Friday, December 31, 2010

Year in review

I found this fun year-end meme last year around New Year's. I had already written a New Year's post then, but filed it away for future use. Feel free to use on your own blog (& let me know if you do!). Made me think! (& check back through my datebook!):

1. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I generally don't make new year's resolutions anymore -- as I noted in this post from New Year's 2009, they tend to be pretty much the same, year after year (erk):

  • Lose weight. (sigh)
  • Exercise more. (And hopefully lose more weight...!) (Abysmally failed at this in 2010; must do better in 2011...)
  • Write more in my journal (blog??). (I actually did keep a daily travel journal during our weeklong trip to Nova Scotia! Blogging: didn't quite equal the number of posts from last year, but still, not bad...)
  • Read more of the books that have piled up around the house. (Need to do better at this... the faster I read, the more I buy, it seems... yikes!) Tackle some of the clutter that never seems to go away. ("Some" being the operative word...)
In January 2009 (almost two years ago), I also resolved to:
  • Get our passports, & get travelling!! (done, FINALLY, this year)
  • Finally do something with the spare bedroom that was to have been the nursery (get new furniture & linens to replace the old castoffs). (ummm, still not done, but I may be getting visitors in the next few months -- incentive??)
  • Set aside the nephews' scrapbooks for awhile, & start a scrapbook for dh & me (that will hopefully be finished in time for our 25th anniversary in 2010). And maybe (finally) start Katie's, too. (anniversary scrapbook started, but has stalled out around the honeymoon... I hardly did any scrapbooking at all this year, sadly...)
2. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?

Got a passport. Went to Nova Scotia. (Although I don't need a passport to go to Nova Scotia, lol.) I'd actually been to Halifax once before, for a few days on business in 1997, but saw a lot more of the province this time.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No one close-close. You have to remember that most of my peers are well past their childbearing years, & some are becoming GRANDPARENTS (erk!). Dh's cousin's daughter had a baby early in 2010 -- the first baby of the next generation. That was the only baby shower I had to attend this year, thank goodness.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Thankfully (& knocking wood), not close-close. Probably the closest was my uncle (my father's half-brother), who died early in the year. Unfortunately, because of a silly family feud stemming from the terms of my grandfather's will, I hadn't seen him or his family in years, probably since my wedding in 1985. My parents did go to the funeral, but it was in Manitoba -- too far for me to attend.

5. What countries did you visit?

Went 20 miles over the border into the States for a family reunion. : ) Also went to Nova Scotia -- same country, but a province I had only visited once before (see above).

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?

More time (& energy) to get more things done. :p

A sunspot vacation. : )

A greater sense of self-confidence.

7. What date(s) from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

My birthday (Jan.12th), aside from being my birthday, was the day of the big earthquake in Haiti. :(

Our 25th wedding anniversary on July 6th, & my parents' 50th wedding anniversary party on July 24th. Our nephew's high school graduation in June.

The Winter Olympics in Vancouver in February! : ) I was so very proud of our country & our athletes!

The G-20 & G-8 meetings in Toronto in late June. Talk about a tension-filled week (not to mention an earthquake in the middle of it to boot!!). I was so glad to see it end. What a colossal waste of money (not to mention infringement on civil rights).

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Surviving a busy, turbulent year at work, including a new boss (after 16 years of working with the same person) and a reorganization (which included an upgraded title & salary for me!).

9. What was your biggest failure?

So many things that needed to be done around the house -- projects both large & small -- remain untouched. Also, I did not lose any meaningful amount of weight, & I had really hoped to be in better shape before I hit 50. :p

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Thankfully, no. (Knocking wood here) I haven't even had a cold in quite awhile, although my sinuses bother me a lot more than they used to. My allergies continue to challenge me, too.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

My new Toshiba laptop. : )

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
I can't think of anyone offhand. Sad, isn't it??

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

Politicians on both sides of the border, federal, provincial and municipal, and spanning the political spectrum.

Tiger Woods. The guy sets himself up as a role model... he's amazingly talented, he's filthy rich, he has a gorgeous wife & kids -- and he throws it all away for a series of cheap dates. How disappointing.
The ignorant commenters on any newspaper column dealing with infertility, who think we should all get over ourselves and "just adopt."

14. Where did most of your money go?

Beyond the essentials of daily living, and savings, probably into reading materials. We're both big readers & seldom leave the bookstore without something in hand. We also subscribe to two daily papers & several magazines.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Our trip to Nova Scotia. : ) Also, it was great seeing so many old friends & relatives, first at my parents' 50th anniversary party & then a family reunion the following week. I was really, really, really excited to see my three best friends (sisters) from growing up at my parents' party. All five of us (the three sisters, my sister & me) had not been in the same room together for at least 16 years, & I hadn't seen one of the sisters in almost that long. It was way too short a visit, but it was definitely one of the highlights of my year!

16. What song will always remind you of 2010?

"Waving Flag" by K'naan (sp?). "When I get older, I will be stronger..."

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?

(a) about the same, possibly a little happier. (b) I haven't stepped on the scale since before Christmas -- more or less the same (although I suspect probably more, erk!). (c) slightly richer, thanks to some diligent saving and investing.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Scrapbooking. Spent more time with friends.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Worrying. It doesn't help in the end anyway. (Remind me of that again in a few weeks, will you?)
20. How did you spend Christmas?

In Manitoba with my family (my parents, sister & her boyfriend).

21. Did you fall in love in 2010?

Yes, with my dh, again. : ) (Sappy, but true, lol.)

22. What was your favorite TV program?

The Big Bang Theory. Love that show! I also loved the new BBC Sherlock series, shown on PBS in the States and Showcase in Canada (Sherlock Holmes in a modern setting). Looking forward to more episodes soon, I hope.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you did not hate this time last year?

Hate is a strong word -- although there are a few people I like less than others.

24. What was the best book you read?

Didn't get to read as much as I would have liked. I'm reading Keith Richards' "Life" right now, which is pretty good. I REALLY enjoyed "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" by Alan Bradley, which I read this summer. Just an all-round great old-fashioned mystery with great characters.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I'm not much into new musical discoveries lately, and can't think of any new artists that particularly thrilled me. I don't particularly care for the rap & hiphop cr@p that seems to dominate the airwaves these days. I tend to listen to classic rock stations & buy new releases by classic artists, like Bruce Springsteen. I got his new boxed set for dh for Christmas.
Actually, I just thought of one: technically, it was from 2009, but late 2009. We went to the Vinyl Cafe Christmas concert in December 2009 at Convocation Hall, and one of the featured performers was a guy named Matt Andersen. A blues guitarist & singer from New Brunswick, if you can believe it. He was nothing to look at -- probably weighs about 300 pounds, long shaggy hair, wearing sweatpants (!) -- but holy cow, could he sing!! He just blew the audience away.

26. What did you want and get?

A diamond ring for my 25th wedding anniversary, a trip to Nova Scotia and new everyday flatware.

27. What did you want and not get?

A sunspot vacation (maybe this year?). New everyday dishes. (I have a pattern in mind & am watching for sales!) A party for my 25th anniverary. OK, I'm not really sure I wanted the party, but I was a little disappointed that so few people remembered our anniversary.

28. What was your favourite film of this year?

Didn't see quite as many movies this year as usual -- we were busy! Probably my favourite was "Toy Story 3." So many sequels are disappointing. This was absolutely wonderful. I don't think I've cried over a movie so much since "Up."

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I was 49 (erk!). Dh took me out for dinner. I started the day off by getting my blood pressure checked (you know you're getting old when...!). It was 120/80, woohoo!

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Seeing more of our nephews. They're getting older, working, going out with their friends. We were watching BIL's old videos at our oldest nephew's birthday party just before Christmas. I almost cried, seeing those two cute little boys again. It all went by so fast.
I've said this before -- I think dh & I were/are a pretty good aunt & uncle. But had I known that these two would be the closest I'd get to kids of my own, I would have paid much more attention & spoiled them even more.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?

Not sure I have one, let alone a new one every year?? Let's see -- I discovered the joys of Reitmans pants with the "comfort" waistband. (Shhh!!) I'm not much for wearing jackets to the office these days, but I did wear a lot of cardigans & sweater vests -- I do agree that a three-piece outfit generally looks more polished. And while I generally find the stuff at Old Navy & American Eagle too "young" for me, I did find some cute T-shirts for casual wear at both those stores this year.

32. What kept you sane?

Dh, weekends, & being able to vent to my online friends. : ) And the knowledge that retirement could be as close as five years away. ; )
33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Well, I still think George Clooney is hot. ; ) So's the guy who plays McGarrett on the new Hawaii Five-O. For female role models, I still have a huge soft spot for Oprah. : )
34. What political issue stirred you the most?

