Saturday, October 31, 2020

My blog is a teenager :)

(Taking my cue from Lori's "Not So Unlucky 13" post, back in May!)  :)  

October 31, 2007
  • I was 46 years old, married for 22 years. 
  • I was in my 21st year of working in the corporate communications department of one of Canada's major banks. (Dh worked for the same bank too.)  
    • We spent 2+ hours (round trip) commuting (by car & commuter train, door to door to door) to and from work ever day. 
    • October 31st was year-end for my company, with results reported in late November/early December. My department was in charge of all non-financial aspects of the annual report, and October through late January was generally the busiest and most stressful time of the year for us. 
  • We had been living in a smallish three-bedroom house with a big back yard in a pleasant suburb near Toronto for 17 years. We thought we would be there for a few years & then move up to something larger as our family expanded...  
  • Our two nephews were 19 & 15 years old. 
  • It was 9 years after the stillbirth of our daughter, Katie, and 6 years since our last fertility treatment. The 10-year "anniversary" of her loss was looming large in my mind, and I found myself thinking a lot about her and what had happened. 
  • We'd been facilitating the local chapter of a pregnancy loss support group for 7 years, after spending more than a year there as clients ourselves. 
  • I'd been posting & lurking on several online forums for pregnancy loss, infertility and even a (very) few that I'd found for childless-not-by-choice women. And I'd recently discovered blogs -- including Stirrup Queens and Coming2Terms. I was intrigued, and posted a few tentative comments.
  • On Halloween night, I held my breath & hit "publish" on my own very first blog post
October 31, 2020:   
  • I will be 60 on my next birthday (!) and we celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary this past summer. 
  • I was "reorganized" out of my job in July 2014 (at age 53) and took early retirement when my severance ran out. Dh lost his job in April 2013 and did the same. An earlier-than-expected retirement for both of us, but we have not regretted it!  
  • Four years ago, we sold our house of unfulfilled dreams, downsized our belongings and moved into a condo in another suburb on the other side of the city, closer to dh's brother and his family. 
  • Our two nephews are grown up (ages 31 & 28) and married to two lovely young women. One has a son of his own, who will turn one year old, a few weeks from now. :) We love being an aunt & uncle (and now a great-aunt & great-uncle!)!  (It's NOT a substitute for parenting -- but still pretty cool on its own terms...!) 
  • Katie would be 22 years old (!). I still think of her every day. (And we still visit her at the cemetery every time we are back in our old neighbourhood.)
  • We stopped facilitating the pregnancy loss support group in late 2009, but remain in touch with many of the friends we made there. I am still active in several online forums for childless-not-by-choice women. 
  • We're currently living in the middle of a global pandemic that has restricted our ability to travel and limited the time we've been able to spend with family & friends (including my aging parents). :(  It's a good thing we love our condo because we've spent a lot of time here over the past 8 months...! 
  • And... I'm still here, still blogging! And still very grateful for all that blogging has brought to my life these past 13 years. :) 
I don't want to think too much about what might happen over the next 13 years... (for one thing, I will be... HOW OLD??!!). If the past 13 to 22 years has taught me anything, it's that life is unpredictable and we can never know what the future has in store for us, both for better and not-so-good. 

But I will never regret hitting "post" that October night, 13 years ago!  :)  

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

"Convenience Store Woman" by Sayaka Murata

"Convenience Store Woman" by Sayaka Murata is/was the October pick for my Gateway Women book club (in which we read & discuss books where pregnancy & children are not main plot points). 

Keiko Furakura -- single, childless and 36 years old -- has spent half her life working part-time in a convenience store. If Japan is a society of conformists, Keiko is at once both a misfit (no husband, no children, no proper job) and -- on the job, at least -- the ultimate conformist --  happily absorbing the speech patterns and dress styles of her co-workers as well as the contents of the training manuals and even the food -- to the point where it's hard to tell where Keiko ends and the store begins, and vice versa. “When I think that my body is entirely made up of food from this store,” says Keiko, “I feel like I’m as much a part of the store as the magazine racks or the coffee machine.” 

This is not a long book (almost more of a novella), but it presents a lot of food for thought about identity, belonging, "normalcy," the pressure to conform, the working world (being a "corporate cog") and what society expects of us.  Kirkus notes in its review: 

Murata provides deceptively sharp commentary on the narrow social slots people—particularly women—are expected to occupy and how those who deviate can inspire bafflement, fear, or anger in others. Indeed, it’s often more interesting to observe surrounding characters’ reactions to Keiko than her own, sometimes leaving the protagonist as a kind of prop.

It's quirky and comical in parts -- but there are also some dark undercurrents. The Guardian review calls it "sublimely weird";  the New Yorker, in its review, calls it "eerie" and remarks on "the creepiness of [Keiko's] cheerful obedience to the manual." (Someone in our GW book club discussion suggested Keiko might be autistic, while others saw parallels to "Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.")  In part, it's a love story -- where the romance is not with a man (although there is a potential love interest in the story -- of sorts...!) but the store itself. (This is made abundantly clear in the essay written by Murata that follows the main text at the end of the book.)  

I gave "Convenience Store Woman" 3.5 stars on Goodreads, rounded up to 4 -- because it's so original and it made me think. 

This was Book #37 read to date in 2020 (Book #2 finished in October), bringing me to 123% of my 2020 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 30 books. I have completed & now exceeded my challenge goal for the year by 7 books, and am (for the moment, anyway...!) 13 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2020 tagged as "2020 books." 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

"Rage" by Bob Woodward

"Rage," the new book by legendary Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, offers a behind-the-scenes look at the latter half of the Trump presidency.  His first book about the Trump White House was 2018's "Fear," which I reviewed here

Woodward began examining the administration's national security and intelligence operations in the fall of 2019.  Former Cabinet members James Mattis, Rex Tillerson and Dan Coats were obviously primary sources. But his focus necessarily shifted in early 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic intervened and quickly became the defining story of the Trump presidency.  

More than in some of his previous books (that I've read, & that I can remember, anyway), Woodward inserts himself into the story, sharing verbatim excerpts from the transcripts of his 16 taped conversations with the president (plus one more where he just took notes). And he weighs in at the very end of the book with his personal judgment of Trump's presidency. (You can probably guess...)

This book, like all of Woodward's books, is meticulously researched and documented. It's well written, readable (in terms of the quality of writing, anyway) and insightful. And yet... I have to admit, I had a tough time slogging through this one. It took me forever (more than a month, anyway). I chalk it up to the subject matter, the heavy use of verbatim quotes (with Trump rambling all over the place as usual) and perhaps the timing (just before the U.S. election -- plus other stressful distractions competing for my attention). I'm a political junkie, I like to be well informed and I love a well-written book on politics &/or political figures -- but seriously, there is only so much about Trump that even I can take -- and this close to the critical U.S. election, perhaps it was just a little too much. Your mileage may vary...! 

I debated the Goodreads rating for this one, but I ultimately settled on four stars (because it really is an important & well done book). 

This was Book #36 read to date in 2020 (Book #1 finished in October), bringing me to 120%!! of my 2020 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 30 books. I have completed & now exceeded my challenge goal for the year by 6 books, and am (for the moment, anyway...!) 12 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2020 tagged as "2020 books." 

