Monday, June 18, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Father's Day weekend odds & ends

  • Yesterday was Father's Day, and as usual, I told dh the day's agenda was his to determine. We decided to go see "The Incredibles 2" (we both enjoyed the original movie enormously) -- even though it was opening weekend, which we normally try to avoid. But although we arrived in plenty of time, the local multiplex was swarming with parents & kids, and when I went to purchase tickets, I learned that (even though we just wanted to see the plain vanilla version -- no 3D, no AVX, no IMAX, no D-Box, etc.) there was assigned seating -- and all that was left was the very front row. :p  We said thanks but no thanks, bought some popcorn to munch on en route home, and left. Will try again in another week or two, when the crowds have (hopefully) thinned out... 
    • We went home, and dh promptly fell asleep on the couch. When he woke up, he proclaimed he'd had a great day. (?!!) Whatever makes him happy, I guess...!  ;)     
    • We went to visit FIL on Saturday with BIL, SIL, the nephews & their wives (boy, it feels weird typing that...!).  He was not as good as he was when we saw him last week. Still recognizes dh & BIL, recognized SIL (asked her how her own aging father was), but I'm not sure he knew me, and he didn't seem to recognize his grandsons, let alone the girls. :(  
  • SIL found out late last week that she will be losing her job as of Sept. 1st. I won't go into all the details, since her story is not really mine to share -- but she is 53 & has been with her company 28 years;  I lost my job when *I* was 53 & just one month shy of 28 years of service. Eerie, huh?  :(  
    • The nephews were highly indignant on their mom's behalf. Oldest Nephew said his mom should forget about finding another job and just retire. SIL told him bluntly she couldn't afford to just yet. I suppose Oldest Nephew was thinking of dh & me, retiring after losing our jobs in our mid-50s. But of course, unlike his parents, we didn't raise two children and just finish paying for (part of) two big weddings...!  
  • After a couple of months of prolific blogging (15 posts in March, 17 in April, 18 in May...), I seem to be in a bit of a slump again. But that's OK. I've been blogging long enough to know the muse comes and goes. 
  • One of these days, I will write a #MM post that's not made up of bullet points, lol. (But today isn't it...!)  
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

"Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness" by Lesley Pyne

While the childless-not-by-choice (CNBC) segment of the adoption/loss/infertility (ALI) blogging community may (still) be on the small side, we're definitely growing -- and we count some pretty awesome women among our members. We also like to support each other where & when we can. :)

So when Lesley Pyne asked a couple of us if we'd like an advance e-copy of her new book (due June 18th) to read & review, I jumped at the opportunity. :)  (Lesley featured me & my story on her blog back in 2014.)

Lesley -- a survivor of six rounds of IVF -- will be the first to tell you that she never thought she would be using "joy" and "childlessness" in the same sentence -- but these days she is happier than she's ever been, or ever thought possible. "I absolutely love my life and the adventures I'm having, and I'm excited about what will happen next," she says. Her new book --
Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness: Inspiring Stories to Guide You to a Fulfilling Life -- is all about helping you discover that same joy for yourself.

Lesley believes in the importance of story -- that the stories we tell ourselves become our reality. ("If you tell yourself that your life has no meaning and will be miserable, then it will be.  However, if you tell yourself -- like the women you'll meet here -- that there are gifts in the childless life, and you're prepared to do what it takes to receive them, that's what will happen.")  Beyond Lesley's own story, you'll hear from 19 other women who have found themselves living without children, not by choice, and yet gone on to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives. (There are some very familiar names among them -- including Jody Day, who wrote the book's foreword, Lisa Manterfield, Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos, Linda Rooney, Tracey Cleantis, Jessica Hepburn and Karen Malone Wright.)  I really liked how Lesley groups their stories (or facets of their stories) together, analyzes and then draws common lessons & meaning from them.

Lesley also believes in the importance of grief work -- of facing your grief over not having children and working through it. "Time is a healer to some extent, and healing happens much quicker if you do your grief work," she says.

"The main thing I have learned is that running from grief doesn't work. It will eventually catch you, maybe when you least expect it, so it's better to face it in your own time and your own way."

She offers a number of strategies for working through your grief, including rituals for letting go of the dream of children, reconnecting with your body (she is a big fan of yin yoga), self-acceptance and self-care, developing a writing practice (each chapter comes with journalling prompts to get you thinking and working through the process), telling your story, finding your tribe/support group, practicing gratitude, and reclaiming happiness and joy in your life.

Finally, Lesley shows us how to create new meaning in our lives -- to recognize how we've changed and what we want our lives to look like in the future.

I would have LOVED to have a book like this to lean on when I was first coming to terms with my own permanent childlessness. Even today, some 17 years (!) down this road less travelled, I learned a few new things from Lesley and her storytellers. I am sure you will too, wherever you are in your own journey. I rated this book a solid four stars on Goodreads.

Want to find out more about Lesley & her book?
This was book #11 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 46% of my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am (for the monent, anyway...!) one book AHEAD of schedule to meet my goal!  :)  

Monday, June 11, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: While I'm alive...

(Mel recently asked us what we want to do before we die/while we're alive. I thought my answer might make a good microblog post. ;)  Slightly edited -- and bullet-pointed, of course. ;)   )
  • I want to travel more, with England/Scotland/Ireland, Scandinavia, Italy and other parts of Europe at the top of my list, as well as PEI & Newfoundland, in my own country. 
  • I want to take dh to New York City (and I REALLY want him to like it, so he’ll go back with me, again & again ;) ). 
  • I want him to take me on a surprise trip, ANYWHERE, even just for the weekend. (I’ve always loved the commercial where the wife is dropping her husband off at the airport -- & he holds up two airplane tickets. ;) ) 
  • I want to put together my family tree research into some semblance of a book & publish it for my relatives -- and I want at least a few of them to care and be excited about it. 
  • I want to meet more of my blogging & other online friends in real life. 
  • I want to see a woman president of the United States (frankly, I thought I’d see one before I ever saw a black man elected to the post…!) and another female prime minister of Canada (who gets to stay in office longer than three months). 
  • I (REALLY) want to see the Donald Trumps & Doug Fords of the world get their just desserts :p and for some semblance of sanity and decency to be restored to public life. 
I could ramble on, but I guess that’s as good a place as any to end. Am I asking for too much??

What would be on your list?

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

Monday, June 4, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: A few annoying things...

  • Looking forward to a relaxing browse at the bookstore this afternoon, only to find it was overrun with families/kids when we got there (was there a school holiday or something we didn't know about??). 
    • (Also having to dodge a local author who was aggressively hawking his new book near the front of the store -- and blocking access to the new books section while he was at it. Grrrr....) 
  • People who don't even pause or glance to see if there are cars coming as they amble across the road (whatever happened to looking both ways & making sure you made eye contact with the driver before proceeding??). 
  • The no-good-choices dilemma facing us for our provincial election this Thursday (including a Trump clone who stands a very real chance of becoming premier). :p  
  • White House press conferences (watching one right now -- and wondering why I bother sometimes...!). 
  • Seasonal allergies. :p  They haven't been as bad for me as they sometimes are, but I've been waking up with goopy, gritty eyes lately, and I've been sneezing on & off today. Bring on the Claritin!  
  • Not being able to come up with a different topic for today's #MM post. :p  ;)  

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

Friday, June 1, 2018

Right now

Right now... (an occasional meme, alternating from time to time with "The Current")

Reading: A new book by fellow CNBCer, Lesley PyneFinding Joy Beyond Childlessness. (In fact, it's so new it's not even listed on Goodreads yet...!) It's not officially out until June 18th, but Lesley was kind enough to send me a PDF. (Review to come when I'm done.) Year-to-date, I've finished 10 books (out of my Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge goal of 24 books).

