Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Odds & ends

  • I'm enjoying another few hours of "me alone at home time," for the second time this week. BIL is on vacation this week (and doesn't know the meaning of the word relax...!), Older Nephew & family are moving to their new house this weekend, and so he & dh headed up there again this morning to do a few more things around the house before moving day. 
  • Dh & I went to the nearby mall yesterday for the first time since March 10th... 2020 (i.e., pre-pandemic/17 months!!).  Specifically, we went to our cellphone service provider's store, because my two-year-old phone was literally falling apart!! (cracked across the screen and splitting along the seams... I can see inside!) I'd made an appointment (for right when the store opened) so we didn't have to wait around for someone to help us.  
    • I walked away with a new Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G, and a whopping 128 MB!! (I seem to remember complaining in a past post about how quickly my lowly 16MB filled up (and how many apps I'd had to delete!), but couldn't find it.)  This will do quite nicely for a while, I'm sure...!  lol    
    • The salesperson was able to transfer over all my apps and data -- but of course I had to sign back into a lot of them, and I spent most of the afternoon doing that (looking up forgotten passwords...!), and trying to get things to look & work the way I like. My old phone was a Motorola, and while both phones are Androids, there are still some significant differences in how things are set up, etc...! I'm sure I'll adjust within the next few days, but right now, it's a pain...!
    • While waiting for everything to transfer over, she commented on my old phone's wallpaper -- a recent photo of Little Great-Nephew. "Your grandson is so cute! You're going to love your new camera!"  "Great-nephew -- my nephew's son," I politely corrected her. (The fact that she recognized his obvious cuteness took the edge off the grandparent assumption...!)(Also the assumption that he was my grandson and not my son... nothing like being reminded of your age, right??  lol)    
    • We didn't cover the entire mall -- about 1/3 of it, maybe? (It's pretty big.) I briefly ducked in & out of a couple of stores (Gap, Old Navy, Homesense) while dh waited outside, and stopped by a kiosk to get a new battery for my favourite watch (the old one had, of course, conked out just after the pandemic began...!).  Instead of walking all the way back through the mall to the entrance where we'd come in, we just ducked out the nearest mall exit when we were ready to go, and then walked back to the car, outside. 
    • It was all a little too people-y for both of our comfort levels, even being fully vaccinated and even with masks, social distancing measures and capacity limits in place (the food court was packed at noon, and we both looked at each other and said, "NO!" lol) -- and walking around a mall with a mask on is not fun -- but I'm glad things are open again!
  • The Childless Not By Choice podcast hosted by Civilla Morgan is celebrating its sixth anniversary this month! Definitely worth a listen. :)  
  • Yael Wolfe writes about "Moms vs. Aunts: A Social Media Smackdown" and asks "Can we stop with the pronatalist propaganda, please?"  I've been using all my free Medium articles lately to read Yael's posts since Jody Day introduced me to her work. :)  Sample passage:  
    The idea that there is no greater calling in a woman’s life than motherhood is nothing but pronatalist, sexist propaganda... there is no equivalent standard a man has to meet in order to “meet his greatest calling.” All a man has to do to achieve his ultimate purpose in life is to exist...

    This leaves no room for us to value women who didn’t have children due to circumstances outside their control. Nor does it support women in determining their own reproductive destiny, like women who choose to be childfree.

      Monday, July 19, 2021

      "Malibu Rising" by Taylor Jenkins Reid

      I felt like it was time for a "beach read" (or a "summer-y" read, at least, since I'm not anywhere near a beach right now...!) -- and "Malibu Rising," the new novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid, seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Reid is also the author of "Daisy Jones and the Six" (among other books), which I read and thoroughly enjoyed (and reviewed here) two years ago. 

      While "Daisy" was set in the 1970s,  the main action in "Malibu Rising" unfolds over 24 hours on a single day in the early 1980s  -- Saturday, August 27, 1983, to be specific -- the day of Nina Riva's huge, infamous annual party at her beautiful beachfront home. Nina, 25 -- who has just been dumped by her tennis pro husband -- is a surfer, swimsuit model, restaurateur and mother figure to her siblings -- the eldest of legendary singer Mick Riva's four children. The others are Jay, a professional surfer whose days riding the board may be numbered;  Hud, a talented photographer, torn between his love for his brother -- and his love for his brother's ex-girlfriend;  and Kit, the baby of the family at 20, struggling in her siblings' shadows to carve out an identity for herself. (I loved all four of these kids -- Nina and Kit especially -- and the bonds between them.)   All four are keeping secrets from each other... all of which, of course, threaten to be revealed at Nina's big party... 

      In flashbacks going back to the late 1950s, we meet Mick Riva (whose famous lips bring to mind another Mick of the same time period) and his first wife/the children's mother, June Costa, who yearns for a life beyond her parents' seafood restaurant on the Pacific Coast Highway -- and winds up getting a whole lot more than she bargained for. 

      "Malibu Rising" features some improbable coincidences and plot twists, a large cast of peripheral (mostly superfluous) characters that was sometimes hard to keep track of, and an ending that was just a *tad* unbelievable. But, like "Daisy Jones and the Six," this book was, quite simply, a lot of fun to read. It kept me turning the pages. 

      Also like "Daisy," it took me back to a great time in my life. I was a 22-year-old student in 1983 (which would make me younger than Jay and Hud, but older than Kit).  It also reminded me of the silly "Beach Party" and "Gidget" movies from the 1960s that I loved to watch when I was a kid (and still do -- one of my big guilty pleasures!). "Malibu Rising" has a cinematic quality to it, and I'm sure the eventual movie version will be fun to watch too. I don't know if he can sing, but I'm picturing George Clooney as Mick. ;)  

      3.5 stars on Goodreads, rounded up to 4.  

      P.S. Random House, the book's publisher, has generated two book-related playlists on Spotify (one for Nina and one for the book generally).  :)  (I actually found a third playlist, put together by a fan of the book. It has some good summertime/beach songs on it -- but also some music that, while perhaps in the spirit of Malibu/California, is not exactly from the period of the book -- e.g., Miley Cyrus (b.1992)?? Taylor Swift (b.1989)?? Olivia Rodrigo (b.2003)??)  

      This was Book #38 read to date in 2021 (and Book #4 finished in July), bringing me to 106%! of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I have now completed my challenge for the year, and am (for the moment, anyway...!) 19 (!) books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

      *** *** *** 

      Future Dh & me at the airport
      in Toronto, August 1983.
      I was 22 and he was 26.
      I've kept every calendar and datebook I've had since the early 1970s, and although "Malibu Rising" is entirely fictional, I couldn't resist pulling out my 1983 datebook to see what I was doing on Saturday, August 27th, 38 years ago.  :)  In April that year, I wrapped up my four-year bachelor of arts degree at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. I missed my convocation ceremony so that I could start a year-long master's degree program in journalism at the University of Western Ontario in London in early May, and the first term ended with a two-week break in mid/late August.  

