Monday, March 27, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: "This timeline is the only one we've got"

I've been thinking some more about the New York Times article I cited in a recent odds & ends post:  "I Fantasized About Multiple Timelines, and It Nearly Ruined My Life,"  which muses on the Oscar-winning movie "Everything Everywhere All at Once" (which I have not yet seen), and the idea of the multiverse, of multiple possible lives and alternate universes. (I was also reminded of "The Midnight Library" by Matt Haig, reviewed here.)

Next month, it will be 10 (!) years since dh lost his job and subsequently retired;  it will be 9 years for me in July.  It will also be 7 years next month since we sold our house and moved into our condo here. One of the main reasons we did this was to be closer to dh's brother, his wife and the nephews as we aged, thinking that, as we have no children, they would form an important part of our support network  -- and it would be easier for them to help us out now & and then if we were 10 minutes away versus the previous 45+. 

As it turns out, while they've certainly been there for us (especially when we first moved and were setting up our condo and finding our way around here), more and more frequently these days, it's been the other way around:  we've been the ones providing support to them.  We've been there to help out with the nephews' weddings & new babies (hunting out formula and children's Tylenol, for example). We've dropped by at least once a week to play with Little Great-Nephew (and give SIL, his primary daycare provider, a bit of a break), and stayed with him ourselves whenever needed.  (We even dog-sat when Little Great-Nephew was born and both his parents and grandparents were at the hospital, so that the dog wouldn't be left alone for too long.)  We've taken both BIL & SIL to various medical appointments, and dh has helped BIL & the nephews move furniture, etc.  

This isn't going to change anytime soon -- and in fact, we may be called upon for help even more often in the days, weeks and months to come. As I've alluded in other posts, BIL has developed a serious health condition over the past year-plus. :(  Dh has been taking BIL to some of his appointments (or we've been staying with LGN so SIL can accompany him to others).  We've been taking them to family gatherings, so that BIL doesn't have to drive. 

I wish BIL's health was better. I wish things were different... but they're not. And that's life. We can't control these things, and we can't predict the future. If my pregnancy with Katie taught me anything, it was that we are NOT in control of the universe... and that we make the best decisions we can with the information we have at the time. 

I will admit, I'm (still) not wild about the community where we now live -- but being closer to family these past 7 years, being able to help the nephews launch families of their own, spending so much time with Little Great-Nephew these past few years, and now being able to support BIL & the rest of the family through this challenging time -- I wouldn't have it any other way. We don't know what will happen tomorrow or a week or month or year or 7 years from now.  All we can do is make the most of what we have right now. And help each other out along the way, while we're at it.  

As the NYT article concluded, we can mourn the sad things that have happened, and wish that they hadn't happened, that things had worked out differently. "We can joke or wonder whether we’re in the wrong timeline. But we can’t lose sight of the fact that this timeline is the only one we’ve got."  

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

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Odds & ends & updates

  • Hey, it wasn't just my imagination!!  Ontario (and the Toronto area, where I live) experienced its darkest winter in more than 80 years.  :p  
  • Bloglovin' update: More of the same crap, as described in previous posts (with a few more posts showing up in Chinese, Arabic and Cyrillic characters -- when they showed up at all...!). It's been more than a year since I started having regular issues with the site, and it's been more or less defunct since last fall. Incredibly frustrating.
    • As a result -- I finally got fed up enough to pay for an upgraded account on Feedly (paid annually), which gives me access to up to 1,000 feeds (vs 100 for free). (I followed almost 600 blogs on Bloglovin -- gulp!  Not all of them active, mind you, but...!)  
    • Thankfully, I had backed up my Bloglovin feed about a year ago (and haven't added too many blogs since then), and I still had the file saved -- I just uploaded it to Feedly and voila!  It even imported the categories I had created on Bloglovin, so I don't have too much (re)organizing to do. There were a couple of blogs that "failed to add" (mostly older ones that haven't posted anything in years) but that's OK.  
    • The Feedly setup will take a little getting used to -- but I'm hoping for more reliable service than I've been getting from Bloglovin for the past year or so...! and I'm looking forward to staying better updated from now on...! 
    • I've kept my Bloglovin' bookmark for now, but deleted it from my startup tabs on my laptop (and added Feedly instead). On my cellphone, I deleted the app entirely. 
  • A couple of Little Great-Nephew stories I want to remember, from a visit to BIL & SIL's house on Monday (before we spent the day with him on Wednesday):  
    • SIL: "[LGN], if you use the potty, I'll get you some ice cream."  LGN (after thinking for a moment): "What KIND of ice cream?" 🤣
    • Dh, as we were leaving: "Now [LGN], you're going to be good for Daddy when he comes to get you tonight, aren't you?  You're not going to cry or kick..."  LGN, nodding:  "Or hide under the table..."  🤣
  • After spending the day with LGN on Wednesday (see post link above), this article (via The NotMom on social media) was very timely and struck a chord:  "I Will Never Be a Grandparent."  
  • Three cheers for Carolyn Hax of the Washington Post, whose advice is generally pretty sound and sympathetic towards the childless/free, infertile and grieving, and whose answer to a recent impatient would-be grandfather (essentially:  MYOB)  warmed my heart.  :)  Here's a gift link: "Would-be grandpa scoffs at couple’s reason not to have kids." 
  • Also for Yael Wolfe on Medium: "Stop Giving Unsolicited Reproductive Advice to Childless Women." Just read it;  it's fabulous.  :)  
  • In an "odds & ends" post last weekend, I mentioned a Times of London article/book excerpt by Elizabeth Day, "My fertility sadness — and what not to say to a childless woman." 
It’s a brilliant coinage, I think. Those of us who have walked a similar path to Day, whether through loss, infertility - or both - know instantly what she means here. Most people are wildly unaware of their own fertility privilege.

