Vivid Mommy

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Breast Cancer, Chooch, Dizzy, Dizzy, Family, Friends, Mom, No Whining, Too Long For Twitter, Vestibular Migraine

Just like millions of other people, Mother’s Day is a rough one for me because my mother is deceased. I’m also a mom, which makes it a very bittersweet day. When you add that this year, for what I recall as the first time in 20 years, I won’t see any of our kids, it ensured that I’d be avoiding social media and anywhere that I’d be inundated with the message that I don’t want to be reminded of. Yep, I’m bitter. Then I realized I hadn’t checked in on friends since yesterday and decided to check Twitter and make sure all was well.

As expected, there was a deluge of Mother’s Day wishes being exchanged. One that really touched me was by friend and author Mur Lafferty: “PT has made me toast and yogurt and a can of selzer and brought it to me in bed. “i didn’t know how to make coffee.” I nearly cried.”

On the other end of the spectrum, brand new dad Cheyenne Wright posted “A bit out of sorts. This is the first chance I’ve had to celebrate a Mothers Day in 18 years.”

That one got me right in my vulnerable spot. I closed Twitter as I realized my dizziness had kicked in with an anxiety attack and now-standard accompanying trembles. It was not at all surprising if you understand my current health situation, and I cursed myself for logging in. My husband unwittingly helped my through the brunt of the symptoms (Hey Chooch, this is why I was upset earlier), but I still feel the need to share something about my Mom today. I don’t do this easily because:

  1. I’ve been told in extremely loving ways that I need to try and move on from grieving her as I do, out of concern that it may be unhealthy;
  2. I’ve been accused of talking about my Mom and/or my health issues to garner sympathy for some unknown purpose, either witnessed by me or as reported by others;
  3. I’m not entirely sure Mom would approve of what I want to share.

To those from item 1, I say a sincere thank you for your concern. But my highly remarkable Mom left a massive hole in my world, and it is simply taking a long time for me to heal. In some ways, I never will because I will always miss her. That’s simply the price of having a jewel like her for a Mom, and I’m willing to pay it. Know that I’m making progress and doing the best that I can, and you should feel free to delete any message, change the subject, or ignore any posts. I expect nothing from you when the need arises for me to talk about her.

To those from item 2, I say without hesitation ~ kiss my ass. You don’t understand me now and never did, regardless of what you may believe. Yes, yes, I know, “Never feed a troll,” as it only encourages them. But I’m tired of not defending myself when I’m being vilified and disrespected to those I care about. So I’m using this post to “balls up” and remind myself that my Mom didn’t raise me to be a doormat. In fact, she specifically counseled me on the need to stand up to some of the aforementioned “item 2” people. I feel no guilt over including this paragraph, because they will only be identified to themselves and to those that they’ve trash talked about me. It’s unlikely that most of them will ever read this, except for some that may be looking for ammunition, but this is my little corner of the internet and I’m tired of censoring myself when others won’t.

And for item 3, I mean that Mom would probably not like this picture because she’s not wearing makeup. She was intensely self-conscious and hid from cameras most of my life. I’m posting it anyways, because later in life she embraced her silly side in fantastic fashion and stopped running from cameras. Also, it’s one of my very favorite pictures of her, as it documents a very special moment in our lives.

The tiny hair clips were part of her 60th birthday gift from me. I had gotten a basket and decorated it with silk flowers and ribbons and filled it with brightly colored hair clips, ponytail holders, barrettes, hair bands and a tiara. I wanted to celebrate that the chemo for her newly diagnosed breast cancer wouldn’t make her hair fall out like it did when she battled it in ’91, and it was insanely fun (and cathartic) to pick them out in the girl/teen accessory section.

When we realized that some of the little clips matched her vibrantly colored shirt, my sister put her hair in the little twists that my then-early-teenaged nieces were known to wear for a time, and we couldn’t resist snapping a picture of the spontaneous hairstyle and her reaction to it. A few months later her chemo was changed because it wasn’t working, and her hair promptly fell out. Two and a half years later she was gone.

But I present you with photographic evidence that my Mom was highly remarkable. Even when faced for a second time with the same life-threatening disease that she watched eat away at her mother and grandmother until there was nothing left of them, she was still able to laugh. And when presented with a gift that in hindsight may have unkindly brought the cancer back to the forefront of her mind, she giggled and was delightfully silly. As only she could be.

I won’t exaggerate and say it was Great Bravery or Courage documented in this moment, because it wasn’t. It was just a silly and spontaneous moment. And damned if it’s not one of the most treasured moments of my life. Isn’t she glorious?
Funnest Mom Evah!

This post is written to honor my Mom, Nat, Jaimie, Terry and Zach ~ five people who are no longer with us that are at the forefront of my mind. The first three I miss terribly. The fourth and fifth I never met, but because of their impact on people that I dearly love, I desperately wish I had. You are missed.

Second Honeymoon

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Exercise, Half-Marathon, Knitting, No Whining, Soulful

We lucked into a fantastically cheap but very brief “weekend” away. It actually began Sunday and ended on Tuesday when we packed up and left gorgeous Virginia Beach. It’s pretty chilly and deserted in early March, which suited us fine because it also meant fewer people. Besides, you just cannot beat the view if you’re an ocean lover.

We’ve been through a lot in recent months, with a lot more coming up and needed to recharge our batteries. We had no plans upon our arrival, although we had some toys to entertain ourselves, and just wanted to “be” without any demands. I don’t think I tweeted or FB’d much, except for a few DM’s to keep plans on track. The bass we brought for my lesson sat untouched and we didn’t even open Game of Thrones.

