Harry Potter Movie Marathon

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Anti-Health, Books, Chooch, Cooking, Exercise, Friends, Health, Movies

Late Friday night, dear friend Jett Micheyl arrived so we could rise early and begin our long planned Harry Potter Marathon in preparation for the release of the seventh installment in the movie series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One.

Although it was just the three of us (including Chooch, of course), Jett began long ago planning out theme foods for the weekend. Much to the doom of my health plan, she succeeded in making adorable and delicious sugar mice and horrifically addictive pumpkin pasties. And by horrific, I mean the screams coming from my bathroom scales when I stepped on them this morning. The work she put into them was richly paid off as both her desserts were gorgeous and delicious.

My contribution was a batch of chocolate frogs and pumpkin juice (which Jett ended up doing most of the work on), as well as regular meals. I’ll be honest when I say that I was unfamiliar with all but the chocolate frogs before settling in on Saturday morning with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. But we literally squealed with delight when we saw the sugar mice being chomped on by Harry and Ron in the first movie. Later in the weekend, when Jett dropped a chocolate frog she was eating, I couldn’t resist saying “What a shame! They’ve only got one good jump in them.” And I imagined that every time they sat with the orange colored beverages in front of them that it was pumpkin juice. In truth, I’m already eyeing some recipes for butterbeer in preparation of a sudsy beverage on movie launch. If anyone has a recipe they like for it, please link to it in the comments.

Fear not for our health, dear readers, for we planned to counter all this gastronomic delight with a healthful jaunt. We went for a brisk hour-long walk in my neighborhood, on a route I had long wanted to share with her. We braved dogs off leashes and an aromatic gift from Kaylee. We prevailed against these hazards and immediately settled back into the movie marathon, refreshed and ready for the remaining adventures of Harry and his posse.

Having only read the last few books only once each at the time of their releases, I find that I’m really missing that world. The movies are fantastic and truly enjoyable. Particularly in watching the kids grow up in a seeming fast forward effect when watching them all back-to-back. But there is simply no way to pack all the charm and depth of the books into the movies. This is proven by the nearly unanimous acceptance of us devoted Harry Potter fans of the seventh book being broken up into two parts. After all, the one continuing complaint since the movie franchise started up was that the movies were too short and left too much unseen.

I will say that thanks to the tantalizing draw of TuacaCon, created, planned and executed by P.G. Holyfield (with help from Chooch, Rich Sigfrit and others), I understandably missed parts of the movies. I’m tempted to watch them all over again, before the movie is released in theaters on Friday. I would feel that was obsessive if not for the fact that Jett read the entire series TWICE since we started our planning. Time is short this week, with two exams and much work to be done. If only I had a time turner. *sigh*

Judge us all you like, but we had a truly magical time geeking out to our approximately 16 hours of immersion into Harry Potter’s world. And I can’t wait for more!

Saying Yes to Exercise and No to NaNo

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Books, Dizzy, Exercise, Health, Hobby, No Whining, Work

It’s National Novel Writing Month, which is a program that tries to get folks that want to write a novel motivated enough to put aside excuses and start writing. There are a few general rules, but it boils down to solo writing a minimum of 50,000 words of a new story in 30 days. It’s held every November and you can find much more information and still join at www.nanowrimo.org. And don’t fret about already being behind. There’s no such thing as being ahead or behind, in my opinion. It’s too easy to catch up or fall behind to either beat yourself up or take it easy. Just keep writing and don’t stress about word counts.

It’s a fantastic program, with tons of support, tips and advice available on their forums. I participated in 2008 and 2009, having won in 2009. By the way, winning simply means that you were able to write 50,000 words. I cannot recommend this adventure highly enough. Many write to have a novel to publish or podcast, but mine was purely cathartic. I will never show the novel to anyone other than my hubby, but it is still something I’m extremely proud of having written. It healed some uglies on my inside, which was the point.

This year, between college courses, doing freelance work for Patrick McLean, managing my health issues and a household, my schedule is very tight and I’m very behind on everything. That is why I decided over a month ago that I wasn’t going to do NaNoWriMo. Then I got this idea for a story that has been tinkling in the back of my mind, nearly constantly. I decided to try NaNo, even though knew that I wouldn’t win. There’s just not enough time. I figured any words I got down by tapping into the collective community support would be a win in my situation. Besides, I won last year when I was just starting down the path of finding out what my illness was, so why not?

Why not? Well, in my time calculations, I left out exercise. My work outs take a big toll on my day. The exercise time itself isn’t so bad, but the recovery time after I exercise is the big time suck. I’m dizzy, migraine-y and extremely fatigued so I just grab a tall cool drink and relax until the extreme symptoms pass. It can take anywhere from half an hour to two hours for this to happen before I can resume my day. On rare occasions, it doesn’t pass and my day is shot, other than being proud of myself for the workout.

My total exercise time includes stretching, anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour on the street or up to 90 minutes on the recumbent bike (when I’m too dizzy to run, I just hold on and pedal), stretching after, the Hundred Push-Up Challenge, core stretches and 100 or more crunches. This is every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. After class on Tuesdays and Thursdays I take long neighborhood walks (3 mile minimum), do arm weights and floor work (stretches/crunches/core work). I try and do a long walk at least one day on the weekend, but that rarely works out with our busy schedule of late. If anything is planned for the afternoon or evening I just can’t risk having to cancel if my symptoms don’t clear up.

I follow this schedule as closely as I can. On average, I have to cancel a workout a few times a week because of a migraine or dizziness that has me nauseous. Last week, I only worked out four days instead of the planned six. Because of the unpredictable variable, I give my all when I work out, reminding myself that it may be the last one for several days.

I am nearly ALWAYS dizzy after a workout, sometimes leading to a migraine and/or extreme fatigue and sometimes not. This is the reason I gave up going to the track. It’s not safe to drive after I exercise because of the dizziness, so I only do neighborhood workouts now.

Now, I did attempt some writing on Monday, which was the start of NaNoWriMo. I spent most of the time researching my naming convention for my characters but did manage to get a little over 200 words down. I was happy for that, as I needed to get the image down before I forgot it. Migraine had me put it away at that point.

Yesterday was extreme dizziness and migraine, so I missed class and skipped exercise. No words written as any amount of time on the computer and the bright glow from it spiked the brain pain and the meds were completely useless. I was starting to stress over getting even my reduced goals met. It occurred to me that I could regain some time for writing by cutting back on exercise. When I realized that was the only way to find writing time, I knew it was time to walk away from NaNo this year. Exercise is the only thing that brings me any sense of normalcy right now. Even though it has gotten to extreme levels of illness, my doctor fully endorses it and believes as I do that improving my overall health will make my life better.

I still have some writing to do before I put it away. There are some scenes that I’ve got to get typed up before I forget them. And I would like to name all the characters, as I think that will help give them flavor as I give the story itself time to simmer away in the back of my mind.

As I planned a few months ago, I’ll likely pick a month in the Spring as my own personal NaNoWriMo. November is hell for this type of thing, in my life anyways, with the holidays so close that you can taste them. And plan for them. And clean for them. And decorate, and stress, and… you get the idea.

Reply in the comments if you’d like to write along with me in the Spring. April has thirty days, right?

Taking Back November 1st

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Breast Cancer, Chooch, Exercise, Family, Health, Mom, No Whining, Soulful, Uncategorized

Today is the 8th anniversary of the first date that Chooch and I went on. We were already in love, thanks to our long distance courting, but it was still a first date. Full of nerves and awkwardness in spite of all the times we’d hung out over the previous year.

Today is our 7th wedding anniversary. We didn’t plan for it to be exactly one year later, it just sort of happened and we didn’t even realize the coincidence until some time later. We’re goofy like that.

Today is the 5th anniversary of the doctor telling my Mom that the cancer had won out, and there were no more treatment options available. He gave her six months, at best. She passed away 2 1/2 months later.

In the intervening years, our wedding anniversary has been bittersweet for me. My life changed in ways that I’ll never be able to truly express, and although our life isn’t perfect, it’s perfect for us. My husband has given me strength, confidence and unconditional love. He gave me wings to soar as high and fast as I wanted to, and the confidence in knowing that he will be there to catch me if I fall. I don’t speculate on whether or not he’ll be there, as we’ve done that for each other countless times over our short time together.

In fact, I always have add the years up a couple times, as it seems so short. We joke that we were already married before he even crossed the country to live here, so completely devoted and comfortable were we with each other. We feel like we’ve been together forever, and in a good way. I have complete and utter faith in his devotion, something I’ve never had before.

But since the day we learned that hope for my Mom was gone, it’s also been tinged with pain. I may write about that later, but for now I want to focus on what November 1, 2010 has become, as of this moment.

I’ve now deemed it my day of freedom. It sounds nonsensical, and the steps that led me to it may not suss out on close inspection, but that’s what it is.

This morning, with Chooch fighting some nasty cooties, I headed out for our usual run alone. My back has been bothering me since last week so I didn’t even take Kaylee along. As I headed out the door, I realized to my horror that my iPod battery was dead. No Couch to 5k coaching for me, and no music play list, either. I debated waiting until later when it was charged, but as I was in my gear already, I headed out. I decided on the longer route, because I was alone. It’s my favorite route, but Chooch doesn’t usually have time before work and since it’s over three miles I have to take a water container when Kaylee is with me. I was free to do it, so I did.

Without Robert Ullrey to prompt me, I decided to just run until I couldn’t run anymore, then walk the rest of the way. This is a very hilly route, and I just hoped to run for 15 minutes. When I finally stopped, I had run for just over 36 minutes, passing my starting point. This is my personal best on running time, especially impressive with the size of the hills. And I don’t just mean since I got hit with this weird illness a year ago — this is my all-time longest running time.

As is usual, when I’ve visualized a landmark goal and I start to think I won’t make it, I chant to myself. It’s different things, but usually at the really hard push it’s something along the lines of taking steps that Mom could no longer take, and that she couldn’t take for the last 2 1/2 months of her life, since she lost the ability to walk. It may sound creepy, but it works and I take great pride in taking those steps for her.

Reflecting on this, as I walked in my state of shock at beating my personal best by a significant number, I’ve decided to change my attitude about November 1st. Maybe it’s the approaching holidays, or maybe it was because I so much time working on the interview I did for the Breast Cancer Awareness Month topic for my Girls’ Rules Podcast, but I’ve been missing her and thinking of her so much these last few weeks. While Chooch and I celebrate our marriage, I also grieve this day as when we lost hope for Mom.

In taking back the day, I will instead focus on it being the day that she was granted freedom. She no longer had to worry about the petty concerns of living — her lifelong struggle with weight, managing the household and most importantly being strong for those of us that she loved so completely. She finally let me take burdens from her, as they were no longer her concern. She became focused in the now, and anything beyond the door to her hospital room was not her concern, once she knew that my dad was going to be okay without her there to do almost everything in the running of the house.

Reclaiming this day is already taking a lot of self-convincing to maintain, and I was crying while trying to explain it to my patient and loving Chooch. But it’s something that I need to do, because I know my Mom. She doesn’t want me crying for her on my anniversary. Knowing how much she loved me and Chooch, and how much she loved us being together, I know she wants us to celebrate our love and the unlikely circumstances that brought us together. So I’m letting go of all that pain from that day five years ago. I’m setting myself free, as I know she would do for me if she could.

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?

To 5k Or Not To 5k. That Is The Question.

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Dizzy, Exercise, Health

The vestibular rehabilitation (physical therapy for people with vestibular migraines) started the end of March, and the protocol is meant to desensitize my body to the dizziness/migraines by triggering the strongest possible symptoms and essentially acclimating myself to them. It will allow me to move around the world in a normal fashion. I hold out great hopes, since this and the medication appear to be my only options for treatment. So far, the exercises are effective in making me extremely dizzy, to the point of being nauseous and migraine-y afterward. So yay, I’m doing it right!

Sadly, after three weeks I’m not seeing much of a difference in the dizziness frequency, intensity or duration. Talking with the physical therapist on Monday, I was able to say that migraines are slightly lessened in frequency in the last week. Realistically, I’ve seen that fluctuate before and am cautiously optimistic at best. I return to the neurologist on Monday to discuss progress and possible changes to treatment.

My favorite part is that I’m moving again, and I’ve missed that more than I can express. My favorite medical related experience since this started was the cardiac treadmill stress test, where I had to work my way up to a steady run with three medical technicians mere feet from me in case I lost my balance. I was in a safe environment to run, and I ran my ass off to sheer exhilaration. It was invigorating, even though I was extremely sick the rest of the day.

Up until the vestibular migraines hit, I was training for the Thanksgiving 5k race, and was up to running for 20 minute spans without slowing my pace. I am very far from this now, but will get there again. I have to. I’ve started going with Chooch on his morning walks with Kaylee, and love it to pieces. Yes, I’m extremely dizzy after the short 1.5 or so mile walk. But I’m MOVING. And I feel safe because he’s right there with me.  I’ve taken one neighborhood walk by myself, and it was a bit longer. I don’t know if I’ll do that again until the dizziness is under better control, as I was very anxious that something would happen. And anxiety makes my symptoms much worse. See the conundrum?

I also love the walks because it’s just us. No twitter, no phone calls, no computer, and only Kaylee to distract us. *Squirrel!* Whether we talk or not, I just love it. We already do a lot together, which is normal because he’s my best friend, but I truly treasure this time with him.

I would love to be able to do my 5k route in the hopes of being able to do the upcoming Race for the Cure, but that would mean getting up even earlier since we walk before he goes to work. We haven’t registered for it yet since I’m so wobbly and never know from one day to the next what I’m physically capable of. We’ve participated in the Richmond race for the last 2 years, and I did countless races in DC in previous years (always as a walker). I really hate to miss it this year, especially since I know two people that are currently fighting for their lives from this horrific and demoralizing disease. It already took my Mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother and I take it as a personal challenge to walk for all of them.

On a related note, a very dear friend today was saying that as bad as things are for him, he’s glad he doesn’t have to deal with my medical issues. I on the other hand, thank God every day that I’m not fighting for my life. I’ll take the diagnosis I was given GLADLY and with great gratitude.

I’m putting the decision on the race on hold until the weekend, when we will hopefully walk the distance to see how I do. *fingers crossed*