Monday, November 27, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: "War and Peace," anyone??

(How's that for the ultimate juxtaposition -- "#MicroblogMondays" and "War and Peace??" lol)    

Like so many people who consider themselves avid readers, I've tried to read "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy. (Tried.)  As an honours English student at university in the early 1980s (many years pre-Internet, when my attention span was much better, lol), I earnestly bought up copies of some of the classics that I hadn't covered in my studies, which I fully intended to read during my spare time and summer holidays -- including a two-volume Penguin set of "War and Peace." I think I got through the first 60 pages before I drifted away to something else, and never reopened it again. (It may still be lurking somewhere in the corners of my parents' crawlspace... along with a boxed set of Thomas Hardy, which met a similar fate, lol.  I did somewhat better with my boxed set of Jane Austen, although I still haven't read all six of her novels.)  

Then, this morning, I saw this Substack Note from one of my favourite writers/Substackers

"Here I go again...!"  I thought.  As I've said before (many times...!), I need another book club/readalong like a hole in the head -- but this does sound intriguing and, at one chapter per day spread over an entire year, (possibly) manageable. 

As I wrote here, in July, I was interested in a summer readalong of "Middlemarch" by George Eliot, which I read as a university student -- but I just didn't have the capacity to take part (although I've saved the relevant Substack posts, in the event that I do find the time, one of these days...!). 

Have you read "War and Peace"?  (Are you tempted??)  

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

Sunday, November 26, 2023

"In Memoriam" by Alice Winn

I don't remember where I first heard about "In Memoriam," the debut novel by Alice Winn -- but I have been hearing good (even great) things about it since it was published this past spring. In fact, I've seen several comments along the lines of "best book I've ever read." (It currently has an average rating of 4.56 on Goodreads, based on more than 9,600 reviews.)  

I'm not sure I would go *quite* that far -- and the subject matter may not be everyone's cup of tea -- but this really was an excellent book, and especially impressive for a first novel!  (The author is just 30 years old!)  

The book moves back and forth in time and place, mostly between Preshute, a traditional upper-class boys' boarding school in England  in the years before and during the First World War, and the Western Front during the war. The central characters are two teenaged Preshute students -- Henry Gaunt and Sidney Ellwood -- who harbour secret, unrequited passions for each other.  

Ellwood is romantic, given to quoting poetry at every opportunity (Tennyson, Shakespeare, Keats -- he writes it, too);  Gaunt is repressed, a man of few words.  Ellwood comes from a wealthy Jewish family;  Gaunt's family is German and he's being pressured by them to enlist to demonstrate their patriotism. Confronted with a white feather (a symbol of cowardice, handed out by young women to men not in uniform) -- and with his forbidden feelings for Ellwood -- Gaunt finally, reluctantly enlists (even though he's underage).  One by one, his classmates follow.  

The story requires a bit of suspended disbelief in some parts (would that many boys from the same school wind up fighting in the same trenches together?).  And the horribly senseless loss of young life -- scene after scene of it, casually and graphically described -- can be difficult to read about. Also difficult to read: excerpts from the school newspaper, The Preshutian, with lengthy casualty lists of dead and injured alumni, including the names of characters we've come to know (especially the very last edition of the war, which forms the last chapter of the book). Most of those listed are no older than 21. It's sobering, infuriating and incredibly moving.  For me, at least, Kleenex was required, especially near the end.  (Although there is some humour too, to offset the hard things a little bit!) 

Overall, this is beautifully written. I've read other books and seen movies/TV shows about the carnage of the Great War, and this reminded me of some of those (the movie "1917," for one).  "In Memoriam" will rank highly among them.  

4.5 stars on StoryGraph, and I debated whether that should be rounded down to 4 or up to 5 for Goodreads. I'm giving it 5 stars, because I really did think it was a wonderful book. 

(As I was finishing the book, I came across an interview with the author in the Guardian from this weekend.  I was especially interested in her comments on the differing reactions from British and American readers!)   

This was Book #44 read to date in 2023 (and Book #4 finished in November), bringing me to 98% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 4 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."  

Friday, November 24, 2023

Odds & ends & annoying things

  • Annoying thing #1:  How the heck is it almost the end of November?? I need to get cracking with my Christmas shopping....
    • I did order T-shirts for my sister & me from an Etsy dealer in the U.S., both bearing the motto "I'm with the banned"  (as in books, lol).  :)  
  • My sister has been off work all week with covid (as I wrote here).  Last I heard from her (yesterday, via email), she still wasn't feeling great and was sleeping a lot.  :(  
  • A few weeks ago, we had dinner at dh's cousin's house (along with BIL & SIL), and (as I wrote here) our hostess made (among other yummy things) a really tasty salad/veggie dish that I haven't been able to get out of my head since. I finally texted her and asked for the recipe, and she was happy to share -- and I'm happy to share it here with you too.  :)  
    • I made the double recipe (14 cups) on Tuesday. It was a LOT -- we've had it for lunch &/or a side dish at dinner every day since then -- but it keeps 3-4 days in the refrigerator, and it's been a welcome change from endless peanut butter on toast and yogurt, lol -- we finished it off at lunchtime today. It got a little soggy towards the end, but it's soooo good. :)  Our hostess and I both used sweet potato instead of butternut squash, plus optional kale for some greenery (spinach leaves would probably be good too), and I used white wine vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar for the dressing.  I will definitely make it again! 
  • Annoying thing #2: The PBS/BBC TV adaptation of Winston Graham's "Poldark" novels, a few years back, piqued interest in the original books, and I started following an online forum devoted to them. The conversation there mostly petered out once the TV series ended -- but back in early September, I started getting notifications of new posts on a thread titled "Demelza," dormant since 2018.  Three guys there have been arguing over the character of Demelza (Ross Poldark's wife), her affair with Hugh Armitage, whether he ever truly loved her, and whether she ever truly loved Ross.  
    • Two women, early on, intervened to make comments in defense of Demelza. They were mostly ignored and haven't ventured back into the conversation. I don't blame them...! I've mostly been just rolling my eyes and ignoring the posts -- but seriously, I'm kind of agog that these three guys have been arguing about this (on & off, with a pause for a couple of weeks), for almost THREE MONTHS NOW...!  The power of literature, I guess??  (But also the power of a bunch of a guys with an opinion, who think they know a woman's heart & mind...!)  
  • Annoying thing #3My brand-new Kobo e-reader (a Clara 2E) -- which I bought barely a month ago, to replace my 8-year-old Aura H20, which was not downloading books or syncing properly -- was doing exactly the same thing as the old one, earlier this week. I was frustrated beyond belief...!  
    • I found a link on the Kobo help site to Facebook Messenger, so I messaged them there. They recommended I do an "account repair." I had it in repair mode for 16 HOURS, overnight (had to plug it in to recharge because the battery was running so low). I finally messaged them and asked "How long is this going to take??"  I mean, I have a lot of books on there, but this was ridiculous...!  
    • They recommended I cancel the repair (and told me a reset procedure so that I wouldn't lose any data), and then try again, preferably using a different wifi. (Yeah, like I just have another wifi system in my back pocket??)  I did the cancel/reset procedure, and then I decided to try signing out of my account and back in again, which is something else suggested on the help site. 
    • It was like I was setting up my reader all over again! -- I had to reconnect to our wifi and reinput the wifi password and then my Kobo account password -- and it started repopulating all my books again. And then it downloaded the last 5 most recent books I'd bought!  (It took about a half an hour.)  I had to re-download all the other books I'd downloaded to read, too. 
    • BUT -- THEY DOWNLOADED!!!  And the ones I'd been reading still opened up at the page(s) where I'd left off. Working like a charm since then, thank goodness! (and fingers crossed!)  
  • Henri, a fellow CNBCer from one of the online childless communities I frequent, has started a Substack newsletter. Her latest entry is a thoughtful post on that phrase we all love to hate ("as a mother...").  Go read, like and maybe subscribe! (I've added her to my blogroll here!) 
  • In her Substack (Life, Almost), Jennie Agg (mother of one, plus five miscarriages) decides she's "done" (maybe...), and muses on "the myth of maternal desire" in "Maybe I don’t want another baby ‘enough’."  No matter when you decided YOU were "done" or how many living children and/or losses you had (including zero), you will likely find something to relate to in her words. Sample passage:  
...I can’t help feeling that if I really am done, it will mean something about how much I wanted this in the first place. Given that I have the option of keeping going – which I’m aware not everybody who wants a child does – why wouldn’t I?

But there’s an unreasonable expectation masquerading in that question. Because what would, in fact, count as ‘enough’? How could you possibly quantify such a thing?

How much physical trauma is enough? How much money do I need to spend on unevidenced private treatments? Do I have to have considered surrogacy, adoption? Do I need to show receipts from yet another expensive therapist?  
  • In the post mentioned above, Agg links to another piece by Farrah Storr, a childless journalist who writes at Things Worth Knowing:  "How NOT to have children:  A guide from the other side..."  Unlike her, I haven't experienced a "startling" number of friendships with mothers in their 50s with grown children (?!) -- and I haven't encountered too many other CNBCers who have either -- but overall, it's definitely worth a read!  
  • Completely unrelated to anything ALI-related, but full of great writing (and truths!) that made me laugh:  Cathal Kelly, a sportswriter at the Globe & Mail, expounds on a recent scandal involving the football coach at the University of Michigan, and what it says about the differences between Americans & Canadians. (Gift linked.) 
    • (SO true! The largest crowd at an average-attendance Canadian college sports game -- of any sport -- would probably fit into an American high school football stadium -- and still leave a lot of empty seats.) 
  • Annoying thing #4 (related to the above...!):  Dh has been watching hours and hours of American college & NFL football for two solid days now. (Sigh, and eyeroll.)  He tries to tell me that, well, I watch hours & hours of figure skating at this time of year -- but I still think he watches more football overall.  
    • Besides which, no Canadian TV network is carrying coverage of the fall grand prix series this year (! -- Annoying thing #5...). American network coverage is spotty and U.S.-centric. I could watch it online, but to be honest, I forget to check what times it's on. The final is on this weekend (in Japan, I think?), so I may make an effort to tune in, even if it's on my laptop at odd hours.  
    • On the other hand, with everyone south of the border busy with Thanksgiving, Black Friday and football, my inbox has been much less busy/full than usual, my social media networks quieter, and I've actually got some reading done. It's been nice to get caught up a little!  

Thursday, November 23, 2023

"Ella Minnow Pea" by Mark Dunn

Back in the early 2000s, when I was in my scrapbooking phase, I frequented a wildly popular website/business, owned by a husband-wife team, called Two Peas in a Bucket (defunct since 2014). It was the name of an online store where you could buy scrapbooking supplies and take online classes -- but attached to the retail site was an online community where scrapbookers could share their layouts, ask questions of each other, share tips and techniques and, in the "NSBR" forum ( = Non-ScrapBooking Related), chat about other things. There were some clever usernames, often incorporating the word "Pea" in some way. One user's name that stuck out in my mind was Ella Minnow Pea, which I thought was a rather clever bit of wordplay. 

Perhaps not quite so clever!  What I didn't realize, until many years later, was that "Ella Minnow Peais also the name of a book by Mark Dunn, published in 2001.  It's the December selection for my Childless Collective Nomo Book Club (chosen because it's a short book -- under 200 pages -- for a very busy month).  

I'm not sure what I was expecting when I started reading this book. I knew that it was an "epistolary" novel, i.e., the story is told through the exchange of letters.  And for some reason, I was under the impression that it was a humorous novel. 

There IS humour in "Ella Minnow Pea" -- but it would probably be safer to call it a satire. The underlying message it conveys is deadly serious -- perhaps even more so today than when it was first written.   

Our title character, Ella Minnow Pea, 18 years old, lives on the (fictional) island of Nollop, off the coast of South Carolina, where a lack of modern technologies means that residents (including Ella, her parents, her aunt and her cousin Tassie) communicate by letter instead of phone calls or email. Nollop was named after Nevin Nollop, the (fictional) author of the "immortal pangram" (which IS real and known to anyone who ever took a typing class):  "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." (Pangram = a sentence or phrase that includes all the letters of the alphabet.)  Nollop is a revered figure on the island:  there's a cenotaph in his memory in the centre of the main town of Nollopton, including a statue and the "immortal pangram" inscribed upon it with tile letters. 

One day, the tile with the letter Z drops off the monument. The statue has been in place for more than 100 years;  the logical explanation is that the glue fixing the tiles to the statue's base is loosening. The town council, however, interprets this as a divine sign from the revered Nollop that the letter Z must be excised from the community's vocabulary.  Henceforth, those speaking, writing or reading words containing the letter Z will be swiftly punished -- time in the stocks or a public flogging (!), with multiple transgressions punished by exile or, ultimately, execution. (!!) 

One by one, other letters start dropping off the monument. And, as they disappear from Nollop's vocabulary, they also disappear from the book. 

This book is a word-lovers dream, with an amazing vocabulary. (One description I read called it "a linguistic tour de force.") The residents' contorted efforts to communicate with a rapidly shrinking choice of approved letters and words is funny and clever -- but also horrifying. As the letters disappear, the rights and freedoms of the island's people quickly become more and more restricted, and the governing council becomes more and more totalitarian/dictatorial. Citizens inform on each other and make/receive anonymous death threats, mail is opened and inspected, homes are raided and expropriated, freedom of worship -- aside from the worship of Nollop -- is curtailed. Many flee the island, smuggling letters back & forth to their loved ones who remain.  

The ardent devotion to Nollop may seem ridiculous and cultish -- and probably seemed REALLY ridiculous when this book was written in 2001. 

These days, maybe not quite so much... 

There's a lot to think about here. 

((Very) Mild spoiler alert:  If what I've written has you thinking you'll take a pass on this book, I'll just say that the ending is fairly upbeat.)  

4 stars on Goodreads. 

This was Book #43 read to date in 2023 (and Book #3 finished in November), bringing me to 96% 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, November 20, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: Be careful out there

I was just getting ready for bed on Saturday night, when an email popped up on my cellphone from my sister, with this attention-grabbing headline: "Guess who has COVID??"  