We emerged from a nasty rain storm, but the weather almost immediately turned sunny with temps in the mid-50’s. Warm enough for us, to be sure. Our hotel was beautiful and we even got a free bump to a larger, oceanfront room due to a low vacancy rate.  After hanging on our balcony and enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the ocean and hanging in our room for a bit, we headed out for dinner at a place that I immediately envisioned Chooch’s band playing in, and would love to wave a magic wand and make that happen. (Ditched by Kate tours Virginia Beach? Sounds good to me!) We headed back and settled in for the night, door thrown open to hear the ocean in spite of the cold.

The next morning, I arose and headed out for a run. It was the single most invigorating run of my life, what with the view, the biting wind, and ocean sounds. My pace really suffered because I kept stopping to take pictures. With our “no plans” rule, I wasn’t sure that I’d make it back out with Chooch before we left so I took full advantage of having remembered my little all-weather camera.

I even found the spot from 2 (or was it 3?) years ago when I did a break-neck paced drive to Virginia Beach with a visiting friend from New Mexico. She’d never seen an ocean before, and I found that unacceptable. On the last day of her visit, we had just enough time to race down here, play in the sand for 15 minutes or so, and then race back to Reagan airport for her flight back home. It was a deliciously fun time, and reminded me of my teenage years where no plan was too crazy.

After my run yesterday, I inadvertently woke up Chooch when I returned to the room to stretch out my tight muscles. I ran for a bit on the sand for the first time, but even tougher was running into the very strong winds. My skin was very smooth after the sandblasting it got, but I don’t recommend it.

We got moving, and headed down for our complimentary restaurant breakfasts. (Did I mention this trip was cheap? That was partly due to breakfast being served until 11, which we decided meant we only had to pay for one meal each day.)

Chooch had some stuff going on at work, so we headed up to the room so he could plug in the laptop and get to it. We then remembered a beautiful spot next to the restaurant with an internet cafe/work stations so he grabbed his work stuff and I grabbed my knitting and we sat in this beautiful seating area with a wall of beach and ocean in front of us. Way better than a wall with a TV, don’t you think?

After that was done, we headed out to the aquarium. This is something that we do in every city we visit that has one, a tradition we started while dating with an aquarium on the Oregon Coast when I first visited him in 2002. Although it’s not terribly huge, we spent hours because we love marine life so much. Seals, jellyfish, sharks, rays, coral and all manner of underwater life were beautiful and charming as expected. I’d say the otters were the most fun to watch as they frolicked and played as only they can, but we also have a special affinity for turtles. My favorite was seeing both a pair of cardinals and the seahorses, for the significance they hold for me. <3

At this point, we were starving and we grabbed a tasty dinner and headed back to the hotel with some ice cream for later. (The room had a mini-fridge.) We chilled out with the ocean sounds serenading us and eventually we … well … it was romantic and all … so … we couldn’t resist… recording our podcast, Into the Blender. HA! You thought you were going to get some naughty time info, didn’t you? Not gonna happen, loveys! What happens in Virginia Beach stays in Virginia Beach. Mostly.

We actually are behind on our self-imposed bi-weekly schedule, partly because of my impromptu trip to Arkansas and partly due to social gatherings we committed to before I knew I would be traveling. So we sat and recorded enough content for either a two hour episode or three 45-ish minute episodes. The editing goal will be three episodes, which pleases me. I like having buffer for exactly the type of events that delayed our release this time.

Tuesday morning, I woke early, started writing this post and headed back to bed for a bit. We eventually got up, got ready for the day and grabbed our tasty free breakfast again. I grabbed some waffle sections from the buffet, and couldn’t help but giggle when the sign said “waffle sticks” as it brought to mind the South Park “fish sticks” bit. I shared that with hubby, and we recited the funniest joke of all time, slightly modified.

Joke Teller: “Do you like waffle sticks?”
Butt of Joke: “Yes.”
Joke Teller: “So you like to put waffle sticks in your mouth?”
Butt of Joke: “Yes.”
Joke Teller: “You are a gay waffle.”

Yes, that’s how my mind works on a romantic weekend. And yes, you should pity Chooch.

We then went for a walk on the beach, the first one for Chooch since we arrived. We went up to water’s edge, but I chose not to put my toes in considering how cold it was. We were bundled up in heavy coats and the wind was strong and stinging. We took some photos and walked along the beach as I wanted to show him a Neptune sculpture further down the boardwalk.

We chatted, cleaned up some trash on the beach and met a beautiful and loving dog that was being walked by the family that rescued him from near death by an abusive owner. The dog, Russell, was part Akita and part … breeds I don’t recall. Lookit, he was sweet and beautiful, I was distracted. Check out the photos below to see how he looks now. Shockingly, he was only 17 pounds when the family rescued him a few years ago and is now healthy and content with just a few remaining behavioral issues, none of which we witnessed. I’d have never guessed how terrible a start he’d had in this life if they hadn’t told us.

Being so close to the air base, every time a plane went overhead Chooch would look up and announce what type it was. After marveling at the Neptune statue, we made our way back to the car. It was a beautiful ending to our trip, as Chooch drove home and we hammered out some story ideas.

Home now, I refuse to sulk that it’s over. Instead, I choose to be joyful that we had this time away from most of the demands of our life and I feel even more in love and dedicated to my husband than ever before. I already was, but somehow feel those things even stronger, which I didn’t think was possible. We just needed to unclench from the stress we were feeling and experiencing and knew this was our only chance for a very long time. We also knew we’d never be able to do it this cheaply again, so dove in.

