Humbly, I Gripe

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Health, No Whining, Our Kids

I just posted this in my twitter feed:

Waiting for a nerve in my neck to un-pinch and half a dozen hot spots to simmer down enough to get a shower. Especially my hands. #IAmAlive!

As soon as I hit send, I have an image and a conversation pop into my mind from errands with my son T (formerly LT).

We were clearing up his confusion about my health issues. What I have and what it means. Why I don’t have a cure that lets me return to ‘normal’ life. Fun stuff like that, but with the extra sting that comes from knowing you’re talking with someone attuned to the plights of others.

I had just finished explaining as we pulled into my parking space and hung my handicap placard from the rearview mirror.  I had just gotten to the part where I offer honest comfort — Yes, I have daily pain and I rarely get a total break from it. Yes, it’s maddening (Psychologically, to be clear. Anger worsens ALL THE THINGS, so I never linger there.). But it’s not cancer, it’s not going to kill me and it’s a hell of a lot luckier than some people have it.

His 16 year old mind was grappling and processing the concepts: anger that my diagnoses are what I call ‘diagnosis by default’; fear and concern at my pain levels; and I have no idea what else might have been going on in his head, as his face was a mask of compassion and worry. I reassured him as best I could that my doctors are vigilant and made sure he understands the scariest stuff I might have has been repeatedly ruled out. I want him not to worry and was taking more time to explain, and struggling how to do so. But then the Universe (or God, the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Not Applicable. Reader’s choice.) made my point for me in a horrific demonstration of humility and humanity.

Just as we were crossing into the store we saw a surrealistic and utterly humbling sight: an elderly disabled woman being helped across the parking lot and into a motorized cart at our local grocery store.  She wasn’t just elderly, she was unable to stand upright. And by that, I mean there was no attempt on her part or the part of her companion to help her stand upright. It wasn’t even considered as a possibility. They were just getting to the motorized cart as quickly as possible, for her to move more comfortably. Although the elderly woman was very nearly bent into a right angle, she didn’t fall. Her skilled companion held her purse, her hand and her other arm to assist in keeping her upright.

One of the first things that smacks you in the face when going through any kind of health crisis is the stripping away of any modesty or humility, so it wasn’t embarrassment I was worried about for her. It was just the saddest thing I’ve seen in awhile, what this woman’s existence was reduced to. Especially since it seemed routine.

And then the thought that always comes, a quiet and shameful whisper in the back of my mind: Thank God that’s not me.

My son and I watched in silence as the duo made their fiercely determined way into the store. We offered assistance but was assured that they were fine and the cart was ready and waiting. We passed out of their way and a moment later, I touched my son’s arm and said, paraphrasing as I’m struggling to remember details beyond the duo.

That’s why I am grateful. I am constantly reminded, as I move about the world with my invisible disabilities, that there are others FAR more worse off than I. And she’s likely grateful that she has this instead of something worse.

So, yes, today I griped. I may tomorrow, as well. I really try not to fatigue my loved ones and delete many things unsaid, because I want to laugh and chase giggles, not revel in misery and complaints. But I’m not going to beat myself up, as everyone gripes about something in both social media and meat space.

But I do so very humbly and with immense gratitude for what it’s not.

And besides, this is my family. What else could a gal ask for? They are bad ass and I couldn’t possibly love them more.

My Family, December 2012

 *bliss*

Communal Living

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Family, Friends, Health, Household, Our Kids

Every once in a while, I find myself in a discussion about our living space being in another, completely separate family’s basement. And while it was nothing any of us sought out specifically, after almost a year of living here almost exclusively, I have found great comfort and happiness here.

We have benefited financially, paying less than we would have for a living space. And also by sharing communal groceries and shopping in bulk to save money.

We have benefited materially, by paring down our piles of junk into lesser piles of junk.

I have benefited from the companionship. When you had been a mom for two decades and suddenly you are stuck alone in your silent home for almost 2 years, just hearing footsteps in another part of the house is a comfort. There is life here. I can hear it. And so I feel a little less isolated and lonely when trapped inside by my Health Blahs.

Yes, one of my Housies moved out recently. Yes, I miss her terribly. Our relationship remains untouched by distance, and I will always treasure the house because it gave me that deep bond and friendship and several others. Nothing lasts forever, Kittens, and it’s the bonds that last that matter the most. I pray that our friendship continues, but I only have so much control over that. I will grieve it if it doesn’t survive but am learning to accept the fact that no matter how much I want something, I cannot always make it happen. Progress?

