money and run. I'm sure it was fun while it lasted...!   

This was a Reese's Book Club pick, and I understand that Reese Witherspoon & Amazon are adapting it into a limited run TV series. It will be interesting to find out who's going to put the songs to music (lyrics to the songs from the band's most famous album, "Aurora," are included at the back of the book), and how they wind up sounding. Not to mention the casting...!  Any advice to offer the casting director?? 

I gave this four stars on Goodreads. I'm not sure it deserved quite that many -- maybe more like 3.75 -- but I did enjoy it overall, and I was feeling generous, lol.  ;) If you love Seventies music and "Valley of the Dolls"-type novels, and old episodes of "Behind the Music," you will probably get a kick out of "Daisy Jones and the Six."

This was book #12 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 50% of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 5 (!!) books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)  

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Recent reading: "The Mueller Report"

Shortly after the release of the long-awaited Mueller report, I joked on Facebook, "So, if I manage to slog my way through the complete (redacted) 448-page Mueller report, does that count towards my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal for the year??"

Most of the commenters said yes. One of my cousins said, "It also counts toward sainthood," lol.

While I'm not holding my breath for canonization ;) I DID in fact download & slog my way through the entire 448 pages.  And I'll be damned if I don't get credit for it, lol.  ;)

Yes, some of it was pretty eye-glazing. I'll admit to skimming through some of the legalese, and the long passages in the Russia investigation section detailing who emailed who about what and when, etc. The second section, on obstruction of justice, is a much easier read.

(There's a list of acronyms and "cast of characters"/who's who at the back, which I wish had been available up front! -- Interestingly, there are even some entries in this list of names that are partially or fully blacked out too!) 

But my overall impression is that this was a thorough investigation, albeit limited within certain parameters, which are explained in the report.  The level of detail was impressive -- and damning (even without knowing what's behind the black bars that cover 8-10% of the content).

A lot of what's in the report will be familiar to anyone who's been paying attention to the news -- which, as some have pointed out, vindicates the (non-Fox News -- cough, cough...) media coverage of the Trump presidency to date. More often than not, journalists got the story right. (The report does add more details/background to some previously reported events.)

There's a lot more I could say, but I think I'll leave things here. I'll just say that the entire report is worth reading -- but if 448 pages seems too daunting, there are lots of great summaries out there (and I'm NOT talking about the infamous four-page Barr memo, lol). (If you want a chuckle, you can also have a look at Alexandra Petri's "book report" in the Washington Post.)

The ball is now in the court of Congress -- and the American people.

This was book #11 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 46% of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 4 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :) (I did not assign a star rating to this "book.") 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Odds & ends

  • I was back at the optometrist's office last week to check on my PVD (again -- third time in about as many weeks). He was encouraging -- but he wanted me to continue to take it easy for one more week (no heavy lifting or straining) -- and come back to see him in another month or so. (We made an appointment for late May.) Frustrating...!! 
  • We had a busy Easter weekend. I barely had time to dwell on my usual holiday-related angst, lol.  We were invited to dinner at dh's cousin's house (along with BIL & SIL) for Good Friday, and then to BIL's on Saturday (along with the nephews and SIL's family). Then, Easter Sunday morning, SIL called & said, "Let's go for brunch!"  It's nice to be included (even if it's (STILL) a bit awkward sometimes to be the only childless/free adults in the room...) ...but it's also nice to have some alone time to recuperate, lol.  (Previous Easter-related posts here.) 
  • A few weeks ago, I wrote a post in response to a question posed by Erik & Melissa on their Live Childfree podcast, about why so few people openly embrace a childless/free identity.  I sent them the link in an email (as well as a link to a previous post from 2012 where I discussed this subject) -- and lo & behold, they put up a new episode this weekend where they mention ME and this blog (as well as some other responses they received). Pretty strange to hear yourself being talked about in the third person, lol. If you want to check out the podcast, it's episode 4, and I'm mentioned starting at around the 7:30 mark. 
    • Welcome to anyone who came to this blog after hearing about it in the podcast! (& thanks, Erik & Melissa, for the shoutout!). 
  • Another interesting podcast I listened to recently: Glynnis MacNicol, author of "No One Tells You This," which I read & loved last summer (reviewed here), was a guest on the April 22nd episode of "A Single Serving Podcast." The podcast is aimed at "changing the discussion around being single into one that doesn't suck." :)  MacNicol is single & childless/free by choice -- but I don't think you have to be either to appreciate what she has to say about the lack of women's stories and voices, particularly when those stories don't fit into the established/accepted narrative. 
  • A couple of worthwhile reads I came across recently: 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Great expectations :)

