Friday, February 24, 2017

"Shoulder the Sky" by D.E. Stevenson

"Shoulder the Sky" (also known as "Winter and Rough Weather") by D.E. Stevenson is the third volume in a trilogy my DES Yahoo group has been reading and discussing, including previous selections "Vittoria Cottage" and "Music in the Hills."   

Newlyweds James & Rhoda, whose on-again-off-again romance unfolded in the pages of the previous two books, return to the Scottish border country to run Boscath Farm, adjacent to Mureth, the sheep farm owned by James's aunt & uncle, Mamie & Jock.  It is beautiful but isolated, and a huge change in lifestyle for Rhoda, an artist who has been living in London, but gradually, she adapts. She & James make friends with the new young doctor in town & his sister, and she takes a special interest in Duggie, the son of Mamie's housekeeper and a budding artist himself.  A big winter storm becomes the catalyst that brings several conflicts and mysteries to their resolution. 

Like many DES novels, not much really happens in "Shoulder the Sky."  It's a light, fast read from a different, simpler time (first published in 1951) -- but it's engaging writing and endearing characters. It's just the thing to curl up with on the couch on a cold winter's day, with a cup of tea close at hand. :) 

This was book #5 that I've read so far this year, bringing me to 21% of my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Et tu, George?? (Odds & ends: The celebrity pregnancy edition)

  • George Clooney (age 55) & his lovely (and highly accomplished) wife Amal (age 39) recently announced that they are expecting -- not just A baby, but (of course!!) twins -- a boy & a girl.  I have to admit, I groaned when I heard. (Et tu, George?) 
  • Factoring in the ages of the parents & the fact that it's twins, I'm going to take a wild guess and assume it's likely that fertility treatments were involved. In other words, definitely not an "oops" pregnancy. 
  • Until now, of course, George had been famously adamant that he was not cut out for fatherhood -- and I believed him. Of course, he was also once famously adamant that he would never get married again, so perhaps we should have taken his other "never" pronouncements with a grain of salt. :p  ;)  
  • Both Laura & Karen at The NotMom posted recently about the Clooney pregnancy. (Both worth a read.)  As Laura said, "We’re looking for others who share our experiences. Women without children, whether they’ve made the choice for themselves or had it made for them, are just looking for others who understand. And when those others are celebrities, we feel proud and excited... we don’t have that any more. We feel betrayed even though we have no right or justification to feel that way."
  • I am not going to begrudge anyone a baby if they really, really want one... and I realize that everyone has the prerogative of changing their minds.  But it would be really, REALLY nice to see a celebrity who says they are happy without children... and stays that way. (Jennifer Aniston, I'm looking at you... ;) )
  • The other celebrity who is pregnant with twins right now is, of course, Beyoncé. I will never forget how she announced her pregnancy with Blue Ivy at the MTV awards in 2011, ripping away her jacket to expose her pregnant belly -- which, in case we didn't get the picture, she proceeded to massage with a huge, self-satisfied smile on her face. 
  • This time, she announced her pregnancy by releasing a series of over-the-top photos that showed off her expanding belly (including lingerie, veils and enough flowers to stock a small florist shop). 
  • As if that weren't enough, she turned the recent Grammy awards show into a celebration of pregnancy & motherhood (hers most of all -- her outfit & performance were obviously designed to show off her pregnant belly to the max).  I didn't watch, but I saw photos & clips later.   
  • "At the Grammys, Beyoncé and Adele Talk Up Motherhood," the New York Times noted, gushing that "Beyoncé was a serene fertility goddess, her gold headdress and necklace sparkling, exulting in the bonds of maternity and the power of a woman’s body to give life."  "Stunning," read other headlines that I saw. (I was stunned, all right...)
  • Yes, I have a bad case of sour grapes. :p
  • As Karen wrote, "I like to think that I am “past” the grieving that childless-by-chance women endure. I’ve found acceptance, right?... And yet, Beyonce’s news made me think, “Good Lord, does she have to get everything?!” "
  • I do realize that she had a miscarriage before Blue Ivy... and the presence of twins, and the age gap between them & her daughter probably indicates that they are the result of infertility treatment. Somehow, though, that doesn't make me feel better. 
  • Please tell me I'm not the only one to react to these celebrity pregnancy announcements like this... 

Monday, February 20, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Family Day 2017

It's Family Day here in Ontario (& several other Canadian provinces) -- a holiday which (as I have often complained in the past ;) )  the politicians made up about 10 years ago so that we could have a much-needed mid-winter break (OK, I can live with that... ;) ) -- but then slapped a label on it to demonstrate their "family-friendliness." And you know when they envisioned "Family Day," they weren't thinking about families that deviate from two parents (preferably one of each gender) and at least one kid. Certainly not "families of two," such as dh & me.

So I was grateful to one of my Facebook friends (whom we met through our pg loss support group) who posted this definition of "family" earlier this morning:

Much more inclusive, don't you think?  :)

I hope most if not all of you (at least those of you in North America) have a holiday today, & that it's a good one. :) 

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

Thursday, February 16, 2017

"The Lost City of Z" by David Grann

The Lost City of Z:  A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann had been languishing in my to-read pile for the last few years. I was finally prompted to pick it up when I learned about an upcoming movie adaptation (to be released in April) (and I love that, in the trailers I've seen, they pronounce "Z" as "Zed," in the British/Canadian fashion!).

I don't know why books like "The Lost City of Z" (and, for example, "Into the Silence" by Wade Davis, a few years back) fascinate me so much. I loved learning about North American explorers such as Samuel de Champlain and Pierre de la Verendrye and Alexander Mackenzie when I was in school -- and Daniel Boone was my childhood hero! -- so maybe it's the allure of discovering new worlds. (Or perhaps it's because I know it's something I would never, ever do myself, lol.)

"The Lost City of Z" tells the true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett, who made multiple trips to the Amazon jungle in the early part of the 20th century -- first to map the region for the Royal Geographic Society, and then to pursue his growing obsession with finding a lost city of untold riches. Some called it El Dorado;  Fawcett called it Z. Fawcett, along with his son Jack, disappeared into the jungle for the final time in 1925 in search of Z. The book also tells the stories of subsequent expeditions mounted to learn what happened to Fawcett -- including the author's personal journey to pick up the trail, more than 75 years later.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. Having said that, I'm debating whether to see the movie. Be forewarned, this is not a book for the squeamish (it doesn't overly dwell on the "ick" factor -- but it's there...), and I can just imagine how it will translate onto film...! Reading about the bugs, snakes (like Indiana Jones, I HATE SNAKES), parasites, piranhas, cannibals (!) and other creatures that have made exploration of the Amazon so difficult was cringe-inducing (and reminded me why I haven't been camping in 40 years, let alone trekking into the Amazon).  Fawcett and his men (not to mention their poor horses and other animals) endured incredible hardship, and it's amazing to me that he returned not just once but several times over the years (he came to believe he was invincible). It was also sobering to read the author's descriptions of what's happened to the Amazon in the years since Fawcett first explored the area:  huge swaths of the jungle have been clearcut or burned in the name of commerce, altering the ecosystem, perhaps irreversably.

The ending was not quite what I expected, and still leaves many questions unanswered -- but it was satisfying in its own way.  (Kind of like life after infertility & loss, lol.) 

This was book #4 that I've read so far in 2017, bringing me to 17% of my Goodreads Reading Challenge Goal for this year of 24 books.

