"There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage."
--Martin Luther

Friday, 21 July 2017

Eight Years, Four Years, One Year

Oh July, bringer of hot, lazy days and summer adventures, but with heat comes the danger of being scalded,, seared, or simply consumed in the fire so that nothing is left.

Eight years ago this week, I waited awkwardly in a shopping mall entrance to meet a man for dinner. Shortly after this, I spent a weekend with my mother at our family cottage, and during a canoe outing told her, "I might have met someone. I think I like him."

Four years later, the man from the shopping mall meeting, now my dear husband Gil, said to me, yes, let's have a child. Four years ago today, full of hope, I wrote down that it was finally Cycle Day 1, our first month trying for a child. Filled with hope, I envisioned a winter pregnancy, a spring baby. My imagined spring due date pushed forward to summer, then, autumn, then winter, then spring again.

One year ago tomorrow, I got the call from the clinic. Our cycle had failed. Our last hope. The dream was dead.

I thought that one day it would get easier, that one day I would start waking out without grief or pain. It hasn't. The sharp knife point of grief has dulled slightly, but infertility is still the air that I breath, day in and day out. It envelopes me and consumes me. It is my constant companion. I am infertility and infertility is me. I cannot imagine a life when I will not be aware in every moment that I wanted to be a mother, and I never could.

How do I keep going to face another July, and another? I don't know. I live by putting one foot in front of the other. I enjoy the good moments when they come, and I let myself grieve. I am kind to myself and try to be kind to others. I pray and worship and try to find my way in this dark valley of my faith. I look forward to months that are not July.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I've Been Meaning To Read

Hey friends! This week's TTT is looking at book series that we've been meaning to start. To be honest, I'm often skeptical about starting a new series, because I often feel like once I've started, I have to read them all, even when I don't necessarily love the books. There are some like A Song of Ice and Fire that I am highly unlikely to read just because it's such a time commitment and I'm not sure the books are my cup of tea. However, there are a few series that I would like to try.

1. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer: I've heard great things about these books.

2. Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan: I have the first book on audio just waiting for a long drive. I don't actually know that much about Greek mythology, so I might learn something along the way.

3. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld: The concept is intriguing to me.

4. The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini: The covers are so lovely! I'm not usually that in to high fantasy and dragons, but I have heard many good things about this series.

5. The Gemma Doyle series by Libba Bray: I remember being interested in A Great and Terrible Beauty back when it was relatively new and I worked at a bookstore, but I never got around to reading it. Since I've loved Bray's most recent series, I may have to give Gemma Doyle a go.

6. The Inkworld trilogy by Cornelia Funke: This seems like a booklover's dream: A character who can bring fictional characters into reality.

7. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: This is a maybe for me. I have friends who are absolutely obsessed with it, and others that strongly disliked the books. The sheer number of volumes and length of them makes me hesitant to jump in, but I do love time travel, so maybe I'll grab the first book for a vacation and check it out.

That's all I could think of! Please let me know which series you think I've missed or I absolutely have to start reading!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Diverse Books Added to my TBR

It's another Tuesday! This week's TTT topic is books of a given genre that we've recently added to our to-read list. I couldn't think of a genre, so I chose a theme instead. I've been making an effort recently to expand my reading and ensure that I was getting more diverse perspectives, with protagonists of various culture backgrounds, so here are some recent additions to my TBR that have themes related to cultural diversity.

1. Sour Heart: Stories by Jenny Zhang: I saw this posted on a blog (I can't remember where!) and it caught my eye. This book contains short stories about Chinese and Taiwanese immigrants in the United States.

2. What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons: This book looks really thought provoking and interesting.

3. A Dry White Season by Andre Brink: Since my 2010 trip to South Africa, I've been fascinated with the country and it's dark history. This book is well-acclaimed and discusses race issues during Apartheid.

4. Short Girls by Bich Minh Nguyen: A book about two sisters of Vietnamese origin in the United States.

5. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon: This looks absolutely adorable. I've never met a book that looks at modern arranged marriage among young Indian Americans. And the cover! <3   

6. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: An important look at police violence. There was a woman on my bus who was reading this for a while. I kept wanting to ask her how it was, but I chickened out.