      Future Dh (doing his own graduate program in Windsor) and I took the train to Toronto, and I flew home to Manitoba from there on Saturday, August 20th. I had only visited Toronto for the first time -- and met his entire family! -- a month earlier in mid-July, for his brother's 21st birthday.  At that time, my parents were living in a small town about an hour south and west of Brandon, in western Manitoba. (They'd been there since late 1980. In April 1984, they moved to another Manitoba town where they still live today.) 

      I noted in my datebook that the Police (the band) were playing a concert in Winnipeg on Saturday, August 27th.  I did not go (never did see them...). The day before that (Friday, August 26th), my mom dropped me off in Brandon to visit a friend there. (I did not have my driver's license then, and while I finally did get it, two years later, I still don't drive often!) I have no memory of that visit, and there's nothing in my datebook to enlighten me on what we did or whether I spent the night at her place, but that's probably where I was that Saturday. :)  

      Later in the next week, Mom & I went to Minnesota to visit my grandparents for a few days. My 71-year-old grandfather had had a heart attack in early July. I don't remember much about that visit, and I don't have any photos in my albums (we didn't take as many back then), but I'm sure it was emotional to see them again. (Also noted in my datebook:  my great-aunt's birthday was on August 30th. She turned 60 that year -- the same age I am now!  She died in 2008 at age 84.)  

      On Thursday, Sept. 1st, Mom & I checked into a motel in the town that had been home to us for six years in the late 1970s (midway between Winnipeg and Brandon), where I graduated from high school in 1979.  One of my best friends from those high school days -- the same one who lost her daughter in November 2019 -- was getting married the following day (on Friday, Sept. 2nd), and another friend was hosting a shower/get-together that night for all her friends in town who could make it, whether they were invited to the wedding or not. I hadn't seen some of these people since graduation day.  The wedding day was hot, hot, hot, but I had a good time. I remember watching "The Godfather" -- both the original movie and the sequel -- on TV at the motel that weekend, and reading the book around the same time. 

      The next day (Saturday, Sept. 3rd), Mom drove me into Winnipeg and I flew back to Toronto where Future Dh met my plane. I wrote in my datebook that David Bowie was playing the CNE (Canadian National Exposition -- think state fair) two nights in a row that weekend, but we did not go. Dh was never a Bowie fan -- although I do remember him taking me to the CNE that year -- so it would have to have been that/Labour Day weekend, since I left for Manitoba on opening weekend, and the CNE always closes on Labour Day Monday. We rode one of these chairlift-type things that took us from one end of the CNE grounds to the other, with a fabulous view of the Toronto skyline along the way. The CN Tower had been built a few years earlier, and several of the big bank towers, but overall, the skyline then looked a lot different then than it would today...! and the factories that surrounded the CNE grounds then have since given way to condos. 

      We stayed with Future Dh's dad & brother, and visited with other relatives before returning to our respective schools on Labour Day Monday, for the start of the next term on Tuesday. 

      #MicroblogMondays: Me time!

      I'm enjoying something very rare for me these days: a few hours of "me time," alone, at home.  It's BIL's birthday; he's on vacation this week, and he asked dh to come out with him this morning to take some stuff up to Older Nephew's new house and then for a takeout lunch somewhere -- something they can do again, now that they're both fully vaccinated! They'll be gone for a couple of hours, and I am basking in the solitude. 

      I suppose some people think that, being childless, dh & I have lots of "me time" to do whatever we like. Well, yes, we do -- more so than a lot of parents, obviously.  But there's "couple time" and "me time" with dh in the house, and there's "me at home alone time" -- there's a difference -- even if I'm doing the exact same things today while I'm at home alone as I would be if dh were here!  There's something about having the entire house/condo to yourself for a while - to be able to turn the TV to whatever channel you please (or off completely), without asking someone else if they mind, to make yourself lunch without the other person asking you what you're having and is there enough for them too, to not be bound to someone else's timetable... 

      When we lived in our house, even though it wasn't a huge house, there was space for us to spread out and be apart, if we wanted to -- one of us in the living room or kitchen, the other in the spare bedroom/office upstairs, for example. We still do that sometimes in our condo -- but of course, when you have just 874 square-feet, all on the same level, you're never very far away from each other.  (Despite having increasing difficulty going up & down the stairs in their split-level house, my mother insists that being able to spend time on a different level from my father has saved her sanity, especially during this pandemic, lol.)  

      Even before we retired and moved into a condo, and even pre-pandemic, dh & I spent a lot more time together than most couples we know. When we were working (in the same downtown office tower), we tweaked our schedules so that we could drive to the commuter train station together, ride the train into work together, and then meet up at the end of the day and make the reverse trip home together (although there were several nights during the month when one or the other of us had to work late and the other person would head home alone to get dinner started).   Not being plugged into the parent networks in the neighbourhood or local schools or kids' sports, etc., neither of us had much of a social life outside of work or each other. The few non-work friends we did have, as well as family members, were/are spread out across a vast metropolitan area, which made getting together during the week difficult.  

      When I used to scrapbook, I would sometimes head to a local scrapbook store and spend a Saturday afternoon working on my pages, sometimes with a friend and sometimes by myself.  And sometimes, if I had a day off,  I'd take the train into the city to go shopping at the Eaton Centre mall by myself.  I'd stop at Starbucks before getting on the homeward bound train and sip my latte and enjoy the view as the train wound its way along the lakeshore. 

      Most adult women I know get some "me time" by hopping in the car to run errands or go to the supermarket or the mall by themselves.  That's not an option for me, because (although I have a driver's license), I don't drive.  I've never been a very confident driver (looonnngggg story...), dh has always driven us wherever we needed to go, and I haven't practiced in years. We had a standard transmission car the first few years of our marriage -- and, living in the city, where we could walk or take the subway or streetcar many places, we didn't use it a whole lot (and I would have been a nervous wreck trying to drive in the city anyway...!). Even when we moved to the suburbs and got a car with automatic transmission, it had just become habit for dh to get behind the wheel, and he's always been willing to drive me anywhere I needed to go.  I did start practicing again while I was pregnant -- there was no way I was going to be stuck in the house with a baby while on maternity leave! -- and then -- well, you all know what happened there, and driving got pushed back on my list of priorities again.  

