Saturday, October 26, 2013

I Cleaned Out My Locker Today

Almost 7 years ago, I walked into a tae kwon do school as a student for the first time. I had been in dojangs many times before, since both my brothers had practiced tae kwon do. Over the next 6 1/2 years, I spent so much time at the dojang that I considered it my second home. I started knitting because of the amount of time I sat upstairs watching my children's classes, and in between classes, waiting for my own class time. I petitioned our master to install a kitchen so that I could cook while we were there. Sadly, that request was denied.

With other tae kwon do moms as a blue belt


My very identity changed during those years. My identity became tied to martial arts. 6 years ago, I began competing in tae kwon do. I remember my first tournament and how nervous I was. I remember how cold my feet were, since it was held on an ice rink. All of me was consumed by tae kwon do. We were at the dojang 6 days a week, sometimes for 5 hours at a time. Our every movement was designed to fit into our tae kwon do schedule.

With Gary getting ready to compete as a red belt
That all came to a screeching halt in April. I was having breathing problems that were getting scarier and scarier each time they happened. I finally stopped doing tae kwon do out of fear while we tried to figure out what was causing the problems.

May of 2012, I had my first episode. I was competing in a tournament for the first time in almost a year. I felt good. It was a home tournament, and I was fighting a woman I love and adore. We're both very competitive, and the trash talk was running hot and strong that day. After our fight, which was a fantastic fight, we sat down to talk. Suddenly, I couldn't breath. My throat felt like it had cotton in it. Every breath was labored. If I attempted to draw a deep breath, I started coughing. And it wouldn't stop. We tried giving me albuterol, even though I'd never had asthma before. It didn't help. Finally, we took all my gear off, and I laid down on the floor. Finally, my breathing evened out, and I began to recover. I didn't know until later that my doctor, whose wife I had been fighting, was almost ready to call an ambulance because my lips were turning blue.

As a black belt during a demonstration
After that, I began having problems in class. It wasn't all the time, and the problems weren't usually as intense as they were that first time. I also noticed that if I started running in place, the problem went away. This tipped us off that adrenaline helped, and we became concerned that I had a heart problem. I had a full heart workup, and good news, my ticker is STRONG. (Thank you, Papa!)

In November, when I began competing again, I had a severe episode. It caused my chest to hurt, which was pretty scary. It took me several hours to recover completely from that episode. Probably because I insisted on finishing my match after the episode started. I've never been accused of not being stubborn.

I never thought I'd have to hang my black belt on this rack.

Fast forward to April of this year. I had an especially bad episode, and the paramedic at the tournament and my doctor both wanted to send me to the hospital. I wouldn't let them because Gary was fighting, and none of the boys had fought yet. I wanted to see their fights. But it scared me. A lot. And I decided to stop practicing tae kwon do until we could figure out what was causing my episodes.

But, my primary care manager had dropped my insurance, and I had to change doctors, then get a referral, yada yada yada. My new PCM referred me to a pulmonologist to be sure I didn't have exercise induced asthma. I spent several hours exercising and breathing. Not only do I not have asthma, but I have supranormal pulmonary function. (Thank you years of playing musical instruments and taekwondo!) So we were once again at a loss. We didn't know where to go from here.

One of my greatest accomplishments

Then, I was getting blood drawn for genetic testing and I saw a sign that said, "If you're allergic to these foods, you may be allergic to latex." Well, I knew that some of those foods gave me oral allergic reactions and that I was allergic to latex. But they were all mild allergies. What I didn't know was that they were all related to one another, or that exercise could exacerbate anaphylaxis. That sign sent off alarm bells in my brain. So, I went to my PCM and asked if perhaps what I was experiencing was anaphylaxis. For the first time in my life, I had a PCM agree with me. She sent me to an allergist. Today, I got confirmation that I was going into anaphylactic shock when I was competing. You see, my gear has latex in it. Oh, and the foods I eat on competition days? Apples and bananas, those foods strongly related to latex. That's right, folks, I was poisoning myself.

So, I was given two options. I could either take allergy medicine every single time I step on the mat, or I can stop practicing tae kwon do. So, I cleaned out my locker. I'm going to have to find a new love. I'm thinking dancing, yoga, or maybe acrobatics. All of these things are of interest to me. I'd love to try stick or sword fighting. In the meantime, I'm running. But I'm not a runner. I don't know if I'll ever be a runner the way I was a martial artist. I can see myself being a dancer that way, though. And so the search is on for a new passion. Wish me luck!

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Long and Cold of It

This is the time of year that I wish I was in the habit of wearing makeup. At no other time of year do I care about makeup as anything other than another art form. But now, I want to break out the Bare Minerals and cake them atop my nose. This won't stop my nose from turning red, but it would prevent other people from seeing the warning light my nose is emitting, alerting everyone to the frigidity of the air outside. 

I was in marching band. Each fall of high school, I would get up early each morning to get to the field early to practice. I was only ever a so-so flute player, but I was a great marcher. And every morning, I would put on my red rain boots and march. And I loved it. I loved it so much that when I forgot those rain boots, I marched barefoot in the cold fall mornings. I could have marched for hours ignoring the discomfort, yet my nose turns bright red when the temperature dips below 60. 

Two years ago, it was moderately cold on Halloween. It must have been colder than I thought it was, though, because I got frostbite on my fingers. My fingers still turn white at random times. Although I can ignore the cold in the pursuit of something I love, I tend to hate the cold.
All this to say- it snowed yesterday!!! And when I told Gary it was snowing, he said, "Sell the house." Oh yes, we are in perfect accord when it comes to snow in Kentucky, it's useless. 
The pictures of flowers in this post were taken yesterday while it was snowing. Today, that poor little fly is just trying to stay warm inside, and I'm knitting myself a hat. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Good Tacos to You, Too

Tonight, I took Dominic to a mexican food restaurant, because I needed caffein to get rid of a headache I had been attempting to dislodge all day. There, I made a fatal flaw, a mistake I've been known to make before. I said, "Gracias" after the waiter seated us.

Now, if you've never spoken Spanish to waiter at a mexican food restaurant before, you may not recognize my mistake. As soon as the word was out of my mouth, I wanted to reach out and drag it back in. I knew the torrent of Spanish that was getting ready to ensue. And I was right.

I can only assume the waiter asked for our drink order, since he then repeated the question in English. He then asked if I speak Spanish. I answered truthfully enough, "Un poco." Perhaps, I should have responded more definitely, "Un muy poco solamente!" Alas, I am positive this would not have made a difference.

We spent the rest of our meal speaking in Spanish. I ordered in Spanish. I responded to his questions, asked in Spanish, in Spanish, because, really, my poco Spanish does cover ordering mexican food. After all, the majority of my Spanish was learned from an old Puerto Rican woman on board the ship I was stationed on who found out I spoke limited Spanish and subsequently refused to speak English to me in order to 'help' me with my Spanish. Really, I loved her. She was like an abuela to me. I just wish I could have understood more of what she said to me! Anyway, she was a food server aboard our ship, hence my familiarity with food related Spanish.

This all brought about some discussions with Dominic about my history of speaking Spanish. He wanted to know when I started speaking Spanish, what my first word was.

When I was a little girl, my aunt, 10 years older than me, was taking Spanish in high school. I think I was 4 or 5. She taught me how to say good night in Spanish. But... I got it a little wrong. That night, when I went to bed, I told my Papa, "Buenos nachos!" To which he replied, "And good tacos to you!"

Here's wishing you a buenos noches, and good tacos for everyone.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Special Operations Warrior Foundation Fundraiser




by Gary
There are countless charitable organizations looking for donations, whether you want to save spotted owls or donate money to further the education of left handed people (we’re a special breed). Most people cherish every dollar they earn, and while they are interested in donating money to a worthy cause, they often don’t know where to start. Another problem is not knowing how much of your money is going to the cause your passionate about and how much is going towards the company overhead.
The Special Operations Warrior Foundation was established to provide college educations for the children of fallen Special Operations operators in Army, Navy, Marine Corp, and Air Force. This covers both operational and training missions. This was one of the biggest selling points for me when researching charities. The men that have dedicated their lives to serve their country in the Special Operations arena have been through the toughest training the military has to offer. Their job is inherently dangerous, and it requires that they are proficient in a myriad of abilities. This requires countless hours of training and for it to be effective, the training needs to be as realistic as possible, after all only perfect practice makes perfect. However, odds are that when men perform dangerous missions either for training or for real world operations, eventually there are casualties.
The last 13 years has seen many service members pay the ultimate price for the freedoms we enjoy and the Special Operations community is no different. Many have paid that price on the battlefield, and some have paid that price while training to get ready for that battlefield. These men often die young, leaving grieving families without a way to pay for their children to attend college and that’s where the Special Operations Warrior Foundation steps in. The fundraisers they support range from cross country ruck marches to golf tournaments and from ultra-marathons to mustache growing contests (that is not a typo). The organization supports all of this with 5.1% overhead.
We all have the freedom to choose where and when we spend our money. We all have a vast array of choices when it comes to donating money. I chose the Special Operations Warrior Foundation because of their steadfast resolve to support the children of those left behind, whether from peacetime or wartime. To the child left without a father it makes no difference to the child if their father died on the battlefield or the training field, the result is still the same.

From Kristina:
The SOWF also provides support to families before their children are ready to go to college. They provide support to help these children be ready for college when they get to that stage. They also provide financial assistance to special operations personnel severely wounded in combat. They provide money immediately to the families so they can be with their loved one at the hospital. This is a special need because it can be a financial hardship on families to be with their injured love one.

This year, the daughter of man who died while assigned to Gary's squadron is going to school using funds provided by SOFW. Each year, some of our friends run in a relay marathon, The Bourbon Chase, to raise money for SOWF. Tomorrow is the day they start this year. We would like to help them raise money. Please, take a moment to donate whatever you can to this cause that is so special to our hearts. Bourbon Chase Relay Team Fundraiser Any amount you can give will help. Thank you so much!

You can follow SOWF on Facebook.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Spider Tried to Kill Me

 
A couple days ago, I was on my way to the doctor's office early in the morning. Early, of course, being relative. It was about 9 o'clock. 

There I was, driving down the road, wishing I had some caffein in my house, when suddenly a spider jumped, jumped onto the dashboard in front of me. Now, you have to understand that I am not bothered by spiders. I mean, they give me the eebie jeebies, but so do mice, roaches, bats, guinea pig, moles, etc. I'm not scared of them. 

But this spider JUMPED out in front of me while I was driving down the road earlyish in the morning. My hands jerked to the left, but only a wee bit. Thankfully. Because for the first time ever, there was an 18 wheeler in the other lane driving toward me. Had I actually swerved into the other lane, my accident would have been one of those where the police said, "The driver of the van suddenly swerved into oncoming traffic for unknown reasons," because we all know that spider would have been long gone.

I got that spider back. My iPhone killed it when it got close enough to me. iPhone 1: spider 0

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Congress, You Can Take This Job and Shove It

More than 16 years ago, I committed to the job of being the wife of a soldier. 11 years ago, I re-committed to the job of being the wife of a soldier, this time during wartime. A time when my soldier would have a deployment tempo that would have him gone almost half my 12 and 10 year olds' lives. I was committed. And I committed my children to the job of being the children of a soldier. But, now? You can take this job and shove it. Congress is no longer populated by people who come and go. It is populated with career politicians, people who truly cannot understand what it is like in every day America.

People so out of touch with reality that they don't understand what not getting paid can do to a family. What millions of federal workers are going to have to do to survive without a paycheck, one that may never come. What not getting paid can do to a person's credit. People so out of touch with reality that they don't truly grasp that the majority of Americans live pay check to pay check. And many of those are federal workers.

People so out of touch with reality that they don't understand what not getting paid does to your disposable income. What shutting off the income of millions of people all at once can do to an already damaged economy. 

People so out of touch with reality that they don't understand that people can't support their families on $7.25 an hour, even if both adults are working full time, sometimes two and three jobs, just to try to get by. Don't see the children coming to school with a handful of cereal in their lunch boxes because they packed it themselves while their crackhead mother slept on the couch. Don't see the children that schools don't allow to eat lunch because they forgot their lunch money.

People so out of touch with reality that they don't know what it's like to have doctor after doctor turn you down for care because they don't accept your insurance. The fact that only one gastroenterologist in a city the size of Louisville accepts Tricare or Medicaid because those programs don't pay enough to keep the lights on. Don't see the soldier who was shot, whose convoy was attacked, who has PTSD, but whose treatment is denied by the VA. Who don't understand that we need real, true health care reform.

People so out of touch with reality that they don't know what it's like to try to teach a class full of students who barely speak English. Students who look and sound like a mini-United Nations. Students whose parents are so whacked out on drugs that they rarely even know where their kids are, let alone how they're doing in school. Students who don't know what it feels like to have someone care about them. Students whose only meals are eaten at school. Who go home on Friday to look forward to a weekend without food. Students who can't learn. Can't, because they don't have the infrastructure to do so. But we expect them to come to school Monday ready to learn and pass those tests.

People so out of touch with reality that they don't know what it's like to have to decide between putting food on the table or taking your sick child to the doctor. How by the time you decide to go to the doctor, your child is well and truly sick. How that trip to the emergency room could mean the end of all your family's hopes and dreams.

People so out of touch with reality that they don't know what it's like to have to worry about being able to pay for college. How even saving for college from the time your child is thought of might not be enough, because the cost of college is much higher than the poverty line.

People so out of touch with reality that they don't see the children who have grown up in the United States, the children of illegal immigrants, illegal themselves, brought here at such a young age that they don't remember living anywhere else. Some not even speaking the language of their birth country. How 'returning' to the country of their birth in an effort to attain legal residency in the only home they've ever known is impossible because they just can't afford it.

People so out of touch with reality that they respond to every letter and email of concern with a form letter. A letter that touts whatever talking point they want to make. Usually reassuring the recipient that such and such isn't going to happen, when that was not the recipient's concern at all. Refusing to listen to constituents' concerns, unless those constituents happen to be backed by checkbooks.

People so out of touch with reality that they don't understand what reality is in America. The reality of struggle. The reality of pain. The reality of love. The reality of chasing a dream. The reality of attaining that dream against all odds. The reality of watching that dream slip through your fingers. 

Things need to change. And right now, this instant? If Congress can't do their job, why should I have to do mine? Why should I have to live with endless deployments and absences? Why must I have to deal with the stress of waiting to find out whether or not we're going to get paid? I'm looking for a new job. I think I'll title it "Head of Vote Your Congressman Out of Office."

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