Sunday, June 28, 2009

Barren B*tches Book Brigade: "Navigating the Land of If" by Melissa Ford

It's time for a Very Special Session of the Barren B*tches Book Brigade, the ALI (adoption/loss/infertility) community's virtual book club, organized by Melissa at Stirrup Queens. Participants read the same book and each submit a question to Melissa, who compiles & circulates the question list. We then answer at least three of them in our blog, and post at or around the same time on the same day. Melissa maintains the master list of participants on her blog.

The selection this time around was "Navigating the Land of IF: Understanding Infertility and Exploring Your Options" by the Stirrup Queen herself, Melissa Ford.

I probably brought a slightly different perspective to reading this book than most if not all of the other tour participants. My infertility journey ended eight years ago this month, when my third and final IUI with injectable drugs failed, and I found myself staring at childless/free living in the face. It's been a long time since I cracked open a guide to infertility, and in fact, I have given away most of the ones I had in my collection.

However -- infertility & loss continue to hover over my life, Banquo's ghost-like, which is why, even after all these years, I continue to blog about it & read infertility blogs. Mel encouraged me to start my blog, and is a fabulous "den mother" for the ALI community. I love reading her blog and so naturally wanted to read her book, not to mention support her in return for all that she has given to me, and to all of us. Also, she "interviewed" me via e-mail about childfree living as part of her research for this book, so naturally I was curious to see how the book (and that chapter in particular) turned out.

Even though I found some sections more interesting than others (as I'm sure most readers did, or will), I loved this book, and I wish it had been around when I was going through treatment. Most infertility guides tend to be a tad impersonal and on the clinical side. Not this one. If Vicki Iovine didn't have the market cornered on the "Girlfriend's Guide" moniker, I would say a good alternate title for this book would be "The Girlfriend's Guide to Infertility," because that's how I view this book -- as though it's written by a slightly older/wiser girlfriend who'd already been there/done that and is filling you in on what to expect when you're NOT expecting and trying to do something about it.

It's a book I would definitely recommend to anyone going through infertility. It would also be a fabulous book to read if you're a fertile person hoping to gain some insight into what a friend or family member is going through and how you can best support them.

On to some of the questions. Some of the questions were similar and I've answered them together. (I wish I had had more time to spend with this post, as I was away for part of the weekend, but here goes...!)

As part of a couple with male factor infertility, I was hoping for a clearer view into some of the procedures associated with it. What is something you wish was covered in the book or what knocked your socks off on how it was explained?

Navigating the Land of If covered many different aspects of infertility. What topic do you wish had been added or expanded on?

I'm not sure whether I found anything in particular lacking... I loved the whole chapter on the 8 factors to consider and the decision tree & choice web processes. Some really brilliant, practical advice in there.

Also, Mel's description of living childfree as "the only path that is entirely within your control" gave me some pause. It's hard to think of it that way, because infertility is all about loss of control, and so many of us who are now living childfree don't always feel that we really "chose" this path -- particularly as compared to someone who never wanted children in the first place -- but it is essentially true.

Chapters four and five cover the issues of telling others about your IF struggles and handling the comments if you do. What approach (proactive, reactive, evasive, or lying) have you used with your close friends and family? If you have told, have you gotten any surprising reactions, and how have you handled those? If you haven't told, has this omission created any friction as people make assumptions or comments about your lack of pregnancy?

I actually wrote a long post last year -- in response to a discussion on Melissa's blog, while she was writing this book -- on the whole subject of "telling," here.

Did you read the book from front to back, or did you turn immediately to a certain chapter? If so, which chapter? Are there any chapters that you purposely avoided?

Did you read the whole book, or skip the parts that you feel don’t apply to your situation? For example, if you are not entertaining adoption or living child-free as options right now, did you skip those parts? If you read them, did you discover anything about those options that you hadn’t understood prior to reading the book?

It was enlightening to tour the neighborhoods that WEREN'T mine. How was it for you to walk through neighborhoods, guided by Melissa, where you suspected you would never take up residence?

I'll confess -- I went straight for the chapter on childfree living. So very few books on infertility say much about the childless/free option beyond a few paragraphs -- so I'm always interested to see how the subject is covered in any new IF book that I come across. (Read further if you want to know what I thought of that particular chapter!)

I didn't skip or purposely avoid any chapters -- but obviously the chapters about the routes we did not take or consider were of lesser interest to me. I think that's a natural response for any reader to a book of this sort. That said, yes, I did learn a lot about options that we had either dismissed as not being right for us, or not really considered. Even just 8 years ago, options like donor eggs and surrogacy were not as well known or understood, and I learned a lot on these topics in particular.

What part of the Land of IF are you currently residing in, & do you think Melissa paints an accurate picture of the situation there?

This was my question. I am currently (and 99.9% likely permanently) living childfree after loss & infertility. On p. 252, early in this chapter, Melissa writes "No other path out of the Land of If is less understood, more feared or harder to step onto than child-free living after infertility." She had me there at hello, lol -- absolutely nailed it there, and throughout the rest of this section.

