Monday, April 30, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: One of those nights...

Ugh... I went to bed around 11:30 p.m. on Saturday night. I woke up around 2:15 a.m. -- and I COULD NOT go back to sleep!!  Of course, I managed to wake up dh too -- he went into the living room to watch TV (where he promptly fell asleep on the couch, of course, lol) -- but even with the bed all to myself, sleep would just NOT come. :p 

Several things were conspiring to keep me awake. First, my stomach/gallstones were bothering me (AGAIN -- and they've been pretty calm/nonexistent for the past several months).  Guess that burger & fries for dinner at Five Guys wasn't such a good idea after all...! 

Tummy finally settled down around 3:30, but (second factor:) my brain was working overtime. There were several different family matters that I couldn't stop thinking about. And I was excited about the (then-upcoming) premiere of season 2 of "The Handmaid's Tale" last night (Sunday), and wondering what they were going to do, since they came to the end of the material in Margaret Atwood's book at the end of season 1. (The show was on Hulu in the States a few days earlier, but we don't get Hulu here in Canada, and so we have to wait a few more days to see it on Bravo -- which is, happily, part of my cable TV package.)  And of course, thinking about "The Handmaid's Tale" got me thinking about the current sad state of the world, and how uncomfortably close fiction can sometimes be to fact and to possibility, at the moment... :(

And of course those darn midlife hormones were probably at work too. :p  It's right about my usual midcycle/ovulation time (besides the time of the cycle, other signs were pointing in that direction too). Plus I was hot -- so I'd kick off the covers -- then I'd be freezing, so I'd pull them up again. Lather, rinse, repeat... :p  ;)

And so I tossed and turned -- & finally gave up and turned on the light and read my book & scrolled through my phone for a few hours until it started getting light outside. Dh came back to bed around 7 a.m. -- and that's when I got up & made my breakfast -- by then, I was hungry too. ;)  (And then I was hungry for the rest of the day... nights like this always completely screw up my eating schedule...!)

Thankfully, we had nothing on the agenda yesterday -- although I didn't nap or go to bed until after "The Handmaid's Tale" season 2 premiere (the first two episodes) ended, after 11 p.m....!  (And even though the show was -- once again -- highly, highly disturbing, I actually did manage to fall asleep fairly quickly, lol. ;)  )

Thank goodness I'm (a) retired and (b) don't have kids to send off to school in the morning. ;)

What do you do when you just can't sleep? (Please tell me you can't sleep sometimes too, lol.)  

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.  

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Sunday night odds & ends

  • Some belated post-wedding notes: It took me several days to recuperate (physically & emotionally) from Younger Nephew's wedding. And my knee is still not back to normal. :p  An unwelcome reminder that we are definitely not in our 20s anymore (lol/eyeroll). 
  • The newlyweds are back from their honeymoon & back at work. They even brought home a souvenir for me & dh. To say I was tickled is an understatement. :) 
  • We're starting to look ahead to summer holidays and our usual visit home to see my family. I like to try to be there when my sister has some time off work, and that's usually been the last part of July. Unfortunately, this year, most of July is out for my sister -- but she can get two weeks in early August. Which is fine, except those dates would coincide with Katie's anniversary dates. We've been away for those dates before, but this year is 20 years, so there's a little more emotion involved. Sigh. :( 
  • My laptop has been acting up lately. Last weekend, it refused to launch properly, which resulted in a panicked phone call to my sister's tech-whiz boyfriend. He spent over an hour on the phone with me, accessing my computer remotely and coaching me through a fix, for which I am grateful... but let's face it, it's an 8-year-old machine (!) -- my last two computers (both desktops) lasted 7 years each before I replaced them -- so I'm probably reaching the "pushing it" phase of its existence. :p  So I'm keeping my eyes open for a good deal on a new laptop. Dh doesn't even use his anymore;  he relies solely on his smartphone these days -- but then he doesn't do as much typing as I do. ;) (He offered me his, but it has an AWFUL keyboard with sticky keys, etc. -- the few times I've used it have been exercises in complete & utter frustration.) I can manage a brief Facebook comment from  my phone, but anything much more than that, I need my laptop and full-sized keyboard. (I know a few of you blog from your phones, which completely amazes me!!) 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Toronto the heartbroken :(

If you had told me when I was 10, or 16, or even 20, that I would wind up spending my adult life in Toronto (or, more accurately, the Greater Toronto Area), I would never have believed it. I grew up on the Canadian Prairies, during the 1970s, when the oil boom was on in Alberta. The premier of Alberta, Peter Lougheed, was my political hero (seeing him walking down the steps of the office tower where I worked, a decade or so later, remains one of the great thrills of my life), and I wrote papers for my college poli sci classes on the subject of western alienation.  Pierre Trudeau (Justin's dad) was prime minister, and universally loathed beyond the 100th meridian (particularly after posing the rhetorical question, "Why should I sell the Canadian farmers' wheat?" and implementing the National Energy Policy, which cut into provincial rights and oil companies' profits).

The West was what I knew, and as I entered my teenage and young adult years, it was where the action was. After graduation, my high school classmates who didn't stay in Manitoba went to school and found work in Saskatoon, Calgary & Edmonton. Nobody I knew was from Toronto, or ever went to Toronto (except one high school friend, who came back from a summer trip sporting a "1050 CHUM" T-shirt. So pervasive was (is) the influence of Toronto on Canadian life that we all knew about 1050 CHUM, even in those pre-Internet days.). Toronto, we all believed, considered itself the centre of the universe -- much as New York City is disdained in some parts of the U.S. for its overwhelming influence on business and culture. (How many Torontonians does it take to change a light bulb? One to hold the bulb, while the room revolves around him.)

But life is full of surprises. I met a really nice, really cute boy from Toronto at university, wound up marrying him, and set up housekeeping in a one-bedroom apartment just off Yonge Street, the city's main north-south thoroughfare, in the midtown district.  It was a great place to live, particularly in those "yuppie years" of the late 1980s, with tons of boutiques and bookstores and movie theatres and chic little restaurants, not to mention banks, grocery stores, the library, streetcars and the subway, all within walking distance. (And we walked, everywhere -- we'd go for days & days without using our car.)  Occasionally, we'd take the subway up to the North York Centre, on Yonge between Sheppard & Finch, to the huge, newly opened library there. The local genealogical society's holdings were housed there and I would spend hours scrolling through endless reels of microfilm while dh browsed the stacks.

"So, how do you like living in TORONTO??"  friends and relatives "back home" would ask me, somewhat suspiciously, with raised eyebrows. I would tell them that I've lived a lot of different places in my life, big & small, and there is good & bad to be found everywhere -- it's all what you make of it.

I could say the same, of course, to the people here who makes endless jokes to me about "Winterpeg."  ;) In many cases, the people rolling their eyes about Toronto have never set foot in the city, and likewise, many people here (although they will jet off each winter to Florida or Mexico or Cuba) have never set foot on the Prairies, winter OR summer.

There was, and is, much to make of Toronto. I have often said, you have absolutely NO excuse to be bored in this city...!  There's an abundance of great theatre, museums, art galleries, concerts, sporting events, movie theatres, bookstores and libraries. There is excellent shopping, both of the mall/chain store variety and smaller specialty boutiques. Restaurants of all kinds abound. There are three excellent universities here, and several fine community colleges. The waterfront is slowly being revitalized, and there are some nice parks -- including, the Toronto Islands (accessible by ferry) and, on the eastern fringes, Canada's first urban national park, Rouge Valley. While the transit system has been underfunded and underbuilt for years, it still gets an awful lot of people where they need to go, and is relatively safe and clean. It's not a perfect city -- not as beautiful as Vancouver or as cosmopolitan as  Montreal or as friendly as Halifax -- but as cities go, it's a pretty damn fine one (and a great place for tourists to visit, by the way!).

