Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Please, put yourself in the picture!

This is a topic I've written about before over the years, but it bears repeating.  :) 

I have childless-not-by-choice friends who, even years after their loss, find the annual onslaught of holiday photo cards of adorable children, and/or cards with photos in them, unbearable.  Some cannot fathom WHY people would send them photo of their kids, when they know (or should know) how hurtful it is to them.

Getting photos of other people's kids does not bother me. (Mostly.) It might have, early on, and especially when the babies/kids were the same age as my daughter might have been. And I will admit to the occasional twinge when I see how grown-up my peers' kids have become -- and how adorable their grandkids are.  Still, by and large, I enjoy getting to see family photos at Christmastime. 

But, as this year's batch of cards started arriving in my mailbox a week or two ago, I was reminded of something that does bother me about them. 

Exhibit A:  A photo card from a couple that we met through our support group... they came to us after the stillbirth of their baby girl (who would be in her teens now, yikes!). They subsequently went on to have three boys (yikes again!! lol). The mom wrote us a lovely note on the back about how knowing us has enriched their lives (aww).  The photo is of the three boys. (Fine.) 

But it's signed "Love, A, B & C" (boys' names). No mention of Y & Z (the parents).   

Exhibit B:  Another photo card, this time from one of my (male) cousins, his wife & their two boys (the oldest is the same age Katie would have been).  It's one of those two-sided photo cards with one photo on the front of the two boys, & multiple photos on the back:  more photos of the boys (together & individually), a photo of the family dog, and even a photo of my cousin.

But the wife/mom (who presumably designed & sent the card) is nowhere to be seen.

I have a friend who has faithfully sent me her kids' school photos every year for the past 20 years. (Not sure whether I'm getting any this year, as her daughter is now finished high school.)  I haven't seen this friend, in real life or in photos, for about 30 years. Would I even recognize her if I passed her on the street now?? (Which isn't likely, as she lives on the other side of the country, but you get my drift...). 

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I don't mind getting photos of people's kids. I LIKE getting photos. But it would be nice to see at least SOME photos that include the whole family. I know we all like to prattle on about how "Christmas is for kids," and "Family comes first," but seriously, women are people and part of the family too. We deserve a place in the family photo card.

I understand this pattern isn't all about women putting their kids before themselves, about their individual identities being subsumed by motherhood. Quite simply, most women don't like having their photo taken, and are more than happy to let the kids take the spotlight. And even when we do pose for a photo, we are hypercritical about the resulting image. I am guilty of this myself.  (My grandmother had an easy solution: whenever she saw a photo of herself she didn't like, she would, quite literally, cut herself out of it. Grab a pair of scissors and snip! -- pre-digital, of course, lol.) 

But photos are precious. They capture moments in time. And there are only so many opportunities we have to take them. I can't tell you how many stories I've heard about people who have lost their mom/grandma/sister, went looking for some recent photos to display at the funeral -- and found, to their dismay, how very few existed. Partly for the reasons I mentioned before, but also because moms/grandmas/aunties are usually the ones behind the camera, taking photos of everyone else, right? I am guilty of this myself, too. Partly because I enjoy taking photos, partly (yes) because taking photos means I don't have to be in them (lol) but also (I've come to realize) because taking photos gives me something to do in awkward &/or painful social situations like baby showers and kids' birthday parties. If I'm taking photos, I don't have to sit & listen (as much) to the other women chat about babies and pregnancies and grandkids, or answer painful questions about why I don't have any myself. 

Those of us without kids often fear being forgotten... but it's a whole lot more likely to happen if we don't leave any photos & stories behind to help people remember who were are/were and what we look(ed) like.

So this Christmas, whether you have kids or not, resolve to hand the camera over (or get a selfie stick... or make friends with the self-timer feature) and get yourself in the picture. :) 

Monday, December 11, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: White Christmas

Right now, it is -5C with a windchill of -12C (that is 23F and 11F for those of you south of the border) -- and it's snowing outside. We've had a few flakes in the air over the past few weeks, but nothing that's stuck. I think that's about to change. ;)  And in my humble opinion, it's about time. ;)  After all, Christmas is just two weeks away! 

I was talking to my mother last night, and she said there's very little snow on the ground there so far -- although that is very likely to change by the time the big day arrives. December here in southern Ontario can often be green (if not particularly warm) -- but I have spent every Christmas of my life with my family, on the Canadian Prairies where I grew up, where a white Christmas is practically guaranteed. I can only remember two Christmases where we didn't have snow on the ground. The last time was in 1997 -- my beloved grandfather was still alive then (although he was gone by the next Christmas :(  ). He was then 85 years old, and my mother asked if he could remember another Christmas without snow. He couldn't. 

I know a lot of people moan and groan about the snow and cold -- and believe me, it does get pretty old by the time it disappears, usually sometime in March. (I loathe February and would happily accept a trip to the Caribbean or Florida or Hawaii then.) 

But I can't imagine Christmas without snow.  I've often said that if I ran the universe, it would start snowing on Dec. 1st, and then all the snow would magically disappear around Jan. 31st. 

How about you?  Is it usually a white Christmas where you live? 

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

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

He's baaaaccckkkk....

It's that time of year again... The Elf on the Shelf has taken my social media feeds hostage. :p

I expressed my loathing of the Elf in a post four Decembers ago ("Elf Yourself") -- and the passage of time has not softened my opinion. (With the possible exception of some of the more, shall we say, "adult" variations on the theme that I've seen & heard about that cracked me up, lol.)

If you have kids, do you also have an Elf on the Shelf? And if you're childless like me, are you as relieved as I am that you're not under pressure to take part and add one more thing to your daily to-do list, at an already-stressful and hectic time of year?? 

(Maybe this should have been my #MicroblogMondays post this week??  lol)

Monday, December 4, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Brushing up my routine

I am so old-fashioned/analog sometimes. While I am grateful for all the modern conveniences we enjoy, I sometimes wonder whether all the gadgets we have complicate life unnecessarily. instead of making things easier.

Here's one example: toothbrushes.  When our former dentist retired about 10 years ago (he was in his EIGHTIES -- was a WWII vet who graduated from dentistry school in the early 1950s, & had been dh's dentist since he was six years old!!), the new dentist he sold his practice to presented us with fancy rechargeable electric toothbrushes (with charging cords & holders/cases that could be mounted on the wall) as "welcome to the practice" gifts on our first visit. It was a pretty nice freebie, I will admit -- but they were big clunky things and just looking at them and all the accessories & the tiny type of the included instruction booklet intimidated me. I'm a little embarrassed to say we never used them.

The hygienists kept asking us if we were using electric toothbrushes, though, and continued to recommend that we give them a try, saying they did a much better job of removing plaque. About 10-15 years ago, I saw some cheaper, smaller & less intimidating battery-powered brushes at the drugstore, so I bought us each one.  We gave them the old college try. No question, using it made my teeth feel smooth & polished in a way my manual brush never could.

But I couldn't help feeling like something was... missing. I knew my teeth were probably clean, but I didn't feel like I had DONE anything to them, KWIM??  I'd been brushing my teeth the same way, with a manual brush, since I was a toddler, and old habits die hard. Gradually, we both drifted back to using our manual brushes. 

We were back at the dentist last week for checkups & cleanings. Since our last visit six months ago, my teeth had inexplicably developed some embarrassingly bad stains, including a stain right on one of my front teeth that made me embarrassed to even open my mouth, let alone smile. Brushing vigorously with some baking soda had helped remove some, but not all of the stain. 

Thankfully, the hygienist was able to clean it up with a minimum of scraping & polishing. She asked if I was doing anything different with my diet (I drink tea every day, but I hadn't been drinking any more than usual) or whether I was using any new products on my teeth. I was: at my last visit, she'd noticed some inflammation of the gums around a recently installed crown, and recommended I use an antiseptic mouthwash to counter it. She told me she & the other hygienists have noticed that, in a small segment of the population (which OF COURSE would include me...!), certain kinds of mouthwash seem to increase the incidence of stains on teeth. Go figure. You think you're solving one problem, but in the process, you're creating another...!

She encouraged me to try a different mouthwash formula. And (just guess!) to use my electric toothbrush. 

Younger Nephew's wedding is coming up in a few months -- before our next checkup -- and I certainly don't want to have to hide my smile that day. :)  So I've switched to a different kind of mouthwash, to see if that helps -- and I fished my old electric toothbrush out of a dusty drawer. It still worked;  didn't even need a new battery.

And after I use it, I give my teeth a quick going-over with my manual toothbrush too. I figure it doesn't hurt -- and it makes me feel better somehow. :)  Maybe doing both will help me stick to the new routine this time around.

How about you?  -- Electric/power or manual toothbrush? 

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

Friday, December 1, 2017

Right now

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

Not believing: It's December!!  A little over three weeks to Christmas (and less than that until we travel to be with my family).... eeekkkk.....

Counting: The days until we head out to spend Christmas with my family. (And the days I have left to get my shopping done before then...!) 

Redecorating: Katie's niche at the cemetery. We visited there today and swapped the fall-themed decorations for Christmasy ones. 

Reading:  I just bought & started Jann Arden's new book, "Feeding My Mother," which appears to be part cookbook & partly the story of dealing with her mother's Alzheimer's disease. Jann is a national treasure here in  Canada -- a multi-talented singer/songwriter, writer & media personality (to name a few of the hats that she wears). I was lucky enough to hear her speak earlier this year, and adored her earlier memoir about growing up in rural Alberta, "Falling Backwards" (reviewed here).  

Margaret Atwood's "Alias Grace"  (and the TV miniseries adaptation) are still on my to read/view list. 

(Some) other recent purchases/additions to the TBR pile (!):  

(Very much doubting: Whether I am going to meet my goal of reading 24 books in 2017... although I still have a few weeks to go, & I do usually manage to cram in a few books over the Christmas holidays...! I have finished 17 so far;  Goodreads helpfully informs that is 4 behind schedule...!)  

Watching:  Lots of figure skating on the weekends (Grand Prix events;  final coming up shortly). Still watching "Designated Survivor," although more out of habit than anything else (season 1 was much more exciting).  Looking forward to a binge session of season 2 of "The Crown" on Netflix shortly...!  ;)  

Eating:  Very carefully these days, after one too many bouts of gallstone discomfort lately. :p  Hoping to get through Younger Nephew's wedding this spring, and then will talk with my dr about the pros & cons of possible gallbladder removal surgery. 

Drinking: Chamomile tea or ginger ale, when my gallbladder starts acting up. 

Listening:  Christmas music! :)  We are hoping to put up & decorate our Christmas tree this weekend... our usual soundtrack for that activity includes: "A Charlie Brown Christmas" by Vince Guaraldi;  "A Merrie Christmas to You" by Blue Rodeo (beloved Canadian country-rock band) and "Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas" by Ella Fitzgerald. 

Wearing:  My new/recently purchased down winter jacket.... wonderfully lightweight yet still warm. (I kept my older, heavier jacket for really cold days, extended time outdoors & Christmas visits home.)  It looks really cute on me too. ;)  The (quite literal??) downside?  Little feathers. Everywhere. All over my clothes & the seat of the car where I sit. Yikes!!  (I've never had a down jacket before -- is this normal??) 

Buying (besides books, lol):  Christmas gifts!!  The Little Princesses will each be getting an outfit and a new pair of PJs from Gymboree (same designs, different colours), as well as two fondly remembered books from my own childhood: "Ramona the Pest" & "Beezus & Ramona" by Beverly Cleary. 

(Still) wondering:  If/when Aunt Flo will make her next appearance... it's now day 118 (and counting...!).  Technically, I am about 1/3 of the way to 365 days = officially being in menopause. 

Hoping: For a decent's night's sleep, one of these days... :p  

Enduring:  The endless roadwork on the highway that runs directly in front of our building. Traffic here is nuts enough as it is, and this just makes it worse (if such a thing is possible...!).  

Looking forward: To another royal wedding (as well as William & Kate's royal baby!) in the spring! :) 

Feeling:  Startled to realize that it's actually December, a little stressed by my to-do list, but happy the Christmas season is finally here!  

Monday, November 27, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Royal engagement (pass the Kleenex...)

I was out most of today, but before I left this morning, I caught the announcement of Prince Harry's engagement to Meghan Markle, and their brief photo op at Kensington Palace. (I plan to watch the TV interview later.)  Much to my surprise (and dh's bemusement), I found myself getting emotional and wiping my eyes as I watched the happy couple give huge smiles for the cameras, show off Meghan's ring, and then exit, arm in arm.

"Why are you crying??" dh asked.  I couldn't quite explain -- I wasn't quite sure myself. But when I thought about it, I could think of several reasons why I might have reacted the way I did.

First, I love royal weddings (who doesn't??) -- I don't think I've missed one since Princess Anne's (her first marriage in 1973, when I was 12). Another wedding, another link in the chain extending back into my past.

Then I realized just how long I've been watching royal weddings (eek), and how many. And I suddenly felt very old. :p

I thought about Harry's parents' wedding, and everything that came after that -- and how happy Diana would have been to see this day. Diana was the same age I am -- meaning that, in a different life, Harry could have been my son. (Gulp.) I thought, briefly, about my own little girl, who will never be a bride, and the lifetime of milestones that we've missed out on with her.

I thought about how, not that very long ago, a marriage between a British royal prince and a divorced, biracial American actress could never have happened. I thought about King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, and Princess Margaret & Peter Townsend, and how far we have come since those days.

And I guess I was happy to see Harry happy, and finally find the right girl, after several previous romances didn't work out.

(And, quite possibly, I'm just a sentimental sap, lol.)

Congratulations to the happy couple! :)

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

Friday, November 24, 2017

Odds & ends: The aches & pains edition ;)

  • American Thanksgiving is always kind of an odd day to be online, when you're a Canadian and already had your turkey and pumpkin pie and declarations of gratitude a month & a half ago. I kept refreshing my tab pages yesterday for new Facebook and message board & blog posts that never popped up, people south of the border being otherwise occupied with food, family & football. ;)  It suppose it's a little how non-Christians might feel on Christmas Day. ;)  
  • I banged my head on Wednesday afternoon -- I bent over to pick something up as we were going into a store -- and brought my head up on the handle of an automatic door that was closing.  OW.  
    • I'm feeling a lot better today, although it still aches now & then.  
    • Besides an ice pack and ibuprofen when we got home, I decided to try the Peppermint Halo essential oils roller by Saje, which is supposed to work miracles on headaches.  I don't know if it really helped, or if the minty tingling just distracted me (lol), but it did feel good & smell nice. 
    • This is not the first time this has happened to me (although it's far from the worst):  
      • (1) The first time I remember being hit in the head was by a neighbourhood kid with a baseball bat (accidentally) when I was about 6 or 7.  I remember crying and going home -- but kids are resilient, and hey, I was walking and talking, so I guess I was fine. 
      • (2) The second time was when I was 18 & the car I was in -- being driven by my friend's dad -- was rear-ended, giving both her & me whiplash, and I banged the back of my head against the edge of the backseat/on the back window ledge of the car. I suppose we should have gone to the hospital to get checked out, but we were en route (and already late) to the closing ceremonies of the Canada Winter Games -- and, being young and foolish, we didn't want to miss it, so my friend & I hailed a cab while her parents stayed with the car to sort things out with the other driver & with the police. I remember my head hurt so bad that night I wondered whether I was going to wake up in the morning. (Spoiler alert: it's almost 40 years later. I did.)  
      • (3) 13 years ago, almost exactly at this time of year, I was vacuuming the bathroom in the basement of our house. I was bent over to get into the corners behind the toilet, brought my head up & cracked it hard on the knobby end of the towel rack. I watched the Grey Cup (Canadian Football League championship game -- this year's is on the this weekend) that afternoon with an ice pack pressed to my head. It ached for days afterward. 
      • (4) 10 years ago, dh had one of those "club" things that locks onto the steering wheel of the car to deter theft. He was taking it off & swinging it around to drop into the back seat of the car -- at the same moment that I happened to lean over in that direction. CLUNK. At first, I didn't think it was that bad, but within a few minutes, I realized it hurt. A lot. I probably should have had dh take me to the hospital to get checked out -- and I did get checked out by our family dr a few days later when the aching still hadn't subsided. He was a former professional baseball player, and he didn't seem too concerned. Nevertheless, it was months before that achy feeling disappeared.  (That was the worst.) 
    • Today, we know a whole lot more about concussions and their lingering effects. I'm not an athlete, and I know people who have had far worse concussions. But I also know that the effect can be cumulative and effects can still show up years later, which does worry me sometimes. :(  
  • Between my allergy to tomatos and my gallstone issues, it's getting increasingly hard to find stuff that's "safe" for me to eat, especially when we eat out.  I think that, in the new year, I am going to have to bite the bullet & (a) investigate having my gallbladder removed and (b) get another referral to my allergist & do an oral challenge test. 
    • It's been almost 10 (!!) years since I started having issues with eating tomatos & tomato products (ketchup, salsa, tomato sauce, etc.). I last saw my allergist not quite two years ago, and had some scratch tests and bloodwork done that (promisingly) showed little reaction to tomato. The next step was probably to do an oral challenge (i.e., slowly eat a tomato in increasing-sized portions in her office while being monitored for any reaction), to determine whether I'm still tomato-sensitive (I did one about five years ago and, encouragingly, I managed to eat almost an entire tomato before a hive popped up) -- but that was right around the time we moved, and I never did follow up.  
    • I'm just a little leery about having my gallbladder out, because (a) I've never had surgery of any kind before (unless you count having my wisdom teeth out?) and (b) my great-grandmother died of complications after gallbladder surgery when she was just 44 years old. Granted, that was in 1928 and in a small, rural hospital -- I think medicine has probably come a long way since then. Plus she had NINE CHILDREN to look after (the oldest was 26 & the youngest was 11 -- my grandfather, somewhere in the middle, was 16), plus her husband, two hired men and a farmhouse. No running water or modern conveniences in those days, either. As my mother sometimes says, no wonder she died young...!
  • I recently bought a pair of Skechers shoes after hearing rave reviews from several people, including both SIL & dh.  They make all kinds of running shoes, etc.  The ones I got are slip-on canvas walking shoes. OMG... So. Comfortable!!  My feet are nowhere near as sore & tired now when we come home from walking around a mall (on those hard concrete/tile floors) for a few hours. They even have wide widths, which is a must for me. :)  

Thursday, November 23, 2017

"Meow! My Groovy Life with Tiger Beat's Teen Idols" by Ann Moses

Googling articles about David Cassidy's sad passing this week, I stumbled on an article on with a very familiar name in the byline -- albeit one I hadn't seen nor thought of in well over 40 years.

Ann Moses worked for Tiger Beat magazine (and eventually became its editor) in the late 1960s & early 1970s. In those pre-cable, pre-Internet years, monthly magazines like Tiger Beat, its sister publication Fave, and New York-based rival 16 Magazine, were the main connection that teen & pre-teen girls like me & my sister had to our idols.  Stuffed full of glossy photos and breezy stories with headlines like "Davy's Life Story!"and  "Shhh... 24 Hours with Dino, Desi & Billy," these publications fed us critical information such as David Cassidy's favourite colour and Bobby Sherman's thoughts on going steady. (Serious journalism this was not.)

"Meow!  My Groovy Life with Tiger Beat's Teen Idols" details Ann's years of hanging out with and writing about the biggest teen idols of the day, including Paul Revere & the Raiders, Dino Desi & Billy, the Monkees, Bobby Sherman (who wrote the foreword for the book), David Cassidy and the Osmonds. Still a teenager herself when she started working for Tiger Beat in 1966, Ann became a regular fixture on the sets of our favourite TV shows, such as "The Monkees," "The Partridge Family," and "Here Come the Brides," cooked chili for the Osmonds at her apartment, and was in the audience when Elvis made his famous comeback special in 1968. In her spare (!) time, she dabbled in somewhat more serious journalism with a regular column in England's New Musical Express (NME). 

In short, she was living our dream. :)  

Those were simpler, much more innocent times, when a handwritten note could get you backstage to interview the Dave Clark Five for your college newspaper, and when you could share a hotel bed with a member of Paul Revere and the Raiders & not even have him try to kiss you. As you might have suspected, though, most of the guys Ann wrote about were not quite as squeaky clean as they appeared to be in the pages of the magazine. Wives, live-in girlfriends and babies were kept hidden or very much in the background. David Cassidy's dog went by "Sheesh" in the pages of Tiger Beat, but his full name was actually "Hashish." "We were in the business of making dreams, not crushing them," Ann explains.  She smoked pot with members of the Raiders and later Peter Tork of the Monkees, lost her virginity to a former Mouseketeer, and had her heart broken by Maurice Gibb of the BeeGees -- on her 21st birthday, no less.   

The story ends with Ann's departure from Tiger Beat in 1972.  Even though she loved her job and was extremely well paid, she quit when she learned the (male) editor of Rona Barrett's Hollywood, another magazine from the same publisher, was making twice as much money as she was, even though (thanks to Ann's leadership) Tiger Beat was making far more money.  (The excuse, of course, being that he was married and had a family to support.)  Perhaps my one quibble about the book is that I'd have liked to learn more about her post-TB life. We do learn that she and her second husband adopted two sons, that she now lives in Arizona, and that she still gets together occasionally with Laudy Powell and Sharon Lee, two other TB-ers whose names I well remember. 

I downloaded this book from Amazon to the Kindle app on my phone last night and finished reading it this morning :) -- one of the speediest reads I've had in a long time. It's not a long nor complicated book, and it might not be quite as interesting to anyone who didn't live through those days, but it was a fun nostalgia trip for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. :) 

This was book #17 that I've read so far in 2017, bringing me to 71% of my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am (still!) currently 4 books behind schedule to meet my goal. :p  ;)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

"I woke up so sad this morning"

"I woke up so sad this morning." This headline on a Globe & Mail article summed it up nicely for me (and also cleverly twisted and incorporated a hit Partridge Family song to boot). 

I started crying last night when I heard that David Cassidy was dead at the far-too-young age of 67.

As my dear penpal of 40 years commented on my Facebook post, "That sound you hear all over the world is the little teenage corners of the hearts of millions of women in their 50's cracking a bit at todays news."

She & I first "met" in 1977 through our mutual love of the Bay City Rollers (!).  But before the BCR, before Donny Osmond -- and LONG before New Kids on the Block, or NSync, or Backstreet Boys, or One Direction, or Justin Bieber -- there was David Cassidy.

I was 9 in the fall of 1970 when "The Partridge Family" came on TV.  My sister & I were enthralled, with the show, the music, but most of all, with David Cassidy. That hair!  That smile!! Those dimples!! That whispery, seductive voice!  We couldn't wait for each weekly episode.

