Wednesday, August 30, 2023

(Gradually!) Letting go

My mom called me this afternoon:  Parents' Neighbours' Daughter was bringing newborn Little Princess #3 over to meet them, and she didn't have a gift for her yet. She wanted to know if I would be willing to let her have something from a box of things she'd collected --25 years ago now -- for Katie -- some of them gifts from family friends and neighbours, some things she'd collected herself. 

The box -- a little wooden chest -- sits on the floor in the bedroom where dh & I stay whenever we're there -- but I have never really looked inside to see what's in there. I've peeked a few times in the past and found it just too difficult to explore beyond the surface. (Also, part of me would like my mom to sit with me and tell me what was from who, etc.  But part of me shys away from that too. I know we would both probably cry.) I know there's a fuzzy bunting bag that I remember my mom excitedly telling me about when she bought it, during my pregnancy -- such a bargain!  And a Bunnykins cup and bowl.  (I just did a search, and I wrote a post about this little chest and its contents back in 2009.) 

One of the items in the chest is a little white sweater set, handknit with love by Mom's wonderful neighbour, M., who died some years ago, not too many years after we lost Katie.  M. lived across the street from my parents and next-door to PND & her family, and often looked after PND & her brothers when their parents were out or away on a business trip. PND remembers M. well, and if there's anyone who would appreciate and treasure this lovely gift, it would be her.  

My mom had approached me with a similar request before Little Princess #1 was born in 2011, 12 years ago now. (I found a post I wrote then too!) But back then, I was just not ready to let go anything that would have been Katie's.  

This time, I told my mother yes.    

Monday, August 28, 2023

Monday odds & ends

  • Mel is on hiatus from her blog for a few weeks, so no #MicroblogMondays right now (which feels a little strange). 
  • Yesterday was Little Great-Niece's baptism. Beyond the actual ceremony at the church, there is traditionally a family celebration at a restaurant or at home later on. We were not invited to the celebration :(  -- but then, neither were any of the parents' other aunts/uncles/cousins. We understand that you have to draw the line somewhere, especially when space is limited, and fair is fair.  
    • But we did go to the church, and we brought a gift (a cheque, the same amount we gave to Little Great-Nephew, three years ago).  We wanted to go because we live RIGHT HERE, and of course we did not get to attend Little Great-Nephew's baptism either -- nobody did, because of covid restrictions, other than the priest, the parents, the baby and the godparents.  (And SIL, who knew the priest well and got a call a few minutes before the ceremony was to start:  "Come and watch your grandson be baptized!"  Luckily they live close by too!) (We did get to watch on the church's YouTube live feed!)
    • None of the other other uncles & aunts showed up for the church only (and I think at least one of them lives relatively nearby). Of course, most of them have their own kids and grandkids, or the hope of grandkids in the future. Being there probably meant a lot more to us than it did to any of them.  
    • Younger Nephew texted me this morning to thank us for coming to the church and for the gift -- and to apologize for not being able to include us later. He was worried that we might be offended.  Awww.  We have two amazing nephews.  :)  
    • We did not wear masks. (Gulp.)  I brought one in my purse, but absolutely NO ONE was wearing one, including Younger Nephew & his wife, who are about the most covid-cautious people we know.  The church was large and airy and seemed well ventilated, and while there were a lot of people there, there weren't a lot immediately around us, which made me feel slightly better. Fingers crossed there are no repercussions! 
  • I (finally!) went for a pedicure last Thursday afternoon -- for the first time in almost FOUR YEARS. (I did wear a mask then -- and so did the nail techs, more for the fumes than the germs, I think.) 
    • The last time I had one was in September 2019, just before Older Nephew's Wife's baby shower (in advance of Little Great-Nephew's November birth).  I intended to get one before we headed west to my parents' house for Christmas that year, but ran out of time and -- well, you know what happened in early 2020.  
    • Manicures, I can take or leave, but I do enjoy a nice pedicure -- especially during the summer, when my feet (not especially attractive to begin with) are on constant display, and pre-pandemic, I'd indulged regularly/monthly or so. I'm planning to go again in late September, before our planned weekend at dh's cousin's cottage. :) (Hopefully the weather will still be conducive to sandals by then, although that's not guaranteed...!) 
  • Little Princess #3 (!) arrived this past weekend!  Her mom grew up across the street from my parents (hence, I refer to her here as Parents' Neighbours' Daughter, or PND, lol -- and her daughters as Parents' Neighbours' Granddaughters, but more often as the Little Princesses) and is now in her late 30s. Her two older sisters (who will be 9 & 12 soon -- hmmm, I may not be able to refer to them as the "Little" Princesses for much longer...!) are both very excited.  :)  And dh & I are looking forward to spoiling her when we see her!  
    • She was born about a week past her due date, which (as you can imagine) made me VERY nervous -- so I was VERY relieved when my mom called to tell me she'd arrived and that all was well!  
  • I haven't been keeping track of articles to pass along to you quite as closely during the past week or two (sorry!). But I did notice this great article from Elle Canada about the choice to have children -- or not.  :)  
  • Once again, the deadline for a submission to World Childless Week has come & gone without a contribution from me.  :p  I actually started drafting something but it was still WAY too long and unpolished to submit and I just ran out of time. I hope to see some familiar bylines there, though!  
    • World Childless Week is Sept. 11th-17th this year.  You can already register for some of the webinars and other live events taking place that week -- visit the website and have a look at what's coming up!   

Thursday, August 24, 2023

"The Brutal Telling" by Louise Penny

"The Brutal Telling" by Louise Penny opens in early September, just before the Labour Day weekend.  (This is #5 in the series of her Inspector Gamache/Three Pines murder mystery novels.  It's late August and, coincidentally, I also read the last few books in almost the exact same time periods they were set in --  "The Cruellest Month" (#3) at Eastertime in April, and "A Rule Against Murder" (set in late June) in mid-June.) 

The opening words set the tone of the book:  "Chaos is coming, old son."  Once again, murder disturbs the peace of this lovely little old village in Quebec's Eastern Townships. A body is discovered in Olivier's Bistro, the community's beloved central meeting place. Who was the victim, how did he come to be in the bistro, and why was he killed? The townspeople -- and Gamache -- are not prepared for what the investigation reveals.   