Recent purchases:
Watching: The Handmaid's Tale," which continues to be gripping, extremely well done television.

I watched a wonderful new adaptation of "Little Women" from PBS recently, with Maya Hawke, daughter of Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, as Jo, and a charming young guy with amazing dimples named Jonah Hauer-King as Laurie. I've seen several different movie & TV adaptations of the novel (I got an abridged version for my 7th birthday, and I sometimes wonder if Jo March was my original inspiration for wanting to be a writer...) -- and I think I still like the 1994 movie with Winona Ryder as Jo and Christian Bale as Laurie best -- but this was very good -- beautifully filmed and acted.

Haven't been to a big-screen movie since "Infinity Wars" on Voldemort Day... hoping to remedy that soon...

(Not) Listening: Every Sunday afternoon, since around the same time I came to Toronto, the local classic rock FM station had a program called "Psychedelic Sunday." featuring music from the era 1965-75 -- album cuts as well as hits. We would often listen in the car as we drove to & from the movies, the bookstore, visiting people... I say "had" and "would," because this past Sunday was the last show. The host -- described as having "a voice that sounds like God's cooler brother" -- had been let go, but he was allowed to host one final show and say goodbye to his loyal listeners. He is, of course, in his early 60s, and the station has been showing the door to a lot of its longer-serving DJs lately, in a quest to appeal to a younger audience. Ageism strikes again!!

(Not) Following: The Stanley Cup (hockey) playoffs no longer interest me, now that my beloved Winnipeg Jets have been eliminated. :( (Besides, I've always thought it was ridiculous to still be playing/watching hockey in June)(which didn't happen when I was younger & the league was smaller).

Drinking/Eating:  Drinking a lot more iced tea lately. ;)

Wearing: Capris, shorts, tank tops, T-shirts and sandals. FINALLY!! :)

Buying (besides books, lol):  I recently bought a couple of new purses. I am very picky about my purses -- they have to be big (but not TOO big, because otherwise I will overload it), preferably with lots of pockets and compartments -- and when I find one(s) that I like, I will scoop it/them up (sometimes buying the same one in different colours), even if I don't think I'll use it right away. I found one purse, deeply discounted, at a Nine West store, which is closing, and couldn't resist the bargain. ;)  I also bought two purses by Jessica Simpson at a discount shoe warehouse store, one in off-white (for summer) and one in brown (for fall). My current purse is a Jessica Simpson and I had another one of hers that I liked (before it fell apart...!). I've never thought much of her singing or TV shows, but I do like her purses. ;)

Wanting:  To visit the gelato shop (sooner vs later, lol).

Loving: The milder weather, the longer days, and the beautiful sunsets in the evening (which seem to happen more frequently in the summer than in the winter -- or maybe we just notice them more...!).

Celebrating: A good dental checkup (albeit still expensive...!).

Recuperating:  Housecleaning on Wednesday; dentist appointment Thursday;  lunch with some online (non-ALI/scrapbooking) friends in the city today. Had a wonderful time, but between the heat & humidity (and the nonstop talking, lol) I am tuckered right out. ;) 

Feeling:  Sad that our summer vacation plans are so up in the air... and then guilty, because of WHY they are up in the air (FIL's illness).  :(

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

When a door closes...

A Facebook find that resonated with me...
(Sometimes easier said than done, of course...!) 

Monday, May 28, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: A few annoying things...

(An occasional series, inspired by Mali!) 

  • Hot, humid weather (already), which meant closing up the balcony door & turning on the a/c.  It wasn't that long ago we still had the heat on. There has to be a happy medium...
  • Getting woken up by construction noise on the townhouse building site behind us, on a morning when I'd really like to sleep in. 
  • Not being able to make summer vacation plans because of FIL's health issues. I am glad we can be here to help, but at the same time, I miss my own family too. :( 
  • The onslaught of photos on social media from the end of the school year (which has already begun, with my friends in the U.S., and will continue through to the end of June with my friends here in Canada...!), reminding me of what I don't and never will have... 
  • Crying during a sad movie/TV show (in this case, a new adaptation of "Little Women" on PBS, which I had PVRd), and feeling tired and drained and melancholy for the rest of the day. 
  • Having to wait another week to find out what happens next on "The Handmaid's Tale." 

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

Sunday, May 27, 2018

"Ask Me About My Uterus" by Abby Norman

I don't have endometriosis. At least, I don't THINK I do. Put it this way, I've never been diagnosed with it (yet). But I'm willing to bet there are very few of us -- particularly here in the ALI community -- who haven't been plagued with some sort of gynecological issues or mysteries -- even just occasionally painful &/or heavy menstrual periods. (Or even just plain old medical mysteries, period.)

"Ask Me About My Uterus: A Quest to Make Doctors Believe in Women's Pain" describes Abby Norman's quest to make sense of her own experiences with endometriosis -- as well as other mysterious maladies.  It intertwines her personal story with the research she has done on endometriosis and other women's health issues -- including psychology, menstruation, infertility and childlessness (by choice, and not). You probably won't be surprised to learn that she found information and support from other women through the Internet.

Norman had a heartbreaking childhood -- her mother battled an eating disorder all her life and was barely present in her life, her father was mostly absent, her brother was autistic, her grandmother was abusive, and she legally emancipated herself when she was just 16.  Nevertheless, with the support of a handful of caring adults, she earned herself a scholarship to Sarah Lawrence College in New York, where she flourished. 

Then one day, early in her sophomore year, she was stricken with pain -- which became so debilitating and so persistent that she was eventually forced to drop out. Her illness also had an adverse effect on her passion for dancing, her relationships, her sex life, her ability to work and her finances (this being America, she quickly amassed a crippling load of debt related to her huge medical bills).

Many of the doctors Norman consulted suggested her medical issues were mostly psychological -- i.e., all in her head -- something she learned has been an all-too common experience for women throughout history. (She notes they started to pay more attention when she brought her boyfriend along to appointments:  "...my suffering alone wasn't enough to inspire action. Becoming a disappointment to a man, though, seemed to do the trick.")  And so Norman set out to educate herself -- and confounded her doctors by successfully diagnosing herself not just once but twice.

"I had two choices," she writes:
I could either stay bitter and disappointed about what I didn't have, what I would never have, or I could see the loss of control as an opportunity to change direction again. The hurdle was, I didn't want to go in any direction other than the one I'd been going in when I got sick. But that road was a dead end.  
...I finally decided that I could either try to live my life the way I'd wanted to, where I would continuously fail because I was asking too much of my body, or I could design an entirely new life. (p. 223-224)
The book ends somewhat unsatisfyingly (SPOILER ALERT), with Norman still battling mysterious health issues. But yet, isn't that true to real life sometimes? We don't always get satisfactory or lasting solutions presented to us on a silver platter, all neatly tied up with a big, pretty bow. 

The book has its flaws -- it rambles a bit, and might have benefited from more editing -- but Norman deserves kudos, not only for surviving, but also for shedding light on an important and neglected topic, and for doing it so eloquently. It deserves to be read widely, and it especially should be read by doctors of all kinds. I gave this four stars on Goodreads.

This was book #10 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 42% of my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am (for the monent, anyway...!) one book AHEAD of schedule to meet my goal!  :)  

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Deja vu

FIL's doctors have estimated he has about 2-3 months left with us. :(   He may very well be gone by the time fall rolls around. :(  And I'm getting a distinct feeling of deja vu...

Twenty years ago this month, I was happily pregnant and seeing my ob-gyn for the first time.
I also asked him whether there would be any restrictions on me travelling that summer (thinking ahead to a visit home to see my parents and my grandparents, & show off my pregnant belly to the extended family) -- nope, "enjoy your vacation," he said.
Of course, best-laid plans, etc. etc., and he was singing a very different tune after my routine prenatal tests (triple screen blood test, ultrasound and amniocentisis) revealed some potential problems with the pregnancy. :(
Thursday morning, June 25th, I called Dr. Ob-gyn's office again. I thanked the receptionist for the referral & said Dr. Geneticist was able to answer most of our questions. I told that we were supposed to be heading out on vacation in a couple of weeks. Should we cancel? Play it by ear? 
She consulted with the dr & told us we should think about rescheduling, because we needed to be available "in case of adverse results." I didn't want to think about what that might mean. I called our travel agent & asked: what if we had to cancel? 
Well, our tickets were non-refundable -- and we had not purchased cancellation insurance (uh oh!). She said we could cancel now or the day of the flight. However, we could rebook for the face value of the tickets for up to one year later, plus pay a penalty of $107 per ticket -- and a $25 service fee. Well, it was better than totally throwing away $945. I told my boss that I would be taking the next day off for the amnio, & that there was a change in my vacation plans.
We normally head west to visit my family in mid/late July. This year, my sister was not able to secure July dates for her vacation and is taking two weeks off in early August.  So we were planning to head home then, so that I could spend some time with her too, and so that we could both help our parents with whatever projects they needed assistance with. I hadn't yet booked plane tickets -- and then FIL's health issues intervened.

I haven't told my family yet, but dh & I agree there's no point in booking flights right now when the situation is so uncertain. :(  We don't want to have to cancel and incur financial penalties, or head west and then just have to turn around & fly home again. I know they will be disappointed -- but they are practical too. ;)  I think they will understand.

It's been a long time since we missed a visit with my parents in the summertime. (20 years, I think...!) Maybe I will try to head home by myself for a shorter visit (a week, maybe) -- or maybe we can go later in the fall?  It's been a long time since I've had my mother's fabulous turkey for Canadian Thanksgiving...!  ;)  (20 years ago, I wound up going "back home" for the first time in mid-October, after my grandfather passed away. It was strange to be there at a completely different time of year than usual -- but beautiful too.) 

Meanwhile, poor dh is driving back & forth to visit FIL (about 45 minutes, in Toronto's horrendous traffic) and take him to medical appointments, etc., every other day or so.  (I go sometimes too, but not every visit.)  I've told him he won't regret spending the time with FIL -- but of course, the time in traffic is another thing...!  :p

Besides vacation, other things are on hold at the moment, like our social life. My aunt has been visiting in the area (about an hour's drive away) and wanted to get together -- but I had to tell her that FIL's health issues are consuming our/dh's time and energy right now, and he's not up to much beyond that. :(  (He's doing enough driving as it is...!)  I do have a lunch date with some online (non-ALI) friends downtown next week -- I can take the subway there -- and am looking forward to that. 

And several months ago, I bought us (very expensive) theatre tickets to see "Come From Away" on our wedding anniversary in early July -- so we will probably (still) book a hotel room downtown, have dinner somewhere around there & make a mini-getaway out of it. 

(I'm reminded of Mali, who is also caring for aging in-laws and unable to indulge her love of travel at the moment... so much for being childless/free and having "no responsibilities," right?  :p  )

On the bright (?) side -- I was fretting that by taking vacation in early August, we would not be here for Katie's milestone 20th "anniversary" dates.  Be careful what you wish for, right?  :(

Monday, May 21, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Victoria Day odds & ends


  • It's the Victoria Day long weekend here in Canada (the only place in the world that still celebrates Queen Victoria's birthday, in recognition of her role in our history -- plus, who doesn't love an excuse for a long weekend, right?? lol).  
  • Here in Ontario, this has always been a weekend for fireworks, as much or even more so than Canada Day in July.  The laws for buying and setting off home fireworks are much more liberal than they are in Manitoba (or at least were, when I was growing up), and even when we were living in our house, we could often see neighbourhood fireworks displays from our upstairs windows. Here in our 4th floor condo, we had a great view of some of the neighbourhood fireworks last night (and there will probably be more tonight). The best & closest started after we had gone to bed, but I opened up our bedroom curtains & watched them in the darkness while lying in bed. :)  
  • Thank you all for your thoughts & prayers for my FIL.  Dh & I went to see him on Saturday, along with BIL & SIL.  He knew all of us this time, and dh thought he looked and sounded much better than he had on Thursday (he'd had seven (!) cookies with his coffee that morning -- perhaps a sugar rush??), but he is still very thin and frail. I am sure there will be good days & bad days in the days & weeks ahead. We are taking him to another medical appointment tomorrow and will see how he is then... 
  • My beloved Winnipeg Jets went down to defeat at home yesterday afternoon against the Las Vegas Knights, who will now play in the Stanley Cup finals against either the Washington Capitals or Tampa Bay Lightning (which seems totally bizarre to me -- Las Vegas or Tampa Bay, the champion of Canada's national sport??).  :(  You have to hand it to Las Vegas, though -- this is only their first year of existence, and yet here they are, potential Stanley Cup champions. Still, the Jets went further than they ever had before (since they joined the NHL back in 1979, anyway... I kept thinking back to the magical day when I was in high school and heard on the radio one morning as I was getting ready for school that they were finally being admitted to the NHL.  So much has happened in the 40-odd years since then...!)  Here's hoping for next year...!  ;)   
  • If you haven't already seen last night's episode of the The Handmaid's Tale (episode 5), you may or may not appreciate a spoiler alert:  the plot involves a potential miscarriage, including copious amounts of blood on toilet paper, underwear and in the bathtub.  As the New York Times's review of the episode notes, it's "a common female experience that we almost never see on television."  (They were referring to the blood itself, but I suppose they could also be referring to the potential miscarriage too.)  


