Tuesday, August 31, 2021

"I Have Something to Tell You" by Chasten Buttigieg

Having fulfilled my book club obligations for August ;)  I finally got to turn my attention to my gargantuan TBR pile/list and pick something from it for my next read.  

"I Have Something to Tell You" by Chasten Buttigieg (nee Glezman) -- husband of former South Bend (Indiana) mayor/U.S. Democratic presidential candidate/current U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg -- has been on my want-to-read list for quite a while now. I was waiting for the paperback, but it's not readily available here in stores in Canada (although I could have ordered it online). I eventually used my points to download a copy to my Kobo e-reader. (I have Pete's own memoir in the TBR pile as well, but this one was way higher up on my list, lol.) 

I was impressed by Pete Buttigieg as a political candidate -- but (can I admit?) I developed something of a crush on Chasten ;) and I began following him on social media during the nomination race last year. I love watching his Instagram Live interviews (although he hasn't done any in a while). Okay, I know he's gay, and (at 32) almost half my age -- and I am, in fact, OLDER than his mother (!! -- who has two other older sons to boot...!) -- but he just seemed so refreshingly down-to-earth and genuine. When I heard he was a drama teacher and theatre geek, it all made sense: he reminded me of the sweet, slightly dorky guys I hung out with in high school band and drama club (some of them gay, although we didn't talk openly about stuff like that as teenagers in the 1970s).

Despite the different times and places we grew up in, I recognized a lot of my own youth in Chasten's stories about his small-town American Midwest upbringing -- both the good (4-H, hockey -- his brothers played -- mom's home cooking and thriftiness, the proximity to the U.S.-Canada border) and the not-so-good (the desperate desire to fit in, the conservatism, the lack of diversity and curiosity, the homophobia). He spent his senior year of high school as an exchange student in Germany, where he first kissed a boy and came out to his host mother, then returned home to Michigan, where he bounced around between several colleges and jobs, initially intending to become a nurse. He eventually landed at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire to study theatre, and in the process, racked up six figures worth of student loans. Even after he began working as a drama teacher, first in Milwaukee and then in Chicago, he also worked as a barista at Starbucks, both to supplement his income and because they offered the health insurance coverage that is so necessary living in the U.S.  (Chasten's stories about his mother's battle with cancer, as well as his own medical debt, make me sooooo glad -- not for the first time -- that I'm Canadian...!)  

Sadly, his first sexual experience was being assaulted by an older man at a party. He confesses that the Brett Kavanaugh/Christine Blasey Ford hearing a few years ago brought back some painful memories. Eventually, he took a chance on a guy he found while scrolling through a dating app -- a guy who happened to be the mayor of a small city in northern Indiana. The rest, as they say, is history. The later part of the book details Chasten's bewildering new life as a political spouse and his experiences on the campaign trail.  

This was a chatty, funny, frank, keenly observed and often poignant coming-of-age and coming out story, combined with an inside look at the U.S. political campaign process. I loved it. (If you know a young person who recently came out, this would be a great book to hand them -- and there's a version adapted for younger readers on its way soon!) 

I think Chasten would make an excellent First Gentleman someday -- if not a politician in his own right. He was a great campaigner, a savvy user of social media, an advocate for LGBTQ+ youth, education and the arts on the campaign trail, and I look forward to seeing what he does next, beyond supporting Pete in his ambitions. Since I started reading this book, he & Pete announced they have just become parents! -- so I guess that's what will be keeping him busy for the next while...!

On that note -- I found a Washington Post article from July about how Chasten is settling into life in Washington (or trying to...!).  Some of this may sound familiar to some of you who have adopted, or tried to... 

They’ve been trying to adopt for a year now, going through home studies and parenting workshops, writing up descriptions of their family values and ideal weekends. They are on lists that would allow them to receive a baby who has been abandoned or surrendered at very little notice, and through lengthier processes that would allow a prospective mother to choose them in advance (although she wouldn’t know their identities). They’ve gotten close enough, on multiple occasions, to shop for baby gear and discuss names.

One afternoon, two weeks ago, Chasten got a call about a birth mother who was in labor and wanted to place her baby for adoption. The couple scrambled to figure out how to clear their schedules, track down an infant car seat and travel to the state where she was delivering the baby. A few hours later, he got another call. The mother had changed her mind.

“It’s a really weird cycle of anger and frustration and hope,” says Chasten. “You think it’s finally happening and you get so excited, and then it’s gone.” He thinks, sometimes, about what they will tell their future child: “We tried so hard for you. We waited so long for you.” He fantasizes about taking a little one to Michigan, where they could romp through the woods and cast fishing lines with Grandpa. 

I debated whether this should be 4 or 5 stars on Goodreads... I settled on 5 stars, because I really did enjoy it. It's a compelling story and very well told.  

This was Book #44 read to date in 2021 (and Book #6 finished in August), bringing me to 122%! 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...!) 21 (!) books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

Monday, August 30, 2021

"Emily of New Moon" by L.M. Montgomery (re-read)

My L.M. Montgomery Readathon group on Facebook just finished our summer reading & discussion of "Emily of New Moon." (Here's my original review from my first readthrough of the book, before our discussion began.) 

I hadn't read this book in many years, and to rediscover it together with a community of extremely knowledgeable Montgomery fans was an absolute pleasure, and brought back many memories. The Readathon group, with new discussion questions, supplementary material and videos of chapter readings by participants posted two or three times a week, has been a bright light for me in the darkness of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the hosts are committed to keeping it going until we're done with COVID (hopefully beyond!). 

If you love Anne Shirley, give Emily Byrd Starr a try!  

My original Goodreads rating of this book still stands -- 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4.  

Starting Monday, Sept. 20th, we'll be reading the next/second book in the three-volume Emily series, "Emily Climbs." You are welcome to join us

This was Book #43 read to date in 2021 (and Book #5 finished in August), bringing me to 119%! 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...!) 20 (!) books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

#MicroblogMondays: Why my weekend sucked

  • Woke up Saturday morning and noticed the big toe on my left foot was rather stiff and a little swollen. A few hours later I noticed it was very red, right where the toe joins the foot. I knew what it was immediately: gout. :(  
    • Gout is caused by elevated uric acid levels -- which my bloodwork has shown I have, for years. In my case, it's exacerbated by/a side effect of the medication I take to control my blood pressure. This is the first flare-up of gout that I've had, though (at least, that I've noticed -- although I've long suspected the stiffness and aches in my left knee might be partly caused by gout). 
    • Genetics are not on my side either: both my parents have had bouts with gout in recent years. 
    • My family dr had instructed me to call if/when I ever noticed the signs of gout. Of course, I didn't notice anything until after his office was closed until Monday (and with covid levels on the upswing, there's no way I'm going to a walk-in clinic or hospital emergency room right now...!). (I will be calling later this/Monday morning...) 
    • And so I've been drinking gallons of water, taking ibuprofen, elevating my foot, gently rubbing in essential oils (won't hurt, right?) and using an ice pack for a few minutes every hour. 
    • I'm also going to have to re-examine my diet... particularly my sugar intake. :(   
      • I got on the scale this morning for the first time in months... and I was up another four pounds since my last weigh-in earlier this spring. My heaviest weight ever. I've gained 20-30 pounds since losing my job and retiring 7 years ago... which was already 20-ish pounds higher than the upper end of my Weight Watchers goal range. Not good. :( 
    • Fortunately, my foot has not bothered me too much during the night. (So far?) This was good because we had other things to keep us up...!  (Read on...!)  
  • The weather this weekend (most of the past week, actually) was hot, hazy and humid -- at one point, 31C, 41C humidex -- that's 87F and 106 F, respectively.  (You know it's hot when you wake up and it's already 30C humidex outside...!) 
  • By mid-Saturday afternoon, dark, menacing storm clouds were rolling in. Shortly after we finished dinner and got the dishwasher started, the thunder and lightning started.  And then the rain. TORRENTS of it. It was difficult to see out the windows. 
    • And then the winds picked up. I saw the chairs on our balcony start to vibrate. I'm not going to lie -- I made a beeline for the walk-in closet near the door to our unit... and yelled at dh to join me, or at least get away from the windows. (Which is hard to do, given that there are floor to ceiling windows in all three of the main spaces in our condo.)
    • Things began to lighten up JUST a little. And then the power started flickering. I ran to turn off my laptop and dh turned off the TV set.  The power went off, and on. And off and on again. After flickering on & off like that for several agonizing seconds, it went off. And stayed off... for the next 7 & 1/2 hours.  :p  
  • Of course, no power = no air conditioning. Fortunately, it stayed relatively pleasant inside our well-cooled unit for many hours. 
  • By 9 o'clock it was getting dark. I didn't want to run down my cellphone's battery, so I turned it off and we went to bed. 
  • We woke up after midnight to the sound of intermittent beeps. Four short beeps, every minute or so. After hunting around in the dark, we finally pinpointed the source as the telecommunications panel inside the closet where I'd hidden out earlier in the evening. We figured it had something to do with the power outage. We also concluded there was nothing we could do about it just then, so went back to bed and tried to go back to sleep. 
  • The power finally came back on around 2:15 a.m. (Sunday morning). Dh reset all the clocks and we went back to bed. 
  • In the morning, I looked up how long food would keep in the refrigerator/freezer drawer during a power outage. It said 24-48 hours for the freezer (so long as full, and wasn't opened), so we figured that was OK. For the fridge itself, however, 4-6 hours was the estimate, so I took stock and threw out a bunch of stuff, mostly dairy products and a jar of mayonnaise that was already past its expiry date anyway (oops). 
  • The water pressure was weaker than normal -- not bad, but not up to its usual strength. 
  • And... the a/c was running -- BUT it was just circulating the air, not blowing cold. :(  Eventually, we saw a service truck in the parking lot. The a/c was finally restored at around 4:30 p.m. -- but not before the temperature in our unit reached 79F and the humidity 69% (a figure I'd never seen before).  
  • During the afternoon, dh went down the hall to put the garbage down the chute. We opened the door to our unit, and the hallway was like a steam bath.  
    • After that, he headed downstairs (via the stairwell) to check the mail... and discovered that one of the two elevators was not working. The one that was working was packed with people, none of whom were wearing masks (in violation of posted building policy). So he walked back up the stairs again too. 
  • So how was YOUR weekend??  ;) 
  • (Any tips on coping with gout?) 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here. 

