Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Caveat emptor...

A couple of recent stories about ALI-related scandals in the news that I thought I'd pass along -- as well as a story tangentially related to my own experiences...!  

*** *** *** 

During my short-lived pregnancy in 1998, my ob-gyn's office provided me with a pamphlet about banking my baby's cord blood (for a fee, of course...!). Cord blood contains stem cells that might be used years later to treat some medical conditions, including leukemia.  

I never got far along enough in my pregnancy to make a decision about banking her cord blood, but I thought about that when I saw a recent news story on CBC about a scandal involving the Cord Blood Bank of Canada (CBBC).  Clients of the CBBC allege in a lawsuit that the CBBC did not notify them after all the samples stored by the business were destroyed nearly three years ago, in October 2018 (!) ...and not only that, they continued to charge those clients the annual storage fee! 

The case is still before the courts. 

*** *** *** 

This story has been in the news here before (and there have been similar cases in other countries): an Ottawa fertility doctor (Norman Barwin) used the wrong sperm (including his own) in the conception of at least 100 children.  A class action lawsuit launched in 2016 has grown to 226 members, including former patients and children conceived through artificial insemination -- 17 of whom have discovered Barwin is their biological father through DNA.  

In a recent development, Barwin has agreed to a settlement of more than $13 million, which will include $75,000 to set up and operate a DNA database that will help donor-conceived children to identify their biological fathers and half-siblings. The doctor was stripped of his medical license and fined more than $10,000 in 2019. 

*** *** *** 

Thinking about these stories and about ethical lapses in fertility treatment had me thinking about a close call in my own pregnancy/loss/infertility journey.  I don't think I've ever told this story on my blog before:  my own RE was subjected to disciplinary action for professional misconduct by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario in 2006, five years after I left his practice (and treatment). In 2001 -- around the same time I left fertility treatment altogether --  he began an affair with his receptionist/office assistant (!). The affair ended, but after that, she became an anonymous egg donor in his practice, twice. Donors and recipients are not supposed to know each others' identities, but because of her position at the office, she had access to the recipients' files and claimed to know the identity of at least one of the recipients of her eggs. She left the practice in 2003.  

The RE admitted to the facts of the case. He was fined $2,500, received a three-month suspension of his license and was required to complete an ethics course.  

There's probably more to the story that hasn't been made public, but this is essentially what appears on the public record. The background story and the judgment appears in his CPSO listing (I have a PDF copy in my own files), and if you go WAY back on some Canadian infertility message boards, you'll find some chatter about the matter -- although the glowing reviews he continues to receive on some sites makes me suspect that few people have actually looked up his CPSO listing...! (I suppose some have, but are so desperate to have a baby that they are willing to overlook it...??)  

He did bring up the subject of using donor eggs with me a couple of times. I was never really interested -- and I shudder to think how close I might have come to getting mixed up in this situation...! 

*** *** *** 

A reminder that Pamela at Silent Sorority is a co-founder of the site ReproTech Truths, dedicated to countering the disproportionate emphasis on IVF success stories with untold stories that will help future generations understand the associated risks and costs of fertility treatment and make better, more informed decisions. They welcome your stories!  

Tuesday, July 27, 2021


@brianandreas on Instagram, via @gatewaywomen  :) 
(Not entirely sure I'm entirely "past it" -- but mostly so!) 


Monday, July 26, 2021

#MicroblogMonday: Legacy

Six (!) years ago, I wrote about my decision to hand over my treasured vintage (early 1980s) Zenith stereo (turntable/cassette player and radio/tuner, all in one) and vinyl album collection (about 180 classic rock LPs) to Older Nephew (who was paying ridiculous sums of money for used copies of some of the same albums that were gathering dust in my basement...!). The stereo and some of the albums were kept in his bedroom, pre-wedding, and in the basement suite at BIL's since he got married. 

This past weekend, he, his wife and Little Great-Nephew (and the dog, lol) finally moved into the house they bought this spring. (They took possession in June, but have been painting and doing a few renovations since then.) BIL was on vacation last week, and he & dh made several trips up to the house to bring some things over in advance of moving day, make some last-minute fixes, etc.  

Dh took some photos on one of these expeditions so that I could see what they'd done with the place. Among other things, Older Nephew's MIL's carpenter boyfriend built them a beautiful shelving unit all along one wall of their family room. Guess what holds the centre spot of honour?  That's right, my stereo & vinyl collection (the ones I gave Older Nephew as well as ones he's bought on his own). He's bought new, more modern (smaller! lol) speakers, but otherwise, it's all just as I gave it to him. 

Sometimes, those of us without children wonder about what kind of a legacy we can leave, and to whom -- whether and how we and the things that mattered to us will live on somehow, after we're gone... whether they will matter to someone else.  I took one look at that photo and my heart just swelled. I thought, "There's my legacy (or at least part of it), right there!"  

Not only that -- dh told me he checked out what was on the turntable -- and practically burst HIS buttons when he saw it was Bruce Springsteen's "The River," lol.  :)  (Our work here is done, lol.)   

(I was going to include the photo, but when I asked dh to send it to me, he told me he'd already deleted it. (!!)  Sigh...)  

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

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Oh sure, blame the childless...

Back in 2016, I read J.D. Vance's memoir, "Hillbilly Elegy," and gave it a favourable review, here and on Goodreads. Even then, I didn't agree with all his ideas, but I thought he had some good points to make, and whatever its broader cultural & political implications, it was, overall, a well-written and compelling personal story. 

I was starting to think maybe I should take that favourable review back, after hearing that Vance was running for the Senate in Ohio as a Republican (and a Trump Republican at that! -- after having some less than complimentary things to say about Trump while promoting his book). 

And then I saw this headline on Twitter, which led me to the full story:  

(excerpt -- emphasis mine) 

Ohio Republican US Senate candidate J.D. Vance is taking aim at New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other leaders of the “childless left” for their lack of “physical commitment to the future of this country” — suggesting a radical change in voting rights to combat them.

“Why is this just a normal fact of … life, for the leaders of our country to be people who don’t have a personal and direct stake in it via their own offspring?” Vance asked Friday at an Alexandria, Va. conference hosted by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, The Federalist reported....

Vance offered a startling solution to what he called the “civilizational crisis”: extra voting power for parents.

“The Democrats are talking about giving the vote to 16-year-olds,” Vance said.

Instead, he said, “Let’s give votes to all children in this country, but let’s give control over those votes to the parents of the children.”

“Doesn’t this mean that parents get a bigger say in how democracy functions? … Yes,” he concluded.

Of course, Fox News couldn't resist taking up the torch and running with it...: 

(excerpt -- emphasis mine) 

Fox News hosts on Sunday promoted the idea that "childless" Americans should not be allowed to participate in society by voting.

The idea was recently floated by Ohio Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance...

The hosts of Fox & Friends discussed the merits of the idea that the "childless left" should not be able to vote.

"I think it's an interesting idea," host Will Cain said. "I'm into interesting ideas. Let's think about it. Let's talk about it. He's saying childless leaders are making decisions that are short-term in mind, not focused on the long-term future health of this country because they don't have a stake in the game. Parents have a stake in the game, they have children so give parents a bigger say."

Co-host Pete Hegseth pointed out that fellow co-host Rachel Campos-Duffy would get nine votes because she has nine children...  

 According to Hegseth, a large family is "a reflection of optimism."

If ever there was an example of pronatalism run amok, this would be it. Of course, Vance is just one in a very long line of politicians -- and not just in the U.S. -- who have tried to score points by bashing childless people (especially childless politicians), and I've written about some of them in this blog.  (In fact, I was prompted to collect all the past posts I could find related to politics/politicians and childlessness and tag them with the label "politics & childlessness." You can find them here.)  But this takes the war on childless/free people to an entirely new level.  

I only just read this, and I haven't had a lot of time to mull things over, but here are a few initial thoughts: 
  • Do any of these people consider that at least some of the childless people they are so quick to bash for failing to procreate very much WANTED to have children, and that comments like these rub salt in some very deep wounds?  
    • Vance specifically singled out Vice President Kamala Harris, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), as not having children.  
      • So far as I know, Harris has never talked about whether she wanted children, although she didn't marry until she was nearly 50, and loves to talk about being "Momala" to her husband's two children by a previous marriage. 
      • Buttigieg is gay -- which is not the barrier to family-building that it once was. (I guess Vance has no objection to gay people being parents, then? -- some Republicans most certainly do...)  He's still not yet 40, and has only been married to his partner Chasten Glezman for three (very busy) years. I believe they have mentioned they would like to have a family.  
      • AOC is just 31 years old and unmarried. So far as I know, she has not made any definitive statements about wanting or not wanting a family -- although I did find some comments she made about possibly freezing her eggs, and others mulling over the ethics of bringing children into a world facing catastrophic climate change. 
    • Apparently Vance did qualify his comments to say that "he was not referring to people who are unable to have children."  But not all the coverage of his remarks that I've seen includes that caveat or makes that distinction.
    • Even if you're willing to grant voting rights to people who are unable to have children (gee, how very generous of you...) -- how, I ask, would you make the distinction at the ballot box between parents and people without children -- let alone those who are unable to have children and those who made an active choice not to have children?)  
  • If childless people are not allowed to vote (as Fox News hosts propose), will they still be required to pay the taxes that support & benefit parents & children? (No taxation without representation, right?)  
  • Do they stop to consider that at least some of those childless voters they are so eager to disenfranchise will be Republicans? (Obviously not.) 
  • Vance asks, “Why is this just a normal fact of … life, for the leaders of our country to be people who don’t have a personal and direct stake in it via their own offspring?” Ummm... maybe because balancing family life and a life in politics in the 21st century, especially in the U.S., is incredibly difficult (and current political practices and structures are not particularly family-friendly)?  
A quick scan of Twitter, and I found this tweet from columnist/political analyst Kirsten Powers: 

Actually, arguing that the only way you could care about the future of the country is if it affected your offspring is what sounds selfish.  People who are not related to you matter actually.

I'm agree.  

I'm livid.  

Odds & ends from a busy week

(Content alert: cute kid (i.e., Little Great-Nephew, with face hidden) photo at the bottom of this story. :)  ) 
  • Poor dh has had quite a week. BIL was on vacation -- but can't sit still (we don't know how he's ever going to retire...!) -- and Older Nephew was getting ready to move to his new house yesterday. Dh was recruited to help out with various errands, including several trips back & forth to the new house (an hour's drive from us, one way) on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, plus helping out with the actual move on Saturday (loading & unloading boxes). He's exhausted! 
    • Younger Nephew came to help out yesterday too, having just passed two weeks since his second vaccination. He & his wife have been laying pretty low during this pandemic -- even more so than me & dh, I think! -- but dh got a big hug from him (as well as his brother -- and dh gave them both hugs from me) and he held his nephew (our LGN) for the first time in months. Hopefully we will see more of them all now!  
  • In between helping BIL/Older Nephew, we went to the mall (for the first time in 17 months!)... twice in two days! -- first to get me a new cellphone (as recounted here) -- and then back again the next day, because we noticed that I was not getting any of the text messages that dh was sending me. (They WERE, however, showing up on my old cellphone -- go figure?)  The guy at the phone store said he'd never seen anything like it in 14 years of working there (and it WOULD happen to ME, right?).  After almost an hour, he finally figured out that it was an issue with the Samsung proprietary messaging app. Couldn't figure out how to get it to work properly, but he downloaded the Google messages app (which was what I had on my old phone and like better anyway), and it's worked like a charm since then. (I'd already downloaded the Google calendar app myself because I didn't like the one that came with the phone.) Technology, oy...!  
    • Still getting used to my new phone (a Samsung vs the Motorola that I had for my last two phones). It's way more complicated in a lot of ways. The camera works differently in a lot of ways too... but I must admit, it's a better camera overall and takes amazing photos!  
  • We also spent Thursday morning with SIL & Little Great-Nephew (and the dog).... :) 
  • ...(plus the usual weekly laundry, housecleaning and grocery shopping...!)
  • I haven't watched too much of the Olympics from Tokyo yet, but I had CBC's live coverage of the opening ceremonies on TV as I cleaned house on Friday morning. It all seemed a little flat and muted and odd -- the vast, near-empty stadium, the drastically reduced numbers of masked athletes marching behind their countries' flags. 
    • Still, I did get kind of emotional. I always do (especially when I see our Canadians), but there was an added layer this time, thinking of how hard these kids have worked to get there, and how very different their Olympic experience will be from past Olympics, and from what they've imagined and dreamed of. I felt bad for them, and for the families who can't be there to support them, as they normally would. 
    • Still -- it's the Olympics, and they're there!  And even if it's different, it's certainly an historic experience -- and they're still a part of it. 
    • Mel posted about the Olympics today, and I used part of this post as my response. 
  • Little Great-Nephew (20 months old), dh & the dog. 
    Climbing steps at the park near BIL's house last week. :) 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Odds & ends

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

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

      Monday, July 19, 2021

      "Malibu Rising" by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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

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

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

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

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

      3.5 stars on Goodreads, rounded up to 4.  

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

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

      *** *** *** 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      #MicroblogMondays: Me time!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Sunday, July 18, 2021

      20 years of childless living

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Saturday, July 17, 2021

      "Love Lives Here" by Amanda Jette Knox

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

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

      *** *** *** 

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

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

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

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

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

      4 stars on Goodreads. 

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

      Wednesday, July 14, 2021

      World Childless Week is coming!

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

      Tuesday, July 13, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

      Recent odds & ends

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

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

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

      Monday, July 12, 2021

      #MicroblogMondays: Small pleasures & annoying things

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

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

      Sunday, July 11, 2021

      "Hungry" by Grace Dent

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

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

      (I digress.) 

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

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

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

      Five (5) stars on Goodreads.

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