Thursday, April 30, 2020

Pronatalism and D&I messaging

Even though I'm retired, I still receive email newsletters from a certain U.S. organization that specializes in corporate communications and supporting communicators.  We subscribed to several of their publications & attended some of their events (both virtual & IRL) at my former workplace, and I've continued to receive their newsletters since losing my job and retiring -- even though I seldom even glance at them anymore.

The subject line of one recent email caught my eye, though: "Inclusivity in COVID-19 messages." I wrote plenty of articles for the staff newsmagazine over the years on diversity & inclusion issues, and I came to realize (along with my own awakening on such matters) that while we often heard about ageism, sexism, racism, ableism, hetero-centricity, etc., awareness of pronatalism -- and, on the flipside, discrimination against people without children -- was extremely low to non-existent. Jody Day of Gateway Women has called childlessness "the biggest diversity issue HR has never heard of." 

And it seems that COVID-19 has only exacerbated the parent/non-parent divide, inside & outside the workplace. While I'm not part of a workplace myself these days, I've heard/read plenty of childless women in various forums recently commenting about how they've been expected to continue working in the office while their parenting colleagues are allowed to work from home or given other flexible options... that workplace communications speak of encouraging flexibility and consideration for parents' needs (but no mention is made of accommodations for other employees)... that it's commonly assumed that everyone has a family around them for support & companionship... that even during Zoom business meetings, employees are talking about, being interrupted by, and/or proudly showing off their offspring on camera. 

Meanwhile, little consideration is given to employees who don't have children but might have elderly family members they're supporting through this crisis, or who may be living alone and feeling very isolated while listening to their coworkers complain about how their kids are driving them crazy, seeing photos on social media of families enjoying cozy movie nights together, and reading media articles suggesting other fun activities for families to do while sheltering in place together. 

While I seldom do more than glance at the subject lines of these newsletters, I clicked on this one and scanned the contents. I was amused/annoyed to notice that while there was indeed a blurb linking to an article about inclusivity in COVID-19 messaging ("Inclusive language shouldn’t take a back seat in your crisis messages... D&I is an essential consideration no matter what struggles your organizations faces.") it came below THIS blurb for an article about how parenting is great training for crisis management (!):  
Parenthood offers insights for crisis communications best practices. Being able to respond creatively in a tight spot is a skill that many parents pick up—and the lessons of parenthood can be easily applied to many crisis situations. Here are some rules to follow, whether you are bandaging boo-boos or easing employee anxiety.
(You simply can't make this stuff up, right?)  

I clicked over to the article... and I found myself mentally doing a word substitution exercise, as Pamela used to do on her Coming2Terms blog. :)  Some excerpts, with my rewording &/or commentary in italic (boldface in the text comes from the original):  
Being a parent (being a loss &/or infertility survivor/involuntarily childless person) is essentially a decades-long exercise in crisis management. 
Whether you’re quelling tantrums, mending boo-boos, shutting down squabbles, striking bargains, delivering bad news, enforcing discipline, or ensuring equitable distribution of attention and resources, (whether you're making excuses for missing work because of fertility clinic appointments, ducking out of your colleague's baby shower, delivering bad news about your latest ultrasound, or trying to speak up to ensure equitable distribution of attention and resources for non-parents in the workplace) it all requires strategic communication. This is why parents (bereaved/infertile/childless-not-by-choice people) tend to make great communicators and PR pros. much of surviving and enduring this difficult season with reputations intact goes back to basic tenets taught by mighty moms and dear old dads (mighty infertility, loss & trauma survivors) around the world. Let’s review some of these fundamentals of crisis management through the lens of parenthood (loss/infertility/involuntary childlessness):
Give people choices. ...Especially during this period of widespread insecurity and uncertainty (as when going through loss, infertility treatment or coming to terms with permanent childlessness), employees crave some semblance of control—whether it’s to do with how or when they work or getting options for messaging preferences. Instead of dictating “how it’s gonna be,” ask colleagues “how they’d like it to be.” (Non-parents would appreciate this well as parents!)
Give people a choice and a voice in matters large and small. (Especially when so many choices -- that so many others breeze through easily -- have been been denied to them already.) 
Treat people with respect... Respectful communication is about honesty and transparency and not providing false hope... (Infertiles/loss survivors/CNBCers have endured enough false hope already!)  
If you’re struggling with crafting a crisis message, ask yourself: How would I like to be told or treated in this scenario? The Golden Communication Rule is a potent workplace tool. 
Be willing to pivot. A big part of parenting—and communication— (and surviving loss, infertility & involuntary childlessness) is being humble or self-aware enough to learn from mistakes and change on the fly...  Now is a great time to try new things. 
Think of others... Aside from the personal benefits of giving, consider the long-term reputational risks of bailing on those “core values” your company (or family) touts so proudly. If you fail to walk the “CSR” talk now, when it really matters, your people will remember. Of course, if you step up in times of need, they’ll remember that, too.
Perhaps the writer of that article needs to read the subsequent article on diversity & inclusion in crisis messages (the one whose headline initially caught my attention) -- and think about how messages will read to both parents and non-parents in the workplace. A couple of excerpts:  
If we are not intentionally inclusive in our communications, then we are probably discriminating unintentionally.  
...everyone has unconscious bias: We’re still good people, and it’s not enough to just be aware of bias. We must be proactive in making more inclusive choices in our behavior and, most specifically as professional communicators, in the words we choose. We have a responsibility to role-model inclusive language... 
If we don’t pause and think about what we say, we’re often reinforcing stereotypes that can work against ourselves, our leaders and our employees.

Language can unite or divide. Words can hurt or heal; reinforce or dismantle the status quo. It’s time to disrupt the status quo of traditional communications... 
When we know better, we do better (usually).
If we want diversity, inclusion and belonging as a result, then diversity, inclusion and belonging must be part of the process. However, good intentions do not mitigate negative effects. The offense is in the eyes of the offended and we have to start by learning about our own unconscious biases. 
I've heard about how several CNBC women have recently spoken out -- politely but firmly -- when confronted with pronatalist messaging in advertising & marketing communications, as well as in the workplace. In many cases, eyes have been opened, apologies issued, and changes have been made.  In the U.K., the University of Bristol recently added a section on supporting childless employees to the diversity and inclusion section of its website. It's a start! 

What do you think?  

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Is it over yet?

(Not COVID-19... if only, right??)

Is anyone else as tired as I am (already! -- still more than a week and a half away) of MDay-related emails, ads & posts (not to mention all the general mom and grandma-related posts on social media that are there anyway)??  I'm not sure if there are more such posts than usual this year (my social media feeds have definitely been busier, with more people stuck at home with little to do)... but however many more (or less) there may be, I'm definitely finding them especially irksome/jarring... perhaps (most likely...!) because the additional stress of COVID has depleted my tolerance?

Beyond the fact that they're another reminder of what we wanted but didn't get, most of these ads/emails, etc., don't seem to take any note of the obvious fact that MDay is probably going to be very different for most of us this year, whether or not we're fortunate enough to still have our moms with us. Did I really need the reminder that my own mom is 1,000 miles away (and blithely ignoring social distancing recommendations by having her cleaning lady over and going to get her haircut... grrrr....)?  or that I have no idea when I'm going to get to see her again? -- likely not for her & dad's 60th wedding anniversary in July, hopefully (but not guaranteed) for Christmas (??).  

Plus, I'm annoyed by the marketing message that, with everything that's going on right now, and all the pressure that most of us are under (kids or no kids), we're also supposed to worry about Mother's Day??  Who wants to risk their life running out to a store (assuming you can find a place that's open, aside from a supermarket or pharmacy) to buy their mother a card &/or gift this year??  

For me, it's also a reminder of another disappointment, another thing that wasn't to be (in addition to my failed attempts at pregnancy):  MDay weekend was supposed to have been good/happy/memorable (for the right reasons) for me this year (for once) because, way back last fall, I had scored tickets to see "Hamilton" on the Saturday afternoon, May 9th. That performance (in fact, all remaining performances) has, of course, been cancelled because of COVID, and every time I turn to that page on my calendar, I mourn the crossed-out entry staring at me...

I decided to (try to) record every reminder I encountered in one 24-hour period (Tuesday morning, April 28th to Wednesday morning, April 29th), still more than a week away from the big event) about MDay or mom-ism in general.... here's some of what I found. Keep in mind that I (obviously) don't have a lot of specifically mom/kid related content in my feed, aside from what my mom friends post... also, we don't tend to watch a lot of television during the day.  But still: 

On Facebook &/or Instagram (some people double-post to both at once): 
  • A friend reposting a meme from a page called (I kid you not!!) "As a Mom." (I was curious, so I clicked over to check it out.) Full title -- and again, I kid you not: "As a Mom: A Sisterhood of Mommy Patriots." (!) It seems to be dormant (no new posts in well over a year), but it says:  "Our mission is to empower Moms and Moms at Heart in preserving our Constitution, country and children’s future." (I guess they DID nod to "Moms at Heart"...??) There's more, but suffice to say, it's definitely NOT aimed at non-mom, non-American, non-conservative me. (Pass!) 
  • Same friend (she's a dear -- slightly older woman with three grown children & four grandchildren -- but every day she floods my feed with photos, reposts, memories, memes, etc.): 
    • meme/poem titled "Because he's your son." 
    • meme that begins: "My hope is that they will remember mommy tried." 
    • umpteen photos (I won't even try to count how many) of her kids & grandkids. 
  • Friend musing that she can now free up dresser space by putting away the kids' school uniforms for the summer.
  • Three friends' posts about their kids' meltdowns (or their meltdowns over their kids!). 
  • A meme from a friend who has a small business: "Hey Dads, your children will not be bringing home homemade Mother's Day gifts from school. You have less than 12 days."  (Okay, that one was kind of funny!) 
  • Umpteen cute kid photos from both friends and celebrity/public figure accounts I follow. (I didn't bother to count after a while!) 
  • A "to my kids" meme, shared by two different relatives, from a site called "24/7 Moms" ("you're the BEST thing that ever happened to me... SHARE IF YOU LOVE YOUR KIDS"). 
  • Mother's Day cards from Emily McDowell -- who is actually pretty awesome, and who wrote below the photo on Instagram, "DANG IT. I kinda dropped the ball on promoting Mother's Day this year because pandemic??"
  • From essential oils shop:  photo of mom & baby with caption "How did the mother figure in your life grow you with care?" followed by giveaway contest details. (Well, I guess they get points for attempting inclusiveness with "mother figure"...?) 
  • From TTFA (Terrible, Thanks for Asking) podcast, a promo for the book "Bad Moms" by Nora McInerny. (It's supposed to be funny, and generally I adore Nora, but it's not for me right now.) 
Email inbox: 
  • Tech store:  "Gift ideas to make Mom smile." 
  • Jewelry store: "See our top 5 gifts for Mother's Day" 
  • Jewelry store 2: "Mother's Day Flash Sale" 
  • Hardware/auto store (!!):  "Celebrate Mom this Spring"
  • Drugstore chain:  "Shop Mother's Day gift sets"
  • Essential oils shop: "Call your mom (and get her a gift too)"
Okay, looking at this list, it actually wasn't as bad as I thought... I'm sure that in a non-COVID year, there would be a lot more!  Maybe I just hit a relatively good 24-hour period??

But what's that saying -- perception is 9/10ths of reality (or something like that?) -- and it felt good to vent a bit!  Thanks for listening/reading!

Monday, April 27, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: I give up

"Guess what your mother did this week?" said my 80-year-old father when I called "home" last night.

I knew right away. "You got your hair cut!!" I groaned, with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Then added (in my best exasperated teenaged protest voice), "MOTHER!!" 

You'll recall that last week, when I talked to them, my mother (age 79) had had her cleaning lady over to dust and vacuum (despite coronavirus threats, warnings and restrictions), and was threatening to do this very thing if she had the opportunity.

"If you had SEEN me!!" protested my mother (who has had her hair washed & styled at a salon every Friday for as long as I can remember). "I couldn't go out of the house looking like that! [Some old family friends] video called us a few nights ago & I was SO embarrassed!" 

"We're ALL looking 'like that' right now, Mom," I reminded her. Nope, she looked the worst, of course. (Insert eye roll icon here.)  Her regular hairdresser is actually closing up shop for good, and had called to invite Mom to drop by and pick up some of her usual hair products.  And while she was there, she offered (and Mom eagerly accepted) a haircut.

I said (not angrily, but flatly), "I'm done trying to reason with you. You know if you get sick, I can't come to see you, and that's all I'm going to say."  Even if I could get on a plane (flights are very limited right now)(and who wants to fly right now unless they absolutely have to??), my home province is currently asking all out-of-province visitors to quarantine for 14 days when they get there.

I know they live in a small rural community, and there's not as many cases in that province as there are here -- the curve there has flattened and the numbers are beginning to decline -- but that doesn't mean the risk isn't there. Especially for seniors like my parents, with underlying health issues. (I may not have children, but these days, my parents are quite enough of a handful, I think...!)

I just keep thinking about what SHE would have said & done if I'd done something like that when I was a teenager...!!

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

Sunday, April 26, 2020

"Rilla of Ingleside" by L.M. Montgomery

I've been a fan of L.M. (Lucy Maud) Montgomery  since I read "Anne of Green Gables" at the age of 8.  It's hard to choose a favourite from among Montgomery's books (and I've read all but two of them, I think -- most of them more than once), but "Rilla of Ingleside" would probably rank among my top 2 (the other being "The Blue Castle")(which I have also been wanting to re-read for some time now... hmm...).

I was prompted to pick up "Rilla" again (after many years) when I stumbled onto a "Rilla of Ingleside" Readathon group on Facebook, which I mentioned in an earlier blog post.  They started with Chapter 1 on March 30th & are currently on Chapter 12 (of 35), so if you're a fan of "Rilla," it's not too late to catch up & enjoy the rest of the discussion to come!  

Rilla, the youngest daughter of Anne & Gilbert, turns 15 years old in the summer of 1914, and is looking forward to filling her teenaged years with parties and beaux. But her first grown-up party that summer -- where she attracts the interest of childhood friend Kenneth Ford -- ends abruptly with news that Britain (and thus Canada) has declared war on Germany.  Over the next five years, Rilla watches as her three brothers, childhood playmates and new sweetheart enlist and head off to the battlefields of Europe -- some never to return. She organizes the local Junior Red Cross, adopts a war baby (!), plans a last-minute war wedding for a friend and, in the pages of her diary, draws a vivid picture of life on the Canadian home front. 

As I said about this book back in 2010:  
It's been noted that this is the only contemporary novel about the First World War written by a Canadian woman, from the perspective of a Canadian woman and "the home front." I think I learned more about the war from this book than any history text. I've often thought it would make a fabulous movie or TV mini-series. I think my favourite character is Susan Baker, the housekeeper, who provides some of the most memorable (I think) images in the book -- sticking her knitting needle through a map of Europe in exasperation with the Kaiser, refusing to submit to "Borden's time" (the introduction of daylight savings time) vs "God's time," the image of her running up the flag & saluting it, saying, "You are worth it," when the Armistice is finally announced.
(I got a couple of the details wrong here... for example, Susan runs up the flag after a critical victory late in the war, not at the very end. But she's still one of my favourite things about this book.)(Another would be the storyline of the faithful Dog Monday, which never fails to make me cry.)  

As a character study, as a continuation/climax of the previous "Anne" books, as a contemporary story of the war years, this is a wonderful book. And, as some on the Facebook group have noted, it's the perfect "comfort" read right now, as we face our own uncertain time in history (one sure to wind up in the history books) with no clear resolution or end date yet in sight. 

4.5 stars on Goodreads, rounded up to 5.  

Caveat #1:  Some modern readers might find the fervent nationalism & patriotism depicted in this book a little jarring or uncomfortable. (See some of the comments on Goodreads!)  I think we need to remember that the book is very much a reflection of the time it depicts and the time it was written in (just a few years after the war ended).  There's already been some discussion on this point in the Facebook readathon group:  as some have noted, the war was supposed to be "the war to end all wars" and at that time, Montgomery and others felt the sacrifices made by their sons, brothers, fathers, husbands and neighbours were the price that had to be paid to create a better world for the children of the future. Sadly, of course, the peace was not a lasting one. The advent of the Second World War plunged Montgomery into despair;  her 1942 death has been revealed to be a possible suicide, and no doubt the prospect of her own sons going off to fight contributed to her deteriorating mental state.  

Caveat #2:  If you're interested in reading "Rilla," make sure you are reading an unabridged version based on the original 1920 text. (The one I read, pictured above, is a new/recent, unabridged, fully restored version of the book, edited by Benjamin Lefebvre & Andrea Mackenzie, who also happen to be leading the Facebook group readathon of the book right now.  I've learned from them that there are a lot of versions floating around out there, and many of them produced since the late 1970s have been edited/trimmed, presumably to cater to more modern tastes and shorter attention spans. Some of these versions have removed or drastically cut many of Susan's speeches, which are some of the funniest parts of the book, IMHO.  Buyer beware! 

This was Book #13 read to date in 2020 (Book #2 finished in April). I'm currently at 43% of my 2020 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 30 books, and am (for the moment, anyway...!) 4 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)

Monday, April 20, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

  • Canadians are heartbroken today after the worst mass shooting in our country's history yesterday in Nova Scotia:  at least 16 people dead, with the numbers still rising (I've heard possibly as many as 22). I have a longtime online friend in Truro, which was right in the middle of all the action, who says she knows many of the victims, or has friends who know them. The gunman had apparently been obsessed with police culture since he was a teenager:  he was a denturist, but was dressed as an RCMP officer, driving a car he'd fixed up to look like a police car (indicating there was at least some element of planning involved).  The victims are still being identified, but I have read some Twitter posts indicating that the gunman's ex-wife and her current partner were among them (are you surprised?). :(   
    • I have been to Nova Scotia twice (and hope to return soon!), and would recommend it to anyone. It is stunningly beautiful, and the people's reputation for friendliness and hospitality is totally deserved. Things like this simply do not happen there. 
    • Of course, because of COVID-19 restrictions, funerals will be kept very small. People will not be able to come together to mourn and comfort each other, as they usually would. This will add to the pain & grief they are feeling. :(  
    • (And on that note....) 
  • SIL's father died early last Tuesday morning. :(  He was 90, diagnosed with dementia a few months ago and went into a care home in mid-March, just as the pandemic began unfolding. Of course, visits were restricted, and he went downhill quite rapidly.  His death was unrelated to COVID, but because of the COVID restrictions, his funeral was limited to just the immediate family for interment at the cemetery (10 people max). No mass, but a priest was there to say prayers. I'm so sad that I can't even give SIL a hug. :(  Her mother died five years ago, and a lot of people weren't able to attend HER visitation or funeral either because of bad weather (a blizzard). COVID, you suck. :( 
  • My sister & I are both pissed off at our own parents right now (ages 79 & 80, both with some underlying health issues):  they live in a small rural community, which I suppose makes them feel more insulated from what's going on -- but there ARE COVID cases in the vicinity. And while they've been doing some of the right things, every now & then, they do stuff (or want to do stuff) that makes me want to pull my hair out. (Previous example here.) 
    • Most recent case in point: my mother actually had her cleaning lady come over this past week to do her regular dusting & vacuuming!! Both my sister & I called to say "WTF??!"  (not in so many words, lol -- maybe we should have...!) She said, "Oh, I trust her, she's been coming here 16 years!"  The cleaning lady is a very nice woman (I've met her)... BUT... nice does not mean she's not carrying the virus. How many other people's homes has she visited lately (& shouldn't she have suspended her business right now anyway?)??  
    • Mom also told me, "If my hairdresser said she would do my hair right now, I'd be over there in five minutes."  (Heaven grant me patience...) 
    • And then she & dad wonder why my sister hasn't come out from the city to visit them (and help out with various projects around the house & yard) since this all began??  My sister is still going downtown to work every day -- her job cannot be done remotely -- and while she is now driving instead of taking public transit as she usually does, and while she is not in a customer-facing job, she is still exposed to people every day, and does not want to pass anything on -- to or from Mom & Dad. ARGH. 
  • Little Great-Nephew turned 5 months last week. He took his first selfie with his mom's phone too, lol -- she found a surprise on her camera roll!  (Quote from dh while looking at it on Instagram: "I hate this f***ing virus so much....") 
  • Two more video chats this week, both on Zoom. (One started on Messenger, but it only accommodates 8 people at once, so we switched over to Zoom.)  One was organized by my cousin's wife as a surprise for his birthday, and included my aunt (his mom), his brother & several of our other cousins, as well as a few of his friends. The other included 12 other loss moms from a private Facebook group I've been part of for several years. (Most if not all of them are former bloggers.)  I find video chats kind of exhausting to follow sometimes -- my eyes darting as different people talk, not to mention feeling self-conscious about how I look onscreen...! -- but still fun!  
  • If you're a fan of Lucy Maud Montgomery's books, and also on Facebook, this might interest you:  a few days ago, I stumbled onto a Facebook group yesterday that's doing a chapter-by-chapter readathon of "Rilla of Ingleside," which is one of my very favourite LMM books (about Anne of Green Gables's youngest daughter, Rilla, whose teenage years coincide with the First World War). It's being led by Benjamin Lefebvre & Andrea Mackenzie, who produced a new, unabridged, fully restored version of the book a few years back. Tons of posts providing rich context about Montgomery's life & work, the war, literary allusions, social customs of the time, etc. After my group membership was approved, I spent an entire morning & afternoon reading through ALL the posts & comments. They started with Chapter 1 on March 30th & are currently on Chapter 9, so if you're a fan of "Rilla," it's not too late to catch up & enjoy the rest of the discussion to come!  
  • Three cheers for "COVID & Childfree Does Not Mean Stress-Free," a guest post by Brit McGinnis on Both Laura & Brit are childFREE vs childless-not-by-choice, but I daresay there is much there that you will relate to, if you don't have kids for whatever reason. 
(I guess this wasn't much of a "micro" post... but it's what I've got!) 

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

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Things I’ve learned (so far) while self-isolating

(Borrowing this idea and ideas for a few of the items from a FB friend/former coworker.)  ;)
  • Daytime TV is a wasteland. (OK, most TV generally... but daytime TV in particular.) 
  • I really can watch too much TV news (my girl crush on CNN's Brooke Baldwin notwithstanding...)(and she's been out with COVID the past few weeks too!). 
  • We have 72 rolls of toilet paper in stock (mostly double & triple rolls), which dh estimates will last us into summer. 
  • From a meme I saw, which is totally true:  I thought I would get lots of stuff done when I had more time. I've now discovered that lack of time wasn't the problem. ;) 
  • I reeeeaaaaally don't like it when my hair starts hanging in my eyes, and I really do need a trim every six weeks...!! (sigh...)
  • It's possible for me not to leave the house for weeks on end.  
  • That said -- I really do need to get out of the house more... 
  • Cultivating all these online friends over the past 22 years has really paid off big time over the past few weeks. ;)  
  • That said -- it's possible to be online too much...! & I miss real-life contact with other people. 
  • I may be a boomer, but I am more tech-savvy than I thought. 
  • In a lot of ways, quarantine/self-isolation really isn't a whole lot different than my usual childless, retired life. (Yikes!!)  
What have you learned? 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Things I'm missing

A little while back, Mel lamented "I Miss the Annoying Normal" and asked us "What do you miss?"

I agreed with most of what she and the other commenters had to say, started writing my own list and decided I should turn it into my own blog post. Here it is:
  • I miss seeing our family, especially little Great-Nephew, who is growing & changing every day right now.  I miss the dog. :(  I miss MY family, and wonder when I'm going to get to see them again... the summer is already starting to look kind of iffy....
  • I miss giving and getting hugs (from people other than dh). 
  • I miss my library book club... even though we only meet once a month ( = just one meeting missed so far). I even miss the annoying older lady who monopolizes the conversation and often gets her facts wrong. ;) 
  • I miss going out for lunch. Lunch is my hardest meal here at home. We don't tend to keep a lot of lunch-y stuff in the fridge/cupboards. We eat a lot of bread, cheese, yogurt, and soup from a can. Which is fine (fills you up...), but it gets monotonous after a while, and of course it's nowhere near as nice as the soup they make from scratch for eat in or takeout at the local supermarket. 
  • I miss my Starbucks tea lattes. (I think there's a drive-through outlet relatively close by, but I'm not THAT desperate... yet...) 
  • I miss being able to browse the titles in the bookstore (even though I have a ton of unread books on my shelves!).  
  • I miss being able to go out for dinner on Saturday night. Even dh, who generally prefers to eat at home and could usually care less if we ever went to a restaurant, admits he's looking forward to the day we can dine out again! 
  • I miss going to the movies on Sunday afternoon. Yes, we can watch movies at home, but there's nothing quite like seeing a movie in the theatre (& some movies definitely deserve the big-screen treatment).  We have popcorn we can make here at home (at a fraction of the price we'd pay in the theatre), but I miss theatre popcorn. 
  • I miss taking the subway downtown. Technically, there is nothing stopping me from doing it (transit is still running) -- but even if I was willing to take the health risks, there wouldn't be much to do downtown right now anyway. But I miss knowing that I *could* hop on the subway and be downtown in 45 minutes to shop, visit a museum or art gallery, have lunch, see friends. 
  • I miss the supermarket. Dh has been doing all the grocery shopping, and while he does a great job, and we have all the staples we need, and I am grateful to him for taking on the risk, there are no doubt things I would put in the cart if I was with him that he would never notice or think to pick up. Plus, it's just fun to be there and browse the shelves and find bargains... ;) 
  • I miss going to the mall and shopping generally -- even if I don't buy a thing. 
  • I REAAAALLLLLY miss my hairdresser!  We were due for trims last week, and I'm already feeling pretty shaggy...!  
  • I miss just getting out of the house. The weather has not been very cooperative lately, so we haven't even been able to do much walking. :p  
What are you missing right now? 

Monday, April 13, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: Pandemic birthday/Easter weekend

Saturday was dh's (63rd) birthday, sandwiched in between Good Friday & Easter.  Of course, because of COVID-19, there wasn't much we could do to mark the occasion(s).  Just about everything apart from supermarkets and pharmacies is closed -- no dinner out (we could have ordered takeout or delivery but dh prefers not to do that). Social distancing = no get togethers with family for cake.  I actually managed to scrounge up a birthday card for him from my stash. It wasn't a card I normally would have given him, but beggars can't be choosers right now, and it was SOMETHING birthday-ish. I did offer to make him cupcakes -- I had the ingredients -- but then of course, the two of us would have been stuck EATING them all over the next week, and all we need right now (NOT) is more sugar & more useless calories. I promised him a nice dinner out, when we can do that again.

The best present was later on Saturday evening, when stepSIL messaged me and proposed trying a three-way video chat between her (plus her brother, nephew & mom/dh's stepmother), us, and BIL & family. It was great to actually SEE everyone and chat for a while. The star of the show, of course, was little Great-Nephew, with runner-up status going to the dog, lol.  I was simultaneously happy to bask in the cuteness and thankful for the technology that allowed us to do that while sad over the reminder of everything we're missing, both in terms of having our own family as well as not being able to share in this all-too-quickly-passing time in little Great-Nephew's life. :(

Easter itself was pretty quiet. We talked to my parents on the phone, dh made scrambled eggs for brunch, and we had crockpot chicken and dumplings for dinner. Not traditional, I know, but we had chicken breasts in the freezer, and I couldn't see the sense in cooking an entire turkey or ham for just the two of us (if we could even find them, with all the supermarket shortages right now...!).  Easter is usually a bit of a toss-up for us anyway (as you'll know if you're a long-time reader of this blog) -- sometimes we'll be invited somewhere, sometimes not.  Pre-COVID, we didn't think there would be room for us at BIL's anyway, because SIL's family is usually there and it's not a very big house. But we did hope to be able to drop by to see the baby for a while after dinner. Ah, the best-laid plans...!

How was your Easter/Passover/long weekend?

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

Sunday, April 12, 2020

"The Women in Black" by Madeleine St. John

I'm not sure which happened first. Was I struck by the striking cover, with its black dresses and white type on a red background? Was it the cover blurb from Hilary Mantel, who calls it "The book I most often give as a gift to cheer people up." Or was it the review I spied in the New York Times?

At any rate, I bought "The Women in Black" one of the last times I was in the local bookstore before everything closed down. (If ever there was a time we needed a book to cheer us up, it's right now, right?) I'm finding short, light novels easier to digest right now than some of the heavier political stuff I've been reading (interesting & well written as some of those books can be), and this (along with Nick Hornby's book, reviewed here) seemed just the thing to bring me out of my COVID-related reading slump.

"The Women in Black" was written and first published in Britain in 1993, by Madeleine St. John, who later became the first Australian shortlisted for the Booker Prize, before she died in 2006.  In Australia, it's been adapted into a stage musical in 2015 ("Ladies in Black") and a 2018 movie (also called "Ladies in Black"). The book was reissued earlier this year in paperback in North America. It's a fast 209 pages long.

"The Women in Black" takes place in the late 1950s and revolves around the women who sell frocks (dresses) and gowns at Goode's department store in downtown Sydney during the busy Christmas season.  The time and place are evoked very well -- I must say (with apologies to Mali and any other readers from Down Under) it was somewhat jarring to see the Christmas season described in terms of hot weather (right from the first sentence!) and sunny beaches! ;) 

The four main characters -- the Women in Black (all the women who work at Goode's wear a black dress uniform) -- include teenaged Lisa, hired as a seasonal temp while she waits to receive her school leaving exam marks and ponders how to persuade her father to let her attend university. She becomes the protege of Magda, an immigrant from Slovenia, who runs the glamorous room where the exclusive Model Gowns are sold. Over in Cocktail Frocks, there's Patty, who's stuck in a boring, childless marriage with a man who shows little interest in her, and party girl Fay, who wants nothing to more than to settle down with a nice man but finds nice men in short supply.

The book's tone is light and frothy and it reads very much like a novel of the late 1950s might. And yet there are hints of some serious social commentary lurking under the wonderfully sparkling dialogue, about the restricted social roles of women in the 1950s as well as attitudes towards immigrants. I felt empathy for childless Patty, the subject of speculation and pity among her mother and sisters as well as her coworkers, as well as bookish Lisa, plotting with her mother to get around her father's attitudes about women and education.

(I don't think it would be much of a spoiler to say

(pausing here -- if you think it MIGHT be a spoiler, stop reading NOW, lol...!)

that everyone ultimately winds up with a happy ending. But getting to that point is a fun little trip!)

3.5 stars on Goodreads, rounded up to 4 stars.

This was Book #12 read to date in 2020 (Book #1 finished in April). I'm currently at 40% of my 2020 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 30 books, and am (for the moment, anyway...!) 4 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Pandemic odds & ends

  • I watched the Queen's speech from Windsor Castle about the coronavirus crisis on Sunday afternoon -- and (while I'm admittedly a monarchist and a fan) I was surprised to find myself getting quite choked up. (I wasn't alone, as several of the commentators remarked afterward that they had found her remarks more moving than they had expected.)  It wasn't just her words & message (which were pitch perfect, I thought), but just... HER. The woman will be 94 years old soon, and whatever you think of monarchy as an institution, you cannot deny that she has done a remarkable job. Anyone under the age of 68 has never lived under another monarch. The continuity she represents, the history (which she alluded to by mentioning her first speech to the nation's children in 1940 during the Second World War -- 80 years earlier!!). She can speak with authority about overcoming hardship, because she has seen it happen so many times during her long life & reign. How many more times will we get to see her speak, at Christmastime or otherwise (which, as they noted, is generally pretty rare)?  I have no doubt that Prince Charles will be an excellent king someday... but we will miss her when she's gone. 
    • I got to see the Queen (relatively) up close & personal when I was 9 years old, in July 1970 -- almost 50 (!) years ago now. The province of Manitoba was celebrating its centennial ( = this year is 150) and as part of a royal tour that summer, she, Prince Philip, Prince Charles & Princess Anne came to Dauphin, about 45 minutes from where we lived at the time, for a Sunday morning church service, held at the grandstand at the fair grounds. (Prince Philip read the lesson.) My grandparents came for the occasion, and my sister & I wore the new dresses we had worn a month earlier at my aunt's wedding. The royal couple left the grounds in a convertible, and passed right by where we were standing behind a fence. "I could have reached out and touched her," my grandfather marvelled, and my dad captured the Queen waving with a white-gloved hand with our Kodak Brownie camera.
      • This reminds me that, years later, I saw a letter written by my grandfather's aunt (in the 1960s), describing how she and another aunt had gone to Winnipeg in 1939 to see the Queen's parents -- King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother). The aunt remarked that the King was "nothing to look at" but his wife was "a very handsome woman," lol. 
  • The list of COVID-related postponements & cancellations keeps getting longer. I previously mentioned the Elton John concert on March 29th that SIL & I had tickets for, which has now been postponed to some future date TBD in 2021. (We watched him host a "living room" concert for television from his home in Los Angeles that night instead. SIL expressed disappointed that he only sang a few bars of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" at the very end, accompanied by his son's keyboard. Apparently he's quarantined in the one house he owns that doesn't have a proper piano!!)  
    • Libraries are closed, so my book club meeting on March 30th was obviously cancelled. I don't expect our monthly meetings to resume for a while yet. 
    • Last Friday, I got an email notifying me that Mirvish Productions was extending the closure of all its Toronto theatres until June 30th -- i.e., no "Hamilton" on May 9th for us.  :(  We'll receive a Mirvish credit for our hard-won tickets (& can apply for a refund if we prefer). The remaining performances of "Hamilton" here have been cancelled;  they are hoping to negotiate a return engagement soon. Guess I'll just have to take my blood pressure pills and try again then!!
    • Great-Nephew's baptism was scheduled for June 14th, but it's highly likely that's going to be cancelled too. :(  
    • Not holding my breath for: 
      • any kind of celebration or getaway for our 35th wedding anniversary in early July. 
      • a visit home in late July for my parents' 60th wedding anniversary & a family reunion across the border in Minnesota. (The border is currently closed, and travel between Canadian provinces has also been restricted... flight schedules have been reduced and highway checkpoints have been set up on some provincial borders, where travellers are being asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.)  
    • We'll see...:  
      • dh's youngest cousin on his mom's side (age 41) announced his engagement around Christmastime. We knew the wedding was being planned for August;  last week, we got a "save the date" e-vite email for August 29th, which is usually right around the time we have a cousins' get-together anyway. It sure would be nice to see everyone & have something to celebrate, especially after all this...!  but I guess we'll see...! 
  • Jody Day has a great blog post up at Gateway Women about the experience of being childless during COVID-19 and the plethora of unwelcome advice we're getting on how to handle it (echoing some of my own recent thoughts on the subject...!). Go over & read!  Sample passage: 
And the weird thing is that here we are again, in the grip of a civilization-altering pandemic and it seems an awful lot of people are avoiding their own (and others) pain and grief by turning into relentless online advice-givers. 
Whether it’s a flashmob of You-Tubers and online-course creators wanting us to get all ‘productive’ during this time by mastering yoga moves or learning to ferment our own Kombucha – or their well-meaning antidote, the keyboard jockey meme-makers flooding Instagram with their gracious permission for us to ‘not be productive’ (I confess I was one of those, sorry!) And then there is the scheduling brigade, advising us how many minutes a day we should be devoting to staying fit, keeping positive, breathing, writing gratitude lists and managing our anxiety levels. Or whatever… 
It’s exhausting and I’m feeling oppressed by all the advice of ‘the right way’ to cope with a pandemic. I’m finding that it’s drowning out my own experience, just  like it did with my childlessness. And it’s starting to piss me off. Again.
In truth, barring the anxiety we’re all bearing for our loved ones, and those on the front lines, perhaps the biggest shift in my pandemic life thus far has been the sometimes-wild experience of having the world suddenly arrive at a place I’ve been living in for so long. All at once, I’m watching people publicly grapple with many of the aspects of life I’ve long considered normal but sometimes have a tough time articulating. 
To be single and without children after a certain age is to largely disappear off the cultural map, and I’ve spent the last few years struggling with how best to approach one of the unexpected challenges of my life: the need to create a language around my experiences so that others can understand. 
In fact, the devastating isolation I’ve sometimes experienced has almost always been the result of not being understood; of people not believing me when I say I’m happy. 
It has been somewhat shocking, then, to open Instagram and see a type of language emerge: to find posts about color-coded guidelines created to let people know what sort of alone you are (red, supplies are needed; yellow; isolated at home). To watch my Twitter feed fill with people advising their followers to check in with friends and loved ones. To tune into Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s increasingly therapeutic news conferences, and listen to him talk about the difficulties of isolation and how to manage it. To abruptly begin hearing from friends daily who are newly coping with isolation. 
It has felt like a tidal wave rushing out to greet me and then carry me away with everyone else. Instead of being alone at sea I am suddenly just another member of a global experience. I am normal.
  • Civilla Morgan at Childless Not By Choice recently shared her thoughts on being childless during the current pandemic and offered some great tips on how to cope in her subscriber newsletter. Read it here!  

Monday, April 6, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: A pandemic Easter visit with family

Well before COVID-19 started shutting everything down, I had started gathering some goodies for little Great-Nephew's first Easter on my various shopping expeditions (and thank goodness I did!):  a onesie with a picture of a chick wearing bunny ears that said "Hip Hop" (lol -- see photo at left), a board book, a stuffed chick (safe for all ages) & a card. (I will buy him chocolate when he's old enough to eat it, lol.)

Obviously, nobody is going anywhere for Easter this year :(  but dh & I decided we could still help make Great-Nephew's first Easter a little bit special, and take his things over to him and leave them on the front porch. I found an appropriately spring-y gift bag and some tissue paper from my stash and put everything together, and we drove over to BIL's house after supper on Thursday night.

It was the first time I'd been out of the house/condo in THREE WEEKS.

As soon as dh knocked on the front door (with a (winter) gloved hand), the dog started barking. Older Nephew was in the shower after coming home from work (he's been laid off, but was called in just for the day), but everyone else crowded into the foyer to say hi through the glass of the door, with Nephew's Wife carrying Great-Nephew -- who is now 4.5 months old, and seemingly twice the size he was when we last saw him, almost a month (!) ago. (I found myself wondering whether the onesie I'd bought was going to fit...!) He was looking adorable (of course) in a Spiderman sleeper I had bought for him (Older Nephew has loved Spiderman since he was a kid) & looked at us curiously.

The dog, though, went NUTS when he saw us. It was hard to see little Great-Nephew and not be able to touch or hold him (his other grandmother hasn't seen him in weeks either, and it's killing her) -- but it just about broke my heart to see the dog whining & jumping up & scratching at the door and not be able to let him lick my hand & hug him & stroke his fur. :(  Little Great-Nephew doesn't really recognize or remember or miss us yet -- but the dog does, and he obviously could not figure out why we weren't coming in & giving him some love, as we usually do. Eventually he settled down, but he stayed in the hall beside Nephew's Wife, giving us a quizzical look, with his tail wagging the entire time we were there.

We didn't stay very long. It was kind of hard to carry on a meaningful conversation with glass between you & everyone standing around in a crowded space. Dh & BIL talk almost daily on the phone anyway. ("Can you believe this?"  BIL said, shaking his head, as we all stood there with the glass separating us -- i.e., can you believe this is happening & this is how we have to see each other right now?)  We waved to Great-Nephew and I blew him some kisses before we left.  We might do it again later this week, if we can.

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

Sunday, April 5, 2020

"State of the Union" by Nick Hornby

It was March 30th and I found myself facing the unpleasant fact that it was almost the end of the month -- a month in which I have had NOTHING to do except sit around the house (thank you (not), COVID-19...) -- and yet only managed to read ONE book -- and that was earlier in March, before everything started shutting down. Surely I could do better than ONE book for the whole month?? 

So I went to my bookshelves & looked for the shortest book I could find that I could finish before I went to bed on March 31st. "On Tyranny" by Timothy Snyder fit the bill in terms of length, but I decided "State of the Union" by Nick Hornby would be a better choice... not quite so heavy, subject-wise (we get enough "heavy" right now from the daily news, right?).

"State of the Union" has a very simple premise:  a recently separated 40-something couple, Tom & Louise, meet in a pub for drinks every week before heading across the street to their couples therapy session. They talk about their marriage, about the upcoming appointment, and about the other couples they see emerging from the therapist's office.  (And they do the cryptic crossword puzzle.)

That's it, in a nutshell. Like many of Hornby's books (I've read a few, including "Juliet Naked," reviewed here), there's a lot of sharp and witty dialogue, humour and piercing observations. The banter was both a plus and a minus -- great reading & insights, but there was SO much back-and-forthing that I would lose track of who was saying what -- and then have to count back to the last clearly identified quote to try to figure it out.

From the cover of my book, I learned it had been adapted into a BBC TV short-form series, starring Rosamund Pike and Chris O'Dowd. It is (or was) available on Sundance TV in the States (but sadly not available in Canada yet, so far as I can tell :(  ).  Like the novel, the TV series is 10 chapters/episodes long, 10 minutes each.

(Actually, I was surprised -- well, not REALLY surprised -- to learn from this New York Times article that Hornby first wrote the story for television and then adapted the scripts into a book. It's a very verbal kind of book.)

Has anyone seen it?

I originally rated this 3.5 stars on Goodreads, rounded up to 4. I've since reconsidered & am changing my rating to a solid 4 stars. The back-and-forth dialogue can be confusing at times, but the whole premise is brilliant, and I did enjoy it very much.

(Hoping for a more productive reading month in April, especially since it looks like we'll all be social distancing at home for a while yet...!)

This was Book #11 read to date in 2020 (Book #2 finished in March). I'm currently at 37% of my 2020 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 30 books, and am (for the moment, anyway...!) 4 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)

Saturday, April 4, 2020

A not-so-fond farewell :)

(And now for something completely different... a non-COVID-19-related post!)

(I often draft posts in advance... but I didn't want to jinx myself with this one by writing a word on the subject before the day finally arrived.)

*** *** ***

Today is the day that sometimes felt like it would never get here.

Today marks 365 days since my last visit from Aunt Flo (my last menstrual period).

In other words, today is the day I can officially call myself menopausal.

(Did I mention that I am 59 years old??)

I know a lot of women find the prospect of menopause -- the end of their fertile years -- traumatic. I don't. For one thing, I had to learn to accept the end of my fertility (and permanent childlessness) almost 20 years ago, after surviving stillbirth & infertility. That's already quite enough trauma for one lifetime!

My reproductive parts never worked the way they were supposed to -- and continued to prove that point by continuing with my period almost a full decade past the average age of menopause...!!  Theoretically, my fertile years ended today;  in reality, I knew LOOOONNNNGGGG ago that ship had sailed. The periods I continued to have over the past 20 years seemed somewhat pointless from that perspective.

By some measures, being officially in menopause marks a woman as "old." I don't feel 59. (Most days. Maybe in my knees?) I don't like the idea of getting old, of course. Who does?? But as my wonderful Grandma used to say (& as I've written before on this blog, many times), it sure beats the alternative. ;)  (And that's never been more true than in this time of COVID, right?)

(Oops, I  said this would be a non-COVID-19 post... sorry!) 

I started getting my period when I was 11 years old. 48 years of Aunt Flo's visits are quite enough, don't you think??

So long, Aunt Flo. It's long past time we said goodbye. Don't let the door hit you on your way out.

Me, gleefully depositing my "period underwear" in the garbage can --
the ratty old stuff full of stains & holes that I'd pull out of the drawer only for "that time of the month"
so as not to ruin my nicer stuff (hopefully...).
(Note my finger poking through one of the holes!! lol)
I can't even celebrate by going out to buy some nice new ones, because, COVID. Oh well!

Friday, April 3, 2020

Post this!

It's not just that the volume of posts on my social media feeds has increased dramatically since COVID-19 sent everyone home.  It's the kinds of posts too.

I am being BOMBARDED in my Facebook feed with requests to take part in various "challenges:" to post certain photos from my camera roll (the 7th, or something blue, or yellow, or green, or red....).  To grab the closest book, turn to page 47 and post the fourth sentence, without mentioning the book's title. To post beach photos, scenic photos and photos of myself with my partner.  To post a photo of myself.  To post photos of fun times I've had celebrating in groups, in anticipation of when we get to congregate and celebrate in big groups again.To post photos of covers of albums that mean something to me.

I've received at least three private messages imploring me to stand on my doorstep or patio at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night and clap and cheer for all the frontline workers. (Why this is coming to me as private messages vs wall posts, I have no idea.)

I "liked" one friend's photo with a curious caption (of her wearing a goofy grin) -- & then received a private message from her that because I'd liked that photo, I now had to post a similar photo of myself. I told her I normally delete all the less-than-flattering photos of myself from my camera immediately, but I'd see what I could do.

She's still waiting, lol. Normally, I don't mind these kinds of posts -- I just skim right by them -- or I take part, depending on my mood and just how busy I am at the moment (or not). No offense to any of you who have posted something like this on your own social media feeds (and especially not to any of you that I'm FB friends with, lol)!

But right now, I'm feeling overwhelmed. (And these are just the "challenges" I've noted or remembered from the last day or two!)

And I didn't even mention the ones like these:
I was nominated to post one photo that makes makes me feel like the Most Blessed Mother in the world. I'm going to tag some other women that I think are great. If I marked you copy the text and paste with a photo. My Facebook is full of wonderful moms. Let’s break our walls! 
[Needless to say, I wasn't tagged on THAT one...!] 
Joining all grandparents around the world with this one. Asking the people who are grandparents to join the challenge of posting a photo of your grandchildren. Just one photo, no description. The goal is to flood FB with positive photos instead of negativity. It's a difficult time at the moment not being able to see and cuddle them. Copy the text to your status, post a photo and check out some beautiful photos xx
This pandemic can't end soon enough...!  :p

Thursday, April 2, 2020

"Quarantined without kids, how is it?" (Seriously??!)

I've actually seen several people post this one on social media recently :p
(including a couple of new moms).
(I'm chalking it up to new mom lack of sleep... at least, I hope there's a logical excuse...!)
A few people on a CNBC forum I'm on also saw it...
as you might imagine, there were a few... *cough* ... INTERESTING (unprintable!! lol) responses!!
Seriously -- many of us CNBCers are feeling even more isolated than usual from our families & friends
and anxious about how our loved ones (especially our parents) are coping.
I worry every time dh leaves our cozy condo to get some supplies at the supermarket (even if it is just once a week or so).
What would I do without him??
(I try not to think about it.)
Some childless women don't have partners & live alone.
They are feeling especially isolated and vulnerable right now.
We wonder, if anything happened to us, would anyone truly miss us?
It's nice to have people reach out, check in, and know that you're thinking of us right now.
we're also feeling a bit overwhelmed by the increase in online activity
and by all the requests for us to participate in chat groups and Zoom calls, etc.
(which, we know, will inevitably become focused on kid and family-related matters)
(and we wonder, where were you been in the months before all this unfolded??
Are you *really* interested in how *we're* doing -- or
are you just hoping for a listening ear
& somewhere you can dump all your own frustrations & anxieties right now?)
THINK about it:
Is there ANYTHING "relaxing" about living through a global pandemic for ANYONE,
with or without kids?? 
(Thank you for attending my TEDTalk, lol.) 

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Right now

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

Well... March sure was... ummmm... INTERESTING... wasn't it?? Today marks 20 days since I've left the house/condo!! -- three weeks tomorrow!

Reading:  You would think that, with all this extra time at home, I would have read a gazillion books in March. I read TWO.  :p  (And I basically squeaked in under the wire with #2, which I deliberately chose because it was short & finish-able within two days.)  Too much time spent on the cellphone and laptop, scanning social media & news sites, and watching CNN & CBC News Network, instead of reading books... my attention span is shot.  :p  My bad. :(   (But hey... I think we're all entitled to get through this however we can, right?) 

The two books I read: 
So far this year, I've read 11 books.  I'm currently at 37% of my Goodreads 2020 Reading Challenge goal of 30 books, and (despite slacking off this month) I'm still 4 books ahead of schedule.

Current read(s):  

I haven't been inside a bookstore in about three weeks :(  (normally it's 2-3 times a week!)... but here are (some) of the recent purchases/additions to the TBR pile I made before things shut down (that I haven't read yet)(not counting e-book purchases -- which are mostly books I already own, or owned in the past):  
Watching:  Needless to say, we didn't get anywhere near a movie theatre this month. Also needless to say, we're been watching LOTS of TV news (on CNN, CBC News Network, and CTV News Channel). Still haven't done any catching up on Netflix...

Listening: To the most recent episodes from The Full Stop -- one (#11) related to Mother's Day (which was just celebrated in the U.K.) and another (#12) related to coping with the global pandemic we're all currently living through. (And it's available in both audio-only & video formats!) 

I've also added Brene Brown's new podcast, Unlocking Us, to my podcast queue -- although I have yet to listen in (or to read her books, for that matter...!).  I know many of you have found her work helpful and highly relevant to coming to terms with loss, infertility &/or childlessness.  

Following:  I often struggle to come up with something for this category... I'm making up for it this month!  

  • I started following Chasten Buttigieg, the husband of U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, on Twitter toward the end of Pete's campaign, and recently started following him on Instagram as well. He has such a great personal story, aside from his role as Pete's spouse, a wonderful sense of humour, and I can see why his students loved him as a teacher.  (And he's only 30 years old!!)(I am OLDER than his mother!!)  Since coming off the campaign trail (and into social distancing mode), he's been doing regular Instagram Lives with special guests that have included Mandy Moore (one of Pete's major celebrity supporters) and Connie Schultz, journalist and wife of Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown (who has a great social media presence herself). I think he would have made (and may someday still make?) a great First Gentleman (or maybe even a public officeholder himself! -- he clearly has a flair for campaigning!). :) 
  • An online friend shared a post in her Instagram Stories from a Calgary-based home cleaning company called gocleanco... and now I'm hooked, lol. Their Instagram page is aimed at a millennial audience (the owner offers occasional webinars on "Adulting 101," i.e., how to clean your house properly) and includes a whole bunch of fascinating videos & tips on how to deep clean & disinfect just about everything in your house (so important right now with the COVID-19 pandemic), using a mixture of hot water, bleach and... Tide laundry detergent (powder -- NOT the liquid form!)??  (Who knew, right?) I think I've done an OK job of housecleaning over the past 35 years (lol), but there's always room to learn & improve... and there's something mesmerizing (for me, anyway) about watching filthy stuff getting clean again (& seeing the before & after photos, side by side!).  I may try a few of her tips!  
  • Also on Instagram, the McMichael Gallery (the gallery specializing in Canadian art, where I hold a membership) has been running brief videos featuring their Executive Director, Ian Dejardin, talking about the paintings in the McMichael's collection that he's been thinking about and why. Dh & I have attended a couple of Ian's lectures at the McMichael and he is both extremely knowledgeable and eloquent. I learn so much from him! (And he's from Britain, so he delivers it all in one of those wonderful, soothing accents, lol.)  As one commenter said, "Who else can listen to Ian talk forever??" 
Drinking: Lots of fluids, including 2-3 comforting cups of tea every day, lol. Not as much alcohol as you might think. ;)  Even though our liquor & beer stores remain open as designated "essential services" (lol!!). 

Eating:  Obviously, we haven't done any eating out since about the second week of March. :(  We haven't done any ordering in or takeout either. We started stocking up on staples as soon as it became apparent what was coming, and so far, we've been doing OK, with occasional forays to the supermarket (by dh) to get more milk and bread (and anything else he finds that we might be able to use). He loves grocery shopping, and still prefers to get our own vs ordering for pick up or delivery, which apparently can take up to a week right now (!) because the demand is so great. He scrubs his hands well when he gets back & wipes things down with Lysol before putting them away. 

Our refrigerator freezer compartment is not that huge, but we've managed to stuff it full of cans of frozen concentrated orange juice, a variety of meat (a few packages each of chicken breasts, pork chops and ground beef), frozen veggies and a selection of convenience foods (chicken pot pies, lasagnas, chicken strips and fish fillets). Dh grew up eating a lot of beans, chickpeas and lentils with rice or pasta, and we've stocked up on those things too. Our diet could use more fresh fruits & veggies, but we're not going hungry anytime soon. 

Buying (besides books, lol):  Not much opportunity for shopping right now, other than groceries...!  I suppose I could shop online & get things delivered, but I've tried hard not to get into that habit, even pre-COVID... just WAY too convenient!  Plus I feel a bit guilty having someone out there putting themselves at risk to deliver my packages (albeit they are still working and earning income). I have bought & downloaded some e-books to my Kobo and my cellphone Kindle app. (I prefer the Kobo, but some of the titles I want to read in e-format are only available on Kindle.) 

Wearing:  Yoga pants have always been my retirement uniform ;) but I did at least wear jeans when we left the house. And since we haven't been leaving the house, I haven't put on my jeans in almost three weeks! (Or a bra, for that matter, lol.) Hopefully the jeans will still FIT when this is all over...!

Wanting:  A HAIRCUT. :p  We usually get them every six weeks, which would put us due for trims right around Easter. That's still almost two weeks away... and I'm already starting to feel shaggy. I don't think I even have any hairclips/barrettes around the house I could use to keep my hair out of my eyes (I've been wearing my hair short for years now!). I do have a plastic hairband, & I may have to dust it off & use it before the hair salons open again...! 

Trying:  To stay busy and positive, despite all the doom & gloom we see onscreen. 

Missing:  Little Great-Nephew. :(  (And the dog, lol.) I have a bag full of Easter goodies that I was collecting for him, pre-COVID -- an Easter-themed onesie, a board book, a stuffed chick. We're planning to drive over there later this week & leave the bag on the porch. And maybe ask if they can bring him to the window so we can see him & wave to him. 

Loving: The good-news stories of kindness & generosity & heroism that I've been seeing, as well as the bad/sad/tragic/eye-rolling/enraging ones. 

Feeling:  Extremely thankful that, even if I have to live through a global pandemic, I'm doing it with my dh beside me, in our cozy condo, with plenty to eat (& plenty of toilet paper, lol), and plenty to read and watch. Thankful for the miracles of modern technology that keep us all connected and entertained.