Friday, August 27, 2021

Friday odds & ends

  • Dh & I had haircuts back in our old community this morning. I was starting to feel a little shaggy -- it's been 7 weeks since our last cuts (we couldn't get appointments for when we wanted them last week) -- but hey, what's 7 weeks versus 17, right??  Amazing what a little perspective can do for your mindset, lol.  ;)  
    • We made a stop at the cemetery, where this time ;) our only companions were a huge (and annoying) flock of Canada geese. 
    • The area around the cemetery -- once farmers' fields -- is starting to fill in with dense new housing developments, with rezoning signs indicating there will be more to come. The road will soon need to be widened to accommodate higher levels of traffic. I suppose it's considered progress, but I will miss the way it used to be -- the feeling of heading out for a drive in the country.   
  • Remember how thrilled I was to score tickets to "Hamilton" for May 2020?  And my disappointment when the run was cancelled after just a few weeks (well before May), because of COVID-19?  :(  I got an email recently that "Hamilton" will be returning to Toronto -- and because I let the theatre hang onto my money thus far, I will get first dibs on tickets once they go on sale again. The catch is that "Hamilton"'s run won't begin until February...2023 (!). (SURELY we'll be done with COVID-19 by then??)(Won't we?) The theatre's policy is that all audience members must be fully vaccinated, which makes me feel a little better about the prospect.  No word yet on when tickets will become available. It's a start...! 
  • The deadline for submissions to World Childless Week is this weekend -- Sunday, August 29th!  See the website for more information on making a submission based on one of this year's daily themes. You can also participate by filling out a survey on your childless experience and/or taking and sharing an #IamME photo. And you can also enter a draw for some pretty nice giveaways (lots of great books!). 
    • (Once again...!) I haven't been able to think of anything to submit for WCW that I haven't already written about here on this blog  :p  so I most likely will not be participating that way. But I am happy to promote the week in advance and while it's going on. :)  Expect to hear more about WCW here during the week of Sept. 13th!  :) 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

"Inconceivable," indeed...!

I've seen some buzz in several online infertility/childless forums recently about a relevant storyline on a Netflix series called "Virgin River."  I have never watched it or read the books it's based on, but at the risk of dropping spoilers, I'll just say that the infertility/clinic aspect of the storyline had the seasoned infertility veterans snorting in disbelief. 

This got me thinking back to another TV series from some years ago that I watched, briefly, set in an infertility clinic. I did some Googling and found it:  "Inconceivable" on NBC, which was cancelled after 7 of the 9 episodes filmed were broadcast. Among the cast members: Angie Harmon, Ming-Na and Alfre Woodard. (Apparently there's another series by the same name which made its debut in 2016.)

I knew I had written *something* about this series somewhere... did a search on my blog (before I realized the show ran in 2005 -- I didn't start my blog until October 2007). I finally found it elsewhere online. This is what I had to say: 
...did anyone watch "Inconceivable" on Friday night??  

There was quite a lot of buzz around it on the INCIID boards -- most of it negative &, having watched it, well founded.  Basically a soap opera set in an infertility clinic & as much about the sex lives of the drs & nurses as about the patients. There's a charming (British accent) but extremely arrogant dr who encourages all of his patients to believe they're going to get pregnant. He's having a fling with one of the receptionists at the clinic but dumps her. [Note from present-day Loribeth: This same situation actually happened at my RE's office in 2006!! -- although I didn't learn about it until some time later...!  I wrote about it recently, here.]  She manages to get a "sample" from him & sneaks into the clinic at night & switches it with someone else's sperm in the fridge!! (Great, that will really inspire confidence in these clinics!) The dr's (female) business partner at the clinic (Ming-Na) has a young son born via donor sperm & beginning to ask questions. 

Among the patient story lines -- practically the first scene you see, a white surrogate gives birth to a black baby for a white couple -- she had unprotected sex before the egg transfer took place. The couple storm out of the clinic & sue. The social worker at the clinic appeals to the birthmother to tell the birthfather, who arrives at the clinic & claims the baby -- after one of the clinic workers has fallen in love with the child & declared she wants to adopt him. 

There's a pastor & his wife who just failed their fourth IVF. The wife privately asks the dr to use someone else's sperm the next time around. (What really bothers me is he didn't say no!! -- didn't say yes either, but that makes you wonder whether he's actually thinking about it!!)  I cant' remember if it was this couple or another couple, but the dr is looking into the possibility of offering them a "cytoplasmic transfer."  

In another story line, a female soldier was killed in Iraq but before she went she had her eggs frozen. Now her sister is offering to carry the baby. The dr asks why the husband didn't fertilize the eggs to make embryos before the wife left & he said, "that would mean she wasn't coming back."  He ultimately decided not to go ahead with it because it wouldn't be the same as having a baby WITH his wife. I know things like "cytoplasmic transfers" & egg freezing are within the realm of possibility, but I don't think they are by any stretch of the imagination treatments that are currently being offered regularly in most IVF clinics yet, or have a high success rate. 

There was also a surrogate having a baby for a gay couple, & the one guy (almost a stereotype) is driving her crazy following her around, inspecting her garbage, etc., to make sure she's eating healthily.    
In one scene, can't remember which couple, but it's three days past transfer & the dr is telling the woman that everything is fine -- using a regular on the tummy u/s.  Uh, yeah, right. Also, it looked like they were actually delivering the babies at the clinic (not at any clinic I've heard of)... & they had the babies in an old-fashioned nursery with rows of bassinets with pink & blue blankets. Great visuals for the camera, I suppose, but there aren't very many hospitals that have old fashioned nurseries like that anymore, at least for the healthy babies. 

So a lot of the story lines were stuff that maybe made great drama or great headlines, but were not within the realm of typical fertility patients' experiences.  Just totally unrealistic. I don't think I'll be watching again. 
I don't remember if I did watch any further episodes. I don't think I did. I certainly didn't watch all 7.

Have you watched "Virgin River?"  (Did you watch "Inconceivable" when it was on?)  What do/did you think? What unrealistic/ridiculous/disappointing TV shows or movies about the infertility/childless experience have you seen?  Any good ones to recommend? 

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

COVID is a sneaky SOB....

I do NOT have COVID-19.  (To be clear from the start.)  

Dh & I were both tested yesterday afternoon, both negative. 

But let's just say that we had a sobering scare... an encounter with COVID that was a little too close for comfort. 

Last Friday, I wrote about getting an unexpected visit from my Parents' Neighbours' Daughter and her family, on Wednesday night. 

