Health Blahs Update (in great detail)

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Dizzy, Health, Mental, Rules of Etiquette

It’s taking me a very long to write this update, which started two weeks ago, I have initiated my one hour publish rule. Apologies for messiness, but I have to be consistent with … me.

A follow-up with my Rheumatologist resulted in her halting the one month try of a weekly pain patch, Butrans. The increase in my already frequently present symptoms were misery-inducing, after it’d been on four or five days. I joked, with a nervous laugh, “Here we go!” as I pulled off the used one and put on a fresh one. By the time I put on the fourth, I wanted to cry as I put it on.

It was misery in a 1 x 1″ -ish square. The constant high pain migraine, constant nausea, sporadic and spectacular vomiting (no there are NO pix. *shiver*), dizziness (yes, I’m already dizzy a large portion of my day. this was “stay low to the ground” dizziness.), fatigue (I call it my lead blanket) and generally feeling constantly wasted. I burned myself more, cut myself more, have more bruises and fewer eyebrows left because of my slow reaction time (long story. derp!) I quit driving completely, which has put an even greater burden on my husband. (saving throw by Housie Jen, who let me accompany her on a double shopping trip!).  I’m hoping that the next prescriptions lets that resume.

Now, these side effects are things I already was diagnosed with on the “Vestibular Migraines” list of symptoms almost four years ago. I think that’s what made it utterly debilitating. I would occasionally only get 4, maybe 5 hours a day where I was fully cognizant and able to interact my beyond our home, but I required at least one or two days for recovery.

The patch resulted in my being in a constant state of clumsy, bruised, confused, whiny, cranky and sometimes, downright evil. Eldest kindly me Snippy on a stressful day recently. (He was totally right, I really was. My mood was justified, especially with the amount of pain in play that day, but still I had to try and turn my mood around for him, Chooch and our niece. Definitely not their fault!) This was aggravated by my minimizing other medications that could have added to the relief for fear of becoming addicted or of overdosing because these are not the meds you want to mess up and take too often.

When we told her about the vomiting, my fave story being a vibrant purple splash of color (vanilla nutritional shake with blueberries blended in was SUPER purple!) that I left on the shoulder of I-95 south a week before, she laughed along with us, but remained concerned.  I assumed she’d want me to tough it out longer to see if I acclimate to it. And while the mild base of constant pain relief was nice, Dr. says it’s not good enough to offset the symptoms on the lowest possible dosage. But pain relief is pain relief, so I briefly argued that maybe my body needed more time to adapt. In the end, I gotta say, I loved ripping that damned thing off. Didn’t even make it to the car! *ow*

I’ve taken a break off the Butrans before starting the next daily. I needed a damned break from that stuff, the pain increase has been powerful. I’m starting the new daily tomorrow. Bracing for side effects, but as ever, I’m hopeful for relief that I can do long-term. I’ve also gotten a specially mixed lotion (PBJ for good insurance, $900 for 3 month supply of lotion, zero after insurance!) and a regimen change for a regular pain-breaker.

The self-imposed driving ban is going to be extended for at least a week or two after the start of it. I hope to regain being able to drive again. I miss driving and LOATHE inconveniencing Chooch, who already works extremely hard with a 3+ hour near-daily commute. He wants to stay home more than I want to go out, most times, but we have mastered compromise on such things.

So, the process of finding meds that can bring normalcy to my life continues, after my 4th anniversary last fall. And both my Neurologist (neuro issue wrangler) and Rheumatologist (Fibromyalgia wrangler) indicated that there will not likely be anything that fixes me. As in, no cure likely, ever. Frustration? Infinite and immeasurable. Time and money lost (health costs + lost income)? Infinite and immeasurable when compounded by things we’ve NOT been able to do for our sons and loved ones. Gratitude for my problems not being terminal and only being pain? Also, infinite and immeasurable.

It’s at this point that I wonder if I can ever effectively thank the people that have intentionally, unintentionally or specifically shown kindnesses to me since this started. It’s pretty depressing to go back to Square One with every med and track the results. There’s no progress on my health improvement, but I just have too many amazing people that I want to share experiences with. Or watch them strive and obtain their goals or grow their families (preferably both).  Or sit in a corner booth with someone and giggle over nothing worth mentioning and/or solve the world’s problems. And, guys, we’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg, there are so many games we have yet to play!

Whether I’ve known you 25 years (we gotta celebrate, Cindy!), 10 years ago, 6 years (Con Fam, you’ve never failed me!) or 2 weeks since we met.  Just, ya know, thanks. Good people make the bad days bearable and the good days drip with gold and sparkle like diamonds.

