Friday, December 9, 2016

Oh Christmas tree

Dh & I bought and put up a new Christmas tree last weekend. This is the third (artificial) Christmas tree we've owned in 31 years of marriage. We didn't have a tree at all the first year we were married. Dh could probably care less whether we had a tree or not, but I cared -- a lot. ;)  Even when we went away to spend Christmas with my grandparents, my family would always put up & decorate our own Christmas tree. My parents still use some of the same ornaments they've had since THEY were first married, and I still love to bring them out & decorate the tree with them when I arrive "home" to spend the holidays with them. 

So the second year we were married, dh & I bought a small, slightly scrawny fold-up tree for $50 at Canadian Tire (it's not just for tires, lol). We had that for 12 years, then bought a new tree at Sears in 1998, the year we lost Katie. I wrote about how it became our "Katie tree," here.

After 17 years of use, the tree was still OK, but starting to look a just little ragged and tired. I was also tired of wrestling with strings of lights year after year (many of which were burning out -- we were facing investing in a whole new set of lights this year), and casting longing looks at the pre-lit trees in the stores. ;)  So when we were getting ready to move, we decided to get rid of the old tree and find something new for our new home.

That proved to be easier said than done. We shuttled back & forth between several different stores, comparing trees and finding fault with most of them. This tree looked TOO fake... that tree looked great but had flashing lights on it (I wanted steady clear ones). That tree over there was nice but WAY too expensive. We finally found a tree (again at Canadian Tire -- although for a lot more than $50 this time, lol)  that we could both live with. (Well, that *I* could live with... at that point, dh just wanted to go home, with or without the damned tree, lol.)  It's 6.5 feet, not too skinny but not too wide for the corner we wanted to put it in; a little plastic-y, perhaps, but easy to set up and glorious looking when lit up -- no light-string wrestling required! (Yes, the lights are clear, warm & steady.)

Because this tree is 6.5 feet tall versus the 7.5 feet of our old tree, I didn't have room for all the ornaments I've used in years past. For example, each year at our support group's holiday candlelighting service, attendees would be invited to take home a pair of hand-knit baby booties off the Christmas tree as a memento. Needless to say, after 10 years of attending the annual service, both as a client and as a facilitator, I'd amassed a substantial collection of booties -- and I used them ALL on my tree, year after year. Having a tree full of baby booties might seem kind of weird, but I didn't care.

This year, I decided that one pair of booties would do, versus the entire collection. ;) Likewise, I used to have enough teddy bear angels (most of them Ty Beanie Babies) to form almost a complete circle on the floor around the tree -- an honour guard of sorts, I used to think of it. ;) When we were getting ready to move, though, I had to take a good hard look at a lot of my collections of stuff -- and I decided that most of my Beanie Babies could go. I did save a few of the really special/favourite ones, though. Most of the Classic Pooh ornaments I've amassed over the years are still on the tree -- although I'm sorry to say a couple got broken or chipped while decorating.  Alas, those lovely laminate wood floors are far less forgiving than carpet. :(   (But while the new tree is smaller, all the really important ornaments are still on it!)

It seems weirdly appropriate, somehow, that we got a new tree the year we lost Katie -- a year in which everything (and nothing) changed for us -- and now, in a year in which so much changed in our lives again, that we got a new tree again.  A lot has changed in our lives this past year, these past 18 years. Change isn't easy for me, but you learn to adapt, and certainly the passage of time has helped make it easier. I didn't use all the booties or teddy bears or other ornaments that I once did. That might have been a whole lot harder, 15 years ago or 10 or maybe even 5 -- but I did it now, and the world didn't stop turning.  ;)  (It's still very much a Katie tree -- perhaps just not quite as much so as it was in years past.) Time passes, life moves along, and the unthinkable becomes, if not welcomed then OK. Traditions can evolve. (Sometimes, lol). We all come to readiness and acceptance in our own sweet time.

And I guess I had to leave off a few of the old ornaments to make room for some new ones, too. :) 


A Hallmark find. :)
 
The decorated tree in a corner of our condo.
 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Hello darkness, my old friend...

(After originally writing this post several months ago, I felt a whole lot better. But I saved it to publish if/when I was in the mood again. Here it is.)  

I often feel on the verge of tears lately. It doesn't take much to set me off.  I cry at the drop of a hat.

Dh tells me I look sad far too often these days. :(

I don't mean to. Really, most of the time, I'm a pretty happy girl. Why wouldn't I? I'm comfortably retired, with the stresses of the working world behind me. I've got a great husband, and a lovely new home, with some beautiful new furniture. I've got a wonderful extended family who loves me, and some pretty great friends, both online & "in real life." I've survived stillbirth, infertility, involuntary childlessness, job loss -- AND the Greater Toronto Area real estate market!! lol -- and lived to tell the tale.

