Monday, January 30, 2012

Rest in peace, girls...

Sunday afternoon, dh & I were glued to CBC Newsworld. A verdict was imminent in the murder trial that had been playing out & making headlines in Kingston over the past several months.

I don't know how much coverage this trial has had outside of Canada. Do some Googling (remove the periods in the name) and you will find tons of coverage.

The barebones of the story is this: Father S., an immigrant from Afghanistan; his wife and their 21-year-old son, were all found guilty of murdering four women -- including not just one, not just two, but three of their teenaged daughters/sisters -- as well as an older "cousin" of the family, R.o.n.a. (top left), who immigrated to Canada to help with the seven (!) children.

A car containing the four bodies was pulled from the Rideau Canal near the locks near Kingston, Ontario, in late June 2009. The water was not deep (a mere 18 inches above the roof of the car) and the window was wide open, but there was no indication that they had tried to escape. The official cause of death was drowning, but, ominously, the three girls all had bruising on the tops of their heads.

The murders have been called "honour killings" by some. Not long after I started this blog, I wrote about a teenaged Pakistani girl from suburban Toronto named Pa.rv.ez, who refused to wear the hijab, stayed out with her friends, and ran away from home several times. Her brother convinced her to return home; shortly afterwards, she was found dead in her bed; her father & brother were later convicted of strangling her.

Like A., the S. daughters chafed at the restrictions placed on them by their father. When their tattletale brothers reported that the girls were changing from the hijab into revealing clothing at school and (horrors!) being seen in the company of boys, Father S. would fly into a rage. His daughters were pulled out of school for months at a time & confined to the house. At various times, the girls sought help from social services authorities, but understandably were reluctant to discuss their complaints in front of their parents when the police or child welfare officers arrived at the house to investigate. The oldest daughter, Z., age 19, got married, seeing it as the only way out of the home, but was persuaded to annul the marriage before the ink was barely dry on the license.

As with A. several years earlier, I wanted to weep when I learned about this case. As someone who lost a very much wanted daughter, the idea that a father (& mother) could just throw away the lives of three beautiful, spirited, NORMAL teenaged girls, like they were garbage, all for some twisted sense of family "honour," all because they were girls and therefore deemed disposable, made (and makes) me ill.

But I will admit that it was R.'s death that has affected me the most. The family presented her as a cousin/aunt who helped with the seven children. The truth was a little more complicated: the children's mother was actually Father S.'s second wife. R.was his first; it was a polygamous marriage. R. was infertile. Because she could not bear children, she encouraged Father S. to take another wife -- who promptly popped out seven over the following years, and enlisted R. to help raise them.

If female life is cheap in Afghanistan, you can only imagine what it's like for an infertile, childless female. After years of living essentially as a servant (which she chronicled in a diary that was entered as evidence at the trial), R. somehow screwed up the courage to request a divorce, and a little money to help her move to France and start a new life near her siblings.

Instead, she wound up in a car at the bottom of the Rideau Canal. She was 52 years old when she died -- a few years older than me.

As I have written before, hearing stories like this makes me eternally grateful to the Powers That Be that, as a woman, I happened to be born in Canada in the late 20th century (how much more fortunate can you be, really??), and into a family where I was never, ever made to feel less than or disadvantaged because I was a girl.

But that doesn't mean that all the women living in this country are as lucky as I am. And it doesn't mean that I don't mourn for the A.'s and R.'s and S. daughters of this country and this world. There are still far, far too many of them.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Imitation is supposed to be flattery, but...

Every now & then, I go on Google Blog Search & do a search for "childless infertility," "childfree infertility," etc. I've found a few interesting new blogs that way.

Recently, I found something VERY interesting. I stumbled onto a blog (or something resembling a blog) that was reviewing Melissa Ford's wonderful book, Navigating the Land of IF.

But as I read, I realized that there was something awfully familiar about this post.

As in -- a good chunk of it was MY post -- or pretty damned close, anyway. (!!!)

Have a look & see if you agree:

  • My original review of Melissa's book, from June 2009: "It's a book I would definitely recommend to anyone going through infertility. It would also be a fabulous book to read if you're a fertile person hoping to gain some insight into what a friend or family member is going through and how you can best support them.... I'll confess -- I went straight for the chapter on childfree living. So very few books on infertility say much about the childless/free option beyond a few paragraphs -- so I'm always interested to see how the subject is covered in any new IF book that I come across."
  • Plagiarized review, from January 8, 2012: "It’s a book – Navigating The Land Of If Understanding Infertility And Exploring Your Options By Melissa Ford – I would definitely recommend to anyone going through infertility. It would also be fabulous to read if you’re a fertile person hoping to gain some insight into what a friend or family member is going through and how you can best support them... Because my husband & I wound up living without children, I was particularly interested in what Melissa would have to say on the subject, and went straight for the chapter on childfree living first. Very few books on infertility say much about the childless/free option beyond a few paragraphs — so I’m always interested to see how the subject is covered in any new IF book that I come across."

Anyone else ever been plagiarized, by this or any other blog? (I use the term "blog" very loosely.) What, if anything did you do about it?

I scanned the site, but there doesn't seem to be any way of contacting the writer/owner or leaving a comment (gee, I wonder why...). I did notice that, at the very bottom of the page, the copyright line misspelled the word pregnant as "pergnant." Which gives you an idea of what we're dealing with here.

People get expelled from university for stuff like this.

If you ARE the so-called writer, hello, I'm onto you. And I don't appreciate it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

30 years ago: Hot romance, cool skating ; )

This past weekend, dh & I marked 30 years since our official first date. As I wrote in a post this past fall, about the 30th anniversary of our first meeting, the attraction between us had been building for some time. It reached a turning point at the residence Ukrainian New Year's (Malenka) social -- where I started the evening in a last burst of flirtation with the good-looking guy who lived down the hall from dh (all flirtation all fall long, but no real action), but wound up leaving with dh. (Smart choice. ; ) )

Our first official date, not long afterward, was January 22nd, 1982: he asked me if I'd like to go to a movie. There weren't any movie theatres anywhere near campus at the time (going to the movies generally involved a long bus ride), but once a week, the student union building showed cheap movies in the multipurpose room -- so we went to see that week's offering: "Altered States" starring William Hurt and Blair Brown.

It was a very weird movie -- in the words of the IMDB synopsis, "A Harvard scientist conducts experiments on himself with a hallucinatory drug and an isolation chamber that may be causing him to regress genetically." There wasn't any popcorn, and the seats were just hard, uncomfortable folding chairs. Not exactly an auspicious first date, eh? Well, I don't think we were paying much attention to the movie anyway. ; )

We thought about going to a movie this weekend to celebrate... but there wasn't anything on we wanted to see, at least not at a time when we wanted to go. Jan. 22nd is also FIL's birthday, so we went there on Saturday night to celebrate. We often go to the movies on Sunday afternoon, but I wanted to be back home by 3:30 because... this weekend was also the Canadian figure skating championships in Moncton, New Brunswick....

*** *** ***

...which brought back even more memories from 30 years ago, lol. Because, shortly after our first date, I regretfully abandoned my new boyfriend for the weekend, & took the bus two hours down the TransCanada Highway to Brandon to visit a girlfriend. We "met," several years earlier, via a chain letter for Bay City Rollers fans, & became penpals. (Today, we'd no doubt meet on a message board or blog.) Eventually, since Brandon was not that far from where I lived at the time, we met in real life. I haven't seen her in years, maybe since my wedding, but we still keep in touch on our birthdays and at Christmastime.

Having moved on from the Bay City Rollers by then (!), we still had another mutual interest: figure skating. And her extremely generous combined Christmas/birthday present to me that year was an all-events ticket to the Canadian figure skating championships, which were being held in Brandon in mid-January that year.

Torn between my new love interest & my longtime love of skating, I compromised: I skipped the Friday night events, including the women's final (won by a marvellous spinner from Toronto named Kay Thompson)(my girlfriend took her grandmother instead that night) -- but arrived on Saturday in time for a full day of skating events, including the senior dance, pairs and men's competition, as well as the gala performances on Sunday afternoon, before I returned to school. (I spotted Elizabeth Manley as we came into the arena, all cute & blond & fluffy in what looked to be a rabbit fur coat -- very fashionable at the time.)

I was already a big fan of an up-and-coming jumping sensation from Ontario named Brian Orser, who could do the still-rare triple axel with ease (the most difficult jump a skater could do at the time -- the first one had been landed in competition only four years previously), and had used this competitive advantage to jump right onto the top spot on the podium the previous year. My girlfriend preferred the skater he beat then, the three-time Canadian champion & more artistically inclined Brian Pockar (it was the original Battle of the Brians). We stopped at a florist en route to the arena to buy bouquets to throw to our respective Brians on the ice, and when we got to the arena, we found out they actually sold pre-wrapped flowers there. Who knew? (We were still pretty naive and didn't realize that both Brians were gay. Pockar -- whom Dorothy Hamill handpicked to be her Romeo in a skating version of Romeo & Juliet -- sadly died of AIDS in 1992.)

