Monday, December 15, 2014

Pre-holiday whine (make mine chardonnay...)

SPOILER ALERT:  Last week was the series finale of Republic of Doyle, a CBC-TV comedy-drama series set in Newfoundland about a father-son private detective team. It ran for six seasons, and I probably started watching somewhere around season 3. The plots have sometimes been a bit silly and unrealistic (who knew there was so much crime on the Rock??), but I have loved the beautiful scenery (each episode is like an hour-long travel ad for Newfoundland), the dry humour, the sharp dialogue and the colourful characters, particularly the interplay between the father (Malachy) and Jake, his rogue of a youngest son.

Towards the end of the finale, Jake's romantic interest, Police Sgt. Leslie Bennett, lay unconscious in a hospital bed with a gunshot wound. Jake had just learned she was pregnant with his child -- and his stepmom, Rose, with a grave face, told him the doctor needed to talk with him. Cut to a commercial (of course).

Naturally, given my own personal history, my first inclination was to wail, "She can't be having a miscarriage, not with 15 minutes left in the show!!"  Then the obvious dawned on me. "No -- wait -- DUH!! It's twins! The doctor wants to tell him it's twins!"

And sure enough, in the final moments of the show, we see a happy (and very pregnant -- again!!) Leslie with Rose (and Jake nearby), each holding an adorable toddler (boy & girl). Television can be so predictable sometimes... 

*** *** ***

Friday afternoon, we headed to the mall for haircuts (and some colour & highlights for me). Generally, it's great to be at the mall on a weekday -- much preferable to weekend crowds, especially at Christmastime...! -- but being a Friday afternoon just before Christmas, the parking lot was noticeably much fuller, there were lineups outside the Pandora & video game stores, and our stylist was already running well behind schedule, swamped with women having their hair cut, coloured and styled before Christmas parties later that night.

My appointment was for 12:30;  I didn't get into the chair until past 1 p.m. while she worked on two other women ahead of me, and while we had been told that someone else already had the slot between me & dh, she worked on two other women before he finally had his turn (and my husband is NOT good at waiting around... if your appointment is for 12:30, he thinks your butt should be in that chair by 12:35 at the latest).

(She is the wife of an old friend of dh's, so no, we will not be switching stylists. She also does our hair really well, lol. And she's been flexible with us when we've been running late to an appointment because of commuter train delays, etc.)

It was not entirely poor planning or overbooking on her part or the salon's.  "Everyone showed up late," she complained to me later, "and then they all HAD to leave by a certain time to pick up their kids from school." While I could relate to demanding customers and holiday pressures (having worked in retail at Christmastime myself, once upon a time), as a childless-not-by-choice woman (not to mention a longtime customer), what I heard was that my time and hair was considered less important than a mom's. I don't have kids to pick up;  therefore, my time is more flexible (and less important) and I must take a backseat.

In fact, it's assumed that I WILL take a backseat -- that I will understand & be willing to accommodate them. Put up & shut up. And I usually will. But it would be nice to be asked, not just assume.  Or it would be nice if, just once, someone who was late (mom or not) was told something like, "Sorry, you're late, I'm behind schedule myself and I have another client whose appointment was ahead of yours and she's still waiting. I can get to you in half an hour, or you can reschedule with the receptionist." 

By the way, it's been an eye-opener for me to witness the whole afternoon pickup phenomenon firsthand. I had heard about it from others -- but dh & I drive past several schools going to & from the local mall, often just as school is letting out in the afternoon (which can be as early as 2:30 p.m.!!). The streets are lined for blocks with cars full of travel mug-toting parents, pecking at their cellphones as they wait, while others walk by with their young charges.  Cars pull up to & away from the curb, sometimes without signalling.

It's ridiculous. It's also somewhat dangerous.  I can see why parents are nervous about having their kids (particularly the younger ones) walk home by themselves with all those cars & buses around -- but at the same time, by driving to school to pick them up (and most of them probably live within a reasonable walking distance anyway), they become part of the problem and not part of the solution.

I always walked to & from school by myself or with my sister (once she started school too), starting in kindergarten. (Six blocks, across a highway) (albeit not a particularly busy one -- it was a rural community in the 1960s).  So did all my classmates (unless they lived on a farm outside of town, in which case they rode a bus). I only ever remember my mother dropping us off &/or picking us up if we were running late, heading to an appointment after school, or if the weather was really crappy.  One more sign of how much times have changed (and not always for the better).

*** *** ***

Over the weekend, we headed to BIL's to celebrate Oldest Nephew's 26th (!!!) birthday. SIL wrapped her arms around her son & hugged him, saying, "These boys are my greatest accomplishment."

She has every right to be incredibly proud. She & BIL have raised two fine young men.  They have both grown up to be tall, handsome, smart, thoughtful, kind, generous and funny, and have never given their parents trouble (aside from the usual kid complaints about messy rooms and money that presumably grows on trees, etc.).

But dang, that was an "ouch" moment if there ever was one. :(

#MicroblogMondays: I can see clearly now (well, sort of...)

I got a new pair of glasses last week. I'd had my previous pair for seven years, & while my vision was still not bad, the lenses were scratched and marked with spots, and I felt it was time for a change.

Like my previous pair, my new glasses include multifocal/progressive lenses. I remember going through quite an adjustment to adapt to them, seven years ago. I didn't think I would have to do it again -- but apparently I do. :p  I've been trying to wear the new pair for as long as I can each day -- but sometimes I cave & put the old pair on. (There's an immediate feeling of "ahhhhh!" when I do, lol. My eyes don't have to work as hard with them.)  I also have a separate pair that I use exclusively for when I'm on the computer and reading. So I am juggling three different pairs of glasses at the moment. Yikes!

I've been wearing glasses since I was 7, and by my calculations, this is about the 10th pair of glasses I've had (not including the reading glasses) in the 45+ years since then. I also wore contact lenses for 20+ years, from the time I was 17 until I was in my late 30s/early 40s. Then I developed a virus in my eye -- and had to lay off the contacts for a few months while it ran its course. When it finally cleared up, it was time to order new lenses -- but the particular kind of lens I'd been wearing for years was no longer being made (!) & I had difficulty finding a new pair that was both comfortable and gave me good vision.

So I haven't worn contacts in well over 10 years -- something I would NEVER, EVER have believed when I was a teenager and absolutely desperate to have them. (My optometrist at the time did not believe in letting teenagers wear contacts -- he didn't think they were responsible enough to care for them properly... and he was probably right.) I'm thinking of giving it another try, though. After all, Oldest Nephew is getting married in another year & a half -- family pictures, etc. etc. (Vanity, thy name is Loribeth, lol.) 

Do you wear glasses or contacts (or both)?

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

Monday, December 8, 2014

#MicroblogMondays: Early December odds & ends

*  I have been a real social butterfly lately. I had lunch with an old friend who was in town last week. I spent Friday with another old friend at a gargantuan Christmas craft show -- something I haven't been able to do in YEARS because we were always so busy at work. This week, I'll be at lunch again with two previously retired colleagues. And next weekend, we'll be heading to BIL's for our nephew's birthday, which also serves as a sort of a Christmas get-together with that side of the family, since we are always elsewhere at Christmas.

*  Returning home from dinner out and a bookstore browse on Saturday night, dh & I took a detour home to check out the Christmas lights in our neighbourhood. We also went slightly further afield:  there is a street about a mile away that is notorious for its Clark Griswold/Christmas Vacation-type light displays, and somehow we've lived here for almost 25 years and never checked it out. It wasn't quite the Griswolds, but it was worth the trip. ;) 

*  Dh & I went to see "The Theory of Everything" this weekend (about Stephen Hawking & his first wife). Potential spoiler alert:  At the very end of the movie, Stephen & Jane watch as their three beautiful children frolic together, and (in his actual mechanical voice) Hawking says, "Look what we made." I burst into tears -- because those were the exact words that were running through my head as I gazed in both wonder & sorrow on the still, cold form of my tiny stillborn daughter 16 years ago. Stephen Hawking, with all his health & mobility issues, still managed to create three children and is now a grandfather. Whereas I...  :( 

*  Nevertheless, I look around my cozy house -- at the Christmas tree, all lit up -- at dh on the couch, absorbed in his laptop -- and I think:  I may not have (living) children.  I will never have grandchildren. But I am a very lucky girl, just the same.

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

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"Nothing classy," indeed

By now, everyone has probably heard the story about the Republican congressional aide/communications director who caused a minor uproar by criticizing Malia & Sasha Obama's appearance at the annual Thanksgiving turkey pardoning ceremony, chiding them to "try showing a little class." 

"Nothing classy about Elizabeth Lauten’s criticism of the Obama girls" was the headline on a "She the People" blog post in the Washington Post.

I agreed with the author in just about every respect except one -- and it just happened to be the one sentence that was highlighted on Facebook, of course.  (And since I am still a little hot under the collar a few days after reading this, here goes my rant.)  ;) 

After establishing her credentials as a mother ("Raising teenagers is hard. I know from experience..."), the author goes on to say:
"If Lauten were a mom, particularly of teen girls, she’d have a lot more empathy, I suspect, and she’d probably agree with me that kids in the White House should be off-limits to media scrutiny."

I may not be a mom -- but I don't think you have to be a mom to recognize that it might not a good idea to publicly (and harshly) criticize the daughters of the President (who didn't ask to be dragged away from their schools & friends in Chicago and thrust into the limelight because of who their dad is). Most people who work in Washington recognize this -- most people who work in communications would certainly recognize this (which, to me -- as someone who worked in corporate communications until just recently -- makes this episode all the more bizarre) -- and those who break that unwritten rule regarding the children of presidents generally suffer as a result. (Including Lauten, who has apparently resigned.)

I may not be a mom -- but I was a teenager once, who certainly rolled her eyes at her parents more than a few times. (Fortunately for me, my dad wasn't president of the United States, and I wasn't on camera. And social media hadn't been invented yet.)  And I know a lot of teenagers, and parents of teenagers. (In a different world, I would have been the parent of a teenager myself right now.)  I've heard the stories. I've watched the eyerolls. I can easily imagine teenaged eyes being rolled in my direction. And I've seen many teenagers at the mall who dress far more provocatively than the Obama girls.

Empathy is not the sole preserve of people with children. You can be childless and extremely empathetic to others. (You may not know exactly what parents are going through, of course -- but that doesn't mean you don't know anything about kids or what they're like.)  You can be a mom (or dad) and still show a lack of empathy when it comes to other people's kids. (And when it comes to writing about people who don't have kids.)  

There may not have been anything classy about Lauten's words -- but I don't think attributing her lack of empathy in this case to her lack of children was particularly classy either.

(Vent over. ;) )

Monday, December 1, 2014

#MicroblogMondays: It's beginning to look a lot like... (part 2)

It's December 1st (December 1st!!) -- and getting closer to Christmas.

There's currently no snow on the ground -- and yesterday was 12C (= 54F) -- but that nip in the air is back.

We turned over the calendar page to December, and marked the first day on our Advent calendar this morning.

Normally, we don't put up our Christmas tree until the first week of December. I had thought we might put it up Sunday afternoon (Advent Sunday) -- but had earmarked Sunday to attend a big craft show with a girlfriend. So dh suggested we do it on Thursday. (We usually do the dusting & vacuuming on Fridays -- and the main floor, where we have the tree, is his territory, lol.)  So that's what we did. (Then my friend changed plans -- we're now going to the craft show later this week -- so we could have put up the tree Sunday anyway. Oh well!) 

Here it is:

(Anyone know how to rotate a photo in Blogger?? lol) (I had my post all planned & then this happened...!)
I get to decorate my parents' tree at home too, with the same ornaments we have used since I was a baby. :)

I love this time of year. :)

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

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Kicking the bucket (list)

If you've read my blog for a while, you'll know that I tend to chafe at the notion that just because I don't have kids, I should be doing something spectacular with my life, make some sort of grand gesture -- sell all my possessions to live on a tropical island, for example, or become a missionary in Africa, or travel the world or learn Mandarin -- as if I need to somehow justify my existence or compensate in some way for my lack of offspring, or simply just because I have the extra time and money to do this sort of thing -- so I should! (I know I've written some previous posts on this subject, which I can't find at the moment, but Msfitzita had an excellent piece a while back along these lines, here.)  

More recently, I've been fending off the same sort of expectations now that I'm unemployed/early-retired. People want to know "So, what do you do all day?"

So I had a bit of a chuckle when I saw this article in this morning's paper: "Why I don't need (or want) a bucket list when I retire." The author begins by noting the current mania for creating "bucket lists." Here are a few excerpts from what he had to say next: 
Not only don’t I have a bucket list, “make a bucket list” isn’t even on my to-do list.  
Can’t we all just relax?...  
If you’re lucky enough to be able to retire — a big if, given how many people simply can’t afford to stop working — you’re expected to then learn a new language, travel to a wildlife preserve in Kenya, take up Bikram yoga or sharpen your culinary skills. Leave it to us baby boomers to turn retirement into summer camp....  
What does it mean to live a full life? Is all this activity essential? That’s a big question. And I have no idea of the answer. But at 56, I’m getting old enough to start giving it some serious thought.  
...I don’t need a bucket list filled with stressful things such as jumping out of an airplane or hiking to the top of a mountain to motivate me. And besides, I don’t want to be motivated. I just want to relax and spend time with family and friends....
Now, let me be clear -- there's absolutely nothing wrong with making a bucket list or beginning a second career or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or learning Mandarin or running a marathon. I have no desire to do any of these things (at this point in my life, anyway -- that could change) -- but if that's what you want to do and you have the means to do so, then by all means go for it.

The problem, as I see it, begins when there's an expectation -- voiced or implied -- that this is the kind of life we SHOULD be leading as childless or retired people -- when others make us feel less than or crazy or boring or wanting in some way if we aren't doing these things. (Yes, I know, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent, etc. etc. -- but that is sometimes easier said than done...!)

For the record, I DO have some things I want to do in retirement, including travel -- if not written down in a formal "bucket list."

But there's absolutely nothing wrong with taking some time to sit back and watch the wheels go round & round either. ; ) 

Monday, November 24, 2014

I still don't love November

The cold and the darkness still suck. 

Halloween was the preamble to what was coming. It was chilly, grey and pouring rain, so much so that the candle inside my jack o'lantern on the porch refused to stay lit, and I was getting wet just sticking my head & hands out the door to dole out candy to the handful of poor, brave (sugar-desperate??) trick or treaters who showed up on my front porch (our lowest turnout ever in 25 years in this house). 

And then suddenly, it was November. 

Within days, the time change plunged us into darkness well before suppertime -- and it's been gradually getting darker, earlier since then. And colder. By mid-month, the beautiful fall foliage that made this October such a delight had mostly vanished, leaving stark, bare branches against the dull grey sky. We started seeing snowflakes in the air, and woke up the morning of Nov. 17th to a thin blanket of white snow -- and we've had more since then (which has pretty much put the kibosh on our morning walks & given me a slight touch of cabin fever -- the first since I've been off work).  (Although I suppose I shouldn't complain too much about the white stuff, when Buffalo is just two hours & a bit down the road...!!) 

It's November -- and October's tragic & terrifying events in Ottawa and St. Jean-sur-Richelieu cast a dark shadow over my country. Two innocent men lost their lives for the simple reason that they were both soldiers -- and easily identified as such because they were in uniform (one of them was guarding the National War Memorial -- an unarmed ceremonial position). These events brought additional gravity to this year's Remembrance Day ceremonies.  

It's November, and my daughter -- who should have been celebrating her Sweet Sixteen this month, and getting her G1 (learner's driving permit), like one of her cousins in the extended family just did, to much congratulations on Facebook :( -- is long dead, having never drawn a breath. :(

It's November and, being Canadian, we've long since had our turkey and meditated on gratitude (that was back in mid-October)(and to be honest, I prefer that timing, versus having so many big things crammed into the space of less than a month -- Christmastime is already hectic enough as it is...!). But in recent years, we've begun to adopt U.S.-style Black Friday shopping promotions -- which I am not entirely sure is a good thing.

So November is still, unquestionably, my least favourite month.

But I must admit -- November HAS lost some (not all, but some) of its sting. Even before I turned the page on my calendar, I didn't find myself loathing and dreading November in quite the same way that I once did.

A big reason for that, of course, is that I am no longer working. November was always our busiest, most stressful time of year at work (i.e., year end).  When my job suddenly vanished, so too did my year-end work obligations -- and all the stress and exhaustion that went along with it.

In past Novembers, dh & I would be up at 5 a.m., and slog our way through weather that was often cold, wet and miserable to the commuter train station, where we'd stand shivering on the platform until our train arrived at 6:45 a.m., to deliver us to our offices before 8... and then repeat the whole process in the evening in reverse (and hope the cold and snow didn't lead to train delays and cancellations :p ).  These days, I'm generally not up before 7:30 (MUCH more civilized!). :)  And looking out the window of my cozy house last week at the blowing snow, a cup of tea in my hand (or listening to the wind howling outside tonight), I thought for the umpteenth time how thankful I was that I no longer had to worry about commuting. 

In past Novembers, Christmas shopping was something to be squeezed in during lunch hours (a little bit here, a little bit there...) and weekend visits to a packed mall -- or postponed altogether until December (when the pressure was really on...!).  This year, dh & I have already gotten a start on gift-buying. It's great to be able to shop at the mall early on a weekday afternoon when there are far fewer people around. (Although it's a bit jarring, since most of the people there at that hour are senior citizens -- I guess it's one way to feel younger by comparison...!) 

We've booked our flights west for a slightly-longer-than-usual holiday stay with my family -- no need to rush back, or to battle with co-workers over vacation approvals or work coverage. Between now & then, I fully intend to take advantage of my new freedom to enjoy some of the holiday events & activities that I never could find time for when I was working.

For example, I spent a day at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair a few weeks ago with a friend from out of town;  I'm planning to attend a gargantuan annual Christmas craft show with another friend;  and I'm hoping to drag -- errr, bring dh to the European-style Christmas market in the Distillery District -- something we've never had time to do before. And I already have a date pencilled in for the Christmas lunch that's become an annual tradition with a couple of my previously retired colleagues. Aside from the lunch (which I always enjoyed, albeit with one eye firmly on the clock, because I had to get back to the office...), this is all stuff that I would have been hard-pressed to do (there's only so much you can cram into already-packed weekends) in Decembers past.

So I still don't LOVE November. 

But (so far, anyway -- with less than a week to go)(knocking wood?) it's the best November that I've had for quite a long time.  :)