Monday, November 18, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Introducing...

I am very, very proud to introduce you to our first great-nephew, E., first child for Older Nephew & his wife. :) 

He was born last night (two days past his due date) around 9:30 p.m. by Caesarean section, weighing 7.5 lbs. Dh & I dog-sat :)  while BIL & SIL (the grandparents) went to the hospital for the delivery. We went to see him ourselves this morning. He is, of course, absolutely gorgeous, and looks just like his daddy & his uncle (our two nephews) did when they were born. I will admit that I started sobbing when the other proud grandmother (Nephew's MIL) came out of the room into the hallway with him and placed him in my arms. He was just so beautiful. :)  And of course, there was a lot of pent-up anxiety and emotion, waiting for his arrival.

I'll never be a grandma myself, and yes, that makes me sad sometimes -- but being a great-aunt sure is pretty special too. :) 

His hand looks outsized in this photo, particularly in those mitts. :)  He does have lovely long fingers & toes. :) 

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

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Odds & ends

  • No baby yet... :(  
  • We were at BIL's house tonight... the mom & dad-in-waiting (who also live there) were out, but their hospital bags were packed and waiting in the living room near the door. One bag for baby, one for mom, one for dad, and two for snacks, water, etc.  I laughed and told BIL they have almost as much luggage for a day or two in the hospital as we take for a two-week vacation to see my parents. (Okay, I was joking. Kind of.) 
  • Last week -- at 39 weeks pregnant! -- niece-in-law -- a talented artist who has a fine arts degree -- decided the baby's room needed a mural. She painted a cartoon version of their miniature dachshund to stand guard over the baby's crib. It's priceless. She posted a photo of it on social media & I crack up every time I look at it. 
  • I am SOOOOOOOO tired of the barrage of constant outrage on social media -- and I'm not even thinking about all the Trump-related stuff coming from south of the border. (I have a cousin in Scotland who posts all kinds of stuff about Scottish independence & Brexit, just to add an international flavour...!) What's been going on here in Canada has been MORE than enough, thank you (not). I thought things would calm down after our federal election in mid-October -- but that just segued into "Wexit" talk. Then last week Don Cherry got fired -- and then a talk show host on "The Social" (think "The View," "The Talk," etc.) shot off her mouth about hockey players, thus enraging the not insignificant number of people in this country who have either played hockey or been a hockey parent (not very smart...!)(she later apologized).  Someone speculated on Twitter that this is all being fuelled by bots with a vested interest in keeping things stirred up. I think there might be something to that. (I get outraged about certain things too, but I (usually) don't post about it. :p )
  • New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recently wrote about Britain's efforts to tackle loneliness & social isolation -- something those of us without children are particularly susceptible to, especially as we age. "When I met [Baroness Barran, Britain's current minister for loneliness] I suspected that the minister of loneliness portfolio was a bit of a gimmick. In fact, I’m now persuaded that it’s a model for other countries," he says. 
  • Y'all know that November is not my favourite month ;) (albeit the last few Novembers, since I retired, have not been quite so bad).  I found myself nodding as I read Margaret Renkl's  beautiful, meditative "Ode to a Dark Season" in the New York Times recently. "At 58, I feel the throb of time more acutely with every passing autumn," she writes. (Being 58 myself, that line in particular really resonated...!)
  • Y'all also know that I love me anything that Dr. Jen Gunter writes (my review of "The Vagina Bible" here), and she has a fabulous piece in the New York Times on "The Ongoing Trauma of Prematurity," where she not only lends her professional perspective, but also her personal perspective as the mother of triplets -- one born & died at 22.5 weeks and the other two at 26 weeks, now 16 years old with ongoing medical issues and disabilities. Sample quotes: 
When we focus only on prematurity survivors, we erase that experience, for the parent and the child. Even 16 years later, at some point almost every day I think of Aidan. What I remember most vividly about his brief life is the volume of paperwork required to document three or four minutes of existence, and the pain of calling around for a mortuary... 
Unless we start taking about the realities of prematurity and stop sanitizing the experience with tidy summaries like most babies do “well,” nothing will change.

Friday, November 15, 2019

"Me" by Elton John

I posted this book cover on Facebook
with the caption: "Saw the movie... Went to
the concert.. Now reading the book.  Did NOT buy
the T-shirt... Those suckers were $65 each!!" 
When I think about the music that forms the soundtrack of my life, Elton John makes up a big part of it.  He was the biggest rock star in the world when I was growing up in the 1970s, and he & his music have continued to be part of my life in the almost 50 (!) years since then. I was 9 when "Your Song" became a huge hit (albeit my first exposure to it was a 14-year-old Donny Osmond singing it to an audience of screaming girls on the "Osmonds Live" LP, lol). "Daniel" was on a K-Tel record of hits that was played endlessly at the skating rink I frequented (also another Elton song, "Bad Side of the Moon," as sung by Canadian band April Wine). My Grade 8 classmates acted out "Crocodile Rock" as a Language Arts project.  And oh, the angst of watching the boys I liked slow dancing with other girls at our junior high dances to "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" or "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"...!

Later, as an adult, I was thrilled (after years of listening to Van Morrison warbling about his "Brown-Eyed Girl") that Elton wrote a song called "Blue Eyes." ;)  (Apparently it was written for his boyfriend of the time, lol.)  And I challenge anyone going through infertility to listen to "Blessed" and not feel like it was written just for us. 

(I could go on & on, but you get the drift.)

Having seen "Rocketman" earlier this year and attended one of his farewell tour concerts last month, I was happy to snap up a copy of Elton's memoir, "Me," the day it came out (but had to postpone reading it in order to get my various book club selections read first).

The movie was billed as a "musical fantasy" and it was interesting to read the book & figure out what was fact & what was cinematic embellishment. (No, he didn't stalk offstage at Madison Square Gardens & head straight to rehab in costume... although he did go to rehab & kicked drugs and alcohol after 16 years of abuse. Yes, his parents really were that awful.)

This book was frank, moving, insightful, witty, gossipy, occasionally catty -- and frequently hilarious. (I was reading it in bed & woke up dh -- I was trying not to laugh out loud, but I was shaking so much with suppressed laughter, I woke him up anyway, lol.) As one of my girlfriends (who also read the book) commented, "What a life he has had!" 

(ALI note: Elton's sons Zachary & Elijah were conceived using donor eggs and sperm from both him and his husband David -- they don't know which one of them is the biological parent -- and carried by a surrogate.).

If you're not an Elton John fan, or a fan of celebrity memoirs generally, you might not be quite as enthralled with this book as I was... but I absolutely loved it. It was SUCH a great read. I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads.

This was book #43 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 179% (!) of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I have completed my challenge for the year -- currently 19 books beyond my  goal -- and I have surpassed my reading total for 2018 by 16 books.  :)

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Found it! :)

I haven't posted a photo of my Christmas card choice on this blog for several years now... mainly because (a) I've used photo cards the past several years (there were some good ones taken of me & dh at the nephews' weddings, all dressed up) and (b) I've had trouble finding one that says "Katie" (to me, anyway). 

But I didn't have a photo I wanted to use this year, so I had to start looking for an actual card. And I finally found one that fits the bill...!

May I present... Christmas Card 2019:

(Note the three little birds in the Christmas tree -- i.e., one for me, one for dh and one for Katie.)

Now for our great-nephew to FINALLY arrive (official due date tomorrow!)(Katie's was today, 21 years ago...), and I can fill in the details on the accompanying letter, and start getting them ready to send...!

Monday, November 11, 2019

#MicroblogMonday: Waiting

Still no baby (great-nephew)... 

(And that's about as "micro" a post as you're ever likely to get from me!  lol) 

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

Friday, November 8, 2019

"The Home for Unwanted Girls" by Joanna Goodman

"Another tragic one??" one of the women at the last meeting of my library book club commented, as we flipped through our copies of the next month's selection.


Most of our book club's picks over the past year have dealt with some pretty heavy (even depressing) material.  "The Home for Unwanted Girls" by Joanna Goodman fits this description. It could be categorized as an ALI (adoption/loss/infertility) read, in part -- adoption, grief and loss (including pregnancy loss) are among its themes. It is also based on a true and shameful chapter in Quebecois/Canadian history -- one I knew nothing about before reading this book.

The title of Hugh MacLennan's 1945 novel, "Two Solitudes,"  has become a metaphor for the historically troubled relationship between English and French Canadians, and their social and cultural isolation from each other.  This tension forms the backdrop for "The Home for Unwanted Girls." The story is set in 1950s Quebec, which was ruled, iron hand in iron hand, by longtime Premier Maurice Duplessis and the Catholic church.

Our heroine, Maggie Hughes, is the oldest daughter of a mixed marriage between her French-Catholic mother and Anglo-Protestant father. As a teenager, she raises the ire of her parents when she falls in love with Gabriel Phenix -- a poor French boy who lives and works on the neighbouring farm -- and then becomes pregnant.  Maggie is ordered to never see Gabriel again.  When their daughter Elodie is born, the baby is whisked away to be adopted, and Maggie is told to forget about her.

But she can't. She and Gabriel marry other people, but Maggie never gives up hope that she will find her daughter someday. Meanwhile, Elodie grows up in a church-run orphanage, hoping that someday her mother will come to find her. The story shifts back & forth between Maggie & Elodie's stories.

I knew about some of the abuses that have been uncovered in church-run institutions, but I'd never heard of the particular brand of horror that little Elodie endures. Because of a new law that provides more funding to psychiatric hospitals than to orphanages, Quebec's orphanages are converted into psychiatric hospitals -- a move that enriches both the provincial government and the Catholic church. Elodie and thousands of other young "orphans" are declared mentally ill. Their education abruptly ends, and they are forced to help the nuns care for the other residents.

This is one of those books I'm not sure I would have picked up without the book club.  It was sad and sometimes downright grim, detailing the abuse these children suffered. There were a couple of subplots (one involving Maggie's father and Gabriel's sister, and another involving Maggie's uncle) that felt superfluous & didn't really contribute much to the book overall.  But it did keep me turning the pages (particularly once Elodie's story started unfolding) to find out what happened next and how it would all turn out. I shed tears in the final few chapters.

Three (3) stars on Goodreads -- 3.5, if I could assign half-stars.

*** *** ***

Sample ALI-related passage (marked with a post-it note):  Maggie -- who recently had her third miscarriage, post-Elodie -- is having coffee with her old school friend, Audrey, currently pregnant with her third child.
"Listen," [Audrey] says, "Before we get into things, how are you coping, Mags?"  
Maggie tips her head. "Coping?"  
"I know you're having a hell of a time getting pregnant," Audrey says, her voice turning sympathetic. She lowers her voice and whispers, "The miscarriages."  
Maggie flicks her ashes into the ashtray. "Where did you hear that?" she asks.  
"Oh, you know Dunham," she says. "Violet, I think."  
"I've had a tubal washing," Maggie tells her. "The prognosis is good."  
Audrey is obviously rooting for Maggie to get on the baby bandwagon. People seem to have so much invested in a married woman getting pregnant within the accepted timeline. It troubles them when it doesn't happen, as though some universally agreed upon contract has been tampered with or disturbed. Maggie can actually feel the unspoken championing of her success at fertility, the simultaneous panic if she were to fail. (pp. 163-164) 
This was book #42 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 175% (!) of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I have completed my challenge for the year -- currently 18 books beyond my  goal -- and I have surpassed my reading total for 2018 by 15 books.  :)

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

"This Particular Happiness" by Jackie Shannon Hollis

As Gateway Women founder Jody Day has said, "the room called childlessness has many doors." Some (like me) are childless because of infertility &/or pregnancy loss.  Some women never find the right man to have babies with before their fertile years are over.

And some are what blogger Sue Fagalde Lick calls "Childless by Marriage." They marry a man who doesn't want children. Perhaps their husband initially said yes to kids, but changed his mind after the marriage. Perhaps he already has children from another relationship(s), and doesn't want any more. Perhaps the woman didn't think she wanted wanted children either, but changed her mind. In these cases, a decision must be made: whether to stay in the marriage (which is often otherwise good), or leave and try to find another partner to try to have a child with while still fertile.

"This Particular Happiness: A Childless Love Story" by Jackie Shannon Hollis is a memoir that falls into the "childless by marriage" category.  Jackie's husband Bill was clear from the beginning of their relationship that he did not want children. Jackie didn't think she wanted children either -- until the day she held her newborn niece and was suddenly overcome with a raging case of baby fever.

The book spans Jackie's life, from childhood to the present, going back & forth in time to tell her story. It's about coming to terms with childlessness. It's about relationships -- with friends and family members, as well as partners -- and about building a satisfying and fulfilling life -- even when that life doesn't go exactly the way we had hoped or planned. 

My own route/door to that room called childlessness was very different from Jackie's, but there were many things in this book I could relate to. Jackie is just a few years older than me -- we grew up in the same era, and absorbed similar attitudes about what women's lives could be like. While I never lived on a farm, I could relate to Jackie's upbringing in a small, rural community. |We are both very proud aunties -- albeit dh & I have just two nephews, versus Bill & Jackie's 40+!! nieces & nephews together (including inlaws & "greats").

I could relate to this passage (which I marked with a sticky note), in which Jackie hosts a baby shower for Bill's unmarried 20-year-old niece:
"I can't wait to hold her," Christy said when she announced the baby would be a girl. "I love babies. I've always loved babies."  
"So have I," I thought. But her strong desire to have a child overpowered any worries that might stop her. Worries about not being with the father, or what she would need to care for a baby, or how she could afford it. This stunned me. How different we were. I'd always had reasons and worries to balance my wanting. 
I could also relate to Jackie's struggles with trying to win and keep her family's approval (particularly her mother's). I did not have as many boyfriends as Jackie did in her youth ;) but I recognized something of myself in her yearning for love and acceptance. I winced when I read about how she hung around her ex-boyfriend's apartment, begging him to explain why he didn't want to be with her anymore. (I'm embarrassed to recall that when my pre-dh college boyfriend broke up with me, I went through a period when I would just show up at his apartment -- "I just happened to be in the neighbourhood..." (often he wasn't home and his bemused roommates had to deal with me) -- and lurk around the building on campus where he had classes, hoping to run into him.) 

And (potential spoiler alert) I had to put the book down for a while after reading about the death of Bill's cousin's 19-year-old daughter in a car accident -- just a few days after one of my best friends from high school lost her 28-year-old daughter in a very similar accident. Wow. That one hit a little too close to home.

As I await the arrival of our first great-nephew, this struck a chord with me (from the closing chapter):
Leanne's girls turn to her for preparing advice. They'll turn to her for mothering advice. She's the one who's been through it.  
She buys baby gifts for her soon-to-be grandchildren and helps paint and set up the babies' rooms. I help some of the time. I buy gifts too. But I'm careful my gifts aren't too many, my offers to help aren't filled with my own needs... 
Wanting something deeply leaves traces, grooves for regret to grab hold of, even when the wanting is gone. 
I loved the closing chapter, and Jackie's reflections on being childless in her 50s.  Excerpt:
Women who are grandmothers say, "It's the best. You have no idea." I don't think they mean it literally. They forget that I truly have no idea what it's like to be a grandmother, and I never will. They're caught up in their own joy. I try to stay caught up in mine. 
They say, "I get all the fun of having the grandkids and none of the drudgery." This part I know. It's the joy I've had all along...
This book was beautifully and honestly written.  It's a moving portrait of coming to terms with a childless life. Overall, it's a great read.

Five stars on Goodreads.

We will be discussing this book later this month -- with the author participating -- in Gateway Women's private online community. (GW founder Jody Day wrote the book's foreword.)

This was book #41 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 171% (!) of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I have completed my challenge for the year -- currently 17 books beyond my  goal -- and I have surpassed my reading total for 2018 by 14 books.  :)