Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year in Review 2011

I enjoyed doing this year-end meme so much at New Year's last year that I decided to do it again this year. Interesting to see what's changed (& what hasn't!). Feel free to use on your own blog (& let me know if you do!).

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

As I said last year, I generally don't make new year's resolutions anymore -- they tend to be pretty much the same, year after year (erk):
  • Lose weight. (sigh)
  • Exercise more. (And hopefully lose more weight...!) -- sadly, did no better in 2011 than 2010. :p
  • Write more in my journal (blog??). Didn't write in my paper journal at all. Blogging: at xx posts (including this one), I didn't quite equal the 131 posts from 2010, 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!) Read ## books this year... but still nowhere near keeping up. :p
  • Tackle some of the clutter that never seems to go away. ("Some" being the operative word...) I did make some leeway here... took some old suitcases & several boxes of old dishes, glasses, vases, etc. to Goodwill this fall. Of course, there's always scope to do more....!
In January 2009 (almost two years ago), I also resolved to:
  • Finally do something with the spare bedroom that was to have been the nursery (get new furniture & linens to replace the old castoffs). I did get a new bedding set earlier this (ADD LINK), but still have the old furniture.
  • 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. Very little scrapbooking done this year too.
2. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?
Nothing comes to mind at the moment. I have to admit I'm not a terribly adventurous person.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes, PND had a little girl in September. : )

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Thankfully (& knocking wood), not close-close. However, dh's uncle passed away of a massive heart attack in July. He was only 70. The wife of one of dh's cousins also lost her mom earlier in the year -- also of a heart attack, also in her early 70s. Both of my parents are also in their early 70s, so this is starting to get a little too close for comfort. :(

5. What countries did you visit?
I didn't leave Canada this year.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?

Last year, I said: More time (& energy) to get more things done. :p A sunspot vacation. : ) A greater sense of self-confidence. I'd go with those again this year.

7. What date(s) from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
My 50th birthday (Jan. 12th), for obvious reasons. : ) My 25th anniversary at work (Aug. 11th). I don't remember the exact date, but dh & I met 30 years ago in late September/early October (1981). And a very merry Christmas with PNGD/The Princess. : )

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Surviving ANOTHER busy, turbulent year at work, including ANOTHER new senior manager (second one in less than a year, after 16 years of working with the same person), new director (similar story), new VP, more new (& mostly much younger) coworkers, and an office renovation, which involved purging & packing up all my stuff, TWICE.
And, despite all this, reaching my 25th anniversary, not just with the company but also with the department. I'd say that's an achievement. ; )

9. What was your biggest failure?

As I wrote last year: 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

I also did not get any scrapbooking done, again. :( However, there's a Michaels opening near me soon. Maybe that will be the incentive I need. ; )

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nothing serious, thankfully. I did have the first significant sore throat/cold that I've had in quite a long time -- over Christmas, of course. :p And my knees are feeling a tad creakier than they used to. :p Knock wood, & thanks to a careful strategy of avoidance, I have not had any problems with my allergies (food or otherwise) in a long time.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

A netbook for dh for Christmas. : )

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
The first person who popped into my head is Olivia Chow, widow of Jack Layton and NDP member of Parliament. I haven't always been a big fan of hers, but I thought she showed great poise and dignity in the public eye at a very difficult time.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

I continue to be less than impressed by the vast majority of politicians on both sides of the border, federal, provincial and municipal, and spanning the political spectrum. We had both federal & provincial elections this year (& municipal elections in late 2010), & then of course there's the neverending U.S. presidential election (how many debates do the Republican candidates need to have??).
I also second my comment last year about the ignorant commenters on any newspaper column dealing with infertility, who think we should all get over ourselves and "just adopt." This includes the heartless and appalling commenters who felt the need to judge Michelle Duggar and how the family handled the loss of their 21st child. I'm not a fan of the Duggars -- their hyperfertility seems like a slap in the face (however inadvertent) to those of us who struggle with bringing even just one living, healthy baby home -- but a loss is a loss, whether it's your first child or 21st.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Beyond the essentials of daily living, and savings, our biggest indulgence is probably reading materials -- books & magazines. We didn't do any major projects around the house this year (although we probably should have...). No, wait, we did hire stepBIL to reset one side of the backyard fence (the other side was done a few years ago). It was leaning horribly & just about ready to topple over, & neither dh nor I were keen to have the neighbours' two rambunctious dogs using our back yard as their bathroom. :p

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

PNGD/The Princess. : ) And, I have to admit, I did get excited about my 50th birthday & 25th work anniversary. Whatever you think about aging, it's still a milestone.

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?

"Rolling in the Deep" & "Someone Like You" by Adele.

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

(a) happier, I think. (b) probably more or less the same :p (c) slightly richer, thanks to some diligent saving and investing (even accounting for market decline).

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

Scrapbooking. Reading. Theatre. Taken more time off work. I have a ton of unused vacation & lieu time, & I didn't even use all my personal days this year.

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

Saying stuff that I knew would make me look ancient in the eyes of my 20-something coworkers. Sometimes I just can't help myself, though. ; ) And working through my lunch hours. I feel so much better when I get away from my desk for awhile.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

In Manitoba with my family (my parents, sister & her boyfriend). Mesmerized by The Princess. ; ) Reading a few books, enjoying Mom's shortbread, playing cards & dominos. Sleeping in. Isn't that what holidays are for?

21. Did you fall in love in 2011?

Yes -- with PNGD/The Princess. : ) And with Burnt Sugar Fudge, lol. ; )

22. What was your favorite TV program?

My favourite continues to be The Big Bang Theory. : )

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

Hate is a strong word... nobody comes to mind immediately.

24. What was the best book you read?

I read quite a few good ones this year -- 21 (22 if I can finish the one I'm reading right now by midnight, lol). I read three of the four Flavia de Luce books by Alan Bradley (read the first one, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, a year ago LAST Christmas) & love them all. And I really did enjoy The Help.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Adele. (See #16, above.) Love her big, soulful voice!

26. What did you want and get?

More charms for my Pandora bracelet (from dh for Christmas). : ) And a new bedspread for the spare bedroom.

27. What did you want and not get?

A sunspot vacation (again). My parents are hoping to spend a month in Florida this winter, though, & if they do and have the room, we may go visit them there. : ) I've promised dh a visit to Cape Canaveral as incentive. ; )
I didn't get the new everyday dishes I've been hankering after (which I mentioned in last year's post) this year either. (I have a pattern in mind & am watching for sales!)
Tickets to American Idiot. It's only on for a few weeks, the theatre is in north Toronto (not as convenient as downtown), & you have to buy tickets for at least THREE productions at the same theatre, even if you're really only interested in (or can afford) one show. :p Bah humbug.

28. What was your favourite film of this year?

We saw a dozen new movies in the theatre this year, which is actually on the low side for us. The vast majority of them were very good. Hard to pick a favourite, but two that come to mind that I really enjoyed were "The Help" and "Midnight in Paris." We're both big Woody Allen fans from way back, & this was probably one of his better movies in many years.

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

I was 50 (erk!). I spent the day at the spa, & dh took me out for dinner later. And I blogged about it, here.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Less stress & upheaval at work. I felt like I was just getting used to my new boss when she quit in March, just nine months after she started. On the bright side, her replacement is a former coworker (albeit a much younger one, whom I used to mentor when she was a summer student...!). Things finally seem to be settling into a more even keel. Knock wood...
31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?

As I said in 2010, not sure I have one, let alone a new one every year?? I did buy a lot of new clothes -- capris with tanks worn under cardigans for work (in the summer -- definitely not in winter, lol). I bought several new cardigans, both winter & summer style. I like to look nice, but I definitely favour comfort over trendiness as a rule. Lots of Reitmans, Gap and some Laura & Cleo thrown in. ; )

32. What kept you sane?

Again, as I said last year: dh, weekends, & being able to vent to my online friends. : ) And knowing that retirement could be just four more years away. ; )

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Ditto the above comments about Olivia Chow, and her late husband, who went from one battle (political) to another (cancer) & was gone in a shockingly short period of time.
Kate Middleton, for showing grace under extreme pressure, and choosing a classic & classy gown for her wedding. And her grandmother-in-law, who is 85 & will mark 60 years on the throne next year, and is still going strong.
34. What political issue stirred you the most?

The Occupy movement didn't make too much of a splash locally, but they had my sympathy, even though I work for one of the institutions they love to target. I'm also concerned about the growing secrecy & concentration of power in our Prime Minister's Office. Democracy is not being well served.

35. Who did you miss?

As always, my daughter, and my grandparents.
Our nephews. Being 19 & 23, they like to spend their spare time with their friends, so we don't get to see as much of them as we used to.
Our friends from our support group.
Last year, I said I missed my college roommate, but happily, had been able to reconnect with heer for lunch last November (2010). Sadly, I haven't seen nor heard from her since then (although I have called her & left messages on her birthday & a couple of other times).

36. Who was the best new person you met?

One of my coworkers. Technically, I met her when she joined our department in November 2010, but this was her first full year working for us. She is young (just turned 26), full of energy & enthusiasm and questions. Her mother is a year older than me (!!!). She makes me feel ancient sometimes, but she also makes me smile.
I also got to meet Deathstar this summer, in person -- but I felt like I already knew her from her blog. ; )
37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.

Stressing out isn't worth it (no matter what the stressing is about). It's a lesson I've had to learn before... but it seems I have to keep releaning it. :p

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

Can't think of one offhand.

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

Friday, December 30, 2011

Post-Christmas odds & ends

  • I had a great Christmas. : ) One of the best in years.
  • A big part of it, of course, was The Princess/PNGD. Her mom (PND) generously brought her over to visit every single day we were there -- & the one day she didn't (because we went out of town shopping), we stopped in en route back to visit her and to see her nursery. She's a very good baby, even with half a dozen strange adults passing her around and hovering over her and keeping her up late and off schedule. If she started fussing a little, it was usually because she was needed a nap, feeding or changing, and quickly resumed her smiles and coos.
  • I finished off one photo memory card, completely filled up a second and started a third. I haven't counted (I'm a little afraid to...) but I think I took well over 400 photos -- most of them of the Princess. Erk.
  • Let me be clear -- I very much doubt I could have taken so much pleasure in The Princess's presence, or written my previous post, a year or two years or even five years out from Katie's stillbirth. Time and aging don't erase the hurt, of course, but they do bring a certain level of acceptance and perspective. I'm glad.
  • I was also happy that I was able to completely surprise dh with his own netbook (bought & set up by my sister's tech guru boyfriend).
  • Of course I had an ulterior motive: now he doesn't have to share my laptop, lol.
  • He's even asked me to help set him up on Facebook. What have I done?? lol
  • Dh went back to work on Wednesday, but I am still off until Tuesday (woohoo). I have been puttering around the house, unpacking, doing laundry & cleaning, updating my calendar for 2012, working on my family tree, catching up on blog reading & commenting. I could get used to this... is this what retirement is like? (Although retirement will have to be slightly more active... I will admit I am feeling just a tad couch potato-ish.)
  • With all the distractions provided by The Princess, I didn't get to read quite as much as I usually do while I'm on vacation... but I did finish off one book, completely read another, & am currently on a third. I will be providing reviews shortly -- particularly once I finish my current book, Closure: The Rush to End Grief and What it Costs Us by Nancy Berns, which I mentioned in another recent post.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

All hail The Princess!

The Princess lays on a blanket in the middle of the living room floor, kicking her legs, waving her arms, cooing & drooling adorably, surveying her loyal subjects with wide blue eyes. All other activity comes to a stop when she enters the room. Seated around her, half a dozen adults watch her every movement in fascination.

Thirteen years ago, I called my mother to tell her I was pregnant, and due in November. "A baby for Christmas!!" my mother exclaimed happily.

Sadly, there was no baby in the house for Christmas that year. Or any Christmas since then.

Until now.

It's Christmas again. And there's a baby in the house.

No, not MY baby. Sadly, that will never be.

But perhaps the next best thing: PND, who has spent part of every Christmas at my parents' house since SHE was a baby, is generously sharing her 3.5-month-old daughter (PNGD/The Princess) with us. She has brought the baby over to visit every day since we've been here, and she, her husband and The Princess will be spending Christmas Eve with us.

There are, as usual, lots of presents under the tree. We giggle as we count how many of them are for The Princess (with more in the bedroom closet, waiting to be wrapped).

Does it hurt? A little. I'd be lying if I said it didn't. The hardest part? dh & I agree: watching my childfree by choice sister, who never shows too much excitement about anything, gleefully showing me the Santa suit (complete with hat) that she's bought -- holding The Princess in her lap, bouncing her up & down, smiling and talking baby talk to her. It is easy to envision the kind of proud, doting auntie she would have been.

But there is happiness, too. For all that I detest the idea that "Christmas is for kids," having one in the house adds a special dimension of joy to the celebrations --the continuity, the traditions -- especially when we've been without children in the house for so long. We have been so fortunate to have PND with us all these years, of course -- but when she was little, dh & I fully expected we would have our own children to celebrate with... someday.

Which is why it is extra-special to have The Princess with us this year. We'd be appreciative of any baby, of course, but being PND's daughter just adds to the specialness.

It's Christmas. And there's a baby in the house. At last.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Anybody who denies this culture is seriously pregnancy & baby crazed needs to read this:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pre-holiday odds & ends

  • Thanks for weighing in on my recent post about our support group's candlelighting. It's tomorrow night, & we won't be going. The closer we get to the day, the more OK I am with that. (For one thing, it's been a busy week -- I'm exhausted, lol. The last thing I want to do when I get home at night is go out again.)

  • Further to my recent post about closure, I ordered Nancy Berns's book, Closure, from Chapters online, & got it about three days later. Looking forward to delving into it over the holidays!

  • I went to the Toronto Eaton Centre on my lunch hour yesterday (yes, I'm probably nuts, but it was Monday, and really not too horrible). Walking through the upper level, I could hear a beautiful, soaring soprano voice, singing an ancient Christmas carol -- I recognized the melody from church. She was not only singing but playing the harp, sitting in a corner beside the glittering Swarovski Christmas tree. I paused for awhile to watch her & to drink in the beauty of sight & the sound. And felt the lump rise in my throat. It was a wonderful, soul-calming antidote to all the hustle & bustle of the mall and stress of the office.

  • Normally, I would come to the Eaton Centre to watch Santa with the kids as a pick-me-up. Alas, Santa is not in residence this year at one of the city's (& Canada's) biggest & most famous malls. You can Skype with Santa (!!) or buy tickets to a storytime session with him... but if you want to do the traditional thing and line up to have your picture taken with him, you'll have to go elsewhere. Bah humbug. :p

  • I actually braved the Eaton Centre at lunchtime because I was out of Burnt Sugar fudge from Indigo & had to restock my desk drawer stash. I just recently discovered this delectable treat -- both the Original Crumbly Fudge & Sea Salt Caramel flavours, both "Heather's Gift Picks." O.M.G. I am addicted.

  • My young, idealistic, single & childless coworker/cubicle neighbour was on the phone with her pregnant best friend last week. She was bubbling over with questions and enthusiasm. "Can you feel the baby kicking? What does it feel like? That must be SO COOL!! I can't wait to meet him!" What does it feel like to be so young & full of energy & exuberant, innocent enthusiasm about pregnancy? I wondered. And then wondered how I got so old & cynical. (And then thought about just how indeed that happened.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Shades of grey... on a sitcom

OK, anyone watch "How I Met Your Mother" last night? (If you didn't, & you are a fan of the show, this post contains spoilers -- you have been warned.)

In a nutshell, at the end of the last episode, Robin thought she pregnant, & that Barney was the father. As someone who has been adamantly childfree by choice, Robin was not particularly happy to find herself in this position.

Last night's episode started out with a big twist: instead of the usual voice over of Future Ted talking to his two bored kids on the sofa, there's a different sofa, two different kids -- and Robin's voiceover narration with a new title: "How I Met Your Father." Huh?

Then, Robin finds out that she's actually not pregnant, and she & Barney do a silly happy dance. She apologizes to the kids on the couch -- "sorry, kids." Huh? again.

Then Robin get called back to the dr... and in one of the those "only in TV Land" twists, gets told that she will never be able to have children. (They can tell all this from a pregnancy blood test? And even if they could, should they really be testing for other stuff without telling the patient?)(But, I digress...)

It's one thing to say you don't want kids -- quite another to be told you won't be able to have them. Robin struggles with this newfound knowledge. Her friends sense that something is wrong, but she doesn't tell them the truth, instead making up a dumb story that she's disappointed that she just found out she can never be a Canadian Olympic pole vaulter (!). (Robin's Canadianness has been the butt of many jokes on the show over the years.) Meanwhile, Lily, the clueless preggo (who went through "infertility" very briefly while trying to conceive), takes her shopping for baby stuff, & waves a maple leaf onesie in Robin's face. Poor Robin has to leave.

In the end, we learn that the kids on the couch were all in Robin's imagination. (I figured that one out long before dh -- it just wasn't in keeping with the arc of her character.) "I'm glad," she says, although there's a tinge of sadness in her voice.

Future Ted tells us that although Robin never became a "pole vaulter," she became a famous journalist -- and a bull fighter (!)

But the last line of Ted's voice-over narration, as he gives Robin a hug -- "She was never alone" -- absolutely slayed me. I bawled like a baby while dh held my hand. I guess it tapped into my deepest fear -- of being alone and forgotten at the end of my life. It's something I try not to think about -- our nephews will look in on me once in awhile (won't they??)... I have friends... lots of people with kids are lonely in their old age too... But it's hard not to sometimes.

I spent part of the morning ignoring work (shhh...) & searching for online reviews of the show to see what other people thought. This writer and this one gave it thumbs up. I read some comments on the plot summary on, and some people hated it. I got a rueful chuckle out of how many were trying to figure out how Robin might wind up being a mother after all, even if she doesn't have biological kids (adoption? stepkids?)(She just HAS to be a MOM!!! Somehow!!! Right???)

Overall, I thought the episode was very well done. The unexpected pregnancy is such a TV cliche. I like that they didn't go through with it -- go for the easy ratings (both main female characters pregnant)(even though a pregnancy would have been totally out of character for Robin). I like that they left Robin childless/free. I give everyone involved kudos for tackling a subject that's not the usual sitcom fodder, & exploring and acknowledging the shades of grey that creep into our lives -- how we can be both happy & sad at the same time about something -- how you can be sad that you don't have children but still have a good life without them.

Did you watch? What did you think?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Article: "Looking for closure in all the wrong places"

This article was in today's Globe & Mail -- timely, I thought, given the holiday season and the number of people out there for whom Christmas might not be particularly merry, for whatever reason(s) but who nevertheless are feeling the pressure to get with the program.

Of course, I dislike the whole concept of "closure" intensely -- I don't believe there's any such thing. One of my all-time favourite quotes, from Elizabeth McCracken's amazing stillbirth memoir, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: "Closure is bullshit."

Here's an excerpt:
Of the many self-help platitudes invoked during a crisis, none has been more flogged in the past two decades than “closure.” No tragedy can be complete until the narrative has run its course, converting sadness and injustice into a three-act screenplay taught in a night school course: happiness, disaster, closure. It’s the ultimate celebrity-interview reveal: “I finally have closure,” Tamara Mellon, former head of Jimmy Choo, told Interview magazine about her troubled relationship with her mother. Online posters want Rihanna and Chris Brown to get it, and the editors of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills are scrambling to find some for Taylor Armstrong after her husband’s suicide.

When news is cast as entertainment, which it is in the 24-hour cable world, stories require endings. The meaning of closure is both mutable and vague – move along, finish up, put away your grief – which makes it highly utilitarian. A romantic breakup, a dead pet, a terrorist attack – closure is the great equalizing imperative, offered as cold comfort. There’s something profoundly attractive about closure: In chaos, it’s the one clear idea. Closure is something to do.

Yet closure isn’t a term used by many bereavement therapists. According to a new book, in fact, closure doesn’t even exist. In Closure: The Rush to End Grief and What it Costs Us, Drake University sociologist Nancy Berns writes, “Closure is not some naturally occurring emotion; it’s a made-up concept that tells us how we should deal with loss.” In other words, it’s a prescription that can’t be filled...

The truth is that grief is ongoing and laborious. Freud said that “mourning is work,” a thing to be wrestled. But it’s a valuable struggle; all kinds of truths arise from contemplation. What benefit is there to rush past injustices of the kind we’ve witnessed these past weeks? Who would be served by closing the door quickly and moving on at UC Davis, at Penn State?
Read more here. (I've put the book mentioned in the article on my "to shop for" list. Would you be surprised to learn that the author had a stillborn baby boy in 2001?)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

To go or not to go?

I've debated what, if anything, I should write about this.

If you're read my blog for awhile, you'll know that attending meetings of a local support group was an enormous help to both dh & I in the days following Katie's stillbirth in August 1998. Although blogs didn't exist back then, I was lucky enough to find some daily support on the Internet -- and a support group not too far from where we live that met twice a month. Online support was my daily lifeline -- but meeting face to face with other real, live bereaved parents, & getting a sympathetic ear, suggestions and even hugs from our wonderful facilitators -- both bereaved mothers as well as NICU nurses -- was an invaluable part of our healing.

After a year, we felt we'd progressed sufficiently in our own grief journey to be able to help others, and so we began training as facilitators. We stayed on for the next 10 years, welcoming dozens of moms & dads, telling our (Katie's) story, listening to theirs (as our facilitators had done for us), offering the benefit of our experience where we could.

We facilitated our last meeting in December 2009, almost exactly two years ago. We stepped down because we felt that 10 years was long enough and that it was time for someone else to take on the responsibility. Dh, in particular, was feeling the toll of listening to one too many sad stories after another.

But, truth be told, there were other reasons. For one thing, the clients had changed... or maybe we had. Whatever the reason, it suddenly seemed like the clients were getting younger & younger -- & I started feeling older & older (& crankier, lol). The generation gap yawned like a chasm before me. A growing number of our younger clients (some of them young enough to be our kids, eeekkk) seemed more self-centred, less interested in listening to the other clients and providing mutual support. There were more & more nights when clients were monopolizing the discussion -- or, if not talking too much before the group, holding side conversations with each other instead of listening to whoever was talking. There were many nights I could see people surreptitiously text messaging under the table -- or, worse, leaving their cellphones on & then taking calls in the middle of the meeting (!).

And the organization had changed. The original founders of the group had gradually left -- many of them burned out from trying to keep the organization afloat & funding rolling in (dead babies being a far less popular cause in the public mind than breast cancer or heart disease). Unfortunately, many of the original values, principles and practices seemed to go with them -- or began slowly eroding -- lost in transition.

Soon, there were people on the board of directors and in the office who had not been around when we first joined the group, who did not know the founders or why certain things were done the way they were. Money was a continual problem, as it always had been, but not all of the problems related to money. Events were less well organized, with less attention paid to the fine details. Volunteer training became more sporadic, less hands on. Sometimes, I found myself annoyed by directives from the office concerning matters that were probably best left to each group & facilitator to decide. At other times, we felt that we were operating in a vacuum & not getting the level of support we needed.

Since we left, there have been more changes. Greater responsibilities & expectations have been placed on the facilitators' shoulders.

Now, I'll admit that I am a person who does not accept change easily. I know that sometimes, change is necessary, and that financial constraints make it difficult to maintain every service, every tradition and every position.

But it's not just the changes themselves but the way they were carried out that have most upset me, and many others. While I don't want to go into all the details, over the last two years since we've stopped facilitating, people we know, love and respect -- people who have served the organization well for many years, made enormous contributions, and were beloved by many, many volunteers & clients -- have been abruptly removed from their paid or volunteer positions in the organization -- often with little or no reasonable explanation given. (One lost her part-time job just days before the anniversary of her baby's death. You would think that an organization devoted to serving bereaved parents would have thought to check out that critical detail first before dropping the bomb.) Some volunteers who have voiced their displeasure or asked too many questions have been told that perhaps group was not the place for them any more. All this, from an organization that is supposed to care for and about people at the most vulnerable time of their lives.

To say that I am saddened, even sickened by what has happened, to people I admire & respect, and to an organization that has meant so much to me these past 13 years, is an understatement. Dh is furious, & has vowed that we will not give them one more penny of our money until things change. (Until just recently, we had been making generous monthly donations for about the past decade. We also raised about $10,000 for the group over the years through one of our workplace philanthropy programs.)

Many of our friends, especially those who have also volunteered with the organization in some capacity, feel as we do. Others who are still involved are dismayed by what's been happening --but (as you might expect) feel a tremendous loyalty to their clients & do not want to see them hurt any more than they are already hurting, through no fault of their own. The group is not perfect -- but what would parents like us do without it? Newly bereaved parents don't know what the group was like before, or care about the current internal politics. They may be getting an inferior experience compared to what we had, but they don't know that. They're just glad that someone is there to listen.

I hate to think about what the group has become, versus what it once was -- but I also hate the thought of no group at all.

What a mess!!

So here's my current dilemma: The group's annual holiday memorial candlelighting is coming up soon. This is an event that both dh & I have loved & always looked forward to (I've actually skipped or skipped out early from my office Christmas party several times to attend). It has been a huge part of our holiday celebrations for the past 13 years -- a time that we can set aside the hustle & bustle of the season, meet up with our old friends & remember our babies together. I can't imagine NOT going.

At the same time, I can't imagine GOING -- facing some of the people who made these decisions that I do not agree with, and pretending that all is well. I'm not a particularly confrontational sort of person, and frankly, I think I would feel like a bit of a hypocrite being there. To go would feel like we endorse what has been happening, when we don't.

I don't know yet if any of our friends are going -- it certainly wouldn't be the same without them. Some feel as we do. Others may not want to disappoint their children, who have grown up attending these events & come to look forward to them. In our e-mails over the past few months, some have said, well, who needs group, we can always get together ourselves sometime. Yes, but we generally haven't in the past, and nobody has volunteered to organize anything in the near future.

Another former facilitator has kindly organized an alternative event; unfortunately, it's on a night when we are otherwise engaged.

(We will be facing the same dilemma in the summer, when the annual picnic & butterfly release -- another annual highlight on our calendar -- rolls around.)

I just feel so terribly, terribly sad that it has come to this -- that something that once gave us such comfort & a sense of belonging has become so tained -- a source of pain. It's another loss, on top of so many others that we (dh & me, and our friends, collectively) have endured.

I know this sort of thing happens in lots of group situations. I just didn't think it would ever happen in this one. Sadly, I was wrong.

I think we have made our decision -- but I still feel very ambivalent.

What would you do?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

That's a loaded question...

Mass e-mail from co-worker (edited to remove identifying information):

Hi Everyone!

For our Holiday Party, I am collecting your best/worst/funniest holiday memory.

The Social Committee will be using this information for a fun activity we have planned for the party.

Please try to keep it concise (a line or two at most) and email it to me privately.

If you could send it to me by EOD Friday, that would be great!

*** *** ***

OK, I'm assuming by "worst holiday memory," they are looking for worst/we-can-laugh-about-it-now stories about the time Santa left a lump of coal in your stocking, or you had one too many glasses of eggnog & woke up with a hangover -- that sort of thing.

Because, honestly -- do they REALLY want to hear people's WORST holiday memories?

I mean, let's face it, I love Christmas -- but most people's Christmases, even the best ones, rarely if ever measure up to the Norman Rockwell ideal. And I'm pretty damned sure nobody wants to hear about MY worst Christmas.

Do they REALLY want to know what it's like to be expecting a baby in November -- to have your mother exclaim, when she learns the due date, "A baby for Christmas!!" -- to dream about bringing that baby home for the holidays to her adoring grandparents & great-grandparents -- only to have that dream totally, utterly shattered when the baby is stillborn in August?

Do they REALLY want to know why you can't bear to hear or sing "Away in a Manger" anymore? (especially when, one year, the choir changed the lyrics to include the line, "A baby for Christmas...")

Do they REALLY want to know what it's like to start crying every year while you're watching the Santa Claus Parade, because it brings back memories of your pregnancy & your secret wish that you'd be able to watch the parade from the windows of the hospital (on the parade route) with your newborn daughter in your arms?

Do they REALLY want to know what it's like to go to the mall and be confronted with oodles of toys, impossibly precious holiday clothes at Baby Gap & Gymboree, and a massive lineup of adorably dressed babies & toddlers waiting to see Santa Claus, when you'd give anything to be doing the same thing with your daughter?

Do they REALLY want to know what it's like to lose your grandfather just a few weeks after losing your baby -- the grandfather you adored, secretly thought was Santa Claus, and spent every single Christmas of your life with?

Do they REALLY want to know what it's like to go to your Christmas party -- the one place where you think you're safe & looking forward to kicking back with your co-workers -- only to have the colleague who was pregnant at the same time as you were & due just a few weeks before arrive? WITH her baby girl in tow?? And then be told that not just one, not just two, but THREE other coworkers just announced their pregnancies? (See my post about the Worst. Christmas Party. Ever.) And then leave the party early & spend the next two hours sitting numbly in the train station, waiting for your husband (who is at his party -- this being pre-cellphone days), & reading the same page of your People magazine over & over again, because you keep replaying the night's events over & over again in your head and just can't focus?

Do they REALLY want to know what it's like to decorate the Christmas tree in silence & without smiles or laughter, that first Christmas?

Do they REALLY want to know what it's like, searching for the perfect ornament for the tree to memorialize your stillborn daughter?

Do they REALLY want to know why your entire Christmas tree is now covered in teddy bear angels & Classic Pooh Christmas ornaments that you've accumulated over the past 13 years (hint: the baby's nursery was to have had a Classic Pooh theme)?

Do they REALLY want to know what it's like to read the cards that your mother received from her friends (who obviously haven't heard the news), saying things like, "Congratulations! You're going to love being a grandma!" and "Being a grandmother is the best!" and "How's that grandbaby?"

Do they REALLY want to know what it's like to hear everyone around you mouthing platitudes like, "Christmas is for kids"?

Do they REALLY want to know about how awful it felt to watch your father's face crumble as he started to take the traditional "family around the dinner table" photo, set down the camera & retreated downstairs so that we couldn't see him cry?

I didn't think so.

(For the record, I sent the story about my parents giving me the stereo I had been bugging them about for years -- complete with turntable & cassette deck. It was 1981 (30 years ago, eeek), I was in third-year university and I honestly didn't expect they would ever buy me such an expensive gift (which seems so Little House on the Prairie-ish these days, when I hear about parents buying their kids iPods and iPhones and game systems and television sets and Ugg boots, & taking them to Disney World) -- you can see in the pictures that I'd been crying from shock! They hid it under a roll of carpet in the shower stall of an unfinished basement bathroom in their new house, and sent me on a treasure hunt to find it. I still have it, in my basement, along with all my vinyl albums.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

(Not) the most wonderful time of the year :p

(Sorry, I hit "publish" before I was quite finished. And Blogger has been acting wonkily enough that I couldn't go back in & edit -- I had to copy & paste into a Word doc, delete what I had posted before & then report -- ARGH. So if you read my first post in a reader, this is the correct version.)

For awhile there, I thought I was going to make it through November without my annual "I hate November" whine. The weather has been unusually mild (which actually makes me a little nervous, global warming & all that) -- & SUNNY (which lifts my spirits enormously -- part of the reason I dislike November is the constant grey and gloom, at least here in southern Ontario). I got through Katie's 13th birthday/due date relatively well. The stress of year-end activities at work has been pretty manageable up to this point (although the daily 1 p.m. project meetings were really putting a cramp in my day). I got an early start on my Christmas shopping. My cousin recently moved just a 15-minute drive away from me (after 26 years of being surrounded by dh's family -- nice people that they (mostly, lol) are -- I FINALLY have a relative living closer than 1,000 miles away!!) -- and invited us to dinner for his daughter's birthday last week. Not only did I get to eat perogies, homemade by his visiting mom (my aunt), it was American Thanksgiving and they cooked a turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

Last weekend was lovely. I got to sleep in, & slept pretty well. Housecleaning went quickly. We took Christmas stuff to the cemetery to decorate Katie's niche which, although a sad reminder of what we've lost, also made me feel better to see her little corner of the world looking appropriately festive. We had dinner at a new local restaurant (Irish pub) -- the food was good & hot (we'll be back) & had a $10 coupon to pay for part of it. We had a nice, leisurely browse at Chapters without too many disruptions from screaming children in the toy section or inconsiderate dolts sitting sprawled out on the floor, blocking the aisle, while talking loudly on their cellphone. Sunday, we went to see "The Descendants" with George Clooney, & while the subject matter was on the depressing side (middle-aged man with two daughters dealing with his wife's impending death and the discovery that she was having an affair), the performances were excellent. Plus the scenery was gorgeous (not only George, lol, but it was set in Hawaii).

And then Monday rolled around (as it always does) & everything has been downhill since then.

It's crunch time at work -- major milestone coming up on Friday. A couple of projects will be more or less off my plate at that point, but (of course) other have come to take their place -- urgent stuff that needs to be done well before I leave on my vacation, of course.

Everyone is under stress. Dh is under stress at work -- and he has a mancold. :p And when I woke up this morning, it was pouring rain, and hasn't stopped all day. The sky has been dull, dark and grey.

Christmas decorations are springing up everywhere, I see people everywhere with shopping bags, but I don't have time to take a full lunch hour to work on my Christmas shopping, I'm too tired at night to head to the mall, and the thought of the mall on a weekend makes me cringe. :p

And so, just like that, I'm into my annual November sulk & feeling sorry for myself.

Update: Things are slightly better tonight, since I started drafting this. We had some hot soup for supper and assembled the Christmas tree (decorations to come later this week). Doing something a little Christmasy helped, I think.

To quote Scarlett O'Hara (watched the movie for the umpteenth time other night, Kleenex in hand), "Tomorrow is another day."

November 2010: Black Friday
November 2009: November blahs
November 2008: November again
November 2007: November: The cruellest month

Sunday, November 27, 2011

New header, new look

What do you think? The new header photo comes courtesy of Melissa, Stirrup Queen extraordinaire , who used it in a recent post & generously designed a new header for me when I complimented her on it. Absolutely love it, but it didn't quite fit in on top of the template design I had, so I have been playing around with new ones.
I was thinking I needed to update some of my links, etc., so this was the kick in the pants I needed to get started -- and it wasn't hard at all to add in the header either. Thank you, Mel! : )

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Guess I'm not alone ; )

Opened the paper this morning & found this article: 

Sample quote:
“Marketers are still targeting moms, just like they’ve done since the 1950s,” lamented Marti Barletta, chief executive officer of Chicago-based TrendSight Group, which provides insights about marketing to women. Ms. Barletta expresses her frustration with this short-sighted approach since people are having smaller families than they did years ago, and because marketing to moms resonates most often with first-time mothers only. “Marketers who were supposed to be trend forward, leading-edge and future-focused are the most outdated people on the planet,” she complained in an interview.

Friday, November 25, 2011

"Moms rock" -- oh, really??

I came home tonight & found a brochure from a certain telecommuncations company in my mailbox. Below my name & address was the line, "Learn how superphones help moms do more with their day." 

On the flipside, the title: "Moms Rock. Superphones help them roll." 

"What makes superphones so super? Just like moms: They're great at multitasking... They make every minute count... They don't just work hard -- they look good too." 


Inside: "Super selection for super moms" -- and this bit of advice: "If your kids are old enough for a phone, you can add them to your plan." 

Gee, thanks, B.e.ll.Can.a.da, for rubbing the absence of my child (who should be a teenager bugging me to get a cellphone, if she hadn't already sweet-talked her dad into getting her one) in my face (and not just once but over and over again in a single piece of marketing material). Flattery may get you everywhere, but you are barking up the WRONG tree here. :p 

FYI -- and for some reason, this seems to be a hard thing to grasp -- just because I'm a WOMAN does NOT automatically mean that I am a MOM. I know that moms are a favourite demographic in the marketing world these days -- but there's a growing number of us out there who, for whatever reason, don't have kids. (Although my guess is that the vast majority of us do have cellphones). 

Many of us are great at multi-tasking and making every minute count. And we look pretty damned good too, if I do say so myself. ; ) 


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

This year's model

As I've written in the past, I can be pretty picky when it comes to the Christmas card I send out every year. Since Katie, I tend to go for either angel designs or Classic Pooh (when I can find him -- sometimes he's pretty elusive...!). Almost without fail, I know "the" card when I lay eyes on it. I might look for awhile longer, but I almost always go back to that first one that made me go "aha!"

This year was no exception. I've bought Papyrus cards a couple of times in the past, and a Papyrus store opened in the concourse of my office tower this fall. When they set out their Christmas card display (in October, ugh...), I had a peek & instantly knew I had found my card. I did look around a few other places, but a few weeks ago, I went back & bought a stack of boxes.

It's by an artist I love, Rebecca (Becky) Kelly. On her website, Becky cites the Swedish artist Carl Larsson as an influence. I've seen his work at IKEA (of course, lol -- his artwork is on the gingersnap cookie tins I bought there) & liked it (maybe being 1/4 Swedish has something to do with it too). I also know that another artist I like, Tricia Romance, was heavily influenced by Larsson. I've been to her gallery in Niagara on the Lake (down the road from the Falls), one of my favourite places for a getaway, and my Mom gave me one of her plates, Star of Wonder:

Anyway, here is this year's card, by Rebecca Kelly:

Here's a link to the card on the Papyrus website, if you're curious & want a different view.

Here's a Becky Kelly design that was on my Christmas cards some years ago (but also post-Katie -- you can see in the right-hand corner that it's dated 2001). I'm sure you can see why it appealed to me. ; )

I didn't blog about my card last year but, if you're wondering, it was a picture of dh & me, taken with a self-timer on our 25th wedding anniversary. : )

2009 card
2008 card

Monday, November 21, 2011

Odds & ends

  • I now have 100 followers!! : ) I have to admit, I've never "followed" anyone myself (insert red-faced icon here) -- I read/follow my regular blogs through my Google Reader (where I have 224 (!!) subscribers)(is there some advantage to being a Blogger follower vs Google Reader subscriber?) -- but I really do appreciate my regular readers & commenters, through whatever medium. : )

  • Thanks to all of you who sympathized with my vent about Katie's due date and the anticipation of listening to baby shower talk from the weekend. As almost always happens, the anticipation was worse than the reality... the shower talk was not too horribly excessive (we're too busy at work these days to spend a lot of time standing around chit-chatting), & when it was, I found that rolling my eyes behind the sheltering walls of my cubicle while others talked was a great tension reliever. ; )

  • New definition of heartbreak: watching your husband as he wistfully looks on while his cousin's husband dances with their 10-year-old daughter at a recent banquet.

  • I got busy yesterday afternoon & didn't watch the Santa Claus Parade this year. Probably just as well, given my history with the parade in recent years. We had the radio on CBC news at noon, & a mere description of the massive crowds lining the route had the tears welling up in my eyes. (Then Stuart McLean finished me off with a story on the Vinyl Cafe, about Dave and the Big Narrows Centennial Baby, which ended with an an ode to community historians & memorykeepers -- something near & dear to my heart. I'd heard the story before, & I don't recall if I cried then too, but I was obviously in the mood.)

  • But for some reason, I was able to hit the mall later & shop for PNGD with gleeful abandon. The Children's Place, Baby Gap, Gymboree -- I hit them all (even just a few years ago, I would have avoided them like the plague) & had a blast. I even stopped off to watch the kids with Santa, and didn't even flinch. (Of course, tomorrow I could be a mess doing the same thing... but I'll take my small victories as they come...!)

  • I Lost a World stumbled onto a brilliant video this week, which she shares on her blog -- about Christmas cards, infertility, and how we define families. The kicker is that she realized it was done by someone she knew. I know this is an issue that many of us face at this time of year. Go have a look.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Recent reading

I've actually found time to read a couple of books lately! I've been trying to keep track of all the books I've read this year in my blog (16 so far, not counting the ones I'm writing about here -- not bad!! -- not as many as I would have read 10 or certainly 20 years ago, sadly, but not bad...). Here are the latest entries on the list:

I actually bought & started the hardcover of The Beatles by Bob Spitz when it first came out about five or six years ago. I'd read about 4/5 of the book before I put it down (around the point where Brian Epstein died), picked up something else... & never got back to it. It wasn't because it wasn't good -- on the contrary, it's a great book about a great band, one of my all-time essential favourite bands. I just seem to have developed a nasty habit of doing that over the past few years (insert red-faced icon here). I decided that has to change, and recently picked it up again to tackle what was left.

If you're a Beatles fan, this is an amazingly detailed look at the band, with lots of fresh material that will have you going "I never knew that..." The stuff about the early days of the band, in particular, was a treat to read. It also puts so many things in context. For example -- I'd heard & seen clips from the band's legendary performance at Shea Stadium, but not until I read this book did I realize its significance: the Beatles were the first band to EVER play a concert, not just at Shea Stadium but at ANY stadium, anywhere -- it had never been done before. So, among many other things, we have the Beatles to thank for arena rock shows. : ) Not for the first time, I wished I had been a teenager back then to experience Beatlemania firsthand. (As it was, and as I've written before -- here and here, for example -- the Beatles are among my first and most treasured pop culture memories as a preschooler.)

One of the many seldom-heard-from sources Spitz dug up for this book was Paul's Liverpool girlfriend, Dorothy (Dot) Rhone. Did you know she became pregnant by Paul, just as the Beatles were starting to hit it big, and had a miscarriage? She & Paul immediately got engaged -- his father was apparently delighted that he was going to be a grandfather -- but after the baby died, she could feel Paul slipping away from her, and they broke up. (It doesn't reflect very well on Paul -- but he WAS only, what 20 years old? & his life was rapidly changing at that point.) Heartbroken, Dot emigrated to Canada not long afterward, married & had other children (& grandchildren), worked for many years as a civil servant in southern Ontario (!), and is now retired. She & Paul have since seen each other backstage at some of his concerts over the years.

I've written before about my love of the most famous band to come out of my home province of Manitoba, the Guess Who, and its lead singer, Burton Cummings. Its guitarist, Randy Bachman, also went on to further fame with Bachman Turner Overdrive, and now hosts a weekly show on CBC Radio called Vinyl Tap, where he plays some of his favourite songs & tells stories about his personal encounters with the artists over the last 50 years.

Now, some of those stories have been collected in a new book called Vinyl Tap Stories. Randy wrote a memoir a few years back that I'd read, called Taking Care of Business, & some of the stories he tells here are familiar -- whether from that book or from interviews I've seen him give over the years, I'm not sure.

Still, there's no doubt that he has some great stories to tell and tells them well. As a Manitoban, of course, I get a huge kick out of his local references and his recollections about the Winnipeg of his childhood. Randy is closer to my mom's age than my own (he was born in 1943, just ahead of the first wave of post-war baby boomers), but when he talks about the Paddlewheel Restaurant, for example, I know exactly what he's talking about (although I had NO IDEA until I read this book that it was once THE place for Winnipeg teenagers & musicians to hang out!!).

(Incidentally, dh's former boss grew up kitty-corner from the Bachmans in the north end of Winnipeg in the 1960s. He told me once at a party that Randy & his brothers always had a band & always wound up playing at their school dances & hockey banquets. "Not the Bachmans again!" he & his friends would groan. Who knew?? lol)

I've always thought Jann Arden was a great singer, and over the years, she's also shown herself to be a funny and witty interview. She's been on the Rick Mercer Report several times, mostly in Calgary -- visiting the Calgary Zoo & luging at Olympic Park, ziplining, attending RoughStock and, most recently, doing the CN Tower EdgeWalk in Toronto, with hilarious results. Now she's written a memoir about her growing up years, Falling Backwards. (Sidenote: She was signing copies earlier this month at a bookstore in the office tower across the street from mine at lunchtime. Any other time of the year, that would have been perfect. Unfortunately, it's year end, and I had a mandatory meeting I had to attend around the same time -- so, sadly, my book is unsigned.)

I loved this book. It is extremely well written -- hilarious, as one might expect, frank and also poignant. What I really love, though, is the feelings of deja vu that the book conjured up for me. Jann was born in 1962, and grew up in a small town in rural Alberta outside of Calgary in the late 1960s & early 1970s. I was born in Manitoba in 1961, and spent my childhood in small rural towns in the neighbouring Prairie provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, in the same time frame. (Coincidentally, neither of us has children, either.) So, as you might expect, we share a lot of similar memories about similar things. For example:

* Jann claims her mom is "the cleanest person in Canada" (p.11) -- I always thought mine was. ; )
* she grew up in a classic baby boomer suburban neighbourhood where kids walked to school & people didn't lock their doors (so did I)(p. 12).
* Jann's dad cooked bacon & egg breakfasts on the weekends (p.15). My dad is great cook, but his weekend brunches are legendary in our family. Yum! (My mother is the potato lover in our family, though!)
* Milk was delivered by a milkman (p.15)(I remember that too, in my early childhood).
* Jann used a big fat HB pencil when she started school, as did I (p. 25).
* Old Dutch salt & vinegar chips (p. 26) -- ahhh, the memories...! I still think Old Dutch makes the best chips ever. We couldn't get them in Ontario for years, & they're still hard to find. Dh thinks they're awful. ; )
* Reading about Jann's teachers, Mrs. Hurst & Miss Humphreys, reminded me of my favourite teacher from fourth grade, Mrs. Dean. She was in her early 20s, had long blond hair & wore mini-skirts. She was beautiful and she sang like an angel, at school and in our church choir. (My mother told me a few years ago that her obituary was in the local paper, so I found it online. She was only in her mid-50s when she died... and the obituary mentioned her beautiful singing voice.)
* Jann's fascination with the globe (p. 29).
* Jann says Prairie people refer to underwear as "gonch" (p. 33). Where I lived, it was "gotch" (close enough, I guess). But I never called them that -- it made my ears hurt just to hear the words. I wonder how that term came into being??
* Dubble Bubble bubblegum (p. 43).
* Jann's parents' work ethic, & how it makes her feel lazy (p. 73)(boy, me too). "They are in their seventies now, and I swear they still don't sit down."
* Well cooked meat (p. 55).
* "Romper Room" & "The Friendly Giant" (p. 64).
* Walking for miles all over town at the age of 10 & nobody batting an eyelash about it ("I know I sound like I am a hundred years old, but the seventies were so much different from how things are today," p. 66).
* Playing outside all the time (p. 66).
* Gigantic pigs (p. 72 -- my uncle had some on his farm -- scared the crap out of me!).
* Slaughtering farm animals (p. 74). I was at my grandparents' farm when they were killing chickens once. My cousins all went out to watch -- they thought it was hilarious to watch the chickens run around with their heads cut off. I stayed in the house with my nose in a book & refused to even look out the window.
* Milking cows (p. 75) -- never did it myself, but I did used to watch my grandmother do it in the barn.
* Having only three TV channels (p. 88 -- we had just one, the CBC, until we moved closer to the border when I was 14 & got a rotary antenna, & then eventually cable).
* School lunches (p. 98) & open area classrooms (p. 103).
* Reading, Enid Blyton mysteries in particular (p. 104).
* Listening to a transistor radio under the covers at night (p. 105) -- late at night on the Prairies, especially after a thunderstorm, you could pull in radio stations from far-away, exotic places like KSTP Minneapolis & WLS Chicago. It was almost a competition to see who could pull in the radio station from furthest away.
* Listening to records & singing from mimeographed sheets in music class (p. 107).
* Anne Murray & "Snowbird" (p. 107).
* Casual dressing (p. 115)(Corduroy pants -- which we called "cords" -- were about as dressy as things got in the small Prairie towns I grew up in the the 1970s. And if I wanted to wear mine, I'd have to call up my friends & make sure that at least one of THEM was ALSO going to be wearing cords).
* Lonesome Charlie (!!) (p. 116).
* The Columbia Record Club (p. 157)
* The Carpenters (p. 158 & several other places in the book)
* home perms by mom (p. 168)
* Yahtzee (p. 181)
* finding out that you're short credits to graduate from high school (p. 183). This happened to me. I got called to the guidance counsellor's office in November of Grade 12 & was told I couldn't claim both Music 101 (band) AND 108 (for my private piano lessons & Royal Conservatory of Music exam) -- hence, I was short a course to graduate. After I'd finished crying, we went over my schedule & looked at the available classes that I could fit in. I wound up in History 301 -- comparative governments. I caught up very quickly & wound up with something like a 92 in the course. But I was kind of resentful all year long that it took them until November of my graduating year to figure this out.
Now, there's a lot that is different about our childhoods, of course. Jann's upbringing was, shall we say, a little more backwoodsy than mine, & she was a lot more adventurous than I ever was (I never killed gophers or was never chased by a bear, for example, or dove headfirst into a brick barbecue). I didn't have a troubled older brother who wound up serving a life sentence for murder, or an alcoholic father, and I was never molested by a relative when I was 10. But I knew people and places like the ones she describes -- I knew boys like her childhood buddies, Dale and Leonard, and places like the gas station with the cooler full of pop bottles.

The book ends with 30-year-old Jann on the brink of releasing her first record. Which leaves me hopeful that someday, there might be a sequel. : ) Fingers crossed!

To see or not to see

The New York Times columnist David Brooks had a thought-provoking piece today about the scandal at Penn State -- one that got me thinking about pregnancy loss, infertility and involuntary childlessness. (There's almost always a connection, if you look hard enough, lol.)

Brooks notes how so many people are (re)assuring themselves and others that, had they been in the shoes of those who discovered that children were being abused on the campus, they would have taken action (at least, more decisive action than was taken).

Brooks begs to differ, pointing out that history shows the opposite generally happens: "Many people do not intervene. Very often they see but they don’t see."

He continues:

Some people simply can’t process the horror in front of them. Some people suffer from what the psychologists call Normalcy Bias. When they find themselves in some unsettling circumstance, they shut down and pretend everything is normal.

Some people suffer from Motivated Blindness; they don’t see what is not in their interest to see. Some people don’t look at the things that make them uncomfortable...

As Daniel Goleman wrote in his book “Vital Lies, Simple Truths,” “In order to avoid looking, some element of the mind must have known first what the picture contained, so that it knew what to avoid. The mind somehow grasps what is going on and rushes a protective filter into place, thus steering awareness away from what threatens.”...

People are really good at self-deception. We attend to the facts we like and suppress the ones we don’t. We inflate our own virtues and predict we will behave more nobly than we actually do.

Those of us who have lost babies, or endured infertility, or faced a future without children when we always thought we would be parents someday, know what it's like to see people turn away -- mentally, emotionally, sometimes even physically -- when they are confronted by the reality that is our life.

We all like to think of ourselves as compassionate and caring people, particularly when it comes to our friends and family members. But the inability to conceive or carry a child to term is something that falls outside the realm of most people's personal experience or comfort level. They know it happens, of course -- just not to them, or to anyone they know or love. The radical idea that, yes, it can and does happen to you & yours can be overwhelming -- threatening, even, to one's sense of personal security, fairness and "happily ever after."

Are our friends and family members evil when they turn away or remain silent in the face of our pain? Evil is a strong word, & I'm not sure I want to apply that label here.

But do they cause us undue pain and suffering -- or add to the pain & suffering we are already feeling -- through their words &/or actions (or lack thereof)?

Most certainly.

What do you think?

(See also my post about the book I read earlier this year with a similar theme, Willful Blindness by Margaret Heffernan.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bad mommy :(

I had almost forgotten. I'd been so busy, at work, with the (ahem) events of last weekend, a day off on Friday & cleaning house all day yesterday. Friday & Saturday were gloriously clear & sunny and mild, totally unlike November, which is always grey & dull & dreary in my mind.

But then we stopped off at the cemetery late yesterday afternoon, en route to dinner, as we often do on weekends. And as we got closer, it struck me anew: tomorrow (Monday, November 14th) is Katie's due date. The first one of several I was given, anyway, which is always the one I tend to think about.

She would have been 13 years old this month. In a more perfect universe, I would not have been lolling on the couch all long weekend long, reading my book & catching up on blogs. I would have been planning and hosting a birthday party. For my TEENAGER.

I rarely cry at the cemetery these days, but I shed some tears yesterday, and I've been feeling guilty ever since.

And I've been bracing myself. So far, November hasn't been too bad, but I know from past experience that that is likely to change, as the month wears on, the early darkness envelops me more, and the year-end frenzy continues at the office. I don't think I've missed an annual "I hate November" post yet. ; )

And also because I know what's coming tomorrow. My grandmother-to-be coworker was throwing a baby shower for her daughter this weekend -- took the last few days off to get ready (!). And not only that, but another coworker -- young (26), idealistic, unmarried -- was hosting a baby shower for her best friend on the same day. There's already been lots of shower talk -- what games to play, what decorations to make, etc., etc. -- and I know that will be the prime subject of conversation tomorrow morning.

And of course, it HAS to be TOMORROW morning. :p Such is my lot in life, it seem. :p I feel the first hint of the November blahs settling upon me...

Friday, November 11, 2011


(Who couldn't resist posting today, just to use that cool headline?)

Today is Remembrance Day, of course -- the day that fighting ceased in World War I, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. I have the day off work (yay!) -- nothing special planned. A little cleaning & organizing, maybe; a lot of reading and blog hopping. ; )

I'm thinking about the veterans today, of course -- but I'm also thinking about a friend from first-year university (30+ years ago now, eeek), a neighbour who lived two doors over in my dorm. Her birthday was November 11th, & the number 11 loomed large in her life. She'd look at the clock and the time would invariably be 11 minutes after the hour, for example. It freaked her out.

She was bright and funny and sassy and friendly -- but she was horribly homesick for most of that year. She had a boyfriend back home (whose photos papered half her room) and an adorable baby niece (the other half). He came to visit her (nice guy), & she positively glowed while she was around him. Part-way through the year, they agreed they should try dating other people. She did, but it was obvious her heart wasn't in it. That summer, she called my roommate & told her she was back together with her boyfriend & wasn't coming back in the fall. She was going to live at home & attend the smaller, local university.

Sadly, it wasn't too long before we'd lost touch with her. (Back then, it was harder to keep tabs on people -- long distance was expensive, e-mail and Facebook were still decades away, so if you weren't a good letter writer -- good luck!) But I still think about her, and my old roommate & I still talk about her sometimes when we get together. I've tried Googling her a few times, and haven't found much -- her name is a fairly common one. But I recently tried her old boyfriend's name, & found a lot more -- including their names listed together as a couple in a relative'srecent obituary ("survived by..."). So they did get married, & I'm hoping they are living happily ever after. : )

Here's to you, K. I think of you whenever I look at my watch or a clock & it's 11 minutes past the hour.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Survived : )

I survived my colonoscopy, and all is well. : ) As most people said, the prep was the worst part, & I would agree -- although I rather suspect that Aunt Flo had a lot to do with making mine that way. Yes, as I suspected/feared -- Aunt Flo, with her impeccable sense of timing, decided to drop by to add to my misery. My one comfort is that, the next time I do this, five or 10 years from now, she should (should!!) be a non-issue.

I started out feeling not too bad & that, "Hey, I can do this!" However, as the long day worse on, I got hungrier, crampier, queasier and increasingly sick of the taste of Gatorade. :p I wound up spending part of the night before on the bathroom floor, worshipping the porcelain goddess, breaking into a cold sweat & feeling like I was about to pass out (poor dh wound up propping me up until I had the strength to crawl back into bed myself) -- and part of the morning at the clinic getting better acquainted with the bathroom THERE before my appointment too. :p Not fun. I actually have a purple mark under one of my eyes -- I think I broke a capillary from all the dry heaving -- eventually, my stomach was so empty there was nothing left to bring up. :(

Once they popped that needle in my hand, though, I was off in LaLa Land. The next thing I remember was waking up in the recovery area. They gave me a small dixie cup of water & some melba toast, & I almost immediately started to feel better. : ) At home, I had tea, toast & a nap, and aside from being very tired, felt almost entirely like myself again by late afternoon. I was back at work again today.

Thanks for all the advice & well wishes!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

And how's YOUR weekend shaping up??

(Warning: this post may contain slightly TMI.)

Sunday morning, I will wake up. I will eat nothing solid all day. I will drink lots of Gatorade and clear fluids, and maybe eat some Jello.

Mid-afternoon, I will take a few tablets. Awhile later, I'll mix a packet of crystals into some water & drink it. And expect to spend some time hanging out in the bathroom with some reading material. Repeat procedure until there's no reason to spend time in the bathroom anymore.

When I wake up early on Monday morning, I will take my blood pressure pill as usual, but with only a small sip of water -- no more. No food, no drink at all. Dh & I will leave the house around the usual time, but instead of driving to the commuter train station, we'll drive into the city.

Monday morning, I'm having a colonsocopy. My first. Woohoo!!

I hasten to write that there is nothing wrong with me that has prompted this procedure (& I am hoping very much that things stay that way, knock wood). The only thing "wrong" with me is that I turned 50 earlier this year, & my family dr generally sends all his patients for their first colonoscopy at this age (unless they have a family history of problems, in which case, you go earlier). If I get a clear bill of health, I won't have to have another one for five years.

Dh had his first colonsocopy a few years ago, & points out, "If I can do it, you can certainly do it!" True -- dh & drs are not a very happy combination. He frets endlessly before each appointment (which I have no doubt made for him) & then until he gets the results. His colonoscopy & even his prep were relatively uneventful -- except for the fact that he didn't react well to the sedative they gave him -- got up before he was supposed to & came out to where I was waiting, then had to make a hasty retreat to the bathroom where he was promptly sick, and spent the next two hours in the recovery area, dozing on & off. He has a note in his file to use a different sedative the next time!

Several of my friends have had them & similarly assure me it's nothing & the prep is the worst part. And a few friends, who have had several procedures over the years, also assure me that even the prep is a lot easier than it was 10-15 years ago.

The last time that a nurse popped a needle into my arm (my wrist, actually) & started the flow of drugs that would lull me into blessed stupification, was August 7, 1998, as I laboured to deliver my small, silent daughter. Demerol, I think it was. I was similarly sedated when I had my wisdom teeth out about 20 years ago, & I was put totally under several times when I was a kid & being checked out for kidney & ureter issues (which thankfully have not been an issue for me as an adult -- but which I now know are very likely co-related to the bicornuate uterus I was diagnosed with during my pregnancy). Maybe that's why I have the slightest case of the jitters as the weekend approaches.

Or maybe I'm just dreading the thought of going through an entire day without food, lol. I can get pretty cranky when I haven't been fed. To add to the fun, Aunt Flo is scheduled to show up sometime within the next several days -- and with her always impeccable sense of timing, you just KNOW it's probably gonna be Sunday night or Monday morning. (The nurse at the clinic assured me that they can still do the colonscopy regardless.) And asprin (including ibuprofen, my usual security blanket that gets me through one of Aunt Flo's visits) is verboten the week before a colonoscopy. Tylenol, maybe??

The silver lining, in my mind? I don't have to go to work! -- at a very busy time of year, lol. (You know I HAVE to be pretty busy & stressed at work to be looking forward to a colonoscopy as an excuse to get out of the office, lol.) Friday (11-11-11) is also Remembrance Day here & a holiday for me, so I will only have a three-day work week. Yay!

I realize that most of you are younger than me & probably haven't reached an age where a colonscopy is part of your regular medical routine -- but have you ever had one? Stories, advice to share?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Blogoversary #4

How's this for scary stuff on Halloween? It's my fourth blogoversary today. : )

I started this blog because, even though I was almost 10 years past Katie's stillbirth and six years past stopping infertility treatments & the decision to remain childless/free, loss & infertility were still a big part of my life, and I felt I still had something to say on these topics.

That was four years, 556 posts ago (including this one). That's an average of 12 posts per month or 3 per week. Not bad.

According to my stats tab, I've had more than 68,000 page views for "all time" -- which is actually just since May 2009. That's pretty wild! My readers are overwhelmingly from the U.S., then my own Canada -- followed by UK, Australia, Germany, Russia, France, Israel, Ukraine & Netherlands. I've received more than 4,400 comments. Without doing an exhaustive search, I'm pretty sure that the post that got the most comments ever -- 63 -- was last year's entry about our 25th wedding anniversary (it was also my Creme de la Creme pick for last year, which boosted my comments somewhat).

My all-time most-read post, without question, is my 2009 review of the movie Julie & Julia. It still continues to be at the top of my hit list, most weeks that I check, and I still get comments on that post too (49 to date) -- often from someone who is not necessarily familiar with the ALI blogging community but who saw the movie, was intrigued by Julia's childlessness and Googled something like "Julia Child childless." Six of my all-time top 10 search key words relate to "Julia Child" paired with either the words "children" or "infertility."

Second in terms of all-time hits is a post was my rerun of a 2008 Globe & Mail article called "Canada's U.S. baby boom," about women with high-risk pregnancies in rural communities being sent to the U.S., because of the lack of space in local high-risk units. My interest was the topic of high-risk pregnancy & the lack of a national birthing plan in general. I couldn't figure out why this particular post drew so many hits, particularly throughout 2009 -- until it hit me that the rise in interest coincided with the U.S. debate over "Obamacare" (!!).

In other words, I suspect my post was being read & passed around by anti-Obamacare forces as an example of the supposed inadequacies of the Canadian healthcare system (&, by implication, the superiority of the U.S. system). This was certainly NOT my intention. I know our system is not perfect -- but I daresay there are women in rural communities in the U.S. who likewise have to travel some distance to get the healthcare they need (not to mention women who are denied the care they need because the hospital doesn't accept their health insurance -- NOT a scenario we ever have to worry about in Canada). Sorry to my American readers -- I would never trade!

I'll admit my output this year has slowed a bit. Blogging is like any kind of writing (including what I do for work) -- sometimes I feel like I'm brimming over with inpiration -- stuff I want to say, & how I want to say it -- & the words just tumble out onto my keyboard; other times, I stare & stare at the screen and nothing clicks. Sometimes there's stuff I'd like to say, but life (and work in particular, and particularly at this time of year) intervenes. (How dare it, right?? lol)

But while I may not have had much time to read or write blog posts lately -- and while I'm now 50 years old and 10 years out from fertility treatments -- I don't feel my interest in this community has waned. I still feel like I have things I want to say. I plan to keep on writing. And although, as I've said before, I primarily blog for myself, it's nice to know that you're out there too, reading & commenting. Thank you!! : )

Blogoversary #3 (2010)
Blogoversary #2 (2009)
Blogoversary #1 (2008)
First post

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fall getaway

I don't know where my blogging mojo has been lately. It seems it's all I can do to keep up lately with work, reading the daily newspapers & maybe a daily scan of Facebook & a couple of posts from my Google Reader. :p Sometimes it feels like I'm brimming over with things I want to write about; other times, I draw a blank.

Year end madness has begun -- I had one day where I had back to back to back to back meetings & barely had time to wolf down half a sandwich. I did have an enjoyable time last weekend with a scrapbooking event on Saturday & visiting a friend who is a quilt appraiser and was working at a nearby quilting show on the Sunday. I don't quilt myself, which is not to say I don't appreciate the work of those who do. And I felt priviliged to be there as she examined a vintage quilt with still-vivid colours that had been painstakingly handstitched by the elderly owner's great-grandmother in the 1850s (!!).

Before the year-end madness fully hit, and just after Canadian Thanksgiving, dh & I did manage to take a week's vacation. I had earmarked that time off thinking that my parents might be coming to visit -- and when they didn't, decided to take it anyway. I insisted to dh that we needed to go somewhere to make it special, & not just hang around the house, as we often do. I had it in my head that we should head up north to a resort to enjoy the fall colours for a few days.

And that's what we wound up doing. For various reasons, we didn't go too far. We wound up going to a resort that's only just a little more than an hour's drive north of us, close to the town where one of my great-grandfathers was born, & where my great-great-great grandparents & one of their daughters are buried in the cemetery adjacent to a beautiful (and beautifully preserved) historic stone church from the 1840s. We had stayed at this resort for our 15th wedding anniversay, 11 years ago, & it was still as we remembered -- charming rooms with beautiful views (loyal as I am to the Prairies where I was born & raised, I must admit, fall in Ontario is gorgeous!!), lots of great places to go walking and exploring, excellent food and the added attraction of gorgeous fall colours. The weather was so nice the day we left that dh wore his shorts & I dug my capris back out of the closet where I had previously sent them for winter storage.

While it's a family resort (& there likely would have been children, had we been there on Thanksgiving weekend), the clientele during our stay were strictly adults, & mostly seniors at that (who else has the time & the money to spend at a place like that, especially in the middle of the week?). It was a wonderful break, & we had a lovely time. Once again, we found ourselves wondering why the heck we don't do this more often. After all, having the time & money to do things like this (particularly on short notice) is one of the "perqs" of childless/free living. As dh said, "Umm, I think we can afford to come here more than once every 10 years." ; )

Here are a few fall photos from our stay:

The entrance to the inn, decked out in seasonal splendour.

Likewise, the entrance at a nearby stone church, which dates back to the mid-1800s.

The church has an adjacent cemetery overlooking Lake Simcoe (dh looking out). What a peaceful place to spend eternity!

Dh enjoying the lake view from the private beach across from the resort where we were staying.

Dh on the resort's dock. The weather was turning cloudier & colder by then.

The entrance to (another) churchyard in the area, where my greatx3 grandparents are buried.

A view of the beautiful trees in the cemetery.

Tree outside the resort, with changing leaves.