Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"Tribe" by Sebastian Junger

"Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging" is an expanded version of an article that Sebastian Junger wrote for Vanity Fair -- a short & well-spaced 136 pages (plus source notes).

In this case, less is definitely more: there's a lot packed into this slim volume. It's well written and thought provoking -- a fascinating look at how humans have banded together over time to survive -- and how modern life works against our deep-seated need to belong, and:
"why -- for many people -- war feels better than peace and hardship can turn out to be a great blessing and disasters are sometimes remembered more fondly than weddings or tropical vacations." (p. xxvi)  
Most the reviews I've read focus on what "Tribe" has to say about the military and PTSD -- the main subject of Junger's original article, and something he has often written about before. But we also learn about American Indian tribal life (and its appeal to American frontier settlers), infant sleeping practices, the London Blitz of the Second World War, the Springhill (Nova Scotia) mining disaster of 1958, mass shootings, and so much more.

Near the end of the book, Junger also makes some timely observations about the deep divisions in modern American society. "People who speak with contempt for one another will probably not remain united for long," he says. "The most alarming rhetoric comes out of the dispute between liberals and conservatives, and it’s a dangerous waste of time because they’re both right." (p. 126)

"If you want to make a society work, then you don’t keep underscoring the places where you’re different -- you underscore your shared humanity,” Rachel Yehuda of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City tells him. (p. 127)

Makes sense to me...

*** *** ***

One reason I was interested in reading this book was that both PamelaLisa have referred to it in different forums where I follow them. In the ALI community, we often talk about the importance of"finding our tribe" and the support we give and receive to & from each other -- and I was curious to see how Junger's concept of "Tribe" would relate to the ALI world.  

Junger doesn't address infertility issues here, but it's certainly possibly to extract some lessons/meaning for our own situations from this book. One of its main messages is that people will bond together in times of adversity and when dealing with a common adversary -- and I think that's one of the driving forces behind the growth of online communities such as ours. I wouldn't say the fertile world is an "adversary," of course -- but when you're dealing with infertility & pregnancy loss, there's certainly a feeling of alienation and "other-ness" that the fortunate fertile probably don't realize even exists, let alone respond to in an adequate or satisfying way. That's why we feel such a sense of relief and belonging when we discover others -- online or "in real life" -- who have shared a similar experience, and why we consider them our "tribe."   

Here's another quote from the book that spoke to me:  
“...human beings need three basic things in order to be content: they need to feel competent at what they do; they need to feel authentic in their lives; and they need to feel connected to others.” (p. xxx) 
Hmmm -- let's see. When you can't get or stay pregnant -- which the majority of women do with ease (and often without giving the subject much thought), and which some consider the main purpose of a woman's existence -- you feel anything BUT competent. We are often forced to hide our authentic selves and feelings as we struggle through infertility & loss.  (Infertility & loss, of course, change who we are in profound ways, leaving us to try to figure out who we are now, and who we're going to be, if we're not going to be parents.)  And infertility and loss, and this struggle to find and maintain our authentic selves in the face of adversity, creates barriers between those of us who suffer and those who don't.  At a time when we badly need support from others, we find them shying away from the sadness and messiness of our situations and the rawness of our emotions, and the "bad luck" we represent. No wonder we have such difficulty finding "contentment"!   

“Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary. It's time for that to end.”  (p. xxvi) 

Who feels less necessary in a society fixated on families, children and baby bumps than a childless woman? 

And yes, it's time for that to end. 

This was book #10 that I've read so far in 2017, bringing me to 42% of my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am 3 books behind schedule to meet my goal. :p  ;)  

