Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Five years : )

Five years.

It's not just Halloween tonight -- it's also five years since I published my very first blog post. There is something about these "anniversaries" that are divisible by 5, isn't there??

If you had asked me then if I thought my blog would last five years, I wouldn't have known what to tell you. I've been a member of several online communities for longer than five years (some ALI-related, some not;  I've known some of my online friends for 10 years or more, although our relationships have generally spanned more than one online forum -- some began on e-mail lists &/or message boards and now flourish on Facebook, for example). Longevity & attachment are certainly in my nature, even in the fast-changing world of the Internet. ; )

I had stumbled onto a few infertility blogs about a year earlier -- including, of course, Stirrup Queens, where I made a few tentative, anonymous comments at the Lushary and wished I could jump into the book club discussions.  I was intrigued by the give & take of the comments, of the ability to flex my writer's muscles & write mini-essays on the topics of my choice.

I knew there were other childless/free-not-by-first-choice women out there, like me -- I wanted to find more of them, and I wanted more of them to know they weren't alone -- that while it's certainly hard not being a mother in a world gone mad for baby bumps, it doesn't have to be the end of the world either.

But I honestly wasn't quite sure what I was getting myself into.

And now, here I am, five years (660 published posts, including this one; more than 5,200 published comments and almost 123,000 page views)(page views since May 2008) later, still blogging, still managing to find things to write about. That's an average of 11 posts per month. I have 127 "followers" & almost 270 subscribers through Google Reader. Wow!

There was a brief, temporary interruption in my writing earlier this year, when I was inadvertently "outed" by a relative who stumbled on my blog & published a link to it on Facebook, of all places (!). As I said at the time:
(If this past week has taught me anything -- besides reinforcing that nothing is private online -- it's how much I enjoy blogging and what a release it can be to write out my feelings & connect to others in similar situations in this way. And how much I miss my blog and the interaction it affords, when it's not there.)
Not being able to blog, albeit briefly, also made me realize this:
I've always said that I blog first & foremost for myself, but hey, let's face it -- if I really just wanted to write for myself, I would have written in a paper journal & hid it in one of my drawers or under my mattress, like I did when I was a teenager.
One of the nicest things about blogging is the company.  I've "met" some wonderful women (and men) through the ALI blogging community, and I've fulfilled my goal of finding other childless/free bloggers. We're definitely not alone these days:  there are more and more of us coming out of the woodwork all the time.

Whether I'm still blogging in another five years, I'm glad that I hit "publish" on that first post five years ago tonight. And I'm grateful to all of you for being here. : )

Blogoversary #4 (2011)
Blogoversary #3 (2010)
Blogoversary #2 (2009)
Blogoversary #1 (2008)
First post

Sunday, October 28, 2012

New beginnings

Another Facebook find. ; ) Sorry, I can't make it any larger.

Monday, October 22, 2012

"To Mom or Not to Mom?"

It's almost Halloween -- and what a treat for the ALI community! 

Two strong and stellar voices in our community are exploring questions about infertilty, motherhood and "the Silent Sorority" this week from very different viewpoints:  Keiko Zoll of The Infertility Voice is newly pregnant via donor egg, and Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos of Silent Sorority is, like me, living childless/free after infertility.

Every day this week, Pamela & Keiko will both be posting in point/counterpoint style on a different topic related to infertility and how we make the transition to parenting -- or not -- culminating in an open Twitter discussion this Friday, Oct. 26th, at 12:30 p.m. EDT -- #ALIMomSalon and wrapup posts on both blogs.  (I am not on Twitter but am seriously considering getting an account just so I can follow...!)

The first posts are up now!  Read them both, weigh in with comments, and/or consider blogging a response on your own blog. : )

Pamela's post
Keiko's post

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Road trip : )

Another great "road" photo shared with me on FB by a dear CNBC online friend. : )

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The non-mom stays in the picture too

This post has its genesis in a recent essay on Huffington Post called "The Mom Stays in the Picture" by Allison Tate. At a party, Tate's young son asks her to come into a photo booth with him. Like so many women, Tate demurs:
When I see myself in pictures, it makes me wince. I know I am far from alone; I know that many of my friends also avoid the camera.   
It seems logical. We're sporting mama bodies and we're not as young as we used to be. We don't always have time to blow dry our hair, apply make-up, perhaps even bathe (ducking). The kids are so much cuter than we are; better to just take their pictures, we think.    
But we really need to make an effort to get in the picture. Our sons need to see how young and beautiful and human their mamas were. Our daughters need to see us vulnerable and open and just being ourselves -- women, mamas, people living lives. Avoiding the camera because we don't like to see our own pictures? How can that be okay?  
Too much of a mama's life goes undocumented and unseen....  
[Ed. note: Tate then goes on to detail all the many things that moms do that go unnoticed, undocumented and unappreciated.]      
I'm everywhere in their young lives, and yet I have very few pictures of me with them. Someday I won't be here -- and I don't know if that someday is tomorrow or thirty or forty or fifty years from now -- but I want them to have pictures of me. I want them to see the way I looked at them, see how much I loved them. I am not perfect to look at and I am not perfect to love, but I am perfectly their mother.
The essay got a huge response, summarized by Lisa Belkin, HuffPo parenting columnist ("Moms Explain Why They're Getting Back in the Picture").