In spite of the change and in spite of the chaos that comes along with sharing a home with a family with young children, this is a place where my family fits, at least for right now.  I never know what I’m going to see when I head to the kitchen at mealtime, and it’s usually something ridiculously adorable. Honestly, I feel so much younger for playing and cooking with these little girls, I feel like I should pay them!

Examples:

  • What, Tiny Expert? You want us all to watch while you perform a magic show? Count me in!
  • Now Feral Dancer’s doing a magic show? Yes, please!
  • What, Jen? You have errands to run and want to take me with you? Yes! I get to knock out my errands, too! (I don’t drive anymore.)
  • What, Phil? You want to write a song on your guitar while I’m cooking dinner? Sure! (I’m a lifelong music geek.)

These are all things I wouldn’t experience if we didn’t live here.

I am happy to say that regardless of what others may believe, this is a place where sunbeams and bubbles are chased while others erupt in delighted laughter. Real laughter, to the extent that tears are rolling and/or you get the unstoppable little girl giggle going and end up gasping for air. Children of all ages laugh and play here, comfortably and safely. Of our kids that have visited us here so far, they have been safe and (allegedly) happy. There is always someone to chat with if bored and Mom is down with a migraine and Chooch is at work. There is always a pet nearby with ears just dying to be skritched.

If it is something you are considering, do it with eyes wide open. You will be eating, sleeping, drinking, pooping (everybody does, and apparently mine is the only poo that smells like rose petals!), sick/healing, exhausted, laughing and cleaning up after each other and those that accompany them. It’s not a decision to take lightly, as both sides are made extremely vulnerable for the duration. Everyone’s pet peeve button will get jammed countless times, and compromise will become your motto, as all here have compromised in one way or another to accommodate the others. But in our case, we really lucked out and it was as near a perfect fit as possible. And although the fit has changed now, I remain happy here.

Whether we are here until September of 2012 or September of 2022, I will always treasure my Housie family and our times together, some magnificent and some heart-breaking. But damn you, Laughter, and the wrinkles you bring when one is lucky enough to laugh this much!

Flooded And Contemplative

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

Because we’ll be going into a smaller home, I’ve been going through each box and doing a major purge. I’m finding things I haven’t seen since my kids were babies, and am also packing up things for my Ex as I come across them. I don’t believe there is much of that stuff left, since I’ve done searches in previous years. I keep finding myself teary eyed as I find a story or piece of art work from my sweet boys and am keeping the most special of those. I hope to scan them later, as some are really gorgeous.

I find myself puzzled with what to do with some of my memorabilia. I’ll be scanning newspaper clippings and the like, but some things, like my ballet costumes from elementary school days? My baptism gown and candle? The wedding dress, album and cards from my marriage to the father of my children? I’ve got all the jewelry put away for the boys in case they want it, but I don’t think they will EVER care about that other stuff. Photographs are scanned or being scanned as part of a project for my entire multi-thousand photo family archive, which I know will some day mean quite a lot to them. But it’s not like I have daughters, and there’s no guarantee that even girls would want to inherit my old tutu’s.

Looking at the ballet costumes, I wonder if that’s where my love of fairies and Italy came from, as my ballet class did performances representing both. Sadly, I no longer have my white jumpsuit from my tap and jazz performance of “Disco Duck.” I loved the dance classes, but gave them up because the ballet toe shoes intimidated me, and I wish I could go back and tell that little girl to balls up and give it a try. After seeing all the classes that friend Laura Burns is taking, I’ve added ballet classes to my wish list. We can’t afford them now, but … some day.

On Saturday afternoon, overwhelmed with another migraine and our house in complete disarray, we decided to skip the box-by-box purge for now. As I mentioned previously, it’s now about speed to market. I’m hoping to be moving furniture on Monday or Tuesday at the latest, with help from my son and nephew (I hope!).

It’s 1:30 in the morning, and I’m taking a break from packing. I’ve had a migraine most of the day, and it finally eased. Chooch and Naughty Bear are asleep as normal people should be, but I am playing catch-up for lost days due to the migraines (yesterday and today).

The break is not due to physical need, it’s because of emotional need. I’m surprised at how much difficulty I’m having as I pack up the little things: gifted fairies, figurines painted by our family, Serenity figurines, books and all the things that make this house our home. I knew it would be tough to pack away photos of loved ones, especially those no longer with us. I am keeping my digital photo frame, so I can turn it on when I’m missing the personality of the place and keep it off the rest of the time.

Part of it is seeing the mix of things from before we started podcasting and entered this amazing community, and things after we met some amazing people that now reside in our hearts. Adding to the shelves over the years was fun, be it books, figurines or memorabilia from conventions and gatherings. Seeing these items spread out is fascinating. It’s like finding the dividing line between layers of rock, there is a clear delineation of these times in our lives (like after a comet smashes into the Earth).

I look at some of the items that I’ve had on display for years with new eyes and wonder if it truly fits who we are today. Nothing will be gotten rid of yet, we’ll make those decisions as we unpack at the next place. It is interesting to see how much and adult can evolve in six years. Changing interests as my experiences changed and allowing more of my own personal style into the backdrop of our home where once I hid it away as being “too feminine” in a house full of males. Amazing what a supportive mate can bring out in you, as I look at some of these things and know that they represent events, people and experiences that would have never, and I do mean never, happened without his influence.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Edit: It’s now Tuesday evening, and the initial, main-level packing is done. The furniture has been moved and I do not like it. The time until we (hopefully) sell will feel like forever, as this is not the home we’ve built up over the last six years. I’m bummed about it right now, and shocked every time I move from room to room. I know that will fade, especially when we finish moving things around and add generic touches.

Still, I miss our silly belongings. They seem oh, so, silly, compared to the decor in friends houses. But we love our toys and our webcomic statues and prints. Having a signed box by the dev’s at Lord of the Rings Online? That resided in a place of honor on our bookshelf, right next to the “Cardboard Tube Samurai” and “Big Damn Hero – River” figurines. That shelf was directly above the one a half shelves of signed books, CD’s and DVD’s from podcast authors, signed authors, musicians and creatives. THAT was hard to pack away as well.

And I miss the faces of our friends and family with all the pictures down. Generic only, remember?  I’m updating the digital photo frame and will keep it on when I’m home so I don’t lose my place in the world.

Seeing Kaylee move around in our space and watching her try to make sense of the changes is strangely reassuring to me. Our little piece of the world has changed, and hopefully it will lead to better things. I don’t mean to be emo, just reflective of how silly it is that these material items being a couple miles away in boxes can throw me for such a loop. Gonna have to examine that, methinks. Lord knows, there are bigger things afoot in the world.

 

Road to Arkansas and Back ~ Final Thoughts

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

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

Day Two
Day Three
Day Four
Day Five

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lookit, I’m growing!

The Road to Arkansas and Back, Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medical Update

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Dizzy, Family, Our Kids, Vestibular Migraine

Out of the last two weeks I’ve had migraines for about ten days. It’s hard to keep track, and some are just partial day migraines but it’s been a lot. I knew this was possible, but I did not expect it. I’ll admit that my childish, wish-upon-a-star was for vast improvement as the meds left my body. No, I didn’t actually expect it, but I did hope. And while I didn’t expect to feel significantly better, I also didn’t expect to be in near constant pain.

I took the last of the migraine preventative meds Thursday night. Wean-down is over. Now the plan is to wait a few weeks for them to leave my body and see how I feel. I have to confess that neither Chooch nor I are encouraged. I’ve already received the natural alternative, Migravent, and I’m itching to pop the bottle open. The frustration at the lack of pain relief is immense, but I’m trying to stick to our plan.

Of course, the timing of course couldn’t be worse. Semester is ending and I’ll need to request and extension for the online course. I just won’t finish. Kinda hard to write an essay and take tests when you can’t read the materials or stare at a computer screen for more than a few minutes at a time. The other class is a disaster of a different sort, and I’ll finish on time with our “final exam” on Thursday.

Let’s not forget Christmas. The boys arrive on Friday night, and I can’t wait to see them again. It’s been three months since I’ve seen Naughty Bear and four and a half months since I’ve seen L.T. Their visit is the bright star in my night sky.

We’ve finally started with Christmas decorations. The tree is up and the lights will go on today, but the ornaments will wait until Saturday when we’ll do them as a family. The other indoor stuff will be done today as well, hopefully.

If not for Amazon, I’d have no Christmas presents. It’s entirely likely that few local businesses will receive our consumer dollars and that Amazon will again reap the benefits of my inability to run around the crush of holiday shoppers. This bums me out as I see my little town struggling in the current financial climate, but I don’t really have many alternatives.

I’m thrilled that the boys will be here in a week, but am more than a little overwhelmed at what is on my to-do list. I’m trying not to stress and just relax and revel in the time with them, but old habits die hard and I want to make the holidays magical for them. At this point, it’ll feel magical if I can squeak multiple days out with a clear head.

Bring it on, holidays.

My "Not My Kids" Kids

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

I talk a lot about our kids. My two sons are from a previous marriage and my husband’s son is also from a previous marriage. And for those wondering, obviously I recognize that my step-son is not “my son” but that doesn’t make me immune to protective and mothering instincts.

I’ve been lucky enough to watch “J” grow, albeit from a distance, over the last eight years, and I confess that I’m completely smitten with him. His quick mind and generous heart are a wonder to behold. I am utterly grateful to have found Chooch, and that we were able to make a path to each other through painful broken marriages. The greatest gift beyond Chooch’s love has been J.

Being 9 when my sister was born, the mothering instinct was nurtured in me as I helped my busy parents care for her and keep the house running while they both worked full-time and went to college. It’s impossible to keep my heart from melting against the uber-cuteness of children with their wide eyes and even wider hearts. I’m sure I appear rude to friends that I tend to greet the kids before the adults, but I just can’t help myself.

All that aside, there is a very special place in my heart for my brother’s kids. While his two sons are his biologically, his daughters are actually step-daughters that have been in our lives since they were about 2 and 4 years old. Fast forward 18 or so years, and it’s just family as we know it. In fact, after his marriage to the girls’ mother ended he didn’t even question whether or not to continue supporting them in his home for a long time before they moved out on their own.

I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve always lived very close to my family, so we’ve always shared holidays with my brother’s family and children. Until recently, this included Easter and Thanksgiving but now primarily means Christmas as relationships and circumstances have evolved over recent years.

This Christmas will be a tough one, as it is the first that I won’t see my beloved nieces. One moved to Montana with her husband and child (Baby J) and is expecting their second child. My other niece moved to Nebraska, where her mother and mother’s family lives. Neither have plans to return to Virginia for Christmas.

I’ve been in denial about not having these two darling spirits at the family dinner, snacking on giant olives or fussing to get huge slices of my cheesecake as they fill me in on the new things in their lives. Yes, I took special time with them before they moved away to teach them to bake the secret family cheesecake recipe for themselves, but it’s not the same. It will be the first Christmas that I can remember in about 18 years that we’ll be apart from them and their crazy ways.

I remain selfishly grateful that it appears as if my oldest nephew will not be starting his military career until after Christmas. I just want one more with him before he goes off into the too-dangerous world. My younger nephew is only six months older than LT so we expect many more family Christmas parties with him. *crosses fingers*

But seeing the boys is complicated now, as they will also visit their mother for a portion of the school break. Coordination is underway for my two boys to be in Virginia before my nephews leave to visit their mother, but it’s not a definite. These four boys have been best friends since birth, and I hate that they will likely only see other other twice a year rather than every other weekend or so.

And, yes. I know these are natural changes. Children grow to adulthood, if you’re lucky, and they go off in the world to make their own lives. I just didn’t expect two of them to do so within a month. But life is about change, and I either have to adapt or wallow in sadness. And I refuse to wallow. Life is far too short for such foolishness.

In trying to embrace the changes, I’m laying plans with a family friend for a spring road trip to visit my nieces, sometime between their birthdays and the birth of my great-niece. I get teary eyed just thinking of having another beautiful girl in the family and can’t wait to meet her. And once the semester ends, I’m going to have the time to take my nephews to lunch or movies or whatever other bribery is necessary to carve some time out of their lives. They are boys, after all.

So I raise my glass of decaf iced tea and toast all the wondrous children that I’ve been lucky enough to watch grow over the years. They are each a constant delight and shocking surprise as they evolve from wee little ones. They may not be mine, but I carry them in my heart just the same.

Thanksgiving Eve Thoughts

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Anti-Health, Chooch, Cooking, Dessert Hacks, Friends, Health, No Whining, Our Kids

Like kajillions of other folks, I’ll be working in the kitchen today for more than just normal meal preparation. With Thanksgiving already upon us and day two of brain pain, I’m glad that I only have minimal work to do.

I’m not hosting dinner, so we’re only bringing a few sides and two desserts. And while I’m grateful for this lighter load, I’m even more grateful for the company we’ll be in tomorrow.

This year, my baking list includes two PiCakes (PiCakes = term my husband coined describing stand-alone cherpumple inspired layers). I won’t be stacking them because I want to use different frostings on them. The ChocoCan PiCake (Chocolate cake and pecan pie) will have chocolate frosting and the Spumpkin PiCake (Spice cake and pumpkin pie) will likely have vanilla. I haven’t decided yet, as I’m considering leaving it unfrosted for topping by the slice with whipped cream, in traditional pumpkin pie/Thanksgiving manner.

I’ll also be baking a sweet potato casserole. I’d intended on a healthier recipe, but am having second thoughts as I hate to serve an untested recipe at Thanksgiving. I suppose this is the ideal venue for it, as the diners are an adventurous sort and Lord knows there will be plenty of other tasty food to eat if it’s not as tasty as I hope.

Besides beer and wine, we’re also bringing a simple green salad. I’m hoping to find and whip up a yummy mustard vinaigrette to go along with it. I fell in love with it at the Dogfish Head restaurant a few weeks ago and want some of my own. If you have a tried and true recipe that you want to share, please let me know in the comments!

In the morning, Chooch and I will do the annual Turkey Trot 5k race. It’s the third year we’ve been registered, but we had to skip it last year because of my then new-and-unknown illness. Since I stopped waiting around to get better, I’ve been “training” for it for months. Knee and back problems have hindered me of late so I’m not where I’d hoped to be, but I’m still thrilled to be able to do it. Just crossing my fingers that this downgraded migraine will subside and let me actually run it.

As has been the case for the last four Thanksgivings, Mom is heavily on my mind. We used to bake together in preparation for Thanksgiving and knowing that another year is passing without her is not an easy one to wrap my mind around. Hell, as recently as last week, I had to correct myself when I said “… my parent’s house…”.  On the one hand, I know I need to find out how to accept on a subconscious level that she’s gone. On the other hand, I just don’t want to. It’s hard to give up the comforting feeling of unconditional love from knowing that there’s this person out there that loved you before you had a name or even took your first breath. She loved me at just the thought of my existence, and that’s a heady feeling. I’ll be grateful for her for the rest of my life and refuse to let sadness take the day. I instead choose to celebrate her and all that her life meant to others. <3 Pocket Mom!

In the spirit of the holiday, I’d like to share some of the things I’m grateful for on this day:
~ That my family is healthy and happy, in spite of the bumps on our paths. I love them all, for their perfections and their flaws.
~ The amazing friends I’ve somehow lucked into finding. Whether its my friend of 22 years or friends I’ve made this year, I can’t help but reflect that this is one of the richest times in my life. I’m inspired, challenged and emboldened by them all.
~ Three handsome boys that break my heart from longing to see them and heal it just by existing. Regardless of the distance, they are the spring in my step and I can’t imagine my life without them in it.
~ My husband, for all that he is and wants to be. I pledge my turtle love. Forever.

Dear Reader, know that whether you are traveling or staying at home, I heap blessings upon you for a safe and happy holiday.

Happy Holidays! What? Too Early For You?

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Family, Kids, Our Kids, Soulful

For me, the weeks building up to Halloween are like the tantalizing moments when you are doing the slow crawl up on a roller coaster to the first big drop. The holidays are still far off, but visitation is being negotiated and airline tickets are purchased, if needed. The closer you get to it, the anticipation builds as you try to make this year a grander celebration of your love for each other than ever before. At least, that’s how it is for me.

When I see Christmas decorations for sale before Halloween, I know it’s just a matter of time before I hear the first grumblings of “Too soon!” and “FFS, it’s mid-October!”. I get it, and I used to be right there with the crowd, complaining. In recent years, I get a bit of a tingle for that magical time around Christmas that most of my family gathers together, and I get to see my two sons again.

Yes, it’s early. But for those of us that don’t have our children living with us, the holidays can’t start soon enough. (I can only speak from my experience having our beloved baby chicks living far off for amicable reasons. I can’t imagine how it is for those that are separated from their children for other reasons, so won’t address that here.) In the last several weeks, you would have found me wandering the aisles of Christmas cards and decorations without shame.  Bring on the holidays, I say!

Once the dates are negotiated and checking account balances drained, the real planning can begin. I was again basing my decision on whether or not to decorate for Christmas based on when the kids would be here. Since I have them the week before Christmas this year, there shall be decorations and all the appropriate hoopla made. There will be a family holiday party with too much food and too loud laughter that will end far too soon.

Like a roller coaster cresting and dropping for the exciting run, there will be adrenaline, laughter and joy. Then, harshly, the car pulls back into the station. The boys fly back to their dad on Christmas Eve. And I start complaining that the ride was too short and whining that I want to get back in line again.

Even worse, we were unable to afford flying us all out to California to visit my step-son. We knew it was a long shot at best, especially since we were just there in July, but I still hoped for it. With luck, we’ll be able to resume our plan to alternate years in Virginia and California for the holidays. Damn. It’s hard to keep your heart in pieces all over the country.

For those with children in families of all types, shapes and sizes I ask you to hold tight to your kids when they’re little. Because they grow up faster than you’d believe and take bits of you with them when they go. And life is too short, for all of us.

So suck it up, cupcake. Christmas is coming, and some of us have been waiting since July.

Cherpumple Exploits

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Anti-Health, Cooking, Cool Links / Clicky Linky, Dessert Hacks, ExperiMENTAL, Family, Firsts, Friends, Our Kids, Podcast

Fiddle dee dee. I came to post an update on my cherpumple exploits only to discover that I never posted anything about it here. Shocking!

A cherpumple is a dessert phenomenon that I first heard about thanks to J.C. Hutchins, when he tweeted a link to a picture of it either at the end of July or beginning of August. Intrigued by the link, I naturally googled it and found a video showing how to make your own.

Chooch and I were amazed, and discussed possibly making it for BlenderCon, our annual party that was coming up a few weeks later. We got the name BlenderCon from the name of our blended family podcast, Into the Blender. We decided against it because we’d already spent quite a bit on what was needed for our chocolate fountain, which has been a part of the tradition since we held the first BlenderCon in 2008.

A week or so later, I was listening to Jared Axelrod’s Fables of the Flying City and he was discussing the sixth anniversary of podcasting. (No, August of 2010 wasn’t the fifth anniversary as Apple celebrated. It was just the fifth anniversary of Apple listing podcasts in their iTunes store.) Jared felt strongly that something needed to be done in August to celebrate it, and I realized, hey! We’re doing something in August! And Jared’s coming to it! We should make the cherpumple! Sixth anniversary, six desserts in one! Perfect!

I baked it the night before the party, and stressed because it was not as pretty as I’d hoped, mainly because of the cream cheese frosting I used (very sticky and unforgiving), as recommended in the video. In spite of the imperfections, the dessert was a hit. It’s definitely more of a spectacle than a dessert, but was enjoyed by all. Our dear friend P.G. Holyfield even took up the challenge I laid down to combine cherpumple with chocolate fountain. I’m happy to say he survived the sugar overdose and has mostly recovered. Mostly.

For further explanation, a cherpumple is a three layer dessert that includes a cake and a pie in each layer. The top layer is yellow cake with an apple pie baked inside; the middle layer is a white cake with a cherry pie baked inside; the bottom layer is a spice cake with a pumpkin pie inside. Once baked, you stack and frost as you would any layer cake. It was re-named the CakePieCakePieCakePie that night, and our friend Dr. John Cmar announced that 5 diabetics living nearby had just dropped dead because of the amount of sugar in the dessert. I’m pretty sure he was kidding.

Paul Fischer blew out the number “6” candle on top since he was the person in the room that had been podcasting the longest, and then we started carefully cutting slices. It’s as difficult as you might expect. Most people doubled up and really just wanted to taste each of the levels. The best flavor, as we were told by most guests, was the spice cake/pumpkin pie layer. I’d have to agree. The two flavors are perfectly suited and completely enjoyable.

It was such a huge hit, that when we were planning my son’s farewell party a month later we decided that I should make it again. I made a few changes, such as making all the layers 10″, instead of 8, 9 and 10″. More importantly, I dumped the cream cheese frosting in favor of vanilla frosting. It turned out much prettier and the flavor didn’t seem different at all. Besides, most folks were diving straight into the layers without going near the frosting.

When Chooch lifted the cake to move it before the party, he decided we needed to weigh it since it was so heavy. It tipped the scales at 17 pounds. I started to feel really guilty at that point.

It was again, a huge success. Just like before, everyone just wanted to try each of the layers and most ended up in the trash. The majority again held that the pumpkin/spice layer was the best.

I’ve sworn off making the full, three layer monstrosity. We’ll see if that sticks.