Wednesday, January 30, 2019

A Few of My Favourite Things from 2018

I'm told some guy named Obama released a list of his favourite books, movies, and songs of 2018. Apparently, people are interested in that sort of thing. So I thought I'd write my own little list of favourite things from 2018 too. Of course, I'm disabled, and therefore slow, so I'm getting my list out a tad too late. I hope you enjoy it anyway.

So here, in fairly random order, is my list of favourite things - whatever things - of 2018. Some of them are "deep" and meaningful. Some are fun and frivolous. And yes, some include recommendations: books, a movie, people to follow, resources, clothing stores, and more. 

Here we go!

1. Gabapentin

It may seem strange to say that a prescription drug is one of my favourite things of 2018, but it is. Having finally been properly diagnosed with Central Sensitivity Syndrome, I was started on a new medical approach to pain management, and Gabapentin has been a part of that new approach. For once, a medication is actually helping, not a lot, not like a miracle, but some. I'm still in pain all the time, and functioning at all is very difficult for me. But my general baseline of pain is now a bit lower, and my range of motion and function has improved a bit, and that's pretty great. 

To illustrate, look at the above photo: I'm standing upright, and moving, without holding onto my walker. That's improvement and I want to celebrate it.

2. Feeling Financially Secure with Beau

As you probably know, I've been struggling for a few years to get my rightful disability pensions, both from the government, and from my insurance company. I did finally get my government disability pension, but that doesn't even cover my rent. My legal battle with my insurance company continues. I've lived with debilitating terror about what will become of me if I lose this battle: Will I be on the streets again? Will I die?

Beau has assured me, over and over again, that he can take care of me financially, that I'll be okay even if I don't win in court. I haven't been able to believe him. Nor have I been able to accept the idea of being financially dependent on a man. But, in the past two years, Beau has already been helping me financially, and I've slowly learned to relax into that, and into the reality that, actually, I really will be okay, no matter what - because I'm not alone. It's not about being dependent on a man. It's about letting the person I love help me. That's what people who love each other do.

3. Kittens! 

I still plan to write a whole post about these two, so I'll try not to go on and on about them right now, but, suffice to say, Chuti and Ketsl have been the most delightful addition to our lives this year. 

After Bobby died, I wasn't ready to adopt kittens right way. I was still grieving, and I didn't want to disrespect Bobby's memory by simply replacing him. However, about three weeks after Bobby died, we did put ourselves on a wait list to adopt a bonded pair of kittens from a rescue organization. We figured it would take several months for them to find the right match. But only about a month later, they wrote to us and said they had a brother and sister who exactly matched the kinds of kittens we wanted. I did feel a bit disloyal to Bobby, but Milo was miserable without a companion, and these two were such a perfect match for us - giving them a home seemed like the right thing to do, for all of us.

It feels marvelously decadent to have three cats. I feel rich! And I love how different they are, each from the other.

Ketsl (which means "kitten" in Yiddish) is extremely affectionate, and gentle. He's easily frightened, and is slow to try new things. He loves belly rubs more than anything else in the world - except maybe food.

He's also going to be huge. He's only about 10 months old in this photo.

Chuti (which means "tiny" in Sinhalese) is going to be tiny. It's hard to believe she's almost full grown.

Like her brother, Chuti is gentle, and she is affectionate, when she feels like it, but she's far more adventurous than Ketsl. She's extremely curious and playful, and loves to try new things (including things that get her into trouble). Chuti always tries new things first, and then, later, Ketsl follows. Chuti has quickly established herself as the alpha cat in the house. Milo, our 15 year old cat, adores her.

4. The way the kittens love my walker

They sleep on it. They sleep in it. They play on it. They get me to take them for rides on it. They take running leaps at it so it goes flying across the room with them on it. They absolutely love this thing and it's so cute!

This past summer, there was a big kerfuffle in Toronto when the owner of a cat cafe refused to allow anyone using a walker or a wheelchair to come into the cafe. She swore that we are a menace to cats and kittens because our mobility devices will injure them. She was, of course, full of sh*t. Ketsl and Chuti's adoration of my walker kind of proves my point... which brings me to my next favourite thing of 2018.

5. Becoming more of a disability rights activist online

I've never been one so stay silent in the face of injustice, discrimination, and oppression. The longer I'm disabled, the more I understand how endemic ableism is in my culture. So, in keeping with my nature, I've been speaking out, more and more. This culminated in my post, Things You Say to Disabled People - But Shouldn't! It was a hit, mostly with fellow disabled people, who are as fed up as I am, but also with abled people willing to listen and learn. That felt good.

One of my favourite, disability activists, Imani Barbarin
6. Following disability activists online

It's not quite right to say that I'm "following" disability rights activists online. Really, I'm having conversations with them, learning from them, getting to know them, and, in many cases, becoming friends with them. 

Chronic pain disability can be very isolating. So can facing ableism all alone. When I connect with other disabled people online, I know I'm not alone - in my physical pain and limitations, and also in my frustrations with the prejudices of mainstream culture. When I'm suffering, my online friends tweet me pictures of their kitties. When I'm angry, they tell me that they're angry too. When I'm fighting against ableism, they're fighting too. I learn from them too, a million things, from new pain management techniques (that actually work, unlike the ones ableds suggest to me), to which organizations are fighting for our rights, to what books might help to distract me from my pain.

We also laugh a lot. We tell each other jokes that only we understand. One of my favourite, disability rights activists is Imani Barbarin, aka Crutches and Spice. She is so funny! She has just the right blend of intersectional, sarcastic wit, smarts, and justified, well-targeted anger. If you want to get plugged into the disabilities community, follow her and go from there.

7. Meeting other people who have chronic pain caused by child sex trafficking

I'm not sure I've met a child sex trafficking survivor (who was trafficked under 10 years old) - online or in "real life" - who hasn't developed a severe, chronic pain condition by forty. Most of us initially thought the child abuse and the disability were two separate tragedies. But now, finally, people are recognizing the causal connection between the two. Sometimes, if you're lucky, doctors make the connection and help you patients navigate this emotional reality. Often, it's the patients who make the connection and struggle to get their doctors to take it seriously

Either way, when we finally understand that our rapists who tortured us as children, also caused the torture of our chronic pain in adulthood - it hits us like a brick wall. And what we need, perhaps more than anything else, is to talk to our peers, people who have been through the same hells, and truly, deeply understand each other. We can find that online, often quietly, behind the scenes, but sometimes openly, so others can learn from us. 

Patricia Arquette
Recently, on a thread started by the actress, Patricia Arquette, I had a long, Twitter conversation with another child sex trafficking survivor. We talked about torture, about adult pain from unresolved injuries, about ongoing problems with our "lady parts," and much more. We really laid it all on the line. And many people, including Patricia, ended up following our conversation and retweeting parts of it. As a result, I woke up in the morning to find that over 1,000 people had read my blog overnight!

Maybe, as survivors connect, we aren't just helping each other, but are also helping educate others. 

Trafficking survivor and activist, Trisha Baptie
8. Following other child sex trafficking survivors. 

This is Trisha Baptie. Back in the day, she and I were being pimped out at about the same time, at the same age, in the very same neighbourhood. Yet I never met her - then. But years and years later, she became one of the very first, anti-trafficking, survivor activists I knew. She does a lot of public speaking. Sometimes I can hear her voice shaking, but she does it anyway. I don't know how. She's a hero

Through following Trisha, I've come to know many other survivor activists. They are all heroes to me. I hope I am contributing at least a little to this fight. Because it's so damned important. 

Mira Sorvino (and her puppy), with child sex trafficking survivor and activist, Kayti Survivor
9. Being followed by Mira Sorvino and Rosanna Arquette

I'll admit: I was courting Mira Sorvino a little bit. What I mean is that I knew she is a strong anti-trafficking advocate, and I was hoping to get myself and my story on her radar. It wasn't hard; she makes a point of following trafficking survivors online, and even befriending us in real life. That's her in the photo above, with my online friend and fellow trafficking survivor, Kayti Survivor. I won't go into details, but Kayti was having a very bad week. Mira visited Kayti to cheer up, and brought her new puppy with her. This is the kind of stuff Mira does behind the scenes. She walks the walk, as well as talking the talk.

So I guess I wasn't really surprised when Mira followed me online. Still, it was exciting. (Beau will tell you that I'm a bit of a goof when it comes to celebrity. I literally screamed when I saw David Suzuki at my physio clinic.) I'm happy to be on the radar of someone with a wider social and political reach than I have, because I know her messages are similar to mine, and I know that she works to amplify the voices of people like me and Kayti. Remember: Miro Sorvino was one of the movers and shakers in bringing down Harvey Weinstein, and in accelerating the MeToo movement (which was started by Tarana Burke). 

