Friday, December 31, 2010

Year in review

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

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

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

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

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

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

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

4. Did anyone close to you die?

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

5. What countries did you visit?

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

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

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

A sunspot vacation. : )

A greater sense of self-confidence.

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

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

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

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

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

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

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

9. What was your biggest failure?

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

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

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

11. What was the best thing you bought?

My new Toshiba laptop. : )

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

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

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

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

14. Where did most of your money go?

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

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

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

16. What song will always remind you of 2010?

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

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

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

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

Scrapbooking. Spent more time with friends.

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

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

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

21. Did you fall in love in 2010?

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

22. What was your favorite TV program?

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

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

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

24. What was the best book you read?

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

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

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

26. What did you want and get?

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

27. What did you want and not get?

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

28. What was your favourite film of this year?

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

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

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

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

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

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

32. What kept you sane?

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

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

35. Who did you miss?

As always, my daughter, and my grandparents.

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

36. Who was the best new person you met?

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

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

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

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

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

New Year's Eve 2007

New Year's Eve 2008

New Year's resolutions for 2009

New Year's resolutions for bereaved parents

New Year's Eve 2009

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Holiday reading: "Reluctant Genius" by Charlotte Gray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Awards: Cherry on Top/Versatile Blogger

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

Thank you, Msfitzita & Rebecca! : )

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

The Versatile Blogger: Here's how this works:

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

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

Thanks again!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Butterfly Christmas : )

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

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

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

How was your holiday?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmastime odds & ends

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

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"We had a lovely daughter"

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

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

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

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

The opening lines were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We had a lovely daughter.

We thought our lives fulfilled...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

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

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

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

Shock. Utter disbelief. How could this be?

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

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

No more. Never again.

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tree time!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hey, the GG has a clue!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Odds & ends

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