(Trigger alert: pregnancy mentioned.)

(No, DEFINITELY not mine!!) 

It was a Wednesday morning in early March when I got out of bed, turned on my cellphone, and my app notifications began popping up.

One of them, from Pinterest, stopped me dead in my tracks.

It said A. (Older Nephew's wife) has created a new board.

And the title of that board?



When dh finally woke up, I told him,"I have something to show you -- but you CANNOT tell your brother!" (A.'s FIL) And then I showed him -- and he woke up in a hurry, lol.

"She's pregnant??"  he said.

"Well, if she's NOT pregnant, she's definitely showing a sudden interest in the subject," I said.  (Believe me, I have learned NEVER to assume someone is pregnant unless (a) they tell you themselves or (b) you actually see the baby emerging from their vagina. ;)  )

That Saturday, we went to BIL's. Older Nephew & A. live in a small apartment in the basement, and dh went downstairs to say hello & see if the dog could come upstairs to play ;)  -- and we heard a lot of loud voices & laughter, and then they all came upstairs.

BIL:  You told him!!

Dh: We already knew!

And in that moment, I knew exactly what they were referring to. :)

When dh arrived at their door downstairs, Older Nephew started giggling & said to his wife, "Should we tell him?"  (NONE of the men in that family, my late FIL included, can keep a secret to save their life...!). Dh said, "We already know!"

A. was shocked that I found out via Pinterest notification... check your privacy settings, kids! ;)  Another clue: We'd noticed a dearth of the usual phone calls from BIL lately -- he & dh usually talk a couple of times during the week, and he admitted he hadn't been calling because he was afraid he'd spill the beans.

Anyway, I have been dying to spill the news here (& elsewhere) myself, but we were initially sworn to secrecy, since it was still very early on (the peestick was barely dry...), and she was experiencing a lot of cramping & nausea (which has since improved). I don't think anyone would have found out if I posted it here ;) but I wanted to respect their wishes.  And so, I didn't say anything to (hardly) anyone until they started sharing the news a little more widely. (They still haven't mentioned the pregnancy anywhere on social media -- so I haven't either -- but most of their extended families & close friends now know, so I felt "safe" finally posting about it here.)

Of course (given my own reproductive history), I am horribly nervous for them, for all the obvious reasons. I know too much NOT to be nervous.

Not to mention that -- get this -- her pregnancy is happening in the EXACT SAME TIME FRAME as my own, 21 years ago (and we all know how THAT turned out :( ). They went for an ultrasound at the end of March: there was a heartbeat (THANK GOD) & the pregnancy was dated at about 7 weeks. The due date they gave her? Nov. 15th. (Mine -- at least, the first one I was given -- was Nov. 14th.  OF COURSE.)

I am so happy for them.

I am SO terrified for them.

I am (I will admit) just a LITTLE annoyed with the universe about the timing of this pregnancy.  :p

I am sad that nobody else remembers the baby girl who should have been born in mid-November, 21 years ago. (I don't think the coincidence in timing even occurred to dh, until I mentioned it to him.)

But, nevertheless -- I am determined to be the greatest great-auntie that I can possibly be for this wee one. :)  I was lucky enough to have & know a plethora of wonderful great-aunties myself, growing up (although I knew some better than others). They are all gone now, bless them all, but they left an excellent example for me to follow. :)

Fingers (& everything else!) crossed that all continues to go well! (Even dh admits he is going to be a bundle of nerves, especially come August...)(Next big hump to get over:  her next ultrasound, scheduled for the first week of May, and blood tests. Good vibes, prayers & positive thoughts welcomed...!)

It's been a weird mixture of glee & grief for us these past few weeks. But for the most part, I'm very happy to say, the glee is winning. ;)  And, as a sign that I have come a LONG way in my grief journey (not to mention how thrilled we are with the news!),  we couldn't resist going shopping for just a FEW things for our new little great-niece or nephew-to-be. (With much, much more to come...!)  ;)

(Some of) what we bought for our new great-niece or nephew-to-be. :)
Would you believe I now have a Toys/BabiesRUs discount card??
(I never would have, 20 years ago...!) 

Monday, April 22, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Condo living, three years later

It's hard to believe that, as of today, we've been in our condo for THREE YEARS. As some of you might remember from some of my previous/earlier posts about condo living, moving was NOT my idea, and I wasn't entirely thrilled by the prospect.

Three years later, while I'm still not entirely enamoured by the surrounding community where we live, I have to admit, I love our condo, and I love being closer to our family.

While we're still enduring the frequent thundering footsteps above us, the chain-smoking, screaming-at-each-other neighbours across the hall moved out last year. The original, inept property managers were booted out and replaced by a company/manager that's much more efficient. Our monthly fees have gone up significantly, but we knew they would (fees for new buildings are often deliberately kept low, at first, to attract buyers), and we're now confident that the building is getting back on a more solid financial footing.  The endless roadwork/transit lane construction in front of our building is dragging on (& will continue for at least another year, UGH...), but on the other hand, construction on the 59 new townhouses behind us, which began right around the time we moved in, is (dare I say?? -- finally!!) almost complete. People started moving in last fall, and work seems to be winding down on the last block of homes (although the driveways & roads still need to be paved, and landscaping completed).

Condo living might not be for everyone -- but for those of us who don't have children, who don't  need a lot of space and extra bedrooms for guests, who have brown thumbs and dislike mowing lawns & shovelling snow (especially as we age) and the other trappings of suburbia, it's a solution worth considering.

Previous relevant posts:

Condo living one year later 
Condo living two years later 

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

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Parenting & politics

Rebecca Traister -- author of several books I have read, enjoyed and reviewed on this blog -- wrote a brilliant article for The Cut this week about "how parenthood gets presented and received on a presidential trail when it’s not just fathers (and not-fathers) who are out there:" "Mom vs. Dad on the Road to 2020." (Childlessness is also mentioned as part of the article.)

An interesting conversation unfolded after Traister tweeted the article link on Twitter -- particularly after one commenter tweeted this:
Rebecca, Parents are given a moral compass when they have children. Because evolution. Sorry if this is an inconvenient truth. You have no argument until you can admit that the parent-child relationship is how the world turns. It is the one thing that matters above all else. 
Traister (who, for the record, is a mother) responded, "I do not believe that parents have any greater claim on morality than those who are not parents. I do not believe it at all. I cannot say strongly enough how much I don’t believe it."  (Yay!  Thank you, Rebecca Traister!! :)  )

Someone else quipped, "Is that the same moral compass that guided all the parents in the college admissions scandal?" Said another, "Ooh do they give you the compass at the hospital or is there a registry?"

Others wrote comments along the lines of "Donald Trump has five children. I rest my case."  ;)


Monday, April 15, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Heartbroken

I had another post planned for today -- but right now, I am heartbroken & dumbstruck watching the destruction of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris unfolding on my television screen.

I have never been to Paris -- but I don't think you need to have been there to appreciate the enormity of this loss, not just to the city or country, but to the entire world.  :( 

(I've tried to write more, but words seem incredibly futile at a time like this, so I think I will make this a true microblog post (for once!!) & leave it at that... )

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

Saturday, April 13, 2019

"The Seed" by Alexandra Kimball

If you're a long-time reader of this blog, you will know that I proudly identify as a feminist. Growing up in the 1960s & '70s, my peers & I were assured that the sky was the limit when it came to possibilities for our future. When I was in my teens, American feminists rallied (but ultimately failed) to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. While I was in my 20s, women in my own country converged on Ottawa to demand that equal rights be enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that became part of our new constitution in 1982. In 1988, abortion was decriminalized when Canada's Supreme Court overturned the existing law. Abortions here are now safe & legal (although in practice, access remains limited.)

While feminists have long defended the rights of women to access safe and affordable birth control and abortion, there's been a curious blind spot -- a noticeable lack of interest and effort -- when it comes to matters of infertility and pregnancy loss. Some of the early feminists (not without reason) viewed motherhood as a tool of the patriarchy to suppress women's advancement. There's also a strand of feminism that celebrates "earth mothers" and "natural" parenting -- unmedicated home births, etc.  Assisted reproductive technologies, on the other hand, are often viewed as "unnatural" and exploitive of women -- egg donors & surrogates, if not infertility patients themselves.

Finally, someone has dared to ask some hard questions and point out the gaps and discrepancies in existing feminist thought on these subjects. "The Seed: How the Feminist Movement Fails Infertile Women" by Alexandra Kimball is an important addition to these discussions.

(The only other book I can think of that deals with infertility & (more specifically) pregnancy loss through a feminist lens (& which also points out the shortcomings of the feminist movement in this respect) is "Motherhood Lost" by Linda L. Layne (2003), which Kimball references several times. I read it quite a while ago... must dig it out & re-read it again soon...!)

I think I first heard about this book about a month ago, via Jody Day on Twitter. I immediately added it to my "want to read" list. The day it was out (April 10th), dh & I were at a bookstore where ONE copy was supposedly in stock. I painstakingly scanned the shelves (straining my wonky eye!) but never did find it. :p  A day later, an e-pub version popped up as available on the publisher's website. I snapped up a copy, downloaded it to my Kobo e-reader, and started reading. :)

It is a short book, under 150 pages (including notes & bibliography) -- but it packs a lot into them. I blazed through it in under 24 hours time (which included time out for sleep & dh's birthday outing/celebration, among other things).

"The Seed" is partly a memoir: Kimball endured multiple miscarriages and failed rounds of ARTs -- and an increasing sense of isolation from other, more fertile women that will be all-too-familiar to many of us here -- before having a son last year, with the help of an egg donor and a surrogate. (Kimball is Canadian, and the book is full of Canadian references -- much to my delight :)  -- as well as examples from the U.S. and other countries.)  It's partly a historical & cultural study of how infertile women have been portrayed and viewed over the centuries, from ancient mythological figures to characters in modern movies and books/TV shows like "Baby Mama" and "The Handmaid's Tale." It's a review of feminist literature on the subjects of motherhood, infertility and assisted reproductive technologies.  And it's a strong argument that feminism has failed infertile women in some pretty important ways. Shouldn't we support women who desperately want to be mothers, as well as those who are equally adamant that they do NOT want children? Shouldn't "reproductive rights" include access to fertility treatments, as well as birth control and abortion?  

Kimball argues that infertility & pregnancy loss are every bit as much valid forms of "work" as pregnancy/birth and motherhood are (which is, of course, itself often derided and devalued) -- not only the very real work it takes to get & stay pregnant through fertility treatments, but the emotional work of living as an infertile person in a fertile world, where parenthood is viewed as the "norm," taken for granted and comes so easily to so many. Grief is an important part of this work that is all too often ignored or minimized by those who have not experienced it.

