Saturday, September 30, 2023

"The Farm" by Joanne Ramos

As I mentioned in my "Right Now" post earlier this month, Lyz Lenz at Men Yell At Me recently started a book club. Her first pick was  "The Farm" by Joanne Ramos, a novel that's been in my "to-read" pile since it was published in 2019.  The book was a national bestseller and was named one of the best books of that year by media outlets such as Time, Glamour, Real Simple and The Globe and Mail. 

("The Farm" was also chosen by the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights for the One Community One Book program, and the author will be delivering a lecture at the university, in Iowa City, on Oct. 8th. "So we will be reading this book along with other Iowans, during a time when our reproductive rights are being taken away," Lenz noted, as she introduced the book to her readers.)

Our protagonist, Jane, is a Filipino immigrant who is broke, separated from her cheating, abusive husband, and desperate for money to support herself and her baby daughter, Amalia. She lives in a crowded dormitory in New York City, packed full of other immigrants, including her older cousin Ate, who works as a baby nurse for wealthy families. At Ate's suggestion, Jane leaves Amalia in Ate's temporary care and becomes a "Host" -- a surrogate/gestational carrier at Golden Oaks, a luxurious facility in the countryside outside of the city ("The Farm" of the title -- essentially, a baby farm).  

Golden Oaks caters to ultra-wealthy Clients who cannot have their own babies (or who don't want to go through pregnancy themselves).  The Clients get charged huge fees, and the Hosts can earn a lot of money, with bonuses paid for reaching certain milestones. But every aspect of the Hosts' lives is monitored, recorded and controlled, and they are not allowed to leave the grounds of the estate..... 

The story is told from multiple perspectives -- mostly Jane's, but also her roommate at Golden Oaks, Reagan; Mae, the ambitious woman who runs Golden Oaks on behalf of her corporate bosses;  and Ate.  

The book kind of plodded along for a while as the various characters are introduced, backgrounds are established, and Jane's pregnancy progresses  under the watchful eyes of the Coordinators at Golden Oak. Tension builds gradually, until everything comes to a head in the last quarter of the book. 

Some have called "The Farm" a "dystopian" novel, and there are certainly shades of "The Handmaid's Tale" here. But the truly scary thing about "The Farm" is that it's not set in some distant future or imaginary society. In fact, just about everything depicted in "The Farm" is entirely within the realm of possibility right now. 

I started out thinking this book was likely 3 stars at best. I finished thinking it was actually better than that.  I'm giving it 3.5 stars on StoryGraph, 4 stars on Goodreads. 

ALI caveats:  This will NOT be a book that everyone in the adoption/loss/infertility/childless world will want to read. I found the first few chapters (particularly the parts about breastfeeding and pumping) a little hard to read (even after all these years...!)... 

MYAM's discussion of "The Farm" runs through Oct. 5th.  The next MYAM book club selection will be "Ex-Wife" by Ursula Parrott, which was considered scandalous when it first published in 1929!  (It also ties in nicely with Lyz's next book, "This American Ex-Wife," to be published in February 2024.) Discussions on "Ex-Wife" will start in November, with questions posted every Thursday. Most MYAM newsletter discussions are for paying subscribers only, but the book club comments will be open for anyone who wants to participate. Details here

This was Book #36 read to date in 2023 (and Book #4 finished in September), bringing me to 80% 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, September 25, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: The (Pandemic) Time Warp

Obvious subtitle:  "(Let's NOT do that one again...!)"  ;) 

Modern Mrs. Darcy recently flagged an article from The Cut titled "The Pandemic Skip." (If you hit a paywall, try this link instead.) Summarized MMD:  "COVID warps our perception of time, but what do we make of the years we “missed?” " 

Sample passage: 
That COVID warped our perception of time is well established — studies show that stressful experiences tend to make it feel unclear how much time is passing, especially when one is confined to one’s home for months on end. It felt fast, it felt slow, it’s now hard to remember at all. With some time and space from that urgent, panicked period (did that happen yesterday or the day before? How long has it been since I’ve seen another person?), some new questions have started to come up. Like, if we slept through three years of normal life development, how old are we exactly?

This pandemic skip — the strange sensation that our bodies might be a step out of sync with our minds — happened to people of all ages. We’ve heard of those freshmen in high school, who, never having attended middle school, went back to their classrooms punching each other like 12-year-olds. A friend skipped from 57 to 60 and, when she started dressing up to leave the house again, realized she felt distinctly out of sorts in her clothes — her dresses felt suddenly too short or too colorful. (At 57, she said, patterns felt ironic. At 60, they didn’t.) My skip, I realized, had carried me swiftly through what would have been my last couple years of socially permissible carelessness. And what I’d dropped into didn’t especially appeal, particularly after having been trapped in the house-cats-in-a-bag style for three years: real adulthood with all its attendant concerns.  

I remembered a discussion in a similar vein on another forum, and hunted it down. It stemmed from an article on The Oldster Substack, titled "The (Pandemic) Time Warp" (and tickled me by including a YouTube link to "The Time Warp" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," lol).  Sample passage: 

All the worrying and isolation and grief and illness have definitely taken a toll on me, physically and mentally. I saw it coming; I remember being so scared in those first months of lockdown that my limbs sometimes shook uncontrollably at night in bed. When I wasn’t panicking about the imminent dangers, I was panicking about more long-term ones; I often thought, This constant anxiety is going to make me older than my years.

And now I think maybe it has. In the wake of the past three years, my joints are achier, I’ve got more wrinkles, my hair is grayer, and I’ve lost more of it. I’m exhausted all the time, yet so anxious still that I have difficulty sleeping through the night.

The question posed on the forum was: "Regardless of your position on how our governments handled/are handling this, how has the experience of living through a pandemic altered you?"   

My own response (in part):  

The first comment I saw [on the Substack article] expressed my thoughts exactly:   

"I don't feel it aged me, I feel it robbed me. When you're retired and in good health, these are the years you want to spend traveling, take these long breaks to discover other places and people, and that got taken away for about 2 years." 

(Make that 3.)  I thought by this point in our retirement, we'd have been doing some of the travelling we keep saying we want to do -- and that just hasn't happened.  I particularly resent that the pandemic robbed me of precious time with my parents. They are 82 & (almost) 84 and live 1000 miles away -- and there was almost 2 years when travel restrictions meant I could not get home to see them (when we usually go twice a year, Christmas and summertime). I am more & more aware that my time with them is limited and rapidly dwindling. 