Friday, October 23, 2020

Friday night odds & ends

  •  All day yesterday, I kept looking for Mel's Friday blog roundup. I usually read it on my phone as I'm eating breakfast -- but it wasn't there. I kept checking during the day, and still nothing. I thought, "Gee, that's odd -- Mel hardly ever misses a roundup!"  Then it finally hit me:  IT WASN'T FRIDAY. (lol) The days all run together sometimes when you're retired, and even more so in COVID times...!  (The round-up was there as usual this morning.) 
    • My gynecologist appointment was Wednesday... when we got home, my family doctor's office returned my call about flu shots & asked if we could come Friday morning. We said yes. But Fridays are usually housecleaning days for us. Thursdays we do laundry (if there's going to be lint flying around, it might as well happen just before we vacuum, right?  lol).  So we did the laundry Wednesday night and cleaned on Thursday, by which time I had no idea what day it was anymore...!
  • We recently discovered that CBC-TV has been showing "Downton Abbey" reruns, late on weekday afternoons. Some days it's on for an hour, sometimes an hour & a half and sometimes two hours (two episodes). (I suspect the episodes have been trimmed a bit to allow for commercials that weren't shown on PBS, or the original-original BBC showings -- but, whatever! -- I'll take it, lol.)  We stumbled on to an episode just before the end of season 1, and we're now early in season 3.  I started watching later in the series when it was on PBS (although -- thanks to my friends' chatter in the office and online, I was already pretty familiar with all the characters and the main plotlines...!), and we caught up on several previous seasons during a PBS marathon weekend ;)  but we have yet to see the earlier episodes of season one. It's a great distraction from things like COVID-19 & U.S. elections & fibroids (although we just came through the episode about the Spanish flu pandemic earlier this week...!). Dh -- who used to scoff & roll his eyes and then head off to bed early while I watched -- is now completely hooked!! (lol)  
  • Lyz Lenz had a great article in Glamour last week:  "The Power—And Threat—Of Mothers Like Amy Coney Barrett."  The subhead reads:  "In America, “motherhood” is a credential for a certain kind of mother. The bad mothers are the rest of us."  (Waving wildly:  Hello... And those of us who aren't mothers at all...?? Where does this leave US?) (There is one brief mention in the article of "women who are not mothers.")  I really like Lenz's writing and her argument is bang on -- as far as it goes -- but I do wish she'd stretch her logic just a wee bit further, and spare more than a single thought for those of us who aren't mothers at all when she talks about the deification of motherhood (but only certain types of mothers). 
    • That said, it's a great article & worth a read. Sample passages: 
      • "She’s a mother, so you can trust her. She’s a mother, so she must be good. Never mind that motherhood should not be a factor in a person’s job interview. No, it should not be used against someone. It is also not a qualification."
      • "But in touting the motherhood of Coney Barrett, Republicans haven’t just insulated Coney Barrett from Democrats’ questioning. They also remind the public that a woman’s worth is primarily a measure of her reproductive capabilities."
      • "America has long lauded this certain kind of mother—white, successful, walks into church holding hands with her husband, has dinner on the table at 6 p.m., with a circle of children around her. Most mothers in America do not look like this." 

The Pandemic Project, Part 4

Back in March, I posted about my voluntary participation in a survey from the University of Texas. The Pandemic Project is studying how people's lives are being affected during the COVID-19 pandemic, how they are coping and how reactions are changing over time. When I responded to the first survey, I consented to be contacted for followup. I received an invitation to complete a second survey in May (and posted about the results here), and a third survey in July (results here).  

I consented to be contacted for another follow-up survey, and received (and completed) my fourth survey today (although the title of the email read "The Pandemic Project Version 5"?).  :)  The surveys take about 15-20 minutes to complete, and at the end, you receive scores in certain categories and suggestions on coping strategies (which can be emailed to you). 

It's been interesting to track my scores in the same categories from survey to survey to survey! 
  • On a scale of 0 to 10, my Social Connection score was 7.3, which is higher than average. "This is a very good sign given the restrictions on social behavior," I was told. This is the same score I received in the second survey in May and the third survey in July.  In the first survey, my Social Connection score was not quite as high -- 6.2, or average. 
  • My COVID Obsession score was 4.8 this time around -- in the mid-range. My score here has dropped considerably -- from a whopping 10 out of 10 in the first survey in March (!), to 7.1 in the second to 6 in the third. This is a good thing, I think. ;)  (Although I also think that perhaps my U.S. Election Obsession might have taken over, and my score in that department would probably be of more concern...!)  Nevertheless, I've still been advised that "In the days and weeks ahead, it might be healthy to pull back from your habits of watching all of latest news, rumors, theories, and stories about the outbreak... Watching or reading too much news about the coronavirus is bad for your health." 
  • My Healthy Habits score was 5.4 -- the same as it was in the July survey -- which means that my general health habits are about average. In other words, my life style is generally good but there is still room for improvement. This score was down from 6.2 in the first two surveys.  
  • My COVID-related Anxiety and Distress score was 6.7 -- mid-range, and similar to the average person. "Your score suggests that you have some anxiety and distress about the outbreak which makes sense." This was down from 7.3 in the second and third surveys, although up just slightly from 6.6 on the first survey.
Did you take the quiz?  What did you learn from your results?  (If you haven't taken part yet but this has piqued your curiosity, check it out here.) 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

State of the uterus: Waiting

Yesterday was my appointment with the gynecologist. I went fully prepared for the endometrial biopsy that my family doctor had asked for -- took some extra ibuprofen before I left, wore a pantyliner. 

And... he didn't do it. Didn't even have to take my clothes off, lol -- we just chatted. He wants to do a hysteroscopy & d&c instead. He explained that the endometrial biopsy would only be able to sample a small area of tissue. This way, he can take a larger sample of tissue (the ultrasound showed some slight thickening of the lining), remove any polyps that might be there and generally have a look around... especially since my bicornuate uterus sometimes makes that difficult to do. 

So that will be Friday, Nov. 27th. It's an outpatient procedure at a local hospital (the same one where my SIL had her hysterectomy three years ago with the same dr).  They will put me under to do it. He said they could also do it at a clinic, but because I have high blood pressure, it's safer to do it in the hospital. I'll need to go to the hospital about a week in advance for bloodwork, and self-isolate 48 hours in advance. (I said that wouldn't be a problem since I'm at home for days on end these days anyway...!)  

I'm not especially thrilled about it, but, whatever. I'm glad things are progressing. I just wish I didn't have to wait five weeks. Hopefully I won't have to wait too long after that for the results. My mother said, "He'll probably do a d&c on you"  when I told her what was going on. She was right! 

I did like him. He was quite thorough in his explanations & answered my questions -- didn't seem like he was trying to rush me out the door. He asked about my reproductive history, of course, and when I told him I had one pregnancy, no children, and why, he shook his head and said, "That's a terrible thing to go through." Thanks, doc. 

No spotting today or yesterday. Today is four weeks (!) since the spotting started. It doesn't seem like it's been that long... so perhaps those five weeks until my procedure will pass by just as quickly? I hope so... 

