Thursday, December 31, 2009

New year, new decade, new beginnings


I've been reading a lot of looking back/new year's resolution posts -- including a thought-provoking summary from Pamela Jeanne, who reminded me that it's not just the end of the year but the end of the decade -- and the start of a new one.

Ten years ago, on New Year's Eve 1999, I was sulking. I'd survived a full year & a bit after the stillbirth of my baby and what should have been her first birthday. With my 39th birthday fast approaching & my biological clock ticking frantically, I was desperate to get pregnant again and in the midst of fertility testing. I'd also just survived Christmas without either of my grandparents there -- my grandfather died in October 1998, just over two months after Katie's stillbirth, & my grandmother followed almost a year to the day later. My uncle (my dad's sister's husband) died a week later at 65, one week after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, & my mother had a hysterectomy the day of his funeral.

So I was glad to see 1999 end. But I still wasn't happy. I wanted to welcome the new millennium in style at a ritzy party, wearing a festive party dress, dancing to a Guy Lombardo-type orchestra & drinking champagne-- something we've never really done on New Year's Eve -- but (a) tickets to such events were expensive, this year especially, (b) nobody in our circle seemed to want to do that (most of them, of course, had young children & sitters are scarce -- & expensive -- especially on New Year's Eve hereabouts), (c) most had other plans (& didn't invite us, including BIL), & (d) dh (who is most comfortable in his PJ pants & T-shirt) was lukewarm on the whole idea.

Remember, too, that there was some trepidation around the whole Y2K thing. I'd spent months writing articles for the staff newsmagazine at the bank I work for, about Y2K preparations, & key messages that branch employees could pass along to our customers, reassuring them that their money would be safe. But nobody REALLY knew what was going to happen. We returned from Christmas at my parents' early that year, so that we could both be on call at work -- just in case. Before we left work (early) on New Year's Eve, we were given plastic garbage bags & instructed to use them to shroud our computer monitors & CPUs -- just in case the water sprinklers went off. (!)

So we wound up at FIL's, along with all dh's aunts & uncles on his dad's side. We were the youngest people there by a long shot. Dh had a great time, playing cards with his uncles. The aunts kindly tried to include me in their chatter, but since most of the time they kept lapsing back into their native Italian, I wasn't able to follow or participate in much of the conversation. I wound up spending most of the evening watching the TV coverage of the spectacular fireworks displays as the clock struck midnight around the globe. It was impressive to watch, but it was definitely not the way I'd hoped to be spending Millennium New Year's Eve.

When I think about it now, though, perhaps that evening set the tone for the decade to come -- a decade of watching others doing what I longed to do (partying at the turn of the millennium, having a family), feeling more of an observer than a participant in the normal rituals of society (New Year's Eve parties, getting pregnant, having kids), envying others who were having more fun than me (or at least, it sure seemed that way sometimes), and learning to adjust (& readjust) my expectations, to settle for something different than I had originally wanted.

Over the next year & a half, I subjected myself to the pain, stress, indignities and disappointments of infertility treatment -- but by New Year's Eve 2001, I was in full retreat. Now 40 (close to 41), stressed beyond belief, suffering from anxiety attacks, fearing the long-term effects the drugs I'd been taking would have on my health, and alarmed at the mounting costs, I had climbed off the rollercoaster of treatment. I was still secretly hoping for that miracle pregnancy --and continued to do so for a couple of years afterward -- but was slowly coming face to face with the reality that I never would have that second baby I wanted so badly (and I never have). I set out on a new journey down this road less travelled, and began licking my wounds & trying to figure out what the rest of my life was going to look like.

To some extent, I'm still trying to figure that out. I guess my goal for the next 10 years, if I have one, would be to stop trying to figure things out so much &, as the Nike ad says, just do it. If I've learned one lesson over the past decade, it's that life is definitely not a dress rehearsal. As my favourite quote in the sidebar of this blog says, "Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans." We only get one shot at this, so we'd better make it good, even if things aren't turning out exactly as we had originally planned or hoped.

I want to get that passport, start travelling more and start really, consciously seeking out & enjoying the benefits that come with childfree living (and yes, there are some). I think I -- we -- deserve them. : ) We have more than paid our dues.

The next 13 months will bring our 25th wedding anniversary, my parents' 50th, a family reunion (all three events in the same month!!) and my (GULP!) 50th birthday. I'm hoping (knocking wood!) the next 10 years or so will bring a comfortable early retirement for both me & dh. And I'm hoping (and again knocking wood) that our good health will continue, so that we can enjoy it.

I hesitate to say my 40s totally sucked (and hey, I do still have one more year to go!) -- but they could have been better, and I'm partly at fault for not at least trying harder to make them that way.

I want the next 10 years to be different. In a GOOD way. And I know it's up to me to make the most of whatever life hands me.

Past New Year's posts:

New Year's Eve 2007
New Year's Eve 2008
New Year's resolutions for 2009

New Year's resolutions for bereaved parents

This was passed on to me in an e-mail by a friend who's also a bereaved parent, & while I don't often pass chain e-mails on, I thought this was worth sharing:

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NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS FOR BEREAVED PARENTS

I Resolve:

That I will grieve as much and for as long as I feel like grieving, and that I will not let others put a time table on my grief.

That I will grieve in whatever way I feel like grieving, and I will ignore those who try to tell me what I should or should not be feeling and how I should or should not be behaving.

That I will cry whenever and wherever I feel like crying, and that I will not hold back my tears just because someone else feels I should be "brave" or "getting better" or "healing by now."

That I will talk about my child as often as I want to, and that I will not let others turn me off just because they can't deal with their own feelings.

That I will not expect family and friends to know how I feel, understanding that one who has not lost a child cannot possibly know how I feel.

That I will not blame myself for my child's death, and I will constantly remind myself that I did the best job of parenting I could possibly have done. But when feelings of guilt are overwhelming, I will remind myself that this is a normal part of the grief process and it will pass.

That I will not be afraid or ashamed to seek professional help if I feel it is necessary.

That I will commune with my child at least once a day in whatever way feels comfortable and natural to me, and that I won't feel compelled to explain this communion to others or to justify or even discuss it with them. * I will keep the truth in my heart -- the truth that my child is always with me in spirit.

That I will try to eat, sleep, and exercise every day in order to give my body strength it will need to help me cope with my grief.

To know that I am not losing my mind and I will remind myself that loss of memory, feelings of disorientation, lack of energy, and a sense of vulnerability are all a normal part of the grief process.

To know that I will heal, even though it will take a long time.

To let myself heal and not feel guilty about not feeling better sooner.

To remind myself that the grief process is circuitous -- that is, I will not make steady upward progress. And when I find myself slipping back into the old moods of despair and depression, I will tell myself that "slipping backward" is also a normal part of the mourning process, and that these moods, too, will pass.

To try to be happy about something for some part of every day, knowing that at first, I may have to force myself to think cheerful thoughts so eventually they can become a habit.

That I will reach out at times and try to help someone else, knowing that helping others will help me to get over my depression.

That even though my child is dead, I will opt for life, knowing that is what my child would want me to do.

~From the Brooksville/Spring Hill FL. TCF Newsletter
* Added by Faith :)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Show & Tell: Winter Wonderland


I didn't have to dream of a White Christmas; I actually had one. Which is nothing new, since I am from (& spend my Christmases in) a part of the world in which white Christmases are the norm. I can count on just a few fingers of one hand the number of Christmases I have had that were NOT white.

There was actually not a lot of snow when we first arrived -- but a few mornings into our trip, I woke up to find everything covered in hoarfrost. So pretty!!

Here is the view from my parents' front window of one of the neighbours' houses:


The huge mugho pine in the front yard:


It started snowing lightly on the night of Dec. 23rd. All through the day on Christmas Eve, the snowflakes continued to fall gently. Perfect.

And then we woke up on Christmas morning. I wouldn't call it a big blizzard -- I don't think we had anywhere near the amount of snow some people in the States had. But there was still snow. And it was blowing. Travel was not recommended. Thank goodness we were all safely together already.

In some parts of the yard, the snow drifted up quite high, depending on where the wind was blowing. Here's my dad using his favourite seasonal toy, his snowblower, to blow out the drifted snow on the back patio. You can see here how deep it got!


See what others are showing & telling this week at the Stirrup Queen's blog.

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By the way, I am still trying to catch up on my blog reading. Seems like no matter how long I sit at my computer lately, I never manage to crack the 700 unread posts mark. Eeeekk!!

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Christmas meme(s)

There have been a couple of cute Christmas memes going around, with some overlap. So I've done some combining & rearranging & voila! -- my One Big Christmas Meme. (Yes, I know, Christmas is over -- but I have Eastern European heritage, so I figure I get until Jan. 7th, lol.)

Egg nog or hot chocolate? Hot chocolate.

Do you like eggnog? I used to drink it (my grandmother made it), but haven't had it in years.

Wrapping paper or gift bags? I use both, but I love the look of a well-wrapped package.

Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? A mixture. The larger ones get wrapped, but things like toothbrushes, etc., go unwrapped into the stocking.

Real tree or artificial? Ours is artificial (we usually go away for the holidays & I wouldn't want to leave a real tree to dry out), but there is nothing quite like the real thing!!

When do you put up your tree/decorations? We try to do it the first weekend in December. Mom usually saves her tree for me to decorate when I get there, because she knows I love doing it.

How do you decorate your Christmas tree? White lights, gold bead garlands, ivory balls (which remind me of ones that Mom has) & then an assortment of ornaments collected through the years -- many of them Pooh or angel ornaments related to Katie. : ) I actually collect the classic Barbie ornaments that Hallmark puts out (the ones that look like the old-fashioned Barbies that my sister & I had), but I don't have room on the tree for them any more...!

Mom & Dad use the big old-fashioned coloured lights, & an assortment of ornaments that have been on our tree for years, dating back to when I was a baby. Bringing them out each year is one of my favourite Christmas traditions.

Colored lights or white lights? Our tree at home has the small white lights on it. Mom & Dad's has ancient coloured bulbs -- the big old-fashioned kind. Mom insists on having them. I think they remind her of her own childhood. I don't want to ask how old these are. I feel a little less nervous about them now that Mom & Dad have an artificial tree.

What tops your tree? An angel that we bought the first year we had a tree.

Mom & Dad have an old silver & red aluminum star with a hole in the centre for a Christmas light to go through that is as old or even older than I am. Every year Dad wants to get rid of it & every year Mom & I say no. Mom found a very similar one at a garage sale one year & wrapped it up & gave it to my Dad as a gag gift, lol. I appropriated it & we used it on our tree for a few years, but the connecting wires to it looked so old that I decided it was best we go back to the angel.

When do you take the tree down? Usually the first weekend in January. Although I figure I have until Jan. 7th (Orthodox Christmas). ; ) Or even Jan. 13th, which my Mom says is a Swedish holiday called "Little Christmas." (Yes, I am part Scandinavian too.)

Do you hang mistletoe? I have a couple of plastic mistletoe balls that I hang in the doorways to the kitchen & living room.

Do you have a Nativity scene? Sadly, no. I have been looking for one for years but I either don't like them or don't like the price tag. I am leaning towards splurging on the Willow one, though -- it's beautiful.

Mail or e-mail Christmas cards? Mail. This is the first year I haven't had my cards done before Christmas. I'll be doing them this week before I go back to work.

What is your favorite holiday dish? Mom's stuffing & gravy. I could care less about the mashed potatoes, just give me the stuffing & gravy, lol. I also love the cranberry-orange relish. Legend has it that when I was a toddler, I was literally caught red-handed, reaching up to the table & stuffing handfuls into my mouth.

Favorite holiday memory as a child? Waiting for my Grandpa to come (& all the presents he'd bring, lol). Also, the year I was in university & my parents gave me a stereo. I'd been bugging them forever about a stereo, but I never really thought they'd get me one. (I still have it! -- turntable & all...)

Most annoying thing about this time of year? The crowds everywhere, & how rude & short-tempered people can get sometimes.

Worst Christmas ever? I can't think of one that sticks out as really, really "bad." Christmas 1998 was obviously the saddest, as both my expected baby girl & my beloved grandfather -- whom I'd spent every Christmas of my life with -- were not there.

When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? Lori S. told me when we were both in Grade 3. I don't remember it being a huge shock. I probably had my suspicions already.

But I've never said that I don't believe. And he still keeps coming, lol.

Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? We open ALL our gifts on Christmas Eve (except the ones that Santa brings). My grandmother was Swedish & that is their custom. When we were kids, we were allowed to open one gift before dinner (just to keep us quiet, lol). The rule was always that we had to eat dinner & finish washing the dishes before we could start opening presents.

Snow! Love it or dread it? Well, I honestly believe it wouldn't be Christmas without some snow on the ground. But believe me, by late January, the thrill is definitely gone...!

Can you ice skate? I can! At least, I could, lol. (I think it's a requirement of Canadian citizenship, lol.) I don't think I've put on skates in more than 25 years, but I'm sure it would come back to me if I got out there again. I've roller skated since the last time I ice skated (although I haven't done THAT in many, many years either...!) & it wasn't too hard to get used to. I learned to skate on a backyard rink in a pair of borrowed hockey skates when I was about 3, & I took figure skating for several years when I was a kid.

When do you start shopping for Christmas? The intentions are always good, but I rarely get started before December.

Have you ever recycled a gift? I don't think so. I may have passed along some extra chocolate I've been given. Some have gone to Goodwill after an appropriate interval.

Do you remember your favorite gift? See "Favourite holiday memory," above.

Hardest person to buy for? My dad.

Easiest person to buy for? My sister.

What do you want for Christmas this year? I didn't have much of a list. Most of what I REALLY want I will buy for myself. I love pretty sweaters & I always get a few of those.

Travel at Christmas or stay at home? Travel. I've managed to spend every Christmas of my life with my family so far. Knock wood!!

What's the most important thing about the holidays for you? Being together with my family & just enjoy our time together, indulging in our family traditions.

What is your favorite holiday dessert? Love my Mom's shortbread.

Candy canes…good or bad? Love them. I used to buy a box & use them as tree decorations (& then eat them off the tree, lol).

What is your favorite holiday tradition? I love them all!

Which do you prefer: giving or receiving? I have fun giving (especially when I really hit the mark with my gift)... but I will admit, it's also fun to receive!

Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Yes.

What's the weather usually like where you live on Christmas Eve? We are usually with my parents on Christmas Eve... and it is almost guaranteed that there will be snow. I could probably count the number of Christmases I've had without snow on just a few fingers of one hand. (This year, there was snow on Christmas Eve which turned into a snowSTORM on Christmas Day.)

What is your favorite Christmas song? I love Christmas music... a few favourites would include "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)".... "I'll Be Home for Christmas"... "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Of the traditional carols, probably "Silent Night."

Saddest Christmas song? I love "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (especially as sung by Judy Garland) but if you listen to it or see it in the movie ("Meet Me in St. Louis"), gosh, it's sad. Of the traditional carols, I find it hard to sing or listen to "Away in a Manger" these days, for obvious reasons...

Favorite Christmas show? TV show: A Charlie Brown Christmas (bring on the Kleenex). Movie: tough one: "It's a Wonderful Life," "A Christmas Story" & I also like "The Bishop's Wife" (the original b&w with Cary Grant, David Niven & Loretta Young).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

History repeating itself

Exactly 30 (!!) years ago, December 1979, I was just finishing up the first semester of my first year at university. All my classes ended early in December, like around Dec. 4th. No exams, all my term papers were done.

I went home to my family. I had a whole month before I had to return, & the time stretched out ahead of me like a huge blank slate. What to do with myself? My sister was still in high school, which wasn't finished for another 2-3 weeks, and many of my best friends were also her friends, in the same school. Many of the friends from my own class were still away at university. My mother was working part-time. I was afraid I'd be bored just hanging around the house. And I figured some extra money might be nice to have.

So I went to the local mall, where I'd had a part-time job in Grade 12, working at Woolco (which was bought out by Walmart some years later), found my old boss & asked whether they'd need any help over the next few weeks.

Be careful what you wish for. They hired me on the spot, full-time hours for the Christmas season. I worked in the hardware department (my old stomping grounds, ludicrous as it may seem...!) & the sporting goods department (even more so...!). It was right next to the music department, which played the same Barbra Streisand Christmas album over & over & over & over again. I like Streisand, but to this day, I cannot hear her singing "Jingle Bells" without wanting to climb a wall.

On the first business day after the holidays, they put me on cash at one of the front checkouts for the Boxing Day sale. I gained huge sympathy that day for harried clerks dealing with long lineups of frazzled customers & bargain seekers who question every price that gets keyed in. I collected my paycheque before I headed back to school & vowed that I would never do THAT again. Christmastime is to be enjoyed!!

Needless to say, I wish I had listened more carefully to my younger self. Although, to be fair to myself, when I agreed to do a freelance proofreading project last fall, I never dreamed I would still be working on it at Christmastime. I was first approached about the project -- a book -- back in late September (!). Back & forth we went with e-mails. I got a preliminary copy & supplied a quote in early/mid-November. I didn't actually get the go-ahead & receive the finished manuscript to read until Nov. 30th -- and by then, of course, I was waist-deep in year-end madness at my day job & running around with Christmas preparations & events in the evening.

I was pretty accurate with my estimate of how long it would take to read the book itself -- but then I was asked to also check the index. I vastly underestimated the amount of time THAT would take. I finished reading the manuscript late last night, & sent it back (with an invoice) today -- just as the work week winds down, and holidays at my parents looms on the not-so-distant horizon.

So between my actual job, this additional project, and the wonderful madness that is the Christmas season, I have been extremely busy and highly stressed for the past several weeks. Last weekend I was on the go from the moment I got up until I collapsed in bed later that night. I didn't turn on my computer at home for four full days (a new record for me, I think...!). My blog reader's unread post totals have reached previously unfathomable heights (& I'm sorry if I've missed out on some news you've had to share). I've been crying at the drop of a hat (although I tend to do that anyway at this sentimental time of year).

But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Three more sleeps, & the holidays await. I can't wait to sleep in, to catch up on my reading (blogs & books), & to eat my Mom's fabulous turkey with stuffing & gravy.

And, maybe when I get back, a nice fat freelancing cheque will be waiting for me. I am going to thoroughly enjoy that!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bah humbug, continued

So many blog posts in my head; so little time. It has been a busy week at work &, with a key date coming up on Tuesday, next week will likely be more of the same. This weekend, I've also been working on a freelance project that I was first contacted about in September (!) & thought would be long over by now. Less than two weeks before I see my family, & I have not bought one Christmas gift or addressed one card. :(

Dh & I did, however, get the tree put up & decorated yesterday, while listening to Christmas music on the stereo -- so all is not completely Scrooge around here.

Which reminds me, we went to see the new version of "A Christmas Carol" last week, in which Jim Carrey plays Scrooge (as well as the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present & Future). I've seen quite a few different versions of the story & this one ranks right up there. (It's done in a semi-animated style, a la "The Polar Express.") Of course, it's such a powerful story in any format, & I will admit to needing Kleenex at several points.

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It's December 6th, which is a significant date in Canada. Today, it's known as Canada's National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women. That's because, 20 years ago today, Mark Lepine burst into an engineering classroom at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, separated the women from the men, accused them of being "feminists" & opened fire. Fourteen promising young lives were cut short before Lepine turned his gun on himself.

I remember that day -- which eventually became known as "the Montreal Massacre" -- all too well, watching the news reports on TV that night, the growing horror of the realization that the women had been singled out as targets. There have been some excellent articles in the newspapers over the past few days looking back on the event, & on the lessons learned (and, sadly, forgotten). The one that touched me most deeply was featured on the front page of ysterday's Toronto Star. Before the shooting started, Nathalie Provost spoke up. She told him, "We're not feminists."
Provost was one of the lucky four who survived. "At the time, I thought to be a feminist meant you had to be militant," says Provost... She was the young woman who, from her hospital bed a couple days later, urged Canadian girls to not be frightened by the event and to pursue engineering careers. She was also my introduction to feminism in life, not just theory. And to the concept that the personal is political.

"I realized many years later that in my life and actions, of course I was a feminist. I was a woman studying engineering and I held my head up."
I've always been proud to call myself a feminist, and found her words heartwarming. It's a great article. Read the rest of it here.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Perfect Moment Monday: A perfect (Canadian) moment


Here are the elements that added up to my perfect (and perfectly Canadian) moment last night:

* Watching the 97th annual Grey Cup -- the storied annual championship game of the Canadian Football League (AKA "the Grand National Drunk").

* Cheering for the Saskatchewan Roughriders vs the Montreal Alouettes (I lived in Saskatchewan 1963-69)(we'll conveniently overlook the fact that they LOST, & in the dumbest, most awful way in the very last seconds of the game...).

* A stadium full of delirious Saskatchewan fans (the most rabid in the league, clad in green & white & sporting watermelons on their heads)(don't ask...). (Here's an explanatory video clip, if you really want to know know...)

* Blue Rodeo, one of Canada's most beloved bands, playing the halftime show, singing three songs voted on by the fans: "Till I Am Myself Again," "Hasn't Hit Me Yet," and "Lost Together."

* Putting down my ironing, grabbing my dh & slowdancing together in the living room, singing along. ("Try" -- which they didn't play -- is one of "our" songs.)

* Seeing the fans on the field & in the stands doing the same thing.

Life doesn't get much more perfect than that. And I think the only thing that would have made it an even more Canadian moment would have been some snowflakes in the air, lol. (Don't worry, they're coming...)

For more Perfect Moments, visit Weebles Wobblog.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Radio segment: Infertility's double whammy

A friend who has had her own struggles with pregnancy loss (but is now the proud mom of a 4-year-old boy) recently sent me the link to a podcast from the BBC Woman's Hour radio program, on a topic she knew would be of interest to me: "Grandchildlessness: Infertility's double whammy." (Ah, yes -- so much to (NOT) look forward to...!!)

I thought the interviewer & the guests hit all the right notes:
  • the continuing bonds one feels to children who are dead, or who never arrived in the first place;
  • how you live with infertility every day of your life, whether or not you ultimately succeed at building a family;
  • how the pain rises up at various, often unexpected times;
  • the ugliness of envying others for their families.

Have a listen, here. It's about 10 minutes long. (And if you do, tell me: is there a pink cartoon sheep icon on your screen?? Gave me a chuckle...)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

If I'd known then...


(Photo: Our nephews -- older, left, & younger, right, wearing their Team Italia World Cup soccer T-shirts -- in June 2006 in their Nonno's garden.)

Last Saturday night, dh & I met up at FIL's house with his brother, our SIL & their youngest son, who is (gulp) 17 & applying for university for next year. His older brother -- who will be 21 (21!! & "legal" everywhere!!) in just a few short weeks -- was out with his GIRLFRIEND. (We were supposed to meet her at Thanksgiving, but she had her own family obligations -- or so we were told, lol.)

I marvelled, not for the first time and not (I'm sure) for the last, at what wonderful young men our nephews are growing up to be. (Not to mention good looking.)(Is there just the slightest chance that I could be a TEENY tiny bit prejudiced??) And at how quickly the years fly by.

One of my big regrets about the years I spent dealing with loss & infertility is that, by focusing so much on my own baby drama, I may have missed out on some precious opportunities to connect with our nephews when they were younger.

Now, overall, I think we've been a good aunt & uncle to them. We've been there for every one of older nephew's birthdays & most of younger nephew's. We give generous presents for birthdays & Christmas, & slip them the odd $10 or $20 when we see them. We make a point of getting together at least every couple of weeks.

And we were there beside BIL & SIL when older nephew graduated from high school three years ago. Curiously, neither set of grandparents seemed interested. I was dumbfounded, remembering the special celebration my parents hosted for my own high school graduation. I was glad to be able to make a bit of a fuss over nephew's.

And I've taken photos. Lots & lots of photos of both of them over the years. I have probably taken 98% of the photos that exist of those two boys. Dh & I gave BIL & SIL a camera for Christmas just after older nephew was born, but they never seemed to use it much -- something I just couldn't fathom. I grew up in a family where, long before digital cameras or scrapbooking, my grandmother & mother would say, "Get the camera!" My childhood was perhaps not quite as well documented as many children's are today, but there ARE photos. There aren't many of dh & his brother growing up. Different culture, perhaps -- plus, there wasn't a lot of money around in their family for things like photos. And many of the photos that did get taken got sent to relatives in Italy.

So I've been the "family photographer." Haven't been around for their first day of school or Halloween or numerous everyday moments -- but I've been there for the main stuff -- birthdays and first communions and confirmations and family picnics. Since taking up scrapbooking several years ago, I've been working on scrapbooks for both the boys. Older nephew has two volumes, taking him up to his 5th birthday, & younger nephew has one that's entirely made of photos of his first year. I was tickled to hear they've actually shown them to their friends. I wasn't sure what they would think -- being teenaged boys -- but I figured that their mom & maybe their future wives would love them. ; )

And we had youngest nephew overnight when he was about 10. He was playing little league baseball that summer, & he and his teammates got free tickets to a Sunday afternoon Blue Jays game. He wanted to go, but neither BIL or SIL could take him. So they called and asked dh if he would take him. We talked about the logistics involved, & nephew piped up, "Maybe I could sleep over." Dh & I looked at each other & said, "Of course you can!" I think he was curious about us & how we lived. We met up with his family at FIL's on the Saturday & took him home with us. I took him over to the dollar store & told him he could have anything he wanted. He chose a small hackysack ball for exactly one dollar & played with it all weekend. That night, we all sat on the couch watching "South Park" (a bad choice in retrospect -- although nephew swore his parents let him watch it -- there was a Terrence & Phillip storyline in which they mentioned -- ahem -- "so.do.my". "What's that?" asked nephew. Dh told him to ask his parents, lol.) "So -- this is what you do?" nephew asked. I think he thought our life would be more exciting, lol. (Me too, sometimes.)

The next day dh took him on the train into the city & to the SkyDome (whoops, Rogers Centre) for the game. He realized their seats were in the nosebleed section, & when he overheard someone at the ticket window asking if they could trade up their seats, he thought, "Great idea!" They got seats in the 100 section behind first base. As they walked into the stadium, in time to watch batting practice, nephew whispered to dh, "It feels like we're walking into heaven!!" They arrived home just ahead of BIL & SIL & older nephew, coming to pick younger nephew up. He was beaming, bearing player autographs, a bobblehead doll, a pennant, cap & other paraphernalia. "Best $100 I ever spent, " dh told me.

But.

I don't always feel as close to them as I'd like to. Part of that is my natural reserve, and their natural shyness, espeically around girls (of all ages). Part of that, I think, is because they're boys. I loved playing with them when they were little and, for awhile, I KNOW I was their favourite. ; ) But as they got older and their play grew more rough-&-tumble, they naturally gravitated more to dh. I found I related much better to dh's cousin's little girls -- we could play board games & Barbie dolls together for hours.

While we did have youngest nephew stay overnight that one time, I never had older nephew overnight, or both of them together. I thought about it, but it never came to fruition -- and then, poof! They were teenagers, & weren't really interested anymore (if they ever were). Partly because we have a small house & I'd have to clear off the bed in the spare bedroom ; ) but mostly, I think, because the responsibility terrified me. FIL & stepMIL (who live a 15-minute drive from us) had them for several weekends when they were growing up, & dh & I would often step in & take the boys out for awhile to give them a break. Dh took them to Toys R Us once -- ONCE!! (a memorable experience!! -- I warned him!!) -- & we took them to McDonalds and Swiss Chalet for dinner several times. We babysat them when their parents went to weddings.

I think about my own relationships with my aunts & uncles, and great-aunts & uncles. There are some I'm closer to than others, some I saw more than others (& not always a correlation between the two factors). When I was younger, though, I think I took the relationships for granted. Aunts & uncles were just THERE. I didn't live close to any of my aunts & uncles until I was a teenager, but I still managed to see them several times a year, especially during holidays and at the usual family weddings & such. It wasn't until I got older that I think I really started to appreciate the relationships & truly look forward to seeing them, to sitting at the table with them over dinner or coffee & listening to their stories of the past and of relatives long gone now.

I'm thinking (hoping?) that may well be the case with our nephews, too.

But. If I could take those years back, I'd make more of an effort. I'd have them both over for more sleepovers, to dye Easter eggs and carve Halloween pumpkins. I'd make sure we showed up at oldest nephew's karate graduation, & younger nephew's baseball games. I'm sorry we didn't make it to either when they were growing up. I kept thinking those would be things I'd do with my own kids, so I didn't place as much importance on doing them with the nephews first. And now it's too late.

