Thursday, October 31, 2019

Blogoversary #12!

Twelve years!  Today is the TWELFTH anniversary of the day I started this blog, back in 2007!

It's hard to come up with an original "blogoversary" post after 12 years of writing them, lol -- although I have been doing some reflecting lately on how the blogging world has changed, and some of the points I drafted a while back seem suitable for a blogoversary post.

When I started writing here, blogs were mostly personal things. Most bloggers then didn't worry about "monetizing" or "branding" or creating "platforms" or gaining followers. Not that there is anything wrong with this approach... it's just not "me."

As I've said before, I started this blog for two main reasons:  I wanted to add my perspective on childless/free living after infertility & loss to the very few such blogs that existed at the time (Pamela's blog Coming2Terms being one, and one of the very, VERY few from that time that has lasted, albeit in somewhat different form)(Coming2Terms eventually morphed into Silent Sorority).  And I wanted to take part in Stirrup Queen Mel's book club. :)  If you find my posts helpful &/or relatable, if you get something out of what you read here, that's great -- it makes me really happy. :)  But that's not why (or at least the only or primary reason why) I started blogging, and continue to blog.

Social media was in its infancy back then (& basically meant Facebook). These days, it seems most/many bloggers (those who are still blogging!) promote their blogs via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or some combination thereof.  I've toyed with the idea of starting social media accounts for my blog, but decided against it.  It seems like a lot of work, and I have trouble enough keeping up with my personal accounts as it is...! (Or maybe I'm just lazy, lol.)

That said, having only personal accounts sometimes puts me in a bit of a weird/awkward position. I follow a lot of ALI-related blogs/bloggers/sites on social media -- and sometimes I get requests from them wanting to follow me back. If I have had some personal interaction with you (through comments, emails, etc.), I will probably say yes -- but if I don't really "know" you, I'm a little more reluctant to grant access. My personal accounts are generally just that, personal... I don't post a lot of ALI-related stuff there. If you're following me on social media with the expectation that I'll be providing the same kind of content there as I do here on my blog, you might be disappointed.

Anyway.  Blogging, social media & me may have a slightly uneasy co-existence (lol), but I am glad I'm still here, and that there are now so many, many more places people can go to find support for a life without children. Perhaps still not enough -- and perhaps the attitudes of the fortunately fertile have not changed enough for our liking. But I've seen a LOT of progress over the past 12 years, and I'm looking forward to seeing even more in the future. :)

Blogging stats, 12 years later:

Number of years blogging: 12

Published posts (including this one): 1,574

Average # of posts per year: 132 (up from an average of 128 last year!)

Average # of posts per month: 11
(So far in calendar year 2019, I've published 141 posts -- a minimum of 10 and as many as 19 in one month.)

Published comments: Unfortunately, Blogger only seem to be showing 1000 comments these days?? Nevertheless, I am grateful to all of you who comment!

Page views (tracked since May 2010):  almost 806,000

Followers (on Blogger):  149

Past blogoversary posts here.

First blog post ever here! :) 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

More odds & ends

  • Bracing myself for the onslaught of Halloween photos tomorrow...!  I enjoy them to a point, until it gets overwhelming.  We're not expecting any trick-or-treaters at our condo (haven't had any in the three previous Halloweens that we've lived here), but we did buy some chocolate, just in case... ;) 
  • Something else is happening tomorrow that I'll be posting about -- any guesses as to what that might be??  ;)  
  • Thank you to Turia for pointing me to this lovely first-person piece about stillbirth in The Guardian. 
  • I went to my library book club meeting on Monday night, for the first time since the end of June. I had checked the library website & saw the book for this month's discussion was "Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro (reviewed here).  I already had it in my collection, so I didn't bother to go to the library to check out a copy for the book club;  I simply showed up at the meeting, ready to discuss the book. What a surprise, then, to learn we were in fact discussing a completely different book!  Fortunately, it was one I'd already read -- one of the best books I'd read that year -- and was happy to discuss in a group setting: "Educated" by Tara Westover (reviewed here).  
  • Just finished off another book (#40 so far this year!).  I'll be posting a review sometime in the next few days. 
  • The 28-year-old daughter of a high school friend (am I really old enough to have a 28-year-old daughter? (let alone the 21-year-old daughter I was supposed to have) -- yes, I am...) was in a serious car accident a few days ago. She is in stable but serious condition at the hospital & will be undergoing several surgeries over the next while. Please keep her, her husband & her parents in your thoughts & prayers. :( 

Monday, October 28, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Score!!

Getting tickets for the upcoming Toronto visit of the touring company of "Hamilton" was an exercise in nerves and patience. I'm just very glad I didn't have to take my blood pressure during the process...! 

First dibs on the tickets went to Mirvish company season ticket subscribers. I know some people who bought season tickets well over a year ago, specifically so they'd be guaranteed their preferred seats again for THIS year, and thus guaranteed access to "Hamilton" tickets. I love live theatre, but season tickets (and I like to get good seats when I go to the theatre, if I can) are pretty expensive, and obviously some productions interest me more than others.

So I passed on that, but got my name on the Mirvish email list. A block of tickets specifically for list subscribers went on sale this past weekend (American Express cardholders got their shot at the tickets on Sunday, and sales to the general public began today) and, as per the emailed instructions, I double-checked my log-in and account information in advance, and then checked into the virtual waiting room before 10 a.m. on Saturday.  When 10 a.m. rolled around, we were all randomly placed into a virtual queue, waiting our turn for the chance to buy tickets (limit of 4 per person).

At 10 a.m., I was #5382 in line, with an estimated wait time of more than an hour. (I posted a screen shot on social media... dh's cousin's daughter told me I was 20,000 ahead of her!! Yikes!  I felt a little less sorry for myself after that...!) I figured I had time to take a shower, so I did (cellphone close at hand!). An hour later, the line ahead of me was down to 3,300 people... and my ETA was just under an hour. I started to feel hopeful.

My turn finally came up around the 1.5 hour mark -- which was really not that bad, I thought. Each page I clicked on loaded soooooooo slowly, though... I only had 20 minutes to choose my dates & seats, and then 10 minutes to arrange payment. I just had to grit my teeth and wait and resist the urge to click & reclick or (suicide!!) try to reload the page.

The available dates on the first page that loaded were all in February... and most had a red or yellow light beside them (no tickets/limited availability).  My understanding was that the best availability would be later in the run (April/May).... so I clicked on page 6 (the last one listed) to load to see where that would take me. It brought up some dates in May (toward the end of the run), and I chose a matinee performance with a "green light" beside it ( = good seats still available).  I was NOT going to pay top price ($499 per seat!!) but I did get tickets (still pricey, but somewhat more reasonable) in the first row of the balcony/mezzanine, left-hand side of the stage. *Should* be pretty good. :)  I breathed a deep sigh of relief as I finally printed off my confirmation screen and shared the "I scored #Hamilton tickets" meme on my Instagram & Facebook, lol. (Personally, I think it should have said something more like "I survived the Hamilton tickets purchase process," lol.)

Later, scanning Twitter & the news headlines, I realized that I'd been pretty lucky (for once in my life in buying tickets!)... lots of people reporting that the site crashed or loaded so slowly that they timed out & had to go to the back of the line and start all over again. (Dh's cousin's daughter, who was 20,000 in line behind me, did get tickets, after 5 hours waiting for her turn to come up.)  The block of available tickets for email list subscribers sold out before the 12-hour allotted window closed.