This was a magnificent book in so many ways -- superb writing and characterization, and wise insights into the human condition (as always!).  I loved how Penny wove so many elements into her story -- history (both Canadian and world, ancient and recent), art (Emily Carr and the totem poles of the Indigenous peoples of British Columbia), poetry, humour (Ruth and her pet duck Rosa...!). 

And yet -- I was left feeling slightly dissatisfied at the end. I couldn't quite give it 5 stars for that reason. There seemed to be several questions/loose ends that were never quite explained/resolved (in a satisfactory way, at least) -- and while all the evidence ultimately pointed in one direction, I still found myself not quite believing Gamache had found the right killer in the end. (I didn't want to believe!)

But plot elements from one book in this series have often carried over to others -- and (from reading a couple of the reviews on Goodreads) I understand that the story continues in the next installment (#6, "Bury Your Dead"). (Which is why I think it's important to read this series in order, if at all possible.)  The promise of learning more, plus the wonderful characters and ambiance of Three Pines, will definitely keep me coming back!  

4.5 stars on StoryGraph, rounded down to 4 stars on Goodreads.  

I've now tagged all my previous reviews (plus this one) with a new "Louise Penny/Gamache" label.  :)  

This was Book #32 read to date in 2023 (and Book #5 finished in August), bringing me to 71% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 3 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."  

Friday, August 18, 2023

Friday night odds & ends

  • It is cloudy and definitely cool outside today -- the high was just 18C/64F.  It feels like fall. Already. (How did it get to be mid-August??)  
  • The skunky smell of cannabis is wafting through our partly-open balcony door again as I type. : p  I must say, though (while knocking wood, LOUDLY!), it has not been the issue this summer that it has been the past couple of years. (Sample complaint post from last summer here.)  We still smell it the odd Friday afternoon/Saturday night, and I'm (relatively) okay with that. (Hey, it's legal here.) But five, six times a day, every day, starting early in the morning (which is what was happening last year)??  Ridiculous. 
  • I literally laughed out loud when I read this article in the Toronto Star. Let's just say that I'm VERY well acquainted with the rudest city in Canada!! (and I agree...!) 
  • Anne Helen Petersen has been obsessing on her Instagram Stories all week long about something called Bama RushTok. (There are highlights on her Instagram page if you're curious.)   I've been clicking through with the sound off & not clicking on the actual videos (I don't think I could endure listening...!) -- but from what I can tell, it's dozens of girls in TikTok videos, hoping to pledge a college sorority in Alabama (and other states) -- complete with consultants!!  and choreographed group dances. TRULY, TRULY BIZARRE. 
    • The girls ALL LOOK THE SAME -- long hair (mostly blond), toothpaste ad-perfect smiles, extremely short skirts -- often baby doll tiered skirts with lots of florals & ruffles (!) and big puffy sleeves -- lots of jewelry (which they show off for the camera), makeup to the hilt and videos filtered to the max.
    • I read about sororities in novels when I was a teenager -- and of course "Animal House" was HUGE, just as I was entering university (lolol)(and yes, I went to a few toga parties!)  -- but sororities and fraternities, while they existed at my school, and were somewhat bigger at other Canadian campuses, and still exist today, are pretty much a non-entity here in Canada (as is college football & other college sports -- but that's another post...!).   
    • Or maybe I'm just showing my age here??  (I do not do TikTok -- that's where I drew the social media line, lol.)  
    • Apparently there's a documentary about this??  (Another article about it here.) 
    • Were you ever part of a sorority?  Were they a "thing" when & where you went to school?  
  • A new website spotlighting books for people without children -- check it out!  
    • Keira, the site creator, has also started a project for "Inclusive Libraries" -- asking libraries to stock books, create programming, etc., for the childless/childfree members of their communities. :)  (Details on the website. Consider asking your local library to help!) 
    • In case you haven't noticed it before, the "pages" at the top of the page (underneath the title banner) includes a book list of books related to grief, pregnancy loss (& loss generally), infertility, childlessness, childfree life, pronatalism and adoption (etc. etc.) that I've read and found interesting/helpful, with relevant links to titles and my reviews, where available.  (It hasn't been updated in more than a year, though! -- oops! -- adding this to my blogging to-do list...!)    
  • This is a wonderful article from the Walrus about summer camp. But not the kind of summer camp you might expect. It's worth a read!  
  • Yael Wolfe does it again -- I couldn't help but exclaim "Oh hell YES!"  out loud as I read her recent piece on Medium, titled  "Why Do We Assume Childless Women Have Easy, Frivolous Lives?" (Subhead: "How childless women pay an unfair price at the hands of pronatalism and misogyny.")  Unfortunately, it's a "member-only" story and there are no gift links, but here are a couple of (edited) excerpts (soooooo hard to choose just a few!!):  
Do whatever I want, whenever I want? Again, what adult woman can truly say this? What human of any age or gender can say this?

Sure, there are nuggets of truth to these statements. I could sleep until noon if I wanted. I can sleep through the night without a baby or child waking me up. I don’t have to secure the welfare of little children 24/7 or make sure they get their vaccinations, dental cleanings, daily lunches, and rides to soccer practice.

But that doesn’t mean I’m living a life of no responsibilities, a life of leisure, a life where I only need fulfill my own selfish desires.

There is so much missing from this story, it astounds me that another human being wouldn’t realize that.


I don’t like that so many women have so little curiosity about a childless woman’s life that they feel comfortable making up any story they like. And I definitely don’t like that the story they make up positions childless women as selfish, immature, and lazy.


The conditioning to believe that women without children are worthless and just “taking up space” is strong and deep. Sometimes, from what I’ve seen, it appears that women are more apt to be taken in by this propaganda than men are.

But do you know what kills propaganda? A little something I mentioned earlier: curiosity.

What would it be like to be curious about a childless woman’s life instead of defining it with assumptions? What would happen if mothers realized that childless women have challenges, responsibilities, and hardships, too?

And what would it be like to live in a culture that treated childless women like adults, instead of young, selfish women who never quite grew up?

You know how we can find out? Instead of telling childless women how lucky they are to get to sleep until noon…get to know her in a way that allows you to learn about her life.

And be willing to consider it just as valuable as the life of a mother.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

"The House on the Cliff" by D.E. Stevenson

"The House on the Cliff" by D.E. Stevenson, first published in 1966,  is the next book my DES online group will begin reading & discussing together shortly, chapter by chapter. (I like to read the book all the way through myself before we start.  Once we're finished, I'll count it as a re-read.)  

(Unfortunately for me, many DES titles -- including this one -- are currently only available in Kindle format -- and, as I've recently written, my Amazon account, including Kindle app, are currently suspended as Amazon & my credit card company wrangle over the matter of payment after I was recently scammed. Fortunately, however, my tech-savvy sister was able to source a free epub copy I could read on my Kobo in the meantime!  :)  )  

I'm pretty sure this is one of the DES books that I read and loved as a teenager, almost (gulp) 50 years ago now (and there may possibly be a yellowed paperback copy gathering dust somewhere in the depths of my parents' crawl space...) -- the title & cover art are so familiar -- but I had absolutely no recollection of what it was all about. 

Although it wasn't hard to guess. "The House on the Cliff" is typical DES fare: young Elfrida Jane Ware is struggling. Her father disappeared years ago and is presumed dead, her mother recently died, her fledgling career as an actress is floundering, and Glen Siddons, the handsome co-star she secretly loves, takes little notice of her.  

Then she learns that the grandmother she never knew has also recently died and she's now the heir to Mountain Cross, the big old house by the sea in Devonshire where her mother grew up (albeit not a lot of cash to fund the upkeep). Curious to at least see the house before deciding to sell it, and encouraged by her eccentric landlady (who makes a brief but memorable appearance), she quits her current job and heads to Devon in the company of her young lawyer, Ronald Leighton. She's just nicely settled into her new home and new life when someone from her past pays her an unexpected visit... 

This was short book, quick and easy to zip through.  I've often said Stevenson's books are the literary equivalent of comfort food. They're a little old-fashioned -- often short on plot (and, too often, end a little too abruptly for my liking, albeit always happily!), highly predictable -- but the simplicity can be deceptive. She has a keen eye for the foibles of human behaviour as well as the beauty of the natural world, and has a knack for creating memorable characters, both major & minor. All these things are evident here.  

ALI alert/content warning:  Plot elements include a child in jeopardy and a de facto adoption. 

3.5 stars on StoryGraph, rounded down to 3 stars on Goodreads. 

This was Book #31 read to date in 2023 (and Book #4 finished in August), bringing me to 69% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 3 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."  

Monday, August 14, 2023

"The Enchanted April" by Elizabeth von Arnim

My Gateway/Lighthouse (now Childless Collective) book club co-host and I have been actively searching for -- and reading -- books that might be a good fit for our group (key requirement:  no "miracle" babies!). Several members had mentioned "The Enchanted April" by Elizabeth von Arnim -- and if not the book, then many have seen & loved the 1991 movie adaptation (which I have not seen, but which I hear is very good). I'd been meaning to read this one for a while now anyway, and decided to check it out. 

Reading the newspaper on a rainy February afternoon at her women's club, Mrs. Lotty Wilkins spots an ad addressed "To Those Who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine," offering a fully-furnished medieval castle in Portofino to rent for the month of April (servants included). Across the room, Mrs. Rose Arbuthnot is reading the same newspaper and lingering over the same ad.  Vaguely dissatisfied with their lives and marriages and longing for a holiday, the two women recruit two others to share expenses -- the beautiful, weary, aristocratic Lady Caroline Dester, and the very proper and easily offended Mrs. Fisher -- and head to Italy for a month-long vacation that will change all of their lives..... 

"The Enchanted April" was written in 1922 -- post-war (WWI) England, a full century ago -- and is based on the author's stay in a real-life castle on the Italian Riviera. Supposedly it set off a flood of tourists to the region that continues to this day.  As with many "classic" novels, the writing is much denser, more wordy and slower-moving than what we're used to reading today. There are lengthy passages in which we're treated to the thoughts of the characters -- sometimes really petty, sometimes quite amusing, particularly when differences in class & character/personality are involved. It's easy to get bogged down in the torrent of words at times. 

But there's a lot here to enjoy too -- not just the lovely descriptions of Italy in the springtime, but the dry humour, and the philosophical questions and moral dilemmas presented, which would be excellent fodder for discussion in a book club setting.  :)  I could certainly relate to the different characters' expressed desire for peace and quiet, and to be left alone -- to sit in the sun and do absolutely nothing (which the servants find very strange). The pace picks up in the last few chapters, which hold a few surprises...!  

I can practically guarantee you will close the book thinking of when to take your next holiday -- and a holiday in Italy, specifically!  :)  

ALI alert/mild spoiler:  None of the characters seems to have children -- they are not mentioned. One of the women lost a baby. It's not a major plot point, but it's obviously one of the sources of the malaise she is feeling.  

4 stars on Goodreads. 

This was Book #30 read to date in 2023 (and Book #3 finished in August), bringing me to 67% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 3 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."  

#MicroblogMondays: Read all about it (if you can!)

You all know how much I love sharing links to news stories on my blog that I think you might find interesting -- especially stories about childlessness, infertility, pregnancy loss, and grief & loss generally.  I generally don't share these kinds of articles on my social media accounts -- but I do frequently share other news articles there.  

Right now, however, I can't share -- or view -- news articles of any kind on any of Meta's platforms. This is not because of anything that I, personally, have done -- millions of Canadians are in the same situation right now. It's because Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, among other social media platforms, is embroiled in a dispute with the Canadian federal government, which recently passed legislation requiring them to start paying news outlets for the news links shared & viewed on their platforms. (Here's a Q&A that might be helpful.)  Google is also threatening to remove my (& other Canadians') ability to see news articles there because of this legislation. A similar situation happened in Australia a while back;  that dispute was eventually resolved.  

Personally, I don't rely on social media for my news, as some people say they do -- although I do share articles there. I have digital subscriptions to several online newspapers and other publications (Canadian and American), and I get daily email newsletters from most of them, highlighting articles that might be of interest to me. I also get notifications from my news apps on my phone.  (I do find some pretty interesting articles from international publications via Facebook & Instagram posts from CNBC friends there.)  We also watch daily newscasts on CBC TV, and CNN and/or the CBC News Network channels are our default viewing when nothing else is on that we want to watch.  So I think I will be able to stay pretty well informed.  

Still, it's annoying to see this message popping up in my feed: 

And it's annoying not to be able to share a good article that I've found with my friends on Facebook -- or to read the ones that those outside of Canada have posted there. 

I've read the arguments from both sides. As a former journalist, my sympathies are with the news organizations, whose business models were completely upended by the advent of the Internet & social media, which has drawn away the advertising & subscriber dollars that keep them running. Media outlets are going under at an alarming rate, local media in particular.  This is a U.S. example, but the local weekly newspaper in the next county over from where my mother grew up just ceased publication (along with several others in the area),  leaving the county without local news for the first time in well over a century.  The local newspaper in Mom's home town/county, in operation since 1882, is still chugging along... fingers crossed!!  

As a user of both traditional & social media, my main feeling is that, as usual, we the people are getting the short end of the stick. :(  

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

Sunday, August 13, 2023

"Sarah's Cottage" by D.E. Stevenson (re-read)

My D.E. Stevenson fan group recently finished its discussion of one of Stevenson's later books, "Sarah's Cottage" -- a 1968 sequel to "Sarah Morris Remembers," which we read late last year (reviews here and here). I read this book myself first before we started our chapter-by-chapter group read & discussion (my original review from May, here). 

The book is set in post-war (World War 2) rural Scotland, where newlyweds Sarah & Charles are settling in to their new home near Sarah's grandparents, outside of Ryddelton (the setting for several other DES books).  Things are idyllic at first -- but then Charles becomes obsessed with a book he's writing, leaving Sarah feeling lonely and irritated. Later, he heads back to Austria to deal with his estranged family there (after vowing he was done with them forever). Sarah's spoiled younger sister Lottie also adds some drama, and Sarah & Charles develop a close and nurturing relationship with Lottie's neglected daughter Freddie (Frederica).  

As a doting childless auntie myself, I was tickled to see this relationship at the core of the book. There are several points in the story where Sarah expresses her longing for a baby of her own, admitting (somewhat cluelessly -- but hey, this was the 1950s!) that she "can't understand anyone not wanting a child." I will admit that I braced myself for the inevitable "miracle baby" ending. 

(**SPOILER ALERT!** -- and SURPRISE!! -- IT DID NOT HAPPEN!! )(For a book set in the 1950s and written in the late 1960s, this is pretty remarkable!)  

As I noted in my original review, this was a pleasant read (as so many of Stevenson's books are!) with some very nice characters (and a couple of not-so-nice ones, to add a little drama!).  There's not really much of a plot, though, and some of the storylines are kind of left dangling at the end, which comes somewhat abruptly. (If I had to name a flaw in Stevenson's writing, this would be it!) 

I originally gave this book a 3-star rating on Goodreads, and I think I'll let that rating stand.  

Our next book will be "The House on the Cliff."  (Start date TBA.) 

This was Book #29 read to date in 2023 (and Book #2 finished in August), bringing me to 64% 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."  

Friday, August 11, 2023

Friday night odds & ends & updates

It's been a busy week!  
  • Monday, we marked 25 years since Katie's stillbirth.  :(   We drove out to the cemetery with a bouquet of pink roses and some other fresh decorations, took some photos, and then did something we haven't done in quite a while -- strolled over to the Garden of Angels section nearby, where the children of some of the people we met through our support group are buried. Not all of them have permanent markers, and the temporary markers that were there years ago are long gone, and we don't remember all their names anymore -- but we know they're there. Unfortunately, that section of the cemetery is a lot more full than it was, 25 years ago...  :(  
    • On the way home, we stopped at Dairy Queen for ice cream (a cone for dh, a mini Skor Blizzard for me). And then ordered Chinese food for takeout for dinner -- both long-established traditions. :)  
  • It was slightly bizarre making the trip to the cemetery with a toddler seat in the back of the car (as I wrote last week) -- 25 years after we expected to have one there, both of us now in our 60s (!). We used it on Tuesday, when we went to a nearby community centre to pick up Little Great-Nephew from "school" (playschool/daycamp for 2.5 to 5 year olds) -- a new experience for us!  SIL had given our names to those in charge, and dh had to present some identification before we were allowed to leave with LGN (and rightly so), even though he clearly knew us and was ecstatic to see us.  :)  We went through the drive-through at the nearest Tim Hortons to pick up some lunch, and brought it back to BIL & SIL's house to wait for their return. (We removed the seat & returned it to BIL & SIL before we left that day.)  
  • Wednesday, we took BIL & SIL for lunch at the home of one of dh & BIL's aunts. Another cousin was also there for lunch, and we were joined later for coffee by several other relatives who lived nearby. It was lovely to see everyone and spend time together, and BIL was revelling in all the attention.  ;)  
  • Thursday afternoon, it was back to BIL & SIL's house to have coffee with some (other) visiting cousins.  
  • We'll be up early tomorrow (Saturday) morning and heading back to our old community for haircuts. :)  
  • On top of all this, Dh took BIL for bloodwork twice this past week at a nearby blood lab. He'll also be making two trips downtown on two different days next week, taking Older Nephew and then BIL for checkups at the hospital transplant clinic. Both are doing well!  -- although BIL is not allowed to drive for 2-3 months because of some of the medications he's taking -- hence the need for dh's chauffeuring services, particularly while SIL is still busy with LGN.  Once LGN starts school in mid-September, we expect we won't be quite so busy (and will hopefully be able to take some time to head west to -- FINALLY! -- visit my parents & sister!).   
  • Update on the scam situation: 
    • Although the bank/credit card provider reversed my Amazon transaction, it turns out things aren't that simple. (Are they ever?)  The reversal, it seems, was only "temporary" -- although I was assured that it's 90% likely I will not have to ultimately pay up. The transaction has now been sent to the "Disputes" department, while the bank negotiates with Amazon over who gets to pay whom. :p  (Hopefully, it won't ultimately be me!) 
    • Meanwhile, Amazon has suspended my account until I (or presumably the bank, or perhaps their insurance company?) pay up. 
      • Not only am I unable to order anything on Amazon until the matter is settled, or add anything to my wishlists there, I'm also unable to access any of the books on the Kindle app on my cellphone -- books that I've already PAID for and downloaded.  Grrrr..... (I mostly read e-books on my Kobo e-reader, but there are some -- including many by D.E. Stevenson, one of my most frequently read authors -- that are only available in Kindle format.  I've only ever read them on my phone app -- perhaps I should think about buying an actual Kindle and downloading all my Kindle-format books to that?)(Once I can access them again, of course...!)   
      • (One of the hardest things about not having access to a credit card for more than a week was not being able to buy new e-books for my Kobo, especially when they launched a summer sale!  Dh had a $50 gift card that I'd given him that he generously offered back to me, and luckily, I had a whackload of points stockpiled that I was able to dip into, in order to get the bargain books I wanted!) 
      • Luckily, dh has a separate credit card that we could have used if necessary. This has made me realize that perhaps I need to get a second credit card for emergencies/situations like this one, even if I never/rarely use it. (Or at least I should probably get myself a second card on dh's account?)  
    • The news on this front is not all bad:  thankfully, my replacement credit card arrived on Tuesday. It was easy to activate, and I spent some time that afternoon updating the billing information for (most of) my regular subscriptions, etc. 
  • The Lighthouse Women online community is changing its name again, a little over a year after Katy Seppi assumed hosting duties of the Gateway Women online community from its founder, Jody Day. Jody retained the name "Gateway Women" for her own ongoing work in the childless community, and community members chose the new name shortly after the change in leadership was announced. (I wrote about these change at the time, here.)   
    • As of Monday (Aug. 14th), the community will be known as the Childless Collective, which is the name Katy will be using for all her work in the CNBC community going forward. This will (hopefully!) make it easier for childless-not-by-choice women to find support when they need it, and for Katy to carry out her various activities within the CNBC community more efficiently under a consolidated brand identity. 
      • It will also (hopefully) distance the community from a UK-based cult (! -- yikes!!) called Lighthouse Global which was in the news recently, and whose URL is very similar.  
    • I was still using the tag/label "GW book club" for my book reviews here, related to the community's book club. Not sure how, whether or when I will change that??  
  • Canadians recently learned (via social media) that our prime minister and his wife of 18 years have separated. Said one commentator:  "As a mother, my thoughts go to their kids."  Ummm, hello, I'm not a mother, and my first thoughts were for their three kids too!   

Monday, August 7, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: Katie, 25 years, and silver linings

I'm not sure what I can say today that I haven't already said in the 25 years leading up to this point. But... 25 years, people.  It's not something you can ignore or brush under the carpet (any more than people try to gloss over the fact that she did, for a brief time, exist, if only in my uterus).

So I will try. She deserves it. Especially today, of all days.  

25 years. It seems impossible. It's a long chunk of time. The build-up to these "anniversaries" doesn't carry quite the same weight of dread that it did, 24 years ago, 20 years ago, 15 years ago.  Facing this day has gotten easier with the passage of time. 

But I can't pretend the date doesn't mean anything to me anymore. It does. It still has power.  

As I've said before (and as I've heard other childless moms say too), when it's 5, 10, 15, even 20 years later, you have some idea what your kid might be doing (what grade they'd be entering at school this fall, what they'd be studying, what milestones they might be reaching, what their interests & activities might be, based what your friends' & relatives' kids the same age are up to...).  

These days, though, I have no idea who she'd be or what she'd be doing. None. 

When I was 25, I was married (!), living 1,000 miles away from the people & places I'd known all my life, starting my working life and landing the job I would hold for the next 28 years.  They say young people are marrying older these days, but a childhood friend's son, born 25 years ago in April, just got married last week (!) -- now THAT definitely gave me pause!! A cousin's son -- also 25 -- was attending a friend's wedding this week. My cousin's daughter -- also 25 -- has been living with her boyfriend in another city for several years now. 

She would definitely be all grown up. 

In traditional terms, a 25th anniversary means silver. Dh & I had our silver wedding anniversary in July 2010 (13 years ago now), and I wrote a post at the time titled "Our silver lining." The gist of the post was that even though my life to that point hadn't turned out the way I had planned, we had each other, and we'd survived.  

There are no silver linings with stillbirth.  I will never stop grieving our daughter, and wishing that things might have been different. I don't know why so many people facing uncertain pregnancies, as we did, get a happy ending, or, eventually, their "rainbow" (as in "rainbow baby") -- and we didn't. 

But.  The life I have now is not something I would wish away either. It is what it is... and what it is, is a pretty good life, on balance. I'm grateful for the life we have, while still wondering about the life that might have been.  Both things can be possible at once; it's not an "either/or" situation. 

I've often said that I had a choice:  I could let my grief over my daughter's loss and my childlessness destroy me. Or I could try to live a life that would have made her proud to have me as her mother. It hasn't always been easy, but I like to think that I've done a reasonable job of it over the past 25 years. 


(I relieved my pregnancy in detail on this blog, 10 years after the fact. See the posts tagged "1998 memories.")

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

Saturday, August 5, 2023

"The Secret Book of Flora Lea" by Patti Callahan Henry

I first heard about "The Secret Book of Flora Lea" by Patti Callahan Henry from Anne Bogel/Modern Mrs. Darcy:  it was one of the books featured in her Summer Reading Guide and the June pick for her MMD Book Club.  The plot sounded right up my alley:  

It's 1960, and Hazel Linley is working in a bookstore in Bloomsbury, London, that specializes in antique books, rarities, and original illustrations. Cataloguing some recent arrivals, she finds the first edition of a new children's book  -- accompanied by a pile of the original artwork -- by an American author named Peggy Andrews called "Whisperwood and the River of Stars."  


The story bears an uncanny resemblance to the original stories Hazel made up, 20 years earlier, to amuse, distract and comfort her little sister Flora during the tense early days of the Second World War. Like thousands of other city children, the two sisters were evacuated from their comfortable home and sent to live in the countryside with another family for the duration of the war. 

But one day six-year-old Flora disappeared -- presumably drowned in the Thames River, her body swept away, perhaps out to sea. No trace of her was ever found. 

Only Hazel and Flora ever knew about Whisperwood -- and yet here is their story, in the pages of this book. Could Flora have survived, and somehow become Peggy Andrews, against all odds?  And if not, how did Peggy Andrews learn about Whisperwood?  Hazel -- who has carried a heavy burden of guilt her entire life since then -- is determined to find out. 



I read the bulk of this book in under 24 hours' time.  It was a fast read -- and a bit of a rollercoaster ride for me, emotionally. I quickly found myself feeling somewhat skeptical, for reasons I'll outline below. By the time I reached about the 30% mark, I was nevertheless hooked.  And then, at the end, pissed off.  :p  

The book started off promisingly enough, before diving into the premise that drives the plot -- the discovery of the mysterious children's book that sets Hazel off on her quest to find out what happened to her sister.  

I was startled. I realized I'd already knew this story -- or one very much like it. A book that one sister stumbles on, containing details from her childhood, including some that only another sister, who disappeared years earlier, would know about:  this is also one of the main plotlines/mysteries featured in "Amberwell" by D.E. Stevenson (first published in 1955), which my Stevenson fan group covered in 2020. (Reviews here and here.)  When I described the plot to the members of my Stevenson group, they all immediately thought of "Amberwell" as well.   

I will admit, it kind of threw me for a loop.  As I read on, the similarities diverged and dwindled, but it was a little disconcerting.  

(And this is maybe nitpicking, but Hazel's lover's name is Barnaby. Barnaby??!) 

But then I got immersed in the story and the mystery.  I loved learning more about "Operation Pied Piper," and what life was like for the young evacuees.  There were some wonderful observations about the power of stories and storytelling. And the more I read, the more I was hooked.  

And then, towards the end, we learn the truth about what happened to little Flora. (Here come some major spoilers, or hints of them.)  The entire time I was reading, I was silently begging the gods, "PLEASE don't let it be a crazy bereaved mother or infertile/childless woman who snatched her.  PLEASE don't let it be that." 

It wasn't that. 

But let's just say I wasn't too far off the mark.  :(  

And then of course, there was the stereotypical happy ending. Yes, THAT stereotypical happy ending.  

Needless to say, the exhilaration I felt as I reached the climax of the story fell rather flat.  A disappointing ending to another otherwise absorbing story.  I'm not sorry I read it, and I'm sure most readers would be happy with the ending and think it's a great book.  In many ways, it is!  But caveat emptor. 

I struggled with how to rate this one. The one I had in my head changed several times as I went through the book. I'm settling on 3.5 stars, and after some further debate, I'm rounding it up to 4 on Goodreads, even though part of me feels like I'm being overly generous. It really did give me several hours of reading pleasure, and it kept me turning the pages. But the resolution/ending, clever as it was, ultimately left a bad taste in my mouth. I can't give it a wholehearted 4 stars or more.  Your mileage may vary! 

This was Book #28 read to date in 2023 (and Book #1 finished in August), bringing me to 62% 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, August 3, 2023

Well, this is new...

Almost 25 years to the day since I learned my pregnancy had ended... there's a baby seat in the back of our car. 

(Don't think THAT doesn't give me pause...!)  

It's actually a toddler seat. Guess whose?  

SIL is taking BIL to a medical appointment early on Tuesday afternoon, and they have to leave around noon -- which is when Little Great-Nephew gets out of day camp. (He's going two mornings a week for the month of August.  He calls it "school." Okay, buddy, if you say so...!)  So guess who has been designated to pick him up? 

Of course, we do not have the mandatory kiddie car seat -- but BIL had just bought him a new one, since he's pretty much outgrown the one they have right now. So when we were over there earlier today, we installed the new seat in our car for this specific purpose. (Dh & BIL took him on a quick trip to Home Depot after it was installed -- and then to Dairy Queen, lol -- so he's already tried it out, lol.)  We'll be picking him up at the community centre where the day camp is (picking up a child -- another first for us!), picking up some lunch, taking him back to his grandparents' house and then staying with him until they return, later in the afternoon. 

It's very strange. 

Tuesday, August 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: July was month #40 (3 years plus) since the COVID-19 pandemic began. We remain covid-free (knocking wood, loudly...) -- albeit we both have had colds recently (dh first, then me -- multiple negative rapid tests). :(    

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.  (Even Younger Nephew & his wife, among the most ultra-cautious people we know, are planning to venture out to a movie theatre and restaurant for lunch on his upcoming birthday!) We still mask in stores and other indoor public places, albeit we usually don't in smaller/family settings. 

We used to mask in the public areas of our condo building (the hallways, elevators, mailroom, parking garage, etc.), long after the requirement was dropped, but recently decided we could stop doing that (since we rarely run into other people anyway, and certainly not in any great numbers). We had to eat in the food court at the hospital several times recently, while there to visit my brother-in-law & Older Nephew -- so obviously had to remove our masks for that -- but masks were required in patient areas, and you would hope that in a hospital setting, people would be conscious of not visiting or showing up for work if they weren't feeling well...!  

I've told dh recently I'm open to returning to the movies & eating in restaurants, if there's a movie we'd really like to see and a place we'd really like to eat (I'd rather take a risk on eating a nice meal at a nice restaurant, versus McDonalds...!).  I don't want to go to a restaurant just for the sake of going out (which is what we used to do, pre-covid -- Saturday night was eating out night, end of story!).  I'd also prefer to go at a time when it's less crowded and (in the case of restaurants), preferably somewhere with a patio, while the weather is still nice enough to take advantage of that! (But neither of us is in a rush!) 

It was interesting to see a recent news item that the British Medical Journal is calling for a federal inquiry into Canada's pandemic response. Yes, Canada fared pretty well compared to many other countries -- but there were also many things that could and should have been handled differently (e.g., the abysmal number of seniors living in care homes who died)  -- room for improvement in the future.  Personally, I think an inquiry would be an excellent idea -- with the caveat that there needs to actually be some action taken based on the findings. As the article reminds us, a similar inquiry took place after the SARS outbreak in 2003, with very little action taken afterwards. If we'd learned more from the mistakes made then, our covid response would no doubt have been much more effective than it was. 

July was a BUSY month!  -- mostly consumed by BIL's (and Older Nephew's) transplant operations on July 10th. Other things had to take a back seat.  I didn't even have time to read my emails some days!  

Among other things, we:  
  • Spent a LOT of time with Little Great-Nephew (yay!) while his parents & grandparemts were otherwise occupied:  all day (8-10 hours) for three days straight at BIL's house (July 4th, 5th AND 6th -- which also happened to be our 38th wedding anniversary...!), plus most of the day on July 14th & 18th at Older Nephew's house (about an hour north of us).  We also got to spend a few hours with him and his grandparents at his grandparents' house yesterday (July 31st).  BIL hadn't seen him in almost a month!  
  • Saw (almost) all of the aunts, uncles & cousins on dh's dad's side of the family at a party in his cousin's backyard, on July 2nd -- many of them for the first time since before the pandemic began. One cousin, who now lives in Australia (!), along with her Aussie husband and two small kids, was home to visit. Thankfully, the air quality was good (no wildfire smoke) and while it was overcast, there was no rain, so we were able to stay outdoors most of the time. (Being so close to BIL's operation, BIL & SIL and the nephews did not attend, so dh & I represented our branch of the family.)  
  • Took SIL to the hospital downtown where BIL was taken before his surgery, on July 7th. A cousin took her downtown again the next day, and helped her check in to a nearby hotel, where she stayed for the next two weeks, until BIL was able to go home again. 
    • Dh picked up & transported both nephews & Older Nephew's Wife to the hospital downtown, early-early on the morning of the transplant surgery (July 10th), hung around the hospital all day while the surgeries were done, and then drove ONW and Younger Nephew home again. He was out of the house for 25 hours, estimates he was awake for about 44 (!) and drove 300+ km (180 miles!).  
  • He & I visited both Older Nephew and BIL in the hospital for several hours each on Wednesday, July 12th;  Saturday, July 15th;  Monday, July 17th and Wednesday, July 19th.  We had lunch in the food court downstairs with SIL while we were there, and also got to see several visiting relatives too.
    • We stopped by BIL & SIL's house for a brief (masked -- dh had a bit of a cold) visit on Saturday, July 22nd, after his arrival home (three full weeks after he was hospitalized, prior to his operation), and then again on Monday (July 24th) & Tuesday (July 25th). 
    • Dh took BIL & SIL back downtown to the hospital for an appointment on Thursday morning (July 27th). I wasn't feeling well (see above), so decided to keep my germs at home, and slept in.  ;)  
    • We went there for coffee on Friday night (July 28th), along with a couple of cousins who came by to visit. 
    • And then the next day we returned when Younger Nephew brought Little Great-Niece over for a few hours while his wife did the grocery shopping and ran a few errands. :)  It had been two months since we last saw her!!  (even though they live barely five minutes away from us!) 
    • Dh took BIL to a nearby lab for bloodwork on Monday, July 31st. (And he's taking BIL downtown to the hospital for a checkup today.)  
  • Visited the supermarket on July 5th, 7th and 18th for various errands and grocery shopping; the drugstore on July 3rd & 15th;  and the bookstore and Canadian Tire on July 22nd. 
25 years ago in July (1998), we were "riding the rollercoaster" of a pregnancy that had always seemed a bit tenuous and had suddenly become very uncertain. On the advice of my ob-gyn (who headed off on vacation for most of the month, while leaving me in the care of the geneticist he'd referred me to), I cancelled my planned vacation with my family in Manitoba, and waited an agonizing 24 days (!) for the results of my amniocentesis -- which ultimately turned out to be normal, and revealed that we were having the daughter we had both secretly wanted. 

Meanwhile, I had two more ultrasounds -- which showed the baby falling further and further behind growth norms -- and a fetal echocardiogram, which showed "very poor" circulation. Nevertheless, we started shopping for nursery furniture, and Cousin/Neighbour's Wife started planning my baby shower for the September long weekend...   
I'm finding it hard to believe July is over and suddenly, that first week of August is staring me in the face again... it happens every year, but obviously this year, there's some added clout...!

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Also right now:  

Reading: With everything going on in my life right now, this was NOT a banner month for reading for me.  :p  My "books ahead of schedule" stat on Goodreads sadly dwindled (at one point, I only got the message "You're on track!" -- which I guess is better than being behind, but...!).  :(  In the end, I did finish 2 books in July (reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads & StoryGraph, & tagged "2023 books").  
This brings me to 27 books read to date in 2023,  60% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. :)  I am currently (for the moment, anyway...!) 2 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. (I started the month at 3 books ahead of schedule.)  

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 am 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 6. I missed that discussion, but hope to take part when we cover Chapter 7 in mid-August! (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: After a bit of a hiatus, discussion resumed on book #3, "The Cruellest Month" (which I read in April and reviewed here), on June 7th.  It wasn't mentioned, but I'm assuming book #4 (see above) will be next (I assumed in July, but nothing has been posted yet?) Meanwhile, book #5,  "The Brutal Telling," is on the horizon as one of my next reads...! 
Last month, I mused about possibly joining yet another online book club discussion/readalong on Substack, for "Middlemarch" by George Eliot. As I admitted then, much as I'd like to participate, I need yet ANOTHER book club/readalong to follow like a hole in the head, and this past month was simply NOT the time to start!  Regretfully, I have not joined in. (Yet??)  ;)  

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

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Watching:  An abundance of kids' cartoons, while spending time with Little Great-Nephew, whose favourites include "Sunny Bunnies," "Peppa Pig," "Grizzly and the Lemmings," "Paw Patrol," "Blues Clues" and "Blaze and the Monster Machines." (I'm not going to link to them all...!)  I had to laugh when I found myself singing the theme song from "Go Jetters" (another LGN favourite) in the shower one morning...!  ("Guided by a unicorn..." lol)  

I also tuned in to a couple of sessions from the online Childfree Convention over the weekend of July 29th & 30th on their YouTube channel -- including a session early on Sunday morning with Jody Day of Gateway Women and Katy Seppi of Lighthouse Women discussing common ground and alliances between the childless and childfree. Well worth watching! 

