Monday, November 30, 2015

November -- yay or nay?

So -- it's over! As you all know, November is NOT my favourite month (although it still beats February...!).

So now the big question:  Did November suck (as much as it sometimes has in the past)? Did I hate November or not this year?

Why November still sucks (a bit): 

I have to admit, there were a few parts of November that I could have done without.
  • Near the end of the month, the weather turned colder and gloomier and more November-like.
  • What happened in Paris on Friday, November 13th, was sad & scary. :(  
  • We had to hand over a big chunk of change to get a new car, after our old one (12+ years and counting) was diagnosed with more repairs than we felt were worth spending money on. This, on top of a new fridge in early October, the Painting Project, and plane tickets to see my family Christmas, left quite a dent in our wallet (and this was BEFORE I started Christmas shopping...!). Ouch! 
  • Dh & I spent the better part of two days going back & forth to the local hospital's emergency room. Long story short, he had a piece of chicken stuck in his throat, which had to be removed via gastroscopy/endoscopy.  It was kind of scary -- he could breathe, but he could not swallow anything, including water (!) -- but aside from a sore throat for the next few days, he quickly bounced back to normal, thank goodness.
  • And, of course, November will always be a reminder of my unfulfilled due date, and the little girl who never grew up. :( 
Why November doesn't suck (as much): 
  • I'm not at work!! :)  :)  :) 
You know, I've heard a lot of people complaining about the painful memories that come back to haunt them via Facebook's "On This Day" feature. (Bent Not Broken recently had a thoughtful post on this subject.) So far, I haven't had any real gut-punches -- perhaps because Facebook wasn't even invented until long after I had been through stillbirth, infertility & finally settled on continuing to live without children.

Nevertheless, there have been a couple of surprises -- things I'd forgotten about, funny stories I'd shared that were still funny a few years later. One thing that's plainly evident is how miserable I've often been at this time of year -- particularly in November and particularly late November/early December -- crunch time for year-end work deadlines. Often I'd have similar complaints pop up from various years on the same day!

A few examples (slightly edited):

From November 19th, 2012:
"It's the most wonderful time of the yeeeeeeeeaaaaaarrrrr....." (Sung sarcastically, with looming deadlines for year end in mind... :p )
From November 22, 2010:
...will be very, very, very, very happy when year end stuff is finally finished. :p
From November 23, 2011 (exactly one year later!):
...thinks it totally sucks that the fun of the Christmas season coincides exactly with the busiest & most stressful time of year at work (year end reporting). :p (You would think I would have figured this out & gotten used to it after 25 years on the job, but every year about this time, I feel the need to vent & sulk, lol. The fact that all my American relatives are enjoying turkey tomorrow while I still have to wait another month for Mom's might also have something to do with it...)
Other reasons why November didn't suck (as much):
  • The weather for the first 1/2 to 2/3 of the month was, for the most part, gorgeous. (In fact, I just saw a weather story on TV that showed something like 21 days of above-normal temperatures in November!)  There were a couple of days, early in the month, when I was outside in my shirt sleeves. That DOES NOT HAPPEN in Canada, people (certainly not where I grew up). It was Nov. 24th before I woke up to snow on the ground, and even then, it was just enough to coat the grass, and vanished quickly. (Yes, I know -- global warming, etc. etc.  But still...!)    
  • The Painting Project, which started in mid-October, spilled over into the first part of November. By the time stepBIL packed up his paint rollers and I managed to get my house back into some semblance of order and cleanliness, it was almost Remembrance Day. So the month really flew by.
  • Despite the fact that getting a new car ate up a big chunk of our savings (albeit savings that were budgeted specifically for a new car sometime in the near future), it was, of course, exciting :) and we are enjoying it.  
  • I got a head start on getting into the Christmas spirit, first by getting in touch with my Swedish roots at a Swedish Christmas festival, complete with a St. Lucia pageant (where St. Lucia stuck with tradition and wore a crown of real candles in her hair!) -- then by getting a head start on my Christmas shopping on Black Friday with my sister-in-law. :)  Black Friday is a relatively new phenomenon here in Canada -- promoted by retailers who are desperate to keep us and our dollars from crossing the border in search of bargains -- and the mall was pretty crowded, but SIL is a great shopping companion.  We had fun and yes, we found some bargains. :)
On balance, then: another November that didn't totally suck. :)  How about that?? :) 

#MicroblogMondays: It's a date :)

A couple of weeks ago, after our semi-annual dental cleanings & checkups in the city (no cavities, yay!!), dh & I made a side trip to an exclusive little stationery shop in a ritzy shopping neighbourhood. Not a place where I habitually go to shop, but then, there aren't a whole lot of places around anymore where I can find a calendar insert for my Filofax for the upcoming new year. There used to be several such shops in the financial district where we both used to work, but most of these have gradually closed over the past few years, no doubt a casualty of the growing shift from paper to digital recordkeeping.

Yes, I still use a paper calendar. I've used Filofax (Week on Two Pages) for something like 25 years now. Originally, I used a cheap vinyl DayRunner organizer with a Filofax calendar insert -- but a couple of years ago, after wearing out two of those, I splurged and, for my birthday, bought myself a lovely black leather Filofax Personal organizer (bonus: it was on sale!). Besides the calendar/datebook, it also includes my address book, business cards for our various doctors and other service people, to-do lists, a vinyl envelope containing postage stamps and address labels, a solar-powered calculator the size of a credit card, train schedule, etc. -- and, in case of an emergency, a $5 bill tucked away, lol. (It's been awhile since I put it there -- maybe I should make it $10 or $20 -- inflation!)  Some people go nuts if they lose their cellphones;  for me, if I lost my Filofax, I would be up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

I love filling in a blank calendar for a new year with fixed stuff like birthdays, appointments I've already made, paydays (& then wait for the inevitable bills to arrive & fill those in too, lol).  Birthdays & anniversaries go in red, important stuff like bills to be paid go in black (& when they're paid, they're ticked off in green with the amount paid written beside). Regular appointments are written in blue (and sometimes highlighted with yellow highlighter). The datebook also serves as a bit of a diary:  I make notes about the day's weather in purple, mail sent and received in turquoise, notable phone calls made & received in brown... I use lots of post-it notes too, for little to-do reminders, etc. 

At the end of the year, the old insert gets binder-clipped together and stored in a desk drawer along with the others from years past. I have all my datebooks and wall calendars going back to the early 1970s;  it's great to have them at my fingertips and be able to check what happened when and what I was doing xx years ago on this very day. For example, thanks to an old datebook I found & brought home from my mother's house this past summer, I was able to pinpoint the exact date of the dorm party where I first remember meeting and talking to dh, 34 years ago. :)

I suppose I could have just ordered my calendar insert online (& I may eventually have to, if fine stationery shops keep going the way of the dodo bird...), but it was fun to make the trip and be around all that lovely paper and fine fountain pens. It was just after Remembrance Day, and Christmas decorations were starting to go up;  it was a great way to kick off the holiday season. :)

What kind of a calendar/datebook system do you use?

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

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Uterine transplants & social pressures

There was an article in Ms Magazine's online blog several days ago, about recently announced trials at the Cleveland Clinic that would, conceivably (OK, bad pun), allow women to experience pregnancy and give birth via uterine transplant.

