Thursday, January 27, 2011

Book: "I'm Taking My Eggs & Going Home" by Lisa Manterfield

I think I found the blog Life Without Baby sometime last summer. As always, I love finding new blogs & websites aimed at women like me, who are trying to carve out a meaningful life after loss & infertility... and I quickly became a fan of Lisa Manterfield's keen and witty observations about childless living.

So I was happy to read this fall that she had written a book. It was the very first book that I downloaded to my brand-new Kobo e-reader (which I promptly lost -- & blogged about here!) & also ordered the book just as soon as it became available on Amazon.

"I'm Taking My Eggs and Going Home" is a welcome addition to the small but growing niche of infertility books written by & about women who wanted and planned to become mothers someday, but wound up taking a ride on the ALI merry-go-round -- & getting off without having grabbed the brass ring of motherhood.

Needless to say, I was predisposed to like this book from the start -- and it did not disappoint -- starting with the unforgettable, sassy title & whimsical cover photo. : )

As you might expect, even though I estimate she's a decade younger than me, I recognized a lot of myself in Lisa's story (although there were significant differences too). For example, Lisa describes how her mother used to use a needle swinging from a thread over a woman's bare palm to determine how many children she'd have, and how many of each gender. I had this done many times in my younger days & the result was always the same: two boys and a girl. Consistent, yes; correct, no. ; ) Reading about Jose's Latino family & their exuberant weddings reminded my of my own Italian husband (the spoiled firstborn male cousin on both sides of his family, & the only boy for several years) and in-laws.

Born & raised in England, Lisa grew up assuming she would be a mother one day (so did I, although I was born & raised in Canada). Like me, however, she also grew up assuming that she would get an education, establish a career, experience something of life, and find Mr. Right before settling down & having a child.

After spending her 20s with a couple of Mr. Wrongs, moving to California, hitting her 30s and realizing her biological clock is ticking, Lisa's Mr. Right finally shows up. Jose had a vasectomy after producing two children (now adults) during his first marriage (a not uncommon scenario among many involuntarily childless women I've encountered over the years), but undergoes a successful reversal. Thus begins Lisa & Jose's journey to possible parenthood, which follows a path familiar to those of us who have struggled with infertility -- that is, it takes us to some pretty strange places where, gradually, we find ourselves doing things we never, ever thought we would do.

Lisa decides, after visiting a fertility clinic early in her journey, that IVF was not for her -- and, perhaps admirably, perhaps foolishly -- she sticks to her guns. (I never did IVF either.) But she tries everything else, from diet and yoga to accupuncture and Chinese medicine. As her dream of having a biological child begins to fade, she & Jose explore adoption and foster parenting. Ultimately, they decide these routes are not for them either.

I don't think I'm giving too much away if I say that the ending, where an emotional visit to a cemetery helps Lisa come to terms with her childlessness, had me reaching for the Kleenex. I enjoyed this book tremendously, and look forward to reading more from Lisa in the future.

For a slightly different take on this book, you can read reviews from Pamela (who wrote a kick-ass, award-winning book of her own about her personal journey to childfree living, Silent Sorority) & Lily.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Odds & ends, postscripts & followups

Thank you so much for the birthday wishes! I started the day off by getting my blood pressure checked (!)(120/80, woohoo!), spent a few hours at the spa getting pampered, retrieved my brand-new Kobo e-reader from the transit lost & found (more on that further down -- there are, apparently, still honest people left in the world), & had steaks with dh for dinner at one of our favourite restaurants.

Oh yes, & dh gave me a pair of garnet & diamond earrings (garnets are my birthstone). I had hinted that I would like some birthstone jewelry for this milestone birthday, and he picked up on it. Together with the Swarovski butterfly he gave me for Christmas, he is really knocking them out of the ballpark these days...!

