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Becoming Water…

“Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water.” – Bruce Lee

In 1993 I went to a movie premiere with friends.  It was “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story”.  I became enamored with his teachings, and wanted to learn Jeet Kune Do so badly, but at that time, 24 years ago, I was upwards of 300 pounds, and had no real aspirations of ever being anything different.

But I wanted to be.  I dreamed of becoming water.  Of figuring out what that meant.  Of transforming myself, in some way, so that I could be this lithe martial artist.

Fast forward to the early 2000’s.  I first heard of Bernales Institute (BIMA) because my SCA Knight at the time had his son enrolled there.  I knew about BIMA and had even attended a couple of competitions to watch my friend’s son compete.  I still felt the desire to become water, and it was even an analogy in my SCA training at the time, but still, it only managed to tingle the desire again.  I even bought the book “Tao of Jeet Kune Do” and started reading it.  I was fascinated but having no martial arts background it was more a study on the influence of Bruce Lee on the world than anything I could apply personally, even though I truly wanted to gain more insight.

I took a few classes at the University, Krav Maga and Aikido, but both times never stuck with either one.  At the time, they weren’t what I was looking for and were even, to a point, teaching me things that were counter to the fighting I was doing at the time.

Still, I wanted to be a fighter.  That desire has never left me.  I grew up fighting, literally, due to an abusive household, but I was always the victim, I never fought back, although I wanted to.  I just never felt I could.

Fast forward to May of this year.  I had just returned from the World Championships in Barcelona, Spain.  I had competed for my 4th year as an International athlete.  I had spent the past year trying to put the best female USA Team together, which was stressful, crazy and chaotic, even in the best of times.

I was tired.  I was drained.  I wasn’t sure I had anything left.

I’d achieved my long term goal from when I started this whole adventure, I had brought a world class women’s team to Battle of the Nations.

So now what…

I was kind of at a loss.  I’d done what I had set out to do.  We ended up 5th in the world, due to a technicality, that none of us knew anything about, but we were happy in our choices and the decisions we made that inevitably took us out of the competition sadly.

But that was it.

I came home, happily exhausted.  But exhausted none the less. Then as the new season was “traditionally” starting, which is usually in June, I was trying to decide, was 2017 my last year?  Was I ready to push for a whole new year, put my body through everything yet again, just so I could do the one thing I still hadn’t been able to do…go through another year of hell, just to fight Russia?

I thought a very long time about it.  I talked it over with Greg, my husband, who has been my number one support since the moment he met me.  Was I ready?  Was he willing?  Could I even do it one more year?  Every year I get older, my training becomes exponentially harder and the competition becomes more fierce.

In May I saw a complete 180 degree change in the way Women’s Teams were fighting.  I have been doing this from the beginning and am the only USA woman to compete consistently from the beginning.  I could see & feel the smallest changes on the field, even when I was simply a walk on fighter for the Unified team and again when I was fighting with the Netherlands.  Simple things were changing; from gear, to holds, to strategy.  But mostly, it was the experience these women were gaining.  All of us were “test cases” and we were beginning to shatter the learning curve.

For those of you who watched the fights this year, you saw a completely different fight than what you saw even 2 years ago and its only going to get harder to compete.  This year the USA couldn’t take everyone that initially wanted to make the team.  Choices had to be made, and those choices will only become harder as the year(s) progress.

So, do I end my fighting career on a high note with achieving my initial goal?

I didn’t want to, but was I ready to change how I had trained up til now, so that I could be competitive and viable for the team?  That was really the question that I had to answer.

Certain things led up to my decision to continue for 2018.  One huge opportunity pushed me over the edge.  A fellow fighter was selling his titanium kit (that I had admired already) and I had the funds available to get it.  It cut the weight of my kit by almost half and I knew that would help me train easier.  I also knew I could sell my red kit to someone else and it would still be a huge upgrade for them as well, so the eternal cycle of armor was a beneficial push.

Enter Bernales Institute of Martial Arts…

“Flow in the living moment. – We are always in a process of becoming and nothing is fixed.  Have no rigid system in you, and you’ll be flexible to change with the ever changing.  Open yourself and flow, my friend.  Flow in the total openness of the living moment. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Moving, be like water.  Still, be like a mirror.  Respond like an echo.” – Bruce Lee

I had options to attend training at Jeremy Horn’s Gym.  I knew MMA fighters like Josh Tyler and even had the opportunity to fight him this year (best day ever).  But it wasn’t quite what I needed.  I have very little foundation for my fighting, something I have blogged (albeit painfully) about in the past, so I knew I wanted to find basics that would transfer to what I am doing now and have it be training my body could tolerate over time.

I sent video links of my fights, of my sport and of the USA team to Will Bernales.  I also had another friend actually teaching at BIMA, so I knew the basis of what possibilities were there.  I went in for an initial consultation and explained what MY limitations were.

