Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Happy Birthday to my Husband and my Mom

Me and Todd on our
Wedding Day
Today my wonderful husband was born. It’s a bittersweet day because it’s also my mom’s birthday and she has been passed away for nearly 11 years.

I didn't start dating Todd until after my mom passed away. They attended the same wedding once. My college best friend married Todd’s childhood best friend and we were both in the wedding. My mom was a guest at that wedding so they were in the same room.
My mom and I
I think my mom would have really loved Todd, and of course she would have adored Emily. I miss her a lot all the time, but especially on this day.

We didn't do much for Todd’s birthday. He doesn't really care about his birthday and both of us had to work. But we’ll be going out for dinner and making a cake this weekend.

Happy Birthday to the love of my life and my dearly missed mom.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What Does Pooh Think?

Miss Emily and Baby Pooh
I watched the first two Toy Story movies a few times before I became a mom. But since then, I've seen all three dozens of times because they are Emily's favorites. Because I've seen these so many times, I wonder what Emily's toys think. But mostly I wonder what Pooh Bear thinks about his current situation.

Pooh had life pretty easy for about 20 years. He was cuddled and loved, but I obviously didn't play with him once I was a teenager. Then along came Emily, who loves him a bunch but also loves playing with him. He's gotten a little more worn because of her playing but he's still in ok shape.

Lately, he's been Baby Pooh. Emily wraps him up in a blanket and hauls him all around the house. The toys in Toy Story would have been really happy with this situation since all they want is to be played with. Pooh doesn't look very happy though. I somehow see him thinking, "I'm too old for this s***" ala Roger Murtaugh.

The Preschooler At Dragon Con

Beth, me and Emily at Dragon Con 2012
With Dragon Con fast approaching, I thought I'd share my experiences with bringing Emily to the con last year.
Dragon Con has tracks that appeals to all kinds types, but you may wonder if it is appropriate for little geeklings. After I became a parent, I started noticing the kids in strollers and babies in slings all over the con. But I always thought my daughter wouldn't have that great of a time when she was smaller. Last years when she was almost four, I thought it was time to try a partial day at the con.
My daughter had already started to have geeky interests, but one of the biggest is costumes, and not just on her. She loves seeing me dress up as well. When she was 11 months old, I took her to the con just to see the parade. She was okay for most of it, until the zombies came. Ack! That was a big mom failure for me! That incident lead to a lifelong fear of the undead, so she hasn't been back since.
But after seeing the pictures of me in the Dragon*Con parade last year, she asked me to make her a costume so we could march together. It took a while to figure out what costumes to wear. Originally I was going to make her a Kaylee Layer Cake dress from Firefly to match mine and then march with the Whedonverse track like I normally do. But because I decided to march with Kaleidoscope track, I decided to shift our costumes to fit the track a little bit better. My daughter asked to dressed up like Snow White. I was going to dress up like Belle from Beauty and the Beast but those costumes were very expensive. So I ended up being Snow White too since that was the least expensive Disney Princess costume I could find.
She did great on the train ride down to the con and she loved the Kaleidoscope track room since they had a station where she could color while we waited. But then we had to rush to the parade staging area, and that’s when she started to get a little tired.
The weather for the parade is usually mildly warm but this year it was very humid out even at 9:30 in the morning and that affected the day.
She liked seeing all the costumes that were staged around us such as the stormtroopers, the Powerpuff Girls and especially the life-sized My Little Ponies. At one point, Stan Lee was very close to us so I picked her up and pointed him out to her. She didn't really know who he was, so she didn't care. Being that close to a comic genius is lost on a four-year-old, apparently. Poor Stan.
Once the parade started, she didn't want to wave at the crowd and was overwhelmed by all the people. The group in front of us stopped often to conduct a a staged battle with boffer weapons and every time we stopped she would turn to look at the My Little Pony cosplayers that were behind us.
Many times, she asked me to pick her up but because of the heat, I was only able to carry her in short bursts.
We made it through the parade and got our free bottles of water. We headed to the autograph area to meet my husband. While we were waiting, I was able to find us a table to sit at. We drank our water and my daughter played on my phone. Once my husband met us, he carried her since she was tired. We did get an autograph from Rose McGowen, who thought my daughter was cute. Then we headed to the dealer’s room for one last stop.
I've been a fan of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab‘s perfumes for many years and my daughter loves sniffing smellies when I put perfume on. When we got there, my daughter wanted to get down and she asked in a very small voice if she could sniff smellies. The owner of BPAL, Beth Barrial, did even better than let her sniff. She gave my daughter her own little bag of samples and a little pad of paper to draw on.
This was the highlight of my daughter’s Dragon Con experience and the end of her time at the con too. My husband took her back to were we were staying so she could get a nap.
I think she did pretty good, but there were some things I would have done differently. I wish we would have had a stroller since she got tired much faster than I had anticipated. And I think she would have had a better time watching the parade than being in it. But afterwards, my daughter did said that she loved Dragon Con and that she wants to go back next year.
Because she did get so tired so fast, we've opted not to to bring her down to the con this year. We've told her that she needs to be a little older and will bring her back in a couple of years.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Chronic Pain, Pregnancy and Parenting

Emily with Chronic Pain Bear
When I was younger, I had the life goals of being married and having kids. While my goals changed over the years, I still wanted to be a mom someday. My chronic pain started just as I was starting to date Todd. I got in control of the pain somewhat and decided that I wasn't going to let the pain stop me from living my life.

