Tuesday, March 31, 2020

COVID-19 odds & ends

  • Further to a previous post which mentioned cancelled IVF cycles because of COVID-19 -- The Globe & Mail had an article this past weekend about planning for pregnancy -- including postponing IVF -- during this pandemic. I found it curious/interesting that -- although it does begin with the postponement of an IVF cycle, and the emotional impact of that -- the article is actually more focused on the medical & safety aspects of pregnancy during a pandemic, as well as the impact on already-scarce medical resources.  On the one hand, it does cover all the bases, but... 
  • I was (text) chatting with a group of other CNBCers, and several people were commenting about how suddenly -- now that we're in the middle of a global crisis, and everyone is at home, and presumably has more time on their hands -- people are coming out of the woodwork & wanting to connect and chat. (See my previous post -- since I wrote it, I had a cousin of my mother's call me on the phone... I feel relatively close to her, and we are connected on social media, etc., -- but she NEVER calls me!!) 
    • Of course, more often than not, these conversations will turn to the caller's kids...!  More than one CNBCer commented something along the lines of "Where were all these people when *I* really could have used a sympathetic chat??"  
    • Another great point/observation: is it possible that dealing with infertility, loss and childlessness, and all the grief and chaos and anxiety and uncertainty that comes along with that, has better prepared us to deal with current events than some of our peers?? 
  • Great article (recommended by Jody Day of Gateway Women) from The Guardian on coping with radical uncertainty, including some practical tips and helpful podcast recommendations. Opening paragraph: 
In 1939, in a sermon preached at Oxford University in the midst of a different global crisis, CS Lewis made a distinction that’s worth revisiting today. It wasn’t the case, he pointed out, that the outbreak of war had rendered human life suddenly fragile; rather, it was that people were suddenly realising it always had been. “The war creates no absolutely new situation,” Lewis said. “It simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice… We are mistaken when we compare war with ‘normal life’. Life has never been normal.” 
  • Margaret Atwood wrote an interesting essay for The Globe & Mail about "Growing up in Quarantineland" during the 1950s & 60s, before vaccines were developed for things like polio. 
    • Even when I was a child in the 1960s, most kids got chicken pox, mumps and measles -- things children are routinely vaccinated for now. I remember chicken pox decimating my Grade 1 class in the spring of 1968 -- an entire row of my classmates sat empty at one point! -- and then the mumps later that fall. Most kids these days will never have to deal with any of these once-common (mostly survivable) childhood illnesses. 
    • My mother had hepatitis when I was a toddler, and wound up in the local hospital (the same one where I was born). We lived just down the street (the main street in town), and one of my earliest memories is of my grandmother holding me up to a window (the hospital window) & my mother being inside, waving at me. I seem to remember my sister was in the stroller. I must have been 2, because my sister & I are 21 months apart, and we moved to Saskatchewan before I turned 3.  

Monday, March 30, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: Things I've been doing...

...while self-distancing (so far!):
  • Watching WAY too much cable news...!!  (CNN, CBC News Network, CTV News Channel).
  • Crying more than usual over some of the sad stories I've been seeing & reading about, especially the first-person accounts from medical staff.  
  • Listening to Stingray Classic Rock when we need a break from TV. (There's a great deal of comfort to be found in the music of your youth...!) 
  • Spending WAY too much time online (albeit it's a great way to socialize and stay connected with people from a distance...!). 
  • Adding some new apps (see my previous rant, lol) and deleting some others to make room for them... 
  • Working my way through the ever-present magazine pile. 
  • Cleaning up my email inbox & actually reading some of the daily/weekly newsletters I subscribe to. 
  • Trying (but failing) to get to the bottom of my blog reader queue... 
  • Balancing my chequebook register. (Yes, I still keep one... I barely write any cheques these days, but I do still track the debit card purchases, cash machine withdrawals, etc., from my chequing/day-to-day banking account.)(I was exactly $6 out!! Not sure where that missing $6 went to??)  
  • Sorting, filing & shredding accumulated old receipts and bills.  
  • Re-inserting & tightening up a screw that dropped out from the kitchen faucet assembly underneath the sink with a loud CLUNK...! (Got a bit of vertigo after emerging from the cupboard after doing that! :p  ) 
  • Culling my books, which have started to overflow the shelves again (even with double-stacking)... many of them titles that I've managed to buy in e-book format at a deep discount. We've packaged up the culled titles and will take them to the thrift store when it (eventually...!) reopens. (My shelves still look pretty full, though...!) 
  • Scrubbing out the shower cubicle (my least-favourite household chore, I think -- but I can't say I'm "too busy" to do it right now, right??!).  
  • The laundry, more often. (Partly because I insist on washing dh's clothes after he's worn them outside to get groceries, but also just for something to do...?!). 
  • Sending "post some new photos of Great-Nephew" vibes to Older Nephew & his wife, lol.  (There are NEVER enough photos!!)  
  • NOT reading as many books as I thought I would...!  :( 
  • Wondering when I'm going to get to see my family again, and whether we'll be able to take our usual trip west to see them this summer, as planned. :(  
  • Wondering whether the family reunion planned for late July in Minnesota will go ahead, and whether the U.S.-Canada border will reopen in time for us to attend?  :( 
  • Nevertheless feeling lucky that I can hole up here in my cozy condo with dh, my laptop and my books and plenty of food (and toilet paper, lol), and not go out unless absolutely necessary. (Today is day 18... I think??!) 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.  

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Corona-tech overload

I've been spending even more time than usual online since the whole coronavirus crisis began -- and it seems like everyone else is too. They're all posting more -- sharing memes and dumb jokes and photos of what they're doing (or not doing) in isolation. Even though I'm sitting at home without a whole lot to do, I'm having trouble keeping up with my social media feeds and messages. And feeling just a wee bit swamped.

It's nice that people are reaching out & checking in on each other, of course. BUT, sometimes, it's a bit of overload. My phone keeps dinging & pinging with notifications & I'm seriously considering turning some of them off, or muting them for a while.  It wears on you after a while...!

One case in point on this front: Dh's cousins have long had an on-again-off-again group chat going on Facebook Messenger. But now one cousin in Italy asked if we could set up a group on WhatsApp (which apparently they all use in Europe?)... and now everyone is moving over there. I REEEEAAAALLY didn't want to have to download (& learn) another app... besides Messenger, I also have regular texting (which the cousins on the other side of dh's family seem to prefer using) -- not to mention good old-fashioned email, lol.  My phone is running short on space as it is (I have -- cough cough -- five news apps and several reading apps on my phone that take up a lot of space -- not to mention all my pictures, lol).  I am constantly clearing my cache, and I've had to delete a couple of other less-used apps lately just to keep the phone running smoothly! 

But I felt like I didn't have much choice, if I want to stay connected. :p  (And Lord knows, as an older, retired, childless woman, I felt kind of isolated even before all this began...!) 

Likewise, video calling/conferencing:  my phone is an Android, so I don't have Facetime, which is exclusive to Apple iPhones. But there's an app called Duo on my phone (that I've never used) that I understand is similar. I think both Messenger and WhatsApp have video calling capabilities too? I have Skype on my laptop (but not my phone -- at least not yet...)(my parents & I used to talk on it a lot, although we haven't used it much recently). I have Zoom on both my phone & laptop, which lots of CNBCers have been using for webinars & video chats over the past year. 

And then this week, a group of friends decided they wanted to chat with an app called House Party, so I had to download THAT to my phone. (There's a limit of 8 people per call on that one, though.) 

Seriously, how many communication apps do we all need??  Can't we all just pick one or two & stick to those??

(Rant over...!)  

Which texting/conferencing apps do you use/prefer? 

Friday, March 27, 2020

Thank you for being my online friends :)

I realized it long before the coronavirus (20+ years now!), but the past couple of weeks have once again reminded me of how much I value my online friends. Read here.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

More COVID-19 odds & ends

  • I think the hardest part of this whole coronavirus things (aside from the fear we're going to get it) has been not seeing our adorable Great-Nephew (who is now four months old) for almost three weeks now. :(  They grow & change so much so fast at this age...!  
    • So we've been sending "Post more photos/videos of the baby, damnit!!" vibes (and occasional text requests, lol) to Older Nephew & his wife, lol.  His wife tends to post a lot of stuff to Instagram & Facebook Stories, which is fine (we'll take anything -- beggars can't be choosers, lol), except that they DISAPPEAR after 24 hours. So for those 24 hours, we binge-watch those precious short little clips - over and over and over again (dh especially does this). We've learned to take screen shots with our cellphones, which helps capture some of these moments for longer-term viewing -- but they don't necessarily do a great job when it comes to video. 
    • Older Nephew's wife posted a killer video this afternoon:  Little Great-Nephew looking up at her (Mommy) while she's looking at the camera. Then she looks down at Little Great-Nephew... and he smiles happily and kicks his little feet.  
    • IT KILLS ME. First because he's so frickin' cute and I MISS HIM SO MUCH... and second (of course) because I will never, ever have a child look at me that way... another reminder of what I've missed out on. :( 
    • His other grandmother (the one he's not living with -- i.e., Older Nephew's wife's mother) hasn't seen him since this all started either, and I guess it's killing her too. :(   
    • I have a few things I bought for him for Easter before all this madness started (an Easter-themed onesie, a little board book, a stuffed chick that's safe for all ages)(I'll buy him chocolate when he's older & actually able to eat it, lol). If it gets close to Easter and restrictions are still in place (and I'm pretty sure they will be), we're thinking of driving over & leaving the bag on the porch for them to pick up. And maybe ask them to bring Great-Nephew over to the window so we can wave at him and get in a bit of a fix. ;)  
    • I miss the dog too. :(  I have a couple of dachshund sites in my social media feeds, and I got almost teary watching a video of a dog who looked just like Older Nephew's.  I suppose we could get some snuggles with the dog in while we're there??  (Dogs don't do social distancing very well, lol.) 
  • Anyone else getting slayed by this particular "stay home" meme that's making the rounds on social media? 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A pregnancy in a pandemic


My phone started pinging yesterday afternoon... Messenger group chat among dh's cousins. Just guess!! -- an ultrasound photo!! His cousin who has lived in Australia for the past 15 years or so is PREGNANT. (AND -- GASP!! -- she's NOT MARRIED!! lol -- this DOES NOT HAPPEN in dh's Italian Catholic family! lol I don't think any of the cousins care, although there may be a few older relatives who will cluck their tongues over it.) She is due early this fall. 

She just turned 40 in January. I honestly thought she didn't have any interest in having babies. She's a doting aunt & godmother, but never seemed too interested in settling down and having kids herself. She's a pretty successful executive, leads a fabulous social life (at least it seems so from the photos she posts on social media), and travels around the world a lot for both business and pleasure. "I hope she doesn't regret it someday," her sister-in-law confided to me & SIL once.

Of course I wish her well -- especially right now, given the state of the world... Many of the cousins remarked on how nice it was to have some good news in the middle of all this global chaos and uncertainty. (I wonder how many of them will be as worried for her as I'm going to be?? -- knowing what I know about pregnancy at the best of times, never mind in the middle of a global pandemic...) 

Just feeling a little wistful that she managed to pull a rabbit... ummm, baby... out of the hat before her fertility ran out -- right at the same point where I had to give up on my own dream of motherhood. :(

