Thursday, November 16, 2017


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?)

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

10 years down the road less travelled

I'm more than a little amazed to be writing this. Today marks exactly 10 years -- TEN YEARS!! -- since I hit "publish" on my very first blog post!

When I wrote that very first post on October 31, 2007, I stated two reasons why I was starting a blog: (1) to add my voice to the (very) few I could find at that time that were articulating the views of women (& men) who remain childless/free after infertility, & (2) to participate in Mel's next book tour. (The book we were discussing then? "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood. Plus ca change..)  And, although I didn't articulate it (or perhaps even realize it) at the time, I was also looking for an outlet as I approached the emotionally charged 10-year "anniversary" of my one and only pregnancy, which ended in my daughter's stillbirth at 26 weeks that August (1998).

For the first few years here, I poured out my pent-up angst on various matters related to infertility, stillbirth, and living without children in a world gone mad for baby bumps. (I had already found relief online on various message boards and listservs, but blogging was a slightly different experience, and clearly satisfied an itch I clearly didn't know I had.)  I relived my pregnancy in a series of "10 years later" posts, "1998 memories," and then followed it up a few years later by reliving my experiences with infertility treatment 10 years later in "The Treatment Diaries."

These days, happily, there are a LOT more of us keeping each other company on this road less travelled, writing and speaking out about the ups (yes, they exist!) as well as the downs of life without children. (There was a fabulous article in The Guardian earlier this month, which called us "a movement."  Yes!!) (If you haven't read it yet, please do!)  And after 10 years, I'm still finding stuff to write about (averaging 11 posts per month -- not bad...!)  I still vent from time to time, and ponder (and re-ponder) various aspects of childless/free living and the grief of missing a child who never took a breath.

But I also write about the books I've read, places we've travelled to, being an aunt, early retirement (the pros & the cons), condo living (something we probably wouldn't have done -- at least this soon in our lives -- if we'd had kids) and just about anything else I feel like writing about. After all, my blog, my rules. ;)  And a childless life is not just about childlessness;  it's also about having a life and making the most of it, regardless of the hand we've been dealt.

As I said on my first blogoversary:
Blogging has been the release & record I sought -- and more. It has been a blessing in my life. I did not know who, if anyone, would care to read my blog, and I didn't start out with the intention of writing for an audience. The blog is, first and foremost, for me. But it's been gratifying to read your comments, to feel your support, to know you're out there struggling with the same issues and feelings too -- that you understand.
Those words are still true today.

I'm pondering a few more posts on the blogoversary/10 years later theme...  watch for them to come over the next few days/weeks.

For now, I'm stealing a question from Lori Lavender Luz :)  :  
What were you doing 10 years ago? 
Thank you all for reading/listening, commenting and just being here. I know there are a few of you who have been here since or very near the beginning!  But I do want to give special thanks to Mel for her encouragement & support, both at the very start & over the 10 years since then, and to Pamela for being my fellow traveller and role model for this entire journey to date. ;)  :)    

(Past blogoversary posts can be found here.)

*** *** ***

Blogging stats, 10 years later:  

Number of years blogging: 10 (!!) 
Published posts (including this one): 1,282 

Average # of posts per year: 128
Average # of posts per month: 11
Published comments: more than 8,800+
Page views (tracked since May 2010):  almost 626,000    
Followers (on Blogger):  146 

Monday, October 30, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: "The Misery Filter"

(This isn't quite a "micro" blog post, but it's what I've got for today, so bear with me... ;)  )

I don't always agree with New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, but his most recent Sunday column was fascinating food for thought. In "The Misery Filter," he argues that:
...Americans tend to “filter for misery” in the same way we filter for political agreement in our increasingly self-segregated social worlds... especially for chronic miseries that don’t fit an easy crisis-resolution arc. We tend to be aware of other people’s suffering when it first descends or when they bottom out — with a grim diagnosis, a sudden realization of addiction, a disastrous public episode. But otherwise a curtain tends to fall, because there isn’t a way to integrate private struggle into the realm of health and normalcy.
I, of course, tend to observe "misery" -- my own and others -- through my own filters of pregnancy loss, infertility & involuntary childlessness -- different types of trauma than addiction or disease, etc. -- but all under the umbrella of trauma (or "misery"), for sure.

