Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Small pleasures & annoying things

Small pleasures: 

  • Spending time with Little Great-Nephew. Even his occasional tantrums are kind of adorable (maybe because it's not up to us to deal with them, lol). (He's generally a very happy little guy, though!)  I know he will only be little (and in his grandma's care, before he heads off to school) for so long -- so we are enjoying every moment with him that we get...
  • Having some rare "me alone at home time" while dh is on jury duty. (But I hope it doesn't last too long...!)
  • I weighed myself yesterday morning, and I've lost more than 5 pounds since the beginning of November -- almost 9 pounds since my all-time high weight in late August, three months ago. (I wouldn't recommend this weight-loss regime, though!)(i.e., not being able to eat certain foods because they trigger gout and/or gallstone/digestive issues). 
  • Speaking of my gallstones, my bloodwork all came back normal. :) 
  • Rare (lately...!) sunny days with clear blue skies!  
  • The first snowfall, on Advent Sunday, just in time for us to decorate our Christmas tree. (It DOES look pretty, and Christmas-y, as we enter December!) 
    • We did have some flurries/flakes in the air before this, but nothing that stayed/accumulated. 
  • Having my advent calendar personally delivered on the weekend by my favourite sterling silver jewelry maker (which I mentioned in my "Right now" post earlier this month), and looking forward to finding out what's inside each one of those 24 beautifully wrapped packages, starting tomorrow! 
  • Realizing that with 6 more posts after this one, I will have published 200 posts (so far!) in 2021 -- the most ever in 14+ years of blogging! Not bad, eh?? (I guess this pandemic has been good for something, lol...!)  
    • And! -- 11 more posts (after this one), and I will have reached 2000 posts since I first started this blog on October 31, 2007!  

Annoying things: 

  • Knowing the snow we've had (however pretty it looks right now) is just the beginning...! (And that dh has to drive 40+ km in it to the courthouse every day for the next while.) 
  • Despite the normal bloodwork results, I'm still not feeling 100% re: my gallstone issues. :(  I haven't had a REALLY bad day/night like I was having a few weeks back (thank goodness!) -- and I've had some days that have been pretty normal overall -- but I'm still feeling unsettled and twinge-y from time to time (including today). Lots of gas too (ugh). :(  Ultrasound this afternoon (it's nearby, so I'm walking there while dh is in court), and then I'll discuss what's next with my family doctor once we have the results. 
  • Having to fast before the u/s. (Only four hours, but still... and I find that an empty stomach sometimes exacerbates how I'm feeling...) Soup at 11 a.m., anyone? 
  • Discovering that sections of the lights on the bottom part of our pre-lit Christmas tree are dead. :p  (Not all of the bottom, but parts of it -- which is somehow almost more annoying than if the whole thing was malfunctioning!  lol)  We turned the tree so that those unlit sections aren't *quite* so visible. But I'm conscious of those dark spots, and it drives me nuts. :p 
    • What would be more annoying, though, would be having to buy an entirely new tree! (and I hear there are shortages of those this year too, along with everything else...!) -- so we'll muddle along with this one for at least another year! We bought it six years ago for our first Christmas in this condo, and it was the first pre-lit tree we've had. 
    • Another annoying thing:  Did you know the average lifespan of a pre-lit Christmas tree is just six years??  
  • Our electric kettle also conked out last night when dh was making me a cup of tea. (He switched to a saucepan on the stovetop instead.) He plugged it in and switched it on, but nothing happened. (He only realized this a few minutes later.)  He tried plugging it into another outlet and that triggered the surge protector. Obviously something wrong with it (it was working only a couple of hours earlier?)  ...oh well, it's a pretty old kettle. I forget how old, but at least 10 years, and probably more like 15-20. Better to be safe...
    • Small pleasure: I had a brilliant idea:  I realized the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales were still on, went online and ordered a new kettle (same brand, similar style) that was on sale at a local retailer (Canadian Tire, for those of you who know it ;)  ) -- originally $59.99 (Canadian)(which I think is a ridiculous amount of money to pay for an electric kettle), on sale for $24.99.  They will email me when it's ready for pickup at the local store. Score!  ;)  Till then, the saucepan will suffice. ;)  
  • The uncertainty of dh's jury duty and how it might affect our travel plans for Christmas. 
  • Not getting to see Little Great-Nephew as usual while dh is on jury duty. :(  (We may see him this weekend, though.) 
  • So many great books... never enough time...!  I was hoping to finish one more before the end of November, but that's not going to happen. 
  • Starting to run out of time generally to get everything done (& bought) that needs to be done before Christmas.  (Dh's jury duty is not helping in that respect...!) 

Monday, November 29, 2021

#MicroblogMondays: He, the jury...

I am home alone today -- and possibly for days (or even weeks, or longer) to come. As I mentioned in a recent post, a few weeks ago, dh received a summons to appear at the regional courthouse today, a 40-minute drive from here, for possible jury duty (!). This doesn't necessarily mean he's going to serve on a jury -- yet. The way it works is you're summoned to participate in a "panel," a pool of potential jurors that they can draw upon to form juries (accept or reject potential jurors) for upcoming cases. He could be there every weekday, 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m., for up to three weeks before being chosen to serve, or excused. 

(I received a questionnaire in the mail four years ago to determine whether I was eligible for jury duty here, but -- so far...! -- have not been called. I was summoned to report for jury duty in our old community/region back in 2015 -- similar to what dh is doing today -- but the panel was cancelled and I was excused just a few days before I had to report.  Younger Nephew told us he's been summoned FOUR TIMES in recent years, but the panel was cancelled every time. No such luck for dh, yet!)     

Dh has no objection to serving on a jury -- although he admits he'd feel a bit queasy about sitting through a murder trial. ("Give me a nice juicy corporate malfeasance case," he joked.) (SIL was actually summoned when they were choosing the jury for the Paul Bernardo trial in the mid-1990s. She got a letter from her employer and managed to be excused. Was she relieved!!)  The main issue both of us have right now with his potential service is that we're due to fly to Manitoba for the Christmas holidays, less than three weeks from now, after missing Christmas with my family last year because of covid (as if the prospect of travelling while covid cases rise, both here & there, wasn't stressful enough to deal with...!). Although I can't imagine they would be running trials over Christmas??  Anyway, I've given him copies of our travel documents and receipts to show the court officials, and hopefully that will be enough to excuse him, or secure a deferral, if there is a conflict with dates.   

He had to be there for 8:30 this morning. We took a drive up there on Saturday afternoon to find the place, familiarize him with the route, and establish how long it would take for him to get there (it took us almost 40 minutes, although I suppose that could vary, depending on traffic). Out of an abundance of caution, he got up at 5:30 a.m. and left at 7, just to be safe, and to give him some extra time to find his way around the building once he gets there. (I did NOT get up at 5:30 with him! -- perks of retirement, lol -- but I did get up in time to see him off.)  

It's not often these days that I have an entire day (or more) to myself like this -- certainly not since retirement, and *definitely* not since covid!! I have a list of projects that I could (might?) tackle -- including my Christmas cards -- but I'm also just going to go with the flow and enjoy the "me time."  ;)  And hope it doesn't last that long!  

Have you ever been summoned for jury duty, and/or served on a jury? 

