Friday, April 29, 2022

Odds & ends for the weekend

  • FIVE WEEKS to the day after my colonoscopy, the doctor's office FINALLY called me with the pathology results for the three polyps that were removed. All negative/clear, thankfully. The doctor will call me for a follow-up phone consultation -- in September (?!! -- I blame covid for the lengthy timelines...) and I will return for my next colonoscopy in five years (not 10), which I understand is the standard protocol when they've found polyps (even if they're benign). (Hopefully by then they'll have invented a better prep drink...??)
  • If you're looking for something nice to do for yourself on what can be a very difficult day for most of us in this community, Sarah at Afterward Honesty is offering a free yoga class for CNBC women on the afternoon of Sunday, May 8th (You-Know-What Day). 
    • I was one of several CNBC bloggers who test-drove the class with Sarah recently. It's been quite a while since I hit the mat (and I've gotten decidedly more creaky since then -- erk!!)  -- and I've never tried doing a yoga class on Zoom before -- but Sarah was a great and accommodating teacher, and it was lovely to be in the same (virtual) space with some old friends and put together others' names & faces. :)   
  • Katy, the Pleasure Anarchist (who is mostly on Instagram), shared how she made peace with a CNBC life in a great article on the Today Show website
    • Sample passage: "I think a lot of people get really caught up on the on the idea of like, “Well, if I’m not a mother, then I’ve got to be extra cool and travel the world and have all these incredible experiences.” Don’t put that pressure on yourself. I’m just living a normal life! It’s OK to stop your fertility journey and just continue living, and that’s something I really want to stress. You don’t have to do anything spectacular. You can just drink a beer and lay in your hammock."
  • Jill Filipovic interviewed Laura Carroll for her Substack newsletter about Carroll's recently released longitudinal study of childfree women, "25 Over 10" (which is in my to-read pile).  The study followed 25 childfree women over 10 years to see whether they changed their minds about having children (as many around them predicted they would). There's still some interesting and relevant content for those of us who didn't choose this life.
    • Carroll is also the author of (among other things) "The Baby Matrix," the definitive manifesto about pronatalism and a must-read for childless and childfree people -- and parents, too!  
    • Carroll talked about the book and about how childless and childfree people need to unite to build a shared movement for change on the New Legacy Radio podcast in March. 
  • "America lost its way on menopause research. It’s time to get back on track." said The Washington Post in an opinion piece this week. (Hopefully not paywalled?)  
    • I was blown away by these stats quoted: "More than 1 billion people worldwide will be in menopause by 2025. Today, there are 55 million in the United States alone, nearly 75 percent of whom report not receiving support or treatment for its effects." 
    • And: "While one third of American women are at any time in some stage of menopause, most doctors don’t even know how to talk about it, let alone treat it. According to the Mayo Clinic, only 20 percent of postgraduate residents reported their programs had a formal menopause curriculum, and fewer than 1 in 10 residents in family medicine, internal medicine and gynecology told the clinic they felt “adequately prepared” to manage the care of patients in the various stages of menopause." 
    • "As a new generation enters menopause, we are demanding change." It's about time...!  (The Brits, as usual, are miles ahead of North America on this front.)  
  • Also in the Washington Post: "Google is letting you limit ads about pregnancy and weight loss" (and other sensitive topics). (Subhead: "When you’re fed up or grieving, targeted ads about sensitive topics can be hard to shake.") There may still be some ads that slip through:  "That’s why the company says the controls help you see “fewer” ads you don’t want to see, rather than “none.” " 
    • To opt out of ad categories, go to Select “Data & Privacy” from the menu on the left, then go to “Ad settings” and look for “Sensitive ad categories.” (Worth a try...!) 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

"The Story Girl" by L.M. Montgomery (re-read)

My L.M. Montgomery Readathon group on Facebook is just completing our group reading & discussion (begun in January) of  "The Story Girl," one of Montgomery's early novels, published in 1911 (three years after "Anne of Green Gables").  The popular 1990s television series "Road to Avonlea" was based in part on this book.  

The plot -- such as there is -- revolves around the adventures of the King cousins of Carlisle, Prince Edward Island, and their friends. As the story opens, brothers Beverley & Felix King arrive from Toronto to stay with their extended family when their father is called to work in Rio de Janeiro. Among the people they meet: their 14-year-old cousin Sara Stanley, known as "The Story Girl" for her ability to captivate an audience with her stories (which we, as readers, also get to enjoy). 

As I mentioned in my original review, "The Story Girl" was written and set in a much different time, and there are a few terms/stereotypes/etc. that might give the modern reader pause and provoke/warrant discussions with younger audiences. Overall, though, for me, this was a warm and pleasant (re)read, and (as usual) our group discussions added so much to my understanding & appreciation of the book. 

My original rating of 4 stars remains unchanged. Our next selection has yet to be announced, but I hope that, eventually, we will cover the 1913 sequel to this book, "The Golden Road" (which I actually read as a pre-teen before "The Story Girl" -- there's a story behind that ;) and if/when we get to that book -- or I read it again on my own -- I will tell it to you here!).   

This was Book #22 read to date in 2022 (and Book #6 finished in April), bringing me to 49% of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books -- almost halfway there! 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."  

Doctor, my eyes... *

* (old Jackson Browne song from the 1970s, for those of you too young to get the reference...!) 

The tl/dr:  Anyone had any experiences with keratectomy (eye surgery) to share??  :(   Or with dry eye syndrome? How about Restasis (eye drops)? 

The long version:  Dh & I went for our routine eye checkups last Friday in midtown Toronto, near where we had our first apartment. Our optometrist is one of the best-rated in the city. We both love him, and we've been seeing him for more than 35 years. (Dh asked him if he's thinking about retirement anytime soon and he said no, he's still having too much fun. ;)  ) I have rather wonky eyes (see this post, for (one) example) -- and he's always been very reassuring. 

I've had my current glasses for more than 7 years, and I've noticed the vision in the right eye has not been great, particularly over the past few years. I remember telling him this the last time or two we've been there, but he never thought there was enough of a difference to change my prescription. 

This time, however, there was a change -- a noticeable, significant change. He asked one of his colleagues to have a look to confirm what he saw. 

They told me I had something on the cornea of my right eye, in the inner corner -- some cloudiness -- an abrasion or infection, perhaps? They asked if my eye had been irritated recently. In retrospect, I guess it has. I did mention it's been very dry in our condo over the winter. 

Dr. Optometrist said he wanted to send me to Dr. Opthamologist, a cornea specialist at one of the hospitals downtown. "He's the best, there's no one better,"  he promised me (and I do believe him, because I think HE's the best).  They were able to book me an appointment on Tuesday, which is pretty darn speedy these days. I figured he'd look at my eyes, probably prescribe me some drops and that would be that. 

So, late Tuesday morning, dh & I trekked alllllll the way downtown, to a very old section of Toronto, found parking, found the registration desk, and eventually found the right place to go and checked in there. (Unlike some recent medical procedures & appointments during covid, dh was able to come inside with me this time, although he had to show his proof of vaccination first.)  Eventually I got called into an exam room, and gave my history to a young resident, who dilated my eyes (for the second time in four days!) and took some photos. 

Then I got taken into another room where another two young doctors had a look at me (both young women). The main one told me I had dry eyes and scar tissue on my cornea. (!) She told me the clinical term for it. (My optometrist called it "Saltzmanns," but she called it something different.)  Both she & the earlier guy asked me if I wore contact lenses -- I told them I had, but I haven't worn them in 15-20 years. 

She told me that I needed to have a surgical procedure done to remove the scar tissue. I did not catch the term at the time, but I have since learned that it's called a keratectomy -- and when did I want to schedule it?  

To put it mildly, I was flabbergasted. I was prepared for drops, but surgery?? (On my EYE??!) (Needless to say, I've always been squeamish at the prospect of laser eye surgery -- not that I would probably be a good candidate for it anyway.)  She told me it was elective and I didn't HAVE to have it done. I honestly didn't know what to say. She suggested I talk it over with Dr. Opthamologist, when he came in. 

Then (while I was still reeling at the prospect of surgery -- on my EYE!) she rattled off four things I needed to do to remedy the dry eye: warm compresses twice a day for 5-10 minutes at a time, eye drops four times a day (she gave me a prescription for Restasis), gently scrub my eyelids & lashes twice a day (first thing in the morning and again in the evening) to remove debris, and take omega vitamins. I asked her if she was going to write this down for me or give me a handout and she just repeated the four things, rapid-fire. (I'm amazed I remembered it all.) 

Finally I got to see Dr. Opthamologist. I will say, he was a very nice man. He asked me how I was, and I told him frankly that I was quite caught off guard, that I did NOT expect to be told I should have surgery! -- and he was very sympathetic and nice about it. He said I wasn't going to go blind or anything from this condition, and that I don't have to have the surgery if I really don't want to -- but it's recommended, and he'd be happy to do it for me. It takes about a week for the eye to heal and then another 4-6 weeks for your vision to adjust -- after which you can check and see if you need a new prescription for your glasses. Seeing my reluctance/hesitation to commit, he suggested I should talk it over with Dr. Optometrist. (He also reinforced some of the points the young female doctor had made about my dry eye, and gave me a handout that included some of those things in print that I could refer to -- thank you!)  

Needless to say, I was beat when we got home (and in bed by 9:30 p.m. that night!).  

So I called Dr. Optometrist yesterday to see what he thought. (Left a message and he called me back later in the afternoon.)  He'd already received Dr. Opthamologist's report. Contrary to what they'd told me at the hospital, he told me -- nicely, but bluntly -- that I NEED to do this, that it's not going to get any better, and that Dr. Opthamologist was the best there was for this kind of thing. 

By then I'd had some time to think about it and sort of resigned myself to the fact that I was probably going to have to do this. So I called and left a message with Dr. Opthamologist's office asking to book the procedure. Hopefully the wait won't be too long... 

(I felt even better after talking with my sister last night. She is at my parents' house right now -- coincidentally, my dad had cataract surgery on one eye yesterday in the city, and she drove him home and is staying there for the next few days to help out while he recovers.  I'd forgotten that -- also coincidentally! --  she had a very similar procedure last year for a "wrinkled cornea." (Yes, that's a thing!) She told me she hadn't realized until after she had it done just how bad her sight had gotten in that eye. She also gave me some tips -- e.g., keep your eyedrops in the refrigerator, and use a cold pack to minimize swelling.)  

I started doing the Restasis drops yesterday. I actually got the generic version -- it was $3.50 with my medical benefits plan, versus $32 for the brand name version. The instructions on the box say twice a day, but the doctor prescribed four times a day. There are 30 ampoules/doses in each box. At this rate, I'll be going through a box a week! The dr warned me there might be some stinging, but encouraged me to keep at it, it will eventually get better.  I didn't feel any stinging, but my eyes do feel dry/raw and a bit achy/swollen after using it. I did some Googling & some say it's just as effective to use regular drops like Systane (which is what I generally use). I asked Dr. Optometrist about this too. He said he's generally not a fan of Restasis -- he doesn't think it's bad, he just doesn't love it. But he encouraged me to give it a try for a while. I'll see. I may just go back to the Systane. 

Sigh.  This getting older stuff is not for sissies...!  :p  

(I'm STILL waiting for the results of the biopsies on the three polyps that were removed during my colonoscopy, 5 weeks ago!  And I finally called back the office of the surgeon I spoke to, two weeks ago, about scheduling my gallbladder removal surgery.  From what he told me, I thought someone was going to call me back within a day or two, and that the surgery would be scheduled within about two months. The receptionist kindly explained they booked surgeries in three-month blocks, and wouldn't be booking until June for surgeries to be done in July, August & September. Of course, they are backlogged right now because of covid. She sent me some paperwork to complete, after which I will be put on the waiting list. Sigh, again. So much for doing any advance planning for summer holidays until at least June...!)

So -- anyone with any experience with keratectomy (or any other kind of eye surgery)? (I'm pretty sure this is a laser procedure, although I'm going to have to confirm that.)  Or with dry eye syndrome?  Restasis?? 

Monday, April 25, 2022

#MicroblogMondays: Condo Saturday night

The scene outside our building 
on Saturday night.
This kind of Saturday night excitement, I could do without...! 

I was watching TV and scrolling through my phone, and dh was doing our taxes (deadline is April 30th in Canada) when the fire alarm went off. 

(We've had several alarms since we moved into this building six years ago (almost to the day). Most of them have been false -- but once, a furnace unit overheated and set off the sprinklers in a unit down the hall from us -- fortunately for us, WAY down the hall, at the other end. Needless to say, there was a LOT of water damage to that unit as well as ones nearby and below.)  

I went out on the balcony to see if I could see anything (and to get away from the incredibly LOUD alarm, lol). There were already people outside, several of them standing out in the parking lot and looking up at the building. Someone outside on the ground called up to someone on a nearby balcony that there WAS actually a fire (!) -- so dh & I pulled on our masks and shoes and jackets, grabbed our phones, keys and purse/wallet, and headed down the nearby stairwell and outside. (I forgot to put on my wedding & engagement rings (!), but did think to grab the portable hard drive that has all my laptop backup files on it.)

Turned out someone had carelessly flicked a cigarette butt into a potted plant on a balcony on the 7th floor (the top floor -- three floors above us, and at the opposite end of the building, fortunately)... which then caught fire. (This is why ashtrays were invented, people...!)  Luckily, someone in the condo building across the street saw the flames and called 911. 

Three fire trucks (plus police) arrived within minutes (much to the delight of the kids who live in the building), and it wasn't more than half an hour from the time the alarm first went off until we got the all-clear to return to our units. (I took this photo from our balcony after we got back.)  

It could have been much (much) worse. 

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

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Weekend odds & ends

  • After a four-day outage, two weekends ago (Saturday, Sunday, Monday & Tuesday,  April 9-12), Bloglovin was back in business over Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday (April 13-16)... but went AWOL (again!!) between last Sunday and Wednesday (i.e., four full days, April 17-20). :p   This time, the message read "We'll be back shortly. Our servers are over capacity and certain pages may be temporarily unavailable. We're incredibly sorry for the inconvenience." (Not the first time that's come up, either.) Service resumed on Thursday morning (and -- knocking wood! -- so far, so good...), but needless to say, I am not impressed... 
  • Today marks the start of National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW), as well as Canadian Infertility Awareness Week. I have to admit, I don't give NIAW much thought these days (if I ever did). While infertility is and always will be very much part of my story, and while my heart goes out to those currently struggling with infertility and going through treatment, it's mostly part of my past now -- certainly not my present or my future. As a 61-year-old post-menopausal woman whose one naturally conceived pregnancy ended in stillbirth and whose last infertility treatment was almost 21 years ago -- one of approximately 70% of women for whom infertility treatments are not/were not successful -- I'm obviously no longer part of the target audience. 
    • I'm also lukewarm on the fact that the event is heavily sponsored by the profit-driven fertility industry -- pharmaceutical companies, fertility clinics, etc. -- who, despite their marketing pitches, don't always have their patients' best interests at heart. 
      • Some of my previous NIAW-related posts here
    • In social media posts about NIAW, Stephanie Phillips of World Childless Week said, "It was very clear that it was focused on helping people achieve parenthood and there was no mention of support for anyone who remained childless not by choice, like me.  The feeling of being excluded and overlooked was the initial spark that several years later led to me creating World Childless Week."  
  • I was horrified to read, in an article from, that opponents of a California bill that would do away with mandatory investigations of stillbirths are claiming that it would “legalize infanticide.” (!!)  (The article says "The bill would prevent prosecution in cases of “perinatal death due to a pregnancy-related cause.” But authorities would investigate if there were evidence of foul play leading to an infant’s death.)  I Googled some stats and learned that about 2,400 babies are stillborn in California every year. Do these idiots have any idea how hurtful this must be to those already-suffering parents?? 
  • Just now seeing this New York Times Well article from a few weeks ago about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Among the examples cited are women who have had stillbirths and ectopic pregnancies. 
  • Back in 2014, I wrote a post that (in part) expressed my annoyance at the phrase "I can't imagine..." when someone was confronted by my grief: 

"I could never imagine" is one of those phrases that people reach for when they don't now what else to say. It's a crutch. It's one of my pet peeves as a bereaved mother. I'll admit, I've probably used those words myself in the past. But, having heard them far too often for my liking over the past 16 years, I bite my tongue more often these days & search for something more meaningful and less clichéd to say. 

Because when you say "I can't imagine" (even if you really can't), what I'm hearing is "I don't WANT to imagine. Not going there. Nope. Sorry, kid, you're on your own in this scary, scary place you've found yourself in."

So you can imagine (ha!) that I was very happy to find this article in TIME by Rebecca Soffer, founder of Modern Loss: "Don't Say You 'Can't Imagine' the Grief of Those Who Have Lost Loved Ones. Ask Them to Tell You Their Stories," is the (lengthy, but bang-on) headline. Sample passage: 

“I can’t imagine.” Families and individuals who have lost children, siblings, partners, and friends hear it all the time, this confession of an inability to imagine the worst, the unspeakable, the most feared event. I understand why people offer the phrase—as an earnest gesture of solace or a filler in lieu of anything else—but it rarely brings comfort. More often, the recipients are left feeling even more isolated at a time when grief has already banished them to a cold, dark place.

The truth is, it’s not that we can’t imagine the experience. It’s that we don’t want to. In saying that the deep loss someone is feeling is too unbearable to picture, what we’re really doing is drawing a line: not mine, not ours, only yours. Perhaps we think we might prevent this pain, this chaos, this fear and uncertainty, from reaching our own lives. But if this global pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that grief doesn’t work that way. Grief belongs or will belong to everybody, if not today then someday.

Worth reading! -- the rest of the article is here

Thursday, April 21, 2022

"If I Knew Then" by Jann Arden

Okay, so I'm on a Jann Arden roll right now. ;)  Having just finished "Feeding My Mother" last night (reviewed here), I immediately dove into Jann's next/most recent book, "If I Knew Then: Finding Wisdom in Failure and Power in Aging," which had also been languishing in my gargantuan to-be-read pile since it was released in the fall of 2020.

It didn't take me very long to tear through it -- just a couple of hours -- both because it's a short book (under 200 well-spaced pages), but also because it's highly readable.  

With both parents gone and approaching her 60th birthday (a milestone that happened a few weeks ago), Jann ponders her past and her relationships with her parents, and offers her thoughts on aging, death, failure, regret and becoming a crone (a title that Gateway Women's Jody Day has encouraged us to reclaim!). There's a lot of hard-won wisdom shared here, delivered with Jann's trademark wit & humour.  I'm not sure I'm quite there yet alongside her (getting there, maybe??) -- but I loved everything she had to say. (I read the hardcover version, but I can imagine listening to her narrate the audiobook would be great.) 

A couple of sample passages: 

What I think about now couldn't be further from brooding on time running out. Instead, I'm focused on reimagining and reinvention, the act of becoming someone I always hoped I would be. I feel that I am a wise woman emerging through the trees with a renewed sense of the purpose of my own glorious life. (p. 5) 

...yes, it is possible to bloom extremely late in life. I am blooming as I sit here. I can feel myself blooming. You can never stop blooming, people. That's the best part of being a human being. (p. 51) 

For such a long time, I didn't think getting older was going to be all that useful, to be honest. The glamour and joy of youth is pounded into us at every turn, so that we end up dreading the one thing that holds a hell of a lot of power in real life: wisdom. (p. 123) 

Maybe I'm missing a few bricks in my wall, but I prefer the older, more beat-up version of myself. I prefer the lines on my face and the bits and pieces of me that have broken off and now rattle around inside my chest. I prefer my current state of ease and grace and intermittent wisdom. I like the fact that I'm finally at a place where I can breathe in and out without being strangled by self-doubt and constant worry about things that might happen. I like my new steadfastness when it comes to decisions that would have stolen my sleep twenty years ago. I like how I feel about who I am. It's exhilarating. (p. 163) 

5 stars on Goodreads.

This was Book #21 read to date in 2022 (and Book #5 finished in April), bringing me to 47% 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."  

"Feeding My Mother" by Jann Arden

I bought "Feeding My Mother: Comfort and Laughter in the Kitchen as My Mom Lives with Memory Loss" by Jann Arden in hardcover when it first came out, and brought it with me to my parents' house for Christmas that year (2017). I didn't get very far into it before I realized that reading a book about dealing with aging parents -- no matter how uplifting -- might not be the best idea while I was "home" visiting my OWN aging parents. So I set the book aside and marked it as "I'll get back to it someday" on Goodreads.  ;)  

"Someday" finally arrived. I recently picked up the book again. :)   

I don't know how many of you outside of Canada are familiar with Jann Arden, but she's kind of a national treasure here (and I've mentioned her several times on this blog, in various contexts). She is one year younger than I am (just turned 60), grew up in the same general part of the country as me (the Prairies, in Alberta), is single and childless/free, dotes on her pets, and is a vegan and animal rights activist. 

She's an award-winning singer/songwriter (her first album was released in 1993). She's a writer, with several books to her credit, including an earlier (2011) memoir, "Falling Backwards," which I read, loved, and reviewed here. She's a well-known actress and media personality here, particularly known for her guest appearances on "The Rick Mercer Report" (look up clips of her & Rick on YouTube;  they're hilarious together) and guest-hosting stints on "The Social" (Canada's answer to "The View" and "The Talk"), and she hosts her own podcast. More recently, she's starred in two seasons (so far) of her own self-titled sitcom, "Jann" (a fictionalized/exaggerated version of her own life), which has aired on CTV here in Canada and Hulu in the U.S. 

She also has a great presence on social media, and this book draws on her diary-like Facebook posts between 2014 and 2017, as she dealt with the declining health of her parents. By 2014, her father had had several strokes, and her mother was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, evolving into someone Jann didn't recognize anymore. Their house was 100 yards from Jann's on a rural property outside of Calgary, and Jann began cooking for her parents whenever she wasn't on the road. (Recipes are included.  :)  )   

The book is funny, sad, reflective, wise, poignant, compassionate and heartbreaking. Sample passage, on grief, from August 2, 2016 (which I thought many of us here could relate to): 

When you don't argue with grief like a drunk husband, much good can come from its stillness. Reflection is so important, time alone, solitude, reckoning. You can't be your best self when you're submerged in useless busy-ness...

