Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Month-end odds & ends

  • How is it the end of August already?? 
  • Little Great-Nephew is sick -- with hand, foot & mouth disease.  :(   He's been at home with his mom all week to date, so we did not get to see him as usual this morning.  :(  BIL missed him so much he played hooky from work for a few hours yesterday morning -- he drove all the way up to Older Nephew's house (about an hour away, one way!) to bring LGN a toy, and then drove all the way back again and went to work!  
  • We bought our tickets to head west to see my family in early/mid-October for (Canadian)   Thanksgiving. Yay!! (Crossing all crossables that we don't run into any issues...!) 
  • Last fall, I read and reviewed a great dystopian novel (with a bit of a childless angle to it!) called "Widowland" by C.J. Carey for the Gateway Women NoMo book club. It wasn't yet available here in North America, so I ordered a hardcover copy from the UK, via Amazon (US).  
    • "Widowland" was finally released here in North America earlier this month (paperback, different publisher & cover). I was back in our local bookstore for the first time in a while recently, saw the paperback on the shelves and picked it up to flip through. 
    • Imagine my complete & utter surprise to see that it contains an entirely different ending!! -- a 6-plus-page epilogue coming after the final chapter (Chapter 32, which is where my hardcover from the UK ends)(as well as a reading group guide and a Q&A with the author)!! (I wound up buying the paperback just so I could compare the two books & read the new-to-me ending!) 
      • I've noticed a couple of other small changes between the two editions, just in the few passages I've looked at, and wondering just how extensive they are throughout the book?? 
    • Personally, I thought the book did end a bit abruptly -- but I kind of liked the ambiguity!    
    • There's a sequel coming out in October! -- "Queen High." :)  

Monday, August 29, 2022

Small pleasures & annoying things

Small pleasures: 

  • Not having any appointments or obligations on the agenda for this week, after a very busy schedule last week (other than our usual visit to SIL & Little Great-Nephew -- which is always fun, NOT an obligation!).   
  • Getting an out-of-the-blue call on Saturday afternoon to come over to Younger Nephew's townhouse for coffee & dessert with them and BIL & SIL. 
    • Being able to walk there in under 10 minutes. (It's close, and it was a beautiful day, not too hot and very little humidity.) 
  • Having takeout fish & chips for dinner on Saturday night, for the first time in eons. 
    • Not suffering afterwards, as I might have with my gallbladder still intact. (This was kind of a test case!  lol) 
  • Reading more books this month than last. 
  • Knowing that fall is just around the corner, with (eventual!) relief from the summer heat & humidity we've been experiencing. 

Annoying things: 

  • Spending the entire summer either waiting around for surgeries or recovering from them (and staying at home as much as possible to avoid getting covid, which would then further delay things...!), and not being able to get "home" to see my parents for the third summer in a row (and the fourth time in five years).  :(   
  • Back to school photos on social media, and parents mourning their kids' departures for college. I'm sorry if this is you, but I just can't relate (and of course the REALLY annoying thing is the reason WHY I just can't relate...!). 
  • Seeing the dust build up after not getting the usual housecleaning done last week. :p  
  • The bottom faucet/spout in the master bathroom shower cubicle has been dripping for months now. The grout is starting to get mildewed (I scrub it with a bleach cleaner, but because it's never completely dry, it keeps coming back), and sometimes the drip-drip-drip noise from the drain will wake me up at night. :p  
    • I asked BIL if he knew a plumber who could do a small fix -- and of course he thought he could do it himself -- but he still hasn't come over, and dh (who is not in the least bit handy) is reluctant to ask him again. Sigh. 
    • Apparently the bottom shower faucet/spout is not a "thing" everywhere??  I thought maybe it was a Canadian vs American thing, but I did some Googling, and it's not required in the building code, and I found discussion threads where other Canadians claim they've never seen it either. (See herehere and here.)  I think I'd rather have it than not (even if it does drip!). 
    • (Also apparently some people call this thing a "toe tester." Who knew?? -- But that's exactly what it's most handy for! as well as filling buckets.) 
  • Not being able to think of anything else for a #MicroblogMondays post. ;)  
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Sunday, August 28, 2022

"Sarah Morris Remembers" by D.E. Stevenson

I wanted a nice, easy, cozy, "comfort" read while recuperating from my recent gallbladder removal surgery -- nothing too challenging. I knew a D.E. Stevenson novel would fit the bill very nicely (lol), and my online DES group will be starting our chapter-by-chapter reading and discussion of "Sarah Morris Remembers" shortly, so the choice was clear! And it was a pretty good choice all round.  

Our narrator, Sarah, looks back on her life, growing up in the period between the two world wars in England, the daughter of a kind, wise Anglican vicar, with two older brothers, Lewis and Willy, and a spoiled younger sister, Lottie. When Lewis brings his friend Charles Reeder home from school, Sarah falls instantly in love with him, and as she grows up, Charles declares his love for her too. But the war intervenes before they can be married, and Charles must return to his home in Austria to try to free his father, who has been taken into custody by the Nazis. Then he too disappears, and Sarah must try to build a new life for herself in London while she waits for the war to end and to learn what happened to Charles...

The book starts slowly, but by the time we got to the war and London, midway through, I was hooked. As usual with DES, the lesser characters in particular are well drawn and add so much to the enjoyment of the book. I particularly loved Sarah's father and Scottish grandparents, and her cynical, mechanically minded brother Willy.  

This book was first published in 1966, and there are a few details that set it apart from other DES novels set during the war that were actually written during the 1940s. For example (SPOILER ALERT),  when their wedding plans are thwarted, Sarah & Charles decide to (*cough*) pretend they're already married for a night before Charles returns to Europe (although the details are left to our imaginations). And Sarah's spoiled sister Lottie finds herself pregnant and hints at wanting an abortion (although the word itself is not used, and she does not follow through on her threats). As one Goodreads reviewer noted, there's no way DES would have written about these things in the 1940s (even though we know these kinds of things happened then too). 

As usual, there are connections here to several other DES books and characters:  there are visits to Sarah's grandparents in Ryddelton, in Scotland (the setting for several other DES novels we've covered in recent years). The girls go to school at St. Elizabeth's near Larchester, which also figures in other DES books, most notably "Charlotte Fairlie."  Sarah spends time perfecting her French by boarding with the Deslormes family in Nivennes, France, who also make an appearance in "Still Glides the Stream," and Charles is friends with Bob Loudon, whose wife, Elspeth, is a friend of Hester's in the Mrs. Tim books. Thematically, Sarah's spoiled sister, Lottie, follows in similar footsteps of other memorable DES spoiled siblings, including Helen from "Anna & Her Daughters," which we just finished reading, and Kitty from "The Young Clementina." And of course, I was reminded of some of DES's other novels set partly or fully during the war years, in particular "The English Air," whose hero, Frank (similar to Charles), is half German and half British.  (I've read all these books and reviewed them here on this blog, all tagged "D.E. Stevenson (author)."