7. The Break by Katherena Vermette: A novel taking place within a M├ętis community in Canada.

8. Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin: This is an important work on race in the American South during Jim Crow. It's been on my long list forever, but I recently added it on GoodReads.

9. You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have To Explain by Phoebe Robinson: This is supposed to be really funny as well as informative.

10. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: I started reading Adichie a few years ago with Americanah, and since then I've enjoyed several of her books and learned a lot about Nigeria along the way.


Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Summer Reads

I've been a neglectful blogger lately. I've actually started a few TTT posts, but since my work life got crazier, I never finished them in time to post on Tuesday...BUT today I'm back. This week's theme is a summer freebie, which is nice because now that we've had Victoria Day, it feels like summer is on its way. I'm feeling uncreative in terms of picking topics, so I'll just post my summer list of books to read. This year, I'm participating in a summer reading challenge to read books in 25 different categories between May 15 and August 31. I'm already two books down, but here are some that are further down the list and I am to read after summer officially starts on June 21. I"ll post some of the categories and what books I plan to read for each one.

1. A book title with a location in it: A Passage to India by E.M. Forster.

2. A book set on a continent I've never been to: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See.

3. A book set on an island or body of water: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer.

4. A book about food or with food in the title: Chocolat by Joanne Harris.

5. A book set in an unfamiliar culture: Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

6. A book with an immigrant or refugee as a main character: Gold Mountain Blues by Ling Zhang.

7. A book based on time travel, world travel, space travel: Saga, Volume 7 by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

8. A book set in a country I'd like to visit: In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson.

9. A book set in the wilderness: The Break by Katherena Vermette.

10. A book originally written in a foreign language: The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Friday, 28 April 2017

National Infertility Awareness Week: Listen Up!

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week, when bloggers, Facebookers, Instagrammers, etc., are encouraged to share their stories and raise awareness about the issues surrounding infertility. This year's theme is "Listen Up". I really like this theme as I've been extremely slowly making my way through a book called Living the Life Unexpected by Jody Day, which helps women come to terms with the fact that they will not have children (due to various reasons). One of the things Day says is that we need to be more vocal about our stories, because the stories of the involuntarily childless are often not heard. We hear all the miracle baby stories, but no one wants to hear the ones that don't end in pink lines or successful adoptions. Our stories make people uncomfortable, but it's precisely because of that fact that they NEED to be heard. We need to normalize the fact that some infertility stories don't have a happy ending.... Or maybe it's better to say: Some infertility stories end with a new and different definition of a happy ending, because I would say that learning to live on and find joy when your biggest dream has died is still a miracle story.

Why aren't we sharing our stories? Sometimes it's because we're embarrassed or ashamed, or because we think find it awkward to talk about something so personal, but other times, it's because we tried sharing and it didn't go well. We stopped sharing because when we said we were hurting and struggling, the response was "Parenting is hard, you know." We stopped because when we were exhausted from getting up at dawn for ultrasounds and anxiety-ridden sleep, we were told, "You don't know tired until you have kids." We stopped because when we had the flu, people said, "You're lucky you don't have kids, because moms don't get sick days." We stopped because when we opened up cautiously, needing love and support, we instead got every piece of advice under the sun and were peppered with questions about our choices like we needed to prove we'd tried hard enough to deserve pity. We stopped because when we sought empathy, we got one-upmanship. We stopped sharing because it felt like no one was listening. (In case you're wondering, all of these happened to me personally, and this is far from the most hurtful comments that I have experienced.)

So how do we change this? I believe many people want to be helpful, but their discomfort with pain and loss and sorrow leads them to say and do hurtful things. I think we start by LISTENING. Most of us like to think we're good listeners. It's not like we tune out all the time, or interrupt constantly, or just walk away, right? Right? I would say that a lot of people - myself included - are not actually that good at truly listening to our friends who are going through the deep water.

We're not really listening if we're jumping in to give advice all the time, or to tell stories of someone who we know - or maybe we know OF - who overcame infertility. Our friend needs someone to hear her story and love her amidst the pain. She doesn't need to know your Great Aunt Edna's tried and true pointers on how to get pregnant. She doesn't even need your Google search results, because she probably has done eons more research than you have.

We're not really listening if we're trying to find the silver lining for someone else. She will come to a point where she can find her own joys and silver linings, but they may not be the ones that YOU would choose. When we try to find someone else's silver lining, it often feels like we're making light of her struggles.

We're not really listening if we're talking a lot, plain and simple. The book of James says we should be "quick to hear, slow to speak", and the book of Proverbs says "Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin." Wise words from God's Word. It might seem like you're not doing much, but a physical presence, an impromptu card, or a "I'm so sorry" can often say what reams of well-meaning advice or miracle stories cannot. We know it's hard. We know you don't have the right words. You don't need to give me all the best words; just give me yourself.

I encourage you all: If you're infertile, feel free to be bold and share your story. We need to hear it. I need to hear it. If you're a family member or supporter take a page from Frasier Crane, call up your friend and say, "Hello Friend, I'm listening." And then just stop talking.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Unique Books

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic is looking at the most unique books that we have read.

Unique Structure
1. All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda: It's written backwards, which plays with your head a little.

2. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner: I've read a number of books that jump around in terms of time and narration, but this was probably one of the most disjointed. I didn't actually like it very much, but it was certainly unique!

Unique perspective:
3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: The narrator is Death.

4. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold: The narrator is already dead and watching the story unfold.

5. My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me by Jennifer Teege: This is an autobiography that I read recently about a woman who found out her grandfather was a prominent Nazi. It was especially interesting as she is half-Nigerian.

Unique Themes:
6. Avalanche: A Love Story by Julia Leigh: I wrote about this book recently. It's Leigh's memoir of going through IVF. We don't have many infertility memoirs, and certainly few without a shiny happy ending.

7. None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio: This is a YA novel about a teenage girl who discovers she is intersex. I'd never read anything else on the subject, so it's definitely unique!

Just Plain Different:
8. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman: This book did a number on my head, but I enjoyed it. Gaiman certainly is a master of books that are a little weird.

9. The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey: This takes the traditional zombie novel and puts it on its head.

10. Maus by Art Spiegelman: Spiegelman tells his father's Holocaust story in a graphic novel format, using mice to depict the Jews and cats to depict the Nazis. It's very creative and different, and really started the trend of using graphic novels to tell serious stories.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

April 2017 Life Update

Hi friends! It's been a while since I just updated everyone on how our life is going, so I figured that was overdue.

Work: I don't even know if I mentioned this (oops), but I graduated last June with a Master of Information, and then started looking for work. In November, I was offered a part-time, one-year contract position working on a research grant at a hospital, and in February, I started a second part-time position, also in medical research. It's been an interesting journey and I am learning a lot! Working two part-time jobs is difficult because I will learn something and then not be back for days, so that has been a challenge, but I hope that by putting in the hours, I'll eventually get to a full-time position.

Convocation!


Writing: I took part in NaNoWriMo last November and I managed to hit my goal of 50,000 words! However, I didn't actually finish the novel and it's been on the backburner ever since because I started working that month. Maybe one day, I will pick it up again. I also have been contributing to my church women's ministry blog, which you can find here.

Travel: I have been struggling with this area. Between infertility treatments and school and Gil's schedule, we have not had a proper vacation in years. We went to Barcelona last June, but that was for a conference and it was a whirlwind trip. I'm going to push for a winter vacation next year, but we may be able to do a long weekend trip somewhere in Ontario in the next few months. Keep your fingers crossed, because we really do need that time away together! There is a chance that I may go on a summer mission trip with the church in August, but I will update more on that later when it's finalized.

Infertility: There is really no update possible. I am still grieving our journey and the child that will never be. There are days when I am okay, and other days when I see nothing but darkness around and ahead of me. I am learning to enjoy the good moments and ask God for the strength to survive the hard ones.

Neville: Is cute as always. I mean, look at this face! :) This little guy gives me so much joy. We have had so many downs since we adopted him, and his boundless energy and silly ways keep me laughing during the dark times.