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.)

*** *** ***

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?

*** *** ***

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.

*** *** ***

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?)

*** *** ***

"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?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Great expectations?

I found a great article in the National Post this week about people's inflated expectations of what infertility treatments can do. I'm really not sure how many women go around cavalierly thinking, "Oh, I have plenty of time, because there's always IVF..." -- but I do agree that women are really not as aware as they should be about how quickly their fertility declines. And I most certainly agree that there are a LOT of misconceptions related to infertility & infertility treatment.

It's not just the fact that women who may need treatment have these false expectations that bothers me -- the general public has this perception too. Ergo, if I'm living childless, I really must not have wanted children very much -- because there's always IVF (if not adoption), right?? Very little is said about the fact that these treatments often don't work (& that the odds decrease dramatically as you age), let alone the financial, physical, mental & emotional stresses that accompany them.

I read another article somewhere recently about 30- & 40-something women attending a seminar on egg freezing, which is now being offered by a local clinic... the part that stuck in my mind was that when the clinic staffer leading the session said the cutoff age for the program was 36, there was a collective gasp in the room.

Loved the points about family drs (much as I love mine, he could stand to read this article, based on the advice I got from him...) & employers, too.

*** *** ***

Women delay childbirth due to false fertility expectations

Tom Blackwell, National Post · Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2010

Women are delaying childbirth until later and later in life partly because they have an exaggerated belief that fertility treatments will help them get pregnant well into middle age, suggests new Canadian research.

Media accounts of older celebrity mothers and even advice from ill-informed family doctors is fuelling unrealistic expectations about in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other reproductive technology, said Judith Daniluk, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia.

Women who responded to a recent survey by Prof. Daniluk suggested they expected to delay childbirth until much later than even they considered ideal, and that they believed fertility treatments were far more effective later in life than is really the case.

In fact, the efficacy of treatments for infertile women declines precipitously after the age of about 34, with the technology-aided birth rate hitting barely 1% for those age 46.

“There is an assumption that if women are in good shape, if they’re physicially fit, they can turn to IVF,” said Prof. Daniluk, who counsels fertility patients. “Most people don’t know that, No. 1, IVF is expensive ... and, No. 2, it can’t fully compensate for age-related fertility decline.”

She said more education is needed to drive home the limits of the technology.

She also said that labour policies should be changed to make it easier for women to get pregnant in their peak child-bearing years, without sacrificing careers.

Other experts agreed on Tuesday that misconceptions about reproductive science are helping fuel the steady increase in the age at which Canadian women have children. Close to 49% of women who gave birth in 2005 were over age 30, almost 2½ times the rate in 1974, according to Statistics Canada.

Often, perceptions about fertility medicine seem to arise from the pages of supermarket tabloids, said Dr. Roger Pierson, a Saskatoon physician and spokesman for the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society.

Fertility clinics constantly encounter women who have read about an actress in her late 40s or 50s who just got pregnant, and wonder, “can you do it for me?” he said.

A 49-year-old patient asked during an appointment recently if she could have eggs frozen for when “she might want to use them.”

“Women are, I think, bombarded with misinformation,” Dr. Pierson said. “What we hear is medicine and science can solve anything, and that simply isn’t true.... It’s sad. These are desperate people who have made incorrect decisions”

Prof. Daniluk said she has seen a dramatic change in the make-up of fertility-clinic patients since the mid-1990s, when most were heterosexual couples who needed treatment because of male fertility problems. Now a third are single women, many of whom have waited too long to get pregnant.

In a presentation to the society’s recent conference in Vancouver, Prof. Daniluk offered up preliminary results of an online, self-administered survey that received more than 1,000 responses between April and June this year.

About 86% thought the ideal age for having their first child was between 20 and 30, but 44% expected to wait until the were between 31 and 35, and 28% until they were over 36.

Most said they would undergo in vitro fertilzation and close to 30% said they would use a surrogate mother if necessary to have a baby.

Knowledge of the reality of delayed pregnancy, and the value of fertility treatments was lacking, however. Most indicated, inaccurately, that overall fitness was a better indicator of fertility than age, while almost half either did not know or refuted the fact that a woman’s eggs are as old as she is.

About 63% said they thought reproductive technology could help most women get pregnant before the onset of menopause, which occurs at an average age of 51.

Prof. Daniluk said it appears to her that family doctors, struggling to keep up with rapid advances in numerous fields of medicine, can also be misinformed about the efficacy of fertility treatment. Patients who delayed child-bearing sometimes say their physician assured them “Don’t worry, you have time,” she said.

Many people do not realize “there is not a technological fix” for age-related infertility, echoed Abby Lippman, an epidemiologist at McGill University and former head of the Canadian Women’s Health Network.

She also called for employers to change their attitudes so women who want children can progress at a different pace than others.

National Post

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 30: A dream for the future

This one is easy: my dream for the future is a long, happy, active & healthy retirement for me & dh -- and hopefully sooner, rather than later...!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 29: Hopes, dreams & plans for the next 365 days

2010 has been a big year for me, dh & our families -- full of milestones.

In 2011, I have a personal milestone coming up -- & my hope/dream/plan is to celebrate it by taking my very first sunspot vacation sometime in January-February. : )

I hope things at work settle down -- new boss, new organizational structure (just announced) -- although it seems there are always changes happening to stir the pot...!

And I hope we will get more projects done around the house next year than we did in 2010. :p Perhaps the knowledge that we'll be hosting dh's cousins' barbecue in 2012 will be the kick in the rear we need...!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Who knew? Married couples without kids are now the majority

There was much ado this past week about a new study released by the Vanier Institute of the Family. Among other data, the study showed that, for the first time, married couples without children now outnumber married couples with children.

So if dh & I are actually in the majority, why do we still feel like such outsiders??

*** *** ***

With the release of the study, (including the National Post, Montreal Gazette, etc.) ran a series about the changes in the Canadian family. Imagine how pleased I was to stumble on one segment of this series, with the title "Parenthood plans don't always pan out." A few quotes (added emphasis mine):
Across Canada and in dozens of other Western countries, families like Lajoie's are ending up with fewer children than they dreamt of or planned for. Some are limited by finances when faced with the cost of raising and educating children and the impact on their careers. Time and biology intervene for others who start their families later in life, and some who might have become parents through adoption wait years and may not end up with a child at all.

Others choose to limit their family size because of health, career or lifestyle considerations, or in search of the ever-elusive work-life balance...

In a demographic landscape like Canada's, with below-replacement fertility levels and a massive wave of baby boomers beginning to turn 65 next year, this fertility gap represents a lost opportunity not just for individual families, but for society...

"There has to be renewal and children are our greatest asset in terms of a society, so when people aren't able to realize their family desires, much less ending up childless by default, that impacts all of us," says Judith Daniluk, a professor of counselling psychology at the University of British Columbia who specializes in women's sexuality and reproductive health. "Who's going to be contributing to the pension plan? Who's going to be supporting the health-care system? Who's going to be taking care of those people who are 65-plus? Who's going to do the jobs?"...

Aside from deliberate decisions to limit family size, Leslie-Anne Keown, a Statistics Canada analyst, says many people simply run out of time. Most studies that ask people about their ideal number of children and obtain a larger figure than the current fertility rate are quizzing single women in their early 20s, and Keown says their answers reflect an ideal unfettered by reality — or the limits of biology.

"They thought they were going to have it all. 'I'm going to finish my education, I'm going to get a great job, I'm going to make lots of money, then I'm going to get married and have two kids,'" she says. "And when you look at their timelines, they're actually not very realistic — but for them it's realistic."

Another article in the series was titled "Infertility and adoption in the fertility gap." Excerpt:

Judith Daniluk, a professor of counselling psychology at the University of British Columbia who provided fertility counselling for 10 years, says the proportion of infertile couples has probably always hovered around one in eight. The difference now is that adoption is an "extremely difficult and extremely limited" way to build a family because fading taboos around single motherhood mean women are less likely to place children for adoption, she says, and couples are planning their lives with the misguided notion that they can put off child-bearing almost indefinitely.

"There's a belief — it's an erroneous belief, largely — that women can delay as long as they want, that with the reproductive technologies we have available to us, so many women are saying, 'OK, I'll just do IVF' and not realizing that they are facing age-related fertility declines that are pretty dramatic by the time they hit 37," she says. "It's a life goal and without it, for those who want it, it's profoundly, profoundly difficult to come to terms with."

So nice to see the mainstream media acknowledge what so many of us already know!!

*** *** ***

In the Toronto Star, Life columnist Vinay Menon, father of twin girls, used the release of the study to address what seems like a growing gap between couples with children and their childless friends. I thought it was a pretty good piece, overall, with some sound advice:

Menon: Mind the growing parent-friend gap
Published on Fri Oct 8 2010
By Vinay Menon Columnist

Having children doesn’t have to mean losing friends. But that’s what happens if you’re not careful.

At first, nobody is aware of this looming social shift. You, the new parent, are so consumed with the baby’s needs — feeding, sleeping, bathing, changing, cuddling, burping — there is no time for your own needs, let alone the needs of your friends.

It’s unfortunate. But with a bottle in one hand and a diaper in the other, you have tumbled into a black hole and vanished from the real world — poof!

Meanwhile, back in the real world, your friends missed the departure. Yes, they know a new baby has arrived. Yes, they are happy for you. But, no, they don’t fully understand the extent to which this new baby is an invisible lifestyle wedge between you and them.

After my twins were born, I had several conversations along these lines:

Friend: “Congratulations! That’s great!”

Me: “Thanks. Yeah, it’s been kind of crazy around here with . . . ”

Friend: “ . . . I can only imagine. So listen, what are you guys doing Saturday night?”

Me: “Well, I suspect we’ll be here with the babies. Do you want to come over?”

Friend: “I definitely want to meet the girls. Definitely. But on Saturday, a bunch of us are going to this new place on Queen. You should come out for dinner, or at least drinks. It’ll be fun!”

This week, the Vanier Institute of the Family released a new report. Among the findings, two revelations gave me shivers. For the first time, there are more single Canadian adults than those who are married. For the first time, married couples without children outnumber married couples with children.

In short: We are now the minority. Our nuclear families, traditional and increasingly anachronistic, exist inside a mushroom cloud of cultural change.

So the question becomes: How do we avoid becoming radioactive? How do we hang on to our friends who are single or married without children? What can we, the minority, do to avoid drifting away from majority?

Four years after fatherhood, with the benefit of mistakes and hindsight, I offer some humble advice to new parents. Here now, Five Ways To Keep Your Friends After Parenthood:

1. Limit the amount of time spent talking about the little one.

This will sound cynical and harsh. But here goes: Your childless friends have no real interest in your child. None. For the next few months, select your talking points wisely.

2. Avoid emotional distance caused by false envy.

Along with profound joy, a baby also brings confusion and frustration. When a friend talks about the date he had with a leggy publicist or jokes about sleeping in on Sunday, it’s easy to think, “I can’t relate to this person any more.” You can and you must.

3. Take a genuine interest in your friends’ lives.

You’re not sleeping. You’re not wearing clean clothes. It’s hard to care about your friend’s new promotion or the spontaneous trip to New York she took last weekend. This is a critical window in your friendship: Don’t let it snap shut because you were too frazzled to hold it open.

4. Don’t encourage friends to “join the club”

Having a baby is not dissimilar to entering a cult. It’s new, it’s exciting and it’s hard to be deprogrammed. But friends have good reasons for not wanting to join. Questions such as, “When are you having a baby?” will only alienate them.

5. Remember this is not a zero-sum game.

Your new baby is Priority No. 1. Any friend who does not get this is not a friend worth keeping. But you can be a great parent and a great friend at the same time. The key is perspective, balance and time management.

So enjoy this exhilarating black hole plunge. Just remember: re-entry will occur sooner than you think. And when you’re back in the real world, dazed and bleary-eyed, you will be looking around for your friends.

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 28: What's in your handbag/purse

I love purses. We're not talking Coach or Dolce & Gabbana here, mind you. The most expensive purse I've ever bought was probably around $150 (from Danier Leather), & most of them are in the $50 territory. I bought a great purse on sale at Target for under $20 a few years ago when I was in the States visiting my uncle, & used it for years until it started wearing out around the edges.

But there's something about a nice new purse that lifts the spirits. Most of my purses are basic black, but I do like to change them with the seasons. The one I'm using right now is a sort of taupe (see photo above), the one I used this summer was white, & I have a shiny red crocodile-type one that I bought last Christmas that was fun.

At the same time, I'm very picky about my purses. When I find a purse I like, I tend to hang onto it until it falls apart. Any purse I buy must be a shoulder bag, with lots of pockets & compartments, fairly big -- but not TOO big, because I tend to overstuff it, which is not good for my back, neck & shoulders (have learned that the hard way...!).

Inside my bag right now (in various compartments):

  • two pens
  • miniature pack of Kleenex
  • several rolls of Lifesavers Breathsavers peppermints
  • almost finished package of Trident peppermint gum
  • glasses case with cleaning cloth
  • clip-on sunglasses
  • miniature bottle of Purell
  • fold-up hairbrush
  • makeup bag holding miniature bottles of Motrin & Tylenol, a bottle of Benadryl & a package of Rolaids Vanilla soft chews
  • makeup bag holding small mirror, emery board, glasses cleaning cloth, eye drops, tube of Vaseline, tube of Neutrogena lip balm, small pair of fold-up scissors (no makeup -- it's the weekend!)
  • two epi-pens (one on the verge of expiry, one new one to replace it)
  • copy of results from my allergist & list of foods related to my various allergies (some have been problem foods, some not)
  • user's guide for my cellphone (which tells you how often I use it...!)
  • various coupons
  • ziploc bag with a small supply of pads, in case AF decides to drop by unexpectedly
  • two keychains, one with the housekeys, etc., & one with the car keys
  • cellphone
  • gold case containing a few business cards & a built-in solar-powered calculator
  • "cross in my pocket" which I got in church one time
  • a rather bedraggled rabbit's foot
  • a notebook with a key & quarter taped to it & a hilarious (to me) note that a high school friend gave to me as a joke gift for Christmas more than 30 years ago -- it's been in my purse ever since then
  • a very overstuffed wallet (my wallets must also have lots & lots of pockets & slots) which includes: change (I generally dump it out at night but usually keep one or two loonies & toonies, just in case); cash in bills; subway tokens; transit pass; assorted coupons; "angel in my pocket" token; various giftcards with various amounts on them; cheques & chequebook register; lottery tickets to be checked; two strips of photos of me & dh from airport photo booths -- one from Toronto in 1983 and one from our 1985 honeymoon in Calgary; two old wallet-sized photos of dh; & a huge assortment of cards: driver's license, health card, assorted hospital cards; credit & debit cards, office access cards, loyalty/points cards, etc, etc, etc.