My husband & I are/were generally homebodies -- but the past three years kind of took that to extremes...!  We've still continued to be very careful, much more so than most of the people around us -- although we've been getting out a bit more lately (wearing masks in public places indoors), now that nicer weather is here....  It's nice to be getting out a little again while still staying (relatively) safe.  

How about you? 

I feel compelled to add this P.S. from The Oldster article (as if it really needed to be said...): 
PS I feel compelled to note here that the pandemic isn’t exactly over. We’re now in a time of greater freedom of movement, when there are more situations in which it feels safe to gather with others, and I am glad for it. But contracting Covid remains a risk, especially for those who are older, immunocompromised, or disabled, and there are people suffering with long Covid.
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Friday, September 22, 2023

Friday afternoon updates, odds & ends

Further to last week's article in The Cut/New York Magazine, about what happens to friendships when all your friends start having kids ("Adorable Little Detonators") -- which I wrote about here:  
  • Anne Helen Petersen mentioned it in her Substack newsletter (Culture Study) this week, in a piece titled "How to Kid-Proof Your Friendship." 
    • I saw AHP's post shortly after it landed in my inbox on Wednesday morning, and immediately dashed off a comment. In a nutshell, I said I thought The Cut article was great, but mostly left out an important perspective -- i.e., those of us who wanted/hoped/expected/assumed we would have children all our lives, but had to eventually face the hard truth that it was not going to happen for us, for a variety of reasons. I said it can not only be annoying when your friends abandon you after becoming parents, but that it can also be downright painful to see them living (and in some cases taking for granted) the life we wanted so much for ourselves. 
    • Mine was one of the first half-dozen or so comments to be posted. I'm thinking that must have given me a leg up, so to speak (the early bird catches the worm! etc. etc....) -- because a few hours later, I was shocked to see that mine was the top-liked comment!  (including a "like" from AHP herself, who is childfree by choice). 
      • When I last checked, earlier today, it was still the top-rated comment, with 138 likes so far (!!)(and I'm still getting more!).      
    • I also had a few responses, including these:   
      • "Thank you! I have held it together for my friends who are parents so many times and then broken down sobbing on the floor afterward. It's really hard to experience how little space is held for friends who do not or cannot have children."  
      • "Thanks for articulating this. It feels like there's no space held for this. My pet peeve / emotional trigger is when I share my single/child-free plans which often include travel etc, and parents say "I wish I had your life." It feels so insensitive because truly, often, I wish I had their life! It's like they can't even see from your perspective at all and offer some empathy."  
      • "Yes!!!!! I was surprised that The Cut article didn’t expand in the deep grief that all of this entails! In addition to what you name (as Adam Phillips calls it “the grief of the life not lived,”), and also the grief of your precious friendships changing in ways that you wouldn’t have chosen! The loss of intimacy of not being relied upon in the same way, friends not having the capacity for care and comfort, grief over not being able to connect/relate in the same way (abandonment/attachment activation for many) etc and all of this happening within the container of the pervasive ocean that is cishetetopatriarchy that says “your value is yoked to that thing you don’t have and may want” (eg “landing a man, having kids.) In short “they won, you lost.” "
      • "I grieved this for a long time. It’s affirming and comforting to read your comment and know someone understands it from this side. Thank you."
      • A few other people have also mentioned or alluded to being CNBC in their own comments. 
    • As Stephanie Joy Phillips has said about World Childless Week, slowly, we're getting louder and getting the message out...! 
  • Jill Filipovic also addressed The Cut article in her Substack newsletter, taking a slightly different angle with a broader cultural assessment: "Children upend our friendships. Do they have to?:  Lessons from life outside of America."  So far as I can tell, it's not paywalled.
    • Key paragraph, for me:  
And those friends, by the way, are also stretched thin. The competition and precariousness of American life breeds exhaustion and resentment: The childless workers who are frustrated when yet again they are told to stay late and cancel their plans so that a parent can go to the school play; the couple out on a much-needed date they can barely afford who can’t focus on their conversation because of a shrieking toddler; the single woman trying to buy an affordable home who keeps losing out because sellers want their house to go to a young family, and because young families often have two incomes. The parents aren’t at fault in any of these situations. But the people without children also aren’t selfish jerks. Our policies and cultural norms pit us against each other.
*** *** *** 

Scam/fraud update: As I explained here and here, I was the victim of a scam back in late July -- a credit card transaction involving Amazon. I realized and reported the fraud to my bank/credit card provider within minutes after the transaction went through.

Initially, I was told I would get a refund within 7 days -- and I did -- but that wasn't the whole story.  When I called again as instructed, I was told the refund was only temporary/conditional, that the transaction had been sent to the disputes department, and would take 30 (!)  business days to resolve with the merchant.  

More than 30 business days has now elapsed, and I hadn't heard a peep from either Amazon or my bank/credit card provider, so I made a followup call this week. (Each time I've called, the sound quality of the call has been less and less clear, and the representatives harder and harder to understand...!)  

Basically, my understanding of the situation is:  the investigation is still under way. And now I'm being told that it likely won't be resolved until 90 days/3 months has passed (!!!) -- which apparently is the U.S. standard (Amazon, of course, being a U.S.-based company).  I checked my calendar and, depending on whether that means 90 calendar days or (more likely) 90 business days (I'm assuming from July 31st, when I reported the fraud), I'm looking at anytime from late October until mid-December before this is going to be resolved (and, hopefully, my Amazon account reinstated -- including access to my Kindle phone app and all the books there that I have bought and paid for, but cannot access!). Unless this gets resolved in a hurry, I guess I won't be doing any Black Friday and/or Christmas shopping on Amazon this year -- inconvenient and annoying for me, but a loss of my business for them!   

Note that this is the THIRD timeline for resolution that I've been given in three different calls to the credit card centre. First I was given reason to believe the situation would be resolved within a week -- then 30 business days -- and now 90.  Not impressed. Once I finally get this resolved (one way or another), I'm sending a letter to the bank to express my displeasure.  

*** *** *** 

Other odds & ends:  
  • "Anything You Lose" -- a documentary about infertility and involuntary childlessness that Pamela at Silent Sorority has been involved with -- is having its premiere in Los Angeles on Oct. 7th! Details here on Pamela's blog.  
  • This has nothing to do with adoption, loss, infertility or childlessness -- but it put a huge smile on my face, and I hope it will do the same for you. :)  Garrett Bucks at The White Pages (Substack) -- and an entire town -- pays tribute to his neighbourhood mail carrier, who is retiring from his job. Sample passage:  
...there is a real “thirsty desert travelers sprinting to the oasis” vibe in how deeply an entire neighborhood craves Mike’s waves and smiles. We are starved for connection. We are too used to relationships as means to an end, commerce as a substitute for community, and the constant exhaustion that comes from running a rugged individualist race against each other. And by “we,” I don’t mean just me and my neighbors. I mean all of us. It shouldn’t be notable that a mail carrier is kind, because our days should be full of both giving and receiving compassion and delight. But that isn’t the world we live in yet. So yes, let’s celebrate the Mikes of the world. Let’s erect a million signs and host a thousand block parties.

Have a great weekend!  :)  

Thursday, September 21, 2023

"The Last Devil to Die" by Richard Osman

It's no secret that I am a huge fan of Richard Osman's Thursday Murder Club mystery series -- about a group of four aging amateur detectives, all in their late 70s/early 80s, residents of Cooper's Chase, an upscale retirement village in the UK. I eagerly scooped up #4 in the series, "The Last Devil to Die," when it came out earlier this week, and started tearing through it. 

(I woke up this morning at 4 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep -- I'm wondering if reading a few chapters before bed was a wise idea??  Naturally, after tossing & turning for an hour, I decided to get up and fire up my e-reader for a few chapters more, lol. I finished the book this afternoon.) 

Each of these books could probably stand alone, but they really should be read in order, as one generally picks up where the last one left off, with several continuing storylines and  peripheral characters. This one is no exception.  

It's just after Christmas, and there's a new murder to solve. Unfortunately, the victim is Kuldesh, an antiques dealer and friend of Elizabeth's husband Stephen, whom we met in book #3. Also at stake: the whereabouts of 100,000 pounds sterling worth of heroin, which was temporarily housed at Kuldesh's shop and has now gone missing.   

This edition features the same wonderful characters, wit, humour and convoluted plot twists we've come to know and love from the Thursday Murder Club.  Warning:  It's also the most emotional entry in the series to date. Have Kleenex handy!     

An(other) enthusiastic 5 stars.  :)  

Osman says (in the acknowledgements at the end) that he's taking a break from Cooper's Chase  :(  while he pursues other writing projects. I will happily read anything he writes -- he's more than proven his talents with this series -- but I hope we won't have TOO long to wait for the next installment...!    

Links to my reviews of the previous books in the series, in order of publication:  

This was Book #35 read to date in 2023 (and Book #3 finished in September), bringing me to 78% 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, September 18, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: More odds & ends

#MicroblogMondays is back!  :) 

This post may not be "micro," but I have lots of links for you!  
  • From The Atlantic: "Why Are Women Freezing Their Eggs? Look to the Men." (Gift link.) (I've added this book to my wish list!) 
  • Not ALI/CNBC related, but something I found interesting (also from The Atlantic): "The Very Common, Very Harmful Thing Well-Meaning Parents Do." YIKES. (One more entry in the "if this is parenting today, maybe it's just as well I didn't have kids" file -- not to mention the "I am SO GLAD I grew up before the internet!!" category.) (Also gift linked.)
  • This (gift-linked) article from the Washington Post is infuriating, on so many levels: "First, the loss of a baby, then the loss of legal rights." 
  • The always-wonderful Bibi Lynch rants about "‘As a mother’: the worst three words in the English language." Subheading:  "Having a child doesn’t give you some special insight or make you morally superior to the kid-free among us, writes Bibi Lynch. So why do so many people think it does?" (Content warning: Beware the accompanying photos! -- why do publications always do this??) 
    • (There may be a paywall, but you may be able to read a few free articles a month by creating an account and signing in.) 
  • Bibi chatted with Sangita Myska on BBC Radio about World Childless Week on Sunday during the last hour of Sangita's show. Their conversation is available for the next 6 days (i.e., until Saturday). (Edited: I got the date wrong;  correct date & link substituted.) 
  • While reading Bibi's article in the Independent, I saw a link to another story that made my jaw drop:  apparently this past week on "The View," Whoopi Goldberg, mid-sentence, while discussing a completely different topic, suddenly asked co-host Alyssa Farah Griffin (age 34, married in 2021) if she was pregnant!  Live, on national television!!  While Griffin's MOTHER-IN-LAW was in the audience, no less!!  Really, Whoopi??  :p    ("I see a glow," she said, trying to justify her outburst -- oh brother...) (She did apologize.)
    • Goldberg was roundly criticized on X (formerly Twitter)(deservedly so) -- but some people also came to her defense there. UGH.   
    • If that link is too hard to access, almost the exact same article is also on People. 
  • Worth a few chuckles (and cringes):  "That Weird Sad Childless Woman" (Alison Zeidman) on Substack posted examples she's found of "The Weird, Sad Childless Women of Stock Photos." 
  • Jessica Wildfire at OK Doomer can be kind of dark at times -- but I thought this was a great piece about grief (and our grief-phobic society):  "You Could Use a Mourning Routine."
*** *** *** 

The Cut (from New York Magazine) had a lengthy, frank article (written by an ambivalent childless/free woman) about what Jody Day refers to as the "#FriendshipApocalypse" of childlessness -- what happens when all your friends start having kids. The title:  "Adorable Little Detonators" (subhead: "Our friendship survived bad dates, illness, marriage, fights. Why can’t it survive your baby?").  There may be a paywall (and I'm not a subscriber, so no gift links);  if that's the case, try this link instead. 
  • Sample quote:  "Babies, those little assholes, really do show up in our lives like a popular girl transferring into school in the middle of the semester. Their sudden presence, though welcomed, coveted, hard won, and considered a blessing to their parents, throws the social order into disarray." 
  • And this:  "It becomes us vs. them. On one side: People With Kids (PWIKS: frazzled, distracted, boring, rigid, covered in spit-up; can’t talk about movies, only about how they wish they had time to see them). And on the other: People Without Kids (PWOKS: self-absorbed, entitled, attention whores, grumpy about life’s inconveniences even though their life is easy). When those slights go unaddressed, it becomes all too easy to pull away."
  • Jessica Grose, the New York Times's columnist on American families and culture, mentioned the Cut article in a recent subscriber newsletter:  "There’s Still Overwhelming Cultural Pressure to Get Married and Have Kids."  (You noticed??) (Gift link.)
    • Sample passage: "...I think when people get into their 30s and 40s and aren’t married and don’t have kids, they’re often judged... Many Americans find a range of family structures acceptable, but the family structure that Americans overwhelmingly see as completely acceptable is “a husband and wife raising children together.” For all the concern (and, sometimes, concern trolling) about marriage and fertility rates dropping, it’s still challenging to veer from well-worn cultural scripts to write your own new ones."  
    • And:  "A substantial majority of Americans — 75 percent — have been married by 40, and once they’re in their 40s, over 75 percent of men and over 80 percent of women have had a biological child. There’s this idea floating around that if only the broader culture pushed marriage and family harder, we wouldn’t have so many single parents, and I always wonder: When, exactly, did the broader culture stop pushing marriage and babies?" 
  • And in her Guardian column, Republic of Parenthood, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett also weighs in on The Cut article (in a blurb near the end of a piece about Sophie Turner, Joe Jonas and mom-shaming): 
"What’s not [working]:  Postpartum friendships, apparently. I enjoyed this article in New York magazine about the impact a baby can have on friendship groups, although I didn’t identify. What’s changed, I think, is that more and more women are choosing to be child-free and feeling entitled to child-free time, whereas historically they would be roped into communal childrearing. It’s a reasonable expectation, but we all need to be kind to one another, and new parents are especially vulnerable. Having a baby can be like a bomb going off in your life, and at times like that you need your friends more than ever, even if they’re sick of hearing about it."