Yep, after dodging the pandemic bullet for 3 & 1/2 years (!), my sister has finally fallen victim to the nefarious bug. :(   I spoke to her on Sunday afternoon.  She said she started feeling crappy on Thursday, tested negative, felt even worse by Friday afternoon -- and tested positive. Immediately cancelled plans to head to my parents' house on the weekend. She was isolating from her partner on separate floors/rooms of their house (which is not, admittedly, especially large -- but does, thankfully, have three bathrooms!), but now he's got a sore throat too. He was still testing negative at that point, but I guess we'll see...!  

I asked her if she knew, or could guess, where she picked it up. She said nobody at her office has been sick lately (and she works from home two days a week), but she admitted she's been a little lax on masking at the supermarket, etc., these past few months. She hadn't received the latest/fall vaccine yet -- availability where she lives is still scarce/limited/not well publicized. 

I told her well, she'd had a pretty good run, and at least it happened NOW and not four weeks from now, i.e., when we'll all be at Mom & Dad's for Christmas. Thankfully, she seems to have a mild case so far -- she said so far, it's like a bad head cold. Stuffy nose, cough, sore throat, fatigue.  She'll have a few hours where she has some energy to do things, and then she crashes.  (She talked with her doctor about Paxlovid, but decided not to fill the prescription, given that she has few risk factors and often doesn't do well with new medications.)  

Still, it sucks. :(  It's a good reminder that yes, covid is still out there, people are still getting sick from it -- very sick, in some cases -- and it's easy to let our guard down (especially when governments and businesses seem to be doing everything in their power NOT to remind us it still exists...!). (And this reminder is to myself, as much as to any of you reading this...!) 

My American friends & relatives will be gathering with their families later this week for U.S. Thanksgiving -- and Christmas is not that far off, either (eeek!).  

Be careful out there. 

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

Friday, November 17, 2023

Odds & ends for the weekend

  • It's Little Great-Nephew's 4th (!!) birthday today!  We'll be heading up to Older Nephew's house tomorrow for a family celebration. We sure miss seeing him as often as we have (especially during this past year), since he started school this fall, but we're so grateful for the time we've been able to spend with him, and to have him in our lives!  
    • Here's the post where I announced his arrival, four years ago (November 2019).  :)  
  • In the WTF?/Annoying things category:  On Nov. 2nd, I ordered 6 (paperback) books, as well as some boxed Christmas cards, during a sale from our national mega-bookstore chain -- 30% off with my membership card.  
    • The cards were delivered on Nov. 6th. 
    • Two books were delivered in one package on Nov. 6th.  
    • Another book arrived on Nov. 15th. 
    • Two more shipments -- one with one book, the other with two books -- arrived at the same time yesterday, on Nov. 16th.  
    • That's 5 separate shipments/deliveries (!) over 10 days! (I was perfectly willing to wait the full 10 days to get everything all at once.)  I get that they may have come from different warehouses -- and the shipping was free, to me anyway -- but seriously? It seems so wildly inefficient...! -- all that packaging (cardboard = recyclable, at least), all that additional labour to get them to me... 
  • The New York Times had an article this week celebrating the 100th anniversary of the publication of "Emily of New Moon" by L.M. Montgomery. (Gift link.) I was kind of gobsmacked by how many people in the comments -- many of them ardent fans of "Anne of Green Gables" -- had never heard of Emily (let alone the many other wonderful books & heroines Montgomery created). All of Montgomery's books were touchstones of my growing-up years, and (as you all probably know already!) the older I get (and the more of her work I re-read), the more I realize just what a huge impact she had on my life and on the person I am today.  (My reviews of "Emily of New Moon," here and here... I've also read & reviewed the two sequels on this blog over the past three years.)  
  • I loved this! -- go read it!  "A very short essay against 'as a mother': On being able to care without kids" by Amy Key of "So Glad I'm Me."  (This link was recommended by Sara Petersen at "In Pursuit of Clean Countertops" -- she got it from Jessica Stanley at "READ.LOOK.THINK.") 
  • I'm not the only one who has a problem with Novembers: Katie Hawkins-Gaar at "My Sweet Dumb Brain" ponders her own history of grief during this month in "As the layers of life accumulate." (Very appropriately, I read it on Nov. 14th -- the 25th "anniversary" of Katie's due date.) 
    • (That said, Nov. 14th this year was... okay. The sun was shining, which helped enormously, I think!) 
    • Content warning: a parent's death, and postpartum psychosis (living baby) mentioned.  
    • Sample passage: 
Some days, some weeks, some months, are heavier than others. These are the times when bad things have happened, when our lives are forever changed. Our minds may not always note the date, but our bodies typically do. 

On these days, we feel out of sorts — we feel sad, anxious, or irritable, and we’re not entirely sure why. Our bodies nudge us along. Then we remember.
  • Also this:  "Maybe she manifested it" from "The Antidote" by Helen Davenport-Peace. (When did "baby manifestation coaches" become a thing?? UGH!)  Sample passage (bolding & italics are the author's): 
To be clear; if you’re reading this and Not Pregnant Yet…

it isn’t because you haven’t manifested it. It’s not because you have a baby blocking belief buried deep into your subconscious. It isn’t not happening because you don’t believe enough, that you aren’t manifesting properly, hard enough or with the right coach by your side to clarify and cleanse your vision. There isn’t a missing piece in the wiring between what your mind and body desire that someone else can solve in three monthly installments of three thousand pounds.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

"Ex-Wife" by Ursula Parrott

Long before there was Carrie Bradshaw and "Sex in the City,"  there was Patricia, the title character of "Ex-Wife" by Ursula Parrott. I'd never heard of this book, but it was a best-seller when it was first published -- anonymously -- in 1929.  (A 1930 movie adaptation, "The Divorcee," won a Best Actress Oscar for Norma Shearer, only the third time the award had been handed out at that point.)  

Initially, "Ex-Wife" was more successful than F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby," probably the best-known book to come out of the period (which was only propelled into "classic" status when it was sent to servicemen during World War 2, among other books they could read during their down time). It was out of print for many years, but was republished in 1989, following the stock market crash of October 1987, and again more recently, along with a new biography of Parrott, "Becoming the Ex-Wife" by Marsha Gordon. (The novel is, apparently, semi-autobiographical.)  

Lyz Lenz -- whose next book, "This American Ex-Wife," will be published in February -- recently chose "Ex-Wife" as the November selection for her Men Yell at Me Substack newsletter's book club. (The first book we discussed, earlier this fall, was "The Farm" by Joanne Ramos -- my review here.)  

Patricia and her husband Peter, both in their early/mid-20s, live and work in New York City, where the spectre of the recent Great War still looms large. They have a busy social life, and an open marriage -- but when Patricia has sex with Peter's friend -- partly in retaliation for Peter's own philandering -- the double standard kicks in and he (hypocritically) calls her a slut and leaves her for another woman. Patricia moves in with another "ex-wife," Lucia, and embarks on a life filled with parties, cocktails, speakeasies and men, all the while hoping to win back the wayward Peter back. (But then, she meets tall, redheaded New York Times reporter Noel...)  

