Thursday, June 30, 2011

He should've known better

To warm up before our kickball game last night, we were practicing catching pop flies. K and a couple of our other stronger kickers took turns firing balls toward us in the outfield.

I felt like we were in The Replacements or something. Most of us were dropping them and just generally seeming pretty "off."

That is, except for our newlywed teammates who just got back from their honeymoon on Sunday. When they both managed to make pretty good catches right in a row, K called out to our team, "THAT's how it's done! That's it, everyone go on a honeymoon now."

I screamed out from center field -- with perhaps a bit too much fire -- "I'D LOVE TO!"

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Confidence: I needs it.

I have a confidence problem.

I can go up to any stranger and strike up a conversation (although, if it's a guy who's alone and I'm not with anyone, I always worry he'll think I'm hitting on him, which would probably make him feel awkward ... which makes me feel awkward). That's not the kind of confidence I'm missing (although, come to think of it, I'm often thinking to myself when I'm the one talking in those situations, "I sound like an idiot. Why am I telling this story? He/she doesn't care!").

What I'm missing is confidence in my abilities. 

I don't think I'm a very good writer. There are occasional posts here where I feel like I really expressed myself as I meant to. While I have gotten compliments on my writing for pretty much my entire life, I still feel like it's something I used to be good at, but that I lost it somewhere. I honestly feel like I just write the way I talk. That probably came from my job back when I started this little blog ... a job that involved editing a lot of letters and columns by both journalists and wannabe journalists. Too many people tried to come off like literary geniuses, using words they never say in real life (and are likely using incorrectly) and throwing in a couple uses of the word "whom" (again, often incorrectly) to try to make them sound more intelligent. Lame. And also obvious. And annoying.

Confidence is my big problem with kickball. When I go up to the plate to kick, I'm thinking, "Crap. Here's another out. Sorry, teammates." And if I manage to keep the ball on the ground (instead of popping it up, where it's easily catchable) and actually get to first before the ball does, when my teammates compliment me on my kick, I assume they're just being nice. Like they're trying to be supportive and are excited for me that I, the sucky girl, actually got on base. I don't take it as a rude thing; I just feel like I know my role.

I have the same problem with pop flies in kickball. They take SO long to get to me, and the whole time I'm thinking, "I'm gonna miss it. I'm gonna miss it. Ohshitohshitohshit." The balls that scream at me when I'm on third? I'll totally catch those easily. No time to think about it. 

And photography. I feel like I have an eye for it, but that doesn't mean I can do it myself. When people compliment my photos, I think they must either not really know about photography, or they're just being nice. 

Just yesterday, I sent out some pictures of our kickballer friends' wedding a few weeks ago. A friend of mine whose dad was a wedding photographer and who dabbles in it a bit herself emailed me: 
Shit, girl! These are awesome! Can I share your link with a couple people at work? I have a couple of friends that are really interested in photography and are always looking to see good work. If not, totally cool. Just thought these are so great that they deserve extra sharing.
I figured she was being nice. That she'd noticed the lighting was inconsistent and that some of the backgrounds were washed out, and she wanted to send them to her coworkers as an example of what could've been better and how. Again, it's not because I think she's mean or that I took her actually very nice and awesome email in a rude way. I just didn't believe it.

That is, until K messaged me yesterday saying the girl's boyfriend had sent him a message yesterday morning: "Janet says MLIB should be hired as a photographer."

This confidence thing is the reason I don't dance, that I didn't play sports when I was younger, and actually part of the reason I didn't become a TV reporter. In a field full of job-hungry, often cocky people who are willing to do whatever they have to do to get a job, I'd have been eaten alive.

Speaking of jobs, every time I've been hired for a job, I kid you not, I think, "Man, I'm glad no one else applied for this job." Because clearly, if there was competition, I'd lose. Despite the fact I have a great resume and do well in interviews.

The confidence issue is part of why I was so unhappy in my first job. A decent portion of my daily duties involved writing headlines that hundreds of thousands of people would read, and it was hard for me to feel like I was good at something so subjective. That's why I liked editing: The rules were black and white (for the most part).

Whether it's my looks, cooking, baking ... heck, even leaving voice messages or dressing/accessorizing myself, I always feel like it's not good enough.

Maybe it's impossible standards. Maybe it's modesty to a fault.

Whatever it is, I sure wish I could crank it down a few notches.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Oh, the in-laws ...

What makes it so universally frustrating/annoying/difficult to spend time with people who you didn't grow up with, but who suddenly became your family all because you signed a legal document forever binding you to a person who did grow up with said group?

If I lost you there, I'm talking about in-laws. And if you still haven't caught up yet, well, mine visited this weekend. And they drove me freakin' crazy.

K's brother Bill (get it? BIL?) is 16 years older than him. That puts him at just 5 years younger than my dad, and only 2 years younger than my mom!

K and Bill are pretty different. K is married; Bill is divorced (as of 3 or 4 years ago). K has been in the Army for 13 years; Bill is in a good, but unstable and dangerous job (that he might quit this week and start with a new company next week). K loves gadgets; Bill loves toys in general -- his guns, his four-wheeler, his motorcycle, his drum set, his camera and lenses (he has more lenses than I do, and he's not even into photography like I am!) ...

At 48 years old, it's hard for me to understand how Bill can constantly talk in cartoon voices, drum incessantly, and burp out loud at the dinner table. My dad and brother weren't big belchers (thank God! I even hate that word), so it's just not something I'm used to hearing. It's repulsive. And following it up with "excuse me" doesn't make it any less rude that you just burped out loud at the dinner table!

Bill is also a billboard reader. Actually, he comments on everything in the car: license plates, billboards, stickers on cars, types of cars ... I think he just likes to think out loud. It drives me crazy!

Over the course of the in-laws' visit, K and I found ourselves in places I've never been before -- the army surplus store and a Harley Davidson store. Not exactly our scene. And all this was on a beautiful, sunny day, when all K and I wanted to do was go to the beach or the pool.

I felt bad for being a bit frustrated, but K admitted he felt that way too. I shot him secret, horrified glances over dinner last night as his 14-year-old nephew followed in his dad's footsteps, burping loudly and immediately excusing himself. Bill followed with his own, and his son one-upped. K finally said, "Come on!" to them to get them to stop.

All this just makes me ready for this weekend, when we head back to OK for my family reunion.

Where, instead of burping at the table, there will be sounds I'm more used to: farting. (I kid you not, my dad would fart in front of the president. Which might be why I don't mind that K is more of a farter than a burper.)

Where, instead of discussing guns and impersonating cartoon voices (which I am eternally grateful that K doesn't do), the men in my family will talk about car races. And instead of the army surplus store and the Harley store, we may find ourselves at the local dirt track race, where my brother will help on the pit crew for a family friend or two.

Where we spend most of our time sitting at my dad's store, chatting with my grandparents and dad and any regular customer who stops in, has been coming in since I was 12, and hasn't seen me in a few years. Where, instead of nonstop chatter, my family members respond to entire conversations with a thoughtful, if not distracted, "Hmm." And at home, my dad may just fall asleep in the middle of a conversation, but I will know it's because he's been up since 6 a.m. and on his feet the majority of that time.

Where we'll stay the night at my dad's bachelor pad, where it's extremely difficult to take a shower, thanks to the spray nozzle that isn't connected to the wall (but to look on the bright side, would be really convenient for washing a dog, if my dad had one). But I know that my dad is excited to own this house, and after a long day on his feet, fixing a spray nozzle that isn't that inconvenient for a man with short hair doesn't top his to-do list.

Maybe to K, sitting inside that grocery store for hours on end is as brutal as standing inside an army surplus store for 30+ minutes while waiting for his nephew to decide to buy a flashlight was for me. But at the end of the day, I'm sure deep down he enjoys his time with his in-laws because, just like I was with his brother and nephew, he's glad to see them and knows how much I enjoy the visit.

But it's also why -- for both our sanity -- we make sure to keep visits with in-laws of either side pretty brief.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Isn’t it funny how a song can take you right back to the past? I’m listening to my iPod today, and O.A.R.’s “Shatter” came on. Immediately, it’s late September 2009.

I’m sitting in the airport with K and his roommate. They’re both waiting on their flight back to Iraq from R&R. As a military spouse, I was given a special pass (after showing a few legal documents) by the USO that would allow me to go back to the boarding area with K. It was a coincidence that his roommate was there at the same time. The guys had a couple hours until their flight, so we went to Chili’s for lunch.

K’s roommate talked about all the music he’d downloaded, catching up on the new songs that had come out in the 9 months they’d already been gone. “I’m really liking that new song by O.A.R.,” he said. “Have you heard it?”

K and I (rock fans) shook our heads. Bryan started singing the lyrics: “You know, ‘How many times can I break ‘til I shatter …’? Something like that. Good song.”

Naturally, I heard it after that. And downloaded it. And associated it with that day.

Just like I associate “Low” with K, Bryan, and Bryan’s fiancĂ© (now wife), since my first experience with “the ‘boots with the fur’ song” came when Bryan talked about how much his fiancĂ© loved it and how it had come on when they were out in Houston the previous weekend. We were all sitting on the floor or an air mattress – the sole furniture left in their apartment, since they were leaving for 15 months – when it came on Bryan’s playlist.

Or how Flyleaf’s “All Around Me” can still make me tear up. It’s one of the songs that randomly made me cry on the way to work. And there’s Lonestar’s “I’m Already There,” which made me cry in the dentist chair.

Deployments are fresh on my mind again, given K’s bomb he dropped late Wednesday night. After holding it together all day at work (yet getting nothing done because I couldn’t concentrate), I was finally able to cry about it on my way home.

When I got to the house, K’s brother & co. (the four guests at our house) were there. I had expected them to be gone, still out at their amusement park trip. I had to just keep my sunglasses on and head up to our room to avoid a “what’s wrong with your eyes?” conversation. K and I were rushing off to a kickball game anyway, so I had a good excuse.

K was frustrated at me, though, for being upset. We talked about it as we drove to our game. I told him how I had thought we were safe from deployments for another year or so—which to me meant they weren’t even going to be a possibility. I told K I understood that he was the one bringing this up (as opposed to the military in the form of orders) and that nothing was necessarily happening. But I also understand his reasoning and have to agree that it’s what makes sense.

I told him I was just adjusting to the possibility. “This is you adjusting?!” he asked incredulously.

I don’t know if that means he’s worried I won’t handle the deployment well. But I’ve been through 2 of these stupid things, and I handled them like a champ, if I do say so myself. That doesn’t mean I have to like it. K told me that he never lets himself think deployments are out; that people get called up individually all the time. I know these things. But that doesn’t make it easier to talk about.

“See, this is why I hate being in a non-deployable unit,” K said. “You get comfortable.”

That last statement seemed funny in several ways. I mean, how could we not be thinking about combat zones and training and missions and separation? Who stops thinking about that?!

“I’m sorry! I married you because I like hanging out with you!”  

K’s tone changed after that comment. It’s part of his job to hold it together and think logically and always be ready for deployments and be a badass and not break in front of his soldiers. He’s good at all those things.  

But I didn’t join the military (well, I guess I partially did by marrying into it). But I never took an oath swearing to serve and protect. And while I may not have a role in the “protect” portion of K’s duty, I sure as hell still have to serve.

I’m proud of that role. I’m proud of K for what he does.

And when he does deploy, whether it’s from here or from some other place we’re stationed, I’ll be a badass about it then. But I can be a little upset about it now. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The d-word

K and I were on our way home from the bar after kickball. We had given a friend from another team a ride home.

"We have to have a big party and invite their whole team over. I really like them."

K agreed.

"Maybe for our birthdays! I really do want to do a big blowout this year for my 28th. I mean, since we're moving next summer, well be getting settled and won't do anything big next year. And you'll probably be deployed for my 30th. Woo-fucking-who. Let's celebrate now."

"Yeah," K said, "I've been thinking about that. Maybe I should just deploy from here."

It was like a punch in my stomach.


"Since you have a support system here."

"What do you mean? How could you do that?" I know that there's always a good chance that K will deploy again. I tell myself that I expect it, but it will never lessen the blow. But he's not attached to a unit that would deploy. I thought we were in the clear for the next year or so.

"Well, I could volunteer to go so I can guarantee that I go to [training K is hoping for next summer] afterward."

I sure as hell didn't see that coming. "When were you thinking about this?"

"Just the other day."

"Well, I don't think this is a good time to talk about it. But we're definitely going to have to have a conversation later." It was 2 a.m. We had just turned onto our street, heading toward our house, where four guests were asleep inside. Plus, the sudden dropping of the "d-word" had quickly magnified the effects of my beer and a half and shot at the bar.

"Every time there's a deployment, I feel like we're tempting fate. Whether it's you, or friends ..."

"Every time we get behind the wheel of a car, we're tempting fate," K said.

"Yeah, but driving isn't the same as being in a combat zone."

I've often wondered what it must be like to be married to someone without having to worry about deployments or even lengthy field exercises. I told K this as we climbed into bed. "There's always something else," he said. Thinking logically. Like short business trips or office retreats can be compared to months spent apart while he's in combat.

Even though in a way it was just normal work talk to him -- and not even anything coming down in the form of orders or official plans -- I still feel rattled today. I got through the previous deployments, but K's Iraq deployment was the toughest and longest 14 months of my life.

And as much as I try to tell myself I know another one will come, it sure feels a lot different to actually talk about when it could happen.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The girl with the heart condition

I'm never blogged about it in depth before, but I have a heart condition called supraventricular tachycardia. I was diagnosed with it when I was 16. The way my doctor explained tachycardia to me then was that we all have a spot in our heart that regulates our pulse. Those of us with tachycardia have a bad spot that wants the heart to beat much faster -- in my case, 200+ beats a minute (often even higher than 230) faster. Occasionally, that spot takes over for a while, resulting in an "episode."

The doc said I'll have more frequent episodes as I age, and that they'll last longer. I can opt to have surgery where doctors insert tubes into my veins through my hip and shoulder to electrocute and kill the "bad spot." But it's not a serious condition -- just something that might annoy me enough someday to have the surgery.

He seemed pretty unconcerned about the condition (his wife even has it!), so I never worried about it. I'd have episodes from time to time, but they're really just a temporary inconvenience. I compare them to asthma, although the episodes are not as serious: I will always have symptoms from time to time.

When I have an episode, it's harder for me to catch my breath. It's never even close to something to panic about. I just take really really really deep breaths. Episodes can last as little as a few seconds, and once as long as several hours (that was the longest by FAR). It's instantly clear when an episode starts because of how hard my heart starts beating -- so hard you can see it through my shirt (heck, even through a band uniform). My doctor had told me the way to get an episode to stop is to stand on my head (no lie), so I'll usually try to find somewhere to lie down and put my legs over my head.

When the episodes last a long time, I start feeling pretty tired. If they last longer (like 30+ minutes), my left arm can start to feel tingly, and every once in a while my chest will hurt. As soon as the episode is done, though, the tiredness and tingly arm go away. (Once when I was in college, I had an episode start when I was in the car with my boyfriend. I said, "My pulse started," so he waited until the last minute to stop at a stoplight. I thought we were going to rear-end the car in front of us, which kickstarted my pulse and made it go back to normal. It worked, but it actually hurt like hell. It felt like my heart was twisting or something.)

My doctor in Dallas seemed a little more concerned with my condition. I've had ultrasounds on my heart, and EKGs ... I've even worn a Holter monitor for a few days. Everything always comes back normal. My Dallas doctor gave me two options (since I think the surgery is unnecessary): 1) I have to stop whatever I'm doing when I have an episode until it's done. 2) I could take beta blockers to alleviate symptoms. They would make me fatigued quicker, and I would have a steady, slow pulse at all times -- whether I'm on a roller coaster, working out, or sitting on the couch watching TV. That sounded so lame to me. Like not living.

I like feeling my heart beating like crazy when I'm sprinting or toughing out my kettlebell class. I remember how hard and fast my heart started beating when I found out about my kickball friend last month. None of these are episodes, but normal reactions to life. It makes me feel alive.

To be honest, I never thought about tachycardia often until lately. I never thought of it as a limitation, but as an extra little hurdle I have to deal with from time to time. 

But then, just 4 days after running my marathon last November, I got turned away from donating blood because of tachycardia. And last week, I got denied for placement on the bone marrow donor registry because of it. Even if I have the surgery or take beta blockers, both of those would disqualify me for the donation as well. 

I don't have episodes very often, but every month or two I'll go through a phase where I have a few pretty close together before another dry spell. I'm in an episode phase right now.

I had my first episode in a while on Wednesday at a kickball scrimmage. As I laid with my legs up in the air, hidden behind trees so the other kickballers wouldn't make a fuss (pretty sure none of them know I have a condition), one of my teammates was arriving. Naturally, she asked what I was doing, so I mumbled something about a minor heart condition and getting it to stop. Another episode came when we were on the field, so I had to tell my team I needed to sit out. I hollered for an outfielder to take my spot at 3rd base.

As I walked off the field, someone said, "Did you get stung by a bee again?" (True story: I got stung by a bee during our game last week.)


"Is it your knees?" someone else asked.


"Is it your heart?" my teammate who'd caught me stopping the earlier episode asked.

"Yeah." Someone cracked a joke about my many problems. It wasn't meant in a rude way or to call me weak or anything like that, but it's exactly why I don't tell anyone about the heart condition (unless an episode happens around them) and probably why I don't think much of it. It's one thing to be the girl with the shitty knees. But the girl with shitty knees AND a heart condition? No thanks.

And last night at kettlebell, another episode. Right at the start of the last song. Do you know how hard it is for me to tough out a hardcore class like that for 52 minutes, only to leave in the last 3? It f*ing sucked.

Part of the reason I had never thought of tachycardia as a weakness is because most of the time, it doesn't keep me from doing normal things. I can go on about my business without most people knowing I even have it. I can pretend I don't.

Until lately, with the blood donation and the bone marrow donation, the only times I had had to accept that it is a weakness was when an episode was happening -- from the humbling, frustrating second it begins to the relieving moment it ends.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The concert

Mumford & Sons was amazing. Somehow even moreso than I thought they'd be. I've never seen a band have so much fun making music. And we had a blast listening. The crowd was dancing around, singing along, and cheering so loudly.

You could tell how humbled the band was. Evidently this is their first tour, and they explained to us that the show was their biggest gig yet. Throughout the show, you could see them exchanging glances that said, "I can't believe this is happening!"

They opened with "Sigh No More," the first song on their album. I actually teared up watching them because it really was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen.

I didn't feel so bad about that when the big screen after "Little Lion Man" showed some late-40s man with red, teary eyes. And a girl walking near us as we pushed our way out of the venue was talking about how she "wept. Like, bawled."

I'm pretty sure it was impossible to stand still through that concert. To resist the overwhelming urge to dance to the uplifting music. To keep from smiling like a jackass at the energy in that pavilion and the men loving every minute of playing on that stage.

Mumford & Sons sang three or four new songs along with most every other song (maybe all, actually) from their album. When the band headed backstage after about an hour and a half of playing, the crowd roared until they came back out for their encore, "The Cave" (of course).

It was the most fun concert I've ever been to.

Totally worth not getting home until 3 a.m. on Friday (and having to work that full day).