Monday, February 13, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Things I am happy about today

Okay, I will admit I've been wallowing in my annual "I hate February" mode lately, perhaps a little too much. ;)  Time for some positivity!  Taking my cue from Mali, here are some things that are making me happy today: 

*  Aunt Flo is taking her leave after her latest visit (and good riddance, lol). (I suppose it's too much to hope that it might be for the last time??)
*  Watching America go gaga over our prime minister as he visited Washington today ;)  (and, more importantly, watching him more than hold his own in his public appearances with The Donald).
*  It's after 6 p.m. as I type this... and the sun is JUST starting to set -- i.e., it's staying lighter longer again. Progress! 
* There's even a bit of a sunset visible tonight :)  -- something we haven't really seen in a while.
*  We even saw some sun today, after snow all day yesterday.
*  (While I'm getting pretty tired of the snow, it WAS kind of pretty, watching it coming down yesterday.) (AND -- we don't have to shovel it!!)
* Living close enough to BIL & family that he can call us to come over for coffee (as he did last night after supper) -- and we can hop in the car and be there 15 minutes later. 
*  Being able to stop by to visit with SIL regularly as she recovers from surgery, and bring her the occasional treat from Starbucks or soup for lunch.
*  Chatting with an old friend on the phone today.
*  Looking forward to a trip to the mall tomorrow.
* Tomorrow is also Valentine's Day :) 

What's making you happy today?

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

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The best-laid plans...

Pretty much...!!  ;)
(A Facebook find from Intelligence is Sexy)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Now is the winter of our discontent

Let me count the ways... (I know, I'm mixing my Shakespearean metaphors here...)
  • Aunt Flo is here. Again. :p  (Day 30, more or less right on schedule. At age 56!!!)
  • We had freezing rain on Tuesday (I'd rather have a blizzard, quite frankly :p ). Today there is actually some sun, but it is cold (-13C, -20C windchill when I got up this morning). And it looks like we may be getting more snow tomorrow.
  • I love our condo, and I love how our floor to ceiling windows let in so much natural light -- but damn, the floors near them get pretty cold...!  :p  (Laminate  in the main areas, ceramic tile in the kitchen, entryway and bathrooms.)  (Granted, even the carpeted floors near the windows in our old house could get pretty cold too sometimes...)
  • The leak in the sprinkler system in our front hall closet has been fixed for almost two weeks, but there's still a hole in the ceiling to be patched (and thus, all the stuff we removed from the closet remains on the floor of my spare bedroom/office). :p  Dh messaged the property manager earlier this week and asked him to arrange to have it fixed. He said he would, but so far, the hole remains.  
  • I am going stir crazy. :p
  • While I was happy to see my girlfriend on Monday night (and get out of the house, lol), I was sad to learn she is moving. Not right away, but eventually, probably within the year. Back to our mutual home province, where she still has lots of friends & family. She was widowed a few years ago, and her stepchildren don't have much to do with her (she has no children of her own), and the cost of living is lower there. We only saw each other a few times a year, since we live in different parts of this vast metropolitan area (albeit I've moved closer to her now), but I knew she was always game to meet me for lunch, an outing to a craft show or sometimes a matinee at the theatre. And she is one of the few people hereabouts who knew me from "back home." I will miss her. :(
  • Matching the gloominess of the weather, the political news from the U.S. is enormously depressing. Although sometimes you just have to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.  I saw an article yesterday speculating that Sarah Palin may be a candidate for ambassador to Canada!!! (Geez, America, what did we ever do to you to deserve THAT??!!) 
  • On a somewhat related note, I noticed earlier this week that someone had quietly unfriended me on Facebook.  I have been unfriended a couple of times before, but either the relationship was not that important to me or the circumstances were such that it didn't really bother me. Without getting too specific -- this time it does. :(  I don't know for sure why I was unfriended, but I am pretty certain it's related to our opposing political views. I haven't posted a lot directly that's politically inclined, but I have posted some items on specific issues that are important to me, related to freedom of the press, "fake news" and how to spot it, and the Women's March. I've also "liked" a lot of news articles from the New York Times and other such sources that may have turned up on people's news feeds. I only wish this person had simply "unfollowed" me -- they wouldn't have had to put up with any posts from me that they found offensive or contradictory to their views, and I never would have been the wiser. Dh has encouraged me to just send this person another friend request and see what happens. I may or may not. I'm not in a hurry -- I think a bit of a cooling off period will do both of us good -- I don't want any big confrontations. 
  • It's the Family Day long weekend here in Ontario. :p I know it's a long weekend (in February), but bah humbug. :p 
Thanks for reading/listening to me whine!