In a nutshell, Patricia must rebuild her life and find new meaning and purpose, after the life she thought was hers is suddenly snatched away from her. (Hmmm, why does this sound familiar?)  
"Ex-Wife" is both dated -- a portrait of a very specific time and place (with specific references to events and people of the day -- e.g., President Calvin Coolidge, Leopold & Loeb) -- and strangely familiar to our modern sensibilities. It was considered shocking/scandalous in 1929 -- and still has some power to jolt the modern reader -- with its frank depictions of smoking, drinking, extra-marital sex, one-night stands, miscarriage and baby loss, abortion, rape and domestic violence. It's an intriguing snapshot of a place and time that in some ways wasn't so different from our own, written from a woman's perspective. Consider:  Patricia is a "career woman" who works in advertising, with ambitions for a promotion and her own secretary. She spends most of her money on clothes. (Any film adaptation would be worth seeing for the wardrobe alone, I think...!) By night, she's a party girl, frequenting nightclubs in Harlem and downing multiple cocktails.  She rarely cooks and eats most of her meals in restaurants. She works out at the gymnasium. 

While there are certain "Sex in the City" vibes here (and I thought Patricia's relationships with other women were far more interesting than the men in her life), "Ex-Wife" is not exactly a lighthearted romp through 1920s New York City. The language is Gatsby-esque, and I was both amused and annoyed by Patricia's references to how "old" she is becoming. (She's not even 30 by the end of the book.)  But I appreciated the honest portrayal of a woman learning to roll with the unexpected punches of life, and the way the women support each other throughout the book.   

It will not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's worth a read if you're interested in the period, or in forgotten/ignored books written by female authors, showing the complexities of women's lives.  

3.5 stars on StoryGraph, and (after some internal debate) rounded up to 4 on Goodreads. 

ALI alert: abortion, baby loss and coping with other women's pregnancies. 

This was Book #42 read to date in 2023 (and Book #2 finished in November), bringing me to 93% 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."  

Related reading:  

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Yet another service saga...!

About a year ago, dh got a message from his longtime life insurance provider. (He actually worked for them, when we were first married.) Let's call them Company A. 

Around the time we got married, dh took out a fairly sizeable life insurance policy on himself, with me as the beneficiary. The premiums were $70 a month (which was a lot of money for us when we were first getting started).  And we've been paying $70 a month for well over 35 years now. 

Anyway, the message said the value of his contributions were no longer enough to fund the policy (and of course, he'd turned 65 in the meantime...!), and as a result, his premiums were about to increase, big time. $70 a month turned into just over $300 a month (!). (Ouch!) 

I said, "This is ridiculous, we need to find you a cheaper policy."  We realized we didn't need quite that much insurance on him now anyway --  we have a lot more resources I could fall back on now if something were to happen to him, versus when we were newly married and expecting to have a family. Our former company's retiree benefits offerings include life insurance -- and those benefits came up for re-enrollment this fall -- so he submitted a request for insurance (a smaller amount) through there. (In retrospect, I suppose we could have just called Company A and asked what it would cost to downscale his policy to a lesser sum -- oh well....!)  

Our benefits are provided by a different insurance company -- Company B -- BUT, they outsource their life insurance benefits coverage to Company A.  As part of dh's application/request for coverage, he had to submit an evidence of insurability form when we were re-enrolling in our benefits earlier this fall. Since then, he's had to go through a lengthy phone interview with Company A, and we had a nurse actually come to our condo about a month ago to do bloodwork and a medical assessment. 

Earlier today, he got an email from Company A with an encrypted link to a message on their secure website. (He'd set up a password, etc., with them previously.)  Clicked on the link, nothing happened. Blank screen. He forwarded it to me, I tried on both my cellphone and my laptop, nothing. 

I said to him, "We'd better call Company A." Dh has NO PATIENCE for that sort of thing, so I wound up calling. (Miraculously, it never took more than about a minute to wait to speak to someone, once I'd successfully navigated through the initial call menu.)  The first guy I spoke with said he could see that dh's request had been approved (yay!) -- but he could not see the contents of the message to confirm that. I mean, great, we're approved, and maybe all the message said was "Congratulations! You're approved!"  -- but what if there were instructions within for something else we had to do?  We needed to know what was in that message. 

The guy I was speaking with said he would have to transfer us to another number for more information. I gave the phone to dh so he could talk. This rep was spectacularly unhelpful, and told dh to call our HR department (!!).  Our former company's HR department has nothing whatsoever to do with pensions or employee benefits anymore;  it's all been outsourced to Company B.  

Dh hung up in frustration. 

I decided to try again. Well -- I will swear I talked to at least 8 different people (having to repeat my story every time) and was given at least 5 or 6 different numbers to call (not including outright transfers to other departments).  The last number I was told was the correct number to call was not in service. (!!)  You can't make this stuff up. 

I finally called Company B (our overall benefits provider) and poured out my tale of woe to the customer service rep, who was very calm, sympathetic & kind.  She gave me another phone number for Company A (!) -- but she also offered to open up a case number and check things out on their end. She said it could take a few days, and said if I didn't get any satisfaction from Company A to call them at Company B again, and she provided me with the case number to use then. 

After I spoke to her, I felt much calmer. I went back to my laptop and tried clicking on the link in Sam's email again. Lo and behold!! a sign-in window opened up. (Make a liar out of me, right?) I entered dh's password, and there was the message -- yes!  he's been approved! (No further action required.) 

I felt kind of ridiculous after all that rigomorole.  I think we just didn't wait long enough for the sign-in window to open (it did take a while).

But seriously??!   WHAT A RUNAROUND. I felt SO stressed when I finally got off the phone and I still feel just drained. It shouldn't have to be this hard to get an answer to a simple question!  

Dh said to me, "At least you have some skills here. Can you imagine your mom or dad trying to do this??"  (Oy.) 

You know, I've heard Jody Day of Gateway Women say that childless people often wind up in care homes at a much younger age than people with kids. And it's not that they're in any worse shape than parents are. When people think of eldercare, they think of intimate care -- things like needing help with baths and changing pads and using the toilet, etc.  Only a small fraction of older people need this sort of care, particularly at the younger end of the spectrum. More often than not, what they need is exactly what I just experienced -- help with navigating technology, advocating/negotiating with bureaucracy, standing on a ladder to change a high-up light bulb, transportation to a doctor's appointment, etc. etc.  If they (we!) can get that sort of occasional practical help on a consistent basis, they can stay in their homes so much longer.  

Dh plans to call Company A back in a few days to cancel his old/larger policy, now that we have this lower level/cheaper coverage approved through our retiree benefits. And all this reminds me -- I should check in on the status of my case with my credit card company/Amazon again.  

(But NOT TODAY!!  lol)  

Monday, November 13, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: Down the rabbit hole, part 2

After spending the past week-plus immersed in my Mom's Ancestry DNA results, my own results arrived yesterday. 

In a nutshell -- I'm a mutt. :)  (lol)  And, as I said last week, I can only imagine what a mixture our Katie would have been...! 

