Friday, February 5, 2016

Such a fine sight to see...

I've been listening a lot to the Eagles lately (again), and humming "Take it Easy" and "Already Gone" in the shower.  I'm sure I'm not the only one.

David Bowie's death in mid-January, at 69, was sad and shocking -- but I will admit he was never one of my favourites, growing up -- although I certainly knew his music, and grew to like and respect it more in later years. As a teenager in the '70s, growing up in a small town on the Prairies, he just seemed kind of weird, lol.

A few days later, someone posted a list on Facebook showing the ages of a long list of classic rockers, all over the age of 65 (see left), with the reminder "Appreciate them while we can." It was a sobering read. I mean, I know that Paul McCartney is less than a year younger than my mother (!) -- but to see all those names and ages all together was a sad reminder that they're not getting any younger (and -- cough, cough -- neither are we).  :( 

"Grace Slick is 76??!!"  I noted as I shared the post on Facebook. And a few days later, Paul Kantner, her bandmate in Jefferson Airplane (and father of her daughter, China), was dead at 74 -- as was Signe Anderson, the singer Slick replaced.

But Glenn Frey's sudden death at the age of 69, not long after Bowie's, was a shocker. Suddenly, it seems like the musical heroes of my growing up years, the guys (and girls) who provided the soundtrack of my youth -- at least, the ones who survived into middle and older age -- are starting to drop like flies. :(

It's not like I had posters of the Eagles on my bedroom wall or anything like that. (That honour was reserved for David Cassidy, Donny Osmond and, later, the Bay City Rollers, lol.  And, at university, Peter Frampton, Bruce Springsteen -- and Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, lol.) 

But they were THERE -- always there -- a constant presence on the airwaves and on the stereo, from the time I was entering my teens in the early 1970s, through "The Long Run" which came out in the fall of 1979, just as I was entering university, to their breakup the following year -- and ever since then, on the classic rock radio stations I've always loved to listen to.

I remember taking a multi-day high school band trip, where one of the guys brought along a boombox (powered by slowly dying batteries, lol) and three cassette tapes, which we played ad nauseum. I forget what one of them was, but the other two were Frank Zappa's "Sheik Yerbouti" and the Eagles' "Hotel California." Needless to say, I knew "Hotel California" inside and out by the time the trip was over. (And, for a while, was thoroughly sick of it, lol.) 

The Eagles played a concert locally in late July 1978 -- the Steve Miller Band was the WARMUP act (can you imagine??!). They were also huge at the time -- but nobody was bigger than the Eagles. I don't know why I didn't go -- many of my friends did. I did some Googling to confirm the date and found a news story that mentioned tickets were just $13!!!  I wound up babysitting for a couple who went. I remember thinking how cool that was, to have a mom & dad going to a rock concert. They threw some blankets and bottles of beer in the back seat of the car, and returned home several hours past midnight ( = big payday for me!). No cellphones back then to call to check on the kids!

My future husband -- an even bigger Eagles fan than I am -- saw them a few days later in Toronto. In 1994, the band reunited for their "Hell Freezes Over" tour. Ticket prices were exhorbitant, and hard to get, so we didn't go. A young girl at dh's office asked him if he was going. "No," he responded, "but I saw them on the Hotel California tour in 1978." Her jaw dropped. "HOW OLD ARE YOU???" she gasped. (Answer: In his late 30s at the time.) We laughed about it, then and now, but it was a reminder of the passage of time, and the growing generation gap we were starting to feel.

We watched "History of the Eagles" on CNN last weekend (parts 1 & 2, over four hours, including commercials). It opened with a clip of the band backstage, singing the first lines of "Seven Bridges Road," a cappella. Those harmonies!! Instant chills.

And a profound sense of loss.

A couple of great related articles on this:

Monday, February 1, 2016

#MicroblogMondays: Today, it's official!

