Monday, January 31, 2022

#MicroblogMondays: Being prepared

Both Bamberlamb and Mali recently posted about their support networks (or lack thereof), particularly vis-a-vis covid.  Mali is (sadly) facing the spread of Omicron in New Zealand, which has not yet been affected by the pandemic to the same extent that some countries have. 

Think about it: who would be able to help you out with groceries, etc., should you be confined to your house because of covid? Those of us who are childless probably have reason to ponder these questions more than parents:  we lack the robust social networks they develop through their children's schools, activities and neighbourhood friends, and we may not have any extended family members living close by either. (Being closer to family was, of course, a key reason why dh & I moved here, almost -- gulp! -- six years ago now.)  

Commenters from the northern hemisphere, where we've been dealing with this beast for a full two years now (ugh!), chimed in with advice for Mali -- about the willingness of neighbours to help when asked; about the proliferation of delivery services available; tips about choosing, wearing and storing masks; and lists of items that can be stockpiled in advance. 

I added a few pieces of my own advice. Just before things started locking down here in March 2020, I read an article advising people to stock up on the things you would normally want to have on hand in case you came down with a cold or flu.  I already had a lot of these things on hand anyway (e.g., a thermometer) -- but I took the opportunity to check what supplies I had, and to stock up on some bottles of Motrin (ibuprofen/Advil) and Tylenol (acetominophen), as well as packages of cold pills and throat lozenges, bottles of saline nasal spray and cough syrup, etc. (Another good item to have on hand in case of covid, which I have yet to purchase: a pulse oximeter, which checks the levels of oxygen in your blood, simply by putting a clothespin-type sensor on your finger.  If your levels start dipping into the low 90s, you know it's time to head to the hospital.) 

I recently saw another similar article, which prompted me to check out my stockpile again.  Would you believe a lot of the things I'd purchased in March 2020 have already expired/gone past their "best before" dates, or are close to it?  I was at the drugstore last week to pick up some prescriptions, and since I was there, I took the opportunity to replace those items. 

In her post, Bamberlamb mentioned buying and stocking an extra freezer with staples, which came in handy when both she & her husband came down with covid last year -- also an excellent idea, I thought. Unfortunately, dh & I don't have room in our condo for an extra appliance, and one of the few things I dislike about our unit is that the freezer compartment/drawer in the refrigerator (left by the previous owners) is not that big. Likewise, while we have a decent amount of cupboard space for a condo (probably the most of any condo unit we looked at before we bought), there’s not as much room to stockpile extras as there was at our old house (we had shelves below the basement stairs where I’d keep extra canned goods, paper goods like toilet paper, paper towels and kleenex, lightbulbs, etc.) -- and as my mother and both grandmothers did before me.   

But although our storage space is limited, there's still room enough in both freezer/fridge and cupboards to stockpile enough food to last us for at least a week.  Dh was never one for keeping a lot of extras around -- especially since our old house was, conveniently, a short walk away from both a supermarket and a drugstore — but since that initial run on toilet paper and other groceries at the start of the pandemic, he’s seen the wisdom in it! (I know some people in our building store a lot of canned and paper goods in their storage lockers downstairs.)  

How about you? Do you have a social network you could rely on if you got sick and had to isolate?  Do you like to keep a stockpile of "just in case" essentials? Has covid changed your outlook on this? 

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

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Elton John, covid, and where have I heard this before?

So -- latest plot twist -- Elton John has covid, and has had to reschedule more shows in the U.S. , just days after he returned to the stage after an almost two-year delay in his tour.  :(  

Now, as I said in my last post, SIL & I have applied for a refund for our tickets for March 13th -- so I don't have a dog in this hunt anymore, so to speak -- but I'm still following the story because I'm curious how it's all going to shake out...! And of course, I want Elton to get better and finish his tour. I hope it's a mild case (sounds like it, so far) and that he has a speedy recovery. 

But with this latest twist, I found myself more thankful than ever that SIL & I had decided to cut our losses and ask for the refund, rather than continue to live with the uncertainty -- will our concert go ahead? will he have to cancel/reschedule (again!)? will the provincial capacity restrictions be lifted in time to allow the concert to go ahead? (And now: will Elton recover from covid in time to make the currently scheduled concert date?)  etc. etc. etc.  And, while I'm disappointed that we won't get to see him as we had planned, it's kind of a relief to have the issue (FINALLY) settled, one way or another. 

And it occurred to me that, hmmm, this felt familiar somehow...? 

Think about it:  what other time in my life have I made a decision (albeit one that was a lot more consequential than whether to keep trying to go to a concert that may or may not happen, in the middle of a global pandemic...!) to cut my losses, exert some control where I could and move forward with my life?  When else have I felt regret that something I had really looked forward to doing wasn't going to happen after all -- but at the same time, relief that the continued uncertainty, the constant feeling of being jerked around by forces outside of my control, was finally at an end?  

Well, if you're a reader of this blog, you know the answer. ;)  

In a similar vein, I haven't told too many people yet that SIL & I aren't going to the concert after all. I imagine that some people, hearing that we've decided to ask for a refund, might be thinking that well, we must not have wanted to see him very much after all, right? That we were SO CLOSE to March 13th;  that if we had just hung on to our tickets a little longer, we could have seen him. That our worries about covid are no big deal, that we should learn to think more positively and we'd achieve what we wanted. That all feels familiar too.  

Or am I stretching the comparison here?  ;)  

Have you ever recognized echoes of your infertility/loss journey and life lessons in other, seemingly unrelated situations, further down the road of your life? 

