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.

Dizzy Games Movies Music Uncategorized

Fun in Measured Doses

For some reason, the potential impact of a concert-triggered migraine didn’t really occur to me until I was mired spinny and owie in a doozy at the They Might Be Giants concert earlier this year. While I was fine and happier than a newb geek has any right to be during Jonathan Coulton’s opening set, the much higher volume and lights sent me running from the venue for relief during TMBG. The horns certainly didn’t help. I was really bummed, since it was my first time actually making it to one of their shows and also because we were with friends Pat and Lisa, who we rarely get to spend time with.

Since then, I’ve been afraid to buy tickets to any shows. My recent heartbreak was newly found Metric playing in Richmond last month. My Scott Pilgrim Fangirl heart was broken at missing them (Their “Black Sheep” was performed by The Clash at Demonhead in the flick. Easily my fave song on the soundtrack.), but we couldn’t justify springing the dough for a show I might have to bail on.

My new heartbreak is the Linkin Park show in February. Their Hybrid Theory album literally catapulted me singing and screaming through a lot of rage and heartbreak at a dark time in my life. That album unsurprisingly resides on my “Perfect Album” list and I’ll always have a soft spot for them, regardless of what I think of their recent releases.  The Projekt Revolution concert I went to in Fairfax, VA was a high-energy, face-twisting, lustful-singing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs show and I loved fangirling after the show when I met them. Yes, I told Mike Shinoda what the album meant to me and how it helped me in a wrenchingly cathartic way.

Not surprisingly, I’ve also had to show restraint with movies although it’s only been recent ones that have really triggered the symptoms in any notable way.

After viewing Scott Pilgrim vs. The World three times in the theater and once at home, I’ve yet to see the ending boss fight. The visual effects drive a spike through my brain and I have to close my eyes and cover them to negate them. Bummer, but not unexpected. Video games have reportedly caused seizures in people before, and the movie is pretty heavy with video game effects. I was disappointed that I was unable to view it at home, as I was sure that the smaller screen would help. I was wrong.

Seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on the big screen last week hit me harder than I anticipated. It’s possible that the long day played a part in this, however. I was up at 6 a.m. and we went to the midnight-oh-one showing. There were a few scenes that were particularly harsh,  the one where Harry departs Privet drive, one with Hermione and a snatcher in the woods, the battle in the Ministry and the ending battle.  I was quite loopy after the end and needed to remain seated for a bit, and kindly Jett offered me her arm as we exited for stability.

I’ve already reduced my video game time, especially those that have a 3D effect. There have also been nights were I’ve had to log off of Lord of the Rings Online because of dizziness when navigating the Misty Mountain trails, among other things. But these don’t surprise me as much as concerts or movies since they are far more immersive.

I now have to stop and make a concerted effort to evaluate the possible effects, and even carry ear plugs with me, as I did the night of the Geek Radio Daily Pub Crawl and Chooch’s band practice the other night.  Although so far it’s only been the visual inputs that trigger dizziness, both the visual and the audio can trigger the migraines.

Talk about a buzz kill.

Family Friends No Whining Our Kids

Baby Days

Saturday was a rarity for us. Although we know lots of people with short ones, spending an entire day with babies is not a common occurrence for us. We spent the afternoon at a birthday party for the two year old daughter of dear friends, and there were two other adorable wee ones in attendance. Watching them laugh, play, fuss, fight over toys and then laugh again is something that will lift 20 years from your age as you giggle at their antics and try to keep up.

In the evening, we were with two other adorable babes as they grinned, giggled and danced the night away.Wave after wave of miniature cuteness from the day carried me away to the point that I looked at Chooch and said, “Really? We’re done having kids?” He gave me a suspicious look as he said, with much finality, “Yes.”

I was as surprised as he was at my question, but the feeling passed as I reminded myself that we made that decision long ago in the hopes of better providing for the children we already have from previous marriages. It was the right decision, especially with the weird medical stuff we’re going through right now and the added difficulty of having our three boys all living so far from us. I’m sure that my constant missing of them contributed to my brief baby craving, and no matter how much time I spend with other people’s kids, it just doesn’t soothe that longing. If anything it makes it more poignant.

No whining – this is my life and I’ve got much to be thankful for, including the health and happiness of the three magnificent young men in my life and heart. Everything else is gravy.

Besides, I’ll be a grandmother someday. Then I’ll be free to purely spoil, rather than parent, the sweet wee ones. That certainly seems like something that is worth waiting for.

Family Mom Soulful

Never Call It A Bad Day

I’m using some of my migraine-free time to try and get us better organized, with the hopeful result being that I will be far more productive. We’ve had a lot of changes in the last year, and I’ve not kept up. While digging out from all the paper on/around/under/stuffed in/ flying around my desk, I’ve had hideous task after painful issue to clean up and deal with. Some nasty demons, and some really big disappointments in the last few days.

I had just tweeted in commiseration with my friend Jett a wish for this day to be over, as it has not been pleasant by any stretch of the imagination.  Within two hours I found a note I had written to myself sometime last year.

I was thoroughly puzzled for a moment, until I remembered a hectic day at work last year when I reached for the phone and accidentally dialed my deceased Mother’s cell phone while calling my sister’s cell. It’s happened a few times, as the numbers are identical except for the last digit being one higher. I usually curse and hang up before anyone picks up, and then lick my wounds of missing her. This time I didn’t realize I had done it until a recording played, but I grabbed a pen and wrote down the message so I wouldn’t forget it.

I’m grinning ear to ear with teary eyes, like an idiot, because this is how little it takes to make me feel like she’s still a part of my life. I’m stunned every day when I realize that my world hasn’t collapsed without her huge presence, and am never happier when the Universe brings me a smile because of her. Being reminded that, as I believe, I will feel her arms around me and hear her infectious laughter again some day is a tremendous joy on a great day, let alone a not-so-great one.

So, I’m reverting back to my old saying of “It’s Not A Bad Day Until You Proclaim It To Be One”, and never having another bad day again. Because you never know when something wonderful will happen, small as it may be, to put joy in your heart.



I’ve lost it. But here’s what I know:

LT is my thirteen year old, and he lives with his dad out of state. He asked to live with him so he could get to know him and his dad’s other kids better. He came home mid-June, and somehow our time together is over. *whoosh* The last few weeks with LT have been bittersweet, because although I love each and every minute with him I’ve known that the clock is ticking for him to leave again.

My nineteen year old has moved out, and is doing the college thing. He’s working hard, getting great grades and before my very eyes he is changing and defining himself as a man. While he comes home every week or two, the end result is that Chooch and I now have an empty nest. Yes, we have a dog. You know it’s not the same.

We just got back from a week in California with Chooch’s amazing family. We stayed with his sister and her husband as we always do, and spend every single possible moment with Chooch’s son J that we possibly can. The boys came with us this time, and we had a wonderful time. So wonderful in fact, that it was harder than ever to leave. The love and joy that surrounds us when we are there is addictive, but I realize that we’re on vacation and day-to-day life would bring difficulty.

Regardless, I miss J terribly. He has blossomed over the years into an even more fascinating person, and I hate that we live so far away. He’s happy in his life and is surrounded by love, and thanks to his age and technology we have more interaction with him then ever. But I sorely wish we could be there for him more physically.

Without my kids here and with the health problems I’m working around, I’ve been floundering a bit. Part of it is because of the financial upheaval that we’ve been dealing with and part of it may be because of finally dealing with the loss of being a “full-time” parent. It’s been almost a year now, but it still seems surreal.

We’re potentially facing some more big changes, as we contemplate moving. This house is too big for two people and a dog. We need something smaller and closer to Chooch’s employer. Cheaper would be a great, too, since we don’t know how long it will be until I can return to full time work.

Luckily, I’ve got some direction in helping a friend with some projects. It helps that I really and truly believe in him. That, and getting our home ready for a realtor appraisal is where I’m focusing my attention in the future, along with continuing my treatments to be healthier.

Other than that, I feel pretty confused and at a loss. I’ve spent the last 19 years being a mom in the daily sense, but as LT has left again I now feel I have to redefine myself to … myself.

It’s as if the needle in my internal compass is spinning wildly around the dial, leaving me clueless as to which direction to travel. I’m counting on the fact that regardless of where I end up – as long as our boys are healthy and I’ve got my husband at my side, it will be a great journey.

I wrote this in the sand while watching all my guys splash and play in the ocean. I didn't want to ever forget how I felt at that moment.
Family Friends Kids

The Fifth Mother’s Day

The need to write this post came about as I was editing the latest episode of my new podcast, Girls’ Rules. I was yet again awestruck by my luck in meeting such intelligent, eloquent and creative women over the last few years. This isn’t the first time I’ve reflected on this. It was, after all, the impetus for starting the podcast. But this time my thoughts went down another path, one I’ve not truly explored before. I was reminded of something that my friend Paulette said recently, which was that she wished she could have met my Mom because she sounded … (Okay, truth? I have to confess that I was so overwhelmed at Paulette saying this that I don’t remember what she said beyond that.).

It took my breath away, and I was unsteady for a moment in contemplation of Mom’s presence in my current life. Sitting here I feel it again. Is it sadness, gratitude or rage that I’m filled with this time? So many things that Mom has missed out on, not just seeing my current life, but more importantly the birth of her first great-grandchild as well as three of her beloved grandchildren graduating from high school. I celebrate loudly and passionately with my family at these things, but quietly and painfully miss her as these things occur. Luckily, my husband is always willing to lend me his shoulder to cry on and hold me tight until it passes.

But hearing Paulette say that was a different thing entirely. It’s been marinating in the back of my mind since then as I chatted with extraordinary women on the phone, in real life or on the internet.  In recent years, I’ve met women that Mom would have adored. Whether because of their intelligence, creativity, nurturing spirit, raw talent, quick wit, or not-so-secret identity as a force of nature. I know she would have adored them, because she held my best friend of 22 years in her heart as if she were another daughter. When she saw the extraordinary, she appreciated it.

I also know that had she met some of my new friends, and one inspirational male in particular comes to mind, that she would have finally written the book that she always wanted to write. Mom was a creative spirit, and she had many different outlets. She loved to paint and draw and had a true gift for it. She was also a talented writer, but she “never had time” to invest any real time in it. I think it was something she was putting off until retirement, as her work and family kept her so very busy. I imagine that she would have taken up the NaNoWriMo challenge with Chooch and I the last two years, and I know that she would have won both years as she both loved a challenge and thrived on deadlines.

I’d say the place where she always made time for her creativity was her garden. Flowers growing everywhere, for at least three seasons of the year. It was as if she bent nature to be her palette, creating colorful displays for anyone that walked by to see. I equate spring flowers so completely with her, that the first spring after she passed I was inexplicably furious and looked away from any flowers that dared to bloom without her here to appreciate them. Thanks to the unknowing and loving act of a  wonderful sister-in-law, that has passed.  I now look to each spring with great excitement over every flower that displays its’ beauty for the world to enjoy. I look forward to having my own patch of dirt scratched out for me to play in someday.

But I keep coming back to that unwritten book of hers, and I’m left with wondering what she would have written. I found a few hundred words on her hard drive of a story she had started, and I think she was off to a great start on fiction. She also had expressed interest in telling the story of her very colorful and difficult childhood. That’s the story I wish she had written, as it was the one that shaped her into who she was. Remembering some of her stories it would have been a fascinating read, for me at least.

And in case you’re wondering, you would have adored my Mom. She was the purest form of awesome, and her imperfections lent humanity to her otherwise bigger-than-life heart. Happy Mother’s Day, Pocket Mom. All my love, Marshmar.

Chooch Dizzy Health

The Diagnosis

I had an appointment with my neurologist yesterday, and am glad Chooch was again there to catch the details since I was violently pissed that the cardiologist didn’t follow up with me OR send the last results over. I have doubts about this final diagnosis until the neurologist can consult with the cardiologist, but based on the other results he had he is extremely confident that he knew what was wrong with me.

He has diagnosed me with two things: neurocardiogenic syncope and vestibular migraines. The former is because I fainted twice on occasions many years ago and then again during the tilt table test. This simply means that under EXTREME conditions, I may faint. Because I have not had any fainting nor feelings of faintness in years, except for very briefly immediately following Nat’s memorial service, this is not a concern a true concern at this time.  Rather, it is something to be vigilantly aware of in order to prevent it.

The diagnosis relevant to my current health issues is vestibular migraines, which is actually a catch-all diagnosis for people like me that have run the diagnostic gamut with these symptoms and everything has turned out normal. It’s disappointing to have a diagnosis by default, because it means I will likely never have full faith in it. That said, the fact that I’m in otherwise good health is a tremendous relief.

One of the things taken off the table was the possibility of needing a pacemaker, and while I’m in awe of the technology I do NOT want to be in the position of relying on a machine surgically inserted into my chest to keep my heart beating at a regular beat.  I hadn’t mentioned this beyond three people because I was so terrified of the possibility, and at that point it was speculative talk by the cardiologist and neurologist.

For treatment, the doc increased the dosage of the migraine medication I’ve been on since January. I’ve had no negative side effects like with the first prescription, and seem to have had a slight lessening in frequency and/or duration of most symptoms. He also prescribed new break-through migraine medication and four weeks of vestibular rehabilitation, which is essentially physical therapy for dizzy frakkers like myself. On first pass through google, it looks like, among other things, I’ll be learning out to walk with an exaggerated hip sway and with my eyes down. I’m very excited to start, because I really want to resume life, whatever that may mean.

He’s also lifted the driving ban since the recent tests cleared out seizures or loss of consciousness as concerns. I have to take great care, as I did before the ban, to only drive when I’m feeling 100% and have taken the necessary precautions to hopefully prevent an episode while driving. I don’t need the lecture on taking caution, I had driven less than a half dozen times in the previous two months based on how I was feeling. I’m nothing if not terrified of car accidents, so will tread carefully here.

Many thanks for all of the concern, I am humbled by the number of people that have reached out to me over the months in support and camaraderie. I am truly blessed, and I know it.

April of 2003 at a tulip festival in Oregon

I’m off to fix a birthday breakfast for my husband. No one has ever been as supportive of all my craziness, and has inspired me to be stronger and more brave than I ever thought possible.  He is the most patient, kind and loving man I’ve ever met and deserves all the spoiling I can muster.

Breast Cancer Friends

The Boom Effect on my grieving process

As anyone that knows me has already heard, the world lost a spectacular woman recently. Natalie Morris left this world at the young age of forty-five. She left behind an exuberant and gorgeous five year old daughter that goes by the nickname Sonic Boom. She will be raised by her loving and attentive father, author and podcaster Tee Morris.

Nat Morris and I on my 40th birthday.

I won’t claim to have known Nat intimately, but I won’t hesitate to call us good friends. Knowing Tee through the podcasting community for the last few years, I was introduced to Nat and we later got to know each other at parties and even were making plans to see each other the very weekend that Chooch and I attending her viewing. I cannot tell you how sad this lost opportunity makes me, and that instead of laughing and talking with her I was grieving the loss of her life and praying for her daughter to remember her throughout her life. I take comfort in my belief that Nat no longer has to hear me tell her something to know it. I believe she now knows what is in my heart without me even having to say it.

The loss of a friend is never an easy. But someone that has their own problems but still takes time to show concern and care for others, reaching out to offer comfort to another that has some difficulty… let’s just say that Nat was a rare gem. She was human, with all the exquisite flaws and frailties that this condition mandates. In spite of this, I always felt that Nat was doing her very best to raise her daughter by beautiful example of being a loving and caring person.  Coming through drastic changes in recent months, her last conversations with me showed joy and happiness at things she was doing over the holidays, particularly those involving her beloved daughter. No one has ever loved a child more than Nat loves Serena.

Having lost my own mother to breast cancer four years ago at the age of thirty-six, I frequently feel adrift without her. Hell, last week I even referred to her in the present tense, so surreal is it that she’s gone. I don’t know what kind of woman I would’ve turned into without her strong and fiercely loving hand to guide me through life, but I am eternally grateful for the time I had with her. While Sonic Boom is devastatingly young to have lost her mother, I know that Nat has provided her a foundation of maternal love, positivity and acceptance that she will carry with her, even if she doesn’t know quite why.

On February 27th I was able to participate in a very small way in a community coming together to raise money for a trust fund for Sonic Boom. It was a staggering success, largely due to the tremendous efforts of author Philippa Ballantine and Podcasting’s Rich Sigfrit. Pip has worked tirelessly since Nat’s passing, in organizing a chip-in fund that raised over $20,000 and in planning and orchestrating the webathon that would be known as The Boom Effect. Over a hundred donors provided goods or services to be auctioned off, and Pip coordinated this event from beginning to end.

Rich Sigfrit used his big brain to piece together multiple platforms to create a live video feed of the auction, along with a bidding system, and conferencing software to bring distant participants into the live recording.  Having witnessed the complex process at work, it is easy to see how much work Rich put into the development, testing and implementation of these elements to make the best possible webathon for Sonic Boom. I believe the hiccups that were experienced were from the huge number of people attending virtually and shortcomings from the service providers themselves.  Rich’s innovation was able to overcome the obstacles and the ten hour webathon was a smashing success.

This success was also due to the help of many others, including Susan Z. who worked tirelessly behind the scenes wrangling the bids and tracking the winners. She took a difficult job and performed it beautifully and with great grace. Billy Flynn and his lovely wife Terri, of Geek Radio Daily, graciously opened their homes to host the webathon, and Billy co-hosted for the majority of the day alongside the tireless Rich Sigfrit. To provide brief respites for the hosts, various others jumped on the microphone and skype to help raise the bids on various items. These folks include my husband Chooch, along with Jett Micheyl, The Bruce, Philippa Ballantine, J.C. Hutchins, Sonic Boom’s father Tee Morris, and many others including Christiana Ellis who raised an additional amount for those that wanted to hear more of her upcoming sequel to Nina Kimberly the Merciless after having a taste of it in an earlier reading.

Am I forgetting people? Yes, and I’m very sorry. This was a day full of amazing generosity and kindness, and my head was spinning from it all. Add to that the darling Sonic Boom’s sparkling presence on and off the microphone and I will happily admit to having lost details of the day. To all those that donated, I am in awe of you. Our small donation to the auction was nothing compared to the time and efforts given by others. To the bidders, you truly rock in a fantastic fashion. At the end of the webathon, over $8,300 was bid and it all goes into a trust fund for Sonic Boom’s future with the remaining funds from the chip-in fund.

The fund now stands at just over $30,000 raised between donations and the webathon. I’m not exaggerating when I say that we were all stunned when Susan Z. brought in the final tally. I remain gobsmacked at the communal generosity and what it has done for this sweet child.

This is the first time I’ve written about Nat publicly since her passing, although I’ve re-written this blog a dozen times since her passing. I never posted it before because I wanted to ensure that the focus remained with Sonic Boom and the fundraising efforts. I didn’t want to shift focus to my grief and I still don’t want that. In fact, the outpouring of loving messages and unbelievable donations directed to Nat’s daughter gives me a new hope. I believe that while she tragically won’t have the tangible love of her mother to guide her throughout her life, she will never lack for adoration and loving support. To be clear, I have never doubted that Tee is a loving and strong parent and role model. Sonic Boom is in very capable and nurturing hands. My remaining hope is that Nat knows that she is loved and will never be forgotten.

Photos from The Boom Effect are included below.

Chooch Convention Attendance Health Uncategorized

You win this time, Con Crud.

After being sick for almost a week now (my first con crud!), Chooch was kind enough to take me to the doctor today. I argued with him missing another day of work, but since he was also feeling under the weather realized he needed attention as well. We headed to a nearby walk-in clinic that has a wonderful staff that has impressed us in the past.

We were whisked off to separate rooms, where we were separately ordered strep tests and later had chest x-rays to check for pneumonia. I love this office, they do the lab draws there and even have some tests they run while you wait (strep test). In the past, they’ve done an EKG on me as well. To have the chest x-rays done at the same facility also was a wonderful surprise and a relief not to have to go to the hospital and spend the rest of the day in line.

While waiting, I was able to do an allergy test which I have been needing for years. I suffer terribly during the Spring and Fall, but never knew exactly what my triggers were. The test involved having 62 or so serums scratched into my back, and then waiting to see if I had a reaction to anything. A few minutes later I knew I was having moderate itchiness, but wasn’t too surprised. Turns out I’m allergic to 22 of those tested, and I asked the nurse to take a picture of my back as Chooch always wants all the gory details and I thought he’d be disappointed in missing out on this display of medical freakdom. Sure enough, some of the welts were so big they joined with others.

We were both diagnosed with bronchitis (yay, clear chest xrays!), given prescriptions and sent on our way. I started feeling better after the second day, but am still trying to recover energy. The fatigue is pervasive, my friends. Chooch ended up getting much worse, and although the doctor said we weren’t contagious we were unsure as to whether or not to attend The Boom Effect webathon Saturday morning. He ended up returning to the doctor on Saturday morning (have I mentioned how much I love this place?!?) and was diagnosed with a mildly contagious eye infection from some odd settling of the bacterial infection in his right eye. Um, okay. The doc said if he took general hygiene precautions it would be fine, but you know us…

Chooch ended up getting a medical eyepatch from the pharmacy to ensure that he wouldn’t touch his eye and spread germs while around others. He attached hand sanitizer to his belt loop and continuously sanitized his hands all day long. When he added the bunny ears as Tee requested folks wear, it was *quite* the look.

Viv, Jett and Pirate Bunny Chooch. Image pilfered from Bruce Erb's facebook photo page. Thanks, Bruce! 😀

His eye is still recovering from the infection and he’s finally starting to feel stronger after the bronchitis.

For my first run in against Con Crud, I have to say that I’m now very impressed with the totality of the chaos it was able to inflict on our lives.

And yet, seeing Felicia Day again was worth it all.


Destructive Kaylee is Destuctive

December 28, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

We remain vigilant.