Thursday, September 11, 2014
This blog is a repost from 2011; I probably couldn't write a better memorial for my cousin Bobby today, so I thought it best to reshare. My birthday has become a bittersweet occasion, as it has also been a death anniversary for a family member since the World Trade Center fell 13 years ago today. Thanks for reading.
My second cousin Bobby, in his younger years.
My mother, brother, and I used to take frequent trips to New York City to visit our family there. Robert Mattson was my mother's cousin, but in our family, he was known as Uncle Bobby. He and my mother were very close. He worked for Fiduciary Trust, and his office was located on the 96th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. I had been to his office several times, peering down from the dizzying height of the floor-to-ceiling windows. Bobby lived in New Jersey, but was a typical New Yorker, having been born and raised on Staten Island: always on-the-go, to-the-point, and moreover, humorous. I looked forward to visiting him, especially when we got to go to his office. He would whisk us around Lower Manhattan, chattering away. I could barely keep up with the man, but we would tag along, smiling as we listened to his thick New York accent. My brother and I could barely get a word in edgewise as Bobby and my mother caught up with each other, laughing between sentences until they were almost on the ground. I admired Bobby, and my family shared the sentiment.
Bobby was recognized in our family for his heroism. He had been awarded a Bronze Star for his bravery in Vietnam when he was in the military. Then, in the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, he chose to stay behind to help a pregnant co-worker get to the roof to be evacuated by helicopter. Bobby always chose the well-being of others over his own, whether it be a stranger or family member.
I woke up early on my 23rd birthday, Tuesday, September 11th, 2001, and started to get ready for school. My mother came over to drop off a birthday present. My brother called: "Did you see the World Trade Center? Bobby is missing, no one can get a hold of him." I was still groggy and had no idea what he was talking about. "Turn on your T.V." We turned the T.V on to see what everyone else was seeing--the towers of World Trade Center in flames. My mother and I were speechless. Then, a few minutes later, the South Tower tumbled to the ground.
The South Tower was the second to get hit by the plane, but the first to fall. We found out later that Bobby had been near the 90th floor near the time of the collapse. I had watched as the building crumbled, taking our family member with it. Bobby remained among the missing from the World Trade Center, but was presumed dead. We found out later that he had been, once again, doing his best to help people get out of the building, according to several of his office mates who made it out alive.
A memorial service was held in early October, 2001, but I was not able to get to New Jersey to attend. Several months later, some of Bobby's remains were found on Staten Island, just blocks from where he had grown up. Although there was finally some closure, it was still melancholy news.
My birthday has become a very bittersweet occasion for me and my family. Now that the sadness isn't quite as fresh, I feel I can now celebrate my life and Bobby's at the same time. Since Bobby has been gone, I haven't felt any occasion to go to New York City. I have not been to Ground Zero; it has been over 10 years since I've been to New York. As exciting as New York is, I realized the true reason we went there was for family. I didn't visit New York for the World Trade Center, but rather, for who was lost on September 11th, 2001.
I had been hoping to post some family pictures, but my mother couldn't find the disc with the digital copies. There were some news stories about Bobby and his heroism; here is one of them:
Robert "Bobby" Mattson, of Rockaway Township, New Jersey, died on September 11th, 2001, at the age of 54. Bobby, I will always miss your humor, kindness, and dedication to family.
Image from http://thm-a02.yimg.com/nimage/1164f9d8479
In loving memory of Robert Mattson, and all others killed in and affected by the events on September 11th, 2001.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
I am here to confess. Yesterday, I got on the scale for the first time in a while. I could've been all like:
Picture from http://www.themilitantbaker.com/
But instead I was all like:
Picture from http://jessegriffis.org
Yeah, I’ve gained. Eh. I expected it. I’ve gained about 20 pounds back over the past year. The gain is definitely stress related, and not as large of a gain as I expected. I tried telling myself that things weren’t that stressful, but when I really thought about all the things going on: grieving for my dad, massage school, underemployment, the fate of my house up in the air, a manipulative/emotionally abusive dating situation, and then an ovarian cyst and endometriosis flare-up that has been painful and disruptive...well, my constructive stress management techniques have kind of been out the window.
