Monday, April 29, 2024

#MicroblogMondays: Oodles and Caboodles

Our master bathroom sink has never drained very well for the entire eight years we've now lived here.  A dose of baking soda & vinegar, followed by a hot water rinse a few minutes later, has usually done the trick and cleared things up for a month or two -- but not this time around. It soon became obvious that we needed to call a plumber. (All I can say is, thank goodness for second bathrooms...!)

I removed everything that was sitting underneath the sink -- and after the plumber came and left this morning (yay!!), I wiped out the empty cupboard with Lysol. But before I started putting everything back again, I decided I needed to go through all my makeup & skin care products and cull the outdated and long-unused stuff.  

Some background:  I've been a huge makeup & skincare junkie for... well, since I started using the stuff as a teenager -- Maybelline, Cover Girl, Revlon. Along with books, it's been one of my biggest indulgences.  My sister introduced me to Clinique makeup back in the early 1980s -- I wore Clinique on my wedding day in 1985 -- and I really got into it in my late 20s/early 30s, when I started working and wearing makeup to the office every day. I didn't do much to take care of my skin until I was probably about 30, but a Clinique consultant got me to try their classic three-step regime, and that still forms the basis of my skincare routine today. I've dabbled in other brands over the years, and I've used a lot of Estee Lauder stuff too -- but I've stayed pretty loyal to Clinique all these years. 

These days, quality cosmetic and skincare brands are available in lots of different places -- drugstores, at Sephora, direct from the companies themselves online -- but back then, department stores were pretty much the only place you could buy it. Fortunately, my office tower was a short walk from the Toronto Eaton Centre, with two department stores (Hudson Bay and Eatons -- later Sears) and their rows and rows of makeup counters full of goodies. Occasionally, I would also slip up to Holt Renfrew on the subway during my lunch hour, whenever they had an enticing "gift with purchase (GWP)" offer (and theirs were always the best!). (Cosmetics were the only thing I could afford to buy there...!) Holts also had a couple of brands that were exclusive to their store at the time, including Prescriptives, which offered customized foundation blends that they made up for you while you waited. (I had mine done, and I LOVED it!)  

I was a sucker for those GWP offers -- those little miniatures were so handy for travelling! (And sometimes they were refillable too.)  Let's just say that, after a while, they really start to accumulate...!  I don't think I've actually bought a tube of mascara in more than 30 years;  almost every GWP comes with one. I tried to delay any makeup or skincare purchases until the next GWP rolled around.  I kept my eyes open for the ads in the newspapers, and eventually, I got my name on file at some of the department store counters, and the staff would call whenever the next one was coming up to ask me if I wanted to reserve a bonus and pick it up that week.

I became especially friendly with D. at the Clinique counter at the Bay, where she eventually became the counter manager. She was just a few years older than me, and worked there for almost as long as I worked for my company.  She had a lovely manner -- friendly, without being pushy. I always felt that she really was trying to point me to the products she felt would work best for me, not (just) just pushing products to meet a sales quota. When I lost my job in 2014, I made a special trip to see her and ask her to take my name off her call list, because I knew I wouldn't be coming downtown very often any more.  By coincidence, she told me SHE was retiring too!  She had a new little granddaughter and wanted to spend more time with her.  I'd been her client for more than 20 years (!) -- I had an old card where she'd written her name and the date of my next appointment -- from 1991 (!). I brought that along to show her and we had a good laugh about it. We hugged each other before I left.

Since leaving work 10 years ago, my makeup consumption has dropped like a stone. (Of course, even when I was using makeup every day, I always had more stuff than I could ever use.)  These days, I can't really be bothered to put on makeup for anything other than big parties, weddings or other special occasions. I can count the number of times I put on makeup during the year on the fingers of one hand (maybe two, depending on what's going on). I still do a basic skincare routine every morning -- but if I'm not wearing makeup, I'm not taking it off and cleaning my skin again at night -- so I'm not using as much skincare stuff as I used to either. 

So I don't use, or buy, as much of the stuff as I used to -- but somehow, I still had a LOT of it! I did a huge skincare and makeup cull after I lost my job in 2014, and again before we moved in April 2016, and I think I did another one a few years back. And I STILL had -- I blush to admit -- a big pink Caboodles case (remember those??), plus two shoebox-sized Rubbermaid plastic bins full of makeup underneath the master bathroom sink -- plus three similar containers full of skincare minis under the sink in the other bathroom.  (Erk.) 

For a few years now, I've tried to remember to label any products I buy or receive as a GWP with the date (year), so I'd have an idea of how old they were. I recently read an article reminding people they should toss makeup and skincare after a certain period of time -- and I knew I had stuff that was a LOT older than the suggested timeframes!  

So, yeah -- time to toss! (Again!)  

I was fairly ruthless. Anything with no date on it, or dated older than 2020, generally got tossed.  I probably still hung onto a few things I should have thrown out. But I emptied three shoebox-sized Rubbermaid plastic bins entirely, filled a small (kitchen-sized) garbage bag with discards, and consolidated what was left. 

I made notes of a few things I tossed (or should toss) that I will want/need to replace -- my foundation & concealer is pretty old, and my eyeshadow & blusher collection is down to just about nothing now -- but I'm in no hurry to go shopping. Like I said, I don't wear the stuff very often these days.  

Plus, I'm waiting for the next gift with purchase offer. ;)   

Are you a skincare & makeup junkie like I am (or was -- I'm TRYING to be better these days...!)? 

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

Saturday, April 27, 2024

The invisible load

Gemma Hartley (who wrote the excellent book "Fed Up:  Emotional Labour, Women and the Way Forward" -- reviewed hererecently posted on her Substack ("No One Loves An Angry Woman") about a new book by Erica Djossa, "Releasing the Mother Load." 

Djossa posts on Instagram as "Momwell," where (among other things) she shares graphics outlining "The Invisible Load" that mothers carry -- e.g., "Bedtime Routine," "Handling Transitions." 

Looking at some of these graphics -- "Researcher of the Home," "Mealtime Routine," "Being the Creator of Fun, Magic and Memories," "The Keeper of Knowledge" -- all I could think was, hey, we non-moms do a lot of these same things too!  Yes, without the additional pressure of knowing small lives are depending on us and absorbing our example -- but some of these things (such as "deciding what to make," "preparing the grocery list," "shopping for food") need to be done whether or not we have kids. Others (e.g., "dealing with guilt and comparison," "worrying about finances and budget," "remembering all the things," "remembering where everything is," "implementing systems like calendars and reminders") are things we may still want or need to do because they make life easier and more pleasant for us and the people we love.  They're things that seem to fall to women to do, regardless of whether we're moms (and especially if we have a partner, and/or have other people depending on us, such as aging parents).  

