Tuesday, July 5, 2022

"An insult, not a solution"

The fallout continues from British demographer Paul Morland's opinion piece in the Sunday Times: "Should we tax the childless?"  (His answer was (naturally!) an enthusiastic yes.)  I flagged this article in my #MicroblogMondays/Odds & ends post yesterday

Thankfully, the response to his proposals has been overwhelmingly negative -- and not just from childless & childfree people. Here's a sample of things I've been reading and listening to over the past 24 hours: 
I'll keep my eye out for more. 

And if you think you don't need to pay attention to this issue because you don't live in the U.K., think again. Consider that in July 2021, would-be Republican candidate for congress J.D. Vance proposed that parents should have more voting power than childless people -- which some took further, proposing that childless people should be banned from voting all together (!). (I wrote about this here and here.) No doubt there are politicians in North America and elsewhere who will think Morland's ideas are worth implementing here too.   

Monday, July 4, 2022

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

(This is NOT exactly a "microblog" -- but it's what I've got this Monday...!)  
  • It was Canada Day on Friday (July 1st). A relatively quiet day for dh & me and, I suspect, many of our fellow citizens, despite being the first time in three years that official celebrations were being hosted on Parliament Hill in Ottawa and elsewhere across the country. (Actually, "near" Parliament Hill instead of on it, since the Centre Block of the Parliament buildings is under extensive renovation right now and the whole area is a construction zone.) 
    • Canadian have never been as ardent about waving the flag as Americans and professing their patriotism -- which does not mean we love our country any less -- we're just quieter about it. ;)  Or have been, anyway. Canada Day celebrations are a much bigger deal than they used to be when I was a kid, but I still don't think it's in quite the same league as the Fourth of July in the U.S. 
    • A couple of things have put a damper on Canada Day celebrations in recent years:  first, covid (which shut down the usual official/organized celebrations for the past two years);  second, revelations about the treatment of Indigenous children in residential schools just before Canada Day last year;  and finally, the occupation of Ottawa, our national capital, for several weeks this past winter by a bunch of flag-waving yahoos calling themselves "patriots" and demanding "freedom" and the overthrow of the federal government. 
      • This Toronto Star article captured the very mixed feelings many people had about Canada Day this year. (Margaret Renkl, in the New York Times, expressed similar sentiments about the American flag and Fourth of July this year.) 
    • (Thankfully, despite the fact that some of the convoy participants returned to Ottawa for Canada Day, it was a mostly peaceful day.)  
    • It's by no means a perfect country -- and the past few years have brought that reality home in spades. But for all its flaws, it's still a damn good one, and I would not want to live anywhere else.  :)   
  • As a Canadian, I was feeling somewhat helpless in the wake of the recent Dobbs vs Jackson decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned Roe vs Wade. Then I saw a news item (I think via Anne Helen Petersen on Twitter?) about the clinic in Fargo, North Dakota -- the only one in the state -- and the closest one to my mother's hometown in northwestern Minnesota (a two-hour drive away). It's still open for now but will likely be forced to close soon. The next-closest clinic is another four hours away in Minneapolis-St. Paul. 
    • Fortunately, Minnesota (where abortion is still legal) is right across the Red River from Fargo, in Moorhead -- and the clinic plans to move operations there. A GoFundMe will help cover the costs of moving and renovations to the new space. I happily made a donation. It's a small thing, but it made me feel a little bit better. 
    • Americans looking to Canada for abortions might find it difficult: this Washington Post article explains the limitations of the current Canadian system and the drawbacks for Americans who might want to come here. 
  • Moira Donegan's column in The Guardian, on the fall of Roe vs Wade, said it all.  Sample passage: 
The real story is the women...

The real story is about thousands of these women, not just now but for decades to come – the women, whose lives will be made smaller and less dignified by unplanned and unchosen pregnancies, the women whose health will be endangered by the long and grueling physical process of pregnancy; the women, and others, who will have to forgo dreams, end educations, curtail careers, stretch their finances beyond the breaking point, and subvert their own wills to someone else’s.

...the books that will go unwritten, the trips untaken, the hopes not pursued, and jokes not told, and the friends not met, because the people who could have lived the full, expansive, diverse lives that abortions would allow will instead be forced to live other lives, lives that are lesser precisely because they are not chosen.

The real story is the millions of women, and others, who now know that they are less free than men are – less free in the functioning of their own bodies, less free in the paths of their own lives, less free in the formation of their own families.

