Tuesday, February 23, 2021

(More) Odds & ends

  • Why we are doomed...  (footage from a big-box home decor store in my region, which just reopened this week).  Also: check out this related tweet (& responses)(featured in the story).  
    • I love Homesense (and I will admit I found myself thinking wistfully about all the great stuff I usually find there when I was decorating for Christmas....) -- but is now *really* the time to be lining up to buy a decorative basket or pillow or farmyard sign or...??  The longer people keep doing dumb stuff like this, the longer this is going to drag on... 
    • Even in non-COVID times, I don't think you'd find me waiting 45 minutes in line for a photo frame or pillow...!  
    • (Also: aren't there supposed to be store capacity limits in place right now, as part of the reopening rules? Were they being enforced?) 
  • Katy at Chasing Creation has put together an online summit for childless women!  Four days of amazing (free!) programming (March 18-21), with options to upgrade for longer access to videos, bonus podcasts and other perqs. Check it out and register here.  
  • Jess ("My Path to Mommyhood") has a new blogging home! Go say hello and congratulate her on the launch of "Finding a Different Path." 
  • My best friend from growing up emailed me on my 60th birthday last month (which I mentioned here) -- she asked me then for my current phone numbers, and she called me earlier tonight! I recognized the area code but not the number -- though it might be one of my aunties, who call me occasionally -- what a surprise when I realized who it was!  We talked for an hour & a half!! As I said in my earlier post, we don't see each other or talk on the phone often these days, but whenever we do, we just pick up where we left off.  It was a real pick-me-up.  :)  
  • The hair salon we frequent (back in our old community, where we had the house -- a 30-45 minute drive from here) reopened last week, and I've been trying to call for appointments for haircuts, on & off. I finally gave up trying to reach a live person there and left a voice mail message this afternoon... and got a message back while I was on the phone with my girlfriend tonight (of course...!).  They are open again, BUT our regular stylist of the last several years is not back to work yet. Her little girl has health issues (asthma) and she is not comfortable with returning to work yet.  So we're trying to decide:  should we wait a while longer and see if/when she's coming back? (It's already been 12 weeks since our last haircuts, and we're both feeling pretty shaggy -- albeit it was 17 weeks between haircuts last spring/summer...!)  Should we ask for appointments with one of the other stylists there (whom we've known for a while too, albeit she's never cut our hair)?  Or should we make the break and try to find a new salon/stylist(s) here, closer to home (in the middle of a pandemic...!)?  I don't know... what would you do?? 

Monday, February 22, 2021

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

  • BIL called dh on Friday afternoon... Someone he works with had had close contact with someone else who had COVID-19 symptoms and was being tested... so this coworker was getting tested too. Of course, BIL won't hear what the results were until sometime today, when he's back at work. To date, the only person in our circle (that we know of) who's had COVID is dh/BIL's cousin's husband. But it feels like it's getting closer & closer all the time... Reports of the new, more contagious variants, are scary.  And meanwhile, the vaccine rollout here continues to be painfully slow...  
  • Our region is reopening today (moving from grey to code red), after more than two months under lockdown/stay-at-home orders (with capacity restrictions, etc., in place). (The city proper and one other nearby region remain closed for at least another two weeks.)  The region where we used to live -- and where we still go for haircuts and doctor visits -- reopened last week. I've been calling the hair salon almost daily for the past week, trying to book haircuts, but I just keep getting voice mail. It's been almost 12 weeks since our last haircuts -- I may eventually get desperate enough to just leave a message and hope for the best, lol.  
    • I've heard that salons, restaurants, etc., in some regions are asking people for ID/proof of address, and if you're from out of region, they will not serve you -- trying to discourage people from regions still under lockdown from coming there for "frivolous" reasons. That's fine with me, but it's not like we're just roaming around looking for haircuts -- we've been customers of our stylist for several years now (if not at this particular salon -- she moved over there last year after the one we'd been going to for years closed). 
  • Fire alarm testing in our building today... uggghhhh.... SO. LOUD!!  
  • Thank you, Jody Day, for introducing me to Yael Wolfe and her beautiful, thoughtful writing about childlessness and other subjects. This recent piece was just about perfect -- about the experience of childlessness, about motherhood, about labels (the ones we choose for ourselves and the ones that get applied to us), about the stories we tell and the ones we don't and why...  Definintely worth a read! 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Sunday, February 21, 2021

"Sourdough" by Robin Sloan

Well. THAT was... interesting...! 

"Sourdough" by Robin Sloan is/was our Gateway Women/NoMo book club pick for February. There are no babies or pregnancies in "Sourdough," which fits the parameters of the club. 

There is, however, bread. Lots and lots of bread. This is not a book for the carb-phobic, lol. The cover shown on the left is the one I had on my Kobo ebook, but other editions feature a loaf of sourdough.  Just looking at it made me hungry. And crave bread -- preferably warm out of the oven, with lots of butter, lol.  

Our young heroine, Lois Clary, learned about robots when she started working in Detroit's auto industry. Now she's been hired by a Silicon Valley company that programs robot arms to do various tasks. Like many of her coworkers, she spends long hours at the office, existing on a "nutritive gel" with the rather unappetizing name of "Slurry."  Then one night at her apartment, she decides to order in from a local hole-in-the-wall restaurant run by two immigrant brothers, and falls in love with their "Double Spicy" -- soup and sandwiches made with delicious sourdough bread. When visa issues force the brothers to leave the country, they entrust her -- their "Number One Eater" -- with a crock of their sourdough starter.  

