Tuesday, May 30, 2023

"Women Without Kids" by Ruby Warrington

From famine to feast: in recent years, more and more good (even great) books about various aspects of life without children have been published -- and not just one but TWO in the last few months.  Both received some good attention in the media: "Without Children" by Peggy O'Donnell Heffington,  which I read and reviewed last month, here, and "Women Without Kids: The Revolutionary Rise of an Unsung Sisterhood" by Ruby Warrington. (Interestingly, Warrington's book seems to be better known in the UK, while Heffington's has been getting more press here in North America. Perhaps that's because Warrington is originally from the UK, albeit she now lives in the U.S.)   

Warrington is childfree by choice, and much of the book is written from that perspective. (She originally wanted to title the book "Selfish C***s.")(!!) But involuntary childlessness is not ignored -- Gateway Women's Jody Day is quoted and referenced several times throughout the book -- and Warrington does, in fact, write extensively and persuasively about the existence of a "Motherhood Spectrum," with hardcore childfree-by-choice people at one end, enthusiastic mothers at the other, and most of us falling somewhere in between. 

The book mixes Warrington's personal story and extensive research with a psycho-socio-political analysis of life without children and what it means to never be a mother, as well as questions to get the reader thinking about their own stories and feelings on the subject.  It ends with a message similar to Heffington's book -- that we all (parents & non) need to support each other and do our part in making this planet a better place for all of us to live -- but Warrington presents these ideas in a way that I found much more palatable/affirming and childless/free-friendly.  

For me, an otherwise good/thoughtful/interesting read was somewhat marred by several irritating factors that could have easily been resolved through editing:  there was an abundance of choppy sentences/fragments, as well as (on the flip side) long, run-on paragraphs that could have been broken up into shorter ones. There were some annoyingly glaring typos/spelling/usage errors -- for example, I noticed "naval gazing," (navel); "now age" (new age), and "alter" (altar). I also found myself wishing that the thought-provoking questions Warrington poses to the reader throughout the book had been highlighted in some way for emphasis and easy reference (boldfaced? boxed? sidebarred?), instead of casually dropped into the copy, where they're more easily buried or glossed over.  (Sorry if all of this sounds picky, but I was an editor in my pre-retirement life and I was paid to notice these things...!)  

But while certain structural aspects were lacking, I very much appreciated the content. There were a few parts that were perhaps a little more "woowoo/new age-y" than I was really comfortable with (particularly in Chapter, 2,"Origin Stories" and its discussion of "Family Constellations").  But -- if I had been reading a paper copy, practically every other page would have been dog-eared;  as it was, my e-copy is littered with bookmarks. I found it difficult to pick just a few quotations to highlight here for you, because there were so many good ones that made some excellent points.  

Overall, this is a worthy addition to the growing library of books about life without children and worth a read.  

A solid 4 stars on Goodreads. 

This was Book #22 read to date in 2023 (and Book #5 finished in May), bringing me to 49% 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."  

Monday, May 29, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: Annoying things & small pleasures

Annoying things: 
  • Pollen dust all over the end table closest to the open balcony door (no wonder we've both been sneezing lately...!). 
  • Balcony doors that desperately need washing. 
  • Trying a new takeout soup for lunch that sounded good in the description, but was a lot spicier than I anticipated.  
  • A flimsy bedskirt that's ripping at the seams and dragging on the floor. 
    • Knowing that either mending it or buying a new one will require lifting our bulky, heavy mattress..! 
  • Not being able to think of something more original/clever for a #MM post...! 
Small pleasures: 
  • Anticipating a quieter week ahead than the past few have been. (Knocking wood, of course...!) 
  • Carving out a little more time to read books lately. 
  • Cashing in some of my Kobo Super Points to download a few more (lol).  
  • A run of good hair days lately (since my most recent haircut). 
  • Enjoying white teeth again, minus tea stains, thanks to the work of my excellent new dental hygienist. 
  • New T-shirts in summery colours delivered to my door from Lucky Brand Canada to brighten up the day. 
  • A freshly scrubbed shower cubicle!  (Annoying thing:  aches & pains afterwards...!  lol)  
  • Being able to leave the balcony door wide open all day long. (Mild temperatures, no humidity!)(Yet...?!)  

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

"Anne of the Island" by L.M. Montgomery (re-read)

My L.M. Montgomery Readathon group on Facebook is just wrapping up its chapter-by-chapter reading and discussion of "Anne of the Island," the third book in the "Anne of Green Gables" series, first published in 1915.  I read the book on my own back in January, before our discussions began, and reviewed it here.   

This installment of the AOGG saga covers Anne's four years at Redmond College in Kingsport (read: Dalhousie University in Halifax, which LMM herself attended for a year in 1895-96).  Gilbert Blythe and Charlie Sloane from Avonlea are there too, as well as Anne's friends from her days at Queen's Academy (teachers college), Priscilla Grant and Stella Maynard. Together with a new friend, the effervescent Philippa Gordon (from Anne's birthplace, Bollingbroke, Nova Scotia), the girls rent a cozy cottage near the college -- "Patty's Place" -- and set up housekeeping together.  

During the summers, Anne returns to Avonlea, where many of her old friends are getting married and starting families of their own. Anne herself fends off several suitors -- including Gilbert -- until at last she meets the man who embodies all of her childhood dreams of romance --tall, dark, handsome, melancholy (and rich!) Royal Gardner. 

But she can't stop thinking about Gilbert...   

Our group had some wonderful discussions while going through this book, particularly about higher education for women and their living arrangements (the consensus being that all of us wanted to live at Patty's Place too, lol -- but such an arrangement, while common now, would have been highly unusual at the time, even with the presence of Stella's affable Aunt Jamesina as ostensible chaperone). 

I still think (as I mentioned in my original review) some of the Avonlea sections between school terms seem a bit trivial/superfluous -- but our group discussions helped me to see how so much of this book is a meditation on the different forms love, romance and marriage can take, and the importance of choosing the right life partner. All of Montgomery's writing has had a profound impact on my life and how I see things, but it was a revelation to realize just how much this particular book has influenced my attitudes about education, friendship, romance and more. 

My original rating of 4.5 stars stands, but this time around, I've rounded it up to 5 on Goodreads. 

Our next LMM Readathon book:  TBA...! 

This was Book #21 read to date in 2023 (and Book #4 finished in May), bringing me to 47% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 3 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."  

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

"The Whispers" by Ashley Audrain

I am not sure what possessed me to request an advance reader copy (ARC) of "The Whispers" by Ashley Audrain from NetGalley when an email offer popped into my inbox. I have, but have not read, her first novel, "The Push," which made a huge splash when it was published a year or two ago (and the author is Canadian!).  I do like a good thriller now & then, but this one promised (in the words of one reviewer) "A beautifully written hymn to the pain, love and fury of motherhood."  Hmmm... 

I decided I'd try to keep an open mind. 

Nevertheless, there was a LOT in this book that hit just a little too uncomfortably close to home. 

As mentioned in a previous post, this was my first experience with NetGalley and ARCs, and after a lot of Googling and an email conversation with someone from the help desk, I was finally able to figure out how to download it to my Kobo e-reader! (as well as to the NetGalley app and to Adobe Digital Editions reader on my laptop).  It's in PDF format -- so regardless of device, it's not an especially great reading experience. The type is small and, on my e-reader and cellphone, enlarging it/zooming in makes the page awkward to manoeuvre. I wound up reading most of the novel via Adobe Digital Editions on my laptop, where I could magnify the type to a more readable size -- albeit laptops are not ideal for reading books on...!  

I was also working against a deadline -- something I didn't realize when I first requested the book, and which is not made entirely clear up front:  the book came with an "archive" date of June 13th. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to read it on any/all of my devices after that point, which is why I moved it up in my TBR pile, even though there were other books I was hoping to get to/needed to prioritize first. 

The story focuses on four very different women, neighbours on the same rapidly gentrifying street, their relationships to motherhood, and to each other -- all of them with their own particular flaws and  carefully guarded secrets. There's affluent professional couple Whitney and Jacob and their three children. There's uber-stay-at-home mom of one, Blair, who is obsessed (creepily so, at times) with Whitney and her life, so different from her own -- and obsessed with the suspicion that her husband Aiden is having an affair.  

There's a childless couple: kid-magnet Ben and Rebecca, who is a trauma physician in a hospital emergency room. Needless to say, she's the character I identified with the most -- even as I cringed over the sometimes stereotypical way she was portrayed. (Although undoubtedly some moms reading this book will cringe over Blair & Whitney in much the same way...!)  Audrain must have personal experience with infertility and pregnancy loss (or is very close to someone who has), because she hits every note here. (Graphic descriptions are included.) 

I cringed reading some of the passages involving Rebecca. For example, this one:  

From across the yard, Blair watches as Ben and Rebecca find subtle ways to touch while they listen to Whitney orate, like they still find in each other every last thing they need. They are childless, childfree, and so they have not yet been irrevocably changed. not like the rest of them. They speak to each other in fully composed sentences with civilized inflection.  They probably still fuck once a day and enjoy it. Fall asleep in the same bed with their limbs tucked into each other's crevices. Without a pillow wedged between then to separate her side of the bed from his, to imagine the other isn't there.

(I have to admit I bristled when I read "they have not yet been irrevocably changed" -- I wanted to throw the book across the room -- except this was my laptop, lol. So I didn't.) (I kept turning the pages.) 

A few pages later, in a different time and place, Whitney demands to know of Rebecca, "Is this why you don't have children?"  

And Rebecca thinks: "Why doesn't she have children?  Because she can't keep her own alive."  

And, in Chapter 26 (back at the party), as they talk about their neighbour Mara, Blair thinks: 

...of course they have empathy for Mara, even though they don't sit and chat with her on the porch like Rebecca does. She and Whitney are the mothers, Blair thought. Rebecca can't possibly understand like they can. 

Finally, there's elderly Mara, a longtime resident of the street, who knows and understands more than most people think -- and who has been keeping a few secrets of her own.

The plot shifts back & forth in time.  It begins with a backyard birthday party, where Whitney loses her temper in a confrontation with her 10-year-old son, Xavier -- and not for the first time. Months later, the boy is in the hospital, fighting for his life.  Little by little, as the tension builds, and there's one revelation after another, we learn the truth of what happened... 

This is a very readable book -- but also very disturbing -- nasty in parts. Lots of secrets and lies.  There are triggers galore, depending on your own personal situation and tolerance level -- including (but not limited to) infertility, pregnancy loss, children in peril, child loss, abuse, jealousy, sex, infidelity, betrayal, death, mothers vs non-mothers,. Consider yourselves forewarned! 

I had a hard time figuring out how to rate this one. I settled on 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 on Goodreads.  I had problems with the plot and disliked many (most?) of the very flawed characters. There were still a few plot points left ambiguously hanging at the end. 

But it sure kept me turning the pages.  

Publication date: June 6th.  

Thank you to NetGalley (and the publisher) for my free copy in exchange for a review. Once I got the technical kinks worked out and was able to get into the book, I enjoyed the experience, even if I have some reservations about this particular book. I will likely request other books in the future -- but only if/when I know I want to (and will!) read this book ASAP, keeping the looming archive date in mind. 

This was Book #20 read to date in 2023 (and Book #3 finished in May), bringing me to 44% 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, May 22, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: An "ouch" moment

It's the Victoria Day long weekend here. The weather on Saturday was chilly, but yesterday it was gorgeous (23C/73F, no humidity), and BIL & SIL invited us over for a late lunch/early dinner with the nephews, their wives and the little ones. Neither dh & I nor Older Nephew & his wife had seen Little Great-Niece since Easter (now 3 months old and several pounds heavier), and all of us had fun taking turns holding her and basking in the cuteness (except for Little Great-Nephew, who is clearly NOT impressed with his little cousin & having to share the spotlight!! lol).  I got to hold her for a good while, and even got a few toothless smiles out of her. :)  

We left in the late afternoon, heading outside to the cars in twos and threes so as not to crowd the entryway. Finally, there was just me, SIL, Little Great-Niece in her car seat/carrier and her mom, who was gathering up all the paraphernalia that goes along with taking an infant anywhere these days. 

SIL was gazing lovingly at her adorable granddaughter (as she should, right?). "You know," she said to her daughter-in-law, "there is something so special about being a grandparent, seeing your grandchildren. My mother told me the same thing, and it's true!"  

I quietly put on my sandals and joined the others outside. 

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

Saturday, May 20, 2023

"Funny Girl" by Nick Hornby

I was hoping to get through "Funny Girl" by Nick Hornby before the six-part British TV series based on it, "Funny Woman," started airing here in Canada on the W Network (a channel we actually get!) on May 11th.  

(I'm curious:  why the title change? Was "Girl" considered too politically incorrect? Or maybe they were worried that people would mix it up with the Barbra Streisand movie (which was based on a hit Broadway musical)?  Anyway...)

That didn't happen -- but I did finally pick it up after the first episode aired. (There are six episodes;  I've seen two so far.) 

It's the "Swinging Sixties" (1964, as the book opens) in England, and Barbara Parker has just won the title of Miss Blackpool in a bathing suit beauty contest. Her father and aunt hope she'll settle down now and marry her butcher boyfriend Aidan. But Barbara wants more out of life: she secretly dreams of being on "telly" and making people laugh, like her heroine/role model, Lucille Ball -- and she's soon off to London to seek her fortune. She finds a job, selling hats at a department store, and a roommate, who also works there -- and then she finds an agent, who renames her "Sophie Straw." Improbably, she charms her way into the lead role of a new TV comedy about a young married couple that becomes a smash hit.

This was a fast read -- albeit it took me a week-plus to get through it (because, life, and it's been a busy week!). (When I did get to it, I was able to speed through large chunks in a sitting.)  I've previously read and enjoyed several other Hornby novels, including "Juliet, Naked," and "State of the Union" (reviews in the links), as well as "High Fidelity" and "About a Boy" (pre-blogging, so no reviews to point you to). 

This one was not quite as satisfying as some of those others. Based on the cover design and blurb, I was expecting a romantic romp through Swinging London, a bit of a chick-list novel, perhaps (albeit written by a man). It turned out to be more of an "office/work family" story (I'm thinking of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," albeit with a British accent and fewer laughs). Despite the title, it's not really a comic novel, although there are chuckles along the way. The last few chapters went in a totally different direction than I had anticipated -- not in a bad way but, again, not quite what I had expected.

As for the TV series -- so far, I am enjoying it. The period details (the clothes! the soundtrack!!) are wonderful, there's a lot more humour to be found (albeit some situations are obviously staged for laughs), and Gemma Arterton, who plays Barbara/Sophie, is well cast. I am also enjoying the nuanced performance of Arsher Ali as Dennis, the producer, and Alexa Davies is fun as Barbara/Sophie's roommate, Marjorie. Rupert Everett, so charming in "My Best Friend's Wedding," is almost unrecognizable as Barbara/Sophie's agent, Brian. (I checked his bio online -- he's 63 now (!) but looks a good decade older than that in this show.  I loved him in "My Best Friend's Wedding" with Julia Roberts, but that movie was made in 1997, 25+ years ago now (! -- yikes!).)  Barbara/Sophie/Gemma Arterton is clearly the star and the focus of this show -- which you might expect? -- while the novel also delves into the stories and minds of her co-star, producer and writers. They're interesting characters, and I'm glad I got to know them better in the end, but the multiple storylines and perspectives were ultimately a bit distracting.  

I will admit to scratching my head over a lot of the British references (and I consider myself fairly well versed in Britannia), particularly to actors and television/radio shows of the era. I recognized a few of them (e.g., "Steptoe and Son" and "Till Death Do Us Part," which became "Sanford and Son" and "All in the Family" in the U.S.) but not others, and I am not sure whether some or all of the others were real, or made up by Hornby? 

A pleasant diversion, but Hornby has written better books.  

3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 on Goodreads (the extra half-point added for those last few chapters). 

This was Book #19 read to date in 2023 (and Book #2 finished in May), bringing me to 42% 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."   

Long weekend odds & ends

  • What a crazy week it's been...!  I think we've had something to do -- usually involving an alarm clock -- almost every day.  
    • Monday: dh drove BIL & Older Nephew downtown for a medical appointment, early in the morning, and was out until early/mid-afternoon. I took advantage of his absence to wash the floor mats & mop the floors (the tiles in the kitchen, entryway and bathrooms, anyway). And then enjoyed some rare "me alone at home" time!  ;) 
    • Tuesday, we stayed with Little Great-Nephew from 7:30 a.m. until about 2 p.m., while BIL & SIL went for a lengthy medical appointment. 
    • Wednesday morning, we travelled into midtown Toronto (the neighbourhood where we lived when we were first married) for dental appointments (cleanings & checkups). (We were also there last week for an optometrist checkup for me.) All good!  
      • When we got home, we did laundry. 
    • Thursday morning, we set an alarm, got up early and did the housecleaning, so that I could attend a Zoom meeting/chat/planning session at 11 a.m. 
      • We usually do the housecleaning on Friday, but... 
    • Friday morning, we returned to our old community for much-needed haircuts!  
    • Dh is out again this morning, heading up to Older Nephew's house with BIL to do some guy-type stuff.  ;)  I could have slept in... but of course, I was wide awake at 6:30 a.m., even before  dh's alarm, set for 7, rang. Oh well...!  
  • It's been (mostly) milder here lately (no humidity -- yet! -- yay!!), but overcast/grey -- possibly (likely?) the result of the wildfires that are burning in Alberta right now -- some 3500 km/2200 miles away!  Air quality has been "moderate" (not really bad, but not great either). The pollen count has been very high too.  We like to have the balcony door open when it's nice enough to do so, but needless to say, we've both had dry, irritated eyes and we've both been sneezing! :p
    • It's raining today, so hopefully that will help the air quality issues...   
  • It's the Victoria Day long weekend here, regarded as the traditional kickoff to summer. We've been invited to BIL's on Sunday, along with the nephews and their families, and we're looking forward to that. (We haven't seen our new Little Great-Niece since Easter!)  Hopefully the weather will improve, though...!  
    • Fireworks on Victoria Day are also traditional (although they tend to be seen & heard all weekend long, not just on Monday night...!) -- and sometimes we see even more displays this weekend than we do on Canada Day, in July! -- but I guess we'll see what happens re: the weather...!  
  • Several friends' & relatives' kids recently turned 25, or will be soon (just as another certain young woman would have, if she'd arrived as planned in November 1998):  my cousin's youngest daughter in early March, dh's cousin's oldest son in mid-April (I was newly pregnant and "out" at his mom's baby shower earlier that month), and just this past week, the son of one of my best friends from growing up, as well as a high school classmate's daughter. I will admit, seeing those birthday photos and greetings gave me pangs. Sigh.  
  • I got an email recently from my alma mater, the university where I got my undergraduate degree in arts: "Congratulations on the 40th anniversary of your graduation from the Faculty of Arts with the University of....! We are so proud to have you as part of our alumni community...."  My first reaction:  "Yikes!! FORTY YEARS??!!"  (My second reaction: how much money do they want??  lol)(Answer:  none -- this time (!) -- but they did suggest I should make plans to attend homecoming this year...!)  
  • Ugh... I recently got one of those "Lori, do you know...?" emails from LinkedIn. The person in question was my old boss -- my last boss, before I was unceremoniously shown the door after 28 years of fully satisfactory to above average service, almost 9 years ago now. She emailed me at home a few days after I was pinkslipped ("if there's anything I can do...") -- I thanked her, and that's the last I've heard from her (or she from me) since then. It's too long and complicated to explain why here (and to be honest, I'm not even entirely sure why myself), but... I just... had no desire to stay in touch.  
    • Anyway, I was curious what she's up to these days, so I clicked to have a look at her profile. Or so I thought. What happened instead was I sent a "connection" request to her.  (!) I had no idea how to rescind it (and to do so without her knowing), so I reluctantly let it stand. 
    • She accepted my request this morning. Oh well. I'm not on LinkedIn much these days anyway...  
  • No links for you this time!  (Sorry!)  Maybe next week...

Monday, May 15, 2023


Dh was at BIL's this morning... and brought back a gift bag for me!! 

The tag reads:  "For all that you do we are so grateful -- Love, [Older Nephew's Wife, Older Nephew, Little Great-Nephew... and the dog! lol]". 

(BIL & SIL were at Older Nephew's house yesterday for Voldemort Day and brought it back for me.) 

To say I was floored (and more than a little verklempt) is an understatement... There was a reed diffuser, liquid soap, a mug, chocolate bombs for making hot chocolate/latte, a couple of face masks, and a handpainted bookmark that Older Nephew's Wife (a fine arts graduate and very talented artist) made herself. 

I don't think I've ever received a Mother's Day gift or card from anyone besides dh before. (He was a little jealous, lol... he spends just as much time with LGN as I do, maybe more.  I told him Father's Day is coming...!)  

(This should have been my #MicroblogMondays post, right?? But I already posted what I had prepped earlier this morning, before I got the gift!) 

Voldemort Day goodies for this very proud auntie! :)  
(from Older Nephew & his family ❤) 

#MicroblogMondays: Post-Voldemort Day odds & ends

  • BIL called dh late Saturday night:  Older Nephew had invited them to come there on Sunday (MDay/Voldemort Day) and he (BIL -- not Older Nephew) wanted to know if we wanted to come too.  
    • Dh declined:  I'd already committed to co-hosting two hours of an all-day ongoing text chat on the private Lighthouse Women (formerly Gateway Women) community, late Sunday afternoon. (Dh told him I was on a Zoom call for one of my book clubs... close enough, I guess!  lol)  
    • Even if I wasn't already committed, I'm not sure I would have wanted to go.  I generally like to spend the day quietly with dh, just the two of us. Older Nephew didn't invite us directly, after all (BIL often issues these invitations of his own accord, without consulting the people he's visiting...!) -- and I thought SIL deserved to be able to spend MDay with her son & grandson, without having us hanging around (as we often are...!). 
    • (I did wonder if BIL was hoping dh would drive, as he often does...!).  
  • I was feeling a little more inclined to mope than usual this year, but the day turned out better than I had anticipated. I spent most of it online, chatting with various online friends from the childless/infertility/loss communities (which always buoys me up), and the day (thankfully) flew by.  The weather was slightly overcast, but pleasant, enough so that we had the balcony door open most of the day (NO humidity!!)(yet...!).  Dh gave me a card, made brunch and cooked dinner. 
    • And yes, I remembered to call MY mom!  lol  
  • Why I was inclined to mope:  I couldn't help remembering that 25 years ago, Mother's Day for me was one of happiness, hope, excitement and expectation:  as I wrote in this 2008 post, I was in the first trimester of what would be my one & only pregnancy, and looking forward to Mother's Day 1999, when there would be three of us to celebrate together. 
    • It was not to be. But I still have the Boyds Bears figurine dh gave me that year (which I wrote about here), sitting on my bedside night table.  (I don't remember when I stopped doing it, but I no longer rub its belly for luck, as I did when I was still hoping for another baby.)  
  • Seen on social media this weekend, from the mother of two grown sons:  "I always wonder if organizers of Mother/Daughter teas for Mother’s Day weekend realize they are leaving out us boy moms." (!!!!!!) (She's a nice person, but seriously??!)  
    • She got lots of sympathy in the comments, too. 
  • From Yael Wolfe on Medium:  "Honoring the Childless Women Who Feel Invisible Today." 
  • Writer Anne Lamott -- who is a mother -- posted her annual diatribe about Mother's Day on Facebook this weekend. Well worth a read! 
  • From The Atlantic by Kelly McMasters (also a mother):  "Why I’m Skipping Mother’s Day:  Should people feel compelled to celebrate a holiday that is painful for so many?
  • Megan Pillow guests on Lyz Lenz's Substack newsletter ("Men Yell at Me") with "A Single Mom’s Manifesto for Mother’s Day." If you can get past the mom stuff, there's some interesting history there about Mother's Day's origins and how its original intent has been perverted. 
  • Heather Cox Richardson writes mostly about American politics & current events from a historical perspective on her Substack newsletter ("Letters From an American" -- and I highly recommend it!) -- but her Saturday night/Sunday morning newsletter was about Mother's Day and a non-mother who played a significant role in her life. I loved it!  
  • Anne Helen Petersen has been taking a break this past week from her Culture Study newsletter on Substack, following the loss of her beloved dog, Peggy.  She was back yesterday with a post about grief, titled... "This is Not Just a Post About Dog Grief."  Excerpt:  
I think most people understand this feeling when it comes to close family, and a lot of people understand it when it comes to animals. But we have such a limited understanding of who and what is worth grieving, who and what deserves time...  

There’s a refrain Americans often bandy about as a sort of explanation for the emotional constipation that structures the national character. We’re so bad at grieving, people say, when the “we” in question is really white Christians or Christian-adjacent, steeped in the Protestant Work Ethic that demands the sublimation of grief to productivity. When growth is always God, there is no space to breathe, to break in half, to take the time that’s actually necessary to find some semblance of self amidst the wreckage.

It’s not normal, or ironic, or even slightly funny that we’re this bad at making space to process loss and suffering. It’s fucked up, and I’m increasingly convinced it’s at the heart of our national regression. Around Covid, of course, but also around mass gun violence, and addiction, and eldercare. We have so little language to describe the onset of grief in our lives, and so little expectation of accommodation for it. We don’t know how to be still in our sadness. And if you won’t allow yourself that grace, it’s so difficult to authentically extend it to others.

Whether you realize it or not: you have allowed me that space. I knew you wouldn’t unsubscribe en masse, which meant you effectively gave me bereavement leave. I allowed my sadness to expand and envelop my days. I went on long walks with Steve and felt Peggy’s presence over and over and over and watched it turn to joy, to utter gratitude.

I’m not nearly done with this grief but I also know that its foundation has been laid. What a gift you have given me — and what renewed conviction I have that this right to grieve should be universal.

How was your day yesterday? 

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

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Voldemort Day mindset ;)


This popped up in my Facebook memories today, and it reflected my mindset perfectly. 
Hope you all found your places in the sun today!
(And snacks! 😂👍) 

Saturday, May 13, 2023

"Mommy bloggers" or not, we owe a debt to "Dooce"

I've continued to think about the late, great Heather Armstrong, aka "Dooce," as the tributes pour in. (Adding to the sadness is she died just before Mother's Day.)  So many wonderful pieces of writing, and I linked to a few of them in my previous post that mentioned her death.  

This morning, I read another, particularly good one from Jessica Grose at the New York Times that I wanted to unpack here a little more:  "Dooce and Other 'Mommy Blogs' Deserve Credit for Shaping the Internet."  It's from her subscriber-only newsletter, but I've gift-linked it for your reading pleasure, because I think it's worth a read in full. 

Grose writes about the changing online world, with giants from the past 20 years such as BuzzNews, Vice and Gawker either gone or in danger of disappearing.  Then she adds (and I apologize for the slightly wonky formatting, not sure how to correct that...?): 

But I think there’s an expanse of popular media from the past two decades that risks being left out when we recount this period in online history: The publications called “mommy blogs,” an often dismissive term that many of their writers hated but used as shorthand anyway.

With the sad passing of Heather Armstrong, who started the website Dooce, was often affectionately called “Dooce” and was known for her radical candor about motherhood and mental health, it’s a moment to remember just how revolutionary this kind of confessional felt when it was new, and how influential it has been. It’s also a moment to remember that Armstrong and her peers, including Glennon Doyle of Momastery, Joanna Goddard of Cup of Jo and Ree Drummond of The Pioneer Woman, have left a lasting imprint on our culture and run successful businesses, some of which have outlasted upstarts run by men.

Assessing Armstrong’s legacy for The Times on Thursday, Lisa Belkin, who profiled her for The Times in 2011explains that Dooce was part of “a brief but golden age of women making themselves heard on the internet, proving what is now assumed but was then brand-new: that a woman writing about her life from her kitchen could make her life into a living.”

She goes on to say:  

I also hope that Armstrong and her contemporaries aren’t left out of the story of how online media, as we know it, was built. And that we finally stop thinking about women chronicling domestic life as less than — if I had to do a shot every time someone told me that motherhood was a “niche” subject, I’d stay tipsy. So I want to be sure that these women are given the same swashbuckling credentials as Nick Denton of Gawker and Jonah Peretti of BuzzFeed.  

Ummm... if motherhood is a "niche" subject, try writing about involuntary childlessness...!  (Sorry, I digress, but I couldn't resist that aside.) But I wholeheartedly approve of her conclusion:     

...Let’s acknowledge that, and stop thinking of women writing from the heart as something that’s silly and small. It’s tremendous, and it has changed so many lives.

Lyz Lenz, in her Washington Post tribute (you can find a gift link in my previous post), said of Armstrong,  "She showed a generation of women who would become mothers that the stuff of our lives was valuable and important, that our voices and stories mattered."  And: "If she’d been a man, she’d be a humorist and memoirist. But she was a woman, so she was a mommy blogger." (Touche!)  

Well, I'm a woman, but I am not a mother (of a living child, anyway -- although somehow I did wind up on a list of Parenting magazine's "Must-Read Moms 2010" (!!) -- alongside Dooce, no less!! and other notable bloggers of the time) -- and yet, I recognize the debt that I and other women bloggers, regardless of subject matter, owe to Heather Armstrong.  

Would there have been "mommy blogs" without Dooce? Would someone else have ultimately been dubbed "Queen of the Mommy Bloggers"?  Maybe, but maybe not. And without "mommy blogs" like "Dooce," I wonder, would childless women like me have felt the need to respond by writing about their/our much-different experiences in the same, highly personal way?  

Regardless of whether you're a mother -- if you're a woman and you're "writing from the heart," about deeply personal things in a raw and honest way (or have done so during the past 20 years), you can trace at least part of your lineage back to Heather Armstrong and Dooce.  So I think all of us, moms and not, owe her our heartfelt thanks and appreciation. 

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Pre-Voldemort Day odds & ends

  • I was shocked to see a notification on my phone yesterday afternoon that Heather B. Armstrong, better known as "Dooce," the pioneering "mommy blogger" and "influencer" (one of the first to be known by those labels, I think), was dead, at the far-too-young age of 47. Even more shocked to read that it was a suicide. :(   (And more so still to read that her daughters, Leta & Marlo, are now 19 & 13...!)   My heart goes out to them, and to the rest of her family.   
    • Dooce was blogworld royalty when I first started blogging in late 2007. The NewYork Times, in a 2011 profile, dubbed her "Queen of the Mommy Bloggers."  
    • We read & discussed her book in October 2009 for Mel's Barren Bitches Book Tour -- "It Sucked and Then I Cried." I went searching for -- and found! -- my post for that tour, here. (Apologies -- the original formatting got screwed up/removed when I went back to add in some new labels a few years ago, and I haven't gotten around to fixing it yet.  :p  ) 
    • I also found a couple of other posts that mentioned her.  From this week in May 2009 (14!! years ago now!!):  
I also picked up It Sucked and Then I Cried by Heather Armstrong, better known on the Internet as Dooce. I had never heard of Dooce until several bloggers mentioned meeting her at last year's BlogHer conference in San Francisco. I checked out her blog & while she definitely falls into the category of mommyblogger (albeit one who's had her own struggles, with PPD), she is also hilarious & worth a read. (But be forewarned -- she is in the last few weeks of her second pregnancy at the moment.)
    • And in this post from August 2010, you can read about how I, a childless woman, wound up on a list of "Must-Read Moms 2010" from Parenting magazine, no less (!!), alongside  other notables of the blogosphere of the time, including Dooce. Thanks to Mel for that one too!      
    • Here's The Washington Post's article (gift-linked), which does a great job of explaining Armstrong's impact. 
    • Also from the WaPo, also giftlinked:  a heartfelt tribute from Lyz Lenz (whose Substack, "Men Yell at Me," is a great read)(I'm a subscriber).  
    • Meg Conley from Homeculture writes (and talks, in an audio clip) about Armstrong and what she meant to her. (I haven't listened to the audio yet.)
  • It's THAT day again this weekend -- but fear not!  Mali has written a wonderful blog post full of tips on how to get through with your sanity intact (more or less...!).  Well worth a read! 
    • Mali's post says it all -- but feel free to browse through my own previous relevant blog posts here
  • Just in time for "that day," a wonderful new video from Helen Louise Jones of Our Healing Voice and Childless Voices, a choir of involuntarily childless women, singing an original song written by Helen: "Calm After the Storm." I dare you to watch and listen without getting a lump in your throat and/or tears in your eyes!  Please watch, like and share! 
    • Helen -- along with a couple of special guests -- is offering a free chanting session for childless-not-by-choice women on Sunday. Details on her website
  • There was an opinion piece by Peggy O'Donnell Heffington, author of "Without Children" (which I read and reviewed here), in the New York Times recently (drawn from the book material):  "Why Women Not Having Kids Became a Panic." She makes the point here (as well as in the book) that women not having children is not a new phenomenon, and the reasons why are not really a mystery. (Content warning: Matters of politics, including reproductive choice, and hurtful/enraging comments by political and religious leaders are mentioned.) 
    • The article ends by asking for stories from women who chose not to be mothers. I don't consider my childlessness to have been much of a "choice" -- and I know many of you don't either -- but I would encourage you to respond, if you feel so inclined! -- remind them that we're out here too!   
    • Lauren Kelly, Senior Staff Editor at the NYT, spotlighted the article in the morning Opinion Today newsletter. I loved her comments:  
Like other women who’ve chosen not to have children, I’ve received my share of well-meaning if unhelpful advice. 

You’ll regret it when you’re older.

But you’re missing out on one of life’s great experiences!

 It’s OK to change your mind, you know.

To which I usually say: I appreciate the concern, but I promise — I’m good. 

As Peggy O’Donnell Heffington makes clear in a guest essay for Times Opinion, I’m far from alone in feeling that way — and not just among my fellow millennials, whose reproductive decisions have stirred up something of a moral panic. Throughout history, Heffington writes, women have chosen not to have kids, sometimes because they were unable to but in many cases because, for any number of reasons, they did not want to.

Heffington notes that modern birth control methods and abortion access have certainly made it easier for many women to avoid having children, but “they hardly gave women the idea that they might want to do so.”

“Women have needed no help coming up with that idea all on their own for centuries,” she writes.

It’s valuable to be reminded that while childlessness among women might not be the norm, it is neither new nor rare — and that society’s skepticism toward childless women has always been there, as well.

The next time someone asks me why I’m not having kids, maybe I’ll say: I appreciate the concern, but like centuries of women before me, I promise — I’m good.

  • Dh to Little Great-Nephew (age 3), earlier this week:  "Come here, I have a present for you!"  LGN scurried over expectantly, and dh gave him a kiss. LGN:  "Where's the present??"  Dh:  "I gave you a kiss!"  LGN (with a "duh!"  expression on his face): "Uncle Dh!  A kiss is NOT a present!  A PRESENT is a TOY!!"  We've been laughing about it ever since then!  
  • Dh has discovered Louise Penny's Three Pines/Inspector Gamache mystery novels, has blazed through the first two within the past week and is starting #3 (which I just read and reviewed a few weeks ago...!). Guess I'd better hurry up and start #4 soon or he's soon going to surpass me...!  

                    Wednesday, May 10, 2023

                    "Sarah's Cottage" by D.E. Stevenson

                    My D.E. Stevenson fan group's next selection under discussion is "Sarah's Cottage," a 1968 sequel to "Sarah Morris Remembers," which we read late last year (reviews here and here). 

                    The war (World War 2) is over, Sarah & Charles are (finally!) married, and the book opens as they arrive at their newly constructed cottage in Ryddelton, Scotland -- built on land gifted to them by Sarah's delightful grandparents (who live nearby) -- to begin their married life together. 

                    Things are idyllic at first -- but then reality intervenes when Charles becomes obsessed with a book he's writing, leaving Sarah feeling lonely and irritated. Later in the book, he's summoned home to Austria by his estranged family, leaving Sarah -- and us -- uneasily remembering what happened when he made a similar visit in the first book. The couple also take an interest in their neglected niece Frederica (Freddie, daughter of Sarah's extremely spoiled and self-centred sister Lottie). The book spans more than a decade, from the time Freddie is 5 until she is in her late teens.  

                    Sarah & Charles are a doting aunt & uncle to Freddie and, as another doting childless auntie, I was pleased to see this relationship at the core of the book.  I did wonder if/when a baby was going to show up -- and there is a passage, late in the book (Chapter 34), when Sarah, watching her husband with the boys at Freddie's 15th birthday party (after about a decade of marriage), wishes she could give Charles a son. (Not just a baby, of course, but a SON! -- this WAS, after all, 1950s Britain...!):  

                    "Freddie seems all right now," said Charles smiling. He added, "They're enjoying themselves, aren't they? Does it make you wish you were fifteen, Sarah?" 

                    "No," I said. My wish was quite different (it had struck me like a sword in my heart so that for a few moments I could scarcely breathe).  I wished -- oh, how I wished! -- that I had been able to give Charles a son.  It wasn't the first time -- nor the hundredth time -- that I had wished it. Gradually I had settled down, accepting the inevitable and teaching myself to be grateful for my blessings, which were many, but today the pain had been revived. It was seeing Charles with the boys, so good with then, so happy and popular...

                    After reading that, I braced myself for the inevitable "miracle baby" ending -- which (SPOILER ALERT!) -- surprisingly!! thankfully!! did NOT happen!!  

                    The last few chapters (and the last one in particular) seemed kind of rushed, and there were a few plot points that were left sort of dangling.  There's not much of a real plot here, but it's a pleasant read with some very nice characters (and a couple of not-so-nice ones to add a little drama now & then!). Ryddelton is the setting for several other DES novels, and there are a few crossover characters here who make an appearance -- notably, members of the Dunne family from "Celia's House" (reviewed here).  As well, Freddie goes to school at St. Elizabeth's near Larchester, where Sarah & Lottie were students, and which also figures in a couple of other DES books, most notably "Charlotte Fairlie" (reviewed here and here).   

                    I decided to give this book 3 stars on Goodreads.

                    I will count this book as a re-read when we finish our group discussion later this summer.  

                    This was Book #18 read to date in 2023 (and Book #1 finished in May), bringing me to 40% 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, May 8, 2023

                    #MicroblogMondays: A royally good morning

                    Well, as mentioned in Friday's post, I got up at 4 a.m. on Saturday morning, and even after taking a nap in the afternoon (which I rarely do), I was exhausted all day -- but it was worth it to watch history unfolding on my TV screen in such a spectacular way.  

                    I'm talking about King Charles III's coronation in London, of course. ;)  The first royal event I can remember watching was his investiture as Prince of Wales in 1969 (when I was 8 years old), and I have rarely missed a major royal wedding, funeral or jubilee celebration since then. So -- much as I am not an early riser these days! -- I was not likely to miss this one!  

                    As usual, my favourite part of the day turned out to be watching the kids (i.e., the Wales children), and especially Prince Louis, who once again stole the show, lol.  Commentators mentioned that he might not be present for the entire two-hour-plus ceremony (I envisioned a nanny on standby, waiting in the wings to whisk him away if/when he got restless...!), but every time the camera panned in the family's direction, he was still there.  The sheer spectacle of the event was also amazing to take in. Beyond the dresses and jewels and gold coaches and red tunics and the amazing architecture of Westminster Abbey, as well as the wonderful music (etc. etc. etc.), I'll admit I was lusting over the lush green lawns and trees and the tulips, already in bloom!  

                    I know a lot of people are not fans of the monarchy, or of Charles in particular (especially when compared to his late mother, or his more popular son and heir William) -- but I think he will be a good king -- and I think the system has its merits, as outlined by the Globe & Mail in a weekend editorial

                    (Besides which -- doing away with the monarchy in Canada would require unanimous agreement from all the 10 provinces plus 3 territories on a constitutional amendment -- and there is, quite simply, no more than snowball's chance in you-know-where of that happening right now, not to mention no political appetite to open up that particular can of worms...!)(Sorry if I'm mixing metaphors here...!)   

                    Did you watch? 

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

                    Taken shortly after I got up on Saturday morning, 
                    with the clock on the wall attesting to the time!  
                    I mostly watched CBC's coverage, occasionally flipping over to BBC World. 

                    Friday, May 5, 2023

                    Coronation weekend odds & ends

                    • Well, my alarm clock is already set for (YAWN!) 4 a.m. tomorrow morning. CTV's coverage of King Charles III's coronation begins at 3 a.m., CBC's at 4 and CNN's at 5, my/Eastern time.  I figure 4 a.m. sounds about right -- time for me to have some breakfast while watching the dignitaries arrive and listening to the talking heads. I'll probably be flipping back & forth between CBC & BBC World.  And live-chatting (texting) with my longtime New Zealand penpal :)  which we've done for the last several big royal events -- something we could never have imagined doing when we first started writing to each other as teenagers in 1977!! (This is when I love technology, lol.)  
                      • According to the schedules I've seen, Charles & Camilla will leave for Westminster Abbey at precisely 5:20 a.m., the service will begin at 6 and Charles will be crowned around 7. The balcony appearance at Buckingham Palace (and Royal Air Force flypast) will happen around 9:30 a.m.
                      • BIL seems skeptical that I would want to get up at 4 a.m. for such an event (let alone that I'm capable of actually getting up at that early hour, lol). He obviously doesn't know that I've been doing this for every major royal wedding & funeral for the past 40-odd years, and watching royal events for well over 50!  The first one I can remember watching is then-Prince Charles's investiture as Prince of Wales in 1969, then Princess Anne's first wedding in 1973, which was especially notable because we'd only recently gotten our first colour TV set).   
                      • Who else is planning to watch??  
                    • In my last odds & ends post, I flagged an article about "wedding sprawl."  I'm seeing it in action this weekend... my cousin's daughter is getting married this summer, and her friends have spirited her away to Los Angeles for a bachelorette weekend (!).  Not only that, one of her friends tagged her on social media with an image of a Vennmo (U.S. mobile payment system, like PayPal, but not available in Canada) QR code, inviting people to scan it and "buy the bride a drink." !!!  Now I think I've seen everything... I mean, if I was there in LA, enjoying the sunshine and fun, sure, I'd buy her a drink, but...??!  (Has anyone else ever heard of this??)  I'm sure something else will come along to top that one soon, though...! 
                    • An oldie (which I may or may not have shared here before?) but a goodie (and a timely one too):  From John Pavlovitz:  "For Those Who Hurt on Mother’s Day." 
                    • This weekend is International Bereaved Mothers Day (always marked on the Sunday BEFORE that "other day"). ;)  It was created in 2010 by an Australian woman, Carly Marie Dudley, in memory of her stillborn son Christian and to honour all mothers who have lost a baby and feel overlooked on Mothers Day.  
                      • Many loss mom bloggers who were around back then will remember Carly Marie and the gorgeous photos she used to take and send to bereaved moms of their child's name written in the sand by the ocean at sunset. She has gone silent online in recent years, and most of her sites and social media accounts are no longer active, but every year at this time, I still see people in my social media feeds posting about the day she founded.  
                      • At the time she created it, Carly Marie said, "International Bereaved Mother’s Day is intended to be a temporary movement. It is a heart-centered attempt at healing the official Mother’s Day for all mothers. I believe that we can do this and that sometime in the near future there will be no need for this day at all because all true mothers will be recognized, loved, supported, and celebrated.” 
                        • (It's a nice idea, but I don't think we're anywhere close to that point yet...!) 
                      • Here's an article that Carly Marie wrote in 2016 for Still Standing Magazine about International Bereaved Mothers Day:  
                      • From Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (a charity which provides beautiful professional photos for parents experiencing the loss of a baby), an article reminding us that not only was Anna Jarvis, the founder of Mother's Day, childless herself, she created it to honour her own mother -- who lost most of her many children. 
                    • In a recent Substack newsletter, Jill Filipovic had a very long and wide-ranging interview with Ruby Warrington, author of the recently released book "Women Without Kids." Both Ruby & Jill are childfree by choice, so the interview is mostly from that perspective -- but there is a LOT there that I think we all can relate to -- AND! (bonus!) Ruby gives a shoutout to Jody Day and Gateway Women and Jody's childless elderwomen project!!  (Unfortunately, there may be a subscriber paywall.)  
                    • Also a great read from Jill Filipovic (and NOT behind a paywall): "What Do Women Need?" Answer in the subhead:  "Better men. Until then, we'll freeze our eggs."  Sample passage: 
                      Women don’t freeze their eggs because they’re selfish careerists who want to climb the corporate ladder; women freeze their eggs because they want to have a child with a great partner, and one hasn’t yet come around... 

                      It’s easy to look at this issue and say that men just need to get their shit together. And men do need to get their shit together. But some of this isn’t about individual men being bad; it’s about larger cultural and economic forces that have left men untethered, often ill, and often directionless.
                    • The Globe & Mail has a personal finance podcast aimed at millennials and Gen Z-ers called "Stress Test" -- and a recent episode dealt with the realities and costs of fertility treatments in Canada. You can listen to the podcast and/or read a transcript (which -- warning! -- does not seem to be well edited...!), here
                    • From The Toronto Star, written by a fertility doctor:  "The inequity of infertility: Why we need to talk about reproductive health as a shared responsibility." Sample passage: 
                    Infertility should be considered a public health issue that has the potential to impact everyone through dwindling populations, rising health care costs, emotional stress and lower workplace productivity.

                    We can share the responsibility for our society’s fertility rate by promoting policies that consider reproductive health and talking openly about infertility to reduce the stigma. 

                    • Well worth a read:  in her Culture Study newsletter on Substack, Anne Helen Petersen interviews transracial adoptee Angela Tucker about her experiences and about her new book, "You Should be Grateful."  
                    • I loved Carolyn Hax's response to the second letter in her advice column in the Washington Post, written by a woman whose sister-in-law keeps bringing up how much money she (the writer) makes. (It's actually less than the SIL's salary.)  I was reminded of some of the "bingos" we hear as childless-not-by-choice people (and of course, some of them are related to how much money WE must have, since we don't have kids...), and I LOVE some of the answers Carolyn proposes!
                    • On social media, Jody Day of Gateway Women flagged a newly released study in the Irish Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy:  "Childlessness as a springboard for post-traumatic growth." 
                      • The study was the subject of an article in the Irish Times. "There’s more to being a woman than being a mother."  "The longing to have a child didn’t go away for many women in our study," the subheading reads. "But they found other ways to flourish."  Our pain is real -- but it does not have to define us. 
                      • Said Jody on social media: "I really, really hope this starts to turn the tide on the very ill-informed opinion, amplified by the #pronatalist media, that #childless women 'never' recover from the trauma of childlessness... we can, we do and we find other ways to 'flourish' in our lives and share our mothering hearts with the world around us, and with ourselves. It takes time, love, and support, but we rise again..."
                    Have a good one!  :)