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

Monday, November 22, 2021

#MicroblogMondays: More odds & ends & updates

  • I went to see my family doctor last week about my recent too-close encounter(s) with gallstones  -- our first face-to-face visit in two years!  As I suspected, he's sending me for an ultrasound and some bloodwork (which I had done earlier today). I called a couple of local ultrasound clinics (including two where I've been before), but nobody could take me this week -- and dh's jury duty starts next Monday. I don't drive (I have my license but I am not a confident driver and am very much out of practice), and would need him to drive me to most of the places I called. Fortunately, however, we have a bunch of medical offices within a three-minute walk of our condo building, including a lab where we've had bloodwork done before, and an imaging centre in the same building (that I found while Googling "ultrasound clinics near me") where I was able to book an ultrasound for a week from Tuesday/tomorrow. I will walk there myself, if dh is still enmeshed in jury duty. Yay! 
    • I've mostly been feeling better this past week, but I didn't have a great Saturday night/Sunday morning... we were at Little Great-Nephew's birthday party and although I was trying to be careful about what I ate, I guess I wasn't careful enough. Sigh. 
    • (Most) of my past posts related to gallstones/gallbladder issues have now been tagged as "gallstones/gallbladder" for easy reference (for me, if not for you!  lol). I've found that if I try to tag (or otherwise edit) some of my early posts from the first few years of this blog, it removes all the paragraph breaks, resulting in one big long block of copy -- leaving me to figure out where the paragraph breaks once were, or should be, and put them all back in again. Fun, NOT. So some of those are remaining untagged for now.
  • We had a lot of fun at LGN's 2nd birthday party this past weekend (although we're both still exhausted from it!  lol). He was hugely entertaining. :)  Fist-bumped the non-vaxxed person there in greeting, and then retreated to what I hoped was a safe distance -- although that was hard to maintain in a relatively small house with 11 adults, one toddler and two dogs in attendance...! 
    • I took a ton of photos -- and was reminded again (the moment I brought out my phone/camera) not to post any on social media. (Eyeroll.) I posted ONE baby photo and ONE recent/undated photo of LGN on Facebook & Instagram (one of those "how it started/how it's going" posts -- the first photos of him I've posted in more than a year) on his actual birthday, after both his mom & grandmother had posted multiple photos... I figured that was safe and inoffensive enough. But I had no intention of posting anything from the party (I would have LIKED to, but knew it was verboten) -- and I'll be honest, I felt a little irked to be reminded, AGAIN. Sigh. Families are complicated sometimes... 
  • I know nothing about French politics, but pronatalism in politics seems to be alive and well in that country: apparently, former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, father of four, is claiming in a new book that current president Emmanuel Macron lacks authority because... he has no children. :p (Cue a mega-eyeroll from me.)(Macron's wife has children and grandchildren from a previous marriage.)  British writer and broadcaster Bibi Lynch (who is childless not by choice, and whose work I was introduced to by Jody Day of Gateway Women), responded in an opinion piece in the Telegraph this past week.  You may have to register to read the article.  Sample passages: 
    • "Why are politicians forced to deal with this? Why do we judge them not on whether they are good people, strong people, ethical people, selfless people or worthy people — but on whether or not they have their own little people?"
    • "...the answer to the question of why politicians keep playing the pronatalism card is simple: it appeals to the masses. It’s crass, lazy shorthand for "we’re just like you; we know what matters to you". It doesn’t matter to politicians – across all parties – that their ‘hardworking families’ rhetoric painfully excludes people like me." 
    • "People may make children, but children do not make people." 
  • How is it almost the end of November, already?? 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.  

Saturday, November 20, 2021

"The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver

I bought a paperback copy of  "The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver years ago, after Oprah picked it for her book club, back in 2000. I didn't get to it right away (plus ca change...), and my mother "borrowed" it a few years later when she was visiting me. The last time I saw it, it was still among the books in her bedroom at home. There are plenty of fish in the sea/other books on my shelves, of course ;) and I hadn't thought much about it until it was announced as the November pick for our "Clever Name" book club. (This time, I got an e-copy.) 

Subsequently, we agreed to a hiatus of the club until after Christmas -- so now we won't be discussing this one until January -- but I was already 1/4 of the way into it -- and finding it pretty interesting -- so I decided to keep going. 

I will admit that my reading tastes tend to run to Euro/North American-centric settings and authors. I was not entirely sure I was going to like a novel set in the Congo at the end of the colonial era, beginning in 1959 and spanning 30 years (even if it was a tale told from an American perspective). 

I was wrong. 

"The Poisonwood Bible" is, in part, the story of the Congo's transition to independence. It's also the story of the Price family of Bethlehem, Georgia:  Nathan Price, a fiery Baptist minister, his wife and their four daughters, ages 15 through 5, who arrive in a remote Congolese village at this precarious time in its history to preach the gospel and convert the heathen residents.  It's pretty clear that they are totally unprepared for what awaits them. 

The novel is narrated in turns by Nathan's wife, Orleanna, and each of the four young girls. Five different narrators might sound like a recipe for disaster, but Kingsolver pulls off the feat of making each voice unique, distinctive and memorable, each with a different perspective to offer on the family's story and on Africa. There is Rachel, the petulant teenager, who wants nothing more than to return to her carefree high school life in America;  the twins -- Leah, who idolizes her father, and Adah, whose disabilities have not affected her keen powers of observation or description; and little Ruth May, who despite her youth is not as innocent as she seems. 

It's a LONG book -- Goodreads tells me the e-copy is 546 pages, but on my Kobo e-reader, with the font size and spacing adjusted to my liking, it was more than double that (almost 1,300 pages). There's a lot about the history and politics of the Congo, which sometimes had my eyes glazing over a little.  But the writing is amazing, the characters are vividly drawn, and it kept me reading to find out what ultimately happened to them.  As Rachel observes near the end of the book, "You can't just sashay into the jungle aiming to change it all over to the Christian style, without expecting the jungle to change you right back." 

4 stars on Goodreads (maybe even 4.5, but not quite a 5 -- see the caveats above). 

If you've read this book, I'd love to hear what you thought about it! 

This was Book #54 read to date in 2021 (and Book #3 finished in November), bringing me to 150% (!) of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. (I've exceeded my best-ever showing in the Goodreads Challenge since I joined in 2016 -- which was 50 books read in all of 2019.)  I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 23 (!) books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Odds & ends

  • Despite being careful about what I was eating (or so I thought), I had more gallstone issues this weekend (Saturday night) -- albeit not as bad as what I went through last weekend, and I felt better on Sunday. Yesterday was okay, albeit slightly unsettled. Counting down till I can see the doctor on Thursday...! 
    • I am not keen to have an operation to remove them, particularly now with covid still hanging around (and on the rise again...).  Aside from having my wisdom teeth out at 30, and my d&c last year (to check out my fibroids), I've never had surgery before. But if that's what it takes... (just so long as it doesn't interfere with our Christmas plans...). Life is too short, and 20 years of dealing with this, on & off, is quite enough for me...! 
  • Meanwhile, tomorrow is Little Great-Nephew's SECOND birthday!!  The family party is Saturday, but dh & I will go to see him at SIL's tomorrow (our usual day for visiting), bearing cupcakes. :)  I feel so very lucky we get to spend time with him like this (in a way that we didn't when the nephews were small, and we lived further apart and were all working). 
  • Sometimes it pays to Google yourself. :)  It's been a while since I Googled myself/this blog, and I got an interesting result recently: would you believe I found one of my posts from February 2013 cited in a paper published in a recent issue of The Feminist Philosophy Quarterly (!) -- "What Am I, a Piece of Meat? Synecdochical Utterances Targeting Women" by Amanda McMullen of the University of Arkansas. (The cited post was titled "'I'm more than just a uterus'," referring to an article I'd read -- also cited -- titled "Ask about my job, but not my uterus.")  Pretty cool. :) 
  • I've been on the phone with my sister recently, talking about Christmas and making some plans. (How is it already mid-November?? -- YIKES.)  She'd been joking about doing "double Christmas" this year to make up for last year, since Christmas 2020 was pretty much a washout for all of us -- but it's become increasingly obvious in recent years -- even without COVID-19 (still) putting a damper on things -- that my parents (now in their early 80s) simply aren't up to doing Christmas the way we used to celebrate it. 
    • There will still be (some) presents, and stockings, and baking, and Sis & I will do the turkey on Christmas Day for dinner, like we did on Thanksgiving, and we will try to share the cooking for some of the suppers while we're there (IF our controlling father -- the usual cook these days -- will let us...!) -- but for the most part, things need to be scaled back from what we've done in the past. My mother in particular finds it increasingly difficult to handle all the extra people in the house, the commotion and the upheaval to her normal routines, and as for getting out to shop for presents, extra groceries and other Christmas stuff, that was becoming difficult for her, even before COVID added an element of outright danger into the mix...!  
    • I suppose it was inevitable.  I know some people express surprise that we're "still" exchanging gifts & doing stockings, at our ages. "Christmas is for kids," right?  (NOT.) (Not only, anyway!) Maybe other people stopped doing gifts and stockings, etc., among the adults a long time ago -- but more often than not, they've had kids and now grandkids around to buy for and play Santa for, and kids and then grandkids to provide the entertainment, and eventually to host the celebrations and carry on the traditions. The buck now stops with me & my sister, and although our parents still treat us like teenagers sometimes, we are 59 & 60 -- hardly spring chickens.  I live too far away to host, and my sister's house is too small (600 square feet -- and, frankly, too cluttered) to do it. 
      • True, we've had the Little Princesses (Parents' Neighbours' Daughter's kids)  around at Christmastime the past 10 years to inject some of that kid-flavoured excitement into the holiday (and PND herself for 25+ years before that...!) -- but they have generally just come for dinner & presents on Christmas Eve, and for stockings on Christmas Day or Boxing Day (and to be honest, that's usually enough!  lol).  This year, we will probably just invite them over for brunch & stockings/presents for the kids. 
        • (By then, they will have been out of school for more than a week. It's also possible -- albeit not likely -- they may have received their first shots by then too -- approval for vaccinations for kids ages 5-11 is expected within the next week or two, which doesn't leave a lot of time before Christmas...!) 
    • Personally, I feel like Christmas would be pretty dull if we didn't have at least a few things under the tree to poke at and shake and finally open, lol. (Plus, it's one way to get my parents some of the things they need, without them putting up too much protest...!) Even last year, dh & I filled stockings for each other to open on Christmas morning -- it was mostly chocolate, scrounged up from the supermarket or drugstore (since just about everything else was locked down because of COVID-19) -- but it was something to open and munch on later and make the day just a little more special and Christmas-y. And I know my dad still gets a kick out of opening presents. So we're still doing some presents & stockings, but on a much smaller and more modest scale than in years past.  
    • It sucks that we're all getting older, and it sucks that COVID-19 is still hanging around to play Grinch and make things difficult -- but (knocking wood and crossing all crossables...) we'll be together again, and that will be the best present of all, I think...! :) 
  • Potential monkey wrench in our plans for Christmas: dh has been called for jury duty, starting next Monday!! (Nov. 29th)  It's not actual jury duty, not yet;  he needs to report to the regional courthouse (which is a half-hour drive from here) as part of a panel, and potential members of juries for upcoming cases may be drawn from that panel. 
    • Our flights have been booked, and that may be enough for him to be excused, or at least have his service deferred to a future date. I will provide him with copies of our itinerary & payment receipts to show the people in charge. 
    • I also can't imagine there would be too many trials (assuming he got selected to serve on a jury) scheduled to run over Christmastime, right? 
    • I received a questionnaire in the mail four years ago to determine whether I was eligible for jury duty here, but (so far...!) have not been called. 
    • Similar to dh, I was summoned to report for jury duty in our old community/region back in 2015 -- but the panel was cancelled and I was excused just a few days before I had to report.   

