Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Update to last night's update :)

I have a new great-niece!  :)  She finally arrived last night, sometime before 8 p.m., weighing 7 pounds, 7 ounces.  Both mother and baby (and dad, lol) are doing well.  And if all continues to go well, she should be home later tonight. Judging from the photos we've seen, she looks a lot like her daddy (Younger Nephew).  :)  

Dh & I had planned to try to go visit her at the hospital this afternoon, as we did when Little Great-Nephew was born, 3+ years ago (at the same hospital).  UNFORTUNATELY -- the tickle that's been in my throat for the past few days decided to turn into a full-blown cold last night  :(   including a stuffy head, drippy nose, cough and fatigue. What timing!!  It's the THIRD cold I've had in the past six months (after 2+ years of relatively good health in the face of a pandemic).  I'm not sure whether it was breakfast at the restaurant on Family Day (what did I tell you? -- every time I let down my guard in a risky situation...) or just being around LGN several times lately (adorable, but undeniably germy/snotty, lol) that did me in. (I suspect the latter...!)  I did take a rapid test yesterday -- which was negative -- but it's still not a good idea to be in this condition around a newborn (particularly one whose parents are as germ & covid-cautious as her parents are), even wearing a mask. 

So I am staying home today, dosing myself with Advil Cold pills, Halls throat lozenges, warm saltwater gargles, essential oils, and plenty of liquids, and hoping this will clear up soon so I can (finally!) go meet my Little Great-Niece.  :)  (Get-well vibes appreciated!)  

Monday, February 27, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: Waiting...

Younger Nephew's wife is now one week past her due date -- which of course makes me VERY nervous.  :(  They went to the hospital this morning at 8 a.m. to be induced.   

Little Great-Nephew (Older Nephew's son) is at BIL & SIL's house today -- and we are on standby as babysitters. If LGN is still there when they get the call that the baby is here,  dh & I will be high-tailing it over to their house to stay with LGN until his dad (Older Nephew) picks him up after work later this afternoon, so that BIL & SIL can go straight to the hospital ASAP to meet their new grandchild. We likely won't get to meet him/her until tomorrow at the earliest (assuming he/she is born today). (It's probably just as well -- both dh & I have slight colds... grrrr... took a rapid test this morning, and it was negative, but still...!) 

Dh said BIL sounded like he expected the baby to be here by 8:15 this morning. (Major LOL.)  (It's now 10 a.m. as I type -- no news yet.)  He should know better;  Older Nephew arrived after an induction, and I think LGN did too? --  and it took hours. In Older Nephew's wife's case, it took all day -- and both pregnancies ended with C-sections -- hopefully that won't happen today...!  BIL is already incensed because he wanted to be RIGHT THERE in the waiting room when the baby is born, but they told him he's not allowed. They were able to be there when LGN was born, but I imagine protocols have changed since covid, etc.  

Please keep our family in your thoughts today. 

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

*** *** *** 

Update, Monday night:  We have a new GREAT-NIECE!!  More to come, possibly tomorrow.  :)  

Friday, February 24, 2023

"Lessons in Chemistry" by Bonnie Garmus

"Lessons in Chemistry" is the first novel by Bonnie Garmus, published when she was 64 years old! (She's now 66.)(There's hope for me yet!!  lol)    

Our heroine, Elizabeth Zott, is a brilliant female chemist, clearly superior in talent to her male bosses and coworkers. Unfortunately, this is the sexist and restrictive 1950s. She and fellow chemist (and Nobel Prize nominee) Calvin Evans "meet cute" -- and although she initially resists his advances, the chemistry between the two of them is undeniable and explosive. 

Elizabeth's knowledge of chemistry gets put to use in an unexpected setting: after losing her laboratory job, she becomes the unlikely television host of an afternoon cooking show, Supper at Six, where she delivers chemistry lessons along with the recipe of the day ("cooking is chemistry," she says) and a side dish of subversive messages to a receptive audience of dissatisfied housewives.  

I found myself thinking, early on, that Elizabeth's character was just a WEE bit unrealistic. She's far more 2023 in her mindset and attitudes than 1950s/early 1960s (even for the feminists of the time, I think).  Many of the male characters were almost comically sexist and villainous. Also a little hard to swallow: Six-Thirty, Elizabeth's uber-intelligent dog (notwithstanding my doubts, he's probably my favourite character in the book), and Elizabeth's ultra-precocious daughter, Mad, who reads Nabokov and Norman Mailer at age 4 (!). In a way, the whole story is something of a fairy tale. 

Which is not to say it's not good.  After a while, I decided to just suspend my disbelief and go with the flow.  

In the end, I very much enjoyed "Lessons in Chemistry." It's a much more substantial read than the cutesy "chick-lit" cover design would suggest -- some serious messages, and some sad stuff too -- but it was still lots of fun (and laugh-out-loud funny in parts) too.  The writing is wonderful. I'll look forward to reading more from Garmus in the future!  

Content warnings: sexual assault, pregnancy, sexism/misogyny/pronatalism (i.e., the deeply ingrained attitudes of the time that Elizabeth battles), grief and loss. 

I debated over the rating for this one... I didn't QUITE feel like I could give it 5 stars, given the caveats mentioned above -- but at the same time, I really did like it. I settled on 4.5, rounded down to 4 stars on Goodreads 

This was Book #10 read to date in 2023 (and Book #4 finished in February), bringing me to 22% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 4 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."  