      After losing my job/retiring, I started seriously considering investigating some refresher/confidence building lessons -- and then we moved, and then COVID-19 came along and...  (I know -- excuses, excuses...!). I think I would have felt more comfortable trying to drive around Old Community than where we live now -- but, here I am, and I recognize that I really do need to get back behind the wheel again and shed my dependence on dh in this respect.  I don't think you'll ever see me out on the 401 (the major highway/freeway that runs east-west through the north end of Toronto) -- but I'd be happy to build up enough confidence to be able to drive myself to the supermarket and pharmacy and bookstore and to BIL's house, if I had to do it myself. We live on a major rapid transit bus route that connects to the subway system (and passes by the supermarket, pharmacy and bookstore en route), and there's a stop directly outside our building -- but it's not an ideal way to go grocery shopping, right? (I did enough of that when I was a student...!)  

       Anyway. It's a rare "me alone at home" day, and I am enjoying it. :)  

      Do you feel like you get enough "me alone at home" time? 

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

      Sunday, July 18, 2021

      20 years of childless living

      Today marks a milestone in my life as a childless woman. Exactly 20 years ago today (!!), I took my first big step towards accepting and acknowledging that I was not going to have the children I'd hoped for, dreamed of, and risked my physical, mental and emotional well-being to (try to) create.  

      As I've described several times previously in this blog, on July 18, 2001, I wrote a post to introduce myself on the Childless Living message board of iVillage.com (no longer in operation), where I'd been lurking for several weeks -- and then pressed "publish." (I have a printed-off copy of that first post somewhere! -- I should hunt it up and transcribe it for this blog someday...) 

      I was 40 years old, living in a lovely little three-bedroom starter home with a big, kid-friendly back yard in a lovely, family-friendly neighbourhood in suburbia -- and I had just endured five years of unsuccessfully trying to conceive a baby (and bring it into this world) -- including one stillbirth at 26 weeks into a rollercoaster pregnancy; followed by a year & a half of failed infertility treatments, including several cycles of clomid + timed sex, followed by three IUIs using both clomid & a steadily increasing dosage of self-injected drugs;  followed by a near-nervous breakdown, including several rounds of terrifying, debilitating panic attacks (I thought the first one was a heart attack). 

      We didn't know what kind of a future lay ahead for us -- but we knew that, sadly, it would not include children. We were done. We were exhausted, and we desperately needed a break. Shortly after that first post to the message board, my dh & I flew to my parents' home in Manitoba, and then headed out on a road trip with them, across the Prairies, over the Rockies to the west coast, where we spent time in the warm embrace of extended family in Seattle (none of whom had any inkling about the ordeal we'd just been through), and licked our wounds while taking long walks on the breathtakingly beautiful beaches of the Oregon coast. 

      Back then, I'm not sure I could have imagined my life 20 years forward -- all the ups & downs and unexpected twists & turns: now 60 (!) years old, retired at 53 (pink-slipped by the company I'd served faithfully for 28 years), living in a condo in the same community as my BIL & his family (a place we all used to make fun of!), and a doting great-auntie to an adorable 20-month-old little boy.  I'd probably be surprised that we haven't travelled as much as I've wanted (yet!!) -- but then, nobody else has been able to travel much for the past year & a half either...!  (I'm sure I could never have imagined the pandemic!)  I'd also probably be surprised that pregnancy loss, infertility & childless living still remain such a big part of my life -- but in a different way. The hurt never entirely goes away, but it evolves, and it does become much more manageable.  I have learned so much -- about life, other people, my marriage, myself. 

      It's not the life we imagined or expected. But on balance, it's still a pretty good life, and we're very thankful.  

      Here are a few of the things I've learned in 20 years of childless/free living: 

      • Childless does not mean less (despite what society tells us). I've always said and believed "I am more than my uterus."  Our childless lives are every bit as valuable as parents', even if it doesn't always seem that way. 
      • Pronatalism is like the red pill in "The Matrix" -- once your eyes are opened to it, you see it everywhere!  (Credit to Jody Day* for this one!) Parents are privileged in ways that they're not even dimly aware of, and that we've only just begun to articulate. We need to start bringing attention to this inequity when we see and experience it.  
      • The older you get, the easier it gets (in some ways, anyway). For one thing, people stop asking when you're going to have kids. (On the other hand, they start talking about their grandchildren...!)
      • Childless life is a lot easier/more fun if you can find some childless/free friends, in "real life" and/or online. I could not have survived without the support of the warm, funny, angry, kick-ass, courageous childless women I've met over the past 20 years -- on that first childless living message board (and I am still in touch with some of them, 20 years later! -- you know who you are and I love you girls!), through blogging, through forums like Gateway Women, and (more recently) on social media.  
      • Change is very slow to happen... but it does happen! (And, to paraphrase Gandhi, we need to be the change we want to see in the world -- or at least a part of it. ;)  )  When I think back 20 years to what it was like for me as a woman facing childlessness -- and then look at everything that's out there to support younger women facing the same scenario now -- there's just no question that things have changed for the better -- for me personally, and for childless women generally.  If you are new to the idea of a permanently childless life, I know it probably feels like you're all alone out there -- but trust me, there are SO many more resources to help you make this transition than there were 20 (or even 10) years ago. And hopefully, in another 10 or 20 years, there will be even more! 
        • You'll find some suggestions for other helpful blogs, websites, podcasts, books, etc., in the links on the right-hand side of the screen, and in the "Book list" page at the top. 
      • Finally -- 20 years goes by WAY faster than you can ever imagine. (I think this is true for life generally, whether you have kids or not.)  "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"  the poet Mary Oliver asked.  The older I get, the more this resonates. Life is not a dress rehearsal -- we need to try to make the most of it! 
      *Fittingly, today/July 18th is also the birthday of Jody Day, founder of Gateway Women, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year!  Happy birthday, Jody! :) 

      Saturday, July 17, 2021

      "Love Lives Here" by Amanda Jette Knox

      Back in high school, in the late 1970s, one of my classmates was a girl -- at least, she had a girl's name (I'll refer to her here as J and "her," since that's how I knew her then) -- but she looked, sounded, dressed and acted like a boy. She was painfully shy in the classroom -- although she was in her element on the sports field.  We all knew J was "different," but kids back in the 1970s (and certainly in small Canadian Prairie towns like ours) simply did not have the vocabulary to name and talk intelligently about it. (Kids? Heck, adults too.) 

      Remarkably for those less enlightened times, no one ever openly harassed J (that I knew of). On the contrary, it seemed to me that J commanded a certain level of respect because of her athletic ability.  Even so, J skipped our high school graduation ceremony (the only classmate to do so), which seemed very sad. Everyone whispered it was because she would be expected to wear a dress. Coincidentally or not, my class was the last where girls wore long formal dresses and guys wore suits to grad. The following year, when my sister graduated, her class voted to adopt caps & gowns for everyone. I sometimes wondered whether J would have attended grad, if we'd done the same thing. 