The graphic Hartley used to illustrate her post was about "Back to School" -- "adjusting to a new routine," "buying and packing supplies," "remembering special days," "haircuts and first day of school photos," "drop off and pick up," and (this one really kills me) "grieving moments you will miss." (!) (Here's another one: "practicing separating" (!).  Like, how do you "practice separating" -- permanently??  :(  )  

I don't want to minimize the very real additional load that mothers carry -- but all I could think of was that every point on this list (and all the other similar lists on the Momwell IG account) is something that I never got to do/will never be able to do/will never be able to do with my child.  ALL of these are "moments I will miss/have missed."  

Yes, it's work, it's an additional load of stuff that mothers have to do, or feel obligated to do -- BUT, it's stuff you get to do with and FOR YOUR CHILD. 

And it's stuff that I will never get to do with and for mine.  

This, too, is an "invisible load" -- the "invisible load" of the bereaved mother and childless woman -- that parents never have to think about. 

Friday, April 26, 2024

"Queen High/Queen Wallis" by C.J. Carey (re-read)

North American cover 

(WARNING:  This review contains some mild spoilers related to the outcome of the first book in this series, "Widowland," as well as this one.)  

"Queen High" by C.J. Carey (which goes by the title "Queen Wallis" in North America) is the upcoming May book for the Nomo Book Club within the Childless Collective private online community, and the sequel to "Widowland," which I first read with the same book club in the fall of 2021 (reviewed here) and recently re-read (that review here). I first read "Queen High" in October 2022 when it was published in the U.K. (reviewed here) -- couldn't wait for it to be released in North America, almost a year later, and special-ordered a copy via Amazon! -- but I knew I'd want to re-read it to refresh my memory before our discussion begins -- particularly since I'll be the one leading it! (lol) 

"Queen High" picks up two years after the events of "Widowland." (See my review of that book for a description of the overall premise of both books. In a nutshell, the books are dystopian/alternative histories in which Germany conquered Britain in World War II.) It's 1955, the Leader (i.e., Hitler -- although he is never named) is dead and so is King Edward VIII.  (Rather improbably), our heroine, Rose Ransom, is back at her job in the Ministry of Culture, "correcting" classic works of British literature to conform to the new regime's worldview. By some miracle, her role in the Leader's assassination (obliquely referred to as "the Event") has not been discovered.   

Now Rose has added the title of Poet Hunter to her job description -- poetry being a particularly degenerate, subversive art form that has now been banned. She starts attending underground meetings where poetry is recited, circulated and discussed, invoking suppressed memories of her late father and the poetry he used to read to her. And she's been tasked with another special assignment: to go to Buckingham Palace and interview Queen Wallis, the American-born widow of the late King, prior to the upcoming visit of President and Mrs. Eisenhower of the United States. The recent murder of a high-ranking SS officer has the authorities on edge, desperate to solve the crime before the President arrives. 

As with "Widowland," this was a fast, absorbing read, with tension mounting as the the date of the Eisenhower visit draws near and the various plot elements converge. We find out more about what has happened to many of the characters we first met in "Widowland" -- including the Friedas (childless widows over the age of 50, ranked lowest on the social classification ladder), and Rose's former co-worker and lover, Oliver, who disappeared in the aftermath of "the Event."  

The ending still packs an emotional punch (albeit not as great as it did the first time I read the book, shortly after the death of Queen Elizabeth II)(let that be a hint/mild spoiler, lol). 

As I've observed previously, there are other dystopian novels with similar premises. Nevertheless, Carey does an amazing job of combining dystopian elements with feminism, patriotism, and the subversive power of literature. There's a lot here that will sound ominously familiar and highly relevant. I would love to see these novels being read more widely!  (And I still think that, properly done, they would make great movies/TV series!) 

4.5 stars this time around, but rounded up to 5 stars on Goodreads (my original rating). 

Our group's next book, coming up in June, is tennis legend Billie Jean King's memoir, "All In." (Just in time for Wimbledon!) It's a long one, so I'll probably start reading it soon, certainly by mid-May! 

ALI note:  The vilification of the Friedas -- and the regime's plans to deal with them -- can be difficult to read about (especially as someone who would be classified as a Frieda in this world). Once again, though, they prove themselves to be the true heroines of these books!  

Also:  In "Widowland," Rose's friend Helena becomes pregnant by a married SS officer. In "Queen High/Queen Wallis," we learn more about what's happened to her and her child.
Original UK cover 

Text noteAs I mentioned here, and in my recent re-review, I noticed some differences between the original U.K. hardcover version of "Widowland" (published by Quercus) and the North American edition (published in paperback and digital formats by Sourcebooks)  -- most notably at the very end. I first noticed this when the North American paperback version came out (I already had the original hardcover edition from the U.K.). 

I wasn't consciously looking for differences between the U.K. & North American versions of "Queen High/Queen Wallis" as I re-read it (I originally read the UK hardcover, but chose the digital North American version, this time around) -- but last night, after I finished the book & turned out the lights and lay in bed, it struck me that I hadn't noticed a particular brief passage at the very end that, in the original hardcover UK version, I found very moving and had me reaching for Kleenex.  I checked this morning, and sure enough, those few sentences are missing from the North American version of the book!  

It's not anything that changes the overall arc or outcome of the book, or was as glaringly noticeable as the changes made to the very end of the North American version of "Widowland." But I'm really curious as to why those changes were made?!  

This was Book #14 read to date in 2024 (and Book #5 finished in April), bringing me to 31% of my 2024 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) on track to meet my goal. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2024 tagged as "2024 books." 

