Saturday, April 29, 2023

"Without Children" by Peggy O'Donnell Heffington

I've been hearing the buzz for a while now about a new book:  "Without Children: The Long History of Not Being a Mother" by Peggy O'Donnell Heffington. I'm always up for a good read about childlessness (and it's been a while since my last one), so I downloaded an e-copy the same day it was published this month, and started reading.  

As the subtitle suggests, this book takes an historical perspective on the subject -- but it's far from dry or boring. It covers a broad range of reasons why, throughout history, women have not had children (as set out in the table of contents):  environmental/ecological reasons, simply not wanting children, not being able to have children (infertility), prioritizing other things (career), and so on. 

There were some fascinating stories and examples here of women without children -- some I knew about and others I did not.  There were some great points throughout, well made. I was especially fascinated by the chapters on environmental reasons and the childfree by choice movement, and by some of the complex alliances and rivalries among the various associated factions and groups described. The chapter on "because we can't" (infertility) was very well done. 

And then... My one reservation about the book comes in the conclusion. The author makes a valid case that a huge reason why fewer people are having children is that modern society makes parenthood a very difficult proposition. She ends with a plea for compassion, community and greater understanding between parents and those without children:   

The years I spent writing this book have softened me, especially towards the mothers and parents in my life.  I originally wanted to write about the value and accomplishments of women without children in part because I wanted us to get more credit. I was someone who would get annoyed, even angry, at the things that fall onto people without kids, women in particular, especially, at work....  Not having children, I'll admit to thinking, bitterly and more than once, doesn't mean I'm not busy, or tired, or that I don't have anything important to do.  But as I researched and wrote, as I watched parents around me struggle, I realized this kind of thinking is not just ungenerous and unkind, though it certainly is both of those thing. It is also dangerous... 
While I agree with her that meaningful support for parents is sadly lacking (especially in the United States), and that there's a huge need for greater compassion and community all round, I couldn't help but feel just a little let down. While she threw in a couple of sentences about how parents need to care about their neighbours and let us have "a real role in the responsibilities and joys that come with having children," and that people with children need to stop telling their childless friends "You'll never understand" -- the message I got was still very much that those of us without children need to support the parents in our lives (which many of us do already) -- the flipside, maybe not so much. I admire her generosity of spirit, but I must admit that it's not something I always find easy to imitate or accept, because in my personal experience (as well as those of others I know), there's often a lack of reciprocity when it comes to relationships with parents.  And it's hard to always be the ones doing -- and expected to do -- all the giving.  

I was left feeling rather deflated, after an otherwise exhilarating trip through childless/free history -- and for that reason, I could not give this book a 5-star rating. 

Nevertheless, it's a great book, so far as it goes, and worth a read if you have any interest in this subject!  

4 stars on Goodreads 

*** *** *** 

Other bloggers' reviews of this book:  

Excerpts from this book have appeared in several publications, and Heffington recently wrote an opinion piece for The Globe & Mail:  "Policies that make it easier to be a parent won’t actually help people become parents." It's more about parenting and the lack of supportive policies such as affordable day care and parental leave than about childlessness -- and it makes the point that even countries with supportive policies (or at least MORE supportive policies than in the U.S., such as Canada, France and Sweden) have declining fertility rates. But towards the end, there's this thought (which I definitely do agree with!): 

It’s time to stop thinking about falling fertility and people without children as a problem. As the sociologist Philip Cohen suggested in The New York Times in 2021, rather than trying to “fix” our fertility rate, there is a better, possibly more effective option that is also definitely more morally sound: “create conditions that allow people to control their fertility, and have children if they want to.” What if we stopped asking how to get more people to have more babies, and instead started asking how we could truly value and care for the ones we are having – and the ones we already have?

There's another recently published book on life without children: "Women Without Kids" by Ruby Warrington. It will be interesting to see how it compares to this one...! 

This was Book #17 read to date in 2023 (and Book #4 finished in April), bringing me to 38% 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, April 27, 2023

Isn't it ironic?

I've been wanting to write this post for a while now, but struggling to figure out just how much I can write without telling stories and revealing too many details that are not really mine to share. And yet it's also very much my/our story too, because we are also affected, in multiple ways. And I wanted to write about it here because, in some ways, the things dh & I are feeling are intertwined with/exacerbated by our childlessness.  

I've mentioned/hinted in various posts that my brother-in-law -- dh's younger brother and only sibling -- has been experiencing some serious health problems over the past year & a half. His condition has deteriorated significantly since the new year began -- and he's not going to get better unless and until he has a major surgical procedure, which may or may not work (and we don't like to think about "may not"). There is a waiting list involved -- so we don't know when or how this is all going to unfold. (That's about as specific as I think I can get here.)  It's been impossible for him to continue working, so earlier this year, he went on disability (and thankfully, his company has been extremely supportive). 

Almost exactly 10 years ago this month, dh lost his job, and wound up taking early retirement. (The same thing happened to me a little more than a year later.)  And 7 years ago this month, we sold the house where we'd been living for the past 26 years (where we thought we'd be raising our family) and downsized to the condo where we now live, 10 minutes away from dh's brother and his family (and closer to a few other extended family members too). There were several reasons why we made the decision to move, and to move when and where we did, but one of the main ones was that dh wanted to be closer to his brother and our nephews. He pointed out that they would be better able to support us and help us out as we age from there vs where we'd been living (true) -- and while I'm still not wild about this community itself, I do love our condo, and it has been nice to be near family, especially as our two nephews got married and started their own families. 

We helped out with organizing their weddings & showers, etc., bought them stuff they needed for their new homes and new babies, have hunted down and delivered baby formula and children's Tylenol when there have been shortages, etc.  For the past two years, SIL has been the main caregiver for their grandson (our Little Great-Nephew) while the parents are at work (while juggling her own part-time job), and we've gone over there at least once a week to spend time with him (and get him out of her hair for a while, lol) and stayed with him when she had appointments, etc.  We've been there for all of them in many other ways over the past 7 years too. 

Since BIL's health problems emerged, we've been called on to help out more than ever.  Dh speaks with his brother on the phone at least once a day, and has been doing his best to cheer him up and keep up his spirits. More than once, he's dropped everything, got in the car and gone over to see BIL when he's been feeling down or wants his help with a specific task or just wants his big brother there to talk to. Even on days when BIL is feeling relatively good (and maybe especially on those days!), he's calling two, three, four, five times a day: he's not used to just sitting around the house, and he is BORED. (Plus, I think he gets a kick out of bugging his brother, lol. Even now that they're both in their 60s...!)(Covid lockdown periods were a nightmare for him.)  

Dh has been taking BIL to some of his appointments, and we've been staying with LGN when my SIL goes with him. He usually has at least one appointment during the week, often more, and sometimes they're gone for almost the entire day. We adore LGN, and he's really no trouble at all (and he will be starting pre-school in the fall, so we won't be seeing as much of him after that  :(  ) -- but he IS a very active 3-year-old! (lol) and we ARE in our 60s, and NOT used to being around small children for that long!  

Anyway -- I'm finding it a little ironic/funny that although we moved here with the idea that they could support us as we aged -- part of our "ageing without children" strategy -- and they HAVE been there for us, especially when we first moved here and were finding our way around, etc. -- WE are the ones who have been supporting them!  They are very, very appreciative, and they are really, really good about including us in things -- and I'm pretty sure that someday, they will do the same for us -- but right now the balance is definitely in their favour. Funny/strange how life works out sometimes...!  

But -- (confession time) -- I'm also just a wee bit... irritated? sometimes:  I sense there's an underlying assumption that, well, OF COURSE we will do [whatever needs to be done -- and of course we will...!], because hey! we're retired AND we're childless!! -- it's not like we have anything better to do, right?? (These are my feelings, not dh's.) I especially find myself shaking my head when BIL calls on dh to help him with things like yardwork and moving furniture, etc., because he (BIL) "doesn't want to bother" his sons/our nephews -- both of whom are bigger, stronger and 30+ years younger than my husband! 

I worry about my sister-in-law, who is closest to the situation and who has been through a lot of loss and stress over the past several years. And I worry about my husband, and how this is affecting him too.  At one point recently, he said to me glumly, "I'm going to be the last one left" -- meaning, the lone survivor from his family of origin. :(   I know that, whatever happens to BIL, people will rally around my SIL and our nephews. (They're already doing it.)  But I'm worried that dh, and his own very real need for support, will be overlooked. (I kind of feel like it's being overlooked now.)  Everyone in the extended family adores BIL and has been expressing their concern and support for him & SIL (and sometimes calling dh for updates, rather than bothering SIL).  Dh has said -- only half jokingly -- that if it was him in the same situation, people would be saying, "Well, it's been nice knowing you..." (!)  Like many men, he doesn't have a very extensive social network -- his brother is his best friend (besides me). He grew up close to several of his cousins, but he's one of the oldest in the extended family, and of course most of them are still working and busy with their kids and their own aging parents and in-laws, etc. 

I'm really glad we're here and able to help out as much as we've been doing. And if there's one thing I've learned over the past 25 years, it's to expect the unexpected -- that life rarely unfolds exactly the way we think it will.

But I can't help but thinking that (much like the pandemic!) this is really NOT what I pictured I'd be doing in retirement...!  

(I always did like this video... although I recognize that Alanis's definition of "ironic" here is not entirely correct...!)  

Monday, April 24, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: Things I don't like

(Stealing/"borrowing" an old topic from Mali!  :)  -- a slight variation on my usual "annoying things" posts...) 

  • Days (like today) when the sun doesn't shine. :(  
  • Coconut. (Was it Mel who once asked whether we're fans?  I'm afraid I'm not...!  Although I will tolerate it as part of the base for nanaimo bars...)  
  • Nuts in cookies. 
  • Mushrooms. (I like mushroom flavouring -- e.g., cream of mushroom soup in casseroles, etc. -- but I dislike actual mushrooms (especially the canned ones!) -- there's something about the squishy texture (shudder)...!) 
  • Rap/hiphop music. 
  • Horror movies. 
  • Most drivers hereabouts (lol).  
  • Feeling tired (even though I got a fairly decent night's sleep). :p  
  • Cleaning the shower cubicle (albeit I do like the results, very much!).  
  • Scented products. (I do like wearing perfume occasionally, albeit I don't do it very often these days, because so many people are scent-sensitive. And I do like using using certain essential oil blends in my diffuser. But generally, I try to avoid strong scents in my personal care, laundry & cleaning products.) 
  • Breaking in new shoes. 
  • Having my bangs grow to the point where they're constantly in my eyes. :p 
  • Certain politicians. ;)  
  • Not being able to come up with something better for this week's #MM.  ;)  
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Weekend odds & ends

  • Annoying thing/blogging note:  Writing a recent book review, I suddenly realized I hadn't changed the little blurb I put at the end of each book review from "Goodreads 2022 Reading Challenge" to 2023.  (Everything else within the blurb that referred to the year said "2023.")  Oops. It only took me four full months to realize this...!  (Insert red-faced emoji here.)  
    • I went back and updated all my reviews to date this year (thankfully, just 16 so far!). Better late than never, I guess....!
  • Infertile Phoenix is looking to interview childless-not-by-choice women for her research study. Details here
  • Next week (April 23rd to 29th) is National Infertility Awareness Week in the U.S. and in Canada (where it's now apparently called National Fertility Awareness Week) -- something I will admit I don't pay much attention to these days. I don't follow many infertility blogs these days (many of the ones I used to follow no longer exist) and most of the social media accounts I follow have more of a childless/free perspective than ones still focused on trying to conceive. But it does still pop up as a subject there too! 
  • From the Washington Post: "How -- and why -- you should increase your social networks as you age."  (Something that I know concerns a lot of us who are aging without children.) 
  • In her regular column for Psychology Today (which is called "Unapparent" -- lol!), Kate Kaufmann has some practical suggestions on how to meet other people without kids.  
  • From The Guardian this weekend:  "Not being able to have a baby was devastating – then I found people who embraced a childfree life." I've often said, childless and childfree people come from different places/mindsets -- but we have a lot in common and there's a lot we can do to support each other! Sample passage (from near the end of the article): 
I wasn’t sure joining the world of the childfree by choice was going to provide me comfort. Would these women, so certain that parenting was not for them, understand why it was what I had always wanted? Perhaps I, too, had internalised the idea that women without kids were cold and lacking in compassion, which could not be further from the truth. The “unsung sisterhood” has got my back.
  • Not adoption/loss/infertility/childless-related, but an article that made me go, "Oh, hell YES!!" when I read the headline (bringing out my inner curmudgeon -- "now, back in MY day, kids..." -- lol): "Welcome to Wedding Sprawl."  
    • Subheading: "Proposal parties. Extended bachelor and bachelorette weekends. Multiple honeymoons. Modern marriage celebrations can feel endless." 
    • I think the same could be said for babies: it's not just baby showers any more, it's gender reveal parties, ultrasound photos and regular pregnancy updates on social media, "babymoons" (pre-birth vacations), "sprinkles" (mini-showers for subsequent children), post-birth "meet the baby" parties, christenings and huge, elaborate birthday parties (especially the first one)... 
  • His website hasn't been updated in eons -- but Alan Bradley, now 85 years old and the author of one of my favourite mystery series of books, announced on Facebook this weekend that he will be producing two more Flavia de Luce novels over the next two years -- the first to be published in fall 2024 (title: "What Time the Sexton's Spade Doth Rust") and the second in fall 2025!!! 
    • Longtime readers here may recall that I ADORE Flavia (who is 11 years old at the start of the series, and a budding chemist/detective with a special interest in poison, lol). All 10 Flavia novels to date (with the exception of the first, "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie," from 2009) are reviewed on this blog.  
    • The tenth Flavia novel, "The Golden Tresses of the Dead," was published in 2019. It was the last one Bradley was contracted to write -- although at the time, he didn't rule out more to come. (Understandably, though, after 10 novels in 10 years, he was looking forward to a break!) 
    • In response to the question "Do you have any insider news on the Flavia tv series that you are free to share?" -- which I first heard about at least 10 years ago, with British director Sam Mendes connected to the project -- he responded, tantalizingly, "soon..."  (SQUEEEEEE....) 
    • I decided I had amassed enough Flavia-related posts on this blog to give Flavia her own label, lol. Here it is

Friday, April 21, 2023

"The Empty World" by D.E. Stevenson (re-read)

My D.E. Stevenson group recently completed our chapter-by-chapter reading and discussion of "The Empty World"  (alternate title: "A World in Spell"), first published in 1936. I read the book on my own, in advance of our discussions, earlier in the year, and reviewed it here

While DES is known as "the mistress of the light novel" (see the blurb on the cover image, left), and while there are elements of her trademark romances here, "The Empty World" is also an apocalyptic/dystopian/speculative/science fiction novel, set 37 years in the future, in 1973. 

The plot:  British author Jane Forrest and her secretary Maisie are en route from New York to England aboard a trans-Atlantic airliner, when a sudden, violent thunderstorm knocks the plane off course. With no radio contact or radar to guide them, they eventually land in Renfrew, Scotland, where they are greeted by complete silence. No people, no birds, no animals. Buildings are vacant and the roads are littered with empty cars and buses. The 13 passengers and 9 crew members are, it seems, the last surviving people left on earth.  (Or are they?) 

As I mentioned in my earlier review, it's an intriguing premise -- and there are some interesting thoughts about technology, power, human behaviour, morality, etc. -- but there are some gaping plot holes (DES obviously didn't think through all the details or implications of the world she created), and the execution sometimes leaves something to be desired. While the story is supposed to be set in 1973, there's a lot here that still seems very 1936. 

Several of our group members found the initial chapters bleak and off-putting and, early on, there was some discussion about whether we should abandon the book altogether and choose another one. Some wondered whether reading it now, in a world where nuclear weapons exist and global tensions are higher than they have been since the end of the Cold War, made it an even more difficult read than it would have been in 1936. Of course, even in 1936, Hitler was already beginning to flex his muscles in Europe, so who's to say? 

Anyway, I'm very glad we continued, because we sure had some interesting discussions as we worked our way through the story!  It's not Stevenson's best work, but she gets points for effort and originality, and for trying something a little different, outside of her usual norm. 

My original Goodreads rating of 3 stars stands. 

Not sure what our next Stevenson novel will be, but I'm looking forward to it!  :)  

This was Book #16 read to date in 2023 (and Book #3 finished in April), bringing me to 36% 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, April 20, 2023

"The Cruellest Month" by Louise Penny

"April is the cruellest month" is the opening line of "The Waste Land" by T.S. Eliot. The phrase also figures in the title and storyline of Louise Penny's third Inspector Gamache/Three Pines novel, "The Cruellest Month," which will be the next book under discussion in the Notes From Three Pines Readalong (date not specified, but generally mid/late month). 

In a timely coincidence, I started reading this book in mid-April (right after I finished Bono's memoir), just after the Easter long weekend -- right in step with the events of this book. We're back in the quaint old Loyalist village of Three Pines, Quebec, back among old friends -- and back in the old Hadley house, which played a key role in the first book and is almost a character in its own right. A seance at the spooky abandoned house ends in tragedy when one of the attendees is seemingly (quite literally) scared to death -- but a closer investigation suggests murder.  Once more, it's up to Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec to unravel what actually happened. 

As with many mystery series, the murder and whodunnit generally plays second fiddle to the characters and to the continuing storylines that play out in the background (and for this reason, I would highly recommend starting with the first book, "Still Life," and reading the books in order).  In this case, the primary ongoing storyline is Gamache's involvement in -- and the continuing fallout from -- what's known as "the Arnot affair." Each successive book in the series so far has fed us a few more pieces of the puzzle, and we learn more -- a lot more -- in this one about what happened. 

In her Goodreads review of this book, Mel said, "This is the book where Penny hits her stride. Where you know your way around the village and people. It feels like Penny breathes a big sigh of relief and settles into the series. Plus it's a great mystery." 

I agree. All the books have been good so far, but this one feels more satisfying somehow. Dark and dramatic, but very well done. 

I'm rating this one 5 stars on Goodreads. Maybe more like a 4.5, but I'm feeling generous, lol.  On to Book #4!  

This was Book #15 read to date in 2023 (and Book #2 finished in April), bringing me to 33% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 2 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."  

*** *** *** 

There were a couple of things in this book that I wanted to elaborate on, from a personal perspective. Relevant from an ALI perspective, there was a passage from Chapter 31 that stopped me in my tracks:  a discussion between Gamache and Myrna, the used bookstore owner [edited, with boldface emphasis added by me]:  

'The near enemy. It's a psychological concept. Two emotions that look the same but are actually opposites. The one parades as the other, is mistaken for the other, but one is healthy and the other's sick, twisted.'...

He leaned forward and spoke, his voice low. 'Can you give me an example?' 

'There are three couplings,' said Myrna, herself leaning forward now, and whispering though she didn't know why. 'Attachment masquerades as Love, Pity as Compassion, and Indifference as Equanimity.'...

'I don't understand,' Gamache said finally, bringing his eyes back to Myrna. 'Can you explain?'

Myrna nodded. 'Pity and compassion are the easiest to understand. Compassion involves empathy. You see the stricken person as an equal. Pity doesn't. If you pity someone you feel superior.'

'But it's hard to tell one from the other,' Gamache nodded. 

'Exactly. Even for the person feeling it. Almost everyone would claim to be full of compassion. It's one of the noble emotions. But really, it's pity they feel.'

'So pity is the near enemy of compassion,' said Gamache slowly, mulling it over.

'That's right. It looks like compassion, acts like compassion, but is actually the opposite of it. And as long as pity's in place there's not room for compassion. It destroys, squeezes out, the nobler emotion.'

'Because we fool ourselves into believing we're feeling one, when we're actually feeling the other.'

'Fool ourselves, and fool others,' said Myrna.

*** *** *** 

A possible clue in the mystery comes in the form of the novel "Sarah Binks" by Paul Hiebert (the murder victim had a copy in her night table drawer). 

I've never read "Sarah Binks" but seeing the name gave me a start of recognition. "Sarah Binks" is a 1947 satirical novel, set in Saskatchewan, that won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. 

(If you've never heard of Stephen Leacock, he's another Canadian writer, best known for "Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town," which we read in school.  The book was loosely based on his hometown of Orillia, north of Toronto, and he's buried in the churchyard at Sibbald's Point on the shores of Lake Simcoe, near the final resting place of another famous Canadian writer, Mazo de la Roche, author of the Jalna series of books. Dh & I have stayed a couple of times at a nearby inn -- where de la Roche was a frequent guest, and which some believe was the model for Jalna -- and taken a stroll through the cemetery. But, I digress...!) 

The author, Paul Hiebert, was a chemistry professor (!) at the University of Manitoba -- and the reason I know his name and "Sarah Binks" is that he lived in the same small Manitoba town where my parents live, and where I worked for a year on the weekly newspaper, before I got married in 1985 and moved to Toronto. His little house by the river was apparently his family's cottage, and he moved there permanently after he retired. I never met him, but everyone in town knew him and was very proud that he lived there. (When I looked at his biography and a list of his books, I realized he'd published one in 1984 called "Not as the Scribes" -- the same year my parents moved there, in April. I finished journalism school a few weeks after they arrived, and started working for the newspaper that fall.)  He died a few years later, in 1987. (The cottage has since been torn down and a new house has been built on the site, although I think there's a plaque nearby.)   

By the way -- he & his wife didn't have any children. 

*** *** *** 

One more note:  I knew Louise Penny was a widow -- she mentions her late husband Michael in the preface -- but (surprise!) she's also childless. An interview she gave to Publishers Weekly in 2021 reveals: 

Penny and her husband didn’t have kids (“Michael loved me enough to try, and I loved him enough to stop trying,” she says), but she sees her books as her unique little progeny. “I don’t know that they’ll survive me, but I hope they do. I put everything I have into them. They’re all my beliefs. My DNA. All my time, my efforts. I put my love and focus into them as one would a child.”

Monday, April 17, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: Annoying things & small pleasures

Annoying things: 
  • After several days of (admittedly unusual/unseasonal) warm temperatures and sunshine, back to dull grey skies, rain and chillier temperatures this morning (and possibly even some snow tomorrow...!). 
  • How filthy the windows of our condo are...!  (They likely won't be washed for another month or so -- although I could get out on the balcony & wash the windows there myself if the weather is nice enough.)(Those ones are my responsibility anyway.)   
  • The (false) perception that we're done with covid. (Spoiler alert: we're not.)  
  • Learning that Spotify will be shutting down Heardle after May 4th (after buying it less than a year ago!).  
  • BIL recruiting dh to help him with some heavy yard work yesterday (when he has two adult sons living nearby who are bigger, stronger and 30 years YOUNGER than dh...!). (Also, dh's allergies have been acting up ever since then -- he's been sneezing like crazy.) 
  • Not being able to come up with a more original post for #MM.  ;)   
Small pleasures: 
  • A weekend packed with Zoom calls with online friends, including some longtime blogging friends.  :)  
  • Finishing Bono's memoir (long, but good) and starting the next/third Louise Penny mystery. :)  
  • Reading with a cup of tea at hand.  :)  
  • The takeout soup from our local supermarket for lunch. :) They always have at least 12 different varieties on hand, made fresh daily. I'm not able to eat all of them, because of my tomato allergy, but I'm especially partial to their chicken with rice, Italian wedding soup and broccoli cheddar.   
  • The prospect of spending several hours with Little Great-Nephew tomorrow while his grandparents attend a lengthy medical appointment.  :)  

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

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Weekend odds & ends

  • It's the weekend, and the last few days have been GLORIOUS in terms of weather, with mostly sunny skies and temperatures ranging between 26C & 29C (!!)(that's about 79F-84F).  Today is supposed to reach 27C (81F). Our balcony door has been open all day, every day, for the past several days. 
    • At the same time, it's rather unnerving. It's only mid-April, and this is definitely NOT NORMAL weather for us at this time of year. (The 29C high the other day broke the previous record of 27C set in 1977.)  
    • Still, we're enjoying it while it lasts. Tomorrow's forecasted high is 25C/77F -- but Monday is supposed to be rainy and 11C/52F, while Tuesday is calling for just 7C/45F and rain or even (gulp) snow flurries, with an overnight low of -1C/30F...! 
  • Elon Musk does it again (eyeroll):  "Twitter Takes Aim at Posts That Link to Its Rival Substack."  Two days after Substack unveiled a Twitter-like service for its users, Twitter took steps to restrict engagement with Substack links on its platform. As the article points out, "targeting Substack largely affects independent writers, some of whom depend on Twitter to drive readers to their work... The changes by Twitter on Friday meant that Twitter users could still share links to Substack newsletters, but blocked other users from liking or resharing those links." 
    • I follow several writers on Substack, and support half a dozen wonderful feminist writers' newsletters with paid subscriptions, including Jessica Valenti, Jill Filipovic, Anne Helen Petersen and Lyz Lenz. Their voices are needed right now more than ever.  Many of them are understandably up in arms over this move, and have encouraged their readers and subscribers to help them spread the word. Happy to do so here!  :)  
  • And speaking of disappointment with tech companies:  I just found out that Spotify -- which purchased the "Name That Tune"-like game Heardle only last July, less than a year ago -- is shutting it down (!!!), as of May 5th (last day to play: May 4th). I'll admit I was not hugely successful with it, since most of the songs it uses are way past my reference eras...! -- but I enjoyed it nevertheless, and I find it incredibly irritating that they're relegating it to the trash heap less than a YEAR after they bought it. :p 
    • I have, however, had much more success with the knock-off Heardle Decades games (especially the 60s & 70s versions), and I hope these will continue...
  • This piece in the Guardian, from Nicola Slawson ("The chasm between mothers and childless women is widening"), has been the subject of much discussion in some of the CNBC forums & social media accounts that I frequent. Some are objecting to her "blame the patriarchy" comment, saying it lets women (i.e., mothers) off the hook for their bad behaviour towards other women (childless women). What do you think? 
  • In a similar vein, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett muses on "fertility privilege" in the Guardian.  (She doesn't seem to be a fan of the term.) 
    • Content warning: The article ends with a couple of blurbs about Cosslett's baby (!)(speaking of fertility privilege...?!). (The column IS titled "The Republic of Parenthood," and this is not the first time she's done this.) I appreciate that she's using her platform to shed a light on the flipside of parenthood, i.e., infertility and childlessness -- but the abrupt shift from infertility & childlessness-related matters to mommy talk seems strangely tone-deaf and inappropriate.
    • A few reactions I've read also point out that Cosslett quotes several mothers in her piece, but no childless women (apart from Elizabeth Day, whose own article provided the inspiration for Cosslett's, who remains hopeful of becoming a mother someday). 
    • Beware the comments! 
  • Another great article from Carolyn Hax, advice columnist from the Washington Post, on a familiar topic: what Jody Day calls "the friendship apocalype of childlessness," once our friends start having children. 
  • Lori (Lavender Luz) Holden is mentioned in an extensive article about open adoption in Chatelaine magazine. 
  • From the New York Times:  "Have Eggs, Will Travel. To Freeze Them." Subhead/blurb: "Faced with the high cost of egg-freezing in their home countries, some women are going abroad for a better deal, and a vacation."
    • I must admit, I was somewhat taken aback to read one woman's comment: “It was really fun to turn this physical experience into a vacation and an opportunity to celebrate or explore or do something fun."  FUN? Vacation?? "Celebrate???" (Personally, I would hold off on the celebration until I had a live, healthy baby to take home with me...) 

Thursday, April 13, 2023

"Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story" by Bono

There were a couple of memoirs released late last year that I've been dying to get into, and I was happy to finally pick up "Surrender:  40 Songs, One Story" by Bono, lead singer of U2, who is almost as well known for his activism as his music.  

I know it seems to be fashionable these days to scorn U2, and that many people (often younger people) seem to regard them as pretentious, establishment/corporate rock. (I can remember, years ago, watching Bono glaring intensely into the camera in a video -- I think it was for "With or Without You"? -- or possibly Steve Van Zandt's "Sun City" -- or maybe both (lol) -- and yelling at the TV screen, "For Pete's sake, Bono, LIGHTEN UP!"  lol)  

But I was reminded as I read that the band was very much rooted in the punk rock/New Wave movement of the late 1970s and early 1980s -- the music of my high school/university years -- and music that I loved. (Also the "glam rock" era that preceded it -- David Bowie, Marc Bolan, etc.)  The band members were all born in 1960 & 1961, and so are all about the same age as me, give or take a few months (Bono -- born Paul David Hewson -- was born May 10, 1960). They all knew each other as high school students -- the school they attended was unique for that time and place:  it was not only non-denominational but also co-educational, i.e., boys AND girls! -- and they first assembled as a band the same week in September 1976 that Bono started going out with his future wife, Alison (Ali) Stewart. 

I remember first taking notice of U2 as a university student in the early 1980s, when I heard -- and loved -- "I Will Follow" and "Gloria." (Have a look at the videos -- OMG, they were BABIES!!  lol  -- but then, so was I!)(Also note that U2's "Gloria" is not the same "Gloria" as the song by Van Morrison & Them -- which was also covered by Shadows of Knight (or is it the other way around??) -- or the one by Laura Branigan, lol.)  These days, U2's songs are kind of like the wallpaper -- they've been around for so long now (40+ years!!), we take them for granted -- but back then, their sound was fresh, exciting, unique, anthemic, urgent, hypnotic... that bell-like guitar was like a clarion call. (I can almost always tell a U2 song within a couple of seconds of the intro.)  I wound up with a few of their albums in my collection (including "The Joshua Tree" and "Rattle and Hum" -- which now belong to Older Nephew -- as well as "best of" collections on CD), although I have yet to see them in concert.

This is a fairly lengthy book (the hardcover version is almost 600 pages) and it took a while for me to get through -- longer than I had anticipated, actually. (I started reading on March 16th! -- and as I read, I watched my Goodreads Reading Challenge stats dwindle from "3 books ahead of schedule" to 2 and then 1...!)  Perhaps it could have been just a WEE bit shorter? (To be fair, I've also had some other things going on these past few weeks...)  Length aside, the content is dense too:  there's a lot packed into every chapter. 

But it's all well written and highly entertaining throughout. Bono definitely has the Irish gift of the gab. ;)  Each of the 40 chapters is titled after a U2 song (generally, thematically appropriate to the subject matter included) -- hence, the subtitle "40 Songs, One Story." The story unfolds more or less chronologically, with occasional jumps back into the past and ahead into the future.  

The book covers a lot of territory: Ireland, America, Africa, politics, faith, activism, family, growing up, marriage, grief and loss (Bono's mother, Iris, died suddenly when he was just 14 years old,), art and the artistic process, aging, and so much more.  There's lots of name dropping, and lots of memorable vignettes. To name just a few: having a bad hair day at Live Aid... Mikhail Gorbachev dropping by to visit with a gigantic teddy bear in tow... landing in Berlin just as the wall was coming down, and heading off to join the party -- only to realize it was a pro-wall protest instead (!)...  mistakenly handing his trademark blue-tinted Dolce & Gabbana glasses to Pope John Paul II -- and then watching the Pope try them on (!)... passing out in the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House during a dinner party with the Obamas.... getting a personal tour of Liverpool from Paul McCartney (which Bono likens to getting a tour of the Promised Land from Moses)... 

If you're not a Bono/U2 fan, my endorsement of this book probably won't change your mind. But I think if you picked it up and read it, you might be pleasantly surprised. 

Despite my caveats about length and the time to get through it -- 5 stars on Goodreads.  :)   (And can I confess? -- I closed this book actually wishing there was more of it to enjoy!) 

Check out this excellent 45-minute interview Bono gave to CBC Radio's Tom Power last November. (Tom is from Newfoundland, as you can probably tell from his accent!)  We get a bonus story around the 33-minute mark about faith and Paul McCartney that's not in the book. :)  

This was Book #14 read to date in 2023 (and Book #1 finished in April), bringing me to 31% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 2 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."  

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Well, what do you know??

My understanding is the opt-out option for holidays such as [Voldemort] Day is becoming much more common in the U.K., but it continues to be relatively rare here in North America (so far).  Thank you, Pandora! 

Have you run across any similar marketing opt-outs? 

Monday, April 10, 2023


 Last week was looonnggggg, very busy and very tiring!  

  • (Last) Monday (April 3rd):  Dh spent several hours at the car dealership, waiting while a regular service check was performed. The brakes also had to be replaced. (Ouch!) 
    • He also stopped on his way back home to see how his brother was doing. 
  • Tuesday:  SIL took BIL for a lengthy medical appointment -- which meant we were up at 5 a.m. and at their house before 7:30 a.m. to stay with (and play with) Little Great-Nephew -- who was slightly more naughty/mischievous than usual (!)(but still really very good). Didn't get back home until 2:30 p.m. 
  • Wednesday was an at-home day, but we were busy doing several loads of laundry. 
    • I also received an email from my best friend from my working days:  her longtime partner has inoperable cancer.  :(  I tried to think of at least some small thing I could do or send to help, and wound up ordering something from Edible Arrangements to be delivered to her the next day.  
  • Thursday: BIL & SIL had more medical appointments that took up most of the day. Thankfully, LGN's mom took the day off;  otherwise, we would have been on tap for another long day of babysitting. (We love the little guy, but he can be pretty tiring!!)  
    • Instead, we spent the morning housecleaning.  
    • I also spent half an hour on the phone when my friend called to thank me for the delivery.
    • In the afternoon, we masked up and braved the mobs at the supermarket (all shopping for the upcoming long weekend) to pick up some things to take to BIL's on Good Friday, as well as for our own dinner on Easter Sunday. 
    • At BIL's request, we also swung by ToysRUs to look for and buy a portable playpen/play yard that they can use for Little Great-Niece when she visits. 
  • Good Friday:  We headed over to BIL & SIL's for dinner with both of our nephews, their wives and the kids (Little Great-Nephew and Little Great-Niece).  BIL's spirits were boosted considerably to be surrounded by his family and especially his grandkids... he made several comments about how wonderful they were, thanking the parents for this "beautiful gift" -- comments that would have wounded me deeply at one time, but (given the state of his health right now) I was able to (mostly) let it slide. Overall, we had a really nice time. 
    • I did have a few other "ouch" moments, watching Younger Nephew's Wife open Little Great-Niece's Easter presents -- including lots of adorable tiny pink outfits from SIL and Older Nephew's Wife (as well as us!). She really is a cutie, though.  ;)  I got to hold her again for a while and she didn't fuss once. :) 
    • Little Great-Nephew is still not overly impressed with his baby cousin (lol), but took several curious peeks into the playpen where she was laying while we had our meal, and even generously offered her some of his Easter chocolate. (But he was happy to take it back when we explained that she wasn't big enough to eat chocolate just yet, lol.)  
  • Saturday got off to an early start with a 7:30 a.m. phone call from BIL (always an early riser and always surprised to find that we're not up yet! lol).  
    • Later that morning, off we went, back to our old community, where we dropped by the cemetery with some Easter/spring decorations for Katie's niche, then for much-needed haircuts. And then to one of our favourite food stores to stock up on some items that we can't get hereabouts, before we headed back home. 
    • Back at our condo, we put away the groceries, changed clothes, got back in the car and drove over to pick up BIL & SIL, and then to dh & BIL's aunt's condo. Earlier in the week, she'd called to say she'd been baking some traditional Italian Easter goodies and had some set aside for them. Her two daughters (dh's cousins) and one of her sons-in-law were there too, and we all had a nice visit over coffee. 
    • After that, we went to Walmart to pick up a few things, and then to the supermarket for some takeout for dinner, which we brought back to BIL & SIL's to eat. 
    • Finally got back home, exhausted, around 6:30 p.m. 
  • Easter Sunday/Yesterday:  We were very happy to spend a quiet day by ourselves, lazing around at home!  We heated up a little pre-cooked ham, which was fine, and I made scalloped potatoes to go with it that turned out extremely well (yum!), and warmed up an apple pie for dessert. And dh flipped back & forth between the Masters golf tournament and the men's world curling championships final in Ottawa. 
    • I called my mom. 
    • I had a text from Parents' Neighbours' Daughter (PND) -- with an ultrasound photo!  Yes, she is expecting a THIRD baby, in August! -- a little brother or sister for the two Little Princesses (who will be almost 9 & almost 12 when their sibling arrives). (Yes, this one was a surprise! -- PND is now 39.)  She actually told us all at Christmastime, shortly after her pregnancy was confirmed -- but has not made any public announcements yet (albeit one will be forthcoming soon). 
  • This morning, BIL & SIL had another lengthy (and early!) appointment -- so dh & I got up at 5 a.m. (!), aiming to be at their house when Older Nephew dropped off Little Great-Nephew for the day, around 7 a.m.  However, as I was gulping down my breakfast shortly after 6 a.m., Older Nephew called: both LGN and his mom are sick this morning, and he was staying home to take care of them both. :(  Disappointed not to get to see LGN -- but also glad we have another day to recuperate from a very busy week! (even if it did get a very early start!) 
    • We do have to go out later:  dh's cousin's mother-in-law passed away last week, and visitation at the funeral home is today -- afternoon & evening sessions. We were going to attend in the evening, but now we'll go this afternoon.  
  • Dh's birthday is tomorrow!  The agenda (and dinner menu) are entirely up to him. The weather is starting to get warmer and is supposed to hit 20C (!)/68F), so plans may include our first gelatos of the season.  :)  And the forecast is calling for 27C/81F on Thursday. (This is NOT normal...!)  
Here's to a quieter week ahead...!  Have a good one, everyone!  :)  

Friday, April 7, 2023

Easter weekend odds & ends

  • The deluge of ads and marketing emails has begun. (eyeroll)  Voldemort Day (That Day That Shall Not Be Mentioned) is still more than a month away... And we haven't even gotten past Easter yet...! 
    • In my inbox on Tuesday:  "For Baby and Mom: Matching Sweaters." (Banana Republic) 
    • Wednesday: "Celebrate Mom --  Your Original Influencer" (Indigo/Chapters) and "Every Mom is Unique" (The Bay) 
  • Yes, it's the Easter long weekend. Dh & I have sometimes been left to our own devices on this holiday, but we're going to BIL & SIL's for Good Friday dinner tonight (fish), along with the nephews, their wives and the kids (Little Great-Nephew and Little Great-Niece). Chocolate has been purchased for Easter baskets for the little ones :) (well, for Little Great-Nephew, anyway...! -- along with other goodies).  And we've bought a ham and the ingredients to make scalloped potatos like my mom's for our own Easter Sunday dinner (as well as an apple pie for dessert). In between, on Saturday, we're getting much-needed haircuts, bringing some springtime/Easter decorations to the cemetery for Katie's niche, and dropping by dh's aunt's condo. She's promised dh some traditional Italian Easter baked goodies like his mom used to make. :)  
  • A long but excellent article from The New Yorker:  "Living in adoption's aftermath:  Adoptees reckon with corruption in orphanages, hidden birth certificates, and the urge to search for their birth parents." Paywalls may kick in, but I was able to read this for free. 
  • I haven't had a hysterectomy, but there's a lot in this essay from the New Yorker that I could relate to. If fibroids, heavy periods and/or hysterectomy have been part of your story, you'll probably relate to. (The writer is childfree by choice, but nevertheless struggled with the loss of her uterus.)  
  • The setting is Australia, and the subject of the story is childfree vs childless, but there's still a lot of good, relevant stuff in this article about people without children forming their own social groups. 
  • Also from Australia: Donna Ward (whose book "She I Dare Not Name" is a wonderful read -- I reviewed it here) is speaking out about the social and financial disadvantages that older, single, childless women experience -- and research backs her up. 
  • From Chatelaine (Canadian women's magazine): "I Made The Difficult Choice Not To Have Children Because Of My Mental Illness."  Subhead: "We considered children, but are still only a family of two. We’ve decided that’s a good thing. But sometimes I wonder if that’s enough. If I’m enough." 
  • Sara Petersen, who writes about "momfluencer" culture in the Substack newsletter "In Pursuit of Clean Countertops," examines the connections between puppies, post-partum depression and literary theory -- also some thoughts on Big Life Moments and how expectation doesn't always measure up to reality. Sample passage (boldfaced emphasis is the author's):  
Girls and women are taught to prioritize and mold their lives around Big Life Moments from the jump. First Crush. First Period. First Heartbreak. First Sex. First Love. First Job. Marriage. Motherhood. Menopause. It makes sense to me that a person conditioned to make meaning from their lives by working towards Big Life Moments would also be uniquely prone to feeling hollow, disappointed, or even depressed when asked to experience those Big Life Moments in real time. Conversely, it’s difficult for me to even conceptualize a life that isn’t organized into a series of disparate milestones or chapters.

Monday, April 3, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: Worth the wait :)

Three years ago today!
I had a chuckle this morning. I had a look at my Facebook memories, and saw this screenshot from my email, posted exactly three years ago today, along with the glum caption, "Well, there goes Hamilton." ☹

And I chuckled, because we FINALLY -- 3+ years later! -- made it to "The Room Where it Happens" yesterday! 

The Princess of Wales Theatre in downtown Toronto, specifically (where I've previously seen productions of "Beauty and the Beast," "Chess" and "The Book of Mormon") -- where "Hamilton" is (finally!) back, playing to packed audiences. 

Yesterday was: 
The pandemic might have thrown a wet blanket over my excitement about getting tickets and the prospect of going-- it wasn't the thrill it was, the second time around -- but, happily, it didn't diminish our enjoyment of the performance.  :)  The show itself was definitely worth the wait.  The "And Peggy" touring company cast (one of three out there right now) put on a fabulous show. It was a Sunday afternoon matinee, and the title character was played by an understudy. He was good -- but to be honest, I found the character of Aaron Burr far more interesting -- and the actor/singer who played him frankly blew poor Hamilton out of the water. (George Washington was pretty fabulous too... and King George III provided comic relief, lol.)  

I knew Hamilton's son died in a duel -- and yes, I cried then -- but I wasn't prepared for "Dear Theodosia" -- or all the talk about "legacy" (I knew the line "who lives, who dies, who tells your story" -- but I didn't know it was Washington who sang it). As we left the theatre and came outside into the bright sunshine, I had to take off my mask to blow my nose (having wiped my eyes inside, lol).  

(I have a few friends here who have already seen it and didn't think it lived up to the hype. They complained that it was hard to follow the lyrics, and the story. I'll admit I'm not a huge fan of rap/hiphop, but in this case, I thought it worked well. I'll also admit I might be more well versed in American history than some Canadians -- albeit I think many of us are probably better acquainted with American history than our own country's, (no) thanks to the overwhelming influence of U.S. culture here.)  

I was slightly nervous about the subway ride downtown, given a recent increase in violent incidents on the transit system (not to mention the risks posed by the ongoing pandemic...), but both trips (going there and coming home) were uneventful. We wore our masks for almost 6 hours straight, taking them off only for the short walk from the subway station to the theatre (and vice-versa), and to pop a mint in my mouth during intermission.  

I've missed going to the theatre. It's something we both enjoy doing (dh thoroughly enjoyed this one too) -- and I thought we'd be doing more of it in retirement than we have -- albeit we did see a few shows, pre-covid. Here's to many more to come!  

Local press reviews:  
"Hamilton," at last!!  

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

Saturday, April 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: Mid-March marked 36 (!!) months -- THREE YEARS -- of living with the COVID-19 pandemic. (On to YEAR FOUR!!)  As I said last month -- 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 these days, in the absence of robust reporting. :(   There certainly continues to be a dearth of masks being worn in the stores we've been in lately (albeit I have noticed a few more than usual recently, which I chalked up to cold & flu season).  

Marking the occasion, the Toronto Star recently published a "three years later, here's where we stand" article. 

Early in March, the National Advisory Council on Immunization (NACI) released its recommendations on spring booster shots. Given the previous "six months since your last shot" guidance, I had figured we were due for another round in early May.  HOWEVER -- unlike previous rounds of covid vaccines, not everyone will be offered a spring booster: the vaccines will "probably" be limited to people at risk of developing severe disease if they become infected with the virus -- mostly seniors or those with compromised immune systems, etc.  The definition of "high-risk individuals" would NOT include me (and I am NOT happy about that!).  :(  It *would* include dh -- "those aged 65 to 79, particularly if they have no history of a previous COVID infection" (he will be 66 soon). (Not all doctors agree with this guidance, as the linked article points out.)  

March was also 25 years (!!) since I learned I was pregnant, back in 1998. (I wrote about that time here on my blog, 10 years later, in a series of posts:) 
On the personal pandemic front: We remain covid-free (knocking wood, loudly...) -- and we while we have ventured out a little more often lately, we're still being very careful (more so than most people we know).  We still mask in public places and when we're around Little Great-Niece (for now, at her parents' request), albeit we usually don't in smaller/family settings. Further incentive to stay home:  it was March break, mid-month -- even pre-pandemic, we always stayed close to home then to avoid the mobs of people everywhere! 

On top of dh's solo trips to the supermarket for groceries (about once a week), and for occasional takeout lunches & dinners, we: 
  • Saw Little Great-Nephew 5 times: once at home (Older Nephew's house), and four times at his grandparents' house (including once when we spent most of the day taking care of him while his grandparents were out for a lengthy medical appointment). 
  • Met Little Great-Niece at home (Younger Nephew's house) when she was one week old, and saw her at her grandparents' place a week later. :)  
  • Dh met up with a couple of his cousins at BIL's house on a recent Saturday afternoon. 
  • Stopped at the drugstore twice to pick up diapers and formula for Little Great-Niece on Seniors Discount Day (20% off regular-priced items on Thursdays!). 
  • Went to the supermarket with dh twice. 
  • Went shopping at Michaels, Chapters (bookstore -- twice) and the Carters/Oshkosh children's wear store (twice). 
  • Served as dh's navigator when he drove BIL & SIL to an appointment in downtown Toronto. Spent a couple of hours hanging around waiting for them. 
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** 

Also right now:  

Reading: I finished 3 books in March (all reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads, & tagged "2023 books").  
This brings me to 13 books read to date in 2023,  29% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. :)  I am currently (for the moment, anyway...!) 2 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. ;)  
  • For the Notes from Three Pines Readalong:  
    • It hasn't been formally announced, but I'm assuming that book #3, "The Cruellest Month" will be the next Louise Penny read??  and that the discussion will be in mid-April? 
A few recently purchased titles (mostly in digital format, mostly discounted ($5-10 or less) or purchased with points):  
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** 

  • The Oscars.
  • A lot of curling (!) -- it is well covered on the sports channels here, and dh has become quite a fan. During March, we had the Scotties Tournament of Hearts (women's national championships), the Brier (men's national), and the World Championships (women's in Sweden, and then men's in Ottawa).  
    • Our prime minister's wife, Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, took U.S. First Lady Jill Biden to a local curling club to meet some high school students and watch them demonstrate how the sport is played, when she and President Biden visited Ottawa recently.  :)  (The art exhibit they visited later at the National Gallery debuted last year at the nearby art gallery where I have a membership.)  
  • The World Figure Skating Championships, from Saitama, Japan, last weekend. (Next year, they'll be in Montreal!)  
  • Not watching: March Madness basketball. U.S. college sports do not interest me in the least (although, to be fair, neither do Canadian college sports, lol -- although they do not get even a fraction of the media coverage & fan interest that their American counterparts do). 
    • Funny March Madness story for you: some years back, I remember vaguely wondering why the Americans were suddenly so interested in Yukon?? I kept hearing all these TV announcers talking about "Yukon, Yukon, Yukon."  It finally took a written headline for things to click and for me to realize they hadn't suddenly taken an inexplicable interest in a remote northern Canadian territory (neighbour to Alaska) -- they were actually talking about the University of Connecticut ("UConn") and its basketball team!!  (lol)  Different frames of reference...!  
  • 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 still enjoying the daily Heardle challenge(s), including some of 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 March 31st: 
  • Heardle (original/all decades): 25.4% correct (61/240, 17 on the first guess), down from last month. 
  • Heardle 60s:  78.9% (153/194, 77 on first guess), same as last month. 
  • Heardle 70s:  67.5% (137/203, 84 on the first guess), down slightly from last month. 
  • Heardle 80s:  34.7% (17/49,  6 on the first guess), up from last month. 
  • Heardle 90s: 32.8% (62/189, 20 on the first guess), down this month.  
Eating/Drinking:  Not well enough lately, I think. :p  We've resolved to try to do better (again...!) and eat more veggies & fruits and use frozen convenience foods a little less often. I'm browsing Pinterest for ideas for new things we could try to make.  

Takeout dinners on Saturday nights this month included McDonalds (! -- chicken nuggets for me, a spicy McChicken sandwich for dh and we shared an order of french fries), rice bowls from the supermarket takeout counter, Swiss Chalet rotisserie chicken (with a baked potato for me, fries for dh), and our favourite wood-oven pizzas.

Buying (besides books, lol):  
  • Easter goodies for Little Great-Nephew and Little Great-Niece.  :) 
  • Quite a while back, I was on an online cleaning & organizing forum and mentioned that I was trying to figure out a better system to organize & store all the boxes & bottles (detergent, bleach, dryer sheets, steam iron, etc.) sitting on the floor of our laundry closet.  Someone suggested I get a wheeled cart to put them all in, and at first I rejected the idea. I didn't think one would fit in the limited space available.  
    • Then I saw an article about how some readers are using these three-tiered wheeled carts from IKEA to keep some of their favourite reads or "to be read" books handy. The cart in the photos didn't look too huge and I thought something like that might work for the laundry closet.  
      • Dh LOATHES IKEA (lol) and refuses to go there. There are several stores in the Greater Toronto Area -- including one just a few miles down the road from us -- but the last time I was in an IKEA was, sadly, was more than 30 years ago.  (I suppose I could have ordered a cart online and had it delivered, but I wanted to have a look at it "in real life" before I bought one.)  
    • Then I saw that Michaels (arts & crafts supplies store) had essentially the same thing for the same reasonable price ($49.99 Canadian) -- and so I recently had dh take me to our local Michaels (he waited in the car) and emerged with the box under my arm. It was fast and easy to assemble, fits perfectly along the laundry closet wall and holds most of the items that previously cluttered up the floor.  The washer door will not open or close with it sitting there -- although I like to leave my washer door open anyway, to help prevent mould buildup (it's a front loader, with the dryer stacked on top) -- but all I have to do when we're doing laundry, or want to vacuum or mop the floor, is roll the cart out, and then roll it back in when we're done. Easy peasy. :)  (See the photos below.) 
A glimpse inside my laundry closet --
new cart at right, stocked with supplies. 

A closer look at the cart, 
stocked with detergents, bleach, dryer sheets,
vinegar, steam iron, etc. 

Wearing: Towards the end of the month, the weather warmed up enough that I was able to switch from my winter down "puffer" jacket to a zippered tweed jacket, which seemed like progress?? (Albeit I had to return to the down jacket again on a recent day that was particularly nippy...!) 

Noticing:  Sunsets, again!  I know they don't go away during the winter months, but they seem to be less visible/noticeable, for some reason.  Here's a recent one, taken from one of our windows:  

A recent sunset view. :) 

Appreciating:  Our healthcare system -- which is under strain at the moment, but still manages to provide a high standard of medical care to the vast majority of people, and at no cost for most things. (Exorbitant hospital parking fees (excepted, lol.)  

Enjoying (while it lasts...!):  This isn't from March -- but the sky is blue, the sun is shining this morning (April 1st) and it's currently 14C/57F (forecasted high of 16C/61F!)(albeit it's going back down to -6C/21F overnight...!).  We currently have the balcony door open!  :)   

Wondering: How long it's going to take me to adjust to the time change from earlier this month??  I'm still wide awake at the time we normally head off to bed, and feel groggy when I wake up, often 8:30 a.m. or later (unless we need to be somewhere and have an alarm set).  (Insert red-faced icon here.) 

Wanting: To see more of Little Great-Niece than we have so far. But that's not in our control -- and we should be getting to see her on the Easter long weekend...!  :)  

Prioritizing: Being there for BIL & SIL right now and helping them out however we can.  

Hoping:  That our upcoming trek downtown (of which I will write more later), via subway, will be uneventful. Our local public transit system has always been extremely safe, but there's been a lot of crime on there lately, fuelled by staff cuts, fewer passengers since the pandemic began, and increasing numbers of homeless and mentally ill people who have been taking shelter in stations and on the trains. The last time I took the subway was to one of the downtown hospitals to have a mammogram done in late February 2020... well, you all know what happened next and why I haven't been back since...!  (I had another mammogram last year, but I arranged to have it done at a local clinic.)  

Trying:  To put more reminders of things I need to get done on my phone... they seem to help! 

Worrying:  About BIL's health problems -- and the impact it's having on SIL -- and on dh.  :(   

Realizing:  That it's possible BIL's health problems may preclude us from going home to see my family this summer -- which would make it the FOURTH summer in a row, and the FIFTH in six years. (The last time we spent time there in the summer was 2019. FIL was ill and died in summer 2018;  2020 & 2021 -- well, you know what was happening then...!  And last year I was dealing with my own medical issues and procedures.)  But I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get there... 

Loving:  Spending time with Little Great-Nephew (while we still can, before he starts school this fall). (Yes, I know, I often say this, but it's true!)  

Feeling:  Tired of the never-ending winter-ish weather/impatient for spring. (The few tastes we've had this month have been far and few between and generally don't cut it...!)  Tired from the time change. Tired from more than the usual number of early morning wake-up calls -- to take BIL to appointments, to stay with LGN, to attend our own appointments, etc.