The city's motto is "Diversity our Strength," and this city probably comes closer than any to live that ideal.  It can be a shock if you grew up in small towns where diversity means Ukrainians, Icelanders and Mennonites living with white Anglo-Saxon Protestants -- and perhaps a lone Chinese family running the only Chinese restaurant for miles around. I remember standing at a bus stop in Scarborough in the late 1990s with my mother and about two dozen other people. She looked around & whispered to me, "We're the only white people here!"  And we were! There were people around us whose backgrounds were obviously Caribbean, Asian, south Asian and Middle Eastern.  I just hadn't really noticed, because it's not unusual hereabouts. Nobody blinks to see an interracial couple holding hands on the streets. I will admit, I used to gawk at the gay couples on Yonge Street holding hands when I first moved here, but gradually, it ceased to be a novelty. The city has its share of racial and cultural tensions, but for the most part, people get along together pretty well.

After five years in our midtown apartment, we bought a house and moved out of the city proper to a community east of the city. Of course, to anyone who doesn't live here, it's all still "Toronto," and we spent the next 26 years commuting to our jobs in the city's downtown financial district.  We were both at work in our 68-storey office tower when the Twin Towers fell in New York City on 9-11-01.

There were a lot of changes after that. More and more security guards began making their presence known.  Huge planters were installed on the sidewalk outside our towers, forming a barrier along the street. The windows of our offices were covered with a protective film, "to increase energy efficiency," we were told -- but we also knew it was to minimize flying glass in the event of an explosion. I started becoming hyper-aware of the other passengers around me on the commuter trains, in the subway and in the food courts, and did not hesitate to get off at the next station or move to another car if I thought someone was behaving strangely. Wending our way through the crowds along the underground PATH and through the train station, twice a day, I sometimes felt like I was wearing a target on my back. :(

After 9-11, we in Canada, and in Toronto specifically, understood that we were not immune to acts of mass violence and terror. And there have been mass shootings & terrorist acts in Canada (and others that were thwarted), albeit not with the same frequency or casualty levels as in the States.

That doesn't mean, however, that's it's not shocking and heartbreaking when something does happen in your city.

I did not know anyone who was directly affected by Monday's events. (At least, I don't think I do... so far...) But still. Besides being shocking and heartbreaking, it's kind of weird & unnerving, when you know exactly where the violence unfolded. Not only did we used to hang out at the library, along the same stretch of Yonge Street where the van driver so brutally mowed down unsuspecting pedestrians, we drive along that same route several times a year, en route to dentist and optometrist appointments in our old neighbourhood, a few miles further down Yonge. This was familiar territory to us. It's not downtown Toronto (as some reports suggested) -- and indeed, one of the puzzles of this whole story is, why there??  It's a busy, diverse area and densely populated, full of office towers and condo buildings, albeit not as busy and dense as further downtown. It was a beautiful day, one of the first really mild, sunny ones we've had here so far this year, and so perhaps more people than usual were outside, soaking up the sun and enjoying the nice weather on their lunch hour.

Thank goodness for hockey. :)  The Toronto Maple Leafs were playing against the Boston Bruins that evening in Game 6 of their Stanley Cup playoffs series. The Leafs have been Cupless for 51 years now (and counting), and they've only been in the playoffs a handful of times over the past 25 years.  (If you ever want to see an entire city go completely insane, for a good/positive reason, come to Toronto if/when the Maple Leafs ever win another Stanley Cup...!) The game went ahead, albeit with some stepped-up security and road closures, and a very emotional pre-game O Canada and moment of silence.  And the Leafs won! (Thanks, guys, we needed that. ;) ) (Game 7 tonight!)

Life goes on. It can, it must, and it will. (Eventually.) (Those of us who have known grief for other reasons, know this to be true.)

But the shock and sadness will linger for a long, long time. :(

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

"Life is sometimes confusing, often messy and always surprising"

Gateway Women flagged a great article from the Guardian on Facebook recently: "After a miscarriage and divorce, my friends showed me true love" by Elizabeth Day.  A couple of choice quotes that rang particularly true to me:
When you’re younger, you assume life will turn out a particular way because you haven’t lived it yet. It sometimes strikes me that getting older is a gradual erasure of the nonchalant confidence that comes with that naivety.
When my marriage ended, I realised that another kind of life existed. It was one in which I got to know myself a lot better and where there was freedom in choosing not to conform. For a long time, I felt I had failed to be a wife and failed to be a mother, and that these things spoke badly of me as a person. I had tried so hard to put a positive gloss on things and keep going that I was ashamed when this facade crumbled.
These days, I’m more comfortable with the realisation that I don’t know how the future will pan out. I’ve learned that life is sometimes confusing, often messy and always surprising. To pretend otherwise is to kid yourself you have control, and that means you can’t possibly hope to experience anything authentically. If you’re trying to shape what happens next, you are probably not paying enough attention to what’s happening right now.
Read the whole thing, here.

Monday, April 23, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Condo living, two (!) years later

Time flies when you're having fun! Today marks two years (already!) since we moved into our condo!  (We actually took possession the day before, but this is the day the moving van came & brought all our furniture.)  Two years later... and we still have pictures piled up in the office/second bedroom that need hanging... I still want to paint our bedroom... and we still need to get window coverings (I'm thinking vertical blinds) for the living room. It hasn't been a priority, but the townhouses under construction behind us will likely be finished later this summer/fall, and privacy will then become more of an issue.

Everything I wrote in my post last year -- "Condo living, one year later" -- still applies, some of it even more so. A couple of further observations at the two-year mark:

*  People are always asking me, "So how do you like it here?"  (Meaning, the community we moved to.)  I always respond, "We love our condo, and we love being closer to family." (And that is true.)  If I get challenged on the implied, "BUT...." I will talk about the insane traffic, exacerbated by the never-ending roadwork. :p  Even the people who have lived here all their lives and love it here will concede that it's ridiculous...! (and even dh, much as he loves living here, has admitted it's nuts)  I've only taken the new subway downtown once so far, but I love knowing that it's there if I want to get downtown quickly and without the hassles of traffic.

*  When real estate experts tell you to pay attention to the property management and reserve fund status, they're not kidding.  The property management company that was here when we moved in (installed by the builder) turned out to be completely inept, and was ousted last summer, leaving a huge mess behind them. It turned out they'd completely underestimated expenses in the budgets they'd prepared, and had been borrowing from Peter (i.e., our reserve fund) to pay Paul. Two of the three board members resigned, and the new board had to levy a special one-time fee to bring the reserves back up to reasonable levels again. The new property managers pretty much had to start from scratch, but they are far more efficient and things are operating much more smoothly these days. Thank goodness!!

* One lesson you quickly learn, living in a condo, is that you can't choose your neighbours...!  Of course, we couldn't choose our neighbours at our house, either -- we had some good ones, and some not so good.  Same here. I'm thinking in particular about the annoying neighbours directly across the hall from us, whose second-hand smoke was thick enough that it had us choking in our unit for a while. :p They further endeared themselves to us (not) by having regular screaming matches -- sometimes late at night after we'd gone to bed. :p Needless to say, we were positively giddy when we checked out the real estate listings for our building last month (as we periodically do) and discovered their unit was up for sale! They moved out at the end of March. The empty unit remains for sale -- we've seen & heard a number of potential buyers coming & going to view it -- but so far, no takers.  Crossing our fingers that the new neighbours won't be quite as, ummm, interesting, as the last ones...! (Now, if we could just do something about the people above us... we think they must have young kids -- and probably little boys -- because we hear a lot of energetic running/thumping around, starting at about 3:15 every afternoon (after school/daycare?) & continuing on until mid-evening (bedtime?).)

*  Construction on the townhouse project behind us is in full swing. It's possible that people will be moving in later this summer/fall. It's been a bit of a nuisance in terms of noise & dirt, but it's also been kind of fascinating to watch them working and watch the process unfold.

*  I find I rarely think about our old house these days, and not as much about the stuff I miss about our old community. (We still go back there every few weeks -- our family dr & hairdresser are still there, and while we're there, we usually visit Katie at the cemetery & go to the local mall.) 

*  The more condos I see -- in the real estate listings, and in "real life," the more I believe we really lucked out with this unit. It's still one of the most spacious, with the most closet/cupboard/storage space and one of the best views (yes, there's construction, but I still think it's better than looking out on the highway or an industrial park...) -- among other attributes. :)  I will admit, I had my qualms about condo living -- but overall, I feel lucky to live here. :) 

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.  

Saturday, April 21, 2018

"Fire & Fury" by Michael Wolff

Full disclosure: I am no fan of the current occupant of the White House.  (I am also Canadian, so there's not much I can do about it, lol -- even though U.S. politics has a huge impact on what happens to us, north of the border.)

So when my sister sent me a copy of "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" by Michael Wolff, I immediately dove into it. "Fire and Fury" was a publishing sensation and an instant best-seller when it was released earlier this year. It's a fly-on-the-wall look at the Trump campaign, transition and the first 9-10 months of the administration.

By now, most of the book's biggest bombshells have been well-publicized. So there wasn't a whole lot of new (to me) information -- and what there was, was not particularly surprising or unexpected, given what we already know (or suspect) about the man and his administration.  ;)  The book confirmed the negative impressions I already had, and it will probably do the same if you're of a similar mind. ;)  (I can't imagine too many Trump fans reading this book...!)

My biggest takeaways:  (1) this man is supremely unqualified to be President of the United States, and (2) this is definitely no way to run a government -- or business, for that matter (which might explain why so many of Trump's businesses and projects have gone down the tubes over the years).

The book is a page turner -- an easy, gossipy read, more focused on personalities and palace intrigue than policy.  Is it a scholarly work, or a serious work of journalism?  No. There are no footnotes, little documentation, a ton of anonymous sources (he claims to have interviewed more than 200 people, including Trump himself)(Steve Bannon most certainly WAS interviewed, extensively) and the liberal use of "reconstructed" conversations. (It's not always clear whether Wolff himself was in on the conversation, or whether he's repeating what he heard from someone who was.)

Moreover, there are a number of small, sloppy errors that detract from the quality of the book -- spelling (mispelled names -- which, in journalism school, would have earned me an automatic zero on the assignment, no matter how good the rest of the article was), stylistic inconsistencies, incorrect job titles, repetition, etc.  (These sorts of errors are also a huge pet peeve of mine with communications emanating from the President and his White House -- completely apart from the actual content of messages themselves...!).  It rambles a fair bit, especially toward the end, which comes rather abruptly. (I'd be curious to know why Wolff decided to end the book at the the point that he did. Why not a full year vs 10 months?)  I suspect the book was rushed through the editing process in order to get it into print faster. It would have benefited from a fine-tooth combing-over by a good proofreader &/or editor.

Despite its flaws, does it have an overall ring of truth about it?  Knowing what we know about Trump from more than a full year of observing his presidency, and from more meticulous, traditional, verified reporting from many other sources -- I would say yes.

Is it entertaining? You bet. ;)  I would give it a 3.5 stars on Goodreads.

As the Irish Times noted in its review:
...ultimately Fire and Fury is the kind of book that the 45th president of the United States deserves.  
By disrupting the boundaries between fact and fiction, objective reporting and supposition, author and subject, Michael Wolff has written the perfect accompaniment to Trumpism. Having railed against the “fake news” media while showing an utter disregard for truth, Trump can hardly complain that a book on his presidency plays with the facts.
In the post-truth world of alternative facts that Trump has spawned, Fire and Fury is truly a book of its time.
This was book #7 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 29% of my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am -- so far! ;)  -- on track to meet my goal.  :) 

Friday, April 20, 2018

The "We Are Worthy" Summit

This weekend marks the start of National Infertility Awareness Week in the U.S. & in Canada (although for some weird reason, the U.S. dates are April 22-28, and in Canada, it's April 23-29).  To be honest, I've never paid that much attention to NIAW, because its focus is (understandably) on fertility -- on those still in treatment, and on the success stories -- not on people like me, who didn't get the baby(s) we wanted (even though alternative reproductive technologies don't work for the vast majority of couples who try them).

This year, however, Andrew & Nicci Fletcher, the founders of the recently launched Childless Not By Choice Magazine,  have come up with a full week of alternative NIAW online programming that I am VERY interested in! The "We Are Worthy" summit is designed "to support people whether they are still hoping to become parents or are searching for find ways to redefine their dreams even though they won’t contain the children that they long for."
The summit will be packed full of webinars and pre-recorded training about proactive healing ideas that can help people move forward. There will also be live “chats” and pre-recorded panel discussion about what it means to be childless not by choice and how we can learn to live in a child-centric world. Hopefully there will be a little something for everyone because, no matter where you are in your journey or what your personal situation is, we are ALL worthy!
I'll admit I had a few qualms about the name.  "We are Worthy" -- well, of course we are!!

(I also couldn't help but think of Wayne & Garth from "Wayne's World" -- "We're not worthy! We're not worthy!" lol!)(Sorry!)

But when I thought about it, I realized that far too many infertility survivors, particularly those in the early stages of recovery from treatment, do feel a deep sense of worthlessness.  Moreover, those feelings are reinforced -- sometimes (sadly) intentionally, sometimes inadvertently -- by others around us, and by society generally.
Living in a child-centric world can be a struggle. [the event website points out] We feel voiceless and marginalised. We feel the rest of the world considers us to be second class citizens because we haven’t been able to have children. We feel that we have failed and are worthless and the world seems to agree with us. It doesn’t help that the terms available to describe our situation are either “childfree” which suggests that we have fully embraced our situation or “childLESS” – no wonder we feel that we have failed or do not deserve to be heard, valued or happy. 
We need to rebuild of sense of self-worth until we truly believe that We Are Worthy! and then perhaps the rest of the world see that too.
The summit includes a mixture of live webinars, pre-recorded training sessions, live chats and panel discussions -- and there are four or five events scheduled every day during NIAW.  The speakers and facilitators include many names that will be (should be!) familiar to those of us in the CNBC corner of the ALI community -- including Jody Day of Gateway Women, Lisa Manterfield of Life Without Baby, Brandi Lytle of  Not So Mommy, Sarah Chamberlin of Infertility HonestyJustine Froelker and Lesley Pyne (among many others).

Best of all, it's all FREE. (Although some events do require advance registration -- so check out the list of events & speakers & sign up for the ones that interest you, now!)  I have all the events & times in my calendar, & hope to listen in to at least a few of them, live or later on.

When I think back 10 years ago to when I started this blog -- there is just no way the handful of CNBC bloggers out there at the time could have put on an event of this magnitude. We may still have a way to go to establish our presence within the greater infertility community, and certainly in the "outside" world -- but seriously -- reading over the schedule for this event, I couldn't help but think: we have come a long, long way over the past 10 years...!

And I can't wait to see what progress the next 10 years is going to bring!  :) 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Snooze time?

A Facebook friend (an online friend, albeit not an ALI-related one) is on a sunspot vacation this week with some online friends. Turns out they are friends she "met" online during one of her pregnancies (she has four adult children). 

And guess what? -- they are "[Katie's due date month] Moms." (I am not going to write out the month here, in order to try to minimize the chances that she might stumble onto this post.) 

Thank GOD her pregnancy was 21 years ago & not 20 years ago. I'm not sure I could have handled that. :(   

(I never joined an online pregnancy group, thank goodness -- I was still a bit leery of the Internet back then. Although I did lurk on some "[Katie's due date month] 1998 Moms" groups now & then, during my pregnancy, & then later on, when I was in a self-flagellating mood. :p ) 

As it is, I am not handling this very well. :(  She is posting tons of photos with captions "[Katie's due date month] Moms do this" & "[Katie's due date month] Moms do that." I'm glad she's having a good time -- and Lord knows, no one knows more than I do how wonderful online friends can be ;)  -- but yikes, this has been tough. I'm actually surprised at how much this is bothering/annoying me;  I haven't felt this way in quite a long time. Perhaps time to try out Facebook's "snooze for 30 days" feature??  

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

#MicroblogMondays (on Tuesday): Wedding weekend :)

Younger Nephew & his beautiful bride. 

  • My #MicroblogMondays post is late this week. As you can see from the photo, I've been busy! ;) 
  • Yes, this past Saturday was Younger Nephew's wedding.  :)  We survived! :) 
  • As with Older Nephew's wedding in the fall of 2016, the weather sucked -- except this time it sucked even more. Older Nephew got rain & chilly temperatures on his wedding day. Younger Nephew got pouring rain in the early morning, which turned to freezing rain, then ice pellets, and later SNOW.  :(  (And more of the same on Sunday. :p ) 
  • The weather forecast got worse & worse as the day drew near, with dire weather warnings issued. The bride & groom were resigned to whatever happened -- but BIL was driving himself (& everyone else ;) ) nuts with fretting about it.   
  • The roads were terrible, and got worse as the day went on -- although they had (finally!) done some plowing by the time we left the hall that night. (The main roads were OK by yesterday, but many of the side streets still had not been plowed.)  
  • Despite the fact that some of the guests had to drive an hour (or more, because of the bad weather) to get here, there were only two no-show families at the reception. More people than we expected came to both the church ceremony & the reception, and surprisingly, people stayed and did not start leaving until 11-12 that night. 
  • Unlike some people in the region, we never lost power, thank goodness. The banquet hall where the reception was held did have a backup generator, thank goodness, which I think gave BIL a modicum of peace of mind. 
  • I wore my regular street shoes to BIL's house & to the hall (and really should have worn my winter boots) and then changed into my dressy sandals/heels (& then later into some flat sandals I’d brought – and thank goodness, my feet were killing me!!). 
  • Even wearing "sensible" shoes, I almost slipped a few times (& my outfit had a pencil skirt!!). 
  • 89-year-old FIL DID slip & fall on the (concrete) front steps of BIL's house as we were leaving to head to the reception. Thank goodness he was OK!!  He even wound up staying until nearly midnight. ;)  
  • We went to BIL's house in the morning while the groom & his ushers were having their photos taken. Cooper (Older Nephew's miniature dachshund) could hear the commotion from the basement apartment, and was howling up a storm, so they finally brought him upstairs for a while, until we had to leave for the church. He got in on the photo session too. :)   
  • We returned to BIL's between the church and reception. Poor Cooper was still howling :(  (I really think they should have taken him to a dogsitter...) so dh went downstairs & got him. StepMIL's 9-year-old grandson was eager to play with him. Cooper wasn't so sure, he barked a lot at first, but gradually warmed up to the strangers in the house. ;)  
  • The church was still beautifully decorated with masses of white lillies from Easter, along with bridal flowers.  
  • The waterproof mascara was tested several times, and held up well. ;)  
  • The bride was stunning. Gorgeous dress. It was sleeveless, but not strapless, which was kind of nice to see. I can't remember the last wedding I attended where the bride DIDN'T wear a strapless gown. 
  • Older Nephew was Younger Nephew's best man and the bride's sister was her matron of honour. :)  Their spouses were among the bridesmaids & ushers, and the bride's adorable little niece (1.5 years old & just barely walking) was the flower girl.  The nephews' only (living) cousin's baby boy was the ring bearer. He's only 9 months old, so his parents carried him down the aisle. ;) 
  • The reception was so much fun. The hall was beautifully decorated, and the food & service were excellent. By then, everyone was relaxed and not worrying about the weather so much. Just about all of dh & BIL's cousins and their families were there (and in fine form, lol).  The kids had a blast running around together. 
  • One cousin's husband rounded up all the other "married-ins" (as in those of us who married into the dh's mom's family, including me & SIL), and we did a round of shots together (lemon drops, which are mostly vodka). The cousins are always doing "cousins shots" at these things & he wanted a piece of the action. ;)  
    • I have never done shots before -- wasn't a "thing" when I was in university ;)  -- but this one was actually pretty smooth. ;) I couldn't down it in one gulp, though. 
    • The bride even joined us for a second shot. ;)  (That one was stronger & I couldn't finish it. :p ) 
    • (As an aside, every time someone mentions "lemon drops," I think about an ALI blogger named Emilie Lemmons, whose blog was called Lemmondrops. Very sadly, she developed cancer and passed away at Christmastime in 2008, almost 10 years ago now, leaving her husband and two small children. Does anyone else remember Emilie? I still think about her and her family from time to time, especially around Christmas, and wonder how they are doing.) 
  • There was a slide show on screens set up around the hall, showing photos of Younger Nephew and his bride growing up (many contributed by yours truly :) ) playing on screens throughout dinner. One of my auntie dreams realized. ;)  
  • I always wanted to tell (or have dh tell) a certain story about Younger Nephew at his wedding. Of course, there are always way too many speeches at wedding anyway, & we didn't get asked to speak -- but dh got BIL to include the story in HIS speech. ;)  When Younger Nephew was about 4, his mom & I went to a wedding shower together while dh stayed with BIL & the boys. The subject of weddings & romance must have been weighing heavily on Younger Nephew's mind, because he & dh had a conversation that went something like this: 
    • Younger Nephew: "Uncle Dh, do you like Aunt Loribeth?"  
    • Dh: "Yes..."
    • Younger Nephew (puzzled):  "Do you LOVE her?"  
    • Dh: "Well, yes..." 
    • Younger Nephew: "But... WHY?" 
    • Dh: "Well... she's my wife!"  
    • Younger Nephew (totally confused): "But... but... but... SHE'S A GIRL!!"  (lol!!)  
    • (I guess he changed his mind...! lol) 
  • Both nephews spoke beautifully. Both SIL & I were in tears, and asked each other, "Where did they learn to do THAT??!" So proud of them both!!  
  • Both nephews were also partying it up on the dance floor. ;)  SIL & I also wondered where they got THAT from, since neither their father nor their uncle (nor their uncles on SIL's side) will dance unless they are dragged onto the floor. Then I saw FIL sitting at the table, helping himself to another glass of wine ;) and it clicked. ;)  He has always loved a good party (although he tires much more easily these days), and in his younger days, apparently he used to get up & sing with the band at weddings (much to the dismay of dh, his brother & their mom, lol).  I guess the party gene skipped a generation...!  ;)  
  • Watching the father-daughter dance was (as always) hard. :(  I snapped a few perfunctory photos and then went to stand with dh & squeeze his hand. Hard.  
  • The happy couple are now on their honeymoon at a Caribbean resort. :)  They left Monday morning, and by then, it was just plain raining. Their flight was delayed an hour, but it could have been much worse. 
  • So.... what shall we do for excitement now??  ;)   
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.  

Me & dh, the groom's proud aunt & uncle,  in our wedding finery.
Dress by Jade Couture. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

"Eunice" by Eileen McNamara

It's been nice to see more attention being paid in recent years to the Kennedy family women, both collectively (e.g., "The Kennedy Women" by Laurence Leamer) and individually. In recent years I've read a book about the oldest Kennedy sister, Rosemary (reviewed here), and two books about next-oldest sister, Kathleen ("Kick") (reviewed here and here).

Now it's Eunice Kennedy Shriver's turn in the spotlight, with "Eunice: The Kennedy Who Changed the World" by Eileen McNamara. McNamara, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston journalist, was granted unrestricted access to more than 30 boxes of Eunice's private papers, as well as interviews with her five children and other family members, friends and colleagues. 