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

COVID-19 odds & ends: Ageism, pronatalism & ALI/CNBC

The news doesn’t look good: There are more people sick; less relief is coming. The “reassuring” public service announcements are no better. Countless messages from my dentist, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and from my child’s playgroups tell me not to worry because it’s “only” chronically ill people and elders that are at risk of severe illness or death. More than one chronically ill friend has quipped: “Don’t they know sick and old people can read?” 
The pestilence of ableism and ageism being unleashed is its own kind of pandemic. In Italy, they’re already deciding not to save the lives of chronically ill and disabled people, or elders with Covid-19. The rationale is twofold: We are less likely to survive, and caring for us may take more resources. This is not an unusual triage decision to make in wartime or pandemics; our lives are considered, quite literally, more disposable.
    • As an aging childless woman, I'm already used to feeling "disposable" or less-than in the eyes of society. But COVID-19 sure puts a whole new spin on it. If I arrived at the hospital at the same time as another 59-year-old woman of similar health -- but who, unlike me, is the mother of (living) children (maybe even grandchildren) -- who do you think is going to get the one available respirator? 
  • I read that in some NYC hospitals, women are labouring & giving birth without support partners, because of the COVID-19 risk. It's enough to give a loss mom like me PTSD sometimes... (and I know several loss moms who are privately struggling with everything that's been going on). 
    • My heart goes out to those expectant moms -- and you know there will be some -- whose delivery does not go well, and/or babies aren't going to come home with them. And who will have to go through that, and deal with the immediate aftermath, alone...  
      • (Dh & I were pregnancy loss support group facilitators during the SARS outbreak in Toronto, and our co-facilitator worked in a local hospital... she had some tales to tell!!  We had several clients arrive at group who went through their losses at that time... I am sure this is bringing back some sad/scary memories for them...!) 
    • How about those (and the article alludes to this) who had a previous loss, or difficult previous pregnancy or delivery, who now face delivery without additional support? 
    • The article also mentions some pregnant women are now considering giving birth at home instead of going to the hospital. This gives me the heebie-jeebies:  
Susan Rannestad, a licensed midwife, said the number of calls she received for midwife services had soared since the new policy was announced. 
But she warned against women deciding at the last minute to give birth at home, which she said required months of education, planning and preparation. 
“I am concerned that they are not prepared,” Rannestad said. “Home birth is not like going to Walmart and buying a new blanket for your bed.” 
“My clients plan their births like they plan their weddings, and the people who are calling now don’t get it,” she said.
  • These days, I don't follow many couples blogs or social media feeds about cycling through infertility treatment... but I have heard/seen some very real grief from people whose long-anticipated cycles were cancelled. My heart goes out to them too. 
  • Anyone else not appreciating all those jokes about the number of babies that are going to be born in December??  Many infertile women know that will simply not be the case for them... 
  • On the other hand:  I don't want to minimize the very real grief & fear we are all feeling right now -- but how very fortunate are we that, if we HAD to go through a pandemic, it's at a time when we have all this wonderful technology to connect and entertain us (not to mention we have modern medicine to help us, however imperfect it is!)?? I was thinking about this after watching a documentary on PBS a few days ago about the great influenza pandemic of 1918.  
    • I have not been out of the house in almost two weeks (!)... dh has been out to scrounge for groceries a few times. I'll admit I'm starting to go a bit stir crazy (may go for a bit of a walk once the weather gets a bit better...), but things could be a whole lot worse. Hang in there!! 
  • On a lighter note:  Ultimate Classic Rock published this list of songs related to social distancing
    • I asked my Facebook friends for suggestions for songs they'd missed. They included "Crystal Ball" and "Best of Times" by Styx, "Safety Dance" by Men Without Hats, and "Go Away Little Girl" by Donny Osmond, lol. (I'm too lazy to look up the YouTube links right now, lol.) 
    • A friend posted a little video on Instagram set to "Band on the Run" by Paul McCartney & Wings (lol):  
Stuck inside these four walls,
Sent inside forever,
Never seeing no one
Nice again like you,
Mama you, mama you....
If I ever get outta here
If we ever get outta of here...

Monday, March 23, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: The Pandemic Project

I stumbled onto an intriguing site while on Facebook yesterday (via the page of Rona Maynard, a Canadian writer/journalist I have long admired)(she's the sister of Joyce Maynard, the novelist/memoirist whose "Looking Back" is one of the books that has most influenced my own life & writing). Researchers at the University of Texas have embarked on a study of how everyday lives are being affected during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how people are coping.

The Pandemic Project is looking for volunteers to complete a 10-15 minute online questionnaire about how they are responding to the current coronavirus outbreak. At the end of the survey questionnaire, you get scores in certain categories and suggestions on coping strategies (which can be emailed to you.)

This was interesting.

I scored 6.2 on Social Connection, which is average. Dh & I are pretty socially isolated even in non-COVID times -- being retired while the rest of the world works (or at least many of our family members and friends), for one thing...! -- but he speaks with his brother on the phone just about every day, and I'm in constant contact with lots of friends online (even if it is just to like or share or comment on their posts on social media).

I also scored 6.2 on Healthy Habits categories, which is average. "Your life style is generally good but there is still room for improvement," my results say.  Ummmm....  ;)  We definitely could be getting out to walk & stretch our legs more (again, even pre-COVID). We've had the excuse of winter weather for the past several months, and lots of construction around us for the past few years -- but those excuses have mostly vanished with the end of construction and the advent of spring. (Although I woke up to snow AGAIN this morning...!)

My Anxiety & Distress score is 6.6, also within average range. "Your score suggests that you have some anxiety and distress about the outbreak which makes sense. [No sh**, Sherlock...] In the weeks ahead, if your distress increases, there are a number of actions you can take."

My Covid Obsession score, however, was 10 (!!).  "Watching or reading too much news about the coronavirus is bad for your health," my results say (boldface theirs!).  What can I say, I'm a media junkie... but I guess it's time to turn off the TV/screen for a while...!  (And maybe pick up a book, which I haven't done since this whole situation began unfolding.)

Did you take the quiz?  What did you learn from your results?

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

Friday, March 20, 2020

And the winner is...

Congratulations, A.M.!  You are the winner of an autographed copy of the new, revised edition of Jody Day's classic book, "Living the Life Unexpected."

I will pass along your name & contact details to Jody (I think we both know where to find you! ;) ), and she will be in touch.

Thanks to all of you who commented on my review of Jody's book as part of her book launch blog tour.  :)  I put all your names on pieces of paper into a hat and had dh draw a name this afternoon.

Happy reading, everyone! 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Coronavirus, older relatives and aging without children

Over the past few years, my parents have been driving into the city a couple of times a year for regularly scheduled luncheon get-togethers with my aunts & uncles who live there (my dad's brothers and sisters), as well as several of their cousins. My dad, at 80, is probably one of the YOUNGER ones in the group (!!). (A couple of my own cousins, closer to my own age, have also been attending, because they've been acting as chauffeurs for their own parents who no longer drive.)

One of the regular luncheon group members is a cousin (not sure if she's a first cousin, or further removed??) of my late (gone 45 years!!) grandmother's (!), a lady who just turned 94 (!). She is a widow, childless, fiercely independent and still living in her own home. She also owns a vacation home in Arizona and, until very recently, used to spend her winters there.

My parents never really knew this woman until recently (I've never met her myself), but they have developed a relationship with her, chat regularly with her on the phone, and have been helping her out with various things. She's been asking my father for financial advice, and my mother (with some tech support from my sister) helped her put some of her vintage fur coats on a local buy & sell site, for example. ("Who else is going to help her?" my kind-hearted mother will say. She describes this woman as very hard of hearing, but still very sharp-minded.)  Her closest relatives/next-of-kin are two nieces -- one in her early 60s & one in her early 70s, one in southern Ontario and one in the U.S. (i.e., some distance away).  The one niece told my dad (over the phone) that she hasn't seen her aunt in 20 years. 

She has managed fairly well on her own -- until just before Christmas, when she slipped on the kitchen floor and broke her leg!  Somehow she managed to drag herself across the length of her house to the front door, open it and call for help, until a passing neighbour heard her. She wound up in a rehab hospital for several weeks. Assisted living was suggested, but she was determined to go back to her house. (She was also determined to go to Arizona to check on her home there!! -- of course, at her age and with her medical history, there is no way she would have qualified for travel medical insurance. My father -- and the current coronavirus pandemic, and related flight restrictions -- seem to have finally convinced her not to go -- for now at least...!)

Another reason why Arizona would not be a good idea right now: she is also dealing with cancer (!!) & undergoing treatment. There is a van that will pick her up, take her to the hospital for appointments and bring her home again. One of her neighbours -- a young mother with two small children, who is dealing with her own health issues -- has been taking her grocery shopping and to the drugstore to get prescriptions refilled, etc., since she got home from the rehab hospital -- but she's admitted to my father that while she's concerned and has been glad to help, she simply can't continue with the level of support she's been giving. 

When the hospital social workers learned of this cousin's situation, they were ready to appoint a government trustee to look after her affairs -- but she would not hear of that, and asked my father if he would assume the role of trustee instead. He's reluctantly agreed. (She's also asked him to be the executor of her will.)  He's been in contact with her lawyers, and is still investigating and sorting through all the things he feels he should know about.  

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and all the advice to stay at home and practice social distancing, my parents were (still!)  planning to go into the city later this week to check in on this elderly cousin. (When I called last weekend, my mother had been to a church meeting, and was planning to go for coffee with her friends this week!)  My exasperated sister called me up the other night and asked me to call my parents & again and tell them to STAY HOME, because they weren't listening to her.  (Someone flagged this New Yorker article on Facebook... my parents are from the pre-Boomer generation, but otherwise, it completely fits!)  

As an aging childless woman myself, I obviously have a lot of sympathy for this woman. And I believe that we all need to look out for one another (now more than ever!).  But as the aging daughter of aging parents who have some underlying health issues, my priority has to be THEIR health & wellbeing.    

Anyway, it's a good lesson for all of us (whether or not we have children!) to be prepared, get our affairs in order, cultivate relationships with family, friends and neighbours, and set up some support systems NOW, before we find ourselves in need of them... 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Odds & ends

  • Thank you for your well wishes on yesterday's post about feeling under the weather (during a global pandemic, no less...!).  Throat is still a bit sore, but overall, I'm feeling better. 
  • Dh went to the local supermarket early yesterday morning for more milk (and anything else he could scrounge up). He did get the milk, and a few other things -- including some cereal, some coffee and the last two chicken pot pies in the freezer case -- but reported the shelves were generally pretty bare. He later went to a smaller grocery store nearby that specializes in Italian foods (lots of imports) & had more success there (including toilet paper! & cans of his favourite beans).  He's out (again) this morning for a few more items on our wish list, and anything else useful he might run across. (He claims he's OK with being cooped up at home, but I'm not so sure about that, lol...) 
    • Please tell me I'm not the only one who's suddenly become hyper-aware of how much toilet paper I'm consuming (counting out squares for each use)?? For a society that's so used to abundance and convenience, this has been an eye-opener, I think... 
  • Yesterday, the prime minister announced Canada is banning entry to most non-residents because of the pandemic (American are still OK, for now...). For those currently outside the country, the PM delivered an unequivocal message:  "It's time for you to come home." Those returning from abroad are being asked to self-quarantine for 14 days. 
    • I know a few people who, despite the deteriorating situation, still headed for the Caribbean for spring break last week (with small children in tow). I hope they all get back all right -- but seriously, I don't understand why they still went ahead with their trips in the first place?? 
    • (I sure hope they were well stocked with toilet paper and other groceries before they left... they may be in for a rude awakening when they do return...!) 
  • Yesterday morning, SIL & I finally got the (completely expected) news that Elton John has postponed many of his upcoming concerts, including the show we were supposed to attend on March 29th. The tickets will still be good for new dates TBA for 2021.   
  • On the ALI/CNBC front:  Lisa at Life Without Baby has announced that after 10 years, she’ll be stepping back from the blog & community she created… she’ll be maintaining the site, but closing the community forums on April 10th, and she won't be posting regularly after Mother's Day (May 11th). :(  Please go over and thank her for everything she's done for our childless-not-by-choice community. 
  • Don't forget I will be giving away a free, autographed copy of the new edition of Jody Day's classic book for the childless-not-by-choice community, "Living the Life Unexpected." Want to win?  Leave a comment to that effect here. I will be drawing the winner's name this Friday, March 20th! 

Monday, March 16, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: Sick :(

I'm sick. :(  I don't *think* it's COVID-19.  But obviously, I don't know for sure. Unless I really start feeling a whole lot worse, I've decided I'm not going near a doctor's office or hospital right now (or anywhere else, for that matter).  Social distancing, c'est moi.

I am not running a fever (my temperature has actually been BELOW normal the last few times I've taken it...!)(my digital thermometer is ancient & probably needs a new battery...) and have only had the occasional cough. Some post-nasal drip, but no serious sinus congestion. I started feeling very tired last Tuesday, and I chalked it up to the time change & not sleeping well. But by Wednesday night -- the day the World Health Organization declared a pandemic -- I was feeling just a wee bit headache-y too, and there was an ominous tickle starting at the back of my throat.

We went to the supermarket to stock up on supplies on Thursday morning, just before the panic buying started locally later that afternoon/evening (the NHL suspended the hockey season that afternoon -- I suspect there was a connection, lol), and by that evening, I knew I was not operating at 100%.  I haven't been sick in probably two or three years, but OF COURSE I would get sick NOW, at the beginning of a global pandemic, right??  :p  

It seems kind of ironic, because we've been sort of socially distanced all winter long anyway. We go to the supermarket (& have lunch in the little food court area there) once or twice a week, to the bookstore/Starbucks once or twice a week, to the mall once a week (in the morning in the middle of the week when there are fewer people around) and out for dinner on Saturday night. Maybe over to see BIL & family, including little Great-Nephew. (We all took him to see stepMIL/his great-grandmother two Saturdays ago, on March 7th, but we all agreed we'd pass on the kisses on both cheeks that are traditionally exchanged among Italians.)  

And that's it. We don't have kids bringing home germs from day care or school. We haven't been commuting or going to work. We've been diligent about handwashing and using hand sanitizer more frequently.  We've been housecleaning more thoroughly than usual.  I got my flu shot last fall.

And still, I got sick. Go figure. :( 

Anyway, today is Day 5 that I've been feeling like crap, and not much has changed. I'm not better -- but I'm not a whole lot worse either, thankfully. A little more so than earlier in the week, but not enough to warrant a trip to the doctor right now. A bit of a scratch in my throat, a bit of a headache and body aches, and a lot of fatigue.  I've been dosing myself with ibuprofen (going to switch to acetaminophen, since I read that it's actually more effective with this virus), and gargling with saltwater (like Grandma taught me) and rubbing on an essential oil blend that supposedly boosts your immune function (lots of eucalyptus & tea tree oil), and sucking on Halls lozenges, and drinking lots of hot beverages, and spending a lot of time on the couch and on my laptop &/or phone. I'm not much for napping, but I've been going to bed earlier & lounging in bed more in the morning and getting up later. (And washing my hands.) And even when I get better, I'll probably be doing more of the same. After all, what else is there to do when everything is cancelled or closed or on hold?

(And if I don't have COVID-19, I don't want to get it, on top of what I've already got. One round of sickness in a season/year is definitely enough!) 

Stay safe & healthy, everyone.

(UPDATE: I wrote this last night. I am actually feeling a bit better this morning. Still a sore-ish, scratchy throat, still a bit tired & headache-y, but I could actually feel the heavy fog of bone-weary fatigue lifting last night. It was a weird feeling, but a good one. Fingers crossed the progress continues...!) 

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

The toilet paper section at our local supermarket last Thursday morning,
just as panic buying was getting under way locally.
(There were no disinfecting wipes -- but still plenty of Lysol & Clorox cleaners,
as well as bleach, in the next aisle over -- not to mention supplies of
ibuprofen, acetaminophen and decongestants in the pharmacy aisles...!) 

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Odds & ends: The coronavirus edition

  • It never rains but it pours:  After a long winter with a lot of sitting around the house, I had not just one but TWO last-minute invitations for the same day this week, from two different friends from "back home" who were in town. One for lunch, and one for a concert. 
    • I reluctantly turned both invitations down... for several reasons, but a BIG one being that travelling downtown on the subway right now, and being a crowded concert hall in close quarters with several hundred other people, doesn't seem like a great idea at the moment, with COVID-19 lurking around... (I didn't say so when declining the invite... just said it was a busy week & not good timing.) 
    • (Also, having turned down one invitation, could I really in good conscience accept the other?) 
    • I really want to say "yes" more often to more things, especially things that get me out of the house... but sometimes "no" is just a whole lot less complicated...!  
  • We did go to the local mall for some shopping, walking and lunch as usual on Tuesday morning (midweek, right in time for opening = generally less crowded, which is a good thing, even without coronavirus considerations). There were still plenty of people around -- but it was noticeably less busy than it usually is at that time of the day & week. 
  • Next week is spring break for Ontario schools, and the Friday before spring break week is usually the busiest travel day of the year. It will be very interesting to see (a) what this year's travel volumes are like and (b) how much busier the local stores & malls will be (or not), even if more people stay home this year. 
    • I know at least two people who still plan to head off for Caribbean vacations shortly with their families. 
  • Next week was also supposed to be the world figure skating championships in Montreal -- something I always look forward to watching on TV.  (I even thought about going this year... until I got a look at the ticket prices!!). Unfortunately, the Quebec government has stepped in and cancelled the event. :(   Social isolation is one thing, but NOW what do I watch while I sit around the house next week??  (lol) 
  • Pearl Jam postponed their North American tour because of COVID-19. They were supposed to be here next week, on March 18th. I didn't have tickets (I'm slightly outside their demographic, lol), but SIL & I have tickets to see Elton John at the end of the month. I guess we'll see how things shake out, but right now, it's not looking good... I'm even more glad now that I made the trip to see him last fall with my sister!  

"Living the Life Unexpected" by Jody Day

** See below for details on how to win a copy of this book!** 

Jody Day is a rock star in the childless-not-by-choice (CNBC) community. :)  Since founding Gateway Women in 2011 (a support & friendship network for CNBCers), her blog posts and articles, videos, meetups and workshops, as well as her personal warmth, generosity and wise advice, have helped thousands of involuntarily childless women around the world (including me!) to think more positively about themselves and their futures.

So when Jody asked me if I'd like to help launch the newly revised & updated edition of her classic book "Living the Life Unexpected," I was happy to say yes! :)

"Living the Life Unexpected" had its genesis in a 2013  book -- crowdfunded by Gateway Women from around the world and self-published by Jody -- called "Rocking the Life Unexpected." In 2016, it was renamed and republished as "Living the Life Unexpected" by Bluebird (Pan Macmillan).

This new edition is being published on March 20th, just in time for Mother's Day/Mothering Sunday in the United Kingdom (on Sunday, March 22nd). It may not be available outside the UK until later this year, but until then, non-UK readers can order it from Amazon UK or the Book Depository (which offers free international delivery).