I feel more than grateful for him and our life together, and suggest that if you can steal a few moments away for yourself, either with or without a loved one, just to luxuriate in unstructured playtime, you should definitely do it. Take a day or two and slow down, sleep, relax and just be. It will serve you beautifully, at least it has for us.

I’ve loaded a bunch of photos (90 or so), about a quarter of those we took. There are also some videos. Most of the collection is from the Virginia Aquarium at Virginia Beach. Note: The very last photo is prolly NSFW or kids, but it is jokey in nature. I’ve marked it as restricted, but you’ll be able to view it if you click that you want to.

Going Off Preventative Meds

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Dizzy, Health, No Whining

I was all ready to go into the doctor’s appointment and fight for his approval in going off the two preventative medications that I’m currently on to combat my vestibular migraines (dizziness, migraines, fatigue, occasional nausea when the dizziness is extreme). I was actually disappointed when he didn’t argue. It seems we’ve exhausted the meds I can take that won’t wreak havoc on other minor health issues I have. I think he was disappointed as well, because he wasn’t able to give me relief after all this time. I actually felt kinda bad by the end of it, as if I were firing him which isn’t the case. I still feel like he’s done and is doing everything possible. I haven’t completely decided if I’ll return to him or seek a new neurologist of this continues. I’ll likely do both.

We worked out a plan for the next three months: I’m to wean off one medication over the next 2 weeks. Then I start to wean down off the other over a couple weeks. Then we just wait and see what happens. It could take a month or so from that point for all that stuff to be out of my system and to be able to get a clear baseline as things stand now.

If it’s bad, I can go back and try something else, but for now I’ve got an appointment in February to discuss the results. This allows three months to wean down and “normalize”. I’ve also got a non-prescription route I can try before returning to him. And there’s acupuncture, which I’m leery of but know folks that have had great results.

For for those keeping score, this change will remove two medications for a total of five pills a day. I will hopefully be able to drop 3 other daily pills and an every-other-day pill that are needed for side effects. *crossing fingers*

I’m really excited to see if this change also lifts the persistent brain fog or if that is part of the condition or whatever it is that I have. I’m really tired of feeling stupid for not being able to remember things or make simple mental maneuvers.

And yes, I’m nervous about what I’ll be dealing with when the meds are out of my system. As I told my doctor, it’s possible that the medications are tremendously helpful and I just don’t know it. While I’m hopeful that the condition resolved itself already and that it’s the pills (with listed side effects of dizziness and headaches) making me feel so crappy, I know that it’s more likely that they are not. But it’s been a year, and I feel I have to try, especially since nothing has allowed life to resume normally.

One interesting tidbit – interesting to me, at least: One of the things the doc always does is a test of my balance, motor skills, eye movements, etc.,. It’s simply done in the room, and I was pretty proud that I was able to do everything with coordination, including standing still with my eyes closed. I felt like I stood stock still, like a soldier at attention. Chooch informed me later that this was not so. Apparently, I was swaying dramatically. I didn’t even feel it. Now I’m left to wonder how much my body automatically compensates for the dizziness after all this time, and how accustomed I’ve become that I don’t even notice something like swaying. Crazy.

Pulp Fiction (94)

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: AFI's Top 100 Movies, Movies

In spite of my usual aversion to splattery violence, I have loved this movie since I first saw it oh-so-many years ago. Chooch and I watched it last week with our nineteen year old son, and it was his first viewing. He was sitting at a location that allowed us to see his reactions to the many shocking scenes, and it was entertaining to behold.

There are many extremely talented actors in the film, and one or two popular actors that in my opinion don’t typically stretch their acting muscles beyond their usual character type. Somehow, Tarantino was able to pull amazing performances out of each of them as well. Makes me wonder if I would like Tom Cruise in a Tarantino film…?

Pulp Fiction is an amazing film that I’ve seen several times, however seeing my son’s reactions to the more surprising scenes, like the mess Vincent makes of the backseat of the car and the adrenaline shot given to Mrs. Wallace, made it seem like watching it for the first time again.

As an aside, I do love Tim Roth so very much, and will watch him in anything. Yes, that includes the weird veiny creature he was turned into in the latest Hulk movie. And in my dreams he calls *me* honey bunny.

This is a movie I will watch again and again, because the human story interwoven makes the gore and violence seem less graphic somehow. It is an exception to my usual low tolerance for violence, and it absolutely belongs on the AFI list. I need to peek at Christiana and Mike’s updated list to see how it compares for me in their ranking, but I plan on waiting until watching the movie in spot number 91 on the list, and every tenth movie after that.

Next up is French Connection, which has arrived from Netflix. I’ll be waiting for hubby to watch it with me, so it may not be viewed until the coming weekend. I’ve never seen it, but have of course heard of it. Other than an epic car chase, I don’t know anything else. And I’m fuzzy on whether or not there’s actually a car chase.

Back in the Saddle Again, Metaphorically Speaking.

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: 5k, Chooch, Dizzy, Exercise, Health, Kaylee

If you’ve been reading about my health issues here, then you know how disgusted I am with the recently lost weight starting to creep back. I started walking again a few months ago, but it has been hit or miss. I get so dizzy that I don’t like to go by myself, and it was too much of a time investment for Chooch in the mornings before work. Yes, it has to be in the morning since he frequently doesn’t get home until 8 or 9 p.m., too late for us.

I’ve not been able to get started on any other work out plan, because I don’t enjoy anything as much as I enjoy running. Period. So after a lot of thought, I decided to re-start the Couch to 5k program, again using Robert Ullrey’s podcast. This will be the third time, and I really enjoy it. Chooch and I both had a lot of success with the slow ramp up of running time, so I broached him about doing it with me. Partially because I know he’s frustrated, and partially because of my fear of running alone. He was hesitant because of some issues with his previously sprained ankle, but otherwise jumped at the idea.

We’re on our third week now, and I am loving it. We spend more time huffing and puffing than talking, so I miss that aspect of the change from walking to running. But I just love having the time with him regardless of what we’re doing. We take Kaylee along and she is getting conditioned along with us. She loves it, and has gotten very well-behaved on the runs. Okay, so she still goes crazy if a bird, cat or squirrel get close to us, but otherwise she’s doing great. She  hardly reacts when passing barking dogs or other runners/walkers now.

Even though it’s Week 3, we re-started Week 2 since weather and special projects prevented us from doing the 3rd day last week. We are also both dealing with sore ankles from previous sprains. We are babying them, but don’t intend to stop unless there is actual pain.

I am okay for about the first half of the run, but somewhere around the midpoint I usually get dizzy. It increases to the point of nausea almost every time, but I’m not stopping. Truth is, I’ll be dizzy either way, and this feels way better than not moving does. Plus, I take great pride in the fact that we’ve fully completed each session.

I’ve not had much weight loss, only about 5 pounds, but I don’t care. I’m converting fat to muscle, my heart is pumping, it helps with stress management and I feel like I’m less of a shut-in when I do it. Yes, I’m dizzy for hours afterward. Yes, I still get migraines. I don’t expect this to really help my migraine issues, but by improving my overall health I am giving my body a treat unlike any other. I’m also enjoying more energy during the day, which is major since I’ve had near constant fatigue along with this entire health dealie. Not as much as before, but more than I’ve had for months.

I’m so grateful to Chooch for going with me on the runs. He pushes me to speed up when I’m struggling just to maintain my speed, all the while keeping a watchful eye to make sure I don’t push too hard. If I had been solo, I would have started Week 3 even though I wasn’t ready, but he insisted we do Week 2 again. He was right, but don’t tell him I said so, m’kay?

Blade Runner (97)

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: AFI's Top 100 Movies, Chooch

We watched Blade Runner (1982) last night. I’ve seen it before, but that was over 20 years ago. No, I’ve not watched it again since then. (Don’t judge me, I’ve been busy.)

I remembered the key elements – Replicants, Daryl Hannah doing gymnastics, Rutger Hauer looking fierce and Harrison Ford. *sigh* (Yes, I’m one of the kajillion girls that had a crush on him. I even watched the Frisco Kid every time it was on TV in spite of my mild aversion to Gene Wilder.)

I found the movie much more enjoyable this viewing, and picked up on a LOT more story than I caught the first time. This makes me wonder if I’d ever watched the ENTIRE movie before. It bears pointing out that Joanna Cassidy, who has been in a lot of movies but is not likely a household name (Christina Applegate’s boss in “Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead”, if that helps), had a killer body.

Ridley Scott directed, and visually it’s a very beautiful and striking movie. I giggled at the fact that it’s set in the year 2019, only 9 years away from now. It also starred Edward James Olmos and Sean Young (before she went crazy for Cat Woman). She had a very touching moment, and I had forgotten that she’s actually a pretty good actor.

My favorite line is probably Rachel’s “I’m not in the business. I am the business.”

For a more thorough and thoughtful discussion, head over to “Watch 100 Movies”, the podcast that inspired our viewing of AFI’s Top 100 Movies.

Ben Hur (100), Toy Story (99) and Yankee Doodle Dandy (98)

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: AFI's Top 100 Movies, Chooch, Movies

As I mentioned in a previous post, Chooch and I are following behind Christiana Ellis and Mike Meitin in their quest to watch all 100 of the AFI Top 100 Movies.

We use Netflix, with Chooch and I each having our own queue. It’s worked beautifully, and we always have something wonderful waiting for us. It’s very rare that something comes for one that the other doesn’t want to watch, but it does happen.

Since I was inspired to finally watch these by Christiana and Mike’s new podcast series, I decided to take the hit on my Netflix queue for whatever we don’t already own, and while updating my Netflix queue I made the following discoveries:

  • I’ve already seen 47 of the top 100. We’ve decided to re-watch them, to decide if we agree with the ranking.
  • The Color Purple is not on the list. I’m sure people will disagree, but I’m extremely disappointed.
  • Little Big Man is another shocking admission from the list.
  • The Godfather, Parts I (#2) and II (#32) are both on the list. I completely agree with Part I, but I have to wonder about Part II. Especially with the two movies I listed above being absent. It’s not that it wasn’t good, I just don’t remember it being SO good that it merits being on the list. I’ll revisit this item when I view it again.
  • I’m very excited to finally see some of the movies that Hollywood legends starred in. I’ve never seen a Buster Keaton movie, nor an entire Charlie Chaplin or Marx Brothers’ film. Many of the movies caused me to squee as I added them, because I’m excited to finally have an excuse to watch them.

On to my thoughts on the first three that we’ve viewed.