Maybe the best part? Our tickets are for a certain weekend in May. Mother's Day weekend, to be exact. Happy Mother's/Voldemort Day weekend to me!! lol  ;)

Have you seen "Hamilton"? (Do you care??  lol)

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

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Odds & ends

  • Our federal election is FINALLY over. I wouldn't say our politics are quite as toxic as the U.S. -- yet -- but they're certainly headed in that direction, and this campaign was one of the nastiest I can remember, with personal attacks and misinformation drowning out even nominally substantial policy discussions. I used to love elections;  these days, I can't wait for them to end. (Six weeks is PLENTY long enough;  I don't know how the Americans do it!!)  
    • The fallout from this one has been nasty as well, with disgruntled friends and relatives -- who do NOT share my American friends' fondness for Justin Trudeau, lol -- posting such loathsome stuff on Facebook & the like that I've been seriously considering taking a break from social media until things settle down.  
    • I rarely post anything overtly political on social media, but on the weekend before the election, I shared what I thought was an even-handed & helpful article from the Globe & Mail that outlined the platforms of all the political parties on my Facebook feed. Within minutes, I was subjected to a diatribe in the comments about Justin Trudeau -- and when I pointed out that the article was about the various party platforms and not JT specifically, I got blasted again. :p (And this is why I rarely post anything political on social media...!)  
  • (On a happier note) I spent a lovely afternoon yesterday at the nearby art gallery where I hold a membership, viewing the exhibits (including a new exhibit of Maud Lewis's work), enjoying the beautiful fall colours and having a delicious (albeit slightly pricey) lunch in the cafe with two of my former work colleagues/friends (coincidentally, also both childless/free).  I don't often get to spend time with girlfriends these days, nevermind in such a lovely setting, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. :) 
  • My reading progress has stalled since I got back from my trip west to see my family. Library book club meeting is Monday night, and I'll be picking up our next selection then... maybe that will be the kickstart I need to get back in the groove! 
  • "Hamilton" tickets go on pre-sale online to email list subscribers on Saturday morning (that's me!)... dh is "meh" about going (although I am sure he will love it if I get the opportunity to drag him there...!)... wish me luck!  
  • I found myself nodding over this New York Times piece on "The Lasting Trauma of Infertility." You probably will too! 

Monday, October 21, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Farewell, Yahoo Groups

Figure skating season kicked off with Skate America in Las Vegas this past weekend, the first competition in the Grand Prix series. After watching the ladies & men's finals on TV yesterday, I went online to SkateFans, a Yahoo Group I've belonged to for eons, to check out other fans' comments. 

I hadn't been on any of my Yahoo Groups for quite a while, so I was surprised (and yet not entirely surprised...) by the pop-up message I found, which apparently went public a couple of days ago. Yahoo Groups is (essentially) closing down.  Not entirely -- group members will still be able to contact each other via email -- but seriously, they might as well be. As of Oct. 28th (one week from today), users won't be able to upload any more content to the site, and as of Dec. 14th, all previously posted content -- including Files, Polls, Links, Photos, Folders, Calendar, Database, Attachments, Conversations, Email Updates, Message Digest and Message History -- will be permanently removed.

As I said, I was surprised, but not surprised by this turn of events. Yahoo Groups has been in decline for years, especially since the advent of (cough) Facebook. Many of the groups I once belonged either disbanded, moved to Facebook or another forum or went dormant years ago -- but there were still several that continued to thrive -- despite increasingly unreliable service. More & more frequently over the past few years, I would try to access one or more of my Yahoo Groups, only to encounter technical difficulties, some of which lasted days or even a full week or longer. There was little to do except wait;  there was no apparent mechanism where we could complain or even find out when service might be restored. 

The sad thing is that Yahoo Groups was the place that several groups I belonged to went to, after other forums elsewhere folded. SkateFans began some 20 years ago;  it grew out a listserv I belonged to when I first started going online in the late 1990s ( -- although the number/frequency of posts there has declined dramatically over the years. The small, private Yahoo Group that's been my anchor as a childless-not-by-choice woman for 15+ years began in 2003, after we started having technical difficulties with the Childless Living board on iVillage where we'd all originally met around 2001. (The iVillage board closed in 2008, several years before iVillage itself disappeared.)

The D.E. Stevenson author fan group I belong to was on Yahoo Groups for something like 20 years (since about 1998), and still going strong, with 300+ members -- but the frequent interruptions to our discussion schedule there (because of Yahoo Groups' increasing unreliability) were becoming really frustrating.  A year or so ago, a group of members took it upon themselves to research alternatives. Very happily, we were able to transfer the group's entire posting history, as well as photos, files and databases of collected knowledge, to a new home on (founded in 2014 by the guy who started ONElist, which eventually became... Yahoo Groups!).  My Yahoo Group of childless-not-by-choice friends also made the move to shortly afterward, happily preserving 15 years of searchable posts my friends there & I have written about childless living (and life in general -- it's the closest thing I've had in recent years to a journal/diary, besides my blog).  So far, so good...!  (In case you're interested, here's a Lifehacker article explaining the advantages of moving to

A SkateFans group member has set up a new group for members on Google Groups. I am not sure what is going to happen to another Yahoo Group I have belonged to for about 20 years (one that's listed in the resources in the sidebar of this blog), Mullerian Anomalies. The number of posts there has declined dramatically over the years, but it's been a fabulous source of information and accumulated wisdom for women like me who have an abnormally shaped uterus.

Change is one thing to cope with, but what really bothers me is thinking of all that accumulated knowledge and history (on my old groups, and others) disappearing into the ether with the click of some anonymous techie's mouse. But I guess it's the way of the Internet -- change and impermanence.  Blogging is still here, happily, but those of us who have been around for a while know it's not like it used to be. These days, many women who might have gone to message boards or blogs or even Facebook groups to find support for infertility & pregnancy loss seem to be flocking to Instagram instead. And is it just my imagination, or is everyone and his or her dog starting a podcast lately

Were/are you a Yahoo Groups user?

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

Saturday, October 19, 2019

"If you don't want to have kids, you don't have to want a career instead"

Jody Day of Gateway Women recently shared an article from Vice on social media that had me nodding along as I read it:  "If You Don’t Want to Have Kids, You Don’t Have to Want a Career Instead."

Many people still equate "childless woman" with "career woman" -- if you don't have children, well, you must have a fabulous career instead, right?  You obviously have more time to throw yourself into your job, work long hours and climb the corporate ladder, right?  (Conversely, if you want a high-powered career, are you really going to have the time to devote to a family? -- This either/or thinking was very common years ago, and still persists in some quarters.)

But what if we don't have children, and don't WANT a high-powered career either?

A few excerpts from the article:
Work can be the thing we do in order to enjoy our free time—it doesn’t have to be a lifelong career, and we don’t always need to be pushing to be the boss. Forget having it “all”—why aren’t women allowed to just have “some,” and be happy with it? ...Perhaps we are finally waking up to the idea that we’ve been conned—that in falling into the optimized lifestyle trap, we’re missing out on the life we actually deserve... 
The biggest barrier women face seems to be the idea that we have inherent worth: that we deserve to be alive, deserve to be happy, even if we are doing “nothing.” [ed note: and even if we don't have children]  [Women's empowerment coach Hueina] Su echoed this idea – saying that If you want to de-optimize your life, it’s critical to believe that you are inherently worthy, and to identify what success and happiness means to you. “We must learn to redefine success for ourselves, instead of letting society and other people dictate how we live our lives,” she said
I've written in the past here about my lukewarm feelings toward my job/career (even before I lost it, lol).  I worked to live, I did not live to work... but I sometimes felt kind of guilty... that I SHOULD want more our of my working life. Supervisors would ask me the obligatory review questions about where I saw myself in five years and what job I wanted to do next... I had no good answers. I was happy doing what I was doing. I had no great desire to manage people, and while I was happy to stretch myself to a certain extent (trying speechwriting & drafting executive correspondence & official messages, after years working on the staff newsletter, for example), making the leap to an entirely different department or area of the company did not interest me in the least.

Losing my job -- at a stage in my life where I was able to take early retirement (a reduced pension, but still a pension nevertheless) -- offered me an "out" -- and I took it -- but I still harboured a lot of guilty feelings:  I was way too young to just retire, I still had a lot to offer (if I could convince a potential employer to look past my age...! -- too young to retire, perhaps, but also too old to be hired for another job...). I should be out there working and adding to our retirement savings for at least another 5-10 years (even though a financial planner assured me & dh that we could afford to do this now), because that's what most people my age were still doing. (So far, he's been right, and it's been working out just fine.)

"What do you do with all that time?" people ask me -- and I feel guilty that I don't have any stories about fabulous trips or meaningful volunteer work or even a full social calendar of luncheons & outings with girlfriends to tell them about. (As one retirement planner pointed out in an article I read, even the fabulously rich will not find themselves travelling 365 days a year... you have to find other ways to fill your time.)  I read, I putter around on this blog & on other social media, I listen to podcasts and watch TV.  Once a week or so, we drop by BIL's house (or they come by here, or we head across the city to visit stepMIL, once every few weeks).  We clean the house and do the laundry and run errands and go to the supermarket and to the mall, and we browse at the local mega-bookstore a couple of times a week. We go out for a simple lunch a couple of times a week, and out for dinner on Saturday nights, a habit we established early on in our marriage.

So the days pass, and while I can't always tell you where the time has gone, I can tell you it always goes by too quickly -- and that I'm seldom bored, and generally happy with my jobless, childless life. When people ask dh "what do you do with your time, now that you're retired?"  he now responds "Whatever I want!"  lol  That usually shuts them up. I think I'm going to adopt it too, lol.

I've had a partially written draft in my draft folder for quite a while now along these same lines. It began a couple of years ago when a childless-not-by-choice/loss mom friend (& past/occasional blogger ;)  ) posted an article on Facebook titled "What if All I Want is a Mediocre Life?"  She confessed that she struggled with the guilt of not being more or doing more or wanting more -- with the idea that "I'm enough."

"Maybe it's the fact that I've been beaten to a bloody pulp by life -- maybe that's why I crave a drama-free, quiet, simple existence," she mused.

I could certainly relate to that... and I'm sure a lot of childless-not-by-choice women can too. Infertility & loss (and the fallout from them) have already provided us with plenty enough drama to last a lifetime, and then some...!

The thought that we need to do more, be more, is something that many people struggle with, whether or not they have kids. But the absence of children in our lives makes some of us feel like we need to do something else, something BIG, as "compensation," to fill that hole in our lives, to prove our worth to society.  Why not climb the corporate ladder (or run off to do missionary work in Africa... etc. etc.) -- after all, we can!

But it's one thing to do something "because we can." Is it something we SHOULD do? Is it something that we WANT to do? Is it something that's right for us personally, for our goals and values?

And by the way, who says that it's a "mediocre life" -- mediocre by whose standards?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject!

Here are a couple more great articles on this theme:

Friday, October 18, 2019

Can you help?

There is increasing interest in the experiences of infertile and childless women (and men!) as a topic of serious academic study, which is so great & validating to see! :) 

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Lisa, a PhD student at Dalhousie University in Halifax. She is seeking further interviews with other Canadian women who have experienced persistent infertility for her PhD research.  If you'd like to help too, please read about the parameters of her study, and then contact Lisa at the email address below. :) 

*** *** ***

Research Participants Need for a Study Exploring Persistent Infertility in Canada

I am a Sociology PhD student at Dalhousie University. I am interested in speaking with Canadian women who experience persistent infertility. For the purpose of this research, persistent infertility encompasses: a) women who discontinued fertility treatments when they did not work; b) women who cannot access fertility treatments (due to financial restrictions, ineligibility, geographic location, for example); and c) women whose infertility is untreatable (MRKHS, Mullerian anomalies, or acquired conditions, for example). If you identify with one of these groups and are interested in participating in this research study please contact me by email.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Vacation reading :)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four stars on Goodreads.

*** *** ***

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

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

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

Three stars on Goodreads.

*** *** ***

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

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

They're not.

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

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

Four stars on Goodreads

*** *** ***

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

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

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

Four stars on Goodreads.

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

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The rest of my vacation...!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

There are mothers all around you

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

Monday, October 14, 2019

Saturday night's all right for Elton :)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 3, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Four (4) stars on Goodreads.

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

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

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Right now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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