I told Mira's husband that Mira is a hero to me, and she responded by telling me that I'm a hero. Gosh, that felt nice.

Mira Sorvino and Rosanna Arquette at the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking's 20th Annual From Slavery To Freedom Gala
I've admired Rosanna Arquette as an offbeat actor since her I saw her in Desperately Seeking Susan, but I didn't know that she too was instrumental in exposing Harvey Weinstein, and is also a strong anti sex trafficking activist. I found out quickly though when she too followed me on Twitter and then wrote to me privately - to apologize in advance for her grammar! That gave me a chuckle. 

It wasn't long after that that Rosanna's sister, Patricia, shared one of my posts and I had 1,000 reads over night. 

Am I famous yet?

10. Passing 500,000 reads of my blog, Sublime Mercies

Yup, my little-blog-that-could just passed half a million reads! I don't know, but I suspect that's pretty good. Sublime Mercies started as a hobby blog about fashion, meant to distract me from my pain. But it has became... Well, I'm not sure what it's become. I still write about fashion and fashion history, but now I write about many other things as well. And apparently there's a desire for my sort of writing because...

I just passed half a million reads!! Did I mention that?

11. The movie, The Tale

I haven't read the book upon which this movie is based. Honestly, I'm not sure I could stomach it because I suspect it would hit even closer to home than the movie did. The movie is an example of another writer using her writing and sleuthing skills to excavate the truth behind the lies she's told herself about the sexual abuse she endured as a 13 year old. It's quiet, brainy, increasingly fearless, sometimes harrowing, cleverly constructed, and brilliant. I highly recommend it.

12. Harry and Meghan's wedding

Really, this look says it all, doesn't it? The obvious love between these two was the main attraction when I watched their wedding. But there was more to it than that.

Of course, there were the fashions, which were, in large part, a parade of styles from decades past. Here, I compare this floral fascinator to a 1930s dish that I cherish. The comparison was in no way meant to mock the fascinator, but merely to illustrate its designer's strong, 1930s inspiration

But, for me, the real highlight of the wedding was the regal poise of Meghan's beautiful mother, Doria Ragland. Wow. She knew she was watching her own daughter making history. And she was proud. Her joy and love were contagious.

It was the fact that it was making history that made this royal wedding so much more than just a wedding for me - and for millions of others. It was clear that Meghan and Harry were aware that their "inter-racial," royal marriage was a great step forward for the royal family, and they made sure to highlight that in many of their choices for their wedding, including their much loved inclusion of The Kingdom Choir in the ceremony.

Later, I read a bunch of the astonished, delighted posts on "black twitter" about the wedding. I'm not ashamed to say that I laughed and cried several times, sometimes both at once.

13. Following more Black activists online

This is something I've done quietly, trying to keep my talkative, opinionated self in check, as I simply read, watch, and learn. As I've said before in this blog, it's not the job of the oppressed to educate the oppressor, but it is the job of the oppressor to educate herself. (And, yes, I am an oppressor, simply by virtue of being white and reaping the benefits accorded to whites in our racist society, even when I do so unwittingly or unwillingly.) Of course, reading books on the subject is a great way to educate myself, and I've done quite a bit of that, but, in today's internet society, following activists on social media is another great way to gain an education. 

Has this changed my attitudes, beliefs, or behaviours in any ways? I think so. I hope so.

One thing I've definitely been learning about is how black Jews feel marginalized in the Jewish community. This is definitely something I'm going to work to learn more about in the future. 

Jewish women supporting the Civil Rights Movement at the March on Washington
14. Educating myself about Jewish allies in the Civil Rights Movement

This became really important to me after the racist, anti-Semitic rally in Charlottesville, at which white men chanted, "Jews will not replace us!" Between that rally, and the anti-Semitic attacks I was enduring online, I learned that many racists and white nationalists see a fundamental tie between Black rights activists and Jews, and they've done so since the Civil Rights Movement

The tie they imagine between us - Jews being some kind of puppet masters of Black Lives Matter - does not exist. But I think any Jew who really understands Jewish history will find that she simply has to be an ally in the fight against all forms of racism. Racism and anti-Semitism are so entwined that Jews simply cannot ignore the former when tackling the latter. Plus, of course, it's simply the right thing to do.

This guy was the rabbi at my synagogue when I very first started attending shul in my 20s. Years later, he officiated at my marriage to Beau

15. Following more Jews, including rabbis and secular Jews, online

If you know anything about Jews, you know we can never agree on anything. Debate, discussion, and study are central to who we are, as a religion and as a people. By following more Jews online, I'm entering into that discussion and its enriching my life. From ideas about disability theology to good challah recipes, I'm learning a great deal as I go.

Audrey Siegl at a rally in support of the Wet'suwet'en people. Photo by Maritza Mandinga
16. Following more Indigenous people online

I've been slowly educating myself about Indigenous cultures, history, struggles, and victories for - well, for decades, but I think that education has accelerated in the last 10 or 12 years. I could write a lot about what I've learned, and why it's important to me, but that would take up far more than this one blog post. 

In the last year, I feel my learning has accelerated even more. I've found myself challenged as I learn to use terms like "settler colonialist" and to apply those terms to my own, family, especially my maternal family, who settled in north-eastern America very soon after the arrival of the Mayflower. I've also watched my prime-minister get the RCMP to enforce yet another land grab from Indigenous people, this time from the Wet'suwet'en people, on behalf of big business.

I'm using a picture of my friend, Audrey Siegl, here because I think I've learned the most from her. Certainly I've interacted the most with her, having "met" her on my personal Facebook through a mutual friend. She has more social and activist energy than anyone I know. I would drop dead doing one half of one half of what she does - even if I weren't disabled! We all do what we can do, and she can do a lot!

17. The book, The Marrow Thieves, by Cherie Dimaline 

This young adult novel has been getting a lot of buzz here in Canada, and rightly so. It's a dystopic novel set in the near future, when climate change has wreacked full havoc. Everyone but Indigenous people have lost the ability to dream, and, therefore, Indigenous people are on the run, hunted by those who are trying to find a way to dream again. 

Spoiler alert: there is a harrowing rape scene in this novel that is so like what happened to me that I had to put the book down for a while before I could keep reading. End of spoiler alert: But, generally, the novel maintains enough hope and love to sustain the reader as she travels through dystopia with its hero, Frenchie.

The novel provides no easy answers, no simplified "morals" for the reader to tuck up in a silly aphorism. But I did glean two important truths from it: A person can be of mixed heritage, like me, and still draw her sense of strength, belonging, and identity from one of those heritages; and partial knowledge of one's lost heritage, language, and culture is enough to empower, and, indeed, save the world. Both these truths helped spur my own exploration of my Jewish genealogy and history.

I'm related to most of the children in this photograph. They're all Jewish. The only one I knew about before 2018 was my uncle, the little boy in the sailor suit. Photo, circa 1935
18. My Jewish genealogy! 

This has been and will continue to be an amazing journey for me. When I began this research, I genuinely believed there were only 11 of us left in the world. I now know there are hundreds, in Israel, in South Africa, but mostly in America, more specifically, mostly in New York City. There's an entire section devoted to my family in a Jewish cemetery in Queens!  

I also know that at least 31 of my family members were murdered in the Holocaust - and that's just on my grandfather's side. The journey has been, and will continue to be, an up and down experience, elation changing to agony in a blink, back and forth, as I find family, and then lose family I never even knew.

My cousin, Roza's grave. The bottom part commemorates her two sisters, Rivka and Mina, who were murdered in the Holocaust.
This research has necessitated a crash course in Eastern European Jewish history, culture, language, naming customs, and migration patterns during hard times. My Hebrew has improved, mostly from reading tombstones; my pride in this feels macabre, especially when I'm reading the names of Holocaust victims. I've learned that life for Jews was extremely difficult and restricted - long before the Holocaust. I've learned more about the pogroms. 

I remember that it was Audrey Siegl, drawing on her own experience as an Indigenous woman, who helped me understand that I had to sink my heart not just into the suffering of my ancestors, but into their incredible strength and survival as well. That definitely helped.