Off to our family doctor's office tomorrow for flu shots! 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Blogging & branding

As I was mulling over the subject of "coming out" as a childless person, and who we tell our stories to and why, Brooke had an interesting post about the book she is writing about Eliza (yay!), and the subject of self-promotion. Here's part of what she said (but do go over & read the whole post!):   

A couple of years ago, I started looking into agents and publishers and what I discovered is that to publish nonfiction, they mostly want you to already have some kind of platform on social media.

Here's the thing, though: I don't want to be a public figure. I don't want to run social media like it's my job. I want to have private accounts, to accept followers I know, and to post photos of my toddler eating a hunk of cheese without second guessing whether it's the kind of content people want to see (of course it is, right? We're all here for the cheese content). I don't want strangers to DM me and criticize me/my kids/my parenting/my grief. I do not have thick enough skin for that nonsense.

So I started talking to a friend and fellow baby-loss mom about the process of self-publishing. I'll be honest: as someone who reads a lot and got my PhD in a profession that is known for the slogan "publish or perish" when it comes to academic publishing, my initial feelings about self-publishing were that it was a kind of failure. It was what you do when you can't really get published. But the thing about really getting published, especially nonfiction memoir books, is that it takes more than writing talent. It enormous effort, lots of rejection, and a willingness to market and brand yourself.

That last part is where I hit a wall. I don't want to sell my book. I don't want to market it or advertise it or ask people to pre-order it. I don't want to be a brand. I don't want that pressure. I just want to make it available. 

I get this.  I've always said that I blog first and foremost for myself.  My blog is more of a "personal" blog than a "crusading" or promotional blog. As someone who will soon hit 60 (!) and who will mark her 13th (!!) blogoversary this month, I guess I now fall into what Gateway Women's Jody Day terms the "childless elders" segment of the childless-not-by-choice (CNBC) online community.  I'm really happy to know that so many people have found my blog over the years and relate to it in some way -- that at least some of my posts resonate with them and have even helped them. It's been pretty amazing to have been among the first few women blogging about this CNBC life, and to watch our community grow and flourish. I'm floored by the numbers of younger women taking up the torch these days -- maybe not on blogs, but on platforms like Instagram and Twitter and on podcasts (I think podcasts are the blogs of 2020;  it seems like everyone is starting one these days...!). 

I love my blog;  I'm so happy I've had it as an outlet for the past 13 years. I'm comfortable with it as a way of expressing myself and connecting with others who are childless not by choice -- and somehow, I keep finding things to write about. I reach out and comment on other people's blogs, if I think I have something to say, and I "like" & sometimes comment on CNBC social media posts. But as far as actively promoting/marketing my blog -- creating a "brand," building a "platform," trying to build an audience and monitoring my stats anxiously -- that's not me.  I'm not knocking those of you who do any of those things;  in fact, I admire you for putting in the time & effort and having the energy and the marketing savvy. 

But, as I admitted in the comments to Brooke on her blog post, when it comes to self-promotion, I'm basically lazy, lol.  I'm still not "out of the closet" enough to share my posts on my current (personal) social media accounts. Most of my "real life" family members & friends still don't know about my blog (although some of them know that I have "online friends"), and I'm still not comfortable sharing everything in it with them.  I know some people keep separate accounts for for public/CNBC & personal stuff, but that seems like a lot of extra work to me (plus, I think I'd live in dread as to whether I accidentally posted content meant for one account on another!). I don't want to live by a posting schedule and then feel the pressure of writing to meet those deadlines (I did enough of that at work! lol). I like being able to write what I want, when I want, when the mood strikes me. I do try to take part in Mel's #MicroblogMondays, and to write a "Right Now" post at or near the first of each month, and reviews of the books I read, shortly after I finish them, but if they don't get done, or done exactly on time, it's not a big deal.  

As Brooke said, "I don't want to be a public figure. I don't want to run social media like it's my job... I don't want to be a brand. I don't want that pressure. I just want to make it available." -- "it" in her case being her book;  in my case, my blog.  

What do you think? 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

"Coming out" as childless/free

October 11th was National Coming Out Day in the United States, marking the anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. According to Wikipedia

National Coming Out Day (NCOD) is an annual LGBT awareness day observed on October 11, to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people (and sometimes other groups typically grouped within the LGBT community) to "come out of the closet". First celebrated in the United States in 1988, the initial idea was grounded in the feminist and gay liberation spirit of the personal being political, and the emphasis on the most basic form of activism being coming out to family, friends and colleagues, and living life as an openly lesbian or gay person. The foundational belief is that homophobia thrives in an atmosphere of silence and ignorance, and that once people know that they have loved ones who are lesbian or gay, they are far less likely to maintain homophobic or oppressive views.

HRC (Human Rights Campaign) says of our most basic tools is the power of coming out. One out of every two Americans has someone close to them who is gay or lesbian. For transgender people, that number is only one in 10.

Coming out — whether it is as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer — STILL MATTERS. When people know someone who is LGBTQ, they are far more likely to support equality under the law. Beyond that, our stories can be powerful to each other.

In honor of National Coming Out Day, HRC celebrates all who have come out as LGBTQ – that takes bravery, and we commend you. Every person who speaks up changes more hearts and minds, and creates new advocates for equality.

The Awareness Days entry for NCOD says: 

There is no question that homophobia and ignorance builds on silence so it is time to end that silence. Being proud of who you are and who you live will make you happier within yourself. Research has shown that if somebody KNOWS somebody who is part of the LGBT community, they are much less likely to be homophobic.

*** *** *** 

Now, I'm not "coming out" as LGBTQ.  :)  I'm happily heterosexual (or cis-gender, or whatever the current terminology is). 

But I think there is a lot that many of us within the childless-not-by-choice (& likely also the childfree by choice) community relate to when we talk about the LGBTQ community, and "coming out."  People without children may be a minority group -- but we're a large, growing and unrecognized one (not to mention often misunderstood). As CNBCers, we have struggled to define who we are, if we aren't parents, to make our presence and voices and unique concerns heard within highly pronatalist societies, and to assert our rights to fair and equal treatment in the workplace vis-a-vis parents. In doing so, we've drawn strength and inspiration from examples of the LGBTQ rights movement and other social justice movements that have worked to bring greater equality to under-recognized and under-supported minority groups. Some of us have talked about the parallels, and our belief that, as a community, as a movement, childless and childfree people today are where the civil rights movement was in the 1960s, and the gay rights movement was in the 1970s & 80s.  Jody Day of Gateway Women has called us "the biggest diversity group HR has never heard of."   

Some CNBCers have spoken or written about "coming out" to our friends and family members. This was the subject of discussion recently on a private forum I belong to. 

I said that I think "coming out," for us, is a somewhat different thing than "coming out" as LGBTQ. (Would our use of "coming out" qualify as co-opting LGBTQ language? I wonder, would they resent others using this terminology? Or maybe they don't care?) People might suspect that their son or daughter or sibling or friend or co-worker is LGBTQ -- but there's no way of knowing for certain unless that person chooses to "come out of the closet" and tell you. 