But (as I confessed to dh recently) -- all of the above aside -- I'm increasingly plagued by constant feelings of anxiety, and deep unworthiness. :(  I can't shake the feeling that I've done something wrong -- or that I'm going to -- that disaster is going to strike, and it will be ALL MY FAULT. (What exactly it is that I've done wrong, I have no idea, of course.)  I've never been a very decisive person, but I find myself paralyzed with indecision lately, to the point of ridiculousness (see my recent (at the time of original writing) post on trying to choose a paint colour...!). I'm overwhelmed by the "what ifs" -- what might happen if I make the wrong choice? Even when it's something as relatively insignificant as paint colour (that can always be painted over again).

These feelings are nothing new. When the stress of infertility treatment brought on a series of debilitating anxiety attacks, almost exactly 16 years ago now, I came to recognize that I have probably been an anxious person for most of my life. I just didn't have full-blown panic attacks, and I didn't have the labels or the tools to analyze it when I was younger.

These feelings are not constant. They come & go... albeit more frequently again these days, it seems. :(

Maybe it's the effect of so many major life changes and stresses all at once over the past year or two -- losing our jobs, retiring (officially), turning 55 (becoming, by some definitions, a senior citizen -- eeekkk!!), moving (not just to a different neighbourhood, but to a different community, and not just to another house but to a condo, which meant getting rid of tons of stuff -- old, familiar, comfortable stuff). (Shopping for new stuff should be making me happy, right?  Instead, it often just makes me feel more anxious. More decisions to be made...!)

Maybe (quite possibly!!) it's those damned (peri)menopausal hormones at work.  Every time I go on a crying jag, I'm reminded of (and cheered up immensely by, lol) a classic episode of "All in the Family" where Edith is going through "the change,"  much to Archie's consternation. ;)  

Or maybe (very likely) it's just "that time of the month" coming -- which is hard to tell these days, because the aforementioned (peri)menopausal hormones have made my cycles increasingly erratic and hard to predict lately. I have definitely noticed that these feelings seem to intensify around "that time of the month," especially during that notorious two weeks (or so) wait leading up to Aunt Flo's return.

Whatever the reason I'm feeling this way -- I know it will pass.

(And return to haunt me. And then pass again.) 

What do you do to chase away the blues?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

"Hey, Mommy..."

Last week, I was walking through the local mall, when a smiling young girl hawking some kind of hand cream from a kiosk in the middle of the aisle tried to get me to come over to sample her wares.

"HEY, MOMMY!!" she cooed at me seductively.

"MOMMY??!!!" I thought as I walked grimly past her.

Some of my thoughts (in no particular order):
  • "Good Lord, am I old enough to be her mother??!
    • ("Yikes, I guess I am...!")
  • "Do I LOOK old enough to be her mother??!" 
  • "Do I LOOK like I'm a mother?? Or is it just because I'm a woman of a certain age and young people assume that all women my age must be mothers??"
    • "WHY does everyone assume that all women of a certain age must be mothers?" 
  • "Hey Chickie, only one person in the world has the right to call me "Mommy" -- and she left this earth long before she was ever able to utter that word."  
  • "Did she think she was complimenting me??  
  • "Did she think that calling me "Mommy" is going to make me more likely to come over to talk to her??" 
  • "Since when did "Hey, Mommy!" become a sales pitch?? (And does it actually work on some people??!)"
  • "Is "Hey Mommy!" better, worse or about the same as being called "Hon," "Sweetie" or "Ma'am," particularly by people less than half my age?"   
Your thoughts??! 

*** *** ***

Coincidentally (or perhaps not?), I came across this piece from Slate's Double X blog:  "How Being "Mom" Became Cool." The writer, Elissa Strauss, explains that, "According to a story in the New York Times, calling someone “mom” has become the highest form of flattery, a softer sister to sobriquets like boss or queen, and applicable to everyone from tweens to grown women regardless of whether they care for a child."

Strauss sees this trend "as a reflection of the positive changes in the way we view moms, and the way moms view themselves."

"I’m just happy to be living in a time and place in which “mom” represents a figure of comfort and power, the kind of woman non-moms would like to get know," she concludes.

Hmmm. From MY perspective as an older childless not-mom (not to a living child, anyway), I see it as one more example or reflection of how motherhood is glorified and placed on a pedestal in our society -- and how those of us who don't have children (by choice or otherwise) are shunted aside, regarded as lesser or lacking, by comparison.

Calling me "mom," even if it's meant as a compliment (??), is just one more reminder of the title that I wanted so very much but never had (not really, not the way I wanted), of the little girl who might have called me by that name. It's yet another reminder (as if I needed one) that my life didn't turn out quite the way I wanted or planned. It's a reminder of the hole that will never be filled, no matter how much I try or how good my life is in other respects.

You don't hear women calling each other "auntie" as a term of endearment, now, do you?? (Although maybe they should...!)

Again -- thoughts??

Monday, December 5, 2016

#MicroblogMondays: And in the end...

Dh, SIL & I went to a funeral today, for Oldest Nephew's new bride's grandmother. Nephew was one of the pallbearers, and the Bride did a reading with one of her cousins. The grandmother was eulogized by her son and by the priest, who both praised her for her dedication to her family, and noted how much she was loved by her children and grandchildren, who took up the first several rows at the chapel.

As always on these occasions, I can't help but thinking about my own funeral (hopefully many years hence...!).  And I can't help but think that it's not going to be a very big one -- and that makes me sad. Families are generally a lot smaller these days than in generations past. Dh & I, of course, have no children who will survive us. We only have one sibling each;  we only have the two nephews. Most of my extended family who might otherwise come to mourn me live too far away (I have more than 30 first cousins on one side of my family -- and just two on the other), and I don't have a lot of very close friends hereabouts.

I'm planning to be cremated, so I don't have to worry about rounding up enough strong young men to carry my casket. ;) I know what kind of service I want, and what music (a mixture of traditional Anglican hymns -- and The Beatles' "In My Life," lol). I know that I want a party/reception afterwards, and for people to laugh and tell stories about me while they eat & drink.  I know where my mortal remains will wind up -- in a niche not far away from Katie's, which we purchased some years ago.

(The niche next to ours already has a plaque up with an inscription from Pink Floyd's song "Time" -- "The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say."  As a classic rock fan, I can think of worse ways to spend eternity, lol.)  

But -- who's going to eulogize me? What will they say about me? Will they have known me well enough to say the things I'd like to have said?  Will they note that I WAS a mother, albeit to a baby that nobody else ever knew, except through us? 

I guess if they don't, it's nobody's fault except my own.

Do you ever contemplate your own funeral?

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Odds & ends

  • The other night, I smelled it again. Smoke. Damnit. (It was Sunday night. Sunday nights seem to be smoking nights across the hall, for whatever reason.)  It wasn't as bad as it has been in the past -- the weatherstripping must be helping some -- but it's still there (although dh claimed he couldn't smell anything until he put his nose right up to the door frame). How annoying. :p  
  • "Poldark" is over for another season. :(  Filming of season 3 is already underway in Cornwall, but no word on when we in North America can expect to see it. Likely not until fall 2017, I imagine.
    • In the meantime, as consolation, the new season of "Sherlock" begins on New Year's Day :)  and "Victoria" on January 15th. :) 
  • Christmas shopping is underway. The sheer numbers of adorable babies & toddlers in the mall can be overwhelming at times.
    • Whatever angst I might feel over so much cuteness, however, is often outweighed by annoyance at the mega strollers taking up space in the stores and in the halls outside -- often two abreast, mothers ambling along with one hand on the stroller handle and the other on their cellphone. Is it just me (is it just sour grapes??) or does this drive anyone else nuts too??   
  • I signed up for the Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge earlier this year, and set myself a goal of 24 books. That seemed like a reasonable number -- two books per month, on average, and about the same number as I've managed to read per year over the past few years. Right now, I'm "on track," with 21 books read, 3 to go. I still have a few weeks to go, obviously, and I usually get a few books read during my Christmas vacation (although not as many as in the days pre-Little Princesses, lol). 
  • I am going for an ultrasound tomorrow. You may (or may not) recall that earlier this spring, I was having some "female problems." Not (just?) the fact that I am almost 56 and STILL GETTING PERIODS, more or less regularly...!!  I would have my period as usual -- but instead of tapering off to spotting and then into nothingness, I would just keep spotting (& cramping), sometimes for a week or more after the main event.  I called Dr. Ob-Gyn and went for an ultrasound in mid-April. As in days of yore (i.e., while I was in infertility treatment & having regular dildocam dates), the left side of my bicornuate uterus & the left ovary were playing hide & seek and the technician couldn't get a clear view of what was going on, but apparently she did see an area where the lining appeared a little thicker than normal -- perhaps a polyp or fibroid?  At my followup appointment/annual checkup & Pap in May, Dr. Ob-Gyn felt it was nothing to worry about and would probably resolve itself (as these things most often do, he assured me) -- but he suggested that, if it made me feel better, we could do another ultrasound in the fall to see if anything had changed. 
    • So off I go.  Most of my periods since my last visit have been more or less normal -- until this past cycle, of course, when I had more spotting & cramping at the end of Aunt Flo's visit.  ARGH.  I choose to believe it is nothing more than midlife wonkiness at work, but prayers &/or positive thoughts & vibes would be appreciated.  

Monday, November 28, 2016

#MicroblogMondays: Damn commercials...

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... which includes Christmas commercials on television. Most of them I just ignore -- a few make me laugh, a few make me roll my eyes.

But every now & then, one of them throws a gut punch. 

Take, for example, this commercial for coffee. You can click on the link if you're feeling brave enough to watch. (SPOILERS AHEAD!)  It shows an older woman with a baby in her arms, cooing, "Grandma is so happy to be here for your very first Christmas!!"  She goes on "I hear you're quite the expert at waking people up in the morning... let me show you how Grandma does it!" She opens a container of coffee & puts it on to brew.  As she shows him an ornament on the tree that his daddy made when he was a little boy, and then a photo of Daddy as a little boy, we cut to Daddy (Grandma's grown-up little boy) waking up to the smell of coffee brewing, coming downstairs to help himself to a cup and watching the pair by the Christmas tree. "Thanks for making the coffee... Really glad you're here, Mom," he says. "Me too," she says.  

And after all these years, all these hits to my poor battered heart, I see this stupid coffee commercial, and my eyes fill with tears.

I will never be that Grandma (or that Mom). (Lots of my cousins & high school classmates are grandparents already.)

My mom will never be that Grandma either.

And (even though she's been gone 17 years now), I still miss MY Grandma (& Grandpa), most especially at Christmastime, when we were always together as a family.

It's just not fair. :(

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

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Right now...

Right now... (an occasional meme): 

Reading:  Mostly online articles via Facebook re: the U.S. election and its fallout. I have several half-started books I need to get back to, including "Jeremy Poldark" by Winston Graham (which, along with the next novel in the series, "Warleggan," correspond with the new season of "Poldark" on PBS right now);  "Canada" by Mike Myers;  and "Mr. Churchill's Secretary" by Susan Elia MacNeil, a mystery set during WWII. And, of course, the to-read pile continues to grow (insert red-faced icon here): I picked up a few more books today, including Robbie Robertson's new memoir, "Testimony."

Watching:  A great new multi-part PBS series called "Soundbreaking," which was shown (on our local station anyway) at 10 p.m. every night last week and will continue part of next week. Apparently, it was a project of the late great Sir George Martin.  Some wonderful stories, footage, and (of course) music. One of the advantage of being retired is being able to stay up "late" to watch programs like this. :)  I might have been able to manage one night of going to bed at 11 when I was working (and getting up before 5), but an entire week would have done me in!

Listening:  To the wind howling outside.. Friday was an unusually (for Nov. 18th!) balmy 18C/64F & we had the balcony door wide open all day. When we woke up this morning, it was -1C/31F and the snowflakes were flying thick and fast. Nothing sticking (yet), but I think we've seen the last of 18C for a while. It was fun while it lasted..!

Drinking:  Water. Haven't been drinking enough of it lately, I think... trying to do better!    

Eating:  Too much junk lately. :p  And the Christmas goodies haven't even started yet!

Wearing:  A cozy cardigan over my T-shirt and yoga pants, and slippers on top of my socks. Brrrr!!

Trying:  Not to cry while watching the Santa Claus Parade on TV this afternoon. I am such a sap...

Searching: For the perfect fake Christmas tree. We got rid of our old one when we moved -- it was still all right, but we'd used it through 18 Christmases (we got it the same year we lost Katie) & it was getting a bit ragged. Plus we think we'd like to get a pre-lit one. Had a look at one store last week, but either the trees were way TOO fake (plastic!!) or the lights weren't to our liking (multicoloured flashing, anyone??).  Dh is indifferent as to whether we have a tree at all, but I love my Christmas tree, and we have four Rubbermaid bins full of decorations in our storage locker downstairs (and this is AFTER I went through & culled my collection...!). The search continues...

Smelling: The lovely, pine-y scent of essential oils in our diffuser. Either the neighbours haven't been smoking as heavily the last few days, or the weatherstripping we installed around the door this week is doing its job. Yay!! (Also: Knocking wood that this continues...!)

Not believing:  That we will be heading home to see my family for Christmas in less than four weeks!!

Contemplating:  What I should write for #MicroblogMondays tomorrow. ;)