Douthat goes on to observe (emphasis mine):
But a strong filter also creates real problems, because it effectively lies about reality to both the healthy and the sick. It lies to the healthy about the likelihood that they will one day suffer, hiding the fact that even in modernity the Book of Ecclesiastes still applies. It lies to the sick about how alone they really are, because when they were healthy that seemed like perfect normalcy, so they must now be outliers, failures, freaks
And this deception is amplified now that so much social interaction takes place between disembodied avatars and curated selves, in a realm of Instagrammed hyper-positivity that makes suffering even more isolating than it is in the real world.
I agree that an emphasis on relentless optimism and the carefully curated images we see on social media contribute to the shock -- & shame -- that we feel when something goes wrong in our lives (as it inevitably does, at some point). ("Bright-Sided" by Barbara Ehrenreich --reviewed here -- is an excellent book on this subject.)

Douthat notes how so many young people today are struggling when confronted with crisis or suffering. (Witness the explosion of "safe rooms" and the like on college campuses, and the huge surge in stressed-out students seeking mental health counselling.)  "In America we have education for success, but no education for suffering,"  he says.

"Education for suffering"??  That, he says, is a question for a different column. He closes by saying:
Here I’ll just stress its necessity: Because what cannot be cured must be endured, and how to endure is, even now, the hardest challenge every one of us will face.
I will watch for Douthat's further thoughts with interest. In the meantime, I'll offer up a few thoughts of my own:

On the one hand, I don't know if any amount of education or preparation will fully equip us to cope with crisis/tragedy/misery (etc.) when it hits. I knew that all was not well with my baby, almost from the moment I realized I was pregnant.  That didn't make it any easier when my worst fears were realized and I was confronted with a silent heartbeat at my six-month prenatal checkup.

On the other hand, I think there are things we can do to help ourselves cope, when bad things happen. Sheryl Sandberg, in her book "Option B" (which I read & reviewed earlier this year), believes that resilience is a life skill we can all learn that will sustain us when grief, trauma, crisis ("misery," if you like) enters our life -- as it surely will at some point -- and outlines things we can all do to build this skill.

My own "education for suffering" (post-loss) included devouring all the information I could find on pregnancy loss, stillbirth, death & grief (and, later, infertility treatment, and later still, living without children). It included reaching out to others who were going through similar situations, both online & in real life -- giving as well as receiving support & sympathy.  And (perhaps most difficult), it included learning to be honest with myself, to speak out to those around me about my experiences and feelings and about what kind of support I needed from them.  (I'm still learning on that front...!). 

Beyond building resilience, I think we need to cultivate empathy, in our personal lives, in our families and in the culture at large.  It's something that I think is sadly lacking (and needed more than ever) these days. How do we do that? I think we can start by volunteering our time to help others, by learning to become better listeners, by at least considering new experiences and ideas that might be different from our own -- stepping outside of our comfort zones, at least once in a while. (I would credit my lifelong love of reading -- gaining insight into other lives, times, cultures -- as playing an important role in developing whatever empathy I possess as an adult.)  Doing at least some of these things might help us respond to others in a more compassionate way, and help them feel more valued and less alone.

Grief, sadness, "misery," will come to all of us, eventually.  The sooner we realize this and the more willing and able we are to support others who are in pain, the better equipped we will be to cope and to ask for the support we need when we need it.

Read the original column (the comments are also interesting)and tell me -- what do you think?  What do you think an "education for suffering" would look like? 

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

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Monday, October 23, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