Monday, July 17, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

  • The local megabookstore has had an all-Canadian playlist as background music this month, no doubt in honour of Canada 150. I've been enjoying hearing (and struggling not to sing along with, lol) some old favourites ("The Hockey Game" by Stompin' Tom Connors, anyone?? ;)  ), and some I haven't heard in eons (Valdy!). And even a rousing version of "Farewell to Nova Scotia," which I can still sing along to in its entirety -- we sang it ad nauseum in music class in grade school. (Imagine a bunch of Prairie kids, living about as far away from the ocean as it's possible to be, singing, "But a poor simple sailor just like me/Must be tossed and be driven on the dark blue sea..."). 
  • Gallstones have been giving me grief lately. :(  With the possible exception of having my wisdom teeth removed (all four at once!) when I was in my early 30s (is that considered surgery? -- dental surgery, sure...), I have never had surgery -- and I have no desire to start now, but may have to consider it (may not have a choice...) if this continues... :(  
    • I think I've mentioned this before, but I remember reading that there's a co-relation between high estrogen levels and gallstone formation... which is one reason why it's so common among pregnant or post-partum women. And, perhaps, women going through infertility treatment? I remember my RE commenting at one point in my cycle that my estrogen levels were sky high. Infertility, the gift that just keeps on giving... 
    • I do have genetics in my favour/to blame too -- my dad, and apparently all of my aunts & uncles on his side of the family, and some cousins to boot, have had their gallbladders removed.
    • Has anyone else out there had issues with gallstones? Gallbladder removal surgery? 
  • One of dh's cousin's daughters just had a baby early this morning. Her FOURTH!! Beyond jealousy at the ease with which she seems to get & stay pregnant (not to mention regain her slender figure...!), I am beyond awed that anyone has the energy (let alone can afford) to raise four children these days...!!  
  • Looking forward to a much-needed mani-pedi later this week! :)  (Even better, I have a gift certificate for it!)  
  • When did the neighbours across the back fence (across the construction site behind our condo building) paint the brick on their house??  I just noticed this morning. 
  • The neighbours next door to them were having their eavestroughs cleaned this morning. I was watching a guy strolling casually around their rooftop with a hose, spraying them out. (Yes, we are nosy retiree neighbours, lol.)  
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Saturday, July 15, 2017

It takes a village

A Facebook friend recently shared this article/blog post, titled "In the absence of a village, build one." My friend added the comment, "We do not have do to it alone. Find your village, love them hard."  

The article is written from a mommy-centric perspective, for an audience of other mommies. (Which seems ironic from an infertility/childless perspective, because from where we sit, motherhood seems like a highly exclusive country club that everyone else gets to join and hang out with -- except us, of course.)(Scroll down to the comment from Jen on July 14th.) But I think that with a little imagination and some rewording, the thoughts shared here could apply to those of us in the adoption/loss/infertity community (or just about anyone, really).  

The author notes, "The time when you need a village the most also happens to be the time when it’s hardest to build one." She's thinking about her kids and their childhood, of course -- but I immediately thought about those awful days, post-loss, during infertility treatment, post-stopping, when I felt so completely alone.  (Maybe not in the immediate days after my loss, of course, when friends & relatives rallied round, called and sent flowers and cards, but in the weeks & months afterwards, when they assumed things were "back to normal" and got on with their lives, assuming I was doing the same thing. I wasn't.)  

*** *** *** 

First, let's look at the barriers to finding your village identified in the article. (Not all might apply to your personal situation.)

Barriers to finding your village   

1. The age of fellow moms in your life—and the ages of their children

The age you're at -- when you're going through infertility/loss, when you have children, or just going through life, period -- can make it harder to find your village. If you're in your 20s & 30s, some of your friends might be having babies, some might still be looking for someone to have babies with. The ones having babies might not understand what you're dealing with, if you're going through infertility & loss -- and even if they do, they're obviously busy with other things;  you and your problems aren't their priority.  If you're trying to get pregnant in your 40s while all your friends have already had their families (some of them even becoming empty nesters...!), you can certainly feel out of sync with them. Even if you eventually do have a baby or adopt a child late in your reproductive life, there might be quite an age gap between your kids and theirs. Your friends may have already found their mommy tribe and feel more comfortable talking about school PTA meetings with the other PTA members, rather than comiserate with you about your lack of sleep. If you never have children, by choice or by chance, you will most likely feel shut out of the loop while your peers build their families. Working (and working & commuting) can make it difficult to find new friendships and maintain old ones. And if you're like me, & retire early, you can sometimes feel isolated if most of your friends are still working.

2. The arrangement of work & life

"For example, mothers who work outside the home may have a hard time connecting with moms who stay home. There are only so many hours in the day…" the article says. And, I might add, both kinds of moms often have a hard time connecting with non-moms, and making room for them in lives that are now laser-focused on all things mommy & baby-related.

