Monday, May 10, 2010

Goodbye Ovaries - Hello Menopause!

Three years ago I started having pelvic pain and a routine ultrasound revealed a tumor had surrounded my right ovary. The doctor took one look at the ultrasound and said "surgery for you my dear."
I'm no stranger to surgery. I usually have one a year because something goes haywire, but I was getting ready to head out for the firefighter training academy and I really didn't have time for surgery. "I'll be back from the academy in four weeks doc" I said. "I'll have the surgery then." He looked at me, shook his head and said very firmly "no, you need surgery now and we will schedule it for tomorrow." Well that scared the crap out of me, so I hastily signed the paperwork, trotted over to the hospital for pre-op and raced home to take anti-anxiety medication until I was a slobbering mess as I chewed my fingernails down to the nubs.
The next day I had the tumor removed and woke up with the doctor leaning over me. "No cancer" he said. I really wasn't worried about cancer, but after he said "no cancer" it made me realize he thought the tumor was freaky enough that it needed to be removed ASAP and he was concerned. Little did I know at the time it was actually a dermoid cyst and I was so ticked he didn't tell me. Those suckers are creepy. They can have bone, teeth, hair and even eyes inside them. If I would have known what they were yanking out I would have asked him to put it in a jar so I could take it home. Yes I am weird like that.
I recovered like a champ. I was walking around pretty well the next day, but I had to put off the fire academy for two months because of lifting restrictions.
Fast forward to February 2010. Another freaking ovary issue. Another surgery. Everything went well, but they had to remove the ovary because it was on its last leg. Once again I rallied and was feeling pretty well except I started freezing my arse off. I stayed huddled under a huge, heavy blanket for a week straight with a portable heater pointing right at me. I was miserably cold and hence my family was miserably hot because I was cranking the heat up until our skin was so dry that we started to look mummified. My partner and son were walking around in their underwear while I was bundled up like I was getting ready to trek up Mount Everest.
After a week the freezing feeling went away and I felt wonderful for about 15 seconds. Then I started getting hot flashes. Incredible, surging internal heat waves that felt like I would spontaneously combust. Also my demeanor changed. I started having uncontrollable utterances. A car would cut me off in traffic and I would lean my head out of my unmarked police unit and scream " BALL HAIR!" I started to feel out of control because one minute I would feel fine, the next I would be crying, then I would feel depressed and then I would have an occurrence of turret’s that would have made Joan Rivers blush.
I finally dragged myself back to the doctor and told him that I was over the edge and I needed some assistance before I totally went nuts. He put me on hormones (Thank God) and virtually saved me from unemployment, becoming single, and probably being knocked upside the head from someone who took offense at my verbal abuse.
It took a while for the hormones to kick in, but once they did I was back to normal (which is a relative term when you talk to those who know me).
I have to say though; menopause for me was no joke. I didn't even get to break into menopause slowly. No menopause training wheels to get me ready for the real thing. I was thrown on a two wheeler and shoved into menopause. I surfed the web and researched everything about it, just like I do about everything else. Some of the stories from other women going through menopause scared me to death. Some reported significant weight gain, loss of head hair and growth of body hair where it didn't belong, specifically the face. I had visions of being deep in thought as I stroked my beard.
Finally I realized that everyone's situation is different in all things and I am happy to report that I have not suffered from any of the scary things other than some depression that left me feeling like I didn't want to do anything. I didn't want to write on my blog or even get out of the house for a while. But I'm back in the saddle and glad to be back!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Danny the Dragon "Meets Jimmy"

It's been a quite a year folks. I've been on hiatus because I had my ovaries removed a little while ago and something really strange happened. I lost my creative edge and turned into a freak of nature. There is a story to all of this but basically I just wanted to make an appearance and let you all know that I am alive and well and menopausal.

While I was recouping I had the amazing pleasure of reading and reviewing Danny the Dragon "Meets Jimmy." This children's book was written by author Tina Turbin and beautifully illustrated by Aija Jasuna.

This is a must read for all kids, even big ones like you and me. Afterall, Who wouldn't love a dragon wearing red sneakers and a yellow backpack? Danny the Dragon is a wonderful story that will delight your children and the young at heart.

My son (and I ) love this book and the awesome illustrations that capture Danny and his sidekick Skipper's adventure as they meet their new friend Jimmy. We usually do a read through during bathtime and then bedtime.

Tina Turbin is an excellent author. She has a real story telling talent. I can't wait to see where Danny and Skipper end up in their next adventure.

Now here is a bit more about Tina:

Tina Turbin ( is an award-winning children's published author, writer, researcher, humanitarian, cook and mother of three. Working for many years with children in the Entertainment Business, she has always been an advocate for children, families, celiac and gluten issues ( As a member and contributing writer for such distinguished organizations as the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) and numerous other publications, her indispensable advice on topics such as family, children, gluten issues and celiac disease has proven invaluable to many. You can listen to Tina as a guest on a variety of weekly radio shows. She is proud to work closely with the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University Medical Center in raising awareness for celiac research, and is a friend to many through her delightful Danny the Dragon children’s series ( – including libraries, schools, families and hospitals. She is a member of the Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC), the Southern Independent Booksellers Association (SIBA) the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and the Florida Association for Media in Education (FAME). You may contact Tina at

So Tina Turbin has been fine tuning her creative edge and I have been popping hormone pills. I think Tina has the better end of the deal.
I'll have my ovarian mishap up for your reading enjoyment soon.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Two Snaps and a Twist

I was sitting in my doctor's office not believing what I was hearing.
"Knee replacement is your only option" said my doctor. "But what about my age?" I said. My doctor shook his head, "I believe in quality of life. I don't treat age.". All my previous doctors would turn a blind eye when I walked into a waiting room hobbling like Fred Sanford and now I had finally found a doctor who was willing to help me! I was sick of the quacks I had formally been dealing with. The answers to everything were shots, meniscus repairs, taking out screws, replacing screws and removing scar tissue. None of these things ever worked.

We set my surgery date for May 11th. However, I had to attend a mandatory knee replacement clinic one week prior to the surgery. I was the first person to arrive for the clinic and was met by a jovial woman named Sue. She had a twinkle in her eye and rosy cheeks. Immediately I could feel the stress leaving my body since she looked a lot like Santa's wife. "Well my goodness you sure are young. Our class will be filled with young people today. In fact this is the youngest class I've had yet." I felt relief. At least I knew I wasn't going to be the only "youngster" going through this procedure.

People started filing in the door. I looked back and figured these were the grandparents of the young people who were going to be arriving any minute. As I stared at the door after the last person came through I heard Sue say "welcome everybody. I am so glad you could make it. Boy we sure have a young class today." I looked around. There was a woman on a walker that looked like she had a shrunken apple head. She had to be at least 80. I believe the youngest person in the room excluding me had to be at least pushing 70. My God, am I in the right room. Maybe this was a class on bladder control and I had mistakenly gone through the wrong door. Sue went around the room and started handing out booklets about what to expect prior, during, and after knee replacement. I definitely knew I was in the right room.

Okay, I know what I expected prior to knee replacement; I would need tranquilizers by the bushel until I was on the verge of passing out. During knee replacement I expected to be under anesthesia and after surgery I expected to have so many narcotics coursing through my body that I wouldn't even realize I had surgery until my knee was completely healed and I was walking like a normal person and not like a Hobbit.

My partner Kelli planned on taking off work and wanted to know approximately how many days she should plan for. Sue told Kelli that she could go back to work as soon as I got home since I would be motoring around on my walker. All Kelli had to do was make some meals and throw them in a plastic bag that I would have tied around my walker.

Sue then proceeded to tell the class about a doctor who had knee replacement and was running to work after eight weeks. I plowed through the pages of the "what to expect booklet" and right there in bold black letters it said exercises to avoid: running, skiing, having sex for at least six weeks (I didn't think that would be a problem for the class as most of them had probably not had sex since the late 80's, early 90's. The apple head lady probably hadn't had sex since the great depression).

The booklet specifically said that once the knee replacement was completed we could do light exercises like fishing. What the hell? Since when did fishing become an exercise? I could see if one was on a bass boat and got pulled over the side by a big fish and dragged halfway across the lake because he decided that he wasn't going to let the "big one" get away and finally realized that it was a fruitless effort and there he was in the middle of the lake and had to swim back to the boat. Now that's exercise. Sitting in a lawn chair on the deck with a pole in the water waiting for the bobber to go under while drinking a 12 pack of Natural Light just does not sound like exercise.

After the class we all hobbled down the hall to have our blood work, EKG's and all the other junk required before surgery. I felt good. Kelli and I went to Starbucks. I told her that my mother's friend (who will remain nameless to protect her identity) said this surgery would be "two snaps and a twist." She has had two of them on the same leg, so I figured she would know best (the hussy). I knew I would be on my feet in a couple of weeks and back to work within a month. After all, one of my co-worker's grandpa's cousin's sister-in-law's mother was on her feet a week after surgery and she was 80.

The day of surgery I felt fine. Kelli and I came up with the mantra that "I tell my body what to do, my body doesn't tell me what to do!" I felt that this surgery would be like any of the other 62 I've had in the last three years, maybe just a little more painful. I should have known that wasn't going to be the case when the anesthesiologist came and wheeled me into a room to have a pain pump installed into my groin that would numb my knee for 2-3 days prior to discharge from the hospital. This was the latest, greatest thing and PCA machines were virtually extinct. I was to receive "happy drugs" that would make me feel so relaxed I wouldn't feel a thing. Yeah right. I immediately felt him trying to put the wire in my groin. "Hey I feel that!" I yelled. He told the nurse to give me Versed which usually knocks people for a loop and they can't remember anything. I was laying on the table as they talked about whatever and I felt him ram that wire straight into my groin. It felt like he was pushing a pencil into my groin. "Holy crap" I yelled "I felt that!"