Anyway, Orser skated & I ran down the aisle to the boards to join the throngs of adoring fans and present him with my bouquet & a kiss on the cheek. My mother saw me do so on national TV. : ) This being pre-VCR days (and many years before YouTube), I missed it. Years later, I mentioned the moment on a skating message board, and someone actually mailed me a VHS tape with a very fuzzy clip, in which I'm just barely visible for a few seconds. I've checked YouTube but sadly, it is not available there. Brian Pockar's wonderful performance is, however (although the sound & action are slightly out of synch, & it ends before you see him collecting the flowers... no doubt my girlfriend & I are in that one too, lol). Orser won in the end (I could see him backstage, jumping up & down in excitement when he realized he was the repeat champion), and there's another YouTube clip from that event in which Johnny Esaw, Mr. CTV Sports of the time, interviews both Brians.

I saw Brian Orser skate many times over the years years before he finally retired (& turned to coaching). One of my favourite memories was seeing him & Brian Boitano skate an exhibition number together at Maple Leaf Gardens (not long after their own epic Battle of the Brians at the 1988 Calgary Olympics) to "King of the Road," one-upping each other in a spectacular "anything you can do, I can do better" dual of triple jumps. He's still one of my all-time favourites. : )

16 years later, in January 1998, I attended Nationals again, this time in Hamilton, Ontario, just prior to the 1998 Nagano Olympics (with Aunt Flo memorably in tow). One thing I didn't mention in the post I wrote about it: while we were there, Quebec and eastern Ontario were hammered by an apocalyptic ice storm. Weeks later, tens of thousands of people were still without power. At the arena, the sizeable Quebec contingent was abuzz. Several people sitting in the row behind us left the event early to go home & survey the damage; others scoured the local Canadian Tire outlets for prized power generators to take back home.

It was the bizarre beginning of a rollercoaster year for me.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Calgon, take me away....

It was supposed to be a business meeting -- a daily "huddle," with each team member updating the others on their projects and their expectations for the day ahead.

It turned into a prolonged discussion about the team leader's due-any-day-now granddaughter -- she excitedly sharing the details, the baby's name, what the expectant mom (her daughter) has packed in her suitcase for the hospital, what the latest ultrasound photos look like, how she plans to take off on vacation the moment she gets the phone call, and not return for several weeks -- the rest of the team (all women -- two of them also mothers, three of them young single women with stars in their eyes) chattering excitedly, giggling and throwing in frequent sighs of "Awwwww!!" And all of it taking place in the cubicle directly across the aisle from mine.

On & on it went. I could literally feel myself slumping, physically, mentally, emotionally, behind the wall of my cubicle. With every giggle and every chorus of "Awwwwww....!!" I felt more & more suffocated, their words & excitement weighing me down. At the same time, I started feeling jittery, my skin crawling, a nervous tic surfacing. A voice inside my head started whispering, then shouting, "I've gotta get out of here... gotta get out... gotta get out gotta get out GOTTA GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT..."

And so I did the only thing any self-respecting bereaved mother of a stillborn would do in such a situation. I got the heck out of Dodge. ; ) It was a little earlier than usual for my coffee/tea break, but I took it anyway (& made it an extra long one... lingering over the magazines at the newsstand downstairs, doing some banking at the ABM, etc.). The relief I felt as I fled down the hallway, voices fading behind me, was palpable.

This wasn't the first time (or even the second) that I've had to endure a similar scenario, or remove myself from the scene. Of course, my coworker has every right to be excited. No doubt if it were me, I'd be acting exactly the same way.

But it never WILL be me -- and knowing what I know about how some pregnancies (far more than most people think) end, I find it difficult to get too excited about ANYONE's pregnancy these days. There is always more than a little fear & apprehension until the baby arrives & I know that both he or she & the mom are all right. They may not be too worried whether anything bad will happen. They don't have to -- I'm doing it for them.

I'm not quite sure why I reacted the way I did today... it's not an "anniversary" date or anything like that. I have endured previous such sessions with only perhaps an eye roll behind my cubicle wall. I think it's a cumulative sort of thing, too. I might be able to endure five minutes of such conversation -- but at the 7 minute point, it becomes too much, you know? As I wrote in a post last year, about the Academy Awards ceremony:

I often find that, when it comes to enduring all things pregnancy and baby and mommy-related -- at baby showers & family events, at work, on TV, in the movies, online, on the magzine covers -- I can take it & take it & take it -- but then, slowly, gradually, the steady, constant, never-ending drip-drip-drip begins to erode my sense of self and security -- the relentless talk, everywhere, about babies and pregnancy and children and baby bumps, all reminding me of the reverence (well, the lip service, anyway) paid to motherhood in this culture -- and that I am not a part of it, never WILL be part of it -- & then suddenly, I reach the tipping point, & I've had enough, & I just want to go home, or turn off the TV set and go to bed, and sulk for awhile. And vent about it in my blog. ; )

I know I'm not the only person who feels this way. But please, humour me; go ahead & tell me that I'm not anyway, won't you? ; )

Article: "The War on Only Children"

Salon had a great article by Mary Elizabeth Williams recently about "The War on Only Children." As I read, I couldn't help but compare the reactions she describes to her status as an only child to the typical reactions those of us who are childless/free (for whatever reason) get when people find out that we don't have kids. Tell me, does any of this sound vaguely familiar?

I was making small talk with a woman I’d just met when the inevitable subject of family came up. “Do you have any brothers and sisters?” she’d asked. “No,” I’d replied. And there it was: the subtle change in her expression, the quick reassessment, the pinched face I’ve seen a thousand times before. “Well, that must have been nice for you,” she replied. “You must have been so spoiled.”

It’s one of the standard responses we “onlies” get — near strangers denigrating us because of our parents’ reproductive habits. Nobody ever says, “Youngest of four? So you’re really immature, right?” or “You’re a twin? Wow, you must be a total dick.” But I didn’t answer, “Yeah, after my dad left my 21-year-old mom when she was pregnant with me, you can imagine what a cosseted, pampered existence this princess had.” That’s because I didn’t want to get the other classic reaction: unbridled pity for my no doubt sad, lonely existence. Hi, what year is this?

Growing up in my mostly Irish-Catholic neighborhood, I understood that I was an anomaly. Hell, just having parents who were divorced was considered exotic. Back then, I generally shrugged off my dubious reputation as both wildly pampered and horribly starved for company, content with my childhood claim to fame as The Girl Who Didn’t Have to Share.

As I grew older, I met other onlies. It wasn’t always easy to find them – shockingly, they look a lot like everybody else. We exchanged stories of our similar bad and sad reps, but I noticed we almost never expressed a longing for a different fate. We were just a contented if misunderstood minority. But times have changed. There are now roughly 20 million only children in America, representing nearly a quarter of all our families. You’d think those swelling ranks would have changed those misconceptions. So how come if we don’t smoke in bars anymore, we’re still dissing only children?

I particularly loved this paragraph:

It’s especially galling to hear the contempt for onlies – that vaguely snide attitude that the real selfishness is on the part of the parents – coming as it does within a culture in which the subjects of infertility, pregnancy loss, deferred child rearing, and divorce are the stuff of idle playground chatter. If a child you know has no siblings, chances are you know the reasons why. It’s rarely because the parents are such big jerks. But whether it’s by the hand of fate or conscious decision, who’s to knock another’s choices, anyway? Why be a self-appointed Goldilocks of family size, bloviating that one is pathetic, five is pushing it, but two or three is juuuuust right? As my friend Anne’s mother once sagely told her, having one is a long way from the worst thing you could do to a child.

Read the entire article here. And thank you, Mary Elizabeth Williams!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Birthday girl

Yep, that's me. About 47 (eeeekkkk!!) years ago today, give or take a few. It was January 1965, and it was my 4th birthday party. Note the cake (confetti angel food, from a mix but made by Mom, decorated with plastic flowers -- in other years, it might be Smarties), the pin the tail on the donkey game on the wall behind me, my stylish '60s bob, Mary Jane shoes, tights & crinoline. : )

All my birthday parties as a kid were more or less the same (& so were those of my friends) -- up to a dozen friends would come to our house (decorated with balloons & streamers), we'd play a few games, have hot dogs or sloppy joes with potato chips & pickles, drink Kool-Aid, have birthday cake & then open the presents. I think we might give or get a chocolate bar to the guests as they left -- loot bags were unheard of.

I stopped having birthday parties around the time I became a teenager, instead having a handful of my closest friends over for dinner, & sometimes a movie. These days, my birthdays tend to be much quieter events. The last several years, I've usually tried to take the day off work, maybe go to the spa or shopping (or both), & then for dinner at a favourite restaurant with dh. That's more or less the plan for today. I'm thinking I might be daring & go for blue nail polish on my manicure, lol. It only took 51 years to try it...!

I look at that little girl in the picture, and it seems so long ago and like yesterday, all at once. (And I wonder if that's anything like Katie would have looked when she was 4.) 51 seems old when you write it out. :p But it's one year closer to retirement ; ) & being done with Aunt Flo's visits for good. (And, as my grandma used to say, & as I wrote last year, "consider the alternative.") All things considered... I'll take it, lol.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Anyone out there??

According to Melissa, it's International Blog Delurking Week. : ) I already feel like mine has been under way, since putting out the call for additions to my blogroll. : )

Step out of the shadows & say hello! : )

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sad story in the news

GTA's first baby of 2012 dies

Even sadder, many of the commenters are taking the parents to task for not taking the baby to the dr sooner. :(

Monday, January 9, 2012

Closure: The Rush to End Grief and What it Costs Us by Nancy Berns

This book had me at hello, lol.

You may recall I first learned about it in a newspaper article that I saw & posted about a few weeks ago. Being a topic near & dear to my heart, I rushed to order the book and took it home for holiday reading.

By coincidence, Beef Princess had also just bought & read the book, and left me a comment to that effect. I agree with her assessment: "academic in nature but fascinating." The book is extremely well researched -- full of examples, data and footnotes -- but that does not mean it's a dry or difficult read.

The author, Nancy Berns, is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, who teaches and researches in the areas of grief, death, violence, justice and social constructionism. She is also (are you surprised?) the bereaved mother of a stillborn son -- something she addresses on the first page of the book -- and her loss has obviously informed her work.

While it addressed the topic of closure in ways that I would expect as a bereaved parent (the pressure we feel from others to "move on" with our lives, for example), the book was also a huge eye opener for me with regard to how many different ways the concept of closure is being applied in our world today -- and how many different parties are seeking to profit from it (financially, politically and otherwise). I consider myself fairly well read & knowledgeable when it comes to grief issues, but I had many "aha!" moments as I read this book. It made me think, and consider familiar topics and issues in entirely new ways.

I particularly liked Berns's introduction of the concept of "feeling rules" -- which, she explains on page 4,
"...are informal guidelines that tell us how we should react to certain situations. Societies and institutions have different feeling rules, and these rules change, with consequences for the people who are expected to meet them. Furthermore, when one set of feeling rules becomes dominant in a culture, it makes it difficult for us to imagine other ways of handling a situation. Closure represents a new set of feeling rules and expectations for people.

"...the way we name and describe experiences has consequences. "Closure" is not some naturally occurring emotion that we can simply "find" with the right advice. Rather, closure is a made-up concept: a frame used to explain how we should respond to loss." [emphasis mine]
Chapter 1, Seeking Closure, introduces the concept of closure and sets out the concepts and structure for the pages that follow. Berns shows that "closure" is a relatively new term that rose to prominence in the 1990s (think about it -- did our grandparents talk about seeking closure after Pearl Harbour?). But while it's become ubiquitous in our society to seek "closure" after a traumatic event (which could include not only the death of a loved one but the loss of a pet, a divorce, adoption, natural disaster, murder, etc.) there is no specific, agreed-upon definition of what exactly closure is or how it can be achieved -- and the impact that this new concept is having on our society is not yet well understood.

Chapter 2, Closure and its Tangled Meanings, uses the recent example of the Caylee Anthony murder trial as a springboard for a discussion about the many different ways "closure" can be interpreted. Berns identifies six: closing a chapter, remembering, forgetting, getting even, knowing, and confessing or forgiving. All six definitions imply that closure exists, and that closure is possible, good, desired and necessary. This statement (from pages 28 & 29) really resonated with me:
"Closure encourages the idea that grief is bad and therefore something that needs to end. These assumptions, and the larger narratives that carry them, build feeling rules for how we are supposed to respond when bad things happen... When the feeling rules fail, or do not produce the emotions promised, individuals may experience... a disconnect between what they feel and what they think they should feel."

Chapter 3 explores research on grief and bereavement, including whether there is a roadmap or standard process and timetable for grief, the medicalization of grief, what's considered "normal" and what's not, and ambiguous loss and disenfranchised grief (concepts that will be familiar to the ALI community). It also introduces the Walking Wounded (people who want closure, but say they can't find it) and the Myth Slayers(those who don't believe closure exists). (Guess which camp I fall in.)

Chapter 4, From Embalming to Teddy Bear Urns, examines the death care industry and how it uses closure to promote "proper" and "dignified" ways to care for and remember our loved ones. (Bury or cremate? Embalm & view or not? Scatter ashes, keep them, or make them into jewellery? The choices are dizzying, and each has an advocate.)

Similarly, Chapter 5, The Assurance Business, discusses how lawyers, private investigators, psychics, medical consultants, DNA testing facilities and forensic pathologists are using the idea of closure to generate more business. Berns argues that it's understandable to want answers, but points out that the search for answers often just leads to more questions -- and not necessarily closure.

"We can survive a loss even when there are some questions that remains," she writes on page 100.
"We can find peace (even if not complete) and healing (even if pain lingers, which it does) , without having all the answers. And even the answers we receive may carry lingering doubt. The trick may not be finding all the answers, but learning to live with some questions."

(I love that passage.)

Chapter 6, Bury the Jerk [!], discusses how businesses have sprung up to offer mock vengeance and symbolic death as routes to achieve closure after the end of a bad relationship (think divorce parties & all the trappings, including cakes, games, and ring smashing ceremonies).

Chapter 7, Should You Watch an Execution or Forgive a Murderer? explores how the concept of closure has come to play a major role in death penalty politics, and whether vengeance or forgiveness is the best route to closure in these cases. Berns illustrates her points through the moving story of Brooks Douglass, who witnessed the murder of his parents in 1979 and spent almost 20 years fighting to bring the killers to justice, and for the right to witness their execution. It's a story with many unexpected twists and turns, and I found it absolutely fascinating.

Chapter 8, Forgetting versus Remembering, explores the politics of mourning, "sacred space" and public memory, including public memorials, such as roadside crosses and Ground Zero in New York City. It also includes a discussion about abortion. It poses the question, "whose life is worthy of memory and how."

The final chapter, Framing Grief beyond Closure, suggests other ways we can think about grief beyond the frame of closure.
"The concept of closure taps into a desire to have things ordered and simple, but experiences with loss and grief are typically messy, complicated, and not easily resolved. Still, we long for peace, order, and resolution. The appeal of closure rests in large part on the hope that pain will lessen and healing will come. Yes, of course we long for healing, and we should seek it. But healing can come without closure. Even if you do not want to give up the subject of closure, at least know that it is subjective and and may take a long time to "find" and that no one particular ritual, product, service, or politician's promise can guarantee closure." (page 162)

I really can't say enough good things about this book. Berns has done all of us a huge favour in shedding a bright light on this subject, and making us THINK about a term that is broadly used but not very well understood. Grief touches us all, eventually, in some way, and while this book's messages are highly relevant to the ALI community, it's safe to predict that many others around us will eventually be faced with pressure to apply the concept of closure in their own lives -- and may well think differently about it then. We'll see...!

Berns has a website, which includes links to the first chapter of her book and a blog, as well as a blog on Psychology Today with similar content. She recently wrote a thoughtful piece, published on both blogs and highly relevant to the ALI community, about the Santorum and Duggar families -- how they chose to mourn the loss of their children, public reaction, and what it says about our society. If, like me, you were appalled by the way these families (&, by extension, my own and possibly yours as well) were treated because of how they chose to mourn their babies -- regardless of how you feel about their political &/or religious beliefs -- you may want to check it out!

If you read the book, I would love to hear your thoughts about it!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

So why aren't there more of us?

I don't mean why aren't there more of us choosing the childless/free after infertility & loss option. Any of us who are in this position can understand why. After all, it wasn't our first choice either, & nobody knows more than we do just how difficult a choice that can be (if we feel it was even a true choice to begin with). The decision not to have children -- for whatever reason(s) -- is extremely personal and complex, and not well understood by others in our highly pronatalist society -- even within our own ALI community where -- we know -- we are some people's worst nightmare come true. It's extremely difficult to go against societal norms, not to mention our own biological impulses. For all the positive and wonderful advantages of childless/free living (& there are many), it can be a lonely place to be sometimes.

My question is, why aren't there more of us who write & speak out about our experiences, on blogs or message boards, in books and in public?

Granted, there are more & more of us doing so all the time -- witness the number of blogs listed in my childless/free blogroll (accumulated over several years), & the number of responses to my post asking for more. There have been several great books published on this subject just in the last few years alone (hello, Pamela & Lisa!).

But in the 10+ years since we stopped infertility treatments, I've found lots of message boards, blogs and websites dedicated to childless/free not by choice living. Very few of them are well used. Many tend to peter out after awhile.

I have a few theories:

  • People just get on with the "living" part of the equation after the initial adjustment period is over (on the flip side, lots of infertility blogs tend to peter out after the baby finally arrives too).
  • Let's face it, infertility blogs are event & drama driven -- the next cycle, the next round of infertility drugs, what protocol to use, the big hpt results, whether to use donor eggs or a surrogate, whether to adopt... living childless/free is... well, just LIVING. The focus becomes our life generally, not specifically the pursuit of a baby. There's the occasional angst when life slaps us in the face with baby showers & cruel comments from unthinking friends and relatives, etc. -- but for the most part, there isn't a lot of ALI-relevant drama to report.
  • Having made the decision to live without children, they want to get on with the business of living and not think about ALI matters or angst anymore. That doesn't mean they don't have it, at least occasionally, but they don't want to be reminded of it or dwell on it anymore (just as some people who have been through loss &/or infertility seem to forget everything they've been through once they finally become parents).
  • They find that childless/free living is so busy & fulfilling, they don't have time to write about it anymore. ; )
  • They find other obsessions/interests beyond the ALI community that consume their time.
  • Deep down, they might still feel their lives aren't interesting or worthy of sharing with others, without children to talk about.
  • Some of them (especially the younger ones) eventually do resume treatments or decide to pursue adoption, or -- surprise! -- find themselves miraculously pregnant -- and wind up with a baby after all.

Thoughts, or alternate theories to share?

If you blog or otherwise write (on message boards, etc.) about childless/free living, especially if you've been doing it for awhile, why do you continue to do so?

If you don't anymore, or as often as you used to, why not?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Housekeeping: Looking for other childless/free bloggers?

Mrs. Spit was commenting today on the dearth of blogs for women in her (& my) specific situation -- living childless/free after loss (&/or infertility). I already had a general ALI community blogroll here, based on my Google reader, a blogroll of a few childfree by choice blogs, and a list of relevant websites & other resources, and I had updated some of these features when I revamped my blog design a few weeks ago.

But I hadn't taken the time to carve out a special space for my childless/free not-by-first-choice peeps (although they're there, lurking within the general ALI blogroll). And so, taking the hint (thank you, Mrs. Spit, for lighting a fire under me), I’ve added a new blogroll specifically for childless/free not by choice bloggers -- scroll down & check it out.

Sadly, well over half the list is currently not active -- some of these blogs have been dormant for years -- but I’ve included them anyway since there’s still some good reading in there (and, once in a great while, a new post pops up from one of these women).

If you are on the list -- but don't consider yourself as living childless/free or done with infertility treatments, my apologies. Please let me know and I'll remove your name (although I would love to keep it on my general ALI blogroll). If you're not on the list, but think you should be, let me know that too. (And consider popping over to Stirrup and asking Melissa to add you to her fabulous, humungous, categorized blogroll as well -- it really is the go-to resource for the ALI community.)

Happy reading! : )

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year odds & ends

  • 2012, eek. As one of my university friends commented on Facebook, "Wasn't it just 2000?"
  • The Toronto Star has begun a weeklong series on "Motherhood After 40" that I thought might be of interest to some of you. Here's a link to the first story from today. There are no comments... yet!
  • Back to work tomorrow (boo, hiss...), after 17 days away (but only 8 of them actual vacation days -- not bad, eh?). It's been a really good holiday. : )
  • We went into the city on the afternoon of New Year's Eve for a matinee performance of the Broadway touring production of Hair. I was 7 in 1968, when the play originally debuted, & grew up singing & listening to songs like "Good Morning Starshine," "Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine" and "Hair." Memory flash: My figure skating class skated to "Hair" in the carnival of 1973, when I was 12. We all wore jeans, turtlenecks under vests, love beads, & shaggy wigs that our mothers made by pulling lengths of yarn through the bottom of a pair of pantihose, lol. And the grand finale that year was skated to Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World."
  • I had never seen the play before. I saw the movie about 30 years ago, when I was in university (starring Treat Williams as Berger and Beverly D'Angelo as Sheila), but couldn't remember much except the ending. Which, as it turns out, was very different from the play.
  • Overall, the play was really good & we both enjoyed it. The key role of Claude was played by an understudy, but I thought he was wonderful. I'm sure the play was considered quite shocking when it first came out in 1968, & the ending still packs a wallop today -- particularly in light of Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. Yes, I had to find a Kleenex.
  • My one quibble is that the kids onstage looked way too cleancut to be hippies, lol. Dh can remember being on Yonge Street in Toronto in the late 60s/early 70s (which was sort of the Haight-Ashbury of Canada at the time), & says they were filthy, lol. At the very end of Act I, everyone strips down to their birthday suits (something the play is famous for) & although it was sort of dimly lit, I couldn't help but notice how many of the actors seemed to have had extensive waxing done (guys too) which was certainly not very '60s. I mean, it's called HAIR, people, lol.
  • After the play, I had made dinner reservations at our favourite go-to restaurant, where dh had pasta & I enjoyed a delicious steak. And then we headed home, watched "Animal House" on TV for the umpteenth time, & actually managed to stay awake until midnight, lol.
  • Seeing "Animal House" reminded me of one of my all-time favourite New Year's Eve parties. It was New Year's Eve 1979-80 (32 years ago, eeek) -- I was home from first-year university, & "Animal House" had made toga parties all the rage. One our friends had the brilliant idea of a New Year's Eve toga party. (Picture my sister walking in to the local beer vendor to buy some supplies, clad in a toga, lol.) I have lost touch with many of those people over the years, but I still cherish the slightly fuzzy group snapshot of all of us, clad in our togas, raising our glasses to a new year and a new decade. Ahh, youth... (I went to several toga parties at university, too.)
  • Went to dinner at FIL's yesterday, & to see "Sherlock Holmes 2" today -- great fun!
  • How was your New Year's Eve?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Holiday reading

As I mentioned in a previous post, I didn't read quite as many books as I normally do when I'm on holidays... having The Princess around every day cut into my reading time significantly. (Not that I'm complaining, mind you, lol.) Nevertheless, I did finish off one novel, read a second, & get most of the way through a third book.

I can't remember if I saw The Sherlockian by Graham Moore in the bookstore first, or read a review about it & was intrigued. Anyway, I love mysteries, & while I will confess to never having read anything by Arthur Conan Doyle, I have seen my share of Sherlock Holmes movies & TV shows, including the classic BBC TV series from the 1980s starring Jeremy Brett, the new movies starring the charismatic duo of Robert Downey Jr. & Jude Law, and the new BBC TV series with Benedict Cumberbatch (what a great name...) and Martin Freeman as a modern-day Holmes & Watson, who use the Internet & cellphones as well as their brains to solve cases.

So I picked up "The Sherlockian" awhile back & finally got around to reading it, starting just before I went on vacation & finishing while I was still at Mom & Dad's. The plot is fiction, but based in historical fact, alternating between Arthur Conan Doyle trying to solve a mystery in the late 1890s and early 1900s, and a modern-day Sherlock Holmes buff named Harold, who gets caught up in the investigation of a murder at a Sherlock Holmes convention. The common thread is a certain volume of Conan Doyle's diary from 1900, which mysteriously went missing and remains unfound to this day (fact). The murder near the book's beginning is also loosely based in fact, which adds to the intrigue.

The book has been well received. I liked it. It wasn't the best book I read all year -- but it was fun, & I wound up learning a lot about Sherlock Holmes and his creator. (Example: Would you believe one of Conan Doyle's best friends was Bram Stoker -- the creator of another memorable fictional character, Dracula?)

About a year ago, I picked up a novel I kept seeing on the store shelves, called The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley -- a murder mystery set in post-war 1950s England, and featuring a precocious 11-year-old protagonist with a penchant for poison, by the intriguing name of Flavia de Luce. Within just a few pages, I was hooked. Over the past year, I've read two more Flavia mysteries, and happily, a fourth was published just before Christmas.

Appropriately, I Am Half-Sick of Shadows is set at Christmastime. Sadly, Flavia's family has fallen on hard times -- the family silver was sent to auction in a previous book -- and Flavia's father has leased the family's crumbling mansion, Buckshaw, to a film company for a movie shoot, in a desperate attempt to stave off insolvency for awhile longer. The two stars of the movie agree to stage a benefit performance at Buckshaw. Most of the villagers attend and, conveniently, get snowed in by a blizzard. While they are trapped in the big house together, there is (of course!) a murder, and Flavia goes to work trying to untangle the mystery and identify the killer. Meanwhile, she is determined to solve an even bigger mystery: whether Father Christmas (Santa Claus) is real, and how he gets down the chimney.

I guess you can tell that I adore Flavia, & I think you might too. Each book builds on the next one, so I would recommend that you to begin with the first book, Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and move to the other books from there.

The third book I began while I was on vacation was Closure by Nancy Berns, which I heard about a few weeks ago & blogged about here. I am almost finished & will have a separate review soon!