Monday, November 15, 2021

#MicroblogMondays: Things I haven't done since the pandemic began

(i.e., since before March 2020) 
  • Seen a movie at the theatre/cineplex (something we both loved to do, pre-pandemic). 
  • Eaten out, at a restaurant (inside or on a patio in the summer) or in a food court. (Ditto above.) 
    • On the plus side, vaccine passports are now in effect for these locations -- but on the minus side, capacity restrictions were recently lifted... (plus there are reports that many places have not been diligent about checking for vaccine status). 
    • We have ordered takeout just about every week. 
  • Had a manicure or pedicure. (Love them, but they're not absolutely necessary to my sense of well-being in the same way that a regular haircut is...!) 
  • Had my eyebrows tinted &/or waxed. 
  • Seen my family doctor in person (he was not taking most in-person appointments until just recently). (But I will be seeing him later this week, about my gallstone issues.)  
    • I did see the office's medical assistant back in August when I had gout in my big toe. 
  • Taken public transit. 
  • Been back to downtown Toronto. 
  • Visited the nearby art gallery where I have a membership. (But I'm hoping to remedy that soon.) 
  • Been to the local library. 
    • The library book club I belonged to has resumed meeting, but it's  it's virtual, and includes all the book clubs from all the other library outlets in the region. I've found a couple of other online book clubs to fill that gap in my life during the pandemic, and so far, I've passed on joining this one. 
  • Seen any of dh's aunts, uncles or cousins, aside from the cousins we spent the cottage weekend with in September. 
    • BIL has invited dh & a couple of the guy cousins on their mom's side to get together at their house on Friday night. Pre-COVID, they were making an effort to go out for dinner together a couple of times a year, after years of being absorbed in work and raising their families. Depending on what SIL is going to do -- hang around or hide out in the basement, lol -- I may tag along. (Or not. I'm still a little hesitant about group gatherings, even when everyone's fully vaccinated.)  They're all great guys, and I miss them too. 
  • Seen any friends (other than through Zoom calls). 
    • My former boss, office bestie and & I have had an annual pre-Christmas lunch in late November/December ever since the first one of us retired in 2006... except for last year. We have a Zoom call scheduled for later this week, and we'll discuss whether lunch is in the cards this year. I suspect not. 
Things I've only done on a very limited basis since this past summer: 

  • Been to the mall (briefly, twice).   
  • Visited with stepMIL & her family (once, in August, before her grandson went back to school). 
  • Seen my parents & sister (once, in October -- we would normally have been there in summer 2020, Christmas 2020 and summer 2021 -- hoping to return this Christmas!). 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

"Widowland" by C.J. Carey

Earlier this summer, my Gateway Women/NoMo book club announced several upcoming selections. November's was "Widowland" by C.J. Carey (who also writes as Jane Thynne). I immediately started looking for it -- only to discover it was nowhere to be found in Canada, in any format. :(  Eventually, I was able to order a hardback/paper copy via Amazon.com (U.S.), which was shipped from Britain and landed in my mailbox right at the beginning of November. (I have since learned that e-pub versions will be available in Canada through Kobo, and paperback/Kindle versions in the U.S.... in August 2022!!)   

I'm glad I went for the hardcover/paper version now. :)  (For one thing, that fabulous cover!!) I was intrigued by the premise of this book as soon as I learned about it. I've always enjoyed alternative history/dystopian fiction, particularly with a "what if the Nazis won the Second World War?" angle -- I still find myself thinking about Robert Harris's "Fatherland," some 30 years after I first read it. 

"Widowland" is kind of like "Fatherland" crossed with Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale." In this telling, Britain capitulated to/formed an "alliance" with Germany in 1940 and has been operating under a Nazi "Protectorate." Most able-bodied men have been rounded up and sent to labour camps, and the women have been classified according to age, heritage, reproductive status and physical characteristics, which determines where they live, the rations they receive, the clothes they wear, the kind of work they do, etc. At the top of the pecking order are the most pure and beautiful, the "Gelis" (named for Hitler's beloved niece). Also highly ranked: the "Klaras" -- fertile mothers of at least four children. The lowest of the low (just guess!!) are the "Friedas" -- childless widows/women over 50, who do menial labour, receive subsistence-level rations, and are relegated to live in the dilapitated, fenced-off slums of "Widowland." 

It's April 1953, and the country is abuzz about the upcoming coronation -- not of Queen Elizabeth II (who, as Princess Elizabeth in 1940, disappeared, along with her parents and sister, shortly after the German takeover), but of King Edward VIII and his American divorcee wife, Wallis Simpson. Not only that, but the Leader himself (i.e., Hitler) is coming to Britain for the first time for the occasion. 

Rosalind "Rose" Ransom is a "Geli," who works at the Ministry of Culture, editing classic works by the likes of "degenerate" authors such as Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte to make their heroines more submissive and acceptable to the new regime. After hours, she's the reluctant mistress of her SS boss (who is married, with a wife and children back in Germany). She's 29 years old, and the clock is ticking before her lack of a husband and children will make her subject to reclassification. 

One morning, she is summoned to the commissioner's office: subversive graffiti, in the form of quotations from now mostly forgotten female authors ("Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it and there will be an end to blind obedience" -- Mary Wollstonecraft;  “Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” -- Virginia Woolf), painted in large bright red letters, has been popping on public buildings around the country. The prime suspects are the inhabitants of Widowland:  they remember "the Time Before," they know the literature -- and they have little to fear, because they have so little to lose. Rose is  tasked with interviewing some of the residents of Widowland to identify suspects before the Leader arrives for the Coronation. What she learns from these women changes her life -- and, possibly, the course of history. 

As I said, I was intrigued by the premise of this book, and once I started reading it, I gobbled up the 400 pages (of well spaced, large type) in a little more than two days. (It would likely have been less, but I wasn't feeling well and went to bed early on two nights.) It's derivative -- there have been other "what if Hitler won the war" novels & films -- but this dystopian premise, combined with feminism, childlessness and the subversive power of literature is a potent mixture and highly thought provoking. It's well written and entertaining. All the action takes place in under three weeks' time, leading up to the Coronation, and each chapter is dated, adding an increasing sense of urgency and tension that leads to the final climactic pages. 

I debated on whether to give this 4 or 5 stars on Goodreads. I settled on 4.5, rounded up to 5, because I really enjoyed it and it kept me turning the pages. My one (small) issue with the book, I think, is that Widowland itself actually plays a rather small role in the book (albeit a critical one) -- despite the title, this is really Rose's story. I would have loved to have seen more of it and of the lives of the Friedas.  

Our discussion for this book will be taking place in late November/early December -- at an ungodly hour in North America (5 a.m.!), lol.  But I'm tempted to set my alarm, because I'm itching to hear what others had to say about it!  

This was Book #53 read to date in 2021 (and Book #2 finished in November), bringing me to 147% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. (I've exceeded my best-ever showing in the Goodreads Challenge since I joined in 2016 -- which was 50 books read in all of 2019.)  I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 23 (!) books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

*** *** *** 

A couple of passages that I bookmarked:  
'I've always wondered why the Leader hasn't come here before,' [Rose] said. 'I mean, it's been thirteen years since the Alliance was formed and he's never visited England.' 

'He's like that,' said Martin shortly. 'He was enchanted by Paris before we took it. He possessed a giant scale model of the city and he would spend hours discussing it with his architect, Speer. What he would do with the place. What he would build. Then the country was taken and you know how many times he visited?' 

Rose shook her head. 

'Once. Just once. In 1940. And he stayed just sixteen hours. Long enough to visit the opera house and the Eiffel Tower. He said he'd seen everything he needed. It was all inside his head.' 
*** *** *** 
'The Party hates writing for the same reason they hate reading. Because it involves being alone, in contact with an unfettered human imagination. That's why they fear it.' 

'I don't quite understand why I do it.' 

'Why does anyone write? Because all our lives are heading for the night. By writing we preserve our brief snatch of life. Like placing a star in the darkness of the past.' 
*** *** *** 
'...I haven't spoken to [my father] properly since that last telephone call in 1940. He urged me to come to New York as soon as I could. I thought he was overreacting. There was no way the Alliance would last. As it happened, plenty in the regime agreed with me.' 

He gave a dry laugh. 

'The fact is the authorities couldn't believe how smoothly it went here. They expected a long, hard-fought resistance, and instead they found the population was mostly placid. People liked the idea of a strong leader -- they didn't much care what the leader stood for. What citizens wanted above all things was a quiet life. They didn't mind shrinking their horizons. They didn't object to not travelling, as long as nobody else was travelling either. They wanted an orderly life, with everyone knowing their place. Plenty of rules, the more of them the better. So that's what they got. The British didn't feel like collaborators, they felt like victims. And that's always much more comfortable.' 

Monday, November 8, 2021

#MicroblogMondays: Things I don't like

 (A variation on my "annoying things" posts... Taking my cue from a recent post by Mali!)  

  • Changing the clock, twice a year (as we just did...!)(sunset tonight around 5 p.m.... ugh!!). 
  • Mushrooms. (Although I don't mind a mushroom-flavoured sauce, or cream of mushroom soup in casseroles, etc... I just pick out the little mushroom pieces, lol.)  
  • Coconut. 
  • Nuts in baked goods or candy (for the most part). (Ground almonds for Italian amaretti cookies, OK, lol.) 
  • Snakes. I can't even look at pictures of them!
  • Trying and failing to balance my chequebook -- especially when I'm just 10 cents out (as I was the last time I did it...!) 
    • Realizing that I'm probably one of the last people left in the world who still tracks their cheques and debits in an account register, AND balances it regularly...!  
  • Being reminded of my age when my knees ache (as they do more & more often these days...). 
  • Dealing with gallstones (as I was doing, again, this past weekend...!). :( 
  • Having to put on long pants, socks and a jacket again when we go out, as well as slippers and/or socks inside the house. 
  • Day after day of grey, gloomy, drizzly skies :(  (albeit today is clear & sunny!). 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Saturday, November 6, 2021

"The Storyteller" by Dave Grohl

By the time Nirvana hit the big time in the early 1990s, I was in my 30s and absorbed in my work in the corporate world, my marriage, home ownership, and musing over when the "right" time would be to start a family. I still listened to the radio, but I was starting to lose touch with what was considered popular, and I'd kind of left things like punk/grunge bands and combat boots and mosh pits behind me. 

I knew who Nirvana was, of course (you couldn't miss "Smells Like Teen Spirit," the song or the video, if you were around back then) and I even knew enough about the band to remark to dh that we were passing through Kurt Cobain's hometown, when a road trip from my great-aunt's home near Seattle to the Oregon coast in 1993 took us through Aberdeen, Washington... but I can't say I was a big fan or follower. (I actually like/appreciate their music more these days than I did back then.) 

Likewise, when Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl formed a new band called Foo Fighters in the aftermath of Cobain's 1994 suicide, I was aware of it (that weird name...!), but didn't really follow them that closely. Until just a few years ago, I probably couldn't have named or hummed any of their songs to you. I think I gradually became aware of Grohl as a personality, before the Foo Fighters' music. I saw him interviewed several times, and heard other rock stars talk about him. I read some of the articles he's written -- including one of several he's done for The Atlantic, about public school teachers (his mom was one of them). (She wrote her own book before he did, interviewing other rock stars' moms. I'd love to read that one too!)  He impressed me as being funny and thoughtful and eloquent -- and, at times, hilariously profane. :) The more I heard about and from him, the more I liked the guy. 

And then I heard he'd written a book as a project to keep himself occupied during the pandemic.  

"The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music" is not a memoir in the usual narrative sense ("and then this happened..."). It unfolds more or less chronologically, but it's more like a series of short stories/vignettes from Grohl's life, making it very easy to dip in & out of.  (I bought this one and Stevie Van Zandt's "Unrequited Infatuations" on the same day, and it was a toss-up as to which book I would read first. Dave won!) 

I strongly suspected, the minute I heard about this book, that I was going to love it -- and the minute I opened the first page and started reading, I KNEW I was going to love it.  

I did. :) 

The book covers his childhood (in a typical 1970s suburban neighbourhood in Virginia, near Washington, D.C.), early musical experiences (he used to go to jazz clubs with his mom, and a cousin took him to a club in Chicago to see a punk rock band when he was 13), Scream (his first band), Nirvana, Foo Fighters, marriage and fatherhood (three daughters, now aged 7 to 15) and more. Some of the stories are poignant, some hilarious. Along the way, there are cameo appearances by/anecdotes about the likes of Iggy Pop, former President George W. Bush, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Neil Young, AC/DC... "Bedtime Stories with Joan Jett,"  anyone??   

And yes, he writes about the death of Kurt Cobain -- but also about the similarly premature death of his friend Jimmy Swanson, turning the chapter into a lovely meditation on surviving grief and loss.  

Nirvana/Foo Fighter/Grohl fans will love this book, I'm sure -- but if you grew up in the 1970s, or if you like music, or memoirs, or just plain old great writing, you should pick it up too. It's a fabulous read!  (As I said, I knew I was going to love it. I did!) 

I would also recommend that you follow Grohl's Instagram account "Dave's True Stories" for more great stories, including some that didn't make it into the book.  