Saturday night, we went over to FIL's to celebrate his 82nd birthday. BIL & family were also there... and surprise! It was also a birthday celebration for me too. : ) I got to share the cake with FIL, and got some presents too. Oldest nephew's girlfriend brought me a beautiful potted orchid plant. And SIL handed me a gift bag. Inside were three smaller enclosures -- from Pandora (eek). There is a Pandora shop close to where I work & I've seen a few women wearing their bracelets, but avoided even looking there, because I knew it was pricey stuff.
BIL & SIL gave me a silver bracelet & started me off with a birthday cake charm. Oldest nephew & his girlfriend gave me an angel charm (!). And youngest nephew (a philosophy student) gave me a jolly looking miniature Buddha, lol.

I was quite floored. When I tried to say thank you, BIL said, "No, thank YOU for everything you've done for the boys." Sniffle.
*** *** ***
As mentioned above, I got a Kobo e-reader for Christmas. And promptly lost it the first time I took it with me to work. :( Dh was working late that night, so I took the train & then the bus home by myself, and was reading the Kobo on both. Slid it into its leather case as we got close to my stop, & then into the side pocket of my briefcase, which was sitting on the seat beside me.
At least, I thought it went into the briefcase. When I got home -- NO KOBO. I looked in every nook & cranny of my briefcase, retraced my steps inside the house since I got home, nothing. I was certain it was gone forever, but thought I'd try calling the lost & found the next day, just in case.
And it was there! Kind of restored my faith in humanity. : ) The only annoyance: the lost & found was located at the transit office in the next town over from ours, & office hours were 7:30-4:30, Monday to Friday. Not exactly convenient for me. So I wound up spending part of my birthday travelling there to retrieve my Kobo. Better than having to ask for time off, I guess.
*** *** ***
Adding to my dismay over losing my Kobo: wouldn't you know it? The book I was reading was this one:

(a) It was a great book, & I wanted to keep reading!!
(b) As the last thing I was reading before I lost my reader, the cover was prominently displayed on the Kobo screen. I sort of felt like a teenager trying to claim my lost box of condoms from the teacher, lol. :p ; ) Fortunately, nobody asked me to identify what I'd been reading, & nobody mentioned it when I went to pick the thing up at the lost & found.
*** *** ***
I did not think e-readers would be for me -- & I can't see myself giving up "real" books entirely (especially when I have PILES of unread ones lying around the house, erk...!), but I am rather enjoying mine. "I'm Taking My Eggs" is the first book I've downloaded (& I hope to have a review shortly), although the Kobo comes pre-loaded with 100 classic titles. I got one for me & one for dh, with a particular eye to reducing our excess luggage weight when we travel. We normally bring along at least two or three books each for a one week vacation -- often hardcovers -- & they can really add to the weight -- & the airlines are getting stickier all the time about excess poundage.
*** *** ***
Kobo incident aside, one more signal that I'm aging &/or losing my mind: on Friday, in a rush to leave the house (as usual), I grabbed the top pair of black shoes in the pile on the closet floor & stuffed them into my briefcase. When I got to work, I unpacked my briefcase, put on my shoes & started walking to the water cooler to fill my water bottle.
Something about my shoes felt weird. I looked down. They were dh's shoes!! I guess he had tossed them on top of my pile when he got in the night before, & I just grabbed them without looking. Serves me right, I guess.
I dined out on that story for the rest of the day. (I posted it on Facebook, & stepSIL told me she read it on her cellphone at 3 a.m. & cracked up.) They weren't a bad fit, but I spent most of my time at my desk in stocking feet, lol. It was either that or wear my snow boots all day -- and I HATE wearing my snow boots indoors any longer than I have to.
*** *** ***
In my hurry to post my thoughts about the diversity & inclusion workshop I attended recently, I managed to leave out the most important part: the end. The facilitator wrapped up an already-thought-provoking session by telling us his personal story & why he does the work he does -- & there was a flurry of Kleenex by the time he finished speaking. There is a video clip on his personal website.
One thing he said to us which he didn't say on the video was how his mother used to tell him, "You're a tall tree, and tall trees can withstand strong winds." And he added that the tall trees shelter the smaller trees, until they grow strong enough to withstand the winds on their own.
I thought about it again after reading the transcript of President Obama's speech in Tucson this past week -- particularly the part where he said, "Let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.... We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us."
It made me think of Melissa, & the work she does to bring our ALI community together, and Kumbaya. : )
*** *** ***
Craig Kielburger -- who became an activist & founded an organization called Free the Children when he was all of TWELVE YEARS OLD and has appeared on Oprah -- was the special guest speaker at a company-sponsored event on Friday at lunchtime. He was an amazing speaker -- still isn't even 30 yet. Made me feel that I have accomplished absolutely nothing worthwhile in my life to date, lol... but I digress.
He talked about how companies like mine are recognizing the fact that we are not just employees, that our life is not just our work at the office, that we are members of broader communities. "You're a mother, a father," he said.
And then he added, "You're an aunt, an uncle."
I could have hugged the guy for going beyond the obvious appeal to parents. Thanks, Craig. : )

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Fabulous 50 Meme, Part 2

Continuing from yesterday:

26. What do you normally smell like? Zest soap. : ) I used to wear perfume a lot, but so many places these days are scent free that I've gotten out of the habit, although I still have a lot of different bottles on top of my dresser. My "signature scent" was always Fidji by Guy Laroche. A girlfriend gave me a bottle when we were in university & I loved it. It's hard to find these days, though.

27. Do you like Carrie Underwood? She's OK. She can sing!

28. Been to “The Vegas”? No. But I think I'd like to go, someday. I'm not much of a gambler, but I'd like to see some of the shows, & I hear the shopping is great. ; )

29. How far away do you live from your parents? Two hours by air & an hour by car. Driving all the way nonstop would take about 30-35 hours. Never tried it, although I made the trip with my parents once, before dh & I were married. We came here via the States, driving through northern Minnesota, Wisconsin & Michigan (the Upper Peninsula). It took us three long days, heading home the Canadian route, over the top of Lake Superior -- stopped overnight in Sault Ste. Marie & Thunder Bay. There were spots along the way that were so remote we couldn't even tune in a radio station.

30. Are you happy with your job? Mostly.

31. Where do you work and what do you do there? I work for one of Canada's major chartered banks as a writer in the corporate communications area. I started as a writer for the staff magazine & branched out from there. These days I work mostly on executive communications and projects, including the annual report, which is a huge & highly stressful undertaking. :p

32. What did you get in the mail today? Two magazines, cellphone bill, and some junk mail/flyers.

33. How do you like your steak cooked? Medium well.

34. Britney Spears…is she back? Don't think so.

35. What do you usually order at Taco Bell? Never been to Taco Bell. Not likely to, either, with my problems with tomatos & peppers. :p

36. Have you ever sat all the way through Gone With the Wind? Several times! In the theatre & on TV. (It really does deserve to be seen on a big screen.)

37. Have you ever been to Mt Rushmore? No.

38. Is it just me, or was The Marine (w/John Cena) a really horrible movie? Never even heard of it.

39. Are surveys/memes like the cocaine of the internet? Probably! ; )

40. Where is your favorite place (that you have actually been to)? Cannon Beach, Oregon -- been there three times (1993, 2001 & 2005). But I think Lake Louise, Alberta, & Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, would come close.

41. What is your favorite candle scent? I don't burn a lot of scented candles, but I do like vanilla.

42. Do you believe places can really be haunted? Not sure.

43. Do you smoke cigarettes? No, thank goodness. Of course I dabbled in high school, but thank goodness that habit did not take hold. Both my father & sister smoke, & I so wish they didn't.

44. Have you ever been to NYC or LA? No.

45. How many states have you been to where all you saw was the airport? None, or provinces either, for that matter. I did spend just six hours in Quebec City once, on business.

46. Do you think 50 questions is enough? For now!

47. Are you currently planning a trip? Looking at brochures, no decisions yet.

48. Is Ryan Seacrest gay? Should anyone care? Not really, I sure don't!

49. Do you take anti-depressants? Sleeping pills? No. I did have a prescription for Ativan 10 years ago, when I had just finished infertility treatment & was having problems with anxiety attacks. I never finished the bottle, but it was good to know it was in my purse if I really needed it.

50. What do you think about space travel? It's an amazing accomplishment, especiallyy when you think of the technology they were working with when they put a man on the moon. Kind of sad to see how the space program has sort of stalled out. For me personally? I think I'll stay on the ground, lol.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Fabulous 50 Meme, Part 1

Kristin at Dragondreamer's Lair did this two-part meme awhile back, & I filed it away as something I might do in the future. "The Fabulous 50 Meme" seemed like the perfect way to mark my (gulp) 50th birthday -- so here it is! Part 2 tomorrow. Feel free to lift this, but let me know if you do; I would love to read your answers!

*** *** ***

1. Introduce yourself... I'm Lori. Smalltown Prairie girl, born & bred, now living in the suburbs & working in the Big Smoke. Original ambition was to write books, then to be an ace newspaper reporter. Settled for a gig in corporate communications. ; ) Married 25 years to my dh. Bereaved mother of Katie, stillborn 12 years ago after several years of ttc. Unable to conceive again, even with the help of Clomid, Gonal-F and IUIs. Decided at age 40 to leave fertility treatment behind and continue to live without children.

2. If it’s Wednesday at noon, where are you usually? Probably at my desk at work, starting to think about what I should do about lunch -- what to eat, & what errands, if any, I should attend to.

3. What kind of laundry detergent do you use? Tide Free (HE liquid formula).

4. What brand of shampoo is in your shower right now? Lately, I've been alternating between Neutrogena & Herbal Essences. Dh likes Pert.

5. Did you ever get into a bar and drink before you were 21? The legal drinking age where I grew up was 18 (but the answer is still yes). ; )

6. What countries have you been to? Canada and the United States. Hoping to expand the list more shortly!

7. Do you watch MTV anymore? No. Unless I'm flipping by & they have a retro video on that I remember from the good old days. Dh likes to watch videos on CMT on Saturday mornings sometimes, though!

8. What do you think about Oprah? I'll admit it, I adore Oprah. She is a damned smart woman who has built an amazing connection with her audience. I am going to miss her show horribly when it's over next spring. (Although I only ever get to watch it when I'm on holidays.)

9. What color are your bed sheets? Off white with a floral pattern.

10. You need a new pair of jeans: what store do you go to first? Yikes. I haven't had to buy new jeans in awhile. I used to buy them at the Gap, but I'm not sure their styles would fit me anymore. :p

11. Did you ever watch The O.C.? Never.

12. What kind of car do you drive? I don't drive, but we have a 2003 Toyota Camry.

13. Honestly, is that car insured? Yes, I don't think we're allowed to drive without it!

14. Do you like sushi? Never tried it. Don't really have any great desire to.

15. Have you ever been to Tiffany & Co. or Saks 5th Ave? No. Although there is a Tiffany store on Bloor Street.

16. Did your parents spoil you growing up? They'll tell you they did. ; ) I guess they did, a bit. ; )

17. Do you like roller coasters? I did when I was a kid, but I never rode any of the really big ones -- and I'm not sure my stomach would be up to it these days...!

18. What magazine(s) do you buy regularly or subscribe to? Oh man, too many, according to dh. :p I subscribe to a lot of the major Canadian magazines: Macleans, Chatelaine, Canadian Living, Homemakers, Style at Home, Canadian Scrapbooker. Also Consumer Reports. I regularly buy Entertainment Weekly, Vanity Fair & O Magazine on the newsstand. People and Rolling Stone occasionlly.

19. Do you remember the WB show “Popular”? Don't think I've ever even heard of it.

20. When you go out do you prefer to go to a dance club or to a bar? I haven't been to either in YEARS. I would probably opt for the bar.

21. What do you think about gay marriage? It doesn't bother me in the least.

22. Who do you think Obama will run against and, if he does, will he be re-elected? Two years is a long time away. I do think that, despite all his problems, he stands a good chance of being re-elected. Of course, I'm Canadian, so I don't have much of a say in the matter anyway!

23. Are you registered to vote? Yes.

24. Do you own an iPod? No. I never even had a Sony Walkman. I still buy CDs, and I still have all my cassette tapes & vinyl albums. Am I dating myself?

25. Is your bathroom filled with beauty stuff? Yes, and so is my linen closet.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Well, it's here. Today is the day. My birthday. The big 5-0. I am officially, if not OLD, then definitely not young anymore. Middle aged, even. I have long-lived ancestors on all sides of my family, but even in the most optimistic scenario, I know my life is at least at the halfway point.

As my grandmother used to joke, when it came to getting older, "Well, it's better than the alternative..." And yes, I know, you're only as young or as old as you feel.

I remember my great-aunt, in her 80s, once saying solemnly to my mother, "You know, there's still a young person inside this old body." The older I get, the more I understand what she meant. There are days when I still feel like a teenager (especially when a song from the 70s comes on the radio, whisking me back in time). There are days when I don't feel a day older than I did in university -- my memories of that time (the best time of my life) are still so clear.

And then there are days (especially when I listen to a bunch of teenagers, or even the 20-somethings in my office, talking about technology or music that I know absolutely nothing about, or the bender they went on over the weekend -- or when my knees creak & I survey the age spots on my cheeks and the coarse grey hairs sprouting at my temples)(or -- horrors! -- on my CHIN!!) when I feel positively ancient.

My mother turned 70 this week. She said 70 doesn't bother her -- but having a daughter who is turning 50 -- well, that just doesn't seem possible.

Sometimes it doesn't seem possible to me either, Mom. Can it really be possible that I've been married 25+ years -- that my pregnancy was almost 13 years ago -- that we stopped fertility treatments almost 10 years ago -- that I graduated from university 27 years ago and high school (gulp) 32?

At the same time, though, I can't deny that I'm feeling a little excited about this birthday. It's a milestone, no doubt about it. The closer it got, the more I began to notice -- really notice -- how much everyone likes to joke & moan about aging. (It becomes more personal when you're the one doing the aging...!) I guess it's a reflection of the age-denying, youth-worshipping culture that we live in (never mind the fact that the first baby boomers started turning 65 this year, and that senior citizens will soon make up the majority of the population) that, whenever I bring up the fact that I'm turning 50, people immediately assume that I'm "having a hard time with it." When I'm really not sure that I am, entirely.

Yes, there's the vanity part of it, as detailed above, and the fear of becoming irrelevant (particularly as an older childless woman), of being left behind. On the fertility front, knowing that the end of my fertile years is nigh makes me sad... but, I must confess, also relieved. Yes, it's the end of a dream, of an important time in my life. This summer, it will be 10 years since we said goodbye to infertility treatments (even though I secretly hoped for that miracle pregnancy for several years afterward).

But, having made that decision, it will be kind of a relief to knowthat, once AF makes her final exit, that phase of my life will REALLY be over. Finis. (These days, every time Aunt Flo pays me a visit, I know her days are numbered -- yahoo!)

But there's also the beginning of new dreams and a new phase in my life -- new possibilities (counting down to retirement!) -- and that's kind of exciting. : )

I've been thinking about this upcoming milestone birthday a lot -- about what it means to be a 50-year-old woman right now. I guess I'm not alone -- I recently learned that my high school classmates are planning a reunion this summer. We graduated in 1979, 32 years ago, which may seem like an odd number -- but apprently, the theme is going to be "Class of '79 Turns 50" -- an en masse 50th birthday celebration. I only just learned about it, and haven't decided yet whether I'm going. I also remember reading awhile back that, while 1957 was the peak year for the baby boom in the United States, in Canada, it was 1961. So I have a lot of company. : )

I did some Googling recently on "women turning 50." And I found that, like me, a lot of women are approaching this birthday with more anticipation than fear.

For example, there was this article by Sara Thompson, who noted that many women shared her feelings about turning 50:
"What a surprise it was -- rather than anticipate my 50th birthday as a dreaded, 'over the hill' event, I actually feel like it gave me a new freedom; a freedom to not take so much so seriously. I don't mean to imply that I've become rude, insensitive or the like. I simply do not bother with many of the things I felt bothered about before and I laugh more....
"I realized that as we turn 50, we are catching a glimpse of our mortality and making a choice about how we want to feel and live the rest of our life. By now, we know what is important and what isn't, what needs to be taken to heart and when we can laugh unabashedly at ourselves and at each other."
I wrote a few posts ago about watching Ali MacGraw on Oprah, & how they were talking about aging, & how so many women (especially in Hollywood) resort to plastic surgery Oprah said, "Everyone is trying to hang onto what WAS, instead of being present for what IS." Hmmm. There's a lesson there. (And not just for women turning 50.)

I also picked up the latest Canadian edition of More magazine (aimed specifically at women over 40), with the wonderful actress Jane Lynch (another 50-year-old) on the cover. One of the cover lines read, "Happier at fifty than at forty? You're not alone!" The article inside talks about how studies have shown that, for most people, happiness can be graphed in a U form throughout our lifespan: so long as our health & relationships stay relatively stable, happiness levels, which bottom out in your 40s, start to rise again in your 50s.
While young adulthood is seemingly a time of endless possibilities, our choices narrow as we age, so that by our forties we realize we'll probably never become a CEO, give a thank-you speech at the Academy Awards or have a picture-perfect family life. In fact, where we are now may be as good as it gets -- which can look rather bleak compared with what we earlier envisioned. It takes time to readjust our view of ourselves, says [Carol] Graham [author of Happiness Around the World], but by our fifties, we're generally more accepting of our limitations. "I do think we go through some sort of reckoning as we realign our aspirations with reality," she says. "And as we get older, there's a happy-to-be-alive effect. We see that life is short, so we better start enjoying it."
So here's to the next 50 years (give or take a few). I am taking the day off work, and kicking off the celebrations by... getting my blood pressure checked, lol. (Appropriate, no? I hadn't had it checked in awhile & when I called, this was the first day offered. It kind of tickled my funny bone, so I said yes.) After I leave the dr's office, I am heading to the SPA for a few hours (as I did on my 40th birthday, 10 years ago). Facial, manicure & pedicure. And then some shopping. Followed by dinner with dh.

I am a lucky girl. (A girl who just happens to be turning 50, lol.)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Diversity & inclusion, infertility & loss

I attended a workshop this morning on diversity & inclusion. It was kind of an obligatory thing we all have to go through at work -- but it turned out to be a really interesting presentation, & a great speaker. Most of the material we explored was stuff that I already knew -- but he presented it so well, it really got me thinking about these issues in a fresh kind of way.

Part of the presentation was to open us up to the idea that diversity is more than just the four groups designated under Canada's Employment Equity Act -- women, Aboriginals, persons with disabiities and visible minorities -- that diversity encompasses all sorts of things about us. Our religion, political views, education, age, education, socio-economic background -- and lots of other, more subtle things about us, too. 

 The part of the presentation that really hit home for me (& got me taking notes) was the idea of privilege, of insiders and outsiders. To make the point, he asked who was left-handed, and then had the lefties in the room talk about the challenges of being left-handed -- how the world was tailor-made for right-handed people, simply because they are the majority. (Everything from door handles to light switches to scissors and student desks are built with right-handed users in mind.) How left-handed people have to take that extra step, make that extra effort, ALL THE TIME, to navigate through a world that is not built to accommodate them. How so few right-handed people recognize this -- stop to think about what it's like for left-handed people -- unless, perhaps, they know or live with someone who is left-handed. 

Life is easy when you're an insider, isn't it? 

He also talked about "unintentional intolerance." Most of us like to believe that we're nice, tolerant people. We don't mean to be exclusive. 

But we are creatures of habit. We have our comfort zones, and we stick to them. We hang out with people who are like us, who agree with us, who reinforce our beliefs -- about the world and about ourselves and our place in it. It's just easier. It requires less energy & effort. We don't have to think about it. 

That leads us to make assumptions, even when we don't realize it. We don't consider alternatives. We don't LIKE having alternatives, being challenged with new ideas -- it's too much work! When we're challenged, we tend to retreat to our comfort zones. And we tend to absorb messages from our families, from the media, from our peers, that we unconsciously fall back on & regurgitate, even when when we don't necessarily believe they are entirely true. 

As you can imagine, throughout the presentation, I was thinking about my own particular frames of reference -- bereavement, infertility, childlessness -- and the challenges they present to the majority worldview. About how so much of the world is built with families in mind -- not childless couples (or single people, for that matter). How so many people just assume that they WILL get married, get pregnant within a reasonable timeframe, bring home a live, healthy baby nine months later (and then perhaps another one or two after that)? 

Until they don't. 

And how, when the way we try to build our families falls outside the "norm" -- dead children who are nevertheless talked about openly and treated like the important family members they are -- adoption, IVF, donor eggs, surrogates -- families of two (without children), families with two dads or two moms -- then people who have never had to think about building their own family in any way except the "norm" somehow feel threatened. Their assumptions about their cozy, easy, privileged world have been challenged. They find it difficult to relate to us in the same way they did when they assumed that we were just like them. 

I wonder how many fertile people would think of themselves as privileged or an "insider" because of their fertility? 

And how many of us who have had difficulty achieving what most consider to be a "normal" family structure perpetually feel like left-handers in a right-handed world?

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Yes, I know, it's already the 9th. Better late than never! ; )

Whether you really are a lurker, a regular commenter or just occasionally offer your $.02, I'd love to hear from you. Who's reading, & (if you remember) how did you find me?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

"Life" by Keith Richards

I just finished reading Keith Richards' new memoir, Life. I feel like I've emerged from a smoky bar where I've spent the last several hours listening to Keith tell stories about his many adventures over several bottles of Jack Daniels & way too many cigarettes, lol.

It's a hugely entertaining book, written in such a way that you can almost hear Keith talking as you read (with the occasional raspy laugh thrown in between drags on a cigarette). I imagine his cowriter relied heavily on interview transcripts for the wording. If you have any interest in the Stones, what it was like to grow up in post-WWII Britain, the evolution of rock & roll, how Keith invented certain chords for certain Stones songs, what the 60s were like, or how hard it is to kick drugs, Keith's your man.

It's a long book, dragged a little at times (e.g., I don't play guitar, so the lengthy explanations of guitar chords were lost on me, although I'm sure any guitar player with rock & roll ambitions or fantasies would find it fascinating). And there were certain topics that were glossed over, or that I read with a mixture of fascination & horror -- the drug stuff, for example -- and particularly the fact that Keith took his young son, Marlon, on tour with him and made him his "minder." Marlon contributes a few first-person accounts to the book about his bizarre childhood (referring to both of his junkie parents by their first names) that had me going "hmm....". But overall, I thought it was a great read.

You probably wouldn't expect a book by & about Keith Richards to be of interest to bereaved parents, but think again. As I blogged a few months ago when the book was first published and excerpts began appearing, Keith is a bereaved father: his second son & third child, Tara, died of SIDS in 1976 when he was a few months old. This part of the story is told as only Keith could tell it... and although I daresay there aren't too many of us who would refer to our lost babies as "the little bugger" (!), the emotions sound very familiar.

Keith was in Paris at the time, on tour with the Stones & just getting ready to go onstage. He turned down an offer to cancel the show & went on. ("What am I going to do?... It's happened already. It's done.") The mother, Keith's longtime girlfriend, Anita Pallenberg, took care of the coroners, cremation, etc., while Keith stayed on tour, accompanied by Marlon (then 7), "the only thing," he writes, "that kept me going... Thank God he was there... I've lost my second son, I ain't gonna lose the first."

To this day, Keith says, he and Anita have never talked about their lost son: "It's too painful... Neither of us, I'm sure in her case too, have got over it. You don't get over these things."

"What happened? I know very little about the circumstances. All I knew about Tara was this beautiful little boy in the cradle. Hey, little bugger, I'll see you when I get back off the road, right? He seemed perfectly robust. He looked like miniature Marlon. Never knew the son of a bitch, or barely. I changed his nappy twice, I think. It was respiratory failure, cot death. Anita found him in the morning. I wasn't about to ask questions at the time. Only Anita knows. As for me, I should never have left him. I don't think it's her fault; it was just a crib death. But leaving a newborn is something I can't forgive myself for. It's as if I deserted my post..."

"There's no question that losing a child is the worst thing that can ever happen, which is why I wrote to Eric Clapton when his son died, knowing something of what he was going through. When that happens, you go totally numb for awhile. It's only very slowly that the possibilities of your love for the little chap emerge. You can't deal with it all at once. And you can't lose a kid without it coming to haunt you. Everything's supposed to go in its natural order. I've seen my mum and dad off, and that's the natural order. But seeing a baby off is another thing. It never lets you rest. Now it's a permanent cold space inside me. Just selfishly, if it had to happen, I'm glad it happened then. When he was too young to form a relationship. Now he bangs into me once a week or so. I have a boy missing. Could have been a contender. I wrote in my notebook when I when I was working on this book, "Once in a while Tara invades me. My son. He would be thirty-odd now." Tara lives inside me. But I don't even know where the little bugger is buried, if he's buried at all."

Keith later met & married supermodel Patti Hansen. He says, without going into much detail, that she told him she couldn't have babies; with two older children already, he figured his nappy-changing days were over. But surprise! They went on to have two daughters, Theodora & Alexandra (whom Keith refers to affectionately as "Little T&A," in a nod to a Stones song).

New Year's odds & ends

  • I'm slowly making my way through the Stirrup Queen's annual Creme de la Creme list for 2010, which was posted on New Year's Day and features the best (self-selected) entries of the past year from almost 300 ALI bloggers (and counting). Mel puts an amazing amount of effort into this annual project, and it's a wonderful sampling of great writing and thought-provoking posts, covering a broad spectrum of topics. Lots of great reading there, so if you haven't checked it out yet, please do!
  • Yes, I have a post on the list. I picked "25 Years: Our silver lining" as my contribution (#24). I posted it on & about our 25th wedding anniversary in July, and I knew right away that it was the post that best summed up the year for me & my current state of mind.
  • Had lunch on New Year's Day at FIL's. Also there: stepMIL's son, his wife, her 22-year-old daughter from a previous relationship (!), & their two-year-old son together. This is stepMIL's only grandchild, & of course the sun rises & sets on him. ; ) He IS a cute little guy, and dh & I were both enjoying him. I even found myself thinking that I was doing very well, wasn't I? And then -- I reached a point where all I could think was, "OK, enough already, time to go," lol. I reached that point somewhere around the two-hour mark, between stepBIL's wife ravings about how it's "so great" to be a mom (again), what a happy child her son is, & how she's been talking with a high school girlfriend about how weird & wonderful it was that they all had families now (she's a nice, friendly girl, but tact has never been her strong point...), & then stepMIL's gushing about how wonderful her grandson was.
  • Was reading the NYT Book Review section tonight, and a review of the new memoir by the Duchess of Cavendish, nee Deborah Mitford, when I stumbled on this paragraph (we bereaved parents are everywhere...!):

So in 1950, when his father died, Andrew became the 11th Duke of Devonshire, and the couple moved to Chatsworth, the family’s vast country estate. With them came their two children, Emma and Peregrine (who became the 12th duke on his father’s death in 2004). Three other children died at birth — tragedies that Mitford humbly, feelingly describes. But in 1957 another child, Sophia, was born. Although there was “much rejoicing,” Mitford recalls, “I was so apprehensive that I did not buy any new clothes for the baby, and the washed-out woolly things and old-­fashioned gowns surprised the nurses in the smart maternity wing.” She adds, “I could hardly believe it when they said that she was perfect.”

  • Went to see "The King's Speech" today. Even my anti-monarchist husband thoroughly enjoyed it. Colin Firth looks nothing like King George VI, but does an amazing job of conveying what the man went through. (And, of course... he's Colin Firth!! ; ) lol) Geoffrey Rush is wonderful too, & so are the supporting cast.
  • Still off tomorrow, but back to work Tuesday (boo, hiss, lol).

Saturday, January 1, 2011

My other Christmas butterfly

Before we took down the Christmas tree this afternoon, I snapped a few pictures to share with you of the ornaments that stepMIL gave us, which I mentioned a few posts ago.

First, the glittery butterfly ornament (you can see dh's Katybeth ornament in the background, to the left), followed by the golden cross: