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Climbing Pyramids & Surviving Volcanos…

On Thanksgiving Day I boarded a plane to Mexico City, Mexico for a tournament.  I had no idea how that singular act would change my life.

I knew I was going to be seeing friends & chosen family from far away places like Austria and Australia, as well as the new friends I had made in Mexico at ITOC II.  Friends I love, friends who have cared for me, fought with me and I hoped loved me back.  But what was so unexpected was the love I received from complete strangers.  People I had barely met and in some cases, never met, yet I was cared for like I was one of their own family.

I landed in Mexico City after a full day of travel on Thanksgiving.  Its the first Thanksgiving that I have had to miss since I started dating my husband Greg over 20 years ago, and this holiday was the first we’d ever spent together and now it would be the first we’d spend apart.  So it is very hard to be away from him during this specific holiday, even though he’s not really a holiday kind of guy.

I meet up with Skye, who from the beginning of my steel fighting career, has been my inspiration and Tim, one of the closest male friends I have on the planet.  We have a chaotic time trying to figure out our hotel situation after meeting up with Tim’s girlfriend Kristen and end up going to three…yes THREE different hotels before we finally get to settle in for the night.  But finally we are all snug in a wonderful room, fed, wined and ready for sleep after catching up.

The next morning, Black Friday here in the states, we hop on a bus and head to the Pyramids of Teotihuacan, which is just outside of Mexico City.  When we arrive we finally are greeted by many of the Mexican fighters as well as the beautiful Julia and her father Franz, from Austria.  Both wonderful people who make my trip one of the most entertaining and magical adventures ever.

Now, let me just say here, neither I nor Skye had the foresight to pull peso’s out of the ATM at the airport.  Thus, walking through the market prior to climbing the Pyramids was woeful, but alas a wonderful soul named Stephiee took pity on me and bought me the GLORIOUS hat you see in the photo above.  I did manage to find one vendor that accepted credit cards and was able to pick up a couple of t-shirts before we headed out to the stone ruins.  But that would be the last time I was able to peruse souvenirs until I left the country via Mexico City Airport.

We climbed stairs…and stairs…and Stairs…and STAIRS and then we found the Temple of the Feathered Serpent.  It was magnificent and the stone carvings were so beautiful.  The path that connects all the pyramids at Teotihuacan is called the Avenue of the Dead.  Which I find interesting, because usually, I am feeling the past in my soul by now.  But I never felt anything negative at all at the Teotihuacan Pyramids.  In fact, it was just the opposite for me.  It filled me with energy, with life and with love.  Something I never expected from ruins.

Skye, Eric (another Aussie who had been in country for about a week already) and I wandered with various fighters along the path, walking through the ruins, crawling through portals and chasing lizards.  It was amazing…and surprisingly easy given the altitude (which is about a mile and a half above sea level).  I really never lost my breath until the Pyramid of the Sun, but I think it was mostly panic at that point because my crazy brain thought it would be a great idea to leave my bag at the base with Stephiee, which also had my inhaler and my water in it.  Yea, sometimes I’m an idiot.

Anyway, we finally get to the Pyramid of the Sun.  Its the largest pyramid at Teotihuacan and it was the one I felt most akin to.  I am Native American and my tribe is the Euchee, also known as the Children of the Sun and as soon as I knew we were going to be seeing the Pyramids I was drawn to this one.  Our friends were giving us wonderful information on each pyramid but when I saw it up close, I knew it was where I was meant to be.  Why I was meant to be there and my plans were to record my very first Vlog from the top, which I did.

This trip started out simply as me getting to see Tim and getting a chance to fight with the Aussies as an early birthday present to myself.  It kind of morphed into various things before I actually got on the plane.  But by the time I arrived I knew it was the beginning of a new phase of my life. One I still wasn’t sure of yet, but a phase I knew was going to come, regardless.  How I got from the original version to the version it became was a crazy, painful, wild ride but I wouldn’t have changed it, even if I could have.

From the moment I stepped up onto the first landing of the Pyramid of the Sun, I knew everything I had gone through was getting me to that point.  With every step I climbed, it got a little more emotional and yet excited too.  I was scared, I was energized I was terrified and I was happy, all at the same time.  And when I finally post the short little vlog you will see and hear the pure emotion in my voice.  I tried to control it but every moment on the top of that pyramid was filling me up with energy and it was hard to contain.

Right after I taped my vlog, Julia gave me one of her hand blown glass Goddesses.  As she is describing the intricate details she put into it, my ears were ringing, my heart was pounding and as soon as I touched it, I knew she had put immense power into it.  She’d asked me what attributes I’d wanted for it.  I told her Strength, Beauty, Love and Power.  They were all there, and so much more.  As I lifted the glass beauty to the Sun I could feel so much energy surround me.  And even if you don’t believe in such things, that’s ok.  I know that this small vessel of blown glass holds a power within it…and that is perfect for me.

