Thursday, January 31, 2013

Long ago & far away? Unfortunately not...

(Headline edited, with apologies to Lisa at Life Without Baby....!) 

Confession: I have yet to watch a complete episode of what seems to be everyone's favourite TV show of the moment, Downton Abbey.  When I tell people, I inevitably get a shocked reaction, followed by assurances that I would love it, I really should watch it, etc. I'm sure I'd love it too;  it's just that it's on until 11 p.m., which is generally way past my bedtime (and I'm already staying up until 11 on Mondays to watch "Dallas" -- two nights in a row is too much for this old gal...!), and I've already missed the first 2.5 seasons and catching up on DVD is a b*tch...

Anyway. While I have yet to see a full episode myself, I still can't help knowing all about the show & the various characters, thanks to watercooler & Internet chatter, etc. 
(Spoiler alert!!)

And after last Sunday's episode, my Facebook news feed was flooded with comments of "Not Sybil!!"

Lady Sybil, the youngest of the three daughters who live at the Abbey, died in Sunday night's episode, after giving birth to a daughter. The cause? Eclampsia.

I've been waiting to see what, if anything, the ALI blogosphere might have to say on the topic.  Cecily at Uppercase Woman wrote about how watching the episode triggered PTSD and memories of her own experience with eclampsia, which resulted in the loss of her twin boys, nine years ago. There was also an article in today's Globe and Mail.

My fear, after hearing about Lady Sybil, was that those fortunate viewers who have never confronted high-risk pregnancy or pregnancy loss might think (as I once did) that eclampsia is a thing of the past, that such things would not, do not, happen today. They would be wrong.

In my 20s, like so many naive young women, I didn't think that anybody died during childbirth anymore. Certainly not in North America, anyway. I learned differently soon after I started working on the newsletter for the company that still employs me. One of my first tasks was to contact human resources and compile a list of all the employees and pensioners who had retired or died during the previous month. Imagine my shock when I was handed a death advice for a 35-year-old woman. I had to call her boss to verify one of the facts, and she was only too willing to share all the gory details with me, unprompted. She had died in childbirth. Childbirth?? I was shocked. Who dies in childbirth in late-20th century urban Canada??

I probably shouldn't have been surprised. I came very close to not being here myself, because of eclampsia.

Growing up, I would sometimes overhear my mother saying that she'd had "a hard time" giving birth to me, and was in the hospital for two weeks afterward (which was a long time, even back then,, when stays of a week after a normal birth weren't unheard of). But it wasn't until many years later, perhaps during my own pregnancy, at age 37, that I remember hearing her use the terms "toxemia" and "eclampsia." I'm sure my mother probably mentioned it to me then;  I do remember her asking about my blood pressure. (I never had problems with high blood pressure or started taking medication for it until well into my 40s.) 

In later years, I remember her saying to me that we were both lucky to be here. Just over Christmas, I overheard her telling a neighbour that she went into convulsions while delivering me.

In my 20s, I gave both my grandparents one of those fill-in-the-blanks memory books and asked them to write in them. After they had both died, my mother gave them back to me. Grandma's remained blank, but I was tickled to find that my grandfather had filled in the first few pages, in a shaky hand. Under the question, "Where were you when I was born?" he had written, "Not far away." My mother chuckled ruefully as she read that: "I'm sure he was," she said. My poor Grandpa;  I can just picture him. How worried he must have been for us both.

After losing Katie, on message boards and in our real-life support group, I heard many more stories about pre-eclampsia, about soaring blood pressure and difficult decisions, about emergency C-sections and babies delivered prematurely or stillborn. Yes, it does still happen today. 

And then I gradually started making the connection from the stories I was hearing from other women my own age who had survived the horror of eclampsia but watched their babies die, to the snippets I'd heard from my mother about my own birth story. And realized how very, very lucky we both were.

My mother recently started watching "Downton Abbey." I can't quite bring myself to ask her if she saw last Sunday's episode.

More information on (pre)eclampsia & related conditions such as HELLP can be found at the Preeclampsia Foundation.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Is the unlived life worth examining?

Every now & then I will learn about a new book through a book review... I don't always get around to reading the book itself (lol), but the review alone often provides food for thought (& blog posts!).

One such review was in the New York Times Sunday Book Review a couple of weekends ago. The book was "Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life" by Adam Phillips, a British psychoanalyst & writer.

