Wednesday, April 21, 2021

"Lady in Waiting" by Anne Glenconner

I'd already started reading a new book, but after watching Prince Philip's funeral, I felt like something royal-related. ;)  

So I set aside my other book & picked up "Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown" by Anne Glenconner, who served in that position for Princess Margaret, a friend since childhood. I'd been wanting to read this book since it was first published last year, but decided to wait until it came out in paperback this spring. Before that, though, I was recently able to scoop up an epub version for my Kobo on sale for $3.99.  Score!! :) 

In the prologue to the book, Glenconner writes about having Helena Bonham-Carter over for tea and a chat about Princess Margaret before Bonham-Carter began filming the role for season 3 of "The Crown." (Nancy Carroll, cast as Anne herself, also came to tea.)  Afterwards, she found herself reflecting back on what she realized had been a pretty remarkable life. 

"I've always loved telling stories, but it never occurred to me to write a book until these two visits stirred up all those memories," she writes in the prologue. "From a generation where we were taught not to overthink, not to look back or question, only now do I see how extraordinary the nine decades of my life have really been, full of extreme contrasts."  And how!  

Anne Coke (pronounced "Cook"), daughter of the 5th Earl of Leicester, grew up near the royal estate of Sandringham in Norfolk, and played with Princesses Margaret & Elizabeth when they were all children. Years later, she was one of Elizabeth's maids of honour at her 1953 coronation as Queen, and she served as a lady in waiting to Margaret from 1971 until the Princess's death in 2002.   

She was briefly engaged to Johnnie Althorp -- future father of Diana, Princess of Wales.  In 1956, she married Colin Tennant, Baron Glenconner, whose ancestors invented bleach and made a fortune from it.  Colin had a reputation for being "eccentric." Mentally ill was more like it, but unfortunately Anne didn't realize this until after the wedding. Despite some rather appalling behaviour on his part, she stuck with him for the next 54 years until his death in 2010.  (Spending plenty of time apart probably helped, as well as the British "stiff upper lip/just get on with it" mindset.)  They had five children together -- three sons and twin daughters.  Two of the sons died young -- one from hepatitis C, contracted from heroin use, and the other from AIDS -- a third was badly injured in a motorcycle accident.   

In 1958, Colin purchased the small Caribbean island of Mustique for $45,000, eventually turning it into an luxury vacation destination for the rich and famous (and giving a plot of land to Margaret as a wedding present).  

(As an aside: years ago, in the late 1980s, when I first started working, I sat at a banquet with a woman about the same age as me, who worked for the same company (different department) whose path would cross with mine many times over the next three decades (so far as I know, she still works there). She was just newly married and regaled us during the meal with tales of her honeymoon on Mustique, which most of us had never heard of. Fast forward 10-15 years later, when we ran into each other again. Her face lit up:  "You had a baby, didn't you??"  And then I got to watch her expression turn horrified, as I stammered out (not for the first time, and not for the last) that, well, yes, I HAD been pregnant, but... Come to think of it, I am not sure she ever had children herself. Anyway, I digress...) 

If you are fascinated by royalty and life among the British upper classes, particularly during the post-war period (as I will admit I am!), you will probably enjoy this book.  Four stars on Goodreads. 

This was Book #21 read to date in 2021 (and Book #5 finished in April), bringing me to 58% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 11 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

Monday, April 19, 2021

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

  • It hasn't been a good week here. :(   
    • The weather this weekend was dark, rainy and gloomy, and the furnace kicked back in after taking a vacation for several weeks. (It could be worse:  my parents had SNOW where they live -- albeit the farmers in the area are thankful for the moisture.)  
    • COVID-19 case numbers soared to record highs, almost exactly two weeks after the Easter long weekend (4,800+ new cases in one day in my province -- current 7-day average about 4,400 cases). ICUs are jammed and reaching the point where some pretty awful triage decisions are going to have to be made. We had some truly frightening projections released late last week, predicting anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 (!!) new cases daily, depending on what action is (or is not) taken.  
    • This was followed by (more) new restrictions from our provincial government -- most of which were clearly (still!) not enough to ward off disaster (e.g., most construction sites and factories remain open, whether truly essential or not, and the government adamantly refuses to implement paid sick days, which healthcare officials have continually requested) and some of which were almost immediately rescinded (playground closures, anyone?!) or tweaked yet again (new police powers to stop and question anyone out after certain hours about where they live and why they're out -- most police forces immediately said they would not be doing this, and the government "clarified" that police must have a valid reason for stopping anyone).  
    • The Washington Post actually published an op-ed on the weekend (from a Canadian writer) calling for the premier's resignation (!).  
    • He has been calling the other provincial premiers, asking if they can spare any medical staff and/or vaccine doses. In most cases, they have their own problems and capacity issues to deal with. The cavalry will not be riding in to save us. 
    • At the same time, we learned that Moderna will only be shipping half the expected doses of vaccine Canada was promised to receive soon -- although, happily, the federal government was almost immediately able to purchase more vaccine from Pfizer to make up for that, and then some. (Meanwhile, appointments for AstraZeneca -- the vaccine dh & I got two weeks ago -- are going unfulfilled.) 
    • On the bright side, Manitoba lowered the eligible age for vaccines there, and my sister was able to make an appointment. My whole family will have received their first shots by the beginning of May.  Progress!! :)  
  • I set my alarm clock on Saturday morning for 7, so that I'd be showered and had my breakfast before TV coverage of Prince Philip's funeral began at 9.  (MUCH more civilized than the 4 a.m. wakeup calls I'm used to for royal weddings!  lol). 
    • I was chatting on Facebook with several friends about the funeral as it was going on, and my New Zealand pen pal of (gulp) 40+ years told me it was 2 a.m. Sunday morning there... so I guess I really shouldn't complain!  
    • I thought it was a lovely funeral -- the venue and the music were glorious -- and it was actually much more intimate with just the family there (and however many millions of us watching on TV/internet, lol). But I did feel sad seeing the Queen sitting all by herself. :(   
  • Dh has been working on our taxes these last few days (deadline: April 30th). I'm actually getting a refund this year! 
  • If you are following this blog by email, please take note:  I got a notification from Blogger that my "FollowByEmail" widget (Feedburner) is going away. It will be discontinued in July 2021.  "After July 2021, your feed will still continue to work, but the automated emails to your subscribers will no longer be supported. If you’d like to continue sending emails, you can download your subscriber contacts." I checked out the link that supposedly explains how to do this, but I must admit it's all Greek to me... There may be a way to continue to host email subscribers, but I have no idea how to do that... my apologies!  
    • Personally, I have always followed blogs on a blog/RSS reader. Since Google Reader was discontinued some years ago, I've been using Bloglovin, although I know a few people who use Feedly and like that. 
  • In 1978, Gloria Steinem wrote a now-classic article titled "If Men Could Menstruate."  I recently ran across a piece in Ms Magazine (which, of course, Steinem helped found) speculating "If Men Had Miscarriages."  Not quite as satirical/funny as Steinem's original piece, but still worth a read. 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

"I Had a Miscarriage" by Jessica Zucker

In October 2012, alone at home and 16 weeks into her second pregnancy, Jessica Zucker experienced a traumatic miscarriage. The baby was a girl she later named Olive -- a favourite name of her older son, Liev. A psychologist specializing in reproductive and maternal mental health issues, Zucker suddenly found herself relating to her patients in an entirely different way.  

Almost exactly two years later, an article she wrote detailing what she'd lived through that was published in the New York times on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day 2014. Her use of the hashtag #IHadaMiscarriage went viral, and led to the creation of her popular Instagram account of the same name. 

In "I Had a Miscarriage: A Memoir, a Movement," Zucker tells her personal story as well as the stories of some of her patients, backed up with research and statistics. This will all be painfully familiar territory to anyone who has experienced pregnancy loss:  the shock and trauma of the loss itself, the pressure -- from others and ourselves -- to move forward quickly, the "strident trifecta" of silence, stigma and shame that women experience after a miscarriage, the exhaustion from dealing with others' shocked reactions and dismissive platitudes ("at least..."), the anxiety of enduring a subsequent pregnancy, and the healing to be found in honouring our losses and in connecting with others who have been through similar situations.  

Full marks to Zucker for acknowledging (particularly in Chapter 12) that "Sometimes rainbows follow storms. Sometimes they don't." 

Blindingly relying on the comforting notion that every traumatic storm is followed by beautiful, awe-inspiring happiness is common within the pregnancy- and infant-loss community. But we all know this isn't always the case. Some people don't go on to get pregnant again. Some get pregnant and have yet another loss. Some stop trying to conceive altogether. So while this hopeful message is encouraging for some, it might feel alienating to others, and in ways that are not always obvious...  Alternative outcomes -- outcomes that do not consist of full-term pregnancies and babies wrapped in rainbow-colored blankets -- deserve to be acknowledged too... Sometimes a rainbow follows, and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes a rainbow is a child, and sometimes it's the renewal of vows, a career milestone, a new sense of self, the ability to self-love. 

This is a great addition to the existing (and, happily, growing) literature about pregnancy loss. Four (4 & 1/2) stars on Goodreads. 

This was Book #20 read to date in 2021 (and Book #4 finished in April), bringing me to 56% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 10 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