Back in the '70s, there was a popular saying (in fact, I seem to remember it as a commercial jingle/song), "Today is the first day of the rest of your life." That little jingle has been running through my head the last few days as I approached this day.

Of course, EVERY day is the first day of the rest of your life, right?  ;) -- but today feels just slightly special because it's my first official day as a PENSIONER. Yes -- technically, I haven't worked since July 22, 2014 -- but as of today, February 1st, 2016, I'm officially retired. Freedom 55 lives!! lol 

It feels like this day has been a long time coming. (I know, it probably feels like it for you readers too, right?? lol -- sorry!)  I never got to have a retirement party or say goodbye to my coworkers the way I imagined. :(  But dh is taking me out for lunch to celebrate.  A nice way to kick off February (my least favourite month) and the official start of this new phase in my/our life.

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

Thursday, January 28, 2016

First Daughter/Only Daughter

I recently picked up Peter Slevin's biography of U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama (now in paperback).

As I was idly flipping through the pages, my eye fell on this sentence: "Michelle gave birth to Malia Ann Obama, their first daughter, on July 4, 1998."

Holy crap. That gave me pause. How did I not realize this before?

I knew Malia was graduating from high school this year. Her father talks about it often. (I recently heard that he has declined an invitation to address Malia's class's graduation ceremony, saying he knows he's going to be too emotional that day. Understandable that he'd want to just be one of the dads that day.) 

For some reason -- perhaps because I'd never seen Malia's birthdate before, perhaps because I've been mentally blocking it?? -- I just never put two and two together -- i.e., that she & Katie would be exactly the same age. I lost Katie in early August 1998, almost exactly a month after Malia was born.

In a way, I am glad I didn't figure this out earlier. The last seven years would have been tougher if I knew there was a yardstick in the White House, telling me just how big Katie might have been now, when she might have gotten her driver's license, what she might have been wearing, (how many times she rolled her eyes at her father, lol), etc.

Now I just have to get through the rest of this school year -- prom, graduation & off-to-college season. The President (who is, for the record, exactly the same age as I am, albeit I was born in January and he was born in August) probably won't be the only one emotional about what his oldest daughter is up to, albeit for somewhat different reasons. :(

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

"Listening Valley" by D.E. Stevenson

As the new year began, I started reading yet another novel by D.E. Stevenson (1892-1973), an author I first discovered and enjoyed as a teenager, and whose books are happily being reissued and discovered by a whole new generation of readers.

Listening Valley is the latest selection under discussion by my online Stevenson fan group. Part of the book takes place in the same setting as Celia's House and features some of the same characters, although it's not really a sequel. Still, to get the most out of "Listening Valley," I'd recommend reading "Celia's House" first.

Growing up in pre-WWII Edinburgh, shy, clumsy Tonia (short for Antonia) & her older, bolder sister Louise (Lou) live a sheltered life in the care of their Nannie, mostly neglected by their parents. Then Nannie retires, Lou gets married and Tonia is forced to "make friends with life" as the war begins to cast its shadows. Tragedy brings Tonia back to Edinburgh from London, where she has begun to carve out a new life as an adult -- and then a twist of fate sends her to the Scottish countryside, where she makes new friends -- and encounters a special old one.

This book was published in 1944, while the Second World War was still being fought, and it's very much a book of its times. The ending ties up the loose plot ends nicely, but -- with the war still going on -- it's necessarily ambiguous.  It can't be a completely happy ending while the war is still being fought.  And I loved it for that.

As with most Stevenson novels, "Listening Valley" is a little old-fashioned -- the kind of novel you don't see much of these days -- warm and sweet. It can't really be pigeon-holed -- it's got a bit of romance, a bit of social commentary, a bit of a character study, a look at life on the home front during WWII (moss-gathering, anyone??), a bit of mystery... The plot changes directions several times (which is not always entirely satisfying, but keeps readers on their toes!).  It's about home, and family, and finding your place in the world.

As the cover blurb says, "This heartwarming novel is the literary equivalent of a comforting cup of cocoa on a cozy winter's evening." Don't try to analyze too much or to look at this (or any of Stevenson's novels) with a jaded modern eye -- just accept that this was written in a different time and place, take it from there, and enjoy. :)

This is book #2 that I've read so far in 2016. 

*** *** ***

I wrote about how I rediscovered Stevenson's books (which I first found, read & enjoyed hugely as a teenager) here.  Over the past year or so, I've read & reviewed five other recently reissued Stevenson novels, in conjunction with my online group: 

Miss Buncle's Book
Miss Buncle Married/The Two Mrs. Abbotts
The Four Graces (probably my favourite to date...!)
Celia's House

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Celine & me, redux

If you've followed my blog for a while, you'll know I've had a love-hate relationship with Celine Dion over the years.  ;)  Everything about her has always seemed just a little too over the top for my tastes -- her singing style, her elaborate wedding (& the Arabian Nights-themed second wedding on their anniversary, a few years later), the interviews where she overshares about everything in her life. And yet she seems very genuine -- no artifice about her. (She's Canadian!! lol ;)  )  I have no doubt she & her husband were devoted to each other -- which made me sad when he passed away recently (followed just a few days later by one of her brothers at a far-too-young age).

Part of my ambivalence, of course, stems from Celine's very public struggles to get and stay pregnant -- and the fact that she succeeded (twice, including a set of twins), where I did not. As I wrote in a previous blog post:
She announced her first pregnancy in 2000, while I was mired deep in the muck of infertility treatment... I vividly remember lining up at the clinic early in the morning for our ultrasounds (it was like an assembly line) & hearing one of her songs on the radio they were piping through the office, while reading about her pregnancy in the morning newspaper. “I’ll bet SHE never had to stand in line at 7 a.m. with her butt hanging out of a hospital gown, " I said to the girl in line next to me. And of course, not long after she finally had the baby in January 2001, she shouted her joy to the world -- including in a song ("A New Day"), which the radio played ad nauseum, while I was licking my wounds & trying to revise my life plans to NOT include children. Thanks, Celine...
It was a strange feeling to see that baby, her son, Rene-Charles, all grown up at 15, escorting his elderly grandmother into the Notre-Dame cathedral, supporting his widowed mother & eulogizing his father. And thinking that Katie would be that much older than him still (17 now, and no doubt waiting for early acceptance into the university(s) of her choice right now...).

The relentless march of time is a strange and wonderous thing to witness, sometimes....

Monday, January 25, 2016

#MicroblogMondays: In a ranty mood

*  Someone on my Facebook feed -- the young father of three children under the age of 5 -- posted one of those "Goodfellas" memes the other day, with a photo of Ray Liotta laughing hysterically, and the caption, "When people without kids tell me they're exhausted" and the accompanying comment, "Sounds about right." (Grrrrr.....)
*  So I was happy to see this response from advice columnist Carolyn Hax (via a FB share from Gateway Women):   "Call out friend who thinks childless means not busy." Choice quote (one suggested response): "Yes, I'm all naps & bonbons."  ROFL!!
*  The idea that no kids = life of leisure is one of my big pet peeves. I've posted on this topic several times in the past, including here
*  And while I'm in a ranty mood on the topic of parents vs non ;)  here's another great post I found on FB recently:  "Yes, I CAN judge your kids." Nancy Roman is 64 and blogs at Not Quite Old, as well as repostings at Huff/Post 50, about her life, including aging and not having children. (The last line of this post is quite the kicker.) I'm looking forward to reading more from her in the future!

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

Friday, January 22, 2016

Odds & ends

  • Whereas I couldn't seem to stop spewing out blog posts all through December  ;) I'm finding it difficult to think of things to write about right now. Oh well. I've been blogging long enough to know that this isn't unusual and eventually, the muse will return. And when I look, I see I've already published 10 posts so far this month, i.e., an average of one every two days or so. So perhaps I'm making mountains out of molehills. ;)
  • I was busy this week tackling some paperwork & making some phone calls related to my pension and retiree benefits. One more week, and I am officially retired (and on a pension). It's a day that I've waited for and looked forward to for a long, long time -- and now that it's here, it doesn't quite seem real or possible. (Maybe because it didn't happen in exactly the way I thought it would?)  
  • I mentioned all this on one of my regular message boards, and one of my friends there commented that I seem too young to be called a pensioner. :)  I sure feel that way...! In my mind, I'm a not a day over 30. Maybe even 20, sometimes. ;)
  • But then!  I was looking through the advertising flyers that came with the local newspaper, and saw that the drugstore near us is having "seniors days" next week. And then I looked at the fine print, and it hit me: I just turned 55. I QUALIFY FOR THE SENIORS DAY DISCOUNT NOW.  Kind of gave me pause...! :p
  • Of course, 20% off (regular price items) is 20% off. Not many places offer seniors discounts to 55-year-olds anymore. And, like I said, starting next week, I'm on a pension. So I guess I'll take it. ;)  Gives "carding" a whole new meaning...!  
  • Mel was posting about the mega-blizzard they are predicting for the eastern seaboard of the U.S. this weekend.  As I told her in my comment, I have to admit -- dh & I kind of snickered when we saw the footage on TV of a massive traffic jam caused by ONE INCH of snow in the Washington, D.C., area.  It seems like these days, every time it's forecasted to snow more than a couple of inches, the media blows it into this huge catastrophic thing (Snowpocalypse!! Snowmaggedon!!) -- which often doesn't amount to anything. But 40 inches (which is what I understand some areas might get) is a massive amount, no matter where you live. It's just that,  because we get more snow more frequently here, we’re a whole lot better prepared to deal with it.  
  • I can only remember two times in 28+ years that I wasn't able to get to work because of the winter weather. The first time was in mid-December 1992, before Christmas. It started snowing one afternoon, and when we got up the next morning, there had been a huge amount of snow overnight. We knew we weren't going to be able to get the car out of the driveway, but we figured we could walk over to the bus stop on the main road, and the bus would take us to the commuter train station. We set out, & our next door neighbour (out shovelling his driveway) saw us. "Where do you think you're going??" he said. We explained, and in a "you idiots" tone of voice, he told us the main roads hadn't been ploughed yet either, and the buses weren't running (the trains probably weren't either). (This was pre-Internet days -- but if we'd thought to turn on the radio or TV, they probably would have told us as much.)  We meekly went back into the house, where we stayed all day (except for poor dh, who had to shovel us out). 
  • The second time was in January 1999, when the mayor of Toronto called in the army to help dig the city out (much to the amusement of the rest of Canada) after more than 118 cm of snow (i.e., 46+ inches) fell in a little over a week. I don't remember if the trains were even running the day we stayed home, but they were the next. Dh knew he'd be expected at work, so I went in too, much to the amazement of my colleagues who managed to make it in from much less further away. 
  • Our house is on a corner lot in a "square" and there's a fair expanse of pavement in front of our house. The snowplows left a huge pile of snow right in the middle of the street in front of our house, and for the next several weeks, the neighbourhood kids had a blast climbing all over it and even tobogganing down it.
  • Some photos & videos for you:  
December 1992 snowstorm:  Our deck & backyard shed.

Dh shovels us out after the snowstorm of December 1992.
The next-door neighbours (to the right of this photo) were away
and had snow drifted halfway up their garage door.

    Most of the photos I took after the blizzards of January 1999 aren't any clearer than this, unfortunately. 
    This is the big mini-mountain of snow the ploughs left in front of our house. 

    A 2007 satirical sketch from Rick Mercer (a beloved Canadian comedian):
    "Snow! In Toronto!!"
    (Still trying to live down the blizzard of 1999...!)

    And, more recently: Syrian refugee children experience the joys of tobogganing for the first time. :)