Saturday, September 25, 2021

"The Foundling" by Paul Joseph Fronczak & Alex Tresniowski

Mid-last week, I saw an ad on CNN for an upcoming documentary -- to be aired  tomorrow/Sunday night (Sept. 26th) -- called "The Lost Sons."  As I watched, I realized the storyline sounded very familiar. A while back, I'd read a story/review of a fascinating-sounding book called "The Foundling," and bought a paperback copy when I saw it in the bookstore (albeit it had been languishing in my "to be read" pile ever since then). I went to my bookshelves and pulled it out. Sure enough, same guy, same story. 

I always like to read the book before I see the movie, if possible -- but I was in the middle of reading "Where the Crawdads Sing" (reviewed here), and I wanted to finish it before I started yet another book. I closed "Crawdads" yesterday/Friday morning, and picked up "The Foundling" later that afternoon. Could I get through the 347 pages in the 48+ hours or so before the documentary aired on Sunday (tomorrow) night?? 

I decided to give it a shot -- and fortunately, I found it to be a fast and captivating read. I finished it tonight -- about 30 hours after I opened it. :)  

"The Foundling: The True Story of a Kidnapping, a Family Secret, and My Search for the Real Me" is the jaw-dropping true story of Paul Joseph Fronczak. When he was 10 years old, Paul was snooping in the crawl space of his family's Chicago home for hidden Christmas presents when he stumbled on some boxes of old letters and newspaper clippings that changed his life forever. The clippings told Paul that he'd been kidnapped (!) from the hospital on the day he was born (in April 1964) by an unidentified woman in a nurse's uniform. 

Two years later, a little boy, approximately two years of age, was abandoned in a stroller in front of a department store in Newark, New Jersey.  Blood tests were inconclusive -- no DNA testing back then! -- but the heartbroken Fronczaks immediately identified the boy as their missing son, legally adopted him and took him home to Chicago. The story of Paul's abduction and abandonment two years later was never referred to, even after the boy's discovery in the crawl space. But Paul couldn't help but notice that he looked nothing like his parents or younger brother, or that he seemed to have little in common with them either. 

As an adult, Paul bounced around the country from job to job and relationship to relationship. Then, in 2012, he became the father of a baby girl. Questions from the baby's doctors about his family's medical history prompted Paul to take a DNA test and begin investigating the truth of his origins:  Was he really Paul Joseph Fronczak, the kidnapped baby? If not, then who was he? And if he wasn't Paul Fronczak, what had happened to the real Paul? 

This was an absolutely fascinating story, with many elements that have always intrigued me:  it's a true crime/mystery/detective story that delves into issues of genealogy and adoption, and raises interesting questions about how we define family and identity. 

(Interestingly, the Fronczaks had had a stillborn son before Paul was born. Imagine being a stillbirth mother in the early 1960s, when such losses were generally brushed under the carpet, only to have your "rainbow" baby literally stolen from your arms in the hospital...!)   

The story ends in late 2015 (the book was published in 2017). I've been trying to avoid finding out too many spoilers about the documentary before I watch it tomorrow night, but inevitably a few crept in... I will say that I think it reveals some developments in Paul's story that have unfolded since the book was published.  

If you wind up watching the documentary, let me know what you think! 

A solid 4 stars on Goodreads. If I had one criticism of this book, it would be that there's a very large cast of characters, and it was sometimes confusing to remember who was related to who and how. A family tree or "cast of characters" list might have been helpful -- although, to be fair, it also might have spoiled some of the surprises.  

This was Book #48 read to date in 2021 (and Book #4 finished in September), bringing me to 133% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 22 (!) books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

Friday, September 24, 2021

"Where the Crawdads Sing" by Delia Owens

"Where the Crawdads Sing" by Delia Owens is this month's pick for the NoMo/Gateway Women book club (and yes, there is a childless angle/character in the story, albeit childlessness is not a particular focus). It's been in my "to read" pile forever, and it's been enthusiastically recommended by several of my friends (and even dh!! who picked it off our bookshelves, read it earlier this year and loved it). 

The protagonist/heroine is Kya, who grows up alone and unschooled in a shack deep in the marshes near the coast of North Carolina after her mother, her siblings and finally her abusive alcoholic father abandon her and leave her to fend for herself. She survives by foraging for mussels and fish, and selling them to a kind black man who runs a nearby general store.  With little human contact, she becomes a keen observer of the natural world around her, known to the curious locals as "the Marsh Girl." 

The story develops in two tracks that gradually merge: Kya's solitary growing up years in the 1950s and '60s, and a murder mystery that grips the nearby town in 1969. 

I'll admit, this one was slow going for me, initially. The writing was beautiful, but I found myself wondering what all the fuss was about. Once I got midway through the book, though, I couldn't stop turning the pages. 

4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 on Goodreads. It was, in the end, a really, really good read -- but I was expecting it to knock my socks off, and it didn't quite do that for me, so I don't feel like I can give it 5 stars. 

"Where the Crawdads Sing" was a Reese (Witherspoon)'s Book Club pick, and Witherspoon has produced the movie version, to be released next year. British actress Daisy Edgar-Jones, who was an amazing Marianne in the screen adaptation of "Normal People," will star as Kya. (David Strathairn, whom I have adored ever since "The Days & Nights of Molly Dodd," years ago, will play lawyer Tom Milton.) 

This was Book #47 read to date in 2021 (and Book #3 finished in September), bringing me to 131% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I 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." 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

"Still Glides the Stream" by D.E. Stevenson (re-read)

My D.E. Stevenson fan group just completed our group read of "Still Glides the Stream," which I read earlier this summer and reviewed here.  It's the story of Will Hastie, who returns home to Scotland after 12 years in the military during and after the Second World War. His best friend from boyhood, Rae, died during the war, and Rae's younger sister Patty is engaged to her cousin Hugo, who will now inherit her father's estate. Before he died, Rae wrote to Patty, hinting at a big secret he hopes to share with the family on his next leave home. When Patty shares the letter with Will, he decides to head to France for a holiday to investigate...  

The book is not without its flaws -- there were certain elements that bothered me -- but nevertheless, the themes of post-war grief and loss and trying to move forward resonated with me too. As a bonus, we also get a brief visit to Amberwell -- the setting of two other Stevenson books -- and a glimpse at what's happened to some of the characters we grew to know and love in those novels. 

As usual, our group read deepened my appreciation of this book, as well as my awareness of its flaws -- but not enough to affect my Goodreads rating.  My initial rating of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4, still stands. 

(Next up, we'll be reading & discussing Stevenson's "Gerald and Elizabeth.") 

