Road to Arkansas and Back ~ Final Thoughts

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Family, Friends, Kaylee, Mom, No Whining, Our Kids, Our Kids, Soulful, Twitter/Facebook, Vestibular Migraine, Weight Loss

Note: If you haven’t read the first five installments, plus the reason for this trip, you may want to start with the links below before reading this post. Also, know that this was stream of thought and confessional, therefore very long. I intended this to serve as my memory since the trip was as chaotic as attending Dragon*Con, and I didn’t want to forget a thing because of its importance to me.
Reason for the trip
Day One

Day Two
Day Three
Day Four
Day Five

Final Thoughts
It took me awhile to sort out how I was feeling after waking up on Friday. It was like a dark cloud settled over me, and I chalked it up to the migraine and extreme fatigue. But it was more than that. I realized the similarity between it and my Mom’s last Thanksgiving. Well, actually the day after her last Thanksgiving. She was near despondent, slept all day and just couldn’t be roused to do anything, including the physical therapy that she so loved and looked forward to. I was terrified, but my conversations with the staff and doctor said that they saw it with many of their patients after a holiday or celebration. They called it post-holiday letdown, where the patients would sort of pull inside themselves and grieve what their expectations had been versus what the reality and likely length of their life was.

Obviously, this was no where near as painful as that, but I did realize that after I initially bounded out of bed, planning to take on the world that I ended up back in bed with a migraine and licking my wounds, so to speak. There were many ups and downs during the trip, and a lot that I can’t say here for obvious reasons. But “let down” is definitely a key part to what I was feeling the day after my return.

The one thing that screams at me, is that I didn’t have more time with LT. Had I thought that Naughty Bear and I were capable of driving the entire way without stopping, I would have left a day later to have had more time with LT. Because reflecting back on the trip, I still just really ache for more time with him. Now, I knew this trip would be all about Naughty Bear’s move back, but I was sure that I would be able to spend one night with LT, just the two of us. The one night that would have been possible, I ended up facilitating the meeting with Roomie. My contribution there was huge and many prickly situations were soothed, so I’m glad I did it for Naughty Bear and the ex’s sake. That was followed by dinner with the ex and his family. It was a fantastically good time, so I don’t regret the trade-off. I just wish we had left a day later and planned on driving straight through the night. It’s entirely possible that we would have had to stop based on the migraine I had most of yesterday. I can’t imagine that I wouldn’t have had it had we stayed in the stressful environment. Still, I want more time with my son. Call me greedy, I don’t care.

I feel so guilty even saying that, because I have so much more time with my sons than Chooch has with his, but the dynamic is very different, like it or not. I’m working hard to ensure that at least Chooch will make a visit this Spring or Summer and that we’ll all four fly to California to visit him over Christmas. But that includes airfare, rental care, and this time we will likely have to stay in a hotel. Still, even with our financial chaos right now, it has to happen.

Happily, the migraine I had for most of Friday subsided after multiple doses of medication and I was able to attend Chooch’s band practice after all. The surprising warm glow of friendship and love with this group of amazing people was exactly what my battered psyche needed, and our overnight stay with friends was just as magical as last time. We enjoyed a wonderful Saturday morning being spoiled by dear friends and then spent the rest of the day day with other friends, some old and some new. At one point, after my very first Ethiopian meal, I made an utter fool of myself by being “that guy”, feeling so joyful and at peace for the first time in weeks that I thanked them for the random luck of having this already scheduled before my last minute trip was planned and said “I love you guys!”. No, I can’t even blame excessive alcohol. I was just that happy. And dammit, if I can complain loudly, I choose to also proclaim gratitude loudly.

I’m blessed and rich in friendship, and I refuse to deny it. I think that cheapens it, and I won’t tolerate that. So for the family and friends online, the friends I haven’t seen recently but have offered me support via Twitter, email, FB, WordFeud chat and also in person, I thank you sincerely. Although I didn’t have time to respond to all the support sent my way, I read each and every one and they truly helped me through what I was facing. I humbly thank you for the gestures of friendship.

I will always treasure the trip, because of the deeply satisfying conversations with Naughty Bear. I am so honored that he shared so much with me, of his personal and private hopes, experiences and dreams. Also, the time spent with my ex’s wife and their kids ended up very positively and I’m very grateful to have found peace there, finally.

As I’ve done throughout this series, I’m ending with the health aspect of the trip, this time the results of my activities: My Friday morning weigh-in showed that I was actually down one pound from the previous Friday. I’m very proud of this, as I usually gain when off my routine, especially when traveling. I didn’t even starve or deprive myself, as I allowed a waffle from the breakfast bar during the hotel stay, ate moderately at P.F. Chiang’s, ate modestly at El Chico’s (a fave mexican restaurant from my childhood in Texas that does not exist in our local area) and two nights with Blue Bell ice cream for dessert. I even negotiated three fast food restaurants successfully. I only got in two workouts, although two of the days were fairly physical with cleaning and packing. I carried bananas with me everywhere and since I was with my kids, had no alcohol. The lesson from this loss is one I hope to never forget – I can be healthy anywhere, regardless of the stress, and feel empowered by exerting control over how I react in relation to food.

Lookit, I’m growing!

The Road to Arkansas and Back – Part 5

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Family, Health, No Whining, Our Kids, Soulful, Weight Loss

I fell asleep sometime after midnight, and the day is a chaotic blur to me. I’ll start with tweets to kind of set the tone. I don’t remember typing the second one, so I guess I have to add “sleep tweeter” to my resume.