Unfortunately, on Sunday night (four days post-visit), PND called me to say that COVID-19 might have been tagging along.  :(   They'd been spending time with her husband's cousin and his son at the family cottage in Quebec, as late as last Tuesday. They visited us on Wednesday night, and then spent all day Thursday at a local amusement park with the cousin and son, before heading home to Manitoba on Friday morning (arriving Saturday)... to the news that the cousin and son had both tested positive for COVID.  The boy was feeling under the weather by the end of day on Thursday, but everyone chalked it up to the heat, humidity and various vertigo-inducing rides they'd been on. 

By the time PND called me on Sunday night, we'd spent Saturday night with BIL & SIL, Together, we travelled across the city to visit stepMIL for the first time since early March 2020, just before the pandemic began. While there, we also saw her daughter and son (stepSIL & stepBIL), his wife and their son.  All the adults were double-vaxxed;  the boy, just turning 13, had had one shot but not both. 

PND told me they were all feeling fine. I realized I'd been having several days of annoying post-nasal drainage and a somewhat irritated throat as a result (I hesitated to call it "sore"). Granted, I've had the same or similar symptoms on & off all spring/summer, which I attributed to allergies, having the air conditioning running constantly, smoke in the air from forest fires up north and out west, etc.  

I was also exhausted when I woke up on Monday (yesterday) morning -- but needless to say, I did NOT get much sleep on Sunday night!  

As soon as the closest testing centre opened at 9 a.m. on Monday morning, I was on the phone, trying to get us both appointments. I spent half an hour listening to muzak (eyeroll) but finally got us both booked for 2:20 p.m. that afternoon. 

This was the same hospital/testing site where I'd had my first COVID test done last November, pre-d&c surgery. The weather was a whole lot hotter this time around, and the lineup a bit longer, but as in November, things moved quickly and efficiently. ("Busy these days?" dh asked the girl who took our information at the entrance. "Yes," she responded shortly.)  

En route to the testing centre, PND messaged me to see how we were feeling and to say they'd all just been tested. (She & her dh were both fully vaxxed, but the girls, at 6 & 9, are still too young.)  Younger Little Princess had endured a rough night, with vomiting and fever, but felt fine that morning. 

By the time we got to the testing site, I was over my initial feelings of panic and feeling a little calmer about it all... either we were positive, or we weren't, right? -- and even if we were, we're fully vaccinated, which meant our odds of staying out of the hospital were pretty good. I did several gargles with saltwater, took some ibuprofen, used some of my Saje Immune essential oils roll-on ( I believe it's called by a different name in the States, but I can't remember what at the moment)(I figured it wouldn't hurt -- it's mostly eucalyptus & tea tree oil) and went to bed early. I slept MUCH better, and when I got up around 7 a.m., a notification was already waiting for me about my result. 


(Dh's results took a little longer... 12 full hours longer (!) -- even though we had our swabs done at exactly the same time, in the same cubicle, by the same person!!  Go figure...?!)   

I messaged PND to let her know. She messaged me later that her entire family tested negative. Because they were close contacts of confirmed cases, they will still be isolating for a while, just in case. We realize it's still possible for us to develop symptoms and test positive over the next few days, so we'll continue to be careful too. She apologized for putting us through this stress and anxiety. (Appreciated.) 

As I lay awake Sunday night, tossing and turning, I thought about how this all unfolded. We'd been SO careful for SO long -- much more careful than almost anybody else we know.  While others have freely roamed around, seeing friends, eating out, shopping (within the restrictions for masking and social distancing in public places, etc.), we have mostly stayed at home, venturing out only for groceries, prescriptions and takeout on Saturday nights. We've only begun spending more time with BIL and family (unmasked) since getting vaccinated in April/July.  

I've never been much of a risk-taker. I was always the kid who was afraid to do risky or illegal things (smoke pot, for example -- although I'll admit, I did do my share of dumb stuff, growing up...!) -- because I KNEW that if anyone was going to get caught and suffer the consequences, it was going to be ME.  

And now, the very first time in 18 months that we'd let down our guard and spent time face-to-face, unmasked (just a half-hour, and partly outside, but still...), and traded hugs, with anyone outside of BIL & family, and let them into our condo, THIS happens.

The psychological burden -- the guilt -- over what we'd done -- the possibility of having infected someone else in turn, was worse than the thought of getting sick ourselves. We both thanked goodness that we'd last seen Little Great-Nephew on Wednesday morning, BEFORE getting the call from PND later that evening.  

WHY had I told PND to come over, despite my better instincts?  To be honest, her call came out of the blue, and I was caught off guard. They were on the road, less than half an hour away, en route to their hotel, 45 minutes further north of us. I had to say yes or no quickly. I knew she & her husband were fully vaccinated (although the girls were not).  I knew they'd been travelling (gas stations, motels, restaurants, public restrooms... = lots of opportunities for contact with the virus) and spent almost two weeks at the cottage, where (granted) they'd been spending a lot of time in the open air -- but also mingling with a lot of friends and relatives (vaccination status and masking habits unknown to us). Dh, despite his great affection for PND, was not enthusiastic about having them come here, even briefly. 

But the knowledge that she'd be passing within a mile or two of my front door -- the opportunity to see her -- someone from "home" who's like family, if not a blood relative -- after almost two straight years -- was too irresistible to turn down. When I was growing up, we lived in a town just off the Trans-Canada Highway (the major east-west road across the country) and always had friends and relatives passing through and dropping by to visit, and my parents always welcomed them and were gracious hosts. Despite Toronto being a major destination/travel hub, my opportunities to see distant family members and friends, let alone have them stay with me, have been far & few between, even pre-pandemic. 

Basically, my female "people-pleaser"/"good girl" instincts kicked in and drowned out the little voice inside that said, "Maybe this isn't a good idea... maybe you should just say no."  PND would no doubt have been disappointed if I'd said we weren't comfortable seeing them, but I think she would have understood. (I think.) 

We're still being cautious and watching for symptoms for the next few days, in which case we'll get retested. (We decided not to go visit Little Great-Nephew & SIL tomorrow morning as we usually do, just to be on the safe side. There is NOTHING more important to us than keeping that sweet little boy safe.) 

But for now, I AM SO RELIEVED.  

(I have absolutely no comprehension of how people can walk around without vaccinations, without masks, without concern for others, let alone their own health, while this virus rages on.)  

We dodged a bullet. It wasn't fun. 

I have no desire to go through this again.

"The Reckoning" by Mary L. Trump

I was interested to learn that Mary L. Trump -- Donald's estranged niece -- had another book coming out this summer. I read and enjoyed her previous book, about growing up in the Trump family ("Too Much and Never Enough" -- reviewed here). 

Like "Too Much and Never Enough," "The Reckoning: Our Nation's Trauma and Finding a Way to Heal" is a short read. It's not so much about Mary's infamous uncle as about the trauma he left in his wake, and how America can heal from it.  But Donald Trump is not the sole source of America's problems (although he certainly exacerbated them):  Mary believes her uncle's presidency was the culmination of a long series of traumas America has endured as a nation -- primarily stemming from its "original sin" of racism/white supremacy. 

This book is part history lesson, part polemic and part analysis. I was reminded of Carol Anderson's book "White Rage" (reviewed here), especially in the middle section.  A lot of what Mary Trump writes about is not new, but she synthesizes and summarizes it in a powerful way. What is different and especially interesting is how she uses her skills as a clinical psychologist, as well as her personal experiences with trauma and PTSD (not to mention her unique insights into Donald Trump), to diagnose and comment on America's collective trauma as a nation -- particularly in the final chapter, "Facing the Truth," about the ongoing trauma of COVID-19 and what the future might hold. This chapter alone is probably worth the price of the book. I think I bookmarked every other page. 

4.5 stars on Goodreads, rounded down to 4. 

This was Book #42 read to date in 2021 (and Book #4 finished in August), bringing me to 117%! 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." 

Monday, August 23, 2021

#MicroblogMondays: Who will want my stuff? (Chapter 10,243)

Last year, I wrote a post about how my kind-hearted parents -- now in their early 80s -- had formed a friendship with an even more elderly relative (her mother was a first cousin to my dad's mother) -- a widow who had no children, who was not close to her stepchildren, and whose closest relatives -- two nieces -- lived some distance away (one in the U.S.) and hadn't seen their aunt in more than 20 years. (Even if they had wanted to come, COVID-19 restrictions would have made a trip almost impossible, until just recently.)  Before she died, earlier this spring at the age of 95, she persuaded my dad to act as a trustee for her affairs and executor of her will. 

In some ways, she was very organized. Her funeral was already planned and paid for, and she had even shown a neighbour the outfit she wanted to be buried in, right down to the jewelry (a necklace helpfully looped around the hanger of the blouse). 

Even so, my parents have been very busy these last few weeks, making trips back & forth into the city, trying to get her house and possessions in order. (My sister and her boyfriend have also been there, helping.)  The house was in the woman's late husband's name, and it will go to the stepkids, but the contents need to be sorted through and cleaned out before the house can be handed over (and presumably sold) -- and apparently she was something of a hoarder...!  

My mother took a cross-stitched picture off the wall, commemorating the couple's 25th wedding anniversary, and turned it over. To her surprise, there was an inscription on the back, indicating it had been made by my dad's aunt (my great-aunt/my grandmother's younger sister), who's been dead for nearly 20 years. She called my great-aunt's daughter (my dad's cousin, who is in her late 60s) to see if she knew anything about it. 

It turns out that Dad's cousin probably knew the old lady better than anyone else in our family (at least, those who are still alive...!) -- and yet, she had no idea the woman had passed away. (!)  She said the couple had been regular visitors to her parents' home, and she herself had served as the master of ceremonies at their 25th wedding anniversary party.  

Mom asked if she or her kids (a son and a daughter, both in their late 30s or early 40s, I think?) would like the cross-stitched wall hanging it as a keepsake. The cousin explained that she's in the process of trying to downsize and get rid of her own stuff, not add to it.  She didn't think her kids would be particularly interested, and added that neither of them has children to pass things like this along to. She has one younger brother, married but childless, and didn't think he'd want it either. 

I drew a couple of lessons from the things my mom has been telling me. (These are lessons that can apply to anyone, but especially those of us aging without children.)   

First, along with a will detailing what you want done with your personal things (as well as your money and property), and any instructions about what you'd like in the way of a funeral, there should probably be a list of people who should be notified in the event of your death (along with their contact information). Who would you like to have attend your funeral? Who do you think would want to attend, or at least know that you're gone?  Make sure the people closest to you know where you keep your will and other important documents (maybe give a copy to your chosen executor).  

Second, start paring down your stuff NOW, while you're still able to decide what you want to do with it. You won't miss most of it as much you think you might. (I had to get rid of a ton of stuff before we moved into our condo, and I have to say, I do not miss the vast majority of it, and I am rather relieved that we did at least some of that NOW, versus 20 years from now...! -- I could and should probably still pare it down further, but I thought I did pretty well for now, lol...!)  Don't burden someone else with the task after you're gone! It's one thing to have your children going through your things, but when you don't have children.... do you really want your nieces/nephews/distant cousins/total strangers riffling through all your personal stuff and deciding what to do with it? (Okay, maybe you do, or maybe you don't care... but it's worth some thought!) 

Third, lots of people these days are trying to get rid of lots of stuff. We all have too much of it. Not everyone will be interested in taking yours, even if it is a "family heirloom." (Try not to be upset or offended.)

Fourth, more and more people today don't have children. Even if you have children, they might not have children themselves. Increasingly, there are fewer and fewer family members to pass along your stuff to. (Years ago,  six siblings might have divided up Mom & Dad's stuff among themselves;  these days, there may be just one or two.) Don't count on anyone wanting it or valuing it in the same way that you do. 

Fifth, stuff is just that -- stuff. It's the people and memories connected to it that really matter. (At least that's what I keep trying to tell myself, lol...) 

Sixth, a suggestion. Take a photo of the item(s) -- and then let it go. (I've done that with some of my own stuff in recent years, and it did help me feel a bit better about getting rid of things.) 

There's probably more I could think of, but that's it for now...! (Do you have any thoughts to add?) 

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

Friday, August 20, 2021

More odds & ends

  • We had a lovely surprise on Wednesday night, when Parents' Neighbours' Daughter (PND), her husband and the Little Princesses (who are growing up quickly...!) dropped by on short notice for a brief (half-hour) unexpected visit!  They were travelling (driving) en route home to Manitoba from his family's cottage in Quebec (they missed their annual vacation there last year because of covid). They normally take a different route there and back, but wanted to take the girls to a big amusement park in the area. Obviously, we haven't seen them since our last visit "home," which was Christmas 2019 (which is also the last time I saw my family). We took a group photo to send to my parents, lol.  
  • Speaking of cottages, dh's cousin & his wife have invited us, BIL & SIL, to their cottage, northeast of the city, for a weekend in mid-September. We have not really been anywhere that's "unnecessary" (aside from the gelato shop and a few non-essential stores, maybe), or spent time with anyone besides BIL & family, since the pandemic began (PND's brief unexpected visit excepted, lol). I'm looking forward to seeing them and spending time at a cottage (which I haven't done in years & years -- and theirs is NOT the "roughing it" sort of cottage/camping that I grew up with, at all, lol!) -- and it will be a lovely time of year to be there, with the autumn colours starting to show -- but I will admit I'm just a wee bit nervous, especially with case numbers on the rise again.  However, everyone there will be double-vaxxed, and I trust this particular couple/family to be more cautious than some of dh's other cousins. ;)  We all get along really well, so it should be a fun weekend. :) 
  • Another one of dh's cousins (also his godson) is getting married tomorrow. We're not invited. In normal times, we would have been -- but these are not normal times, of course, and so it's going to be a very small wedding with immediate family members only. It was already postponed once (originally scheduled for August 2020). With the Delta variant on the rise and the caterers asking for a head count, they had to bite the bullet and decide whether to postpone again, or go for a smaller wedding (and hopefully a bigger party with extended family later on). Another cousin put together a congratulatory video with clips of us and all of the other cousins voicing their best wishes, and his sister has promised to share photos throughout the day. Curse you, COVID...! 
  • I really loved this post from The Uterus Monologues, asking whether miscarriage is really such a taboo subject to talk about -- or whether people just aren't really listening to what we have to say. Hmmm.... 
  • This article from the Guardian, about (in)fertility forums and how they can take over your life, brought back a LOT of memories...!  (But -- taking another person's unused meds, without a doctor's supervision??!  Yikes!!)(I was desperate, but never THAT desperate...)
  • Another article, an opinion piece from The Scientist, asks why infertility is treated isn't treated as a disease. 
  • Heads up! There's a new childless-not-by-choice podcast making its debut tomorrow (Saturday, Aug. 21st). Stephanie Phillips of World Childless Week will be the very first guest on Cackle and Shout, hosted by Helen Louise Jones and Chiara Berardelli, both from the UK. Click on "Cackle and Shout" above for a brief preview! You can also find them on Instagram and Facebook.
  • Seen in a friend's post on social media, about Afghanistan: "Now that I have a daughter, this just hits different."  Sigh.  #pronatalismatwork 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Where are the childless voices?

If you read just one piece I point you to this week, please make it this one from the fabulous Yael Wolfe, in response to venture capitalist/author-turned-politician J.D. Vance's attack on the "childless left" last month, which had some Fox News hosts musing about banning childless people (i.e., us) from voting altogether. (!)

(I posted my own rant about this sorry incident here. I didn't realize then that he actually used the phrase "bunch of childless cat ladies" in a Twitter response to some of the criticism he'd been receiving...!)(For the record, I do not have a cat, nor have I ever owned one.)   

Wolfe makes the excellent point that NOWHERE in ANY of the media coverage she's seen has anyone actually bothered to ask a childless person for their response (!!) -- and, furthermore, the people who ARE weighing in and being asked to comment are mostly parents who are using their platform to defend their own demographic vs defending those of us who have no children -- the people Vance specifically targeted in his comments. Pronatalism rules the day (again)!!  :p  It's really quite jaw-dropping, when you think about it...! 

Sample quote: 

Needless to say, I’m flummoxed. I cannot fathom why big media outlets wouldn’t be knocking down the doors of childless people — women, in particular — to address this nonsense, to defend ourselves and our own, and to share our experience of what it’s like to live in a culture that is so violently pronatalist that it would actually suggest that childless people shouldn’t get an equal say in a democracy. 
But no, they have chosen the spokespeople for this fight: parents. Because parents might not get extra voting power yet, but they definitely have extra speaking power in this culture. 
Here’s the thing: This argument isn’t about children. It isn’t about families. It is about childless people. I’m all for hearing parents speak up against this anti-democratic rhetoric, but I’m not okay that they are the only voices speaking for me and other people like me.
Wolfe uses this piece by Elizabeth Bruenig of The Atlantic -- who is a parent, and whose objections to Vance's comments come from a child-centric point of view, and who barely mention the childless people Vance actually insulted -- as a case in point. Sample quote: 
...a generation of children who, by no fault of their own, are being transformed into a political talisman for the right. And for no reason: Most people, regardless of politics or identity, end up having kids at some point. 
Way to dismisses the approximately 20% of us who don't end up having children, for whatever reason. Sigh... 

