Time Flies When You Are Having Fun

Twentieth (35 of 9)

Immediately after I was released from the hospital, we went to celebrate Shane’s 20th reunion at the Air Force Academy.  Twenty years have flown by.  In twenty years, we moved around twelve times (thirteen if you count extended TDYs)– Minnesota to Colorado Springs to Oklahoma to New Mexico (me) and Louisiana (him) to North Dakota (both) to Germany to North Dakota to Virginia to Ohio to Florida to Colorado Springs. We have survived five years of separation, and four deployments (two combat).  And now we are back where it all began.

Garden of the Gods (121 of 137)

Thursday, we went to Antlers, a local hotel, and picked up our tickets.  One thing about the reunion is it’s quite expensive (the tune of $900!).  The registration alone was $100 each.  It included a dinner and free drinks on Thursday night.  There we met up with friends we hadn’t seen in years.  I found out that several people Shane sang with in Catholic Choir were living here locally.  It was so nice to see people I hadn’t seen in 20 years, and being asked to come hang out!

On Friday, we went to the actual Academy and toured it.  We went to Shane’s old squadron.  Talked to the cadets.  We learned interesting statistics about the new class.  The greatest statistic was the cadet class in 1997 was only 10% female, while the cadet class in 2021 is 30% female!  It was so nice to see such a change in environment at the Academy.  Most of the women at the academy are studying STEMM majors.  So it’s not just “fuzzy” majors.  These women are going to be the future leaders in Engineering and Math career fields.

We also found out that Shane’s boss in Florida, General Silvaria is now the Superintendent at the Air Force Academy.  It was nice to see him and his wife again.

At the end of the day we went to the memorial service.  There were several deaths in the four reunion classes (1972, 1992, 1997, and 2007).  They read the names of the deceased this year (including one senior) in each class.  Played Taps, and the Missing Man formation of A-10s.  The clouds have begun to roll in, and the angels began to cry during the formation.  It was beautiful and sad at the same time.  There was one guy in Shane’s class that died this year in combat.  It made this ceremony extra special, as the family was there to lay roses on his name.  There was not a dry eye in the crowd.

Twentieth (38 of 9)

At the end of the ceremony, I caught this nice fellow watching with his friend.  He is a PTSD service dog, who was attending with a 2007 graduate.  It’s a stark reminder of the sacrifices that living veterans are making.  It has changed my attitude about being a veteran.  I am considered a disabled veteran, and for years I was not proud of my service.  I didn’t deploy.  When I left the service I got someone else’s going away gift, and I felt like I didn’t sacrifice.  But recognizing those that did make the ultimate sacrifice, and seeing the PTSD dog made me feel blessed, that even though I have service connected cancer, I did experience what my husband and other vets have experienced.

The weekend ended with the football game.  I don’t have any pictures from this event.  I brought my camera, but decided to put it back in the car.  The game was a close one, but our Falcons could not pull it out in the end.  Anyway, the kids, Shane, and I went to the class tailgate, where we met a friend from both Shane’s squadron AND pilot training, Ryan.  Turns out Ryan is a published author, so I got his card to discuss with him how to get published (I have kind of decided to publish my book as a collection of short stories and novellas).  When we got to our seats, it started raining.  The rain started out lightly, then the wind picked up, and by 9:00 minutes into the game, it was 48-degrees, with driving rain, and 30 mph winds.  We watched the Falcons score first, and then we decided to leave.

As we left, my son, decided to hit every puddle.  We got home, fired up the fireplaces, and turned on the game.  Luckily we left, as the game was on an 80-minute lightening delay.  We flipped from various Big Ten games, drank hot chocolate, and ate chips and dip.  All-in-all we really enjoyed ourselves at the reunion.

 

I Am Groot

photo_902220_thumb

Photo courtesy of Disney and Marvel copyright 2014

I Am Groot

When I watch television, movies, and even the news in April, I see lots of stories and information about autism.  I am aware that April is Autism Awareness month, for my family autism isn’t relegated to one month, rather it is every day, every month, every year.  We are more aware of autism than the average family.  My son, Ryan has autism.

When I have asked people, who are not as aware as I am about autism, what they think autism is?  They point to characters on television shows, movies, and children and adults in the media, who have autism.  Nearly every single person, or character, with autism is high functioning.  Prime examples are Forrest Gump, Max from Parenthood, Dr. Latham from “Chicago Med,” even the kid who shot all the baskets, the kid who was voted homecoming king.  The media turns a blind eye towards people with autism, who are not high functioning.  My son is one of those people.  Until very recently, there are no mention of lower functioning adults and children in the movies, television, or even in the news.  In 2014, Marvel Comics finally produced a movie that showed a character with limited speech in a very positive light.