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

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Royal wedding

  • My fascination with the royal family -- and royalty generally -- began when I was in Grade 1 and living in a small town in rural Saskatchewan. We had a pair of young student "practice" teachers who did a unit with us on the royal family. I have been hooked ever since then. :) 
  • We saw the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles & Princess Anne when they visited Manitoba in July 1970 for its centennial. My grandparents came to visit us for the occasion. I was 9 years old, and my sister & I wore the same new dresses we had worn a few weeks earlier for our aunt's wedding (same dress pattern, but hers was lavender & white and mine was lime green & white -- it WAS the Seventies, lol!).  We all attended an ecumenical church service at the fairgrounds in Dauphin, Manitoba (about a 45 minute drive from where we were then living), where Prince Philip read the lesson. The royal couple drove past us in an open-top limousine and my dad got a great picture of the Queen with our Kodak box camera, giving her royal wave with a white-gloved hand. "She was so close I could have reached out & touched her," marvelled my grandfather. 
  • I haven't missed a royal wedding since Princess Anne's (the first one, to Captain Mark Phillips, back in the early 1970s), which I watched as a pre-teen on our NEW colour television set!! (My sister reminded me, when I talked to her this weekend, that we also watched Prince Charles's investiture as Prince of Wales on TV, albeit in black & white.) 
  • I got up at 4 a.m. (Eastern time) to watch the coverage of this latest wedding (even though I'd been up past 11 p.m. watching the Winnipeg Jets game against Las Vegas...!). The wedding didn't actually start until 7 a.m. my time, but of course, half the fun of these things is watching the guests arrive, critiquing the dresses and hats ;)  etc. etc.
  • I figure that by the time the next big royal wedding rolls around (likely George, Charlotte or Louis's), I will be in my late 70s or 80s (gulp), so I'd better enjoy this one now...!  
    • (Prince Andrew's younger daughter, Princess Eugenie, is getting married this October -- also at St. George's, Windsor -- but being a lot further down the line of succession than William & Harry, I very much doubt hers will be televised.)  
  • Some of my friends were attending (and posting online about) early-morning viewing parties, complete with scones, mimosas and fascinators or tiaras. I just watched in my PJs, by myself -- had some breakfast early on & a cup of tea. I did trade comments with some of my friends on Facebook. :) 
  • I will admit I got tears in my eyes when William and Harry emerged from a car and began walking toward the chapel, tall and handsome in their uniforms. Of course I thought about their mom (who was the same age as me) and how very proud she would have been.
  • I adored Meghan's dress -- simple and elegant (and that tiara...!). A few friends on social media expressed disappointment that it was so plain/unadorned and traditional -- but Meghan didn't strike me as a lace and frills type of girl -- and let's face it, this was WINDSOR CASTLE -- you can't get much more traditional than that, right??  ;)  Anything strapless (or even sleeveless) or a neckline that was cut too low or a silhouette that was too revealing would have been out of place (not to mention completely inappropriate). 
  • The music was wonderful -- nothing like a good old Anglican hymn (I could sing along!). ;)  And the young cellist who played while the registry was being signed was amazing -- although his music was so soothing that I felt like I was going to nod off! (I took the opportunity to revive myself by getting up and making another cup of tea, lol.)
  • I also loved all the flowers. I am sure that floral arch over the entryway cost as much as my annual salary when I working...!  
  • The juvenile attendants, including Prince George and Princess Charlotte, were adorable, as expected -- but I think the Mulroney twins, Brian & John, stole the show, carrying Meghan's ultra-long veil.  (Their sister Ivy was also a bridesmaid.)  The photo of one of the twins reacting in delight as the trumpets sounded the bride's entry into the chapel -- complete with a missing tooth, lol -- was priceless. 
    • Most of the American & British coverage I read focused on the twins' mom, Jessica, one of Meghan's best friends. Those of us here in Canada (and especially those of us of an, ahem, certain vintage, cough, cough...!) probably think of them in terms of their famous grandpa, our former prime minister, Brian Mulroney (who must have been busting his buttons) -- or perhaps their equally famous dad, PM Brian's oldest son, Ben, who was not only in attendance but seated in one of the best spots in the house (some thought it was even better than the Queen's!).  
    • It was somewhat bizarre to see Ben Mulroney looming up behind Meghan every time the camera showed her at the altar. He's a very well-known TV host here in Canada. For those of you in the States, think Ryan Seacrest, if Ryan Seacrest also hosted Good Morning America on top of his American Idol and red carpet awards show duties.
    • (I read that Ben remembers Harry's mom, Diana, coming up to see him and his brothers and sister in the nursery at the prime minister's residence at 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa.  Which seems appropriate, when you think that Harry is now Duke of Sussex...) 
  • I enjoyed seeing the guests arrive, although I wish the TV commentators had done a better job of identifying some of them as they arrived. I kept saying, "Umm, umm, I KNOW I know who that is...!" (But could I think of the name? No.)  I was glad to see the Duchess of York (Fergie) there and looking good.  George and Amal Clooney looked as fabulous as ever. Does Victoria Beckham ever crack a smile??  And how about Prince Philip, who will soon be 97 years old?? -- the TV hosts were saying he was likely to arrive on crutches, since he just recently had hip surgery, but he walked in & out of the church unassisted. 
    • I was struck by how grown-up the Earl & Countess of Wessex (Edward & Sophie)'s kids, Louise & James, are now. Both are rumoured to be IVF babies, and I vividly remember that Sophie had an ectopic pregnancy, around the same time I was going through infertility treatment myself. 
    • Princess Anne's daughter, Zara Tindall, was hugely pregnant. Did you know she lost a baby previously? 
    • Did anyone see Princess Margaret's offspring, David and Sarah and their families?  They are not as visible these days (perhaps more so in Britain than hereabouts?) and I haven't seen them in quite some time, so perhaps they were there & (I am sure they were...) and I just didn't see or recognize them. (I took the opportunity to Google them, and yikes, I didn't realize their children are now in their late teens and early 20s. Time flies...!)  
  • Of course, there is already speculation about when Meghan will announce a pregnancy (the anchors on one network (CTV?) were taking bets with each other!!). I even read one headline speculating she is already pregnant!  UGH, give it a rest!! 
Did you watch? What did you think? 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

This sucks :(

My father-in-law is slipping away from us, mentally and physically. :(  Once energetic and restless, the life of the party (he was still mowing his own lawn -- and it's a large one -- when he was 84, and  insisted just four or five years ago, when he was 85, that he could go up on the roof and fix the chimney at stepSIL's house!!), he has been going downhill over the past couple of years, and has deteriorated in a shocking way since Younger Nephew's wedding last month -- particularly over the last two weeks. Dh notices a visible difference (and not a good one) every time he visits -- and he's been visiting more often since we learned the extent of FIL's health issues last week.

The nephews and their wives visited their grandfather last weekend, and reported that FIL did not remember Younger Nephew, nor the girls. :(  But he's never not recognized dh, until today. He thought dh was his younger brother at first (i.e., dh's uncle).  There IS a strong family resemblance -- and Uncle had been there to visit earlier in the day.

But still... :( 

Dh told me today that FIL asked him, "Do you have any kids?"  (!) :(  His heart just sank, and he thought, "I'm not getting into THAT with him...!" so he just said, "No, Dad."

FIL looked puzzled and said, "You never got married?"  (!)

"No, Dad, I'm married, we just don't have any kids."

A while later: "So how many kids do you have?" :( 

I burst into tears when he told me this. :( 

FIL was so, so happy when I was pregnant.  I can remember him coming up the front walk of our house with this huge grin on his face & putting his hand on my stomach & asking, "So how's my baby??"  And then when I lost her, coming up the walk again with this horribly sad expression on his face. I started crying when I saw him because I remembered the other time and how happy he was.

After Katie's funeral, when we paid our first return visit to the cemetery, FIL had already beaten us there. The plaque with the little bud vase attached was not yet mounted on Katie's niche, but there was a bouquet of flowers duct-taped (! -- typical FIL, lol) to the granite wall, with a little note that said (in Italian) "Your grandparents." I don't think he's ever been back there since then -- but I'll never forget that he was the first. 

This sucks. :( 

Monday, May 14, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Voldemort Day*/weekend recap

Not the greatest weekend, I'm afraid:
  • FIL (age 89) has been in declining health lately, and (most troubling to us) has no appetite and has barely been eating lately. StepMIL took him to the hospital last week, where they ran some tests, and then on Friday, dh & BIL went with them to an appointment to review all the results. Without getting into all the details, the prognosis is not good. At 89, you know his days are numbered anyway -- but knowing the end will be coming sooner vs later is depressing, to say the least. 
  • We spent Saturday afternoon with BIL, SIL & one of dh's aunts, visiting not just one, not just two, but THREE cemeteries scattered across the city where various relatives (including my late MIL) are buried. How's that for cheery?? (Aunt was happy & grateful to us for taking her, and we all did have a few laughs together in the car.) (We did not visit the cemetery where Katie is -- (a) it's further out of the city proper, (b) nobody suggested it (aunt probably doesn't even known she's IN a cemetery...) & (c) dh & I had already visited there earlier in the week.) 
  • Voldemort Day itself, however, was just for me -- and we decided to deal with it our usual favourite way -- avoidance, lol -- i.e., spending the afternoon hiding out in a dark movie theatre with a big bag of popcorn. We decided to go see "The Avengers: Infinity War" -- we've seen & enjoyed most of the other Avengers movies and have been waiting a few weeks for the initial crowds to die down. 
    • The popcorn, at least, was excellent...
    • There was a still a healthy dose of the wisecracking humour we love (some very funny moments).  
    • BUT. (Spoiler alert here!)  I had already heard the buzz that not all of the Avengers make it out of this one alive...  But I was not prepared for the very dark tone overall, or for the very bleak ending. Not what I needed today -- (no) thank you, Marvel. :p  
  • Came home and started scrolling through my social media feeds. I wound up just skimming & not "liking" or commenting as much as I usually do, because quite frankly it was too much;  I was getting weepy.  
  • To cheer myself up even further (not), I finished off the day by watching the latest episode of "The Handmaid's Tale."  I suppose I could have PVRd it and gone to bed earlier, but I have enough stuff backlogged on there already. Dh says not to watch if it depresses me. It does, but I almost feel like it's my duty as a woman to watch. ;) (It's also really, really great TV, even if the subject matter makes me want to crawl under the covers & stay there. And it seemed like a weirdly appropriate way to finish off Voldemort Day -- the fetishization of pregnancy, and the tension between those who get pregnant and those who can't, taken to extremes.) 
  • I sense Aunt Flo's impending arrival... cramping, and extra weepiness (although I think all the other stuff this weekend was probably reason enough to feel weepy...!). 
  • On a slightly lighter note, dh & I went to an outlet of the national mega-bookstore earlier this week. I was amused to see that all the mom-related stuff had already been cleared out (or at least moved to a less conspicuous location?) to make room for all the Father's Day-focused stuff.  ;) 
  • And on a VERY bright note, my Winnipeg Jets won their series against the Nashville Predators, and won their first game against the Las Vegas Knights on Saturday night. Game 2 tonight!! (also in Winnipeg). 
    • If they win this series (Western Conference final), they go to play for the Stanley Cup!! -- which would be a dream come true for every Jets fan. (You can read the story of the Jets here.) 
And how was your Voldemort Day weekend??

* Voldemort Day:  As in Harry Potter, That Day Which Shall Not Be Named, lol.  

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

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Voldemort Day

A Facebook find. :)
"A world and a system that has tried to keep us small."
Yes, this.
Thinking of you all today, and wishing you some modicum of peace. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

"The Musgraves" by D.E. Stevenson

"The Musgraves" is the latest selection from my D.E. Stevenson fan group -- discussions will begin shortly. :)  I procured a yellowing and slightly musty used copy of a paperback edition via the Internet and plunged in. Most Stevenson novels are not a particularly difficult read, and I finished the entire thing -- 256 well-spaced pages of a pocket-sized paperback -- in two nights. It's set in the same village as part of "The Tall Stranger" was, and features a couple of the same characters.

Stevenson's novels are generally short on plot but long on character -- and this is probably one of her slighter novels (that I've read, anyway), plot-wise. The story (first published in 1960 -- and reflecting its era) revolves around Esther Musgrave, a widow with three daughters to worry about. There's Delia, the oldest at 26, prickly and bored. She joins the local drama club and wins a role in its forthcoming production of "The Mulberry Coach."  Middle daughter Margaret is married to the wise and steady Bernard... but something is missing from her happy little home. (Just guess...!!)  And youngest daughter Rose is home from school with no idea of what she wants to do with her life. Their lives are thrown into upheaval when their stepson/stepbrother Walter arrives from South Africa after years of absence -- with a startling proposition for Delia.

It's all a tempest in a teapot -- but it's an easy, gentle, pleasant read, and (surprise!) everyone gets a happy ending. :)  As I've said before, the literary equivalent of comfort food, or perhaps a nice cup of tea.  Three stars on Goodreads. :)

This was book #9 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 38% of my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am -- for once! ;)  -- AHEAD of schedule to meet my goal!  :)  

Friday, May 11, 2018

"I Am Not a Mother. But I Am Something."

Just in time for Voldemort Day (my preferred name for That Day Which Shall Not Be Named), the New York Times has published a moving opinion piece: "I Am Not a Mother. But I Am Something."

Paula Carter has no children. She had been in a long-term relationship with a man who had two sons -- but when the relationship with the father ended, so (sadly) did her relationship with the boys. 
I was not the boys’ mother — they had one of those; I was not even their stepmother. But, I was something... 
When we don’t have the words to name something, it is as though it doesn’t exist. Maria Popova, in a beautiful post on her website Brain Pickings, wrote, “To name a thing is to acknowledge its existence as separate from everything else that has a name; to confer upon it the dignity of autonomy while at the same time affirming its belonging with the rest of the nameable world.” 
When you realize you are outside of what has been deemed normal, what has been named and defined, these are the things you feel you lack: Dignity, autonomy, belonging. And a shared understanding of the role you play.
Carter's story is different than mine -- but it speaks to all of us whose stories are more complex than most people are comfortable with -- those of us outside the norm, whose life experiences haven't followed the generally accepted trajectory, who don't neatly fit into the usual categories, who sometimes lack a definitive label (who don't LIKE the labels we've been assigned...!).

Read the whole story, and tell me what you think.

Happy Voldemort Day. (Hang in there, it will soon be over...!)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

"A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership" by James Comey

Continuing to work my way through the stack of current events-related books I've accumulated recently ;) I just finished "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership" by former FBI Director James Comey.

The most-publicized sections -- about Comey's dealings with the Trump White House -- are only a small part of the book, towards the end.  The rest of the book is all about how Comey got to that point, and his reflections on the different people he has worked for throughout his life (starting with his very first boss, Harry Howell, at the local grocery store)  and the examples of leadership (both positive and negative) they provided, as well as other interesting characters he encountered along the way. I very much enjoyed his stories about Sammy "the Bull" Gravano and other mob bosses, Martha Stewart (!), Rudy Giuliani, Presidents Clinton, Bush (45) & Obama,  Vice-Presidents Dick Cheney and Joe Biden, Attorneys General John Ashcroft, Eric Holder, Loretta Lynch and Jeff Sessions, to list just a few names you might recognize.

This is probably the last book where you'd expect to find an ALI (adoption/loss/infertility) angle -- but nope, there it is:  Jim Comey and his wife Patrice (who are roughly the same age as I am) are bereaved parents. They lost their fourth child, Collin, in August 1995 to a Group B strep infection. Those of us who are also bereaved parents will recognize ourselves in the moving passages that describe Collin's brief life and death, and its aftermath, including Comey's reflections on why bad things happen to good people and how this relates to the justice system (channeling grief into purpose). Patrice became an activist, launching a nationwide campaign to ensure all pregnant women and babies born in the United States are now tested for Group B strep:
Patrice wrote publicly about our son and traveled the country supporting efforts to change the standard of care... She didn't do anything alone, but her voice, along with the voices of many other good people, changed our country. All mothers are tested now, and their babies live. Something good followed unimaginable bad. Other mothers will never know what might have been, which is as it should be. 
[As an aside: after my own loss three years later, I can remember reading stories online from other bereaved mothers whose losses were the specific result of a Group B strep infection. A couple of years later, Cousin/Neighbour's Wife told me about her pregnant sister -- whose first baby was born exactly one day after I delivered my stillborn daughter -- and how annoyed she was that her birth plan was being changed because she had tested positive for Group B strep and would need antibiotics administered during delivery. "I'm sure the doctors know what they're doing," I murmured through clenched teeth, thinking, "Does this woman know just how f***ing lucky she is??"]

Comey does come across as a bit of an annoying Boy Scout/Dudley Do-Right sometimes (and he admits he has a healthy ego) -- but let's just say I am more inclined to believe his version of events than the current occupant of the White House, and that he made the best decisions he could (and there were some pretty tough ones with no truly good outcomes) with the information he had at the time. His basic sense of decency and integrity, his belief in the rule of law, his affection for his colleagues at the FBI, and his love for his wife, family and country shine through the pages of this book. At the book's end, he states his optimistic belief that the country will survive Trump and overcome the damage he has created. I hope he is right.

I gave it four stars on Goodreads.

This was book #8 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 33% of my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am -- so far! ;)  -- on track to meet my goal.  :) 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

"The Year I Learned to Quit"

I found a great article from the "Well" section of the New York Times on a subject that's near & dear to my heart:  the "Q word;"  i.e., learning how to quit.  The author trained diligently to run a marathon at Big Sur this spring, only to have to pull out because of injury and pain. [Boldfaced emphasis in the following sample passages is mine.]
Part of me knew it was time to quit, but the rest of me didn’t want to believe it. All of the articles I found on running websites talked about how to come back from injury and cross that finish line, not how to stay away. 
But I finally gave myself permission to give up — and realize it’s very much in keeping with the rest of my life right now, as I am learning the lost art of quitting. 
I’m not talking about the spectacular #epicfail stories that are so in vogue, with successful entrepreneurs sharing their crash-and-burn experiences as a rite of passage at FailCons around the world. 
I’m talking about quitting before the going gets tough. Leaning out. Not pushing yourself beyond what you think you can do. 
So un-American, right?
She also quit her dream job last year, after giving birth to twins (!):
...when I paused to really pay attention — and stopped busily managing logistics and proverbially running through the pain — I knew it wasn’t right. 
So I quit. 
It pained me to walk away from the team I had built and what we might have achieved together, but the quality and quantity of time I’ve had with my family and for myself since then has far outweighed my regrets.
She goes on to talk about an author who has written about the importance of stillness and rejuvenation throughout history -- cycles of activity followed by rest... "the importance of getting enough sleep and unplugging from our devices." Taking a pause to create space, to think and to listen, instead of rushing through your to-do list, crossing off items along the way.

Infertility treatment -- and when to stop -- is not discussed, but the article resonated with me and very much reminded me of that phase of my life, when I knew I was coming to the end of my quest for motherhood.

Read the whole thing here.

Previous relevant blog posts (now all tagged with the new label "the Q word"...!):

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

This popped up on my Facebook feed today


Ummm, no.  Just... NO. 

(Not that I'm against wine &/or a week in the Caribbean, lol. ;) 
But for those of us CNBCers, one day of hype is QUITE enough...) 

Monday, May 7, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Lunch date

I was reading a great blog post (by Kathleen, who also blogs at Life Without Baby) about carving out some time to linger over a glass of wine and a nice lunch. It reminded me I actually had the chance to do just that this past weekend, albeit in a somewhat more social setting. (And here I just wrote a hand-wringing post about my lack of a social life, lol.)

To set the scene, a couple of years ago, my genealogist cousins & I connected with another cousin interested in the family history -- and two years ago, he and his wife came to our family reunion in Iowa.  He is my 4th cousin (we share the same great x3 grandparents;  our great-great grandfathers were brothers), from Scotland, and about 10 years older than me. He & his wife are delightful people, both online & even more so in real life. (They have three adult children, one grandchild and two more on the way.) They have lived, worked and travelled extensively around the world, but have spent very little time in Canada -- but this spring, they made reservations for a three-day/two-night train trip across western Canada, from Vancouver through the scenic Rocky Mountains & Prairies to Winnipeg. They managed to have lunch on Friday with my parents there, then got on a plane to Toronto and had lunch with me & dh on Saturday before flying back across the Atlantic later that night (!).

Dh & I do not know the area around the airport very well, but happily, an outlet of one of our favourite chain restaurants was attached to the hotel near the airport where they were staying. We were supposed to meet them in the lobby, and we arrived a few minutes early -- but they were already watching for us and emerged from the hotel as we were walking from the car across the parking lot to give us big hugs. We spent the next 2.5 hours chatting and laughing and telling stories over drinks, lunch & later dessert & coffee/tea. I was actually exhausted afterward -- but exhilarated too.

I need more lunches like that. :)

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

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Social capital, adult friendships & childlessness

Gateway Women's Jody Day made a comment during a live webinar as part of last week's "We Are Worthy" summit that stuck with me and got me thinking.  I don't remember her exact words, but it was a comment about how being childless -- and having all your friends become mothers -- wreaked havoc on her friendships, which was something that she did not expect would happen.

Then Mel posted about a recent column by David Brooks in the New York Times, which I had also read & mulled over, on the subject of social capital/wealth, and the increasing lack thereof in our world, where loneliness and isolation are being acknowledged, even by some governments, as serious issues.

I feel incredibly lucky to have some pretty great friends and relatives. But yes, sometimes I do feel socially isolated -- in part (although not entirely) because of my childlessness, & the lack of social networks that moms/parents seem automatically plugged into through their kids' schools, neighbourhood & activities.

The childless factor aside, making and keeping friends is something I've wrestled with my entire life.  Because of my dad's work, our family was transferred every three to six years when I was growing up. We moved when I was 2, 5, 8 and 13 -- we lived in eight different houses in five different towns in two different provinces before I finished high school -- and we were supposed to move again just before I entered Grade 12/senior year, but my dad thankfully found himself a new job in the same town so my sister & I could finish high school with our friends. The older we got, the longer it seemed to take for us to break into the established social circles and make friends in a new place.  And then, of course, right around the time we were finally feeling comfortably settled and at home, it was time to pack our bags & move on to the next place, leaving our friends behind us.

This was almost 40 years ago now -- long before the Internet, or even cheap long distance -- and many of my friendships did not survive the moves (although a few did & do, to this day). My friends & I kept in touch through handwritten letters, sent by snail mail (I found an entire box stuffed full of them when I helped my mother clean out a closet last summer), and the occasional long-distance telephone call -- with our mothers nearby, tapping their wristwatches to tell us to wrap things up -- "long distance is expensive, you know!" -- and occasional visits.

As a married adult, it's still been difficult to make & keep friends -- and certainly since most of my friends boarded the mommy train, leaving me standing forlornly on the station platform. But there are other factors that have made if difficult to make & keep adult friendships, too.

First, when I first moved here, I knew almost nobody, aside from dh's family -- with a couple of exceptions, I was starting almost from scratch.  And second, while many people in this city, like me, come from elsewhere, there's still a sizeable chunk who grew up here and have family members & long-established social networks.

Third, this is a large urban area, and many of the friends I did/do have live/lived at least 45-60 minutes away by car -- meaning meetups almost always need to take place on the weekends. (Even at work, we had difficulty planning after-hours social activities, because our staff lived all over a very wide area, commuted and had to consider transit schedules, as well as daycare pickup times, for those with children. Thursdays tended to be the big party-after-work night -- Friday after-work gatherings were pretty much verboten, because everyone would be anxious to head home to get the weekend started there after a long week at work.)

Fourth, I don't drive (I have my license but don't drive -- long story...), which has added to the difficulty of getting to places where I can meet new people and getting together with old friends. Either my friends have to come see me, dh has to drive me, or my friends have to meet meet me downtown or somewhere else that I can get to by public transit.

Finally, nevermind the mommy train -- many of the friends that I have managed to make here over the past 30-35 years almost literally boarded a train -- they moved and left me behind, which was a  new (and unpleasant) experience for me. Among the good friends I've said goodbye to over the years:
  • My college roomie (whom I've written about before) is from Ontario & was living & working here when I got married. We used to socialize with her & her husband (whom we also knew in college -- I introduced them!). We both worked downtown, and so even after they got divorced (& dh & I moved out of the city), we still had lunch together regularly, once a month or so. Then she had a baby -- and I didn't -- her work life got busy, her personal life got complicated, and I started seeing less and less of her -- until, about 10 years ago, until she disappeared from my life entirely, much to my bewilderment and sadness. Happily, we are back in touch again -- but she has moved to the west coast to be with her new partner, and I have not seen her in some years.
  • One of my friends from high school -- not a close-close friend, but someone I knew fairly well -- also moved to this area after her marriage, and we used to get together with them occasionally. They moved to the States 15+ years ago, although we still see them once a year or so when they come back to visit friends & relatives in the area.
  • I was good friends with a coworker who joined my department a few months after I did. We had a lot in common -- her mother even grew up in the same small town as my best friend's mother did. But she left, first the department, and then the company altogether, a few years later, when she & her husband moved to the States to pursue career opportunities there. I've only seen her once in the 25+ years since then, but we are still in touch via social media & Christmas cards -- and she actually called me in response to the mass email I sent out to let people know about Katie's stillbirth, with words of comfort and sharing about her own miscarriage, which I (in my pre-loss innocence) had completely forgotten about. 
  • After we lost Katie, we became close to a number of our clients and co-facilitators from our "real life" pregnancy loss support group -- and one couple in particular with whom we had a lot in common.  She & I loved to scrapbook together, and she would call me up out of the blue and say, "I'm making a Michaels run after dinner tonight, want to come?" and off we'd go, stopping off at a coffee shop for tea & sweets afterwards. Dh & her husband got along well too -- he even took dh to a basketball game once when he lucked into some good tickets. She would often ask me how we were managing a life without children -- steeling herself for the possibility that they, too, might eventually call it quits on ttc.  But they eventually did have a baby -- and then moved away, 10 years ago now, about an hour & a half away. We went to visit them a couple of times in their lovely new home, and we still email occasionally and exchange Christmas cards -- but she does not "do" social media, and has been busier with her son's activities (of course), so I am feeling a bit out of the loop with them these days. But I still miss her. :( 
  • I had another good friend, also childless, whom I met when I was living with my parents for a year, post-school but pre-marriage.  She wound up getting married & moving to this area herself a few years after I did, and while she lived some distance away from me, north of the city, we still managed to get together a couple of times a year -- she's meet me at my office for lunch if she happened to be downtown, or I'd take an afternoon off work and we'd get tickets to a theatre matinee or take in a local craft show. Last year, we bought season's tickets for Unique Lives & Experiences lecture series downtown, and would have dinner together and catch up, before attending the event.  She was a welcome taste of "home," one of the few people hereabouts who knew me from before my marriage. But her much-older husband passed away a couple of years ago, and she decided to move back to our home province to be closer to her sister and cousins. I miss her too. :(
  • Cousin/Neighbour's Wife, whom I've written about before, doesn't quite fall into this category -- she did not move away -- but her disappearance from our lives nevertheless left a notable void.  She's the one who was so wildly enthusiastic about my pregnancy -- and who began to withdraw after our daughter was stillborn -- or so it seemed to me. I have not seen her in well over five years, even though she lived just a few blocks away from us, when we had our house, and she'd been distancing herself from us for quite a few years before that. I've since come to realize that while Katie & subsequent childlessness may (or may not) have had something to do with the breakdown in our relationship, it wasn't the whole story and we definitely weren't the only ones she had withdrawn from. I still feel sad about the loss of that relationship, though. :( 
Dh, of course, grew up in Toronto -- but he has not maintained much contact with any of his buddies from the old neighbourhood, and while he keeps up with some of his former coworkers on social media, he hasn't made any effort to see them since leaving work either.  He is close to a couple of his cousins, but of course, they've been busy over the past 20-30 years raising their families -- although happily, the guys have started trying to book semi-regular nights out together over this past year. For the most part, dh has been happy to rely on me for pretty much all of his companionship needs. There is no doubt he is my best friend, but I have to be honest:  I miss having girlfriends. I miss having a more active social life.

Most of our social life these days tends to revolve around BIL, SIL & their family.  We also get together several times a year with dh's cousins, individually, in small groups and/or at family functions. There's the distance factor, of course (while BIL & several cousins live within a 15-minute drive of us, others are spread out across the area), and of course, most of them are still working and involved with their kids -- not to mention tending to aging parents.  I actually have one cousin who moved to this area 5-10 years ago -- but he's quite a bit younger than me, they have two kids, they live a good 45-60 minute drive from here, and his wife grew up in this area & has tons of friends here, and so...

I still get together with my coworker/office bestie of some 16 years (before her retirement), and while she doesn't "do" social media, we email & talk occasionally on the phone. She lived about a half hour further out from the city than we did, and used to come pick me up at the house for an outing... or we'd arrange an outing in the city, and meet on a certain car of the commuter train we both used to ride from work. Since we moved away, though, further in the opposite direction, we haven't seen quite as much of each other.

We lived in our previous location for 26 years (& in a midtown apartment for five years before that).  We had cordial relationships with our most immediate neighbours, but not the kind where we'd drop by each others' houses for coffee or wine or do things together, if you know what I mean. We did join a church, where we met some nice people and attended some classes and small group activities, which we enjoyed -- but we weren't entirely comfortable with  all aspects of the ministry there -- and of course things got really painful after we lost our daughter. We'd joined in part because we wanted to bring our kids up to know something about God & religion and the Bible -- and then that reason disappeared. I watched the women who'd been pregnant around the same time as me show up one day, baby carrier in tow, then baptize their babies (something I tried to avoid attending, when at all possible) -- and then their second, and sometimes their third. Watching the children -- my daughter's peers -- file out behind the cross to attend Sunday school every week, singing the same children's hymn we'd sung when I was a kid -- was torture.  I would sit in the pew, quietly sobbing. Our attendance became more & more sporadic, until finally, we just stopped going.

We've been living here two years now -- and we really haven't met a lot of new people here either.  There are neighbours & other people who live in the building that we know by name & exchange pleasant chit-chat with, but nothing deeper. None of dh's cousins, local or otherwise, have come to visit & inspect our condo (which surprises me -- we're the first in the family to get a condo & I though the novelty/curiosity factor would bring them over, if nothing else...!). His aunt has been here, but only because we took her out for dinner and then back here later for coffee.

Not surprisingly, I do a lot of my "socializing" online these days. :p  Which is great, of course -- the Internet has been a lifeline for me these past 20 years, in coping with stillbirth, infertility and involuntary childlessness. Y'all are amazing -- but sometimes, online just doesn't quite cut it, you know?  ;)

(As an aside: I have about 240 friends on Facebook.  I have them organized into "friend lists" so it's kind of easy to figure out how many I know from which parts of my life. About 70 are my relatives and 55 are dh's relatives ( = a little over half are family members).  I'm in touch with 10 people from my high school days, 8 from university (both undergrad & graduate school), and 10 people I knew from work.  About 20 are people we met through our "real life" pg loss support group.  About 45 are online friends from the infertility/loss/CNBC world (through blogging & other online forums) and 20-25 are friends from my scrapbooking days (also mostly online) -- so, a little under 1/3 are friends I've made online over the past 20 years.  That's a pretty substantial chunk. There's another 10 or so in a group I've labelled "Miscellaneous," which includes, for example, some childhood friends I've stayed in touch with over the years (or rediscovered through Facebook) and some friends of my mother's. Anyone else ever done an analysis like this?)

I keep saying I'm going to join a yoga class -- mostly because I need & want the exercise & the relaxation/mindfulness benefits it promotes -- but also because it would get me out of the house. I've researched a few places but haven't tried any out yet. Likewise, I would love to find a book club. Even if I didn't make any real friends there, I would love to discover new books and talk about them with other people. I went on Meetups.com in search of one hereabouts, but most of the ones listed there meet in the city proper and would be difficult to get to. I've even considered going back to church in an attempt to meet people (if not with an eye to my eternal salvation, as I sometimes joke).

