Monday, August 30, 2010

Miscellaneous Monday

I could not sleep last night. I used every last one of my special Jedi mind tricks to try to calm down and lull myself to sleep, but my stubborn brain fought off each and every attempt until well past 2:00am when I finally, mercifully, conked out.

As a result, I'm operating in a general haze of stupidness today.

Thus I am perfectly primed for The Bachelor Pad tonight.

Yeah, that's right - I watch crap reality TV that actually makes me stupider for having watched it. And I don't care. It will give my racing brain something else to digest tonight instead of my own worries. With any luck my noggin, thoroughly drunk on garbage-y TV, will burp, fart, and pass out early.

I'm going to the premiere of The King's Speech at the Toronto International Film Festival next week. Colin Firth - who owes me $40 for last year's The Picture of Dorian Gray premiere that I went to ONLY because he was going to there, except that he wasn't (!!!) - will be in attendance too.

Yeah, that's right - I'm going to the movies with Colin Firth.

I had a great idea this morning. Or maybe it was last night. I don't know, I'm too stupid to remember right now.

Anyway, I thought it would be excellent to make a point of doing something every month that we wouldn't be able to do if we had kids. Not to rub our flexibility and ability to be spontaneous in the faces of those who have to rely on babysitters and plan for early evenings, but to make sure we actually make good use of this life we were given.

We didn't choose it, but it's just sitting here, all wiiiiiide open. And it seems criminal not to use up every last drop of it.

And so that's my new plan.

Almost six months ago I thought for sure my dad was going to die. A few weeks later, he almost did. And a few weeks after that, he started to crash again while My Beloved and I stood in the hallway outside his hospital room staring stupidly at each other. Helpless.

Today I gave him a kiss on the cheek while he sat at the kitchen table eating his meatball sandwich before dialysis.

I remain in endlessly grateful awe that he's still here.

I have an adoption post rattling about in my head that I will endeavor to spit out soon.

We are the circus freaks of the infertility world, we black sheep* who choose childlessness over adoption. At best we are objects of curiosity. At worst, we are harshly judged - usually by those who have never had to make these sorts of decisions under these kinds of extraordinary circumstances.

But there are reasons - really good, solid reasons - why we are walking this path instead of the one others may think we should have taken.

And one day I'll talk about it.

But not today. I'm too tired.

*Totally stole "black sheep" from Pamela over at Silent Sorority .

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sometimes when we get bored...

...we put stuff (like furry toy mice) on the cats' heads.

They don't always like it.

Sucks to be them.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Life lessons

When I take my dad to the hospital for dialysis I always go in and wait with him. He doesn't need it - he's perfectly capable of walking in on his own, getting registered and waiting in the outer lounge to be called in for treatment - but I enjoy spending that time with him, just the two of us.

We chat about all kinds of things while he chomps away on his ice chips. Sometimes I stare intently at his face, trying desperately to memorize every little feature while he talks, but I am listening closely too. Hearing the sound of his voice, now weak, but still full of fire and life.

For a hospital waiting area, the dialysis lounge is actually pretty nice. Comfy chairs, dark paneled cupboards, a great ice machine (so I'm told), and a TV, all tucked away from view of the hospital lobby. It's as cozy and as non-threatening as it can possibly be.

But, you know, it's still a hospital waiting room. And there are enough old, sweet faces in there to break your heart a million times over.

I focus on my dad, but when there are lulls in our conversation, my eyes wander to the other souls waiting in the room. And yesterday, I overheard enough of a conversation between one patient and a dietitian to change the way I view my own little world, tragedies and sorrow and all.

She's only in her late 40s, I'd say, and in addition to dealing with renal failure, she is obviously struggling with some form of mental illness - a fact that became very clear yesterday when I overheard part of her discussion with one of the renal dietitians.

As I watched her face register fear and sorrow - flicking back and forth between the two as she told her story -  I thought about my own life. About what's going on right now.

I miss my son. With every single cell in my body, I miss that boy every moment of every day. And I ache for my dad, and for what he's going through - and for the awful toll it's taken on his mind and body over the last five months. And every day I worry that my mom will call and tell me he's gone. And I worry about her too - and my sister. And I wonder if I'm doing the right things, doing enough, saying enough, or maybe saying too little. Or saying too much.

And sometimes I find myself consumed with it all. Worried, sad, distracted. Swallowed whole.

But as I sat in the dialysis waiting room yesterday listening, I thought about the good bits. Dad is still here. There is a Kristin-shaped dent in my mattress next to a Sandy-shaped dent. I wake up to Dibley-the-Wonder-Cat kisses on a regular basis. I laugh until my stomach hurts. I can walk. I can see. I am loved. I love back.

I am still here.

And life, despite all its sorrow, is often so good I can barely breathe.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The small matter of The Home...

Lately I've lapsed back into my preoccupation with what will happen to me when I'm old. The other day, in the midst of a conversation that had nothing to do with either of us, I pointed out to My Beloved that he and I will likely end up in nursing homes at an earlier age than my parents will because we have no one to look after us.

It popped out of my mouth and crashed to the floor of our family room like a lead weight. The hard, real truth of the statement literally drowned out all other sound for a few moments as it clattered around, coming to rest right between us.

And we just sat and stared at each other, unblinking, until My Beloved made a joke (implying that I would be headed to Shady Acres long before him), and balance was restored.

'Cause that's what we do. We speak of big, scary, grown-up things and then immediately use jokes as brain bleach to wash those recklessly flung words away. 

But in all seriousness, I really believe that my mom and dad would be in a nursing home right now were it not for my sister and me. We do what we do because we adore them, of course, but the fact remains that we are the reason they are still able to stay in their house. We drive, cook, clean, advocate, listen, soothe, support and entertain. They have us to rely on - and they always will.

My Beloved and I, on the other hand, have cats. Not quite as useful to the elderly, really.

Anyway, all this has been rolling about in my head again lately. And it reminded me of last Christmas Eve at my in-laws when, to my surprise and delight, a bottle of white wine appeared on the dinner table before me.

Wine. WINE! This never happens at their place. Like, ever. The drinkers, not surprisingly, are on my side of the family.

I waited an appropriate amount of time before grabbing the blessed bottle by the neck and strangling out a glass of liquid holiday Valium. And then another. And maybe a third, I can't remember.

I do remember I was tipsy by the time dessert rolled around. And the only one in the room who was, since the bottle of wine and I were apparently having an exclusive relationship that night.

And that's how I found myself slightly drunk on my mother-in-law's couch on Christmas Eve, begging my 10-year old niece to promise she'd visit me in the home.

Not really my proudest moment.

Fortunately she merely looked at me with a little grin - like I was a silly old aunt meant to be giggled at - and slyly told me that she would come visit me when I'm old as long as I continue to have my Christmas cookie party every year.

Clever girl.

I realize I'm only 40, and that with luck (and perhaps more exercise and less chocolate) I'll have a few decades to plan for the nursing home years. But closing the door to a life with children has opened the hatch to this new, alien place and I'm still having trouble finding shelves and closets for my brand new set of random thoughts and general concerns.

It's very strange to have gone from a mother-to-be to a woman planning her 80th birthday in just a handful of years.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Okay, there's this little bee in my bonnet, and if I don't let it out it's going to keep repeatedly stinging me...

A month or so ago I noticed an article floating about on Facebook that women were posting to their profiles by the dozens. Nosy - and always happy to procrastinate - I of course clicked on the article's thumbprint to see what it was all about.

In a nutshell, it was a "Dear Abby" style column. A reader had written in asking why her girlfriends with children always claimed to be so busy and were generally unavailable after having kids. She couldn't figure out why someone who works full time (as she does) who shares many of the same responsibilities as people with children (cooking, cleaning, errands, etc.) could manage to make time for friends, when those home caring for children couldn't.

Yes, it's ignorant (in the, "she has no idea what she's talking about", sense of the word).

But I think it is possible that someone young and childless might have absolutely no idea what motherhood entails - or that it is a 24/7 job, particularly when children are tiny - especially if she hasn't been around children all that much.

Before I started trying to get pregnant (and reading all the books and magazines that you read when you're preparing to raise a child), I really didn't know the full scope of the whole motherhood thing - the mechanics and details of it all, I mean. I didn't know how many times a newborn poops, or how often they feed, or how little they sometimes sleep during the night, or how often they need to be held, or how hard breastfeeding can be - or how much sleep is lost by new parents because of all this.

I just didn't know.

Some might argue this sort of stuff is common knowledge, and that all women should have absorbed most of it by the time they're in their 20s - but I would argue that it's not. Certainly not for someone like me who was the baby in my family until a cousin was born when I was 20, finally bumping me out of last spot.

The reader's fatal mistake, I think, was implying that mothers are somehow lying about how much time it actually takes to raise a child. She suggested they are simply fudging the facts in an effort to outdo childless working women on the, "my life is harder than your life", scale.

Because yeah, that's just stupid. I absolutely have more "me" time than every single mother I know, and I would never try to suggest otherwise. Someone with a live-in nanny (who also does light housework and cooking) might have more me time than I do. But that's it.

I suppose the reason the article popped up all over Facebook profiles was because of the artful smackdown delivered by the columnist. She wasn't especially kind, and opted not to presume the reader was simply woefully ignorant.

Apparently it all struck a chord with mothers who, I can only assume, have been challenged in the same way the reader obviously challenged her friends with children.

And they got to postin' it on Facebook with a vengeance.

I have no particular problem with the article, nor do I think it was wrong of the columnist to point out the challenges of raising small children. I'm all for educating the masses. But I do have a problem with the way it spread like wildfire all over FB, and the gleeful way in which women were posting it, complete with, "AMEN!" and "YOU SAID IT, SISTER!" descriptors.

It was awkward for me - uncomfortable and alienating. And I just think it was unnecessary. Not the article, but the repeated (and sometimes smug) re-posting of it - meant, one can only assume, as a passive aggressive way to make a point to every childless FB friend. And in a way that rendered us completely unable to respond, lest we look like a collective pack of whiny, defensive assholes.

Each time I saw it on someone's profile it made me cringe. I wanted, but resisted the urge, to write "duly noted" in the comment section.

There's more than enough "us vs. them" dynamic out there in the big wide world. To ignite a battle between those with and those without children in a social forum like FB just seems pointless at best, dangerous at worst.

Ahhhhhh. That's better. Bee's gone now.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


For everyone who commented on the multicoloured bedspread (pictured below in its infancy, complete with feline who thought for sure it was a cat bed), thank you. I still worry that it's a little wild and crazy, but it does brighten up our bedroom in the winter, and it's incredibly warm. Insanely cozy, really, which is critical in the dead of winter when bleakness is omnipresent and so wearying.

And since someone asked (which made me giddy because I love talking about yarn), I used Equinox Stripes by Nashua Handknits.

It's kind of pricey, but I was lucky enough to pick up enough skeins at the Coates & Clark warehouse outlet before it closed down and headed south (sob), so what would have cost me close to $600, was just a little over $100 instead - which is an excellent price for handmade item of that size, if I do say so myself.


I watched Under the Tuscan Sun for the millionth time on the weekend. Chick flicks are an indulgence in which I partake when My Beloved heads up to the futon in the sitting room to sneak in a Sunday afternoon nap.


Anyway, without going into a complete plot synopsis (booooring), there's a part in the movie where one character tells another about the "empty shell people". They are, she says, people who experience some sort of personal trauma and eventually find themselves at a crossroads - a point where they could choose to remain empty shells or move forward into a new life.

Every time I watch the movie I hope I'm walking on the right road.

I don't think it's as simple as making one decision (oh that it were that easy). No, I believe living a life after trauma requires a constant, consistent effort to move in the direction of happy, even when happy seems like the farthest thing possible. As often it does.

There are always setbacks. Of course there are. But at the end of my life, I hope I won't look in the mirror and see an empty shell.

I know I'll at least see someone who tried very hard to be full of happy. I do know that for sure.

Speaking of the end of my life, lately I seem fixated on making sure that random, but personally critical, details about my funeral preparations are known to My Beloved.

I don't have a death wish, nor am I ill (as far as I know). So I'm assuming this preoccupation with my final arrangements has to do with seeing my dad who is, very obviously, approaching the end of his life.

It's interesting how your brain can trick you into dwelling on one thing to avoid thinking about another.

My Beloved is not especially happy with this particular party trick of mine.


Sneaking off to a matinee on a Monday with your sister on a hot summer day is a most fabulous thing to do. I highly recommend it.

I also recommend using a big purse to sneak in your own drinks so you can avoid paying $4.00 for a bottle of apple juice (which, if you're anything like me, is almost stroke-inducing).


I always feel guilty. Poor Therapist Lady tried to beat this out of me multiple times - and she's not the first or only one who's tried - but it remains. Solid. Steadfast. Clinging to me like stubborn grout mould.

I always feel guilty about something.

I have absolutely no idea how to rid myself of this affliction. I like to think it's charming - part of what makes me quirky and interesting - but I think it's probably just annoying.

And possibly life-shortening.

So it's a good thing My Beloved knows what I want included in my obituary, I suppose.


Dibley the Wonder Cat is sitting on my lap purring while absentmindedly licking the crook of my arm.

This, people, this is why cats are awesome.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

More expensive than wine, but cheaper than therapy

To say the last several months have been stressful is an understatement. I'm practically pooping diamonds, I'm in such a constant state of clench. In fact, on Saturday I finally succumbed to a nap (something I almost never do, for fear of missing something good), because after a week of looking after my mom and dad solo, I felt like I'd been hit by a truck then run over with a steam roller cartoon-style. My whole body ached. Slipping into blissful unconsciousness was such a welcome relief.

But since naps aren't always an option (really, I hate missing stuff), and vodka/wine/cocktails are (or should be) limited to happy hour, and I can't really afford therapy at the moment, I found something else...

First, there was Knitmap, a searchable yarn store directory I stumbled across one afternoon when I probably should have been doing something more productive.

And from there, Spun Fibre Arts, which is, incredibly, just minutes from home.

Minutes. From. Home. And I never knew.

My Beloved accompanied me on my maiden voyage to Spun a few weeks ago. He heard my contented sigh upon entering, and patiently followed me around the room while I touched everything I could put my little paws on, oohing and ahhing all the while.

I told him he could sit (there are couches in the middle of the store that are probably meant for knitting & crocheting class purposes, but certainly must frequently double as a man waiting area), but he said he wanted to watch me finger yarn.

Which sounds dirty, but really isn't. I swear.

I think it had just been that long since he'd seen me that content - lost in something that didn't involve old people on dialysis and my ever-present fear of the call.

I left the store with $40 worth of the most gorgeous baby llama yarn in soft lavender, and a buzz that I can only say rivaled a hit of Valium with a red wine chaser.

It was like they were pumping antidepressants in through the air system, the way they pump oxygen into casinos in Vegas.

I have simply not felt that relaxed in months. Months, people.

I have to think it actually had something to do with petting the yarns. It was almost meditative, moving slowly through the store from cubby to cubby, looking at all the delicious colours and touching each different flavour.

Yarn touch therapy. Is that a real thing?

If not, it should be.

Today I finally found a pattern worthy of my yarn, and started crocheting myself a rippled scarf. It's selfish to make something for myself out of the most gorgeous (and expensive) yarn I've ever bought, but it somehow feels right - like it's a continuation of the whole experience, which was so therapeutic, and so desperately needed.

So just for me.

Women don't do enough of this sort of thing. We're somehow biologically programed to look after others, and we spend an inordinate amount of time doing so, often at the expense of ourselves and our own precious peace.

So I'm telling you right now, go find your yarn store. Go find whatever it is that makes you feel the kind of contentment I felt that day at Spun, and do it - or eat it, or read it, or bake it, or sleep on it, or wear it. Whatever it is, just dooooo iiiiit.

Trust me.

Monday, August 09, 2010

What now?

I've been thinking about this question endlessly lately.

What exactly should I do now? Where do I go from here? Now that we know there will be no more attempts at children, what happens next?

Isn't it lucky for me that my mid life crisis happened to coincide with the end of my six-year long trying to conceive catastrophe? It's so great to have all your crises collide in one huge clusterfuck so you can really sink your teeth into coping with them all at once.Yeah, that's real handy.

But seriously, what now?

I was always good at writing essays in university. Once I got going, I could write the most glorious bullshit with the greatest of ease.

But getting started was always agony. I'd stare at that menacing blank page for hours. Or, in truth, avoid staring at the menacing blank page by doing something else, anything else, until I was so pressed for time that I had absolutely no choice but to skulk back to the typewriter and start working.

I'm staring at a blank page again. Only this time it's the rest of my life instead of an essay.

And I don't have a big enough typewriter for that.

While I was mulling over what to do with the remaining 20 - 40 (God willing) years of my life recently, it dawned on me that my childless friends are among the most interesting people I know. One is a radio host who's working on her second book, another is taking acting classes and writing scripts in her spare time, a third teaches bellydancing, another is a comedienne who stages one-woman shows and takes clowning classes, and then there are the pair of singleton adventurers who sync up their vacation schedules and travel the world together once or twice a year.

These women are doing things, creating things, experiencing things - all without having procreated. And, more importantly, they seem happy doing it. They don't appear to be blindly searching for fulfillment - something to plug the kid-shaped holes in their lives.

They are an awesome assembly, with their assorted talents and hobbies and collective zest for life. Always doing, seeking, playing, learning, and moving.

And not a child amongst the lot of them.

Some are childless by choice, some never married, and others I've never actually asked. But regardless, They're all childless, just like me.

They're just kind of doing it better than I am at the moment.

They are my inspiration - my proof that there is a big, full, happy life out there for those of us without children. And even though we are often invisible in today's child-centric world - and occasionally misunderstood and sometimes even judged harshly - there is a place for us. Dammit, there is.

I have no idea where my place is, of course. That's my whole point. But I have faith that it's out there somewhere.

And as soon as I finish licking my wounds and cowering from the big, scary blank page, I'll have a look and see if I can find it.