19. Tracing the Tribe

Tracing the Tribe - Jewish Genealogy on Facebook, has 27,000 members around the world. It is amazing! Anyone who wants to do their Jewish genealogy has just got to join this group. They're very supportive and unbelievably helpful. I have learned so much, and received so much help from its members. I couldn't have done half of what I've done without them. I only hope that some day I'll be good enough at this to help others as much as they've helped me. I haven't yet found a relative in the group, but I found a woman who grew up with my father and uncle. She's the one who gave me that beautiful photo of all those little kids in the 1930s.

And, when a new discovery hits me in the gut, they're there for me, and, I hope, I'm there for them. When I started to learn about my relatives murdered in the Holocaust, I posted an anguished question: "How do you deal with this? How do I cope?" I was flooded with kind, gentle, understanding responses. 

Just in case you're wondering, no, we do not discuss politics, Israel, who is and isn't a Jew, and other controversial topics. This is just about finding family. That's it.

I must also recommend a few other sites for those who want to do their Jewish genealogy. I do use They're very good for American research, and I like their family tree construction tool, but they're not great for non-American research. For that, I find My Heritage a bit better, partly because they include Hebrew search results; if you can read any Hebrew at all, even just names, this site will be a good one to join. But, above all, JewishGen is an absolute must. It's volunteer run, with a pretty ugly and confusing site, but it's worth the effort because it contains a plethora of 19th and early 20th Century records: births, marriages, deaths, tax records, etc, all of which can help you piece together your family before they were either forced to migrate - or were murdered in the Holocaust.

This brings me to the next invaluable but heart-breaking resource: Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center. Yad Vashem has one of the most complete, online lists of Holocaust victims. As much as possible, they include information about who reported the murders, and their relationship to the victims. So, for example, I found out about Roza because she reported the murders of some of my (our) relatives. I immediately knew two things: she and I were related, and she had survived.

Left, Roza at about 17, around 1938; Right, me at 17, in 1988
20. Finding Roza

For me, this was huge. Writing a post about her was a long, difficult process, but an amazing one. I found it necessary to include a great deal of historical information so that readers could really understand Roza's story. I won't say a lot more about her here because you can read all about her in my post, Come From the Shadows: How my Cousin Roza Survived the Holocaust. But I will give you a bit of an update.

Roza is on the far right. Dov is in the centre. His wife, Tova, also a Holocaust survivor, is on the far left. Roza and Dov are my cousins.
When I finished that post, I knew almost nothing about Roza's life after the Holocaust. I can now tell you that she stayed in Israel with her husband, and had two daughters, one of whom died in a car accident, one of whom is still alive. Aside from her father, Benjamin, she found at least one other relative who had survived the Holocaust too: Dov, the man in the above photo. Dov is my cousin too. They stayed in touch for the rest of their lives.

In total, so far, I've found only four Holocaust survivors in my family. I've managed to trace the descendants of three of them, and I can tell you this: I now know where my colouring - pale skin, auburn hair - comes from! I've connected with many long-lost relatives, and hope to connect with Roza's daughter soon.

21. Watching my stepsons grow up

I have been very quiet about my stepsons in this blog. First, I did this because they were young children and I wanted to protect them from online predators, as well as any connection with some of the heavier stuff I write about here. They're six foot tall teenagers now, aged 14 and 17, so they need less protection. But they do like their privacy so I still don't write about them much at all. My 14 year old still doesn't want me to publish his photo, but my 17 year old gave me permission to show you this photo of him in his grad suit. Such a young man he has become! He's a real mensch.

I was nervous about becoming a stepmother. I'd heard so many horror stories. But, honestly, they're really easy, great kids, and we get along wonderfully. I was even more nervous about being a stepmother to teenagers. I was myself a bit of a horror story in my own teens. But, so far, all's really well! Stepson 1 got into a great, mechanics program for grade 12 and has already bought his very own car, with his very own savings from his jobs. Stepson 2 is in grade 9, his second year of an accelerated, gifted program that keeps him on his intellectual toes. They're both thriving.

In other words, I am proud of these two boys. Very proud.

Kyra Sedgwick as Brenda Leigh Johnson in The Closer
22. The Closer

Beau and I spent several months watching The Closer almost every night. It's a murder mystery set in LA, and led by Kyra Sedgwick as the very femme, very flawed, very smart Brenda Leigh Johnson. Some episodes are dead serious, while some are dead funny, but the great, ensemble cast moves seamlessly between these two emotional tones. Characters grow and change, and you come to really believe in their professional excellence as a team. They're fun.