A little more about work and the role it plays in finding our village: for some of us, work becomes our village, or a part of it.  I met a lot of great people at work, and I've stayed friends/friendly with some of them. But there are barriers to cultivating friendships at work, too. I know a lot of the younger people in my office liked to go out together after work (especially on a Thursday night, for some reason)  -- I did too, when I was in my 20s and we lived in the city. But when you get older, your priorities change -- even if you don't have kids tying you down. You don't recover from a night out at the bar as quickly ;)  you start to value your sleep, and you have a husband (if not kids) waiting for you at home.

Also, this probably wouldn't be as much of an issue in a smaller community, but the people I worked with commuted to our downtown office from all over a huge metropolitan area. Distance & commuting time -- not to mention the need to adhere to train, subway & bus schedules -- can certainly be barriers to after-work socializing, and forming and maintaining out-of-office friendships. After a long day of work (8.5 hours including lunch, plus another two hours or so commuting, round trip), I often just wanted to go home.  (Especially on a weeknight -- since I had to get up at 5 a.m. the next morning & do it all again...!)

3. The courage it requires to reach out to another woman

Especially "in real life,"  even if that person has also experienced loss &/or infertility. Sometimes, it's easier to reach out to other women in similar situations online.

4. The feeling that the women around you already have a village in place

Thinking of that exclusive mommy club again. ;)  Although feelings don't necessarily equal reality. There are more women out there looking for villages, or new people for their village, than we might think.

5. A fragmented village

I have lots of different people from different parts of my life and places that I've lived, some that I rely on more than others, sometimes for different things. They don't necessarily know or know about each other, or about the different parts of my life beyond the part I shared with them. (This was one reason I was very leery to join Facebook at first -- I wasn't sure I wanted all these different parts of my life coming together in one place. I am sure some of my Facebook friends, have been surprised at some of the things they've learned about me there...!)  

*** *** *** 

6 Tips to help you build your village 

I think these tips from the article can apply to any village-building effort, not just if you're a mom. 

1. First, believe that you don’t have to do motherhood adoption/loss/infertility (or anything else)  on your own. 

There are people who are going through the same thing you are (both in "real life" and certainly online) who are also looking to build their villages and find support... and who are willing to support you, too. Start looking for them.  

2. Next, get comfortable (ironically) with vulnerability. 

"Vulnerability allows us to take friendships to a much more meaningful level, and in turn we find ourselves feeling happier and more comfortable in our own skin because of the authenticity we’ve developed in the safety of close relationships," the article says. 
If anyone knows about vulnerability, I think it's ALIers. :)  Infertility & loss are pretty isolating, lonely, emotion-laden experiences. Our hearts are raw, broken, tender.  If there's one thing that helps us survive, it's giving voice to our truth -- being honest, expressing our feelings fully and honestly (by talking about them, or at least writing them out) -- and to know that others are listening.  Not necessarily that they have answers for us. Sometimes the mere act of voicing what's in our hearts -- and having someone pay attention -- is comfort enough.   

3. Watch for women you can bring in.

"A village gets stronger with numbers. If you already have a support network, keep your eyes open for women... who might need what you can offer. Be a people connector."

We're everywhere -- even if we're not always upfront about it. 

4. Keep working on YOU.

"Your vibe attracts your tribe." 

5. Ask for help, and accept it when it’s offered. 

So often, the people around us don't know we're hurting. It's hard to open ourselves up and admit we need help. Sometimes it leads to more hurt (clueless friends & relatives who don't understand) -- but sometimes it can lead to new understanding & new, stronger connections. 

6. Offer YOUR help. 

"Being willing to help others—to be their village—is the biggest key to creating one."  Share what you've learned, comment on others' posts.  

What do you think?  Did the translation to the ALI world work here? What would you add?

*** *** *** 

Reading the post got me thinking (not for the first time...!)  about my personal "village" and how it applied to my own life, post Katie, post-infertility.    

Immediately after losing Katie (in August 1998), I found myself reading obsessively about pregnancy loss -- why it happens, what I could do to prevent it from happening again, and what I could do to help myself recover from such a horrible blow. Several older women in my life who had lost babies years ago -- dh's aunts, my best friend's mother -- called & told me it had happened to them too. Most of them told me "you'll have another baby,"  which I suppose is what they'd been told (and for them, it did happen, so why wouldn't they believe otherwise?). Most of the women my own age that I knew had not experienced such a loss, it seemed.  I was floored -- and so touched -- when a former coworker now living in the States called me out of the blue (after reading the mass email I'd sent out) and told me about her own miscarriage.  

The package the hospital sent home with me included some information on local support groups. Even in a city as big as Toronto, it was hard to find support: the hospital's own onsite group no longer existed (!), another wanted me to come to their midtown office for an interview (!) & then wait until they had enough people to form a group that would last for a certain number of weeks & then send us on our way.  Finally, the hospital social worker I was dealing with told me about another group where she was a board member.  I went to one meeting by myself;  dh joined me for the next one, and we stayed there for the next 10+ years -- first as clients and then as facilitators. Finding our tribe, real-life people who lived nearby and were going through a similar experience, was a huge part of our healing. 

But the group only met once or twice a month. The time between meetings felt like an eternity sometimes.  That's when I discovered the power of the Internet. We'd bought our first computer two years earlier, in the fall of 1996.  Early on in my pregnancy, one of dh's coworkers had given him the name of a website she thought I'd like to check out. It was Parents Place (now defunct), with week by week pregnancy information & tips, as well as message boards for pregnant women and new mothers. There were, I realized, post-Katie, also message boards for pregnancy loss -- but I was a little hesitant about putting myself out there publicly like that. 

Eventually, I found a private e-mail list that seemed a little "safer" to me than public message boards, and joined that. It proved to be my daily lifeline for the next several years. I would rush home to check my email for the latest digests and emails from my newfound friends, and pour my heart out onscreen, both to the entire list and privately to several members I'd formed cyberfriendships with.  

The list was for women (& men) who had endured pregnancy loss and hoped to try again. As you might imagine, many of them also had infertility issues, and they were a source of invaluable information and encouragement as we ventured down the slippery slope of infertility testing and treatment. But as more & more of them got their "rainbow babies" (and sometimes a second, and a third...) -- and I did not -- my postings to the group began to taper off. It was becoming obvious that the "subsequent pregnancy" part of the title was not going to happen for us.  

I didn't post regularly on any infertility message boards while I was going through treatment (although I did check some out). (Blogs were not yet a "thing" -- that came a few years later.)  But after my final IUI failed early in the summer of 2001, I started hunting for resources for living without children.  There was not much out there -- and a lot of what I did find was for people who never wanted children. But I did find a very few message boards (often attached to infertility websites) devoted to the subject, with a somewhat active membership. In particular, I found a home on the Childless Living message board at iVillage. Sadly, it is long gone now -- but this week it will be 16 years (!) since I introduced myself there. I always consider that date as as the beginning of my childless/free life after infertility & loss. And I am still in touch with several of the women I "met" there (and I have met two of them "in real life") -- on a different private forum we created a few years later, and (later still) on Facebook. 

I don't think I discovered blogs until about 2006, and I started following a few of them regularly. Most of the ones I found in those early days no longer exist. But one in particular still does: Melissa's Stirrup Queens, which has long been a community hub for those of us dealing with adoption, loss & infertility. I think I started tentatively commenting on some of her posts -- particularly the sessions in The Lushary (which hasn't creaked opened its doors in a long time, but which still holds a fond place in my heart...! ;)  ) -- sometime in 2007. Through her blogroll, I discovered Pamela's original Coming2Terms blog, which eventually morphed into Silent Sorority.

And so, with Pamela's example in front of me and Mel's encouragement (and to take part in her Barren B*tches Book Tour -- which was, at the time, getting ready to discuss Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" -- plus ca change...!), I decided to start my own blog. This fall, it will be 10 years (!!) since I hit "publish" on that very first post.  While many of the bloggers I used to follow (sadly) no longer write, I'm so very happy (& proud) that the childless-not-by-choice neighbourhood of our ALI village has grown by leaps & bounds in recent years!  

I know I've told this story before (and I'll probably tell it again & again) -- but I felt compelled to tell it again now... mostly because I'm so grateful to the Internet and to blogging for giving me hope, empathy and friendship at a time in my life when I really, really needed it (and found it hard to come by in my offline life).   
Thank you all for being part of my village!  :)  

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"Sex & the City"and me

I was recently watching the new CNN series about "The Nineties," which started with a two-hour episode about 1990s TV shows. One of the shows they featured was "Sex & the City."