  • (Odds & ends:  my go-to format/catch-all subject when I can't think of a single coherent subject to write about, lol.)(Which almost always turns out to be more material than I thought I had floating around in my brain...)  
  • It's late October, but the weather has still been mild enough that the air conditioning has still been kicking in periodically and I could wear my capris, if I wanted to. I made the switch to long jeans during a cool spell a few weeks ago, but I did wear sandals & shirtsleeves yesterday afternoon. I'm not complaining -- and the weather is supposed to start getting cooler & rainier over the next few days -- but it does seem weird.  (They are also predicting a snowier-than-usual winter -- so I suppose I should just shut up & enjoy this while it lasts...!)   
  • Dh was asking if we should buy any Halloween chocolate when we go grocery shopping later today, in the (unlikely) event we get any trick or treaters knocking on our condo unit door. (It took me a minute to realize that Halloween is just a little over a week away -- we are so removed from that now.) Last year, we wound up eating the chocolate we'd bought ourselves. I suppose there are worse things to endure... ;) 
  • I booked our plane tickets to spend Christmas with my family out west last week. One more thing off my to-do list, and it's a relief not to have that hanging over my head. (Now I just have to keep my fingers crossed that that "snowier-than-usual" winter weather doesn't affect our flights...!) 
    • I always go through an enormous amount of angst when trying to decide which dates/flights/times will be the best for all concerned... if we go all that way, I want to make the trip long enough to be worthwhile -- but I don't want to stay too long because I know it does wear on my aging parents, much as they enjoy having us all around. I also have to take my sister's work/vacation schedule into consideration, as she has been gradually taking over the airport pickup/dropff duties from my dad, to spare him a trip into & out of the city.  Dh is no help whatsoever -- he says whatever I decide will be fine. (Of course, I will hear about it, should it NOT be fine for some reason...!)  
  • Speaking of Christmas -- my sister informed me that she, my mother & Parents' Neighbours' Daughter had a discussion about Christmas over the (Canadian) Thanksgiving long weekend. Specifically, the need to cut back on the presents front -- although we haven't yet agreed on just how that's going to work/where the cutting back is going to take place. The Little Princesses/Parents' Neighbours' Granddaughters will still be completely spoiled, of course ;)  (and my sister actually used the "Christmas is for kids" line on me.... grrrrr....).  Right now, everybody (still) buys presents for everybody (and we all also have stockings).  I do realize that's become a bit of a financial & logistical strain for both my parents (on a limited income, in a place where the shopping is limited ( = trips to the larger town 20 miles down the road, or the city, 45-60 minutes away), and my mother doesn't get out & around as easily as she used to), and also for PND & her husband, who have two small children, a mortgage, daycare costs, etc.  Still, it makes me sad.  Another way in which my world seems to be shrinking/diminishing as I get older. 
  • I figured out who unfriended me on Facebook a while back: a cousin that I haven't seen in almost 40 years, but whom I adored as a kid.  This person actually went missing from my friend list once before & I sent a new request, which was accepted (again). I will do that if I think the unfriending might have been done in error. I know that older people sometimes don't know exactly what button they're clicking on Facebook. (I've also heard a few people blame Facebook itself for unfriending people on their list -- although I wonder if that's just a convenient excuse...!). But twice? Hey, I can take a hint, although it still makes me sad. :(  
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

No dress rehearsal (thanks, Gord)

Just yesterday afternoon, dh & I were driving and "Bobcaygeon" by The Tragically Hip came on the radio. I remarked to dh how much I loved the line:  "It was in Bobcaygeon/I saw the constellations/Reveal themselves one star at a time."  Just a lovely image -- plus, you've gotta give him (lead singer & songwriter Gord Downie) credit for finding a rhyme for Bobcaygeon, right?

And then I woke up this morning, and he was gone. Dead at the way-too-young age of 53.

As I wrote last year just before the Hip's final concert -- and as pretty much any Canadian of a certain age could tell you -- the Tragically Hip are Canadian icons, and Gord Downie the closest thing we have to a poet laureate.  When the band announced last spring (2016) that he had been diagnosed with incurable brain cancer, it was huge news.  The entire country basically shut down to watch the Hip's nationally televised final concert in their hometown of Kingston, Ontario, in August 2016. It was one of those rare "where were you when..." kind of events where everyone came together, united in love and pride and grief, utterly transfixed. 

Coming on the heels of the deaths of way too many other musicians I've loved lately -- most recently, Tom Petty and Kenny Shields -- and just days after we attended the memorial service for our friend & hairdresser (who also died in her 50s from cancer), I am feeling sad and tired tonight. Reflecting on how much cancer sucks, how short and fleeting and precious life is.

As everyone has been saying, as his family said in their statement, "We all knew this day was coming."  But that doesn't make it any easier when the time comes to say goodbye.  The news channels have been covering the story almost exclusively; radio stations are playing nothing but Hip music;  my social media feeds have been flooded with Hip videos and photos and expressions of grief.  Our prime minister, a Hip fan and friend of Gord's, who attended the Hip's final concert, gave a live statement in the halls of Parliament this morning, choking up and wiping tears.

A friend posted the image above on Facebook today -- a line from a well-known Hip song, "Ahead by a Century." 

Sometimes it seems like time is just zooming by relentlessly. How the heck did I get to be 56 years old?? Married 32 years?  Retired two years already, after working for almost 30? 

Next year will be 20 years -- 20 years!! -- since Katie's stillbirth.  Our nephews -- just little boys when we lost her -- are now grown up and getting married and starting families of their own.

My parents have seemed older and a little slower and more frail the last few times I've visited.  I know I am lucky to still have them. I have been attending far too many funerals for the parents of my peers lately. 

I think about all the things on my to-do list -- the unread books sitting on my shelves, the places I want to travel to, the things I want to see and do. The friends I haven't seen in way too long. Realistically, my life is already more than halfway over. Time to start crossing some of those things off those lists.

What am I waiting for?

"No dress rehearsal/This is our life." 

A lesson for all of us.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Free trade increases infertility -- who knew??

The headline from the Washington Post that popped up on my cellphone tonight stopped me in my tracks: 
"Internal White House documents allege manufacturing decline increases abortions, infertility, and spousal abuse"
I mean, seriously??!!??  Can someone explain the link to me??

The opening paragraphs of the story read:
White House officials working on trade policy were alarmed last month when a top adviser to President Trump circulated a two-page document that alleged a weakened manufacturing sector leads to an increase in abortion, spousal abuse, divorce and infertility, two people familiar with the matter said. 
The documents, which were obtained by The Washington Post... were presented without any data or information to back up the assertions... 
(Are we surprised?) 

So let me get this straight -- Brian Mulroney, George H.W. Bush and Carlos Salinas (the leaders of Canada, the United States and Mexico who signed the original deal in December 1992) are to blame for my lack of children (and possibly yours as well)? Not my bicornuate uterus, wonky hormones, aging ovaries or dh's low sperm count, among other known and unknown factors?

Gee, I wish I'd known this years ago... it would have saved me a lot of angst...

Monday, October 16, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Tis the season (already??!)

Canadian Thanksgiving wasn't even over yet before Christmas stuff started taking over the stores. Generally, I think the Christmas hoopla could wait until after Remembrance Day, or at least Halloween... but there's one Christmas item I do like to start at least thinking about well in advance: my annual Christmas card.

The stores are already well stocked with a variety of cards, but nothing I've seen has grabbed me so far.  (For many years, I tried to find a card with a Katie-related theme, although they have been harder to find the last few years.)  Quite often, I see something right away that grabs me and says "This one! Buy me!"  But not this year;  at least, not so far.

On the other hand, I was browsing online and saw several photo card designs that I liked -- and one site had an offer for 60% off (which ends tomorrow) -- and I had a nice photo of dh & me in mind that I could use.

I hesitated. I've generally only done photo cards once every five years or so, and I already did one last year (using the photo of me & dh all dressed up at Older Nephew's wedding). I'll likely do another photo card next year with a photo from Younger Nephew's wedding (if I can get a good one of us together).  Would three years in a row of photo cards of us -- a middle-aged couple, no adorable children in the picture -- seem a little self-indulgent, even to the people who (supposedly??) love us?

Then I thought -- why the heck not?  (Dh concurred.)  I have friends who send me a photo card of their kids (or photos of their kids tucked inside their card) every year, without fail. (Unlike some of my childless/bereaved mom friends, I don't mind getting photo cards... although I do wish sometimes I could see a photo of the entire family, and not just the kids. I have friends I haven't seen in 30 years -- they don't do social media & if they send me a photo, it's only ever of their kids.) 

I ordered the photo cards. They'll be here by Halloween. I can cross that item off my holiday to-do list, and I should be able to get them into the mail in plenty of time for Christmas. Yay me. ;)

What do you think about getting photo cards of adults &/or pets (I've had some of those from my childless/free friends too :)  ), but not kids? 

I've tagged past posts I've written about Christmas cards with the label "Christmas card."  :)  

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

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Odds & ends

  • In addition to being bummed out about missing out on the NotMom conference in Cleveland over the (Canadian) Thanksgiving long weekend, I was doubly-bummed out when I found out (via social media) that Jody Day was HERE, in my city, en route to the conference!! (where she was a keynote speaker) & was getting together with local Gateway Women for drinks that night.  Getting my act together, reorganizing my day (& organizing transportation downtown -- I don't drive, and I live in a corner of suburbia where the public transit completely sucks) within the space of a few short hours was just not in the cards. :(   I had checked out the local GW group a couple of years ago, but their meeting times & places were not that convenient for me to get to (even before I moved to my present location in a different part of the region).  I have since signed up for the local group's emails, in the hopes that next time Jody or some other cool GW drops into town for a meetup (and I certainly hope there will be a next time!), I will have advance notification and be better prepared!! 
  • Tom Petty's recent death depressed me more than I thought it would. He wasn't someone I'd instantly name as a favourite -- but he was certainly right up there, and definitely part of the soundtrack of my youth. And we've been losing WAY too many of those artists lately. :(   He was only 66, for crying out loud.  :(  He was here in mid-July on his 40th anniversary tour;  I remember asking dh if he was interested in going (he's an even bigger fan than I am), & it never went further than that -- concert tickets being expensive and hard to get, and we were leaving on vacation a day or two later... "Next time," we said.  The lesson being that there isn't always a next time, so take those opportunities when you can...!  (See also above...!) 
    • (Anyone see the video of an entire stadium -- 90,000 people!! -- singing along to "I Won't Back Down" at a college football game? So. Cool!! :)  )   
  • I got ANOTHER mandatory questionnaire from the attorney-general's office to determine whether I'm eligible for jury duty.  You may or may not remember that I received the same form three years ago, just after I lost my job... and was summoned for jury duty about 10 months later, in July 2015. Dh & I went so far as to scout out the location of the court house & figure out how long it would take him to drive me there ever day... and then, just a few days before I was to report for duty, I received a phone message that the pool had been cancelled.  The courthouse here is in an equally inconvenient location, and he would have to drive me.  So here's hoping for a similar outcome this time. (Where were these summonses in the 28 years I was at work & would have loved to escape the office for a few days??)(Plus my company still paid your full salary if you were called for jury duty.)  
  • SIL & I went shopping on Saturday for (another) mother of the groom dress (hers, obviously), for Younger Nephew's wedding in April. This is something I will never get to do myself -- and, as when we went shopping for her dress for Older Nephew's wedding, I was & am grateful to be included.  
    • After finding a dress for her (she tried on just three, and opted for the very first one, which she loved from the moment she put it on), we went looking for a dress for me. I was afraid it would be hard to equal the kick-ass dress I found for Older Nephew's wedding (see photo), but I think we might have done it.  ;) 
  • Earlier today, we attended a memorial mass for our hairdresser of the past 15+ years, who passed away in September after being diagnosed with cancer just seven months earlier. :(  She was 55 years old and the mother of two grown sons, around the same ages as our nephews. Moreover, she had been married 34 years -- to one of dh's childhood buddies. (He was an usher at their wedding. We didn't realize who she was the first time we went to see her, until she & dh got talking as she cut his hair -- one of those "small world" coincidences/stories that we've delighted in retelling ever since then.)  I haven't seen her since the last time she cut our hair, just before her diagnosis, and I still can't believe she's gone. :(  She was one of those people who was always full of fun and laughter (not to mention she was a great hairdresser), and I am going to miss her. Life is short, people... enjoy it while you're here.  :(  
    • The church was crowded, incredibly warm & stuffy, and the service was long, so I slipped outside for a while to cool off & get some fresh air. While I was standing on the steps, I saw something fluttering through the air. It crossed in front of me, going from one side of the church to the other and then flew out of sight. It was a monarch butterfly, which we always used to release at our pregnancy loss support group picnics in memory of our babies. Coincidentally (or not??), it's also Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. So, little butterfly, I'm not sure whether our friend N. sent you, or Katie, or maybe both, but thank you for visiting, you totally made my day. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

"Five Windows" by D.E. Stevenson

The latest selection under discussion by my Yahoo book club devoted to fans of Scottish author D.E. Stevenson is "Five Windows," first published in 1953.  I managed to snag a copy of a recent reprint at a somewhat reasonable price, even with US/Canadian dollar exchange rates & shipping factored in. (More & more of Stevenson's books are being reprinted or made available in e-reader versions, but there are still many that are out of print -- and they can be hot -- and expensive -- commodities on the resale market.)

Like Stevenson's other books, "Five Windows" is the literary equivalent of comfort food, a hot cup of tea on a cozy couch on a chilly autumn/winter day.  Unlike some of her other books that I've read, this one is written in the first person, and in a male voice, no less. We follow our hero, minister's son David Kirke, from his 9th birthday in pre-WWII Scotland to school in Edinburgh and on to young adulthood in early 1950s London.  The "Five Windows" of the title are a framing device that mark the passage of time, representing the windows of David's rooms in the different places he lives as he grows up. The novel touches on themes of home, family, friendship, writing & publishing, and learning to assert yourself.

I wouldn't say this is my favourite of Stevenson's novels that I've read to date -- but like her other books, it's a pleasant way to spend a few hours.

This was book #15 that I've read so far in 2017, bringing me to 63% of my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am currently 3 books behind schedule to meet my goal. :p  ;)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Never a dull moment...

Several times over the past couple of months, we've been rudely awakened (always late at night or very early in the morning, of course -- never in the afternoon...!) by the ear-piercing, heartstopping shrieks of the condo building's fire alarm -- both out in the hallway as well as within each unit (including ours).

Each time it's happened, we've had to hastily throw on our clothes, jacket & shoes, grab purse/wallet & cellphones & hustle down the stairs (conveniently located directly across the hall from our unit) to wait for the arrival of the fire department. (The elevators return to ground level and will not operate until the alarm is reset.) 

(Each time this happens, it takes a while to get the elevators back into service again... and so, each time, we've wound up climbing back UP the stairs to return to our unit once the all-clear was given. Thank goodness we only live on the 4th floor!!)   

Each time, the fire department investigates, but (so far, at least so far as dh & I know) has not been able to find any obvious reason why the alarm was triggered. (One theory: dirt particles/debris in the ductwork being blown from hallway vents located close to a smoke detector.) It's comforting to know that there was no fire -- but NOT comforting not to have any answers as to why these alarms keep happening. In most cases, the system indicated the problem was on our floor (!). A little too close to home...   

After the first two alarms, the fire department advised us that hereafter, we would be charged $500 per truck per false alarm visit (and they usually bring two trucks for a building this size). (Fee increases coming up, no doubt...!) We noticed there were a lot fewer people who evacuated than there were units in the building -- and fewer coming outside with every alarm.  The danger of too many false alarms, of course, is that people start ignoring them, and that can be dangerous when an emergency really does happen.

(Sidenote: I guess it's one way to meet your neighbours, albeit perhaps not under the best circumstances...!  There's one young mother who has evacuated with her adorable baby girl every time. The kid seems totally unfazed by it all, hasn't cried or seemed startled at all -- and totally charmed dh by smiling broadly at him.)  

Tuesday morning, just after 7 a.m., we were woken with a start by the fire alarm, AGAIN.

Except this time, it wasn't entirely a false alarm.

Once again, there was no smoke and no fire.  Thankfully. 


Something -- we're not sure what -- set off the sprinklers in a unit on our floor -- directly outside the area where several of the earlier alarms had been pinpointed. One of our neighbours went down the hall to check and said the water in that unit was at least ankle deep. We stood in the parking lot outside and watched in disbelief as a stream of water cascaded off the balcony and down the side of the building. As soon as it seemed safe, we hustled back upstairs to check on our own unit. 

Fortunately for us, we are at the opposite end of the hall from where the sprinklers went off -- far enough away that no water came close to our unit.  Unfortunately, a number of units in that wing were damaged by the water, as well as units below them, and also the small lounge area beside the main entrance to the building. 

Within a couple of hours, cleanup and restoration crews were hard at work;  huge fans have been running in the hallway (and presumably inside some of the units) 24/7 to help dry out the soaked drywall and carpeting (and, hopefully, ward off mould).  (Thankfully, we're far enough down the hall that the noise is barely noticeable.)  During the day, there's hammering and workers' voices as they tear out damaged drywall and flooring.  I couldn't help but remember how we spent FIVE WEEKS this past winter chasing down the property manager (who has since been fired & replaced) to repair the small section of damaged ceiling in our entryway closet after the sprinkler system pipe sprang a leak. I reminded one of the board members we know about this incident, because I can't help but wonder whether there's some sort of connection to be made? It's hard to believe it's merely a coincidence that there were two problems with the sprinkler system on the same floor less than nine months apart.

So yes, you don't have to worry about shovelling snow or mowing the lawn or squirrels in the attic in a condo -- but there is the possibility of stuff like this happening. Never a dull moment...! 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

"As a father" ? (same song, second verse...)

After hitting "publish" on my last post, I was looking through my "drafts" folder and found a post with almost exactly the same title. 

I wrote it in the heat of the moment back in September 2015, after the body of a little Syrian boy named Alan Kurdi (among the bodies of other Syrian refugees) was discovered on a beach in Turkey.  I'm not quite sure why I never published it -- there was an election campaign on here in Canada, emotions were running high (mine and everyone else's) and I guess I thought I should sit back & take a deep breath first. 

