Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"Selfish, shallow and self-absorbed"

I haven't read this just-released book yet, although it's already in my gargantuan to-read pile. But I saw this interview on Jezebel with the editor, Meghan Daum, that I wanted to share.

Like Daum and the writers in this essay collection, the interviewer, Karyn Polewaczyk, is childfree by choice (although many of the essayists admit to some ambivalence on the topic). Maybe that's why she asks some really excellent questions.

Here's a few excerpts from Daum's answers. Does any of this sound familiar??:
  • "We live in a culture where busyness is revered and often equated with importance... And, for various reasons, parenting these days has become an exercise in time management and, in some cases, letting people know how incredibly busy and overwhelmed you are... I've noticed that, often, non-parents feel like they have no right to complain about being busy or tired or stressed because, after all, there's this huge thing we're not doing... I went through a phase where I felt like I had to be some kind of extra-achiever—on a professional level, a personal level, a moral level and even a housekeeping level (what a joke) because surely I had all this extra time that my friends with kids didn't have (i.e. I had no right to have a messy house because, hey, I didn't have kids!)" 
  • "Frankly, the "why" mandate kind of irks me. I'm not someone who gets off on being coy and confrontational in social settings, so I'm probably not the one who's going to answer the "Why don't you have kids?" question with "Why did you have kids?" But I think that's a fair answer if you're inclined to give it."
  • "It was essential to me to make room in the book for ambiguity and ambivalence. Again, one of the problems with this discussion has been the either/or nature of it. If you've chosen not to have kids, you're supposed to champion and celebrate that choice every moment of every day. But life doesn't work that way. Do parents champion and celebrate the choice to have kids every moment of every day? Not any that I know—though, of course there, too, is a stigma about expressing moments of doubt or even regret."  
  • "We must get away from the idea that parents and non-parents are adversaries. I think this notion is in many ways a media creation—nothing generates clicks like incendiary articles along the lines of "I didn't know real love until I became a parent"—but unfortunately this kind of logic has seeped into the public consciousness and became part of the conventional wisdom... That message [that childless people are selfish] is so ingrained in the culture that even people who question lots of other things often never think to question it."
I wish Daum had included a few childless/free-not-by-choicers in this collection -- although I appreciate her nod to ambiguity and ambivalence in her comments and in her choice of contributors.  I believe that the line separating those who are childfree by choice from those of us who are childless not by choice (or whatever labels you want to slap on us) is a lot thinner and more flexible than most of us (on either side of the equation) realize. Yes, there are die-hard CBCers who intensely dislike children (and parents), and enjoy hurling around unfortunate terms like "sprogs" and "breeders." But the vast majority of people who are childless/free, for whatever reason, like children and respect the hard job that parents do.

And whether childless/free living was your first choice or not, I think there's a lot we can learn from each other. We may come to this life from very different places, but I think we face a lot of the same issues, questions and pressures. I think the structure of our lives are probably a lot more similar than different;  the differences may be more psychological -- how we view our situation and how we feel about our lives.

As Karen Malone Wright of The Not Mom (a blog for people women without children, by chance or by choice) recently said, "...if we are just one-fifth of American women, surely there is more that unites us than divides us. Personally, it means that although I dreamed of spawning a houseful of little me’s and didn’t, I stick up for the women who never wanted children, too. I never pretend to know exactly how they made the decision to live childfree, but I do know they have the right to make it. I don’t have to be Russian to support Pussy Riot." 

What do you think? What did you think of this interview & the premise of the book?

Monday, March 30, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Emerging from hibernation

Last Wednesday morning, a friend/retired coworker called & asked if I'd like to meet for tea that afternoon. I happily accepted, and we had a lovely visit over tea & scones at a local tearoom. :)

I had barely hung up the phone before it rang again. A high school friend was in town (downtown Toronto, more specifically), accompanying her husband on a business trip, and wanted to know if I could meet her for lunch. She was only in town until Thursday, so I had to decline, but we had a nice chat, catching up.

I couldn't meet her for lunch Thursday, because I already had plans to meet another old friend at a gigantic springtime craft show that we have often attended together in the past. We spent two hours wandering the aisles and another two hours having lunch, then tea, and (of course) talking. :)

It never rains but it pours, right? I spent a very long, cold winter cooped up in the house and, yes, sometimes bored out of my skull -- and now, suddenly, everyone is coming out of the woodwork all at once (emerging from hibernation?). 

Spring MUST be on its way! :)

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

Saturday, March 28, 2015

So many books, so little time... ;)

(OK, I'll admit, there's more time than there used to be, since I lost my job. ;)  But since I got my first computer in 1996, I also spend a lot of time on the Internet that I used to spend reading books and magazines. Anyway...)

The stack of unread books beside my bed is multiplying faster than the dust bunnies underneath it. I see a new book that I MUST HAVE NOW!! Buy it (especially if it's on sale, or the paperback version I've been patiently holding out for), bring it home. And then something else captures my attention, and I buy THAT and bring it home. (Some people spend their money on alcohol and cigarettes... dh & I spend our money on reading material.) And I'm torn -- which one to pick up first??  Decisions, decisions... (Anyone else feel this way sometimes??) 

Right now, I'm hellbent on getting through "The Two Mrs. Abbotts" -- book #3 of the "Miss Buncle" trilogy by D.E. Stevenson. (Book #1, "Miss Buncle's Book," is reviewed here.  A review of book #2, "Miss Buncle Married," will be forthcoming.) My Yahoo group (how I joined up with them is an interesting story, described here) is almost finished discussing "The Two Mrs. Abbotts,"  and will be moving on to "The Four Graces" -- which I gather is tangentially related to the three Miss Buncle books;  hence, my desire to finish TTMA -- starting the first week of April. And I would really like to take part in the discussion, having chased the group unsuccessfully for the past three books. :p

I want to get through both these books, ideally over the next week & a half (!) -- & then get started on Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" -- because the BBC adaptation begins on PBS on April 5th, and I like to at least TRY to read a book before I see the movie (or TV show, in this case). I figure I will only need to read the first few chapters before the first episode, right? ;) 

And then, in June, PBS is supposed to start showing another BBC costume drama -- "Poldark" -- set in Cornwall in the late 1700s/early 1800s. I read all the Poldark novels (by Winston Graham) as a young teenager. The BBC adapted the first several books back in the mid-1970s, with a charismatic actor named Robin Ellis in the title role, and it was a huge hit there, as well as on PBS. In Canada, the series was shown on CBC, after the national news broadcast (which was then at 11 o'clock), on a school night. And my mother (who had also read the books) let me stay up late to watch with her. :) 

The new adaptation, starring a buff young Irish actor named Aidan Turner and covering the first two novels in the series, is already a huge hit in Britain.  And of course, since it's been (cough cough) awhile since I read the books (I did see a rerun of the original TV series as a newlywed), I would like to refresh my memory before THAT show begins.

Meanwhile, my recent purchases (some in store, some online, all of which I am dying to dive into) include:
(Not to mention the other books in the "to read" pile(s) that came before them, lol.)

Have you read any of these? What are you reading right now, and what's in your "to read" pile or reading wishlist?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book: "Girl in a Band" by Kim Gordon

Confession: While I've heard OF Sonic Youth and Kim Gordon, I would be hard pressed to name one of their songs, let alone identify it in a game of "Name That Tune" or sing along to it.  They formed in 1981, when I was still at university, and Gordon (who is now 61, seven years older than I am) is sometimes identified as one of the "Riot Grrrrls" of the early 1990s -- but by that time, I had graduated, gotten married and started working. I think most of us tend to listen mostly to the music that was popular when we were in high school and university, and while I listened to a popular radio station that played "today's best music" for many years after my marriage, I don't think Sonic Youth ever got much commercial radio airplay. ;) 

So why would I want to read a memoir by a musician I know so little about? Because I'd heard a little about Kim Gordon and the book had some good buzz around it. Because I'm a feminist and I applaud any woman who manages to survive (let alone thrive) in the boys' club that is still rock and roll (for almost 30 years!!). Because I wish more girls would embrace their inner rock goddess (a la Joan Jett and Chrissy Hynde (who apparently has her own memoir coming out this fall) ). ;)  Because I harbour secret dreams of being in a rock band myself. ;)  Because I was curious and wanted to learn more. Because I liked the cover. Because I thought it would be interesting to go into a book knowing next to nothing about the subject, a blank slate, and see what I thought about it.

I've since read some reviews of Gordon's memoir, "Girl in a Band," in the media and on Goodreads. Some Sonic Youth fans raved -- it was everything they'd hoped for. Some were disappointed -- TMI, or (flipside) not enough disclosure. If you're a Sonic Youth fan, caveat emptor.

My opinion?  I liked it. It's not a difficult read. It's well written, with short chapters, just a couple of well-spaced pages each, illustrated with black & white photos. Some people have compared it to Patti Smith's memoir, "Just Kids," which I reviewed here.  Both artists, both musicians, both women in a men's world, both writing about New York, albeit different time periods. Smith's book is longer and more in-depth. 

If you're hoping for a comprehensive history of the band, this is not that book -- but Gordon does discuss how certain songs and albums came together.  She writes honestly about her childhood (I was surprised to learn she grew up as a surfer girl in California, and that she briefly studied art here in Toronto at York University, in the early 1980s), her schizophrenic older brother, her life as an artist, musician, fashionista, rock and roll mom -- and, finally, divorcee -- and yet you get the feeling she hasn't revealed everything. She's obviously trying to be circumspect in what she says about her ex-husband and bandmate of nearly 30 years, Thurston Moore -- perhaps for the sake of their daughter, perhaps because the wounds are still so fresh.  Her hurt and anger about his infidelity is clearly evident, but overall, I think she's pretty fair to him. She does write candidly about several other musicians, including Kurt Cobain, with whom she felt a spiritual kinship and adored in a kid-brother kind of way, and Courtney Love (whom she most definitely does NOT adore).

Since reading the book, I've checked out a few Sonic Youth videos on YouTube. They're not exactly easy listening  ;) but they had a discordant, punk rock sound reminiscent of some of the punk/new wave stuff I heard back in the late 1970s/early 1980s. I guess we just missed each other the first time around. ;)

This is book #3 that I've read so far in 2015.

Monday, March 23, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Go with the flow

I'm late posting today, and almost didn't have a post at all. Have you ever gotten so absorbed in a project that you didn't realize what time it was and oops, somehow two hours has just slipped by?  And then you have to pry yourself away and give yourself a shake and try to refocus on the next task at hand that's begging for your attention?

That's me today.  I got looking at some genealogy stuff yesterday afternoon, and one thing led to another, and I've been walking around in a bit of a fog ever since then. 

It happens when I'm working on genealogy, but it also sometimes happens when I'm deep in the middle of a particular blog post or other writing project, or sometimes a really good book. It used to happen once in awhile at work, if I was lucky. I would become so absorbed in what I was doing that I'd look up and it would be 3:30 & I'd missed my usual caffeine break.

(Technically, I still could have gone for a tea, but my general rule of thumb was not after 3:30. I left the office at 4:30 and even though I always made a pit stop at the ladies' room on my way out, I learned that too much liquid too late in the day was not a good idea. Believe me, you do NOT want to have to use the bathrooms on the train unless you can really help it. :p )

It's a concept called "flow," or "the zone."  At its best, "flow" is a mental state "in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does." It's a concept popularized by a psychologist called Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.  Brigid Schulte wrote about flow (and our sad lack thereof in these hyperactive, multitasking times) in her great book "Overwhelmed:  Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time," which I read last summer & reviewed here. Not having kids to interrupt helps, of course. ;) 

When was the last time you found yourself "in the zone?" 

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

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Book: "The Next Happy" by Tracey Cleantis

Disclosure: I first got to "know" Tracey Cleantis through her blog, originally known as La Belette Rouge (and now part of her website). I'm among the Facebook friends she mentions in the acknowledgements, "who endured a year of me asking questions about their grief."  I am quoted in the book, albeit under a different name.

That said...

I loved this book. I knew I probably would, because the subject matter is right up my alley, and because I love Tracey's blog, but it was great to finally have a copy in my hands and to read it for myself.

"The Next Happy" grew out of Tracey's personal story, which in some ways resembles my own. Like me, she wanted a baby -- and like me, she didn't get one, despite 20+ rounds of IUI, four-and-a-half IVFs, a failed adoption, and $100,000 down the drain.  And yet (and also like me), she will tell you that her life today is happier than she ever thought possible.  And that your life can be, too.  

The really great thing about this book is that it isn't just an infertility survival guide or memoir (although Tracey does refer to her own story throughout the book to illustrate some of her points). It's applicable to anyone who has had to let go of a a cherished dream and try to find happiness elsewhere. In its pages we meet people whose dreams included running a hotel in Atlantic City, earning a master's degree, being an entrepreneur, being a martial arts expert, owning a dream home, hosting a talk show (a la Oprah), attending West Point, being in a committed relationship with the seemingly perfect partner, and  becoming a diplomat.  All of them had to let these dreams go.

Tracey refers to herself as "the Dr. Kevorkian of dreams," which sounds kind of ominous -- but the book is highly readable, full of common-sense insights, practical advice, humour and empathy. Writing in a warm, chatty style, Tracey examines topics that include:
  • our "never give up" culture,
  • the consequences of not giving up,
  • when and how to say goodbye to a dream,
  • acknowledging just how much this sucks (grief work),
  • "the ugly stepsiblings of emotion" (envy, fear, shame) and how to deal with them,
  • getting support from family, friends, professionals and others,
  • the search for meaning,
  • identifying the symbolic meaning of your original dream (what were you really hoping to get, and how else can you do that), and
  • getting to your next happy.
Each chapter includes case studies, Tracey's professional observations from the therapy couch, a checklist of self-help questions and suggestions to get you thinking, and (best of all, IMHO, as an avid moviegoer), a "Movie Rx" -- a movie recommendation which reflects the themes of the chapter. Among Tracey's picks: "Silver Linings Playbook," "Ordinary People," "Amadeus" and "It's a Wonderful Life."

"There is always hope for a happy life," Tracey says near the book's end. "It takes work. It isn't easy. But if you believe in it, if you are open to all possibilities, and if you do the work, it does happen." I agree! I so wish that a book like this had been around when I was making the transition from fertility treatments to childless/free living.

This was book #2 that I've read so far in 2015.

(Actually, it's #3, but I'm still working on a review of #2, lol. So to make it easy, we'll call it #2.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Wild oats, anyone??

Anyone seen or heard about this new book?

Disclosure: I have not read it. (Yet?)(And perhaps I should, before I start writing about it...) But I stumbled onto it at the bookstore this past week, and the title and cover design alone were intriguing enough to catch my eye. 

And then I read the inside cover flap: 
The project was simple: An attractive, successful magazine journalist, Robin Rinaldi, would move into a San Francisco apartment, join a dating site, and get laid. Never mind that she already owned a beautiful flat a few blocks away, that she was forty-four, or that she was married to a man she’d been in love with for eighteen years. What followed—a year of sex, heartbreak, and unexpected revelation—is the topic of this riveting memoir, The Wild Oats Project.
    
 An open marriage was never one of Rinaldi’s goals—her priority as she approached midlife was to start a family. But when her husband insisted on a vasectomy, she decided that she could remain married only on her own terms. If I can’t have children, she told herself, then I’m going to have lovers. [emphasis mine]
Well. 

I know of many situations where couples haven't agreed on whether or when to have children. Or they started out on the same page, but when push comes to shove, one of them changed their mind. And in some cases, the marriage has ended, in full or in part as a result of this disagreement. In other cases, there has been a quid pro quo -- OK, you win, we won't have kids, BUT... I'm going to buy that two-seater sportscar I've always wanted... or, I'm going to quit my job and become a yoga instructor, etc. etc.

But I've certainly never heard of any couple striking a deal quite like this. 

While I haven't read the book, I've read a few articles/reviews about it and interviews with the author. More than a few people are scratching their heads about what, if anything, not having a baby has to do with taking lovers (other than lashing out & trying to hurt the partner who denied you what you most wanted... although Rinaldi's husband agreed to the arrangement). A Washington Post review makes an interesting observation:
One of her oldest friends calls her out. “How is sleeping with a lot of guys going to make you feel better about not having kids?” she asks. Rinaldi’s answer: “Sleeping with a lot of guys is going to make me feel better on my deathbed. I’m going to feel like I lived, like I didn’t spend my life in a box. If I had kids and grandkids around my deathbed, I wouldn’t need that. Kids are proof that you’ve lived.” It’s a bleak and disheartening rationale, as though women’s lives can achieve meaning only through motherhood or sex.
In an interview with Salon, Rinaldi explains:
"I really felt like I was on this mission to find my own feminine energy... deep, fierce, primal feminine energy. The shit the patriarchy was invented to stomp on. That is what I really was searching for, and sex is a very primal and powerful way to get in touch with that... What I found is that I didn’t necessarily have to go through men to get that. I also thought a baby would be a route to that, because of course that’s such a deep, primal, feminine experience to birth and nurse and care for a baby. I found that in community with other women." 
What do you think?

The book is about more than childlessness, of course (although the husband's vasectomy is the catalyst for what follows).  As I understand (without reading it yet), it's also about a woman exploring her sexuality (a trendy topic right now, of course -- I debated whether I should title this post "50 Shades of Childlessness," lol), a midlife crisis (women have them too), a marriage. But of course, it's the childless theme that caught my attention.

In some ways, this is a familiar story for those of us who find ourselves living without the children we wanted. When we realize that children aren't going to be in the cards (for whatever reasons), we look for other ways to find meaning and purpose in our lives, to leave our mark on this world (i.e., proof that we've lived). We think about whether we want to change our lives and, if so, how.  Knowing that we're not going to have children, not going to be living a traditional family life, gives some of us the courage to lead an unconventional life in other ways too. 

Rinaldi's way of coming to terms with her childlessness is perhaps a little more "unconventional" than some. (Most??) It may not be my way, or yours. But it doesn't have to be -- we all take different paths to finding what Tracey Cleantis calls "our next happy." And Rinaldi does seem to be in a good place in her life now.

We've really only just begun to talk about living without children (by choice or otherwise), and what that means to women, to couples, to families, and to society. We're fumbling our way in the dark, finding what works, sometimes through trial and error, sometimes shocking others (and even ourselves) as we buck the status quo.  Hopefully, future generations of women will be able to benefit from our stories and what we've learned. 

I do wonder about what people who have never had to face unwanted childlessness might think when they read or hear about this book. (Yes, I know, I shouldn't care about what others think... old habits die hard...!)  Media hype being what it is these days, the subtleties of complex stories like this one often get lost, with the focus being on the more salacious details. And women without children have enough of a PR problem as it is, and face enough misconceptions, without people thinking that this is a "norm," that our marriages will suffer without the binding tie of children, that we're out looking for Mr. Goodbar and drowning our sorrows about not having kids with extramarital sex.

If anyone reads the book before I do, I'd love to hear your thoughts. (And of course, if/when I do read it myself, I will write about it here!)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Spring break

This week is spring break hereabouts. It actually started last Friday for the schools in our area, because the teachers had a "professional development day."

Not having kids, you would think spring break would be a non-event for me & dh.  Not exactly. When we were both working, spring break was the week when we had to cover for the parents who weren't in the office. There were larger-than-usual crowds in the underground PATH that connects the downtown office towers, blessedly emptier-and-quieter-than-usual commuter trains in the morning, and more crowded and noisy trains going home at night. Our favourite restaurants were more crowded on the weekends, too.

Now that we are both not working -- and desperate to get out of the house at the end of a loooonnnngggg winter, lol -- we're trying to figure out where we can go and what we can do this week without running into hordes of parents & kids. It's not easy.  Monday afternoons at the local mall are normally deader than the proverbial doornail;  this afternoon, the crowds were comparable to a pre-Christmas Saturday.

Any ideas for us??

#MicroblogMondays: Mid-March miscellany

*  It's still not quite spring. But the thermometer reading is slowly inching up, a strip of brown grass has appeared from underneath the white stuff on my lawn, and the sun has been shining occasionally. Progress! 
*  It is March break in these parts. Not having kids, in previous years, we spent the week at work, enjoying the half-empty morning trains (& trying to ignore the hordes of parents & kids on the homeward bound afternoon trains, returning from outings to the city).  Trying to figure out what we can do & where we can go this week where we won't be besieged by mobs of people. Wish us luck...!  The local mall is usually mostly empty on weekday afternoons, but I have a feeling that's not going to be the case this week...!
*  We had dinner with BIL, SIL, Younger Nephew and his girlfriend on Saturday night hereabouts, and they insisted on visiting Katie's niche at the cemetery afterwards. It became apparent why: they brought a small stuffed Easter bunny to leave there. Awww.   
*  Dh & I spent yesterday afternoon at the movies watching... "Casablanca." Yes, THAT "Casablanca" -- Bogart & Bergman at their finest, "Play it again, Sam," and "Here's looking at you, kid."  The Cineplex theatre chain occasionally shows classic movies in select theatres, and it was playing at one near us. It is, as I have written before, probably my all-time favourite movie and I couldn't pass up the chance to see it on the big screen. There were about 20 people in the audience with us, and applause at the end. :)
*  One of these days, I will do a #MicroblogMondays post that's not in bullet point form. ;)

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

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The A word: Why we didn't adopt

Klara recently decided she wanted to write about why she didn't choose to adopt a child, and invited other childless-not-by-choice bloggers to join her.  That made me realize: while I've discussed adoption and alluded to various reasons why we didn't adopt, here & there on this blog (and you can find most of them under the "adoption" tag in the sidebar at right), I have never written an all-encompassing "why we didn't adopt" post. I think the closest I've come to spelling out some of my thoughts in a semi-coherent way was at the request of Tracey Cleantis (La Belette Rouge) for publication on her own blog (along with several other childless/free bloggers).  I have "repurposed" some of the material I wrote for Tracey's blog here. 

(Settle in, folks, this is a long one...!)  ;)

I'm not sure why I haven't written such a post before. Maybe it's because, for a number of reasons, adoption is a hard subject to write about. For one thing, it's an incredibly complex subject, with many angles, nuances and shades of grey. Everyone looks at &/or experiences adoption in a different way, and our personal views on adoption are subtly influenced by so many different factors (many of which we might not even be able to consciously articulate). There are no right or wrong answers. There is no pretty little package tied up with a nice neat bow. For most of us, I think, there is no one definitive reason why we chose not to adopt, but many different reasons and considerations that we took into account when making our decision.

It's also hard to write about because, like anything to do with procreation & infertility, adoption is a highly personal subject that not everyone is comfortable discussing openly -- although a lot of people certainly seem open to ASKING you about it when they learn why you don't have kids (i.e., you're infertile). In fact, they sometimes seem to DEMAND to know why you didn't choose adoption as a clearly superior option to whatever infertility treatment you are pursuing, not to mention remaining permanently childless/free. (Witness the comments section of any major opinion piece in the media about infertility &/or involuntary childlessness.)

That brings me to perhaps the biggest reason why most of us hesitate to discuss adoption and why we didn't:  there's the very clear and uncomfortable feeling that we are being judged (and not favourably) -- even though it's often not by people who have anything more than a passing knowledge of the subject.  As Lisa Manterfield of Life Without Baby said in her own response to Tracey's request, "I think I could answer this question calmly and logically if I thought it was asked from a place of genuine curiosity or concern. But it always feels like an accusation, as if a woman who wanted children but didn’t adopt is somehow a lesser human being, or the dreaded word so often associated with childlessness: selfish."  No wonder it's something we don't always feel comfortable discussing.

*** *** ***

So -- why didn't we adopt?

"Have you thought about adoption?" some people ask. Well, DUH. If you have struggled with infertility, then of course you have thought about adoption. Like many people, I'm sure, I thought briefly about the subject when we started trying to conceive, as in "If it turns out we can't have children, we can always adopt."  Most people, of course, never have to think about the subject beyond that point. But it's quite another thing to realize that "having your own" isn't as easy as you thought it would be (or in all probability, not going to happen at all), and to start seriously thinking about the alternatives, about whether this is really something we want to pursue. 

If you can't or don't wish to pursue ARTs -- or if you've been at it a while and can no longer bear the financial, physical, mental and emotional toll -- you have two alternatives:  adoption or remaining childless. You must decide: at this point, do you still want to be a parent, if you can't parent a child that you and your husband brought into this world together? 

Some people believe the biological tie doesn't, or shouldn't matter. Perhaps it shouldn't -- but the truth is, for some people (many people?), it does. We might not even THINK it does -- but then, most people have never had to face the reality of what it means to give that up.  The assumption of a biological tie is so ingrained in our culture, in our being, I don't think most people have really considered what it means not to have it.  (What's one of the first things people say when they see a new baby? "Who does he/she look like?"  "Oh, she looks just like you when you were a baby!" "He has his grandpa's eyes." etc. etc.)(The baby doesn't even have to be born yet:  I remember wincing when one of my coworkers, showing off an ultrasound, giggled, "Look!  She has her hands behind her head -- just like my husband on the couch, already!")  These kinds of throwaway statements and references pop up more often than you realize, when you start listening for them.

Biology was not the only factor, or a major factor, in our decision -- but to deny that it wasn't a factor at all would be a lie, and if that makes me a horrible human being, I apologize. I know some people who have said, "Oh, I always wanted to adopt, I always knew it would be part of our family building plan." That was not me. My dream of parenthood was always about a child that dh & I created together, a child who would be part of him and part of me, and part of all the people who came before us.  It's something most people take for granted will be theirs. 

Adoption also means the loss of the biological tie for the adopted child (particularly if the adoption is not open).  About 15-20 years ago, one of my coworkers brought in her new baby for us to admire. Her son looked unmistakeably like her. She had been adopted as a baby, something she'd mentioned to us before -- and she expressed her delight about how very cool it was to finally have someone in the world who looked just like her. She'd never had that experience before -- and I had never thought of it that way before. I thought about her words a lot after that, whenever someone brought up the subject of adoption. (The New York Times Motherlode blog recently ran a piece, by a woman adopted as an infant from Korea, on this exact subject.)

Adoption was not something I had much knowledge or experience with, outside of books I'd read and movies I'd seen (not necessarily the best resources).  I knew a few people who had adopted, and I also knew a few people who had been adopted... but nobody in my large extended family had ever adopted. (Frankly, I probably knew more women who had been pregnant as teenagers and surrendered their babies for adoption -- closed adoptions, of course.)  Adoption was an even more foreign concept in dh's family. 

So there were very few people close to us that we could look to for advice or as role models -- and, to be honest, I had some trepidations about how adoption & an adopted child would be received in the extended family. Not necessarily by our parents & siblings, but further afield.  I certainly didn't think that people would say or do malicious things, or do them on purpose -- but I was apprehensive about having to educate people on the subject (over & over & over) and deal with the kinds of well-intentioned but dumb and sometimes hurtful questions & comments that we can all only too well imagine (having already experienced infertility...!). (And about the prospect that not just dh & I but our child would have to deal with these things as well.) 

Even with people we knew who had adoption experience, it was a difficult subject to broach, cloaked in shame, secrecy and mythology.  It's only very, very recently that people began to speak frankly and openly about adoption -- the good and the bad, to make open adoptions the "norm," and to recognize the losses that lie at the heart of every adoption (the birth parents', the adoptive parents' and the child's). 

I also began to notice two distinct, black-and-white threads of commentary among my family and friends when it came to discussing adoption:  it was either "the best thing that ever happened" to the family (parents & child), end of story -- or adopted children brought "baggage" with them that complicated the lives of their parents and other siblings.  No shades of grey here. 

"Well, you know -- she's adopted," my own mother would sometimes say in a hushed voice by way of explanation, when a friend or neighbour's adopted child was experiencing difficulties (speaking of thoughtless comments...).

(Of course, that didn't stop her from calling me one night, around the time of my 40th birthday, asking me if we'd thought about adoption and regaling me with stories about a friend's daughter who had just adopted for the second time through a private agency. It was really bad timing on her part -- it was in the middle of infertility treatment (which she knew nothing about), & I cried for two solid hours after I got off the phone with her.)

I knew she would love an adopted grandson or granddaughter with all her heart -- but I still found myself wondering if she would be saying the same things about him/her, the first time he/she ran into problems.   

Adoption does add an extra layer of complexity to family relationships -- one that not all of us are prepared to deal with. My friends who have adopted (some open, some closed, some public, some private) assure me that "it's the best thing we've ever done" -- and yet I've watched them, and their children (some of them now teenagers & young adults) deal with some pretty complicated, stressful and painful situations. Yes, ALL children come with issues and problems and struggles -- but sometimes these issues and problems and struggles are related, completely or partly, to the adoption itself.

*** *** ***

Wrapping your mind around the complexities of adoptions and adoptive relationships and grieving the loss of the biological tie is one thing. Tackling the adoption process itself is quite another.  Through our pg loss support group, and online, we came to know several couples who had adopted or were in the process of trying to adopt, and we soon realized that "just adopting" -- whether through the public system, privately or internationally -- was not an easy process. (Or cheap, for that matter -- another common adoption myth.)

Let's start with the public system. In Ontario, the province where I live, costs are much lower if you pursue an adoption this way. However, it's a system that many have called "broken."  (This article explains some of the problems.)  It's true there are many children in the system, and many couples seeking adoption. However, not all children in the system are technically available for adoption. They tend to remain Crown wards in foster care, unavailable for adoption, for a very long time, while social workers attempt to work with the parent(s) to reunite the family. Very few infants get adopted this way (by the time they are released for adoption, they are usually no longer babies). Not all, but some of the children have physical and emotional problems (including fetal alcohol syndrome), which aren’t always discovered right away. Not surprisingly, many have difficulty forming attachments to their adoptive families.

Even if you're willing to adopt an older child, a child from a different racial or cultural background, or a child with identified disabilities, the process isn't always that speedy.  For one thing, prospective parents wishing to adopt through the public system in Ontario must complete a qualifying course. Which is fine -- but we knew people who waited for nearly two years just to get a spot in one of the courses. After completing the course, as well as the required home studies & social worker visits, references, etc., there is no guarantee of placement. We knew some people who only waited a few months to be matched with a child, but others who waited for years, and others who eventually gave up on the process and adopted privately or remained childless.

Additionally, adoptions are handled through the regional Children's Aid Societies -- and the current system tends to operate in silos -- meaning there could be a perfect match out there for you, but you might never know it because the child's file was being handled by one CAS and your file is being handled by another, and seldom the twain shall meet. 

In 2008, the province appointed an "expert panel" to look into family-building options, including fertility treatments and adoptions.  The panel's 2009 recommendations included a number of suggested reforms to the adoption process, but as this article from last year notes, not enough progress has been made to date.  The blogger mentioned in the article has since written that she and her husband have abandoned their efforts to adopt.  

Private adoptions here can run into tens of thousands of dollars (on top of the money you might have already spent on infertility treatments). Instead of waiting to be "matched" by a social worker through the public system, most private adoptions involve marketing yourselves as prospective parents to birth mothers. ("Pick me! Pick me!")  We wondered how, as a couple in our 40s (no doubt the same age as the parents of some of our potential birth mothers), we could “compete” with younger couples.  The idea that birth mothers, social workers and others would be judging our fitness to be parents, while most couples just go out, have sex and have a baby without having to pass any sort of "test," was hard to swallow.   

Today (and certainly in the years since we decided to remain childless/free), most private adoptions are increasingly open to at least some degree -- and while I would not want to deny a child at least some knowledge of his or her birth families (being a genealogist, how could I??), this openness has added yet another layer of complexity to the adoption process and relationships. I know of some open adoptions that work very well. I know of others where the birth parent(s) want more or less contact than the child or adoptive parents do, which has led to friction. In one case, a friend of mine told me about her friends' uneasy relationship with their child's young birth mother, and the difficulty they were having in enforcing agreed-upon boundaries. "I think she (the birth mother) wishes they'd adopt her, too," my friend said.

And of course, having already suffered broken hearts with the loss of our daughter, we had great difficulty with the not-entirely-unlikely prospect that the birth parents might change their minds.  As Lisa has said so well, "I'd maxed out my heartbreak card."

International adoptions are also expensive and complex -- and many programs no longer accept "older" couples like ourselves. I also felt uncomfortable reading about babies stolen from their mothers and “sold” to rich (often unsuspecting) foreigners, and the less-than-nurturing conditions in some of the orphanages where these children are growing up. And while the prospect of a birth mother reclaiming her child from afar is minimal, the prospect of my child never having access to that knowledge of their past also weighed on me.

*** *** ***
 
In the end....  

I remember reading a blogger (Pamela, I think??) who once said she viewed adoption as a “calling” -- one that she just didn’t feel personally. Another online friend once put it this way: adoption was something that she tried to get excited about -- but couldn’t. Her heart just wasn’t in it. And didn’t she owe it to any child that she was adopting to be excited, truly excited, about bringing that child into her life?

I understood. Yes, dh & I talked about adoption, and we recognized that it could be a wonderful thing. We saw the joy that it brought to friends who adopted.  But neither of us felt that hopeful excitement and enthusiasm that we witnessed in these other couples. I don’t think that makes us (any of us) bad people. Isn't it better to be honest with yourself about your feelings and limitations, and what you personally feel capable of doing, than to go into an adoption half-heartedly?

If I felt anything, I think I just felt exhausted. Dealing with stillbirth and years of infertility does that to you. I’ve often said that, maybe if I’d been 35, I might have felt differently, had more energy to tackle a new challenge.

But by then, I was over 40, and dh was in his mid-40s. I was just plain tired, and ready to move on with my life. I didn’t look at adoption & see a possible child for us. I didn't get that feeling that some adopting mothers talk about -- that my child was out there, waiting for me. I just saw more work, more prodding into our personal lives, more money, more complexity, more waiting waiting waiting, more stress, more uncertainty, more potential for more heartbreak.

I didn’t want another roller coaster ride. I’d been riding a roller coaster for more than five years, since we started trying to conceive when I was 34 (and certainly from the moment I discovered I was pregnant at 37). 

To be honest, I wasn't even sure I wanted to be a parent any more, not at this stage of my life (a feeling that grew stronger over the years as I aged). By the time my mother was 40, both my sister & I were in university and out of the house. I knew I hadn't wanted to be a parent when I was 20, like she had -- but I wasn't sure I wanted to be dealing with diapers in my mid-40s (the same age that my own grandmother had become a grandmother) either. Even if had been able to snap my fingers and produce a child instantly, I knew I would be dealing with teenaged hormones alongside menopause, graduation at the same time as retirement -- or postponing retirement altogether to help pay for university. I felt like the moment had passed. It was time to move on.

I knew dh & I could have a good life as a family of two -- because we already did. 

I'd had enough of roller coasters. I wanted off. I wanted my life back. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Trust...

A Facebook find... what all of us hope for when we leave infertility treatment...

Friday, March 13, 2015

Carnival of memories

This rather fuzzy photo is the only one I could find of the rink I mention here.
It burned down several years ago.

Parents' Neighbours' Daughter  sent us a video this week of Princess #1 (who is now 3), skating in a toddler group at her very first ice carnival.  They were skating to a country-western song, wearing cowboy hats over their helmets (!) and neckerchiefs.

I saw those adorable little girls tentatively make their way out onto the ice -- a couple of them immediately going SPLAT!, of course! ;) (Princess #1 is a good little skater, and did not fall once.)  I started giggling.

And then I started crying. It was just all too cute, and all too familiar, and all too painful. One of those "ouch" moments that still comes out of the blue and lands with a THUD.

*** *** ***

Like so many little Canadian girls of the time & place where I grew up (1960s-70s  Prairies), I learned to skate as a toddler (on a backyard rink made by my dad, in a pair of hockey skates borrowed from a neighbour, pushing a TV tray to help me learn how to balance). And then, when I was in kindergarten (a bit older than Princess #1 is now), my mom enrolled me in figure skating lessons at the local rink. Over the next 7-8 years, I never progressed beyond the basic badge program, never mastered more than a simple three-turn, a single jump and a couple of basic, wobbly moves (a two-foot spin, a sit spin (which inevitably ended with me sitting on the ice), a spiral). I never competed -- only a very few of the very best girls from our club ever did. Mostly, we attended group lessons and practice sessions, got tested twice a season for new badges and, at the end of each season, participated in the ice carnival.

The carnival (usually held in late February or early March -- we didn't have artificial ice back then, and that was generally about as long as you could expect the ice to last) was the highlight of the year. The entire town would turn out. Three teenaged girls from the community would vie to sell the most raffle tickets, and the winner would be crowned Queen of the Carnival during intermission that evening.  With a REAL TIARA and a red robe to wear. (One year, the Queen was our regular babysitter. We were thrilled!)  Each group performed a number, and participated with all the other groups in a grand finale. We got to wear costumes, and makeup!! Sometimes, my mom would even take us to the hairdresser to get our hair done!  AND, we got to take the afternoon off school to attend the dress rehearsal!! (The rink was directly across the street from the school.)  Life doesn't get much better when you're 10 or 12 years old. :) 

Sometimes the carnival would have a theme. 1970 was Manitoba's centennial, so we had a Manitoba/Canadian theme. I can't for the life of me remember what my group skated to, but I remember one of the numbers was "These Eyes" by the Guess Who.

Sometimes, there was no theme, just a mishmash of musical selections.  One year, my group skated to "Hair" by The Cowsills (from the musical of the same name). We wore jeans, vests over turtleneck sweaters, love beads, and long-haired wigs made by our mothers -- they made caps out of the panty part of an old pair of tights, and then pulled strands of wool through to make "hair." My sister's group skated to "Dominique" by The Singing Nun that year. All the girls were nuns, wearing lilac-coloured (?? -- someone must have gotten a discount on fabric??) habits, while one of the few, brave boys in the club skated around them in a mini-solo dressed as a priest. :)  The grand finale was to "Joy to the World" by Three Dog Night.

The wooden bleachers were packed with townspeople, so during the show, we would sit on wooden benches lining the sides of the rink, bundled up in our parkas & blankets, sipping hot chocolate and watching our clubmates perform. A number or two ahead of when we skated, we would leave the ice & congregate in one of the dressing rooms normally used by the hockey players. We'd sit on the wooden benches lining the walls (someone looked underneath once, and found wads and wads of ancient, hardened chewing gum that players had removed from their mouths & stuck underneath -- ewww!!) and, to kill time and quell our nerves, before making our grand entrance and doing the routine we'd been practicing for so long, we'd play "telephone" -- one girl would whisper something in the ear of the girl next to her, who would then whisper to the girl next to her, and so on down the line, until the very last girl would say aloud what she had heard. Usually it bore no resemblance whatsoever to the original statement, and we would all dissolve into giggles. Those were the days! 

That rink was practically my second home back then, from about November through the end of February/early March. It was the centre of social life in the community. Figure skating for the girls, hockey for the boys, free skating for everyone. The curling rink was across the street, and we'd run back and forth between the two (both my parents curled, and were often there).  We would have our lessons on Saturday mornings, and then practice until the hockey players arrived for practices or games and booted us out. And then we'd spend Sunday afternoons, and several afternoons during the week after school, practicing or attending free skates.

The rink was just down the back alley from my girlfriend's house, and we could hear the music playing (usually the latest K-Tel collection of recent hits -- and, for some reason, Buddy Knox's "Party Doll," ad nauseum) as we walked there (by ourselves, of course -- we were all free range kids back then), the snow crunching under our feet, our breaths visible in the crisp air. When you walked in the rink, the smell of hamburgers and onions frying at the canteen would assault your nostrils, along with smell of musty wooden plank floors and that distinct aroma of Eau de Hockey Equipment Bag. Half the fun of going to the rink was bingeing on treats from the canteen -- chips and pop, sour cherry and sour grape gum balls, licorice whips, Pixie Stix and chocolate bars. We would spend the next hour or two on the ice, practicing what we'd learned at our lesson on Saturday morning, making up routines to the music, playing crack the whip, chasing after the Zamboni as it cleaned the ice and made it shiny and smooth again, gossiping with our friends, playing hide & seek under the wooden bleachers. Glorious fun.

And then we moved. The girls my age in our new town were much more advanced than I was in the skating program -- and not many of them skated anymore, anyway. Rather than be put back with the younger girls, I gave up skating lessons. I still skated for fun now & then (and then there was roller disco skating when I was in my late teens...), but I haven't been on skates of any kind in well over 30 years (although I follow figure skating on TV, and can do beautiful triple jumps in my dreams, lol).  The old tin barn of a rink where I spent so many hours as a kid burned down a few years back. I sent a donation to the rebuilding fund. I could easily imagine the hole that its absence had left in the community.

*** *** ***

All these memories came flooding back as I watched the video. And of course, it was also a reminder of the memories that never came to be. I had no doubt whatsoever that Katie would learn to skate, if not become the next Karen Magnussen or Elizabeth Manley. Or maybe even the next Hayley Wickenheiser. :)

One more thing (of many) that we've missed out on. :(

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Guilt and the R word

It happened again last week. Two more people at my former workplace were "reorganized" out of their jobs -- both after 20-25+ years of service to the company. That makes seven of us who were pruned from our department over the past eight months -- almost all of us 50-somethings with 15, 20, even 30 years of service. Another woman in her 50s had been on medical leave, found a new job closer to home with more flexible hours, and left just before she was due to return.  I sometimes wonder if she saw the writing on the wall before we did.

I reached out to a couple of my former colleagues who lost their jobs at the same time I did (almost eight months ago now -- yikes!) to see if they'd heard the news, and to find out how they've been doing and whether they've found jobs yet. They haven't. It's tough out there, people. The competition is stiff.  Many of them still have mortgage payments, kids living at home (some of them under 12), college tuition to pay, etc. etc. -- and, in some cases, their severance payments are starting to run out. The clock is ticking.  And of course, kids today are living at home longer &/or are supported by their parents much longer than my peers & I were at their age, in part because they too are finding it difficult to get a foothold in the working world. 

I'm getting two different reactions from people these days. There are those who assume I am now retired, end of story. They want to hear all about my exciting new life. I hate to tell them that, after the longest, coldest winter on record in these parts, I'm actually going a bit stir crazy (although not to the point of wishing I was back at work, lol).  "I'm so jealous!!" is a refrain I hear a lot.

On the other hand, there are those who want to know how the job hunt is going. This includes some of my former colleagues, now grimly pursuing new jobs themselves.  I hem and haw and mumble about taking some time to decide what I want to do next. It doesn't seem right to tell them that I might never be going back to work, to flaunt my retirement in their faces.

To others, I might sometimes admit that I may not be going back to work again, at least not full time.  And I've discovered that some people clearly do not want to hear the "R" word from me. I'm still so young!! (or so they tell me...). I still have so much to offer! Well, maybe -- but I also know that writers/corporate communications specialists are a dime a dozen out there these days, and there's a lot of us out there pounding the pavement right now -- alongside younger (and much cheaper) recent graduates who are eager to get their foot in the door.

Chief among the members of this R-negative group:  my mother. Shortly before I actually lost my job, I wrote this post lamenting my mother's resistance to the idea of me retiring when I turned 55 or 56 (which was what we were originally aiming for).  Prior to Christmas, my sister had mentioned to me that mom was fretting about why I wasn't looking for another job -- and the subject reared its head again while I was home over the holidays. Dh brought up something only tangentially related to me and retirement, and my mother said sharply, "She's not going to retire!" Addressing me, she said, "You're only 52 years old!! You're going to get bored!"

"Ummm, Mom, I'm not 52, I'm almost 54," I reminded her, as evenly as I could. 

"Just keep an open mind," she urged me, and I said, "Yes, I will," and changed the subject.

Again, I am not quite sure why the idea of me being retired bothers her so much?  (Let alone anyone else.)  It's true, my pension would be larger if I kept working. I certainly won't be spending my winters in Tahiti or on the French Riviera or anything like that. But dh & I have been over the numbers (and over, and over, and over them), and I don't think I'll be reduced to eating cat food either.

As I deal with these very different reactions, I find myself struggling with an uncomfortable, lingering, nagging feeling.

Guilt.

Guilt that I lost my job in the first place. (Could I have done something differently? In the end, probably not. And I know that I'm certainly not alone.) 

Guilt that I essentially got to retire at the admittedly young age of 53 (albeit not by choice), while so many people are finding it so hard to make ends meet, and know they will have to work until they are 65, 67, 70 or beyond. (What makes ME so special, right??) I am all too aware of how rare this is, and how very lucky I am.

I hear a lot of bloggers who become pregnant after loss or infertility say they feel guilty, when so many other deserving ALI-ers remain frustratingly childless. Is there such a thing as retirement guilt? 

Apparently there is. I did some Googling the other night ("I feel guilty about early retirement") and came up with a whole bunch of links on the subject.  (For example: this, this and this.)  Clearly, I am not alone in feeling this way.

I wonder -- would I have felt this way if I'd been able to retire from my job at the time of my choosing (early or not), as I had hoped to do, without being shown the door? (Probably. It doesn't take much to make me feel guilty...!)

Tied up in this weird emotional mix is the certain knowledge that retirement at this point in my life is possible only because we don't have any children. I KNOW that some people who envy us think, "Well, of course they can do it -- they don't have kids!"  But I am also sure that they don't REALLY think about what that means:  we don't have any kids, because our only daughter died when I was six months pregnant with her, and because we weren't able to have any other children, because we stopped infertility treatment (before we racked up too much debt), because I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown, and because we chose not to pursue adoption at that point in our lives. 

But on the other hand, we could have taken our childless living "dividend" and blown it on travel, a bigger house, a fancy kitchen renovation, expensive cars and/or other toys. We didn't. We still live in the same small house we bought 25 years ago, we drive a 12-year-old car, we watch a 12-year-old TV set (with a picture tube)(much to my BIL's bemusement), we use non-smart flip phones that are around 6-8 years old, and we've spent most of our vacations to date visiting family. (With more vacation time now at our disposal, we hope to change that soon, lol.)  Once it became obvious that we weren't going to be parents, our primary goals became paying off our mortgage as quickly as possible, and saving for an early retirement, when I turned 55 or 56 and dh was 59 or 60.  Neither of us made it quite that far, but because we had been saving, saving, saving for this goal, we're doing OK. And so long as we don't change our lifestyle or spending habits too dramatically, we should continue to be OK. 

I am still trying to come to terms with my new life, to figure out what I want to do when I grow up (lol) and what I want my life to look like from this point forward. The last few months have been a time of transition (and the transition is continuing) -- they have flown by, but they have also been a learning experience. (One lesson:  Winter sucks, and next year, I am definitely signing up for a post-Christmas yoga class...!)  I don't think I want or really need to work full time again -- but sometimes I toy with the idea of setting myself up as a freelance writer and/or editor. 

Or not. We'll see. I don't really miss working -- my stress levels have gone way, WAY down, my blood pressure has been good...! -- but once in awhile, I'll see a typo onscreen, or in a magazine or even a book (argh!), and my fingers will itch for a red pen, lol.  But if I do go back to work again, I want it to be because it's something that I WANT to do -- not because others make me feel that I SHOULD do it.  And not because of guilt.

Monday, March 9, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: March Monday miscellany


* It's Thomas's 10th birthday (see my recent post), and I am thinking of Msfitzita today.  Early Sunday morning, she & her dh reached their goal of 10,000 RAK pledged for today in Thomas's memory! 
This story appears on the front page of today's Toronto Star.
*  We can never have too much kindness in the world -- so you are still welcome to join in! 
*  Thank you for your sympathy on the loss of my SIL's mother last week. The three grandchildnren -- our nephews and their cousin (their only living cousin) -- spoke briefly at the funeral. I sobbed as those two tall, handsome young men stood in the pulpit (even more handsome in their suits and ties and clean shaves) -- as Older Nephew spoke, and his younger (but taller, lol) brother put his hand on his shoulder in a gesture of solidarity and comfort -- and I thought my heart was going to burst with auntie pride. (And I told them so later, as I hugged them at the cemetery.)
*  The weather was awful on Tuesday, the day of the visitation (of course). It was snowing as we got to FIL's house to pick him & stepMIL up, and still snowing -- wet, slushy snow -- as we left the funeral home for the trip back. Dh decided to take a slower, more roundabout way home vs the main highway, which had already been slippery. It was the afternoon rush hour and the slower route, combined with the weather, turned the usual 40-60 minute trip into a two-hour drive by the time we dropped off FIL & stepMIL and made our way home. By the time we got to their house, the snow had turned to freezing rain. There was ice forming on the windshield wipers, and so the windshield was not being properly cleaned, making it difficult to see. Scary stuff, but we made it home in one piece.
* There was not one day in February where the temperature was above 0C/32F.  And most days, it was in the negative double digits. :p  We finally cracked 0C for the first time in well over a month last week, and the last few days have been sunny and milder. Still hovering around zero, but milder. Progress??

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

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Difficult roads

Another Facebook find... not sure if I've shared this one before?  

Friday, March 6, 2015

This Monday, why not spread some kindness?

If you're a longtime ALI blogger, you might know my lovely friend Kristin, AKA Msfitzita of Certainly Not Cool Enough to Blog.  Like me, she lost a baby;  like me, she is living without children. (We have found we have a whole bunch of other stuff in common too, but those are the most pertinent things here. ;) ) She hasn't blogged much lately -- but she has been pretty busy! 

Kristin's son Thomas was born on March 9, 2005, and died 20 hours later. In his obituary, Kristin and her husband, Sandy, asked their friends and family to do something kind in Thomas's memory.  And every year since then, on Thomas's birthday (March 9th), they have continued to ask people to join them in doing a random act of kindness (RAK), because Thomas was here. It could be something as simple as shovelling a neighbour's driveway, buying coffee for the person behind you in line at the coffee shop or calling an old friend, just because. Last year, more than 1,600 people participated.

This year would have been Thomas's 10th birthday, and Kristin & Sandy had the wild idea that they should aim high and set a big goal -- a REALLY big goal: 10,000 RAKs. A month ago, there were about 2,500 people committed;  as of this afternoon, more than 8,500 people had signed up!

Along the way, Kristin has been interviewed on CBC Toronto's Metro Morning radio program, and on Global TV Toronto.  There was an article in the Guelph Mercury and there will be one this weekend in the Toronto Star. Kristin also told her own story recently on the Women You Should Know website.

I would love to see Kristin & Sandy reach their goal -- they are so close! :) Would you like to help -- and, more importantly, spread a little love and kindness in Thomas's memory? (Our world could certainly use more of it!)
  • Visit the Facebook event page and click "going." (More information is also available year-round on the Be Kind for Thomas Facebook page.) 
  • Ask your own family members & friends to join you.
  • Remember to look for opportunities to be extra kind and spread some sunshine on Monday. 
  • And, if you're so inclined, return to the Facebook page on or after Monday, and let Thomas's parents know what you did in his memory. :) 
Thanks!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Unexpected paths

Including roads less travelled. :)  (A Facebook find.)

Monday, March 2, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: February farewells

February is finally over. Cue the cheering and wild applause.

I already wrote earlier this month about why February is my least favourite month;  suffice to say it lived up to its reputation. (Case in point: this was the coldest February on record hereabouts, with no day above the freezing mark -- 0C/32F -- and most days in the minus double digits. 'Nuff said.)

But then, on Saturday morning -- the last day of the month -- we got a phone call. I mentioned in my last #MicroblogMondays post that SIL's mother (the grandmother of our two nephews) was not well;  she had been living with illness for some time, but things escalated last week and the family was told that, at best, she had a few more months left. She didn't even last a full week. :( 

That kind of put the month just past into perspective for me. I dislike February -- and it ended on a very sad note. SIL's mother was a very kind lady who treated dh & me like family. She even made Italian goodies specially for dh (much to BIL's chagrin, lol) -- stuff like his mom used to make that's just not in my repertoire. We saw her often at family gatherings for holidays and our nephews' birthdays, etc. I am going to miss her.

But my sadness is nothing compared to what SIL & BIL, our nephews and the rest of the family are going through at the moment. Suddenly, complaining about the cold and snow and cabin fever seems petty by comparison.

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