Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Memories of Halloweens Past...

Happy Halloween! I have to say, outside of Christmas, this has always been my favorite holiday. The change in the weather. The roll-back of the clocks. The free candy. Okay, it’s probably mostly that last one, but still!

At least, this was all true until Halloween last year which turned out to be the worst day of my entire life. I haven’t written too much about it because it’s taken me a long time to get to the point where I COULD write about it. I almost didn’t write anything today, but then I realized that writing about it and marking the date could be a good thing for me.

So, for cathartic purposes and so I can take one more step towards being able to put all this stuff behind me, here’s my story.

This time last year, I was sitting in a bathroom staring with disbelief at a positive pregnancy test. My husband of almost twelve years had just moved out of the house the day before so I was already reeling from the idea of becoming a single parent to one child and now there was going to be another one. The prospect was so unbelievable that I went to the store and bought two more tests just to confirm the results. I even bought one of those tests where the actual word “pregnant” shows up in the window instead of a line. Just to be really, really sure.

You may wonder how I could let this happen considering the break up of the marriage so I’ll explain a bit. First, the break up was, from my perspective anyway, very sudden. In a three week period, I went from being in a committed marriage with a few problems that we were working on to being told it was over and that he was moving out of the house. By the time the pregnancy was detected, I was almost through the first trimester. In addition to that, I had to use fertility treatments to conceive my first child. Pregnancy without medical assistance was not supposed to be possible for me and therefore not something I actively guarded against.

Don’tcha just LOVE the irony? Yeah, me too.

As I sat there looking at those three tests, my brain was on overload. Shock. Disbelief. Anger that this was happening NOW of all times. Happiness (yeah, there was happiness, too) because I’d so desperately wanted to have one more child and the demise of the marriage coupled with my age had made that seem like an impossibility. Terror at the idea of having to go through a pregnancy, delivery and caring for a newborn completely alone. But then I remember having a moment of clarity where this voice in my head just said “It will be hard. Harder than anything you’ve ever done in your life, but you’ll do it. One step at a time and you’ll make it through.”

By the time I walked out of that bathroom, I knew I was in love with and committed to that baby, whatever happened. I planned to tell my ex and my parents that night after my son had finished trick-or-treating and had gone to bed. I didn’t know what to expect from the ex and frankly, I didn’t waste much time thinking about it. As far as I was concerned, he’d made his decision and left his family and even if he changed his mind upon hearing the news (which I neither wanted nor expected), I planned to go forward.

I put a call in to my doctor to schedule a blood test the next morning to confirm things. There were a couple of physical things going on that had me slightly worried, but that could also have been totally normal for early pregnancy. I just wanted to get checked out and make sure everything was okay.

I went on with my day and headed home to take my son to his Halloween activities. The ex arrived to participate (this was when we were still trying to do the “civil getting along” thing) and things went fine during the costume parade and dinner. Then, just before we were to leave to start walking the neighborhood, I felt a dull ache and something of a tearing sensation in my abdomen.

I didn’t know what was going on, but told the ex to go ahead out with our son and I’d catch up with them. I started having cramps and had to take some pain relievers to get them under control. I figured I was either having a miscarriage (in which case there was nothing to be done) or else it was just some wonky, but normal, pregnancy thing that would go away. Little did I know…

I left the house and caught up with the rest of our party and finished walking the neighborhood with them. While we were out there, I still wasn’t feeling too well and ended up having to break the news to the ex as we were walking. That wasn’t my plan, but it was becoming obvious something was up with me so I didn’t really have a choice. He looked stunned, but really didn’t have much of a reaction. To this day, I don’t know if he even believed me. I told him that something was wrong and that I had a blood test scheduled for the next morning. I broke the news to my parents that night, too.

The night didn’t go very well. I had a lot of cramping and had to take more pain relievers, but I also didn’t seem to be miscarrying, either. I went to the blood test the next morning and then in to work. The results came in about mid-day and confirmed that I was, indeed, pregnant. When I told the nurse about my symptoms, she scheduled an ultrasound for me that afternoon.

At the ultrasound, the tech initially couldn’t find an embryo, but commented that there was a lot of blood in my uterus. “That’s it. I’m miscarrying.” I thought, but then, I saw a heartbeat on the monitor (I’d been through this before with my first child and so I knew what to look for) although the tech tried to turn the monitor so I wouldn’t see it . At that point, I thought everything would be okay until she said “I’m going to go get the doctor to speak with you.” They never do that unless it’s bad news so I was prepared for her to come in and tell me I was miscarrying. I was not prepared to hear her say “The pregnancy is ectopic. It’s located in your right Fallopian tube and you need to have surgery TODAY. Like, right now.”

Next thing I knew I was sitting in the doctor’s office frantically calling relatives while the nurse tried to get me scheduled into surgery that afternoon. I called the ex to give him the news and his only reaction was “Well, good luck with that.” To this day, he has never expressed one word of condolence or sympathy over the death of our child and that, more than anything else including what I’ve since learned were multiple affairs, is why I loathe him and consider him a waste of skin. Under those circumstances, I would have offered sympathy even to my worst enemy and here I was married to the man for over a decade and shared a child with him and that’s all he could come up with.

And yeah, I know, he was probably shocked. I get that. But I was in the hospital overnight and recuperating at home for two weeks after that and he could have said or done something during that period. Instead, he chose to use that time to contact a lawyer, file for divorce and have me served with papers.

Where was I while he was doing all that? Well, first I was laying in a bed in the hospital’s surgical “prep” area having to sign forms to eliminate his ability to control any of my medical care or decisions should I be unable to speak for myself and to try to make some provisions for my son’s care and custody. Lovely, eh?

Then I was discussing with the doctor whether or not she would be able to save my Fallopian tube to preserve my ability to have children in the future. Then off I went to surgery.

I found out later that my tube had already ruptured and I’d been bleeding internally for at least 24 hours. It’s a miracle that I didn’t go to sleep Halloween night and bleed to death in my sleep. Of course, they were unable to save the tube due to the damage and I didn’t come out of the surgery very well so although it was supposed to be an outpatient procedure, I ended up being admitted and had to stay overnight at the hospital.

So, in a very short period of time, I lost my marriage, a baby and the ability to have any more children all in one fell swoop.

Then I got served with divorce papers when my incisions (much less my heart) hadn’t even healed yet.

A week later I went in to the doctor’s office for a follow-up visit and had a very weird experience. As I got off the elevator, I passed the ultrasound office where I’d gotten the bad news just a week before and as I did, the hallway seemed to stretch and stretch so that the door to my doctor’s office got farther away the longer I walked towards it. I assume it was some kind of post-traumatic stress thing, but it was awful. Then, as I sat in the waiting room with all the pregnant women and pictures of babies, I started to cry uncontrollably. This sounds totally normal except that I’m someone who almost never cries and I certainly don’t cry uncontrollably. In public. A nurse very quickly hustled me out of there and into a cubicle – don’t want to upset the expecting moms now, do we?

I just realized as I’m writing this that I haven’t been back to my doctor’s office since then and have missed my yearly exam. I hope by now that I can face going in there again, but it will definitely be difficult.

The last year has been a long journey for me. I’ve changed mentally, emotionally and physically…I hope for the better. At the very least, I learned that I’m stronger than I ever thought possible and that there’s very little life could throw at me now that would be worse than what I’ve already been through.

One of the final steps of my recovery is to spend a last bit of time on these memories, write them down, recognize the anniversary for what it is and then move on. Having said all that, I will never stop regretting the loss of the baby and the fact that I probably can’t have any more children. I’ve supposedly got one good tube and one good ovary left, but seeing as how I’m 41 and unmarried, chances are slim.

I’m still angry over the circumstances and the lack of sympathy, support or even plain old acknowledgment from the other party involved. He continues to act to this day as if none of this ever happened and can’t understand why I’m not just happy as a clam to see him and talk to him. I find that attitude to be completely insulting to me and disrespectful to the memory of our child (and yes, I consider that there was a child since I saw the heartbeat).

Those feelings go to the back of my mind at times now instead of being constantly there, but I doubt they will ever go away entirely. Every time I have to see him, or hear his voice on the phone or deal with his “why can’t we just get along” attitude, I literally want to hurl. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been anything other than civil to him (especially in front of our son) because I made a decision a long time ago that the kind of person I am is not the kind of person who exposes a young child to anger, bitterness and fighting. It’s just REALLY FREAKIN’ HARD to do.

It was a terrible thing to go through, but I like to think that I have come out the other side as a stronger, better person. I certainly know that MY honor and integrity are intact. I’m not a vow-breaker or a liar. I’m blessed with one phenomenal kid and I’m doing my best to be worthy of the honor of being his mother.

I started this entry off by saying “Happy Halloween” and I’m sure anyone who has read to this point is thinking that was a crazy intro to something this sad, but despite what happened last year, I’m looking forward to seeing tonight’s activities through my son’s eyes. There’s nothing like that child-like wonder to chase away any bad associations I might have with this date.

I’d also like to say a special thank you to all the family and friends who have been there and supported me over the last year – without you and my faith in God, I wouldn’t have made it!

So, I hope everyone has a wonderful time tonight. Enjoy the children whether they are your own or those who come to your door. Take time to see the sparkle and wonder in their eyes and recognize it for the miracle that it is.

Oh, and don’t forget to snatch a piece of candy (or two) for yourself! I know I will!


“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are stronger at the broken places.”
--Ernest Hemingway

Friday, October 27, 2006

I've got game!

But more about that later

It’s just got to be time for a book review again. I know, I promised I’d post more frequently, but then, you know, life happens when you’re not expecting it and the last week or so has been totally insane. New job = busy. Single mom (with no help from grandparents as they are on vacay this week) = busier. Work outs, errands, Halloween prep, dating (see, told you I had game) and miscellaneous other crap = insane.

Then there’s all that reading I have to do just so I can review the books later because I’m selfless like that. So, here goes. The first book is “Dragon’s Tongue" by Laura J. Underwood. I first became aware of Ms. Underwood’s work when she had a number of short stories published in various anthologies and in “Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine.” I’m surprised that she hasn’t had as much success as some of Bradley’s other protégés like Mercedes Lackey or Jennifer Roberson because her stories are equally well written (if not better), but it’s nice to see she’s finally got a novel out there. “Dragon’s Tongue” has a bit of a “Harry Potter” feeling to it as the main character, Alaric Braidwine, is a young wizard arriving for training at a mage college, but the similarities end there. He’s paired with the feckless but powerful Fenelon Greenfyn as his mentor. Keltora, the background world in this book, is well developed with a great sense of ancient history to give it shape and believability. I felt there were a few “novice writer” elements in the plot, but they were barely detectable and everything else is so well done that it was certainly more entertaining than either Lackey or Roberson’s most recent works. This is a good one, folks, and I highly recommend it.

From there, I moved on to one of the more original werewolf stories I’ve come across in Kit Whitfield’s “Benighted.” In this world, the majority of the population are “lunes” or werewolves. A tiny minority are “normal” human beings or “barebacks” who are considered to be cripples and given almost leper-like status by the rest of the world. However, it’s their job to keep control of the “lunes”, particularly on full-moon nights, and make sure they don’t rampage out of control and cause damage. The book is beautifully written with an almost poetic, sing-song voice, but sometimes I got a little tired of the main character’s endless, drippy, introspection and wished it had been broken up by more action. I also had a problem with the basic idea of the background world – it seems to me that nature would not allow for the naturally predatory species (the lunes) to outnumber their potential “prey” animals (the barebacks). Also, there’s no correlation between actual wolf behavior and lune behavior. Lunes are far more aggressive and savage than real wolves. Some of this can be accepted as peculiarities of this particular world, but there’s a point at which it stretches the readers’ ability to suspend disbelief. Still, the author has done a powerful job of exploring the theme of prejudice and it’s easy to re-characterize the lunes and barebacks as blacks and whites in South Africa before apartheid was abolished. I would sum this book up as thought-provoking and worth the read, but I wouldn’t take it to the beach or on an airplane. It’s not much “fun.”

Lastly, there’s “On Basilisk Station” by David Weber. This book is the first in the well-known “Honor Harrington” series which I’ve known about for a long time, but for some reason had just never picked up. The good part of that is that there are a zillion books out now in this series so I’ll be reading them for a long time to come. Weber has taken C.S. Forester’s famous “Horatio Hornblower” series (which, by the way, if you haven’t seen the A&E movies of this series – run, don’t walk, to the video store and rent the DVD’s…SO well done and Iaon Gruffudd is H-O-T) and translated it into space. Captain Honor Harrington of the Royal Manticoran Navy is about to accept her first command – an old, but serviceable cruiser known as HMS Fearless. Lots of action and military tactics ensue. As is typical of military novels, the character development (especially of secondary characters) is somewhat lacking but at least it’s not totally non-existent. I give this book an A+ for action, military strategy/tactics, the politics behind the scenes and the hard science behind the starship drives, weapons, communications, and the physics governing any potential battle in space. However, if you want “deeper” characters, then I recommend Lois McMaster Bujold’s “Miles Vorkosigan” saga.

In other news, it looks like the divorce will be final soon. We’re in the final paperwork stages so maybe I’ll have my maiden name back before 2006 is out. The next few days will be hard on me, though, as the one-year anniversary of everything blowing up arrives, but I hope to weather the storm by focusing on Halloween activities with my son and being thankful for all the good things in my life – family, friends, job, health, etc.

While the generic idea of “being divorced” still makes me sad, I know that I am a far healthier, happier and different person today than I would have been had things continued on as they were. The truth is, the other person involved never really loved me or accepted me for who I am and spent nearly 12 years convincing me that he was right about me. It took getting his boot off my neck for me to wake up and realize that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with me. In fact, I’m quite fabulous, a helluva catch and any guy would be lucky to have me on his arm should I deign to allow that.

The real pity is that I spent so many years letting someone else’s judgment of me as “wrong” and “inferior” so color my picture of myself when in reality, he was the one unworthy of me. It’s amazing how such a seemingly small realization has re-shaped my entire life (not to mention my body). I finally feel like I’ve been set free to be the person I should have been all along. It’s weird to be “re-born” at the age of 41!

Of course, it hasn’t hurt that I had a great 2nd date with architect-guy last Saturday night. I wore my new, size 10(!) black jeans and a short-sleeved wrap top with a black, pink and blue paisley design. I’d post links, but they’re not in the Macy’s on-line store as far as I can tell. So, I’ll have to share the picture of this lovely coat I got on sale this weekend. I fell in love with this when it first came into the store in late summer, but it was out of my budget range. Even on sale, it was still pricey, but so pretty I couldn't pass it up. Because, you know, one sooo needs a coat in Southern California. Especially during fire season.

Anyway, back to the date. We had a fabulous time at the Sorrento Grille in Laguna Beach. I had the lamb chops with some kind of sherry/maple gravy that was to die for and then we walked around and looked at some of the art galleries and had ice cream. It was a treat to be with someone not only funny and charming but intelligent as well.

I’d forgotten what it was like to converse with someone whose brain actually functions. It really made me notice how everything with the ex was just such a freakin’ major EFFORT. No wonder I was tired all the time and didn’t have any energy to do anything else. All my energy went into doing the thinking for two people.

Fortunately, that’s a thing of the past and I had a fun, relaxing, effortless evening that ended with a very nice kiss (shhh! don’t tell my mother). Here's hoping for date #3 which will (oh darn) require another date outfit).

That’s it. Happy weekend all and don’t forget those oxygen masks to keep the smoke out!


What's that smell?

Ah yes, fall in Southern California. I just love the crispness of the air (it's 86 degrees out), the bright blue sky (it's hidden in haze, smoke, orange sun glare and ashes)and the way it makes me feel (my sinuses are burning from the dry, smoke-laden Santa Ana winds and a sinus migraine is not far off).

Yes, fall is definitely my favorite time of year. Except for that pesky "fire season" thing...


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

It's Jewelry-licious!

Note to self: Stop listening to KIIS-FM. Too much Fergie is bad for the brain (apparently).

I was able to make up some earrings over the weekend and thought I'd post some pics (Sparkle - all of these should be in the mail to you today).

The earrings in this picture feature hand-painted ceramic beads as focal points and I've added Bali vermeil spacers and, on the top pair in the picture, smoky quartz rondelles.

More hand-painted ceramic beads from the same artist, but this time I've added Bali silver and labradorite rondelles.

These earrings feature hand-painted Russian lacquerwork which traditionally depicts a scene from a legend or fairy tale. This is a picture of the legendary firebird or phoenix. I've added Bali vermeil spacers. I had planned to use black Swarovski crystals as well, but the focal beads are so pretty by themselves I decided that "less is more" was the way to go so as not to detract from them.

These earrings are some smaller pieces featuring more Russian lacquerwork in shades of gold and blue on black. I've added the Swarovski crystals to these because the focals are smaller and the images are not as strong.

The lavender bead-embroidered bracelet is almost done - I'm just finishing the beaded edging and should be able to shoot some pictures soon.

In non-jewelry-related news, the guy from Saturday night wants to go out again. I'm not sure whether to be thrilled or scared to death. I'm walking the fine line in between for now. Oh, and now that he's seen the one awesome date outfit I have...what the hell do I wear for date #2?


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Site Update!

Yes, folks, it's true! Silver Parrot Designs has finally been updated. No more references to May or springtime (now that it's fall). Please pick yourselves up off the floor now!

I've got a new item of the week, an addition to the necklaces section and lots of new gallery photos so feel free to head over and check things out.

In other news, I hit the OC bead/gem faire this weekend mostly to pick staples like headpins, jump rings and earring hooks (since a certain person keeps whining about not getting her earrings yet) and then I'd planned to be outta there. But, of course, a few other things caught my eye.

What, you want pictures now? Oh, well, okay. If you insist! In addition to some pretty sterling silver beads and earring findings (which just wouldn't scan very well), I picked up these handpainted ceramic beads from Africa and pendants from an East Coast porcelain artist:

I guess I was on a "clay" roll, because then I found the ceramic artist that I love so much but who, up until now, has only shown his work at the L.A. Gift Show. Usually, he carries Russian lacquerwork as well, but this time only brought his hand-painted porcelain beads. So, while I didn't get any more lacquerwork (serious bummer!) I did get some lovely porcelain beads:

And this stunning, hand-painted pendant:

I wish the true beauty of these beads came out in the scans - they all have a highly-polished surface with touches of metallic and an almost mirror-like quality to them. Truly outstanding and unusual.

I spent the rest of today making earrings for a friend - she bought the beads from this same vendor back in July at the L.A. show. I'll post photos of them tomorrow.

On a personal note, it looks like the divorce stuff will be done soon. We reached an agreement on the final outstanding item so now it's just a matter of paperwork and signatures assuming no one changes anything (and by no one, I of course mean the other party involved). I'm looking forward to getting on with my life as this has been dragging on for a year as of the end of this month. While I know it's the best thing for me because I am much happier now (not to mention 60 lbs. lighter), it's still sad to see something like this come to an end. I can only hope that I've shielded my son from as much of the fallout as possible and that he'll grow up healthy and happy and without too much impact from this.

As for me, well, I did go on my date last night and had a very nice time. It was great to get out and have adult conversation and some nice food with a guy who complimented me on my looks (almost fell outta my chair - haven't heard a guy say that to me since...well...ever, really) and seemed to enjoy my company. What a refreshing change after twelve years with someone who went out of his way on a daily basis to make sure that I knew I was not up to his standards in pretty much every category possible. It just goes to show that there is life after divorce...and a pretty good life at that.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Book Review

It’s book review time again (er, finally).

(Insert loud huzzahs and fanfare.)


(Insert sound of crickets chirping.)

Anyway, I’ve got a semi-decent crop of stuff to talk about starting with “The Privilege of the Sword” by Ellen Kushner. I picked this up thinking it held an intriguing mix of Jane Austen-esqueness along with sword-fighting and a mad duke. These are some of my favorite things (well, not the mad duke part, but you get the idea). And while it does have those, and is actually interesting and well-written, I’m just bored to death with the whole homosexual politics thing. It’s not new or shocking or even interesting in this day and age and I get so damned tired of strong female characters who “suddenly” discover their homosexuality. I mean, really, at this point, what would be new and interesting would be a female sword fighter (or fire fighter, or policewoman, etc.) who ISN’T gay. I’m over it. It’s also possible that my enjoyment and understanding of this book was affected by the fact that it’s a sequel to a previous book called “Swordspoint” which I haven’t read and which may provide greater insight into the characters. Cool cover art, though.

I moved on to “I See You” by Holly Lisle. This book features a female paramedic who, surprisingly, is not gay. In fact, she leaps into bed with the hero mere moments after meeting him and yeah, I know it’s a romance/thriller crossover, but come on, people! I’ve never bought this whole “instant mystical attraction so powerful that it cannot be denied” thing. It’s just stupid. Despite that fact, this book might’ve been pretty good had it not been a complete and total re-do of Lisle’s earlier book, “Midnight Rain,” which was much more cleverly done. At least in that version, I didn’t figure out the main plot twist during the intro.

Next comes “Webmage” by Kelly McCullough. This book is a bit newbie-ish, but still provides a fun-filled romp through a world that’s an interesting mish-mash of computer technology, Greek mythology and sorcery. I suspect that it would’ve been even more entertaining if I had even the remotest knowledge of computer programming. While the author seems overly concerned with proving just how closely he (and yes, it’s a “he” – if you can’t tell from the sex scenes, check out the bio at the end of the book) paid attention in his Mythology and Folklore 101 class. He does this by constantly tossing about bits of obscure Greek myths so brush up on your Mount Olympus Tales, folks. It is interesting to see these characters brought to life in this particular universe, though. The book is funny and action-packed and I’ll definitely keep an eye out for the author’s next novel.

Then it was time to “get my shallow on” by checking out the latest installment of Mary Janice Davidson’s “Undead” series. Betsy Taylor is back in all her blond bimbo, shoe-obsessed, vampire queen glory in “Undead and Unpopular.” Not much has changed since the last book. She’s still planning her wedding, her baby brother is still colicky, and she still has “issues” with her housemates and her fiancé, Eric Sinclair. Although the book is fun, it’s my least favorite of the series so far because it doesn’t have much in the way of plot. The question of why there’s suddenly a zombie in the attic is never resolved (the better to make us all shell out for the next book, I’m sure) and the other main issue, the visiting vampire delegation from Europe, resolves itself off-stage without any input from any of the main characters. When the book ends, you’re sort of left with a “that’s it?” feeling as you search through the final pages to see if you’ve perhaps missed a few…hundred. I say wait for the paperback edition on this one.

Last, but not least, is “Firestorm,” the latest from Rachel Caine’s “Weather Warden” series. Always well done, these books are a fun, action-filled ride with the main character, Joanne Baldwin, constantly getting in deeper and deeper er…well, you know, just deeper. This time she’s up against Mother Nature herself and, as the famous commercial once claimed, it’s not nice to piss off Mother Nature. Okay, okay, the commercial said “fool” but I figure the theory still holds. On top of that, the Djinn have gone nutso, Joanne’s sister is in the hands of a sociopathic wingnut by the name of Eamon, demons and natural disasters are busting out all over and the Wardens are getting their butts kicked in every corner of the globe. The resolution was a little too quick and I also wonder who you get as guest-star villain after you’ve already had Mother Nature in the role. That’s kind of a hard act to follow. However, you definitely won’t be bored. This one also has cool cover art. Next installment of the series is due out July, 2007. This is kind of a long time to wait. *Pout*

Have a good weekend everyone!


P.S. Oh, and Sparkle? That comment about the earrings? Subtle, very subtle (not). I haven’t forgotten! In fact, headed to a bead show this weekend and will keep an eye out for fun things to add to your focal beads. Oh, and earring hooks…I need earring hooks. Sorta hard to make earrings without ‘em!

P.P.S. I’ve been asked on a date! Now, where DID I put those red stilettos…