#100 – Ben Hur
This was my first viewing, and the first thing I’ll admit is that I had no clue how entrenched it is in the story of Christ. The lives of Jesus Christ and Judah Ben Hur intersect at a few points, and many events in Judah’s life are put into motion because of Christ. At one of their meetings, I began to wonder if the tiny seedling of inspiration for the Forrest Gump concept started here. This is a very long 212 minute movie. By that I mean it seemed like it took a lot longer than 212 minutes to watch. I loved the grandness of the film and some elements of the story truly moved me. While I can see how this was a ground-breaking movie in 1959, it is not a movie I plan on ever watching again.

#99 – Toy Story
No big surprise, but I’ve viewed this movie dozens of times. I saw it in the theater when it was released, and have watched it when my kids played it at home. I really do love this movie, and like many of my generation and younger, I can recite whole sections of dialog. I did learn one new thing, which was that Joss Whedon was one of the folks that wrote the screenplay.

#98 – Yankee Doodle Dandy
I hadn’t seen and knew nothing about this movie, other than that my friend Leslie LOVES it. While there were some very touching points in the movie, in general I was underwhelmed. I even questioned why it was on the list since I could think of a few musicals that are better (in my opinion) that are NOT on the list.

I was pretty annoyed, so hit up Wikipedia for some background and discovered that it is based on a real person, George M. Cohan. I had assumed that the famous songs were born in this musical, but learned that he wrote them, including  “Over There”, “Give My Regards to Broadway,” and “The Yankee Doodle Boy.” The same article states “he is considered the father of American musical comedy”. Those things, coupled with what must have been a grand production in 1942 made me understand why this film was so important. While I don’t plan any additional viewings (Sorry, Leslie), I certainly understand it’s existence on the list.

My favorite line from the movie occurs upon the birth of George M. Cohan when his Irish father announces “He’s crying with a brogue!”.

I apologize if I’m re-hashing anything Christiana and Mike already mentioned. I’m still on the fence as to whether or not I want to post my thoughts before or after listening to their coverage, so have not listened yet.

Next up, Bladerunner!

One Hundred Movies, Finally

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: AFI's Top 100 Movies, Chooch, Movies

I’m happy to report that I’ve finally started watching the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Movies, and I owe my thanks to Christiana Ellis. Chooch and I have talked about going through the list before but we never actually started. Now that Christiana has started her new podcast endeavor, Watching 100 Movies, we’ve finally gotten started.

Christiana and her usual partner in media consumption discussions, Mike Meitin, have already released three episodes discussing the first six films (numbers 100 through 95). We are behind their schedule, but have now gotten our Netflix queue in order to hopefully catch up, but at least follow along. We’ve watched 100 – 98, and I thought I’d give short posts on my thoughts of the movies. I’m hoping this will keep me from getting too far behind, or from stopping when a cluster of unappealing movies are next. There, now I have accountability.

My next post will be about the first three movies on the list. Before that, I thought I’d briefly tell you about my movie tastes.

  • I love movies, especially in the theater. I think the suspension of any interruption to be almost necessary for immersion into the world that I’m watching, except for the most exceptional films.
  • I will see anything and everything starring Kevin Spacey, Audrey Hepburn, Johnny Depp, Sandra Bullock and Denzel Washington. I’m sure there are others, but these are the first that come to mind.
  • I love some musicals, including “West Side Story”, “My Fair Lady”, “Moulin Rouge” and “Sunday in the Park with George”.
  • I find war movies, all of them, particularly difficult to watch. While I’m not a pacifist, I do have great difficulty watching mass numbers of humanity get blown to pieces. Empathy/sympathy/whatever overwhelms me and so it is extremely rare that I’m able to get past that to enjoyment.
  • This same issue is why I have trouble with some other films, such as “Meet The Fockers”, “Falling Down” and “Pursuit of Happyness”. I never finished watching any of these. In fact, since the standard theme in Ben Stiller movies is for terrible thing after terrible thing to happen in a ridiculously long string of unlucky events, I also tend to avoid his movies. I find that the continual beating down of a character unenjoyable, even when I know that eventually the tide will likely turn to his or her favor.
  • That said, I have a particular love of dramas. When a film or actor’s performance is able to reach out and touch my soul in a resonating way? Heavenly, even if I’m sobbing.

Expect a post sometime this week on films 100 (Ben Hur), 99 (Toy Story), and 98 (Yankee Doodle Dandy).

Thanks to Christiana and Mike for motivating us to finally watch all these movies!

Balticon 44 Part 3 (Final) – Sunday and Monday

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Convention Attendance, Dizzy, Friends, Podcast, Uncategorized

Sunday was an extremely rough day with dizziness, disorientation and migraine but in hindsight I’m lucky it was the only full day of it. Still, I missed a hell of a lot of amazing things and I can’t wait for all the recordings to hit the feeds.

Chooch slept in, so I headed out solo. I started the day right by grabbing lunch with P.G. and Christiana, again at Baja Fresh. We chatted about a variety of things and it was the kick-start I needed to get my brain energized and ready to tackle the day. I can neither confirm nor deny that there was plotting for Balticon 45.

I finally made it to the Dealer’s Room, sort of. I actually only made it to the Dragon Moon Press table, where the paparazzi was in full effect. In other words, a group of us were standing all in a group so pictures were snapped. Did I mention that I love my friends?