"We're all done now" he smiled. "See you in the operating room." "Great, that sadistic SOB probably won't even put me to sleep before they start cutting on me." Suddenly I didn't feel so calm.

Before I could relax, I was being wheeled into the operating room. As they pushed me through the door, I saw all of these people wearing space suits, before I could ask what was going on, I was knocked unconscious.

I woke up as I was being wheeled into my room. I had asked for a private room and was willing to pay the extra $100.00 a day for MY privacy. Unfortunately they didn't have any private rooms available so I was put into a two-person room. However, I was alone which was nice. It was late in the day when I got to my room, so I did not have PT since it was after hours for the PT staff. I really needed to go to the bathroom, but my right leg was "dead" from the stuff in the pain pump, and I couldn't get myself out of bed. I hit the nurse's button and in walked a nurse tech. "I need to go to the bathroom" I said. She whipped out a pink bed pan and I slipped it under me. It immediately collapsed. I was sitting on a flat bed pan but I really had to go. "Umm, my sheets are wet" I said. "Did you pee in the bed?" the tech asked. I wanted to yell "what do you expect lady, you give me a bed pan that collapses all the way down to the bed, why didn't you just tell me to pee on the sheets to begin with?" However, I held my tongue and shook my head. I hope they had a plan B because I knew I would have to go to the bathroom again at some point during my stay.

Sometime later in the evening I heard them wheel in another patient. My curtain was closed, but I could hear her say "I wanted a private room, I don't want to share a room with anyone else!" "I second that" I thought. Sometime later the curtain was opened and this lady was staring at me. "My name's Arlene. I broke my hip taking care of my husband who is in hospice care at home. I'm having surgery tomorrow. I'm 78 years old." That was a lot of information from a complete stranger, but I felt really bad she broke her hip taking care of her dying husband. "I'm Meredith, and I had a knee replacement. I'm really sorry to hear about your husband." "Don't be" she said. "He's a bastard." I was at a loss for words so I just said "oh, okay." Arlene whipped the curtain closed.

I noticed that my gown and bed kept getting wet. I also noticed there was a lot of fluid building up inside the Tegaderm patches they had covering the wire in my groin. I kept having to have my gown changed. My leg now had feeling and my knee was hurting like Hades. I buzzed the nurse. She came in and I showed her what was going on. She brought me pain pills that I required every three hours. I was miserable. I wanted to gnaw my leg off. This was definitely worse than the other 62 surgeries and I realized Sue was nothing like Santa's wife. She was a sadistic liar. The biddy.

The following day the anesthesiologist came by to look at my pain pump. It was obviously not working. "I'm going to give you a bolus of the numbing medicine and I will be back later." He shot the stuff in the port and nothing. I already knew the wire wasn't in correctly because I was leaking like a colander. I buzzed the nurse after writhing in pain for a couple more hours and told him I wanted to take the pain pump out. He took off the Tegaderm and I pulled the wire. The wire came right out. It was barely in. Right then my surgeon came to check on me and I told him what was going on. He stormed out of the room and within seconds one of the almost extinct PCA machines was in my room.

Arlene was muttering gibberish over on her side of the room. She kept asking me if she sounded "sexy" when she talked and then she would demand an answer. What do you tell an ol' gal of 78? You tell her of course she sounds "sexy." Geez, it was obvious they had her more stoned then most people who attended Woodstock. In the midst of her hallucinations the surgery team came and took her away. I hoped she would be okay, but I don't think anything could've killed her, she was a feisty old bird.

It was late morning the second day when everything started going to hell in a hand basket.

After several attempts of going to the bathroom in the collapsible pink bed pans and techs who wanted to kill me along with the laundry staff I attempted to get out of bed. I called the nurse's station. "I need to go to the bathroom and need help getting up." I think I heard a collective cheer coming from the nurses station. Okay, this is the honest truth. I think whenever I needed to be lifted from a hospital bed or escorted to the bathroom, all the nurses and techs get in line and weigh themselves. They also measure their height and whoever is the lightest and shortest gets sent to my room. Within seconds a five feet, 95 pound nurse and a tech who was slightly smaller and weighed slightly less came to escort me to the bathroom. I stood up and walked halfway to the bathroom. I started to get the spins, I broke out in a cold sweat and I felt like I was about to pass out. Now I'm no heifer, but I think the heaviest thing these two gals have ever lifted is a can of diet coke. They have me under the armpits and we are all swirling around. One tech let go to get some help leaving me with the 95-pound weakling. We are bobbing back and forth when finally reinforcements arrive. With no regard that I almost took a header they all led me to the bathroom and the reinforcements left me alone with my two techs whom I chose to call Laverne and Shirley. I guess they didn't realize I would need to get back to the bed. I just sat there with my head down trying not to fall out. Laverne and Shirley are outside the door so I could have my privacy. I had almost croaked and they are leaving me, an unstable patient, locked in the bathroom. "Hey, I need to get back to bed, I think I'm going to pass out!" Laverne opens the door and Shirley is standing there. Both of them grab me by the armpits. Okay, we've been there done that and clearly these two can't manage me alone but they are intent on not giving up. They are going to give it one more go. Laverne lies on the back of me so I can't fall backward while Shirley pulls my walker toward the bed. They are both grunting and sweating. I am sweating and weaving but we make it. Laverne and Shirley slap palms, tuck me in and head out the door. It would have been funny if I didn't feel like I was about to die.

Sometime later the nurse came in for blood work and vitals. I knew something was up. My pulse was 126 and my blood pressure was 54/42. About an hour later my surgeon walked in and said I need blood transfusions. SAY WHAT??? There was only a small blurb in my "what to expect booklet" saying anything about blood transfusions and the booklet said it is extremely rare to need a transfusion after knee replacement.

As I lay in bed without the strength to move, I decided this was undoubtedly the worst surgery I had ever experienced and I had many prior to this one. I wasn't able to do any PT because my blood pressure was so low. I kept having incidents with the bed pans and I could tell by the faces of the techs that they believed I had never been potty trained and the "collapsible bed pan" excuse was just a ruse.

Finally after four days I was released to go home. I still looked like death warmed over, but I guess they had decided I could go home and dope myself up with super strong drugs and pee in my own bed.

I lost 20lbs, developed an infection, started bleeding from the blood thinners and developed a hematoma on my knee the size of a large plum. I had what the doctors referred to as "a difficult recovery." You think?

Eight months later, I still have issues with my knee. It doesn't straighten out so I walk with a limp. People tell me I'm lucky I can walk at all. Hell I was walking before knee replacement. It wasn't like I was slithering on my belly. People tell me it could be worse and that's true. I could still be in the hospital telling Arlene that she has a sexy voice. Shudder....

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fashion Statement

After a few days in a hotel in downtown Seattle, we were ready to move into our new house in Kirkland, Washington. When my parents had looked at the house initially, it was spotless. The house had belonged to a very obese man who had obviously taken great care cleaning the house and keeping up with the yard. However, the day we moved in was another story. Apparently once he had my parents on the hook he decided there was no sense in cleaning anything or maintaining the yard. What a disaster!

Everything had to be cleaned. From the inside and outside of the cabinets, the black toilets, the filthy kitchen floors, etc. When my dad moved the refrigerator from the wall, there were more jelly beans lying in the place the fridge had been then you could count. It was as though the Easter Bunny didn’t know what to do with the goods when he came to visit, so he just threw them under the fridge.

Each of us were given a chore. Mine was to clean the toilets. I kept vomiting in my mouth between the gagging. I can’t stand cleaning toilets where other people’s butts have been. Especially big hairy ones.
“Why can’t we just call Merry Maids?” I asked. “Probably because we spent your college money traveling cross country, staying in hotels and buying overpriced jackets in the gift shop at Yellowstone park!” snapped my mother. Good grief, touchy. I thought it sounded like a great idea. Of course burning the whole thing down and rebuilding from scratch sounded like a good idea too.

I fell in love with Washington. It was the most beautiful place I had ever seen. It’s strange to think there is something else out there that surpasses all you have ever been exposed to. Now it was time to make some friends. I wandered the neighborhood walking very slowly just incase there were teenagers inside who were watching me through the blinds. Back and forth. Okay, either my parents have moved us into a neighborhood where no people existed or they decided that I didn’t need any friends. Maybe it had something to do with the “best friend” promise I had made to Misty. Could they possibly be making sure that I would honor my promise? I was terribly lonely and longed for someone to hangout with for the rest of the summer. Suddenly a four or five year old came out of his house. I was so excited! “Hey kid, do you want to hang out?” I said. “Maybe we could ride bikes or go hit some tennis balls.” He just stood there and looked at me. Suddenly he burst into tears and started screaming “Mommy, a stranger is talking to me and trying to make me go with her. I think she might be a bad person.!” “Holy crap” I said out loud. “I’m going to do forty to life just because I’m lonely and wanted to hang out.” I beat it out of there so fast, nobody could have identified me.

The summer wore on. Still no friends to speak of. Where was the posse? I needed to break them in before the school year started. I couldn’t go to school alone. I needed a gaggle of girls standing with me, hands on hips, big hair, chewing gum while waiting impatiently for my mother to register me for school. This wasn’t going to happen at this current pace. Maybe I should take out an ad. “Posse wanted for former wallflower. Now very popular with the potential to elevate you to the same level. No experience needed.” Unfortunately, my dad wasn’t willing to give the greenbacks to place the ad. I was on my own.

