Such Great Heights by Iron & Wine

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Family, Friends, Music

A song I’ve loved for years, from the Garden State movie soundtrack. The movie and entire album is fantastic to my eyeballs and earholes, and is a shared love with our oldest 2 sons, which brings extra richness to it.

On a recent shuffle through my songs, it played and the lyrics hit my sweet spot and now I must share it.

Listen along, if you like, as you read the lyrics. Link to song (no vid) on YouTube:

“Such Great Heights”
Iron & Wine
Lyrics from A-Z Lyrics

I am thinking it’s a sign
That the freckles in our eyes
Are mirror images and when we kiss
They’re perfectly aligned

And I have to speculate
That God himself did make us
Into corresponding shapes
Like puzzle pieces from the clay

And true it may seem like a stretch
But it’s thoughts like this that catch
My troubled head when you’re away
When I am missing you to death

When you are out there on the road
For several weeks of shows
And when you scan the radio
I hope this song will guide you home

They will see us waving from such great heights
Come down now, they’ll say
But everything looks perfect from far away
Come down now but we’ll stay

I’ve tried my best to leave
This all on your machine
But the persistent beat
It sounded thin upon listening

And that frankly will not fly
You’ll hear the shrillest highs
And lowest lows with the windows down
When this is guiding you home

They will see us waving from such great heights
Come down now, they’ll say
But everything looks perfect from far away
Come down now but we’ll stay

My Nephew and Crohn’s Disease

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Family, Health, Too Long For Twitter

Quick note: This post was long planned, but finally edited and posted becaue a remarkable woman is raising donations to help find a cure for Crohn’s Disease and Colitis. Please consider giving money as thanks for her getting her ass out there to raise funds for a charity that fights these truly terrible diseases.

You’ve heard me whine about missing my nephew since he moved away, but before that, some of you kind folk in Twitter remember that he found himself on the horrific path of Crohn’s 5 or 6 years ago, and I remain grateful for the prayers and kindnesses that buoyed us through that scary time.

Remembering his then-little body (I was still taller than him) wracked with pain to the point of near-delirium, before and after the surgery haunts me still, but his treatments have given back much of the life he could have easily lost. The picture below is him from around the last time I saw him, last summer. He is strong like bull, thanks to charities and researches fighting to give folks like him a long and far better life.

My Nephew Taking on the World, Virginia Beach, VA, 07/11/2013

We spent so many happy years with my nephew and his older brother being nearby and nearly-inseparable from my two sons from my previous marriage. And while I miss him greater than he could ever understand, I remain ever-gratified that he’s truly been thriving in his newer environment. He’s grown healthy and strong and next month he graduates from high school, already with a partial scholarship for college in the Fall!

He’s been playing football and basketball at school, and has been an avid and talented skateboarder for eons. He’s lucky that the medicine is still helping, as we’ve been told that someday it likely won’t anymore and that is a terrifying thing to contemplate. And lookit, I don’t care how small a centimeter is, when they take 11 of them out of a child, they’re huge.  I remain grateful that his body has been allowed to grow tall and strong, as he refused to embrace anything but a full life with his disease.

You can see why he’s one of my greatest inspirations, no?

And guys, he’ll turn 18 in three months, too. We had no idea if we could hope for more than a year from his first surgery, let alone the on-going treatments (*knocks on wood*). And while I wish he didn’t remember the pain back then or from ongoing episodes, I remain grateful that he is vigilant, in part from the memory that I would protect him from, if I could. 

I’m biased so this donation is a no-brainer for me, other than wanting to give far more.

But still, if you can, please get your wallets out, if not for you or someone you care about, then do it simply to pay it forward since none of us have any guarantees in life. Every little bit counts and the minimum is a mere $15.


My Good Thing, 02/20/2014

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch

Dunno if I’ve shared this or not, but after my Ex moved out, our kids and I moved in with my Mom, Dad and college student sister.

They made a home for us within their home, a recurring theme in my life, as I come to realize that I really like having a lot of heartbeats under my roof. The more equal, the better the flow. The more respect and privacy, you level up.

Trying to keep the boys focused on the positive, my Mom instituted “My good thing that happened to me today was __________.” You had to have at least one, even if pre-teen or surly or on restriction, or on a diet (me, eternally) but you could name as many as you want.

After reading a comment on a post Chooch made in Facebook today, all I can think of is, “Well. I know what my good thing is today.” Makes more sense when you know that this is, since that ritual ended long ago when our baby birds left the nest or remain in another, how I state that something bubbly-making has touched my heart.

Earlier, Chooch posted this photo:

Chooch's Tattoo on his right arm.
With this original post:
It only took 42 years, but I finally got my first tattoo! — with Vivid Muse.

So, my good thing that happened to me today? Chooch’s explanation on the 4 heart containers with only 2 filled, matching tattoos we just got.

“…you start the game with 3 hearts, so we added a fourth as a 10 year anniversary level up. Since Vivid Muse and I have them matching on opposite arms, when we hold hands all the hearts fill up so we’re ready to take on the next danger together!”

I initially had a different idea in mind altogether, but when he explained why he liked this design?

Done. Let’s go.

(whispers to myself): Thank you for loving me the way you do.

I’ll follow him anywhere.

Valentine’s Day, 2014

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch

In a moment of long-planned and delayed and finally spontaneously, we blew our dinner, movie, sinful dessert and prezzie money and efforts at the last minute on Valentine’s Day matching tattoos, and then ended the day like most others, snuggled up, talking or watching TV, laughing and being goofy, like we do. Not letting a single giggle escape ungiggled. Our big and sinful dessert? Cherry pop-tarts, because we were too broke and tired to do anything else.

We had no plan going into the weekend, just plans with friends on Saturday that fizzled out and a visit to our Eldest son a few hours south on Sunday and an unexpectedly serendipitous visit with friends, the whole weekend was exceedingly awesome. As has happened frequently, we’ve found that sometimes, just when we need a spiritual boost,  the Fates or the Flying Spaghetti Monster or God or whatever you believe in make things just work out sometimes. This was proven COUNTLESS times over the weekend, as plans went silent and others sprang up, although I do wish I could have visited my sis while nearby. Greedy me.

I dunno if it was a different storm or the tail end of the insane snowstorm, dubbed Pax, but we got at least a foot of snow, which gave hubby the option to telework on Friday, VDay. As trashed as our street is after the combination of well over a foot of snow, melting and icing, and the cruelty of the snowplowing execution by those magical forces that make them hazardous to even check the mail. We got to at least spend the day in the same house, albeit in separate rooms. Close enough to sneak a smooch during a conference call, anyways.

At likely the last feasible moment, the scale was decided, the appointments made and we found ourselves excitedly slamming in a quick, standing-in-the-kitchen dinner and went out for our Valentine’s gift exchange at Inksanity in Leesburg, Virginia. We originally hoped to get them on our 10th Anniversary this past November 1st. We then hoped to get them while in Hawai’i. We kept having stuff come up and delaying it, but I have no complaints.

Chooch surprised me with romance in our ears in the car as he drove us there. He played music by Metric, “Breathing Underwater” (see previous post) first as we chatted and planned and chatted. Sadly, when we arrived at the nearby tattoo shop, the artists we selected were in different areas, so we were only very briefly together, me at the beginning of his, him at the end of mine.

We got heart containers from the Zelda games, same number of hearts, empty and filled. It’s not a clear shot of them, but you get the idea. He explains the specifics better than I. *swoon* Soul mate!

Blood, Ink and Bad Assery

The tattoo artists worked diligently to ensure ours matched, with an apprentice seemingly floating between us doing visual checks. It was sweet how they strove for perfection and it was a great first experience for Chooch as well as for me. (Yes, it still hurts on the third tattoo, especially on the first red heart fill on, because of placement.)

We held hands and giggled on our way back through all the snow to the car, like a couple of newlywed idiots. We were so happy. It was heaven.

Then on the way home he surprised my spinning and migraine-y self (physical stress triggers my neurological symptoms, which I anticipated) with songs from our wedding CD’s. It was part of a 4-disc set of about a three hour span of music that we jointly and painstakingly made to play at our wedding reception. Each and every song was debated and ranked, it was serious stuff! And we also took our very fave 12 songs as a separate playlist as wedding favors. (I’ll never forget how adorable my stepmother-in-law was as she explained her immediate love of one of the songs, the only time I remember that anyone actually saying they’d listened. Yays!)  I haven’t loaded either playlist onto my new player yet, and now I am reminded that I really, really need to manage that mischief.

We spent more time on picking songs than anything else for our wedding, as music is an intense and shared passion of ours. And we wanted our family and friends to be surrounded by the music that symbolizes so much of who we were then, separately and together.  A little bubble of silly calm floating down the Potomac River with views of all the beauty on the moonlit night of our wedding. It was a total break from the chaos of those days. I was told by several folks that ours was the favorite wedding attended because it didn’t feel like a wedding, more like a relaxed gathering with the ceremony at the very beginning of it. Pure magic.

Listening to it on the way home from the tattoo shop, I could reflect back on how I felt on our first Valentine’s Day together, while dating, and kind of compare it to this one. We get snowed in back then, just like this year. I better appreciate how well he knows and appreciates me.  Better than anyone, yet still loves my eternally flawed self. He didn’t turn and walk away when things got tough at various points over the years.  He can even keep me calm in times of great chaos, whether it’s ours or someone else’s, using only four words. See? Magic.

Chooch is an infinitely deeper, inquisitive, creative, sexy, thoughtful and more generous dude than I previously believed possible. Like I told him the other night, I can’t even get good and pissed at him, because I know that very soon he’ll do something that will make me forget it and then I’ll feel petty for it when I’m trying to catch my breath from laughing, loving or whatever the fun entails.

I am so grateful that our unintended celebration of  lurrrrrrve evolved this way, it’s always an adventure!

Hope yours rocked, too. Love, man. Love.

Happy Love Day

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Family, Firsts, Too Long For Twitter

First of all, first post from new (to me) hotness! Chooch refurbished a laptop for me that is the perfect balance of keyboard + larger screen for big font (I tell ya, meds these days…) and is waaaaay more light weight than last. But this also means that I no longer have The Penguin, which saddens me, but this really does serve more of the function I need faster. It also frees Chooch up from constantly helping me fine tune with cross-over programs for Linux.

My review of the Linux machine? Raving five stars of awesome. It only crashed twice, and that was surely due to overheating, a frequent problem with that laptop.  At one point, while working the photo archive, I thought I lost over 1k (or something equally horrifying) of photos from our recent trip to Hawai’i when the machine froze. Normally, I would have had an instant panic attack, but I remember the change to Linux and I immediately decided to put the laptop down and trust in The Penguin.

When I came back an hour or so later, it had finished processing and the photos were safe. If it had done as it had been running before the Linux change, the pix would have been lost after a blue screen of death and we’d have had to start prayers that Crashplan had indeed backed the batch up for retrieval. I loved it, but felt pretty useless with it. I was afraid to muck around and make it stop being reliable.

Hubby surprised me with the refurb, when I hadn’t even asked to switch back and I’m guiltily grateful. If I need a program or Chrome extension, I know I can find it for Windows. And with my memory issues, shortened attention span and brief computing time available before a migraine sends me off, these are tremendous benefits for the woman I find myself to be these days. But I do love supporting the “under dog” or “working class” over the hugely corporate The Man or his politically correct off-shoot. The first thing I do if I can reclaim some brainpower is to rock Linux. The second is likely yarn bombing the world.


Now, on to the mushy stuff! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Today is also my beautiful Li’l Sis’ 10th wedding anniversary! While we all still would have been excited, the health problems my baby (9 years younger) sister has had since last summer have me EXTRA SUPER HAPPY TERRIFIC that she is here with us as she and her amazing husband celebrate their love. I’m so proud and grateful that she’s doing the necessaries to live a healthier and longer life.

Our weddings are only 3.5 months apart and I’ve always felt a special bond with them as we were both at the marital starting gate at (nearly) the same time and I love sharing this with her.

As for my own valentine, Chooch, here’s our wedding day selfie, 10 years before it was called a selfie. New hubby and I snuck off to the front of the boat for a private snuggle and already traditional self-shot together.

Chooch said I should have the purple princess dress (I’d planned on plain and low-key, since it was 2nd marriage for both but fell in love with a bridesmaid dress while shopping with my Li’l Sis and Mom for LS’s wedding dress.).
Mom said I had to have the tiara to go with it and bought it on the spot.
I’m still so honored that they thought of me as royalty on that nearly perfect day. If only J (and even more family) could have attended, too. #StillVeryBlessed

Chooch, my love,
We spun just as much chaos back then and it was GLORIOUS then, too.
It was the happiest of days with you, and we’ve had so many since then and an infinite number still lie ahead.
Please, remember how much I love you when I’m kicking your ass during our gaming date tonight.

The State of The Muse Address

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Family, Hauntings, Health, No Whining, Too Long For Twitter

Chooch and I have been at a marathon pace of giggles (and pain) the last few months, with a nice 2 week bout of illness in there. We are trying to regain balance in our lives after, essentially a three week uprooting of our schedules.

There will be many posts about Hawaii, if I haven’t said so already. I have many thoughts and house rules now, because of my love of the natural beauty they protect so well on the island of Kaua’i, if not all the islands of Hawai’i.

Our middle son T, now 17 years old, looking out over the beauty of Hawai'i as we drove through Waimea Canyon.

Our middle son T, now 17 years old, looking out over the beauty of Hawai’i as we drove through Waimea Canyon.

Until I can manage the mischief, I am doing a lot of picture posting (visuals are my best communication tool at the moment) at my Flickr site, and because I haven’t bothered my most wonderful husband to help me get this blog, Flickr, Twitter and Facebook to update. And prolly G+ since I am resigned to our future Skynet overlords.

My handle at Flickr and most other sites is Vivid Muse (with or without spaces). I do filter pix of our kids and of the minor children of friends. You have to ask for me to not let a solo photo of your child be public, it truly is a big exception. If anyone finds that I’ve slipped, please message me and I’ll correct asap.

In case you haven’t seen elsewhere, I stopped all assistance to Ditched by Kate in April of last year. I finally admitted that I simply was not physically or mentally able to be representative of their image, so I resigned. Chooch also left the band, months later, for unrelated reasons. Our friendships with the band remain, which was a goal from the very beginning. I’m very grateful that’s happened. I will never forget my part of DBKhaos and wish them all the best, sincerely.

I have so many things to express, but am needing to organize them. The biggest thing I have to say is about the Charity Cancer Anthology, (title TBD) and my inability to publish it.

I have been battling ever-worsening invisible (mostly) chronic pain for four years now. There are different aspects and associated issues, but basically, my body is hindered by pain, and my mind is hindered by fog and long periods of inability to focus, remember and/or communicate coherently. I am not the person to do this job the way it deserves to be done. However, it must happen. For my Mother’s piece and the other pieces that will be included have amazing messages to share. And because cancer will not stop, neither can those that fight it.

Because my Health Blahs, as I call them, are chronic and not alleviating, I must assume that I must find someone willing to take this on. Chooch is unable to do it for work schedule and personal reasons of his own. Cancer is a common word in our lives, suffice it to say. Too soon, doesn’t begin to cover it.

I will be reaching out and seeking advice on getting someone else to re-promote, take additional submissions, edit, publish and market the book along with Chooch. I have stipulations, because of the excruciating personal nature of this publication, but he will be the one in charge of those.

Please contact Chooch or I at if you have suggestions, criticisms, or services you’d like to donate, since this is a non-profit charity book, and also if you have services that you think will help us spread the word far and wide to raise the greatest funds possible to wish this evil disease into the cornfield.

My deepest and most sincere apologies to those that in some case have been waiting years for this anthology to be published. It is in your honor that I show my gratitude with this public apology and embarrassing level of detail of by failings. Please direct any response to with ideas, criticisms, requests to add more selections, alter/add to your current submission or any other matter.

Please know that I’ve let myself down more than I’ve let anyone else down. In moving out of cocoon-mode, things have to be completed this year. Nothing that lingers because of fear/embarrassment/pain will see the dawn of 2015. This is my goal. (Warning: As part of my typical foolishness, I will be channeling Mabel Pines from *cough*Disney’s*cough* animated series, “Gravity Falls,” by embracing awkward and embarrassing things and putting them in my rearview mirror. I’m human. I make mistakes. I’m moving on. Feel free to join me.)

As a result, I have something similar to Write or Die in mind for this blog. I have to schedule the post when I begin writing it. I have 1 to 4 hours to hone it, since I get lost in Fibromyalgia Fog frequently or migraines take me down. If necessary, that means posting before proofing. (I can’t wait to see if I screw that one up. Future half sentences ahead!)

And I’m tired of looking at super short thoughts that I’ve captured that I feel like I have to expand on into a more coherent post. I am rarely coherent. If you know me in real life, you know this already. So, my misfires are a part of my “voice” or POV. (We’ll see how long this lasts. I’m coming off a great weekend.)

I think this will help with the 70 or so pieces of thought and 4 journals full of thoughts. Lose all my baggage and keep our beloveds and keep our human and material treasures close.

Oh and we my do a new Into the Blender Podcast, soon-ish. We did a google hangout on Nov 1, 2013, our 10th and 11th anniversaries, but the audio isn’t up yet. We will hopefully be able to do an occasional episode the same as PG Holyfield and Chooch produce our shows. Record a live show in Google+, while broadcasting live to YouTube channel and then strip out the audio and post in our podcast feed.

And because of another kind nudge, this time from Dave Slusher, I’ll attempt to talk into a microphone soon for my stale, sporadic at best Girl’s Rules Podcast. I have little control over whether or not I’m physically able, but I will try.

Maybe something will come of it that others can relate to and also help with my successful-to-date fight against isolation.

Happy New Year, kittens.
*rooster crow*

Clone by Metric, My Ear Worm of the Day

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Hauntings, Music, Too Long For Twitter

I’ve long been intending to post songs of here and there as they wind their way into my brain, unprovoked. I’ll also be including a link to a video from the best available if there’s nothing on the band’s official YouTube channel.

First up is Metric. It’s a band that Chooch and I first encountered while watching Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. The song “Black Sheep” was performed in the film by fictional band, The Clash at Demonhead, but is originally a Metric song. If memory serves, I purchased the soundtrack on the way home from the movie (something I’d never done before or since), and our poor house-guest PG Holyfield was forced to repeat listens as we fell in love with the soundtrack. (Completely fair since he and Chooch made me see it.)

Since then, we’ve slowly been taking in their albums, Fantasies, Let It Out and Synthetica with love and fervor. There’s more, but I’m just now really getting to know LIO and am not in a rush.

We even got to see Metric on their first go-round last year, touring for Synthetica. They put on a great live show and we were sad to have been unable to recently when they played locally. It was a really fun show and I can’t wait to see them again.

I greatly enjoy the music, but it’s the lyrics that stop me and make me put a song on repeat for 10 plays in a row. They have a way of capturing unnameable thoughts and impossible-to-express feelings/snapshots of my life with near-perfection. Lyrics provided by AZLyrics

rom Synthetica (2012)

Call me out
My regret
Only makes me
Stronger yet

Nothing I’ve ever done right
Happened on the safe side
It’s the other way
I’m missing everyone I know now

Clone, from Merriam-Webster dictionary


 noun \ˈklōn\

biology : a plant or animal that is grown from one cell of its parent and that has exactly the same genes as its parent

: a product (such as a computer) that is a copy of another product produced by a well-known company

: a person or thing that appears to be an exact copy of another person or thing



: to make an exact copy of (a person, animal, or plant) : to make a clone of (something or someone)

In Praise of a Man

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: /rant/, Chooch, Too Long For Twitter

I’m in utter awe of my husband. If you know me at all, this isn’t a news flash.

But with all that the furlough is doing (and with the work of countless staff members furloughed at home that is being dumped on him), Chooch continues to report to work and continues to diligently serve the mission he’s employed for, to aid Native Americans.

For ZERO pay, people. Because no income will be received for the work he performs, starting yesterday, Oct 1. For his standard 40+ hours a week but now with ZERO income.

Yup, he has to go in, even if he’s too sick. Or breaks his leg. There’s no one else but him. He cannot take time off for ANY reason.

Why does he do it, instead of quitting and seeking private sector work? Simply for the extra bit of hope that he will be paid at the end of this financial trauma and that our son’s lives will not be further negatively impacted by the childish cruelty of our politicians and failed political system.

Chooch and I pledged our love to each other over a decade ago, and united our lives in marriage 10 years ago, next month.

I remain fully aware that I am Blessed and beyond lucky to be hand-in-hand with a man such as he (him?).

I knew it then, but I learn it again every day he gets up and goes in to that shitty, shitty situation. Don’t bother making “lighter traffic” jokes, it’s not happening. He’s still gridlocked until he enters his nearly-deserted building.

I have immeasurable love and gratitude for each and every person that impacted/impacts the path of the man I will share the rest of my life.

Best of luck to all my friends and family impacted, and to the rest of you that will feel the economic impact soon. Over 2 million hard-working and gainfully employed Americans have suddenly lost their income.

I don’t care what your industry is or politics are, it’s going to hurt for a long time.

Prayers for us all, regardless of political beliefs. (And there are some TRUE assholes revealing themselves right now!)

Prayers for OUR Country(, or whatever non-prayer equivalent you choose).

Prayers that more people act like Chooch, by getting the work done that needs to be done.

Photo by J.R. Blackwell

Photo by J.R. Blackwell

On a scale from one to awesome, he’s the shit! Just look at him!

November 1st, In Great Detail

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Breast Cancer, Hauntings, Mom, Whining

Lots going on, kittens, but I am still determined to clear out my Draft posts. Only relevant ones, natch, and I decided to go from oldest to newest. I flinched and nearly fled from this one during editing, but for reasons I won’t explain here, it is miraculously timed.

The last edit date was mid-November, 2010. It’s very, very stale but I’m powering through it because I don’t want to ever have to remember it in detail again.

Apologies for the scattered nature as I try and capture the chaotic and ancient thoughts to pin them down to the page. I don’t know why I started writing about the bittersweet nature of my wedding anniversary the way I did, but I’m honoring my old draft by way of keeping the format and filling in holes.

I’m also creating a Kamikat Alert to warn when emo is flowing freely. I give this one the highest possible. I’ve been crying nonstop while reading/editing it.


On November 1, 2002, Chooch and I went on our first official date. The following summer, we became engaged and then my mother told us her cancer had returned. A few months after that, we married. Completely by accident, we were married on the same exact date, a year later, on November 1, 2003. (When I say by accident, I mean it. Chooch would have to confirm, but I think it was well after our first wedding anniversary that we realized that it was a double anniversary.)

In the fall of 2005, my mother was over two years into her second occurrence of breast cancer. Nothing had worked, and as a last resort she had pushed really hard to get into a clinical trial for a new medication that was in its first round of human trials. She was that determined to live. I watched her fight like a battle-hardened warrior, but she couldn’t beat it alone. She needed the medical community to fight for her, too, so she got them.

This chemo ‘cocktail’ was particularly nasty, and while I won’t go into details beyond that, we realized too late it was killing her instead of the cancer, which continued to grow and spread. She was hospitalized in early October 2005 because her body functions were shutting down. At the time, it was just one more hospital trip that I drove her to, in a very long line of them in the few months since I quit school to help her and my dad as they were overwhelmed and I worried for my dad’s health. I am still haunted by the fact that when she walked into the emergency room that day that we had no idea that she would never go home, or that it would be the last few steps of freedom she would ever take.

Her body barely recovered and we almost lost her at one point. She went in and out of a sleepy/coma-like state and lost the ability to walk. She slowly emerged and then on November 1st, we finally got the answer we were bugging her oncologist for – we were told that there were no treatment options. One of us must have asked what was next, if not chemo, because he started talking about “making her comfortable” and “managing her pain” and that he believed she may have as long as six months to live.

As was common at this point, Mom and I were alone when we got the news and after he left us we grieved as you might expect. We clung to each other and wept. I reassured her and she reassured me. I don’t really remember much more of the day. I know we told my dad, but I don’t remember it. I got home that night, and don’t remember much other than picking up the phone to resume my usual evening activity after spending time with her during the day — spend the next few hours on the phone with my siblings and Mom’s siblings and whoever else wanted an update. I knew I was lucky to be able to help her and it was important to me to relay the news, in whatever detail they needed, to family and friends.

The first person I reached was my Mom’s sister. Needless to say, this particular pronouncement required an excruciating retelling of every detail. She knew that I would be on the phone with this news for anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, explaining, reassuring and relaying requests and information to and from my Mom.

Mom’s sister offered at some point to make the calls so that Chooch and I could find some time to celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary, which was also that day. I was hesitant, but also in desperate need for a reprieve from it all.  I agreed and she promised to call my brother and sister as well as her brother. I didn’t know how much I needed to not be the messenger of this particular message any more, until she moment that she took the task from me.

Tangent: I can still remember seeing the bag of candy she had on her hospital table as we talked about what the oncologist talked. The day before had been Halloween, and she’d wanted to have candy to give out in case any kids that were stuck in the hospital were trick or treating. To my knowledge, the only trick or treater she had was my son L.T. He was eight years old. Once in his costume, we went to visit her again and she loaded him up. When I looked at that nearly full bag of candy the next day, I was thinking how impossibly wrong it was that her last Halloween was spent in the hospital. She always loved Halloween and the joy it brought kids, all kids. I still wonder if that thought occurred to her, too, the next morning as we hugged, cried and tried to make sense of it.

Back to my wedding anniversary night, and not even an hour passed before I got a call from my sister. I don’t even think we’d had time to decide whether to go out to dinner to celebrate or order in and coccoon. My baby sister (9 years younger) was crying inconsolably from my aunt’s call. Some of the information got confused and it scared the living hell out of her. At the time, my sister was living with her husband was in the Army and stationed in Texas while all the rest of us were in Virginia. She carried a lot of guilt about this, and it’s possible she still does. I really wish I could take that from her. Mom was over the moon that my sister was starting a new life married to the man she loves, rather than sitting in the hospital room, watching as she wasted away. Their mother/daughter bond was so strong, she never once questioned my sister’s love or loyalty. In typical fashion, Mom saw beyond herself and could only grin with joy for the happiness sis found and still finds with her husband of now nine years.

But when I heard the terror in my lil’ sister’s voice, I was immediately shamed. Yes, of course, I realize that I was entitled to a night off to catch my breath and stay sane and have some joy for ourselves. Just not at this price. I was grateful that she called, as the thought of having gone off for a romantic dinner while she sobbed desperately would have haunted me forever. Chooch and I agreed that it was more important that I untangle the information. I don’t even remember what exactly it was that upset everyone, it’s too deep in the shadows.

I soothed my sister and called my brother. Sure enough, he was reeling, as well. I again went over all the information and gave reassurances. I then called my mom’s brother and cleared up his questions. Finally, I called Auntie, to reiterate the information to her to make sure she understood, because what she relayed wasn’t completely accurate. I was frustrated, but never at her. After all, she’d just found out her big sis was really and truly dying now, of the same thing that took their mom and their grandmother before that. Her intentions were the very best and I remain grateful for the love she demonstrated by trying to give me a night off.

Hours later, I finished the last call and vowed to myself to never delegate that job again. Somehow, when there was something that needed to be done, I was able to push my fears and horror at what I was hearing and seeing to the side and get things done. Maybe it was because I was the one “in the trenches” with Mom, and in every way we were at war. It was every day.

A few days later, my parents celebrated their wedding anniversary. My dad snuck a bottle of wine into her hospital room and they had as romantic a dinner for two as possible. It was hard, lifting the mood before I left, but we all did our damnedest. I can’t imagine how bittersweet that dinner was, and I love them so much for celebrating their last anniversary.

Do you want to know what I think was the hardest? The cancer was already in her bones, had spread to her Mom’s skull, and we believe, to her brain. We aren’t sure because the scans and most non-life-supporting testing stopped. When it’s terminal, why continue putting her through it? We already knew from DNA testing that it was the breast cancer from 1991. It had returned and was in her colon, bones, stomach and skull. We knew she was going to die, just like her mom and her grandma had, from breast cancer.

Our suspicion that it spread to her brain was because she started losing memories, when her mind had always been sharp as a tack. Just another horrible degradation before she dies, why not? Grateful that you still have your mind while you’re dying from cancer and unable to walk? Not for long, with this disease. It’s when I first got a taste of the cruelty of a failing memory, at least as I experience it. You don’t get to choose who’s face you’ll forget. Hell, you don’t even get to remember that you forgot them to apologize later!

But the possible spread of cancer to my mom’s brain was confirmed, in my mind, by her question upon my arrival one day. The only silver lining was that LT was not at my side as he frequently was, since it was a school day.

Her question? When her oncologist would be coming to meet with her about resuming her chemo? The cancer was growing unchecked while we did nothing. Would I call him to her room to discuss it?

I froze. I blinked. The words made no sense. Wait, I thought, what’s wrong with my brain? Nothing. I just couldn’t accept what her question meant. Tears sprang to my eyes. She didn’t remember the death sentence she was given, weeks earlier. I don’t even think I took a breath.

I wanted to say, “Okay, Mom. I’ll get him here as soon as possible. Want a pedicure? How was breakfast?” Deflect, distract, redirect. Sure, it would be a lie. But it seemed like a kindness. Maybe she’d remember on her own? Was that kinder? Maybe, but I feared what would happen when she found out the truth. In my mind, it was more cruel to waste what little time we had left with deception and lies. She took great pride in being a strong woman. She hated lies and had never been a delicate flower in need of babying. She was NiNi, Warrior Queen, and she hid from nothing. Khaleesi, would’ve been more fitting, if she’d known the reference.

Yet… silence. No words came out. Just her looking up at me with those beautiful, trusting eyes.

Ah, yes, another blow, just so. I immediately understood. Our roles had switched. She was the innocent and helpless one now, and I was the one in charge (by family agreement) of protecting her. Keeping her safe. Casting out her fears. Comforting her.

But, how? She was my touchstone and my source of unconditional love, my central support beam my entire life. She was my mommy! Then, when I needed her more than I have ever needed her, to be stronger than I could ever hope to be on my own, I couldn’t reach for her hand to comfort mine.

In my head, I screamed, cried, kicked and fought against it all.
I refused.
I would not do it.
No way am I strong enough.
Nope, the doctor can come back and tell her.

Instead, I found myself holding her hands in my shaking ones as I told her, again. We cried as we had the first time, because to her, it was the first time. I don’t even know what I felt. I just curled up with her on the hospital bed, tightly clinging to each other, with vigilant and respectful eyes checking on us from the door from time to time by the palliative care staff. We grieved again.

And when she asked a few weeks later, I told her again. It’s foggy after that, I don’t know how many times I had to tell her, in total. I’m grateful that I was there for her, but she was drifting further and further away from me, one shimmery silvery wisp at a time.

By way of bringing it current, and possibly to a point (*gasp*), the intervening years has let go of our anniversary as a bittersweet day. I do think of Mom, but instead of sadness and tears from the hospital room, I now see her laughing and smiling with us at our wedding. I picture she and Chooch killing the bottle of Dom when my parents toasted our engagement. (Damn, she was adorable tipsy, although I rarely saw it.) I remember her teasing me that Chooch was using me to get to her because they were the true soul mates — straight faced and with a wickedly cocked eyebrow, as only she could do. And letting me know what I needed to know most, because she knew the three of us (my two sons and I) better than anyone else: that she approved of him as my husband and as step-dad to my sons.

She told us in a hundred different ways that she thought he was right for me/us, but most poignantly when she asked us to move up the wedding to ensure she would be alive to attend. We did, and she did. It was a chaotic and magnificent day that I treasure all the more because she was there. She was beatific, at peace over my sons and I with Chooch in our lives and the knowledge that my sister would be soon married to the love of her life. My brother and his wife were happy and strong. Everyone else was healthy. What more could a mother need to know before she dies?

She passed away in the wee hours of January 13, 2006, a little over three months after that walk in to the emergency room. She was 62. She and my father were together over four decades. She had three kids, seven grandkids and, since her passing, three great-grandkids. She wrote, painted, baked, worked gardened, taught, played and gave hugs that could make you forget why you needed one in the first place.


I’ve reclaimed November 1st as the celebration of love and family, as it’s intended. Chooch and I celebrate our love, our bond and our marriage, with number 10 later this year. Times are chaotic, but our love is like Valyrian steel baby, folded a thousand times in fire. Besides, Mom would kick my ass if I let anything get in the way of celebrating our anniversary. She certainly set the example on that one.

There are several songs that are intertwined with Mom in my mind. This is one of the most powerful. I didn’t find a video by Colin Hay for the song I first heard on the Garden State soundtrack, but this is my favorite of the fan submitted videos I viewed. I almost didn’t include it for fear of being accusations of being maudlin, overly sentimental or pity seeking, but…

Fuck that. I really miss my Mommy today. I’m going to treat my broken heart to a good cry.

“I just don’t think I’ll ever get over you”
Song by Colin Hays, formerly of Men at Work
Video submitted to youtube by EmjayTulip.And as always, Mom was right. Chooch is my soul mate. No one else could have given my laugh lines and wrinkles in the intervening years.

How To Destroy Angels at the Fillmore

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Music

I promised myself I would write a blog post for every concert I go to, after wishing I’d already been doing it. I’m doing a hit and run with no research, so consider yourselves warned!

Last night’s How to Destroy Angels (HTDA) concert was originally a present for Chooch’s 42nd birthday in March. He’s a huge Trent Reznor fan, dontchaknow.  I never got it on the calendar and it was only because of a brief Twitter break yesterday that we even stood a chance of attending. (Take that, Twitter critics!)

Because of work stuffs, Chooch was stuck late at work which resulted in us missing the opening act. That was a bummer since I almost always find great new music this way. We got there with about 20 minutes to spare, finding bathrooms, beverages and our spot. Just as we started to look around, the show started. Perfection!

This was my third time seeing Reznor, but my first seeing him with his new band. The visuals are what I’ve come to expect, brilliant and startling and overwhelming. Between the dizzying visuals and the intense music, I had to miss about half the show to closed eyes. The room pulsed and the audience was mesmerized. Occasional peeks made it clear that I was missing out on some serious eye candy, but it was either that or bolt and I was enjoying my hubby’s hand in mind as we swayed together to the amazing live music.

The lightness that his wife brought to the stage and the music is heavenly. Her voice was crystal clear, a shocking perfection that I repeatedly questioned if it was live or lip synch, but the emotion in her voice showed itself and I eventually just relaxed into it.

Although one of the shortest concerts of my life, partly due to our lateness and partly due to their short list of songs (to date), it was immensely enjoyable. Every concert I go to with Chooch is joyful, even when the acts aren’t great. But seeing him so happy last night, moving to his favorite musician’s music was exquisite.

For our new interest, I’m happy to add the Fillmore as a venue I’ve been to, as it’s clean, well-appointed and laid out and has ample parking in the area. I’d have loved some vid screens, as my height prevented a clear view of the stage, but we didn’t get a chance to really explore to see if there was a more comfortable place to watch. Next time!

Happy birthday, Chooch. I pledge my turtle love!