Thursday, August 27, 2015

Turn the page

From a friend's Facebook page.
Obviously, my boy-band-loving past continues to influence me as an adult, lol.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Blogging odds & ends

  • I feel like I haven't been posting anything lately (let alone anything of importance), since I got back from vacation, and was thinking I should write some kind of apology. Just haven't felt overly inspired to write.
  • Then I looked and realizef this will be my 11th post in 26 days so far this month;  i.e., I've had a post of some sort just about every other day or so in August.  Granted, most of those posts have been either book reviews or #MicroblogMondays posts. But posts, nevertheless. So I guess I should stop fretting. ;)  The muse will return, eventually...!
  • Over the last few days, I've had the bizarre experience of watching my comments disappear one after another into the ether. It mostly happens on WordPress or self-hosted blogs, it seems. In some cases, I've tried to rewrite/repost the comment -- only to see that one disappear too.  I mentioned this in private emails to Mel & Mali, and both discovered my wayward comments lurking in their spam folders -- but there are quite a few more instances where I didn't get in touch with the blogger. Not sure exactly what I'm doing wrong (and if anyone has any suggestions, let me know...!)(I've run malware and virus scans, just in case, but that still didn't seem to help) -- but if I often comment on your WordPress/self-hosted blog posts and you haven't seen anything from me lately, have a look in your spam folder. There might be something there.  ;)  

Monday, August 24, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: A royally good day :)

I came home last Thursday afternoon to a most welcome voice mail message:  a woman from the courthouse called to tell me my jury duty (which was to have begun today) had been cancelled and I was no longer required to attend. To say I was relieved is an understatement. :) 

Dh decreed that we would spend the day doing something I wanted to do, and so we headed into the city this morning. The Royal Ontario Museum has an excellent exhibit about Pompeii right now (a topic that has fascinated me since I was a kid), and we spent a few hours there. (I am sure you could spend the entire day there and still not see everything.)  We also walked around dh's old stomping grounds at the University of Toronto, and finished off the day with our favourite tourist attraction of all (lol) -- a visit to the nearby mega-bookstore. Definitely much preferable to jury duty.  ;)  

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

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Happiness is...

A Facebook find. :)
A hard lesson to learn (& one I am still learning, to some extent),
but a necessary one.

Monday, August 17, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

Coming up blank for a #MM topic, so here's a dump of some of the stuff running around my brain right now (good old bullet points, lol):

*  It's HOT. And HUMID. July-type weather. Even at 8 a.m. in the morning. Makes it hard to go for our regular walks. Thank goodness for air conditioning (although the a/c in the car is starting to go...!).
*  The back-to-school posts on Facebook started last Monday (Aug. 10th)(!!) among my U.S. friends & relatives. I find the back-to-school hoopla hard enough to deal with (and especially this year, as I blogged a few months ago), and it doesn't help matters when it starts in mid-August & stretches right through mid-September. :p  School doesn't start here until after Labour Day, thank goodness. I do feel sorry for the kids (& teachers!) who have to go in August, when everyone else is still on vacation -- although, granted, they also tend to get out of school in mid-May while kids here go right until the end of June. I guess it all evens out in the wash... But September does seem to be a more fitting time for back-to-school stuff. I guess I'm a traditionalist. ;)
*  I keep having recurring dreams along the same theme (had another one last night): I run into someone from my old office, and they tell me it was all a terrible mistake (i.e., letting me go) & they want me back. So I go back to work (and my old desk & files are in a horrible mess :p ), but everyone is giving me stinkeye & wants to know what I'm doing there -- so I slink off in embarrassment again. :p  It's been over a year, already;  I wish they would stop. :p  I know I am better off these days without the stress (which has only multiplied since I left, or so I hear) -- but I guess being told you're not wanted after 28 years of loyal service & mostly good work is a real blow to the ego. :p  And I guess my subconscious is still smarting, and processing that. :p
*  Between the never-ending U.S. 2016 election campaign and our own Canadian federal election (which was called on Aug. 2nd -- for an election on Oct. 19th!! -- that's a very LONG campaign in Canadian election terms, one of the longest in history), I am already thoroughly sick of politics and politicians. :p  I used to adore politics;  I added political science as a second honours subject when I was at university because I loved it so much. I was a card-carrying member of a political party for a few years, and I seriously thought about trying to get a job on Parliament Hill in Ottawa or at Queen's Park (the Ontario legislature) after graduation. I guess that's the naievete (sp?) of youth for you -- I am so glad now that I didn't. It's a very high-pressure, cut-throat sort of atmosphere, and I have learned that I am just not that kind of person. (I wound up getting enough of that in the job I did eventually land, lol.) 

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

Friday, August 14, 2015

Book: "Between a Heart and a Rock Place" by Pat Benatar

Pat Benatar's first album, "In the Heat of the Night," came out in 1979, just as I was graduating high school and starting university. To say it was a huge hit would be an understatement. She quickly became THE female rock star of the era -- lithe, sexy, fierce, and wow, what a voice!! As proof of her influence, her video of "You Better Run" (a cover of a 1960s Young Rascals song that was on one of the first albums my sister & I owned as kids) was the second video ever played on MTV (right after "Video Killed the Radio Star" by the Buggles).  

Much as I loved Benatar's music back in the day, I hadn't thought much about her lately -- until I recently watched a video clip where she and her husband/guitar player, Neil Giraldo (also known as "Spyder"), talk about the first time they met. (It was love at first sight.)  That reminded me that I had Benatar's 2010 memoir, "Between a Heart and a Rock Place," in my gargantuan to-read pile (the digital one, on my e-reader). I was looking for something light to read on my e-reader while waiting for SIL at a lengthy dental appointment recently -- and I finished it later the same day. (It's not a long nor difficult read.)  The meeting that Benatar describes in the video also forms the introduction of her book, and led to a partnership that has lasted more than 35 years.

Any respect I already had for Benatar was magnified by the time I finished reading this book. In some ways, this is not your typical celebrity/rock star memoir. There's rock & roll, for sure, but very little sex and no drugs -- she cheerfully admits she's boring. (Probably the biggest trouble she admits to getting into was as a teenager, when a clam boat she was on got into an accident and had to be towed by the Coast Guard, making her four hours late for supper.)

Benatar does, however, have plenty to say about her battles with the music industry, over everything from contracts to proper recognition for Giraldo's contributions to her albums to the blatant sexism she endured.  She clashed multiple times with the record company over the sex-kitten image they were determined to promote on her behalf, fended off invitations to sit on radio DJs' laps and was even chased around a piano by an ardent industry executive. She drove the label executives nuts by refusing to keep her romance with Giraldo a secret (female rock stars were supposed to project "availability"), and then getting pregnant. When Benatar started, radio stations wouldn't play two women singers back to back;  in the 1990s, she played some dates on Lilith Fair tours, where she proudly connected with a new generation of strong female music stars who had been inspired by her example.

Eventually, Benatar & Giraldo were able to take control of their career and use some hard-won lessons to their advantage. As Benatar herself says near the book's end, "While I made a pretty good rock star, I made an even better businesswoman."

Over a 35+-year career/professional partnership/marriage, Benatar & Giraldo have managed to stay focused on their music and on maintaining a normal family life. In later years, tours were limited to the summer months to accommodate their kids' school schedules.

Perhaps they value family so much because theirs was hard won. Yes -- what do you know???  Pat Benatar is "one of us." She does not mention fertility treatments, but she and Giraldo tried to have a baby for two years before their daughter Haley was born;  it took nine more years to conceive their second daughter, Hana, with an ectopic pregnancy in between.

Pat, you were a hero to me 35 years ago, and you're even more of a hero to me now that I've read your story. :)

This was book #20 that I've read to date in 2015 (which equals the total number of books I read in all of 2014!)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Book: "All That is Bitter & Sweet" by Ashley Judd

Someone once told me they thought I looked like Ashley Judd (!). I don't quite see it (maybe 30 years and 50 pounds ago??) but I took it as a huge compliment. I've always enjoyed Judd in all the movies I've seen her in, and I've always thought she was beautiful. Beyond acting, I also knew she was a strong feminist, an activist, and that she went back to school in her 40s to get her master's degree in public administration -- from Harvard, no less!!  And, of course, she's the younger daughter & sister of country singers Naomi & Wynonna Judd.

Judd is also the author (with Marianne Vollers) of a 2011 memoir, All That is Bitter & Sweet, based on her personal diaries. I thought it might be an interesting read, and picked it up about a year ago. I only just now finished it.

I've mentioned before that I have a fondness/weakness for Hollywood/celebrity memoirs. This was not one of them -- at least, not a typical one. Yes, Judd does discuss her acting career and some of the famous people she's met along the way -- but that is not the focus of this book, or of Judd's life, for that matter. Acting may pay the bills, but Judd's life passion is clearly for her humanitarian work, particularly on behalf of women and girls, and mostly in concert with Population Services International (PSI), which has taken her to slums, brothels and clinics in developing countries such as Cambodia, India, Rwanda and Congo.  The book describes her travels on behalf of PSI and the sometimes horrifying personal stories of the women and children she met in mind-numbing detail.

It's overwhelming for us to read -- and it has been overwhelming for Judd to live through. After a couple of years of such trips, and finding it increasingly difficult to cope emotionally, she realized she needed to resolve the needs of her own neglected inner child. In 2006, she checked herself into an intensive 42-day rehabilitation program at Shades of Hope, a treatment facility in Buffalo Gap, Texas, where she tackled deep-rooted issues of depression and co-dependency. Growing up, Judd was bounced around among various relatives and often left to fend for herself while her mother worked as a nurse and doggedly pursued a career in country music with her older daughter.

At the time she wrote the book, Judd was married to race car driver Dario Franchitti, and she describes how they met and got married in a Scottish castle. He's more absent than present in this book, however, and since its publication, they have divorced.  No doubt their busy careers and the long spells apart that Judd describes in the book had something to do with it.

On the ALI front (you knew there had to be an ALI angle to this, right?? ;) ), Judd is childfree by choice.  In the book, she explains:
The fact is that I have chosen not to have children because I believe the children who are already here are really mine, too. I do not need to go making 'my own' babies when there are so many orphaned or abandoned children who need love, attention, time, and care. I have felt this way since I was at least eighteen and I had an argument about it with a childhood friend…I figured it was selfish for us to pour our resources into making our 'own' babies when those very resources and energy could not only help children already here, but through advocacy and service transform the world into a place where no child ever needs to be born into poverty and abuse again. My belief has not changed. It is a big part of who I am.
I admire Ashley Judd hugely for all she has accomplished, personally and professionally, and overall, this was a thoughtful and absorbing book. It's a worthy read, especially if you are interested in her life & work, or in global feminist/humanitarian causes generally. But it's not an easy book to get through (there's a reason why it took me a full year, on & off...!). The subject matter, while worthy of attention, is difficult (you probably NEED to take a break from it every now & then); the language, while powerful and eloquent, includes a little too much spiritual and 12-step recovery movement jargon for my liking. At 470 pages (!), it probably could have been 100 pages shorter, and still gotten its messages across effectively. 

I'd give it three stars out of five.

This was book #19 that I've read to date in 2015.