Monday, August 8, 2022

#MicroblogMondays: More odds & ends & updates

  • Thank you for remembering our little girl with us yesterday
    • It was a very quiet weekend. We ordered Chinese food for takeout dinner on Saturday night, and went through the drive-through at Dairy Queen on Sunday afternoon for Blizzards (sat in the car in the parking lot to eat them) -- both "traditions" on/around this date.  
    • We visited the cemetery a few days earlier with pink roses (also a tradition) -- we had appointments in the area and decided to do it then and not make a return trip on Sunday. 
    • I'm glad we did that, because we've been in a heat wave for the past few days, and yesterday was incredibly hot and humid (high of 32C, humidex 43C = about 90F/109F). Aside from the brief trip to DQ, we stayed in our air-conditioned condo. ;)  
      • Even then, with the a/c running continuously all day, the thermostat reading inside was 77F/25C (it's normally set to 74F/23C in the summertime) and the humidity was 62%.  
    • Today is not much better, but we should get some relief tomorrow.
  • While I was mourning my own daughter, my high school girlfriend's oldest daughter (of two) got married on Saturday, in British Columbia... some photos were posted on Facebook. She's in her early 30s. 
    • My gf says she'd like to be a grandmother someday, but not counting on it. I think the odds are in her favour, but I'm glad she's taking that attitude. 
  • Today is two weeks since my eye surgery (superficial keratectomy), and four days since my first follow-up visit on Thursday, when the contact lens bandage was removed (which was a relief!). My eye is about the same as it has been for several days now. Still feeling slightly irritated (like there's an eyelash stuck in there somewhere -- very annoying, especially when I know I'm not supposed to rub or touch that eye). There are times when I think the vision is improving ever so slightly, but it's mostly still fairly smudgy/blurry/foggy, which is discouraging (even though I know that a complete recovery will probably take up to two months). I don't think it's any worse, though, which I guess is something positive? 
  • Bloglovin' is back on my laptop this morning!  (For how long, who knows??)  It's been on the fritz since July 14th -- more than 3 weeks. :p 

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

Sunday, August 7, 2022

24

I turned 24 years old in 1985. I had two university degrees, was living with my parents (temporarily) and had a job working in my chosen field (journalism) at the local weekly newspaper. In July that year, I got married, moved far away from my family to Toronto, found a cute little apartment in a nice area of the city and job hunted and explored my new city while setting up housekeeping. My post-student adult life was just beginning, and was so full of promise. It was an exhilarating time in my life. Everything seemed possible.   

In 1998, I was 37, and (finally) pregnant for the first time. It also turned out to be the last time, although I didn't know it then. (I did fear it, though.)  The baby girl I had long dreamed and planned for was stillborn at 26 weeks on August 7th. 

It's 24 years later. I am now 61 years old. My baby girl would be 24 later this year, in November, had she been born on or close to her due date. She never drew a breath, but her presence still looms large in our lives. I no longer cry every day over her -- but I still think about her in some way every day. Who would she be today? What would she be doing? Where would she be living, working, studying?  

We'll never know. All we know is we loved her then, we love her still, we will always love her. And wonder... 



"Exit" by Belinda Bauer

"Exit" by Belinda Bauer is the August pick for my Gateway/Lighthouse Women book club. (One of the group's facilitators picked this one, in part because she lives near Bideford, the real-life town in Devon where much of the action takes place!) We'll be discussing the book in a Zoom meeting later this month. I had never heard of Belinda Bauer, whose previous novel, "Snap," was longlisted for the prestigious Booker prize -- but I will definitely be looking for more from her!

Our hero, Felix Pink is a 75-year-old mild-mannered English gentleman, who has lost both his son and wife to cancer, and now dotes on his little dog, Mabel. His sad losses have led Felix to volunteer with the Exiteers, a group that helps terminally ill people exit this world on their own terms. All Felix and his fellow Exiteers have to do (working in pairs) is to keep the dying person company (without actually assisting them in any way), act as witnesses, collect the paperwork and remove the evidence, so as not to cast suspicion on the person's family members. 

But at one such "exit," something goes terribly wrong... 

I had zero expectations going into this book.  A novel in which assisted suicide plays a prominent role might not sound like (or be) everyone's cup of tea, but I wound up hugely enjoying it, and sped through it in a little more than one day (and with my wonky eye, too!). There were a few echoes of "The Thursday Murder Club" by Richard Osman (which I read and loved -- reviewed here) -- an elderly protagonist trying to untangle a mystery that he finds himself at the centre of, some slightly befuddled police officers (one of whom is dealing with his own problems), and a lot of humour -- albeit I found it somewhat darker, quirkier and more offbeat than Osman's books. 

It wasn't quite as captivating as the "Thursday Murder Club" books for me -- but I still enjoyed it immensely, and it did pick up at the end, with a finish that left a smile on my face. I debated between a 4 & 5, and (because I was in a generous mood, lol), I settled on 4.5, rounded up to 5. 

5 stars on Goodreads 

This was Book #32 read to date in 2022 (and Book #2 finished in July), bringing me to 71% 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 5, 2022

Friday odds & ends & updates

  • Eye update: I was back at the hospital downtown for an early-morning appointment yesterday/Thursday (Aug. 25th) to check on my eye with the opthamologist (11 days post-superficial keratectomy).  The appointment was for 8;  I didn't actually see her until almost 9:30.  :p  It was busy and slightly chaotic, with waiting patients lining the hallways and interns/fellows scurrying around everywhere (including the young guy who had assisted with my procedure).  She removed the contact lens bandage -- which further irritated my already-irritated eye :(  but it was a real relief to get it out (and it is a lot less irritated today, thankfully). She said the area where the scar tissue was removed is healing nicely, but it's going to take a little longer for other areas of the eye. 
    • She told me to stop using the prescription drops she'd given me after the surgery --  but then she wrote out prescriptions for two more kinds of drops -- one to be used twice daily (which leaves a horrible taste at the back of my throat!) and the other four times daily. I'm also to continue with the Hydrasense (over-the-counter lubricating) drops every hour, as well as the doxycycline pills (once a day -- I take them with my dinner) and omega 3 vitamins (once a day -- I take mine at breakfast).  
    • I'll be back to check on my progress, again, in another three weeks' time, on Aug. 25th. (Clearly, recovery is going to take a lot longer and be more involved than I had bargained for...!)  Hopefully by then I will see some improvement in my vision (which is still, as my sister puts it, like looking through a dirty window)... 
    • I told the dr about my upcoming gallbladder removal surgery (on Aug. 15th). She encouraged me to bring my drops with me and keep up with the regime as much as I can that day. She also suggested asking the surgeon to tape my eyelid to ensure it stays shut while I'm under anasthesia, to ensure my eye doesn't dry out too much. 
    • We stopped at our regular pharmacy en route home to fill the new prescriptions. The eye drops are in tiny little bottles, the 4x daily one in particular. Together, they cost almost $45, including taxes -- and that's WITH my supplementary medical plan!!  (And I'm likely to need at least one refill, probably more, before I see her again...!).  
  • Tangentially related medical note:  I stubbed the little toe on my left foot on the sturdy leg of the coffee table this morning... I may have broken it. :p  I've been applying intermittent ice packs. (I'm not having a great summer, body-wise, am I??)  
  • Bloglovin update: Still out (since July 14th -- more than three weeks!!).  I get a few posts on my cellphone app, but certainly nowhere near all the ones that should be there, and nothing on the laptop/website. Sigh. 
  • Dh's cousin's wife -- the same couple we spent the cottage weekend with last fall -- messaged SIL & told her to tell us to save the last weekend in September for another cottage visit. Yahoo!!  :)  We all had such a good time together there last year. 
  • I've read lots of analyses of the portrayals of women without children on film and in other popular culture media... this article from LitHub is one of the best and most thorough. Thanks to Jody Day of Gateway Women for flagging it!  

Monday, August 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:  July was Month #28 (going on #29) of living with the COVID-19 pandemic. Wave #7 (!) -- driven by the Omicron A.5 sub-variant -- is officially here -- confirmed by Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health on July 6th (happy wedding anniversary to me...! -- not that I was at all surprised...).  And things will likely not improve once the colder weather arrives in the fall and we start moving back indoors... 

AND, of course, we are muddling through the summer with (almost) no mask mandates (and fewer & fewer people wearing them), no restrictions, stalled-out vaccination rates, and limited data -- (no) thanks to a recently re-elected provincial government & premier whose attitude over the past several months has basically been "move along, nothing to see here" and "you're own on." :p  (Both the premier and health minister have been mostly absent from public view and media availability over the past month, as the numbers climbed again, and as more and more hospitals are dealing with staff shortages and other resource issues, to the point of having to close emergency rooms, because they just can't handle the numbers.)  More and more people we know, as well as friends and family members of friends, and others in my social media feeds, are coming down with the virus, many for the first time, after managing to avoid it for the past two-and-a-half years -- including our ultra-cautious Younger Nephew.  

This Globe and Mail editorial from July 13th lays out the situation nicely. (This first-person essay by the marvellous Ian Brown is also worth a read -- and is not, I think, behind the paywall: "I caught COVID, again – this time, nobody cares.")

As of June 16th, the government has been reporting covid data weekly instead of daily (on Thursdays). :(  The Toronto Star (my main source of covid data) has started a brand-new weekly stats tracking page -- but not all data categories that were previously reported are still being disclosed there :(  although there are probably other places where that data could be found (if you hunt for it...!). 

Among the latest stats (last updated July 28th): 
  • New case numbers & test positivity rates are no longer reported (on the Star's page, anyway -- not that they've been very accurate anyway, since PCR testing was limited/cut back at the peak of the Omicron outbreak in late December/early January). 
  • Hospitalizations (people in hospitals testing positive for covid) increased from 538 on July 1st to 1,492 on July 28th (up 0.7% over the previous week). Peak was 1,529 on July 26th. 
  • There were 101 patients with COVID-19 in Ontario's ICUs testing positive for COVID-19 or there for COVID-19 related illness on July 1st, and 138 on July 28th, up 9.5% over the previous week.  
  • There were 9 deaths on July 1st and 15 on July 28th. Peak was 25 on July 27th. The 7-day average was 11.7, up 32.3% over the previous week.  
  • On July 28th, 86.4% of Ontario's total population has had at least one vaccine, 83.4% had at least two, but just 50.8% had received a third dose. (No stats provided for fourth doses.)  These numbers have not budged much over the past couple of months. 
  • Eligibility for fourth shots/second boosters here in Ontario was (finally!) expanded on July 14th to anyone 18 years old or older who received their first booster 5 months earlier or more. Previously, the second boosters were restricted to those aged 60 and older. Dh & I (being in that category) had ours in mid-May.  
  • The province also announced then that it would continue to make free rapid tests available until the end of the year... just after I bought several boxes from an online supplier, of course...!
With a population of just over 14 million, Ontario has logged 1,350,212 (officially counted) cases of covid (37, 373 active) and 13,531 deaths. For Canada as a whole (population 38 million), those numbers are 4,027,954 cases and 42,589 deaths reported. (These numbers are from The Globe & Mail, as of July 22nd.) 

On the personal pandemic front: Despite the almost complete lack of both mask mandates and voluntary masking hereabouts, dh & I continue to wear them when out in public, and remain (mostly) socially distanced -- particularly toward the mid/end of the month, in anticipation of my eye surgery on July 25th. On top of dh's weekly (masked) trips to the supermarket for groceries and for occasional takeout lunches & dinners: 
  • We visited SIL & Little Great-Nephew at BIL & SIL's house 3 times, including one morning when we stayed with LGN while SIL went for a medical appointment.    
  • We spent a few hours on Canada Day (Friday, July 1st) at BIL & SIL's with both nephews, their wives, and Little Great-Nephew (entertaining us all!). (And the dog! -- miss him!!) 
  • We dropped off some donations at Value Village (thrift shop), picked up light bulbs at Home Depot, an adapter for earphones for my cellphone at Best Buy, and then stopped at Chapters (bookstore), all on the afternoon of July 4th. 
    • Back to Chapters and also to the drugstore on July 15th. 
  • We treated ourselves to gelato on our 37th (!) wedding anniversary, July 6th. 
  • BIL & SIL came over for coffee -- and wi-fi! -- after supper on July 8th, for the first time since the pandemic began.  Their telecomm provider -- Rogers, Canada's largest -- was out of service for the entire day, creating mass chaos across the country. (We're with the country's other major provider, Bell Canada, and were not affected -- other than not being able to contact anyone with Rogers!) 
  • We went to StepMIL's 80th birthday party on Sunday, July 10th. The weather was gorgeous, fortunately, because there were about 40 people there, and we were able to be outside the whole afternoon. 
  • We went back to our old community on the afternoon of July 16th for haircuts. 
  • Later that afternoon, we headed up to Older Nephew's house for a joint birthday party for SIL & BIL (his 60th). It was just them, us, Older Nephew and Little Great-Nephew (and the dog), but we had a nice time. :) 
  • Dh went to the urgent care clinic near us on July 21st, after almost two weeks of sneezing and itchy, red eyes & eyelids, :(  (He couldn't get an appointment with our own family doctor until July 29th! -- he went for a follow-up then, by which time he was feeling much better.)  He wound up going to two different drugstores afterward, trying to get his prescription filled. We think the culprit was a new variety of heavily scented shampoo, which he has stopped using. 
  • We headed to a downtown hospital on July 25th for my eye surgery.
  • And we had a family get-together yesterday (Sunday, July 31st) at BIL's for Younger Nephew's 30th birthday, later this week -- where WE were the ones who got a great present!  :) 
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Also right now:  

Reading: I finished just 2 books in July (all reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads, & tagged  "2022 books"). I'd hoped to cram in at least one more before my eye surgery, but there were a lot of distractions this month...!: 
  • "Anne of Green Gables" by L.M. Montgomery. My LMM Readathon Facebook group began reading & discussing this book on July 4th, chapter by chapter (two chapters per week) -- it's not too late to join in!  :)  I will count this book as a re-read when we're done in November. 
  • "Anna and her Daughters" by D.E. Stevenson (in advance of my DES group read, which started July 11th. I will count this as a re-read when we're done in late August.)
This brings me to 31 books read so far in 2022, which brings me to 69% of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway) 5 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 listing them here helps me keep track of what I should be reading next. ;)  
  • For my D.E. Stevenson fan group:  
  • For the Gateway Women book club
  • Within the private online Gateway Women community, we've formed a group to discuss Jody Day's book, "Living the Life Unexpected," one chapter per month, in a live Zoom call. (There are actually two groups -- one that's more conducive to UK/European/Australasian time zones, and one mostly for North Americans.) I missed our seventh call, on July 17th, to discuss Chapter 7. We'll discuss Chapter 8 in mid-August. Completing all 12 chapters will take us a full year.  If/when we complete the full 12 chapters, I'll count it as another re-read. :)  
A few recently purchased titles (in digital format, mostly discounted ($5 or less) or purchased with points):  
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Watching: (Still) Waiting for season 2 of "Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy" to resume on CNN on Sunday nights... 

We watched more of the January 6th committee hearings on CNN this past month. 

PBS had a fascinating four-part series from the UK called "In the Footsteps of..." in which the host (Gyles Brandreth) visited the places and events provided inspiration for some famous British authors: Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and Thomas Hardy. We saw all four episodes. 

There are lots of movies out right now that we'd like to see, but we haven't been to a theatre since pre-covid. I still like seeing movies in a theatre, on a big screen, munching on a big bag of overpriced theatre popcorn (lol), but maybe it's time to explore pay per view?? 

Listening:  I was trying to stay off screens as much as possible for the first while after my eye procedure -- mainly because it was just too difficult/uncomfortable!  :(  But I have been listening to a ton of podcasts!  Among others, I caught up on episodes of The Full Stop and New Legacy Radio (both geared to the childless/free communities), as well as several one-off appearances by Jody Day of Gateway Women on various podcasts. 

I also loved hearing Jess (of My Path to Mommyhood and A Different Path) and Greg (of A Few Pieces Missing From Normalcy) talk about living childless/free after NOT adopting, on episode #306 of Lori Holden (Lavender Luz)'s podcast Adoption: The Long View -- definitely worth a listen! 

I also dove into several episodes of a podcast hosted by members of the original family rock band of the 1960s & 1970s (who were the real-life models for The Partridge Family!), The Cowsills. Brothers Bob & Paul and sister Susan (the youngest of SEVEN!! kids, AND the only girl, who is just two years older than me) are still singing and touring together, joined occasionally on stage and on the podcast by brother John, who also tours as the drummer for the Beach Boys! as well as other musicians of the era, with an emphasis on other family bands (among the interviews I listened to were ones with Jay Osmond, Tony DeFranco, Bo Donaldson of the Heywoods, and Steve Van Zandt). There's lots of sibling banter and trying to get a word in edgewise -- it can get a bit chaotic, but it's all good fun.  :)  I was just a little too young to have been a fan at the time they were making it big, but I do remember them being in the teen magazines just as I started reading them (in the heyday of Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy), and later bought and loved a collection of their greatest hits. Look up a few of their old clips on YouTube, and then a few more recent ones -- listen and marvel at their amazing harmonies, then and now! 

I never got into Wordle (at least not yet?) but I recently heard about another "one puzzle a day" online game that was right up my alley -- it's called Heardle (and just after I discovered it, it was bought by Spotify). You get six attempts to identify the song and the artist from listening to the first few seconds of the song. Each attempt gives you a few seconds more (up to 15 seconds total) -- the fewer the attempts, the higher your score. I'm usually pretty good at identifying a song within the first few bars -- especially if it's classic rock or pop (60s/70s/80s, and I'm not bad with the 90s either -- less so with newer stuff and rap/hiphop, which is NOT my thing...!).  Currently, I'm at 3/15 or 20% correct.  

Eating/Drinking:  We enjoyed a nice takeout dinner on our wedding anniversary from one of our favourite restaurants on July 6th, including a pasta dish we both enjoy, garlic bread, a bottle of chardonnay (half-price with takeout) and a slice of key lime pie to share for dessert (which we normally don't splurge on).  The portions were generous enough that we wound up having leftover pasta for lunch the next day too.  :)  (We even ordered online for the first time! -- usually I just call our order in. Dh always goes to pick it up. We've never used UberEats or DoorDash, etc.) 

We also tried a new place for takeout Greek food, which we both love, recommended by BIL. (Dh's family is Italian, but he grew up in a predominantly Greek neighbourhood of Toronto, and we often used to go there for souvlaki with his cousins in the early days of our marriage.) The portions were MASSIVE, but very tasty! We both had the chicken souvlaki on a pita and ordered small portions of both fries and roasted potatos. We didn't even touch the potatos, and only managed to eat half the souvlaki -- we had the leftovers for dinner two nights later, and we were back again for more towards the end of the month!   

I've been guzzling water like crazy since my eye surgery;  not sure why?  My eyes have certainly been feeling dry, and the prescription drops I've been taking seem to irritate my throat and leave a bad taste back there.  Hopefully temporary!  

Buying (besides books, lol):  An earphone adapter for my cellphone (recounted here)(lol).  

Replenished our supply of rapid tests, from this supplier, recommended by Turia (before we learned that free distribution of rapid tests will continue to the end of the year! -- although they're not always easy to find -- and you usually have to remember to ask the cashier for them -- and dh usually just breezes through the self-checkout whenever he's there himself...!). 

Wearing: Tank tops and denim shorts around the house, capris in public. And sunglasses around the house, for the first two days or so after my eye procedure (which left me very light sensitive). 

Enjoying: More time on the balcony with a book and a glass of iced tea, on nice (not too hot) days (mostly earlier in the month). 

Appreciating:  My vision, more than ever!  

Noticing:  Gradual improvements since my eye surgery... not fast enough for my liking, perhaps, but there has been progress...! 

How fast the summer is going by! 

Wondering: Whether I'll do better in terms of progress towards my reading goals in August??  

Wanting: To heal from my eye procedure faster than it's going at the moment. (Sigh.)  

Prioritizing: Post-op self-care. 

Waiting: For my second summer surgery: gallbladder removal on Aug. 15th. 

(Still) Hoping:  For a fall trip home to see my family, once I've recuperated sufficiently. And that the current mess at the national (and international!) airports (and Toronto Pearson in particular, which was recently ranked one of the worst airports in the world right now re: delays, cancellations, lost baggage, etc...!)  clears up by then....!  (One good thing about not travelling right now, I guess...!).  We're thinking of trying to make do with carry-ons if we decide to fly, so as not to have to deal with the hassle of checked luggage right now. 

Trying:  To catch up on my backlogged (since my eye surgery) email, blog reading & commenting, social media, etc. -- while not overdoing it. 

Loving:  Spending time with family this month, especially outside when it's not too hot. 

Feeling: Relieved to have the eye surgery done. Impatient with the pace of my recovery. A little nervous about the next surgery (gallbladder removal on Aug. 15th). Glad it's summer! SO happy about the prospect of a new little great-nephew or great-niece, due in February.  :)  

#MicroblogMondays: Birthday present :)

(Pregnancy mentioned -- not mine, obviously, lol.)  

It's Younger Nephew's 30th (!!) birthday this week -- but it was he & his wife who gave dh & I the best present, when we all got together to celebrate at BIL & SIL's house yesterday.  :)  

Yes!!  A new great-nephew or great-niece is scheduled to make his/her debut in late February 2023. Finally, something to look forward to in February (which has always been my least-favourite month)! The rest of the immediate family (both his & her sides) has known for several weeks now and were sworn to secrecy. (None of the men in dh's family can keep secrets to save their lives...!) Younger Nephew remarked to us that his brother gave him the biggest hug he's ever given him in their lives when they told him the news (awww...).  :)  I don't know when they plan to go fully public, but I imagine they'll have to soon... she is starting to show. (I certainly won't be posting anything on my social media about it until at least then, and then only if/when they say it's okay.) 

Hence, the couple's extreme caution re: covid, and the requests for us all to test before each recent get-together. The pregnancy also comes after two years of infertility testing and treatments (they didn't mention specifics, and I was not going to ask). Needless to say, they did not want to do anything that might jeopardize such a hard-won pregnancy (not to mention all that money down the drain...!).  

This side of the family -- dominated by boys (on both our/BIL's & SIL's sides) -- is hoping for a girl, while Younger Nephew's wife's side -- dominated by girls -- is hoping for a boy. I guess there's a 50-50 chance that one side will get their wish, lol -- although, of course, the only thing everyone really wants is a safe and healthy outcome. 

Needless to say, given our own fraught reproductive history, dh & I will be the most nervous ones of all.  On the one hand, the young couple's fertility issues hit just a little too close to home for our comfort. :(  On the other hand, I'm relieved that this pregnancy won't be happening in lockstep with the timeframes of my own 1998 pregnancy (which was the case with Older Nephew's wife's pregnancy with Little Great-Nephew in 2019), and that makes me feel a little bit better about it.  

There were a few remarks yesterday that had me grinding my teeth and trying not to roll my eyes (the usual cliched stuff that grandparents and parents tell parents-to-be). I found myself wistfully biting my tongue and holding back from sharing on topics such as where I shopped for maternity clothes and how I told my boss at work about my own now-long-ago pregnancy. 

But overall, it was a very happy day all round. :) 

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