“Soon passing Knoxville, going strong. Not sure where we’ll lay our heads but may make it into NC.”
~ Thursday, February 24, 2011 1:18:53 AM

“I’ve been napping. Naughty Bear is wide awake with coffee & corndog in hand. Still in TN. He wants me to go back to sleep. G’night.”
~ Thursday, February 24, 2011 2:47:49 AM

I took over driving around 5 am-ish, feeling very rested. What I Learned: Using the “White Noise” app on my Droid at a high volume with headphones made all the difference on the quality of sleep while passengering. While NB drove, he listened to music and held a lengthy phone conversation with his girlfriend and I didn’t hear a thing. Road noise was also completely blocked out and I was tremendously rested after only a few hours of quality sleep. When I took over, NB used my trick and also slept very deeply for several hours. I’m so glad I saw the icon as I was flipping through for “DoubleTwist” to start playing music. I’m going to use it for plane trips, train rides and any other time I need to sleep in less-than quiet locations.

I’m thrilled that I was driving at sunrise, because the mountain views were stunning. I was completely invigorated and inspired by the glory before me and even stupidly snapped some photos while I was driving. They are crappy, poorly focused and poorly aimed since I was more worried about steering than photo composition, but I just wanted to capture the beauty in any way I could.

Naughty Bear was awake for a few moments when I stopped at a scenic overlook near Staunton, Virginia that I was familiar with. I was shocked that he remembered our only other stop there together, which was about twelve years ago. I felt compelled to stop and take in the view. With the mountains in the distance and mists in the valley it was inexplicably beautiful. I took a few snapshots with my camera phone, once again forgetting to get my fancy camera out of the car. My heart was pounding and I had that connection to the bigger world that I so craved the night before. As I stood overlooking the valley, NB stayed in the car, talking to his girlfriend on the phone. I was completely alone for a few serene moments.

Then a car pulled up and three men quickly climbed out. I saw NB tense up through the windshield as his protectiveness of me kicked in. I couldn’t blame him after what he went through in Atlanta a few months ago, but smiled at him to soothe him. These men were dressed and had the swagger of typical street thugs, but I learned on a road trip years before never to judge people by appearances. I smiled at the first guy as he approached me, and he grinned hugely when I said “Good morning” to him. He said something along the lines of, “It’s a blessed morning to be able to see such a beautiful view, don’t you think?” I agreed whole-heartedly, and his friends finally caught up with him as he had literally bolted out of his car to stand at the edge of the overlook and take in the view. We greeted each other and shared our marvel at the hugeness and beauty of the valley and mountains, then stood in quiet awe of the view. Getting cold, we shared cheery farewells and blessings as I got back in the car to head the rest of the way home.

As I started the car, I felt utterly in awe and invigorated after what my mind and spirit absorbed from the ten minute stop. Beauty in nature and humanity, all at once. Honestly, what more could you ask for?

Naughty Bear and I started the trip with a general goal of making it to Knoxville, Tennessee but also agreed to stop whenever either of us felt the need to. Since I was so well rested, I drove until we were about two hours from home. We then realized that the GPS route had us passing within a half-hour of where he lives with his grandparents, so we detoured there and unloaded. Our original on-the-fly plan had been to go to my place first and grab some sleep and then he’d drive down and unload alone. This seemed smarter.

We called his grandparent’s and let them know we were an hour away, got there and the two of us unloaded the car quickly. The mild headache I’d been fighting since the night before turned into a migraine for obvious reasons, and by the time we left the house I was dizzy, trembly, nauseous and very weak. I was very thrilled, however, to see the dog that used to be a part of my old family. A basset hound/beagle mix that we got about 3 months before my first marriage ended. She’s pretty old now, and from the way she greeted me, I like to think she remembered that me since we were inseparable for those three months.

Naughty Bear drove the hour or so home, and I have to admit that we were finally feeling ragged. The unload was exhausting and we were a bit cranky with each other. Not excessively so, and we kept apologizing when one of us snapped fully well aware of why it was.

Naughty Bear immediately went up to nap for a few hours before heading out to see his girlfriend, and I hopped in my bed as well. Chooch snuggled up with me, and as usual I had trouble changing gears. I’ve never been able to just stop and go to sleep, I need transition time. So I worked on another blog post before I could forget anything. I finally slept, but I’m not sure for how long. I woke a few times from weird dreams, and tweeted this:

“Confused. Dozing off and on, not sure what’s real except that I’m starved. Granola bar at 5 am isn’t holding me. Did I get a polar bear cub?”
~Thursday, February 24, 2011, 5:54 pm

After my nap, I grabbed a bowl of old-fashioned oatmeal, something I missed on the trip as it is a comforting daily ritual for this former carb-shunner. It ended up being dinner. We caught up on favorite TV shows that the DVR recorded while I was gone, snuggled up on the couch.

Two Minute Media Review: Big Bang Theory and Modern Family had me in stitches, as always. Castle was utterly compelling with the cliff-hangering storyline, but the repeated near-misses of Rick and Kate confessing their feelings for each other is getting old. It’s starting to resemble the overused “Ross and Rachel” plot device from “Friends” and I hope they address it quickly.

Snuggle time with Kaylee was supreme. She clearly smelled the three other dogs on me: Not My, the ex’s old and affectionate dog, and the dog that was formerly mine. Kaylee is such a loving and snuggly pup, between her periods of shadow staring and tail chasing. And I’m so grateful to have such an affection sponge with no kids living with us.

After climbing into our super awesomely comfortable bed, we talked for a long time. I didn’t have much time to call and chat while I was gone, so we had a lot to share. I knew how much I missed my man while I was gone, but as we lay there in the dark, sharing, snuggling and laughing in the dark, I began to reflect on just how much I need him. The simple touch of his hand around mine filled me with such peace, and my heart containers were once again filled. Miraculous.