I hope they will think fondly enough of us to look in on us once in awhile when we're old & in the personal care home, and maybe invite us over for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

We had a good time last Saturday night at FIL's. Some Saturday nights, it seems we spend more time watching the hockey game on TV than talking, but that night, there were lots of stories, lots of laughs, lots of talk about younger nephew's future. I had saved the recent Macleans university rankings issue for him, & he sat at the table flipping through it.

When we left that night, we hugged, as usual. But nephew gave me a big smile, and I thought there was a touch of something more than just the obligatory in his hug.

Maybe there's hope for some visitors in the old folks' home yet. : )

Monday, November 23, 2009

November blahs


Time once again for what seems to be fast becoming an annual tradition on this blog -- my "I hate November" post. ; ) As I explained that first year, early in my blogging career, November has always been my second-least-favourite month, ranking higher only than February -- a month by which time I am generally totally sick of winter -- redeemed only by the knowledge that Christmas is just around the corner.

November has always seemed grey & melancholy after the bright colours and milder weather of September & October (although the weather has been unnervingly balmy so far this year). Maybe it's the time change early in the month, which means we head to work before the sun rises and arrive home just as the last rays are fading in the west. Maybe it's the month's association with Remembrance Day -- the solemn cenotaph ceremonies and mournful bagpipe music every year. Or, in the dimly remembered days of my toddlerhood, the Kennedy assassination (46 years ago yesterday).

In Canada, we have no Thanksgiving holiday (or Black Friday bargains) to look forward to either -- already been there, done that, ate the turkey in October. Maybe that's part of it too -- reading everyone's posts about their Thanksgiving plans with their families; thinking about those days, so long ago now, when my mom would pull my sister & me out of school for a few days & head down to my grandparents' in Minnesota for our second turkey dinner of the season. The warmth of my grandparents' tiny old house, always the smell of coffee percolating on the gas stove, the laughter around the kitchen table over an after-dinner card game. Gosh, I'm getting teary-eyed just writing these words. I miss them so much. :(

In 1998, I thought I'd finally have something to look forward to in November -- the birth of our daughter. But that never happened and, along with being the busiest month of the year for me at work, November became a month of sadly unfulfilled promise for me.

I know I never liked November much before Katie. And I've worked at this job long enough that I know (and if not, I should know) how the month is going to unfold. But why does November still have the power to bug me so much?

I think the month is still tainted for me by the lingering feeling of being cheated. I was cheated out of a baby. I was cheated out of all of the experiences that go along with being a parent, good and bad. I was cheated out of the joy of that first wonderful Christmas. Cheated out of the fun of taking her for a picture with Santa. Cheated out of the joy of dressing her up in red velvet and buying her a Christmas stocking. Cheated out of walking off the plane with her, bundled up in a snowsuit, & placing her in the arms of my parents & grandparents.

And cheated out of getting away from the drudgery of work -- just for that one year. I can remember feeling positively gleeful when I figured out that my November due date meant I would probably get to skip most, if not all, of the year-end rush at work. And needless to say, while going back to work would have been tough no matter what the date, knowing that I was going to have to slog through the usual year-end stuff after all, after thinking I was going to get away scot-free, was a psychological blow from which I don't think I've ever quite recovered.

I know, I know -- maternity leave is not a vacation. And we're very fortunate to get such a long maternity leave, compared to women in the States (nine months then, a whole year now, most of it at least partly paid). And I DO like my job, for the most part. Heck, with so many people out of work right now, I know I'm damn lucky to have one, and such a good one at that. And we always manage to muddle through this busy time, somehow. Eventually, everything manages to get done.

But it ticks me off that I've paid so many years into Employment Insurance (which funds maternity leave). Needless to say, I'm never going to need it for mat leave purposes, & they've tightened up the regulations so much in recent years, I doubt I'll ever be able to collect it if I ever lost my job.

My girlfriend worked for a provincial government for many years & was able to take not just one but two paid year-long sabbaticals (funded through a deferred salary program) -- one when her children were small, & one a few years ago, when her oldest was a teenager. That summer, she bought a used camper van & drove with her two daughters from coast to coast to coast, across Canada and back again. What an experience! I would LOVE to be able to do something like that.

I guess I've just been at this job for so many years, I know what to expect -- and at this time of year, it just ain't pretty, no two ways about it. I find myself looking longingly at the magazines, full of beautifully decorated houses and gaily decorated cookies, and at scrapbooking magazines & blogs, full of wonderful ideas for holiday mini-albums and homemade cards and other cute craft projects -- projects that look like lots of fun, something to set the holiday mood -- that I simply do NOT have time for. If I can get my Christmas shopping done, the tree up & decorated, some cards mailed before I get on the plane to head to Mom & Dad's, and maybe catch "A Charlie Brown Christmas" on TV, I consider myself Superwoman.

It's bad enough that I don't have kids to give meaning to the season (at least, that's what everyone tells me -- "Christmas is for kids," right?)(bah humbug....). Even if I don't have kids, I feel like I still deserve a little fun somewhere along the way -- & right now, I'm just not having much of it. :p

OK, whine over. Thanks for letting me vent. I DO have a few things to look forward to in December, & it's not that far away...!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Something else related to "11"


Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and...

Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?

Nigel: Exactly.

Marty: Does that mean it's louder? Is it any louder?

Nigel: Well, it's one louder, isn't it? It's not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You're on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?

Marty: I don't know.

Nigel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?

Marty: Put it up to eleven.

Nigel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.

Marty: Why don't you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?

Nigel: [pause] These go to eleven.

Memorable scene from This is Spinal Tap (1984) -- one of my favourites! (It's been running through my head all week...!)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Eleven

Today was my due date in 1998 (the original one of several I was given). It could have been today, or earlier, or later -- but in an alternate universe of happy endings, sometime about now, Katie would have been celebrating her 11th birthday. I saw the Little Girl Next Door outside on her bicycle today, and wondered once again whether she & Katie would have been friends & pictured the two of them together at Katie's birthday party.

My due date, for me, has never had quite the same significance as my loss dates. It's a lot harder for me to imagine what might have been than to remember what was. Emotionally, I don't think it's ever packed the same sort of punch for me (except maybe surviving it, that very first year).

But I couldn't help but think of our little girl today & wonder (for the millionth time) about what might have been. It was a nice day outside, and dh & I took advantage of it by venturing out into our big, kid-friendly but little-used backyard and raking up the leaves that have fallen off the trees over the past few weeks.

One of the trees is "Katie's tree." We didn't start out to plant a tree in Katie's memory. The neighbours have some big maple trees that overhang our yard, & from time to time, the maple keys will sprout in my backyard flower beds & planters into little miniature trees. I normally pull them up without much thought. About a year after we lost Katie, one such hardy sprout made it through the winter unpulled, & had gotten so large that dh took a shine to it and decided to plant it as "Katie's tree." I wasn't sure it would survive (& it pained me to think of the tree meeting the same fate as its namesake -- which is why we didnt' plant a tree in her memory before that) -- but it did. It grew & grew, tall and straight, and must be at least 30 feet high now. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of it to show you here -- must remember to take one sometime!

So I looked up at Katie's tree & marvelled at how big it's grown -- just as I'm sure I would have been marvelling at my daughter, if she were here. Dh & I raked 11 bags full of leaves -- which somehow seemed entirely appropriate. ; ) We showered & went out for dinner & toasted our daughter with Coke.

I can't believe she'd be 11.

Last year's post (10 years old)

Two years ago (9 years old)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Run to your TV set!

Catching up on some blog reading, & I see from my Google Reader that this weekend's guest on Bill Moyers Journal -- a favourite show of mine & dh's, as I've blogged about previously -- will be the multi-talented actress-playwright Anna Deavere Smith, who is currently starring in a one-woman play in New York about health care -- "Let Me Down Easy," in which she recreates the voices of 20 real people grappling with illness and mortality.

In a featured quote on Moyers' blog, Smith explained what her production is about (boldface emphasis mine):


“LET ME DOWN EASY is about grace and kindness in a world that lacks that often, [but] not always. And a winner-takes-all world, where we don't think about the people who are losing. We don't think about the people who are abandoned by jobs or governments or lovers or mothers or fathers. [It’s] a call for that kind of grace and kindness and consideration and the metaphor, I think, of death as the ultimate form of loss, possibly our greatest fear – the ultimate form of abandonment. And that in this country we have a hard time looking at death and we have a hard time looking at loss and we have a hard time looking at losing. And I think that doesn't help us be the most caring environment.”

You can see why I thought this program would be interesting. ; ) The Journal is on most PBS stations on Friday nights -- so if you're reading this right now, you may be able to catch it. My local station shows it Sundays at noon -- I hope to see it then! You can often find clips & transcripts from the show on the website later, so if you missed it and think you might find it interesting, check back there later.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

LOVE getting awards! ; )


The lovely Dot/Sweet Pea at Hopes & Dreams for Us was kind enough to bestow an award on me last week. Here's how it goes:

All we need is a little LOVE! The rules for this award is simple. 
I LOVE YOU = 8 letters which gives you 8 rules :)
Here are the rules:


1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award and write a little bit about why you love them.

I already thanked Dot on her blog, but am happy to thank her again here. : ) I believe I found her blog a few months ago, when I noticed her on my list of followers. I learned that she too has taken the difficult step of stopping IF treatment & trying to live without children. Her upbeat, positive attitude & pleasure in the good things about her childfree life is a huge inspiration.

2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog. (See above)

3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.


(See hyperlinks above.)

4. Nominate no more than 17 people you think could use some love.


5. Write one word (you can only use a word once) about what you love about their blog.


6. You cannot nominate someone who has already been nominated-the love has to spread to all.

7. Post links to the 17 blogs you nominate.

Like Dot, I will nominate 5! I don't believe any of them have been nominated for this yet. I also tried to pick people that I haven't tagged for an award before (or at least, not lately, lol):

1. Heather @ Rising & Setting: perseverance

2. Mrs. Spit @ Mrs. Spit Spouts Off: eloquence

3. Silya @ A Real Life: intelligence

4. Quiet Dreams @ Dreaming of Quiet Places: courage

5. Luna @ Life From Here: Musings from the Edge: thoughfulness

8. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they’ve been nominated.

(I will, as soon as I hit "publish," lol.)

Thank you, again!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Show & Tell: This year's Christmas card


As I explained in a Show & Tell post last year about my Christmas card strategy, I almost always know my Christmas card for the year when I see it. In past years, Classic Pooh has been a favourite theme, but Pooh designs seem to be in short supply this year, at least hereabouts.

I found my last year's card at a Chapters/Indigo store, and I saw one design I liked at a Chapters store, during the week that we were on vacation last month. Mid-October seemed a tad early to be buying Christmas cards, though (!!), & I decided to look around just a little bit longer. I'm glad I did, because another Indigospirit store I was browsing in recently had a card I had not yet seen at the other store -- one that stopped me dead in my tracks to say, "Yes, THAT one."

I went back & practically cleared out their supply today. (It's STILL awfully early, but I didn't want to go back two weeks from now & not be able to find it.) Like last year's card, it's by Papyrus. It's called "Little Boy Pulling Red Sled" -- but I think it could very easily be a little GIRL pulling the sled, don't you? ; )

The message inside reads, "May the simple joys of the season be yours/Happy Holidays."

It was more expensive than the Hallmark cards I usually buy -- but so worth it.

To see what others are showing & telling this week, pop over to the Stirrup Queen's blog.

Monday, November 2, 2009

(A Place to) Hide Away

After writing that last post earlier in the day, the fragment of a song, in Karen Carpenter's achingly beautiful, crystalline voice, started sounding from the recesses of my memory: "I need to find a place to hide away."

So I Googled "The Carpenters lyrics I need a place to hide away" & up popped the lyrics to "Hideaway," from a 1971 album by The Carpenters -- which I still have somewhere, in vinyl (but haven't played in many years).

Tonight at home, I did some more Googling & on You Tube I found this clip from 1971, from their summer TV series, "Make Your Own Kind of Music" (which I remember watching at my grandmother's house). She was just 21 years old when she sang this.

I always loved The Carpenters, & I have several of their albums. The one Christmas (1983) that dh & I were apart, before we were married, I listened to "Merry Christmas Darling" obsessively. God, what a voice. What a loss to the world when she died.

Hideaway

I've got to find a place to hideaway
Far from the shadows of my mind
Sunlight and laughter, love ever after
For how I long to find a place to hideaway

I hear you whisper and I must obey,
Blindly follow where you'll be
Knowing tomorrow brings only sorrow
Where can I go to find a place to hideaway

Bright colored pinwheels go round in my head
I run through the mist of the wine
The night and the music remind me instead
The world once was mine

I'll save my pennies for a rainy day
But where can I buy another you?
Dreams are for sleeping
Love is for weeping
Oh, how I long to find a place to hideaway.

The world beyond my front door


Talk about cocooning. I think dh & I could be the poster children for it. Most nights, we come home from work (perhaps stopping at the supermarket en route to pick up whatever we need for dinner that night), close the front door & don't open it again until the next morning. Especially at this time of the year, when the weather gets cold and dark.

Safe and snug inside our cozy cocoon, it's easy to shut out the rest of the world, to focus on each other, and on the good things we share in our life together.

Even if we don't have the children we once dreamed about.

One summer evening, a few years ago, we had to go out around 7:30 p.m. As we drove past several schools, we were somewhat amazed at what we saw. Streets lined with cars, spilling out of parking lots. Field after field, full of children in motion, wearing brightly covered jerseys, playing soccer or baseball. Throngs of parents standing or sitting along the sidelines, in canvas lawn chairs, clutching portable mugs of coffee and video cameras, cheering them on.

It really hit me then: there was a whole world out there that, until that point -- sheltered as we were in our cozy, childless cocoon -- we really weren't aware existed. (Dimly, perhaps, but not in a real, tangible way.) A world beyond our grasp, beyond our comprehension.

I was reminded of that day a few weeks ago, when we were on vacation. We decided to get up early (the vacation equivalent of early!) one day & take the train into the city. Normally, we head for the train around 6:30 a.m.; this day, it was two hours later. On the main road near our house, there are two high schools -- a Catholic high school to the north of us and a public high school to the south of us.

At 6:30 a.m., the sidewalks are mostly empty, aside from the occasional early morning jogger or dogwalker. At 8:30 a.m., the sidewalks were teaming with teenagers, travelling in both directions -- lugging backpacks, shivering in too-thin jackets, kilts hiked thigh-high (Catholic) and jeans slung low (public), sneaking cigarettes and trying to look cool (both)(some things never change in 30+ years….). Traffic, too, was much heavier, much to dh's amazement. Once again, we marvelled at this whole world that we were unaware of, coming to life while we were already at work in our cubicles in the city.

I had similar thoughts as I watched the excited trick or treaters outside my door on Saturday night, beaming parents bearing cameras hovering behind them. (Smile on my face. Tears occasionally stinging at my eyes.)

There's a whole world beyond my doorstep that I really know nothing about (just as they know very little about the life dh & I lead).

We might have ideas about what each other's lives are like. We can guess. We can speculate. But we don't really know.

I can watch. I can observe. I can hover around the edges. I suppose if I really wanted to, I could venture out with a friend or relative while they take their children trick or treating.

But it wouldn't be the same.

It's a world I cannot really enter, can't really take part in.

A world that briefly tantallized me, with all of its promises.

A world that isn't, and never will be, mine.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Blogoversary #2!

Two years ago last night, I took the plunge. I'd been setting things up for a day or so, but after the trick-or-treaters had gone home and we closed the front door and turned off the lights, I came upstairs to the computer & hit "publish" on my very first blog post.

I intended to do the same last night -- but after the last kids had left our doorstep & we closed up shop for the night, I got watching "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" on TV for the umpteenth time -- & after a half-hour of that, following a full day of cleaning, laundry & getting ready for the big night ahead, I was exhausted, so I crawled into bed around 10.

(I've only ever seen the entire movie all the way through once or twice -- including once at a decrepid old theatre on Main Street in downtown Winnipeg in about 1982, where we squirted water pistols & hurled toast & toilet paper & yelled at the screen (and Winnipeggers will know what I mean when I talk about Main Street -- I kept my feet off the floor through almost the entire movie because I was afraid a rat would run over it). But whenever it's on -- which is usually on or around Halloween -- I simply have to watch it, at least up to "Time Warp" (which was always played at our university residence socials) followed by Tim Curry strutting his stuff through "Sweet Transvestite," & I'm good for another year.)

("Phantom of the Paradise" was on at 11, but I couldn't stay awake for that. It was a huge, HUGE hit when I was in junior high in the mid-1970s -- I can still sing along to the soundtrack. I did not realize until many years later that it was actually a flop everywhere in the world except, oddly, for Winnipeg/Manitoba. Go figure. Anyone else ever see it? )

Anyway -- including that very first post and this one, it's now 330 posts later. (165 posts a year, about 14 a month or one every other day on average. Not bad.) When I wrote that very first post, I stated two intentions: (1) to add my voice to the few I could find, articulating the view of women (& men) who remain childless/free after infertility, & (2) to participate in Mel's next book tour. Although I didn't articulate it at the time, I was also looking for an outlet as I approached the 10-year "anniversary" of my daughter's stillbirth.

I've written about all these things and more -- some IF/loss related, some not. And I've loved every minute of it. I don't always get to write (or to read or comment on your blogs) as often as I like -- "real life" has this nasty habit of intruding, lol -- but, as I said last year, on the occasion of Blogoversary #1:
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.
Thanks again for reading/listening & commenting!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

And this year's most popular Halloween costume is...

...Octomom! Put on a long dark wig (& maybe a big pair of sunglasses), & a snuggli filled with eight baby dolls, and voila!

Someone posted a photo they'd seen on a message board I frequent, & now at least two people on the board have picked up the idea & are making their own Octomom costumes for Halloween parties, or to wear when trick or treating with their kids.

Part of me thinks it's hilarious, & a brilliant idea.

Part of me cringes. I hate to see that woman get any more publicity than she already has. I hate to see infertility and multiple births treated as a joke.

(Last year, the costume du jour was Sarah Palin: put your hair up in a librarian's bun, add a pair of glasses & wear a business suit with an American flag pin. And lipstick. Very important.)

Last year, I posted about how unexpectedly painful Halloween was for me. I honestly don't know how I feel about it this year. I guess I'll find out soon enough.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What do Iraq war veterans and bereaved moms have in common?

I've read so many great articles lately where I keep thinking, "I should blog about this." And then the paper gets thrown out & I can't remember which paper it was in, etc.

Fortunately, I did make note of this one. The New York Times has a great blog called Home Fires: American Veterans on the Post-War Life, which features personal stories from Iraq war veterans. A recent entry described the challenges faced by soldiers who are re-adjusting to the civilian world. After it was published, the blog received many comments from Vietnam war vets, describing their own returns to civilian life. Some of these were highlighted in a separate blog entry, titled Coming Home Again.

On the surface, these men have nothing or very little in common with me & my readers (infertility, pregnancy loss). But reading some of their comments, I was struck once again by the "transferrability of trauma," & how much we have in common with others who have been through a traumatic experience, even though the circumstances of those experiences may be very different.

Here are a few of the quotes I could most relate to from Coming Home Again. (You'll probably see why when you read them.):


To Brian Turner, all I can say is that four decades since the year that lanced through my life, I’ve never really talked about it to anyone. I don’t recommend that. What you are doing is good. It is not that we “get over” things like this or “find ourselves” again. It is more that out of the shards and bits and broken pieces — those museum uniforms isolated behind glass — something new is fused, grown. We become what we were but so much other and hopefully more, the more having the insight of the “sailor home from the sea.”

Yeah, it would have been nice if we’d have come back as a unit and someone had walked up and said, “Welcome home” and “Do you want some coffee?” Almost
makes me cry.

— Posted by Robert S

These days I work with trauma survivors who have P.T.S.D. If they are military veterans, Blackwater cast-offs, rape victims, or clergy abuse survivors, they all have the same P.T.S.D.... Rituals help us heal from our P.T.S.D. trauma, regardless of how we got it. Native American rituals and traditional rituals help nourish and heal the soul.

Best advice to help someone with P.T.S.D.: If they talk to you about their experiences, just shut up and listen without judgment. Don’t interrupt and tell them about your own sorrows or you know someone like that. It may be the one time they are able to talk about it and heal. Don’t shut it off. Second piece of advice: sustained prayer.

— Posted by John Zemler

I felt as if I had snuck back into the U.S. from Vietnam in ‘71. My family was proud of me, but they tiptoed around a lot of questions... in a casual conversation with an Air Force colonel, he asked if I had ever served in the armed forces. I said yes, and he did the mental math and asked if I had been to Vietnam. When I said “yes” he just said “thank you.” That was the first and only time anyone had ever said that to me. I cried...

I think the Bush-era ban on returning ceremonies for soldiers killed in action bordered on criminal neglect. The British publicly honor every fallen soldier returning home. I suspect they do a better job of honoring all of their soldiers. I wish America would too.

— Posted by Robert Easton


*** *** ***

I left in that last pargraph, even though it doesn't really relate to the rest of the post, because it reminded me of the repatriation ceremonies that take place at a Canadian air force base, about an hour down the road from where I live. Each time a Canadian soldier is killed in Afghanistan -- and there have been more than 130 since the Afghan mission began in 2002 -- his or her body is flown to this base, where there is a "repatriation ceremony." The body is then carried in a convoy down Highway 401 to the coroner's office in Toronto, after which it is released to the family for burial. (Initially, the Conservative government -- taking their cue from the Bush government, no doubt -- wanted to ban news media from the ceremonies. They backed down after a bereaved father voiced his objections.)

Canadians are not generally a flag-waving people. But something amazing began to happen. Members of the public began lining the fence at the base to show their support for the soldiers' families. And people from communities along the 401 began to gather on the highway overpasses, bearing Canadian flags, and paying their respects as the procession passed by. Parents with young children. Veterans in dress uniforms and firefighters standing atop fire trucks, saluting.

Nobody told these people they should do this. It was entirely a grassroots thing -- one group joined by another and then another. Eventually, a newspaper photographer noticed what was happening and took some photos. (Last year on Veteran's/Remembrance Day, NBC News even ran a piece on the phenomenon.) Today, hundreds of people might be standing on & around a single highway overpass; thousands along the route -- which, since 2007, has been officially renamed "The Highway of Heroes."

I'm usually at work when these ceremonies have taken place, so I have not personally witnessed a procession. But it does travel past my community en route into the city, and I have seen the photos and television footage.

Just thinking about it -- or writing about it, as I am now -- brings tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thank you x3


I've been tagged with not just one, not just two, but THREE awards over the past little while from kind readers.

First, one from Rebecca of Into the Light Again. I haven't done this meme before & it looked like fun, so here it is:

Here are the rules:
1. you can only use one word!
2. pass this along to 6 of your favorite bloggers
3. alert them that you have given them this award!
4. have fun!


The Fun Part:

1. Where is your cell phone? purse
2. Your hair? short
3. your mother? whirlwind
4. Your father? steady
5. Your favorite food? pasta
6. Your dream last night? unremembered
7. Your favorite drink? tea
8. Your dream/goal? retirement!
9. What room are you in? "office"
10. Your hobby? scrapbooking
11. Your fear? loss
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? near-retired : ) (do hyphenated words count as one?)
13. Where were you last night? home
14. Something that you aren't? assertive
15. Muffins? cornmeal
16. Wish list item? time
17. Where did you grow up? Manitoba
18. Last thing you did? TV
19. What are you wearing? sweats
20. Your TV? Sony
21. Your pets? none
22. Friends? loyal
23. Your life? good
24. Your mood? happy
25. Missing someone? always
26. Vehicle? Camry
27. Something you're not wearing? bra ; )
28. Your favorite store? Chapters
29. Your favorite color? blue
30. When was the last time you laughed? tonight
31. Last time you cried? a week ago?
32. Your best friend? dh
33. One place that I go to over and over? Starbucks ; )
34. One person who emails me regularly? Mom
35. Favorite place to eat? Montana's

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HC of May I Say Something nominated me for the "Kreativ Blogger Award" because she likes the articles, books & news that I highlight here. I'm not sure just how truly creative that makes me ; ) but I thank her for the honour!

The rules for the award:

1) Thank the person who nominated you for this award. (Done.)
2) Copy the logo and place it on your blog. (Done.)
3) Link to the person who nominated you for this award. (Done)
4) Name 7 things about yourself that people may not know.
5) Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.
6) Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
7) Leave a comment on each.

Seven Things that People May Not Know About Me:

1. I'm a skincare/makeup junkie. My favourite brands include Clinique, Estee Lauder & Prescriptives -- which, sadly, is being discontinued as of January 31, 2010. (Needless to say, I have been stocking up...!) I am a complete sucker for gift-with-purchase promotions.

2. Oddly enough, although I have literally dozens of lipsticks, I tend to put some on in the morning & never remember to reapply it during the day.

3. I line up the milk cartons in the fridge with the plastic spouts facing the same way (right).

4. My LPs, cassette tapes & CDs are all filed alphabetically. (Yes, I still have all my LPs and cassettes).

5. The first album I ever got (along with a record player -- a joint Christmas gift to me & my sister) was the "Mary Poppins" soundtrack. (I can still sing all the songs.)

6. We did a stage version of "Mary Poppins" when I was in high school. I got to be Mrs. Banks (Jane & Michael's mother) & sing "Sister Suffragette."

7. The second album was a present for my 6th birthday, shortly after Christmas. It was "The Best of Herman's Hermits, Vol. II." My mother had taken me not long before that to see a Herman's Hermits movie & my best friend's older sister had one of their records. (I still have it.)

*** *** ***


And finally, Illanare of My Words Fly Up nominated me for the Honest Scrap award. I did receive this award from another blogger earlier this year, but I thank her just the same!

The rules are that you reveal 10 things not previously known about you, and pass along the award to others (number not specified).

So here are (another!) 10 things about me that you may or may not have already known (I'm starting to run out of things to list, lol):

1. Other stage roles in school productions (referring to Mrs. Banks, above) included Auntie Em and Gloria (a character not in the movie) in "The Wizard of Oz," and Josie Pye in a non-musical version of "Anne of Green Gables."

2. I played alto saxophone in our school band. And for a long time, I was the only girl saxophonist. (I was Lisa Simpson long before there was Lisa Simpson, lol.)

3. I learned to read when I was 4 (& haven't stopped since!).

4. When I was in Grade 1, they were still using Dick & Jane readers

5. I bought my first computer in 1996. (It was replace by the one I'm using right now in 2003. Almost time for a new one, I think....)

6. When I was in high school and a (gulp) Bay City Rollers fan, I had something like 100 penpals. All at once. Needless to say, most of those relationships didn't last very long (some just one exchange of letters.) This was pre-Internet, of course, so everything was written longhand & sent through the mail. My sister & our friends used to "compete" to see who had the most penpals & from where. Penpals from outside Canada & the U.S. were the most prestigious, and a penpal from Scotland was like gold.

7. I am still in touch with one penpal from those days, from New Zealand. We have been writing each other for more than 30 years, although these days, it's mostly just at Christmastime. At one time, we used to exchange letters that were 20, 40, 50 pages & longer. (Again, all written longhand, sometimes over a period of weeks....!)

8. I think I like blogging & message boards because it reminds me of those days...!

9. I tend to be a bit of a packrat. I find it very hard to throw things away. Once in awhile, though, I will get a burst of energy/inspiration, & two hours later you'll find me in the middle of a closet with piles of stuff in garbage bags around me.

10. Dh is the opposite, & it's probably one of the main sources of conflict in our marriage. (His mother threw out his high school yearbooks, for crying out loud.)

Thank you for your kindness. While I am breaking some of the rules, I'm not going to pass these on right now -- since that would mean coming up with well over a dozen names (!) & linking to them -- & I am just too darned tired right now. ; ) (Which is NOT to say I don't know a dozen awesome bloggers!) But feel free to use any of these memes in your own blogs if you like.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The dark side of positive thinking

M. at The Maybe Baby -- a cancer survivor as well as an IFer & loss mother to twin girls -- had a brilliant post earlier this week about "awareness" -- of cancer in particular, but applicable to other life situations too. In it, she mentioned a thought-provoking article by Barbara Ehrenreich, a breast cancer survivor, titled "Welcome to Cancerland," which I read some years ago.

Dh & I (at home on a "staycation" this week) were watching a repeat of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Thursday morning (Wednesday night's show?) -- and lo & behold, his guest was... Barbara Ehrenreich, promoting her new book, "Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America." (You can find the interview clip on his website if you are in the States -- in Canada, clips are supposedly available on The Comedy Network site, but this one wasn't on there, at least not yet or not that I could find.)

She made some excellent points about how the flipside of our culture's relentless focus on the positive is that nobody really wants to hear about anything bad, and certainly not your problems. She called it an "empathy deficit."

Well, that certainly made me sit & take notice (if I hadn't been already). I haven't read her book (yet)(am looking forward to it), but her thesis certainly struck a chord with me, as an infertile/stillbirth mother -- the idea that people really don't want to hear about how you're REALLY feeling, urge you to "stay positive" and tell you they just KNOW this next cycle is going to be the one (etc., etc.).

I'm not saying that positive thinking is totally without merit -- but insisting that people going through a rough time MUST stay relentlessly positive, discouraging them from giving voice to the grief and fear that they rightly must be feeling -- is not helpful either.

Thoughts?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Battle of the Blades"

I've never been a big reality TV watcher. I watched one episode of the original season of "Survivor" & thought it was the dumbest, most contrived thing I'd ever seen (but I still tuned in for the last 10 minutes of the finale to see if Richard won, lol). I watched the last few episodes of "American Idol," the season when Fantasia won, & was blown away by her rendition of "Summertime." And we watched the first season of Debbie Travis's "From the Ground Up" on Global TV (we started watching the second season, but it was a totally different concept -- we didn't like it as much & lost interest).

But I HAVE been a figure skating fan, almost my entire life. And while I wouldn't say I'm a huge hockey fan, you simply cannot be Canadian & not absorb some sort of knowledge &/or appreciation of the game & its history.

Two weeks ago, a new reality show started on the CBC that I found absolutely irresistable, & I suspect many of my fellow Canucks will as well. (Whoever came up with the concept is a marketing genius.) "Battle of the Blades," which started last Sunday night, paired up 8 of Canada's best & most famous professional female figure skaters (pairs & dancers) with 8 former NHL hockey players -- and is teaching them to figure skate. Each week, each couple performs a pairs number (in front of a live audience at the hockey Mecca of Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto) & the audience votes. The next night, the results are revealed, the two couples with the least number of votes have a skate off, and the judges (Dick Button, Sandra Bezic, and a different guest judge each week)(this past week was Don Cherry!!) decide who gets to skate another week. The last couple left standing wins $100,000 for their favourite charity. (I believe the eliminated couples get a lesser amount.)

The first week, it was Kristina Lenko and NHL tough guy Bob Probert who got voted off. (For all my years of watching figure skating, I must admit Kristina was unfamiliar to me.) This week, it was Isabelle Brasseur & former Edmonton Oilers captain Glenn Anderson.

Anyone watching?? (Someone must be -- there were an estimated 2 million viewers for the first episode, which is huge in Canadian TV terms.) Who are you cheering for?

I'll admit I have a soft spot for Barb Underhill and Ron Duguay -- if only because they're probably the ones closest to my age (46 & 52 -- the other skaters have been referring to them as "Grandma & Grandpa"). When I heard Duguay was on, I thought, "Good Lord, he was playing hockey when I was in high school!" -- I checked, and he was!! But they are also proving to be a great pair to watch. Duguay still has some Studio 54 moves in his repetoire ; ) (he takes a lot of teasing about that), and even though it's been over 10 years since Barb last competed, she clearly still has what it takes to be a champion.

I was always a huge fan of Barb & her skating partner, Paul Martini, who won the world pairs championships in 1984 and went on to a stellar professional career before finally retiring. Also close to my heart: Barb is a bereaved mother who lost one of her twin daughters in a 1993 pool accident, but found some solace in her skating. In the years since then, she has campaigned for various causes related to children's safety. It is great to see her back on the ice again!!

Christine "Tuffy" Hough-Sweeney (paired with another NHL tough guy, Tie Domi) is the mother of twin boys, born prematurely some 13 years ago. She mentioned on the show this week that she just celebrated her 40th birthday. You'd never know it to look at her. How do these women keep such great figures???

I am finding this a lot of fun. The first week in particular, the novelty factor was huge, and I thought it was a total hoot. This week, though, I found myself amazed at just how much some of these guys had improved. I think they are surprising themselves, too!

You can find video clips, skater profiles, voting mechanisms and other stuff on the program's website. Jodeyne Higgins, one of the competitors, is keeping a blog, and there's another blog on the Toronto Star covering the competition.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Barren B*tches Book Brigade: "It Sucked and then I Cried" by Heather B. Armstrong (Dooce)


It's time once again for another session with the Barren B*tches Book Brigade, the ALI (adoption/loss/infertility) community's virtual book club, organized by Melissa at Stirrup Queens. Participants read the same book and each submit a question to Melissa, who compiles & circulates a list of all the questions. We then answer at least three of them in our blog, and post at or around the same time on the same day. Melissa will be (or already has, by the time you read this!) publishing a master list of the participants on her blog, so you can go there & tour around to see what other people thought of the same book.

The selection this time around was "It Sucked and then I Cried," by Heather B. Armstrong, AKA the blogger known as Dooce. I think the first time I heard the name "Dooce" was around the time of the July 2008 BlogHer conference in San Francisco -- when Melissa, Pamela Jeanne, Lori and Monica appeared on a panel to discuss infertility blogging. I was continually searching Google Blog for "BlogHer infertility" that week to see what the lucky bloggers attending the conference had to say about the panel, & it seemed like every other person was writing about attending a session featuring Dooce, or meeting her -- & writing about it in the awestruck tones usually reserved for royalty.

"Who the heck is Dooce?" I thought & so I Googled the name to find out.

And found the blog.

And cracked up.

And added the blog to my reader.

Those who have followed Heather's blog from the beginning, or at least longer than me, might already have known some of the story told in "It Sucked and then I Cried." The cast of characters was familiar to me -- Heather, the wildly funny lapsed Mormon, prone to CAPITALIZING FOR EMPHASIS; Jon, her handsome & patient husband; Leta, her gorgeous & precocious daughter (who was named after Heather's aunt, who died when she was 5 months old); and Chuck the goofy dog, whose daily photo post is among the highlights of my day.

But the book goes back a few years before I started following Heather's story, starting when she met Jon, got pregnant, and then gave birth to Leta. And what happened next -- namely, Heather's struggle with post-partum depression (PPD).

You would think the last thing a childless infertile deadbabymama would want to read would be a book about someone else's pregnancy and baby. And yes, there were a few moments in the book when I rolled my eyes & thought, "Oh, boo-frickin'-hoo" -- right at the start of the book, for example, when she writes:

"Without my pills I was wildly irrational, and when we did not get pregnant THE FIRST MONTH WE STARTED TRYING, I was convinced that it meant I was barren. I saw the single line on the pregnancy test and fell into a giant wad on the floor because all I could imagine was years and years of fertility treatments that would never work, and if they did work it wouldn't be until I was sixty. And then we'd have quadruplets. And they'd all have fourteen toes. Because I wasn't good enough." (pp. 4-5)
Yeah, right. Cry me a river, lady. (And welcome to my world.)

But I forgave her and read on. Because (a) she's damned funny (even the above passage, I'll admit, had the corners of my mouth twitching, even as my eyes were rolling), & (b) I was interested in her story.

Some questions & my answers:

Dooce talks about her postpartum depression in the book and what it took for her to fight it, what are your thoughts on that and your experiences, if any, with postpartum depression?

One of the main reasons why I was interested in this book was that she was going to address her issues of postpartum depression, which I struggled through with both my children. I found her frank style dealing with this issue very helpful and I could relate to her distress. Have you or some one you know dealt with PPD or depression? How did the author’s experience resonate with you?

I did not have PPD. I just experienced the typical postpartum grief that one would expect of a stillbirth mother (if there is such a thing). (Although it's entirely possible for deadbabymamas to have PPD.) But a few years after Katie's stillbirth, at the end of my infertility journey, I was stricken with anxiety.

Looking back, I can see that I've had anxious tendencies ever since I was a kid -- and the events of the past 11 years have only exacerbated them. Sometimes my mind will get stuck in a groove, like the stereo needle on a worn-out vinyl LP. I start to worry about something & it will gnaw at me for days & even weeks. Health issues, in particular. Over the past 10 years, with the help of Dr. Google, I have diagnosed myself with all sorts of maladies -- cancer in particular (colon, ovarian, brain, esophagal, melanoma...). It almost always turns out to be nothing, or something very common & treatable (skin tags, hemorrhoids, gallstones....!)

But going back to my first full-blown anxiety attack: It was late May/early June 2001. I was 40 years old & had just gotten a Big Fat Negative on my third and final IUI with injectables. Dh & I had agonized ever step of the way along our infertility journey, about just how far we were going to go with this thing. Predictably, perhaps, I was more gung-ho than he was to push ahead & take advantage of all that science had to offer. We wound up seeing an infertility counsellor who suggested setting a limit & then stopping (or at least re-evaluating). We agreed to three. And this was it. Done. No more pregnancies for us. Ever.

While wrapping my head around this, I started obsessing that I had OHSS. (Long story short: I did not.) A couple of weeks after AF crashed my party, I was having lunch with my college roommate who, conveniently, works in the office tower directly across the street from mine. It had been her birthday a few weeks earlier, & I was treating her at one of our favourite restaurants, in the concourse of the building where dh & I work.

I felt funny that morning. My chest felt constricted. My breathing was shallow and rapid. I thought it might be allergies -- it was that time of year for me. Before I went for lunch, I went into the bathroom, took off my bra & stuffed it into my purse, hoping that would make me feel more comfortable.

I tried to focus on the conversation, but it seemed to take a lot of effort. I was very aware of my back, straight against the upholstery in the booth. I started feeling like I was going to topple over onto the floor. When the bill came, I tried to reach for it & I couldn't move my hand. My girlfriend noticed. "Is something wrong? Are you OK?" she said. "I'm not feeling that well," I said shakily.

Somehow, we managed to pay the bill & walk out into the concourse. We sat on a bench & she lent me her cellphone. I tried calling my RE's office. Could this have anything to do with the drugs I had been taking? Could it be OHSS? Nope, couldn't be, not their problem. If you're feeling bad, go to the hospital. Gee, thanks.

I called dh, who worked in the same office building. He was downstairs in a flash. He loaded me into a taxi & told the driver to take us to my family doctor's office. The ride up Yonge Street seemed to take forever. I can remember breathing heavily & feeling terrified, hanging for dear life onto dh's hand. I was sure I was having a heart attack.

We stumbled into the dr's office. Thankfully, there were no other patients in the waiting room, & the dr was in. "I'm sorry, I don't have an appointment," I sobbed, "But I don't feel so good." In about 10 seconds flat, the nurse and the receptionist had me laying down in an examination room & clapped a blood pressure cuff on my arm. I can remember the nurse reading off the numbers & while I don't remember what they were, the tone of her voice was urgent.

I laid there & sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. The doctor came in, took one look at me and said, "You're having an anxiety attack." He spoke to the receptionst, she left & returned with a pill in her hand. It was an Ativan from her own prescription bottle. I popped it into my mouth under my tongue, as they told me to, & gradually started to feel a fuzziness enveloping me.

Dh explained what we'd recently been through. "Well, no wonder," the doctor said. "That's a major life disappointment."

Dh told him about the fertility drugs I had been taking. The doctor flipped open his drug encyclopedia, checked them out & asked us about dosages. "That's pretty powerful stuff," he said, shaking his head.

As we talked, they kept taking my blood pressure, & it kept falling until it was back to normal levels. They ran an EKG and that was normal too. They even did a cardiac enzyme blood test to humour me. It eventually came back fine.

I left with a prescription for Ativan, which we immediately filled at the drugstore across the street. I had to use it several times over the next week or two. It was almost like I was having aftershocks.

This episode helped to convince me that, yes, we truly were done. If I got this wound up over a mere IUI with injectables, how was I going to handle IVF, with its much larger drug dosages, higher costs and greater emotional pressures?

Things settled down, until March 2002. There was a convergence of many stressors in my life, including several big projects at work. Perhaps worst of all, a woman I knew from work, whom I'd had lunch with and commiserated with over infertility and loss issues, lost her third consecutive pregnancy -- a little boy at 22 weeks. And my mother was coming. I was taking time off while she was here -- we had a trip planned to Montreal, just the two of us, on the train -- & felt like I was rushing to beat the clock, to get all my work projects finished and get my house into some sort of reasonable order. And, perhaps, I was thinking about her spring break visit four years earlier, when I had just learned I was pregnant. How happy we all were. How much had happened since then.

The night before my mother's arrival, I went to bed, but I couldn't sleep. I was all wound up. I started to cry & to shake, violently, like I had the chills & couldn't warm up, even though dh heaped tons of blankets on me. He finally suggested I take an Ativan, & that helped me to calm down and, eventually, go to sleep. The next morning, he stayed home from work (I already had the day off) and we went to a walk in clinic, but they weren't very helpful, beyond suggesting I get my family doctor to prescribe me some Prozac. (When I asked him about it, he said I didn't need Prozac. I didn't really think I needed it either.) When my mother finally arrived on the train that night, I couldn't hide what had happened to me. I told her about as I sat in the back seat with her & sobbed while she hugged me & spoke to me in that soothing voice that mothers use to make everything better (no matter how old you are).

To my amazement, my mother told me me that I probably came by my anxiety quite honestly. She told me there was a period when I was about 9 or 10 when she was having a rough time, emotionally, and took valium. She asked if I remembered how my grandparents had come to stay with us then. My grandparents came to visit at least two or three times a year then, so I honestly didn't remember this particular time. She told me they had given her some money & told her to order herself some new clothes from the Sears catalogue, trying to cheer her up.

She told me my grandmother took Ativan from time to time. I could see that -- my grandmother did tend to fret about things. And she said one of my cousins, a kind-hearted and sensitive soul, struggled with anxiety too.

Somehow I felt better knowing there might be a genetic component to this. (On my dad's side too, when I thought about it, my grandmother as well as my two aunts also tended to be worrywarts.) I still had a few "aftershocks" for the next few days while my mother was there, & we had to cancel our trip to Montreal -- I didn't want to be sick in a strange city. But after that, things slowly started to get better. I went to a therapist for awhile, and took up yoga. I rarely used my Ativan after that, but it was a comfort to me just knowing it was there in my purse if I needed it. I still struggle with anxiety from time to time, and I suspect that at least some if not all of the "food sensitivities/allergies" that gave me so many problems this past spring were anxiety attacks in a slightly different form.

*** *** ***

So that's a long way of saying that yes, Heather's experiences with anxiety, depression and PPD resonated deeply with me. I recognized a lot of myself in her as she lay awake, night after night, waiting for her baby to start crying, unable to turn off the thoughts flooding her brain.

PPD is not something I will discount, even if I've never had it myself. Several years ago, there was an incident in my city that was front-page news for weeks. One morning in August 2000 -- just days after Katie's two-year "anniversary" and in the midst of getting ready for my first IUI with injectables -- a 37-year-old doctor, a first-time mother, left her home in an upscale midtown neighbourhood with her six-month-old baby boy, drove to a nearby subway station, went down to the track level &, cradling her baby, leaped in front of an oncoming train. The baby died instantly; the mother died after nine days in the hospital. It's believed she had stopped taking anti-depressants because she was breast-feeding her son & was afraid they would harm him. They believe she had post-partum psychosis, the most severe form of PPD.

That story haunts me still. I can never hear a story about PPD without thinking of that mother & her baby. I am so glad that Heather sought, & got, the help she needed when she did.

Heather obviously has a very distinctive writing style that comes across in both her blog and her book. What do you think has made Heather such a famous blogger? Her writing style, honesty, or something else? Do you write with the same passion and honesty that Heather does?

I WISH I could write like Heather!! (And there, I used capitals -- so maybe that's a first step, lol.) I think it's a combination of things -- her writing style, her humour, her absolute honesty (especially about herself and her own shortcomings) & her willingness to share the ups and downs of her life with her readers. I keep reading the blog because I want to find out what happens next. She recently gave birth to her second daughter and was candid in talking about how she handled her PPD issues this time around. (And the Daily Chuck photos make my day. I am not much of a pet person, but that dog has personality.)

I was not familiar with this blogger before I read this book. I did like her sense of humor. However, I did not feel like this made me know her or her blog any better. Reading this book, do you find that you want to read her blog, or if you have read her blog, is this is a good representation of her?

Having read the blog before the book, I would say it is a good representation of her and how she writes. The book, obviously, tells more of a whole, coherent story, whereas the blog (like many of our blogs) talks about what's happening in her life from day to day.

What 2-3 specific situations, quotes or stories did you most relate to throughout the book? (I found myself laughing or becoming quite reflective at times because something Heather had written about struck a chord for me and I’m curious if the other readers related to her book in this way).

I think I was most touched by the part of the book set in the mental hospital where Heather had herself committed. I was particularly touched by her descriptions of, and gratitude towards, her doctor:

"He had read my chart -- imagine that! He had done some research! On me! His patient! And within five minutes of talking to me he determined why and how the meds I'd been taking weren't working... I could tell that he wanted to see me get better, and knowing that he cared, even just a little bit, made me feel SO MUCH BETTER." (p. 193)
And a little later:

"At one point in our conversation he set down his pen and paper, paused, and then looked at me and said, "You poor woman. I am so sorry for what you have been through." And I cried. I cried hard. My God, what I had been through." (p. 196)
In my pregnancy loss support group, on blogs & message boards, I hear so many horror stories about doctors and nurses, whose attitudes toward their vulnerable patients seem to range from clueless to indifferent to brusque to criminal. Doctors who have clearly not read the chart before walking into the examining room. Emergency room nurses who have handed buckets to miscarrying women & pointed them toward the bathroom.

Who wouldn't want to have a doctor like Heather's?? Competence combined with empathy -- someone who knows what we've been through and tells us that, no, we're not imagining things, it really does suck that much. That's quite a lethal combination.

Another part of the book that struck a chord in me was the saga of the kitchen renovation. We did a bathroom renovation last fall that was far less uneventful than Heather & Jon's kitchen reno. We had dh's stepbrother do the work for us -- and I wasn't eight months pregnant. But it was a big disruption in our lives nevertheless.

Our kitchen could stand a makeover too -- if not a full-scale renovation, then certainly a refresh (restain the cupboards, change the hardware, do a backsplash, etc.). But after the bathroom reno, I wasn't sure I was up to even that. I'm still not sure I am. Just reading about Heather's reno made me exhausted.

If you are in a relationship right now, do you relate to how Heather talks about her husband, Jon, and what a great father and life partner he is? From what she described about Jon, what qualities do you have or want in your life partner?

I do relate -- because I have a pretty great husband myself. : ) He has his faults, of course, & he has own struggles with anxiety, and sometimes we feed off each other, which is not a good situation. I like to think that I am a pretty strong person and that I can handle a lot of stuff on my own. But whenever I have needed him to take care of me, as in the case of my first major anxiety attack, he has always been there. I knew that childless/free living was an option I could live with, because we already had a pretty good life together before we ever started ttc, and we could still have a wonderful life together with just the two of us. He would have been (he is!) a wonderful father, and I sometimes get sad seeing him having fun with other people's children, knowing that. But we have each other, and that is a lot more than many people have already.

Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at Stirrup Queens (http://stirrup-queens.com). You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.