Monday, August 16, 2021

"How to Pronounce Knife" by Souvankham Thammavongsa

How to Pronounce Knife  by Souvankham Thammavongsa is the August read for my "Clever Name" book club. It was on many "best of 2020" lists and nominated for many awards, including the prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize here in Canada.  

Thammavongsa was born in a Laotian refugee camp in Thailand, but grew up in Toronto and still lives here. Not surprisingly, her stories are mostly about the immigrant experience, and specifically the Lao community. The book is a slim little collection of 14 short stories that didn't take very long to read, about parents and children -- factory workers and manicurists and bus drivers and worm pickers -- trying to find their way in a strange new culture and make better lives for themselves. 

I found myself thinking about my dh & his family. He was born and raised here, as were his brother and all of his cousins, but their parents all came to Canada from southern Italy in the 1950s and 60s. I wrote a bit about their experiences when my FIL passed away three years ago.  I think anyone who has some degree of familiarity with the immigrant or refugee experience will recognize themselves and/or their families in these stories, no matter where they came from. (Dh is currently reading "The Bone Setter's Daughter" by Amy Tan, and even though it's about a Chinese-American immigrant family, he says it's all very familiar territory, lol.)  

I rated this book 4 stars on Goodreads. I'm not a huge reader of short stories. These were well written  (sometimes beautifully so) slices of life/snapshots, often with a little twist at the end. I think the ones I liked most were "Randy Travis" and "Chick-a-Chee" and "A Far Distant Thing." But they were all so brief and sparse and sometimes bleak... I found myself wanting more. (Which, I suppose, is ultimately a good thing...!)

This was Book #41 read to date in 2021 (and Book #3 finished in August), bringing me to 114%! 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." 

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

  • Finally!!  After a week of sweltering hot, humid weather, we had a weekend of clear skies, pleasant temperatures (mid-20sC/low 70sF) and NO HUMIDITY!  :)  I spent part of Sunday afternoon sitting on my shady balcony with a glass of iced tea, the Saturday newspaper (more about that below) and my e-reader, enjoying the weather and the (relative) peace & quiet. Ahhh!! 
  • We no longer get home newspaper delivery since moved to our condo -- but BIL & SIL get the Toronto Star delivered to their house on Saturdays and, if we're there on the weekend, they will pass it along to me, as they did yesterday. (In the States, it's the Sunday paper that's the fat one with extra features & sections;  in Canada -- where many newspapers have never published a Sunday edition -- it's Saturday.)  
    • Imagine my surprise and delight when I turned to the Life section and found an article on the front page about "changing the conversation around pregnancy loss." It continued inside, along with a further related article where four Toronto-area women shared their pregnancy loss stories.  All together, these two stories totalled more than THREE FULL PAGES of copy and photos about this (sadly) still-taboo topic. Extremely well done, too.  Bravo!! 
  • Saturday afternoon, we went with BIL & SIL to visit Older Nephew, his wife, Little Great-Nephew (and the dog!) at their new home, about 45-60 minutes north of us. We stayed for supper (homemade pizza and foccacia, grilled chicken wings and fresh corn on the cob), and brought them a vacuum cleaner as a housewarming gift -- the exact same thing  (same model, even) that we got for Younger Nephew & his wife when they bought their house a few years ago. I also made a pan of the graham cracker treats that Older Nephew's Wife loves (she had me make them for her bridal shower!), and she was thrilled!  lol  
    • It was an absolutely lovely family afternoon, and Little Great-Nephew was just so dang cute... my heart felt like it was going to burst -- although I wasn't sure whether it was from love and pride, or sadness at the reminder of everything we have missed out on (and continue to miss) as an aging childless couple.  :(   A bit of both, I suppose (although mostly joy/pride, I think!). 
  • While we're still firmly in summer mode here, I've already been getting first day of school posts in my social media feeds for the past week or so -- especially from friends & relatives in the southern U.S.  Schools here don't start until after Labour Day in September -- and kindergarten generally starts about a week later -- which means I can look forward (??) to a full month-plus of this... and not just the usual back-to-school chatter, of course, but also the added dimensions of sending your kids to school in a pandemic: in-person or virtual? (Is there a choice?) Will they be wearing masks or no masks (seriously?)?  Will vaccinations be mandated or not?  And so on.  
    • I do feel for parents, having to cope with these situations and decisions. But it's exhausting (not to mention plain old boring) having to listen to/read about them (endlessly) when they don't apply (have never applied) to you personally. When they're a constant reminder of the life you once wanted, and never got to live. 
  • Our federal government announced it will mandate vaccines for federal workers and employees of federally regulated companies (including banks and airlines) and Crown corporations, beginning in October, as well as for inter-provincial air, rail and marine passengers. That makes me feel a whole lot better about the prospect of flying to see my parents! 
  • The prime minister visited the governor-general on Sunday morning to ask her to dissolve Parliament, thus triggering a snap federal election for Sept. 20th, just two years since the last one, in a bid to increase the current minority Liberal government to a majority. It's going to be the shortest election campaign in more than a century -- just 36 days (the minimum length required) -- but I have a feeling that I'm going to be thoroughly sick of it by the end, lol (I already am!! -- I don't know how Americans do it...!).  Not sure holding an election in the middle of a pandemic is the wisest thing to do (although five of the 10 provinces and one territory have already done so) -- and it may backfire on the PM (who is not quite as popular at home as he is outside the country). I guess we'll see what happens...! 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Friday, August 13, 2021

"The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brene Brown

I've heard of Brene Brown. (Who HASN'T heard of Brene Brown at some point over the past decade or so?) But, while I had several of her books in my massive TBR collection, I had yet to actually read one of them. 

Then an opportunity came up that seemed too good to resist: a month-long (August) read-along/discussion of Brown's "The Gifts of Imperfection" via Instagram, hosted by Lindsay Fischer, mother of IVF toddler twins, and Justine Froelker, a certified Brene Brown "Daring Way" and "Dare to Lead" facilitator and voice for the childless-not-by-choice community.  (It's not too late to join in!)  

"The Gifts of Imperfection," first published in 2010 (the edition/cover shown here), is not a long or difficult read -- although it covers a lot of ground and there's a lot to absorb and ponder. The original paperback version is just 138 pages; the 10th anniversary hardcover edition, in a slightly different format with a new introduction, is 208 well-spaced pages in a generous font size -- both covering 10 "Guideposts to Wholehearted Living."  

Brown does not mention childlessness or infertility in this book. There ARE a lot of references to her kids and to parenting, which could be a trigger/stumbling block for some readers from this community. Jody Day of Gateway Women has said (as she did in this podcast interview) that, as important as Brown's work is, she has a "bit of a blind spot around pronatalism... she does kind of operate on the assumption that everyone who’s reading or listening is a parent."  But interestingly, when Jody asked her a related question at a London appearance in 2013, Brown said that her research showed infertility and childlessness to be the number one area of human empathy failure. (You can see Jody ask her question, and Brown's response, at the 54:30 mark in this video from that event.)  

The book does discuss concepts of trauma, shame, resilience, authenticity, vulnerability, the importance of telling your story -- all highly relevant topics in the ALI/childless community. And while I haven't read this book before, a lot of the material was familiar to me after 20 years of working through my grief over loss and childlessness -- which shows you just how much Brown's work has become part of the cultural conversation over the past decade.  Each chapter ends with suggestions of things you can do to cultivate that particular guidepost. 

As I mentioned earlier, I haven't read any of Brown's other books, and it's not her first, but this one seems like a good place to start if you're looking for an introduction to her work. (In fact, Brown herself recommends it.) 

Brown has two podcasts -- "Dare to Lead" and "Unlocking Us" -- and recently recorded a six-part series based on this book, together with her sisters. :)  I haven't listened -- yet. :)  

4 stars on Goodreads, possibly 4.5. 

*** *** *** 

As suggested by Lindsay, I completed Brown's "Wholehearted Inventory" before I began reading the book. I landed squarely in the middle of the spectrum for each of the 10 Guideposts, with some subtle variations from guidepost to guidepost. I scored furthest along in terms of: 

  • Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark/Cultivating Gratitude and Joy,
  • Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth/Cultivating Play & Rest (retirement certainly helps with that one!  lol), and 
  • Letting Go of Unclear and Uncommitted Values/Cultivating Value Clarity and Commitment.
 I'm clearly furthest behind on Letting Go of Perfectionism/Cultivating Self-Compassion. :) 

Overall, I still some work to do! 

This was Book #40 read to date in 2021 (and Book #2 finished in August), bringing me to 111%! 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, August 11, 2021

#MoreHarriets (please!)

Please (please!) read (and share, if you're into doing that) this wonderful piece ("Your Own Harriet")  by Anne Helen Petersen about the importance of childless/free role models, and the importance of representation in life choices generally. The "Harriet" of the title was a childless/free friend of Petersen's parents, who fascinated her as a child. Petersen is childfree by choice herself, but those of us who didn't actively choose this life will also recognize ourselves here. 

Sample passage (which really resonated with me): 

...there were lots of women — on Twitter and on Facebook — who also told me how much they wished they would’ve had that sort of representation in their own lives. For them, women who didn’t have kids (or, even worse, didn’t have partners) were always objects of scorn — framed by their own mothers and others in their life as failures whose lives were in continual collapse... 

When you equate a lack of kids with “failure,” it helps solidify the societal understanding that the only way for a woman to “succeed,” or at the very least find happiness, is to have children. That conception is slightly less rigid today, but it endures — and if you think otherwise, you haven’t had a frank conversation with a woman who doesn’t have kids.

That conception endures in part because the patriarchy endures, but it also endures because there’s a general lack of exposure to people like Harriet or the Root Beer Lady. So many people said that women they knew without kids were Aunts or Great-Aunts — people who were part of their life through familial relation. When it comes to friends, people with kids have just generally gravitated towards other people with kids. I get it: the schedules, the frameworks, the rhythms of the day, all of it’s easier when everyone has kids. But there’s something missing there, too.

(Petersen posted this article on Twitter, saying "MORE HARRIETS FOR EVERYONE! HARRIETS ALL AROUND!" and someone commented with the hashtag #moreharriets... hence my choice of title, lol.)   

Monday, August 9, 2021

Odds & ends from the weekend

  • Saturday was Katie's Day #23 -- i.e., the day I delivered her, the date that's on all the official paperwork (even though I had learned two days earlier that her heart had stopped beating).  I don't like to call it her birthday (although some people wished her "happy birthday" on Facebook) -- she was actually supposed to be born in mid-November -- and I don't know exactly when we actually lost her -- but I'm not sure what else to call it. So I've taken to just calling it "Katie's Day." 
    • Some years, this day is better or harder to deal with than others. This one was sort of middle-of-the-pack. Early on, we had quite a few traditions/things we did to mark the day, many of which have fallen by the wayside over the years.  But we did take flowers to the cemetery and ordered takeout Chinese food for dinner, as we often have in the past, and I posted a few things on social media, and that was about it. 
    • We didn't stay at the cemetery as long as I would have liked. When we got out of the car & started walking toward the columbarium where Katie's niche is, we noticed a middle-aged woman sitting on a bench nearby, her back to us... talking. LOUDLY. On her cellphone. (In a cemetery!)  We usually take a few photos while we're there, and as I stood beside the niche with my bouquet of roses while dh took my photo, the woman turned and stared at me as she continued to talk on her phone. I stared back. Dh howled with laughter when he saw the photo later, because I have one hand on my hip and am GLARING right into the camera, or rather at the woman a few yards behind him. Granted, it wasn't a smiley kind of occasion anyway, but I was definitely more than a little pissed off. The woman did finally get up after a few minutes and move further away... still talking. Oy.  
  • Sadly, it appears that covid wave #4 is upon us... not to the same extent as in the U.S. (yet...)(our vaccination rates in Canada are much higher), but the numbers are trending in the wrong direction again. :(  Daily new cases here in Ontario were as low as 114 on July 12th (a level not seen since last Sept. 1st).  They stayed below 200 for 20 days straight -- and then went to 218 on July 29th, and stayed above 200 for several days. Dipped back below 200 for three days and then shot up to 340 new cases on Friday (Aug. 6th), 378 on Saturday (the most since mid-June), and 423 on Sunday, the most in two months. :(  Today was 325. 
    • I am starting to think that we should have headed home to see my parents this month, even if my sister couldn't take time off while we were there. Hoping we haven't missed our opportunity, and crossing fingers and toes that we'll still be able to get there for (Canadian) Thanksgiving in October and/or Christmas...!  :(   Despite the presence of the Delta variant, the provincial government there allowed many sectors to fully reopen and abandon mask mandates this past weekend -- although my sister says she was pleasantly surprised/relieved to see that many people are still wearing them, regardless.  
  • BIL called dh today to report that Little Great-Nephew started swimming lessons today with his mom! It was NOT a success... he threw a tantrum at the pool and she had to take him home, lol. (He IS almost two, i.e., the "Terrible Twos!")  He has not been around a lot of people outside his family, so I'm not surprised if he found the experience a little overwhelming. She'll try again next week.  We'll go to see him & his grandma on Wednesday, as usual. 

#MicroblogMondays: Floating away ;)

I was recently advised, after a phone consultation with my family dr (still not seeing patients unless it's absolutely necessary because of covid) and some bloodwork results, that I needed to make sure I was drinking lots of water/staying well hydrated. I've always thought I drank a pretty reasonable amount of water -- I was well trained to do that from my years in Weight Watchers...! -- but over time, I will admit my consumption has probably slacked off a bit.  So I thought it might be fun to download an app to remind me to drink water and track my intake. And, of course, since my new cellphone has 128 GB of storage, there's plenty of room for fun new apps. :)  

There's a daunting number of hydration-related apps out there.  I tried to pick one that was (a) free, (b) highly rated and (c) widely used. The one I downloaded on Friday asked me to input my gender, my weight (!), activity level (sedentary/mildly active/very active, etc.), weather (you need to drink more when it's hot outside), and the size of my glass/container. Whenever I finish a glass, I hit the water glass button on the app and it adds to my total intake for the day. If I haven't done that in a while, it will send me a reminder that it's time to drink more water. The notification both buzzes and makes a sound like water gurgling as it fills a glass, lol. 

The app's current recommendation for me is to drink 87 ounces of water daily. That's a LOT of water -- 11 8-ounce cups, or about 5-6 500 ml bottles/large glasses. It's 2.5 two-litre bottles. I spent the weekend feeling like I was about to float away. And making a lot of trips to the bathroom, lol. 

Do you think you drink enough water? Do you ever track your intake? 

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

Thursday, August 5, 2021

"The Mother of All Dilemmas" by Kathleen Guthrie Woods

"The Mother of All Dilemmas: Dreams of Motherhood and the Internship That Changed Everything" by Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a welcome addition to the growing library of books about various aspects of childless/free living. Full disclosure: Kathleen & I have never met -- yet! -- but we "know" each other through our blogs and through social media. You may know Kathleen too, from her long-running weekly "It Got Me Thinking" column at Life Without Baby and, more recently, on her own 52 Nudges blog. 

Entering her 40s without the partner or family she had long dreamed about, Kathleen was contemplating going it alone -- i.e., using donor sperm and insemination to conceive a child -- when fate dropped an opportunity in her lap that she couldn't pass up:  an "internship" -- the chance to try single motherhood on for size, by spending two weeks caring for her 15-month-old nephew Jake while his parents went to Italy on vacation. 

I really enjoyed this book and learning more about Kathleen's story.  I've read lots of books about childlessness over the past 20 years, but this is an aspect of our collective experience that I haven't seen specifically addressed in a book before. I've seen a couple of other books about single motherhood, written by women who took that plunge, are living that life and are offering tips and advice on how you can do it too. Kathleen's story is different (and I don't think this is really a spoiler -- she did, after all, write for "Life Without Baby"...!) because she ultimately makes the decision not to go it alone. The book includes the thought process that led her to make the decision she did, and what happened afterward (including the support she found in the online childless community).  Interspersed with Kathleen's own experiences are her interviews with other women about their own experiences with motherhood, single motherhood, and childless/free living. 

Your own story and path to a permanently childless life may differ from Kathleen's -- but if you are living without the children you had once hoped to have, you will recognize something of yourself in some aspect of Kathleen's story. 

Five (5) stars on Goodreads. 

A couple of other childless bloggers have already reviewed this book on their sites, including: 

This was Book #39 read to date in 2021 (and Book #1 finished in August), bringing me to 108%! 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." 

Odds & ends

  • I've been following Meaghan Daum on social media ever since I picked up her book "Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on The Decision Not To Have Kids" -- which I have yet to finish/read completely -- but it's an essay collection, i.e., the type of book you can easily dip in & out of. I did blog about the book when I first discovered it, here. It comes from a mostly childfree perspective but includes stories from people whose "decision" not to have kids was not necessarily a clear-cut or entirely happy one, by the way. 
    • She recently posted a promotion for an episode of her "The Unspeakable" podcast on her Facebook page, titled "The Tyranny of the Midcareer Pivot."  My interest was piqued, and so I had a listen (it's just a half-hour long monologue).  I'm 9 years older than Meaghan, who is 51 (I'm 60 = a borderline Late Boomer/Early GenXer), but wow, there's a LOT here that's familiar. Very (VERY) grateful that I was able to "pivot" into retirement in my early/mid-50s. It's tough out there. (For everyone, I know, but she articulates the particular difficulties of the midlife worker in the current environment very well.)  
  • I didn't listen to this podcast episode from Anne Bogel (aka "Modern Mrs. Darcy") and "What Should I Read Next?" but I did enjoy reading through the transcript (thank you to podcasters who provide these!).  Episode #293 features a reader/listener from Calgary and discusses how to "Streamline your (digital) TBR." My own Goodreads "want to read" list currently numbers 350+ (and let's not get into how many unread books I have on my Kobo e-reader and Kindle phone app...!).  Some great suggestions here. 
  • Speaking of reading -- I just finished my first book of August -- "The Mother of All Dilemmas" by Kathleen Guthrie Woods. Review to come shortly. 
  • This fabulous interview with Jody Day of Gateway Women in The Age Buster blog first appeared last November (2020), but I only just discovered it. Some eye-opening thoughts from Jody on the "unholy trinity" of ageism, sexism and pronatalism. 
  • And speaking of pronatalism -- David Frum (conservative writer and commentator) and I do not always see eye to eye, but I very much appreciated this brief Twitter thread from him related to pronatalism. (Perhaps more so because it's 23 years today that I went for an ultrasound and heard the words no pregnant woman wants to hear: "I'm sorry, there's no heartbeat."  :(   )  The comments are mostly supportive -- although a few people bring up adoption (eyeroll) and more than a few do not seem to know what pronatalism is.
    • (I am not sure what triggered these comments from him -- he has three grownup children -- but I suspect, from the comments, that it may be the recent comments by the author J.D. Vance, who is running for the Republican Senate nomination in Ohio.  I vented about Vance's comments, and the approving reaction from Fox News, in a recent post.)  
  • As a self-confessed fan of the Bay City Rollers ;) you can imagine my amusement when Telus (a telecom provider here in Canada) released a new TV ad featuring the 1976 BCR version of Dusty Springfield's classic 1963 song "I Only Wanna Be With You" as background music. :)  I can't find a video clip of the ad itself (yet?), but here's a vintage video of the Rollers singing the song (with both the late great Les McKeown, lead singer, and the late adorable Ian Mitchell, just 17 years old here). :) 

Monday, August 2, 2021

#MicroblogMondays: Small pleasures & annoying things

 Small pleasures: 

  • Live chatting during the Olympic women's eights rowing event on Thursday night with my New Zealand penpal of nearly 45 (!!) years. And thinking about how we never could have imagined doing this when we started writing to each other as teenagers back in 1977!!  (Our Canadians won gold;  the Kiwis took silver.)  
  • 14 Olympic medals for Canada so far... 13 won by women!! 
  • Spending a leisurely Saturday afternoon with family -- including BIL & SIL, both nephews, their wives, Little Great-Nephew AND the dog! 
    • Getting a big hug from Younger Nephew (whose birthday we were celebrating) for the first time since the pandemic began. Kleenex was required. :)  
  • Clear blue skies, cooler (but still pleasant) temperature and no humidity this morning!  
  • A long weekend Monday (even though every weekend is a long weekend when you're retired...!). 
Annoying things: 
  • People in our building who ignore the posted signs that masks are required in all common areas, including hallways, elevators and the parking garage. 
  • The skunky smell of cannabis wafting over from our neighbour's balcony, through our balcony door (on those rare days this summer when the weather has been nice enough to leave it open) and sometimes even through the cracks of the inside/hallway door to our unit. SO annoying. :p  (We've smelled it at 7:30 in the morning!!  Seriously?!) 
  • Too many hot & humid and/or overcast (but still humid, or drizzly/rainy) days lately. 
  • Too much time spent online and not enough on reading books lately.  
  • A bruise on my left forearm -- and I have NO idea how I got it...! 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Sunday, August 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.)

Pandemic diary/update: July was Month #16 going on 17 (!) of living with the COVID-19 pandemic. After hitting an all-time one-day high of 4,812 new cases on April 16th, daily new case numbers here in Ontario (population about 14 million) dropped as low as 114 on July 12th -- a level not seen since last Sept. 1st (2020).  Not zero, but a definite improvement...!  

They bounced around a bit but remained below 200 for 20 days straight -- and then (sadly) cracked the 200 mark again with 218 new cases on Thursday (July 29th), 226 on Friday (July 30th) and 258 yesterday (Saturday, July 31st). Our R factor (reproduction number, i.e., the average number of people that one person with COVID-19 will infect) is back up over 1 again. :(   The vast majority of new hospital/ICU cases are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people.

As of yesterday (July 31st), 70.8% of all Canadians had received at least one shot, and 58.2% were fully vaccinated. Here in Ontario, 71.1% of the total population have received one dose of vaccine, and 61% are now fully vaccinated. (Among adults 18+ in Ontario, those figures are 81.4% and 70.7%, respectively.)(Children under 12 have still not been cleared for vaccination -- even though school starts again in September...!)  After an agonizingly slow start to our vaccination program, we now rank among the best in world at getting our people vaccinated:  20th in the world in terms of total doses per hundred -- 128.58 -- ranking behind a number of mostly smaller nations such as Gibraltar, United Arab Emirates, Iceland and Bermuda, but ahead of the United Kingdom (in 26th place with 124.18) and the United States (49th, 102.67). 

Dh & I had our first shots (AstraZeneca) on April 5th, and our second shots (Moderna) on July 1st. There was no other way I would rather have celebrated Canada Day!! Two weeks later (July 15th), we were considered fully vaccinated. :)  Both of our immediate families (including parents, siblings, nephews & spouses) are also now fully vaccinated. :)  Fully vaccinated does not mean zero risk, of course -- especially with the Delta variant circulating -- but it's still a load off our minds to know that we and the people we love most are better protected, and that we can start venturing back out into the world a little more safely. 

After a lot of pressure from the U.S. (and communities on both sides of the border, badly hurt by the pandemic), our prime minister announced our border would reopen to fully vaccinated American citizens on August 9th, and to fully vaccinated people from the rest of the world on Sept. 7th.  Curiously, however, the U.S. has so far declined to reciprocate, even though our new case and vaccination rates are so much better than theirs... I think we have much more to fear from opening our border than vice-versa...! (Not that I am eager to visit the U.S. at the moment anyway...! -- sorry, American relatives & friends!)  Go figure... :p  

As I've detailed before, by early July, we'd entered the first two stages of reopening after a very long and stringent lockdown (essentially since Christmas, punctuated by a few weeks in March, when restrictions were lifted -- too soon, as it turned out, because case rates began skyrocketing, again).  First, non-essential retail and patio dining reopened (among other things) just before Canada Day. Stage 2 included malls and hair and nail salons -- all at reduced capacity, with restrictions in place -- but still, open again.  We had our first haircuts in 17 weeks (!) on July 10th, and did that ever feel good!! 

Stage 3 began on Friday, July 16th (five days earlier than scheduled), including indoor dining, movie theatres, casinos, and larger indoor gathering limits.  Mandatory mask-wearing continues in most indoor and some outdoor public venues (and likely will at least until the fall).  

Since more things have started reopening recently, and since receiving our second vaccinations on July 1st (and since the weather has been nicer!), we've been spreading our wings *just* a little more this month!  On top of dh's usual (once or twice weekly) trips to the supermarket for groceries and for takeout dinners on Saturday nights, we've been: 
  • To the vaccination centre with BIL & SIL on July 1st for our second vaccines!  
    • En route home, we went through the drive-through at Dairy Queen for celebratory ice cream (which we ate in the car in the parking lot).  :)   
  • To BIL's 9 times -- mostly to spend time with SIL & Little Great-Nephew (once or twice a week for an hour or two, generally mid-morning, as LGN takes a nap in the afternoon after lunch). 
    • We went there early in the month so that dh could help BIL move their sofa out to the garage, the night before their new one was due to arrive. (The old one is going to the basement in Older Nephew's new house.)  
    • We were there mid-month for cake & coffee for SIL's birthday (with just BIL, SIL & Little Great-Nephew).  
      • Before heading over, we stopped at the supermarket and I picked out a birthday bouquet to take to SIL. 
    • And we were there yesterday (July 31st) for an early birthday celebration for Younger Nephew, who turns 29 next week!  Dh saw him last weekend, helping Older Nephew move, but I had not seen him since Little Great-Nephew's first birthday in mid-November! (and that was a rather strained and hurried affair where all stayed masked and distant, except for when we bolted down our cake & coffee, took a few photos and then left a little over an hour after we arrived). I got a big hug from the birthday boy -- the first hugs I've received from anyone other than dh since covid began. And yes, I had to find some kleenex afterwards...!  
  • To the bookstore on July 5th, for the first time since March 31st (!), shortly before our last lockdown went into effect (the store reopened on June 11th), and then again on July 27th.  
  • I also went to the drugstore that day for the first time since March 31st to pick up some prescriptions and other sundries. 
  • We went out for celebratory gelato on the afternoon of July 6th for our 36th wedding anniversary  (dh got takeout for dinner later). It was our first gelato of the season/year (but likely not the last!). 
  • We got our first haircuts in 17 weeks (since March 12th) on Saturday, July 10th!!  Hallelujah!! :)  :)  :)  And we stopped by a frozen food store en route home to stock up on some of our favourite convenience foods. 
  • Both of us had dentist appointments in midtown Toronto on July 13th (and we stopped by the supermarket for some takeout soup for lunch, en route home). 
  • We hit the mall on July 20th for the first time since March 10th... 2020!! (i.e., 17 months!) -- pre-pandemic! I got a new cellphone and a new battery for my favourite/everyday watch (which conked out shortly after the pandemic began), and poked into a handful of stores, but both of us found it a bit too "people-y." Baby steps...!  
  • Dh & BIL took some stuff up to Older Nephew's new house on July 19th -- also BIL's birthday -- and had lunch together (drive-through burgers, eaten in the car). 
    • They were back again later that week, on July 21st, to do a few more things around the house. 
    • BIL called dh over on Friday, July 23rd, to help him & the nephews move boxes full of stuff into the garage (to make it easier to load the moving van on Saturday). 
    • And then dh helped them with the move itself on July 24th! :) 
Older Nephew, his wife and Little Great-Nephew finally moved into their new home on July 24th, almost two months after they took possession on June 1st. During that interval, they -- well, people they hired and helpful/handy family members, lol -- de-popcorned/de-stippled and painted the ceilings, installed a new kitchen, new built-ins in the family room and new flooring in the upstairs bedrooms, removed some raised garden beds in the backyard, and painted. Their new home is almost an hour north of us  :(  but both work closer to where we live, and because SIL is taking care of LGN (mostly) at her home, we can/will continue go over there to visit him.)

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** 

Also right now:  

Reading: I finished 4 books in July (all reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads, & tagged "2021 books"):
This brings me to 38 books read so far in 2021 -- 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...!) 18 (!) books ahead of schedule. :)

Current read(s): 
Coming up: 
A few recently purchased titles (in both paper and digital formats, mostly discounted or purchased with points): 
WatchingThe Tokyo Olympics, of course. :)  Not as obsessively as I sometimes do, but I still love watching certain events (e.g., swimming, rowing) and cheering for our Canadians!  :)  As of this/Sunday morning (our time -- Sunday night Tokyo time), we've won 13 medals -- 3 gold, 4 silver and 6 bronze -- all but the last one won by women!  :)  (After a full week of girl power, the men -- or one man, anyway, Andre DeGrasse in the men's 100 metres -- finally step up, lol.)  ;)  

Listening:  For the second (pandemic) summer in a row, CBC Radio One is broadcasting reruns of the Vinyl Cafe with the late, great Stuart McLean on Sunday mornings. (I wrote last summer about it.) I miss spending Sunday mornings with Stuart, so this is a treat! :)  

We mostly listen to the Stingray Classic Rock channel through our cable package, but dh has been tuning into the Seventies channel more often lately... it's been fun rediscovering the songs of my youth, some of which are too mellow or "pop-y" to be heard on the Classic Rock station. (I've even heard some Donny Osmond, Partridge Family and Bay City Rollers!  lol)  Also gratifying to see how many I can still sing along to!   

Eating/Drinking:  Besides our usual rotation of favourite takeout choices (pizza, spaghetti rapini agli e olio, rotisserie chicken, chicken fingers and fries), we've been stopping by the supermarket for pizza slices or soup, en route home after a visit with SIL & LGN. A bit a treat and a bit of variety from our usual lunch fare!  

We had takeout chicken madeira rigatoni from a favourite restaurant on our 36th wedding anniversary on July 6th (and, as mentioned above, went out for our first gelato of the season, earlier in the afternoon!).(Dh had chocolate, I had the limone/lemon -- our usual favourites.)

And I've enjoyed an occasional glass of iced tea while reading on our balcony, when the weather's been nice (not too hot and/or humid or rainy).  :)  (Admittedly, that hasn't been too often this summer...!  :p ) 

We had a lovely family birthday dinner out on BIL's balcony last night with the nephews & nieces-in-law (while Little Great-Nephew napped), before it started drizzling:  penne with garlic & olive oil for me, lasagna for everyone else;  burgers and flank steaks, roasted potatos, corn on the cob and salad. And birthday cake & coffee/tea later for dessert. :) 

Buying (besides books, lol):  We still haven't ventured out to too many stores yet, even though most are now open again. We went to the bookstore on July 5th, for the first time since March 31st (before the most recent lockdown kicked in), and again on July 27th, as well as the drugstore.  And as recounted here (and above), we made our first trip to the mall since March 10th (2020!) on July 20th to get me a new cellphone.   

Wearing: (Still) Mostly denim shorts & tank tops, now that the hot, humid weather is here.  

Trying: (and mostly failing...!) Not to let the button on my denim shorts rub holes in my T-shirts (grrrr....).  

Wanting:  More days like Friday, with reasonable temperatures and little or no humidity, when we can keep the balcony door open and let the fresh air in. Much of July here has been either horribly hot & humid, or overcast & humid/rainy (lots of thunderstorm watches and warnings, and a tornado about an hour north of us that destroyed about 70 houses, but thankfully didn't kill anyone), or overcast and poor air quality with smoke from forest fires up north and out west. :(  

Thinking about:  A trip west to see my parents & sister for (Canadian) Thanksgiving in early October, when my sister has some holiday time booked. We usually go "home" for a week at Christmas and a week or two in the summer, but I have not seen them since Christmas 2019. 

Hoping (crossing fingers and knocking on wood...!): That the fourth wave of COVID-19 doesn't materialize, so that we can make that trip home...!  

Loving: How our relationship with Little Great-Nephew has evolved over the past 2-3 months:  from him hiding shyly behind his nonna/grandmother's legs when he saw us coming in mid-May, to running down the driveway to meet us with a big smile on his face last week. :)  

ExploringThe StoryGraph, an alternative site/app to Goodreads that helps you track your reading, which I learned about from By the Brooke.  If you do a search, there are a lot of articles out there comparing the two sites and giving the pros & cons of each -- and there are definitely good & bad things about both. You can import your Goodreads data to StoryGraph (although I found that some things did not transfer over, or transfer correctly. For example, StoryGraph says I have only read 34 books to date this year, while I'm at 38 on Goodreads? I suspect my re-reads didn't translate to SG?).

I don't think I'll be switching from Goodreads entirely, because (imperfect as it is) there are still a lot of things I like better about it. Overall, it's probably the more complete site in terms of content and community (for the moment, anyway). (I have a lot of friends that I follow on Goodreads, and I enjoy seeing what they're reading and reading their reviews.) But I do like some of the different ways you can track & analyze your reading on StoryGraph too -- they allow fractional star ratings (something that Goodreads does not offer), and they gave me some reading recommendations that were bang-on (many of them books I've already read but that weren't entered into my Goodreads profile). Right now, I'm happy to enjoy the benefits of both sites/apps on my laptop and cellphone. 

Appreciating: How our family includes us and welcomes our involvement in their children's lives (our nephews & Little Great-Nephew). I know not all childless women/couples are so lucky. 

Feeling: Glad that it's summer, that we're fully vaccinated and that we can be out and about a little more than we have been, but still cautious (with an increasing sense of foreboding, again...) ...this pandemic is not over yet...!