Tuesday, June 30, 2020

"Katherine Wentworth" by D.E. Stevenson

"Katherine Wentworth," first published in 1964, is the latest book we're reading & discussing on my D.E. Stevenson fan group. 

Katherine is a young widow in Edinburgh, mother to a teenaged stepson and lively boy/girl twins. A chance meeting with her old school friend Zilla leads to a new friendship with Zilla's older brother Alec, as well as a delightful family holiday at Zilla's cottage in the Scottish Highlands. Meanwhile, Katherine's stepson Simon receives an unexpected letter that has enormous implications for his future, and for the family as a whole. Themes of independence versus duty and family expectations run throughout the book and through the lives of several of its characters. 

I wouldn't say this was my favourite Stevenson book, but overall, I enjoyed it. Like most of her work, it's perhaps a bit old-fashioned, but full of well-drawn characters with strong morals, and wonderful descriptions. Some of the plotlines seemed a bit ludicrous (so many convenient coincidences, and developments that you can see coming from a mile away...) -- and there are two characters who are so narcissistic and controlling it made ME feel suffocated! -- but Katherine herself is a sympathetic character, and I appreciated her determination to live an independent life and to bring up her children the way their father would have wanted. The book doesn't dwell on Katherine's grief over her husband's untimely death, or how difficult it must have been for her to rebuild her life with only her "elderly" (at 60!!) aunt to support her, but there are some hints of these themes here and there. 

I've often described Stevenson's books as the literary equivalent of comfort food... and goodness knows we could all use a bit of comfort right about now!  

3.5 stars on Goodreads, rounded up to 4.  

We'll be discussing the sequel to this book, "Katherine's Marriage," a little further down the road. (From the title of that one, you can probably guess at how this one ends, lol.)  

This was Book #18 read to date in 2020 (Book #4 finished in June). I'm currently at 60% 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, June 29, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: COVID hair, begone!!

Last Friday was the long-awaited day!!  SEVENTEEN (17)(!!!) weeks after our last haircuts on Feb. 28th (!), and one week after hair salons were allowed to reopen locally, we were back in our regular stylist's chair to (FINALLY!)  get rid of our "COVID hair"!

Before:  taken the morning of our hair appointment, before showering.
I posted this on social media, and a few friends said they rather liked the look of my longer hair! 
It actually doesn't look that bad in this photo...
but LIVING with it hanging in my eyes & face was another matter entirely...! 

Taken (by dh) after I washed my hair & combed it straight down.
You can see how long it had become! 
(I didn't use any styling products before my appointment either.) 

SO much better!!! 

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

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Why I don't (usually) shop online

My sister is one of those people who won't go into a mall or a store if she can help it. She's quite happy doing most of her shopping online (and she's been in heaven since online shopping was extended to her local supermarket). I gather she's not alone, from the numbers of package delivery trucks I see outside our condo building every day, and the number of packages waiting outside our neighbours' doorways (many from Amazon, or one of those meal-in-a-box services). Online shopping during this pandemic has been a blessing for many people who either don't want to or can't easily go out to shop for the things they need (especially when so many malls and standalone stores were/have been closed for so long). 

I'm not a complete online shopping neophyte. I have bought stuff online over the years -- books that I couldn't easily find in the local bookstore (or ebooks to download to my Kobo), CDs & DVDs (ditto), my annual Filofax calendar insert (so that I don't have to go all the way downtown to the one fancy stationery shop that I know still carries them), handmade sterling silver jewelry from a local entrepreneur (friend of a friend & one-time blogger), presents for my sister from her favourite store (which doesn't have an outlet near me), photo Christmas cards from an online provider...  

Generally, though, I much prefer in-person shopping. (So far during this pandemic, dh has been able to get me most of the things I've really, really needed at either the supermarket or pharmacy, and I've been happy to postpone the "wants" and recreational shopping forays until more stores reopen &/or it's safer to venture out again.)  

Here's a story that illustrates why!  

Back in late May/early June, I got a marketing email from Old Navy, promoting their new line of cotton face masks -- masks in every colour & pattern under the sun, for both adults & kids.  I'd already been making a few no-sew masks out of old socks for dh & me, but I knew that we'd probably need a lot more masks for the two of us, once things started opening up more and we started going out into the world more often. Rather than completely deplete my sock drawer ;)  I'd started looking at various masks for sale online, trying to figure out where to best direct my business. Old Navy is a familiar brand, I shop there a lot, their cotton masks were cute, easily washable, and best of all, the prices were very reasonable and shipping was free if you spent enough money. I ordered one package of 10 masks, two packages of 5 masks each (including one pack featuring fun animal prints, for myself), and six hair bands/wraps in various colours, to help keep the hair out of my eyes (because it was driving me crazy, and at that point, we still had no idea when we might be getting haircuts again).  

This was June 1st. (Our local mall with the Old Navy store in it didn't reopen until last Friday, June 19th.)  I was advised when I ordered that some of the items might not be available until June 22nd or 29th. Oooohkay, I figured we could muddle along with sock masks (and shaggy hair) until then. I began getting emails and texts advising me when certain items had shipped and when they were supposed to be delivered by UPS. 

Last Monday, June 15th, I was notified that my package was on a delivery truck. The phone rang that morning. It was the building's front door intercom system. I buzzed the guy up, he handed me my package, and I excitedly ripped it open to find... ONE hairband.  Just ONE of the six I had ordered (and nevermind the masks).  All righty then... 