Monday, January 24, 2022

Odds & ends & updates

  • 2020, then rescheduled for Feb. 15, 2022):  on Wednesday, SIL told me she'd received a Facebook events notification that our concert date had been rescheduled (again!!) and was now going to be March 13th.  I checked my Ticketmaster app, and yep, that was the new date. 
    • I got an official email from Ticketmaster the next day about the change of date. It also said, "A voluntary refund window is available for 7 days for any fans unable to attend the newly scheduled date."  
      • I talked it over with SIL... and we decided to ask for the refund. :(  There didn't seem to be a simple way to do it via the app, but the email did say "Questions? Please reply to this email" so that's what I did, providing our seat numbers, transaction number, etc. (albeit NOT my credit card number!). 
      • I did eventually figure out how to request a refund through the app, and submitted that on Sunday afternoon. Fingers crossed it all goes smoothly!  (It could take up to 30 days to process.)  
      • I figured that March 13th was still highly optimistic -- in fact, under the provincial government's current reopening plans (which are subject to change, depending on how things go...), capacity limits on large events venues (like arenas) will not be lifted until March 14th -- the day AFTER the concert!  Even if the concert did go ahead then, I just wasn't comfortable with the whole idea -- I just wouldn't have a good time, under the circumstances. As it turned out, SIL was of the same mind, so we decided to try to cut our losses and apply for the refund (total purchase, including taxes & fees, $566.75 -- not exactly peanuts). I had kept a printout of the transaction from when I bought the tickets -- Nov. 22, 2019.  We had NO idea then, did we??  :( 
  • In a similar vein: our dentists' appointments, which were cancelled last Monday because of a snowstorm and rescheduled for this Wednesday, have now been moved up to Tuesday/tomorrow. The office called us this morning to ask if we could reschedule (again), because the new hygienist I was assigned to is "not available." (Whenever I hear this now, I immediately suspect covid.)  
    • The thing about rescheduling appointments that annoys me most is that I still keep a paper planner/datebook (Filofax), and crossing things out makes everything look messy, lol.  I used to use white-out when I was still working and had easy access to a bottle at the office, but it's harder to find these days, and even when I do buy a bottle for myself, I use it so infrequently that it's usually dried out by the next time I open it up to use it...!   
  • Back in October, I wrote that it had been 40 (!!) years since dh & I met at university. Saturday night was 40 years since our "official" first date. Searching my blog archives (I love that I can do that...!), I found this post from 10 years ago, describing that date 30 years after the fact.  As I said on Facebook, there's still nobody I'd rather share my popcorn with. ;)  (Even though we haven't been to a movie theatre in two years because, covid...)  
    • We ordered in pizza for dinner and tried to figure out how FORTY YEARS (!!) can fly by so fast. As I said to dh, did you ever imagine then that 40 years later, we'd be sitting in a condo in this community, childless and retired, in the middle of a global pandemic??  (I don't think anyone could have...) 
  • I thought of Jody Day's hashtag, the #friendshipapocalypse of childlessness, when I read this article in The Atlantic. Its focus is the difficulty of maintaining friendships with friends who have children, after pregnancy loss &/or infertility. Potential trigger alert: the author has a five-year-old son, but only mentions him at the outset, and there's an ultrasound photo as well as the photo of an empty cradle at the top of the story. Sample passage: 
For some people, realizing that they can’t become biological parents easily or at all reorients their entire life—including their relationships. “We imagine having children around a similar time as our friends and seeing our children grow together … and that’s the next chapter of our friendship stories,” Kirmayer [Miriam Kirmayer, a clinical psychologist focused on friendship] said. Not being able to continue in sync and suddenly not having as much in common can feel like another kind of loss, she added. On the other side of the equation, friends who are busy with new parenthood may lack the energy to nurture a relationship with someone they have less and less in common with.

Still, I want to believe that rock-solid, unconditional friendships exist. That they can weather the joys of parenthood and the brutal isolation of infertility. That they’re big enough for both the parent who’s overwhelmed by child-rearing in a society devoid of support and the person who would do anything to be in the same daunting position. That both sides have full lives, which are sometimes gratifying and sometimes back-breakingly difficult. 
  • I listened to "Childless," the radio documentary/podcast I mentioned a few posts/days ago, featuring Irish journalist Hilary Fennell, Jody Day and several other childless-not-by-choice women living in Ireland (with those delightful accents ;)  ) sharing their experiences of life without children. It's an excellent 45-minute introduction to the topic that will hopefully open some eyes and spur further (much-needed) conversation on the subject. You can listen here. It's also available on Apple & Spotify.   
    • Jody & Hilary will be hosting a Q&A on Zoom on Thursday, Jan. 27th at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. Register here to participate or to receive a recording of the conversation later. 

Saturday, January 22, 2022

"Taste" by Stanley Tucci

Stanley Tucci has been nothing less than stellar in every movie and/or TV show I've ever seen him in (including "Big Night," in which he and Tony Shalhoub play immigrant brothers running a restaurant)... and last year, his food/travel show on CNN, "Searching for Italy,"  helped make the pandemic just a wee bit more bearable. 

Now he's written a book, a memoir that revolves around food: "Taste: My Life Through Food."  And there are a few recipes thrown in for good measure. :) 

While I didn't grow up in an Italian family, I married into one 36+ years ago -- and I can confirm that Tucci's stories about Italians and food ring true, both from my own experiences/observations and the stories I've heard from dh, his brother, SIL and cousins, among others. :)  (Both Tucci's family and dh's come from the same region of Italy  -- Calabria, right in the toe of "the boot.")

And even if I didn't grow up eating Italian food (Chef Boyardee doesn't count), Tucci is just two months older than I am (I checked! -- he was born November 11, 1960) -- so I can definitely relate to his memories of growing up in a small town (in New York) in the 1960s and 70s. We also get some behind-the-scenes stories from the movies & TV shows he's worked on, his real-life experiences working in restaurants, memories of living in New York City in the early 1980s, glimpses of his family life, his alarming bout with oral cancer (which temporarily robbed him of the ability to taste and smell), and more. 

The second season of "Searching for Italy" begins on CNN on March 13th. I can't wait! :) In the meantime, this was a great read. If you're not hungry when you start reading, you will be when you put it down. ;)  My only quibble:  I wanted more. ;)  

5 stars on Goodreads 

This was Book #5 read to date in 2022 (and Book #5 finished in January), bringing me to 11% of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 3 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2022 tagged as "2022 books."  

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

CNBC odds & ends

  • Gateway Women's Jody Day is one of six childless-not-by-choice women featured in a groundbreaking radio documentary airing Jan. 23rd (and repeating Jan. 29th) in Ireland. It will also be available as a podcast after that. Producer/director/writer Hilary Fennell -- herself CNBC -- explores what it means to be involuntarily childless in a child-centred society. An article about the program appeared in the Irish newspaper The Independent on Sunday.  
    • Says Jody: "Hilary would really like to make a film about childlessness too, but getting the funding for it really depends on this radio documentary proving that it's a 'worthwhile' subject that enough people are interested in. (I know, what could possibly be interesting about something that impacts 20% of women?!)"  
    • Please read, listen and share!   
  • Gateway Women's Karin Enfield deVries and Sarah Lawrence are hosting a free masterclass webinar this coming Saturday (Jan. 22nd) about "Finding Community and Connection as a Childless Woman." Use the link to find out more and register!  
  • The latest Culture Study newsletter from Anne Helen Petersen -- who is childfree by choice --  explains "Why No One Can Hear Parents Screaming." Although it's parent-centric, it's still worth a read, because it's a plea for greater empathy and understanding all round -- for moving outside our comfort zones, for spending more time and making more connections with people whose lives might not be exactly like our own.  A couple of quotes: 
    • "Part of the problem is that at this point in the pandemic, everyone is tired. Many of us are currently the least generous or thoughtful version of ourselves. But an even bigger part of the problem is a generalized lack of empathy: we struggle to make space for the experiences of anyone who is not us and/or part of our close intimate circle. I spent far less time considering the ramifications of various policies and postures on disabled people, for example, until a member of my close family became disabled. I’m not proud of this, but it’s not uncommon. Many of us don’t know about the contours of another person’s struggles and successes until we’re forced to." 
    • "I’m often asked how and why I spend so much time thinking and writing about parenthood, when I’ve chosen not to be a parent myself. The first part of that answer is that I’m angry, every day, that we’ve chosen to make our current society so hostile to parents (and mothers in particular) that the prospect of becoming one felt like willfully choosing to enter a losing war."
    • "And while I know parents are tired, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this work also requires reaching out to friends who don’t have kids, who aren’t working for pay, who don’t have a partner for whatever reason, who aren’t part of a dominant and written-about part of society and asking: what do you need right now?" [emphasis mine] 

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

"The Man Who Died Twice" by Richard Osman

Having (finally!) caught up on my book club obligations for the next while, I was free to read something completely of my own choosing. "The Man Who Died Twice" by Richard Osman has been in my TBR pile since shortly after its release in late September, and I was happy to FINALLY dust it off. I woke up very early (way too early) on Monday/yesterday morning and couldn't get back to sleep, so I finally got up, took out my e-reader and started reading. I got 3/4 of the way through the book before reluctantly heading off to bed, and finished it this afternoon.  