I had gotten to the point of not turning to food for comfort. But as the stress mounted--lack of income threatening my home, while trying to get through school, while dealing with a painful and confusing health problem and an unsupportive partner (who has since gone buh-bye)--I once again started stress eating. I went into self-destruct mode. Rather than doing some yoga or just sitting quietly after getting from a long day of work and school, I would binge.
Needless to say, I could see and feel the weight gain, but I avoided the scale. When I started approaching a healthier mindset, I knew that avoiding the scale was probably a good idea while I was feeling vulnerable and destructive. But, the scale does tend to keep me more honest with my health habits, so I knew I needed to step on it again at some point.
I don’t hate the scale any more than I hate a hammer. The scale is simply a tool that tells me one aspect about my health. It can’t measure my self-worth or accomplishments. However, I did need the feedback. The weight gain tells me that my life has been very unbalanced. I don’t like the way I physically feel right now. I accept that it’s okay to feel like crap and it doesn’t mean I’m a bad person, but I had to ask myself, “What things can I do to take care of myself better?” I always like simple and attainable goals, so this is what I’ve been working on over the past couple of weeks:
*Meditating daily (preferably first thing in the morning).
*Get a massage every 1-2 weeks (I LOVE my staff discount!).
*Cutting back on caffeine--I have been in a pattern of sleep deprivation followed by caffeine overconsumption.
*Saying “no” to more than is good for me to take on, even if I lose some income.
*Eating more reasonably and tracking honestly.
*Getting back to a more disciplined workout routine (this had been difficult due to abdominal pain, but is more managed now).
I am still at a net loss of 50 pounds from my highest known weight of 298 pounds in 2010. I still count that as my “starting point” because that was when my mind really started to change. I have had a lot of ups and downs along the way and last year was at a 70 pound loss. It is a setback with my weight, but I no longer put emotional stock in my weight. It may be a gauge of my health and give me some feedback about how balanced my life is, but my weight isn’t me.
There’s no way I would say that I’m “starting over,” I’ve learned too much and grown a lot to relegate myself back to zero. I see so many people saying they’re “starting over” and/or that they’ve completely “failed.” As though losing X pounds will magically reveal something about themselves that they will love. Indeed, I would rather gain back all the weight than lose the self-respect and mindfulness I’ve developed. Saying that I’m “starting over” because I’ve gained weight would be dismissive of everything I’ve learned and accomplished.
The only moment that actually exists is right now. The past is done, but may live on within our bodies and minds, both emotionally and physically. We have some choices in how to handle the consequences of the past; we can hold onto the good, learn from mistakes, and release the negative. The future is pure speculation, so while I do plan, I don’t live for “someday.” Life is now, as I sit on my back porch writing this, listening to crickets and watching the sun set behind the garden. Life is not a number on the scale. I am still going to live my life, only better. Better for me, my clients, and my friends and family. I will continue to build back up to all of the healthy habits that bring my life into balance.
In the meantime, I will periodically ‘fess up to the scale, no smashing necessary...
"Nobody trips over mountains. It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble. Pass all the pebbles in your path and you will find you have crossed the mountain."
Sunday, August 24, 2014
I came across a quote from Amy Poehler ("Saturday Night Live, "Parks and Recreation") that I wanted to hang on to:
"Great people do things before they’re ready. They do things before they know they can do it... Doing what you're afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that -- that is what life is. You might be really good. You might find out something about yourself that's really special and if you're not good, who cares? You tried something. Now you know something about yourself."
Hope you had a great weekend, friends!
Thursday, August 21, 2014
On July 25th, my friend KVARNLOV and I got on a train headed to Portland, OR, where we were going to meet my aunt and uncle and stay for a few days. They live across the Columbia River in Camas, WA. KVARNLOV had never been to the Pacific Northwest, so we had fun showing off the spectacular sights. We went to the Oregon Coast (Seaside, OR, and Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach) and Multnomah Falls/Columbia River Gorge. I didn't take many pictures while we were in the Northwest, as I have spent a lot of time there and lived in Portland, but I took a few pictures. Also, there was almost zero visibility because of dense fog on the Pacific Coast the day we went to the beach, but luckily it was clear in Cannon Beach so KVARNLOV could see Haystack Rock.
Haystack Rock, a volcanic formation, in Cannon Beach, OR.
Hiking Multnomah Falls.
The lush green of the Columbia River Gorge.