    • In the online childless communities I frequent, several people (including me!)  bristled at Cosslett's comments. Among the points made: 
      • "Entitlement to child-free time" and "Roped into communal childrearing" is a telling way to put it. (How dare we feel "entitled" to personal time, right??)("A reasonable expectation"?? -- I should think so...!)  As someone said, "feeling entitled to another person's labour and support is the real problem."  And as another said, "Surely there has to be some give and take?"  (Kindness works both ways.) 
      • Not having the baby(s) you wanted and expected that you would have all your life to this point can also be "like a bomb going off in your life."  And yes, "at times like that you need your friends more than ever, even if they're sick of hearing about it." And too often, our friends are not there for us then... 
      • What do you think? 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Sunday, September 17, 2023

"The Giver" by Lois Lowry

"The Giver" by Lois Lowry was not on my radar as a potential read. It was published 30 years ago, in 1993, when I was 32 years old -- and, as a book aimed at children/young adults (and often taught in schools), I obviously have not been exposed to it through my kids.  

But then I learned that Lori Lavender Luz and her colleagues at Adoption Unfiltered will be co-hosting a discussion of the book, using the lens of adoption, on Thursday, Sept. 28th -- and my interest was piqued.  I'd been dithering over what my next read should be, happily downloaded a copy to my e-reader and started reading. 

12-year-old Jonah lives a placid, even-keeled existence with his parents and younger sister. There are strict rules and rituals that govern even the smallest details of their lives.  Every night, they share and examine their feelings in great detail.  Jonas is nervous about the upcoming Ceremony, at which he and all the other 12-year-olds will find out what roles they've been assigned for the rest of their lives.  He's also having strange dreams, prompting his mother to give him pills that stop them. We slowly come to realize that beneath the surface, this seemingly idyllic community is not quite what it seems...  

This is not a long read (it took me just a few hours, spread over the weekend). The language used is simple -- but the ideas & themes presented are complex, sometimes unsettling/disturbing, and (to some) controversial. There's a lot here that will sound familiar to those of us in the adoption/loss/infertility and even childless communities. Not surprisingly, it's a book that's often challenged/banned.  

I can't say I LIKED "The Giver" -- but it did make me think, and I'll be thinking about it for a while yet. It's the first book in a series of four. I'm not sure I'll be following up with the others, but I'm not sorry I read this one. And I'll look forward to the discussion with Lori & her co-hosts on Sept. 28th. If you're interested, you can find more details here

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

This was Book #34 read to date in 2023 (and Book #2 finished in September), bringing me to 76% 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."  

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Small pleasures & annoying things

Small pleasures: 
  • A return to cooler (but not cold -- yet!) temperatures, after somw stifling heat & humidity earlier in the month. (We even got some sunshine! -- finally!!)  
  • Returning to the mall for the first time in quite a while, and shopping for cute clothes for Little Great-Niece, Little Great-Nephew, Little Princess #3 -- and only feeling the small twinges of grief over the cute things I never got to buy for my own little girl. 
  • A bit of "me alone at home" time to myself on Wednesday afternoon, while dh took BIL to a medical appointment. 
  • Spending time this past week and this weekend communing with my peeps during World Childless Week.  :)  So much great content to read, view and think about!  
  • Third annual cottage weekend, coming up soon! (here's a link to my post from last year, including photos) to be followed by a long-awaited visit to see my parents over (Canadian) Thanksgiving!  
Annoying things: 
  • Having to wear slippers around the house again (cooler weather = chilly floors). Which means socks, long yoga pants & jeans and long sleeves can't be too far behind. (Sigh.) 
  • Not being able to make it around the full circuit of the mall, because of both my wonky knee and fatigue (we're out of practice! -- granted, it's a pretty big mall! -- a full circuit around it is 1.3 km = nearly a full mile!).  
  • How wet my mask can get inside while walking around the mall on a humid day.  :p  (I did remove it while we had lunch in the food court -- it was a Tuesday, as opposed to a weekend, and we went at 11:30, when there were a lot fewer people than there would have been a half-hour or hour later...!) 
  • One too many cartons of milk lately that have both smelled and tasted off, even though the expiry date was almost a week away. We've wound up sending it down the drain -- what a waste!  We're now buying filtered milk, which is slightly more expensive, but stays good longer, unopened (and for at least a week once opened). (If we're going away for a week or so, we'll buy a carton to have in the refrigerator for when we get home -- no more late-night runs to the supermarket so that we'll have milk for our cereal and coffee/tea in the morning!)  

Monday, September 11, 2023

Odds & ends

  • It's World Childless Week!  And there's tons of great content posted already for today's topic, "Our Stories."  Head over, dive in, check out the upcoming webinars scheduled for the rest of the week, and show your support!  
  • It's LGN's first day of school!  (junior kindergarten)  Dh & I were constantly refreshing our Instagram feeds this morning, looking for photos (lol) -- and Older Nephew and his wife did not disappoint, posting some shortly after dropoff. :)  
    • Dh texted Older Nephew as soon as we knew school was out to ask him how it went. The teacher said he had a good day, and LGN reported he had a lot of fun!  Yay!  :)  
  • On the other side of the coin:  An oldie but goodie from the archives of Life, Almost, about surviving back-to-school week when infertility and loss are part of your story. Sample passage: 
    In the first week in September, the online chorus from mums of ‘please don’t get any bigger!’ and ‘where has my baby gone?’ seems to get louder. It’s unfair of me, perhaps, but I find these declamations hard to hear and even harder to sympathise with. They hurt, frankly, when your doorway is empty.

