Monday, June 6, 2016

Five Years On...

It's an odd balance being thankful to be alive and also grieving the child I lost. Maybe in some ways it's nice because there's more than the bitter/sad/angry/cynical/nauseated feeling that's almost always the worst on Garrett's birthday. I told Mike that sometimes I'm sad because I'm so much less naive and hopeful than I was 5 years ago. I suppose it's good that I had some naivete to lose considering the whole drug addict parent thing but, still. It's always tough to realize the world is a little less shiny than it was.

In five years, so much has changed. Autumn has two new cousins on Mike's side. The kids are all growing up. Autumn is nine what the heck. We've been on and off the adoption roller coaster and, frankly, we've been pretty damn happy since we stopped living on the edge of our seats and realizing that sometimes, maybe even often, the answer is no. We're visiting a church down the street. The faces around our table of friends have changed because of life, life stages, distance, and time. Mike's sister Lauren got married. My mom has a boyfriend which is craziness and kind of adorable. I have an entirely new career and started college again in January. The aikido dojo has moved twice and grown like crazy. I have two black belts and a whole new set of classmates. I deadlifted 155 pounds which is 35 pounds more than I weigh. We got a dog named Ollie and lost Grumpy Molly and then we got a cat named Butterscotch, ending the rhyming animal name trend. I chopped my hair off. Autumn has a green belt in Aikido and is kind of amazing at it. And Mike has found a new love of weight lifting, much to my delight.

Five years.

Five years.

He'd be getting ready for kindergarten. Getting ready to go with us to Ireland to meet Mike's new boss. Would have been a ring bearer in Lauren's wedding. He'd be walking and talking and drawing and driving Autumn crazy and...and...maybe. Who knows. My friend Tamara quoted Whittier today, "For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: 'It might have been!'"

I have been talking about doing such a thing since I was 19 but Mike and I came to a decision that this was the right time for me to get my first tattoo. After a lot of research and thought, I went to Vanessa Waites at Underground Art. I told her my story and, after Lauren's wedding, I got my in memory of Garrett tattoo. She did an amazing job, creating art for the inside of my right bicep I never would have come up with on my own. It's all there, the quote, the pinwheels, the bunnies, and some watercolor leaves for Autumn.

Back in July 2011, I first posted the poem by Christina Rosetti.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

Is still means so much and I still have hope, even if I do feel a little naive about it sometimes. Life is good these days. I have no survivor's guilt. Anymore, at least. I get a little stronger all the time and if I feel a little stab in my heart every time I reach a goal, well, maybe it's just a reminder, like the wind.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Changes, pt. 2

Continued from a couple weeks ago...

Mike and I were all dressed up for Boppa's twenties-themed 90th birthday bash.
Back in September, I turned 35. I'm not weird about aging (yet?) but I decided I wanted to do something fun and had my hair dyed purple! I really love it and I've seen it pop up a lot around town and pretend I had something to do with it, ha. Everyone else seems to like it, mostly, although I occasionally forget my hair is not a natural color and can't figure out why this or that person is side eying or outright glaring at me. One mom even rolled down her window at Autumn's school and yelled "AH LUV YORE HAIR!" It was great. I have to go brown for Lauren's wedding in May so after that I'm considering pink for the summer. Thoughts? Suggestions?

I started powerlifting in September, too. I love it. I wanted to do something challenging and new. I try to be new at something all the time so that, as a teacher, I never forget what it's like to be a noob. I am working with a personal trainer and it's a very different experience from working with a trainer when I was recovering. The front of my hip where they cut across my psoas gave me a ton of trouble at the beginning. That seems to have worked itself out so now I'm building up my core and back to lift heavier loads. I've also been working with the gym's nutritionist on a powerlifting diet. I'm sure I'll write more about all this but I've reached some goals. I hit bodyweight on my squat (125 lbs). I passed bodyweight with my deadlift and right now I'm at 145 lbs.


My fitness and Aikido classes seems to be going extremely well. The accountant told me he didn't have any corrections to my bookkeeping which is fabulous. Lately, possibly due to the New Year's Resolution crowd, I have had well attended classes and I've picked up a new gym I'm super excited about.

After doing the powerlifting and seeing some success at group fitness, I wanted to pursue my personal training certification. But then, after some thought, I told Mike I realized there's so much I don't know. He didn't like me putting it that way so I rephrased it: there's so much I want to learn. So...I'm going back to college. All my previous credits were towards an arts diploma but a lot more transferred than I expected. I only have 2 general education requirements and then the exercise science core. I am currently taking those two gen eds this semester through the online program at the University of Memphis because I am traveling a lot right now for some odd reason. It's going to take a while but I'm enjoying the challenge! I love one of my classes. It's Greek and Hebrew Legacy and I it's really reminding me why I was a literature and religion major! So fascinating!

 I've been so busy I closed my Etsy shop and I've stopped all my affiliate accounts. I'm still making things for friends when they need or want them so feel free to get in touch! This was one of the more recent things I made for my brother. Inside it says: "Have a Christmas." Love it!

It's pretty amazing how things can change and yet stay the same over a year. Here's to a peaceful and productive 2016!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Changes 1

Wow, I didn't intend to take almost a year off from blogging. It's been a fairly uneventful 11-ish months since my last post and, frankly, it's been a season we needed. Although we haven't had any earth shattering events, a lot has changed this year.

I think we're pretty well recovered from our adoption adventures. It was a rocky time and I don't think we made a mistake in trying to adopt even with hindsight being what it is. We've come to a comfortable place in our hearts that our family is the way it is and, if adoption is ever a path we'll take, it's not the one we were meant for now. It will always be hard and bittersweet but there's also contentment. Mike's sister Lindsay even had a baby a couple of weeks ago. When I was holding Emmy (twice Autumn's birth weight!!), I realized that...I'm good. Baby Time is over for me. Now, Miss Autumn? She isn't quite there yet!

Our beautiful, funny, weird, and evil cat Molly passed away over the summer of thyroid cancer. It was super sad because Molly came to live with us the December after we married so we can barely remember a time when we didn't have her. But, she went smoothly and before she had a chance to suffer long. We buried her in the back yard and put a kitty statue over her spot.

Around the same time we found out Molly was sick, we got a puppy! We didn't think we'd ever talk Mike into it but, seriously, he loves Mr. Ollie. Ollie is a maltipoo we found through Real Good Dog Rescue. Mike liked maltipoos since seeing an episode of Too Cute featuring them so when I saw a facebook post about rescues from a breeder that closed down, I immediately got up and filled out the forms at 1am Monday morning. By Friday, Ollie came to live with us! He's great. Especially now that he's mostly housebroken and not chewing ALL THE THINGS. He even has an instagram...

... where Butterscotch appears from time to time. Butterscotch is another rescue. He's the nicest cat in the world. If not the nicest, possibly the chillest. Autumn and I saw him, along with a few others, in the rescue area of Petco and convinced Mike to let us at least see if one of them was a good fit. I put each kitten in Autumn's arms and then in front of Ollie. We took home Scotch because he loved being held and didn't hiss at the overly enthusiastic dog. Oh, man. Best cat ever.

Well. I didn't expect to take a year off blogging and I certainly didn't expect to make my first post 90% about pets. I'll hopefully continue next week with the rest of our life changes, from powerlifting to going back to school! Oh, yeah, and purple hair.

Friday, February 27, 2015

CTC Test Clips, Business Craziness, and other fun times

It's been a full couple of months! The Aikido school has been restructuring. The school that hosts us turned over the keeping of our books to us because our program has grown so much. How awesome is that? We have functioned as independent contractors for years so I have been applying for business licenses, hiring a cpa, setting up Quickbooks, and so on. It's been a good learning experience but extremely consuming. I'm not going to do anything rash, but I'm seriously considering closing my Etsy shop because of how busy I have been with Aikido. I've already cut back a bit on my fitness schedule but I'm still feeling somewhat stretched. Hopefully it's temporary and this will pass as the early paperwork starts to slow down. Anyway, here's something certificate is officially framed!

Wednesday was a crazy day. I subbed a class for a friend in the morning and then I went home to change and prepare for two presentations. I'm glad I got to teach because otherwise I would have moped around feeling nervous! The first presentation was with a group of hospice workers who have to travel to potentially dangerous areas. We did the awareness portion of a self defense seminar which is primarily lecture on prevention. It went well, partly because it was a great group who asked good questions.

After that, I headed straight over to an event at ServiceMaster honoring the Philippines and Pacific Islands and featured a few martial artists from around town. Their original Filipino martial arts representative fell through and the event coordinator happened to mention this to his hair stylist Don who ALSO HAPPENS to be my hair stylist. How small is this world?? Don said, "funny enough...I know someone."

I wasn't able to rustle up a demo partner because of the time of the event but the coordinator was excited about having FMA represented as well as having a female martial artist in the program. He suggested making a video and putting together a talk. So, I did! I used footage from my CTC test last March. Unfortunately, most of the video of weapon material was wobbly and unusable but I put a few pieces together and finished it off with scenarios.

I talked about my martial path and covered a bit about Filipino Martial Arts in general. I also shared how FMA influenced me and then showed the drills. We paused the video before the scenarios and discussed what a scenario is and the context...this test took place after a full day seminar and the test itself was 5 hours long. On purpose. They wanted to see what, if anything, I would do under stress and exhaustion. To quote my friend Shang, this tells them and me that I have answers and won't simply roll over and die.

They gave me a list of scenarios and I had to do each one against a weapon, empty hand, under continuous attack, on the ground, and the attacker got to choose one of his own! You'll notice we aren't throwing full punches because it was a LONG night and it shows good control. Mine starts to break down as the night wears on...note that I accidentally smush Chuck's head into the concrete at one point......anyway, check it out for yourself! Friends and family I showed the video to agreed that the scenarios were the most entertaining part so for the blog, I took out the drills and the fun part is left, haha.

The presentation was a success! I also raffled off some self defense and aikido classes so maybe I'll pick up a new student. Just as a side note, we are adding a new adult Aikido class to our schedule on Tuesday nights, 6:15-7pm. To celebrate our growth, for the month of March, new students of any age will only pay $30 to get started!

Other CTC test blog posts:
Notes from the Weekend
Canes and Joint Locks and Falls, Oh, My!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The ties that bind

"So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection."

A number of my Facebook friends posted an article about addiction and its root cause. I happen to agree that connection is a large part of the solution of addiction but, of course, many of my reasons are anecdotal. Later in the article, the author talks about how humans are bonding animals who need to connect and love. This entire blog is full of ways our life would have fallen apart without friends and strangers and everyone in between walking beside us and supporting us through dark times.

Some of those friends have fallen away and while I occasionally regret the absence, I know that everything happens in seasons, from parenthood to friendship. Even this blog might be coming to the end of its season as readership fades and I continue to write mainly for myself. I'm currently praying that the chaos we've experienced the last couple of years truly is a season and not what life will be like from now until the end.

Lately the little things weigh on me: coming to terms with our future looking different than we expected with the end of our adoption journey; both the fitness and Aikido branches of my career having issues I can write about later; the house in disarray because I've been putting out (not literal) fires instead of  keeping to my (already not amazing) routine; we're searching for a new church; and so on.

But, then again, it's the little things that keep me from going crazy or giving up and just laying in bed all day. Mike has been really patient and helpful while I alternate between frantically working and enthusiastically moping. Someone shared a picture that said something about how if your wife is having problems, hold her and tell her she's beautiful. Fortunately, Mike has never, ever risked his very life trying that on me and takes everything I do seriously, even if a good chunk of our circle doesn't.

The above photo is from Autumn's first violin recital. She did such a great job. The recital was a couple weeks ago and I think it was a turning point for me. I'm not saying the last two weeks have been much easier than the previous weeks but...I realized how incredibly lucky I am to have close friends who not only support me but also Autumn. She may not get any siblings (or a dog, her latest obsession) but she will never lack for honorary aunts and uncles and grandparents! Penny and her mom came to Autumn's recital. Aren't these some pretty, happy faces??

Christy came, too! I remember thinking that she mentioned wanting to come but I didn't want to make her feel like she had to and as I was debating whether or not to text her the time, Christy texted me to confirm the time and place! How sweet is that? Afterward, she, Mike's parents, Autumn and I got some celebratory ice cream. Autumn kept saying she misses doing swim lessons with Ms. Christy. Too sweet! Incidentally, Autumn made the swim team last week. Due, in no small part, to her summer of swimming with Christy!

On the next day, I got to go to a class that talked about pepper spray deployment and certified me to carry a baton or ASP. It was great! I got to spend time with the kali group which is always nice and as, Tamara put it, feels like getting the old band together! Tamara attended and so did martial arts little brother Matt. Ahhh, like old times!

I guess all of this is to say that whether it's for big, horrible reasons or small, piling up is so hard sometimes. I find it hard these days to pray for miracles or changes or anything at all. So, I pray for strength and endurance. I pray for wisdom. And I thank God for the people who choose to stick around and care for us so that we don't lose the human connection that keeps us going whether we are addicts or simply, as Stephan would say, humans being.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Nutrition Journey 4: Quotes and out on my own!

With all of the holiday and test craziness, I missed something pretty fun. Check it out!
Click to embiggen!

I haven't linked or put the name of my dietician on the blog because I wasn't sure how she'd feel about what I've written. Happily, I told her about my posts and not only did Blair come by and read but she asked if she could use some quotes! Of course I said yes. This issue of Good Health came out in November and that was exciting. I have had a great experience with Blair and highly recommend connecting with her or Schilling Nutrition if you want to explore the idea of seeing a registered dietician.

I am on my own right now although Blair and I have emailed a couple of times. She recommended a book called Intuitive Eating I plan to pick up. The best thing is that I have the tools and knowledge to make wise choices--that's a phrase I say to Autumn every morning before I drop her off, by the way--and it's nice to know I can make another appointment if anything changes and I need to make an adjustment I don't feel comfortable making on my own. Frankly, it's not unlike seeing a counselor. I like knowing that if life gets overwhelming, I can call the counselor I have seen off and on for several years. I suspect this dietician thing is somewhat similar. I also like having someone I can recommend to folks who are interested.

Autumn is getting better with chopsticks. She has graduated to the ones that don't have with finger rings!

Right now what I'm working on is breakfast. I'm in good shape with my breakfasts but I'm trying to get Autumn on a good "starch, protein, fruit, fat" schedule. She's a fantastic eater for lunch and dinner but I think she might be a little like Mike and just not want to eat much in the morning although she mentions being super hungry by lunchtime. Today I put a few nuts in her cereal and earlier this week I found out she doesn't like bagels or sausage! It's kind of fun and a little like a puzzle plus I feel like Autumn is at the perfect age to teach healthy eating. Actually, any age is probably good but she is growing and hungry all the time so I get to teach her about good snacks (a protein and a carb!) and we aren't having to unlearn old habits.

One of the best meals I had last year was at Back A Yard in the Bay area. I want to go back SO BAD.

It's really cold so although I keep telling myself I'm going to fitness photos, I cannot bring myself to do it. I took some in the summer wearing a 2 piece and I'd like to do it again. Really, it's less to be all "look how fabulous I am!" and more "hey, doesn't matter how you look, you can be healthy and strong!" I feel good. And that's nice. I do think I've had some body changes but once I get my measurements and pictures, I'll be able to tell a little better what all this heavier lifting and healthier eating has done to me on the outside. On the inside, like I said, I feel good despite a lot of work-related stress. I suspect I'd be a lot sicker and a lot more tired without the good diet and movement.

Anyway, I still have more to update (insulin meds, the food diary, not counting calories...stuff like that) but I'll wrap it up with a recipe! Mike LOVES this meal and Autumn chose it over another leftover option on leftovers night so that's a good endorsement. It's easily doubled and adjusted to be a vegetarian meal and perfect for cold, winter days. Tonight I'm going to try it in our new rice cooker and see how that goes. Mike posted the recipe in a friend's healthy eating Facebook group and several people have made it and loved it! The original recipe is here. This is my version.

Lentil and Brown Rice Casserole
(serves 6)

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup lentils
1/2 cup brown rice
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder (or to taste)
1 tsp. salt (optional/to taste)
1 cup grated cheddar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat chicken broth to boiling in water kettle, on stovetop, or in microwave. Then, combine all ingredients in a 9x13 dish except cheese. Cover tightly with foil and cook for 50-55 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with cheese. Cook uncovered for an additional 10 minutes.

Update: I made this in the rice cooker last night and it went really well! We just got a new one that would be overkill for a lot of people but we eat a lot of brown and white rice and supposedly this one is the best at cooking brown rice. I put all the ingredients except the cheese in the rice cooker, set it to brown rice, and turned on the timed start because I wanted it to start while I was away. When it was done, I sprinkled the cheese on top and closed the lid until the cheese melted. I'd definitely do it this way again! One more note: try the casserole with salsa on top. So good!

    Saturday, January 17, 2015

    California Wrap Up

    Now that the holidays are past, I thought I'd finish up the touring posts of my trip! I think I mentioned that Mike, Autumn, and my mom came along. My mom stayed the whole time but Autumn and Mike were with me Friday through Tuesday. Well. Saturday. We arrived in California after midnight Pacific time. Saturday we went to Big Basin with our friends Shang, Lisa, and Lily. Sunday and Monday we wandered downtown San Francisco around my class schedule. We went to the Golden Gate Bridge Park and only saw a fraction of it in the time we had. We did get to see all of the Japanese Tea Gardens which was pretty amazing, even in winter.

    Of course, we had to see the Golden Gate Bridge. We found out that it is not, in fact, red. It's international orange! Autumn got a bridge ornament and an international orange color pencil at the gift shop. She collects snow globes and the gift shop had *the* coolest fog globe. We bought her one on the sly and gave it to her for Christmas. It's a little goofy to mention something like that but I've seriously never seen a snow globe that was so pretty. The real Bridge was cool and so were the places to explore nearby. Autumn especially enjoyed the earthquake simulator. Next time, I'd love to walk some of the trails and maybe see Alcatraz.

    Autumn liked the mystery of this tunnel. And I like this facial expression! It ended up being a really short tunnel to some old battle earthen works and walking trails. You could see the bunkers where people would enter to work the cannons and guns along the way. I wish Fort Point was open when we were there because that would have been really cool!

    While we were in San Francisco, Autumn missed a few days of school. I decided that we could do work anywhere but a trip to San Francisco would be worth missing the class time. Her teacher was great and gave us everything Autumn needed to stay caught up. I sent her teacher this photo and she wrote back not to make Autumn work too hard! It turns out I was right that it wouldn't be terrible to miss the first part of the week because last week Autumn came home with a great report card for that 9 weeks!

    Oh, and it was funny because our hotel was near a lot of companies whose product we use. Logitech was on the same street and and every day on the way to the dojo, I passed Facebook's headquarters!

    I don't think we had a terrible traffic experience although parking wasn't very fun downtown. Fortunately, all the times I needed to get to classes, the traffic was always heavy in the opposite direction. I was feeling pretty good about it all until Monday night when there was an accident on the bridge I had to cross and I was on the bridge for almost 2 hours. People were turning off their cars and getting out to visit each other! Many of my California friends said that was my official state welcome, especially since I could see my exit!

    This is a really grainy photo but isn't it fun!! We went to Stanford on Monday so I could attend a class with Hayashi Sensei (far right) who was on my testing panel and has been kind enough coach me through all of this. She, Adrienne (next to Hayashi Sensei), and Victor were invaluable and I couldn't have passed this test without their help. As it was, I passed with good remarks rather than just squeaking by which is fantastic considering I had 5 training days to clean up and make sure I was within the testing standard. It absolutely wouldn't have happened without folks, and not just the ones I mentioned, taking time before, during, and after regular classes to guide and polish me. It's funny, all the things I thought would be a problem for me...weren't, ha! Hip throws weren't too bad and I was worried about that. But a couple things I thought I had down were a little too far off of what they like to see which is mainly a function of our school being out of touch (literally) for too long.

    The day after our Bridge, Stanford, and American Girl Store visits, Mike and Autumn headed home. It was hard saying goodbye to them but I knew that they would just be bored because, with the exception of a visit to Chinatown, I pretty much ate, slept, and trained. One afternoon we had this pretty rainbow. I didn't catch it on my cell phone but it was a double! I don't really believe in signs, we were burned too many times with positive looking things during our attempted adoptions, but I did choose to take some encouragement from the pretty sight.

    The day of my test, I didn't do any extra training but I was going to go crazy if we didn't do *something* so we went to Chinatown! It's probably a good thing we didn't go with Mike and Autumn because I think they would not have liked the crowds and clutter. It went great, though, because I looked up a parking garage on yelp, went straight there using Google Maps, paid a couple dollars, and bam, we were in Chinatown. No parking drama! We souvenir shopped, people watched and ate at a restaurant we don't know the name of because everything was in Chinese and we ordered by sight or by pictures. We also went to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie factory in one of the alleys. It was a tiny strip where people sat in a row making the cookies! I bought bags for myself and for Philip and Matt who helped me train in Memphis.

    The dojo where I trained was really nice. A good size without being cavernous and their fan cracked me up. It was HUGE and the brand name was Big Ass. I know. So adolescent but still. I giggled. In my fantasies I have a shomen at my school with all the proper items. That's me getting ballroom dipped, by the way.

    Did I mention that the school is huge? This is part of the crowd that watched me test. So, I traveled almost 2000 miles to a strange city and a strange school where strange people watched me! Not intimidating AT ALL................................

    But it was an experience and many of the strangers weren't strangers by the end of it all. I also had a good time watching Stephan reconnect with old friends from his Utah days. I can't remember if I mentioned it before but I am Stephan's first student to test for Shodan!

    Coming home was so nice although the trip was fun and interesting and challenging. I missed Mike and Autumn and next time I test I want to make sure they are there for it rather than visiting at the beginning of the trip. We talked about having them fly in on Thursday and then we'd go home Monday and do our touring on Saturday and Sunday. I could see that being an option in a couple of years when I do this again. I came home to a nice little welcome home set up. All of Autumn's favorite friends! And...a cute bucket.

    One last thing...I also came home to a new faucet, ha! Mike spent Saturday putting this in all by himself. I'm not sure how we ended up dividing things this way but I do things like hang pictures and put things together and he does plumbing and anything involving the attic. We need to trade plumbing and hanging since he's tall and I fit in small places! I think it's less physical suitability than what we can be patient with, though. Plumbing makes me angry, hahaha. Anyway, we haven't had more than a trickle of hot water for months. I kept telling myself that Laura Ingalls Wilder and her mom didn't get hot running water. Many people now don't have hot running water. But I just couldn't help REALLY WANTING HOT RUNNING WATER. Because if it's an available option, I totally can use it for my greasy pans!! Well, now I have hot water in the kitchen again! Yay and thank you, Mike!