Here are a few excerpts from the review (emphasis mine):

*** *** ***

What’s at stake throughout these essays is how we understand the “lives we could be leading but for some reason are not.” Phillips’s clinical practice (he sees patients four days a week and writes on Wednesdays) has shown him that “we live as if we know more about the experiences we don’t have than the experiences we do have.” He refers to these parallel or shadow lives as our “unlived lives,” and says that many of us “spend a great deal of our lived lives trying to find and give the reason” that “they were not possible. And what was not possible all too easily becomes the story of our lives.”

It’s hard not to find this embarrassingly familiar: the unloved lovers, the unsucceeded successes. We’re so sure of what our unlived lives would have been like that we feel guilty for not living them — for not living up to our potential. ...

The questions that interest him most — “Why is it so difficult to enjoy not getting it?” “Is there someone ordering us around in our minds to try to get it?” — are purposefully broad, because the content of the “it” is less important than the form of the question. “It” is whatever “it” means to the reader at the moment: a raise, a joke, a girlfriend, a poem. ...Although we’ve been educated to want to get it, there are forgotten pleasures in not getting it...

...he offers us another kind of hope too — not the consumerist one, that all our dreams may come true, but the hope that our frustrations might lead us out of the fantasy world in our minds and into an engagement with what is. After all, “the only satisfactions available are the satisfactions of reality, which are themselves frustrating.”

*** **** ***

There is so much there to chew on. "What was not possible all too easily becomes the story of our lives.”

The thing about infertility is that you are so focused on the life you so desperately want to be living,  the life that IS possible (frustratingly so) for the vast majority of the population -- a life with babies, with children -- the things you don't have but badly want -- that you neglect to focus on & enjoy the life you ARE living, the here and now (except as it relates to how it relates to getting you closer to your goal, to that other life you want to be living).

And the difficult thing about living childless/free after infertility and loss is that we are so constantly reminded that what was not possible for us is possible for so many others. In a world where the lives of our friends and relatives so often revolves around children and parenting, we hover on the periphery. It's easy to get stuck, focusing on what we don't have and didn't get.

What was not possible -- the children we did not have -- will always cast a shadow over our lives. The question is how much we let that define us. I've always said that I am more than my uterus. When I look back at the end of my life, I want my life to be about, and I want to be remembered for, so much more than the fact that I didn't get to have the family I wanted. I don't want to be immediately identified as "the one whose baby died."  I am proud to be Katie's mom, make no mistake, and there is no denying the huge impact that infertility, pregnancy loss and involuntary childlessness have had on my life.

But I  am not just "the childless one." I am also a coworker, a loyal employee, a writer. I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, a niece, a cousin, a very proud aunt. I am a friend.

Yes, I lost a baby and had some bad things happen to me. But sooner or later, in some form or another, grief and loss come to us all. I have grieved. But I've also laughed & loved (some say grief is the price we pay for having loved someone). I have a nice home, a loving husband and family, a good job, some great memories, and the prospect of creating more.

My life is not perfect. Maybe it could be better. But it could also be a heck of a lot worse.

*** *** ***

La Belette Rouge actually HAS read the book, and wrote about it on her blog (with the same post title as mine -- great minds, etc., lol). You can find her thoughts (much more coherent than mine...!), right here.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Of pregnancy loss, privacy & politics

She was not elected the Liberal Party leader in the province of Ontario this past weekend (& thus will not automatically become Ontario's first female premier). (The leadership was won by another woman, Kathleen Wynne -- who not only became the first female premier but also the first one who is openly gay.) 

I didn't follow the race that closely, and had no strong opinion on the matter -- other than thinking (a) that it was pretty cool that, one way or another, we were likely to wind up with a female premier (at last!) & (b) isn't it too often the way, the only time a political party ever hands over the reins of power to a woman, it's when things can't get much worse for them anyway? 

But I was reminded when reading this profile of leadership candidate & runner up Sandra Pupatello that perhaps it might have been nice to have a political leader who has an intimate understanding of the heartache of infertility, pregnancy loss and involuntary childlessness.:
She’s also known heartache. 
In October 2003, there was a stunning story in the Toronto Star that Pupatello was four months pregnant after seven miscarriages over 13 years. The story resonated because it seemed so painfully private. This was her fourth attempt using in vitro fertilization. While she was over the moon, she hadn’t wanted it publicized, but Star reporter Richard Brennan guessed. He’d known her forever and urged her to let people know about her “miracle.” 
She later miscarried.  
“It changes you,” she says. “It knocks anything other than modesty right out of your system. You have to go through tough things in order to understand other people’s pain. There are things you can’t control and you have to let go.” 
She’s thrown herself into being a good Italian zia to her brother Walter’s three children, taking them to Queen’s Park and acting like a second mother.

I remember reading that 2003 story about Pupatello's pregnancy and previous miscarriages. I already knew she was "one of us" in that respect -- someone I knew through our pg loss support group knew her, knew her story and had tried, unsuccessfully, to enlist her support for our organization. 

But I didn't know she had also lost that baby too. And I didn't realize the story behind the story, either. I feel badly for her -- not just for all her losses, but also because (a bit like Kate Middleton), she was pressured to bare her soul and tell her story and talk about her pregnancy before she was really ready to do so.

The cynical journalist in me realizes that reporter knew a good human interest story when he saw it. (I wonder how he felt later.) The cynical deadbabymama in me also thinks that only someone who has never been through infertility, &/or never lost a pregnancy, could think it was OK for someone who was just four months pregnant, after seven previous losses and four IVFs over 13 years, to talk publicly about "miracles."  Ahh, the innocence of the uninitiated...

And maybe you're just being an idiot...

Did you happen to see the blog post by a woman named Janine Kovac, published this past week on a site called Role/Reboot -- an open letter to a friend she addresses as "Doris," who has not (yet?) had children. "Maybe You Are Ready for Kids, You're Just Not Paying Attention," the post is titled and it all goes downhill from there.

There are so many things wrong with this post, I can't even begin to list them. All I can say is, if you're trying to talk your friend into having a baby, Janine, this is definitely NOT the way to go about it. :p  (Not that anyone can, or should try to "talk" someone into having a baby they're not ready for or not sure they want, anyway...).

A few responses I've run across (hearteningly, many of them are written by mothers):

An Open Letter to Janine Kovac (also on Role/Reboot)

Open Letter to 'Clock-Ticking' Childless Women Makes Moms Look Condescending & Self-Righteous (from The Stir)

Motherhood isn't the path to enlightenment for all women (by Mary Elizabeth Williams on Salon -- the first piece I actually read on this subject). How can you not love this summation at the end:
Take it from a mom, Doris. A very happy one whose daughters are straight up the greatest people in the world. Have kids. Or don’t have kids. But you don’t have to make your choices based on the incredibly condescending notion that raising children is the way to enlightenment, or that the alternate road leads to having nothing in life to care about but your iPhone. The only person who can ever fulfill you is you, Doris. And you have infinite worth and value right now, just as you are. Don’t let anybody ever try to tell you otherwise.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Odds & ends

  • I am hopelessly behind on my blog reading. :p But I haven't given up!! ; )
  • Saturday was my birthday -- #52. For some reason, the phrase "52 pickup" keeps going through my head. So far as I can tell, though, I am still playing with a full deck. ; ) (For now, anyway...!)
  • I had a great birthday weekend -- a LONG weekend. (Yes, I did just get back from vacation too, lol.)  I took Friday off work and (what else?) headed to the spa for some pampering -- dh gave me a gift certificate for Christmas and I decided to use it sooner rather than later. : )  I am glad I did.
  • Feb. 1, the countdown begins to Freedom 55. ; ) It's the first day that I'm officially eligible for early retirement. (Edited to add: Feb. 1, 2016, that is... three years to go!! Hence, the countdown...) Whether I actually get to retire then remains to be seen... but it's something to aim for and look forward to!
  • I saw this article in yesterday's New York Times, about the parents of the children murdered at Sandy Hook school in Connecticut last month, speaking out and joining forces for change. I was struck in particular by this quote from David Wheeler, whose son, Benjamin, 6, was killed, explaining why he and his wife, Francine, joined the campaign. “What I have recently come to realize is that I am not done being the best parent I can be for Ben. Not by a very long measure," Wheeler said. It says so much about the lifelong relationship bereaved parents continue to have with their children, long after the funeral is over and everyone goes home and assumes you are "moving on" with your life. They will always be your children. You will always be their parents.
  • Jody Day at Gateway Women was interviewed last fall for an hour-long podcast called Dream Corner, which profiles inspiring women. Listen in here -- Jody makes some excellent points on behalf of those of us who are living childless/free, for whatever reason. The interviewer admits to being childfree by choice, but I think even she learned a few things from Jody -- demonstrating why it's so important for us to keep speaking and writing about our lives, even to people who are sympathetic to our position.   
  • The Globe and Mail has started a weeklong series about the growing numbers of people who are living alone (read the first installment from Saturday, here).  While it's not strictly about childlessness per se, and (obviously) focuses on singles vs couples, life without children is part of the overall picture. There is a lot of food for thought here re: societal assumptions and how and why some of us choose to live outside the established norm.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2012 Year in review

I didn't get this post finished in time for New Year's Eve (or even New Year's Day, for that matter) -- but since I'm half Ukrainian, I'm claiming I have until Jan. 13th/14th (Ukrainian New Year, or Malanka, based on the old Julian calendar).  : )  I was brought up in a part of Canada where there were lots of us of Ukrainian descent, and when I was in university, we had an annual Ukrainian New Year's social, complete with a polka band... those of Uk. heritage who had the full costumes wore them, and those who could do the traditional Uk/Cossack-style dancing, did.  (In what's known as a kolomyka, everyone joins hands in a big circle while the solo dancers take turns trying to outdo each other.)  Despite my maiden name, I fell into neither category ; ) but it was always a great party anyway.  

I started doing this year-end meme two years ago... although some of the answers don't seem to change much from year to year, it's a great way to look back and keep track (even if it is a little late this year..!). 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 have said in the past, I generally don't make new year's resolutions anymore -- they tend to be pretty much the same, year after year. So here are the perennials, and the progress I made in 2012 I(or not...!):
  • Lose weight. (Afraid not)
  • Exercise more. (And hopefully lose more weight...!)  -- Really slacked off on the walking this year... this is one resolution I hope I will do better on in 2012 -- once the weather gets nicer, at least...! 
  • Write more in my journal (blog??). Haven't written in my paper journal in years. Blogging: not quite as many posts as I wrote in 2011, but almost. Not bad, I think. 
  • 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 fewer than 10 books this year -- my teenaged self would NEVER have believed it. :p
  • Tackle some of the clutter that never seems to go away. ("Some" being the operative word...) Took several more boxes of stuff to Goodwill this spring... but there is still scope to do much more...!
  • 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 in 2011, 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. Sadly, have not done any scrapbooking since fall 2009. 
2. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?

Went to Kingston (Ontario, not Jamaica -- for our wedding anniversary -- what took us so long??). 

Gave myself a top rating in one category on my annual performance appraisal, for the first time in 26 years. ; ) I am normally not much given to self-promotion, but in this particular case, I felt I deserved it. Happily, my boss agreed. ; )

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Several new babies in the extended family, albeit none too close. Several of my friends & cousins also became GRANDPARENTS.  (!!)

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Thankfully (& knocking wood), no one close-close. Probably the closest was my father's half-sister, the last of his three half-siblings to die. I think she was about 90, so she had lived a good long life. I hadn't seen her in well over 20 years (sadly, because of a silly, lingering family feud), but she was certainly part of my rapidly disappearing childhood. It brought home to me how quickly my aunts & uncles (& parents -- and ME) are aging -- my dad's oldest brother will be 85 this year, and his older sister -- my aunt and godmother, who has been extremely good to me over the years -- will turn 80.

5. What countries did you visit?

Sadly, I didn't leave Canada this year.

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?

As in past years, more time (& energy)... a sunspot vacation : ) ... and a greater sense of self-confidence would be welcome.

7. What date(s) from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Dec. 21, the apocalypse that wasn't. ; )  Dec. 14th, the tragedy that was. :( 

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Probably just hanging in there...!

9. What was your biggest failure?

As I've written in past years, so many things that needed to be done around the house -- projects both large & small -- remain untouched. I did get a few crossed off the list, but it's a LONG list. :p 

Also, I did not pick up walking again while the weather was nice, nor lose any meaningful amount of weight. :p

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nothing serious, thankfully. I did have a couple of bad colds, after a couple of years of excellent health in that respect. (I have dodged the nasty flu bug that seems to be going around -- so far!)

11. What was the best thing you bought?

No major purchases. I bought some really great books, though. ; )

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

Our two nephews (now in their 20s) have both grown up to be kind-hearted, thoughtful and funny young men. I am so proud of them. : )

Queen Elizabeth II. Whatever you think about the institution of monarchy in general, you have to admit, she has done an excellent job within its parameters, and has rarely put a wrong foot forward (unlike some members of her extended family). For SIXTY years!! I think the celebration was merited.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

Last year I mentioned politicians on both sides of the border. I'm afraid they haven't done much to improve my opinion. :p 

14. Where did most of your money go?

Beyond the essentials of daily living, and savings (retirement now looming on the horizon), our biggest indulgence is probably reading materials -- books & magazines.

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

The Olympics and Canada's great performances there. One of my cubicle neighbours at work had a cousin in the men's eights rowing final, which took place on a work day at 7:30 a.m. Toronto time. We took an early train to work and I arrived in the office and turned on the TV set JUST as the starting gun sounded. There I was, jumping up & down and cheering and shouting "YESSSS!!" in the middle of the office. Nobody else was around, thank goodness ; ) -- although they probably would have been cheering alongside of me!  We watched a few events en masse, when there was a Canadian in medal contention. That was fun. : )

PNGD/The Princess. : )  So frickin' adorable. : )

16. What song will always remind you of 2012?

"Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen. (I'm rather sick of it, especially since it was already ubiquitous in Canada before it became a monster hit in the States -- but it was certainly dominant.)

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

(a) slightly less happy :p (b) probably more or less the same :p (c) slightly richer -- gotta keep saving for retirement...!

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

In retrospect, I wish I had gone to my cousin's 50th birthday in the fall of 2011. (Yes, I know that was 2011, but bear with me.)  She & I were born the same year;  her mother (my mother's cousin) is one of my godmothers;  we spent a lot of time together as kids, visiting our grandmothers in the summer.  There were a dozen reasons why I didn't think I could go, all of which seemed valid at the time:  it was right at year end (a busy time at work), I would have had to fly, just for a weekend, which is expensive and something I am not in the habit of doing, I wouldn't be missed in the crowd of celebrants, etc. 

This spring, she was diagnosed with cancer. She has been going through chemo, radiation and surgery ever since then, while still holding down a demanding job. 

We all like to think there will be a "next time." Sometimes there is -- but sometimes there isn't. I hope there will be many more "next times" for us to get together.  We need to learn to say "yes" to those opportunities to be with family and friends more often (and there were other such missed opportunities in 2012, although none I regret quite so much), and make them happen, even if they seem inconvenient or too much effort. They are what really matter in life.

I also wish I had used all of my personal days at work and more of my vacation time.  I lost my two unused personal days (which fall under a "use it or lose it" policy -- although they can also be used a sick days, which is why I tend to save them, just in case...), and I'm carrying over two weeks of vacation!

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

Dare I say I spend too much time on the computer?? I love my computer time, but I would probably have more time for the other stuff in my life if I spent even just a little less time mindlessly web surfing. :p 

20. How did you spend Christmas?

In the usual way:  with my family (my parents, sister & her boyfriend). Entertained by near-daily visits from The Princess.  ; ) Reading, enjoying Mom's shortbread & other goodies, playing cards & doing a jigsaw puzzle. Went to see "Les Miserables" on New Year's Day. Staying up late & sleeping in. Isn't that what holidays are for?

21. Did you fall in love in 2012?

Never fell out. ; )

22. What was your favorite TV program?

My favourite continues to be The Big Bang Theory. : ) But also:  Sherlock, The Republic of Doyle, and the return of my old favourite, Dallas. : )  Not sure whether they can keep up the momentum without Larry Hagman (JR), though. :(   The new season starts Jan. 28th, so we'll see...!

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

I don't think I hate anyone... that's a very strong word.  But there are a few people I can think of, personally and in the public realm, that I think less of today than I did a year ago.

24. What was the best book you read?

I may not have read a lot of books this year :p but there were some pretty good ones. Cheryl Strayed's Wild and Susan Cain's Quiet have stayed with me in the months since I read them.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I must admit, I don't listen to a lot of new music. And I hate to say it, but my biggest discovery was probably One Direction, lol. "That's What Makes You Beautiful" is still playing in my head.  Catchy stuff!!

26. What did you want and get?

I managed to connect with some distant cousins and add a great number of branches to my family tree. : )

27. What did you want and not get?

Still waiting on the sunspot vacation and new everyday dishes I mentioned last year. There were also several things I wanted to get done around the house that didn't happen. They need to happen soon, though... it's our turn to host the annual get-together for dh's cousins this summer (about 40-50 people). If that's not incentive, I don't know what is...!! :p

28. What was your favourite film of this year?

We saw about a dozen new movies in the theatre this year, which is actually on the low side for us. Most of them were pretty good, and some of them were really, really good. "Skyfall" would probably be my favourite, I think, just because it was so well done and (as a longtime James Bond fan) so much FUN.

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

I was 51 -- took the day off work and went to the spa, and had dinner out with dh later. 52 coming up shortly...!

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Less stress. If one of us is stressed, then both of us are inevitably stresed and unhappy -- and there were a few too many days of being stressed out for my liking.  :p  Work and the commute to & from (and there were alot of changes to our commute & regular routines this year) are probably our main stressors. Sometimes it feels like all the construction -- at our local commuter train station, at Union Station and elsewhere downtown -- will never end. (More likely, it will probably end right about the time we both retire...!)

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?

As I said in 2010, not sure I have one, let alone a new one every year?? 

32. What kept you sane?

As I have said in previous years: dh, weekends, & being able to vent to my online friends. : ) And knowing that, if all goes well, retirement could be just three (!!) more years away. ; )

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

Besides the Queen, above, Hillary Clinton. (Girls rule!!) I've long admired her, and all the "Texts from Hillary" and other press she received this year just reminded me of it. And having had a couple of blows to the head myself, I fully sympathize with what she's been through the past few weeks. I hope she has a happy retirement... at least until 2016. ; )

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

It was absolutely appalling to see old white men (on both sides of the border) patronizingly trying to tell women they know what's best for us and our bodies, while they tried to take away our choices, so hard-won by our sisters in the past. Having to refight the battles of the 1960s and 1970s is incredibly depressing. But fight again we must, and will.

The issue of guns and gun control also raised my blood pressure, after Newtown and Colorado in the States, and some high-profile gang-related shootings here in Toronto (one not too far from where my father-in-law lives).  I simply do not understand why anyone, outside the military and police, and possibly people living in remote rural areas, would need or want to own a gun (let alone an entire arsenal of automatic assault weapons designed to inflict the greatest amount of harm on the greatest number of people in the shortest amount of time).

35. Who did you miss?

As always, my daughter, and my grandparents.

Our friends from our old support group. Most of us have stopped attending group events (for reasons I have blogged about in the past), they are busy with their kids and lives, and we seldom seem to get together otherwise. :(

I miss my childhood best friends. I have been thinking of them a lot lately. Don't get to see enough of them, either. :(

36. Who was the best new person you met?

Last year, I got to meet Deathstar;  this year, I finally got to meet and spend an afternoon with Msfitzita. : ) Which blogger(s) will I get to meet in 2013? 

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.

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.

"This is crazy." -- Carly Rae Jepsen ; )

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

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Not lost... just different : )

Got this from a Facebook friend and immediately wanted to share it here!

Friday, January 4, 2013

"Rod: The Autobiography" by Rod Stewart

I can't say I was ever a huge Rod Stewart fan.  (My sister was definitely a bigger fan than I was -- we had a few of his albums in our joint teenaged collection, all bought by her.)

Nevertheless, growing up in the 1970s, he was always there, in the background -- part of the soundtrack of my life -- then and since -- and I did (& still do) like many of his songs, particularly the earlier ones -- "Maggie May" (which somehow never seems to get old, no matter how often I hear it), "Reason to Believe," "Stay With Me," "I Was Only Joking," "Downtown Train."  Perhaps my reluctance to declare myself a Rod fan stems from my all-too-vivid memories of the "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy"/"Hot Legs"/spandex years of the late 1970s & early 1980s ; ) (reinforced by the advent of MTV -- did you know that his song "She Won't Dance With Me" was the third video ever played on MTV -- and in all, 16 of his videos were played on its first day of broadcasting?). 

This fall, I saw he had written a memoir. And of course, I couldn't resist buying it, and reading it over the Christmas holidays. I have, as I have admitted here before, a particular weakness for celebrity memoirs, and I figured Rod would have some good stories to tell. And he does. "In a season full of books by or about aging rockers," says The New York Times, "his memoir turns out to be the most fun."

Turning 68 (!!) next week, father of 8 (!!)(by five (!!) different women) and now a grandfather too, Stewart has been entertaining us for some 50 (!!) years. His book spins the to-be-expected tales of sex, drugs and rock & roll.  If you consider his record on a purely factual basis, his behaviour doesn't reflect particularly well on him. His serial womanizing, in particular (cheating on one Playboy model with... another Playboy model, for example), could (does) make him look like a jerk.

Yet, reading the book, you can't help but laugh & like the guy. ; ) He seems like someone who would be the life of the party and fun to down a pint with at the local pub. : ) He cheerfully admits it when he's acted like a jerk -- and marvels, many times throughout the book, that he is a very lucky man. And you believe he's sincere about it. 

While naming the names of his many paramours, there are also some great stories about the likes of Long John Baldry, Gary Glitter, Jeff Beck, Ronnie Wood, Keith Moon, Led Zeppelin, Freddie Mercury and Elton John (they address each other as "Sharon" and "Phyllis")(??!), as well as both Hollywood and British royalty (Gregory Peck, Prince Charles...). Stewart also expounds on his passions for his family (of origin, as well as the one he created -- there is a hilarious chapter full of parenting tips, drawn from his personal experiences), football (soccer), fast cars and even model railroading.

Stewart admits he was heartbroken when his second wife, model Rachel Hunter, left him -- he claims he was faithful to her and didn't see it coming. He also writes about his brush with thyroid cancer that threatened his health, voice and career -- not to mention his trademark spiked blonde hairstyle (the subject of its own chapter in the book).  It's stuff like this that humanizes the guy and makes him sympathetic. Despite his cheating ways, he claims to still have good relationships with all his children's mothers.

 Now approaching his 70s, he stays fit with a personal trainer, still plays soccer, and has entered a new phase of his career, issuing several highly successful albums of pop standards.  He also has a new album of original material coming out later this year. .

"There is no template for growing old as a rock star," he points out on page 359. "There's no pattern you can follow. We were the first to come this way, flaunting our youth as we did so, and we've got no choice but to be pioneers as we go out the other end, when youth has ceased to be an option."

From an ALI perspective, the book contains several points of interest. Stewart's oldest child, Sarah, was born when he was still a teenager. After signing the papers for her adoption, he thought that chapter of his life was closed -- until the girl and her adoptive mother turned up on his doorstep, some years later, accompanied by reporters. Their first meeting was understandably awkward, but they have happily developed a better relationship in recent years, out of the spotlight.

Having already fathered six kids, Stewart was reluctant to expand his family again with his third wife, Penny Lancaster, who desperately wanted children. He says he changed his mind after the events of September 11, 2001. Penny's first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage but, happily, the couple has since had two sons. The youngest, Aiden, born in 2011 (almost 50 years after Sarah, the first!), was the result of three rounds of IVF. "It's physically very punishing for the woman, and heartbreaking for both of you when it doesn't work," he observes. (Tell us about it, Rod...!)

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As a Rod-related aside: Some months ago, I arrived at work slightly early, and my 20-something coworker/cubicle neighbour was playing music aloud on her iPod, as she sometimes does at that time of the morning, when nobody else is around. It was Rod Stewart, singing a pop standard from one of his recent crooner collections.

"Do you like Rod Stewart?" she asked me. I told her (as I told you all above) that I did, although not as much as my sister, and that I particularly liked his early stuff, like "Maggie May."

She told me she had never heard "Maggie May."


OK, maybe I am showing my age & lack of connection to the younger generation, but I was absolutely dumbfounded by this admission. (She immediately looked the song up on YouTube. "Hey, this is pretty good," she said.) I just couldn't imagine how anyone past grade school age could NEVER have heard "Maggie May." It was such a huge, huge hit (ubiquitous, almost), and I still hear it at least once every few days on the radio.

And then I realized that (a) kids today don't listen to the radio and (b) even if & when they do, it most likely (definitely??) isn't the boomer/classic rock stations that dh and I prefer.  Also, her parents were not born in Canada, so it's not likely she grew up with a classic rock (vinyl) album collection in their basement.

Chalk one up to the new generation gap. At least she had the good taste to like it. ; )

(And, for good measure, probably my favourite Rod song):