The book "Sweet Grapes" -- one of the first and probably still the best-known book on living childfree after infertility -- irked me in its insistence that one must simply "choose" to be "childFREE" (as opposed to childLESS) and all will be well. Melissa actually makes the same point but in a much less irritating way (or maybe I've just mellowed in the years since I read "Sweet Grapes"...) -- that in order to make it a real choice, as opposed to a "default," you have to take an active role in carving out your future.

Melissa covered so many aspects of living childfree. She makes a point of distinguishing between living childfree by choice and childfree after infertility, and also between taking a break and actually choosing to live childfree. She suggests a trial period (something the infertility counsellor we saw suggested to us). She talks about how the childfree are frequently made to justify their choice, and what happens when one partner wants to live childfree and the other doesn't (a situation I have witnessed in several online forums over the past 8 years).

The only point Melissa made in the childfree chapter that I disagreed with was the very last tip on p. 261, about the necessity of getting rid of (preferably giving away to charity) all hopeful pregnancy & baby-related paraphernalia. I bristled at the very idea -- perhaps you can tell that I still have all my maternity clothes hanging in my closet?? (Not to mention that I am a pack rat who has a very hard time parting with anything, lol.)

But reading this passage again, I realized my situation -- as someone who was pregnant and had begun preparations, albeit very preliminary ones, for an actual, specific baby -- is again somewhat different from someone who went through infertility treatment & never got pregnant. What I have in my closet are keepsakes, mementos of my baby's brief existence, not things purchased in the hopes of a "someday" pregnancy or baby. I'm not sure whether Melissa would think my situation would fall into a different category (oh, Mel...??). Even so, I'm still not convinced that an infertile turning to childfree living needs to give away absolutely every reminder of what she had once hoped for. The infertility will remain with you always, even if you rid yourself of these physical evidence of this period in your life.

I did actually (after several years of living childfree) shred all of my BBT charts (although I still have my notebooks from the three IUIs I went through with notes on my follicle counts, dosages, etc., as well as my thoughts & feelings on the whole process) and donated most (although not all) of my pregnancy, child care and infertility-related books to charity. I can't say I regret it. But I think I'll be keeping this one for quite awhile, lol.

Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at Stirrup Queens (http://stirrup-queens.blogspot.com/). You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: Moose by Stephanie Klein.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Book club post, coming up...

Just as an FYI, I'm going to be busy for the next few days over the weekend, & may not have much computer time... so I may or may not be able to post my contribution to the Barren B*tches Book Tour on Monday as scheduled. If you're here looking for a book club post from me and this post is what you find, check back again shortly! Thanks!

Thanks for the thrills


Having just written a long, rambling post about the music of my youth (in part, anyway), I couldn't ignore the death of Michael Jackson yesterday. It's one of those shocking "where were you" moments that I know I will always remember (we had just gotten home and turned on the TV news) -- like Elvis's death in August 1977 (I was 16, I had a girlfriend from out of town visiting for the weekend, and we spent most of the time listening to the radio, which was playing Elvis music & callers' reminscences nonstop) or John Lennon's in December 1980 (I was 19 and in second-year university and saw a news report on my little black & white TV in my dorm room -- they played a montage of Beatles film clips set to "In My Life" & I bawled my eyes out)(I have told dh that I want "In My Life" played at my funeral).

I first became aware of Michael & the Jackson 5 when I was about 10 years old, I guess, through -- what else -- Tiger Beat, & the other teen magazines of the early 1970s. To be quite frank, at that time, being a whitebread girl from smalltown Prairie Canada, you might live for years & years without ever encountering a black person (you MIGHT have one Asian family in town, running the lone Chinese restaurant for miles & miles around) -- & so I didn't relate to the Jacksons or their music very much at first. At that time, as I've written before, I was more into David Cassidy & the Osmonds.

I was never a huge, huge Michael Jackson fan, but as I got older, I grew to appreciate the Jacksons' music more and more. "Off the Wall" came out when I was still in high school, and "Thriller" when I was in university. The year I was in grad school, "Thriller" & the videos made from the songs on it, absolutely dominated the airwaves. Video was such a novel art form, and I absolutely loved "Beat It" and "Billie Jean" and the epic "Thriller," as much if not more than the songs themselves (not to mention the Weird Al Yankovic parodies of them!). I could watch them over & over, finding some new little detail to marvel over every time. Dated fashions aside, I still think they hold up today.

It's the Michael from those videos that I like to remember -- not the "wacko Jacko" of the last 15-20 years. I look at the clips of him from the Ed Sullivan show with his brothers, singing "Want You Back" & wonder what happened to that cute little boy with the sparkling eyes, big smile, even bigger voice and polished dance moves.

It's so very sad. What a colossal waste of talent.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Show & Tell: Pat Benatar, I wasn't...


(Photo: Me, as a 19-year-old university student in my dorm room, going to a punk rock social (dance) at university, February 1980, and trying to look appropriately sullen & smouldering, lol. You can't see it, but I'm wearing safety pins -- carefully sterilized in rubbing alcohol (I wasn't THAT much of a punk...!) -- instead of earrings. My sister was visiting for the weekend & took this photo with her new Nikon SLR camera, & there must have been some static on the lens, because there is this cool lightning burst effect happening all around me -- which seemed kind of appropriate in the context of the event, lol.)

(Warning: long, rambling post ahead that may not ultimately make much sense...)