Early in our relationship, Todd and I had a long discussion about what we wanted long time out of a relationship as well as what our goals and dreams were. Todd wasn’t as gungho about having kids as I was, but still was willing to have one. We decided that we weren’t going do anything but try. If I couldn’t get pregnant the old-fashioned way, we just weren’t going to put ourselves the stress of trying to conceive with fertility drugs or IVF.

We got married September 30, 2006. Because we were already living in NC, we went home to Michigan to get married. All of our vacation time for that year was used up on our wedding so we waited a year to take our honeymoon. As soon as we got back from our Disney World honeymoon, we started trying for a baby.
At the time, Todd and I were working separate shifts. We only saw each other on the weekends so I figured it would take a while to get pregnant. We were both very surprised when I found out I was pregnant three months after we started trying.

Pregnancy isn’t fun at the best times, but my chronic pain made it worse for me. I did not really enjoy being pregnant for most of my pregnancy. The 1st trimester was miserable for me. My pain levels were higher than usual and I was so nauseous most of the time. I could hardly eat and lost a ton of weight. Because of the weight loss, I only gained about 8 pounds over the course of my whole pregnancy.

The 2nd trimester was a little better. My pain levels returned back to normal and I started to show. Emily was starting to move but it didn’t affect my sleep. I felt good enough in my 8th month to go to Dragon Con. I had a great time, though thankfully took advantage of the disability services. I was able to wait for panels by sitting in the handicapped area where there were chairs and staff members would bring us water sometimes.

Once Dragon Con was done, I started feeling worse. I was getting huge at that point, and was having issues moving around. My pain levels spiked again and I was having a lot of trouble sleeping. I only had one comfortable position when I was lying down, but Emily didn’t like it so she’d kick me until I moved. It was unpleasant.

I was induced on October 17, 2008. After laboring for 13 hours and not progressing, I had a c-section. Emily came into the world just fine, and starting nursing like a champ right away. We stayed in the hospital a couple of days so I could recover, and then we headed home.

Parenting was exhausting in the beginning. I would keep her in our room so I could sleep while she slept. I ended up being laid off from my job right before I was supposed to go back after maternity leave because of the poor economy. I never intended on being a stay at home mom so it was a bit of an adjustment.
I ended up suffering from postpartum depression and I was untreated for eight months because I thought I was just depressed because of losing my job. I got help and as Emily got a little older, I started to feel more human again.

Because I’ve had chronic pain since before Emily was born, she’s only known me with my pain. I think this may help her be a more caring person when she grows up. It’s given her a unique view of chronic pain even at the tender age of four.

When she kisses my forehead, she says she is kissing my headache. She gives my headache lots of kisses so I can feel better. One day when I was feeling really bad, she gave me one of her teddy bears. He got the name Chronic Pain Bear and I snuggle him when I’m feeling really badly. She’ll also cuddle with me and be quieter when she knows I’m having a high pain day.

I feel bad when my pain level is so high that I can’t play with her but luckily she is an understanding and caring child. While having a baby when suffering from chronic daily headaches probably wasn’t a great idea, I’m glad I did because I love my daughter very much.

Friday, July 26, 2013

My First Star Trek Con

With the addition of John de Lancie to the guest list for this year’s Dragon Con, I’m feeling a little nostalgic for my first Star Trek Con where he was  a guest.

Star Trek conventions have been happening all over the world for the last 40 years. The very first convention that I ever attended was for Star Trek when I was 15 years old. Even though it’s been over 20 years, I still have vivid memories of that experience.

My dad had been a Star Trek fan since the original series and he and my mom started watched Star Trek: The Next Generation from the premiere episode. I was a preteen and didn't consider Star Trek was cool. Once I started watching on a regular basis, I became a big fan, even going back to the original episodes to watch them.

One night while we were watching Star Trek as a family a commercial aired for a three-day Star Trek convention in East Lansing, Michigan. I had attended a few one-day conventions with my dad that featured only one cast member from the shows and a small dealer’s room. This was our first chance to actually experience three days of constant Star Trek.

We planned for my dad and I to attend the con while my mom and sister went shopping. I had my mom order a Star Trek: The Next Generation uniform shirt for me, I was that excited. My first cosplay!

September 26, 1992 arrived and we drove a couple of hours to the Michigan Star Trek Festival. The dealer’s room was huge and sucked up most of the first day.  I had never seen so much Star Trek stuff in one place in my life. This was the only con I've been to that you could go into the dealer’s room without having a badge. Even my mom and sister decided to come in, since they were allowed.

I cosplayed at the dance on the first night. I didn't stay long dance but I do remember that was the first time that I ever heard The Time Warp. After I had gone back to the hotel room, I watched the news broadcast which had a story about the con.

The next day, I scored several autographs. Majel Barrett-Roddenberry was signing in the dealer’s room and John de Lancie was set up in a separate room. While I was in line for John de Lancie, I heard a woman behind me complain about needing a badge to get his autograph. How times have changed.

I also attended a panel about the new series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I spent some time in the video rooms watching older episodes and specials. Even though I didn't know what it meant, I was first introduced to filk at this con.

Sunday was the last day of the con we attended the art show but headed home soon after, so I missed most of the later events.  It was years before I attended another con but I knew I wanted to repeat the experience.
I attended anime cons in college. After I moved to the South, I started attending Dragon Con in 2007. It became a yearly experience for me and my husband.

But I didn't attend another Star Trek con until a couple of years ago.

I went to Trek Trax Atlanta in January 2011 and it was like I had stepped back in time. Even though there has been several more Star Trek series and movies released, this con still had the same feel as that first convention. It is always so fun to get together with like-minded fans who love Star Trek as much as I do.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

My Second Trip to Walt Disney World

Epcot - December 1993
This is the 2nd post in my series of Disney trips I've taken in the past. You can read part one here!

When I was 16 years old, my parents decided we were going to go back to Disney World. It was a little last minute, only a month or two before we went. And they decided to go the busiest week of the whole year – the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

Now I didn't realize that this week was the busiest week of the year until I started doing research for my Disney honeymoon. I don’t remember it being that busy but it was crowded.

We drove down from Michigan on Christmas Day. The only thing I really remember from the drive was that we stopped at an IHOP to eat. It was the only thing open so it was very crowded. We got to our hotel later on Christmas Day.

During the trip we went to all three parks that were open at that time. Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios) had only been open for 4 years at that point. I loved MGM, especially Star Tours since I had always been a Star Wars fan. I do remember wanting to eat at the Sci-Fi Diner and being disappointed because we didn't eat at any table service restaurants the whole trip.

Once we left, I wanted to go back. My lifelong love of Walt Disney World was cemented with that trip. My college best friend and I talked about taking a trip down to the World, but being poor college students it didn't happen. It would be13 years before I would step foot into my favorite place again for my Disney Honeymoon.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Strange Encounters At The Store

Emily in her Minnie Mouse dress
I'm rather shy and can be uncomfortable with people. Before I had Emily, I was able to go about my business without random people talking to me and I liked that! But Emily is cute and little, so now people are talking to us all the time. Most of the time, it's okay and Emily likes the attention but sometimes we have some strange encounters with people.

Emily and I had to go to the store the other day because I needed a few things including a new bathtub mat. Emily was looking adorable in one of her favorite dresses that has a picture of Minnie Mouse on the front. We were walking through the freezer section when an older man asked if Mickey Mouse was on her dress. We said no, that it was Minnie as we were walking away. But he followed us, now talking in a Donald Duck voice.

I smiled and didn't say much. Emily had this look on her face like she was wondering why this grown man was talking in a duck's voice. I could tell she was a little freaked out. We moved on to do our shopped and he followed us! I think he realized that he was coming off as creepy because he explained that he was named after Donald Duck so he felt that he needed to learn how to do the duck voice.

Emily was getting increasingly more uncomfortable, so I said something vague about that being cool and went on our way. Thank goodness he didn't follow us anymore more. I did see him in the store later and took a wide path around.

The other strange encounter that happened on that trip was when I was checking out. There was an older couple in front of us. We put our things on the belt and they started talking to the cashier about the new bathtub mat I was buying. They talked about how it smelled back (it's all plastic so it smells like plastic) and then would never use one because of the bad smell. The cashier agreed.

I didn't say anything throughout this strange encounter because I didn't feel the need to justify the purchase. The point of it is to keep Emily from slipping and falling in the tub when she is getting in and out. Yeah, it does smell but it just stays in the bathroom so that it's a big deal to me.

Thankfully we were done with our shopping and were able to get out of the store. It was just a very strange shopping trip.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Conversations With Emily - A Princess or a Queen

My daughter, Emily, is four and half years old. She is small but she has a mind of her own and a great imagination. This makes some of the conversations I have with her pretty funny.

We were driving home from the store today when I told her that the new royal baby had been born. 

Emily: I’m going to marry him someday!

Me: *laughs* Ah, probably not

Emily: Then I would the QUEEN, but I wanna be a princess because princesses are better. But he would call me the QUEEN and we would have tea parties.

Me: How old do you think you need to be to be married?

Emily: *thinks about it for a minute* Five!

Me: Don’t you think that’s a little young?

Emily: Six? 

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Story of Pooh

Emily and I with Pooh Bear
When I was one, I got a small stuffed Pooh Bear as a present. He became my favorite stuffed animal and has been ever since. Even though he’s now 35 years old, I still have him and love him.

Pooh was yellow and came with his signature red shirt. He lost his shirt somewhere and became less and less yellow. When I was small, I slept with him every night. I remember my parents becoming distressed when I didn't want to sleep with him anymore when I was a little older. They convinced me that it was okay to still sleep with my Pooh.

I grew up and it was time to go off to college. I left Pooh at home because I didn't want to lose him. My mom bought me a giant Pooh to take to college.  After college, I moved back home. My mom passed away from cancer less than a week after I moved back, so I really needed my Pooh Bear then.

A year after my mom passed away, my daily chronic headaches started. My stuffed bear was something to cuddle during the long nights when the pain kept me awake. A few years after I had moved back home, I moved in with Todd. Pooh came with me this time, and I still slept with him sometimes.

Pooh ended up getting put up though because he would nearly always end up on Todd’s side of the bed. When I was really sick or in pain, I would cuddle him. Todd and I moved to North Carolina and then got married. Pooh, of course, made the journey with us. Then along came Emily.

Because Pooh is an old bear and has had to been stitched back together, I didn't let Emily near him for the first couple years of her life. Now that she is four, she adores Mommy’s Pooh. He usually stays in my room, but Emily will sleep with him for naps and will get him when she’s feeling sick.