Instead of telling discomfort to go away, I'm going to invite it in. I've learned that it seems to not really like that. It's more used to people who hide from it. 

I say let fear and grief sit at your table. Talk to them, give them a cold drink and a sandwich. They simply want to be acknowledged and not ignored. When you ignore them, they just hang around longer. 

In addition to being a pleasure to read, the original hardcover is a pleasure to look at. It's beautiful, visually -- the layout, the typography, the photographs. I also have an e-pub version on my Kobo e-reader, which I took with me to read in bed (easier to handle there). To my surprise, the e-version is longer than the original by about 30%:  the hardcover ends after a post from February 1, 2017;  the e-version has 35 more entries and ends with August 11, 2018. It's all good. :) 

5 stars on Goodreads.  I have a feeling I will be returning to this book, more than once, over the coming years, as I navigate my own journey with my own aging parents. 

This was Book #20 read to date in 2022 (and Book #4 finished in April), bringing me to 44% of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 7 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2022 tagged as "2022 books."  

Monday, April 18, 2022

#MicroblogMondays: Easter weekend recap

It was Easter, Passover, Ramadan, and a bunch of other holidays this past weekend (not to mention a full moon!).  What was your weekend like? 

BIL called late on the morning of Good Friday and asked if we wanted to go with them to visit stepMIL -- they'd pick us up in, say, half an hour or so?  We haven't seen stepMIL since early December, and we probably would have gone -- IF he'd called us about it the night before, or even, say, 9 a.m. that morning. As it was, we were right in the middle of our usual Friday morning housecleaning. We still had about an hour's worth of work left to do, plus we hadn't yet eaten lunch or had showers (definitely needed after cleaning!). Dh told him to go without us. So typically BIL to call us to do stuff on very short notice...! (this was not the first time this has happened!) (I wonder -- do people with kids get last-minute calls like this??) 

Saturday was busy. We went back to our old community for haircuts, with a brief stop at the cemetery to visit Katie. By the time we got back home, we had about an hour & a half to relax, then change and get ready to head over to BIL's for dinner. (I even put on some makeup for the occasion! -- keep in practice, lol...!)  As I wrote earlier in the week, we weren't anxious to go, given there would be 16 people -- 14 adults (SIL's two brothers, their partners and families, as well as the nephews, their wives and us) and two small children -- sharing a not-huge space, with covid wave #6 surging hereabouts. 

But BIL begged, and dh caved, and so off we went. I told dh we needed to stick close to Younger Nephew & his wife, since they'd be the safest people in the room -- they are probably even more covid-cautious/paranoid than dh & I are, lol.  It was not particularly warm outside, but I was relieved that the sliding door to the deck off the kitchen/dining area, where BIL & Older Nephew were grilling enough lamp chops, flank steaks and chicken wings to feed a small army ;)  was at least part-way open for most of the time we were there, letting some fresh air circulate in the house. (Not only from a covid perspective -- with that many people there, it was HOT inside!)  I staked out a spot at the dinner table near the door, and stayed there for most of the evening, lol.  Fingers crossed that, plus being triple-vaxxed, was enough to ward off any germs...!! 

We wound up having a reasonably pleasant time. SIL's niece (whom I've known since she was a baby -- she's now in her late 30s) came over to hug me when she arrived, and I quickly offered up my elbow instead. She looked a bit startled but then laughed and bumped elbows. Her little boy (SIL's great-nephew), who is 4, and Little Great-Nephew had a great time playing together. (By my genealogical calculations, they would be second cousins to each other. Neither has any first cousins.)  They both got tons of new toys as well as chocolate, and some of the adults organized an egg hunt for them in the basement. I didn't head down there to watch -- too many people in an even smaller enclosed space for my liking...! -- plus I didn't want yet another reminder of the stuff I'd been missing out on with my own children & grandchildren all these years. 

As if two kids in the house weren't entertaining enough, Older Nephew brought their miniature dachshund, and SIL's new puppy immediately bounced over to say hello, happy to have a new playmate. Older Nephew's dog was startled -- and clearly NOT happy! -- to see another dog on his old familiar turf, and immediately started barking and yelping.  He ran away, with the puppy in hot pursuit, wanting to play. Older Nephew's wife wound up having to take him down to the basement. Oh dear...!  

The one jarring note in the evening: the kids were talking about one of SIL's cousins, who is childless and the doting owner of an aging dog. She reportedly paid $5,000 for an ultrasound for the dog. "$5,000?? Well, she doesn't have kids," said SIL's niece dismissively -- conveniently overlooking the fact that there were several childless (by circumstance &/or not by choice) people in the room, including me & dh, SIL's younger brother's girlfriend, and Younger Nephew and his wife, who have been going through infertility treatments recently. Tact has never been her strong suit. I silently rolled my eyes and moved on. 

We were both exhausted when we got home, and were very glad to have a quiet day on the couch yesterday!  

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

Sunday, April 17, 2022

"My Ticket to Ride" by Janice Mitchell

If you've followed my blog for a while, you'll know that I spent several teenaged years in the mid-1970s obsessed with the top boy band of the day, the (cough!) Bay City Rollers. Whenever I had a fight with my mother, I would lie awake at night, plotting how I would run away to Scotland (where the Rollers were from)(and then she'd be sorry...!).  I never did quite figure out how I was going to manage to get to Scotland all by myself on my $5 a week allowance (plus occasional money from babysitting)  ;)  (I'd never even been on a plane before, and it was a lot harder to research and arrange those sorts of things in pre-Internet times)  but there was nothing I wanted more than to go to there, meet my favourite Roller (Woody), marry him and live happily ever after. 

Janice Mitchell lived my dream -- a version of it, at least. In 1964, at the age of 16, she and her friend Martha (Marty) ran away together from Cleveland to London, with the goal of meeting the Beatles (they figured hanging around the clubs frequented by the band in Soho would do the trick) and getting jobs with Brian Epstein (he's a busy man, he must need help! and Janice could type!!).  They actually made it to England (after cashing in Marty's college fund)(!), found and rented an apartment, and spent 23 days there, sightseeing, visiting clubs and hanging out with local boys (including a hitchhiking trip to Liverpool), before they were apprehended by police and abruptly hauled back to the States. The girls didn't realize their disappearance had made international headlines. Not only did Janice and Marty suffer personal consequences, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and rock and roll generally, were banned from Cleveland for two years afterward, until 1966 (!). 

Not allowed to talk about what had happened, and encouraged to put the entire episode behind her, Janice didn't tell anyone about her amazing adventure for more than 50 years (!). She went on to become a journalist, a federal investigator (now retired), a private investigator and adjunct professor.  She's still a Beatles fan. :) 

Now, she's written a book about the experience. You've gotta love the title: "My Ticket to Ride: How I Ran Away to England to Meet the Beatles and Got Rock and Roll Banned in Cleveland (A True Story from 1964)."  :) 

I first heard about Janice and her book via Ann Moses, who was the editor of Tiger Beat magazine back in the 1960s/early 1970s. I read & enjoyed Ann's memoir "Meow" a few years ago (reviewed here) and have followed her on Facebook ever since then. 

"Author Janice Mitchell contacted me a few years ago and asked me for advice for a book she was working on," Ann wrote in a Facebook post last September. "After hearing her summary of her adventure, I told her the story was “golden” and to forge ahead."  

This all sounds rather light-hearted, and there's a charming naivete to the teenagers' plans and escapades -- echoes of a simpler, more innocent time -- but there's a dark/sad/serious undercurrent to Janice's story, too -- one that lifts the book above a simple fan-girl's memoir. Janice's parents were alcoholics, who left Janice with an aging great-aunt and uncle and disappeared when she was 8 years old. She didn't see them, nor her younger sister and brother, for another 20 years. Music, and the Beatles, gave colour and meaning to her somewhat dreary life. She truly believed she would not be missed and that her great-aunt would be better off without having her around to worry about. 

Janice remembers the police officers in England treated them with kindness -- those in their own country, not so much. They were taken from the plane in Cleveland straight to a juvenile detention centre, until their families were able to bail them out, and charged with juvenile delinquency, based on complaints of forgery, truancy, disobedience and running away. This treatment seems like a huge amount of overkill -- but, as one of the book blurbs says, it was "an era in America when young women exercising some control over their lives presented a serious threat to adult society."  Clearly, not everyone back then was a Beatles fan...! 

This was a fast read, and I enjoyed it hugely (I'll admit it was right up my alley). If you're a Beatles fan (as I am), or (like me) ever dreamed of running away to follow your favourite boy band, you will enjoy this book. :) 

5 stars. 

(Caroline Sullivan also lived a version of my dream in the 1970s,  WITH the Bay City Rollers. She and some friends (who called themselves the "Tacky Tartan Tarts")(!) followed the Rollers around the U.S. for four straight summers, from 1975 to 1979  (She wound up sleeping with one of them too -- unnamed in the book, but it's not hard to guess who it was.)  Now a music journalist in Britain, she wrote a memoir about her Rollermaniac days called "Bye Bye Baby: My Tragic Love Affair with the Bay City Rollers" in 1999.  My British penpal from those days -- one of the few penpals I'm still in touch with from that time -- sent me a copy before it became available here in North America. :)  I enjoyed that one too.  :)   )   

This was Book #19 read to date in 2022 (and Book #3 finished in April), bringing me to 42% of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 6 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2022 tagged as "2022 books."  

Friday, April 15, 2022

Health updates :) and other odds & ends

  • Woke up the morning after this post ( = Thursday/yesterday morning) feeling better... not 100%, mind you, but better. I was still tired (didn't sleep well, again  :p ) and throat a bit scratchy -- but the heavy, fatigued, "foggy" feeling was gone, thankfully.  By last night, I was feeling much more like myself. 
    • Much better today... still a bit of a tickle in my throat, perhaps, but it felt better after another warm saltwater gargle, and a steamy shower. I had a better sleep last night too, so I don't feel quite so tired. 
    • I took a second rapid test this afternoon, 48 hours after the previous one. It was also negative. :)  
  • Since I'm in the clear and feeling better from whatever it was that was ailing me, I think we'll go ahead & keep our haircut appointment tomorrow. If we do that, though, we'll have to go to BIL's for early Easter dinner as well.  :p  I guess I'll just cross my fingers the weather will allow the windows to be open for a while, maintain a distance as best I can and maybe bring along a mask. I wouldn't be surprised if Younger Nephew & his wife are wearing them (they are even more paranoid/cautious than we are...!), and if they do, I will too. 
  • I had a telephone consultation Wednesday night with a local surgeon about having my gallbladder removed. It felt a bit weird to be agreeing to put my body into the hands of a surgeon I probably won't get to meet face to face until I see him in the operating room... but I'm tired of having this particular sword of Damocles hanging over my head. I've checked him out on Google, and the reviews are mostly very good. He asked me about my basic medical history and about my gallstone issues, and assured me it's a very common surgery and most people are able to return to normal eating patterns after a short adjustment period. 
    • He said he'd have his secretary call to schedule my surgery. (Still waiting for the call -- although, to be fair, it's Good Friday and the office wouldn't be open today.)  He said it would likely be about two months down the road ( = mid/late June-ish?).  That might sound like a while, but to be honest, I had fully expected to be waiting for quite a while longer than that -- especially for something that's not urgent-urgent, with so many surgeries postponed and rescheduled because of covid. 
  • This past week on Today With Hoda and Jenna, 30-year-old Donna Farizan chatted with three women -- a mother, a midlife woman still hoping for children, and Candice Bushnell, creator of "Sex and the City" -- about the choice to have children. Later on Instagram, Donna talked with Melanie Notkin of Savvy Auntie about being childless by circumstance. Melanie also wrote about her experiences for the Today website.  Great to see this topic being covered on a mainstream network program!  
  • Sian Prior was the guest on "The Book Pod With Corrie Perkin," speaking about her new memoir, "Childless: A Story of Freedom and Longing" (which I hope to get to read, eventually!). I mentioned listening to Sian discuss her book on another podcast, here

Thursday, April 14, 2022

"The Great Influenza" by John M. Barry

The COVID-19 pandemic created a surge of interest in previous pandemics, including what's generally acknowledged as the biggest and deadliest one of all (at least, until now) -- the "Spanish flu" epidemic of 1918-1920.  (Which wasn't actually Spanish at all -- but, I digress...) After watching a PBS documentary about it, soon after COVID began in early 2020, I added "A book about the Spanish flu" to my "priority TBR list" -- but I only just got around to actually reading one now.  There are several such books out there, many well-rated and reviewed (and I may eventually read some of them too), but I wound up choosing "The Great Influenza" by John M. Barry. The book was first published in 2004, and the edition I read was an e-version, published in 2018.  

After a promising Preface, in which doctors are confronted with the first cases of the mysterious virus, the book began with several long and somewhat boring chapters (the first five chapters/10% of the book) on the history of modern medicine and modern medical education in the U.S., followed by a couple more chapters explaining the immune system and viruses in great detail. Once we (finally!) got around to World War I (the U.S.'s entry in 1917, anyway) and the actual pandemic, things picked up and got more interesting.  (And the earlier chapters made more sense as I reached the end of the book, which circled back to some of the people and questions raised there.) 

Barry believes the pandemic began with a particularly virulent outbreak of influenza first recorded in the early months of 1918 in Haskell County, Kansas, which was then brought to an army training site at Camp Funston (Fort Riley) by several local recruits. The winter of 1917-18 was the coldest on record;  conditions at the training camps were crowded, bringing together young men from small towns and large cities all over the country.  Even before the influenza pandemic began, measles and pneumonia were killing thousands of young soldiers in these camps. (See below for a personal note.)  These soldiers carried the virus with them to Europe, where it morphed into an even more vicious and frightening variant -- and then returned with the soldiers to the U.S. aboard ships, causing explosions of illness in camps and cities across the country in the fall of 1918. Complicating matters, hundreds of thousands of doctors and nurses had been enlisted into military service, creating critical shortages in towns and cities across the country when the pandemic began affecting civilians. 

There is so much in here that, from our 2022 perspective, is an eerie precursor to the current covid-19 pandemic (as the French say, plus ca change, plus ca meme chose... do we never learn from history??):  head-in-the-sand politicians, public officials and military leaders;  ignoring common-sense public health measures (crowding ever-more soldiers into already-crowded camps, going ahead with a major bond drive parade in Philadelphia despite strong advice to cancel);  overworked medical staff collapsing from exhaustion and falling ill themselves;  shortages of hospital beds, linens, gauze masks and medical supplies; orders for precautionary measures that came too little, too late...  Like our current struggle with covid-19, this pandemic came in waves that seemed like they would never end. The 1918 pandemic lasted more than two years, through 1920, before finally petering out in the early years of the new decade. 

This earlier pandemic was lethal in a way that even the current pandemic, bad as it has been, is not, and made an impact that is still felt today, medically, culturally and otherwise. This was an era before antibiotics, before the widespread use of oxygen, when vaccines were still being developed for many common illnesses. Masks were used (and mandated in many places -- and yes, there were protests!), but were mostly made of gauze (!), which likely provided little real protection against the virus. The pandemic is curiously absent in the literature of the times, however, and was downplayed in the press for fears that the truth would panic the population and hamper morale and the war effort.  One of the first (and few) places where the virus was covered more openly was Spain -- hence, the virus became known as "the Spanish flu."  

The Afterword -- in which Barry speculates what a modern pandemic on the scale of the 1918 edition might look like and how it might unfold -- is probably worth the price of the book alone. (Many of his thoughts and predictions, for better and for worse, have come to pass.)  I'd love to see an eventual updated version! 

3.5 stars on Goodreads, rounded down to 3. There's a lot of interesting stuff here for anyone wanting to learn more about he 1918 pandemic, and I am glad I slogged my way through to the end -- the good stuff is pretty good -- but it WAS a slog at times.  (If anyone has read any other books about the 1918 pandemic that you would recommend, let me know!) 

*** *** *** 

On a personal note:  I had an extra reason for being interested in this book and in the 1918 pandemic. My grandmother's first cousin, from the same town in northwestern Minnesota where she lived and where my mother was born, enlisted in the U.S. Army in December 1917, and died a month later, on January 19th, 1918, at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri. He was 23 years old, and had been living with his 80-year-old grandmother (my great-great grandmother). His mother died when he was 4 years old;  when he was 13, his father (the brother of my great-grandfather) headed west and was never heard from again. 

My grandmother was not quite 4 years old when her cousin died.  He is buried in a family plot in his hometown in Minnesota, and the local branch of the American Legion is named after him. His death certificate lists pneumonia as the cause of death, but his Find a Grave entry says he died of "Spanish flu."  

Barry's book traces the origins of the pandemic to Kansas in the early months of 1918, and to Camp Funston by March. Could the strange new influenza have spread to St. Louis in January, in time for Grandma's cousin to take ill, develop pneumonia and die on the 19th? Kansas and Missouri are next door to each other -- Camp Funston and Jefferson Barracks are just a few hundred miles apart -- so I suppose it's not impossible that (as Find a Grave would have us believe) he could have been an early victim of the pandemic. Or did his death happen so close to the pandemic outbreak that, over time, it just got lumped in with all the other deaths that came afterwards?  I suspect that was probably the case, but we'll likely never know for sure.   

From Chapter 11: 

"In the six months from September 1917 to March 1918, before the influenza epidemic struck, pneumonia struck down 30,784 soldiers on American soil. It killed 5,741 of them. Nearly all of these pneumonia cases developed as complications of measles... The average death rate from pneumonia in twenty-nine cantonments was twelve times that of civilian men of the same age."

There was a major outbreak of influenza at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis in October 1918, with many deaths recorded then.  

This was Book #18 read to date in 2022 (and Book #2 finished in April), bringing me to 40% of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 6 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2022 tagged as "2022 books."  

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Sick :( plus more odds & ends

I am sick. :(  

I'll cut to the point: I took a rapid test this afternoon (first one I've taken, although I had two PCR tests, back when they were easier to obtain), and it was NEGATIVE -- so I don't have covid. (I think?) I'll admit I might not have done the test quite properly. I checked several different sources for advice on test-taking:  I waited 30 minutes after lunch to do it, and I swabbed the insides of my cheeks/gums before doing the nostrils. I tried to do the back of my tongue/throat but I have a strong gag reflex, so that wasn't too successful. I'm also ticklish and swabbing the nostrils was... interesting. Not sure I did enough rotations or that I went in deep enough. (And yes, I did get pregnancy test vibes, waiting for the results!) 

Anyway. I may try again tomorrow, just to be sure -- but I'll admit it was a relief to just see that single line on the test!  

The only place I've been within the last week that I could have picked up covid (or anything else), besides BIL & SIL's house, would be dh's cousins' house last Friday (and they already had it in early January).  And before we went there, we stopped in at a local bakery to pick up some cannolis to take for coffee. We wore masks;  not everyone there did but it wasn't that crowded/busy -- fairly spacious --  and we weren't there more than 20 minutes. Otherwise, I've been home. 

I started feeling like I might be coming down with something on Monday night. I was very tired -- I haven't been sleeping great lately -- and I thought I felt a bit of a tickle at the back of my throat. I gargled with warm salt water (Grandma would be proud of me!) before I went to bed. I was relatively OK until mid-afternoon yesterday, and then I just started feeling crappy all over. Not REALLY bad, but not great either. My throat is not really SORE, but it feels dry and slightly scratchy. I can feel it up into my nasal passages too. My eyes feel strained and a bit dry, even though the humidity in our unit is the best it's been in a while, I have a mild headache, and I just feel tired/fatigued/lethargic and a bit achy all over. This is all fairly par for the course for me whenever I get sick. Sometimes it develops into a full-blown cold, but sometimes I will feel like this for a few days and then it eventually subsides. The last time I felt like this was two years ago, just at the start of the pandemic. 

I may have jinxed myself. BIL called dh yesterday morning and said, "You know you're coming here for Easter dinner on Saturday night?"  (This is how my BIL issues an invitation, lol.) I was happy about the prospect of spending part of Easter weekend with the nephews & their wives and Little Great-Nephew -- but apparently SIL's family will be there too. Including us, that adds up to 16 people -- 14 adults and two small children -- which is a few too many people in a small space for my comfort right now (and the weather isn't supposed to be great, so not likely we can spend a lot of time outdoors or with the windows open). "We can call and tell them you're not feeling well," dh offered. Be careful what you wish for...!   

Of course, if I'm sick already, I don't need to worry about THEM giving anything to ME -- I have an excuse not to go. ;)  But if I'm still sick, and not able to go there for dinner, I won't be able to go for a scheduled (and much-needed) haircut on Saturday afternoon either.  :(  I guess we'll see what happens & how I'm feeling by Saturday. 

Whether or not I had covid, I didn't want to pass anything along to LGN, so we skipped our usual visit with him & SIL this morning. :(   I've been doing more saltwater gargles, taking ibuprofen, sucking on Halls lozenges, drinking lots of fluids, and diffusing and rubbing in an essential oil blend (including eucalyptus, tea tree and cinnamon) that supposedly bolsters the immune system. (Can't hurt, right?) 

Good Lord, it DOES feel like waiting for a pregnancy test result!! 
  • Meanwhile, "back home" in Manitoba, the impending blizzard I wrote about yesterday is under way. My sister actually went to work this morning, only to head home at lunchtime (while the buses were still running...!).  
    • One of the national news channels had a live report from Winnipeg this morning, where it was already snowing heavily. I noticed (& pointed out to dh) that the reporter was not wearing mittens or gloves (even if it was snowing, I guess it wasn't that cold). At the end of the report, the in-studio anchor said to her, "Hey, I'm a mom, put some gloves on!!"  Hey, I'm NOT a mom, and I said it first!!  (Mothers do NOT have a monopoly on noticing these things...!) 
  • Bloglovin seems to be functional again, on both my laptop and cellphone app. :) 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Odds & ends

  • Bloglovin update: Day 4 and still nothing on my laptop screen. The phone app is not loading new links either. Grrrr....  
  • It's clear and sunny outside here today, and the forecasted high is 17C!! (63F)  But -- back "home" in Manitoba, they are bracing for a snowstorm that, Environment Canada warns, "has the potential to be the worst blizzard in decades" -- 30-50 cm (about 12-20 inches) and possibly up to 80 cm (32 inches!!) of snow!!  
    • Snow in Canada in April (and especially in Manitoba) is not uncommon. Dh's late dad loved telling him about the snowstorm they had here in Toronto the night he was born (65 years ago in April -- see next point).  We never had an Easter egg hunt outside when I was growing up... even if there wasn't snow on the ground, it was still usually pretty wet & chilly. But 80 cm??!! 
    • My elderly parents had a medical appointment in the city today (about an hour's drive away). They've rescheduled for May. My sister & her partner were supposed to go there on Friday for the Easter long weekend. They'll see how the roads are (and whether there's power!) by then. 
  • Monday (yesterday) was dh's birthday -- his 65th!!  He's getting his first Old Age Security cheque (well, direct deposit, lol) from the federal government next month (eeek).  
    • BIL -- dh's only sibling -- called around lunchtime. I assumed it was to wish dh a happy birthday. Nope!  His grandson -- our Little Great-Nephew -- got his first big-boy haircut on Sunday afternoon, and BIL wanted to ask if we'd seen the pictures (we had!) and rave about how cute he is (and of course he is!).  As the conversation wound down, dh threw out a prompt:  "Anything else?"  Nope!  Dh hung up and said, "Not a WORD about my birthday!" We both laughed -- it WAS kind of funny (and so typically BIL). (He finally did call later in the afternoon -- full of apologies, as I expected, lol -- after one of the kids texted birthday greetings on our family text group.) But at the same time, so very typical of what we childless people have to deal with too, wasn't it? 
  • Saturday morning, I watched the live premiere of Jody Day's latest TEDxTalk, "Social Plankton: Why Single Non-Mothers are the Fuel of the Future." Jody ends the talk with five calls to action -- specific things parents and partnered people can do to be more inclusive of single childless people (and childless people generally), and the benefits they themselves will experience as a result (the "what's in it for me" factor!). Well worth watching! 
    • Also worth sticking around to watch:  Jody's actual talk (the standard 14-minute TEDTalk) is followed by a 45-minute Q&A session, with some very thoughtful questions posed by an obviously well-prepared host. 
    • Also worth watching:  Jody's first TEDxTalk, "The Lost Tribe of Childless Women," delivered before a live audience in Hull, England, in 2017.  
  • I have to admit I found Yael Wolfe's recent piece in Medium about childlessness and legacy somewhat unsettling/depressing (the stuff about being the keeper of the family tree and photographs hit particularly close to home...!) -- but it's still a worthwhile read (and there are some lovely comments too). Legacy is something that many childless women struggle with (World Childless Week devoted a day to the topic last year -- and here are my own tagged blog posts on the subject). I do recognize that once we're gone, what happens next is completely out of our control, and that there's more of human history that gets forgotten than remembered. We might make an impact that lasts (at least for a little while), we might not -- and that goes for parents, as well as the childless. What really matters is the here and now, and what we do and how we treat each other in the relatively brief time we're on this planet.  
  • I get Maria Shriver's Sunday Paper every week via email, and one of this week's features was an interview with Anna Quindlen. Back in the late 1980s/early 1990s, when I was newly married and hoping to start a family (someday...), I discovered Quindlen's regular column in the New York Times. (You might say that Quindlen was a mommy blogger, years before blogs existed.) She left journalism in 1995 to turn (mostly) to fiction. I've never read any of her novels (and, needless to say, while I'm sure the writing is wonderful as usual, I have no interest in reading "Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting"), but I still have several early collections of her columns on my bookshelves. It's the kind of personal writing I love and admire (Joyce Maynard is another such writer whose work has had a huge influence on me). And now, in her newest book, Write for Your Life, Quindlen is encouraging all of us to take up our pens and document our personal histories.  
Writing also allows us to honor ourselves, says Quindlen. “That is such a challenge in our modern life with its pace, with its technology, with its emphasis on celebrity and glamor: To sit quietly with yourself and say, I'm important. I have something to say.”

I'm looking forward to reading it! 

Monday, April 11, 2022

#MicroblogMondays: Annoying things & small pleasures

Annoying things: 

  • Bloglovin:  I've used Bloglovin to track and read the many blogs I follow (adoption/loss/infertility-related & otherwise) for almost nine (!) years, ever since the demise of the late, lamented Google Reader in 2013 (on both my laptop and in a phone app). Maddeningly, it seems to go through periods where all I get is a "Sorry, this page isn't available" message, sometimes lasting a full day or more. (Here's a previous rant on this topic from two years ago.) It's happened several times recently, including this past weekend and the weekend before that. (If you haven't had a comment from me on your blog recently, this is one reason why...!) This morning, I was getting new posts on my Bloglovin phone app -- but not on my laptop, which is where I use it most... Go figure.  :p  Most of the ALI blogs that I follow are are also listed/linked to in the blogrolls on the right-hand side of this page, but there are other blogs I follow , to books, politics, etc., exclusively on Bloglovin. VERY annoying. 
    • The "help" button offers very limited help.  There seems to be no way to contact the powers that be to find out what's going on or register a complaint. They have a Twitter account, but there are no posts on it.  
    • During one extended Bloglovin' outage a few years ago, I set up a Feedly account as a kind of backup -- but there didn't seem to be a simple way to transfer my (500+!)(albeit not all of them are active) blogs over from Bloglovin, so only a fraction of what I follow is on there. Plus, I am used to the Bloglovin format;  I don't always find Feedly easy to navigate.
    • Grrrr...... 
  • Hair loss:  I realize it's a midlife thing, for women as well as for men.  I have very thick hair that's in no danger of really thinning out any time soon (if ever...!) -- but lately I HAVE noticed more stray hairs in the bathroom sink, etc. -- particularly over the last year or two, post-menopause. :p  
    • Related annoying thing (and warning, this might slightly gross some people out): Several times recently, I've wound up with a stray hair in one of my eyes (usually the left one, for some reason). It's not always easy to see, let alone remove (especially when the hair is grey...!), and it can drive me crazy sometimes. It usually works its way out eventually, or into a place where I can easily remove it, but in the meantime it's extremely annoying...! 
    • Another related annoying thing that I've noticed in recent years:  my eyebrows are really thinning -- particularly the left one, which is very scanty these days. Not to mention that some of the hair that's still there is now grey and not dark brown, so it doesn't show up as much. I have had my brows tinted in recent years, albeit not since the pandemic, and that at least helps the hair that's there show up more. I've also been using a BeneFit product (Browvo Conditioning Eyebrow Primer) which claims to make brows look thicker and fuller. I can't say it's helped a whole lot -- any growth I've noticed has been far from dramatic -- although I guess it hasn't hurt. 
      • Any other suggestions?? 
  • I'm HUNGRY!!  Constantly!!  I've noticed this ever since the time change in early March (although I think I'm (finally!) starting to get back on a more even keel...!). Not only does the time shift affect my sleep clock, it seems to affect my stomach clock as well...!  
  • Shredded sheets:  Back at the old house, I had the same Springmaid bedding set on our bed in the master bedroom for 15-20 years, including three sets of matching percale sheets/pillowcases that I rotated using, as well as a comforter, bedskirt, pillow shams and window valance. I bought it all at Eatons in the early/mid-1990s. (Eatons went out of business in 1999! -- which gives you some idea of the time frame...!)  As I wrote in this 2015 post, the floral pattern was getting pretty dated and the sheets were fading and wearing a bit thin -- but I'd been trying to wait out Aunt Flo, thinking I'd spring for all new stuff as a way of celebrating the onset of menopause (which ultimately didn't happen for me until April 2019...!). 
    • By later in 2015/early 2016, we were thinking about putting the house up for sale, and so I decided to send all my old bedding to Goodwill and buy something new and up-to-date. I found a new comforter set and bought two sets of white cotton sheets/pillowcases to rotate -- house brand (I think?), 400 or 600 threads per square inch, at Sears (also now out of business in Canada). A couple of years ago, I bought another (third) set of white cotton sheets at Hudson Bay ("Distinctly Home" house brand, 400 thread count, I think?) , which were a bit scratchy at first but eventually softened up nicely. 
    • So it's just six years later (less for the third set) -- and ALL THREE SETS have now shredded/developed rips on the fitted bottom sheet -- on dh's side of the bed, near the lower corner.  I am not sure how or why this keeps happening, other than the fact that dh is a somewhat restless sleeper, and his heels are like sandpaper. :p  I've pointed him to the foot file I keep in the shower (don't think he's used it yet), and I keep threatening to drag him to the nail salon with me for a pedicure, something he (like many men) resists.  (Even though I'm sure he'd love it if he tried it...!)  
    • So: do you have any sheet/bed linen recommendations for me? (Brand names, fabric, thread count, etc.? -- extra points if the brand/store is available in Canada!)  I prefer cotton/percale to flannel (too warm for me), and my mother always told me to buy sheets with a thread count of at least 300. 
      • As I said, the old Springmaid sheets were wearing a bit thin by the time I got rid of them -- but even after 15-20 years of use, there were no holes. I think they may have been a cotton/polyester blend, versus 100% cotton, which might account for the difference?  Or do they just not make bed linens as sturdy as they did back in the 1990s? 
    • Also, any way to prevent this from happening again?? (Besides taking dh for a pedicure...!)  

Small recent pleasures:  

  • Going to the park for an hour with LGN & dh last week -- just the three of us, while SIL stayed home to wrangle the new puppy. And having him walk between us, holding both our hands. <3  (And having him actually behave, for the most part!  lol)  
  • Visiting dh's cousin & his wife (the ones we spent the cottage weekend with last fall) on Friday night with BIL & SIL, and enjoying a lovely dinner (salmon, focaccia bread & salad).  Feeling a small bit of pre-pandemic normalcy amid the resurgence of covid, back to peak pandemic/omicron levels hereabouts.  
  • Slightly milder & more springlike weather this past week (albeit it's been mostly grey, overcast & drizzly). 
  • Takeout Chinese food for dinner on Saturday night (with no repercussions to my gallbladder!). 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Midweek odds & ends

  • If you've been following the saga of the Elton John concert that SIL & I had tickets for -- originally for March 2020, rescheduled for Feb. 15th this year and then March 13th, before it was cancelled altogether & our money refunded -- here's a new chapter, or perhaps a coda. He's also playing the Rogers Centre here (a.k.a. SkyDome) on Sept. 7th -- and last week a new show was announced for Sept. 8th. 
    • As someone who had tickets to a previous show that got cancelled, I got an email telling me that we would have first dibs on tickets -- which were going on sale the next morning. (Not exactly a lot of notice!)  I also got an email from Elton's Rocket Club around the same time, announcing a special advance sale for club members, the day after the previous ticketholders sale. 
    • I debated whether I should call SIL & ask her if she wanted to try again. I eventually decided to let the matter drop. We'd kind of decided we weren't interested anymore anyway, especially with covid still very much in the picture hereabouts -- and I am not confident that things will have normalized enough by Sept. 7th to make me comfortable enough to sit in a crowd of 40,000 people, many/most of them unmasked, even if the dome roof is open (which is not a given). (Besides, the previous venue we were supposed to see him at -- Scotiabank Arena -- is half the size of SkyDome, so our seats would likely not be anywhere near as good.)  
    • Sorry, Elton. I loved seeing you with my sister in fall 2019, and it would have been fun to see you again before you retire from touring. But not with covid still lurking around. :p 
  • One year ago today, dh & I very happily received our first covid vaccines (Astra-Zeneca) -- followed by the second in July (Moderna) and a third (booster -- Pfizer) in mid-December. 
    • Today, Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) said that "provinces and territories should rapidly prepare to offer fourth doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the coming weeks."  The priority will be people age 80+ and those living in long-term care homes -- although Ontario's health minister said that the province is preparing to offer fourth doses to those 60 and over -- which would include dh & me. 
    • The second booster is recommended 6 months after the first -- which for dh & me wouldn't be until mid-June.  I'm fine with that. I know vaccine protection wanes over time, but being triple-vaxxed/boosted already, I don't feel anywhere near as vulnerable as I did this time last year, before I'd even had one shot...! 
    • (Shall we go for Novovax this time around, just to keep things interesting?? lol It was just recently approved for use in Canada.) 
  • It's now more than two weeks since mask mandates here were dropped. Dh reported seeing a LOT more unmasked people at the supermarket on Monday morning versus his last couple of visits. :( 
    • Also on Monday: hospitalizations in Ontario were up 30% over the week before, and the test positivity rate (on the limited number of PCR tests still being done) was 19%.  
    • Today it was reported that hospitalizations were up 27% in a single day, with more than 1,000 new hospital cases. 
  • Not only did we get to meet the new puppy and see Older Nephew & family on Sunday afternoon at BIL's, we also got to see a couple of the local cousins. (BIL called to invite them over after he called us.) One cousin arrived with her husband earlier in the afternoon and stayed for coffee, but left before the other cousin and her daughter came over later. 
    • We hadn't seen either cousin in more than two years, since before covid, and while it was good to see them, I'll admit I felt a little uncomfortable being around that many people at once in a smallish space, with covid levels surging again right now. Short of leaving before they arrived (and we'd only just gotten there ourselves, plus we were invited to stay for supper), there wasn't much we could do. They were all vaccinated (one of them said her whole family had had covid back in January) and no hugs were exchanged, albeit they are all much more social -- out and about a lot more  -- than we have been. (One cousin is heading off to the Bahamas next week with her daughter and some friends.)  They also both have young adult kids living at home who go to work &/or school and like to party with their friends. 
    • (The cousin who's going to the Bahamas breezily assured me that "things are getting better now!"  Really??)(She's obviously not following the same news sites and medical experts that I am...)  
  • Recent reading: 
  • I had never heard of Australian journalist/broadcaster Sian Prior, but she has a new book out that has been popping up in my social media posts recently, a memoir called "Childless:  A Story of Freedom and Longing." I listened to a lovely podcast interview with her yesterday about her experiences (which include pregnancy loss, infertility treatment and reluctant partners) and now I want to read the book. Alas, it is not available in Canada. (Yet? -- her previous book, "Shy," is available as an e-book, albeit an expensive one -- $30-35 (Canadian)!  I'll continue to watch for it!)