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Odds & ends

  • YES!!!!!!  Casting for three of the four main roles in the movie version of Richard Osman's "The Thursday Murder Club" was announced on Tuesday:  Helen Mirren as Elizabeth (the ONLY person I could ever picture in the role!!), Ben Kingsley as Ibrahim (on my casting list as a possibility), and Pierce Brosnan as Ron.  Never would have thought of him! -- but I think he will work out fine! Joyce, still TBA. (I've always pictured Penelope Wilton, or possibly Julie Walters.)  I love, love, LOVE these books!  I am so happy with these casting choices, and I CANNOT WAIT!!! to see the movie! ❤  (Haven't been to a movie theatre since pre-pandemic -- this would be worth risking covid for!  lol)   
  • I kind of forgot (as I often do) that this was National Infertility Awareness Week. I've been busy and I haven't been on social media as much this week as I sometimes am, so I didn't realize it until I was looking at some Instagram posts -- "oh yeah...!"  It kind of feels like it doesn't apply to me anymore, as someone 20+ years out from fertility treatments, and permanently childless. 
    • Except that it DOES apply. I'm (still) infertile, and always will be -- nothing has changed in that respect. And I saw a great Instagram Story from Katy at Childless Collective, pointing out that a good chunk (probably the majority!) of the billions upon billions of dollars in profits made by the pharmaceutical companies who are the major sponsors of NIAW actually came from US -- the people who did fertility treatments (often multiple cycles) that never worked, and eventually, ultimately, walked away with empty arms. If those companies invested even just a fraction of those huge profits into providing better support services and counselling and other such off-ramps for those of us whose treatments were unsuccessful and who had to stop, it might make a horribly fraught and jarring transition just a little bit easier to survive. (But I won't hold my breath...!) 
  • "Fertility clinics in Ontario are desperately in need of government oversight," says an opinion piece in the Toronto Star this week. (Surprise!) (Not sure if this is behind a paywall, but unfortunately, no gift links apparently available.)  
  • Got my first opt-out email related to Mother's Day last week (from Ancestry -- see the screenshot, above). May there be many more!  (But I haven't noticed any since then... and I'm not holding my breath...!)  
  • Have you seen the most recent TV commercial for Priceline with Kaley Cuoco (Penny on "The Big Bang Theory")?  
    • "Hey, with Priceline VIP Family you can unlock deals five times faster... you don't even have to be an actual family," she chirps. (!)
    • The guys she's talking to immediately start arguing, "Oh, I'd be the dad!" "I'm the dad!" etc. -- until Kaley says "Okay, which dad is paying?" -- and they all start pointing at each other. 
    • Okay, you don't have to be an "actual family" to qualify -- i.e., no discrimination against singles or non-parents -- which is good (I guess?). But that phrase -- "an actual family" -- has me grinding my teeth. (Define "an actual family," right??) 
    • (In fact, if anyone can get the deals, why is it even called "Priceline VIP Family" in the first place??)  
  • Rosalyn Scott, who runs the NoMo Book Club on Instagram, has a new website featuring interviews with childless & childfree writers. Check it out at Other Words
  • Mali has an essay in a new book that's coming out soon!  "Otherhood" is a collection of essays from New Zealand writers on being childless, childfree and child-adjacent, edited by Kathryn Van Beek, Alie Benge and Lil O'Brien. It's being released in NZ on May 9th. I checked a couple of North American bookseller websites, and it seems the e-book/Kindle version will be available here that day too, but we will have to wait until August for the paper edition. More details in Mali's recent post
  • Infertile Phoenix is stepping away from her blog for a while. :(  Go leave her some appreciative words!  
  • I am really enjoying Kirsten Powers's Substack, "Changing the Channel," and her most recent post really struck a chord with me -- and I suspect it will with many of you too:  " 'Winners' Know When To Quit:  Why we need to understand the power of letting go of what is not working." It's free to read (and the interview is free to watch -- there's a transcript you can download too) for a week (i.e., until about May 1st), and then it will go behind a subscriber paywall. (I'm just a free subscriber -- so far... can my budget afford yet another Substack subscription??  Hmmmm....)  
    • I haven't watched the video or read the transcript yet -- and from what I can tell, there's not a word said about infertility treatments &/or childlessness -- but there's a line near the end that summarizes the message in a nutshell:  "We all need to learn how to quit before we hit rock bottom."  AMEN!  
  • "Is It Okay To Dislike Children?"  Jill Filipovic, who is childfree by choice, ponders this question on her Substack. A couple of excerpts (but do go and read the whole thing -- I don't think it's paywalled):  
In the US, it’s overwhelmingly the same people who style themselves as pro-child and pro-family who are the most politically hostile to the actual well-being of children. Conservatives have for decades emphasized their love of children and babies, while cutting funding for public education and children’s healthcare, doing nothing to stop the gun murders of children in schools, opposing paid leave for the people who birth and raise those children, stripping school lunches of any nutritional value, and sometimes putting deadly weapons in their own children’s hands and then taking family Christmas photos. These are not generally people who identify as “child-free.” They are overwhelmingly people who say they love kids. But they are people who are really, really bad for children....

Most child-free people, as far as I can tell, do not hate children. Many adore children, they just don’t want to raise them; others don’t adore children and generally avoid them but don’t hate them either. And no doubt many people who really dislike children or are hostile to children in public spaces are also parents. But regardless of the reality, the childfree are generally the ones presumed to be hostile to children. So it’s interesting to look at the demographics of the child-free in America, where not having children is disproportionately common among highly-educated city-dwelling liberal women and gay men, and realize that the same people being tarred as child-haters are also the ones overwhelmingly voting and advocating for the policies which most benefit children and mothers. If that goes along with preferring a dog-friendly child-free local pub and allowing a look of annoyance to cross one’s face when one hears a screaming baby in a fancy restaurant, honestly, I’ll take it.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

"Bel Lamington" by D.E. Stevenson (re-read)

MD.E. Stevenson group recently finished our chapter-by-chapter group reading and discussion of "Bel Lamington" (published in 1961). I read the book on my own back in January, before we began (original review here). 

An only child who was orphaned at age 3, Bel (Beatrice Elizabeth Lamington = BEL) was raised by a kind aunt, now dead. Now in her early 20s, Bel is working hard to make ends meet as a secretary to one of the partners in a London shipping firm.  

One day, she comes home to her flat and finds a strange young man sitting in the little garden she's created on the rooftop outside her window. Their subsequent friendship kicks off a series of changes and upheavals in Bel's life, including a reunion with an old school friend and an unexpected holiday in Scotland, where we get to catch up with some of our favourite characters from a few of DES's earlier novels.   

The usual elements of many DES novels are present here, including well-drawn, kind and thoughtful characters (with a dash of selfish & nasty supporting players for contrast and dramatic tension!) and lovely descriptions. I found Bel's privileged friend Louise mildly annoying, and a few of the plot elements/coincidences were a little hard to believe. But I appreciated the realistic portrayal of Bel's struggles to deal with loneliness and office politics (among other things), and her (well-founded) anxieties about illness and poverty. Mild spoiler alert:  there is a happy ending!  ;)  And, as usual, our group discussion added to my enjoyment of the book, broadened my perspective and deepened my understanding. 