At the moment, the sequel to this book, "Sarah's Cottage," is not (yet?) on our planned list of upcoming reads. I may have to tackle it soon myself!   

3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 on Goodreads.  

This was Book #36 read to date in 2022 (and Book #5 finished in August), bringing me to 80% 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."  

"Anna and Her Daughters" by D.E. Stevenson (re-read)

My D.E. Stevenson fan group has finished our group reading and discussion of "Anna and Her Daughters," which I first read earlier this summer (and reviewed here).  

The premise: 40-year-old Anna Harcourt has recently been widowed and finds herself with three teenaged/young adult daughters -- and very little money.  There's Helen, beautiful and spoiled;  classic middle child Rosalie; and brainy youngest sibling Jane.  While the book is titled "Anna and Her Daughters," and there are plotlines for all four women as they adjust to their new lives, the story's central character and narrator is actually 17-year-old Jane. 

Determined to live life on her own terms and within her means, Anna sells the family's big house on Wintringham Square in London and downsizes to a small cottage near her hometown in Scotland, Ryddelton. Each woman adjusts to their new life in her own way and finds her own purpose and partner... but it's not all smooth sailing along the way.  

There were plot/thematic echoes here of "The Young Clementina," one of DES's earlier novels, which we read and discussed earlier this year (my reviews here and here), as well as "The Musgraves," which we read four years ago (my review here). 

My initial rating of 3 stars on Goodreads remains unchanged.  Jane is an appealing heroine who grows and matures over the course of the book -- a modern young woman in many ways -- but as I mentioned in my original review, some of the plot twists that ultimately delivered her to the requisite happy ending didn't sit entirely well with me, and there are a lot of holes in the plot, too. The book was written in 1958, and there's a segment set in colonial Kenya that can be wince-inducing for modern readers. Overall, it's a flawed but still enjoyable light read. 

Coming up next for our group: "Sarah Morris Remembers." 

This was Book #35 read to date in 2022 (and Book #4 finished in August), bringing me to 78% 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, August 26, 2022

Odds & ends for the weekend

  • Medical update: I was back at the opthamologist's office (at a downtown Toronto hospital) yesterday (Thursday) morning. My eye looks good, my vision has improved. She told me I could stop all the prescription pills & eyedrops, and just continue with the over-the-counter drops four times a day, and return to my longtime optometrist to get my new prescription for glasses. YAY!!! 
    • I promptly called my optometrist when I got home, and secured an appointment for mid-September. I will probably need new glasses, but that's okay. The pair I have now is 8 years old (my reading/computer glasses are even older!), so I'm probably due! 
    • I learned about this eye issue back in late April, had my surgery on July 25th and have been recovering since then. In between, I got the results from the colonoscopy I had in late March, took a scary tumble down some stairs, and had gallbladder removal surgery. It's been a LONG spring/summer!  
  • The continuing saga of Bloglovin: After about two and half weeks of uninterrupted bliss, it's "not available" AGAIN. The outage began on Wednesday (Aug. 23rd).
  • The executive at the centre of the controversy over the termination of Canadian news anchor Lisa LaFlamme (which I wrote about here) is taking a leave of absence "to spend more time with his family." (Yeah, sure.) Buh-byeeeeeeee..... 
  • Justine Froelker had a great TikTok video on her social media that I LOVED, about "back to school picture month." Her message: "It is okay that this month be hard.... I love my childless-not-by-choice life. And I love seeing the pictures of your kids... And it's hard."  Here's a link to it on Instagram.  
  • A great opinion piece in the New York Times today: "Maternal Instinct Is a Myth That Men Created."  Author Chelsea Conaboy argues that the myth of “maternal instinct” has warped our understanding of parenthood. It's a long read, but very worthwhile. I was particularly struck by a couple of these passages: 
    • "The notion that the selflessness and tenderness babies require is uniquely ingrained in the biology of women, ready to go at the flip of a switch, is a relatively modern — and pernicious — one. It was constructed over decades by men selling an image of what a mother should be, diverting our attention from what she actually is, and calling it science.
"It keeps us from talking about what it really means to become a parent, and it has emboldened policymakers in the United States, generation after generation, to refuse new parents, and especially mothers, the support they need."
    • "Today, many proclaim that motherhood is neither duty nor destiny, that a woman is not left unfulfilled or incomplete without children. But even as I write those words, I doubt them. Do we, collectively, believe that? Maternal instinct is still frequently invoked in science writing, parenting advice and common conversation. And whether we call maternal instinct by its name or not, its influence is everywhere."
    • "But the myth of maternal instinct is not as strong as it once was. More and more, narratives of perfect pregnancies and perfect mothers are being challenged, as more people share their less-than-glorious experiences of new parenthood and just how completely blindsided they were by it." (emphasis mine) 
    • "Social media is full of posts from mothers sharing stories about the realities of motherhood, pregnancy, their postpartum bodies, their sense of themselves, or the anxiety and monotony of parenting — as well as accounts of pregnancy loss and infertility. Often, there is a disconnect between the frankness of the words and the flattering photograph above it, as if it’s OK to get real if you still look good, in natural light, while doing it. 
"Increasingly, though, there’s rawness in the images, too: stretch marks and C-section scars, tears and spit-up, an awkward feeding, a hand cupping the feet of a baby who arrived as a stillbirth." 
  • Lyz Lenz recently tackled "The Joy of Being Alone" in her Substack newsletter (Men Yell At Me -- I'm a subscriber). She's divorced with two children, but so much of what she had to say rang true for me. Even if we have them, we should not -- cannot -- depend on husbands and children to fulfill us. We need to learn to enjoy our own company, be comfortable in our own skin, and do some things for ourselves. 
    • A couple of sample quotes (but do go read the whole thing!)
      • "I think it’s important to note that even if the system works for you, that doesn’t mean it’s a good system. That no one is owed marriage or children. And that our own company is good."
      • "Women are taught that being alone is the worst thing that can happen to them... So much of our culture depicts young girls dreaming about their wedding. But every middle-aged woman I know dreams about living in a commune."
      • "We all die alone. And having children so you have a guaranteed Thanksgiving table is a terrible reason to have kids. Children make their own choices. They grow older, they don’t always outlive their parents, they make their own lives and their own friends. And sometimes they reject their families. Loneliness isn’t solved by children."
      • "...there are other options. Other ways of loving. Other ways of living and being." 
      • "It shows how poorly we’ve built our society, that women saying, “Nah, I’m okay without kids or a spouse” can undermine it so completely.  It’s telling that anyone living a life outside of the binary inspires so much fear."
      • "Even if your solution is not to entirely blow up your life, seeking and finding solitude is a gift. And not in the, you have to love yourself to find love kind of a way. But you just have to love yourself. I sometimes wonder if I could survive the loss or rejection of one of my children. It’s a selfish thought. But I think about it because I want to have a core self, something that can withstand loss and change. None of us is owed a relationship or marriage or the devotion of our children. I’m not advocating living in the woods alone. But I am advocating building yourself a community beyond the nuclear one." 