Next morning (Tuesday, June 16th), same scenario.  Telephone call from the front door intercom.  Dh answered and... the phone went dead. (The handset desperately needs a new battery... which of course, would require a shopping trip we've been putting off making, because, COVID...)  I ran out onto the balcony to keep an eye on the delivery truck (I figured I could shout & wave, if necessary?) while dh ran down the stairs to see if he could catch the delivery guy before he left. He returned with my package. Four hairbands this time. 

The next morning (Wednesday, June 17th), we returned from a walk to find another package (#3) by our door. One hairband (the final one!).  Still no masks.  

I got another notification yesterday (Monday, June 23rd) that yet another package was on its way -- supposedly containing two packages of masks. Nothing arrived then, but I checked the tracking number and saw that it was on a delivery truck this morning. Got the phone call, buzzed in the delivery guy, eagerly accepted the package from him (#4!) and opened it. This time, I got... the package of 10 masks I had ordered and... a black ribbed tank top that I hadn't even ordered -- even though the invoice said the package contained two packages of masks (one of 10, one of 5).  

So it's now more than three weeks since I put in my order. I have received FOUR packages, and I'm STILL out two packages of masks -- one of which I'm not sure I'm going to get at all (since it was supposed to be part of the package I just got, but wasn't) and one which (I just checked) may not reach me until at least JULY 22nd.  And I have a tank top that I didn't even order, and that I'm going to have to go through the rigamorole of returning, either by UPS or in store/at the mall, which I haven't been near in almost four months and have no huge desire to visit just yet. (Dh told me it's not worth it and to just keep it. I'll see...!) 

Yes, I was able to order and receive this stuff from the comfort of my home, without venturing out & increasing my COVID risk (and possibly not being able to find any cloth masks for sale in any of the stores I went to).  Yes, the shipping is free, so I'm not paying any more whether they ship it all to me in one package or five (or six??). 

But seriously?? Is this any way to shop, or to run a business?? 

Do you shop online? What's your experience been like? 

Monday, June 22, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: My first kiss & why e-books are so popular :)

In a recent online discussion among childless women that I was privy to, someone asked whether anyone else felt uncomfortable taking out books from the library with the word "childless" in the title.  One person commented that it's part of the cultural shaming we feel over our childlessness, similar to the shame that used to be attached to the words "gay" and "queer" -- words which the LGBT community has reclaimed. Someone else mentioned that commuters in Japan use book covers to keep their reading material private from each other -- and I commented that this is one reason why ebooks are so popular. :)

I was reminded (and recounted) an anecdote from my university days. A good friend of mine from high school told me she'd run into the guy who gave me my very first kiss, when I was 15. :) (Just before that, he was also my first slow dance -- to "Make it With You" by Bread. How very Seventies, right?)  She said he was carrying some library books on gay rights.

Now, this was in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in the early 1980s -- and we figured he MUST be gay, because NO "straight" guy in that time & place would have been caught dead openly carrying or reading books on gay rights!  ("Straight" being the terminology of the time -- i.e., heterosexual.)(And I thought oh sure, OF COURSE the first guy I kissed would turn out to be gay, right?) But even then, in those less enlightened/less accepting times, I thought that was pretty gutsy of him.

I've Googled him several times in the years since then to see what he was up to. ;)  He's had a very impressive career with some major international development agencies, including as an advisor on LGBT issues. An article I found specifically refers to his experiences as a gay man.  So it's probably for the best that our (very) brief high school romance didn't go beyond a few makeout sessions and a few letters and phone calls before things petered out.

But I'm betting that these days, nobody on a university campus would blink if they saw someone carrying a book about LGBT rights. So perhaps it will be different for us childless women in another 40 years too.  :)  (And hopefully a lot sooner than that!)

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

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Father's Day/COVID-19 odds & ends

  • It's Father's Day -- a very quiet, subdued one. I raided my blank card/note stash once again to make sure dh got the traditional card (at least).  Our usual Sunday afternoon activity (& especially on occasions like Mother's & Father's Day) would be to go to the movies -- but the theatres are still not open here.  It's too hot & humid (currently 30C/36C humidex) to go out for a walk, and there are too many happy families running around -- even with COVID (and without masks!) --  to venture to the bookstore or gelato shop. If we wanted to head to a store, we'd both rather do it during the week when it's quieter. 
    • I suppose we could have gone to the cemetery to visit FIL (& MIL), or further down the road to visit Katie in her cemetery (haven't been there since February -- I think her Christmas decorations are still up...!) -- but it's at least a 30-45-minute drive (one way) on a very hot day, with little else we could do once we got there, with so many closures & restrictions in place. Another time. 
    • I'll call my own dad later this afternoon. 
  • Dh admitted last night that he sometimes gets jealous of BIL and his obvious pleasure in being a grandfather. BIL has a huge heart, and he's always been very generous about including us in things and assuring us that we are an important part of the family, that we have an important role to play in the lives of his sons & grandson (our two nephews and great-nephew). But like most parents/grandparents, he can be kind of clueless sometimes. ;)  
*** *** *** 

COVID-19/pandemic updates: 
  • En route to BIL's for a visit on Friday night, we stopped at the supermarket to pick up something from the bakery to have with our coffee. I waited in the car while dh put on a mask and went in. I've barely been outside at all in the past three months, let alone anywhere where there's lots of people. So it was kind of jaring to see that the parking lot was packed -- it WAS rush hour on a Friday night. I was also shocked at how many people were NOT wearing masks -- and had (unmasked) kids in tow with them too!  Dh says most people have been masked when he's been there grocery shopping -- but of course he normally goes early in the morning, when it's far less busy.  
  • In a similar vein -- local restaurants are still not allowed to open their dining rooms, but as of Friday, they *are* now allowed to offer outdoor/patio dining (with social distancing & other precautions), in addition to takeout & delivery. We ordered takeout from one of our favourite restaurants on Saturday night and, when he returned with our food, dh reported the patio was PACKED, with a long line of people waiting. No masks to be seen there either.  I know you can't wear masks and eat ;)  but you would think people might want to wear masks until their food arrives, or at least while they're waiting in line...?? 
  • And finally.... the time is drawing near!!  After SEVENTEEN (17!!) weeks, we will FINALLY be getting haircuts on Friday afternoon!!  Our stylist called me (this past) Friday afternoon to let us know her new schedule, and I booked our appointments on the spot. She explained that we must call when we arrive, and someone will unlock the door to let us in -- one at a time (the other person will have to wait in the car, or elsewhere outside). No purses allowed -- just a cellphone & payment method (presumably credit or debit card).  Masks must be worn -- we can bring our own or buy a disposable one for $1. The capes are now disposable as well.  She will only wet our hair with water from a spray bottle (vs a complete shampoo -- which they will only do if you're having colour done), and she will not blow dry our hair. Fine with me -- just get out those scissors, lol. As I have said before -- I have no great desire to go to the mall or a restaurant or whatever -- but I am desperate for a haircut!  

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

"Rilla of Ingleside" (again)

I recently finished reading "Rilla of Inglesideby  L.M. (Lucy Maud) Montgomery -- again.  ;)  Yes, I read & reviewed "Rilla" recently (in late April, here) -- but then I went through the book again, chapter by chapter, along with the "Rilla of Ingleside" Readathon group on Facebook, which I mentioned in an earlier blog post

The informative background posts by the two Montgomery scholars who led the group (and edited the new/recent, unabridged, fully restored version of the book), as well as the chance to learn from and chat with other LMM fans, was irresistible, and added to my enjoyment of the book (as if I didn't love it enough already...!). As I said in response to a comment there, how I wish that Montgomery had been taken seriously as a subject of academic study when I was doing my honours English degree at university... I was just a few years too early!  

Our discussions on "Rilla" are wrapping up, but there's talk of continuing with another book -- perhaps "The Blythes Are Quoted," which was also edited by Benjamin Lefebvre (one of the "Rilla" discussion leaders). 

As I explained in a recent post, I've decided that a re-read (even in quick succession) still counts as a book read, and so I've added this one to my Goodreads Challenge total for the year (again). :)  My original 5-star rating still stands.  :)   

This was Book #17 read to date in 2020 (Book #3 finished in June). I'm currently at 57% 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, June 16, 2020

Odds & ends: An update

  •  Not too long after I posted my #MicroblogMondays post yesterday, noting that the area where I live was still stuck in Stage 1, the premier held a news conference where he announced that Stage 2 reopenings will begin in more regions outside of Toronto this Friday -- including the region where we now live, and the region where we used to live, which is where we still go to get our hair cut.  
    • I am not in any rush to head to the mall or sit on a restaurant patio, etc. etc. -- but haircut?  YES, PLEASE!! (It's been 16 weeks;  normally we get trims every 6 weeks like clockwork.  I feel SO FRUMPY!!) 
    • "I wonder if I could at least leave a voice mail at the salon to ask about an appointment??" I said to dh as I grabbed the phone & started dialing, about 30 seconds after the news notification flashed across my phone screen. He later joked to BIL that he's never seen me move so fast, lol.  
    • As it turns out, someone answered the phone immediately (the owner, I think?). She told me the salon has closed (?? -- permanently, from the sounds of it?) but she'd have our stylist call me. She did, a few minutes later. She will be going back to work at a different salon -- which, believe it or not, is a two-minute walk from our old house! In fact, my mom used to get her hair done there whenever she came to visit me! She still has to talk to the owners about her schedule and what the new protocols/precautions will be, etc., but she will call me back in a few days to set something up. 
    • I CAN'T WAIT. 
  • We took little Great-Nephew's baptism presents over to BIL's house last night. He'd had a cranky afternoon -- no nap! after his big day on Sunday, too! -- and had just fallen asleep -- and slept on through to the next morning! -- so we didn't get to see him or his mom. :(  But we did have a nice visit with BIL, SIL, Older Nephew -- and the dog, lol. We wore our masks initially but eventually took them off & stayed for coffee & the remnants of Great-Nephew's baptism cake, sitting as far apart as we could on both the living room couches & at the table. No contact, definitely no hugs. I will admit I felt a little bit leery -- I would have preferred to sit outside on the deck, as we did on our last visit -- but dh was clearly having a good time, and they were all very happy to see us. (We cleaned our hands with Purell as soon as we got in the car, and washed them thoroughly as soon as we got home again.) 
    • SIL confessed she's called HER stylist too, and begged for an appointment ASAP. :) 
    • BIL said to dh on the phone this morning, "It's over now, you can come over any time." Ummm, NO, it's NOT!!   

Monday, June 15, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: Pandemic odds & ends

  • Last week, our provincial government announced the move to Stage 2 of reopening... but not everywhere.  Ten regions, encompassing what's known as "the Golden Horseshoe" of Ontario (and of Canada) -- including Hamilton, Niagara, and the entire Greater Toronto Area, where I live -- remain stuck in Stage 1.  Elsewhere in the province, people can now get haircuts, tattoos, manicures & pedicures, dine on restaurant patios (albeit still not inside restaurants) and go to the mall (among other things).  (All (supposedly) subject to precautions, of course.) 
  • The government also announced on Friday that everyone in the province could now form "social circles" (or "bubbles," as I wrote about here) of up to 10 people, without physical distancing restrictions. 
    • It's still early days, but nobody has asked us to be in their circle/bubble. Not that we expect to be asked...!  As I wrote a while back: 
For us, there's no question that would be BIL's household (which currently includes him, SIL, Older Nephew, his wife & 5-month-old baby).  BUT -- would WE be THEIR pick to "bubble" with?  They might rather have more regular interaction with their other son/our Younger Nephew & his wife... or perhaps the baby's other grandmother (I know she's dying to see & hold her first & only grandchild again).  As I said to dh when the baby was born, we know where we are in the pecking order (and it's not at the top of the list).  Another one of the hard things about childless living, and especially during a pandemic...!  :(
    • (Older Nephew & his wife have actually taken the baby to see Other Grandmother in recent weeks... so I guess they've already got their bubble there...!)   
    • I will be very curious to see how many people actually FOLLOW THE RULES...!   
  • Daily numbers of new cases in my province dipped below the 200 mark last week, for the first time since March. Fingers crossed those numbers keep dropping. (I am not optimistic, given the rush to reopen.)  
    • I am also not optimistic, given the number of people I've seen around our condo -- chatting outside, going in & out of each others' units to socialize, etc. -- and in photos on my social media feeds -- lounging in groups at cottages, group photos (arms around each other, heads together -- no masks, obviously...). ("Pandemic?  What pandemic??")  *Sigh*   
  • Great-Nephew was baptized yesterday (as I mentioned recently). Because of COVID restrictions, we could not be there, and the big party that was planned for afterward did not happen.  But we still got to watch, via the miracle of livestream on YouTube. :)  Yay for technology!  :)  We are planning to take over his present later today (a children's book I bought pre-COVID shutdown, and a nice fat cheque for his piggybank/savings account) and have another brief visit.  
  • I was talking to my sister a few days ago, and she mentioned that my mother had told her I wasn't coming home this summer. Sister (never once to beat around the bush...!) informed Mom that I won't be coming home for Christmas either. (!)  I had to admit that things don't look good, but said I still haven't given up completely on the idea. She told me she wanted Mom to get used to the idea, so that if by some small miracle I do manage to make it home, it will be a nice bonus, and not something Mom is expecting. *Sigh. (Again.)*  
  • Dh, shaking his head while looking out the window at a man walking alongside a very young toddler and holding his hand:  "Lucky bastard."  :(  
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

"The Baker's Daughter" & a 2020 books general update

My D.E. Stevenson fan/reading group recently finished discussing "The Baker's Daughter" -- one of my favourites from this author, and one I suggested. (I also volunteered to lead the discussion. ;)  ) My normal practice when we do our group reads & discussions is to read the book through right away (which I then rate & review, both here on my blog and also on Goodreads) -- and then read the book again along with the group to refresh my memory on the fine points, as we go through and discuss it, chapter by chapter.

It recently occurred to me that, while I'd already included the book among my late 2019 reads (as well as back in 2016), a re-read is still a book read, right?  (And heaven knows I could use a boost on my reading challenge numbers, lol.)

So I've decided to give myself credit and mark "The Baker's Daughter" as read (again -- for the third time in four years!) on Goodreads. I won't bother to re-review it here, since I just did so not too long ago, except to say my previous rating(s) still stand. :)  Here are links to my reviews from late 2019, as well as from 2016, FYI. 

My modus operandi is the same for a Facebook group discussion of "Rilla of Ingleside" by L.M. Montgomery that I'm currently following -- I went through the whole book myself (& reviewed it here in April, as well as on Goodreads), and am now going through it again as the group discusses each chapter. Once we finish our discussion, I will add it to my 2020 books (again), here on my blog and on Goodreads.

Likewise, I'm re-reading "Normal People" by Sally Rooney, following along as I watch the television adaptation on CBC Gem, which I mentioned here. I first read and reviewed that one last fall, and I'll be adding it as a re-read once both show & book are done, in early July.

This was Book #16 read to date in 2020 (Book #2 finished in June). I'm currently at 53% of my 2020 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 30 books, and am (for the moment, anyway...!) 3 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

"The Death of Expertise" by Tom Nichols

I finally finished reading "The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters" by Tom Nichols. 

As I said in a recent "Right Now" post, "This one has been on my shelf for quite a while now... and I would say it's even more relevant today than when it was published in 2017. It's well written & I agree with the general premise. But I'm finding it a bit of a slog at the moment. I'm thinking something lighter for my next read...!"  It took me over a month to get through this one -- and it's only 237 pages of text -- notes not included!

Nichols, Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College, is the same age as me. While I don't agree with all of his views, I enjoy reading his Twitter feed. :)  In this book, he explores why -- despite technology advances and increasing levels of education -- so many people are rejecting the opinions of experts, and what implications this phenomenon has for democracy. (Spoiler alert:  it's not good.)  

I'm not sorry I stuck with this one -- but I'm happy to finish & move on to something else.  Three stars on Goodreads. 

This was Book #15 read to date in 2020 (Book #1 finished in June). I'm currently at 50% of my 2020 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 30 books, and am (for the moment, anyway...!) 2 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)

Monday, June 8, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: Pandemic updates

(A not-so-microblog post. ;)  ) 

We finally went to see Great-Nephew again this weekend. He is now 6.5 months old. He is eating solids like a champ, loves the swing & toddler pool his doting grandfather bought for him, is showing signs of teething, and is now CRAWLING and pulling himself up in his crib & playpen. 