"The Man Who Died Twice" is a sequel to one of my very favourite books from last year, "The Thursday Murder Club" (reviewed here), and picks up shortly after the last book left off, with a familiar cast of characters, and a few new ones too. I don't want to give too much away... suffice to say the plot involves an old friend of Elizabeth's (and I can only ever picture Helen Mirren when I read about Elizabeth) and 20 million British pounds' worth of stolen diamonds. 

"The Man Who Died Twice" features more of everything that I loved about "The Thursday Murder Club" -- the wonderful septuagenarian characters (all residents of Cooper's Chase, an upscale retirement village outside of London), the clever writing, the (frequent!) laugh-out-loud humour, the sharp observations (about life, death, aging, justice and so many other things), the clever plot twists & turns (and twists again)...  

Sequels don't always live up to the original. This one did. (For me, anyway.) Pure escapism, and just a whole lot of fun. Five stars on Goodreads.  

This was Book #4 read to date in 2022 (and Book #4 finished in January), bringing me to 9% of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 2 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2022 tagged as "2022 books."  

Monday, January 17, 2022

And I think it's gonna be a long, long time...

"Do you think he's going to cancel again?"  SIL asked me when we saw her last week. 

"He" = Elton John. You may (or may not) recall that back in the fall of 2019, I flew to Manitoba, partly to spend (Canadian) Thanksgiving with my family, and partly to go to an Elton John concert with my sister. He'd been in Toronto earlier in the year, and later that fall, it was announced he'd be in Toronto again, in late March 2020 (March 28th & 29th) at the Scotiabank Arena (formerly the Air Canada Centre) downtown. SIL said she thought she'd like to go, and asked me if I wanted to go with her, and I managed to snag us a pair of tickets for the March 29th show (at about $250 each -- gulp -- and these weren't the prime seats, either!).  

Well, you all know what happened. COVID-19 descended up on us, the pandemic was declared on March 11th, and the concert was postponed indefinitely on March 16th. By the fall, new dates were announced:  our tickets were now valid for Feb. 15, 2022 (the second of two Toronto dates, including Feb. 14th... there are also two dates in Montreal, on Feb. 18th & 19th). Okay, fine. The pandemic would be long over by then, right? 

So here we are, mid-January 2022. Feb. 14th/15th is a month away. The pandemic is as bad as/the worst it's ever been. Capacity restrictions are once again in place for public venues -- the Scotiabank Arena, which can hold about 20,000 people, is only allowed to seat 1,000 people (fully vaccinated and masked people, at that). Rather than sorting out who gets those 1,000 seats among the 20,000 who bought tickets, the Maple Leafs (hockey) and Raptors (basketball) teams have chosen to play their scheduled games in a completely empty arena. I can't imagine things are going to improve enough over the next few weeks to allow those limits to be lifted.  Between now & then, besides Leafs and Raptors games, the arena was supposed to be hosting Disney on Ice later this month, and a concert by the Offspring & Simple Plan on Feb. 8th. The ice show has been postponed to late August/early September, and the Offspring concert has been cancelled outright (and ticket money refunded).

Meanwhile, Elton's North American tour is (still) scheduled to resume on Jan. 19th in New Orleans -- two days from now. So I guess he's going ahead with it -- the U.S. dates, at least. (I know things are different there, at least in some locations, in terms of capacity limits, vaccination policies, etc.)  Toronto and Montreal are the only two Canadian dates (although he's scheduled to return to Toronto again on Sept. 7th, as well as Vancouver on Oct. 21st) -- and, if anything, the restrictions in Quebec are even stricter than they are here in Ontario. So far we haven't heard a thing about whether the concerts are going ahead, or going to be postponed (again), cancelled...??  He does have dates booked into July 2023 in Europe, so there's some scope for the Canadian dates to be rescheduled (again!). 

I'm sure this tour has gone on a LOT longer than he originally planned when he first announced it. I know he doesn't want to disappoint his fans -- but he's almost 75 years old, and he has two young sons at home that he's said he wants to spend more time with. He had hip surgery last fall while he was on hiatus from touring, and he's had numerous other health issues over the years. I'm sure he doesn't want to expose himself to undue risk.  

I'll be honest -- *I* don't want to expose myself to undue risk either. Even if (by some miracle) the shows do go ahead, I'm not really sure I want to go anymore ($250 or not) -- not until covid is long gone, or at least until case rates are way, WAY lower than they are right now. The idea of taking a packed subway downtown (a 45-minute trip -- parking around the arena is a nightmare), making our way through a crowded Union Station (the arena is next door and connected), and then sitting in a crowded arena with up to 20,000 people -- some probably (likely!) not entirely compliant with the mask mandate, and others still removing their masks from time to time to eat and drink -- simply does not appeal right now, with Omicron still running rampant -- even though I'm full vaxxed and boosted, even if I kept my N95 mask on the entire time. Unlike SIL, I, at least, have seen Elton in concert. I don't NEED to see him again. Although I'm not sure SIL is keen on going either, the way things are right now. 

I'm sure we WILL be hearing something soon, and probably sooner vs later. It's just hard to be in limbo. (But hey, isn't that what we've been doing for the past two years already?) 