Finally my first year of high school started. My mother pulled into the school so fast that the fake wood-paneled wagon was on two wheels. I think she was tired of hearing me whine about how I had no friends. She pulled into a parking space and slammed the wagon into park. We got out. I was wearing my Tennessee fashion. Levi jeans, Converse tennis shoes and an Izod Lacoste shirt (before they cost triple digits). I looked around and wanted to put a bag on my head. Most of the boys milling around were wearing jeans with flare legs so big you couldn’t see their feet. When they sat down you could see they were wearing Sperry topsiders with no socks. This look went out of style sometime during my eighth grade year while I stilled lived in Tennessee . The logo on the back of the girl's jeans looked like an ice cream cone with the words “I smile” stitched on back pocket. I had never seen or heard of such a ridiculous name for a pair of jeans, but what did I know? Almost all of the girls were wearing them, and I stood there in a pair of straight leg Levis that I doubt the student body had ever seen. The girls were also wearing off the shoulder tops with the big belts around the waist. Leg warmers seemed to be a must have along with capezio shoes in various colors. All the girls were sporting some type of perm on various lengths of hair. I stood out like a sore thumb. I looked around to see if there was a music video being produced on campus. Any minute Madonna was going to pop out and start singing "Holiday". Once I was noticed the entire quad became silent. They were looking at me like I had no fashion sense and had just wandered in from God knows where. Whispers..pointing fingers..lips raised in disgust at my utter lack of "style". This just wouldn’t do. My mother was going to have to take me shopping as soon as possible, like right now, so I could blend in with the rest of the crowd. I would also need an ogilive perm ASAP.

I showed up for school the next day looking like Jennifer Beals from the movie "Flashdance". I had a fresh ogilive perm. Unfortunately it was so tight that I had trouble blinking my eyes, but I was sporting my "I smile" jeans, a pink off the shoulder top with the guessed it "Flashdance" written in such a way it looked like a third grader with really crappy handwriting did all the graphic design at the off the shoulder top manufacturing plant . I had on my matching leg warmers and pink capezio shoes. I even did a little "Flashdance" routine in the quad.
I put a leg on the wall, bent backwards and poured a bucket of water on my head. The I shook like a dog and did the little move where my feet went up and down a million times a minute. I stopped and looked around. It was deadly silent. Where was the applause? Surely this routine would instantly have me named as most popular in the school yearbook. All I could see were mouth's hanging open and eyes bulging at what was just witnessed. Obviously this was not a good technique for getting in with the "it" crowd. Even the nerds with their slide rulers protruding from their shirt pockets walked by me like I was a leper. "This is going to take a lot more effort" I whispered to myself, as I headed into school soaking wet.

As I sat dripping water onto the carpet in first period math, a girl leaned over to me and said, "you sure are different, everyone is talking about you." Then she turned back to face the front. What did she mean everyone was talking about me? Was this a good thing or bad thing? I didn't have the chance to ask because class had started. The teacher was in the middle of his lesson when he abruptly stopped and stared right at me. He just lifted an eyebrow and went back to teaching

I stressed for the rest of the class. I was starting to let go of my paper bag I used when I was hyperventilating. I didn't whip it out in public too often anymore. Usually I would just go to the bathroom, lock the door, and hyperventilate in there, clutching my well worn bag to my face. I was having a "I need my bag" moment and wondering where the bathroom was in this school. Suddenly the bell rang. All the kids were up and pushing to the door. As I made my way into the mob, people started coming up to me. "Hey new girl, you were hilarious out in the quad today. My name is Brian, what's yours?" And so it went during the rest of the day. I couldn't believe it. People were introducing themselves to me. Me, the former buck toothed wallflower!

Days passed and school became a wonderful place to be. I had a gaggle of friends. The phone would ring at night, and it would almost always be for me. I was invited to go places with the other kids. As I looked from the beginning of school to where I was now, I realized that I was now truly popular.

WOW! I had come a long way baby...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Police Academy

I looked good! Camo pants, black tee-shirt, black hat, black boots. Watch out S.W.A.T here I come. It's Tuesday. Firing range day. I've practiced pulling my pistol out of my holster a billion times. I've shot the bad guys with my gun while watching COPS (not loaded of course). I'm ready. 118 lbs of pure adrenaline. Let me at those targets.
We drove to the range. My palms were starting to sweat. Suddenly I couldn't breathe, my vision was getting fuzzy. I ran over a rotten tree stump in the range parking lot and practically fell out of the car. I looked around and saw all of my classmates laughing and joking as if they didn't have a care in the world. I needed to get a grip. I plastered a grin on my pale face and headed for the bleachers.
I was sitting on the bleachers having a serious anxiety attack. The range masters have just shown us the course of fire. The targets move from right to left and left to right. There are barricades set up all over the field where I have to duck and cover and reload my pistol within seconds. Then I have to barely stick out a portion of my body and shoot the things while they are turned facing forward for what seems like one second.
Of course up until this very moment, I have only shot 75 rounds of ammo with my department and that was from 3 yards away. Nothing was moving and I had about 1 minute per round to fire my weapon.
How in the name of all things holy would I be able to shoot off two rounds, hop behind a barricade, reload my pistol and stick a tiny fraction of myself out from behind it and hit another two targets in 12 seconds before they turned?
As I was patting myself down looking for a xanax or some remnant of a klonopin, my name was called. BARNER-LANE, get on lane three! My heart started to pound and I felt like vomiting. Would they call time out if I puked?
The range master told us to get on the right side of our barricade and prepare to cover. I promptly got on the left side. Huge pause....LANE, GET ON THE RIGHT SIDE! I look up and give the thumbs up..I got on the right side.
RANGE MASTER: When I say cover, go to the left side of the barricade and watch for the targets. You will have four seconds to hit the left target first and four seconds to hit the right target, is everyone clear? We all nod yes (there are 9 other cadets on additional lanes).
I run behind the barricade, pull out my pistol and promptly shot a chunk of wood off the corner. I wildly look for the other target. There it is. I am on my tippy toes looking over the barricade. I looked like one of those freaky things you see at tourist attractions where there is a painted body and you stick your head through the hole, so you can look like a hunk or a big breasted fluzzy. Only my head is over the body of wood shaped like a person...
His yelling freaked me out so badly that I shot off another round. There wasn't a peep from anyone anywhere. I looked around and the instructors and range master looked completely dumbfounded.
RANGE MASTER: Everyone will move up to the 15 yard line. You will pick up your barricade. You will fire two shots standing then duck behind cover, reload your weapon and fire 2 shots kneeling. You have 12 seconds. Does everyone understand?
This time I would pull it off. I could still redeem myself.
They both turned, I fired two shots into the same target (crap), hopped (yes I said HOPPED) behind cover, fumbled with my pistol to remove the magazine, attempted to pull the loaded magazine from my gunbelt and threw it up in the air and into the dirt. All I could do was hope nobody saw me. I forgot to mention that the range master sits in a tower so he can see everything that goes on. Hopping like a rabbit on the firing range and throwing your loaded magazine into the air does not bode well with trained weapon experts.
It just continued to go down hill. We had to shoot both of our targets in the head within 2 seconds. I shot my partner's target in the head. I looked worse than Don Knotts in the movie "The Shakiest Gun in the West".
Needless to say, I did not qualify that round. However; I did get better as the day went on. By Wednesday, it appeared that I might just have a shot at qualifying, but it wasn't to be. I got so good in practice rounds without being timed that I was actually told I was "one heck of a good shot" by one of the instructors. But as soon as the timer was set, I forgot which was my left side and which was right. I could hit shots from 25 yards without blowing off parts of the barricade, but I couldn't get it together at the 15 yard line. When we had to shoot 2 targets 2 times within 5 seconds, I lost it. I just started firing aimlessly like a lunatic.
Everyone was rooting for me. By this time even the instructors were rooting for me. I think mostly because they wanted me off the range before I shot myself or someone else. Unfortunately my lack of experience and training did me in. I was disqualified and removed from the academy (not forcefully).
I got in my car and drove back to the police station where I am employed with my tail between my legs. I was prepared to be fired. It's hard to be a cop if you can't shoot. I felt like Barney Fife but at least he was lucky enough to carry a bullet in his pocket.
My Chief gave me a pep talk, took my weapon away, and assigned me to the S.W.A.T team instructor. I practiced shooting constantly and I was accepted back into the police academy for round two.
As I walked onto the firing range and the range masters had time to come out of hiding I knew was ready. Camos, black tee-shirt, black hat, black boots and 118 lbs of pure adrenaline.
See you later Barney Fife!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Me and my Sketcher Shape-Ups

Me and my Sketcher Shape-Ups
To those who don't know me let me start by saying I am a complete money miser. I have to think long and hard about anything I purchase.
I had knee replacement in May of 2009. Needless to say my knee has been pretty shot out and I am trying to build some muscle in my withered leg.
So I researched walking shoes. I spent several hours reading about the best shoes for my joints. I looked at MBT, New Balance and Sketcher Shape-Ups. I decided that I would bite the bullet and buy the Sketcher Shape-Ups because the reviews were positive and I loved the way they looked (okay that's not exactly true). I cringed as I got on the website and shelled out $110.00 for my sneakers. I was excited that I was going to get stronger, my leg would hopefully develop and my butt would get perky.
I waited five long days for my shoes. When they arrived and I took them out of the box. They reminded me of orthopedic shoes, but then again I had an orthopedic problem. I tried them on and loved the way they felt. I even got compliments from others that my shoes were "cute."
I rushed home from the police department and flung the "how to walk in your Shape-Ups" CD in the CD player. I practiced walking around with my head held high, shoulders back, heel to the ground and then rolling forward. I was so excited I took out the Shape-Up workout CD and popped it into the CD player. At that point I proceeded to fling myself around in an attempt to keep up with the trainer as she lunged, squatted, and donkey kicked her way through 30 grueling minutes. I want to preface that prior to my knee replacement surgery I was a brick house. After my knee replacement surgery I became a sh*t house. I had not worked out in over a year.
After taking off all my clothes because I was sweating profusely, the demonic trainer finally finished. I felt a sense of accomplishment because I actually got through the workout with just a minimum amount of bile rising up into my throat.
I decided I LOVED my Shape-Ups. I wore them all night. I stood up and rocked back and forth to burn calories. I walked up and down the stairs. I rocked my feet back and forth as I was sitting. I envisioned my body pre-surgery and knew my Shape-Ups were going to help me get back to my old self.
As I took them off at bedtime, I was careful to untie them. I didn't want to kick them off with and risk scuffing them. I lovingly placed them next to my bed, so I could hop right into them the next morning. I fell asleep with a smile on my face.
Then disaster struck. My six year old woke up projectile vomiting. As I rushed him to the bathroom he hurled all over and into my brand new Shape-Ups. I almost broke into tears, but I was a good mother and dealt with my sick kiddo and as soon as he was settled, I grabbed my sneakers and flew downstairs.
As I stood looking at my shoes filled with beef-a-roni I wondered if Sketchers had a hot line I could call to see if I could throw them in the washer. I didn't want to ruin my shoes. I bit my nails wondering what to do. Since it was 2:00am I knew it was too late to call anyone. I'm sure any hot line would be closed as barf in a pair of shoes didn't warrant keeping people on duty 24 hours a day. I bit the bullet and started washing them out in the kitchen sink. There was no way I was going to throw my new kicks in the washer not knowing the repercussions of that decision.
As I turned them over to pour out the beef-a-roni and wash the soles of my shoes I felt defeated. These were the most comfortable shoes and I had paid a lot of money for them. Now they were stained with vomit.
I decided that swabbing, brushing and sponging them off was going to have to do. I gingerly carried them back upstairs and away from any more chances of them being puked on.
The next day I inspected them thoroughly to make sure there were no noodles hanging around on the inside. There were traces of stains in the mesh and they smelled vaguely of throw-up, but I didn't care. I put those puppies on and off I went. No amount of sickness or natural disaster was going to deter me from my goals to get fit. There was no way I was going to retire my shoes after 24 hours.
It wasn't until later that day when the Sketcher Shape-Up workout caught up with me. I was so sore that walking was painful. I looked at my stinking shoes and thought about taking them off and hiding them in the back of the closet.
The thought of stuffing them away really wasn't an option. It wasn't the shoes that made me want to take pain pills, it was the condition of my out of shape body.
I am still in love with my Sketchers, the way they feel so light and soft on my feet, the way I can feel my legs working when I walk. They are worth the investment, but I burned the workout video.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Another great decision..I'm in the Army now!

Just a word to the wise, don't EVER join the ARMY after a night of drinking. You seriously will not wake up thinking in your right mind because you haven't had your weekend dose of Waffle House to soak up the residual effects of too many brews

Yep, that's what I did. I didn't eat my Waffle House Patty Melt along with my scattered, smothered and covered hash browns and the next thing I knew I was raising my right hand and being inducted into the ARMY hall of fame. But I was going to have this great job in Military Intelligence and I was going to stay stateside and I was going to finish my last two years of college, go to Officer's Candidate School and get a job with the CIA when I finished my four year commitment. I had a plan...It was a good one. (Unless you asked my parents. That's a whole different story).

So my plan was a good one or at least that's what I thought...I was shipped off to Fort Jackson, South Carolina with several other "deer caught in the headlights" cadets and upon arrival that's when the party started. Off the bus to screaming and yelling (I think some of that was actually me screaming for my mommy). Push-ups, sit-ups and foul language all around. I know I made up some words I haven't heard since. People started crying, I just looked around and thought...God, why didn't I just go to Waffle House?

Basic Training was extremely stressful at first, but I realized all the drill sergeants could do was yell and scream. Hitting was not allowed. What freaked me out initially became a game and I would actually smile at the ridiculousness of it all. I must admit though that eight weeks crawled by. We were up at 3:30-4:00am and usually didn't get to go to bed until 11:00pm. I was always on fire guard, which meant I sat at a desk with a flashlight and made sure the dorm didn't catch on fire. I guess nobody cared that there were actual sprinkler heads on the ceiling. This was not a punishment. I was a squad leader and they wanted to see what I was made of. For eight weeks I was made of complete lack of sleep and too many carbs. I swelled up like a chipmunk. I was a lot stronger, but I looked like a logger straight out of the great northwest.

Some of the people in my battalion were very challenged emotionally and physically. We had a super model join (not really, but she was beautiful). She realized she didn't look good in camouflage and didn't enjoy being yelled at. It messed up her chai, so she attempted to commit suicide by sawing on her wrist with a spoon stolen out of the chow hall. She wasn't successful, so she decided that curling up on her bed and rocking back and forth would do the trick. Nothing doing. She was finally discharged when she ate four baby aspirin and pretended to be overdosed. How she got the baby aspirin is beyond me. Maybe her GQ boyfriend sent them in the mail. The drill instructors finally booted her. Unfit for duty. I think that decision should have been made when she was sawing at her wrist like a mad woman using a spoon.

Then there was the 36 year old woman, who seemed ancient when I was 20, that barely had the strength to get out of bed. She had never done a lick of exercise in her life, but she decided this would be a starting over point for her since she was recently divorced. She was the one person who caused all of us to be punished by doing God only knows how many push-ups as she laid on the floor crying that she couldn't do anymore. At last count I don't think she had done one. She always started off in the push-up position and then flopped to the ground on the count of one. The count of two is when all hell would break loose. It got so bad that we finally had to loop a belt around her waist to assist getting her up. The other "old-timer" was also 36, could run like a gazelle (and she had smoked 2-3 packs of unfiltered Camel cigarettes a day before joining the army) and walked around the barracks without her top on. She was from San Francisco. I think that says it all.

The out of shape 36 year old gal with no muscle tone almost killed herself and the drill instructor when she had to throw a grenade over a concrete barrier. Grenades are heavy and one should not be handed to someone that does not have the strength to do a push-up. She hoisted that grenade and plop, it fell right in front of the barrier where she and the drill instructor were standing. It didn't make it over to the other side. I actually saw the instructor watch his life flash before his eyes. She just stood there basking at her accomplishment of throwing the grenade. Suddenly the instructor was throwing her into a fox hole as the sucker exploded. It was horrifying to say the least. I was expecting body parts to be strewn across the field.

The 15 mile road march was a ton of fun. We had more brass out there trying to look more important then the next guy and we became stuck in the middle of the battle of the male ego. After 20-something miles and no end in sight because we were lost in a forest, I realized that officers were not exempt from dumb ass syndrome. I guess being an officer doesn't automatically give you common sense.

So we trudged on. My feet were so swollen I could no longer feel them. I had long since stopped carrying my M16 in front of me with both hands. I now had rigged a device using the straps on my rucksack to help carry the rifle. I was pushing the girl ahead of me who had started making wounded cat noises. I was covered in scratches and brambles from our four hour trek through the woods that had been "planned" all along (just ask the Major, he'll tell you).

I realized we were in trouble when the drill instructors and officers huddled together and were looking at a compass. Oh great, we were going to stay lost in the forest and it would become survival of the fittest. Those of us who were stronger would have to maintain our strength by eating the weaker ones. I had just seen a movie a couple of months previously where people actually did that when their plane crashed in the Andes Mountains. The idea of eating a fleshy, stinking Private First Class made me sick to my stomach.

The sun was getting lower in the sky and FINALLY we found a road. We were back on track. The Major turned to us all and told us were approximately seven miles to our barracks. WHAT??? At this point I was hungry, mad and sick of the girl in front of me who was having a nervous breakdown and making stupid wounded animal noises. I think there would have been a collective groan if anyone had the energy.

Finally we saw the beautiful barracks just up ahead. I wanted to kiss the ground. We plodded on to the front of the building where we were instructed to remove our boots and place our feet in buckets of water. That would have been a perfect idea if I could have removed my boots. My swollen feet were wedged in there tighter than a thong in a fat woman's butt.

After being allowed to sit down and rest for five minutes, we were told to line up for chow. I was so tired I was rocking back and forth in place. I barely remember eating (which is not a bad thing when you are in the ARMY). But the best dessert we were given was a reprieve to retire to our barracks. I dragged myself up the stairs and made another lame attempt at removing my boots. I just flopped over and passed out until an hour and a half later when I was awakened to take over the duty of fire guard.

Graduation finally arrived. As we were standing on the parade grounds in front of our families and feeling a sense of accomplishment I was forcefully pushed out of line. When I turned around to see who pushed me, the girl behind me fell right onto her face. Obviously she had locked her knees and passed out. As I started to bend down to administer some sort of aid, like a shout and shake and possible CPR, I was told by the drill instructor to get back into my place and leave her alone. So I stepped over her lifeless body and resumed my position. It was then that I realized that life as I knew it would not belong to me again for the next four years. The only good thing about that experience was she didn't have to be awake for a portion of the boring pomp and circumstance.

Ah yes, those were the good ol' days. Little did I know what awaited me once I arrived at my advanced training in Massachusetts...I should have asked the super model if she had any additional baby aspirin.

To be continued.....