Somehow, I never became a regular SATC-watcher -- even though many of my friends raved about it and told me I should watch it, and I still, somehow, got to know who all the characters were and some of the plot lines. I did see a couple of episodes in reruns years later (no doubt censored).

Then, on the screen, they showed the date SATC debuted:  June 6, 1998.

Well, that explained it.

The debut of "Sex & the City" coincided with my roller coaster pregnancy with Katie & its aftermath. In early June 1998, I did the triple screen blood test, followed by an ultrasound -- both of which indicated some abnormalities, and led to genetic counselling, amniocentesis and the shadow of a potential termination looming over us, all before the end of the month.

Clearly, I had other stuff on my mind at the time, and while perhaps I could have used something frivolous as a distraction, SATC somehow never quite struck a chord with me, and I never got into the habit of watching it.

I guess there's always Netflix... ;)

Did you ever watch "Sex & the City"?  Did loss &/or infertility interfere with your enjoyment of any TV shows that everyone else was watching & loved?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Anniversary getaway: Niagara-on-the-Lake

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario:  clock/cenotaph and court house (now a theatre).
We first visited Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (not Niagara Falls -- Niagara-on-the-Lake! -- there's a difference!!),  back in June 1984.  My parents & I drove across northern Minnesota, Wisconsin & the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, through Detroit (quite an experience in itself...!!) and across the Ambassador Bridge to Windsor (where dh -- then just my boyfriend -- was finishing up his MBA) and on to London (Ontario), where -- main purpose of the trip -- I picked up my master's degree diploma at convocation.

Then we cut through the backroads of southwestern Ontario to the tourist trap (cough, cough -- errrr, hotspot?? mecca?? honeymoon capital??) of Niagara Falls (the first time for all three of us). After spending the night there, we drove up the Niagara River Parkway about a half hour to the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. (And then continued on to Toronto, so that my parents could meet dh's father before we headed home -- but that's another story for another day...)

I'd been living in southwestern Ontario for the past year, attending grad school, so I think I must have heard about NOTL then, and its Shaw Festival -- a professional theatre festival/company, which performs the works of George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries on three different stages in town from approximately May through October/November every year (as opposed to the Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario, which does Shakespeare -- albeit not exclusively these days). (We took a trip to Stratford for our 24th anniversary in 2009, and I blogged about it here.)    

We didn't spend any time in NOTL then -- I think we just drove through to have a look at the place. But what little we got to see enchanted us, and we vowed to return. 

We did, two years later, in August 1986. My parents came back to visit us in our tiny apartment in midtown Toronto, and we decided that we wanted to go back to NOTL & spend more time there. (We did the falls again too.)  We've returned a number of times since then, both with my parents and by ourselves, for a few hours and for a few days. It's about a 2.5 hour drive from our old home and just 1.5 hours from our current location (in good traffic). 

Over these 30+ years, there have been many changes in NOTL.  Some say it has been "Disneyfied," and it is definitely much more "commercial" than it was 20 or 30 years ago.  (It's also gotten a lot more expensive...!)  While chains were once banned in the old town, main street today includes a Starbucks as well as a Sunset Grill restaurant.  And development (both commercial & residential) along the roads leading into town  is running amok.

But the quiet smalltown charm remains, drawing hundreds, perhaps thousands of visitors every day throughout the summer months.  The town dates back to the 1700s, and was the original capital of the province of Upper Canada (what eventually became Ontario).  It survived the War of 1812 -- the Americans burned it to the ground in 1813, but it was rebuilt, and there are many beautiful old homes homes and commercial buildings from the early to mid-1800s. The town offers accommodations in a number of charming old inns, small luxury boutique hotels, and bed-and-breakfast establishments -- although, for those who prefer the tried-and-true and don't mind a bit of driving, there are now a couple of larger chain hotels a few miles outside of town near the highway (including a Hilton Garden Inn). The number of vineyards & wineries in the area has exploded since we first visited the area -- many of them world-class, most of them offering tours and tastings, and some with fine dining in onsite restaurants. There are other excellent restaurants in town, and great shopping too -- as well as a (relatively new) humungous outlet mall just outside town on the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW, the main highway between Toronto & Niagara) that offers some great shopping.  