What's in yours?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 27: Your worst habit

Dh will tell you: I'm a pack rat. Not "Hoarders"-worthy, but I do find it difficult to throw things out. Even when I know I need to tackle a certain pile of stuff, it's sometimes difficult to find the time or motivation to tackle it. We don't have a lot of storage space in our house, & stuff tends to pile up because I don't always know where to put it.

I find I do my best deep cleaning/purging/reorganizing when I have a big chunk of time to myself -- but that's not very often. If dh is around (which he almost always is), he tends to hover over me saying stuff like, "Throw it out! How about this? How about that? More! More!" Which raises my contrarian hackles & makes me want to dig in my heels, lol. ; )

I think the mere thought of having to sort through 20 years worth of accumulated stuff, purge & pack it all, is one reason why we haven't moved!

Friday, October 8, 2010

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 26: Your week, in great detail

Most of the days of the working week follow the same pattern I just described in the previous post ("Your day, in great detail"). It used to be that I had yogalates classes on Monday nights during the fall & winter, & our support group meetings on the first and third Thursday nights of the month, but yogalates is no longer being offered (at least, at the convenient location where I took classes) & we stepped down from facilitating last December.

Once every week or so, dh has to take his turn on a rotating schedule, working until 6:30. If I have a lot of work to do myself, or the weather looks really crappy, I stay late too, work until about 6, then walk down to the train station & wait for him there. He comes flying up the stairs about 5 minutes or less before the express train departs; if we miss that one, we have to wait another half hour for the next (non-express) train (& if we miss THAT one, there's not another train for another hour).

But if I'm tired, I head home by myself. Because I don't drive, I take the bus home from the train station & walk from the bus stop (which is not very far). I'm generally home between 5:45 & 6 p.m. I immediately get dinner started -- generally a simple casserole that's ready to eat by the time dh gets home around 7:30. Once it's in the oven, I get changed, take off my makeup, turn on the suppertime news, & enjoy some quiet computer time until dh gets home.

Friday nights, because we don't have to get up at 5 a.m., we sometimes stay up later than our usual 10 p.m. -- although we generally don't make it past 10 or 11 (how pathetic!). We sleep in -- but of course, when you get up at 5 every morning, "sleeping in" generally means until about 7 or 8 (sigh). (Feels good, though!) We have breakfast, I make coffee for dh & tea for me, & we spend some lazy time on the couch with our mugs & the newspapers.

Once we're finished, by 9 or 10, I start cleaning the house & doing laundry. In the summertime, dh goes outside to mow the lawn (never earlier than 10 -- although some of our neighbours have been out there at 8:30 or 9 -- grrrr....), & once he's finished that, he comes inside & does the vacuuming. We pause for some lunch around 12 & then continue. We try to wrap things up & get into the shower by around 3, & head out for dinner around 4:30-5.

Yes, I know that's early. We like to joke that we're practicing to be senior citizens -- but seriously? Out here in the suburbs, most of the restaurants tend to be the chain/family variety. And if you try to go out around 6, you will inevitably wind up standing around a crowded waiting area for anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, along with mobs of young families trying to shush their whiny toddlers. (Just what every infertile couple wants, right?) ; ) Not to mention that my husband is among the least patient men in the world when it comes to waiting in line for ANYTHING, let alone food. And, frankly, by 5, we're both generally pretty hungry. Because we're away from home for lunch for the week, we don't tend to keep a lot of "lunchy" stuff in the house & the pickings can sometimes be a little on the slim side.

So we take our chances earlier with the seniors, lol. The number of restaurants we eat at has become sadly limited since I started having issues with food reactions. :( But we've found three or four "reliables" that each have a couple of dishes that I know are "safe" for me to eat. Dh could care less about eating out & would probably eat all his meals at home, if he could, but I like having at least one meal out together a week -- kind of like when we were first dating. ; ) We rarely have alcohol, appetizers or desserts, which helps to keep the bills down.

After dinner, we almost always make the pilgrimage to our local megabookstore. There's a Starbucks attached, so we pick up coffees & spend the next hour having a leisurely browse. Usually the afternoon crowd has thinned, so it's not too noisy, although some nights are better than others.

From there, at least once & sometimes twice a month, we drive directly to FIL's house to visit. Usually BIL & SIL & sometimes one or both of our nephews come (from the other end of the city). We sit around the big table in the kitchen, eating & talking.

If it's not a visiting night, & it's in the summer ( = light outside), we will stop at the cemetery for a visit with Katie. Then to the supermarket to pick up some groceries for the coming week. And then home, where we spend a quiet evening, reading our new books, watching TV, playing on the computer.

