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

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Tips for Interacting With Your Friends Who Struggle With Infertility (Infertility Awareness Week)

Apparently it’s Infertility Awareness Week.  I had no idea!  I found this out from my dear friend over at Mama Cravings, whose post you should check out, even though it might make you weep. You’re probably tired of my rantings about infertility, but I couldn’t resist taking the opportunity this week of awareness affords to post something that’s been on my mind for a little while. Let me first preface this with the fact that I am by no means an expert, I don't speak for everyone on this journey, and as I see how long some people have been on the infertility road, I know that I can't even imagine how much harder some people's situations have been, so please don't take my word as final. 

The more I talk about infertility with people online and off-line, the more I realize how hard it is.  It’s hard for me, because I want them to understand my struggle and come alongside me, and sometimes I’m disappointed.  It’s also hard for them, because I know many people really want to support their friends through infertility, but they don’t know how, or they feel like they aren’t able to because they have children.  I get it.  I’ve realized recently that after being married 2.5 years (as of last Tuesday – wheee!), I’m no longer able to fully relate to my single friends (the ones who want to be married) they way I used to be.  I am always looking at my single years from the standpoint of having met “that special someone”.  I remember what it’s like to be single and 28, but I don’t know what it’s like to be single in the mid-thirties, and I’d imagine that’s a big difference.  I feel like anything I say could come across as trite, and that might hold me back from saying anything at all.  But following that logic, we can’t comfort or support anyone unless we’ve had that exact experience, and I don’t think that’s the case.

There are lots of posts out there of advice on what to NOT say to someone who’s fill-in-the-blank (adopting a child, has a multi-racial family, going through infertility, experienced a miscarriage, etc.)  Sometimes those are helpful, but sometimes they leave people walking on eggshells.  So what are some basic tips for relating to your friend who is going through infertility? 

Listen:  Remember Job’s friends that came to comfort him?  At first, “when they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.  Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. (Job 2:12-13) It was when they opened their mouths that they got into trouble.  A listening ear can convey so much more support than your words can:  “We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.” (Zeno of Citium).  Because I love quotations, here's another:  Stephen R. Covey said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”  Don't do that.  Just listen and be there.

Ask:  Every person on this journey has different needs.  What I like might not be helpful with someone else.  Personally, I hate being told, “I know you’ll have a child one day”, because really, you don’t know that, but maybe some people find this comforting.   One person might like being asked how treatment is going, while another might want you not to bring it up.  It sounds confusing, but don’t we all have our own unique ways to respond to trials?  Instead of trying to be a mind-reader and pouring over Google, why not just ask, “Hey friend, how can I support you in this journey?” 

Don’t give advice:  While everyone is different, I have yet to meet anyone who enjoys unsolicited advice, let alone about their most private matters.  It’s especially hard when advice comes from someone who has never actually experienced infertility first hand, notwithstanding the fact that said advice usually comes from Dr. Google. 

Be sensitive:  Remember that you don’t know who is going through this, so assume that if you know someone who is in a stable relationship and of child-bearing age, there’s a chance they may be going through infertility, and be appropriately sensitive in your interactions.  Some estimates say that one in five couples deal with infertility, so that means it is affecting a lot more people than you’re aware of.  Not only that, but there may be other very personal reasons why people aren't having children.  This means that the most well-meaning question of “When will you have a baby?” might be really really hard for someone, and you won’t know it until you ask.  (Here’s a great post by Jayme about why you might not want to ask when someone is having kids.)  I’m not saying you should recoil in terror from ever asking about family plans, but it does mean you should use common sense and consider the context: 
      Consider the context of your relationship.  Are you actually friends with this person?  I personally would welcome the opportunity to discuss this journey with people who are close to me, but I don’t want to talk about it with the FedEx delivery guy, or every staff member at my work, or my Chinese teacher (already happened).  If you would never dream of telling me your own personal struggles, perhaps you shouldn’t ask a question that could delve into mine. 
     Consider the geographical context of your conversation.  Again, it’s a sensitive subject.  How would you feel if I approached you at work in the middle of your busy work day, and said, “Oh hey Bill, here are those photocopies you asked me to grab, and by the way please tell me about your deepest unfulfilled personal longing.”  Awkward much?  If you’re going to ask me a personal question (about children certainly, but also about career satisfaction, my marriage, etc.), do it someplace where we can sit down with mugs of coffee and I can open my heart if I want to.  This place should never, ever, ever be the church lobby on a Sunday.  When I attend church, I sit around other peoples’ adorable babies for over an hour, and watch their sweet little ones running around in their best clothes.  Asking how I feel about my baby plans after church is like asking how I feel about my abs after I just watched the Miss America pageant.  I feel lacking.  Thanks for rubbing that salt in my wounds.

Be the friends that have each other's back. Literally.

I don’t think we need a special vocabulary to talk to friends dealing with infertility, any more than we need to know exactly the right words to use with someone who has lost a parent or who is going through unemployment.   These statements convey more than you can ever know:  “I care about you.  I want the best for you.  I will be there for you, no matter what.”
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Proverbs 17:17

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters Who Would Annoy Me in Real Life

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic (over at The Broke and the Bookish) is fairly open-ended: Top Ten Characters Who X (you fill in the blank).  I choose to talk about characters who would annoy me in real life.  I'm specifically going with people who are annoying, not ones that I loathe (looking at you, Angel Clare), and not ones who I love for their annoying traits (Oh, hey there, Mr Collins).  Without further ado:
1. Marianne Dashwood (Sense andSensibility): I've never been a particularly romantic person, and Marianne's impracticably poetic leanings and disregard for Elinor's feelings grate on me.

2. Mrs Bennet (Pride and Prejudice): Compassion for your poor nerves, indeed! Woman up and take care of your children, lady!

3. Wren (Fangirl): I understand she was going through a wild phase, but her disregard for Cath and selfishness rubbed me the wrong way. 

4. Harry Potter: Don't get me wrong, I love Harry, but he sure is angsty. I can get past that because he's a teenager, but he also keeps a lot of secrets from his friends and has trouble accepting help, which would annoy me.

5. Tris (Divergent): I liked the books, but the whole let's-throw-myself-into-danger attitude got to me.

6. Mrs Hale (North and South): Lady, pull yourself together and stop the pity party. Yes, she eventually got sick, but before that it bothered me how much she left it to Margaret to bear all her burdens and didn't try to support or encourage her.

7. St John Rivers (Jane Eyre): She doesn't want your loveless marriage, dude. Get over yourself.

8. Swift Fox (MaddAddam): It's the end of the world as we know it. Everyone is trying to survive. There's no need to act like a character off Gossip Girl.

9. Marius (Les Misérables): He has some great songs in the musical, but I just don't like this character in the book. He's so broody and wanders around mooning after Cosette, borderline stalking her. That in itself is annoying, but he has nothing to live off of and although he's got an education, he seems to stop working because of his obsession with Cosette. I'm glad he shaped up in the end, but I didn't find him endearing at all.

10. Treena and Patrick (Me BeforeYou): It was a toss-up between these two, so I picked them both. Treena struck me as selfish and unsupportive, especially when she got mad that her sister moves into her room while she is away at school, even though Lou has been basically living in the closet up to them. Patrick is totally self-absorbed, focused on his running and ignoring his girlfriend, then getting jealous because she develops other interests. Ugh.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Things I'd Like to Own

It's Top Ten Tuesday again at The Broke and the Bookish, and this one's a fun topic.  We're talking about bookish things (not books) that we'd like to own.  I already own some pretty nerdy things, like a Harry Potter butterbeer glass and a mug that has names of authors in a crossword pattern, but I can always think of more.

1.  I'm not sure if this counts, but my own library....

2.  With a rolling ladder, so I can sing and swing around like in this scene from Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

3.  An old school card catalogue.  I'd love to have one as a piece of furniture.

4.  Funky bookends.  I can never commit to buying them since I have too many books crammed into the shelf to need bookends. :-)

5.  This bag.

6.  This Jane Eyre-inspired scarf.  My birthday is only 5 months away, friends...

7.  A librarian action figure.  My mom has one, but I want one too.

8.  More Harry Potter socks.  I have two pairs, but you can never have enough.

9.  All the Harry Potter inspired onesies that I see on Etsy, for my future baby, but especially this one, and this one, and of course this one and then this one.  I have issues.

10.  DVDs of all my favourite adaptations, such as the BBC's North and South, the most recent Jane Eyre with Mia Wasikowsa, and some of the Austen adaptations that I haven't got yet, plus Austenland, because I laughed a lot at that movie.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Medical, er, Fridays: We Watch Liverpool

Welcome to Medical Monday Friday!  I'm so late on this link-up, but it's not too late, so here goes.  This month's link up is hosted by Jane at From a Doctor's Wife, Emma at Your Doctor's Wife, and Kristen at Wife M.D.

If there's a theme in my life since getting married, it would probably be REST. I've written about this before, but I was a busy go-getter before I moved here.  Slowing down doesn't seem like what happens in a medical family, but I've realized that I need to slow down, enjoy the moments we have, and take opportunities to just be with my husband. 

Medical life is in-freaking-sane.  Even though I "knew" that going into the journey, I hadn't experienced it.  Since getting back from Dominican Republic a month ago, there has been maybe one day when Gil has not gone into the hospital.  Last weekend, he worked 12 hours on Saturday, and he wasn't even on call.  He definitely needs to learn better self-care, but that's a post for another day...  What I need to do is accept this is how it is for now, and to find ways around it.

One thing we've started doing this past year is watching English Premier League.  My husband has always been a Premiership fan.  Liverpool FC is his one great love, after me of course.  He has been a fan for his entire life.  While I've never followed the EPL with much enthusiasm, I am a big soccer fan, and have hopped on the LFC bandwagon since our marriage.  We don't have a fancy cable package, or any cable at all for that matter, but in the fall, we discovered life-streaming Premiership games online.  In our time zone, most Liverpool games fall in the mornings on a weekend, so that has become "our thing".  We can usually squeeze the game in before Gil has to go to the hospital, and for a few glorious hours, we get to hang out together, drinking our coffee, and enjoying a favourite pass-time. 

To be honest, before I got married, I had different hopes.  I thought we'd be doing fun things over the weekend, like checking out festivals or going on bike rides.  I thought married life would be like my single life, but with a partner.  I've discovered, on the other hand, that married life is a different kind of good than my single days, and that's okay.

I've been pondering this post for the past few days, and yesterday at my Bible study, we studied Mary's anointing of Jesus with the jar of fancy perfume.  On the face of it, this seems like such a strange action.  I don't really like touching people or strong smells, so it's hard for me to imagine this scene without feeling a bit icky.  One of the ladies pointed out, however, that Mary took the opportunity while Jesus was there.  If she'd waited another day to do it, she would have been too late.  She didn't complain that it was a bad time because of all the other people, or because she wasn't in the mood.  She just took her jar, and seized the moment.  How many opportunities do I miss because I'm over-thinking, or wishing I could be doing something else?  Some of these are spiritual opportunities, truths that I glance over because I'm distracted, or openings to serve that I don't even notice, but there are also opportunities in my own home that I am tempted to overlook.  So on weekend mornings, when we can, we watch Liverpool.  I will take and enjoy 90 minutes with my husband when I can get them, and try not to complain that I wish I had more.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Unique Reads

It's another Tuesday, annnnnd I just realized that I missed Medical Monday one again.  I have a couple more days, to link up, right?  For now, I'll be posting on books, but stay tuned for my MM post later this week.  This week's topic, hosted as always by The Broke and the Bookish, is about the most "unique" books we've read.  It could be a unique perspective or plot twist, or just an interesting spin on a topic.  Here are my picks:

1.  No One Is Here Except All Of Us by Ramona Ausubel:  The whole tone of this novel is strange and different and almost fairy tale like, despite a setting that is anything but a fairy tale.  It's hard to explain if you haven't read it, but it's very unique.

2.  The Best Laid Plans (and its sequel The High Road) by Terry Fallis:  Canadian political satire is not the kind of thing you find every day.... or at all.  This book is also uproariously funny.

3.  The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold:  The only book I've ever read told from the perspective of a dead girl.

4.  Life of Pi by Yann Martel:  Yes, I actually read it after listing it earlier as one of the books I was intimidated by.  To tell the truth, I didn't love this book and after a while, I just wanted them to get off the darn boat, but there is no arguing that it was a unique perspective. 

5.  Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder:  It's a book.... but also a philosophy course.  I liked this in high school, but should probably pick it up again.

6.  The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland:  This was a gift, and I'm not usually big on novels told through letters, but this was pretty unique.  A middle-aged man and young woman start writing to each other while working at Staples, but otherwise don't acknowledge they know each other at all.  I enjoyed it. 

7.  Attachments by Rainbow Rowell:  Boy falls in love with girl... by reading her private email.  Loved it.

8.  419 by Will Ferguson:  I didn't love this book, but the concept is intriguing.  It's a look at the other side of those spam emails you get claiming you can make a fortune if only you collaborate with this lawyer in Nigeria.  Quite thought provoking.

9.  The Eyre Affair (and various sequels) by Jasper Fforde:  You get to go inside your favourite books.  Amazing!
10.  State of Wonder by Ann Patchett:  What made this book unique to me was the subject matter.  It took you into the Brazilian jungle where scientists were at work developing a "wonder drug" for fertility.  Very different and creative.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Life Update

It occurred to me that lately, I've posted a lot of book lists, along with some broody thoughts on fertility, but not too much about what's actually happening in our life, so here's a bit of an update.

In February, I posted that we were desperately in need of a vacation and were headed to Dominican Republic.  Well, we were gone for a week last month, and it was pretty darn amazing.  We stayed at an adults-only resort and spent seven blissful days taking dips in the sea, eating delicious food, and heading into the pool after the midday rush.  I read several books and Gil got a lot of rest.  Despite my husband getting an ear infection and hurting his ankle two days before we left, it was a good time and I wish we could go back again soon.

In December, I posted about PCOS.  I don't want to go into a lot of detail about my health issues on this blog as it's very personal, but as you can gather from my last post, it hasn't been the easiest journey thus far.  I've been undergoing a slew of really fun (NOT) tests, and will hopefully find out if there's anything else wrong with me and then we'll figure out where we go from here.

In terms of family, I have an adorable new nephew, Luke, who was born on March 5, while we were on vacation.  I can't post a photo as his parents are adamantly against any photos on social media.  I also have another niece or nephew coming in September as my step-sister is pregnant too, so my parents will double the number of grandchildren in 2014.  My mom also won an award for her fabulous contributions to serving in her community, so a couple of weeks ago, we had a family celebration. 

Work-wise, it's kind of same-old, same-old.  I am pondering a big change, but as it's not definite, I don't want to say anything concrete yet.  I honestly thought we would have kids by now and I would be a SAHM, but since that's not happening, it's forced me to pray and consider what else God might have for me, since I can't answer phones forever.

For the most part, life is good.  The piles of snow are finally gone from our driveway, and I've seen enough robins in the last week to know that spring is really and truly here.  Gil and I have had our struggles, but we are still finding ways to enjoy each other and laugh, and to remember that God is good.

Happy Spring!!