Food and exercise for the day: I had a granola bar and a small bag of Smart Food white cheddar popcorn and a diet coke when I took over driving. I forgot about eating until after my long nap in bed, and then hadoatmeal and some tortilla chips. I was too tired for anything else, period.

The Road to Arkansas and Back, Part 4

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Dizzy, Dizzy, Family, No Whining, Our Kids, Soulful

As always, I ate breakfast and brought back breakfast for Naughty Bear. We planned on hitting the road at 9 am, but we were both physically and emotionally exhausted. I ended up letting him sleep until he woke up on his own, especially since he was taking the first driving shift. My night time medication makes me extremely foggy-brained and it takes several hours to wear off, and neither of us was comfortable with me driving until that was cleared away.

After breakfast I returned to my bed with my laptop, having trouble getting into motion. In truth, I suppose we were both struggling with leaving, for similar reasons. I’m very saddened by how little real time LT and I spent together and just did not want to leave yet. Any time is a gift, but nearly everything was based around NB’s move and I really wanted some one-on-one time with LT. Sadly, it just wasn’t possible. I’m consoling myself with the fun and laughter that we had and that he’ll be home in four months. This trip was an unexpected treat and I know I shouldn’t be greedy. Still, I couldn’t help but join in on Naughty Bear’s jokey planning of kidnapping LT to take him with us to Virginia.

I think Naughty Bear was really torn because he loves his siblings and family so much, but knows he needs to return to Virginia to focus on his college education and start making a future for himself that won’t happen there. It’s very tough, but having lived very broke for five months with a less than ideal roomie was a HUGE reality check for him, and I’m grateful that he’s smart enough to learn from it.  He’s also extremely appreciative of all the help given to him by his dad and M (step-mom), and especially his grandfather. He’s had a couple of years worth of life experience crammed into this five months, with more to come as he handles some remaining issues.

We took our time loading up the SUV Tetris-style, making everything fit securely and ensuring that we had a clear line of sight out the rear-view window. We were able to fit all his clothes in the soft car top carrier and carefully packed his electronics inside. We finally hit the road, rested and ready at noon.

We chatted and listened to music for the first few hours, singing along with shared favorites. Lord, I’ve missed hearing my baby sing! And I’m always so very grateful whenever I get the special time with my sons where they open up and share little nuggets of their deep-down selves with me. I’m utterly fascinated with the man he is becoming, and the maturity that he demonstrates. He easily acknowledges the mistakes he’s made over the years, and I hope he’s wise enough to know that this costly adventure was no mistake.

As I see it, time with loved ones is precious, and should never be regretted. The time he spent was needed, especially with LT as he got to know him as a maturing young man and they seem to marvel at how much they have in common. It somewhat amuses me, because it’s as if this never occurred to them before, and they’ve almost always lived together. This is spectacularly fascinating to me and I’m so grateful that they’ve really gotten to know each other as they grow older and their lives will likely send them off in different directions.

I drove a long time since I was feeling pretty good (medicating a headache with Ibuprofen) and didn’t know how I would feel later. He eventually closed his eyes to nap for his next shift, and I got caught up on Jared Axelrod’s “Fables of the Flying City” podcast novel, all the way to the most recent Episode 28. I could call him a cliff-hangering bastard, but he’s too much of a gentleman to leave us totally on the hook. Because it was more partial than full-on, I’ll call him a cliff-hangering scoundrel. I can’t wait to see what Ash and Gatling bring us next.

After that, I continued catching up onPlus One which is a podcast by Kevin Smith and his wife Jen. I didn’t feel clear-headed enough to start another podcast novel, so went with something light and funny instead.

We stopped for gas a few times, stopped for food a couple times and just drove and drove and drove. I introduced him to “Jay and Silent Bob Get Old” because I know he enjoyed the movies and Kevin Smith’s televised Q&A’s. I also snuck a “This American Life” episode in as part of my continuing quest to hook him on podcasts. The only one he listens to currently is “The Nerdist” and I think even that is sporadically. Baby steps, y’all. Baby steps.

It’s now almost midnight, and we’re still driving. We are between Nashville and Knoxville, our anticipated stopping point for the night. We are seemingly driving through the mountains, and I’m pissed that I cannot see a damned thing. Driving through mountains is very similar to standing with my toes in the ocean. I get a sense of calmness and peace at the reality check of how very small I am in this very big world. I exhale and inhale with renewed vigor for my life, as if I hadn’t taken a breath in years. Missing out on the mountain view has me greatly disappointed, but hopefully I’ll get to see it tomorrow.

Road trip diet accountability: Cheerios w/skim milk, banana, toast w/peanut butter, 2 cups of decaff hot tea, hard boiled egg; Sonic grilled chicken sandwich, lettuce only and apple slices; Starbucks venti Chai Latte while driving; Ruby Tuesday salad bar for dinner w/ 2 Tblsp of dressing and 1 tsp of Sunflower seeds, lettuce, carrots, 1 egg. The latte pushed me over my caloric intake allowance, but it was incredibly needed caffeine and served as my sweet treat for the day. I expect there will be some weight gain from this trip, but since I fought off potato chips, burgers, fries, greasy chinese food, candy bars, pastries and fried foods, I still call this a WIN.

If you’ve missed the previous installments from this trip, they include Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. For the reason for the trip, read the “Great” section of my blog post “The Great, The Meh, and the *So* Not Cute.