*** *** *** 

We hadn't been back to NOTL for an overnight stay since our 20th wedding anniversary in 2005 -- or even a day visit since October 2014 -- and I decided it was time for a return trip!  

Several of the hotels I looked at were booked for the dates we wanted (at least the lower-priced rooms -- which can still be pretty expensive...!)(and whose idea was it to get married the same week as both Canada Day & the Fourth of July, not to mention the kickoff period for summer vacation??). I eventually found us accommodation at the Charles Hotel -- where we'd previously stayed back in the late 1980s/early 1990s when it was newly transformed from a private residence to an inn and called the Kiely House. We thoroughly enjoyed our stays then, and I was curious to see what had changed (& what hadn't) in the years since our last visit. 

The house that's now the hotel/inn was built in 1832 (!), and comes with tons of atmosphere and interesting architectural & decorative details, including wraparound porches, both open & screened in, that just beg to be sat on with a good book & cold drink (or a cup of tea).  There's a lovely garden, and a view of the neighbouring Niagara-on-the-Lake golf club, the oldest golf club in Canada. It's just a few blocks walk from downtown and the three Shaw Festival theatres. It's not child UNfriendly -- no doubt there are families with children that have stayed there -- (no pets allowed) -- but I would say it's definitely more of a romantic/couples kind of place. In other words, perfect for a childless couple celebrating their wedding anniversary. :)

Front entrance

Front of the house, from an angle. The patio is part of the restaurant/bar. 
Back of the inn, with a view of the golf course next door.
Dh, my parents & I stayed on the second floor 30+ years ago.
Hugely enjoyed the veranda!! 

We arrived on Thursday afternoon shortly after 3 p.m. (check in time) and found ourselves assigned to the Daisy Room, which was on the ground floor, just off of the front veranda where breakfast was served each day. The room was smallish but comfortable & nicely furnished. (Most important, perhaps, on a horribly hot & humid day, it was air conditioned!! -- all the rooms are.)

The Daisy Room.
The bathroom was large with a large, newish glassed-in shower cubicle, complete with rainforest shower head (ahhhh....!!).

Bathroom
And -- bonus!! there was a lovely little private screened-in porch for our exclusive use. It reminded me of the (much smaller) screened in porch on the side of my grandmother's house, where we used to gather in the evening to drink coffee & socialize with visiting relatives and neighbours.  I spent a couple of happy hours out there (heat & humidity be damned... ) reading and watching the people & traffic go by.

A partial view of the private screened-in porch
accessible only from our room.
I'd made us an early dinner reservation at the hotel's well-reviewed restaurant, called the HobNob, which was located in the beautiful double drawing room. We had a table near the window. There were two other tables while we dined (with more arriving as we finished), and while there was music, it wasn't too loud, so we were actually able to carry on a conversation, lol. We decided not to have appetizers, but did have dessert. :)  I had salmon while dh had chicken, and we both thought our meals were amazing -- crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.

Where we had dinner on our anniversary. 
After a most enjoyable dinner, we hiked over to the other side of town. I'd bought us theatre tickets to see "Me and My Girl" at the Shaw Festival Theatre.  I knew nothing about it, except that it was a musical.  It turned out to be a British musical from the late 1930s, the story of a Cockney guy who discovers that he's an earl, and the clash of classes & cultures that unfolds when he meets his new family. I had heard of one of the song & dance numbers, "The Lambeth Walk" -- and realized that I could sing along with another, "Leaning on a Lamppost," which was jazzed up a bit & recorded in the 1960s by my original boy band idols, Herman's Hermits (!!).  :)  Well done and thoroughly enjoyable.

We had breakfast the next morning (and the morning after that, before we left) on the veranda near our room. (Price not included with the room.)  Again, the service was great, and the food...!  We both ordered the maple cinnamon brioche French toast, which came with maple syrup, fresh fruit, potatos, sausage and bacon fried just the way I like it (crisp), and arrived piping hot.  The tea came in a proper china teapot (yay! -- no leaky metal horrors...) & dh's coffee was made fresh in a French press. He said it was great & wants to look for one for himself now. ;) The breakfast (served from 8 to 10 a.m.) was ample enough that we didn't need to eat lunch (although we did wind up having afternoon snacks later...!).