This was Book #46 read to date in 2021 (and Book #2 finished in September), bringing me to 128% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I 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." 

Monday, September 20, 2021

#MicroblogMondays: Cottage weekend

Dh & I just spent a fabulous weekend at his cousin's cottage/lake home, along with BIL & SIL. We're totally exhausted (not to mention stiff & sore from climbing up & down a long and steep set of stone steps leading to & from the lakeside dock...!), but we had a fabulous time. It was the first time since COVID-19 began 18 months ago that we've been away or spent any significant amount of time with anyone outside of BIL & his family (with the small and recent exceptions of that half-hour visit with PND and a couple of hours visiting stepMIL and family). We all get along well with this cousin & his wife, and it was SO NICE to be able to socialize and experience some normalcy again! 

All of us were fully vaccinated; dh's cousin works mostly from home, his wife is currently not working, their daughter is away at college (we Facetimed with her), and their teenaged son goes to an expensive private school that follows fairly comprehensive COVID protocols. The wife, SIL & I went on a tour of local artists' studios on Saturday afternoon, with many of the displays taking place outdoors, and masking and social distancing measures firmly in place.  The weather was absolutely glorious -- a little chilly (especially after sundown and before noon) but almost entirely clear and sunny. There was food, wine, board games, boat rides, walks down isolated backroads (where we spotted deer and wild turkeys), hot dog and marshmallow roasts (and s'mores -- would you believe I've never had one before?), and lots and lots of laughter.  :)  

There was also a lot of conversation: about the kids (of course...!), about family issues and dynamics (in both general and specific senses...!), about cottage life, about the corporate world and retirement, about perimenopause and midlife crises and why nobody talks about these things and why women's health issues are largely ignored, under-studied and under-funded. 

Sitting on the dock on Sunday afternoon as our visit drew to a close, SIL mentioned Younger Nephew and his wife are seeing a fertility specialist (which dh & I already knew). :(   Cousin's Wife mentioned that (as dh & I had suspected at the time) she had struggled with secondary infertility after their first child was born and she was on the verge of seeing a specialist herself when she miraculously got pregnant just before the appointment (of course, right?!). 

But that got ME talking too -- a little -- about my own infertility experiences. I agreed with SIL & Cousin's Wife that Younger Nephew and his wife are still young and have time and options, but emphasized that it was a good thing they were tackling the issue now, and also that they shouldn't feel railroaded by the doctor/clinic into doing anything they weren't comfortable with. I even said that we had considered adoption but found it to be a far more complex matter than most people realize, and ultimately decided it was not for us.  It wasn't the full story, by far, but still, I don't think I've ever spoken that frankly to one of dh's family members about these things before, not even to SIL. 

And, while I didn't speak very much about the childless experience specifically, it did not escape me that it was still World Childless Week. Knowing that thousands of other childless women were being brave enough to go public with at least some aspects of their own stories this past week gave me some courage to reveal a little more of myself to the people around me as well.  

I was proud of myself.  ;) 

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

We spent a lot of time sitting out here, enjoying the view 
and the peace & quiet. 
(Occasional boat traffic excepted.)  

Taking a walk down a road less travelled.  ;) 
(Lots of deer and wild turkeys sighted.
It's Crown land/a wildlife preserve... no hunting permitted.) 


Sunday, September 19, 2021

World Childless Week, Day Seven: Moving Forwards

Day Seven of World Childless Week  -- the final day -- is focused on "Moving Forwards:" 

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?

Whenever anyone asks me this question, I think back to one particular incident, at Christmastime, a few years after we had thrown in the towel on infertility treatments, which showed me that perhaps I was further down the road of acceptance than I had realized.  I wrote about it here

Another would be my ability/willingness to enter a Baby Gap store. Once, it was a source of pain, to be avoided. I eventually did get to the point where I could go in to buy a baby shower gift. These days, I love to go there to shop for Little Great-Nephew, albeit the little girls' racks still have the power to give me pangs... 

There are probably other markers that I've written about over the years, although I can't recall any other specific posts to share here with you right now. The passage of time and looking back on certain milestones will often bring a shock of recognition of how things have changed and how differently I feel now than I did then. One advantage of getting older is that fewer and fewer people ask and hint and prod you about pregnancy plans... although eventually, you start getting questions about how many grandchildren you have instead...!  

One thing I remember from our pregnancy loss support group days is that you never realized just how far you'd come down this road less travelled until someone new arrived, fresh and raw in their own grief. I still see that to some extent today when I read social media posts and responses from younger women who are new to the stunning realization that they will not have the children they assumed they would have. 

Check out today's content on the WCW site, including community members' contributions and several  live webinars -- including several that will explore creativity and self-compassion. Stephanie Phillips, WCW founder, will also be hosting a live webinar on "Ways to Remember and Release the Grief of Childlessness," at 7 p.m. UK time/2 p.m. Eastern Time in North America. All webinars will be recorded and uploaded to the Day Seven page for anyone who cannot make the live events. 

(Unfortunately, that would include ME, lol -- we will be up north for a weekend at dh's cousin's cottage.  But I will look forward to catching up when we get back home!)  

Saturday, September 18, 2021

World Childless Week, Day Six: We Are Worthy

The Day Six theme of World Childless Week is "We Are Worthy." 

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.   

Three years ago, there was a summit for childless people during National Infertility Awareness Week on the theme of "We Are Worthy," and I wrote about it and my thoughts on the subject of worthiness here. I can't think of any others I've written about worth/worthiness in particular, but I have pointed out examples of pronatalism and how the childless/free experience has been marginalized, when I've found them. I didn't know the term "pronatalism" when I first started this blog, so they're all tagged "mommy mania," which was the best I could come up with at the time. Someday, perhaps, I'll go through them all and change them!  (There's 140+ of them, so I'm not in any rush!  lol)  

On the flip side, I suppose, would be the posts I've written about or touching on feminism, tagged as "the f word." I was brought up thoroughly steeped in the second-wave feminist messages of the 1970s (for good and for bad);  I have always believed and often said that I am more than my uterus. Unfortunately, that's still not the message that society tends to send us or the people around us....!  

The "bible" on pronatalism from a childfree (by choice) perspective would be "The Baby Matrix" by Laura Carroll (which I reviewed here).  A real eye-opener, and highly recommended!  

Check out today's content on the WCW site, including community members' contributions and several  live webinars. All but one of them will be recorded and uploaded to the Day Six page for anyone who cannot make the live events. 

(Unfortunately, that would include ME, lol -- we will be up north for a weekend at dh's cousin's cottage.  But I will look forward to catching up when we get back home!)  

Friday, September 17, 2021

World Childless Week, Day Five: Have You Considered Adoption?

It's Day Five of World Childless Week, and today's theme tackles the ever-popular question (NOT) "Have You Considered Adoption?

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.

Most of my posts on this subject (including reviews of relevant books I've read and movies/TV shows we've seen) have been tagged "adoption."  In particular, I would point you to this post from 2015, in which I expound (at some length) on "The A word: Why we didn't adopt."  

Check out today's content on the WCW site, including community members' contributions and a live webinar at 7 p.m. UK time/2 p.m. Eastern Time in North America titled "Oops! I Completely Forgot About the Adoption Option, Thanks for Reminding Me" (lol), hosted by Stephanie Phillips, founder of World Childless Week, and featuring a stellar panel -- including Jess of  Finding a Different Path (and formerly My Path to Mommyhood)!  This webinar will be recorded and uploaded to the Day Five page for anyone who cannot make the live event. 

(Unfortunately, that would include ME, lol -- we will be heading up north for a weekend at dh's cousin's cottage at that time.  But I will look forward to watching when we get back home!)  

Thursday, September 16, 2021

World Childless Week odds & ends

SO. MUCH. GREAT!!! stuff out there for World Childless Week... to be frank, I am having trouble keeping up with it all! Good thing that it will all remain on site for the days, weeks, months and years to come (past years' content is also still available). I expect to be going back to read things and watch videos for a long time...!  

In addition to all the wonderful essays, poems, webinars and podcast episodes available on the WCW website (and if you haven't done so already, you really do need to check it out -- there's new material being added every day this week), here are a few other WCW-related things I've run across so far this week... we're starting to move awareness of WCW and involuntary childlessness into the mainstream media, and that is FABULOUS. 

  • The "Life Matters" radio program on ABC in Australia did an hour-long episode/podcast -- an intelligent and sympathetic discussion -- on the topic of "Being childless in a world that encourages people to have kids."  Along with a psychologist and medical expert, the host takes some listener calls from childless-not-by-choice people, including Michael Hughes of The Full Stop podcast and Sarah Roberts of The Empty Cradle.  
  • The Telegraph (a prominent UK newspaper) featured a first-person article by CNBCer Kat Brown about World Childless Week and "How the childless women of Instagram helped me come to terms with never having a family." You will need to register in order to read the article but trust me, it's worth it...!  ;)   
  • World Childless Week was featured on @allontheboard, which posts inspirational messages on whiteboards in London Underground stations. Here's a link to their WCW Facebook post
    • Beware some of the comments, in which, curiously, people talk about the grief of... secondary infertility/having just one child. Secondary infertility is certainly another form of disenfranchised grief... BUT... as someone commented on the Gateway Women forum, it's WORLD CHILDLESS WEEK... "Time and place, people!!" 
  • I have not watched this yet myself... but "The Clan of Brothers," a Facebook group for childless men, held a video discussion on the topic of legacy.  There's so little out there for the childless men in our lives, I am sure this is well worth watching! 
I am waaaaayyyyyyy behind on reading & commenting on other blogs... hoping to catch up soon! 

World Childless Week, Day Four: Men Matter Too

Day Four of World Childless Week is focused on the topic "Men Matter Too."  

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. 

As with the Day Two topic (Childlessness and Sexual Intimacy), I have not written a lot about my dh's perspective on these things -- it's MY blog, and (although I've occasionally asked him if he'd like to do a guest post!) he doesn't want to be in the spotlight --it's not his "thing" -- which is fair, I think. I can't think of any particular posts I've written that are focused specifically on this topic, although I've you may find some relevant material under the label/tag "marriage/dh." 

I should say that dh was actually the one who first suggested we should become facilitators for the pregnancy loss group we attended -- and we wound up doing it for 10 years!  Our particular group/chapter was able to attract -- and retain -- more men than the groups in other parts of the city/province, simply because they knew that at least one other guy would be there. I can think of a couple of guys who occasionally came to meetings by themselves, without their wives (albeit once they'd already attended and gotten to know us and what the group was all about -- not for their first meeting!). 

Check out today's content on the WCW site, including community members' contributions and a live webinar at 7 p.m. UK time/2 p.m. Eastern Time in North America. Kevin Davidson of Mindful Masculinity will be discussing "Beware the Fatherhood Bonus," particularly related to the workplace. This webinar will be recorded and uploaded to the Day Four page for anyone who cannot make the live event. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

World Childless Week, Day Three: Leaving a Legacy

Day Three of World Childless Week is about "Leaving a Legacy." 

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, charitable work or donations etc? 

"Legacy" (including the practical matter of "what's going to happen to my stuff?") has been something I've struggled with over the years. Longtime readers will know that my family (my mother's side in particular) generally has a keen interest in its history, and I'm one of the main cousins researching our family tree(s). I've already decided that if no one from the younger generation shows sufficient interest in the subject, I will donate my genealogy files and old family photos to the local museum in the county where my grandparents lived. They already have several important items from my family in their collection (one of my second cousins is on the museum board), and they are a valuable resource for research into local families. 

I've written posts in the past about passing on my grandmother's class ring and pearl necklace to my cousins' daughters (one a disappointing experience and the other more satisfying), and my vintage stereo and vinyl LP collection to Older Nephew (here and here).  

And this is one of my favourite posts that I've ever written, I think, about my childless spinster great x3 aunt, and the legacy she left us. It's a great reminder that we will never know exactly what sort of a legacy we might leave or the impact we might have on future generations, even when they're not our direct descendants. 

If you're interested in delving into some of my other back posts on the subject, I recently added a new tag, "legacy" to some of the relevant posts I was able to find. I will tag more as I encounter them. 

Other tags that might point to relevant posts of interest include "aunthood," "genealogy" and "getting older." 

Check out today's content on the WCW site, including community members' contributions and a couple of live and pre-recorded webinars/discussions on this subject. The first, at 7 p.m. UK time/2 p.m. Eastern Time in North America, is hosted by Kirsty Woodard and Patricia Faulks, about setting up an AWOC (aging without children) advocacy group. The second is at 8 p.m. UK time/3 p.m. Eastern Time in North America, hosted by Jody Day of Gateway Women -- one of her regular "Fireside Wisdom for Childless Elderwomen" chats with an amazing group of older childless women. These webinars will be recorded and uploaded to the Day Three page for anyone who cannot make the live event. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

World Childless Week, Day Two: Childlessness and Sexual Intimacy

Day Two of World Childless Week is focused on "Childlessness and Sexual Intimacy." From the website description: 

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? 

This is probably the one topic I haven't written much about -- mainly because it's so very personal -- not to mention that it involves someone else, i.e., my dh.  I have certainly written about feeling like my body failed me, albeit I can't think of any one particular post on the subject, offhand, that I can link to here. 

There are posts on this blog tagged "marriage/dh" and "our wedding/anniversary," in which I reflect (in some of them, at least) about our relationship and how it's been affected (for better and for worse) by infertility, loss and childlessness. 

Check out today's content on the WCW site, including community members' contributions and a live webinar on this subject at 7 p.m. UK time/2 p.m. Eastern Time in North America, hosted by Jody Day of Gateway Women and featuring a great panel of notable members of our community.  It will be recorded and uploaded to the Day Two page for anyone who cannot make the live event.

Monday, September 13, 2021

#MicroblogMondays: When one of you wants kids and the other doesn't...

SIL recently told us about a friend whose adult son and his wife came to the parents with a big announcement.... no, not THAT announcement. 

They were separating!  

The reason? She wants kids -- and he's decided he doesn't. He admitted he'd always been lukewarm on the subject but... he thought he'd change his mind. (eyeroll -- I'm sure he's been assured that he would by many people...!)  But he's decided he doesn't want to bring a child into a world that's going downhill so fast. 

(Surprisingly, my rather traditional BIL said something to the effect that he was sure a lot of young people are thinking this now, and he can't really blame them...!).  

I didn't say much (I don't know these people at all myself). I just said that, if you KNOW you don't want kids, then fine, don't have kids -- but really, shouldn't they have had this conversation BEFORE they got married??  

Even so -- I've heard of couples (not necessarily married) where the one partner is on the fence but doesn't want to admit it and risk losing the other. Or they're really convinced that when push comes to shove, they'll agree to becoming a parent. Or the other partner just assumes they both want the same thing.  Or, if the other person expresses doubts, is sure that they can get them to change their mind. 

One day, the bombshell is finally dropped that no, they really don't want kids -- and then the other partner is left with a dilemma:  stay with someone they otherwise love and forfeit their chance to have the family they've always wanted and assumed they would have -- or leave and try to find someone else to realize that dream with (or go it alone and pursue single parenthood -- far easier said than done, of course...!)?  All as the biological clock ticks away... 

(Sue Fagalde Lick's blog "Childless by Marriage" is a great resource for those who find themselves living out some of these scenarios, as well as for childless women in step-parenting situations, including ones where the partner who is already a parent does not want any more children.) 

Or (and I'm sure this happens far more often than people admit), the doubting partner goes along with the plan, thinking they will just go ahead and have kids despite their qualms because "that's what people do" and "you'll love them when they're your own"... (right?).  And unfortunately, far too many parents wind up realizing they probably shouldn't have had kids when the kids are already here, and it's far too late for second thoughts.

Listening to this story, I thought about how many "childless by circumstance" and "childless by marriage/relationship" women I've encountered (online and in "real life") over the years with similar stories -- of spending years in relationships that ultimately didn't work out (including a difference of opinion on the "should we have kids" question specifically, as well as other reasons), only to find themselves in their late 30s/early 40s with a narrowing window of (presumed) fertility and an increasing sense of desperation, until the day comes when they realize the family they always took for granted they would have is not going to materialize. This happens a LOT more often than many people realize...!  

I do wish that couples would have a serious and honest conversation on this topic early in their relationship, and be clear about what they want (or at least be clear that they are having serious doubts,  instead of faking enthusiasm while hoping they'll eventually develop the real thing). Men certainly have a lot more flexibility to postpone having children (or to change their minds on this subject) than women do. (And sometimes they do, and wind up having children with a different partner -- which is absolutely heartbreaking to witness when you're the one he told he didn't want them...!)  It's not always possible to meet someone else and have a child with them before your fertile years end, when you've already invested a good chunk of those precious years in another relationship. 

Thoughts? 

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

World Childless Week, Day One: Our Stories

The fifth annual World Childless Week kicks off today!  and Day One is focused on the theme "Our Stories."  

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.

I'm a firm believer in the power of telling our stories (if only to each other, at least at first). Meetings of the pregnancy loss support group that dh & I used to facilitate would always begin by going around the room and having each person introduce themselves and tell us their story, what brought them to us. Sometimes (especially at first), the stories would be long, detailed and filled with tears. Over time, new details would emerge that we hadn't heard before. And we'd learn to develop a shortened "Reader's Digest" version of our story, which left more time for the longer stories (plus, over time, the "regulars" would all get to know each other and each others' stories pretty well, so it wasn't quite as necessary or important to go through all the details for the umpteenth time). 

Telling and retelling our stories to each other like this, week after week, in a supportive environment among others who had similar stories to tell, was good practice for handling those inevitable innocent questions and awkward encounters that all of us experience, sooner or later. In training sessions, we also learned that telling our stories, or some version of them -- over and over and over again -- helps us to process what happened. 

I think the same principles apply to our stories about our childlessness.  Our stories matter, because they're OURS, and because by telling them, we light the way for other childless women looking for support and comfort.  Our stories remind each other that we are not alone.  

This entire blog, of course, is my story :) (or at least parts of/a version of it) and it has evolved, along with my story, over the past 14 years.  A barebones, thumbnail version of my story can be found in the "About me" Blogger profile near the top of this page on the right-hand side (or in the link here). You can find a slightly longer version in the "About me" page (found just under the title/header of this blog). The "Timeline" page (link right beside the "About me" link) also gives you an idea of how my story unfolded and some of the significant dates & events. 

If you're really interested in all the gory details (and some of them ARE a bit gory, emotionally if not physically), I wrote a series of posts tagged "1998 memories" in which I relived my one doomed pregnancy, 10 years after the fact. I did the same thing with "The Treatment Diaries," all about our foray into infertility treatments, 10 years after we abandoned them and resigned ourselves to permanent childlessness. 

I also wrote a few posts shortly after I started this blog, where I told a condensed version of my story (up to that time): 

If you have some difficulty telling your story to others (and I know I have!) -- especially to parents who might not understand/appreciate the subtleties of involuntary childlessness -- take comfort in the words of Brene Brown -- who emphasizes the importance of telling our stories -- but also this:  

Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: "Who has earned the right to hear my story?" If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our shame stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky. If we have a friend, or small group of friends, or family who embraces our imperfections, vulnerabilities, and power, and fills us with a sense of belonging, we are incredibly lucky.

Check out today's content on the WCW site, including community members' contributions and two live webinars. The first, "Telling Our Stories: From Hurting to Healing" with childless therapists Sarah Roberts and Judy Graham, will likely have ended by the time most of you read this; but the second, "Releasing Our Grief Through the Power of Words," begins at 2 p.m. Eastern Time in North America.  Both webinars will be recorded and uploaded to the Day One page for anyone who cannot make the live event.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

"Emily Climbs" by L.M. Montgomery

My L.M. Montgomery Readathon group on Facebook recently announced our next book for the fall months: "Emily Climbs," the second volume in the "Emily" trilogy. (The first was "Emily of New Moon," which we read together over the summer -- reviewed here and here;  the third -- which I hope we will also read together in group, eventually -- is "Emily's Quest.")  

Emily, now 14, is delighted when her family decides she may continue her education at the high school in the nearby town of Shrewsbury. She's not so happy when she learns she may only attend if she promises her Aunt Elizabeth not to write any stories/fiction until she graduates in three years' time. She also has to board with her Aunt Ruth -- a persnickety childless widow who calls her "Em'ly" and accuses her niece of being "sly."  

But her friends Ilse and Teddy and Perry are there too -- and she still has her poetry and her journal as creative outlets. Much of the book is in the format of entries from Emily's diary, vividly detailing the trials and tribulations and rivalries of teenaged life, along with her/LMM's usual luminous descriptions of nature and sharply observed character portraits -- but there's some episodes of real drama (a scary night spent locked in a church with a mentally deranged old man, a community's search for a lost little boy) and (as with the first Emily book) a few supernatural story twists.  

Eventually, Emily's poems begin to be accepted for publication, launching her on "the Alpine Path" toward what she's certain will be fame and fortune. And then she's faced with an unexpected opportunity -- and a decision that could change her life forever. 

I was glad to continue reading and discussing Emily's story with a group of devoted and knowledgeable Montgomery fans and academics. I'd read this book before, but it's been many years since the last time, and there was much I did not remember. I'll admit the childless part of me was a little irritated by the unsympathetic character of Aunt Ruth -- although Aunts Laura & Elizabeth at New Moon are also unmarried and childless -- and yet, by the end, even Aunt Ruth's edges have been softened a little.  There's also a highly successful unmarried childless woman near the end of the book who returns to her PEI hometown for a visit. Emily clearly admires her, but she's also the subject of much local gossip and derogatory comments.  

Our group discussion of this book begins on Sept. 20th and will continue through mid-December with video readings of new chapters, questions and supplementary material posted on Mondays and Thursdays. You are welcome to join us! (I will count this book as a re-read when we are finished our discussion.) 

A solid 4 stars on Goodreads. 

This was Book #45 read to date in 2021 (and Book #1 finished in September), bringing me to 125%! 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." 

World Childless Week starts tomorrow!

The FIFTH annual World Childless Week starts tomorrow!  -- an entire week filled with inspiring and comforting things to read, watch, listen to and participate in, focused on a different topic/theme each day (and new material posted daily too). If you miss some of the live webinars, don't worry;  they are posted on the WCW website later in the day/week to be enjoyed and consulted indefinitely. (The past four years of amazing WCW content is also available onsite.) 

As usual, I didn't manage to get my act together to write something new -- but it occurred to me, as I scanned this year's topic list, that I've covered many of these things in my blog over the almost (gulp) 14 years I've been writing here. So each day, I'll post about the day's topic here, with some links to some of my own writing on the subject (if I have written about it... and in many/most cases, I have...!). 

In a case of great minds thinking alike ;)  Mali did something similar on her No Kidding in NZ blog recently. You can read her post here, which contains links to relevant past posts she's written.   

Enjoy!! 


Saturday, September 11, 2021

September 11th, 20 years later

20 years ago was an awful, awful day -- even if you weren't American, even if you live elsewhere, even if you didn't know anyone personally who died.  

I wrote in detail here about our experiences that day, in 2008 (seven years later). There's really not much more I can add, so I'll just post the link here and you can click over if you want to:  

September 11, 2001

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Odds & ends

  • It's the first day of school here (for most kids, anyway)... and for the FIRST TIME (that I can remember, anyway), alongside the numbing flood of first-day photos from my parenting friends, I've been seeing memes from some of the pregnancy loss and childless accounts that I follow, recognizing that for some of us, today can be a tough reminder of what we've lost and/or what we'll never experience. Progress? 
    • Dh & I marked the day by going for gelato and a bookstore browse this afternoon... there were more people at the store than we expected, but it was still blissfully peaceful compared to our summertime visits...!  ;) 
    • After we got home, I took my book and sat out on the balcony for a while, reading. We may be in for some thunderstorms overnight, but right now, it's perfect weather outside -- partly cloudy, 25C/76F, with just a touch of humidity. Ahhhh!  
  • For the second summer in a row, CBC Radio One aired Sunday morning reruns of "The Vinyl Cafe with Stuart McLean," one of Canada's best and best-loved storytellers, who sadly died in 2017, far too young, at 68.  (I've written a few times here about the show and how much dh & I both loved it, most notably here.) The last show for the summer was broadcast on Sunday (and I'm hoping they'll do it again next year...!). The story of the week centred around sister & brother Stephanie & Sam and their memories of spending time on Cape Breton Island with their grandmother, and ended with Stephanie raising a glass and saying "Here's to Grandma."  I immediately burst into tears. I may be 60 years old, and she will have been gone 22 years next month, but I still miss my wonderful grandma. :(  
    • I often find myself crying over Vinyl Cafe stories. "You did it again, Stuart," I will say as I reach for the Kleenex. 
  • Half-listening to a CNN news item about hurricane Ida yesterday morning... more than a week later, and many affected communities are still without power -- no refrigerators for food, no air conditioning (among other hardships). I didn't catch the entire interview with this one woman, but my ears pricked up when I heard her saying something about basic needs not being met, and "as a parent, I just can't imagine..."  Hmph. I'm NOT a parent, and I just can't imagine either...!  
  • Speaking of "as a parent," Kate Kaufmann, author of "Do You Have Kids? Life When the Answer is No" (reviewed here) now has a regular column about childlessness on the Psychology Today website. It's called (wait for it)... "Unapparent."  :)  Her most recent column, "The Childless Are Worthy to Be Seen and Heard," is all about World Childless Week (which is next week!), featuring an interview with WCW founder Stephanie Phillips. Have a look!  

Monday, September 6, 2021

#MicroblogMondays: Daytripping... in the age of COVID

BIL asked dh on Friday if we'd like to go on a day trip this weekend with him & SIL to Elora, a picturesque small town known for its scenic river gorge, quarry and old limestone buildings, about an hour & a half away. We really haven't been ANYWHERE since the pandemic began, outside of the community where we live now, our old community (for medical hair appointments and cemetery visits) and to visit Older Nephew and family in their new home in a town about an hour north of us. So we said yes. 

I'd heard of Elora -- one of my friends (my college roomie) had been to stay at the Elora Mill and recommended it for a weekend getaway -- but I'd never been there, and neither had dh. SIL had been there once before a few years ago to see the gorge with her brother and his girlfriend.     

And so we headed out together late Saturday morning, with BIL driving. To get there, though, we had to battle our way through horrendous traffic on the 401 (the main highway running through southern Ontario). Now, traffic is generally always horrendous on the 401 all through the Greater Toronto Area, but other complicating factors this particular day included:  

  • (1) roadwork 
  • (2) it was a long weekend and 
  • (3) it was the Saturday of the September Labour Day long weekend -- i.e., school starts on Tuesday.  Last chance before then to cram in all the things you talked about doing with the kids all summer long...! And many of the cars we passed had boxes and luggage stacked in the back seats  -- obviously parents taking their kids to campus at one of the several universities and colleges in cities along (or at some point off) the 401 southwest of Toronto, including Hamilton, St. Catharines, Guelph, Waterloo, Kitchener, London and Windsor.  Not something that dh & I (non-parents) or BIL & SIL (grown kids -- only one of whom went to university, and that was locally) had thought about!
After (finally) turning off the 401 and heading north, we got a little lost on the country roads along the way (and on the way home again!), but we were in no real hurry and enjoyed the scenery along the way.  I knew there would likely be other daytrippers in Elora that day (as I said, Saturday, long weekend, ) -- but none of us was prepared for what awaited us...!  

First, we tried to go to the conservation area outside of town -- but the lineup of cars just waiting to turn in to the park made us decide we'd head straight into town instead. 

The closer we got to the old downtown area, though, the more people (and dogs!) and cars we encountered. Making matters worse (in some ways, anyway), the core downtown area is closed to car traffic on weekends during the summer & early fall months, from mid-June through Oct. 31. This was great from a pedestrian perspective -- especially during a pandemic (and I'm not sure whether they did this pre-COVID?) -- because it relieved sidewalk congestion and allowed for much greater social distancing. We could walk down the middle of the street and (mostly) avoid getting too close to the other tourists (only about 1/3 of whom were wearing masks)(we WERE outside -- but there WERE a lot of people...!).  

However, closing so many streets also limited the availability of already-limited parking spots, in a town built before the era of modern cars (and modern tourism). Every public parking lot we drove past was packed (none of them very big to begin with...), with other cars circling around like hungry sharks. Cars were parked on the streets for blocks and blocks and blocks around, invading residential areas (which I'm sure thrills the homeowners...!). We finally lucked into a spot in small private lot behind a privately owned building, on the fringes of the downtown area, with a young woman sitting at a picnic table by the driveway besides a sign listing prices. $10 for 2 hours. We took it. 

Elora is a very charming little town, full of quaint shops and charming cafes and restaurants (many with patios), and a scenic hiking path along the river (wear good shoes!). In some ways (certainly in terms of the crowds of tourists!), it reminded me of Niagara-on-the-Lake, a few hours to the south. We even got to peek in at a wedding party, getting their photos taken behind the gates at the mill (what a great place for a wedding!  It's changed ownership and been extensively renovated since my roommate was last there -- VERY expensive!).

I enjoyed it -- but I would have had a much better time and made much more of our visit if it wasn't for... well, you know... (COVID, the eternal spoilsport  :p). We did stop for ice cream cones at a place that had an order window facing out onto the sidewalk, but that was about it. We didn't go into any of the stores (and SIL & I usually love to browse). We did bring masks (and wear them, when we were too close to other people, even outside), but it all just seemed a little too people-y for my comfort.  

I think SIL would have liked to dine on one of the patios -- and in a more normal time, I would have been first in line with her (and there were lineups everywhere), but she didn't really press the point. If she had, I would have probably agreed to a patio, with some trepidation, but I know dh would not have been comfortable doing that. We wound up grabbing fast-food hamburgers and french fries at a drive-through on the way back home (which I know BIL prefers anyway...!) and ate them in the car in the parking lot. Not at all fancy, but we were hungry, and it was food!    

I guess we will just have to go back another time, when we are DONE with COVID...! (Preferably on a weekday! lol -- which we can do, being both childless and retired!)  
    A few photos: 

    View of the Elora Mill & Grand River from a downtown bridge.
    The property across the river is being developed by the mill's owners, 
    to include another hotel, restaurants, a public riverwalk and (of course!) condos. 
    A new bridge is also planned to connect the two properties. 


    A tourist-filled street lined with picturesque limestone buildings.
    The mill is at the end of the street on the left.
    We had ice cream from a shop in the dark building on the left.  

    The lovely old buildings were enhanced by the beautiful hanging baskets of flowers. 

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

    Sunday, September 5, 2021

    Hit me with your best shot

    • One of my cousins, who is a nurse, posted a meme on Facebook that you might have seen going around, listing all the various diseases that have been eradicated or controlled because of vaccines (ending, of course, with a line urging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19). 
    • At the same time, my L.M. Montgomery Readathon group on Facebook was nearing the end of our group read of "Emily of New Moon." In Chapter 30, Emily becomes very ill with the measles. Her friend Perry nearly dies from the same illness, and several local children do die. No vaccines back then! 
    • It got me thinking about my own childhood. I'm (gulp) 60 years old now, born in 1961. Many childhood illnesses that were common for me and my peers have since (more or less) gone the way of the dinosaur because of vaccines developed since then. 
      • Measles, mumps and chicken pox were all very common illnesses that children were expected to get when I was growing up -- and did. Most of us survived, of course -- but some did not, and you could still get very sick. Even being mildly ill was not fun, both for us and for the moms who nursed us back to health. I remember how itchy those chicken pox scabs were, even when they were covered in cooling pink calomine lotion (my sister even had some in her ears!), and how sore my swollen glands were when I had the mumps (and how much I looked like a chipmunk). 
      • I remember getting chicken pox in the spring of 1968, when I was in Grade 1, and then mumps in that fall, when I was in Grade 2 (or maybe it was the other way around?). My sister also got them both around the same time as I did. In both cases, the germs spread through my class and through the school like wildfire. Back then, kids sat in assigned desks arranged in long rows, and I have a vivid memory of one entire row of desks, empty, because everyone who normally sat in them was home sick with the chicken pox. 
    • I do remember getting a vaccine in the late 1960s for the "red" measles -- pre-development of the MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) vaccine. I wasn't sure whether it was still effective, or even whether I'd had the measles at some point in my childhood, but I had my family doctor test me for immunity to rubella when we wanted to begin ttc, and I did have the antibodies. 
    • Everyone from my generation was vaccinated for smallpox before we started going to school (and we have the scars on our upper arms to prove it!).  I still remember mine:  my mother took me to the local public health nurse's office for it. She had me colour a picture of a rabbit, and then she said, "Now we're going to give the bunny some carrot juice," and put the needle in my arm. HEY...!!  
    • I did have a bad reaction to the oral polio vaccine when I was a toddler.  I'm not sure exactly when, or what that reaction entailed -- I was too young to remember -- but thereafter, whenever we lined up to receive our booster shots at school, everyone else got the sugar cubes while I got the shot in the arm. Ow. Thanks, Mom. ;) 
      • (Seriously -- I am grateful, both that the vaccine was available in another form, and that anti-vax was not a "thing" back then. Mom just made it clear to both our doctors and the school nurse, wherever we moved, that I was NOT to have the oral polio, and I got the shot instead, and that was that.)
      • (I'm sure I wasn't grateful back then, though, lol.)  

