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!

What I Learned When I Wasn’t Watching

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Cooking, Dizzy, Exercise, Family, Health, Kaylee, Our Kids, Soulful

– Watch what you wish for – I’ve learned this countless times over my life. The best example is the one I’m currently afflicted with, my goal for 2009 of “Twirling More.” My intention was to allow myself to be more free. Not closeting myself off behind walls of defenses because of the hurts I’ve suffered in the past. But, more specifically, to twirl more. Especially in the rain, as I’ve loved to do my whole life, but stopped doing because it wasn’t cool (late teens) or too busy to get rained on with job/infants/kids/teens for the last 20 years.  What I ended up with, if you want to interpret it as cause and effect, is dizziness. Or, the near constant sensation that I’ve just been twirling. Meh. I still go out on the rare occasion to twirl in the rain.

Running with a “gentler landing” from playing Lord of the Rings Online has helped reduce my knee and ankle pain.

– Don’t trust appearances, as those with the biggest smiles and kindest words may be hiding more manipulation than can be believed. How did I forget this one? Re-learned and not to be forgotten again.

–  When editing audio, inserting pauses is just as important as deleting flubs. Thanks to Martha Holloway for teaching me this during an interview for my Girls’ Rules Podcast.

– Kids are heart breakers. Looking into the eyes of our children melts my heart. I first experienced this when my sons were born, in the first nanosecond I looked into their eyes. I relived that rush of joy, sadness and overwhelming protectiveness when they returned for Christmas break. I love them completely and the selfish, ugly part of me wants to guilt or beg them to move back. But I won’t do it. I want them healthy, happy and confident in life and the choices they make. I’ve sacrificed since they were born to help with this, and I’m not going to mess with it now. If the only negative to their choices is that I’m sad, then I have to suck it up as a part of motherhood.

– Don’t be a doormat. Either confront it or remove myself from the situation. This is something I’ve worked on for a long time, but it’s become physically necessary this year since stressful encounters amplify my migraines and dizziness.

– Don’t sweat what you can’t control. All the preparations in the world won’t ensure success, so if a last minute problem surfaces and you can’t fix it just relax and make do. Training for 5k’s and weight loss has been stalled for me several times this year, resulting in missing a 5k earlier this month. Twisting my ankle a few days ago and being on antibiotics that increase risk of tendon damage have likely postponed resuming training on Monday as scheduled. I will resume as soon as I’m able, and if I have to walk instead of run for awhile, then I’ll just continue to do my best without risking long-term injury.

– Brussel sprouts can be damned tasty.

– I over-commit. I’ve been working on this, but as I sit here amidst mountains of desserts I realize that I need to share the load of work more often. I’m the only one that does the traditional baking for our family, which includes my sister and her husband, my brother and his kids, my dad, and my guys. I shortened the list from list year, but am still baking 2 batches of Chewy Noels (brown sugar bar cookie), peppermint brownies, applesauce cake, 3 traditional cheesecakes, 1 “Reese’s cup” cheesecake, a chocolate/cherry pi-cake (I added this one on myself) and double chocolate cookies (delayed). This is the last year I’ll be doing it all on my own, methinks, as I baked from Monday to late Wednesday. Less is more and it’s time the rest of the family learns all the recipes. Right?

– Marshmallows are not vegan. Unless you seek out vegan marshmallows, they will contain gelatin. Gelatin, which everyone else probably already knows, is made from animal parts. ‘Nuff said.

– We’re becoming those dog owners. You know, the ones that act like their dog is their kid? It’s happening. We’re completely smitten with Kaylee. Luckily, everyone else seems to be as well, so at least we aren’t deluding ourselves that she rocks when she doesn’t. I think the shock of the suddenly empty nest is the impetus behind this. Watching her play and frolic with the four boys this week has been adorable, and they have a new found love for her as well.

Review of Ender's Game

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Books, Chooch, Kaylee, Sci Fi, Soulful

Chooch chose this book to share with me, as I shared the play Cyrano de Bergerac with him a few years ago. We decided back then to turn off the TV at bedtime, and we would take turns reading books to each other. For reasons that escape me, we fell out of the habit after that first book, and only recently started it again. Chooch has a great love for this book, as was evident while he read it to me. We just finished it last night and I’m grateful (while still heartbroken) that he shared it with me.

I realize this sounds extremely corny, and I can picture some that may read this are rolling their eyes now. But it is something that we look forward to every night, and it has certainly strengthened our bond. I can’t remember where he got the idea to do this, but I’m so grateful to have it as a part of our (almost) daily life now.

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Ender’s Game is an utterly compelling book written by Orson Scott Card that was published in 1985. It was released in at least two other forms, including short story in 1977 and as an updated novel in 1991. There were also sequels to this tale of Ender Wiggin but having only read the 1985 version of the book, I will not address the other iterations.

This is not an easy book to read, particularly if you have male children, as the author crafts an extremely cruel “childhood” that is forced on Ender from the very beginning. There are various circumstances causing him to not have a childhood in the way that we think of it, and it is heartbreaking to witness. Not surprisingly, I thought of our three boys and this naturally made Ender’s story even more difficult to experience. We do learn that Ender has an old and wise soul. Whether it was nature or nurture that caused this is not clear to me, as his two siblings are also more mature in thought and behavior than would be normal. They are all three extraordinary in their own ways, from the very beginning of the story.

Ender and his slightly older sister Valentine are constantly terrorized by their frighteningly calm older brother Peter. He is a terrifying character, in that you can easily imagine now how someone like Jeffrey Dahlmer might have been during childhood. One of the cruelest after effects of Peter’s influence is Ender’s fear of being like him in any way. It literally haunts him for a large part of the book, as he struggles with difficult decisions.

Ender and Valentine are bonded together out of sibling love, but also as I imagine war buddies would be. Their parents are allegedly unaware as to just how dangerous Peter is and also the depths of his cruelty with his younger siblings, so do very little to protect them. Being left to fend for themselves is one of the reasons they are so close and also able to handle so many of the trials they face. This is very nearly standard in stories where extraordinary children do extraordinary things.

The fact that Ender and Valentine are so lovingly devoted to each other is the single most beautiful aspect of the book, and one that makes it worth reading as Ender leaves his traumatic childhood to enter another terribly cruel existence. And as a silly aside, as Valentine’s character in the book developed, I stated how gratified I was that our pup Kaylee has “Valentine” as part of her name. While it was for a different reason, I love the fact that this other Valentine is out there, even if only in a fictional sense.

The author deftly created a vision of the worlds and experiences in Ender’s world, to the point that I actually shed tears very early in the story, and if memory serves it was even in the first chapter. I find it amazing that you are made to care so much for he and Valentine almost instantaneously. His use of imagery was right on target as well, as I could easily picture the battle room and Ender’s unusual experiences after he was sent up to the school.

There is a very rich and well detailed story here of how Ender, being determined to be one of the most gifted children in the world, is sent to a school to train with other similarly gifted children. This was deemed necessary as their world was seeking what would be equated to the savior of the human race. Twice before, Earth had been attacked by an alien race called “Buggers” and it was anticipated that another war would take place soon. An elaborate testing and training system was developed, to ensure that the children matured and trained quickly to protect the human race from extinction. There is a lot more to this, but I leave it to you to discover if you haven’t already read the book.

I highly recommend Ender’s Game whether you enjoy this genre or not. I hate to only categorize it as Sci Fi, because there is so much beyond that going on here. If you have already read it, in any of its forms, I’d love for you to share your thoughts via comments.

My First Attempt at Geocaching

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Exercise, Firsts, Kaylee, No Whining

To remove any sense of suspense, we didn’t find either of the ones that we looked for.

Chooch and I headed out with Kaylee to a local waterfront spot with fishing, hiking trails and boat launch area where a few geocaches were located. We had a great time on this beautiful day, and Kaylee had her first river adventure. She didn’t enjoy it as much as we expected, I think because she was slipping on the slick river bottom. I think she’s like me, in that she prefers a little less nature in her outdoor adventures.

We hiked for a total of 1 1/2 to 2 hours, through some fairly heavily wooded areas. Kaylee was in heaven with all the new sites, scents and sounds, going up and over hills and across creeks. It was a truly beautiful day for a walk in the woods, with a nice breeze and lovely views. The only irritation was that our bug spray started failing after awhile, and of course, that we didn’t find the stashes.

Our main problem was that our phones kept losing the signal, and it was pretty frustrating. At the second and last location, I launched myself into the brush determined to find it. When the arrow started spinning and had me going in opposite directions, I finally decided I was done. It simply could not get us near our destination. I’m sure if we weren’t total rookies we could’ve found one, but it was a great time regardless.

As a result of the day, I officially proclaim myself to be an indoor girl. I am allergic to too many things to spend lots and lots of time outside in the woods. I have welts from where I came in contact with nature and several bug bites. I guess I would break it down as I like nature, but it doesn’t like me.

For another first, we’re settling in to watch Swing Time, and it will be my first Fred and Ginger movie. I’ve now got a migraine so may not make it through the entire movie tonight, but I’m going to try.

Back in the Saddle Again, Metaphorically Speaking.

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: 5k, Chooch, Dizzy, Exercise, Health, Kaylee

If you’ve been reading about my health issues here, then you know how disgusted I am with the recently lost weight starting to creep back. I started walking again a few months ago, but it has been hit or miss. I get so dizzy that I don’t like to go by myself, and it was too much of a time investment for Chooch in the mornings before work. Yes, it has to be in the morning since he frequently doesn’t get home until 8 or 9 p.m., too late for us.

I’ve not been able to get started on any other work out plan, because I don’t enjoy anything as much as I enjoy running. Period. So after a lot of thought, I decided to re-start the Couch to 5k program, again using Robert Ullrey’s podcast. This will be the third time, and I really enjoy it. Chooch and I both had a lot of success with the slow ramp up of running time, so I broached him about doing it with me. Partially because I know he’s frustrated, and partially because of my fear of running alone. He was hesitant because of some issues with his previously sprained ankle, but otherwise jumped at the idea.

We’re on our third week now, and I am loving it. We spend more time huffing and puffing than talking, so I miss that aspect of the change from walking to running. But I just love having the time with him regardless of what we’re doing. We take Kaylee along and she is getting conditioned along with us. She loves it, and has gotten very well-behaved on the runs. Okay, so she still goes crazy if a bird, cat or squirrel get close to us, but otherwise she’s doing great. She  hardly reacts when passing barking dogs or other runners/walkers now.

Even though it’s Week 3, we re-started Week 2 since weather and special projects prevented us from doing the 3rd day last week. We are also both dealing with sore ankles from previous sprains. We are babying them, but don’t intend to stop unless there is actual pain.

I am okay for about the first half of the run, but somewhere around the midpoint I usually get dizzy. It increases to the point of nausea almost every time, but I’m not stopping. Truth is, I’ll be dizzy either way, and this feels way better than not moving does. Plus, I take great pride in the fact that we’ve fully completed each session.

I’ve not had much weight loss, only about 5 pounds, but I don’t care. I’m converting fat to muscle, my heart is pumping, it helps with stress management and I feel like I’m less of a shut-in when I do it. Yes, I’m dizzy for hours afterward. Yes, I still get migraines. I don’t expect this to really help my migraine issues, but by improving my overall health I am giving my body a treat unlike any other. I’m also enjoying more energy during the day, which is major since I’ve had near constant fatigue along with this entire health dealie. Not as much as before, but more than I’ve had for months.

I’m so grateful to Chooch for going with me on the runs. He pushes me to speed up when I’m struggling just to maintain my speed, all the while keeping a watchful eye to make sure I don’t push too hard. If I had been solo, I would have started Week 3 even though I wasn’t ready, but he insisted we do Week 2 again. He was right, but don’t tell him I said so, m’kay?

A Work in Progress, aka Kaylee FAIL

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Household, Kaylee

As mentioned in a previous post, our beloved pup Kaylee has left her mark on our master bath. Truth be told, it’s not her fault because we decided to use the room as ‘her room’ when I started my job waaaaay back last March. Instead of using a crate, we just penned off our bathroom with a baby gate and she would stay there at night and during the workday. She was almost immediately housebroken, and it worked out beautifully in all ways. Well, except for the drywall and moulding. She has eaten, scratched and generally brutalized the walls, door, and baseboards. It’s truly hideous.

We finally got a big crate for her, and spent a few days acclimating her to it. She now goes in there at bedtime, and I also keep her in there for several hours a day so that when I return to work she will still be used to the schedule. It sounds mean, but I had a dog go through what I would classify as separation anxiety after going from companionship all day to being left alone while I went to work. She’s used to the schedule, I’m just making sure she maintains her comfort with it for when I’m back to working at Belvoir.

So now begins the repair on our bathroom. I had begun the redesign over a year ago when I finally snapped and tore down the lame train wallpaper border. Yes, in the master bath. We moved here in 2005, and just never got around to taking it down. GAH!  We were going to paint the room before we got Kaylee and decided to wait until she was settled in and I’m glad we did. I’d have been furious to have had this damage on freshly painted walls.

Here are pix of the train border, I forgot to get a picture of what that looks like now. The rest are all of damage done by Kaylee, and the work done so far.  You may even notice the guilty party having returned to the scene of her crime…

To keep me off the ladder in case of dizziness, Chooch will be cleaning up the wall paper border area and spackling where needed. He will then be replacing the chewed-up moulding where needed. This will be a nasty task, and my hopes of getting it done before guests arrive on February 19 are likely unrealistic. But a girl can hope, right?

I’m still deciding on a color. Since we are tentatively planning to put the house on the market, I’m not going for a personal preference. Most likely just a neutral color that will be pleasing to potential buyers.

Since I’m still dealing with my health issues, this is slow going. But with Chooch handling the ladder stuff, and me going very slowly with frequent breaks I think we can handle it without complications. Well, other than missing my self-imposed deadline.

We are tied to the colors in the floor since we aren’t changing that out. It’s linoleum with dark blue and dark green diamonds. You can sort of see the floor in one of the above pictures. Any suggestions on a color? If so, please post as a comment here and not on twitter. This would actually be appreciated for all comments, since they aren’t viewable from the blog. Much obliged!

Superbowl? Was that today?

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Games, Kaylee, Kids, Video, Weight Loss

Neither Chooch or I follow any sports, so the Superbowl has been something we’ve only observed for others. If either of the sons that lived with us was interested, or if we were invited to a party we would certainly watch but not when left to our own devices. Since it’s just the two of us today, we followed our usual protocol of recording it to skip through and watch the commercials and half-time performances and found other things to enjoy.

Chooch walked over to the store to get nacho fixin’s, and that’s all we ended up having for dinner. We settled in and watched Team America: World Police which we had neglected viewing previously. Needless to say, we found it very entertaining even though we were grossed out by the sex scene. Yes, we had been warned, but … wow. I had no idea puppets could do that!

Afterwards, the chocolate cake I was craving and baked was finished and we ate some of that. I’ve been dieting and am ramping up big time tomorrow and so this was kind of my ‘last meal’ of sorts to purge the cravings that have been haunting me. Mission accomplished *burp*

Chooch then headed upstairs to work on a video of Kaylee’s snowy adventures this weekend while I played some PS3 demos I’ve been wanting to try. I gave Peggle and Critter Crunch another try, but for mindless quick games I don’t know that I’ll get any further enjoyment outside of replaying the demos. Critter Crunch is more likely one I would get, simply because I can’t seem to get past that BLASTED level 5! Peggle is too easy, so no point in buying that.

A new game I tried was Bayonetta, and it was the graphics that really sucked me in. I usually prefer puzzle vs. fight games, but this one is really gorgeous. I greatly enjoyed the demo, in spite of the mildly graphic violence simply because the action moves so quickly it’s not gory to me. The most irritating thing for me was trying to ignore the catwalk strut she has. But her shoes, OMG, her shoes! WANT!!! Flashes of nudity as her clothing/hair unwind to do massive damage, but in the demo there was nothing you wouldn’t see on 10pm TV dramas. This may go on my wishlist, but I’m weighing it carefully since I already have so many things to distract me from projects around the house.

My least favorite moments of Superbowl Sunday? Sending a necessary but unpleasant email that would place complications on a friend, and later washing all the filters on my vacuum cleaner. Total frustration at my circumstances on the first, and a major gross-out on the second.

My favorite moments of Superbowl Sunday? A (too brief) visit with Man-Child, and later finding out that OPM already determined that the DC area offices will remain closed tomorrow. Another day with hubby, huzzah! Now we can brace for the snow storm that is currently predicted for Tuesday.  Shoveling is great exercise, at least.

Destructive Kaylee is Destuctive

Author: Chooch  //  Category: Kaylee

December 28, 2009

You wouldn’t think it to look at her sweet face, but she’s done hella damage at our house.

Kaylee enjoys the usual dog treats, but we’ve discovered her to be on the extreme end of the ‘power chewer’ spectrum. We’re unable to give her most dog toys (tennis balls, rubber toys, fabric toys) because she eats them.

Because of her powerful urge to chew, which we have conflicting reports on the desire waning as she ages out of puppy stage, we keep a constant supply of things to satisfy this urge. We’ve not lost any shoes or furniture yet. And we count ourselves lucky for having dodged a bullet last fall in which a huge piece of rubber was missing from a toy that she had previously shown no interest in eating. She was having stomach issues at the time so we ended up getting x-rays to see if she had blockage, but luckily she ‘worked it out’ on her own without needing surgery.

Meet her latest victim, a ball with holes that drops little treats out as it’s rolled. She immediately learned the trick and began rolling it on the floor in a most adorable fashion. When the treats stopped falling out as quickly as she wanted, she went to her usual process to get to them.

I should also include the play equipment in our backyard. It is made of wood, as are the picnic table and stair case leading outside. Apparently Kaylee is part termite, because she LOVES eating these wooden items. She also enjoys baseboards, but that is for another post. We have not removed the equipment in spite of our kids being way too old to use them because we have friends that come over with their little ones, and this equipment is one of the few things we have to entertain them. Plus, we’re kinda lazy.

So, Kaylee’s amazing urge to chew combined with her strength only leaves us with super hard Nylabones, actual bones (blech), and the flossing ropes. The latter she is able to disassemble, but she takes her time doing it. Also, the fibers are unlikely to cause her huge problems if she does ingest any pieces before we can remove them.

We remain vigilant.