Monday, June 27, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today, as Wikipedia explains

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*** *** *** 

Other ALI/CNBC bloggers writing about this issue: 

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

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

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

Saturday, June 25, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 23, 2022

More odds & ends

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

Monday, June 20, 2022

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

  • Well, that didn't last long...! Bloglovin' is showing a FEW news posts every day on my phone
    app, but the laptop version has been out for more than a week now, since LAST Saturday night (i.e., June 11th). There have been flickers of activity when it seems to be up briefly -- but then it's gone again. 
    • I've poked around Google, and apparently the company changed ownership in 2018 or 2019. Since then, it's like nobody's running the show over there. (eyeroll)  
    • Feedly will only give you 100 free feeds;  if you want more, you have to pay for more. Trying to figure out which ones I should transfer over (that aren't already there). (My Bloglovin' currently has more than 500 blogs on it (!) -- albeit many of them are inactive and have been for several years.) 
  • Dh had a colonoscopy this morning (and is snoozing on the couch as I type). He had an easier time with the prep yesterday/this morning than I did, albeit he thought it was just as gross tasting! (Happy Father's Day!  lol)  All is well, and he doesn't have to go back for 10 years. (Unlike me, who had three polyps removed during mine in March -- benign, but I will need to return in 5 years.) 
  • I subscribe to The Atlantic and follow Tom Nichols there, including his newsletter, Peacefield.  I started following him on Twitter a while back, and while I don't always agree with him politically, he's exactly the same age as me (well, about a month older, born December 1960) and I appreciate his humour and cultural references from the '70s (lol), as well as his knowledge and expertise on global matters.  His most recent newsletter, which I received the day before Father's Day, was titled "Two Fathers." 
    • "We reminisce on Father’s Day about the men who raised us." he writes. "But this year, I’ve been thinking about two men who were like fathers to me. They never had children of their own, and yet helped shape me as much as my own father did. [my emphasis]  One was my uncle; the other was a teacher." Go read it;  it's lovely.  :)  
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Sunday, June 19, 2022

"Again, Rachel" by Marian Keyes

"Again, Rachel" by Marian Keyes is the recently released sequel to 1997's "Rachel's Holiday" (which I just finished -- review here)  and the Gateway Women/NoMo book club pick for July. 

This book was published almost 25 years after "Rachel's Holiday," and the action picks up 20 years later, in 2018. Rachel, now in her late 40s, is a counsellor at The Cloisters, the same rehab facility her parents sent her to in "Rachel's Holiday." The only thing she's addicted to these days is online shopping. She owns a house and has a new boyfriend, Quin. She does not have children (Quin does). She has a dog named Crunchie, and her adult niece, Kate, lives with her. Life is good.  

And then Luke Costello re-enters her life.

I enjoyed re-visiting Rachel and her family and friends, and finding out what's happened to them over the past 20 years. (The ongoing saga of Mammy Walsh's 80th birthday party was hilarious.) Her clients' stories were interesting too, albeit I sometimes had trouble keeping them all straight, and perhaps they took up a little more of the book than I felt was really necessary. About halfway through the book, there's a plot twist/reveal that, while not completely unexpected, had me reaching for kleenex. Let's just say that while I can't relate to Rachel's addictions, THIS part of her story, I knew and understood all too well...  Well done, Marian Keyes!!  

It's probably possible to read this book as a standalone, but I would recommend reading "Rachel's Holiday" first, if you can (if not all the other books Keyes has written about the Walsh family)... it will give you a much greater appreciation of who these people are and the background to the story that unfolds here. 

I gave "Rachel's Holiday" 4 stars. I decided this one rates 4 stars on Goodreads too. :)   

This was Book #28 read to date in 2022 (and Book #3 finished in June), bringing me to 62% 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."  

Monday, June 13, 2022

#MicroblogMondays: Too close for comfort

There is far less gun violence in Canada than there is in the U.S. -- but unfortunately, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. 

Dh & I were out of the house (for a change!) on Thursday afternoon, at a drugstore about 2 km (a mile-plus) down the road from our condo building. Dh requested a prescription refill from the pharmacy counter, and then went out to the car to wait for it while I picked up a few things inside.  Shortly after 2 p.m., sirens began to wail -- and kept wailing, as police cars and other emergency vehicles sped past, one after another after another. 