Monday, April 12, 2021

#MicroblogMondays: Pandemic odds & ends

  • Strike up the Hallelujah Chorus!!!  My parents (aged 80 & almost 82) are finally going to be vaccinated!!  Not because they weren't eligible before this, but because they were dragging their feet. (eye roll)  My sister finally managed to persuade them to get it done when she was there this weekend (and I think the rising numbers of cases and variants there finally convinced them), and booked their appointments for them. They'll be going in a week & a half, to one of the provincial vaccination centres in another slightly larger town, 20 miles down the road. My sister is prepared to take Friday off work and come out from the city on Thursday night to help out, if they're feeling rough from side effects. I am very relieved!! (as is my sister, who is torn between wanting to come visit and help out, and fearing bringing the virus to them...)
  • After I posted my post-vaccination updates (24 and 48 hours out), I noticed a sore, hot, red patch on my upper left arm, below the vaccination site, when I was in the shower on Wednesday morning. The exact same thing has happened to me before, after regular flu shots (and noticeably after the H1N1 flu shot in 2009) , so I've tried not to be (too) worried. (It WAS the AstraZeneca shot, lol..!)  
    • A week after I first received the shot, and several days after I first noticed the red patch, it's still there, and my arm is still a bit sore -- although the redness has faded considerably and is almost gone now. I've also been a little more tired than usual all this week. 
    • Apparently SIL also experienced some side effects after her shot. 
    • (BIL goes back & forth between thinking he's now invincible after just one shot, and that he must have received a placebo, since he didn't feel anything at all...!)
  • Everywhere in my social media feeds I (still... STILL!!) see groups of people getting together... in Canada, in the U.S.  Not six feet apart, not wearing masks. Yes, some of them may have been fully vaccinated -- but I suspect (I know) most of them have not. (And unless you're getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, one shot does NOT mean you are immune!)  
    • Meanwhile the variants are running rampant, case numbers are skyrocketing and ICUs are nearing capacity. My province hit a record number of daily new cases on Sunday:  4,456. And we won't see the numbers from people infected at family get-togethers, etc., over the Easter weekend -- even thought both politicians and medical staff alike begged people to stay at home -- for another week yet... 
    • (Thank you for coming to my TEDTalk...) 
  • Dh woke up before me on Friday morning, and came back into the bedroom after turning on the TV to tell me that Prince Philip had died. I guess it was not unexpected -- he was almost 100 years old (!) and his health has not been good lately. But it's still very sad... as someone said on TV, perhaps not the end of an era, but the beginning of the end of one.  
    • I've written several times previously (including here) about the one time I got to see Prince Philip -- and the Queen, Prince Charles and Princess Anne -- in July 1970 (when I was 9 years old), but Mel's post about Philip's death reminded me of a time several years later (late 70s/early 80s), when Philip was coming to Winnipeg to speak at a fundraiser for a local hospital. The morning DJ on the radio station I listened to decided he was going to call Buckingham Palace and ask Prince Philip to bring along one of those tall fur hats the guards wear. It was kind of a joke/prank call, but believe it or not, he actually got put through and talked to Philip, and Philip said he would see what he could do. The hat was sent in advance of Philip's visit, and they auctioned it off with proceeds going to the hospital. The DJ was absolutely stunned when he actually got through -- but he was very polite and he did remember to address the Prince as “Your Royal Highness,” lol.
    • In Philip's honour (lol), I've done a search of my old posts and added a new "Royals" label to ones mentioning the Royal Family. 
  • Sunday/yesterday was dh's (64th) birthday, his second of the pandemic. Last year, we were under lockdown and I had to scrounge up a card for him from my stash. This year, we're under lockdown/stay-at-home order (AGAIN), but I managed to pick up a proper birthday card for him before it kicked in. And he had a birthday cake: at his request, we baked one on Saturday -- chocolate from a cake mix with canned frosting, but that's what he wanted!  
    • (He even let me take and post a photo on social media -- although he refused to let me put a candle on the cake or sing him "Happy Birthday," lol -- although an online friend/fellow Beatles fan suggested "When I'm 64" might be more appropriate...!)  
    • Hopefully next year, he can have a proper party for his 65th (if he wants one -- which he probably won't, but at least a family gathering with his brother & SIL, the nephews and Little Great-Nephew). 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Unpopular opinion

A Facebook find. 

Happy to be a wanderer. ;)   

Saturday, April 10, 2021

"The Princess Saves Herself in this One" by Amanda Lovelace

This month's NoMo/Gateway Women book club pick is a book of poetry by Amanda Lovelace, "The Princess Saves Herself in This One."

I don't read a lot of poetry, but I'm not unfamiliar with it either. I grew up at a time when we were regularly required to memorize and recite poetry in school ("In Flanders Fields" is the only one I can still recite in full) and I did study a fair bit of poetry at university too -- Shakespeare, the Romantics, the Victorians. And I read lots of Rod McKuen as a young teenager in the 1970s, lol. 

This was a slim little volume -- or at least I'm assuming it's slim, since I read it on my Kobo e-reader. It took me less than an hour total to finish, and I almost feel guilty counting it as a complete book. (Almost!  lol)  Drawing on her own life experiences (or so I assume), Lovelace explores themes of love, loss, grief and empowerment. I enjoyed the messaging/imagery and could very much relate to a lot of it -- although I will admit to agreeing a little with a one-star reviewer on Goodreads who snarked:












3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 on Goodreads. 

This was Book #19 read to date in 2021 (and Book #3 finished in April), bringing me to 53% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 10 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Does pregnancy loss/infertility belong on your resume?

Here's an interesting question:  does pregnancy loss (&/or infertility, for that matter) belong on a resume?  

A friend shared a Twitter post on Facebook from a British academic who has included both the birth of her son and her miscarriage/recurrent pregnancy loss on her CV (screenshot, left).  

"Although one line on a CV cannot speak to the profound physical and emotional trauma of pregnancy loss, I believe it is time to update #academic CVs to be inclusive of women's whole lives," she said. 

It's worth reading the comments that follow, which are (so far) generally sympathetic and supportive. (Is it a coincidence that the less supportive/more facetious ones come mostly from men??) A few people questioned whether this kind of information belonged under "Publications" -- perhaps a category for "Life Events"?? (I wondered this too!)  