The G-20/G-8 summit here in Toronto. Yes, I got to work from home for two days, but it wasn't a holiday. My husband still had to go downtown, & I was a bundle of nerves until he got home at night. It seemed like the week brought out the worst in everyone. The bills, the intimidation (by both the anarchists & the police), & the infringements made on our civil liberties, were appalling. And it was scary how it all unfolded. You think you live in a free & democratic society, and then one day, you realize how quickly things can change for the worse.

35. Who did you miss?

As always, my daughter, and my grandparents.

I also missed my college roommate, whom I hadn't heard from in more than two years. Based on a similar period of silence in years past (although not quite so long), I suspected she was going through some turbulence in her personal life, but repeated efforts to contact her went without a response. I had resolved that I had done all I could, & that the next move should be hers -- but then, this fall, I saw her father's obituary in the newspaper, & I couldn't NOT acknowledge his passing. I e-mailed her with my condolences, & she e-mailed me back. We had lunch in November, and I am hoping we can get together again soon.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

Not exactly "new," but I got to meet two online friends from two different scrapbooking message boards this year. Both of them are from Nova Scotia -- I met one when she came here to Toronto last spring, & the other came to meet us at Peggy's Cove when we were in NS this fall. She & I have been on the same boards for at least 6-8 years (the original board where we met is no longer around & we couldn't remember the exact year!). They were both just as nice in person as they are online!

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.

I think it finally started sinking in that life really isn't a dress rehearsal -- this is it! -- so you'd better start enjoying it, even if you feel you weren't dealt the best hand. (Staring 50 in the face will do that for you, lol.)(Now that's a mix of metaphors...!) I felt like I am finally starting to gain some measure of acceptance about my childlessness, & a clearer picture of what the rest of my life could look like.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Another one I will need to think about...!

New Year's Eve 2007

New Year's Eve 2008

New Year's resolutions for 2009

New Year's resolutions for bereaved parents

New Year's Eve 2009

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Holiday reading: "Reluctant Genius" by Charlotte Gray

The more I read, the more stories of pregnancy loss & bereavement I stumble upon, sometimes where I least expect to find them.

This book caught my eye when it came out a few years ago, as I've read & enjoyed some of Charlotte Gray's other Canadian history books (such as "Flint & Feather," about Mohawk poet Pauline Johnson, whose "Song My Paddle Sings" was a staple of my grade school language arts curriculum). (Do Canadian schoolkids still read Pauline Johnson?)

But I wasn't prompted to pick it up until this fall. Just before our mid-September trip to Nova Scotia, Stuart McLean of the Vinyl Cafe radio show devoted an entire episode to the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island, which was also on our itinerary. He devoted a long segment of the show to his stay in Baddeck -- near the start of the Cabot Trail -- & his visit to the Alexander Graham Bell museum there, where he met one of Bell's descendants & was invited to lunch at the Bell family's Baddeck estate, Beinn Bhreagh, (which remains the extended family's summer home).

We were already planning to stay two nights in Baddeck, promptly added the museum to our list of places to visit, & sought a copy of this book at our next bookstore visit. I started reading the book while we were in Halifax. Then the busy season kicked in at work, & the book sat untouched for some weeks. I brought it with me to my parents' house over Christmas & finished it while I was there.

I didn't expect to find pregnancy loss in a book about the inventor of the telephone (among many other accomplishments). Perhaps I should have -- after all, pregnancy & infant loss was not uncommon in the Victorian era. Beyond his inventions, Gray's book vividly describes Bell's personal and emotional life. In particular, she shines the spotlight on -- and gives ample credit to -- Bell's wife, Mabel Gardiner Hubbard Bell.

Despite being profoundly deaf in a world even less prepared to accommodate disabilities than it is today, Mabel Bell was a well educated and highly accomplished woman, ahead of her times in many ways: among other things, she was the majority shareholder in the Bell telephone company, she financed Bell's aeronautical experiments, ran their large estate, and (gasp!) dressed her young daughters in trousers to allow them to play freely outside at their Baddeck summer home. ("His wife was pretty smart herself," the waitress at our Baddeck resort dining room noted approvingly, after asking whether we'd been to the museum.)

The Bells had two daughters, but two subsequent pregnancies resulted in the premature births -- and deaths -- of two sons. Sons, of course, were of paramount importance in Victorian society, and Mabel longed to give her husband a son who could carry on the family name and help him with his work. Gray writes movingly about the losses, and the effect they had on the couple. I was struck by how familiar her descriptions sounded, and by how easily I could relate as a bereaved parent and infertile woman:

After the death of their first son, Edward, while Alec was away in 1881:

"Neither parent found it easy to accept their son's death as 'the will of God.' Mabel struggled to maintain her health and equanimity, but was pale, thin and weak for months after the tragedy. Her mother visited her every day; her young daughters often caught her weeping quietly... Edward's death was no easier for Alec. He kept telling himself that Mabel had been well looked after during her pregnancy, and had he been close during the birth, he probably could not have done anything... He was never much good at expressing any feelings other than his devotion to Mabel... but he grieved for both his wife and the dead child... he quietly commissioned a photograph of his own deceased son, and then asked the French artist Timoleon Marie Lobrichon to paint a portrait from it. (There is no evidence that Mabel allowed the painting to be hung.) He also started working around the clock on a mechanical device for administering artificial respiration to patients with breathing difficulties. This 'vacuum jacket' was a forerunner of the iron lung..."
Later, Mabel "wondered if God was chastising her." She expressed feelings of envy & longing for another child in letters to her mother when two of her sisters had babies shortly after her loss.

The Bells' second son, Robert, was born prematurely and died in 1883, when Mabel was seven months pregnant. She began feeling ill, but her doctor assured her it was just a cold coming on, & advised her to stay out of drafts. She woke up later that night in labour. Alec arrived three hours after the baby did, from a conference he'd been attending out of town.

"He was saddened by the baby's death, but he was particularly upset because he knew how much Mabel longed for a son and he did not know how to comfort her. He berated himself so vehemently for once again being away from home during such a crisis that Mabel had to dry her own tears and look after him. He would brood for years on his lost sons, his helplessness in the face of their deaths, and Mabel's sorrow."
There's a suggestion that Alec blamed himself in part for Robert's death -- that Mabel had not yet physically recovered from Edward's death when she got pregnant again. After two consecutive premature births and losses, Mabel's doctor warned her she should not attempt a fifth pregnancy.

"Despite Mabel's hopes, despite some mysterious surgery that she underwent in 1891, despite assignations with Alec when she was convinced she was ready to conceive, Mabel would never have another child."
Later in her life, Mabel would watch wistfully as Alec worked on his aeronautical projects with men young enough to be his sons. The arrival of grandchildren helped to ease her pain:

"'All the plans, the hopes and the ambitions that have lain buried in the graves of my own little sons,' she wrote, 'sprang to life with the coming of each one of my three grandsons.' The granddaughters too got lots of attention..."
(The promise of grandchildren, of course, is of no help to women like me, who were never able to have even one living child.)

If you ever visit Cape Breton Island (& I highly recommend it!), the Bell museum in Baddeck is worth a visit. Bell is commonly known as the inventor of the telephone, but his interests and inventions cover a broad spectrum. Many were not successful at the time, but formed the building blocks for conveniences we enjoy today, such as fibre optic technology. He was initially known for his work as an educator of the deaf, and is also a pioneer in the field of aviation: Bell and a team of young flight enthusiasts built the Silver Dart, which flew over Bras d'Or Lake in February 1909, the first powered heavier-than-air machine to fly in Canada. The remains of a hydrofoil he built -- which Mabel herself once piloted across Bras d'Or Lake -- is displayed at the Baddeck museum. He was a founder of the National Geographic Society and National Geographic magazine. Believe it or not, Bell even mused about what we now know as global warming, & used the term "greenhouse effect."

Awards: Cherry on Top/Versatile Blogger

I've been privileged to receive a couple of awards from other bloggers over the past few weeks. Msfitzita at Certainly Not Cool Enough to Blog sent me this lovely Cherry on Top Award, while Rebecca at A Long & Winding Road was kind enough to bestow the Versatile Blogger Award on me!

Thank you, Msfitzita & Rebecca! : )

Cherry on Top Award: Here are the rules: Link back to the person who awarded you, and then pick five blogs to pass the award along to. Make sure to comment on the awarded blogs so they know they’ve been picked.

The Versatile Blogger: Here's how this works:

~Thank and link back to the person who gave you the award.
~Share 7 things about yourself.
~Pass the award along to 7 other bloggers who you think know are fabulous, inspiring and beautiful!

