Sunday, June 30, 2019

"Say Nothing" by Patrick Radden Keefe

Leafing through the course catalogue in the summer of 1981 (38 years ago now -- yikes!!), trying to choose some courses for my third year of university (I was in a four-year double honours arts program -- English & political studies), my interest was piqued by one called "Radical Political Movements."

I'm not quite sure what I expected or if I knew what I was in for -- there was (& probably still is) no one less radical/more cautious/conventional than I am, lol (childlessness aside, of course...!) -- but I thought it would be interesting.

It was.

It was a small class, with perhaps a dozen students, tops -- three hours, once a week.  I was one of just two or perhaps three women. Many of the guys were rumpled, shaggy, long-haired hippie types. ;)  One of them later became president of the campus NDP (New Democratic Party -- Canada's left-wing/socialist party) club.  The prof addressed the men as "Mr." and the women as "Miss."

For the first term, our main project was to choose a book about a radical political movement, figure or philosophy and present it to the class. In the second term, we'd do a major research paper expanding on some aspect of the radical political movement/figure/philosophy in that book. 

The professor said the book we chose could be fiction or non-fiction. We had to run our choice by him first. I remember some of my classmates' choices included "The Wretched of the Earth" by Frantz Fanon and "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" by Richard Hofstadter (this was in the early 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was president). One of the few other women in the class chose to study Nestor Makhno, a Ukrainian anarchist from around the time of the Russian Revolution. I'd never heard of most of these writers, political figures or titles before.

I already had an idea of what book I wanted to choose, and what movement I wanted to study. That summer, I'd read "Trinity" a novel by Leon Uris (who also wrote "Exodus," among other titles), a romance between a Catholic Republican patriot and a Protestant Loyalist girl, set in Ireland during the 1800s. I proposed to use that for my book report, and study the IRA (Irish Republican Army) and the cause of Irish independence for my second-term paper.

My professor approved, although he was clearly amused by my book choice. I can still see the smirks from my classmates as I earnestly made my presentation. Clearly, I was WAY out of my depth here.  I struggled to make a meaningful contribution to the class discussions. Nevertheless, I wound up with a B+ for both my paper & for the course as a whole, which helped me make the dean's honour list that year.

I don't remember a whole lot about "Trinity," my paper, my thesis or what my conclusions were, but I do remember realizing (as I waded through stacks and stacks of dry books on hundreds of years of Irish history for my research, wondering what I'd gotten myself into...!) that the situation was extremely complex (so many different factions!) and deeply rooted, and that there were no easy solutions.

There were several reasons why I chose the topic I did, beyond enjoying "Trinity."  ;)  My mother's father's family was Irish (from counties that included Armagh in the north, as well as Cavan, Leitrim, Carlow & Wicklow in the south). (All the different branches I've been able to trace so far left Ireland for Scotland &/or North America sometime between the 1820s & 1860s). My great-grandfather was born on St. Patrick's Day, 1871 (in a small town north of Toronto).  It wasn't until I was a teenager (or possibly even older) that I realized we were actually Protestant (Episcopalian/Anglican)/Orange Irish. My great-grandfather was a member of the Orange Lodge;  my mother has his Lodge song book with his name & the year (1868) inscribed on the inside cover. The content, by today's standards, is politically incorrect in the extreme...! 

And of course, my growing-up years (the 1960s & 1970s) coincided with an escalation of "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland. The nightly news was full of stories about protests, riots, bombings, executions and assassinations. In 1976, when I was 15, two Irish women, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan, won the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to promote peace and non-violence.  In the spring of 1981, a few months before I began my class, 10 members of the Provisional IRA died in prison, one after another, in a staggered hunger strike. The first to die (and best known) was Bobby Sands, age 27. His funeral was attended by 100,000 people;  his death led to riots and a new surge in IRA activity.

I never quite understood what exactly what "the Troubles" were all about -- other than the Protestants seemed to hate the Catholics, and vice versa;  that the (mostly Catholic) south had gained independence from Britain in the 1920s, after a centuries-long struggle, but the (mostly Protestant) north was still part of the United Kingdom, and that remained a source of conflict. This course seemed like a good opportunity to learn more about the situation.

*** *** ***

I wish that I'd had "Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland" by Patrick Radden Keefe to read and use in my research back then.  "Say Nothing" tells the story of the Troubles, spanning some 50 years, from the late 1960s through the 1970s to the present day, through the lives of several intersecting characters (as well as a host of other lesser figures).

There is Jean McConville, a 39-year-old recently widowed mother of 10 (!) children, who was taken by a masked mob from her Belfast apartment in December 1972 to a waiting car, and never seen again. (The story of the McConville family broke my heart.)

