Friday, December 28, 2007
Waikiki and the ocean in the distance.
This is a view of the trail up ahead. You can't see clearly but the trail snakes along the ridge of the mountains.Here's me sunning myself on the beach in Waikiki. My new favorite hobby.
Adam in the sunset at Waikiki.
Me and Adam. We're that couple. You know, the ones who are sohappytogether!
Sunset pics. These took for.ev.er. to upload. So I hope you like them. A LOT.
And this, friends, is the parking lot... ahem, I mean GAS STATION at Costco where you can find the cheapest gas on the island at only $3.27 (choke) - 10-20 cents cheaper than anywhere else. And cars line up 6 or 7 deep out into the street for this stuff.
This is Bellows beach on Christmas morning. It was a bit overcast but still nice. We had the beach pretty much to ourselves.
More of Bellows. The sand was like powdered sugar and the water was turquoise.
Here's Adam playing in the surf. We both had a good time jumping waves! You can walk out into the surf up to your head if you want, there's no drop off, just a gradual descent, and the sand is packed hard.
I bring food everywhere. This is a cucumber. I like cucumbers. We were at Ko Olina on Christmas Day after we left Bellows.
Ending the day at Ko Olina in the Marriott bar watching the sunset.
Sunset at Ko Olina.
The resort and condos at Ko Olina made four lagoons along the coast where the water is calm and good for swimming. It's just gorgeous there.
So that's all I have for now. Considering how long it took me to upload all these photos, I might have to find another way of sharing pics. But I got a new digital camera for Christmas (thanks Mom and Dad!) so I will be taking lots of them!!
Saturday, December 08, 2007
And here I am!! I just got back from foraging at Safeway and spending a frightful amount on groceries for my little room. Thankfully it all fit into my mini fridge, even the large container of organic spinach I bought. Believe it or not they had a LOT of organic foods at Safeway and I was shocked to find that they were virtually the same price as the regular fruits and vegetables. I don't know if that's some skew from prices being inflated here or what? Organic chicken was only a little more expensive than it is on the mainland.
I was up at 2 this morning and managed to stay in bed until 3:30 until I couldn't lay there any longer. I got up and was hungry, so I ate a Greens+ protein bar and surfed on the net looking for grocery stores and directions. I just ate again from my new bounty of yummy foods and I'm going to change and head over to the gym in a moment. Then it will be off to Waikiki for some exploring at the beach!! It's only 9:15 in the morning so I have a whole day to spend.
My room is on Pearl Harbor naval station and I am literally across the street from the harbor where there are currently three mighty and scrappy looking navy battleships docked. There is a big sign that says no pictures otherwise I would post one of my view.
Not to worry - there will be plenty of other lovely things to take pictures of! It is so beautiful here. It is so GREEN. Everywhere, like this bright new emerald color green ... amazing. I've barely even seen the ocean yet!
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Anyway, here was my workout (exercises are bodyweight unless otherwise noted):
2x10 - squat, pushup, wall stick-up, mountain climbers, lunge, spiderman lunge
Supersets - 3 sets of each
squat x 15
offset pushup x 8 each side
split squat with front foot elevated x 12 (10# db's)
inverted row x 12
stability ball side knee tucks x 6 each side
stability ball hamstring curls x 15
spiderman pushups (on knees) x 8 each
hip extension x 15 each
25# db swings 6 sets of 15 with 30 seconds trying not to puke...I mean rest in between
One of my colleagues is sick today with something ghastly. He looks like the living dead. People should not come to work when they are wheezing and oozing like that!!
Also, the weather turned cold and nasty today. The temperature is supposed to drop abou 20 degrees from this morning and it is windy and raining.
I'm looking forward to going home on Saturday! A whole week off - this is the first real vacation I have taken this year.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Sunday, October 28, 2007
What to do when your significant other is in an undiscolsed location on an undisclosed mission for an undisclosed amount of time...
Yesterday I watched The Ultimate Fighter until 11:00 pm! I am totally addicted to UFC. I have no idea what makes guys want to pound on each other so violently... or what makes me want to watch it!!! But there it is. I was glued to the t.v. completely fascinated.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Monday, October 22, 2007
October 22, 2007
Resistance is futile: You will be (mis)informed.
A parallel universe.
All describe the bizarro-world contrast between what most Americans seem to think is happening in Iraq versus what is really happening in Iraq. Knowing this disconnect exists and experiencing it directly are two separate matters. It’s like the difference between holding the remote control during the telecast of a volcanic eruption on some distant island (and then flipping the channel), versus running for survival from a wretch of molten lava that just engulfed your car.
I was at home in the United States just one day before the magnitude hit me like vertigo: America seems to be under a glass dome which allows few hard facts from the field to filter in unless they are attached to a string of false assumptions. Considering that my trip home coincided with General Petraeus’ testimony before the US Congress, when media interest in the war was (I’m told) unusually concentrated, it’s a wonder my eardrums didn’t burst on the trip back to Iraq. In places like Singapore, Indonesia, and Britain people hardly seemed to notice that success is being achieved in Iraq, while in the United States, Britney was competing for airtime with O.J. in one of the saddest sideshows on Earth.
No thinking person would look at last year’s weather reports to judge whether it will rain today, yet we do something similar with Iraq news. The situation in Iraq has drastically changed, but the inertia of bad news leaves many convinced that the mission has failed beyond recovery, that all Iraqis are engaged in sectarian violence, or are waiting for us to leave so they can crush their neighbors. This view allows our soldiers two possible roles: either “victim caught in the crossfire” or “referee between warring parties.” Neither, rightly, is tolerable to the American or British public.
Today I am in Iraq, back in a war of such strategic consequence that it will affect generations yet unborn—whether or not they want it to. Hiding under the covers will not work, because whether it is good news or bad, whether it is true or untrue, once information is widely circulated, it has such formidable inertia that public opinion seems impervious to the corrective balm of simple and clear facts.
In fact, the trend across the country is clearly positive. Further, each new development can be seen to set into motion other additional developments which are combining kinetic forces faster than even the best reporters can keep up with.
Anyone who has been in Iraq for longer than a few months, visited a handful of provinces, and spoken with a good number of Iraqis, likely would acknowledge that the reality here is complex and dynamic. But in the last six months it also has been increasingly hopeful, despite what the pessimistic dogma dome allows Americans and British to believe.
I wasn’t back in Iraq three days before this critical disconnect rocketed up from the ground and whacked me in the face. There I was with British soldiers, preparing for a mission with a duration of more than ten days in the southern province of al Basra, when someone asked me about the media reports alleging that Basra city had collapsed into violent chaos. Not wishing to trust solely to my own eyes and ears, I asked around and was able to quickly confirm what I’d already noted: conditions in this region had improved dramatically in the months since my previous embed with the Brits.
When “Maysan” was published, that milestone event had to compete with bad news coming from a college campus in Virginia.
That month-long experience was marked by “Jaish al Mahdi” (Mahdi Army or JAM)-related attacks on British soldiers. These attacks were further fueled by enemy media operations which distorted the long-planned draw-down of British troops in Basra city, something I noted in the dispatch “Maysan”:
As the British increase their forces in Afghanistan, they are drawing down in Iraq. Although the drawdown in Iraq is based on pragmatism, the enemy apparently is attempting to create the perception of a military rout. So while the British reduce their forces in southern Iraq, they are coming under heavier fire and the enemy makes claims of driving “the occupiers” out.
In reality, the Brits were about to transfer authority over the Maysan Province to the Iraqi government. Thus, the day’s purpose, although seemingly more ceremonial in nature, was to counterpunch in the perception war, by focusing on the progress being made by the Iraqi Security Forces in the region. Some of the biggest battles in Iraq today are being fought not with bombs and bullets, but with cameras and keyboards. For whatever reasons—and there are many—today, when Western media is most needed here, it’s nearly gone.
Several upcoming dispatches will focus on how the situation in Southern Iraq has dramatically improved over past months. Ironically, the character of this improvement is distinguished by the lack of violence, as well as the increasing order and normality as Iraqi Security Forces step up to greater responsibility for security in the region. Though the local leadership picture in downtown Basra is fuzzier now that British forces have pulled further back to begin performing their long-planned overwatch phase, it is clear that this natural progression in turning Basra over to Iraqi control has not catapulted the city into chaos.
Nic Robertson of CNN was recently down here. I saw him out on the Iranian border. When Mr. Robertson and I appeared jointly on CNN, his reporting was accurate and in context.
No one who’s actually been to this area in the last month could honestly claim it was swarming with violence. I’ve been with the Brits here for more than two weeks, during which time there have been only a few trivial attacks that could easily have been the work of an angry farmer with extra time on his hands and a mortar in his backyard. As to serious attacks on British forces, in the last eight weeks, there have been exactly zero. So, any stories that make it sound like Basra is in chaos are shamefully false.
Sadly, this is not a new phenomenon. I’ve written often about the near complete failure of most media reporting—as the craft is most typically plied over here—to capture the truth of Iraq and accurately portray it in an increasingly commercial news environment.
I came to Iraq in December 2004 specifically because friends in the military had been telling me about the disconnect between the situation on the ground and the media coverage about it. This is partly why I have remained focused enough on this problem to write about it dozens of times, beginning with an early dispatch about how many news reports “from” Iraq are generated . Later I described the expensive and exasperating embed process that makes long-term on-the-ground reporting next to impossible for most small or medium media outlets, and just plain impossible for most freelancers and independents.
I called it “Catch-22 Redux” in a dispatch earlier this year, writing about how “my new work space has no internet capability, no surface for work, not to mention the obvious problem with secure storage for the heavy pile of incredibly expensive gear needed to cover this war the way it should be covered. Can’t run a mission AND keep an eye on it, and can’t do the work the way it needs to be done without running missions to see and hear it firsthand.”
I’ve written about the small and petty ways the military’s Public Affairs Offices can sour even the most earnestly and positively-inclined reporters. I’ve written about how the military’s entire approach to media has failed utterly to serve both the particular mission in Iraq and the greater cause of an informed and vibrant democracy. I’ve written about reporters who got the story right, about those who got it all wrong, and also about those whose reports, good or bad, never saw the light of day.
I’ve written about why an effective and engaged media is especially crucial for the kind of counterinsurgency strategy only now being applied comprehensively in all areas of Iraq. I’ve written about how the current system of over-reliance on questionable sources creates a pressure to rush to judgment.
I’ve written about how dangerous this war is for reporters who claim there is no real consumer demand for articles about Iraq that would justify the risks. The internet erosion of the mainstream media subscriber base and advertiser support doesn’t reduce demand for news from the ground in Iraq, but it does dry up funds for anything but local stringers with spotty notions of accuracy.
But it wasn’t until I spent that week back in the States that I realized how bad things have gotten. I believe we are witnessing a conspiracy of coincidences conflating to exert an incomprehensibly destructive force on the free press system that we largely take for granted. The fact that the week in question also happened to be when General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker were delivering their reports to Congress makes me wonder if things are actually worse than I’ve assessed, and I returned to Iraq sadly convinced that General Petraeus now has to deal from a deck clearly stacked against him in both America and Iraq.
I’ve called it The Green Gator Phenomena. This tendency for average people to put unwarranted stock in any information—including an outright falsehood—that is reported as true by many sources, seems now to dominate both the mainstream media and a majority of the consumers of its Iraq product line.
Clearly, a majority of Americans believe the current set of outdated fallacies passed around mainstream media like watered down drinks at happy hour. Why wouldn’t they? The cloned copy they get comes from the same sources that list the specials at the local grocery store, and the hours and locations of polling places for town elections. These same news sources print obituaries and birth announcements, give play-by-play for local high school sports, and chronicle all the painful details of the latest celebrity to fall from grace.
To illustrate the absurdity to which this conceit of the collective has grown, I’m tempted to borrow from the boy in the fairy tale, only this time pointing to and shouting at the doomsday-sayers parading by: “Hey, they aren’t wearing any clothes. . . . ” Except in this case, I realize I am not a lone voice. Furthermore, with the help of other clear-eyed individuals, I may actually be in a unique position to do something to remedy this, if the experience I had with the AP response to my challenge to investigate and report on the disturbing gravesites in the Al Hamira village is any guide.
Although I can’t answer to the cause of the problem, I humbly offer permission to media outlets to republish excerpts of the dispatch or the dispatch in its entirety, including my photographs from the story (if used as they are in the dispatch) at no cost during the month of July 2007. I only ask that the site receive proper attribution and that any publication taking me up on the offer email the website with the details.
That offer was dying on the vine until Bob Owens at Confederate Yankee took the Associated Press to task for their bungled reportage of a different mass graves news story, using my dispatch as a comparison. Although it took a little back and forth, and some additional pressure from all the other bloggers who started tracking on the topic, the AP finally dispatched a reporter to the scene. The resulting article was picked up by at least one other major media outlet, reaching thousands more people. This got me to thinking: what if I made a similar offer on a more permanent basis to a large media syndication, say, the National Newspaper Association?
Very few of NNA’s 2,700-member daily and weekly papers around the US can afford to send their own reporters and photographers to Iraq. But if they had a source of news and photographs they could tap into that did not cost anything, there would be one fewer obstacle to their running more firsthand news from the ground in Iraq.
Using the lessons learned from “Bless the Beasts,” it probably won’t be enough just to make the news I am reporting available to NNA-member publications at no cost. There may need to be a little irritating sand in order to get a pearl out of this oyster.
This is where my readers come in, at least those among them who share the concern that the distorted picture most Americans have of the situation in Iraq has strategic (and disastrous) implications for this war, our national security, and the stability of one of the most volatile regions on the planet.
Those readers can first check to see if their local paper is a member of the NNA . Because only NNA members will be able to
” . . . print excerpts of Michael Yon’s dispatches, including up to two of his photographs from each dispatch. Online excerpts may use up to 8 paragraphs, use 1-3 photos, and then link back to the full dispatch on his site saying ‘To continue reading, click here.’”
If their local paper is a member of NNA, readers can contact the editor, urging their participation. [If Bob Owens’ experience is a reliable indicator, this might take several prompts.] By encouraging their local daily or weekly newspapers to reprint these dispatches in their print editions, more people without internet access can begin to see a more accurate reflection of the progress I have observed and chronicled in dispatches like “Achievements of the Heart,” “7 Rules: 1 Oath,” “The Hands of God,” and “Three Marks on the Horizon.”
There is a cost to this. By making these stories available to NNA members at no cost, I have to forego any license fees they might otherwise generate. Although the newspapers who participate in this venture won’t have any additional costs, that also won’t reduce the expenses I incur to continue producing work that many commenters say needs to reach a wider audience. But it certainly gives those same commenters an easy way to put some walk behind all their talk.
Reader support is critical and highly appreciated, because I depend on my readers for all the funds required to do this work. I have been trying to thank each and every person who has helped—something of a feat in itself—but I want to say it clearly: Your support is hugely appreciated. In addition to setting up a support link to Paypal, we now also have a page on Blog Patron, and we have added more than 50 new photographs to the gallery.
In a related effort, we are completely reworking the underlying architecture of the website. This is very expensive, but the current configuration makes it difficult for readers to find archived stories, and for us to host a lot of video and audio. This creates an opportunity to also take a giant step forward in reaching a wider audience with these dispatches. In the past two days, readers have come from at least 84 countries: Portugal, China, Japan, Indonesia . . . and on and on. Some days readers come in from over a hundred countries.
In many places where I have traveled in the past year—like Kuwait, Qatar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, United Kingdom, Iraq and even the United States—all seem to have large portions of their populations who think we are just running amok around the globe. Even our close allies have a distorted view of Americans.
As I travel around the world, I see that even many of our close allies have a false impression of American soldiers as brutally oppressive towards people. Even our great friends in Singapore and the United Kingdom, and the pro-American people on the island of Bali, Indonesia, think we are savaging people. This loss of moral leadership will be costly to Americans on many fronts for many generations to come.
The media memes put us on par with the old Soviet Union.
The only antidote for this toxic press is a steady dose of detailed stories about the amazing men and women who serve in the United States military. People like Lieutenant Jeffrey Pettee, Iraqi Army Captain Baker, USMC SSG Rakene Lee, and LTC Fred Johnson. Each of these soldiers is a credit to every human being.
It is important that Americans let their best and clearest voices be heard around the world. If the world contained only twenty people, only one would be American. We represent about 5% of the world population. What those other nineteen people think about America is truly very important to each one of us. We cannot afford to let the media around the world continue promulgating so many recycled misconceptions about our soldiers and the character of our nation.
Since this website already has a vast foreign readership coming from over ten dozen countries, I’ve decided to try to truly penetrate into these countries by translating the site content into 16 other languages, for a total of 17, including: English, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Turkish.
These languages can reach most of the people in the wired world. As importantly, many journalists visit this website, and frequently reference and quote from it in print, on television and radio around the world, helping the website “radiate” beyond the cyber world. Translation of the site content will also invite commentary from those other nineteen people which can lead to people around the world connecting to exchange information and ideas.
The ill-will being generated against the United States and Britain costs us hugely and in unfathomable ways. Words such as “Made in the U.S.A.” increasingly carry dark undertones. We will never know how often a bottle of fine wine produced in California is bypassed for grapes, perhaps inferior, grown elsewhere. We are allowing our grapes to be soured and our enemies to define us.
As with the syndication project, there will be costs. The total reworking of the website including accrued bills, and the initial translation from past and up to about six months in the future, is roughly $100,000. One thousand people supporting the effort with $125 contributions would make it all happen. And the combined power of the widespread syndication of these dispatches in newspapers across America, with a retooled website reaching a global audience, might just have the thrust needed to break the truth free of the inertia that keeps so many people clinging to so many false assumptions.
Now some people turn up their noses at organizations and individuals who solicit reader or viewer support, but these forms of support have been essential to organizations such as PBS, NPR, and the church I attended growing up. Asking Americans for help is one of the few economic models that always seems to deliver results. More importantly, reader support is the only thing that grants me true editorial freedom.
Other people, especially “professional” journalists, will question the wisdom of placing such faith in my readers, pointing out—correctly—that it is a big gamble. But here again, I don’t have to rely on think-tank studies or media projections. I have direct experience that tells me this is a safe bet. Every time I break a lens, wear through the soles of another pair of boots or need to fly home to attend to a family member’s failing health, my readers step up to the plate. When I need them to help me make my voice heard, they pick up the phone or man the keyboards. It’s humbling, but I am not suffering a conceit that their support is for me, personally or per se, but rather it is an indication of how much value is placed on reports from the frontlines. After all, my readers are funding that effort as well.
To find out more about the NNA syndication project, go here. For more information about how to encourage your local NNA member newspaper to participate, contact our project administrator here. It’s easy to complain about the state of mainstream media coverage of the War in Iraq. Now, it’s also easy to do something concrete to improve it. The hardest part is the work our soldiers and the Iraqi people are doing every day; even the work I do in getting the stories about their efforts out to my readers pales in comparison.
Michael Yon does not receive funding or financial support from Fox News, or from any network, movie, book or television deals at this time. He is entirely reader-supported. He relies on his readers to help him replace his equipment and cover his expenses so that he may remain in Iraq and bring you the stories of our soldiers. If you value his work, please consider supporting his mission.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
1. The metro was broken. (I hate the facking metro) So I had to wait about 15 minutes in the HOT tunnel and then cram on the train with about 5 squillion other people (it's always more crowded when there aren't enough trains) - my commute time was doubled.
2. On my way to the metro, a 17 minute walk, it poured rain sideways in that special way it rains only in Washington DC. And I? Did not have an umbrella. *shakes fist at sky* ... also, see #1 again and keep in mind that I was soaking wet
3. Was at work till 7 pm on a Friday due to late meeting with the big boss - the PDAS (convoluted Washington title - Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, who is second to the Assistant Secretary, who is second to the Under Secretary, who is second to the Secretary. It took me about a year to fully understand this. ha.)
4. will have to take on work load on Monday of colleague (who conveniently is jetting off to Aruba) crashing on last minute preparations for the PDAS's travel to the Middle East.
5. Found out that my office director may not let me do a rotation outside DC after all, when I've had my heart set on it for MONTHS now, because we just found out that we are losing someone in our office. If that is true, I will not be going to Hawaii for the winter spending three months with my bf or making connections for jobs at PACOM while i'm there the #5 put me in a very bitter and irritated state that just seemed like it got worse all day!
All that, and the most important thing was somehow COMPLETELY lost on me. I mean, I did not even think about it all day yesterday until just now, which compelled me to write this post...
Yesterday was the one year Anniversary of my Cancer Diagnosis. The day my life changed forever.
And it didn't even occur to me yesterday. All week I've been thinking about it. I've been thinking about how I would reflect and do something of a ritual or something... and then the day came and I got wrapped up in life's little mini-dramas and I fORGOT the most important thing.
The irony is significant here. One year ago yesterday, my perspective totally shifted and all of those little mini-dramas did NOT matter, and I completely saw with crystal clarity what really DID. Riding on the metro one year ago, I felt intense compassion for everyone around me because I realized that any one of them could have just been diagnosed with cancer, just like me. Or found out a loved one died or they're infertile or any one of a million very important and very human things could be going on with them. Instead of resenting them for being on the train in my way, sweating on my arm, sneezing in my direction. Little disagreements at work, irritations, etc, suddenly when viewed from the new vantage point of sensing mortality didn't affect me. It was like finding enlightenment.
Sensing mortality means feeling your death. Feeling how close it is, how fragile and vulnerable we are. Feeling how death is just the other side of the coin. It's incredibly overwhelming and words can't describe it unless you've felt experienced it.
Of course, this enlightenment doesn't last. Eventually life goes on and living is not so urgent anymore.
I'm not even officially in remission yet, so I can't say I'm cancer free. I'm in this weird thyroid cancer-limbo land until I have my first year scans and see what there is to see. I had stage I disease, so I'm not planning to die of this.
Yesterday I went and ran hill drills where the Bluemont Trail meets the W&OD trail. I ran down then back up, then ran down backwards, then up backwards. Then down again. Then I did lunges up until my quads stopped firing. ran the rest of the way, then lunged back down. Then ran up and down three more times.
While it's been 60 and cool every morning, this morning it was like a sauna. I, of course, dressed for 60 in pants and a long sleeved tshirt and was DYING. I had my shirt off for the hill repeats, muffin top be damned! It was still dark out so who cares?
Saturday, October 13, 2007
I went to get my pedicure today (ahh, lovely pedicure shop, right downstairs in my building, where I get my own little box with my own nail file and clippers so no one else's grungy toes ever touch them). Then I got an eyebrow wax. That is the first time I have done such a thing. I like it- it looks nice, much cleaner than tweezing. Yeowch! So I am laying there and she says, "you lip?" (Asian accent) and I'm like, uh, no, I don't think so... She says, "I think you have lotta hair here." pointing at her lip. Huh? Um, ok, I guess you should wax that then! LOL. I think she's a good sales person! Now I am sitting here waiting for the redness to go down and contemplating a nap. Yawn. I do feel a tad guilty about spending the lovely fall day inside... sometimes I wonder what the heck I'm going to do when I have kids and a household to take care of and I can't spend lazy Saturdays lolling about getting spa treatments. Seriously, how will I ever cope??
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Adam left Hawaii today for deployment for the next couple of months. I want to be out there on the island with him in a bad way.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
I went to the library because that seemed like the appropriate thing to do, and got a few books including a trashy romance novel called "When he was Wicked" by Julia Quinn (because that also seemed like the thing to do...)
I'm debating right now how to spend the rest of the day. I could (should) go for a walk. I could watch a movie. I could take a nap. I could finish my errands.
I am sitting here in my living room with the balcony door wide open, watching the square of sun light on the carpet grow smaller as the evening comes. Is this a waste of time? I don't care.
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Monday, September 03, 2007
Just to show that life does move on and you do eventually get to do things you love again and not be a Sick Person, I will tell you that Adam and I went to Harper's Ferry on the border of WVA and MD yesterday to walk around and go hiking. I wanted to hike farther, but the foot was pissed, so we hiked to the overlook and back and called it good. The hike goes over an old bridge across the river and up the hill on the other side to a rock outcropping where you can look down on the town of Harper's Ferry and get a good view of MD/VA in the distance.
Adam is leaving next weekend to spend 10 days in Kansas with his family. That's TEN of the mere THIRTY he has left here in DC before he moves to Hawaii. Ten days to test out being alone. Because come October? He will be gone. I didn't think I cared. Truthfully, I thought, ok, he's going. Probably we are not meant to be together (if we were, wouldn't we [I] *know* it by now?) and maybe his leaving will be good for me, maybe it will be a catalyst for new and exciting things to come into my life. Maybe it will be like the End of an Era and I will be able to move on to a healthier, happier, more fulfilled chapter in my life.
The closer it gets to that time, the more I realize that I do care. I care a lot. In fact...
I'm dying inside.
I feel a little catch in my throat when I ask him how many kids he wants to have and he makes his arms into a big circle and says, I think I can get my arms around maybe 4 or 5 of them... or he washes my dishes while I'm in the shower, not because he should, and not even to do something nice for me, but just because that's the way he is... or when he tells me that walking beside me through cancer, especially holding my hand in the hospital after surgery, he felt like his soul was fused to mine... and when I ask him if he still likes me even though I'm not as skinny as I used to be and he says, you don't even know what you're talking about... but do you still love me? and I already know the answer is he would love me still no matter what.
My Person is leaving me. What does this mean?
I don't know. I don't know.
And I'm eating my heart out.
I roll the window down
And then begin to breathe in
The darkest country road
And the strong scent of evergreen
From the passenger seat as you are driving me home
Then looking upwards
I strain my eyes
And try to tell the difference
Between shooting stars and satellites
From the passenger seat as you are driving me home
"Do they collide?"
I ask and you smile
With my feet on the dash
The world doesn't matter
(Death Cab for Cutie)
That's all I have for now. I want to tie this post up in a neat little insightful ribbon, but I can't. This post is messy and complicated, just like life, and sometimes you can't figure it out and you can't make it better and it's not ok. You just have to breathe and put one foot in front of the other and hit the publish button and trust that everything is as it should be.
"Do they collide?"
I ask and you smile
With my feet on the dash
The world doesn't matter
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Also check out I'm Too Young For This for cancer resources for young adults and other blogging babes with cancer!
She's going on tour to promote the book and she'll be in DC next Tuesday at Tyson's Corner Barnes & Noble - I'm there!
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Working with a bunch of FSO's (foreign service officers) on the passport task force these last few weeks has sparked my wanderlust. I've had a tiny thought in the back of my mind for years now that I want to go to Iraq. There are lots of reasons - to help, serve, make a difference, see what's really going on out there, be a part of it. Every time I think about going to any overseas post I get gripped by "cancer-fear".
I'm trying to think of how to describe that - I guess basically I just feel so vulnerable. I think this feeling will eventually go away. I still have another hypo-hell and first year scans looming in January, and the fear that there will still be masses or new mets on the scans, and the possibility of retreatment. And the months of feeling ill and drained. After I get a "clean" scan, I can go two and then five years between scans with only monitoring of bloodwork, but it's still a lifetime of it, repeated ad nauseum. I try to put it in a box. Like here's my life and in this small box is my cancer. It's more like a black hole in the space of my life than a box. A box is contained, you can shut it and put it on the top shelf of the closet and forget it's there. Black holes are spots in space that are so dense they suck in anything that gets close.
Still, I want to go to Iraq. Probably it would not happen for a year or more if I could. Maybe the violence will be less at that point? Unlikely, but it's possible.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
I was just reading over on Kyra's blog that "They" finally sent her passport back and that "They" stapled her new picture in her old passport so the two pics are side by side. LOL!
I have become the establishment.
People, I am They.
For some reason this amuses me immensely.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Ballantyne's Hotel Room Wokout
Barbell Squat Exercise Form Demonstration
Six Minute Circuit Workout Free Sample - from GrrlAthlete - includes exercise descriptions (Mom! :P)
Friday, August 03, 2007
Perhaps I will reconsider my living arrangement, as I think I have identified one of my most HATED aspects of this rat race - the METRO. I could stay in Arlington a bit farther from a metro stop for less rent and spend the offset on parking downtown... hmmm....
Otherwise, I have also only worked about 15 hours total this week. Aside from the minor nervousness before my final test yesterday, it was pretty stress free. I deeply hope that this entire 8 week void will be similarly undemanding and I can return to work full of gusto in October (despite having to work Saturdays). All told, since the cancer experience, I have not slowed down once. I have not had a vacation, save for sick days taken to recover from surgery and in isolation while I was radioactive and could not be around humans. It's like tension on a rope - it only takes so much before the fibers slowly start to unravel one by one till you're hanging by a thread.
I have today off from work and although it's been ghastly hot here, I'm planning to bask by the pool, work out, get a pedicure and browse around the mall at Tyson's.
Monday, July 30, 2007
Just so you all know how seriously the government is (now) taking this problem (after the fact), my girlfriend is up at the National Passport Center in New Hampshire (where they sent most of the unfortunate PMF's to do their duty while living out of a hotel for two months) and she is processing passports IN THE GYM. I am not kidding you, her workstation is right next to the fly machine. LOL.
I have learned that my workstation will be in the hall.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Also, while we're on the topic of entertaining videos... please stop what you are doing and surf over to Paul's blog right now and click on the "Magical Link". Seriously, go now!! Hahaha.....
Friday, July 27, 2007
i am feeling super emotional today it is my last day at my real job before passport duty and i must leave my work (that i am passionate about) behind for the next 8 weeks... AND work saturdays for the rest of the summer
AND the last article in Oprah mag that I read this morning was all about one of her golden retrievers dying i was almost bawling but it was about how she realized that her dog's death was a gift just like her life and she learned from it...
i need to think on that one as i have to ask god what i am meant to learn from having cancer so young and the other experiences in my life, they seem to be piling up things not really going how i would like them to and i need to ask god, what are you trying to show me right now?
- cancer and all that nonsense
- craziness with having to change bc pills, then stopping them
- my foot injury which seems to take away many things i love (running, walking)
- my work is getting taken away, even though temporarily, and i have to sacrifice my saturdays to do repetitive boring monotonous work (this is not what i studied my ass off in grad school to do!)
- my bf is moving to hawaii in early october, that is coming up fast
it really seems too much for one person in just 8 months to handle, but i know there is a reason these things are coming into my life and i just don't know what yet - am i supposed to do something? do something different? just wait it out, ride the storm and then suddenly i will break through the curtain?? i do not ask god why why me. not even for a minute. because why not me? i feel so lucky that these are my vanilla sufferings and i am not living in a war zone or starving or or or... but this is not the life i imagined at the moment. i nkow it will pass, as all things, this too shall pass (my mom always says), but can't help wondering if it's some karmic thing that needs me to do something that i wish i knew what it was.......
tgif, y'all, that's all i got to say!
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Seriously, no one reads this blog. My mom and sister check up, Adam clicks on every once in a while to see if the stories I tell about him are true, and Chris... and Paul wanders over every once in a while. Oh, and a shout out to Maxine in Miami, my cancer sister - hey Maxine! And that's it!
I've been blogging over on a fitness forum where I can obsess about my macronutrient ratios and how to perfect my squat form in the gym and it's normal and people actually read what I write!! I suspect it's the cancer flavor of this blog, it probably scares off anyone who wanders in to see what it's about. That and I need a new, better title probably. But the cancer bit, for sure... I don't think I would have dwelled on a cancer blog in my days BC (before cancer) because, you know, if you don't acknowledge it and focus on it, then it's not real. But getting to know someone with cancer, even just through the blogosphere, brings it home - it happens to normal people, just like me, going about their business.
What else can I say?
I've made some recent forays onto USAJobs looking for alternative work situations (i.e.: not in DC) because I'm reaching the breaking point with this city. There are many times during my days when I just think to myself, I can't do this anymore! Like today for instance, I'm riding the metro home and of course the AC doesn't work in the car I happen into and of course it's humid and soggy and crowded as hell in there. The woman behind me has her bulbous bosoms and large belly pressed up against me and I feel violated by these three masses poking into my back and rear end... the guy in front of me is leaning his sweaty back against my arm and someone has b.o. A woman sneezes several times without covering her face. This is my life.
If I didn't have the goshdarn coolest job in the world (IMHO), I would up and quit this place in a heartbeat. My real dream job is, of course, leading rafting tours down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, but I don't think those jobs come with stellar health plans and, well, the cancer thing kinda threw a wrench in any plans I might've dreamed up for flitting around nomad-style again. At least in the near term.
I don't mean to sound negative, but I did just get off the metro and these are the things that wear on me... next time I'll try to post from my happy place!
Monday, July 02, 2007
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
The good old days are now, now, now. What I think about is now. This is the moment I have waited for. This is it. These are the good old days.
92-year-old muscle man Jack LaLanne shares his wisdom about aging gracefully.
(You can see LaLanne in action in a short video here.)
Check out this article, photos and video of Jack LaLanne, who won a Lifetime Achievement Award in May. To celebrate his 65th birthday, he swam pulling 65 boats filled with 6,500 pounds of wood pulp in Lake Ashi, near Tokyo. For his 70th birthday, he towed 70 boats with 70 people 1.5 miles against the current in the Long Beach, Calif. harbor. For his 95th birthday, he'd like to swim from the coast of California to Santa Catalina Island, more than 20 miles offshore. But Elaine says, somewhat in jest, that she'll divorce him if he tries.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Saturday, June 02, 2007
WHO urges smoking ban in public places
May 29, 2007 02:19:28 PM PST
The U.N. health agency on Tuesday issued its strongest policy recommendations yet for controlling tobacco use, urging all countries to ban smoking at indoor workplaces and in public buildings.
"The evidence is clear. There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke," said Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization.
Tobacco use is the world's leading cause of preventable death, accounting for 10 percent of adult fatalities, according to WHO. It is responsible for 5.4 million deaths each year, a figure that is expected to rise to 8.3 million by 2030, the agency says.
Increasing numbers of nonsmokers will also die unless governments take action, WHO said in its 50-page report. It said governments of both rich and poor countries should declare all public indoor places smoke-free, by passing laws and actively enforcing measures to ensure that "everyone has a right to breathe clean air, free from tobacco smoke."
At least 200,000 workers die each year because of exposure to smoke at their offices and factories, according to the U.N. labor agency. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that about 3,000 deaths from lung cancer each year occur among nonsmoking Americans.
"This is not about shaming the smoker. This is not even about banning smoking," said Dr. Armando Peruga, who heads WHO's anti-tobacco campaign. "This is about society taking decisions about where to smoke and where not to smoke."
He cited Ireland and Uruguay as governments that have successfully tackled smoking by creating and enforcing smoke-free environments. Legislation of the kind has proved popular among both smokers and nonsmokers, according to WHO, whose policy recommendations set broad goals for its 193 member states but are not legally binding.
Almost half the world's children some 700 million are exposed to air polluted by tobacco smoke, particularly at home, WHO says. The agency made its recommendations on the basis of new reports by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the U.S. surgeon general and the California Environmental Protection Agency.
WHO said in 2005 that it had stopped hiring smokers, as part of what it termed its "public lead" in the fight against tobacco.
Monday, May 28, 2007
I am doing 4 lifting circuits and 4 HIIT sessions per week in this phase of my workout. It is hard. If I want to have a whole day off, which I think I need, I have to double up two of those days with lifting/cardio... and after I lift, I just feel too wasted to get anything out of a HIIT session!
I did a treadmill session today: 25 mins, 5 one-minute interval rounds w/ 2 minute recovery.
My speeds were:
6.0/8.5, 8.6, 8.7, 8.8, 8.9!! Which is officially the fastest I've ever gone on the treadmill. And to be honest, this felt a little too easy so I think next time I will try all my intervals at the higher speed, and go up to 6.1 for the recovery.
I walked for a bit after this and did some stretching and some work with the foam roller (calves are knotty!).
Reflections on progress
As I was cooling down, I was thinking about how much progress I have made since January. I tried to keep up with physical activity while I was going through my cancer treatments, but I had to back off the intensity of everything. I still went in the weight room when I could and "lifted" really light weights, just to keep my body moving and my muscles remembering what they are supposed to do. I tried to keep running, then eventually had to stop that too and just walk or pedal on the bike. Before my surgery I was running about 30 miles a week. It was sad to watch myself detrain. I'll never forget going on a walk and my HR being like 175 just walking uphill and my HR monitor was beeping like crazy and I had to stop at the top and bend over to catch my breath and stop myself from passing out.
Before my radiation, I had to stop taking my thyroid hormone altogether and become severely hypothyroid. I won't go into what that was like, but it was not fun. It was hard to get off the couch. I couldn't remember whether I'd cracked one egg or three. Without any thyroid hormone, your body just starts to shut down because your cells can't get any energy! Once pedaling on the bike, I remember looking down at the display and I was pedaling at level 2 and barely like 50 rpm's or something and I felt like I was climbing Mt. Everest. I got off the bike and just cried.
When I started to get better, the first time I tried to do an "interval" on the step machine, I went for 1 minute at a moderate level 7 and then had to get off the machine because my HR just would not come down under 170 and it freaked me out! Of course, I almost passed out b/c all the blood drained out of my head once I abruptly stopped.
Aaannyyway. I don't want to belabor the unpleasants, I just wrote all that so y'all can get a sense of why I'm feeling proud of how far I've come!! It's been almost 5 months and I'm feeling really healthy, and I ran at 8.9 today!
Legs are sore! I'm progressing in my lifts and the single-leg exercises Cosgrove has me doing right now are getting "easier" - LOL.
Gym Faux Pas?!
Oh, I know gym people will appreciate this story...
So I'm at the gym yesterday doing OVERHEAD SQUATS (which I consider to be a pretty hard-core exercise!). I'm holding a bar OVER MY HEAD with my arms locked out, doing squats. And in the middle of my set, this scrawny guy comes up to me TO ASK ME IF I'M USING THE SMITH MACHINE.
a) I'm doing overhead squats.
b) I'm doing overhead squats (no, I'm not using the smith machine, genius).
c) I'm doing overhead squats (are you CRAZY?! don't talk to me in the middle of my set! I could get HURT... or you might when I throw this bar at you!!!)
Also, another fitness related rant? Can the sports store please employ SOMEONE who knows about lifting equipment??? I'm there looking to buy lifting straps (b/c I can deadlift more than my grip strength allows on some sets) and an employee comes up to see if I need help.
Me: "Sure, I'm trying to decide if I need these padded ones or if I'm fine without the padding... the padded ones seem a little big on my girly wrists."
Guy: "Um, when I used to lift," (ed note: he's maybe 18) "I just used gloves."
Me: blink blink... "Ok, thanks."
Eventually he went off to get his supervisor who didn't know anything either. Nice.
Ok, that's enough ranting for one day!!!
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
And I woke up Monday morning with a serious pain in my right hip. Probably from the combination of jump squats followed by a 5 mile hike the next day. I decided to take Monday off from the gym, but I was still feeling it this morning!
Plus I had a really shaky workout. I kept feeling like I was about to pass out, and had to sit down and take long rests in between sets - definitely the worst workout I've had recently. I think I was dehydrated? My heart was just racing. I made it through. I also had trouble doing the cable rows because my arm is pretty bruised from where I had blood drawn on Monday. Seriously, I think this lady did it on purpose, I really felt it when she jabbed me! Usually you don't feel hardly anything, if the person knows what they are doing. It seemed like she stabbed the needle in harder than necessary and I was like, OW, that hurt!! And she goes, (in this sugary voice) oh, but I didn't mean to hurt you. I'm like, yeah... whatever. Anyway, it actually made the rows really painful to do!
AND, to top all that off? The mother of all zits has taken up residence RIGHT in the middle of my eyebrows. It never ends.
Saturday, May 05, 2007
Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining! I LOVE my job. Love. It. But my life does often seem unbalanced to me. I do worry about it sometimes and wonder if I'm missing out on something or if I should make a change? But I'm having too much fun at work to think about changing my job right now, even though I daydream about moving back to Arizona to lead hiking and rafting trips in the Grand Canyon or something like that - it's that part of my spirit that doesn't get enough stimulation these days pulling on my heart-strings. And part of the reason I run and lift daily to stay sane, even if it's not a hike in the woods, is because it's still the place where I can get totally unplugged from the "rat race" and just focus, just breathe. Ya know?! I don't think about a possible "other life" too much because it's just not time yet.
Last week I had my mom in town and I finally got confirmed as a real bona-fide Catholic. I was in my "anti-anything that seemed like authority phase" when I was supposed to get confirmed back in high school. Going through cancer treatment was such a deeply spiritual experience for me that this seemed like the right time to do it. I knew if I didn't go ahead and do it while the cancer experience was fresh in my mind, the inspiration would fade as life keeps getting back to "normal" and other things take up my attention. I still have lots of problems with religion and dogma, but confronted with my mortality, I really drew a lot of peace and grace from the Catholic faith I grew up with and I see it somewhat differently now.
I read something recently about how the Celts spoke of "thin times" when the space separating heaven and earth is "thin" (or the divine and mortal or however you want to conceptualize it). For me, that's what having cancer was like - from the moment I was diagnosed until pretty recently - my life was in that "thin place". Maybe that just sounds strange, but it felt like I was on another plane of life. I wonder if other cancer patients feel this way too?
I'm doing really well with being a survivor and the thyroid stuff too. I finally these last few weeks am starting to feel really healthy again -starting to wake back up to normal life. I still have complaints and issues - my hair falling out, still adjusting to the hormonal changes, the extra fat, the pain in my neck (literally!), the emotional/psychological issues - but mostly it's getting better all the time.
I devoured Lance Armstrong's cancer memoir in about two days. There is something so universal about cancer - even though what he went through was WAY worse than my experience. Mine was pretty mild compared to his!
Right now I am procrastinating about going over to the gym. Alwyn Cosgrove must have drank a whole cup of evil right before he wrote this workout he has me doing in this phase - it involves a giant set of jump squats, push presses and good morning's. With no rest in between. JUMP squats, people! I have never in my life been so close to hurling in the gym as the first day I did this workout. I cleaned one of the E-Z bars (already weighted) onto my back for the squats and GM's instead of using the longer regular squat bar so my center of gravity would be more compact and balanced. When I finished my last set, my arms were so baked that I just stood there like, oh shit, how am I going to get this bar off my back, I don't think I can do another overhead press!!! (I was not in a rack). You can always do more than you think you can - thank god so I didn't have to drop the bar on the ground off my shoulders!!!
Anywayyyyyy - wouldn't you be procrastinating if you had to go do those on Saturday morning?!! Alas, my workouts were all screwed up because of being in Ottawa for the week (although our hotel did have a little gym!) - I would normally not put this workout on SATUrDAy!!! :( Weekends are for R&R (mostly) or really FUN exercise like hiking or trail-running :) LOL. oh well.
I'll post some pics tomorrow of Ottawa and the 7 foot tall bishop who confirmed me!!!