5 stars 

This was Book #52 read to date in 2021 (and Book #1 finished in November), bringing me to 144% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. (I've exceeded my best-ever showing in the Goodreads Challenge since I joined in 2016 -- which was 50 books read in all of 2019.)  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, November 5, 2021

Odds & ends on a Friday night

  • We're still on a bit of a high from spending Halloween with Little Great-Nephew last weekend.  It was such a nice, fun, family time. It felt good to be included. 
    • I'll admit I felt a little funny taking all the photos (and then watching the door and handing out the candy while LGN went trick or treating with his parents, while BIL watched TV and SIL tended to the dog). BIL & SIL stayed inside while dh & I headed outside to take photos of Older Nephew, his wife and LGN sitting among the pumpkins on their doorstep (with their cameras & ours), before they set off for LGN's very first trick-or-treating. I couldn't quite understand it... if I was fortunate enough to have a grandchild (and especially one as adorable as LGN, lol), my camera would be out ALL THE TIME, never mind on such a milestone occasion as his first Halloween as a trick-or-treater.  
    • Then I figured, "Well, BIL & SIL both have phones/cameras too -- nobody's stopping them from coming outside to take pictures too! -- or even just to watch!"  
      • And I also realized that they probably figure they don't HAVE to take photos, since they know I always do (and I always share my best photos -- in our family text group, since I've been asked not to share them on social media... )
        • (That's a story that I thought I'd told here -- but I did a search and eventually found the post I was looking for... in my drafts folder, lol.  It's kind of a long & slightly ridiculous tale (shades of junior high, IMHO...), and it's not entirely my story to tell, which is why I hesitate to post it. Let's just say I respect the wishes of the person doing the asking, although there's another person behind the request that I have some issues with...!)(The parents are fine with me sharing, btw.)   
        • (I will say this, though: As a childless woman and very proud aunt & great-auntie, I have to ask:  Who do I get to show off??  When is it my turn??  Why do moms & grandmas get to have all the fun??)   
  • Cute kid story, recording for posterity (a proud great-auntie is entitled once in a while, isn't she?):  Dh & I went to see LGN at SIL's house this week, as we usually do. We took him for a walk with his wagon -- he rode to the park in it, and then pulled or pushed it or just walked (while dh pulled it) on the way home. 
    • All along the way, people either still had their jack o'lanterns on their doorsteps, or had set them out for the recycling/compost truck to pick up. LGN would excitedly point to each one as we passed by and say "Hockey! hockey!!"  lol  (Only he pronounced it "Ockey! Ockey!")  We first heard him do this at home, pointing to a jack o'lantern wall hanging.  The pumpkin face kind of DOES look like an old-fashioned goalie's mask...!  (How very Canadian of him, eh?  lol) 
  • There's been an uptick in new COVID-19 cases in Ontario over the past week... not a huge leap (yet), but noticeable. (Sigh.) This news comes almost exactly two weeks after capacity limits were lifted on all public gatherings, in restaurants, bars, gyms, etc.  Coincidence?  (One other possible factor: the weather has turned colder, sending more people to gather indoors.) 
  • This is going to sound judgmental (okay, it IS judgmental...!), but I'm getting SO tired of dancing around other people's blase attitudes and downright carelessness about COVID.  I know we're all sick and tired of pandemic life and restrictions, but we're never going to beat this thing (or at least get it under control) if people don't be more careful and take precautions, even if they're fully vaccinated. A couple of recent examples that have me feeling irritated/exhausted: 
    • There was a sudden death in dh's extended family, just before we left on our trip out west. (65 years old, suspected heart attack.) Can I admit? I was secretly quite relieved that we were away for the funeral... because that entire branch of the family is not vaccinated. (BIL & SIL attended, and went to a family lunch afterwards at a private home ( = masks not required), but even BIL admitted he didn't feel comfortable being around so many people, unmasked, especially knowing some of them were not vaccinated.)  
    • Dh & I got both flu shots & haircuts back in our old community this morning. We really like our stylist (which is why we keep going to her, despite the distance), and she is always careful about COVID protocols herself (her young daughter has severe asthma) -- but I am not always comfortable about the new salon where she started working this summer. The owner has rarely kept her mask on whenever I've been there, and the client of another stylist was not masked either today (in violation of provincial rules). (Vaccination status of both unknown.) 
      • Fortunately, there were only three stylists working (including the owner) and three clients when we were there (dh waited in the car while I had my hair cut, and then vice versa), and the salon is spacious enough to allow for lots of distancing between chairs. 
    • LGN's 2nd birthday is coming up, and there is going to be a family party. It should be something we're looking forward to -- and we are. BUT:  
      • One invitee is sick right now. With a very bad "cold". (We think. We hope.) This person has been double-vaxxed, but we all think/hope they should get tested before coming to the party -- especially since the guest of honour is too young to be vaccinated. So far, they haven't. 
      • Another invitee has not been vaccinated. We're secretly hoping they will do the right thing and not come. (I like this person, but if they do come, I will be keeping my distance...!) 
  • As I mentioned in another recent post, I've been spending some time over the past few weeks cleaning up my laptop files, ever since my sister's partner managed to retrieve the ones from my previous (dead) laptop and consolidate them with the ones on my current laptop. I've been deleting a lot of duplicate and no-longer-wanted old emails in my main email account, as well as my Gmail account. I don't use that one very often, but I still had four years worth of mostly unread Google Alerts and marketing emails piled up, which I deleted en masse...! 
  • My on-and-off digestive issues/gallstones?/whatever it is has reared its/their ugly head again this past week or so   :(  (which is probably one reason why I'm a little cranky tonight, lol). Sitting here on the couch with a heating pad and brewing a cup of chamomile tea, having just popped a couple of ibuprofen and applied some essential oils -- all of which seem to help. (Sometimes.) Send healthy/healing vibes, please!  

Thursday, November 4, 2021

"Lori, what does it mean to be a “real mom” at work?"

You all can imagine my reaction when I checked my email this afternoon and saw a message from LinkedIn. THIS was the header:  

"Lori, what does it mean to be a “real mom” at work?" 

Needless to say, my jaw dropped.  (Like, "Why the *%$!! are you asking ME?!!")  

Here's what the message said (sender's name omitted):  

Hi Lori,

My name is.... and I'm an editor at LinkedIn News. We often reach out to LinkedIn members who we think can add informed perspectives on the day’s news and trends.

Amid takeover threats from activist investors and transforming PepsiCo’s soda-driven brand into a health-focused company, CEO Indra Nooyi faced different, yet important, battles at home. At one point, her youngest daughter looked at her and said she wished Nooyi could be a “real mom.”

Now I want to hear from you: As a working parent, how do your children view your relationship with work? How do you explain to them the demands of your job when they compete with your children’s needs? If you are not a parent, how do you see this dynamic impacting your colleagues? And lastly, how does the definition of a "real mom" who works need to change?

Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment on this article where others are also weighing in. 

Thanks and I look forward to reading your response.

I clicked over to her LinkedIn post, which read (a slight expansion on the email): 

Amid takeover threats from activist investors and changing Pepsi’s soda-driven brand into a health-focused company, Indra Nooyi faced smaller, yet important, battles at home. At one point, her youngest daughter looked at her and said she wished Nooyi could be a “real mom.” Of course, her mostly male CEO peers faced similar challenges, but those are rarely discussed. Nooyi, now 66, says that needs to change. 

“Men got a bye in all of this, and the woman was considered primary for family management,” she said. “We’re at a point now where men and women have to work together and say female and family are two definitions…. Don’t just equate female with family.”

As the daughter of a single working mother, I hate to admit that I too — at least once — begged my mom to be a "real mom." Now, I want to hear from you: As a working parent, how do your children view your relationship with work? How do you explain to them the demands of your job when they get in the way of the demand of their lives? If you are in a dual-income relationship, do you find your children view you and your partners' careers differently? And lastly, how does the definition of a "real mom" need to change? Let me know in the comments below #WorkingTogether

There was a link to an article and an interview with Indra Nooyi, expanding further on the themes outlined in the post and the email. 

Well, what do you know -- one of the first responses I read said: 

While this is a great article, the email I received prompting me to view it and contribute to it stated that LinkedIn knew I was a parent when I do not have any children. I am not a working parent and I think how ever you came to the conclusion that I am is probably violating the permissions I set to share my data with LinkedIn. It is also not wise to assume or ask people’s parental status in a blanket statement as people can be dealing with fertility issues, the death of a child, or other characteristics that LinkedIn doesn’t need to ask about.

Below it, another woman said, "This is exactly what I came here to say. Thank you!" 

(In a little more than an hour after I received the email, the post received 240 comments. I saw a few others that also challenged the assumption that everyone receiving and reading it was a mom -- "real" or otherwise.) 

I added my own response below hers. (Well, she ASKED for my response...!) I understood that people in my network might see it, but I was, to put it mildly, a little hot under the collar ;) (and hey, I'm retired anyway...!).  This is what I said: 

Thank you, I came here about to say the same thing. My jaw dropped when I saw the question at the top of the email I received "What does it mean to be a real mom at work?" I am not and never was a "real mom" or a working parent; my only child was stillborn 6 months into my one and only pregnancy (and I'm not even working; my employer downsized me out of my job 7 years ago and I am now retired).

I do note the question further on in the email, "If you are not a parent, how do you see this dynamic impacting your colleagues?" Ummm, nice try at inclusion, but I would say this question is rather misguided. Why not ask me about my own experience being affected by this dynamic as a non-mother in the workplace? Your question still assumes that parenthood is the "norm" and the only reality that matters, and ignores the experience of being non-parents in a highly pronatalist world -- an experience shared by approximately 20% of women in the developed world today (and a number that is growing rapidly) -- some of us by choice, but many of us not, for a broad variety of reasons.

As Indra Nooyi herself said above in your post, "Don’t just equate female with family." (Please and thank you.)

I've seen several complaints about the growing pronatalism on LinkedIn recently on some of the childless/free forums where I hang out. I set up my profile as part of my outplacement counselling, and connected with a few former colleagues and other contacts there, but rarely hang out there -- but my understanding is that, in an effort to encourage people to be their "authentic" selves in the workplace, it's becoming increasingly like Facebook and Instagram, with proud parents posting photos of their kids, etc.  In other words, it's becoming yet one more space online where non-parents don't feel like they belong. 

Did you get the email? What do you think?? Did I over-react? 

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

I hate(d) November

I recently started following Zoe Clarke-Coates on Instagram... she runs Saying Goodbye in the UK, which (among other things) organizes remembrance services for anyone who has lost a much-wanted baby (even if he/she only existed in your heart). 

(Have any of you ever been to one of their services? I am not in the UK so obviously, I have not -- but I have been to holiday candlelighting services sponsored by the pregnancy loss support group my dh & I attended and later volunteered for, and they were SO helpful... it was lovely to carve out some quiet time during a busy holiday season filled with happy families and a focus on joy joy joy to remember our little girl in the company of others who were remembering similar losses.)  

Anyway -- I bookmarked this post when I saw it because it had so much personal resonance for me.(Apologies to longtime readers, for whom this post will be a bit of a rehash of things I've written about previously here on this blog... but it still felt good to write it all out again...!) 

Nov. 14th was my original due date for my ill-fated pregnancy in 1998 -- although it got pushed further and further back, before my pregnancy ultimately ended at 26 weeks in early August. 

I was so looking forward to her November birthday, for all the usual/obvious reasons anyone looks forward to welcoming a baby into their lives -- but also for a few specific personal ones. November has never been one of my favourite months -- it's generally dark and cold and dreary in my part of the world, and the only reason it comes second to February in my estimation is because there's Christmas to look forward to, lol. When I told my mother I was pregnant and that I was due in November, her first ecstatic words were, "A baby for Christmas!"  (Ouch. That one still hurts... :(  ) 

Also, my company's year-end was October 31st -- and I was part of the team that worked on the annual report. The finance department took care of the financials, but we looked after the pretty pictures and words at the front of the book, and made sure all the facts and spelling were correct, and all the necessary executive and board signoffs were received, etc.  We were also responsible, at least in some significant ways, for our corporate social responsibility report (another important annual reporting document) and the annual meeting, usually held sometime in March/April. I always managed to take at least a few days off at Christmastime to be with my family in Manitoba (thankfully!) -- but generally, October, November & December (and the first few months of the new year) were an extremely busy and stressful time at my office. I was VERY much looking forward to a reprieve that year!!  

Instead, I found myself returning to work that year in mid-October, right around the time that the year-end stuff was heating up. I worked in that department for that company for almost 28 years and I worked on every single annual report during that time, as well as those other year-end activities. Every year for the next 16 (!) years after my loss, November 1st came like a slap in the face, reminding me of my unfulfilled due date and the maternity leave I never got to take. Plus, I never felt like I really had the chance to enjoy the leadup to Christmas the way most people did or the way I wanted to. I came to REALLY resent it whenever November 1st rolled around, and when I started blogging, I wrote an annual post every November titled/themed/tagged "I hate November," lol. It was generally the same whine, year after year (and this post continues that "tradition," lol...!), but it felt good to vent. 

Then I lost my job in 2014 and subsequently retired -- happily, in the summertime, before work on the annual report started that year, lol. I have to admit, the "I hate November" posts have trailed off since then. Leaving the stresses of work behind me has been a huge part of it, I'm sure. But the passage of time generally has also played a role, as has doing my "grief work" with the help of online and real-life friends & support groups. As the years have passed, the raw grief over my unfulfilled due date and childless Christmases has ebbed somewhat, as I've had more time to mourn and also to enjoy the other fun & beautiful things the Christmas/holiday season has to offer.  

I don't know how you all feel about November -- I am sure there are other months that have the same kind of personal resonance for you. But I wanted to take some time today to acknowledge that, whether you were ever expecting a baby that was due in November, or any other time of the year, the next few months can be difficult for those of us who have lost babies -- and especially for those of us who don't have any living children to focus on during a very child and family-centric holiday season. Be kind to yourselves!  ❤

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

If you think you're "useless," then what am I??

Even if you were not born in 1961 (as I was) and turned or are turning 60 this year, please do yourself a huge favour and click over to read this absolutely gorgeous meditation by Margaret Renkl of the New York Times on what it means to be turning 60 at this particular time in history.  There were so many points that I could personally relate to -- and the writing is exquisite.

*** *** *** 

Now -- I decided I had to flag the story on this blog as soon as I finished reading it... but then I went to the comments (yes, I went there, lol...!) -- and found a whole new issue to blog about!  lol (Maybe even issues, plural!) 

For one thing, I found it kind of amusing/eyerolling how so many of the comments latched onto Renkl's observations about aging. Many people seemed to interpret her beautiful essay only as a lament for her youth (and an opportunity to lament their own, lol), latching onto the part where she wrote, "The only trouble with being born in 1961 is that in 2021 you will turn 60, something I did last week... Sixty is the point at which people must admit they are no longer middle-aged." 

Well, yes, that was part of it -- but not all of it. There was also this, a little further down:  "On most days I am simply grateful for the 60 years I’ve had... Sorrow in the face of aging would be a poor response to such good fortune." And there's so much more in there than just a conversation about the pros and cons of aging, despite what the commenters picked up on. 

*** *** ***

Then there was this -- the very first comment flagged as a "NYT Pick", from Ronald in New Jersey (presented here in its entirety):  

Our kids grew up, finished college, moved out, there is no more need for me. I've become useless.   

I was surprised -- not only to find such a comment featured so prominently, but also that it came from a man. Maybe this is sexist of me, but isn't this usually the thing you hear from a mom whose nest has just become empty? 

Anyway, if that's not pronatalism at work, I don't know what is. Think about it -- if this MAN thinks that his life is meaningless without his kids around, just imagine what it's like to be a WOMAN in this society who has wanted a child but never been able to have one in her life at all...! 

Last time I looked, the comments had closed, but Ronald's comment had 28 responses. Some were sympathetic:  young people told Ronald that they still rely on their parents' wisdom. Others reassured Ronald that his children still needed him. Some said they too were empty nesters, and they survived.  There were many suggestions on how Ronald could fill his now-freed-up time (volunteer! find a hobby!! get a dog!! -- hmmm, why does this all sound so familiar??)  

While I recognize the grief involved in finding yourself with a child-sized hole in your life to fill, I nevertheless found myself nodding at some of the less sympathetic responses -- some more diplomatically phrased than others, but basically telling Ronald to "get off your butt and get a life." (Which perhaps demonstrates just how far I've come in mourning that child-sized hold in my own life.) Here are a few examples: 

  • There's this one from ITReader in Massachussetts, who said, "I never had kids (by choice). I;ve lived my life for myself, on my own terms. I certainly don't feel useless! (@65)."  (And a response from LaGrange in California: "I prevalently find that people without children have a much broader understanding of humans and humanity and life in general. Good for you.") 
  • Yvonne in Bethesda, Maryland: "Nonsense. Your life is now your own to do with what you will."  
  • Diane Curry in Nevada said in part, "What a sad commentary on life and yourself. You have so much more to experience." 
  • Leslie in California: "As a fellow empty nester for several years, I can say that it's hard but it gets easier...  My retirement (due to hours cuts) coincided pretty closely with the start of the pandemic, so I was really adrift.  But I got through it & am still doing so - as can you.  We aren't completely defined by our kids; we had lives before we had them!  :-) "

I recognize this man has the right to grieve the loss, if not of his children (because he hasn't really lost them, has he?), then of their ongoing presence and of a significant chapter in his life that's now ended. But (without knowing the fuller details of his story) I can't feel too terribly sorry for him. He's had the benefit of children -- multiple/plural! -- in his life for a minimum of 18 years, and presumably he still has them around for at least the occasional holiday and/or weekend. The odds are pretty good that he'll become a grandfather someday, and that his kids and grandkids will provide him with at least some companionship and assistance and care as he ages. 

Meanwhile, my childless peers and I have never had the children that we had hoped for, planned for, dreamed about for years and years, until the realization finally sank in that they were not going to materialize. As I've observed before, we actually have a lot in common with empty nesters, because our hopefully crafted nests have always been empty. We just had a head start on working through our grief and figuring out what to do next with the rest of our lives, once it became obvious that parenting was not going to be in the cards for us (nevermind becoming a grandparent...).  

I'll give the (almost) last word to Magpie in Baltimore, who wrote, "If you're serious, then it's heartbreaking that you feel this way. If you're joking, that may be worse. How do you explain the relative utility of those of us who did not choose to procreate?" 

I could not resist adding a comment of my own (replying to Magpie). This is what I said (as loribeth, Ontario, Canada): 

I also turned 60 this year.  

@magpie  "How do you explain the relative utility of those of us who did not choose to procreate?"  Some of us hoped to procreate but were not able to do so, for a variety of complex reasons. You can imagine how comments like Ronald's make us feel.  

@Ronald, you were able to enjoy the company of your children for a minimum of 18 years -- and presumably they still call or Zoom or come around once in a while on holidays and such. You may even have the pleasure of grandchildren to look forward to someday.  By all means, mourn the fact that that period of your life is over -- but please recognize just how fortunate you have been (and still are), and how much more there is in life to enjoy -- just as so many of us have had to learn to do when our lives haven't turned out the way we imagined, in the complete absence of the children we once thought/hoped/assumed we would have.  

So far, my comment has been "recommended" 13 times. 

What do you think? Am I being too harsh? 

Monday, November 1, 2021

#MicroblogMondays: A happy Halloween :)

We never got to see our two nephews on Halloween when they were growing up (although I always brought them treats whenever we saw them around that time). We lived an hour away, and (unless Halloween happened on a Friday or Saturday night), we had to get up for work early the next morning. Moreover, BIL & SIL never invited us to come over -- but we never thought anything of it. I suppose we all assumed that we would be having our own kids soon and would get our share of Halloween fun then. 

But by the time we were done ttc (20 years ago), the nephews were pre-teens;  by the time my grief had subsided enough that I could (mostly) enjoy spending Halloween with them, they were teenagers, and had aged out of trick-or-treating. The window of opportunity had closed. 

For years, at our house, we handed out candy to the trick-or-treaters at our door, smiling at their cuteness and excitement, while wistfully wondering what our daughter would have been wearing and whether she'd be heading out with the Little Girl Next Door, who was born six months after she was due. It was bittersweet -- but I still enjoyed being part of things, albeit somewhat on the fringes.

Then, five years ago, we moved to our condo, where we don't get any trick-or-treaters at all. We went from being on the fringes to being totally shut out. Halloween, for us, became a non-event. (That didn't feel any better than being on the fringes; in fact, it felt worse.)

Then came last night. :) 

Older Nephew and his wife asked BIL & SIL if they would make the trip up to their new home to hand out candy (and keep the dog from going bonkers whenever the doorbell rang, lol) while they took Little Great-Nephew out for trick-or-treating for the very first time -- and they asked us if we wanted to come too. Dh initially said no (!) -- I suppose that (like me), he was hesitate to impose on a family event -- but hey, we're family too, right? -- and so when BIL asked again, he said yes. 

Cutest little trick-or-treater ever. <3 
(Baby Yoda/"The Child" costume, in case you can't tell, lol.) 
I'm not sure who had the most fun. (Okay, it was us, lol.)  We picked up some fast-food fried chicken en route there for an early supper. Both Older Nephew and his wife adore Halloween, and they had half a dozen jack o'lanterns carved and lining their doorstep, among other decorations. Older Nephew wore a hockey jersey and his wife wore a headband with tiger ears. 

"[Little Great-Nephew], do you want to go outside?" they asked. "Outside?" said LGN, making a beeline for the door. In true Canadian fashion, his mom slipped his costume on overtop of his winter jacket, lol.  It just fit. Dh & I took photos of the three of them sitting on the doorstep with the pumpkins before they set out. At one point, keeping a watchful eye out for trick-or-treaters at the door, I saw them walking up the driveway at the neighbour's house across the street, LGN carrying his own pail of treats. I called BIL over to the window to watch too. :)  They returned an hour later, the parents beaming with pride and LGN bouncing off the walls with excitement, even though he hadn't had any sugar (aside from part of a pre-outing cupcake), lol.  

I am still smiling this morning. :) 

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

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: October was Month #19 going on 20 of living with the COVID-19 pandemic.  Daily new case numbers last month in Ontario bounced around between a  high of 668 on Oct. 1st and a low of 269 on Oct. 26th (out of a population of about 14 million). Yesterday (Oct. 31st), there were 340 new cases and 2 deaths. 223 of those cases were confirmed in people who were not fully vaccinated, or whose vaccination status was unknown, and 117 were fully vaccinated. 

We're obviously not at zero yet -- this pandemic is not over! -- but the numbers have remained relatively stable/manageable for the past few months -- even with school starting in September, and the (Canadian) Thanksgiving holiday long weekend earlier this month. We're far below our pandemic peak of more than 4.800 new cases in one day in mid-April, and we've been doing much lately than some of the other Canadian provinces (Alberta and Saskatchewan in particular). 

The general consensus seems to be that Ontario's (relative) success can be attributed to our (relatively) high vaccination rates (and more recently, proof of vaccination requirements), combined with ongoing mask mandates in public places, which have never been dropped or loosened. Overall, our COVID-19 restrictions here in Ontario have been consistently among the most stringent in Canada (and probably all of North America)(-- albeit our provincial government has often been slow & reluctant to implement them...!).  Most things are open again, but with capacity restrictions and mask requirements in most indoor public settings (until very recently) and, since Sept. 22nd, proof of vaccination is required in many public places considered "high risk."  Many employers have also mandated vaccines for their employees. 

As of yesterday (Oct. 31st), 79.8% of all Canadians ( = everyone, including children under 12 who still aren't eligible for the vaccine yet -- although it's expected they will be soon) had received at least one shot, and 74.3% were fully vaccinated. Here in Ontario, 77.3% of the total population have received one dose of vaccine, and 74.1% are now fully vaccinated. (Among adults 18+ in Ontario, those figures are 88.5% and 85.0%, respectively.)  Third/booster shots are not yet being widely offered, other than for long-term care home residents, immunocompromised people, etc.  

The federal government made good on its promise to mandate vaccines for air, rail and ship passengers travelling interprovincially;  those requirements went into effect Oct. 30th. (Too late for our trip to Manitoba earlier in October, but makes me feel better about the prospect of travelling again at Christmastime!) Our borders have been open to fully vaccinated visitors from around the world since August/September, and the U.S. recently (finally!) announced it would reciprocate and reopen the land border on Nov. 8th.  After some initial uncertainty, it was announced that they would accept visitors who had been vaccinated with AstraZeneca (as dh & I and millions of other Canadians were in April), as well as "mixed" doses (ditto). We have no plans to travel to the U.S. anytime soon, but it's the principle of the thing...! (Plus -- there is still a requirement for anyone crossing the border into Canada -- including returning Canadian citizens -- to show a negative PCR test result, taken up to 72 hours before returning -- which costs $150-200, and is NOT covered by most provincial or private medical insurance (much to my American-born mother's dismay!). So we'll probably be staying home for a while yet...!)     

This past month, the Ontario government lifted capacity limits for sports events on Oct. 8th (conveniently, just in time for baseball playoffs and the start of hockey and basketball seasons...!). Then, on Oct. 22nd, they unveiled a plan to gradually lift ALL COVID-19 restrictions (including masking and vaccine passports -- just months after they were implemented) by the end of next March -- assuming, of course, that all continues to go well.  The first stage of the plan kicked off last Monday (Oct. 25th), when customer capacity limits were lifted on restaurants, bars, gyms, casinos, bingo halls and indoor events spaces. Barber shops, hair and nail salons, museums, galleries, indoor areas of amusement parks and boat tours, among others, can also lift capacity limits, IF they choose to require proof of vaccination. (Here's another article outlining the proposed timetable.) 

(Of course, we all know just how predictable (NOT) this pandemic has been and how well previous reopening plans have gone in some areas, right?  Some have pointed out that publishing a timetable like this -- one that does away with proof of vaccination requirements just a few months after they were implemented -- signals to the anti-vaxxers who make up a significant portion of the governing party's base that they only have to hang in for a little while longer and then they won't need a vaccine to resume their "normal" activities. We are also the only province so far that has set a target date to drop mask mandates. Is it a coincidence that we're due for a provincial election by next summer?? Hmm...)  


We are still staying pretty close to home, but we have been out & about a little more recently. 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 out together this month for haircuts, to the bookstore a couple of times, to the children's clothing store, to the drugstore and supermarket, and to visit Little Great-Nephew -- although we waited a week or so after our return from Manitoba, just to be on the safe side. We also got to be there when he headed out with his parents last night for his very first round of trick or treating!  (See "Enjoying & Appreciating," below!) 

(And... Yes!!  We we travelled to Manitoba for the first time in almost 22 months (!) to visit my family for a week over the (Canadian) Thanksgiving holiday. :)  We are hoping things remain stable enough that we can return for Christmas!)  

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Also right now:  

Reading: I finished 3 books in October (all reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads, & tagged "2021 books"):
This brings me to 51 books read so far in 2021 -- 142% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books (!!). (This exceeds my best-ever showing in the Goodreads Challenge since I joined in 2016 -- which was 50 books read in all of 2019.) I have now completed my challenge for the year, and am (for the moment, anyway...!) 23 (!) 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 for me to keep track of what I should read next, lol.) 
A few recently purchased titles (in both paper and digital formats, mostly discounted or purchased with points):  

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  • "The Lost Symbol" -- a new TV series adaptation of the Dan Brown novel I read earlier in the month (see above), which started here in Canada on Oct. 11th (on Showcase). So far, we've seen 3 of the 10 episodes (filmed here in the Toronto area! -- I've had fun picking out some of the locations they used). The first episode aired while we were in Manitoba, and my parents don't get that channel. Luckily, I was able to set our PVR remotely, using a cellphone app, and we caught up when we got home. :)  I think that reading the novel first has helped me better understand what's going on -- albeit the film version diverges quite a bit from the novel in some respects -- but the essential plot remains the same. 
  • Figure skating! (on CBC, NBC and online) The Grand Prix season kicked off last weekend with Skate America in Las Vegas, and continued this past weekend with Skate Canada in Vancouver. I kind of forgot the Winter Olympics are coming up in February (in Beijing)! 
Listening:  Dh spent a recent Saturday with BIL up north, doing things at Older Nephew's house, and I listened to several podcasts while he was out, including catching up on a few episodes of The Full Stop and a great recent interview with Gateway Women's Jody Day by Laura Behnke of the Life Actually podcast. 

Eating/Drinking:  We had our first crockpot roast beef dinner in quite a while last week, as chillier weather set in. Yum!! 

Buying (besides books, lol):  
  • A new/larger portable hard drive to back up my laptop (my sister's techie boyfriend ordered it from Amazon for me and brought it out to my parents' house). 
  • Halloween goodies for Little Great-Nephew. (I think he's still too young for candy, but I bought him a couple of board books, a pair of hockey-themed PJs, and a box of his favourite Bear Paw soft cookies, lol.) I also got a head start on buying his birthday presents for later this month! 
  • My Christmas cards!!  lol  They were on sale at the mega-bookstore for 30% (40% with my discount card/membership), and I figured I might as well take advantage of that and buy them early.  (Some previous years' Christmas cards spotlighted here.) Now, to actually get them DONE...! 
  • I decided to treat myself and signed up to get an "Advent calendar" from my favourite sterling silver jewelry maker -- one surprise a day for the 24 days of Advent, leading up to Christmas -- including 14 pieces of jewelry created especially for calendar customers, plus other items from  local craftspeople that she loves. It's a pricey splurge, but a bargain at less than half the full cost of paying for all 24 items individually, and I kind of kicked myself for missing out on the first one she did last year. I'm looking forward to it!  
  • Ordered a few new tops for myself from Lucky Brand (which, happily, has reopened some of its stores here in Canada AND launched an online Canadian shopping site!) and Old Navy... not that I really need them (because I never really go anywhere these days...), but it felt good to buy something new (especially because they were all on sale, lol).
Wearing: I was able to squeeze in a few more days in my yoga capris while we were at my parents' house earlier in October... ;)  -- even outside! But for the most part, I have been wearing long yoga pants around the house, long jeans outside, and socks and sometimes slippers too. 

Trying: To head off to bed a little earlier and then read a chapter or two of my current book before turning out the lights... really helps me with my reading goals!  

Wanting:  A little more sunshine. We've had the occasional sunny day with clear skies, but October, for the most part, been pretty dreary, both here and when we were in Manitoba.  :p  (Of course, November is seldom much better...!) 

Enjoying & appreciating:  Spending time with Little Great-Nephew again. Last week, Younger Nephew (currently between jobs) was there too -- the weather was glorious (after days of dark, gloom and torrential rain...!), and we all took LGN to the nearby park and had a great time together.

We also had the privilege of watching LGN head out with his parents for trick-or-treating on his very first Halloween last night! Not sure who had the most fun? (okay, it was us, lol  ;)  )  It was SO nice to be able to thoroughly enjoy this holiday -- WITH our special little guy -- instead of the grief and envy of 20-ish years ago -- and we SO appreciated being included (as I know so many other childless aunts & uncles aren't, who would like to be). 

And I enjoyed being a (virtual) part of the annual Lucy Maud Montgomery Day on Saturday, organized by the L.M. Montgomery Society of Ontario and held at historic Leaskdale church where Montgomery's husband was once the minister and where dh & I spent a memorable afternoon in August 2014, shortly after I lost my job. (Leaskdale is not terribly far away from me -- albeit I was slightly closer before we moved from our old community -- but I'm still not covid-confident enough to venture out to an all-day group gathering, and at any rate, my driving skills/confidence are pretty atrophied, so dh would have to take me...!)  As I mentioned in a post from earlier this year, I get a huge kick out of being able to hang out with Montgomery academics online and to bask in their knowledge and research. I recently joined the LMMSO and, of course, taking part in the LMM Readathon on Facebook over the past year-plus has been a great source of entertainment and comfort during this pandemic! 

Noticing:  How much earlier the darkness is setting in... already!  (And it will be darker even faster after we set our clocks back one hour next weekend, too...!_ 

Wondering: How it got to be November??!  (Which, as longtime readers know, is NOT my favourite month -- I even have a label/tag for my posts, "I hate November," lol.  But I will admit it hasn't been quite so bad since I left work and all its year-end stresses!) 

Hoping: That the current COVID-19 situation will improve (or at least stay relatively stable) to allow us to return west for Christmas with my family! 

Thinking about:  My cousins, whose dad -- my uncle/my dad's oldest brother/sibling -- passed away early Saturday morning. He was 93, and had not been well for some time, but that never makes it easier for the family, of course, and he's the first of my dad's siblings to go. His first wife -- the mother of my cousins, whom I only dimly remember -- died 55 years ago from complications delivering twins, one of whom also did not survive. :(   (He remarried several years later.)  

Cleaning up: My laptop files, after my sister's techie boyfriend was able to retrieve and restore 99.99% of the files from the hard drive of my old (ASUS) laptop, which died a horrible death in February. There were lots of duplicates created in the process (on top of the duplicates created when I bought the ASUS in July 2018 and transferred files over to that from the Toshiba that preceded it...!), and I've been busy going through everything (including a TON of old emails -- and sometimes there are two or three of each!) -- deleting, sorting, filing/re-filing... and, yes, backing up!  (Lesson learned!  lol)  I was especially happy to retrieve all my genealogy files and data, which would be very difficult to replace in their entirety! 

Loving:  The beautiful autumn colours, which seem to be peaking here right around now.  The view from our balcony/condo windows right now is lovely! 

Feeling:  SO happy & thankful that we got "home" to see my parents & sister this month!  

A little melancholy with the onset of darker/colder weather. 

At a park near BIL's house last week on a rare clear, sunny day,
with the autumn colours on glorious display as a backdrop. 
Pictured: dh & Younger Nephew (carrying Little Great-Nephew, 
who was NOT HAPPY about having to leave!! lol).