Namaste.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2 (No Spoilers)

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Dizzy, Family, Mom, Movies, Our Kids

I will touch only lightly on the movie itself, as it just opened today and don’t want to spoil anyone else’s experience.

It was everything I hoped for, and save for a nitpick by my niece afterward that I agree with, it was perfection. We saw it in 3-D, even though I knew it would likely bring on the spins. I was, but it was worth it. Chooch said he didn’t feel 3-D added much, and maybe it’s my condition, but I noticed constant use of it to more fully immerse the viewers in the story. In hindsight, he thought maybe that’s the difference between good and bad 3-D, it’s not in your face, so to speak, like (my example) the old SCTV “3D House of Pancakes” skit. It was subtle and masterfully done in my opinion. Yes, I was extremely dizzy afterward, with nausea and a returning migraine. But I’m glad we sprang for it. It may be the last time I’ll have the chance to see Harry in 3D on the big screen, after all.

Watching the actors grow and develop their skills along with these beloved characters over the eight movies depicting this beautifully written but very dark children’s series has been bittersweet. I was amazed at the acting chops they demonstrated, and in fact the entire cast truly brought their A-game. I hope to see it again before it leaves the theaters, at least one more time, so I can more fully enjoy each and every nuance.

I will say this is not a film for young children or those with sensitive dispositions. As in the books, terrible things happen. I won’t go into it, but will instead point you to a SPOILER FILLED review written by my favorite kid review site, Kids In Mind. The site offers reviews based on a numerical score for nudity, violence/gore, and profanity. It then lists every scene in which each of these occur with description. I’ve used it for years, and have never found error with their reviews. In a quick reading of the Deathly Hallows 2 review, I find the descriptions to be wholly accurate. I highly recommend that you spoil yourself, if you are considering taking young ones to see it. There are things that can be unseen, and if you’ve not read the books you owe it to your kid(s) to know what they’ll be seeing to make an informed decision on their behalf. /steps off soapbox/

Now for the real reason for the post, to describe the journey. Christmas of 1999, my son Naughty Bear was given the book series (up to that point , 3 books) by both grandmothers, and the first book by an aunt. We’d not heard of the series, but all three of these wonderful women sensed that NB would love it. We split the difference, keeping one book from each of the sets given. He tried reading it, but at 8 couldn’t really sink his teeth into it. That spring, his dad left me and the boys and I moved in with my parents as I was an unemployed, stay-home Mom of two. While trying to find our way in our new life, we reached for J.K. Rowling’s magical world. Instead of him reading the books alone, I read the Sorcerer’s Stone aloud to him. LT was 4 and had little to no interest other than being in the room with us and sharing this special time, and played around us or snuggled with us as his mood warranted.

We enjoyed the book, but we were hooked when Fred and George entered the story. The light-hearted shenanigans they brought to the story where the turning point for NB, and we then read with gusto as quickly as I could. I then read the next book to him, and when my voice would give out he would read sections aloud to me. This was how we finished the books available to that point, and eagerly awaited book 4. We were transfixed by this world, full of loss, new friendships and the transformative new life little Harry found.

That Halloween, my Mom hosted a Harry Potter Halloween party for the family and close friends. My dad set out the Christmas light reindeer made to look like a unicorn with a pool of blue lights at its feet as if it were in front of a lake, taking a drink. My former sister-in-law and family friend made an ornate cardboard front for the door, making it look like stonework with a Hogwart’s shield on it. We set up a wand making station, and held a scavenger hunt for the Goblet of Fire that nearly ended in disaster as the kids thought one of the clues led to my Mom’s actual cat. We served theme foods (Mad Eye Moody deviled eggs comes to mind) and had Jelly Bellies since Bernie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans were not yet available. Everyone came in costume, even the 3 month old baby in the sorting hat costume made by his mom. My Mother went as Madame Pomfrey and handed out chocolate coins to the children all night for their “restorative powers.” It was an amazing night, that I think shows a small amount of the way that my family embraced that world.

When the movies started coming out, for the first few I played hooky with Mark and my folks to go see them on opening day. Yep, if his grades were good, and they always were, I pulled him out of school to go to the movies. Judge me all you like, it was one of the few irresponsible choices I made, and I stand by them to this day.

So when this one came out, and my boys are actually here to see it with me (Thank God for the timing), we turned it into a big family event. We met at my brother’s house at 11 pm, as it’s 4 minutes from the theater. Chaos ensued, as it always does with us, and we headed off to the theater at 11:15. By the time we got there, we couldn’t get seats together. I expected that we wouldn’t all 9 have seats together, but I had expected to sit together in small groups. Nope. We had to settle for solo viewings, save LT and his cousin, who I was able to finally get seated together. It was highly stressful as they either over sold, or more likely, had people sneak in from other theaters. I finally managed to get everyone a seat, then almost lost mine as I ran to get drinks before the movie started. Luckily, my seat was next to an adorable couple, aged around 16 years old. They had wands and great excitement, and he saw what I was dealing with and guarded my seat with vigor, as did Chooch who was seated behind me.

Side note: The trailer for The Dark Knight actually has me wanting to see it now. The snippet with Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) sold me completely. That man remains one of my favorite actors. The Sherlock Holmes trailer resulted in “meh,” but the trailer for John Carter looked pretty cool. The Twilight trailer for the upcoming movie, brought immediate booing and laughter at the dramatic scenes. Apparently, Bella and Edward are fairly despised, but Jacob is adored. The only cheering that happened was when he was shown, and the rest of the trailer was mocked. I was really surprised to find that there seemed to be a rivalry between the two franchises. I’ve never had interest in that series and know only what people have told me, so was shocked at the reaction. These Rowling loyalists don’t seem to dig the sparkly vampires one bit!

Once the movie started, cheering began and I saw people raise their wands at the screen in excitement. At different points during the movie, there was heartfelt cheering, uproarious laughter, total silence, gasping and a great sense of unity. At the end of the movie, some then raised their wands saying “Mischief managed.” I get goosebumps again thinking about it.

I’m extremely grateful that I did not re-read the last book as I had intended. There were things completely forgotten, and when they happened I was as shocked as if I had never read the books. It was a total and complete roller coaster ride.  I’m happy to say that my adoration of the tale was not from blind devotion, but rather true appreciation for what I find to be a rich and beautiful world filled with joy and pain, just like our own world.

As is true with the Lord of the Rings, my favorite characters are not the “heroes” of the story. Samwyse stole my heart there, and Neville Longbottom has had his name in my heart since, hm… The third book? Maybe the fourth. He, Luna and Snape are by far my favorites, although Mrs. Weaseley is right up there as well, especially after this installment.

The family gathered after the end of the movie and we excitedly shared our favorite parts and utter amazement at what an amazing experience it had been. It was bittersweet, knowing that this part of that experience is over even as I’m happy to finally have seen the final movie. As I expressed last night in Twitter, I’m very grateful that Ms. Rowling put pen to paper to such exquisite result. The impact on my life and that of my family has been huge and unexpectedly extraordinary.

Thank you, Ms. Rowling, from the bottom of my over-flowing heart containers.

Vivid Mommy

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Breast Cancer, Chooch, Dizzy, Dizzy, Family, Friends, Mom, No Whining, Too Long For Twitter, Vestibular Migraine

Just like millions of other people, Mother’s Day is a rough one for me because my mother is deceased. I’m also a mom, which makes it a very bittersweet day. When you add that this year, for what I recall as the first time in 20 years, I won’t see any of our kids, it ensured that I’d be avoiding social media and anywhere that I’d be inundated with the message that I don’t want to be reminded of. Yep, I’m bitter. Then I realized I hadn’t checked in on friends since yesterday and decided to check Twitter and make sure all was well.

As expected, there was a deluge of Mother’s Day wishes being exchanged. One that really touched me was by friend and author Mur Lafferty: “PT has made me toast and yogurt and a can of selzer and brought it to me in bed. “i didn’t know how to make coffee.” I nearly cried.”

On the other end of the spectrum, brand new dad Cheyenne Wright posted “A bit out of sorts. This is the first chance I’ve had to celebrate a Mothers Day in 18 years.”

That one got me right in my vulnerable spot. I closed Twitter as I realized my dizziness had kicked in with an anxiety attack and now-standard accompanying trembles. It was not at all surprising if you understand my current health situation, and I cursed myself for logging in. My husband unwittingly helped my through the brunt of the symptoms (Hey Chooch, this is why I was upset earlier), but I still feel the need to share something about my Mom today. I don’t do this easily because:

  1. I’ve been told in extremely loving ways that I need to try and move on from grieving her as I do, out of concern that it may be unhealthy;
  2. I’ve been accused of talking about my Mom and/or my health issues to garner sympathy for some unknown purpose, either witnessed by me or as reported by others;
  3. I’m not entirely sure Mom would approve of what I want to share.

To those from item 1, I say a sincere thank you for your concern. But my highly remarkable Mom left a massive hole in my world, and it is simply taking a long time for me to heal. In some ways, I never will because I will always miss her. That’s simply the price of having a jewel like her for a Mom, and I’m willing to pay it. Know that I’m making progress and doing the best that I can, and you should feel free to delete any message, change the subject, or ignore any posts. I expect nothing from you when the need arises for me to talk about her.

To those from item 2, I say without hesitation ~ kiss my ass. You don’t understand me now and never did, regardless of what you may believe. Yes, yes, I know, “Never feed a troll,” as it only encourages them. But I’m tired of not defending myself when I’m being vilified and disrespected to those I care about. So I’m using this post to “balls up” and remind myself that my Mom didn’t raise me to be a doormat. In fact, she specifically counseled me on the need to stand up to some of the aforementioned “item 2” people. I feel no guilt over including this paragraph, because they will only be identified to themselves and to those that they’ve trash talked about me. It’s unlikely that most of them will ever read this, except for some that may be looking for ammunition, but this is my little corner of the internet and I’m tired of censoring myself when others won’t.

And for item 3, I mean that Mom would probably not like this picture because she’s not wearing makeup. She was intensely self-conscious and hid from cameras most of my life. I’m posting it anyways, because later in life she embraced her silly side in fantastic fashion and stopped running from cameras. Also, it’s one of my very favorite pictures of her, as it documents a very special moment in our lives.

The tiny hair clips were part of her 60th birthday gift from me. I had gotten a basket and decorated it with silk flowers and ribbons and filled it with brightly colored hair clips, ponytail holders, barrettes, hair bands and a tiara. I wanted to celebrate that the chemo for her newly diagnosed breast cancer wouldn’t make her hair fall out like it did when she battled it in ’91, and it was insanely fun (and cathartic) to pick them out in the girl/teen accessory section.

When we realized that some of the little clips matched her vibrantly colored shirt, my sister put her hair in the little twists that my then-early-teenaged nieces were known to wear for a time, and we couldn’t resist snapping a picture of the spontaneous hairstyle and her reaction to it. A few months later her chemo was changed because it wasn’t working, and her hair promptly fell out. Two and a half years later she was gone.

But I present you with photographic evidence that my Mom was highly remarkable. Even when faced for a second time with the same life-threatening disease that she watched eat away at her mother and grandmother until there was nothing left of them, she was still able to laugh. And when presented with a gift that in hindsight may have unkindly brought the cancer back to the forefront of her mind, she giggled and was delightfully silly. As only she could be.

I won’t exaggerate and say it was Great Bravery or Courage documented in this moment, because it wasn’t. It was just a silly and spontaneous moment. And damned if it’s not one of the most treasured moments of my life. Isn’t she glorious?
Funnest Mom Evah!

This post is written to honor my Mom, Nat, Jaimie, Terry and Zach ~ five people who are no longer with us that are at the forefront of my mind. The first three I miss terribly. The fourth and fifth I never met, but because of their impact on people that I dearly love, I desperately wish I had. You are missed.

Roller Coaster Day, Part One

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Dizzy, Too Long For Twitter, Vestibular Migraine

Background, since I don’t remember writing about the appointment in January: The daily preventative medication has been causing sleep disruptions that have worsened as the dosage increased. Since the dosage I’m at now has resulted in the biggest reduction in dizzy spells, the hope was to keep the dosage and find something to help me sleep. The medication did nothing at the minimum dose, so I’ve been taking the full recommended dose for about 2 months. While it initially knocks me out, if anything wakes me I’m usually unable to return to sleep. The lack of sleep puts a strain on me, resulting in either more migraines and/or dizziness.

In addition, I believe it to be the cause of my growing comprehension and memory problems. Lookit, I know I’m no genius, but I’ve been having serious issues lately. Last Friday, I’d decided I had enough of it and stopped taking the sleep inducing pill without weaning off or my doctor approving the change. I felt it made no sense to get no sleep at night AND be stupid all day. (Please be kind in the comments about that last bit, okay?)

The results were bad. Very bad. Not only was I dealing with migraines and dizziness as usual, they were jacked up enough that I broke down and took my tier 3 migraine reliever on Sunday night. That’s the pill that essentially knocks me out so it doesn’t hurt anymore. I was finally able to sleep, but woke zombified. Literally dragging, mentally and physically. I still don’t feel quite right and it was three days ago. The pill usually takes me out for the next 24 to 36 hours, but this had me worried. Especially since I’ve had migraines since and honestly, I don’t want a pill that knocks me out for that long. Life is short, and I don’t want to be drugged out and miss it.

But the thing that really had me concerned was the near constant tremor in my right hand and also my jaw. I’ve had the hand tremor for most of my life, usually only showing up when my blood sugar drops. This was different as it was going on all the time, even after meals. And the feeling of a spasm-like trembling in my jaw that I was sure it was visible to others. Sort of like… you know when you’re cold for awhile and you kind of forget until you get a blast of warm air on you? That half a second of pre-shiver, almost painful sensation? Like that, only all the time with a “teeth chattering” kind of tremble. I know, I’m doing a terrible job explaining it, but it’s not easy.

I was afraid to continue any more without consulting him. If the tremble thing was a withdrawal symptom from stopping the sleep inducer and he felt it an appropriate change for me, then I’d deal with it. If it was a new neurological symptom or issue coming to light, then I needed him to know and do any necessary testing.

He ended up suggesting I return to a half dose of the sleep inducing pill, adding melatonin, and taking all 3 of my preventative migraine meds in the morning (instead of 2 in the morning and 1 at night). He also took out the useless tier 1 migraine breaker, so I now have two tiers of relief instead of three. He also let me know that for my now-tier 1 medicine, that insurance companies typically only allow for 9 to 12 of that pill a month (depending on the company) because it’s so expensive. What am I supposed to take for migraines number 13 and higher? Nothing, unless I want to take the pill that I mentioned earlier that knocks me out and turns me into a zombie. Thanks, insurance company. Thanks a hell of a lot.

After leaving that appointment, it was time for the dentist. I had a cracked filling replaced and two cavities filled back in the beginning of January, and I’m still having extreme pain. I haven’t needed fillings since I was a child, so didn’t remember what to expect. But I was only having minor discomfort before the fillings and they’ve been excruciatingly sensitive to temperature and pressure since the fillings. As in, a room temperature banana causing extreme pain because it’s too cold. Ridiculous, right? I haven’t had carrots, apples or anything of that sort since January because then we’re talking about serious pain.

I’ve been in several times since then, and he filed down the “high points” in the fillings, and later diagnosed me as possibly grinding my teeth, but more than likely clenching my jaw, while I sleep. This was because I was pointing out pain in a location where he hadn’t done a filling (the joint where your jaws meet). He decided that I need a $400 mouth guard to wear at night, but since we were broke I told him I’d have to come back after our tax refund arrived. Plus, I wasn’t entirely sold on the idea. It wasn’t mentioned during the sleep study I’d had recently after all, and they were able to watch my eyelids for R.E.M. state in the dark. But one discarded $30 over-the-counter mouth guard later (I had to try…), and I was still having pain. Once I realized the stress from the jaw pain began triggering migraines, I was able to get over my fear of dentists and scheduled to go back in.

Knowing it would take a while, Chooch dropped me off and the dentist ordered new x-rays. Turns out, he’s now diagnosed me with TMJ. He believes that is why the tooth cracked initially and now the filled tooth is apparently cracked below the filling. Since the root/nerve is inflamed, I now need a root canal and crown. After that, I’ll need to sleep with a mouth guard. I panicked and asked Chooch to return because I could feel the usual stress reactions kicking in and I needed his clear head on the problem. Brain fog and migraines make it difficult for me to sort through information and remember everything. (As usual, I’ll ask him to comment if I’ve mixed up anything here.)

The only upside is that the dentist says there’s a chance, a very small chance, that once the mouth guard starts doing it’s job, assuming it does, that it may… wait for it… ease or eliminate my migraines. Yeah, it feels like too much to hope for since at this point I’ll just be thrilled if my teeth just stop hurting. So I’ve decided to put that hope to the side for now and focus on what’s in front of me and what I can control. Yes, I’m a worse case scenario planner, but it hasn’t failed me yet.

It’s going to cost around $2,000 and insurance won’t cover any of it. Nor will insurance cover any future TMJ issues, if the dentist is right. Lovely. I told Chooch I’d rather pull the damned cracked tooth out rather than hand over that much money to fix it, but he thinks that’s a bit nuts. So we’ve scheduled it over three appointments and our tax refund / savings will take the hit. But I’m grateful that we are lucky to have enough in savings and are not having to take the dental office credit program. I shudder to think what the interest rate must be.

Luckily, the day turned pretty damned awesome after that…

Weight Loss Progress

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: 5k, 5k, Dizzy, Dizzy, Exercise, Half-Marathon, Health, No Whining, Vestibular Migraine, Weight Loss

Today I busted through a milestone weight. I honestly cannot remember the last time my weight was this low, no foolin’. It was definitely before Naughty Bear was born.

It’s been a lot of work and a big sacrifice since I started back up again in September. I had gained somewhere around 20 pounds back after I got hit with the vestibular migraines and the medication had me drugged and sleeping a lot. That on top of the now inherent fatigue kicked my ass. I still tried to eat healthy, but gave up on South Beach during that time because I felt like I was just eating and sleeping all the time.

While I still believe that the maintenance phase of South Beach is the best way to eat long term, I just couldn’t keep it up anymore with the slow creep of weight gain that was occurring.

I started eating carbs again, although not pigging out or going overboard. I know their effects on me. I get sluggish, puffy, sleepy and am quick to hunger again. But having them limited for so long, I dove straight into whole grain breads and pastas. Om to the nom!

I finally got fed up and started the Couch to 5k program again, which naturally led me to watching what I was eating. Eventually I made my way to Weight Watchers Online and haven’t looked back. Since I started that I’ve lost 24 pounds, surviving Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays and other excuses to gorge. I definitely did some backsliding, but have come pretty closely to finding a balance that works for me.

After successfully running an entire 5k on Thanksgiving, I felt amazing and motivated to do more. About a week after that, my medication changed and it literally knocked me on my ass. I was unable to really get moving again until January when I eased into walking again. My running started again with the Runkeeper training program that fellow runner Mur Lafferty told me about. I really love it, but will go into that in another post.

I’m now training for a 10k in June. It’s difficult because I never know from day to day if I’ll be able to run, since the migraines make it impossible. I’ve found I can run dizzy, but I can’t run with a migraine. So I’m registered now for two 5k’s and one 10k and I don’t know if I’ll be able to run all, or any of them when it comes to race day.

I am also prone to getting migraines after a tough run, but I figure I’d likely get one anyways so don’t let that deter me. I always am dizzy after a run, to varying degrees. And dizziness is less noticeable when I have a migraine, so there’s a silver lining, right?

I think my motivation is driven by being out of control of my life. I can’t control how I feel, at least not yet. My current doctor feels that if this treatment doesn’t improve things, short of tweaking dosages there is nothing else he can do for me. I’ll be seeking a new doctor after we move to an area with a wider pool of medical specialists. Not being able to control how I feel means that I can’t control if I can work. I already discovered that college coursework was nigh impossible due to memory and comprehension problems I’ve developed. I’m hoping these are due to medication, because it is very troubling.

I decided to embrace the things I can control – what I eat and whether or not I exercise. So I do what I need to in order to reach my goals, and so far it’s working. I’m not saying I’ll make it all the way to my goal, but I’m nine pounds from where the doctor wanted me to return to her for a health evaluation to see how much more, if any, I need to lose. My own goal is ten pounds more than that because as I look at myself I find it impossible to be only nine pounds away.

No, this isn’t bragging or lecturing or my telling you what to do to lose weight. I’m not that arrogant. This is just a post I wanted to write for my own blog, so that when I begin to slip I can remember how I felt at this moment in time. I’m not embarrassed to say that I’m humbly proud of myself. When I finally reach my own goal, I’ll have lost over a hundred pounds. I’ve grown tired of using my illness and near constant fatigue as an excuse. I feel more energized after a workout, and feel better emotionally afterward so it’s no longer an excuse, it’s a lie.

I did this. Me. No weird pills, no crash diet, no tricks.

Sweaty, breathless, aching, exhausted and sore, I did this.

Baking healthy desserts instead of the fat and sugar laden ones of my childhood.

Trying one bite, maybe two instead of a whole serving.

Tracking everything I eat and drink, and every calorie I burn during exercise.

Trying healthier alternatives and exploring vegan and vegetarian meals, thus bringing more and more variety into my life that keep me from getting bored and stopping at (gag) fast food restaurants. (More on this in another post.)

I. Did. This.

And I can keep going until I reach my goal, unless I get in my own way. I’m refraining from posting ‘before’ pictures until I reach my goal. It feel presumptuous otherwise, so that will be my reward. Well, one of them.

No more excuses, just forward motion.

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!