You may ask who?  My answer is “I am Groot.”  We first saw the first “Guardians of The Galaxy” movie a few years ago, and my daughter was the first to notice that Groot was my son.  She said that our family was Rocket.  For those that do not know comic book, Marvel, or the movies, I’ll explain.  Groot and Rocket are a pair of bounty hunters that are looking for Star Lord.  Groot is played by Vin Diesel.  Rocket is voiced by Bradley Cooper.  Groot is a large tree creature.  The only thing he says throughout the entire movie is— “I am Groot.”  His partner Rocket, a walking, talking raccoon, translates based on context, body language, and intonation what every “I am Groot” means.  That’s what we do with my son.  Our family has become master interpreters for our son.  We know the meaning behind every phrase.

My son on the other hand is just like Groot, from his mannerisms to his monotonous speech, but he is also like Groot in other aspects.  Groot defends his friends with ferocity.  He has a really wicked sense of humor, and pretty good dance moves.  At the end of the movie, Groot sacrifices himself for his friends.  He grows into a dome that protects the rest of the Guardians from dying while their ship crashes.  While he grows, he transforms the environment to a beautiful starlit dome.  And he says one phrase while sacrificing himself, “We are Groot.”  This statement makes Rocket realizes Groot’s intention, and he begs him not to sacrifice himself.  In the epilogue we see a new baby Groot, who dances and sings to “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5.  Like Groot, my son is brave, strong, caring, with a wicked sense of humor, he is smart, and when he says something, often it is so profound and meaningful.

In the waning days of the month of April, I changed my profile picture to Baby Groot.  I have posted “I am Groot” (sometimes I include emojis to show my mood) at random times throughout the day.  I have responded to other people’s posts with “I am Groot.”  Most people haven’t asked me why, some think that I’m being facetious, sarcastic, or I’m just a moron.  To the few that have asked why, I messaged them my reasoning (I have also posted it on my wall), and I encourage other parents to do the same to bring awareness of children (and adults) with autism and other developmental disabilities with limited language skills.  So in honor of my son, Ryan, “We are Groot.”

I Have A Teenager…

IMG_2373.JPG

Thirteen years ago today I gave birth to my first born.  This little boy has taught me the most indelible lessons one could learn.  He taught me about how patient, kind, and enduring love is.  He is one of the most honest, loving, human beings on this Earth.

The story of his birth is amazing.  I found out at around 7 months that I was pregnant with, but at one point in the pregnancy, his twin reabsorbed leaving an empty placenta.  I had severe pre-eclampsia, and nearly went into cardiac arrest during the c-section.  A few hours later, I got to meet him.

The first couple of years of his life was harrowing.  He tested positive for PKU, but it was a false positive.  He caught rota virus at 3 months old, and was hospitalized in Germany.  His daddy deployed to a war zone for five months (which was a blessing considering the Army unit we were stationed with was gone MUCH longer).  At 12 months, he had a severe reaction to the MMR vaccine and was hospitalized yet again.

After he had turned a year, his development slowed down considerably.  Eventually, at 26 months old, he was diagnosed with autism.  He is on moderate to severe end of the spectrum.  He is barely verbal, but often what he says and does is profound.  He has the capacity to change the people around him.  Most, who meet him, work with him, or educate him are never the same.

He has made me a much better person.  He is wonderful person, and I am privileged to be his mother.

What The Hell, I Might As Well

IMG_0607

I am making a list.  Kind of like Santa Claus, but kind of not like Santa Claus.  It’s called my  “What The Hell, I Might As Well…” list.  It’s not really a bucket list, as I have accomplished most of my bucket list items– I ran New York City Marathon, went scuba diving in Guam, climb Pike’s Peak, saw a few celebrities (including a celebrity crush– Hugh Jackman in New York), I saw a Broadway Play, watched the sun rise, swam with dolphins, been in the Empire State Building…  This list is arbitrary weird things I always wanted to do:

  1. Write a Star Wars Novel.  I know that it will never get published.  I’m going to publish it on a fan fiction site.
  2. Publish a chick lit novel.  I wrote it, but I got to pitch it to a publisher.  I don’t know quite how to do that.
  3. I would like to go to another foreign country.  I don’t which one yet, I was thinking Africa, but my oncologist said I can’t go to Africa.  I asked at an appointment if I could travel while on treatment.  He said, “I don’t see why not, it’s not like you’re going to Africa.”  DAMN…. SHOT DOWN.
  4. Drive a sports car as my primary mode of transportation.  I want a Mustang.
  5. Get paid to do something I love– like having someone buy a picture I took, maybe sell my novel.
  6. Own another puppy.  I want a red Siberian Husky with blue eyes.  Love my pups, but I want that darned red Sibe.
  7. Live in a big city again.  Tired of these quiet little rural cities.  This one is about to be checked off.
  8. Build a house from scratch.  I want to design my next house.  I want funky colors in my bedroom, I want a bathroom with a huge glass window made by Angela (Big Orange House).  I want my photographs framed and put up all over the house.
  9. I want go get soaking wet in a thunderstorm.
  10. I want to see Niagara Falls, or Carlsbad Caverns again.
  11. I want to go to the Academy Awards, or Emmy’s, or Golden Globes– something to dress up for, and meet people– I know it’s the strangest ass thing, but I want to go to it.  I love movies.  I have been in two, it might be cool to be in another, or a television show…

That’s about it.  What’s on your What The Hell, Might As Well list?

I Am Not From The Same Planet

Today on Facebook, I was called a libtard, I was told that I am the worst parent in the world, and that my kids must be spoiled rotten brats.  Why would someone say something so horrible to someone they don’t know?  Because I vocalized my opinion on a story that has gone viral down in Lower Alabama.  A grandfather was arrested in Birmingham for spanking his grandchildren at McDonald’s.

First of all, spanking is completely legal in Alabama.  Secondly, I have NO issue if you want to spank your kids.  Thirdly, I am not the vindictive type of person, who would call the authorities on child being spanked in public, unless you are the type of person who hits your child with a closed fist.  Hell, I spanked my kids a long time ago, but something happened around seven years ago that completely changed my mind.

My daughter was three, and per being part of the nuclear inspection team after a major nuclear weapons incident, my husband was gone inspecting something.  My daughter had done something, I don’t really remember what, but it was something typical of a three year old that garnered the reaction of me spanking her on the butt.  I gave her a spanking, and when I was done and about to explain to her why she had “deserved” that punishment, because that’s what every good spanking mom does.  She hit me, and said, “bad momma, you shouldn’t hit.”

In that one moment, I became utterly confused.  I sent her to her room, and told her not to hit.  It was in that moment, I realized I had two options.  I could punish her more for hitting me, by hitting her, and she is the type of child that would have hit me again.  Or I could change my parenting approach.  I realized in that moment that spanking her was not going to work.  She had outwitted me.

Of course I get the, “How did you teach her not to run into the street, or touch hot things without spanking her?”  Simple, I told her that if you run into the street, you could get hit by a car.  I kept a close eye on her, and didn’t allow her to go near the street.  It didn’t require me to hit her if she got close to the street.  It just required me to say, “Hey Sophie, come here, you are too close to the street.”  If she didn’t come, I would go to her, and grab her.  Again did not require me to hit her to get the point across.  She never really ran into the street.  Same goes for the oven.  She would get close to the oven, I would say, “it’s hot, don’t touch.”  If she got too close I would remove her.  And one time she did touch it, and got a little burn.  It hurt, it scared her, and she never touched the oven again.  It didn’t require me to smack her butt.

As for my son, when he was first diagnosed with autism, we were told that traditional discipline would not work, and could have dire consequences.  Namely, one therapist said, that spanking a child on the spectrum could cause them to become overly violent, or it could cause them to mistrust adults.  We stopped all corporal punishment after we were told this.  The only time he has ever injured me was completely accidental, and he has never purposefully been violent to anyone.

Well, the conclusion of the Internet parenting experts is that my children must walk all over me, they must be disrespectful, and they must be brats.  None of the above is true at all.  I’ll sing the praises of my children.  My son, the one with autism, is one of the most sensitive loving children a parent could ask for.  He has a wicked sense of humor, and his favorite thing in the world to do is tease everyone.  He has one of the most interesting tastes in music, and is a Boy Scout.  His best friend is Thor, my 100-lb Golden Retriever.

My daughter wants to be an ABA-therapist when she grows up.  She is polite, kind, and wicked smart.  She plays violin and sings in the church choir.  This summer she has decided to read the Bible cover-to-cover.  When I asked her why?  She said, she liked church stories.  Her favorite song is “How Great Thou Art.”  Trust me, I have a new found faith in God, but I am not nearly that religious.  She has said that when she gets married that her husband better love Ryan, because he will be living with her when she grows up.

The behavior of on-line commentators utterly confuses me.  I have said nothing about myself, my political leanings, or how my children are.  I have not judged any other parent for their parenting choices when it comes to discipline.  I am one of those parents, who thinks that if a discipline method works for you, and your family, go for it.  But I am also one of those parents, who believes in mutual respect.  That does not mean that I am best friends with my kids (yet, perhaps when they are older we can have a relationship like my mom and I), but it means that I respect them as human beings, and I feel (most of the time) they respect me.  I don’t believe in demanding respect by virtue of age, or experience.  For me respect doesn’t work that way.  It can’t be something forced, or demanded.  Respect is earned, and it can be taken away.

My kids are not these wild children that everyone complains about. They are not entitled, demanding, or spoiled.  They are good kids.  My parenting philosophy is if my kids are the type of kids a grandparent feels the need to discipline, the type of kids that people complain about, or are not respectful and polite, then I am the one who failed, and I need to fix the way I parent them, not the other way around.

 

I Wear Athletic Wear To Chemo And Other Crazy Things I Do…

I have done some pretty crazy things the last several weeks since I was diagnosed with cancer.  Here are a few of them:

I wear running clothes to chemotherapy.  And when I am not wearing the same clothes I would wear running a marathon, I go out and buy “chemotherapy” outfits.  So far I have bought three new outfits that I have only worn to chemo.  And I have purchased scarves and headgear to match.

I let my daughter shave my head.  That’s right, I handed a razor over to a 10-year-old and said, “Have fun…”

I bring my laptop and a puzzle book to chemo with every intention to work on my novel.  I have not done one puzzle, nor have I written one word on the novel since December.  I sit there for 5 hours, talk to other cancer patients, talk to whoever has rode with me, or I binge watch “Law And Order Special Victims Unit” on USA Network.

I have started running again.  I announced on my Caring Bridge Site that I was running, and got a slew of texts, and calls telling me that I was insane for running, and running outside at that.  In my defense, my doctor is fully supportive, and he said that he wants me running.  I would never do anything to jeopardize my health or recovery.

I plan on getting a tattoo and piercings after I am done with chemo.  I actually plan on getting a teal butterfly tattoo somewhere on my body.  I want to commemorate what I have survived, and I also am thinking about getting my nose pierced.  I don’t really care that I’m 40, and it may seem hipster-ish.

I have contemplated doing crazy clean eating diet, but opted for chocolate, jellybeans, and Fritos.  I was going to do a green smoothie diet, with fresh organic vegetables, and lots of fruits.  Unfortunately, I am allergic to bananas.  (Sorry TMI) Pineapples give me the runs.  And the only thing that really stays down are bagels, cream cheese, chocolate, jellybeans, and Fritos.

 

Two Treatments Down, Sixteen More To Go

Well, I am still alive and kicking.  The last two months have been a whirlwind.  The beginning of the New Year, I was preparing to train for Grandma’s marathon.  Starting to get ready for the half marathon I had in the middle of February, and was just going to multiple appointments getting my daughter diagnosed with ADD.  Fast forward to the first week of February, I now have cancer.  I had a 7-hour major surgery were cancer was removed from just about every organ in my abdomen, and I was starting chemotherapy.  Never in a million years, did I imagine that I would have been diagnosed with cancer, and never during the recovery of the surgery did I realize how quickly I would recover and how quickly chemotherapy would knock me out.

Now, I am two weeks into an 18-week treatment protocol.  The first week of chemo, the doctor delivered the surprisingly good news that I had survived the worst of it, and that I was probably going to be OK.  I didn’t feel OK.  I was achy, tired, and bordering between nauseous and starving.  Two weeks later, more side effects are starting to come out.  Last night I noticed that I have NO taste.  I cannot taste anything unless it is strong.  My tongue is completely numb.  Yesterday, a clump of hair fell out while I was in the shower.  I realize that this journey is going to be a fun one…  However, each day I wake up, and feel strong enough to write, go for a walk, or watch endless episodes of my favorite shows is a good day.  I hope to be back blogging soon, or working on my novel, or doing something other than thinking about cancer.  Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers!