Friday, June 30, 2023

Churches, community & childlessness

Jessica Grose, who writes about parenting, families and relationships for the New York Times, has recently been exploring why Americans are moving away from organized religion. The fifth and final installment in her series, published June 28th, is about "What Churches Offer That ‘Nones’ Still Long For" -- i.e., "the ready-made supportive community that churchgoers can access."  She points out that secular communities seldom offer the same level of support to their members that churches/temples/mosques can and often do. 

This is the passage that I found especially interesting (and relevant, as a childless woman)(boldfaced emphasis mine)(and while Canada is not quite as religious a society as the U.S. is, I think the same statements largely apply here too):  

As the authors of “The Great Dechurching: Who’s Leaving, Why Are They Going and What Will It Take to Bring Them Back?,” all of whom are pastors, write:

In our opinion, America is largely built for a specific type of person. If you belong to a nuclear family, graduate from college, and have children after marriage, America’s institutions tend to work better for you. If you get off that track (or never started on it), the U.S. is a more difficult place in which to thrive.

They go on to say that church culture can feel unwelcoming and even shaming to people who are struggling financially or have family structures outside of the model they describe. What’s more, they write:

Modern American churches are financially incentivized to target the wealthy and create a space where those on track feel comfortable. Biblical hospitality, though, is so much more than just throwing money at a problem, and the net result is that the average American church is not truly hospitable to the less fortunate, making them feel like outsiders in our midst.

Many readers who replied to my query mentioned leaving churches that rejected them during their divorces. Others talked about being constantly hit up for money they couldn’t afford to donate.

I’d like to see faith communities do a better job of including people who aren’t on that, if you will, ordained track. Not because I think people need to be religious to live good lives — I don’t believe that — but because almost everyone needs community to flourish. As the Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, whom I spoke to for this series and who wrote “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community,” has been preaching for decades, increasing social isolation is bad for all of us.

As Carson Curtis, 36, who lives in Arizona, wrote about missing a general sense of community from attending church, “Being socially atomized is hard on the spirit.”

I've written on this blog about my own struggles with/ambivalence about religion and faith over the past 25 years, as I also grappled with pregnancy loss and permanent involuntary childlessness.  Dh & I have never been especially religious (especially in an organized religion/church sense), but we thought it was important for our children to have some grounding in basic religious/Biblical knowledge, and so we started going to church regularly when we started seriously thinking about starting a family.  And the church and its rituals did provide us with some comfort and kindness in the aftermath of our daughter's stillbirth.  

But as time went on, and the women who had been pregnant at the same time as me showed up in the pews with their adorable babies in tow -- and then a second, and sometimes a third! -- while I struggled with infertility treatments, it became harder and harder to face Sunday mornings. Churches can be wonderful, welcoming places with lots of programming and activities geared towards children and families -- but they're not so great when you don't fit that particular mold. (Some denominations/congregations, of course, are better/worse/more or less welcoming than others.)  I know I'm not the only infertile/childless woman who has felt this way!    

Of course, church isn't the only place where childless/free people can feel like the odd ones out. We're not plugged into those other communities/networks that parents have regular access to and take for granted -- kids' schools and parent/teacher organizations, their sports teams and other extracurricular activities. I see friends on Facebook regularly posting photos of themselves out for dinner with the "soccer moms" and "dance moms" that they've met and formed friendships with through their kids' activities. I have no such "mom friends" to socialize with, even on a superficial level. 

Since moving here seven years ago, I've sometimes mused about going back to church -- not so much because I'm feeling a spiritual void, but -- yes -- for the community aspects -- to meet people and make some connections, build my network a little. I haven't done it -- yet. I guess I like my lazy Sunday mornings too much...! But it's something I've considered. 

Grose is optimistic:  

After talking to readers searching for fresh answers to life’s eternal questions, I believe that there is potential for new kinds of meaningful, lasting communities to be created in the coming years that have nothing to do with organized religion as we know it. I’m eager to see what comes next, because I believe that out of this evolution, Americans can create something nurturing that is also suited to modern life.

Let's hope so...! 

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

"The Bullet That Missed" by Richard Osman (re-read)

Discovering Richard Osman's "Thursday Murder Club" series has been one of my biggest reading pleasures of the past few years, and a welcome escape from the pandemic! Book #4, "The Last Devil to Die," is due on Sept. 14th.  

It's been a loonnnggggg wait since the last volume -- "The Bullet That Missed" -- came out last fall (2022). I immediately scooped  up an e-copy of that book then, read it and reviewed it (here). And I just had a chance to revisit it, since it's the July pick for my Lighthouse Women (formerly Gateway Women) NoMo Book Club. We've already read & discussed (and enjoyed) the first two books in the series together, and we figured it was a good pick right now, as the book club recently reorganized with two new co-hosts (one being yours truly...!).  

The books take place in an upscale retirement village in rural Kent (in Britain), where -- instead of knitting or playing golf -- a foursome of amateur detectives try to solve cold cases (with a little help from a couple of friendly officers from the local police department).  They include former union leader/tough guy Ron; gentle, by-the-book psychiatrist Ibrahim; tough-as-nails retired MI5 agent Elizabeth; and slightly batty nurse and diarist Joyce (and her new puppy, Alan!). 

