Monday, February 12, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends from the dead of winter

  • Anxiety has been rearing its ugly head again lately and running rampant through my brain. Not sure why. (Well, I suppose I can guess at a few reasons:  reminders of 20 years ago, midlife perimenopausal hormones (still!! at 57!!), dreary, crappy February weather ( = extreme cabin fever)... )
  • On that note: This seems to be The Winter That Will Never End.  (I'm sure I say this every winter, but seriously -- I am so over winter at this point...)  The snow does look pretty when it falls softly outside our windows & coats all the trees... but then it turns to freezing rain and then slush, making it difficult (& dangerous) to get out & around. Ugh. SO. READY. For this to be over!!  (Although I'm sure I still have a while to wait...!) 
  • The Winter Olympics are providing a welcome distraction. Figure skating is my longtime love, of course, but I could happily watch just about any of the winter sports (including the much-derided curling -- never played myself, but I spent a LOT of time in curling rinks when I was a kid, watching both my parents play). As I mentioned in a comment to Mel,  I've harboured a longtime secret desire to take a ride in a bobsled.  (You will never catch me on a luge or skeleton, though... I think those guys are NUTS.)  
  • Counting down the weeks to Younger Nephew's wedding. I took my dress to a local seamstress last week for some alterations. It's going to cost a little more than I thought, but I did get a good deal on the dress, so I suppose it all evens out. She told me it was a beautiful colour on me (teal green), which was a confidence-booster. :) 
  • Younger Nephew texted me this weekend (a happy thing in & of itself).  He's working on the slide show they're doing for the wedding reception, and wanted to know if I happened to have any of the (hundreds & hundreds of) photos I took of him (& his brother) as a baby/kid in digital format. I'd given his mother duplicate hard copies over the years, but of course, digital copies would save him a lot of scanning work. I was SO HAPPY to be able to tell him that I had ALL of his photos, going back to Day One, in digital format. :)  (I haven't quite gotten as far back as his older brother's baby photos.... they didn't do a slide show at their wedding, and I was disappointed, one, not to be asked to provide photos, and two, not to have an excuse to get them digitized ASAP.)  I spent all day Sunday on my laptop, going through 25 years of photos & copying them over to a thumb drive for him to pick & choose from. To say I am happy to be able to do this for him & his fiancee, to contribute to their wedding in some small way, is an understatement. :)  #auntietotherescue  :)  
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.  

Friday, February 9, 2018

"The Grave's a Fine and Private Place" by Alan Bradley

What better way to brighten up the dreariness of early February than to dive into a brand new Flavia de Luce mystery by Alan Bradley? 

It's been almost 10 years since I first discovered Flavia, the precocious 12-year-old chemist/detective from early 1950s Britain, in her first adventure, "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.Unlike most previous Flavia novels, "The Grave's a Fine and Private Place" is not set at Buckshaw, the family's crumbling estate. Instead, Flavia, her two older sisters and their loyal family servant, Dogger, are trying to recover from a devastating tragedy by taking a boating holiday. Even on vacation, though, it's not long before Flavia stumbles onto a corpse -- and the fun begins again...

This book marks something of a turning point in the relationship between Flavia & her sisters -- and her relationship with Dogger, which was always a highlight of previous books.  And there's the promise of more fun to come in the future as the book ends.

This was the 9th volume of Flavia's adventures, and my understanding is the author has at least one more planned. I can't wait. :)  

(If you haven't read any of the previous Flavia novels, I recommend you start with "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie," and continue from there in order. The mystery in each novel is self-contained -- but the plot itself plays second fiddle to the characters & the wonderful writing.  You will learn more about Flavia, her family and friends, and appreciate them more, if you start at the beginning and follow her adventures in order.) 

