Monday, July 31, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: I got scammed :(

I can't believe I fell for it. 

Suffice to say it involved sending an Amazon gift card to someone I didn't know, at the request of a good friend who said she was having difficulty accessing her Amazon account -- at least, I *thought* it was my friend.  (I feel slightly better that the transaction went through Amazon, and I didn't give any financial details to anyone else.)  

The initial email came from her actual email account (I later noticed that subsequent emails came from a Hotmail account -- which she doesn't have). She's been dealing with some health issues recently, and I've been feeling guilty that I hadn't messaged her in a while. It's been a busy day/week/month, I was tired and distracted, and I guess my happiness at hearing from her blinded me to all the huge waving red flags that look pretty damned obvious in retrospect. (Plus, it's a full moon tomorrow night!!) 

I realized almost immediately that I had just made a BIG mistake. I felt sick. It wasn't a huge-huge amount of money, but it wasn't insignificant either. Very fortunately, I was able to call my bank and have the transaction cancelled almost immediately. 

Unfortunately, that meant they also had to cancel my credit card, period. I should be getting a new one in 7-10 business days. In the meantime, I'm without a credit card, and when I get the new one, I need to contact ALL the companies that take regular payments/subscriptions from the old one and give them the new number.  

Because the initial email came from my friend's actual email account, I was leery of emailing her to warn her. So I called her. We couldn't talk long because she was waiting for her service provider to call her back (while juggling calls from all the other people they had emailed too). Whoever did this managed to wipe out ALL her contacts, including ALL her business contacts, going back years & years. (She's a freelancer, too!)  She's hoping they will be able to retrieve those for her. 

As a precaution (and with a little help from my sister's techno-expert partner), I also changed my email passwords. (I also changed my Amazon password for good measure.)  He told me I'm certainly not the first (nor the last) person to be taken in by a scammer, and that these guys are getting very, very good, especially now with the help of ChatGPT and other AI tools.  :(  

My sister (who has worked in financial services for nearly 40 years -- and was herself  -- as she reminded me -- the victim of a scam at work a few years back) also advised me to check my credit bureau ratings on TransUnion and Equifax. She said it's probably overkill, but better to be safe... 

What a mess.  :(  

Needless to say, I am beat. And feeling like a complete idiot.  :p  (Learn from my mistakes!)  

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

Saturday, July 29, 2023

"The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd

"The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd (published in 2001) will be the September pick for the Gateway/Lighthouse Women Nomo Book Club(It was also recently featured in Queen Camilla (formerly the Duchess of Cornwall)'s Reading Room, which I follow on Instagram.) 

"The Secret Life of Bees" is set in July 1964 in rural South Carolina, where 14-year-old Lily Owens lives and works on a peach farm with her abusive father and their black housekeeper Rosaleen. Emboldened by the newly signed Civil Rights Act, Rosaleen tries to register to vote -- with disastrous results. Together, she & Lily flee to Tiburon, South Carolina, which is tied in a mysterious way to Lily's mother, Deborah, who died when Lily was 4. In Tiburon, they are taken in by the (slightly eccentric) three Boatwright sisters -- all unmarried, childless, and devoted to bee-keeping, honey-making, the cult of the Black Madonna, and each other.  

It's funny how some books can be a slog to get through, while others, even if you have your doubts that it might appeal to you, just fly on by. I read the first half over three days, and the second half in one.  There was a lot here in the setting and the plot elements that was familiar (and perhaps even just a wee bit stereotypical?). I was reminded of other similar novels I've read in the past -- coming of age stories set in the American South during the Jim Crow era -- among them "Summer of My German Soldier" by Bette Greene (which I read as a young teen), "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett (review here), and "Where the Crawdads Sing" by Delia Owens (review here). 

(I was also reminded of my great-uncle, a World War 2 veteran and shy bachelor with a sly sense of humour and fondness for cigars, who lived his entire life in the same house with my grandmother (his older sister), and worked as a beekeeper on a nearby honey farm. There was always a big bucket of fresh honey in Grandma's pantry, and they'd bring one for us whenever they came to visit. Sadly, he died suddenly in 1976, shortly after he turned 59 and I was 15.  I still think of him often and wish I'd known him better.) 

But the writing was wonderful, the characters and their voices and the world they lived in were vividly drawn, and the beekeeping angle was pretty unique (and interesting). I loved the strong, independent women in this book, and how they loved and supported each other.  And, as a childless woman, I appreciated how clearly the story showed that you don't have to be a biological mother to nurture and care for others. 

4 stars on Goodreads 

Apparently there is a movie version, made in 2008, starring Dakota Fanning as Lily, Jennifer Hudson as Rosaleen, and Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys and Sophie Okonedo as August, June and May Boatwright. (Somewhat younger and more glamourous than I pictured the characters in the book, but that's Hollywood for you...!)  

This was Book #27 read to date in 2023 (and Book #2 finished in July), bringing me to 60% 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."  

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Odds & ends

  • Last Sunday (July 23rd -- always the last Sunday of July) was Aunties Day. I had it written in my calendar, or else I probably would have forgotten about it completely -- it's not like it's well known outside the childless/free auntie community, right? (and it's not even that well known there/here, sadly...)(unlike that "other" holiday...! -- as I wrote a few years back), and I haven't been on social media much lately to notice if anyone else was posting about it. Anyway, here's to all the unsung aunties & godmothers out there!  
As a culture, we seem to understand the value (at least to some extent) of having grandparents actively involved in their grandchildren’s lives. We understand how enriching it is to all parties, helping generations bridge the gap across time and build strong family legacies.

Strangely, we do not seem to recognize the value of having aunts and uncles actively involved in their niblings’ lives.

I’m not surprised by this — again, I call out pronatalism that would attach the most value in families to relationships that are forged by parent-child bonds. We value grandparents more because they are parents. Aunts and uncles might not be, and even if they are, their contributions to their families are often seen as secondary in the absence of these parent-child bonds.


We love them. We absolutely love them.

And what’s all the more notable about this is that we don’t have to. Parents are stuck with the kids they push out into the world. They have a legal and (ideally) emotional obligation to them.

Aunts and uncles are under no such obligation. And yet we keep showing up just because we love those little beings.

Makes you wonder about all those parents who say women without children could never know true love and true sacrifice, doesn’t it? They don’t have any choice but to practice “true love” (whatever that means) and sacrifice.

But aunts do, and many of us figured that out without having become mothers… 


If we’re so committed as a society to value our children and the family that raises them, why don’t we make more of an effort to show those who pitch in how much it means to us?
  • I haven't had much time for podcasts lately, but I did manage to tune in live to hear Christine Erickson in conversation with Stephanie Joy Phillips about World Childless Week on New Legacy Radio. You can listen to the replay here, or on many other podcast platforms.  
    • World Childless Week 2023 is coming up!  Sept. 11th to 17th.  Deadline for submissions is Sunday, August 27th!  The list of this year's topics is here.   
  • I love, love, loved this recent New York Times story about intergenerational friendship between two women/neighbours. (It pays to get to know your neighbours!)  Bonus: children are not mentioned as part of either woman's story. I am assuming they are both childless/free. (Gift link.)
  • The Guardian recently talked to an embryologist at a fertility clinic about how her own infertility journey and losses have affected her and how she now does her job.  Headline: "The IVF specialist who lost multiple pregnancies: ‘I had spent years making people’s dreams come true. It felt so unfair’." 
  • From the Daily Mail:  "Why we childless women are sick of being exploited by mums in the office during the holidays."  
    • Sample quote: " 'What upsets me most is that I had their backs during lockdown, manning the phones in the office so they could stay at home, as I understood how hard it was to work while home-schooling kids. I feel sad the same goodwill doesn't seem to be there for me.' " 
    • (This was a frequent issue mentioned in the discussion about "Your Childless Experience" on Anne Helen Petersen's Substack newsletter, "Culture Study," which I wrote about here.) 
    • Jody Day of Gateway Women appeared on two different radio programs to comment on this issue: 
      • BBC Essex (link available through mid/late August) -- the relevant segment begins around the 3:09 mark, and Jody appears around 3:24.
      • And on Newstalk Breakfast (Ireland)(link within story). 
  • This Globe & Mail article doesn't mention pregnancy loss, infertility or childlessness, but I thought it was still highly relevant:  "Paying the ‘grief tax’ and the other hidden costs of caregiving." (Gift link.) 
  • Mel recently posted that it's been 10 years (!) since the demise of Google Reader (and shared a great article about it). Says Mel: "Social media is often blamed for the decline in blogging, but I think closing Google Reader contributed to the mass exodus to Facebook updates. Make it hard to read blogs, and people will stop reading blogs. Alas."  
    • I think she's right. I sometimes mention blog readers to women in some of the non-blogging childless communities I participate in -- and they have no idea what I'm talking about. 
    • I still miss Google Reader. As you all know well (I've complained about it enough here, lol), I used Bloglovin quite happily for most of the past decade, but it rapidly went downhill in recent years and became increasingly unreliable. I finally bit the bullet, downloaded Feedly and paid for the premium service (because the free version limited me to 100 blogs -- hahahahaha....).  I haven't had a lot of time lately for blog reading, but so far, so good...  

