Tuesday, August 20, 2019

"I Love Dick" by Chris Kraus


"I Love Dick" by Chris Kraus is the Gateway Women book club pick for August (we'll be discussing it at the end of the month).

Yes, I know -- that title!! (lol)  I thanked the gods/goddesses that I'm no longer commuting on public transit (lol again), with my reading choices visible to all the other passengers -- but even so, I opted for an e-book version. ;) That said, it's not as pornographic as the title sounds ;)  -- although I'm sure the sexual connotations are one reason why the author chose to use the name (& use the name in the title ;)  ) and there is sex in the story.

The story focuses on Chris, a failing filmmaker from New Zealand who is turning 40 and bored with her sexless marriage to Sylvere, an  older (56) college professor. Visiting California in December 1994, the couple have dinner with Sylvere's old friend -- the Dick of the title -- and Chris falls instantly, inexplicably and obsessively in love with him. Sylvere also becomes obsessed with her obsession. Over the next few years, Chris (≈, to  some extent, Sylvere too) pursues/stalks Dick through phone calls, answering machine messages, meetings and rambling letters, which make up the bulk of the book, and which they view as a kind of art project (!). Along the way, she gains a new sense of herself -- which is, I suppose, why some call this a "feminist cult classic." (Also, the whole role-reversal thing, in which the woman pursues the man and the man plays hard to get.)  Perhaps the most famous line of the book, which I think I had heard/read elsewhere before, is "“Who gets to speak and why?...is the only question.”

This is one of those books I would probably not have picked up myself if it weren't for the book club -- and I'll be honest, it was a slog to make it to the end. If it weren't for the book club, I probably would have abandoned it. Chris's observations on men, women, love, art and self were sometimes interesting and thought-provoking (there were long tangents dealing with certain artists, the theory of cultural criticism, schizophrenia & other topics)... but there wasn't enough to maintain my interest the whole way through.

It currently has an average rating of 3.57 stars on Goodreads, and some rave reviews. (See this ecstatic 2015 article from the Guardian, which does make some good points about why the book might appeal to readers, and women in particular.) As for me... meh. I gave it 2 stars, which is about the lowest rating I've given yet on Goodreads. YMMV.  I will be interested to learn what the others thought of it!

Note: There's an afterword in which I was stunned to realize that most (if not all) of this book is true, and actually happened!!  I kind of figured Kraus had made herself the main character (since the main character/narrator's name is "Chris Kraus"), and I recognized some real-life names that she drops along the way -- but Sylvere is real, Dick is real (& apparently threatened legal action over the publication of this book).  Some of the content has been fictionalized, but still...!

I understand this book was recently adapted for television/video viewing by Amazon, with Kevin Bacon as Dick (!), Griffin Dunne as Sylvere and Kathryn Hahn as Chris.  Has anyone seen it?

This is book #29 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 121% (!) of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I have completed my challenge for the year -- currently five (5) books beyond my  goal -- and I have surpassed my reading total for 2018 by 2 books.  :)

Monday, August 19, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Tips for better reading

Have any of you read any books by Gretchen Rubin?  Her first and probably best-known book is "The Happiness Project," which I started reading some years ago but haven't finished. She's also the author of (among other volumes) "The Four Tendencies," which examines how people respond to inner and outer expectations according to their personality type: Upholder, Questioner, Obliger and Rebel.

I haven't read that book either (yet?), but I have done the quiz on her website and determined that I am a classic Obliger ( = people pleaser). Obligers "meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet the inner expectations they impose on themselves."

This week on her blog, Gretchen talked about the Four Tendencies in terms of reading, and helping us to read more. According to Gretchen:
Obligers need outer accountability to meet inner expectations. Crucial! To read more, join a book group. Tell your children you're going to read the books assigned in their classes, so you can discuss the books as a family. Use the library, so you have to finish a book to return it by its due date. Use the Goodreads Reading Challenge to challenge yourself in public to read a certain number of books in a year.
I had to laugh, because -- the "tell your children" suggestion aside, obviously -- I am doing just about all of these things.  And I've already reached my Goodreads Reading Challenge total for the year, so I guess I'm doing something right.  Read Gretchen's blog to find the reading tips for your own personality type!

In a similar vein, the New York Times is also offering a seven-day program of tips on how to be a better reader. Follow the link to sign up for the emails!

Here's a post from last year where I offered my own thoughts on what helps me read more books.