Sadly, farewells began again on Sunday, as Doug “Geek Acres” Rapson departed. I had missed the DS Breakfasts because I ended up on an opposite schedule, and found that we really didn’t have much time to catch up. I made a point of finding him in the lobby before he left and am very glad I did. Somewhere there are pictures, but I can’t find them right now on Flickr and I don’t have any in my sets 🙁

There were so many folks in the lobby, that I ended up spending quite a bit of time there chatting with folks and gathering more author signatures for the books we had picked up over the last year. It was at this time that I discovered my ability to summon J.R. Blackwell by simply tweeting her name! Sadly, this only appears to work while at Balticon since my subsequent attempts have failed.

Happily I was given a spot on the schedule to record an episode of my new podcast, Girls’ Rules. I took advantage of some of the amazing authors at the con by asking Philippa Ballantine, J.R. Blackwell, Christiana Ellis and Mur Lafferty to join me. Color me surprised, they all agreed! I was not feeling my best, but was energized by the panelists and the full audience. I found the discussion to fascinating as the women gave their different points of view and experiences as female authors and podcasters. Yes, I’m extremely biased but have gotten the same opinion from others. I was also encouraged by the support they gave the project and look forward to living up to their kind words. I haven’t posted it yet because the file we got from the official equipment was only two minutes long. Luckily, Chooch had recorded it with our H4N but he’s been working on improving the audio as much as possible before posting.

I completely fell apart shortly after the panel from relief, dizziness and then my brain just went *POOF*. I ended up grabbing dinner at Outback with Chooch, Jett, Helen, Patrick, P.G. and Zach. It was a great time and fascinating conversation, but I did have  some disorientation, confusion and fatigue. I was really having trouble following the conversation at times, and formulating responses. I was just keeping my mouth shut for the most part as my dear friends and husband knew something was up already, and I didn’t want to worry anyone.  I had resigned myself to napping as soon as possible, as that is one thing that sometimes gives relief. I bumped into Bruce Press and his AMAZING family, and let me just say that if any of them ever want to show you a picture of something they found in their hotel room you should RUN, not walk away.

Having a solid meal helped, so in spite of how I was feeling I went to the Grow Up New Media panel. I was curious to see how this panel went, as there was talk about it being very caustic towards podcasters that are supportive of new media productions regardless of their “quality”. I was intrigued by this because, if true, it didn’t seem to take the purely personal opinion of the podcaster in the hot seat into account. Who’s to judge that something I enjoy is “bad”? Chooch and I already only support podcasts and novels that we enjoy, and only minimally promote things purely out of friendship.

In I went braced for insults, and instead got hit in the face by logic I couldn’t really argue with from Evo Terra. And it was on the subject of the annual NaNoWriMo program. He pointed out that the point of NaNoWriMo is to see if you are able to write a novel, and questioned why someone that won would need to do NaNo again. If you have already proven you can, then just write another novel. Simple, right? I had been on a panel the day before discussing NaNo and my possible plans to do it again in the future. Add to that the fact that I haven’t even finished my first edits on the one I wrote last year, and I now have a lot to think about. Judge me all you want, the community support for NaNo participants is addictive and having a deadline with public accountability definitely helped to keep me motivated.

I hit rock bottom about halfway into the panel, and headed back to take a nap in our room. Chooch headed off to Living Proof, a meet-up with home brewers and ale connoisseurs held by Thomas “cmdln” Gidon and John Taylor Williams. This was one of the many conflicts for me over the weekend, because in spite of my dislike for beer of any kind I happen to genuinely adore Thomas and John. Sleep won out so I napped until eleven or so, and I’m really glad I did.

Chooch was staying at Living Proof longer than we had planned, so I headed over to Books and Braun solo. I still felt pretty disoriented and wandered around a bit in a daze before grabbing a seat. Pip and Tee were giving a hell of a good reading, and even popped the cork to celebrate their announcement of the publication of Books and Braun in 2011! It was going swimmingly until someone in the audience decided to grind the panel to a halt to make a phone call during their show to spread the news. Tee and Pip handled the interruption and resumed the fun. Congratulations to them both as they launch the book and also the newest phase of their relationship. I wish them every happiness that can be found in this world!

I returned to our room and P.G. had some folks gathered for a party. I talked Zach into coming in with me, and felt guilty for doing so as he immediately became the insult gauge for some “jokes”. Yes, I’m very protective of my friends and I wouldn’t have invited him in had I known that would be his greeting. After a brief time he headed out as he had originally planned since he had a very early flight, so we said our goodbyes.

The rest of the party was a lot of fun and I finally got to chat with some friends I really enjoy including Patrick and Brent, to name a few. I even got to meet even more amazing women, including Sheila Dee. If you don’t know who I mean, I’ll be describe her by saying that Evo Terra is lucky enough to be her husband. (She had introduced herself as Evo’s wife, and I told her we needed to shake that description up a bit). She is a real pleasure, and I’m glad we finally had a chance to get to know each other. I briefly chatted with author Gail Carriger, and am really looking forward to reading her highly acclaimed books. I also got to actually meet and chat with Starla Hutchton. I’d heard her name before as two friends had mentioned her beautiful singing voice, and she was also there at the pre-dawn concert Phil gave the night before in the hotel courtyard. As we talked I found out she also has a novel she has been podcasting and based solely on how much I enjoyed our chat, I’ve already added it to my listening pile. That’s saying something because I came out with a much shorter list than in either of the previous two years. After looking at her “Cast” page, I have no idea how I missed hearing about it, as I have several friends on the list as well as following several others’ projects.

The party grew, and the room ended up pretty packed. Since we were on the ground floor we spilled out onto the balcony and stairs. We again welcomed the sunrise in the company of friends, and then headed off to bed.