The real story is not this order; the real story is these people’s unfreedom – the pain it will inflict and the joy it will steal. The real story is women, and the real story is the impossible question: how can we ever grieve enough for them?
  • Katy at Chasing Creation is hosting an Instagram Live session on Thursday, July 7th at 7 p.m. Central/8 p.m. Eastern with Dr. Jay Zigmont, Certified Financial Planner and founder of Childfree Wealth. They'll be talking about financial planning when you don't have children. Details in this Instagram post
    • Dr. Zigmont just released a book on this subject! Details area available on his website -- it's available through bookstores, including Amazon. (A Kindle e-copy is just 99 cents (US)!) 
    • Dr. Zigmont will also be one of the featured speakers at Katy's upcoming Childless Collective Summit, and attendees will receive a free digital copy of his book!  :)  
    • The summit will be held online and free of charge, July 14th-17th -- four jam-packed days with 40 amazing speakers from our community! Details & registration here
  • The Clan of Brothers Facebook group for childless-not-by-choice men is changing its name to The Childless Men's Community. (I've changed the name on my list of resources in the right-hand column here.)  
    • The organizers realized that "clan" in the U.K. (where many of the members are located) has a rather different connotation for men (and especially men of colour) in the U.S. (!).
  • My longtime penpal in New Zealand alerted me to a new book (memoir) that's coming out there shortly that's relevant to us CNBCers:  "You Probably Think This Song is About You" by Kate Camp. It's not (yet?) available in North America, although it can be ordered through Book Depository. ($32+ Canadian for the paperback, so I think I'll wait and see...!).  
    • A great excerpt of specific interest was published in a local publication:  "No miracle baby here." 
  • From Carolyn Hax in the Washington Post: a very common situation in this community: a new mom notices her best friend has gone silent since her own miscarriage. Carolyn offers her thoughts, as do other readers in the comments. 
  • Anne Helen Petersen interviewed Doree Shafrir last week on her Culture Study newsletter on Substack, about "the past and future of online parenting content," in a post titled "Where can you talk about ~mom stuff~ that isn't Facebook?" . 
    • "I’m not a parent," says Petersen (she is childfree by choice), "but I read it [Shafrir's own newsletter] because the way we think and talk about parenthood matters to all of us. And as you’ll see below, I also think Doree understands exactly what so many of us miss and crave from contemporary media aimed at women in general and moms in particular — and doing it in a space that is not Facebook." There's a lot of talk about "the power of the mom community" and how it's changed over the years, and how to create and build community, "in real life" as well as online. The conversation continues in the comments (which, as might be expected, is also full of mom-talk). 
    • I enjoy Petersen's work, and I get why she finds parenthood an interesting topic (I do too) -- and I am all for online spaces that are not Facebook too. 
      • Nevertheless!  Here's my comment (below one from someone who identified as a non-parent). It's had five "likes" so far:  
I am not a parent either (not by choice)... I have to admit, I am a little envious of the automatic "in" that parents get into community networks, simply by virtue of being parents and the common experiences they share in that regard. (Case in point: a commenter above notes "IRL community matters so much - and parenting is a huge part of community.") Those of us who aren't parenting have to work harder to build new connections and to maintain our connections with friends & relatives who are parenting (and who don't always have the time or energy for us on top of everything else on their plate). It can be very difficult and frankly very lonely sometimes. 

AHP, I would LOVE for you to chat with Jody Day of Gateway Women about the childless (not by choice) experience and bridging the gap between parents and non-parents. :) 

What bothered me about this, however, is the way these retreats are positioning themselves, their target demographic, and by extension, me and other women without children.

These mothers-only spaces are not a new thing, folks. Women without children have been excluded from the sisterhood in countless ways over the centuries. We know we don’t belong. We’ve been told. We’ve been shown. We got it.

So if the goal is respecting the journey that women who have children are on, then what about respecting the journeys of the childfree and childless? 

And:  

Isn’t it a little worrisome that so many women assume that childless and childfree women cannot possibly understand the hardships of motherhood in any way?  ...The level of emotional immaturity, apathy, and total lack of cognition that we would have to have to not understand any aspect of motherhood is staggering. And to make that assumption about women who don’t have kids is even more staggering. That’s a potent cocktail of pronatalism and misogyny right there that many women don’t realize they’ve been sipping.

It seems so odd to me that so many women who have children work so hard to separate themselves from women who don’t. Whether it’s ending friendships with women who don’t have children or gatekeeping retreats that are only for mothers, why on earth wouldn’t mothers want our support? Why on earth wouldn’t they want to lean on us and welcome us into their world?

And why on earth can’t they see that we have our own hardships that maybe they ought to show up for, just as we try to show up for them? 

  • British journalist Kat Brown at No One Talks About This Stuff on Instagram (also the name of her forthcoming book) flagged an opinion article from the Sunday Times (UK) that (as one commenter put it) seemed like it was drawn straight from The Onion (satirical site). 
    • Unfortunately, it wasn't.  The proposal being put forward by demographer Paul Morland: "Should we tax the childless?"  His answer was (naturally!) an enthusiastic yes, with the aim of increasing the UK's birth rate ("grow our own" -- and thus avoid having to rely on those pesky immigrants for future labour requirements...). Among his recommendations: 
      • "Create a “pro-natal” culture" [like there isn't one already??]. 
      • "...including a national day to celebrate parenthood." [Said Kat: "wait until he finds out we already have two!" -- isn't that what Mother's Day and Father's Day are all about?]
      • "...and a telegram from the Queen whenever a family has a third child." [Telegram?? What century is this guy living in? And -- if you're going to encourage the births of third children -- wouldn't it be better to offer financial incentives, better maternity leave & daycare, etc.??] 
      • "Public figures can lead the way with words and actions (the prime minister, with his seven known offspring, has a track record in this regard)." [Love the phrase "KNOWN offspring"!!][Said Kat: "don’t even get me started on suggested Boris Johnson has some kind of parenting role model."]  
      • Also: "Sacrifice a portion of the green belt around London and other cities to free up additional space for more, cheaper family homes."  [To quote Joni Mitchell: "They paved paradise, put up a parking lot..."] 
      • Tax credits for parents and a “negative child benefit” tax for non-parents. "This may seem unfair on those who can’t or won’t have children, but it recognises that we all rely on there being a next generation and that everyone should contribute to the cost of creating that generation." [Like we don't already contribute by paying taxes for schools and other services to benefit other people's children, services that we and/or our children will never get to use ourselves?]  
      • "Educate people that getting pregnant becomes more difficult with age."  [I'm all for greater fertility awareness at a younger age -- but "educate people" has a slightly sinister ring to it...] 
    • As Kat said on Instagram, "it’s easier than putting pressure on the government to actually do something useful for its citizens, whatever their makeup...  don’t worry about responsibility as long as you’re spraying children into the world. Even if you aren’t being responsible about the future those children face." 
    • The UK organization Ageing Without Children has posted a response. There's also a lot of reaction on Twitter. 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here. 