On Mom's side, I'm basically the same mix as Mom is, but in smaller quantities:  17% from Sweden & Denmark (primarily central and southern Sweden), 15% Scotland, 7% Norway, 4% Ireland, 3% Finland.

On Dad’s side, both of my grandparents'/their families came to Canada from western Ukraine, near Lviv -- an area that now borders Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland -- which was actually considered part of Austria when my grandfather was growing up.  

So I was I was unsurprised to learn that 39% of my heritage comes from Eastern Europe & Russia, which includes Ukraine, parts of Poland & Romania.  

But I WAS surprised by what a mixture the rest of my genetic makeup was on that side:  

  • 4% from The Balkans (primarily located in: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Serbia, but also found in Albania, Austria, Greece, Hungary, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Slovakia and Slovenia...!); 
  • 3% The Baltics (primarily located in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, but also found in Belarus, Poland, Russia and Ukraine);    
  • 1% Greece & Albania (primarily located in: Albania, Greece, Kosovo and North Macedonia, but also found in Bulgaria, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Turkey), and
  • 1% Aegean Islands -- primarily located in Greece, but also found in Turkey and... Italy!!  lol 
    • (Hey, dh!  You may have married a "paisan" after all...!)  
Then I had a closer look at the breakdown of what I inherited from which parent.  My overall results showed 19% Sweden/Denmark -- but just 17% of that came from my mom's side of the family. The other 2% comes from my dad! 

I could hardly stop laughing as I picked up the phone to call my mom and ask her what she thought my (Swedish) grandmother would have said if she found out her daughter married a (part) Swede after all...!       

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

Friday, November 10, 2023

The Childless Collective Summit is back!

Registration is now open for the 3rd Childless Collective Summit! This year's virtual summit, once again organized by Katy Seppi, is coming up very soon, starting Dec. 2nd and running through Dec. 5th. 

  • Find out more and register for FREE here! All sessions are available, for free, for 24 hours after they're originally aired online. 
  • If you don't think that gives you enough time to see everything you want to see, there's a Pace Yourself Pass on sale (currently $97 USD;  the price may increase as we get closer to the summit) that gives you access to all the presentations for a full year, plus some great bonuses available only to passholders. (I've bought passes for the previous two summits, and they came in very handy!)  
  • Katy is also planning a "real life" summit to be held in Charleston, South Carolina, in April!  More details to come (after she finishes with this one, I'm sure...!).  
  • The post I wrote after the first summit in 2021, here  

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Midweek odds & ends

  • I Hate November, Chapter ??:   Longtime readers will recall that for many years running, I would publish a post titled or themed "I hate November."  Admittedly, November doesn't suck QUITE as much as it used to: I'm no longer working and dealing with year end and, with the passage of time, Katie's due date doesn't loom quite so large in my mind these days. And it's still early in the month to issue judgments...!  
    • But it's been pretty dark and gloomy lately, because of the weather, if not (just!) the recent time change...!  I'm not quite ready to dive into the holiday season just yet (I like to wait until after Remembrance Day, at least, if not American Thanksgiving, before starting to decorate, wear my Christmas-themed shirts, etc...), but I will admit I look forward to the way the decorations and tree lights literally and figuratively brighten things up!  
  • I'm continuing to work my way through the list of my Mom's Ancestry DNA matches, while waiting for my own results, trying to figure out how we're connected. In addition to the matches I mentioned in my previous post that had me going "hmmm..."  I noticed one match came from someone whose Ancestry profile identifies themselves as an adoptee born in 1970, who knows nothing about their birth family. It also identified the place where they were born -- which signals to me which branch of the family they might be from ( = potential grandparent or great-grandparent, at least). It's not a part of the family where I've had much contact with anyone, though -- so I think I will just sit tight for now and see if anyone approaches me for information... 
  • We're due for a dentist visit later this month. And I've been feeling some sensitivity around a crown on my lower left jaw -- my original crown, and one that was actually replaced a couple of years ago. PLEASE don't tell me I need to get it replaced again...!  Sigh.... 
  • The comedy of errors with "Big Blue" (pseudonym for my telecomms provider -- although any Canadian will know exactly which company I mean...!) continues, after we upgraded our internet service and had a new modem installed... then had to have a new TV receiver installed...!  (See this post, and my update in the comments.) 
    • First, last Monday, we attempted to return our old (now defunct) TV receiver and remote to the local Big Blue store. Guess what? -- they don't take equipment returns in their stores now -- we will have to send it by post/courier (within 30 days, or risk getting charged). Of course, dh already threw out the box it came in, so we had to go to a nearby postal outlet to buy a box and some bubble wrap, etc.  
    • I found instructions on how to return the equipment online and attempted to print off a shipping label.  Nothing happened. I eventually realized that (duh!) it's a wireless printer -- and so it needed to be reconnected to the new wifi. I wound up spending half an hour on the phone with my sister's computer geek partner. Between the two of us, we eventually got it done...!   
    • In the meantime, we had a voice mail message on our phone. I input my password to retrieve it -- and was told that was the incorrect password. (!) I was asked for my "temporary password." I didn't HAVE a temporary password!  It dawned on me that this might have something to do with the new internet/modem (since our phone runs off the internet). Called Big Blue and yes, it probably did have something to do with the new equipment. Got some instructions on how to reset my password. I was intending to just reuse the same password -- except that's no longer an option -- they now want 6 to 15 digits, versus the original 4. (Sigh.)  I came up with a new password, retrieved my message and all is well. For now, anyway...! (Just waiting for the next shoe to drop...!)  
    • Once this is all over and I've returned the TV receiver, etc., I am writing Big Blue a letter/email to complain about the ridiculous rigamorole we've been through -- it's been just one thing after another...! There HAS to be a better way to do this...!  
  • On the bright side:  we spent a fun afternoon with dh's cousins on his mom's side on Sunday, playing golf virtually, indoors -- a new business venture in a nearby community, owned by the two adult sons of one of the cousins (one of them the same age Katie would have been).  I don't play golf, so I mostly watched dh & his cousins (he had a BLAST) and socialized. 
    • We also got to see Little Great-Nephew AND Little Great-Niece AND the dog last weekend at BIL & SIL's house!  :)  It was LGNiece's first encounter with the dog... she seemed curious about him (and he, of course, instantly loved her and wanted to lick her!), but she started crying whenever he came too close, so we did our best to keep them apart for now...!  
  • Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos of Silent Sorority was Christine Erickson's guest on New Legacy Radio on Nov. 7th, discussing "When the Personal is Political What is Our Responsibility?" A very important (essential!) conversation for our community, and so well done! -- please listen! 
  • Thank you to Jennie Agg at Life, Almost for the link to this great Substack piece by Helen Davenport-Peace on "the fertility wellness industry." I especially liked this part, towards the end: 
We are surrounded by the message that there is an answer to infertility that lies in the things we consume and the lifestyle we create. It’s alluring. It offers quick fixes in three month packages, often costing four figures sums we can’t really afford. It also feeds into our wider inhabiting of not doing a good enough job...

What happens when you do try out all alternative modalities, try all the diets, take all the supplements and you don’t ever get the outcome you’re seeking? How do we reconcile this with the narrative that holds us responsible for our fecundity? What do we do with that? It’s not easy to hold our heads up high in realms of wellness and diet culture when we’re positioned in this way.

We do get to do this though.

Fertility is not solely reserved to ‘healthy humans’ (however we deem this to look).

Infertility does not equal ill health.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: Down the rabbit hole :)

(Posting this late, on Tuesday morning!) 

Over the past several years, my mother has been talking about getting her DNA analyzed -- i.e., she wanted ME (the family historian) to procure and organize a DNA test for her!  Her brother (my uncle) and a couple of her cousins & friends have done theirs, and she was curious about what her own results would reveal.  

I knew that if she was going to get hers done, I'd have to (might as well...!)  get mine done too. Until now, I've been on the fence. I knew it would open up a whole bunch of new possibilities for my family tree research... but of course, that can be both a good thing and a bad thing...!  

For one thing, I figured that to get the most out of your results (especially if you have any real interest in genealogy, as I do), you'd have to have a public family tree on Ancestry (true), and I wasn't sure I was ready to make mine public (and deal with a bunch of enquiries). 

Second, I knew that getting these results would send me down a whole bunch of rabbit holes, lol.  Genealogy can be a LOT of fun, but it can also be a HUGE time suck!  

And of course, there's always the chance that you're going to learn something surprising/shocking about yourself, or a family member(s). I wasn't so worried about myself -- anyone who looks at me and looks at my parents knows whose kid I am...!  But (as I think I've mentioned here in the past), I know of at least one family member who had a baby out of wedlock that was relinquished for adoption... that person has other children, and I have no idea what if anything those kids know about their half-sibling.  

But I also knew that the more family members (and closer ones) that you test, the better/more accurate your results are going to be... and my mother is not going to be around forever. I agreed to do it, with a couple of caveats:  (a) if you have anything you need to tell me, tell me NOW!  lol  and (b) if this adopted child (who would now be in their 50s) comes knocking, my mom gets to be the one who calls the biological parent about it!  

So I bought two kits from Ancestry (the company with the largest database, where I have had an account and a private family tree for years) during its Easter sale last spring, and brought them with me to Mom & Dad's when we visited over (Canadian) Thanksgiving last month. I set myself up as Mom's "results manager" (so that I could see her results, respond to any enquiries, etc.).  We took our tests (literally spit in a tube), packaged them up and mailed them while I was there. We were told the results would take about 6-8 weeks to process -- i.e., probably by American Thanksgiving, or mid-December at the latest, just in time for Christmas!  

Well -- my results are still pending (currently due mid-month, although they may come sooner), but Mom got hers on Halloween, Oct. 31st, less than three weeks after we sent them. And since then, almost every point I anticipated has been realized...!  I did wind up making my tree public (and there have been benefits to that, in terms of being able to expand my tree back a generation or more further on several branches). I most definitely have been spending a lot of time wandering down various rabbit holes, checking our matches and trying to figure out how we're all related.  And yes, there have been a few surprises!  

First, the ethnicity estimates. We always were told/said/believed (for quite a while, anyway), that my grandmother was Swedish and my grandfather was Irish, so you'd expect Mom to be roughly half and half, right?  From her mother/Grandma's side, she's actually 32% Swedish/Danish (no Danish reflected in the actual locations, though) -- but also 11% Norwegian (! -- Grandma always made fun of Norwegians -- some inter-regional rivalry there...! -- so I can only imagine what she'd have had to say about THAT...!)  and 7% Finnish. 

On her dad/my Grandpa's side, 21% comes from England/Northwestern Europe, 19% Scotland, just 6% Ireland, and 4% Wales. One of the Scottish cousins I've connected with over the past decade or so (from one branch of my grandfather's family -- there are others that also have Irish history behind them) has always believed that we were part of the "Ulster Plantation," brought over from England & Scotland (mostly in the 1600s) to "colonize" Catholic Ireland with Protestants (which of course has resulted in hundreds of years of conflict).  Almost all of the "Irish" ancestors I've found have been Protestant/"Orange."  It will be interesting to see how these results get reflected in my own (in much smaller percentages, of course).

No sign of the potential family member I was worried might pop up (yet! -- my results are still to come...!) -- but there's been one or two potential matches (not close-close, but first or second cousin level to my mom) that have me going "hmmm...." In a similar vein:  the whispered family story (which one of my great-aunts refused to discuss!) was that my Swedish great-great grandmother arrived in this country with three children (including my great-grandfather) -- and no husband. The scandalous rumour was that each of her three children had a different father. (!)  The one son/brother to my great-grandfather died relatively young, as did his only child/son in his early 20s, ending that line of enquiry -- but a descendant of my great-grandfather's sister is listed in my mother's results/matches, and identified as a "half-cousin" and the sister (my mother's great-aunt) as "half grandaunt." Which means, if I'm interpreting this correctly, the scandalous rumour is true!  ;)  

I have had one person contact me so far about Mom's results -- a third cousin once removed in Australia, who is actually related to another distant cousin I've been in touch with for the past 10 years now. Still, this person was able to add some new information to my tree. 

I still have a LOT to learn about DNA genealogy -- and with more than 800 "close" matches and 19,000 matches for my mom to peruse -- plus my own still to come, of course (including what I've inherited from my father's side of the family).  Now dh is interested in getting his done!  (I can only imagine what a mixture of ethnicities our Katie would have been...!)  I think I'm going to be exploring rabbit holes for quite a while to come...!  (But I love it!) 

Have you had your DNA analyzed?  

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

Friday, November 3, 2023

"Murder Most Royal" by S.J. Bennett

After completing several current and near-future book club obligations, I eagerly dived into something for pure personal pleasure: "Murder Most Royal" by S.J. Bennett -- the third in her series of "cozy" mysteries, "The Queen Investigates." 

I've read and enjoyed the previous two volumes -- "The Windsor Knot" and "All the Queen's Men" -- also called "A Three-Dog Problem" -- and reviewed them here and here, respectively.  I read "The Windsor Knot" just after Prince Philip's death in the spring of 2021, which made his presence in that book, as well as the second (and this one), rather poignant (I found myself reaching for kleenex at the end of book #2, as well as this one). This volume, of course, arrived (in North America, anyway) in September, a year after Her Majesty's own death at the age of 96.  It is dedicated to her.  

It's Christmastime 2016 -- post-Brexit election, but pre-Megxit ;)  -- and (most of) the extended royal family is gathering at Sandringham in the Norfolk countryside for their traditional holiday festivities -- which are overshadowed when a severed hand washes ashore on a nearby beach. There's a signet ring on one of the fingers, which the 90-year-old Queen instantly identifies as belonging to one of her neighbours, Ned St. Cyr, who was recently reported missing. With the help of her loyal assistant private secretary, Rozie, the Queen is on the case! 

Once again, this was a fast, easy read -- and highly enjoyable, especially if you have any interest in or knowledge of the royal family. (Bennett clearly does.)  I can't imagine the Queen would have approved of a novel about her family, in principle -- but I suspect she might have secretly enjoyed the affectionate and thoroughly human portrait Bennett paints here (and in her other books). We get to see and hear a little more from the other royals this time around, too, which was fun. I did find myself wishing for a "cast of characters" list at the front, as it took me a while to get it straight as to who was who and how they were related -- not so much the royals, but the staff and neighbours. But it's a small quibble. 

Happily, Bennett is continuing the series: on her website, she explains "[Now] I intend to go back in time, to insert more mysteries into the Queen’s long life. Her detecting adventures aren’t over yet."  Volume #4, "A Death in Diamonds," set in 1957, is scheduled for publication in February 2024.  (An excerpt was included in my edition of this book.)   :) 

4 stars.

This was Book #41 read to date in 2023 (and Book #1 finished in November), bringing me to 91% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 4 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."  

Wednesday, November 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: October was month #43 (3.5+ years) since the COVID-19 pandemic began. It's difficult to know exactly what's happening, since reporting is so limited these days, but from what I'm hearing anecdotally, cases are on the rise again... :(  We remain covid-free (knocking wood, loudly...), and continue to mask in most stores and other public places, especially where there are a lot of people. We also got our latest covid shots (#7, I think!)  this past weekend (at the same time as our flu shots!). 

October flew right by for us!  (How is it already November?)  Among other things this month, we: 
  • Went to the mall on Oct. 3rd (where I got new batteries for my watches!) and briefly on Oct. 25th (visited our telecomm provider's retail outlet there to see if they had a new, compatible receiver for our TV set -- they didn't...! -- as recounted here!). 
  • I indulged in a pedicure and later stopped at the bank to get some cash on Oct. 4th. 
  • Visited Little Great-Nephew at his grandparents' house on Oct. 6th, while his parents enjoyed a belated anniversary dinner out.  :)  
  • Flew "home" to Manitoba with dh on Oct. 7th to spend a week (including Canadian Thanksgiving) with my family there, and back again on Oct. 15th. (Wore masks, both ways.)   
    • While there, we didn't get out much, apart from a couple of outings to get groceries, to the post office and to pick up pizzas for dinner one night.      
  • Went grocery shopping with dh at the supermarket the day after we got back (Oct. 16th). 
  • Had a nurse (unmasked) visit our condo on Oct. 16th, giving dh some basic medical tests as part of an application for life insurance through our retiree benefits. (He's had insurance since we were married, but last year -- perhaps not coincidentally since he turned 65? -- the monthly price tag more than QUADRUPLED, which left us searching for cheaper alternatives.)  
  • Had coffee at BIL & SIL's with the nephews, their wives and the kids on Saturday night, Oct. 21st. Felt like eons since we'd seen them all.  :)  
  • Went out on Oct. 24th with stops at the bookstore, two different supermarkets, the bank, AND (later) the gelato shop!  :) (It was a balmy 19C outside... enjoying it while it lasts...!) 
  • Went to dinner with BIL & SIL at dh's cousin's house (the cousins with the lovely cottage/lake home) on Oct. 26th.  His parents (dh's uncle & aunt) came later for coffee too. (See "Eating," below!) 
  • Got both our latest covid shots (#7, I think?? -- Pfizer this time around) along with our flu shots at our family doctor's office in our old community last Sunday afternoon (Oct. 29th). 
  • Picked up my new e-reader and cover (ordered online) at the bookstore on Oct. 30th. 
  • Tried to return our old TV receiver to the "Big Blue" store on Oct. 30th, only to be told they don't handle equipment returns there (!), and I'll now have to go through the hassle of finding a box (dh threw out the one the new one came in, and it probably wasn't big enough anyway...), printing a label from the website and mailing it in. (They are going to hear from me, once this is all done...!) 
  • Celebrated my 16th (!) blogoversary!!  :)  (on Oct. 31st)
25 years ago, in mid-October 1998, I returned to work after the Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend, after 2+ months on leave after my daughter's stillbirth in August. Two days later, I abandoned work again and flew west to be with my family when my beloved grandfather died on Oct. 15th at age 86. 
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Also right now:  

Reading: I finished 4 books in October (reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads & StoryGraph, & tagged "2023 books").  
This brings me to 40 books read to date in 2023,  89% 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): 
  • "Murder Most Royal" by S.J. Bennett (#3 in "The Queen Investigates" series).  
  • "The House on the Cliff" by D.E. Stevenson (with my DES group. I'll count this one as a re-read once the group finishes its chapter-by-chapter discussion, in late December.).(My original review.)   
  • "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 Lyz Lenz's Men Yell At Me book club: "Ex-Wife" by Ursula Parrott -- considered scandalous when it first published in 1929!  Discussions on this book will start in November. 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
  • For the Notes from Three Pines (Louise Penny mysteries) Readalong: The last discussion was for book #3, "The Cruellest Month," posted June 7th.  So far, no word on when we can expect a discussion of book #4, "A Rule Against Murder" (reviewed here). Meanwhile, I recently finished #5 ("The Brutal Telling," -- see above), and book #6, "Bury Your Dead," is on the horizon as one of my next reads...! 
(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 podcast episodes when I actually have time/get around to read those books...!)  

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

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  • Season 2 of "World on Fire" on PBS, which began on Oct. 15th (3 episodes so far). It's been quite a while since season 1 aired back in the fall of 2019 (!).  Both covid and the war in Ukraine delayed production of season 2, and (sadly) both Sean Bean and Helen Hunt were unable to participate this time around.  Lesley Manville, however, is back, as the delightfully bitchy Robina Chase, as well as the impossibly good-looking Jonah Hauer-King as her son Harry, now fighting in North Africa, and caught between two women -- Lois, his childhood sweetheart and the mother of his daughter, Vera;  and Kasia, the Polish resistance fighter he married -- who is now in England, living with Robina AND Vera!   
    • This season dropped a couple of plot lines & characters, but introduced others -- including Marga, a naive teenaged schoolgirl in Nazi Germany who is excited to learn that she's been selected for the Lebensborn program, in which she will essentially serve as a nameless incubator (all participants are simply referred to as "Mutti," or "Mother") to produce "racially pure Aryan" babies fathered by elite Nazi officers and then adopted by "suitable" Nazi couples. (This was a real thing!)  The reality (and the horror) of her situation finally dawns on her when a brute of a young soldier arrives in her room one night after only the most perfunctory of introductions.  
    • It's pure soap opera, but even dh is watching!  lol 
  • The latest Ken Burns documentary on PBS, over two nights this month: "The American Buffalo."  Moving and sad and downright infuriating.  :(   (Here's an article from Salon about the program.) 
    • (One of my favourite movie memories is the buffalo hunt scene in "Dances With Wolves" -- not the fact that they were being hunted and killed, but just seeing hundreds and hundreds of those magnificent creatures running across the prairie, the way they must have, hundreds of years ago, before they were slaughtered to the point of extinction.  I had tears streaming down my face in the dark theatre. It was just so, so beautiful, and it spoke to the part of me that will always belong to the Prairies. I previously wrote about this scene, and my reaction, here.) (Also worth noting: the bison is one of the primary symbols of my home province, Manitoba.  :) ) 
    • Right at the very end, there was an Indigenous man who had been an eloquent commentator throughout the program. He talked about the return of the buffalo and what they meant to his people, said -- and I am paraphrasing from memory -- that he wanted his children and grandchildren to be able to see them and know them. And he said he wanted it for the rest of us too, for our children and grandchildren. I was on the verge of tears by then anyway -- it was all so very moving -- but all the talk about grandchildren and legacy had me bursting into tears, much to dh's bemusement. "Not our grandchildren," I told him. "But maybe Little Great-Nephew and Little Great-Niece, and their children and grandchildren."  I hope so.    
  • Also: I stumbled onto a documentary called "Picture My Face" about a Canadian punk rock band that I remember from my youth, Teenage Head, on TVO one Saturday night. (Missed the first 20  minutes or so but saw the rest.) Their biggest hit, "Let's Shake" (1980), still gets airtime regularly on our local classic rock station. They started out in their hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, in 1975 -- never made it as big as some thought they might, or should -- but they're still out there. Part of the film shows them returning to play a concert at their old high school -- the same place where they played their first gig as teenagers, in the cafeteria -- and meeting the teenaged son of their late lead singer, a student at the same school. 
    • You see those grizzled old guys on stage, and the old guys (and gals!) in the audience, pressed up against the stage, bopping their heads to the music like they were 16 again (and realize that YOU are roughly the same age as those old guys...!) and... 
    • It was sad in some respects -- their lead singer (Frank Kerr, AKA Frankie Venom) died of cancer in his 50s;  the guitarist (Gord Lewis) suffered from mental health issues. (After this documentary was completed, he was murdered in August 2022 by his own son, who had mental health issues of his own.)  But I loved it. :)  
Listening:  To a few recent episodes of New Legacy Radio.   

Heardle Decades: Stats as of Oct. 31st:  
  • Heardle 60s:  77.40% (309/399, 134 on first guess), down slightly from last month. Max. streak: 15. 
  • Heardle 70s:  80.1% (113/141, 69 on the first guess), up several points from last month. Max. streak: 15. 
  • Heardle 80s:  39.1% (9/23,  5 on the first guess), up from last month. Max. streak: 2. (Early in the month, all my stats disappeared -- AGAIN. Oh well, I generally don't do that well on the 80s Heardles anyway...!  Second (third??) chances??) 
  • Heardle 90s: 35.85% (49/137, 11 on the first guess), down from last month. Max. streak: 4. 
  • Way too much for (Canadian) Thanksgiving at my parents' house. My sister & I got the turkey stuffed and into the oven; I made a coleslaw salad;  my sister makes excellent gravy;  my dad got the potatos & turnips peeled and chopped and on the stove. We also had peas, cranberry sauce, a cottage cheese/Jello/marshmallow "salad" and apple pie with ice cream for dessert -- all traditional stuff we eat at Thanksgiving and again at Christmastime.  :)   Dad also cooked a ham before we got there, and we ate ham and turkey leftovers all week long too (for dinner, and sandwiches for lunch). 
  • We also had two dinners from the local congregate meal program for seniors, where my parents have been getting meals several times a week over the past year or two.  You can go there (to one of the local seniors' facilities) to eat (at lunchtime), and share a meal  and conversation with other seniors in the community, you can have your meals delivered to your home, or you can pick them up (which is what my father does) -- well-balanced, home-cooked meals for an incredibly low price ($7.50 Canadian!!)  -- and very tasty, too!  
    • One such meal was a hot roast beef sandwich with gravy, homemade fries, coleslaw, a bun/dinner roll, and chocolate zucchini cake for dessert;  the other was roast pork with mashed potatos, gravy, mixed vegetables, dinner roll and apple crisp/crumble.
  • Near the end of the month, we had dinner at dh's cousin's house (the one with the cottage/lake house where we've spent a weekend for the past few autumns). Luckily for us, our hostess is an excellent cook who loves to entertain. The menu included orechietti pasta with sausage & rapini;  quinoa with chunks of sweet potato, pumpkin seeds, pomegranate, red onion and probably a few other ingredients I've forgotten (really good!); salad, and red velvet cake (contributed by SIL)  and fruit for dessert. (Dh & I brought a couple of bottles of wine.) Yum!  
Buying (besides books, lol):  
  • Plane tickets back to Manitoba for the Christmas holidays. :)  Got another good deal (20% off), albeit more expensive than our tickets for Thanksgiving were. 
  • Flowers to be delivered to my aunt/godmother on her 90th birthday, earlier this month. 
  • N-95-equivalent masks and rapid tests (purchased online -- stocking up for the winter...!).   
  • A new Kobo e-reader -- the Clara 2E. Over the past year, my 8-year-old Aura H2O has become highly temperamental when it comes to downloading new books that I've purchased from the Kobo site (as I complained earlier this month, here). I guess 8 years is a pretty good run in e-reader terms...!  It was fast and easy to set up, and so far, so good... (fingers crossed, knocking wood...!)!  I'm still using my old Kobo too, finishing up the books I have open on it. 
Wearing:  We've had both chilly spells and warm spells (it reached 23C on Oct. 27th!) -- so my wardrobe has still included capri yoga pants (although I stopped wearing denim capris outside by the time we headed west for Thanksgiving), as well long jeans and socks with shoes (and sometimes slippers in the house).  I've also occasionally had to put on a cardigan in the house. 

Noticing & enjoying:  The amazing fall colours. :)  I love this time of year, and autumn in Ontario is generally pretty spectacular!  

Trying:  To stay organized as things start getting (even more??) busy... 

Appreciating:  The flight attendants who somehow managed to carve some extra space out of some very full overhead bins to accommodate our carry-on luggage on a very crowded flight back to Toronto! (as detailed in this post!) 

Wanting:  More hours in the day, sometimes..!  (And I'm retired! AND childless!! lol)  

Wondering: What to get LGN for a birthday present??  (4th, coming up soon...!)  

Prioritizing: Getting the laundry & cleaning done earlier this week so that we could go see our banker on Thursday, plus the HVAC guy is supposed to be coming on Friday (fingers crossed...!).  Of course the banker messaged me today that he's sick and likely staying home tomorrow (so we'll have to reschedule)...!  Oh well, it's done now!  

Hoping:  That the non-surgical procedure Older Nephew had done on Monday does the trick and brings an end to the problems he's been having...! 

Loving:  Seeing photos of both Little Great-Nephew & LGNiece in their Halloween costumes last night. :) (LGNiece is too little for trick or treating yet, but her parents dressed her up as a ladybug, lol.  LGNephew was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle -- Leonardo, I think?  His dad & uncle were also big Turtles fans when they were kids.)  

Feeling: Wondering what happened to October??  -- and how is it November already??  Shocked to realize how quickly Christmas will be upon us...!  Grateful for so many blessings in my life, including the time I got to spend with my family this month, and the beautiful fall colours (which are dwindling, but still in evidence).  Missing LGN, but glad he's enjoying school, and thankful for the time we did get to spend with him this month (including cottage time! -- even if it was cut short...!).