what it’s like being a disabled veteran

First, let me start by saying that I absolutely do count my blessings. I consider myself fortunate indeed, and I do live quite “comfortably” (more on that later). I do not want anyone to think that I’m whining, or a victim, but sometimes, a girl’s just gotta rant…

I joined the Navy in August of 2005, was stationed at the ASW base in Point Loma in the spring of 2006, and had my first back spasm that fall. I was lying in bed for about 8 hours, not knowing what was wrong, not knowing how to make the pain stop, when I finally realized that I needed to get up and get help. As soon as I tried to get out of bed, pain like I’d never experienced. I screamed. I screamed and screamed. The window in my barracks room was open, and I was mortified that people could hear me, but something had to be done. Just as I was able to roll out of bed, my roommate came in and told me she was going to help get me to the NMT office for help. I gingerly walked down the stairs, across the street, and into the office, with her help (thank God my room was so close…). I was in tears, I couldn’t bend, twist, or stand up straight. I walked into the office and told them I was in pain and I didn’t know what was happening. One of the Petty Officers there pressed his hand into my back to see what was wrong and I had to clamp my own hands over my mouth to muffle my scream. They called an ambulance, and the EMTs put a backboard up against my back, strapped me on, and tilted me back. It was excruciating, but once I was lying down again, the pain subsided a little.

When we got to Balboa Hospital, the doctors gave me intravenous fluids, painkillers, and muscle relaxers. I was told that due to the severity of the spasm, and how long it had been happening, the muscles had separated from my spine. I had sprained my back. I was told I’d have to keep it strong to avoid re-injury, so I worked out three times a day, every day. 20 minutes on the elliptical in the late morning, weights, and stretching. Class PT, usually volleyball or mock PRTs in the early afternoon. Another 20 minutes on the elliptical after class in the evening, more weights, and more stretching. I was in the best shape of my life, then I went to the ship.

I reported to the USS Chancellorsville in the spring of 2007, we were in the yards, so there wasn’t a whole lot of typical work going on. I painted, sanded, did deck grinding, and lots of cleaning. We pulled out in the fall, and our underway schedule started. We went up to Canada in the winter, that was my first real underway, and it sucked. It was so cold, but I dealt with it, made the best of it. The following summer, we went on WESTPAC, my first, and while it was difficult (I genuinely considered not going because of the abuse I had been suffering at the hands of my division), I adjusted well, and I even got together with my now-fiancé at the very end (while we were in port! No hanky-pankys on the ship).

The winter was uneventful, but the next summer, we SURGEd, and that’s when the real problems started. The metal decks and steep stairwells started to wear on my knees, I was noticing pain and stiffness developing, but just dealt with it. That fall, we went back into the yards, but we had to take part in RAMs (Random Antiterrorism Measures). We were short on gun qualifications, and didn’t have enough topside rovers, I stood 11 hours of watch in one day, from 1130-1630, 1730-1830, 1930-2030, and 2130-0130. That was the day my knees finally gave out. By the end of my last watch, they were the size of melons, so swollen and stiff with fluid that I couldn’t bend them.

After the initial pain and swelling subsided, I started realizing that my chronic symptoms had become much, much worse. My knees creaked and cracked, they caught and slipped, I could no longer bend them and bear weight, I had to choose. Now, everyone knows that when lifting, you’re supposed to use your legs, but that was too painful, I started lifting with my back. Being pretty strong, and working out with the VBSS team, I was no stranger to manual labor, and I had no issue working with the boys doing the dirty work, but after a while, I began to notice that my back was causing me pain too. I would be stiff in the morning, and it was painful getting in and out of my rack, lifting and bending became harder, and my back spasms returned. I also developed sciatica, which caused shooting pain down my legs (mostly my right) and numbness in my feet. I lost all reflex in my right knee.

I expressed my concerns to Doc, but she was busy, tough, and an FMF Corpsman, she didn’t have the patience to deal with complaints like mine, so I dealt with it. We got a new Doc, and while he was a little more approachable, he was less competent, and wasn’t able to help me much. I developed dishydrosis in my hands and feet, and some kind of eczema on my legs, but nothing he gave me helped. He did give me Toradol injections when my back was really hurting, which was several times a week, sometimes more than once a day. He also gave me Mobic, which kind of helped.

I began to get depressed, I didn’t like being in pain all the time, it made me angry, and I would lash out at people, who would in turn call me a bitch and treat me like crap, only they didn’t know that I was only angry because I hurt. In 2010, it got to the point where I demanded to be seen by someone else. The only problem was, we were in the middle of the ocean doing RIMPAC, and the only option was going to the USS Ronald Reagan, but I took it. Doc told me that if I was as bad as I was saying I was, they might send me home, so I packed my stuff, and waited to be allowed to go. People started saying I was malingering, that I was just trying to get off of the ship, because I “packed too much.” It made me even angrier.

I went to the Reagan, told them what was going on, and found out that I wasn’t supposed to be getting Toradol and Mobic because they were both the same type of NSAID. So they took me off Toradol, the only thing that gave me relief for a few hours after a dose. I lost it. I started crying, I told the doctors that I needed better treatment, and I begged them for some real help. They sent me to one of the Chaplains, a rabbi, who was very kind and understanding, he wrote several e-mails to my command requesting that I be seen both by Balboa and Fleet Mental Health. I’m not religious, but he offered to pray for me, and I said yes. He prayed for me in his stateroom, and he asked YHWH to help me. I appreciated that beyond measure.

I was sent back to the ship, much to the hateful satisfaction of those who said I was “faking it,” but they had received the correspondence from the Reagan and my chain of command understood that I needed more help. I was referred to FMH and sent to Balboa for an MRI on my right knee. After a few weeks of seeing a psychiatrist (a nice Commander who happened to be from New Hampshire, which was a nice shared bond, seeing as I’m from Maine), I was doing better, I was on medication, and it was generally easier to deal with the pain when I could go home, sleep on a comfortable bed, and my wonderful boyfriend would rub my back until it didn’t hurt. I received the results of my MRI, and went for a LIMDU assessment, where I was told I would never be able to serve at sea again.

When I received my LIMDU orders, my LCPO was disappointed, now that I was leaving, it was clear that I was actually an asset to the division, and he needed me for PAR (I forget what the acronym stands for, but it was a big ASW review of maintenance, operations, and training). I told him I would stay, but that I needed to get out of the duty section, I simply couldn’t stand for hours at a time anymore, my back and my knees couldn’t take it. He said there was nothing he could do, so I said I was sorry, but that I had to leave.

So I reported to TPU (worst command ever, don’t go there, ever…) and eventually got placed in the EOC (Emergency Operations Center) where I served my LIMDU time. When my six months expired, I was still using a cane, in physical therapy, and wasn’t nearly “cured,” but I got stuck in a rather unfortunate loophole, one that did not work in my favor: if one is unable to finish an entire six month LIMDU period before their EAOS, they are not entitled to go on LIMDU (even if it’s a renewal). I asked if I could get a Med Board instead, but they told me I had to complete two consecutive LIMDU periods to get a Med Board. I ended up being honorably discharged, which requires being fit for full duty, and they made me sign my fit for full paperwork with a pen in one hand and my cane in the other. I was told the VA would take care of me.

I was discharged in August of 2011, I had filed my VA paperwork in July, and I didn’t receive a response until about eight months later. I still don’t have a rating on everything! The really fun part is that they are making me start all over again with my treatments. I had to go on the basic prescriptions for pain, depression, and my eczema thing (it hasn’t actually been diagnosed, no one knows what it is).

While I was in the Navy, I was also treated for cervical dysplasia, and had several colposcopies, I hadn’t had one in a couple of years and got one from my PCP, but the results were inconclusive, and now she won’t let me get one until September, and if it comes back normal, I can’t get another one for three years! My mother had cervical dysplasia, she missed a pap once, and the next time it came around, she had stage four cervical cancer and had to have a hysterectomy. I’m 27, I don’t have kids yet, I’m not even married  yet, my fertility is a very important thing to me right now, and I swear to God, if I get cancer because the damn VA didn’t want to pay for a pap every six months, I will sue the shit out of them.

I don’t agree with suing, I think we’re a sue-happy society and that people need to take personal accountability, but I can’t get health insurance because I have a pre existing condition. Even if I could, I couldn’t afford to pay the hundreds of dollars a month for private health care. The VA is all I have right now. The VA is all a lot of people have, and it sucks. There’s too many of us, and not enough funding for them. The VA makes monsters out of decent people because veterans can’t get the care they need. The VA doesn’t cover chiropractic work, which was one of the most effective treatments I had for my back while I was in the Navy, I’m also told acupuncture works wonders, but they don’t cover that either. Luckily, my fiancé received an e-stim at work, which is another therapy I’ve done, and that helps. I have a heating pad, my fiancé rubs my back when it’s sore or stiff, and he even bought me a hot tub last Christmas. Maybe I was “spoiled” by Navy medicine supplying everything, down to over-the-counter meds, but I feel like the VA doesn’t provide us with shit. I had to wait eight hours in the ER once, only to be given an IV with some painkillers and then discharged. I still haven’t been seen for my knee, my back, or my eczema, which has now spread to my arms. Dermatology won’t even see me until I go back and try hydrocortisone. Really? You think I haven’t tried that yet? I’ve had this since ’09-’10, you think I haven’t been there, done that?

I worry that my relationship may fall apart, I get angry, withdrawn, and it’s hard to want to be intimate with someone when you’re always in pain, or itching, or sad, or all of the above. To top it all off is the stress. I am always stressed about something, and I seriously feel like it’s killing me. Last night, I couldn’t shut my brain off about a school project, and I didn’t get to sleep until 7am, and was woken up by my dog at 10:30am. I’m not even tired now, and it’s 3am! I just can’t relax, I can’t be pain-free, I can’t be normal. “Normal,” for me, is pain. I get back spasms now, and I know they’re just as bad as they used to be, but they don’t register as hurting as much because I’m used to it! That is so messed up! My PCP in the Navy told me that I was the most jacked up 25 year old she’d ever seen, and that if I didn’t get 80% service connected disability from the VA, she’d be shocked. Well, I started at 60%, but they did upgrade me to 80% this year (with back pay), and I haven’t even been evaluated on the main issues yet.

This is the life of a disabled veteran, I guess: pain and stress, stress and pain…

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

USS Arizona

The USS Arizona.

It’s hard to imagine her standing proudly, towering above the waves. She rests so quietly now, just beneath the very water that once kept her afloat. The USS Arizona. Her name brings a slow solemnity over one’s heart, and to see her, an eery sense of calm. The chaos and destruction that brought her to her knees, dragging a thousand sailors and Marines down with her, smoking and burning. Now look at her.

Softly sitting beneath the calm waters of Pearl Harbor, she looks both proud and sad. Everything above her main deck is gone, her gun turrets stand empty, just out of the water, rusty, and a reminder that she was once the most powerful class of ship in the United States Navy. Buoys mark her bow and stern, the better for visitors to gauge the true size of this ocean monster, but they do little but offer a small piece of reference. A ship is more than its length. A ship is its crew, and this ship continues to weep and bleed for the men she lost. Looking out over the quiet water above her deck, it’s easy to spot the small droplets of oil, rising to the surface in an amorphous tumble, and spreading into little pools as they break the surface. It’s easy to watch the USS Arizona cry. It’s hard to look away. It’s hard not to weep for the men who undoubtedly fought their ship till the end, and will lay with her forever.

The USS Missouri stands behind her, two sisters, marking the beginning and the end of World War II. The Missouri watches over her older sister, her bow facing the Arizona. She is a reminder that we do not forget, that we will never leave our shipmates alone and in the dark, even in death.

So on this day, many will remember the USS Arizona, children will learn of her in school, and people will visit her in person, 4,500 of them, as there are each day. I feel privileged to have seen her while I was serving my country. I feel she has special meaning to those who have served in the Navy. Those are our brothers down there. As close as those who stand beside us on our own ships. It’s a beautiful sadness. The pain that we feel at their loss, but also the pride, that their sacrifice was not for nothing. We remember those who fought on the USS Arizona, and all over Pearl Harbor today, and we thank them for their service and sacrifice, for many, the ultimate sacrifice.

STG2(SW) Lena R. Parent, USN 2005-2011

I wanted to post something for Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, especially since I’ve actually been to the Arizona.  I went there in 2009 for a friend’s re-enlistment onboard (well, in the memorial building).  I took a few pictures while we were there:

entrance to the museum

Memorial Plaque

list of names

list of names 2

flag at half-mast

forward gun turret

viewing area

oil on the water

oil on the water 2

oil on the water 3

oil on the water 4

sun shining on Arizona

I want to thank any active duty, retired, or veterans (like me) for their service, their sacrifice, and their fulfillment of duty.

fuck ‘em

I’m so sick of people brushing me off. I’m sure it happens to everyone once in a while, but it’s really started to pile up and I just can’t take it anymore.

I don’t want or expect to be the center of anyone’s life. I don’t think I’m “special” and I don’t want people to treat me that way. I simply want to be afforded some common curtesy and respect. Is that really so much to ask from people who are supposed to be your friends? I’m sick of being taken for granted, if you don’t want to see or hang out with me, fine. Don’t. Don’t bother putting out this illusion that you like my company. Don’t ask to be invited to my goddamn wedding. Don’t offer to support me and then flake out. I’d really rather be left alone than be surrounded by people who obviously don’t think I’m worth their time. I go out of my way to do nice things for people, support them, and make sure that they know that I care and will be there when I need them. So why does it seem lately that I’m in a bunch of one-way relationships with people?? A one-way relationship isn’t a relationship, it’s me making a fool out of myself because for some reason, I like to make people feel valued, and they like to make me feel like crap.

I can’t wait to go back to work and start meeting new people, I really hope I can gain some new friendships and hopefully find people who don’t do this shit to me. I haven’t been this angry at anyone but myself in a long time. Except the anger is also towards myself for somehow giving people the impression that this is okay. I deactivated my Facebook account because I simply can’t deal with anything anymore. The fake people, “frienemies,” and the jerks who must think they’re so much better than I to think that they can discard me like trash. Fuck ‘em. I don’t need people like that in my life. It’s goddamn poisonous, and I’m tired of it.

the issue of all-or-none

flip-flops-bad-for-politicians-even-worse-for-your-feetI know I was supposed to be writing about other stuff, but this is something that’s been on my mind lately.  Feel free to continue waiting for school/Zoink/wedding posts ;)

Why have so many people gone to this whole black-or-white, all-or-none way of thinking??  I recently read a post about how a zoo is trying to breed a species of tiger (I can’t find the link now, thanks Facebook…) back into the wild, and some chick commented about how the “anti-zoo people” need to accept zoos because they do stuff like this.

Hold up.  You’re both wrong!

The chick is wrong because simply allowing zoos to keep animals in captivity for the sole purpose of human entertainment is pretty messed up, and the “anti-zoo people” are wrong because that’s not what all zoos do, they also rehabilitate and reintroduce animals into the ecosystem when they are/in danger of becoming extinct.

Like the Seaworld Thing: people want to shut down the whole operation because they keep whales captive and use them for entertainment.  Well yeah, but they also rescue and rehabilitate animals, and you know what pays for that?  Revenues from the amusement park patrons.

The issue of calling politicians “flip-floppers” bugs me too.  You know what?  Sometimes changing your mind, and thus your stance, is a good thing!  Someone who can “flip” between the Democratic and Republican parties is what we need more of in our government!  Who actually agrees with 100% of either party’s platforms??  Isn’t it more likely that the average American will have a mix of both?  (For example, I’m 100% down for marriage equality and making LGTBI people a protected class, but I also think we need more conservative fiscal and immigration policies, does having opinions from both sides of the track make me a bad person?  No!  It makes me freaking moderate!)  We don’t need political fanatics who lean so far left or right that they’re practically falling off the edge of reality!  We don’t need to have this all-or-none view of the world.

Too much gluten is bad.  Don’t eat gluten.  EVER.

Too many carbs are bad.  Don’t eat carbs.  EVER.

Too much alcohol is bad.  Don’t drink.  EVER.

Some GMOs are used so that we can spray more pesticides on food, therefore all GMOs are bad.  Don’t eat GMOs.  EVER.

You see where I’m going with this?  This kind of thinking is an excuse to, well, not think!  It’s trying to simplify very complicated issues, and instead of actually taking the time to think them through, weigh both sides, and make informed decisions, people just jump to the easiest ones they can come up with.  It’s like instant-gratification for decision-making.  The obsession with “now-now-now!” has even infiltrated our overall way of thinking about the world!  That’s scary!  Making shortcuts in your thinking and logic mean you’re making shortcuts in your decisions in everyday life!  People are taking shortcuts when it comes to diet, exercise, relationships, raising children, school, careers…  It’s everywhere!  I think this might be the crisis of culture that so many people see but don’t know how it happened.  I think this is the problem with the Information Age.  We have so much information at our fingertips, and no one wants to actually take the time to access it and form their own opinions.  It’s easier to let someone else do it.

busy, busy!

Hello! I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while, but it’s been crazy, so if you’ll bear with me, I’ll go over everything in separate posts.

Here’s what’s been going on:

1. I graduated! In January 25th, 2014 DeVry University awarded me with my Bachelor’s of Science in Business Technical Management, as well as the Academic Performance Award.

2. Wedding planning has really gotten into full swing. It happened when I realized that August 2nd looked a lot closer on the other side of the New Year…

3. We’re fostering a new puppy! His name is Zoink and he’s an eight week old disabled Pitbull from Labradors and Friends Rescue Group here in San Diego.

Look for more posts detailing what’s up, I’m totally cracked out on Nespresso right now, so it’s entirely likely that I’ll write all three posts now…

why i’ll never sing again

I used to sing.  I’ve always sang, since before I can remember, but I used to be good.  I remember just before my sophomore year started, my mother and I visited my choir director and she asked me to sing for her; she said that my voice had matured a lot over the summer, and that I should expect many solos, which I got, for the next three years until I graduated.  I was an alto, but I could sing anywhere from tenor 2 to soprano 1 (the latter being difficult, but possible).  I had the supporting female role in the Spring Musical my sophomore and junior year, and the lead female role my senior year.  Also my senior year, I was ranked the second best alto at Districts, only missing a perfect score because I was awful at sight-reading.  I’m pretty sure my mother still had my scorecard on the refrigerator at home, even though it was almost eleven years ago.  I also started an a capella group, along with a friend of mine, called the Husky Voices (our school mascot was the Husky, and the irony was that our voices were clear as a bell).  We performed along with two college groups, and were told by many people in the audience that we actually sounded better than they did, I was honored!

When I joined the Navy, someone told the RDCs (Recruit Division Commanders) they had heard me singing and thought I would be a good ARCPO (Assistant Recruit Chief Petty Officer), so when our RCPO (Recruit Chief Petty Officer) got fired, our ARCPO took her spot, and I moved up to ARCPO.  I called cadence for my division (945!) for most of boot camp, but I figured it would stop there.  When I reported to ATT (Apprentice Technical Training), I somehow ended up calling again, and when I reported to my A School in San Diego, I was volunteered by my roommate to call cadence again.  I didn’t mind it, I actually quite liked it, but I didn’t want to be the “look at me!” sailor, I found out really quickly that you don’t want to draw attention to yourself in the Navy, not like that, it appears ostentatious.

Even when I got in trouble and went on Restriction (oops…) my “extra duty” was to call cadence for the 50 State Flag Team, as I was the only one who was loud and clear enough to be heard by all members, even when they were standing in a row, marching single file.  I even got to go to the Chargers game – while on restriction, mind you – in order to call cadence.

I remember one time, I was in the NMT (Naval Military Training) office talking to the LPOs (Leading Petty Officers) and somehow the subject of my singing came up, and one of them asked if I could sing “real” songs, not just cadence.  I started singing “Think of Me” from Phantom of the Opera, and had everyone in that office staring at me, and many of the students from the next door lounge standing at the door as well.  My LPO told me that he had a hard time distinguishing my voice from Amy Lee’s when I sang along with an Evanescence song, he said as soon as I graduated school I should try out to sing and act in his theater group, because they needed a strong female singer.  I was that good.