We hadn't seen him since April 2nd (two months ago), or spent any meaningful time with him since March 7th -- almost THREE FULL MONTHS. Almost half of his life!  We haunt Instagram for new photos & videos posted by his parents or (occasionally) his grandparents, and get information & cute stories second-hand through dh's regular phone calls with BIL. 

Dh was ready for a return visit weeks ago. Me, not so much. Not because I didn't want to see him. (Definitely not that!!)  That first visit, on April 2nd, was devastating to me in a way I can't quite explain. It's one thing to sit at home in my cozy condo, away from the rest of the world and what's been going on, lulled by the monotony of day-to-day life in isolation. Being so close to the people we love -- and yet so far -- with a sheet of glass between us -- was excruciating. It was the reality of this pandemic, and everything we've been missing out on, hitting me like a ton of bricks. You can't carry on much of a proper visit from behind a glass door. All we could do was wave & call out to the baby for a few minutes while he gazed at us curiously -- and while the dog went nuts. Between the two of them, my heart broke into 20 gazillion pieces. For weeks afterward, every time dh proposed another visit, I told him I didn't think I could handle it. 

He finally wore me down. I have to admit, it was killing me, knowing just how much we've been missing out on. (And I didn't like the idea of him going to visit without me, lol.)  This visit turned out much better than the last one. I did get tears in my eyes when we saw the little guy sitting in his high chair, and the dog happily bounded over to greet us, tail wagging. The difference this time is we actually went in the house, although we quickly moved outdoors to the deck, where BIL has set up a miniature swing & slide for his grandson. We didn't stay more than half an hour, tops. Dh & I wore our sock masks, & we all tried to maintain an appropriate distance (much as I wanted to give everyone big hugs) -- all except for the dog, of course, lol.  He was happy to see us, albeit he didn't go quite as beserk as he did when we were there in April.  I think he may have been thrown off slightly by the masks. I'm sure the little guy was too -- he kept staring at us curiously. 

Next Sunday was supposed to be his baptism -- which is a big deal in an Italian family, and was supposed to include lunch after the church ceremony at a local banquet hall for about 90 (!) family members & friends. (I told you it was a big deal, lol.)  It was rescheduled to September -- but we found out last night that it's going ahead next week as originally planned -- but with just the two parents, two godparents (Younger Nephew & his wife) and priest in attendance. No party afterwards. Pre-COVID, I had already bought a book with a religious theme and gorgeous illustrations that I thought would make a nice baptism present. We'll wrap it up & take it over (along with a card & cheque) sometime next week, after the event itself. (Dh & I were Older Nephew's godparents, 31 years ago.)  

*** *** *** 

In a recent phone conversation, my mom said to me, “I guess you’re not coming home this summer.” Ummm, I guess not -- not as long as the numbers stay like this.  (Sorry, Mom. Sorry, Dad. :(  ) 

"Like this" = there have been 31,000+ total confirmed cases and 2,400+ deaths in the province of Ontario alone.  Only the province of Quebec has higher numbers than ours. The number of new cases per day here has fluctuated slightly, but has remained stubbornly stuck in the range of 300-400 new cases per day for the past 10 days or so. The number of current active cases has remained fairly steady for quite a while now, consistently between 3,000 and 4,000. The bulk of positive cases (67%) have been in the Greater Toronto Area, where I live. In the city of Toronto proper, there have been 11,835 cases & 883 deaths to date. In the nearby region where I live, there's been about 2,600 confirmed cases & 218 deaths total, 462 cases currently active. (Numbers current as of this weekend.) The premier just extended the state of emergency (first declared on March 17th) again, until June 19th.  

Theoretically, sure, we could head west to see my family. In practice, not quite so simple. Even if we wanted to fly (and I'm not sure I do, not yet anyway...), the domestic airlines are currently operating under reduced capacity and "abridged" summer schedules.  Driving would mean at least three 7-8-hour days on the road, staying in hotels for at least two nights. While there's not much difference between the Canadian & U.S. routes, timewise (both are about 21 hours total driving time, according to Google Maps), we'd probably have to take the Canadian route, over the north shore of Lake Superior, because the US/Canada border is closed until at least June 21st (and likely longer). (I have to admit that, even pre-COVID/protests/etc., I've had little desire to visit the U.S. so long as You-Know-Who is president. Perhaps after November...??) 

In any case, no matter how we eventually got there, Manitoba (the next province to the west, where my family lives) is still asking all out-of-province visitors to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. I don't see much point in making the trip as long as that's in effect. Their case load is minuscule compared to Ontario's, and they want to keep it that way. I can't say I blame them. 

It's infuriating & heartbreaking all round. I'll be missing my parents' 60th wedding anniversary in July (as well as my dad's 81st birthday), and while it was obvious early on that the big party (an afternoon "come and go" tea in the church basement) we'd talked about hosting for them wasn't going to materialize, I had hoped I'd at least be able to be there and maybe take them out for dinner along with my sister & her partner. 

I've resigned myself to the fact that I won't be going anywhere this summer. And am crossing all my crossables that the situation changes in time for me go home for Christmas, so I can celebrate with my family, as I have done every year for the past 60 (!) years...

*** *** *** 
Despite the stubbornly high continued rate of new COVID-19 infections, the provincial government went ahead and allowed all stores with a streetfront entrance ( = not within a mall) to reopen on May 19th, as well as a number of other businesses and services. (This week, they'll announce more specifics about what Phase 2 will look like, although they have not committed to a time frame.)  

Some people felt the government was jumping the gun, and that (as in some places in the States) people would start thinking it was "back to normal" and abandon social distancing efforts. Sadly, the numbers have borne this out. (See this post by Turia, who lives in the same metropolitan area as I do.) Dh says most people are wearing masks at the supermarket when he makes a grocery run, which is comforting. 

But, as we drove through the suburban sreets to BIL's house on Saturday night, I was taken aback by the numbers of people I saw standing relatively close together & chatting, unmasked, in yards & driveways. Groups of teenagers, walking down the street together (without masks, and not six feet apart).  I see plenty of this behaviour happening around our building too. I'm also seeing lots of photos in my social media feeds of groups of people -- some from other provinces or states, where the situation may be better than it is here -- but some not. I suppose some of these people could all belong to the same household -- but I'm sure some aren't. BIL's neighbours had a large number of guests gathered on their deck, chatting loudly and playing music -- none of them wearing masks.  Okay, I know it's safer being in the open air is safer than indoors (& I did think that perhaps we could have removed our masks when we were out there) -- and maybe I've just been holed up too long and am being paranoid -- but I can't help but feel people are playing with fire here. Sorry if I'm being judgmental. 

Part of me just mentally (if not literally) throws up my hands & thinks, "Okay, fine, it's your life and your health" --  but that's the problem -- it's NOT just theirs, it's also the lives & health of the people around them, and the people THEY are in contact with. I actually have little fear that we could pass on something to Great-Nephew, because we haven't been anywhere or been in close contact with very many people for the past three months. But BIL, SIL & Older Nephew have all been out working and shopping, far more frequently than we have (when we got there, SIL was showing Great-Nephew's mom the clothes she'd just picked up at the local Carters/Oshkosh outlet, which recently reopened). It's far more likely that WE could pick up something from THEM. 

It just makes me mad to see some people openly ignoring the guidelines/rules and doing whatever the heck they want -- dragging this pandemic further and further into the future -- while I (ever the guilt-ridden rule-follower) have been holed up in an 874-square-foot condo for most of the past three months, with little to no human contact other than dh -- waiting, waiting, waiting for the day when I'll get to see my aging parents, hug my family members and hold my Great-Nephew again -- and watching that day keep slipping further and further away...

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

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Watching, listening & learning

I've been debating what (if anything) I should post about the recent events in Minneapolis (a city/area where I have lots of family) and elsewhere in the U.S.  Others -- including Cristy (here and here), Noemi, Jjiraffe, Ana, Sue, and Mrs. Spit -- have already posted about this, far more eloquently & sensitively than I fear I can.  

One point I can add to the conversation:  a lot of Canadians like to think that we're better than the U.S. when it comes to racism. But we really don't have anything to brag about.  We have our own less-than-stellar history, most notably in terms of the indigenous population, but also with black people and other people of colour too. (Read about Viola Desmond, or Africville in Halifax, for starters.) (This piece, from this weekend's Globe & Mail, provides a fascinating perspective from a black woman who has roots in, and has lived in, both Canada & the U.S.)  

We also have our own issues with police (mis)treatment of those groups. (Here's a story about some of the most (in)famous cases in Toronto from the past three decades.) The same week that George Floyd was murdered, a woman named Regis Korchinski-Paquete fell from her 24th-floor apartment balcony while police were inside her family’s unit. Did she fall? Did she jump? Was she pushed? The details are still murky, and under investigation.  

Perhaps some Canadians think we don't have a problem with racism because they live in largely white communities where they don't know any or many people of colour, and where things are slow to change. Our cities these days are very multicultural and multiracial, but when I was growing up in small towns on the Canadian Prairies in the 1960s & 70s, it was very rare to see anything but white people (and in some places, it still is). There might have been one Asian family in town that ran a Chinese restaurant. There were just three black students among the 500 attending my high school (I knew their names, but not much else about them). 

One exception:  What we did have in abundance was indigenous peoples (or their relatives, the Metis). Back then, we called them Indians or natives.  Many lived on reservations, and their kids were bussed to school (often from some distance away). There was a residential school on the very edge of the town where we lived when I was in junior & senior high school.  It closed right around the time we moved there, in the early/mid-1970s, and is now being turned into a museum

I have lots of (other) memories & stories about the way things were then, about how my views were shaped, for better and for worse, and about how things have changed, or not. (I've been thinking a lot about these things over the past two weeks. And sometimes cringing.)  I will say that while I recognize that I still have a long way to go and a lot to learn, I like to think that I've made SOME progress over the years. Partly, I think, because I've spent the past 35 years living in one of the country's/world's most diverse cities;  partly because I spent 28 years working for a diverse, multinational corporation, frequently writing about diversity issues and awareness for the company newsletter and other corporate publications. 

Now that I'm outside of the corporate environment (and especially when I travel back to the largely white small towns where I grew up), I find it's startling to hear some of the racist comments (sometimes veiled, sometimes blatant) made by relatives and others. I am ashamed to admit I have not always called people out on their views. Partly because (as I commented recently on someone's blog), I am probably one of the least confrontational people you will ever meet. Partly because I'm far more articulate on paper/screen than I am verbally, on the spot. I've resolved to try to grow a spine and do better in the future. 

I'm used to being an outsider:  we moved every 3-5 years when I was growing up, so I was always "the new girl" in school;  I was "smart" and bookish in schools where sports & athleticism were the gold standard;  I was & still am one of the few/only non-Italians ("mangiacakes") to marry into my husband's Italian immigrant family. I'm a woman, in a world built by men, to benefit men.  And of course, there's nothing like losing a child, going through infertility and/or being childless to make you aware of your own "otherness" and outsider status in a pronatalist world where parenthood is the norm and it's assumed that everyone who wants a child will have one.  

BUT.  I've never been "othered" because of the colour of my skin. A childless woman of colour will still have to deal with others' perceptions of her race, on top of the same sexism & pronatalism I've had to contend with.  That's sad. And unfair. 

I'm not sure what the solution(s) is/are -- but I'm watching, listening and trying to learn. Trying to be part of the solution, and not part of the problem. I'm sure I'm going to make mistakes (I've probably made some right here).  I'll admit I'm not much for marching and waving signs and chanting slogans, even when there's NOT a pandemic on. But reading and educating ourselves about these issues is an easy first step we can all take -- and so I have bought a few books from some of the recommended reading lists I've seen, and dusted off a few more from my TBR pile (maybe this will be the kick in the butt I need to get reading again...!). I have found a few good social media accounts to follow, recommended by bloggers and Instagrammers I respect. And I am looking at some local organizations that I might want to donate to. 

What gives me hope is that I see others around me thinking and talking and posting about what's been going on, and what they can do to help create lasting & meaningful change. I know "hashtag activism" is cheap, and not everyone will go above and beyond the memes and #blackoutTuesday squares they've posted. But some will, and that's progress. 

I'm also encouraged by the numbers of young people I'm seeing at the protests. A young cousin of mine took it upon herself to stage a one-woman protest, holding up a "Black Lives Matter" sign at a busy intersection in her very white suburb near a large west coast U.S. city this week. She said she had a few people yelling rude things at her, but she got far more friendly waves and "thumbs up" gestures and horns honking in approval.  I'm proud of her. 

I'm also hopeful because a couple of the black activists that I've been following have said that THEY are hopeful, that something seems different to them this time around. Read this Vox interview (or listen to the podcast) with writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, for example. 

What do you think?  What (if anything) gives you hope for the future? 

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Right now

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

May was Full Month #2 of self-isolation/sheltering in place/social distancing/quarantine/whatever you want to call it.  I have been out of the house exactly once in the 82 days since March 12 -- on April 2nd to drop off Great-Nephew's Easter goodies.  This is not counting walks around the neighbourhood, which we've been starting to do more frequently since the nicer weather (finally!!) arrived, gradually building up our time & distance. Dh has been out slightly more often -- once a week or so for groceries/prescriptions and the last few Saturdays to pick up takeout food for dinner. 

I feel like some of these answers will be repetitive from previous months, since not a lot has been going on... but here goes!  

ReadingMy COVID reading drought/slowdown continues. :( 
I read just ONE book in May (reviewed on this blog & tagged "2020 books"):  

So far this year, I've read 14 books.  I'm currently at 47% of my Goodreads 2020 Reading Challenge goal of 30 books, and (despite slacking off this month) I'm still 2 books ahead of schedule -- not as much of a cushion as I had previously, but still a bit of one. (While I've been having difficulty focusing on books right now, dh has been blazing through one after another since we've been housebound. He hasn't been keeping track of numbers, but needless to say, he's easily outdoing me!)  

Current read(s):  
  • "The Death of Expertise" by Tom Nichols. This one has been on my shelf for quite a while now... and I would say it's even more relevant today than when it was published in 2017. It's well written & I agree with the general premise. But I'm finding it a bit of a slog at the moment. I'm thinking something lighter for my next read...! 
(Very) sadly, we haven't been back to our local mega-bookstore since March 12th.  :(  Most non-mall stores were allowed to reopen (with social distancing measures in place) on May 19th, but we've been in no hurry to return...! I have, however, been buying e-books for my Kobo e-reader and Amazon Kindle phone app -- most of them older titles bought at deep discounts ($5 or less), but some recent releases too.  A few recently purchased titles:  
I mentioned in a previous post that I've been following a Facebook Readathon of "Rilla of Ingleside" by L.M. Montgomery.  We're getting towards the end of that book, and I will be sad to see the discussion end. On my D.E. Stevenson fan group, we are almost finished reading & discussing "The Baker's Daughter," one of my favourites. No decision yet on which book of hers we'll tackle next!  

WatchingI watched the last few episodes of "World on Fire" on PBS Sunday nights this past month, and now begin the wait for season 2...!  I'm also still watching and enjoying "Mrs. America" on FX (Hulu in the States). There's still two more episodes to come, I think. 

CBC's Gem streaming service has started running episodes of "Normal People," based on Sally Rooney's novel, which I read last fall -- two episodes per week for six weeks. (It's on Hulu in the States, and was on the BBC in the UK earlier this year.)  I watched the first two episodes on my laptop this weekend (can't seem to get Gem on my smart TV, at least not without jumping through a lot of hoops). The book was wonderful;  the TV adaptation (so far) is exquisite. Just beautifully done. Catch it if you can! (And now I'm thinking about following along with a re-read of the novel!) 

Listening:  Although construction on the townhouses behind our building was completed almost a year ago, work has continued, on & off, on finishing touches such as decks and landscaping. And since the advent of nicer weather, the workmen & equipment have been out in full force, starting at 7 a.m. (!) & continuing into the supper hour. Over the past few weeks, they have been planting dozens and dozens of trees around the property, and then blowing in a fresh layer of topsoil around them from a truck with a long hose. It's kind of interesting to watch, and I am grateful for all the greenery.

But yeah -- it can be NOISY!  

