Monday, March 2, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: February farewells

February is finally over. Cue the cheering and wild applause.

I already wrote earlier this month about why February is my least favourite month;  suffice to say it lived up to its reputation. (Case in point: this was the coldest February on record hereabouts, with no day above the freezing mark -- 0C/32F -- and most days in the minus double digits. 'Nuff said.)

But then, on Saturday morning -- the last day of the month -- we got a phone call. I mentioned in my last #MicroblogMondays post that SIL's mother (the grandmother of our two nephews) was not well;  she had been living with illness for some time, but things escalated last week and the family was told that, at best, she had a few more months left. She didn't even last a full week. :( 

That kind of put the month just past into perspective for me. I dislike February -- and it ended on a very sad note. SIL's mother was a very kind lady who treated dh & me like family. She even made Italian goodies specially for dh (much to BIL's chagrin, lol) -- stuff like his mom used to make that's just not in my repertoire. We saw her often at family gatherings for holidays and our nephews' birthdays, etc. I am going to miss her.

But my sadness is nothing compared to what SIL & BIL, our nephews and the rest of the family are going through at the moment. Suddenly, complaining about the cold and snow and cabin fever seems petty by comparison.

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

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Odds & ends & recent reading

  • Dh & I went to the mall today to get out of the house (we are heading for the title of "Coldest February on Record"...!). It's usually very quiet there on a weekday afternoon, but the central atrium area was PACKED with dozens of proud parents & grandparents wielding cellphones, cameras & videocams. It was the annual local primary school choirs competition (which I've heard about in the past, via local parents I know & local media coverage)... another one of those things that, when you don't have kids, simply doesn't appear on your radar. 
  • I briefly stopped to watch & listen as I was making my rounds -- but had to beat a hasty retreat when I realized the choir was singing Billy Joel's "Lullaby (Goodnight My Angel)" -- a song I wrote about here last fall. Hearing those sweet childish voices deliver lines like "Wherever you may go/No matter where you are/ I never will be far away" was one of those gut-punching, lump-in-throat producing moments that never quite go away & pop up when you least expect them.
  • I had a true "WTF??!"  moment recently when I came across a Slate article in my Facebook feed, with a headline that read “Having a Baby Is Not Unlike Dealing With a Death.”  I mean, seriously?? Seriously??!! I couldn't bring myself to read an article with such a completely dumb headline at first, but I eventually steeled myself & read it.  Now, of course, I have never been a mother (to a living child) -- so I won't pretend to know what new motherhood is truly like. I have no doubt that it can be very difficult and disorienting and lonely and life changing, and post-partum depression is not something to downplay or fool around with.  I get that it's the end of your previous life as a non-mom, and the beginning of a "new world order," as the writer puts it.  BUT. SHE HAS HER BABY.  Her baby is alive and well.  Mine is not. End of story. I don't want to play Pain Olympics, I don't want to discount her very real and valid feelings -- but hello, some of us have had to deal with having a baby AND a death. Of that baby. Simultaneously.  Not some metaphoric death of our old self.  :p  I do wish that she had not made that unfortunate comparison (& that Slate hadn't picked that quote to highlight in its headline).
  • I watched the Oscars (as usual) on Sunday night -- but it didn't hit me until I read a Salon article by Mary Elizabeth Williams that (once again), mothers were "front and centre" at the Oscars. Williams referenced J.K. Simmons's directive to "call your mom (and dad)" as well as Patricia Arquette's now-infamous acceptance speech, in which she advocated equal pay and equal rights for women (to the great and visible delight of the women in the audience, including unlikely seatmates Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez), and prefaced her remarks with the words “To every woman who gave birth to every tax payer and citizen of this nation.” Most of the commentary that I've read focuses on the backlash to Arquette's speech -- particularly her backstage comments about how "it's time for women" (vs gay people or people of colour) -- and whether political subjects should be addressed at the Oscars at all.  But Williams did note that "Arquette’s assumption that motherhood can be defined by “every woman who gave birth” leaves out a whole lot of caring, wonderful mothers who didn’t earn the title by pushing a baby out of their bodies."  K.J. Dell'Antonia of the New York Times's Motherlode blog went one step further, noting "She could have been more clear that it’s not the giving birth that matters, not to her or to the individuals and social forces that set the pay scales, but the ability to give birth — in other words, simply being a woman." Touche!!  & thank you, K.J.!   

Monday, February 23, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: And the Oscar goes to...

Me!! (lol) 

As I mentioned in passing on another recent post, I had to go to a baby shower yesterday, for one of dh's cousins' daughters. Obviously, it is not my favourite way of spending an afternoon -- but I wasn't bothered enough by the prospect to invent an excuse to bow out. I figured that if I could survive a baby shower on the weekend of my 40th birthday while deep in the throes of infertility treatment, I could most certainly survive this, 14 years later. ;) 

Still, I grumbled a bit as I got dressed (agonizing over my choice of wardrobe) and fretted about the zits that picked THIS weekend (of course!) to pop out on my chin.

Then we got a call from BIL.  SIL's mother is gravely ill and is not doing well, and SIL decided she needed to stay with her instead of attending the shower. That kind of put things into perspective for me. Given a choice, I am sure she would much rather have been attending the shower -- and if I were in her shoes, I am sure I would have felt the same way.

StepMIL had already bowed out;  she really IS sick. That left me as the sole representative from our branch of the family. It was very strange for me to be at a shower without SIL there -- we're always at these things together.

But overall, it wasn't an unpleasant experience. Dh drove me to the shower venue;  we had just had a fresh dump of snow -- the fluffy kind that sticks to the tree branches and makes everything look like a Christmas card (almost pretty enough to make me forget that it's late February and I am thoroughly SICK of winter...!) -- so it was a lovely drive.  Among the 50-plus guests were dh's aunts, female cousins, cousins' wives, their daughters and granddaughters -- I hadn't seen most of them since a family gathering last summer, and so we had a nice visit. (With all the baby & bridal showers I attend, I get to see them all more than dh does...!).  They are a warm and welcoming bunch. Plus it was at an Italian restaurant = great food.  There was even a choice of salad & entrĂ©e, which made it easier to accommodate my tomato allergy. Best of all -- there was wine!! (lol)

I gamely tackled a couple of the dumb games and activities (the word scramble, a quiz that was done as a team with your tablemates) and ignored some of the others. (One of the hostesses handed me a pad of post-it notes and told me to write down some advice for the mom-to-be for a scrapbook they were making. I just smiled and quietly passed it along, and nobody asked me about it again.) There was so much going on, so much chatter, I didn't even see most of the presents opened.

It was a little over three hours out of my life. I was well fed. I survived.

And then I got to come home, and watch the Oscars. :) 

Next...!! ;)  

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

Friday, February 20, 2015

"Boomer Grannies??"

Were you tired, during the last few U.S. elections, of hearing about the political clout of "Soccer Moms?"  Well, move over, Soccer Moms: according to The Atlantic, the next election is going to be all about "Boomer Grannies" (who are actually aging Soccer Moms) -- particularly since one of the likely candidates is the Boomer-Granny-in-Chief, Hillary Clinton.

"Clinton, at 67, is far older than most first-time grandmothers in the United States, whose average age hovers around 50,"  the article notes.
Part of this cohort’s grandmotherly concern for posterity may have to do with its shared experience of parenthood itself, says Laurel Elder, a professor of political science at Hartwick College who, along with Steven Greene at North Carolina State University, has published the only study of how being a mom affects choices at the ballot box.  
“We’ve found very consistent motherhood effects,” she told me. “Even when you’re controlling for other variables, motherhood predicts more liberal attitudes. Being a mom makes you more supportive on government spending on education and daycare and on a whole range of social-welfare issues: spending on the elderly, spending on the poor, overall government services.”


(Interesting. Not that I've done any academic studies, but in my own experience, many of the non-moms I know tend to hold more liberal values, while the moms are more conservative/traditional. As non-mothers, whether by choice or otherwise, we are certainly not following a traditional life pattern.) 

Anyway -- as a late boomer/early Gen Xer, this article rubbed a few sore spots with me. First, the reminder (as if I needed another one) that not only did I never get to be a mom (let alone a soccer mom) -- that "shared experience of parenthood" is not something I can claim as mine -- I won't ever get to be a grandmother, either. (Not that I needed a reminder:  a growing number of my friends & cousins have become grandmothers in recent years, filling my Facebook feed with adorable photos and gushing posts about how great it is to be a grandparent.)(Infertility: the gift that just keeps on giving... :p )

(To rub salt in the wounds -- I'll be attending a baby shower this weekend :p -- the one I went shopping for awhile back. The mom-to-be is the daughter of one of dh's cousins. Her older sister already has three children under the age of 5.  The grandparents are younger than dh & me. Oy.) 

Two, as neither a Soccer Mom nor a Boomer Granny, I clearly don't have the political clout that my mommy/grandma friends have had, and continue to have. When politicians babble on about "family values" and "helping hard-working families," I know they are not referring to me & dh. 

And yet, childless women alone are a large & growing segment of the population (& voter pool), with needs and interests that are not always the same as those of parents. But you would never know it when it comes to policymaking. Several of us were commiserating with Bent Not Broken recently about the lack of tax breaks available to non-parents. (There are a number of deductions that Canadian parents can claim -- including (believe it or not) for enrolling children in sports or arts-related activities.)   And I've been horrified to read that, historically, childless adults have not been eligible for coverage under Medicaid in the United States. (Another reason I am glad to be Canadian...!) 

Jody Day of Gateway Women is part of a new group in the United Kingdom that is working to bring attention to the growing number of childless -- and aging -- adults, and (hopefully) affect social policy changes there. Governments in the UK (& I daresay North America too) seem to assume that seniors will have children and other family members to fill the gaps in community care -- which is not necessarily true, even for parents, whose children may be dead, estranged, living far away, or frantically juggling children, career and other things, on top of eldercare duties. 

I don't know what the answer is -- but if someone has taken the trouble to do a study on how being a mom affects ballot box choices, I would love to see something similar done to bring attention to non-moms (and non-dads) as voters. (Melanie Notkin of Savvy Auntie has done some research on "The Power of the PANK (Professional Aunt, No Kids)", identifying non-moms as a sizeable group that has yet to be recognized or tapped by marketers.)    

Monday, February 16, 2015

Family Day: Diverse & inclusive? Not really...

So as I blogged earlier today, it's "Family Day" in my province.  And while the media has been full of reports about what's open and what's not, and suggestions about fun activities families can do together, I had gone the entire weekend without encountering a single news article or report that waxed poetic about happy families and their importance to society, etc.

Until this morning.

The Life section of the Toronto Star included an article headlined "Family Day: 1,000 Families Project showcases diverse shapes a family can take." OK, family diversity, that's encouraging, right?

  I started reading:
...in 14 years as a parenting editor, [Brandie] Weikle says she is aware of the default voice in media that assumes your family reflects a Norman Rockwell scenario.  
"If your family doesn’t look like that, it can feel a little excluding,” she says.
Agreed.  OK, so far, so good.

I read on. The examples of diverse families mentioned in the article include:
  • a single mom who co-parents her daughter with grandma,
  • dad comes out and the marriage ends, but the family unit does not,
  • a single mom with two kids who lives next door to her ex-husband,
  • a father living with his brother and his wife to save money, with all the cousins living like siblings,
  • a polyamorous relationship that includes three adults living and bringing up their children together, and    
  • a family that includes a friend living with them in an "uncle" role.
Nowhere does the article acknowledge or even hint that there can be families of two -- by choice or by circumstance. Nowhere does the article acknowledge or even hint that a family doesn't necessarily have to include kids, by definition.   

Then, near the end, the kicker:
"Weikle says she is looking for more story submissions from families of all kids with different cultural backgrounds and structures." [emphasis mine]
I went to the actual website that is the focus of the story. The welcome message promises "thought-provoking posts on the issues parents are talking about most." And invites reader submissions "about what life with kids is like for you. Whether you parent with a partner, extended family member, friends you can’t live without or on your own, we want to hear from you."

Well. Clearly, they don't want to hear from ME.  Or any of us out there whose family does not include children. (Even if we WANTED it to include children.)  Clearly, in their definition, family = children (living children, at any rate), and involves active parenting.

So discouraging. :(

As I have said/written before -- I am glad we (finally) have a holiday in February -- but oh, how I wish they had come up with a different name for it.  :p

#MicroblogMonday: Winter weekend whammy

It's been a whammy of a winter weekend: 

*  Friday was Friday the 13th. Fortunately, nothing bad happened. (Except that it was frickin' cold.)  :p 
*  Friday was also a professional development day for teachers hereabouts = day off school for the kids. I only heard about this second-hand, of course. ;) And so I was glad we decided to stay home & do the housecleaning, instead of venturing out to the local mall, which would have been crawling with kids. :p
*  Saturday was Valentine's Day (which I blogged about last week for #MicroblogMondays). It started off with a mini-snowstorm... and wound up frickin' cold. :p  But we still managed a bookstore visit before heading home for a cozy evening together and ordering in Chinese food for dinner, as planned. 
* Yesterday/Sunday morning, we woke up to temps of -26C, which felt like -42C with the windchill factored in. (Yes, -42C.)(And if you don't know Celsius, all you need to know is that -40C is exactly the same as -40 Fahrenheit. 'Nuff said. :p  ) 
* Nevertheless, we ventured out to the movies for an afternoon matinee of  "Kingsman." Because, Colin Firth, on Valentine's Day weekend. ;)  (Fifty shades of what?)
* I was expecting to see hordes of middle-aged women there (because, Colin Firth, albeit in a non-romantic role). Instead, there were hordes of teenagers, which seemed somewhat odd. When the credits started rolling, it all made sense:  the movie was based on a comic book/graphic novel. Which also explained some of the over-the-top violence. (Would I have known about this if I had my teenager with me??)
* Today/Monday is Family Day in Ontario. I've written about Family Day, and my ambivalence about it, before. I ran across an article in the Ottawa Citizen that called it "the stupidest holiday ever."  The writer was referring to the confusion over what's open and what's closed, who gets the day off and who doesn't, and not the fact that it's a made-up holiday labelled by politicians who figured that giving people a mid-winter holiday and slapping a warm, fuzzy"family" label on it would win them points (and you just KNOW they weren't thinking of families of two when they did it). 
*  But as I've said many times before, it's a holiday. In February. I'll take it. (Even though every day is basically a holiday for me now...!)
* Did I mention it's (still) frickin' cold??  
*  And how was your weekend?

(Still somewhat longer than a MICROblog post should probably be. Oh well.)

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

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Blogging Cupid :)

Thank you, Mel, for sending me a virtual Valentine. It's been a very long time since I got a Valentine from anyone besides dh (or maybe my mother, lol). :)  I was in excellent company among the four other people she selected at random from her RSS feed to tag with some bloggy love.

Now it's my turn. Happy Valentine's Day to five wonderful bloggers whose posts I always look forward to reading: 

By the Brooke:  Dear Brooke, I love your beautiful, eloquent, thoughtful posts about your Eliza, and the ongoing grief of stillbirth. And your photos and stories about your other two adorable daughters never fail to make me laugh & smile.

Silent Sorority:  Dear Pamela, finding your original Coming2Terms blog more than 7 (!!) years ago -- even before I had my own -- was like stumbling into an unexpected oasis in the middle of a desert. So glad you are still writing and speaking out and giving hope to our fellow infertility survivors that a good life can be had without children.

No Kidding in NZ:  Dear Mali, thank you for being such a thoughtful, articulate spokesperson for the "no  kidding" life.  I really appreciate your steadfast, positive outlook. It's also great to have a Down Under perspective that gently shakes us out of our North American-centricity (if that's a word). ;)   

* Mrs. Spit... Still Spouting Off:  Dear Mrs. Spit,  I am constantly in awe of how you face every challenge that life throws your way with honesty and grace -- from bereavement to health issues, to a work & travel schedule that makes me tired just thinking about it. And you still find time & energy to blog about it all with eloquence and humour.

A Woman My Age:  Dear Deathstar, I so appreciate that although you achieved your dream of motherhood when you adopted your son, you've never forgotten the journey you took to find him, or how things might have turned out differently. I salute you for juggling the midlife sandwich ingredients of career, motherhood, marriage and caring for an aging parent with humour as well as Buddhist zen.

The five of you, consider yourselves tagged.  Here’s how it works:

* Choose 5 blogs at random.

* Throw up a post with a sentence about what you love about each one.

* Tell those people to consider themselves tagged.

You can right-click and grab the image Mel made (above left) if you want to add it to your own post.

You can also add a link to your post on the linky list on Mel's blog, which is open until 11:59 pm ET on Saturday, Feb. 14th.

Go spread the love. :)