In this volume, the group is investigating the disappearance of a local TV anchor whose car went off a cliff 10 years ago and whose body was never found. At the same time, Elizabeth is being threatened by a mysterious new adversary (nicknamed "the Viking"),  who is blackmailing her to commit a murder of her own. Like the previous books in the series, this one's a whole huge lot of fun:  there's wit, humour, plot twists and red herrings galore -- along with some thoughtful observations about aging, friendship and more. 

Once again, I'm rating this one 5 stars on Goodreads -- the re-read did not change my opinion (I've rated the previous two books 5 stars each too). I love them all, but as I said in my original review, in some ways, I think this one is my favourite so far. :)  

Ideally, the books should be read in order:  each book revolves around a self-contained mystery, but there are certain storylines that continue from one volume to the next, and each one picks up where the last one left off. (And I'm betting that if you read one, you'll want to read the others!)  

This was Book #25 read to date in 2023 (and Book #3 finished in June), bringing me to 56% 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."  

Friday, June 23, 2023

Odds & ends for the weekend

  • Mel at Stirrup Queens is marking Blogoversary #17 (!!!) this week.  Go congratulate her and give her some appreciation for all she's done for our community over the years. <3 
  • I just found out my best friend from high school is becoming a grandmother this weekend -- her oldest daughter was married last summer, and is being induced on Saturday. She's in her early 30s, so I suppose it shouldn't be surprising... but somehow, it is! 
  • There was an excellent documentary on PBS on Wednesday night about endometriosis, called "Below the Belt." I don't have endo (that I know of, anyway...), but I know many people who do. The program was both maddening and highly informative. Worth a watch. BUT... 
    • Content warning:  The film does end with a "miracle baby" born to one of the women featured. (Of course...!) 
  • I adore Dr. Jen Gunter and her common sense, myth-debunking approach to women's health. (She's a fellow Manitoban and U of Manitoba alumnus, who recently received an honorary doctorate there. She's also a fellow loss mom who lost one of her triplet sons. The other two were born prematurely -- and just finished high school!) The latest edition of her Substack newsletter, The Vajenda, debunks false claims being made on Instagram about egg regeneration (?!).   
  • "‘Dramatic rise’ in number of women freezing eggs in UK," says an article in the Guardian. Some interesting stats cited here: the numbers of pregnancies and live birth rates resulting from IVF treatment have generally increased since the 1990s across all age groups (significantly in some cases) -- but what's not noted is that, overall (if you look at the numbers), most IVF patients are still leaving treatment without a baby.   
  • Another good Guardian article: "How I found joy in life without children of my own." 
  • You can't get much more "establishment" than Fortune magazine, right?  Which is why it was so absolutely awesome to see Katy of the Childless Collective (formerly Chasing Creation) quoted on the childless-not-by-choice perspective in a well-rounded article about "DINKS" (Dual Income, No Kids people) and personal finance in that publication. Headline: "Couples without kids say they have more career freedom and financial stability—the worst part is the ‘judgement’ from other people."  (Ain't that the truth, right?)  Worth a read! 
  • World Childless Week is Sept. 11th-17th, and this year's topics are being announced this week.  There are some new ones this year -- go check out the lineup! and consider making a submission! (something I say I'm going to do every year... one of these times...!). 
Have a great weekend! 

Monday, June 19, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

Some odds & ends to start off the new week! 
  • Once again, a tragic story unfolded this weekend, connected to a place I knew well in my childhood.  :(   Late last week, a small bus/van full of seniors from Dauphin, Manitoba, collided with a semi-truck at an intersection on the Trans-Canada Highway (the main east-west route that runs right across Canada). 10 people are dead (still to be publicly identified);  15 still in hospital.  They were just 10 minutes from their destination, a casino near the town of Carberry. It's believed to be the worst mass casualty event in my home province's history. :(  
    • Between 1969 and 1974 (from the time I was 8 until I was 13), we lived in a small town about a 45-minute drive from Dauphin. Dauphin was the closest "big town" -- my mother would drive there every few weeks to buy groceries at the supermarket there (larger selection and lower prices than what we could get locally);  we would go there to see the dentist and optometrist and do other shopping;  and we would go there to the movies. Our best friends' mom & my mom would drop us off at the theatre for the Saturday matinee while they went shopping, and we'd all meet up later (and maybe pick up a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken to take home and reheat for dinner, or stop at the A&W drive-in for hamburgers, fries and their signature root beer) before heading home again. 
    • Between 1974 and 1980, we lived in another town along the Trans-Canada Highway, between Winnipeg & Brandon, and then between 1980 and 1984, while I was at university in Winnipeg, my parents lived in yet another small town, about an hour south of Brandon. So I've made that trip along the Trans-Canada, past that spot, many times, often by bus, to visit friends in Brandon and to visit my parents (they'd pick me up at the bus depot there and drive me home). 
    • Five years ago, in the spring of 2018, another horrific bus/truck crash near Nipawin, Saskatchewan (as well as another nearby town where we'd lived, 1966-69), claimed the lives of 15 young hockey players from the town of Humboldt. (Those involved with investigating that crash and supporting the survivors and families are now providing assistance with this one.) And last fall, 10 people died and 18 were wounded in a murderous rampage through two communities in northeastern Saskatchewan, both near yet another small town where we'd once lived (1963-66). 
  • Here's an excellent article from Psychology Today: "The Cruelty of Natalism."  (Subhead:  "Personal Perspective: If you don’t know what it means, that’s part of the problem.")  Excerpt: 
We all need to make room in our lives, and in the world, for people who don’t have, can’t have, and/or don’t want children. This requires checking our own natalism and working toward a world in which there’s a place for people without kids. Yes, some people are happily child-free. Others aren’t. Either way, they’re all struggling to exist in a world that tells them they don’t belong here.

  • Well, what do you know? The New York Times ran an article about men & infertility on Father's Day! (Gift link.)  
    • The NYT also offered tips on how to cope when Father's Day is hard, for whatever reason (which also apply for other difficult holidays & celebrations). (Gift link.) Content warning: adoption/birth announcement (on Mother's Day, no less...!) at the end of the article. 
  • Speaking of Father's Day -- we watch CBS Sunday Morning every week, and we usually enjoy Jim Gaffigan's wry commentary -- he's one of dh's favourite comedians. But his piece today about fathers vs men who don't have kids totally missed the mark. :p  (There are lots of commenters on the show's Facebook page who agree with me.)  I'm not going to link to it directly, but if you're curious, it's on the show's website and also on its Facebook page. 
  • Yael Wolfe hits it out of the ballpark once again with a rant on Medium about how aunties are undervalued ("The Auntie Era Has Arrived").  Unfortunately, it's a members-only story, and there don't appear to be any gift links.  :(  A couple of sample quotes: 
From where I’m sitting, childless and childfree aunties are one of the most unsung heroes of our world. And I’m so tired of witnessing our society judge and ignore them...

When I see the way childless/childfree aunties are treated, how invisible they are, and how underappreciated they are, I worry. When I hear people proclaim that mothers are more valuable to the world simply because of their parental status, I worry. And hell, when I see how much we fetishize the selflessness of mothers, I worry.

We don’t do this with men...  

It’s easy to call someone a doomer or a fearmonger if you’ve never lived through a rare tragedy. It’s easy to tell them to keep calm and carry on. It’s easy to tell them to look on the bright side. It’s easy to say everything will be fine.

It’s not so easy when you’ve lived through doom.

That’s why we keep our guard up.

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

"A Rule Against Murder" by Louise Penny

The "Notes From Three Pines" Readalong of Louise Penny's Three Pines/Inspector Gamache murder mystery novels recently resumed with a discussion of the third book in the series, "The Cruellest Month," which I read & reviewed in April, here

Meanwhile, I just finished book #4, "A Rule Against Murder" (titled "The Murder Stone" in some markets). This one is notable for being the first Three Pines mystery (so far?) that's almost entirely set outside of Three Pines -- although a couple of Three Pines residents play a prominent role in the plot, and other characters we've come to know from the previous books are also featured.  

I'll admit, I've kind of fallen in love with Three Pines, and I automatically assumed that I wasn't going to enjoy this book as much as the others because of the change in venue.  

I was wrong. 

It's late June (and it was early June as I read this!), and Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his wife Reine-Marie are at the exclusive, rustic Manoir Bellechasse (not too far from Three Pines) to celebrate their wedding anniversary. They come here every year at this time -- but this time, they have company: members of the extended Finney family have more or less taken over the inn for a family reunion.  

And then (of course!) there's a murder -- and Gamache must interrupt his holiday to investigate, not only whodunnit, but why and how. 

As with the previous three novels, this one starts out slow, but picks up the pace and gets more interesting once the murder takes place. Observing the bickering, highly dysfunctional Finneys, Gamache finds himself reflecting on his relationships with his own parents and his two adult children. There are also quasi-familial relationships among the staff members at the inn. The focus on families did not faze me, as a childless-not-by-choice person -- perhaps because the Finneys are such a disagreeable bunch (lol), but also because (as usual) the writing was just SO good, the characters so well drawn and human, and the plot and subplots so absorbing. 

There are a couple of dramatic touches that seemed just a *little* cliched/overly dramatic -- e.g., both the murder AND the climax where the killer is confronted take place during huge summer storms -- but they weren't enough to detract from my overall enjoyment of the book. 

While I feel like I can never have too much Three Pines in my life ;) it turned out the new setting was not the negative factor I'd assumed it would be. In fact, Manoir Bellechasse is another place I'd love to visit, if it existed in real life. (Penny says in the author's message at the end that it's loosely based on the Hovey Inn in North Hatley, Quebec, where she was married.)  

(As with the previous books: do not read this when you're hungry! -- the food descriptions will have you drooling!)  

5 stars on Goodreads. 

This was Book #24 read to date in 2023 (and Book #2 finished in June), bringing me to 53% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 4 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."  

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: Neighbourly reminder

(This #MM is actually coming on a Tuesday, which is when my writing inspiration finally hit...!)  

One of dh's cousins is moving (to another suburb) -- and the neighbours on the street they're leaving threw them a big farewell party on someone's driveway last weekend, complete with a big banner stretched across the garage. His wife posted some photos from the party on her social media accounts.  

They moved into this house and neighbourhood a few years ago when it was a newly built subdivision, and I imagine everyone moved in at more or less the same time. All the couples in the photos -- about 20 people total -- look to be about the same age (40s/early 50s), and no doubt they all have kids who grew up playing together and hanging out together. 

I looked at the photos and just kept thinking about how very different it was when dh & I moved. Needless to say, there were no big, fond farewell parties for us.  The longtime neighbours on the one side of us -- including their daughter, Little Girl Next Door (LGND), who was born six months after I lost Katie, and whom we watched grow up -- did make a point of coming over to say goodbye as the moving van was being loaded, and to tell us what good neighbours we'd been and wish us well. (I even got a big hug from the wife.)  We'd never been "hang out at each others' houses/drinks together on the porch" kind of neighbours, but we would pick up mail for each other and chat with each other outside, and buy raffle tickets and Girl Guide cookies from LGND -- stuff like that. 

On the other hand, the neighbours on the other side, who'd been around almost as long as we had, were clearly offended that we were moving (I suspect they may have realized that THEY were one of the reasons we wanted to leave...!) and pointedly avoided us after the "for sale" sign went up...! 

These were the only neighbours we really knew on the street.  We'd known one or two other couples we'd exchange pleasantries with regularly, but they had moved by then themselves. 

The entire 26 years we lived there -- and certainly the 18 after we lost Katie -- I watched these and other families in the neighbourhood outside with their kids, chatting easily with each other. Dh chatted with some of them more often than I did -- after all, he was outside more often, mowing the grass, shovelling snow, etc. I tried exchanging small talk with some of the women, especially when we first moved there -- but it was pretty awkward. They would chat with each other animatedly about their kids, their schools, their sports teams, etc. -- and I would have nothing to contribute to the conversation. 

Of course it got even more awkward after I lost the baby I had been visibly pregnant with.... And I couldn't help but think how different things might have been, had Katie been here. 

(Might have been. Maybe not. But certainly more likely.)  

I sometimes joke that I flunked Suburbia 101 -- and sometimes I don't think I was too far off the mark.  

I wasn't going to write about this -- but those damned photos keep popping up at the top of my Instagram feed every time I opened it over the past two days, reminding me of a world and a lifestyle and a "club" that I never got to be a part of. I'm betting that if I had "liked" or commented on them when I first saw them, they would have disappeared from my feed. It was like they were just waiting for me to do it. ("Hey! Over here! Remember us??")  

But I just couldn't do it.  (And after a while, when the photos kept popping up to haunt me, I was damned if I was going to do it, lol.)

(No offense to dh's cousin, his wife and their family, who I actually quite like...!) 

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

Friday, June 9, 2023

Friday night odds & ends

  • This past week was an unnerving taste of the ominous future that's knocking loudly at our doors.  After keeping the balcony door closed and running the air purifier for most of the week, because of the poor air quality outside (because of the smoke from the huge forest fires happening all across the country), it (thankfully) rained here on Thursday night/Friday (this) morning. I'm not sure whether it rained where the fires are -- but, combined with the shifting winds, the air quality improved enough on Friday that we could open the balcony door again and go outside, unmasked. 
  • The Full Stop podcast has a brand new spiffy website -- and this week, they've launched a new global community for childless-not-by-choice people.  Visit the new website for details!  
  • A first-person essay from The Globe & Mail about grief with some familiar-sounding observations:  "The grieving outcast: I lost a lot more than my sister." 
  • From the BBC:  "IVF patients need more mental health support, charity says." Well, duh... but it's nice to see some attention being drawn to this critical issue. 
    • However!  Please note:  the important message the story is trying to convey was undercut by the fact that just two IVF patients were interviewed for the story -- both of whom are now mothers. (Pregnancy & baby photos are included, of course.)  Given that the vast majority of IVF patients leave treatment without a baby (with even greater repercussions for their mental health), might it not have been wise to include this perspective (or even the mere fact that most treatments do not succeed) in the story too??  

Monday, June 5, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: Grey skies

It was supposed to be a sunny day -- but when I look outside, all I see is a hazy grey sky. 

That's because Environment Canada has issued an "air quality advisory" for my region (including the city of Toronto) -- the result of forest fires in northern Ontario and (to the east/northeast) Quebec.  

Not long ago, our skies were grey because of the fires in northern Alberta -- some 3000 km away.  (It was worse where my parents live -- still 1000+ km away.)  And in Nova Scotia, the worst wildfires in the province's history continue to rage. They've already destroyed homes in several communities uncomfortably close to the city of Halifax. 

There is no doubt in most people's minds (and certainly in the minds of the experts who have studied these things) that climate change is a major factor in the increasing numbers, frequency and size of these fires. 

Sometimes I'm glad I didn't have kids. I worry about the world that Little Great-Nephew and Little Great-Niece will be growing up in. :(   I know that changing our ways is tough, and it's not going to happen overnight -- and that some changes are already afoot -- but we need to pick up the pace. Because the direction we're heading is becoming increasingly clear, and it's not looking good.  :(  

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

Saturday, June 3, 2023

"Mothering Sunday" by Graham Swift (re-read)

The June book for my Gateway/Lighthouse Women Nomo book club -- which I suggested (!) -- is "Mothering Sunday" by Graham Swift, which I read a little over a year ago. (My original review is here.)  

This is a short book -- about 200 pages -- and, title aside, there are very few triggers from a childless/ALI perspective.   

It's Mothering Sunday -- a beautiful day in late March 1924 in the English countryside, when servants all over the country were given the day off to return home to visit their mothers/families and "mother churches." With no servants to wait on them, several local families are meeting at a hotel for lunch to celebrate the upcoming wedding of two of their children, Emma Hobday and Paul Sherrington, whose older brothers and friends all died in the recent Great War.  

Jane Fairchild, a 22-year-old maid for one of the families, is an orphan with no family to visit, and plans to spend the day reading a book from her employer's library when a telephone call changes the course of her day and, ultimately, her life. It's Paul -- her secret lover for the past 7 years -- inviting her to join him at his parents' empty house, before he joins his fiancee for lunch. It will be his and Jane's last meeting before he marries Emma and moves to London to practice law. 

While the main story unfolds on this one day (a day that changes everything for Jane), the narrative moves backwards and forwards in time. We learn about Jane's past and also about what happens to her in the future. There's not a lot of action -- but there's a lot of reflection on books, on writing and storytelling, truth and fiction and memory.  

My original rating was 3.5 stars rounded up to 4 stars on Goodreads. I'm increasing that to a solid 4 stars. As I said in my original review, this probably won't be everyone's cup of tea -- but it made me think, and the writing is beautiful. I'm glad I took the time to re-read it.   

Have you read this (or seen the movie version that came out last year)? (I haven't seen the movie yet, but I'd like to.)  What did you think?  

Our Zoom discussion of this book hasn't been scheduled yet, but we've already announced that our July book will be "The Bullet That Missed (The Thursday Murder Club #3)" by Richard Osman (which I read when it came out last fall and reviewed here).  

This was Book #23 read to date in 2023 (and Book #1 finished in June), bringing me to 51% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 5 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."  

Thursday, June 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: May marked 38 months (3 years plus) that we've been living under the shadow of COVID-19.  On May 5th, the World Health Organization declared the global health emergency is over -- and in the U.S., the public health emergency declaration expired on May 11. Which is not to say (as the WHO Director-General and other national and international officials were quick to add) that covid is over -- far from it (although we all know that's how many people interpret this declaration).  As an article I flagged last month noted, "COVID is at 'a high tide' -- and staying there,"  and "hospitals are dealing with a 'steady stream' that's hurting the system."  

Back in March, Canada's National Advisory Council on Immunization (NACI) released its recommendations on spring booster shots, and in April, I started getting emails about available vaccination dates from the vaccine clinic attached to the medical centre in our old community where our family doctor practices, which is where we've had our last several vaccines done. However, the distinction between what was "recommended" and what/who was "eligible" was not entirely clear.  :p  As I understood it, on the one hand, everyone was urged to get vaccinated/boosted, especially if it's been 6 months or more since your last shot (our last ones were in early November = 7 months ago) -- but on the other hand, it seemed that vaccines were only being "offered" to people over 65 years old and/or those with immune issues, etc.  Ergo -- dh (recently turned 66) was eligible -- but I (a mere youngster of 62) was not. :(  

I sent not just one but two messages asking for clarification (via the messages window on the appointment tool) -- and never got an answer. :p  (Which is strange, because the medical centre is usually quite efficient about returning phone calls, at least.) So I decided to take a chance, and booked appointments online for both of us for boosters on Sunday, May 28th.  I fully expected to get booted off the system when I input my birthdate ;)  but nothing happened, nor did they kick me out when we arrived on Sunday and presented our health cards.  ;)  The vaccine clinic was previous housed in a separate space adjacent to the medical centre, but that space has since closed its doors -- which I guess shows you how much demand has dropped off.  :(   All vaccines are now being done at the medical centre on (some) Sundays (when it's normally closed). We arrived early, but there weren't very many cars outside, so we just walked in. Nobody else was there, and we were in & out in 5 minutes. (Another couple arrived while we were getting our shots.)  I checked the appointments site again later and there were still open appointments for every time slot.  

Anyway, I feel better for getting the extra protection (and no ill side effects to date, aside from a mildly sore arm and some slight fatigue that evening).  These were our 6th covid shots to date (although for some weird reason I did not get a receipt/certificate after my last/fifth shot in November (dh did), and that one does not appear on my updated vaccine record). We both got bivalent Moderna.  (So far, we've had Astra-Zeneca, Moderna, Pfizer, Moderna, Pfizer and now Moderna again.)  Aside from the first two shots, we've never felt any side effects worse than a sore arm and maybe some slight fatigue. (And our last vaccines, in November, were done at the same time as our flu shots, too -- one in each arm!)  

On the personal pandemic front: We remain covid-free (knocking wood, loudly...) -- and we while we have ventured out more often lately, we're still a lot more careful than most people we know.  We still mask in stores and other public places, albeit we usually don't in smaller/family settings.  (Dh has been making some noises lately about feeling weird about being "the only one" at the supermarket wearing a mask -- or one of the few, anyway -- but I DO NOT CARE!)  

On top of dh's solo trips to the supermarket for groceries (about once a week), for occasional takeout lunches & dinners, and to see/help out his brother, together we: 
  • Saw Little Great-Nephew at BIL & SIL's 5 times: stayed with him for several hours/most of the day while his grandparents (BIL & SIL) were at appointments on May 3rd, 16th & 31st; went over to see him and his grandparents (and stayed for lunch) on May 9th; dropped by for an hour or so on May 11th. (See also May 21st & 24th below, which would make it 7 times total we got to see him this month! :)  ) 
    • The clock is ticking:  LGN's parents have enrolled him in junior kindergarten (nursery school/pre-school) for the fall, as well as before & after school programs to help bridge the gap between school hours and drop offs/pick ups. SIL has enrolled him in day camp twice a week during July, to give him some much-needed socialization time with other kids his own age (as well as to give herself and BIL a bit of a break...!).  And of course, what happens when BIL has his surgery remains to be seen... Once school starts in September, we won't get to see LGN nearly as often as we do now -- so we are enjoying this precious time and building memories with him while we still can... 
  • Drove into midtown Toronto on May 4th for a checkup with our optometrist (for me), six months after my last one, and one year after he saw something abnormal in my right eye and referred me to an opthamologist, which resulted in surgery last July. Things (still) look good and my prescription remains more or less the same (my glasses are more than 8 years old!). I don't have to see him again for another year.
  • Drove BIL & SIL to a lengthy medical appointment in downtown Toronto, late in the morning of May 10th. (LGN's mom took the day off work to be with him.)  
    • By the time we got back to the suburb where we live, it was 3 p.m. -- we hadn't had any lunch, and we were all starving -- so we went to our favourite souvlaki place for a late lunch/early dinner. There was just one other table plus staff there, so it felt relatively safe from a covid perspective.  This was only the third time we've eaten in a restaurant since covid began 3+ years ago -- all three times within the past six months.  
  • Went grocery shopping at the supermarket together after we left BIL's on the afternoon of May 16th;  stopped there for takeout lunch after getting our latest covid booster shots on May 28th (see above); and also for some takeout dinner after staying with LGN all day yesterday (May 31st).  
  • Visited the dentist on May 17th (both of us). I noticed the plexiglass barriers in front of the reception desk had been removed, as had some (although not all) of the plastic sheeting between treatment cubicles, and some of the reception/administration staff were not masked. (Some still were, though... and of course, most of the dentists & hygienists wore masks even before the pandemic!)  
  • Had lunch (barbecue) on Sunday, May 21st (our Victoria Day holiday long weekend) at BIL & SIL's house, along with both nephews & their families. :)  Nobody wore masks while holding the baby (Little Great-Niece) this time around either (which we've done every other time we've seen her before, at the parents' request -- and they didn't say anything, so I'm assuming they're okay with no masks now). 
    • Stopped at the supermarket en route to pick up a cake for dessert. 
  • Picked up a few things at Canadian Tire and Shoppers Drug Mart, and shopped for shorts for dh at Mark's Work Wearhouse on May 23rd.  
  • Went with BIL, SIL & Little Great-Nephew to visit BIL & dh's aunt on May 24th. Had lunch at BIL & SIL's afterward, and then stayed with LGN while his grandparents went out to run a few errands.  
    • As we were leaving, I said (as I always do), "Love you, LGN!"  and (without looking up from his toys, lol) he said, "I love you too." !!!  I think that's the first time he's said that. MADE. MY. DAY.  :)  :)  :)  
25 years ago in May (1998), I celebrated a very happy Mother's Day as a mother-to-be, saw a genetic counsellor and had my first prenatal visit with my ob-gyn. 
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Also right now:  

Reading: I finished 5 books in May (all reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads, & tagged "2023 books").  
This brings me to 22 books read to date in 2023,  49% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. :)  I am currently (for the moment, anyway...!) 4 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. 

Current read(s): 
  • "Mothering Sunday" by Graham Swift, the June pick for my Lighthouse Women Nomo Book Club. This will be a re-read for me (my previous review here). Zoom discussion date TBA (generally late in the month). 
  • "Sarah's Cottage" by D.E. Stevenson, with my DES group.  I will count this book as a re-read after we finish in early August. (My original review here.) 
  • "Living the Life Unexpected" by Jody Day.  Re-reading (for the 5th time, I think!) and discussing one chapter per month (for the second time) with a group of other childless women within the private online Gateway/Lighthouse Women community. If & when I/we complete the full 12 chapters, I'll count it as a(nother) re-read. I was unable to attend this month's Zoom meeting for Chapter 4;  we'll cover Chapter 5 in June! (My most recent review -- with links to previous reviews -- here.) 
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 (Louise Penny mysteries) Readalong: Not sure what's happening here??  The apparent plan was to discuss a book a month (which seemed like a reasonable pace to me, giving me time to read other books too).  The last post to date was on March 22nd, about book #2, "A Fatal Grace" (reviewed here) -- since then, silence.  While discussion dates for the first two books were set a month in advance, there was no mention of book #3, "The Cruellest Month" (which I read in April and reviewed here), or when we'd be discussing it. 
    • Whether or not the Readalong ever resumes, I have book #4, "A Rule Against Murder" (titled "The Murder Stone" in some markets) in my soon-to-read pile. :)  And!  Dh has started reading the books too!  So far, he's covered the first three. 
A few recently purchased titles (mostly in digital format, mostly discounted ($5-10 or less) or purchased with points): 

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  • King Charles III's coronation on May 6th in London -- which I got up at 4 a.m. to watch!! (mostly on CBC, occasionally flipping over to BBC World).  
  • Season 1 of "Lucky Hank" with Bob Odenkirk wound up on May 7th. We really enjoyed it, and hope there will be a second!    
  • As I mentioned last month (!), the NHL Stanley Cup (hockey) playoffs are (still!) on.  Alas, although the Toronto Maple Leafs made it past the first round (for the first time in 19!! years!!), they were eliminated mid-month in the second round by the Florida Panthers (who won the series, 4 games to 1). Next year will be 57 years (!!) since the Leafs last won the Stanley Cup...!  The Edmonton Oilers -- the last Canadian team left in the playoffs -- were also eliminated in round 2. It's been 30 years since a Canadian team last won the Stanley Cup. :(   Dh is still tuning into some of the games, but I'll admit I've lost interest. 
  • "Funny Woman," based on the Nick Hornby novel "Funny Girl" (my review of the book, here), premiered May 11th on the W Network here in Canada.  So far, I've seen 3 of 6 episodes. It deviates from the book in some of the details, but (so far, anyway) the bones/arc of the story remains the same. (In my book review, I mentioned Rupert Everett as the agent, Brian -- I finally figured out who he reminded me of in this role -- would you believe Alastair Sim in "A Christmas Carol"??!)  
  • "Miss Austen Regrets," a movie about Jane Austen -- who was, of course, both single and childless -- and her relationship with her niece Fanny, on PBS recently. Based in part on some of Austen's letters. 
  • "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?" -- a well-reviewed documentary made in 2020 about the BeeGees, which aired on CNN a few night ago. The music of the Brothers Gibb (including younger brother Andy) formed a huge part of the soundtrack of my teen years in the 1970s (alongside other, harder-edged sounds). I am definitely a fan :) and I loved this documentary! (My review of a book about Andy that I read last summer, here.) 
  • As usual, there were some pretty good fireworks displays in the neighbourhood surrounding our condo building over the recent Victoria Day long weekend.  (Fireworks are a Victoria Day tradition, particularly here in Ontario, it seems.)  I could see much of what was going on without even having to get up from my couch!  
  • To a lot of noise coming from the depths of our condo building:  "repair work" on the parking garage began earlier this week and is scheduled to continue for a full TWO WEEKS.  What repairs need to be done (especially when the building is only 8-9 years old) were not specified. (Our next door neighbour is on the condo board, and I'm hoping to run into him so that we can ask -- he's always a fount of information and gossip, lol.)  
  • To a lot of music by Gordon Lightfoot, who passed away on May 1st at the age of 84 (that last link is a gift link from The Globe & Mail). It's impossible to understate his impact and importance in my country -- he was a cultural icon and national treasure. I never saw him in concert (although he regularly played Massey Hall in downtown Toronto -- he was the last person to play there in 2018 before it closed for major renovations, and the first onstage when it reopened in 2021), but it feels like his music has always been a part of my life. I remember singing "Sit Down, Young Stranger" and "The Pony Man" in music class at school as a kid in the early 1970s (our teacher must have been a fan...!), and "Cotton Jenny" in a school choir (!)(although I was more familiar with Anne Murray's version than his) -- and as I read the obituaries and appreciations and comments, and as people named their favourite Lightfoot songs, I found myself thinking, "Oh yeah, that one.. Oh yeah, THAT one!" and "I forgot about that one!!"  
    • It's almost impossible to pick a favourite -- but "Carefree Highway" always makes me think of long road trips across the Prairies; "Beautiful" would melt any woman's heart (and "If You Could Read My Mind" would break it); and I love, love, love "Song for a Winter's Night." I was got a shock of recognition when several readers' comments mentioned "Bitter Green," which often got played on the Winnipeg radio station my dad listened/listens to in the morning, when I was growing up. And, of course, every time I hear "Daylight Katy," you know who I'm thinking of...! -- although apparently he wrote the song about his cat...! (The lyrics actually read "Daylight Katy, come on..." but I've always heard it as "Daylight Katy, come home" -- wishful thinking on my part, perhaps...) 
    • (I'd better stop before I fill up this entire post with a list of Lightfoot songs...!) 
  • To an absolutely fascinating podcast interview with British author Jane Thynne, also known as C.J. Carey, author of two of my favourite books in recent years, "Widowland" and "Queen High" (which will be released in North America this summer under the title "Queen Wallis"). She mentions some of the unsettling real-life inspirations for the books, and draws some interesting parallels between King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson and a certain other royal couple (cough!) who's been in the news a lot lately...!
As I mentioned last month, Spotify shut down the daily (original/all-decades) Heardle challenge on May 5th -- the last day to play was May 4th.  The final song? "New York, New York" by Frank Sinatra ("Start spreading the news/I'm leaving today..."  lol).  At the end, my stats were 24.8% correct (68/274, 19 on the first guess), maximum streak: 3. 

Thankfully, the knock-off "Heardle Decades" versions continue. (I've always done much better on those versions anyway -- especially the 60s & 70s!)  Stats as of May 31st: 
  • Heardle 60s:  79.0% (199/252, 92 on first guess), down slightly from last month. Max. streak: 14. 
  • Heardle 70s:  69.5% (182/262, 108 on the first guess), up from last month. Max. streak: 13. 
  • Heardle 80s:  33.3% (35/105,  19 on the first guess), (way) down from last month. Max. streak: 3. 
  • Heardle 90s: 31.7% (79/248, 27 on the first guess), down slightly this month. Max. streak: 4. 
  • Takeout dinners on Saturday nights this month included McDonalds, teriyaki rice bowls from the local supermarket takeout counter, rotisserie chicken, and wood oven pizza. (The pizza is good, but not QUITE as good as it once was. I think the guy who used to make it must have retired. He was pretty old! -- but he made excellent pizza, lol.) 
  • Younger Nephew & his wife gave us a gift bag of goodies at Easter, including a box of individually wrapped "lemon wildberry" gourmet biscotti by "Mom's Best." We've added them to our regular shopping list. Yum!   
  • Dh & BIL's aunt sent BIL home with a big Ziploc bag full of Italian Easter bread (cuculi) after our recent visit there, and SIL split it with us, saying they couldn't possibly eat it all themselves.  Double yum!  :)  
Buying (besides books, lol):  I indulged in one of my periodic online shopping sprees, and ordered a few new T-shirts from Lucky Brand Canada (Victoria Day weekend 1/2 price sale);  a pricey shower squeegee from a Calgary-based company called Ocean Sales (where I previously bought an amazing window washing squeegie kit);  and, from Amazon Canada, a small cookie-dough scoop (I already have a larger one) and "Gord's Gold" CD (Gordon Lightfoot's greatest hits -- I couldn't resist...!). 

We went out shopping one afternoon and brought home some furnace filters at Canadian Tire and two new pairs of shorts for dh at Mark's Work Wearhouse

Wearing: It was FINALLY time to bring out the capris & sandals, and put away my long jeans! (hopefully for the rest of the summer!)  :)  (Haven't put on shorts or a tank top yet, but I'm sure that's coming...) 

Trying:  Not to panic when the (fibre optic/Internet-based) TV service goes down, as it did a few nights ago. Huge anxiety, as it happened when I was using the remote (a rare event!  lol) to change channels, and the picture froze. I tried turning the TV on & off, and the same picture was still frozen there. It was late -- too late to be fiddling around with technical stuff -- and we finally just went to bed. In the morning, I tried unplugging the TV & receiver, waiting a few minutes and then plugging them back in & turning the TV back on again. It took a minute to fully reboot, but worked like a charm.  A good reminder that unplugging/pausing/reconnecting is the first thing you should try when you run into technical difficulties. (Works well in terms of your own life too!  lol)  

Noticing:  A loud, high-pitched, intermittent whistling/trilling noise, coming from outside. Not every night, but several times recently, since the weather got nice enough to have the balcony door open.  (I remember hearing it last summer as well.) It starts in the late afternoon, and I can still hear it (more muffled) when I go to bed at night. Not sure if it's insects, birds, frogs from the nearby creek, or...??  

Also noticing:  The pounds creeping back on. :(   I weighed myself this morning and I am up more than 3 pounds since last month, which was up more than 2 pounds over the month before that -- about 6 pounds overall since the new year. I'm still more than 12 pounds lighter than my all-time heaviest weight, but this is not the direction I want to see the scale moving  Time to nip this trend in the bud...!  

Enjoying: Being able to have the balcony door wide open again! (albeit the windows in/around it need washing!).  The weather is mild enough now, and -- until yesterday, when we finally turned on the air conditioning -- there wasn't any/much humidity (yay!).  

Appreciating: Having air conditioning, when it's needed!  

Wanting: Gelato!  (Still haven't gone for our first gelato outing of the summer -- need to add to the agenda...!) 

Wondering:  Whether I'm going to be able to make it home this summer??  (It will depend on what's happening with BIL & when.) 

Worrying:  (As usual) About BIL's health issues (including impending major surgery), and the impact it's having on the rest of the family, including dh, SIL & the nephews.  :(   

Hoping:  That we will soon have some clarity on what's going to happen and when... And that I will manage to squeeze in a visit "home" with my family sometime this summer...! 

Waiting:  (See above...!) 

Prioritizing: Helping out BIL & SIL wherever/however we can right now. 

Loving:  Spending time with LGN (even if he tires us out!).  

Feeling: Happy that spring has (finally!!) sprung!  (Still) Anxious about BIL, his health and what the summer might bring...