Thursday, November 21, 2013

Recent reading

So many great news articles... so little time. There have been a couple of really good ones lately, though, & I managed to flag some to share here later: 

First, I loved this Remembrance Day/Veterans Day article from the Washington Post about a group of bereaved mothers who take comfort in their weekly visits to the graves of their soldier children at Arlington National Cemetery, and the friendships they have made there. A very different kind of loss than mine (yours too, I imagine) -- and yet, there is a common thread that runs through all kinds of grief that makes it easy to empathize with these women. I understand the comfort they take from visiting the cemetery every week (dh & I still do), and how their grief has changed with the passage of time. And the friendships they have formed remind me so much of the friends I have made since losing Katie 25 years ago -- "in real life" through our support group, and through message boards & blogs. (Although we don't make a habit of meeting in cemeteries.) (I have seen some of them there by chance, though.)

I understood this:
Davis knows that her family and many of her friends think that she would be better off not visiting the cemetery every week.  
“It doesn’t make me sadder,” she says of her weekly visits. “On anniversaries and birthdays it can be sad. But this isn’t a sad place for me. It’s hard for them to understand.”
*** *** ***

From the New York Times, a rare visit to "the island of the dead" -- Hart Island, where more than one million New Yorkers have been buried in a potter's field since 1869 -- including thousands of stillborn babies. In fact, the article is seen largely through the eyes of Elaine Joseph, who has been searching for the body of her baby daughter for more than 30 years. There are strict rules governing visitors to the island;  however, the article suggests these policies may be changing.  Let's hope so.

In the not-so-distant past, it was common practice for hospitals to whisk away the bodies of stillborn infants to be buried in common unmarked graves. Even today, I still hear occasional stories of shell-shocked parents who agree to let the hospital "take care of things" for them, without realizing exactly what this means.

This article is difficult, yet fascinating reading. It reminded me of the Children's Garden at Toronto's Mount Pleasant Cemetery, where the support group we attended holds its annual Walk to Remember every fall. I wrote about the garden, its origins and the walk here, back in 2008.

Beware the comments.

*** *** ***

The New York Times's Motherlode blog has been running a lot of posts lately related to infertility and pregnancy loss. 

Since earlier this summer, Amy Klein's Fertility Diary has been a weekly feature. Forty-something Amy has walked readers through her IVF cycle and the two-week wait, announced a pregnancy -- and then, sadly, a miscarriage -- addressed the "why not adopt?" question,  confessed to baby envy and had her husband take over for a week to answer questions about his experience.  This week's post is something some of us know well -- finding support on Internet message boards.

Sometimes Amy's posts can seem a bit disingenuous -- but overall, I enjoy them. I'm glad the New York Times is giving regular profile to this subject, and I am sure a lot of readers are getting an education in what infertility is really like.

Beware the comments -- some of them have been quite harsh (including ones from people who have dealt with infertility themselves). 

Yesterday, Jennifer Massoni Pardini addressed the difficult issue of finding out, 23 weeks into her pregnancy while living in Chile, that her unborn son had a life-threatening congenital heart defect, and the heartbreaking choice she was faced with making.

And today, main blogger K.J. Dell'Antonia finds herself unexpectedly telling her children about the sister they lost.
I was sad when the baby died. I am happy to have my daughter. I could not have had both... As adults, we take these contradictions, and we just sort of prop them up in the corner of our mind and look at them now and then, hoping that maybe another angle will give us some clarity.


*** *** ***

I don't always care for Leah McLaren's columns in the Globe & Mail, but I loved last Saturday's piece about the taboo topic of miscarriage.
When a wanted pregnancy ends, a world of desired possibility is destroyed. A doorway to an imagined future of laughter, music and silly dancing is slammed shut.  
These silent tragedies are around us everywhere; they are the blood stains on the discarded bath towels, and the pillowcases soaked with 3 a.m. tears. They are real and unacknowledged and, most important, they are absolutely not our fault. We need to believe this, and then we need to talk about it.


*** **** ***

And finally, the now-infamous New Yorker article by Ariel Levy (which McLaren references in her column), detailing the premature birth & death of her infant while she was on assignment in Mongolia (of all places). Melissa at Stirrup Queens wrote about this article here. (ETA: Andrew Sullivan at The Dish also has a thread about miscarriage, prompted by Levy's article.)