While writer Katherine Macfarlane applauds the efforts to give women more reproductive choices, she also takes note of "the social pressures at play that equate true womanhood with the ability to become a biological mother... pressure to experience motherhood in a very specific way."
I understand the determination to become a mother. Aside from the fact that it’s a natural part of life, socialization makes the experience of motherhood hard to separate from the experience of being a woman...  I know from personal experience that, even when it could pose a threat to your own wellbeing, the chance to carry a baby yourself is compelling... It's hard to let that dream go...  
Uterus transplants will give women who had lost hope a new chance to control their reproductive choices: They can now choose the option of experiencing motherhood through their own pregnancies. 
If women walk into these procedures fully informed of the risks, advised by doctors who will weigh the pressure to experience pregnancy alongside what women want, uterus transplants will represent medical innovation at its best. But questioning the restrictive gender norms that might influence those choices is critical.
The key point here for, for me, was the very specific focus on "biological" motherhood as a norm that women feel pressured to aspire to.  Interestingly, the article does not define any alternatives to "biological motherhood."  It does not encourage women to "just adopt" or consider adoption as an alternative.  In fact, I don't think the word "adoption" appears once in the article. (Other "alternative" routes to motherhood, including the use of donor eggs or surrogacy, are not mentioned either.)  On the one hand, it's kind of refreshing. ;)  On the other hand, when you think about it, it seems slightly odd... if you're questioning the pressures women feel to achieve motherhood biologically, why no mention of the other ways they can achieve this goal? 

Which brings me to my point. I just wish the writer had gone one step further.  It's not JUST the pressure to become a biological mother and/or experience pregnancy yourself that women face -- it's the pressure we face to become mothers, period, by any means possible. Or, if not to actively parent a child, then at least to appear "motherly" and nurturing in other ways, and especially when interacting with other people's children. (I know there was a great online discussion on this subject recently, although I can't for the life of me remember where -- on a blog? On Facebook?  -- if anyone remembers, let me know in the comments!) 

Of course, many people consider feminism to be anti-motherhood -- perhaps the writer and the magazine was trying to avoid that image with this specific focus?

What do you think? -- of the pressures to become a mother, biologically or otherwise, and of uterine transplants as a potential route to motherhood?

Right now...

Sharah recently did a list on her blog, "Right now," that I've been wanting to do here for awhile now. Similar lists that I've long enjoyed are "The Present Participle" by scrapbooking blogger Cathy Zielske (the verbs she uses vary from month to month -- November's list is here) and the "Download" column in the Sunday New York Times Review section (the standard categories are Reading, Watching, Listening and Following, plus a couple others that seem to be specifically tailored to the person featured).

So here's sort of a mishmash/combination/my version... if I remember, I'll resurrect this now & then. ;) 

Reading:  "Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter" by Kate Clifford Larson. Review to come. Also in my to-read pile (among other volumes): the latest memoirs by Elvis Costello, Patti Smith and Gloria Steinem.  Plus, of course, the inevitable magazines & newspapers. ;)

Watching: This afternoon: "Spotlight," a movie that's getting rave reviews & Oscar buzz.  Tonight: Grey Cup, the one & only football game I feel compelled to watch every year -- Ottawa Redblacks vs Edmonton Eskimos (who last met for the championship in 1981). Bonus: this year, it's being played at the new(ish) stadium built on the campus of my alma mater in my home province. :) 

Listening: I haven't listened to it yet, but I picked up Adele's new CD on Black Friday. :) One of the local FM radio stations has switched to an all-Christmas music format, and we've been listening to that in the car a lot, in addition to our usual classic rock station. :)

Following: The progress of Bill 141 through the Ontario legislature. Third Reading debate has been set for Monday, Dec 7th, and a final vote is scheduled for Dec 8th. If you are a bereaved parent living in Ontario, please call or email your local MPP to express your support. There is a Facebook page where you can follow the bill's progress along with me. :)

Drinking: I just realized I have not yet treated myself to a Starbucks Christmas drink!! Must remedy that shortly!  ;)

Eating:  Popcorn for lunch at the movies this afternoon. ;) 

Anticipating: A busy three weeks ahead (yikes!!) until we head home to visit my parents for Christmas. 

Contemplating: What happened to October & November and how did we get here, with Dec. 1st just two days away and Christmas less than four weeks off??! 