I have investigated the local Gateway Women chapter (I know I would definitely have something in common with them!!) -- but getting to their monthly coffee & chat meetup would involve dh driving me 15 minutes to the local subway station, a 45-minute subway ride downtown, and then about a 30 minute walk or streetcar ride -- on a Sunday morning, which is usually a "sleep in & then go to the movies" day for us. There is a local GW Reignite Weekend planned for this fall -- it's expensive, but I'm considering a splurge. ;)  I am probably further down the road of acceptance of my childlessness than many of the attendees would be, I think -- and I don't want to take a spot away from someone who could really, really use it -- but I still sometimes feel a bit adrift in this post-loss& infertility, post-employment, post-move life. I could use a bit of a kick in the rear. ;)

What do you think? Have you found it more difficult to make & keep friends as an adult? Has having children -- or not having children -- improved or wreaked havoc on your social life?

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

"Designated Survivor," grief and mental illness

I spent yesterday afternoon catching up on a couple of recent episodes of "Designated Survivor" (via PVR).  (The show hasn't quite lived up to its early promise, but I'm still watching...!)

To recap & set the scene: The premise of the series is that mild-mannered professor-turned-U.S. Housing Secretary Tom Kirkman (played by Kiefer Sutherland) is appointed "designated survivor," which involves watching the State of the Union address from a secure remote location, "just in case" something happens to the president & his Cabinet. Of course, television being television, something DOES happen: Kirkman unexpectedly becomes president when terrorists blow up the Capitol building, killing just about everyone inside. Kirkman spent the first season of DS learning the ropes of the most important job in the world on the fly, building a staff and pursuing the terrorists. It's a role he never wanted, never expected to take on, and was completely unprepared for.

Earlier in this second season, President Kirkman's burden got even heavier when his wife was killed in a car accident by a drunk driver. (The actress who played the first lady got another job on a different TV show.)  It was clear he was struggling, post-loss, and some of his decisions have been questionable.  At the urging of his concerned staff, the president reluctantly agreed to seek help from a psychiatrist.

Unfortunately, someone hacked the psychiatrist's computer and leaked tapes of him dictating notes about his private sessions with the president. The revelation that the president was seeing a psychiatrist paralyzed the government and led the cabinet to consider invoking the 25th amendment, threatening to remove the president from office on the grounds of mental illness.

Seriously??  This is not the 1970s (thinking of Thomas Eagleton). One would think (hope?) our understanding of grief, depression and mental illness has evolved since then. Of course, given the toxic political culture that exists in the United States (and elsewhere) these days, I suppose it's still not an unlikely scenario that someone would try to score political points by suggesting that seeing a mental health professional means you are unfit to hold political office. :(   And those of us who have endured grief know that, yes, there is still a certain degree of stigma attached, particularly when we seem to be taking more time than people think we should to "get over it."

Kirkman refuses to apologize, saying that he's not going to stigmatize the millions of Americans who use and benefit from therapy.  He does submit to a television interview, in which he admits to seeing a therapist, but insists he is better and is focused on serving the American people.

The lawyer the cabinet has hired to investigate the president (guest star Michael J. Fox) reveals that both Kirkman's mother and younger brother Trey spent time in mental health facilities, and that Trey continues to use medication -- something the president did not know about. "Mental illness runs in your family," the lawyer says to Trey, to which Trey responds, "No. Being human does."

And there's a great scene where press secretary Seth Wright (Kal Penn) blasts the White House press corps at the end of a briefing:  "Tom Kirkman has given everything to this country, even his wife. And now he's been torn apart because he's self-aware enough to seek help. Judge him if you want to, history will judge you."

Kirkman gets his best vote of confidence from his young daughter, Penny, who tells him she knows he's not crazy -- just sad, and missing Mommy. Oh, the wisdom of a child...

In the end, the cabinet decides to let Kirkman keep his job. (Of course they did, or that would have been the end of the show, right?)  On to the next episode tonight!

(Do you watch "Designated Survivor"? What did you think of this storyline?) 

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A couple of interesting related articles I found:


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Right now

Right now... (an occasional meme, alternating from time to time with "The Current"):

Reading:  I'm on a bit of an, ummm, current affairs kick at the moment, lol.  Currently reading "A Higher Loyalty" by James Comey. To date, I've finished 7 books (out of my Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge goal of 24 books).  

Other books in the TBR pile: "Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Empire,"  by David Frum;  Russian Roulette by Michael Isikoff and David Corn; "How Democracies Die: What History Reveals About Our Futureby Steven Levitsky & Daniel Ziblatt; and "Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency" by Joshua Green. (Did I leave any out? Do we sense a theme here??) 

Recent purchases: Chasing Hillary by Amy Chozick. 

On a lighter note (lol): my D.E. Stevenson author fan group recently moved from an increasingly unreliable Yahoo Groups (grrrr....) to Groups.io (so far, so good... we were even able to transfer 20 (!) years' worth of past posts, photos & files over!), and will be starting a new novel discussion shortly. Yay! :) 

Watching:  "The Handmaid's Tale," season 2 on Bravo (it's back!!). (New episodes are released on Hulu on Wednesdays, but we don't get Hulu so we have to wait to see them until Sundays here.)  OMG, terrifying... but so, so well done... 

I also have a backlog of PVRd episodes of "Designated Survivor" to get through before this week's new episode on Wednesday.

On the big screen: Haven't been to a movie in the theatre lately, but hope to remedy that soon...!  We both want to see "The Avengers: Infinity War," but agreed that opening weekend (this past weekend) was probably NOT the time to do it...! 

Listening:  Catching up on listening to/watching some of the presentations I missed from last week's We Are Worthy Summit.  Some excellent speakers & topics! -- check them out, if you haven't already.   

Following:  The Stanley Cup (hockey) playoffs!  I don't normally watch a lot of hockey -- mostly just at playoff time, and generally only if one of "my" teams is in it. And my beloved Winnipeg Jets made it to round 2 and are currently playing against the Nashville Predators. They are the only Canadian team left in the playoffs. Both teams have won one game each so far in this series (best of 7). Go Jets go!! :)  :)  :)
  
Drinking/Eating:  Went out with BIL & SIL recently for Greek food... I'd been craving chicken souvlaki for a while. And the restaurant did not disappoint. Yum! 

Wearing:  My Winnipeg Jets T-shirt :) on game days this week. (I also have a team jersey, albeit with the old "classic" logo on it, which I bought a few years before the team's return to Winnipeg.)  I recently switched from wearing long-sleeved T-shirts & sweatshirts around the  house to shorter sleeves, and from wearing slippers AND socks on my feet to just socks. (And even, some mornings, just bare feet.) Progress?? 

Buying (besides books, lol):  Recent purchases: Denim shorts from Old Navy & sleeveless summer blouses from H&M.  (Any bets on when I'll actually get to wear them??)

Trying:: Fava beans (with pasta). BIL cooked them for lunch for us one day recently. Dh grew up eating them and loves them... I've learned to like some of the bean/lentil dishes his family eats (not something I grew up with) -- but not this one, lol.  BIL wound up giving me a plate of plain pasta instead, with melted butter & parmesan cheese.  Much more to my tastes. ;)  

Wanting: That elusive full, decent night's sleep... :p  They are further apart & fewer these days...

Loving: Being able to have the balcony door open again, & let the fresh air into the condo! 

Feeling:  Stunned, to learn yesterday that (yet another) friend has been diagnosed with cancer, at a way-too-young age. :(  Her prognosis is not good, but she is determined to fight to the end. She's dealt with a lot of crap in her life already -- she's a fellow loss mom, for one thing -- and I am just so, so sad she has to deal with this too. :(