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After the glorious experience atop the Sun Pyramid, we made our way to the Moon Pyramid.  My inner geek let out a scream as I suddenly realized this was the pyramid used in Alien vs. Predator.  I think it was quite a good thing that I was unable to get peso’s out because had I had them in my pocket, I would have squandered them all away trying to buy the huge Predator statue one of the vendors had at the base of this pyramid.  Not the best use of what little return luggage space I had to get back home with.

After the pyramids, the entire group of fighters and support went to dinner at La Gruta. This is a restaurant located behind the Pyramid of the Sun and is built inside a natural cave.  Even the kitchen is part of the cave.  Its beyond words how beautiful it is and the food is amazing.  Even the Crickets.  Yes.  I actually voluntarily ate a CRICKET!!!  I also had ant larva but they were more like puffed, buttered rice.  The cricket was crunchy and the texture is something I hope I never have in my mouth again.  While I now know I could survive by eating crickets, I hope I never have to.  I kept freaking out thinking I had cricket legs sticking in my teeth.  Its the thing of nightmares for me….I hate crunchy bugs in general, but having to put one in my mouth was crazy.  But hey, it was a day of firsts for me!

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After dinner we head to the villas we are staying at.  They are lovely.  I was thankful for the accommodations and they suited our needs very well.  Although more hot water would be a bonus next time =)

Saturday’s fighting was amazing.  I fought as part of Black Swan, an HMBUSA Club out of Springfield, IL.  Brad and Rudy were there to fight together and we had Craig, Jeff and I as well. We all fought well together and I am beyond blessed to have such wonderful men to call brothers.  They never once hesitated to put me on their team and gave me every option I could have asked for, should I have ended up being needed on a different team.  The team did well and we made it to the finals which were to be fought the next day.  I ended the night taking a shortened version of Igor Parfentev’s bohurt workshop and it was well worth the time, even in the dark!

Sunday.  Wow.  Sunday was…crazy.

Sunday we finally go find an ATM and a pharmacy.  We also find breakfast and realize the tournament will be running later than expected.  By the time we get to the event site I have roughly half an hour to warm up, armor up and prepare for the Women’s 3vs3 fights.  I can tell you on a NORMAL tournament day, I prefer to start prepping an hour and a half before.  I calm my body, my mind and my soul to fight.  When I am rushed, it is never good.  But it sometimes happens and on this day, I had no choice.  I get a little bit of a warm-up run in and don’t really feel any issues rising, so I get armored up.

We start the Women’s fights.  Its the Night Witches against Skye, myself and Gina, a Mexican duelist from a different club.  We start fighting and I can tell my breathing is off.  Marie, the tall Quebec female who is in Mexico City for school and training with the Night Witches takes me on.  We grapple and everything seems to be going well until I start feeling my helmet liner choking me.  I can’t pull it down and the helm keeps pulling it tighter and tighter during the clinch.  I can’t breathe and I can’t get a deep breath at all.  At this point I start having an asthma attack.  My lungs start to seal off and I can barely get out STOP FIGHT before I literally try to thrust my body through the rails.  Marie doesn’t have any idea what’s going on and clinches me tighter, which in turn makes me panic.  I’m quite sure I was going limp in her arms but she realizes something is wrong and we get me off the list.

I hadn’t worried too much about my inhaler the 2nd day because I had absolutely NO issues on Saturday, or even Friday climbing pyramids all day long.  So I had no reason to believe I would have issues on Sunday, so I did not search out a Marshal to hand off my epi pen or inhaler.  A lesson learned.  I should ALWAYS do it, regardless of my condition, because my asthma can affect me at a moment’s notice.  I had gotten a little lax about it because it had been many months since even a minor attack.  Little did I know that this was going to be the worst attack I’d have to date.

I get a puff into my lungs finally.  I feel jittery and anxious but I know if I don’t go back in the women won’t get another fight.  So, I put my helmet back on and we start the 2nd round.  Another lesson learned.  After a few grapples and hard clinches, I couldn’t keep any oxygen in my lungs.  They were burning and I was shutting down.  Literally.  I make it out of the list on my own and don’t have the wherewithal to get my gauntlets off.  I start slinging my hands because they won’t come off.  Then I can’t make my brain tell my body to take my helmet off.  It won’t connect the dots and that’s where all hell begins to break loose in my body.

Its quite an internal catastrophe when your brain doesn’t work right.  I can see whats happening around me, and I can feel myself begin to pass out.  Next thing I see is I am on the ground, and Igor is taking off my armor.  Somehow I can feel Julia’s hands on me, taking energy out of me and calming my body down.  In this state, I have to have someone to focus on otherwise I can’t make anything work.  She is that person.  Then there were many.  I could feel ribbons of excess energy being pulled out of me, in several directions.  Igor gets me up and we move over to the bleachers.

Then something amazing happens.

Vero’s mother comes up to me and tells me she is a Reiki master.  She asks in broken english if she can help me and at this point I have no real control over my body.  She sits next to me and lays my wet head (Igor poured cold water over my head because I was overheating) on her chest and starts healing me.  I have no idea how long we sat there, but at the point I started to feel normal she was literally glowing.

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She doesn’t speak english but she managed to ask me if the list is where I let go of all my bad feelings.  I tell her yes.  Then she touches certain areas of my body and tells me that I am blocked and I am not letting go of what needs to be let go.  And to this very minute,  I have no idea how she knew exactly what to tell me in that moment.  She says that Mexico is being renewed (I had no idea about the volcano eruption at this point in the day) and that it is time for me to be renewed as well.  It was why I was sent here, and I need to let go of everything so that I can be filled with the love and positive energy that is waiting to fill me.  And with that, I basically lose it.

She holds me again and some how pulls out everything that I needed to get rid of.  I could feel the adrenaline and negative energy leaving my body and I could feel myself being empty if that makes any sense.  In those moments when I was trying to calm my body down I realized I had so much anger and fear built up inside me and I was trying to hold on to everything because I couldn’t let something go without letting it all go.  I was trying to hard to keep everything in…until it almost hurt me physically.  The asthma/panic attack was just the conduit to get it out.  For that I have altitude, pollution and volcanic ash to thank.  Yes, on Friday evening Popocatepetl erupted and no one had an easy time breathing.

Everything came to a head in a perfect storm…and it ended in an amazing way.

After I finally was able to calm down completely I gather my things and walk over to my team.  I climb the stairs and the level of fear is horrid inside of me.  I look at their faces and I am quite sure they don’t want anything to do with me and don’t want me to fight with them in the finals.  LOL little did I know their fear was that I wouldn’t be up to fighting with them in the finals and they would be a man down.  Needless to say relief was felt by all of us!  Truly, I could not have fought with a better group of guys.

I have never felt so much love and respect as when I walked back out on that field in harness.  When they announced I was coming back to fight in the finals, the cheers from the crowd and from the fighters literally made me cry.  I was happy I had my helmet on so no one could tell.  But in that moment I knew I wasn’t just a token girl being allowed to fight with the big guys.  I knew I was a strong, powerful woman taking the field with her teammates, who just happened to be men.

Sadly, we didn’t end up taking the gold, only silver, but the Slavs had to fight hard for their win.  We didn’t go out without an enormously amazing fight.  Jeffery Galli is a beast and while I was ready to go in to replace him after a cut to the back of his knee and a ghastly hit to the neck, he wouldn’t let me.  He still had something left for the field.  Wolfric tempted him and while Jeff went for him, it was quite possibly the most beautiful fake I’ve ever seen.  It was one for the record books.

The fighting ended, the medals were handed out and during it all, I was surrounded with so much love and kindness I was overwhelmed at times.  So many people coming up to me and telling me that they have followed my progress and were so excited to meet me.  I had a little girl come up to me with her mother.  She told me she had air sickness (asthma) too and she never thought she could be a Knight until she saw me using my inhaler.  That little girl almost brought me to my knees.

Throughout the evening, my soul was filled with so much love and positive energy.  Then we all met for a big dinner and it was amazing.  I was surrounded by my tribe and so much love.  I truly understood what Vero’s Mother meant by me renewing my soul’s energy.  It was happening before I even knew it.

I truly came back to the states a different woman.  A better woman.  I know I am the woman I was meant to be.  I found happiness, forgiveness, fortitude and strength…things I never knew I was missing.  Things I never thought I would find at the top of a pyramid, in the eyes of a little girl or at the center of an asthma attack.  The Fates are wise, chaotic and sometimes a little crazy, but I have always believed that destiny leads me on my path.  At times I try a bit too hard to hold on to things I need to let go of, so that they can grow into something better.

Life is a journey and an adventure.  If you are too afraid of what you will find, you will never start down your true path.  Sometimes you have to let go, even when you are afraid of falling, because that’s when the winds of Fate pick you up and carry you to someplace more beautiful than you could ever imagine.

Mexico will always be a magical place for me.  Not simply because of the pyramids or the people there, but because of my experiences that changed the course of my life. I have no idea what the future has in store for me, my fate was woven long ago.  But I no longer fear it…or worry about what will happen.

I am centered and where I am supposed to be.

I am happy with who I have become.

I am the woman I was meant to be.

And she is Mighty!

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