And so Lois begins to bake bread. And strange things begin to happen... 

I don't want to give away too much of the plot here, but suffice to say the writing is highly readable, and the story takes a few unexpected/weird twists & turns that kept me turning the pages.  I was reminded of "Uncanny Valley" by Anna Wiener -- a young woman's memoir of her experiences in Silicon Valley (which I read & reviewed here).  And maybe a couple of sci-fi &/or fantasy movies I've seen. (I'm not much into sci-fi or fantasy, but there are definitely elements of that here.) There's everything here from ancient civilizations to the hippy-dippy/crunchy-granola San Francisco of the 1960s to modern foodie culture (a restaurant that made me think of Alice Waters's Chez Panisse) to the sleek high-tech world and the belief that technology can solve everything. Can these things all co-exist? What happens when worlds collide? 

I'll be thinking about this one for a while... 

(I do like books that make me think, even if I don't entirely understand.)  

Four stars on Goodreads. 

This was Book #11 read to date in 2021 (and Book #6 finished in February so far), bringing me to 31% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 6 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

Saturday, February 20, 2021

"The Young Clementina" by D.E. Stevenson (re-read)

My online D.E. Stevenson group just finished our chapter-by-chapter reading & discussion of "The Young Clementina," one of Stevenson's early published novels (1935). I read the book for the first time in December (before Christmas), before our group read began, and reviewed it here

I reviewed the plot, its shortcomings and strong points in my previous review, so I won't repeat myself here. I did note then that our group discussions usually added to my appreciation of the book, and that was certainly the case here. My feelings about the book's flaws remain (and I was glad to learn my concerns are shared by others in the group) -- but overall, it was not without merits, and my fellow group members helped me to see those more clearly too. 

That said, my original rating -- 3 stars on Goodreads -- still stands. It's not my favourite DES novel (the highly predictable ending will have anyone who's ever dealt with infertility rolling their eyes...!), but I am glad I read it.  

Our group's next Stevenson novel will be "Katherine's Marriage," a sequel to "Katherine Wentworth," which we read together last summer (reviewed here and here). 

This was Book #10 read to date in 2021 (and Book #5 finished in February so far), bringing me to 28% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 6 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

"Unimaginable" by Brooke D. Taylor

Brooke (Brooke D. Taylor) -- who blogs at By the Brooke  -- has written a book!   

"Unimaginable: Life After Baby Loss" tells the story of Brooke's pregnancy with her first daughter, her "Baby Duck," Eliza, who was stillborn in December 2010, and what happened next. 

I will admit that I was predisposed to love this book. I started reading Brooke's blog shortly after Eliza died -- found it through Mel's now-defunct Lost & Found Connections Abound (LFCA) blog, I believe. The first post she wrote after losing Eliza consisted mostly of a passage from "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold, which I recognized immediately from my university days (and which The Bangles used as inspiration for their own amazing song, "Dover Beach" in the early 1980s... but, I digress... ;)  ). (I loved studying the Victorians, and I loved Arnold -- I remember doing a paper on his "Empedocles on Etna." And I adore The Bangles. :)  ) 

Brooke is almost (gulp) 20 years younger than me;  Eliza died almost 12 years after my Katie. She went on to become the mother of three (more) adorable, high-spirited little girls -- Eliza's younger sisters;  Katie remains my only child.  And yet, there's a common thread that runs through our grief experiences -- through most pregnancy loss & grief experiences, no matter how different the circumstances. Brooke's words, in her blog and now in this book, beautifully capture the experience of bereavement, and how it evolves over time.  The book is not a long read (258 pages) but it's jam-packed with wise words and thoughtful observations -- minute little details that instantly took me back 23 years with a shock of recognition at the memory -- and had me bookmarking page after page. I don't often cry over my lost pregnancy or wee baby girl these days, but I needed Kleenex at several points, reading Brooke's story. 

I've read lots of pregnancy loss books & memoirs in the years since the stillbirth of my own daughter.  This ranks right up there with the best of them, including Elizabeth McCracken's "An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination," which I have long considered the gold standard.  ;)  It would be the perfect book to hand to someone who is dealing with the unimaginable -- or to someone who doesn't know what to say or how to help someone who is. (Actually, it would be a great book for anyone dealing with any kind of traumatic loss.)

Check out Brooke's blog, as well as her book. You can order your own copy of "Unimaginable," in Kindle or paperback format, on Amazon, here

5 stars on Goodreads. 

This was Book #9 read to date in 2021 (and Book #4 finished in February so far), bringing me to 25% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 5 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Odds & ends

