Friday, August 31, 2012

The dog days

  • The last days of August are traditionally known as the "dog days" of summer, before fall kicks in. (It could also be interpreted literally.... my parents' neighbours have an adorable new puppy.) Reminder to self: I have been meaning to write a post on pets...
  • Thank you to Neeroc, who left a comment on my last post wondering how I've been doing and whether I was OK. Hard to believe it's been almost three weeks since my last post, one of my longest silences on this blog since it began, if not THE longest. Sorry! :p  I honestly can't wrap my head around the fact that tomorrow it will be SEPTEMBER. Erk.
  • My excuse:  I've been on vacation the last two weeks (& running around getting ready for vacation before that).  Traditional summer visit with my mom & dad, albeit later in the summer than we usually go. Our visit is winding down, and I'm feeling a little sad about leaving (not to mention the prospect of returning to work and to the daily grind -- particularly since fall is traditionally our busiest time at the office :p).
  • We have mostly been extraordinarily lazy (which is exactly what we wanted) -- done a lot of reading (book reviews to come)  and eating ; ) and been royally entertained almost every day of our visit by The Princess (Parents' Neighbours' Granddaughter).  All activity basically comes to a standstill when she arrives.
  • One reason why I haven't been blogging (or reading or commenting) as much as normal while I've been here (besides just being busy with other stuff, including The Princess) is my parents only have "high speed lite" Internet service. It's perfectly fine for them, of course -- but anyone used to normal high-speed Internet (i.e., me) would (and does) find it incredibly frustrating sometimes. And of course, when you get my mom on her netbook, me on my laptop, my sister & her boyfriend on theirs, all using up precious bandwidth... Forget trying to watch any video clip -- it stops & starts every 20 seconds. Maddening.
  • I've also discovered that while I can receive e-mails through my Outlook program, I can't SEND them. Which left me bouncing back & forth between receiving e-mails on Outlook & responding via a little-used gmail account. Also maddening.
  • It's political convention season in the U.S.  At one time, I was a huge political junkie (one of my double honours subjects at university was political science) and lapped this stuff up. I still follow current events to some extent,and I do like scanning the opinion pieces on Salon, the NY Times, etc., but I find I just don't have the stomach to watch a lot of this stuff anymore (no matter which party we're talking about -- or country -- U.S. or Canada).  
  • I would, however, like to draw your attention to two blog posts by (of all people), the parenting blogger at Huffington Post (formerly of the New York Times), Lisa Belkin, who wrote kick-ass responses to Ann and Mitt Romney's speeches and particularly their repeated fawning references to "moms." 
  • On another non-mom related note, the wonderful Mrs. Spit has put together a beautifully written Q&A about childfree living that is now available on her blog. Here's a link to the post where she introduces her list. Go have a read. And leave her a note of thanks while you're at it.
  • All around me, conversations, TV & newspaper ads, stores, etc., are revolving around the subject of "back to school."  It's unavoidable, and I can't (or perhaps, don't want to) decide how I feel about it all this year. It is almost 30 years since that phrase had any personal meaning for me.  For the past 14 years, of course, it's all been about Katie and what she would have been doing -- and, as with most Katie-related milestones, some years have been more difficult (or easier) than others/than expected.  I have a feeling this might be one of the harder years, if I let myself think about it too much. So I'm trying not to.
  • For the record, she would have been starting Grade 9 this fall. Hereabouts, that means she would be starting high school. HIGH SCHOOL, people. Gulp.
  • So, how has your summer been? (Besides too short, of course!)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Life's a banquet

I'm not sure what got me thinking about "Auntie Mame" the other day.  I found myself mentally going through a list of strong childless/free women -- and suddenly Mame appeared at the top of the staircase in my mind, cigarette holder in one hand & martini glass in the other.

I can't remember whether I read the 1955 novel by Patrick Dennis first or saw the movie musical with Lucille Ball as Mame (and Bea Arthur -- Maude, as we knew her then -- hilarious as her best buddy, the perpetually hungover actress Vera Charles). (I do remember that I was about 13 & going into Grade 8 -- we had recently moved to a new town, and that was one of the first movies my mother, sister & I went to see in a rickety old theatre on the main street, which burned down shortly afterward).  I later saw the Rosalind Russell non-musical movie from 1958, as well as the musical onstage in a local summer theatre production.

The story of "Auntie Mame" begins as Mame's recently orphaned young nephew, Patrick, arrives at her Manhattan townhouse in the middle of a wild party -- this being the 1920s era of flappers, bathtub gin, speakeasies and the like. The freespirited Mame is completely unprepared for the responsibility of bringing up a child, and has some highly unconventional ideas about how to do it -- but of course, he turns out just fine in the end and makes her very proud.