It’s there in Mother’s Day cards that say things like: ‘Well done mum for keeping me alive!’. Or first birthday posts on social media that are captioned to the effect: ‘Kept them alive for a whole year!’

It’s there in the way people will casually say: ‘We’re going to keep going until we get a girl/boy’. Or: ‘We want one of each’. (In a chapter of Life, Almost I write about the way we’ve normalised discussions about family size ‘as though it were always a straightforward choice – like ordering from a menu: two girls and a boy, with a side of twins, please’.)

When I asked on social media for other examples, the response was overwhelming, from ‘being able to joke about a partner needing a vasectomy’ to ‘taking family members along to scans for fun’. Other commonly given examples were conversations about ‘ideal’ age gaps or timing pregnancies around seasons, the start of the school year, or work contracts. (Or worse, joking to someone who is pregnant and due over a holiday or other significant date: ‘Well that wasn’t very well-timed, was it?’ or ‘I wouldn’t want a Christmas baby, personally’.)  

It’s not that saying these things makes you a bad person. Or that you’re not allowed to think or feel them (or even say them, if you’re confident you’ve got the right audience). It’s simply that they’re brimming with unacknowledged privilege.
I want to have hope that I will be able to grow a child. But I also want to be prepared for a life that may mean I am unable to. I actually don’t want to only be prepared, I want to imagine myself able to find joy on many life paths.

One path leads to the experience of growing someone inside me, birthing them, guiding them through park music classes, temper tantrums, scuffed walls, stained carpets, graduations, rowdy teenage years with clinking bottles in knapsacks rushing out of the house thinking I’m oblivious to the mischief – all of that.

Then there are the infinite other paths – including alternate ways of becoming a parent – available to me in this life. All unique and all equally fulfilling and deserving of celebration of a life well lived.

  • On a somewhat related note:  this New York Times opinion piece (gift-linked) muses on the Oscar-winning "Everything Everywhere All at Once" (which I have not yet seen) and the idea of multiple possible lives and alternate universes:  "I Fantasized About Multiple Timelines, and It Nearly Ruined My Life." It wasn't hard for me to think about how it related to grief, loss and infertility -- particularly this passage:  
For years, I couldn’t stop thinking about other, better timelines where it didn’t happen, where my stepfather was still alive and my family intact. It helped me understand what was missing, but it did not allow me to mourn what I’d lost.

And that’s the peril of the multiverse; I was becoming unreal to myself, nostalgic not for a time before the death happened but for a timeline in which it never happened at all. 

...We can joke or wonder whether we’re in the wrong timeline. But we can’t lose sight of the fact that this timeline is the only one we’ve got.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

A moment with LGN

Dh & I are both beat tonight.  We stayed with LGN at his grandparents' house for most of the day, while SIL accompanied BIL to a lengthy medical appointment that took up most of the day.  We've stayed with him plenty of times before, but never for that long.  

He was good as gold (as always!). He is currently trying to master the potty ;)  and he did have one "accident," but also used the potty successfully another time too. He was somewhat distressed by the accident (poor little guy...), but we gave him hugs & kisses and told him it was okay, just try to get to the potty in time the next time. And lavished him with praise when he did.  

He survived -- and so did we!  (lol)  His dad (Older Nephew) called dh later to thank us for staying with him today. Dh assured him that LGN is SO EASY to be with. (As I've often said -- where was this kid when I was a 15-year-old babysitter, trying to wrangle hellions??  lol)    

We'll be doing it all over again two weeks from now, when BIL has another lengthy appointment. And probably every two weeks or so for the foreseeable future, at least until LGN heads off to school (junior kindergarten/nursery school/pre-school) this fall. (Eeeek.) 

I know not every childless person who would like to be more involved in the lives of their niblings & great-niblings gets to do this. We are SO lucky.  

Today also just happened to be 25 years (I repeat: TWENTY. FIVE. YEARS) since the fateful day in March 1998 when I peed on a stick and watched, slack-jawed, as two bright blue lines immediately sprang into view.  I was too busy today to dwell on the significance of the date too much -- which is probably just as well... 

But for a few minutes late this morning, when dh had gone to McDonalds to pick up some lunch for all of us (including a Happy Meal for LGN), LGN snuggled up with me on the loveseat, watching TV. He normally gravitates more to dh than to me -- but for a few sweet minutes, it was just him and me. "What if?" I thought -- and just for a brief, fleeting moment, I allowed myself to pretend that the past 25 years were entirely different, and that this sweet, beautiful little boy was the grandson I know I will never have.  

It was lovely. 

It broke my heart.  

Monday, March 20, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: Spring forward?

It's the first day of spring!  :)  

And last week's time change ( = "spring forward" an hour) has been kicking my butt. :p  I've been sleeping in late(r) almost every morning -- and still feeling groggy when I do get up. (Thankfully, I can sleep in late, because, retirement!  ;)  ) 

I know there are arguments about which time system is better -- standard or daylight savings time? I lean slightly towards preferring standard time -- but I wholeheartedly support making one or the other permanent.  Just pick one and stick with it, year round -- no more back & forthing! 

What do you think? Does the time change bother you?  Would you like to see permanent daylight savings time? Permanent standard time? 

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

Sunday, March 19, 2023

This week's odds & ends

  • I had a dream recently that I was babysitting Little Great-Nephew... he had one of those little motorized cars that you sometimes see kids in, driving down the sidewalk -- and he gleefully zoomed off into the distance. I was running way behind him, calling his name, calling him to STOP!  Someone stopped me, wanting to chat, and I said, "I can't talk, I have to get my son!"  I don't know why I called him my son?? (I did eventually find him, and all was well!)  
    • (The funny/ironic thing is, he HAS one of those little motorized cars -- a miniature Jeep, that BIL got for him -- and he REFUSES to have anything to do with it!!  lol  He won't even sit in it!)  
    • We are going to be babysitting him for a good chunk of the day, one day next week, when his grandparents (BIL & SIL) are out for a medical appointment/procedure -- and I was thinking my dream probably reflected my anxiety about that. He really is easy to stay with, generally no trouble at all -- he adores dh, who generally winds up doing most of the running around with him (lol) -- but it IS a responsibility! -- AND his parents are toilet training him right now  (lol) and I've been wondering how THAT's going to work??! 
    • But it also occurred to me, as I thought about it later, that it was also kind of symbolic, wasn't it? Chasing after "my child,"  watching him (her) disappear into the distance... 
  • The Dyson saga:  You'll remember that, back in mid-January, our new, very expensive Dyson humidifier/purifier conked out on us when I tried to carry out a deep clean cycle for the first time. Thankfully, it's under warranty for a year (until October), and -- after going in circles with Dyson customer service for a few frustrating days -- we were able to take it to a local warehouse for repair. (The story is recounted here, here and here.)  
    • It's worked fine since then -- but last weekend, I got a warning alert on my Dyson app that a(nother) deep clean cycle would be required soon.  (You generally need to do one about once a month, but we don't run the humidifier 24 hours a day -- plus I use filtered water versus straight from the tap = less limescale building up -- so it's been almost exactly two months since that last disastrous one.)  There's a setting on the app where you can check to see how many hours remain before the next deep clean cycle is needed (also when the air filters need replacing) -- and I watched the hours counting down over the next few days with a feeling of impending doom (lol). 
    • I estimated we'd reach zero (0) hours on Tuesday afternoon -- and we did -- but nothing happened. No alert to carry out the cycle (and believe me, I didn't want to try to do one, unprompted!).  
    • The machine continued to merrily humidify away -- and to be honest, I'd kind of forgotten about it -- until I got the "deep clean cycle required" alert message at 3:45 on Thursday afternoon. I followed the instructions in the manual (I was also able to call them up from the app on my cellphone) and held my breath as I pushed the "start" button and the timer started counting down from the 60 minute mark. In January, it stalled out at 59:50 and would NOT advance further, no matter what I did!  This time, it kept going! and finished the cycle an hour later, as it should!  Whew!!  
  • It's "Mothering Sunday" today in the UK (i.e., Mother's Day -- albeit it started out as something quite different and has evolved to become more like our North American celebration in May). Spare a thought for our sisters across the ocean who -- thanks to social media & the pervasiveness of (North) American culture -- will get barraged with Mother's Day hoopla all over again in May, along with the rest of us!  
  • Elizabeth Day (whose book "How to Fail" has long languished in my to-read pile) has an amazingly frank and articulate article in the Times of London this weekend:  "My fertility sadness — and what not to say to a childless woman." (This is actually an excerpt from her forthcoming book, "Friendaholic: Confessions of a Friendship Addict.") 
    • A lot of the Times's content is behind a paywall, but I think you get a certain number of articles for free. You may possibly have to register to read it.
    • Sample passage: 
We rightly talk about privilege in this era of social change — an era marked by Black Lives Matter and #MeToo — but hardly anyone acknowledges fertility privilege. Those of us who have had complicated journeys to parenthood are only too aware of its existence. I know how it feels to be the infertile one in a world of apparent abundance. I wouldn’t post about my glorious babies on social media in much the same way as I wouldn’t post about my expansive mansion or my fleet of Bentleys (not that I have any of those), because it’s thoughtless to those who don’t have these things. Forget the language of privilege for a second: isn’t it just lacking in basic empathy? Isn’t it just being a good human?

Thursday, March 16, 2023

"A Fatal Grace" by Louise Penny

"A Fatal Grace" (which also goes by the title "Dead Cold") is the second volume in the Inspector Gamache/Three Pines mystery series by Louise Penny.  It's been a little over a year since the events of the first novel in the series, "Still Life" (which I read and reviewed here). It's Christmastime, and Gamache is back in a very cold and snowy Three Pines to investigate yet another murder. The victim, C.C. de Poitiers, is a recent arrival in town and a thoroughly dislikeable character -- so there is no shortage of suspects! 

Back in Montreal, there's a second murder that Gamache gets involved in investigating -- of a homeless woman, outside of Ogilvy's department store (a real-life Montreal institution). And lurking in the background, "the Arnot affair," a perpetual cloud which hangs over Gamache and his future with the Surete du Quebec police force. 

As with the first book, things dragged a bit until the actual murder took place -- and Inspector Gamache appeared on the scene -- and then gained momentum as the book went on (leading to a couple of late nights when I found it hard to put the book down...!).  It was fun to revisit Three Pines, and many of the same characters and places we got to know in "Still Life." Once again, I revelled in the unabashed Canadian-ness of it all -- Tim Hortons, blizzards, toques (I prefer the spelling "tuque"), remote car starters and ice scrapers, snowmobiles, Hockey Night in Canada -- and curling! (which plays a key role in the plot).  (Warning: don't pick up this book when you're hungry. The food descriptions had my mouth watering, lol.)  

What I didn't like quite so much: the murder victim really is a despicable excuse for a human being, which makes it hard to feel too much sympathy for her, or feel as invested in finding out whodunnit as I might have felt for a different character. Also, prior to reading the book, I'd looked at a few reviews, and also seen a couple of discussions of Penny's books online which mentioned fat-shaming and fat-phobia, in this book in particular.  It IS noticeable, particularly in the first few chapters -- albeit some of it comes through the thoughts & words of the very disagreeable C.C.  It wasn't enough to put me off the book or the series, and I enjoyed the book overall, but I couldn't give it a an unequivocal 4 stars for those two reasons.     

3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 on Goodreads.  

Penny/Gamache fans who follow the Notes from Three Pines Substack will be discussing this book on March 22nd -- and I'm assuming the third book ("The Cruellest Month") will follow in mid-April. I already have my copy...!  :)  

This was Book #13 read to date in 2023 (and Book #3 finished in March), bringing me to 29% 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."  

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Odds & ends & Oscars

  • Sunday was jam-packed: 
    • First, the time changed, which threw everything off a bit. 
    • We had lunch at BIL & SIL's along with Older Nephew, his wife & Little Great-Nephew.
    • Younger Nephew, his wife and our new Little Great-Niece arrived after lunch for a visit. All of us wore masks (except Little Great-Nephew).  We got home in the late afternoon. 
    • Made my usual Sunday afternoon phone call to my parents. 
    • Texted some photos from the afternoon to the rest of the family. 
    • Gobbled down a bite to eat (we'd had a big lunch, so neither of us was very hungry for supper). 
    • Then settled in with some junk food to watch the Oscars (while monitoring the conversation on an Oscars pool Facebook group I'm in, as well as the New York Times live commentary feed).  Didn't get to bed until after midnight (the broadcast ended after 11:30 p.m.). 
    • Needless to say, I was exhausted Monday morning...!  I was pretty groggy this morning too.  
  • Little Great-Niece was, of course, the centre of attention at our family gathering on Sunday -- which (as I had anticipated) did not sit entirely well with Little Great-Nephew...!  He seemed a little fascinated by this new cousin he'd heard so much about, but didn't seem to quite know what to make of her... especially when she started crying.  Little Great-Nephew does not like loud noises, and put his hands over his ears when she did. "That baby is LOUD," he flatly observed to dh (lol).  
    • At one point, he said in a small voice, "Aunt Loribeth, Uncle Dh, will you come downstairs to play with me?"  Of course we did.  (How could we not?) We missed out on some Little Great-Niece time, but I'm glad we were able to give him some of the attention he clearly needed just then. 
    • As the unofficial family photographer, I stayed busy taking photos of everyone. ("Hi sweetie, I'm your personal paparazzi! -- you'll thank me someday," I joked to Little Great-Niece as I snapped away. Both the nephews -- who grew up with my camera constantly in their faces -- chuckled at that one, lol.) 
    • I will admit that I had to swallow hard, seeing BIL & SIL proudly posing for photos with both their beautiful grandchildren. But thankfully, the feeling didn't last too long.  
    • Little Great-Niece was wearing one of the little sleepers we had bought for her and brought over when we visited her for the first time, earlier in the week -- white, with little pink and brown elephants on it.  :)     
  • Older Nephew's Wife is going back to her old job, starting next week -- the same one she had at this time last year. And so Little Great-Nephew will be back at his Nonna (Grandma)'s house again during the day on a regular basis, until he starts (gulp) school in the fall (junior kindergarten). :)   This time around, newly retired Nonno/Grandpa will be around (and maybe his new little cousin once in a while, too!).  Looking forward to spending more time with him again, while we still can!  
  • I enjoyed this year's Oscars. I thought it was pretty good as Oscars telecasts go, with some really heartwarming speeches and moments from the winners. 
    • Favourite moments:  seeing not just one but TWO kick-ass women in their 60s -- Michelle Yeoh & Jamie Lee Curtis -- win statues.  Bonus points to Michelle Yeoh, who is childless not by choice and has spoken about it in interviews, and mentioned her godchildren in her acceptance speech. I loved her comment: "Ladies, never let anyone tell you that you are past your prime."  Amen!  
    • Ke Huy Quan had me tearing up -- watching his hugely emotional acceptance speech, and then seeing him hugging Harrison Ford onstage after "Everything Everywhere All at Once" won Best Picture (as announced by Ford). "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is my least-favourite movie of the series, but I loved seeing Short Round and Indy together again!  :)  
    • Canadians did very well at this year's Oscars. I was especially thrilled that Sarah Polley won for her adapted script for "Women Talking"! I grew up around Mennonites & Mennonite communities (and Hutterites and Hutterite colonies) -- some more old-fashioned/traditional and some more modern than others. My parents live near one large, predominantly Mennonite community, and you can still hear Low German dialect and see women in long skirts and head coverings in the supermarket there, usually with several small children in tow.
      • I may lose my Canadian/Manitoban citizenship for admitting this, but I have not read any of Miriam Toews's novels yet, although I have several of them in my to-read pile. The Globe & Mail ran a thoughtful story this past weekend about the complicated relationship she has with her hometown of Steinbach. Can I admit it made me a little homesick? -- not for Steinbach in particular (I've only been there a few times), but for my home province. Especially this part, near the beginning: 
It was a toe-curling minus 25 on arrival, late last month. Fields of snow created a world so hushed and horizontal and desolate that a ruby-red billboard welcoming drivers to Steinbach rose from the snow as jarringly as an exclamation point.

“Every single day I miss the skies – those blue, blue, blue skies,” said Ms. Toews. “I miss crunching along on the snow. I miss the quiet, and the bite of the cold – like needles in your face.”

(Okay, I don't miss the needles-in-the-face cold, lol. But the SKIES.  And the crunch of the snow underfoot -- snow in southern Ontario seldom crunches. Yes...)
  • Speaking of "home," dh has been glued to the TV set these past few weeks, watching... curling (!).  (I've watched a bit too,  but he's become a real fan!)  First the women's championship and then the men's (the Briar) -- and the world championships are coming up shortly The sports networks here carry wall-to-wall coverage. 
    • Both of my parents (and many relatives, on both sides of my family) curled when I was growing up (and my dad continued to curl into his 60s, before his knees started bothering him too much), but somehow my sister & I never learned. (I was never athletic, but I think I could have given curling a fair shot!)  In one small town where we lived, the skating and curling rinks were across the street from each other, just down the back alley from where we lived, and we spent a good chunk of our winters going back & forth between the two, for figure skating lessons and public skating sessions, to watch hockey games, and to watch our parents curl. 
    • Dh got interested in the game when it became an Olympic sport, some years back now (1998?). I've never really been a student of the game, but I was amazed at how much I had absorbed over the years and was able to pull out of my memory to explain to him! It's something he & my dad can talk about too.  :)  
    • I just started reading the second Louise Penny/Inspector Gamache/Three Pines novel, "A Fatal Grace" -- and what do you know?  There's a curling game that figures prominently in the plot!  ;)  
  • I'm not exactly sure who Nikki Glaser is?  (I gather she's a comedian?)  But the headline on a Salon interview with her caught my eye -- " "I'm actually not freezing my eggs": Nikki Glaser opens up about comedy, fertility and oversharing" -- and I wound up reading most of it (and skimming through the parts that didn't interest me so much).  I don't agree with everything she says (she envisions picking out an egg donor with a future husband as something "fun" they can do together??! hmm...), but it's still worth a read (that part of the interview, at least).  Here's a sample:  

I'm different than most women. I think most women do have a desire to have a baby and be a mother. There's a part of me that feels like there are a lot of people like me that don't. But the majority I would say, and a lot of my friends, do want it, so I just feel like I should too. I think I'm just embracing that part of myself that might actually know what I want, which I'm always questioning.

...It was just buying insurance, and that's what everyone said it's like. "It'll give you peace of mind." All I can say is it was not giving me peace of mind. There was no part of me that was like, "I'm in control of my body and getting ready to stab myself every day." It felt like I'm just doing this for a future man that I'm going to resent because he won't adopt with me.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

THREE YEARS -- plus odds & ends

  • Today marks THREE YEARS (!) since the World Health Organization declared we were in a global pandemic. 
    • Last year on this day, I wrote about "Two years of pandemic living," and what was good/better and what wasn't. In 2021, I relived March 12, 2020 -- i.e., what I called  "The Last Normal Day" -- one year later. 
    • I tried to come up with something new & original to write about to mark this day this year, but there's not a whole lot I could think of that I haven't already said (or that someone else hasn't said, better). 
    • I recently read that, by some measures (deaths and hospitalizations, I think), this has actually been the worst year of the pandemic to date -- the numbers (the ones being reported, anyway...) have not gone dramatically up over the past several months -- but they haven't declined a whole lot either.  And yet, covid is now a non-issue, completely off the radars of so many people (certainly our politicians). It's mind-boggling, and horribly discouraging. It does not bode well for the future, and certainly not for any future pandemics. :(  
    • And so onward we muddle, into YEAR 4...!  
    • (This is NOT how I pictured spending my retirement years..!)  
  • It's spring break here in Ontario this week. Even before the pandemic, our inclination has always been to stay close to home this week to avoid the mobs of parents & kids running amok everywhere...!  (And how much worse would it be if people didn't take off for Florida or the Caribbean or Mexico and just stayed home this week??)  This year won't be any different...!  
    • We don't normally go to the supermarket or drugstore on Saturdays (for the same reason), but dh needed to pick up a prescription and stopped at the supermarket across the street to pick up some snacks for Oscar-watching tomorrow night. He reported it was a total madhouse in there, so much so that he could hardly walk down some of the aisles because they were so crowded with people and carts. Yikes!  
  • A reader recently contacted me off-blog to let me know her comments didn't seem to be getting through. I have no idea why (sorry if this has happened to you!), but I was prompted to check my spam folder for the first time in a while. I discovered five comments there that should have been marked "awaiting moderation" -- three dating as far back as October, one dating back to 2014 (?! -- I've certainly checked my spam folder since then...!) and one from... ME (!)(my response to another comment). Weird!  
  • From Stephanie Phillips at World Childless Week:  "My Childless Identity Feels Under Threat." I particularly related to this passage, near the end. It's a pet peeve of mine and something I noticed when I first realized I would be permanently childless, 20+ years ago now (and something I've mentioned on this blog before) -- but Steph puts it so very well here.  [Boldfaced emphasis mine.]
...I have noticed a steady build up of pronatalism trying to eliminate our presence by encompassing the labels of childless and childfree into parenthood. 
No longer do the words solely dictate those who chose not to have children and those who had no choice in the matter. A parent can now be childless or childfree for the day or weekend, as they share their delight at the children being with the other parent, grandparent or convenient childless aunt. Childless has suddenly become a word of positivity when adopted by parents. What a clever way to turn childless grief on its head and hide away the pain; twist it and embrace it as a positive in the parent’s world. Parents shout about the joys of being a parent and equally the joys of being childless.
Just to underline and reiterate everything I have said, I am not saying parenting is not hard and I am not saying I understand what it is like to be a parent. I am not saying that you don’t deserve time away from the kids to relax or party or do anything in between. 
When I tell you I am childless I am sharing a part of my story; a part that represents a deep grief and a true love. I am sharing a really important part of who I am. I am not childless for the afternoon or the weekend, I am childless for the rest of my life.

  • Sara Petersen writes about "momfluencer culture" at "In Pursuit of Clean Countertops," and she recently wrote about the pregnancy of one particular "momfluencer" (unknown to me) and why we find momfluencer pregnancies -- and, by extension, pregnancy generally, both on & offline -- so fascinating. The content is heavy on moms & the shared experience of pregnancy -- but I have to admit that I, as a non-mom, found it (and all her writings) fascinating, because it explains so much about the mom-centric culture we as childless-not-by-choice women exist in and why we feel so alienated at times. (A large and growing chunk of the population will never have children, for various reasons -- so pregnancy and parenthood are not universal experiences, as some assume...)  If other moms find it difficult to live up to this stuff, how do they think it makes us non-moms feel??   Unfortunately, those questions never get asked -- I wish they would, because I think it would be a fascinating conversation and perhaps a lightbulb moment for some thoughtful parents... 

Friday, March 10, 2023

"Killers of a Certain Age" by Deanna Raybourn (re-read)

I don't do a lot of re-reading these days, let alone re-read a book that I only just read three months ago (in mid-December). There are just so many other books calling my name that I want to read...!  

But when the chosen book proved too difficult for people to get their hands on, my Gateway/Lighthouse Women book club decided that "Killers of a Certain Age" by Deanna Raybourn -- which I had suggested as a possible future pick -- would be the subject of our March discussion. And I couldn't resist the opportunity to revisit a book I had so thoroughly enjoyed (plus I wanted to refresh my memory on the intricacies of the plot before our discussion next week).  

The GW/LW book club has one ironclad main rule:  no miracle babies. :)  This book fits the bill:  all four heroines are childless/free. And any change in that status is highly unlikely:  they're also all now 60, menopausal, and celebrating retirement after 40 years of working together -- as an elite squad of highly trained professional assassins, whose job was to help rid the world of dictators, drug lords, arms dealers and the like. Their employer -- a secretive international organization known only as "the Museum" -- is sending them off in style on a luxurious Caribbean cruise. 

Then one of them recognizes a fellow operative on board in disguise -- and they quickly realize that the now-retired hunters have become the hunted. Someone from the Museum has put a hit out on them -- but who, and why?  

I wondered, as I opened this book again, whether it would prove to be as much fun the second time around.  

It was. I (still) loved it, and (as with my first read) blazed through it quickly. Not everyone will like it, obviously, and there are a few less-than-glowing reviews on Goodreads (albeit the average score is currently a pretty favourable 3.92 out of 5). The book unfolds from Billie's perspective (with some flashbacks showing how she was recruited in 1978, and how the four were trained);  it might have been nice to learn a little more about the others than we do.  (Besides tough-girl Billie, there's widowed Helen, the crack sharpshooter;  practical Mary Alice, who hasn't told her wife what she does for a living;  and flirtatious, much-divorced Natalie.)  And yes, there's a lot of killing going on (with the attendant gore), and some readers might find that disturbing.  

From an adoption/loss/infertility/childless content warning perspective, there are a few small potential pitfalls:  there is a pregnant women who makes an appearance near the end of the book (and complains about her pregnancy symptoms).  There's a younger female character who is clearly a surrogate daughter figure for one of the women.  

But quite simply, I (still) thought it was a whole lot of fun, with a lot of humour and some deft comments about ageism and aging, sexism, friendship, grief and loss, roads not taken, and the corporate world. As I wrote the first time around, I'm hoping for sequels -- and a movie adaptation. (I read an interview with the author who admits she had Diane Lane in mind as she wrote!)      

My original rating of 5 stars on Goodreads still stands. :) 

My original review here

This was Book #12 read to date in 2023 (and Book #2 finished in March), bringing me to 27% 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."  

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

"Oscar Wars" by Michael Schulman

As I've written here many times before, Oscars night was always sacred in our house when I was growing up. My memories of watching the show go back to the late 1960s. As a pre-teen, I was allowed to stay up late ON A SCHOOL NIGHT to watch with my mother. (I haven't missed an Oscars ceremony yet -- although I did miss an hour of one when I was at my part-time in job in the late 1970s, and we had to set the VCR in 1989 when I bought tickets to "Phantom of the Opera" for the same night). 

Then -- as I described in this post from 2011 -- around 1972-73, when I was 11 or 12 years old, I found a paperback book at my grandmother's local drugstore (in smalltown Minnesota) that had pictures and profiles of ALL the major Oscar winners (plus lists of all the nominees & other winners), dating back to the very beginning of the awards. I read and re-read and referenced it so much that my copy eventually fell apart and had to be held together with rubber bands (it may still be lurking somewhere in my parents' basement). For a long time, if you asked me "Who won Best Supporting Actress in1943?"  I probably could have told you, and even today, 50+ (gulp) years later, I could probably hazard a good guess (although, curiously, I'm a lot hazier on who won the more recent awards). 

 I've bought and read many books about the Oscars and their history in the years since then, and while some got sent to the thrift shop when we downsized to our condo, I still have a few. (My favourite: "Inside Oscar: The Unofficial History of the Academy Awards" by Mason Wiley & Damien Bona. Unfortunately, the last edition was published in 1996, and one of the authors is now dead, so I'm not sure if/when there will ever be a newer edition.)  When I heard about "Oscar Wars: A History of Hollywood in Gold, Sweat, and Tears" by Michael Schulman, I knew I had to add it to my collection, and I downloaded an e-copy the day it became available, with the goal of getting through it before this year's Oscars show next Sunday (March 12th).  

It's a long book (the hardcover edition is 608 pages), and it took longer to get through than I thought it would -- but it's also well written and highly entertaining. "Oscar Wars" is not an exhaustive year-by-year history of the awards (try Wiley & Bona's book for that). It does, however, cover the 95+ years of their existence in 11 chapters, each one focused on a particularly theme or contest or year/period through a few, well-chosen, representative stories -- some I'd never heard before, or had, at least, forgotten -- that tell a larger story about the Oscars, about Hollywood and the movie industry, and about America.  We learn about (among many other things) how the awards were created and the early struggle between the studio moguls and the unions and guilds to control them; the McCarthy era and the blacklist; how Hollywood -- and the Oscars -- were forced to adapt to the social changes of the 1960s and 70s; how the 1989 "Snow White" fiasco unfolded (and how that particular show nevertheless led to some lasting changes);  the painfully slow progress toward diversity, as personified by the stories of Hattie McDaniel, Sidney Poitier and Halle Berry, as well as the #oscarssowhite years;  and the rise and fall of Harvey Weinstein. 

If you enjoy movies and the Oscars as much as I do, you will enjoy this book. And if you don't know a lot about the history of the Oscars, this might be a good volume to whet your appetite for more. 

4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 on Goodreads. 

This was Book #11 read to date in 2023 (and Book #1 finished in March), bringing me to 24% 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."  

Monday, March 6, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: Finally :)

We met Little Great-Niece today.  :)  She is now one week old. 

(We wore masks.) 

We didn't stay long, but I got to hold her for a while. :)  

She is gorgeous. :)  :)  :)  

That is all. :)  

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

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Sunday odds & ends

  • My new little great-niece (A.) went home as planned on Wednesday night. BIL & SIL finally got to see her on Friday, after just a brief glimpse at her the night she was born (they weren't allowed to come into the maternity unit for some reason) -- BIL was chomping at the bit by then, lol.  She is doing well, and hopefully won't grow out of the newborn-size sleepers & diapers I bought for her before we get to see her!  
    • We haven't been able to see her yet  :(  because I have been sick ALL WEEK LONG  :(  (albeit I am FINALLY feeling better today!).  (Two rapid tests, one Tuesday and one Saturday, both negative.)  We've been invited to takeout dinner at BIL's on Saturday night along with both nephews and their families, but we're hoping to visit her at home ourselves before then.    
    • Thanks for all the congratulatory messages!  :)  
  • If anyone tells you that "covid is over" (or "covid is just a cold," as one of dh's cousins assured me a while back)(!), send them Pamela's latest post about living with long covid  :(  (which also contains some thoughtful observations about how long covid is like infertility).  
    • It was also her 16th (!) blogoversary! -- so go over and congratulate her too! 
  • This article from The Atlantic would be a great one to hand to family members & friends, especially if/when you are newly grieving:  "What Losing My Two Children Taught Me About Grief."  (Subhead: "Never say “There are no words” to the grieving.")(My personal pet peeve in this vein would be "I can't imagine..." -- as I wrote here and here, among other posts...!). 
  • I heard on the news this week that British Columbia just became the first province in Canada to make prescription birth control free of charge. Here's what's covered and how access will work
    • I took birth control pills for more than 13 years, from when I was 21 until I was almost 35. I don't remember how often I actually had to pay, or much I paid for a package when I did pay, but I do remember that my long-time family doctor used to just hand me several packages at a time whenever I told him I was running low -- presumably the pharmaceutical companies gave him lots of freebies to dole out. He was my family doctor for about 10 of those 13 years, and I don't remember if I got freebies for ALL of that time,  but I'm sure he still saved me a bundle -- which, as a totally broke newlywed just launching a career, was very much appreciated. 
    • My workplace medical plan provided prescription drug coverage -- but it did NOT cover birth control pills until well after I had stopped using them. It did, however, cover viagra before that. :p   
  • Ali Hall on Medium has written several excellent pieces related to childfree & childless life, and this recent one was no exception: "People Without Kids Still Have “Skin in the Game” Just Ask Chelsea Handler" (subhead: "It scares me how much reproduction is a pre-requisite for some people to care about humanity"). 

Wednesday, March 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: February was Month #35 (going on #36 -- coming up to THREE YEARS) of living with the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the rising new XBB.1.5/"Kraken" variant, there's no sense that things right now are much worse... on the other hand, I have no confidence they're a whole lot better either. It's really hard to tell, in the absence of robust reporting. :(  

Anecdotally, I'm still hearing about friends and relatives who have recently had covid -- some for the first time, and some of them quite ill, despite being fully vaccinated. "You do NOT want to get this," my parents' neighbour, who was sick the entire time we were there at Christmas, told my mother. Earlier this month, Mom was chatting to a friend who worked in the local care home/assisted living facility -- who told her there were currently 16 residents there who had covid (!), including a friend that Mom had been wanting to visit for a while.  :(  And the shelves of the drugstore where we usually shop still have gaping holes where pain & cold remedies should be (especially the children's formulas).  

On the personal pandemic front: We remain covid-free (and hope to stay that way!) -- although dh has had a nasty, lingering cold?/sinus?/allergy? issues for the past TWO MONTHS (occasional rapid tests to date have been negative), and I just came down with yet another cold (my third in six months).  :(  We are still staying (relatively) close to home, for the most part, and 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: 
  • Saw LGN 6 times this month: twice (Feb. 3rd & 20th) at home, and 4 times (Feb. 11th, 15th & 16th & 27th) at BIL & SIL's house. (Not bad, considering he has not been at his grandparents' house regularly since before Christmas!)  
    • On the 16th, we also went with BIL, SIL & LGN to a toddler storytime session at the local library, which was an.... INTERESTING! experience, lol.  
    • And on the 20th, Older Nephew & his wife treated us (and BIL & SIL) to breakfast at a local restaurant, which I wrote about here.  (Further details below under "Eating.") 
  • Went shopping on Feb. 7th shopping for Valentine's Day stuff at Carters/Oshkosh, the bookstore and the drugstore.  
  • Stopped at the supermarket on Feb. 16th for some takeout lunch and a few other things. 
  • Picked up some prescriptions and a few other things at the drugstore on Feb. 21st. 
  • Went for haircuts in our old community on the morning of Feb. 24th (with a quick side trip to the cemetery), and then takeout dinner at BIL & SIL's that night, along with BIL & dh's cousin, his wife and daughter. 
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** 

Also right now:  

Reading: I finished 4 books in February (all reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads, & tagged "2023 books").  
This brings me to 10 books read to date in 2023,  22% 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 or less) or purchased with points): 
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** 

  • We watched 3 & 1/4 of the 4 episodes of "My Life as a Rolling Stone" on the Documentary Channel early in the month.  Each of the four core band members is the subject of a one-hour episode. They showed Mick Jagger & Keith Richards back to back one day, and then Ronnie Wood & Charlie Watts on another. They were all very good. Unfortunately, we had to go out and missed most of Keith's episode, but I watched it later on CBC Gem on my laptop. You would expect his to be the most interesting -- and it was great  :)  -- but the Ronnie & Charlie episodes were surprisingly good (and, in Charlie's case, poignant). 
    • I've never been an especially ardent Stones fan, but I do love their music, which I've listened to all my life, and I appreciate them more & more, the older I get. (I have clearer memories of seeing the Stones on Ed Sullivan when I was a pre-schooler than I do of the Beatles.)  And of course, who doesn't love Keith?? -- if only for his inexplicable longevity in the face of hard living, lol. (My review of Keith's memoir, here -- there's an ALI angle to it, too!! -- who knew, right??)  
      • I know most critics bow to their albums from the late 1960s as their best, but I will admit to holding a soft spot in my heart (and my CD collection) for "Some Girls," "Tattoo You" and "Emotional Rescue,"  all part of the late 1970s/early 1980s soundtrack of my youth. 
  • Not watching:  The Super Bowl (zzzzzzz......).  ;) (lol) (I did see the halftime show with Rihanna, as I wrote here.) 
  • Still not watching (despite my best intentions): "Magpie Murders" (PVRd from PBS after reading the book), or anything after the first two seasons of "The Crown"...! 
Listening:  I'm way behind on my podcast listening, but recently caught up on the most recent episodes of The Full Stop

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 Feb. 28th:  
  • Heardle (original/all decades): 27.3% correct (57/209, 17 on the first guess), down from last month. 
  • Heardle 60s:  78.9% (131/166, 68 on first guess), down from last month. 
  • Heardle 70s:  68.8% (119/173, 76 on the first guess), up from last month. 
  • Heardle 80s:  23.8% (5/21, 2 on the first guess), WAY down this month. (My previous stats seem to be missing??) 
  • Heardle 90s: 34.1% (56/164, 18 on the first guess), down this month.  
Eating/Drinking:  As I wrote here (and as mentioned above), we ate out in a restaurant for only the second time in three years/since early December on Feb. 20th (Family Day), at the invitation of Older Nephew & his wife, who picked up the cheque. It was a breakfast & lunch-only place. I had a ham & cheese omelette with home fries (yum!), rye toast and tea. The food was good, and it was served hot! 

Takeout dinners this month included our favourite wood-oven pizzas; Chinese food (with BIL, SIL, Older Nephew, his wife and LGN, at BIL & SIL's house); Portuguese chicken with potatos, rice and vegetables (with BIL, SIL, and dh & BIL's cousin, his wife and daughter at BIL's house);  and teriyaki rice bowls from the local supermarket takeout counter. 

Buying (besides books, lol):  I took advantage of a sale and my birthday bonus to do some online shopping and stock up on some Clinique products.  I also bought a couple of pairs of pretty new earrings and a heart necklace, all in pave crystal, from my favourite sterling silver jewelry maker, just in time for Valentine's Day. :) 

I found & scooped up a big bottle of regular-strength Motrin (ibuprofen), which I haven't seen on the shelves of our local drugstore in eons. I did find & buy a bottle of regular-strength Advil instead a while back, when I ran out of Motrin -- same thing, really, but I've used Motrin for years (don't ask me how I got using it instead of Advil?) -- although I'm not using anywhere near as much as I used to since I went into menopause. It was very effective in dealing with my menstrual cramps!  

Wearing: I had to pull my heavy old waiting-for-the-commuter-train/Christmas visits-to-Manitoba winter coat out of the closet for a drive up to Older Nephew's house earlier in the month (where the temperature was a balmy -24C and, with windchill, felt like -34C!).  I bought a lighter-weight down jacket a few years ago, which is fine most of the time around here (especially when we're just running in & out of stores, etc.), so the older one hasn't had as much wear since then, outside of Christmastime trips to Manitoba... but I'm glad I still have it for those bitter cold snaps! 

Noticing:  It's (finally!) gradually staying lighter, longer, in the late afternoon! There was a news story on Friday marking the last day the sun will set earlier than 6 p.m. locally for more than eight months  Progress?? 

Appreciating:  Retirement, especially when the weather is very cold, or very snowy/icy, as it was several times this month! -- no freezing on the commuter train station platform or wading through snow drifts!   

Enjoying:  Reading more books lately (and some really good ones, too)!  

Wondering: What Little Great-Niece's middle name is??  (Nobody has mentioned it yet.)(Does she even have one? -- not all Italians do -- dh doesn't -- although that has been changing with the younger generation.)  I suppose I could text Younger Nephew and ask him, but I figure that could be something to talk about when we (eventually!) see them in person. 

Wanting: My spare bedroom/office closet to reorganize itself (it's a bit of a jumbled mess at the moment...!). 

Prioritizing:  Getting over the cold I have, fast, so that I can go meet my new Little Great-Niece!  :)  

Procrastinating:  We took down our Christmas tree on Jan. 9th -- but the boxes of Christmas tree decorations, as well as our empty suitcases from our holiday trip west, didn't get taken to our storage locker in the parking garage until Feb. 15th! (erk!!) 

Hoping:  To get rid of the colds/allergies that have plagued us both recently, SOON!  (Not to mention the zits on/around my nose... WHY am I STILL getting zits, in my 60s??!)  

Trying: To get to bed a little earlier at night and do some reading before turning out the lights. 

Loving:  Spending time with Little Great-Nephew this month (always a day-brightener), even though he's not regularly at his grandparents' house these days. 

Feeling:  Somewhat annoyed by the posts on social media I'm seeing from friends in the southern U.S. and in Europe proclaiming the advent of spring (not around here!! although some days have certainly been milder, or colder, or stormier, than others...!).  Relieved that February is over (for a short month, it sure can be a LONG month...!).  Also relieved that our new Little Great-Niece (finally!) arrived safely, providing a happy ending to my least-favourite month!  :)