After visiting the Northwest for a few days, we picked up a rental car to start our drive to Yellowstone National Park, with a few stops along the way. We planned on stopping to camp near Mountain Home, ID, in Bruneau Dunes State Park. Once we got there, I was a bit sorry that we were only spending the night and didn't really have time to explore the desert area. We didn't bother setting up camp, the location was perfect for sleeping under the stars. Bruneau Dunes State Park has several large sand dunes that are good for exploring and sledding! We did hike over to the dunes in the morning before leaving for Yellowstone.
I definitely plan on returning to Bruneau Dunes. If you have kids, it's a great place to visit. You can sled on the sand dunes, explore the dunes at night with UV flashlights that let you see the desert creatures, and they have an observatory that's open on the weekends (we missed out, unfortunately). The campsites are nice, too!
Storm approaching the park. It missed us.
We stopped at Craters of the Moon National Monument near Arco, ID, on the way to Yellowstone. Craters of the Moon is a large field of volcanic ruins, from an eruption about 2,000 years ago (very recent in geological time). It was one of the most eery landscapes I have ever seen! It was fascinating to see the detailed shapes the lava had formed as it bubbled up from the ground. The area is still largely lacking plant life due to the thick volcanic soil and rocks, but lots of bats and other critters make their home at Craters of the Moon. We only walked around for a couple of hours; I would also like to return here.
After walking around Craters of the Moon, we finished our drive to Yellowstone to camp for five days. I had never been to Yellowstone. It is a setting in a book I'm writing, so I wanted to experience it for myself. I had planned on spending at least some of the time sitting, taking it in, and writing, but unfortunately that didn't happen. I was able to jot some things down, however, and we saw lots of stuff. I plan on going back by myself next summer.
If you have never been, I highly recommend going to Yellowstone. The landscape is like no other. I knew they volcanic activity caused the geysers, hot springs, etc., but the vast landscape boggled my mind!
Geyser in the sun.
Rainbow over the steaming landscape.
Hot water flowing into Firehole River.
Grand Prismatic Spring.
Geyser with rainbow.
Grand Prismatic Spring (from a hillside).
A mountain meadow.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon.
A terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs.
Mammoth Hot Springs.
Mammoth Hot Springs.
Another terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs.
Fountain Paint Pots area.
A hot spring.
Bacteria mats in Norris Geyser Basin area.
A steam vent.
Lodgepole pines are the predominant tree in Yellowstone, well suited for the poor volcanic ash soil.
Dead lodgepole pines--they die when the ground heats up too much from the heated underground water.
More lodgepole pines.
A steaming stream.
The landscape in one of the geyser basins.
I'll be back soon, Yellowstone!
Okay, I'm probably going to explode SparkPeople if I post any more pictures. I can't wait to go back to all of the places I visited on this trip!
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
I got promoted to a blue belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu on June 8th. For the test, we had to roll (spar) for one hour straight. In class, we usually roll for five minutes at a time with a break, for a total of 20-30 minutes, so rolling for a whole hour was an endurance challenge. Afterwards, several of my teammates went out for Japanese food, and then went and met my teacher for a picnic on the beach. It was a very fun day.
There are five belt levels in jiu jitsu--white, blue, purple, brown, and black. You are automatically a white belt when you start out; earning a blue belt takes anywhere from 1-3+ years. Earning a black belt often takes at least 10 years. The belt progression is slower in jiu jitsu compared to other martial arts. It can be a frustrating journey at times, and always humbling. I would do jiu jitsu even if there were no belts, but I am proud to progress in such a challenging martial art.
Rolling with a classmate.
Group picture after rolling. Many people showed up to support us (and kick our butts!).
The new blue belts.
My teacher Marcelo and I.
Jiu jitsu has been a truly positive life change, perhaps more so than anything else I’ve ever done. I have learned to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. My limits have been tested, and I have been surprised at my own capabilities with challenging moves. Jiu jitsu has taught me the meaning--or lack thereof--of the word "failure;" there is no such thing as failure for me anymore. Success lies in the learning itself rather than in becoming a "master."
I am so glad that I worked up the courage two and half years ago to show up to my first class. I will never be done learning jiu jitsu, but I am enjoying the journey! Now to move on to earning that blue belt in life...
"There is no losing in Jiu-Jitsu. You either win or you learn."
- Carlos Gracie Jr.
"True strength is not always shown through victory. Stand up, try again and display strength of heart."
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