These photos are from the long drive. I didn’t take many that weren’t uber blurry, no surprise. As mentioned before, click on the slideshow to be able to read the photo descriptions or you may not know what they heck it is.

Thanks for reading!

The Road to Arkansas and Back, Part 3

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Dizzy, Family, No Whining, Our Kids, Pets, Vestibular Migraine, Weight Loss

I groggily woke at 8:30 to grab the free breakfast before it closed down at nine and fixed a plate for Naughty Bear since he was moving too slowly to get it himself. I’m nothing if not thrifty and didn’t want to pay for breakfast that was freely provided.

I threw on sweats and headed to the “gym” which included an elliptical, treadmill and recumbent bike. I did my running program on the treadmill, and while it was a pain in the ass doing the intervals that way, I’m really glad I did it. I was dizzy afterward, but also supremely energized for the rest of the day. Since I knew NB would be driving, the dizziness was not going to be an issue.

I was able to verify that the treadmill workout is not as efficient as a road workout, at least not for me. I was simply unable to hit my usual heart rate (using my usual HR monitor from home) without increasing the incline to 2 and running faster than I would normal do on the road. The program I use insists on avoiding overexertion, preferring endurance to speed. I threw that out the window because I decided to see if I would be able to hit my usual HR. I did, but it was an all-out run. Still, I’m glad to know I was able to replicate it and I’m no worse for wear. I’ll continue my roadwork, but still want access to an elliptical so that I can follow my program when the weather is too nasty. All in all, I burned a little over 600 calories, which is lower than what I do at home for a workout of that length, but I was happy to have done it.

I returned and we showered and headed back to Naughty Bear’s apartment to finish up and turn off the utilities in his name in time to pick up LT at 3 pm from school. We were shocked upon arrival because the roomie had cleaned the living room. Even the missing kitchen trashcan was returned! It was quite remarkable.

I played with Not My and took him out back to go potty and whatnot, and I fell even more in love with him After a good long playtime and frolicking, we put him in the roomie’s room so that we could get to work and load up the car to take stuff to the hotel for the last night.

On a heartbreaking note, when we arrived Naughty Bear noticed his door was open and that Not My had gotten the stuffed animal that I’d sent him for Valentine’s Day off his bed. He was utterly shocked because Not My had NEVER chewed on anything other than the dog toys. It’s the only thing he’d ever taken that wasn’t his, and Naughty Bear decided that he took it because it had my scent on it. My heart broke at just the thought of it, and I wanted to bring him home even more. The roomie is less than financially stable, like many of us, and I couldn’t help but hope that if he couldn’t keep him that we’d be able to get him. Isn’t that terrible?!?!

We loaded up the car and dropped everything off at the hotel and went to pick up LT. I’m saddened to say that we still had to shut off the utilities, so didn’t have a free chill out afternoon with LT on our last evening together. It really couldn’t be helped, and he seemed fine with it since we were all together. After those errands, I plunked down at my ex’s computer to pull all the financial information together for what was expected to be a very unpleasant discussion with the roomie. He was expecting to get stuck holding the bag because of my son moving out a month early, but Naughty Bear had no intention of doing that. The meeting was to sort out who owed what for the last month of the six month lease, and to reassure the roomie that he wasn’t leaving him in the lurch. NB is committed to honoring his verbal contract and to continue paying his half of the expenses for their agreed upon lease term of six months.

Once I finished the financial document, I offered to go with them since I didn’t think I could explain everything involved for the meeting starting in a few minutes. My ex didn’t happy about it, reportedly because he didn’t want me dragged into unpleasantness with the roomie, who is also the drummer in his band. I told him I didn’t care if the roomie hated me or blamed me or got mad at me because I didn’t expect to ever see him again. I had nothing to lose in explaining the facts that they had trouble sorting out from the spreadsheet I made. (My ex reports for work at 4 am and the meeting was at 6 pm, a very long day indeed.) His wife, M, felt pretty strongly that I should go to make sure there was no confusion and because, like me, she thought he might be more amenable with someone he didn’t know there. Naughty Bear agreed and ex did to, so the three of us left for the meeting.

I’ll admit that I had one of my silent panic attacks on the way, and told them I’d stay quiet unless explanation was needed or take the lead, whichever NB and his dad wanted. They suggested hanging back unless something needed explaining, but once we got there it was pure silence, awkwardness and testosterone. So I did what I’ve done my whole life as a middle-child diplomat – I started chattering to smooth the ruffled feathers. I introduced myself and just then Not My came running up to me to play as we’d been doing the last two days. He apologized for the dog’s exuberance and I told him no worries and explained how smitten I was with the dog. (I had to be careful to call him Bricktop instead of Not My.) He seemed surprised at this, because most people complain how wild the dog is, which it wasn’t with me because I exerted my dominance over him immediately, so he knew how to behave. I told him how he reminded me of my Kaylee and we talked dogs for a few minutes while NB and his dad hung back. By the time we sat down to go over the spreadsheet, Roomie seemed very comfortable and at ease. I felt good about this, because I felt bad for him and didn’t want him to feel ambushed or put on the defensive. I could empathize with his feeling that he was going to get screwed because as a younger woman I had a roomie move out and had gotten stuck me with a financial mess to sort out.

NB reassured him that he was sticking with their agreement and then I started explaining the spreadsheet. He was appreciative at the effort I took and at NB’s maturity and morals and agreed down the line. I expected this, as I carefully documented everything factually and honestly, so there was nothing to dispute. In honesty, I didn’t expect him to do so as quickly as he did. It was left on such good terms that we ended up inviting him to join us for dinner at the Chinese buffet where I had been invited to join my ex’s family the night before.

Dinner was much like it is when we have gatherings with local friends in DC/MD/VA at DFH and the like. My ex and M (his wife) have a rambunctious and hilarious 5 year old son (Wild G), an adorable, sweet and thoughtfully intelligent 8 year old daughter (Tranquil M) and ex’s wife has a very friendly and kind 11 year old son from her previous marriage (Charming C). Add me, Naughty Bear, LT and Roomie and it was a par-tay. We took over the joint, as the kids told stories, laughed and entertained us all. The adults joined in as well, and it was a much better time than I’d anticipated. In truth, I was absolutely anxiety-ridden as there has been … difficulty … in the past.

I think there were some great in-roads made, and that has made the trip even more valuable than I’d hoped. As the check arrived, I reached for my wallet and was immediately told by my ex’s wife “Don’t even think about it, this is our treat.” I naturally tried to argue at this unexpected kindness and was laughingly warned by others at the table not to argue with her. I offered my sincere thanks, as I was truly appreciative. We’ve come a long way, baby!

I especially enjoyed getting to know the kids better, as it was really the first chance I’ve ever had to do so. I took time with each of them, and they are each endearing in their own ways. It’s easy to see why my sons love them so much, beyond the sibling bond.

We said our farewells, and I made a point of reminding the Roomie what I had said earlier in the night, which was that if he ever found himself in the position of having to find another home for Not My, to contact me and I’d try to come and get him immediately. He refused the offer, saying he’d never get rid of him but I made sure he knew I was sincere. He’d be a perfect fit for our family and a great friend for Kaylee.

After we all said farewells, Naughty Bear and LT and I ran to Wal-Mart to try the Cherry Cheesecake Blue Bell as a farewell dessert. All I can say is, after 35 years I think that Cookies and Cream is no longer my fave Blue Bell ice cream.

We left the rest for the family to enjoy and then said our final goodbyes. Naughty Bear and I were both sad at leaving LT, but he had additional sadness at leaving the other kids, his dad and M. Things were finally becoming very real for him, I think.

Upon return to the hotel, in typical fashion I have trouble changing gears and started working on my blog posts before I could forget the events of the chaotic days. NB spent some time on Skype with his girlfriend and then went to sleep, utterly exhausted.

Things you don’t expect to say to your first born: “It’s cool, keep driving. I got a picture of the blue balls.” <3 my life.

Diet progress: Being more cautious. Had cheerios, banana, hard boiled egg and 2 cups of decaff tea. 2 more bananas during the day due to very late lunch at 3 pm of a tendergrill sandwich with no mayo at Burger King. (Yes, I’d sworn off fast food but had literally no choices not having a kitchen available to me.) Chinese buffet for dinner as planned by ex and his wife, I had a small amount of hot and sour soup, loads of fruit, 4 veggie sushi rolls and one chicken on a stick. All the veggies were sauteed in oil, nothing was steamed except the white rice and I skipped both. Afterward we had more Blue Bell ice cream. With the Runkeeper program that I did in the morning, plus all the physical exertion of packing, cleaning and loading up the car I feel like I did “okay” for the day.

As in the two previous posts, if you click on the flickr album you will be able to read my descriptions of what you’re viewing, so they’ll make much more sense. In today’s photos, you’ll even learn why I tweeted “Things you don’t expect to say to your first born: “It’s cool, keep driving. I got a picture of the blue balls.” <3 my life."
If this post interested you at all, you should check out Part 1 and Part 2.

Edit: Can’t believe I forgot to share this, remembered when recapping trip with Chooch last night and he reminded me that I tweeted about it. @cwseidman and I were tweeting about how gross motherhood can be as she was dealing with her daughter’s excessively runny nose. My response was “@CWSeidman I’ll let you know when the gross outs end. Dinner was punctuated by NB dropping a semen joke, so we aren’t quite there yet.” The joke was from a conversation between LT and his dad at the Chinese buffet. His dad asked if he tried any of the sushi, and LT said he doesn’t like seafood. His dad said, “Did you like the tacos I made the other night, because those were seafood?” Before LT could reply, Naughty Bear said, in a very quiet voice so the kids wouldn’t hear, “That wasn’t seafood, that was semen.” Roomie, NB, LT and I erupted in laughter, and explained the joke to my ex and his wife when the little ones were out of ear-shot. Hi-larious!

The Road to Arkansas and Back, Part 2

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Family, No Whining, Our Kids, Our Kids, Pets, Vestibular Migraine

Monday morning is very foggy but Mark arrived and we grabbed the complimentary wall of carbohydrates, err, I mean the complimentary breakfast before hitting the road to Get Stuff Done.

First up was doing three loads of laundry since, in typical bachelor fashion, he had nothing clean.
While we hung out we chatted and tried to untangle the confusing finances between he and his roommate and the final month of the six-month lease. After I sort of understood that, his dad stopped by so we could have a plan of action on the possibly hostile meeting with said roommate to finalize everything. I took a private moment with my ex to ensure that there were no issues from the night before with his wife, and he reassured me there were not. She was simply having a rough day and they were both very grateful that I’d gotten the printer working.
Edit: After back tracking through my tweets, I see I forgot to mention this “Ah, the laundromat. Dude accidentally spit in a ladies basket thinking it was a trash can. Then wants pat on the back for telling victim.” It almost got REAL up in that laundromat!

After ward, Naughty Bear and I grabbed lunch at Subway and picked up boxes to head over to his place and start boxing things up. We spent the next several hours working in the kitchen and his bedroom. The common areas were disgusting. Literally. I wished I had grabbed rubber gloves and tongs. No exaggeration. I cleaned the kitchen as I went through seeking out what I’d stocked him with, just as a kind gesture to the roommate. The kitchen looked decent after I’d scrubbed the counter and washed the sink full of dishes. Naughty Bear confessed that the only time he spent in the apartment was in his bedroom and bathroom because the common areas were taken over by the roomie and he was tired of cleaning up after him. It certainly looked to be true.

The bright spot of the time at the apartment was falling in love with the roomie’s disallowed pet, a black lab mix named “Bricktop” seemingly named that because he survived a fall or some kind of head injury from a brick and survived. The dog was wildly lonely and hyper for attention, so I spent quite a few minutes soothing it. It was silent the hours we worked, but when I peeked in to see if it was okay I fell in love. I took him out for a potty break and while he was wild and untrained he started responding to my commands and leash training pretty quickly. This “wild dog” is simply untrained and lacks attention and discipline. Even Naughty Bear was really impressed with how well he was behaving. As for me, I could see the potential and fell head over heels with his sweetness. He has the kind facial structure of my sweet Kaylee and I couldn’t help but imagine them playing and frolicking together.

I thought that Bricktop was a really stupid name; similar to naming a dog Shotgun after it had been shot. I renamed him “NotMy” so that every time I said his name I was reminded that he wasn’t mine to love and take home. After his potty break and playtime, we put him back in the roomies room and NotMy whimpered the entire time, something that Naughty Bear said he never does. Does it seem like I’m gushing over this dog I’ll never see again? Yes, I likely am. That’s how much I love him.

We finished up for the day so we could pick up LT, and headed out to dinner at a favorite Mexican food chain of mine, not available in our area of the country. Keep in mind, I lived in Texas from age three to seventeen and I know what I’m doing without! After a tasty dinner where I ate light, we returned to LT’s place and chatted with their siblings and my ex and his wife for a bit as they cooked dinner. It was late-ish and LT needed to work on the project due the next day, so we made plans for dinner together on Tuesday night, and then Naughty Bear and I left to go in search items needed for the trip from Wal-Mart.

We grabbed the soft car top carrier to maximize storage space for the drive and on a whim hit the ice cream section for the end-all, be-all ice cream of my childhood, Blue Bell Ice Cream. This is something you cannot buy in most of the country. I grew up with it, and in my opinion there is no other ice cream as good. I admit that it is partly due to rarity and nostalgia, but I dare you to say it’s not tasty. We found a huge case of it, and I grabbed a small of my beloved Cookies and Cream and Naughty Bear grabbed a small of Banana Pudding, which was a flavor new to us both. We wondered if it had Nilla wafers in it, and as I read the ingredients aloud, I actually shouted “Nilla Wafers!” when I saw them on the list. Apparently, I’m easy to please and will always be a fatty no matter how much weight I lose.

We headed back to the hotel since Naughty Bear was planning on avoiding further difficulty with the ex by staying in the other double bed in my room. He logged in to Skype with his girlfriend as Scott Pilgrim played and I started going through the stack of papers in order to try and make sense of what was owed and by whom. I didn’t get to talk to Chooch before sleepies, because it was so late when I finished my hope was that he was already asleep for work the next day.

I was asleep in no time, after I took my sleeping pill, praise be!

As for the diet, I had a waffle at breakfast which was a no-no, but I did it anyways. I ate fruit all day long, with a super healthy Subway 6-inch, soup and chips at the Mexican restaurant and half a pint of ice cream. With the physical exertion of the day, I think I was only slightly higher on calories than I should have been.

The Road to Arkansas and Back, Part 1

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Family, No Whining, Our Kids, Vestibular Migraine, Weight Loss

On Sunday morning Chooch and I got off nice and early for my 11:30 flight, arriving at the airport sometime at 9:30-ish. We shared a long and difficult farewell at curbside as I contemplated making this physically difficult and extremely emotional trip without him, my touch-stone.

I was dealing with my now-usual morning zombie brain thanks to the new meds I got on Wednesday (I’ll blog about that later) and had forgotten my wedding band at home. I don’t wear it unless I’m leaving the house because it’s very loose from recent weight loss, and with the diamonds I’m terrified to lose it. I had accidentally left it at home, and Chooch tried to give me his to wear. It is also too big, so we discussed me finally buying a cheap plain band to wear all the time.

Heading into the airport, I discovered that the flight was delayed 30 minutes. Since I still had a little over an hour to make my connection I just crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. As I was walking to security, there was a store with sparklies and since I had a bunch of time to kill I took a peek to see if they had plain bands. I really wanted a wedding band while in Arkansas, for reasons I won’t go into here.

Low and behold they had a sweet little band with marcasite stones circling it, for only $30 and it fit my now slimmer finger! I happily made my way to security with my bleary brain filled with joy and peace over the purchase now on my finger.

In the security line, I did my usual gathering of boarding pass and I.D., removing shoes and putting everything into the buckets and waiting like a good little cow to be herded along, mildly anxious about being groped and hoping the groper had warm hands. No grope or xray needed, I waited for my bag after xray. They pulled my back pack for a bag search, much to my surprise. It seems I had left a bottle of water. (Derr!) and hubby’s MacBook in the backpack, which we all know is a no-no.

In my defense, it’s the first time I’ve taken a laptop through security and had forgotten it was in there. When we travel, Chooch always lugs it around. As for the water, I have no excuse. That was just a dumb-ass move on my part.

I then made my way to the gate, grabbed a fruit cup and Chooch’s copy of Ender’s Shadow and hunkered down for the wait. They changed the gate, but otherwise left with only the aforementioned half hour delay.

I sat next to a very nice gentleman on the way to Memphis, and a silent woman reading a book. I had a migraine fire up, so medicated and closed my eyes for most of the 2.5 hour flight.

Arriving at Memphis, I learned there was a half hour delay on that flight. I was tempted to get food, but had already promised the boys dinner and the flight is only 1 hour long. I grabbed a bottle of water and settled in for what ended up being a half hour delay, boarding, de-boarding because they couldn’t get the plane door shut, and another hour wait before re-boarding and taking off. Hoo boy, migraine was back big time so I popped another pill and slept.

I finally arrived two hours later than expected. The boys had been waiting for two hours, since Naughty Bear didn’t want to risk me waiting for them and they waited it out listening to music in his car. We were excited to see each other, with them trying to hide from sight and sneak out at me. I love them for these little pranks of theirs.

We went to PF Chang’s for dinner, and introduced LT to the glory of lettuce wraps and Kung Pao Chicken. It was late, and we were over an hour from his house so we headed back, laughing and talking all the way.

We arrived and they insisted we go in, which I was nervous about. Things are … interesting with my ex and his wife. For many reasons I won’t go in to. On top of all that, I know they aren’t happy Naughty Bear is moving away, and I certainly don’t want to intrude on their time with him, but I’m also trying to spend as much time as I can with LT before we leave.

I ended up in their living room playing with their dog as me and the boys planning LT’s school project due on Tuesday. That led to trying to print his document and the discovery that their new computer was unable to print. I then spent the next hour searching for the print driver disk, calling Chooch to verify my plan, downloading the print driver, installing it and doing a test print. Their dad was home during this whole thing, and I also explained the likely culprit they were having was likely due to the too low amount of RAM they had. My dear friend, Thomas Gideon, should be EXTREMELY proud of me, as I seemed to know more than I thought I did. Especially empowered with confirmation by hubby’s big brain over the phone. My ex stated he was so fed up he was ready to box up the new computer and return it. Ta Da! I saved the day!

During this time, the ex’s wife returned home exhausted from a very long day of her own. She did not seem happy at all, and I’m unsure of how much had to do with me seated at her new computer in her living room. It was extremely awkward and I felt like a turd on a wedding cake. Luckily, I was almost done and we left shortly thereafter, having made plans to pick up LT the next day.

Mark came back to the hotel with me where we did a brief stint in the workout room before he returned to his place to talk with his roommate about finances and sleep there one last night. I collapsed after a much needed conversation with Chooch, catching up on the events of the day and slept long and deeply.

As for diet watch, I ate great all day long, well below my allowed calories. Until we got to PF Chang’s, but even then I didn’t pig out. Since it was lunch and dinner I felt no guilt over what I ate.

It was the longest day ever… until Monday.

Edit: For background on why I made this trip, check out the “Great” section of my post “The Great, The Meh and the *So* Not Cute”

Double Rainbow Cake Guide and Party Fun

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Anti-Health, Cooking, Dessert Hacks, ExperiMENTAL, Friends

Here are photos we took from the actual birthday party for Chad and Jett. The frosting is a new recipe that I found, since the birthday girl wanted a cherry frosting. Having never had it, but instantly loving the thought I hunted a promising recipe down, and think it turned out pretty tasty.

Ingredients:

  • 2 boxes yellow cake mix
  • Eggs, oil and water as required by mix
  • Gel food color
  • 2 10″ round pans
  • Parchment paper or foil circles cut for the bottoms of the pan
  • Pam spray
  • 12 glasses
  • 12 spoons
  • Rubber spatula
  • Mixer
  • Cherry frosting
  • Chocolate frosting
  • Large strawberries, for structural integrity

I used the 12 glasses, six for each batch of batter, because I wanted to try and make sure I had similar amounts and similar colors mixed in the two cakes. I’m very glad I did this, as I think it made a difference in the final result.

One issue I had was the shape of the cakes. Typically, when a cake rises up in the center as these did, you slice off the offending bump to make it even for frosting. I dreaded doing this and losing any of the color I worked so hard for, so decided to use some internal supports. Having been informed that chocolate frosting would be a suitable replacement if I was unable to make the cherry frosting happen, and that strawberries are a favorite fruit, I decided to go for broke.

The outside of the cake is frosted with the cherry frosting, but the layer between the two cakes is frosted with a homemade chocolate frosting with large-ish strawberries around the edge to provide the support needed to make the cake level and prevent it from splitting in half. Yes, it’s somewhat absurd, but I planned on laying the slices on their sides so the middle layer could be dodged if undesired. Happily, I think the birthday girl liked it, and it probably made the cake better for Chad since he’s a chocolate fan. I just wish I could have found cherries large enough to do the job, for flavor consistency across the cake.

I was concerned about the structure since the strawberries kept wanting to slide out through the frosting, but they behaved in the fridge while we went out to lunch. It was a great time, as Jett’s parents, Jett and Chad themselves and Paulette joined Chooch and I. We headed back to our place to relax, chat, and later have cake.

After the cutting and eating, the cake was deemed extremely sweet. No big surprise there, but the squeal of joy from Jett during the cutting made it WELL worth all the effort. Everyone enjoyed the spectacle of it and the taste was pretty darned good, too.

Thanks to Cheryl and Bob for letting us host the party, and for the lovely flowers and lunch! You are far too kind, and we’ve loved every visit with you guys.

Happy Birthday to Jett and Chad! It’s an absolute blessing to count you as friends! And that Scott Pilgrim viewing must happen SOON!

ExperiMENTAL Foods: Double Rainbow Cake Test

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Anti-Health, Dessert Hacks, ExperiMENTAL, Firsts

So, I’m having fun playing with desserts. I’m finding that people love when I show up with some tasty new variation on an old dessert, but are also happy when I leave and make me take it with me. Conversely, I’m trying to leave the sweet temptations behind and they frequently end up in the garbage. I have no problems with this, as I’d rather it go to the landfill then attach to my ass.

Besides playing with variations of cheesecake flavors and cake frostings, I’ve been attempting to bake vegan and also more things from scratch, I became fascinated with the Cherpumple phenomenon which resulted in customized Pi-Cakes. I fell in love with friend Andrea’s Dessert Enchiladas to the point that if her husband doesn’t treat her right I’m ready to propose on the spot.

The newest thing I’ve been working on is for my dear friend Jett Micheyl’s birthday. A month ago, she tweeted this:

I want this cake for my birthday -> http://trunc.it/dy7lw
The link went to this insane creation:

You guys should know by now that I loves me a challenge! The cake in the photo has one layer with colors in rainbow order, and the other layer is in reverse order. Well, I decided to do both layers in rainbow order so I could call it the Double Rainbow Cake. (Title inspired by the Double Rainbow hippie dude videos.)

And so began the testing…
Last weekend I did two test cakes, because I wanted to test my procedure and also decide which cake mix to go with. Yes, I cheated and used cake mix. There were already too many variables in play, and I wanted to ensure that the cake would actually taste GOOD.

For the test, I tried a white cake mix and a yellow cake mix, since I found conflicting information on the internet on which provided a better looking end result. I also used a different technique in that for the white cake mix I evenly divided the batter across the six glasses, and with the yellow cake mix I used a graduated amount for each color. Red being the outside color needed more batter, violet being the inside color needed less batter. I varied the amounts based on location in the classic “ROY G. BIV” rainbow order between red and violet.

It’s pretty easy to tell that the white cake mix created more pastel colors, which were beautiful. But Jett is more vibrant than that, so I went with the yellow cake mix base and got much brighter colors. The trick will be getting the violet without making it quite so dark. I also preferred the result with the graduated amounts so decided it was worth the extra trouble. The flavor was remarkably similar, with the white being MUCH drier than the yellow. We decided yellow was the way to go for both vibrancy and moistness.

These photos are from the tests I did, using 1 box of cake mix in each 10″ cake pan. I intended that solely for the test, but decide to go ahead with the size for the final cake.

Check this space tomorrow for the final cake results.

***************EDIT******************
I’m including the link to the “Double Rainbow Cake Guide”.

Justin Bieber. Why the Hate?

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Kids, Music, No Whining

There has been such a backlash against the young singer that I have to wonder if he would he be more liked by adults if he were talented, but utterly self-destructive like Lindsey Lohan?

Or maybe if he were known purely for being known, like Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton?

I own none of Justin Bieber’s songs. I haven’t seen his movie. I only know of one song of his that I’ve actually heard, called “Baby.” I do have to say that I’m impressed (from the clips of the movie I’ve seen) that he appears to actually play a variety of musical instruments. Is it possible he’s a musician and not just a cute face with a pre-pubescent voice and stylish hair cut that’s been propped in front of a microphone?

Yes, the music is bubble gum pop. If it were more than that, he’d likely be judged for singing beyond his understanding and being a puppet. Of the songs I’ve heard, they seem appropriate for his age. You know, 16?

Yes, he’s a phenomenon. Girls scream around the world for him. But he’s a cute and wholesome (for now at least) kid. Are you more or less horrified when the tween and teen girls scream for Paris Hilton and her porn tape or Miley Cyrus on the stripper pole at a teen awards show at 16? Nice role models, dontchathink?

But as the parent of a teen, I’m perfectly happy to have this clean-cut-for-now kid be an example for my 14 year old. And have you seen him on Saturday Night Live? He was very entertaining in the skits I saw him in, much more so than many of the musical acts the plop into the skits.

At the ripe old age of 16 years old he’s so despised that he’s already had people float rumors that he’s dead and that he has syphilis. Hackers even redirected viewers from his youtube page to adult websites and posted an adult photo on his last.fm site, according to Wikipedia. All because of his popularity with tween and teen girls. Oooh, string him up by the balls, how dare he! Forget how repulsive it is that tween and teen girls were forced to view the pornographic sites when all they wanted was to see his videos.

Being the mother of two sons, age 14 and 19, that seems pretty damned harsh to me. So how about everyone just cuts the kid a break until he actually does something other than sing songs that you don’t like. Or at least until he turns 18 and has control over what he does and sings, rather than what his management tells him to sing.

Update on Charity Book

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Books, Breast Cancer, Breast Health, Firsts, No Whining

I’m definitely moving forward on this. I intend to meet with my father as soon as he’s able to discuss and hopefully attain the rights. If I’m unable to get them, then I have a story in mind to use as the center piece in its place.

I’m also considering following the advice of a friend to shop the book around to publishers. There are significant pros and cons to this, but I’ll make that decision once I have the completed manuscript in hand.

For those interested, please email me at VivMuse@gmail.com to join my contact list. Once I have more information I will contact those folks first, and will then post here as well.

Many thanks for the stories shared with me from the few that showed interest in this project. It’s definitely motivated me to move forward and inspired me to seek out works from other venues.

And extreme gratitude to those that have offered assistance in the hopes of helping to make this a successful venture.  It means so much to go from a whimsical thought to knowing that I have the help of seasoned professionals to keep me from ruining the noble intention of this book.