I just dropped a card in the mail to one of my oldest & dearest friends, one of three sisters who lived across the street during my growing up years. Her 50th birthday is this Saturday. It had a cartoon KISS-like band on the front, with a message inside that read something like, "As you turn 50… rock and roll till nine and party every other Saturday," lol.

My own 50th birthday is not for another 19 months… but I know it's coming. Fast. And it occurred to me that, this fall, it will be 40 years -- 40!! -- since our families became friends.

And so I've been pondering (not for the first time, nor, I am sure, for the last) -- how did I get here? I certainly don't feel like I'm almost 50 (...well, most days, anyway). I know I look older than I used to, but I don't think I LOOK almost 50.

*** *** ***

I think this latest round of introspection was triggered by the sight of that yummy Rolling Stone cover in my last post. As I recently commented to Irish Girl, it shows I CAN write about something other than infertility & childlessness (lol)… and yet it's still somehow all tied in with the way I feel about myself.

Part of me felt (feels??) ridiculous, lusting after a singer (in much the same way I used to drool over pictures of David Cassidy & Donny Osmond) -- one who is (gulp) young enough/old enough to be my son (not to mention, as Deathstar so aptly put it in her comment, playing for "the other team"). And yet, watching the online video clips of Adam (yep, he can sing…), strutting his stuff confidently onstage with note-perfect renditions of Led Zeppelin & Aerosmith songs from my past, reminded me of that part of myself that still likes to listen to the local classic rock radio station at full blast (and sing along). It takes me back to a time when I was younger & thinner & prettier & (slightly) wilder, and music was so much better than the rap & hiphop cr@p that seems to dominate the airwaves these days.

Even before I saw the Rolling Stone cover, I was in a nostalgic frame of mind about music. CBS Sunday Morning recently did a story on Green Day, who first became popular in the early 1990s -- long after I had left university, but whose energetic, guitar-oriented style brings back fond memories of the edgy new wave/power pop bands I loved back then. Last Saturday, dh went golfing, and while I cleaned the house, I was energized by "American Idiot" & "21st Century Breakdown" blasting on the stereo. (Hey, if the teenagers across the street can blast my eardrums with rap while they wash their cars, they can put up with my music for an afternoon, lol.) I'm not as familiar with the new album yet, but I loved "American Idiot," especially "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" and "When September Ends" (which, Billie Joe Armstrong explained, he wrote after the death of his father). There's something achingly beautiful about the imagery of the words and his clear, piercing vocals over the melody of the guitar.

Music has such power to conjure up images, to transport us back in time. Yesterday, browsing at a nearby music store on my lunch break, I found newly remastered copies of the Rolling Stones' "Tattoo You" and "Emotional Rescue" albums, which were both popular while I was in university. I was instantly back in a dark student lounge, smelling of beer, pogo-ing madly on the dance floor with some cute young guy as Mick Jagger wailed "I'm so hot for her and she's so cold."

University was my liberation. It was, hands down (and with some apologies to dh -- although he was a big part of it too, toward the end), the absolute best time of my life -- lots of fun, little responsibility.

You have to understand -- since I was a kid, I had struggled with feeling shy and insecure -- always the new girl in town, always feeling conspicuously different. This was compounded when I got glasses at the age of 7. I hated my glasses, & when I learned that these things called contact lenses existed, I couldn't wait to get rid of them. My optometrist had other ideas: he felt that teenagers were too irresponsible to handle the consistent care that contacts required. He was probably right -- but the summer before I entered Grade 12, when I was 17, I finally got my contacts. I was ecstatic. (Ironically, a few years ago, I got an eye infection & wasn't able to wear my contacts for several months. By the time it cleared up, the type of lens I had always worn was no longer manufactured. I haven't been able to find a comfortable lens that provides good vision since then, and so I've been back with my glasses for some years now.)(And they're BIFOCALS now, too…!!)

Of course, Grade 12 is pretty much too late to change the order of things in high school. I did have a couple of memorable makeout sessions with my sister's boyfriend's best friend -- but, for the most part, in high school, once a geek, always a geek (even if you suddenly become a somewhat more attractive geek).

In May 1979, the year I graduated (30 years ago now -- eeek), my local Rotary Club sent me to Ottawa for a week as part of an amazing program called Adventure in Citizenship. I found myself among more than 250 other high-achieving high schoolers from right across Canada -- kindred spirits. I sat on the airplane to Ottawa -- my very first plane ride -- with two fellow Adventurers, both from British Columbia -- a girl (whom I'm still in touch with), and a gorgeous guy with a warm smile who said he wanted to be the first NDP prime minister of Canada. I was a staunch Progressive Conservative back then ; ) but I was instantly smitten.

I had a fabulous time on that trip. I flirted shamelessly with a few other guys (including one whose byline I now see in a local newspaper), but when the time came to say goodbye to B.C. Guy, in the sumptuous lobby of the Chateau Laurier, I sobbed on the shoulder of his powder-blue, three-piece suit (it WAS the 70s...) while he patted my back in bemusement. I felt like Cinderella. I'd been to the ball & had a tantalizing taste of an alternate life -- but now the clock was striking midnight, and I had to go back to the kitchen (i.e., high school) to toil once more in obscurity. (He and I exchanged letters for a month or two after we returned to our respective homes and then lost touch.)

My mother had always told me "Things will be different when you go to university," & thankfully, she was right. At university, I blossomed. Always at or near the top of my classes in high school, I was content to coast along on Bs & B+s. In retrospect, I think -- I know -- I could have done better, had I studied more and partied less -- but I was having an absolutely blast. University was a blank slate, where few people knew me, and I was free to be the person I had become. I lived in a residence for the four years of my undergrad (which is where I met dh, in third year). Weekends started on Thursday afternoon & the partying didn't stop until sometime Sunday. My family only lived an hour away that first year, & yet I can probably count on my fingers the number of weekends I went home to visit -- that's how much fun I was having, & how much I didn't want to miss out on any of it. I can remember how the residence newsletter profiled the girls from my first-year floor in a sentence or two each. Beside my name: "Loves the attention." Touche. (It was an eye opener to see the same guys who'd flirted all fall with me that first year trying the exact same lines and tactics on a fresh crop of first-year resident girls the following September… and the September after that...!)

Towards the end of first year, I met my first serious boyfriend (whom I'd had a crush on for as long as I'd known him). I couldn't believe my luck. That such a nice, gorgeous guy that I liked so much was actually liking me back seemed too good to be true. In the end, it was. We went together for almost a year, before he broke up with me (and broke my heart). (I believe he wound up getting married to the girl who was my next door neighbour in residence that year. Hmmm.) In that summer between first and second year, though, he came to visit me and accompanied me to an all-class high school reunion (points to him for that!!). It was one of the most satisfying moments of my life to walk into the hall where the classes from the 1970s were holding a banquet -- me, the girl who'd never had a date in high school, accompanied by this tall, blond, gorgeous looking guy -- and watching jaws drop. : )

I read the Rolling Stone interview with Adam and I recognized some of myself in his story. Not the gay part, obviously ; ) -- but the drama geek who didn't quite fit in at high school, began exploring his sexuality when he left, did some partying and eventually found his sense of self and self-worth. Maybe that's why it resonated with me as it did. (That, & it's a hot picture, lol.)

*** *** ***

I can remember being near the front of a stage at a Cheap Trick concert in the late 1970s or early 1980s, just in front of the dark, good looking bass player -- almost close enough to touch him. I was newly liberated from my hated glasses (thanks to the contact lenses), and (finally) feeling pretty. We made eye contact & he smiled at me, more than once. It was a heady sensation.

Another time, a couple of years later, I was with a girlfriend at a local dive on a hot August night, watching a popular band from the nearby city, from a table near the stage. The guitar player had long dark curly hair & smouldering dark eyes. I couldn't take my eyes off him, and he was watching me too, as he played. During one of the breaks, he came over to our table to chat. Having now hooked my prey, however, I had no idea what to do. I may have been a flirt, but I wasn't a groupie (totally inexperienced at that point, in fact), and the aura of danger that surrounded this guy petrified me. The mantra of the day may have been "sex and drugs and rock & roll," but for me it was more like "flirtation, alcohol and rock & roll."

So -- reality & my conscience intervened. The spell was broken, the conversation ultimately went nowhere, & when the bar was ready to close, my girlfriend & I left. We drove past the band standing in the parking lot, smoking and chatting up some other (more receptive) chicks, and I had this funny feeling: "That could have been me." Not that I REALLY wanted it to be me. I may have fantasized about bands, but when push came to shove & fantasy threatened to become reality, I knew there was something wrong with this picture. I liked to have fun, but deep down, I knew who I was -- & I wasn't that much of a risk taker. Years later, I read Pamela DesBarres memoir, "I'm With the Band." I admired her chutzpah, & was fascinated by the stories she dished out, but knew it was definitely NOT me. It was a parallel world that I briefly had the key to enter. I chose instead to remain on the outside, looking in.

I still get that feeling sometimes today, albeit under very different circumstances. I see pregnant women and moms with babies and children and know that this, too, could have been my life, with a little more luck and perhaps a little more effort and persistence on my part. Ultimately, it was my choice not to continue to pursue infertility treatments, or adoption, and remain childless/free -- just as it was my choice not to hang out with the band after the show that night. I knew, then and now, that both were ultimately the right choices for me. Yet still I think about that point of choosing -- and the mystery & allure of roads not taken.

In some ways, I feel like I'm back in high school again, since Katie was stillborn & we abandoned infertility treatments -- knowing I'll never be part of the popular clique (i.e., parents), but also that there's another world waiting out there for me. It's taken awhile for me to find my niche, but as time goes on, I'm adjusting to this new world more & more.

*** *** ***

So what happened to the girl who once dared to wear safety pins as earrings, and flirted with guitar players (albeit from a safe distance)? She grew up, met a wonderful guy, got married, got a job, got a mortgage and moved to the suburbs. She tried (and failed) to have children to pass her vinyl collection along to, and gained weight and a few grey hairs in the process. (Recently -- reluctantly! -- her hairdresser persuaded her to colour her hair for the first time in her life.)

Right now she's feeling a little old & creaky -- particularly among all the 20 & early 30-somethings she now works with (some of whom, like Adam, could very well have been her kids). She's struggling with the feelings of invisibility that women over 40 sometimes talk about. She finds she needs reassurance from her dh now & then that she's still attractive & desirable, despite the extra years & pounds. And she still loves music.

I wrote earlier that university was the best time of my life. That doesn't mean I would want to be 19 again. There was angst, & too much of it, over guys who really didn't deserve it --until I met dh, & even then, we had a few years of long distance romance until we finally got married that I wouldn't want to repeat. There weren't all that many hangovers, but there were a few doozies that were hard enough to handle at 20, never mind 48. I'm older, but I'm wiser too. I've earned all my wrinkles & grey hairs, & then some. The rock & rollers I admired as a kid are all older & wiser too -- many of them with families, and even grandkids now -- & many of the ones who weren't so wise aren't here any more.

I think it's normal to feel some wistfulness, some raging at the dying of the light. But there's still a lot of light left. (And wasn't rage what fuelled the punk rock/new wave movement in the first place?)

At any rate, I know I have company. My friend is turning 50, and more of us will soon follow. My perky, single, miniskirted 20-something co-workers will someday be 40+ too, & fretting about their weight & grey hairs (enjoy it while it lasts, kids...). Dh has already crossed the rubicon (i.e., he's over 50 now) -- his hair is more grey than not these days -- but I still think he's boyishly cute. ; ) The Stones are all pushing 70 (!), but they're still going strong (so much for Mick's infamous quote about not wanting to be 40 & still singing "Satisfaction"...!) …and Bruce Springsteen (whom I once dreamed I found skinnydipping in my swimming pool)(I don't actually have a swimming pool, let alone one with Bruce Springsteen in it...)(and more's the pity, lol) is still jumping off pianos & doing knee slides across the stage even as he nears 60.

So maybe there's hope for me yet. : )

To see what others are showing & telling this week, click on over to Stirrup Queens.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Confession


OK -- I never watched a single episode of AI this past season. I've never heard the guy sing. I know he's gay. Not to mention that I'm old enough to be his mother. :p

But man, every time I look at the cover of this week's Rolling Stone, I think I need a cold shower. ; ) lol

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Unfortunately yours

Niobe's blog today is featuring a meme where you Google your name + unforunately (Unfortunately Lori...). (I did a similar meme once on a message board, using "Lori wants.")Some pretty weird (& hilarious results). Here are some of the results I got:
  • Unfortunately, Lori's health remains delicate due to the very harsh conditions she endured during the early years of her incarceration ...
  • Unfortunately, Lori fell in love with her doctor, a healer named Ronal who loved her in return, though he may only have wanted to spawn her brains.
  • Unfortunately, Lori fell for Mark's deceptions, and he plucked her up out of her world, and wove her within his complex web of lies.
  • Unfortunately, Lori was discovered early Sunday morning.
  • Unfortunately Lori cannot keep the dog, so the owner needs to be found quickly.
  • Unfortunately, Lori, there are no real noxious weed laws in Oklahoma. This drives the Kansas borderlands neighbors crazy.
  • Unfortunately Lori won't be able to make it this year due to her very large pregnant belly ;) (twin girls for those of you who haven't heard!) (Ummm, definitely NOT true!!)
  • Unfortunately Lori, that is probably quite true. (No. It's not. Really.)
  • Unfortunately, Lori's is not able to ship orders to P.O. Boxes.
  • Unfortunately, Lori was not an approved "Relocation Agent."
  • Unfortunately, Lori, they were sitting behind me and bolted during the standing ovation.
  • Unfortunately Lori has not blogged in a long while. (Hey, I just posted earlier tonight... AND yesterday...!)
  • Unfortunately, Lori has now disappeared from the Web. (Yoo hoo, over here...)
  • Unfortunately, Lori’s jet-setting big-city life isn’t what she dreamed it would be.
  • Unfortunately, Lori had turned to alcohol and marijuana to escape the emotional pain she carried.
  • Unfortunately, Lori cannot overpower the swarm of burly bodyguards surrounding the mobster, in spite of her formable fighting prowess.
  • Unfortunately, Lori and I hadn't spoken in many years but I was very happy to be able to take part in her wedding day.
  • Unfortunately, Lori has retired from being the Director of Fan Relations as of Spring 1998.
  • Unfortunately Lori doesn't play any of the music on this CD.
  • Unfortunately, Lori is not, at present, supported by any record label, and had to raise finances to fund this album by herself.
  • Unfortunately Lori passed away in October 2005 leaving a huge loss in the schnauzer community.
  • Unfortunately, Lori, you are experiencing what we call a flare-up.
  • Unfortunately, Lori just wants to be friends (without benefits).
  • Unfortunately, Lori, my dear Packer-loving friend, these socks were made ESPECIALLY for my feet.
  • Unfortunately, Lori seems to have forgotten how rough it was the first time she married a prisoner.
  • Unfortunately, Lori never really attained the stardom she so richly deserved (and never posed naked).
  • Unfortunately, Lori won't be here since she will be presenting at the Soap Guild Conference in Palm Springs, but studio assistant Debbie will be here
  • Unfortunately, Lori and I foolishly put our faith and trust in two strangers who apparently didn't understand what should have been a simple change.
  • Unfortunately, Lori (now the proud owner of my old smartphone) has had some difficulty docking the phone into the cradle.
  • Unfortunately Lori's and She Hulk's visit turns sour when the fearsome terrorist group HYDRA leads a daring raid inside the Baxter Building.
  • Unfortunately, lori's werewolf tf has already started.
  • Unfortunately Lori it's not that simple.

