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?