I have arthritis in both hands.  That factor will be the ending to my fighting career at some point.  I know this.  I’ve accepted this and its not a world-ending scenario, especially at my ripe old age of 50.  But they haven’t taken me out yet, so I wanted to know what else I could do that would give me the foundations of that I want.

Kali was the answer.  Even in that initial consult, I learned more that could help me in 30 minutes than I had learned in a year’s worth of sword training.  I needed to learn how to move, how to strike, how to deflect and how to get out of holds. Up until now, I have relied on instinct, face-in-the-dirt experience and my size.  After this past competition I knew that was never going to be enough for the coming year.

I had to be like water, and adapt to the changing shape of this sport, because my size, my experience and my ability to suck up damage wasn’t going to be enough any longer.  If I am going to make the team in 2018, I am literally going to have to be like water, and flow. That’s all there is to it.

No more stationary ‘tank’.

Movement, skill and adaptability are the key.  I am strong, I am solid and I can endure, but I am the turtle, not the hare.  Time to get a little of both going…

So, what actually prompted this blog was the photo you see at the beginning.  Its hanging in Bernales Institute.  Its of Dan Inosanto and Bruce Lee.  Guro Dan Inosanto was one of the only 3 instructors trained to teach by Bruce Lee.  I knew the name.  I knew that when I signed up for BIMA, I had JUST missed a seminar taught by Dan Inosanto there, and that made me so sad.  But I hadn’t really thought about the connection to my past desires until last night, when I saw this photo as I sat down to wait for my Kali class.

Blame it on Fate, blame it on the prednisone making me wonky, blame it on whatever, but when it hit me, it hit me.  Everything finally made sense to me, even the stupid delays of starting classes, etc.

The timing was finally right.

I was finally at the exact point that I could become water…and understand what that meant for me.

The fact that I am finally training in a place that I have had some sort of weird connection with for over 15 years and that it has led me to not only learning Jeet Kune Do, but learning it from someone in Bruce Lee’s lineage is pretty amazing, at least to me.

History, tradition and lineage mean a lot to me and I am very proud of my fighting line and always will be.  The man that knighted me and those in that line have been instrumental in my continuing to fight, even to the point that I am now wearing his armor, so I feel a little of that blood, sweat and tears as I put my kit on every single time.

I think about those things.  I think about my line, and those that I have Knighted now, and I pass on what I can to them.  I think about what they will consider important enough to pass on when they Knight someone else of our line.  So while some never take lineage into account, it means a great deal to me and to my own personal history.

Finally understanding what it means to be water is part of that.  Its not as simple a concept as one would think, but it also is too.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words…and I promise you that photo, hanging on that wall, at 8:15 p.m. on July 12th, 2017 was worth a lot more than a thousand words to me…

I start Jeet Kune Do on Saturday…

Be Like Water my Friends

 

 

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Throwback Thursday…10 years in the making!!!

Yesterday, April 12, 2017 was my 10 year post-op anniversary of my Roux-en-y Gastric Bypass surgery.

Had that surgery not occurred, I would not be here today.  I was told within minutes after coming out of anesthesia that I was lucky I had my surgery when I did.  In two years max, I would have needed a liver transplant and at that time, I was so fat, I could not have even been considered for the wait list.  I would have died before I could have lost enough weight on my own to even qualify to be put on a list…much less get a donor liver.

Yesterday, after going back over ALL my previous year’s blogs, looking at old photos, and remembering each year I took my comparison pictures, I felt thankful.  I felt alive.  I felt grateful.

But for the first time, in almost my entire life, I also felt “normal”.

I know I have expressed hate for this word, because I always felt like it put me into a category where I couldn’t be myself.  I couldn’t stand out or feel like what I did mattered. Being “normal” always felt off to me.  Hell I can barely type the damn word without using “quotation” marks to make it stand out lol.

Last night while Greg and I were celebrating, we discussed the past 10 years and the changes we have made.  Interestingly enough it was funny we were celebrating at our favorite BBQ place, having wings for dinner.  I told him how odd it was to think back at the days after my surgery and knowing deep down in my heart I would never be able to enjoy a meal again, yet here we were, eating a “normal” meal like everyone else around us.  We both got an order of 12 wings and we went home with half of them left.  So technically, we couldn’t even eat a “normal” (see I can’t stop) portion between us!

I never have to worry about not fitting into a booth any more.  Or if a chair will support me, or if I am too big to fit through a doorway, or to be able to pee in a regular bathroom stall.  Trips that involve flying don’t terrify me any longer because I don’t have to ask for a seat belt extender and pray that it fits.

Most of all I don’t have to worry about what people think about the food sitting in front of me, or if I order a dessert, because I look “normal”.

To many of you, any or all of these worries probably seem insane, or at the very least silly, why would someone worry about going to the bathroom and fitting into a stall?!?  Yet fat people worry about it ALL THE FUCKING TIME!  If we don’t do it consciously, it happens subconsciously, trust me.  You would be surprised the things I never thought I had to think about…until it stopped.

I can remember suddenly realizing I didn’t have to think about where to sit, or what to sit on, or be bothered with how far away I parked, or if someone would see me sitting in my car eating a hamburger.  Because now I could pass for “normal”.

Pass for Normal…

Think about that for a moment.

Even when I have lost over half my body weight, even after I have spent the last 4 years of my life working my ASS off training, putting my body through hell to train for a sport that I love, I STILL worried that I had to ‘pass for normal’.

Last night was the first time I actually admitted to feeling normal out loud.  That I could enjoy my meal, eat what I wanted and feel good about it.  Thinking back to how I felt that first year, I wasn’t sure I would ever get to last night.  But I am there.  I still have panic that some day I will wake up and be 450 pounds again, literally overnight, but those moments are few and far between.

Have I lost/gained pounds over the past 10 years?  Sure.  You can see it even looking back the last 6 months.  My face always shows when I am gaining or losing.  Right now, I am more muscle than I have been in the past but I also have additional weight too.  I am the heaviest I have been since my surgery.  I am at 230 pounds.  A lot of that IS muscle, but I am also 50 years old.  I have some work to do to get back down to my 200-210 range but I am no longer willing to put my body through the adrenal fatigue, the excessive training and the obsessive worrying about my weight that I have done over the past 10 years.

I struggled this year, with learning how to train my body the correct way and not put myself through the trauma I have in the past.  Its difficult when you are competing with 25 year old’s, and knowing that their bodies react so much differently than yours.  But with age comes knowledge and I have to learn how my body needs to be trained and not over train because I feel the need to beat every 25 year old into submission.

Trust me.  Its a daily struggle.

I also had a lot of stress this past 6 months.  I’ve had to deal with an office reorganization on top of learning how to go from being the only woman on the team to leading 9 women on our own team.

Its been a rough ride.  Its been well worth it, but believe me, my ulcer and hormones have needed a break for awhile now.  And my weight shows it.

But when yesterday came and went, there wasn’t any guilt.  There wasn’t any shame.  There wasn’t any regret.  There was just happy, joyful, “NORMAL” me.

I kept waiting for it all to sink in and throw me into the pit of despair I had always fought when I would gain or lose weight or when my numbers weren’t as good as I thought they would be…

but it never happened.

I’m alive.  That’s pretty fucking amazing.

I’m an athlete.  We go through plateaus and barriers and we figure it out.

All of this is…

NORMAL.

For the lack of a better word…I am normal.

And while it still rubs me the wrong way when I say it…its ok.

Just this once 😛

 

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My own shell…

Last night, after we saw “Ghost in the Shell”, I made an off handed comment about how I would pay ALL my money to have an ass like Scarlett Johansson, and I didn’t think any more about it.
This morning I woke up, got my coffee, stepped into the shower and started washing my hair first thing. I do this usually with quite a bit of pain in my hand, and during the hot shower, I press my fingers against the hot tile wall and pop my fingers to gain some relief after they have been submersed in hot water for a few minutes, so as to help with the flexibility. Its my normal morning routine.
Today, like every other day, I did this routine, only to find that my pain was not there. I popped my joints and nothing. I realized then that when I got my coffee, again, no pain in opening the reuseable K-cup or the coffee canister.
No.Pain.Whatsoever…
Its been well over a year since I could say that. In all honesty, I don’t know how long its actually been since my left index finger didn’t throb in pain constantly.  Its just become part of the aches and pains that are my life.
The photo at the top shows how much I could bend my index finger before the shot, what the finger looked like after the shot with the X-ray and then finally, this morning, making a fist.
Today, I realized that I will endure more cortisone shots in my other two problem fingers when I need it, and not think twice.  Its crazy how you can forget chronic pain, even when you are in the midst of it, because it just becomes your norm.
Just like always wishing I had someone else’s body.
We’ve all done it, I would love to have Angelina’s lips, Scarlett’s ass, someone else’s hair, tits and whatever else…yet when I stood in that hot shower, water cascading over me, shampoo sliding down my back, I was so happy.  I kept making a fist because I could.  That was something I couldn’t do yesterday and today I can, thanks to modern medicine and great insurance coverage.
In that moment I realized I honestly don’t want anyone else’s anything.  I have worked so hard on the body that I have, wishing for something else doesn’t really pay due homage to my efforts.  I work my ass off, literally, almost every day to achieve what I have right now.  Is it perfect?  No.  And honestly, I could work out every minute of every day and I would still NOT look like Scarlett.  Or Angelina, or anyone else but me.  Even when I weighed 450+ pounds, I was still simply Amy.  Good, bad, ugly or beautiful…its still just Me.
So the next time I see a perfect set of tits, or quads I would die for, I can absolutely appreciate them, and believe me, I do…but I also will give myself credit for what I have achieved…and that is perfectly OK.
Too many people think you’re conceited or vain when you post a selfie, or show off your muscles….or even post a workout.  Its not any of that, its proving to yourself that your worth the effort, that the work you have put in is making a difference.
When I post comparison shots, it doesn’t matter who likes them and who doesn’t, because its for Me.  So that I can see the difference, because believe me there were so many years I was too ashamed to even have my photo taken, that I wish I had now.  Just the other day I was talking about the only cruise Greg and I have taken together…there’s one, maybe two photos of the entire trip.  Period.  Because we were too fat to enjoy our trip, or go on excursions or even wander the ports we visited, because we were so exhausted just moving our bodies.  How horrible is it that we didn’t even want to take photos of the trip!
So never again will I wish I had someone else’s body, I put in enough work on mine as it is and for 50 years old, its pretty damn good, regardless of its little quirks.  And I still have goals to reach.  So until I can put little micro nano beasts inside me that fix everything that’s wrong, I think I will stay with the tried and true method of hard work, exercise and trying to be as healthy as I can be…
With the occasional sugar cookie…
Just remember, no matter how you look, how you feel or how life is treating you…there’s ALWAYS someone who would do anything to be in your shoes.  Focus on how to make you a better you…and don’t worry so much about wishing you had someone else’s ass 😛
The Bad Ass Valkyrie
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2017…Balance and Gratitude

2017 is finally here.  I have been embracing it for a full 5 days now, pondering where my focus might be this year.  Balance.  Along with gratitude, satisfaction and appreciation. These are what I plan to focus on.

  • Gratitude: the quality of being thankful; rediness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
  • Satisfaction: fulfillment of one’s wishes, expectations or needs, or the pleasure derived from this.
  • Appreciation: the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something.

I am a woman who loves extremes.  Extreme sports, extreme lust, adrenaline, fear…anything that gives me that rush that drives me. My highs are pretty high but my lows can get pretty low.  When you find something that drives you, there comes a point where you exhaust your input and you seek more.  I will be the first person to tell you that “I want what I want when I want it”.  Period.  End of story.  When I don’t get what I want, or things don’t go the way I think they should go, I get pissy.  I know this about myself and I try very hard to NOT be this way, but, again, I am a balls to the wall kind of girl.

I won the husband lottery when I met Greg.  He understands the way I am, he navigates it VERY well and is pretty much the one person who can tell me NO and I listen.  Mostly.  And he knows this about me, and we have yet to have an actual fight.  Some of you more alpha males out there might think that he doesn’t have “control” in our relationship…and you would be wrong.  We have balance.  In my own life, I may be wild and chaotic, at best, but in my relationship with Greg, we actually have a very balanced lifestyle and it works very well for us.

A lot of folks who meet me first, or hell, have known me for years, and finally actually MEET Greg face to face are quite surprised at how we are together, as a couple.  I am very much the person I am when I am on my own, but I am also a wife and a lover and a partner when I am with him.  Thus our dynamic is very different, for each of us, when we are out together.  He has never felt the need to “control” me, nor does he need to.  When we are together we are balanced.  That actually happened very early on in our relationship and I think its one of the many reasons he and I clicked so well, because we just fit. We knew it from the moment we sat next to each other in his tiny little apartment and talked about getting married the night we met; and we know it now, 21 years later.

Greg is someone I am grateful for. Some one I appreciate and someone I am satisfied with. There is not another person on this planet that I can say that about.  He is my anchor in this crazy world and he is always my happy place.  Its funny, when I call him my anchor, he always thinks of it as a big weight that gets tossed overboard from a boat.  When I say it, I mean that he is what holds me in place and lets me bounce back to my home, my life and my happiness when I am stretched too far beyond my limits.

Which brings me back to BALANCE.

I have spent the last few years going to extremes and last year I entered 2016 with 2 major injuries, my ripped IT band and a tendon release on my left wrist.  I had a rough time recovering from both of those and I am very thankful I entered 2017 injury free.  But with the injuries I learned a very important lesson, one my body has been trying to tell me since I started training for this sport in 2013, I am NOT young any more lol.  I am 50 years old and I can’t train like a 25 year old and expect the same results.  My body is physically and metabolically different.  I don’t perform the same, I don’t recover the same, and finally I have realized I can not train the same as a 25 year old.

Thus balance is key.

Now, before we all start getting crazy ideas that I am hanging up my kit and walking away from fighting, remember…I am still that balls to the wall girl who THINKS she can do it all.  So, what I have come to realize is that in order for me to still be able to do this craziness, I have to find my balance, in my eating, in my training, in my running, in basically everything.  Even gaming!