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Shades of grey

I generally watch the flagship nightly newscast on CBC ("The National," which has been running forever). The CBC, our publicly funded television & radio broadcaster, is sometimes (often?) the subject of both scorn and derision from Canadians (some of it earned, some of it not), but I will admit I retain a lot of affection for it:  from the time I was a toddler until I was 14, and we moved closer to a city (and the U.S. border), we only had ONE TV channel:  the CBC (pulled in via antenna/"rabbit ears"). (Hard to believe in today's multi-channel, multi-platform universe, isn't it??) 

In recent years, however, the number one national newscast in the country has been on rival network CTV, which is currently owned by Bell Media, a division of telecommunications conglomerate Bell Canada. For the past 11 years, the program has been anchored by Lisa LaFlamme, 58, whose career at the network spanned almost 35 years, including time in Afghanistan and on Parliament Hill, covering elections, natural disasters, royal weddings and jubilees, Olympics and, most recently, the Pope's visit to Canada. She's won many awards, including Best News Anchor, National, at the Canadian Screen Awards multiple times -- most recently this past spring, for the second year in a row. 

During the pandemic, LaFlamme, like many professional women around the world, struggled to hide her grey roots while unable to visit her hairdresser during lockdown.  Also like many, one day she finally decided "to heck with this" and began to let her hair go grey. 

“I finally said, ‘why bother? I’m going grey.’ Honestly, if I had known the lockdown could be so liberating on that front I would have done it a lot sooner,” The Globe and Mail reports her saying. Frankly, it looked/looks gorgeous (although I suspect that since the salons reopened, she may have had some help from her hairdresser to achieve that particularly amazing shade of steely grey, lol), and many women of a certain age applauded her decision. 

Apparently not everyone was a fan of the hair, however.  It's been reported (initially by The Globe & Mail) as one potential reason why LaFlamme recently lost her job, with two years still to go on her contract. She was informed of the decision on June 29th and kept working until the end of July. The news was kept quiet until Monday, August 15th:  it flashed on my cellphone while I was in pre-op, awaiting gallbladder removal surgery.  It was announced by LaFlamme herself on her personal social media accounts, in a two-minute video recorded at her family cottage, in which she says she was "blindsided" and "still shocked and saddened by Bell Media's decision." 

“At 58, I still thought I’d have a lot more time to tell more of the stories that impact our daily lives,” she said. “While it is crushing to be leaving CTV National News in a manner that is not my choice, please know reporting to you has truly been the greatest honor of my life and I thank you for always being there.”

(She has not spoken publicly since then -- but she did pointedly pose for photos with her Canadian Screen Award, wearing her Order of Canada pin, on Aug. 17th.  :)  )  

The official explanation (hastily issued after LaFlamme went public) was "changing viewer habits" (not specified) and a "business decision to move its acclaimed news show, CTV NATIONAL NEWS, and the role of its Chief News Anchor in a different direction." To add insult to injury, the network immediately announced LaFlamme's (younger, male) successor -- 39-year-old Omar Sachedina (who is a fine reporter, but that's not the point here).  

It wasn't too long before the stories started leaking out. The Globe and Mail reported that one of the corporate bosses -- Michael Melling, a man in his 40s -- with a receding hairline! -- is said to have asked who "authorized" LaFlamme's decision to let her hair go grey. (!!!) The Globe also mentioned reports that LaFlamme clashed with her superiors over newsroom priorities and resources:  for example, LaFlamme insisted the network should send a crew to cover the Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations in London earlier this summer (instead of covering the event from the studio in Toronto), and that they should cough up the extra money to reserve hotel rooms in Krakow, Poland, to ensure CTV's crew members covering the war in Ukraine had a safe place to retreat to if necessary. 

The reaction in the press and on social media has been furious, with cries of ageism and sexism. (Even the Washington Post in the U.S. has taken note, with both a news report and a column by Ruth Marcus. The Guardian also ran an article.) Many noted that past (*cough* -- male) anchors on both major networks got to retire at the time of their choosing at ages 69 (Peter Mansbridge, CBC, who made jokes about his receding hairline over the years -- he was mostly bald by the time he retired) and 77 (LaFlamme's predecessor Lloyd Robertson, CTV), with much fanfare, including a lengthy interval between the retirement announcement and final broadcast, a televised sendoff and goodbye messages to their viewers. CTV claims they gave LaFlamme the opportunity to return to the anchor desk to say goodbye to viewers. But, as Rosie DiManno noted in the Toronto Star, what wasn't said was that the offer hinged on LaFlamme's agreement to say it was a mutual decision to part ways. (It was not.) 

The network was eventually forced to issue a statement announcing an independent, third-party internal workplace review of the newsroom. It also held a town hall meeting for employees to (supposedly) address their concerns -- which only made matters worse when executives refused to answer some questions, cut off one questioner's microphone and ended the meeting abruptly before everyone who wanted to ask a question had had a turn. Some have noted that LaFlamme's firing has done huge damage to the credibility of Bell's iconic mental health campaign, "Let's Talk.The Toronto Star quoted Jeff Lake, who's spent 34 years in the public relations business as saying, “For a media company to say there are too many ‘false narratives’ and then refuse to speak to media about it is hypocritical... I’ve never seen a better example of what not to do.”

This story is personal to me in so many ways:  like LaFlamme, I'm a woman, and a woman of a "certain age," who felt the pressure to keep up appearances (and, yes, colour my hair and hide the grey) as my colleagues got younger and younger while I got older (and was eventually ushered out the door, presumably in favour of someone younger and cheaper). Like LaFlamme, I'm a journalist by training, although I wound up working in corporate communications. (In that respect, as someone who contributed to many crisis management efforts over the years, I'm fascinated/horrified by just how badly CTV/Bell Media managed to screw this up.)  Like LaFlamme, I also spent decades building my career within the same male-dominated company (28 years for me, 35 for her). 

And, as I discovered, LaFlamme is "one of us."  (See the screenshot below.) 

She -- we, all of us -- deserve so, so much better. 

*** *** *** 

I've been following the news coverage of this quite closely and have bookmarked a whole raft of articles that have informed this piece... I don't expect any of you to read any of them, much less all, lol, but I'm posting them here for myself for reference!  