Around that same time, my parents bought us a cassette tape recorder, a fairly new gadget back then.  There were no such things as VCRs or PVRs back then, but we would prop the microphone up close to the TV speaker on a stool and tape episodes of the show, then listen to them later again and again, memorizing the dialogue & the songs.  (I think I can still recite passages from "Danny & the Mob" and "A Knight in Shining Armour," which guest starred Bobby Sherman, one of the other big teen idols of the day.)

My aunt & uncle gave us the first Partridge Family album that year for Christmas, and my sister & I pooled our allowance to buy the next couple of albums too, as well as umpteen issues of Tiger Beat, Fave & 16 Magazine. We shared a room back then, so we didn't have to argue over who got the posters. ;)  My mother wouldn't let us tape the onto our bedroom walls ("it will ruin the paint!!"), but the door was stained wood and less susceptible to tape marks -- and so we had a big poster taped up there. I kissed it every night before I went to bed -- at least until poor David's paper lips started to wear away from the moisture. ;)  I was convinced I was going to marry him. Never mind that he was 11 years older than me, or that he was in California & I was half a continent away in Manitoba.

"The Partridge Family" ended after four seasons, and David moved on to other things. So did I. But I still smiled whenever I heard about him or saw him on TV, or caught an old Partridge Family episode in reruns.  Even just a few weeks ago, I found myself humming some old Partridge Family songs in the shower. I'm sure it's been well over 40 years since I listened to one of their albums, but somehow, I still know all the words.

I suppose his death shouldn't have been such a shock. He'd announced that he was suffering from dementia earlier this year :(  and a few days ago, we heard that he was in critical condition in the hospital.  But coming on the heels of the deaths of so many of the other musical and cultural icons I grew up with (Glenn Frey of the Eagles, David Bowie, Prince, Kenny Shields of Streetheart, Tom Petty... and, earlier this week, Malcolm Young of AC/DC...), it was just one more blow, one more piece of my past gone. And his death was especially personal in a way those others weren't.  It was a shock to realize he was 67 -- how did the eternally youthful David Cassidy get to be 67??!!  (More to the point, how did I get to be 56??!)  Even so, 67 isn't really that old...

"The stuff we grow up on is formative. So when a star we grow up watching or listening to dies, a part of our foundation, even a teeny bit, gets chipped away," the Globe article concluded. "It's something we become more familiar with as we age, even if it's a feeling we don't ever really know how to deal with.

"And this is something, I'm afraid, there is no cure for."

Monday, November 20, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

  • Sorry for the downer of a previous post... albeit it did feel good to vent a little. ;)  What can I say, it's November...! 
  • We got out of the house this weekend, which did wonders for my mood (even though the weather was crappy).  We went to an event at a nearby art gallery where I hold a membership, then into the pretty little village where it's located for treats at Starbucks. Then to BIL's house to play with Older Nephew's puppy (always a mood-booster!), and from there to the mall to walk around, shop & have dinner. 
  • The mall had all its Christmas decorations up, and Santa was holding court. Now I'm starting to feel Christmasy!  
  • Season finale of "Poldark" was on TV last night... including no fewer than three pledge breaks interrupting the show. Ugh. I love PBS & I know it depends on pledge breaks, but couldn't they put them before & after the show, especially when it's something that's SO anticipated??  

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017


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

And I don't.

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

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

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

But I haven't.

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

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

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

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

Vent over. :)  (For now. ;)  )

Monday, November 13, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Do you read the book first?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

10 things I've learned after 10 years of blogging

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

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

Monday, November 6, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: "Let's open up"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I'm trying... :)

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

Saturday, November 4, 2017

"Victoria & Abdul" by Shrabani Basu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Right now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listening:   No current earworms to report. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Top 10* blog posts from the past 10 years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

10 years down the road less travelled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Past blogoversary posts can be found here.)

*** *** ***

Blogging stats, 10 years later:  

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

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: "The Misery Filter"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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