Thursday, November 16, 2017

Struggling

A childless-not-by-choice friend, in a similar line of work as me, recently messaged me for my opinion on a work-related matter. We talked about work and I mentioned that this was always our busiest & most stressful time of the year there -- and that I DO NOT MISS IT!!  ;)

And I don't.

But afterwards, I was thinking about how empty my life is sometimes, especially since I don't have work to fill my days anymore, and especially since we moved -- that whole "Is that all there is??" feeling. I don't miss the stress of work in the least -- but I miss the people (well, some of them... ;)  ) and the routines that filled my days. I miss being downtown, at least once in a while.  I don't miss our house (surprisingly), but I sometimes miss the old community.  It's not like I had lots of friends there  (because I didn't), but it was closer to my one good (retired) friend from work, and I was more likely to run into someone I knew casually there, KWIM? There was a comfort level there that I have yet to develop here. I could get dh to drive me 10 minutes to the GO station, or even just hop on a bus nearby & be downtown in the city in 40 minutes, if I wanted to go to the big mall there, or to an exhibit at the museum or art gallery or whatever. I was even steeling myself to try to start driving more again. I do love our condo, but I feel kind of trapped here sometimes, and a bit fish-out-of-water-ish. The traffic is NUTS, so driving is back on the backburner again, and while the transit is improving, it's not there yet.

I'm not often truly bored -- I do try to stay busy with writing on my blog & doing genealogy research & reading, etc., and dh gets restless if we go more than a day without getting out of the house, at least to Starbucks ;) -- but lately, I HAVE been bored & restless. I can go for days & days without having a meaningful conversation with another adult besides dh.

My own damned fault. I keep saying I'm going to find a yoga studio, find a book club to join. I've even considered returning to church -- for the social benefits, if not for the prospect of eternal salvation. ;) 

But I haven't.

It's nice being closer to BIL & SIL & family here -- but they still have their own lives, they still work, and so they're busy. They have been really great about including us in stuff, especially re: our nephews' weddings (the one last year & the one coming up). I went out with SIL a few weeks ago to help her find a mother of the groom dress, and then we went shopping for one for me -- and it's so nice to feel included. But it's not my kid's wedding & never will be, and sometimes it's hard when I think about it that way.

I'm sure it's no coincidence that this melancholy feeling descended on me shortly after the recent time change, with the increasing darkness -- and coldness -- and the approach of the child-and-family-focused holidays. Or that Katie's due date came a few days later (the 14th). Or that my midlife/(peri)menopausal hormones seem to be acting up more than usual lately. (Damned hot flashes...)

Or maybe it's just because it's November. ;) 

I'm sure this will pass. It usually does. The sun just broke through the clouds briefly, when I was typing that. :)  That really helps too. :) 

Vent over. :)  (For now. ;)  )

Monday, November 13, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Do you read the book first?

Is anyone else watching this season of "Poldark" on PBS Masterpiece Theatre (or have you seen it elsewhere that it's already been broadcast)?  Last night was this season's penultimate episode, i.e., the next-to last one. This coming Sunday will be the end, although filming on another season (the 4th) is now under way. (We'll probably have to wait until next fall before we see it here, though...!) 

I have been reading the comments on various Poldark-related social media posts in amusement/bemusement, as people vent about the events in latest episodes and speculate what's going to happen next. It's clear that not many people have actually read the books the show is based on (or seen the original 1970s TV adaptation) -- heck, I'm sure some people don't even realize there ARE books the show is based on -- & I fear some of them are going to be sadly disappointed when things don't go the way they hope or predict. 

(As you might guess, I've read the books -- all but the 12th/very last one. I started re-reading them when the new TV series began airing, and have reviewed them on this blog. You can find them, if you're interested, by typing "Poldark" into the search window on the right-hand side of this page.)

Whenever possible, I prefer to read the book(s) before I watch a TV show or movie -- which is why I still haven't watched Outlander or Alias Grace, to name a few. (Usually, the book version is better.)  Thank goodness for PVRs & Netflix... ;)  I was relieved when the recent movie adaptation of Jo Nesbo's "The Snowman" got lousy reviews, because it meant I could move the movie down on my "to see" list and thus didn't have to rush to read the book first. ;)  (So many books, so little time...)

What about you? Do you prefer to read the book first, or do you like to be surprised?  And are you watching "Poldark"?? 

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

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

10 things I've learned after 10 years of blogging

...about living childless/free after loss & infertility.

(I recently celebrated my 10-year blogoversary, & posted about it here! )(I've been struggling with pg loss & infertility for almost 20 years now.... blogs didn't exist back then, but I did find support in other online forums. Some of these thoughts would also apply to my experiences there.)
  • There are certainly trolls online -- but there are also some very nice people out there.  And some of them can wind up being your very good friends :) even though you've never met. 
  • You will never make everyone happy, so you might as well blog to please yourself. 
  • Your blog, your rules. :)  It's nice if you make it clear somewhere on your blog -- in your "About" section or at the top of your post -- what new readers can generally expect, but don't feel the need to apologize for writing about your pregnancy, your hard-won family, or anything else.
  • There will be dry spells when you have no ideas and/or no motivation to write. They will pass. 
  • Writing out your thoughts & feelings and organizing them into a cohesive, readable narrative (at least I hope it's cohesive & readable??) can definitely be therapeutic. 
  • Comments are gifts.  (And gifts should be given, as well as received!)   
  • Even if you're not blogging under your own name & take precautions to remain anonymous, there's always the chance that someone you know is going to find your blog. (For me, the older I get and the longer I blog, the less I worry about that.)(I'm still not telling people I know about the blog, though, lol...)  
  • Leaving comments on WordPress when you blog on Blogger can be a real pain sometimes (even when you created a WordPress account specifically to make it easier to leave comments.).  :(  (If you blog on WordPress and you haven't heard from me lately, check your spam folder -- you may have comments from me languishing there...). 
  • There are not as many active bloggers in the ALI community as there were when I first started blogging... but that does not mean that blogs are passe, or that the support is not there. Some of it has just moved on to different forums (on Facebook & Twitter, for example).  But if you're like me and find it difficult to contain your thoughts to 140 characters, you might want to consider blogging. ;)   
  • As I recently told Different Shores in a comment, I never would have imagined 10 years ago that I would still be blogging, 10 years later... but somehow I keep finding things to write about (albeit not all infertility & loss related).  I will say that while there's still not a day that goes by that infertility, loss &/or childlessness don't pop up in some way, shape or form, there's a whole lot less angst that goes along with it. :)  And that's a good feeling! 
What have you learned from blogging (no matter how long you've been at it)?  

Monday, November 6, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: "Let's open up"

(Once again, not quite a "microblog" post...!)

I read an opinion piece in The New York Times this weekend that struck a chord with me.

In the opening paragraphs, two friends having dinner together are asked by the waitress if they would like wine. Instead of simply declining, one woman explains, "I'm celebrating 10 years of sobriety this weekend."  Being an addict is not something that most people will easily admit to -- but her honesty is rewarded:  Near the end of the meal, the entire staff converges on the table, bearing a dish of ice cream with a candle stuck in it, singing "Happy birthday."

The woman was Faith Zenoff, director of a nonprofit recovery centre, who says it took her years to be able to tell her story to friends and family members, let alone talk about it in public. But now:
...she's promoting an idea considered radical in addiction circles: that people in recovery could be open and even celebrated for managing the disease that is plaguing our nation. She and other advocates believe that people in recovery could play a vital role in ending the addiction epidemic, much as the protest group Act Up did in the AIDS crisis.
I have never been (& hopefully never will be) addicted to drugs or alcohol -- and I recognize the very real stigma that addicts live with. My own story is, admittedly much different.

But I know the (different, admittedly, but also very real) stigma that's attached to pregnancy loss, infertility & childlessness, and how difficult it is to share my story honestly and openly -- to watch as people react with shock and horror, and (worse) pity and (worse yet) platitudes -- to be excluded (sometimes deliberately, sometimes unwittingly) because I don't have children. And I think there's some lessons for us to take away from this article.