Towards the end of the book, Kimball briefly outlines her vision of what an inclusive feminist vision of infertility might look like:
A few weeks after Charlie was born, I found myself going back to my old ivf and surrogacy message boards, wondering what these communities of women could have been like in a different world. If earlier feminists had seen us as sisters rather than patriarchal dupes or oppressors of other women. If infertility lobby groups had embraced an idea of infertility as an issue of medical, emotional, and spiritual health rather than a type of consumer identity. I imagined a feminist movement parallel to the one for abortion access, in which women would call for more research into the causes of infertility, the potential efficacies of various treatments, as well as their risks. We could call for expanded access to proven reproductive health care for all Canadians—not just the rich ones, not just those in cities who are partnered and straight—by demanding it be brought under the auspices of a properly regulated health-care system. We could align ourselves with, rather than against, surrogates and egg donors, lobbying for a system in which policies around third-party reproduction are shaped by them, for their own safety and interests, opening up the possibility of them organizing as workers. We could support infertile women who do not conceive in either finding other forms of family or healing into satisfying lives lived without children. Truly patient-centric clinics could bloom under our watch. Perhaps most importantly, infertile feminists could embrace our status as different kinds of women—as the kinds of women who eat people in folk tales and get thrown down elevators in movies—to challenge the idea that motherhood is unthinking, automatic, and instinctual, and be living examples of how maternity is instead a thing that is both worked at and worked for, sometimes by multiple people and sometimes not by women at all.
I gave this book four (4) stars on Goodreads. The language can be a bit academic at times, and there's so much food for thought here to chew on that it can sometimes be a bit dizzying. :) On balance, it's a really important book, and I am glad Kimball has written it. May there be many more like it to come!

You can read an excerpt from the book in a recent issue of The Walrus ("The Loneliness of Infertility").

The Globe & Mail recently featured an interview with Kimball, as well as a review of the book. Unfortunately, both these pieces are behind a subscriber paywall.

This was book #10 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 42% of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 4 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)

Friday, April 12, 2019

Odds & ends on a Friday

  • This is probably the longest silence I've had on this blog in a while (a whole week!!), lol.  All is well. I just ran out of things I wanted to say. That will pass, I'm sure...!  ;)  
    • I just finished another book, for one thing = there will be a review, eventually...!  
  • I missed #MicroblogMondays this week for the first time in a while. My mind just drew a blank as I stared at my screen. Maybe next week...! 
  • My eyes are about the same as they were, I think. Back to the optometrist early next week for another check. But it's been tiring, and frustrating, not being able to do all the things I normally do. (As I posted on Facebook, you never know just how OCD you are until you watch your husband doing (& folding, & putting away) the laundry...!)  
  • Any readers in the vicinity of London, England (or visiting there later this month)? Jessica Hepburn, author of  "The Pursuit of Motherhood" and "21 Miles" -- both of which have been in my TBR pile forever...! -- has organized the third annual Fertility Fest at the Barbican Arts Centre.  Yes -- a festival of the arts, dedicated to all aspects of fertility (including infertility). 
    • Not only that -- there will be an ENTIRE DAY (Saturday, April 27th) of programming devoted to living without children (!).   Chaired by Jody Day of Gateway Women, the "There's More to Life than Children" Day will include an array of both male and female speakers and a special childless/free edition of "Fertility Fight Club."
    • The day will culminate in the premiere of the play "Avalanche," based on the memoir of the same name by Julia Leigh (which I read & reviewed here), starring British actress Maxine Peake (who is herself childless). 
    • Those of us in North America are still only dreaming of an event like this ;)  -- so please, if you can, go for those of us who can't!  :)  (And tell us all about it afterward!)

Friday, April 5, 2019

"The German Girl" by Armando Lucas Correa

Later this month, my library book club will be discussing "The German Girl" by Armando Lucas Correa.

The book is a fictionalized account of the voyage of the M.S. St. Louis, as seen through the experiences of one family (including their life before departure, and what happened afterward).  A bit of a history lesson:  The St. Louis set sail from Hamburg, Germany, to Havana, Cuba, in May 12, 1939, with more than 900 passengers on board -- most of them Jewish refugees from Hitler's Germany, seeking asylum in Cuba.  When they arrived in Havana, however, all but a handful were denied entry to the country. The United States and Canada also refused entrance, and the ship was forced to return to Europe. Several countries (including the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and the Netherlands) agreed to admit some of the refugees -- but unfortunately, many of these countries were soon overrun by Nazi forces. It's estimated that at least one-quarter of the St. Louis's passengers died in the Nazi death camps.  (The story was later turned into a Hollywood movie, "Voyage of the Damned.")

Late last year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a formal apology from the government of Canada to the passengers of the St. Louis, their families, and Jewish communities in Canada and around the world. (The policy of the Canadian government towards Jewish immigration in the 1930s & 40s was infamously summarized as "None is too many.")  Dh & I saw a memorial to the St. Louis when we visited Pier 21, Canada's national immigration museum in Halifax (sort of Canada's Ellis Island). (Everything I've read says it was unveiled in early 2011 -- including a mention in this book -- but I will swear we saw it when we visited in September 2010...??)

The story goes back & forth between two young girls in two different eras: Hannah Rosenthal, an 11-year-old girl from Berlin, who escapes with her parents, her best friend Leo and his father aboard the St. Louis;  and 12-year-old Anna Rosen, who lives with her mother in New York, trying to cope with the mysterious absence of her father. Then one day, in 2014, a package arrives in the mail for Anna from a great-aunt in Cuba she has never met...

This was a sad, melancholy book, but ultimately a story of survival and coming to terms (or not) with grief and loss, and how history sometimes winds up repeating itself.  I enjoyed the back & forth-ing between the stories of Hannah and Ana and how they eventually intertwine. This should be an interesting discussion at my book club...!

I gave this 4 stars (3.5, rounded up)on Goodreads.

This was book #9 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 38% 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. :)

Thursday, April 4, 2019

PVD update/Purse inventory

  • Sorry if I've been absent from your blogs lately (although I seem to have been able to write a decent number of posts on my own blog...!).  
  • Floaters & flashes from my PVD (more than a week ago now) continue, albeit I only really notice the flashes in the dark as I'm getting into bed. 
  • Went back to the optometrist yesterday. He says things continue to look good, but he wants me back in another two weeks to check things out again. Meanwhile, the restrictions on heavy lifting/straining continue. 
  • Dh, of course, is the ultimate enforcer!! He won't let me do much of ANYTHING... & while it sounds nice in theory, in practice, it can be frustrating.  
  • He doesn't like me sitting on the couch with the laptop -- and leaning over to set it on the floor, and then pick it up again... so he's set it up on the desk in the office and decreed if I want to use the laptop while my eye is healing, I need to use it in there.  Which is OK, except it's nowhere near as comfortable as the couch, the office chair keeps sllllloooowwwwwly lowering itself  (& then I need to jack it back up again!), and the screen is a little too low for comfort. I may have to get some books or photo albums to raise it to a more comfortable height. 
    • I do most of my blog reading & commenting on my laptop;  hence, another reason why I've been absent lately... 
    • I do have my blog reader app (Bloglovin) on my phone... and had to install it on my new phone this week. Unfortunately, whenever I open it, it won't take me to my feed. It makes me create a NEW feed with their recommendations first before it takes me to my own feed -- and then I have to delete all the crap they added. This happens EVERY TIME I try to open it. (It's fine on my laptop.) I seem to remember a similar issue when I put it on my old phone too, but it eventually started working OK.  I checked out the reviews on the app store & there were a lot of complaints along the same lines, so I'm obviously not the only one who finds this incredibly annoying...!  
  • Dh was also eyeing my purse (which I carry on my right shoulder -- the right eye is the one that's bothering me).  I've already pared it down a fair bit from what I used to carry.... but yes, it still weighs a fair bit...! (Men, of course, never have to worry about these things, do they?)(In part, because all the stuff we haul around tends to benefit them too!)   
    • The two weightiest items are my wallet and a smaller wallet/organizer that holds the loyalty/membership cards that don't fit in my regular wallet &/or that I don't use as often. I still always carry some cash (which I know marks me as a dinosaur in some quarters...), although I try to empty out most of my change after every outing -- those one & two-dollar coins really add up fast & add to the wallet weight! 
      • I've pared my cards down quite a bit, discarding cards that I no longer use or that came from companies that no longer exist, etc... but there's still quite a bundle of them! I'm thinking about getting an app for at least some of my loyalty cards... a couple of my friends use & recommend Stocard. How about you? 
    • Other stuff in my purse:  
      • a stash of Lifesavers breath mints
      • a pen
      • condo & car keys/fob (pared down considerably from the keychain I used to carry around previously)
      • a small makeup bag that holds a small container of cotton swabs, lip balm, emery board, small pair of folding scissors and a small bottle of lubricating eye drops
      • another small makeup bag with a small tube of ibuprofen and a few packets of both Benadryl & Claritin
      • a Ziploc bag containing two epi-pens
      • a small package of Kleenex
      • a small bottle of Purell hand sanitizer 
      • a Ziploc bag with a couple of sanitary napkins & pantiliners (something men NEVER have to worry about...!)(& which I refuse to abandon until I'm firmly into menopause territory...!)
      • a Ziploc bag with some restaurant coupons inside 
      • glasses case with sunglasses & cleaning cloth inside
      • I still carry around a small notebook with a key & quarter taped to the cover, and a a dog-earred, hilarious (to me) note that a high school friend gave to me as a joke gift for Christmas more than 40 (!) years ago -- it's been in my purse ever since then. :) 
      • Oh yes, and my cellphone. :)  
    • I could relate to this recent article in the Globe & Mail...! 
    • For comparison's sake, here's a "what's in your purse?" post I did back in 2010!  
    • My current purse is a black Baci bag, with lots of pockets & compartments. :) I think I got it for about $70-80, some years ago. It's starting to get rather worn, though, so I'm thinking I'll probably get rid of it when I switch purses soon for spring. :) 
(P.S.  After I wrote this post, dh came in & said, "I just finished looking through your purse... I have to say, I can't really find much that I think you can do without!"  HA!!) (But, he added, "It's still too heavy!"  I know. SIGH.)  

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Right now

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

Reading:  I read 2 books in March (and reviewed them here on my blog):  
"Where'd You Go, Bernadette" by Maria Semple and "Spring Magic" by D.E. Stevenson (for my online Stevenson group). This brings my Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge YTD total to 8 books (3 ahead of schedule for my goal of 24, which is a nice surplus to have...!).

I also recently attended my first meeting of the local library's book club, where we discussed "Beartown" by Fredrick Backman. I will return!  ;)   

Current read: "The German Girl" by Armando Lucas Correa (my library book club's pick for its next meeting in late April). 

Recent purchases/additions to the TBR pile: 
Watching:  March movies (at the theatre): "The Favourite" and "Apollo 11."  

On TV:  "Jann," the new sitcom starring Jann Arden, whom I was lucky enough to hear speak two years ago. Aside from being a wonderful singer, songwriter, writer, media personality and social media maven, she is a born actress, playing a fictionalized version of herself here. She is also screamingly funny. I don't know if it's available outside of Canada, but see it if you can! 

Listening:  Anne Bogel, aka "Modern Mrs. Darcy," has a new podcast!  I've listened to & enjoyed a few episodes of "What Should I Read Next?" -- but she has started a second podcast, One Great Book. Each episode features one of her favourite books that she wants to share with listeners... and each episode (so far, anyway) only runs about 10 minutes. Perfect for a quick listen -- and I am so glad I got in on this one at the beginning, so I don't have a huge backlog of episodes to listen to! (Knowing there is a huge list of podcast episodes that I haven't yet heard -- and will probably never get to -- offends my obsessive-compulsiveness, lol.)  

Following:  I WAS following the world figure skating championships a couple of weeks ago.  Next year's Canadian championships will be held in nearby Mississauga... and worlds in Montreal, which is a few hours' drive away. Hmmm.... 

Drinking/Eating: When 
Msfitzita heard we were moving to our current location (almost three years ago now, GULP), she told me I HAD to try the pizza at a certain local restaurant, that it was the best she'd ever had.  We've been there many times to the takeout gelato counter, and finally went for the pizza a few Saturday nights ago. Thin crust, cooked to perfection in a wood-fired oven and served piping hot. They even had a tomatoless choice on the menu for me (prosciutto ham with mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced potatos, caramelized onions & rosemary). Yum!!  (I couldn't finish mine -- each one is about the size of a large dinner plate -- so I took the rest home with me & had it for lunch the next day.) 

Wearing:  My (lightweight, down-filled) winter jacket. STILL.  :p  Winter:  GO. AWAY. 

Buying (besides books, lol):  Walked into the phone store this morning with a question about a mailing we received yesterday. Walked out an hour & a half later with two new cellphones & new plans.  We didn't actually pay for the phones, since we signed up for another two-year contract. Supposedly we will be paying less for the same services than we are right now... guess we'll see...!!  He only transferred over emails, photos & contacts, etc., so I spent the entire afternoon reloading all the rest of my apps & signing in, changing ringtones & other settings to my own preferences, etc. etc.... I am beat! (I am sure a millennial could have done all this in two seconds flat, but we're two aging baby boomers here, lol...) 

Also buying:  Lindor chocolate mini-eggs at our local supermarket. They've been on sale for almost half the usual price since the Easter candy was set out, shortly after Valentine's Day was over, and I pick up a new bag every time we're there. (Moaning:  In yesterday's post, about the 5+ pounds I've put on over the past 4-5 weeks... hmmm.... :p  ;)  )  

Trying: To be patient while things settle down from my PVD. We will be back at the optometrist's office this week for our regular checkups and a followup for me. My understanding is that it will take a few weeks or even months before I stop seeing the floaters & flashes of light on the periphery of my vision. The main thing to watch for is that they don't suddenly increase. 

Wanting:  Spring to hurry up and get here, already. (Yes, I know, it's officially spring according to the calendar... but it still doesn't look or feel like it here. We've had hints of warmer weather, here & there, but...) 

Loving: Even though it's still been chilly outside, and we had MORE snow over the weekend, we've had quite a few clear, sunny days lately.  Gives me hope that it really is spring after all...!  

Feeling: Tired, but hopeful. 

Monday, April 1, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Annoying things & small pleasures

Annoying things: 
  • The floaters & flashes from my PVD a few days ago continue. SIL told me she STILL notices them, two years after her own incident. I know things could be much worse, & they will eventually go away (or I will adapt to the point where I don't really notice anymore)... but for now, it is annoying. Sigh...
  • Adding insult to injury, I've been spotting & feeling very tired & totally PMSy all weekend long. (Today is cycle day #111.)  Grrrrr.... 
  • Not just annoying but downright horrifying:  I stepped on the scale today for the first time in more than a month. I was up more than FIVE POUNDS. I'm now at my heaviest weight ever. :(  (I am hoping -- desperately -- that the spotting/PMS has something to do with it -- temporary water retention, etc...) 
  • It poured rain all day Saturday... and then we woke up to (MORE) snow on Sunday morning. Boo, hiss....
Small pleasures: 
  • Finding a good new recipe online for crockpot beef stew for Sunday dinner (yum!). Lots of leftovers for at least one more dinner, too! 
  • Seeing photos from an online friend's reunion with her birth mom & other relatives this weekend. :)  I am so happy for her. :)   
  • Having Older Nephew's dog snuggle up to me on the couch & take a snooze on Saturday night while I stroked his fur.  Love that dog. :)  
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here