Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"Untruths parents believe about non-parents"

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Gateway Women, for posting this link from Schmutzie on Facebook.... you totally made my day:   "Untruths parents believe about non-parents." 

So much great stuff here (including some thoughtful comments).  Sampled wisdom:
When a parent sighs and says to a non-parent It must be so nice to be able to sleep in or I wish I could afford that thing you just got or You have no idea what my body looks like under this, [added for clarity: these are types of statements that cast judgement based on assumptions about the listener's life without children rather than simply being about the parent], it is beyond insulting. There are so many assumptions and prejudices wrapped up in such statements that unravelling them to explain just how much they have diminished a non-parent's life experience would take at least a book or two.

My usual response is to smile and say with faked humour "Well, that's what you think", because it is their choice to cut off connection with me, and I am too tired after 15 years of this to have to initiate several of these conversations a week with everyone from grocery clerks to close friends. It is their choice to tell me that I cannot fathom who they are, that my life experience cannot connect with theirs, that those who have similar outcomes due to their own major life shifts are somehow intrinsically blocked from that connection due to not having offspring. The assumption that my life is so easy that it would deny me the ability to understand another's experience tells me that the parent in question does not value my history or my experience. I am not valued or valuable.

Believe me, I sometimes wish all these assumptions about non-parents were true, because then I would be a wealthy, physically gorgeous, globe-trotting, sexual dynamo who had a clean house, great clothes, and was surrounded by all my old friends. This isn't how life goes for most of us, though, once we graduate from that magically unburdened post-high school youth we all imagine we came from. Take me, for example. I have weathered cancer, my husband's broken back, the loss of loved ones, addiction, depression and anxiety, and a few other hurdles. We all grow up, we change, and we experience things that are hard.

We may not be parents, but we are also not unburdened youth anymore, the ones we imagine as frivolous and selfish and disconnected, and I wish that the parents who make these assumptions about us would stop behaving as though we still are.
Go, read it yourself. : )

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The power of telling your story

In support group, we were asked to tell our story. Every single time we attended. Sometimes, at tge first meeting (or two... or five...) they attended, some people could only choke out their name and that of the baby they had lost. Sometimes the story would pour out of them in minute detail, going on for half an hour. But we were always encouraged to tell our story, or some version of it, at every meeting.

Over time, for most of us, the story got (at least a little bit) easier to tell. Sometimes, a new detail that we'd never heard before would pop out. By telling our story and sharing it with others, we processed what had happened to us in our own minds, worked through the grief and pain. Some of the raw grief & pain subsided.  And knowing that others were listening, empathizing, understanding, made us feel less alone and freakish. (If your friends & family members find it difficult to listen to your story, you need to find someone who will. That's where support groups, in real life or even online, are so helpful.) 

I watched a wonderful story on CBS Sunday Morning today about a 93-year-old World War II veteran who began volunteering at a war museum and telling his story to a new generation. And in doing so, he finally laid to rest one of the ghosts that had haunted him for almost 60 years. After I watched the segment & finished wiping my eyes, I looked at dh & said, "The power of telling your story... the whole story!"

Watch or read & see if you agree with me. : ) 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Pomp & circumstance

It's one of those times of the year when I'm reminded why I'm glad I'm not a parent.  Yes, perhaps there's a tinge of sour grapes here, but humour me...! 

My Facebook feed lately has been full of "woohoo!" posts and cap & gown photos from parents & teachers in the States, celebrating the last day of school and graduation. Here in Canada (at least in Ontario), school generally starts the day after Labour Day & continues through until the end of June. At any rate, on both sides of the border, prom/grad season is in full swing. (The same thing happens in the fall, when the back to school posts & photos start sometime in mid-August (States) & goes through the first week of September (Canada).)

Prom was the subject of an article in a recent issue of the Globe & Mail by Katrina Onstad (whose work I generally admire):  "Debt, excessive consumption and hangovers: Why prom night is more horror than fairy tale." 

Observes Onstad:
Oh, prom. You hideous hell-child of the eight-hour banquet-room wedding and New Year’s Eve. You, with your bad house band, syrupy drinks, amped-up expectations and inborn disappointment. You whose reality is more Carrie than Pretty in Pink.  

This is not how prom is sold to those who haven’t been yet. For that cohort, here’s a tip: Skip it. Really. Those hands in your pockets are not your own (or Josh’s, or Jessica’s – sorry), but the talons of an industry eager to profit from your youthful enthusiasm. Things have changed since my friends and I shared a cab to our high- school gym 20-something years ago. Now, prom follows the spend-and-stress contours of the modern wedding. There are prom magazines, prom expos, prom reality-TV shows, professional prom planners, and a Disney movie called – spell it out, Walt – Prom. It’s like we’re marking the path out of childhood by passing along the worst habits of adulthood: debt, excessive consumption and hangovers.
I had to laugh reading one of the comments, which began: "I graduated in these golden years after the hippies and before disco when proms actually were passe and were cancelled for awhile since nobody would be caught dead at one."

I remember those days too (although disco was still somewhat in vogue -- just past its peak, I think -- when I graduated from high school).  I could relate to Onstad's cab to the high school gym too (although it was probably my mom & dad who drove us -- or we might have even walked -- it was close enough). 

Today, no doubt fuelled by the Internet and other mass media, prom is just as big a deal for kids in Canada (at least it is here in urban Ontario) as it is the States. But the time (late 1970s) & place (smalltown Prairie Canada) when I grew up was much simpler and less formal.

We had expectations for prom/grad, of course -- I was excited to go dress shopping in the city with my mother -- but limos, designer gowns, hotel rooms, professional mani/peds (not to mention spray tans) were simply not a part of our world.  Casual was king. "Dressing up" for a dance meant wearing cords (corduroy pants) instead of jeans or overalls -- and you would only do so if you called around to make absolutely certain that at least two or three of your friends would be wearing theirs too.

We did have a "spring prom" the year I graduated -- which was basically a regular school dance -- yes, in the gym -- with a semi-formal dress code. The guys wore cords instead of jeans. I don't remember what my female classmates wore, but I wore a newly purchased cotton sundress (white with blue gingham trim) -- probably the first (& last) time I wore a dress in the high school gym.  And (gasp!) I wore it again a few weeks later at the grad banquet.

A few weeks later, our class took a bus into the city for a two-hour grad cruise up & down the Red River (prior to which we were sternly lectured by the infamous no-nonsense captain about his expectations for our behaviour).  I think I borrowed a dress from my sister. I didn't have a date & spent the evening with one of my similarly dateless girlfriends, drinking & tablehopping. (Legal drinking age was & still is 18 there, & we were both of age & thus entitled to service at the ship's bar.)  We wound up sitting at a table full of the school rowdy guys, one of whom proclaimed in amazement that we were actually kind of cool when we were wasted. Gee, thanks.

And then a few weeks after that was our actual grad ceremony. I paid $65 for a long turquoise blue polyester gown with long pleats and a blue ribbon-tied straps -- the most expensive dress I had ever purchased. I wore it that one day, and it has sat in my parents' closet for the (cough cough) 34 years since then. (Mine was the last class to graduate in long dresses for the girls and suits for the boys.  The next year, my sister's class voted to adopt caps & gowns, so what you wore underneath didn't carry quite as much importance.) 

After the ceremony, we had cake and pink champagne at my parents' house, changed into jeans, then headed for the party at the beach, 20 miles outside of town. When we got there, it didn't seem like there was any kind of organized party. It was just dozens of kids running wild in the pitch dark with bottles in their hand. (I knew one girl who got a bad case of poison ivy that night where the sun normally doesn't shine.)  We didn't stay very long -- it all seemed kind of pointless -- so we headed back into town and over to a friend's house, where we sat outside around a picnic table and drank more champagne & ate junk food until dawn.

The wedding-fication of prom/grad, the inflation of expectations, has extended on down the chain to junior high school. I remember a scrapbooking message board discussion about 10 years ago, when one of the moms was posting about the rigamorole surrounding her daughter's Grade 8 graduation. She told us about taking her daughter to a local salon to get her hair & nails done, and chatting with the other mothers who were waiting there for their daughters. Comparing notes, they all realized that none of them had ever (or rarely) had a professional manicure or pedicure, now being demanded as part of the grad experience by their 14-year-olds. "What's wrong with this picture??" one of the moms joked. 

I've heard many more such stories in the years since then, and things have only gotten more elaborate. And not just for junior high schoolers.

When I graduated from kindergarten, we did have a ceremony (at which we were presented with a mimeographed "diploma" signed by our teacher), but we fashioned our own hats out of construction paper, with tassels made from crepe paper & attached to the cap with scotch tape.  : )

A few years ago, I started seeing photos of kindergarten & junior kindergarten kids wearing full caps & gowns -- not just for photographic purposes, but also at actual kindergarten graduation ceremonies.

This past week, I saw photos of one kindergarten graduation ceremony where the little girls wore fancy flower girl/junior bridesmaid-style evening gowns that reminded me uncomfortably of JonBenet Ramsay (!!) & the little boys wore miniature tuxedos with bow ties.

If you are wearing evening gowns at age 5, hiring limos for Grade 8 grad and coughing up $1,500 or more for the full prom experience when you're 18, what's left to look forward to?

Your wedding, I guess (Onstad's wedding reference is absolutely spot on) -- but since we've now got kindergarteners wearing tuxes & and high schoolers spending more on their prom gowns than I paid for my wedding dress, weddings have had to up the ante too. (Which then trickles back down again to the high school grads, & so on down the line. It's a vicious circle.)

Fuelled by the rise of the Internet & reality shows like "Say Yes to the Dress," some weddings have become more like elaborate stage shows (with the bride & groom as stars & celebrities in chief) than about families & friends celebrating together. Planning a wedding has always been somewhat stressful, of course, but these days, it seems like there are so many more ways to get stressed (and to spend your money, of course).  (Right now, I'm reading Mel's new book, Measure of Love, in which one of the characters is stressed out by wedding preparations.) 

Weddings have always had an element of the theatrical about them, of course. But it didn't really hit me just how much they've been influenced by show biz until I attended a wedding about five years ago. It was very pretty. But the whole thing, and especially the reception, gave me the uncomfortable feeling that I was attending a stage performance and not a WEDDING.  At the reception hall, each table had a spotlight on it, highlighting the tall, spiky flowers that formed the the centrepieces.  Just before dinner was served, the bride & groom made a grand entrance from a balcony at the top of a double Scarlett O'Hara staircase, and then danced their way down staircases (she down one & he down the other). Once they reached the bottom, they launched into their first dance, as a dry ice fog wafted up through special vents in the floor.  It was a loooooonnnnnng way from the wedding receptions of my childhood, generally held at smalltown or rural community halls, where the church or Legion ladies catered plates of ham & turkey & large bowls of mashed potatos, served buffet style or set in front of us, seated on folding metal chairs at long folding tables covered in paper tablecloths. 

Other weddings I've been to in recent years have featured choreographed dance routines, theatrical numbers by the band, dance troupes entertaining between dinner courses, and an endless parade of speakers.

One of the young girls at work was suffering angst this past week over her girlfriend's upcoming bachelorette party. We're not talking a night out at the bar with a sash & tiara. She's trying to organize accommodations, dining & possibly theatre tickets. For three days. In New York City. For 14 people!!!  I told dh & he said, ""That's asking a lot, isn't it?? Of her, to organize, and of her friends." 

When I was getting married, some (cough cough) 28 years ago you had a bridal shower, or maybe two. You had some sandwiches & dainties (squares) and tea, and unwrapped your gifts, which might include some teatowels or a couple of cake pans or cookie sheets. One of my aunts hosted a shower for me where she asked the guests for $10 each and then presented me with several place settings of my bridal china from my registry (which was also something relatively new to the brides in my family). 

Male strippers were only just coming into vogue, and I heard the odd story about pre-bridal outings to see them. The closest I ever got to that experience was when one of dh's cousins got married in 1988. The same night the guys feted the groom at his bachelor party, the girls went out to a female impersonator revue (hosted by a Joan Rivers lookalike). (It was actually a lot of fun.)

So what's my point? I guess just that everything these days is overhyped. It's more more more & faster faster faster -- and when & where is it all going to end up?

You'll note that I haven't even touched on the inflation of expectations over the past few decades when it comes to pregnancy & babies. We're all only too familiar with THAT. Baby bumps on magazine covers, the proliferation of chic maternity wear boutiques, 4-D ultrasounds, pregnancy photos shot like fashion magazine layouts, belly casts, gender reveal parties, babymoon resort packages -- none of these things were in vogue (at least, to the extent they are now) when I was pregnant, just 15 years ago.  And the fact that so many women take for granted that all this will be theirs -- even demand it -- makes us feel all the worse about our own infertility, loss & childlessness. 

But I've rambled on long enough. I think that's a subject for another day.

OK. Cranky old childless lady rant over. ; )  (For now.) ; )

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Recent childless/free stuff...

Elizabeth Renzetti, a columnist with The Globe & Mail, had a major piece (section front page plus a full page inside) in Saturday's paper on "Why childless people are persecuted." 

The comments (so far as I've read, anyway) have been remarkably even-toned and even sympathetic -- I've found just one "why not adopt?" lol. A few people took issue with the term "persecuted."  Perhaps it is a tad strong -- but there's no doubt (at least among those of us without children, for whatever reason) that we have, shall we say? an image problem -- if not among parents who call us "selfish," then among certain economists & pundits who have been blaming the downfall of the global economy at least partly on us & our failure to procreate and keep the fertility rate from dropping like a stone.  :p 

Part of me wishes Renzetti had at least acknowledged those of us who are childless not necessarily by first choice... although a couple of commenters did point out that not everyone chooses childlessness.

But there's much here that's applicable and relatable, no matter how you came to be childless/free (whatever label you prefer).  On balance, I thought it was a sympathetic & respectful article that puts forward the childfree point of view in a thoughtful and reasoned way -- not a "breeder" or "sprog" comment to be found.

Notes Renzetti: 
An aside: I’m the mother of two children, and I adore them. I have never second-guessed my choice to have them, except for that afternoon I spent picking gum out of the cat’s fur. But I also understand that a journey down the baby highway – a road that has no exits, and is sometimes terrifying and sometimes so dull you fall asleep at the wheel – is not for everyone.
If only there were more like her. Go read it. And let me know what you think.

(ETA:  In the space of just a few hours since I posted this, the number of comments on the story went from under 70 to more than 170... the story was also posted on the Globe's Facebook site. I haven't read all the comments yet, but caveat emptor!) 


*** *** ***
In the same vein, MoJo Working posted "A Rebuttal" to a comment she received on her recent "Why I Hate Mother's Day" post. It's an eloquent defence of those of us who are childless not by choice, and gives voice to the additional pain we feel on this day devoted to all things mommy: 
I have no issue with giving your mother flowers, or taking her out to dinner, or with every mom on the planet receiving breakfast in bed one day a year. None of that matters. What DOES matter is how we make other people feel, every day of the year. What matters is that we, as a society, diminish non-moms and dismiss them because they don't have children. What matters is that we recognize only one kind of mother, and we ignore all of the others that don't fit that mold. What matters is that we don't recognize, publicly, that your value as a woman is not tied to the state of your uterus.

Friday, May 17, 2013

"The Juggler's Children" by Carolyn Abraham

"There may be no better remedy for the genealogy blues than the Internet and several uninterruped watch-the-sun-come-up hours of clicking into the abyss. The sensation that you may be just a link away from pay dirt never leaves you. This must be why family-history hunting can be as addictive as gambling, why it rivals online gaming as one of North America's top pastimes. Keep plugging your ancestral particulars into the machine and some primitive region of the brain -- perhaps a Pavlovian instinct conserved from a day when persistent spear throwing eventually led to dinner -- suggests that your numbers will soon come up."  -- The Juggler's Children, p. 221

*** *** ***

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you'll know that one of my hobbies is genealogy. I like to think that while I may not be growing my family tree into the future by having children, I am growing it another way by revealing & preserving my family's history. 

Delving into my family's past has been fascinating. When I started researching my family tree in earnest, some 30 years ago, I spent long hours at the library and the Archives of Ontario, scrolling through endless reels of microfilm until my head spun.

Since then, genealogy research has been transformed by the Internet. There are increasing numbers of records available online. I resisted the lure of the Internet for a long time (after a lull of some years after we moved out of the city), but finally succumbed. ; ) I bought a genealogy program for my computer, and have subscribed to Ancestry.com on & off. I find it pays to keep going back again & again to sites such as Ancestry, because there are always new records coming online, and always something new popping up to ponder over.

Today, genealogists have another new tool at their disposal:  DNA, which can be used to help you confirm or rule out a relationship with a potential relative.  Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. has used DNA to interesting effect on several of his PBS programs, including "Finding Your Roots." 

Carolyn Abraham, a medical reporter with The Globe & Mail, used DNA as well as traditional research techniques to help her untangle the mystery of her family's history, and has written a memorable book about it:  "The Juggler's Children: A Journey into Family, Legend and the Genes that Bind Us."

As a child growing up in Canada, Abraham would get asked by her schoolmates -- and, in turn, ask her parents: "What are we? Where did we come from?"  Simple questions -- but the answers she got were vague and complex. Abraham's last name would suggest Jewish heritage -- but she was born in England, attended Catholic schools and had brown skin. Her parents had come to Canada from India -- but her grandmother had insisted there was no Indian blood in the family (some Portuguese, perhaps?).  "Anglo-Indian" and "Eurasian" were among the suggested labels. Her mother's grandfather, according to family lore, was a sea captain from Jamaica. Her father's grandfather, on the other hand, was thought to be a circus juggler who came to India from China -- possibly on the lam.

Armed with DNA testing kits (at one point, she improvises with Q-Tips), Abraham, her husband and parents travel to India & Jamaica, as well as genealogical DNA conferences, in search of their roots. DNA testing, combined with traditional research, brings Abraham some answers, some surprises (some pleasant, some less so), and even more mysteries. Some get resolved, some don't.

She delves into the science of DNA, how testing works, what it can tell us (and what it can't), in a (mostly) understandable way.  Even as she researched her genealogy & wrote this book, new developments were unfolding that expanded the scope of what her family's genes could tell her.

By the time you reach the end of the book (Abraham's daughter gets the last word -- and it's a great summation), you realize that for all of us, the answer to the question "who do you think you are?" may be less definitive than we think.

Part family history, part science textbook, part history and part mystery -- I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

"The Other Mothers"

Justine had a great Mother's Day post:  instead of writing about her mother, or about her own take on motherhood, or infertility, she chose to honour "The Other Mothers" -- women in her life "some of whom have no biological children of their own, but who have been mothers to me when I've needed them most."

She asked us about the "other mothers" in our own lives.

I have been blessed to have some wonderful older women in my life as friends, family and mentors. Let me tell you about a few of them:   

Mrs. S, my best friends' mom from across the street, when I was in grade school. I have actually referred to Mr. & Mrs. S. as "my other parents" -- and I do call them Mr. & Mrs. S.  At the time my sister & I grew up, children did not call adults by their first names -- and in any case, Mr. S was the vice-principal of our school. Calling him by anything but "Mr." would have been weird -- even disrespectful.  So -- even though Mrs. S eventually did ask us to call them by their first names, or even "Aunt" & "Uncle" -- we've never quite managed to do so, even to this day, after almost 45 years of friendship between our families. We did eventually manage to shorten it to "Mr. & Mrs. S" -- think of how Fonzie on "Happy Days" shortened "Mr. & Mrs. Cunningham" to "Mr. & Mrs. C." ; )

Miss A (and we always did refer to her as "Miss," never by her first name) was a retired schoolteacher who lived down the street from us when my sister & I were toddlers. Born in Prince Edward Island, and a cousin to Lucy Maud Montgomery (she had a beautiful first edition of Montgomery's novel "The Golden Road"), she came to Saskatchewan as a young woman to teach in a one-room schoolhouse.  Her house was tiny and not well heated, and in the winter, she closed up part of her house and lived in just two rooms -- the cheerful kitchen and a small combination bed/sitting room.  She had a lovely garden, with poppies growing in colourful masses along the fence. She never married, had no children, and her extended family lived far away, but she "adopted" our young family and took us under her wing. Like many schoolteachers, she was a font of stories and wonderful ideas for crafts and activities. She introduced our family to the delights of waffles with whipped cream and freshly picked berries (and, when we moved away, she suggested to the church ladies that a waffle iron would be an appropriate farewell gift -- my mother still has it). She served my sister & I tea in real china teacups, along with oatcakes and peanut butter cookies (I have the recipes), and then gave the cups to us as presents when we moved away. Her sister was a missionary in New Zealand for many years, and she always wanted to go there;  she finally did when she was 80.  I decided then that if I had to be 80 someday, I wanted to be just like Miss A.

I last saw Miss A. when I was a teenager, although we exchanged Christmas cards for years, and my parents & grandparents stopped by to see her on a driving trip west. Occasionally, at work, I had reason to call the bank branch in town (the same one where my father had worked), and I would enquire about how she was doing. I heard that she had finally given up her tiny little house and moved into the seniors home -- that, sadly, she had dementia. Then one day, I got a note from her niece. She had been going through her aunt's address book & letting people know that Miss A. had passed away. I don't remember how old she was, but she was well into her 90s by then. 

My godmother, C:  My mother never had a sister, but she had the next best thing -- her cousin, C, four years older, who grew up in the same small town (their mothers were sisters).  C is one of my two godmothers, and I like to call her my "fairy godmother," because she's always been extremely generous to me.  I've also called her "Auntie," even though she is not really my aunt. Her two daughters are about the same ages as my sister & me, and we had fun hanging out together in the summertime when we visited our grandmothers.

C. is a good listener, and always has an apt observation, encouraging word or piece of wisdom to share. She also has exquisite taste and has given me some treasured gifts over the years -- a handcrafted ceramic jewelry box with my name etched on the underside -- with a lovely pin inside;  a wooden Christmas plaque that reminded me of a similar picture in my grandmother's house;  a crystal lamp, given to us as a wedding present, annual Christmas cards with long, newsy, handwritten letters inside. She doesn't always send birthday gifts, but has always marked the milestones. For my 40th birthday, C sent me $40 (in U.S. funds) & told me to take a friend for lunch -- and to have dessert, because we women so seldom ordered dessert. ; )  The exchange rate on the U.S. dollar at the time was such that I actually managed to take two friends to lunch, and we all enjoyed dessert & toasted C in thanks. :)

My other godmother, Aunty M:  My other godmother, my Aunty M, is my dad's older sister. She had three sons but no daughters, and I like to think I've always had a special spot in her heart. ; ) When I was a kid, I had some health issues that required me & my mother to come to the children's hospital in the city for a few days every year or so for testing and outpatient procedures over a couple of days. We would stay at Aunty M's house in the north end of the city and make the trek to the children's hospital by bus, transferring two or three times along the way. When the building next door to the hotel we were staying in burned to the ground on a cold December night, and the halls of the hotel filled with smoke, Aunty M took us in in the middle of the night.

A little more than a year after I lost Katie, she lost her husband. She came to visit me a few months later. She helped me line the bottom of my kitchen cupboards and knitted dishcloths for me.  I always thought I got my camera bug tendencies from my maternal grandmother, who gave me my first camera... but Aunty M is also quick to pull our her camera & share her latest photos. I also tend to credit my maternal grandfather for my interest in genealogy -- but Aunty M has taken it upon herself to document the family history for my dad's family.  She has compiled an amazing, massive scrapbook, filled with just about every wedding invitation, birth announcement, funeral card & newspaper obituary my family has ever produced. The older I get, the more I think I look like her too.

Aunty M will be 80 this year -- something I find hard to believe. . She recently applied for a unit in the seniors residence in her town -- an assisted living unit. She is still full of energy, but decided she would make the move now before the decision had to be made for her.

Aunty D, my dad's younger sister, who was a teenager when I was born. She lived closer to the city centre than Aunty M, and when I got to be a teenager, I stayed with her and her growing family -- like Aunty M, she also had three boys -- to attend debating competitions and science fairs. Recently, one of her sons moved and now lives about a half hour from me with his family -- I am tickled, after 25+ years of living so far away from my family, to finally have a relative so close by. As a bonus, Aunty D visits a couple of times a year.

My work friend P: P was one of the first people I spoke to when I started my job 27 years ago this summer. She contributed data for a regular feature in the employee newsletter I worked for. After several years of chatting on the phone and mailing material back & forth to each other through the interoffice mail (this was pre-Internet), we decided it was high time we met. She worked in a different building a few blocks away, & the next time I was in the area, I dropped by to say hello. She was just as delightful in person as she was over the phone -- frank, funny, unafraid to speak her mind or go to bat for what she thought was right, full of stories about people at the company, and happy to dish out advice. We began having lunch together every few weeks. After several years, her department moved to a satellite office in another part of the city -- but whenever we had to visit each other's offices, we made a point of scheduling our meetings close to lunchtime. ; ) When she finally retired a few years ago, I attended her farewell party. She still drops by to see me -- sometimes unannounced -- whenever she is downtown.

These are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head... I'm sure there are others.

I hope that someday I can be as great a mom/aunt figure to some young person as these women are to me.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Voldemort Day 2013

(Voldemort Day = The Day That Shall Not Be Named.  My preferred label. You all know why, lol....)
  • Is it over yet? :p  ;)
  • The day here has been cold, grey, windy & rainy (altnough I am hearing reports of both hail & snow, not too far from us). Matched my mood. :p
  • It's not like it hurts so terribly much anymore... it just makes me tired. Very, very tired. I can only read so many Facebook posts wishing people a happy you-know-what-day and photos of pancake breakfasts and presents received before I just want to turn the computer off and dive under the covers and stay there all day. :p 
  • I didn't, though. Although I did wind up hiding out in the dark at the movies (my preferred strategy of avoidance, lol) -- "The Great Gatsby," which I also just finished reading. Review of both movie & book to come...
  • CBS Sunday Morning had numerous topical stories, of course. :p  But, surprise!  The lead story was about childless by choice couples. (Although it started off --for contrast's sake, I suppose -- with the infamous Duggars of "19 Kids and Counting.")  On the one hand, I really, really wish they had at least nodded to the fact that there is a vast grey area between the Duggars and couples who make a conscious, deliberate choice not to have children. On the other hand, I was amazed that they even tackled the subject on Voldemort Day at all, let alone gave it the lead story spot in the lineup. Overall, I thought it was a reasonably well balanced examination of the subject (at least, as well examined as you can get in just a couple of minutes). There was no video posted on the site (at least yet), but here's the story stemming from that item.
  • A huge thank you to the deadbabymama friend on Facebook who posted a link to this article, "For Women Who Dread Mother's Day." It was exactly, exactly what I needed to hear/read today. Sample passage:
"We are a sisterhood, all of us who just want the day to pass. We are a sisterhood of women who have learned so much the hard way, who know that life doesn't hold guarantees, who in our better moments understand that love isn't about what you get, but what you give... Sisters, you aren't alone. There are vast numbers of us. Maybe that's what we can do, too: reach out our hands to each other--in real ways, in cyber-ways, in any way--and say: I understand. I stand with you. This day shall pass, life goes on, and there are always, always reasons to be grateful."

Post-Voldemort Day ramblings 2012

You-Know-What Day (2011)

Mother's Day 2010

Pre-MDay 2009

Mother's Day 2009 (Baptism)

Mother's Day 2008

Pre-MDay 2008

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Once more unto the breach...

Thank you all for your kind words of support on my last post. It was a looooooonnnnnnggggg week, and by Friday night, I was utterly exhausted. :p 

Needless to say, it was not my most productive week at work -- thank goodness we are not overly busy at the moment. I told my immediate manager and a few others about what had happened, and before long, word had spread.  Everyone has been very kind. My senior manager has been checking in on me and how I/we are doing, and my director called me into his office on Friday to say he'd heard, he was sorry, he understood if I felt less than kindly toward the company at the moment (since it's also the same company that fired my husband), and to feel free to take a mental health day if I felt I needed one. It's nice to know that MY part of the organization, at least, is being supportive. :p

Dh said that Friday that it was just starting to hit him that he's effectively retired -- "now what?"  I was struck by the parallels between now and that period of our life, 12 years ago, when we realized we were done with infertility treatments and, most likely, would never be parents. "Now what?" indeed?  The scenario is very similar -- grieving a major loss (of a child/of the dream of parenthood/a longtime job/routine/relationships with coworkers), grieving for the future we thought was ours (parenthood/early retirement on our terms). Trying to come to terms with the new world & life situation we've been suddenly thrust into (permanent childlessness/extra-early retirement/commuting alone).

Losing a job, like losing a child and winding up childless, is one of those things that you know happens in this world -- more often than most people think -- but always happens to someone else. Until one day, it doesn't.

Of course, although losing a job is shocking, difficult, unpleasant and life-changing, it pales in comparison to losing a child. As I've said, we've survived worse situations than this one. We'll be OK.  But it will take time to adjust and figure out the lay of the land.

(To add insult to injury, we had our air conditioner serviced on Saturday, and learned it's on its last legs and should probably be replaced -- sooner rather than later. And earlier last week, we mailed in our income tax filings -- along with our cheques. Yes, we both wound up paying. If bad luck comes in threes, we've surely reached our limit, haven't we?? :p )

Three more years... three more years... ;)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Ready or not :p

"It seems like no job is secure these days," I wrote in response to Mali's recent news that her husband had been made redundant at work.

Maybe I should have knocked wood. 

Yesterday morning at precisely 9:36 a.m., I got a call from dh. He was at the security entrance to my department -- with an escort. 

He'd been let go. After 24 years. His performance was not the issue. "Reorganization," they said. The escort was assigned to see that he made it downstairs to the concourse (if not completely out of the building). He wasn't even allowed to return to his desk to get his jacket;  one of his co-workers retrieved it and brought it to him.

I think I was more in shock than he was. He has not been happy with his job for a very long time. It's a familiar story these days -- fewer and fewer people to do more and more work, enormous stress amid constant rumours of "reorganization." He is at an age where he is eligible for early retirement, and we've been working and saving with that goal in mind.  He just hadn't planned to do take it yet, until I could retire along with him -- not for another few years.

Well, our plans (or part of them, anyway) just shifted into fast forward mode. 

We will be OK. For all my deep-rooted (if perhaps irrational) fears of winding up a bag lady (shared by many women, I think), we are a lot better equipped to absorb this blow than many other families are right now, and I am very thankful for that. (We later learned that two other people from his team were let go the same day.)  I am thankful that the work-related stress that's been plaguing him for the past several years in particular is at an end. And I am even thankful right now that we don't have children. It would be a much, much different story if they were here.

He's talking about going back to school this fall, spending some more time with his dad;  eventually, perhaps, getting a part-time job. He's even offered to learn how to operate the washer & dryer. ; )  I may hold him to that. ; )

As for me, I'm going to have to get used to commuting to work by myself, to carrying my own briefcase, to going through the day without the security of knowing that dh was close by if I needed him. I have been spoiled, people, I admit it. We've been doing this for 23 years, ever since we moved from the city to the suburbs. 23 years!!! And I don't do well with change. :p

I have to admit, that phone call brought me back to that awful day, almost 15 years ago, when *I* was the one making the phone call(s), when our lives changed forever. Then I thought of other days & other out-of-the-blue phone calls I've received, and made.

This was not, by far, the worst news I could have received. Not the best, mind you -- but definitely not the worst. 

But it reminded me, again (as if I needed reminding...), of how life can change in the blink of an eye, and how none of us is immune to change, whether we like it or not. :p