ALI note:  The loss of a baby (both baby & mother unseen, but discussed) is mentioned. 

I'm upgrading my previous rating of 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 on Goodreads, to 3.5, rounded up to 4.  :)    

Our next scheduled book will be the sequel to this one, "Fletcher’s End." Start date TBA. 

This was Book #13 read to date in 2024 (and Book #4 finished in April), bringing me to 29% of my 2024 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 1 book behind schedule to meet my goal. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2024 tagged as "2024 books." 

Monday, April 22, 2024

#MicroblogMondays: See you in my dreams

I've been having a lot of dreams lately. I don't always remember them in great detail, but I do remember snatches of some, and hazy overall themes. And I've noticed that a lot of the same themes keep popping up, over and over again!  

Some of them include:   

  • Being chased: getting inside the house -- but the door will NOT latch!! (There's always a gap between the door frame and the door!)  
  • My teeth falling out (and rattling around inside my mouth -- eek!). I haven't had one of those dreams in quite a while (knock wood!) -- but I remember the horror of realizing I had broken a tooth once (in real life!) and fishing chunks of tooth out of my mouth and thinking, "OMG, it's just like in my dream!!"  
  • Flying! -- on my own, not in an airplane!  (In my dreams, it's like doing the breaststroke in the air, lol.)  
  • Tornados. (I know where this one comes from:  my grandfather was deathly afraid of bad weather, and kept an eagle eye on the weather report. At the first sign of approaching storms, he'd hustle us over a neighbour's house where there was a basement we could shelter in.)  
  • My grandparents' house, built in the early 1900s, had a simple dirt cellar, accessed through a trap door in the kitchen floor.  I do remember going down there during bad weather when I was very young, but my grandfather didn't think it was very stable -- which is why we began heading over to the neighbour's house!  But in my dreams, I'm often heading down into that cellar -- and finding not only a 1970s-style rec room down there, but an entire underground city...!  
    • Related:  Finding hidden rooms & attics in my grandparents' house (which was torn down in 1998).  
  • Finding a book that takes my family history back several generations, with handwritten notes that I'm dying to read -- but I wake up before I can actually read what's in it!  
  • Visiting a cemetery or mausoleum and wandering around endlessly, trying to find where Katie & other family members are buried.  
  • Being back in school, not attending class all term -- and then finding out I still have to write the exam! and scrambling to make my way across a HUGE campus to get to the exam location on time! (I think this is a common one!) (Note that the last time I was in a classroom of any sort was FORTY YEARS AGO!!  lol)  
  • Being back in my old university dorm, and wandering around through the hallways, up & down stairs... 
  • Wandering endlessly through the underground PATH that connects all the office towers in downtown Toronto. It's often either deserted, or crowded with people.  And I'm often trying to find my way to a bookstore!  lol  
  • Being at work. (Yes, 10 years after I was let go, I am STILL dreaming about work!!)  
  • Being at work AFTER I was let go. In my dreams, I was told they wanted me back, urgently -- so I return to the office, only to have people giving me funny looks, like "What's SHE doing here?"  
    • Related:  Going up & down endless flights of stairs between floors. (We DID have elevators!) 
  • Being the odd person out/the only one (if not specifically childless). Not only a reflection on my childlessness, but probably also my childhood, where I was often "the new girl" and the oddball because of my good grades, love of reading (and using big words!), and my ineptitude at sports! 
Do you remember your dreams?  Do you find certain themes or scenarios being repeated over & over again?  

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

Thursday, April 18, 2024

"Widowland" by C.J. Carey (re-read)

North American cover 
Our upcoming book for May for the Nomo Book Club within the Childless Collective private online community will be "Queen High" by C.J. Carey (which goes by the title "Queen Wallis" in North America).  I've already read that book in October 2022 (reviewed here), but I knew I'd want to re-read it to refresh my memory before our discussion began -- particularly since I'll be the one leading it! (lol) 

But I also realized I wanted to try to squeeze in a re-read of her earlier book, "Widowland" (which we read together in November 2021 -- past review here). (Side note:  Our Zoom discussion of "Widowland" was held at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m. here in North America!  As much as I loved the book & was dying to discuss it with someone, I did NOT set my alarm!  lol I eventually talked up both books so much to dh that he wound up reading them both too -- and enjoying them!)   

I wasn't sure I would have time to re-read both -- but "Widowland" was (still) a speedy read, and I still have just under two weeks to go before the beginning of May, so...  ;)  

I've often described "Widowland" (and "Queen High/Queen Wallis") as "Fatherland" by Robert Harris crossed with Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale." (I've also heard comparisons to George Orwell's "1984" and Philip K. Dick's "The Man in the High Castle,"  although I haven't read those -- yet!)  I'm not especially interested in fantasy or science fiction, generally, but I've always found alternative history/speculative/dystopian fiction intriguing -- especially those with the premise that the Nazis won World War II -- and these two books fall squarely into that category.  

The central premise of "Widowland" (and "Queen High/Queen Wallis") is that Britain capitulated to Germany in 1940, formed an "alliance" with them and is now operating under a Nazi "Protectorate." Memories of "the Time Before" are fading (and are actively discouraged). Most able-bodied men have been sent to labour camps, and women have been classified according to age, heritage, reproductive status and physical characteristics -- which determines where they live, the rations they receive, the clothes they wear, the kind of work they do, etc. 

At the top of the pecking order are the most pure and beautiful young women -- the "Gelis" (named for the niece Hitler was obsessed with -- who committed suicide). Also highly ranked: the "Klaras" -- fertile mothers of at least four children. At the bottom of the ladder (just guess!!) are the "Friedas" -- childless widows over 50, who do menial labour, receive subsistence-level rations (no meat or eggs), and are relegated to live in the rundown, fenced-off slums known as "Widowlands." 

King George VI and his family disappeared shortly after the Alliance was formed, and King Edward VIII and his American divorcee wife (now Queen), Wallis Simpson, have returned from exile. After a long delay, their coronation will be held on May 2, 1953, and the Leader himself (i.e., Hitler) will be coming to Britain for the first time to attend. 

The Coronation -- and the Leader's visit -- are two weeks away, and tensions are running high. Subversive graffiti, in the form of quotations from now mostly forgotten female authors ("Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it and there will be an end to blind obedience" -- Mary Wollstonecraft;  “Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” -- Virginia Woolf), painted in large bright red letters, has been popping on libraries and other public buildings around the country. The prime suspects are the Friedas of the Widowlands:  they remember "the Time Before," they know the literature -- and they have little to fear, because they have so little to lose. 