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

"The Fair Botanists" by Sara Sheridan

It took me a LOT longer to get through "The Fair Botanists" by Sara Sheridan than I had anticipated.  I started reading it on June 30th;  it's not a long book, but it took me until last night (July 25th!) to finish. (Normally, I get through 3-4 books a month!)  But needless to say, I've been otherwise occupied this month...! and even when I did have some down time at home, I often found it difficult to focus on a book.  I'll also admit that it took me a while to get into the story. 

It's 1822, and newly widowed Elizabeth Rocheid has just arrived in Edinburgh to live with her late husband's relatives, whose home sits adjacent to the city's new Botanic Garden. The garden's collection includes a rare Agave Americana plant, which only flowers a handful of times each century. It's set to flower again, so the watch is on, captivating the interest of the city's elite. Several of them hope to profit from the seeds the flowering plant will produce -- including Elizabeth's unlikely (and much worldlier) new friend, Isabel (Belle) Brodie.  

This was a pleasant read. It didn't grab me right away, although it did get more interesting (and complicated!)  as the story built to a climax -- but the rather conventional (yet rather unlikely) happy ending left me feeling slightly flat. (No babies, though!)  I did learn a lot about Georgian-era Edinburgh and Scotland, and about botany and essential oils/perfumery -- and the story of the Botanic Garden and how it was moved was fascinating. It was also interesting to read the author's note at the end, explaining how she came to write the book, what was historical fact (quite a lot, actually) and what was fiction. 

I had a hard time deciding on a rating for this one. I settled on 3.5, but rounded down to 3 stars on Goodreads. 

We'll be discussing this book throughout August in the Gateway/Lighthouse Women Nomo Book Club. (Cardinal rule #1:  no miracle babies!)  

This was Book #26 read to date in 2023 (and Book #1 finished in July), bringing me to 58% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 1 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."  

Monday, July 24, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: A sticky situation

Friday night, dh poured himself a glass of iced tea, sat down in the armchair and set the glass down on a coaster on the end table. 

He's not sure what happened, but over went the glass, and sticky, sugary iced tea sloshed ALL OVER the table, the side of the (leather) armchair, the (laminated wood) floor and the power bar/surge protector sitting on the floor between the table and chair. :(  

We managed to unplug the power bar and the things plugged into it without getting electrocuted (!) and started soaking up the liquid with various cleaning cloths and paper towels. I wiped down everything with a wet rag, including the floor -- but I could still feel the stickiness after it all dried. I knew I needed to give the floor a good, proper mopping -- it had been a while since I last did it anyway -- but my heart sank at the thought of starting this at 9 o'clock at night. I resolved to do it first thing in the morning after breakfast, when I could get in the shower right afterwards.  

Mopping the floor is one of those tasks that I always find myself putting off -- and when I do, I generally focus on the ceramic tiles in the kitchen, entryway, front hall and laundry closets, and two bathrooms. I grew up in houses with wall-to-wall carpeting in most of the living areas & bedrooms, and while I enjoy the look of our laminate wood floors and how easy it is to keep them clean, I find I'm a little leery of wet-mopping them too frequently, so I generally tend to just spot-mop any areas that look like they need it.  Dh vacuums our unit thoroughly every week, and I follow along behind him with a Swiffer dust mop to pick up the fine particles left behind, which usually keeps the floors pretty clean.  I figure I don't need to wet-mop every week, when there's just the two of us. I couldn't help but think, as I cleaned up the mess, that one bonus of being childless is that there's generally not a lot of sticky stuff landing on my floors with any kind of frequency, which means I don't have to mop as often!  :)  

When I do mop, I use the Vileda spin mop -- called O-Cedar in the U.S. -- recommended by GoCleanCo, and follow her method:  fill the bucket with hot water to the maximum fill line, and add one teaspoon of powdered Tide laundry detergent. (NOT liquid Tide, and no more than one teaspoon! -- and yes, it HAS to be Tide!)  That's it!  :)  

Before discovering GoCleanCo (on Instagram, during the pandemic), I used good old white vinegar in hot water, with satisfactory results too -- and I've also had a Shark steam mop, which I LOVED -- although I would be leery about using it on a laminate wood floor (the heat might soften the glue and warp the floor).  Also, I've had two steam mops, and unfortunately, they've never lasted very long...!   

Do you faithfully mop your floors on a regular timetable -- or are you more of an occasional/as needed mopper like me?  What's your preferred tools/method?  

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

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Making space for childless/free experiences & voices

I'm a paid subscriber to Anne Helen Petersen's Substack newsletter, "Culture Study" which, as the name suggests, tackles various subjects related to the culture around us.  She is childfree by choice, and sometimes touches on that in her writing, but she often covers parenting issues, because (of course) so many of her readers are parents.  A couple of times a week, she posts a discussion topic, and everyone jumps into the conversation in the comments. There are regular discussions about what we're reading/watching/listening to/cooking, and other recent topics have included divorce, being queer, favourite family photos (and why), and regional food delights. 

Imagine my surprise and delight when this past Friday (July 21st), the topic was "Your Childless Experience"!!  

Needless to say, my best-laid plans for the day went out the window, as I sat glued to my laptop, scrolling through all the comments (and I've read just about all of them too!).  As one commenter quipped, "Every Friday, you think you're going to get a lot done and then AHP releases an incredible thread topic and THERE GOES THE AFTERNOON." 

By the time I logged off that evening, there were more than 700 (!!) comments;  as of this morning, there are almost 900 (!).  Many of the commenters are childfree by choice, but almost every other conceivable aspect of the childless experience is covered:  infertility, pregnancy loss, ambivalence, lack of a partner, an unwilling partner, medical issues, concerns about climate change, and so on. Many expressed their gratitude to Petersen for making space for this topic (and for politely asking parents to refrain from commenting this time around: "There are lots of spaces for you!).  Many expressed their delight at realizing just how many other childless/free people were out there!  

Here's an excerpt from how Petersen set up the discussion. Needless to say, I love it!:  
We spend a lot of time thinking and talking and paying attention to parents in this newsletter. We do this because even though I am not a parent, a whole lot of people are, and the way they experience the world matters. The majority of adults *are* parents (although that percentage is decreasing every decade) and that experience of the world is often assumed to be the default. It shows up in the way organizations prioritize benefits, it inflects assumptions about eldercare, it’s ALL OVER political rhetoric. The imagined adult, the theoretical adult that society is built for….they’re a parent. 

And yet a whole lot of us are not parents! We are not the majority, but we exist, and our needs and rhythms and finances and ways of negotiating the world….they’re different. Some of us have consciously chosen not to have children, others are ambivalent or have found themselves in this situation without really realizing it, and some are desperate for children they cannot have for whatever reason. No matter how you found yourself here, I wanted to create some space here to talk about the experience of not having children in a society where the majority of people do. What’s hard? What rules? What’s weirder than you thought, what have you grown to appreciate, what scares you or delights you? 
I debated whether to post about this here, because you the conversation is private and you have to be a  (paid) subscriber to access it. The conversation itself is incredibly interesting and valuable -- but I thought the simple fact that she made space for it, and that it's been embraced so enthusiastically by her readers -- was fabulous and noteworthy in itself.  :)  

Saturday, July 22, 2023

They're home!

My last real status update on my brother-in-law and nephew was last Monday (July 17th). A lot has happened since then! 

  • Older Nephew's homecoming a week ago Friday (on July 14th)(which I wrote about here) was, unfortunately, short-lived. Last Tuesday morning (July 18th), I was eating my breakfast when his wife called dh, asking if we could drive up there and look after Little Great-Nephew for the day:  she needed to take Older Nephew back to the hospital in downtown Toronto. His bloodwork results were off -- and, somewhat alarmingly, he was seeping fluid from around the stitches of his incision.  :(  
    • We literally dropped everything, showered and dressed in record time, left within an hour of her call and made it there before noon. LGN was happy to see us and good as gold as usual.  
      • On the other hand, the dog -- a miniature dachshund, whose legs are too short to climb upstairs -- whined long and loud every time I would head upstairs to join LGN & dh -- so I wound up spending a lot of the day with him. Even so, he peed on the couch -- TWICE! -- presumably to show his displeasure at being abandoned, not only by his mom & dad, but also by me!  Poor puppy!  (It's hard to be mad at him!) 
    • Older Nephew was readmitted  :(  and then had to wait around for an MRI (which meant not being able to eat anything until it was done). It eventually happened at 10 p.m. that night (!).  His wife returned home around 7:30 p.m., and we left shortly after that. 
    • After analyzing the MRI results, the doctors decided to do a (non-surgical) procedure to correct the problem, which took place on Friday morning. Poor Older Nephew couldn't eat for 24 hours after that either! 
    • We didn't expect he would be sent home until Sunday or Monday -- but he got the okay to leave on Saturday (today!),  and is now home (again!) -- hopefully for good this time!  :)  
    • He will be off work recuperating for at least the next 2-3 months.  
  • We made a detour to BIL's house en route home from Older Nephew's house on Tuesday night:  SIL had asked us to check the refrigerator and throw out any food that had spoiled or looked iffy.  Let's just say we threw out a LOT of stuff.  (Clearly, BIL & SIL don't spend a lot of extended time away from home...!  -- dh is meticulous in ensuring we use up stuff before we head off on a trip that's going to last more than a few days, and we usually leave the refrigerator & freezer compartment nearly empty.)  We finally got home around 9:30 p.m. 
  • The next morning (Wednesday), we got up early and headed downtown to visit BIL & Older Nephew. It was BIL's 61st birthday. We'd seen him just two days earlier and we were shocked -- and delighted! -- by just how much better he looked and sounded. He'd been gradually improving to that point, but he was just SO much more like his old self, even since our last visit on Monday. It was great to see!  
    • He arrived home early Saturday afternoon! -- almost three full weeks after he was hospitalized, and 12 days after his operation.  He's a full 100 pounds lighter than he was at his peak weight!!  (But believe me, this is NOT the way you want to lose it!)  His arms are like toothpicks -- he's lost a lot of muscle mass, as well as weight (most of which he hopes to keep off for good) -- but the swelling in his abdomen is gone and the swelling in his legs has subsided considerably.  Absolutely amazing.  
  • Meanwhile, dh's scratchy throat turned into a sore one, and he developed a horrible cough. Two negative covid tests to date, and he's feeling a bit better, but he's resolved to stay away from BIL and Older Nephew for a while longer. :(    (One of dh's cousins went to pick him & SIL up and bring them home.)  
    • Dh couldn't resist heading over to BIL's on Saturday afternoon, though.  We both wore masks, the balcony door was open (ventilation) and we only stayed a few minutes. 
  • We're both happy to see the last of downtown Toronto traffic for a while...!  It took us a FULL HOUR to travel from the hospital to the closest exit onto the expressway that runs east-west along the lakeshore -- a distance of barely more than 2 kilometres or 1 mile!  We couldn't get in the right lane in time to make the exit ramp, and had to loop around and try again. Sooooo frustrating!
    • We could have taken the subway downtown -- there's a station a few miles/minutes away from where we live, with ample parking nearby, and a station right on the corner outside the hospital -- it's about a 45 minute trip -- but there's been an uptick of crime and violent incidents on there lately (albeit it's still very safe overall), and dh said he preferred to drive. And since he's the driver in the family...!  
  • One of Older Nephew's Wife's friends started a GoFundMe on July 14th to benefit the family. In the week since then, it's racked up $6,000 from more than 30 generous donors! 
    • I posted the link on my social media, and was tickled and touched to see two of my besties from high school donate $100 each. :)  

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Kidding... (but actually not kidding...!)*

(* with apologies to Mali for borrowing her line! lol) 

We went downtown to the hospital yesterday to visit BIL, who (as you all know by now) had a life-saving organ transplant last week (!) -- and also Older Nephew who (as donor) unfortunately has had a bit of a setback, but should be back on the road to recovery very soon. BIL has had some ups & downs over the past week & a half since the operation, especially on the mental front -- but yesterday, he was the most like his old self that I've seen in months!  He was ribbing dh (yep, definitely much more normal behaviour, lol...!).  And then, he started teasing ME -- about the number of photos of sunsets I post on my social media!  (He's obviously been spending a lot of time scrolling his phone while in bed, lol.)  

By way of explanation (and as I know I've mentioned here before), when we moved into this condo 7 years ago, we were delighted to realize that one unexpected bonus of our location and the floor-to-ceiling windows was some pretty spectacular sunset views. I've gotten into the habit of snapping a few photos when I notice them, and posting them on my social media accounts. It's not ALL that I post, but hardly a month goes by without me posting at least a couple of sunset photos. (And I'm certainly not the only person I know on social media who posts photos of sunsets!)

I knew he was teasing me, so I responded in kind -- I kept my tone light, but I said, "Hey! I don't have any cute pets or cute kids or cute grandkids to take photos of... sunsets are MY thing!" (And hey, if you don't like it, the mute button is your friend, right?)(I didn't say that last bit, but I was thinking it!)  There weren't any awkward pauses or anything like that, but the subject soon shifted to something else.

You know, even just a few years ago, I never would have responded like that. I probably would have just rolled my eyes and laughed it off and not really said anything in response -- and I certainly never would have alluded to/pointed out my lack of children or grandchildren compared to most people and what THEY post. Progress?? (25 years post-loss and 22 years after realizing I would remain permanently childless...!) 

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Flash back 40 years...

40 (!) years ago today, on a hot, humid morning in July 1983, I boarded a VIA Rail passenger train in London, Ontario, bound for Toronto.  My then-boyfriend/future dh was already on the train -- he'd boarded about two hours earlier in Windsor, further south, where he was studying for his MBA.  

I'd taken the train to Windsor to visit him several times since I'd arrived in London in early May to begin a year-long master's degree program in journalism at what's now called Western University -- but this was my first-ever trip to Toronto (or, as Canadians from elsewhere sometimes refer to it, "The Centre of the Universe," lol -- Americans, think New York City).  He was taking me there for the weekend to meet his family -- also for the first time. 

At Union Station, we were met by his younger brother (now my brother-in-law/BIL), who gave me a big hug.  I couldn't believe that these two were brothers:  BIL, at nearly 6 feet, towered over dh, and his build was much larger/stockier.    

Future dh & future BIL pointed out landmarks I'd only read or heard about or seen on TV as we drove through the streets in a red Volkwagen Rabbit, my head swivelling back & forth. I was struck by the preponderance of brick buildings (something I was not used to, coming from the Prairies, where most houses were made of wood and stucco), the overhead wires, the signs pointing to the subway stations below street level, the streetcar tracks criss-crossing the streets... As we drove down Danforth Avenue through the "Greektown" neighbourhood where dh had grown up (albeit his family is Italian), I saw street signs lettered in Greek characters as well as English. We stopped at a pedestrian crosswalk for a a Greek Orthodox priest all dressed in long black vestments and sporting a long grey beard. "We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto,"  I muttered to myself.  

When we arrived at the family home, a semi-detached three-bedroom brick house on a leafy street near the Danforth, my future father-in-law was waiting on the porch, along with one of dh's cousins, who'd cycled over from her own family's home a few blocks away. She explained with a smile that she just couldn't wait to meet me. (I've had a warm spot in my heart for her ever since then. :)  )  (It was not quite 8 months since dh's mother had died at the far-too-young age of 53. I never got to meet her.) 

It was future BIL-to-be's 21st birthday -- and the ENTIRE FAMILY -- aunts, uncles and cousins -- I'm talking BOTH SIDES OF THE FAMILY (their mom's and their dad's) -- descended on the house later that evening to celebrate  -- and, I suspected, to get a good look at the "mangiacake." ;)  I could see future dh's aunts checking me out (fortunately for me in a friendly way, lol) and chattering excitedly among themselves. "What are they saying about me??"  I hissed at him. "They're saying, 'She has pierced ears! Just like an Italian girl!' " future dh translated for me, laughing. 

My future sister-in-law -- who had recently started going out with my future BIL, after meeting him at a wedding in April (her cousin was the groom, his cousin was the bride) -- was also there. Later in the evening, the four of us slipped away from the party and strolled down the Danforth, stopping at an Italian bakery for gelato. It was the first time I'd had that particular kind of ice cream, and it tasted soooo good in the intense Toronto heat & humidity.  

None of us had any idea what the next 40 years had in store -- but at that particular moment, the future stretched out endlessly in front of us, and life was pretty good. :)  

Today, my BIL is turning 61. He'll be spending his birthday in a downtown Toronto hospital, where he's (still) recovering from a major transplant operation, thanks to his oldest son (our nephew), who saved his life by acting as donor. It's the first birthday of a whole new lease on life for him. 

(And yes, the thought has occurred to me that if I ever need a similar transplant, I won't have any kids to donate their organs to me -- I'll be stuck in the queue waiting for someone to die so that I can live a while longer on their donated organs. Yikes.)  

I'm no philosopher, but if anything, the past two and half years have drive home the message (and not for the first time) that life is short. And unpredictable. It goes by way, way too fast. One day you're celebrating your 21st birthday, with your whole life ahead of you, and then suddenly, you're in the hospital for an organ transplant. I've had some crappy stuff happen to me these past 40 years -- but some pretty great stuff too -- and overall, I have a very nice life. Even though I don't have the kids that, 40 years ago, I assumed I'd have someday, life is still good, and it's still worth living. (And it's all going by way too quickly...!)

Monday, July 17, 2023

#MicroblogMonday: Hanging in there...!

I actually meant ME & dh!  (lol)(and my poor sister-in-law, who has been at the hospital all day every day, and in a hotel every night, for more than a week now), and not the patients -- although they're doing well too!

To pick up where my last post left off, we made the hour-long drive on Friday morning to spend the day with Little Great-Nephew while his mom drove downtown to be with his dad at the hospital. We both had fun -- and the dog was ecstatic to have us there. (Every time I tried to go upstairs to join dh & LGN, playing in LGN's bedroom, the dog would sit at the bottom of the stairs and whine until I came back down again, lol.)(He's a miniature dachshund, and his legs are too short to climb the stairs!)      

And guess who was with Older Nephew's Wife when she came home later that afternoon??  (We learned that morning that he was being discharged, but kept the secret as a surprise for LGN.)  He was upstairs playing with dh & I was keeping a lookout at the window. When I saw the car pull into the driveway, I called upstairs, "LGN, Mama's home!" and when he came downstairs and ran to the door, I said, "I think someone else is with her too!"  He peered curiously out the door -- and then his dad slowly came around the corner of the garage, pushing a walker. "Who's that??" I prompted him. 

"DADA!"  he yelled. "I can't wait to see you!!" He took off down the sidewalk.  "GENTLE!!" his mom called out, afraid he'd bowl Older Nephew right over! (He wound up hugging his leg, lol.) 

It was SO cute. I was trying to film this with one hand while brushing away tears with the other. (However, I did something wrong, because nothing was recorded when I checked. Thank goodness Older Nephew's Wife was also filming with her phone/camera and captured the moment!)  

I may not have kids &/or grandkids of my own (and never will)  -- but this was a pretty special moment that  dh & I got to share with them. (We were also there when Older Nephew & his wife brought LGN home from the hospital -- and introduced the dog to him too!) WE got to be there -- not the grandparents (who, admittedly, were otherwise occupied!).  

We were back at the hospital downtown Saturday and again today. (We'll be back on Wednesday -- BIL's birthday -- and possibly back up to visit Older Nephew later in the week too.)  BIL looks better every time we see him, but he's still got a long road ahead of him. He'll likely be in the hospital for another week. 

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

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Family update

Thank you (SO MUCH!) for your positive thoughts, vibes, prayers, etc., for my brother-in-law and older nephew for BIL's transplant on Monday. It was a VERY long day for all of us -- especially dh. He was up at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday and, despite my pleas, was not able to sleep at all during the day or evening. He left here around 1:15 a.m. on Monday morning, picked up Younger Nephew, who lives nearby, then drove about an hour north (on dark rural roads) to pick up Older Nephew & his wife, and then all the way to the hospital in downtown Toronto, where BIL had already been admitted a few days earlier. (ONW's mother/Little Great-Nephew's other grandma was staying with LGN;  SIL checked into a hotel near the hospital on Saturday afternoon, and has been there since then.)  

Older Nephew had been told to check in between 5 & 6 a.m.;  they made good time (no traffic at that hour!) and arrived around 4:30 a.m. Even so, Older Nephew was quickly admitted, and everyone else spent the rest of the day hanging around a waiting room. Dh texted me that ON was in the operating room around 8 and out around 2-2:30. He had to wait a while for a bed (!) and so it was about 10:30 p.m. before his wife could see him.  Understandably, BIL's surgery took much longer. He went into the OR around 10:30 a.m. He did not emerge until after 11 p.m. (!) 

Once they knew BIL had also come through the surgery successfully, dh, Younger Nephew and ONW decided to head home. (SIL stayed at the hospital, along with her brother, who was also there for support, until she'd seen BIL, around 12:30 a.m., before her brother took her back to her hotel.) Dh drove ONW home first, then dropped off Younger Nephew before heading home. I'd gone to bed around midnight, but woke up when he (finally!) came through the door around 2:15 a.m. (!).  He estimates he was out of the house for about 25 hours, awake for 44, and drove a total of 250+ kilometres ( = 150+ miles)!  

While all this was happening, I was at home, fielding phone calls, texts and WhatsApp messages from dh & BIL's extended family (there's a WhatsApp group for cousins on one side of the family, and I set up a text group for cousins on the other side), as well as my own friends & relatives who knew what was going on, and updating them all as I received updates from dh via text. I (foolishly) couldn't resist posting a photo of BIL & ON that fortuitously popped up into my Facebook Memories, along with a request for prayers -- which prompted an additional flurry of enquiries that I responded to privately. I was in the comfort of my own home, but I was BUSY, and I was EXHAUSTED by mid-afternoon -- I can only imagine what the others were experiencing! 

Dh slept until 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, and napped on & off throughout the day. He was (understandably) EXHAUSTED, so we took it easy that day (we're both still tired and have been in bed earlier than usual the past few nights!).  

Yesterday (Wednesday) we got up early and headed downtown, arriving around 10:30-11, and spent about four hours there, mostly with Older Nephew, although we did head up to see BIL in the ICU briefly.  We also had lunch with SIL in the food court.  Both guys are doing well, especially Older Nephew. While we were there, a nurse disconnected almost all of his tubes & IVs, brought in some solid food for his lunch, and when we returned from visiting BIL, we were delighted to see him walking down the hallway (with the help of a walker & a nurse nearby).  When he returned to his room, he sat in a chair for a while and he & his wife Facetimed with LGN and his grandma.  :)  

BIL was sitting up with his head back when we first saw him, enjoying some ice chips. (ONW visited him a little while later and said he was asking for ice cream, lol.)  He looked a bit tough, to be honest, but SIL told us he looked a lot better than he had the day before -- and when he lowered his head a little, he looked more like himself to me. He had a lot of tubes, etc., but the nurses told us some of those would be coming out soon, and that they were going to give him some apple juice. They also told us he really didn't need ICU care anymore and they would be moving him down to the same floor where ON was, just as soon as a bed came open (and SIL messaged dh later that evening that he had in fact been moved). (Yay!)(Having them both on the same floor will certainly simplify thing for her!) BIL was very emotional, and I could tell dh was struggling to hold it together, so we made it a short visit. 

Older Nephew's Wife asked if we could drive up and stay with LGN for the day on Friday (tomorrow), so that she could come back downtown. Of course we said yes. (We get to see the dog too! -- yay!! Haven't seen him in several months now.  ONW says her mom says he's been kind of depressed since ON's mysterious absence... he knows something is up!)  We plan to head back down to the hospital again on Saturday ourselves. 

Meantime, we're still fielding calls & texts from the cousins.  :)  

I will admit... I'm barely getting through my emails right now, let alone reading or commenting on too many blogs and/or forums and/or social media, or reading books.  :(  I normally manage to get through 3 or 4 books a month, give or take a couple -- it's now mid-July (how did that happen??), and I'm still only about 1/3 of the way through the book I started on July 1st. Oh well. Priorities!! 

Monday, July 10, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: The waiting is the hardest part...

(with apologies to the late, great Tom Petty for appropriating his lyrics, lol). 

(My last report from dh at the hospital, a few hours ago, indicated that both operations were progressing as planned.)

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

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Weekend odds & ends

  • Dh & I survived three (!) full days with Little Great-Nephew, lol -- staying with him while his parents were at work and SIL/his grandma/regular caregiver was at the hospital with BIL/his grandpa. It was fun to spend so much time with him, but also exhausting. After all, as I said to more than few people, he is 3 & 1/2 and we... are NOT!  lol   (It was also WAY too hot & humid to allow him to play outside, unfortunately, but he didn't put up too much of a fuss when we told him he had to stay indoors.)  
    • Side effect:  I found myself humming/singing the theme songs from "GoJetters," "Paw Patrol," and "Peppa Pig" in the shower, lol.  I think they are now permanently embedded in my brain...! 
  • On Thursday, my brother-in-law was transferred from the suburban hospital where he'd been since last Saturday night to the downtown hospital where his transplant will take place tomorrow morning. 
    • Friday morning, dh & I drove SIL down there to visit. Older Nephew (BIL's donor) was already there, having a final few tests before Monday. We all had a nice visit. Older Nephew left mid-afternoon at the same time we did, while SIL remained. (A couple of cousins were coming to visit later that evening, and she hitched a ride home with them.)  It was an emotional goodbye -- Older Nephew won't be seeing his dad again before the operation, and I won't be seeing either of them until afterwards, since I won't be accompanying dh, both nephews and Older Nephew's Wife downtown tomorrow (no room for me in the car!). 
    • LGN will be staying at home with his other grandma (Older Nephew's MIL). Not sure how much he understands about what's going on. 
    • Prayers, positive thoughts, good vibes, etc., appreciated.  :)  
  • I've written before about/linked to articles from a Substack newsletter called "In Pursuit of Clean Countertops" by Sara Petersen. She writes there -- and in a new book called "Momfluenced" -- about "momfluencer" culture and the cult of ideal motherhood.  I've often said that if  you think momfluencers and the idealization of motherhood can be harmful to struggling mothers, consider  the impact they have on the large and growing numbers of us who don't have children (and particularly those of us who wanted children but didn't wind up with them, for whatever reasons). 
    • So far, Petersen has never quite taken that extra step. BUT, I was pleasantly surprised to open her latest newsletter and find an interview with Ruby Warrington, the author of "Women Without Kids" -- which I recently read & reviewed here. Warrington is childfree by choice -- she does mention that some women are childless when they really wanted children -- but there's not a lot here from a CNBC-specific perspective. Nevertheless, I think it's worth a read (for both NotMoms AND mothers!). 
  • Ruby Warrington also gave a thought-provoking interview to this week's edition of Maria Shriver's Sunday Paper. So happy to see these messages being highlighted in mainstream publications/sites!  
  • How about this article from People magazine (of all things)??:  "PhD Grad Surprised with Celebratory Gift Registry: 'We Shouldn’t Only Reward Women for Marriage and Babies'." Yes!! 
  • Relevant to some CNBC women: Jill Filipovic on "Rise of the Singles." (Subhead: "Fewer 40-year-olds are married than ever. Here's the good and the bad.")  Surprisingly, "the bad" does not include the obvious (to me) connection that many women who would like to be mothers might never have children because they were unable to find a suitable/willing partner before their fertility ran out. Even so, it's still worth a read -- if you can somehow subvert the paywall (sorry! -- no gift links available). Relevant sample passage:  

If the story was that fewer 40-year-olds are married than ever before, but more of those 40-year-olds are happy, thriving, and fostering new [kinds] of connections and communities outside of old nuclear marriage structures, that would be great news. But that’s not what we’re seeing. Instead, we’re seeing significant upticks in loneliness and friendlessness. We’re seeing greater isolation. We’re not seeing marriage decline and new relationships fill its place. Instead, we’re seeing a vacuum.

Her conclusion?:  

More married 40-year-olds shouldn’t be the goal. Happier and more stable 40-year-olds should be.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Midweek odds & ends

  • Update to Monday's post:  My brother-in-law is thankfully much better, and next Monday's operation is still a go.  However, he is still in the hospital:  the doctors there have decided to keep him there for monitoring until his surgery next Monday (which is probably a good thing).  
    • His wife/our sister-in-law has been at the hospital every day -- and Older Nephew & his wife are still both working until the surgery next week. Which means dh & I have been tapped to stay with Little Great-Nephew several days this week. We were there 8 hours yesterday, almost 8 hours today and will be there again tomorrow. (We go to BIL & SIL's house, since he's comfortable there and all his stuff -- potty, toys, wading pool, etc. -- is all there too, plus it's convenient for his parents too.)  Needless to say, we are BEAT.  He's a great kid, but he is 3 & 1/2 years old and we.... are NOT, lol.  
    • Did I mention tomorrow also happens to be dh's & my 38th wedding anniversary??  I don't think anyone else has remembered -- and I'm not going to remind them. I usually switch over my Facebook profile & cover photos to wedding-related pictures, but I've decided not to do that this year. I don't want anyone feeling guilty for forgetting;  they've got other things on their mind. Plus, I think I'm too tired to start tinkering around with my FB right now, lol.  Needless to say, we have no plans, but we'll probably order some takeout for dinner and pick it up on our way home.  
    • I can't resist sharing a funny Little Great-Nephew story. (I have lots, of course, but this is a recent one that sticks out.)  Older Nephew (his dad) recently shaved off his beard, and LGN asked him what happened to his face. ON explained he'd shaved off his beard. LGN:  "I don't like it. Shave it back on!"  (lol) 
  • The New York Times recently published a "25 years later" critique of "Bridget Jones's Diary" by Helen Fielding. (Has it really been 25 years??) (The link to the story, above, is a gift link.) 
    • Yes, "Bridget" may be outdated, full of sexism, fat-phobia, etc. etc. I don't care. (And I'm glad to see women standing up for her/the book in the comments!)  As I know I've shared on this blog before, I read "Bridget" as I was recovering from Katie's stillbirth.  It was a time in my life when I thought I would never smile, much less laugh again, and having difficulty focusing on the printed page -- and yet there I was, desperately trying to stifle my giggles over "Bridget" on public transit. THANK YOU, Helen Fielding, for bringing some fun & humour into my life at a time I desperately needed it. I will always think of Bridget fondly for that reason.  :)  
    • (I tried to leave a comment to this effect on the story, but alas, between the time I read the article and a few of the comments then and went to write mine, the comments section had closed.)  
  • Andy Harrod is one of those rare men who is writing and speaking about the experience of involuntary childlessness. I recently learned he has a Substack newsletter. Check it out! -- "(In)visible Childlessness." (I've added it to my blogroll on the right-hand side of this page.) 
  • I thought this article from the Washington Post (gift link) was a fairly realistic/well-balanced look at the facts (pros & cons) of egg freezing.  
    • I was both amused and horrified to see how many people in the comments said they thought this was an article about freezing egg-eggs, as in breakfast. Duh. (And then we wonder why no one understands us as infertile people??) (Although I wonder whether people are really THAT clueless/blissfully ignorant, or just trying to be smart-a**es?)  
  • Some exciting news from the New York Times (gift linked):  the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a blood test that can identify pregnant women who are at risk of developing pre-ecclampsia, with 96% accuracy. 
  • Talia Lavin is having a lengthy, fascinating conversation with Moira Donegan about modern feminism in her Substack newsletter, The Sword and the the Sandwich. (And yes, she writes about sandwiches there! -- among other things.) I think Part 2 was published yesterday? Sample passage (with a fist pump from me near the end, lol): 

You know, I think it was an understandable mistake for feminists of the nineties and aughts to sort of try and disavow the second wave. Because that is a generation of thinkers who disagreed with each other on a lot, but who are coming from a tradition that took the question of women and their liberation very seriously. I’ve taken a lot from my readings of the second wave. It is really useful to read Kate Millett, and it was useful to read Catherine McKinnon and Andrea Dworkin — not that I think you have to take it like the Bible. 

Another problem of feminism that really stuck with me when I went back and read the big feminist texts of the late sixties and the early seventies: these are fights that we are now having in 2016, 2017, 2020. And because of this idea that we have to kill mom every twenty years, and disavow the mistakes of the past by completely abandoning the work of those generations of thinkers, we get stuck in a repetitive cycle of reinventing the wheel. Don’t discard everything from people who were wrong or misguided or stupid about some stuff, and don’t disregard everything that comes from a generation that lived under different circumstances than yours. 

  • Hopefully this article from The Atlantic -- "The Gravitational Pull of Supervising Kids All the Time" -- is not paywalled. As a kid who used to walk six blocks to kindergarten, across a highway/main road, often by myself (albeit this WAS rural Saskatchewan in the mid-1960s...! -- I'm not talking six lanes of heavy traffic or anything like that...!), I find the whole "helicopter parenting" phenomenon highly bemusing. I have said this before, and I will say it again:  I am sometimes grateful/relieved that I didn't get to have children (much as I wanted them), because if this is what it takes to be a "good" parent these days, I don't think I would have been able to cut it...!  

Monday, July 3, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: A family update

(Not quite a "micro" post, but it's what I've got and what's on my mind right now, so...!):  

For several months now, I've been hinting here about my BIL's declining health, and in April, I wrote a little more about what's been going on and how it's been affecting me & dh. I wrote then: 

...he's not going to get better unless and until he has a major surgical procedure, which may or may not work (and we don't like to think about "may not"). There is a waiting list involved -- so we don't know when or how this is all going to unfold. (That's about as specific as I think I can get here.)

While I try not to be too specific when I write about other people here (not my story -- although this is, partly, because dh & I have been affected a lot too), it's becoming harder to write honestly about what's been going on without adding at least a few more details:    

The "major surgical procedure" I mentioned? It's an organ transplant -- one of the few that can be done using organs, or parts of organs, from a living donor. It is BIL's only real shot at regaining some quality of life. (And, while they're at it, they're also going to repair the hernia that has been bothering him for quite a while now.)   

After assessing a few of the potential donors from within the extended family, who very generously volunteered to be tested for suitability (just one potential donor gets evaluated at a time, to conserve scarce medical resources), the transplant team decided that Older Nephew (Little Great-Nephew's dad) would be an excellent match for his dad. 

The operation is scheduled a week from today, at a downtown Toronto hospital.   

A transplant, I don't think I have to emphasize, is not your garden-variety surgery. It carries risks for both donor and recipient -- although the team doing it is reportedly the best in Canada and has a very high success rate. Older Nephew is, happily, in great physical shape, and the doctors have assured him the risks he'll be incurring -- although there always are some, of course -- are pretty minimal.  They have also assured BIL that the chances his body will reject the donated organ are very small.  

Nevertheless -- it's anxiety-inducing. And of course, this will involve not just one but TWO members of our family. (And if *I'm* stressed about it, you can imagine my poor SIL... and of course dh, who carries a lot of anxiety at the best of times...)  

As I write this, BIL is currently in another hospital (closer to home) -- he wasn't feeling well on Saturday night so SIL took him to emergency. They admitted him and he's been there ever since then. He had an infection and a slight fever -- which thankfully has broken -- and they are currently pumping him with antibiotics. This is the fourth or fifth time this has happened over the past 2+ years. We're hoping this is not going to derail the scheduled operation, and we're hoping they will just keep him there and keep an eye on him until next week. He has several medical appointments at the hospital downtown this week, so we'll know more after those. 

Needless to say, your thoughts/prayers/positive thoughts/good vibes/etc. for our family in the coming days and weeks will be much appreciated.  Also, any advice you might have to offer on how dh & I can best support them all through this stressful time. We're staying with Little Great-Nephew several times this week while both grandparents & parents are at appointments, and dh is going to drive some family members down to the hospital early on the morning of the operation (and presumably some of them home again later that night). (There likely won't be room for me in the car, so I will probably wind up staying at home for the day, with dh & SIL sending me updates.)  

We've already thought of a few other things we can do to help. I've already bought a couple of gift cards for Tim Hortons & Starbucks for SIL & Older Nephew's Wife to use for coffees & snacks/treats while they're hanging out at the hospital (there are outlets of both in the lobby) and/or later, and we're going to buy supermarket gift cards to help Older Nephew & his wife pay for groceries while he's off work. We're also planning to offer to drive up there now & then to distract Little Great-Nephew (as well as keep an eye on Older Nephew) while the wife gets in a little "me time" for shopping, a manicure, whatever she feels like she needs. One of the cousins has volunteered to message all the other cousins, on both sides of the family, to coordinate other support for meals, appointments, etc.  

Other ideas? 

(There goes any chance of spending time with my family out west this summer -- although late August/early September might still be possible, depending on how recovery goes. My parents are very disappointed that I won't be coming -- AGAIN.  :(  I guess there's always Thanksgiving in October again??) 

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

Saturday, July 1, 2023

Reading challenge mid-year checkup

Last year at this time (and the year before that too), I did a mid-year check-in on the status of my Goodreads Reading Challenge and other reading goals -- and since the year is once again halfway over (ummm.... WTF?!)  I thought it was timely to do it again.  :)  

In my 2022 Reading Year in Review post last December, I wrote: 

  • ...I reached my Goodreads Reading Challenge Goal of 45 books by mid-November, and ended the year with 50 books read -- but I didn't equal my 2021/best-recorded total of 59 books (when my goal was 36).  For 2023, I've decided to maintain my goal of 45 books ( = 3.75 books per month on average), which seems realistic for me right now. 
    • I've read more than 45 books in three of the past four years (2019, 2021 and 2022, and almost 45 -- 43 -- in 2020 -- so that seems very do-able.  But I'm hoping I'll be able to improve on my 2022 total, too!  
    • While I'm grateful for my book groups and the boost they give to my reading totals, and while I intend to keep up with them in 2023, I'm hoping to be able to read more of my own choices this coming year too.  :)   

Here we are at the midpoint of 2023 -- which would suggest I should have read 22-24 books by now to keep up the pace of 3-4 books per month towards 45 by the end of the year. I crossed the 24-book threshold (50%) in mid-June, when I finished Louise Penny's "A Rule Against Murder" (reviewed here). I am currently at 25 books finished = 56% of my 2023 goal (3 ahead of schedule to meet my goal). I read 6 books in January, 4 in February, 3 in March, 4 in April, 5 in May and 3 in June.

At this time last year (end of June), I had reached 29 books (64% of my goal). (I'd read 5 books in January 2022, 6 in February, 5 in March, 6 in April, 3 in May and 4 in June.) So I'm 4 books behind versus where I was last year, in terms of number of books read (and 9 books behind 2021, when I had completed 34 books by the end of June) -- but I'm still on pace to reach or exceed my goal of 45 books before the end of the year.  

Whether I'll be able to improve on 2022's total by year end remains to be seen...! Last year, I had eye surgery in late July, which slowed my reading pace down a bit, for a while. I don't have anything like that planned this year ("PLANNED" being the operative word...!);  however, my BIL is undergoing some major surgery shortly -- so hospital visits and doing things to support the family may (will likely? already has??) limit my reading time. 

I'm still doing a lot of book club reads & re-reads -- and I recently took on the role of co-hosting the monthly book club on the Lighthouse Women (formerly Gateway Women) online community. I would have been reading the books there anyway -- but now I'm actively hunting out & reading/screening books that might be a good fit for the group too.  And I've also taken on *another* unofficial goal of reading one Louise Penny Three Pines/Inspector Gamache novel a month (loosely following the Notes From Three Pines Substack newsletter Readalong).  

So while I HAVE managed to fit in some books of my own choosing, they've continued to take a back seat -- perhaps a little more than I'd like. But I missed the book club when the hosts stepped down and it subsequently went on hiatus, and sometimes if you want something done, you have to be willing to do it yourself...!  (And reading the Penny books was certainly my choice;  they've been on my TBR list for quite a while now...)  

AND (as I wrote on my latest "Right now" post)... not that I need yet ANOTHER book club/readalong to follow... but I recently learned about one on Substack for "Middlemarch" by George Eliot. This is a book that I read (and enjoyed) in university (it was my favourite English prof's all-time favourite book) -- but that was.... ummm... a LONG time ago, lol.  I've often though of giving it a re-read. As I said, I need another reading obligation like a hole in the head, but this does seem like a perfect opportunity... they're covering chapters 6 & 7 tomorrow (July 2nd) -- so it would be (relatively) easy to catch up at this point. (Well, easier than if, say, they were already on chapter 42, right?)  Hmmm....  

I also recently ventured into the world of ARCs (advance reader copies) on NetGalley by reading and reviewing Ashley Audrain's new book, "The Whispers" (reviewed here). It was a good read and an interesting experience -- but I didn't realize that most of these books come with an "archive date."  I have enough book-related deadlines/obligations in my reading life at the moment as it is -- reading should be fun, not work! -- so I probably won't be requesting more ARCs regularly, unless something pops up that I find really interesting and want to read immediately.  

Needless to say, there's still lots on my "priority TBR list" (which has expanded considerably since it began...!) that I haven't read yet! (But it's still fun trying, right?)  

Did you set any reading goals for 2023?  How are you doing with them? 

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: June marked 39 months (3 years plus) that we've been living under the shadow of COVID-19.  (At least, *I'm* still feeling its shadow, even if everyone else seems to have moved on...!) 

This past month, Canadian policy leaders met in Ottawa to discuss lessons learned from COVID-19.  Paul Wells, a well-known Canadian political commentator, wrote about some of the things discussed there on his Substack newsletter. I don't agree with all of his analysis, but it was an interesting read overall, and I'm glad these discussions are being held (because too often, they're not).   

On the personal pandemic front: We remain covid-free (knocking wood, loudly...) -- and we while we have ventured out more often lately and even loosened up -- just a smidgeon!  ;)  -- we're still a lot more careful than most people we know.  We still mask in stores and other indoor public places, albeit we usually don't in smaller/family settings.  

Dh has been chafing a bit at wearing masks lately, tired of being "the only one" -- albeit I can usually spot at least one or two other people in the supermarket who are wearing them when I go with him. I'll concede that masks probably aren't necessary if we're in a big store/space with not too many other people and we won't be hanging around too long -- and we've mostly stopped wearing them in the common spaces of our condo building (hallways, elevators, parking garage -- we rarely encounter other people there anyway) -- but if it's s smaller space and lots of people around us, then yes, I'm still wearing a mask!   

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 6 times: 
    • Stayed with him while BIL & SIL attended medical appointments on June 6th & 14th (a 7-hour day!). 
    • Dropped by on June 21st, 26th & 28th for a while. 
    • Also saw him on June 22nd when dh's aunt & uncle, with their visiting (from Australia!) daughter & 1-year-old grandson, stopped by BIL's while in the area to shop. (LGN was NOT happy having to share the spotlight -- or us! -- with the visiting cutie! lol) 
  • Went grocery shopping at the supermarket together twice and picked up takeout lunch there on the way home from BIL's one other day.   
  • Other shopping trips to Chapters (bookstore, twice), Reitmans (women's wear), Carters/Oshkosh (children's clothing), Shoppers Drug Mart and M&M Foods (frozen/convenience foods). 
  • Treated ourselves to our first gelatos of the season on June 20th (finally!) and ate them in the car. (They do have patio tables outside where you can sit, but it was both very windy and very sunny out there that day.)
  • I went (solo) to our condo's annual meeting on June 7th. (Dh went by himself the past two years -- he hates meetings, lol, so I figured it was my turn...!)  (There were about 35-40 people in the room (out of 122 units in the building), which made it slightly crowded. Guess who was the only one wearing a mask??)
  • We went to a members' preview of a major new Tom Thomson exhibit that was opening at the McMichael Gallery, where I have a membership. I don't know a lot about art, but I appreciate it  :)  and I love Thomson and the Group of Seven, whose work is considered iconic in Canada. (As mask-wearers, we were definitely in a minority, but we weren't the only ones!)  
  • We ventured to the mall (where we were again in a minority of mask-wearers) on June 26th to get dh a new cellphone and do a little shopping.  We even had lunch in the food court (gasp!). (It was a little more crowded than I was really comfortable with, but dh had been hankering after some of the Thai food they serve there, so...)  This was our first time there since we went to watch Little Great-Nephew get his photo taken with Santa in early December. I can still probably count the number of times we've been there over the past 3 years (since the pandemic began) on the fingers of one hand. We're thinking we might try to start going back again a little more regularly -- it's nice to get out & walk around (albeit my knees aren't always happy about it...!).  
  • We also went for haircuts yesterday (Friday, June 30th). Our stylist wasn't wearing a mask! for the first time in 3 years!!  (Her young daughter has severe asthma, and she has been VERY careful.)  But then, nobody else was there besides her & us. 
Nobody seems to be wearing their N-95 masks indoors anymore -- but they may want to wear them (should be wearing them??) outside, because of the wildfire smoke. The closest fires to us are several hundred kilometres/miles away, in northern Ontario and Quebec -- but apparently that's close enough (as communities even further south in the U.S. have discovered too...!). There have been several times this past month (including the past few days) when Toronto has held the dubious distinction of having the worst air quality in the world. :(  

25 years ago in June (1998), there were "dark clouds on the horizon" of my pregnancy, as the blog post I wrote about that time 10 years later is titled. My plans to fly west in mid-July to visit my parents & grandparents were interrupted when, mid-month, the results of my triple screen bloodwork -- followed by an ultrasound -- signalled possible abnormalities. I was sent to see a geneticist and had amniocentisis (which I had originally opted not to have) on June 26th -- and then began an inhumanely long wait for the results. Meanwhile, I was advised to cancel my vacation plans and stay close to home, "in case of adverse results." (!) 
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Also right now:  

Reading: I finished 3 books in June (all reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads, & tagged "2023 books").  
This brings me to 25 books read to date in 2023,  56% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. :)  I am currently (for the moment, anyway...!) 3 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. 

Current read(s): 
  • "The Blue Castle" by L.M. Montgomery. My LMM Readathon Facebook group read this book together back in fall 2020, and our group admin -- who is taking a well-deserved summer break -- is re-running posts related to this book over the summer.  It's one of my favourites, not just of LMM's novels, but of any book I've read ever. (Reviews herehere and, from an earlier book-related post, here.) I will be following along, chapter by chapter, and count this as a re-read when we we're finished (in November).  
  • "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 (likely early in 2024), I'll count it as a(nother) re-read. We recently covered Chapter 5;  Chapter 6 coming up in mid-July! (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. ;)  
AND... not that I need yet ANOTHER book club/readalong to follow... but I recently learned about one on Substack for "Middlemarch" by George Eliot. This is a book that I read (and enjoyed) in university (it was my favourite English prof's all-time favourite book) -- but that was.... ummm... a LONG time ago, lol.  I've often though of giving it a re-read. As I said, I need another reading obligation like a hole in the head, but this does seem like a perfect opportunity... they're covering chapters 6 & 7 tomorrow (July 2nd) -- so it would be relatively easy to catch up at this point. Hmmm....  

A few recently purchased titles (mostly in digital format, mostly discounted ($5-10 or less) or purchased with points): 

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Watching: I finished watching all six episodes of "Funny Woman," based on the Nick Hornby novel "Funny Girl" (my review of the book, here). It deviates from the book, particularly in the later episodes, and most notably by injecting a modern/feminist sensibility into the story that was not present in the book, and not especially evident (or at least AS evident as portrayed here) at the time. 

For example:  
  • There's a scene, in episode 5, in which scriptwriters Bill & Tony take a wide-eyed Sophie to a gay bar, where they all ingest some illicit substances... they were definitely gay in the book, but this scene was entirely made up. 
  • Sophie's roommate, Marjorie has an expanded role in the TV show (and overall, I did like her): she becomes a budding feminist (definitely not in the book) and member of a consciousness-raising group (which I think was more of a 1970s thing?).  
  • And in a bit of colour-blind casting, the roles of producer Dennis and journalist Diane are played by South Asian and Black actors. I really liked both actors, particularly the one who played Dennis -- and true, race was not specified in the book -- but the casting choices were not particularly true to the reality of the time.  
I gave the book 3 stars and I'd probably give the TV series the same. Amusing, but not (as the title would have you believe) hugely funny. I did love the Swinging London/mid-1960s fashions, decor and music, though, which were period-perfect!

I also watched the 1975 documentary "Grey Gardens" on TCM -- about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis's eccentric (to put it mildly...) aunt & cousin ("Big Edie" and "Little Edie" Bouvier Beale), who lived in a decrepit mansion in the Hamptons, along with umpteen cats -- and raccoons. It's considered a cult classic. (I had some very weird dreams the night after I watched it...!) 

On PBS's "American Experience" series, we recently watched a documentary called "Casa Susanna," about a retreat in the Catskills outside of New York City that provided community and refuge for transgender women and cross-dressing men in the 1950s and 1960s, as recalled by some of the people who went there and their family members. We had no expectations going in, but both dh & I found it quite moving.   

Listening:  Last month, I wrote about the passing of Gordon Lightfoot, a Canadian cultural icon and national treasure: 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!!"  
At risk of having my citizenship revoked ;)  I will confess that I had no Lightfoot albums/CDs in my collection. I decided to remedy that by ordering a copy of "Gord's Gold," a collection of (some of) his greatest hits. Some of the titles were unfamiliar to me -- but as soon as I heard the music: "Okay, I know this one... okay, I know this one too..."  :)  As it turned out, I could sing along with or was at least passingly familiar with just about every song on the album -- all of them wonderful. :)  

Heardle Decades:  My stats for the 70s & 90s versions mysteriously vanished during the month, meaning I had to start all over again. :p  Oh well, maybe this time around I'll actually improve my stats?? (I can only hope...! -- although my 70s scores weren't bad...). Stats as of June 30th: 
  • Heardle 60s:  77.3% (218/282, 101 on first guess), down from last month. Max. streak: 14. 
  • Heardle 70s:  78.3% (18/23, 10 on the first guess), WAY up from last month (before my stats got deleted...!). Max. streak: 5. 
  • Heardle 80s:  34.3% (46/134,  24 on the first guess), up from last month. Max. streak: 4. 
  • Heardle 90s: 54.2% (31/24, 7 on the first guess), WAY up from last month (before my stats were deleted...!). Max. streak: 4. 
Eating/Drinking:  Takeout dinners on Saturday nights this month included teriyaki rice bowls (twice) and Italian sandwiches from a local chain (twice -- veal cutlet with tomato sauce for dh, chicken without sauce for me).   

Buying (besides books, lol):  
  • Some cute outfits for both Little Great-Nephew & Little Great-Niece at both the Carters/Oshkosh store and at Old Navy. 
  • At Reitmans (a Canadian women's wear chain), I bought two pairs of lightweight cotton cropped cargo pants (one in dark olive green and the other a cream/off-white) and two tank tops, all on sale (four items for about $65 Canadian -- not bad these days...!). 
  • At the mall (see above), I bought myself T-shirts at both Old Navy and Lucky Brand, some sundries at the drugstore, and matching classic Beaver Canoe T-shirts at the Roots store (iconic Canadian label) for dh's cousin's two kids (a girl, almost 3, and a boy who just turned 1), who are visiting from Australia. A bit of Canadiana to take home with them!    
Wearing: Enjoying my capris & sandals.  :)  

Trying:  To go with the flow and not worry too much about things that are beyond my control.  (Easier said than done, of course...!). 

Noticing:  That everything seems so much more expensive lately than it used to be, not all that long ago -- groceries, personal care items, books (ouch!)... 

Also noticed, when we were at the mall, that many stores still aren't as fully stocked as they were, pre-pandemic. Maybe that's a good thing, though -- sometimes they seemed almost overwhelmingly crammed with stuff in the past!  

Enjoying: My nice, CLEAN balcony door/windows!!  Dh helped me do them on June 19th. Our schedule was clear that day, the weather and air quality were finally good enough and I thankfully found my motivation!  lol  For me, it's a great mood booster! 

Appreciating: Being able to open the balcony door and let some fresh air in (between periods of poor air quality from wildfire smoke further north :(  ).  

Wanting: To get a pedicure. It's been more than three years (pre-pandemic) -- actually, almost 4!  The last time I had one was in September 2019, for Older Nephew's Wife's baby shower (!). Manicures I can take or leave -- but I do enjoy a nice pedicure once a month or so in the summertime, when my toes are on display!  (Even before the pandemic, the nail techs at the salon where I go wore masks to protect themselves from the fumes.)  Not sure when I'm going to be able to schedule one, though...?  

Wondering: Whether I'll be able to make it "home" to visit my parents & sister later in the summer, or whether I'll have to wait until fall?  (It will depend on how things go with BIL...) 

Worrying:  (Still) About BIL's health issues (including impending major surgery -- very soon), and the impact it's having on the rest of the family, including dh, SIL & the nephews, and even Little Great-Nephew.  :(   

Hoping:  For a good outcome all round. 

Waiting:  (See "Worrying," above...!) 

Prioritizing: The essential stuff, and letting the "nice to do's" slide.  

Loving:  Getting back to the art gallery with dh.  (The last time we were there was on my birthday in January. I think the time before that was pre-pandemic.)  I am so glad I got the membership there. I so enjoy going there, and I'm glad to support such a worthwhile national and local cultural treasure.    

Feeling: Like the summer is already going by too fast, when it's really only just begun...!  (Like, what happened to June??)  Slightly frazzled, trying (and often failing) to get everything on my to-do list done.