Saturday, July 2, 2022

"Anne of Green Gables" by L.M. Montgomery

The first time I read "Anne of Green Gables" -- the classic first novel by Canadian author L.M. Montgomery, published in 1908 -- I was about 8 or 9 years old. It was around 1969-70, and my family had recently moved to a small, remote, rural community in northwestern Manitoba. To our dismay, the town lacked a local library -- the closest one was 40 miles away -- but we soon learned we could order, receive and return books from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, through the mail!  (I wrote about this service in a post here.)  

I don't know if I'd heard of "Anne of Green Gables" somewhere before, or if I was intrigued by the description in the library catalogue, but I do remember that's where I got the book from. I read and returned it -- and then devoured the sequels, one after another -- as well as Montgomery's other novels -- and bought some copies of my own -- and re-read them all, over and over again during the years I was growing up and entering young adulthood (to the point that some of my personal copies started falling apart!). 

I was infatuated. I started naming objects and places around the town like Anne did. I already loved to read books and use big words like Anne (and felt like a misfit among my peers, as a result). Anne was even Canadian, like me!  Clearly, I had found a "kindred spirit."  

I can't tell you when the LAST time I read "Anne of Green Gables" was, but it's safe to say it was quite a while ago -- certainly more than 20 years ago, very likely more than 30 and possibly even 40 or more. In the interim, I've seen multiple movie and TV versions of the book (albeit not the recent "Anne with an E" series);  I've read books about Montgomery herself and read scholarly publications about her work. (I was an English major at university, but unfortunately, the study of "CanLit" and (especially) Montgomery specifically was only in its infancy then.)  I still haven't been to PEI -- yet!! -- but in the early 1970s, we went to Winnipeg on my sister's birthday to see a touring production of "Anne of Green Gables" the musical that's been performed in Charlottetown every summer since 1965 (with time out in 2019 and 2020 because of the covid pandemic -- but it's back this year!) -- and my high school drama club put on a non-musical "Anne of Green Gables" play when I was in Grade 10. I hoped for the part of Diana or Anne herself -- but alas, I wound up playing... Anne's nemesis, Josie Pye!

So -- needless to say -- the story has become well engrained in my memory -- and when I opened my newly purchased copy of the book (I splurged, and bought the entire Anne box set produced by Tundra Books!) and started reading, even after all these years, I could practically recite the words on some of the pages without even looking at them -- they were so very familiar.  It was like coming home to an old friend.  (And how appropriate that I finished reading it on the Canada Day long weekend...!)  :) 

I picked up "Anne" again recently because, after covering 7 other (non-Anne) Montgomery novels since the pandemic began in March 2020, my L.M. Montgomery Readathon group on Facebook announced that "Anne of Green Gables" -- the book that started it all -- would be our next read together.

By now, the basic plot is pretty well known: middle-aged brother & sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert (both unmarried and childless) decide to adopt a boy, unseen, from an orphanage in Nova Scotia, to help Matthew with the work on their Prince Edward Island farm near the small town of Avonlea. But when Matthew goes to pick up the child at the train station, the boy turns out to be a precocious 11-year-old girl with bright red hair, freckles, a wild imagination and a prolific vocabulary, who is overjoyed at the prospect of finally having a real home. Reluctant to send the child back to the orphanage and an uncertain fate, the Cuthberts decide to keep her anyway, changing their lives (and Anne's -- and ours!) in ways they never could have imagined.  And thus, a literary phenomenon was born.  :)  

I may be pretty familiar with the story but there were a few things I'd forgotten about or was reminded of:  for example, right from the start of the book, the reader is confronted by certain stereotypes about orphans and adoption (particularly as cited by neighbourhood busybody Mrs. Rachel Lynde in the opening chapter), some of which linger to this day. Of course, unlike Anne, most adoptees today are not orphans whose parents are dead. They are usually surrendered for adoption (through agencies or private arrangements) because their biological parents are unable to care for them, or they are placed in foster care by the state, until they are reunited with their families, or parental rights are relinquished or terminated and they become available for adoption. 

For all that I love "Anne of Green Gables," I wouldn't call it my favourite LMM novel (or maybe even my favourite "Anne" book). That would be a toss-up between "Rilla of Ingleside" (which is about Anne's youngest daughter, growing up during the years of the First World War), "The Blue Castle," and "Jane of Lantern Hill" -- all books we've covered in the Readathon, and all reviewed on this blog. Nevertheless, and despite some of the dated aspects mentioned above, it's still a classic (and deservedly so), and it's easy to see why it's still so beloved, in Canada and around the world, more than 100 years after it was first published.  

4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 on Goodreads. :) 

Our chapter-by-chapter group discussion of "Anne of Green Gables" begins on Monday, July 4th.  If you're a fan, come join us! I will count this book again as a re-read once we're finished (in mid-November). 

At the recent biennial conference of the L.M. Montgomery Institute of the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown, the L.M. Montgomery Readathon received the 2022 Dr. Francis W.P. Bolger Award, which is presented for "outstanding contributions to our appreciation of Montgomery and place in Prince Edward Island, through scholarship, education, preservation, creative works, or by other means."  Announcing the award, Philip Smith said, in part, "The last two years and more have been times, for some, of separation, loss, fear, and loneliness. The L.M. Montgomery Readathon has invited people into the Montgomery community, invited connections with her Prince Edward Island, from the early days of the pandemic. It has provided a route for Montgomery to serve during the pandemic as a refuge, an inspiration, a means to community."  :)  

This was Book #30 read to date in 2022 (and Book #1 finished in July), bringing me to 67% of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 8 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2022 tagged as "2022 books."  

Friday, July 1, 2022

Reading challenge mid-year checkup

Last year at this time, I did a mid-year check-in on the status of my Goodreads Reading Challenge and other reading goals -- and since the year is once again halfway over (WTF?!)  I thought it was timely to do it again.  :)  

In my 2021 Reading Year in Review post last December, I wrote: 

  • Since I reached [my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of] 36 books fairly easily this year (by July), I've decided to stretch a bit and increase my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal to 45 books ( = 3.75 books per month on average) for 2022. I've read more than 45 books in two of the past three years (2019 & 2021, and almost 45 in the third year -- 43 in 2020), so I think that's a reasonable/realistic goal to set. 

Here we are at the midpoint of 2022 -- which would suggest I should have read 22-24 books by now to keep up the pace of 3-4 books per month towards 45 by the end of the year. Well, I got to 22 books in late April (with a group re-read of L.M. Montgomery's "The Story Girl," reviewed here), and crossed the 50% threshold in May.  I am currently at 29 books finished = 64% of my goal. I read 5 books in January, 6 in February, 5 in March, 6 in April, 3 in May and 4 in June.  At this time last year (end of June), I had reached 34 books. So I'm a little behind versus where I was last year, in terms of number of books read, but still on pace to reach or exceed my goal of 45 books before the end of the year.

I do expect to fall a bit further off pace later this summer/early fall. My eye surgery is set for July 25th, and my sister (who had a similar surgery last year) has warned me I will have to lay off the screens (and presumably that includes e-readers and paper books) for at least a week while I recover. Three weeks after that, I'm having gallbladder removal surgery on Aug. 15th... presumably that won't have any impact on my vision, but it might affect my powers of concentration/focus, at least initially. So I'm trying to cram in the books my various book groups will be covering over the next while before then...!  

I didn't set any other "official" reading goals or challenges for 2022.  Back in January 2020, I wrote a post (responding to a post of Mel's) about tackling my TBR (to be read) pile by making a "TBR priority list."  I wrote: 

Some of the books I've been meaning to get to for quite a while now include "Us Against You" and "Anxious People" by Fredrik Backman (after reading & loving "Beartown" for my library book club), "The Huntress" by Kate Quinn (after reading & enjoying "The Alice Network" for my library book club -- and she has a new book coming out soon too... gahhhhh...), "My Dark Vanessa" by Kate Elizabeth Russell (which I keep putting off, even though several people I know have read it & rated it highly, because it sounds... dark... and I need to be in the right frame of mind to tackle something like that), and "Maisie Dobbs" by Jacqueline Winspear, which By the Brooke recommended to me a long time ago.  ;)
I read "Anxious People" in 2021 for my "Clever Name" book club (review here) -- but so far, that's the only one I can cross off that particular list (which has, in the meantime, grown longer, lol). 

Did you set any reading goals for 2022?  How are you doing with them? 

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:  June was Month #27 (going on #28) of living with the COVID-19 pandemic. Wave #6 appears to be on the wane -- but the medical/science experts are already warning about new variants on the rise and an expected resurgence of the virus in the fall (if not earlier)... 

Unfortunately, the same provincial government that mishandled the pandemic (along with many other things...!) won another (increased!) majority in the June 2nd election -- so I am not hopeful that overall, things will improve dramatically anytime soon. :(  

Most of the few remaining mask mandates -- on public transit and in medical facilities -- expired on June 11th and were not renewed (although virtually every hospital in the province announced they will retain mask mandates for the foreseeable future). The only places where masks must still be worn are long-term care homes and retirement homes. 

Then, starting June 16th, the government cut back its covid data reporting from daily to weekly (on Thursdays). :(  It has also stopped reporting data from schools and long-term care and retirement homes. As a result, the Toronto Star (my main source of covid data) has had to change the way it reports covid numbers. It has archived its daily stats trackers covering the past 2+ years, and has started a new stats tracking page that's updated weekly, beginning with data from May 6, 2022.  Not all stats that were previously reported are still being disclosed there :(  although there are probably other places where that data could be found (if you hunt for it...!). 

So -- here are some daily stats for June 1 to 16, and then (where available) some weekly stats from June 16th to the 30th
  • There were 1,030 new cases reported in Ontario on June 1st, and 777 on June 16th.   
    • Caveat:  The Star notes that "given new provincial regulations to limit testing that took effect on Dec. 31, 2021, case counts are no longer considered an accurate assessment of how widespread the virus is right now. Daily reported cases in 2022 should be considered under reported."  (Scientists are (still) saying that the true number of cases is likely 10 times higher than what's being reported. (!)  And some provinces have stopped reporting daily new case numbers altogether, leaving citizens entirely in the dark.  (It sounds like it's a similar situation in the U.S., according to this Washington Post article.)  
  • Test positivity was 8% on June 1st and 6.9% on June 16th.  
  • Hospitalizations declined from 722 on June 1st to 491 on June 16th, then increased to 585 on June 30th (up 20.4% over the previous week). 
  • There were 127 patients with COVID-19 in Ontario's ICUs on June 1st, declining to 109 on June 16th and 95 on June 30th.  
  • There were 24 deaths on June 1st and 6 on June 16th, 16 on June 29th and 9 on June 30th (up 115% over the previous week). 
  • On June 30th, 86.3% of Ontario's total population has had at least one vaccine, 83.2% had at least two, but just 50.5% had received a third dose. These numbers have not budged much over the past couple of months. 
With a population of just over 14 million, Ontario has logged 1,315,224 (officially counted) cases of covid (as of June 16th) and more than 13,421 deaths (as of June 30th). As of June 18th, for Canada as a whole (population 38 million), those numbers are 3,913,975 cases and 41,566 deaths. 

On the personal pandemic front:  Despite the fact that masks are no longer required just about  anywhere (and fewer and fewer people seem to be wearing them), dh & I continue to wear them when out in public, and remain (mostly) socially distanced -- although we were out a bit more than usual this past month. On top of dh's weekly (masked) trips to the supermarket for groceries and for occasional takeout lunches & dinners: 
  • We visited SIL & Little Great-Nephew at BIL & SIL's house 5 times.    
  • We voted in the provincial election on Thursday, June 2nd. The place where we vote was not too far from where we lived, there was no lineup when we went (around 2 p.m.), and we were in & out of there in minutes. (We later learned that voter turnout was the lowest in any federal or provincial election in the past 100 years! -- go figure??)  
  • We had haircuts back in our old community on Saturday, June 4th. 
  • We went to Canadian Tire, the bookstore and the drugstore on June 9th.  Back to Canadian Tire on June 22nd. 
  • We were back at the drugstore on June 14th, as well as a trip to the gelato shop. :)
  • Dh went to our condo corporation's annual meeting of owners on June 15th. (They requested only one person attend per unit, to help with social distancing.) Of the 31 people there, only 3 people wore masks (including him).   
  • Dh took the car in to the dealer for regular servicing on June 16th, something he hadn't done in more than a year. (Of course, the car hasn't been driven much over the past year either...!) 
  • Dh had a colonoscopy on June 20th, at a clinic near our condo building, and I walked over and escorted him home when he was done. 

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

Also right now:  

Reading: I finished 4 books in June (all reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads, & tagged  "2022 books"): 
This brings me to 29 books read so far in 2022. At the mid-year point, I'm at 64% of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books, and I am (for the moment, anyway) 8 books ahead of schedule. :)  (I'll be doing a mid-year check-in post on my reading goals shortly.) 

Current read(s): 
Coming up: 

Most of my book groups have their next reads plotted out for a few months in advance -- and listing them here helps me keep track of what I should be reading next. ;)  (Prioritizing these books right now and trying to read as many as I can before my eye surgery on July 25th -- my sister, who had a similar surgery last year, has warned me that I won't be able to spend much time on screens for a while after that...!) 
  • For my D.E. Stevenson fan group:  
  • Within the private online Gateway Women community, we've formed a group to discuss Jody Day's book, "Living the Life Unexpected," one chapter per month, in a live Zoom call. (There are actually two groups -- one that's more conducive to UK/European/Australasian time zones, and one mostly for North Americans.) Our sixth call, discussing Chapter 6, was on June 19th, and we'll discuss Chapter 7 in mid-July. Completing all 12 chapters will take us a full year.  If/when we complete the full 12 chapters, I'll count it as another re-read. :)  
A few recently purchased titles (in digital format, mostly discounted ($5 or less) or purchased with points):  
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** 

Watching:  We've been enjoying season 2 of "Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy" on CNN on Sunday nights, but it hasn't been shown much this month -- they aired a documentary mini-series about Watergate in that time slot instead on a couple of Sunday nights (almost exactly 50 years after the break-in that started the whole thing). (SIL wants to know when Tucci's going to visit Calabria -- where his family, hers and dh/BIL's comes from!)  

We did watch and enjoy CNN's series about Watergate -- an event I remember from my childhood/early teen years. (I was 11 when the Watergate break-in occurred, and 13 when Nixon resigned.) (See my review of "All the President's Men" by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who figure prominently in this program.) 

I've watched most of the January 6th committee hearings on CNN to date (which were a LOT more interesting to me, at 61, than the Watergate hearings were at 12-13! lol). 

As I wrote here, I got up at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m. on June 2nd to watch the Trooping of the Colour ceremony live from London on CBC, celebrating the Queen's Platinum Jubilee. No matter what you think of the institution of monarchy itself, I don't think anyone can say the Queen has not served her country and the Commonwealth extraordinarily well for 70 (!!) years. This was history in the making -- a never before, never again (certainly not in my lifetime) event -- and I decided I had to make the effort to watch. I am glad I did. :)  

Listening: To some great podcasts, including several new episodes of New Legacy Radio and The Full Stop (both relevant to the childless community). 

Dh has been listening to a comedy station from Hamilton (Ontario, about an hour away) on the radio when we're in the car. He loves it. I enjoy it, to a point, but not as much as he does. I don't enjoy all the humour (some of it on the misogynistic side) and the frequent yelling, and it gets kind of monotonous after a while. Plus it's an AM station so the sound quality is not great -- even before you factor in the static...! I'd much rather listen to our usual classic rock FM station. (Although some of the DJs there can be kind of lame too. The regular morning show was recently put on hiatus after a human rights/harassment complaint was brought against the host by a former (female) co-host.)  

Eating/Drinking:  Iced tea on the balcony, several times, when it wasn't too hot and humid outside... ahhh!

Buying (besides books, lol):  We bought a handheld mini-vacuum at Canadian Tire, for small, quick jobs (this one) and two smoke/CO detectors to replace the ones originally installed in our condo. At the drugstore: a pulse oximeter for our first aid kit.    

Online shopping/home delivery: I ordered some essential oil roll-ons and blends for my diffuser from Saje, and a couple of new tops/T-shirts from Old Navy.  

Wearing: Capris and sandals (with great satisfaction, lol)  ;)  and more recently, tank tops and shorts (especially outside on a hot day!).  

Mourning: My cousin, who died far too young on June 2nd. :(   

Wanting: More hours in the day lately, to cram in everything I want to do and read...!  

Enjoying: My freshly washed windows.  :)  (Although I've noticed that, by month's end, they were already starting to get dirty again...!) 

Being able to leave the balcony door open for most of the day when the weather is nice (not too hot/humid).  

Spending time on the balcony with tea (hot or iced) and a good book.  :)  (See "Eating/Drinking," above.) 

Appreciating:  Air conditioning, on the days (and nights) when the weather is hotter and more humid. 

Enduring:  Seasonal allergies. :p  (Grass, tree pollen, etc.)  Late May/early/mid-June has always been the worst time of the year for me in this respect, and this year seems to be one of the worst in years.  (The downside of having the balcony door open all day...!)  Dh has been suffering lately too.  Thank goodness for Claritin! (my longtime go-to antihistamine... The allergist I saw several years ago told me there were better ones out there now, and suggested I try Reactine, but I did not like the spacey way it made me feel and switched back to my old reliable). 

Noticing:  More sunsets, now that the days are longer. I once posted a photo in the spring saying, "Sunsets are back!" and someone cracked, "They never left!"  Maybe not, but they do seem to be more noticeable (and spectacular!) in the summer than in the winter! 

Waiting: For my two surgeries later this summer, now scheduled for July 25th (eye/cornea procedure) and August 15th (gallbladder removal). 

Hoping: For a fall trip home to see my family, once I've recuperated sufficiently. And that the current mess at the national (and international!) airports (and Toronto Pearson in particular...!)  clears up by then....!  (One good thing about not travelling right now, I guess...!). 

Trying: To get some of the household tasks that don't get done frequently (e.g., cleaning the shower cubicle -- my favourite (NOT), lol...!) scheduled and completed before my surgeries. 

Loving: Spending time with Little Great-Nephew. :)  We stayed with him for a few hours on Wednesday morning while his grandma went for an appointment.  Just guess who had the most fun, lol. 

Feeling: A little nervous about my upcoming surgeries. Tired (SO tired!!) of living with and dealing with covid (-- but even more tired of people who think it's all over and don't take any precautions against getting or spreading it -- and of the government's cavalier attitude toward it all).  

Wondering: How is it July already??!

Monday, June 27, 2022

#MicroblogMondays: Unfathomable. Infuriating. (And a lot of other adjectives.)

I was 12 years old in 1973, a Canadian. I'm not sure when I became conscious of Roe v Wade or the ongoing battles over the abortion issue (on both sides of the border). It was not something we talked about, at home or even among my friends (that I remember). I don't remember hearing that anyone I knew had had an abortion until I was in my early 20s. 

But I knew, as I came into my teenage and then young adult years, that (a) pregnancy (if not sex itself) was to be avoided at all costs, until I had finished my education and found a job and a husband, (b) that birth control existed (and was essential), and (c) that if I did find myself unexpectedly pregnant, there were options available to me.

I was certainly aware by the time I was in university, in the early 1980s. I was actually a member of the youth wing of what was then known as the Progressive Conservative party (vice-president of my campus club, in fact...!).  The party has changed since those days (radically -- and I have changed too, albeit they have moved further right and I have moved further left) -- but back then, there WERE "progressive" conservatives leading the party -- pro-business and fiscally cautious but still socially progressive -- honourable men (and a few women too) I admired -- the leader and (briefly) prime minister, Joe Clark; his predecessor, Robert Stanfield; Peter Lougheed, the premier of Alberta (I saw him once, years later, on the steps of the office building in Toronto where I worked, and I was thrilled!);  Bill Davis, the bland but extremely successful longtime premier of Ontario;  David Crombie, the mayor of Toronto (whose son, Jonathan, captured hearts as Gilbert Blythe in the classic "Anne of Green Gables" television mini-series);  Flora MacDonald, who ran for the party leadership in 1976 as the lone female candidate with what she was assured was strong support -- only to come up short when the votes were actually cast (grrr...).  

But even then, there were hard-core far-right conservatives with their own agendas. I remember being at a provincial party convention in the early 1980s when I noticed the necklace worn by the woman I was chatting with. I wasn't sure what the unusual-looking charm on the chain was -- at first I thought it might be a pair of ballet slippers? -- but the woman noticed my interest and proudly explained it was "precious feet," representing aborted fetuses.  I was taken aback, realizing she was one of the anti-abortion people I'd heard about but never openly encountered. 

Here in Canada at that time, abortion was legal, but there were restrictions. (Wikipedia has a fairly comprehensive basic history of the issue, if you're interested.) "Therapeutic" abortions were legalized in 1969. You could get one if a committee of doctors agreed that your life or health was endangered by the pregnancy. ("Health" could be defined strictly or loosely, depending on the committee members -- almost all of them men, of course.) During the 1970s and 1980s, the work and legal battles of  Dr. Henry Morgentaler in Montreal were constantly in the news (and he is someone you should read about if you're at all interested in this issue). Morgentaler (a Holocaust survivor, who died in 2013) was considered a saint by many in the pro-choice movement -- and the devil incarnate by those on the anti-abortion side. (There was a huge uproar when he was named to the Order of Canada in 2008.) He felt the abortion laws were too restrictive, and that women were perfectly capable of making their own decisions on this matter. In 1969, he began doing abortions in a private clinic in Montreal, as an alternative to the hospital system. In the early 1980s, he began opening other clinics across the country, including ones in Winnipeg (shortly after I left university there) and Toronto (which was firebombed in 1992).  

Over the years, Morgentaler was repeatedly arrested and jailed, and his clinics raided by police. Finally, in 1988, in the case of Regina v Morgentaler, the Supreme Court declared the existing 1969 law was unconstitutional and struck it down, on the grounds that it denied women the right to life, liberty, and security of the person. The Progressive Conservative government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney made one attempt made in the early 1990s to re-regulate abortion. The proposed bill failed, and no government since then (even the Conservative ones) has revisited the issue. 

Today, as Wikipedia explains

Abortion in Canada is legal at all stages of pregnancy, regardless of the reason, and is publicly funded as a medical procedure under the combined effects of the federal Canada Health Act and provincial health-care systems. However, access to services and resources varies by region. While some non-legal barriers to access continue to exist, Canada is the only nation with absolutely no criminal restrictions on abortion. Nevertheless no providers in Canada offer abortion care beyond 23 weeks and 6 days as outlined by provincial regulatory authorities for physicians.

There are still protests outside clinics, and it's still an issue among conservative groups, but for the most part, it is not in the national news much these days. 

Like many (most?) girls & women, I never thought I would ever need an abortion, or to even THINK about the subject... until I did.  There was a time, when I was in grad school, that I thought my birth control might have failed and I might be pregnant. I went to the student health centre and burst into tears while talking to the young female doctor. I remember telling her I knew my parents would ultimately be supportive of whatever I chose to do -- but I also knew they would be so disappointed in me. :( 

En route out of the clinic, I stopped in the washroom -- only to discover my period had started. Whew. 

And then, there was my much-wanted, doomed pregnancy.  At a routine ultrasound, about 18 weeks into my pregnancy, I learned there were problems. Among other concerns, the baby was far smaller than it should be. I had amniocentis -- and had to wait an agonizing 3 & 1/2 weeks for the results -- more ultrasounds, a fetal echocardiogram. The doctors hinted that I might have to make some "decisions" -- soon, as I was fast approaching the point in my pregnancy where a termination could not be handled locally (meaning I would have to travel to the U.S.). The amnio results finally came back, showing the genetics were normal. Whew. But that didn't mean there weren't still problems -- and while I still had hope, some problems simply can't be resolved. When I went for another ultrasound on August 5, 1998, there was no heartbeat. I delivered our daughter two days later. She weighed just 125 grams, about 1/4 pound. 

I suppose some people become more likely to oppose abortion after they have children, or endure infertility and/or loss.  In my case, infertility and loss made me even more firmly pro-choice. Getting pregnant is not always easy. Staying pregnant isn't either. It can be downright dangerous at times, for both mother and baby. Even when a baby arrives, even when that child is very much wanted, raising a child is (at minimum) an 18-year commitment, highly stressful and very expensive -- especially in the U.S., where guns are abundant, but maternity leave, affordable healthcare and affordable childcare are not. NO ONE should be forced to go through it. 

(And don't get me started on the idea promoted by certain U.S. Supreme Court judges that women can just give up their babies for adoption and then get on with their lives (la-di-da...), as if nothing had happened. Anyone who knows anything about adoption knows it's not that simple -- for the birth mother, for the adoptive parents and/or for the child themselves -- and the idea that a woman could be forced into carrying a child, just to create a bigger supply of infants for infertile people like me to adopt, sickens and offends me. No thank you.) 

In the years after our daughter's stillbirth, dh & I attended and then facilitated a pregnancy loss support group (and I frequented several pregnancy loss & infertility forums online). We heard dozens, perhaps hundreds of stories about much-wanted pregnancies gone wrong -- mothers who nearly lost their own lives as well as their baby's;  babies diagnosed in utero with fatal conditions, whose parents made the heartbreaking decision to end the pregnancy rather than consign them to a life of suffering, however brief. Many of them had other children whose futures needed to be considered too.  Parents who never in their wildest dreams imagined something like this happening to them -- until it did. More of them than most people realize, or could ever imagine. Outside the group, many of them suffered in silence. Some had never told their families what really happened, only that they lost the baby. It took several years for one woman, who became a good friend of mine, to admit to me privately that her lost pregnancy had actually been a termination. 

The thought that I, that any of these people, could have been denied the choices and medical care that they needed, on top of all the other extreme physical, mental and emotional stress they were enduring... it's unfathomable. 

It's infuriating that American women went to bed on Friday night with fewer rights than they woke up with -- than their mothers and even some of their grandmothers enjoyed. That they'd planned their lives around the assumption that these rights were theirs -- only to have the rug yanked brutally out from underneath their feet. 

It's mind-boggling that guns have more rights than women in the United States right now. 

It's unbelievable that there are hints of more rollbacks of more rights to come -- contraception, fertility treatments, LGBTQ marriage... (But not interracial marriage -- at least, not yet. Clarence Thomas's wife, of course, is white. He noticeably left that one off his laundry list of future targets...!)  

I'm menopausal now. I'm not an American. But I'm still a woman (an aging, childless woman, at that -- two more strikes against me!), and I remember what those fertile years were like -- how the prospect of an unplanned pregnancy at the wrong time (even after I was happily married) could threaten everything I'd planned and hoped and worked for.  As a result of this verdict, all American women have been rendered second-class citizens -- and women all around the world know that it easily could be us next. I don't doubt for one moment that there are conservatives here in Canada and elsewhere who are looking enviously across the border and trying to figure out how they could pull off the same thing. 

All I can say is, vote -- at the municipal, state/provincial and federal/national levels -- like your life depends on it. (Because it does.) 

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

*** *** *** 

Other ALI/CNBC bloggers writing about this issue: 

A 2009 post I wrote on this issue (after the murder of Dr. George Tiller in Kansas): "No fairytale endings". 

I've also been gobbling up the last few days' newsletters from my favourite feminist Substack writers... some of their work is paywalled for subscribers only, but some is not, and they're worth a read:  Lyz Lenz, Jessica Valenti,, Meg Conley, Anne Helen Petersen, Jill Filipovic

Valenti & Conley, both mothers, reflected on how this ruling will affect their daughters' futures. I teared up while reading both of them: 

Saturday, June 25, 2022

"The House of the Deer" by D.E. Stevenson (re-read)

My D.E. Stevenson fan group has just finished our chapter-by-chapter reading & discussion of "The House of the Deer," the last novel Stevenson wrote and published during her lifetime (in 1970 -- she died in 1973), and a sequel to "Gerald & Elizabeth."  I read the book myself before we started going through it as a group, and reviewed it here

"The House of the Deer" picks up not long after "Gerald & Elizabeth" left off. Gerald is now the right-hand man of his brother-in-law, Sir Walter MacCallum. There have been a series of bold payroll robberies in the Glasgow area recently, and Walter is trying to prevent his large shipbuilding company from becoming the next victim. When he receives an invitation from his old friend, MacAslan, to go deer hunting at his lodge in the Scottish highlands, he decides he must decline -- but also that Gerald (who's due for a holiday) should go in his place. Gerald doesn't know much about stalking deer, but he learns (and we learn along with him).  He also develops a friendship with MacAslan's son, Mac -- and falls head over heels in love with his daughter/Mac's sister, Phil. 

As I said in my original review, this is probably one of DES's lesser novels, and not one of my favourites to date. For one thing, I'm not into hunting; for another, there are elements of the plot that seem rather clunky and far-fetched. One of our members, who has done some research on Stevenson & her books, explained to us that this book (or parts of it, anyway) originated in a Glasgow newspaper serial Stevenson wrote back in the 1930s -- which might explain why parts of it (especially near the end) read like a 1930s gangster movie, lol.   

Still, it was nice to renew acquaintances with Gerald, Walter and Elizabeth, as well as MacAslan, Phil, and her friend Donny, all of whom have figured in previous DES novels. And, as always, there are some lovely descriptions of the Scottish highlands.  

My original review of 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 on Goodreads stands.  

Our next DES book will be "Anna and Her Daughters," which I have not read (or if I did when I discovered DES as a teenager, I don't have any memory of it).  Our group discussion will begin on July 11th. 

This was Book #29 read to date in 2022 (and Book #4 finished in June), bringing me to 64% of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 8 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2022 tagged as "2022 books."  

Thursday, June 23, 2022

More odds & ends

  • Mel at Stirrup Queens just marked her 16th (!!) blogoversary!  Go congratulate her on this amazing milestone!  
  • Bloglovin' was back up on Wednesday! -- but then out again before the end of the day (grrrrr....). Back up this (Thursday) morning.  (Fingers crossed & knocking wood...!) It's been more or less down (particularly on my laptop) since June 11th -- almost two full weeks.  :p   
  • The second Childless Collective Summit is back next month (July 14-17) with four jam-packed days of FREE programming with 40 amazing speakers from our community! Once again, it's being organized by Katy of Chasing Creation. Details & registration here. If you don't think you'll be able to attend all the events live (and/or if you want to help support the event and more events like it), you may want to investigate a Pace Yourself Pass, which comes with some additional perqs. (I got one last year and it came in very handy!) 
  • World Childless Week 2022 is also coming up, Sept. 12 to 18! Topics are being announced this week (a new one every day), and submissions are now being accepted. The deadline is Aug. 28th.  
  • I couldn't have agreed more with this piece I saw on Medium this past week:  "I Don’t Think You Understand How Creepy It Is When You Ask Little Girls If They Have Boyfriends." I HATED it when people (mostly men) did this to me when I was growing up (and I had one uncle in particular who ALWAYS asked whenever he saw me). 
    • What I hated most, of course, was the reminder (especially once I got to be an age where my peers were starting to have boyfriends) that I didn't have one -- never really did, all through high school -- which reinforced my own feelings of self-loathing, insecurity and undesirability.  :(  
      • I also resented the message that my good grades and other accomplishments and interests were nowhere near as interesting to people as the subject of whether I had a boyfriend -- because THAT's what REALLY matters, right?? (Hmmm, why is this starting to sound familiar??) 
    • Someone in the comments pointed out that women shouldn't be asked this question at ANY age. Very true! If I have a boyfriend (and want to talk about him), you'll hear about him sooner or later, right? 
      • The same goes for the "so, do you have kids?" questions (and the ever-popular follow-up, "why not??") we know and love (NOT) so well!   
  • I've been watching (most of) the January 6th hearings in the U.S. on TV.  The hearing on Monday that focused on how election officials and workers were targeted and harassed was particularly personal for me: my grandmother worked at many elections in my mother's hometown in Minnesota. The thought of her enduring even a fraction of what some of these people went through makes me furious. Not for the first time, I am glad she and my grandfather are not around to see this. :(