A sample of comments (but do go read yourself):   
  • "Whenever I look at a CV with gaps, I remind myself that sometimes real life calls, and that that's okay." 
  • "...this really resonated with me - so many years of attempts, losses.. it’s hard to even quantify the physical and emotional toll it takes - and nearly impossible to account for the impact it has had on my career."
  • "Yes please. That was 2 years of my life with invisible reduced opportunity. So much morning sickness, no baby." 
  • "Think of it like this: the institutions and managers that judge you negatively for including this wouldn’t treat you well as a working parent. It’s like a built in bullshit filter."
  • "Maybe employers shouldn't draw any inferences from career gaps, rather than pressure people into disclosing details of their health?  Committees judging whether gaps are adequately explained by physical or mental health disclosures is cringe. Normalize having gaps as being OK."
  • "My first instinct is ‘why should we have to explain ourselves’. But second thoughts are it shows the qualities we possess & experience gained that we bring forward in all aspects of our lives including work. I think I will use this going forward too." 
There were also some interesting comments on my friend's Facebook post about this.  One commenter liked the idea. She pointed out that academics are under a great deal of pressure to publish continuously, and any gaps must be explained. Someone with no gaps on their resume is generally deemed a better candidate for hiring or promotion than someone who does. (Or, she mused, perhaps we need to change antiquated notions of what makes someone a "better" employee.)  Another commenter pointed out that everyone has significant life events, not just women, and not just related to pregnancy and children. Are we going to start including those too?  

I'll admit my initial feelings on this subject are mixed. The first line ("Birth of son") gave me pause -- people are actually including the birth of their children on their resumes?? From a childless-not-by-choice perspective, that could be interpreted as more of the pronatalist/mommy-bragging culture that rubs salt in the wounds of so many of us. 

BUT -- if including the birth of children is going to become a "thing," then most definitely, recurrent pregnancy loss (and infertility treatment) should be included, and not swept under the carpet. There's a whole lot of coping skills and hard-won life experience (that we never asked for) embodied in those few stark words: "recurrent pregnancy loss." 

I'm not sure I've ever told this story on my blog, but when I was going through "transition services," post-job loss, I had a practice interview session. The woman I "interviewed" with looked through my updated resume, which included 10 years of volunteer group facilitator experience with the pregnancy loss organization that had helped us following Katie's stillbirth. Surprise! (or maybe not) -- she had lost a baby years earlier too, and attended a support group too (different location) -- and we had a nice conversation about our common experience and about the huge impact it had on our lives. 

It was just a practice interview, so I'll never know if I got the job ;)  but it was nice to make that connection and have that conversation, nevertheless.


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

48+ hours post vaxx...

  • 48+ hours post-vaccine, my left arm/shoulder is still just a wee bit sore, but otherwise, I am feeling pretty much back to my old self, thank goodness.  BIL & SIL report they're feeling no side effects from their shots yesterday too. 
    • Currently, second shots are not being administered until 16 weeks after the first (!) -- which would take us to mid-July. It won't come soon enough...! 
  • Little Great-Nephew was as good as gold for the hour we stayed with him yesterday afternoon, while his parents went to the lawyer's office about their new house and the grandparents went for their own first vaccine appointments. (The dog was more trouble than he was, lol.)  There was one moment where he went over to the door & looked around with this confused expression on his face (like, "where is everyone?") and I thought, "Uh-oh, here come the tears!"  but he was fine. Watched his favourite kiddie program on Netflix, played on a toy xylophone, opened and shut cupboard doors & pulled things out from them, flipped through a board book, rearranged magnetic letters on the refrigerator (and dropped some into the dog's water dish, lol). I don't know what HE thought, but we had a blast. :)  
    • I said to dh, "Someday when he's older, we'll have to tell him that he was the very best thing about a very crappy year."  :)  
  • It's been less than a week since our provincial government implemented a "shutdown" (as opposed to a "lockdown") -- which basically meant tinkering around the edges a little with the (already too few) restrictions currently in place (many of which had just been lifted or lightened).  As I mentioned in this post
Honestly, it's not so much the lockdowns themselves I find hard (because we've been pretty much staying home in isolation for most of the past 12 months anyway);  it's the half-assed way they are implemented, and then lifted -- too early -- and the constant back and forthing and tinkering around the edges as to what can open and to what extent and what stays closed...  I mean, I know we're dealing with a lot of unknowns and constantly moving variables here, but COME ON...

So with new daily case rates rising/at near-record levels (again), ICUs near capacity, and doctors literally begging for more stringent measures to be implemented, the premier (FINALLY)  announced yet another stay-at-home order for (at least) the next four weeks, starting tomorrow -- the third in a little over a year. Let's hope they keep this one in place until it's clear it's worked -- and in the meantime, vaccinate people like crazy. (Although that hasn't been going that well either...!

(I will admit I haven't been following the school-related drama that closely, since I don't have a dog in that hunt, so to speak... but several regions have closed their schools within the last few days. Teachers hereabouts (and other "essential workers") have NOT been vaccinated yet -- not scheduled to be until JUNE -- which seems pretty ridiculous to me -- and many people are urging the province to step up and vaccinate them during this time when they'll be out of the classroom.) 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

24+ hours post-vaxx..

  • We got our shots as soon as the pharmacy opened yesterday morning (9-9:30). By mid-afternoon, I was starting to feel kind of tired and a bit achy -- more so than I usually do with the regular flu shot. We were watching Ken Burns' (excellent) documentary on Hemingway on PBS last night (part 2 of 3 tonight), and I could barely keep my eyes open. Ached horribly all over, especially through my shoulders & torso. Dh got me a heating pad and I took some ibuprofen before I headed off to bed. That seemed to help. Slept OK -- not great, but not too bad. 
  • I'm still a bit achy today, but still very tired. Dh felt fine most of the day and then just before bedtime last night, he started feeling crappy. Wouldn't take anything for it, though. I think he's feeling better today. We NEED to feel better, since we're looking after Little Great-Nephew for an hour or so while BIL & SIL get THEIR shots and his mom & dad go to the lawyer's about the new house. ;)  (I don't think he's ever been left with anyone other than his grandparents, so this should be interesting...!)  
  • I hear the side effects from the second dose are usually worse than the first, so I'm not looking forward to that -- but I'm sure it still beats getting covid...!  
  • My mother was NOT happy that we took the AstraZeneca. She is not an anti-vaxxer, per se (I can't imagine what she would have said if I refused to get a vaccine when I was growing up...!!) -- but the older she gets, the more persnickety she gets about her health quirks and what she is and isn't willing to do. She hasn't had a flu vaccine in years, there are certain medications she refuses to take because she says they upset her stomach, etc.  Neither she nor my dad (ages 80 & 81) have had their covid shots yet -- even though they've been eligible for a few weeks now, and both have some underlying health issues that make them vulnerable to covid.  Mom insists she wants the Johnson & Johnson "one and done" vaccine -- even though it is not available in Canada right now, and probably won't be until at least the end of April, at the very earliest. She wants it done at her doctor's office and she wants it in her hip, not her arm. My sister (who lives closer) has tried to reason with them but no luck. 
    • I have told them that I can't come home until we're all fully vaccinated. I was hoping that might be Canadian Thanksgiving (in October)(if not this summer), but now I'm starting to think it won't happen until Christmas at the earliest, especially if they're going to drag their feet on getting their shots. 
    • I have not seen them in more than a year (Christmastime 2019). And I am more than a little pissed off that that doesn't seem to be a motivator for them. 
    • I keep wondering whether they'd be more eager and willing to get vaccinated ASAP if there were grandchildren in the picture that they wanted to see, since apparently I alone am not enough of a reason...!!  :(  
  • And then, this afternoon, the announcement that "All Ontario health units not yet doing so will begin booking COVID-19 vaccination appointments for those ages 60+ Wednesday morning." In other words, if we'd waited a few more days, we could have booked into one of the big vaccination centres & received the Pfizer or Moderna shot(s) instead of the AstraZeneca. 
    • Dh told me to quit second-guessing myself.  He's right.  Just because they're opening up appointments on Wednesday doesn't mean we'd GET an appointment right away...!  (I found out about the AZ program opening up in our area last Thursday night & put our names on several waiting lists then -- was contacted to book an appointment on Saturday evening, managed to book us both on Sunday morning and we had our shots on Monday morning.  That was a lot faster than I thought it would be, to be honest -- but there's no guarantee we could book an appointment that quickly with the big regional vaccine centres.) So we have almost a week's head start on building immunity over the people who will only start booking through the regional centres tomorrow.  And it's probably best that we got what we could, when we could.  The variants are running amok hereabouts, and new cases have been averaging 3,000+ daily for the past several days. Sigh...
  • I reeeeeaaaaaalllllyyyyy hate this pandemic.  :( 

Monday, April 5, 2021

"The Bright Side" by Cathrin Bradbury

As soon as I read a review of "The Bright Side: Twelve Months, Three Heartbreaks, and One (Maybe) Miracle" by Canadian journalist Cathrin Bradbury, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy.  

"The Bright Side" describes how Bradbury survived her own personal annus horribilis (2015, pre-COVID) in which absolutely everything that could go wrong in her life, did. I haven't experienced most of the things that Bradbury did -- thankfully (yet??) -- but I can relate to the overall theme of midlife turbulence. (Plus, she also -- cough! -- turns 60 in the book!)  

Despite the difficult situations described in its pages (and yes, I did shed some tears), there's good stuff that counterbalances the bad too. The overall tone of the book is upbeat, hopeful -- and frequently hilarious. And the writing is fabulous!  I devoured more than half the book in one sitting, and finished it in a little over 48 hours.  

As one Goodreads reviewer says, "She wasn't writing about Covid, but the timing's perfect." This theme was echoed in a cover endorsement from Plum Johnson -- author of my favourite books of 2015, "They Left Us Everything" (reviewed here) -- who called it "the perfect antidote to a tough year." 

I loved it.  5 stars on Goodreads 

This was Book #18 read to date in 2021 (and Book #2 finished in April), bringing me to 50% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 9 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

#MicroblogMondays: One down!!

After all my angst (*cough* -- bitching ;)  ) over the past few weeks/months (here & elsewhere) about how slowly the COVID-19 vaccines were rolling out here in Canada (& Ontario specifically), I'm (extremely!!) happy to write that both dh & I got our first (AstraZeneca) shots this morning!!!! 

As I've written before, initial vaccinations here focused on health care workers and long-term care home workers and residents. Rollout to the general population didn't begin until mid-March, although some regions began offering shots (Pfizer & Moderna) to the 80+ population on March 1st.  I was fully expecting we would have to wait until summer for our turns (60 & 64).  

But slowly, younger groups began to be added to the eligible population... first the 75 and up group, then 70 and up. By mid-March, a couple of pilot projects began, offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged 60-64 (i.e., dh & me -- one advantage of getting older??) -- one through pharmacies in certain regions, and one through family physicians' offices in certain regions -- none of the regions being the one where dh & I live, of course...! 

Then last week, things began to happen more quickly. (I think it's been a combination of uptake in some groups not being as high as expected -- because of some poor planning on the province's part... but that's another story...! -- plus some vaccines getting closer to their expiry dates = not wanting them to go to waste -- plus the supply is increasing as more vaccines are being shipped.) 

First of all, they lowered the eligible age at the regional centres to 65. Then on Thursday, a friend posted on Facebook that they were lowering the age for the AstraZeneca pharmacy program in her region to 55+. I checked, and learned that the program was being expanded to more pharmacies right across the province, including our region.  I'd already pre-registered us for the waiting list for one local pharmacy chain (Shoppers Drug Mart).  Of course, neither of the two Shoppers closest to us is participating in the program yet...!  But when I checked on Thursday, there were a Rexall, Costco and two Walmarts nearby listed among the pharmacies participating.  I signed us up for the waiting lists for Rexall and Costco. Walmart indicated there were no appointments available, but I continued to check every morning to see if anything had changed. (Really efficient...) 

Saturday night we went to BIL's house to drop off some Easter goodies for Little Great-Nephew. I went to retrieve my cellphone from my purse to take a few photos -- and lo and behold, I had both a text and an email from Rexall:  "It's time to book your covid-19 vaccination!" It said the link was good for 24 hours and "if there are no spots available, please contact the pharmacy directly."  

I tried the link but didn't get very far before I got a message that no spots were available (already?!) and to please contact the pharmacy directly. I called and of course they had closed at 6 (!) but I left a voice mail message. 

Sunday morning, dh got the same text and email messages from Rexall... and when he tried the link, he was able to get into the system and book an appointment for this morning at 9!  I decided to try my link again, but got a message that it had expired because of "overwhelming demand."  So I called the pharmacy again. They were open (even though it was Easter Sunday), and I explained what had happened and that my husband had just managed to book an appointment for 9 a.m. Monday. She said, "9:10 is booked -- I can offer you 9:20, but just come in at the same time as your husband and we'll do you together."  


I said, "That's fabulous, thank you!!"  After I hung up, dh & I started giggling, and then jumping up & down gleefully.  (And then right after that, we both got messages from Costco, inviting us to book our vaccinations with them! -- it never rains but it pours, right??  Feast or famine...)  

Dh called BIL to tell him we were booked, and then a while later, BIL called back to say they'd both managed to get appointments at the same pharmacy for Tuesday afternoon (tomorrow).  (BIL is 58 & SIL is 56.)  So we'll be right in sync with each other vaccine-wise -- even better!  :)  

We set the alarm clock and got up early this morning, arriving well before the pharmacy opened at 9.  We were in & out of there in under half an hour, including wait times afterwards. The pharmacist said the phone has been ringing off the hook, and that they'd had very little notice that they would be getting this shipment.  

I'll admit if I'd had my druthers, I would have preferred the Pfizer or Moderna (or the Johnson & Johnson "one & done" shot, which won't be available in Canada until at least the end of April).  You've probably heard that there have been a few issues with the AstraZeneca:  which age groups it's best suited for, and some blood clotting issues in a very small number of cases. (My mother was NOT happy when I told her we were getting it! -- she & my dad have been dragging their feet;  we got our first shots before they did! She says she's holding out for the Johnson & Johnson shot.)(The bitter childless part of me wonders whether they'd be in more of a hurry to get their shots if there were grandchildren they were anxious to see?? -- and not just little old me?? )  :(  

But as they say, the best vaccine is the first one you can get in your arm -- and we figured the odds of contracting covid right now (with all the more contagious variants floating around & case levels here skyrocketing again) far outweigh the likelihood of any adverse effects. So far (a few hours later), we're both feeling fine -- maybe a little fatigued/spacey (but that could also be because we got up earlier than usual, lol). 

The situation right now is not good here in Ontario:  we've been averaging 3,000 new cases a day for the last several days, and hospital ICUs are full.  It will be two weeks before we get any real protection from this first shot, and we won't be fully protected until our second shot, which won't be for another four months = mid-July (unless the government changes the vaccine schedules).  Even then, masks, handwashing and social distancing are strongly recommended for the foreseeable future. 

But!!  FINALLY, some progress! some hope for a return to some semblance of normalcy!!  

Have you been vaccinated yet? 

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

Friday, April 2, 2021

"Do You Have Kids?" by Kate Kaufmann

Kate Kaufmann has been a warm and wise presence at the seasonal virtual gatherings of childless elderwomen that Jody Day has been organizing recently (as well as a speaker at the recent Childless Collective Summit), and I decided it was about time I got around to pulling her book from my gargantuan TBR pile and getting it read! 

"Do You Have Kids?  Life When the Answer is No" is a thoughtful examination of what it's like to live a life without children -- the actual lived experiences of childless and childfree women. Kaufmann shares her own story and interviewed hundreds of other childless women, representing a broad range of ages, backgrounds and reasons why they did not become mothers.  She also provides an impressive amount of research and statistics on various aspects of childless living. 

Despite the growing numbers of childless women around the world, "There are no common blueprints for how we structure our lives, where we live, who we befriend," Kaufmann observes, early in the book. "Without child-rearing responsibilities, we lack well-defined paths and readily apparent role models. Without responsibility for young lives or a genetic trajectory into future generations, our lifetimes have genetic finish lines. Our limb on the family tree does not branch or bear fruit. So we fashion and form our lives differently than mothers do." 

Kaufmann and her interview subjects discuss what led them to a life without children, their career paths and working lives, how they engage with other people's children, how they build and maintain friendships with mothers and other non-mothers, how they define family and their relationships with their families of origin, non-traditional living arrangements (including co-housing), the particular health concerns facing women without children, issues of religion and spirituality, aging, end of life and estate planning, philanthropy and legacy, and some great tips for how to talk with others about non-mom life.

This would be a great book to hand to anyone new to (or contemplating) a life without children, and also to parents who want (or need!) to understand us better. 

A solid 4 stars on Goodreads. 

This was Book #17 read to date in 2021 (and Book #1 finished in April), bringing me to 47% 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." 

Thursday, April 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.)

March has been a LOOOONNNNNGGGG month!  

This month, we marked one full year (12 months!!) of living with the COVID-19 virus. I wrote two posts from a "one year later" perspective, here and here. The region where I live (near Toronto) came out of lockdown on Feb. 22nd (and there are some businesses in Toronto & Peel regions that STILL haven't been allowed to reopen! -- hair & nail salons, gyms, no indoor dining at restaurants, etc.). However, case numbers are almost as high as they've ever been, including a huge surge from the new, more contagious variants -- and it's almost a certainty that there will be a THIRD shutdown/stay at home order soon... sigh... 

(I wrote this last night -- and sure enough, on the CBC evening national news, they reported the premier will announce yet another lockdown today, starting Saturday and lasting for four weeks. But it won't be as strict as the last one... go figure...??  Honestly, it's not so much the lockdowns themselves I find hard (because we've been pretty much staying home in isolation for most of the past 12 months anyway);  it's the half-assed way they are implemented, and then lifted -- too early -- and the constant back and forthing and tinkering around the edges as to what can open and to what extent and what stays closed...  I mean, I know we're dealing with a lot of unknowns and constantly moving variables here, but COME ON...)  

Meanwhile, vaccinations for the general public (beyond health care workers and long-term care home residents and staff, who were the first to get the shots) FINALLY got under way here this past month (in Canada generally and here in Ontario specifically). Progress has been painfully slow, and initially focused on people aged 80 and older. (They just began accepting people 65+ yesterday! -- getting closer...!)  There is a pilot project targeting those of us 60-64 (i.e., me and dh) to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, one via a certain number of family doctors' offices and one via a certain number of local pharmacies, in certain regions.  To date, however, none of the pilots have been in the region where we live. Since the pilots began, the provincial government approved the AZ vaccine for people older than 64... and then, just as March was ending, a national vaccine panel recommended the AZ vaccine NOT be given to people younger than 55...!  All clear as mud, right?  

As of yesterday, 12.7% of Ontarians have received at least one dose of vaccine, and just 2.1% have received both ( = fully vaccinated).   

On top of dh's usual (once or twice weekly) trips to the supermarket for groceries and for takeout dinners on Saturday nights, this month, we went (together -- with some trips including multiple stops): 
  • to the bookstore twice -- once near the beginning of the month and once yesterday -- the first times we'd been there since Dec. 8th (!). 
  • to the supermarket once.  
  • to the drugstore once, for prescriptions, sundries and Easter chocolate for Little Great-Nephew. 
  • to the children's wear store once for a few things for Little Great-Nephew's Easter basket/gift bag. (I totally missed out on getting him some goodies for Valentine's Day because we were in lockdown, so I'm making it up to him, lol -- like he'll remember, right?)  
  • to the telecomm service provider store to check out a problem with dh's phone (we were in & out within 10 minutes).  
  • to see Little Great-Nephew (oh yeah, BIL & SIL too!  lol), four times, after the lockdown lifted (the first time(s) we'd seen him since New Year's Eve). 
    • BIL also drove by our building with Little Great-Nephew (sound asleep!) in his car seat one recent Saturday, and called us from his cellphone to come down and say hi -- a pleasant surprise!  
  • to get haircuts mid-month, after 14 (!) weeks/3+ months without, albeit not with our usual hairstylist. (That's still several weeks short of the 17 weeks between haircuts last spring/summer).  
  • to the optometrist in midtown Toronto for a checkup.  
  • and we made a quick trip to a nearby town to deliver some paperwork for a COVID-19 vaccination appointment to a friend's 90-year-old aunt.
  • and on our way home, we went through the car wash (we didn't get out of the car -- but it was still an outing! lol). 
Otherwise, we've continued to stay close to home. 

*** *** *** 

I was curious to know exactly how many places I'd been over the past 12 months since the "Last Normal Day"/start of the pandemic. And I was able to figure it out, since I've kept notes in my datebook and in my monthly "Right Now" posts on this blog. These numbers don't include dh's solo expeditions to the supermarket, pharmacy, gas station, for takeout, etc., or our walks around the neighbourhood last spring/summer.  It also doesn't include the outings noted above over the past month (i.e., the period covered includes mid-March 2020 through the end of February 2021 = almost a full year). Keep in mind we also had two fairly lengthy lockdowns/shutdowns over the past year.  (I didn't count the number of actual outings -- one outing might include several stops.) 
  • 19x to BIL's (where we usually -- but not always -- got to see Little Great-Nephew). This is actually more often than I thought?! -- but I have no doubt there would have been many more visits without the pandemic to contend with...! There were more, longer & unmasked visits last summer, often at least partly spent outdoors -- but our visits have generally been less frequent, briefer and masked since the cold weather returned. 
  • 16x to bookstore (lol) 
  • 6x to pharmacy 
  • 5x to supermarket 
  • 5x for haircuts.
  • 3x to dentist 
  • 3x to the bank/ABM
  • 3x for gelato (last summer -- eaten outside the shop). 
  • 2x to Canadian Tire automotive/hardware/sporting goods/housewares store) 
  • 2x to hospital (once for pre-op COVID-19 test & bloodwork and once for hysteroscopy/d&c) 
  • 1x to Staples (office supplies) 
  • 1x to BestBuy (curbside pickup of new laptop) 
  • 1x to Carters/Oshkosh (children's clothing store) 
  • 1x to the optometrist
  • 1x to family dr's office (flu shots) 
  • 1x to ultrasound clinic (re: post-menopausal spotting) 
  • 1x to gynecologist (re: fibroids) 
That's it!  

*** *** ***

Reading: I read 4 books in March (reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads, & tagged "2021 books"):
This brings me to 16 books read so far in 2021 -- 44% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 8 books ahead of schedule. :)

(By mid-February, dh had already blown past his 2021 Reading Challenge goal of 24 books... to date, he's read 45 (!).  He says he doesn't really care about the challenge;  he just wants to track what he's read. Unlike me, of course, he's not on social media that much, or online much generally at all... so...! ) 

Current read(s): 
A few recently purchased titles (in both paper and digital formats):  
Watching: We watched one episode of "Call the Midwife" on CBC (which took over "Downton Abbey's timeslot) -- as I wrote here -- but decided it was not for us and haven't watched since then.  

"Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy"  and "Lincoln: Divided We Stand" both ended (after six episodes each) on CNN. "Belgravia" on CBC has also ended -- it was on at the same time as the Tucci show, so we PVRd it, but have yet to watch an episode. 

I spent a bleary-eyed four days over a recent weekend watching one presentation after another through the online Childless Collective Summit organized by Katy at Chasing Creation. I managed to watch most of the presentations live and have been catching up on the ones I missed via an extended access pass (I still have a few left to watch). I wrote about the experience here

Listening:  Our usual classic rock music station... no new podcasts or podcast episodes recently (although I've been adding lots to my queue!). 

Following: Several new blogs/sites/social media accounts for speakers and people I watched or "met" through the summit. 

Eating/Drinking:  We recently tried a new recipe for making pork chops in the crockpot that I found on Pinterest a while back, which was a hit! :)  (We used mini-potatos and added carrots -- green beans would also be nice, I think -- added a little more liquid than called for, and spooned some of the liquid mixture over the chops. The grainy Dijon really makes the flavour pop!)  

Our Saturday night takeout dinners this month included rotisserie chicken (with sandwiches made from the leftovers for lunch the next day), wood oven thin crust pizza, chicken fingers and fries, and spaghetti rapini agli e olio.  

Buying (besides books, lol):  Some sterling silver jewelry from my favourite online craftsperson (on sale, 25% off).... I actually ordered in late February but it didn't arrive until early March. And I just ordered myself a couple of new tops online from a Canadian store called Cleo that I used to frequent when I worked downtown (no outlets hereabouts, unfortunately). Of course I don't really NEED any new clothes right now, but sometimes you just want to splurge, you know? (And the prices are very reasonable.)  My sister also wears a lot of their stuff. 

Debating:  Whether we need a bag of Cadbury mini-eggs in the house, lol (before Easter is over and they disappear for another year...!).  ;)  

Wearing: I have switched from wearing my down/"puffer" winter jacket outside to a denim jacket, since the weather turned milder.  Progress?!  (Hopefully I won't have to return to the down jacket again before next winter/fall...!) 

Trying:  Submitting medical & dental benefits claims through our employee/pensioner benefits provider's website for the first time (instead of printing off forms, filling them in by hand and mailing them in...!). (Dh & I worked for the same company and thus have the same benefits provider.)  Yes, Canada has "universal" healthcare, and for most health care that's an emergency or "medically necessary," all you have to do is show your health card at the doctor's office or hospital and that's it. You never see a bill. But "extras" like ambulance services, private rooms at hospitals, etc., are not covered.  Also not covered (although some provinces provide some limited services in these categories):  dental or vision care, prescriptions and physiotherapy. That's why many people purchase medical and/or dental coverage, often through their workplace benefits programs. 

The dentist submits our claims directly from their office (thank goodness), but it seems it's up to us to submit the secondary claims ourselves.  Our prescriptions get automatically covered at the pharmacy (both primary & secondary -- also thank goodness), but I had a bill (standard fee) from my recent optometrist visit to submit too.  

So far the refund money's been coming back into our bank account -- but I keep thinking there must be an easier way than submitting a claim, then resubmitting for the secondary coverage through dh's benefits (and vice versa). I've been making notes to keep track of what claims I've submitted when, or else I'd get horribly mixed up. I'm just very thankful that I only have to do this once or twice a year when we visit the dentist, with the occasional optometrist appointment or other fee thrown in.  (I suppose this is all old hat for Americans??) 

Wanting: A vaccine, soon (please)...!!  

Loving:  Little Great-Nephew. <3  A bright ray of sunshine in a dark year! 

Feeling: A certain amount of disbelief that it's a full year later and we are STILL socially distancing, and heading for lockdown #3...!  :(   This is far from being over, people...  :(  

But also relieved that it's (FINALLY) spring and we're seeing some sunshine and able to have the balcony doors open occasionally!