The writing is so beautiful, so honest, so relatable to anyone who has suffered pregnancy loss. The certainty that nothing could go wrong (so why NOT fly off to Mongolia when you're 19 weeks pregnant??), the denial, the disbelief when the realization sets in that something is going very, very wrong indeed.
I had been so lucky. Very little had ever truly gone wrong for me before that night on the bathroom floor.


And this, near the end:
But the truth is, the ten or twenty minutes I was somebody’s mother were black magic. There is no adventure I would trade them for; there is no place I would rather have seen.


Me either.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

This year's model (2013)

I had already browsed the Christmas card displays at the card shop downstairs in my office tower a few times before today (even though it seemed WAAAYYYYYY too early to be looking at Christmas cards before Remembrance Day). I saw a few cards that I liked, some of them very pretty. They were cards that I knew I could probably be happy with sending, if I didn't find anything else. But usually, I know "the" card when I see it, immediately -- and nothing I saw was grabbing me in that way. It made me a little sad.

I wasn't intending to buy anything when I stopped by at lunchtime today. I was just browsing. I looked at the boxes of cards near the front of the store, and as I worked my way through the aisles, I saw they had more cards near the back.

And that's when I saw it. It wasn't the prettiest box of cards in the store. And, in hindsight, the message inside -- "Best wishes for a holiday season and a wonderful New Year" -- kind of bugs me. Shouldn't it be "Best wishes for the holiday season" or "Best wishes for a happy holiday season" or something like that?? (Spoken like a true English major, lol.)

(And while we're quibbling, the title on the website is "Decorated Moose." It looks more like a reindeer than a moose to me. A reindeer would certainly make more sense. What do you think?)

But, no matter. It was "the" card. I knew it right away when I saw the little girl on the sled.

 
 

(And now, as I wrote last year, to find time over the next month or so to write the darn things...)
 
2010 card was a photo card of me & dh on our 25th wedding anniversary : )

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Annual Whine (2013 version)

Last year, on Nov. 14th, my post began, "It's a little earlier than usual for my annual "I hate November" whine." 

Well, today is Nov. 11th -- a cold and rainy Remembrance Day (& I actually started writing this post a week ago) -- so what does that tell you??

Then again, as I wrote in my previous post, "...it's been the week from heck... (I was ready to start writing my annual "I hate November" post/vent in October, lol.)" Maybe next year??

The usual elements of "the annual whine" (which still apply to this year's version) include:
  • November 14th (or 20th, or 25th, take your pick), 1998, was my unfulfilled due date. Every November brings the reminder of what might have been, but wasn't and never will be. As I said in my 2009 whine, I feel cheated.
  • It's late fall, almost winter. The trees have lost most of their beautiful coloured leaves and are bare and stark against the sky.
  • It is cold, chilly, often rainy or even (gulp) snowing. (None yet... but there will be... soon...)
  • The days are getting shorter, and the time change means it gets darker a lot earlier. SADD, anyone?
  • November is always our busiest time of year at work (and this year is even busier -- longer rant on that point to follow...!).
  • Because of this, for the past 27 years, it's been impossible for me to start getting ready for Christmas and enjoy the season in the way that I'd like to.
  • While I love Christmas, I get irritated when the ads start the day after Halloween. And especially when, even if I wanted to think about Christmas, I just don't have time for it yet.
Additional whine elements this year:
  • My unemployed/early-retired dh is bored silly and driving me nuts at times.
  • My company is undergoing a leadership transition -- one CEO retiring, another taking over -- which has added considerably to our already-heavy workload at an already very busy time of year.
  • As a result, until just recently, not enough time or attention has been paid to our usual year-end projects (many of them with inflexible regulatory/compliance-related deadlines attached), which are nevertheless unfolding under the usual tight timelines and consuming the usual considerable amount of resources (human & otherwise).
  • The above has been made even more "interesting"/stressful because of the several layers of management above me who are new in their positions and haven't had to deal with our particular version of year-end before. 
Specific things that happened within the past week to prompt me to write this post now:
  • It's Monday. (It was when I started writing this post... and it is again... which tells you what my time has been like lately -- one more thing to whine about, lol.)
  • As I said to a coworker, my (last) Monday started at the dentist -- and went downhill from there, lol. :p  ;) 
  • I was at the dentist. For a filling. :p  (I've had way too many fillings for my liking in the past few years.)(Also two crowns.)
  • He started drilling and had to give me a second shot of freezing because I was still jumping in my seat. You would think by now he'd know just to give me a double shot right up front because I almost always need one.
  • The freezing took about four hours to completely wear off.
  • My coworkers were giggling because (due to the freezing) I was lisping ridiculously in my post-appointment meeting.
  • My arm was still slightly sore from my flu shot the previous week.
  • While under deadline pressure to write & edit some critical documents, I left my finger lingering on the shift key too long -- thus turning on that bane of my existence known as "filter keys," rendering my keyboard completely useless, and resulting in a frantic call to tech support. :p 
  • The powers that be, which decided to let me have an extra (much-needed) filing cabinet just outside my cubicle when we completed our office renovations about two years ago (even though my position didn't warrant one), did an about face and decided that said filing cabinet was a safety hazard in its current spot & needed to be moved. (I said I didn't care, so long as I had some additional filing space, somewhere.)
  • However, before it could be moved, I had to empty everything out of it. :p 
  • The movers showed up almost an hour after they said they would -- and then I had to put all the files back IN to the thing. (Did I mention before how busy I am with other stuff at this time of year??)
  • I wound up taking a later-than-usual train home. 
  • Went on FB for some mindless distraction, only to find the gleeful announcement that dh's cousin's daughter is expecting Baby Number THREE. Her other two are 3 & 1 (!!).  (She claims to want FOUR.)
  • Also saw the photos that one my high school girlfriends just posted from her GRANDSON's first birthday.
So that was last Monday. Also this week:
  • Grandma Coworker has made it gleefully known that her daughter & son-in-law are trying for grandbaby #2.
  • Another coworker is due in less than a month and so her depature on mat leave -- and workplace baby shower/celebration/send off -- will be coming up shortly.  
  • The Second Cup had their Christmas menu & advertising up on October 30th -- like, not even waiting until after Halloween.
  • Even the Legion began selling Remembrance Day poppies earlier this year.
  • We are so far behind that I brought home work this weekend to try to catch up a little. :p
  • Did I mention that Aunt Flo is here? And that's she's still visiting me like clockwork every month? And that I'm going to be (gulp) 53 in another two months? I mean, seriously?? I thought she'd be long gone by now. :p  
  • Some good news:  I FINALLY got my Christmas vacation approved, on Oct. 31st. The accompanying bad news: this was the latest ever that management approved my Christmas vacation dates. I usually try to have my plane tickets home booked by (Canadian) Thanksgiving, & I don't think I've ever booked later than Halloween before. As a result, I was unable to book tickets for the dates that I wanted (at least, at a semi-reasonable price).
(Still, we are going home. I am thankful for that. Something to look forward to.)

This concludes the annual whine (2013 version). Thanks, I feel better already. ; )

November 2012:  The annual whine
November 2011: (Not) the most wonderful time of the year :p
November 2010: Black Friday
November 2009: November blahs
November 2008: November again
November 2007: November: The cruellest month  

Thursday, November 7, 2013

GRAB(ook) Club: "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn

Wow. Well.

I had heard the hype about "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn -- so many people seemed to be reading it & raving about it -- and so I kept debating whether it would be worth buying the hardcover or waiting for the paperback (which seems to be taking forever to come out...!). Then Mel added it to the GRAB(ook) Club agenda, so I wound up getting an e-book version via my sister.

And, as many reader reviews I've read alluded, this was a hard book to put down. Adding to the allure -- reading an e-book (particularly on my almost-original model Kobo) made it more difficult to flip ahead & sneak a peek at the ending -- incentive to keep reading!! By Monday night, I was getting close to the end. I was so eager to finish (particularly when I had a post to write before the book discussion posts went up Thursday) that I set aside my usual newspapers & continued to read the book on my Tuesday morning commute. With just a few pages to go as we pulled into the train station (curses!), I speedwalked to my office, threw down my briefcase, & finished off the book in my cubicle before I even turned on my computer.  ; ) (I read the papers on the evening commute home.)

I liked this book. It's definitely a page-turner. I did NOT particularly like the main characters, Nick & Amy, each with their own flaws (although I found Nick slightly more sympathetic than Amy).  (Disturbingly, I found myself thinking of serial killers/rapists Paul Bernardo & -- especially -- Karla Homolka, at one point.)

But I couldn't help but be drawn into their story.  And think about the strengths & weaknesses of my own marriage, even as I watched theirs unravel.

Amy disappears on the day of her & Nick's 5th wedding anniversary -- and guess who's the prime suspect?  The story unfolds in alternating "he said, she said" style, between narration from Nick and past diary entries from Amy.  Whose account of the relationship do we believe? Or does the truth lie somewhere in between?  Plot twists and surprises galore along the way. There are even subplots/references to pregnancy loss and infertility. (Melissa already asked one infertility-related question related to the book.) 

*** *** ***

So here's my question(s):

One of the recurring threads in the book is the tension and contrast between city & country/small town life. Nick grew up in smalltown Missouri; Amy in New York City. The two live a charmed life in Manhattan -- until they both lose their jobs and their finances take a nosedive. When his aging parents require care, Nick persuades Amy to return to his hometown with him.

Would you ever want to move back to your hometown (if you don't already live there)? Both Nick & Amy voice some stereotypes about smalltown life and people;  likewise, their family members & neighbours have their own ideas about what life in the big city must be like. Do you think these observations (on either side) were true, or fair?

I know dh sometimes feels guilty that I am living so far away from my family. "We can move back," he sometimes offers.

My parents actually moved to the small town (population about 2,500) where they now live almost 30 years ago, when I was finishing university. I only ever lived there with them for a little over a year before I got married. But even though it's not one of the towns where I grew up, suffice to say, it's close in location, size and ambience, lol. The largest town I lived in, before going to university, was 12,000 people.  Dh, on the other hand, grew up in Toronto and has spent his whole life in the Greater Toronto Area, aside from the years he went away to school.

Sometimes I think about it. It would be nice to be closer to my family. I miss the friendliness and simplicity of small town living (no traffic jams! affordable housing!!)(well, affordable when compared to Toronto, lol). But then I think about the lack of choices, the lack of privacy, the lack of tolerance of different viewpoints (although you don't always get that in a larger centre either)...

The thing is, I have lived enough places in my life to know that there is good and bad everywhere you go; it's up to you to make the best of things wherever you are. Some stereotypes are true and some aren't. Amy observes in the book something to the effect that many of the North Cartharge people had opinions about New York without ever having gone near the place, and I find that's very true. Whenever I go back, people will ask me, "So how's TORONTO?"  in a slightly snide tone of voice, as if they can't really believe anyone would ever want to live here (Toronto being the city that everyone in Canada loves to hate)(even long before Rob Ford ever became mayor, lol). And of course, a lot of them have never set foot here.

Of course, city people can be incredibly obtuse and condescending about smalltown life too.

So to answer my own question -- I'm not really sure I'd want to move back to the same town where my parents live. That might be a little too close for comfort. ; ) But I might not mind living in a larger town or smaller city. closer than where I am right now. ; )

*** *** ***

One more question I can't resist asking: 

I remember reading quite awhile ago that the movie rights to "Gone Girl" had been purchased by Reese Witherspoon. Maybe it's the blond thing ; ) but I naturally assumed she would be playing Amy.  (Although -- likely because of the name -- I kept seeing Amy Poehler and her sly grin as I read the book, lol.)  However, in Googling "Gone Girl movie," I learned that the movie will be released in the fall of 2014, with Ben Affleck as Nick and Rosamund Pike as Amy.

What do you think of this casting? Who would you nominate to play Amy? Nick? Any of the other characters?

After you answer my question, please click over to read the rest of the book club questions for Gone Girl.  You can get your own copy of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn at bookstores including Amazon.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Now we are six

Yesterday was my six-year blogoversary. :)  Because it was Halloween & because it's been the week from heck, I wasn't able to get anything posted before this. (I was ready to start writing my annual "I hate November" post/vent in October, lol.) 

Anyway: 

Number of years blogging:  6
Published posts (including this one): 765
Published comments: almost 5,800
Page views (tracked since May 2008):  almost 187,000 
Average # of posts per year: 128
Average # of posts per month:  11
Followers:  140
Feelings of gratitude for what 6 years of blogging has given me:  Priceless : )

Thank you all for reading/listening, commenting and just being here.

Blogoversary #5 (2012)
Blogoversary #4 (2011)
Blogoversary #3 (2010)
Blogoversary #2 (2009)
Blogoversary #1 (2008)
First post