      *** *** *** 

      I thought about my classmate, and about how much has changed (and how much hasn't), as I read "Love Lives Here: A Story of Thriving in a Transgender Family" by Amanda Jette Knox, this month's pick for my "Clever Name" online book club. We'll be discussing it at via Zoom later this month.  

      I did not realize until I opened my copy that Knox is Canadian, from the Ottawa area -- or that she was a blogger (known as "The Maven of Mayhem" -- she still uses this handle on social media).  I knew there was some "buzz" around this book, and that it involved a member of Knox's family "coming out" as transgender.  It does -- but let's just say there's a whole lot more to the story...!   

      Amanda had a troubled youth, dropped out of high school and spent some time in rehab, got pregnant and got married at the relatively young age of 20.  The one thing she felt she was good at was parenting. And then one of her children sent her an email that changed her life forever and challenged her self-image as a successful parent.  Although she struggled to come to terms with this revelation and what it meant for her family (especially at first), she quickly became a fierce advocate for her child (and, later, for trans and LGBTQ issues generally), and realized that leading with love was the key to making this transition as smooth as possible.  

      (As a blogger, I found it interesting that her first inclination was to shut down her blog to protect her family. She kept blogging after her children challenged her to be honest about their family's experiences. She continues to blog at her website, and you can go there to find out what's happened since the book was published in 2019.)   

      This was one of those book club picks that I probably wouldn't have read on my own, and I learned a LOT from it. It's very readable/accessible, written in a chatty, conversational style (one Goodreads reviewer said Amanda's writing "reminds me of the blogging days of yesteryear").  As a non-mom, I sometimes struggled a bit with the "fierce momma bear protecting her cubs" stuff, but overall, I was impressed by Amanda's honesty, heart and sense of humour.  I haven't read a lot of (any??) books on transgender issues, and (for me, anyway) this was a good introduction to the topic. 

      4 stars on Goodreads. 

      This was Book #37 read to date in 2021 (and Book #3 finished in July), bringing me to 103%! of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I have now completed my challenge for the year, and am (for the moment, anyway...!) 18 (!) books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

      Wednesday, July 14, 2021

      World Childless Week is coming!


      A message from Stephanie Phillips, founder of World Childless Week:  

      World Childless Week (13-19th September 2021) is now approaching its 5th year of raising awareness and bringing the childless not by choice community together across the globe. By sharing our thoughts and stories we have reached 97 countries, helping people find support and know they are not alone.
      World Childless Week welcomes to all forms of expression (stories, poems, songs, artwork, photography etc) that represent our childless story.
      Every submission that is accepted will be posted on the website (https://worldchildlessweek.net/home) and shared on the World Childless Week social media platforms (https://www.facebook.com/WorldChildlessWeek) across each day. Below are the topics we will be discussing this year.

      OUR STORIES

      No matter what anyone has said to you (including your own inner critic) your story is important. The dreams you had to become a parent: the struggles of trying to conceive, the sadness of not meeting a partner, the life choices and circumstances that restricted or denied your opportunities. The harsh reality of knowing you’d never be a parent; the anger, anguish, confusion and grief. These are the stories we need to share and yours are the words that need to be heard.

      CHILDLESSNESS & SEXUAL INTIMACY

      Do you feel like your body has failed you or have you been able to forgive, accept and love you body again. Has your relationship suffered and fallen apart or have you found strength in each other. Does the aspect of being childless for any reason play on your mind in connection to new relationships and physical intimacy? Self love and self hate embrace all parts of our identity and it’s time to explore them.

      LEAVING A LEGACY

      Legacy feels connected to blood; the bloodline that we can’t or won’t continue. Do you feel sad or guilty that: your family name, traditions and collectibles ends with you? Why does the pain of not being able to pass something on hurt so much? Perhaps you’ve found a way to lessen the pain or create a legacy in a new way; through teaching, sponsorship, art and creativity, innovation, gardening or charitable work or donations etc?

      MEN MATTER TOO

      What is your childless story? Are there aspects you have hidden because that is supposedly “what men do”? Have you buried your emotions, to support your partner, or dismissed them as unimportant? We need to change the narrative and ensure every male voice is just as loud as every female. Today you can express your thoughts on any aspect of your childless life: your story, a painful moment in time or something that has helped you move forwards.

      “HAVE YOU CONSIDERED ADOPTION”?

      So many of us (too many of us) have had this comment thrown in our face without any consideration of our feelings. How did it make you feel and how did you respond? Did you tell the truth or laugh it off, because sometimes that is the easiest response? Did you try to adopt and face unexpected hurdles, criticism and heartbreaking endings? Was adoption a conversation that split your relationship? It’s time to tell the truth about why this comment hurts so much.

      WE ARE WORTHY

      Do you feel worthy, or has society and the increase of pronatalism made you feel unworthy?Do we need to change our own narrative before we can rediscover the worth we hold as unique individuals, independent of our circumstances? What makes us worthy as a human being, the ability to give birth or a heart that is supportive, encouraging, open-minded, loving and caring? It’s time to explore and celebrate our worth.

      MOVING FORWARDS

      When did you know you’d started to move forwards? Did you wake up one morning and decide today was the day to makes changes or did you reflect over the last year and see subtle differences? Perhaps you accepted an invite to an event that you would have previously declined attending? What has changed in your life and how does it make you feel?
      Please remember
      You DO NOT have to be a professional writer etc, but your submission must fall under one of the daily topics.
      You can be credited or remain fully anonymous (please make it clear).
      LAST DATE FOR SUBMISSIONS: Sunday 29th August
      You can look at our guidelines and make a submission at: https://worldchildlessweek.net/submission-fact-sheet
      Love & laughter
      Steph x
      *** *** *** 
      From Loribeth: 
      Please consider making a submission to WCW this year!  (Perhaps this will (finally!) be the year I finally get MY act together and submit something myself -- or at least post about at least one of the topics here on my blog...!)  I've so enjoyed basking in all the wonderful things WCW has offered over the past four years, and I hope you will take advantage of it this year too!  

      Tuesday, July 13, 2021

      "Summerhills" by D.E. Stevenson (re-read)

      My D.E. Stevenson online fan group just finished reading and discussing "Summerhills" (which I initially read through myself and reviewed back in May, here-- a sequel to "Amberwell," which we read last year  (reviewed here and here). 

      "Amberwell" took place from the mid-1920s through the end of the Second World War. "Summerhills" takes place several years later (late 1940s).  Roger Ayrton has returned home on leave from his military career to see his mother, sisters and 8-year-old son, Stephen -- and launch his plan to start a boys' school in the area, which will educate Stephen and provide employment for Roger's childhood friend, disabled veteran Arnold Madden. Another childhood playmate, Mary Findlater, suggests her aging parents' huge, empty home would be the perfect place, and also proposes a new name for the school: Summerhills. 

      I will stand by my original rating of 3.5 stars on Goodreads, rounded up to 4.  As I said in my initial review, I think "Amberwell" is the better novel of the two, but I was happy to read more about the Ayrtons, and enjoyed our group discussion (as always!). 

      This was Book #36 read to date in 2021 (and Book #2 finished in July), bringing me to 100%!! of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I have now completed my challenge for the year, and am (for the moment, anyway...!) 17 (!) books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

      Recent odds & ends

      • The province announced last Friday that we will be moving to Stage 3 of reopening, this Friday (July 16th), several days ahead of schedule. I would have preferred to stick with the original plan (because so often, reopening earlier has had disastrous results in the past...), but I guess the temptation/political pressure was too great to resist. 
        • Daily new case levels have been as low as 114 this week -- numbers last seen in early September 2020. Almost 80% of adults in Ontario have now received at least one covid vaccine shot, and more than 57% have been fully vaccinated. 
        • Stage 3 will include indoor dining & entertainment (including movie theatres, museums, etc.), gyms, spectator sports (with capacity limits) and larger limits on gathering sizes, among other things. Mask mandates and physical distancing measures in public places will continue, at least until the fall. 
      • Getting haircuts on Saturday felt SO. GOOD!!! As I said before, I feel like ME again! :)  
      • My cellphone is literally falling apart (possibly the result of being dropped one too many times)(insert red-faced icon here...!).  As a result, we will be heading to the mall next week for the first time since March 10, 2020 (!)(the day before the World Health Organization declared the pandemic).  I've made an appointment at our cellphone service provider's store there to find a new one.  Wish me luck!!
        • We'll see how long we stay after that... I wouldn't mind visiting at least a couple of other stores, as long as we're there -- but I'm horribly out of shape after 16 months in couch potato mode, and I'm not sure I'm up to a full trip around the entire mall (especially while wearing a mask!). (It's a big one, one of the biggest in Canada.)
        • Malls reopened on June 30th as part of our Phase 2 of reopening -- albeit at just 25% capacity, reduced hours and mask requirements. This should be interesting...! 
      • My parents have been asking when we might be coming home, now that everyone is (or soon will be) fully vaccinated and restrictions are starting to lift across the country. We haven't been there in 19 months (since Christmas 2019 -- normally, we would have been there for a few weeks last summer as well as this summer, and Christmas 2020). 
        • My inclination would be to visit sooner versus later, and certainly before Christmas! However, my sister's scheduled summer vacation is happening right now... her office is currently going through a merger, and she no longer has the flexibility to change dates that she had before. She does have a week off in early/mid-October around Canadian Thanksgiving, so we are thinking that might be a good time to go, albeit it's still a little too far off for my liking...! 
      • We've been having so much fun visiting Little Great-Nephew and his Nonna/Grandma (SIL) during the week (usually Wednesday mornings, before he has his lunch and then takes a nap... Mondays, dh does the grocery shopping; Thursdays, we usually do laundry;  and Friday, we do the housecleaning). When we started paying them regular visits in mid-May, he was a little shy -- to the point of hiding behind Nonna's legs when he saw us coming!  On a more recent visit, a broad smile broke out on his face when we arrived -- and then when we tried to leave a few hours later, his little face slowly screwed up in indignation and he started crying!  Dh immediately capitulated (lol) and we stayed a little longer. Once he was in his high chair and happily distracted with his pasta lunch and a favourite show on TV, we made our exit!   
      • I love everything Yael Wolfe writes, but I especially loved this recent piece on Medium about menopause in the workplace and how companies are NOT dealing with it (although some in the UK are beginning to talk about it)(why is the UK always ahead of the curve on these kinds of things?).  Says Wolfe:  
      "I have a uterus. I bleed. And I experience so many of those pesky symptoms that come with menstruation and perimenopause. My body does not hit the pause button so I can be a good, productive cog in the machine of capitalism. And I’m tired of letting the system force me to pretend that it does." 

       As someone who wound up doubled over with debilitating cramps and nausea on the office bathroom floor more than once (you know it was bad, because you've seen what those office bathroom floors can be like...!), I heartily concur.  

        • To discontinue (pause/end) fertility treatment is difficult, fraught with ambiguity.
        • Social and cultural values and clinical priorities shape women's experiences.
        • Careful clinical attention and support for discontinuation is needed.
      This is all pretty obvious stuff for any of us who have been through and discontinued treatment, of course -- but it's validating to see it being treated as a subject of serious academic study -- and if it helps medical professionals and policymakers take us and our concerns more seriously, all the better!  (One caveat that some readers might want to be warned about: A few of the women who participated in the study had children, either prior to fertility treatment, or after pausing or permanently leaving treatment.) 

      Monday, July 12, 2021

      #MicroblogMondays: Small pleasures & annoying things

      Small pleasures: 
      • (Actually a very BIG pleasure!:)  Haircuts!!! (after 17 weeks of increasing shagginess)!!! I said to my stylist, "I feel like ME again!"  
      • Bringing new summery silk flowers and other decorations to the cemetery for Katie's niche. (We hadn't been there since March, and her Easter decorations were still up.)  
      • Spending regular time with Little Great-Nephew (and SIL, his grandmother/caregiver).  We didn't get to spend this kind of time with our nephews when they were toddlers, so we are relishing it! 
      • Not sure about LGN, but I'm pretty sure that I'm the dog's favourite visitor, lol.  ;) 
      • Finishing my first book of the month last night (and it was a good one! -- reviewed here). 
      • Good windows... which helped to at least somewhat muffle the noise from outside, after Italy won the EuroCup soccer championship yesterday afternoon...!  
      • The glimmering feelings that we might be starting to gradually return to some semblance of post-covid normalcy... 
      Annoying things: 
      • Honking car horns for FIVE HOURS+ last night after the Italian EuroCup victory...!  (The game ended before 6 p.m. here;  we could still hear horns honking when we went to bed at 11 p.m....!) 
      • Lots of dark, gloomy, rainy weather lately (even if it isn't quite as hot as it has been).  
      • It's been cooler, but it's still pretty humid. Inside our condo, the humidity has been 60-65% recently. Makes it hard to dry off completely after getting out of the shower! (Even worse with long, shaggy hair in my face...!) 
      • Not being included in several invitations that BIL & SIL have received to spend time with nearby cousins recently. I know we're not a package deal, and BIL is everyone's favourite cousin. He's much more social, and much better about staying in regular touch with his cousins, than dh is. I'm not sure we'd have gone even if we'd been invited... we're still a few days away from being considered fully vaccinated, and I'm not sure I'm ready to dive into visits outside the immediate family circle yet. But it's still kind of annoying. I don't *think* childlessness has anything to do with it (on a surface level, at least), but it's an unpleasant reminder of those "outsider/other" feelings of rejection and exclusion and being overlooked that I've been dealing with my entire life.  

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

      Sunday, July 11, 2021

      "Hungry" by Grace Dent

      I must admit, I had never heard of Grace Dent, before her memoir -- "Hungry: A story of growing up and wanting more" -- was announced as the July selection for our Gateway Women/NoMo book club (no miracle pregnancies allowed!).  By reading the book description & author blurb, I gathered that she was a well-known food writer and TV personality in Britain, currently at The Guardian.  

      Things started out auspiciously with an epigraph from Ena Sharples, a character from the long-running soap opera "Coronation Street," which my mother has watched faithfully on CBC TV for years & years (albeit at a few weeks' delay from the episodes shown in Britain). (Queen Elizabeth recently visited the set to mark its 60th (!!) year on television.)  Since we didn't get any other TV channels but CBC until I was 14 (and even then, don't touch the TV while Mom's soap is on!!), I well remember Ena as one of the old ladies raising a glass at the Rovers Return pub. 

      (I digress.) 

      "Hungry" follows Grace (born in 1973) from her childhood in a working class family in northern England to university in Scotland to clawing her way into writing for increasingly more prestigious publications in London -- eventually as a food critic -- and also appearing as a television commentator. There's plenty about food along the way, as the title suggests (from the tin-can fare and convenience foods of Grace's childhood to some of the most expensive restaurants in London), but also about Grace's family, and in particular her relationship with her father. "My only little girl," he'd call her (except Grace discovered that wasn't true: her father had been married previously and had two other daughters, as well as a son from another previous relationship).  At the height of her career, she moves back to Cumbria to help her brother care for her aging parents. 

      The geography, the brand names and the dishes that Grace writes about might not have been familiar to me, as a Canadian/North American -- but food, family, growing up and growing older are something we can all relate to. This book was funny (the description of Grace dressed up like a Christmas pudding for the cover of the Christmas edition of the Guardian magazine had me in stitches) and poignant and full of sharp observations about family and class and ambition and the publishing world and foodies and so much more. The writing is amazing. I bawled my way through the entire final chapter, including the shopping list from Grace's last-minute Christmas Eve trip to the supermarket. 

      And now I'm off to open a can of Campbell's soup and brown some hamburger and onions and cook some noodles and make my own version of Grace's childhood comfort food -- what my American mother refers to as "Minnesota Lutheran potluck cuisine," and what my relatives there would refer to as "hotdish." (You might call it a casserole, lol.)  

      Five (5) stars on Goodreads.

      This was Book #35 read to date in 2021 (and Book #1 finished in July), bringing me to 97% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 17 (!) books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

      Tuesday, July 6, 2021

      Pandemic anniversary and other odds & ends

      • Today is our (36th!!) wedding anniversary. Saturday we'll be getting our first haircuts in 17 weeks -- the first appointments we could get after salons reopened late last week.  Last night, dh asked me, "If the first available appointment had been tomorrow on our anniversary instead of Saturday, would you have taken it?"  Me: "Damn right."  lol  #trueromantic #priorities  ;)  
      • This is our second pandemic anniversary. We'll be celebrating in much the same way as we did last year, with wine and takeout from one of our favourite restaurants, and maybe an outing for some (takeout) gelato. :)  Restaurant patios are open (albeit not indoor dining yet) -- but we're only a week out from our second vaccines. Even if we were past the two-week mark, I'm not sure either of us would be comfortable on a patio yet. Maybe later this summer...? (COVID-19 aside, today's forecast is 32C, 40C with humidity factored in -- that's 90F & 104F, respectively.)(It was already 24C/31C humidex = 75F/88F at 7 a.m. this morning.)  
        • There's still nobody else I'd rather be quarantined with. :)   
      • We often celebrate our anniversary with a bookstore visit ;)  but we were already there yesterday. For both of us, it was the first time we'd been back since March 31st -- more than three full months!! (It reopened on June 11th after our latest lockdown restrictions were lifted for non-essential retail.  There are still capacity limits and mask requirements, among other precautions.)  Then I went to the drugstore to pick up some prescriptions and sundries -- also for the first time since March 31st, although it's remained open all through the pandemic (masks & other social distancing measures in place), and dh has been there in the months between to pick up stuff he couldn't find on the pharmacy shelves at the supermarket. 
        • It was... weird. Obviously, I've been both places since the pandemic began, in between lockdowns, but it's like finding your feet all over again -- fumbling for your wallet, your debit card and points card, and trying to remember your PIN number when the tap & go feature doesn't work... I had to shake off the feeling that I needed to rush through the stacks and get out again ASAP, because I didn't want to spend too much time indoors with other people -- even if we are partially vaccinated, and all of us were wearing masks and keeping our distance from each other. 
        • It was sensory overload too. I walked in and immediately spotted half a dozen books I coveted. Even in the drugstore, I had to restrain myself -- I think I'm still in a lockdown/scarcity mindset. I see stuff that I use, and even if I have plenty at home, I feel like I should buy more and stock up. I had to remind myself that if I start running low, the drugstore will still be open (and/or I can order some online). I don't HAVE to buy ALL THE THINGS, NOW.  I think it will take a while to get back into the swing of things again...!  
        • With the bookstore, dh confessed he's gotten so used to being able to just download whatever he wants to his e-reader, at much cheaper prices than even a paperback, that he doesn't feel the same compulsion to buy books. (I bought three -- two hardcovers, one discounted, and one paperback, also discounted).  I still love my paper books (and I still love going to the bookstore, just to soak up the atmosphere and to browse and see what's there) -- but these days I admit I find it hard to justify paying the extra money for paper (whether hardcover or paperback)(and taking up precious shelf space in our small condo). 
          • I do think a lot of e-books are ridiculously priced, though, and I keep my eyes open for e-book bargains. I have a (long) running wishlist on Kobo that I scroll through regularly, and surprisingly, I will often find a book that was regularly priced at $13.99, $16.99 or more for $5.99 or less. (All figures Canadian dollars.) I've learned to snap up bargains when I see them, though, because they will often revert to regular price the next day!  
      • As I mentioned above, it's been 17 weeks since our last haircuts (in mid-March, between lockdowns). It's also been 17 weeks since we last visited the cemetery near Old Community where Katie's ashes are interred. 
        • When we lived in the area (10-15 minutes from the cemetery), we used to go nearly every week (for almost 18 years straight), often late on a Saturday afternoon before heading out for dinner. When we moved here, dh promised me we could still visit as often as I wanted. It's 30-40 minutes, one way, and we're never there for more than a few minutes, so I knew that it wouldn't be practical to go every week like we used to. 
        • Eventually, a new pattern emerged:  visiting before or after haircuts (with a stop at a favourite local store or two worked in for good measure) -- i.e., every six weeks or so. We have occasionally gone between haircuts -- on Katie's day, on some Mother's & Father's Days, and sometimes just because we felt like it -- and then we'd usually go for lunch and a browse at the bookstore near there, so that it wasn't just a matter of driving for half an hour, visiting for 10-15 minutes and then turning around and head back home.  Which, I suppose, is why we haven't been there during these past 17 weeks when the hair salons have been closed.  
        • I feel guilty sometimes that we are not there more often. On the other hand, not many bereaved parents I talk to are still visiting their child's grave every single week, 23 years later. So I try to cut myself some slack. 
        • Dh did propose, when we moved here, that we could purchase niches at a cemetery here, sell our niches there and have Katie's urn moved. I didn't want to do that. Sure, the idea of having her closer to us had some merit.  But.  Her niche was sealed 23 years ago this summer, with her urn inside, and some roses and a letter from me and a little Classic Pooh book from her father. To open that up again would be like opening up an old wound, I think. That's the resting place we chose for her -- it's a lovely cemetery, with a "Garden of Angels" nearby, where the children of many of the parents who came to our support group are buried too.  I feel like she belongs there, in that community, where she was an important part of our life, even if she never took a breath or lived in the house we bought with her and her non-existent siblings in mind. 
      • For the second (pandemic) summer in a row, CBC Radio One is broadcasting reruns of the Vinyl Cafe with the late, great Stuart McLean on Sunday mornings. I wrote last summer about how wonderful it was to visit with this comforting old friend again, and it's just as nice (and bittersweet) the second rerun summer around. :)  Once again, I got a huge lump in my throat as an anonymous volunteer audience member announced "It's the Vinyl Cafe with Stuart McLean!"  
        • You can listen too, live on CBC Radio One, online, or wherever you get your podcasts. 

      Monday, July 5, 2021

      Fireworks jerks?

      Last Thursday was Canada Day, and Sunday (yesterday) was Fourth of July/Independence Day in the U.S.  Fireworks are a big part of the traditional celebrations in both countries -- but I've noticed more than a few people in my social media feeds and on blogs (Sue's "Unleashed in Oregon," for one) complaining about them, in recent years and over the past few days specifically.  

      There are a lot of reasons why people might not appreciate fireworks. They can be highly traumatic for veterans and people who have lived in war zones (and there are lots of them in major urban areas like the one where I live).  They're also traumatic for pets and other animals. They can set off wildfires, especially in places where drought is a factor (and there are lots of those this year). 

      This year, my country's Indigenous peoples/First Nations requested that Canada Day celebrations be cancelled or scaled back, out of respect for the very recent discovery of hundreds of unmarked children’s graves found near former residential schools (with many sure more to come), and the grief their communities were dealing with. (Would you like it if someone set off celebratory fireworks while you were mourning your dead child(ren)?)  Many official celebrations already were cancelled or scaled back because of the pandemic anyway (although there were several provinces that chose to lift some, most or all pandemic restrictions on July 1st).  

      But judging by the steady barrage of fireworks set off in my neighbourhood alone over the weekend -- and reports of many others across the country -- not too many people seemed to have received the message. 

      I loved fireworks when I was a kid -- but they only happened once or twice a year -- Victoria Day (May 24th) and (more commonly) Dominion Day/Canada Day (July 1st) -- and Fourth of July, if we happened to be at my grandmother's in Minnesota.  And there would be ONE community display, put on by the town or a local service organization, and everyone would come out to watch. Personal fireworks were mostly illegal, most places that I lived when I was growing up -- although I'm pretty sure that has gone by the wayside even in those places now. You could maybe buy some firecrackers and sparklers to light up in the back yard, and that was about it. 

      These days (and especially in recent years), fireworks displays are EVERYWHERE.  They're easily purchased in the weeks leading up to the holiday from pop-up shops and trucks set up on street corners and in parking lots. We used to be able to see & hear fireworks from our suburban backyard when we had our house;  in the early years we lived there, the neighbours would take up a collection, buy some fireworks and set them off in the street. Dh used to fret about one landing on our roof & burning down the house.)  Here at our condo, we can see all kinds of fireworks from our windows and balcony -- some of them pretty spectacular -- and we sure can hear them. The barrage of noise went on steadily for hours on Thursday night. 

      I still appreciate a good fireworks display these days, and I don't mind a little noise, for an hour or two after sunset, ON HOLIDAYS.  What I do mind is when the noise goes on ALL WEEKEND LONG, and for hours into the night -- and that's what's been happening more and more often lately. (Not to mention we've also been dealing with hours of honking car horns and cheering fans over the past few weeks every time Italy wins a game in the EuroCup soccer tournament...!)  Many people on social media said they thought this past holiday weekend, the noise was the worst they'd ever seen/heard.  I heard explosions going off well after midnight on Saturday night (when I was already in bed);  someone in my Facebook feed reported hearing fireworks going off at 2:30 a.m. last night/early this morning, when she had to get up for work.  People don't always stick to holiday weekends now either -- in recent summers, weekend fireworks have become a regular feature, even into the fall. I can remember asking dh on Labour Day last year when "back to school fireworks" became a thing...! 

      I'm not sure why this is happening. I don't know whether people feel like they have to let off steam after being cooped up inside, not only during a long winter but a long year & a half of pandemic?  I've noticed that celebrations of all kinds just keep getting bigger and flashier these days -- more, more more.  Compare the simple kids' birthday parties my sister & I used to have and attend to today's extravaganzas.  Nowadays, you don't just go a wedding -- there's an engagement party, sometimes multiple bridal showers, a "Jack and Jill" or "Stag & Doe,"  multiple showers, bachelor and bachelorette parties (and not just parties but entire weekends, and not just weekends but "destination" weekends...!).  Come to think of it, I know fireworks get used at some weddings and gender reveals parties hereabouts.  

      Personally, I think a lot of people have simply forgotten how to behave around others. I've heard so many reports of bad behaviour in so many different settings recently, not just related to fireworks displays.  Manners, common courtesy and common sense seem to have gone out the window.  The "I'm going to do what I want and if you don't like it, too bad" mindset certainly existed before the pandemic (and I think a certain U.S. president -- *cough* -- had a lot to do with modelling/encouraging this sort of behaviour recently), but the pandemic certainly hasn't helped. 

      Late today, I heard that an errant firework was responsible, at least in part, for the death of the Columbus Blue Jackets (hockey team)'s 24-year-old goalie in a bizarre incident in a hot tub (!) in Novi, Michigan, last night. 

      What do you think? 

      #MicroblogMondays: Tales from a trunk

      I LOVE these kinds of stories!

      In 1986, Richard Payton came into possession of an old chest, found in a home in North Hollywood, where the owner had passed away. Inside, he found a vintage wedding dress and shoes from 1934, photos, letters, and an old Bible. 

      Payton's cousin, K.C. Thompson, tried on the dress. It fit perfectly. Payton gave it to her and she wore it several years later on her own wedding day.  Curious, she began researching the dress's original owner. She identified that first bride as Ellen Prince, born in Alpena County, Michigan, in 1912.  

      “When I wore it, I got the sense that this woman didn’t want to be forgotten,” Thompson told the Alpena News in March. “She wanted to go home. I feel like I am the custodian of her life. I’m so curious to know more about her, and I hope the people in Alpena will help me return Ellen home. That is where I believe she belongs, at home with family. All of these family heirlooms belong with her family.”

      The heirlooms were priceless to her great-nephew, George Light, who was thrilled to receive them -- minus the wedding dress, which he agreed Thompson should keep. (She hopes to eventually donate it to a museum in the Alpena area.)  He remembers Prince as a committed teacher, active in her church, who loved to host her family at Christmastime. 

      “Ellen may not have been a blood relative of mine, but she is special to me, so getting these things to George was important,” Thompson told the newspaper recently

      Ellen Prince had no descendants -- she never had children. But her life, her story and her memory are being remembered, honoured and preserved -- by her extended family, and by a curious stranger with an unusual connection to her. 

      Never doubt the impact your life can have on others, even when you are childless! 

      Read the whole story -- the original article and the followup! (The photos of the wedding dress are gorgeous!) 

      Thanks to Kathleen Guthrie Woods  of 52 Nudges and Life Without Baby for sharing this story on social media!  (K.C. Thompson is Kathleen's relative!) Kathleen has a book coming out later this month called "The Mother of All Dilemmas."  I have already pre-ordered a copy for my phone's Kindle app and can't wait to read it! 

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

      Saturday, July 3, 2021

      Odds & ends

      • In case you missed it here (and I will admit, it was buried in the middle of a very long post, lol):  dh & I celebrated Canada Day on Thursday with BIL & SIL... by getting our second vaccines!!  (Moderna, after getting AstraZeneca the first time around on April 5th). We will be considered fully vaccinated on July 15th. What a relief!!  We went out for ice cream together afterwards at Dairy Queen (went through the drive-thru and ate in the car in the parking lot). We got to see Little Great-Nephew too.  :)  
        • I started feeling tired and achy in the evening and had a lousy night. (Dh too.) Just aching all over and feeling like crap. Finally got up around 5:30 a.m. and took two ibuprofen (which I probably should have done before I went to bed...!).  Broke out in a sweat, but felt a little better... then tough again during the day (checked my temperature and it was 100.9F in the early afternoon)... then a little better in the late afternoon/evening. Arm/shoulder is still sore this morning, but overall, much better! 
        • Older Nephew & his wife managed to snag appointments yesterday, and Younger Nephew & his wife will be getting their second shots next weekend. :)  
      • Dh & I had phone consultations with our family doctor a few days ago -- as we did almost exactly a year ago, in lieu of our annual physicals. The office/clinic where he works is still not seeing patients personally unless absolutely necessary, although they hope to reopen more fully in August. Both of us were running out of our prescription medications and needed renewals on our prescriptions (which he sent directly to our local pharmacy).  
        • It's been two years since we last had bloodwork done, so he emailed us requisitions to have that done (there's a lab where we can have it done just down the street from us). Crossing my fingers that there won't be any dramatic changes! 
        • I mentioned that we had both had AstraZeneca for our first vaccines and had appointments for the second later in the week, where we would probably be getting Moderna. (We did.) Basically, he said we did the right thing by getting the AZ when it was offered to us, and that the Moderna would be a good choice for the second shot, that studies to date have shown that "mixing" AZ with an mRNA vaccine provides very effective protection with not much more than the usual side effects. I told him I would tell my mother that he approved, lol.  
      • Italy won its quarter-final EuroCup soccer game against Belgium on Friday afternoon. The game ended before 5 p.m. -- just in time for Friday afternoon rush hour in our predominantly Italian-Canadian community (our building is on a main thoroughfare -- although, thankfully, we face the back of the property!) -- and the barrage of honking car horns went on (and on... and on... and on...) for more than FOUR HOURS. (It finally died out around sunset... just in time for the fireworks to start...! -- It's Canada Day weekend here.)  Even dh -- who enjoys watching the games, and revels in being here among his paisan -- was getting annoyed after a while. Especially when we both were still feeling the effects of our vaccinations the day before...!  (If this is what it's like for a EuroCup quarter final, heaven help us when the World Cup rolls around...!) 
        • This was the scene a few days ago when Italy won a previous game... and this is what it looked like around 9:30 p.m. last night, as things were starting to die down.  This is in the old village, about 2 km (1 mile+) from where we live (closer as the crow flies...), where there are several cafes/patios where people gather to watch the games on TV.  (There are several mid-rise condo buildings in the area -- including one where dh's aunt lives -- and we actually looked at a few of them... yikes!! I pity the poor residents...!) Local traffic was blocked for hours. We're still under gathering size restrictions and mask mandates here, but you wouldn't know that from these videos...!  And how many of these people/kids do you think are fully vaccinated??  
      • Something that is really starting to irk me: Younger Nephew & his wife have been married for three years now... we know they want kids and also that there are factors that might make that difficult. Every now & then (and at least two or three times, the last time we saw them), BIL &/or SIL will get a mournful look on their face, shake their heads and sadly say something like, "I really hope she gets pregnant soon"  or "I hope they're not going to have any issues," etc.  I said to dh, "I want to say, 'You do realize who you're talking to, right?' "  I won't, because they've always been good to us and generous about including us in things and sharing their kids & grandson with us -- and of course there is no one cheering more for the kids to have a family than dh & me -- but...!  
      • I am feeling a little heartsick over what's happened in British Columbia this past week. The small town of Lytton, in the province's interior, endured three consecutive days of the hottest weather ever recorded in this country -- and then on day 4, the whole town went up in flames from a wildfire. People had just a few minutes' notice to evacuate, and at least two of them didn't make it out alive. The Washington Post even wrote about it. 
      • Fan-girling here:  The writer Joyce Maynard shared a new article on Facebook that Elle magazine just published about her, and I shared it on my own FB news feed. I mentioned what a profound impact her book "Looking Back" had on me as a pre-teen, and I also mentioned her mother Fredelle Bruser Maynard's lovely memoir "Raisins and Almonds." (I mentioned both in a 2010 blog post, here.) I'm "friends" with Joyce on FB (along with 5,000 other people...! -- I don't know her personally), and somehow she saw and actually commented on my post, saying how happy it made her that I remember her mother's book. :)  
        • The article is worth a read. I especially loved this line: “I think it’s useful to consider how many terrible things can happen, and you can still have a wonderful life,” Maynard says.