McNamara calls Eunice "the Kennedy who changed the world," and she makes a strong case that Eunice's contributions have had an even greater impact than those of her famous political brothers, John, Robert & Ted. "[She] is the reason we no longer lock away children and adults with intellectual disabilities -- that we educate them, employ them and help them thrive." 

Eunice grew up in the shadow of her four older siblings -- the dazzling "Golden Trio" of Joe Jr., John and Kathleen -- as well as Rosemary, who was, in the language of the time, "mentally retarded" -- and whose condition was made worse when her father (without telling her mother!!) arranged to have her lobotomized.  As the book's jacket states, Eunice's determination and compassion were "born of rage: at the medical establishment that had no answers for her sister Rosemary; at the revered but dismissive father whose vision for his family did not extend beyond his sons; and at the government that failed to deliver on America’s promise of equality."

After her botched lobotomy, Rosemary was sent to live with nuns in Wisconsin and disappeared from both public and family life for decades. But Eunice never forgot her beloved sister.  While she was never its titular head, she ran the family's Joseph P. Kennedy II Foundation for more than 50 years, and focused its work on scientific research that would benefit the mentally retarded (which was then practically non-existent). She hosted summer camps for intellectually disabled children at her home in Maryland, which eventually evolved into the Special Olympics.  After her father suffered a stroke in 1961, Eunice assumed responsibility for Rosemary's care and, after his death in 1969, she brought Rosemary back into the family fold.  

While mental retardation was Eunice's primary cause and the driving force throughout her life, she also advocated for a number of other issues, including support for juvenile delinquents, teen mothers and their babies. Shortly after he became president, she pushed her brother, Jack, to create a separate federal research institute focused specifically on maternal and child health -- the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development --  that now bears her name. 

Many of us in the ALI community have benefited directly from Eunice's persistence on this issue:  
He was cautious, asking his sister why he should invite the ire of NIH officials by arguing for creation of an institute none of them thought necessary. Sailing on Nantucket Sound that summer, Eunice reminded him of his and Jackie's own experiences: one child lost to miscarriage and another to stillbirth. These common but little understood tragedies affected millions of American families, she told him, but they garnered the attention of precious few researchers. For Eunice, the conclusion was obvious: maternal and pediatric medical research promised breakthroughs for all children, not just for those born with mental retardation.... 
A focus on human development throughout the stages of life incubated such new medical specialties as neonatology, which, in the years ahead, would pioneer fresh prevention and treatment approaches, eventually all but eliminating deaths from conditions such as hyaline membrane disease. That lung condition was the most common cause of death among premature infants when Jack signed the NICHD into law in 1962, claiming twenty-five thousand lives a year in the United States. Tragically, it would claim the life of his own son, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, thirty-nine hours after he was born five and a half weeks premature on August 7, 1963. (p. 169)
"If that girl had been born with balls, she would have been a hell of a politician," her father is reported to have said about her. She campaigned tirelessly for her brothers, advised them, prodded them on behalf of her pet causes, and helped write their speeches. Many thought she would have made a fine president herself. But McNamara argues that she made a far better lobbyist:  
Impatient and insistent, she was the definition of impolitic. In her missionary zeal, she did not much care who she offended in pursuit of her aims. She left it to others to smooth the feathers she ruffled along the way...  
The qualities that might have inhibited a career as a politician enhanced Eunice's effectiveness as an advocate. Good intentions did not impress her;  results did. She measured herself, and everyone around her, by what got done, not by what got promised. It is no wonder then that President Kennedy instructed his aides to "just give Eunice what she wants," not because she was an irritant, although she could be that, but because he trusted that, on issues that mattered to her, his sister had figured out what worked. (p. xxiii) 
If you have any interest in the Kennedy women (or high-achieving women generally) or civil rights for people with disabilities, you will find this book an engaging read.  

This was book #6 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 25% of my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am -- so far! ;)  -- on track to meet my goal.  :) 

Monday, April 9, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: An emotional weekend

This was a very emotional weekend, for several different reasons:
  • Aunt Flo returned to haunt me over the weekend, after a 41-day absence. :p   Boo, hiss... :p 
    • Guess that explains the recent zits...! :p   
    • But -- better this weekend than next...!! 
  • Just before we went to bed Friday night, we heard that a bus carrying a junior hockey team -- the Humboldt Broncos -- had crashed in northeastern Saskatchewan, and that there were fatalities involved  When we woke up the next morning, CNN (CNN!!) was saying that 14 young hockey players and others on the bus -- half of those aboard -- had died.  (The toll has sadly since risen to 15.) Most of the survivors were injured, some critically. Horrific. I lost it when I saw the now-famous photo of three surviving players, side by side in hospital beds. Holding hands. 
    • The crash occurred just a few miles north of one of the small towns where I spent part of my childhood.  It is both a bleak and beautiful area of the country, especially in the winter. I just read two first-person articles that got me teary all over again with homesickness for the Prairies. Thank you, Sharon Butala and Lorna Dueck.
    • I've been through Humboldt many times as a kid, travelling en route to Saskatoon for medical appointments, to shop and to visit family friends. 
    • The players were all between the ages of about 16 to 20. I scrolled down a list of the team members' names and birthdates and saw over & over again "1998" "1999" "2000"... in other words, they were all around the same age that my Katie would have been. :( 
    • I have never played hockey.  But as a Canadian, it's all around us -- it's part of the culture, part of our collective heritage. In the small Prairie towns where I grew up, the rink was and is is the heart of the community and the focal point of much of its social life. I spent hours & hours hanging around them, taking figure skating lessons, skating with my friends during "free skate" hours, watching the boys practice and play hockey (it was mostly boys in those days), eating stale potato chips and sour gumballs from the concession stand, playing hide and seek with my friends underneath the wooden bleachers.  There was always hockey at the rink, and on Saturday nights on TV (and when I was growing up, we only had ONE channel, so we had no other choice but to watch!).  
    • As communities have shrunk and teams have folded, remaining teams must travel further and further to play each other -- often on a bus like the one that crashed. The Prairies are vast, and thinly populated.  Humboldt to Nipawin is about 2.5 hours one way, which is not unusual for a road trip. Depending on where you're going the roads might not be that great, especially during the winter, and bad weather is always something to watch out for. As one NHL player said this weekend, "We've all been on that bus."  
  • One of my online friends is the mom of four now-grownup kids, two of whom got married last year. One couple is now expecting their first child and they had a "gender reveal" party this past weekend. So not only did I get to witness the photos & videos of the party on social media, but the gleeful grandma-to-be's triumphant posting "My first grandchild is a GIRL!"
    • I have dutifully liked so many of her mom-brag posts about her kids and their accomplishments.  It wouldn't have taken much effort to just click on the damn "like" icon one more time, & move on. 
    • But this time, I just. couldn't. do it. :(  
  • And of course, Younger Nephew's wedding is fast approaching. Despite my eye-rolling over SIL & Fiancee's mom getting teary over the kids cleaning out their closets ;) I have to admit I am a pretty sentimental sap myself, especially when it comes to weddings, nevermind when my nephew (whom I still think of as an adorable toddler with a soother permanently stuck in his mouth) is the groom. Thank goodness for waterproof mascara!  ;)  
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.  

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Leaving home

Younger Nephew & his fiancee cleaned out his closet this weekend, and took most of his clothes & other stuff over to their new apartment, where they'll be living after their upcoming wedding & honeymoon.

Apparently SIL got quite verklempt watching them do this (much to the amusement of BIL, who told us about it).

Fiancee told SIL not to worry -- her mother did the same thing when she cleaned out HER closet.

Are they moving overseas? Across the country? Across the province? Across the city, even?? Nope. Try DOWNSTAIRS, to Fiancee's parents' basement. (Their house is 3 km = less than 2 miles/a 5-minute drive, from BIL's.) (BIL's basement is already occupied by Older Nephew and his wife.)

These are not kids (even though they'll always be kids to us, of course...), but -- even though they are both 25 years old (soon to be 26 -- Older Nephew is 29 & his wife is also 25) -- neither of them have ever lived away from him home before. It's partly a cultural (Italian) thing -- dh was the only cousin of his generation on both sides of his family to go away to school (and grad school, at that);  all of his cousins lived at home until they were married (and sometimes afterwards), and having aging parents & other relatives living with you was the norm when he was growing up and his extended family members were trying to establish themselves in this country.

It's partly because there are plenty of excellent universities and community colleges hereabouts, and so dh & his cousins (and Younger Nephew & his fiancee) were lucky enough to be able to live at home while they completed their degrees, established careers and saved money for the future.

It's also financially practical -- even necessary.  Housing, both for sale and for rent, is ridiculously expensive hereabouts, even if both you and your spouse/partner both have good, well-paying jobs.

I think about me & my younger sister, who -- like all of us who grew up in small rural towns -- had no choice but to leave home if we wanted to continue our education. We both lived in residence while we went to university, and mostly in apartments with each other or other roommates in the summers in between.  I lived at home that summer between first and second-year university (when my sister was finishing high school), but my dad got transferred and, in late August, we packed up the contents of our house into a moving van headed for storage. My mom (still not yet 40!) packed me & my sister into the car & moved us into our respective dorms, and was basically  a homeless empty nester for the next three months -- bouncing between staying in a motel with my dad & visiting my grandparents and other relatives -- while our house in the new town was finished being built.

My sister was still a week away from her 18th birthday when she got dropped off at university, and I know my mother has always felt guilty about that. But I don't ever remember my parents hanging around until the very last minute, or making teary goodbyes when they dropped us off at school, and I don't remember any similar scenes among my dorm mates either. It was a different time and a different mindset among both parents & kids. Most kids couldn't wait to get out on their own (even if we were secretly a little nervous about it), and parents, even if they felt a bit sentimental about letting their chicks leave the nest, seemed to accept the inevitable.  It was just the natural order of things, the way things were supposed to be.

I did return home to live with my parents for a year between the end of my graduate degree and my wedding. I lucked into a job at the local weekly newspaper and gained experience in my field while saving my money, planning my wedding, and racking up long distance phone bills to dh (no Internet in those days, kids! -- and long distance wasn't cheap, either!).  I have to admit, I didn't think too much about what happened next. The day after the wedding, we were at my parents' house, along with dh's father & brother & two cousins, and some of our other out-of-area guests, and I suddenly realized that, umm, oh yeah, I was leaving the next day on my honeymoon, & from there, we were flying directly to my new home city (1,000 miles away from my parents) to start my new married life -- so maybe I should pack a suitcase or two??

So instead of visiting with my guests, I spent the next hour or two frantically tossing clothes & wedding gifts into a couple of suitcases that FIL & BIL could take back with them, and then another one for me to take on my honeymoon. I'm usually pretty well-organized, and my wedding was meticulously planned (the minister told me I was the most organized bride she'd ever seen), but I really did drop the ball in this respect. ;)  My father did get choked up (which rarely happens) when the time came to say goodbye & return to our hotel room in the city, from which we were flying out in the morning. That hit me hard, and I cried halfway back to the hotel (an hour-long trip). I was 24 & dh was 28.

So, hearing about these two moms, whose kids are now older than I was when I got married (and years older than I was when I left home to go to school), getting all choked up because the offspring are moving a few BLOCKS/FEET away, left me feeling a bit bemused. As I said, different times, different generations of both parents & kids, different attitudes.

I suppose some might say I don't get it because I don't have kids of my own.

Or you might say it's just sour grapes (because I don't have kids of my own).

(You might be right there.)

Whatever the reason, it's just one more thing that clearly sets me apart from the current generation of the parenting majority...

Friday, April 6, 2018

"When Do You Stop Trying to Have a Child?"

(Contains spoilers)

"When Do You Stop Trying to Have a Child?" the New York Times headline in my feed asked.

"Well," I thought, as I clicked over, "it's nice to see the Times addressing these difficult subjects." 

What was I expecting to read? I guess -- based on the headline -- I was expecting (hoping?) for the story of a couple who made the difficult decision to stop trying to have a baby, how they came to that decision, and managed to survive and, yes, even thrive, even though things did not turn out the way they had hoped or expected.  I wouldn't have been surprised, or minded (much ;)  ) if they decided to pursue adoption after closing the door on trying to conceive themselves.

What I read:

The first thing I saw was the illustration that accompanied the article: a child with his parents. All righty then... was this a real child, or a hypothetical dream child?

Then the lede (first sentence):  "Our first child came easily." (Well, goody for you...)  Conceived on a trip to southeast Asia, no less.

Okay. So this was a story about secondary infertility, then. 

I read on.

The article was a first-person essay by the husband. In the two years after this couple decided to try for a second child, his wife endured five miscarriages. 

I felt sadness as the husband described the story that so many of us know so well: the excitement of a positive pregnancy test, the anxiety over every trip to the bathroom, the hurdle of the early ultrasound, the heartbeat that is too weak, or doesn't exist. The search for answers, for anything that will help the next time around. The feeling of failure. The resentment of couples who already have children (in their case, more than one child). 

"I was unprepared for the grief that followed the first miscarriage," the author writes. "That unmistakable, deep ache that lies beyond mere sadness. We had lost a family member."

The couple's marriage suffered. 
How long were we supposed to keep this up, enduring the nerve-racking trips to the bathroom, the tests, the bleeding, the screaming, the bouts of weeping? 
I wanted another child. But I also wanted our life back — a life that wasn’t interrupted by death every few months...
Couldn’t we accept how good things actually were for us? Or would we always focus on what we didn’t have? And how much more could my wife’s body take? Surely it was time to accept our family the way that it was — the three of us.
The internet is full of stories from women who’ve suffered multiple miscarriages — but they tend to end in success and messages of encouragement (“I finally had a child. Don’t give up. It could happen for you.”).
Could we allow ourselves to stop when we had “only” five? When we couldn’t say we had tried everything? Wouldn’t we be quitting on our son and his chance to avoid eternal loneliness?
And then -- (guess what??): 
And so we decided that we would give it one more try. One last go. The final job before retirement, like at the beginning of a heist movie. We went back to Bali for my wife’s 40th birthday. 
And now we have another son.
(To say my eyes rolled would be an understatement.)
I know how lucky we are to have these boys. We didn’t think we’d be another inspirational “don’t give up” story. 
We were ready to give up. And that would have been O.K. 
I am sure they would have been OK, too. But it's easy to say when you're watching your two children play together, isn't it?  Methinks the author doth protest too much. :p

I'm happy they got their "rainbow" baby. (Really.)  But the answer to the question posed in the title seems to be.... "Don't give up!!"  Right?  And there are plenty of us out there who know the price you can pay for doggedly pursuing pregnancy, cycle after cycle, loss after loss: mental, physical and financial exhaustion. Ruined marriages and ruined health.

There are no hard & fast rules for "when to stop," of course (whether you have other children or none at all). Everyone's "line in the sand" is different. Dh & I stopped at one stillbirth & three rounds of medicated IUIs;  some people stop after half a dozen IVF attempts, some never try IVF at all.

But I think that hearing more stories of "we stopped, and this is when & why (your mileage may vary) -- and we are here to tell the tale, and life can still be good" (etc. etc.) would be so, so helpful for other couples contemplating the same questions and difficult decisions.

I am happy to note, though, that (although there were only 5 comments on the article, last time I looked), the two most recommended were singing my song:  ;) 

From Maine Dem in Maine:
This article would have relevance to the subject if written from the perspective of someone who had no children and did have to give up. The article is about "when do you stop trying". Not sure how the article answers that.
And from Brian in Thompson:
I’m tired of these stories that end like this. As a family that tried far longer w/o success, this headline made me think this was a story for those of us without the happy ending. The NY Times needs more sensitivity in headlines so as not to lead the silent group like my family down the path of yet another happy ending story.
(Sorry if this post is a little too bitter. It's been that kind of day...)

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Right now

Right now... (an occasional meme, alternating from time to time with "The Current"):

Reading:  I'm currently reading Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury," about the Trump White House. :)  No huge surprises (yet) -- the biggest bombshells have already been well-publicized, of course, and what might be new information (to me) is not, generally, unsurprising or unexpected.  ;)  

To date, I've finished 5 books (out of my Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge goal of 24 books).  I've also been trying to tackle my pile of unread magazines, and having some success -- I haven't eliminated the pile entirely, but it's come down to a more reasonable level....! 

Watching:  I missed the first episode of the new reboot of "Roseanne," but watched the second. I was never a huge fan of the old series but I did watch it from time to time, particularly in the early years. Personally, I'm not sure people were watching for the politics (at least, not all of them) -- I think many people watched because they loved the old show and wanted to see the old familiar faces and were curious about what the characters were doing now and how they look (at least some of the ones who have been further off the public radar, like Becky & DJ) and how they have evolved over the past 20 years. (Interesting from an ALI viewpoint that they have Becky involved in a surrogacy plotline.)  ABC has already renewed the series for a second season, based on the huge ratings the first two episodes (aired back to back) received. I guess time will tell if those ratings can be sustained. 

On the big screen: Haven't been to a movie in the theatre lately, but hope to remedy that soon...! 

Listening:  Haven't been listening much lately to any music or podcasts.  

Following:  Several of the leaders from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on social media. I love that they are so incredibly articulate & inspiring -- and yet they are also still kids, talking about the spring musical and homework assignments, making self-deprecating comments about themselves and trading jokes with each other. 

Eating:  Still enjoying my stockpile of Lindor chocolate mini-Easter eggs. :)  Who says Easter chocolate is just for kids, right??  ;)  

Wearing:  We recently took the car to the car wash & gave the inside a thorough vacuuming.  The new lightweight downfilled jacket I bought before Christmas had left the front seat COVERED in feathers, which proved difficult to vacuum up (I eventually had more success with smoothing sections of tape from a lint roller onto the upholstery & then ripping it off). After everything was cleaned up, dh banned my jacket from the car for the rest of the season -- so I've taken to wearing another jacket, a short, tweedy jacket that I recently bought at the Banana Republic factory outlet. It's surprisingly warm but not as as lightweight as the down jacket -- but I'm hoping that I'll soon be switching to something lighter still (if the weather ever warms up enough...!).  (I wrote a review (under a pseudonym) for the store website where I bought the down jacket, expressing my dismay about the feathers... three other women also wrote reviews noting their jackets were shedding feathers too, so it's definitely not just me...!) 

And, if you missed the update I posted in the comments on my recent post about "The dress I left behind me," I went back to the mall this past week. The Dress was still there -- and I bought it. :)  I have no idea when or where I am going to get to wear it, but it's now hanging in my closet. :)  Yay!  :) 

Buying (besides books, lol):  Last minute odds & ends related to Younger Nephew's upcoming wedding:  cosmetics (a new tube of waterproof mascara, pressed powder in a compact (my old one was ancient), new lipstick...), pantihose (ugh -- but I hated how my bare (pale white) legs looked in Older Nephew's wedding photos...!), etc. etc.

And oh yes -- I recently bought theatre tickets for us to see the hit musical "Come From Away" -- the touring production with an all-Canadian cast -- at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto on our wedding anniversary this summer. :)  (It's about the airline passengers who found themselves stranded in Newfoundland on Sept. 11, 2001.)  Tickets are going fast -- and they were probably the most expensive theatre tickets I've ever bought (gulp) -- and I've been to a Tony award-winning musical on Broadway ("Kinky Boots") -- but the reviews have been fabulous. I can't wait. :)

TryingAn eyebrow primer and conditioner, of all things (!). I have been getting my eyebrows waxed a couple of times a year for years, but over the last several years, I've noticed they are not growing back as quickly, if at all... and my left eyebrow, in particular, has been thinning out in an alarming way. Plus both brows are getting greyer (!), so on the left side, it can look like I hardly have a brow at all. :p  I know it's an aging thing and I'm not alone in this, but it's annoying. :p   I had them both waxed and tinted at Christmastime, to see if it helped at all (at least make what's there show up better, right?), & it did help some, although it didn't quite last as long as I had hoped. I went back to have it done again this past week, in preparation for Younger Nephew's upcoming wedding, and the girl recommended this product. (I also bought a tube of gel, to be used in lieu of pencil, to fill the brows in further.)  She said she was skeptical at first (yeah, sure... ;) ) but she has seen the results with some of her regular clients. So I bought a mini-sized tube to try. Apparently it takes a full month of consistent use to see results -- i.e., no miracles before the wedding -- so we'll see what happens... 

Wanting:  The milder weather to hurry up & get here, already...!  (Preferably in time for Younger Nephew's wedding!) 

Loving:  Sunsets are back!!  :)  Yes, I know the sun sets every night ;)  but during the winter, it seems we don't see as many pretty, colourful sunsets. Maybe we're just not paying attention, or maybe it's because it gets dark so early. At any rate, I am loving the views from our big floor-to-ceiling window. And I am thankful that the townhouse construction behind us does not impede our view of the sky. :)

Rejoicing:  The neighbours across the hall from us -- the same ones who practically choked us with their secondhand smoke a while back, and who used to engage in plainly audible screaming matches late at night (ugh) moved out over the Easter long weekend!! Their unit is (still) for sale. (Dh thinks they might have been renting.) (Anyone want to be my neighbour??)  Now we just have to put up with the thump-thump-thump coming from the people directly above us. :p  (We think they must have a couple of kids running around to create that kind of noise -- who else has that kind of energy, right?)

Preparing: For Younger Nephew's wedding, coming up shortly...!! :)  (I've been saying "shortly" for a while now, haven't I?  But it's definitely happening sooner than later...!)  

Feeling:  Fed up with the ongoing chilly, grey weather (enough, already!!). Excited about Younger Nephew's upcoming wedding. :)     

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Not the same

Klara recently wrote about encountering a neighbour at the mall and, during their conversation, realizing they shared the bond of involuntary childlessness. The woman told Klara that the two little girls she had seen her with were not her granddaughters but, in fact, her husband's niece's children, who used to be frequent visitors but seldom come since they entered their teenage years -- unless a shopping trip financed by their great-uncle & aunt is involved. (Klara adds that she prefers to share experiences with her nieces and nephews, instead of material things.)

Infertile Phoenix commented on Klara's post:
[This] is exactly why I get so annoyed and frustrated when people suggest to infertile people to just get involved with other people's children. No, it doesn't work that way. I have had enough loss in my life. I don't need to get emotionally invested in someone else's kid when I am not going to get to remain in their life. It's too painful to love, spoil, and cultivate a relationship with a child when, as the child grows up, the child and her parents forget about you or stop making time for you. I have learned this from experience.
(IP does go on to say she still enjoys a special relationship with her niece & nephew.)

This made me think about my/our relationship with our two nephews (dh's brother's two boys).  I've written before about my experiences & emotions as an aunt, and how much we adore these two. When we moved here two years ago, being closer to the nephews (particularly as we age) was a big reason. And for sure, we've seen a whole lot more of them than we would have if we'd remained in our old community, on the other side of the city.

But I wish we saw more of them than we do right now. (How much would be enough? I'm not sure.)  Right now, we drop by BIL & SIL's house once a week or so, or they come here for coffee, or to pick us up & we go out together -- mostly on weekends but occasionally after dinner on a weeknight. Older Nephew & his wife (& the dog ;) ) live in their basement, and Younger Nephew is still living at home (technically, anyway...!), so we might get to see one or both of them when we go over there.  But the boys have only ever been to our condo a handful of times, always with one or both of their parents.

Maybe things would have been different if we'd lived closer when they were younger, and had the chance to share more experiences with them. I wrote once about how I would have done things differently, had I known they were the closest thing I'd ever experience to having kids of my own.

But they're not little boys anymore, or even teenagers. They're young adults now (25 & 29), with their own friends and lives and fiancees/wives and jobs -- and, perhaps soon, their own families to worry about.  They're absorbed in their own lives right now, as young adults generally are. ;)  I think about my own younger days -- I love my aunts & uncles and am grateful for their support. I stayed with both my aunts in the city near where I grew up, many, many times over the years, with my parents and by myself. When I had medical appointments with specialists at city hospitals, or an early flight to catch from the airport, or a school science fair or debating competition to attend -- their doors were always open.  But how often did I go to visit them when I was attending university in that same city, or even just call them up? Not very often at all, I am sorry to say. (Ah, youth...) Younger Nephew already spends most of his free time at his fiancee's parents' house (where they'll be living in a basement apartment after the wedding) -- even his own parents complain that they never see him anymore, and the wedding hasn't even happened yet. ;)  What chance do we stand of seeing him more often, as a mere aunt & uncle, right?? 

I know the nephews love us, and they're both grateful for the support dh & I have given them through the years. They know we're here for them, always. And I don't doubt that if we really needed their help, now or in the future, they would be here in a flash.

(I would hate for them to read this post, sometime in the future, and feel guilty, that they did something wrong.  If anything, I feel it's my fault for not making more of a conscious effort to build those relationships when they were younger, when I had the opportunity. It's just the way things have worked out, and the way things are, as kids grow up and start to lead their their own lives. Aunts & uncles can be/are beloved -- but not necessarily a priority.)

But Infertile Phoenix is right. It is a special thing to be an aunt, &/or to have other cherished children in your life...  But other people's children, no matter how close you are or how special the relationship, are simply not a substitute for having your own children, as some parents might suggest.

It's. Just. Not. The. Same.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

A life worth living

Cathy at Slow Swimmers and Fried Eggs mentioned to me and a couple of other childless-not-by-choice bloggers this week that she's had several alarming comments recently that have deeply concerned her, on a post she wrote last year about the links between infertility, depression and suicide. Here's a sampling of some of the sentiments she's received:
  • I feel like if I can’t have a child, I just want to die.
  • i struggle daily with just wishing my life would end.
  • I want to go to sleep and never wake up... What’s the purpose of living.
  • Why do I have to wake up and face the day when i really don’t want to continue like this.
  • [I] am glad I found this blog, I found it because I googled infertility and suicide... I feel I am a waste of breath, I too want to just not wake up in the morning. If my parents weren’t alive I would find a way to make sure I didn’t wake up to face another day of this. 
Please go over, have a read, and perhaps leave a sympathetic/encouraging comment for these women. These comments break my heart. :(

Personally (and very happily), I don't know of anyone who killed themselves over infertility and/or childlessness.  I have, however, read of a such few cases -- often in developing countries where women's lives are generally not highly valued, and childless women's lives even less so. :(   And I've encountered a few women in infertility/pregnancy loss circles, both online & "real life," who have been deeply depressed and expressed the feeling that life without children was not worth living -- which really worried me (enough that I talked to our support organization's main office about my concerns a few times). :(

It's not entirely surprising that some women would feel a childless life is not worth living.  Think about the messages we are constantly bombarded with, from family, friends, marketers, politicians, which glorify pregnancy, babies, motherhood, "family values." Our society in the western world is perhaps not quite as chauvinistic or overtly pronatalist as it is in those developing countries I mentioned -- but the pressure (subtle and not-so-subtle) for women to have children is definitely (still) there. Those who deviate from the norm -- by choice or circumstance -- are objects of curiosity and concern, pity and paternalism, sometimes even derision and scorn. Young women here are encouraged to seek higher education and build careers -- but if they reach a certain age without finding a husband/partner and then producing a couple of adorable children, you'd better believe they will hear about it. Yes, parents complain that they don't receive enough practical support for the difficult and valuable task of raising children -- and perhaps rightly so -- but they still benefit -- in ways I don't think many (if not most) imagine or appreciate -- from social approval of parenthood, and a society that has been structured around the traditional family model. It's only when you're on the outside looking in that you begin to realize just how much our society revolves around parents and kids -- and how much childless/free people (particularly women) are ignored and devalued.

I know what it's like to live without the children I (like most women) assumed I would have. This year marks 20 years since the stillbirth of our daughter, and 20 years since I went looking for -- and finding -- support, first for pregnancy loss, and later still for surviving permanent involuntary childlessness. I tried to offer as much support as I could in return. I am definitely NOT a professional -- but my husband & I spent 10 years facilitating a pregnancy loss support group (which included many women & men who were also dealing with infertility issues), and I've spent 10 years blogging here about life after pregnancy loss & infertility -- the good, the bad, and the in-between.  I have never come close to killing myself -- but I struggled with awful anxiety attacks, post-infertility treatment. So I've been through a lot myself -- and I've heard a lot of stories from others, too.

Deep down, I always felt that I could have a good life without children -- because I already did, up to the point we started trying to conceive. I grew up proudly feminist, and I knew that I was more than my uterus -- that my life had value, beyond any children that I managed to produce (or didn't produce).

But damn, some days it was really hard to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life, if I wasn't going to be a mother. And society certainly doesn't make it easy for us. It's a lonely place to be in, when you're the only one of your peers who doesn't have kids, while friends and family members pop out baby after baby, with what seems to be very little thought or effort. Plus, the pain of involuntarily childlessness is a taboo subject -- and it can be difficult to find family members and friends who truly understand or can empathize with what we're going through.

Happily, though, you do NOT have to do this alone.  It is much, MUCH easier to find women in the same or similar situations -- both online & in "real life" -- than it was when I left treatment 17 years ago, or even when I started blogging 10 years ago.  If you scroll down the sidebar on the right-hand side of this page, you will find my blogrolls -- three of them, including one listing my favourite blogs about pregnancy loss, infertility & adoption;  one for blogs that deal specifically with childlessness-not-by-choice;  and one for some thoughtful blogs I read & like about living childfree by choice.  I've also listed some online communities, message boards, and other resources that I've found helpful. such as Life Without Baby and Gateway Women.

And sometimes, when you're really struggling, it's a good idea to call in the professionals. Yes, it can be expensive, but there are many counsellors who work on a sliding scale/pay what you can afford basis, and there are some companies that offer mental health counselling through their employee assistance programs (both options that I benefited from personally).  There are a growing number of counsellors who specialize in helping women & couples who are dealing with grief, pregnancy loss, infertility and childlessness issues. I saw one such counsellor myself a couple of times -- but I was also lucky enough to see a couple of other professionals at different points of my journey who weren't necessarily experienced in those particular issues, but who were nevertheless sympathetic and helpful. I've heard a couple of horror stories from friends about some spectacularly unhelpful counsellors, supposedly professionals, who Just Did Not Get It.  Please don't give up if this happens to you!  Sometimes you have to try a couple of times before you find someone you "click" with.

There is life without children -- a life that's worth living. It might take a while, but things do get better. Eventually!

*** *** ***

I had this post fully written and ready to post -- and then I saw this post by Andrea Manning on Still Mothers (a blog for living childless after loss):  When It Becomes Too Much.

I don't know who Andrea is referring to here, but my heart sank as I read her words. Please read, leave a comment, discuss on your blogs and among your friends. Let's bring this issue out into the open, and let others who might be suffering in silence know that we understand, that we care, and that they are not alone.  :(