Tuesday, March 6, 2012


It’s been a few weeks since I have written, and life seems to have sort of exploded. Semester two of grad school is in full swing, I am in the middle of my first internship working with victims of domestic violence, coaching for the American Cancer Society, hoping to land a graduate research position, and debating applying for my phD in the fall. I am completely obsessed with Crossfit, spend all my paychecks on shoes (wait until you see the pair I got for next weekend’s gala!), and I still live life as a geographic single mom rushing the kids from activity to activity. I workout, work, go to class, go to soccer practice, and totally high five myself when I manage to have a day where I shower AND feed the kids something that didn’t come from the freezer. Of course…. those are the normal aspects of my life: kids, work, school, frozen pizza…

But there are also those issues that I don’t like to mention....like the fact that I am writing this entry from a hospital while receiving IV meds into my arm. Now, for those who know me (or follow my blog as they should) you probably know that I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease last year. Jim was in Iraq, and I totally viewed the disease as something that I could conquer. A few diet changes, cut back on the martinis, strict workout regime, a war ending in Iraq….and Bam! I would be miraculously healed (cue the harps and trumpets).

Ummm Yeah….. that didn’t work out so well. I gave up gluten, I exercised like Jane Fonda on crack, I tried to get at least 5.5 hours of sleep each night, but my symptoms kept getting worse. For the first time in my life, I was losing ground. I was tired. I was in pain. I was emotionally sinking-- faster than Lindsey Lohan after her third DUI. And I was forced to make a decision: continue down the current path or start using the hardcore drugs—even if those drugs have some heinous side effects. To be honest, both options scared the hell out of me and after a long five hour pity party (thank you Monica for listening to me rant) I finally stood up, stared myself down in the bathroom mirror, and got ready to fight.

So here I am. Receiving an IV drip of meds in my arm for the next two hours, getting hugs from the nursing staff (even though I drove straight to the hospital from Crossfit and I probably smell like a farm animal), and saying a silent prayer that it will work. Yes, some things in life have changed: I have to come every six weeks for the infusions, I will forever be immuno-compromised, and I will probably never be able to secure a sweet deal on life insurance ever again. But really….who gives a crap? I am still me. Tomorrow, I will wake up and go to work; I still plan to go for my phD; and I am running the Marine Corp Marathon next October in order to qualify for Boston. Life may not be perfect, but it isn’t exactly all bad either. Sometimes you need to encounter a few obstacles along the way to appreciate the blessings in your life—after all, it makes the sweet flavor of success taste that much better. (Just please God… I would consider it a personal favor if success didn’t taste anything like frozen pizza…)
(See, I wasnt kidding about the sweaty workout clothes...)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cwazy Ninjas

Last Friday I got together with a group of friends for the monthly pubrun. The theme was “tattoos and tiaras”, but my special-borderline-brain-damaged group of friends decided that we wanted to kick it up a notch and run as ninjas. Yes, I am in my 30’s and I was running around San Antonio dressed all in black, a karate belt, and a samurai sword. Yes, I was having an amazing time running around the city telling everyone my name was “Amyson”. And yes, I managed to twist my leg on some uneven pavment, earning myself a grade two pull in my calf muscle and two weeks of no running. Cwazy ninja?? Apparently, yes.
Mimes, Ninjas, Cholesterol.... the silent killers.

As I sat down icing my leg (injured cwazy ninjas are required to sit still for long periods of time), I started reflecting on how life can take you where you least expect it. In fact, life has a way of sneaking up on you, and going all ninja-effing-crazy just when you think you have a routine down. Found a way to balance work and school? Let’s throw a 15 hour/week internship into the mix. Start coaching for the American Cancer Society? How about a calf injury to tend too. School is FINALLY back in session for the kiddos…. And all three start coughing like 1920’s tuberculosis patients. Life-1; Amy-0.

I guess what I am saying, is that sometimes you are the ninja—but sometimes life is. Deployments, injuries, illness, job issues—they all can sneak up on us and wreak havoc in our carefully constructed life. We can plan time for friends, dinners that don’t involve peanut butter and jelly, and use impressive spreadsheets to map our fitness progression; but we can’t control the universe. Sometimes you just may be running down the street in San Antonio, minding your own ninja business, when you trip over an invisible crack in the sidewalk. What you do next is up to you. You can sit there on your butt and wait for life to resume some balance—OR you can ninja-up. For the past week, I have been working my ass off in a crossfit gym. It’s humbling (borderline humiliating at moments), I am stuck in a stupid-looking compression sleeve, and I will be coaching this week on a bike alongside the runners. But hey, life may have temporarily took me down, but I managed to find a way to regain some foothold. Life- 1; Amy-1. The lesson here: There is nothing that can’t be accomplished with a ninja star.
Ninja philospohy: Eat. Sleep. Dominate.

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Year. Same You.

Two weeks ago, I met with my doctor to discuss the meds that I was currently taking. I had just returned from Cabo, and my stomach was in absolute knots. I felt like crap, I looked like crap, and to add insult to injury my skin was exactly the same shade of plaster-of-paris-white that I left with (apparently Irish skin requires more than 30 hours to receive any noticeable tanning other then the time-honored-beach-induced splattering of freckles). School had just finished for the semester, my kids were off on holiday break and already whining about universal boredom, and my job had temporarily slowed down for the holidays. By all accounts, I should feel rested… or at the least, look rested. But I wasn’t.

Maybe it was the fact that I accidentally swallowed some water while brushing my teeth in Mexico, and knew that I was going to die a slow and painful death (more than likely during takeoff and landing the following day). Maybe it was because the busiest four months of my life had finally culminated to 20 hour days. Maybe it was because it was Dec 18th, and I still hadn’t managed to throw the inflatable Santa into the front yard. But whatever the reason, I felt sick and knew that the pesky autoimmune disease that I had been fighting the past year was starting to get the upper hand.

Fortunately, I did what every good patient does when facing a symptoms increase: I whined, tried to ignore it, attempted to blame Mexico for all my woes…. And then finally stormed into the doctor expecting a few more pills and maybe some steroids. No big deal. Christmas would go on as usual, and I could keep pretending that I was totally healthy. Unfortunately though, the news I received floored me, and sent me into a tailspin. My doctor explained to me that I was probably going to need to be put on a strong immunosuppressant called Remicade, and that this drug was only available via an IV infusion once a month. Oh… and the IV’s take about 2-3 hours, so make sure you have plenty of time to deal with this. Free Time? Not exactly. Compromised immune system for the rest of my life? I don’t have free time, so I definitely don’t have time to be sick. IV infusion? Hell, that sounds like something out of Star Wars.

I sat there staring at him, like he had suddenly grown an extra head, waiting for the punch line. When exactly did this disease get the upper hand? Why couldn’t I control it? How am I ever going to be able to live a normal life with this kind of timebomb lurking in my medical history?

Now I am fairly positive that it was the longest as I sat anywhere without making a noise, and thankfully my doctor waited for me to process all the information.

“Have you been faithful about taking your meds Amy?”

I sat in silence.

“Have you really tried to avoid eating gluten? Wine? Red meat?”

I sat in silence.

“Have you even attempted to reduce your stress level at all?”

I sat in silence.

“Have you ever accepted that you may have some limitations?”

And that’s when I answered.

“No….. to everything.”

You see, I never took my diagnosis seriously enough, but rather just hoped the pills would make it go away and I could forget about it. But science has yet to discover a miracle pill that just blows away an illness leaving you feeling refreshed and energized—like a day at the spa-- but rather creates a multitude of treatment options to reduce symptoms and improve your quality of life… but they come with a price tag.

No, I never took my meds faithfully—I tried, but there were days when I forgot, vacations I forgot to pack them, and moments when it was just to inconvenient to bother…. So I didn’t. And no, I never cut out foods from my diet. Gluten is in freaking everything, and I didn’t have time to read lables and plan meals; heck, I have Papa Johns on speed dial on my phone. And finally, no, I never attempted to reduce my stress level, but rather piled on much as humanly possible and worked my way from crisis to crisis.

Suddenly, I realized that I was my worst enemy, and the battle I was fighting had nothing to do with an autoimmune disease, but rather trying to convince the person in the mirror that she could handle the world. People have always viewed me as strong. I am the Army Wife who has a sassy mouthed response for just about everything. I can run a marathon, stand emotionless at a funeral, survive a deployment… but I couldn’t be bothered to make a few insignificant life changes.

But this week is a new year-- another chance at a brand-new do-over-- so I left the doctor with the request to give me three more months. I gave up gluten, scheduled the crap out of my life so that I had some guaranteed downtime, and promised myself that I would start listening to my body. New Years is a time for resolutions and recognizing those aspects in your life that need to be adjusted. But living requires you to make those changes—whether it’s Jan 1st or Dec 31st-- so that we don ‘t keep repeating the same mistakes of the past. Wisdom comes with time. Acceptance comes with recognition. Peace comes with understanding. Cheers to all that 2012 brings you.

And as for accepting limitations? No. Sometimes you just need to give your doctor a little Army Wife Attitude and respond, “F#ck limitations.”

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

After Christmas sales = poverty

Christmas 2011 came and went… and so did my next three pay checks. Heck, I am usually so thorough with Christmas shopping that I start at least three months in advance. I make lists about gifts, I watch the ads for the ultimate deals… and then I blow it the day after Christmas on all of the MASSIVE sales. Unfortunately though, this year was different.

You see, I was so swamped between school, work, and kid stuff this fall that I really didn’t have a chance to start Christmas shopping until the day after Thanksgiving. That morning, one of my best friends, Monica, and I hit the mall at opening--and shopped for seven hours. I was able to score just about every gift in one day… and one paycheck. Ouch. Multiply that by my day-after-Christmas-shopping-extravaganza, and I am officially broke, will be serving spam and scrambled eggs to my family for the month of January, and will be painting my own toes for the foreseeable future.

So in the name of saving money, I decided to cut corners…. And share the lessons that I learned with you:

1. Tito’s vodka is just as good as Grey Goose… is locally made in Texas (definitely increasing it’s awesome factor)…. And is half the cost. WIN!
Yes, this is true. The self-proclaimed Grey Goose fan club president is now drinking Tito’s Vodka. I may still order a martini with Grey Goose in public, but that’s only to protect my now poor-broke-wounded-pride. The truth of the matter is you can’t tell the difference.

2. Home wax kits are a great idea…. Until you decide to wax your own bikini line.
Yep, in an attempt to save $40 a month, I decided to spend $90 and buy my own kit. How hard could it be, right? Just apply burning hot wax to your girly areas and rip. Now I can honestly say that I got the first step down--but then the grab the cloth and rip took a whole lot of convincing. I tried… and stopped. I tried again… and stopped. I did a shot of vodka…. And yanked. OH. MY. GOD. I saw stars. I screamed profanity. And decided that I would never attempt THAT again. Want to get infidels to spill all of their terrorist secrets???? Just apply hot wax and rip.

3. The best Christmas gifts are gift cards… that include yourself. Now, this one may seem a little confusing, but let me explain the genius behind this gift. My second best friend, Loren, gave me a gift card for Christmas to a delicious little Mexican restaurant that supposedly had amazing food, margaritas, and ambience. The catch: the restaurant is in Austin (Loren’s city) and we have to go together! How perfect is that? Not only do we have a pre-paid girl’s night out, but we also have an excuse to get together and money for top end tequila while I pay off all the shoes that I purchased on December 26th.

Christmas 2011 may be over, but we will all be feeling it’s noose for a few more months. And believe it or not, as soon as we get the bills totally free and clear from Santa, we have to start shelling out money for summer camps **sigh**. It’s a brutal loop. It’s exhausting. It’s tough—especially on a military budget. But it’s doable. There is always a way to cut back on excessive spending (without following your husband’s maybe-you-should-start-coloring-your-own-hair-advice). Cheers to almost-top-shelf martinis, great friends, and the fact that bikini season is still a few more months off…

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Ghost of Christmas Past

Christmas is three days away, and although the tree is up and most of the presents are wrapped, I still find myself struggling to find that elusive Christmas spirit. I figured that the Ghost of Christmas Past would help remind me of just how lucky I am, so I am going to spare him the journey and tell you the story myself. Now let’s flashback 12 months to Christmas 2010….

This time last year, Jim was deployed to Iraq, and the kids and I were seriously lacking in the holiday cheer department. I decided that a trip to The Great Wolf Lodge was exactly what the family needed… three days in a water park, three kids, one adult. Does anyone else see a problem with this equation?

Now don’t get me wrong… I am one tough mama, I know CPR, and nobody would dare judge an Army Wife for throwing back a martini after a 10 hour day of swimming, so I booked the reservation. Off we set for a relaxing dream filled trip to The Great Wolf Lodge in Dallas… heck, I heard it even snowed inside the lodge during story hour (I could just envision my little angels all snuggled in their pajamas thanking Santa Clause for their amazing selfless mom). And then…REALITY CHECK!

The drive to Dallas takes about five hours, at exactly hour two (you know, the point where you are definitely committed to the trip) I started noticing this loud rumbling sound being emitted from the depths of my car. I couldn’t pinpoint it, but it was loud, vibrating, and my low oil indicator was flashing. Obviously, this set off the panic button in my mind, and I did what every stressed out Army Wife does when experiencing car problems… I called my dad. He listened to my grievances, tried to trouble shoot the problem, and explained that I better call a garage when I reached Dallas. I white-knuckled the steering wheel the rest of the drive, and did the happy dance when we pulled into the Great Wolf Lodge. Heck, I had no clue if we were going to make it home, but we were going to swim for three days—right after I found a cell phone charger (yep, like every good woman, I forgot to pack one). My phone was about to die, my kids were starving, there was already a pile of oil puddling underneath my car, but I grabbed our suitcases and we charged into the resort ready to forget our woes for 72 hours.

And THAT was the exact moment that the resort lost power.

Now, water resorts can’t operate if there is no power… and the same goes for elevators. And yes, you guessed it, we were on the top floor. No problem. The resort was passing out free Dipping-Dots to help prevent a mutiny, and my three little children greedily gobbled down the frozen sugar snacks. Maybe I should have been paying more attention to how much my four year old was eating, but I was seriously trying to recover from the drive and desperately hoping that my phone didn’t die before I found 1. A phone charger 2. A hotel room 3. Power.

And THAT was the exact moment that my four year old puked all over herself.

Waiting for an elevator suddenly wasn’t a priority, and I grabbed all the suitcases, the puke covered preschooler, and hoofed it up eight flights of steps. My older kids were so hyped up on sugar that they had enough energy to power the damn resort, and were just running around the hotel room at mock ten. I cleaned up Anna, assured her that everyone vomits on themselves at some point in their lives (usually the college years), and explained to my kids that I needed just a few moments to “gather my sanity”. I locked myself in the bathroom, lowered myself into the empty bathtub, and prayed that God would somehow hear my stressed out Army Wife prayers and send some much needed alcohol to my room.

And THAT was the exact moment that my phone decided it had enough battery power left to receive ONE more call… from my mother.

Now, I heard the phone ring, but I really was in no mental shape to answer it, and unless it was Publisher’s Clearing House calling to inform me that I was their new mega-million winner then I really didn’t care who was on the other end (and let’s be frank…. Luck wasn’t exactly on my side this trip). I hollered out to my son to answer it, closed my eyes in the pitch black bathroom (still no power), and leaned my head back against the cool tile. Working on my yoga breathing, I tried desperately to keep the panic attacks at bay, and just focused on my breathing.

And THAT was the exact moment I heard my son tell my mother, “Mom can’t come to the phone right now… she is having a nervous breakdown in the bathtub.”

I could only imagine the chaos that erupted at my parent’s house with THAT comment. They already envisioned me with one foot in the Crazy House, and I knew that they didn’t exactly think a three day trip to a water park was a mentally smart move on my part. And let’s be honest… I was an Army Wife on the edge. I needed three things: 1. Mary Poppins 2. A GIANT bottle of Grey Goose 3. World Peace.

Now let’s flash forward to this Christmas again: I may not have received a magical nanny, world peace, or the GIANT bottle of Grey Goose in 2010… but the war in Iraq is finally over, Jim is home for the holidays, and a new martini bar opened up just ten miles from my house. Last year’s crazy Christmas taught me that holiday magic takes more than just a credit card and a good intention, but requires teamwork, togetherness, family, and love. I may be stuck in years of therapy from the fall out of that trip, but I know that my kids and I left the resort smiling, exhausted, broke, and ready to face the holidays head on.

I guess it’s time to see what 2011 has in store for me… It can’t be any worse, right?...
***Note: Anna is recovering from a nasty eye infection and Jim is home sick with a stomach virus. Maybe I spoke too soon…”

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Yesterday started out the same as every other day… with a headache. My youngest had a meltdown that her toothpaste tasted weird, my son was complaining that his substitute was mean and that SHE had a beard, and my oldest daughter wanted to compete in a pageant. I switched toothpaste with Anna, told JD not to stare, and explained to Abby, “Sure you can compete in a pageant… when I am dead.” I shuffled them all out the door, totally ignoring the protests, and laced up my running shoes for my morning run. For the next hour, I planned to talk to no one, think about nothing other than songs playing on my iPod, and burn at least 700 calories. All was going well, until mile 1.7.

Problem numero uno: My phone rang, and like an obsessed-crackberry-idot, I answered it. The person on the other end of the line was a friend who had donated hotel rooms to soldiers’ families. I had a certificate of appreciation and a bunch of other thank you items that I needed to ship to him, and I had sent an email requesting his work address. Of course, at the exact same moment he called, a cute (possibly rabid) dog darted out from the brush and stood in the center of the country road. Now for those of you who are not from Texas, let me explain the definition of a country road. It is a place where few cars travel… but the ones that do tend to move faster than an F-18. I could hear a rumble of a car engine in the distance, and I desperately tried to beckon the dog towards safety (without making a sound on the phone).

Problem numero dos: Just my luck, the damn dog didn’t understand sign language.

A pickup truck was traveling at the speed of light towards the dog (which sat in the middle of the road just staring at me), and with an exasperated eye roll, I finally called the dog over. The truck barreled past, but slowed down just enough to yell out the window to me, “Put your damn dog on a leash!”

To which I yelled back (while I held the phone to my ear), “Not my dog, asshole!”

What can I say… professionalism at its best.

Problem numero tres: Once you save a dog’s life, he decides to adopt you, and will follow you…. For at least six more miles.

Yep, fuzzy dog (which I called Buttons by the end) followed behind me the rest of the run. I couldn’t shake him. He usually ran smack-dab in the center of the road, but seemed adept enough at playing frogger that I stopped freaking out every time a car came near. He tripped me twice (I am positive it was a complete accident both times), and crazy enough, I found myself talking to him. I told Buttons everything. All the pain, hurting, worrying, and yes, all the joy that was bottle up inside me. But unlike some of our human counterparts, Buttons never judged me. He didn’t pretend that he could relate to my situation. He didn’t offer me pointless advice, and he didn’t assume that the events I decided to share publically were the only events in my life. Instead, Buttons just listened and ran beside me.

At mile seven, a cop waved me over to ticket me for running with my dog off a leash. I explained (in a much more pleasant manner, this time) that Buttons wasn’t MY dog! The cop raised an eyebrow at me, took down my information, and carted Buttons off to animal control. As I turned to run the remaining half mile home, I slowly realized that we all could learn a lot from a dog like Buttons: to listen more, to judge less, to love unconditionally, and to just enjoy the run—wherever it may be taking you.

So that’s what I plan to do this week. … To just enjoy the run. Find peace in my journey. Forgive myself for mistakes made. Learn to love unconditionally, even if that notion terrifies me, and to never be afraid to get dirty. Everyone on this planet is guilty of being human, but that doesn’t mean we have to be guilty of living a meaningless life.

…But fist, I plan to find out when Buttons will be available for adoption.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Running for a reason

Just last night I was sitting at school completely rejoicing about the fact that I had survived the first semester. I was exhausted, in need of a facial, and wistfully wishing that Mary Poppins would somehow pop down my chimney for the spring semester when I got a phone call. Now, the call was a friend named Edgardo, a local runner and trainer who worked for the American Cancer Society, and he wanted to know if I would consider mentoring or coaching a marathon team for an upcoming race in Austin. Now, my first thought was, “Ummm….. no way.” (I barely have time to shower on a daily basis AND I have to somehow add an internship into the equation next semester)”…. but somehow (yet more proof that I was dropped on my head at birth) I momentarily lost all control and heard myself responding, “Ok…. I think so… Yes..?” Maybe it was the fact that the planets were aligned up just perfectly to give me that extra boost of confidence. Maybe it was because I had just gotten my hair highlighted that morning, and I was having an extra amazing I-got-red-highlights-and-I-don’t-look-like-an-American-Idol-wanna-be kind of hair day. Maybe it was the fact that I had just turned in my last paper and my brain was so taxed that I was still working on answering a question from two hours ago. All reasonable possibilities…. But the true reason, and the ONLY reason, I said yes was because my mother-in-law, Deb—one of the most amazing women and mentors a woman could ever know-- is currently fighting Stage Four colon-rectal cancer.

Now, I share a lot of personal information on this blog…. but I have yet to talk about Deb. Deb is amazing, selfless, and hilarious—the kind of woman who wears a smile in her sleep and sings Disney songs in the shower. In fact, I can remember driving with her, right after I moved to Texas, when the temperature outside had to be at least 5000K (even I was losing brain cells in the car and that was WITH the air condition on). Anyway, we were sitting in traffic, eyeballing a smoothie place, and just hoping that the air condition would find a way to pump more than a whisper of cool air in our faces. Across the street from us (and the source of the ridiculous traffic congestion) was a road crew working on something-or-other on the side of the road. They were hot and sweaty, and to be honest, I was more annoyed than sympathetic due to the fact that it was taking us an additional fifteen minutes to get to my son’s preschool. Deb looked at those sweaty workers, turned to me, and said, “I would like eight peach smoothies please.” One for her…and seven for the workers. THAT’S the kind of person Deb is. THAT’S the kind of heart that Deb has.

To this day, I will never understand why people like Deb get cancer. Why is it that someone who brings so much joy and light into the world should ever have her body betray her? How could the cancer be growing inside her for so long that it somehow found the path to metastasize to her liver, and nobody knew? How could we hear a diagnosis in August that reveals Stage Four? And the scariest of all…. How will we ever cope if Deb leaves us before we are ready? Because I am not ready for her to go. She’s not ready to go. And although she fights it with everything she has got (and this woman has more spunk than an Irish sailor), I can still hear the pain in her voice. And I am helpless.

For the past 60-ish years, Deb has been taking care of the world. Raising kids that weren’t her own. Loving soldiers like they were family. Listening to my long-winded rants and assuring me that I am NOT crazy. But for once, I wanted to show her what she means to me—to let her know that I am thinking about her, always—even when my life has me going around in circles? That although I haven’t talked about her disease publically, its not because I am ignoring it, but rather just desperately trying to contain the grief.

So this year I will train and run Zooma, a brutish hilly course in South Texas, in honor of Deb and ALL patients fighting cancer… but this time, I am taking a team with me. What can I give to a woman who has been an inspiration to me for the last ten years? What can WE give? The answer is simple: give of yourself.
Deb: this race is for you.
Everyone else: From here on out, I will only answer to coach.
See you on the track.