The front veranda, where breakfast was served. 
As I mentioned, Niagara is famous for its vineyards & wineries. We thought about doing a winery tour on Friday afternoon -- there are even tour companies that will pick you up, drive you around to several wineries and then take you back to your lodgings. But while dh & I enjoy the occasional glass of wine with dinner, neither of us are big drinkers (out of practice since our student days!! lol) -- we toured one winery several years ago and attended a tasting seminar, & left wondering whether dh should really be driving...!  The tour company our hotel recommended offers several different packages, most of which took you to three different wineries, where you'd sample a minimum of three wines each = approximately 9 (usually generous) samplings within a few hours (on a very hot, humid day). A glass of wine at lunchtime used to leave me relatively useless for the rest of the workday;  I figured a tour would probably do both of us in for the rest of our day in NOTL. So we decided to skip the wine tour this time around.

We also thought about going to Niagara Falls, but we've been there several times before -- it's always jammed with people, parking is horribly expensive, and the weather forecast was predicting thunderstorms.

So instead, we spent a pleasant few hours walking up & down main street and poking into the many wonderful little shops (including the Christmas store, the jam shop, and an obligatory stop at the fudge shop, which has been there since 1967). Then we drove back out toward the QEW and the outlet mall, where I picked up a new nightgown, some tops and jewelry from some of my favourite stores.

Back in town, we decided to wander back up the main street and find a place to eat dinner, without making reservations. The restaurant we chose was well rated online -- but we found it just adequate but nothing really special.  Next time, we'll try somewhere else. We did save room for dessert, and stopped for gelato at one of several gelato/ice cream shops on the main street, then strolled through Simcoe Park while we ate it.

We spent a LOT of time walking while we were in town -- it's a very walkable place.  By the time we left, though, my feet and knees were killing me....!  It was VERY hot & humid when we arrived on Thursday;  not quite as hot (but still pretty warm and still very humid) on Friday.  Although the chances of rain & thunderstorms were given as 60-70% in the forecast, we didn't get a drop. Saturday, of course, was wonderfully pleasant. Figures!!

Saturday morning, we had breakfast, took another walk around the neighbourhood, and then checked out & headed back home.

We will be back, sooner rather than later...! 

If you are in Toronto/southern Ontario, Niagara Falls is certainly a must-see. The falls themselves are spectacular (tip: Americans, get your passport & come on over to the Canadian side -- the view is better.)(And I'm not just saying that because I'm Canadian, lol.)  I'll admit I haven't actually spent much time in the town itself in recent years, but it tends to be on the kitschy/commercial/tourist-trap-ish side. A lot of my friends with children love taking their kids there to Great Wolf Lodge, Marine Land, ziplining, the wax museum, etc. (as well as the traditional Maid of the Mist boat tours & Table Rock, etc.).  There's a casino with shows & gambling, if that's your taste.

But I always urge everyone to take the drive up the Niagara Parkway and spend some time in Niagara-on-the-Lake too. You won't regret it! 

Monday, July 10, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Great minds, etc.

I will tell you more about our anniversary getaway in another post soon -- but first I wanted to tell you about the day started. :)  Dh & I don't usually buy each other anniversary gifts, but we have a tradition of exchanging cards first thing when we wake up (and I have kept every one of them). I knew that we had both bought our cards at the local megabookstore, where the selection isn't huge, and the thought crossed my mind that, "Wouldn't it be funny if...?"

The night before our anniversary, I came into our bedroom, purple envelope containing my card to dh in hand to prop up on his night table -- and saw a purple envelope propped up on MY night table. Hmmmm....

You can probably guess the rest. We opened our cards the next morning at the same time. Gales of laughter ensued.  I guess this is what happens when you've known each other almost 36 years and been married for 32 (along with finishing each other's sentences, knowing exactly what the other person is going to say before they open their mouth, etc. etc....!) (You know you've been married a long time when....)(Great minds think alike, etc. etc....)

Me & dh & our identical anniversary cards. ;)
The printing is backwards because we were using
the mirror to help us take the selfie.
(Give us a break; we're aging baby boomers navigating newfangled technology
and no kids around to take a photo for us, lol.) 
Does stuff like this ever happen to you & your dh/partner/best friend or other person you are very close to?? 

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

Wednesday, July 5, 2017