I have written before about the healing power that can be found telling our stories.  Telling our stories (even in abbreviated form) was a central focus of the support group we attended and later helped facilitate for a decade. It's also a major part of Alcoholics Anonymous, other 12-step groups and other kinds of support/self-help organizations.

But in most of these groups (online & in "real life"), we tell our stories to each other.  Certainly, there is healing and comfort to be found in sharing what we've been through, in the bonds we form, the knowledge that we're not alone, that we're not the only ones this has happened to, that others have experienced something similar.

But as the article points out, the anonymity and privacy of these groups don't help us in the world outside of them.  It doesn't help others understand the pain we've been through, the obstacles we have encountered (and sometimes overcome), or just how common it is to be dealing with these issues (i.e., the very real possibility these issues can and very likely will touch them directly too, at some point in their life). 
...I’ve seen the miracles these programs make possible. Anonymity creates a sense of safety that recovering addicts desperately need. Twelve-step programs save countless lives. There are many reasons not to tamper with them. 
But I’ve also met men and women who are 20, even 30, years sober. They’ve overcome adversity and often trauma to live lives of courage, resilience and grace... 
We need to hear more from them... why should they remain silent? “It’s like being a vegan but only being able to talk about it in a kitchen or a hospital,” Ms. Zenoff said, “or with another vegan.” [emphasis mine] 
The recovery movement is taking its cue from the gay rights and AIDS awareness movements of the 1990s:
At the onset of the AIDS epidemic, many Americans blamed gay men for bringing the fatal disease upon themselves. Unenlightened Americans today consider addiction a moral failing as well, one as likely to spur a trip to prison as to a treatment center. 
“The Act Up marches, the AIDS quilt and the posters made people more sympathetic, and made gay people seem more human,” said Daniel Royles, an AIDS historian at Florida International University. 
The activists shifted people’s understanding of the disease. After several years of pressure from people with AIDS and their supporters, to give one example, the federal Health Resources and Services Administration spending on AIDS programs increased more than thirteenfold in 1991, to $220.6 million from $16.5 million. 
The government hasn’t yet done the same for addiction, even though this treatable disease kills more Americans every year than AIDS at its 1995 peak.
I think about the statistics related to pregnancy loss, infertility and childlessness. One in eight couples experiences infertility.  Only about 30% of IVF cycles are successful -- meaning some 70% are not.  One in four women will lose a pregnancy at some point. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 24,000 babies are stillborn every year.  If you do the math, that's about 66 stillbirths A DAY.

I remember someone once remarking that if a small plane crashed and killed 66 passengers every day of the year, it wouldn't be long before something was done to investigate and correct or at least alleviate the situation. 

And yet people are far more familiar with the tragedy of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, even though statistically, stillbirths claim the lives of 10 times more babies than SIDS -- for the simple reason that SIDS parents and organizations started speaking out & demanding answers as to why their newborn babies were dying, suddenly & without explanation.

"Despite the headlines, we’re still a nation in denial [about the extent of the addiction problem in America],"  the article says.
Jim Hood, Facing Addiction’s co-founder and chief executive, joked that addiction “is an illness that nobody is ever going to get, nobody ever has and nobody ever has had.” ...If Americans heard enough stories, would they clamor for more research funding and treatment beds then?
(Substitute "infertility" or "pregnancy loss" for "addiction" in the quote above...! Does this sound familiar?? Everybody believes that pregnancy loss & infertility is something that happens to other people, right?)

It's difficult to open up and to let the people around you know the truth about what you have endured -- to open yourself up to misunderstanding, hurtful comments and intrusive questions. I am certainly not a poster child in this regard. I will admit that I write/blog a good game; I'm less successful when it comes to practicing what I preach and moving outside of my comfort zone.

But I'm trying... :)

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

Saturday, November 4, 2017

"Victoria & Abdul" by Shrabani Basu

I had other books in mind for my next read when dh & I went to the movies a couple of weekends ago to see "Victoria & Abdul," starring the wonderful Judi Dench as Queen Victoria, based on a true story about the monarch and her relationship with her Muslim Indian servant, Abdul Karim. We both enjoyed the movie, and I promptly bought the book it was based on ("Victoria & Abdul" by Shrabani Basu) the next time we visited our local bookstore, and dove right into it.

In 1887, celebrating her Golden Jubilee, Queen Victoria was proud & delighted by the warm reception she received from her people -- but she was also filled with nostalgia, loneliness & grief that so many of her loved ones had not lived to share this milestone with her -- including her beloved husband, Albert, and her devoted Scottish servant, John Brown.

Into her life stepped Abdul Karim, one of several Indian servants and soldiers brought to England for the Jubilee year as a "gift" from India.  Victoria was fascinated by all things Indian, and an unusual friendship developed between the two. Within weeks, he became her "Munshi" (teacher), helping her learn to speak & write in Urdu. Over time, his influence grew, and he became her chief secretary/advisor on all matters related to India.

Victoria proved to be much more enlightened, accepting of and interested in India, its people and culture than other members of her family and court, who (typical of most Britons of the era) shunned Karim socially and deeply resented his position and influence.

The movie seems to take place over just a few years time, but Karim actually spent more than 13 years in England, from 1887 until the Queen's death in January 1901.  He was the last person to see her body before the coffin was sealed, and among the few mourners present for her burial (as she had instructed). Soon afterward, however, members of the Royal Family and several guards entered his cottage, confiscated and burned all the letters he had received from the Queen, and ordered him (and the Queen's other Indian servants) to return to India immediately.  (I thought this part of the movie was perhaps a Hollywood embellishment. Sadly, it was not. And, in fact, British government envoys visited Karim's family in India not just once but TWICE after his death in 1909, too, demanding the return of any further correspondence from the Queen.)  The Queen's youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice, removed all references to Karim from her mother's diaries (not realizing that her mother also wrote about Karim in her Urdu lesson notebooks...! which sat untouched for decades in the royal archives).  This story in Vanity Fair is a good summary of this unusual story and how it was rediscovered by Basu 100+ years later.

I will admit I thought the last part of the book dragged a bit as the courtiers messaged each other and the Queen about their displeasure over the Munshi, and conspired to get rid of him. Overall, though, I thought this was a fascinating & well researched story. Kudos to Basu for uncovering this hidden gem of history!

ALI note:  In both the book & the movie, Victoria expresses her concern about the Munshi's lack of children.  Having had nine children herself (!), she was full of advice for the couple, and had them both examined by her personal doctor.  Karim & his wife never did have any children. The few remaining keepsakes from Karim's time with the Queen which survived the palace purge (and later the 1947 partition of India) are now in the possession of his nephew's family.

This was book #16 that I've read so far in 2017, bringing me to 67% of my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am currently 4 books behind schedule to meet my goal. :p  ;)

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Right now

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

Reading:  I'm just finishing up "Victoria & Abdul" by Shrabani Banu, after recently seeing the movie, with Judi Dench (once again) playing Queen Victoria. Review to come, once I'm done, but overall I'm finding it fascinating & well researched. 

Not sure what I'll tackle next -- perhaps Margaret Atwood's "Alias Grace."  I have the new television miniseries  PVRd -- it's been playing on CBC over the past few weeks, and I understand it will be starting on Netflix soon too. 

Recent purchases (additions to the TBR pile....!):  
  • "Beartown" by Fredrik Backman (who also wrote "A Man Called Ove," also in my TBR pile & Netflix queue). 
  • "Munich" by Robert Harris. (I read "Fatherland" when it first came out in the early 1990s, & thought it was amazing.)  
  • "Our Souls at Night" by Kent Haruf... hoping to read it soon & then catch the new movie adaptation with Jane Fonda & Robert Redford on Netflix. 
  • "The Princess Diarist" by the late great Carrie Fisher, about her time as Star Wars's Princess Leia. 
  • And "Christmas at the Vinyl Cafe,"  a Christmas-themed short story collection from the late great Stuart McLean.  Sam & I loved listening to the Vinyl Cafe on Sunday mornings for many years, and were fortunate enough to attend several Christmas shows.  
(Doubting: Whether I am going to meet my goal of reading 24 books in 2017... although I still have a few weeks to go, & I usually manage to cram in a few books over the Christmas holidays...! I have finished 15 so far;  Goodreads helpfully informs that is 5 behind schedule...!)  

Watching:  The only sport that I really follow (& have since I was a kid) -- figure skating!!  Specifically the Grand Prix events -- Skate Canada last weekend, Cup of China this coming weekend. (I missed Rostelcomm Cup in Russia the weekend before last -- usually the series kicks off with Skate Canada or Skate America, right around now, so I was not prepared. We don't get a newspaper with the TV listings anymore, and I forgot to Google the fall skating events schedule in advance & mark them in my calendar, as I often do. Oh well, lots more to come...!)  

Eating:  Very carefully these days, after one too many bouts of gallstone discomfort lately. :p  

Considering: Having my gallbladder removed -- although I'm hoping to hold off until after Christmas, and possibly Younger Nephew's wedding in the spring... we'll see....

Drinking: Lots of tea. The cooler weather calls for it. :)  Chamomile tea or ginger ale, when my gallbladder starts acting up. 

Listening:   No current earworms to report. 

Wearing:  Yoga pants & socks inside, and long jeans, socks & shoes and my denim jacket outside, most days. By mid-October, I had sadly put away the capris & sandals in until the warmer weather returns. :(   


Oh yes, and a couple of these amazingly soft plaid flannel shirts from American Eagle (like this one).  I used to wear a lot of plaid flannel shirts when I was a student & later a newlywed, and they seem to have made a resurgence lately. This is one fashion that I originally wore that I am happy to wear again (& don't feel ridiculous doing so).    

Buying (besides books, lol):  Now that the weather is getting colder & drier and we've got the balcony doors closed more often, I've been bringing out my essential oils diffuser again (from this Canadian retailer) and looking at more oil blends for it.  (Smelling great!)  I recently bought a couple of their rollerball remedies, including one that supposedly helps with hot flashes. Not sure whether it's really made a difference, but it does smell nice. 


(I also just bought my first Christmas gifts this week... hoping not to leave it all to the last minute...!) 

Wanting:  A new mouse for my laptop... mine seems to be dead (after 7 years). I am using dh's, which is newer but not much better. :p  I can't get the hang of using the touchpad for the life of me. Possibly a trip to Staples or Best Buy this afternoon...  

(Still) wondering:  If/when Aunt Flo will make her next appearance. It's now day 89 -- my longest non-pregnancy cycle ever before this one was 69 days (the cycle before this one) -- so I am technically almost 1/4 of the way to 365 days = officially being in menopause. (And as I'm rapidly approaching my 57th (!!) birthday, can I say it's about frickin' time??) (I also can't help wondering how many of the weird things my body is experiencing right now can be attributed to midlife hormonal changes??) 

Wishing: That I could have a few more decent nights of sleep than I've had lately...

Bracing: For the time change this weekend (fall back one hour)... it will be lighter outside in the mornings but darker much sooner in the afternoon. :p  


Loving:  Being retired and being able to sleep in (especially when I'm not sleeping very well these days...!).  My "On This Day" reminders from Facebook have been full of moaning & groaning about the year-end stress I regularly used to face at this time of year... so glad that is now someone else's problem!!  

Feeling:  A little melancholy, now that the weather has turned colder and wetter... a little in awe that the year has flown by and that it's now November (!)... a little apprehensive that November (never my favourite month...!) is here... but looking forward to the Christmas season! 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Top 10* blog posts from the past 10 years

( * as determined by Blogger's pageview stats for "all time" -- i.e., since May 2010, which I guess is as far back as they go...!  Interestingly, four of the top 10 posts come from the current year.)

(with apologies to Lori Lavender Luz, from whom I lifted this idea ;)  )

#10: Childless/Condo Halloween (October 31, 2016):  In which I talk about my changing relationship with Halloween as a childless woman -- particularly since we moved into a condo earlier in the year.  Interesting and timely, since yesterday was also Halloween (as well as my 10-year blogoversary!).

#9: "Rocking the Life Unexpected" by Jody Day (January 3, 2014):  My review of Jody Day's ground-breaking book (which has since been expanded & retitled "Living the Life Unexpected."). I would highly recommend it!

#8: "Maudie" (May 2, 2017):  My review of the movie starring Sally Hawkins & Ethan Hawke, about the Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis (and yes, there's a bit of an ALI angle).

#7:  "Emotional labour" and childless women (February 28, 2017):  I reflect on the concept of "emotional labour" and how it applies to childless women.

#6: #MicroblogMondays: Selfish? (April 24, 2017):  I reflect on the myth that people without children are "selfish."

#5:  Mugged  (April 18, 2017):  Pre-Mother's Day rant: "Where the frack are the mugs for aunties??"

#4:  Dear Aunt Flo (February 12, 2012):  Looking back on a very looooonnnnnngggg & tumultuous relationship with Aunt Flo (i.e., my period) -- & kindly telling her it's time to get lost. (For the record, it's now more than five years later... I am 56 years old... and she's STILL HERE...!!!!!!)

#3:  Article: "Canada's U.S. baby boom" (May 5, 2008):  I shared the text of a newspaper article I found about how the lack of NICU spaces in Canadian hospitals was resulting in women with high-risk pregnancies being sent to hospitals in the United States. I shared it because I sympathized with the plight of these women (& their babies) -- many of whom had already been through the wringer with infertility treatment and prior pregnancy losses. But as I observed in a post marking my 4th blogoversary in 2011, I noticed that, for some strange reason, this post seemed consistently popular:
I couldn't figure out why this particular post drew so many hits, particularly throughout 2009 -- until it hit me that the rise in interest coincided with the U.S. debate over "Obamacare" (!!). 
In other words, I suspect my post was being read & passed around by anti-Obamacare forces as an example of the supposed inadequacies of the Canadian healthcare system (&, by implication, the superiority of the U.S. system). This was certainly NOT my intention. I know our system is not perfect -- but I daresay there are women in rural communities in the U.S. who likewise have to travel some distance to get the healthcare they need (not to mention women who are denied the care they need because the hospital doesn't accept their health insurance -- NOT a scenario we ever have to worry about in Canada). Sorry to my American readers -- I would never trade!
#2:  Giving up vs letting go (April 5, 2013):  I shared a quote that I found in a Facebook item, from someone named Danielle Koepke, that articulated the difference between giving up & letting go. I had no idea who Danielle Koepke was (I tried to Google her several times) -- I just liked the quote.  It's only checking again now that I realize her name is spelled "Daniell" without an "e".  As you can see in the comments section, she seems to have some detractors.  ;) "Danielle Koepke" is #10 in the top 10 keyword search terms that brings people to my blog, which helps explain some of the traffic on this post over the years.

#1:  Oh, the irony -- Julia CHILD was childless (August 9, 2009):  I wrote this post after going to see the movie "Julie & Julia," with Meryl Streep as Julia Child. This is by FAR my most-ever viewed post. How far?  My #2 post (in terms of page views) has racked up more than 3200 page views (albeit over just 4.5 years). By comparison, my post about Julia Child has had more than 25,000 page views (albeit over a longer period of time, 8 years). It is also among my top 5 viewed posts in terms of day, week and month.  It's also one of my most commented-on posts, with 53 comments logged to date (and counting.... they are still coming in, from time to time!).  Five of the top 10 all-time keyword searches that lead people to this blog (including the #1 keyword search "Julia Child children")  relate to the "Julie & Julia" post.

(This was an interesting exercise, and I enjoyed looking back at some of these posts. Have you ever checked your stats for your most-viewed posts? Noticed anything interesting?)