In my books, you are all fabulous, inspiring & beautiful, so consider yourselves tagged! (Yes, I know it's a cop-out, but I have gone long enough without acknowledging the senders, & have been finding it hard to pick 12 blogs to single out, lol. And I'll be publishing a couple of memes in the next week or so that I'm sure will fulfill the sharing requirement.) ; )

Thanks again!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Butterfly Christmas : )

My Christmas gift from dh. : ) Isn't it gorgeous? (Ridiculously expensive, of course, but gorgeous.) I knew I was getting something from Swarovski -- I saw him carrying a Swarovski store bag when we were both at the mall. ; ) I was a little mystified, because I'm not a Swarovski collector (although I know several women who are). I figured it was either (a) a piece of jewelry or (b) something to do with Katie (& yes, a butterfly did cross my mind). I was right. : ) And I was tickled. He hit it out of the ballpark this time, don't you think?

Not sure yet where I'm going to put it. If my newly minted Swarovski collection expands (hint hint, lol), I may buy one of those little glass cases to mount on my wall. But until then, I think I'll keep it on top of my armoire with some of my other Katie-related treasures -- a framed photo, two Classic Pooh music boxes, a baby bracelet & "message in a bottle" (both made at support group crafts nights) & a Boyds Bears figurine.

Despite a few glitches here & there, it was a good Christmas overall. I finished off one half-read book & started another (book reports to come later). I'm back home, but (happily) not back to work for another week. : )

How was your holiday?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmastime odds & ends

  • En route to our oldest nephew's 22nd (!!) birthday party recently, sitting beside me in the back seat of our car (while dh drove with his dad in the passenger seat beside him), stepMIL handed me a loosely wrapped package. "For the baby," she said (meaning Katie). "I got ones for the boys [i.e., our nephews], & for my grandson too." Inside were two sort of woven-wickerish tree ornaments. One was a glittering gold crucifix, the other a glittering teal blue-green butterfly. (I wish I'd thought to take a photo of them hanging on our tree before we left that I could show you here.) I don't think stepMIL has any inkling about the significance butterflies have for dh & me, and for the other bereaved parents we know, but it could have been a moose for all I cared. The point was this: she thought about our daughter, & not only that, she let us know that she remembered. She treated our daughter the same way as her other grandchildren (step- & genetic). It's not the first time she's done this, either: there are two other ornaments on our tree (both glass balls with painted angels on them) that she has given us in years past, "for the baby." StepMIL has her faults, but I am eternally grateful to her on this point.
  • My dad was wiping his eyes as we came into view on the escalator into the arrivals area at the airport this weekend. He is 71, & was recently diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. The dr said it was simply a matter of aging (although I'm sure being a lifelong smoker doesn't help). He & my mom are at a funeral right now for a friend, who died at 59 after a 15-year on & off battle with cancer. Another reminder (as if I needed one) that none of us are getting any younger, & our time together is to be treasured.
  • I am having a good vacation so far. It has been cold & snowy, but it's supposed get warmer & sunnier over the next few days (& isn't Christmas supposed to be cold & snowy anyway?). We have decorated the tree (& I've sniffled over the old familiar ornaments, & the box with our old letters to -- & from! -- Santa that's stored with the tree ornaments), finished & sent my Christmas cards, stayed up late (playing lots of cards & dominos), slept in, helped my mom bake, & probably gained about 10 pounds already from all the fabulous food hanging around. Saturday night we had asparagus chicken (my dad's version of a soupcan recipe!); Sunday night we had roast beef with my mom's fabulous gravy; last night, we had this amazingly tasty ham with scalloped potatos, green bean casserole AND perogies. Calories don't count when they're eaten at your Mom's, right??
  • I'm also trying to catch up on some reading -- books, as well as blogs! -- & am finding unexpected references to pregnancy loss everywhere. More later, once I finish the book!
  • The neighbours are expecting their two grandsons (one about 2 & the other about 6 months) for Christmas, & PND will be hosting her new nephew (oh yeah, & his parents, lol) on Boxing Day. I have no doubt we will be invited over to see them all. Both looking forward to it and bracing myself. Especially for my grandchildless mother's reaction. (Ouch.)
  • As I type, I am watching Ali MacGraw on Oprah. She is 71 now (!) -- older than my mother! -- & her face is lined -- she obviously has not caved to the pressure to have plastic surgery. I think she still looks beautiful. She was just talking about how women are fed this message that your life is basically over at 40 or 50. "What a gyp," she said. I -- less than a month away from my 50th birthday -- wanted to stand up & cheer. Thank you, Ali!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"We had a lovely daughter"

Last night was our support group's annual memorial candlelighting ceremony. It was well attended, perhaps the best-attended one we've been to in years. (There were three large wreaths with candleholders to hold people's lit candles, & they actually ran out of space.)

Four of our dearest friends from the group were there with their families. Among our five families, we have lost eight babies: four girls, two boys & two unknowns -- two miscarriages, two stillbirths, three premature births/neonatal deaths and one medical termination. We also saw several of our former clients, and other volunteers we've come to know over the past 12+ years.

For the most part, it was the same familiar ceremony in the same familiar setting from previous years, with the same familiar poems & readings. The same harpist who has donated her talents to us for this evening for so many years to provide soothing background music as we light our candles & say our babies' names. So many candles. So many babies. So many sad, grieving families -- some, like us, whose losses were years ago; some whose babies left them mere weeks ago.

And then at the end of the program, our mistress of ceremonies said she'd like to play a song for us she had discovered. I caught the name of the song -- "E.liz.abeth's" -- and the first name of the artist. He had written it, she said, for friends whose daughter had died of SIDS -- & who were deeply hurt that nobody would talk to them about their little girl or speak her name.

The opening lines were:

We had a lovely daughter
And we thought our lives fulfilled
From the moment we first held her
We loved her then, we love her still.

I had been doing fine until that point -- but within seconds, the tears were running down my face. I could see, in the row ahead of us, one of our friends, whose daughter was also stillborn, almost seven years ago now, putting her head on her husband's shoulder. I heard quiet sobs from behind me. I held dh's hand tightly and, with my other hand, took off my glasses & my fumbled in my purse for a Kleenex.

As the service ended & we were invited to share in some coffee and refreshments, I found myself facing another friend's husband -- another dad to another little girl who, eight years ago, was born prematurely & never came home. He always comes with his wife and other children to our events -- but he'd rather talk about anything except the reason why we're all together.

He looked at me, with his mouth set in a line & pain in his eyes, & said, simply and wonderingly, "So -- it's still hard."

"That song was a killer, wasn't it?" I said. "Let's go get some coffee." And we did.

As soon as I got into work this morning, I did some Googling. And I found the full lyrics, and the singer's website.

I think that song will stay with me for a long time.

We had a lovely daughter.

We thought our lives fulfilled...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Imagine this: It was 30 years ago today...

Thirty years. (Yikes. Am I really that old??) December 8, 1980. I was a second-year arts student at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. It was evening, I think, after dinner, in my dorm room, and I was wrapping up essays and projects before heading home for Christmas break. A lot of my dorm mates had already departed.

I don't clearly recall, but I must have heard the news either on the radio or on my little black & white television set: John Lennon was dead. Shot & killed by a lone assassin outside his apartment building in New York City.

Shock. Utter disbelief. How could this be?

As I've written before on this blog, the Beatles had been a part of my life for almost as long as I could remember. I was a toddler when they first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show & changed music history. Some of my earliest clear memories were Beatle related: going to see "Help!" with my mother (& dreaming for years afterward about falling through trap doors into cellars with prowling tigers, and having Ringo's ruby ring stuck on my finger), watching the Beatles cartoon show & later bouncing on the bed at my grandmother's house with my cousin Catherine, singing "YEAH YEAH YEAH" at the tops of our lungs.

Ever since their breakup in 1970, fans had speculated and longed for the day when the Beatles might get back together again.

No more. Never again.

There's a story about how, in the early days of Saturday Night Live in the mid-70s, producer Lorne Michaels invited the Beatles to reunite on the show. This Wikipedia entry says that John & Paul were actually together in New York that day & joked about doing it, but never did. Some years later, when the "Anthology" series was broadcast on television, a greying George, Paul and Ringo did appear together on camera, reminscing about the old days, which totally choked me up.

For the next few days, I listened to the radio endlessly & watched the TV news reports, showing tearful crowds, gathered outside the Dakota and in Central Park, holding candles & singing "Give Peace a Chance," as if it were a dirge. There was no CNN in those days (at least, not where I lived) -- not the wall to wall, 24-hour coverage such an event would get now (and the Internet was still many years away).

But there was radio, and all the local pop & rock stations played Lennon's music & interviews nonstop. It reminded me of when Elvis had died a few years earlier. But Elvis had been in decline for some years. His death was a shock, but if you looked closely, you could have seen it coming -- the drugs, the excess weight. Lennon was just 40, in the prime of his life -- a life cut brutally short. He was on the comeback trail with a new album, "Double Fantasy," after spending several years at home, taking care of his son, Sean. He still had so much to give to the world. Ironically, the first single off the album was "Starting Over." It seemed like a cruel joke.

How different might music, the world, be today had he lived? He would be 70 (!) now.

(On a different but somewhat related note, it's also 28 years ago today that dh's mother passed away at the far-t00-young age of 53. I never met her -- but I know our lives today would be very different if she were still here too.)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tree time!

We put up our tree this afternoon, while the first major snow flurries of the season accumulated outside, and the "Charlie Brown Christmas" soundtrack played on the stereo.

I was already in a happy but emotional mood, after listening to a Vinyl Cafe Christmas concert on the radio while we ate lunch ("you did it again, Stuart," I said, as I reached for the Kleenex at the end of the story of Dave & Morley's first Christmas), and while I love decorating the tree, bringing out the familiar ornaments from the basement again, there's a lot of emotion involved in that too.

I put my favourite framed photo of my beloved grandparents kissing in front of the Christmas tree in the place of honour on the piano, & shed a few tears over that. Then I started taking out the ornaments -- which, as I wrote a few Christmases back, are almost all associated with Katie in some way.

As always, dh got to hang up his special Katybeth ornament and I took his picture as he did it. I realized that I gave that ornament to him for Christmas 1986 -- 12 years before our Katie's brief existence on this planet. And now it's 12 years that we've been without her. :(

So there were a few emotional moments. (There always are.) Sometimes I dread putting up the tree -- it seems like so much work -- & trying to fit all the ornaments back into the Rubbermaid totes when the time comes to take it down again is such a pain. :p And yes, there's a lot of emotion involved. Every ornament I put on the tree is a reminder of the little girl who should be here, decorating alongside of us.

But it's never as much of a chore as I remember. And the end result? So worth it.

I'm sitting & looking at our beautiful tree as I type this. And I'm smiling. : )

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hey, the GG has a clue!

How nice to read in this morning's Toronto Star that Canada's new Governor General, David Johnston, has publicly urged the government of Ontario to make it easier for people in this province to adopt and be treated for infertility. (The previous GG, Michaelle Jean, also had a clue: at the time of her appointment, she spoke publicly and frankly about her struggle to have a family, and about her daughter, Marie-Eden, who was adopted from Jean's home country of Haiti.)

Johnston was chair of the panel, before he was appointed Governor General earlier this year. But even if he hadn't taken part in the panel's work, the new GG knows whereof he speaks. According to the article, "Johnston has five daughters and seven grandchildren. Two of his grandchildren were adopted from Colombia; two are the result of fertility treatment; and two came about through a surrogate mother carrying the embryos of one of his daughters and sons-in-law."

The Ontario government commissioned the expert panel in 2008 to advise on how to make adoption and infertility treatment easier & more affordable for would-be parents. The panel produced a comprehensive report & list of recommendations a little over a year ago.
Since then, however, there's been very little in the way of concrete action or evidence that the government is moving toward action on any of the panel's proposals. So this is a welcome reminder & endorsement from a high-profile Canadian.

My one peeve in all this -- perhaps a petty one -- is that every media story I read inevitably focuses on the adoption part of the report. Very little gets said about the recommendations related to infertility treatment, particularly the proposals to fund a limited number of IVF treatments. I suspect that's because, in the minds of politicians & most people who haven't had to deal directly with these questions in their own personal lives, infertility treatment is a controversial use of public funds, particularly in these harsh economic times. Adoption is a much easier "sell." After all, everyone knows there are so many children out there "just waiting" to be adopted (at least, that's how the story goes, isn't it?). (Aren't we all supposed to "just adopt" anyway?)

I'm not saying that's it's not important to make it easier for people to adopt in this province -- it most certainly is. We might have considered it more seriously ourselves, had we not already been in our 40s & the hurdles we knew we would face so discouraging.

But the panel & its report were about family building generally, not adoption specifically. Its mandate included the topic of infertility treatment, & that part of the picture should not be neglected. Because even if all the adoption recommendations are adopted, it's still not going to be an option that everyone facing infertility will automatically want to pursue.

At any rate, it's nice to know that the GG is on our side. : )

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Odds & ends

  • Oldest nephew (soon to be 22) recently got a tattoo. His second. Both times, his dad (dh's younger brother) flipped out -- & apparently he's barely spoken to the kid since the second one appeared. Now, I'm old school enough that I don't particularly like tattoos either. I wish he hadn't gotten them. But it's done, & he's the one who has to live with the consequences. I realize that it's a different generation, & it's probably more common for kids these day to have a tattoo than not. I think BIL has blown this way out of proportion. I so badly want to remind him that he has two beautiful, healthy, GOOD kids, and if the worst thing they ever do is to get a couple of tattoos, he should consider himself the luckiest man on earth.
  • Went to the mall last weekend. I almost forgot Santa would be there, but I heard a little chorus of "hi Santa! hi Santa!"s & looked over the railing down onto Santa's castle, & there he was, giving a high-five to a little girl, who was dressed to the nines, of course (with a long line waiting). I got teary eyed & couldn't watch for very long. It's still a scene that has great power for me.
  • I ordered a photo card for our Christmas card today -- using the photo I took with the self-timer on our 25th wedding anniversary. : ) I send out a photo card every five years or so. I suppose some people might find that a little vain, but I figure the families with kids shouldn't have all the fun. ; ) I agree with The Inadequate Conception, who recently wrote about how getting cards of only the kids drives her batty. Me too. I have friends who send me pictures of their kids every single year -- which is all fine & good, & I like seeing the kids (always have a refrigerator door full of them) -- but it's been 20 years since I've seen some of these friends!! It would be nice to get a picture of them once in awhile, too (alone, with hubby &/or the kids, I'm not picky).
  • I remember my former boss (who was also childless/free, although I never knew exactly why) telling me she & her partner used to send out photo cards of their two cats! Just the cats; no humans. One year, the cats were wearing Santa hats; another year, she hung them up in stockings on the mantel. Of course, the cats were less than enthusiastic, & they had to take dozens of photos to get one useable shot (& this was pre-digital), but the results were hilarious.
Last year's (2009) Christmas card
Christmas card 2008

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Black Friday

The usual stresses of late November have kicked in. I haven't been feeling 100% this past week -- I am sure AF is about to descend upon me at any moment. Christmas is getting closer (which comes with its own set of stresses) -- but before I can start worrying about that too much, I have to get through the release of our year-end results at work. One more week to go!

I've been given responsibility for securing & tracking approvals for our part of the company's annual report. Not the numbers, mind you (thank God!), but the non-financial aspects. And while I don't want to go into too much detail, suffice to say that it's always a stressful time of year -- & having a new boss with new ways of doing things and new expectations has added to the usual stressors. The ante has been upped in terms of the number of people approving the copy, and all the different parts of the release they're approving, when compared to previous years under my former boss. The e-mails and paper have been flying thick & fast. Sometimes I just have to take half an hour to file everything into folder (paper & electronic) or I would never be able to keep it all straight.

Friday started when I got into the office before 8. My boss was already there, waiting for me, & we were off & running before I'd even had time to take a sip of my tea.

At noon, we took a break for an office pizza party -- a surprise baby/toddler shower. A few months ago, one of the 40-something men in the office surprised us all with an e-mailed announcement: he & his wife had just adopted a toddler, a little girl, through the Children's Aid Society. (I knew they didn't have any children, & while we've never discussed our mutual family situations, & I was happy for them, I couldn't help but think, "Another one bites the dust...!")

Everyone was filing past my cubicle to get to the meeting room before the unsuspecting dad was brought in, & they were all asking me, "Are you coming? Are you coming?" while I was trying to wrap up some loose ends. Yep, just what I needed, more pressure (and for a shower, at that...!).

Went into the room and... his wife was there, WITH the little girl. I didn't know she was coming, and was she ever cute. Of course, everyone was remarking on how cute she was, how happy they were for the parents, etc. etc.

The gift was more for the little girl than for the parents -- nothing practical, just pure fun: a Cin.der.ella princess outfit (complete with tiara) from the Dis.ney store, with a matching Cin.der.ella doll. (!!) She put on the dress & the tiara & was flouncing around the room carrying the doll. She had shoes that sparkled & flashed lights when she walked, too. Never mind thinking about how Katie would have looked -- I myself would have KILLED for an outfit like that when I was her age!!

Of course, because of my apparent allergy to tomatos, I couldn't eat any of the pizza; however, the organizers had made a special point of ordering a sauceless ham & cheese pizza just for me! So I had two pieces while I chatted with a few of my coworkers. One had been to Nova Scotia with his wife the week before dh & I went, so we were comparing vacation notes. I've had sauceless pizza before without incident, so I felt safe, & thought I was fine. It WAS a little greasy & I felt a slight sting on my lip at one point, but I didn't think anything of it.