I don't seem to have reviewed the initial book in the series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, on my blog, but here's where I've written about the others: 

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag (#2)
A Red Herring Without Mustard (#3) 
I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (#4) 
Speaking From Among the Bones (#5) 

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (#6)
As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust (#7)
Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd  (#8)

This was book #2 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 8% of my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am -- so far!! ;)  -- on track to meet my goal.  :)  

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Day 1, 20 years later

It's THAT day again. Exactly 20 years ago today (TWENTY YEARS!!) I got my period. Nothing unusual or notable at the time -- but my life was about to change forever.

I'd been getting periods since I was 11 and I had just turned 37. I had thrown away my birth control pills a little over two years earlier, and the excitement of those early months of trying to conceive -- unsuccessfully, one month after another -- had given way to a nagging feeling that time was rapidly passing, I wasn't getting any younger, and perhaps this motherhood thing wasn't going to happen after all.

I was about to be proven wrong.

Or so I thought...

February 8, 1998, will forever be branded in my memory as my "LMP date" -- the first day of my last period before I became pregnant for the first and only time -- a 26-week rollercoaster ride of joy, anxiety and raw terror -- which abruptly ended in stillbirth in early August.  That was followed by profound grieving (over many years, the intensity eventually subsided;  the grief, however, remains)(and always will);  increasing desperation, infertility testing and treatment; enormous stress, crippling anxiety and debilitating panic attacks.  Eventually, there was resignation to and, finally, acceptance of, our permanent childlessness.

10 years ago, I relived my pregnancy in detail on this blog with posts tagged "1998 memories."  I don't intend to do that again (once was enough...) -- but that doesn't mean the memories won't be there, or that I won't revisit them from time to time as significant milestones present themselves, again. (You have been forewarned...! ;)  )

Monday, February 5, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: "I'm doing it for my daughter"

I am loving the second season of "Victoria" on PBS... but having Victoria play the mommy card in last night's episode, about the Irish potato famine of the 1840s -- dragging her prime minister, Robert Peel, into the nursery to look at her new baby daughter & plead the case of the Irish people and their children with her baby in her arms and tears in her eyes -- was a little much.  I don't remember if she used the exact words "as a mother" but Peel responded emotionally that he too had children. (Apparently Victoria did do more for the Irish than has commonly been thought -- but I rather doubt she dragged her prime minister into the nursery like that...!) 

This reminded me of a thought-provoking New York Times opinion piece that I flagged a few weeks back for potential blogging material.  It was written prior to this year's Women's Marches, and titled "You Don't Need a Daughter to Want a Better World."  Writer Jill Filipovic noted how many women marchers had said, "I'm doing it for my daughter," & how this is a common sentiment -- the reason women give for so many things they do. 

"This is not a bad impulse, and there remains much to do for girls around the world," Filipovic writes. (Boldfacing here added by me for emphasis.) 
"But it can also undercut women’s progress. A woman’s value doesn’t derive from her status as a mother. We are entitled to rights and liberties by plain virtue of our humanness. If 2017 began with women marching for their daughters and ended with a tidal wave of female rage directed at predacious men, perhaps 2018 should be the year women resolve to go after what we want and deserve — simply for us. Imagine what could be if we did the same things we say we do for our daughters out of our own self-interest." 
She also makes this point:  
"When we do pursue what we crave, the consequences of saying so out loud can be stark: pity the poor woman foolish enough to say that she doesn’t want children because she’d rather spend her money traveling the world, or had an abortion because she just did not want a baby...  Those women are self-absorbed, greedy or deceitful; if they’re also self-identified feminists, they know to filter their truths carefully, so as not to risk undermining the entire cause they are fighting for with the suggestion that feminism might be motivated by unvarnished self-interest.  And so we focus on the next generation of not-yet-women."
Read the whole thing, & tell me what you think! 

(Caveat emptor re: the comments... there ARE some really good ones -- but also ones like: "With all due respect, the writer clearly does not have a daughter. Having a child profoundly changes you... All I can say is - you will understand when you have a child, niece, foster child, etc in your life that you would die for....") 

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

Friday, February 2, 2018

The waiting is the hardest part...