(I have to admit, I cheated, in part -- I found some of these on another blog. Click over there for some hilarious side commentary.)

Let me know if you do the meme yourself -- I'd love to see what you've come up with!

Sound familiar?

I had to chuckle when I read this article in today's Globe & Mail. Something sounded awfully familiar -- just substitute "bereavement" for "unemployment" and "grieving parent" or "infertility patient" for "job hunter" and see if you agree...!

*** *** ***

Cliché comforts
Just don't tell me to make lemonade
Think twice before offering cliché comfort to someone looking for work - the last thing they want to hear is empty platitudes

Sarah Boesveld
From Tuesday's Globe and Mail, Tuesday, Jun. 16, 2009 06:36AM EDT

"Everything happens for a reason.”

It was borderline offensive, the line Olga Cordeiro's boss sputtered when he laid her off from her job as a lab assistant 20 years ago.

She took little stock in his motivational words back then. And she has little patience for the same brand of cliché comfort and career advice she gets now as she navigates the bitter economic climate in search of clients to help launch her career as a certified business coach.

But she takes it with a smile.

“When somebody tries to give me that kind of advice, I [think], ‘Thank you very much, but it's not going to work,'” the 44-year-old Hamilton resident says. “I don't tell them that because they mean well. They think they're being encouraging.”

Clichés – as frowned upon as they are – have become such fixtures in our everyday chatter that we fire them off without thinking. And that's a problem when it comes to serious matters such as unemployment, career experts say. Something else may indeed “come down the pipe,” as job hunters hear from well-meaning friends and family, but such stock reassurances are often unhelpful and misguided, and, frankly, seem like a snub.

“They can be irritating and sometimes harmful,” depending on how a person is coping with the situation, says Alan Kearns, founder of CareerJoy, a national coaching company. Take “‘So many people lost their jobs, I'm sure it'll all work out, you'll end up in a great situation.' If I'm struggling, [that] may not be the healthiest thing to hear.”

It is tough to find new ways to send the same message, acknowledges Gerard Van Herk, a sociolinguist at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. Clichéd suggestions often come from the gainfully employed who don't know what the job search is like, he says, and by saying something general, they're effectively letting themselves off the hook.

“Part of it is probably just convenience. We can't say nothing and at the same time there's no really good thing to say and this is what we've got available to us. We're definitely trying to make ourselves feel better.”

Job hunters are usually grateful for the gesture, but get tired and, at times, annoyed by the constant flow of useless guidance.

Lyndsay Rush, 26, who writes “Diaries of a Temp” on the blog Unemploymentality.com, vented recently about the “sage wisdom” and motivational shoulder squeezes she's received ad nauseam.

“If I get one more encouragement that involves lemons and lemonades I might totally have a cow,” the self-professed “underemployed” Chicago blogger and part-time waitress wrote last week.

People are always asking if she's thought about going back to school, if she has cold-called multiple companies or if she's been making good use of her networks.

She simply tells them: “It's so nice of you to say, but I'm doing all that.”

“It used to really frustrate me just because [the advice] wasn't helpful. Now I just kind of brush it off as people are just trying to help. One in every maybe 50 people I talk to have something helpful or something concrete.”

It's tricky to try to help someone who's laid off and looking, but we often feel the need to, says Silvia Bonaccio, an assistant professor of industrial organizational psychology at the University of Ottawa's Telfer School of Management.

“People like to feel helpful. Advice giving is a way to feel helpful, so we do see a lot of people who get a lot of advice from people who are not experts in the domain,” she says.

A better move is to ask an unemployed person what they could use a hand with, says Tim Tyrell-Smith, who runs Spinstrategy.com, a website that offers tips for job hunters. This is where job hunters can be specific, asking the employed people in their lives to keep their eyes peeled for jobs in certain fields or to suggest recruiters who handle a target market.

Directing job seekers to websites and job resources can also help them feel empowered, Mr. Kearns adds.

“Let them drive it. It's about understanding, but [also] saying ‘I'm not by any means an expert in this area.'”

Perhaps the best way to help is just listen, says Mr. Kearns, who likens the clichés that job hunters hear to those showered on someone enduring a breakup.

But there is a reason job hunters hear the same advice over and over, says Doug Schmidt, president of CareerPlus, a career counselling practice in Mississauga. Much of it actually works.

“They're perceived as clichés because they're the standard answers you're going to get from a career coach or a career counsellor,” he says. And that ounce of truth can motivate people if the line is delivered in the right context to the right person, says Elaine Gold of the University of Toronto linguistics department. Clichés are useful for conveying a bigger idea or concept in few words.

“In some situations, [a cliché] carries more force than your own words might because it has this idea that there are centuries of wisdom behind it,” she says.

Though she cringed at the time, Ms. Cordeiro now believes her boss was right to say her layoff happened for a reason. Had she continued to work in the lab, a better job working in the office of a Hamilton insurance company might never have come her way.

But she is still wary of advice from people who just don't have their heads in the game.

“I think that to give advice, one has to walk a mile in one's shoes,” she says.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Picnic: "I carry your heart with me"


Yesterday was our support group's annual picnic & memorial butterfly release. Dh & I look forward to this event every year -- a chance to see old friends and past & present clients, to spend some time in the comfortable company of other bereaved parents, and to bask in the remembrance of our much-loved and dearly missed babies.

Every year, there are more & more new babies -- and the babies from previous picnics just keep getting bigger & bigger. One friend recently had her THIRD subsequent baby (all boys) after the stillbirth of her daughter five years ago. The three little boys (ages 4, 2 & 6 months) were identically & adorably dressed in Gap Kids. Upon arrival, the dad plunked the baby into my arms, & he stayed there for a good chunk of the afternoon, not fussing much, mostly sleeping.

I loved it. I loved that these parents trusted me with their baby, that we understood exactly where each other was coming from, that I was free to be totally myself with them, and that I could just enjoy the experience without wondering what people were thinking, seeing me with an infant in my arms, that I was able to help them out while they chased after their other two little guys (!) and that the baby seemed to be comfortable with me.

Most families arrive with children and sometimes grandparents and extended family members in tow. One person (usually one of the parents or grandparents) will take pictures while the kids release their butterfly(s). Being that there's only two of us, dh & I usually just release our butterfly without capturing the event on film (or memory card, these days!). One friend, however, had forgotten her camera, so I offered to take photos of her family while they released their butterfly, and then she took photos of dh & me in return. : ) The photo I've used at the top of this post is of a butterfly that landed on her 11-year-old daughter's shoe, much to the girl's delight. (For some unknown reason this year, the butterflies we released were not "true" monarchs, but smaller, monarch-like ones -- must remember to ask why…)

Prior to opening our little triangular boxes, there is always a brief reading of a poem, sometimes related to butterflies, sometimes related to loss. As the speaker read the poem, her voice breaking with emotion voice, I bowed my head & squeezed dh's hand tightly and thought of our Katie, & of all the moms & dads & babies, at the picnic, at our group meetings, in my cyberlife, who have filled my life these past 11 years.

Here is the poem that was read:

i carry your heart with me
by e.e. cummings

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

(Last year's picnic post can be found here.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Two thumbs Up

I've always believed that the best kids' movies are just as appealing (if not more so) to adults as to kids and so, despite not having any kids of our own as an excuse, we have braved the hordes at the local Cineplex several times over the past several years to see some of the best kids' movies, including "Wall-E" last year, "The Incredibles" a couple of years ago, "Toy Story," "Enchanted," and even "Freaky Friday" with Jamie Lee Curtis & Lindsay Lohan in the role I remember Jodie Foster playing when I WAS a kid.

I had heard the new Pixar movie "Up" was very good. Then I read, in Pamela Jeanne's blog, that it included an infertility/childless angle. I was intrigued. So we decided to go see it on opening weekend. (Both 3-D & non-3-D versions were playing at our local cineplex -- the 3-D version was sold out, and we really didnt' care anyway, so we went to the regular version. Probably a wise choice, since there were already more than enough toddlers in the audience -- not to mention their parents, with BlackBerrys & cellphones annoyingly glowing in the dark, despite the request to turn them OFF that came with the coming attractions.... grrrrr.....).

Before I get into the movie itself, I should warn you that there's actually a short that precedes it. (Yes! an actual short/cartoon feature -- which used to be a regular thing at the movies, when I was very young...). I couldn't believe my eyes when I realized it was about... STORKS. And how babies are made (in the clouds, of course!!). That was one "eek" moment. The story follows one particular little grey cloud cloud who, shall we say, is having trouble in the babymaking department, & feeling, shall we say, inadequate? Not an infertile cloud, mind you, but while the other clouds are effortlessly popping out adorable human babies & lambs & kittens, etc., this one is coming up with crocodiles & snakes that present challenges for the dogged stork assigned to deliver them. In the end, I was laughing, but I felt sorry for the little cloud all the same.

The movie proper finally started. And even though I had been forewarned of the plot premise in advance, and had a rough idea of how the first 10 minutes of the movie would evolve, I was not prepared for the emotional wallop it packed.

The opening introduces us to Carl & Ellie as children, and shows us how they met. Then, wordlessly, we follow them through the next 60 years, from their marriage, through what seems to be either a miscarriage or a diagnosis of infertility, through the years as they grow old together, to Ellie's death. It's an amazing, moving, perfect little piece of filmmaking.

And it made me bawl. Seriously. I was trying not to cry TOO loudly (because there were children all around me), but it took enormous effort to suppress my sobs & I was shaking like a leaf. At the same time, my dh was squeezing my hand so tightly I thought he was going to crush a bone. Once I pulled myself together, I had to take my glasses off to clean them because they were so waterlogged, I could not see the screen. Had to bring out the Kleenex again toward the end of the movie. I should add that besides being involuntarily childless, I'm a scrapbooker, and there is a scrapbook that figures prominently in key points in the plot.

Despite the tears -- I thought it was an absolutely wonderful movie, for so many reasons. Obviously, being involuntarily childless, dh & I couldn't help but relate to the characters of Ellie & Carl. Their emphasis on the "adventures" they would have together made me smile because, although dh & I have never wanted to go to South America, whenever we're going somewhere new, one of us is likely to say, "A new adventure for Sammy & Lori!"

And, as childless woman, I appreciated the movie's message hugely -- that it's possible to have a full & happy marriage without children -- and that you don't necessarily have to go to Paradise Falls to find adventure -- there may be adventures to be had in your own backyard, if you know where to look. Kind of reminded me of "The Wizard of Oz" in that respect. (I can remember bawling my eyes out as a kid when the wizard took off in his balloon from Oz to go back to Kansas, leaving Dorothy behind.)

Melissa of Stirrup Queens just wrote a wonderful review of "Up" on her BlogHer blog, including links to other posts about the movie (this post is an expansion of my comment there). I had no idea that some parents were objecting to the suggestion of miscarriage in the opening. I have a feeling they're probably making a bigger deal out of it than most of their kids ever will. I'm sure the kids will be focused much more on the adventure itself, Kevin the colourful, chocolate-eating bird, and the talking dogs. (There's a sequence with dogs playing poker that's taken straight from the classic picture -- dh & I totally cracked up, but I think we were the only ones in the entire theatre who got the joke.)

I have read some IF blogs & message board posts in which people said they would not go to see the movie because the subject of infertility/pregnancy loss & childlessness hit too close to home. I can understand that -- and that maybe I'm in a different place now than someone who is still going through infertility treatment -- but I would encourage people to see the movie. You should definitely bring some Kleenex -- but ultimately, I think the message of "Up" was uplifting.

Have you seen the movie and, if so, what did you think?

No fairytale endings

I've been struggling about whether, & what, I should write about what happened in Kansas recently. (I've also been really busy at work, and blogging generally has taken a back seat -- boo, hiss...). While I have always been staunchly in favour of a woman's right to choose, I've also never been one to carry signs & chant slogans either.

I felt the first stirrings of a blog post when I read Judith Warner's Domestic Disturbances blog last week, about the murdered doctor, in which she makes the case that, by remaining silent and avoiding the sad & unpleasant stories behind the statistics, we've allowed opponents of the right to choose to shape the debate.

There was a quote that leaped out at me -- one sentence fragment in particular, that seemed like it could apply just as equally to pregnancy loss & infertility as to the A-word.

From Eleanor Smeal, the president of the Feminist Majority Foundation:
We’ve made pregnancy a fairy tale where there are no fetal complications... These are the realities of the story. That’s what Dr. Tiller worked with — the realities.” (Emphasis mine.)

Later in the same post, Warner writes:
"We have to face the fact that sometimes desired pregnancies go tragically wrong."

From commenter #28:
"For years we’ve left the ugly side of pregnancy... while we get all soft and warm about babies."

Commenter #103:

"He... understood well the complexities of pregnancies that do not fit the fairy tale image."

The tendency to sweep nasty (but very real) topics such as pregnancy loss, infertility and involuntary childlessness under the carpet -- while at the same time glorifying all things (conventional) pregnancy & mommy-related -- has long been a thorn in my side. Even if you've never had an abortion or a medical termination, if you're reading this blog, you probably know, firsthand, that pregnancy doesn't always fit the fairy tale image.

Miscarriages happen. Stillbirths happen. Neonatal deaths happen. Adoptions fall through. Some couples who very much wanted a child find themselves with none.

And some couples find themselves faced with a heartbreaking decision to make.

Dh & I were almost one of them (see these posts, here and here). And we have met many of them over the past 11 years, just in our one small pregnancy loss support group alone (a group which emphasizes that everyone's loss is signfiicant, regardless of the baby's gestation or the circumstances of the loss).

I've been thinking of them all, a lot, this week. The grief these parents feel over the loss of their child is the same grief that other parents in the group feel -- perhaps with an added layer of guilt on top of it. Some are "out" to their families, some aren't. All their babies were very much wanted. Many were initially shocked when the option of termination was offered to them. It's something you just don't read about in "What to Expect When You're Expecting" (or, if it is in there, you certainly never expect you're going to need to remember the information in those pages). These pregnancies weren't going to end in a fairy-tale way, no matter what decision the parents made.

Even though she knew dh & I would be sympathetic to the truth, it took one woman (who has become a close personal friend) several YEARS before she could bring herself to tell me she had actually terminated her pregnancy. I have been thinking of her, and of the other parents from our group, a lot this past week.

Some good reading on this subject:

The website A Heartbreaking Choice has been running Kansas Stories.

Andrew Sullivan has also been running readers' stories on his political blog, The Daily Dish, under the header "It's So Personal."

And I found this thoughtful article at Salon, with this observation:

"The stories are painfully similar: A couple is thrilled to be expecting a baby, only to see a doctor's face turn grim during a routine ultrasound. Something is terribly wrong."

Whether your story ended in miscarriage, stillbirth or a termination, this scenario is all too familiar to far too many of us.

I find it all too easy to put myself into the shoes of Dr. Tiller's patients.

Which is why I could never insist that they walk only in mine.