Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Getting the story straight

Women's College Hospital has been a Toronto institution for more than a century, with its philosophy of women caring for women. The hospital has long been known for its maternity care, & some of the best high-risk ob-gyns in the city practiced there. Over the 25 years I've lived in this area, there has been much debate about the future of the hospital; for a time, it was merged with another hospital in the city. More recently, the hospital regained its independence & women-centred mandate. The decision was made to close its in-patient wards and become an "ambulatory care centre" (continuing to specialize in women's health care). There was much to-do made over the recent closing of the maternity ward & its move to new, state of the art facilities at another city hospital, including a page one story in the Toronto Star about the last baby born in the old place, early on the morning of Sept. 12th.

Except -- as I discovered when I opened my copy of the Star on Sunday morning -- the newspaper's reporting was inaccurate -- and not by accident. The "last baby born at Women's College," noted with much fanfare, was actually not the last.

As a bereaved parent myself, you can imagine how I felt when I read that the last baby to be born at the hospital died shortly after his birth.

The reporter knew the truth -- but bowed to the request of the hospital's obstetrics & gynecology chief, who did not want to impose on the family in their grief.

“At the time of the move, the family was grieving acutely and we did not think it would be appropriate to approach them to gauge their interest in speaking to the media,” she said.

“I didn't want to get into reporting on a dead baby and thought the parents had suffered enough without having everyone in the city knowing what had happened to their baby, the reporter is quoted saying, by way of explanation.

The parents themselves have said they probably would not have been able to handle the media attention at the time, and appreciated the doctor's efforts to protect them from the media.

But when they found out about what had happened, they e-mailed the Star's Public Editor, asking that the record be corrected and that their son be rightfully recognized as the last baby born at the historic hospital.

As a journalist by training, the mother of a stillborn daughter, and a longtime volunteer facilitator for a pregnancy & infant loss support group, I recognize all the conflicting impulses at work here.

"I didn't want to get into reporting on a dead baby." Reporters are supposed to report the facts, no matter how unpleasant they may be. Every day, we read the most horrific details of murders, sexual assaults. But a dead baby? Well, that's the ultimate squirm-inducer. It only confirms just how taboo the subject of death -- and a dead infant most of all -- still is in our society.

"I thought the parents had suffered enough."

"We did not think it would be appropriate."

The main problem here, as I see it, is that both the doctor and the reporter -- both trained to analyze facts, ask questions and investigate -- made the error of assuming too much, instead of doing what they had been trained to do.

The doctor erred in assuming that she knew how the parents would react, what their wishes would be and what they felt would be appropriate. (Just as, in the past, doctors assumed that parents would not want to see or hold their dead or dying baby and whisked the body away for burial in a mass grave.)

The reporter erred in several respects -- by also assuming what the parents' wishes would be, by assuming that they wouldn't want people to know what had happened to their baby, by giving into his instincts to shy away from a taboo subject, instead of doing his job and reporting the truth. As the Public Editor pointed out, he also erred by assuming that a gravely ill newborn would not cry, & that thus, his lead sentence (referrring to the last newborn baby's cry heard at the hospital) was technically correct (it wasn't).

I am very glad that the parents, whatever their initial inclination might have been (were they consulted in the first place...), have come forward to correct the public record, to speak out about their experience & to express their pride in their son.

And I am glad that the Star has recognized and called attention to its error (although I do notice that while the doctor says in the article that she now regrets any distress this may have caused the family, nowhere does the Star actually say that it regrets, apologizes for or is sorry for its error...).
I know how difficult it is for people to hear & read about these things. Once, I too would have shyed away from the topic of miscarriage, stillbirth & infant death. But if you think it's difficult to read about it, or report about, or to know the right thing to do or say when faced with a loved one's pain, all I can say is, just try living with it....

I know how difficult it is to speak out publicly about our children, to face the scrutiny of others (among our family and friends, let alone in one of the country's largest newspapers). I'm guilty of staying silent myself, more often than not. As this story shows, it's all too easy for others who haven't walked in our shoes to assume they know what's best for us and how we want to be treated -- and for those assumptions, however well-meaning they might be, to be incorrect, resulting in even more pain for us.

But if more of us spoke out about our experiences, our feelings, our wishes -- and if more media told the truth about pregnancy and infant loss -- how common it is, how devastating it is, how others can help (and hurt) -- we might be able to make things a little bit better all round.

The Public Editor didn't note (& probably doesn't know) that October (which comes Friday!) is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month in many jurisdictions, with October 15th recognized in many places as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. This day is not currently recognized in my province of Ontario (and this story most definitely drives home the need for greater awareness...!) -- but there is a drive under way to remedy that. Click here to find out how you can help!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Perfect Moment Monday: Peggy's Cove Piper

(OK, so it's Tuesday, but who cares?)

I'm back! (Did you notice I was gone?) Dh & I were away last week on our much-anticipated Nova Scotia vacation, & we had an absolutely fabulous time. I had hoped to write up my 30 Posts in 30 Days entries & have them queued up to post automatically while we were gone, but ran out of time. The 30 Posts series will resume shortly, although it may be more like 30 Posts in 45 Days, lol.

Anyway -- our vacation was filled with memorable moments, but there is one in particular that I automatically identified as a blogworthy Perfect Moment.

A week ago Sunday, dh & I made the 43 km (about 25 miles) drive from Halifax out to Peggy's Cove, which is a tiny, rustic, 200-year-old fishing village (pop. 35) on the Atlantic Ocean. (SwissAir Flight 111 crashed in the waters nearby in 1998, & there is a memorial to the victims just outside of town.) The village, and the red & white lighthouse on St. Margaret's Bay (built in 1868), is one of the most photographed & instantly recognizable sights in Canada. I've seen that lighthouse a million times in photos & on television... and when we rounded the bend in the road & I saw it (and the broad expanse of the Atlantic Ocean beyond it) for the first time in "real life," I actually started crying. I think dh & I instantly fell in love with the place. (In fact, we loved it so much, we went back again on Friday, the day before our holiday ended.)

We parked our rental car in the big parking lot near the restaurant & gift shop, & made our way up to the lighthouse & onto the rocks beyond to gaze at the ocean. It was still relatively early, & there were only about a dozen people on the rocks (although before long, a half-dozen tour buses would roll in).

It had drizzled for most of the way from the city, and there was a light fog, but it could have been much worse. Hurricane Igor was brewing in the Atlantic, and while he was still hundreds of miles away (& would ultimately pass by Nova Scotia -- hitting the province of Newfoundland instead), he was already making his presence felt in the winds, the whitecaps out on the ocean, and some rather spectacular waves crashing on the rocks below us. I remember thinking that I would almost rather see this place in this sort of weather than on a clear, sunny, calm day. It just seemed right, somehow. We heeded the posted signs (see below) and stayed well away from the black rocks on the water's edge, marvelling at the beauty of the water and the granite rocks, worn over many centuries by glaciers, the weather and the waves.

And then, off in the distance, I heard a sound. The unmistakable wail of bagpipes. It was eerie and beautiful and entirely in keeping with the character of the place and the weather. "Now THIS is a perfect moment," I remember thinking. When we started walking back to the parking lot, we saw that it was a young girl, her hair pulled back in a ponytail, wearing a kilt. Her instrument case was open beside her, with a hand-lettered sign propped up inside: "COLLEGE OR BUST."

I grinned and tossed a toonie (two-dollar coin) into the case. She totally made my day.

You can find more Perfect Moments at Weebles Wobblog.

Monday, September 20, 2010

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 20: A hobby of yours

I first heard about scrapbooking from my mother in the late 1990s, I think. I used to keep scrapbooks filled with newspaper clippings, ticket stubs & programs from events I'd attended. I've always loved taking photos (meticulously labelled & put into photo albums -- although I'm several years behind on that at the moment...!), writing and recording family history, and I've always had a passion for pretty coloured paper & pens, lol. ; )

My mom knew this, & told me that the daughter of a friend of hers was selling supplies through home parties to make these amazing photo albums. She gave me one of her brochures (it was Creative Memories) & I tucked it away, thinking I should really look into this sometime.