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

Monday, August 12, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Signs I'm getting older


  • I threw my back out a few days ago (& despite warm showers, Robax, heating pads, arnica & essential oil rubs, it's still not back to normal). :p 
  • My left knee has been giving me grief for several years now. 
  • Dh & I yell "What?" "WHAT?? I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" to each other from separate rooms. ;)  
  • It's been a while since I had a decent night's sleep. :p  
  • I still carry cash (& use it for most purchases under about $30). 
  • We still have (& use) a landline. 
  • I gave my vinyl collection to our nephew, but I still buy & listen to music on CDs and radio vs digital/streaming. 
  • I wear sensible shoes and won't even look at anything with a heel more than an inch high, even for dressy wear. 
  • I'm seeing styles in the stores that I wore when I was in high school, 40+ years ago. 
  • Another one of my high school classmates passed away recently. :( 
  • My friends are all becoming grandmothers. 
  • If we're not talking about children/grandchildren, we're talking about our aging parents and what to do with them (if we're still lucky enough to have them). 

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

Sunday, August 11, 2019

"Freedom Day," 5 years later

(I wrote this post on July 22nd, while I was on vacation... and forgot about it, in my drafts folder. I'm posting it now, because it still says something I wanted to say, albeit belated. Also, it's 33 years ago today that I joined the company! -- = I got let go just short of my 28th anniversary there.)

Five years ago today, I lost my job.

It's a blow to the ego (not to mention the pocketbook) to find out you're not wanted anymore, that all your years of loyal service and accumulated institutional knowledge weren't enough. (What STILL irks me is that I rearranged my vacation plans that summer, specifically at my boss's request, and took my holidays earlier in July, instead of later (as usual), because my colleague was heading off on maternity leave in early August "and we're going to need you then." I returned to work on Monday, and lost my job on Tuesday. I am sure the plans for this mass downsizing -- five of us from the same department lost our jobs that day -- were in the works well before I went on vacation.  My pregnant colleague actually gave birth, slightly prematurely, that same day the job cuts came down. She kept her job and is one of the few people from my department who is still there.)

For a long time afterward, any time that I was downtown and walking through the underground PATH concourse linking all the major office towers, I would take great pains & circuitous routes to avoid walking through the concourse of the building where I'd worked for more than 25 years. I just didn't want to run into anyone I had known, or endure the awkward conversation that would follow (not unlike the days, weeks & months after I returned to work, following Katie's stillbirth).

These days, I don't bother avoiding my former workplace (although I don't make a point of going there either). I don't worry running into people I know there anymore -- mostly because I realized that so many of them are gone too -- after further rounds of staffing reductions, reorganizations and just plain attrition & retirements over the past five years.

When she heard my news, my sister -- who had lost HER job some years previously (when the bank she worked for shut down her entire unit and transferred all the jobs to Calgary & Edmonton) -- assured me, "There will come a day when you too will celebrate ______bank Freedom Day."

That day has come. ;)

I miss (some of) the people I worked with. I miss being downtown, sometimes. (And yes, I'm still somewhat pissed off, sometimes.)  But I don't miss the stress of work, or working, or commuting. And while childlessness is not something I actively chose, early retirement would likely not have been possible, had we had children we were still feeding, clothing and educating.

These past five years of early retirement have gone by quickly. There have been a lot of changes in my life since then. I'm fast approaching (BIG GULP) 60.  We haven't travelled as much as I'd hoped we would (yet?!). 

But so far, so good. :)

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

21

New ornament I brought for Katie's niche
this morning,
along with the usual flowers. Inscription reads
"A daughter is heaven sent." 
She'd be 21 -- if not today (the day I delivered her), in November, when she was supposed to arrive. She'd be "legal" just about everywhere now -- officially an adult -- able to drink in bars, to gamble, to vote, to (gulp) get married without her father's & my consent. (Older than my mother was when she got married!!) Getting ready to head off for university or college (if her father & I had anything to say about it, anyway, lol) -- her fourth & possibly final year.

Beyond this point, the picture gets a bit hazy.  It's easy to imagine what your kids would be doing & saying when they're younger, in school, and all their peers are doing the same sorts of things. Once they get older, past high school, and develop minds and personalities and lives of their own, it becomes a bit harder to keep tabs on them (whether they're alive OR dead, right?).

A few weeks ago, my cousin's 21-year-old daughter (born in March 1998) popped by my dad's 80th birthday party in the city to say hello (both her dad/my cousin, and her grandma/my aunt/my dad's sister, were there, as well as most of her great-aunts & uncles on her dad's side). She works & lives in another western Canadian city these days with her boyfriend, but was home for a visit. I had a hard time reconciling the image of this grown-up, independent young woman with who my daughter (her second cousin) might be right now. The thought that perhaps she & Katie might have looked a bit like each other too -- people have told me I look like her grandma/my aunt (and the older I get the more I see it) -- blew my mind.

Many of the rituals that got us through August 7th during those first difficult years have drifted by the wayside.  We haven't ordered in Chinese food, or gone out for Dairy Queen Blizzards, in years, nor have I gone through my box of keepsakes in a while or made a donation in her memory or posted her story on my pregnancy loss list (which actually doesn't exist anymore).  But we did take roses to the cemetery this morning (and then went for lunch and a bookstore browse in our old neighbourhood). I am satisfied.

I am doing OK.  My grief these days is much more muted/low-key than it would have been 20, 15, 10 years ago. So many years have passed now, & so many tears.

I feel mostly sadness. And fatigue (I need a nap!! lol)  And gratitude.  For my husband. For my daughter's brief existence, and what she gave us. For all of you who have supported us during these past 21 years (including 11+ years on this blog). Thank you.

(I have not heard anything about Older Nephew's Wife's ob-gyn visit today -- assuming she's already gone -- it's mid-afternoon here right now.  I will assume that no news is good news, and continue to hope and pray that things continue to go well...!)

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Social media minefields

I was not an early adopter of social media, and I was a bit leery about it all at first -- still am, about certain aspects of it -- but I've come to enjoy being in closer touch with far-flung family members & friends, seeing their photos & sharing mine.

Long before Facebook & Instagram, I've always loved taking & looking at family photos, and appreciated the important role they play. I used to get doubles of all my prints & share them with the other people pictured (my mom, my SIL, my coworkers), especially when there were children involved, and people always seemed to appreciate it. When digital photography arrived, and email and photo-sharing sites like Flickr & Photobucket became popular, I shared photos that way. I've long been known as "the family photographer" in both my own family & dh's. BIL, SIL & the nephews have all said they would not have any photos of the boys' childhoods if it wasn't for me & my ever-present camera.

Dh thinks I overshare at times. I tell him he needs to see some of my friends' feeds, lol.  I don't post every day, and I don't post photos of everything I take. (I will admit to going overboard on special occasions -- our nephews' wedding albums on FB, for example, each contain more than 100 photos -- and there are many more on my laptop hard drive!)  If someone (like my sister) asks me not to share their photos on social media, I try to respect that. If they're not on social media themselves, or if I'm not sure they would be OK with me sharing photos of them or their family (especially their children),  I will usually ask.

As an example, I already wrote about the gender reveal party for Older Nephew & his wife's baby, and how I was asked not to post any photos on social media until after the separate reveal party for her family.  I already knew about the separate party & assumed that sharing anything before then would be verboten.

Sunday, we were at BIL's celebrating Younger Nephew's birthday. Before we brought out the cake, SIL asked me if I would mind not posting anything -- at least anything that would indicate we'd had a party. She hadn't invited some members of her family -- she figured they would be away for the long weekend anyway -- but thought they might take offense if they realized we'd been partying without them. I agreed, of course, and I haven't posted anything yet. I didn't get that many photos that were visibly birthday-related anyway (cake, presents, etc.).  I think I'm just going to post a few funny photos I took of the dog, which should be harmless enough. (I hope.)

I did feel a little taken aback, though (especially after I was asked not to post about the gender reveal party too) -- and I wondered if I've posted something that inadvertently hurt or offended someone in the past.  As I said before, I try to be careful & considerate about these things.  I wrote a post a few weeks ago about my trepidation about the coincidence in timing between pregnant Niece-in-Law's first ob-gyn visit & the 21st anniversary of Katie's stillbirth (coming up tomorrow) & whether I should post anything on social media to mark the day. (Still thinking about that...)

As another example, we wound up spending most of last Saturday at dh's cousin's house nearby (with a pool & a lovely patio), along with BIL & SIL and several other cousins -- but not all of them. It was kind of an impromptu thing, where one cousin called another, and they called another cousin, and so on & so on.  Most there were local, but a few came from further afield.  I took a few photos, and posted one.  I wondered as I did so whether I should -- since the cousins that hadn't gotten a call might see it and wonder why they were left out. The photo I posted included dh & two of the cousins who also live locally, and I made sure to refer to the impromptu nature of the gathering -- i.e., this was not something we'd planned without the others.  (So far, no fallout.)

But then I think about how often I see stuff from my friends & relatives that makes ME go "ouch" (when I'm sure they don't have a clue that that would be my reaction, or anyone else's). (And I'm not even talking about anything remotely politically related, lol.) Example:  a meme posted by at least two mom friends over the past week which reads "My biggest accomplishment will never be money.  It'll be who I raised."  A reminder I didn't need, especially this week!

I'm not sure what the answer is -- but I do know that life is both richer AND a lot more complicated since social media arrived on the scene....

Monday, August 5, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

  • (SPOILER ALERT) I binge-watched three episodes (#8, #9 & #10) of "The Handmaid's Tale"(season 3) back-to-back-to-back last Thursday night, catching up before episode #11 aired last night. I was a bit taken aback when a stillbirth occurred in episode 8.  It's not something we've seen in the TV version of the story -- although  I remember from the book that it was not an uncommon thing in Gilead, possibly because of the same environmental disasters that also increased infertility.  While the other Handmaids in attendance immediately flocked around the birth mother (Ofandy) to comfort her (a natural response, I suppose), June was the only one to venture over to look at the poor silent little baby, left alone in its container.  It made me sad. (Also perhaps a bit envious, that Ofandy got so much immediate support. Her Commander's Wife too, I'm sure.)  I am glad I had the opportunity to see & hold my own baby and to say goodbye (a while after delivery, when I was ready to do so). 
  • Not sure if the timing of watching this episode was good or bad:  today (today!!) is 21 years (!!) since that fateful day that I went to my 6-month ob-gyn checkup and had my world collapse around me when the doctor couldn't find my baby's heartbeat. (I am doing OK.)  Wednesday will be 21 years since I delivered her.  It will also be Older Nephew's Wife's 6-month first visit with her own ob-gyn, as I wrote here.  Prayers & positive thoughts for her & their baby boy would be appreciated. 
  • I nominated this post from An Unexpected Family Outing for the Stirrup Queen's Friday Roundup Second Helpings recently, and thought it was worth sharing here too. It's something that's always kind of irked me, that I've written about in a couple of previous posts (like this one & this one). 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Right now

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

Reading:  I read 6 (!) books in July (all reviewed here on my blog). I generally do get several books read during a vacation, but it's been quite a while since I racked up 6 books in one month...!  :)   

My Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge YTD total now stands at 28 books -- four more than my goal of 24 (117%).  :)

I missed the July meeting of my library book club;  there is no meeting in August.... not sure what September's selection will be.  


Current reads:  

(Some) recent purchases/additions to the TBR pile: 
Watching:  No movies in July (of course, we were away for three of the four weekends in the month).  Looking forward to seeing "Blinded by the Light" later this month!  Hoping to catch up on the three episodes I missed from season 3 of "The Handmaid's Tale" before episode 11 airs on Sunday night here.  Otherwise, not a lot of "must see TV" at the moment...  

Listening: To Stingray's Classic Rock channel (currently playing Pink Floyd as I type ;)  ). I have a backlog of podcasts to catch up on. 


Drinking/Eating:  My dad's garden got planted late because of the cold, wet spring, & thus wasn't quite ready for eating while we were there. :(  Fortunately, new potatos, carrots & yellow wax beans were available from the local farmers' market. We all hoovered them up!  Yum!!

Buying (besides books, lol):  Not much lately (not much shopping in smalltown Manitoba, lol). My sister & I bought our parents gift cards to the local grocery store for dad's birthday/their wedding anniversary, and to help defray the cost of feeding us while we're there.  


Wearing:  Lots of shorts & tank tops to help stay cool in the summer heat & humidity. Thinking about what to wear for Older Nephew's Wife's baby shower in September. 


Trying:  Not to think about Katie's day/Older Nephew's Wife's obstetrician appointment (both happening next Wednesday). 


Planning:  What I want to do that day. 

Fuming:  SIL (who was let go from her executive assistant job of 28 years last year, after her boss died at a far-too-young age) has been working in a warehouse doing manual labour for minimum wage for the past nine months. She happily quit that job a few weeks ago when she was offered an administrative job in a small office.  After a little more than a week... she was let go!!  The boss/owner told her it "wasn't a good fit."  So now she's unemployed again. Grrrrr.....

Wanting:  A decent night's sleep (hmmm, I think I've used this one before, lol...!).  

Feeling: Sad to leave my parents again, but happy to be back home & back to our regular routines. 

Loving:  Summer, when the sun is shining but it's not too terribly hot or humid outside, and I don't have to bother with coats, hats, gloves, boots, etc., before venturing outside.