Our Oldest Nephew & his wife, both in their mid/late 20s, together for almost 10 years & married now for a year & a bit, have baby fever. His (only other)(besides Katie) cousin, who got married a few months before he did, had a baby last summer, much to the delight of the entire extended family. The baby is now about 6 months old and at that really cute stage where he's aware of what's going on around him, but not yet mobile.  ;)  Both Nephew & his wife love to hold the little guy when he comes to visit. Would-be Grandpa BIL keeps grumbling, "Hurry up!!" to them.

"Dad," Nephew reportedly told him a little while ago, "we really want to have a baby... but how can we, right now?"  His wife recently lost her job and is currently unemployed;  he's in a trade and making some good money -- but that's a relative thing hereabouts, where two salaries are pretty much mandatory to make ends meet, and the cost of housing is astronomical (nevermind all the other associated costs of living).  They live with their dog, rent-free. in a tiny apartment that BIL carved out of his basement for them, trying to save enough money to afford a down payment on, if not a house, then perhaps a starter condo (which can still go for $400,000+ around here).   

I would love to be a great-aunt, of course. :)  (Our nephews grew up way, way too fast...!)  Dh is chomping at the bit to be a great-uncle, too -- and has dropped some hints in that vein.

But I have vowed that our nephews & their brides will never get any pressure on that subject from me. I remember only too well the hints & nudge-nudges and raised-eyebrow enquiries that started as soon as we got back from our honeymoon. It was hard enough to deal with then, when we assumed we would be parents someday, at a time of our choosing.  It became excruciating once it dawned on us that parenthood might not be a given after all...

I also remember, only too well, what it was like to be young, newly married and completely, utterly broke -- wanting babies, yes, but knowing full well that we simply couldn't afford one at that point of our lives. You hear a lot these days about the millennial generation & how they are having a difficult time launching into adulthood -- but things weren't exactly easy when dh & I came out of university in the early 1980s either.  Unemployment and inflation rates were both very high; at one point, mortgage rates were a sky-high 21%.  (I knew several guys who were engineering students when I was at university. I remember hearing that, going in, there were three jobs for every engineering graduate. By the time they graduated four years later, though, there were three graduates for every available engineering job.)

Unlike our nephews, dh & I didn't have the advantage of living for free in our parents' basements.  (For one thing, it was simply a lot less common/acceptable back then to live with your parents after you finished school, whether you were single or married.) I was unemployed for the first six months after our wedding (and didn't make a heck of a lot of money once I did find a job);  dh left his salaried job with an insurance company for a trainee position with a brokerage company (salaried at first but eventually completely commissioned). To the horror of his relatives, we spent the first five years of our marriage paying rent on an apartment.  Buying a house as newlyweds was simply not in the cards -- and, shortly after we were married, the local housing market took off like a rocket. Even when FIL helpfully stepped in with some down payment assistance, it took us five years before we were making enough money to handle the monthly payments (at 11.75% interest -- and that was at a discount, because I worked for a bank). And even after we got the house, there were the mortgage payments, and other expenses related to owning a house, and the 10-12 hour workdays and 2-3 hours of daily commuting -- and prospective daycare costs. (Maternity leave was just 9 months back then, and only the first few weeks were paid.)  I knew that I was on my own as far as family help & support went -- my mother-in-law died before I met her, & my own mother was 1,000 miles away. And so we procrastinated, and postponed, and delayed...

Part of me thinks maybe I should speak up, warn them, tell them there's never a perfect time to start a family, that time (those fertile years) slips away much faster than you might think.

But I think they know that. After all (unlike me & dh), they have a cautionary tale right in front of them: us.  :p

So for now, I'm continuing to keep my mouth shut. (They get enough hints from other people aruond them as it is, anyway.)  But looking forward to the day -- hopefully not TOO many years down the road -- when I can happily and whole-heartedly go nuts with my credit card in the baby shops. ;)

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Right now

Right now... (an occasional meme, alternating from time to time with "The Current"):

Reading:  To date, just one book completed towards my Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  :p  But I am hoping to increase that total soon!  

I am currently midway through (and quite absorbed in) "Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder" by Caroline Fraser, which was on several "Best of 2017" lists, including The New York Times. 

Still planning to finish Jann Arden's new book, "Feeding My Mother" and  "It's All Relative: Adventures Up & Down the World's Family Tree" by A.J. Jacobs. (Eventually... ;)  ) 

My sister recently procured a e-copy of "Fire & Fury: Inside the Trump White House" by Michael Wolff for me ;) and I recently purchased David Frum's "Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Empire."  And there's a new Flavia de Luce mystery ("The Grave's a Fine and Private Place") by Alan Bradley due out this week!  

Watching:  Hugely enjoying season 2 of "Victoria" on PBS! 

Coming up: two solid weeks of the Winter Olympics from Pyeongchang, Korea. :)  

And, after that, the return of "Designated Survivor" (which hasn't been on since a mid-season cliffhanger back in November). I find my interest in this one has dropped sharply -- too many ridiculous plots & subplots, many of which get dropped just as they start getting interesting -- but I will probably keep watching, just to see how things turn out. I like Kiefer Sutherland, and Maggie Q rocks as Agent Wells. :) 

One show we've been enjoying that I don't think I've mentioned in past posts:  Dh & I have been fans of "The Big Bang Theory" right from the beginning, and when I heard they were doing a "Young Sheldon" spinoff, I wasn't sure I was going to like it --  but it's actually turned out to be a very sweet little show. A little more of a traditional family sitcom than TBBT (very different tone) -- but good in its own right. I did not realize until just recently that Zoe Perry, who plays Young Sheldon's mom, is the real-life daughter of Laurie Metcalfe, who plays Sheldon's mom on TBBT!  

On the big screen: this past month, we've seen three movies at the theatre, all of them really, really good: "Star Wars: The Last Jedi,"  "The Post" and "Darkest Hour."  

Listening:  To... nothing in particular lately...   

Following:  Progress on the townhouse construction project behind us.  Framing work continues;  I'd say about half of the 59 units are now visible as actual townshouses in some form. We recently saw two units listed for (re)sale (already??) online. One listing says it will be ready for occupancy in February 2018 (HAHAHAHAHAHA.....) (there's been progress, but not THAT much progress...!.  The other says June 2018, which seems somewhat more likely, although I'm thinking late summer/fall would be a better guess. 

Feeling:  Sick & tired of winter (and it's far from over yet...!).  :p  Welcome to February, my least-favourite month... and January was long & dreary enough as it was... 

Eating:  Latest thing: Miniature/baby potatos, skins on, cut in half, tossed in a bit of olive oil, sprinkled with salt &/or garlic powder & then roasted on a foil-covered pan in the oven, to be served alongside whatever else we're having. (You could probably add in some chopped-up veggies too.)  Generally, 20-30 minutes at 375-400F or so does the trick. Yum!      

Wearing:  A long-sleeved T-shirt from American Eagle, which I picked up in the after-Christmas sales for $10:  dark mauvey-pink and incredibly soft, cozy fabric, with the words "ROCK STAR" on it in big bold black letters, lol.  Perfect with yoga pants for hanging around the house on a cold winter's day! 

Buying (besides books, lol):  New makeup, in preparation for Younger Nephew's upcoming wedding. When I was getting ready for his fiancee's recent bridal shower, I realized I needed some new foundation & concealer -- because what I had was either separating a bit (the foundation -- the expiry date on the bottle was two years ago...!) or drying up (the concealer). It was the same stuff I'd had when I was still working (i.e., at least four years old). Clearly I am not using up my makeup as fast as I did when I was working and wearing it every day (even then, I didn't always use it up). 

So off to the Clinique counter I went... and I will probably be back again before the wedding for a few more things. I kind of hate to spend so much money on stuff that I am not going to use up before it gets old (they should sell sample sizes -- less wasteful) -- but I also hate to start experimenting with cheaper brands at this point in my life.  I've used mostly Clinique (& some Estee Lauder) skin care products & cosmetics for years and they've always worked well for me. I threw out a lot of my older makeup when I lost my job, and again when we moved -- and then again after the shower (clearly, I needed to do it again...) -- but I still have an embarrassing amount of stuff. Most makeup doesn't come with an expiry date, so I've started labelling any new stuff I get with the date I got it (month/year, or at least year) to help me decide what needs culling when. 

Trying:  Not to fret over stupid stuff that's mostly beyond my control anyway (which I've been doing more again lately -- not sure why...?).

Wanting:  To turn off my overactive brain for a while. :p    

Loving:  Cabin fever aside, I do love being cozy at home while the snow falls outside our big floor-to-ceiling windows.  :) 

Enduring:  Yet ANOTHER visit from Aunt Flo -- this time after just 28 days (previous absence was a record 146). I've never been a 28-day cycle girl in my life... and she decides to start NOW, when I'm 57 frickin' years old??!!  :p  GO. AWAY.  :p     

Hoping: That Yahoo Groups will fix whatever gremlin has been screwing up their operations lately, pronto... several of my groups are having difficulties. Activity has been sporadic, although not for lack of posting on our part... The messages that we try to send/post disappear into the ether, sometimes permanently, sometimes resurfacing days later. VERY frustrating! 

Dreading:  The launch of another "anniversary" cycle -- this time marking TWENTY YEARS -- on February 8, which was my LMP date for my pregnancy with Katie in 1998 -- the visit from Aunt Flo that kickstarted everything that led me down this road less travelled to where I am today...

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

"Darkest Hour" (& coldest!)

Dh & I went to see "Darkest Hour" Sunday afternoon -- about Winston Churchill during a few critical weeks in May 1940, between when he became prime minister of Great Britain and rallied his country to bring home the troops that had been stranded on the beaches at Dunkirk in France as the Nazis ran amok through Europe. The movie had already been & gone at the local multiplex, but happily was still playing at another multiplex about a 20-minute drive away.

UNhappily, when we arrived at the theatre, we were informed -- both by posted signs and by the ticket seller -- that several of the theatres, including ours, had NO HEAT.

"Ummm.... how cold IS it in there?" I asked.

"It's pretty cold," she said, but added, "Of course, everyone's tolerance level is different. You have 45 minutes to ask for your money back if you find it too uncomfortable."

We bought the tickets, bought our popcorn & went inside.

OK, it WAS a bit chilly. On the bright side, the weather has been slightly milder yesterday -- temperatures on Saturday were around the 8C mark (40sF), and just below 0C (32F) overnight -- so it wasn't as cold in there as it might have been. I was wearing a cozy sweater and a down-filled jacket, which I kept on (& zipped up). Eventually, though, my feet started getting cold, and my hands (even when I sat on them or tucked them inside my jacket pocket)(after finishing my popcorn, of course ;) ).  But it wasn't really cold enough to make me want to give up & leave.

Besides, we weren't the only people in the theatre -- and in fact, we were probably among the youngest, if not THE youngest there. We watched in amazement as two elderly ladies who looked to be in their 80s, one hobbling along with a cane, entered the theatre -- and then proceeded to navigate up the stairs, one step after another. Dh & I were sitting in about the 6th row up;  they wound up sitting right behind us. :) THEY weren't going anywhere (neither was anyone else); how could WE cut & run??  (The lady with the cane spoke with a British accent;  at the end of the movie, I heard her say, "I remember Dunkirk like it was yesterday!")

And we didn't WANT to leave. We'd been wanting to see this movie -- and it did not disappoint. I knew a fair bit of the history involved, but I still learned a lot. Gary Oldman (whom I always think of as Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols in "Sid & Nancy"!!) is amazing as Churchill, & completely deserving of the Oscar nomination he just got.

It was worth the chilly feet and icy hands. ;)