I loved Mame in all her incarnations -- and most especially the lesser-known sequel to the book, "Around the World with Auntie Mame," which I discovered in the library when I was in junior high and read over & over & over again. Mame takes her nephew Patrick on a tour of Europe prior to sending him off to college, and each chapter details a new adventure in a different country.  I haven't read the book in at least 30 years (although I bought a copy a few years ago through Amazon), and I'm sure parts of it would be considered highly politically incorrect these days -- but I just remember it as screamingly funny, and wondered why nobody had ever made a movie out of it, too.

Now, I am nothing like Mame -- I'm far too conventional -- but I do adore my two nephews.  And you have to love someone whose motto is "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death." Sometimes, I think we need to be reminded of that -- both about how fortunate we are, compared to so many others out there, and about the banquet of experiences out there, just waiting to be sampled. What are we waiting for?

I survived (and other post-anniversary musings)

  • Thank you for all your kind words & thoughts on Katie's "anniversary" day. The day of I did reaonsably well, but the day or two before was not so easy. I found myself crying at the drop of a hat. I don't know why one year is harder or easier than another. I've come to accept that I just won't know how I'm going to feel until the day arrives, & try to take the day off, if I can, just in case. 
  • Many of the rituals of earlier years have fallen by the wayside, but we still took pink roses to the cemetery late that morning. Then we went out for brunch, and to our favourite bookstore, and then home, where I lolled on the lovesat and read blogs all afternoon. I was very tired by the end of the day, though. 
  • I posted on Facebook: "14 years... long ago, and just yesterday, all at once. Remembering our little girl and what might have been. ♥"  This is pretty bold stuff for me, people.  I got an amazing 9 "likes" and 30 comments from my 130+ "friends" (so far). Mostly just one liners and many from real life and online ALI friends, but also from friends and relatives who have barely acknowledge I was ever pregnant. Progress? 
  • I also reposted a beautiful poster from Dr. Joanne Cacciatore of the MISS Foundation, showing a little girl releasing balloons in a field of flowers, with the tagline "I will always wish for you." This too got a few "likes" and shares. Including one from my mother.
  • I think the hardest part of the day for me was seeing my mother repost Dr. Joanne's poster, with the words, "In memory of our little granddaughter, Kathleen Maria. August 7, 1998. Always missed, never forgotten."  I burst into sobs & whispered, "I'm so sorry, Mommy" at the screen. Handling my own grief and life disappointments is one thing (& I think I've come a long way in 14 years) -- but feeling responsible for my parents' grief and disappointment and lack of (living) grandchildren is still so hard for me. :( 
  • Back around Christmastime, you might remember that I read & reviewed a book called "Closure: The Rush to End Grief and What it Costs Us" by Nancy Berns.  Berns recently summarized her ideas in a TED Talk, which you can now view on YouTube, here. If you believe, as I do (and as Elizabeth McCracken so wonderfully put it in her book "An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination"), that "Closure is bull****," you will enjoy listening to or reading what Berns has to say on the topic. (For starters, she thinks it's a made-up concept.)
  • I was amused to read an article in the New York Times this week about the pressure gay couples are facing to have children.  It wasn't that long ago that marriage &/or children were considered off limits to gay couples, even by gay couples themselves. On the one hand, the article says, it's a welcome sign for these couples of their inclusion in the mainstream;  others (whether or not they think kids might be in the picture) find it just as annoying as the rest of us to be constantly asked about their plans. I found it particularly funny/irritating to read the breathless observation that "The process can be also daunting logistically and financially, as would-be parents wrestle with whether to adopt or use a surrogate."  Well, duh. Those of us who are infertile have been trying to get that point across for YEARS.  Welcome to the club, guys (and girls).

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

14 years later

It still sucks. :p  :( 

(I've been wracking my brains for some eloquent, pithy, insightful words I could post today. And this is all I could come up with. Sorry.) 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Teenagers in the 'hood

It was pretty quiet in the neighbourhood when I was home sick last week. But around
noon that day, I was upstairs, & I could hear voices/laughter. It seemed to be coming from nearby, but I couldn't see anyone when I looked out the window (although some of the view is blocked by our garage & the neighbours' garages).

I came downstairs to get some lunch & was in the kitchen -- and all of a sudden, I saw a young boy (about 14 -- someone I've seen occasionally hanging around with the Little Girl Next Door) jumping over the split-rail fence that separates our yard from the next-door neighbours', & running across my front yard, down our driveway and down the street, looking over his shoulder at one point.

I thought, "OK, NOW what?? What has he been up to?" I opened the front door a crack -- & there were two or three other young guys, standing on LGND's doorstep.

I quietly closed the door again. And tried not to laugh. (Too much.) I didn't see LGND, but I am thinking she was either there & had been talking to them, through a crack in the door or through the front window, or they were just knocking on the door to see if she was home.

LGND, as I've written before, is six months younger than Katie would have been -- i.e., 13 years old. 

The other night, I had brought some work home with me and was upstairs in our "office," when again, I heard a lot of giggling, squealing & "Nooooo!"s. I looked out the window & saw LGND and her gaggle of girlfriends, standing out front, cellphones glowing in the twilight.

Today, I was at the kitchen sink, and a boy came riding his bike down the sidewalk, peering intently at our house as he passed.  I wondered why he was so interested in our house. Then I recognized him -- it was the same boy from last week. He wasn't looking at our house, he was looking at LGND's -- probably trying to ascertain if she was home or catch a glimpse of her.

Yes, we have teenagers in the 'hood. ; )

When I told dh, he rolled his eyes & muttered a few choice words about how LGND was way too young for this kind of thing, etc. etc.  LGND used to adore him (as most little girls do);  these days, of course, she's usually with one of her friends or absorbed in pecking at her cellphone, so we're lucky to get a perfunctory wave as we pass each other coming and going.

Having been a teenaged girl once myself, I think he's being rather harsh... of course, he insists that Katie would NEVER have been like THAT. Yeah, right... ;  )

"Childless, not heartless"

As I noted briefly in my last post, author Maeve Binchy -- a favourite of mine -- passed away recently. I hadn't known, until reading her obituary, that she was childless, and the knowledge made me feel even more warmly about the lady and her writing, if that was possible.

Wouldn't you know, with Binchy barely cold in the ground, some so-called writer -- I can't even think of a descriptor that adequately reflects my feelings --  decided this was the perfect time to muse on the topic of "If Maeve Binchy had been a mother" -- posing the question, "Does a female novelist need to have experienced motherhood to truly understand human emotions?" -- & concluding that perhaps the answer is yes.


Cue the sound of my head exploding. :p  I was already in a funk this weekend (you all understand why), & reading CRAP like this...!! And about Maeve Binchy, of all people, whose books are renowned, even by the most hard-bitten critics, for their wit, humour and insight into the human heart.

Fortunately, Melanie Notkin, founder of Savvy Auntie, has penned a rebuttal for Huffington Post. "Novelist Maeve Binchy was childless, not heartless," the headline reads.

Notkin notes that Binchy's lack of children was not a choice, and links to a 2008 article in which Binchy wrote about her childlessness and the warm relationships she has enjoyed with others' children and grandchildren.

"I bless those good friends and family who lent us their children..." Binchy wrote. "Our many 'children' and 'grandchildren' will never really understand what a great role they played in filling a gap that could have been sad and destructive but in the end turned out be so joyful... I hope that they knew we loved their company. And if they didn't know, they do now."  

"There is no question that the experience of motherhood adds to the wealth of experiences an author has to glean from," Notkin acknowledges, but then adds, "But the pain of being unable to become a mother and the joy of selflessly loving nieces and nephews and other children not-ones-own are also deep, rich experiences from which an author can be inspired." 

Thank you, Melanie. And thank you, Maeve Binchy. It;s been awhile since I read one of her books, but I think it's time to dig out my copy of "Light a Penny Candle" or "Firefly Summer" & savour the words of a master author -- a great human being -- and a fellow CNBCer -- once more.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

August (already)

  • It's August 1st. Already. And yes, I am still in denial. ; )
  • Thanks so much for all your very kind comments on my last post. I have to admit, I didn't expect such a response. (Of course, isn't that always the way in blogging -- the posts you slave over, nobody notices, but you toss one off without thinking too much about it, and you get all kinds of comments...!)  I think I made my state of mind & body sound worse than it was (or maybe it just got better in the meantime). ; )
  • My boss was sick the day afterward... and I heard of several other people who had bad headaches, etc., over the last few days. I'm thinking the weather (humidity, barometric pressure... upcoming full moon??) may be at least partly to blame.
  • I can remember at least one other time, a weekend, where I felt awful, just totally off & brain fogged all day. And the next day at work (when I felt SO much better!), I heard all these other women talking about having migraines the day before, and blaming changes in the barometric pressure. And suddenly, it all made sense.
  • I am under a lot of stress at work this week -- big project to wrap up before I head out the door tomorrow for my extra-long weekend.
  • But today was actually a lot of fun. One of my coworkers has not just one but two cousins competing at the Olympics in London right now (cousins to each other), and both of them were competing today, less than two hours apart. (Do you think she is excited?? lol)  One won a silver medal in rowing this morning;  the other advanced through heats & a semi-final and will swim for a medal tomorrow. The entire office gathered around the TV set this afternoon to cheer her on. Building management has also set up two big screens in the concourse of our office tower, with tables & chairs where people can sit to eat their lunch or have their coffee breaks and watch the Games. They have done this for the past several Olympics (Winter & Summer), as well as World Cup soccer.  So much fun!! : )
  • I found this article in Salon today, about the media obsession with the athletes' moms, and with athletes who are moms. Amen. 
  • Watching "Dallas" right now. Of COURSE Rebecca is pregnant... and of COURSE, it's TWINS!! That's soap operas for you...! (But I still gotta love "Dallas," lol.)
  • Maeve Binchy passed away this week. I haven't read her last couple of books, but I read everything she'd written up to a point -- and loved it all. Did you know she didn't have any children?