I found Jody's Gateway Women blog early in its existence, and read and reviewed "Rocking the Life Unexpected" back in January 2014 (here).  More recently, I've been working through the 2016 edition of "Living the Life Unexpected," chapter by chapter, with the LTLU reading group on the Gateway Women private community.

This new edition includes more of everything that made the book such a great, invaluable read in its previous incarnations. It's a mixture of personal stories (Jody's own, plus the voices of some 40 other childless women -- and a few men!), historical background/cultural commentary (including some eye-opening statistics -- we're definitely not alone in being childless!), and self-help guidance, including questions and exercises designed to get you thinking in new ways about your childless life. (These are similar to the exercises used in Gateway Women's Reignite weekends and Online Bee courses.)  For a sneak peek, here's a link to the introduction -- which summarizes the changes & updates in this edition -- and the first chapter.

Early in my blogging career, many of us batted around the idea of "Infertility Island" (and how and whether we'd ever manage to leave and join the majority living over on the mainland). (Sharah had a great post explaining that whole metaphor, particularly in terms of childlessness and acceptance.) So these lines, near the end of Jody's new introduction to her book, gave me a jolt of deja vu, and had me choking back tears:
It is my deepest wish that you find your place in this world again through the pages of this book, and that your dream of motherhood can be put to rest with the tenderness and love it deserves. Letting go of hope when you can’t see any other kind of hope ahead is terrifying, like swimming away from the shore in the dark without any idea when you’ll reach land again. Let this book be your lighthouse; let it be your hope in the dark. Those of us who’ve already made this trip are waiting for you on the other side, and many others are in the water alongside you, each feeling that they’re swimming alone. 
But you’re not alone. Welcome to your Tribe.
If you are struggling with involuntary childlessness, this book is an absolute must-read. I only wish it had been around when I was first coming to terms with the realization that my childless life would be permanent!  It would also be a great one to recommend (or simply hand over!) to friends & family members who want to better understand & support you (but aren't quite sure how to do that).

Five stars on Goodreads. :)

*** *** ***

For more information on Jody, her book and Gateway Women, check out the Gateway Women website, and the Gateway Women private online community.  The private community includes an LTLU reading group, where members have been working through the book chapter by chapter, supplemented by special videos, exercise prompts and scheduled chats with Jody.

If you live in the UK (and even if you don't), you may want to check out Jody's "Coping with Mother's Day" webinar  this Saturday, March 14th, as well as well as a live, moderated all-day Mother's Day Support Chat on Sunday, March 22nd, in the Gateway Women online community.

** Jody has generously offered a free signed copy of her book to one of my blog readers! If you'd like to be entered into a random draw to win it, please say so in the comments below. I will announce the winner (in a new post, and also in the comments on this post) on Friday, March 20th. (I will need the winner's email to pass along to Jody.)  And if you don't win here, you can check out the other blog stops on the tour listed here for further chances to win.** 

This was Book #9 of 10 read to date in 2020 (Book #4 finished in February). I'm currently at 33% of my 2020 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 30 books, and am (for the moment, anyway...!) 5 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)

Monday, March 9, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: The playground

Playground structure & gazebo, as visible from our condo windows.
(Zoom lens used for photo -- it's not quite this close to us!) 
Our condo building is home to a few young families -- but it's mostly split between young people (singles & couples)(some renting, some owning -- probably their first home) and older retired folks who (like us) have downsized. (I must add that we're among the younger retirees, though! ;)  )

Despite the rather ridiculous price tags involved (!), the new townhouses built behind our building seem to have attracted some young families:  we see kids of various ages headed off to school in the morning (toting backpacks), and then coming home again later in the afternoon.

People have been living in the townhouses since about last summer, but there's still (!) landscaping and other finishing work going on, albeit not as much since the colder weather set in. There was a small flurry of activity shortly before Christmas that resulted in a small playground structure/area near the edge of the property (because what better time to build a playground than in the dead of winter, right??), followed shortly after Christmas by a gazebo (presumably a shady spot where parents can sit and monitor their offspring?). 

The weather hasn't been great, and so the playground hasn't been used very much so far. And to be honest, I really didn't give it that much thought.  But it's gradually starting to get a little milder and sunnier outside -- and the other day, we spotted a couple of obviously delighted small children climbing all over the equipment as an adult stood by supervising.

It was kind of a bittersweet moment. A reminder of the big back yard at our old house, which I thought would be great for the kids we were going to have (and their friends), and the swing set we would install for them (just like -- or even bigger and better than -- the one my dad got for my sister & me when we were pre-schoolers).  The kids who never materialized.  The big backyard that sat mostly empty & silent for the 26 years we lived there.

The playground is within clear sight of our condo unit, but not close enough to make out faces, etc.  Not too close... but maybe not far away enough either?

(Of course, maybe Great-Nephew would like to come over for a play date someday...??)

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

Friday, March 6, 2020

Odds & ends

  • I loved this post from Berenice at The Full Stop podcast (on the podcast website) about birthdays, aging and the celebrations that matter. Sample quote:  "The celebrations that matter to me aren’t my birthday. It’s getting through a day feeling worthy, a week of good mental health, a night when I sleep without worry, or a honest and empathic conversation about childlessness. It’s running on the beach with my beloved dog next to me. My wedding anniversary is a celebration because it is impossible to underestimate how much pressure infertility places on partnerships. Even the closest couples struggle to know the words."  Go read the whole thing. 
  • What do you think about this New York Times opinion piece about misogyny towards mothers?  Part of me thinks she has a point. But part of me (the childless part) rolls my eyes and thinks, "Try being childless in a culture that at least pays lip service to the sanctity of motherhood...!"  (Office baby showers aside, motherhood may not be valued in the corporate world -- but when it comes to "baby bump" worship in popular magazines and the reverence shown towards mothers in advertising and social media memes, it's still a very different story.)  Personally (when I manage to calm Childless Me down, lol), I think we need to focus on misogyny towards women, period, and not quibble so much about whether mothers or childless women (etc. etc.) have it worse.    
  • CBC News recently did an investigative series on "The Baby Business," about surrogacy in Canada -- which I believe is more regulated than it is in the United States (but apparently not enough).  Part one aired on the Monday night supper hour local TV newscast, and feature intended parents who felt taken advantage of by agencies' lack of transparency & oversight;  part two, later in the week, is from the surrogates' perspective, and the pressure they feel from agencies to have multiple babies for multiple couples, with little recovery time in between pregnancies. (Personal note: the high-risk obstetrician interviewed was the on-duty ob-gyn the morning after I delivered Katie;  he has an interest in placenta issues and was very interested in my case, and had I ever been pregnant a second time, I would likely have been referred to his care.) 
    • CBC Radio's program Front Burner also covered the story:  here are links to part one and part two. (I haven't listened to these yet, but hope to soon.) 

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

"The Cult of Trump" by Steve Hassan

When I headed off to university in the fall of 1979, I didn't get very many cautionary lectures from my parents. But the one stern admonition I did get from my mother was, "If someone asks you to go away on a weekend retreat -- YOU SAY NO."

Mom was referring to the proliferation of "Moonies" around the nearby city where I was headed to university -- devotees of the Unification Church and its leader, Reverend Sun Myung Moon. They were becoming infamous for selling flowers on city street corners all over North America, and luring others into abandoning their jobs and families to join them.

Around the same time, a Montreal reporter named Josh Freed published a fascinating book (which I bought and read at the time and still remember) called "Moonwebs," describing how he & a group of friends sought to extricate and deprogram a friend who had fallen under the Moonies' spell. (It was later adapted into a movie called "Ticket to Heaven," starring a number of recognizable young Canadian actors, including Kim Cattrall, later better known as Samantha on TV's "Sex in the City.")

One of Moon's recruits in the mid-1970s was a young man named Steven Hassan. After two years as a Moonie, his family managed to extricate him from the cult and deprogram him. He's now a licensed mental health counselor, an exit counselor, and a recognized expert on cults who has written two books on the subject. I saw him on CNN's "Reliable Sources" a few months ago speaking about his latest book, "The Cult of Trump." I'd already heard several commentators describing the connection between Donald Trump and some of his more ardent followers as "cult-like," and was intrigued enough to download the book to my e-reader.

In this book (published last October), Hassan explains the typical characteristics of cults and cult leaders, outlines the techniques they use to develop and exert control over their followers -- and then draws parallels between some well-known cults (religious and otherwise) and their leaders, such as Rev. Moon, L. Ron Hubbard, Charles Manson, David Koresh and Jim Jones, and Donald Trump. He emphasizes that (of course) not all Trump voters & followers are cultists -- but nevertheless, the case he makes here is pretty compelling (as well as sobering).  Towards the end, he outlines some things we can do to combat the influence of cults in our society, including how to recognize and resist mind control in our own lives, and how to reach out to the Trump fanatics we know and gently challenge them in their beliefs.

The book's description says, "Hassan’s book is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the Trump phenomenon and looking for a way forward."  I agree. It's pretty readable, well researched and documented.

Four stars on Goodreads

*** *** ***

ALI point of interest:  Hassan mentions Norman Vincent Peale, his church sermons and his book "The Power of Positive Thinking" as influential in Trump's development, as well as in the rise of positive thinking/laws of attraction movements such as "The Secret." In Chapter 3, Hassan writes:
I have counseled people who have suffered debilitating delusions as a result of their involvement with Peale's school of thought. While positive thinking can be beneficial, it has to balanced by critical thinking, humility, and a social support system that is willing to say when a person is off base. The danger is when it veers off into magical thinking -- that if you believe fully, the universe will manifest. If it doesn't happen, people often blame themselves -- they aren't believing or praying hard enough. [emphasis mine]
Sound familiar??

This was Book #10 read in 2020 to date (Book #1 finished in March), bringing me to 33% of my 2020 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 30 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 5 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)

My review of Book #9, Living the Life Unexpected by Jody Day, will be posted next week. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Corona (not the beer)

Mel posted about the coronavirus, and how hard it is to know just how worried we should be. I thought I would expand a bit on my (already overly lengthy, lol) comment on her post.

Over the past 15-20 years, I've had brushes with SARS (Toronto was the epicentre of the North American outbreak in 2003) & the H1N1 flu scare in 2009 -- so I’m feeling a bit of deja vu here. The new coronavirus (covid-19) does seem to be more widespread, though, with the potential to affect many more people.

I am not overly concerned (yet) -- but I am trying to remember to wash my hands more frequently & all those other common sense things we really should be doing all the time anyway. (Who knew we touched our faces so often, right??)  Both Purell & face masks vanished from the drugstore shelves several weeks ago when the virus was first reported in China (there were reports of people buying up cases of both to send to relatives there), but so far, no panic buying of food & other supplies in the supermarkets, etc. (a blogging friend posted a photo on social media of the completely empty store shelves at her local Walmart store in Minnesota!).

We don’t have a lot of space here in our condo to buy & store food in bulk, and our refrigerator freezer compartment is not that big. But right now the freezer is full of meat and other stuff -- and we just did our weekly shop so I feel fairly well stocked up.  (I've always liked to keep a fairly well-stocked pantry, but dh doesn't see the point, particularly when space is limited. He prefers to just go out & buy whatever we need when we need it. But what if you're quarantined and can't go out?  Or the stores run out of things?)  I just bought a new bottle of Lysol spray cleaner and a cannister of Lysol wipes a few weeks ago, as all this started unfolding. And I did buy a new bottle of Tylenol and some cold pills at the drugstore today (the ones I had in my medicine cabinet had passed their expiry dates).  And another bottle of Immune for my essential oils diffuser, and an Immune rollerball from Saje, lol.

We don’t have an actual emergency box or kit put together -- but we do have a lot of the recommended items on hand.  After the big power blackout of August 2003 (which affected much of eastern North America), I bought a hand-cranked radio with a built in flashlight. I also vowed not to give up my landline (WITH a corded phone), after too many people told me their cordless phones were useless without power, and their cellphone battery eventually died.

We missed the effects of the big ice storm here in Toronto over Christmastime 2013 -- but I was visiting my parents last October for (Canadian) Thanksgiving -- just in time for a major blizzard/ice storm, which knocked out the power (and thus also the heat) for 27 hours. We also lost water, cellphone AND landline service. We were just lucky it was -2C outside and not -20C or worse! I bought a few more flashlights, batteries & a case of bottled water for our condo after that one, lol. My sister has been house hunting and says she never wanted a fireplace before this, but now she’s feeling like it might not be such a bad thing to have, lol.

One thing I started doing in 2009 when H1N1 was a concern was wiping down all the things I touch most frequently, at home (and at the office, when I was working), at least once a week, with a Lysol or Clorox wipe -- door handles, light switches, phones, remotes, keyboards, etc. And you know what? -- the number of colds I’ve had since I started doing that has dropped dramatically! (Not completely, but noticeably.) I’ve been doing that as part of my regular weekly cleaning routine since then, but I may step up the frequency a bit over the next while, depending on how things shake out.

All through SARS & H1N1, we continued to ride public transit into work, winding our way through the commuter crowds in Union Station and up the PATH (the underground concourse that connects all the big office towers in downtown Toronto).  Being retired, we no longer have to go out every day and cross paths with literally thousands of people every day -- although we do go out, several times a week, to shop, mall walk, have lunch, etc. -- we'd get pretty bored/stir crazy if we didn't!  But it's nice to be able to avoid the larger crowds and limit our exposure to germs -- and to have the option to stay home if we want.  SIL & I are scheduled to attend the Elton John concert downtown in late March (along with about 20,000 other people...!), which would also entail a subway trip downtown & back. I guess we'll worry about that closer to the time.

How is the coronavirus affecting you (or not)? 

Monday, March 2, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: Hey, supermodels struggle too

"CBS Sunday Morning" interviewed Paulina Porizkova yesterday morning. She is just a few years younger than I am, and she was always one of my favourite supermodels. She is now 54, almost 55, and (so far) has resisted the siren call of plastic surgery, Botox, etc.  You can see her grey hair & wrinkles... but I think she still looks gorgeous. :)  She talks about aging & how hard it is to be a woman in her 50s (let alone an aging supermodel!). She also talks about her grief over the death of her estranged husband, Ric Ocasek of The Cars, last fall.

I'm now following Paulina on Instagram, where she talks/writes more about these things. I learned there that she's writing a book. Now THAT should be an interesting read!

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

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Right now

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

Reading:  I read 4 books in February (all reviewed on this blog  -- or to be reviewed soon -- & tagged "2020 books"): 

  • "Good Lovin'" by Gene Cornish. 
  • "A Life in Parts" by Bryan Cranston (discussed at my library book club's February meeting). 
    • (At the March meeting, we'll be discussing J.D. Vance's "Hillbilly Elegy," which I read in August 2016 & reviewed here. Not sure whether I will do a complete re-read or just skim to refresh my memory.) 
  • "Catch and Kill" by Ronan Farrow.
  • "Living the Life Unexpected" by Jody Day. Jody was kind enough to send me an advance copy of a newly revised, expanded edition of her classic book about life without children (when you always thought you would have them someday). Watch for my review -- and a giveaway! -- as part of Jody's book launch blog tour, a little later this month! Meanwhile, here are some details about the book, tour and giveaway opportunities on Jody's blog.    
So far this year, I've read 9 books.  I'm currently at 30% of my Goodreads 2020 Reading Challenge goal of 30 books, and currently 5 books ahead of schedule. Not bad!! :) 

Current read(s):  

(Some) recent purchases/additions to the TBR pile (that I haven't read yet):
Watching:  We didn't see any movies in the theatre during February. :(  We did watch "Jojo Rabbit" on pay-per-view recently at BIL & SIL's.  Quirky (about a little boy in WWII Nazi Germany, whose imaginary friend is the Fuhrer himself), but very well done, both funny and sad. We loved it! but I recognize it may not be everyone's cup of tea. 

On television, I STILL haven't made time to get into Season 3 of "The Crown" on Netflix.  :p  But I have been watching "The Windsors" on CNN on Sunday nights. ;)  

The last episodes of  the "Mad About You" reboot aired a few weeks ago (12 episodes in all, 2 per week, and I saw them all). As I blogged here, I had qualms about the empty nest theme of the first few episodes, as Mabel moved out of her parents' apartment and off to college (a mere few blocks away, but, whatever...!) -- but I found the show got better (perhaps because it got less Mabel-focused...) over the show's run. The final few episodes returned to the theme of Mabel leaving the nest, but by then, it didn't bother me (quite) as much. (In the initial episodes, it was Jamie having a meltdown over Mabel's departure;  in the final episode, it was Paul.)  I loved seeing Paul and Jamie again -- loved seeing a middle-aged, long-married couple on screen! -- and I'm hoping there's a second reboot season.  

Listening: I have LOTS of podcasts in my queue to catch up on...! I make a special effort to keep up with the childless-related ones, such as The Full Stop and Live Childfree, but I have several others in my queue that I dip into from time to time (or have great intentions of listening to... someday...), related to books, politics and other current affairs topics.  

Following:  The weather.  Hoping for more springlike temperatures sometime soon...! 

Drinking/Eating:  Lots of tea and comfort food. 

Buying (besides books, lol):  Lindor chocolate Easter mini-eggs. They've been on sale every time we've been to the supermarket, so.... (cough, cough... insert red-faced icon here). 

Wearing: I've taken a liking to (& have expanded my collection of) baseball-style T-shirt jerseys... 3/4 length sleeves of a different colour than the rest of the T-shirt, rounded hemline. For some reason, I have several that are Pink Floyd-themed (from Lucky Brand Jeans). ;) 

Wanting:  To spend more time with little Great-Nephew (always!).  Still trying to find that balance between our desire to see him but also our desire not to be pests. We generally get to see him once a week or so... and every time we see him, he's grown (again!) or doing something new. Recently, he mastered rolling over, and BIL reports that he now giggles when his mom tickles him. :)  His baptism (a big event in Italian-Catholic families) has been arranged for June. 

Trying: To remember to wash my hands more frequently, especially after we've been out & about, in view of the corona virus outbreak (as well as the regular cold & flu season). (I gave this same answer last month, but unfortunately it's more relevant now than ever...!) 

Loving: Blue skies and sunshine, whenever they show up... they lift my spirits and make the freezing cold temperatures more bearable! 

Feeling:  Soooooo glad that February is over with!!