In the spring of 2001, I stumbled onto a copy of Scrapbooks Etc. on the newsstand. This took what I'd seen in the brochure my mom had given to a whole new level. I was intrigued. This was something I knew I'd like to do. But where to buy supplies? How to get started? I find I feel most comfortable trying new things when someone shows me what to do. In April 2002, I wound up taking a one-night introductory course at the local community centre, hosted by a local Creative Memories representative.

Around that time, I was at the meeting of our pregnancy loss support group. We were having a "memento sharing" evening, where we talk about how to preserve our memories of our babies & share the keepsakes that we have. I mentioned scrapbooking & that I'd heard there were actually entire stores in the States that were devoted to this hobby. "There's one in [neighbouring town]," one of the other women told me. Really??!

I'll never forget the first time I walked into that store. It was an overwhelming, amazing experience -- like a kid being let loose in a candy store. ; ) I wound up going to a "crop" there a few months later, & although I have been in a bit of a slump recently, I have been scrapbooking ever since then.

On the face of it, scrapbooking may seem like a strange sort of hobby for a childless woman. It's such a mommy-dominated hobby, and if you look at any of the scrapbooking magazines or websites, cute kids predominate in the layouts that are shared. I've definitely felt left out sometiems at crops when the women around me talk nonstop about their kids (& sometimes ignore me after I say I don't have any). I've actually had people ask me why I scrapbook if I don't have kids, & if I don't have kids, then what do I scrapbook? (!)

My original idea was that I was going to make a scrapbook for Katie. But I knew I needed some pratice first (because this, of all albums, must be PERFECT, right??). Katie's album is still untouched, but I have completed several albums of baby & toddler photos for our two nephews, & a big fat album as a graduation gift for Parent's Neighbours' Daughter. (You can always scrapbook other people's kids if you don't have your own, lol.)

But of course, there is so much else you can scrapbook besides kids -- friends, holidays, your wedding, yourself. I know many people who have started a "Book of Me" as a diversion from scrapbooking their kids. Last fall, I started doing a "Book of Us," covering our days at school, our wedding, & then one spread for each year we've been married, including the best photos of us & journalling about the main things that happened to us that year & how we spent our anniversary. The idea was that I would have the album finished in time for our 25th anniversary. Our anniversary was in July, & I'm still finishing the wedding pages. Oh well!

For about two years, I actually got together with a group of friends from our pregnancy loss group one evening a month to scrapbook. We took turns hosting & providing snacks & drinks. I was the only one who didn't have a living child, but we all shared the bond of loss & enjoyed each other's company. Some of us were more into scrapbooking than others, of course, and eventually, a few people moved away, a few had subsequent babies & got busy, & gradually, our group disbanded. We still see each other & connect on Facebook, & I still consider those women some of my dearest friends. : )

Scrapbooking is a great way to capture your memories, preserve your family stories, show off some of your favourite photos, & indulge your creative spirit. Playing with pretty paper and glue makes me feel like I'm back in grade school sometimes. It can sometimes be frustrating when what lands on the page doesn't match the image in my head, but it's also satisfying to finish a spread, or an entire album. : )

The layout above is one of the wedding pages from our anniversary album.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 19: A talent of yours

Talent, eh? Let me think. I used to play piano, but I can't say I'm fabulously talented in that way. I can carry a tune, but there a lot of people who sing better than me. I am a fairly good cook, but I'm no gourmet & I'm not passionate about it. I am not in the LEAST bit athletically talented.

Writing has always been something I enjoyed doing, & I even found a way to make a living doing it (although perhaps not writing novels as I had dreamed). Doing things like blogging & scrapbooking help give me the creative satisfaction that my job sometimes lacks.

I will say that I am a pretty good proofreader. I can spot a typo at 20 paces, lol. I sometimes even circle typos that I find in books in red pen. I can't help myself. ; )

Saturday, September 18, 2010

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 18: My Wedding

We got married on July 6, 1985. (Yes, we just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary!) I had such a fabulous time planning my wedding. : ) The minister told me she'd never seen such an organized bride. For at least a year afterwards, I still devoured bridal magazines. It was hard to turn off the faucet once it had been turned on. And this was long, long before the days of "A Wedding Story," "Say Yes to the Dress," etc.

("A Wedding Story" became my guilty pleasure, my flight from reality, during the months that I was home from work after Katie's stillbirth. I couldn't touch "A Baby Story" with a 10-foot pole, but "A Wedding Story," I could handle.)

In the time since I had graduated high school, my parents had moved -- twice. The second move came just before I arrived home with a graduate diploma in my hand & wedding plans on the brain. Dh & I spent most of our engagement apart, me in Manitoba living with Mom & Dad and working on the weekly newspaper, & he in Toronto with his dad & brother, starting a (brief-lived) job with an insurance company. We were both so broke, I didn't actually get an engagement ring until just a few months before our wedding -- in fact, I picked the set myself on a shopping trip to the city (much to the amusement of the sales clerk, who enquired, "And is there a groom to go with the ring?"), & brought him back to the store to buy it. The limit on his credit card was too low to pay for it -- debit hadn't been invented yet -- and we weren't sure the store would take a personal cheque from out of province -- so our rings were paid for with traveller's cheques. : )