Then, of course, there are Brenda's outfits. Oh my God! Sometimes I just had to press pause to catch my breath.

Seriously. I would wear almost anything she wore on the show, without the slightest reservation.

23. Experimenting with a new dress shape

I'm really not sure what to call this dress shape: long and narrow on the bottom, blousy on the top? It reminds me a lot of the 1930s. I'll be honest: my self-esteem about my appearance has been in the toilet lately. I need to work on that. But I can't see this dress shape as anything but absolutely lovely on me!

And you know me: fashion is therapy for me. So you'll be seeing more of this shape in future blog posts.

Me, in front of Archie Andrews' house from Riverdale
24. Old Navy sundresses

Okay, as a good leftie, I have problems with Old Navy. They seem to me to epitomize some of the worst of capitalism, and I doubt they're very good to their overseas workers. So I have some shame in admitting that I lived in their pretty, simple, very comfortable sundresses this past summer.

But I'm a disabled woman, with a very fair complexion, and a large bust: summer comfort can be very hard to find for women like me. These dresses fit the bill. I can even get away with wearing them without a bra!

And, when I did wear a bra with these dresses, it was a mere wisp of a thing, more of a covering than a bra at all. Ladies of a certain amplitude, you know what that's worth on a hot summer day!

Beau and me in our matching, London Fog caps, his in cool tones, mine in warm tones. They actually fit our big, brain-filled heads!  We ordered them on Black Friday
25. Black Friday

Funds are still tight, until I win my damned battle with my insurance company, if I win it. I have to budget carefully. It's very stressful, not knowing if or when I will get the money that is rightfully mine, and knowing that greed and cruelty are the cause of this ongoing, financial struggle. 

So: Black Friday. Yes, I bought a lot of pretty things for myself on Black Friday. No, I'm not ashamed or embarrassed. Yes, it brought me a lot of joy and fun. 

26. This coat

I was so excited about this Hell Bunny coat that I wore it before we'd even steamed out the wrinkles. It was a huge splurge, but it's so worth it. First, of course, it's beautifully retrolicious. It's versatile: I can wear it with or without the cape, or I can wear the cape on its own, so it's kind of a three-for-one deal.

But, the best thing about this coat is that it's scooter friendly, keeping my legs warm and dry when "regular" coats don't. 

So I guess another recommendation from 2018 is Hell Bunny! Peruse the dresses. Drool over the coats. Thrill to the plus sizes. You're welcome.

27. Victorian and Edwardian jewelry

What can I say? Just look at it. Isn't it gorgeous? The garnet earrings, gold and seed pearl crescent moon, and peridot (pale green stone) brooch, are worth a lot more than I paid for them, but the only piece here that was actually expensive is the Star of David stickpin, and that was a gift from Beau. My point is that, much to my surprise, Victorian and Edwardian jewelry doesn't have to break the bank at all. This is especially true if you're going for costume pieces, which include silver and "rolled gold" (like gold plate) pieces. It does help to know what you're looking for: it's amazing how many sellers don't know what they have and therefore under price their pieces.

So why do I love Victorian and Edwardian jewelry? I think I have two reasons. First, it's so pretty, dainty, and feminine, with little swirls, flowers, and lacy bits. That's my style, baby! And I also just love the sense of history embodied in them. Think about it: These pieces were made a minimum of 110 years ago! Women were still wearing corsets, and long, sweeping dresses; there had not yet been a world war; women didn't yet have the vote; cars were a brand new thing. These pieces are old. I think that's cool. Also, did I mention they're pretty?

28. Maybelline's, Copper Rose, metallic lipstick

I am not one to wear much makeup. I often wear no makeup at all. So it's a surprise to me that I'm even recommending any makeup at all. But I've taken to doing like my grandmother did: wearing no makeup but for a little lipstick. I don't know why this seems fine to me, but it does. 

And I really like this lipstick. Sometimes I wear it on its own.

And sometimes I put a frosty, Burt's Bees, tinted lip balm over top of it. I think this Burt's Bees colour is called Pink Grapefruit.

29. A room of my own

I've actually had this room of my own (yes, that's a Virginia Woolf reference) since I moved in with Beau and the boys. I'd lived alone for 20 years, and liked it. As an introvert, I knew I'd need a space that was all my own or I'd start to get grumpy with the people I loved. So, I've had this room for several years, but, first with a geriatric cat with a peeing problem, and then with two, lively kittens, I'd never been able to turn the space into the cozy, beautiful room I'd envisioned. 

