Tuesday, November 29, 2022

The tale of the tree

We had to go out to buy a new (artificial, pre-lit) Christmas tree yesterday.  We bought a new tree -- our first pre-lit model, and only the third tree we've had since we were married -- when we moved to our condo, six years ago. (I love real trees, but they are not allowed under our condo bylaws, and at any rate, it wouldn't be safe to leave one up when we're away over the holidays.)  Last year, we noticed that some of the lights on the bottom had burned out -- but we turned the tree and it wasn't too noticeable.  

I read somewhere that the average pre-lit tree lasts just seven years... (!) yikes!  I was hoping we could get at least one more year out of it (this would be Christmas #7) -- but when we opened up the box and started taking out the sections, we found the top section had snapped in half -- probably when we were trying to cram it into the box after Christmas last year.  :(  I thought maybe we could still salvage the situation by duct taping the two sections together?? and then disguising the duct tape with a strategically placed ornament?? -- but when we plugged the tree in, only the middle section lit up. Dh & I looked at each, and dh said, "Well, I guess we're going shopping!" 

Off we went to Canadian Tire (which is where we got our last tree -- and our very first one too, come to think of it).  (Canadian Tire, for non-Canadians, stocks a LOT more than just tires!)  We eventually found a tree that we could both live with, on sale (although still at a somewhat ridiculous price..!).  We assembled it yesterday afternoon and decided we'd decorate it this morning.   

Now to backtrack a little: before we went out to buy the tree, dh went out on the balcony & brought in the two chairs & little table that sit out there during the summer. I wiped them down, and we took them down to the storage locker on our way out to go shopping. 

Picture this: the storage locker is located just behind our parking spot in the underground parking garage downstairs. It's kind of like a big closet.  We access it through a heavy metal door set in a concrete wall behind our parking spot. We have boxes and other stuff stacked up high along the back wall (which is also concrete). There is JUST enough room for the door to swing open (it opens in, from the left side to the right), and a little wall space on either side of the door where something flat (like a folded up chair) can lean up against the wall. 

Dh put the two chairs folded up against the wall on the left side, slammed the door shut & locked it -- and as he did, we heard something crash. "Ummm -- did that chair just fall over?"  I said. 

"We'll get it when we get the decorations tomorrow," dh said.

I had a bad feeling about this -- but I bit my tongue (for the time being).  

Sure enough, we made the trip down to the storage locker again this morning to retrieve several plastic bins full of Christmas decorations -- and the door was jammed!  One of the chairs had fallen over -- we couldn't see it, but we knew it was there somewhere...!.  As a result, we could only open the door about six inches or so -- wide enough to peek in a little ways and stick your arm through (and turn on the light switch, which is right beside the door on the left-hand side), but not your head or torso.

Dh retrieved a golf umbrella from the back of the car and poked it through the door blindly, trying to find the chair with it, with the idea of using it as a kind of lever. We could see his golf clubs sitting in the corner, in front of the boxes on the left side of the locker.  Too far away to reach in and grab one, but he managed to use the umbrella to lift one up & bring it out of the bag without dropping it (!) -- and we tried using THAT to poke around, thinking we could maybe hook it on the chair and lift it up. Nope, no can do.

What to do?  

I thought we were going to have to call the property manager -- but I'm not sure what they could have done. It's a solid metal door, surrounded by concrete, and the hinges are on the INSIDE. I suppose maybe someone knowledgeable could take apart the (metal) door frame?  But even if that was possible, I'm sure it would cost a small fortune -- and we'd be the ones paying the bill. 

I also thought maybe the property manager could contact one of the people whose lockers are on either side of ours?  There's just wire fencing in between the units, albeit most people put up plywood or a tarp or something like that for privacy, so you can't see into each others' spaces. I thought maybe if we were able to access one of those other lockers, we could poke something through from the other side and lift the chair up that way? 

Dh was starting to get frustrated and mutter about how we  (*cough* -- *I*) have "too much stuff" and that maybe it was just going to have to stay in there forever... 

We were both getting tired -- but I finally thought of something else to try.  I simply dropped to my knees and shoved my hand through the opening along the floor to see if I could actually feel the chair there. 

I did! And I managed to grab enough of it and lift/move it enough while dh leaned against the door enough for it to FINALLY swing open.  What a relief!!   

We retrieved our decorations and put the chair back in the locker -- VERY carefully this time around!  We both agreed that, once the weather gets nicer again, in the spring, we really do need to go down there and see what else we can cull. 

But... all's well that ends well. We got the stuff we needed. The tree got decorated.  

It was worth it. :) 

New tree, cherished old ornaments. :) 

Monday, November 28, 2022

#MicroblogMondays: Ho ho ho!! :)

BIL called dh last week and asked if we'd like to go with him & SIL -- and Older Nephew & his wife, and Little Great-Nephew -- to a local mall later this week (they have the day off work) -- to watch LGN get his photo taken with Santa!!  

WOULD we??!!  Of course we will!!  I said to dh, "I'll probably cry -- but I wouldn't miss it!"  lol  

Asking us was Older Nephew's idea. :)  Just to be included, that they thought to ask us, means so much!!    

LGN had his photo taken with Santa when he was just a few weeks old, in December 2019 (mentioned in this post), but I'm not sure he's had one done since then (because, covid & pandemic restrictions...) -- although BIL dressed up as Santa for him & SIL's great-nephew last year on Christmas Eve. (LGN, then just turned 2, KNEW it was Nonno/Grandpa!  lol -- he's way too smart!). Should be fun to see his reaction!  

Of course, we never got to take Katie (or any other child) to have her photo taken with Santa.  And we were never asked to go see the nephews get theirs taken either. I suppose it never occurred to their parents  (or us either, probably) that we'd be interested (and anyway, we'd have our own kids to take someday...) -- and by the time we'd gotten through our grief over loss, infertility and permanent childlessness (when watching kids with Santa was a horribly painful thing for me -- albeit a form of self-torture I often inflicted on myself over the years -- as described in an early post on this blog, here) -- they were both well beyond the age of Santa. 

For that matter -- neither dh nor I ever had OUR photos taken with Santa when we were kids. I'm not sure why dh never did (BIL -- who is five years younger -- did, with one of their cousins). I suspect photos with Santa were not on the radar (nor in the budget) of their immigrant parents when dh was small.  

As for me, I grew up in small Prairie towns in the 1960s and early 1970s -- no department stores for miles around. Santa usually did visit at church &/or school Christmas concerts, special kiddie movie matinees, etc., and we would usually get a chance to tell him what we wanted for Christmas and perhaps get a small bag of candy -- but nobody was taking photos back then at these events, not even parents (handy cellphones, or even pocket cameras, still being some years away...!). 

I said to dh, "It's never too late! -- you & I should get our photos taken too!"  lol  (We'll see...!).  

Did you have your photo taken with Santa when you were a kid?  (Would you do it now??) 

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

Friday, November 25, 2022

"The Light We Carry" by Michelle Obama

I made a special trip to the bookstore the day Michelle Obama's new book -- "The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times" -- was released. I had very much enjoyed her previous memoir, "Becoming" (read & reviewed here), had read some of the excerpts and other press related to this new book, and was interested in what she had to say.  

"The Light We Carry" is not so much a memoir -- although Obama tells lots of personal stories from various stages of her life to illustrate her points -- as it is a self-help volume of advice and inspiration. Obama reflects on the changing, turbulent times we live in -- as well as the uncertain times she grew up in -- and how she gets through with a personal "tool kit" of habits, practices, attitudes and beliefs. 

"...I do believe that there's value in learning to identify the habits that keep us centered and grounded versus those that trigger anxiety or feed our insecurities," Obama writes (page 16). "My hope is that you'll find things here to draw from -- selecting what's useful, discarding what's not -- as you identify, collect, and refine your own essential set of tools." 

Among the topics she discusses:  

  • the power of small things and small victories (Obama details how learning to knit helped keep her grounded during the covid pandemic), 
  • dealing with fear and anxiety, 
  • "starting kind" (including kindness towards ourselves), 
  • feeling seen -- visibility and invisibility, belonging, and dealing with difference, 
  • "my kitchen table" -- the importance of friendships, and face-to-face connection, 
  • partnering well (including some interesting insights into her marriage), 
  • "tried and true maxims" from Michelle's mom, Marian Robinson, 
  • vulnerability, authenticity and sharing our whole selves, 
  • "the armor we wear":  being prepared and adaptable, and balancing toughness with vulnerability, 
  • "going high" -- what does it mean?  

There's nothing in here that's really original or profound or earth-shattering -- but nevertheless, it's well-synthesized, sound, practical, timely advice and encouragement -- well written and delivered in a warm, personal and ultimately optimistic voice. Overall, this is a highly relevant book for the times we're living in, and I very much enjoyed it.  

5 stars on Goodreads. 

This was Book #46 read to date in 2022 (and Book #5 finished in November), bringing me to 102% 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."  

*** *** *** 

ALI notes:  Obama discussed her personal experiences with loss and infertility in "Becoming." It comes up again here, but mostly just in passing. Still, so much of what she had to say -- particularly her reflections on difference and otherness -- seemed highly relevant and relatable for those of us living with loss, infertility and/or childlessness, or who feel "different" or "othered" because of how we managed to build our families (or not).  

On the downside, I will admit I winced a little -- and felt a pang of envy -- in the chapter about friendships, in which Obama says "I was bolstered by my friends, especially those whose kids liked to play with mine... Among us, the message was always I got you, I'll be there." (page 123)  Those of us without kids, of course, are not automatically plugged into those "mom networks," and have to work harder to find, make and keep meaningful friendships. 

Not related to the book, but to Michelle Obama: I was recently adding/changing some tags and making some fixes to some old posts, and stumbled on this post from 2009, about the rumours that the then-First Lady -- 45 years old at the time -- was pregnant (!). 

It's interesting to revisit this now in 2022 -- especially in the recent wake of Jennifer Aniston's interview with Allure magazine, where she revealed she underwent unsuccessful IVF treatment while under the most intensely public "bump watch" imaginable. We now know, from Obama's memoir, "Becoming," that she had a miscarriage and wound up using IVF to conceive both Malia & Sasha. How hurtful/annoying/plain old eye-rolling those pregnancy rumours must have been to her!

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

#MicroblogMondays (on Tuesday): Is Substack the new blog?

A few years ago, it seemed like everyone was starting a podcast. I remember readings several articles that suggested "podcasts are the new blogs."    

These days, though, it seems like everyone is starting a Substack newsletter. (Is Substack the new podcast -- or the new blog?  I would say there are a lot more similarities between blogs and Substacks than blogs and podcasts...) 

I know a few people have specifically mentioned they are starting a Substack newsletter as an alternative to/escape valve from Twitter, as that platform seems to be on the verge of self-destruction. I'm not exactly sure how the two equate (you can post a whole lot more than 280 characters on Substack...!), but I'm all for thoughtful longer-form writing and civilized conversation. 

I took a look at my Substack profile and realized I currently subscribe to.... 27 Substack newsletters (5 of which are paid subscriptions). Many Substacks are free altogether, and most offer at least one free post every week, with more content and perqs for paid subscribers.  

(And yes, I signed up for Atwood's immediately, as soon as I heard about it. Because... Margaret Atwood, people!)  

Erk. No wonder I never get anything done -- especially when you add in blogs, social media, etc...!

Of course, there's also this to consider from the New York Times recently: "Are We Past Peak Newsletter?" (They wrote a similar article about podcasts in 2019, lol.) 

Do you subscribe to any Substacks?  (Not that I need anything else to read, I suppose...! lol) 

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

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Updates, odds & ends

  • Update on my last post: We're (still!) fine: we tested before we went to LGN's birthday party yesterday afternoon (at the request of Younger Nephew & his pregnant wife -- we all did).  Negative. And feeling fine.  :) 
  • Yes!  It was LGN's THIRD birthday this past week!! Older Nephew & his wife invited us all there for dinner & cake last night. LGN was bouncing off the walls with excitement -- it was so cute to see.  :)  (The dog was excited to see us all too!)  He kept demanding his cake all through dinner... and once the candles were blown out and pieces cut, etc., he didn't eat a bite, lol. Too distracted by his new toys. Toddlers!  ;)    
    • (How much longer can I refer to him as "Little" Great-Nephew??)  And if Younger Nephew's child -- due in February -- is a boy, I guess I'll have to start referring to them as LGN1 & LGN2, or something like that? And if it's a girl, I guess I'll have to spell out Great-Nephew and Great-Niece to make myself clear?? LGNe & LGNi??)(Which brings to mind "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and "the Knights Who Say Ni!" -- but now I'm really getting off track...!  lol)  
  • Speaking of covid -- one of my uncles (my dad's next-oldest sibling, who is about 85) is currently in the hospital with covid. :(  He is hearing impaired and cannot speak (at least, not clearly enough for most people who don't know him to understand him) -- married later in life, but his wife died about two years ago. No kids. The homecare workers couldn't reach him to get into his apartment, so they contacted one of my cousins (married, childless, a nurse in her mid-50s) who lives nearby and keeps an eye on him. She left work and drove over to where he lives (about a half-hour away), found him barely responsive, and took him to the hospital (I think the same one where she works?), where he is now in acute care. Thank goodness for her. And *&^% covid.  :(  
  • More Jennifer Aniston fallout:  
  • Jess at "A Different Path" had a great piece published on Insider.com about labels (the difference between childLESS and childFREE):  "After years of trying to have a baby, I consider myself 'childless not by choice' ." 
    • I struggled with the childless/childfree labels very early on in this blog -- in fact, it was the subject of my THIRD blog post here
  • Recent reading: Jill Filipovic spells things out very clearly in a recent edition of her Substack newsletter:  "They're coming for contraception. They're coming for IVF." Read and share! Sample passage: 
...make no mistake: Leaders of anti-abortion organizations are either opposed to IVF, or silent about it — perhaps biding their time.

...there is a longer-term strategy here. The pro-life movement knows that banning IVF and many popular and highly-effective forms contraception would be wildly unpopular, enough to create huge political backlash even on the right. So they’re using the same strategy they used for abortion rights: Take the question out of the hands of individuals, and even out of the hands of voters; chip away at rights at a steady clip to acclimate the public to the very idea that these rights are up for debate; install members of a reactionary minority into positions of power and have them rule over all of us.

There is not a single major pro-life organization in the United States that openly supports contraception use and access. There is not a single major pro-life organization in the United States that openly supports IVF as it is routinely practiced.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Oh sure...

Dh got a text this evening from his cousin/godson -- the "groom" at last Saturday night's party

"Someone" -- he doesn't identify who -- who was also at the party just tested positive for covid today -- five days post-party. He/we don't know whether they were already sick when they came to the party, picked it up from someone else AT the party, or picked it up after that. 

And I was JUST thinking that it's been five days and so we're probably in the clear...!  Well, we KNEW we were taking a risk by being there, and not wearing masks. Sigh. I guess time will tell...!  

We're all supposed to be going up to Older Nephew's house tomorrow night to celebrate Little Great-Nephew's birthday. (He's 3 this week!)  Younger Nephew -- whose wife is six months pregnant -- has asked us all to do a covid test first. Fingers crossed...!   

Beyond the party -- I mentioned that SIL had laryngitis and felt like she was coming down with a cold on the night of the party. Sunday night, BIL called:  SIL was feeling like crap. Could we come over the next morning and help out with Little Great-Nephew? Naturally (despite the additional germ exposure), we said yes.  

When we got there, around 8:45 a.m., BIL had taken the day off work. HE was feeling like crap too (albeit not for respiratory/covid-like reasons). SIL was still upstairs in bed. BIL put one of LGN's favourite movies on the TV -- "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" (with Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of The Grinch) -- and headed back upstairs to bed himself.  (We wound up watching it TWICE -- followed by some cartoons.) 

LGN was as good as gold. (Where was he when I was a teenaged babysitter??)  He seemed tired and a little subdued -- not at all cranky, but he wanted his soother/pacifier, and hauled his blankie around all morning, like Linus in "Peanuts." He seemed to realize something was amiss. A few times he said he wanted to go upstairs and ask Nonna something -- but we told him Nonna was sick and taking a nap and we should let her sleep.  He didn't put up a fuss about it. 

SIL came downstairs late in the morning, wearing a mask, to check on LGN. She told us she'd called LGN's mom and asked her to come get him -- neither she nor BIL were in any shape to have him there that day (even with us there for support). LGN's mom arrived around 12:30, and we left at the same time they did.  

SIL has tested several times over the past few week, all negative to date, and she was feeling better today (albeit still a bit hoarse). Here's hoping that continues...! 

For what it's worth, my throat DID feel a bit sore/dry on Sunday/Monday, and I was very tired -- but I chalked that up to being at the party (it was very dry in the party room, and I'm not used to being out with lots of people these days!) as well as a lousy night's sleep. I've been feeling much better these past few days. 

Dh says he's feeling fine. Here's hoping that continues...!  

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

"Navigating the Messy Middle" by Ann Douglas

Ann Douglas is one of Canada's best known writers and speakers on parenting and pregnancy issues, with some 26 books and umpteen magazine and newspaper articles on the subject to her credit, including the best selling "Mother of All" series of books. She's also written books about family finance, body image and weight loss, genealogy, Canadian history and culture, and even one -- a "Complete Idiots Guide," written with her dad -- explaining the sport of curling (!). 

A personal note (& full disclosure): I got to know Ann 24 (!!) years ago, when we were both members of the same email list, for women who had lost babies and were trying again, or hoping to do so. (I joined in the fall of 1998 after our daughter Katie was stillborn in August;  Ann's daughter Laura was stillborn in 1996, and she was pregnant again at the time.) "Trying Again" (2000) became the title of one of Ann's next books, about pregnancy after loss; I was among several members of the list who served on the "parent panel" for that book, and I am quoted in its pages, as well as in "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books," (2002)  which includes a full chapter on pregnancy loss (versus the usual few paragraphs or perhaps a page or two, if you're lucky). (The book is still in print, in an updated edition, and the last time I checked, my quote was still in it!)  Ann was also a volunteer with the pregnancy loss support group that dh & I supported;  we did our Resolve Through Sharing training together and saw each other at quarterly volunteer meetings. And she was probably the very first blogger I followed, as well as an inspiration (along with Mel and Pamela) for my own venture into the blogging world, 15 years ago: a very early blog post I wrote, from November 2007, says "I think I first became aware of blogging and its potential through Ann Douglas." (So thank you, Ann, for that!)  

Ann and I are roughly the same age, and her latest work reflects the most recent stage of her life (and mine): midlife.  I obviously don't have the same interest in her writing on pregnancy and parenting as I did when I first got to know her, 24 years ago -- but needless to say, this new book is right up my alley. :) 

"Navigating the Messy Middle: A Fiercely Honest and Wildly Encouraging Guide for Midlife Women" is not a long book, and it's a pretty fast, easy read, written in a friendly, chatty style. As Ann notes at the outset, there's not a lot of solid research being done on midlife women right now -- and what there is "tends to be centred on a very specific kind of midlife woman: a white, cisgender, married, middle-class woman with children. In other words, someone a lot like me." She has compensated for the lack of academic research and statistics by doing some extensive reading on the subject and interviewing some 100 women (mostly between the ages of 40 & 60) about their midlife experiences.  

I really liked (and very much appreciated!) the diverse range of voices and personal stories featured here. "There's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all midlife experience," Ann writes. AND!! (bonus!!) -- not only does the book acknowledge that not all women are married and/or mothers at midlife, and not only does it include comments from more than a single token childless woman, it actually makes clear the distinction between voluntary and involuntary childlessness!!  (Thanks, Ann!)  

(Granted, there could have been a few more childless/free voices. It's great to have so many different women's comments in the book, but I will admit that, even with the presence of several childless/free voices, the constant descriptors -- "mother of three," "single parent," ""mother and grandmother" -- were a bit wearing after a while. There were a few places where I thought a childless/free viewpoint would have been a good counterbalance to the parental perspective. But still -- there's a lot more non-parent and other diverse content than most books include, and I am grateful to Ann for making that effort. And while some of the content is not relevant to those of us without kids, there's still a lot that -- while presented through a parental lens -- is very much applicable.)    

Overall, the book provides a good overview of this increasingly relevant subject, with a lot of personal stories and insights, and an extensive notes section including suggestions for further reading. It acknowledges the hard stuff about this stage of life, while providing reassurance and pointing out the good stuff, too. (I have 13 pages of bookmarks on my Kobo e-reader!) 

4 stars on Goodreads. 

This was Book #45 read to date in 2022 (and Book #4 finished in November), bringing me to 100% 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."  

Monday, November 14, 2022

#MicroblogMondays: More Jennifer Aniston, plus various odds & ends

It isn’t fashionable or sexy to talk about the slog of infertility without a happy ending — too miserable, too depressing. I can think of many stars of Aniston’s age who have instead had a child by a surrogate or showed off a “miracle baby” in their later years, such as Naomi Campbell at 50. Yet for people who, like me, go through IVF without success, the grief can feel utterly terrifying and unmooring. As can the feeling that you’re the only one who has failed.
...social and institutional pressures that would force more childbearing are far stronger today than any impetus for family planning or concerns about population growth. Pronatalism is at the heart of unchecked population growth, which is occurring on the backs of those with the least personal or reproductive autonomy, who are most vulnerable to coercion.

In the past, reprehensible abuses such as forced sterilizations and other human rights violations were committed in the name of population control. But today, coercive pronatalism is the analogous threat. It’s a more prevalent, pervasive, and equally egregious form of population and reproductive control. It’s just being used toward the opposite end.
  • There is a growing clamour from the medical community in Ontario -- currently swamped by the triple storm of covid, flu and RSV (three times the usual number of cases for this time of year) -- to reinstate mask mandates. The Chief Medical Officer of Health is supposed to be making an announcement today (Monday). The word is that he will NOT be reintroducing mandates -- but he is expected to "recommend" that people mask up voluntarily. Like, that's worked SO well to date??  Un-frickin'-believable... :p  
  • On that note... ummm.... confession time!  Last night -- as I mentioned here, under "Worrying" -- we went to a party celebrating dh's cousin (and godson)'s wedding (which took place in August 2021, but was restricted to immediate family only because of ongoing covid concerns), and the couple's baby, due in February. Dh's aunts' recent funerals aside, it was the first indoor gathering of this size we've attended since before covid.  
    • UNlike the funerals, nobody was wearing a mask... including... ummm... me. (Gulp.) I had some in my purse -- but I did not put one on. For one thing -- I'll admit -- there's that reluctance to stand out in the crowd and be "that person" -- even when you know it's the right/wise thing to do. :p  For another, I knew all of these people, and I did trust that most (not all, but most) of them were vaccinated, and would stay home if they weren't feeling well (and some actually did just that). (After all, the "bride" is six months pregnant...!) Also -- we spent a lot of our time eating and drinking ;)  (and the food was great, btw...!). 
      • One person who probably should have stayed home but didn't: SIL (!), who was hoarse, losing her voice and showing other symptoms of an oncoming cold.  She came in our car with us, and BIL went with Older Nephew and helped him navigate. She did take a covid test before we left, which was negative (although I know she could still get a positive result later).  
    • The party was held in the (fairly large) party room of the groom's mother's condo building, with about 40-50 people (maximum capacity 60) -- all from the groom's family, and the vast majority from the side of his family he shares with dh (his dad & dh's mom were siblings). It was good to see everyone after so long (and for a much happier reason than a funeral...!). 
    • Younger Nephew & his pregnant wife, both very covid-cautious, did not attend. But Older Nephew & his wife did, and they brought Little Great-Nephew, who had a blast and stole the show (sorry, bride & groom...!).  Only a few of the family had actually seen LGN yet, and most of the few who had hadn't seen him since he was an infant, just before covid hit.
    • I guess we'll find out within a few days whether we dodged a bullet or...?  :(   (I can't help but feel that, OF COURSE, it would be just my luck to get covid the first/one time in more than 2 & 1/2 years that I venture out into a big social gathering with a lot of people without putting on a mask...!)(while others go their merry way for months on end, maskless, without incurring any penalties)(yet??).   
  • I have virtually NO interest in football... EXCEPT at this time of year. No NFL or American college football for me (or Canadian college football, for that matter, which attracts virtually zero interest here) -- I'm talking the Canadian Football League (CFL) and the Grey Cup, the national championship game, which will take place next weekend in Regina. The East and West division finals were this past weekend, here in Toronto and in Winnipeg. Dh & I watched both games (well, dh watched, anyway -- I glanced up from my computer now & then, lol) -- and the two winning teams who will face off for the cup are... the Toronto Argonauts and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. NOW who do I cheer for??  (The Bombers, actually, the team I grew up cheering for -- albeit I won't be heartbroken if the Argos win either...!) 
  • It's bad enough that I get several friend requests from strange men every week on Instagram... but lately, I've been getting some on Goodreads too (of all places!!). Anyone else??  

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

Thursday, November 10, 2022

"Anne of Green Gables" by L.M. Montgomery (re-read)

My L.M. Montgomery Readathon group on Facebook has just finished reading & discussing the author's first and most famous book, "Anne of Green Gables," which we started back in early July (covering two chapters per week).  (I read the novel through on my own before we started, and reviewed it here, along with some memories of my personal history with this well-known Canadian classic.) 

I loved this book as a child, and I love love LOVED revisiting it now, especially in such an in-depth way with other Montgomery fans. As I said in my initial review, I hadn't re-read this book in decades, but even after all these years, I could practically recite the words on some of the pages without even looking at them, they were so very familiar. 

The basic plot of the book is pretty well known: 60-something brother & sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert (both unmarried and childless) decide to adopt a boy, unseen, from an orphanage in Nova Scotia, to help Matthew with the work on their Prince Edward Island farm (Green Gables) near the small town of Avonlea. But when Matthew goes to pick up the child at the train station, the boy turns out to be a precocious 11-year-old girl with bright red hair, freckles, a wild imagination and a prolific vocabulary, who is overjoyed at the prospect of finally having a real home. Reluctant to send the child back to the orphanage and an uncertain fate, the Cuthberts decide to keep her anyway, changing their lives (and Anne's -- and ours!) in ways they never could have imagined.  

It's a story filled with pathos, sharp observations and humour, as we watch Anne evolve from a scrawny, talkative, imaginative, hot-tempered orphan into an accomplished young woman graduating from teacher's college. The last three chapters (the second-last chapter in particular) never fail to make me cry. (Have Kleenex handy.)  And, on an ALI note, it occurred to me, in those final chapters that, in making lemonade out of the lemons life has unexpectedly handed her, Anne has a lot to teach those of us whose lives have not gone exactly the way we had planned or hoped. (No wonder I love this book!) 

Despite some dated elements and attitudes, this book deserves its reputation as a classic, and it's easy to see why it's still so beloved, in Canada and around the world, more than 100 years after it was first published.  My original rating (4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 on Goodreads) stands. :) 

Our next group read -- to be announced -- won't begin until the new year.  

This was Book #44 read to date in 2022 (and Book #3 finished in November), bringing me to 98% of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 6 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2022 tagged as "2022 books."  

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

She IS "one of us"!!

Well, what do you know??  

Jennifer Aniston IS "one of us"!  

In an interview/cover story with Allure magazine released today, Aniston spoke honestly about how she tried -- and failed -- to have a baby (via IVF), even as speculation swirled about her lack of children ("when? with who?? why not???").  As is the case for so, so many other women and couples (albeit you never hear about it), it didn't work for her. 

She says she might write a book. I'd buy it!  :)  

I've always admired her, but this just takes it to a whole new level. To have someone of her public stature speaking our truth is like gold. 

I don't often refer to my childlessness or infertility journey "in real life," but I was so excited, I posted the article on Facebook, with this note: 

Jennifer Aniston, much love, thanks and respect to you for speaking up so honestly on such a hugely personal subject. To have someone like you going public with a story that is so familiar to so many of us (and yet so misunderstood by so many others) means so much!

On Instagram, Tanya Hubbard (@rest.your.heart.herewrote what many of us are feeling right now: 


Jennifer Aniston bares it all (well, most of it, lol), 
including her personal story of infertility and childlessness. 
(On a different note, this is (sadly) the cover of the final print edition of Allure, 
which was always among my favourite magazines.) 

Odds & ends

  • Another reason I'm glad I'm not an American: elections every two years -- yikes!!  Granted, not every position is up for re-election every two years -- albeit some are -- but still...! As a voter, I think elections every two years (and for so many positions -- I must admit, I have a hard time wrapping my head around the concept of elected judges and other law officials...!) would be horribly stressful -- it's stressful enough watching from across the border (and being deluged with a relentless stream of ads on TV that don't even apply to us and that we can do nothing about), lol!  Our own system, with elections every 4-5 years on average (unless you're in a minority government situation, in which case they could happen earlier), is bad enough, lol.  ;)  
    • It's disappointing that some right-wing politicians and policies were not more thoroughly repudiated -- and I guess we'll see how things play out over the next two years -- but hey, overall, the results could have been much, much worse...
  • Since the time change this past weekend, it's light outside earlier in the morning again -- but it's dark by about 5:30 p.m. now.  Sigh... :(   (And it will keep getting darker, earlier, until the winter solstice in mid-December.)  
    • I know it would get keep getting darker, earlier, at this time of year, regardless of whether the time changed as usual or whether it stayed the same all year long -- but it's the abruptness of the change, that sudden plunge into late afternoon darkness, that makes it so hard to deal with, I think...!  
  • Bloglovin' is back (again) this morning! (For how long, who knows?? But I'll enjoy it while I can...!) 
  • There was a great post in Carolyn Hax's advice column from the Washington Post last weekend from "the world's greatest aunt" who went through some tough times but is now happy with her childless, single life and has no desire to date -- and yet is constantly nagged by friends who think she has a unhealthy fear of commitment and want to introduce her to men, etc.  I love Carolyn's response (and the last line in particular, lol). It's obviously relevant to childless singles -- but also, I think, to just generally having our decisions (to stop ttc, to not adopt, etc.) and childless lives generally questioned and challenged by others. 
  • From Medium:  Ali Hall, echoing a recent viral piece by Yael Wolfe:  "The Modern-Day Twist on “The Village” To Promote Equitability for All:  Regardless of our parental or relationship status, we all need our village." Yes! Sample passage: 
...parents are not the only sector to suffer from the diminished social infrastructure.

...There’s a latent expectation in some that those who are not parents should serve those who are parents. As if “The Village” is a trust fund that you suddenly have access to once you have a child.

This sense of entitlement is missing the whole point of “The Village.” For a village to function, it requires us all to be active members as soon as we can comprehend the workings of a community.

It takes time to build communities. They are an investment of love and support. A conglomerate of skills and interests. Expecting a village to present itself on command indicates a lack of personal contribution. I can’t help but wonder whether those who shout the loudest for a village have ever served as a villager.

If we want the benefits of a village, we must also be a villager.
  • She's singing my song!:  I loved Anne Helen Petersen's recent piece in her Culture Study newsletter on Substack about the phenomenon of "sprawling holidays," or holiday inflation. (Visits from the St. Patrick's Day Leprechaun, anyone?? -- definitely not a "thing" when I was growing up...!)  Some great conversation in the comments, too!  (One theory re: the new popularity of the leprechaun is that March is the least Instagrammable month... I think there may be something to that...!) 
    • I was reminded of this post I wrote, 9 years ago now (!), about the Elf on the Shelf, as well as the pieces that informed it, from Mary Elizabeth Williams in Salon, and Rage Against the Minivan (this piece in particular -- but I also found this one and this one)
    • A lot of what Petersen has to say is filtered through the lens of parents & children (she herself is childfree by choice), but there's a lot of great social commentary -- including a nod to pronatalism and those of us who don't have kids [emphasis mine]:  
Performing Christmas became a way to maintain middle-class domestic cohesion — to broadcast to your immediate and extended family and the whole block that we’ve got this on lock. (So many of the current attributes of Christmas reinforce the middle-class American family ideal: the primary signifiers [the tree, the visible lights] are “best” on display in the single-family dwelling; you can only get a (sizeable) tree with a car and someone capable of heaving it around. The “magic” of Christmas depends on the presence of children to experience it alongside; to spend Christmas alone is framed as some sort of unspeakable sadness).

  • Less than 40 days (!) until we head "home" to my family for Christmas holidays... eeeeekkkkk..... 
    • We finally booked our plane tickets about a week ago. Holy cow, they were a whole lot more expensive than our flights last  month, and probably the most we've paid to fly west in quite a while. It would probably be cheaper for us to fly to Florida or Mexico...!  (And meantime, the service just keeps getting worse and worse...!)  Yikes!  

Monday, November 7, 2022

"The Palace Papers" by Tina Brown

If you're a longtime reader here, you all know I love a good gossipy memoir or biography... especially if it involves Britain's Royal family. :)  "The Palace Papers" by Tina Brown (former editor of Vanity Fair magazine -- which I also used to love reading regularly) certainly fit the bill.  I started reading this one around the time of the Queen's death in September. I didn't get very far before other books rose up on my reading priority list, but I dove in again recently. 

While the book occasionally dips back into the past for historical context, the material primarily covers the last 20-25 years of the Queen's reign, following the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997, with a particular focus on the women who have joined the Royal family since then:  Camilla Parker-Bowles (nee Shand), Catherine/Kate Middleton, and Meghan Markle.  It's well written and well sourced,  impeccably researched and chock full of juicy tidbits. There's much here that's familiar to ardent Royal followers, of course, but Brown has uncovered some delicious details I'd never heard or read about before. 

(For example, I had previously read that Camilla initially took up with Charles in the 1970s to make Andrew Parker-Bowles jealous while he was away for a six-month military deployment. But I'd never heard the story of how they got  engaged:  both Camilla & Andrew's fathers approved of the match, and to ensure that it happened, they arranged to have an engagement announcement published in The Times of London -- including a wedding date -- BEFORE Andrew had actually proposed (!).)  

Brown dishes, and doesn't hesitate to pass judgment. She's critical of pretty much every one of the Royals (and particularly scathing towards Prince Andrew) -- but she also sympathizes and gives credit where credit is due (for example, citing Charles's forward thinking on/longtime support for environmental issues). 

This is a LONG book (maybe a little too long) -- but highly entertaining, and for the most part, it keeps you turning the pages. The hardcover version clocks in at nearly 600 pages, while my e-version, with font size and spacing adjusted for my comfort, was almost double that (!).  I'm guessing the paperback version, when it eventually arrives, will include an update dealing with the death of the Queen, the accession of King Charles, and speculation about the future direction of the monarchy.  

On an ALI note, possibly the saddest story in the book concerns Diana's mother, Frances (from Chapter 2, "Sex and Sensibility"): 

One of the bitterest moments of Frances's life was when her husband refused to let her see the baby son who had died shortly after birth. She struggled from the bed and banged frantically on the locked door of the nursery to which he had been snatched away. "My baby was taken from me and I never saw his face. Not in life. Not in death. No one ever mentioned what had happened," she recalled later. It was not for many years that Frances saw the baby's death certificate, with the entry "extensive malformation." 

4 stars on Goodreads. 

This was Book #43 read to date in 2022 (and Book #2 finished in November), bringing me to 96% of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 5 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2022 tagged as "2022 books."  

#MicroblogMondays: Dh to the rescue! :)

Little Great-Nephew is sick -- again, for the second time within the past month. :(  His mom sent his dad (Older Nephew) a pathetic little video of him this morning, laying on the couch, saying in a croaky little voice, "I not feeling good." :(  :(  :(  (Older Nephew sent it to his parents -- BIL & SIL -- and SIL sent it to us.)  He is running a temperature. :(  

BIL called dh, begging him/us to keep an eye out for children's Tylenol. (He himself actually drove to the next town over to look for some -- when he was supposed to be at work!)  Dh, of course, adopted it as his mission for the day.  ;)  

And of course there is NO children's Tylenol (or Advil, for that matter) to be found anywhere.  :(  When it does come into stock, people buy it all up and hoard it or give it to friends & neighbours who are also looking. Hospitals, emergency rooms, urgent care centres, doctor's office are all swamped with children who are sick with all kinds of viruses right now (covid, RSV, flu...).  And of course, mask mandates continue to be non-existent, and no one is wearing them,  ANYWHERE (including schools). :p  I am furious with our provincial government(s -- because I know this is happening across Canada, not just in Ontario) for not taking action. 

Anyway -- I suggested to dh that he was more likely to find it at a small/hole-in-the-wall/independent pharmacy than at one of the large chain stores. There are two such stores near us. The first one he went to didn't have any, but the pharmacist suggested he try a compounding pharmacy in the area, and gave him directions. Dh drove there -- about 8 km/4 or 5 miles away -- and they made up a small bottle for him with the very last of their supply of ingredients. (I don't know how much children's Tylenol costs these days, but I'm willing to bet he paid close to double the usual cost.). He came back to the condo to pick me up, and we headed up to where Older Nephew & his wife & LGN live, about an hour away. 

LGN's mom laughed when she saw us on her doorstep. "You didn't have to drive all the way up here!"  she said. (That's BIL & dh for you...!) "We'd do anything for LGN," dh told her.  She actually DID have some children's Tylenol (!) -- albeit it would not have lasted her indefinitely. What we brought her will get used. 

"I have fever," LGN announced matter-of-factly when he saw us. (His mom took his temperature again while we were there -- 38.5C, about 101F). But he was playing with his toys and he seemed happy to see us. The dog, of course, was ecstatic. :)  We stayed for about half an hour -- LGN's mom made me a cup of tea and we chatted and I petted the dog while dh played with LGN -- and then headed home again. 

It was a nice afternoon for a drive in the country... we got to see LGN (and the dog!) and reassure ourselves he was (relatively) okay, and do a good deed (albeit a slightly unnecessary one, lol).  You can do stuff like this when you're retired -- and when it's your only little great-nephew, and you're a doting childless great-auntie & great-uncle -- how can you not??  :) 

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

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Weekend odds & ends

  • It was 24C (75F)/27C (80F) humidex today!!!  
    • I am not complaining -- I am not anxious for days on end of sub-zero temperatures just yet...!  
    • BUT!  THIS IS NOT NORMAL!!!  :(   
  • We drove out to our old community this (Saturday) morning for our flu and bivalent covid booster shots at the vaccine clinic set up by our family doctor's office -- one in each arm. We had appointments, but by the time the clinic opened at 10, there were at least 30 people waiting in line outside -- a marked contrast to when we got our fourth shots six months ago, and were the only two people there! Nevertheless, we were there early, and in & out relatively quickly. 
    • I had booked us for Moderna, since that's what we had last time, but the nurse recommended Pfizer for variety. (Last time we'd requested Pfizer and Moderna was recommended!)  Whatever -- I just want a shot!  :)  We've now had two each of Pfizer and Moderna, along with our very first shot of AstraZeneca (which was the only shot we could get at the time). 
    • Both of us have slightly sore arms and we've been tired/fatigued all day (dh napped all afternoon), but otherwise, so far, so good.  
  • BIL & SIL were surprised earlier this week when they mentioned Little Great-Nephew's upcoming 3rd (!!) birthday party (with just the family present) -- and realized Older Nephew hadn't yet extended an invitation to us. I KNEW we would be invited, eventually (Older Nephew has never been known for his promptness, lol) -- but it still kind of gives you pause and drags up those old feelings of "otherness" and exclusion and being left outside the "in" crowd (which WAY predate infertility and pregnancy loss and permanent childlessness, going back to my childhood, when I was frequently the new kid in town, on the fringe of things...). 
    • BIL assured dh we were invited, adding, "You're almost like family!"  "Ummm, hello, we ARE family!!"  dh reminded him. (Yes, next-tier, to be sure, but still...! -- our family is not all that large...!)(Both of us laughed...  you have to know BIL... his sentences don't always come out the way he intended...!  But I'm glad dh spoke up!) 
  • In the "it was fun while it lasted" category:  Bloglovin has been behaving BEAUTIFULLY ever since I posted this on Sept. 23rd. It's been a good six weeks... BUT... Thursday morning (Nov. 3rd), I checked the Bloglovin app on my phone and there were suspiciously fewer posts than normal... went onto my laptop later that afternoon and sure enough, there it was: "Sorry, this page isn't available." And it hasn't been available since then. Sigh... 
  • The penultimate (#9) episode of "The Handmaid's Tale" this season aired here on Wednesday night... season 5 finale next week! 
    • One thing that's bothered me about this and other episodes this season is the vehement anti-Americanism/anti-refugee demonstrations by the people of Toronto (with gun violence at the very end of this episode). Okay, I realize this is fiction -- and who knows how Toronto/Canada would react in a world where we had Gilead on our doorstep and thousands of Americans flooding our borders??  And it's true that not everyone in Toronto or in Canada as a whole welcomes refugees (or Americans, for that matter) with open arms right now as it is. (As in the show -- and as last winter's protests/occupations of Ottawa and several other cities and border crossings demonstrated -- there is, unfortunately, a segment of the population that would welcome more Gilead in Canada -- perish the thought...!)  
    • But we welcomed tens of thousands of Americans (draft dodgers from the Vietnam War) back in the 1960s and 1970s -- many of whom stayed and made Canada their home, even after they were granted amnesty -- and for decades, refugees from other parts of the world have been overwhelmingly welcomed by the vast majority of the population here. The screaming, chanting crowds, the harshly worded signs on display in the show... it's NOT the Canada or the Toronto I recognize. (I find it kind of offensive, to be honest -- to think that the producers & writers would think Canada/Canadians would be like that...! -- even fictional Canadians!) 

Thursday, November 3, 2022

"Remarkable Creatures" by Tracy Chevalier

"Remarkable Creatures" by Tracy Chevalier is the November pick for my Gateway (now Lighthouse) Women NoMo book club. (Zoom discussion date TBA, but it's generally late in the month.) It's based on the true story of two remarkable real-life women, who take turns narrating the story:  Elizabeth Philpot and Mary Anning. 

After their brother marries, Elizabeth and her two middle-class, spinster sisters leave the London home where they grew up for a small cottage and a simpler (cheaper) life on the coast in Lyme Regis, which was also the setting for Jane Austen's "Persuasion." The book has an Austenish flavour -- it touches on some of the same themes as Austen's novels (class, marriage/spinsters, etc.) and takes place in 1810, around the same time period they were being published (in fact, the author and her novels are mentioned in passing).  

Intrigued by the fossils she finds on the beach, Elizabeth strikes up an improbable friendship with young Mary, the daughter of an impoverished local cabinetmaker who, despite her lack of education, is extremely knowledgeable about fossils and has an uncanny knack of finding them. This makes her an invaluable resource for the wealthy (male) collectors who tap her knowledge, buy fossils from her -- and then take credit for her discoveries. 

I probably wouldn't have found or picked up this book if it wasn't for the book club. I'm not sorry I read it -- I LIKED it -- it was well written and an interesting read. I learned a lot from it, and it made me think. But I can't say I LOVED it. (Your mileage may vary, of course.) 

For this reason, I'm giving this one a solid 3.5 stars on Goodreads -- but rounded down to 3 (instead of up to 4).  

The recent movie "Ammonite" is loosely based on Mary and her story -- albeit it's NOT an adaptation of this book specifically. At our last book club Zoom meeting, one of the women in the book club told us a hilarious story about seeing it with a group of older women who had read the Chevalier novel and assumed the story would be more or less what they had just read. Let's just say the movie had a distinctly 21st century speculative spin that these women did NOT expect!!  lol  (Here's an article from Time magazine about what's fact and what's fiction in the movie, and another from Esquire.) 

(As I was reading, I Googled Mary and Elizabeth to find out more about them.  Lo and behold, Mary and her fossils were in the news again!)   

This was Book #42 read to date in 2022 (and Book #1 finished in November), bringing me to 93% of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 5 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2022 tagged as "2022 books."  

Tuesday, November 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: October was Month #31 (going on #32) of living with the COVID-19 pandemic. Late in the month, it was noted that we'd passed 1000 days since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the city of Toronto. 

So far, the predicted 8th (!) wave has not materialized... but the numbers have remained relatively high all summer long, and have not been trending in the right direction. On Oct. 20th, Ontario reported the highest weekly covid death count since early May (109, an increase from 67 the previous week); a week later, on Oct. 27th, there were 121 more deaths, the highest number since Feb. 9th, and wastewater readings suggest the prevalence of the virus is on the rise. (See the stats below.) There are lots of ominous warnings about new immune-evasive variants on the horizon (two of which are growing twice as fast as the current dominant BA.5 variant), children with RSV are swamping the already-swamped hospital emergency rooms -- and there are increasing numbers of flu patients as well. There are currently more COVID-19 patients in Canadian hospitals this fall compared to the same time period in previous pandemic years (see the chart) -- vaccine uptake has slowed -- restrictions are practically non-existent (doctors are calling on the government to reinstate mask mandates -- good luck with that...) --  and our healthcare system has been already struggling for months. "Canada is heading into a potentially brutal winter," a recent CBC News article began -- and they weren't even talking about the weather...! 

Since June 16th, the government has been reporting covid data weekly (on Thursdays) instead of daily. :(  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 :(  (and of course, the data we ARE getting is vastly under-reported).  If you look at the charts for the past two months, most of the categories tracked have remained more or less the same ( = no huge increases -- but no significant improvement either). Among the latest stats (last updated Oct. 27th ):  
  • 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 1,361 on Oct. 1st to 1,921 on Oct. 27th, up 8.3% over the previous week and the highest reported hospitalization rate since Feb. 9th (8 months). Low point was 1,323 on Oct. 2nd;  peak was 1,954 on Oct. 25th. The graph shows a steady upward trend over the last two months. 
  • There were 138 patients with COVID-19 in Ontario's ICUs testing positive for COVID-19 or there for COVID-19 related illness on Oct. 1st, and 148 on Oct. 27th, down 6.3% over the previous week. Peak was 168 on Oct. 23rd;  the low point was 120 on Oct. 9th & 10th.  
  • There were 7 deaths on Oct. 1st and 29 on Oct. 27th. Peak was 33 on Oct. 26th. The 7-day average on Oct. 27th was 17.3, up 11% over the previous week. (Total pandemic deaths reported: 14,724.) 
  • On Oct. 27th, 87.1% of Ontario's total population has had at least one vaccine, 83.9% had at least two, but just 52% had received a third dose. (No stats provided for fourth doses, which only became available to adults under age 60 in mid-July.)  These numbers have hardly budged over the past couple of months. 
    • The new bivalent vaccines began rolling out to Ontario residents aged 70 and older on Sept. 19th, and to everyone else 18 and older on Sept. 26th. The guidance is that, at minimum, you should be at least three months out from your last dose/booster;  the recommended interval is six months. 
      • Dh & I had our fourth vaccines/second boosters on May 11th, more than four months ago;  Nov. 11th will be six months. We have appointments to get our bivalent/fifth shots on Thursday (Nov. 3rd), together with our flu shots. So far, most people I've talked to who have had both at the same time have reported very few side effects... here's hoping! 
"The new numbers paint a stark picture of the growing toll of the virus, particularly amid an expected rise in hospitalizations beginning in the fall," the CBC said in its coverage of the most recent stats and trends (here -- see also this article from CTV). 

On the personal pandemic front: Dh & I continue to wear masks when out in public (even though we are not required to do so, and fewer and fewer people are). We remain more socially distanced than we used to be, and certainly more so than most people we know -- but we did get out a fair bit more this past month. :) On top of dh's solo (masked) trips to the supermarket for groceries (about once a week), and for occasional takeout lunches & dinners: 
  • We visited SIL & Little Great-Nephew at BIL & SIL's house 3 times. 
  • We went to Michaels, Chapters (local mega-bookstore) and Shoppers Drug Mart on Oct. 4th, picking up birthday cards, stuff for Little Great-Nephew's Halloween goodie bag, and other odds & ends. 
  • We flew west for a week with my parents on Oct. 8th, departing via Toronto Pearson airport and arriving at Winnipeg's Richardson airport (and vice-versa on the return trip home, Oct. 16th). (One week earlier, on Oct. 1st, the federal government dropped all remaining travel-related restrictions, including mandatory masking on trains and airplanes. We wore masks, but less than half of the other passengers did. Grrrr....) 
    • While we were there, we went grocery shopping at the local Co-op store twice... but that was about the extent of our outings!   
    • Parents' Neighbours' Daughter came over twice, once to play cards and once with the Little Princesses, and we stopped by there before we left to say goodbye (wearing masks). 
  • Back home again, we went to Best Buy on Oct. 17th to buy a humidifier (see "Buying," below!). 
  • I accompanied dh to the bank and to supermarket on Oct. 19th for the first time in quite a while. (I've missed that!)  We also picked up takeout pizza slices there for lunch.  :) 
  • We returned to our old community on Oct. 21st for much-needed haircuts, a visit to the cemetery, and a swing by one of our favourite stores to stock up on frozen foods. 
  • We had dinner at BIL & SIL's on Oct. 22nd with dh's/BIL's cousin, his wife and their teenaged son (the same ones who hosted us at their cottage a few weekends ago). 
  • We headed into midtown Toronto on Oct. 31st (yesterday) so that our longtime regular optometrist could check out my eyes, post-surgery. (I was supposed to go about a month ago, but had a cold and had to reschedule.)  He was very pleased with the outcome. The change in my prescription (from what it was before surgery became necessary) is so minor that I don't even need new glasses! He said I could get new ones if I wanted -- my current pair is 8 years old! -- but I decided that was an expense I could postpone for now. Back again in six months! 
    • En route back home, we went grocery shopping, and got a takeout pizza slice (dh) & soup (me) for lunch on our way out (we ate when we got home). 

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

Also right now:  

Reading: I finished 3 books in October (all reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads, & tagged  "2022 books").  
This brings me to 41 books read so far in 2022, which brings me to 91% of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway) 4 books ahead of schedule. :)  

Current read(s): 
  • Within the private online Gateway Women (now called Lighthouse Women) community, we have two groups discussing Jody Day's book, "Living the Life Unexpected" -- one group that's more conducive to UK/European/Australasian time zones, and mine, which is mostly North Americans. Since January, we've been meeting on Zoom to discuss one chapter per month. Unfortunately, I missed our calls for Chapters 7, 8 & 9. :(  Chapter 10 is coming up in mid-November. If/when we complete the full 12 chapters, I'll count it as another re-read. :)  
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. ;)  
A few recently purchased titles (mostly in digital format, mostly discounted ($5.99 or less) or purchased with points): 
  • "The Winners" by Fredrik Backman (the third and final book in the "Beartown" series). (This one was in paperback, discounted.) 
  • I ordered a used copy online of "Black Roses," a 2013 novel that "Widowland"'s C.J. Carey wrote under her real name, Jane Thynne, which does not seem to be available in any format here in North America (although some of the sequels are)??   
  • "Next Year in Havana" by Chanel Cleeton 
  • "Still Just a Geek" by Wil Wheaton 
  • "Flying Solo" by Linda Holmes 
  • "Managing Expectations" by Minnie Driver 

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

Watching: "The Handmaid's Tale," season 5 (just saw episode 8). Excellent performances all round (as usual), if somewhat improbable storylines. (I've said it before and I will say it again... how many times can June escape, or almost escape, Gilead??)   

Stanley Tucci's "Searching for Italy" is back!  We missed the first episode since its return, earlier this month, but PVRd it and caught up when we got back from visiting my parents. It featured Calabria, the area where dh's family (as well as Tucci's) emigrated from. SIL was beyond delighted that a bakery in her dad's hometown (a hop, skip and a jump away from Tucci's, and about 15-20 km down the road from dh's family's) was one of the places featured. :)  

I've been PVRing "Magpie Murders" on PBS (on at the same time as Tucci's show) and can't wait to watch (especially after reading the book! -- see above). 

Listening:  I'm still enjoying the daily Heardle challenge(s), including the decades versions. Current stats as of yesterday, Oct. 31st:  
  • Heardle (original/all decades): 33.3% (30/90) correct, including 8 on the first guess. 
  • Heardle 60s:  86.3% (44/51), including 23 on the first guess. 
  • Heardle 70s:  70.7% (41/58), including 25 on the first guess. 
  • Heardle 80s:  45.3% (an improvement from 37% last month!) -- (24/53), including 8 on the first guess. 
  • Heardle 90s:  31.5% -- also an improvement from last month's 26.7% -- (17/54), including 3 on the first guess.  
Eating: Probably way too much while we were at my parents' house for (Canadian) Thanksgiving, but it was all FAR too good too resist!  lol  The usual turkey with my Grandma's bread stuffing recipe, gravy and mashed potatos... cabbage rolls (with & without tomato sauce)... cranberry sauce AND relish... turnips, peas and "Japanese" coleslaw (with ramen noodles). And a "salad" with Cool Whip, cottage cheese, miniature marshmallows, orange Jello and canned mandarin orange slices -- in Minnesota, where both my mother and this recipe came from, this is still defined as a "salad," lol.  (Basically this recipe, but with miniature marshmallows mixed in too.) And apple pie with ice cream for dessert. And, on another night, roast beef with mashed potatos & gravy. My gallbladder (or the absence thereof) was not affected -- yay! 

For our dinner with BIL, SIL and the cousins on Oct. 22nd (see above), BIL got us takeout from a local Portuguese restaurant, recommended by Younger Nephew. We had chicken, potatos and mixed vegetables, and it was all delicious! (There was also rice, but it was flavoured with tomato juice -- and I'm allergic to tomatos -- so I didn't have any of that.)   

Drinking:  Lots of tea! -- tis the season! 

Buying (besides books, lol):  "Hamilton" tickets! (Again!  lol)  -- albeit I had an account credit (from the first time I bought tickets, for a May 2020 performance that was cancelled by the pandemic) that covered the cost this time around.  

I didn't buy it directly, but I cashed in some of my Air Miles, under the threat of expiration, and ordered myself a KitchenAid stand mixer as a reward.  :)  It arrived a few days ago.  

Some Christmas PJ waffle-weave tops from Old Navy (ordered last weekend;  should be here by this weekend). I have amassed a small collection of these over the years, and love wearing them around the house through the holiday season -- and some are more generally winter-ish than specifically Christmas-ish, so I can wear them past Christmas as well...!

A new humidifier.
  • At the house, we had one attached to our furnace, but we've found winters in our condo to be incredibly dry. (Last Christmas, we returned from visiting my parents to a hygrometer reading of 27% humidity!)  We bought a Honeywell humidifier when we first moved into our condo, but it was too noisy for my liking (not to mention a pain to clean and maintain), and after a winter or two, we sent it to the thrift store. 
  • But colder, drier weather will be here again, very soon, and dh -- who has very dry, sensitive, itchy skin at the best of times -- has been dealing with an awful case of eczema lately -- and my recent vision issues are related, in part, to dry eye syndrome -- and proper humidity is one of the things that can help prevent covid (and other viruses) from spreading -- and so a new humidifier became a priority as soon as we got back from visiting my parents. 
  • After doing some research (and being thoroughly overwhelmed by all the options), we wound up splurging (and I do mean SPLURGING!) on a combination humidifier/air purifier/fan from Dyson. I was won over by the idea of three appliances in one, the promise of quiet(er) technology, and also the promise that it would be easy to clean and maintain. Also appealing: it's high tech, with a a remote and a phone app! -- you can monitor the readings and adjust the settings even when you're out!  We've had fun playing around with the technology and the different settings. 
  • (Plus -- we bought both nephews & their wives Dyson vacuum cleaners as a housewarming gift when they got their own houses. I figured if we could spend that much money on Dysons for them, we could get a Dyson appliance for ourselves!  lol) 
  • So far, we haven't found it to be entirely quiet, especially when the fan is on auto mode (which is recommended) and it suddenly shifts into high gear -- but it's not too bad when adjusted to a lower setting. I've noticed it tends to show a lower air quality when we're cooking, and/or when I have my essential oils diffuser running... hmmm... 
Wearing:  Back to long pants, long sleeves (and/or a cardigan on top), socks AND slippers...!  :( 

Noticing:  Dh spotted a large coyote last Friday morning, in the marshy space between our condo building and the townhouse development behind us. We've had signs in the elevators & emails from the property managers, warning of several sightings recently. There are lots of small dogs in our building (as well as a few small children), so I hope the owners/parents are paying attention...!  

This isn't the first coyote sighting in our neighbourhood... we saw a few of them -- and heard them, howling in the nearby creek ravine, late at night! -- a few years ago, when the townhouses were being built. We also saw a deer then, and spotted foxes and even a beaver!) 

Appreciating:  The recent warm, sunny weather. Temperatures reached as high as 21C (about 70F) last week, and they're projected to reach 18C (about 64F) later this week! In November!! 

Enjoying:  The beautiful fall colours, which seem particularly colourful and long-lasting this year. They're past their peak in our neighbourhood, but we drove several miles down Yonge Street yesterday, into midtown Toronto for my optometrist appointment (see above), and the colours were just gorgeous. :) 

Wanting:  To get back to the art gallery where I have a membership... we haven't been there since just before covid hit, and the fall colours are always beautiful there!  

Hoping:  Our reactions to our bivalent covid/flu shots (scheduled for later this week) aren't too bad. 

Prioritizing:  Shopping for birthday and Christmas presents for Little Great-Nephew over the next few weeks... birthday #3 coming up mid-month!! (eeekkk!) 

Worrying:  Dh's cousin (also his godson) got married in August 2021, with only immediate family present, because of the pandemic. Ever since then, the cousins have been bugging him about when we're going to have a party to celebrate. The subject came up again at the recent funerals of two of the aunts, and shortly afterwards, an email went out: there WILL be a party on Saturday, Nov. 12th, at the groom's mom's condo's party room. Dh already told him we'll be there. 

Of course I've been fretting ever since then, with one eye nervously monitoring the rising covid rates. I know we can't NOT go (especially when everyone else will be there) -- BUT: how big is the party room, and how good is the ventilation? How many people will be there? (Dh's aunts, cousins & their families alone will amount to 40-50 people -- including several teachers and school-age kids.  Will the other side of this cousin's family be there? His wife's family? Friends?)  We'll be 9 days past our latest shots (the bivalent booster) and I, at least, plan to wear an N-95 equivalent mask when I'm not eating, particularly if it's a big party with lots of people we don't know. We'll probably be the only ones masking, but I don't care. I know my "never had covid" status is becoming increasingly rare, but I don't intend to give up the title without a fight...!  ;) 

(One thing that makes me feel better:  the "bride" is pregnant and due in February -- right around the same time as Younger Nephew's wife, in fact! -- so I can't imagine they won't want to be careful -- right? ) (On the other hand: with two pregnancies in the family, it's guaranteed that there will be baby talk in abundance. Sigh.) 

Trying:  To persuade dh to wear a N-95/equivalent mask more consistently when he goes out... often (especially if I'm not going out with him, or don't see him before he heads out) he just puts on a cloth mask. He claims he finds it difficult to breathe in an N-95. I mean, points for wearing a mask at all (he doesn't have to be persuaded that he should wear one), but it's a fact that cloth is at the low end of the scale in terms of effectiveness, and there are new variants afoot... we need all the protection we can get! (especially when the provincial government is doing absolutely zilch to help... but that's another post entirely...!) 

Loving:  Spending time with Little Great-Nephew. :)  I know, I sound like a broken record on the subject ;) but he's just so darn cute. :) We stayed with him last week for a few hours while SIL went out for an appointment -- took him to the nearby park, played in the leaves, came back to the house and watched TV and played with his puzzles and Legos and toy cars. He's so GOOD -- a little mischievous, maybe ;) (like many little boys!) but no real trouble at all. (Where was he when I was a teenaged babysitter??)  

Wondering:  How the heck is it NOVEMBER already?? (Still not my favourite month, but I don't dread it the way I used to when I was working!)  

Feeling: Thankful -- for getting home to see my family, for Thanksgiving dinners and card games and jigsaw puzzles, and for the promise of another visit soon at Christmastime. For dh & our own cozy little condo, and for the family we have here. For Little Great-Nephew, who never fails to brighten our day. :)  For beautiful fall colours and good books to read.  For 15 (!!) years of blogging!  For blogs and all the wonderful people I've met through them. :)