But when I got back to my desk awhile later, my neck felt a bit warm -- so I pulled out my mirror & sure enough, I was all blotchy red, including my lips. Go figure?? My cheeks were starting to feel hot & prickly, & there was a slight feeling of fullness in my throat & jaw area. So I popped two Benadryls -- something I haven't had to do in several months. (I've had a few food-related incidents, but in most cases, the reactions came & went quickly without the need for medication.) At least nobody noticed & I didn't disrupt the party. I e-mailed dh (who conveniently works in the same building as me); he met me downstairs in the food court, & we sat there for awhile until I started feeling a bit better. The redness disappeared within about an hour -- but then the grogginess kicked in.

Which did not help me when sending out a long list of approvals that afternoon. At the same time I was trying to send out a new batch of approvals, I was being interrupted with responses to the e-mails I'd sent out that morning. I was bouncing back & forth from one thing to another & back again. Can you say "distracted??"

I sent out one e-mail, then a second one.

And then I panicked, because I had forgotten to attach the PDF file (one page). So I sent a second e-mail with the attachment (apologizing for forgetting it).

Then I remembered that I had cut & pasted the information to be approved into the e-mail body -- and I wasn't SUPPOSED to send out a PDF, because it contained confidential information. (THAT woke me up again in a hurry!) I thought I was going to have a heart attack on top of the allergic reaction.

So I sent out an e-mail recall in a panic (only the second time I've ever had to do that, I think), & a followup e-mail asking the person not to open the second e-mail, if they did receive it.

Then I went in & confessed to my boss what had happened & what I had done, including the fact that I had had a food reaction & had taken some Benadryl, which was fogging my mind. I think she could see how completely stressed I was. She said it wasn't a big deal, because the recipient was high level enough that he probably had this information anyway. She suggested I go home, but I said I was OK & wanted to finish the job before I left. The last thing I wanted was to walk in & have this hanging over my head on Monday morning.

And when I got back to my desk, I realized that the page was password protected -- & the recipient wouldn't be able to open it anyway. DUH. Awhile later, I was able to laugh about it with one of my coworkers (who was also stressed, in a different way and about something different), but it was not that funny while I was going through it.

So -- needless to say -- it was NOT MY DAY. Black Friday, indeed...! (I'm not much for crowds, but I think I'd have rather been in the States, standing in line at 5 a.m. & elbowing my way to the bargains.)

(And if you needed even more proof that I am stressed and my hormones are running amok -- I woke up Saturday with a cold sore. Ugh.)

Dh thinks my reaction was more to the little girl & the shower itself than the pizza. I don't know. It could be. The worst reactions I've had have usually been in situations where I've been under stress of some kind. And they've often happened just before, during or just after AF's visits, although not always.

I thought I was safe, because there were no tomatos or tomato sauce (although I have had reactions when there wasn't a tomato in sight -- I've figured out that in some cases, it might have been certain spices that are related to tomatos -- including paprika, cayenne & chili peppers -- which may have been the case here). I thought I was OK with attending the shower, & was even enjoying myself. Maybe not. It's so frustrating not to know what's causing this!!

The last time I saw her, in July, my allergist recommended I try shots as a way of alleviating (if not elminating) these reactions; my family dr agreed they might be worth a try, when I saw him for my checkup this fall. I could have them done at his office, but I would have to go once a week for an entire YEAR. Obviously, this time of year is NOT a good time to start something like this, but maybe in the new year.

Until then, I'll just be hoping that the next few weeks (& next week in particular) go by quickly, & I can just enjoy Christmas.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Reality check

My love-hate relationship with Facebook continues, lol. I've been reconnecting there recently with some of my high school classmates. I graduated in 1979 -- 31 years ago!! (eek) -- &, like me, my classmates will be turning 50 in 2011.

In catching up with what they're doing now, they naturally mention their kids. While some of them still have children at home, most of them now have children at university -- and the ones still at home are by & large teenagers, not toddlers and certainly not babies. My friends & classmates are facing empty nests -- at the same time that I'm finally coming to terms with the fact that I never had a full one to begin with.

And some of them are grandmothers now too -- including, as I found out through the grapevine this summer, one of my best friends, who married while we were still in university and started her family a few years after we graduated. Her daughter is now about 23 & just had her first child. Two of my classmates got married right out of high school &, by the time we had our 10-year reunion in 1989, had four kids each -- I have little doubt that they are probably grandmothers now too.

The sister of one of my friends was in my sister's class, one year behind ours. She was pregnant when she graduated, at 18. When that baby, her daughter, was 18 & graduating from high school, she too was pregnant, making my friend's sister a grandmother at 36. If you do the math, that grandchild (and there's been another since then) is now heading for the teen years. Within my own family, my cousin, whose daughter was born when he was 21, became a grandfather at 40 (his daughter was pregnant when SHE graduated). (I would NOT have wanted to have a baby at 18 -- no thank you!! -- but there has to be -- should be -- a happy medium between teen pregnancy & no (successful) pregnancy at all, don't you agree??)

While I've stayed in touch with some of my friends over the years pre-Facebook, & already knew on some level about their kids growing up, I find myself marvelling at how quickly the years have flown by. I only have to look at our own two nephews, one at university & one in the working world. How the heck did this happen??

It's all driven home to me, again, just how rapidly my childbearing years are receding into the distance.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Does adult = parent?

I'm not sure how I stumbled onto Andrew Sullivan's blog, The Daily Dish, on The Atlantic site, but I enjoy having him on my blog reader (although I sometimes find it hard to keep up with his steady stream of daily posts -- especially when I sometimes struggle to post once a week!!). Sullivan blogs a lot about politics, current events & world affairs, but lots of other stuff too -- not only his own thoughts, but reader comments and great commentary from across the blogosphere. 

Today, he addressed a topic that, as an observer rather than a participant (someone who hoped to be a parent but isn't), I find fascinating -- hyper or helicopter parenting

He included an excerpt from a great article on "Modern Parenting" by Katie Roiphe that was recently posted on Slate (originally published in the Financial Times): 

This line in the excerpt that Sullivan printed struck me (added emphasis mine):
One wonders if family life is somehow overweighted in the children's direction—which is not to say that we should love them less, but that the concept of adulthood has somehow transmogrified into parenthood.
I'll buy that. Today, more than ever, more than it ever was in the past, the adult world is tied to & tied up in parenting & children. While I know lots of parents who say they still don't feel grown up yet, the general attitude seems to be that you're not really an adult until you're a parent. I remember recently reading about proposals to alter Maslow's pyramid of needs -- so that the apex became not self-actualization but parenting (!!). (This isn't the article I read then, but it explains the new theory.) (ETA: This is the article I was thinking about.) 

I have to admit, sometimes I don't feel a day over 21 -- & it's funny how quickly my sister & I revert to our childhood roles when we're around our parents. But I really (REALLY) resent the implication that, since I'm not a parent, ergo, I am not an adult, nor will I ever attain self-actualization or completeness as a human being. (This is 2010, people...!) 

And in the Slate article itself, this line grabbed my attention:
This fantasy of control begins long before the child is born, though every now and then a sane bulletin lands amidst our fashionable perfectionism, a real-world corrective to our over-arching anxieties.
"Fantasy of control." So true. And while I wouldn't describe pregnancy loss as "a sane bulletin," or a corrective to anxiety (more like the confirmation of it and the launch of your worst nightmare come true), it made me think about how pregnancy loss shatters that illusion of control & attitude of entitlement that most women seem to have when their pregnancies have come easily. There's an implicit assumption among most women (most people, period) that pregnancy = baby. Even if someone we know has had a miscarriage or other type of pregnancy loss or complication, it may register intellectually, but not in our hearts. We just blithely assume that that is something that happens to other people, not to us. It's a huge shock when the universe so cruelly demonstrates otherwise. 

As always, I zero in the parts that relate to my own ALI experiences -- but there is lots of other great stuff in there about the hyper-parenting trend. Have a read.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Better not pout, better not cry...

Sorry, Santa. The Big Guy is coming to town today, & -- despite the warnings in the song that I'd "better not cry" -- I am (as I am most years on this day) a weeping, melancholy mess.

Since its humble beginnings as a promotion for Eatons department store in 1905, the Toronto Santa Claus Parade has become an institution -- one of the biggest, longest-running & best-known parades in the world -- with more than half a million people lining the 6 km route and millions more watching on television, not only across Canada but in the United States and around the world.

Years ago, when Eatons was the sole parade sponsor, they would load up the floats on a train & take the parade across the country, to Winnipeg and then Vancouver. My mother saw it once, in the early 1950s -- her parents & her brother made the 60-mile trip to Winnipeg on the train for the day -- & she never forgot it.

And when I was about 10, she took my sister & me to Winnipeg for the weekend so that we could see the big Santa Claus parade ourselves. We were living several hundred miles away then, which meant a weekend trip, staying at one of my aunts' houses. We went to the parade with her & several of my cousins, & we had a blast. It wasn't the Eatons parade -- they had stopped the cross-country tour by that point, although they were still sponsoring the Santa Claus Parade in Toronto, right up until just before I moved here -- but it was still a big parade & a big deal, and a great childhood memory. (Funnily enough, my main memory of that day is not so much of Santa, but of seeing local children's entertainer Uncle Bob & Archie, & all the kids hollering, "Uncle Bob! Hi, Uncle Bob!!")

25 years ago, when I was newly married & finding my way around my new city, when the ads & news stories for the parade started in local media, I told dh we were going. "You want to what??" was his reaction, and that of his family members. "The Santa Claus Parade? Really??"

"Darned right," I replied. "All my life, I've watched the Eatons Santa Claus Parade from Toronto on television; now that I'm here, I want to go see it in person."

Dh rolled his eyes but we went. I can't vouch for him, but I had a wonderful time. As the parade climaxed & the jolly old guy in the red suit finally sailed past us, booming out hearty greetings to the children waving to him (these days, he carries a microphone in his hand), I felt tears stinging my eyes. (I'm a sentimental sap, always have been.)

About 10 years later, probably right around the time we were seriously thinking about starting ttc, we went again -- this time with two of dh's cousins, his brother and five pre-schoolers, bundled into snowsuits & warmed by thermoses of hot chocolate. As it was before ttc, stillbirth & infertility, there was no angst involved on my part. It was just all-round, pure fun being able to share this tradition with our two nephews and their cousins, and I am so, so thankful they invited us to share that day with them -- so glad we did it, & that we have those happy memories to look back on.

We haven't been back since then, but I still watch the parade, or parts of it, on television. And it never fails to bring me to tears, especially at the very end, when the band, on cue, starts up with "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," and the jolly old elf sweeps into view on his traditional float (may they never change it) with his 8 tiny prancing reindeer.

I don't even have to watch the parade anymore. Just thinking about the parade can get the tear ducts working these days, it seems. I had to discreetly wipe my eyes on the commuter train into work this week, reading stories about the upcoming parade; yesterday, I had to pull out the Kleenex when I opened the newspaper & found a full-page ad showing the parade route; at lunchtime today, I was making sandwiches when the radio news broadcast a report from the parade route (people had been starting to line the route at 7 a.m.) & dh said, "Yes, we can watch," I had to put down the butter knife & reach for the Kleenex. I have tears rolling down my cheeks right now as I type this, just thinking about it.

Dh looked at me, perplexed, & I just shrugged. "I don't know why," I said. And I've been thinking ever since then: why does the Santa Claus Parade, of all things, get me so weepy? Here a few reasons I've come up with:
  • It's Sunday. For another mysterious unknown reason, I often find myself weepy on Sundays. I've done reading on "Sunday night blues" and apparently this is not uncommon. Which is somewhat comforting.
  • It is a grey & dreary day, reinforcing a melancholy mood. It's hard to stay weepy when the sky is blue & the sun is shining.
  • It's November.
  • It was a stressful week at work, & next week is not going to improve.
  • I am perimenopausal, & PMS-ing. My hormones are running amok.
  • As I said, I a a sentimental sap. The parade reminds me of my childhood -- a more innocent, carefree time, rapidly receding into the past.
  • The parade reminds me that I do not have a child of my own to take to the parade and continue the tradition.
  • The parade reminds me that I should have had a baby in November & be celebrating a little girl's birthday right about now.
  • I remember in 1998, looking forward to the November birth of my daughter, wondering whether I would be in the hospital with her when the parade was on. I had a vision of watching the parade from my hospital room window (the parade route goes by several of the city's major hospitals) with a newborn in my arms.
  • We spent part of yesterday with my cousin (who recently moved to this city), his visiting mom (my aunt -- another reminder of my childhood), his wife & their little girl -- whose birthday party is today.
  • Being with my relatives, seeing my cousin (whom I remember as a baby) with his own little girl, reminds me of those long-ago days when we were kids together on my grandparents' farm, and how rapidly the years are flying by.
  • It reminded me of my uncle, his dad (whom he resembles), who was one of my favourites, & who died far too soon in his early 50s, the age dh is now, leaving my aunt a widow at about the same age I am now.
  • For several years, the broadcast would end with Karen Carpenter singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" over the production credits -- a song & a singer that both have the power to move me to tears.
I can analyze all I want, I guess, but the reality is, there is something about this day & this event that gets me weepy, and I'm not sure if there's anything I can do about it. Or that I WANT to do anything about it. Sometimes a little weep is good for the soul. Pass the Kleenex box, and have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Odds & ends

  • I still wouldn't say November totally sucks... but it's starting to head in that direction. :p
  • It's year end at work, & my new boss is stressed. Ergo, I am getting stressed too. :p
  • Katie's due date (last Saturday the 14th) was OK. Dh & I went out for dinner that night. Observing a father & daughter duo at the next table over -- daughter being just slightly older than Katie would have been -- dh observed wistfully, "It's when I see daddies with their daughters like that that it hurts the most." I had to point out to him that the daughter was actually completely ignoring her poor dad in favour of texting her friends on her cellphone, lol. (There's the fantasy, & then there's reality...!)
  • Found out today that our office receptionist (who just celebrated her first wedding anniversary) is pregnant with her first baby & due in early April. She lives in the next town over from mine, & will likely be using the local hospital (of which I heard many horror stories from our support group clients). As always, I will be a nervous wreck re: this pregnancy until the baby is safely here in April.
  • Another coworker who is a recent adoptive dad is going to be feted at a baby shower next week. (It's a surprise -- shhhh!) And they're serving pizza (which I can't eat because of my issues with tomatos). Double delight. :p
  • Most of my office social functions take place on Thursday night. Inevitably, they almost always coincided with our support group meetings, which were held two Thursdays a month -- which meant I either had to miss the party altogether ("previous commitment") or leave early (same excuse). Since we stopped facilitating the group last December, I was looking forward to going to the office Christmas party & staying as late as I wanted this year. (Which would not be THAT late, lol. But later than the last several years.) -- Well, guess what? The party this year is going to be on a Wednesday night. The same Wednesday night as our support group's annual holiday candlelighting service, which we never miss & love to attend. Figures....
  • We've been looking into taking our first-ever sun vacation in January or February. I dropped by a travel agency & came away with an armful of brochures/catalogues for all-inclusive Caribbean resorts. But holy cow, the prices are unbelievable. I know some people who take a sun vacation every year. How do they afford it?? Settling for three star vs four & five-star resorts? Last-minute deals vs advance booking?? Huge credit card bills??? (= my guess...!)
  • Any suggestions on good places to go? (countries &/or specific resorts) Dh would prefer not to go to Mexico (too much crime), Jamaica (ditto), Cuba (too much poverty) or the DR (ditto, plus there's cholera next door in Haiti right now). (Coincidentally -- or not?? -- those are some of the cheapest places...)
  • I've read a couple of good articles in recent weeks. Hoping to post some links for those soon (if not full-blown commentary).

Monday, November 8, 2010

So far, so good? (knock wood!)

I'm probably jinxing myself by writing this, but -- we're already almost 1/3 through November and -- so far anyway -- it hasn't sucked.

I'm not saying it's been a fabulous month. (It hasn't.)

But it hasn't totally sucked either. (Yet.)

This is unusual for me. In the three years I've been writing this blog, my annual "November sucks" post has become something of a tradition. ; ) (See 2009, 2008 & 2007.)

Of course, the month is far from over yet. Ask me how I feel on Nov. 30th. Or even after the 14th, this weekend (which was Katie's original due date in 1998).

But so far -- I won't go so far as to say "so good" -- but I'm hanging in there.

It's a busy time of year for me (which is why I haven't posted in more than week). It's year end (again), & I'm mired in the usual year-end stuff at work.

But it's not entirely business as usual, because this year, I have a new boss. Overall, we're getting along fine -- but she's new, & after 16 years of working for the same person (my former boss, now enjoying early retirement), it's a challenge adjusting to someone new. Someone who doesn't know the lay of the land and has lots & lots of questions & needs a lot of help, and relies on me for lots of stuff that I don't always have easy answers for.

It hasn't been easy -- but it hasn't been totally awful either. I think I've been too busy to analyze too much. (So far.)

The weather hasn't been fabulous, but hasn't sucked either, & that's helped. It's been a little on the chilly side, but not too cold yet, & no snow, which is a plus. (Christmas is not Christmas without snow -- but there's still plenty of time for that, lol.)