I had suffered from strep throat multiple times a year since I was a kid, but I never had my tonsils removed because my pediatrician was convinced they would eventually do me some good as an adult.  However, by the time I had gone through winter in Chicago – still calling cadence, by the way – they were constantly filled with pus (ew), took up most of the back of my throat (they touched when I stuck my tongue out), and when I was sick (yeah, the previous two were when I was feeling okay), they would bleed.  I had had strep enough times that a little less than a year after I reported to my first ship, I was referred to ENT for a tonsillectomy.  I was excited!  I had a slight speech impediment that made it sound like I was swallowing my words, my throat was always hurting, and singing was getting harder, more painful.  I thought for sure getting my tonsils removed would be a good thing.

And it was.  I stopped getting sick, I could breathe better (I had obstructive sleep apnea from those damn things…), and my speech didn’t sound so… weird.  Recovering was tough, I do not recommend getting your tonsils out as an adult!  I lost 30 pounds because I couldn’t eat anything, and while I looked fabulous, I was freaking miserable.  I did eventually recover though, but I found that I couldn’t sing very well anymore.  I thought maybe I just needed time, or practice, or to quit smoking.  I did all three and it’s now six years later and I still can’t sing.  I’m so depressed.  I watched the 2004 movie rendition of Phantom of the Opera last night, and I started crying because I knew I’d never sing the way I used to.  I would give anything, I would take it all back, I would just deal with the sickness and the pain and the weird speech, if it meant that I could still sing.  Getting my tonsils removed was medically right, but I’m absolutely miserable.  I want my beautiful voice back! :’(  I don’t even have any really good recordings of me singing, so I sometimes wonder if my fiance even believes me, if anyone does, when I say I used to be a great singer.

I used to sing along with everything.  I’d watch Phantom, or Chicago, or Disney movies, whatever, and I would belt out those tunes like it was nothing.  Now all I can do is sit in silence while the tears spill over and remember all those wonderful times I sang, just for the joy it brought me.  I feel like I’ve lost everything…

My Vow of [Internet] Silence

20131021-190556.jpg

So, I’ve found that I’m a lot braver on the Internet. Like most people, I am a lot more comfortable expressing my opinions, confronting others, and getting into arguments (constructive or not, though I try to stick to the former). The problem is, 99% of the people I’m Facebook friends with, or follow on Instagram, I know in real life, and sometimes I get keyboard-in-mouth syndrome…

After I got out of the Navy, I got way more into politics (my fiancé and I concluded that this happens because most vets have more time on their hands and nothing better to do than watch CNN/FOX/MSNBC all day), and I began expressing that opinion, and “challenging” (read: arguing with) my friends who posted things I didn’t agree with. Which happened a lot. I love my friends, but a lot of them were posting really radical, propaganda-based garbage and basing their opinions of politicians from them. I personally am a political moderate, I lean towards conservative on some issues, and think more liberally on others. I thought (and still think!) that those that have more moderate views of how our government should function are the ones who are the most reasonable, those with the best chance of making everyone equally happy (or at least equally unhappy…).

I’ve lost friends over conversations about the things they post, which sucks because I really tried to make it clear that I didn’t have a problem with their opinion, I had a problem with how they came up with it! Which I still think is okay, but I admit, I got snarky. A lot. And when you get snarky, people tend to get snarky back, and it gets ugly.

About this time last year, I took a break from Facebook. I didn’t log on, I deactivated my account, and I had no access for a week. It was interesting, not having contact with people, and not checking it every five minutes like I do when I’m bored. I thought about doing that again, but I don’t think I really learned anything from it, except how else to occupy my free time.

So this time, I’m keeping my account active, I’ll still log on and see what my friends say, but I will not “like” or comment – on anything. I need to teach myself how to observe without commenting, kind of a 21st century version of an active listening exercise. I want to control my impulse to throw in my two cents all the time. I want to give my poor friends a break from my incessant commenting (positive, constructive, encouraging, or not). Most of all, I just want to know that I can do it. It’s easy not to comment on stuff when you can’t even access your account, I need to know that I can see (and by that token hear) a conversation going on that I may be really interested in, but not join in. It’s gotten me into trouble entirely too many times, and I end up feeling like a total ass.

So, to any of my social media friends reading this: I’m still here, I’m just being creepy and reading everything you say and not commenting on it ;)

i don’t have a problem with your opinion, i have a problem with how you came up with it…

Whoa, it’s been a minute.  Lots of schoolwork, graduating in February, I guess you can say I’ve been busy.

So whenever something political is all over the news, whether it be an election, a scandal, a shutdown, whatever, people come out of the woodwork with their opinions on this or that.  It’s come to my attention that there’s a lot of people who arrive at some conclusion and form opinions on stuff they know absolutely nothing about.  That scares me, because these people vote…

I consider myself politically moderate, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have really strong opinions, but I’ve learned in the past few years that while having really strong opinions is okay, you should probably make sure you know enough about the subject before forming an opinion on it!

The strength of your opinions should vary directly with your knowledge of the subject.

Now, it’s definitely possible to know a lot about something and not have an opinion on it, and it’s also clearly possible not to know anything about a subject and have an opinion on it (just look at the comments on any Politico Facebook post…), but I think the latter is the reason we’re having so many issues regarding the US government.  For crying out loud, have you seen some of the videos of Congressmen blithering on about the most ignorant, asinine stuff???  Check out this Daily Show clip of Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) on the floor of the Senate (starts around 2:20): Shutstorm 2013: America Sits on Its Balls – Colorful Analogies

“That is the best evidence yet that our Congress functions at a kindergarten level…”

Yes. Yes it is.

In the Age of Information (or, as I like to call it, the Age of Ignorance and Entitlement), there really isn’t an excuse for not doing your research before forming an opinion (or voting…).  However, biased and partisan media organizations – big and small – can make it difficult to determine what the truth is in a sea of embellished, skewed, slanted, and sometimes straight up incorrect information.

And it’s both sides doing this!  The uber-liberals are crying for more social programs to help people, but they don’t seem to have a ton of ideas on how to pay for it…  The extreme conservatives are stressing Second Amendment rights and personal responsibility when we have people with serious mental illness killing innocent bystanders and cancer victims declaring bankruptcy before finally dying of a terminal disease they couldn’t afford to treat.

Nobody likes being told what to do, but when you live in a nation of idiots (yes, there are a lot, even the idiots agree that we are a nation of idiots, they just don’t think they’re the idiots) who want everything both ways and would rather be on food stamps with an iPhone than off them without one, there comes a point when someone has to say “enough.  You’re pissing me off, and if you’re not going to do it yourself, then I’m going to do it for you.”

For example, the issue of the uninsured: there are many factors contributing to a person’s lack of insurance.  For me, it was because I was denied due to a pre-existing condition as a disabled veteran, and I could only work part-time due to school, and my employer didn’t offer healthcare options to part-time employees.  For others, they simply can’t afford it, even if they were able to get it.  There’s also the people who “live on the edge,” and feel that accidents and illness happen to other people, but not them, so they just don’t get it.

I compare the issue of health insurance to car insurance.  If you don’t have car insurance, and your car gets damaged in an accident, you can take it to a mechanic and say you can’t pay, but that mechanic is going to say “sucks to be you,” and not fix your car.  The issue of healthcare doesn’t work that way.  If you’re in an accident, are taken to the hospital with a life-threatening wound, and say you don’t have insurance, they still have to treat you.

So, I don’t have a problem with people who don’t want to get medical insurance, but you’d better not be seeking treatment when you can’t pay, because that has massive consequences.

For the people who want health insurance, but can’t get it, the ACA is awesome!  It’s affordable, all-inclusive, and you don’t have to worry that you might get into an accident and not be able to pay.

But you can’t get something for nothing, so yes, you have to pay, and yes, if you don’t have your own insurance, enrollment is mandatory, but that’s the only way this system works!  I am completely baffled by how both parties don’t seem to understand the concept of payment.  If conservative Republicans cut taxes the way they want, we would have a government, but no services!  How would you like to pay taxes to pay your representatives’ salaries, but not have roads, EMS, or utilities?  Does personal responsibility extend to those services??  On the other side is the liberal Democrats that want to take care of everyone, but don’t realize how much those programs cost – and are abused!

My point is: having an opinion is good, I may not agree with it, but I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong – unless it’s painfully obvious that you don’t have a clue what you’re taking about.

getting serious about health and fitness

I think there comes a point in some people’s lives where they have an epiphany about their lifestyle and realize that it would be a really good idea to make some changes.

This happened to me two days ago.

I’ve been power walking quite a bit, not eating junk (much), and trying to lose weight for my engagement photo shoot, which will be some time in the fall. But I wasn’t losing. Not a bit. I felt better, sometimes I even thought I looked better, but my clothes weren’t getting looser and the number on the scale wasn’t dropping. That’s when I realized that I wasn’t committing enough, and that I needed to get drastic.

I love carbs.

I could eat a bagel for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, pasta for dinner, and pastry for dessert. I totally have, too, and it only got worse after I became a pescatarian. I realized that all these processed carbohydrates are just dragging me down, I don’t need them, they’re my comfort food, but I won’t feel the need to comfort myself as much if I was an appropriate weight for my height.

I’m always going to be curvy, it’s just how I’m built, but I don’t want to be the fat girl anymore. I don’t want to be embarrassed when I have to lift my shirt in physical therapy, or constantly have to unroll my panties because they roll down under my “booty do” (it means you have a tummy, as in “her stomach sticks out more than her booty do!”). I’ve accepted the fact that unless I want to go back to bootcamp or join VBSS, and stay there forever, I’m not going to be a size 8. But I could be a size 12, and if I can really get into an active lifestyle, like joining an adult sports team, I might hit a 10.

I just know that I don’t want to do that photo shoot a size 18. I don’t want to have to buy a special wedding dress, or not be able to try any of them on because they won’t go over my thighs. I don’t want flabby arms, or more than one chin, or to have to wear Spanx shorts to keep my thighs from chafing. I don’t want any of that.

So the carbs are gone, I took my friend Iris‘ advice and typed a lists of foods I could eat and put it on the fridge so that when I get hungry, I can just choose something on the list instead of rooting around and most likely coming up with something unhealthy and/or starchy. I’ve actually been doing really well, it’s basically a whole foods diet, which I’ve been wanting to try since I read 100 Days of Real Food, and I have to say, it’s working out pretty well. I think it’s mostly because I’ve been so wrapped up in doing homework that half the time I forget to eat, and when I do eat I’m usually starving, so I really don’t care what it is I’m eating. I had a Subway tuna salad plate last night while I was in class, and it was so good I almost cried. Of course, all I had eaten the rest of the day was a hard-boiled egg and a cup of Greek yogurt, but it was still super good.

I know, I know, tuna’s not exactly healthy when it’s all mixed with mayonnaise, but I’m honestly okay with it. If all I’m eating is fruits, vegetables, and (non-meat) protein, I’m going to eat my damn tuna salad if I want.

I want to try to get my body into ketosis, and combine that with circuit training in order to burn fat, but keep my metabolism up. I started circuit training yesterday, I did 5 minutes of moderate pace/moderate intensity on the stationary bike, and then I did 30 seconds each of squats, forward lunges, overhead presses (5 lbs), push-ups, elevated crunches, and calf-raises. Then I get a 30 second rest, and if I can, I start again on the bike.

I only got through one circuit yesterday.

Today, I did one and another 2 1/2 minutes of biking before I quit.

I know, it’s not much, “you quit after 10 minutes of working out??” But you have to remember that I’ve been pretty stationary for a long time. My back and my knees just couldn’t take it. But now, I’m finding I don’t need my cane as much, I’m rebuilding my stamina, and – best of all – I can actually do squats and lunges. I haven’t been able to do those in three or four years, my knees were just too brittle. They’re still not great, but they’re getting better, and a little bit of progress is better than none at all.

I may not look thinner yet, but I feel thinner, and I think that’s still an accomplishment. I’ll let you know how it’s going in a week or so, hopefully I’ll have entered ketosis and started losing weight by then.