    Wednesday, September 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: August was Month #17 going on 18 (! -- a full year & a half!) 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 the province of Ontario (population about 14 million) dropped as low as 114 on July 12th -- a level not seen since last Sept. 1st (2020). They remained below 200 for 20 days straight -- but then (sadly) cracked the 200 mark again near the end of July -- and have, unfortunately, continued to climb since then, reaching as many as 835 new cases on Saturday (Aug. 28th).  I'm expecting this number will increase even more once school begins here again next week. :( 

    Yesterday (Aug. 31st), 525 new COVID-19 cases were reportedThe province recently began breaking down the number of new cases, hospitalizations and ICU patients in terms of vaccinated status (not, partially or fully). Yesterday, for example, of those 525 new cases, 326 were confirmed in unvaccinated people, 43 were partially vaccinated, and 91 fully vaccinated. (Those numbers don't quite add up to 525? -- perhaps the others were of unknown status? -- but they do give us some idea of what's going on.) There are 336 COVID patients currently hospitalized, including 131 in intensive care, and 93 on ventilators. 

    So, fully vaccinated people ARE still getting sick, and some are even winding up in the hospital, but in far smaller numbers than the un- or partially vaccinated. (My personal theory -- based solely on anecdotal evidence from conversations with friends and in my social media feeds -- is that many of them are likely the vaccinated parents of unvaccinated kids who have brought the virus home from unmasked playdates, large family gatherings, etc... and school hasn't even started here yet...!)  At any rate, it sure makes the case for (a) getting fully vaccinated AND (b) continuing to take precautions -- masks, social distancing, etc.  

    As of yesterday (Aug. 31st), 73.4% of all Canadians ( = everyone, including children under 12 who still aren't eligible for the vaccine yet) had received at least one shot, and 66.4% were fully vaccinated. Here in Ontario, 72.8% of the total population have received one dose of vaccine, and 66.9% are now fully vaccinated. (Among adults 18+ in Ontario, those figures are 83.6% and 77.3%, respectively.) (Dh & I had our first shots (AstraZeneca) on April 5th, and our second shots (Moderna) on July 1st. And both of our immediate families -- including parents, siblings, nephews & spouses -- are also now fully vaccinated.)  

    By the beginning of August, we were in stage 3 of reopening, including indoor dining, movie theatres, casinos, and larger indoor gathering limits. However, by mid-August, plans for further reopening were paused, because of the surge of new cases. (As you can imagine, this was a popular decision in some quarters and not so much in others.)  Mandatory mask-wearing continues in most indoor and some outdoor public venues (and likely will for some time yet).  A few days ago, the provincial government FINALLY announced it would be implementing some form of vaccine "passport"/proof of vaccination system (something supported by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Ontario Medical Association, all 34 regional health units, and many municipalities, among other entities, as well as the vast majority of the public. It's also something that's already been implemented in British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec). 

    Earlier this month, the provincial government began mandating vaccines for its own employees, healthcare workers, and others.  The federal government recently announced it would mandate vaccinations for federal employees, as well as employees of federally regulated industries and Crown corporations. It will also require vaccinations for all air, rail and cruise ship passengers travelling interprovincially. (That makes me feel MUCH better/safer about flying home to see my parents...!) Many businesses and institutions are also starting to mandate vaccines on their own initiative: for example, not all but most universities and colleges, the five major banks (including my/our former employer), and so on. In some cases (but not all), those who refuse to be vaccinated will be offered the alternative of frequent testing. (In some cases, those who refuse can lose their jobs.) 

    The border reopened on Aug. 9th to fully vaccinated American citizens, and will reopen 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 U.S. politicians and border communities applied significant pressure on our leaders to reopen, and even though our new case and vaccination rates are (still) so much better than theirs. Go figure... :p 
     
    We are still staying pretty close to home, but have taken some tentative baby steps back into the world recently, to take advantage of our full vaccination status and the recently reopened stores, etc., not to mention the summer weather! 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 BIL's 4 times -- mostly to spend time with SIL & Little Great-Nephew. (We go once or twice a week for a couple of hours -- generally mid-morning to lunchtime, as LGN takes a nap in the afternoon.) 
    • To Staples (for printer ink and pens), Canadian Tire (housewarming present for Older Nephew & his wife), Chapters (bookstore -- also went there on Aug. 10th & 31st) and Carters/Oshkosh (for PJs for LGN), all on Aug. 4th. (When we get out of the house, we get out of the house, lol.)  
    • To the Lifelabs clinic near our condo on Aug. 5th for bloodwork (after a phone consultation with our family dr about renewing our prescriptions). 
    • To the gelato shop for a treat on Aug. 10th. :) 
    • To visit Older Nephew and family in their new home, with BIL & SIL, on Aug. 14th (with a stop en route at the drugstore to pick up a card and a big decorative bow for the gift we'd bought them). 
    • To see stepMIL and family (on Aug. 21st) for the first time since the weekend before the pandemic was declared in March 2020. Her grandson (who lives with her) was turning 13, and I thought we should go see them and bring him his birthday present -- before he started school in September, with all its germs...!  He's had one shot to date but everyone else was double-vaxxed. The kid has shot up in the year & a half since we last saw him -- almost as tall as his dad -- his voice has changed, and his hair has grown long and curly!  Yikes!  
    • To a local hospital/COVID-19 testing site on Monday, Aug. 23rd (with thankfully negative results -- full story here). 
    • To a salon in our former community for haircuts on Friday, Aug. 27th. 
    • To the supermarket (after visiting the bookstore) to pick up a few things on Tuesday, Aug. 31st. 
    We went to visit Katie at the cemetery on Aug. 7th ("Katie's Day" -- and again on the 27th). We did not have contact with anyone else while we were there -- although we did have an annoying encounter with another cemetery visitor!  ;)  

    We also had our first visitors to our condo since the pandemic began on Aug. 18th -- as detailed here. A lovely surprise, even if our time together was short! (and even despite what happened afterwards...!)   

    Dh's youngest cousin on his mom's side (also his godson) was married in a COVID-era wedding on Aug. 21st (postponed from last August, i.e., 2020), with immediate family only attending ( = not us!). They hope to have a family party when COVID finally subsides enough to safely allow it. His sister texted a steady stream of photos to all of the cousins all day long, which was lovely and helped us feel more connected.  

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

    Also right now:  

    Reading: I finished 6 books in August (all reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads, & tagged "2021 books"):
    This brings me to 44 books read so far in 2021 -- 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. :)

    Current read(s): 
    Coming up: (most of my book groups have their next reads plotted out for a few months in advance -- and this is a great place to keep track, lol) 
    • For my "Clever Name" book club:
    • For the Gateway Women/NoMo book club
      • "Where the Crawdads Sing" by Delia Owens (September -- long in my TBR pile...!) 
      • "The Thursday Murder Club" by Richard Osman (October -- already read, reviewed here, but may have to re-read or at least skim to refresh my memory on some of the plot points...!) 
      • "Widowland" by C.J. Carey (November -- not yet available in Canada in any format, but if that's still the case by November, I can order via Amazon.com in the States and have it shipped here... looks interesting!) 
    • For my D.E. Stevenson fan group (no set timeframes, but these are the next ones we've agreed to read after we finish the current book, in order):  
    • And a Facebook group I belong to for Canadian childless women is going to read and discuss Tracey Cleantis's book "The Next Happy," in mid-October.  I read it when it first came out (and, full disclosure, I'm quoted in it, under a different name -- I filled out a questionnaire for Tracey when she was writing the book) -- and I haven't been very active on this particular group -- but I can't resist a good book discussion (especially one related to childlessness), so I'm going to try to participate -- dust off my copy and do a skim-through to refresh my memory, if not a full re-read. I first read the book before I was tracking and formally reviewing my books on Goodreads, but I did write a review for this blog, and adapted it for a review on GR. 
    A few recently purchased titles (in both paper and digital formats, mostly discounted or purchased with points): 

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

    Watching:  The Tokyo Olympics, earlier this month. It was a good Games for Canada! :) 

    Listening:  To the first episode of a new podcast for the childless-not-by-choice community, "Cackle and Shout." It's just 20 minutes long, so have a listen!  

    Eating:  We ordered takeout Chinese food on Katie's Day (Aug. 7th) -- a "tradition" that we haven't strictly followed over the years, but one that began when we arrived home from the hospital 23 years ago, too tired to cook. We hadn't had Chinese in quite a while, and (bonus!) there are always tons of leftovers for another meal later! 

    Drinking: Cherry juice, which my mother swears helps alleviate her gout.   

    Trying to get back to eating in a more healthy way, and reform some bad habits that have crept up over the past few months and years:  
    • Trying to add more potatos & bananas to my diet, after recent bloodwork showed my potassium levels have fallen below normal. (And to eat more fresh fruits & vegetables generally, especially right now when they're in season.) 
    • Trying to cut back on my sugar intake, after the same bloodwork showed continuing high levels of uric acid -- and after enduring my first bout with gout. :(  
    • And trying to drink more water (another important element of coping with gout, as well as a good thing to do generally). 
    Buying (besides books, lol):  Not much! Some supplies at Staples (mostly pens, some printer ink, a couple of USB thumb drives...). A vacuum cleaner (housewarming gift for Older Nephew & his wife -- same thing we got Younger Nephew & his wife when they bought their house a few years ago). Some new pajamas for Little Great-Nephew, who is rapidly outgrowing his current ones! (Older Nephew has been measuring him against the wall, and he's grown several inches since the beginning of the year!) 

    Wearing: (Still) Mostly denim shorts & tank tops -- the weather in August has been mostly very hot and humid (still). Since I haven't been out shopping for fun in a very long time (or online lately either, actually), I haven't bought anything new to wear in months. (Not that I really need anything, as you can tell if you look at my closet...! -- and not that I really have anywhere to wear it right now, either...!) 

    Noticing:  Some of the tree leaves are already starting to turn colour... eeekkkk.... 

    Thinking about/Wondering:  Whether we're going to be able to pull off a trip home/west to see my parents and sister in October for (Canadian) Thanksgiving (let alone Christmas). And if we go, whether we should fly or drive? (At Christmastime, no question, we're flying -- no way are we driving through northern Ontario in the middle of winter!) If we're going to fly, we will need to book our tickets fairly soon. 

    Which is preferable from a COVID-19 point of view -- 2.5 hours stuck in a steel tube with 100-200 other passengers (masked, but still... and I'm not sure the federal government's directive about all passengers being vaccinated will be in effect by then) plus several hours before & after in airport terminals -- or three days/two nights on the road -- just the two of us in the car, of course, but also spending time in hotels, restaurants, gas stations, public washrooms, etc. -- in remote communities where people might not be taking the need for masking and other preventative measures quite as seriously as they should? Hmmm....

    Enduring:  Our federal election campaign (eyeroll and lol).  Appreciating: That (this time around, anyway), the election campaign is just 36 days... which I know sounds short (especially if you're an American, lol)  but believe me, it's PLENTY long enough!! (lol) Voting day is Sept. 20th. 

    Hoping: That the hot, humid weather we've been experiencing doesn't return...! Last week was awful -- but yesterday was much nicer, and we could finally open the balcony door again.  (I want to try to get back to walking more regularly again -- but when the humidex is already 30C when you wake up, there's not a whole lot of incentive...!) 

    Loving:  Spending time with Little Great-Nephew, and watching him grow and develop. :) 

    Looking forward to: A cottage weekend in September with BIL & SIL at dh/BIL's cousin's cottage/lake home. Also feeling a little leery about it (especially given our recent brush with COVID-19) -- but fairly confident they have been careful. (Certainly more so than others in the family...!) 

    Feeling: A little sad that (another) summer has slipped by in a haze of heat, humidity and (still) trying to avoid COVID-19... grateful for the vaccines that have allowed us a little more quality time with our family (especially Little Great-Nephew)... hopeful that the fall weather will be nicer and that we can pull off a trip west soon!