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Odds & ends

  • The Springsteen tickets saga (part one here): I got an email last night that I was NOT among the select few to be granted Verified Fan status, which would allow me the opportunity to TRY to buy pre-sale tickets when they became available today. I was on the "waitlist."  "If tickets remain available to sell after the initially selected fans have shopped, we will use a lottery-style selection to invite Verified Fans from the waitlist to shop," the email said. ("If tickets remain available" -- yeah, right...!)   
    • My sister offered to try to get us tickets for the Winnipeg show on Nov. 10th, if we wanted. It's one thing to go all that way to see Paul McCartney, when he was not playing Toronto on the same tour, but Bruce IS playing two shows in Toronto, a few days later. And it's one thing to spend the money to fly to Winnipeg in October, when the weather might still be fairly nice, to spend Canadian Thanksgiving with my family (especially when we haven't been there in the summertime)... it's another to to there in mid-November, when the weather is far more iffy, and when (hopefully) we will have already been there in the summer, and will be back again a little more than a month later for Christmas.  We thanked her, but decided to pass. 
    • Dh (the original Springsteen fan in the family) was not interested, even for the Toronto shows. "Why are you even TRYING to get on the list for tickets?" he said to me. "You don't even want to eat in a restaurant, and you're going to sit in a crowded arena with 20,000 people??"  Good point. :(  
    • I actually DID get an email with an access code around 11:15 this morning. I couldn't resist logging in and seeing what was available (and at what prices). There were only 27 people in line ahead of me, and I got in almost right away. By then, there were a few pairs of seats remaining at the back of the arena in the upper rows of the 100 level (at about $350 a pop -- which is about what my sister & I paid to see Paul McCartney & Elton John in Winnipeg a few years ago -- expensive enough, but not too bad). There were also some seats priced around $100 each, but they were all in the nosebleed section, at the sides of the stage and behind it. 
      • I closed the window. In a different, covid-free world, it would have been nice to see Bruce again, but...  I wish I was a more adventurous person, but I'm not (and am certainly less so since stillbirth and infertility, not to mention three years of living through a pandemic...!).    
  • The Bloglovin' saga:  Aside from the odd blip when some current posts pop up, it's basically been unavailable since (at least) early December. (Not much has changed since I wrote this post a month ago.)  Most of the ALI-related blogs I follow are listed on the blogrolls on the right-hand side of this page, so I've managed to keep up with most of them that way, but there are other non-ALI blogs I follow that I am hopelessly out of touch with now.
    • I did export & save a file with my Bloglovin' content about a year ago, thinking I might try Feedly -- only to find out (as I described here) that Feedly doesn't let you follow more than 100 blogs at a time (unless you cough up money for a paid subscription). I currently have more than (gulp) 500 blogs on Bloglovin (albeit not all of them active). I declined to pay up back then, but I'm starting to reconsider... 
  • Dh & I joined SIL, BIL & Little Great-Nephew last week for the weekly toddler storytime session at the local library (!). SIL took LGN there regularly this past year, but this was his first time back there since before Christmas, and the first time we'd ventured there to watch.  I was surprisingly OK with it all (albeit I suspect 20 years ago, it would have been a different story...). There were lots of grandparents there -- we were far from the only greyhairs, lol -- and it was fun to watch LGN interacting with other children (albeit sometimes I wanted to watch through my fingers, lol -- like when an excited LGN, running around the room, hopped over another toddler who was lying flat on the floor...!).  
    • We arrived a few minutes after the session started, and when LGN saw us, he exclaimed to SIL (his grandma), "Uncle [dh] is here!" and started jumping up & down in delight. What a boost to the ego...!  ;)  
    • (We were the only two people in the building wearing masks.) 
  • Another LGN story:  He was also at his grandparents' house another day last week. SIL went to work in the late afternoon. BIL hasn't been feeling 100% lately and didn't want to be left with LGN by himself, so dh & I went over to keep them company until Older Nephew picked up LGN on his way home from work. 
    • LGN LOVES being at his grandparents' house (who wouldn't love to be the focus of so much spoiling??), and does NOT like it when it's time to go home -- and especially when his dad is the one doing pickup! (Poor Older Nephew -- after a long day of work, too!)  He saw his dad come in and immediately dove under the kitchen table.  Older Nephew had to grab his ankles and drag him out, lol. I said, "Awww, LGN -- but you've been such a good boy all day!"  I helped Older Nephew as he struggled to put on LGN's winter jacket and boots. "[LGN], come on, you're being bad!" he said to his son in exasperation. LGN looked up at us, puzzled, the very image of innocence, and said, "But... Aunt Lori says I'm a good boy??"  I still crack up when I think about it. (I said, "Yes, you ARE a good boy, but you're going to have to be good for a while longer for Daddy!")  
  • I was interested in the Notes From Three Pines Readalong, which Mel told us about a few weeks ago. I thought it was a great nudge to dive into Louise Penny's highly acclaimed Inspector Gamache mystery series, which I've been meaning to do for a while now, and I enjoy discussing books with others, in person or online. I recently finished and reviewed the first book in the series, "Still Life," here, just in time for the discussion for that particular book, which started today. 
    • However!  (and beware, if you were thinking of joining in too): several of the posted discussion questions related to the series as a whole (i.e., it's assumed you've already read the other books) -- and one question in particular included a huge spoiler about what happens to one of the characters from the first book, later on in the series. 
      • I know there's a lot of debate over how long we're expected to keep spoilers secret in an uber-connected world (especially related to movies & TV series). But both my D.E. Stevenson & L.M. Montgomery book groups make a point of asking people to be careful about revealing spoilers related to future chapters or future volumes in a series, out of consideration for those in the group (and there are some, alongside longtime, rabid fans) who haven't read the book before, or later books in the series.(If/when we do, we're expected to post a **SPOILERS!** warning.) And I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who are also reading the book(s) for the first time, after the new "Three Pines" TV series debuted recently on Amazon Prime. 
    • I'll keep reading the series, and probably within the timeframes of the readalong (as I said, it's a good nudge!) -- but I'm not sure how much I'll be able to participate under the circumstances? Which is somewhat disappointing. :(   
    • Next up: Gamache #2, "A Fatal Grace," on March 22nd. 
  • "Titanic" (the movie) turns 25 this year (!). (And it's back in theatres!)  I was reminded of this by Meg Conley's recent post about the movie in her Homeculture newsletter on Substack.  I was not obsessed with the movie, or Leo diCaprio -- I was 37 years old by then, after all -- but I did enjoy it. Those incredibly realistic-looking long shots of that magnificent, doomed ship leaving port and steaming out to sea for the first and last time had me in tears, and yes, I cried at the end too. Dh was not interested in seeing it, so I went with my mother when she came to visit me that year, during her spring break, and not long before it won all the Oscars. 
    • Did I mention I was pregnant at the time?  (As I wrote in this blog about the experience, 10 years after the fact, "I can't believe I sat through the entire 3+ hours without having to duck out to the washroom." lol)
  • This article from the Globe & Mail (originally published last October and referenced again in a recent newsletter) stuck in my childless craw:  "What if moms decided to ‘quiet quit’?" It opens with the story of the one-day women's strike in October 1975 in Iceland -- known as "Women's Day Off" (note: WOMEN'S), in which 90% of Icelandic women walked off the job, both in the office and at home -- and then asks "What would happen if the moms of the world decided to embrace the idea of “quiet quitting” and refused to do the extras?"  
    • Great point -- BUT! Throughout the article, the terms "women" and "moms" are used almost interchangeably (with "moms" the dominant reference).  I rather doubt that, even in 1975, 90% of all adult women in Iceland were mothers... 
    • I don't doubt that moms are depleted, as the article suggests... but they are certainly not the only ones who experience stress and burnout while juggling multiple roles and caregiving demands. 
    • Let's all say it together: "WOMAN" DOES NOT EQUAL"MOM."  (Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.)  
    • I wonder what a similar walkout of childless/free women (or women & men) would look like?  For sure, it would not be quite as impactful as one by all women, like Iceland's -- but I think a lot of people would be surprised to realize just how big a group we really are (and we're a group that's rapidly growing!). 
  • Jessica Grose's subscriber newsletter for the New York Times, which focuses primarily on parenting & family issues, is examining the decline in global fertility/birth rates in developed countries.  Last week, she posed an interesting question:  "Are Men the Overlooked Reason for the Fertility Decline?" (She's not talking about declining sperm counts, either.) Sample passage: 

[Vegard] Skirbekk [a population economist] argues, in part, that it’s because of a lack of “‘suitable’ men, as women have become increasingly selective.”... 

“Even in the world’s most gender-egalitarian countries, women tend to prefer men with relatively high income and education,” according to Skirbekk. Women also tend to not want to partner with men who have drug and alcohol problems or are prone to violence. [Note from Loribeth:  Well, duh...][How dare we be so picky, right??  :p  ] 

Presenting data from 27 Western countries, Skirbekk writes that in most instances, somewhere below 10 percent, in some cases below 5 percent, of the population seems to voluntarily opt for being childless. On an individual level, that’s not a problem: free country and all. But, I do think what Skirbekk calls coincidental childlessness — when people who never explicitly decided they don’t want children don’t have them for a variety of reasons — is a problem. If someone wants a child but doesn’t end up with one because of not finding a suitable partner, because of reaching age-related infertility, or because of the increasing expense of having children, that can be life altering.
    • (This is consistent with what Jody Day of Gateway Women has written:  the vast majority of women without children do not choose to be childfree, or even wind up without children because of infertility issues. Not finding a partner who is not only suitable/desirable but also wants to have children with you, while you're still able to do so, is a huge issue that's not explored often enough.)  
    • The newsletter is subscriber-only, but I'm a subscriber ;) and this link above is a gift link, so have a read and let me know what you think! 
    • The comments are interesting.
  • In a similar vein, Lyz Lenz's Substack newsletter ("Men Yell At Me" -- love that title, lol) points out that "Men Are Lonely. But Women Are Being Attacked." (Subhead: "Male loneliness is not a woman's problem to solve.")  Also worth a read! 
  • Jess at A Different Path had a great post recently, asking "What IS Self-Care?" I thought of it when I read Anne Helen Petersen's latest Culture Study post, "The Tyranny of Faux Self-Care," which includes an interview with Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, author of a forthcoming book on the subject.  (The comments are also instructive!) 