So -- where to have the wedding? We decided that, practically speaking, it should probably be either in the town where my parents now lived, or in the city. Unfortunately, the minister at my mother's church was decidedly unhelpful. He told me his preference would be that we find a church where we were going to be living, become members & show our commitment to that congregation, & then get married from there. (My mother, who had already volunteered many hours in this parish in the year since moving there, was not impressed.)
So the city it was. : ) (More & better accommodations for our many out of town guests there, anyway.) We checked out a couple of different reception venues, but I think it was my idea that we should have the entire wedding on the campus of the university where we had met, & where I had lived in residence for four years. It was "home" to me as much as any other place I'd lived in my life before that. We met with the chaplain at the Anglican-affiiliated college chapel, & SHE said, "I'd be happy to marry you." She even recommended an Engaged Encounter weekend retreat for us that we could attend on a weekend when dh was visiting, in lieu of regular premarital classes.
(I told dh he had to tell his (very Catholic) Italian father that we would be married by a female priest. I wanted to be absolutely sure this would be OK with him. So I wasn't prepared for FIL's reaction when we walked into the chapel for the rehearsal: "The priest is a woman??" Fortunately, he was OK with it. Surprised, but OK.)
We booked the reception for one of the rooms (normally part of the cafeteria) in the student union building. (The photographer for the student newspaper took our wedding photos, & the guy who'd done my hair for most of the time I'd lived on campus did my hair.) We didn't know until the day itself that the floor-length windows actually slid open. They were surrounded by shrubbery, & it felt like an outdoor wedding.
We had chicken cordon bleu with potatos rissole & mixed vegetables for dinner, and fresh strawberries for dessert. Our colour scheme was "dusty rose" (all the rage in 1985), grey & white. We had pink & white carnations on the tables with white tablecloths & pink napkins. My bridesmaids -- my sister (maid of honour), my best friend from childhood & my best friend from university -- wore dusty rose dresses & carried arm bouquets of white roses. My bouquet was a cascade of pink & white roses. (The florist was a friend of my aunt's who gave us a good deal.) The guys wore dark grey morning coats with light grey vests underneath & pinstriped grey pants.
I had had an image in my head of my dream dress, fuelled by browsing countless bridal magazines. (I had actually seen one I fell in love with, but it was well over $1,000 dollars, which seemed like a horrendous amount of money to me then.) It would be white or slightly off white, ballerina length (no train), plain satin or taffeta with a scooped neckline & short sleeves, and a fingertip veil. The dress I wound up with had a huge long train with a veil that completely covered the train. The appliques on the veil matched the appliques on the dress. I'd only tried on about four dresses, but we looked at it & even though it looked nothing like the dress of my dreams, we knew it was "the one." And the price was right. The dress was $298 and the veil was $99. Seemed ridiculous that the veil cost 1/3 as much as the dress, but what the heck. ; )
My bridesmaid/best friend from childhood was also getting married that summer, & we spent the May long weekend visiting her parents & baking her mom's fruitcake, which we froze, then cut, wrapped & served at my wdding. We rented a fake cake from Safeway to have at the reception (I bought the topper).
I can't remember how many people we invited, but the only people from dh's list who made the trip were his dad, brother & two cousins who were in the wedding party. We wound up with 126 people, all from my side. And it felt like they were all looking at me when the doors to the chapel swung open & I walked in with my father. I took a deep breath -- at the exact moment the photographer took a photo (ugh).
Our wedding service was from the Book of Alternate Services, which the minister preferred over the beautiful old Book of Common Prayer. Both my godmothers did Bible readings. We entered to Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" & left to "Trumpet Voluntary," which Prince Charles & Lady Diana Spencer had used as the processional for their wedding a few years earlier. My bridesmaid's sister, who has a beautiful, trained voice, sang "O Perfect Love" & "The Wedding Song (There is Love)" (which it seemed no 1970s or early 1980s wedding could be without).
I was fine until, exiting the chapel & forming a reception line, I noticed all my bridesmaids & my parents wiping their eyes. Then I started crying too.
We took photos in front of the beautiful old administration building, across the road from the student union building where the reception was being held. It was a hot, hot day, & the sun was so bright, you can see us all squinting in many of the photos. There was some kind of conference going on in the student union building that was just letting out. "Look, it's a wedding!" I heard people say. Out came THEIR cameras, & they started snapping too. It's funny to think that my wedding is in some stranger's vacation album.
Our first dance was to "You & I" by Eddie Rabbitt & Crystal Gayle (which, in retrospect, seemed strangely prophetic, with lyrics that repeat the phrase "Just you & I..." over & over again). The evening whizzed by, too fast. Dh & I tossed the bouquet & garter & left (almost unnoticed by the time we made our way out the door), & drove away in his rental car (nothing fancy), my veil flapping in the breeze. I could hear Billy Idol singing "Mony Mony" as we did. ; )
We spent the night downtown at at the city's best hotel. The next day we went back to the hotel where most of the guests were staying, picked up dh's family & then drove out to my parents. Traditionally, Ukrainian weddings are followed by a "day after" gathering, & my parents invited a whole bunch of people to come, eat, visit some more & watch us open our wedding gifts (although, true to Ukrainian & Italian tradition, most of the gifts were received were cash & cheques).
We left the next day on our honeymoon -- a week in Calgary (during Stampede time!), Banff & Jasper -- before flying to Toronto to start our new life together.

Friday, September 17, 2010

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 17: An art piece

I have to admit that I don't know a whole lot about art, but I do appreciate a nice painting. I tend to be more traditionalist than modern in my tastes. I enjoy visiting art galleries occasionally, & I feel very lucky, living where I do, to have access to two great ones: the Art Gallery of Ontario and the McMichael Gallery, which features work by Canadian artists exclusively and is home to the country's finest collection of Group of Seven artwork, which often featured Canadian landscapes.
I don't have a particular favourite Group of Seven painting, but this is one that caught my eye while scanning images on Google (!). It's called Red Maple by A.Y. Jackson.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 16: A song that makes you cry (or nearly)

I could think of several items for this category. Hymns from church -- traditional hymns, the ones I heard as a I child (& can often still sing without looking at the hymn book), very often make me choke up to the point that I can't sing anymore, just mouth the words.

All I need to do is hear the opening notes of Tara's Theme, the theme song from "Gone With the Wind" -- as I did yesterday, when Turner Classic Movies showed a promo for an upcoming showing of the movie (one of my all-time favourites) -- & I am reaching for the Kleenex box.

On our upcoming trip, dh & I are planning to spend some time in Cape Breton Island, a hotbed of Celtic music, which often has the power to move me to tears. Maybe it speaks to my Scots-Irish genes. Maybe it's the connection to my childhood. Which may seem odd, because I grew up on the Canadian Prairies -- but, until I was 14, we had but ONE television channel -- the CBC (something kids today, or those, like dh, who grew up closer to the border & American TV stations, find incomprehensible). And so I grew up listening to a healthy dose of "Don Messer's Jubilee" and "Singalong Jubilee" and "The Irish Rovers" -- with singers like Catherine McKinnon & John Allen Cameron.

One of the office towers close to where I work regularly has lunchtime concerts and, a few years ago, I stumbled onto a concert by Men of the Deeps -- a group of singing coal miners from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, whom I'd seen before on television with another East Coast music legend, Rita MacNeil. Listening to these these big, burly men -- all retired or working Nova Scotian coal miners -- wearing helmets and work shirts and singing in perfect harmony -- touched something deep within me. Tears rolled down my face. They've been back a couple of times since then, & I always carve time out of my busy day to get away to see them. And I always cry.

Here's an amateur video of them with the Cape Breton Symphony, singing one of Rita MacNeil's songs, Working Man. They've often performed it with her (& there are videos of that, too), but this was the only video I could find of them singing it themselves, as I saw them (although they didn't have an orchestra with them then -- & to be honest, & no offense to the orchestra, but I think the orchestra actually detracts from the beauty of their voices a bit...!).

The Men of the Deeps sing another Rita MacNeil song that was also recorded by another wonderful Celtic group, The Rankin Family. It too moves me to tears -- not only because of the beauty of their voices and harmonies, but just read the lyrics (beautiful, but like salt in an infertile's wounded heart)...!:

When the waves roll on over the waters
And the ocean cries
We look to our sons and daughters
To explain our lives
As if a child could tell us why

That as sure as the sunrise
As sure as the sea
As sure as the wind in the trees
We rise again in the faces
of our children
We rise again in the voices of our song
We rise again in the waves out on the ocean
And then we rise again

When the light goes dark with the forces of creation
Across a stormy sky
We look to reincarnation to explain our lives
As if a child could tell us why

That as sure as the sunrise
As sure as the sea
As sure as the wind in the trees
We rise again in the faces
of our children
We rise again in the voices of our song
We rise again in the waves out on the ocean
And then we rise again

We rise again in the faces
of our children
We rise again in the voices of our song
We rise again in the waves out on the ocean
And then we rise again.

Here's a video of the Rankins' version of the song (made all the more poignant by the presence of John Morris Rankin, killed in a car accident on a slippery coastal road in January 2000):

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 15: Your Dream House

I wish I had a picture I could point to & simply says, "There," to this question. I love houses. I love looking at home magazines, & touring model homes, even ones that are unquestionably beyond our budget. There are lots of homes that I like, & I don't think that any one of them could be my one "dream home." Even if I had a home designed to my exact specifications, I'm sure I could walk into someone else's house & immediately find something that I liked, envied, or wished that I had in my own home.

We bought this house 20 years ago, thinking we would only be here five years or so before moving on to something bigger to accommodate an expanding family. (Dream on...) We've talked on & off about moving. Our house is only about 1,400 square feet -- big enough for two people, surely, but whenever we have visitors, it suddenly feels cramped. The big back yard, which we thought would be perfect for children, is seldom used. It gets the hot afternoon sun, dh grumbles about having to mow it, & we'd both rather be inside with our nose in a book than outside weeding & puttering in a garden.