There is Gerry Adams, who evolves from IRA strategist/leader (although he has never admitted to being an IRA member) to wily politician.  And there is Brendan Hughes, the ferocious IRA mastermind and Adams' one-time brother in arms, who turns on him in the wake of the 1998 Good Friday Accord which finally brought peace -- albeit an imperfect and uneasy peace -- to Northern Ireland.

Perhaps most interesting for me, there are the charismatic Price sisters, Dolours & Marian, who grew up in a staunchly republican family and became the first women to join the IRA as field soldiers, when they were still barely out of their teens. (The book's cover is a photo of Dolours Price's partially concealed face.)

I don't want to give too much away here -- how all these individuals' stories unfold, how they all connect, and what has happened to them. What I will say is: 

This has already been called one of the best books of the year. I often approach these lauded books with a dose of skepticism. ;)  But this one fully deserves that praise. It brings this complicated period of Irish history vividly to life and makes it understandable (more understandable, at least) and fascinating (and jaw-dropping), in a way that many past books about these issues have not. I could not put it down, and I will be thinking about it for a long, long time.

If you have ever been interested in learning more about "the Troubles," and how they still reverberate in Ireland today, this is an absolute, essential must-read.

Five (5) stars on Goodreads.

This was book #22 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 92% of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 11 (!!) books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)

Friday, June 28, 2019

40 years

Yes, that's me!  (One of my favourite photos of myself, actually!) 

This photo was taken exactly 40 (FORTY!!) years ago tonight -- June 28, 1979. (Please don't tell me if you weren't even born then, lol.)  The occasion:  my high school graduation! Mine was the last class that "dressed up" in long dresses & suits for grad -- the next year, my sister's class voted to adopt caps & gowns. Long dresses were becoming passe even then, and it took some looking to find the perfect dress. (It HAD to be blue -- my favourite colour!)  Mom & I bought eventually found it at a mall in the city.  It cost $65 and was the most expensive dress I'd had to that point. You can't see all the details in this photo, but it was long, with a pleated skirt, & the bodice is sort of a lace-trimmed peplum. Those are blue ribbons tied at the shoulders, instead of spaghetti straps. I loved it.  Like my wedding dress, I only ever got to wear it that one time. (It is still hanging in a closet at Mom & Dad's house, lol.)

I look at that girl (who probably thought she was fat...!!) and I think about everything that has happened to her in the 40 years since then, things she had no idea were in her future. I  had a pretty good time in high school, but I was excited to start university & the next part of my life. Not sure now why I was in such a hurry, lol. I had my life all planned out:  I was going to university. I was going to be a journalist.  I was going to get married right after university, and have at least two and maybe four children. I would be a stay-at-home mom;  maybe work part-time when they got a bit older. We would live in a nice house in a leafy suburb in Winnipeg (or perhaps Calgary, or Edmonton -- the oil boom was in full swing in Alberta in those days, and many of my classmates were headed there). 

Things went according to plan, for a while -- until they didn't. And some of those unexpected twists & turns (stillbirth, infertility, childlessness, job loss) have been hard to accept. If you had told me back then that, 40 years later, I would be living in a condo (did we even know what condos were, back then??) in TORONTO (well, the Greater Toronto Area, anyway) with no children, I don't think I would have believed you.

I did go to journalism school and worked briefly as a reporter, before going to work for one of the banks my father had worked for -- something I never would have imagined (my sister -- who wound up working for the other bank dad worked for! -- & I LOATHED the bank when we were growing up -- it made us move every 3-6 years and took us away from all our friends). Corporate communications was just becoming a "thing" when I got into it, and in some ways, I am lucky that I got in on the ground floor. I had a well-paying career with a defined benefit pension for 28 years, even if they did usher me out the door unexpectedly. 

And yes, not having the children I wanted & expected to have has been difficult -- probably the hardest thing I've had to deal with. 

But still. Overall, it's been a good 40 years. My classmates just had a reunion. I didn't go, but I imagine most of them would agree that life isn't exactly what they thought it would be 40 years ago either.  Time goes by a lot faster than you think it will when you're 18 and 40 years seems like forever...!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 24, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Annoying things

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

Saturday, June 22, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 21, 2019

Friday/First day of summer odds & ends

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

Monday, June 17, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Victory is ours! :)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 15, 2019

"All the Rage" by Darcy Lockman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 14, 2019

Book addict :)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 13, 2019


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

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Someone else's survival guide :)

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

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

"Happily ever after" vs "Just after"


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts?  (Did you watch?)

Monday, June 10, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Fear, relief and revelations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Guilt trips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BUT. On the flip side...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*** *** *** 

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

I could not bring myself to "like" it. 

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

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

"The Three Weissmanns of Westport" by Cathleen Schine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 3, 2019

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

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

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

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Right now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Desperately needing:  A pedicure! 

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

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

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

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

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