Monday, February 20, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: Family Day 2023

Today is "Family Day" in Ontario and a couple of other Canadian provinces -- a made-up holiday that yes, to its credit, does give us a holiday/long weekend in the middle of that long stretch between Christmastime and Easter -- but does so while rubbing pronatalism and "family values" in the faces of those of us who have failed to measure up to the traditional family ideal of husband, wife, 2.1 kids (preferably at least one boy & one girl) and possibly a dog. (See my previous thoughts & rants on Family Day here.)  

My inbox  today is full of promotional emails from various retailers with subject lines such as "We Are Family!" (I'm afraid you're not, Reitmans...), and "From Our Family to Yours, Additional 20% Off" (thanks but no thanks, Northern Reflections). It's not at the level of Christmas or Halloween (yet?), but it's certainly a much greater level of hype than even just a few years ago. Ugh. Thankfully, most of the news coverage I've seen to date has been focused on basic promotion of local family-related activities and events and reminders of what's open/closed. I haven't dared take more than a peep at social media (probably a wise choice...!)

My normal inclination on Family Day would be to hide out at home.  Even before pregnancy loss & infertility, and well before covid, dh & I never enjoyed being out in holiday crowds. But Older Nephew called dh personally a few days ago and asked if we'd like to come up there this morning with his parents (BIL & SIL) for breakfast at a local restaurant -- their treat, as a thank you for all that we do for them and especially Little Great-Nephew.  Dh immediately said yes.

I was tickled to be asked (and that they wanted to pay -- awwww, they're growing up!! lol) -- but -- well, you know. :p  We've only ventured out to dine in a restaurant once since the advent of covid three years ago (early last December, as related here) -- and days later, one of the people we'd been with (Older Nephew's MIL) came down with covid.  This has happened almost EVERY TIME we've pushed our comfort level to do something we know is risky. So far, we've dodged the covid bullet, but sooner or later, we know our luck is bound to run out. I'd just prefer it was later -- much later -- especially with a new variant with the ominous nickname of "Kraken" on the rise...

(And no, outdoor dining is NOT an option hereabouts right now -- this morning's weather where Older Nephew lives was just 1C/34F, and the wind was bitterly cold....!) 

Anyway, things went about as well as they could, and overall, I'm glad we went. :)  We set the alarm clock and got up at 6, eft at 8, picked up BIL & SIL and got there around 9 (!) -- early, but hey, we got to spend time with LGN (AND the dog, at the house!).  And there was NO traffic on the way up there! The restaurant was packed (and there was a big chalkboard sign in the foyer to greet us saying "Happy Family Day!" complete with stick figure drawings) -- but we were seated in the back, where the tables were pretty well spaced (at least a couple of feet apart), and the ones closest to us were empty for part of the time we were there, which made me feel better. Dh & I wore our masks until we got our food and put them back on when we were finished eating. (We were the only ones masked there.)  The food was good (and hot), and the service was pretty good too. 

Younger Nephew & his wife were also invited but said no -- not surprisingly, given that they have been ultra covid-cautious all along, AND their baby is due any day now.  

As you can imagine, I get very nervous when women go too far past their due dates :(  (nevermind when it's someone I love) -- so please keep them in your thoughts & prayers this week.  

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

Saturday, February 18, 2023

"No Filter" by Paulina Porizkova

I entered my 20s in the early 1980s -- the dawning age of the supermodel -- when Paulina Porizkova, four years younger than me, was one of the most beautiful and most famous faces of the era. Her face was everywhere. 

Then, like so many models and actresses of a certain age, she faded from view. I don't think I'd heard much about her or thought about her in years -- until her husband of more than 30 years, Ric Ocasek of The Cars (one of my favourite bands of the late 1970s/early 1980s) suddenly died in 2019, when he was 75 and Paulina was in her mid-50s. 

Paulina and Ric were separated at the time of his death.  She says he had lost interest in her and hadn't touched her in years. In her loneliness, she'd begun a relationship with someone else.  But the separation was amicable -- they still lived in the same house, and were best friends for life -- or so Paulina thought. While reeling from the shock of her husband's sudden death -- she was the one who found him when she brought him coffee in bed one morning, shortly after he'd had minor surgery -- she learned he'd recently changed his will and cut her out of it completely, saying she had abandoned him. Shortly after that, the new love of her life left her too.  

With little income and no savings of her own, Paulina was forced to sue Ric's estate (which included her own two sons). She'd happily let her career take a backseat to his while she raised their children. She merged her finances with his and let his business manager handle her affairs too, while her earnings and savings played a substantial role in supporting their family and the mortgages and upkeep of two houses (one in New York City and one in the country).  

As she began to rebuild her shattered life, Paulina started pouring her grief into her Instagram account, which is where I rediscovered her. I love Paulina's IG, and recommend it highly to other women of a "certain age." So I was eager to read the book she published this fall:  "No Filter: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful." It's not a conventional memoir, but more of a collection of short essays in which Paulina reflects on her life and the lessons she's learned along the way -- about things like beauty, aging, Botox, money, grief and heartbreak, anxiety and depression, nudity and nakedness. We learn about her childhood and how it shaped the adult she became: she was raised by her grandmother in Czechoslovakia after her parents fled to Sweden when the Russians invaded in 1968. They battled to be reunited with her, only to divorce shortly after it finally happened. We learn about her early modelling days in Paris, and about the jealous, obsessive man she married.

It's not a long book. It's a little scattered -- it goes back and forth in time, it's not in chronological order --  but I appreciated Paulina's raw honesty and willingness to bare all (in more ways than one!).  "After a lifetime of being looked at, she is ready to be heard," says the book's blurb on Goodreads. I think she's an inspiration, and a pretty smart cookie, as well as a beautiful woman. 

4 stars on Goodreads. 

This was Book #9 read to date in 2023 (and Book #3 finished in February), bringing me to 20% of my 2023 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."  

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Odds & ends (& whines, lol)

  • "This Valentine's Day, show some love to the one who’s always there." Katie at My Sweet Dumb Brain makes the excellent point that "The only constant in your life is you." 
  • Here we go again? Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band just announced some Canadian dates this fall, including two nights here in Toronto in November. (He's also going to be in Winnipeg, for the first time ever! -- 40+ years after dh first romanced me with his music in his dorm room, lol)(on a cassette played on a boombox, lol).  I signed up for verified fan status with Ticketmaster -- which entitles me to the CHANCE to buy tickets when they go on sale (I'll find out next week if I'm going to be allowed to try...!).  
    • I'm of two minds:  
      • On the one hand:  Bruce isn't getting any younger (and neither are we...!). He's 73.  Who knows how many more chances we'll get to see him again?  He & his music played a key role in our early relationship :)  (as I've written on this blog several times before), and we've seen him together twice in the past in Toronto, in 1985 and 1992 (without the E Street Band) -- dh saw him a couple of times before he met me, and we tried but failed to get tickets for other times he's played in Toronto. (I also tried -- and failed -- to get tickets to see his "Springsteen on Broadway" show in New York City a few years back. A great excuse for a trip to NYC, right? Oh well...!)  He always puts on a GREAT show. 
      • On the other hand: I'm mindful of the Elton John tickets saga, and how well THAT turned out...! (and how will SIL feel if we buy tickets to Bruce, after she & I decided to cash in our Elton tickets after repeated postponements and cancellations amid pandemic uncertainty?). I'm also very mindful that (contrary to what some might think), covid is still very much alive and well -- and the prospect of sitting in a crowded arena with 20,000+ other, mostly maskless, singing & cheering people, is not as appealing as it might have been three years ago, to me or to dh...!  (In fact, I recently read that several members of the E Street Band are currently out with covid themselves!) There's also been a sharp increase in crimes on the transit system, which is how we'd normally head downtown. Parking there is both hard to find and astronomically expensive, especially when there's a big event on. 
      • (This is assuming we're able to get tickets in the first place... and even if we're able, are we willing to pay the exorbitant prices that will likely be charged?)(Pricing hasn't been announced yet, but as the Toronto Star pointed out, it's likely a far cry from the $10 dh paid to see him in 1978...!)  
    • (Why does life have to be so complicated?) 
  • A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how developers are proposing to build a 12-storey condo building right next door to ours (and directly across the street from another, larger 10-storey condo building) -- replacing three houses on/adjacent to the corner of a main road and a residential street, and facing and exiting onto the residential street.  
    • Last week, I tuned in online to a recent meeting of our city council where members of the public had their say about the proposed application. There were 45 written submissions (available to read on the city's website) and about 10 local residents speaking at the meeting or via Zoom.  It was fascinating and quite an eye-opener in some respects to watch the process unfold and listen to what they all had to say. It's quite obvious to anyone who sees the site that it's a completely inappropriate place to put up a 12-storey building, but it was informative and validating to hear all the arguments presented in such an articulate way. (I won't list them all here but let's just say the proposed design violates existing zoning laws in more ways than one, not to mention urban planning principles and simple common sense.)  
    • Whether that was enough to stop the project -- or at least scale it back to a more reasonable size -- remains to be seen. To their credit, the councillors were unanimous in their opposition -- but they also pointed out that the appeals process is stacked solidly in favour of the developers, enabled by a pro-development provincial government and premier. Sigh. 
  • The BBC had what I thought was a surprisingly thoughtful article about the growing number of people choosing not to have children. They point out the difference between childFREE and childLESS, discuss the many reasons why people might not have children, the fact that people tend to lump childless and childfree people together -- AND they talk about how the choice to live without children is still not well understood and accepted  -- a point that I don't think gets enough attention outside the childless/free community. Worth a read!  
    • The article uses the term "backlash," which I don't think I've ever heard in a discussion related to childless/free living before.  I read Susan Faludi's classic book on the subject when it first came out in the early 1990s -- and I see there's a new edition available (from 2006).  Time for a re-read, perhaps...!  
  • "Freeze now, sell later":  Alison Motluk , who writes the Substack newsletter Hey ReproTech, speculates that some women who freeze their eggs but never use them might eventually try to sell them as a way to recoup their significant financial outlay.  
  • Yael Wolfe in Medium:  "This Gen Xer Doesn’t Understand TikTok."  
    • This late Boomer/early GenXer doesn't either, lol, and Yael perfectly voices my gripes with trying to keep up with technology (and some of the reasons why I've never sought to expand the "reach" of this blog onto social media and become an "influencer"). (Trust me, some day it will happen to you -- if not with TikTok then some other newfangled app that you don't "get" and have no interest in learning how to use...!) 
  • In a similar vein, Anne Helen Petersen recently announced that she is winding down the Discord community she created as an extension of her Culture Study Substack newsletter. Like many online community leaders, she found it was taking up a lot more time and energy than she bargained for.  
    • I've been on message boards since 1998, and on the CS Discord for the better part of a year, although I rarely visited there. There were a lot of similarities to old-style message boards -- and yet, I just couldn't figure out how it was organized or how to follow threads, etc.  I guess I really am getting old...??  :p  
  • I debated over whether to watch "Not Dead Yet," the TV version of Alexandra Potter's delightful novel "Confessions of a Forty-Something F**k-Up," which I read, loved and reviewed here. Then I forgot all about it. Oh well. 
    • I may still watch (I found I can catch up online) -- but from what I've read, I didn't miss out on much. "Struggles to Show Signs of Life," says the Hollywood Reporter. Ominously, the Reporter also says the show is "adapted by David Windsor and Casey Johnson in almost no recognizable way from Alexandra Potter’s novel." ("A loose adaptation," says Slant.)  
    • The only real similarities between the book and the TV show seem to be a lead character named Nell who returns home from abroad after her relationship implodes and lands a job writing obituaries.  But in the Hollywood version, the setting has changed from England to California (not surprising, but very disappointing), and... the dead people Nell writes about... talk to her.  A cutesy twist that's definitely not in the book. Sigh. 
    • Have you watched it? (If you have, have you read the book first?)  What did you think? 
  • I have virtually zero interest in American college or NFL football or the Super Bowl -- but I did watch the halftime show on Sunday... and noticed that Rihanna seemed to be sporting a bit of a tummy. I knew she'd had a baby recently and figured maybe it was leftover pregnancy weight? 
    • But then dh told me "Rihanna pregnant" was trending on Twitter, so I Googled and found out she'd had her son back in May 2022.. so...!. (You can see how closely I follow celebrity gossip these days, lol.)  Her management confirmed the pregnancy before the show was over. 
    • The childless forums and accounts I follow were full of eyerolls and angst the next morning. CNBCers in the UK reported that Rihanna's pregnancy was the headline news, with who won the Super Bowl coming a distant second/afterthought. 
    • Personally, while I did some eye-rolling myself, I found this far less triggering/enraging than Beyonce's ultra-smug reveal of her first pregnancy at the VMAs some years back (ripping off camouflaging clothing and then caressing her belly with a self-satisfied smile, to make sure we got the message)... followed by her photo shoot and then "fertility goddess" routine at the Grammys while heavily pregnant with twins a few years later (which I wrote about here). Oy. 
    • (Does anyone actually sing LIVE at these events anymore? It was obvious several times that Rihanna wasn't even trying to lip sync...)  

    Monday, February 13, 2023

    "Still Life" by Louise Penny

    I may have both my Canadian and mystery novel fan credentials revoked for admitting this, but I had never read a Louise Penny/Three Pines/Gamache novel -- until now.  I'd heard great reviews from many sources and always had it in mind that I should give the series a try, but... well, you know... so many books, so little time, etc. etc...!  

    Then, in a recent Friday Roundup post,  Mel mentioned

    The Substack (Loribeth is so right! Substacks are blogs in disguise.) Notes from Three Pines is hosting an ongoing Inspector Gamache read-along. It kicks off on February 22, so you have time to read the first book (Still Life). I will jump in because my old book club closed down, and I’m looking for a more structured community beyond Goodreads. But not too structured because I don’t want to leave my house.

    Does anyone else want to join along? And then go on a road trip to the greater Montreal area?

    I responded in a comment: 

    I am game for Montreal (and maybe the read-along too, albeit I need another book club like a hole in the head, lol). Despite my (relative) proximity — it’s only about a six-hour drive from here, and I think some of the nonstop trains can get there in 4 — I’ve only been there once, overnight on business (followed by [note from Loribeth: actually, preceded by] six hours in Quebec City before flying home again). This was about 30 years ago, and I spent most of my time either in a hotel room or board room. My mom & I were going to take the train there for a few days when she came to visit me about 20+ years ago — the train tickets were bought and hotel room booked, I’d researched stuff for us to do — but we had to cancel. I was suffering horrible anxiety attacks, post-infertility treatment, just before she got there and I did not want to be in a strange city and not feeling well. 🙁

    Despite the fact that (as I alluded to Mel) I'm ALREADY trying to keep up with 3 -- wait, 4! -- active book clubs/reading groups (D.E. Stevenson, L.M. Montgomery Readathon, and Lighthouse Women -- both the NoMo book club and the "Living the Life Unexpected" reading group -- plus two other groups are that are inactive at the moment) -- plus read some books of my own choosing once in a while!  ;) -- I couldn't resist the opportunity. ;)  Conveniently, I already had a copy of "Still Life" in my Kobo e-reader, purchased on sale a while back, so I was able to dive in as soon as I finished reading my previous book.  

    *** *** *** 

    In many ways, "Still Life" is a standard murder mystery, with echoes of Agatha Christie and Hercule Poirot. I didn't find the opening chapter, where the stage is set and the body discovered, especially exciting or attention-grabbing -- but once Chief Inspector Armand Gamache arrived on the scene, my interest was piqued.  The body in question is that of Jane Neal, retired schoolteacher and amateur artist, whose painting was just accepted for exhibit at the local art show. Upon closer inspection, the cause of death is revealed:  an arrow, straight through her heart. Was it a hunting accident -- or was it murder?  Who killed her, and why?  

    Two things in particular set this book apart and made it a good read for me: first, the Canadian/Quebecois setting and references. Examples:  it's Thanksgiving -- *Canadian* Thanksgiving, in October! :)  There are mentions of Tim Hortons, United Empire Loyalists, the Parti Quebecois, the referendum on Quebec independence (I'm assuming the one in 1995, which came dangerously close to destroying the country, and not the earlier one in 1980) and Prime Minister Mulroney (who stepped down in 1993 -- which, along with the referendum reference and a teenager's Discman suggests the book is set in the early 1990s). 

    Second, I loved the vivid portraits of the village of Three Pines and its quirky residents -- and of the principled and thoroughly decent Gamache and his fellow police officers (even the clueless and annoying Yvette Nichol). I'm not convinced I'd want to move to Three Pines -- there are some rather dark undercurrents there (aren't there always, in small towns?) -- but I sure would love to spend some time browsing in Myrna's bookstore and have a meal and a cafe au lait in Olivier's bistro.  :)  Especially in October, with the glorious fall colours on full display.  :)  

    What I didn't like: I don't want to give away any spoilers -- but let's just say that I share a phobia with one of the main characters, Clara ;)  which figures prominently in a chapter near the end of the book. That scene alone probably knocked half a point off my rating, lol. ;)  

    4 stars on Goodreads. As I said, this was my first Louise Penny novel, but it won't be my last. I'm looking forward to reading more about Gamache and Three Pines, very soon.  :)  

    Have you read any Louise Penny books?  Are you doing the Notes From Three Pines Readalong? And have you watched the new streaming TV series based on the books, "Three Pines"?  Thoughts? (I don't have Amazon Prime and haven't seen it, but I must admit, I think Alfred Molina was a good casting choice for Gamache. :)  )  

    This was Book #8 read to date in 2023 (and Book #2 finished in February), bringing me to 18% of my 2023 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."  

    #MicroblogMondays: Yikes!

    A story in the news this week gave me chills: two men, born on the same day in 1955 in the same small-town Manitoba hospital, recently learned they were switched at birth -- sent home with the wrong families. It's the THIRD such mix-up in Manitoba hospitals that's been discovered in recent years, and the fifth in Canada, including two more in Newfoundland.  Many of these cases, sadly, involved babies from Indigenous/Metis families/communities. In this case, the two men are requesting compensation and correction of their birth certificates from the province, and the provincial opposition critic for Indigenous Affairs is calling for an inquiry.

    For me, it's also chilling from a personal perspective. When I was born (in 1961 -- also in a small hospital in rural Manitoba), it was common practice for babies to be kept in the nursery and brought to their mothers for feedings, etc. My mom had had ecclampsia, and was there for two weeks after I was born. I remembered that years ago, she told me that one day she took one look at the dark (likely Indigenous) face in the bundle they handed her and told the nurse this was NOT her baby. They eventually found me and brought me in to her.  

    I've never done a DNA test (yet) -- and I'm not worried -- anyone who looks at me, and then looks at my parents, and/or my sister, knows whose child I am!  (My sister and I were known as "the Bobbsey Twins" at school when we were growing up...!)  But it did give me pause when I heard this latest story. It's scary to think that such mix-ups could (and did) happen, and that I could very easily have wound up with the wrong family, and led a very different life -- and then when I read that this particular case is the THIRD such case discovered in Manitoba from that era...!  Yikes!! 

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

    Wednesday, February 8, 2023

    Same song, 25th (!!) verse...

    Here we go again...  

    Another 10-month cycle of remembrance and regret, (Groundhog Day, pregnancy loss style?), starting now, running through August and ending in mid-November. 

    With an added twist this time around. 

    Feb. 8th, 1998, was the first day of my last period before I got pregnant -- the "LMP" date I was constantly asked for at all my medical appointments.  

    1998.  25 years ago.  TWENTY-FIVE YEARS. 
    • Feb. 8th: LMP date. 
    • March 22nd: two lines on the home pregnancy test.  
    • Aug. 5th: six-month checkup, where no heartbeat was detected (confirmed by ultrasound). 
    • Aug. 7th: delivery of our stillborn baby daughter, 125 grams. 
    • Aug. 19th: funeral. 
    • Nov. 14th: due date. 
    We recently took BIL & SIL to the cemetery where Katie's ashes are interred in a niche, and on the way there, BIL was asking us how many years it had been. He was shocked to realize just how old she'd be now. (I don't know why;  his own kids are in their 30s now...!  Although, I'll admit, I find that shocking sometimes too...!)

    (By the time I was 25, I'd already been married for six months.) 

    Feb. 8th (and the other dates) doesn't hurt anything like it did those first few years. But still -- it's Feb. 8th. Again. And not just another year -- a milestone year -- and this is a biggie. 

    Twenty-five years. Wow. 


    Tuesday, February 7, 2023

    Odds & ends

    Whether it’s reading about it in a book, or just responding to the truth in live time, there are certain kinds of pain that a lot of us seem very resistant to fully acknowledging, as if that pain is contagious, as if the flame of it is too hot, as if it forces us to look at something we are unwilling to look at in our own lives, our own hearts, our own bodies.


    My hunch is that there are certain illnesses, like dementia, and certain ages/stages, like kids with cancer, or the sudden death of a younger parent or partner, that we struggle to face in friends’ lives because we are subconsciously unwilling to admit they are an ongoing possibility in our own. We essentially clench our eyes shut tight, put our fingers in our ears, and hum in hopes that it will go away. It’s like our silence and awkwardness are ways of praying to a god we may or may not even believe in, “Please not me not us not me not us not me not us.” 
    • Unrelated to loss, infertility and/or childlessness, but I love this Facebook post from Rona Maynard (former editor of Chatelaine magazine, one of Canada's oldest and best-known women's magazines, and sister of American writer Joyce Maynard), about aging and writing.  
      • This line especially:  "Age is knowing there are no boring days, only bored people."  Yes!!  
    • Lyz Lenz's first Friday Substack of the month (she writes at "Men Yell at Me") is worth a read, if only for the first four paragraphs in which she deftly describes/destroys February (my least-favourite month). :)  
    • In another Substack "In Pursuit of Clean Countertops," Sara Petersen recently chatted with author Jenni Quilter on "on IVF, nuclear family ideals, and motherhood as an 'automatic-meaning machine'." There's a lot here to chew on -- some really interesting points (and some horrifying bits of women's health history I was not aware of!) -- although, as usual, I found myself wishing they had pushed the envelope of their conversation just a *wee* bit further, and at least given a perfunctory nod to the fact that IVF does not work roughly 70% of the time -- and what happens to those of us who *don't* ultimately get to achieve "motherhood as an automatic-meaning machine"?  
      • Still, Petersen admits that "Weeks after reading it, I’m still thinking about all the questions Jenni evokes, questions I had never thought to ask, and questions I’ll now, thanks to her book, never stop considering." So I guess that's something...??  
      • Quilter's book, "Hatching," has been added to my "want to read" wishlist. (It's available in hardcover from Amazon & Chapters/Indigo, and on Kindle via Amazon, but strangely, it's only available in audiobook format from Kobo Canada??)  
    • Worth a read: this article in the National Post about the "resurgence of pronatalism" in the face of falling birth rates -- and why this might not be a good idea (or at least not something to worry about).  
    • I got a chuckle reading this New York Times article about the 50th anniversary (!) of Schoolhouse Rock. I was 12 in 1973, when the segments began running in between the cartoons on Saturday mornings. By then, I was starting to grow out of Saturday morning cartoons (albeit I still loved to watch American Bandstand at noon) -- and for the first few years it was on, I only ever got to watch it during summer vacations and other holidays at my grandparents' house in Minnesota. 
      • (I know I've written about this before, but until I was about 13 years old, we lived far enough north that we were only able to get ONE -- count 'em!! -- TV channel! -- the CBC.  Then we moved closer to the border and were able to pull in TV signals from the States ourselves with a rotary TV antenna, as well as the other Canadian networks -- CTV, and a new one just starting up, Global. Cable TV came along a few years later, when I was in high school.) 
      • But even though I was rapidly aging out of Schoolhouse Rock -- and even though I'm Canadian! -- like others mentioned in the article and in the comments, I too can still sing the preamble to the U.S. Constitution  ;)  (the opening lines, at least!) -- as well as some of the other Schoolhouse Rock jingles. (I'm especially partial to "My Hero Zero.")  
      • These two lines from the article (below) gave me pause... and I'm not sure I could watch the video without tearing up -- even all these years later, post-loss. I had a flashback to a meeting of our pregnancy loss support group, talking about just why our losses hurt so badly. One of the bereaved dads there shrugged and sheepishly grinned as he said, "Hey -- three -- it's a magic number."  Indeed... 
    The blissful “Three Is a Magic Number” isn’t just a primer on multiples; it’s a rumination on the triad foundations of the universe, from geometry to love. (If your voice does not break singing, “A man and a woman had a little baby,” you’re doing something wrong.)         

    Monday, February 6, 2023

    #MicroblogMondays: A "monstrosity" of a dilemma

    Author Roxane Gay offers advice on the office, money, careers and work-life balance in the New York Times "Work Friend" column -- and this week's column included a doozy. 

    The scenario: the writer (gender unspecified, but many commenters assumed it was a woman), was irritated by a proud dad co-worker's baby photos displayed in their shared workspace. (The term used was "giant photos of a baby-acne-mottled monstrosity sitting on my desk.")(!!) Whenever it was their turn to be in the office, they would put the photos in a drawer, and then leave them there. The dad would put them up again when he was in the office... lather, rinse, repeat... 

    When confronted by the dad (in a good-natured way) -- at an office party, no less! -- the writer lied -- and claimed they found it difficult to look at the baby photos because they were infertile (!).  Now they find themselves the object of office sympathy (!), with other infertile coworkers wanting to comiserate.    

    Gay was clearly flummoxed:  "I don’t know how you get yourself out of the hole you’ve dug for yourself. This is mighty awkward," she says.  No kidding!  

    The reader comments are just as interesting and thought-provoking as the letter itself.  (Beware if you click over to read them, though!) I did not read them all (there were more than 1,000 as I write this -- although there were other letters being addressed as well as this one) -- but I read a lot!  Here are some of the things people were saying (paraphrased, not direct quotes):  

    On the one hand:   

    • This is petty and unnecessary drama. 
    • This is an insane overreaction on the writer's part. 
    • Why not just put the photos back up at the end of the day? 
    • Why didn't she just tell the truth, instead of making up a story? 
    • Why are we becoming so selfish?
    • Anyone who makes those kinds of comments about an innocent baby is odd.  
    • I didn't know so many people hated babies. I despair for humanity. 
    • Most people take pleasure in other people's babies -- this person has issues.
    • She needs professional help.  
    • She should be fired for harassment/inappropriate behaviour. 
    • Maybe the new dad isn't getting enough sleep to be rational?  [lol]
    • I'm just glad I'm retired. [lol] 
    On the other hand: 

    • This is hilarious. 
    • This is like something out of a "Seinfeld" episode. 
    • Why did the dad confront her in front of their coworkers (even in a joking way)? 
    • The writer escalated the situation unnecessarily -- but so did the dad for refusing to take a hint and then calling them out in front of all their colleagues at a work function.  
    • Parents should realize that not everyone likes babies. 
    • Not liking children is one of the world's last remaining taboos. It's not a crime. 
    • The writer's attitude toward babies is not relevant/not what's at issue here. 
    • It's a shared workspace: personal items should be kept to a minimum (if they're allowed at all), and removed/stored at the end of the day.  
    • The writer is under no obligation to discuss her fertility further with others in the office. 
    • As long as her coworkers don't start a GoFundMe for fertility treatments for her, she should just tell them she doesn't want to talk about it, if they bring it up.  
    • The writer may have lied, but they inadvertently did a huge favor for all those of us who are actually infertile and have to deal with baby pictures at work, etc., by reminding their coworkers how hurtful something like this can be.  
    My thoughts:  "Baby-acne-mottled monstrosity" does seem a bit harsh...! (I was startled when, 20+ years ago, I first started looking for resources on living with children, and stumbled onto some childfree-by-choice message boards with disdainful discussions of "breeders," "sprogs," "crotchfruit" and the like...!)  But I agree that it's not a crime not to like children. The writer obviously knew that their aversion to babies was not socially acceptable, though --  hence, the spur-of-the-moment lie about infertility, which they knew would probably elicit more sympathy and put an end to the debate over removing photos. 

    As someone who IS infertile, I have mixed feelings about that. Why anyone who is NOT truly infertile would want to claim that label is beyond me (hence my personal dislike of the term "social infertility," which describes people who don't have kids simply because they haven't met the right partner yet, or didn't meet them in time). And I wonder if people pretending to be infertile might make it less likely that others will believe or take seriously or sympathize with those of us who truly do have issues. 

    Ultimately, I agree with the many commenters who felt that, in a shared workspace, photos and other personal items should be removed/stored at the end of the workday. And that the writer's in/fertility and feelings about children are nobody's business, and she should just tell her coworkers, however well-meaning, that she does not want to discuss the issue further. 

    (Tangentially related side note: Towards the end of my working life, we had an administration manager who instituted a strict "clean desk" policy. Personal items weren't mentioned, but because we dealt with a lot of confidential material, the (logical) decree came down that all files and work materials had to be locked up at the end of the day, and all computers logged off. Many people already did this, of course -- but it was not unusual to see stacks of files sitting out and papers spread out on someone's desk. I didn't think my staff magazine story about the company's United Way campaign was particularly confidential, but I started dutifully clearing my desk at night, locking the drawers and hiding the key. I came into the office early one morning and saw this manager, walking around and testing people's file drawers to see whether they were locked. If they weren't, she deliberately left the drawer wide open. I'm not sure what, if anything, happened to the unlucky employees who forgot to lock up the night before...!)  


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

    Saturday, February 4, 2023

    "Wintering" by Katherine May

    "Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times" by Katherine May has been on my bookshelf for a while now. I finally cracked it open a few days ago, at the beginning of February, my least favourite month, and the beginning of a particularly brutal cold snap, following endless weeks of dark, gloomy grey skies.  

    It's not a long book (my hardcover copy is 242 pages), but there's a lot to absorb and think about here. Its publication in February 2020 coincided with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it's not hard to see why it became a bestseller at this particular time in history:  May's personal story of living through a difficult period in her life is intertwined with her gentle observations and meditations on winter (the season) and "wintering" -- which she describes as: 

    ...a season in the cold. It is a fallow period in life when you’re cut off from the world, feeling rejected, sidelined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of an outsider. Perhaps it results from an illness or a life event such as a bereavement or the birth of a child; perhaps it comes from a humiliation or failure. Perhaps you’re in a period of transition and have temporarily fallen between two worlds. Some wintering creep upon us more slowly, accompanying the protracted death of a relationship, the gradual ratcheting up of caring responsibilities as our parents age, the drip-drip-drip of lost confidence. Some are appallingly sudden, like discovering one day that your skills are considered obsolete, the company you worked for has gone bankrupt, or your partner is in love with someone new. However, it arrives, wintering is usually involuntary, lonely, and deeply painful.

    Among other things, May writes about basking in mineral pools and saunas in Iceland, attending a St. Lucia service at a Swedish church, spending the winter solstice at Stonehenge, watching the aurora borealis (northern lights) in Norway, taking a New Year's Day plunge in the sea, and sending her son outside to play in the snow after a rare snowfall (she says she's never experienced a white Christmas -- !!! -- come to Manitoba, Katherine!! -- I can only recall two Christmases there where there WASN'T any snow cover, or at least not much!). 

    This is a wise and beautifully written book, and reading it, during one of the coldest and gloomiest times of the year -- both weather-wise and heart-wise (and this year especially) -- was a balm for the soul (MY soul, anyway!). I don't often re-read books these days, but I can see myself reading this one again in the future. It's divided into sections, one for each month from September through March, and it would be interesting and easy to read one section per month, at the proper times.  :)  

    I'm also looking forward to reading May's next book, which is coming out at the end of this month: "Enchantment: Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age." 

    ALI note/content warning: The section on January begins with the story of May's infertility diagnosis, followed by a surprise pregnancy -- just before she was to start IVF treatment (of course!).  She also mentions her son at different points in the book. 

    5 stars on Goodreads. 

    This was Book #7 read to date in 2023 (and Book #1 finished in February), bringing me to 16% (!) of my 2023 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."  

    Thursday, February 2, 2023

    What's saving my life right now

     An annual question from Modern Mrs. Darcy. My past posts on this this theme here. I wrote this year's version without consulting those older posts, albeit I suspect many of the answers will be the same or similar...! 

    • Sunshine and blue skies (when they happen...!):  There were only about 4 days in January where I glimpsed at least some patches of blue sky peeking through the grey clouds, and/or some sunshine -- so it's very much appreciated and mood-boosting when it does pop up!  
    • Our Dyson PH03 purifier/humidifier/fan unit:  Yes, it cost a ridiculous amount of money, and it's given us some grief in the short time we've owned it (as I've shared here!)... but I'm sure glad we have it! Even though we keep it running all day, every day, it's been very cold outside lately, and extreme cold generally = dry.  The humidity in our unit has barely cracked 40%, and more often hovers in the low 30s -- WITH the humidifier running. I'd hate to think what it would be like without it!   
    • Clinique Moisture Surge moisturizer: I'm a Clinique girl from waaaayyyyy back (albeit I have also used Estee Lauder skin care & cosmetics from time to time too).  Normally, I've followed up their basic 3-step regime with Even Better moisturizer because of its SPF20 protection. (They've just introduced a new version of Even Better -- but no SPF rating is given. Hmmm....) But we've barely been outside lately, and the sun hasn't been out much either, and with the current cold weather and lack of humidity, my skin has been feeling very dry and in need of an extra moisture boost. So I've been using up some of my supply of Moisture Surge miniatures from previous gift with purchase promotions, and it does feel nice! 
    • Little Great-Nephew:  Even though he's not with his grandmother every day right now, we've still managed to see almost as much of him this past month as we normally would have. Always a day-brightener. :)  No doubt, he's been the best thing about these past three years, BY FAR.  
    • This blog: It's been such a great outlet. :) 
    • Books & book club discussions: So many books, so little time...!  lol  Lots of distractions, but I do love those times when I'm able to completely lose myself in a good book for a few hours! (Or even just squeeze in another chapter before bedtime!)  My real-life book club last met before the pandemic began, but I am grateful for my online book groups for keeping me reading and for some great and sometimes thought-provoking discussions! 
    • Tea:  There's nothing like a nice cup of tea to make me feel relaxed and cozy, especially on a cold winter day. Plain old black tea is my favourite, with sugar and milk. 
    • Zoom sessions with friends. :)  
    What's saving your life right now? 

    Wednesday, February 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: January was Month #34 (going on #35) of living with the COVID-19 pandemic, with dark reports of the emergence of a new, even-more-contagious/transmissible Omicron variant, XBB.1.5 -- which has been dubbed with the ominous-sounding nickname of "the Kraken" (!). Although the province's Chief Medical Officer recently reported that the numbers of covid and other respiratory illness cases are stabilizing/improving, hospitals are still swamped, shelves remain bare of many basic medications, particularly for children (Tylenol, etc.), and antibiotics are also rumoured to be in short supply. 

    (It's not just me...!  Even the World Health Organization declined to declare the global health emergency is over, albeit the director-general said “there is no doubt that we’re in a far better situation now” than a year ago.) (Notwithstanding the U.S. government's intention to let the emergency designation expire in May...)   

    On the personal pandemic front: This was a(nother!) busy month for us! We remain covid-free -- and hope to stay that way! -- although dh has had a nasty, lingering cold for the past several weeks (rapid tests to date have been negative) -- but we're trying to get out a little more, while still taking precautions. We still mask 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 flew home on Jan. 2nd. after 17 (!) days with my family over Christmas and New Year's (in retrospect, maybe a LITTLE too long...!). 
      • PND came over to play cards with us on New Year's Day, before we left.   
    • We both went to the supermarket for groceries and takeout soup for lunch the next day (Jan. 3rd), and then headed over to BIL's so dh could help him out with some paperwork. 
    • Even though Little Great-Nephew is not at his grandparents' house every day now (since his mom went on disability with carpal tunnel syndrome), we still got to see him several times this month:  
      • I stayed with SIL & LGN on Jan. 4th while dh & BIL went out to run some errands.  (Described in this post.) 
      • Sunday, Jan. 15th, we drove with BIL & SIL to a smalltown arena north of us to watch Little Great-Nephew skate!!  <3  
      • Older Nephew's Wife had an appointment and dropped off LGN at BIL & SIL's for a few hours on Jan. 20th.  :)  (Described here.) 
      • We headed up to Older Nephew's on Thursday afternoon (Jan. 26th) with BIL & SIL, where we had a nice visit with everyone -- including the dog, lol.  :)  (Related post here.) 
    • BIL & SIL came over for coffee after dinner on Jan. 6th. 
    • For my birthday on Jan. 12th, we went to the art gallery, bookstore and supermarket. BIL & SIL dropped by later too (as I wrote here). 
    • The next day (Friday the 13th!) saw us back in our old community for haircuts, with side trips to the cemetery to visit Katie and to the frozen foods store to stock up on a few convenience items for the freezer compartment. 
    • Monday, Jan. 16th, we headed into the city to our optometrist's midtown office to check on the eye I had surgery on this past summer.  
      • We stopped at the supermarket on our way back home for groceries & takeout lunch. 
    • Wednesday, Jan. 18th, we took our Dyson humidifier/purifier/fan unit to the company's warehouse about a half-hour's drive away for repair.  (The story here and here.) 
      • We returned to collect our repaired unit on Friday (Jan. 20th)(as mentioned here). 
    • We went to the bank on the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 24th, to meet with our financial advisor there, then to the bookstore for a browse, and finally the supermarket for takeout pizza slices for lunch. 
    • Last Saturday afternoon (the 28th), we went with BIL & SIL to visit stepMIL & family and deliver some (slightly??) belated Christmas presents. It was the first time we'd been there since stepMIL's 80th birthday party last summer.
      • Before heading home, we paid a quick visit to Katie at the cemetery -- BIL & SIL had not been there in a long time and expressed an interest in going -- always nice. :)
      • And we picked up some takeout teriyaki rice/noodle bowls from the supermarket and took them back to BIL & SIL's for supper before heading home. 
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    Also right now:  

    Reading: I got the 2023 reading year off to a great start by finishing 6 books in January (all reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads, & tagged "2023 books").  
    This brings me to 6 books read to date in 2023,  13% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. :)  I am currently (for the moment, anyway...!) 3 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. 

    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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    • The four-day-plus spectacle that unfolded in the U.S. Congress's House of Representatives in early January, as Republican Kevin McCarthy tried (and tried... and tried... and tried...) to achieve his longtime dream of becoming Speaker -- finally winning enough votes after 15 (!) ballots -- the first time in 100 years it's taken more than one round of voting.  I always thought that nobody on TV news looked like they were having more fun than Peter Mansbridge, the longtime anchor of CBC News (now retired), on Canadian federal election nights -- he was always as gleeful as a kid in a candy store -- until I watched Jake Tapper on CNN covering this story, lol.  
      • (I'm not sure about how the role of Speaker of the British House of Commons would compare, but here's an article comparing the roles in the U.S. Congress's House of Representatives and the Canadian Parliament's House of Commons. The TL:DR:  the Canadian Speaker's role is more like that of a referee, while the American version is more like a quarterback.) 
    • The new season of "Finding Your Roots" with Henry Louis Gates on PBS.  
    • Figure skating: the Canadian and U.S. national championships. (I had to PVR some of the U.S. skating, this past weekend, because dh desperately wanted to watch some of the NFL playoff games.)  
    • I've seen it before, but saw a lot of it while watching figure skating: anyone see/notice the Geico insurance commercial: "We have a(u)nts!" (lol)  As a proud auntie/great-auntie, I'll admit it tickled my funnybone.  :)  (I promise, I'm not THAT overbearing!  lol)  
    • Not watching:  NFL and/or U.S. college football playoffs!  (lol)   
    • Still not watching: "Magpie Murders" (PVRd from PBS after reading the book), or anything after the first two seasons of "The Crown"...! 
      • Speaking of "The Crown,"  Netflix actually sent me an email saying that unless I specifically affirmed I wanted to continue to subscribe, they were ending my "membership" and would stop billing me. I mean, it's nice of them to offer to not to just keep taking my money (lol), but kind of surprising! (I guess I haven't watched anything on there for quite a while...!).  
    Listening:  Last month in this category, I mentioned the Shazam app that our nephew introduced me to before Christmas. When I downloaded it, I was thinking of a specific song that's been driving me CRAZY for a while now. They play it fairly often on the Stingray Classic Rock channel -- it sounded familiar, but despite Googling the lyrics, I'd never been able to find out the name of the song or who was singing it! I FINALLY got my answer, thanks to Shazam!:  it was "You Remind Me" by Sheriff! -- a Canadian band from the early 1980s, who also sang the monster hit "When I'm With You" (which was one of the songs on my shortlist for the first-dance song at our 1985 wedding -- along with "Your Song" by Elton John and "Maybe I'm Amazed" by Paul McCartney -- alas, the inspid "You & I" by Crystal Gayle and Eddie Rabbitt won out, lol).  Here's a link to a live version of "You Remind Me," and  "When I'm With You." (live performance footage, but it has the recorded version of the song dubbed overtop). 

    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 Jan. 31st:  
    • Heardle (original/all decades): 28.7% correct (52/181, including 13 on the first guess), a slight improvement over last month. 
    • Heardle 60s:  80.1% (113/141, including 57 on first guess), down slightly from last month. 
    • Heardle 70s:  68.5% (100/146, including 60 on the first guess), up from last month. 
    • Heardle 80s:  44.3% (58/131, including 22 on the first guess), down slightly this month. 
    • Heardle 90s: 36% (50/139, including 16 on the first guess), down slightly this month.  
    Eating/Drinking:  Takeout dinners this month included a chicken & pasta dish from a favourite restaurant on my birthday;  chicken souvlaki on a pita with Greek-style lemon potatos; rice bowls with chicken and teriyaki sauce (from the supermarket takeout counter), fish & chips, and... McDonalds, lol.  It's probably the closest restaurant to us, geographically speaking (we could walk there in five minutes), we hadn't had it in ages, and dh had a craving for a quarter-pounder with bacon. I had my usual Chicken McNuggets with honey dipping sauce, and we split an order of french fries. :)  

    Buying (besides books, lol):  I ordered a whole bunch of my favourite Pilot Precise V5 pens in different colours from Amazon. I always used to buy them at Staples, but they don't seem to carry them anymore?  and my supply of several colours was dwindling.  I've tried other pens, but they just don't cut it, in my books. ;) (I use different colours for different things, particularly in my datebook/calendar/planner:  red for birthdays & anniversaries;  black for bills coming due, important deadlines, etc.;  green to tick off bills paid or cheques/deposits received, and the amounts;  turquoise for mail sent & received;  purple for notes on the weather; brown for phone calls;  and blue for just about everything else, lol. When I was working, I used to use pink to write down what outfit I'd worn that day!)   

    This bottle of Bumble & Bumble Sunday Clarifying Shampoo from Sephora (online). I am getting down to the bottom of my last precious bottle of Neutrogena shampoo (sob!) -- it's been discontinued, as I moaned in this post from earlier this summer -- and the B&B shampoo was one of the similar products I've found recommended via Google. The price is exorbitant ($35 for one small bottle of shampoo?!! -- granted, you're only supposed to use it once a week, and a little goes a long way -- but still...!!)  -- but I had an email offer for 20% off (plus a birthday bonus), so I decided to give it a try. Anyone else ever use this product?  Do you have recommendations for another (cheaper??) clarifying shampoo I could try? 

    Wearing:  Still wearing some of my (less Christmas-y/more winter-y) Old Navy holiday themed waffle-knit PJ tops with yoga pants. Adding a cardigan on particularly cold days!    

    Noticing:  How much my mood improved on those few, rare days this past month when blue sky became visible -- even in small patches through clouds! -- and (sometimes) the sun even shone!! (even if the temperature, inevitably, plunged at the same time...!). It really does make a difference! 

    Appreciating:  The sunshine (when we can actually see it!). 

    Enjoying:  Spending whatever time we can with Little Great-Nephew.  :)  

    Wondering:  Whether he will remember any of this when he gets older? (I do remember some things from when I was 2-3, but I've been told I have an exceptional memory...!) 

    Wanting: More sunshine!  A little more variety to our days... 

    Prioritizing:  LGN time.  :)  Anytime we know he's going to be around now, we happily reshuffle our agendas in order to spend some precious time with him. :)  No matter when/whether his mom returns to work, we know that he'll be off to school in September (!)(junior kindergarten/nursery school) and we won't be seeing anywhere near as much of him after that...  :(  

    Hoping:  That the next deep clean cycle for our Dyson humidifier/purifier/fan unit works better than the first one did...!  (Links to the full story above...!)   

    Trying:  To take advantage of all the birthday offers I got from various retailers, before they expire.  ;)  

    Loving:  All the good books I've been reading lately!  :)  

    Feeling: Still a bit holi-dazed (what day is it? -- and how is it February, ALREADY??!). In a bit of a post-Christmas/birthday funk -- and the almost continuous dark, gloomy, grey weather is NOT helping! Dreading February -- my least-favourite month, this year with an added "anniversary" of significance to deal with...  But still, thankful for dh, our families, and our cozy condo during this grey & chilly winter...!