And it got me thinking.

OK, I'll admit, Tate's litany of mommy stuff had the non-mom in me wincing. 

But -- I thought she had a good point, and one that, if you look closely enough, is relevant for all women and not just those who are mothers.

Even though I don't have (living) children of my own, I could relate to a lot in Tate's essay. As I've written before in this blog, my grandmother gave me my first camera for Christmas when I was 15 (a Kodak Instamatic X-15 with flipflash!) and I've always loved taking photos and looking through family photo albums. I'm acknowledged as "the family photographer" (for both my family & dh's). BIL & SIL freely admit that they wouldn't have any photos of their kids growing up if it weren't for me, and I've scrapbooked a couple of albums for our nephews.

As an occasional scrapbooker (VERY occasional lately...!), this is a subject that comes up every now & then on scrapbooking message boards, blogs and magazines. We take tons & tons of photos of our kids (or, if we don't have kids, someone else's kids -- nieces, nephews, children of friends) -- even more so today than we did even just 10 years ago, with digital photography. These days, just about every cellphone comes equipped with a camera, essentially putting a camera in just about every purse or pocket --  & the quality has been getting better & better. The camera included in the latest iPhones shoots something like 8 megapixels, which is exactly what my own four-year-old point-and-shoot digital camera takes.

So the number of photos we've been taking has increased exponentially.  But where are the photos of US?  Like many adult women, I prefer to lurk behind the camera, rather than in front of it.  I look at photos of myself with a highly critical eye, noticing how round and puffy my face is, groaning over my double chin & the sun damage on my cheeks, or shaking my head over what a gawdawful perm I had in 1992.

(My grandma -- the same one who gave me the camera -- had a solution for photos of herself that she didn't like -- long before Photoshop, she simply took a pair of scissors & cropped herself out of the picture. I still run across the occasional snapshot with a corner chopped out, & I know exactly who's missing and why...!)

Fortunately, I still have many wonderful photos of Grandma.  ; ) But I've read heartbreaking stories about someone suddenly taken from their family... and then the search begins through the photo albums for pictures to put on the bulletin board or slide show at the funeral home, or just to bring the loved one closer again. Too often, especially if it's a woman, there just aren't many to be found.

Throughout the ages, women's lives generally have been discounted and overlooked.  Too often, we are invisible in the history books (the old argument about "history" versus "herstory").  Thankfully, this is starting to change. The advent of computers, digital photography, and the Internet have made it so much easier for women to show and tell their the stories of their lives.

And if a woman's life is just a worthy of documentation as a man's, and if it's important for moms to document their lives with their children, then surely our lives and memories are worthy of preserving, too.  In fact, I would argue that it might be even MORE important for those of us who AREN'T moms to do so. 

The life of a mom has a fairly predictable pattern and rhythm... but anyone who is childless/free for whatever reason knows there are an awful lot of misconceptions out there about what our lives are like and how we spend our time. I know (from personal experience as well as anecdotes from others) that many of us who are childless/free and scrapbook (and we ARE out there) get asked, in genuine (if maddening) puzzlement, why and what we scrapbook, if we don't have kids (cue the grinding teeth). 

People need to know that we lead full, interesting and fulfilling lives -- lives that are worth documenting too -- and, as the old saying goes, a picture can be worth a thousand words.

So, since I became aware of this issue a couple of years ago, I've been making more of a conscious effort to hand the camera over to someone else once in awhile and have them take a photo of dh & me together... or me with our nephews... or me & SIL together (we have dozens of photos of the men in our family together -- and while it's nice to have some generational shots, I've started insisting that we get our fair share of camera bytes!)... or even (gulp) me by myself.  While I have yet to master the art of holding a camera at arm's length to take a decent self-portrait, I have read my camera's manual and learned how to use the self-timer, for those times when I'd like a photo of myself, or of dh & me together, and there's nobody else around.

A few years ago, I decided it was time to set aside the nephews' albums for awhile and do some scrapbooking for and about... me.  Or, perhaps more accurately, me and dh.  The plan was to complete an anniversary album, in time for our 25th wedding anniversary (in July 2010), including a layout of photo and journaling highlights for each year of our marriage, as well as a couple detailing our dating days and our wedding.  Like so many of my projects, I had great intentions, but it hasn't progressed much past the wedding pages....!  But at least I started making the effort. Someday, I hope to get back to it....

Sometimes I wonder whether this reluctance to appear in front of the camera might be a generational thing... I'm thinking about how today's kids have grown up with a camera in their face (and now, in their hands) all the time. Teenaged and 20-something girls take tons of photos of themselves and their friends and post them, seemingly (to me) with little or no hesitation, on their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. Will they still be as eager to pose for the camera as they start focusing their photographic efforts on their kids (assuming they have them), enter their 30s & 40s & beyond, and confront the inevitable process of aging (believe me girls, it happens to the best of us...!)?  Time will tell...

Of course, there are times these days, since the advent of easy digital photography and videography, when it seems like everyone is frantically trying to capture every single moment of the day.  Sometimes you have to just put down the camera, and LIVE.  : )

What do you think?  Do you hide when someone brings out a camera?  Is this a mom thing, or does it apply to other women too?

If you disappeared tomorrow, what sort of photographic record would remain of your life?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Hold on

It was good to see a post from Janis recently -- a lovely, lyrical meditation on the words "hold on."

It reminded me of a song by the same name by a Canadian singer-songwriter, Dan Hill. If you don't recognize the name Dan Hill, you will almost certainly recognize his most famous song, "Sometimes When We Touch," which was a huge, huge hit in the late 1970s. Familiarity has a habit of breeding contempt, however, and the song has gained a reputation, perhaps somewhat unfairly, as one of the sappiest love songs ever written. 

Before "Sometimes When We Touch," Dan Hill had a moderate hit in Canada with another song, "Hold On."  The year that I graduated from high school (1979, erk!), I went back to the town where I had lived for grades 3-7 to attend grad for my best friend (and all my other former classmates), and this was the song that was played as they walked down the aisle. (Much more '70s than "Pomp & Circumstance," don't you think??)

My sister, a friend and I saw Dan Hill in concert in November 1978 -- just him and his guitar, in stocking feet and a soccer jersey, sporting his signature long curly hair & a bushy beard. We knew where the stage door was & even though my dad was waiting for us in a car out front (& there were no cellphones back then for us to check in on each other), we kept him waiting while we stood outside, until some kind soul let us in, and Dan graciously obliged our requests for autographs and photos (which I still have).  

Janis's post led me to search YouTube, and I found a video of Dan -- 30-some years older, and with a lot less hair, lol -- singing "Hold On" at a 2011 Canada Day concert in the Toronto neighbourhood, where he lives. The album version has a gospel-style choir backup -- but it's nice with just him & his guitar too. : )  The years have also added some poignancy to the song, too... particularly knowing that Dan has battled prostate cancer in recent years.

*** *** ***

On a lighter note -- long before Dan Hill, I loved another song called "Hold On" by -- wait for it -- Herman's Hermits. 

I've written before about my almost-lifelong love for the Beatles, & how my mother took me to see the movie "Help" when I was a pre-schooler (& how I've been dreaming about having Ringo's ring stuck on my finger for almost 50 years since then). 

And more recently, I mourned the passing of Davy Jones of the Monkees, another childhood favourite.

But the first boy band that really loomed large in my life was Herman's Hermits, another member of the British Invasion of the early/mid-1960s. Shortly after my mother took me to see "Help," we moved from one small Saskatchewan town to another -- and, in our new town, she took me to see Herman's Hermits in their movie, "Hold On." I made a new friend around the same time, and her older sister had the 45 of the song, which we used to listen to. 

Shortly after that, it was Christmastime, and my sister & I got our first record player, along with two LPs -- the soundtrack from Mary Poppins, which we'd also just seen, and a Julie Andrews Christmas album. Shortly after THAT, it was my 6th birthday, and I got another album -- The Best of Herman's Hermits Volume 2. It came complete with a foldout poster of Herman (Peter Noone), which I had taped to the wall above my bed.

The poster has sadly vanished into the mists of time, but I still have the album, scratched, battered & priceless.

And I swear that one of these days, I am going to see Peter Noone in concert (he regularly makes the rounds of the local casinos) & get him to autograph it. I still think he's pretty cute, even if he's now 60-something. ; )

(And yes, there's also Wilson Phillips... but I think that's enough reminiscing for now, lol.)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Katie's tree

I'm not sure if I've mentioned Katie's tree before in this blog. (Anyone else's blog search function consistenly turning up "no matches" lately??)

Unlike many bereaved parents we know, we didn't deliberately set out to plant a tree in Katie's memory after we lost her. The tree came to be in a very roundabout way.  I can't even remember exactly when this happened;  it was probably the spring/summer of 1999 or 2000, a year or two after her stillbirth.  We had two big wooden, half-barrel planters in our little-used backyard, sitting on concrete slabs on either side of our deck steps, and we have several big maple trees nearby -- actually in the next-door neighbours' yard, hanging over the back fence.