Even though the specific incident that triggered the post is long in the past, the points I was trying to make are still topical & valid. And so, even though it's not as current as it once was, I've decided better late than never... here's the post:

*** *** ***

Please, please don't get me wrong. The tragic death of a little Syrian boy on a Turkish beach this week -- depicted in a now-famous photo -- was an awful, awful thing.

But I don't want to write about why that little boy was laying dead on a beach, or Middle East politics or immigration policy. Others are doing that much better than I can.  

Yet at the same time that this event pointed up our collective tendency to bury our head in the sand to others' pain & suffering (until a stunning photo compels us to look, and learn) -- the subsequent media coverage hammered home to me (not for the first time) the parent-centricity of our society, the tendency to view everything that happens through the lens of parenthood -- and the assumption that everyone else shares this lens, too.

We don't. And as a non-parent (of a living child, anyway), I began to sense a pattern among the commentary:    

From Thomas Mulcair, the leader of the New Democratic Party here in Canada (currently in the midst of an election):  "As a dad and a grandfather, it is just unbearable that we are doing nothing." 

From our usually unsentimental Prime Minister: "The first thing that crossed our minds was remembering our own son Ben at that age running around... It brings tears to your eye.”

From the Ottawa Citizen:
The limp, lifeless image of a little boy whose family hoped to escape tyranny has seized the attention of people around the world — a haunting snapshot that shreds the gut of any parent. As the father of four boys, I admit to succumbing to emotion on the matter.
(I am sure that photo shredded the gut of many non-parents, too, who also found themselves succumbing to emotion on the matter. Me, for one.)

From a New York Times opinion piece,
Is it wrong to be more jarred, more ravaged by this image simply because the child looks as if he could have wandered off your neighborhood playground, because in one photograph the policeman tasked with recovering the body — from the look on his face, it’s hard to imagine that he isn’t himself a father — is cradling him the same way you’ve cradled your own sleeping son, one Velcro strap flapping loose on his left shoe?
(Why is it so hard to imagine that he's not a father? Would he be any less capable of feeling shocked, horrified, overwhelmingly sad, if he wasn't a father?)

This Toronto Star columnist, at least, gave a slight nod of recognition to the non-parents out there: 
Alan, we can see, was wearing little Velcro sneakers with yellow trim. Somehow it’s these little details that make those now-famous images of him drowned on that beach hit so hard. Those shoes feel so familiar to those of us who have a toddler at home, or who have had one, or know one. The way the boy’s skinny legs emerge from baggy blue shorts, dangling from the arms of the officer who has found him and cradled his body in his arms. His tiny fingers. We recognize these forms, these details, from our own lives, our own families.
One of the toughest, most scathing columns I've read on the subject was by a veteran female columnist at the Toronto Star, who does not have children.

Does the death of someone else's child become more awful or shocking or painful, simply because you're a mom or dad?  Not being a mom (of a living child, anyway), I don't know. I suppose that it makes parents more aware of the fragility of life and (hopefully) more grateful for their families. I admit that, as a bereaved parent, my heart always goes to to anyone who experiences the loss of a child, at any age, because I understand, just a little, what they are going through.

But really, the death of an innocent child is just an awful thing, period. I don't think you don't have to be a mom or a dad to feel pain and outrage and anger when it happens to someone else's kid.

You just have to be a human being with a heart.

*** *** ***

(Thomas Mulcair recently stepped down as the NDP leader. "Our usually unsentimental Prime Minister" referred to the prime minister of the time, Stephen Harper, whose party was defeated in the election.) 

"As a father..."

In her Coming2Terms blog, Pamela used to play a game where she'd take the phrase "as a mom" or "as a parent" from articles she'd read (and there was no lack of examples to be found...!), and then change them to read "as an infertile" -- often with hilarious results. Of course, once you start playing the game, you quickly realize how often the reference to parenthood pops up -- and how ridiculous it often sounds, when you really stop to think about it.  

I was reminded of this today when I found this article by Emily Peck in Huffington Post about the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal, and specifically the number of men who have rushed to denounce him and his behaviour -- often prefacing their remarks with the qualifier phrase "as a father/grandfather/husband..."  

"The implication behind these kinds of statements is that women are only worthy of basic respect in relation to men,"  Peck points out.

Surely we don't have to be parents (or grandparents, or spouses) to find this sort of behaviour abhorrent. Surely we should be able to empathize and relate to others simply because they're fellow human beings who deserve to be treated with kindness and respect -- not because of their personal relationship to us.  

Says Peck: 
Of course, having children is extremely meaningful. And, yes, some parents feel a heightened urge to guard their offspring that also leads them to feel heightened empathy for other kids. At least, that’s been the case for me personally. And the truth is, for men, having a daughter can be somewhat transformative. 
But that’s simply not a prerequisite for feeling empathy for victims of sexual assault.
(Or just feeling empathy for others, period.)  

Monday, October 9, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Diaper daze

Today is our Thanksgiving holiday in Canada -- although many people celebrate on Saturday or Sunday. (In general, Canadian Thanksgiving is a much lower-key affair than its American counterpart.) As I've often grumbled here through the years, dh & I are often at loose ends on holidays like this, but this year, we were invited for dinner at BIL's on Sunday/yesterday -- well in advance & not as a last-minute afterthought, which was nice. ;)

Among the other guests was SIL's niece (our nephews' only (living) cousin, whom we've known since she was born) and her three-month-old baby boy.  SIL's brother/the baby's grandfather has advised SIL that if she really wants to buy something for the baby, diapers &/or formula would be far more practical than yet another cute outfit (that the baby will promptly outgrow in two weeks) or toy.

So besides stopping at the supermarket on Saturday to pick up an apple pie to bring for for dessert, dh & I took a swing by Walmart to pick up a box of Pampers (after texting SIL first to find out what brand the new mom/baby prefers and what size would be appropriate). I assumed they would be in the pharmacy section -- they weren't -- so we went wandering around the store until eventually we found them -- in the Babies & Toddlers section (right by the toy section, of course). Foreign territory!!

I felt like an idiot -- like I might as well have had a scarlet C for "Childless" stamped on my forehead. Only someone without kids would have to ask a clerk where to find the diapers, right?

Dh, on the other hand, said that walking out of the store with a package of diapers under his arm made him feel "like a Grandpa."  Different strokes...!

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

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Ron MacLean is "one of us"

If you're Canadian, you almost certainly know who Ron MacLean is (although he is a notch less famous than his regular Saturday night sidekick, Don Cherry).  In a nutshell, for the uninitiated/non-Canadian, he is one of Canada's most famous sportscasters, most commonly associated with the sport of hockey and the program Hockey Night in Canada, which has been broadcast on radio since the 1930s and on national television (first on CBC & now on Sportsnet) since 1952. 

I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the guy (I forgive him for his penchant for incredibly corny puns), because (a) he's only a year older than I am, (b) like me, he grew up on the Canadian Prairies (in Red Deer, Alberta), (c) he's played straight man to Don Cherry & put up with his rantings for so many years ;)  and (d) he was almost completely elbowed out of the job he loved by the younger, "hipper" George Stroumboulopoulos a couple of years ago -- only to be reinstated by popular demand (Go, Grey Power!! lol). 

Tonight was the Toronto Maple Leafs home opener. I'm not paying much attention, but I did look up when, early in the broadcast before the game began, he showed a brief bit of footage of himself with an adorable group of excited peewee hockey players in Niagara Falls. "I look at these kids and I see myself... You know, my wife Cari & I don't have kids... but wherever there's hockey, we're home," he said.

In the back of my memory, I knew the MacLeans did not have children -- that they had been high school sweethearts, married for about as long as me & dh, and did a lot of charity work, both separately & together. I idly Googled "Ron MacLean kids" -- and up popped a (rather scary) story from Readers Digest about how Cari MacLean nearly died from a pulmonary embolism in October 2012. A few paragraphs in, I read this:
He had rushed to Oakville-Trafalgar once before. In 1990, just before the first game of the Leafs-Blues playoff series, his three-months pregnant wife called him in St. Louis to say she was having serious abdominal pain. Ron jumped on a plane but got stuck overnight in Pittsburgh. When he finally arrived, Cari had lost the child. The couple was devastated. They tried again, and then again, but at a certain point, it became clear they weren't meant to be parents. For 28 years, they'd only had each other. Now he feared the worst. 
I always wince a bit when people say that they (or others) "weren't meant to be parents." But yes, at a certain point, you have to decide whether to keep beating your head against a brick wall or move on with your life.  Anyway, just one more thing I have in common with Ron MacLean.  Who knew?