  • While sitting in the waiting room of a bloodwork lab last week, I noticed a poster on the wall that said "Learn more about your baby's health..." Except that, at first glance, I took it to read "your baby's death."  Only a loss mom, right?? 
  • Do you live in the Bay Area of California and suffer from endometriosis?  Right now, diagnosis takes close to a decade and requires surgery -- but a company called Endometrics is currently recruiting volunteers to beta test a new, faster, non-invasive diagnostic test. They are also planning a clinical pilot with several clinics in the Bay Area. More details at the link above, as well as here
  • Lori Lavender Luz is co-hosting a discussion of "The Giver" by Lois Lowry, though the lens of adoption, on Thursday, Sept. 28th. Details here
  • This piece on surrogacy in Canada by Alison Motluk is long but a worthwhile and eye-opening/sobering read.   
  • I recently learned about a (relatively) new Christian organization/ministry based in Ottawa, offering support for infertile and childless couples. Here's their website (which I will add to the list of resources on this blog), and here's an article from this time last year about it. 
  • This New York Times article has nothing to do with pregnancy loss -- it's about a group of people whose family members died in a plane crash, 50 years ago, and the long-term effects of their loss -- but I found it incredibly moving. (Gift link.) 
  • I started laughing when I read this First Person essay in the Globe & Mail: "I became a Torontonian accidentally. It's not so bad after all." (Gift link.) Let's just say I can relate! (and you might have to be Canadian to truly appreciate this one!). I'd share it on Facebook -- if I could share it (no thank you, Meta...  :p ) -- partly as an explanation to all the people back "home" (out west) who raise their eyebrows and ask me skeptically, "So, how do you like it in TORONTO?" (knowing they'll never believe me anyway if I tell them I like it just fine), and also to explain to non-Canadians why TROC (the rest of Canada) disdains this city (and why I find myself defending it, despite its flaws).  Both viewpoints are represented in the comments. 
  • As a subscriber to the New York Times's morning newsletter, I've been getting invitations to play the weekly Flashback quiz, where you're asked to place a series of historical events in the correct order. I haven't kept track of my scores from week to week, but so far, I've been doing pretty well! 
  • I recently learned that Connie Schultz (an Ohio journalist I've followed on Facebook for a while now -- who also happens to be the wife of Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown) has a new Substack newsletter. I immediately subscribed (for free, although I love her writing so much that I'm considering shelling out for a paid subscription) and happily spent a couple of hours perusing the archives. One of her early posts -- "Single Mothering, Still" -- struck a chord.  Obviously, I've never been a single mother, but if you read this excerpt (or follow the link to read the whole thing), I think you'll understand:  
Recently, a reader chastised me for continuing to refer to my single mother days. “Your kids are grown, and you need to grow up, too. It’s all behind you now.”   

I responded with a question, but I already knew the answer. That reader has never been a single parent.

There is no erasing who I was for a decade of my life, just as my daughter can never stop being the girl who was raised by a single mother...  

My daughter and I had a different life from the one I had imagined before she was born. It was a good life, she has assured me, no matter how many times I stumbled.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

"Tom Lake" by Ann Patchett

As a huge fan of "The Dutch House" (reviewed here) -- best book I read in 2020 -- I eagerly scooped up Ann Patchett's latest novel, "Tom Lake," shortly after it came out last month. (I also read and enjoyed "These Precious Days,"  reviewed here.)  

I think this is the first novel I've read that references our recent/ongoing pandemic. It's set in the summer of 2020: Lara, her husband Joe and their three young adult daughters, home from college, are stuck on their fruit farm in northern Michigan. The workers who usually help to pick the cherries are unable to come, and so Emily, Maisie and Nell have been recruited to help their parents bring in the harvest. To help pass the time as they pick, they beg their mother to tell them the story of how she came to Tom Lake, Michigan, in 1988 to star in a summer stock production of "Our Town" by Thornton Wilder -- and her romance with her co-star Peter Duke, now a famous Hollywood actor. 

(I've never seen "Our Town," that I remember anyway, but I've seen bits & pieces of it on TV, I think -- I'm familiar with the basic premise -- and I think some knowledge of the play would probably help here, albeit it's probably not entirely necessary.) (There are also references & allusions to -- surprise!-- "The Cherry Orchard" by Anton Chekov, as well as Sam Shepherd's "Fool For Love."  I haven't seen either of those, either.) 

Lara's story unfolds at a leisurely pace. She doesn't share everything with her daughters -- but luckily for us, we get to hear/read about the parts they don't.  :)  In between cherry-picking and storytelling sessions, we're also privy to her reflections on love and loss, marriage, motherhood and family, friendship and growing up, the choices we make along the way, the roads not taken, and the way one thing leads to another and another, without our realizing it at the time. The stories we tell ourselves -- the stories we tell about others -- and the stories others tell about us. A little more than halfway through, there's a "reveal" that had me going "aha!" and then paging back through the book to refresh my memory about a certain character. And then another, and another. 

It took me almost two (admittedly busy) weeks to get through the first nine chapters (131 pages), and all of today -- a wonderfully lazy Sunday, perfect for absorbing myself in a good book -- to finish it off (21 chapters total, 309 pages). Like Patchett's other work that I've read, it's beautifully and thoughtfully written. 

It was a slow start, but I wound up loving "Tom Lake" -- but if you're childless not by choice, be forewarned:  Lara's descriptions of happy motherhood and families might not be your cup of tea, depending on where you are in your grief journey.  (Interestingly, Patchett herself is childfree by choice, as are a couple of the characters in the book.) From that perspective, "The Dutch House" would probably be a better choice.  

I closed the book with tears in my eyes. 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5. 

If you're into audiobooks, I know that Meryl Streep narrates this one! 

This was Book #33 read to date in 2023 (and Book #1 finished in September), bringing me to 73% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 3 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."  

Thursday, September 7, 2023

End of an era

We said goodbye to Little Great-Nephew today. :(  

Not forever, of course. But it will likely be a while until we see him again. His mom has Fridays off, so he won't be at his grandparents' house tomorrow (as he is the other four days of the work week) -- and he starts school (junior kindergarten -- called nursery school in some places and simply pre-school in others) -- on Monday. I'll be (very happily)  surprised if we get to see him more than once or twice a month from now on (which is about as often as we saw his dad & uncle, our nephews, when they were growing up).  

The pandemic, which started when he was just a few months old, meant we weren't able to see him as much as we'd hoped during the first year of his life. And two years ago, he and his parents moved out from his grandparents' basement into their own home, about an hour's drive north of where we live. 

But since his mom went back to work after maternity leave, about 2 & 1/2 years ago, she's been leaving him in the care of his grandmother (our sister-in-law).  There's rarely been a week when we haven't stopped by on at least one morning or afternoon to spend a couple of hours playing with him. And we've seen him a lot more often since BIL's health began to worsen earlier this year, culminating in his transplant surgery in mid-July. We often found ourselves staying with him for several hours at a time, and sometimes full days -- including three full days in a row in early July (including our wedding anniversary!) -- while SIL accompanied BIL to lengthy medical appointments, and then to the hospital for several days prior to his surgery. 

When we first started coming to visit, LGN was shy and would sometimes hide behind his grandmother's legs when he saw us coming. These days, we can see him in the window, jumping up & down with glee, as we come up the sidewalk. Quite the change! -- and quite the ego booster.  :)  

For the next 14 years, minimum, his young life will be ruled by the school calendar. He's going to make new friends, closer to his own age. It's the way of the world, and the way it should be. 

And yet.

I'll admit that, as a childless person, I've never quite understood the angst some parents feel around back-to-school time. (My own mother certainly never expressed anything of the sort, at least not around us.)  But I've kind of had to bite my (cyber)tongue a little lately.  ;)  

We're sure going to miss him.  :(  

Dh & LGN, last week. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Long weekend odds & ends

  • Good grief -- I got a few spam comments recently & went into my spam folder to see if there were any more. There were 14 (!!) dating back to 2008!!! through to 2018. Seriously??  Most of them were one-word comments or brief phrases (e.g., "Perfect!" or "Amen!"). I don't check my spam folder very often, but I know I've checked it since 2018...! Blogger must have been cleaning out their servers or something...?? 
  • It's the first day of school for most kids hereabouts -- and I am bracing myself for the onslaught of posts and photos on social media. (They've been trickling in from friends in the U.S. since early August! but the next few days will bring the bulk of them.)  
    • As I've done for the past few years -- even though it's supposed to be a very hot, humid day outside! -- I plan to get out on the balcony for at least a little while this afternoon with a glass of iced tea and my current book ("Tom Lake" by Ann Patchett).  
  • It's been a real whirlwind of activity around here lately! 
    • We've been trying to spend as much time as possible with Little Great-Nephew before he starts school next week (a week later than "the big kids"). I suspect we will be over to BIL's every day this week that we can -- i.e., today & Thursday. Wednesday, his mom is taking the day off work because they have an "interview"/"meet the teacher" appointment at his school, and Friday is her usual day off.  We are going to miss him!  :(  
    • Last Wednesday, the two of us, BIL, SIL & LGN, and half a dozen or so of the cousins on dh & BIL's mom's side of the family -- all either retired or on vacation -- had lunch together (at one cousin's house). We totally stuffed ourselves and had a LOT of laughs. 
    • On Sunday, we headed up to Older Nephew's house for a barbecue with BIL, SIL, the nephews & their families, and SIL's family. SIL's two brothers and their partners/families had not yet met Little Great-Niece, and Older Nephew thoughtfully invited us to come too. It was a very hot, humid day, so I spent most of it in the air-conditioned comfort of the house -- albeit it's not a huge house, and with 17 people (!)(14 adults and three small children) crammed in, it still got pretty warm in there! lol 
    • At the Wednesday gathering, one of the cousins who was there issued an impromptu invitation -- to all the cousins, not just those there that day -- to gather at her house on the Labour Day Monday holiday for a party (including a dip in their pool, for those who wanted one).  A Labour Day weekend cousins' gathering was an annual tradition for many years, pre-pandemic, but we haven't had one since 2019, for obvious reasons. 
      • A few people already had other plans or commitments, but almost everyone eventually showed up at some point during the afternoon, and a good time was had by all. 
      • It was another incredibly hot, humid day (peaking at 33C/41C humidex -- that's 91F & 106F) -- and we spent 98% of it outside (in the shade, but still...!).  I drank almost six bottles of water over almost six hours -- there was plenty of alcohol to be had, and I did have one vodka shot/"Lemondrop" but otherwise abstained -- but I still felt absolutely wilted.  Still feeling somewhat out of sorts this morning. :p  
    • Something else that came out of the Wednesday lunch:  a new family WhatsApp group. (We already have one for dh's cousins on the other side of the family.)  Some of the older cousins are less tech-savvy than the youngsters -- one just got her first smartphone recently! -- but they have all taken to it like ducks to water, and our phones have been constantly pinging since then.  I haven't minded so far because the conversation is generally pretty funny, lol.  (And I'm sure the novelty will soon wear off!)(I hope??)  
      • I told the cousin who started the group that she'd created a monster!  lol  
    • I spent 4+ hours on Saturday afternoon making salads and goodies to take to both weekend gatherings -- and then another half hour mopping the floor after a small accident with some sticky stuff.  After that, I took my second shower of the day! 
    • (I'm not used to all this socializing!  lol -- especially after so much pandemic-induced isolation!)  
  • Plane tickets are now booked for a trip west to see my parents & sister for a week in October. Happily, I lucked into an Air Canada sale (even though we were going, regardless of ticket prices). I can't remember the last time I paid under $1000 (Canadian dollars) round trip for two to Winnipeg (including taxes & seat selection fees)!! (It can easily be double that, especially at Christmastime!) 
    • Travel within Canada is horribly expensive. :p  It's a BIG country, spanning six time zones (here's a post I found that describes how long it would take you to drive!  depending on what route you want to take), and there are really only two main airlines to choose from:  Air Canada and WestJet (as well as a few smaller regional carriers).  It's a shame, because it discourages people from seeing other parts of their own country (which is pretty amazing!).  I know many people here in the Toronto area who have been to Europe, the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean -- but never outside of Ontario (with the possible exceptions of Montreal/Quebec City).  
    • I find it SO STRESSFUL booking travel these days. It's so expensive, and there are so many choices/decisions you have to make while doing it. I'm always afraid that I'm making the wrong ones (and that that's going to come back to bite me later).  :(    Anyone else feel this way??  
    • I had a fabulous travel agent for years -- I never actually met her; I only ever dealt with her over the phone! -- but once I lost my job, and online booking became the thing to do, I stopped calling her (and paying the agency fees).  I still think about her now & then, though -- always enjoyed chatting with her;  she had a lovely voice!  If I was ever doing a more complicated trip than Toronto-Winnipeg, though, I would probably consult a travel agent again! 
  • Back in 2014 and newly unemployed/retired, I wrote a post called "Kicking the bucket (list)," rejecting the idea that I needed a "bucket list" of retirement goals and activities to tick off. I thought about it when I saw this piece in the Washington Post recently:  "Why you should swap your bucket list with a chuck-it list."  (Gift link.)(The chuck-it list is the brainchild of the author's father -- who calls it by a somewhat saltier term, lol.)  

Friday, September 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: August was month #41 (3+ years plus) since the COVID-19 pandemic began. This month, we started hearing about a couple of new Omicron sub-variants on the rise -- first, EG.5, and then BA.2.86. (The first case was diagnosed in Canada just as the month ended.)  There's also been an uptick in reported cases and wastewater readings lately, and warnings of an oncoming fall wave, as students head back to school. Nevertheless, at the moment we (still, after 3+ years!) remain covid-free (knocking wood, loudly...). 

Dh has been going maskless when he's out without me (for groceries, gas, etc.) --  which I will admit I'm not happy about. I am still masking in most public places, and while we've loosened up a bit lately and have been out and about a lot more lately, I would say we're still a lot more cautious overall than most people we know. I get it -- it's hard to be the only one (or one of the very few), even if you know it's the right/smart thing to do. Next to no one is masking any more, free rapid tests are no longer being distributed by the provincial government (even though they're still stockpiled -- and expiring... what a waste!), the virus has (mostly) disappeared from the headlines, and there is very little data readily available to help individuals monitor the situation and make good decisions for themselves. 

August was another very busy month!  We continued to support our family as my brother-in-law & Older Nephew recovered from their transplant surgeries on July 10th, and as Little Great-Nephew spent his last few weeks with his grandparents (including two mornings a week this month at playschool/daycamp!) before embarking on his SCHOOL career!!  BIL is not allowed to drive right now, likely not until late October at the earliest -- which means dh is often needed to take him to appointments, etc. (especially while SIL is still taking care of Little Great-Nephew).  

Among other things, we: 
  • Spent a lot of time with Little Great-Nephew -- at BIL & SIL's house on Aug. 3rd, 15th, 21st & 23rd (as well as other times under other circumstances, noted below). 
    • On Aug. 8th, we picked him up from playschool/daycamp at the community centre (a first for us!! -- had to borrow a car seat from BIL, lol), picked up some lunch at Tim Hortons and took him back to BIL & SIL's until they got home!  
  • On his own, dh braved the horrendous downtown Toronto traffic to take BIL to the hospital for follow-up appointments on Aug. 1st and 16th (as well as Older Nephew on Aug. 15th). 
    • He also took BIL to the lab for early-morning bloodwork on Aug. 3rd, 8th, 10th, 14th and 21st.  
    • And he took him AND LGN to Home Depot, and then to Dairy Queen, on Aug. 3rd.  
    • He also made multiple solo trips to the supermarket for groceries. (Maskless. :p  ) 
  • Dropped by BIL & SIL's on Aug. 5th, on Aug. 10th for coffee when relatives were visiting (LGN was there then too), and on Aug. 12th for lunch (along with Older Nephew & LGN).  
    • Drove BIL & SIL to one of dh & BIL's aunts' houses for lunch on Aug. 9th.  One of their cousins was there too. We were later joined by several other aunts & uncles, as well as another cousin (our hostess's daughter), her husband and three teenaged boys. We were all stuffed, and BIL was in his glory.  
    • Dropped by BIL & SIL's house briefly on Aug. 28th. (We actually came to see LGN, but he was at home with his mom that day -- she wasn't feeling well and called in sick to work.)  They were just heading out to lunch at a friend's house, so we didn't stay very long. We went to Dairy Queen afterward instead (through the drive-through).  :)  
  • Celebrated Younger Nephew's birthday with Chinese food & cake at BIL & SIL's house on Aug. 6th. Everyone was there except Older Nephew's Wife, who was feeling a little under the weather. We all had a good time, and many photos of Little Great-Nephew & Little Great-Niece (together and separately) were snapped.  :)  
  • Visited Katie at the cemetery on "her" day (Aug. 7th), stopped at Dairy Queen en route home for ice cream (tradition) and then ordered Chinese takeout food for dinner (also tradition, even though we'd just had it the day before at BIL's...!). 
  • Went for haircuts back in our old community on Aug. 12th -- without masks, for the first time in more than 3 years!  It was initially just us and our stylist, although two other stylists and their clients eventually arrived too. Fortunately, it's a pretty big space and fairly well ventilated. Our stylist's daughter has severe asthma and she's been ultra-cautious to date, so we figured if SHE wasn't wearing a mask....!  
  • Returned to our old community on Aug. 21st to get our prescriptions renewed by our family doctor;  full checkups to come next month. 
  • Went to a nail salon on Aug. 24th for my first pedicure since September 2019 -- almost four years!!  (I wore a mask, as did most of the nail techs as they worked on their customers -- although none of the other customers did.)  
  • Attended Little Great-Niece's baptism at a nearby church (albeit not the party afterwards) on Aug. 27th (unmasked! -- eek!). 
  • Went to dh's cousin's house for lunch on Aug. 30th, together with BIL, SIL & LGN.  There were 12 of us there in all -- cousins from dh & BIL's generation and the next (their kids) -- most of us either retired or on holidays We absolutely stuffed ourselves and had a wonderful time, talking and laughing.  
  • Shopping trips to the drugstore (Aug. 5th & 22nd), and Chapters bookstore, Carters/Oshkosh children's clothing store and supermarket (Aug. 22nd & 31st). 
August is always a sad month for us, and this year especially:  25 years ago in August (1998), our hopes that my roller coaster pregnancy would have a happy ending were dashed when I went for my 6-month (26 weeks) checkup with Dr. Ob-gyn on Aug. 5th, and no heartbeat was found.  Two days later, on Aug. 7th, I delivered our daughter, with only dh & my mother with me at the hospital. My dad came from Manitoba several days later. We had a small funeral for her and interred her ashes in a niche in a nearby cemetery on Aug. 19th.  My parents stayed for another week or so after that, and dh returned to work at the end of the month. 
As described here, we made the trip out to the cemetery on Aug. 7th (a long weekend holiday Monday here in Ontario), then made a trip to Dairy Queen (tradition!), and had takeout Chinese food for dinner (also tradition). 

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Also right now:  

Reading: I finished 5 books in August (reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads & StoryGraph, & tagged "2023 books").  
This brings me to 32 books read to date in 2023,  71% 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. (I also started the month at 3 books ahead of schedule.)  

Current read(s): 
  • "Tom Lake" by Ann Patchett. 
  • "The House on the Cliff" by D.E. Stevenson (with my DES group -- technically, our discussion doesn't start until Sept. 11th, but I'm listing it here now! I'll count this one as a re-read once the group finishes its chapter-by-chapter discussion, in late December/early January.)(My original review.)   
  • "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 the fall.   
  • "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. ;)  
I've given up on the idea of joining in yet another online book club/readalong/discussion this summer -- on Substack, for "Middlemarch" by George Eliot. I simply don't have "the bandwidth" at the moment, especially for such a long, dense novel -- although I would like to re-read this book (which I studied in university)... someday... 

Having written the above..., I opened my email yesterday afternoon to find that Lyz Lenz of Men Yell At Me (her wonderfully sassy Substack newsletter, where I'm a paid subscriber) is starting a MYAM book club!  (Uh oh...!)  The first selection will be "The Farm" by Joanne Ramos, which has been in my TBR pile forever. She'll be posting discussion questions every Thursday through October 5th.  Most MYAM newsletter discussions are for paying subscribers only, but the book club comments will be open for anyone who wants to participate. (Hint, hint.)  :)  Details here

(Nora McInerny of the podcast Terrible, Thanks for Asking, has also started a book club via podcast & Substack chats. She's been featuring some really interesting-sounding books too -- but I figure I can go back & listen to the relevant episodes when I actually have time/get around to read the books...!)  

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

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** 

  • "Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland," a riveting five-part documentary series that aired over three nights on PBS this week, telling the story of "the Troubles" in Northern Ireland from the 1960s through the 1998 Good Friday peace accord and its aftermath, as told by the people who lived through it, both Catholic Republicans and Protestant Loyalists. Very well done (probably the best I've seen on the subject), and well worth watching. (A couple of reviews, here and here.) 
    • I still find myself raving to anyone who will listen about Patrick Radden Keefe's book about the Troubles, "Say Nothing," which I read in 2019 and reviewed here. If you are interested in this subject, it's an absolute must-read;  even if you're not (or don't think you are), it's still a  spellbinding book.  One of the people Keefe wrote about in his book was Jean McConville;  her son was one of the people interviewed for the documentary.  
  • If you've read this blog for a while, you will know that I'm a fan of the very talented Maynard sisters -- Joyce, a well-known American author of both novels and memoirs (including "Looking Back," which I read when I was 12 -- 50 years ago now! -- and which solidified my own writing ambitions), and her older sister Rona, who was the longtime editor of Chatelaine magazine, Canada's premier women's magazine -- as well as their late mother Fredelle, who wrote a lovely memoir about growing up Jewish on the Canadian Prairies during the Depression called "Raisins and Almonds." (Their father, Max, was a talented artist and protege of Emily Carr.)  
    • Joyce & Rona made a joint appearance this month at a bookstore in Keene, New Hampshire, near where they grew up -- oh, to have been a fly on the wall!!  -- and I was tickled when they both posted a video from the event on their social media accounts.  Even if you've never read any of their work, it's worth a watch -- I think you'll enjoy their back-and-forth on their unique childhoods, sibling rivalry and reconciliation, and the power and value of writing and storytelling -- especially telling your own story! 
Listening:  No podcasts lately (despite a huge queue...!).  

Heardle Decades: Stats as of Aug. 31st: 
  • Heardle 60s:  77.6% (246/340, 115 on first guess), down slightly from last month. Max. streak: 14. 
  • Heardle 70s:  77.1% (64/83, 41 on the first guess), down from last month. Max. streak: 7. (Current streak: 5.) 
  • Heardle 80s:  34.6% (65/188,  31 on the first guess), unchanged from last month. Max. streak: 4. 
  • Heardle 90s: 41.5% (34/82, 10 on the first guess), way down from last month. Max. streak: 4.  
Eating/Drinking:  Still enjoying the seasonal produce! SIL's aunt gave her a big bag of green beans straight from her garden, and she shared some with us. Soooooo good!  I miss visiting my parents at this time of year -- my 84-year-old dad still has a backyard garden (albeit he's downsized from what he used to keep) and eating fresh veggies from there and the local farmers market is always a treat!   

Takeout dinners included our favourite chicken fingers & fries (from Jack Astor's), Chinese food (from Mandarin), rice bowls (from the supermarket takeout counter), California Sandwiches (veal cutlet for dh, chicken for me), chicken souvlaki (from a local Greek restaurant).  

Buying (besides books, lol):  Not much!  Clothes & a board book as a gift for dh's cousin's new(ish -- he's almost 7 months old!) baby, whom we're planning to visit soon. Halloween stuff was already on display (! -- wtf, it's 2+ months away and the kids aren't even back in school yet...!!) and I snapped up a couple of cute themed gift bags & board books for Little Great-Nephew & Little Great-Niece's goodie bags. 
Wearing:  Capri leggings and T-shirts around the house, and fewer shorts and tank tops than I would have expected. We've (very thankfully) escaped most of the heat wave other places in North America have experienced this summer, but it's been much cooler and cloudier/greyer than usual.   

Enjoying: The (relative) lack of heat & humidity (compared to other summers, and other places in Canada/North America this summer) -- albeit a little more sunshine would be nice...! 

Noticing:  Just how much cooler it's been lately -- a reminder that fall is officially just around the corner!  (Apparently we did not have one day this past month that reached or exceeded 30C/86F. which is not the norm -- although the next few days are supposed to be much warmer.) 

Trying:  To see as much of Little Great-Nephew as we can over the next week, before he heads off to school!  (junior kindergarten/nursey school/pre-school)  Appreciating: That we've been able to spend so much time with him these past few years (and these past few months especially).  

Wanting: Better sleep, which I haven't had again lately.  :p  

Wondering:  What the frack happened to the summer??  How can it be September already??  And how is Little Great-Nephew old enough to be heading off to school in less than two weeks' time??  

Prioritizing: Shopping for and making some dishes to bring to two family gatherings we've been invited to this (long) weekend.  

Hoping:  That I will get to see my two aunties (my dad's older and younger sisters)  when we head west in October. I haven't seen either of them in a couple of years now.  My older aunt (who is also one of my godmothers) will be celebrating her 90th birthday shortly after we're there, and I really want to see her and wish her a happy birthday in person! My mom wanted us to stretch our stay to be there, but I didn't want to stay that long this time around. 

Loving:  Spending time with LGN while we can -- but also looking forward to a little more quiet and control over our schedule soon...!  

Feeling: Grateful to have been able to spend so much time with Little Great-Nephew before he heads off to school soon.  Disbelieving that summer is (essentially) over. Looking forward to a cottage weekend, and to visiting my family soon.