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Odds & ends & links to check out

  • Medical update: Since last Friday's blog post, I decided to try sleeping on my left side (as well as my back). I'm staying off my right side for now, as that's where the gallbladder is located, as well as a couple of the incisions. I'm still waking up a few times a night, but getting better about being able to get back to sleep again, and I feel like I'm sleeping more deeply/soundly when I do sleep. Progress!  
    • I also removed the steri-strips/tapes over my incisions on Sunday morning (Day #7), as per my discharge instruction sheet. Three of the incisions -- one slightly left of centre, mid-abdomen, and two on my lower right side -- are relatively small (like, about half an inch long) and seem to be healing well (the one in particular looks more like a scratch than an incision!). There's one just above my navel/belly button, also about a half inch long, that's a little deeper/darker red looking, but also appears to be healing well. 
    • The largest incision is about 1.5 to 2 inches below the midpoint of my breasts, at the bottom centre of my rib cage -- the exact place where I always felt the most pain/discomfort when my gallstones were bothering me. It's about an inch long, with a lot of bruising around it, and the scab that's forming over it is slightly raised and a bit itchy from time to time. (I'm told that's a sign that it's healing.)  That's the one I'm most concerned/protective about, and I'm sure it will take the longest to heal. 
    • Tip from a friend: A friend suggested I should use pantiliners (I still have half a box left!) on the inside waistband of my yoga pants to provide extra cushioning for some of the incisions and absorb any bleeding/leakage. Aside from a few very small red spots right after I removed the gauze pads and showered for the first time (with the steri-strips still in place) -- which I am pretty sure was probably just dried blood coming from the steri-strips after the shower, and not from the incisions themselves -- there's been nothing, which is a relief.  
    • On a different/related note: I'm back downtown again later this week to check in with the opthamologist about my right eye (three weeks after my last visit, and 31 days after my eye surgery!).  
  • BBC Women's Hour, a UK radio program with a large audience, devoted a segment this week to the growing issue of ageing without children. (I wish this subject was even REMOTELY on the radar of politicians and policymakers here in North America... a girl can dream, I guess...??)  
  • World Childless Week is fast approaching (Sept. 12th to 18th -- yes, it's almost September, already!), and the deadline for submissions is less than a week away (midnight, August 28th).  Check out the website for details on this year's topics and submission guidelines. (I'm still waiting for inspiration for a submission;  whether or not I get one done, I will continue to promote WCW here!) 
  • The lovely Lucy is looking for CNBC women to take part in a new project she's organizing!  Check out her website/blog and Instagram account to meet "The Twenty Percenters" -- your fellow fellow childless sisters -- and consider submitting your own photo and answers to her questions for future publication (perhaps eventually in a book, as well as online).  How-to-submit guidelines are on the website.
    • She is looking for help in getting the word out about this project -- its success will depend on getting people to participate -- so please consider giving it a plug on your own blog and/or social media too. 
    • Also check out Lucy at Pretty Much Studio on Instagram and Etsy. Among other things, she designs and sells greeting cards and affirmation cards aimed specifically at the CNBC market!  :)
    • I am often shy about this sort of thing, but I am considering my own submission soon. :)   
  • I recently attended (via Zoom) a fun "hangout" session organized by Katy of Chasing Creation for members of her Childless Collective and the Lighthouse Women community (formerly the Gateway Women private community).  It was a cooking class with Sher Castellano, a professional chef and food writer and "one of us" (childless not by choice via endometriosis). Sher blogs at With Food & Love and also has an Instagram page, and demonstrated how to make a vegetarian polenta dish. I just watched and took notes, but some people were actually cooking along with her (and eating by the end of the session -- which left me feeling very hungry, lol).  Check her out

Monday, August 22, 2022

#MicroblogMondays: "This Song"

This past Saturday night, CNN aired an episode of "Extraordinary," an interview series first aired on its short-lived CNN+ streaming network earlier this spring. In it, Fareed Zakaria talked with musician Billy Joel in depth about his life, his music, his influences and more. (A second episode followed, featuring filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola.)  

Dh & I PVRd the episode and watched it on Sunday night instead, because we spent Saturday night at BIL's house, having coffee along with dh & BIL's aunt, two cousins and their husbands, who live nearby. Despite our proximity, our contact with these relatives has been limited over the past 2-3 years because of covid, and it was nice to catch up. 

The older sister/cousin is celebrating her birthday soon and told us she & her husband are going to New York City for a few days -- he's never been, and she managed to snag herself the ultimate birthday present (as if a trip to NYC is not enough...!):  tickets to see Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden, where he's had a monthly "residency" date since January 2014.    

I promptly turned 20 shades of green with envy on the spot. I have scoffed at the idea of  creating a "bucket list" in the past -- but if I had a musical bucket list, seeing Billy Joel (anywhere, but especially at MSG) would be right at the top of the list. I knew his music as far back as 1973's "Piano Man" when I was entering my teens, but "The Stranger" album from 1977 (which I owned) was a mega-hit when I was in high school, and the hits just kept coming after that for the next 20 years. He hasn't recorded a new rock/pop album in almost 30 years (!!), but the body of work he's left is certainly enough of an amazing legacy and, at 73, he's still killing it in concert, at MSG and elsewhere. 

I considered "Just the Way You Are" as the first dance song at our 1985 wedding (didn't everyone then??) but it was already ubiquitous. I eventually settled on the somewhat insipid "You & I" by Crystal Gayle and Eddie Rabbit -- although these days I wish I had gone with my gut and picked "Your Song" by Elton John, or Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed" instead, or maybe Sherriff's "When I'm With You," which one of dh's cousins had at her wedding a decade later -- the groom was friends with one of the guys in the band.  

(The first song I remember dh & I ever slow dancing to -- which some might consider to be "our song" -- was a rather depressing rock ballad by a great band from Regina called the Queen City Kids, called "Excitement of Love," based on a true story about two teenagers who, forbidden to continue their relationship, decided to die together by crashing their car into a wall. He died, she lived. The band was pretty big in Canada, the Prairies especially, in the early 1980s -- I had their album -- and they played a social/dance at the residence where both dh & I lived then.  The link here is to a  live version with pretty good sound quality from 1981 that I found on YouTube, which is about the time when Future Dh & I would have been dancing to it. Anyway, I digress.... but it certainly did NOT seem like an appropriate song for a wedding!  lol)  

Your "first dance" song at your wedding is usually considered a decision of great importance -- the "last dance" song, not so much -- at least, I didn't give it any thought or express any preference, and I'm not sure many other brides back then did either (in the days before "bridezilla" became a term -- although I'm sure they existed then too...!). (Perhaps brides today give the matter more thought.) At any rate, the DJ chose the music for us:  it was a Billy Joel song I was familiar with, from the 1983 album "An Innocent Man" (which Billy has described as a "love letter to Christie" -- Brinkley, the supermodel, then his girlfriend and later his wife). I have only grown to love it more as the years have gone by. 

In some ways, it's not exactly what you'd pick for a wedding song -- if you read the lyrics one way, it's about a one-night stand (with the hint of something more). But in some ways, it was perfect for me & dh. When I first met him, I was still smarting from the breakup of my previous relationship. I actually was more interested in his good looking neighbour ;)  but he won me over in the end, simply by being the very nice (and persistent, lol) guy that he was and is. Over the next few years, our relationship went long-distance -- which was very hard in many ways, but made the times we were able to be together (before we finally got married) all the more special. "Tomorrow is a long time away/This night can last forever." Tomorrow is not promised to us. Learning to focus on the good things we have in the here and now, to not worry about the future (too much) or dwell on the things we don't have right now, was a lesson that has been reinforced to us, over and over again, as we've navigated infertility, pregnancy loss, job loss and other life battles together over the past 40 (!) years. 

There are so, so many great Billy Joel songs. But this song -- "This Night" -- is my favourite.  :)   It's a wildly romantic song, with a lush melody based on Piano Sonata No. 8 (Pathetique) by Joel's favourite classical composer, Ludwig van Beethoven; tight 1950s-style doo-wop harmonies that I love; and a killer saxophone solo (ditto). He doesn't often play it live these days -- I've heard him say he finds it hard to reach the higher notes now -- but if I ever do get the chance to see him, I'm thinking of bringing along a sign requesting it, lol (he does sometimes take requests from the audience).  

Do you have a farourite Billy Joel song?  

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

*** *** *** 

Live rendition, YouTube video, Madison Square Garden, Feb. 14, 2019:  

(I noticed a few clips for this song from MSG on or around Valentine's Day on various years -- so maybe that's a clue for me as to when I should plan a future trip??) 

"This Night" 

Didn't I say

I wasn't ready for a romance

Didn't we promise

We would only be friends

And so we danced

Though it was only a slow dance

I started breaking my promises

Right there and then

Didn't I swear

There would be no complications

Didn't you want

Someone who's seen it all before

Now that you're here

It's not the same situation

Suddenly I don't remember the rules anymore

This night is mine

It's only you and i


Is a long time away

This night can last forever

I've been around

Someone like me should know better

Falling in love

Would be the worst thing I could do

Didn't I say

I needed time to forget her

Aren't you running from someone

Who's not over you

How many nights

Have I been lonely without you

I tell myself

How much I really don't care

How many nights

Have I been thinking about you

Wanting to hold you

But knowing you would not be there

This night

You're mine

It's only you and i

I'll tell you

To forget yesterday

This night we are together

This night

Is mine

It's only you and i


Is such a long time away

This night can last forever


Is such a long time away

This night can last forever

Friday, August 19, 2022

Recuperating :)

The tl;dr:  I did indeed have gallstones -- but they won't be bothering me anymore (lol) and while I am very tired, I am doing well, post-surgery.  :)    

Longer version: My surgery was at a new (opened last year), state-of-the-art hospital near here (about a 20 minute drive away) -- first time we'd been there. Very impressive, and the staff were all uniformly awesome. It was spacious and airy and not at all crowded, which was a relief from a covid perspective.  

I had to register and then head to the pre-op unit by 7:45 a.m., with surgery scheduled for 9:45-10.  Dh was able to come in and sit with me until they took me down to the operating room, and then waited in the waiting area outside. There was a big screen on the wall with patient numbers that he could check to see my status and where I was (in surgery, in recovery, discharged, etc.)!  

The nurse weighed me and took my blood pressure, etc., went over my medical history & medications again and I updated her on the prescriptions (pills and drops) I've been taking post-eye surgery. Was given some antibiotics to take as a precaution, and a gown and hairnet to put on. I had a visit from the very affable anesthetist and from the young surgeon I'd spoken with on the phone earlier this spring. This was the first time we'd actually met, which was a little weird (although I guess I wouldn't have met him if I'd needed an emergency removal either, right?), but I'd checked him out online and he was well rated. I heard him chatting with several other patients after me... sounded like he was doing several gallbladder removals that day, one after another after another.  

The one jarring note of the day:  He asked me if I'd be willing to allow a photographer in the operating room during my procedure for some hospital PR shots... I would NOT be seen in the shots, and I was under no obligation to say yes. I hesitated -- it's one thing to have all the medical staff seeing me sprawled out, half-naked and unconscious in a vulnerable position, but a guy with a camera? I said I didn't think I was comfortable with that and he said "no problem." That was the end of it -- or so I thought. 

9:45 a.m., the nurse came to get me to take me down to the OR. I put my phone and glasses in my purse and they took my purse and clothes (bagged and tagged) for safekeeping, and started wheeling me down the gleaming white hallway on the bed. Dh followed us as far as the door to the outside waiting room where he'd be during the operation, squeezed my hand and said he'd see me soon. 

Sooner than either of us anticipated. Got down to the stretcher bay just outside the OR, and the surgeon told them they had the WRONG PATIENT (!) -- that they were going to do the patient scheduled for 12 noon first, because SHE had said okay re: the photographer. I guess he was only there for a certain amount of time, and needed to get his shots done. 

The nurses all looked blankly at each other, checked with their supervisors, and eventually, someone wheeled my bed back down to the pre-op area.  Now *I* was scheduled for around noon -- another hour & a half to two hours to wait. I was more annoyed than mad.  They did apologize. I asked them to please bring me my purse so I could retrieve my glasses & phone while I waited, and could my husband be allowed back in to sit with me (again)? -- because he'd be worried about me if he didn't hear from me as expected. They were only too happy to comply, lol (and dh was surprisingly calm about the change in plans and the delay). Needless to say, if I'd KNOWN that saying no to photos was going to set me back another two hours, I might have answered differently. (But maybe not.)  

Anyway, around 11:45, they came back for me (again -- take 2!!). Back down that gleaming white hallway (lots of white, glass and natural light, which was nice), and then into the OR. I saw a big screen over the door and even though I didn't have my glasses on, I could make out my name on it. Rolled off the bed onto the operating table, they took my vitals and the nurses started trying to find a vein in my hand where they could hook up the IV to deliver the anesthesia. Of course I am blessed/cursed with narrow veins (eyeroll). The left hand proved to be inadequate and so my right hand wound up getting stabbed as well. Ow. (That one was more successful.) 

As they began to administer the drugs, the anesthetist suggested I envision myself on a beach somewhere... or maybe snuggling with that cute little great-nephew I'd been telling him about. ;)  I chuckled and said that LGN isn't the cuddly type (too busy!!). But I did get a vision of snuggling up on the couch with Older Nephew's miniature dachshund (lol), and that was what I was thinking about when I drifted off. :)  

I woke up coughing. (I'd been warned by the anesthetist that I would be intubated and that my throat might be sore. It wasn't, but it did feel slightly irritated/ticklish, and continued to feel that way for a few days afterward, although it's mostly better now.)  I could make out by the large clock on the wall that it was 1:45 p.m. The (male) nurse in charge of me told me everything had gone well and offered me some ice chips, and then some apple juice, and I peeked under my gown to check out the gauze bandages over the FIVE incisions on my abdomen. (I was expecting three or four, so that was a surprise!)  My abdomen was also alarmingly awash with red, but the nurse quickly explained to me that it was NOT blood, it was antiseptic. (It washed off in a flash in the shower a few days later.)  He called dh to let him know I was OK too, and told him that so long as I was feeling all right, he could meet me downstairs with the car at the main entrance at 3:10 p.m. -- some 90 minutes after I first woke up! 

Sure enough, just before 3, he brought me my things, including a prescription and instructions from the surgeon on my recovery. I got dressed as best as I could, and then he returned to helped me put on my yoga pants and sandals, get off the bed, stand up and then get into a wheelchair. A volunteer appeared to wheel me down to where dh was waiting with the car.  We stopped at the pharmacy near our house to fill my prescription for heavy-duty painkillers before heading home. I'd told the anesthetist that I did NOT do well with codeine, so they gave me something else (I wanted to ensure I'd have something on hand, if I needed it) -- but it was not necessary. I did take Tylenol alternating with Advil for the first three days, according to a schedule in the instructions they gave me when I was discharged, but that was good enough, and I'm not taking anything now. 

I dozed for the rest of the afternoon, got up around 6:30 for some soup & toast (the first food I'd had all day) and turned into bed early, feeling very tired and groggy. I didn't sleep well that night -- or really any night since then,  to be honest. The dr didn't give me any specific instructions about sleeping positions, but I assumed tummy and side (especially the right side) would not be a good idea, for the first few days at least. I am NOT a back sleeper, even with a second pillow!  (I will probably attempt sleeping on the left side within the next day or so.)  I was very sore in the abdomen (felt like I'd been doing crunches!) and especially through the shoulders (& especially the right one) for the first day or two, from the air they use to inflate you. .. my hairdresser told me to use a heating pad which helped (as does movement -- another friend suggested a rocking chair can be effective, but alas, we don't have one!). It was more discomfort than outright pain, though. 

But I woke up Wednesday morning feeling much better -- and the day got better still when I was able to remove the gauze bandages from my incisions and take a shower, 48 hours after my surgery (woohoo!).  The incisions still have tape on top of them -- I was told it would likely come off in the shower (so far, it hasn't, although it's lifting around the edges in spots) and, if not, I can remove it after 7 days. No baths or swimming pools for 2 weeks, no heavy lifting, etc., for 4 weeks. 

I was very tired and somewhat cranky yesterday (Thursday) -- a combination of lack of sleep and (sorry, TMI) constipation -- which was resolved by afternoon, thanks to a leftover OTC laxative that was left over from our colonoscopy prep, lol.  I am still very tired today, albeit I had a slightly better sleep last night. That's probably my biggest complaint -- fatigue.  I am still a bit achy in spots (particularly if/when I move in certain ways), but overall, I think I'm doing pretty well. Beyond those initial few days, I haven't needed to take any more Tylenol &/or Advil (acetaminophen and ibuprofen). I should probably be out walking more (reduces the chances of blood clots and pneumonia, as well as constipation, lol), but it's been frickin' hot and very humid outside (current humidity indoors, with the air conditioner running non-stop, is 63%!) -- although I'm getting some exercise just getting up & down and going back & forth to & from the kitchen and bathroom, putting in eyedrops and taking pills, lol.  I've had to set up a schedule on my phone calendar with reminders to keep it all straight and make sure I fit everything in...! We also did some housecleaning today.  I didn't put as much effort into it as I usually do, but I did some dusting and cleaned the bathroom sinks,  while dh did the kitchen and vacuumed the floors. 

I have a follow-up appointment with the surgeon in mid-September, but yesterday morning, I got the report that he sent to my family doctor, as well as the pathology report, through the hospital app. All written in medical lingo, of course. From what I can decipher, I definitely had gallstones (largest was 1.6 cm) but the tissue was normal, which is a relief.  (I appreciate that they are giving patients access to this information now -- and it's certainly our right to have it -- but I think it needs to come with a translation into lay person terms...!)  

On a somewhat related note, my eye is doing better too. No irritation, and my vision is somewhat clearer too, albeit not perfect. I will still probably need new glasses, but I was expecting that (it's been 8 years since I got my current prescription). As mentioned above, I am still taking pills and eye drops (both prescription and over-the-counter) for that too. I'll be back downtown later next week to check in with the opthamologist again. 

Thanks again for your advice/tips and good wishes! Sorry I haven't updated before now, but last night was the first time I'd been on my laptop since Sunday (and instead of actually having it on my lap, dh is insisting that I sit at the desk in our library/office, lol -- which you can see behind me in the photo below!).  I have been on my phone constantly, but typing anything substantial on there just takes way too long...! 

Me (selfie) on Wednesday afternoon, after removing the gauze bandages
and taking my first shower, post-op. There's still tape over the incisions. 
Can you spot all five of them?? 

Monday, August 15, 2022

#MicroblogMondays: Get vexxed

There was a personal essay in the New York Times recently, in which the writer -- a black woman of Afro-Caribbean descent -- explained the concept of "vex money" -- a secret stash of money kept by the women in her family (and in her culture generally) to be used in case of emergencies -- particularly those involving a man. 

As several commenters noted, this is certainly not just a "thing" among black women, or only used to get away from abusive partners or bad dates.  Your car might break down;  your purse might be snatched... there are lots of good reasons why you might want an extra stash of cash around, because you just never know when it might come in handy.... 

Like the author, I grew up steeped in the message that I should get a good education and a good job, manage my own money and never be completely dependent on a man financially. It was the 1970s, and while feminism was on the rise, I saw lots of examples around me of women who had not taken this advice (and lived to regret it), and this just seemed like good common sense.  

On a more micro level -- I don't remember my mother ever telling me to do it -- perhaps I read it in a magazine? -- but I remember tucking a few dollars in my shoe before heading out to parties, and, before the advent of cellphones, always carrying some quarters in my pocket so that I could make a call from a payphone in an emergency. I know I was not alone among my friends in doing this. I still have a $5 bill tucked in a pocket of my Filofax planner, "just in case."  It's been there for years. (Maybe I should increase that to $10 or $20? -- after all, inflation!  lol)  

I was amused that the first comment at the top of the "Readers Picks" was from a man admitting he had never heard of this practice. A few others in the replies hadn't either. Men clearly inhabit a different reality, don't they? 

(I wrote a post about a similar "men are different/a-ha" moment back in 2018.) 

Do you keep your own "vex money"?  Or is this a new concept to you? 

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

(My thanks to Mali at No Kidding in NZ and A Separate Life for posting the link to this post on Mel's #MM post for me while I have my gallbladder removed (!)!)  

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Pre-surgery odds & ends (& jitters!)

  • My gallbladder removal surgery is tomorrow (Monday, August 15th). I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. Aside from having my wisdom teeth out when I was 30, and the d&c I had two years ago for fibroids, and my recent eye procedure -- all relatively minor examples -- I've never had "real" surgery before. Recovery from my recent eye surgery/procedure has been longer and more involved than I had anticipated (albeit I am doing better all the time) and I've found myself thinking, "WHY did I sign myself up for this?? (And so close to my other surgery too!)"  But then I remember how absolutely miserable I was last fall, and several other times before that over the past 20 years -- and other times when I wasn't in outright pain but wasn't feeling great either. Hopefully this will help (crossing all crossables...!).   
    • Adding to my qualms, I can't help thinking about my great-grandmother, who died of complications following gallbladder surgery... 94 years ago, in 1928. She was just 44 years old.  :(  She was also, it should be noted (UNlike me...!), the mother of NINE children (!) (plus at least one more stillborn that we know of), ranging in age from 25 down to 11, including my grandfather, who was 16 at the time. (As my mother said, "No wonder the poor woman died young...!")  I'm not sure exactly where she had her surgery, but they lived on a farm in rural Minnesota -- it definitely wasn't at a newly built, modern big-city hospital, like the one I'm going to be at. And gallbladder surgery techniques (and medicine generally) have come a LONG way since then...!  
    • Unless there are some surprises along the way, it should be a "keyhole"/minimally invasive procedure, and I will be home later in the day. (My mother thinks it's criminal how quickly hospitals release patients these days -- but then she spent two weeks in the hospital after I was born...!  Different times...!) I'm told most people would take two weeks off from work to recover (not an issue here, thankfully), and up to four weeks to fully heal. I will have to stick to a low-fat diet for the first while afterward, but in most cases, the body eventually adjusts and you can eat pretty much whatever you want without suffering (which is what most people who have had this surgery tell me). Here's hoping...!   
    • Wish me luck!! 
    • I have a #MicroblogMondays post ready to autopost tomorrow morning. I didn't think I'd have the time to post from my laptop before we leave for the hospital (or the savvy to do it on my phone later...!). 
  • My sister & her partner bought a new house!!  They have been looking longer than we've lived in this condo  ( = six years!) but as in so many other Canadian cities, the market has been ridiculous lately, and even when they've bid on houses in the past, they have lost out in bidding wars. Their current house is tiny -- smaller than our condo unit, about 600 square feet -- and they have been wanting something a little larger for a while now -- in part so that they can host future family celebrations, given that our aging parents just can't do it like they used to. Possession will be in early September, so I should get to see it next time we head there to visit (which will hopefully be in October for Canadian Thanksgiving). 
  • I've already been seeing back to school ads and posts on social media from friends in the U.S. (primarily the southern states) for the past week or so.  From past experience, I know this will continue through mid-September (schools here generally start the day after Labour Day, but junior & senior kindergarten classes sometimes start a week or so later).  Bracing myself for the onslaught...!  I have several friends sending kids off to to college/university for the first time this fall too. 
  • On Medium, Yael Wolfe asks "Why Does Everyone Want Us to Feel Sorry for Mothers?" Sample passage: 

There are few tangible social supports that hold women up in this culture. And that includes mothers who get the benefit of the cultural clout that comes with motherhood but little else. It’s important to me not to diminish the challenges that mothers face in a society that only pretends to support them.

However, it’s also important to me to highlight — at every opportunity — the fact that single, childless women like me have even less social supports... one is stepping up to offer to help us. No one asks if we need assistance changing the batteries in that smoke detector that is too high for us to reach. No one asks if they can bring by a bag of frozen dinners when we are sick. No one offers to come help us for a day here or there, altering their own schedules to fit into ours.

No one makes any effort to know — to really know — what it’s like to be a single, childless woman. And god knows, no one is asking anyone else, on our behalf, “Don’t you have so much sympathy for her, now that you know what her life is like?” about we all stop feeling sorry for each other and just help each other, instead?

With the fall of Roe v. Wade, anti-choice governors have advice for what to do with unwanted children: Give your newborns to the foster care system, and they’ll be adopted. But if these governors had even the barest understanding of their states’ foster systems, they would know that adoption is not the true purpose. I’m certain of this because I grew up in the system myself.  

Saturday, August 13, 2022

"Don't Stop Believin'" by Olivia Newton-John

I was midway through "Arrow Through the Heart," a biography of Andy Gibb (reviewed here), when Olivia Newton-John passed away at the age of 73.  Since I was already immersed in a book about '70s music and musicians (including ONJ who, like the Bee Gees and Andy Gibb, was born in England but grew up in Australia), it seemed logical that her 2019 memoir "Don't Stop Believin' (which was also in my e-reader) should be my next read.   

(You might think, with that title, the book would be about the band Journey...! -- but it's also the title of a ONJ song and album from 1976, several years before Journey's classic song with the same title.) 

I'm a longtime fan of her music, dating back to the early 1970s, but I learned so much about Olivia Newton-John from this book (and was reminded of things I'd forgotten too).  She had a lot of sadness and tragedy in her life:  As a child, she lived through her parents' divorce. Over a very short period of time, her beloved goddaughter died of a rare form of cancer, her father died of liver cancer, her older sister Rona died of brain cancer in 2013, and she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 (which came back not once but TWICE, and which she treated with a combination of traditional and natural healing therapies). She also fractured her pelvis in 2018!  In the romance department, her marriage to much-younger actor Matt Lattanzi disintegrated;  a later relationship with cameraman Patrick McDermott ended bizarrely when he simply vanished into thin air from a fishing trip. In her later years, she found happiness with businessman and herbalist John Easterling. 

ONJ's experiences led her to become an activist for  cancer treatment, research and wellness (there's a cancer treatment and wellness centre in Melbourne, Australia, that bears her name), as well as environmental and conservation issues. I will admit that I found some of her thoughts about healing just a little "woo-woo" -- particularly a trip to the Peruvian rainforest with her future husband, Easterling -- but through everything, she remained upbeat and positive, and that's the tone and message that permeates this book. It's poignant to read the final chapter, in which she writes, "I'm winning for the third time when it comes to cancer." If only...! 

From an ALI perspective, Olivia endured multiple miscarriages before and after giving birth prematurely to her daughter, Chloe, in 1986 when she was in her late 30s, and was planning to adopt a Romanian orphan before her cancer was diagnosed.  And after the death of her sister in 2013, she teamed up with Amy Sky and Beth Nielsen Chapman to write and record the album "Liv On,"  all about carrying on after loss and grief. In the final chapter, she describes a retreat she attended in Cancun, Mexico, with a small group of other women living with cancer. "Just spending this time with these strong, amazing women left me feeling so empowered," she wrote. "Women reinforcing women is a powerful healing tool."  Amen to that!

She had a full, amazing life!  I am so sad that we've lost her, far too soon -- she was a bright light in this world. But what a legacy! 

4 stars on Goodreads. 

This was Book #34 read to date in 2022 (and Book #3 finished in August), bringing me to 76% 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."  

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

"Arrow Through the Heart" by Matthew Hild

When I was in high school in the late 1970s, there was no bigger band in the world than the Bee Gees. In 1977, we learned that the three Brothers Gibb had another, younger brother, Andy, who was releasing his own album. (There's also an older sister, Lesley, who prefers to stay out of the limelight.)  

Andy was just 19, only a few years older than me; he was gorgeous, and like his famous older brothers, he could sing. I bought (and still have -- among the very few albums I did not hand over to Older Nephew -- even though I have nothing to play them on these days, lol) Andy's first two albums, and listened to them over & over again. Lately, we've been listening a lot to the Stingray Seventies channel, and I've loved hearing some of those songs again for the first time in years. 

One of my best friends was crazy about Andy, and bought concert tickets when he opened for Neil Sedaka (!) in Winnipeg in the fall of 1977. Earlier in the day, she called around to the major downtown hotels, putting on an English accent: "I'm trying to reach Mr. Andy Gibb, is he staying there, please?" Clerk after clerk politely checked for her and told her no, there was no one by that name registered there. When she got a curt "NO!" followed by the slam of the phone receiver, she knew he was at the Holiday Inn, lol. She & her friend hightailed it over there as soon as Andy finished his set (sorry, Neil Sedaka!). Lo and behold, they almost literally bumped into him, strolling past the pool, and he briefly chatted with them and posed for photos. I will swear that she gave me copies, but when I went looking for them in my old albums, I could not find them. I did, however, find photos from that concert that another friend in the city sent me. (See below!)   

In March 1988, I was sitting in a shuttle van that carried mail and passengers back and forth between my company's headquarters in downtown Toronto and our operations centre in the northeast part of the city, en route to a meeting there. The driver had the radio on -- and that's how I heard that Andy was dead. He had just turned 30 years old. :(  I think I was aware that he had a problem with drugs, but to say I was stunned is an understatement, and I struggled to hold back tears as the station played one of Andy's songs (I think it was "I Just Want to Be Your Everything").  He actually died of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, but his heart had been weakened by years of cocaine abuse.

So young, so gorgeous, so talented. What a waste. :(   

*** *** *** 

Although he was one of the biggest stars of the day, there's never been a book about Andy Gibb -- until now.  I don't remember where I first heard about "Arrow Through the Heart: The Biography of Andy Gibb" by Matthew Hild, but I eagerly downloaded a copy to my e-reader shortly after it became available a few weeks ago. (The title of the book is also the title of the last song Andy ever recorded.)  None of the Gibb family spoke with Hild for this book (Maurice died in 2003 and his twin brother Robin in 2012;  Barry Gibb is the only surviving Bee Gee), but he drew on a wealth of existing family interviews, and also talked to many of Andy's friends and band members.

Andy shared his famous brothers' good looks and considerable talent (many felt that he had the best voice of all the brothers) and they did a lot to help launch and promote his career -- but he was emotionally fragile, highly insecure and full of self-doubt. He was also haunted by a brief teenaged marriage and bitter divorce just as his career was taking off, and only saw his only child (a daughter named Peta) once, when she was 2.  His was a case of too much, too fast, too soon, and sadly, he quickly succumbed to the lure of drugs, cocaine in particular, as well as alcohol. He was also devastated by a tempestuous, well-publicized romance and break-up with actress Victoria Principal (then famous as Pam Ewing on "Dallas").  He started missing out on recording sessions, scheduled TV appearances and cancelling performances of the musicals he appeared in. By the early 1980s, his once-skyrocketing career had crashed, and never fully recovered. He declared bankruptcy in 1987, a few months before his death.    

This is a detailed and well-researched portrait of Andy, his life and career, and does a competent job of telling his story. In some ways, the book suffers from the unavoidable fact that the story it tells is a very sad one:  we know right from the start that it doesn't end well, and it's painful to watch someone so young and gifted self-destruct so spectacularly, knowing what ultimately happens. (On a pickier, editorial note, my e-book edition suffers from a lot of typos.)  

On the plus side, the author does a good job of highlighting Andy's career achievements and personal appeal. Despite his flaws and obvious problems, it's clear that he was well loved by his fans, his family and the people who knew him, and the book helps us understand why, and why he is still so fondly remembered. (The epilogue makes the striking point that by 2020, he had been dead longer than he had been alive. He would be just 64 years old today.) For me, it brought back a lot of good memories from my youth -- of Andy, the Bee Gees, and other celebrities of the day, including the Bay City Rollers (they did several concerts together), the Osmonds (he & Marie were briefly a "thing") and fellow Aussie Olivia Newton-John, who (sadly) died as I was reading.  

3.5 stars, rounded down to 3.  

This was Book #33 read to date in 2022 (and Book #2 finished in August), bringing me to 73% 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."  

*** *** *** 

I was curious about what happened to Andy's daughter, Peta. Hild relates in the book's poignant epilogue that she and her mother (Kim Reeder) flew from Australia to England after Andy's death and then attended his funeral in Los Angeles. 

I did some Googling and found a 2017 article where she spoke about her famous father for the first time. She's now 44, a high school teacher, singer and mother of two children, living in Australia. In recent years, her Gibb cousins reached out to her and together, as the Gibb Collective, they recorded a tribute album of classic Gibb songs, honouring their fathers. 

...that two hour phone conversation with [Maurice's daughter] Sam made Peta realise that there was someone out there who had shared exactly the same experiences, and made her feel part of her dad’s family, and it gave her a feeling that she wasn’t alone in all of this.

“My father is an integral part of the Gibb musical legacy. I came to the conclusion that if anyone was going to represent him, it should naturally be me”.

...Joining The Gibb Collective began as a way to face her past and connect with her dad, but for Peta she has gained something so much more.

“I’ve found such a connection with my cousins. The long overdue family reunion to come out of this project is something I never expected. I’m finally able to connect with that side of my life in a positive way, on my terms and in a way that makes me feel proud.”

Andy Gibb, on the cusp of superstardom, Sept. 2, 1977, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. 
Sent to me by a friend who was there 
(not the one who actually met him later that evening!).