Once the kittens were older, and knew about kitty litter, forbidden surfaces, and where they can and cannot claw, we could finally turn my room into a beautiful space, coloured with sage and dusty rose. I brought in my antique furniture, my pretty tatchkes, my pretty carpet, my glass lamps (all vintage)... You get the idea. My room is a study, an introvert space, a rest my back on my daybed space, my space. Now it is also a space that is very easy on the eyes and that goes a long way to soothing my often fretful heart and soul.

30. Squirrels

I've already told you all about our two squirrels. Sadly, they grew bigger and, one day, one of them got stuck in the bird feeder. Beau had to perform a complicated rescue plan that involved oven mitts and wire clippers. It must have been very frightening for our poor little squirrel, because he told his sister about his ordeal and we haven't see either of them since. I miss them!

But, for the first few months of 2018, this brother and sister were a delight, for Beau, me, and our dearly departed Bobby, RIP.

A Northern Flicker
31. Birds!

Always. If you feed them, they will come. And you will be very happy about it.

32. A Damsel in Distress, by PG Wodehouse

You may think you don't know who PG Wodehouse is, but you probably do. He invented Jeeves, not actually a butler, but a "gentleman's personal gentleman." Doesn't ring a bell?

What about these two? On the left, Jeeves, played by Stephen Frye, and, on the right, Wooster, played by Hugh Laurie. If you need a really good laugh, with no deep meaning or message, you can't go wrong with the Jeeves and Wooster series. Like many, I first discovered PG Wodehouse through the Jeeves and Wooster television show, which I could get on video at the library. I thought, "If the show is funny, I'll bet the books are too." They are.

From there, I branched out and read many of Wodehouse's other books. You can always expect certain things from Wodehouse: great word-play, laughter, romantic mix-ups, no depth whatsoever, and a playful send-up of upper class and titled Brits. A Damsel in Distress is probably the earliest of Wodehouse's novels that I've read (so old that it's no longer covered by copyright laws), and it was a complete, silly, delight. 

33. Rummy 500

I don't know why Beau and I took to playing cards together, and I don't know why we picked Rummy 500, but I know it's been a lovely, soothing addition to our lives. We play it at home,We play it at "our" cafe if we go out together. I think people think it's quaint. I guess it is.

I find it almost meditative and I think I'm getting pretty good at it too.

34. My cafe

My city has a very strong cafe culture, especially in my neighbourhood, which is known as Little Italy. Many of our local cafes are still owned by Italian families who first moved here in the 1940s. Most people have "their" cafe where they hang out enough that everyone there knows them. I got my degrees in cafes. I marked essays in cafes. Some of my romances bloomed and died in cafes. And now I write this blog in "my" cafe. 

Until about two years ago, I had a different cafe. I liked my cafe. But there quite a few macho men who hung out there, and, eventually, one of them, one of the owners, banned me from ever coming back because, he said, "You talk about your disability too much. I'm sick of it!" Wow. Wow wow wow. 

I felt adrift. I tried this and that cafe, and settled on this one, the one I'm sitting in right now. It's really quite grotty looking, but it's extremely friendly, extremely left-wing, and extremely multi-generational. All the baristas know me, know my disability, know what coffee I want, and that I want it in a "to go" cup because mugs are too heavy for me. They know to go get me a specific chair that easier on my back. Like I say, it's a friendly place. Perhaps the only problem is that everyone is so friendly, I'm likely to forget my blog and end up chatting instead. 

It's also put me in a new position: I'm hanging out with a lot of young people. There are plenty of people here who are my age and much older, but there are also many people who are much younger. I'm not used to hanging out with young people. (When I talk about my life, they compare me to their mothers, not themselves. Eeek!) It makes me feel old, but it's also kind of fun. See those two baristas? I went to an alternative high school with "Loretta's" (her choice of name) father and uncle. I even dated her uncle. Now things are coming full circle, to the next generation.

It's nice to feel like I have a living room away from home again. I'm used to that.

So those are some of my favourite things from 2018. Like this photo, with Beau's finger in the frame, life is not perfect, but it's also not without beauty and joy. This post was all about remembering the joy, and hoping to bring a little bit of into your life as well.