Sundays we sleep in again & watch CBS Sunday Morning with our tea & coffee. Take our showers & make & eat some lunch while we listen to The Vinyl Cafe on CBC Radio at noon. We used to go out for brunch a lot, but we ran into the same issues with huge lineups everywhere ; ) & decided we really didn't need to be eating out for both Saturday night dinner AND Sunday brunch.

Sometimes we decide to go see a movie (sometimes we go to the earliest show & have popcorn for lunch!). If we haven't been to see Katie, we go to the cemetery; if we were at FIL's the night before, we probably headed straight home afterwards, so we do our grocery shopping on Sunday afternoon (although the store tends to be a lot busier). Sometimes we find ourselves back at the bookstore. Dh tends to get a little stir-crazy if he doesn't get out of the house for at least a little while, although I don't mind so much.

Sunday night, we generally make a casserole or something else with leftovers, so that at least one dinner during the week is taken care of. ; ) I call my parents while it's in the oven, or after we've eaten, & catch up on the news with them. After dinner we watch TV (60 Minutes, if the stories are good; The Simpsons; Battle of the Blades, when it's on) 7 start getting ready for the week ahead. If I have ironing to do, I set up my board in the living room & work at it while we watch.

And that's about it. Pretty quiet. Not terribly exciting. ; ) But as dh says, sometimes routine gets monotonous -- until you get away from your routine for too long, & realize how much you miss it, lol.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 25: Your day, in great detail

4:53 a.m. Alarm clock rings. Dh hits snooze button.

5:00 a.m. Get up, shower, do hair & skincare routine & head downstairs for breakfast (oatmeal & OJ). Glance at the morning papers while I eat.

6:00 a.m. Finish breakfast, head back upstairs. Brush teeth, make bed, get dressed & put on makeup. Pack up briefcase. Leave the house with dh & drive to the train station. Get on the train to the city. Read papers while dh sleeps. Once in the city, walk through the underground concourse to our office tower. Stop at the Second Cup for tea. Say goodbye to dh before he takes the elevator up to his floor & I to mine.

7:45 a.m. Arrive at my cubicle & unpack briefcase. Fill water bottle at the cooler. Turn on PC & check e-mail. Peek at a few message boards & blogs & sip my tea before starting work.

10:00 a.m. Tea time! I used to go for tea with my officemate/girlfriend -- we'd sit in the food court & talk for a few minutes -- but since she retired four years ago, I just grab a tea & take it back upstairs -- perhaps a stop at the newsstand to buy some mints or check out the new magazines.

12:30ish Lunch (one hour). If it's not too busy, I'll take the full hour & run errands &/or browse in the stores in the underground concourse. Occasionally meet a friend for lunch; otherwise, bring something from the food court back to my desk to eat. (I hate eating in the food court itself -- too crowded & noisy, hard to find a seat.) If it's really busy, I just run downstairs, bring something back up & eat it at my desk while I work.

3:00 p.m. Tea time (again)!

4:30 p.m. Pack up briefcase, turn off computer & desk lights, put on coat (in winter). Meet dh downstairs. Walk through the underground concourse to the train station, head up to the platform & get on the train. Read rest of newspapers &/or a magazine while dh sleeps. Once at the train station, sprint to the car to try to beat the crowd out of the parking lot. Get snarled in traffic while dh grumbles. ; )

5:35-6 p.m. Arrive home (depending on whether we get our usual train, parking lot congestion, traffic, weather, & if we stop at the gas station or supermarket!). Glance at the mail. Go upstairs, change & take off makeup while dh gets dinner started.

6:30-7 p.m. Eat dinner. Get laptop, check e-mail & play on computer for awhile. Read, watch TV, make phone calls, do household chores, etc. etc.

10:00 p.m. Bedtime! Get ready to do it all over again tomorrow…!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ten lost years?

This past week, there were stories in the newspapers noting that it's been 10 years since the death of our former prime minister, Pierre Trudeau.

September 2000. In an instant I was transported back in time. Trudeau's death coincided with our first IUI cycle, using injectable drugs (Puregon)(Gonal-F for the subequent two cycles). We actually took some vacation time that week -- partly because we had the time to use, partly because we like to take time off in the fall (enjoy the fall colours) & partly to avoid having to cover at work for the the many appointments that come at the end of a cycle. I can remember feeling like I had rocks in my ovaries, & shuffling around the house in track pants with an elastic waistband as the trigger & insemination date drew near.

I grew up on the Prairies, where the word "Liberal" (in the political sense as well as the name of the political party) was a dirty word (although perhaps in a less vehement way than it's currently regarded in some areas of the United States -- the Progressive Conservative party back then was probably still well to the left of the current Democratic Party in the States). Trudeau, in particular, was disdained. He was French-Canadian from Quebec, an intellectual and a leftist, whose government enacted the National Energy Program. (Bumper stickers in the oil-rich province of Alberta at the time famously read, "Let the eastern bastards freeze in the dark.") He once asked a group of Prairie farmers, "Why should I sell your wheat?" It was a rhetorical question, but reinforced the perception that he did not care about the west.

And yet, he was charismatic in a way that few of our leaders have been, before and definitely since then. He had strong beliefs, and he wasn't afraid to stick up for them.

As I wrote awhile back, I saw him speak once, when I was a first-year student at the University of Manitoba, during the election campaign in February 1980. I didn't particularly like the man -- in fact, I was a member of the campus Progressive Conservative club -- but when we heard that he would be making a stop on campus, my roommate & I decided we would go see him. After all, how often do you get to see a prime minister?

He was speaking in the student union building around 12:30 that day. Around 10:30, my roommate returned from a morning class. "We have to go NOW if we want to be able to see him -- there are already people there," she said. So we went to stake out a spot. By the time he finally arrived, it was wall to wall people, with kids lining the stairwells and looking down from the second floor.

It was a classic Trudeau performance. He stood in front of a microphone on the stage and spoke to us -- no lectern, no notes, certainly no teleprompter, his thumbs hooked in his belt loops in what the press called his "gunslinger" pose. I don't remember what he said that day, but I do remember laughing & admiring how deftly he handled the inevitable hecklers. I never did vote for him, but I came away with a grudging new respect for the man.

And my heart went out to him when his youngest son, Michel, was killed in an avalanche while skiing & hiking in the back country of British Columbia in November 1998. We had just lost Katie in August -- & in fact, Michel's death occurred right around my November due date. There was a photo of Trudeau, his ex-wife/Michel's flamboyant mother Margaret & their two surviving sons leaving the Montreal church where the memorial service was held (they never did find the body), grief etched on their faces. For the first time, I thought, the man looked his age. The life had gone out of him.

Dh & I watched the elder Trudeau's funeral coverage -- the casket lying in state on Parliament Hill; the train trip from Ottawa to Montreal, where the funeral was being held; his two surviving sons, Sacha & Justin, leaning out the window to wave to the crowds that lined the tracks, some throwing Trudeau's trademark red roses onto the rails in front of the train; the funeral mass at Notre Dame Basilica; Justin's famous, dramatic eulogy for his father. Hormones running amok, I was happy to sit on the sofa, watch the funeral, nurse my aching abdomen, & bawl my eyes out.

*** *** ***

Next year will mark 10 years since our last IUI. Hard to believe: it's been a whole decade since we made the painful decision to halt fertility treatments. A decade (plus a bit) whose events included a long-awaited pregnancy, followed by the devastation of stillbirth, the dawning realization that time was running out, and then frantic attempts to get pregnant through fertility treatments, as my biological clock ticked ominously in the background (I swore sometimes I really could hear the damn thing). It all came crashing down around me in June 2001, in a spectacular mess of failure, finality and awful anxiety attacks.

In July that year, we went to the west coast, to Cannon Beach, Oregon, on the Pacific Ocean, to lick our wounds. We took long walks on the beach, & contemplated our relationship and what a life without children would look like.

That vacation marked the end of one phase of our life and the beginning of another. In July this year, we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary and, as a belated way of celebrating, we fulfilled a longtime dream a few weeks ago when we travelled to Nova Scotia & got to see the Atlantic Ocean. It's been a long time since dh & I went away somewhere, just the two of us, for more than a couple of days (usually somewhere within a 2-3 hours drive of where we live). I've been a "good" daughter -- spent the bulk of my vacation time these last 25 years going home to see my parents, or joining them on road trips to visit extended family members -- but I've built up enough seniority at work -- & hence, enough vacation time -- that I can take a few weeks to see my family AND a few more to do some of the things that dh & I want to do. We giggled about how, after 25 years, we were finally "grownups" -- going where we wanted to go, making our own arrangements -- just the two of us -- not having to consider anyone else's wishes or preferences but our own.

It felt good.

There's a famous Canadian book that was published when I was growing up in the 1970s (while Trudeau was prime minister), called "Ten Lost Years" by Barry Broadfoot (I actually found a copy on Google books). It's an oral history collection of first-hand stories about how Canadians lived and survived during the Great Depression.

The title, "Ten Lost Years," kept popping into my head as I thought about our two coastal vacations, & about the nine years/near decade in between that they bookend. In a way, that's what I feel the past decade has have been. The past 10-12 years, and most definitely the past five, have been a process of coming to terms with our loss, with our infertility, with the knowledge that we are not going to be parents and what that means for our life. Perhaps not quite "lost years," but at times, I've certainly felt like I've been fumbling my way uncertainly into a hazy future.

As I've written before, this has been a year of milestones and transitions for me: our 25th wedding anniversary, my parents' 50th and, coming up in January, my (gulp) 50th birthday. Dh & I decided to step down after 10 years of facilitating our pregnancy loss support group. I watched Parents' Neighbours Daughter, whom I've known since she was three months old, walk down the aisle to get married, and said goodbye within the past year to several longtime colleagues at work, including my boss of the past 16 years.

As that milestone birthday draws closer -- as my potential childbearing years come to a close (& retirement looms on the horizon) -- I find the picture of the future may be getting just a little clearer than it might have been 10 years ago. I can't say I'm wild about the aging process (the new grey hairs, age spots & wrinkles that I'm starting to notice almost daily...!) -- but on the other hand, I find myself looking forward to the eventual freedom it promises -- the freedom of not having to worry about dear AF's visits, of not having to get up & go to work every day, of having unlimited vacation time (if not funds...!) to travel, of using the gift of time to tackle some of the books and projects and interests and volunteer work that working full time just doesn't allow.

I'm finding myself excited about the possibilities of the future once again. Of finding myself again, after those 10 lost years. Our recent vacation seemed to mark the start of a new phase of our life together. I feel like I'm finally, truly, starting to look forward more than backward.

Now, nobody knows better than me about how "life is what happens while you're making other plans." But at the same time, we need to plan, we need to have something to look forward to. I haven't had that in awhile -- at least, not beyond an abstract sense that this phase of my life was on the distant horizon.

It's getting closer. And while I'm not necessarily looking forward to some things about it, I am looking forward to others.

And it feels good. : )

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 24: Where you live

The town: Dh & I live in what's known as "the Greater Toronto Area" or GTA. Dh was born & raised in Toronto, in the city proper (close to one of the subway stations, in fact). Never in my wildest dreams, growing up on the Prairies in the 1970s, did I imagine living in Toronto. Calgary or Edmonton, maybe. Toronto?? Never!

Then & now, Toronto has always been the city that people living elsewhere in Canada love to hate. (Typical joke: How many Torontonians does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: One to hold the bulb in place while the world revolves around him.)

But Toronto & the Prairies actually have more in common than most people realize. I've come to realize that most of the people telling the insulting jokes about either place (& believe me, coming from Manitoba, I've heard enough jokes about "Winterpeg" to last a lifetime) have never actually been there.

I remember the first time dh brought me to Toronto to meet his family. We were both students then, & rode the train into the city, coming in from the western suburbs, along the shores of Lake Ontario, past the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition. I peered out the window as the towering skyscrapers of the financial district & the famed CN Tower came into view. His brother was waiting for us at the gorgeous old train station (which we now walk through, every morning, on our way to work), & drove us home. He took us down Danforth Avenue, where the street signs are in both English & Greek characters, & stopped as a Greek Orthodox priest with a long white beard wearing long black robes crossed the street at a pedestrian crosswalk. If I hadn't realized it before, I knew right then that I wasn't in Kansas anymore. ; )

Toronto has its faults, of course. The "centre of the universe" mentality does exist in some quarters, particularly on Bay Street (read: Wall Street of Canada), where dh & I work. Fighting the traffic, the mobs of people, the panhandlers on every downtown street corner, wears on your nerves after awhile (particularly when half the people seem to be staring at their Blackberries & not watching where they're going -- both on the sidewalks AND in their cars, anti-texting laws notwithstanding...!). The city has gotten both scruffier and meaner in the 25 years that I've lived here. Unfortunately, you don't hear stories anymore about movie crews having to strew garbage on the streets to make it look more like New York (& then having to do it again because the street cleaners sweep it up). The sports teams generally suck -- have for years (and yet Leafs games still sell out...!).

But it is still a beautiful, exciting city. I love the big trees & beautiful parks, the wonderful old buildings (too many of them have been thoughtlessly torn down, of course, but there are still some architectural gems around). The diversity -- Toronto has one of the most diverse populations in the world, home to people from every country in the world. Greektown on the Danforth, Little Italy & Little Portugal on College Street, Little India on Gerrard Street, the Polish bakeries on Roncesvalles, other Italian sections on St. Clair West and in Woodbridge, Chinatown downtown & the Pacific Mall in Markham.... As I have said many times -- living in this city, you have absolutely no excuse to be bored. Movies, shopping, museums, art galleries, sports teams, concerts of all kinds, theatre, readings. World-class hospitals, excellent universities -- some of the best institutions in Canada & the world are all right here. We are so very fortunate. If there's anything that truly bothers me about Toronto, it's perhaps the tendency of some people who have lived here or around here all their lives to take that all for granted.

Dh & I lived in a small one-bedroom apartment in a yuppie midtown area for the first five years of our marriage, but when we started looking for a house, we ventured out to the suburbs. We'd been out here before to visit his cousin, & wound up buying a house a couple of blocks away. (We rarely see them these days, but at the time, living close together seemed like a great idea.) Houses here were much cheaper (& newer) than what we could afford in the city, & you got a lot more house for your money. The commuter train station is just a 5-10 minute drive or bus ride away from our house, with service every 10-20 minutes during rush hour and every hour during the rest of the day. Our house is near good elementary & high schools (both public & Catholic) -- considerations in that heady period when we envisioned the family we hoped to start soon -- a short walk away from a shopping plaza with a supermarket, drug store, dollar store, dry cleaner, pizza & subway outlets, etc. etc., and a short drive/bus ride to a sizeable mall with good shopping.

The house: I've written about our house before, most recently in answer to the "30 Posts in 30 Days" question about your dream house. It's about 25 years old now, & we've lived here 20 (gulp) years -- a lot longer than we ever thought we would. We thought we'd move up to something bigger when we had kids... well, we're still here. ; ) The house is not large -- two storeys, 3 bedrooms, about 1,400 square feet, a large pie-shaped lot that would have been perfect for a swing set or pool or maybe even both. We've made various upgrades over the years, & it probably needs more... we constantly debate whether we should move, maybe to a condo? But it's a nice little house in a nice little neighbourhood. And it's ours. : )

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 23: A YouTube video

I have to admit I don't spend a lot of time on YouTube... every time I go there, I start going from one video to another, & before I know it, hours have passed. When all's said & done, if I'm going to spend that time online, I'd rather be reading blogs. ; )

But I do appreciate being able to find music & interview clips & sometimes even complete episodes of TV shows within seconds. I think back to my childhood (in the Stone Age, lol) -- if you missed an episode of your favourite show, that was that. You MIGHT, if you were lucky, be able to catch it in reruns, or some years later, if it was syndicated. When we got a cassette tape recorder, my sister & I & our friends used to tape complete episodes of "The Partridge Family" & then listen to them later, over & over -- sound only, of course. We used to watch "American Bandstand," cassette recorder at the ready, & tape the songs we liked & interviews with some of the performing bands.

Some years ago, my girlfriend was trying to explain this to her daughter -- raised in an era of VCRs and video cameras -- & I giggled when I saw the puzzled "does not compute" expression on her face. I don't think I saw my first movie on VCR until I was well into my university years, and it seemed pretty amazing. I sometimes wonder how the brains of this generation have been affected by the ability to view their favourite TV shows & movies, on demand, over & over & over again.

As for me, I think I can still recite dialogue from the "Danny & the Mob" episode of "The Partridge Family." Here is a condensed version that I found -- where else? -- on YouTube:

Monday, October 4, 2010

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 22: A website

"A" website?? Hard to pick just one. Since most of you are here because you share my struggles with infertility &/or pregnancy loss &/or childlessness not by choice, I'll tell you a couple of my favourite blogs/websites on these subjects:
  • Stirrup Queens: the mothership, the gathering place, the pomegranate thread that connects so many in the adoption/loss/infertility community. If you don't know about Mel's amazing blogroll, chances are, there is a blog on it written by someone who understands your particular situation.
  • Glow in the Woods: amazingly thoughtful writing on life after the loss of a baby by a talented group of babylost blogging moms & dads.
  • A Fresh Start: Pamela, author of the wonderful Coming 2 Terms blog and award-winning book Silent Sorority, started this new blog to focus on life beyond infertility.
  • Life Without Baby: another childless-not-by-choice blogger, Lisa posts almost daily with sharp-eyed observations & questions on childless living in a pronatalist world.

Happy reading!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Aaackk!! (part 2)

Further to this previous post -- the final "Cathy" cartoon strip was published today. 

Just GUESS how it ended. 

Here's a link to the final strip. (Should be good for about a month.) 

30+ years of loyal readership, and THIS is how it ends??? 

Even worse -- all the comments saying, "Perfect!" "What a great ending!" "I was hoping it would end this way!" etc. etc. etc. 

(Dh just said, "I can tell you're pissed -- you're hitting the keys harder." lol) 

Why must everyone always opt for the Hollywood ending?

30 Posts in 30 Days: Day 21: A receipe

Picking up where I left off with the 30 Posts in 30 Days meme.... 

This is a very, very easy recipe that I love to make on nights when dh is working late & I come home by myself. It takes five minutes to throw together & into the oven, & it's ready about the time he arrives home: 

Easy Chicken & Rice Casserole 

In a casserole dish, combine 1 & 1/3 cups white rice with one envelope of onion soup mix, one can of cream of mushroom soup & 1.5-2 soup cans of water. 

Add chicken breasts. (I use two for dh & me, but you could certainly add more -- four would likely be optimal.) 

Bake in a 350F oven for 1.5 hours. 

That's it! 

I also make a version of this with pork chops. The only difference is that you brown the pork chops in a frying pan first, & cover the casserole dish in the oven. We serve it with veggies, but I've seen variations of this recipe that add vegetables into the mixture. I've used just a half envelope of the onion soup mix and reduced fat cream of mushroom soup to reduce the fat & sodium levels.

For just the two of us, there is lots of rice leftover -- we just refrigerate it & use it later in the week with something easy like chicken strips or fishsticks when we're in a rush for dinner.