As a CNBCer, most of the people in my life know I don't have children. Those who don't know usually ask & find out pretty quickly. My lack of children may be something that I find difficult to talk about sometimes, I may (still) feel a certain amount of shame about it -- but it's not a secret;  it's not something that I try to hide. (You won't get very far pretending to be a parent, right?)  So I don't think the simple fact of telling someone I have no children qualifies as "coming out" as CNBC. 

What do we mean when we talk about "coming out" as a childless/free person, then?  I suppose different people might have different qualifying criteria. (If you've been trying to conceive but decided not to continue with fertility treatments or adoption efforts, and then break that news to your family, I think that might qualify as "coming out.") What am I telling people when I tell them that I don't have children? What do they THINK I'm telling them?  What do they think they know about me when they hear that?  What kind of a picture do they get about my life?  And how accurate is it? 

Because, of course, there are sooooo many stereotypes that parents have about people without children. You know: we didn't want kids. Or maybe we wanted them -- but not badly enough to try IVF, or to adopt, or to use a donor egg or hire a surrogate. We're selfish. We're focused on our careers. We have lots of money!  Our time is our own!  We can sleep in on weekends! We can take fabulous trips!  (At least, in non-COVID times.) We can do whatever we want, when we want!  

Maybe they don't know that we did want children, very badly. Or maybe they know, but they don't know the full story of why we didn't -- that we never met the right partner to have a baby with. Or that we struggled with infertility &/or pregnancy loss -- how many rounds of IVF we did, or how much money it cost us, how many mornings we got up at 4 a.m. to make it to the clinic for bloodwork and ultrasounds and still make it into the office relatively on time. Do they know how many miscarriages we had, or how long we waited on the adoption list before withdrawing our names? Do they understand how difficult it is for you, still, to attend that baby shower?  

To me, "coming out" as a childless/free person means speaking out, frankly, to the people in our lives about the realities of childless/free living, both the good and the bad. Screwing up the courage to confront them about these stereotypes and correct their misguided assumptions. Educating them about the reality of our lives and our childlessness, and how it has affected us. Confronting them with the privileged (yes, privileged) role they enjoy as parents. Helping them to understand the pronatalism we face and how difficult it is to live without children -- even by choice -- in this kind of atmosphere. Enlightening them that being childless is not all about sleeping in and having extra money to spend, and that yes, as a matter of fact, we DO mind that it's always us working overtime and coming into the office over Christmas week while they spend time with their families. (We have families we like to spend time with too, even if they don't include kids that we gave birth to or parent.) 

These can be... are... difficult conversations to have. 

Do I practice what I preach? Am I "out of the closet"?  Do I speak my truth and live authentically and openly as a childless-not-by-choice person.  

I have to admit... ummm... no. Not entirely. I'm getting better at doing it, as I get older. But there are others who are far more open about their childlessness and the impact it has had on their lives. 

Someone on the forum where we were discussing this mentioned "coming out" in terms of (nervously) sharing some CNBC content on social media during World Childless Week -- and being surprised by the supportive responses she received. "Coming out" on social media is certainly one way of doing it -- and it's not quite so direct/in your face as confronting people personally... so perhaps it's a good way to dip your toe in the water, so to speak. I have posted and shared a few things around Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month, and our daughter's "anniversary" dates -- and I too have been surprised by the number of "likes" and "hearts" and sympathetic comments I've received.  For some reason, I find it easier to post about my stillborn daughter and pregnancy loss generally than about being childless, though. Clearly, I have further progress to make on this front...! 

My blog is certainly one place where I can be the authentic childless me. Some people choose to "come out" by being open with their family & friends about their blog and about their involvement in the childless/free community. There are only a few of my "real life" family & friends who know about my blog, although a few have stumbled onto it by accident -- and one posted the link to one of my posts on our family Facebook group (!).  When that happened (8 years ago now), I panicked & took my blog offline for a few days until the dust settled. These days I'm a little more laid back on the subject (I think?) -- although I'm still not handing out the URL, lol.  

By and large, we probably have more to gain than to lose by being honest with ourselves and those around us about the truth of our childless lives. But at the same time, we have to recognize that everyone's situation and comfort level is different.  I don't think we owe it to anyone but ourselves to "come out." We don't owe explanations to anyone. It's your right to choose who gets the privilege of hearing your story, and how much of it. (The director's cut with all the gory details, or the Reader's Digest version?) 

I'm still mulling this all over... these are just a few initial thoughts. I would love to hear what you think! 

Monday, October 19, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: Annoying things & small pleasures

Annoying things: 

  • Still spotting. :p  (Going on four weeks now.) And feeling vaguely PMS-y, and tired.  Both dreading & looking forward to my gynecologist appointment on Wednesday, and to getting some possible solutions for getting rid of these fibroids (hopefully for good!). 
  • Another gloomy day outside. It's 10:30 a.m. as I'm typing this and I'm still in my pajamas, which gives you an idea of what kind of day it is and the kind of mood I'm in...! 
  • People who (still!!) aren't taking this pandemic (and the need to wear masks and maintain social distancing) seriously. 
  • The amount of time it's taking me to finish my current book. (It's well-written, but it's about the Trump presidency... need I say more??! lol) 

Small pleasures: 

  • Being able to stay in my PJs until late in the morning (one of the perqs of retirement...!)(not to mention retirement during a pandemic, lol -- not much chance of having people drop by unexpectedly to visit, etc....!). :) 
  • Chatting (via Zoom) with several different groups of ALI & CNBC friends on the weekend.  There is strength & comfort in numbers!!  
  • Also: sitting in on a Zoom discussion about L.M. Montgomery's "The Blue Castle," along with 60+ (!) other LMM academics & "kindred spirits"/fans.  Most of it will be posted on YouTube (although the conversation continued for another half hour or so after the recording was turned off). 
  • Dh surprised me with some Lindor chocolates on his last trip to the grocery store. :) 
  • Admiring the beautiful fall colours in the treetops behind the townhouses in back of our condo building. 

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

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Odds & ends

  • COVID-19 case rates hereabouts (locally, provincially and nationally) are skyrocketing (again). The cities of Toronto & Ottawa and the region of Peel rolled back to a modified version of Stage 2 last week, followed by the region where I live this weekend. Among other things, indoor dining and drinking has been shut down. So have movie theatres and gyms, and stricter limits have been placed on group gatherings. There has been a run on portable outdoor heaters that may help extend the patio dining season. (It's getting a bit chilly for outdoor eating, especially once the sun goes down...!).
  • Being retired, without children, I probably haven't been spending as much time on Zoom calls as some of you have. But I have not one, not two, but THREE Zoom calls scheduled for this afternoon, & one more on Sunday morning (three with various segments of my ALI/CNBC tribe, and one a virtual forum for L.M. Montgomery academics & fans). Yikes!  (I do enjoy these calls, but they can be tiring!)
  • Little Great-Nephew is 11 months old today. We have not seen him in a month. :(  His dad posted some photos from their recent trip to a pumpkin patch this morning.  He's not going to remember any of this crazy first year, of course -- but we sure will.  It's doubtful we're going to be able to celebrate his first birthday with him next month. :(  I SOOOOOOO MUCH resent the time during this precious first year with him that COVID has stolen from us. :(  
  • On the flip side of the coin, I also resent the time that I'm not getting to spend with my aging parents. I don't really see any practical way to getting there for Christmas this year. I'm trying not to think about it too much, but it sucks. :(  
  • My mom called me this week (about something she needed me to email for her) -- and I took the opportunity to tell her about my upcoming gynecologist visit and why I'm going, and to ask her some questions about my aunts & their issues.  I tried to keep the tone light so that she won't worry too much (I hope), and she didn't seem too concerned, thankfully -- perhaps because she's known so many people who have dealt with this (and she told me about a few of them, besides my aunts).  There is strength & comfort in numbers and in other people's stories...! 
  • On the bright side: it's a beautiful, clear, sunny day, and I can see some lovely fall colours in the tops of the trees behind the townhouses outside. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

