My Upside Down Life – Not Even Kidding

My Upside Down Life – Not Even Kidding

This is going to be a short post. I’m working on my third book right now, and wanted to post this so people know I’m still alive, but y’all are getting the bare-bones facts for now.

In a very bizarre coincidence (that I don’t buy at all), it looks like I may have the same auto-immune disease my ex has. It’s not supposed to be contagious, yet I’m not the first woman to start showing symptoms about ten years later. It’s called ankylosing spondylitis. Maybe I don’t even have it, but my blood test shows I have some form of inflammatory arthritis, and it’s not rheumatoid arthritis because my rheumatoid factor is normal. Every symptom I have is pointing toward it being a type of psoriatic arthritis. I’ve had very mild psoriasis in the past, so I didn’t even go to a doctor for it. Just scratched at it for a while until it went away, the few times it bothered me. I certainly wouldn’t have expected to be one of the few people who develop inflammatory arthritis from it. Ankylosing spondylitis is very rare. And it’s even more rare in women, so I’m still holding onto the hope that I have something else. Something that isn’t going to cost $72,000 a year to treat (yes, really). For now I’m on a lot of pain medications, in addition to high doses of cannabis.

We ended up buying a dual-monitor arm system, with a laptop tray so that I can work in bed.  It’s taking me forever to figure out how to configure it, and everything has to be tightened into place. The end result, however, is me working on my back in bed. Nice life if you can get it, right? Well, I have somehow managed to snag my dream job. I can’t really complain. The pain comes with it, mind you, but I’m making it work somehow.

Dual-arm monitor supports for desk mounting

I have to say, I’ll be eternally grateful for the love and support I get at home. Both my daughter and my fiancé are amazing people who make sure I’m fed and watered on a regular basis. They do stuff for me voluntarily, and always ask if I need anything. I feel like the luckiest woman alive despite everything going wrong with my body. It’s a topsy-turvy world out there, though, so the best thing we can do for ourselves is decide we really like being upside down.

A Glowing Bride – Scottish Steampunk with an Avatar Twist

A Glowing Bride – Scottish Steampunk with an Avatar Twist

The more that happens in my life worth writing about, the less time I have to write about it. I know I’ve been totally quiet on all the political stuff, lately, and frankly it’s because I’m disgusted with the whole thing. Instead I focused on personal stuff, which has kind of been necessary. You see, aside from getting involved with a new man last spring, we’ve got huge plans for ourselves and our relationship. Nothing other people aren’t doing, but enough that it keeps us really busy. I’ve already talked about the fertility thing, and how we’re going to a clinic. (Which, by the way, is going to cost us a fortune. Around $10,000 to $15,000 to harvest my eggs in a single batch. So, that’s on hold until we have that kind of money. Apparently it’s at least as expensive to do it in Canada, as it is in the US, if not more so.)

So, just to be different, my then-boyfriend-now-fiancé and I proposed to one another. We both got engagement rings, too. His is so big he’ll have to put it on his right hand when we get to the ‘I do’ part, and I may have to do the same since I’ve got short fingers. Two rings on the same finger looks weird on me. Still I love my ring so much. It was supposed to be my wedding ring, but it got here before the one that’s supposed to be my engagement ring, so we said to hell with it. We each have amethyst and silver in one of our rings, and rose gold and emerald in the other. I happen to be allergic to nickel, so I can’t wear white or yellow gold, but I’m fine with rose gold and pure metals. The emeralds have to do with the fact that we happened to be only a few blocks apart, down Emerald Street in Hamilton, when we met. Yet we had no idea we were even in the same country when we really started talking. Of course, it turned out we’d spoken long before then, because we’re part of the same political groups on Facebook.

Well, now the big stuff to deal with is a wedding day, hopefully on our anniversary, but the sad fact remains that we both have other entanglements to get out of, and my fiancé happens to be embroiled in something pretty nasty. I won’t discuss that publicly, since it wouldn’t be respectful of other people’s privacy, but suffice it to say it prevents us setting a firm date.

However, we do have plans. Big plans. We already think we know where we’re doing it. They’re heritage buildings that they rent out for arts and culture events. It’s really inexpensive to rent the place for almost two weeks, so we’re going to have something like an art festival in the days surrounding the wedding. I was originally thinking of doing a writing seminar only, but then I realized we could really make the whole thing a lot of fun for everyone. I mean, if people come in from the US and different parts of Canada, I wanted it to be worth it for them. When my fiancé said we should have a ceremony, he was mostly thinking of us writing our own vows, and didn’t realize that for me to have people at the wedding, they would have to be people from way out of town. I know very few local people. Four maybe, and that’s including my ex and his girlfriend.

From the possibility of a writing seminar, it expanded into various crafts and such. I was thinking a Victorian photo shoot would go along well with a portion of the theme of our wedding, since Steampunk is very much of the Victorian flavour. I also thought it would be good to do proper photo shoots for authors, who will need good headshots for their writing careers. I’ll probably hire a make-up artist and hair-stylist to make it all look great. I’ll have to have discussions with the various professionals to find out what they’ll charge for a day, or for individuals, especially since it will be a group deal, and then any member of the public can pay for either the seminar by itself, or the seminar with the photo shoot. I thought a mug-painting day would be good, too, where wedding guests can do two mugs – one for us as their wedding gift (instead of them trying to figure out what to give us, which is silly at our ages), and one for themselves. A painting class, flower arranging perhaps, where guests can do two arrangements if they like (one for the wedding, and one for themselves).

My dress is going to be very unique, though. I’ll say that much. I’m planning to have parts of it glow. My fiancé and I were/are planning to make our own top hats, but I’m debating on an elven circlet or something. At the moment I don’t have the time to deal with any of it, but I’m letting the ideas simmer. We’ll have LED lights and electroluminescent stuff. An arbour will likely be present, because who doesn’t want to get married under an archway??

We’re going to have a blast, whatever we do, and so I’ll be posting all about it here as we do it. You’ll get pictures, of course. And speaking of which, here’s our engagement ring shot!

Our Engagement

You can also partially see the lovely lightning bolt-shaped scar I have from my attempt to imitate Harry Potter. Okay, so I tripped and fell into a plate of eggs, the plate broke and severed a nerve, and then I had to have surgery on it to repair the nerve – yay me! Do I do good work or what?

I’m definitely happy to be having all this fun with wedding stuff, despite being too busy dealing with a dead laptop (a story for another time involving juice, that I’m just not ready to talk about yet), and trying to get a book written, while trying to get the podcast show back on track. The thing is, what really makes me happy is being so thoroughly loved, and being with someone I love just as thoroughly. We complement one another in so many ways. I’m ridiculously, madly, head-over-heels in love with him, and I have no doubt he feels exactly the same. It took until we hit our mid-life to find one another, but we finally did. None of this other stuff would matter without that, and I’m not at all stressed about dealing with that stuff either. It’s not stressful when you know it’s just something you’ll have a blast with.

So many people go through life looking for the wrong things. They want someone to rescue them, or someone who has money. In truth, what we need is to be with someone where it wouldn’t matter if we were living on the street. I know very well that I could sit snuggled up next to him on a sidewalk, and wouldn’t even care. I don’t have to have money or a house. I don’t need cars. I didn’t have to have fancy jewelry, though it’s nice we were able to give one other rings that we both liked and picked out for ourselves. I just needed to know I was accepted for exactly who I am, and that we could sit down and talk to one another for hours on end. The chemistry doesn’t hurt either! I’m just so blissfully content, and I have a hard time explaining how very right everything feels now.

Oh, and the Scottish part of all this? My baby wears a kilt in his family tartan…and he wears it very well! 😉

An Even Bigger Change of Life – Time to Confess

I’ve been plotting and scheming lately, and it’s time to fess up to what I’m doing. Partly because I’m bursting to talk about it, but also because I think it might be helpful to someone if I document this journey I’ve decided to undertake. I should really say that it’s a journey we’ve decided to undertake, because it involves my boyfriend, too.

The plotting and scheming I refer to has nothing to do with writing, though I still do that of course. After all, I have a trilogy to finish. This is far more personal, however, and I’m sure many will judge me for my decision. Yet, everyone close to me has been cheering us on.

My boyfriend and I have decided to attempt to have a child – well, at least one, possibly two, depending on how things work out. Having a child at our ages (I’m 45 and he’s 51) becomes complicated just by itself. On my end there’s an additional hiccup. I’ve had my tubes tied since my early twenties. That combined with the age of my eggs makes things difficult, to say the least. There’s little point in getting my tubes untied and trying to conceive by the usual means. We certainly have no problem practicing the maneuvers, but the odds of conception are practically nil. It would be a waste of time and money, most likely, and surgery is always a risk.

This leaves us with IVF, or in vitro fertilization. My eggs will need to be harvested, fertilized, and then implanted at the appropriate moment. From my understanding, this will cost us quite a few thousands of dollars. Are we still going to go through with it? Hell, yeah! For that matter, we’re already spending a fair chunk of change just getting ready for it, and we haven’t even had our first fertility appointment yet.

Let me explain.

The older eggs get, the less healthy they are. However, until recently doctors believed that we were stuck with the eggs we were born with, and there was nothing we could do to improve on them. Or, if we allowed our egg health to decline there wasn’t anything we could do to get it back. Now it’s looking like there’s a lot we can do to make things better, which includes certain vitamins and nutrients, as well as switching to a fully organic diet. Our food bill skyrocketed this month, and it’s probably going to cost me a couple hundred dollars a month for vitamins and such, in addition to buying a water cooler so I can drink spring water rather than tap water with all that chlorine and fluoride in it. I’ve cut out caffeine, alcohol, and sugar, too. Plus I’m getting out and walking a fair bit.

You’re probably wondering if all these changes are making me crazy, and they’re really not. I guess it’s true what they say. If you want something badly enough, you’ll do what you have to do to get it. I used to think of myself as a person who couldn’t achieve my goals, and most of that had to do with my writing (and the fact that I’d never published a book). Now I realize I’m perfectly capable of attaining my dreams, seeing as I’ve got two books published and I know there are more on the way.

How does my boyfriend feel about all of this? Actually, he’s even looking forward to potentially crazy mood swings when I have to start injecting myself all the damn time. I was warning him about what I’d heard of the process, and he said he couldn’t wait. I thought he was being sarcastic, but apparently he was serious and couldn’t wait for the whole thing to happen. Huh. Well, colour me surprised. Honestly I’ve never known a man who was so into the idea of having kids – with me at any rate.

So far we’ve gone to my family doctor, and she’s referred us to her favourite fertility clinic. They called a few days ago and booked us in for the end of August. It’s good timing, seeing as I only started trying to improve my egg health around the end of June, and apparently your egg cycle needs at least 90 days of healthy living, though the full egg-production cycle is 150 days, I believe. By the time we’ve both been tested for our potential fertility, and they can get me started on the constant injections, it should be a good 90 days of proper nutrition and supplementation.

I haven’t yet started the prenatal vitamins, which they recommend as part of the preconception process now, but I’ll start that later this week. I just want to keep my folic acid down a bit. They’ve been doing studies that indicate too much folic acid may be part of what causes autism (through Johns-Hopkins, so I trust the source, though it’s not yet peer-reviewed). I’m going to take only half the prenatal vitamins they recommend, and also choose the lowest level of folic acid I can find. I’ll still be supplementing with it, in order to prevent spina bifida and other issues, but I don’t want to overdo it.

One issue I currently have is the pain medication I’m on for my hips. I’ve cut back, partly because I had a shot of something called Visco put directly into my left hip joint. I still have to have the other hip done, but my pain has been lowered enough that I can cut back on Gabapentin and Tylenol 3s. The opiates are the worst thing, because they can kill your ovulation, so I’m down to 1.5 to 2 pills a day of those. Gabapentin is mostly an issue once you’re pregnant, to the best of my knowledge, though I’m going to do more research on that. I was taking 4 Tylenol 3s a day, so I’ve cut it to just under a half (on average).

I’ve lost weight since my boyfriend and I got together, which helps with my hip pain, of course, and allows me to be even more active. Eating nothing but healthy food is helping me lose additional weight. Being overweight affects ovulation as well, and since the plan is for hyper-ovulation so they can extract a bunch of eggs at once, I really need to make sure I’m ovulating.

I’m also avoiding things called xenoestrogens. They’re in damn near everything, including hand lotion, nail polish, shampoo, body wash, lipstick, etc. And the kicker is that you absorb 100% of what goes on your skin, as opposed to only about 10% of any xenoestrogens you might ingest by mouth. Your organs actually filter out 80% to 90% of what you might get orally, but they can’t do anything to filter out what your skin absorbs.

What do they do that’s so bad? Well, they act like estrogen, and too much estrogen makes you infertile. It can cause things like micropenis in boys – I’m assuming it’s when women are exposed to it during pregnancy, since the penis is already formed when the baby comes out, but it could also impact the eggs in a way that causes it. I’m not certain of my facts there, but I’d just as soon avoid having to deal with that issue with my potential son. Then you get things like breast growth in men (who use products that have xenoestrogens in them), and lowered testosterone.

In order for women to be fertile, and for proper implantation to occur as well, it’s progesterone that they need. Too much estrogen is pretty bad. I’m actually taking hormone supplements to regulate estrogen levels, and that’s correcting any issues I’ve had with my periods, too. I never really noticed it because my periods were never that bad, but I have less cramping and other symptoms usually synonymous with PMS. Thankfully I’ve never been particularly moody with PMS either, though I certainly get plenty moody when some guy asks me if I’m PMS-ing just because he’s done something to piss me off.

Speaking of periods, though, I’ve switched to organic cotton tampons, seeing as the other ones are made with cotton that’s been sprayed with oodles of pesticides. It never even occurred to me before that it would be an issue, but apparently cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops, and it’s not a good idea to have that stuff anywhere near your nethers. Those tissues are highly absorbent, and pesticides can also act as xenoestrogens. Yippee.

One thing I haven’t done is switch my wardrobe to safe fabrics. I figure any cotton stuff I buy to wear will, or has been, washed umpteen zillion times. Nylons and polyesters aren’t good in general, though, so I think I’ll work on at least using natural fabrics where anything bad can be washed out. I tried hunting down the organic cotton underwear, but there was a sizing chart issue and so I had no idea what size to order. Plus my weight loss has changed my underwear size.

Thankfully I didn’t have a lot of bad habits that needed to be broken. I don’t smoke and I don’t take illicit drugs – not even pot for pain simply because it doesn’t work for me, and it apparently has an effect on fertility, particularly in women. I drank a bit of alcohol once every couple of years until pretty recently. When my boyfriend and I got together we would have a beer or two when we went out, which was pretty frequent at first, but I started to go back to my old habit of not drinking even before I started on this fertility kick.

My diet was the worst thing. Too much sugar and too many preservatives. Granted, I wasn’t going for fast food at all. The worst I had there was Subway. Now everything has changed. I drink black, decaf, organic coffee. I drink lots more water, and I also drink herbal tea sweetened with organic honey (or whatever the pure, unpasteurized stuff is called). I’m rather shocked at how well I’m doing. I’m taking Maca Root capsules, which are supposed to be amazing for fertility, but I still have to add a few other supplements, like CoQ10, the aforementioned prenatal vitamins, and Royal Jelly.

I probably sound like a nut with all this, but I’m looking at very bleak odds here. I have to produce not only a high number of eggs, but ones that are as healthy as possible. I also have to make sure my uterus is healthy. Good times. Luckily I’m not the type that gets stressed out easily, because that can be a huge factor in fertility issues. My boyfriend and I have both procreated before, so if we’re infertile it’ll be a recent development rather than a lifelong issue, so making healthy choices could make all the difference.

My boyfriend is also pretty familiar with this whole thing, seeing as he was a sperm donor before his son was born. He was extremely fertile in that respect, so I’ve got very high hopes that this will work out. So long as there is a batch of healthy eggs (or embryos) to be used, a woman can carry a successful pregnancy well after menopause. According to my doctor at my last physical, I’m nowhere near menopause. I guess the average age in Canada is around 51 or 52, and I’ve shown no signs of perimenopause. Everything is as regular as can be.

You might wonder, if I wanted more children, why I had my tubes tied – and especially at such a young age (I had just turned 22). Well, there are a few reasons. First, my doctor at the time recommended it. I couldn’t take the pill, and an IUD made me bleed for two and a half months. The only other options for birth control back then were extremely inconvenient for anyone in a monogamous relationship. I’d had a total of three miscarriages by then (one before my daughter was born and two after), and I didn’t want to keep going through that. It turned out to have something to do with the boyfriend I had at the time, rather than my own physiology, so I wasn’t happy that I’d ‘sterilized’ myself for no good reason. In retrospect I think the doctor was tired of seeing the plethora of young women getting knocked up so they could go on welfare or ‘trap’ some young man into taking care of them. I could be wrong, but it’s the impression I have.

Strangely, the people I thought who would be so against us doing this, have been very supportive and encouraging. We’ve been told that we’re exactly the kind of people who should be having children, so I feel pretty good about that. Even my adult daughter seems pretty happy and excited about it. We were out shopping one day, and she suggested we go look at baby stuff. Apparently any children my boyfriend and I have now will be spoiled rotten, because my daughter was looking at all these outfits and saying she was going to buy this, that, or the other thing for ‘the kid.’

I’m no better in my level of excitement or prematurity. I’ve already looked at cribs and stuff. We’ve discussed names we like, and pretty much all the decisions parents have to make when a baby is born, like breast feeding, circumcision, religion, vaccinations, you name it. We got all the deal-breakers out of the way (or non-starters as my boyfriend calls them), seeing as there wasn’t much point spending thousands of dollars to do this if we couldn’t agree on some of the more important issues. We’ve also discussed what to do if there are congenital issues. In one way it’s lucky we’re going through IVF, because they can actually check if an embryo is healthy before implantation. That doesn’t rule out all issues, of course, so we may be faced with tough choices later, but the fact is he’s already told me he would never interfere in my right to choose. Of course, I can’t imagine being with a man who would.

I did tell him any kids we have would have his last name. I have no interest in carrying on my own last name, with the exception of continuing to use it myself because it’s who I am now (and my name has been changed far too many times – something I wrote about in a previous post). He thinks kids should have their father’s last name, but not for the reasons you would think. He believes it engenders a deeper sense of responsibility in the father, if his children carry his last name – and some men need that reminder. He doesn’t. I already know what kind of father he is, even under less than ideal circumstances, so I have no fears there. If I did I wouldn’t have even considered this.

How much is this going to cost? No idea at this point. In the US an egg harvesting cycle would cost about $10,000, and I’m okay with that. Canada’s a bit different, however. At least some portions of it will be covered by our healthcare, such as our initial appointment. In fact, Ontario Healthcare actually covers fertility treatments now, but there’s a 3-year waiting list and we can’t afford to wait that long at our age, so we’ll be paying for anything that isn’t generally covered by our regular insurance. As we go through all this I’ll keep track of it and talk about it more when I know what’s covered and what’s not.

What will we do if my eggs (or his sperm) don’t work out? Well, nothing. Call me selfish or picky, but the whole point to this is for us to have our own child – together. There are donor eggs and donor sperm out there, but neither of us is interested in that at this point, and I doubt we will be. There’s always the possibility of adoption if this doesn’t work out, but we haven’t discussed that yet. I don’t even know if they allow people our age to adopt.

Yes, we know how old we’ll be when our child(ren) reaches adulthood. And, yes, we’re both looking after our health to make sure we’re alive as our kids grow. The fact is, no one knows whether or not they’re going to survive to see their children grow, and we’ll both be well under the average ages when men and women in Canada die. We’re not dealing with alcoholism, drug addiction, or other risky behaviours that will shorten our lifespans.

The fact is, I’ve been waiting my whole life to meet the man I wanted to have more children with. The one where I could imagine him being a full partner and truly sharing the whole experience, as well as the responsibilities. Now I have, and I’m not letting even a small chance of experiencing that slip from my grasp.

A Change of Life, Just Not That One

I’ll admit that I had become completely cynical about my chances of finding the right person to share my life with. I was considering getting back into the dating world, but I was also planning to wait until after the third book in my trilogy was published. After all, I didn’t feel like I had the time to spend on vetting all the candidates one tends to find on online dating sites. So, I hadn’t bothered to create a profile anywhere.

Funnily enough it turned out that I’d already met the man of my dreams, and it was more than a year ago now. We had political interests in common, so we were both members of a certain Facebook group. We’re also both actual members of the Green Party, so that was a weird kind of synchronicity, among other things. With all our commonalities, however, we were more than a little surprised to find out we not only lived in the same city, but we were only a few blocks apart. Go figure.

Just when you think life isn’t going to give you the one thing you’ve always looked really hard for, it can suddenly seem like it’s throwing you a surprise party with all the perfect gifts.

When I was awake and aware I never felt lonely, but I knew that some part of me was. I used to have these dreams where I would be held by a specific man, who made me feel truly loved. I’d wake up feeling so ridiculously content, and I would close my eyes at different points throughout the day to hold onto that feeling, picturing it in my mind. Nearly four months ago I finally discovered what that felt like in real life. All previous relationships paled in comparison, and I realized that if I’d truly know what this felt like, I would never have settled for what I had before. I would have known the real deal.

Nobody is perfect, but sometimes you find someone who is absolutely perfect for who you are. They fit with you somehow. All the things that you’re insecure about, and that you’ve been told are fatal flaws, suddenly they’re things that are cherished by another person. Don’t get me wrong – we weren’t all sunshine and roses about who we were, pretending to be something different. We were both almost brutally honest about ourselves. I was pretty enthusiastic about telling him I swore like a drunken sailor, cracked every joint in my body, and the only thing domestic about my habits is the fact that I’m potty-trained.

For his part, when we started private messaging, he bluntly asked me if I was single, and said he needed to know because he was certainly happy to be friends with me, but he would be sitting there wondering the whole time if I was available. It made me smile, I can tell ya. And it was a first for me. After all, we met on Facebook rather than a dating site. On a dating site you’re assuming the person you’re talking to is single (though there are plenty who are trolling for a side piece, too). I’d never had a guy have the courage to be so blunt about his interest in me on there. Of course, he was pretty blunt about a lot of other things, too, like wanting to talk to me, see me, kiss me, you name it. And he had the confidence and courage to follow through on it. He still does, and it’s something I find endlessly fascinating and attractive about him. Especially since a lot of guys seem pretty intimidated by me.

Of course, explosive chemistry helps. I’m not giving details, but I will say that time stands still when he kisses me. There’s a Zen-like calm that comes over me when we’re together. I’ve only been truly mad at him once, and from what I can tell I was being stupid. However, all he had to do was touch me and I was lost (as was the anger, though I tried to fight that). There’s a magic in it, and I’ve never felt it before. Any time in the past when I’ve been mad at a guy, they’ve been mad at me, too, and so the last thing they were interested in was making me feel better. Yet, my boyfriend has got to be the most selfless person I’ve ever known. He can (and does) feel empathy even toward a person who should be his most bitter enemy. I’ve seen examples of it time and time again. Honestly, we need more people like him in the world. He just truly cares about people. He talks to them on the street, homeless or otherwise, he buys strange kids a meal, he stops to help people who have been involved in car accidents, he’s politically involved, and he stands up for women online when men start acting like misogynistic jerks.

He’s also the best father I’ve ever seen. He’s been involved in his child’s life from the moment of birth, and even against adversity he’s made sure he remained a major part of his child’s life. It makes me wish I was ten years younger so I could easily have a couple of kids with him. Not that it’s impossible even now, of course, but the odds are against it.

We’ve both had our share of bad luck and bad choices when it came to past relationships, so you would think we’d be a lot more leery of moving forward with things, but we were pretty much living together within a week or two of starting to date. People thought we didn’t know each other, even though we did. In truth I’ve never known anyone so well in my life. My own experiences kept my eyes open, and not just for suspicious behaviour, but also for the evidence that backed up everything I was being told. Fate stepped in, over and over, to show me that he was everything he said he was. My one instance of anger with him was all the more stupid because I’ve been given constant proof of his character. Yeah, I felt like an idiot…and well I should.

Have we talked about taking things to the next level? Well, in an oblique sort of way. Neither of us are against the idea of getting married. I just have one caveat there. It’s gotta be a ‘hell, yeah’ kind of thing on his part. I mean, it would definitely be a ‘hell, yeah’ for me, but I won’t do it if he doesn’t feel like that, too. After all, I was told in a previous relationship that I’d dragged the guy into it (despite him being the one to propose). It was a month after the wedding, and that was the end of our marriage in that very moment. For me, anyway. I never felt the same way after that, even though I tried to keep going. My heart just wasn’t in it anymore. I couldn’t even bring myself to care enough to fight with him after that. I became rigidly logical and cold-hearted whenever he tried to fight with me. It was painful enough for me then, but if I had to go through that with my current guy I don’t know if I’d survive that kind of heartbreak. He isn’t the kind of guy who would say something like that, but without the ‘hell, yeah’ part of the deal, he might as well be feeling it.

Still, he feels more like a husband to me than any man from my past, with or without the marriage certificate. When I talk about him, or even think about him, I have to actively stop myself from calling him that. I’d have to say it’s because we work so well together in everything we do. You know those things you try to do with someone that usually lead to fighting? Like hanging wallpaper, fixing things, etc. Well, we can do those things and just be happy to be together. We have fun with it, because we always have fun together, and we genuinely like each other. We enjoy talking about pretty much anything – though he’s admittedly a bit attention-deficit, so I find myself repeating things, but then I have to ask people to do the same with my hearing being so crappy.

Probably the funniest part of all of this is how we started out being so logical about love. We both agreed that it took about two years to really get to know someone, and until then you couldn’t truly say you loved them. Then I told him on our first date that he was going to fall madly in love with me. Go figure. Of course, my barometer for knowing if I love someone is a pretty morbid one. I try to imagine how I would feel if they died, and whether or not it would devastate me. Within the week I told him he’d smashed my barometer. I couldn’t imagine my life without him.

So, you see, there’s a reason I’ve gotten so far behind on blog posts and other writing projects. I don’t blame him, of course. He’s perfectly willing to give me the space I need to get my writing done. I just haven’t been able to tear myself away from him. A first for me. I’ve always managed to work and do what was necessary before. Thankfully I’d already published book two of my trilogy when we started getting all crazy in love. I had a bit of breathing space. Or should I be calling it ‘breathless’ space, because that’s how he leaves me.

It took me until I was 44 years old to find the man that was right for me. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past, and not just with my choices. I’ve also made mistakes with my behaviour within those choices. I know very well that I had my share of the blame to shoulder, and I needed to learn from all that in order to be where I am right now. It’s tempting to wish we could have met ten or twenty years ago, where we could have saved ourselves the heartache we’ve both been through, but that might have been a disaster for us. We needed to be who we are right now, in order for things to work as well as they do. I needed a certain maturation. Our experiences form us, and there’s no regretting those experiences when they brought us to this point. We each have offspring we might never have had, and we would never have wanted to miss out on them.

I guess the point is this. No matter how crappy things can seem, they can change in a heartbeat. I learned that lesson a long time ago, and it’s something I keep trying to share with people who are going through hard times. I almost gave up on finding someone I could be happy with. I’d thought about dating, but I had no faith I’d find anyone who would put up with my foibles, much less someone I was willing to tolerate. And I certainly held no hope I’d find the exact person who was everything I ever needed and wanted. He feels the same. I can only hope he keeps feeling that way, and hope is no longer in short supply for me. Of course, it helped that my ferrets were all over him like he was wearing a meat suit, and he likes doing dishes.

The best part? I feel more free with him than I ever felt when I was single.

What’s in a Name? Kin, Labels, Etymology and More!

The seemingly simple topic of names is actually chock full of complexities that nobody fully understands. There are so many layers and levels to it, that it boggles the mind. Every one of those areas has differing schools of thought, too, and all cultures are different. When you’re talking about something so personal as a name, people can’t even agree on whether or not it is personal. For instance, there are those who think it’s nothing but a label, and we should do without labels entirely. I have to say, this would be a very confusing world if we had to say, “Hey you!” in order to get someone’s attention. The artist-formerly-known-as-Prince-and-was-subsequently-known-as-Prince-anyway is probably the best illustration of what happens when someone doesn’t have a name (or label if you will). Most of us would agree that we prefer to have a name rather than a serial number, and find even social security (US) or social insurance (Canada) numbers to be dehumanizing. Besides, names are easier to say. Usually.

So, let’s all pretend to agree that we need names. On to the next step. You have a kid, you stick a name on it, you register the birth and name with the government – I assume that all depends on what country you live in, too, but I’m going with what I know. In Canada you can’t even leave the hospital without register a name for your kid, and in the US you used to be able to wait a while before settling on a name if my understanding of the system is correct. I don’t personally understand that approach, but at the same time I’m also reading the Game of Thrones books (no I have not seen the TV series – I’m debating whether or not I even want to – it is TV after all), and there are customs in there where people don’t name their kids until they’re about two years old because it’s considered unlucky and too many kids die before that age. Hmmm. I’d think you’d want a name just in case they do die, so there’s something to stick on a headstone, but I suppose the idea is to not get too attached to them. Good luck with that.

Now anyone I’ve ever known who has had a kid, myself included, has sweated the choices. Most of us realize that it’s a bad idea to name your kid something they’re going to be picked on for, but then there are those who don’t want their kid to be like everyone else. Being one of the ones who was picked on, I would advise prospective parents to think twice about weird names. In fact, if you have a weird last name, it might even be time to bite the bullet and make some legal alterations to it, so future generations don’t grimace whenever they speak it aloud, or get pissy when they constantly have to correct people who misspell it. My last name is the perfect example of that. Everyone assumes there’s an R in it. There is not, and the last time it had an R in it was probably centuries ago. Just because there’s another group of people out there who chose to leave the R in their name, does not make it true of my own family. In my case I no longer have to worry about spreading my name about. My daughter doesn’t share it, and I’m beyond the point of having more children.

On the flipside there are those who have had family pride instilled in them, so that their name makes them stand a little straighter and throw their shoulders back. More power to ya. In my case I had some decent relatives, and then there were the ones with the yellow buck teeth – first cousins who tried to get me into bed. Yes, I know. Ick. Both the teeth and the cousin part. First cousins might be legal in some places, but I wasn’t going there voluntarily. Those teeth were a good reminder of why first cousins are a bad idea, in fact. Not only inbreeding, but inbreeding with visible flaws.

So at one point I seriously considered legally changing my last name. I can’t remember what it was that caught my attention, but at that time I realized something. My name would be what I would make of it. After all, it’s not a very common last name, so there are no massively famous people (for their celebrity or for their infamy) that I had to live in the shadow of, or overcome their reputation. I’m not a Lincoln or a Sheen, or even a Smith, which is so common no one would assume any relationship these days anyway. Not being in touch with any of my family members makes this easy as well. I will make my name what I want it to be, and so it doesn’t matter at all what it meant in my home town. This apple fell very far from the whole orchard.

Beyond what’s common, popular, known or there’s a built-in reputation that comes with it, there’s the meaning of the names themselves. Now, looking at my last name you would think it means land of sticks. It doesn’t. It translates from another word altogether and means land beside the hill. Weird huh? Of course, last names are like that. First name are usually the big conundrum for new parents. Boy names, girl names and gender-neutral names. I like the latter idea. If I’d had another child, Alex would have been a seriously-considered option. My daughter ended up with a name that was so common she usually had several other girls in her class with the same name. It wasn’t like that when I named her, or I’d have chosen something different. Something not weird, but not overly common either. Instead she got buried unwillingly in the popular.

Baby naming books or websites will always be needed. We want to know we’re not naming our kid something that means ‘pile of dung’ or something. Kids are cruel, and if they discover this, your kid is doomed. Yes, doomed. That will stick with them in every possible permutation for the rest of their lives. I was briefly nicknamed Spike in junior high (an 80s hair thing). People remembered. People almost got punched for remembering, but they remembered. I was okay with it in grade 8 – not so much in high school and later years. If I were faced with naming a kid now, I’d also be doing a Google search on the name, including middle and last, varying what I entered. You just never know. Maybe you haven’t heard the latest news about that serial killer in California, or the politician who just got caught doing the nasty with a chicken. With the internet now, kids will find out about those things. Sometimes people are bored and Google a person’s name at random. It’s not possible to completely avoid that kind of thing, but do your kid a favour and at least make an effort to do so.

Finally there’s equality. Woman got sick and tired of losing their last names, for one thing. For another, when you have a career and have built up a reputation, changing your last name can do a lot of damage. There’s no way to properly format a resume to state that at one place your name was one way, but then at another it was a different way. It might be alright if we all married once and stayed married. We just don’t now. Or very rarely. Sure, you can use the antiquated “nee” with your former last name after it, but seriously? Let’s be realistic about corporate life. Women who do that are looked at more than a little contemptuously. It tells everyone there that you gave up your identity for a man. If you’re willing to do that, the assumption may be that you will not take your career as seriously as a man would. Then starts that whole, “Women don’t belong in the workforce. They just can’t be relied on to stick with it.” They also tend to assume you will be taking time off to raise a family, and they will not make that same assumption with a husband. They don’t have a clue what you and your partner have decided to do about a family. They simply assume, and it’s not a career boost.

Beyond getting married and women not always changing their last names, or at least hyphenating them, babies come along to challenge your equality ideas yet again. After all, it’s no longer written in stone that children automatically take their father’s last name. Women are starting to say, “What? My last name isn’t good enough? My family is less important than your family? I don’t think so!” In fact, this isn’t such a new phenomenon as we might generally think. Royal families intermarried – one country’s prince to another country’s princess, and that sort of thing. These high-level marriages did not completely subjugate the family names of the brides, simply because that would have been an insult to an entire country. If the idea behind the marriage was to bond two countries, that sort of insult would nullify any benefits achieved by the marriage. Even among the lesser peerage, especially when the woman’s family was considered a station or two above the family of the man, women often retained their own titles of some sort. I’m foggy on specifics, but I remember seeing it on many occasions when I was doing research. Titles would be handed down to the children at any rate.

What I’ve been seeing as some of the latest trends are girls being given their mothers’ last names, and boys getting their last name from their fathers, or even the reverse. Sometimes the couple each retain their own last names with no hyphenation, but the kids get the hyphenated name and the boys & girls have the same last names. Again, there’s very old precedent in a way. Think of Nordic last names. The son of Odin was Odinson (like Thor Odinson). His daughter’s would have been Odinsdotter or Odinsdatter. They’re called patronymic names when they’re named after the father, but there were matronymic names, too, apparently. Laws changed and in some cases this practice was forbidden, but then laws changed again so people could go back to doing it.

I guess in a world where English-language people (like myself) are so openly egocentric that they assume the world revolves around their own basic culture, there were many who got confused by the ‘alternative’ practices. Then again, there’s a large portion of the world that places the family name first, and the given name second. So, in those countries the custom would be for me to be called Stickland Rain. I know that it’s like that in China, as well as in Hungary (or was anyway). Certain Chinese celebrities have swapped their names back and forth, confusing the masses of movie-goers, but if those movie-goers are too lazy to learn about other cultures I feel no empathy for them. Having worked in payroll and human resources, it was my job to know this stuff. In one place we had a large number of Chinese employees who were permanent residents, and I needed to know which name was the family name. As far as I was concerned, I needed to be respectful of the differences.

This brings up other issues with regard to this topic, doesn’t it? The whole thing about being an immigrant. See what I mean? A seemingly innocuous topic has turned into something fraught with meaning on every possible level. There are many who feel that if you come into a country then you should adopt your new country’s ways. Sure, legally I can see that. You obey the laws already in place, because by crossing that border it’s tacit agreement that you will abide by them. That does not mean your culture needs to be tossed out the door or disrespected. I know in Canada it’s always a struggle to accommodate certain religious beliefs, particularly in employment situations where there’s a uniform involved. When it comes to names, though, there are many who sneer at foreign names. I see it more in the US, but I see it in Canada as well. Racism is nowhere near dead, folks.

I have a friend whose last name is technically pronounced differently, but in high school he chose to anglicize it for ease of use. He refers back to the ‘when in Rome’ analogy. His family members were adamant that it should be pronounced the original way. I pronounce it the way he wants it pronounced, but my ex’s family is from the same country and he was taken aback by the way I said it. My only response was, “If that’s what he uses, that’s what I’m calling him. It’s his damn name.”

In the end that’s really what it should be as far as I’m concerned. My daughter is debating on changing her name. She does not like its popularity. She’s considering a variety of options, and some of them I think she would later regret. However, it’s her life, and I really don’t blame her for not being happy with what she has. Maybe George R.R. Martin and his Game of Thrones are closer to the truth on this one, though we certainly need to be able to call our kids something other than, “Come here you little…” when they’ve drawn on the walls in Crayon for the umpteenth time. The thing is, do we even know what to call ourselves as time goes on? Do we pick a name that sounds cool later in life, but then realize ten years down the road that it wasn’t exactly our best idea?

Thankfully it’s not horrendously expensive to change your name these days. I think it’s only about $170 in Canada, for a full, legal name change. Less than the price of a DIY divorce at any rate, and probably a lot less confusing. Having gone through umpteen dozen name changes myself – two marriages where I actually changed my last name, and the rest were from childhood and were not by my choice – I can tell you, it takes people a while to get used to the new name, yourself included. By the time I got married for the third time (and no, that one didn’t stick either), I was really sick of changing my name. My ex didn’t like it, but by then the most I was willing to concede was a hyphenation. We didn’t last long enough for me to make the change, which at least saved me from having to change it back.

Would a rose still smell as sweet by any other name? You betcha. It would just have to hear it a few times before it would answer to it.