  • New computer report: I am still missing some photos & documents from the past two years, as well as my older emails and genealogy program & files (for now -- until I can get to Manitoba and have my sister's boyfriend look at the old laptop's hard drive to see what he can retrieve from that...), but otherwise, so far, so good... 
  • Unnerving news: A cluster of five cases of a COVID-19 variant that originated in South Africa has been detected in a condo building in Mississauga (west of Toronto). What's really concerning is that none of these people appear to know each other or to have had significant close contact with each other -- i.e., the virus may have spread via common elements, such as elevators and hallways.  All 1,800 residents and staff are being tested by public health officials.  
    • On the bright side, we're not in Mississauga (this building is a good half-hour drive away from us)... and our building is much smaller than 1,800 residents (not sure how many residents we have, but there are approximately 120 units). We don't leave our unit that often, masks are mandated in all common elements (so we wear them in the halls and elevators every time we head down to the parking garage to go out), and we are very careful about thoroughly washing our hands as soon as we return. 
    • Dh HAS been making maskless trips to the garbage chute down the hall (which I have not been happy about...), but he has promised me he will start to wear a mask for that two-minute errand as well.  
  • Not just one but TWO of my friends became first-time grandmas last week (one from high school, one from grad school -- a granddaughter, whose middle name is her grandmother's, and a grandson, respectively). The baby photos were adorable, I will admit, and I am happy for my friends -- but I will also admit I felt more than a twinge at the unfairness of life and the thoughts of the grandchildren I will never have... 
    • On the same day in England, Prince Andrew & Sarah ("Fergie"), Duchess of York, also became first-time grandparents, as Princess Eugenie gave birth to a baby boy (still to be named). I know Andrew has become a bit of a pariah in recent years (and not without good reason) -- but he's less than a year older than me, and when I was a teenager, he was something of a heartthrob for me and my friends. He spent a year at a private boys' school in cottage country northeast of Toronto, and accompanied his parents to the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton in 1978. 
  • Brooke has written a book!! If you're a fan of her wonderful blog (as I am), or if your life has been affected by the loss of a baby in some way, you will want to read "Unimaginable," the memoir she has written about her first daughter, Eliza, and life after pregnancy loss. Both Kindle and paperback editions are now available on Amazon, and I downloaded a copy to my cellphone app as soon as it became available last Friday. Reading now;  review to come soon...  :)  
  • Further to my post about Family Day, after I hit "post" I found a related opinion piece from Elizabeth Renzetti in the Globe & Mail (which I mentioned in the comments of my post):  "After a year of forced togetherness, could we celebrate UnFamily Day this time?" I generally like her columns -- and she does nod to the fact that "many people are not lucky enough to be driven mad by boredom and proximity."  But it didn't do anything to make me feel differently about Family Day...!  
    • I posted my #MicroblogMondays/ Family Day post before looking at my social media feeds that day. Everyone was posting photos of their families and wishing each other "Happy Family Day."  I guess this has become A Thing To Do.  Sigh.  
  • In The Eggs I Sold, the Baby I Gained -- a first-person piece from the New York Times -- a young woman ponders her egg donation 10 years earlier, her marriage, and the premature birth of her son after a precarious pregnancy -- events that may (or may not) be interconnected.  A lot can change in 10 years that can't be predicted...!  
  • The New York Times also recently had a big series of articles under the collective title of "The Primal Scream: America's Mothers are in Crisis," about how moms are surviving the pandemic (or not). 
    • The NYT & other publications *have* published occasional articles on how people living alone are coping with the pandemic too... but by and large, it seems like the media's focus has been on moms and families.  
    • The comments on all the articles in the series are (mostly) worth reading, with two themes in particular that I found interesting:  (1) many young women saying that watching how mothers have struggled during the pandemic and the lack of social supports for parents has helped them decide they will not be having children of their own, and (2) "Where are the men??"  
    • The one article in the series that raised my childless hackles a bit was titled "Working Moms Are Struggling. Here’s What Would Help. What government, employers and the rest of us can do."  Under a section titled "How individuals could help," the article notes that 
...the pandemic has made it undeniable that raising children is, and always has been, a community endeavor — and mothers need their communities now more than ever. 
We are only going to survive this by recruiting non-mothers to our cause,” said Katherine Goldstein, creator and host of the Double Shift podcast about a new generation of working mothers. [emphasis mine]

A little further down, under "Friends, do your part":  

If you don’t have children at home, think of ways to help those who do. Set up a meal train. Offer to take children for a distanced park walk or read to them on Zoom. Mail an activity kit. (Just make sure it’s one that doesn’t require much adult involvement.)

Ummm, ooookkaaayyy. Seriously, I understand that it does, indeed, take a village. And I daresay many non-mothers *are* helping out their sisters/nieces/neighbours/friends who are moms... I have two issues with this exhortation, however:  (1) I have seen comments in private forums from several childless women who have indeed offered their services to help out neighbours during this pandemic (not just moms, but elderly people, etc.) with dog-walking, grocery shopping, etc. -- only to have those offers politely rebuffed. (Even in non-COVID times.)  And (2)  The concern, the check-ins, the offers to help, are so very rarely reciprocated. How many parents are checking in on US and how WE are doing?  (Especially those who are not only childless but unpartnered/living alone?)  Everyone is dealing with extra stress and pressures these days, and we all need to keep a friendly eye out for each other -- regardless of who we *think* most needs our support. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

#MicroblogMondays: Pandemic Family Day

Today is Family Day in Ontario, as well as a couple of other Canadian provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan). Other provinces have a holiday today as well, albeit they wisely opted to call it something different -- Islander Day in Prince Edward Island, Heritage Day in Nova Scotia and Louis Riel Day in my home province of Manitoba. Yukon designates one Friday in February as Heritage Day.  Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories still don't offer a February long weekend holiday at all.  Not everyone gets the day off (even in a pandemic), which is a sore spot with some, but for the most part, most people in Ontario are enjoying a holiday today. 

Anyone who's been reading my blog for a while knows that while I am all for a holiday long weekend in mid-February, I am not a fan of Family Day per se. I wish-wish-wish the powers that be had opted to call it something other than Family Day -- and you will understand why.  ;) 

I wondered whether COVID-19 would put a damper on the Family Day hype this year.  And this morning, the Toronto Star has an editorial musing on that subject, noting that for some people, too much family togetherness has been the problem, while for others, it's been far too little.  

But, never let a pandemic stand in the way of pronatalism -- or consumerism, lol... Non-essential retail stores are closed (albeit curbside pickup is still available from many stores), but I noticed a preponderance of recent ads from retailers & small businesses wishing everyone a "Happy Family Day!"  (Some went so far as to wish "Happy Family Day, Canada!" -- which would be rubbing salt in the wounds of those provinces that don't get any kind of holiday at all today -- see above.)  I also noticed a lot of ads in my Facebook & Instagram feeds from restaurants offering not only Valentine's Day specials but also Family Day specials this weekend. The Italian restaurants around here tend to offer huge family-sized portions anyway, especially around holidays, so I suppose it was natural, but still... (I have yet to peruse my social media posts this morning, so I'm not sure how much my friends there are saying about it...) 

Still. Things could be worse.  Not only is today Family Day, but it was Valentine's Day yesterday (as well as Chinese New Year on Friday! -- and today is also Presidents Day in the U.S.). For anyone who's both childless AND unpartnered, this weekend had to be a nightmare...!  

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

Sunday, February 14, 2021

"Belgravia" by Julian Fellowes

I decided "Belgravia" by Julian Fellowes would be my next read, because the six-part television adaptation is scheduled to begin on CBC TV tonight (Sunday, Feb. 14th -- Valentine's Day). I think I will watch (on PVR, if not live), and I always like to read the original book version ahead of the TV series or movie, if possible.  

Fellowes is perhaps best known as the creator of "Downton Abbey" -- and there are some similarities to DA:  themes of class consciousness and divisions, upstairs/downstairs characters and plots, long-hidden secrets that threaten to be revealed, illegitimacy, arranged marriages, rivalries inside and between families...  basically, a soap opera, lol.  ;)  (With perhaps a bit of fairy tale thrown in, too.) 

But there are differences too, particularly in the timeframe covered. "Downton Abbey" covers the years 1912 to 1927.  "Belgravia" opens in Brussels, Belgium, in 1815 -- almost a full century earlier -- on the eve of the historic battle at nearby Waterloo.*  Young Sophia Trenchard, the daughter of the British army's chief supplier, is more concerned with wangling an invitation to the Duchess of Richmond's ball, where her secret romantic interest, Viscount Edmund Bellasis, the future Lord Brockenhurst, will also be present.  The ball sets the stage for the rest of the novel, which takes place 25 years later (mostly) in London, when secrets from the past threaten to ruin the ambitious Trenchard family and their hard-won place in the society that revolves around Belgrave Square.

If you like "Downton Abbey" or novels and films from the Victorian era, you will probably enjoy "Belgravia."  It covers a lot of the same territory (to the point of being somewhat predictable -- although there are a few plot twists -- perhaps a few too many to be plausible...!).  But overall, it was fun and enjoyable.  

At least, I enjoyed it until almost the very end...!  

ALI/PLOT SPOILER ALERT!:  The plot involves (among other things) an obsession with producing heirs and inheritances (which I recognize was par for the course at the time), would-be grandparents longing for grandchildren, a death in childbirth, adoption, and a long-childless couple, including (towards the end of the book) a discussion about whose "fault" their infertility was. Up to that point, I was thinking I would rate the book 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4. This discussion, however, was so cliched and so infuriating to me (albeit I recognize it's a discussion that has happened, and certain in that time period) that I'm afraid I had to knock the rating down a bit, instead of up. 

3 stars on Goodreads (3.5, rounded down). 

Now -- on to the TV show!  (I'll let you know later what I think of that, and how it stacks up vs the book!)

(*Personal side note:  I knew, from previous genealogy research, that my great x4 grandfather, born in County Leitrim, Ireland, was a sergeant in the British army around the time of the War of 1812. But I recently learned, after finding a brief family history written by his great-grandson -- a first cousin of my great-grandmother's -- that he was at Waterloo with the Duke of Wellington.  Not only that, BUT! his son, my great x3 grandfather, was also there with him -- as a drummer boy!!  He was born around 1806, meaning he was about 9 years old at the time. Can you imagine??!)  

This was Book #8 read to date in 2021 (and Book #3 finished in February), bringing me to 22% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 4 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

Friday, February 12, 2021

It never rains but...

I am EXHAUSTED.  What a week! 

Monday (Feb. 8th) was the 23rd "anniversary" of my LMP (last menstrual period) before my pregnancy with Katie -- the beginning of the cycle that created her, and that forever changed my life.. 

Tuesday night,  my laptop -- an ASUS, just 2 & 1/2 years old -- died without warning. It's frozen up on me a couple of times, usually because there was a new Windows update downloading, and sometimes it seemed to take forever to shut down, but otherwise it was working all right. I saw a brief Windows message that there was a problem and then a screen popped up that I'd never seen before with all kinds of options. 

Once I got over the "uh oh!!" shock, I called my sister's boyfriend/partner of the last 40 (!!) years (basically my brother-in-law, although they're not married), who sets up & fixes computers for a living in Manitoba.  We tried a couple of things and... no matter what we did, I could not get the computer to reboot/restart. He suggested I could call the Geek Squad and see what they'd charge to diagnose & (try to) fix the issue -- but he warned me it would cost at least $300 and it was quite likely they might not be able to fix it. And if the cost was going to be half or more of what a new laptop would cost, he didn't think it was worth trying to fix.  He also checked the flyers and found what he thought was a good deal on an HP laptop at BestBuy.  

I've always been a bit addicted to my home computer since I got my first desktop model in 1996 ;) -- but of course, during this pandemic, it's been a lifeline and a connection to the "outside" world, as well as a source of entertainment and information.  Dh is happy just using his smartphone, but I do a lot of writing -- on this blog, emails, etc. -- and need something with a keyboard. (I know a few of you who actually blog ON your cellphones, and I am in awe!! -- pecking away at my phone with one finger is an exercise in frustration for me for anything more than a couple of sentences!) 

Long story short, by the time I woke up the next (Wednesday) morning, I decided to go for the new laptop at BestBuy. Ordering it online from my cellphone was another exercise in frustration...!  (carts that said "empty" when I know I'd "added to cart,"  links for store pickup that refused to work...) but I eventually managed to submit an order before noon. The website said next-day pickup, but I got my notification email and was able to pick it up just a few short hours later.  That was also a seemingly simple process that became an exercise in frustration -- we pulled into the designated parking spot & I tried to send them a notification that we were there, via the email I'd been sent -- and the button simply would NOT "click"!!  I wound up walking over to the front door, where a young guy was speaking to another customer from behind a table, showed him the email and some ID (all while squinting in the sunlight and trying to deal with the fog on my glasses, because, masks...!) and finally claimed my new  laptop!  (This was, by the way, the first time I'd left the condo since my birthday -- which was Jan. 12th!!  A full MONTH!  :p  ) 

I spent several more hours later that afternoon & evening, and again last night, setting things up remotely over the phone and computer with BIL. I hadn't backed up my previous laptop in... WAY too long (insert red-faced icon here), but we were able to use that last backup to restore the vast majority of my photos, videos and documents. We were able to download several years' worth of emails from my ISP's server, and Google had saved all my favourites, startup tabs and passwords! There are still some things I'm missing (my genealogy software, for one), and some kinks to work out -- but!! -- I have a computer again!!   The next time we head west (which, granted, will probably still be several months down the road...), I will bring both laptops, and BIL will see what data he can retrieve and transfer over from the old one. 

Thursday/yesterday afternoon, I was back at the dentist to have my old crown removed, the tooth below it filled and a new temporary crown placed.  I will be near the end of the month to have the temporary crown removed and the permanent placed.  My jaw & neck are still feeling sore. No doubt being all tensed up didn't help matters... 

As with our January visit, the outdoor escalator to the second level of the building (where our dentist's office is) was out of commission, which necessitated climbing a semi-long flight of stairs (after a brisk walk from the parking lot -- dh is a fast walker, and it was COLD outside! -- and I was wearing a mask...) -- which left me huffing & puffing in a way that rather alarmed dh (as well as me).  (I actually had to remove my mask for a moment until I caught my breath -- I was feeling rather claustrophobic with it on.)  An entire year spent mostly in couch potato mode has obviously done absolutely nothing for my physical fitness or stamina (which, granted, was not that great to begin with...!). :(   I REALLY need to get walking again, once the weather gets a bit milder... 

That said -- today we did the housecleaning, which gave me a mild workout and a moderate sweat. :) 

I am ready for the weekend. (Even if there's nowhere to go and nothing fun to do... even though it's Valentine's Day on Sunday. I haven't been able to get even a card for dh.  To be honest, I only just remembered it was this weekend! -- guess I will have to check my card stash for something Valentine-ish...  Also, it's Family Day on Monday... not one of my favourite holidays, as I've vented in the past...!) 

How about you?

Thursday, February 11, 2021

"The Blue Castle" by L.M. Montgomery (re-read)

My L.M. Montgomery Readathon group on Facebook recently finished its chapter-by-chapter read of "The Blue Castle," the only book Montgomery wrote that's set completely outside of Prince Edward Island (in the Muskoka district of Ontario -- today known as prime cottage country). I read the book earlier last fall myself, before our group read began, and reviewed it here

I won't go into a plot summary again -- I did so in my previous review.  But I will repeat that this is one of my favourite LMM novels, and perhaps one of my favourite books ever. I first read it when I was about 12, I think, and I've re-read it several times in the years since then. This latest read & discussion pointed out some of the book's flaws -- but also deepened my appreciation of its merits. (Isn't that what book clubs are supposed to do?)

5 stars on Goodreads (again)(4.5 stars, rounded up).  :)  

We'll find out this weekend what our next Montgomery book will be! 

This was Book #7 read to date in 2021 (and Book #2 finished in February), bringing me to 19% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 3 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

Monday, February 8, 2021

#MicroblogMondays: It may be "allowed," but is it wise??

A Facebook friend who lives in a state with a very high rate of COVID-19 cases has been posting photos all year long of gatherings with large groups of friends, sitting around tables at restaurants, etc. -- shoulder to shoulder, not a mask in sight. 

Today there was a photo from a coffee gathering with half a dozen people. Still standing close together. This time they were all wearing masks (although presumably they weren't wearing them when they were drinking their coffee). I'm glad they finally seem to be getting the message (sort of??), but... it took them an entire year?! 

I know I'm like a broken record on this issue lately -- and I'm sorry if I sound judgmental -- but I still find it so unfathomable that there are places where people are eating inside restaurants... shopping at the mall... going to school and school events... attending Super Bowl games with 25,000 other people (supposedly that was doing it socially distanced?!)... celebrating Super Bowl victories in the streets -- and not only that, but NOT wearing masks while they're doing it!! -- like the entire last year never happened.  Even if you're not under lockdown right now (as we are here) -- even if eating out and gathering with others is "allowed" -- is it wise?  

(I know people are eating out and doing things, unmasked, in places like Australia & New Zealand, but they've more or less stamped out COVID-19 -- they've earned the right to resume "regular" life again. We still haven't...) 

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

Friday, February 5, 2021

What's saving my life right now...

Turia recently asked her readers what's saving our lives right now, and then listed what's saving hers. (She got her inspiration from this post by Modern Mrs. Darcy.)  

Off the top of my head, in no particular order: 

(Some of these items may overlap with my "small pleasures" posts.) 
  • Sunshine.  We don't get NEARLY enough of it at this time of year -- but whenever we do, it makes such a HUGE difference in my mood!  
  • Downton Abbey reruns.  For whatever reason, I'm still an old-fashioned "appointment TV" kind of person. It's almost five years since we moved in here, and we still haven't hooked up our DVD player (!). And my Netflix subscription, which allows me to watch all sorts of movies and programs whenever I want, is sadly under-used (to the point that I actually had to confirm to them that yes, I still wanted to keep my subscription -- like, they emailed me because they were actually wondering whether they should be taking my money anymore??!). But every weekday at 4 p.m., dh & I settle in on the couch for another episode of "Downton Abbey" on CBC.  We're now on our second run through the series, in season 5. Dh has said that if they start re-running the series all over again for a third time, we can find something else to watch, lol.  But for now, I am enjoying basking in the trials and tribulations of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in early 20th century England (again)  -- those dresses!  That HOUSE!! That LIBRARY!!  
  • Photos & videos of Little Great-Nephew on social media. I don't know if his parents realize just how much we enjoy seeing photos of the little guy (now 15 months old), at a time when our contact with him is necessarily limited. We stalk Facebook & Instagram daily, hoping to find something new in our feeds. Too often, there's not... but whenever there is, we watch the heck out of it while it's up. ;)  In one of the more recent videos, his mom kept the camera still while he ran back & forth, in & out of the frame, babbling away to himself. It was hilarious. Dh & I probably watched it about two dozen times each before it disappeared from our feeds. (She posts almost exclusively on Instagram and Facebook Stories, which expire after 24 hours. Why do people do that??! It's so annoying!! -- especially when it's the adorable great-nephew you can't get enough of, lol.  I try to grab a few screenshots of each offering, with varying success.) 
  • The Internet. I can Skype or Zoom with my parents & friends, stay in touch with my friends and relatives on Facebook & Instagram and other online forums, read and comment on blogs (and write/vent on my own), shop online (and have things delivered right to my door), download books and discuss them in book forums with other readers...  This pandemic would be a whole lot harder to navigate without it!  
  • My Kobo e-reader/Kindle phone app.  See above. Yes, I have a ton of paper books on my shelves to read -- we will never lack reading material in this house...! -- but it's SO nice to be able to download that interesting book I just heard about, or the latest pick for one of my online book groups, while bookstores are closed. No need to wait for pickup or delivery. (Plus, e-books are generally cheaper, and don't take up room on my already-overcrowded bookshelves!) 
  • Takeout on Saturday nights. I'll admit, dh does most of the cooking, so it's not like I need a break. ;)  But Saturday nights were always dinner out nights, pre-pandemic, and it's nice to hold onto that bit of normalcy, to keep Saturday night a little bit special/different -- even if we're not actually eating out, just bringing food home from local restaurants to eat here. Often the portions are large enough that we can refrigerate leftovers for another lunch or dinner too. :)  
  • Knowing that this month/winter (and this pandemic) WILL eventually end!  :)  
What's saving your life right now? 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

"The Child Catchers" by Kathryn Joyce

I had just finished reading "American Baby" (reviewed here) when another adoption-related book caught my eye -- recommended in a Jan. 13th post by Nora McInerny (of the podcast "Terrible Thanks for Asking") on her borealisbooks Instagram account. 

It took me longer to get through "The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption" by Kathryn Joyce than my 24-hour speed read of "American Baby" -- it's a longer book, with an incredible level of detail to wade through -- but it was still an absorbing read and a solid work of investigative reporting. Joyce examines how Christian churches -- mostly Protestant evangelical denominations, but also Catholics and Mormons -- have become a driving force behind the rise in both domestic and international adoptions. Adoptive families now include not just infertile couples, but families who already have biological children but feel "called" to add to their families by adopting one or more (sometimes many) children. 

There are several key reasons why adoption has become a popular cause in Christian churches, which Joyce expands on throughout the book. First, there's the idea that adoptive relationships mirror the relationship we have with God (God has "adopted" all of us as his children).  Second, adoption has become a big part of anti-abortion politics (Christians urge women to put their babies up for adoption instead of having abortions, so perhaps they should adopt some of them themselves?). Finally, adoption is seen as a means of fulfilling "the Great Commission" -- the Biblical mandate that Christians spread the Gospel (which commands them to care for widows & orphans). Effectively, Christians see themselves as "saving" the children they adopt twice -- first, from a life of poverty and neglect, and second from a life without God. 

Unfortunately, increased interest in/demand for adoption has led to supply issues, and increased pressure to find more and more babies and children to adopt.  Fewer children are available for adoption in North America today (because of better/easily available birth control and safe and legal abortions, as well as reduced stigma around single motherhood) -- but mothers at home and abroad (Joyce details past and present adoption programs in South Korea, Guatemala, Haiti, Ethiopia and Liberia, among others) are (still) being pressured into relinquishing their children for adoption, often without knowing exactly what they are agreeing to. 

The numbers of "orphans" supposedly needing homes varies wildly, depending on which sources you consult and how you define "orphan." (Some suggest that any fatherless child might be deemed an orphan -- i.e., single mothers are, by definition, unsuitable parents.)  Joyce makes the case that many children being adopted from abroad are not "true" orphans:  many have living parents, siblings, and/or other relatives who might care for them -- some of whom believe their children are being given the opportunity to attend school in the States and will return to them in a few years' time. While many families are sincere in their desire to adopt, and many children are happy with their new families, there have also been failed adoptions and cases of physical and sexual abuse. This has given rise to some interesting new movements among adoptees and birth mothers to reconnect adoptees with their birth families and cultures, and to influence adoption policy. 

If you're interested in the subject of adoption -- or telling childless/infertile women like me that we should "just adopt" -- you need to read this book.  (It was published in 2013, and I find myself wondering how much -- or how little -- has changed in the years since then?)  I consider myself fairly well read on the topic, but this was still an eye-opener for me in many respects. 

4 stars on Goodreads.  

This was Book #6 read to date in 2021 (and Book #1 finished in February), bringing me to 17% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 3 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

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.)

January was the first month of the new year (goodbye 2020 and good riddance...!!), and Full Month #10 (going on #11!) of life in the age of COVID-19 (sigh...). The area we live in has been under lockdown (again!) since Dec. 14th -- initially scheduled for four weeks, which was extended to Jan. 23rd, and then extended further by a state of emergency declaration, including a mandatory stay-at-home order that began on Jan. 14th and will run for (at least) 28 days (= mid-February, at the earliest). This was implemented after case rates continued to rise post-Christmas, with some truly alarming projections forecasted. All non-essential retail businesses are closed -- curbside pickup or delivery only -- and any non-essential workers who can work from home must do so. Hair salons are closed again too (nooooooo....!!!). Our last haircuts were Dec. 4th and we were due for our next ones on Jan. 15th... At least I have a good supply of hairbands this time around, bought during last summer's lockdown...! 

On top of dh's usual weekly trips to the supermarket for groceries and for takeout dinners on Saturday nights, we ventured out together to the dentist (unfortunately, I'll be back in February -- twice!!), to the bank to see our investment advisor and (briefly) to the supermarket, en route home from that appointment. 

Dh also went out with BIL for a few hours a few weekends ago (at BIL's instigation -- taking a drive-by look at some houses for Older Nephew). Needless to say, we are NOT supposed to be interacting with others outside our own households right now, but he was bored silly and they both wore masks in the car. (Not that I'm worried about BIL getting anything from us, more the opposite...!)  I told him if he got caught & fined not to come crying to me. ;)  

Otherwise, we've continued to stay close to home.  

Between COVID-19 and the frigid weather we've had lately, I have not been out of the house/condo since my birthday, Jan. 12th. 

We did not get to see Little Great-Nephew at all in January. :(  :(  :(   (Last visit: a few minutes, masked, on New Year's Eve/Dec. 31st.)  

*** *** ***

Reading: I read 5 books in January (reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads, & tagged "2021 books"):
This brings me to 14% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 2 books ahead of schedule. :) 

Current read(s): 
(Both the LMM and DES group reads are both almost finished... I believes our next DES read will be "Summerhills" -- not sure about the LMM group?)

(Also) Coming up next?:  
  • "Sourdough" by Robin Sloan (the February pick for the Gateway Women book club). 
  • "Belgravia" by Julian Fellowes. (CBC is showing the TV adaptation, starting on Valentine's Day! -- a deadline, eeeekkkkkkk....!)  ;) 
  • My sister also provided me with the first "Bridgerton" novel, "The Duke & I" by Julia Quinn, in case I ever get around to watching the Netflix series everyone is talking about... ;) 
A few recently purchased titles (these were all in digital format, mostly on deep discount or with accumulated points):   
Watching:  A whole lot less CNN since the inauguration, lol.  So nice to have a return to some semblance of normalcy!!  

After several weeks of holiday programming in its usual timeslot, "Downton Abbey" reruns resumed on Jan. 4th, picking up where they left off just before Christmas with season 2. Yay!  (We're currently at the end of season 4 -- it goes by quickly when you're watching new episodes five days a week, lol.) 

Listening:  I've been catching up on a few CNBC-related podcasts & podcast episodes, including the latest episode of "The Full Stop," the second episode of "Happy and Childless," with Katy of Chasing Creation, and an episode of "A Single Serving," featuring Jody Day of Gateway Women

I also listened to a New York Times Book Review podcast episode, about a new book on the history and ethics of adoption in America, filtered through the story of one birth mother and her son: "American Baby" by Gabrielle Glaser -- which I bought/downloaded to my e-reader as soon as it was available. (see above!)  Amazing read! (Here's the NYT's review and here's mine!) 

Following:  After reading "The Midnight Library" by Matt Haig in late December (review here), I started following him on Instagram. He's starting a podcast! (Isn't everyone these days??) 

Eating/Drinking:  Even though I gave away most of the Christmas cookies I'd baked in December (to BIL & SIL and the nephews), what we had leftover for ourselves lasted until just before my birthday! (Dh isn't a big shortbread fan -- and I'd made two kinds -- so it was allllll mine!!  lol).

Our favourite pizza restaurant closed over the Christmas holidays and didn't reopen (for takeout/delivery only) until the first week of January. We were very happy to order takeout on the first Saturday night they were open! (and had it again later in the month too, lol) 

Likewise, our favourite (& closest) Italian restaurant closed after Christmas/New Year's for some kitchen repairs that took longer than expected. They didn't reopen until Jan. 14th -- which meant we weren't able to order takeout from there as planned for my birthday on Jan. 12th. :(   My second choice was a chain restaurant outlet that makes great chicken madeira rigatoni. (We ordered from the Italian place the following Saturday night. :) ) 

Buying (besides books, lol):  I indulged in a bit of online shopping recently:  I ordered some of my favourite lip balm from Sephora, which I was running low on (and added my free birthday gift to cart too -- since I won't be going into one of their stores anytime soon...);  my favourite foot cream from L'Occitane (ditto);  and a couple of sweaters from Old Navy (which I didn't really need, but it's been SO LONG since I indulged in anything new & pretty to wear...!). All three packages were delivered less than a week after I ordered them, which was nice.  

Wearing:  The usual...!  (i.e., yoga pants, long-sleeved T-shirts, socks AND slippers)(while dh goes around the house in shorts & BARE FEET. Go figure? I'm sure the floors beneath the laminate are concrete, and they are COLD in the winter!!) 

Sleeping:  Much better lately! (Coincidence??). 

Trying:  To be patient as we wait (and wait... and wait...) for our turns to get the COVID-19 vaccine... The federal government is still committed to having everyone vaccinated by the end of September -- but unfortunately, the available quantities of the vaccine and the pace of the current rollout suggests that's not going to happen. The current estimated time frame for dh & me to get the vaccine, as per this calculator is late September 2021 to early April 2022. (!!!) (When I consulted the calculator earlier, it said early July to mid-September...)  :(   :(  :(   Last week, we ranked a dismal 20th in the world in terms of vaccines administered to date. As Andrew Coyne wrote in a recent Globe & Mail column, "If the U.S. vaccination program is a disaster, what are we to call Canada’s?"  :p  

(Remembering: Andrew was the editor of the student newspaper when I was at university. One of my best friends/dorm neighbours there (later one of my bridesmaids) had a huge crush on him, which I always think about every time I see him on the weekly "At Issue" panel on The National on CBC, lol.)  

Wanting:  To get out of the house!!  (But it's too damned cold right now...!) 

Loving:  Aside from the usual suspects (dh, Little Great-Nephew...) I will admit I'm finding it hard to come up with something for this category this month. Hard to muster up much enthusiasm for anything at the moment...  :(  

Feeling:  More than a little stir crazy/frustrated/sluggish after TEN+ MONTHS of  mostly sitting around the house (and no end to the pandemic yet in sight, despite the advent of  several effective vaccines...). The weather right now is not helping...!  (-9C, -16C windchill at 9 a.m. this morning -- that's 16F & 3F -- albeit we are not getting any of the snowstorm that is hitting the east coast right now...!) 

On to February... (my least favourite month!).  :p  

Monday, February 1, 2021

#MicroblogMonday: Welcome to my least favourite month

Reasons why I dislike February: 

  • Feb. 8th = LMP (last menstrual period) date for my pregnancy with Katie, in 1998. Always a reminder of what was, and what will never be, and of everything that happened in the months that followed. This will be year #23. 
  • It's COLD!  
  • And grey, more days than not. Which makes things even more depressing...
  • COVID-19 makes the winter seem even longer. :(   I have not been out of the house since my birthday (on Jan. 12th). 
  • Memories of when I was still working:  February was a busy month, as we frantically prepared for our company's annual meeting & other communications projects, wrapping up the previous year and launching the new one. 
  • Not one but TWO dental appointments coming up this month (crown replacement plus cavity fix -- ugh...). 
  • "Family Day" -- the made-up holiday that's always a reminder of the pronatalism around me and the fact that I don't have (living) children. Far too many people do not consider a childless couple a family, and the hype around Family Day generally makes that abundantly clear. 

Reasons why I can like/tolerate February: 

  • Today (Feb. 1st) I have been officially retired for five years. :)  (Lost my job July 2014;  began receiving my early retirement pension Feb. 1, 2016.)  
  • Retirement. :)  It's much easier to endure February in retirement than it was while I was working...!  No 5 a.m. wake-up alarm;  no standing in the dark on a freezing cold platform waiting for a train to come (that's inevitably running late because of "mechanical difficulties");  no work stress to deal with... We don't have to leave the house/condo unless we really want to or need to (and that's a double blessing during a pandemic...!). 
  • Living in a condo with underground parking = no snow for dh to shovel, or to clear off the car.
  • Valentine's Day.  Dh rolls his eyes and calls it a "Hallmark (made-up) holiday," but what's not to like about a holiday that celebrates love & romance??  (And chocolate??  lol) (I realize people who are not in a happy relationship on Valentine's Day might feel differently.)
  • Family Day may not have the greatest name, but introducing it (in 2008) did give us a long weekend in the middle of February ;)  which was a real relief when I was still working. 
  • I don't mind the cold weather so much if/when the sun shines... :) 
  • Only 28 days to get through versus the usual 30 or 31. :)  (29, once every four years.) 

(See also "I hate November," lol. November comes second to February only because there is Christmas to look forward to...!)(It's usually not as cold either, lol.) 

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