After my big 50th Birthday celebration I needed down time.  And in typical Amy fashion, I went to the extreme and pretty much just gave in to everything.  I drank Coke, I ate sugar cookies, I played WoW all day long, and I sat on my ass.  It was the holidays…and the end of the year…and I needed to reset.  So I sort of just sat in my study, played video games and snuggled my furbabies all day long.

Did I need it?  Yes.  Did it feel good?  Yes.  Did I throw out most of my good habits for two and a half weeks?  Yes.

I don’t regret doing it…but I do wish I’d had a little more balance (and so does my scale).  But I do feel more clear about facing the new year and working on my 2017 goals.  I don’t really do resolutions as they are firm decisions to do or not to do something and the only place I like rigidity is in men and weapons, thus I prefer goals.

I had my first test of balance today actually.

I went into my running app to get my 2016 numbers. I was not a happy girl (injuries be damned).  So I did what any self respecting data tracker does (yes, I might be a little OCD when it comes to my body stats), I pulled ALL the numbers, all the way back to Jan 2013.  I started this sport in June, 2013 so this is even before then!

Instinctively, I started freaking out.  Running is the one place I have hard, solid numbers. Numbers don’t lie.  Numbers are how we win.  Winning is important…right?

(insert rabbit hole here)

I immediately wanted to top whatever the highest number was, because I had to be better than myself this time last year and I failed.  Then I started comparing this year’s numbers to last year’s numbers, then I broke it down by month. Then I went a little more crazy and went back 2 years.  Then 3 years.  How am I supposed to WIN when I can’t prove it with numbers…write down ALL the numbers…figure it out…make it work!!!

and that’s when I finally stopped myself.

What I ended up with, finally, was a way to “balance” my insanity…because not even getting HALF as many miles this year as I did last year was wigging me the fuck out.

I wrote down my monthly miles for the past 4 years.  I averaged them by month and decided to make a goal of the highest monthly average, which is 33.85 miles/month, which will put my mileage for the year at 406.20.  My highest monthly mileage was in August,2015 and I ran 90.13 miles that month(wtf was I thinking).  My knee jerk reaction was to run 91 miles every month…and I realized I was going way too extreme and reigned myself in.  So instead, I set a stretch goal of 41.66 miles/month which will put my mileage at 500+ miles at the end of the year if I meet it.

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Yes, there’s a little part of me that says “round up the numbers it’ll be better” but again, I am trying to find balance, even in my ocd-edness.

After actually typing all this out, I wondered what my actual average mileage was, overall. Its 23.18 miles/month.  I went back and looked at my stats. I met it once in 2016.  4 times in 2015, once in 2014 and 4 times in 2013.

I kind of see a pattern.

Go to an extreme, body forces rest.  Go to an extreme, body forces rest.

Balance.  I need it.  Numbers prove it.  Time to do it.

So folks…there’s a little peak into what my brain goes through in setting goals.  Yes, I know it STILL sounds a little insane, but that part is just Me.  I have other fitness goals for the year that I will not bore you with, but I am also going to focus more on gratitude and being grateful.  Satisfaction, even when I don’t meet my goal for a month or I miss something that could have been added to my “50 firsts by my 51st” list.  I am still so much more satisfied with my life, than I have ever been and that gives me an appreciation for this beautiful world that we live in and the people I choose to have in my life.

I am typically a positive person, I look at the world through the eyes of an optimist.  I prefer seeing the good in all things, and I want us to all be happy. Yet I know things will be hard, especially for us as a nation, over the next 4 years.  But I hope we all try and look at the world around us and figure out how to make it better, and how to find balance, even when most think we are surrounded by chaos.

Chaos isn’t a bad thing…you just have to be brave enough to face it and work through it. That’s it.  What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.  So find your strength, find your happiness…

Find Balance and be Grateful

Here’s to a great 2017 – skål

Amy Graham – The Bad Ass Valkyrie

 

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Getting through your reflections…

I get a lot of people asking me about weight loss surgery and/or training and how it has affected my life.  Would I do it all over again, is it all worth it, what kind of impact does it have on a person’s life, do I regret it.  Inevitably its usually the same questions over and over again, yet it never bothers me to answer them, because it always keeps my perspective in check.

There are times in our life that we can find ourselves in a rut or stuck in a situation that’s just become stagnant or even unhealthy and we don’t really think about it that way but when you reflect and take a step back, you can see it more clearly than when you are in the middle of it.  Most of the time when this happens to me, its because I have been sidelined by injury or illness.

When I don’t feel good or am having to put training off due to an injury it makes me grumpy.  Emotions go a little catawompas and I get far too restless for my own good.  When that happens I either force myself to do something I shouldn’t or my old habits of complacency kick in and I get to a point I don’t want to do anything productive.

These past three weeks since ITOC 2016, I have been sick with bronchitis/pneumonia. I would come home from work (when I actually made it in) and lay on the couch, not able to do anything.  The few times I did try and push myself to train it put me back down even harder.  I watched a lot of Netflix and snuggled my furbabies while doing absolutely nothing productive.   It was a bad bug.

That being said, I could have probably been sewing or working on my aventail but at the time, I had zero energy and felt helpless.  All the while that little voice in my head was reminding me that I had put on 3 pounds and really what did it matter, I was sick, so I could eat and drink whatever I wanted, as long as it made me feel better. I could work it off later.  I convinced myself I needed comfort…and that’s where problems for addicts kick in.

I am wholeheartedly, 100% a food addict.  I want bread, cookies, cake, Coke, and donuts when I am sick.  On the upside I also want all the good things I should eat too…but you are laying there, watching TV and you are bored to death because you aren’t out training, running, working out or fighting.  Thus, you turn to old habits…and that’s when the little voice gets to you.  It tells you that you can be in control, that it will be alright and once you feel better you will work it all off…Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy!

But it usually never happens that way.

When I am nursing an injury, the pain keeps me in check usually.  I don’t necessarily fall back into the old habits, I try and work other parts of my body that I can and keep my body moving.  When I am sick…its a whole different story.  We all joke that men turn into babies when they’re sick…well, I turn into my 450 pound self and ignore my good habits in lue of comfort.

Today, I feel like myself again.  I went to the doctor yesterday after my full Z-pack of antibiotics and my lungs are clear.  I am running at about 60% energy level and my body is regaining strength again.  I did my first lifting workout since I got really sick and this morning when I woke up sore…it was from lifting, not from being sick.  That felt good.

I woke up in a great mood and felt a little sassier than usual so when I threw on my star spangled scarf, I added a little Wonder Woman (literally) bling into the mix, just to ward off any lingering blues.

When I got into the office today I clicked on the looking back feature in Facebook.  I like it because it always gives me perspective and lets me see how far I have come and it also lets me track if I have been sick or had allergy issues in certain months…(that’s actually been a great help for my allergist).

Today as I was browsing back through the years one of my favorite photos popped up.  It was 10/26/2009 and I had spikey hair, great nails, and I remember the day vividly, I had finally fit into this adorable wool kilt that I’d had hanging in my closet for ages.  I took a picture because I had just had my hair done the night before and I felt really good.

As I was remembering this day 7 years ago, I decided to do a comparison shot, just for me. I did it with the pretense that it would be a good reminder not to backslide like I had done the past 3 weeks and a way to kick my ass into gear.  When I sat down to put them side by side, hehe I was quite surprised that I actually liked today’s shot much MUCH more.  I honestly thought I would hate it but I didn’t.  They’re pretty similar and in 7 years I feel like I’ve only gotten better.

Coming off being sick, not training for 2 weeks and being happy with the results I saw in that photo instead of being annoyed with what I saw in the reflection was very telling.  I knew I was looking with old eyes and I’d fallen into another bad habit…not seeing whats really there.  Even though I felt good this morning, and was digging the Sassy Girl, I honestly thought the comparison was going to be bad, even as I was taking the photo. And until I looked at the two together, I just KNEW it was going to be bad and I would just use it as a reminder…

But that didn’t happen.

When I am talking to people about WLS, one of the primary things I tell them is to take photos.  Even if you hate it, you will find they help, sometimes in strange ways.  So when someone gives you shit about taking a selfie, remember too, that they can also be therapeutic.

They are snapshots in time that give you a little more perspective on what your world was like at that given moment and sometimes, they give you a little more perspective on what your world is today…

Maybe all my super hero bling worked and warded off the negative image I had conjured up because of complacency…or maybe…just maybe…it just helped me see through it.

Either way…I am happy it worked!

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Armored Combat, bariathlete, bariatric surgery, Battle of the Nations, Full Contact Medieval Combat, gastric bypass, HMB, HMBIA, IMCF, Medieval Fighting, Mixed Medieval Martial Arts, Running Streak, SCA Fighting, Sword Fighter, Uncategorized, weightloss success, WMFC

Imperfection…

Not the worst Monday morning I have ever had but I can certainly tell you waking up for a consultation to see if I am a candidate for a Panniculectomy/Abdominoplasty was certainly up there on moments I could have lived without.

Normally I am not really too self conscious about my body these days.  I have no problem getting in and out of my armor in front of whomever is around.  However, with that being said, standing in a room in front of not one, not even two…but THREE complete strangers and being completely naked was indeed not fun.  Now, for the record, all 3 of those folks (2 men, 1 woman) were all doctors and probably had no interest other than medical necessity to see this 49 year old woman’s naked body.  But for the past 72 hours I have been dreading that moment. When they took my blood pressure and it was 148/95 that definitely told me that I was much more stressed than I had really admitted to myself.  That is much higher than I am normally…ever!

I have been torn between being ‘body positive’ about myself and worried about what the doctors might have to say about my body.  In the end, I sat in a very large chair, one I probably would have been thankful to have at my original body weight, and waited to meet the judges aka doctors.

Prior to this appointment, I had no other real interaction with plastic surgeons other than those involved with my initial gastric bypass and them discussing future options once I lost my weight.  Things were drastically different 9 years later.

First and foremost, we have to see if my insurance will cover the Panniculectomy.  We already know that they will NOT cover a Abdominoplasty and I can live with that.  If they will cover the panniculus removal, I will move forward and will see if I will need other surgeries down the road.  This is the bare minimum that will get done once approved.  Depending on what happens when the surgeon gets inside, will be up to him, but he is limited to certain things within the confines of coverage.  With a panniculectomy my down time of NO exercise whatsoever will be 2-3 weeks.  After that I should have no restrictions, other than any unforeseen complications.

My maximum time of recovery may be as long as 6 weeks, depending on how the surgery goes.  Typically its not that long unless there’s something inside that they need to deal with that they don’t know about.  So all in all, my recovery time is much less than originally described to me.  But its also a much less invasive surgery than what I was described too.  Originally I was told I would need a full body lift and that would require a much more in depth recovery time.  I don’t need that.

There is some worry as to how the rest of my tummy, above the incision line, will look if they only do a pannus removal.  They will not go in and remove any excess fat storage from below my breastbone to my belly button, so I may end up with something that looks like a muffin top with the way my body is right at this moment.

I do not think that would be too much of an issue moving forward and if it does bother me more than I think it will, there is always liposuction that can be done down the road.  My main concern is my pannus aka the ‘pontoons’.  I need them removed.  Plain and simple.

I was lucky enough to have Greg with me all morning and he has been a rock for me.  When I forgot to mention certain things to the doctors, he stepped in and gave them more info than I could have remembered on my own.  He kept me calm and seemed surprisingly appreciative of his nude wife in front of complete strangers.  That made me feel awesome.

He knew I was worried and he took it in stride.  He never fully gets all the ins and outs of my chaotic brain but he definitely gets it more than most.  He was just there, supporting me and loving me the whole time.  Even when I was nervously playing with all the breast implants and talking wildly about which ones would feel better when he would hold them lol.  He probably would have drawn the line at me juggling them, but then I am a horrible juggler…and would be an even worse jubbly juggler I am sure 🙂

In the end, its a waiting game and I am sure my blood pressure isn’t going to go down anytime soon until I know whether or not my particular insurance policy will cover it.  I was very surprised at the cut and dry of it all though.  There won’t be any submitting photos or proving past medical problems.  If my insurance covers the panniculectomy that is what I will have.  If the answer comes back No, then we figure out what it would take to pay for a abdominoplasty ourselves and start from there.

Either way, today wasn’t as bad as I had thought, but it wasn’t as easy as I had hoped.  I did have to get naked infront of strangers, but I wasn’t subjected to every single flaw of my body being pointed out.  I guess that’s what an ex is for lol.  So all in all it wasn’t horrible.

Do I still feel conflicted about being happy with one’s body and wanting to make improvements when possible?  Yes.  Absolutely.  But Greg’s words to me on the drive home keep ringing true.  He just kept telling me to do what makes ME happy.  That’s all he cares about, is that I am happy.  It doesn’t matter what my body looks like, he loves me.  And he is what matters most to me in this world.

I do want to remove the excess skin & weight that I don’t need.  I do want to look better, and be that girl I see under the weight.  In truth, I want it all.  But if absolutely NOTHING changed about my body, I would be happy.  I would still be married to the most amazing person on the planet.  I would still wake up every morning and smile at the person in the mirror.  I would still have lovers who cared about me for who I am, not what my body looks like.

But yea, I want to remove what still remains of all the hard work and pain my body has gone through.  There is nothing more nature can do.  My body has bounced back as much as it can.  I gave it 9.5 years and have worked my ass off the last 3 to push myself as far as I can.  Its time to see what else can be done.

The paper work is being submitted and all I have to do is wait.  Its just another step in this whole adventure that is my life.  There will be good and there will be bad with both options, but taking this step was the hardest part…

Let the Fates be kind…

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Armored Combat, bariathlete, bariatric surgery, Battle of the Nations, BotN, Dragon Con, Full Contact Medieval Combat, gastric bypass, HMB, HMBIA, IMCF, Medieval Fighting, Mixed Medieval Martial Arts, Running Streak, SCA Fighting, Sword Fighter, Uncategorized, weightloss success, WMFC

Extensions of Me…

Along my path I have been asked about various things that I do when I fight, when I make my weapons and what prepares me to do what I do.  Last night I finished up my new axe and was painfully reminded of why I don’t skip steps.

Years ago at Melee Madness, an awesome SCA event that gets held at the closest thing we have to a castle here in Utah, I was awarded a prize, a beautiful axe, and proclaimed the “Meanest mother” for that event.  Not in a Motherly sense…in a bad motherfracker sense just so you know.  That axe was awesome but using it in steel practice had cracked the haft that came with it (hard woods don’t last long in this sport) and thus sat on my work table needing to be fixed for several months.

I decided to re-haft it with rattan and put my own energy into it so that I could use it in competitions when I wanted to use a punch shield & single handed weapon instead of my halberd.  I also wanted to be sure Hannah had something to fight with at ITOC in a week, so I got to work on Sunday.

Everything went smoothly once I got the old haft out. I shaved down my rattan, formed it to fit the head almost perfectly and then got it all stained.  I let it cure in the heat of my garage for a full 24 hours and last night I was ready to put my finishing touches on it, knowing I wanted Hannah to have some time with it to get used to the feel.  Only I had to work late.  So, once I made it home I got to work.

I had everything I needed, I’d done the rune transcription and all I had to do was put it all together!  Easy!  Or so I thought.  Since Hannah was going to be using this weapon I decided not to follow my regular hafting rituals.  Normally I rune my own inscription into my weapons as an extension of me, putting part of my energy into it, as I have taken away some of the earth’s energy that it had.

However, I knew this weapon would be used by others, so I inscribed its name instead, therefore letting it carry its own energy to the user. I usually also add a few droplets of blood to the weapon, its a personal thing for me and something I learned from someone who has much more magic inside them than I ever hope to.  But because again, I felt that it might interfere with the energy of another user I decided not to.  In that very instant that I made the decision not to, my lovely furchild Heimdall, the BattleCat pushes my leather shears off the table and some how manages to carve a nice gash into the tip of my big toe.  Then he jumps down, and promptly lays on it, rolling around in it like a wee devil of a beast.  For those of you that know me personally, you know I tend to follow the Norse Gods, and I found it quite fitting that the message I got, was in the form of a cat.

Thus, I did end up adding several drops of blood to the weapon (some not by choice), whether it was a message or not, and decided then and there I would never forego a step in my own ritual again.  Feline message received, loud and clear.  Raven’s Beak feels great in my hands and I can only hope that the energy that went into it, will flow freely for anyone else that wields it.  I will also take care when and if that weapon gets used against me, for a weapon will always transfer energy back into its owner…one way or another lol.

I talk a lot about energy.  I truly believe in good and bad energy, and that you can transfer that energy from one thing to another.  A tradition I learned many years ago from a man I admire greatly taught me that everything in this world gives something up to become another thing.  Camric and his crew that were visiting us from Gleann Ahbann burned their shields at the end of an event, returning the energy to the earth. The shields had protected them and given their energy to the bearer and thus that energy was returned.  At my squiring ceremony a year later, Camric, who is also known as Green Shield, sent me part of his ducal shield, that had won him two crown tournaments.  It was to be burned so that the energy released would protect me, as it protected him.  At the time it was the most touching thing a fighter had ever done for me, and I didn’t want to let it go!  But when it came time to put that relic in the fire, along with bits of my fighting history and other relics from fighters I knew and cherished, I knew my first personal ritual had been born.

Now, when I retire a shield or a haft is broken, its burned. When I haft a new weapon, bits of it are saved and I burn them at various points when I want to put a little bit of me into the earth.  I took shavings from my halberd to Prague this year and burned them in the campfire at our encampment, to add my own bit of magic in a far away land.

I rune my weapons, I engrave my swords.  I carry Valkyrie wings into battle, so that I can pass them on to people who have inspired me.  I have small bottles of earth, rocks and other natural tokens from my battlefields because I was given a small container of earth from the first battlefield the United States team ever walked on to…and that meant the world to me, so I have carried on that tradition.

Simple things and simple actions, with sentiment behind them mean a lot to me.  The tokens I have received from fighters these past few years aren’t expensive or laden with gold, they simply mean something to the giver and to me.  That type of tradition, that type of ritual…that type of energy, is what I feel when I talk about magic.  They all invoke a spirit of togetherness, of inspiration and of a moment in time that can never be taken away.

So when I create a weapon, or hand sew a garment, or give away a token, its all an extension of me.  There is thought, inspiration and yes, even a little bit of magic in everything I do.  Its a part of me, a part of who I am…of who I’ve become, because of all those that came before me, of those that inspired me to do more.  Who gave a little bit of their magic to make mine stronger and to help me confront the negative we all inevitably have to face in one form or another.

Put good into the world.

Return positive energy to the Earth when you can.

Live a life worthy of inspiring.

Pass on your own magic.

Believe…

 

 

 

 

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