Friday, January 27, 2023

Friday odds & ends & updates

  • The Dyson sagaSince I last bitched... errr, vented (lol) about my very expensive, non-functioning air purifier/humidifier/fan unit and the crazy runaround I was getting from Dyson customer service: we still didn't have confirmation of where we were supposed to take our unit for repair, but we decided to go to the address I'd found anyway, a week ago Wednesday (Jan. 18th). (It did turn out to be the right place.) 
    • For all my complaints about the customer service runaround I'd received to that point, I will give props to the young guy we spoke with and left our unit with -- he was very nice and efficient and reassuring. He gave me his card (with a DIRECT phone number!!), told us the repair would take 24 to 48 hours, and that we'd be notified by email when our unit was ready.  
    • Needless to say, based on how quickly my previous questions and concerns had been handled, I was skeptical.  But lo and behold!! the very next morning, an email landed in my inbox advising our unit had been repaired and was ready for pickup.!!!!!! 
    • We were otherwise occupied on Thursday, but last Friday morning (Jan. 20th), we headed back out to the warehouse to claim our unit (just in time for the weekend). The same young guy told us they'd replaced a faulty pump unit, as well as the filters (albeit they are still showing the same usage levels on the app as before we took the unit in??), and run a deep clean cycle successfully. Hopefully we won't have any further issues the next time we try to run it ourselves...!  
    • Plugged it in, filled the tank (we used water filtered through our Brita pitcher this time around vs water straight from the tap before;  we'll see if that makes a difference...) and turned it on. It started up again, and also instantly reconnected with our wi-fi. So far, so good...! (knocking wood, LOUDLY!).  
  • Ann Douglas's latest book, "Navigating the Messy Middle," which I read and reviewed here, will be published in the U.S. on March 28th.  :)  
  • When I was a kid in the 1960s, I wanted to be Agent 99 from "Get Smart."  ;)  Did you know Barbara Feldon, the actress who played 99, is childless/free?  I was reminded recently by this article from Salon. She wrote a book about living single, about 20 years ago, and now has a memoir -- titled "Get Smarter," lol. It's now on my reading wish list! 
  • Oh, for more articles like this one!:  "Jennifer Aniston Isn’t the Only One Without a Baby After IVF" by Aisha Balesaria of Mind-Body Revival Coach
  • This piece by Ali Hall in Medium practically had me standing up and applauding... it deserves to be shared & read widely!:  "Why Do Some Parents Condescend and Belittle Non-Parents?
    • But (content warning/caveat!):  whyyyyyy is it that so many great articles about non-parents are illustrated with photos of women (presumably mothers) and children??  
    • I commented to that effect on the article:  "I felt like standing up & cheering when I read this... thank you!  I do find it a little ironic, though, that a piece advocating for childless/childfree people is accompanied by... a photo of a woman (presumably a mother) and a child?"
    • The author responded: "Thank you Loribeth for your kind comment. I hear your second point and you raise it well. I know many other childfree and childless may well share your sentiments. I was in two minds about choosing this pic. Ultimately I chose it as I want to draw the attention of parents to this article and I hoped this pic may help do that. I can understand your frustration at the use of the pic, I promise I don't normally use pics with children in them for my childfree oriented articles. Your feedback is very valid and relevant."  
      • Fair point. But still...  What do you think?
  • I'm waaaayyyyy behind on my podcast listening -- and many podcasts have been on hiatus over the Christmas holiday period, posting reruns of past episodes (reruns:  they're not just for TV!  lol) -- but New Legacy Radio had a new episode this past Tuesday afternoon that I listened to live -- and it was a really good one with a very important message for all of us without children, for whatever reason:  "Why is Policy Engagement Essential for People Without Children?"  Host Christine Erickson delved into this topic with Nandita Bajaj, Executive Director of Population Balance;  Jody Day, founder of Gateway Women; Dr. Robin Hadley, an expert and researcher on male childlessness; and Therese Shechter, a childfree filmmaker and founder of Trixie Films -- all advisors with the New Legacy Institute. You can listen at the link above, or on any of the usual podcast platforms. (Jody Day has shared the link as well as a transcript on the Gateway Women website.) 
Have a great weekend!  :) 

Monday, January 23, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: LGN made my day :)

Friday morning, we were at BIL & SIL's house. Older Nephew's Wife had an appointment in town and dropped off Little Great-Nephew to spend some time with the four of us while she was out. Aside from driving north to watch him skate the previous weekend, we'd last seen him at BIL & SIL's 2+ weeks earlier, shortly after we got back from Christmas vacation, which I wrote about here

Normally, he sticks to dh like glue -- but dh & BIL were out for a while that day, and SIL was stressed out, trying (and failing) to get him to use the potty.  I managed to get him to come sit beside me on the stairs (out of SIL's hair!) and talked quietly with him while he happily munched on apple slices and chattered away to me. He let me read THREE storybooks to him too, which was a first! 

You never know what's going to make an impression on little kids, or what they're going to remember. On this most recent visit -- even with dh and his beloved nonno (grandfather) around -- he got out some of his storybooks, sat on the stairs, patted the step beside him and called to me, "Aunt Lori!"  

"Ooh -- I'm being summoned! I guess this is our 'thing' now!"  I said to dh, surprised (but VERY pleased!), as I went over to sit beside him and read to him. Later, he got some apple slices and sat down beside me on the steps again while he ate. 

DAY. MADE. 

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

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Abso-frickin'-lutely :)

 

A Facebook find. :) 
(h/t to my longtime CNBC buddy & sometimes commenter here, Doubleme.  :)  ) 

Saturday, January 21, 2023

"The Metal Heart" by Caroline Lea

The January/February pick for the Gateway/Lighthouse Women NoMo Book Club is "The Metal Heart" by Caroline Lea.  Set during the Second World War, it's based on the true story of an Italian prisoner-of-war camp on one of the Orkney Islands off the coast of northern Scotland, and the beautiful chapel the inmates built there (which you can still visit today).   

Orphaned twin sisters Dot & Con (Dorothy & Constance) flee their home in Kirkwall to the small, fabled island of Selkie Holm, where they live in isolation in a ramshackle hut... until 550 Italian POWs arrive, commissioned to build stone wall barriers around the islands to thwart attacks by German ships and submarines.   

A romance develops between Dot and one of the POWs, a sensitive artist named Cesare whom she saves from drowning  -- while Con desperately tries to avoid one of the local men, a guard at the camp, for a very good reason... 

I've always liked novels set during the war, but I'm not sure I would have found or chosen to read this one if it weren't for the group. It's a romance, but almost a bit of a thriller, too. There's a dark, tense, foreboding air hanging over everything. Living conditions on the isolated islands are primitive, exacerbated by the deprivations of war.  Ancient legends and dark superstitions lurk in the background. The winters are dark and cold, rations are meager, and the townspeople are on edge with the arrival of the enemy aliens. I found it hard to put the book down as I got closer to the end -- and yet part of me was almost afraid to keep reading, waiting for the other shoe to drop (even if I wasn't quite sure what that shoe would look like...!). 

Overall, it was a good read. I'll be thinking about it for quite a while... 

4 stars on Goodreads. 

This was Book #5 read to date in 2023 (and Book #5 finished in January), bringing me to 11% (!) of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 3 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."  

*** *** *** 

Personal note: My father, who was a child during the Second World War, has told me there was a German POW camp near the farm where he grew up in southern Manitoba, just north of the US/Canada border. The only "official" POW camp in Manitoba seems to have been located in Riding Mountain National Park, a few hundred kilometres to the northwest of my grandparents' farm. But I did find this 2011 account on a local news site that corroborates Dad's story. Overall, more than 30,000 German POWs were kept in about 40 camps in Canada -- and the Prairies were a logical location for them -- after all, this was about as far inland in North America (and away from Germany) as you could get!  

(As in the U.S., ordinary Japanese-Canadians from the west coast were -- shamefully -- interned and then relocated inland, as far away from the coast as possible. Some of them wound up in Manitoba, where they were put to work on local farms, and some of them wound up staying after the war was over. There's a photo of my dad with his school classmates from the mid/late 1940s, including several Japanese children. One of their fathers became good friends with my grandfather.) 

One more digression:  Anyone else ever read "Summer of My German Soldier" by Bette Greene?  I did, when I was a young teen, and I was reminded a little bit of that book while reading this one. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Recent reading

It's been a while since I mentioned some of the relevant things I've been reading!  Here are some of the articles/blog posts/Substack posts/etc. that I've read & bookmarked since mid-December:  
I feel like so many of these ideas are just so deeply embedded for us, they’re subterranean. We don’t question them, because we assume they are true, because everyone says that shit about glowing. So showing that they came from somewhere, and often somewhere bad, is the first step towards ignoring these pressures. 

...in Western societies, fertility has become ‘a kind of neo-liberal responsibility’. We see it as our job to manage it, control it, optimise it.

But should we? When the field of what we don’t know about pregnancy, miscarriage, and stillbirth is still so wide, approaching conception like any other self-development project feels to me like setting yourself up for self-recrimination and (more) disappointment. 

...until we do know more, is it fair on yourself to treat it as a goal that can be worked at?

More to the point, how can we truly be reassured that infertility or pregnancy loss is not our fault, when, as a culture, we act in the exact opposite way when it comes to achieving pregnancy?

  • From the New York Times, 10 years after the "experimental" label was lifted on egg freezing:  "Hope, Regret, Uncertainty: 7 Women on Freezing Their Eggs." 
  • From the Washington Post's Carolyn Hax: "She’s struggling with sister’s surprise pregnancy news." I find Hax is usually very sympathetic when it comes to matters of grief, loss & infertility. But beware the comments!  
  • This one is completely unrelated to infertility, loss or childlessness:  Pamela Anderson ("Baywatch") -- who is Canadian and now living back in her hometown on Vancouver Island -- has a memoir coming out this month, and the New York Times had a really interesting interview with her. Besides being Canadian, she & I don't have much in common -- but as a writer/blogger, I was particularly struck by this passage towards the end (boldfaced emphasis mine): 
For years, she says, she resisted offers to do projects about her life, unconvinced anyone needed to hear from her, content with her mark on the culture without wanting to challenge it. She isn’t after validation or affirmation and is not particularly concerned about her legacy.

But the book, she says, stirred something primal in her. She says it’s the first thing in her life over which she has had complete control — down to the copy edits, which she insisted on transferring into the manuscript herself — and losing that control was not an option. “It really was life or death,” she says. “I felt I need to tell my story. And I really couldn’t let anybody do it but me.”

We forget sometimes, when we talk about the idea of agency, that it’s as much about the stories we tell ourselves as it is about the actions we take. It’s not just about what happened to us; it’s about the role we feel we played in what happened. It’s the difference between posing for Playboy and a stolen sex tape. It’s why hearing someone recount your life to you can make you feel sick, while telling your own story, in your own words, can feel like a matter of survival.

  • Finally, this is not reading, but something to listen to: a member of the Lighthouse Women (fomerly Gateway Women) private community I belong to has been writing and performing songs that tell her story as a form of therapy.  She's been sharing some of her music with us there -- and it's wonderful! I asked her if I could share her music here with all of you, and she said yes. Her performing name is the name of her unborn daughter: Jaicie Claire.  Have a listen to "You Were There" and "Path of Peace" (it even includes the phrase "road less travelled," lol). 

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Mid-January odds & ends

  • The Dyson saga: We've been pretty busy since our our brand-new Dyson purifier/humidifier/fan unit broke down a week ago, on Tuesday, Jan. 10th (and I was NOT going to chase down Dyson customer service and raise my blood pressure on my birthday!!  lol). Here's what's happened since I chatted online and then speaking with a customer service rep on the phone that day (who promised to send me a repair ticket and details on where to take the unit), and then followed up later that day with an email:    
    • I was amused to see an email from Dyson in my inbox on Saturday morning... inviting me to rate their customer service and provide some feedback on my latest interaction with them. As you can imagine, I was only too pleased to do so...!  
    • In my survey comments, I requested that someone contact me as soon as possible -- via email -- with the service repair ticket and other information promised to me last Tuesday (Jan. 10th). 
      • (I had the option of receiving a phone call or email.  On the one hand, it's sometimes easier to just talk to a human -- on the other hand, email provides a paper trail, and I won't miss the email, whereas one missed phone call can lead to an endless game of telephone tag...!)
    • Sunday afternoon, out in the car with dh, BIL & SIL, I got an email from Dyson... in response to the email I'd left the previous Tuesday afternoon (five days earlier!) via the chat function, where I'd noted that I had not yet received the promised email with repair ticket number and address information. 
Hi Lori,
 
 Thank you for contacting Dyson. 
 
 We do apologize for the delay in response, as we have an influx of emails and are responding in the order received. 
 
We have reviewed your concern about the repair. We are really sorry for the inconvenience caused to you. We would like to inform you that your repair has been booked and the repair reference id is... [number provided!]. Please visit to Dyson service center with this id. They would be happy to assist you.
      • A repair reference number -- YES!!  :) 
      • BUT -- they didn't provide the address for the local repair facility/warehouse where we could take our unit?! 
      • I did some Googling and found an address in the suburb the customer service rep had mentioned to me -- AND, lo and behold, a local email address!  I fired off an email asking for confirmation that this was, in fact, the right place for us to bring our unit. (It's about a half-hour drive away -- and we've already spent almost a week without use of our unit -- so I don't want to be making any unnecessary trips.)  
        • That triggered an auto-response email, saying that I can expect a response within 24 hours. (Well, at least I know it was a valid email address!)  They're closed on the weekend, so I figured 24 hours = by Tuesday morning.  We've been busy and unable to take the unit in until Wednesday anyway.  
        • It's now Tuesday afternoon... if I don't hear anything from them soon (and I'm not holding my breath...!), I'll call the general customer service line (AGAIN) and ask them to confirm the address. 
    • Then yesterday (Monday) morning, I got a response from the comment I'd left on the customer service survey I'd completed on Saturday morning... in FRENCH. 
      • I got the gist of what it said, but ran it through Google Translate to be sure. It said: "Hello, Thank you for contacting Dyson, we're sorry to hear you feel this way. You will shortly receive the information requested by our service team." (! -- do you get the feeling the left hand doesn't know what the right is doing??  Are they not all connected to the same systems??)   
    • And... a few hours later, I got what turned out to be a duplicate of the earlier email (!). 
    • Why does everything have to be so complicated??  
    • This would be funny, if the damn machine wasn't so horribly expensive... 
    • I think the humidity levels in our condo have only cracked 40% once in the week since the unit broke down, and they've often been in the low 30s.  :p  
  • The Bloglovin' saga: After refreshing the window, it SEEMS to be up and running normally today??  I'm not getting too excited, though... little has changed since my last post on this subject on Dec. 23rd (!).  Aside from a few brief periods, it's basically been out since Dec. 5th.  It varies from day to day, between (1) some posts from a day or two previous, mixed in with posts dated from 2020, including some spam-ish content in foreign languages (Slavic, Asian, etc.)(!), (2) "not available" messages and (3) "502 Server Error" messages. Bah humbug... 
  • The weather has been relentlessly dark, grey and gloomy since we returned from holidays... very depressing. There was a brief period of exception:  the sky cleared and the sun came out last Saturday!! and continued through Sunday & Monday!!  It was glorious!!  :)  (It also got a lot colder, but hey, that's the price we pay...!) 
    • Back to grey and gloomy this morning (with freezing rain overnight that's now turned to drizzle...).  :p  
  • It was a busy weekend:  two Zoom sessions on Saturday (actually three, but two were on at the same time -- one of them was a webinar that was recorded, so I opted to watch that one later) and one on Sunday. Plus going to see Little Great-Nephew skating on Sunday afternoon -- plus I was watching the Canadian national figure skating championships on TV both days in between Zoom calls (& PVRing to watch what I missed later...!).  
    • Nationals took place not far from our old community, about an hour/90 minutes away from where we live now. Once I would have jumped at the opportunity to get tickets for an even so close by -- and there were lots of empty seats, even in this venue, which is much smaller than nationals venues of the past. But I'm no longer close with the "skating buddy" I used to attend shows & competitions with, years ago. Getting there on my own would have been a chore -- transit might have been possible, but not easy (a couple of hours trekking back & forth, and not a great area, especially after dark...).  I think dh would have gone with me (and done the driving), if I'd asked, but it's really not his "thing" -- plus I'm still leery about big public events and covid.  Plus I find I'm still in a bit of a post-Christmas/birthday "slump" where I don't have a lot of energy/bandwidth.  Those are my excuses, anyway...! 
  • We made the trek to our optometrist's office in midtown Toronto yesterday. I was last there in late October as a follow-up from my surgery last July, and got the all-clear from him, with a request for me to return in six months (May) to check in on how things are going. A couple of weeks later, in mid/late November, I noticed some redness and irritation in the inner corner of my right eye (the one I had the surgery on -- of course!), and what looked to me like a bit of a clear bubble (cyst?) right where the white of the eye meets the iris. I've had clear cysts in the past; they generally disappeared on their own or with some drops. And of course, then there was Christmas. The eye has been looking slightly better since we got back home, but I decided I'd feel better if he had a look at it. He did (and so did his young associate), and told me he didn't see anything that concerned him, but to come back in May as scheduled for another look. What a load off my mind!   
  • BIL is adjusting to unofficial retirement (long-term disability). In recent years (since dh's own premature retirement in 2013), he & dh have spoken over the phone almost every day... and the calls have increased since he found himself at home. He doesn't read, football season is almost over (lol), he doesn't have a lot of friends outside of work & family (and of course many of the other people he might call or visit are still working themselves), SIL is still working part-time, Little Great-Nephew has been (mostly) at home with his mom since before Christmas, since SHE's on disability too... In a nutshell, he's bored, lol.  
  • I recently learned (via Facebook) that an old friend lost her first grandchild (her oldest child's baby). I sobbed as I read her post to dh (who also knew her well), and showed him the photos of an absolutely beautiful baby who hung on for a little more than three months in the hospital and passed away shortly after Christmas. A story we heard from our support group clients many times over the years -- but one that never loses its power to break your heart. :(  
  • Coming soon:  some recent reading, with links to share!  

Monday, January 16, 2023

"Anne of the Island" by L.M. Montgomery

"Anne of the Island" by L.M. Montgomery -- the third book in the "Anne of Green Gables" series, first published in 1915 -- is the current choice of the L.M. Montgomery Readathon group I belong to on Facebook. We started reading and discussing it, chapter by chapter, on Jan. 9th -- it's not too late to join us!  (At the pace of two chapters per week, we'll finish up at the end of May.) 

As I usually do, I chose to speed on ahead and finish the book on my own, then go back & follow along with the group (and count it again later as a re-read). This was, of course, after I finished reading Book #2 in the series first --- "Anne of Avonlea," which I reviewed here

Some editions of this third volume are called "Anne of Redmond," which might be a more accurate title, since the primary arc of the plot covers the four years that Anne spends as a student at Redmond College in Kingsport, Nova Scotia -- standing in for Halifax, where Montgomery lived and attended Dalhousie University for a year (1895-96). (She also lived there from 1901-02 and worked for the newspaper The Daily Echo. If you're curious about the connections between this book and Montgomery's experiences in Halifax, this blog post by Montgomery scholar Sarah Emsley might be of interest.) 

Also at Redmond: Gilbert Blythe and Charlie Sloane of Avonlea, and Anne's friends from her days at Queen's in Charlottetown, Priscilla Grant and Stella Maynard. Together with a new friend, Philippa Gordon, the girls rent a cozy cottage together, "Patty's Place." The novelty of women in higher education at the time is a running theme throughout the book -- as well as the distracting allure of romance. Many of Anne's old school friends are pairing off and getting married, including Diana Barry and Jane Andrews.  Anne has many suitors and proposals -- some of them hilarious -- and turns them all down. Then she meets a fellow student who embodies all of her romantic fantasies -- tall, dark, handsome, melancholy (and rich!) Royal Gardner. Has her prince come at last? (But what about Gilbert??)   

I can't remember a time when I didn't want to go to university (and I did) -- but, reading "Anne of the Island" again for the first time in many years, I found myself wondering just how much my ambitions (and expectations of student life -- as well as romance) were fuelled by this book?? I was also struck by the Halifax/Kingsport links. This is the first time I've read this book since visiting Halifax myself (once in November 1997, and once in September 2010 -- I thought I'd written about that trip on this blog, and while I have written about certain aspects of it, there is no one main "travelogue" post I can point to -- which is a pity;  it's a wonderful city!) -- and it was so much fun to read her words about the city and, in many cases, almost immediately know what locations she was talking about. For example, I instantly knew that the "Old St. John's Cemetery" Montgomery writes about here, near Anne's boarding house in her freshman year, was a stand-in for the Old Burying Ground, which was almost directly behind the hotel we stayed in. Dh & I took a stroll over there one afternoon to have a look around. Cemeteries do not generally bother me in the least -- but this was probably the oldest one I've ever been in (you have to remember I grew up on the Prairies, where the late 1800s is about as far back as buildings and cemeteries go!) -- and I'll admit, I found it just a WEE bit creepy!  (A few photos below!) 

(I digress.) 

This book is a favourite of many in the Readathon group. I would rank it a notch above "Anne of Avonlea," if not *quite* as high as "Anne of Green Gables" itself.  The Redmond material is wonderful, and some of the Avonlea content between terms is good too, reflecting how time marches on as we grow and age -- Diana's wedding, Ruby Gillis's sad story --  but I could have done with a little less of the escapades of Davy & Dora and the chapters about the courtship of Janet Sweet & John Douglas (albeit that story does provide another romantic relationship for Anne to reflect on).  The ending, however, makes up for all the prior shortcomings.  :)  

4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 on Goodreads. 

This was Book #4 read to date in 2023 (and Book #4 finished in January), bringing me to 9% (!) of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 3 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."  

*** *** *** 

ALI note:  This passage, toward the very end of the book in Chapter XXXIX ("Deals With Weddings"), really resonated:  

Anne was always glad in the happiness of her friends;  but it is sometimes a little lonely to be surrounded everywhere by a happiness that is not your own. And it was just the same when she went back to Avonlea. This time it was Diana who was bathed in the wonderful glory that comes to a woman when her first-born is laid beside her. Anne looked at the white young mother with a certain awe that had never entered into her feelings for Diana before. Could this pale woman with the rapture in her eyes be the little black-curled, rosy-cheeked Diana she had played with in vanished schooldays? It gave her a queer desolate feeling that she herself somehow belonged only in those past years and had no business in the present at all.

*** *** *** 

And now, as promised, some photos from Kingsport... oops, Halifax.  ;)  

Georges Island, called William's Island in the book, 
as seen from the Halifax waterfront, September 2010.
It's now a public park you can visit. 

Plaque at the entrance to the Old Burying Ground
(aka "Old St.John's" in the book)
Halifax, September 2010. 

Monument near the gates of the Old Burying Ground. 
It's the only Crimean War monument in North America. 

Sample photo from the Old Burying Ground. 
How'd you like to walk through here on Halloween night?? 

#MicroblogMondays: Skater boy :)

I've never been very athletic, but there were two physical sports/skills I mastered at a basic level when I was growing up:  swimming and skating.  I learned to skate as a pre-schooler in the classic Canadian style:  on a backyard rink that my dad made for us in the garden behind our house in a small Saskatchewan town, on a pair of hockey skates borrowed from the neighbour boys across the street, hanging onto a TV tray for balance. 

From there, I progressed to taking figure skating lessons, from the time I was about 5 until I was about 13. I never got very far, but I developed a love of the sport that continues to this day. During the five years we lived in one small town in northwestern Manitoba, we lived a short walk down the back alley to the skating rink (which was across the street from the curling rink). Between figure skating lessons, public skating sessions and watching hockey practices and games, and my sister, friends & I practically lived there during the long winter months. (I wrote about the old rink and my skating days there in this post from 2015.) I haven't been on skates in about 40 years now (gulp) -- I'm not sure I would do it these days (if I did, I would be wearing a helmet and lots of padding!! -- something I never had to worry about as a kid...!) -- but in my mind, I can still do it. ;)  And of course, I fully intended to enroll Katie in skating lessons when she was old enough... 

Dh & BIL both learned to skate, albeit dh hasn't been on skates in 40-some years either. BIL & one of the cousins used to play hockey together, and teenaged dh, five years older than they were, was tasked with taking them to their games -- on the subway, fully dressed in all their equipment!! -- and then getting them home again (often stopping first for hamburgers at a nearby fast-food restaurant). 

Older Nephew was never that much into hockey, growing up. Neither he nor Younger Nephew ever played, although they did both learn to skate. 

Then he married his wife, whose mom's partner (essential, his wife's stepdad) is a former player (I think he even played a few games in the NHL), and developed a passion for the game (to the point that he now has the Philadelphia Flyers logo tattooed on one of his arms!). (Not the Leafs??)  Between the two of these guys, it was inevitable that Little Great-Nephew would, at the very least, learn to skate.  

Shortly after Christmas, they took him to a family skating session at the local arena for the very first time (and then a second). We were still at my parents' place our west, but got a huge kick out of the photos and videos that both of the proud parents posted on social media. 

This past weekend, LGN's cheering section/fan club -- the biggest one there that day! lol -- included not only his parents and maternal grandparents but also his paternal grandparents (BIL & SIL) and dh & me.  :)  There weren't any early-afternoon public skating sessions available at the local arena where they'd been taking, so Older Nephew & his wife took LGN to another arena in another small town nearby.  He & his wife's stepdad took LGN out on the ice, with a "skating trainer" for him to hang onto. He was happy to see us all there (and, between stints on the ice, had a blast crawling up & down the bleachers and eating snacks -- which everyone knows is half the fun of spending time at the rink, lol).  

Little Great-Nephew, age 3, with a skating trainer. ❤
By the end of the hour, he was able to take a few steps/strokes without it! 
(The skating rink must also double as the town's curling rink, as you can 
probably tell from the circles painted on the ice...!)
I'll admit I got teary watching the little helmeted figure out on the ice, with his dad & grandad nearby encouraging him and helping him up when he fell. (But I was still able to take a ton of photos & videos, lol.)  It sure brought back a lot of memories.  

Every now & then, his grandad would swoop him up in his arms & then zoom around the ice at a fast speed with him. LGN would spread his arms out like he was flying, with a huge grin on his face. Magical.  :)  

(Not sure how long he'll be able to do that! -- he's getting pretty big!)  

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

Thursday, January 12, 2023

62

 

Credit where credit is due:  I grabbed the image above from a Medium post written by a woman named Joanne Huspek a few years ago on her own 62nd birthday:  "62 Things to Do When You Turn 62."  The number of candles in the image does give one pause -- but hey, as my Grandma once said about aging (and as I have quoted on this blog many times), "Consider the alternative...!"  

I'm not sure how many of the things on the list I did today ;) but I had a pretty good, busy day. This morning, we went to a well-known art gallery near us, where I have a membership, for the first time since the pandemic began. It was good to be back!  We wore masks, but there were very few other visitors there, thankfully. 

After that, we headed to the bookstore for a browse. I had both a $50 gift card from my sister and a 20% off birthday email burning a hole in my pocket (lol), on top of my membership card, which gave me yet another 10% off. I picked up "The McCartney Legacy, Volume 1: 1969-73" as well as (just guess...!) Prince Harry's memoir, "Spare" (I couldn't resist).  That one was discounted by 25%. With my gift card and all the discounts, I wound up paying a grand total of $4.82 for two hardcovers (which have gotten REALLY expensive lately!). Score!!  

After that, we went to the supermarket to pick up some wine for dinner, cupcakes for dessert, and pizza slices for lunch. We ordered takeout for dinner from one of our favourite restaurants.  And BIL & SIL dropped by a for a little while, with a gift. Just guess what it was -- SIL knows me well, lol.  Guess I'll be taking the copy I bought back to the store next week...!  ;)  

Tomorrow, the best present of all:  a haircut!  :)  

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

"Anne of Avonlea" by L.M.Montgomery

The L.M. Montgomery Readathon group I belong to on Facebook just started reading and discussing "Anne of the Island," the third book in the "Anne of Green Gables" series, first published in 1915. (It's not too late to join us!)  

I'm not sure why the group leaders decided to skip over book #2 in the series -- "Anne of Avonlea," first published in 1909 -- but I am a completist who likes to read series books in their proper order, if at all possible. ;)  And it's been many years since I read "Anne of Avonlea" (or "Anne of the Island" either, for that matter) -- so I decided I needed to squeeze in book #2 before tackling book #3. :)  

I can see why the powers that be might have decided to skip over this book in favour of "Anne of the Island" (which several group members have declared is their favourite in the series). There's really not a whole lot that happens here that's consequential in moving Anne's overall story forward.  Now 16 going on 17, Anne teaches school in Avonlea and befriends one of her pupils, an imaginative little boy named Paul Irving. She makes other new friends, including her cantankerous new neighbour, Mr. Harrison, and his foul-mouthed parrot, Ginger, as well as the resident of a lovely old stone cottage in the woods with the enchanting name of Miss Lavendar Lewis. She and her friends start a Village Improvement Society, which is the source of much local amusement.  And Marilla adopts TWINS!! -- the orphaned children of a distant cousin -- a pretty, placid little girl named Dora and her brother, a devilish imp named Davy (who is the subject of a great deal of harsh criticism from Goodreads reviewers!!).  

By the time the story ends, Anne is (finally) heading off to Redmond College -- and there's a hint that her friendship with Gilbert Blythe may be on the verge of becoming something more... 

While this is not the classic the original "Anne of Green Gables" was (of course, what book is, right??), especially in terms of consequential plots and story development, Montgomery's writing still sparkles. There are some very funny episodes, some finely drawn characters, and Montgomery's usual sharp observations of human behaviour. 

I don't think this quite merits the 5 stars I gave AOGG -- but it's still a good book on balance, and it functions well as a bridge between books #1 & #3.  It does gain momentum near the end.

4 stars  on Goodreads.  

On to "Anne of the Island"!  :)  

This was Book #3 read to date in 2023 (and Book #3 finished in January), bringing me to 7% (!) of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 2 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."  

*** *** ***  

On an ALI note:  The character of Miss Lavendar (which appears far later in the book than I remembered), while enchanting, had me wincing with its references to ageism and singleism.  Miss Lavendar is described -- and describes herself -- as "old" (although she is clearly young at heart). She is only 45 years old (!) -- but her hair is described as "snow white" (!). She's also referred to as a spinster, as "lonely" and "odd," and (several times) as an "old maid."  

Montgomery is only reflecting the language & attitudes of the times, of course. Overall, it's a sympathetic portrait -- and of course, there is a happy ending for Miss Lavendar before the book ends -- but it was still a bit of a jolt to read from my own perspective as an older, childless woman (married, but aware of the stereotypes that single childless women are still dealing with today). 

(Also jolting: her conversation with little Paul Irving about her "little dream boy." He tells her, "I think it's a pity you haven't any boys of your own."  Ouch!)  

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Feeling frazzled (alternate title: REALLY annoying things!!)

  • We bought our Dyson purifier/humidifier/fan unit on Oct. 17th. Aside from the 2+ weeks we were away, it's been in pretty much constant use (albeit we didn't need the humidifier function much the first few weeks, until the weather turned much colder and dryer in November, and we don't usually leave it running at night).  That's 2-3 months -- and today was the first time I got the notification that a deep cleaning cycle was required. (The manual says it's generally needed once a month or so, albeit a lot will depend on how hard your water is and how much it's being used. 
    • The instructions were easy to follow, a couple of starter packets of citric acid were provided with machine (not sure where I'm going to find it once those run out??), and I set everything up and left the machine to do its stuff. Easy peasy, right? 
    • Except... nothing seemed to be happening. When I started the cycle, a countdown started from 60:00. It got to 59:50 and... stalled.  It did progress a little after a while, but one hour later, the timer had barely budged two minutes. 
    • I went online & discovered this is a common complaint/issue about these units. (Sigh.)  A few people had suggestions about things you could try to get the thing moving again. 
    • Nothing worked.  
    • In frustration, I decided to just dump the citric acid water (the pump & evaporator unit had been soaking in it for a few hours by then, which I figured must have helped clean SOMETHING, right?), clean it all out, refill it (I even used filtered water from the Brita pitcher). 
    • But when I put the tank back in place, it just tried to get me to continue the deep clean cycle. I could NOT get it to do anything else. I tried holding down the power buttons on both the unit itself and the remote for 10 seconds, simultaneously, to reset the machine to factory settings. Didn't work. The only thing I could/can do was turn the machine off. (And back on again, for all the good it did me.)  
    • I then spent the better part of an hour trying to reach Dyson Canada customer service. I had the chat window open on my laptop while I was on hold on the telephone. The guy on the chat (the first to respond) eventually told me it was probably the pump unit. It's covered by warranty -- but of course it's out of stock right now. They're supposed to send me an email when it's available again. 
    • I did eventually speak to someone on the phone (after being transferred twice). After several minutes (dictating all my personal information, AGAIN...)(as a registered warranty customer, don't they have this stuff on file??), she eventually told me I had two choices:  she could send me a mailing label and I could pack the unit back up in the box it came in and ship it by courier to them for exchange/replacement. I told her we don't HAVE the original box anymore. She said any box would do. Like it's easy to find boxes that would fit a rather large piece of very expensive equipment and allow it to arrive safely, without too much rattling around?? (We're not talking shoeboxes here...!)  
    • The other option would be to bring the unit to the Dyson warehouse/repair shop, about a half-hour's drive from where we live, for repair. (What about people who live further away??)  Dh reluctantly chose this option. The rep said she would email me a service ticket, location information, etc., and we could take it there any time (no appointment required).  No word on how long the repairs might take. 
      • Four hours later, customer service lines are closed, and I still don't have the email. :p 
    • I have basically spent the entire day on this thing, stressing out about it. :p 
    • Without the humidifier going, the humidity in our unit has not risen above 40% and has been as low as 35%.  Dh, of course, has been dealing with eczema over the past few months, and I have dry-eye issues (which were associated with the eye surgery I had this past summer), which are two big reasons why we were keen to buy a humidifier before the colder, dryer winter weather kicked in. The Dyson did help (until it didn't...!). 
    • Dh is furious and says he's never buying another Dyson again. Okay -- but we need to at least try to get this one fixed or replaced (or refunded) first. We spent enough money to buy it and I'm not about to just write it off without a fight...!  
  • While we were away over Christmas, we received an email from our property manager notifying residents of our building about a 12-storey condo building that developers are proposing to build nearby. As in, RIGHT NEXT DOOR to us. 
    • The proposed site is on the corner of the busy main street/highway that the front of our building faces and a residential street, leading into an older but still very nice residential subdivision. It's across the street from yet another fair-sized condo building (8 storeys, 276 units) that faces onto the main road/highway (built on the site of a small former strip plaza, within the past 4-5 years, since we moved here).  There is yet ANOTHER proposed condo building (14 storeys) proposed to be built a short distance down the main road/highway from that one, backing onto the residential street and sandwiched between existing houses. There is also a large development of townhouses across the main road/highway that was built prior to our move here, but which longtime residents also had to live with during construction. 
    • The proposed building would replace three houses. These are NOT huge houses or lots -- ample, but not huge, a fair amount of street frontage but not very deep -- and I find it hard to fathom how they are going to squeeze a 12-storey building (not sure how many units are being proposed?), plus parking, etc., onto the available space. The house right on the corner is older and slightly run down, but there doesn't seem to be anything visibly wrong with the other two, which look like they were built in the late 1970s or early/mid-1980s. 
    • How'd you like to be the houses next door or across the street from this proposed development??  The house that's just two down from the site has been gutted and extensively renovated over the past year, inside and out. I can just imagine, after spending all that money to upgrade his property, how pleased THAT owner is to learn about what's being planned!!  
    • We haven't talked to any of our neighbours since we got back, but I'm sure this has not been well received. Our building is 6 storeys and 122 units (built on what was once several acres of large empty space -- no doubt former farmland).  Our own unit is located almost as far away from the proposed new building as you can get in our building -- but we'd still be subject to a whole lot of noise and dirt, etc., while construction is under way (and no doubt our beautiful sunset views would be at least partially obstructed).  It would be even worse for the units on the side closest to the site:  they'll have construction going on almost directly below their windows/balconies, and once it's finally done, they'll have units, balconies and neighbours mere yards away. 
    • You'll recall that for the first three years we lived here, we had construction all around us:  60 townhouses were sandwiched into the space behind our building (which also affected the houses bordering that space -- some of which will also be affected by this proposed new development), as well as a new rapid transit corridor and the accompanying roadwork out front. There was a lot of noise and a lot of dirt... a lot of 7 a.m. wakeups (or earlier!) to the sound of construction workers yelling at each other and vibrations from heavy equipment being brought in. I am NOT looking forward to another several years of more of the same! 
    • I understand that we need more housing, and especially more affordable housing. I understand that, being located on a main thoroughfare and transit corridor, this is a prime area for (re)development. BUT, squeezing these large developments onto tiny residential lots, on residential streets?  
    • The first public hearing will be held in early February. I'm considering sending an email, and wondering whether the meeting will be available to watch online??   
  • Wednesday morning, i.e., tomorrow, is usually the time we go to visit SIL & LGN. Except... he's not there;  hasn't been for a couple of weeks now. His mom was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome just before Christmas, and is on short-term disability from her work-at-home job right now. We're not sure when she'll be cleared to return. So LGN is at home with his mom now (albeit he was at his grandmother's one day last week and I got to see him then, which I wrote about here). 
    • We knew LGN would be off to school (!! -- junior kindergarten) this fall -- and were anticipating the hole that would create in our week then. We just didn't think it would happen so soon. Funny, we usually only saw him a couple of hours a week anyway -- but we sure miss the little guy. :(  

Monday, January 9, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: Taking down the tree

We (finally) took down the Christmas tree today. This was probably the latest we've left it up in years.  We normally put it up somewhere around Advent Sunday/the first weekend in December and then take it down shortly after the New Year. (And of course, we're usually away visiting my family for a week or two over Christmas, so we really only get to enjoy it for 3 or 4 weeks, tops.) We got back from visiting my parents last Monday, Jan. 2nd, but between grocery shopping to restock the refrigerator & cupboards, doing laundry, housecleaning and helping BIL & SIL with a couple of things, it didn't get done last week (and I didn't want to do it on the weekend).  We have other things to do later this week, so we knew the tree had to come down today or tomorrow.   

Since getting an artificial tree, my mother rarely takes hers down until after her birthday, Jan. 6th, which also happens to be Ukrainian Christmas Eve. She's not Ukrainian, but my dad is, and when my grandparents were alive, we often used to celebrate with them at their farm, a few miles from the Manitoba/Minnesota/North Dakota border (on the Canadian side).  My dad had five siblings and three half-siblings, and most years, all or most of them, plus many of their kids (and, eventually, some grandkids) would cram into the little farmhouse. It wasn't always an entirely traditional Ukrainian meal, but there were always perogies, holubtsi (cabbage rolls) and kielbasa (sausage)(none of which I appreciated until I became an adult -- my loss!!). One of my aunts made elaborate kolach (braided loaves of bread) and another made kutya (wheat kernels in a sweet sauce, served cold). Kids sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the TV, plates balanced precariously on knees. After eating, we would play hide and seeks in the basement or go out for snowmobile rides in the nearby fields while the women did the dishes and the men played cards upstairs. Those were the days... 

My mother used to tell us that, being part-Swedish (on her mother's side), we're "allowed" to keep the tree up until Jan. 13th (which would be after MY birthday). Apparently the Swedes traditionally celebrate St. Knut's Day, or "Little Christmas," which is when the tree comes down and any leftover goodies get eaten up. 

I have a friend who builds up to Christmas all year long... she'll start reminding us on Jan. 24th that it's only 11 months till Christmas Eve!  and continue with monthly, then weekly, then daily countdown reminders. The thing I find hilarious is that her tree and all the decorations always come down on Boxing Day, the day immediately after Christmas! -- after all that buildup!!  

Our tree on Ukrainian Christmas Eve. 
(Somehow, having it up then seemed
entirely appropriate this year.)
 
It was time for ours to come down -- and it's nice to have an unobstructed view out the window again -- but I'll admit, the room seems a little bare without it. I'll miss the warm glow of its lights and the extra light they provide. (Even during the day, it's been pretty grey & dreary here lately...!)

Till next year, old friend...!    

When do you usually take down your tree &/or other holiday decorations? 

(This is my first #MM post this year -- I missed several lately, so it's good to be back!) 

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

Sunday, January 8, 2023

"Living the Life Unexpected" by Jody Day (re-read)

"Living the Life Unexpected" by Jody Day is (quite rightly) regarded by many childless women as the "bible" for learning to live without the children we always thought we would have someday.  I own and have read all three editions of the book (including the original "Rocking the Life Unexpected," crowdfunded by childless women from around the world and self-published by Jody in 2013).  

Each time I've read the book, I've noticed things I hadn't before and gained new insights about myself, my childless life and the world around me.  Over the past year, I've been re-reading the book again, chapter by chapter, working through (many of) the exercises (something I hadn't really done on past readings)  and discussing them at monthly Zoom calls in the company of a small group of other childless women from around the world, all of us members of the private online support community that Jody founded more than a decade ago. 

(Mid-2022, Jody handed over the leadership of the community to Katy Seppi of Chasing Creation, and the group changed its name from Gateway Women to Lighthouse Women. Jody has retained the rights to the Gateway Women name for her other work in the childless community going forward. Among her current projects (and future book subjects!): an exploration of what it means to age as a woman without children today.) 

This book -- known within the community by the acronym "LTLU" -- remains an invaluable resource for involuntarily childless women (and men), worthy of multiple re-reads.  It contains a mixture of personal stories, history, statistics and guidance, as well as questions and exercises designed to get you thinking in new ways about childlessness and what your life might look like, going forward. You don't HAVE to do the exercises, of course -- there is still plenty of benefit to be gained from reading the book without doing them -- but they're a great way to explore your thoughts and gain new insights -- and working through the book with other childless women, as I've been doing over the past year, is a fabulous way to gain new perspectives (and get to know some wonderful other childless women better, too!). 

As we've now completed all 12 chapters and our year-long exploration of the book, I am counting this as a(nother) re-read. My original rating of 5 stars on Goodreads still stands.  :)  

You can find my previous (2020) review of this book here, and my 2014 review of the original "Rocking the Life Unexpected" here

For more information on Jody Day, Gateway Women and "Living the Life Unexpected," check out the Gateway Women website, which includes a link to the introduction and the first chapter of this book. There's also a link there to the private Lighthouse Women online community. A new round of LTLU member discussions is expected to start there shortly! -- and I'll back for another round!  :)    

This was Book #2 read to date in 2023 (and Book #2 finished in January), bringing me to 4% (!) of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 2 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."  

Friday, January 6, 2023

Home again

Lots of stuff to write about, if I can remember it all...!  Some of the things going on in my life right now:   

It's good to spend Christmas with family.  Every time I see my parents, now in their early 80s, I am acutely aware that my time with them is limited and precious. They are imperfect people and they can drive me nuts sometimes... but they are my parents, and I truly believe they did the best they could for me & my sister when we were growing up. 

I am also acutely aware that their living situation (mobility issues in a split-level house that increasingly needs work -- new roof, for one thing, big back yard to keep up, etc.) is precarious... also that they are incredibly stubborn people! (my mother especially)... that my sister is at her wit's end dealing with them... and that I am SO GLAD dh & I chose to downsize and move to a condo at this point in our lives, while we still had both energy and options! 

I loved spending Christmas with them. (As I posted previously, I don't know whether we'll be spending Christmas there again -- if my sister has her way, anyway...!) But it's SO good to be back in my own home and sleep in my own bed! 

(In retrospect, 17 days is probably too long for a visit -- especially in the depths of a Manitoba winter...!  No escaping outside to the patio, etc.)  

Since getting back, the weather has been dark, gloomy and rainy. I will take -30C any day over this (especially if the sun is shining!). Sigh. 

At least the Christmas tree is still up to add a little more brightness to the room. We've usually taken it down by now, but I just haven't had the energy this week. It's actually kind of appropriate, especially this year -- today is Ukrainian Christmas Eve. :)   

The new year has not begun auspiciously. BIL wound up back in the hospital again for a few days, as he did at this same time last year. He is dealing with a serious health issue -- but if he follows the doctor's advice, he could still have some good years ahead of him. He is quite depressed at the moment, though -- he's convinced he doesn't have much time left, and he's now on disability (essentially retired) -- so he doesn't have the distraction of work anymore -- and poor SIL & dh are bearing the burden of his moods. :(  

I find it ironic that we moved here in part because we wanted to be closer to family members for support as we aged -- because it seems that we've been the ones constantly on call since we got here. ;)  The past few weeks have been particularly busy:  SIL was dealing with a bad ear infection in November/December, requiring multiple trips to the doctor while we stayed with Little Great-Nephew  -- who is, thankfully, as good as gold -- but nevertheless still an energetic and exhausting 3-year-old (especially when you're not used to being around small children...!).  

Speaking of LGN, his parents have been attempting to potty train him over the holidays. It hasn't been going well. I spent a stressful morning this week with SIL as she tried (and failed) to convince him to use the potty.  A couple of accidents resulted. Poor little guy...!  :(  

Just a few more weeks until the new baby (great-niece or nephew!) that Younger Nephew & his wife are expecting is due to arrive!   

Also coming up in February:  the start of a new and significant "anniversary" cycle for me. February 8, 1998, was my "LMP (last menstrual period) date" for my own single, doomed pregnancy. 25 years ago.  

TWENTY-FIVE YEARS. 

PND dropped a Christmas bombshell while we were visiting my parents:  she's expecting a THIRD child in mid-August (right around Katie's "silver anniversary" date -- of course...) -- almost 9 years since Little Princess #2 was born. Needless to say, it was a surprise to her and her husband too.  ;)  

One more pregnant person for me to worry about...!  :(  

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Hello, out there...

Melissa at Stirrup Queens has reminded us that it's International Blog Delurking Week. :)  Says Mel: 

"The first full week of January (January 1-7, 2023) is when we’re supposed to slither out of the reading closet and check in with an “I’m here” comment. I’m not sure if anyone does this anymore. Back in the olden days, people would pop up out of the woodwork. Nowadays, not so much.

"So let’s see what happens."

I've taken part in Delurking Week, on & off over the 15 (!) years I've been blogging (related posts now tagged here), and it's always fun to see old friends, occasional commenters and previously silent lurkers come out of the woodwork to say hello. 

So -- come out, come out, wherever you are -- say hello (at least) and, if you like, tell me/us something about yourself. As always, I'm curious -- how did you find me, & how long have you been reading (if you remember)? 

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

"The Empty World" by D.E. Stevenson

"The Empty World" by D.E. Stevenson (also known as "A World in Spell"), first published in 1936, is a significant departure from Stevenson's usual light romances, and probably one of her lesser-known books. 

While there is romance in the story, it's essentially an apocalyptic/dystopian science fiction novel, set 37 years in the future in 1973 (which is actually the year in which Stevenson died). As I read, I was reminded of classic episodes of "The Twilight Zone," and maybe a little of "Lost," which I watched for part of the first season. 

British author and lecturer Jane Forrest and her loyal secretary Maisie board the trans-Atlantic airliner The Black Prince in New York for the 12-hour (!) journey back to Croydon/London. In the "dining-saloon," she is enjoying a conversation over dinner with fellow passenger and wealthy newspaper proprietor Sir Richard Barton, when a sudden, violent thunderstorm sends everything tumbling and knocks the plane off course. 

With no radio contact or radar to guide them, they manage to land in Renfrew, Scotland -- only to be greeted by an eerie silence. No ground crew rushes out to meet them. The aerodrome/terminal is vacant, as are the homes and shops in the towns and cities they drive through. Roads are littered with empty cars and buses. There are no birds in the air, nor animals in the fields.  

The 13 passengers and 9 crew members (two pilots, two engineers, a radio expert, head waiter, assistant waiter, steward and chef)(!) are, it seems, the only survivors of an apocalyptic event -- the last people left on earth. 

Or are they? 

It's an interesting premise -- and there are some interesting thoughts about technology, power, human behaviour, etc. -- but I found the execution sometimes left something to be desired. While the story is ostensibly set in 1973 and contains some interesting descriptions of how Stevenson imagined life would look in the future, the sensibilities are solidly 1936. There were times when this book -- particularly the dialogue, although also the action descriptions -- read like a 1930s gangster movie script.  The airplane -- with first and second-class sleeping quarters, dining rooms and lounges -- all for just 13 passengers (!) -- resembles an ocean liner or train more than any airplane I remember from 1973 (I couldn't help but think of the 1970s movie "The Hindenburg").  Stevenson imagines huge floating ocean depots where airliners could descend if anything went wrong en route. Several reviewers on Goodreads have noted the chief villain's resemblance to Adolf Hitler, with his interest in eugenics and desire to create a master race from the survivors. The survivors begin pairing off within weeks of meeting each other, which seemed a LITTLE fast to me...!  Cars start easily without any mention of keys or hot-wiring. The book is also somewhat marred by classism and racism -- in particular, a song/rhyme recited by one of the villains -- that is jarring to modern sensibilities. 

I debated over the rating for this one, and settled on 3 stars on Goodreads. 

My D.E. Stevenson group will be starting a chapter-by-chapter read & discussion of this book shortly. (This should be interesting...!) Once we're done, I'll count this book as a re-read. 

This was Book #1 read to date in 2023 (and Book #1 finished in January), bringing me to 2% (!) of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 1 book ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."  

Sunday, January 1, 2023

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: December was Month #33 (going on #34) of living with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Since June 16th, the government has cut back on its data reporting from daily to weekly (on Thursdays). :(  Certain data categories (such as new case numbers and test positivity rates) are no longer reported. (And of course, the numbers we ARE getting are vastly under-reported). The official stats have remained fairly steady in recent months -- they're not great, not really improving, but not notably worse either.  

So I've decided that -- until/unless there are any notable shifts in the numbers -- I'm not going to be updating the latest stats here any longer. (If you're REALLY interested, you can find them here on the Toronto Star's website, which was my main data source, or a fuller report on the Public Health Ontario website.) 

On Dec. 8th, the province announced that pharmacists will now be allowed to hand out paxlovid without a doctor's prescription. Given that paxlovid must be taken within five days of the onset of covid symptoms -- and that many people currently don't have a family doctor (and often wind up in emergency rooms and urgent care clinics that are totally swamped right now)-- and the family doctors we do have are also totally swamped (i.e., it might take a while to get an appointment) -- this should theoretically help more people access the drug and treat their covid infections more easily. It will be available at no cost to the patient. 

On the personal pandemic front: This was a busy month for us! We remain covid-free -- although we had a close call...!  We are still masking in public places (albeit we usually don't in smaller family settings). On top of dh's solo trips to the supermarket for groceries (about once a week), and for occasional takeout lunches & dinners: 
  • We stayed with LGN several times this month for a few hours each time -- on Dec. 1st, 6th & 13th -- while SIL had medical appointments to deal with a lingering sinus/ear infection. 
  • We went with BIL, SIL, Older Nephew & his wife, LGN, and the wife's mom (LGN's other grandmother) to a nearby mall on Dec. 2nd to have his photo taken with Santa!! 
    • Afterwards, we had lunch at one of the mall restaurants. It was the first time dh & I had eaten at a restaurant since early March 2020, pre-pandemic... not only that, it was the SAME restaurant, and we'd been with BIL, SIL, Older Nephew, his wife and LGN then too!  LGN was just 3-4 months old at the time!  :)   
    • (We learned a week-plus later that LGN's other grandma had subsequently come down with covid.... yet another too-close-for-comfort call!  Yikes!)  
  • We went back to our old community on Dec. 3rd for haircuts (with a brief stop at the cemetery to trade Katie's Halloween decorations for something more Christmas-y).  
  • Went to the bank on Dec. 6th to do some transactions with a teller that couldn't be easily done at the banking machine. 
  • Did some Christmas shopping at ToysRUs, Kitchen Stuff Plus and Shoppers Drug Mart on Dec. 7th... 
  • ...and more Christmas shopping on Friday, Dec. 9th, at one of the malls we used to frequent, pre-pandemic. Hadn't been back there since then, but went because there were some things I wanted to get at one of the department stores there. Got there when it opened around 10, and it wasn't too bad, but by the time we left just after noon, it was NUTS. Fewer than half the people there were masked. Glad we got out of there when we did!  
  • BIL & SIL babysat LGN on Dec. 10th while his parents went to a concert downtown, and we went over for coffee. :)  
  • Back to the drugstore on Dec. 14th to refill some of dh's prescriptions, pre-holidays.  
  • We flew west to be with my family for Christmas on Dec. 17th. Besides time at the airports, we stopped at my sister's new house, walked through the nearby mall and stopped at the drugstore there for a few items, before heading out to the small town where our parents live.  
  • Since our arrival, we've made a few (masked) shopping trips for groceries, stocking stuffers, etc. Parents' Neighbours' Daughter has been over to play cards twice, we went there briefly (unmasked) to deliver presents, amd a few neighbours have dropped by (mostly unmasked), although they haven't stayed long. 
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Also right now:  

Reading: I finished 4 books in December (all reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads, & tagged  "2022 books").  
This brings me to 50 books read in 2022,  111% of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books (5 books more). :)  (See "2022 Reading Year in Review.") 

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. ;)  
A few recently purchased titles (mostly in digital format, mostly discounted ($5.99 or less) or purchased with points -- some good pre- and post-Christmas deals!):  

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Watching:  Some of the Grand Prix of figure skating finale in Turin, Italy, on the first weekend of December. 

Lots of "The Big Bang Theory" (my parents have the reruns on CONSTANTLY -- and at full volume, lol.... I like/liked the show, but there are limits...!!).  

(NOT watching: After reading the book, I PVRd "Magpie Murders" on PBS, but haven't watched any of the episodes yet...! And I STILL haven't progressed beyond the first two seasons of "The Crown"...!) 

Listening:  Listening to the Stingray holiday music channel helped keep us in the Christmas mood all through the month!  :)  

I'm still enjoying the daily Heardle challenge(s), including the decades versions -- although (as you'll see from the stats, I do MUCH better on the 60s & 70s versions than the others...!). Current stats as of Dec. 31st:  
  • Heardle (original/all decades): 28% (42/150) correct, including 11 on the first guess. 
  • Heardle 60s:  80.9% (89/110), including 46 on the first guess. 
  • Heardle 70s:  67% (77/115), including 45 on the first guess. 
  • Heardle 80s:  45.7% (48/105), including 19 on the first guess. 
  • Heardle 90s: 36.9% (41/111), including 13 on the first guess.  
On a related note -- I've been having some fun with another app that Older Nephew & his wife introduced me to. When we were having lunch earlier in December, after LGN had his photo taken with Santa, they were trying to figure out who was singing a song that was being played on the restaurant's music system. ON pulled out his phone and tapped an app that identified the singer and the song.  I was amazed. He told me he's had the app forever -- okay, Boomer, right??  lol  It's called Shazam.  I downloaded it myself when I got home and have been having fun with it ever since then. I obviously know most of the songs that were being played on the holiday music channel we were listening to this month, but I couldn't always identify the singer(s), so it came in very handy.  :)  

Eating/Drinking:  Lunch at the Pickle Barrel on Dec. 2nd after seeing Santa with LGN (see above). I had fish & chips and a Coke;  dh had eggs benedict. 

Teriyaki bowls from the takeout counter at our local supermarket (where we also enjoy excellent pizza slices and soup) -- chicken for me, beef for dh, with rice & veggies. Yum!  

Takeout wood-oven thin crust pizzas from our favourite pizza restaurant.  Also had a chicken alfredo pizza (alfredo sauce instead of tomato sauce, with chicken, backbacon, onion, red peppers and cheese) from a takeout place in my parents' town, which was pretty good!  

Mini-panettones from dh's cousins. Dh generally does not care for panettone, but even he thought these ones were pretty good!  An entire panettone seems to last forever with just two people (particularly when only one of them is really eating it...!) but these little ones were perfect for sharing!  

Pan-fried pickerel (walleye pike) on Christmas Eve with baked potatos & perogies, and turkey with all the trimmings (stuffing/dressing, gravy, mashed potatos, cabbage rolls, etc.) on Christmas Day (and leftovers for days thereafter, lol).  Roast beef on New Year's Eve. 

Buying (besides books, lol):  
  • An Aranet 4 CO2 monitor, which Turia mentioned in one of her posts this summer.   
  • Christmas presents. :)  
  • An infant car seat for our new great-niece or nephew, due in mid-February.  :)  (This will be our "big" gift to him/her -- and probably the only thing we'll buy until s/he is safely here.)  
Wearing:  Old Navy Christmas-themed waffle-knit PJ tops with yoga pants... so cozy, comfortable & festive!  :)  

Noticing: Lots of deer tracks in the backyard snow (although actual deer sightings there are far & few between). (My parents live near the edge of town.)  

Appreciating:  Being able to spend time with my parents and help them out around the house (even if they drive me nuts sometimes...!). 

Enjoying:  Card games and dominos, every night that we've been here. 

Wondering:  Where we will be spending Christmas next year?? (As I wrote here, my sister wants to host -- we'll see if our parents go for it...!) 

Wanting:  To get back home soon. (We've had a good Christmas, but it's time...!)  

Prioritizing: Family time and helping my parents vs computer time (which is why I haven't been around much lately...!). 

Hoping:  That everything fits in our carry-ons for the trip home. (They were somewhat overstuffed and had to be checked at the last minute on our way here... dh was NOT happy!! -- but they arrived safely, and we are leaving presents behind here, so...)   

Trying:  Not to let my parents' quirks and bickering get to me (too much). 

Loving:  Seeing Mom & Dad's Christmas tree all lit up, with all the old familiar ornaments on it. :)  

Feeling: Glad we came (but also that 17 days with my elderly parents, particularly in the middle of a Manitoba winter, might be just a LITTLE too long!  lol). Glad to put 2022 and all my medical issues behind me (I hope?). Uncertainty about 2023 and what it might bring. Looking forward to returning home and to my own bed shortly!