Loving: Seeing the sunshine flooding into my living room.  Makes November feel less Novemberish. ;)  

Monday, November 23, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Farewell to a dinosaur

Dh & I recently joined the 21st century: we got a new 48-inch flat-screen, high-definition LED television set. I'd resisted getting one for quite a while;  our 12-year-old, 32" Sony TV worked perfectly well and I saw no reason to get a new one.  (Not having kids, we might not be as susceptible to peer pressure as our parent friends are -- although we took plenty of ribbing from BIL, who's probably bought three flat-screen TVs in the time that we've had our Sony.)

Having finally succumbed to the charms of the flat screen, the question became what to do with our old dinosaur of a set. It had a flat screen (of sorts), but it was probably one of the last batch of picture-tube TV sets to be made, and even though it works perfectly well, NOBODY wants these things anymore. Our nephews just laughed when we asked if they wanted it;  most of the local charities I checked won't take picture tube TVs.

Dh & stepBIL lugged the set out to the garage shortly after the conclusion of the painting project, with the idea of hauling it to the dump along with the other garbage generated by the recent renovations. StepBIL warned us, however, that the dump charges according to weight (they weigh your car as you arrive and then again when you leave). This was a BIG TV -- just 32" wide but, with the picture tube, probably almost 32" deep.  I think it weighed at least 100 lbs; stepBIL is a strong guy, & together, he and dh were struggling to carry it out of the house.

Tomorrow is garbage day & dh decided he would try setting it out at the curb. We weren't sure the garbage guys would take it (would they even be able to pick it up??), but there are a lot of local scavengers who drive around the night before garbage pickup, scouting for treasures, and we hoped one of them might take it. Dh managed to slide it down the driveway to the curb all by himself (!), and there it sat for a few hours, looking forlorn.

A little while ago, dh looked out the front window: "Hey, someone's trying to pick up the TV!"  And (surprise!) he was struggling. Dh didn't want to let the guy drive away empty-handed (!), so he pulled on his shoes and went outside & offered to help the guy. "This s*** is heavy!" was the man's bemused remark. He went away happy with his find;  dh was ecstatic that we finally got rid of the thing.

It still sort of bothers me that something that still worked perfectly well is probably going to be sold for scrap -- but on the other hand, it's out of the house and not our problem anymore.  And our new 48" set is so thin and light, I can probably pick it up with one hand.  ;)

(We still have a small 12-inch picture tube set -- an 18-year-old Panasonic. It was in our bedroom but we rarely watched it anymore, so since the paint job, it's been sitting in the basement. But that one's much easier to take out to the curb, if/when we decide to part with it.)

What sort of TV set do you have and how old is it? When did you get rid of your picture tube set, or do you still have one? Do you share my guilt over getting rid of stuff that may not be the latest & greatest, but otherwise works perfectly well??   

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

Thursday, November 19, 2015

"N or M?" by Agatha Christie

I'm on an Agatha Christie kick lately. ;)  The second "Partners in Crime" novel by Christie to be filmed for television was "N or M?" and, as usual, I wanted to try to get the book read before part one of the TV adaptation was broadcast earlier this week on Bravo here in Canada. I started it just before part one aired, and finished it a few days later. Parts two & three of the TV show are still to come. :)

"N or M?" is another adventure featuring Tommy & Tuppence -- the same couple from "The Secret Adversary." "The Secret Adversary" took place in post-WWI Britain; "N or M" picks up some 20 years later. It's 1940, the Second World War is in full swing, and Britain is expecting a Nazi invasion at any time. Speculation is rampant about "the Fifth Column" and German spies lurking everywhere.

The Beresfords are now a long-married, middle-aged couple and the parents of young adult twins (a boy & a girl, both involved in the war). Their old friend Mr. Carter enlists Tommy's help:  British intelligence believes there are two Nazi spies operating out of a quiet seaside boarding house, laying the groundwork for an imminent invasion of Britain.  Who among the staff and guests are they?  (Of course, Tuppence finds out what he's up to and gets in on the action...!)

By the end of the book, I had figured out the identity of at least one of the spies. But, in true Christie fashion, there were still enough twists & turns and surprises to keep things interesting. The ending, with Tommy & Tuppence out for dinner & dancing with their adult children, is rather amusing, although beware! -- there is a groaner of an ALI angle to the story at the 11th hour. :p

As I said, I've only seen the first of three parts of the TV adaptation of "N or M?"  As with "The Secret Adversary," the producers seem to have taken a lot of liberties with Christie's story:  the action has shifted to the Cold War years of the 1950s, and instead of fending off a looming invasion, the Beresfords are now trying to locate a nuclear bomb. Somehow, it's not quite as exciting as a looming Nazi invasion.

Unfortunately, it seems that others agree with my assessment: "Partners in Crime" has been cancelled by the BBC, after just these two adaptations. It's been fun (re)reading the adventures of Tommy & Tuppence, though, and I may still carry on with the remaining volumes, even if there's no longer an impending TV episode to serve as a reading incentive. :)

*** *** ***

Side note: I started reading this book shortly after the events that unfolded in Paris on Friday, Nov. 13th.  Among the story's prime suspects is a young German man, a refugee from Nazi persecution whose (non-Jewish but critical of Hitler) family is now in a concentration camp. Imagine my reaction when I started reading & found a few exchanges like this:
"...You take my word for it, this refugee business is dangerous. If I had my way I'd intern the lot of them. Safety first."  
"A bit drastic, perhaps."  
"Not at all. War's war. And I've got my suspicions of Master Carl... He's a Nazi -- that's what he is -- a Nazi." 
As the French say, "Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose." (The more things change, the more they stay the same...).

(There's also a few shots against the Irish throughout the book. Full disclosure: my family background is 1/4 Irish. ;)  )

*** *** ***

This was book #25 that I've read to date in 2015.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Are you a bereaved parent living in Ontario?

In the "it's about time" category, Mike Colle, MPP for Eglinton-Lawrence (in Toronto), introduced a private member's bill (Bill 141) this week -- the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness, Research and Care Act, 2015.

If passed, this bill would require the Ontario Ministry of Health to undertake research on pregnancy loss/infant deaths, in order to establish & expand counselling programs to bereaved mothers & families, and to undertake comprehensive, wide-ranging research into the best practices available in risk reduction and causes of pregnancy loss & death. It would also establish October 15th as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day in Ontario (something I thought had already happened several years ago).

The National Post published a great article yesterday about this new (and long overdue) initiative. In addition to mentioning that one in three women will lose a pregnancy during her lifetime (which I have heard before), it quoted another figure that floored me: 37,000 parents in Ontario lose a baby at some point during their pregnancy every year. 37,000!! That's enough to fill a good-sized town. Assuming two parents per child, that's about 18,000+ lost pregnancies. In Ontario alone. Every. Single. Year.

That's a lot of grief and loss, people. :(

As the article states:
Many of [these parents] struggle with a system that often lacks support and training, as well as families, friends and even health care providers who don’t know what to say. Then their grief is compounded by a lack of answers and insufficient research to provide them.
You can bet that if 37,000 parents were losing their children each year to automobile accidents or playground accidents or airplane crashes, there would be a huge public outcry, and swift action would be taken to investigate why this was happening and what could be done to remedy the situation.

Why should things be any different just because those children died before or shortly after birth?

Those of us who have experienced pregnancy loss know how badly an initiative like this is needed.  But if this bill is to be passed, public support will be critical.  You and your families can show your support by:
  • signing and submitting petitions to Mike Colle's office (here's a link to a sample petition).
  • sharing this news on social media and asking your friends & family to share and show their support. (I don't often post about loss-related matters on Facebook, but I have been sharing the heck out of this since I learned about it.)
  • calling, writing or emailing your local MPP, the Minister of Health, and the Premier. (I just emailed them all tonight. I can't remember the last time I contacted a politician about an issue I felt strongly about. But this, of all issues, is worth the effort.)
I know this is a taboo subject. I (still) find it difficult to talk about publicly, even after 17 years. (Blogging to strangers, though -- well, that's different, lol.)  But it's just too important NOT to take action when we have this opportunity to make a real difference.

Let's get this done!