Sunday, November 28, 2010

Black Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Reality check

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Does adult = parent?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Better not pout, better not cry...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Odds & ends

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

Monday, November 8, 2010

So far, so good? (knock wood!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Knocking wood here.)