Category Archives: Book Club

Book tour: Happiness Sold Separately

Come on in and have a seat. ‘Scuse the dirty socks on the floor and the Colorado Rockies banner blocking the stairs (I’ll be taking it down now).

Would you like a mini-quiche? How about a Mojito? There’s plenty ready, since Bacardi makes them by the bottle now.

So glad you could stop by for my turn at the Barren Bi+ches Book Brigade book tour for Happiness Sold Separately.

I liked this book just fine, but it took me 6 weeks to read. I enjoyed reading it, but it didn’t beg me to pick it up every night. While I related to both Elinor and Gina, and they seemed 3-dimensional and sympathetic, neither swam in my head during the day as I went about my business.

Here are my three questions & answers:

1. The end of the book was left open to the reader. Do you think that Elinor and Ted stayed together, or that they really finally separated? Did she pursue adoption on her own, or did they do another round of IVF with PGD? Do you think she ended up happy, or did she continue to struggle?

When I finished the book, the ending, to me, was clear. Elinor was finally seeing her situation as it was — not how she thought it should be — and was ready to let Ted go. Not violently, like she mulched the IF books, or self-destructively, like she cut her hair with pinking shears. But just surrendering. Like she did to losing Warren. It hurt, but it she knew it had to happen.

I see her moving on to international adoption on her own. And because she decided to stop struggling against the current, I think she eventually does find happiness. Because she figured out how to surrender to it.

May I refresh your drink?

2. Ted seeks solace in the garage and the gym — places where he can “fix” things. Elinor finds refuge in the laundry room and by re-reading classic novels from college. Why is Elinor drawn to these activities? What activities do you engage in to soothe your soul during your fertility quest and why? What about your partner?

Elinor is drawn to the past. She re-reads classic novels from college and acts like a carefree co-ed when she goes to the bar with Kat. My guess is that she reverts back to the time when all of life — and myriad choices — were ahead of her. But she is actually feeling that at 40, so many doors have closed behind her. And she questions her choices, as they didn’t lead her to happiness.

Me? I wrote. A LOT. Spewed poison and venom and anger and sadness and despair all over my old laptop and into my writing journals. I lived 6000 miles away from home. I was teaching middle schoolers, and our affection for each other kept me afloat. I also felt the need to create. In this time period I wrote a children’s story, began painting pots, and in played flute in a weekly sing-along with our ex-pat community.

Roger played a lot of team sports. Intramurals among faculty were big at our international school.

And he ran. And ran and ran.

3. Elinor seeks the comfort of odd places. At first it is in the laundry room, and then later changes to the oak tree in her yard. I think we all try to find comfort to help us make it through the bad patches. What were/are your sources of comfort?

I really hate to be barefoot. I take after my dad in that. Even in the house, I usually have on flip-flops or slippers. But when I’m in a bad patch, I do love to walk barefooted on a lush green lawn. I love to feel that connection to the verdant earth and all that feminine energy.

And I read. I got lost in someone else’s problems. When I came back to mine, they sometimes seemed less catastrophic.

I wish, at the time, I’d been able to connect with this community. You ladies (and a few gentlemen) are amazing.

Thanks for visiting. Hope I’ll see you again here before The Handmaid’s Tale.

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I owe the existence of this blog to the Barren Bi+ches Book Tour. Back in the Spring, I read Waiting for Daisy and googled it to find out more. At the top of the search list was Stirrup Queens’ Barren Bi+tches Book Brigade. Melissa, the first blogger I ever “met” said, “all you need is a book and a blog.” I was so excited about “talking” with others about this book, about not needing to actually go to anyone’s house or clean my own, that I took the plunge and began blogging.

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Intrigued by the idea of a book tour and want to read more about Happiness Sold Separately? Hop along to more stops on the Barren Bitches Book Tour by visiting the master list at https://stirrup-queens.blogspot.com/. Want to come along for the next tour? Sign up begins today for tour #8 (The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood) and all are welcome to join along . All you need is a book and blog.

Love and Other Impossible Pursuits

The Barren Bi+ches Book Brigade has been reading Love and Other Impossible Pursuits by Ayelet Waldman, organized by Mel at Stirrup Queens (check it out — author participation is planned).

Here are some brigade-generated questions and my answers.

1. Is the way Emilia quantifies loss similar to what we all do? (i.e. her reactions to the miscarriages of a friend and the number of names on a heart of another participant at the walk) Why or why don’t we do this?

I remember as a child when I was first introduced to the concept of quantifying pain. There was a game show called Queen for a Day. From what I remember, whoever told the greatest sob story won a washer/dryer.

This seemed ridiculous to me. Trying to be miserable. Cheering miserable people on in their misery. Celebrating it.

Nevertheless, I became hooked on misery. I, too, became a victim (but it was the show’s fault — not mine) and took on the patterns of these 1970s desperate housewives. I looked for all sorts of ways to notify people of my misery, to gain sympathy and to be relieved of responsibility. Don’t blame me. It’s the asthma. It was an unfair test. That teacher has it in for me. I just don’t feel well.

(I am a recovering victim. I try each moment to live more consciously and without these subconscious and sabotaging patterns.)

Now I’m active on adoption chat boards. Boy, do we love to not only quantify but also compare pain. Who’s got it worse: the adoptee, the firstparent, or the infertile? Heated arguments erupt every couple of weeks as we vie for the prize.

Why? Perhaps the belief is that the person with the weightiest pain carries the weightiest words.

And maybe even wins a washer/dryer.

2. Emilia obviously deals with some self-destructive tendencies. Can you relate to her feelings? Have you dealt with self-destructive feelings on your journey to parenthood?

My tendencies were of omission rather than commission. I didn’t do anything to hurt my life, but I did experience a months-long malaise I called my failure to thrive. Living seemed pointless without being able to become pregnant, deliver a baby, and raise a family.

If I could have willed my heart to stop beating, I would have. But I was too chicken to actually hurt myself.

I recall two severely twisted thoughts from this time. On my “peanut butter days,” I fantasized about eating a spoonful of this common substance that would swell my throat shut within minutes. A little discomfort to end the pain.

Also, we were living in Syria at the time, where there are no pump-it-yourself gas stations. The attendant who pumped gas into my Volvo always did so with a lit cigarette perched between his lips. I usually avoided filling the car up, but during my “failure to thrive” spell, I actually looked forward to trips to the gas station. I wondered if the combination of the cherry and the petrol would end the pain of IF.

Not exactly self-destructive tendencies, but not much in the way of self-preservation, either. Just enough to get by, though.

Glad I managed to survive my failure to thrive. I’d have missed out on so much.

3. Did you find it hard to relate to Emilia when she said a miscarriage was simply DNA floating around in a toilet bowl? Did it seem like she didn’t give miscarriers the right to grieve when she was appalled by the women wearing stars with m/c dates and names?

See, I never even got to the point of miscarrying. I was so focused on conceiving that I thought a miscarriage would be a step forward. For Emilia, it was a step back.

So whose pain is greater? Mine always is to me.

Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at Stirrup Queens. You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: Happiness Sold Separately by Lolly Winston (with author participation).

My stop on The Kid book tour

Disembark here for an adoptive mama’s take on the book, The Kid, by Dan Savage. It’s part of the Barren Bitch’s Book Brigade.

“Every meeting begins with someone dragging in a baby that could’ve been theirs.” Does this scene reflect your experience with infertility or adoption support groups? Do you think that the presentation of the “success story” is truly morale-boosting? What does the experience of the older waiting couple say about the guaranteed nature of adoption?
Oh, yes it’s morale-boosting. Actually, it was this little ploy (the happy late-30s couple with their 10-week-old baby at the agency orientation) that convinced us adoption was a more travellable road than more IF treatments. We realized that it was likely that if we were good people, we’d become parents. Seemed so much easier than that spiteful witch that is Fertility.

The last part of our homestudy was Adoption School. We attended with 5 other couples for a very intimate, soul-baring 3 days. Within a year or so, all 6 of us couples had become families, and we got together for a party. I had this image of Adoption Roulette: could these 6 babies really have familied-up in any other configuration? Could we have ended up with that one, and could Bill and Kris have ended up with Tessa? How much was chance and how much was destiny? A painful thought, not ending up with our daughter.

I wouldn’t call adoption “guaranteed.” But I do like the odds. Like IF, it’s not for the faint of heart. Here’s the big difference as I see it: in IF, you get to DO a lot. There is an illusion that you have some measure of control, in the process if not the outcome. In adoption, once you go through all the hoops, all you can do is ALLOW things to happen — the opposite of doing.

In hindsight, I think that was a pretty good lesson for a control freak like me.

Dan Savage comes to truly appreciate doing an open adoption. He states that seeing Melissa’s pain and feeling the pain of their separation “drove home the logic of open adoption, its absolute necessity.” How do you feel about open adoption? Did reading Savage’s book influence your feelings?
I, too, am a believer. I’ve been in our open adoptions for 6 and 4 years now, and it works well for us. I agree with the logic when the baby is placed as a loving, conscious decision by firstparents. We are thrilled to have our children’s firstmothers in our lives, as you can tell in my other adoption-related posts. We think it’s healthy for our children (but we won’t know for sure for another decade-plus), we know it’s better for their firstmothers and for us.

Savage states, “Fertile couples have complete autonomy”. No one is checking their background before they can be a parent. How have you dealt with the loss of autonomy, whether through fertility testing or home study scrutiny?
We got fingerprinted to make sure we weren’t on a List of Very Bad People. We took a marriage test and scored pretty well. We separately answered nearly 40 essay questions, and we each wrote a 5-page autobiography. We got three friends to say (hopefully) nice things about us on a confidential form. We dug up and copied recent tax returns. We requested credit histories and had physicals. We asked our fertility clinic to write a letter on our behalf. We went to the DMV for copies of our driving records. We spoke individually and as a couple to our social worker. We attended Adoption School. We summarized our lives in an adoption profile.

Two years later, we did it all again (as if our fingerprints might have changed!)

You can’t help but think that if all people had to go through all this before becoming parents, there would be a baby bust just for the hassle-factor.

How did we deal with it? Actually, the DOing was easy. The WAITing wasn’t.

It stank, but I wasn’t going to let that stand between me and motherhood.
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Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at https://stirrup-queens.blogspot.com/. You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: Love, and Other Impossible Pursuits by Ayelet Waldman (with author participation!).