Zombies, Harry Potter and Healing

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Family, Mom, No Whining, Too Long For Twitter, Uncategorized

I had previously never given zombies much thought, but recall that as a teen my friends and I watched every B-movies our tiny Texas town’s video store had. The grosser the better. Naturally, many of those had zombies of one type or another. I had certainly seen many more nasty movies in the intervening 19 years. And while I became more squeamish after my children’s separate but critical health issues, I don’t recall any zombie anxiety until Halloween of 2006.

While out shopping for Halloween costumes and decorations with the kids at a cheesily and spookily decorated party store, I realized I was shaky and freaked out by the skeletons and zombies. Although none of them resembled her, I envisioned my Mom in their place. Even worse, I was unable to stop picturing her in various stages of decomposition in her coffin, wearing the clothes she had been buried in. It was the first Halloween since her passing away, and I can assure you it freaked me right the fuck out. Happily that effect has eased immensely, mostly due to being inundated with movies, TV shows, songs, audio dramas, games and apocalypse preparedness plans. And I’ve been working hard with meditation to shut it down when it start to creep in.

But at my core, zombies still freak me out. It’s not something I like to think about, and have worked really hard not to hate those that make Zombie Jesus jokes and stuff like that. Especially those that continue to make them when they see my discomfort. But they don’t realize it’s not a religious issue for me. The Christian/Catholic in me doesn’t care. I reconciled that bit long ago. But having those images in my head? It’s why my zombie preparedness plan only has one constraint: Are our kids relying on me for survival? If yes, I’ll fight tooth, nail, blood and tears for their lives. No? Self-destruction. If my kids aren’t with us, then I want to be a goner in the first wave. I don’t want to see my loved ones like that. Yes, that’s very literal and takes the fun out of it. But that’s how my brain works. When I visualize it, it’s extremely hard to un-visualize it. This is true for all things. Chooch and I even have it as part of an “In Case I Become Undead” Pact: Zombie = bash my brains out. Vampire = join me.

But when hearing about zombies, I almost always return to  standing next to Mom’s coffin at the cemetery at her funeral.  I tried to be a solid and calming influence on all the kids, as I calmly put a rose on her coffin and gave the cold, hard wood one last touch. But on the inside, I felt like a four year old, screaming and throwing myself on the coffin and begging for Mommy to wake up. Not having to be brave or strong or a good example, and just being able to grieve and let it all out in one hysterical rush.

My family rode together to the cemetery in two limos and, to my comprehension at the time, were wanting to leave pretty quickly after the ceremony. But I had to force every step away from her. I didn’t want to leave her alone. I wanted to stay and keep her company the same way I had during her chemo treatments and for all those months in the hospital. Even when she was unconscious.

I wanted a blanket to cover her, as it was so cold that morning. I knew what she was wearing was lovely, but had no warmth. I worried about the rain and the snow, and her being left out in the elements without even an umbrella to keep her dry. Crazy, right? But I’d spent the last five months in constant care of her. I even carried her pain pills with me that morning, knowing she had no use for them but unable to leave them behind.

My whole life her feet were always ice cold, and I was suddenly mad at myself for not remembering to wrap the blanket I had been crocheting for her for months around her feet to keep them warm. I remembered too late and still have the unfinished blanket.

As we slowly walked to the cars, I remember telling Chooch how mad I was at myself, for not having anticipated the need to stay and driving separately. The family needed to leave, to be in motion, to have this part over. But I needed to stay and watch over my Mom for just a little bit longer. I curtailed my time and headed to the waiting car.

It doesn’t come as a shock to anyone who knows me that I have an undying love for my Mom. She was not perfect, and she made a lot of mistakes. I don’t see her through rose-colored glasses. But I still miss her everyday, and I don’t care one whit if anyone else thinks that it’s “unhealthy” or that I should be “over it” or that I’m “using it for sympathy.” My loss is my own, and I expect no one else to fully understand it. Not even my husband, and he knows everything about me. It’s a multi-faceted issue, one that is very private and inexplicable. I don’t see it ever completely fading away.

Today would have been Mom’s 68th birthday. I’ve been pushing it out of my mind with lots of activities and stuff going on, but now I can’t ignore it any more and the blues have arrived full force. Part of it is because of the big part that Harry Potter played in our lives. The first three books had a tremendous healing power after my divorce, and it was also a huge bonding thing for me and my boys. My oldest son, Naughty Bear was the perfect age to be spellbound by it, and we were just reminiscing about playing hooky to see the first showings on opening day for the first few movies to watch it together with my Mom and my Dad. We even had an Epic Harry Potter Halloween party. And I do mean Epic.

Chooch and I watched Harry Potter 7 tonight with LT and NB in anticipation of watching the final installment at the midnight showing on Thursday night. It pisses me off that she only got to see the first four movies, but at least she got to read all the books. Having it come out the same week as her birthday stirs up a bunch of sadness at what she’s missed in the last 5 1/2 years, but I’m working really hard to shift my attention instead to all she did experience, as well as the tremendous impact she had on the lives of her family and friends.

While DM’ing with a friend about it in Twitter, she reminded me to celebrate Mom, enjoy Harry Potter and have dessert first. That last is a tradition that had slipped my mind, based on my Mom taking LT to dinner one day and randomly deciding to have dessert before dinner. So I’m deciding on her birthday dessert in the morning.

I also want to toast Mom, but, and here’s the irony, when trying to think of a wine or liquor that she preferred, I suddenly remembered that the drink I most remember her ordering was a Zombie. She did order one or two Long Island Iced Teas in my memory, but over the years when she was in the rare mood for a drink in my presence, it was a Zombie.

Isn’t she a kick in the pants? It feels as if even now she’s pushing me to toughen up. I don’t even get to hold on to a weird weakness! So, yes. Mom. I get it. I need to do some more healing. Message received, loud and clear. The family I embrace is helping me to come to terms with a lot of things, including not having your physical presence in my life any longer.

I guess at this point I should apologize to anyone that’s bothered to read this far. I don’t have any grand closing statement or clear train of thought. I’m just clearing out the shadows in my brain and dumping ’em here for my own purposes.

So, Happy Birthday, Pocket Mom. I was damned lucky to have you as long as I did, and I know it.

Mom and Me on my wedding day, 2003

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.

The Boom Effect on my grieving process

Author: chooch  //  Category: Breast Cancer, Friends

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

Nat Morris and I on my 40th birthday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos from The Boom Effect are included below.