Pooh has gone from just a beloved stuffed animal to a family heirloom. Hopefully he’ll be around for another 35 years!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

How Audio Books Helped Me Stay Sane

Sleepy Emily Baby
When my daughter was a newborn, and nursing what seemed to be all the time, I had a hard time not being bored out of my mind. During the day, it wasn't as much of a problem because I had the TV and computer to keep me amused.
At night, especially when she woke up in the middle of the night for an hour long (or more) nursing session, I’d feel like I was going insane. I had one of those pillows that let me sit up in bed, and my daughter slept in a pack & play next to our bed.
I would look enviously at my husband as he slept without hearing our baby cry, while I’d get up to nurse. I was fairly comfortable in bed, but I didn't want to fall asleep so I was just sitting there staring at the walls.
I really don’t remember how I came across audio books, but I do remember it was a godsend. I started with the Harry Potter audio books, which are wonderful, and expanded my audio library from there. It was wonderful because my mind was able to be engaged while my daughter nursed at night.
I don't listen to a lot of audio books now but I still have them all if I need them. When I had a job filing, I listened to a lot of audio books during work because the work was so boring that I needed something to keep my mind engaged.
I’d recommend audio books for any new mom – there are lots of geeky books to choose from and can be put on an MP3 player. I know that these really helped save my sanity in the early days of my daughter’s life.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tips for a Stress-Free Road Trip With Small Kids

A time machine would make road trips easier
The idea of taking a long car trip with young kids might make some parents nervous. I was lucky because my daughter has always tolerated long road trips well. While this could be partly because of her temperament, I do think some of the things we did when she was very small helped her be a good traveler.
My first tip would be to start early. My daughter went on her first road trip when she was very small. Our closest family lives several hours away, so we started with that short trip. But when she was eight months old, we made the big trip up to Michigan, which was a 13 hour trip. I was a little worried but my daughter did great. I think those earlier, shorter trips really helped.
Another tip is to make lots of stops. We tend to travel in the summer, so my husband bought a cooler that was powered through the cigarette lighter outlet in our car. So we could stop at rest stops instead of fast food places. We were able to have a decent meal of sandwiches as well as giving my daughter a change to run around and play out of the car for a little while. When we travel in the winter, we try to find restaurants that have play areas to let her play a bit during the trip.
And finally, toys and books are necessary for long car trips. My daughter has a great ability for keeping herself amused when we take road trips, but I always pack her a bag with extra toys and books. I try and get her something new for the really long trips to help keep her occupied. With all of these tips, we have been able to take many stress-free road trips with my three year old daughter.
Do you have any good road trip tips when traveling with kids?

Monday, July 15, 2013

How Couch to 5K Got Me Running

I've never been very fond of exercise. When I was a kid, I’d prefer staying inside with a good book over running and playing outside. I did participate in several sports when I was younger like soccer and softball, but I didn't like them. As I grew to be an adult, I found myself moving around less as most of my jobs had me sitting at a desk all day. I've tried all kinds of fitness programs and apps for weight loss, but none really worked for me until I started Couch to 5K.
Couch to 5K is a program for people who lead a sedentary lifestyle. It eases you into running and starts out slow. During the first week, you alternate jogging for 60 seconds and walking for 90 seconds. From there, each week has you running a little longer with less walking in between.
I started Couch to 5K a few years ago when I first heard of it. My daughter was still a baby and I was a stay at home mom. I got a fancy jogging stroller and tried really hard to get started. But what derailed me was trying to juggle a stopwatch to time how long I was supposed to run while driving the stroller. It was very difficult and I didn't even get past the first week.
Last fall, I found a Couch to 5K app so I decided to give it another try. I started in last August by running up and down my hallway because it was far too humid in North Carolina to start running outside. I use the C25K app on my Android phone, which works really well because it tells me when I should start and stop running. I did find that my hallway isn't long enough to really simulate running because I was mostly just running sprints. I started over on the treadmill after feeling like I was going to pass out at my previous week. I'm slowly working my way through the weeks again.
Running has been a challenge because I’m really out of shape, but I feel great once I’m done, and I’m getting more fit as I continue with the program. My first goal is to run a local 5K by the end of the year. My big goal is to run in one of the 5K races at Walt Disney World. I have a friend who runs in a lot of the Disney races and it looks so fun. Lots of people dress up in special costumes designed for running. There are even Disney characters along the race route that runners can stop and get their picture with, so it makes it more fun than a regular 5K. I’m really hoping to be able to do one of the Disney races at some point.
I never thought I’d be a runner, but it’s easier than I thought it would be thanks to Couch to 5K. It can be a challenge because of my chronic pain issues to take on course. But I'll talk about running and chronic pain in a future post.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Wicked as They Come – A Steampunk, Vampire Novel

Image: Simon and Schuster
Steampunk and vampires may not seem like things that would go together well. But in Wicked as They Come by Delilah S. Dawson, these two things are mixed with wonderful results.
When I first heard about Wicked as They Come, I was interested in reading it. But when I found out that it was also a “person from our world goes to a strange, new world” story, I knew I was going to love it. I love those kinds of stories and Wicked as They Come was no exception.
The story follows Tish Everett, a nurse and recent divorcee, as she finds herself in the world of Sang, which is a steampunk version of Victorian England. She meets Criminy Stain, who is a Bludman, which is like a vampire but with some differences. He tells Tish says that he called her to his world because she is his true love. Tish is propelled on a journey to heal from her former abusive relationship, find herself and to discover who is killing the Bludmen and women of Sang.
The world is very interesting and well explained. Bludmen aren’t the only vampiric creatures that lurk around. Just about any animal you can think of had a blud equivalent. The one that freaked me out and interested me the most was the bludbunnies, because they are cute, fluffy and want to suck your blood.
This book was a lot of fun to read with the interesting setting of Sang as well as the well-rounded characters. Even though the story focuses on Tish and Criminy, we do get to meet many of the inhabitants of Sang which includes Criminy’s carnival full of strange folks. I’d recommend Wicked as They Come by Delilah S. Dawson to anyone who enjoys steampunk, vampire as well as a little paranormal romance.
Wicked as They Come is available in paperback as well as for Kindle and Nook.
Note: I received a copy of this book for review purposes.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

My Struggles with Depression

The face of depression (and a Stormtrooper)
I think everyone with chronic pain experiences depression sometimes. In my case, I've experiences two types of depression. This isn't scientific but I’ve found that my depression is either situational or chemical.

Situational means that I’m in a situation that sucks and there isn't much that I can do about it, so I get depressed. Chemical depression is when there is a chemical imbalance in my body. Both kinds are not any fun but they feel different to me.

When my chronic pain started, I went through nine months of trying different treatments that didn't work. I became increasingly more depressed as the time went on because the pain was constant and bad. There was a logical reason why I was depressed so when my doctor put me on an antidepressant, it didn't work. This was situational depression because my situation at the time sucked.

I managed to work my way out of my depression as I got a hold on my pain. I didn't deal with ongoing depression again until after my daughter was born. It took me eight months to figure out that I was suffering from postpartum depression. The thing that clued me into the fact that I was dealing with a chemical imbalance was that we were supposed to go to a local convention and I wasn't excited or happy at all. I just felt down and out of sorts. I knew that I needed help at that point and I went to my doctor. I got put on antidepressants and I felt like a whole new person once they started working.

I eventually went off the antidepressants as the postpartum depression got better. Last year, I started having panic attacks because of my family drama. I cut several people out of my life and I felt much better, so I went off the antidepressants again. In this case I think it was a little chemical with a lot of situational depression because the antidepressants helped but getting rid of the awful people in my life was what helped the most.

It was about a year later when I started feeling out of control with depression and panic attacks. This was all chemical because things were going pretty well with my life. I felt totally out of control and wasn't just acting like myself. I got back to the doctor and got back on antidepressants. For now, I’m not planning on going off the antidepressants. I felt so much better once I got back on the pills.

This week I've been experiencing some situational depression. My pain levels have been very high and it’s been making it hard for me to do just about anything beyond working and caring for Emily. I feel really worthless when my pain levels skyrocket, in part because I've lost several friends due to my chronic pain and depression. But like the Bloggess says, Depression Lies and I try to muddle through any type of depression I experience.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Misadventures When Working From Home

Emily with our cat, Willow
For me, working from home is a lot like working in a call center. I have coworkers that I talk to over a chat program, I have one boss and a set schedule. My husband works 2nd shift so generally he’s around if Emily needs anything. Sometimes Todd does have class or needs to leave for work early. Since Emily is four, she is pretty good about playing quietly with her toys while I’m working.

There have been a few incidents were she has damaged the calm of my office. One time, Todd was at class and she tried to change to regular TV. She pushed a wrong button which caused the TV to turn up to full volume. That didn't take me too long to fix though.

The other day we had our biggest issue to date. Todd had left for work and I was working a little over because I was stuck on a long call with a customer who really was clueless. About a minute after Todd left, I heard Emily start to wail. I quickly put my customer on hold to see what was the matter and found that one of our cats had scratched her.

We have three cats, two of whom have been around since before Emily was born. We do our best to have her realize that the cats are living beings and not playthings. But she has been trying to carry around our oldest cat, Star, around lately. He’s usually really gentle with her but he must have not wanted to be picked up so he scratched her.

It wasn't that bad but my child thinks any boo-boo is the end of the world. I hurried to get off my call and finish my shift but it took a while. It was hard because Emily kept crying but I had to finish that call.

Once I got off work, I saw that the scratch was bleeding so I got a band-aid on it. I snuggled her while we watched her current favorite show, Teen Titans Go. She was fine but it was hard to work hearing her cry outside my door. 

Hopefully that will be the worst misadventure we have!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

My First Trip to Walt Disney World

Three months from today we are going to be driving down to Florida for our first family vacation at Disney World. I’m a huge fan of Disney and I've been dreaming of taking Emily to Disney World since I found out that I was pregnant. As we are getting to the last few months before our big trip, I’m going to be writing about my past trips as well as our plans to make Emily’s first trip unforgettable!
Me and my sister with the Big Cheese
My parents took my sister and me to Disney World for the first time in the summer of 1986. I was 9 at the time so I have a lot of memories of the trip that made me a lifelong Disney fan.

I think we drove down from Michigan and we spent part of the vacation visiting my uncle who was living in Florida at the time. Back then, there was only the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. We spent at least one day at each of the parks, starting with the Magic Kingdom.
Driving with my mom
The ride that made the biggest impression on me was The Haunted Mansion. It scared me but I was fascinated. After one ride, it was my favorite and is still my favorite ride to this day. Later in the day, we were in a spooky magic shop on Main Street where I found a storybook and record set for The Haunted Mansion. My parents got it for me and it was my favorite souvenir.

The Haunted Mansion
We rode a lot of the other rides that were around in the late 80’s. I really liked the 30,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride as well as Pirates of the Caribbean. We also rode on Dumbo, Tomorrowland Speedway and It’s a Small World.
Me and my Dad flying with Dumbo
Character meets were a lot different back then because the characters just roamed around the park. We got to meet Mickey, Minnie, some of the mice from Cinderella, Eeyore, Donald and the 3 Little Pigs. The character meeting that I remember the most was the Big Bad Wolf. This is because the Big Bad Wolf was big and bad and popped my sister's balloon. She was really upset about it.
Post balloon popping
Epcot was another day and it was a pretty new park at the time. I still remember joining in with some of the activities at CommuniCore. I also remember the Kitchen Kabaret, which was a fun show with singing food. But my favorite ride in Epcot was Journey Into Imagination. Figment the dragon was adorable and the story with the Dreamfinder as he took us into the world of Imagination was awesome. Sadly that version of the ride no longer exists but I am still a big fan of Figment.

Me and my sister with my dad in Epcot
I loved every minute of our time at Walt Disney World. It would be a long seven years before I’d be back at my favorite place in the world. You can read about my 2nd trip to the World here!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Ups and Downs When Working From Home

My Home Office
Last year, I reentered the work force after 3 years of getting my 2nd degree. I did temp work for a while but I was always on the outlook for a full time job. I got laid off from my temp job and I managed to find a tech support job that I can do from home.

Working from home is great especially that means we don’t have to have a sitter for Emily. I usually work from 7 am to 1:30 pm, which works out very well because my husband works 2nd shift and leaves for work at 2 pm.

I've worked from home for almost a year now. There are a lot of advantages to working from home, but some disadvantages too.

Because I have chronic pain issues, working from home is much more comfortable than working in an office. I can turn off all the lights in my office, wear comfortable clothes and adjust the temperature so it is perfect for me. I also only have to walk a few steps to get to my bedroom and am able to take naps because I have no commute time.

Also because of no commute, I spend a lot less on gas money and extra food. When I working outside of the home, I’d spend a lot of money on fast food and it would add up fast. I also save money on child care since Emily is very good about being quiet even on the days that Todd has to go to class.

I’m lucky because my job is a regular job. I get a paycheck with taxes taken out, which is pretty rare for work from home jobs. I make a decent hourly wage and I make extra for any sales that I make. Even though my hourly wage is $3 less than what I was making with the temp job because I have fewer expenses.

 Because I work a tech support job that’s open 24/7/365, I have to work Saturdays every week. Working 6 days a week, even though I only work 6 ½ hours a day can be draining. I do get the occasional weekend off but that means working a lot of extra hours throughout the week.

Since I’m home all the time, I get a little stir crazy. I don’t have a lot of local friends so I end up going to the store a couple times a week just to get out of the house. The stir craziness and my chronic pain issues do make my anxiety and depression worse some days.

The job I work isn't the best job. There are a lot of angry people and a lot of stupid people who end up calling in to get tech support. I can handle most issues and I do have supervisors that I talk to via a chat program if I run into problems. Some days are better than others, but that’s pretty standard with any job.

For now, the advantages of working from home outweigh the disadvantages. It works out really well now that Emily is small. When she’s a little older, I might want to work outside of my house but for now I’m happy with the situation I’m in now.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Despicable Me 2 Review

This past weekend Emily and I went to the movies to see Despicable Me 2. The first movie is one of our family favorites so both of us were looking forward to see it.

Gru and his girls are back, but now they are fighting on the side of good with the help of the secret organization AVL (Anti Villain League). Gru teams up with Special Agent Lucy Wilde to find a chemical that will turn anything into a mutant killing machine.

Gru and Lucy are an adorable team and their relationship gives the movie a lot of heart. There is a lot more of the minions this time around, though we do see a lot less of the three girls.

Both Emily and I enjoyed Despicable Me 2. When I asked her what her favorite part of the movie was and she said it was the minions going beep-beep-beep. She laughed a lot throughout the movie and I laughed too.

I’d recommend Despicable Me 2 to anyone, but especially for kids who will love the adorable minions.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Dragon*Con Parts Ways With Accused Child Molester

Me and Ron Glass at my first Dragon*Con
I've been an attendee of Dragon*Con since 2007. It's one of my favorite weekends of the year. I've heard all about Ed Kramer in the past. For those of you who don't know, Ed Kramer is one of the founders of Dragon*Con. He's not be involved with the con for over 10 years, but he has gotten money from the con because of the way the corporation that puts on Dragon*Con is set up. Also, he's an accused child molester.

Even though he's never been convicted, many people find it upsetting that an accused child molester may be getting any money. Every year, right before the con, there would be calls for boycotts of Dragon*Con. Earlier this year, the boycott actually got some traction. I know a few people who said they would never attend Dragon*Con because of it.

I decided early on not to boycott. I knew that Dragon*Con didn't want to be associated with Kramer but there were legal obstructions that kept them from breaking ties. Today, the great news came out that Dragon*Con had restructured and Ed Kramer will no longer be receiving money from the con. There was a buyout, which I'm sure will still upset some people, but I think it's great that Dragon*Con has now gotten the child molester off of their back.

I'm already really looking forward to the con. I'll be part of several panels through my favorite track, the Kaleidoscope track. I'll also be marching in the parade and cosplaying everyday.

You can read more about Dragon*Con's restructuring at their Facebook page.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Trying Out

Emily's home page
I've been seeing commercials for since Emily was small and we started watching cartoons. But I didn't think to try it out until now. We were watching TV before church and I saw another commercial and decided to go to the website.

Since they were offering a month for free, I decided to sign Emily up. We didn't get a chance to check it out until after church, but she was hooked right away. She wanted to keep playing the games, but we took a break to go to the movies and take a nap.

So far, Emily is having a lot of fun. I’m not sure how much she is learning yet but we’ll see how it goes. We have a month for free and I’ll give updates as the month goes on.

Has anyone else used Did your kids learn a lot?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Cosplay Plans - Dragon*Con and Beyond

I've always loved costumes since I was a child. I got really into cosplaying for conventions when I was in college. I’m not the best at sewing, but I still manage to make and get some interesting costumes.

I usually go to a few conventions a year. We always go to Dragon*Con in Atlanta over Labor Day weekend. I plan on wearing three costumes over the course of that con.

Friday, I think I’m going to wear my American McGee’s Alice costume. It’s a costume I bought to wear to Mad Monster Party this past March and it’s a lot of fun to wear.
American McGee's Alice
Saturday is parade day, so I’ll be in my Kaylee costume. I’ll be wearing the blue jacket that Kaylee wears in the pilot of Firefly. I would love to be in my Kaylee Layer Cake dress, but it’s falling apart and I just don’t have the time to fix it before Dragon*Con.
Sunday, I’ll be in my Snow White costume. It was a lot of fun to wear last year because the little kids at the con loved it. I just need to take the velvet sleeves off because it gets way too hot in downtown Atlanta at the end of summer.
Snow Whites

After Dragon*Con, we will be heading to Disney World for Emily’s 5th birthday trip. Disney has Halloween party that I’ll be attending solo because Todd doesn't think Emily would stay awake to get our money’s worth out of. For that party, I’m going to be wearing my Petit Charat costume. I wanted to stay away from Disney costumes and I wanted something I wouldn't roast in. I want to go on the rides, and I should be able to fit easily on the rides, even with a tail.
Petit Charat
I’m not sure if I’ll dress up for Halloween. I didn't last year because I was a bit costumed out. If Emily wants me to, we may both dress up like Snow White.

For next year, I hope to have the time to be able to re-make my Kaylee Layer Cake dress. We are already planning on attending Mad Monster Party in March. Emily wants to come with us, and wants to cosplay. She requested that she and I dress up like witches, while Todd dresses like a monster. But Todd had a great idea. He suggested that Emily dress up in a clown outfit like the little girl in Halloween 4 and Todd could dress as Michael Myers. We actually have a picture of both in our hallway and when Emily saw it she wanted to do it. So I’ll be looking for clown costumes this Halloween.

I do have a sewing machine and I hope to be able to learn how to use it. Once I do, I’ll be able to make even more costumes for both me and Emily.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Headbutt of Doom

My beautiful, pain-causing child
I have a four year old daughter who tends to be a little rambunctious. This is pretty normal for kids her age, but I'm not a normal mommy.

Last night, I was laying in bed and reading a book. Todd and Emily came in to check on me because my pain levels had been a little high because of the thunderstorms we'd been having. Emily climbed into the bed, launched herself at me and her hard, little head collided with mine.

The pain level jumped up to migraine levels. When I have a migraine, it's not just about the pain it's about the auras and my brain feeling fuzzy. I feel much stupider when I have a migraine because my brain just doesn't work as well.

Emily knew what she had done right away and started crying. I snuggled her and told her it was okay. And while my pain levels were through the roof, it was just an accident.We stayed in the bedroom and played some video games until I was time for her to go to bed. Thankfully, Todd did most of the bedtime routine so I could stay seated.

Just before bed, Emily gave me her Captain America doll. She wanted to make sure I had someone else to
snuggle with. I already have two stuffed animals that are mine. My Pooh Bear from when I was a child and Chronic Pain Bear, who was another gift from Emily.

I spent the rest of the evening in bed, reading on my Kindle. Todd would check on me every once in a while. I'm feeling a little better this morning but the pain is still pretty high. I'm muddling my way through my work shift and feeling very thankful that I work from home.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

Summer Fun!
Happy Independence Day to all my American readers!

We generally don’t do a lot for the 4th of July. Todd has off from work but I’m working a normal shift today. And honestly there is something I’m more excited about today.

99 days from today we will be heading to Disney World. We haven’t been since our honeymoon and I've been looking forward to taking Emily to my favorite place since I found out I was pregnant.

I’ll be posting more about Disney later. I hope everyone has a great holiday today!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

My Chronic Pain Journey - Part 2

Pregnant with Miss Emily
This is the second post on my chronic pain journey thus far. Click here if you want to read the first post.

After I had gotten a handle on my pain, I went through some big life changes. I moved in with Todd, and then a year later we moved down to NC. We got married, honeymooned at Disney World a year later and 3 months after our honeymoon, I got pregnant.

A lot of people told me that their migraines got better after they got pregnant, but mine never did. The first trimester was not pleasant because of extreme nausea on top of my normal pain. The second trimester I felt ok, and I was even able to attend Dragon*Con eight months pregnant. Once we got home from Dragon*Con, I started feeling bad. I was getting so big that it hurt to move and my migraine pain levels got higher.

Finally I gave birth to Miss Emily via c-section on October 17, 2008. It took some adjustment to parenthood, especially since I suddenly became a stay at home mom when I got laid off. I did suffer from postpartum depression, but I was able to get help for it.

Life went on for a couple of years and my pain didn't change. I did develop a few other issues like very bad eczema and IBS, but mostly I was able to cope with it all as I went back to get a 2nd college degree.
Things took a turn for the worse winter 2010. I lost two days that I can’t remember at all – it was Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. When I was able to start remember, I was very paranoid. Nothing in my house looked familiar and I was seeing things out of the corner of my eye. Todd says that I was awake during those two days but I was really out of it.

We dropped Emily off with friends the day after Christmas and Todd took me to the ER. They ran a bunch of tests on me and I was admitted to the hospital. The only thing they could find is that there is a mass in my brain that got inflamed. It went down so the doctors said it wasn't cancer and I hadn't had a stroke.

The neurologists weren't able to do anything and again the drugs they gave me didn't work. The medicine actually dried my skin out that it made my eczema even worse. It took a long time for me to recover. For months, I would have trouble finding things in my house because everything still was unfamiliar. But it subsided as did the things I was seeing out of the corner of my eye. The headache pain was still there.
The doctors weren't able to figure out why I had this mass in my brain, but it wasn't hurting me anymore. Todd had a theory that it was stress that caused it because I was really stressed out about school right before the episode.

Things got back to normal for the most part. I finished school and I got a temp. job doing filing. It was soon after I went back to work that I started having panic attacks. This was due in large part to the behavior of a family member. I cut that family member out of my life and saw my doctor. I was on antidepressants for a while, but I was dumb and stopped taking them.

I was good for about a year. I got a new job working from home and my pain levels were staying about the same. But this past spring, I started having panic attacks and high anxiety again. There was no good reason for it, so I ended up back on anti-depressants. This time, I’m not going to go off them because I feel much better now.

Even though I am able to live a fairly normal life, I still have the pain. It gets very bad sometimes but usually I can cope. It will be ten years with the same headache next month and I've resigned myself to the fact that I’ll probably have this pain for the rest of my life. But I’m not going to keep it from letting me live my life to the fullest.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

My Chronic Pain Journey - Part 1

The Face of Chronic Pain
The thing the makes my life the most chaotic and the most challenging is my chronic pain. I've been dealing with this pain for nearly ten years and it’s been quite a journey. Because this is a long story, I’ll be writing up two parts.

As a kid, I was pretty healthy though I did have a tendency to be overweight. I did start having medicine allergies pretty early on. I’m allergic to a bunch of medicines, most notably amoxicillin, ibuprofen and aspirin. But all that was going to change in my mid-20’s.

I had gone to a local water park with a friend from college in August 2003. I got really sick afterwards, including an ear infection. My doctor kept telling me that I didn't have an ear infection over the course of a month until I ended up in the ER. Finally I was diagnosed with a bad ear infection and was given medicine. I got better, except for having permanent hearing loss in that ear, except for a headache that lingered. I've had that same headache for nearly ten years now.

The next nine months were some of the worst in my life. I was in and out of the ER because the only thing that helped my pain was heavy duty narcotics. I was also in and out of my doctor’s office as we tried ever headache / migraine medicine on the market. None of the medicines worked long term and most of them gave me bad side effects thanks to my sensitivity with drugs.

I also saw some specialists. The neurologist that I saw thought I was making it up, but gave a name to my condition – Daily Chronic Headaches. Though I think daily chronic migraines is a better label since when my pain gets bad, I get migraine symptoms like auras and brain fuzziness. I did get MRI’s and CAT Scans, but they didn't show anything which is probably why the neurologist was less than sympathetic.
After a while, I started having rebound headaches from the narcotics I was getting in the ER. I was really depressed, and my doctor tried an antidepressant. It didn't help because my depression wasn't chemical; it was because I felt I was in a hopeless situation. My doctor even tried changing my birth control but nothing helped.

During this time, I was working a full time job, though I did have FMLA so I could take time off if my pain was really bad or if I needed to go to the doctor. I was also just starting to date my now-husband, Todd. It was a long distance relationship and we managed to make it work despite my chronic pain issues.

I went to visit friends over New Year 2004 and I had one of my worst migraines to date. We had gone to the Hard Rock Cafe in Detroit. It was very loud, but what set off the migraine was the smell of raw onions on the plate across from mine. Todd ended up driving me home through a snow storm, and I ended back in the ER. I went and saw my doctor afterwards and he told me that I shouldn't go into noisy places anymore.

This pissed me off – I was 26 years old! I wasn't going to live my life hiding and decided I needed to take control of this pain. I started a pain journal and began finding out what my triggers are for me. I found ways to cope when the pain got high, since no medicines work, and I started coming out of the fog.

I was able to manage my pain even though it was and is still there. And I've been able to do things like go out to eat, go to noisy concerts and even have a baby. In the next post, I’ll talk about chronic pain and pregnancy, as well as my brain issues.