Thursday, May 17, 2018

This sucks :(

My father-in-law is slipping away from us, mentally and physically. :(  Once energetic and restless, the life of the party (he was still mowing his own lawn -- and it's a large one -- when he was 84, and  insisted just four or five years ago, when he was 85, that he could go up on the roof and fix the chimney at stepSIL's house!!), he has been going downhill over the past couple of years, and has deteriorated in a shocking way since Younger Nephew's wedding last month -- particularly over the last two weeks. Dh notices a visible difference (and not a good one) every time he visits -- and he's been visiting more often since we learned the extent of FIL's health issues last week.

The nephews and their wives visited their grandfather last weekend, and reported that FIL did not remember Younger Nephew, nor the girls. :(  But he's never not recognized dh, until today. He thought dh was his younger brother at first (i.e., dh's uncle).  There IS a strong family resemblance -- and Uncle had been there to visit earlier in the day.

But still... :( 

Dh told me today that FIL asked him, "Do you have any kids?"  (!) :(  His heart just sank, and he thought, "I'm not getting into THAT with him...!" so he just said, "No, Dad."

FIL looked puzzled and said, "You never got married?"  (!)

"No, Dad, I'm married, we just don't have any kids."

A while later: "So how many kids do you have?" :( 

I burst into tears when he told me this. :( 

FIL was so, so happy when I was pregnant.  I can remember him coming up the front walk of our house with this huge grin on his face & putting his hand on my stomach & asking, "So how's my baby??"  And then when I lost her, coming up the walk again with this horribly sad expression on his face. I started crying when I saw him because I remembered the other time and how happy he was.

After Katie's funeral, when we paid our first return visit to the cemetery, FIL had already beaten us there. The plaque with the little bud vase attached was not yet mounted on Katie's niche, but there was a bouquet of flowers duct-taped (! -- typical FIL, lol) to the granite wall, with a little note that said (in Italian) "Your grandparents." I don't think he's ever been back there since then -- but I'll never forget that he was the first. 

This sucks. :( 

Monday, May 14, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Voldemort Day*/weekend recap

Not the greatest weekend, I'm afraid:
  • FIL (age 89) has been in declining health lately, and (most troubling to us) has no appetite and has barely been eating lately. StepMIL took him to the hospital last week, where they ran some tests, and then on Friday, dh & BIL went with them to an appointment to review all the results. Without getting into all the details, the prognosis is not good. At 89, you know his days are numbered anyway -- but knowing the end will be coming sooner vs later is depressing, to say the least. 
  • We spent Saturday afternoon with BIL, SIL & one of dh's aunts, visiting not just one, not just two, but THREE cemeteries scattered across the city where various relatives (including my late MIL) are buried. How's that for cheery?? (Aunt was happy & grateful to us for taking her, and we all did have a few laughs together in the car.) (We did not visit the cemetery where Katie is -- (a) it's further out of the city proper, (b) nobody suggested it (aunt probably doesn't even known she's IN a cemetery...) & (c) dh & I had already visited there earlier in the week.) 
  • Voldemort Day itself, however, was just for me -- and we decided to deal with it our usual favourite way -- avoidance, lol -- i.e., spending the afternoon hiding out in a dark movie theatre with a big bag of popcorn. We decided to go see "The Avengers: Infinity War" -- we've seen & enjoyed most of the other Avengers movies and have been waiting a few weeks for the initial crowds to die down. 
    • The popcorn, at least, was excellent...
    • There was a still a healthy dose of the wisecracking humour we love (some very funny moments).  
    • BUT. (Spoiler alert here!)  I had already heard the buzz that not all of the Avengers make it out of this one alive...  But I was not prepared for the very dark tone overall, or for the very bleak ending. Not what I needed today -- (no) thank you, Marvel. :p  
  • Came home and started scrolling through my social media feeds. I wound up just skimming & not "liking" or commenting as much as I usually do, because quite frankly it was too much;  I was getting weepy.  
  • To cheer myself up even further (not), I finished off the day by watching the latest episode of "The Handmaid's Tale."  I suppose I could have PVRd it and gone to bed earlier, but I have enough stuff backlogged on there already. Dh says not to watch if it depresses me. It does, but I almost feel like it's my duty as a woman to watch. ;) (It's also really, really great TV, even if the subject matter makes me want to crawl under the covers & stay there. And it seemed like a weirdly appropriate way to finish off Voldemort Day -- the fetishization of pregnancy, and the tension between those who get pregnant and those who can't, taken to extremes.) 
  • I sense Aunt Flo's impending arrival... cramping, and extra weepiness (although I think all the other stuff this weekend was probably reason enough to feel weepy...!). 
  • On a slightly lighter note, dh & I went to an outlet of the national mega-bookstore earlier this week. I was amused to see that all the mom-related stuff had already been cleared out (or at least moved to a less conspicuous location?) to make room for all the Father's Day-focused stuff.  ;) 
  • And on a VERY bright note, my Winnipeg Jets won their series against the Nashville Predators, and won their first game against the Las Vegas Knights on Saturday night. Game 2 tonight!! (also in Winnipeg). 
    • If they win this series (Western Conference final), they go to play for the Stanley Cup!! -- which would be a dream come true for every Jets fan. (You can read the story of the Jets here.) 
And how was your Voldemort Day weekend??