#MicroblogMondays: Annoying things

  • Scanning the Old Navy website last week, and seeing multiple women's T-shirts emblazoned with slogans like "Mom," "Mama" "One tough mother," etc. (Eyeroll...)
    • Ordering some Christmas-themed pajama top shirts from their post-holiday clearance sale, getting them delivered and realizing I hit the wrong button on my favourite one, and got a size large instead of extra large. (The large fits okay, but I like the roomier extra large for their PJ tops.) 
      • Going back to the site to see whether there were any extra larges left, only to find the site had (already) been purged of all their seasonal pajamas. Better luck next year, I guess...! 
  • Getting a birthday card and (actual, handwritten!) letter from an old friend. (This is not the annoying thing, but a preamble. ;)  ) She travels a fair bit -- has a vacation home/timeshare in California, and spent two weeks over the Christmas holidays at a resort in Mexico. I had mentioned in my Christmas letter that I had hoped to spend my 60th birthday last year on the beach but, hey, pandemic -- and she exhorted me (several times over the four pages of her letter) to go, just GO!! and for two weeks, too!! I'm glad she had a good time, and that she feels comfortable travelling that far away from home during a global pandemic (and that she had no trouble getting back home again...!) -- but I don't (and dh probably even less so).  I know she meant well, but...! 
    • (I felt somewhat better/vindicated after talking to my sister and hearing about one of her work colleagues, who also headed to Mexico over Christmas, despite all the warnings, and who loved telling everyone before he left what a great deal he got. His entire family wound up getting covid there -- when they went for the necessary tests before returning to Canada, they ALL tested positive. Their rooms at the resort where they'd been staying were no longer available, and they had to scramble to find another place to stay until they could produce a clear test result. His "great deal" wound up costing him $2,000+ more than planned...!) 
    • (Additionally -- as mentioned briefly in this post -- at least two of dh's cousins as well as most of their family members, tested positive while in Florida after Christmas, and had to stay there longer than planned until they could produce the negative tests required to fly home.) 
  • Gallstone twinges after eating pizza on my birthday. Not really painful, but nothing I could ignore either. I thought maybe it was exacerbated by the cupcakes we had for dessert (red velvet, topped with copious amounts of cream cheese frosting) -- but I still got some twinges when I ate the leftover pizza the next day, without the cupcakes. I'd had pizza when we were at my parents' and didn't really feel any significant ill effects. But I hadn't had any of THIS pizza, here, since October, before my gallstone issues flared up. I guess it will be a while before I try eating it again. Sigh. 
  • A dry scaly patch (eczema?) just below my left elbow. I've been using a gentle body scrub on that area in the shower and slathering it with Aveeno afterwards. 
    • It's horribly dry in our condo unit -- lately hovering just above or (more likely) just below 30% humidity. We need to get a new humidifier -- we had one, but (annoying thing) it was so horribly noisy we got rid of it. I suppose I could order one online, but I'd like to be able to go look at them in a store -- and who wants to go shopping right now? (I've been eyeing a Dyson, which promises to be quiet and easy to maintain -- but it's horrendously expensive.)  Anyone have a favourite (quiet) brand?  
  • Not being able to find my favourite mints anywhere. Dh checked two different supermarkets and a drugstore last week for them -- no luck. (This happens occasionally... I'm sure they'll be restocked eventually... but I want them NOW!! lol) 
  • Had a call on Saturday from our dentist's office asking if (annoying thing #1) we could reschedule our appointments for Monday/today (same day, different time)... oh, and by the way, my regular hygienist has retired (annoying thing #2). We've been going to this dentist (in midtown Toronto, near our very first apartment where we lived in the mid/late 1980s) since our previous one (dh's family dentist since he was a child!) retired in 2005, and I think she's been my hygienist for most of that time (17 years!). Good for her -- but sad for me. 
    • Related annoying thing #3: Dh has never liked this dentist (although he can never really articulate why), and has been pressuring me for a while now that we need to find a new one, closer to where we now live. (Of course, we only ever see the guy for for five minutes at the end of a routine checkup -- the hygienist does most of the work -- and half the time he's not there anyway, and one of the other dentists in the practice sees us.) When we worked in the city, it was an easy trip on the subway there and back from the office, and even when we both lost our jobs, it was a straightforward trip into the city on the train and then on the subway -- but it's far less convenient now. Technically, we *could* get there on public transit, but it would be a looonnnnnng trip -- and so we drive, ALLLLLLLL the way down Yonge Street (16-17 km/10+ miles on Yonge Street alone -- the entire trip can take us 40 minutes or more, depending on traffic -- another annoying thing! lol). There are (as dh has reminded me) at least three dental offices within a few minutes' walk of our condo building. I guess maybe the time has come... but -- annoying thing #4 -- it's annoying to admit it, lol. ;)  
    • Related annoying thing #5:  Having our appointment cancelled early this morning (postponed until next week) because of a massive snowstorm overnight (that's still going on). (They called us before I could call them.)  The receptionist told me she's a 12-minute drive away from work, and it took her 45 minutes to get there this morning. Yikes! (See the photo at the bottom of this post!) 
  • In a similar vein: I recently got a letter from the Ontario breast screening program, reminding me that I am due for a mammogram in February and to call to book an appointment. I have always had my mammograms done -- for 20 years now, since I was 40 -- at the breast health clinic at one of the city hospitals downtown (the same hospital where I delivered Katie, in fact). It's a well respected facility, it was easy to get to when I worked downtown and even after I retired (and even after we moved here), I would take public transit to my appointment, and then walk or take the subway to the Eaton Centre or the Financial District, where I'd worked, to do some shopping or perhaps have lunch with some work friends. The last time I went was Feb. 21, 2020 --  just before the pandemic hit us. (I wrote about the experience one year later, here.) 
    • I've been very happy with the care I've received there -- but, needless to say, I do NOT want to be taking a 40-minute subway ride downtown -- or to be anywhere near a hospital right now, if I can help it!  So I'm going to find out whether I can get my mammogram done at a clinic somewhere closer to home instead. Just one more thing to think about (and one more thing disrupted by covid...!). 
  • Waking up at 3:30 a.m. and not being able to go back to sleep. (This has been happening at least once a week lately.)  I finally got up and started reading -- first my phone, then my latest book ("The Man Who Died Twice" by Richard Osman, a sequel to last year's delightful "The Thursday Murder Club").  
What's been annoying you lately?? 

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

The view from our condo, 8:30 a.m. this morning. 
Our laneway has not been plowed yet, 
and the first car (below the balcony rail, on the left) appears to be stuck. 


Friday, January 14, 2022

"My Sister, the Serial Killer" by Oyinkan Braithwaite

"My Sister, the Serial Killer" by Oyinkan Braithwaite is the January selection for the Gateway Women/NoMo book club (which focuses on books where pregnancy and motherhood are NOT the main event). 

The story revolves around two very different Nigerian sisters -- Ayoola, the pretty younger one and her mother's favourite, who has an inconvenient habit of offing her boyfriends, and Korede, the responsible older one, who is simultaneously annoyed by her sibling and helps cover up for her. 

Then Ayoola starts dating the handsome young doctor that Korede secretly loves herself... 

This was a short, quick book -- 230 pages on my Kobo e-reader. I read it in just a few hours' time after supper tonight. It's... interesting. Some reviewers have called it "funny." I'm not sure I'd describe it like that. If there's humour in the book, it's very (VERY) dark. It IS well written -- sharp, vivid, unsettling, full of twists -- a stunning debut novel by a young Nigerian writer. The ending is... well, I'll let you judge for yourself, if you read it. I can easily see this one being made into a movie. 

I debated how I should rate this one. I settled on 4 stars. I'll be thinking about it for a while...! 

This was Book #3 read to date in 2022 (and Book #3 finished in January), bringing me to 7% of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 2 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2022 tagged as "2022 books."  

Thursday, January 13, 2022

"The Story Girl" by L.M. Montgomery

My L.M. Montgomery Readathon group on Facebook decided to take a break from the Emily trilogy (we've read two of the three books to date) and dive into a slightly sunnier book to brighten up the dreary winter months: "The Story Girl," published early in Montgomery's career, in 1911 (three years after "Anne of Green Gables").  The popular 1990s television series "Road to Avonlea" was based on this book, as well as its 1913 sequel, "The Golden Road," plus some of Montgomery's short stories (although the filmed version departed from the books in some significant ways).  

"The Story Girl" is set in the fictional community of Carlisle, Prince Edward Island, home to generations of the King family. Brothers Beverley & Felix King arrive from Toronto to spend the summer at their father's boyhood home with their aunts, uncles and cousins, when their father is called to work in Rio de Janiero. The undisputed leader of the pack of King cousins and their friends is 14-year-old Sara Stanley, known to all as "The Story Girl" for her ability to captivate an audience with her stories. We get to hear/read some of Sara's stories, as well as follow the children on their adventures and watch them grow and change during a glorious, long-ago PEI summer. 

As one of the administrators of our group (an LMM scholar) wrote, "If Anne of Green Gables is about an orphan’s search for home, then The Story Girl is a celebration of home, family traditions, and family stories." 

It's been many years since I last read this book (probably back when the "Avonlea" series began?), but the memories came flooding back as I turned the pages. 

"The Story Girl" was written in 1911, and set in a much different, more innocent time than our own. The children and their adventures, and the Story Girl's stories are the focus of the book:  adults are present, but mostly peripheral to the plot. On the less positive side, there are a few things/stereotypes that give the modern reader pause -- for example, prejudice against French people (e.g., an aunt passes along apples to the French hired men that the family finds unpalatable -- they won't eat them either!), classism (Felicity disdains Peter because he's a poor fatherless hired boy who works for her uncle), body shaming (lots of comments from various characters -- especially Felicity -- about Felix's weight) -- and (of course!) a "crazy" childless cat-loving spinster neighbour (Peg Bowen), who's rumoured to be a witch. :p  Overall, though, for me, the positives far outweighed the questionable parts. Who wouldn't love to spend the summer in an orchard on P.E.I., surrounded by loving family and steeped in tradition,  with plenty of cousins like the King children to run around and play with? (One group member has already observed that the orchard is a character in the book unto itself. It is!) 

4 stars on Goodreads.  I will count this book as a re-read once our group finishes going through the book (in late April). We just began our discussion the past Monday, so there's still time to join us!  

This was Book #2 read to date in 2022 (and Book #2 finished in January), bringing me to 4% of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 1 book ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2022 tagged as "2022 books."  

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

61

I was born in 1961 -- and my 61st birthday is today. (Shouldn't I get some kind of award or special present for that??)  

I ventured out of the house/condo unit this morning for the first time since we returned from Christmas vacation on Jan. 3rd, for the best of reasons -- to go see Little Great-Nephew at his grandmother's house/SIL's!  There is no one else I'd rather share my birthday with. SIL told us she still isn't feeling 100%, although she's better than she has been. I thought she'd fully recovered and I wish I'd known that before we went into the house. Oh well, what's done is done. She tested negative, but that was just one rapid test, taken a week ago Monday. It's possible she might have tested positive if she'd done another test a day or two later. She reeled off a long list of family members (hers & BIL/dh's) who tested positive/were sick over the holidays, between Christmas & New Year's. It might be easier listing who *didn't* get sick (and I suspect more people may have been sick but just aren't talking/posting on social media about it). Yikes!! 

As for LGN, he still has the odd cough (his doctor told his parents that if they both had covid and he wasn't well, he probably had it too), but he is back to his old self and was delighted to see us, which was a huge ego boost for us, of course! I even got to take a few selfies with him, as he mugged for the camera. I texted a few to his mom and said, "You've taught him well!"  lol  

This is my second pandemic birthday. In normal/"before" times, a birthday would probably entail, at minimum, a visit to the bookstore and dinner out (often at the Keg, a local steakhouse chain). In my dreams, I'm on a tropical beach somewhere, instead of chilly, grey southern Ontario.  

Instead, I'm downloading a couple of new titles to my Kobo e-reader (including Carl Bernstein's new memoir). Dh picked up a couple of cupcakes for dessert, on our way back from SIL's, and we're ordering our favourite takeout pizza for diner. We got several bottles of wine as Christmas gifts and may pop one of those open too ;)  I'm still trying to watch what I eat (because gallstones), but I used the "all things in moderation" approach while we were visiting my parents, and for the most part, that worked.  

As we've been doing for almost two full years now (hey, as we've been doing for 20+ years now, since loss, infertility and permanent childlessness entered our lives...!), we're just muddling along and trying to make the best of things. And as my grandma used to say about aging (and as I've written here before) -- it sure beats the alternative.  ;)  

Monday, January 10, 2022

#MicroblogMondays: Things I'm tired of

  • Covid. (Surprise!!) 
  • Feeling like I'm putting my life/health at risk every time we venture out the door. 
  • Worrying that every little cough, sniffle or tickle in my throat (or dh's) is a covid symptom. (Even though we've barely been out of our condo unit or seen anyone since we returned from Christmas holidays, and even though we're triple-vaxxed/boosted and conscientiously mask whenever we do go out -- even just to get the mail downstairs.) 
  • People who have dragged this pandemic out FAR longer than necessary (and made it far worse) by not getting vaccinated, not masking and/or not following other public health guidelines. 
  • Politicians who only do the right thing (or sort of the right thing) at the last possible moment. 
  • Politicians & politics generally. Very few these days seem to be truly interested in doing what's right and what will really help people (versus what they think is going to help them get (re)elected). 
  • Getting an email notification from a website where I've bought N95-equivalent respirator masks that the masks are back in stock -- only to get a message that they're already sold out when I click over to the site (or, worse, reach the checkout with some in my shopping cart!).  (This has happened more than once over the past week or two...!) 
  • Not seeing people outside of our immediate families, except over Zoom (and limiting the contact we have with our family members right now too, because of the omicron upsurge). 
  • Eating at home (if not because of covid, then because I have to be careful with my diet -- gallstones, gout, etc...!). 
    • Having to watch what I eat, generally. Worrying that every little twinge is another gallstone attack in the making. (And who wants to be anywhere near a hospital right now??)
  • Waking up in the middle of the night or early-early in the morning -- and then not being able to go back to sleep again. 
  • Housecleaning. (I enjoy a clean house, but not always the time & effort required to keep it that way...!)  
  • People (both in and out of the public eye) making scapegoats of the childless and childfree. 
  • Winter. (Is it over yet?) 
  • Grey skies and lack of sunshine (more days than not recently). 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Here we go again...

By now many of you will have seen Pope Francis's recent comments about the "selfishness" of childless people, particularly those who choose pets over babies. (And for those of us who have not been able to have the children we wanted, he suggests we... just adopt. Yep -- we got "bingoed" by the Pope!)  

I suppose it's par for the course for the head of an institution that has long tried to dictate its members' reproductive lives and has a vested interest in promoting large families (one way to grow your customer base!).  And it's not the first time he's called out childless people for their "selfishness." 

But it's disappointing nevertheless. I thought he was a little more modern and a little less dogmatic than some of his predecessors;  I guess I was wrong...  (He once famously said "Who am I to judge?" about gay people... obviously his reluctance to pass judgment doesn't extend to us...?!).  

Already Jill Filipovic (who is childfree by choice) has penned a wonderful rebuttal that points out that "Actually, Maybe it's Selfish to Have a Child." A few sample quotes: 

  • "...why are those without children the only ones accused of being self-involved? Why aren’t we talking about how deeply selfish it is to bring a child — or multiple children — into a world that already cannot sustain its 7 billion inhabitants?" 
  • "Why does that reality — that most people enter parenthood for primarily self-interested reasons — trigger such anger?  And could pressing this particular button perhaps encourage a little more consideration for the many people who do not have children by choice or circumstance, and are often told that we’re selfish for not reproducing? Could it maybe push us toward a more thoughtful conversation on reproduction and self-interest?" 
  • "It’s also worth noting here that while parents invest a lot of time into their kids and into organizations that are kid-adjacent, people without kids give a whole lot of their time and money to good works that don’t directly benefit members of their own immediate families. Having a child does not transform someone from selfish to selfless; it just transforms them into a selfish person raising a kid."
  • "To put a finer point on it: it doesn’t actually matter if the choice to have children, or the choice to forgo them, is a selfish one. “Why have kids?” is an interesting question to explore, and it’s unfortunately one that typically merits the most pat of answers. But maybe the reality is that people’s reproductive lives are complicated and the concept of “choice” doesn’t really capture the full picture; that parenting well requires huge amounts of personal sacrifice but perhaps women shouldn’t be expected to sacrifice quite so much; and that treating one’s parental status as somehow reflective of a person’s character or moral worthiness is extremely silly."
(There's also this somewhat satirical piece from The Cut, with this delicious headline: "Childless Man Says Not Having Kids Is ‘Selfish’."  :)  ) 

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

"Ghosts" by Dolly Alderton

My first read of 2022 was "Ghosts," the first novel by British journalist & podcaster Dolly Alderton, the December choice of the Gateway Women/NoMo book club. We'll be discussing this book in a Zoom chat on Saturday. :) 

Nina Dean is 32 years old and recovering from the demise of a longtime relationship. She's become a successful food writer and purchased her own flat in London -- but all around her, her friends are getting married, starting families and moving to the suburbs. With the help of her quirky/kooky friend Lola, she enters the strange new world of online dating... and hits the jackpot on her very first match (or so she thinks). Max is gorgeous, attentive and immediately tells her he's going to marry her on their first date. 

And then -- after a few glorious months together -- he disappears from her life.   

On the surface, this could be classified as "chick lit" or "romcom" -- it has many of the usual elements -- but there's an edginess to the writing -- elements of serious social commentary, along with the comedy -- that sets it apart from the usual light-hearted chick-lit/romcom fare. Single childless woman will no doubt relate to Nina's sharp-eyed observations about single life, loneliness, relationships and friendships. In Chapter 15, she delivers a rant to her childhood best friend Katherine (now married with children) that will ring true for many childless women. (It did for me!) She also delivers a diatribe to Lola's ex-boyfriend in Chapter 19 that I think many women would love to deliver to the commitment-phobic men-children in their lives, too. 

I was particularly fascinated/horrified by Chapter 11, in which Nina & Lola attend a bizarre girls' weekend known as a "hen do." I think the closest equivalent here in North America would be a bachelorette party? -- I got married in the days before "bachelorettes" became a "thing" (versus more staid/traditional bridal showers -- I had two small ones) -- thank goodness?! -- and I've never been to one, so I'm not entirely sure if that's an apt comparison. In some ways, it was hilarious, but I also felt like I was in some kind of weird nightmare while reading it too. ;)    

I enjoyed Nina's relationship with her pre-Max ex, Joe, as well as her relationship with her father, who has dementia/Alzheimer's. Like Nina, I found her mother irritating (especially at first) -- but ultimately found myself identifying with her. (After all, I'm closer to her age than to Nina's. Gulp.)  I liked that the ending was happy/upbeat -- albeit perhaps not the one you might expect. Although -- (mild spoiler alert, perhaps) -- as soon as I read a certain line in the opening Prologue, I knew what was ultimately going to happen in the book (with one plotline, anyway). I was right. ;)

4 stars on Goodreads. 

*** *** *** 

A couple of passages that I bookmarked, because I loved the writing: 

  • The next morning, with the sort of hangover that makes you google ashrams... (Chapter 6) 
  • The original plan was for Katherine to come to my flat to help me choose a paint colour for my bathroom, then go for a walk and lunch nearby, but at the last minute she said she couldn't do the journey because of a childcare glitch. I was totally unsurprised -- such is the superior trump card of motherhood that she once cancelled dinner with me an hour before we were meant to meet via a text explaining she had to "wake up in the morning etc." -- as if being childless gave me an option of not existing for the day. (Chapter 6) 
  • "No one remotely f***able is going to be on a train to Godalming, trust me," I said. (Chapter 11) 
  • "Fizz," I said. "That word is only ever used in a room full of women who all secretly hate each other." (Chapter 11) 
  • Katherine looked exquisite in high-necked pale-yellow silk that poured over her pregnancy bump like hollandaise on a perfectly poached egg. (Chapter 13) 
  • Seven rows of two bridesmaids, in various arrangements of the same grey viscose, came down the aisle carrying pink peonies, all looking incredibly pleased to be in the chosen cohort. We're very much a sisterhood -- I could never get on board with this sort of girl-gang feminism, the groups of female friends who called themselves things like "the coven" on social media and exhibited moral superiority from simply having a weekly brunch with each other. Having friends doesn't make you a feminist;  going on about female friendship doesn't make you a feminist. (Chapter 13) 
  • Performative, public baby-holding had become a competitive sport for childless women at events over the last five years. We all hoped for those three words to be passed over to us by an Adjudicator of Maternal Qualification like Katherine. You're a natural. (Chapter 13) 
  • "This is what they fought for," I said. "All those women before us who were married off and locked up in a house with no voice or money or freedom. This is what they wanted. For a group of professional women to all wave their engagement rings around like it's a Nobel Prize." (Chapter 13) 
  • He had bought his entire personality from a cobbled side-road of boutiques in Shoreditch. (Chapter 19) 

This was Book #1 read to date in 2022 (and Book #1 finished in January), bringing me to 2% (!) of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 1 book ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2022 tagged as "2022 books."  

Monday, January 3, 2022

#MicroblogMondays: Home again

  • Overall, it was a good visit with my family over Christmas/New Year's. (Even dh said so!) 
  • New Year's Eve was pretty quiet. Takeout pizza for dinner (tomato sauce-less for me), card games afterwards. We were so absorbed in that, we missed the midnight countdown! 
  • Despite my gallstone issues, I didn't deprive myself while I was there. I just tried to be careful and eat smaller portions, particularly of anything I thought might be troublesome. Aside from one episode after a delicious roast beef dinner (red meat seems to be a trigger food for me, unfortunately), and a few milder twinges here and there, I was fine. 
    • AND -- I weighed myself this morning, and I was down another pound-plus since the last time I stepped on the scale, just before we left. Who ever manages to lose weight at Christmastime?? (I'll take it!) 
  • I spent the afternoon of New Year's Day scanning some snapshots from an old mini-album of my grandma's that my mom had sitting out, as well as some old letters from HER paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother. What treasures!  
  • My sister & her partner came back out from the city on New Year's Eve (they had to work for the three work days between Christmas weekend/statutory holidays and New Year's) and drove us to the airport in Winnipeg yesterday. 
  • The airport was the quietest I've ever seen it. There were people (our flight was full, or mostly full -- a couple of empty seats here & there), but overall it was pretty quiet. Great for social distancing ;) but still kind of weird. 
  • It was quieter than normal in Toronto as well. We had to wait 45 minutes for our bags to come off the luggage carousel. I imagine they were short-staffed because of covid & the holidays. 
  • We only saw PND twice during our two weeks there:  once to play cards, before Christmas/early on in our visit, and when dh, BIL & I dropped by with gifts on Christmas Day, masked.  It's probably just as well:  PND & her dh both tested positive for covid, on both home tests and then PCR tests. The girls also tested positive on home tests (PCR results still to come) but so far, they are both feeling fine. 
  • Meanwhile, while we were away:  
    • BIL wound up in the hospital for two days (!), and was diagnosed with a potentially serious health condition (non-covid related). He's okay, but it was a real wake-up call for him to make some big changes in his lifestyle and eating habits. 
    • The boss at Older Nephew's wife/Little Great-Nephew's mom's workplace was unvaxxed and got sick with covid... and (surprise!) as a result, so many people there got sick they had to temporarily close over the holidays. Unfortunately, Older Nephew's wife was one of the people who got sick and tested positive. Both Older Nephew & LGN (too young to be vaccinated) were also sick. :(  Older Nephew was going to be tested  today -- in another (larger) community, a half hour away, the first place where he could get an appointment. They're not sure if what LGN had was covid or not? He ran a temperature for a few days and threw up several times :(  but he is feeling better now. Thank goodness! 
    • BIL & SIL went there to help out... and now SIL's been feeling like crap for the last several days. I sent dh over there this morning with my one precious box of rapid tests. Negative, thank goodness! I've ordered some more, but they are understandably swamped right now and back ordered until mid-January. (The provincial government has been handing out some tests for free in some pop-up retail locations, but -- also understandably -- they go like hotcakes and are like gold right now.)   
    • Dh went to the supermarket this morning to restock our refrigerator & cupboards, wearing an N95-equivalent mask -- but says he's not setting foot outside the condo for the rest of the week. ;) Probably a good idea right now...!
  • It was good (SO good!) to see my family & spend Christmas with them -- but it's good to be home again too. I'm exhausted! 
  • I am so far behind on blog reading/commenting and social media posts. (My time is not my own when I'm at my parents' house!) Have I missed anything important/exciting in your world?? 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Saturday, January 1, 2022

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.)

This edition comes to you from my parents' home in a small town on the Prairies of western Canada, where a white Christmas is practically guaranteed!  :)  

Pandemic diary/update: December was Month #21 going on #22 of living with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

So -- fourth wave, anyone??  :(  (Or is it the fifth?? I'm starting to lose track...!)  

Sadly, new cases in Ontario (and in other parts of Canada) absolutely skyrocketed during December, as the highly transmissible new Omicron variant took over from Delta. 780 new cases on Dec. 1st was as good/low as it got. Medical experts warned that, even WITH new public health measures and increased vaccination/booster shots, we could see 10,000 cases by Christmas -- and sadly, that's exactly what happened. :(  

By Dec. 23rd, daily new cases reached a new pandemic high of 5,790 (breaking the previous record of 4,800+ set back in April.)  The next day (Christmas Eve), it was 9,751 and on Christmas Day it was 10,412.  (Ho. Ho. Ho. :p  )  The numbers dipped below 10,000 for a few days but were back at 10,436 on Dec. 29th... then reached 13,807 on Dec. 30th and 16,713 yesterday to close out 2021. :(   Positivity rates were 29.8 per cent. 18,445 new cases today to kick off the new year. :(  (By comparison, the November low was 331 new cases on Nov. 2nd;  high was 964 on Nov. 28th.) And the medical authorities are saying this is just the tip of the iceberg;  actual case numbers are likely much higher, because testing sites are swamped and just can't keep up with requests for appointments, let alone processing results in a timely way. The powers that be are now restricting who can get a PCR test (unless you want to pay $180 at a private facility)(!). And meanwhile, our premier hasn't been seen or heard from for a full two weeks. WTAF?!!  As one Globe & Mail columnist wrote, "We’re in the ‘you’re on your own’ stage of the pandemic."  Lovely. :p  

Plans to drop the use of vaccine passports on Jan. 17th were postponed indefinitely by early/mid-December (DUH, and thank goodness for that!! -- many anti-vaxxers were just waiting things out until that date, knowing they'd then be free to go wherever they wanted without needing proof of vaccination). And on Dec. 15th, capacity at large "indoor entertainment venues, meeting/event spaces and large (1,000+ people) sports venues" was capped at 50 per cent (after capacity restrictions were lifted in mid-October). This includes concerts, theatres/cinemas, racing venues, museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions, as well as casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments, fairs, rural exhibitions, and festivals.  But it still took the government another few days, until Dec. 19th, to reintroduce capacity limits  for restaurants & bars and other indoor settings -- even though case levels rose dramatically after limits were lifted in mid-October (and in fact started taking off almost exactly two weeks later, weeks before Omicron was identified... hmmm....).  

Third dose/booster shots began being offered on Dec. 13th to those 50 & older who were at least 168 days past their second shots. Those 18+ were to begin being vaccinated on Jan. 4th -- but on Dec. 15th, that date was moved up to Dec. 20th, and the timeline between second and third shots was compressed to three months. For dh & me, 168 days = Dec. 16th, and we got our boosters that morning at our family dr's office, two days before we flew west to spend Christmas with my family. :)  (This time around it was Pfizer -- we had AstraZeneca for our first shot in April, and Moderna for the second in July, so we have the complete set!  lol)  The province (finally!) started handing out boxes of free rapid tests in a number of public places too (although we weren't around to get any...!).  

Despite the rising case numbers, we were out and about a little more than usual this past month (mostly pre-omicron rise), for a variety of reasons. On top of dh's usual (once or twice weekly) trips to the supermarket for groceries, and to visit Little Great-Nephew at BIL & SIL's (4 times), we dropped off some donations (clothes & books) at Value Village, returned some photo frames (wrong size) to Michaels, went to the bank, and did some Christmas shopping at Chapters (twice) and Shoppers Drug Mart. We returned to our old old/former community on Dec. 11th for haircuts, and (as mentioned above) Dec. 16th for booster shots at our family doctor's office. 

Dh reported for jury duty on Monday (Nov. 29th) -- and was chosen to serve on one! The judge assured him the trial shouldn't last more than two weeks. Happily, it didn't -- we thought dh might have to stay overnight to deliberate on the verdict, but it was delivered in the early evening hours of Dec. 8th & he arrived home around 8:30 that night. Having served, he won't be considered for jury duty again for another three years. :)  

We all (dh & me, BIL & SIL, both nephews & their wives, and Little Great-Nephew, of course) descended on stepMIL to pay her and her family a pre-Christmas visit on Saturday, Dec. 4th. 

Despite the increasingly gloomy outlook re: Omicron, we flew west to visit my family on Saturday, Dec. 18th, which entailed time spent in both Toronto and Winnipeg airports, as well as on the plane (with everyone masked and vaccinated). Since we arrived here, we've mostly stayed at home (because of the frigid temperatures as well as covid...!).  My sister & I did some shopping at a couple of local stores a few days before Christmas (I was double-masked). 

One of Mom & Dad's neighbours dropped by for a few minutes to say hello, masked and keeping his distance by standing in the entryway. Parent's Neighbours' Daughter came over to play cards with us one evening, soon after we arrived. My mother was not comfortable with having her entire family over during the holidays, but dh, BIL/sister's partner & I made a brief (masked, partly outdoors) visit there on Christmas Day to drop off some presents -- and to admire their adorable new puppy!!  We were going to invite her over to play cards again -- BUT before we had the chance to call, she tested positive on a rapid test, and went for a PCR test on Dec. 30th. :(   We're *fairly* confident that we're OK, thanks to our vaccines/boosters, masks, and the fact that more than 5 days have elapsed and we're all still feeling fine. (Knock wood!)  

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

Also right now:  

Reading: I finished 5 books in December (all reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads, & tagged "2021 books"):
I closed out 2021 with a total of 59 books read -- 164% 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 completed & then exceeded my challenge goal for the year by 23 books, 24 books ahead of schedule. :)  

I am increasing my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal to 45 books ( = 3.75 books per month, on average). (See my "Reading year in review" post.)  

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 digital format, mostly discounted or purchased with points):   
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** 

Watching:  
  • We finally got to the end of "The Lost Symbol," the 10-episode TV adaptation of the Dan Brown novel I read earlier in the fall.  To be honest, I think it could (should) have been half as long. The TV writers threw in so many extra (unnecessary, IMHO) characters and subplots that weren't in the book. Poor Langdon was kind of overshadowed in his own story. It was okay -- it started out promisingly, and I enjoyed the Toronto-area locations -- but overall, I wouldn't rate it more than a C or 2.5 stars out of 5. 
  • Not watching:  The Grand Prix figure skating finals in Osaka, Japan, Dec. 9-12. They were cancelled because of Japan's ban on incoming travel (related to the covid omicron variant).  Nationals, Olympics and Worlds coming up in the new year! (unless those get cancelled because of covid too...)  :(  
  • We watched the Grey Cup on Dec. 12th -- the championship game of the Canadian Football League (CFL) -- and the one football game I will watch every year, lol.  This year's game was held in Hamilton, Ontario (after no game was held last year because of covid -- which actually wiped out the entire season altogether), and featured the hometown team (the Tiger-Cats) versus my beloved Winnipeg Blue Bombers. (The Bombers won, in overtime!) 
  • Dh has been watching a lot of NFL and American college football lately -- which I must admit does not interest me in the least. 
    • (The CFL is, at least, Canadian, with its own unique rules and a colourful history, which goes back more than a century -- this was the 108th Grey Cup game. Even dh -- a lifelong Pittsburgh Steelers fan -- thinks the CFL offers a far more exciting game to watch. Yet many people in the Toronto area prefer the NFL, and travel to Buffalo for Bills games, which baffles me. The problem is that without a Toronto team and Toronto fan support, the CFL would find itself in pretty deep financial trouble, possibly even fold -- and that would be a tragedy -- not to mention one more reason for the rest of the country to hate Toronto, lol. )  
Listening:  Christmas/holiday music. And I added a few more music channels to our favourites list while dh was on jury duty, including one for 80s music and another rock channel. :)  

Eating/Drinking: (Still) Trying to be cautious/bland, after a bout of gallstone/digestive issues that began in late October...   :(  When we were still at home, I was eating lots of toast and soda crackers,  chicken soup, chicken, rice and herbal tea. No wine/alcohol, no takeout on Saturday nights, no eggs for Sunday brunch -- for the time being, anyway. :(  

Since being at my parents' house, I've loosened up a little more. My dad cooked up a delicious roast beef dinner, which resulted in some gallstone grief  :(  -- but otherwise, I was able to (mostly) successfully eat pan-fried pickerel, turkey with gravy and stuffing, ham and scalloped potatos, perogies and (tomato sauce-less) cabbage rolls, baked pork chops, eggs, waffles and other good stuff, in moderation/small portions. A few minor twinges here & there, but nothing too notable, thank goodness and continuing to knock wood...! 

Buying (besides books, lol):  
  • Christmas presents! (both online & in store). 
  • A lap desk for my laptop. I already have one at home and bought another one to bring in my suitcase to my parents' house. My mother doesn't like it when we use our laptops at the dining room table, and I am getting too damn old and creaky to sit on the bedroom floor with it in my lap, using a stack of books for a mouse pad. (Yes, I still use a mouse -- don't judge me, lol.)  This will make it easier/more comfortable to use my laptop while sitting on a chair or sofa in the living room or family room. They will be free to use it when I'm not around. :)  
Wearing: I brought an assortment of Old Navy waffle-weave Christmas print PJ tops with me in my suitcase to wear over the Christmas holidays, along with yoga pants. Glad I brought my cardigan and slippers with me -- it has been cold!! 

Wanting:  An end to this pandemic, already!!  

Enjoying:  Lots of games of cards and dominos while at my parents' house. 

Appreciating: Being able to spend Christmas with my family again! 

Noticing:  How much my parents have aged in recent years. :(   

Wondering:  How much longer my parents will be able to stay in their split-level house on the big lot? (And how to persuade them to move sooner vs later, when they might not have any choice??) 

Hoping: To get to the McMichael Gallery (where I have a membership) when we return, to take in the "Uninvited: Canadian Women Artists in the Modern Moment" exhibit before it closes on Jan. 16th. We haven't been there since just before the pandemic began. There's a Group of Seven centenary exhibit that began just before the pandemic in 2020 (that we haven't seen yet) that's on until March 20th, too. (Perhaps a birthday outing?? -- we'll see what the covid situation is like when we return home... Masks and vaccinations are required, as well as timed tickets, purchased/reserved in advance.

Also hoping: For better things in 2022!  

Loving:  Seeing the sun shining outside (even if it's been around -30C here for the past several days...!)(colder with the wind chill factored in!).  

Feeling:  VERY happy that we got "home" for Christmas with my family. (But also looking forward to returning to our own space soon!)   Less happy about the skyrocketing covid rates right now. :(