State of the uterus: I have an appointment

A brief update:  

I now have an appointment with the gynecologist:  next Thursday afternoon. Not too bad in terms of a wait!  I'm not sure whether he will do the endometrial biopsy that day, or whether I'll have to go back for that. Good thoughts/vibes/prayers for that day would be appreciated. :) 

The receptionist asked whether I'd had a sonohystogram (I haven't). Not sure whether that will be in my future too. 

Thank you for your good wishes and stories about your own experiences with fibroids. I hate to hear that so many of you have endured this this too;  but I will admit, it does make me feel less alone to know how common they are! 

I haven't told my mother about any of this. I didn't want to worry her unnecessarily, and certainly not until I knew better what I was dealing with. I am considering telling her before I head to the gyn's office next week. She never had fibroids, but she did have a hysterectomy, 21 years ago, when she was about the same age I am now.  And I wanted to ask her some questions about my two aunts (my dad's sisters). I feel like we have a lot in common, physiologically. My younger aunt had a hysterectomy when she was in her late 30s/early 40s, after she'd had her family. I'm not sure why. And I remember my mom mentioning that my older aunt was having some bleeding issues when she was post-menopausal. I'm not sure what happened there either, but I'd like to know more. 

I'll update again after my appointment next week. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

State of the uterus: Fibroids

Yep, it's fibroids. :p  I heard from my family dr's office late this afternoon. Apparently I do have some fibroids (plural -- I thought there was one, at most?) that have grown slightly since my last ultrasounds four years ago, and a slight thickening of the uterine lining. 

As expected, they are referring me to a gynecologist for an endometrial biospy.  (I kind of figured that was coming.)  They asked if there was anyone I wanted to be referred to -- you may remember that my longtime ob-gyn retired last year -- but my sister-in-law had a hysterectomy a few years ago, and I remembered that she had some good things to say about her gynecologist, whose office is not too far away (in the same building where I had the ultrasound done, actually). So I gave her a call & got the contact info from her and passed that back to my family dr. 

Now to wait for the appointment information -- hopefully I won't have to wait too long to see him. Dh is relieved. I can't say I'm HAPPY, but I am happy that someone will be looking into it!  I need to make a list of symptoms and questions I want to ask him about. 

I'm still spotting, on & off (for almost three weeks now). 

If any of you have any experience with fibroids (especially post-menopause), I'm all ears (eyes?!)!  Also re: endometrial biopsy... I had one 20 years ago as part of my infertility workup, but that was a while ago & I don't remember a whole lot about it, other than that it did hurt a bit, but it was over quickly. 

"Despair is a free man"

As I've mentioned in some previous posts, my L.M. Montgomery Readathon group on Facebook is currently going through "The Blue Castle," possibly my all-time favourite LMM novel, and one of my all-time favourite books, period. 

We're currently on Chapter 8, and there was a line near the end that we were asked to discuss.  

First, a little background on the story so far. 

(Warning: Some potential plot spoilers ahead.) 

Our heroine, Valancy Sterling, is 29 years old and an "old maid," trapped in an ugly house with her overbearing mother and cousin, part of a large, overbearing family in the staid Ontario town of Deerwood. She's never really had a life. 

And then she learns she has less than a year to live. 

In Chapter 8, after receiving this diagnosis, Valancy spends a sleepless night, mentally reviewing the long list of indignities she's suffered in her 29 years... and finds she's not afraid of death. 

"I've been trying to please other people all my life and failed," she said. "After this, I shall please myself. I shall never pretend anything again. I've breathed an atmosphere of fibs and pretences and evasions all my life. What a luxury it will be to tell the truth! I may not be able to do much that I want to do but I won't do another thing that I don't want to do. Mother can pout for weeks -- I shan't worry over it. 'Despair is a free man -- hope is a slave.”  [emphasis mine]

One of the discussion questions for this chapter asked "What do you think she means?"  

I answered: 

The hope that something is going to change, that things are going to get better, will sometimes keep us tied to certain places or people or situations far longer than perhaps it should -- e.g., people who stay in a bad marriage because they keep hoping that their partner will change or that things are going to improve. Despair -- the hopelessness of her diagnosis -- has freed Valancy to do as she pleases with the time she has left to her. She has nothing left to lose, because she is about to lose her life, and that realization has set her free.

What I didn't say was how much this made me think of infertility -- of how the hope of having a baby keeps some of us hanging on (often by a thread) -- returning to the clinic for cycle after cycle after cycle, spending time and money and reserves of physical, mental and emotional energy that we often can't really afford, in pursuit of a dream that may or may not come true. Some do eventually meet with success... but some of us hit rock bottom -- the depths of despair (to use another LMM/Anne of Green Gables phrase ;)  ) -- the point where, like Valancy, we realize we can't live this way any longer -- and, moreover, we don't have to.  We have a choice to make:  we can continue to live like this, hoping that something (that's generally beyond our control) will change -- or we can take control of what we can and live our lives in a different way. That's the point where we regain our freedom. 

Yes, it's a life without the children we wanted, a life we didn't plan for or expect to be living. But it's a life where we're free to imagine and pursue new and perhaps more realistic dreams and goals for ourselves.  

Postscript:  After I wrote my response to the group, and had most of this post written, one of the LMM scholars who runs the group and occasionally posts about the literary allusions found in her books, weighed in with a post that identified the original quote as a proverb attributed to Ali, a Muslim caliph and son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He also directed us to a post on his website, which adds: 

Simon Ockley, who compiled ʿAlī’s sayings in his book The History of the Saracens, offers the following explanation of this proverb in a footnote: “So long as a man is in expectation, his thoughts are in suspense, and he is in a slavish condition; but as soon as he gives over his pursuit, he is free and at liberty.”

I also noticed, browsing through my blog reader, that Mel, Mali and Jess all had recent posts dealing with hope. More food for thought! :) 

Monday, October 12, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: Thanksgiving turkey for two

Today is Thanksgiving (Canadian Thanksgiving) and a statutory holiday hereabouts. As I mentioned in a previous post, we knew we were on our own this year because of COVID-19, and -- unlike some previous years when we've not been invited anywhere & just wound up eating whatever -- I wanted to try to make it at least a little special & festive (not to mention use the opportunity as a dress rehearsal for Christmas, since it's pretty likely we'll be here and on our own for that holiday too...).  

We decided that an entire turkey for just two people was a little much (especially for two neophytes in that department -- although I have helped my mom with the Christmas turkey for many years) -- plus, we're lazy, lol -- so we decided on a turkey breast. When we got to the supermarket on Thursday, we couldn't find an actual breast, at least not one like I saw in my Google research. They had fresh turkey cutlets, but I wasn't sure that was what we wanted. Then dh found the freezer case with frozen Butterball boneless turkey breast roasts. They had ones with both white & dark meat and one that came with stuffing in the middle, but we settled on a plain old white meat one. 

We decided to have our Thanksgiving dinner last night.  And you know what? It wasn't bad. It wasn't Mom's (but then, what is, right??), but the turkey breast roast turned out quite moist, and there was a ton left over for another dinner and some sandwiches.  There weren't enough pan drippings for real gravy, so we bought a packet of gravy mix (& probably could have used two -- note to self for Christmas, lol).  We made a box of Stovetop Stuffing, some mashed potatos and peas, and had a bottle of wine. And an apple pie (warmed up) with ice cream for dessert later. I used my crystal wine glasses (dh balked at using the wedding china, since it couldn't go in the dishwasher, lol) and put a season-appropriate cloth on the table. It wasn't bad for a first effort (after 35 years of marriage!! lol), and it was nice to feel like we were doing something special for US.  As I said in my previous post, "COVID has deprived me of a lot of things this year -- but I refuse to let it deprive me of turkey, lol."

Overall, 2020 has sucked. (And it's still not over yet...!)  But there's still a lot we can be grateful for. 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

State of the uterus: Waiting

(Previous related posts here, here and here.) 

My ultrasound was Thursday, and now I'm waiting for the results. Monday is Thanksgiving and a statutory holiday, so I won't hear anything until Tuesday at the earliest, or maybe Wednesday.  I'm still spotting, on & off. (It's been more than two weeks now since I first noticed it.)  I had some dark brown spotting on Thursday morning, after my shower but before my appointment, and a bit more (pink) earlier tonight. I also threw my back out in the shower on Wednesday morning, bending over to soap my toes, of all things, which didn't help matters. (It's better, albeit still a bit stiff.  The fact that I am sitting around a lot more than usual, because, COVID = not getting out of the house & moving around as much, is not helping, I'm sure.) 

The ultrasound went... okay, I guess. Of course, they don't tell you anything while you're there. I had to drink a litre (two bottles/four glasses) of water and finish doing it one hour before my appointment. Dh waited in the car while I went inside. I was quickly ushered into the "inside" waiting room. I was the only one there, although both patients & staff were going in & out of exam rooms and the washroom. I didn't have to wait very long. She had me pull the top of my jeans down & my top up and did the outside of my stomach first, sent me to the washroom to empty my bladder, and then had me strip from the waist down and hello, Dildocam, my old friend. At one point, she went over to the computer on her desk, saying she wanted to check something in the report from my last ultrasound.  Ooookay. Not sure what that meant. I know the ultrasound I had in spring 2016 cited a possible small fibroid or thickening of the lining, but it was not a good view. The followup ultrasound later that fall did not find anything noteworthy. 

I'll admit I'm feeling a little nervous. (Also maybe just a little pissed off... just when you think you've finally put this part of your life behind you, right?!) There's also a part of me that thinks I'm going to be punished for trying to subvert Mother Nature and pumping myself full of fertility drugs 20 years ago. :(  It's especially galling when, after all those drugs (and all that money!), I didn't even get a baby after subjecting my body to all that.  

Trying to stay positive and focus on the good things right now. It is Thanksgiving, after all... 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Guitar god

In that sad & sadly growing category of "the icons of my youth are dropping like flies:"  Eddie Van Halen died yesterday. :(   He was THE guitar god of my generation, and not that much older than me & dh (65) and our peers (as all my friends are noting in dismay!). :(  

I was lucky enough to have seen him in his prime, on April 11, 1980 (pre-MTV, "Panama" & "Jump"). (I found the exact date on an online concert database (!)... believe it or not, I still have ALL my calendars/datebooks from the time I started keeping them, and I was able to pull out my 1980 calendar and verify that yep, that was the date!) I was 19 years old, just finishing my first year of university, living in residence, and one of my high school girlfriends (whose family had moved to the city before we graduated) called me up and said, "Van Halen is in town and I think I'd like to see them, wanna go?" I said, "Sure!" I wouldn't say they were my favourite band  -- I wasn't dying to see them (or I'd have purchased tickets myself) -- but they were certainly part of the soundtrack of my life at that time. I was in the middle of writing exams, and I'm sure the promise of a night out with my friend was was  a welcome distraction. ;)

Our seats, purchased so close to the concert day, were in the nosebleed section at the other end of the arena from the stage -- but hey, we were there -- we saw them and we mostly definitely HEARD them, lol -- they were LOUD. The entire back wall of the stage was speakers, and there were speakers piled high in pyramids on both sides of the stage too. At one point, Eddie, wearing a white fringed outfit, climbed up the pyramid of speakers at the side of the stage like it was a staircase, and stood at the top, playing down to a group of kids in some really lousy seats with a partly obscured view at the side of the stage. They were clearly thrilled, and I've never forgotten that moment. David Lee Roth obviously thought he was hot stuff... I was not impressed with him -- but Eddie totally blew me away with his brilliance and charisma (not to mention he was pretty cute, lol).

Coincidentally, another friend of ours from high school, who had also moved to the city about a year before my concert partner did, was sitting a row or two directly behind us. After the concert, the three of us went to a bar for a few drinks and to catch up. I stayed overnight with my girlfriend at her parents' house and returned to campus the next day for more exams. 

When I think of Van Halen & Eddie, I think of this song and this guitar riff, from one of their early albums. And when I hear it, I think of being at a party, late, late one dark summer night in the early 1980s in a friend's back yard, with this album playing in the background. (Sorry, neighbours!  lol)  A moment in time that's stuck in my memory for 40 years, never to be recaptured. 

RIP, Eddie, and thanks for the memories. 

Monday, October 5, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: I'm falling apart, and other odds & ends

  • State of the uterus:  More spotting (more like faint staining) on Saturday night & Sunday. Cramping overnight Saturday/Sunday and all through the day Sunday. Still spotting a bit today, but feeling better. 
  • I felt like I was coming down with a cold on Saturday too... thankfully, I'm feeling better now. I want to keep my ultrasound appointment on Thursday, and I can't do that if I'm not feeling well.  
  • Also in the category of "I'm falling apart":  I lost the nail on the little toe of my left foot last week. (Has this ever happened to you??) I had just gotten into bed & I could feel the nail snagging on the sheets. I thought maybe it had chipped, but when I turned on the light to check, the entire nail was coming loose and had almost completely detached. I tugged at it, but it hurt and started to bleed a little, so I just put some polysporin on it, covered it with a bandage and went back to bed. Good thing I did, because apparently you are NOT supposed to just rip it off!  
    • I had a dim memory of stubbing my toe several weeks earlier (I recall saying to dh, "I wonder if I broke it??") and then forgetting about it after the initial pain subsided -- although I did notice that the nail had turned black at one point, which was kind of disconcerting...! 
    • I kept dabbing the area with rubbing alcohol &/or polysporin, and covering it with a bandaid, until the nail finally came off a few days ago (after about a week). 
  • We caved and turned the heat on, Saturday morning. Fall is definitely here! 
  • December will mark 10 years since the loss of Brooke's first daughter, Eliza. She and her family have come up with a unique way to honour Eliza's memory, and they're inviting us all to participate. Check out her post about this very worthwhile project and think about supporting it! 
    • (Those of us outside the U.S.:  our credit cards apparently do not work on this website :p  but you can call or email the store with your order and pay via PayPal.) 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.  

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Out of the shadows

I don't (or didn't, until now) follow Chrissy Teigen on social media (in fact, I was only dimly aware of who she was), but I understand she's been very open about her struggles with infertility. My heart went out to her when I learned that she & her husband John Legend had lost their baby son this past week. Her Instagram post announcing their loss, full of words of raw pain and stark black & white images from the hospital, went viral. 

"Driving home from the hospital with no baby,” Teigen wrote on Twitter. “How can this be real.” How well I remember that surreal, empty feeling. I don't normally post much about ALI issues or my childlessness on social media, but I shared the story of Teigen's loss. Another loss mom commented with her own memory of leaving the hospital with empty arms, and in response I wrote: 

I was at Mount Sinai Hospital... and we left on a Saturday. It was eerily quiet & empty compared to being there on a weekday. As a nod to the Jewish patients & staff, the elevator stopped on EVERY SINGLE FLOOR on the way down (so that nobody would have to push buttons/work on the Sabbath). The ride down from the 7th floor seemed endless...

I was kind of shocked when people started reacting to my reply to the comment, as well as to the original post itself. After 22 years, I still haven't shared many details of my experience with people outside of our support group/ALI online circles. I don't want to hammer the fortunately ignorant over the head with my story... but I realized after the reactions started coming in that little details like that one might help people to understand a little more fully.   

Coincidentally, Teigen's news came early on Thursday morning -- the first day of October, which is also the first day of Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. Because of Teigen & Legend's celebrity, and their openness about what they are going through, many media outlets not only picked up on their personal story but used it as a springboard for a broader discussion about pregnancy loss -- which, of course, affects at least 1 in 4 women. Here are a couple that I noted:  

  • The CBC's national news telecast that night had a story about Teigen and pregnancy loss generally, including interviews with Canadian loss moms. It's less than 2 minutes long, but they manage to cram a lot in there. The doctor interviewed in the story, was the doctor on duty the morning after I delivered Katie. He's an expert in placental issues and expressed an interest in examining mine. (I don't think it was ever done.) I was determined to get a referral to his placenta clinic for my next pregnancy. Which of course never happened...
  • Ann Douglas is Canada's pre-eminent expert on pregnancy & parenting. She also happens to be a bereaved mom:  her daughter Laura was stillborn in 1996.  I "met" Ann online (and later "in real life") through an email list for bereaved moms that we both belonged to, and I took part in the parent panels for her books "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books" (in the section about pregnancy loss) and "Trying Again."  Ann spoke with CBC Radio Toronto's Metro Morning program on Friday about Chrissy Teigen's loss, her own loss and pregnancy loss generally, including how things have changed in the 24 years since she lost her daughter. She crammed a lot of wisdom into just a few minutes. It's worth a listen! 
  • My longtime penpal in New Zealand posted a story that also used Teigen's story as a starting point for a discussion about the silence that surrounds pregnancy loss. Also worth a read
  • The Globe & Mail's "Amplify" feature also focused on Chrissy Teigen and bringing pregnancy loss out of the shadows. 

Friday, October 2, 2020

Uterus update

Further to my post on Tuesday about my post-menopausal spotting issues:  

I called the clinic on Wednesday, and had a phone consultation with my family doctor yesterday afternoon (they're trying not to book office appointments right now unless it's absolutely necessary). I told him the spotting was dark brown, not red, and there was so little of it that I didn't even put on a pantyliner. Nor was I suffering cramps or any other overt pain. 

He agreed that was encouraging --BUT because I'm post-menopausal (eyeroll) we shouldn't ignore this, and so I'm going for an ultrasound next Thursday (the earliest they could book me). "It will be a transvaginal ultrasound," he warned me. I assured him that I went through fertility treatments, so that would NOT faze me! ;)  

Depending on the results of that (which he should have within two or three business days later), he will possibly refer me to a gynecologist for an endometrial biopsy. I had one with Dr. Ob-gyn (now retired) during my infertility workup, 20 years ago. I remember it wasn't fun, but it was also quickly done.

I did have two ultrasounds done four years ago -- one in April 2016 (ordered by Dr. Ob-gyn), because I'd been having some spotting & cramping between periods, and a follow-up in November, more for my peace of mind than anything else, he said. The April u/s detected a small area where the lining seemed slightly thicker, or possibly a small fibroid, but it was not clear enough to be conclusive. The November one didn't turn anything up. 

The first day I noticed the spotting was a week ago Thursday;  it showed up three more times over the next few days, including on Tuesday (when I posted here about it). Nothing Wednesday. Nothing yesterday... until just as I was getting ready for bed. (eyeroll) This time it was more like regular discharge, but tinged lighter brown.  

So I guess we'll see what happens... I'm not telling our families anything about this, unless it turns out there's something to tell. Why worry them unnecessarily? 

When I called the office on Wednesday about this, I also asked about our annual checkups. They won't be doing those until some time in the new year (!). I also asked about flu shots. Those are coming soon, and will be done by appointment. I will need to call them sometime next week or the week after that to book those. 

Any prayers/positive thoughts/vibes/similar experiences (hopefully ones that turned out well...!) appreciated. 

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Right now

Right now... (an occasional (mostly monthly) meme, alternating from time to time with "The Current"). (Explanation of how this started & my inspirations in my first "Right now" post, here. Also my first "The Current" post, here.)

September was Full Month #6 (going on 7) of life in the age of COVID-19. Unfortunately, it looks like the second wave is upon us: daily new case rates are skyrocketing.  :(  The Prime Minister has advised that “It’s all too likely we won’t be gathering for [Canadian] Thanksgiving [ = not this weekend but the next], but we still have a shot at Christmas.” (Needless to say, I'm not confident. :(  -- see "Planning," below.) 

On top of dh's usual weekly forays to the supermarket for groceries and for takeout dinners on Saturday nights, we made four trips to the bookstore this month (one to return a book I'd bought -- only to realize it was already on my shelves...!), two trips to the drugstore, one trip to Staples, and two trips to Canadian Tire (which has household goods, electronics and hardware-type stuff, as well as automotive-related goods). (Yesterday was a BIG day: Staples, Canadian Tire, the bookstore AND the drugstore!)  We got haircuts (our third ones since salons reopened earlier this summer) and also went to the supermarket in the same plaza while we were there. We also went to BIL's (& saw Great-Nephew) twice. Otherwise, we've continued to stay close to home. 