One day when we were back there, we noticed a tiny maple tree sprouting up among the weeds in one of the planters. I don't know why one of us didn't yank it out along with the weeds, then & there. I think I may have thought, idly, that it would be fun to see just how big it got before we got around to pulling it up.

Something about that tiny tree taking root in the barrel appealed to dh. I don't remember how long an interval passed, maybe even a winter & a spring, but the tree kept growing, and it started getting pretty big.

Dh told me he wanted to plant it in our back yard. "It'll be Katie's tree," he said.

So he tugged it up from the barrel -- we were both afraid that he might have killed it, yanking it up by its roots like that -- but we planted it and watered it, regularly for a while, and staked it as it got a bit bigger -- and eventually pretty much left it to its own devices.

And it grew. And grew. And grew.

When I think of it now, it makes perfect sense that that little tree became known to us as "Katie's tree." Like Katie herself, it came from a tiny seed that planted itself and sprouted in an unlikely place (in Katie's case, my aging bicornuate uterus).

While (sadly) Katie did not thrive and grow, against all the odds, "Katie's tree" has.  : )

Here's a photo of dh standing in front of the tree in late October 2001, after a leaf raking session (the tree is already a pretty good size):

And here's what it looked like 9 years later, in October 2010 (two years ago):


(I'm hoping to get a good current photo of the tree when the leaves have turned... if I do, I'll post it here!)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

October and thanksgiving

I recently had some old negatives scanned... about three years' worth -- all my photos taken between about 1997 through 2000. And this weekend, I've been uploading the photos from the CD to my computer & organizing the photos into folders. It's been a bittersweet experience, looking through them all and reliving the past -- in particular, 1998 -- the year of my lost pregnancy, as well as the death of my beloved grandfather. I wonder again why I took so few photos of my pregnancy, but then I remember the uncertainty and anxiety I went through. I guess photos were the last thing on my mind then.

Tomorrow marks 13 years since my grandmother died, and next week, it will be 14 years since my grandfather died, just days after I returned to work after Katie's stillbirth in August. Ever since then, October has always felt a bit melancholy for me. I love the fall colours -- I don't miss the summer humidity and extreme heat -- but there is a chill in the air, and I know that winter will soon be here.

I can pinpoint the exact photos that are the last ones I took of my grandfather and grandmother. My grandmother is sitting in a chair in my mother's living room, a few days before I returned home and about two months before she died. She was a little lost, that last year she spent without my grandfather (after more than 65 years together, since they were teenagers), but in that final photo, she is smiling at me and looks like the Grandma I remember, the way I want to remember her. I am glad that's the last image I have of her. I want to get it framed.

There are photos of our nephews as sweet little boys -- and of cousin/neighbour's two little girls, now grown young women -- birthday parties and picnics, a waterpark outing in September 1998 (with me still wearing maternity clothes). And once again, I wondered, sadly, how and why our families drifted so far apart. Once, I considered them the nieces we didn't have;  today, they are like strangers. I am sad for all the years we have missed that we could have enjoyed together. 

And yet I am thankful for the time that we did spend together and the fun we had and the spoiling I got to do and the photos I got to take when they were little. It seems like another life altogether -- a lifetime ago, certainly, but it was real, and I have the photos to prove it.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and this past week, I posted one of those memes that go around on Facebook occasionally. It ends "In memory of all lost angels" and I added, "and especially our beautiful daughter, Katie." A couple of my FB friends picked it up, including a few of dh's cousins, and some of them even mentioned Katie at the end.

What really floored me, though (& had me in tears), was when dh's cousin's son put it on HIS wall, with a nod to "and especially my cousin Katie."  You see, he was born in April 1998, exactly six months before Katie's due date. He is just 14 years old himself.  I didn't even think he knew about our baby, let alone her name (although, being my FB "friend," he has probably seen my occasional references to her). To say he made my day would be an understatement. Among the scanned negatives I got back were a few from his mom's baby shower, just a few weeks before he was born. I'm not in any of the photos, sadly, but I remember being there, newly pregnant myself, happy and excited.

This weekend is Thanksgiving here in Canada. As usual, we're at loose ends... BIL invited us to their family dinner with his inlaws, but his MIL just got home from surgery and dh & I have both had bad colds this week. It's easy to feel sorry for myself (especially when my parents Skyped me tonight just after their own dinner with my sister and aunts -- I can practically smell Mom's fabulous stuffing through the computer screen).

But the truth is, I am one very lucky girl, and there is so very much to be thankful for. (Even if it's not always apparent when I blog, lol.)