Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Odds & ends

  • There were lots of requests for book recommendations and book lists at the recent Childless Collective Summit, which got me thinking about all the ones I've read (and all the ones I haven't... YET!  lol).  I've added a Book List page to the pages listed at the top of this blog (directly below the nameplate/header), listing books I've reviewed or blogged about here (or remember from my pre-blog reading) related to adoption/loss/infertility (ALI), grief, childlessness and/or related subjects. Obviously, there are many other great titles I haven't read yet!  I'll update this page as I read more books or remember others that I've already read. :)  At the very bottom of the list are links to a couple of other bloggers' book lists that I've found.  Happy reading!  
  • Older Nephew & his wife have bought a house!!  In a smallish town about an hour north of us here. It will mean daily commutes to work for both of them (by car -- no public transit that far north!)... but there's really nothing hereabouts they can afford (albeit they paid a rather ridiculous price for this house anyway...!). The house is about 30 years old and while some of the decor is slightly dated, it's in fairly good shape so there's not much they really HAVE to do right away (although Nephew's Wife hates the colour scheme and wants to paint, lol). 
    • Nephew's Wife/Little Great-Nephew's Mom will be returning to work from maternity leave in mid-May. SIL is quitting her job to look after Little Great-Nephew, at their house here. So we will still be able to drop by once in a while to see him during the day, even if they move. ;)  
  • I'm behind on bookmarking interesting articles I've read recently to share here, and I know I've missed some, but here are a few I did capture recently: 
    • Conceive Hospital had a great post recently called "Are You Really Tired or Busy if You Don’t Have Children?" (The Yael Wolfe piece in Medium referenced in the post is also really great!)  It reminded me of a post from very early in my blogging career, which I later submitted to Mel's Creme de la Creme for that year:  "In a tizzy about being busy." 
    • Ms. Magazine recently reran a classic feminist piece from 50 years ago.  It still sounds so depressingly familiar and, with perhaps a few tweaks in some of the details (does anyone send out laundry or dispute the need to buy a washing machine these days?), I think it still could have been written today... 

Monday, March 29, 2021

"The Thursday Murder Club" by Richard Osman

"The Thursday Murder Club" by Richard Osman came highly recommended by Lisa of the Gateway Women/NoMo book club as a fun read with few triggers (albeit it was not an "official" GW book club pick). (Mel also told me it was a great read.) I'd never heard of Osman, but apparently he's a well-known TV personality in Britain.

The Thursday Murder Club is a group of four septuagenarians -- two men, two women, all residents of an upscale retirement village outside of London with time on their hands -- who meet weekly to try solving cold cases.  

Then a murder happens close to home. 

I won't give away any more than that, except to say that I love, love, loved this book. It was just what I needed right now -- and while I suspect that's been a big part of its appeal ( = an escape from the pandemic), it also has wonderful (frequently hilarious) writing, memorable, well-drawn characters and a plot full of razor-sharp observations and unexpected twists (and turns, and twists again) going for it. Pure entertainment, and just lots and lots of fun. 

Five (5) stars on Goodreads 

There's already a sequel in the works, called The Man Who Died Twice, to be published in September (and I can't wait!) -- and Steven Spielberg's production company has bought the movie rights!  I'm picturing Helen Mirren as Elizabeth, Penelope Wilton as Joyce, Ben Kingsley as Ibrahim. Maybe Michael Caine as Ron? (I'm still thinking about that one.)  Here's one site's suggestions -- all very good choices and they agree with me on one role!  ;)  If you've read the book, who would you cast? 

This was Book #16 read to date in 2021 (and Book #4 finished in March), bringing me to 44% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 8 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

#MicroblogMondays: Annoying things & small pleasures

Annoying things: 

  • Gallstones acting up again.
  • Lousy sleep for the past few nights (see above).  :p  :(  
  • Our new neighbour across the hall (whom we have yet to meet) playing hip-hop music... just loud enough to be annoying...!!  Grrrrr....  (She did it a couple of days in a row but it's been quiet again lately... knocking wood...!)  
  • Went into the local outlet for our telecomm services provider recently to check into an issue dh was having with his cellphone and to see whether he needed a new one. (He didn't -- it was an Android system issue -- which, curiously, was not affecting my phone -- exact same model, acquired at the same time as dh's. Go figure...) There were four people in the store behind the counter... one on the phone, one disappeared into the back room and two behind the closest desk talking to each other. We were the only customers there.  We stood there for almost five minutes without anyone acknowledging our presence -- not even a glance or a "Hi, we'll be with you in just a minute."  NOT IMPRESSED. 
    • (There are just two main service providers in Canada -- and they're both awful, in terms of both cost and service. Canadians' cellphone bills are among the highest in the world.) 
Small pleasures: 
  • BIL calling us on his cellphone to come downstairs -- then driving up to our building's front door with Little Great Nephew in his seat in the back -- sound asleep! BIL was going to wake him up but we told him no, and just feasted our eyes on him. :)  
  • Visiting Little Great-Nephew at BIL's later that evening (now awake, lol). I pulled down my mask for a moment to show him my face and said, "Hi (LGN), it's Aunt Loribeth... you know me!"  And LGN gave me a brief little royal nod of his head, as if to say, "Yes, I know you... you may stay."  BIL saw it too and started laughing. Made my day.  :)  
  • Reading "The Thursday Murder Club" by Richard Osman (recommended to me by Mel, among others). Review to come when I'm finished (which should be soon). Just a whole lot of fun. :) 
  • Spring weather last week that was mild enough to leave the balcony door open for most of the day, several days in a row. Ahhhhh!! 
    • (Annoying thing: the neighbour sitting on HER balcony and yakking nonstop on her cellphone all afternoon...!) 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.  

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Putting my money where my heart is

At one of the morning kickoff sessions at the recent Childless Collective Summit, organizer Katy thanked those who had paid for an extended access package, giving them access to all the presentations for up to a full year (as well as other exclusive perqs) after an initial 24-hour free period. (Packages are still available, by the way!)  She confessed that she felt uncomfortable making sales pitches (me too!) -- but explained that she had used her own money, not to mention hours & hours of her spare time (while holding down a full-time job) to organize the summit, mostly unassisted. Ten per cent of the profits from the extended access packages were donated to the Black Women's Health Imperative. Katy also said she planned to use any leftover funds to provide some compensation to the 28 speakers who offered their time and services for the summit, and additional goodies perqs for the extended access passholders.

I thought Katy did a great job in providing some free access for all, balanced with extended access for a fee (and told her so in the comments).  I bought one of the extended access passes, in part because I doubted I would be able to watch all of the things I wanted to see within the 24-hour free timeframe (and I was right!) -- but also because I'd like to see more such summits in the future, and because I've become much more conscious lately of where I want to direct my money and support.  

Throughout my adult/working life, I've made donations to various organizations and causes. I've made memorial donations when loved ones have passed away to organizations such as the Canadian Cancer Society and Alzheimer's Society, as requested. I handed out money to almost every neighbourhood kid who knocked on the door of my house, selling chocolate bars for their school or asking me to sponsor them for Jump Rope for Heart at their school, or the Terry Fox Run, or to buy their Girl Guide cookies. I had monthly deductions taken from my paycheque for many years to support our local United Way, which funds a number of great local initiatives. I made regular donations to both of my alma maters (asking that the funds be used specifically to support student life at the residence where I lived during my four years of undergrad, and the journalism program I attended in graduate school).  When we went to church regularly (cough), we signed up for giving via regular envelopes (and received a tax receipt in return at the end of the year). I gave money regularly to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD Canada) for several years, because too many people in my life have had their lives negatively affected -- or ended altogether -- by drunk drivers. And dh & I were longtime regular donors to the pregnancy loss support group that we attended as clients and then volunteered with as facilitators for 10 years.  

When both of us lost our jobs (in 2013 & 2014), we immediately looked for ways to pare down our expenses until we figured out what our new financial situation would look like -- and as a result, we stopped making most of our usual donations. We're now both retired/pensioners (!), and while we are living quite comfortably in retirement, our resources are not unlimited.  We've been able to resume making some donations, and I'm still giving money to larger/more established charities from time to time. But (as we used to say in the corporate world), I'm trying to be "more strategic" these days -- to give some thought about where I want to direct my funds and why, and to make more, smaller, meaningful donations to the causes that I (and the people I love) care about the most.  

For example, one of my best friends from high school lost her daughter in a tragic car accident a little over a year ago (mentioned here).  She loved animals, and her family has set up a scholarship fund that helps send local kids to spring break/summer camp run by the local humane society.  I've donated to the fund on my own, as well as together with my high school classmates. 

Another friend -- a former blogger and childless mom like me -- established a charity in memory of her neighbour and good friend who died of cancer. Every month, she and a group of friends get together (via Zoom these days, in person during pre-COVID times) to knit & crochet for good causes. Over the past nine years, they've donated more than 1,500 "chemo caps" for cancer patients and 1,100 infant loss items, such as tiny hats and receiving blankets, for local hospitals. I don't knit or crochet, but it's a great cause I wanted to support, and I love to help out by making occasional cash donations to help purchase yarn and embellishments. 

I've been looking for ways to support the childless community as well. Besides paying for an extended access pass to the recent summit, I'm a paid member of the private online Gateway Women community, which supports the wonderful work that Jody Day, Karin Enfield-deVries and Gateway Women have been doing for the past decade to support childless women around the world and to change the cultural conversation about childlessness. (The first month of community membership is free, and there are several different membership levels available.)  Gateway Women has also launched a 10th anniversary appeal and you can now make direct donations through its website!  

I'm a big fan of The Full Stop podcast for childless-not-by-choicers, and they have a feature on their website where you can buy them a "Ko-fi," which I have done in the past (and intend to do again).  I'd love to buy a coffee for any & all of the three wonderful hosts, but I'm sure they will appreciate a virtual Ko-fi even more! 

It's not exactly a donation (more of an investment), but because (as a former journalist and communicator) I strongly believe in the value of quality journalism (and because I'm a news junkie who often hits the paywall on the first day of the month, lol), I have digital subscriptions to 5 (!) daily newspapers -- The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Toronto Star, The Wall Street Journal (I get access to the  WSJ with my Star subscription) and The Globe & Mail (plus several paper magazines). I currently have free subscriptions to several Substack newsletters by some excellent women/feminist writers -- all of which offer at least some free content -- and am considering upgrading to paid subscriptions for at least a few of those. 

I like free stuff as much as the next person ;) -- and the Internet has been great (almost too great, I think) in giving us free access to so, so much information and entertainment and ways to connect with others. If we had to start paying for all the stuff we've become accustomed to getting for free, we'd have some very hard decisions to make.  (There are only so many digital news and Substack subscriptions and online streaming services that I can afford -- or make good use of...!)  

But "free" is never completely free -- someone somewhere is paying for it, if not with money then certainly in terms of time and effort. And I think that if we enjoy and appreciate what they do, we need to support them however we can -- with "likes" and "shares" and comments, with volunteer hours, and sometimes with our dollars, too. 

What are some of your favourite causes to support? 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

A favour

Yesterday afternoon, a message popped up from an old friend from our pregnancy loss group (D). She & her family used to live in the same area where we had our house & ran the group, but a couple of years ago they moved out to the west coast (several thousand miles away).  

D said "I have a favour to ask you, and I completely understand if you would rather not."  She explained that her 90-year-old aunt lives in a small community just north of where we now live.  D had arranged for her covid vaccine appointment.  You MUST make your appointment online (at the moment, anyway) -- no phone calls, no walk-ins or in-person appointment requests taken at vaccination centres. 

(The uptake for the 80+ group has been much lower than expected -- well, DUH....!!  Many seniors are not computer or cellphone-literate, and not everyone has computer-savvy family or friends nearby to help out, right?  I guess there are some community service groups that are making appointments for people who need assistance, but seriously? I mentioned this to D and she said, "My aunt was SO confused... broke my heart." :(  ) 

Anyway, D asked if... we would consider printing off the confirmation form and other paperwork her aunt needs to bring to her appointment next week and drive it up to where she lives (about 20-30 minutes away, tops) and drop it off at her apartment. 

I did ask dh before saying yes, just to be sure he was okay with it (since he'd be doing the driving!)  and he said, "How can we NOT do it??"  So I responded that of course we could do that, and it would be great to have an excuse to get out of the house for a while, lol.  She was SO happy & grateful.  

And then about half an hour later the phone rang -- it was a delivery person downstairs. Dh looked at me quizzically (like, "What did you order NOW?"  lol)  but I knew immediately that D must have sent us something as a thank you (because that's the kind of person she is) -- and sure enough, it was a florist with a beautiful bouquet, and a card from D attached.  (D also brought dh & me flowers to our last meeting as support group facilitators, 11+ years ago, which I wrote about here!)  

A lovely bouquet from our friend.
After lunch this afternoon, I put the paperwork in my purse and we drove to D's aunt's house. It took us less than half an hour, on a cloudy but mild spring day. It was so nice to get out of the house and out in the countryside for a bit. I called and left a message before we left and she was waiting on her porch when we arrived.  We left a few minutes later, feeling like we'd done something good. :) 

I don't know if D's aunt is childless -- but she is clearly alone and in need of some assistance, at least when it comes to technological matters -- and this was such a small, simple thing we could do. (She does have someone to take her to the appointment -- I'm guessing it's someone who is also older and similarly not tech-savvy...!)  

All I could think was that someday I might be 90 and alone and in need of some help -- hopefully our nephews would be able to do something like that for me, but who knows??  

Monday, March 22, 2021

#MicroblogMondays: Childless Woodstock* :)

Back in August 1969, half a million kids -- the oldest children of the post-WWII baby boom -- some of whom were regarded by their families and communities and the media of the day as long-haired freaks -- descended on a dairy farm in upstate New York for what was billed as "three days of peace, love and music."  They took a look around in awe, at all these other long-haired freaky kids just like themselves, and realized they were not only not alone, they were a force to be reckoned with. They had power.  They called themselves "Woodstock Nation."  

Maybe I'm stretching things here just a bit ;)  but I feel like I just spent the weekend at the childless equivalent of Woodstock* (minus the drugs & the mud, lol), being inspired and empowered and (yes) entertained by the rock stars of our community -- a community that some people didn't even know existed until they showed up and looked at all the other people around them -- all of us outsiders in both the parenting and infertility communities that envelop us (and sometimes threaten to smother us) -- and realized that we, too, are a force to be reckoned with -- on average, representing one in five people (20%!) in any given developed country.  

For most of the past four days, I've been sitting in front of my laptop, bleary-eyed and slightly delirious, basking in the company of my peeps -- 2,700!!! childless-not-by-choice women (and a few men)!!! -- at the online Childless Collective Summit, organized by Katy of Chasing Creation.  (I also crammed in a Gateway Women Zoom cafe within the GW private community, a quarterly online gathering of childless elders organized by Gateway Women's Jody Day, plus a private Zoom call with some ALI blogging friends thrown in for good measure, lol.)  

I closed my laptop on Sunday night feeling both exhausted and exhilarated (and if *I'm* exhausted, I can't imagine how Katy is feeling this morning...!!), and thinking that perhaps (finally! finally!!), we too are on the verge of becoming a force to be reckoned with. 

You guys, I have been consciously living without children for almost 20 years now, and blogging for more than 13 of those years. 2,700 may not be quite half a million strong (yet!!) -- but!!! 20 years ago -- even 13 (or 10, or 5) years ago -- the idea that there would be 2,700 of us gathered together (online, but hey, pandemic...), talking openly to each other about our childless-not-by-choice experiences, sharing hopes and fears and tears, exchanging social media handles and other contact details, and organizing Facebook groups and regular Zoom meetups -- and that there would be so many amazing speakers, representing so many different aspects of our shared experiences, providing wisdom and guidance -- it would have been -- it was -- it is! -- absolutely, completely MINDBLOWING. 

I'm normally a bit shy, even among other childless women -- and I find it hard to venture outside of my comfort zones -- but I found myself commenting on some of the summit Facebook posts and in the chats and sharing some of the knowledge and resources I've accumulated over the past 20 years. I posted the link to this blog in a couple of places, inviting people to come check it out -- using my own/real name, even! -- which would NOT have happened 13 years ago, lol.  I ventured into an online/Zoom social hour, partly because I'd never been in a Zoom session that used breakout rooms, and I was curious how it would work. It was a lot of fun -- in the first breakout group, I wound up with Melissa Jones of Live Childfree, with whom I've chatted online previously;  in the second, three of the five of us turned out to live in or near Toronto. What are the odds? 

Yes, I've been hanging around childless online forums for 20 years now, and a lot of the ideas presented were familiar to me (disenfranchised grief, pronatalism...), but I still found myself getting teary-eyed at certain points in some of the presentations.  Many of the presenters were familiar to me too (and I think I could even call a few of them friends  ;) ) -- Jody Day, Lisa Ann Kissane, Lesley Pyne, Justine Froelker, Yvonne John, Kate Kaufmann, Tracey Cleantis Dwyer, Erik & Melissa Jones, Stephanie Phillips -- but some were not, and it was great to be introduced to these vibrant new voices.  

Katy said her goals for the summit included sharing resources, creating community and helping us feel supported. She achieved that in spades!  It was great for me, as a "veteran" (dare I say? -- gulp -- "elder"??) -- but I can only imagine how great it must have been for the many younger women attending who are only just starting to grapple with the reality of a childless life, who had never heard of some of the wonderful speakers and communities and ideas/concepts and books and other resources that were shared during the summit.  

If you missed out on the fun, extended access passes are still available for at least a few more weeks that will grant you access to all the summit presentations (plus other goodies). Personally, I am really glad I purchased one, because although I managed to sit in on most of the presentations/chats as they unfolded live, there were some I missed, and some I will definitely want to revisit. 

I have a few other thoughts that I jotted down during the summit that may or may not become future posts.... if/when I can gather my thoughts, I'll share those with you too!  

Did you attend the summit?  What did you think? 

(Of course, adoption, loss and infertility (ALI) bloggers (including those of us now living without children) already know the power of community, thanks to people like Melissa at Stirrup Queens, who has been creating a community among us for almost 15 years now through her blog and regular features such as the Friday Blog Roundup and... #MicroblogMondays. :)  ) 

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

*  I cannot take credit for the Woodstock allusion... someone (I'm not sure who) mentioned Woodstock in one of the summit session chats, and it stuck with me as I started to write this post. Thank you for the inspiration, whoever you are!  

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

"The Vanishing Half" by Brit Bennett

Two years ago, I was looking forward to attending my first meeting of the book club run by the local library, where we'd be discussing "The Alice Network" by Kate Quinn, which I'd recently read on my own. My happy anticipation over (finally!) getting to be a part of a real live book club was somewhat tempered when I learned the name of the next book I'd be receiving at that meeting -- a novel called "The Mothers" by a young, first-time author named Brit Bennett. 

"What are the odds, right?" I complained in a post on this blog (which I titled "The mother of all book dilemmas ;)" ). "Just one more reminder of what I am not. :p "  (I also said:  "Yes -- I am ashamed to admit -- I am literally judging a book by its cover/title.") 

As luck (?) would have it, there was a huge snowstorm the night of the book club meeting... the meeting was cancelled. I never went to the library later in the month to pick up my copy of "The Mothers" and didn't attend the next meeting either, where it was discussed. I finally got there, three months after I had first planned, and happily read books and attended meetings for a full year... until they were cancelled by COVID-19. 

*** *** *** 

I found myself thinking about "The Mothers" when I heard that Brit Bennett had a new novel coming out last summer called "The Vanishing Half." It quickly became one of the most critically acclaimed books of 2020. I will admit my interest was piqued when I heard that it was about the complex relationship between twin sisters.  I've always been fascinated by twins and other multiples -- and I wrote about this in a couple of early posts on this blog, here and here.  As I said then: sister & I were close enough in age (21 months apart) & looked sufficiently alike (especially when were little, although we never really saw it -- and our personalities were certainly not the same) and, when we were younger, dressed alike, that many people would mistake us for each other & ask whether we were twins.

I already had a copy of "The Vanishing Half" in my TBR pile when it was chosen as the first pick of the new online book club I recently joined, to be discussed at a Zoom meeting early in April. (The organizer dubbed it the "Clever Name Book Club," assuming that we'd choose another permanent, clever name... so far, it's still the "Clever Name Book Club," and I'll use that title here until we come up with something different/better, lol.)  

"The Vanishing Half" is the story of twins Desiree and Stella Vignes, who grow up in the tiny community of Mallard, Louisiana, where everyone is black, but light skinned, and dark-skinned people are shunned. Their father is lynched in front of them when they are children. At 16, they run away together to New Orleans... and then their paths begin to diverge, driven by their different personalities. Stella gets a secretarial position after "passing for white" at the job interview. A while later, she disappears in the middle of the night. Desiree moves to Washington, D.C., marries "the darkest man she could find," and later returns to her mother's house in Mallard with her daughter, Jude. Years later, Jude is working as a server at a Hollywood party when a chance encounter changes her life -- and many others. 

I found the book interesting but a little slow to get into at the start, as the characters and situations were established. Then, somewhere around the middle, things got REALLY interesting, and I zoomed through the latter two-thirds in a single afternoon/evening.  There is lots and lots to think about here:  questions of identity, the different roles we play (acting/performance), creation and reinvention, visibility and invisibility, the push and pull of family relationships, secrets and lies and the toll they take -- and, of course, the lasting impact of race, which influences everything in the story. 

4 stars on Goodreads. I'm looking forward to our book club discussion. (And thinking that maybe, just maybe, I will give "The Mothers" a try...)  

This was Book #15 read to date in 2021 (and Book #3 finished in March), bringing me to 42% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 8 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

Monday, March 15, 2021

#MicroblogMondays: Annoying things & small pleasures


Annoying things: 

  • I broke my glasses on Thursday morning. The nosepiece/bridge between the two lenses snapped in half while I was cleaning them. :(  These were my reading/computer glasses -- not my regular/everyday glasses, fortunately (which are progressives/multifocals, but still not great for using the computer) -- but I still use them a lot and definitely noticed the difference when I lost the use of them. I've had them for 8 years. 
    • Small (big?!) pleasure:  Fortunately (?), I was scheduled for a checkup at the optometrist today (almost two years since my PVD)... and they just happened to have a  spare nosepiece on hand that fit my broken glasses perfectly!  What a relief!
    • My regular glasses are six years old -- at least, the lenses are -- I broke THOSE frames 2.5 years ago, just a few days before FIL died.  Fortunately, they were able to order a new pair of frames and just pop in the old lenses at that time.  My prescription for those has changed slightly, but the dr decided it wasn't enough to warrant new lenses at this time... which was also a relief/small pleasure.  (How do you try on new frames in a safe/socially distanced way -- touching frames that dozens of other people have probably handled before you...! -- and know how they're going to look while you're wearing a mask??) 
    • Also a relief/small pleasure:  Not having another big expense, on top of dentist appointments for both of us in early January (partly covered by our workplace dental insurance), a filling and a new replacement crown for me last month (not covered) and a new laptop after my previous one (just 2 & 1/2 years old) unexpectedly died in mid-February.  Ouch.  
  • The smell of cannabis from a neighbour's unit, wafting through the cracks of our condo unit door on a fairly regular basis (including once at 7:30 a.m. on a weekday... seriously??!) . :p  (We have our suspicions about which neighbour it is.) Yes, it's legal here now (which is why people are indulging more openly/frequently, I suppose), but:  (1) dh & I don't indulge, (2) quite frankly it reeks, and (3) it's amazing how far and how strongly the smell can spread. One of the not-so-good things about condo life! 
    • For a long time, I thought we might have a skunk infestation in or around the building... before someone confirmed our suspicions that it might be a (ahem) plant-based smell instead of an animal.  ;)  The smell is nothing like what I remembered from my college party days (gulp... 40?!  years ago...), and it turns out that pot today has changed a lot from the stuff back then (including the way it smells)... who knew?! 
    • (This is the kind of thing you'd expect a parent to say -- "think of the children!!"  lol -- but there ARE babies/young children living in this building and on this floor. Not something you think they should be exposed to this early in life, right?)(Of course, who knows, it might be their parents, lol...) 
  • Two different pilot programs offering AstraZeneca vaccinations for people in our age group (60-64) -- one though certain pharmacies and one through family doctors' offices -- but none in the area where we live.  And so we wait... (Most of the vaccinations being done right now are for people 80 and older.)  
  • Encountering not just one, not just two, but THREE maskless people in the common areas of our condo building last Saturday night, in violation of posted rules (including two in the parking garage and one in the elevator when we got on... he did reach into his pocket and put his on when he saw us, but...!)  
(Other) Small pleasures: 
  • Haircuts!! (finally!! -- after 14 weeks!!)(Last spring/summer, we went 17 weeks without.)
    • Learning that our regular hair stylist (currently not back at work after the latest lockdown) is moving to another salon back in our old community. I'm glad she will be returning to work soon, and in a location where we can still go to see her. 
  • Balancing my chequebook -- and actually getting it to balance! lol  (Am I showing my age here? -- &/or perhaps my banking background??  lol Does anyone else actually keep a chequebook register and/or balance it anymore??) 
What annoying things &/or small pleasures are you noticing lately? 

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

Friday, March 12, 2021

"The Last Normal Day," one year later

One year ago today was what I refer to as "The Last Normal Day."*  By that point, we knew we were on the verge of something big & ominous -- the World Health Organization had just officially declared a pandemic the day before (March 11th) -- but I don't think any of us had any idea of just how much our lives -- EVERYONE's lives, all over the world! -- were going to be affected -- or that we'd still be very much in the thick of things a full year later. It's... interesting... to go back & read over my blog posts from late February/early March last year and see how the growing pandemic started creeping its way into our individual and collective consciousness... (something I detailed in a recent post).   

Thursday, March 12th, 2020, was the last day that was more or less filled with normal activities for me & dh.  We'd already done our usual grocery shopping on Monday -- but, given the rumblings in the news, we decided to go, again, and stock up on some staples. We went before noon and had some lunch in the food court area of the supermarket (as we often did, a few times a week -- pizza slice for him, soup for me), and then did our shopping.  It was already much busier than usual, people stalking the aisles with loaded carts and grim expressions. We were very glad we went when we did, because later that evening, and over the next few days, the TV news reports showed long lineups stretching around the perimeters of many local supermarkets, with increasingly empty shelves. 

The toilet paper aisle was already completely empty. I couldn't resist taking a photo. (Here it is, in a blog post I wrote a few days later.) After we returned home and put away the groceries, we headed out again to the bookstore for a browse, Starbucks drinks in hand.  We're normally there at least once a week, often twice and sometimes three times. We didn't return to the bookstore until July, almost four months later, and since then, our visits have been a lot further and fewer between (with another three-month pause during our most recent lockdown, from early December to early March). We still haven't been back to Starbucks

A few days later, on March 17th, the premier declared a state of emergency and issued a stay-at-home order that brought life to a standstill.  All non-essential retail stores (other than supermarkets & pharmacies) closed, and didn't start reopening again until mid-May, I think. We endured a second lockdown/stay-at-home order that began in mid-December and ended in mid-February (and a third may not be out of the question, with new, more contagious variants of the virus on the rise).  

Even when things have been open, we've been staying close to home.  Dh did (and has continued to do) all the grocery shopping and prescription pickups at the pharmacy, and our trips to other stores (when they've been open) have been far & few between.  We still haven't gone to a restaurant, even in the summer when outdoor patio dining was available (nevermind indoor dining) -- or to a mall, or to a movie theatre. We didn't even start ordering takeout until our 35th anniversary on July 6th.  (We do that on Saturday nights now, in lieu of our usual weekly dinner out together.)  I'm sitting on almost $1,000 worth of cancelled/postponed/rescheduled show tickets: The Elton John farewell tour concert that SIL were supposed to attend in late March (2020) has been rescheduled for February 2022;  "Hamilton" was cancelled before our scheduled performance in mid-May, but I've hung onto my tickets because if/when they manage to bring the show back, I'll get first dibs on the new seats. 

One year later, the statistics are so much worse than we could have imagined  Worldwide, 118 million people have been sick with COVID-19;  2.6 million have died.  In the U.S., there have been 29 million cases and a staggering 530,000 people are dead.  Canada has fared better than a lot of other countries (especially on a per capita basis), but the numbers are still sobering:  900,000+ cases, 22,000+ deaths.  Here in the province of Ontario, we've had almost 320,000 cases and 7,100 deaths;  the region near Toronto where dh & I live (population 1.2 million) has had nearly 30,000 cases and more than 530 deaths.  

We have been so, so lucky, in many ways.  Being retired, there are very few reasons for us to venture out beyond our condo cocoon, other than medical appointments and to pick up the essentials. (And yes, haircuts!! -- when the salons have been open.  Of all the "material" things I've been deprived of over the past year, doing without regular haircuts has been the hardest to take, I think...!)  Being childless, we have not had to worry about children at school (or not at school)(although, on the downside, we haven't had the comfort or companionship of offspring, either... we've been a lot more isolated than the people we know with kids, even adult kids).  So far, dh & I and our immediate families have managed to stay safe & healthy (knocking wood!).  Only one member of our extended family & circle of close friends has had the virus (so far, that we know of)( = dh's cousin's husband). 

But still, overall, this past year has been like nothing we could have reasonably expected or imagined. 

Hope is on the horizon, with the rapid development, testing and now distribution of several safe and highly effective vaccines.  The rollout, however, has been painfully slow and muddled here in Canada, and certainly in Ontario, where we live (as we enviously watch our friends & neighbours in the U.S. and U.K. posting their vaccine selfies on social media...). While almost 10% of Americans have received both shots so far, less than 2% of the population here in Ontario can say the same. Health care workers and long-term care home residents and staff were first in line;  mass distribution to the rest of the population is only JUST beginning, with those over 80 going first. A couple of pilot projects are starting soon that will give the AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged 60-64 (i.e., dh & me) -- one through pharmacies and one through family physicians' offices -- but so far, none of the pilots are in the region where we live. Sigh. 

Normally, we would spend at least a week or two in the summer with my family in Manitoba, as well as a week or so at Christmastime. So far, however, I'm pretty sure this will be the second summer in a row that I won't be going home.  (Crossing all my crossables for Christmas...!)  I have not seen my parents & sister since Christmastime 2019.  I've never been away from them this long before.  My parents are now in their 80s, and I am acutely aware, every time I see them now, that my time with them is limited...  Dh's aunts, uncles and cousins, as well as his stepmother and her family are all closer to us, of course -- some of them in the same community where we live -- but we haven't seen any of them in a full year now either.   

We haven't even seen that much of BIL & SIL or our two nephews, even though they're all within a 10-minute drive away. While I don't think they have much to fear from us, they're all still going out to work, and the kids see their friends and go out with them to restaurants, etc. We moved here in April 2016, in large part because we wanted to be closer to them. Not having any kids of our own (and thus no prospect of grandchildren either), we hoped to forge closer connections with our two nephews -- and to get in on some of the fun when they started having their own families. Our Little Great-Nephew was born in mid-November 2019, but our time with him has been sadly limited because of the pandemic. We missed out on his baptism (we did get to see it via the church's YouTube feed), first Easter, first Halloween, first Christmas, and spent less than an hour with him, masked, on his first birthday.  He doesn't seem to know us or recognize us on the rare occasions that we do go there for a quick, masked visit. I suppose the masks don't help with the facial recognition...!  

One thing I have been so thankful for this past year:  technology.  There was no such thing as the Internet during the 1919 pandemic -- many people still didn't even have telephones then. How much worse would this past year have been if we didn't have modern telecommunications to keep us informed, entertained and connected?  As an early pandemic meme said (something to the effect of), "Our grandparents were called to fight the Nazis... we just have to sit on the couch at home."  

And yet, even that comparatively small sacrifice has seemed to be too much for some people to manage...!  That's the saddest thing about this whole past year, I think -- how little discomfort we (or at least some of us...) seem to be able (or willing) to tolerate;  how little regard we seem to have for the individual and collective wellbeing of others. I remember reading one comment on Twitter that said something like, "As a society, we've collectively flunked the marshmallow test." No kidding...!  

Things may never be quite "back to normal" again.  But I hope that things will be different (better) by March 12, 2022... 

(* Here's an excellent article from The Atlantic this week on "The Last Good Day," and why so many of us are thinking and posting about it right now.)(Hint: it's related to grief.)  

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

"Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You" by Annie Lyons

I wasn't sure whether "Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You" (by Annie Lyons) was going to be my cup of tea -- but it quickly won me over, and kept me turning the pages. "Eudora" (titled "The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett" in some markets) is the Gateway Women book club selection for March. I finished it over two days. 

Eudora Honeysett is 85 years old, unmarried, childless, cranky and reclusive, living in the same house in London where she's spent most of her long life, along with her cat, Montgomery. I don't think it's a spoiler to disclose here that, within the first few pages of the book, Eudora makes the decision to exit this life on her own terms at an assisted death clinic in Switzerland.  

But then a new family moves in next door -- including Rose, a lively 10-year-old girl, and Maggie, her heavily pregnant mother. Rose and Eudora also become friends with another elderly neighbour, Stanley, who recently lost his wife. Despite her resolve to face death sooner versus later, Eudora starts finding new reasons to keep on living. Events in the book trigger Eudora's memories of the past and, in flashbacks at the end of each chapter, we learn more about the people and events that shaped who she is today. 

I do share some of the caveats/concerns outlined by Lisa, the book club organizer, in her blog post about this book: 

"There is a significant pronatalist agenda throughout the book with ‘married with kids’ being the gold standard which Eudora never achieved. 

"I like Eudora. She is portrayed as rather bitter, the product of a life where things never quite went right. I read this book with the childless community in mind and while I was able to relate to much of Eudora’s outlook on life, I found it disappointing that the childless character was typecast as bitter, lonely, regretful and harsh. That’s not a denial that there are women like this out there, but it does play up to the old tropes that never to have borne a child or gotten married is to have failed as a woman... I might have disregarded this book due to the idea that having a child in one’s life is the only thing that can give it meaning." 

And, obviously, beyond pronatalism, if assisted suicide is a difficult subject for you, this may not be the book for you. 

However, "Eudora Honeysett" has plenty to recommend it. While not everyone needs a child in their life to find fulfilment, the value of intergenerational relationships shouldn't be discounted either.  Eudora, Stanley and Rose are all memorable characters and I loved the friendship that developed between them. I liked the book's straightforward discussions about what makes life worth living, about aging and mortality and how we should define a "good death." And I loved its messages about the importance of kindness.  

4 stars on Goodreads. Our discussion of this book on Gateway Women is only just beginning, and I'm looking forward to finding out what others thought about it!   

This was Book #14 read to date in 2021 (and Book #2 finished in March), bringing me to 39% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 8 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

Monday, March 8, 2021

#MicroblogMondays: Women & men and social media

Mel had a recent post about quitting social media (based on an article she'd read in the Guardian, featuring people who did just that) -- and she later messaged me to tell me I HAD to unpack what I'd said in my comment in a post of my own.  So here it is :)  -- you can read my original comment on Mel's post, but I've expanded on it a bit more here. 

I joined Facebook in 2009, Instagram after I got my first smartphone in 2016 and Twitter sometime after that.  I helped sign up dh for Facebook & Instagram at the same time -- he found Twitter on his own. I'm on a couple of other social apps (but not others) -- but those are the main ones I use.   

I have not quit any of my social media accounts -- although I have tried to become more judicious about how I use them. I very rarely unfriend people, but (as I mentioned here) I’ve been much more liberal with the “unfollow” & “snooze” buttons in recent months. ;)  I feel less and less obligated to like/react and/or comment on every post, or to get through all the new posts in my feed every day. 

The crux of what Mel found interesting was what I said about the different ways dh & I approach social media. He deactivates & reactivates (& then deactivates and reactivates again...) his Facebook and Twitter accounts at whim. He friends & unfriends people en masse, in swoops of activity.  He unfollowed everyone on Instagram (including his own cousins and aunts) with the exception of me, his brother, SIL, our two nephews & their wives. It takes him two minutes (if that) to scroll through his Instagram feed, most days.  He rarely, if ever, posts anything himself. 

He drives me nuts sometimes. ;)   

I would feel SO GUILTY cutting off cousins (mine &/or his -- even if I don’t see eye to eye with some of them…), because, family… He says he’s an outcast among most of them anyway, so he doesn’t care. 

In part, I suppose it's a function of our different personalities. He doesn't have the attachment to things or places or even to most people, outside his immediate family and a few of his cousins, that I do. 

But I also think it’s just another way that women worry incessantly about appearances and what other people think, and how we feel guilty about things men don’t give two seconds thought to. It's another classic example of how we’re expected to be/assume the role of the family caretakers and maintain the family connections -- while the men just go on their merry way (in part because they know we'll take care of things and keep them informed of anything important that's happening with the relatives or other people in our social circle). 

If you're married/partnered, do the two of you have different approaches to social media? 

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

Friday, March 5, 2021

"Katherine's Marriage" by D.E. Stevenson

"Katherine's Marriage" is the next D.E. Stevenson book  my DES fan group will be tackling -- a sequel to "Katherine Wentworth," which we read & discussed last year (reviews here and here)  

"Katherine's Marriage" picks up almost immediately where the last book left off:  newlyweds Katherine & Alec are on their honeymoon, camping (!) in the Scottish highlands, while Katherine's twins Den & Daisy stay with the reliable Aunt Liz and stepson Simon returns to school. While there, they strike up a friendship with the local laird, MacAslan, and his daughter Phil.  

But honeymoons can't last forever, and so it's back to Edinburgh to face Alec's domineering sister, Zilla... and then Simon is summoned to his grandfather's estate, Limbourne... 

Not a whole lot happens in "Katherine's Marriage."  (Well, it does and it doesn't.) (And while the title is "Katherine's Marriage," much of the story is told from Alec's perspective.)  It's more of a "slice of life" story than anything really dramatic and/or plot-driven. There's a lot of rehashing of Katherine's story from the first novel, and the ending, as some Goodreads reviewers complain, is rather abrupt, leaving us wanting more. 

Still, it was nice to spend some time with Katherine and her family again, and watch a little more of their story unfold. As usual, there are some lovely descriptive passages and vividly drawn characters to enjoy. 

Not Stevenson's greatest work, but far from her worst, either (that I have yet read, anyway).  3 stars on Goodreads.

I'll count this book as a re-read after we finish our group reading & discussion in a few weeks' time. 

This was Book #13 read to date in 2021 (and Book #1 finished in March), bringing me to 36% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 7 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Odds & ends

  • I saw a Twitter post (& replies) this week where the (American) writer's elderly parents had been fully vaccinated, and she got to see and hug them "real hard" for the first time in a year. 
    • I started sobbing. 
    • It's been a long year.  
    • I miss my mom & dad. :(   And I likely won't be seeing/hugging them until Christmastime, if I'm lucky. 
      • (Yes, I'm 60 years old. But I'm still their kid, and I still miss them.) 
  • The region where I live started booking COVID vaccination appointments for residents 80+ as of 8 a.m. on March 1st, a full two weeks earlier than announced by the province. There are currently just THREE vaccination sites serving a population of 1.2 million residents -- so appointments are limited (and were quickly booked). And they're being booked online only -- no phone calls (yet), no walk-ins. What a mess... 

Residents 80 years of age and older who are not able or comfortable booking an online appointment are encouraged to seek out a support person (caregiver, family member or friend) who can assist in booking this appointment on their behalf...  “We would have to lean on family and friends who can access technology to assist in the booking of these appointments."  

Ummm... What about seniors who don't have friends/family around them who are willing and able to do these sorts of things for them?  Being childless (not to mention aging...!), I know I am hyper-aware of these things, but it really does seem to be a common blind spot in public policy (and not just in Canada)...  and with an aging population, and rising childlessness (not to mention parents whose children have died, moved far away, become estranged or otherwise unable to assist), there's going to be a lot more seniors needing a lot more help, very soon...  

  • I mentioned in a recent post that the CBC was starting to show "Call the Midwife" on weekday afternoons in the timeslot previously held by "Downton Abbey."  Dh & I watched the first episode (episode one, season one) on Monday afternoon... and, as I reported in the comments: 
Okay, we watched the first episode of "Call the Midwife" -- beautifully filmed, great performances & period details. BUT. Rookie midwife handles traumatic birth in which both mother & baby die... almost! (of course...!)(although no doubt not all episodes end that happily...) I said to dh, "I'll watch to the end because I want to see what happens, but I'm not sure I can take this five days a week...!" Just a little too close to home for comfort...

Anyone else ever see it?

(We haven't watched another episode since then.)  

  • So... I (*cough*) joined another online book club.  This makes four of them -- my L.M. Montgomery Readathon Facebook group,  my D.E. Stevenson group, the Gateway Women/NoMo book club (on the GW private community), and now this one. (Five, if you include my "real-life" library book club, which is on hiatus, because, COVID-19.  Actually, the library is now offering Zoom book clubs, but I haven't felt compelled to sign up just yet.)  
    • A friend asked on Facebook if anyone was interested, and since she & I are pretty simpatico on a number of things, including books, I said yes. (She's also a fellow childless loss mom and former blogger.) Our first pick will be "The Vanishing Half" by Brit Bennett, which is one I've had in my TBR pile for a while now anyway -- and we'll have a Zoom meetup to discuss it (and presumably chat about other things too) in early April.  
    • I'm feeling just a wee bit guilty, because another friend asked the same thing on Facebook a few months ago and I told her I was in too many book clubs already. (Insert red-faced emoji here...) 
    • (How many book clubs can one book lover handle?  I guess I'm about to find out, lol...  The LMM & DES groups do chapter-by-chapter reads of one book over a couple of months, versus a new book every month, so it's not like I have to read four different books for four different groups every month.) 
    • At any rate, this should provide another boost to my Goodreads Challenge numbers...! 
      • Dh is up to 30 books so far this year -- basically a book every 2 days. (He doesn't do much social media, though...!) 
  • LOTS of great things to read, listen and look forward to in the childless community right now! Here are just a few I've found in the last few days:  
    • Two men, Andy & Nick, shared a conversation about childlessness on "The Listening Project," a BBC broadcast/podcast. They're the first item featured during the program's initial 10 minutes. 
    • I've already plugged this event before, but it's worth repeating!  The Childless Collective Summit is coming, March 18-21 -- and (last I heard) more than 900 (!!) people have already registered!!  As someone who has been consciously childless (and hanging out in various childless forums online) for almost a full 20 years now, this is absolutely MINDBLOWING. Registration is FREE, although there are also paid options that provide more/longer access to videos & other goodies. Check it out! 
    • I listened to Katy of Chasing Creation, the conference organizer, speaking about her experiences with faith, infertility and childlessness with Dr. Maria Rothenburger on episode #91 (Dec. 24, 2020) of "Miracles Happen." 
    • A group of younger childless women who are mostly active on Instagram -- including Katy, Brigid of The Fruitless Figtree, counsellor Tanya Hubbard and (another) Katy of The Pleasure Anarchist -- had an interesting Zoom conversation, now available on this video, about various aspects of  living childfree after infertility -- the differences between childless vs childfree, how to bridge the gap between childless people and those still trying to conceive, pity versus compassion, and the tyranny of "never give up" messaging.  
    • Pamela Tsigdinos of Silent Sorority had a great conversation with Kallie Fell of the Centre for Bioethics and Culture Network on Venus Rising (episode #29, March 3, 2021). 
    • Jody Day of Gateway Women recently delivered a lecture (via Zoom) on childlessness & grief to a group studying various aspects of grief at the University of York in the U.K. earlier today. A video will be available shortly.   (ETA:  Here's the link!) 
    • Jody also had a great conversation with Ben Eisner on "Knitted Heart" (episode #19, February 15, 2021).
    • Jody will be hosting another conversation -- the third to date -- with a fabulous group of "Childless Elderwomen" on Saturday, March 20th. Details, registration and videos of the past two gatherings here.  

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Little did we know...!

Mel had a post today about how the coronavirus crept into her life and into the pages of her journal last year. 

I have a post in the works that I'm intending to publish on or around March 12th, marking one year of pandemic life -- but it's interesting to look back on the days leading up that point too.  I don't keep a journal, but I have my datebook, my blog posts and some Facebook Memories to prod my memory.  Here are a few things I've found that show how the oncoming pandemic began creeping its way into our consciousness and then into our lives in a very big way... 

  • Saturday, Jan. 25th, dh & I attended a curator's lecture at the opening of a major exhibit celebrating the centenary of Canada's Group of Seven (artists) at a gallery near where we live, where I have a membership. We arrived just before the lecture began and by the time it was over, it was almost closing time, so we didn't actually get to tour the exhibit that day. I figured we'd return in a few weeks' time, once the initial crowds died down. The best laid plans...! The gallery shut down in mid-March, along with almost everything else, and didn't reopen until later that summer (with capacity restrictions, mask requirements and timed ticketing in place, among other measures). It's been closed again since mid-December and is reopening tomorrow. We still haven't been back.  
  • Jan. 29th, a post popped up in my Facebook memories from the same day, 2020. It was an article from the New York Times, about the importance of handwashing in avoiding the coronavirus. (The reporter had covered SARS in China in 2003.)  I reshared it with the comment, "I think this must be my first post from last year about COVID-19... We had NO idea what was about to hit us, did we??!" 
  • Feb. 1st, BIL called us to come over:  a couple of dh's cousins had come over to see Little Great-Nephew (then just 11 weeks old), bearing gifts. I'm glad we went; we don't see them very often these days, and we haven't seen them since then (even though some live nearby). 
  • The first mention of COVID-19 (albeit not by that name) in this blog came on Feb. 2. In my monthly "Right now" post under "Trying," I wrote, "Trying: To remember to wash my hands more frequently, especially after we've been out & about, in view of the corona virus outbreak (as well as the regular cold & flu season)."   
  • Feb. 9th last year, I posted on Facebook, "Just started watching the Four Continents figure skating competition on NBC (from Seoul, South Korea)... Kind of freaky to see almost the entire audience wearing masks!!"  I reshared it with the comment, "Little did we know...!!"   
  • Feb. 11th, I noted in my datebook that "Hamilton" began its run at a downtown theatre. I had snagged tickets for May 9th earlier in the fall, after a tense morning online...! (Performances were cancelled after mid-March; I still have my tickets, hoping to get first dibs on any new tickets if/when the production returns...!)  
  • Friday, Feb. 21st, I had an appointment at a downtown hospital for a mammogram. I remember, even then, thinking about the morning rush hour crowds on the subway and germs... and I remember thinking that oh well, I would be getting on at the very last stop at the end of the line and it likely wouldn't be too crowded until further towards downtown.  
    • So I was kind of surprised to see more than the usual number of people on the platform, getting onto the train with me... and more and more people piling on at every stop. It got very crowded, very quickly -- much more so than I had anticipated. People were chatting to each other in excited voices. Then I noticed some of them were carrying flags, signs and banners. And then it clicked:  the provincial teachers' union had called a one-day strike that day, and (naturally), they were gathering en masse to protest at the legislature building -- a block away from the hospital I was going to! So much for avoiding germs...!  
    • Even so, I went to the Eaton Centre mall for a while after my appointment. (I did leave a little earlier than I had planned, trying to avoid running into the protesters again on their return trip home...!) That's the last time I was in downtown Toronto... 
  • Monday, Feb. 24th was my library book club meeting. We were discussing the actor Bryan Cranston's memoir, "A Life in Parts" (reviewed here).  That was the last time we met to date. :(  
  • Friday morning, Feb. 28th, we drove to our old community for haircuts at a salon at the mall (where we'd been customers for the past 15+ years) with our regular stylist (of the past three years, since our previous longtime stylist became ill and then died).  
    • We didn't know it at the time but a few days later, the owner announced she'd be closing the salon as of April 1st (not realizing that the closing date would come a whole lot sooner, because of COVID.) We wouldn't get another cut until June 26th, 17 weeks later (!) -- same stylist, at a different salon in the area. 
  • In my March 1st "Right now" blog post, under "Trying" I wrote: "Trying: To remember to wash my hands more frequently, especially after we've been out & about, in view of the corona virus outbreak (as well as the regular cold & flu season). (I gave this same answer last month, but unfortunately it's more relevant now than ever...!)" 
  • One year ago today, on March 3rd, in a post titled "Corona (not the beer),"  I mused about my past experiences living through emergency situations & health crises, including SARS (2003) and the H1N1 virus (2009), and the steps we were already taking to stock up on supplies, etc.  By that point, Purell and face masks were nowhere to be found, but I mention stocking up on Staples, buying more Lysol wipes and spray cleaner, Tylenol and cold pills, and essential oils remedies (!). 
  • Saturday, March 7th, is what I think of as "The Last Normal Saturday Night."  We planned to try a new Italian restaurant with BIL, SIL, Older Nephew, his wife & Little Great-Nephew, and then head across the city (in two cars) to see stepMIL & her family. Of course we didn't have a reservation, and the restaurant was booked solid. We tried another Italian restaurant which was also packed with at least an hour's wait for a table. (Observing the mobs of people going in & out and hanging outside on the sidewalk, I remember remarking wryly to dh, "Pandemic? What pandemic? These people don't seem to be too worried...")  We wound up at another restaurant nearby.  Little Great-Nephew sat on his mom's lap and observed her meal with great interest, lol. That's the last time I was in a restaurant.  
    • After that, we had a nice visit with stepMIL & family. Traditionally, Italians greet each other & depart with embraces & kisses on both cheeks -- but this time, stepSIL said, "Ummm, are we gonna do this...?"  We agreed it probably wasn't a good idea!  That's the last time we saw all of them. 
  • Monday morning, March 9th, I had a voice mail message from a high school friend from out of town, who was going to be meeting up with her sister for a few days in Toronto (kind of a halfway point between where they both lived). She wanted to know if I wanted to come downtown to join them for lunch on Wednesday or Thursday. I knew her sister too, and normally I would have loved the opportunity to see them both and catch up, but it was already a busy week, I was starting to feel like I might be coming down with a cold (or...??), and I had the distinct feeling that another trip downtown and back on the subway might not be a wise idea at this point... I sent her a message declining the invitation. 
  • In the "it never rains but it pours" category, ANOTHER old friend from Manitoba messaged me later that same day to let me know her husband had surprised her with a birthday trip to Toronto to see Les McKeown and the Bay City Rollers (a band we'd both been wild about in our teen years, lol) on Wednesday night (March 11th). She had an extra ticket, and would I like to come too??  All the same reasoning applied (plus, a crowded concert hall filled with screaming, singing middle-aged women??) -- plus I'd already turned down one invitation for that day;  I didn't think I could accept another. I turned her down too. 
  • As it turned out, Wednesday, March 11th was also the day the World Health Organization declared a pandemic... 
    • By this point, the pandemic was definitely front and centre in my consciousness:  the blog post I published that day was titled "Odds & ends: The coronavirus edition." I noted that my beloved world figure skating championships (being held in Montreal -- I had toyed with the idea of going...) had already been cancelled, and that Pearl Jam had cancelled its concert tour, including a date in Toronto on March 18th. 
I'll save the rest of my "one year later" remembrances and reflections for my upcoming post...

Monday, March 1, 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.)

February was Full Month #11 (going on #12!) of life in the age of COVID-19 (sigh...). 

The lockdown/stay-at-home order we'd been under since before Christmas (Dec. 14th, where I live),  initially slated to end on Feb. 9th, finally ended on Feb. 22nd. (For now, anyway...!) It remains in place in the city of Toronto proper, as well as Peel Region (Mississauga, Brampton, etc.), until at least March 9th.  Other parts of the province ended their lockdown on Feb. 16th... just as the new and more contagious virus strains began emerging, of course...!  (In fact, two regions that recently came out of lockdown then just had their restrictions re-imposed! -- including one region just north of where we live.) Schools reopened after Family Day, and I've read that case rates have quadrupled since then. But sure, go ahead, reopen everything...!  (SOOOOOOO TIRED of all the back & forthing & tinkering with the rules...!)  

Meanwhile, vaccinations have been painfully slow to start rolling out (both in Canada as a whole and here in Ontario). To date, less than 2% of the population of Ontario has received both shots.  Most of those people are health care workers and residents/staff of long-term care homes. We only just heard last week that mass vaccinations will begin rolling out in mid/late March for people aged 80 & over. Those of us 60-65 (i.e., me & dh) will likely have to wait until summer for our turns. Ugh....!  :(  

Our last haircuts were Dec. 4th = almost 13 weeks ago.  (We went 17 weeks without, last spring/summer.)  As I mentioned in this post, salons have now reopened, and we're trying to decide whether to wait for our stylist to return to work (which may be a while), go to another stylist there in the meantime, or find a new salon/stylist closer to home.  Sigh...

On top of dh's usual (once or twice weekly) trips to the supermarket for groceries and for takeout dinners on Saturday nights, we ventured out together to BestBuy to pick up my new computer (after my previous one died an unexpected death...!) and into the city to the dentist (twice!!) so that I could have a crown replaced and a cavity forming beneath the old one repaired. (Ugh.)  These were my first outings since my birthday... which was Jan. 12th, a full MONTH earlier!!  (eeekkk...) 

And we went to see Little Great-Nephew (oh yeah, and BIL & SIL too, lol) for a half-hour, masked, this past Saturday night, while his parents went out for dinner. They live just 10 minutes away, but it was the first time we'd seen them in two months (since New Year's Eve/Dec. 31st). We hadn't seen the dog since Older Nephew's birthday in mid-December. :(  

I did manage to dig up a Valentine's card this month for dh from my card stash -- but totally forgot about getting Valentines delivered/sent off to Little Great-Nephew and the Little Princesses, which is something I would usually do. :(   Little Great-Nephew, at least, won't remember -- but I will.  :(  I will try to make it up to all of them at Easter!  

Otherwise, we've continued to stay close to home. (If not because of COVID-19, then because of some fairly frigid weather this month -- it wasn't as cold as it was out west, where my family is, but still cold enough! lol)  

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Reading: I read 7 (!) books in February (reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads, & tagged "2021 books"):
This brings me to 12 books read so far in 2021 -- 33% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 7 books ahead of schedule. :)

I set dh up on Goodreads at Christmastime, and by mid-February, he'd already blown past his 2021 Reading Challenge goal of 24 books... to date, he's read 28 (!).  He says he doesn't really care about the challenge;  he just wants to track what he's read.

Current read(s): 
Coming up next: 
A few recently purchased titles (these were all in digital format, mostly on deep discount or with accumulated points):   
Watching:  The final episode of "Downton Abbey" aired on CBC on Friday afternoon -- again. (This was our second time watching the entire series, more or less from start to finish, since last fall -- it doesn't take long to watch six seasons when each season is generally just 8 episodes (plus "Christmas specials"), and it's on five days/episodes a week, lol.).  

Today, they are starting to show "Call the Midwife" in that timeslot, which I have not seen before. SIL loves it, has watched all the seasons on Netflix, and tells me I should watch. I'm not entirely sure I want to get into this one, given my history with pregnancy...!  (Have you seen it? What did you think?) 

I've been PVR-ing "Belgravia" on Sunday nights on CBC (and have yet to watch an episode), as it's on at the same time as "Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy" on CNN -- followed by "Lincoln: Divided We Stand" (both of which interest dh more than "Belgravia" ...hence the PVR, lol  ;)  -- although I want to watch them too!). The Italy show focuses on food in different regions of Italy. Drool inducing! 

Listening:  No new podcasts or music finds this month. 

(Un)Following:  I don't do this often (maybe not often enough??)  but I unfollowed (versus unfriended)  a couple of friends on Facebook recently.  One is someone I've snoozed a couple of times in the past (and mentioned here). Another is someone I like very much IRL -- but he posts a dozen or more times a day about U.K. politics. I tend to scroll right by those posts -- they don't bother me in the way that posts about U.S. or Canadian politics do, because I have no real knowledge of the players or issues -- but they clutter up my feed nevertheless. And another doesn't post as often as these two but nevertheless has been posting some rather offensive (to me) political stuff lately. My feed feels much lighter and less fraught now as a result...! (and is much faster to get through, lol)  I check in on these unfollowed friends a couple of times a week to make sure I don't miss anything important -- which rarely happens. It's easier to just scroll through all the junk posts all at once, infrequently, than to have to do it every time I look at my feed...!

Eating/Drinking:  Earlier this month (on the weekend of the Super Bowl), we tried a different Italian restaurant near us & ordered takeout orechiette (sp?) pasta with rapini and sausage.  It was good... but we both agreed we like the pasta from our usual Italian restaurant better ;)  (and we ordered from them this month too!). We had our favourite wood-oven thin crust pizzas for our Valentine's Day dinner on the Saturday night of the long weekend. We also had our favourite chicken fingers & fries.  

The last time we were out, I noticed that the nearby/within walking distance Starbucks -- which only opened about two years ago (NOT the one connected to the mega-bookstore) -- has closed -- part of a major wave of closures across Canada in recent months, including many in the underground PATH network downtown that I frequented when I was working (which apparently is a ghost town right now...!). 

The little hole-in-the-wall cafe a brief walk away from our condo building -- which I wrote about here, and where dh & I enjoyed lunch a few times, pre-COVID -- has also closed. A new Greek cafe, offering souvlaki, has opened in its place, but it will probably be a while yet before we try it. 

Buying (besides books, lol):  It was a rather expensive month, thanks to two new (& unexpected) purchases/expenses:  
  • A new laptop (after my previous one -- only 2.5 years "old"! -- died suddenly).  
  • A new filling and replacement crown from the dentist. :p  
Wearing: The usual (i.e., yoga pants, long-sleeved T-shirts, socks and slippers).  Also occasionally a headband, to keep my COVID hair out of my eyes (when tons of mousse fails, lol).  

Trying:  To make a point of reading a book for at least a few minutes, at least once a day. This worked pretty well this past month, as you can tell from my reading totals above! (Reading in bed before I turn out the lights is a highly effective strategy...!) 

(Still) waiting: To get the COVID-19 vaccine...  And all signs indicate we will be waiting for a while yet...!  (See my rant above, in the opening of this post...!)  The current estimated time frame for dh & me to get the vaccine, as per this calculator is currently mid-June to late August (which is actually an improvement on a previous estimate of late September 2021 to early April 2022)(!!!).  The Toronto Star has added vaccination stats to its home page COVID-19 dashboard, and to date, less than 2% of Ontarians have been fully vaccinated (i.e., received two doses of the vaccine).  The federal government is still committed to having everyone vaccinated by the end of September. I guess we'll see if they pull it off...!   

Wanting:  Spring and vaccines to hurry up and get here, SOON!! 

Loving:  Whatever sunshine we manage to get at this time of year... it makes all the difference!!  

Feeling: Fat, frumpy and grumpy.  :p  (lol)  (Did I mention I desperately need/want a haircut??)