Listening:  After a too-long streak of days in which wildfire smoke/poor air quality/oppressive heat &/or humidity made it a very bad idea to open the balcony door, it was finally nice enough to throw the door side open. Unfortunately, that was also the same evening (a Friday night) that one of our neighbours -- possibly/probably from the townhouse complex behind us -- chose to blast music at top volume (and not a genre of music that I particularly appreciate either).  Sigh. :p  

Heardle Decades: Stats as of July 31st: 
  • Heardle 60s:  78.0% (244/313, 109 on first guess), up from last month. Max. streak: 14. (Current streak: 7.) 
  • Heardle 70s:  79.2% (42/53, 26 on the first guess), up from last month. Max. streak: 7. 
  • Heardle 80s:  34.8% (56/161,  29 on the first guess), up slightly from last month. Max. streak: 4. 
  • Heardle 90s: 50% (26/52, 10 on the first guess), down from last month. Max. streak: 4. (Current streak: 3.) 
Eating/Drinking:  Not that well, I must confess. With everything that's been going on right now, we've both been too exhausted to do a lot of "real" cooking. Lots of takeout and frozen convenience foods.  Lots of bagels for lunch in the hospital food court!  

On the other hand: we've been enjoying local/domestic strawberries & blueberries in season!  Yum!  

Takeout dinners included rotisserie chicken (Swiss Chalet); takeout pizza slices, soup and rice bowls from the supermarket; pasta (chicken madeira rigatoni from Moxies) with key lime pie for dessert (on our wedding anniversary); California Sandwiches; and thin-crust wood oven pizza. 

Buying (besides books, lol):  A couple of new power bars/surge protectors -- after dh spilled iced tea all over the one in the living room that I usually plug my computer in to...! 
Wearing: Shorts and tank tops while the weather is hot & humid.   

Trying:  To start getting ready for bed at least half an hour before I want to turn out the lights: it always takes more time than I think (and more time the older I get...!)  to turn off & put away all my electronics; change into my PJs;  brush, floss & rinse my teeth/mouth and put on some lip balm; sit with a warm compress on my eyes for at least five minutes (recommended by the opthamologist I saw) & then add lubricating drops -- plus, while I'm sick, take some cold meds and gargle with a glass of warm salt water (before brushing my teeth!).  (Thank goodness I don't wear makeup much these days, or I'd have to build in time to remove that too!)  

Noticing:  How awful Toronto traffic is, especially in the downtown core (as described in this post), and especially since I don't get downtown very often these days (let alone in a car)! 

Enjoying: A respite from extreme heat, humidity and wildfire smoke:  we did have a few hot/humid days recently, but also several, before & after, when we've been able to leave the balcony door wide or partially open for most of the day, enjoying the fresh air (yay!).  

Appreciating: The friends & relatives who contributed to a GoFundMe to help cover expenses and lost income for BIL & (especially) Older Nephew as they recover from their surgeries.  Also, other members of dh & BIL's family who have stepped up to help out in other ways too -- one cousin & her husband in particular, who live nearby. There were times when both Older Nephew & his wife and BIL & SIL needed support at the same time -- and dh & I can't be two places at once...!    

(Yes, Canada has universal health care -- neither BIL nor Older Nephew has been or will be charged a cent related to the surgery itself or the care they received in the hospital. Prescriptions, however, are generally not included -- although some provinces have drug plans for seniors & children, and some costs related to transplants are covered by a special provincial government fund. Some workplaces offer employees (& sometimes retirees) at least some prescription coverage through their medical benefits plans. Not sure about Older Nephew, but BIL will be paying about $120 out-of-pocket per month for all the drugs he needs, post-op (although he won't be taking some of them forever). But there are other related costs -- e.g., SIL's hotel room near the hospital (it was arranged & partly subsidized by a generous cousin who can take a tax writeoff on the expense later), SIL & Older Nephew's Wife's meals while downtown, hospital parking (! -- we pay at least $25 every time we're there), gasoline, lost wages while off work... many workplaces offer short and long-term disability insurance as part of their benefits, but not everyone has that, and it rarely covers 100% of lost salary. Etc. etc...)  

Wanting: Still haven't had that pedicure I mentioned last month...!  

Wondering:  How Little Great-Nephew is going to like the day camp for toddlers that SIL has enrolled him in for August...!  It's just two mornings a week for two hours each, but it will give her a (much-needed, especially right now!) little break. Also, LGN hasn't spent much time with other kids his own age, or time away from family members, and this should give him some valuable exposure to those experiences before he starts school in September (eek!).  She's taken him to weekly toddler storytime sessions at the library, on & off these past two years, and he's loved that. 

Worrying:  About the unusual weather/climate change, and what kind of a world Little Great-Nephew & Little Great-Niece will be growing up in...  :( 

Prioritizing: Being there for BIL & SIL, Older Nephew, his wife & Little Great-Nephew, and supporting them however we can right now as they recover from their surgeries. 

Hoping:  That I'll be able to book a trip west to see my parents & sister soon... although I suspect we probably won't be going until (Canadian) Thanksgiving in October (as we have several times in recent years).  Waiting to get to the point where our help won't be needed quite so much, so that we can make those arrangements!  

Loving:  Spending time with Little Great-Nephew. He's such a joy -- and September (and school!!) is fast approaching (after which we won't be seeing him as often as we have)...!  :(  

Feeling: VERY happy (and relieved! and thankful!) that both BIL's and Older Nephew's surgeries ultimately turned out well. Exhausted, after all the stress and running around of the past several weeks. In awe of just how fast this year is zooming by...!