Favorite Moments:

  • Dave Slusher wearing his Prom King sash.
  • Becoming smitten with Starla’s new baby. Thank you, technology.

Defeats By Nature (Either mine or witnessed by me):

  • Guest Eating Shrub – I witnessed and assisted on the rescue.
  • Slippery Grass of Doom – I witnessed several after my own defeat.
  • Evil Day Star – Me, my roomies, and The Hobo.

Monday

Heartbreak. As awesome as Friday is with the joy of seeing old and new friends, is as crappy as Monday is with the departures of amazing people, most of whom you won’t see until next May.

Visiting in the lobby, that’s what it was all about for me. I didn’t make it anywhere else once I got there, as I was not only saying goodbyes, but also doing brief interviews with women for upcoming Girls’ Rules episodes. There are tons of photos in Flickr as people departed. After several hours, we finally headed out to grab a late lunch at Noodle & Co. with a quite large group.

I was feeling extremely sick, and it was my own fault. I hadn’t eaten anything other than 100 calorie snack bar since the night before and it was after 3 pm before we left the hotel to eat. Once fed, I noticed that Chooch and I weren’t the only ones hoping to extend the experience just a bit longer as folks lingered over their empty plates while chatting. More photos, and pretty much the only real chat time with Scott Philips, Nutty, and Nathan.

I was sad for those that I didn’t get to spend time with, but that’s unfortunately the nature of con attendance. While I was sad to say goodbye to everyone, I was excited to head home because our oldest son cleared his schedule to have dinner with us to celebrate his nineteenth birthday.

As was true after last years’ Balticon and Dragon*Con, as we pulled out of town it started raining. I’m still trying to remember when the rain actually started in 2008…

Favorite Moments:

  • Being pleasantly surprised by someone that I’m no longer very close with, even though it ended up just being fodder for insult by another. Lesson learned once and for all, as I’m now DONE with that endless source of negativity.
  • Holding hands with Baby Seidman, as she was nestled on Carrie’s shoulder.
  • Receiving a lovely purple wildflower that Elf Princess had picked.

Note: While I’ve decided to never take this much time to write a recap post, I have to admit it would have likely been twice as long had I remembered every special moment and genuinely fascinating encounter from the weekend. I want to thank everyone that I interacted with virtually and especially in person over the weekend, because that helped to shape my experience. Whether it was wonderful, unpleasant (yes, there were a few), awkward, inspirational or just a shy moment, I thank you.

Balticon 44 Part 2 – Saturday

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Convention Attendance, Cool Links / Clicky Linky, Dizzy, Friends, Podcast, Uncategorized

Saturday started rough for me, I was feeling pretty lousy and slept in past a breakfast as well as the first two of the three hours of the Master’s Audio Session with John Taylor Williams, Dan Sawyer and Arioch Morningstar that Chooch was moderating. I finally made it in for the last hour or so and found the conversation was waa-aaay over my head. I’m not surprised having missed the first two hours, but I loved seeing some of my favorite guys up there being all big-brained and what-not.

Afterward, we headed up to Heather’s room to meet with the cast of the Metamor City Live that was being recorded later in the day. There we found Heather, Marc Bailey, Kim Fortuner and Chris Lester running lines much to the amusement of Grailpup (Heather and Marc’s 13 month old son). He was fascinated as the reading went on, it was adorable.

We then returned to catch the rest of the New Media to Old panel with Phil Rossi, Bill DeSmedt, Nathan Lowell, Christiana Ellis and Brand Gamblin. The room was glistening with awesome, and I grabbed Bill for a signature and photo with Chooch. Bill DeSmedt is the author of Singularity, which is a fantastic novel dealing with intrigue, black holes and captivating characters. It’s tough to track down a copy as it’s out of print, but he has podcast it and his narration is fantastic! I met him last year, and while Chooch was a huge fan I had not listened yet. This year I went a bit fangirl because I loved it and his follow-up podcast explaining some of the more complex scientific concepts in Doctor Jack’s Soapbox Seminars.

Realizing we hadn’t eaten, we lucked into a trip to Baja Fresh with Christiana Ellis and Dave Slusher. These two peeps are the bee’s knees and while I did get some time with both of them, I left Balticon WANTING MORE! (Yes, I’m greedy.)

We hurried back to ensure that we would have seats for Jared Axelrod’s new podcast launch of “Fables of the Flying City”, and I’m so glad we did! I was really excited, because of not having been to a tea party of any sort since it involved a toy set and imaginary tea. Jared delivered a tea party that made up for that lapse. We were served tea of our choosing and dessert by a fabulously outfitted cast that included his wife J.R. Blackwell and friends Jennifer Rodgers and Russell Collins. Jennifer is an amazing artist, someone whose beautiful work I have followed and Russell is a brilliant composer. You may recall he wrote the “Aliens You Will Meet” theme and also the music for the new podcast of Jared’s. We were treated to a grand announcement of Jared’s publication in the fall of a graphic novel for the series he is now podcasting the prequel for.

At four p.m. was the NaNoWriMo for Noobs panel that I suggested. Chooch moderated for me again, as I was overtired and a bit nervous about taking the lead. We were joined by Mur Lafferty, P.G. Holyfield and Nathan Lowell. I had asked Zach Ricks to attend as I had wanted him on the panel but there was concern about the number of participants. I carefully chose for a balance of professional writers and non-writers, and those that had won or not won a NaNoWriMo challenge. In addition, nearly all on the panel had provided community sort in one way or another whether simply through Twitter support or via blog or podcast. I was thrilled to discover that Lee Budar-Danoff, a representatives from the Maryland NaNoWriMo group, had found the panel and joined us with some of her associates. They were able to provide more in-depth information about that and the Young Writer’s Program. Once the audio for this and the other panels I participated in is posted, I’ll link to it from my blog.

