No Whining Soulful

Not A List

The new year is coming, and with it the urge to make lists. Lists of what I accomplished and didn’t. Lists of what I hope to accomplish in the next year.

I’ll spare you that list, as I’ve already documented a lot here within this blog. There are of course more things that I’ve not made public that I’m proud of, as well as not so proud of. I will say that it was a year of growth and discovery, forgiveness and acceptance, loss and joy. In summary, a year much as any other person has experienced.

With all the sadness and difficulty in the past year, I’m grateful to have found much joy in my family and friendships, both old and new. I relish the thought of what adventures the coming year will bring. Having so many unresolved things facing us, I admit to some trepidation that goes along with my excitement.

I again resolve to keep the drama that surrounds me to a minimum, but will do so with more honesty as to how I create it myself. Hell, just two days ago I found myself behaving in a way I had sworn off, so I clearly still have a lot of growing to do. I’m happy to say that I recognize it and strive to do better.

There has been some plotting for next year, but I’ll save that for another post.

Chooch Cooking Dizzy Exercise Family Health Kaylee Our Kids Soulful

What I Learned When I Wasn’t Watching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Brussel sprouts can be damned tasty.

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

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

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

Chooch TV Vestibular Migraine

A Review of "Rescue Me" (Seasons 1-5)

Spoilers sprinkled throughout.

The description of Denis Leary’s show Rescue Me always intrigued me, but I never remembered to set the DVR to record it. With the migraines I’ve been dealing with, I can’t sleep, read, study, knit or spend much time on the computer. I’ve been taking advantage of Netflix and mainlined the show over the last two weeks. Chooch is now watching it, and just finished Season Two. Season Six is on disc only, so I’m waiting for him to catch up before I watch it.

The show is set in a New York city fire house after 9/11. Denis Leary plays Tommy Gavin, the most cavalier fireman in his house and because of this he makes some of the most epic saves and is known department-wide as a hero. It’s a tough show to watch, as there are very raw and ugly scenes of the guys on the job rescuing people from deadly crisis. The worst is the babies that die in the fires, but you quickly feel that these men are otherworldly in they’re ability to run towards fires when everyone else is running away. The things they see and experience are scenes straight from what I envision hell to be like, and in many cases the emotional impact makes it far worse then anything I could imagine.

There are some really absurd moments and completely ridiculous situations. In some ways it is very much a soap opera set in a very masculine and testosterone laden world. There are also some contentious and highly offensive story lines dealing with racism and homophobia. Despite this, the delivery of it shows the flaws and frailties of the characters and how human they are in dealing with their problems and lives. Mainlining it as I have, it’s more obvious that the show makes fun of itself and the soap-opera like story lines.

The characters are simply caricatures at first, but all are developed into interesting, funny, charming and tragic figures. Denis Leary’s Tommy Gavin is a raw and many times vile person, succumbing to alcohol and drug addiction, lying and betraying almost everyone outside of his fellow firefighters.  He crosses many lines with them, but it seems as though there is a forgiveness within the family they’ve created there that wouldn’t be possible elsewhere. I knew he was a good actor after seeing him hold his own alongside Kevin Spacey in The Ref years ago, but he is fantastic in this role. It’s bound to be comfortable for him, seeing as how he created the series and the character, presumably. And if it weren’t for the heavy emotional story line, a drinking game could be made using his grunts and growls as the trigger.

While the series is focused primarily on Tommy and his family, this show has an amazing ensemble cast. It started with mostly unknowns, but over the seasons more familiar names pop up either briefly or as permanent additions. My favorite character is Lieutenant Ken Shea, Tommy Gavin’s best friend, and is damaged, insightful and hilarious.

It’s hard to feel sorry for the main two women in Tommy’s life, his wife Janet and his cousin’s 9/11 widow Sheila. Initially, Sheila is a tragic figure in that she is obviously still deep in grief. Actually, this persists throughout the five seasons, but her behavior is continually manipulative an dangerous at points. In their own ways they are insane, manipulative and drove him to many of his deepest and darkest moments. That said, they are extremely strong in their frailties and weaknesses. Tommy himself is loathsome in his relationships and sexual behavior, but at the same time I find him utterly compelling. He’s obnoxious and I wouldn’t want to know him in real life, but watching his story play out on TV fascinates me.

Over the entire series, the grief from what they experience on 9/11 and during the clean-up at Ground Zero is pervasive and nearly always simmering below the surface. It makes sense given their jobs and the shrines that surround them that were set up for their fallen brothers. I suppose to some it may seem as if they should just get over it an move on. The fact that Tommy is haunted by his cousin and others as the show continues keeps it all very real as he negotiates his way around his disastrous life.

Season Five takes a turn into some strange territory. In spite of the critical acclaim, it’s taken a bit of time to get to the point where it tries to take on more and reach beyond what it is to something deeper. I typically hate when shows do this, dating back to when I watched M.A.S.H. in the early ’80s. Because it’s done with a wink, it really wasn’t too bad.

Overall, I have greatly enjoyed the series so far. It is hilarious, heart-breaking, offensive, poignant, shocking and sickening. I think even the never-ending bashing of homosexuals, women and other races serve to teach a lesson about tolerance. I can’t wait for Chooch to catch up so I can see what Season Six has in store for me.

Unrelated fact I just learned? Alan Alda was born as Alphonso Joseph D’Abruzzo.

Chooch Friends Health No Whining Too Long For Twitter Vestibular Migraine

I Broke

Yesterday was rough. The last two weeks have been hard, but I was actually stuck out yesterday for awhile unable to drive home. My boys arrive home day after tomorrow and I’m trying to get things done so we can focus on each other while they’re here. So I went out with a migraine and some damn bug I picked up recently to run errands.

I ended up cat napping in my car after much difficulty at the last store. The pain, the fatigue, the dizziness just kind of overtook me. I called my neurologist while I was sitting there, completely broken down. I wasn’t crying, but I was desperate for some kind of relief from the pain. I knew this is the last kind of call that gets you pain killers that I likely need to knock them out, but that’s just how much pain I was in.

I just got a call that he’s prescribing two things for me, a new medicine to breakthrough the migraine pain when it strikes along with an anti-depressant. This is the third time he’s offered it to me, but I honestly don’t think I’m depressed. My husband and I have discussed it in the past and it doesn’t fit. My “mood” is actually pretty good, all things considered. Being exhausted from pain is not the same as not wanting to go on, in fact I’d say that I’m feeling the opposite. I’m ravenous to feel better so I can get back to daily walks and tri-weekly runs, work, studies and life.

And let’s not ignore the fact that the top side effects of the anti-depressant are dizziness, headaches, drowsiness and weakness along with some of the nastier side effects that I’m trying to end from the last meds. Now that I know what it is, I’ve got a call in to find out if there are known migraine relief benefits to the medication, but all I’m seeing online is depression and social anxiety disorder relief. Hey, I very likely have the latter, but have been managing it much better in recent months. I don’t need this damned list of side effects just for that.

So in the spirit of “It takes a village…” I’m asking my friends, my actual friends that have spent face to face time with me in recent months if you think I’m depressed. Maybe I am and we don’t see it. I don’t see Twitter as a good data source for this, I need real people, friends, to respond.

Tweets are lost to the stream too quickly, so are only a momentary help. I prefer you reply here or you can shoot me an email to

And thanks for taking the time to read my blog. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone, even though I typically feel like I’m shouting into the abyss.

AFI's Top 100 Movies Movies

Review of Titanic, AFI Top 100 Movies #83

Titanic was released in 1997, and I won’t bore readers with the usual onslaught of movie facts. We all know who’s in it, who directed it, and every note of that damned song that was played too many times in the intervening years.

Haters hate, but I loved this movie when it came out and on the two or three re-viewings. Tonight is no different, although I feel like I know it so well that I barely need to watch it.

Pointless observation:  I still find the red and black beaded gown that Rose wears during her failed suicide attempt to be one of the most beautiful dresses I’ve ever seen. It is breathtaking on her creamy, pale skin.

It’s not a deep or thought-provoking film, but it’s definitely the palate cleanse I need after Easy Rider.

Leo DiCaprio’s baby face makes it seem as thought Rose is robbing the cradle, but it’s Billy Zane’s sexy ways that make me purr. Yes, his character is loathsome, but his delivery is delicious.

Next up is Sunrise (1927). The film title didn’t ring any bells, so I allowed myself a peek at to review the actor list. None of the names were familiar, but the description intrigues me:
“A married farmer falls under the spell of a slatternly woman from the city, who tries to convince him to drown his wife.”

Definition of SLATTERNLY from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary
slat·tern·ly adj \ˈsla-tərn-lē\
1: untidy and dirty through habitual neglect; also : careless, disorderly
2: of, relating to, or characteristic of a slut or prostitute
slat·tern·li·ness noun

First Known Use of SLATTERNLY – 1677
skanky [slang], sleazy, sluttish, slutty, trampy

I’ll admit it, I’m intrigued!

Chooch Dizzy Family Our Kids Vestibular Migraine

Medical Update

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.

AFI's Top 100 Movies Chooch Movies

Review of Easy Rider, AFI #84

I have no problem admitting that I’ve been hitting the snooze bar on this movie. Like the French Connection, it’s exactly the type of movie I typically avoid. The super-stylized-for-the-period-in-which-it-is-made, can make for a great time capsule, but for future generations it can also be a barrier against viewing.

The thing that finally got me off my butt is finding out that it’s written and directed by Dennis Hopper. He’s been one of my favorite actors for decades, so it seems fitting to honor his recent passing (May 29, 2010 of cancer) by finally taking time to watch it. Also, I tend to have trouble getting into druggie movies. There are many I’ve just never bothered to watch, because I have difficulty empathizing with the characters or even having enough interest to try it out.

About halfway through and I’m bored out of my mind. The music is not enjoyable, nor does it seem to fit the mood of the scene in many cases. Chooch thinks it’s meant to be a soundtrack of the time period, but I can think of 20 examples of movies by less respected directors that have done it much better.

The camera angle and scene transitions are jarring, and the whole filming style reminds me of a movie acid movies, shot in a particular style to provide deeper enjoyment for those that were tripping on acid. Maybe you have to be stoned to enjoy Easy Rider? In which case, this is truly not the movie for me.

Jack Nicholson has now joined the traveling party and it’s interesting to see his distinctive acting style on such a young looking face. I’ve seen him in older movies of course (Little Shop of Horrors, 1960). While there’s an exaggerated sense to his character, it’s still the Jack Nicholson I know and respect. The beating and murder of his character is disjointed and anti-climactic, and I feel a bit cheated.

The most compelling part to watch was the graveyard acid trip scene, with the crazy cinematography and trying to figure out if the other people were hallucination or actual mourners being put upon by the stoners. I’ve always taken offense when people use graveyards and cemeteries as party locations, dating back to my teen years. They truly didn’t endear themselves to me in this scene either. But it was a kick to see Toni Basil and Karen Black during the scene.

I’m saddened that Chooch and I have gotten ahead of the “Watching 100 Movies Podcast” as I’m looking forward to hearing out Mike and Christiana’s opinions of the film. I’m utterly disappointed that the movie lived down to my expectations. I’m still not even sure what it was about, as it seemed to be Drug Deal, Travel the Country to Get to Mardi Gras, Drop Acid in a Graveyard at Mardi Gras and Die “Free.”

I’ll have to look up some other reviews and find out what I “didn’t get” from it, but I am glad we finally watched it so we can return it. Apologies to M.A. in PA who has been waiting on it.

And now bring on Titanic! I enjoyed the film when I saw it years ago and am curious to see how it holds up. Although, I’ve heard “My Heart Will Go On” enough times already so will have the ‘Mute’ button handy.

Family Kids Soulful

Baby J and Baby M

I mentioned my niece in yesterday’s post, and how much I love and miss her and her family. My great-nephew Baby J is almost 2 1/2 years old and is a clever and rambunctious child. He’s also very excited about the arrival of his baby sister, expected in early April.

Yesterday, my niece posted this in Facebook:

“(Baby J) was rubbing my belly and the baby kicked his hand. He got so pissed and said, “No kicka my hand (Baby M)!”

It seems he was very irate because everyone know you shouldn’t kick others. I predict much hilarity in their house in coming years as he makes the adjustment from “Baby” to “Big Brother.” Yes, I totally melted and started praying even harder that I’ll be able to see them soon.

Here’s a photo of Baby J, already loving on his sister.

Family Kids No Whining Our Kids Soulful

My "Not My Kids" Kids

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.