"Something's going on," dh remarked as I returned to the car with my purchases, and yet another police car zoomed by, sirens wailing. 

As we headed home down that same road (a major thoroughfare hereabouts), about half an hour later, we could see flashing lights ahead, and realized the major intersection closest to our condo was completely blocked off -- there was no way we were going to be able to drive straight through to get to our building. We were able to make a right turn there, though, and wound up driving through the back roads, parking on a nearby side street and walking home. (Dh went back outside about an hour later to see if the roadblock had been lifted -- it had. He retrieved the car and brought it back to our parking garage.)  

As we drove by, we could see a black sportscar in the parking lot outside one of the office buildings near the corner (this one housing a bank and a physiotherapist's office) -- just a few hundred yards/metres from our building -- literally a 2-3 minute walk away. The top was covered by a tarp and it was surrounded by police tape and orange cones. Dh knew at a glance that it was a brand new Porsche Turbo convertible. I couldn't count all the emergency vehicles and police officers on site, but there were a LOT. 

Once home, I turned on the 24-hour local news channel on TV and started Googling to see if I could find out anything. Meanwhile, I could hear and see helicopters outside, circling around the area. Eventually, we learned that a man in his 40s had been shot in his car (the Porsche), shortly after 2 p.m., and taken to hospital in serious condition;  the suspect or suspects got away in another car. Friday afternoon, an edited (fuzzy) security camera video was released, showing the other car was a white Honda or Acura. 

My guess is this probably had something to do with drugs, gangs and/or organized crime.  Also a possibility:  there's been a big increase in the number of carjackings around the city recently, with expensive cars (like Porsches) among the primary targets (and there are a LOT of expensive cars on the road in this community). A Toronto Maple Leafs hockey player was the victim of a carjacking outside a movie theatre a few weeks ago. 

This is a very busy corner (lots of traffic) and busy cluster of medical and office buildings, directly across the street from a busy rapid bus transit stop -- thank goodness no one else was hurt by a stray bullet or the fleeing getaway car!  It was obviously a targeted hit.(versus a nut with a gun shooting people at random). 

Still -- a little too close to home for comfort...

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

Sunday, June 12, 2022

"Rachel's Holiday" by Marian Keyes

I've been dimly aware of Irish author Marian Keyes for some time now, and "Grown Ups" has been in my TBR pile since it came out in paperback a few years ago.  Recently, she came out with a new book, "Again, Rachel," which is a sequel to a book she published 25 years ago (in 1997), "Rachel's Holiday." 

Keyes is two years younger than me and -- as I recently learned -- childless not by choice. "Again, Rachel" is the upcoming July read for the Gateway Women NoMo book club... and I figured I might as well try to read the original first. ("Rachel's Holiday" is actually #2 in a series of seven books about the Walsh family.)  

Rachel Walsh is 27, living in New York City, and a little too fond of cocaine and valium -- which leads her to lose both her job and her hot boyfriend, Luke. Then her family hauls her back home to Ireland and The Cloisters, an expensive rehab facility frequented by celebrities. Rachel envisions a relaxing vacation, rubbing elbows with the stars, enjoying spa treatments, saunas and gourmet cuisine. 

Needless to say, she's in for some surprises. 

Keyes' books often get classified as "chick lit" -- and there are chick lit elements here (including some pretty steamy sex scenes, and a good dose of humour -- Rachel's visit to the dentist, in particular, had me laughing out loud) -- but Rachel's problems are no laughing matter. It's painful, but compelling reading as Rachel's delusions are gradually stripped away and she is forced to confront her demons, one by one. (Keyes herself is a recovering alcoholic, so she knows whereof she writes.) I gobbled this book up, covering more than half of it in one day. There were two chapters towards the end of the book that had me teary... and a feel-good epilogue that frankly, I thought was unnecessary. (Your mileage may vary...!)   

4 stars on Goodreads.  I enjoyed this a lot, and am looking forward to the further adventures of Rachel in "Rachel Again," soon.  (And now I'm curious about the other Walsh family books, too! -- the TBR list just keeps growing, lol!)  

This was Book #27 read to date in 2022 (and Book #2 finished in June), bringing me to 60% 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."  

Friday, June 10, 2022

Odds & ends for the weekend

  • In the continuing saga of Bloglovin:  It was down on Tuesday morning and "out" all day Tuesday. On Wednesday and Thursday mornings, there were some new posts coming through on my phone app (although there were far fewer than usual -- clearly not all were getting through...), but nothing on the laptop. This morning, it was back up again. (eyeroll)   
  • Housekeeping:  I started tagging posts "mommy mania" years ago, before I really knew what I was doing or had the language to accurately describe what I was experiencing. I was never really quite happy with it, but couldn't think of another, more appropriate term -- until I learned about pronatalism! And so recently, I began changing most of the "mommy mania" tags to "pronatalism." (Changeover still in progress...!) 
  • (And speaking of pronatalism...)  Another must-listen podcast with Jody Day of Gateway Women, this time back on New Legacy Radio with Christine Erickson, discussing "Why Does Dismantling Pronatalism Even Matter?" Lots of "ah-ha!" moments here!  
    • From the show notes: "Excluded from policy measures and absent in DEI frameworks, even where laws and policies are designed to prevent discrimination based on family status, pronatalism is so deeply ingrained in our social, professional and systemic psyches, that its impact remains unacknowledged. As a result, non-parents remain invisible, while navigating daily and life-long experiences of exclusion and inequity. From our own internalized patriarchal, pronatalist influences, to the ways we continue to cope and mitigate social and professional spaces that do not account for us, it can be challenging for people without children to express why the urgency to dismantle pronatalism matters. How do we begin to unravel the embedded layers of cultural, structural and systemic norms that continue to re-enforce the social devaluation of approximately one-quarter of the global population? What is needed to acknowledge the population that is, rather than the one that is theorized, based on marriage and children, to create measurable predictability, as economic units? Join us for a revealing, in-depth conversation with Jody Day. We will explore new perspectives around the question of why the deeply adverse impact of pronatalism matters and why the inclusion of non-parents remains a silent issue within the workplace & beyond."
  • If you've been a reader here for a while, you'll remember my excitement back in fall 2019, when I scored tickets for a touring production of "Hamilton" for May 2020 (the run began in February that year) -- and my disappointment in April 2020 when remaining performances were cancelled because of covid.  I chose to let the theatre company (Mirvish) hang onto my money ($500!), as they promised we would get first dibs on tickets when "Hamilton" returned in 2023 (which seemed like a LONG time down the road...!).  
    • Well, I got an email this morning about subscriptions to Mirvish's upcoming 2022-23  season. "Hamilton" IS returning, in February. No word on when tickets will open up for non-subscribers (and those, like me, who bought tickets for the original run and have been patiently waiting since then). 
    • I wish I was as excited by this news as I was three years ago.  I'm not. :(  I love theatre and I would love to see "Hamilton" -- someday....  But it's sure a different world than when I first got the tickets.  Dh was never as enthusiastic as I was to begin with, and I can't imagine he'll feel any differently now...!  I have to admit, I'm considering whether I should just ask for a refund (like I did for Elton John). Who knows what the covid situation will be like by February? (could be better, could be worse...) -- and covid or not, it's a long subway ride downtown. Sigh.  :(  

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

"These Precious Days" by Ann Patchett

"These Precious Days: Essays" by Ann Patchett is the June book for my Gateway Women online book club. I read Patchett's "The Dutch House" in early 2020 (reviewed here) -- the first and only book of hers I've read, until now -- and I still find myself thinking about it (and enthusiastically recommending it to others), two-plus years later. 

"These Precious Days" is an absorbing collection of 22 essays, plus an introduction and epilogue. Most have appeared in other publications;  a few were written specially for this collection. It's hard to pick just one (or two, or three) as a favourite, because they're all so good in their own ways, and the writing, as you might expect, is wonderful throughout, with the author's warmth and humanity evident in every page.  I could relate to some chapters more than others, of course -- none more so than the one dealing specifically with the topic of childlessness, or rather, childfreedom (Patchett is childfree by choice)(which is probably a big reason why this book was chosen for our GW book club). However you came to a life without children, you will find something to relate to in this essay! 

Other essays delve into Patchett's family relationships, with her mother, sister, father and stepfathers, her husband Karl (and his love of flying), her literary idols (Eudora Welty, John Updike), her love of Charles Schulz's "Peanuts," her graduate school experience, knitting, shopping, bookstores (she owns and runs Parnassus Books in Nashville), Thanksgiving, tornados, friendship, her writing process and how her book cover were chosen, and much more. The title essay is the longest, describing her treasured friendship with Tom Hanks's personal assistant Sooki and how Sooki came to spend the first several months of the pandemic with Ann & Karl at their Nashville home.  (She painted the picture of Ann's dog Sparky that appears on the cover of this book.) 

I debated whether this was a 4 or 5 star read and settled on 4.5 stars, rounded up for Goodreads. :)  

This was Book #26 read to date in 2022 (and Book #1 finished in June), bringing me to 58% 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, June 6, 2022

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

  • I set an alarm and got up early (like, 5 a.m.!) on Thursday morning to watch the Trooping of the Colour ceremony (for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee) live from London on CBC News Network -- and then again (6 a.m.) the next day (Friday morning) for the service of thanksgiving at St. Paul's Cathedral. Nobody does pomp & ceremony like the British! :)  (Thankfully, the "Platinum Party at the Palace" concert on Saturday and pageant/parade on Sunday were on mid-afternoon here!)  
    • The concert and parade did not get the same wall-to-wall live coverage here, and we were out for part of Saturday afternoon, getting haircuts. But I was able to find the Paddington Bear video online later  :)  as well as Queen (the band)'s opening set (with 74-year-old guitarist Brian May popping up on a riser in front of the Victoria monument at just the right moment!) and Prince Charles's speech, and we did get to see the Queen's final balcony appearance on Sunday afternoon live. :)  
    • I will admit to tearing up every time she made an appearance over the weekend. How much longer we'll have her around, no one knows, but I think she's absolutely amazing, and it's worth celebrating a job well done -- for 70 (!!) years! 
  • After watching the Trooping of the Colour on Thursday morning, I (finally!) got out on the balcony and washed the door/windows, inside and out, with help from dh. Looks SO GOOD.  :)  
    • On our way back from voting later that afternoon in the provincial election, we brought the two patio chairs and small table up from the storage locker, cleaned them off and set them out, and then I went out to sit there for a while with a cup of tea and book. It was a perfect day -- not too hot or humid, a bit of cloud cover. Let the summer begin...!! 
  • Vent:  While I enjoy being able to sit outside and/or have the balcony door wide open during nice weather, there's one drawback... we've come to the conclusion that our next-door neighbour is a cannabis addict. :p  I've complained here before about the smell of cannabis wafting into our unit through the open balcony door (and sometimes even through the cracks of the door to our unit, when the balcony door is closed). He appears to work from home (if he even has a job?).  I've started keeping track of how many times a day we smell it and when, in case we want to file a complaint with the property manager. Five or six times a day is NOT uncommon (I am not exaggerating).  I mean, Saturday night, or even every night after dinner or something like that, okay -- but five or six times a day, almost every day??  Dh even smelled it once in the hallway at 6:30 a.m. Seriously?? 
    • We don't always see him smoking on their own balcony (which is a few feet away from ours -- although we do see him out there from time to time). My guess is he's sitting or standing near their balcony screen door when he smokes, in an attempt not to have the stuff stink up their own unit? And part of me wonders whether his girlfriend (who goes out to work every day) knows just how much he smokes during the day, and whether he's trying to hide that fact from her?? (As Justine Froelker has said on Instagram, the stories we tell ourselves to fill in the blanks when we don't have all the information...!) 
  • Our current provincial government, inexplicably, won -- and not just another majority, an even bigger one!! -- in our provincial election last Thursday. (Not only that, one network called it less than 15 minutes after the polls closed!) 
  • Little Great-Nephew, triumphantly, after climbing to the top of a small slide in the backyard recently, before sliding down:  "Ah-daaaaa!!"  Not "Ta-da!"  -- "Ah-da!!"  lol  Too cute!  :) 
  • I listened to another great podcast episode with Jody Day of Gateway Women, this one hosted by Sheri Johnson, who (as I discovered from poking around her website) is a fellow Ontarian. :) Together, they delve into the roles that patriarchy, pronatalism, sexism, ageism and shame all play in our childless journey. 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Sad :(

I had a busy morning. I got up at the crack of dawn (5 a.m.!) to watch the CBC's live coverage of the Trooping the Colour ceremony in London for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee -- then did laundry -- and then washed the balcony door/windows, inside & out (with help from dh -- and they look fabulous, if I do say so myself!). (Showered, went to vote in our provincial election, brought up the little table and chairs for the balcony from our storage locker, wiped them all down -- and then collapsed into one to enjoy the results of our hard work, along with a cup of tea and cookie!) 

In between doing the outside and inside windows, I took a break for lunch. I flopped into a chair, picked up my cellphone and saw a Facebook notification, saying my mom had commented on something. I clicked on it, and up popped a joint Facebook message from my (second) cousins, sisters S&D (daughters of my mom's late cousin) -- saying their younger sister J had passed away this morning.  :(  :(  :(  

At that exact moment, the phone rang. It was my mom -- she had JUST commented on the post (which triggered the notification to me), and then called me!  By then I was in tears, and she was in tears too. 

J was almost exactly a year older than me (she was 62). She grew up in the small Minnesota town where my mom grew up and where my grandparents lived, and we saw quite a bit of her when we were growing up and spending most of our summers there, as well as other holidays. I haven't seen much of her in recent years, as we both moved away from our families for school and then work, and got busy with adult life. The last time was at a family reunion in 2010 -- but we stayed in touch on social media. I just loved her -- she had a huge heart. She was one of those people who was always laughing and getting you to laugh along with her. 

She loved kids (and they loved her back) but never had any of her own -- although she did get married in her 40s. She was an elementary school teacher -- her students were her kids. Unfortunately, she had a number of health issues. She posted on Facebook in late March that she was home after another unspecified "procedure" at a hospital in the closest city.  

After that -- silence. I was actually thinking about her recently, after the school shooting in Texas, and realized I hadn't heard from her in a while. There was a shooting at her local high school about 15-20 years ago, and she was deeply affected by it and by the impact on her community. She'd always commented on other school shootings before (e.g., Parkland), and the silence seemed unusual. I thought "This is not good" and mulled over messaging her, or one of her sisters, to see how she was doing. 

But I didn't. 

I'm not sure what happened. (My mom was going to try to find out.)  I am hoping she just went peacefully in her sleep. :(  

There are quite a few of us childless cousins on that side of the family (and that's been a comfort to me, knowing I wasn't the only one, although it's something we never talked about) -- many of them never married, or married later in life -- but she was one of the ones I knew best and felt closest to. She was a gem. :(  

I am going to miss her. 

ETA, June 4th/22:  This post originally said my cousin died at home. I am not sure where I got that idea from, as her sisters' announcement did not say this. After speaking to a mutual friend, my mother called me last night and said she died in hospital. :( 

Wednesday, June 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.)

Pandemic diary/update:  May was Month #26 (going on #27) of living with the COVID-19 pandemic. Wave #6 has been upon us since shortly after most restrictions & mandates were dropped in March, and although the (greatly under-reported) numbers have gradually declined over the course of the month, they are still too high for my comfort level (still on par with the levels of the first wave, if you look at the charts). Covid has largely dropped out of the headlines -- a Toronto Star columnist wrote this weekend about how we're suffering "pandemic amnesia" (even as the pandemic continues) -- and (when we do venture out in public) we're seeing more and more people without masks. (They are still required in a few settings, including public transit and medical offices/hospitals.)  

Things are not likely to improve in terms of pandemic management until and unless we have a change of government after our provincial election tomorrow. Inexplicably, the current premier/government (which did some things right, but a lot of things wrong during the pandemic -- not to mention before the pandemic too!) is expected to win another majority. (I will admit that the alternatives are not especially compelling -- but I very much doubt they could do any worse, on this front especially...!) 

Here are some stats from May (mostly from The Toronto Star). 
  • There were 2,243 new cases reported in Ontario on May 1st. That was the peak. Since then, numbers have declined to 590 on May 31st.  
    • Caveat:  The Star notes that "given new provincial regulations to limit testing that took effect on Dec. 31, 2021, case counts are no longer considered an accurate assessment of how widespread the virus is right now. Daily reported cases in 2022 should be considered under reported."  (Scientists are (still) saying that the true number of cases is likely 10 times higher than what's being reported. (!)  And some provinces have stopped reporting daily new case numbers altogether, leaving citizens entirely in the dark.  (It sounds like it's a similar situation in the U.S., according to this Washington Post article.)  
    • Ryan Imgrund, a local biostatistician I follow on Twitter, posted on Sunday:  "A reminder that Ontario is still refusing to PCR test most people with COVID symptoms. The 'undercount' is real. We are still seeing 8,000 to 9,000 cases per day." 
  • Test positivity peaked at 15% on May 1st and reached 8.3% on May 31st. 
  • Hospitalizations declined during the month overall, from 1,646 on May 1st to 808 on May 31st, peaking at 1,745 on May 3rd. 
  • There were 187 patients with COVID-19 in Ontario's ICUs on May 1st, peaking at 211 on May 2nd and declining to 140 on May 31st.  
  • There were 17 deaths on May 1st and 15 on May 31st. The peak was 32 deaths recorded on May 5th. 
As of May 31st, with a population of just over 14 million, Ontario has logged 1,303,033 (officially counted) cases of covid and more than 13,241 deaths. For Canada as a whole (population 38 million), those numbers are 3,865,173 cases and 40,993 deaths. 

Vaccination numbers have not changed much since April. 90.4% of eligible Ontarians aged 5 and over have now had at least one shot and 87.1% are fully vaccinated. ("Fully vaccinated" = two doses -- although some believe that definition should change to include boosters/third doses.) When those not eligible are included, the numbers are 86.1% and 83%, respectively. Canada-wide, 82.4% of people are fully vaccinated.  

Uptake on both third and fourth doses/boosters has also been slow. I have heard that about half of eligible Ontarians have received third doses. Fourth shots/second boosters only started being offered more widely in mid-April. Currently, you're eligible if you're age 60+ (which includes me & dh) and 141 days past your third shot.  For us, 141 days = May 5th, and we got ours (Moderna) on May 11th.  (Get those boosters, if you're eligible!  The nurse who administered our shots also works at a hospital ER and told us none of the patients they're seeing with covid have had their third/booster shots.) 

On the personal pandemic front:  Despite the near-complete lack of restrictions since mid-March, dh & I continue to remain masked when out in public, and (mostly) socially distanced. On top of dh's weekly trips to the supermarket for groceries and for occasional takeout lunches & dinners: 
  • We visited SIL & Little Great-Nephew at BIL & SIL's house four times (including once when BIL was there -- he had the week off work).  
  • We drove up to Older Nephew's house one Friday afternoon to keep LGN occupied while his mom got ready for and then had a Zoom interview on her day off for a higher-paying, work-from-home job at a different company. (She got it!) 
  • At BIL's behest, we went with him & SIL over to a local cousin's house for coffee & dessert on the Saturday night before MDay (mentioned here).  
    • We also went out with them for ice cream one Sunday afternoon (through the drive-through at Dairy Queen). 
    • BIL wanted us to come with them to visit another cousin this past weekend. We haven't seen her since well before covid (and I'd like to see her;  we've always gotten along well) -- but we declined -- in part because I still didn't feel up to socializing after my fall a week ago, but also because this cousin & family are not vaccinated/anti-vax, and there's still just WAY too much covid hereabouts for our comfort. Sigh. :(    
  • We went for our first gelatos of the year on the first day of the year to crack 20C (May 10th -- we ate it in the car), and also dropped by Reitmans (a women's clothing shop) and the bookstore. 
    • Back to the gelato shop on May 24th. :)  
  • We got our fourth covid shots/second boosters on May 11th, almost exactly five months after our last ones. 
  • We did the rounds of Bed Bath & Beyond, Staples and then the drugstore on May 16th. 
  • We went to the Toronto Zoo on Friday, May 20, with BIL, SIL, LGN, his mom, her cousin and her baby -- and I got to take an unexpected trip to a nearby hospital ER...! 
  • I followed up with my family doctor (back in our old community) yesterday (May 31st). Before heading there, we stopped at the cemetery for a quick visit with our Katie.  On the way home, we stopped at a nearby strip plaza to use the banking machine at a local bank branch, and to pick up some items at M&M Foods. There isn't one anywhere near where we now live, so we often go there whenever we're back in the area to stock up on our favourite items. They make a pretty good chicken lasagna that I can eat because it doesn't have any tomato in it! Dh gets a traditional tomato & meat sauce one, and we bake them both at the same time. Lots of leftovers too!

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Also right now:  

Reading: I finished 3 books in May (all reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads, & tagged  "2022 books").  (This was not as many as I'd hoped, but I lost some momentum, mid-month -- and then my fall at the zoo kind of derailed a lot of things in my life for a while..!) 
This brings me to 25 books read so far in 2022 -- 56% of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books.  I am (for the moment, anyway) 7 books ahead of schedule. :)

Current read(s): 
Coming up: 

(Most of my book groups have their next reads plotted out for a few months in advance -- and this is a great place for me to keep track of what I should read next, lol.) 
  • The Gateway Women book club recently revised the upcoming lineup.  Last weekend, we got together via Zoom to chat about May's book -- "The Man Who Died Twice" by Richard Osman (which I read and reviewed a few months ago, here).  I didn't re-read it.  June's book is "These Precious Days" by Ann Patchett (see above). 
    • We'll be reading "Again, Rachel," the newest book by Marian Keyes (an Irish author who is childless not by choice) in July. (I'd like to try to read "Rachel's Holiday" -- published in 1997 -- before that, if I can.) 
  • For my D.E. Stevenson fan group (no set timeframes but, in order, these are the next ones we've agreed to read after we finish the current book):  
Also: within the private online Gateway Women community, we've formed a group to discuss Jody Day's book, "Living the Life Unexpected," one chapter per month, in a live Zoom call. (There are actually two groups -- one that's more conducive to UK/European/Australasian time zones, and one for North Americans.) Our fifth call, discussing Chapter 5, was last Sunday, although I missed most of it because of a scheduling conflict with another Zoom call. We'll be meeting on Zoom to discuss Chapter 6 in mid-June. Completing all 12 chapters will take us a full year.  If/when we complete the full 12 chapters, I'll count it as another re-read. :)  

A few recently purchased titles (in digital format, mostly discounted or purchased with points):  
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Watching: I bought a $10 ticket and streamed the new documentary "My So-Called Selfish Life" on my laptop on a mid-month Sunday afternoon. Director Therese Schecter covered a lot of territory about pronatalism and the choice not to have children in under 90 minutes. There's lots there that's relevant for childLESS people too. See it, if you can! (and watch the closing credits for the fun animation and the note at the very end: "No storks were harmed in the filming of this movie." -- lol!!)  

We've been enjoying season 2 of "Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy" on CNN -- one more episode to go, I think. (SIL wants to know when he's going to visit Calabria -- where his family, hers and dh/BIL's comes from!)  

Last Saturday night, we watched a fascinating documentary on TVO (TV Ontario, a public network) -- almost all in Italian, with English subtitles -- called "Shooting the Mafia," about an Italian photojournalist, Letizia Battaglia, who spent years photographing the Mafia in Sicily, documenting their crimes and their aftermath. Some pretty graphic images shown, but Letizia (now in her 80s) is a feisty gem. Numerous ex-lovers still hanging around who clearly adore her!  ;)   

Listening: To some great podcasts, including several new weekly episodes of New Legacy Radio, and The Full Stop.

Eating/Drinking:  (As mentioned above!) We marked the first day of 20C+ weather (May 10th) with a trip to the gelato shop!  (Limone/lemon for me -- my favourite; chocolate for dh.)  We were back for a pick-me-up treat on May 24th. In between, we also went to Dairy Queen with BIL & SIL. :)  (They all had cones while I had my favourite -- a Skor Bar Blizzard :) -- mini-sized, which is plenty big enough for me!)  

Buying (besides books, lol):  I bought a pair of denim capris (40% off) and two pairs of capri leggings (25% off) at Reitmans. I also restocked some skin care products, at the drugstore and through Sephora online, and ordered my favourite foot cream online from L'Occitane. 

I bought a new set of sheets at Bed Bath & Beyond. (We'll see how long they last...!)  I'm not enthralled with them -- they're a little on the scratchy side (although I'm sure they'll soften with time, wear and repeated laundering) and they seem a little flimsy -- but they'll do for now. 

I also bought a small tabletop ironing board there for under $20. I hate lugging out my big board (which I got when we were first married) when I only have one or two things to do (and I don't do anywhere near as much ironing as I used to, since we both retired), and I don't want to use the iron directly on my quartz kitchen countertop (even with a towel as an underpad). This will be handy -- easier to bring out & set up -- for those small, quick jobs, like cloth face masks and placemats (mine are forever curling up around the edges and corners after coming out of the dryer...!).   

And I ordered a couple of two-tier/drawer slide-out baskets for under the vanity counter storage in both bathrooms (this one). They arrived on May 25th, and dh & I assembled them last weekend, although I haven't yet put them to use. (This will entail taking everything out from the cupboards and wiping them down, and then going through and reorganizing all the stuff before putting it back). I'm hoping these will help me maximize cupboard space and organize our (cough! -- MY) stuff better -- reduce the number of times I have to fumble around and reach waaayyyyy back in the cupboard for something...!  