The house is getting older & needs repairs & other upkeep. The downstairs carpets are getting worn, & the kitchen needs, if not a complete overhaul, definitely a refresh.There never seems to be enough storage (a problem common to most houses, I think...!) I don't like that the front door basically opens into our living room, & how shoes & boots pile up in the tiny foyer. What was considered a luxury for smaller, cheaper houses like ours -- like spacious entrances with large closets, large master bedrooms with walk-in closets & ensuite bathrooms, now seem to be standard fixtures in newer houses. (Of course, you don't see a lot of 1,400 square foot homes being built these days -- unless maybe they're condos...)

On the plus side, the location is unbeatable. We're in a slightly older (25 years-ish) but still nice suburb, surrounded by houses that are larger & more expensive than ours. We're a short walk away from public transit, a plaza with many amenities (supermarket, drugstore, dry cleaner, hair salon, pizza & subway outlets, etc.), both public and Catholic elementary & high schools (not that it matters to us... but it may to any potential future owners...), and a short drive to the mall and the commuter train to the city.

We may not use the backyard very much, & dh may grumble about having to mow it, but I like all the trees, & I like having some extra space around me, so that the neighbours aren't right on top of us. Our lot is one of the biggest ones on the street. Newer houses' backyards these days are just a fraction the size of ours. And even though the afternoon sun bakes the backyard, it also floods into our living room in a way that warms & brightens the mood -- & my spirits.

I still like my little house. (For one thing, it's paid for, lol.) ; ) A visiting friend once called our house "cozy & comfortable," & to me, that was the ultimate compliment. The pristine houses that I see in some of the decorating magazines with all-white walls, leather sofas & glass tables, no television sets and nary a knickknack to be seen, seem sterile and bland. There has to be a happy medium between minimalism and clutter.

Even though my kitchen cupboards are scratched and sagging (I hate the chipboard shelves inside), I love the warm wood tones. The previous owners carried the wood theme through with wooden tongue & groove wainscotting in the dining nook, stained to match the cupboards. Maybe it's a little dated, too countryish for modern tastes, but I still love it.

Nevertheless, if I was building a custom home, money no object, here are some of the things I'd love to see in it:
  • a large, treed, waterfront lot
  • large kitchen that opens to a family room, with lots of solid wooden cabinets & a pantry (preferably walk in, like my grandma's), and an island or breakfast counter
  • fireplace
  • lots of built-in bookshelves -- maybe in a dedicated library or office space?
  • a scrapbooking room with lots of natural light & all the built-in storage I need : )
  • a large foyer/mudroom with ample closet space to hang coats & put shoes.
  • a finished laundry room (dont' care if it's in the basement or main floor)
  • a main floor bathroom
  • master bedroom with an ensuite bathroom, large walk-in closet, big enough to hold all my clothes (right now, they're in every bedroom closet in the house), and maybe a deck with French doors

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Article: On not returning to normal

The New York Times had an interesting article (part of its forum The Stone, which discusses philosophy issues) a few days ago. It used the example of 9-11-01 to talk about resilience & "returning to normal" after a catastrophic event or emergency -- including the questions of whether that's possible, or even desirable.

As I read it (of course), I kept thinking about how so much of what was being said could apply to life after the cataclysm of pregnancy loss, too. Well-meaning family members, friends & coworkers often seem to want nothing more than to see us get "back to normal" -- when most of us know that there is no such thing as "normal" anymore, & that we have been forever changed by our experiences -- sometimes more or less visibly than others.

Political theorists, lawyers and policy-makers sometimes assume that responses to emergency should — morally should — aim at a speedy return to a “normal” that predated the emergency. This is implicit in the metaphor of resilience often used by officials for emergency response. “Resilience” suggests that the preferred aftermath of an emergency is quickly regaining one’s former shape, bouncing back. Presumably it is possible to bounce back with a few permanent bumps or scars, but at the limit we might speak of an invisible mending ideal of emergency response: when the response is genuinely successful, the effects of the emergency entirely disappear: before and after are indistinguishable...

Aiming simply to return to a former normality can have an unwelcome complacency about it, sometimes a defiant complacency. A determination to go on exactly as before —just to spite an enemy or attacker or simply a critic — is a recognizable human response to attack, enmity or criticism. Perhaps it also displays a kind of resilience. But unless continuity has a significant value of its own, the determination to go on exactly as before may have little to be said for it. Emergencies may better be seen as occasions for fresh starts and rethinking. Because they take life and make death vivid for those who survive emergencies, they properly prompt people to appraise lives that are nearly cut short. ...

September 11 caused many people to take stock of their lives, and many governments to reappraise their priorities in foreign policy. Not every such reappraisal has led to better lives or better policies. But there is something important about the opportunity that emergency offers for not going on in the same old way. For us to break from our past because of an emergency is not at all for us to be broken by an emergency...

What do you think? Read the full article here.

Bloggers in the news : )

I was watching the suppertime news last night on the local CBC channel when they announced an upcoming story on pre-ecclampsia. My ears always prick up whenever I hear anything to do with infertility or pregnancy loss issues, so I stayed tuned. And who should come onto the screen but a familiar-looking face? It took me only a split second to recognize & gasp out the name of Mrs. Spit.

Mrs. Spit was talking about pre-eclampsia -- which killed her son, Gabriel, & almost took her life as well -- because researchers at the University of Alberta have discovered a way to test pregnant women for preeclampsia at 15 weeks -- thereby enabling them to receive specialized care & monitoring, reducing complications and, hopefully, paving the way for a cure.

Did you know that, in Canada alone, an estimated 13,000 women experience pre-eclampsia every year?

While any research that would reduce pregnancy & maternal loss is welcome news, this story has special meaning for me too. I did not have pre-ecclampsia with Katie -- but I had always heard vague stories that my mother had had "a hard time" when I was born (full term), almost 50 years ago now. I did not realize until just a few years ago that she had actually had pre-ecclampsia. (As a result, her next pregnancy was monitored, & my younger sister born, at a hospital in the city, about an hour away.) "We both almost didn't make it," my mother said matter of factly.

Needless to say, I'm glad we both did.

Thank you, U of A. And thank you, Mrs. Spit, for speaking out about your experiences.

Mrs. Spit has posted some links to the relevant news stories & video clips on her blog, here

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 14: A non-fictional book

I actually read a lot of non-fiction, probably more so than fiction (although I've been reading more fiction lately . I especially like biographies & memoirs (with a special weakness for Hollywood actors & actresses and British royalty), although I also read about history & politics, self-help topics and women's issues, and assorted other stuff. Since infertility & pregnancy loss entered my life, I devour books on that topic, too.

Some of the non-fiction books in my current gargantuan to-read pile(s) -- which gives you an idea of my varied interests -- include:
  • The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (half finished from my vacation in July)
  • True Compass by Edward M. Kennedy (started last fall, still to be finished...!)
  • Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter by Randy L. Schmidt
  • Composed by Roseanne Cash
  • Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson (about the hurricane that destroyed Galveston, Texas in 1900)
  • Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer (read & loved both Into Thin Air and Under the Banner of Heaven, although not Into the Wild... yet...)
  • Open by Andre Agassi
  • The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester At America's Holiest University by Kevin Roose
  • Anxiety: Yours & Mine by Patricia Pearson
  • Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen (I'm not Mennonite, but I grew up among lots of them...!)
  • Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • When Everything Changed by Gail Collins

Monday, September 13, 2010

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 13: A fictional book

(I assume this means a fictional book that I like or that's had an influence on me?) When I started thinking about favourite works of fiction, my mind turned to a recent conversation on Pamela's blog, A Fresh Start, where we talked about Anne of Green Gables & the friendship between Anne & Diana.

I read Anne of Green Gables when I was 8, & over the next few years, devoured just about everything else that L.M. Montgomery had written. Anne is her most famous work, of course, and of course I love it -- but some of my favourite novels of hers are non-Anne books. I struggled to pare down my list of favourites, & ultimately came up with these two:

Rilla of Ingleside: OK, technically, this is the last book of the Anne series (was, anyway, until a recently discovered manuscript was published as "The Blythes Are Quoted")(still haven't read that one yet). But it's actually about Anne's children -- and, in particular, her daughter, Rilla, who is turning 15 just as the First World War is breaking out. At the beginning of the book, Rilla is the spoiled youngest child of her family, with no ambitions for her life except to have fun. All that changes the night of Rilla's first grown-up party, a dance at the lighthouse, when the outbreak of war is announced. The book follows the Blythe family through the next four rollercoaster years of the war, as Rilla grows up, matures, adopts a "war baby," and waits for her brothers, friends & lover to come home again.

It's been noted that this is the only contemporary novel about the First World War written by a Canadian woman, from the perspective of a Canadian woman and "the home front." I think I learned more about the war from this book than any history text. I've often thought it would make a fabulous movie or TV mini-series. I think my favourite character is Susan Baker, the housekeeper, who provides some of the most memorable (I think) images in the book -- sticking her knitting needle through a map of Europe in exasperation with the Kaiser, refusing to submit to "Borden's time" (the introduction of daylight savings time) vs "God's time," the image of her running up the flag & saluting it, saying, "You are worth it," when the Armistice is finally announced.

The Blue Castle: Our heroine, Valancy Stirling, is 29-year-old "old maid" who lives a dreary life in Ontario's Muskoka district (this is the only Montgomery book set entirely outside of Prince Edward Island) with her domineering mother & cousin. After learning she only has months to live, she decides to make the most of the time she has left -- shocking her staid extended family in the process. I won't give away all the plot details, but suffice to say there is romance, as well as plot twists & turns along the way to the ultimate happy ending.

On the face of it, this is a sort of contrived novel (published in 1926). But in many respects (& like many of Montgomery's books), it's a bit of a feminist fairy tale, with a strong heroine who defies the social conventions of her time & place. Who among us wouldn't love to go to a family party, tell all our insufferable relatives exactly what we think of them, shove our wedding ring in the face of a more popular cousin, and then go off on our merry way to live out the rest of our days in a charming cottage on an island with the handsome rogue of our dreams? This Google books edition comes with an introductory essay that puts the novel into the context of Montgomery's life & times.

Side note: I didn't remember, until I looked up the plot summary on Wikipedia (if you go there, be alert to spoilers!), that one of the characters, Cissy Gay, has a baby that dies. Anne of Green Gables herself, of course, loses her first child, a little girl named Joy, in Anne's House of Dreams -- it's not quite clear if she is stillborn or dies shortly after birth. As I blogged some time ago, the author's second son was stillborn.

Have you read either (or both) of these books? What do you think? What are your Montgomery favourites?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 12: Something you are OCD about

I like to think that dh is the OC in our family. ; ) But I admit I have my own little quirks too. Problem is I can't think of any really good ones right now, & neither can dh (I asked).

The only one that's coming to mind at the moment: whenever we're in a bookstore, I will often straighten up the books -- including shoving in the ones that are sticking out too far, & reshelving ones that are out of alphabetical order (drives me nuts).

I also hang dh's shirts (& mine) in the closet grouped according to colour. He thinks that's weird. I think it's just because he's male. ; )

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Me (left) & my younger sister -- a recently restored studio portrait, taken in about 1963.

A couple of posts back, I got this anonymous comment:
"There's something I've been meaning to ask you. You mentioned that your sister is childless/free by choice. What are your feelings about it?"
This was a somewhat timely question, because today is my sister's birthday. I just got off the phone with her awhile ago.

I didn't wish her a happy birthday, though. Since her 39th birthday on September 11th, 2001, she told everyone she was done with birthdays. It's got to be rough sharing what's supposed to be your special day with one of the most tragic days in history, certainly in our lifetimes. However, I told her nice try, but she wasn't escaping 40 THAT easily. ; ) She may not appreciate "Happy birthday," but she will respond to "Happy Saturday," so that's what I wished her, & that's what she wishes me when she calls me on my birthday.

My sister & I don't have a sappy greeting card kind of relationship -- you know what I mean. We rarely hug (& when we do, it's usually at the airport, with me doing the hugging). We don't gush on about being each other's best friends, or anything like that. (Although, when we were little, we WERE each other's best friends -- by necessity, if not by choice. We lived in five different towns before we graduated from high school. It usually took awhile until we found new friends -- if we wanted companionship, there was only each other. Even in high school, we were involved in many of the same activities & had many of the same friends.)

But -- we're sisters. I remember reading an article that noted that the sibling relationship is probably the longest one you will ever have in your life. When our parents are gone, there will only be my sister & me left to remember the unique experience of what it was like growing up in our family with our mom & dad.

My sister & I are 21 months apart, and when we were growing up, we looked sufficiently alike (and often dressed alike) that people often asked whether we were twins. Our schoomates called us "the Bobbsey Twins," although there was no way you could confuse us once you knew us -- our personalities were (& are) so different. I was the classic older child -- responsible, serious, eager to please, a bit of a Miss Goody Two Shoes (I'll admit it). My sister was (& still is) a bit of a rebel -- somewhat antisocial, contrarian, sarcastic & often hilarious. (Dh -- also an older child -- & I have noted that our younger sibilings can say & do things that we would get sseverely reprimanded for -- but when THEY did/do it, everyone thinks they are hilarious & cute. Anyone else notice this? And why is that??) She was a pretty good kid overall (the other nickname for us and our friends at school was "The Milk & Cookies Gang")(!!) -- we both were -- but she was more of a rebel than I was.

Being "twins" may have been cute when we were little, but as we grew older, we chafed at the comparisons. When we were little, we often INSISTED on dressing alike -- couldn't have your sister having something that you didn't have!! ; ) When we got older, though, we would both show up at the breaksfast table wearing the same outfit & a loud argument would ensue ("I had mine on FIRST!!") My sister inevitably had the same teachers as I did, one year later, & inevitably got compared to me (usually not quite as favourably). On the other hand, she was more popular with the boys than I was, & had two or three "boyfriends" before I ever got asked out on a date. (Inevitably, it was a double date with my sister, who was going out with his best friend.)

I loved going to university, and I think part of it was the freedom of being my own person -- I was no longer part of a package deal. I think my sister felt the same way once I left home. It took me awhile to invite my sister to come visit me in my dorm. University was MY turf.

When it was time for my sister to join me, one year later, my parents suggested we get an apartment together to save money; we both promptly nixxed that idea, & my sister chose a dorm that was on the other side of campus from mine. I did show her around a little the first week or so of school (nobody had done that for me...), but after that, we saw very little of each other on campus. She had her friends & her life in her dorm; I had mine. Occasionally, we'd be accosted by classmates or people we knew from our dorms, saying, "I saw you in the quad yesterday, why didn't you say hi??" I hadn't been anywhere near the quad that day, & would realize they had seen my sister.

My sister now lives in the city about an hour from the small town where our parents now live. She has said -- only half joking, I think! -- that she is going to move to Africa to raise baby elephants. Therefore, *I* will be the "closest" daughter, & our aging parents will become MY responsibility. (Gee, thanks.)

And yet, when push comes to shove -- she is there. She was the one tasked by my parents with driving to the nursing home where my grandparents were living to tell them their great-granddaughter was stillborn -- something that still makes me want to cry when I think about it. I am pretty organized, but she is briskly efficient (she did most of the organizing work for our parents' recent 50th anniversary party -- I MC'd the event & gave the big speech, which suited her just fine). Her Christmas gifts to me are always well chosen (& she does most of the gift shopping for our parents, so I don't have to lug a whole pile of gifts in my luggage -- all I have to do is write her a cheque). We don't talk on the phone often -- maybe once every month or two -- but we e-mail, especially around holidays. Both phone calls & e-mails frequently leave me wanting to roll on the floor with laughter. Even when we were growing up, I wanted to be a writer -- but it was my sister who came up with the wildest plotlines and funniest dialogue for my stories.

Whenever I think analytically about our relationship, I remember another pair of sisters we both knew well. My grandmother & her older sister (my great-aunt) had a troubled relationship. They lived in the same small town their entire lives, and yet they would go for years at a stretch without speaking to each other. They had sort of made up by the time my great-aunt went into the local nursing home in her late 80s, but my grandmother either wouldn't or couldn't go see her in her final days. Their on-again-off-again feud made life very difficult & uncomfortable for the rest of us. (To their eternal credit, they never extended their feud beyond their immediate selves. I never experienced anything less than love and a warm welcome from my great-aunt, who always had a carton of chocolate chip ice cream in the freezer to share when we went to visit her -- and my grandmother always had hugs, smiles & cookies for my great-aunt's two children and six grandchildren.)

I think their example stood as a cautionary tale for my sister & me: no matter what disagreements or complaints we had or have with each other, we know there are some things that are better left unsaid & some lines that shouldn't be crossed. "Remember Grandma & Aunty E.," my internal voice will whisper to me, and I will bite my tongue & let the moment pass. It ain't Hallmark -- but for us, it works.

To address Anonymous's specific point:

Yes, my sister is childfree by choice (CFBC). I always knew it was very unlikely she would have children. As I've alluded above, my sister is not the warm, fuzzy type. She said once that she resolved not to have children after a regular teenaged babysitting gig with a couple of particularly difficult to handle toddlers.

As I told Anonymous, much as I would have loved to have a niece or nephew to spoil -- & sad (& guilty) as I feel that my parents have no grandchildren (dh & I being their sole hope) -- I am perfectly fine with my sister being CFBC. I respect her, & other CFBC people, for knowing themselves so well & for sticking to their guns & going very much against the tide in our pronatalist world. I would much, much rather that people be like my sister than just have kids because that's what's expected of you or because you were wavering & someone talked you into it -- & then live to regret it.

My sister doesn't hate kids, but she's not wild about them either. She tolerates them. Funnily enough, kids adore her. I think she would have been a fabulous aunt. : ) Maybe not the kind of aunt that gushes over how cute her niece or nephew is & smothers them in kisses, but definitely the kind of aunt who will buy you cool presents & let you get away with things that Mom & Dad won't, and will sneak you into a bar when you're not quite of age & buy you a drink.

When I found out I was pregnant, I phoned her (after I phoned my parents) & asked her how she'd like to be called "Aunty," & she started giggling. When I found out I was having a girl, she chanted, "Pink! Pink!! Pink!!!" triumphantly over the phone. She called me that awful night of August 5, 1998, and all she could do was sniffle. Instead of flowers, she sent me a new book by one of our mutual favourite authors along with my parents. It was more "her," & I think she thought I'd like that better anyway. I did.

Happy Saturday, Sis.

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 11: A photo of you recently

This is me & dh on our recent 25th wedding anniversary, in our hotel room. I took the photo with my camera's self-timer. Not bad, eh? ; )

Friday, September 10, 2010

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 10: A photo of you taken over 10 years ago

Most of the photos of myself that I've posted previously have either been far away, obscured (sunglasses) or from my childhood. But after almost three years of blogging, I guess I can afford to post a something slightly more visible (albeit one that's still not just 10 but THIRTY -- eeekkk!! -- years old!). ; )

This is probably my favourite photo of myself ever. We had a family photo session at a photography studio, prior to attending my sister's high school graduation in June 1980, & in addition to a group shot & couples shot of my parents, my sister & I both had individual photos taken.

I was 19 at the time, just finished my first year of university. I probably thought I was a little overweight at the time (!!)(which makes me want to positively weep now) -- but after the wilderness of high school, I had found my niche at university. I had gotten contact lenses in Grade 12, & they were huge confidence boosters for me. For the first time in my life, I was feeling pretty & desirable and even semi-popular & semi-confident about myself. I had a blast in my first year of university, & I think this photo shows it. I don't think I've looked better, before or since then.

My original of this photo was getting faded, so I scanned it, cleaned up the scratches & enhanced the colour a little.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 9: A photo you took

This category made me laugh. What photos HAVEN'T been taken by me??

Over the past 25 years, and with dh's family in particular, I've gained the reputation as the family photographer. BIL & SIL freely admit they would have no photos of their children if it were not for me; I'm sure I've taken 98% of the photos of those two boys that exist.

I've only ever had a point & shoot camera, but I like taking photos, & I think I've improved as a photographer over time. I can't fathom NOT taking photos of your kids on their first day of school or Halloween or birthdays, but apparently it doesn't always occur to some people. (???)

In pre-digital days, of course, people didn't take as many photos as they do today -- but nevertheless, my past is probably as well documented as any other child of the 1960s & 1970s was. Both my mother & (especially) my grandmother were prone to saying, "Get the camera!" whenever a photo-worthy moment presented itself to be captured. In fact, my grandmother gave both my sister & me our first cameras, as presents for Christmas 1976, when I was 15 -- a Kodak Instamatic X15, which took 126 film cartridges & used flipflashes (see photo, left).

I took the photo above with that camera, in the summer of 1977, of my two cousins, who were 12 & 11 at the time (they're both in their mid-40s now, & the one on the left is a grandfather of two), outside our grandmother's house. I don't remember where they got the kittens from -- one of the neighbours, I think -- but it's always been a favourite shot of mine & I always thought it was a pretty well taken photo, considering the technology. I scanned it & removed the scratches but it's otherwise unenhanced.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 8: A photo that makes you angry/sad

For privacy's sake, I'm not going to post the photo that immediately came into my mind for this category. But I can tell you about it.

Every year at Christmastime, generally the weekend before, my aunt (& one of my godmothers) holds a big family celebration. Her kids & grandkids are there, of course, & so are assorted other friends & relatives. If we're home to visit my parents by then, we're invited to come too, & sometimes we do. And Santa always pays a visit, much to the grandkids' delight.

Her oldest son is 11 months older than me. We spent a lot of time together a lot as kids. He seemed to take special delight in tormenting me. I can remember him laughing & laughing when I dropped a freshly collected egg from our grandmother's henhouse on my shoe, or stepped into a fresh cow pie in the pasture. Another time, he somehow persuaded me to crawl inside our puppy's travel crate -- & then shut the door behind me.

It may seem strange but these days, of course, which cousin do I want to see most whenever I'm home?? He got married within months of me & dh, to a girl we all liked, & had three children, the youngest of whom (a girl) was born in May 1998, when I was newly pregnant with Katie (& who, as a toddler, bore a startling resemblance in both looks & pure impishness to my younger sister).

We were all together at Christmas 2002. By Christmas 2003, he & his wife had separated. It was something that none of us (least of all he) had seen coming. My aunt did her best to keep things as normal as possible for her grandchildren, & the party went on as usual. But there's a photo I took that tells the true story: of my cousin, sitting on a chair with his youngest daughter (then 5) in his lap, his arms around her, his head resting on her shoulder. She is looking at the camera & smiling at me. But he's looking off into the distance with a sad, haunted look in his eyes. This was pre-digital, so the first time I saw this photo was when I got my photos back from the developer, & I gasped when I saw it. I'd never seen my cousin looking like that before. Sadness personified.

It took several years, but things eventually got better. My cousin found a new job in a related field & then found a new girlfriend. They got married this past spring, and I saw them this summer when I was home. He looks a lot happier now. And I'm happy for him. : )

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


This gem from Lynn Crosbie in the Globe & Mail had me cracking up on the homeward bound train tonight:
"I was excited to read the new issue of the Star magazine, which boasts, on its cover, “ASHTON CAUGHT CHEATING ON DEMI – with sexy young blonde.” Excited, because this Enquirer-owned tabloid has become so bland of late; so pathologically obsessed with babies and “bumps” that I had started to fantasize it was being run by the deranged twin gynecologists who inspired Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers."

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 7: A photo that makes you happy

When I thought about a "happy" photo to publish, I immediately thought about Cannon Beach, Oregon. : ) This photo was taken at Ecola State Park, near Cannon Beach, on our last trip there, in August 2005. (Way too long ago, if you ask me...!) You can see the famous Haystack Rock off in the distance. It's not the greatest photo of me & dh, but you can see the grins on our faces. : )

We've been to Cannon Beach three times with extended family members -- in 1993, 2001 and 2005. The 2001 trip came shortly after our last failed IUI cycle. I had started having anxiety attacks shortly after my BFN -- I knew it was the last cycle we had agreed to do, and I didn't think I could face moving on to IVF (with its even larger doses of meds & even greater stresses) -- but the thought of a childless future was equally difficult to face. I was a wreck.

We went to talk to an infertility counsellor (whom we had consulted earlier in our journey), & she urged us to take the summer off from all things ttc related before making a final decision on our future. We told her about our vacation plans, & she thought it was a great idea. It was. We took long walks on the beach & basked in the healing warmth & laughter of our extended family. By the end of the summer, much as we had wanted children, we knew we couldn't go back to treatment. We were done.

There are lots of places in the world (even just in North America, or Canada) that I want to go & see -- but going back to Cannon Beach, soon, is high on the list. It's definitely one of my "happy places."

Monday, September 6, 2010

Grade 7!

My daughter would have been starting Grade 7 tomorrow. Grade 7 -- junior high! (in some areas -- here, she'd still be at her old school, which runs K-8). She'd be turning 12 in November. Practically a teenager! 

On Facebook, on my scrapbooking message boards, at family gatherings the last few weeks, the buzz has been all about back to school stuff. Aside from our youngest nephew starting university (yikes!!), dh & I are untouched by it all. We spent the long weekend cleaning house, browsing in bookstores, watching TV, sleeping in, planning our upcoming vacation. I'm sure most of the parents we know would be insanely jealous if they knew. How little they know...

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 6: 20 of your favourite things

1. Dh. : )
2. Long weekends. : )
3. Our nephews.
4. Taking photos.
5. Looking at old photos.
6. Reading. Books, magazines, newspapers, blogs... just about anything.
7. Bookstores. I could spend hours there.
8. Movies. Especially at the movie theatre. With....
9. Popcorn! A BIG bag. : )
10. Starbucks Awake tea lattes. (And gingerbread lattes at Christmastime.)
11. Christmas.
12. Scrapbooking.
13. Chocolate!
14. DQ Skor Bar Blizzards.
15. Pasta. (Sadly, no tomato sauce these days, though...)
16. An occasional steak, medium well, with a baked potato (butter & sour cream on the side).
17. My dad's Sunday brunches.
18. Being at home during the day & seeing sunlight flooding in through the living room window. Gives the room an entirely different look!
19. Going to the spa (especially for pedicures & facials).
20. Blogging. : )

Sunday, September 5, 2010

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 5: Your favourite quote

This one is easy: my favourite quote is the first one listed in the sidebar of this blog, by John Lennon (from his song "Beautiful Boy"):
"Life is what happens while you're making other plans."

I can't remember where I found it, but I adopted it in my signature line for the private e-mail list I joined after losing Katie in 1998. It took on added significance for me after we made the decision to stop infertility treatment & live childless/free in 2001. I most definitely had been making other plans for my life when stillbirth & infertility intervened & took me in a whole different direction.

But -- while it may not be the life I had originally planned -- it's still my life, & when I thought about it, I realized it was, on balance, still a pretty good one. I eventually realized I had to learn to enjoy what I had, today, instead of wishing for what I could not have -- make lemonade out of those lemons. In some ways & on some days, it's still a struggle -- but I'm trying.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 4: Your favourite book

OK, this is even worse than trying to pick a favourite song. Trying to pick a favourite book is like being asked to name your favourite child -- I just can't do it -- they're all wonderful in their own way.

Several books did pop into my head, however, & I decided I would write about one that had a big impact on my life growing up: Looking Back: A Chronicle of Growing Up Old in the Sixties by Joyce Maynard, which was published in 1973, when Maynard was 20 & I was 12.

These days, Maynard is probably most (in)famous for her affair with J.D. Salinger (which she later wrote about in another memoir, At Home in the World). The two met after he wrote to her when the New York Times Magazine published her essay "An 18 Year Old Looks Back on Life" -- which she later expanded into this book. (I was amazed to find it's actually on Google Books now.)

I didn't know anything about Salinger then, of course, or for many years later. Even though I was only about 12 or 13 when I read it (borrowed it from the library in my Grandma's town while I was spending time there that summer), this book became a touchstone for me. She was a teenager, at a time when being a teenager meant something, and was something that I was very much looking forward to being myself. Even though Maynard was/is about 7-8 years older than me, the things she wrote about were familar to me, since I too had lived through & remembered many of them. I could relate to the cultural touchstones she so vividly described in her book -- folk music (I grew up singing all the classics in school, like "Blowing in the Wind" & "If I Had a Hammer"), the Beatles vs the Rolling Stones, the Vietnam War, Seventeen magazine, Barbie dolls, SRA labs and TV shows.

But it was her descriptions of her emotional life -- her descriptions of small town life, her longing to be popular, and (especially) her "battle with the ball" in gym class -- that struck an immediate chord with me. (I too battled the ball, all through my school years. Boy, could I relate...!) I borrowed & reborrowed this book from the library, & when I found a paperback version years later, I read & reread it until it was dogearred. (I still have it, the pages now yellowed & brittle.)

Most of all, I think I loved the idea that Maynard could write -- about her own life, experiences & opinions! -- & get PUBLISHED -- even though she was just 18. I already knew I wanted to be a writer, and her example gave me hope for my own ambitions. If she could get published, so could I. These days, of course, it seems like everyone is writing their memoirs, but back then, it was quite a novel thing for someone so young to do. These days, I think a lot of people wish the baby boomers would just shut talking about themselves (lol), but back then, she was one of the first boomers to give voice to what growing up as a member of that generation had actually been like.

Of coure, Maynard had genes on her side when it came to talent. It wasn't until years later that I realized her mother was Fredelle Bruser Maynard, whose own memoir, Raisins & Almonds, about growing up Jewish on the Canadian Prairies (including a Saskatchewan town just down the road from another town I had lived in). (A chapter of that book, Jewish Christmas, was made into a short film & shown on the CBC. ) Or that her sister is Rona Maynard, a well-known Canadian journalist & for many years the editor of Chatelaine, the country's pre-eminent women's magazine. Or that her father, Max Maynard, had been a painter & a protege of famed west coast artist Emily Carr.

This is a book that I've returned to again & again over the years, & even though it's more than 35 years later, I still find that it speaks to me as much now as it did then. (Although the older I get, the more & more ludicrous I find it that an 18 year old could write about feeling old.) I can't say it is my absolute favourite book of all time, but it's definitely up there. : )

Friday, September 3, 2010

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 3: Your favourite TV show

I don't watch a lot of TV these days. It's a combination of (a) mindless TV watching being replaced by mindless Internet time ; ) (b) shows appear & then disappear so quickly these days, you barely have time to get attached to a show & it's cancelled, (c) when I do find a show I like (& it lasts more than a few episodes), the networks shuffle the time slots around so much it's hard to remember what night & time it's on, or (d) show three repeats for every new episode (whatever happened to showing all the repeats in the summer??) & (e) dh controls the clicker, lol.

Also, to be frank, a lot of what's on TV today just doesn't interest me. I have absolutely no interest in reality TV. It took an article in this week's Entertainment Weekly to explain to me who the Kourtney, Khloe & Kim I keep seeing on the covers of People & Us magazines are (but I'm still not sure why I'm supposed to care). I used to watch "Jon & Kate Plus 8" until the marriage started degenerating & it just got too painful to watch. Slice of life shows like that are slightly more palatable to me than contrived competitions. I did get hooked on "Battle of the Blades" on CBC last season, & I've occasionally tuned in to "American/Canadian Idol," but at least there's some genuine talent involved there (as opposed to the ridiculous competitions, schemes & backstabbing that takes place on shows like "Survivor," "The Bachelor" & "Big Brother").

I still enjoy a good, well-written comedy, though, & Monday nights for the last few years have been "must see TV" for me & dh. I've gotten hooked on "How I Met Your Mother" (love Neil Patrick Harris). As a smalltown Prairie girl, I absolutely loved "Corner Gas" on CTV while it was on (& miss it horribly)(side note: I lived in the same town as Brent Butt for three years in the 1960s, when I was a little girl & he was either a baby or not born yet). Still watch "Two & a Half Men," although it hasn't been quite as good as it used to be lately (& I can't believe some of the stuff they get away with on network TV).

Our new favourite, though, is "The Big Bang Theory." To be frank, dh & I were both geeks back in younger days (probably still are, lol). Dh was actually a science geek at school (& still is -- he actually understands a lot of the references & "in jokes" on the show). So we've become big fans of this show, about four geeks (three physicists & an engineer who work at a university in California), their improbable friendship with the gorgeous blonde wannabe actress/waitress who lives across the hall. It's well written, well characterized & well acted -- we were both ecstatic that Jim Parsons won the Emmy at the awards last week. There is absolutely no one on TV like Sheldon Cooper!

Anyone else love "Big Bang?" What are your favorite shows?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 2: Your Favourite Movie

While I love movies, & have lots of favourites, this is an easy answer for me. My all-time absolute favourite movie has got to be "Casablanca."

I think I saw it for the first time when I was in high school or university. I can remember dragging a few of my girlfriends from the dorm to see a campus showing of it one time, & all of them loving it too.

What's not to like? -- Humphrey Bogart at his best, Ingrid Bergman at her loveliest, Claude Rains at his most cynical, great music from Dooley Wilson, including the classic "As Time Goes By." Snappy, memorable dialogue, plot twists galore, gorgeous black & white photography, & a wonderful cast of colourful supporting characters. I have probably seen this movie well over a dozen times over the years & I never get tired of it. I am always noticing some new little detail that I hadn't noticed before that adds to my enjoyment.

If you've never seen it before -- well, you don't know what you're missing. : ) They absolutely don't make them like this anymore. And what a pity.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 1: Your Favourite Song

To pick just one favourite song, or album, or group/singer, is an impossibility. There are so many that I love for different reasons. If there is a common denominator in most of the songs/music I love, it often includes great vocals (I love tight harmonies) & a catchy guitar riff.

Here are five, off the top of my head:
  • "In My Life" by the Beatles. I LOVE the Beatles. They have been around for most of my life and are part of my childhood memories, so it's hard to imagine a world without Beatles music. "In My Life" is probably my favourite song of theirs. I love the melody, the words, the message. I can remember watching the news in my dorm room at university the day John Lennon died and watching a montage of film clips as this song played in the background. I broke down in tears. I've told dh that this is the song I want played at my funeral. (His own picks are "Solsbury Hill" by Peter Gabriel & "Thunder Road" by Bruce Springsteen.)
  • "Get Off My Cloud" by the Rolling Stones. Funnily enough, I have clearer memories of watching the Stones on Ed Sullivan than the Beatles. British Invasion music in general was the soundtrack of my childhood. I preferred the Beatles when I was younger, but I've grown to like the Stones more as I got older. I used to find them slightly ominous. Now I look at them kind of affectionately, like aging hippie uncles, lol. This is probably one of my favourite songs of theirs. Great guitar riff! (I found this old video clip. Seeing Keith wearing a turtleneck & GLASSES slays me! -- I hear he has an autobiography coming out this fall. Can't wait!!)
  • "Prove it All Night" by Bruce Springsteen. I had to get a Bruce song in here. : ) I knew very little about Bruce until I met dh, who was a HUGE fan. But once I started listening to his stuff, I realized that one of his songs, "Prove it All Night," had been one of my favourites in the summer of 1978, when I was 17. I was working in a small antique shop for my mother's hairdresser (a sideline business he owned) that summer. It was kind of off the beaten path & there weren't a lot of customers, so I got to listen to the radio a LOT, & this was one of the songs that I loved. It speaks to me of being a teenager in the summertime & longing to break free from the restrictions of jobs and school and parents and all that other stuff and drive off into the night with a hot guy in a hot car and the wind whipping my hair (all the usual cliches, lol). It's still one of my favourite Bruce songs. I got to see him do it live at a concert back in the early 1990s, too. : )
  • "No Sugar Tonight" by the Guess Who. The Guess Who was a local band that found some international success in the late 1960s/early 1970s -- the pride & joy of my home province. I was just a little too young to see them live (although my mother remembers them playing a dance at the city hall in the northern Minnesota town where my grandparents lived in the mid-1960s), but I've seen the lead singer, Burton Cumnings, several times as a solo artist, & I believe he has one of rock & roll's greatest voices. This song is one of my favourites -- great riff, great harmonies.
  • "Try" by Blue Rodeo. Blue Rodeo is another well loved Canadian band, with a slight country flavour. Jim Cuddy has a beautiful voice (he also kind of reminds me of an old boyfriend, lol), & this was one of their first & biggest hits. It was hugely popular right around the time dh & I were newlyweds, & I can remember us dancing to it in the living room of our tiny apartment. It's kind of a sad song, if you listen to the lyrics, but it makes me happy every time I hear it. Some years ago (probably about 10), Blue Rodeo was presented with the keys to the city in a noon hour ceremony at BCE Place (now called Brookfield Place), near where I work in downtown Toronto, in the building's Allen Lambert Galleria -- modelled on the Galleria in Milan, Italy. It's probably one of my favourite modern public spaces in Toronto. It was in November or December, near Christmastime, & there were thousands of tiny white lights hanging from the roof of the galleria, like tiny stars. It was an extremely busy time of year for me at work, but I managed to sneak away from the office for awhile & joined the crowd. After getting the keys, they played a free lunchtime concert. When they started playing "Try," I called dh on my cellphone & held it up in the air so that he could hear the music. I looked around me at all the happy people, singing along, the twinkling lights hanging from the glass roof of the galleria above us. It was a magical moment. : )

30 Posts in 30 Days: The master list!

Sweet Pea has started doing this meme & has invited her readers to do the daily posts along with her. I've decided I'm going to try! Let me know if you decide to play along -- I'd love to see what you have to post!

Here' s the master list:

Day 1 - your favorite song
Day 2 - your favorite movie
Day 3 - your favorite television program
Day 4 - your favorite book
Day 5 - your favorite quote
Day 6 - 20 of your favorite things
Day 7 - a photo that makes you happy
Day 8 - a photo that makes you angry/sad
Day 9 - a photo you took
Day 10 - a photo taken over 10 years ago of you
Day 11 - a photo of you recently
Day 12 - something you are OCD about
Day 13 - a fictional book
Day 14 - a non-fictional book
Day 15 - your dream house
Day 16 - a song that makes you cry (or nearly)
Day 17 - an art piece (drawing, sculpture, painting, etc)
Day 18 - my wedding/future wedding/past wedding
Day 19 - a talent of yours
Day 20 - a hobby of yours
Day 21 - a recipe
Day 22 - a website
Day 23 - a youtube video
Day 24 - where you live
Day 25 - your day, in great detail
Day 26 - your week, in great detail
Day 27 - your worst habit
Day 28 - what's in your handbag/purse
Day 29 - hopes, dreams, and plans for the next 365 days
Day 30 - a dream for the future