The time change kicked in over the weekend, & while it's been nice to have an extra hour of sleep, it's not fun coming home in the dark. But what little daylight I do get to see (mostly on the weekends) has been full of clear skies & sunshine. That makes a big difference, I think.

I got my hair cut, coloured & highlighted on the weekend. It's amazing what a little peroxide can do for your ego, lol. I may be pushing 50 and packing a few extra pounds (OK, more than a few...) but I don't think I'm a total frump. Knowing that I look (reasonably) good makes me feel good too.

And -- I'm off work on Thursday (Remembrance Day), & having tea with a girlfriend.

And -- I'm heading home for Christmas in less than six weeks.

And -- I've even already bought a Christmas present or two.

And -- my birthday is coming up. And even if the number of that birthday kind of gives me pause -- strangely enough, I'm kind of looking forward to it. It's still a good excuse for presents & cake & a steak dinner -- and maybe a day off from work to spend getting pampered at the spa : ) -- & maybe even a special trip somewhere that's nice & warm. : ) : ) : )

So even though it's still early going -- right now, November doesn't totally suck.

(Knocking wood here.)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Blogoversary #3

Has it really been three years since I started this blog?

Three years, 1,095 days, 462 posts. On average, that's about 154 posts per year, 13 posts a month, 3 posts per week or 1 post every 2.4 days. Not bad, really. ; ) (Can you tell I like stats?) I've enjoyed every moment of it -- not only getting my own thoughts out there, but getting to know so many of you & your stories. I'm particularly happy that the voices of the childless/free-not-by-choice segment of the blogging community seem to be growing louder. It's nice to know there is company on this road less travelled!

Thank you all for reading & commenting!

First post

Blogoversary #1 (2008)

Blogoversary #2 (2009)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Living outside the norm

Earlier today, blogger Andrew Sullivan responded to a comment about his recent posts on gay issues with some reflections on what coming out has meant for him.

I read his words -- & while I don't want to distort his meaning, or start a new round of the Pain Olympics-- on a certain level, a lot of what he said could apply to those of us who are also living outside the norm, albeit in a different way -- struggling with loss, infertility & childlessness in a world where most people become parents, take it for granted that they will have the family they want when they want it, & and usually get what they want with little effort or angst (& certainly without having to shell out vast amounts of money just to have a shot at realizing their dreams).

Here's a few excerpts (comments in bold & brackets are mine). Does any of this strike a chord?:
Being in a massive heterosexual (read: parental) majority where you don't really have to think very hard or deeply about your sexual nature (read: your fertility/ getting pregnant/being a parent), and where it is easy to drift along without examining core premises of your emotional life, can deny people an opportunity to reflect more profoundly about society and social norms or know themselves more completely...

...for me, at least, coming out (read: confronting my infertility/losing my child/resolving to live childless/free) logically demanded a much greater honesty about things in general, a much deeper awareness that established norms may not always be correct, and may even hide great cruelty or ignorance.

Read the whole post here.

Facebook and the great parental disconnect

In light of my recent post about Facebook, I would be remiss in not drawing your attention to this absolutely brilliant post Facebook-related post from Julie at A Little Pregnant.

Warning: may induce fits of giggles & extreme temptation to literally ROFLMAO. Not recommended for a cubicle environment. (I learned this the hard way.)

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Julie's post links to a story (front page in the print edition, apparently!) in the Washington Post about what happens when infertility collides with Facebook. There was more than the usual share of nasty comments about how we all really need to just "get a life" and "learn to be happy for other people." (!) And that got me thinking about a weird world we live in.

Our culture right now glorifies pregnancy, motherhood, babies & families (with two parents, one of each gender, & the minimum 2.2 children, of course)(preferably one of each kind). You can't walk into a newsstand or turn on the TV without seeing "baby bumps," pregnancy storylines, or at least one headline with the word "pregnant" or "baby" in it (often in screaming capital letters). Every other ad on TV features an adorable baby, someone announcing their pregnancy (think iPhone commercials), or kids & parents modelling some phase of idealized family life.

At every social gathering, the conversation of our family members, friends & coworkers revolves around everyone's kids. What they're doing. When they should be doing it. What they're eating. What the stuff in their diapers looks like, & whether that's normal. What they're doing in school. What they're doing after school. The cute things they're saying. Bringing up other subjects is futile. Inevitably, somehow, some way, the conversation will creep back to the subject of the children.

Yep, pregnancy & babies are soooooo wonderful! Everybody's doing it!! YOU should be doing it!

How many kids do you have? Really? Why not? When are you going to get pregnant too? (Better hurry up, you know, you're not getting any younger!!) Come on, my kid needs a playmate/cousin! I need a niece/nephew/grandchild/godchild/friend's kid to spoil. Don't you WANT kids? Don't you WANT to be like everyone else?

(Ummm, well, yeah. Not everyone does, of course, but most of us do. But some of us find that is a little easier said than done.)

What's that? You're having problems getting pregnant?

Well, hey, cheer up, you know, it's not such a big deal. Kids really aren't that great anyway. (??!!) Infertility is not the end of the world. Things could be worse. There are children starving in Africa, you know. (Of course, you wouldn't understand what it's like to watch a child in pain, since you're not a mom...)

Maybe you're just not praying hard enough. Or relaxing enough -- maybe you should take a vacation. Or maybe you just weren't meant to be a parent. (By the way, did you hear that my sister is pregnant again? It was an accident! She says her husband just has to LOOK at her & she gets knocked up! Maybe you should ask him how it's done, hahahahaha...)

Or maybe -- you should just adopt! Biology isn't everything, you know. There are so many kids out there who need good homes! You want kids? -- take mine, please, hahahaha....

Suck it up! Get over yourself!

The people who say these things, of course, are almost always either parents themselves(usually the biological sort), or have no intention of ever becoming parents.)

Please tell me I'm not the only one who thinks there is a HUGE disconnect here somewhere???

Either pregnancy & having kids really is as wonderful as everyone says it is -- in which case, you would think people would be more sympathetic to those of us who find it more difficult if not downright impossible to achieve something that comes so easily to the vast majority, and (as most of them will tell you -- in glowing, gushing terms) lends so much meaning to their lives.

Or (as I have heard some childfree-by-choice folk suggest) it's really NOT that great -- & all this talk about baby bumps & orgasmic births is really just propaganda -- an evil delusional plot cooked up by (a) corporations, who realize cute babies are good for business, & want to sell us more stuff, &/or (b) religious types who take their "go forth & multiply" instructions quite seriously. And when parents realize the truth, they go along with the sham because misery loves company, & heaven forbid we don't suffer dirty diapers & 3 a.m. feedings & teething pains (& later, stuff like teenage house parties, as per my previous post...!) along with the rest of them. In other words, their loud protests about how we the childless & infertile are infringing on their parental joy is simply a mask for a serious case of the green-eyed monster.

Or maybe people are just so unknowing & uncomfortable with anything that falls outside their own limited frame of reference, that challenges their vision of the norm -- that even smacks of something unpleasant intruding on the periphery of their rose-tinted glasses -- that they automatically shy away from it and fall back on platitudes to mask their discomfort.

Or maybe some people really are just idiots. (Another distinct possibility.)

What do you think?

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After writing this, I found a brilliant response to Julie's post this morning from Msfitzita. Go read it now.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Babies grow up to be TEENAGERS...

There are certain times when I'm actually glad I don't have kids -- especially when I read articles like this. Yikes!!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Keith Richards, bereaved father

I picked up the new issue of Rolling Stone to read on the commute home tonight. The cover story: an excerpt from Keith Richards' upcoming memoir, Life.

(As I mentioned in a previous music-related post) While I've loved the Beatles since my preschool days, it took me awhile to appreciate the Stones. Their music had a much harder edge, of course (especially to the ears of someone whose tastes ran to the Partridge Family, the Osmonds & the Bay City Rollers, lol). Their drug use during my teenage years (and Keith's in particular) was notorious... and then there was that business of the heroin bust in Toronto, where the prime minister's hippie wife, Margaret Trudeau, partied with the band at the Harbour Castle hotel.

But I started to like the band more in my high school years. I know most critics think their best stuff came from the 1960s -- but their three late 70s/early 80s albums, Some Girls, Tattoo You & Emotional Rescue, were an important part of the soundtrack of my life at that time.

These days, I think of the band, and Keith in particular, with affection. (One of my favourite episodes of The Simpsons is the one where the family sends Homer to the Rolling Stones Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp. At the end, Homer wants to know why they can't stay longer. Mick says, "The lawn isn't going to mow itself," & Keith adds, "And I have to put up the storm windows. Winter's coming!" At the very end, you see Mick mowing the lawn while next door, Keith is on a ladder, hammering in the storm windows, cigarette dangling from his mouth, of course, lol.) There's something likeable about the guy. He's so completely honest about himself. There are absolutely no pretentions about Keith Richards. He is what he is and he makes no excuses for himself.

Anyway, I was already looking forward to reading his memoir, which is due in bookstores next week. (You KNOW this guy has some stories to tell...!!) I knew he had two daughters with his wife, supermodel Patti Hansen, as well as an older son & daughter with Anita Pallenberg. But then, reading the Rolling Stone article that prefaced the book excerpts, I was stunned to read that Keith had another son with Anita -- named Tara (after his friend, Tara Browne -- heir to the Guiness fortune -- who died in a car crash & was the inspiration for the Beatles' song "Day in the Life") -- who died in 1976. Subsequent Googling tells me that baby Tara died when he was about 10 weeks old of SIDS, while Keith was on tour.

“Leaving a newborn infant is something I can’t forgive myself for,” says Richards in Life.

“The first time we talked about that," Fox [James Fox, the co-author of the book] says, "Keith couldn’t get out more than five words. Then we realised we had to go back to it. He told me that he thought about it every week.”

Who knew? Keith Richards is "one of us." I will definitely be adding this to the top of my reading list.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Facebook friends, & raising awareness

Last Friday, October 15th, was Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day. I'm glad that such a day exists, for obvious reasons -- but I have to admit, I really didn't give the day too much thought. I'm not really sure why. I guess it's because it's an awareness day. I most definitely agree that awareness needs to be raised generally about pregnancy loss, & just how many families it affects. But nobody is more aware of pregnancy & infant loss than me, or any other parent who has lost a baby. I don't need reminding that it's an issue. I think about my daughter every single day. Every day, I am keenly aware of how different my life would have been, had she survived. Every day, I am reminded that I am not a mother, at least in the eyes of this pregnancy-&-baby-crazed world we live in.

So I really didn't think much about the significance of Oct. 15th this year. I didn't have a post planned, forgot to light my candle.

However, the night before, I did post one of those status blurbs that was going around on Facebook. One of my friends from our support group had posted it, with her daughter's name, & I just copied it over & inserted Katie's name.

ETA: This is the status update I posted:

Tomorrow on Oct 15th, we will remember all babies born sleeping, or the babies we have carried but never met, or those we have held but could not take home or the ones that came home but didn't stay. Make this your profile status if you or someone you know has suffered the loss of a baby. In memory of Kathleen Maria Lastname --
& all her friends in that big playground in the sky. : ) ♥♥♥

Now, for me, doing something like that is about as open & upfront about Katie as I get with people outside our circle of friends from group. I've always been a private sort of person, & I find it difficult to speak openly about my daughter & what happened to us, for reasons that other deadbabymoms & dads will likely understand. It's most certainly something that I find easier to do online, in writing, versus face to face, especially in a group/family gathering situation.

So, I was pleasantly surprised when my post got 12 "likes" & four comments from my Facebook friends. Several of my lossmom friends, both IRL & online, picked up on my post & reposted to their own profiles, including their own baby(s)'s names. I expected that.

But what I did not expect -- what REALLY surprised me -- was that three of dh's cousins reposted my post, with Katie's name. And our dear SIL, who added, "to our beautiful niece and little cousin you are forever in our thoughts until we meet xoxoxox."

And most surprisingly & touching to me, our 18-year-old nephew, who also added hearts & a little smilie at the end of the blurb. (Pithy comment from one of his friends: "Well said, dude." lol)

I responded to him, "Thank you... it means a lot to your uncle & me that you & (your brother/our other nephew) will remember her."

Awhile later, he had replied: "[We] will always remember her." Well, that had me in tears.

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At the same time, though, I had mixed feelings, both about posting that blurb, & the responses. Awareness can be a double-edged sword. Earlier in the week, both The Globe & Mail and the New York Times ran articles on "pink ribbon backlash" and "pink ribbon fatigue" -- not from the general public, so much, but from cancer survivors themselves. In the same vein, I've also seen articles bemoaning "Facebook activism." The point being that it's very easy to buy a pink ribbon (or a pink teddy bear or lipstick, or whatever), or post a status update for the cause of the day or the week, feel good about what you've done, & promptly forget about it.

As the Globe article points out:

Facebook’s campaign that asks women to change their profile to add innuendos about where they stash their purses may lead to a quick chat about the quirky campaign, but does it get anyone closer to preventing or curing the disease?

Ummmm.... in this case, anyway, I'd say, probably not. ; )

Still, you have to admit, over the past 30-40 years, greater awareness of breast cancer has raised millions of dollars & advanced research on a scale that those of us who have been through pregnancy/infant loss &/or infertility can only dream of. Breasts have long been a taboo subject in polite company -- hence the silence around breast cancer which only recently has started to be broken.

And what's a subject that's even more taboo to bring up in polite company than breasts? Dead babies, anyone?

As Mrs. Spit recently wrote so eloquently:

I’m devestated that my son is dead. My heart is broken, even still. But I’m also angry.... I’m angry that babies are dying. I’m angry that my governments award niggardly funding to research, I’m angry that researchers and drug manufactures would rather cure toe nail fungus than deadly disorders of pregnancy....
Women and their babies are dying, all around us, they are dying while we live our lives. All around us are crushed and broken men and women, and no one has any answers for them. We live our lives while women and babies die, and I still don’t understand, how are we not rioting in the streets?
And that, that makes me mad as hell. I don’t want memory, I want action. I want women and their babies to stop dying.

(With all due respect to families affected by SIDS) I'm reminded of another article I read some time ago that pointed out that SIDS affects far fewer families than stillbirth -- and yet the awareness of SIDS, the preventative "back to sleep" campaign, & the research dollars it has generated, vastly outweighs awarenss of stillbirth.

I'm not saying that awareness & research into SIDS is not important. It is. I just want to point out that SIDS babies have the advantage because they were born and lived, if only for a few days or weeks. It's not as easy to pretend that a baby never existed, doesn't "count," when you've been to see them, held them in your arms, maybe even fed & burped them or changed their diaper.

I want that same kind of awareness for babies lost during pregnancy. The babies most people never get to see or hold, sometimes not even their own moms & dads.

I want kick counts (one of the very few tools at a woman's disposal to monitor her baby's wellness) to become the new "back to sleep." None of my doctors talked with me about kick counts; I was vaguely aware of them from reading, but most of the books I read didn't recommend starting them until the third trimester. I never got that far, & Katie was so small, I never felt a whole lot of movement from her anyway. But I know of a few loss moms who, in their subsequent pregnancies, did kick counts, realized the baby's movements were slowing, and got to the hospital just in time.

I want to know why it takes two, three, sometimes four or more miscarriages before doctors do more than just pat moms on the shoulder and tell them to try again.

I want to know why some jurisdictions don't even keep statistics on stillbirths, or do autopsies as a matter of course.

While I have mixed feelings about the effectiveness of pink ribbons & Facebook posts, I've come to the conclusion that they're better than nothing, at least in these early days. It's a start. Raise the awareness and the dollars for research and support will follow, eventually. A Facebook status update may be a small thing, but I'm glad I did it. I'm glad that I took one small step this past week to remind a few people that, even today, some babies still die. Mine did too. (Remember?)

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"See??" dh said to me, reading the reposts and comments my Facebook post received. "Isn't it healthier to let people know these things instead of keeping them cooped up inside?"

Well... I have mixed feelings.

Frankly, it took me a long time to decide to sign up for Facebook. I already spend enough time online as it is ; ) & I was (& still am) concerned about the potential for privacy breaches. And I don't just mean the very real potential for Facebook to sell my personal information (& that of my friends) to one of its clients.

Until just recently, I was able to keep my "real life" and online existences fairly separate. These days, though, I have my relatives, dh's relatives, high school & university friends, real-life & online loss friends, online scrapbooking friends and others on my FB friends list. I don't think I've had a group representing so many aspects of my life all together in one place since my wedding, lol. And there's been a few times in the months since I've joined that my real life and online existence have converged, or brushed uncomfortably close together. It's a small world, & in some ways, the Internet generally and Facebook in particular have made it even smaller.

If one of my "real life" friends or relatives got really curious, they could no doubt follow some of my Facebook "likes" & friends back to my blog. I first got thinking about blogs when a couple of our support group clients started talking about their own blogs. They didn't say a lot on the subject, mostly just that they had them -- but when I got back home, I input a few key words & names on Google, and found all their blogs in less than five minutes flat. It gave me pause -- but obviously, it didn't stop me from eventually starting my own blog. ; )

But when I think about it, I doubt that people are really THAT interested in me, lol. And while I'm not about to rush out & hand out my blog address to all & sundry ; ) & I don't LIKE the idea that someone I know IRL might find this blog, I think I've come to realize that it wouldn't be the end of the world if they did either. I hope I never have to find out, though. ; )
If you're on Facebook, have you also found your worlds colliding in weird (or wonderful) ways?