Although the book is titled "Widowland," the central character is Rosalind "Rose" Ransom, a "Geli," who works at the Ministry of Culture, editing/rewriting classic works by the likes of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte to make their heroines more submissive and acceptable to the new regime. After hours, she's the reluctant mistress of her SS boss (who is married, with a wife and children back in Germany). She's 29 years old, and the clock is ticking before her lack of a husband and children will subject her to reclassification. 

With two weeks to go before the Leader arrives, Rose has been tasked with interviewing some of the residents of Widowland and identifying suspects. What she learns from these women changes her life -- and, possibly, the course of history. 

Two and a half years after I first read it, I'm more conscious of the book's flaws, as pointed out by other reviewers. And (and I realize I'm biased! ;)  ) I (still!) would have loved to see more of the Widowlands and Friedas than we do.  ;)  To me, they are the true heroines of this book!  

Original U.K. edition cover 
But overall, I found this book just as riveting (and chilling) as I did the first time around. As I said in my original review, "It's derivative -- there have been other "what if Hitler won the war" novels & films -- but this dystopian premise, combined with feminism, childlessness and the subversive power of literature is a potent mixture and highly thought provoking."  I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since I first read it (and I find myself recommending it to others at every opportunity!) -- I think that says something! 

Moreover, given the current political climate in many countries around the world -- books, libraries and freedom of the press under attack, voting rights being eroded, women's reproductive freedoms and other rights being rapidly rolled back (not to mention rampant pronatalism and misogyny) --  and a critical U.S. election just months away -- I found the book's messages even more relevant than I did when I originally read it. 

My original rating of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5, stands.  

Text note: As I mentioned here, there are some differences between the original U.K. hardcover version (published by Quercus) and the North American edition (published in paperback and digital formats by Sourcebooks)  -- most notably at the very end. I first noticed this when the North American paperback version came out (I already had the original hardcover edition from the U.K.). 

I'm planning to go back to both books, once I've finished them, and do a closer comparison. (Hey, i used to do stuff like this for a living...!)  So far, I've mostly noticed changes in spelling (e.g., "favour" in the U.K. edition becomes "favor") and terminology (e.g., "Commissioner" becomes "minister"). 

This was Book #12 read to date in 2024 (and Book #3 finished in April), bringing me to 27% of my 2024 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 1 book behind schedule to meet my goal.  :(   You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2024 tagged as "2024 books." 

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Odds & ends

  • The Childless Collective Summit -- a rare opportunity for CNBCers to gather en masse -- was held in Charleston, South Carolina last weekend. I had #summitenvy as I scanned my social media feeds, looking for photos!  
  • I was also a little envious when I heard that Australia's Senate is holding an inquiry into menopause and perimenopause. (We in North America really need to get with the program!!)  Sarah Roberts at The Empty Cradle has made a submission that expresses some of the unique concerns of aging childless women (adapted from a previous submission she and Judy Graham made to the Queensland Women's Strategy). Her submission is #121 at this link.  
  • The Full Stop podcast is celebrating 5 years of monthly episodes on May 19th! Their May episode is being recorded THIS Sunday, April 21st!  
    • Listeners are being invited to ask a question, or share a message via Speakpipe, to be answered by the hosts. Here's a link!  
    • There will be a competition with prizes, too!  
  • Jess was a guest on the Adoption Unfiltered podcast, talking with hosts Lori (adoptive parent), Sara (adoptee) & Kelsey (birth mom) about pronatalism, and her decision NOT to adopt and to remain childless. (She wrote about it here.)  The podcast is available on the Adoption Unfiltered website, YouTube and various podcast platforms. It's an amazing, in-depth and much-needed conversation, and well worth a watch/listen!  
  • Mel recently flagged this lovely article from Oregon Humanities: "Fertile Ground:  Reflections on grief and gardening." 
  • This is a great article from Next Avenue (a couple of years old) about "The Long-Term Realities of Being Childless."  
  • Medium articles are sometime paywalled (boo, hiss), but if you can access "The Childless Woman Who Soared:  A modern fable and love story to a woman long demonised" by Nadia Huq, it's so lovely, and well worth a read!  Excerpt:  
...a child is not actually a goal, when you think about it.

A child is a map...

But for women without children there is no map.

And instead of a well-trodden highway, there are fields and forests and lakes and seas.

So what does she do?

Perhaps if she has chosen this life with a free and easy heart, she bounds into the landscape, excited by this unconquered territory.

But if not, perhaps she sits down and she cries. How will I ever find my way? She wonders. She has no tools. No handbook. Precious little confidence. She feels wholly unequipped for this life.

She feels sad, and no wonder, for all she has ever heard of this life is its’ many heartaches and regrets. For a time, she simply sits and cries.

But she has courage, and eventually, she rises....
  • I'm not sure if this is behind a paywall either, but Alison Motluk's post on her Substack "Hey Reprotech" is also worth a read and share (especially if you know someone who is thinking about freezing their eggs):  "Questions no one asked at the egg freezing webinar." (She recently sat in on a webinar about egg freezing, and she was struck "by how few questions were asked, and how so many seemed vague and unclear. I was also struck by how incomprehensible some of the answers were.")(Are we surprised?)  
  • I was struck by a passage in a recent opinion piece by Shree Paradkar in the Toronto Star, about abortion rights and the recently resurrected law from 1864 (!) in Arizona. (Apologies if it's behind a paywall;  there wasn't a gift link.)  This passage in particular rang SO true to me:  
Mainstream pregnancy stories are often about grinning mommies and gurgling babies, often in heterosexual relationships, living in relative luxury, with a shopping component thrown in — what to get for the baby? Heavens forbid we ignore the capital to be squeezed out of every life experience.

If there is a deviation from such narrow representation, it is to express sadness and grief — about a woman’s inability to become pregnant or an inability to carry a fetus to term. Don’t get me wrong. Having babies can be a wonderful experience, and not having one can leave one with profound sense loss. But the archaic, gendered expectation of giving birth is so seeped in the pores of our society that women often internalize feelings of inadequacy even when the issue is outside their control. Someone not wanting to be pregnant is too outside the realm of this blinkered view.
  • I read some great pieces about the recent eclipse. I loved how Lyz Lenz ended hers, in her Men Yell At Me Substack, "Chasing the dark."  Excerpt:  

This lasts for three minutes. Three beautiful moments. Time passes. The moon moves. The sun flashes. And then it’s over. We have to pack. We have to go so we can get home before too late. Because there is school tomorrow. And I have to work.

As we walk back to the car, my daughter says she can’t believe things have to go back to how they were. “This should have changed everything,” she says.

I know what she means. I’ve felt this before in moments of grief. The way your world changes with loss, but the stock market doesn’t stop, school buses still arrive. The world ended, but it didn’t. I wonder about all the small world-endings. All the apocalypses we see and walk by. How grief and miracles are the same. A brief rip into the light. We peer into it and then we are expected to return to the same. Together we’ve seen the light change. We’ve seen the sun disappear.  I know they’ll remember this one. Together we will remember the tear in space, how it felt so vast, how we held hands through every minute of it as it passed. 

I think about the last eclipse and I tell her I think everything is different. We just don’t know the shape of it yet.

Monday, April 15, 2024

#MicroblogMondays: Memorable musical moments

The Washington Post recently had an opinion piece from a guy advising  "Take it from me: See your music heroes before it’s too late." (Gift linked article.) 

(Near the end, he writes about skipping a Tom Petty concert in Toronto in 2017... Petty died just a few months later. I remember hearing an ad for that concert on the radio and saying to dh, "Maybe we should go?"  We'd never seen Petty, both of us loved his music -- dh especially -- and it was a 40th anniversary tour with the Heartbreakers. "Too expensive," said dh, especially since tickets had already been on sale for a while -- we figured we'd be stuck in the nosebleed section. And, of course, we both regretted it when we heard he was gone, not long afterwards.)  

At the very end of the article, there was an invitation to readers: "What moment from a live music performance will you remember for the rest of your life?" They published the responses last week. (Gift link.) 

Of course, that got me thinking:  what would mine be?  

Naturally, I couldn't narrow it down to just one ;)  -- but here are a few standout moments from my concert memories (which, admittedly, come mostly from the 1970s & 1980s -- we don't go to a lot of concerts these days...!). I've written about many of these in past posts on this blog:  

  • Bay City Rollers (lol), August 15, 1976, at the old Winnipeg Arena. My first concert! (I was 15.)  Floor seats were $5.50. Highlight:  Waiting at the garage entrance out back before the concert began and seeing the limousine with the band inside pass by us, with the band members waving. 
  • Burton Cummings:  I've seen him several times over the years, but the moment that always stands out for me was seeing him for the first time (mid/late-1970s), early in his solo career, at the Winnipeg Concert Hall, trading wisecracks with his high school buddies in the front rows and playing "Shiny Stockings" for his mom (his biggest fan and cheerleader, and always in the hometown audience).  
  • Cheap Trick, 1979, Winnipeg Convention Centre (also saw them at the Arena a year or two later). Standing in the crowd at the front of the stage and eye-flirting with Tom Petersen (the bass player), who (I swear!) sang "I Know What I Want and I Know I Can Get It" while looking straight at me. :) 
  • Streetheart at the Playhouse in Winnipeg, spring 1979 (I think?). Their first album was blazing up the charts, and their lead singer, the late great Kenny Shields, had a lot of charisma.
  • Van Halen (with David Lee Roth), April 1980, Winnipeg Arena. Watching Eddie Van Halen in his prime, wearing all white, climbing a mountain of speakers like steps to the top, where he played a sizzling guitar solo to a group of kids sitting in some lousy seats at the side of the stage. They were thrilled, and so was I!  
  • Heart at Winnipeg Stadium, August 1981, doing an absolute killer version of Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll."  (Also on the bill, among others: Ted Nugent (!), Blue Oyster Cult, and Loverboy.)  
  • Journey, during their Escape tour, Winnipeg Arena, spring 1982. (With a friend AND my new boyfriend -- later dh!)  Watching Steve Perry holding a note while running from one side of the stage to another, not pausing to take a breath. AMAZING. 
  • George Thorogood and the Destroyers, Winnipeg Playhouse, October 1982. Bought the tickets on a whim at the last minute. Wound up in the second last row of the balcony, but I am SO GLAD we went. The man was like the Energizer Bunny -- just never stopped moving. He played his guitar behind his back. He even did a Chuck Berry-style duck walk across the stage. There was a huge cheer that went up when he introduced Ian Stewart on the piano -- he played on all the early Rolling Stones albums.  :)  
  • Bruce Springsteen: we've seen him twice in Toronto together (dh a few more times before he met me), and the concert we saw at the old Exhibition Stadium in 1985, with the E Street Band, was probably the better one overall. But we also saw him in 1992 (?) at the SkyDome with a different band. We had better seats for that one, and he played "Prove it All Night" and "Spirit in the Night," favourites of mine and dh's (respectively), neither of which we'd heard at that previous concert. That was a thrill! :)  
  • Tony Bennett with my mom & sister at the Winnipeg Centennial Concert Hall in August 2012, at age 86 -- watching him set down his microphone and sing "Fly Me to the Moon," a capella, with that still-magnificent voice filling the hall.  
  • Dragging dh to see The Rascals on their 2013 reunion tour at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto, 40 years after they'd last played all together -- and watching dh's jaw drop when he realized how good they (still!) were (especially the drummer! -- who, sadly, passed away a few years ago). 
  • Paul McCartney in Winnipeg in September 2018 with my sister -- a thrill from start to finish, but most memorably when he sang "Blackbird" with an acoustic guitar on a riser, with hundreds of cellphone lights glowing in the background. MAGIC. 
  • Getting to see Elton John in Winnipeg with my sister on his farewell tour, October 2019. 
What would your most memorable concert moment(s) be? 

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

Sunday, April 14, 2024

"Wolf Hall" by Hilary Mantel

"Wolf Hall" the much-acclaimed novel by the late, great Hilary Mantel, has been in my TBR pile almost from the time it was published in 2009. I think I even opened it once, and then set it aside for something else (probably something lighter and less daunting...!).  

(Also, I PVRd the acclaimed 2015 BBC adaptation, with the wonderful Mark Rylance in the role of Thomas Cromwell, when it ran on PBS (instead of watching it when it was broadcast, because of course I hadn't read the book yet...!) -- but of course, I never got around to watching it...! And, unfortunately, my PVR library was deleted when we got a new modem last fall. Sigh... I may have to see if I can find it to watch elsewhere -- even if that means subscribing to another streaming service! even just temporarily -- especially since I hear a sequel is in the works and will be coming to PBS later this year...!)  

Then I heard about the year-long Cromwell Trilogy readalong hosted by Simon Haisell at "Footnotes and Tangents" (I think it was via Rona Maynard on social media??) -- starting with "Wolf Hall" on Jan. 1st, and following a weekly schedule. (He's also hosting a "chapter-a-day readalong" of "War & Peace" that also began Jan. 1st. Yes, I'm doing that one too!)  

At the time, I mused that "I need another book club/readalong (let alone TWO!) like a hole in the head" -- but I was intrigued, and the year-long, leisurely schedules (for both readalongs) sounded manageable. So, I did it -- I joined both.  It's taken a bit of juggling, but I'm very glad that I did.  :)  We're scheduled to finish this book before the end of the month, but I was on a roll (and wanted to move on to another book for another book club!), so I read ahead a little and finished it this weekend.  ;)    

Based in historical fact, "Wolf Hall' is the story of Thomas Cromwell, the son of an abusive blacksmith from Putney, who rises from obscurity to become the trusted advisor to the powerful Cardinal Wolsey -- and, ultimately, to King Henry VIII himself, as he seeks a divorce from Queen Katherine of Aragon -- who has failed to give him the male heir he so desperately craves -- so that he can marry the bewitching (younger, and presumably more fertile) Anne Boleyn.   

It probably helps to know at least a little bit about the British history and monarchy of this period. Happily, I've seen & read umpteen TV shows and books about Henry VIII and his six (!) wives -- so I was at least vaguely familiar with the bare bones of the story, if not intimately familiar with Cromwell himself.  Mantel fills in the details for us (as she has researched and imagined & interpreted them, anyway), all filtered through the eyes and thoughts of Cromwell.  

This is a LONG book (almost 700 pages in paper format) -- and the story unfolds in a leisurely, non-linear fashion, going back and forth (and back again) in time. The writing is very dense. There's just SO much to chew on -- so much going on, multiple layers of meaning to ponder, so many characters to keep track of -- including multiple Thomases to keep straight (besides Cromwell, there's Wolsey, More, Boleyn, Howard, Bilney, Wyatt, Cranmer, etc. etc....!)!  And SO.MUCH. plotting and scheming and political maneuvering!! 

(Also, Mantel rarely refers to Cromwell as "Cromwell," using "he" throughout the book, which takes some getting used to. Of course there are lots of other "he's" around, just to confuse matters...!  It's sometimes hard to figure out just who "he" is referring to -- but as several reviewers have noted, you're probably safe, most of the time, if you just assume that "he" refers to Cromwell.) 

Nevertheless, it's all beautifully written and hugely absorbing. Cromwell, as written by Mantel, is a fascinating character.  And, happily, those of us following the readalong have the advantage of weekly discussion posts, chats, a cast of characters and other supplementary material, to provide context and help us better understand what we're reading. These have all contributed enormously to my enjoyment and appreciation of the book. I'm not sure what books Simon is planning to cover in 2025, but I highly recommend the experience!   

A solid 4 stars on Goodreads (possibly even 4.5). (Slow read group experience:  a definite 5!)   

ALI note: As you might expect, for a book that revolves so heavily around producing, not just an heir to the throne but a MALE heir, there is a lot in this book about fertility and pregnancy and childbirth -- and loss and childlessness -- but it's all very well done and rings very true.  Mantel herself was childless not by choice, after a hysterectomy caused by severe endometriosis. 

Next on the agenda:  Book #2 in Mantel's Cromwell Trilogy, "Bring Up the Bodies," beginning during the week of April 29th, to be followed later in the year by Book #3, "The Mirror and the Light."  Join us at Footnotes & Tangents, Cromwell Trilogy

This was Book #11 read to date in 2024 (and Book #2 finished in April), bringing me to 24% of my 2024 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 1 book behind schedule to meet my goal.  :(   You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2024 tagged as "2024 books." 

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

"The Improbability of Love" by Hannah Rothschild

"The Improbability of Love" by Hannah Rothschild (who is, apparently, one of THE Rothschilds), is the April pick for the Nomo Book Club within the Childless Collective private online community

The heroine is Annie McDee, a 31-year-old chef who lives in a small flat in London, recovering from a broken heart after splitting up with her longtime partner. (Warning:  Do NOT try reading this book on an empty stomach! ;)  ) She buys a painting in a junk store for $75 (that she can't really afford) as a gift for a new love interest  -- who ghosts her before she can give it to him. She decides to return it, only to find the store -- and the man who sold it to her -- went up in flames in a suspicious fire, just hours after she left. 

At a London art gallery, trying to learn more about her painting, Annie meets Jesse, a tour guide and artist himself.  As they investigate the mysterious painting's origins together, they are drawn into the murky, cut-throat world of art collectors, dealers and thieves -- many of whom would love to get their hands on the painting, for various reasons. Unbeknown to Annie, this includes the father of her current employer -- an elderly Holocaust survivor and ultra-wealthy art dealer, who rules both his family and his company with an iron fist. 

The story picked up for me midway through the book, when Annie's boss, the old man's daughter, Rebecca, discovers her late brother's hidden notebook, setting off a chain of unexpected events... 

I don't want to give too many spoilers away, but here's one:  "The Improbability of Love" is not only the title of the book, it's the name of the painting itself. (I had to check:  the artist is real;  the painting is not.)   The painting is actually a character in the book who narrates some chapters (!), where we gradually learn more about its history, who painted it and who its previous owners were. (Over time, the painting was often given as a token of love to wives, lovers and beloved mistresses.)  When I started reading the first chapter where this happens, I was hearing a certain voice in my head, and I couldn't figure out where this was coming from?  Then I realized...! I was thinking of an episode of The Simpsons (lol!) -- "Moe Goes From Rags to Riches" -- where Jeremy Irons provides the voice of an ancient tapestry that winds up as a rag at Moe's bar, and then gets adopted by Santa's Little Helper -- i.e., the dog, lol.  

As I read, I was also reminded of a couple of other art-related books I've read in the past -- "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt, for one, as well as certain scenes in "Killers of a Certain Age" by Deanna Raybourn. 

Overall, I wound up enjoying this book more than I thought I would.  It's a little long, and the multiple characters are hard to keep track of (albeit colourfully rendered).  It took a while to pick up some momentum -- but I absolutely tore through the last third of the book. 

3.5 stars, rounded up to 4. 

ALI alert:  Annie reflects on her longing for a child versus her partner's complete lack of interest in fatherhood... and her grief when she learns he's had a child with his new partner (and has now become a doting father, of course...!) Sound familiar?  

This was Book #10 read to date in 2024 (and Book #1 finished in April), bringing me to 22% of my 2024 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 2 books behind schedule to meet my goal.  :(   You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2024 tagged as "2024 books." 

Monday, April 8, 2024

Post-eclipse update!

Update to this morning's pre-eclipse post!  As feared, much of southern Ontario was blanketed in clouds today -- just in time for the eclipse -- after a glorious weekend of blue skies and sunshine (of course...!). I guess it did clear slightly and briefly at Niagara Falls -- one of the prime viewing spots for this event -- where CBC News Network was hosting a live broadcast, with links to reporters in other parts of the country.   

We watched the light changing outside our condo windows, gradually getting duskier and duskier. We were expected to reach peak eclipse -- 99.13% -- at around 3:18 or 3:19. I slipped on some shoes and a jacket, grabbed my phone/camera, and headed out onto our balcony around 3:15 PM, and took a video and a few photos (something I wish we'd thought to do when I saw a total eclipse back in 1979 -- but we didn't have handy cellphones with cameras back then -- cameras generally weren't that great, unless you could afford an expensive 35 mm model, and people just didn't think to take photos of every little thing back then in the same way they do now... plus, film, flash bulbs and photo developing were expensive, kids!  lol).  I noticed the temperature had dropped significantly since we'd been out a few hours earlier -- it was pretty chilly out there!   

It wasn't ideal conditions, and it wasn't a total eclipse. But it was still pretty cool to observe!  :)  

Taken from our balcony around 3:20 PM this afternoon
(peak eclipse at 99.13% totality). 
It was actually a little darker than this photo shows. 
If you look closely, you can see the street lights are on, 
as well as the solar lamps in the parkette area behind our building. 

(Annnnndddd two hours later -- blue skies and sunshine. Go figure...!)  

#MicroblogMonday: Eclipse!

So in case you haven't heard, there's an eclipse happening later this afternoon that will be visible, in total or in part, across a broad swath of North America. It's being billed as a once-in-a-lifetime event.  

Already been there, done that. ;)  I got to see & experience a total eclipse back in February 1979.  I was 18 and in my final year of high school, and my family was living in a town west of Winnipeg, one of the prime viewing areas in the world for the big event. 

(Someone posted a thread on my graduating class's Facebook group last week, asking where we were then and what we remembered about it, and where we'd be and what we'd be doing today. One classmate remembers our English teacher including the eclipse in his speech at our graduation ceremony that June:  he said, "Only this group would conspire to arrange something like a total eclipse to get a day off school." lol!!) 

People came from all over the world to southern Manitoba (and this was in FEBRUARY!!  lol), and were lined up along the main street of town and all along the Trans-Canada Highway west of the city to watch.  There was no Internet back then, of course, or even 24-hour cable news networks like CNN, but there was still a lot of advance hype, and special live broadcasts on TV that day.  We all got the day off school -- presumably the school board did not want to be responsible for whatever we did or saw on that day. We did not have the special protective glasses to safely watch the progress of the moon across the sun-- they were available, but not as readily as they are today (no online shopping!) -- but we could see it getting darker outside, to the point that the street lights came on! -- and when the TV announcer told us we were now in totality and it was safe to go outside and have a brief look with the naked eye, my sister & I did so, heading out to the sidewalk in front of our house. (I couldn't remember my mom being out there with us, so I asked her about it when I spoke to her yesterday. She said she came out onto the front step, turned around and went back inside! lol.)  It was chilly (it was February!) and kind of eerie -- and it WAS pretty cool! 

There was also a partial eclipse here back in August 2017, a little over a year after we moved into this condo. I think we only reached about 70-75% of totality then. It didn't get completely dark, but it did get increasingly and strangely dim and shadowy outside for a while. I took a few photos from our balcony then. (See one below.)  

This time around, we're JUST outside the path of totality -- I found a site that calculates we'll reach 99.13% where we are -- so it will not get completely dark this time either. (Close, but no cigar.) But I'm expecting it will still be darker than it was in 2017.  Niagara Falls, about 1.5-2 hours away, population just under 100,00 (and busy enough on an average summer day), will be a prime viewing area, and is expecting up to ONE MILLION PEOPLE. Officials have already declared a state of emergency, and are warning visitors there WILL be traffic chaos, and to bring plenty of food, water and necessary medications.  (There aren't a lot of main roads going in and out of the area -- look it up on a map -- it's hemmed into a small wedge of land between lakes Ontario & Erie, along the Niagara River and the U.S. border). 

No thanks. I'll be happy to view the effects of near-totality from my condo balcony. (We don't have the proper eyewear this time around either -- and in any case, I have enough issues with my vision as it is, so I'm not going to risk it!)  

How about you? Will the eclipse be visible, in total or in part, where you live? Are you planning to watch or mark the occasion in some way?  (If it's already over by the time you read this, what did you do today?)  Have you seen one before? 

*** *** *** 

Related tangent:  All the eclipse talk stirred up a hazy memory for me, of reading a Bobbsey Twins book that had belonged to my mom & uncle when they were kids in the 1940s/50s (and then to me & my sister), which a band of gypsies (!) who were convinced they were going to lose their sight if they do something the bad guys wanted them to do... not knowing that a total eclipse was on the way.  

I had to do some Googling and digging around, but I finally found a discussion that helped me identify the right book!  -- "The Bobbsey Twins on the Pony Trail" (1944).  "In it, a group of gypsies are being cheated out of their land. A speculator claims he will remove their vision if they don't sell. He knows about the upcoming total eclipse in the area where the story was set. Mr. Bobbsey helps to prevent the injustice."

The Bobbsey Twins were a staple of my early childhood reading. I haven't read any of those books in years & years, but some of the stuff in the older volumes that belonged to my mom & uncle would never past muster these days. Another example (ALI alert!): in "The Bobbsey Twins and Baby May," first published in 1924 (!),  a baby girl is mysteriously left on the Bobbsey family's doorstep (!).  (No wonder people have so many misconceptions about adoption, right?)  I don't think I ever read the revised version published in 1968, but from what I understand, the story was completely rewritten except for the title, and Baby May became... a baby elephant, lol.

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

The eerie half-lit sky outside during the solar eclipse of August 2017,
which reached around 70-75% max hereabouts.
(The crane, partly visible, left, is from another condo building nearby, then under construction.
Also under construction then: the townhouses behind us, partly visible, right.) 
Our balcony doesn't get the direct afternoon sun
(and we didn't have the proper eyewear to view the eclipse directly anyway)
but I took a few photos from the balcony to record the effects. 
I'll probably do the same this afternoon!