* Voldemort Day:  As in Harry Potter, That Day Which Shall Not Be Named, lol.  

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

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Voldemort Day

A Facebook find. :)
"A world and a system that has tried to keep us small."
Yes, this.
Thinking of you all today, and wishing you some modicum of peace. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

"The Musgraves" by D.E. Stevenson

"The Musgraves" is the latest selection from my D.E. Stevenson fan group -- discussions will begin shortly. :)  I procured a yellowing and slightly musty used copy of a paperback edition via the Internet and plunged in. Most Stevenson novels are not a particularly difficult read, and I finished the entire thing -- 256 well-spaced pages of a pocket-sized paperback -- in two nights. It's set in the same village as part of "The Tall Stranger" was, and features a couple of the same characters.

Stevenson's novels are generally short on plot but long on character -- and this is probably one of her slighter novels (that I've read, anyway), plot-wise. The story (first published in 1960 -- and reflecting its era) revolves around Esther Musgrave, a widow with three daughters to worry about. There's Delia, the oldest at 26, prickly and bored. She joins the local drama club and wins a role in its forthcoming production of "The Mulberry Coach."  Middle daughter Margaret is married to the wise and steady Bernard... but something is missing from her happy little home. (Just guess...!!)  And youngest daughter Rose is home from school with no idea of what she wants to do with her life. Their lives are thrown into upheaval when their stepson/stepbrother Walter arrives from South Africa after years of absence -- with a startling proposition for Delia.

It's all a tempest in a teapot -- but it's an easy, gentle, pleasant read, and (surprise!) everyone gets a happy ending. :)  As I've said before, the literary equivalent of comfort food, or perhaps a nice cup of tea.  Three stars on Goodreads. :)

This was book #9 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 38% of my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am -- for once! ;)  -- AHEAD of schedule to meet my goal!  :)  

Friday, May 11, 2018

"I Am Not a Mother. But I Am Something."

Just in time for Voldemort Day (my preferred name for That Day Which Shall Not Be Named), the New York Times has published a moving opinion piece: "I Am Not a Mother. But I Am Something."

Paula Carter has no children. She had been in a long-term relationship with a man who had two sons -- but when the relationship with the father ended, so (sadly) did her relationship with the boys. 
I was not the boys’ mother — they had one of those; I was not even their stepmother. But, I was something... 
When we don’t have the words to name something, it is as though it doesn’t exist. Maria Popova, in a beautiful post on her website Brain Pickings, wrote, “To name a thing is to acknowledge its existence as separate from everything else that has a name; to confer upon it the dignity of autonomy while at the same time affirming its belonging with the rest of the nameable world.” 
When you realize you are outside of what has been deemed normal, what has been named and defined, these are the things you feel you lack: Dignity, autonomy, belonging. And a shared understanding of the role you play.
Carter's story is different than mine -- but it speaks to all of us whose stories are more complex than most people are comfortable with -- those of us outside the norm, whose life experiences haven't followed the generally accepted trajectory, who don't neatly fit into the usual categories, who sometimes lack a definitive label (who don't LIKE the labels we've been assigned...!).

Read the whole story, and tell me what you think.

Happy Voldemort Day. (Hang in there, it will soon be over...!)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

"A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership" by James Comey

Continuing to work my way through the stack of current events-related books I've accumulated recently ;) I just finished "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership" by former FBI Director James Comey.

The most-publicized sections -- about Comey's dealings with the Trump White House -- are only a small part of the book, towards the end.  The rest of the book is all about how Comey got to that point, and his reflections on the different people he has worked for throughout his life (starting with his very first boss, Harry Howell, at the local grocery store)  and the examples of leadership (both positive and negative) they provided, as well as other interesting characters he encountered along the way. I very much enjoyed his stories about Sammy "the Bull" Gravano and other mob bosses, Martha Stewart (!), Rudy Giuliani, Presidents Clinton, Bush (45) & Obama,  Vice-Presidents Dick Cheney and Joe Biden, Attorneys General John Ashcroft, Eric Holder, Loretta Lynch and Jeff Sessions, to list just a few names you might recognize.

This is probably the last book where you'd expect to find an ALI (adoption/loss/infertility) angle -- but nope, there it is:  Jim Comey and his wife Patrice (who are roughly the same age as I am) are bereaved parents. They lost their fourth child, Collin, in August 1995 to a Group B strep infection. Those of us who are also bereaved parents will recognize ourselves in the moving passages that describe Collin's brief life and death, and its aftermath, including Comey's reflections on why bad things happen to good people and how this relates to the justice system (channeling grief into purpose). Patrice became an activist, launching a nationwide campaign to ensure all pregnant women and babies born in the United States are now tested for Group B strep:
Patrice wrote publicly about our son and traveled the country supporting efforts to change the standard of care... She didn't do anything alone, but her voice, along with the voices of many other good people, changed our country. All mothers are tested now, and their babies live. Something good followed unimaginable bad. Other mothers will never know what might have been, which is as it should be. 
[As an aside: after my own loss three years later, I can remember reading stories online from other bereaved mothers whose losses were the specific result of a Group B strep infection. A couple of years later, Cousin/Neighbour's Wife told me about her pregnant sister -- whose first baby was born exactly one day after I delivered my stillborn daughter -- and how annoyed she was that her birth plan was being changed because she had tested positive for Group B strep and would need antibiotics administered during delivery. "I'm sure the doctors know what they're doing," I murmured through clenched teeth, thinking, "Does this woman know just how f***ing lucky she is??"]

Comey does come across as a bit of an annoying Boy Scout/Dudley Do-Right sometimes (and he admits he has a healthy ego) -- but let's just say I am more inclined to believe his version of events than the current occupant of the White House, and that he made the best decisions he could (and there were some pretty tough ones with no truly good outcomes) with the information he had at the time. His basic sense of decency and integrity, his belief in the rule of law, his affection for his colleagues at the FBI, and his love for his wife, family and country shine through the pages of this book. At the book's end, he states his optimistic belief that the country will survive Trump and overcome the damage he has created. I hope he is right.

I gave it four stars on Goodreads.

This was book #8 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 33% of my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am -- so far! ;)  -- on track to meet my goal.  :) 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

"The Year I Learned to Quit"

I found a great article from the "Well" section of the New York Times on a subject that's near & dear to my heart:  the "Q word;"  i.e., learning how to quit.  The author trained diligently to run a marathon at Big Sur this spring, only to have to pull out because of injury and pain. [Boldfaced emphasis in the following sample passages is mine.]
Part of me knew it was time to quit, but the rest of me didn’t want to believe it. All of the articles I found on running websites talked about how to come back from injury and cross that finish line, not how to stay away. 
But I finally gave myself permission to give up — and realize it’s very much in keeping with the rest of my life right now, as I am learning the lost art of quitting. 
I’m not talking about the spectacular #epicfail stories that are so in vogue, with successful entrepreneurs sharing their crash-and-burn experiences as a rite of passage at FailCons around the world. 
I’m talking about quitting before the going gets tough. Leaning out. Not pushing yourself beyond what you think you can do. 
So un-American, right?
She also quit her dream job last year, after giving birth to twins (!):
...when I paused to really pay attention — and stopped busily managing logistics and proverbially running through the pain — I knew it wasn’t right. 
So I quit. 
It pained me to walk away from the team I had built and what we might have achieved together, but the quality and quantity of time I’ve had with my family and for myself since then has far outweighed my regrets.
She goes on to talk about an author who has written about the importance of stillness and rejuvenation throughout history -- cycles of activity followed by rest... "the importance of getting enough sleep and unplugging from our devices." Taking a pause to create space, to think and to listen, instead of rushing through your to-do list, crossing off items along the way.

Infertility treatment -- and when to stop -- is not discussed, but the article resonated with me and very much reminded me of that phase of my life, when I knew I was coming to the end of my quest for motherhood.

Read the whole thing here.

Previous relevant blog posts (now all tagged with the new label "the Q word"...!):