*** *** *** 

Reading: I read 2 books in September (both reviewed on this blog & tagged “2020 books”):  
So far this year, I've read 35 books, bringing me to 117%!! of my 2020 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 30 books. I have completed & now exceeded my challenge goal for the year by 5 books, and am (for the moment, anyway...!) 13 (!) books ahead of schedule. :)  

Current read(s):   
A few recently purchased titles (in both digital and paper formats):   
Watching:  The second season of "Jann" on CTV (starring Jann Arden) just started, with Jann playing an exaggerated/semi-fictional/less successful version of herself. The first episode ended memorably with a front-lawn catfight between Jann & Sarah McLachlan. ;)  Over a scrunchie!  

We did NOT watch the U.S. presidential debate!!  (The highlights later are quite enough, lol.)  I did follow some of the commentary on Twitter. Much wittier. ;) 

Listening:  The summer reruns of classic episodes of "The Vinyl Cafe" ended on the September long weekend. :(  Missing it all over again!  Now trying to get caught up (at least a little bit) on some of my podcasts... 

Looking forward:  To seeing Elton John (again) with SIL in February 2022! -- the concert that we had tickets to in March (which was postponed -- because, COVID...) has (finally) been rescheduled, and the tickets I bought (almost a year ago now!) will still be honoured. Still more than a year away -- and at this point, the idea of gathering in an arena with thousands of other people still seems pretty unfathomable -- but I guess we'll see what happens. Elton will be almost 75 by then (!) but he assures his fans he's in great shape and raring to go. :) (Paul McCartney was 76 when I saw him in fall 2018 and he still put on a great show, so...) 

Following:  (This could also go under "Reading.")  E-mail newsletters seem to be becoming as ubiquitous as podcasts and as blogs once were...! and I thought I'd share a few of my favourites with you. (I also follow all these women on Twitter.): 
  • Heather Cox Richardson, a history professor at Boston College, publishes "Letters from an American," a nightly summary & analysis of the day's political news in the U.S. No matter how awful the events of the day have been, I always somehow come away with a clearer sense of what happened -- and a calmer feeling about it all. 
  • Anne Helen Petersen's newsletter is "Culture Study." Paid subscribers get more content. (I'm still on the freebie list.) 
  • Jill Filipovic's (untitled) newsletter can be found here
  • Lyz Lenz, author of "God Land" and "Belaboured" (both reviewed on this blog in recent weeks) recently started a newsletter with a great title: "Men Yell at Me," lol. 
  • Amanda Marcotte of Salon has started doing a bi-weekly newsletter on politics, "Standing Room Only." 
Eating/Drinking:  Takeout dinners this month have included our usual rotisserie chicken and wood-oven pizzas, as well as pizza slices from the supermarket (which we normally would get for lunch, and are also really good!). (Also: see "Trying," below.) 

Planning:  A menu for our (Canadian) Thanksgiving dinner (not this weekend, but the next one).  This is actually something I've wanted to do for a LONG time, but when FIL was still alive, dh felt obligated to wait & see if his dad wanted us to come there (even if the invitation arrived on the morning of the feast!).  In recent years, we've sometimes been invited to dine at BIL's, along with the nephews and sometimes members of SIL's family.  But this year, with COVID-19 and tightened limits on small gatherings (maximum 10), we know we're definitely on our own. And since we're not comfortable heading up north to a resort to take in the fall colours (which was always my preferred Thanksgiving Plan B), we'll be cooking our own Thanksgiving dinner. And since it's increasingly likely that we'll be in the same situation for Christmas :(  we're taking the opportunity to use Thanksgiving as a trial run. ;)  COVID has deprived me of a lot of things this year -- but I refuse to let it deprive me of turkey, lol. It won't be my mom's excellent turkey & stuffing & gravy, or even SIL's -- and it won't be a whole turkey at all (just doesn't seem logical to cook a whole turkey for just two people -- I plan to look for a turkey breast) -- and it won't be quite the elaborate spread we're used to -- but I'm determined to make it at least a little bit special and festive. 

Buying (besides books, lol):  Not much!  I bought ANOTHER bracelet (& matching earrings) from my favourite sterling silver jewelry maker. Just too tempting, lol.  ;)   

Another great buy (albeit less glamorous, lol) this month: on the recommendation of @gocleanco on Instagram, I picked up a bottle of Bar Keeper's Friend when we were at Canadian Tire. (It's one of their go-to products that they're always using on their cleaning videos.)  We have two bathrooms in our condo, and the finish on sink (& on the metal drain stopper)  in one of them has been driving me crazy for the 4 & 1/2 years we've lived here -- all mottled & rough, instead of shiny & smooth. I wasn't sure whether it was from the previous owners or careless workers from when the unit was being finished or even a factory quality control miss. It looked like hard water spots, but I thought it might also be some kind of residue that hadn't been cleaned up properly during construction. I've scrubbed it with baking soda & other cleaners without success, so I thought I would give BKF a try when I was cleaning a couple of weeks ago. I squirted some onto the surface of the sink, wiped it all over with a microfibre cloth, let it sit for a minute, gave it a good rubdown and then rinsed it off. 

Dh heard me exclaim, "OH MY GOD!"  & came running, thinking something was wrong... but something was very right instead! I was agog. The results were amazing. I wish I had taken a "before" photo. There was still a small area at the back of the sink & around the drain that wasn't quite perfect, but I tried again the next time I was cleaning the bathroom, and honestly, it looks as good as new. I just couldn't believe the results. A definite "thumbs up" recommendation from me! 

Among our purchases on our shopping spree yesterday (see intro to this post):  a new cordless phone set (two handsets), ink cartridges for the printer, a meat thermometer and a baster (for the Thanksgiving turkey breast, lol). And some Lindor chocolate!  

Wearing: The arrival of cooler fall weather means I've put away my shorts & capris for the season in favour of long jeans. :(  I've been wearing capri-length yoga pants around the house, but I think I'll have to go for full-length there soon too. :(   And I've had to put on slippers a few times too. I'm sure it's all concrete under the laminate flooring, and my feet are already freezing! (Back to wearing socks around the house soon too...!) 

Trying:  Some new recipes from the Table for Two blog (which someone here recommended to me -- I can't remember who?? -- thank you, whoever you are...!), including Holy Yum Chicken (with a dijon mustard & maple syrup glaze) and Honey Soy Chicken.... both fast, easy and very tasty. I like that you can adjust the serving size/quantities up or down within the recipe on the site.  I debated whether to use the measurements for four servings, in order to get some extra sauce (even though I was using just two pieces of chicken), but in both cases, following the recipe exactly for two servings yielded plenty of extra sauce. Both recipes call for chicken thighs, but I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts (and a slightly shorter baking time), and they turned out fine. 

Walking/Exercising:  Ummm... 

Wanting:  As I said last month, nothing much in the way of material things right now.  It would be nice to be able to spend more time with Little Great-Nephew, but I think if anything, we'll probably be seeing him less often over the next while, with the second wave of COVID-19 upon us... :(   

Loving:  The beautiful fall colours that are showing themselves more & more right now. Peak time hereabouts should come about a week or two from now. 

Feeling: Enjoying the lovely fall colours and cooler temperatures -- but starting to dread the onset of the darkness and chill of winter (especially with COVID-19 still hanging around and no chance of a sunspot escape...!).   Apprehensive when I look at the rising daily new case rates.