Wearing: Yes!! It's capris & sandals season, finally!!  I first put them on on May 12th (and probably could have done so a day or two earlier).  

I did have to put my long jeans (and a jacket) back on a few times when it turned colder and rainy again, as well as slippers and a cardigan inside the condo. (Sigh!)

Trying: think of something to write for this category??  lol  

Wanting: To get the rest of our windows washed, and the balcony furniture set out, now that the weather is nicer!  (See "Enjoying," below.)  Maybe later this week...?

Enjoying: Having the balcony door open during the day and into early evening (when it hasn't been humid -- and fortunately, that hasn't been too often yet). We hit 20C/68F for this first time this year on May 10th (it actually went to 22C). Yay!  (Although the last few days were a little TOO hot & humid -- already! :p  -- reaching 31C and 36C humidex. Yuck.)  

Clean bedroom windows!!  (The window washers were here recently).  I still need to wash the balcony door/windows myself. Soon...!  Just waiting to recuperate a little more fully from my fall at the zoo.

Noticing:  A big uptick in the number of phone calls we've been getting lately (on our landline number). We normally don't get a lot of calls (and the ones we get are generally from BIL, lol).  But our provincial election is tomorrow -- we live in a very hotly contested, strategically important riding, and our phone has been ringing non-stop for the past week-plus. I suspect a lot of the calls are election-related (candidate messages, pollsters, etc.) -- and we're hoping they stop once the election is over...! We don't usually answer the phone if we don't recognize the number, and there usually aren't any messages left. I clear the caller ID logs on our phones when I'm housecleaning, and usually there are no more than a dozen accumulated calls in a week. This past week, there were 48 (!!) accumulated calls!!  The peak day was last Wednesday, when the phone rang 12 times. Only two of the calls were actually from people we knew  (BIL, and our family doctor's office).  

Wondering: Whether to take the risk and return to the movie theatre for the first time since January 2020... would LOVE to see the new Downton Abbey and Bob's Burgers movies! (I'd wear a mask and -- a biggie for me! -- forego popcorn, which would necessitate taking it off to eat.) Going to the movies is something I miss from our pre-covid lives.

Or -- we could just stay at home and see it when it comes to pay-per-view. Hmmm...

Prioritizing: Self-care/taking it easy after my fall at the zoo, and after one tragedy/bad news story after another, in the U.S., here in Canada, around the world (Buffalo, Uvalde, Ukraine, derecho/tornados, provincial election here in Ontario...). I've always been mildly obsessed with keeping up with current events (it was part of my journalism training and my job for many years) and yes, I have some FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) -- but I've had to pull way back on the amount of time I spend scanning my social media feeds, blogs and online news stories, and give my battered head/brain (and heart) a break for a while. Frankly, I've found it impossible to keep up lately.  Apologies if I've missed out on anything important in your lives in the meantime...! 

Waiting: For my two surgeries later this summer, now scheduled for July 25th (eye/cornea procedure) and August 15th (gallbladder removal) -- and hopefully a trip home to see my family -- if not this summer, then in the fall.  

Hoping:  For the defeat of the current provincial government -- or at the very least a minority (but sadly not holding my breath...). 

Appreciating: My (older) capris fit so much better this year! I got on the scale this morning, and I am currently down 17 pounds from my all-time peak weight late last summer -- mostly the result of cutting back on sugar and fat consumption -- cutting BACK, not OUT! lol -- and trying to eat smaller portions, since grappling with both gout and gallstones last year. (I haven't even been eating as many fruits and vegetables as I should, nor getting enough exercise...!)  

Loving: Any time we get to spend with Little Great-Nephew. :)  I know, I probably sound like a broken record (lol) -- but he is just so darn cute -- and he will only be little for so long. He'll be heading off to junior kindergarten, a little more than a year from now, and we won't get to see as much of him after that. We're very thankful to have this time with him now. 

Feeling: A little bruised and battered after my tumble, but VERY thankful that it was not worse! A little apprehensive about the summer and my two upcoming surgeries (minor as they might be, in the grand scheme of things). Sad that the timing of my surgeries means I probably won't get "home" to see my family this summer (AGAIN). Very happy that the weather is finally starting to warm up!