Following:  In reading up on "Normal People" the TV show (see above), I discovered there is an entire Instagram account devoted to Connell's chain!!  -- with 173,000 followers!! (so far!) lol  

Drinking:  Not much, since we finished off our last bottle of chardonnay! (gasp!!)(lol) Beer & liquor stores have been open throughout the pandemic as an "essential service" (!), but I have no desire to go there yet. Some of our larger supermarkets do sell beer & wine now (our archaic liquor laws have been loosened up a bit in recent years), so I might get dh to pick up a bottle or two next time he goes for groceries...  ;)  

Eating:  As I mentioned in a recent post, dh finally caved on the subject of ordering takeout for dinner a few weeks ago (not coincidentally, after he heard his brother had had rotisserie chicken from one of our favourite family chain restaurants, lol  ;)  ).  Since then, we've been ordering takeout on Saturday nights. It's not quite as much fun as going out on Saturday nights as was our custom, but it does help to make Saturdays a little more special, & gives us (me!) something to look forward to. :) We've had rotisserie chicken, wood-oven pizzas, spaghetti rapini agli e olio and a selection from our favourite Chinese buffet chain restaurant. Depending on what we order, there are often leftovers for another dinner or lunch later in the week too. 

Buying (besides books, lol):  Not much!  Most non-mall stores just started reopening (with social distancing measures in place);  I will admit I'm not in any big hurry to go to any of them.  There may possibly be a visit to the drugstore in my future soon. We also desperately need a new frying pan, as the non-stick coating on our current one is starting to come off (yuck).  We'll see...  I also just ordered some reusable cloth face masks from Old Navy, in anticipation of the day when we start venturing out more frequently. The sock masks I made are fine in a pinch, but if we start needing more, I don't want to deplete my entire sock drawer to make them, lol. I also threw a few cloth hairbands into my order. (See "Wanting," below!) 

I did buy some lovely sterling silver jewelry from my favourite crafter during her last sale, and recently received the pieces I had ordered in the mail. Now just to be able to WEAR them somewhere outside the house...!  

Wearing:  Since the advent of the warmer weather, I've been wearing my capri-length yoga pants around the house :) and even shorts for some of our walks. :)  Number of times I've worn jeans and a bra since March 12th:  ONCE (on April 2nd, for under an hour, when we went to deliver little Great-Nephew's Easter gifts). I did try on my jeans once recently, just to make sure I could still do up the zipper (happily, I could!).  ;)  

Wanting:  I will repeat my wish from last month for a HAIRCUT!! lol  It's been THIRTEEN WEEKS since our last trims on Feb. 28th (normally, we go every six weeks, like clockwork) and we are both feeling pretty shaggy.  Dh has been cutting his own hair, & so far hasn't made too much of a mess of it. ;)  I've taken to slicking back my bangs with a can of extra-strength mousse that I picked up by accident (regular usually works fine), but which has come in VERY handy. I will also sometimes add a bit of styling wax. I usually wear my hair parted on the side, but it's been hanging into my face in all kinds of weird ways, so I switched to parting it down the middle & combing it away from my face... which is slightly better, but looks like a mullet out of the 1970s. :p  Dh has offered to cut my bangs for me, but so far, I've resisted the temptation...! 

Trying:  To stay upbeat despite the barrage of recent bad news (COVID-related and otherwise), especially from south of the border.  The nicer weather & sunlight helps.  

Missing:  Little Great-Nephew. :(  (And the dog, lol.)  Aside from that brief behind-glass hello on April 2nd, we haven't seen him since March 5th -- nearly three months!!  :(   Dh wants to do another visit soon, so I am bracing myself emotionally... 

Also missing my own family -- especially since it's not looking very likely that I'll be able to travel to see them this summer. :(   Even if I was willing to fly (which I'm not keen to do yet), flights are limited right now, and even if we drove, the province where my parents live is asking out of province visitors to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. I just don't think it would be worth it. Just crossing my fingers and hoping and praying that the situation will improve by Christmastime...!  :(  

Loving: The warmer, sunnier weather, and my freshly cleaned balcony windows/door!  

Feeling:  At the moment, COVID-19-related concerns have taken a back seat to the protests & violence happening in the U.S., and particularly in & around Minneapolis, where I have a lot of family. :(  There were even protests further north in Fargo, North Dakota, where I also have family. 

Stay safe, American friends. <3 

Monday, June 1, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: Take off, eh?

I'm a child of the space age. I was just a few months old when Alan Shepard became the first NASA astronaut to travel into space on May 5, 1961. I was 8 when the first human (Neil Armstrong) set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, and not quite 12 when the last one visited there.

(I will admit the novelty of those moonwalks wore off after a while. I remember being ticked off that my Saturday morning cartoons were cancelled for hours of astronaut coverage. ;)  (This was not a multichannel/PVR universe then either.) Still, I've always thought that if I'd known that last moon visit WAS the last one, I might have paid more attention....)  

Dh, for his part, was a huge NASA geek growing up, and was the founder and president of his junior high rocket club. :)

So we were both glued to the television set on Saturday when the Space X rocket took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida, headed for the International Space Station -- the first American rocket to take off from American soil with American astronauts in 10 years. I will admit to feeling a few chills, and even a few tears in my eyes. And being awestruck, watching the REUSABLE booster rocket return to earth just a few minutes later, and lower itself neatly onto a landing pad aboard a ship!!  Mindboggling!! 

However -- I couldn't resist posting on Facebook: 

(Perhaps you have to be a Canadian -- and perhaps a Canadian of a certain age -- to appreciate the reference?)(I just got a shock when I realized this is going back FORTY YEARS now!!) 

I checked on Twitter, and I wasn't the only one...! ;) 

Beauty, eh?  ;) 

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