Our friend Pat, aka Fantastic Foe from our City of Heroes Podcast, invited us to a surprise birthday for his wife Lisa, so we headed to the Con Suite for the celebration. They very generously donated a huge cake for our new media party later that night. It was delicious and GREATLY appreciated! Happy Birthday to Lisa!

We then headed up for Chris Lester’s Metamor City Live reading, along with Chris, Heather Welliver, Philippa Ballantine, Gail Carriger (author of “Soulless” and “Changeless”), Dan Sawyer, Kim Fortuner, Marc “Grailwolf” Bailey. The story was brilliant and funny, and I was incredibly flattered to be included again this year. Luckily, my part was at the very beginning because I started feeling pretty damn sick about halfway through.

I faded pretty quickly, and hubby decided food would help so off we went to Noodle & Company. I’m a bit foggy on the details, but this may have been the trip that included Christiana, Rich and Susan along with a whole other crowd that was there when we arrived. I split off for a nap in the room, and ended up just resting and catching up with Patrick as he finally arrived and was getting ready for the book launch party.

Chooch and I then went to the book launch party for P.G. Holyfield, Patrick McLean and Nathan Lowell, but shortly thereafter Chooch went off to start grabbing gear for the concert at 9 pm.  I luckily got a seat even though I missed the first few minutes and was just in time to listen as they read from each others books. First, Nate read “The Vampire in My Attic” from Patrick’s book “Stories I Told Myself”. Then, P.G. read “The Old Dog” from the same book. Ironically, these were two of my favorites so I was tickled pink! Patrick then read a passage from Nate’s “Quarter Share” and Nate read a the first scene from P.G.’s “Murder at Avedon Hill”. It was absolutely riveting hearing these stories in the voices of the other authors. Each of them has a unique and masterful touch when narrating, and it was a real treat for all in the room. It seemed the authors felt the same way. Sadly, you will never hear this if you weren’t in the room, because they didn’t record the event.

After the book launch, it was FINALLY time to watch the Phil Rossi and the Awakening concert. Yes, I’m a fan of Phil’s music and would have attended either way, but Chooch had just joined the band and I was crazy excited to see my man play bass in a band for the first time. He was understandably feeling stress, as he had about a week and a half to learn all of the songs and because the concert was only the third time he had played with them. For some reason, the previous act went well into our time, so by the time they left the stage and the band was set up it was about half an hour late. Lookit, I admit that I’m biased, but I loved the music and thought they sounded great!

I was able to catch almost a half hour, but had to leave to start setting up for the new media party that Chooch and I were throwing. I was pretty pissed at the earlier band for taking so much time away from my enjoyment, but off I went with some of my Prom Committee members to set up. Many thanks to Bruce Press and Tim Dodge for breaking down the camcorder and bringing it to me at the party!

The folks that came and helped with the prom set-up were AMAZING. People had volunteered to help, and they really came and worked their asses off! There were so many that I thanked that night, but am afraid to list them here for fear of missing someone. I feel extremely grateful to have so many people that are willing to frantically pitch in to make the party a success, and we TRULY could not have done it without their help. In addition, about a week before the party after Chooch and I had sunk hundreds of dollars into it, we finally did as had been suggested and started a chip-in to help offset costs and to make sure we had food for everyone to enjoy. The huge amount of donations we received rejuvenated our efforts to make this the best possible party and off we went spending again! For the donors, you can look around the room and see the difference you made, and I thank you on behalf of the attendees as well as Chooch and myself!

The party was a success, and we crowned Dave Slusher as Prom King and Helen “Cynical Woman” Madden as Prom Queen as they came in first place in the costume contest. May their reign be long and geeky! There are MANY pictures from the prom in flickr from other folks, sadly I was too busy to take my camera out at all. My friend Dan Tabor of many cool things, including Geekadelphia, took these photos for me, before and during the party. Thanks again, Dan! But for the kindness of others, I wouldn’t even have a photo with Chooch in front of the Stargate portal that we quilted!

The party is pretty much a blur for me, other than having fantastic conversations with fascinating folks. I chatted for a good long time with Brad Smith from the Second Shift audio drama, and I knew he was my kind of people when he stopped talking mid-conversation to sing along with a Jonathan Coulton song that was playing.

As the party wound down, I again found myself blessed to have countless helpers assisting with the clean-up around 2 am. We donated the non-perishable items to the gamers next door, having already invited them to come through and eat what they like since we had so much food left over. Ensuring that the hotel staff would vacuum we were off to our own devices. Exhausted, but not ready for sleep yet because the adrenaline was still flowing we ended up laughing and chatting until the sun came up with a wild and fascinating variety of people. And yes, Phil Rossi treated those of us in the courtyard in the pre-dawn hours with a serenade with Starla Hutchton and Dan Sawyer singing along at times. We were all thrilled to discover that Dan Sawyer has the voice of an angel.

Favorite moments:
Brad Smith’s reaction to realizing I had just introduced him to the author of the Seanachai, Patrick McLean.
P.G.’s face during his book launch party. Happy P.G. was happy.
Mighty Mur Lafferty telling me that I am an author. (Still processing that.)
Seeing the joy on my husband’s face as he played bass.

Photos from Saturday only: