Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Baby BOY 'T' and a sweet pair of cowboy boots.



Well, well, the months just fly on by…is it really the end of September already?

You can probably gather by the title that gender of Baby T has been revealed and it’s no longer Baby T but Baby BOY T, whoop whoop!

We knew we wanted to find out the gender but had the ultrasound lady write it on a sticky note and put it an envelope that was pinned to our bulletin board for a solid 6 weeks. Brian’s sister in law Karla had offered to throw a gender reveal party so we were waiting for the big day, to share with family and friends before we found out. Brian and I had talked about what we hoped for and both decided that all we really wanted was a healthy baby, gender didn’t really matter. I know everyone says that but after the adventurous 1st 14 weeks of pregnancy, we are all about the baby’s health.

The gender reveal party was amazing and way more than we ever thought it would be. Starting from balloons on the mailbox, to a pink and blue themed party filled with all sorts of cute additions. Think pink and blue candy, a tally station for the guests to vote on what they thought it would be, boy or girl, mason jars wrapped in pink or blue ribbon with fun sayings on them, and of course, the cake, which was filled with a pink or blue frosting, and would reveal to us what it would be.
When the time came, we skyped in my parents and sister so they could be part of the fun. We picked up the knife, dug in and as many had predicted, we saw BLUE! We were having a boy! There were many hugs, maybe a few tears and much excitement, as we will be having the first boy on Brian’s side of the family. Everyone was thrilled, even my parents who can already boast of their 7 grandchildren!
It was a moment that made everything seem more real. Instead of this ‘thing’ growing inside my belly, it was a boy, and he was going to be our son. A little surreal still and an idea that is still sinking in. And some added excitement as one of my best friends Keri, just had sweet Baby Boy Benji and knowing that they will grow up together, living only blocks apart made the idea of a boy that much better. He isn’t even born yet and already has a best friend.
Brian did confess after that deep down he was hoping for a boy. He wants to teach him how to play some hockey and my guess is the kid will be up on the ice as soon as he can walk. And although Jake pretends to care less, we know that deep down, he too is excited for a baby brother to protect. As long as he doesn’t take his tennis balls…

So a boy it is. The next step was to register for a baby registry as a few baby showers were planned and we needed to get going on it. We walked into Buy Buy baby one Sunday having no clue what to expect. We were given that little gun thing to register the items, a checklist and set out on this 4 hour adventure. Yes, I said 4 hours. Who knew that there are 5,238 types of swaddles and just as many types of bottles, and car seats, and strollers and bouncy seats, oh my. I mean really, does anyone really know the difference between all this stuff? We walked out dazed, not really sure what we had done but convincing ourselves that we were all set. I mean, we had checked almost everything off the list, that meant we were good right?

To take a break from this baby stuff, lets go back a few months to an exciting announcement. As many of you know, I love country music. Love. it. And as far as artists go, Garth Brooks is near the top of my list. When I wrote out a bucket list about 20 years ago, seeing Garth was a top priority. And much to my excitement, a few months back it was announced that Garth was going on tour for the first time in 20 years and his first stop was Chicago! Beyond amazing and something I was going to figure out a way to make happen. Tickets went on sale at 10am one random day and like the rest of Chicago, I was online and on the phone trying to get tickets. He had a total of 10 shows and my goal was the Sep 11 show because what could be better than Garth Brooks on Sep 11. In my mind, nothing. After calling ticketmaster a whopping 140 times I finally got through and was able to get tickets for Sep 14th. Not the 11th, but that was OK, I was gonna see Garth! After posting it on facebook (the miracle site) a friend offered to trade her Sep 11 tickets for my Sep 14th ones and a dream was gonna come true. Whoop!

But let’s go back again, this time to Saturday July 26, around 2pm. Yes, I’m getting specific. My phone rang, caller id said somewhere in TX, I picked up the phone and a guy on the other end of the line says, ‘Hi, my name is Walter and I heard through a friend that you were hoping for tickets to see Garth Brooks on Sep 11.’ I replied with a ‘Yes, I was, but thanks to friend I already had them’. After a few awkward minutes Walter offers up the information that we have a mutual friend in high places and that Garth himself wanted to give me 4 tickets to his Sep 11 show. After a slight heart palpation and a stunned moment of silent, I replied with, ‘Um, what?’ Walter went on to explain that he and I had met before at the W100 (high places, eh?) and that someone would be in contact later on that month with more details but that I was going to get 4 tickets from Garth to his show. I hung up in disbelief. I couldn’t breathe and being home alone and not knowing what to do, I danced around the house in excitement wondering if this could all be true. I called my parents who immediately asked if they could have the other 2 tickets and would make the drive up for the concert. We speculated on if there was more to it, maybe a backstage pass, maybe front row seats, who knew really…

My first action was naturally the purchase of some pretty sweet flag cowboy boots that I’ve had my eye on for years. Finally, an excuse to buy them! And then waiting in anticipation for the concert and the wonder of if this was a hoax or if tickets would actually be at will call, like I was told they would be.

One of my best friends Megan made the trip down from MN for the concert and a group of us decided to take a limo to Allstate, arriving in style. Brian in his cowboy boots and belt buckle was a sight, I always said I wanted to marry a cowboy and I couldn't keep my eyes off him.
 It was Sep 11th and what greater American way to celebrate my love for this country than with Garth Brooks. The limo pulled up and I anxiously waited in line at will call hoping the tickets were there. A huge sigh of relief that not only were 4 tickets there, but in the 3rd row! We made our way to our seats, preparing for the show of a lifetime. And let me tell you that at 53 years old, Garth dances around like he’s in his 20’s. Never a dull moment as he runs back and forth, up and down off his knees, sweating 
profusely and singing so many of his old tunes that we all wanted to hear. A great concert no doubt, even better to be there with Brian and my parents and Megan, all dancing away in our seats. The only bummer was that he didn’t acknowledge that it was Sep 11. Maybe I talked it up too much in my head, maybe I’m more patriotic than some, but even when the crowd started to chant USA, there wasn’t a word about it. So a little bit of a downer but still a phenomenal show and a check to add to the good old bucket list!

And before we get back to this whole baby thing, we had an awesome 
Chicago weekend back in August when one of my best friends Tiff and her boyfriend Tim came for a visit. Think the air and water show, architecture boat cruise, Kayaking to the pier for some fireworks, Some wine and paint, lots of tasty food and some good laughs. How I wish we lived closer, it's always a great time when we get together!

Ookk, back to the baby. As I write this I am at 30 ½ weeks, so 9 ½ weeks left and I know it’s gonna go quick. Aside from some pretty bad headaches and this weird rib pain, I can’t really complain too much about the pregnancy. Although my prosthetic leg doesn’t fit as well as it used too, I’m still able to manage getting around pretty well, I haven’t had any sickness or too many cravings and things seem to be going well. As much as this pregnancy thing is not for me, I’ve come to slightly enjoy the 3rd trimester and the reassuring kicks or body parts that make their way around my belly.


As an athlete, I think the hardest part for me is the body changes and not being able to be as active as I want to be. My running leg is collecting dust as it doesn’t fit well and running just doesn’t work anymore. I’ve been told by my doctor to do no core work and my biking leg no longer fits. Sooo.. I’m left to the pool. Not a bad thing as I’ve always loved the water but stepping away from athletics for 5 months has been harder than I ever imagined. Seeing my USA teammates compete at World Championships while I’m home with my feet up staring at my growing belly. A sacrifice that I know will be worth it come Nov 28, but still a tough adjustment. Especially on these beautiful fall days when there’s no better feeling of a cool morning run.

Next month we will hear what classifications will be going to Rio in 2016. If my classification, Tri2, is in for Rio, that is the absolute goal. To have a healthy baby, an uncomplicated birth and to get back in shape as quick as I can. A process that will be a tough one after not running for 6 months but one that I am prepared to tackle. The goal will be to get back into shape and competing as soon as possible to get the much needed points that could eventually pave the way for Rio. Next year is a crucial year and I need to come back quick. A lofty goal but one that I’m excited to give a try.

And if it’s not in for Rio, well, I still have a wedding to get in shape for. That’s right, next May, I get to marry Brian and I am already counting down the days for him to become my husband. We have the venue set and are getting all the big stuff done before the baby is born. Including trying to find a wedding dress, which I would NOT recommend when you’ve gained 25 pounds and are 7 months pregnant. But it will all get done and it will be a wedding to remember as my dad will finally get to walk me down the aisle. And this time around, our son will be there to look on. It’s gonna be a good one.

Some exciting stuff for sure. And now doing some last minute travel while I still can, getting the nursery going and realizing that ready or not, I am going to be a mom. Crazy? yes. Scary? yes. But rumor is, its an adventure well worth taking on. And lucky for Brian and I, there are all sorts of baby classes offered to we can figure out what we’re doing. Or maybe we’ll just learn as we go. Can it really be that hard?

I cant help but share a quick link that aired on the Today show on Labor Day... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K94gcK-KGuo A story of myself and 3 other female wounded warriors who were all at Walter Reed together 10 years ago. All of us having lost a limb and becoming the first females to be injured in Iraq. And now, 10 years later, all having kids of our own. A story I am honored and proud to be a part of. The ‘Band of Mothers’ and a truly happy story. How I love these ladies.

And lastly, but certainly not least, a huge THANK YOU to Debbie Tolsma for throwing such an awesome baby shower last weekend! My mom and
soon to be mother in law, what great ladies they are.

So there you go. Baby BOY T and a sweet pair of cowboy boots. Until next time.

PEACE OUT!









Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I'm havin' a baby. And It's a triathlete.


The title says it all. We (as in Brian and I) are having a baby. Our baby. A planned baby. And we are thrilled. Or scared. Or maybe a little of both.

How about a little backstory..

At the beginning of this year, Brian and I decided that this year would be the perfect year for a baby. We both want kids and with hopes of Rio in 2016 and the fact that we aren’t getting any younger, this year just made sense. The window of opportunity was from Jan- early April as if I got pregnant after that, it would make any sort of athletics and the possibility of Rio in 2016 less likely. That window came and went, with all sorts of other drama (both good and bad) in there. A house fire, an engagement and the purchase or our first house.  Come mid April, all signs were pointing to no and that a baby just wasn’t going to happen this year, the window had passed.
As April continued I knew there was something going on, I just couldn’t figure out what. I was exhausted all the time, I was starving and had no energy. Since all the usual signs were still pointing to no baby, I called my doctor to order some blood work. When I lost my leg, I was anemic and I thought maybe that was the case again. Under the advice of my friend Keri, who is due herself in Aug and was probably sick of my constant complaining about how I felt, she suggested I take a pregnancy test. I was apprehensive, there was no way I was pregnant, but three days before my blood work I did just that. Imagine my surprise when the results came back as not negative, but somewhere in between. The next day, the same thing. And then a confirmed test a few days later in early May at the VA that I was in fact pregnant! As most mothers can probably relate, the news doesn’t really set in right away, but it made sense with how I was feeling and I felt a little silly, as at 34 years old I should know if I’m pregnant. But apparently that’s not always the case.
We timed it back and figured that I was 7 weeks along and due in mid Jan. Not bad as that is only a few weeks into the new year. Brian and I celebrated as our plan had worked, we were going to be parents!

This story continues, but a side note here that in the end of May, I was registered for a big triathlon down in Dallas. At the time I thought I was 7 weeks along and a triathlon would be fine. Might as well start this kid out in world of sports early! So the plans continued for Dallas and that I would race with this little triathlete to be.

Fast forward to the day before we were supposed to leave for Dallas. Some complications and a trip to the ER thinking that I might be loosing this baby which led to my first ultrasound making sure the baby was OK. Before the ultrasound the ER doctor said being only 7 weeks along, they probably couldn’t see much but it was worth a try. As they started the doctors eyes got real big and Brian, also looking at the screen, got this strange expression on his face. I couldn’t help but laugh and ask if everything was OK. The wide eyed doctor looked over and said ‘ummm, I think you’re a little further along than 7 weeks.’ He turned the screen and there was this baby, kicking and waving at us saying here I am! A real baby. In MY belly. After some measurements they concluded that I was not 7 weeks along, but a whopping 14 weeks along! I was in my 2nd trimester already, how insanely crazy.
We left the ER with a mission to find an OBGYN the following day and see if this was for real. After some searching we found an office that would get us in and they confirmed that yes, I was 14 weeks along and due on Nov 28. Because of the complications, I was instructed not to do any physical activity for the next week to make sure everything was OK so the race in Dallas was out. I made her repeat it a few times before it sunk in, my life was about to change big time. Instead of being all about me, I had a baby to think about.
As we thought back to the past 14 weeks the realization of what this kid has already done set in. It had been to Napa, enjoyed many glasses of wine, eaten plenty of sushi, skied in CO, mountain biked with the President, been to Disney World, to Boston, to DC, celebrated Little Leg’s 10th birthday and even danced on the bar. They were starting their life out with adventure and we hoped then that the baby would be a healthy one. I know everyone says that, but after a 14 weeks of all that, the worry was genuine. Thankfully all looked fine and the complications have not returned.

We still ended up going to Dallas as Brian was racing and it was a great chance to watch my teammates race. As we flew down there we were that cliché couple that was reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting and Brian reading, what to Expect when your wife is expanding. We had a lot of catching up to do.

Dallas went well although it was strange to be on the other side of things and not racing. A bit of bragging that Brian got 2nd in the Clysdale division and got to stand on that podium. I was proud.

Back in Chicago, it still really hadn’t set in. Everyone knew, my belly was growing a little but it was still so surreal. Luckily I have Brian to convince me that I don't look fat and that you can't even tell I have a bigger belly....right...
There was a big international triathlon coming up at the end of June and I decided that I was going to race it. Slowly of course, as I was instructed not to get my heart rate about 140 (I heard 150 :)), but I couldn’t pass up a race in my backyard. Plus, I wanted the chance to get these much needed points that could help me on the Road to Rio in 2016.
I did little training. Swimming and biking felt OK but the run wasn’t. I felt so heavy, so slow and on my practice triathlon a week before Chicago, I ended up having to walk the whole run. Spectators would encourage me along the way and I wanted to yell back, I am pregnant, leave me alone!

The Chicago race came and at 4.5 months pregnant I got mixed reviews. Some thought it was silly to risk it, others thought it was great. I promised myself to go easy and I wore a HR monitor to make sure I didn’t go too hard. That morning I struggled to get into my too tight one piece spandex race suit. My handler Keri who is very pregnant and I were quite a sight in transition. Eating whatever was around and lying on the carpet not doing much at all. My goal for the race was to simply not walk the run. This was a big race, there was a blue carpet at Buckingham Fountain that we got to finish at and I wanted to at least have a reasonable finish. The swim started and of course I was off like a cannon, not being able to hold myself back. I got out of the water knowing I had to slow down. On the bike, my HR went down slightly but I realized that once it’s up, its really hard to get down unless you stop. And that wasn’t going to happen. Plus, my competitive side was out. Knowing I was tri’ing for 2 but still wanting to push myself. I got of the bike and was able to run through till to the end. I got lots of ‘Go Mamma’ cheers from friends and tried to unsuccessfully suck my belly in as I went by. I crossed with a time of 1:38 and I was pumped. It was a great day, a great race, I didn’t walk and I was thrilled. I got to stand on the podium in 2nd place with Hailey on top and give myself a silent shout out that I had done it. Plus I had earned some points. We still aren’t sure what that all means, but if I needed them, at least I had some. After the race one of my favorite articles was posted on the relationship and good sportsmanship between Hailey and I. You can read it here, http://m.teamusa.org/News/2014/June/28/Danisewicz-Wins-Chicago-ITU-Paratriathlon-Ahead-Of-Pregnant-Stockwell

Looking at race data after the race I realized  that my heart rate got up Much higher than it should have and for safety for all involved, that would be my last competitive race until the baby was born. It’s too hard to not push myself and go hard. There might be an easy 5K or two but no more triathlons. Plus I don’t think I could get into that spandex suit anymore. But.. I am proud that our baby is already living the multisport lifestyle, maybe it will come out running? And in case anyone was wondering, a Garmin heart rate monitor cannot pick up the heart rate of a baby that’s still in your belly.



To answer some common questions we get:

1. We will find out the gender. We actually have it in an envelope at home but are waiting until Aug 2 when we will have a gender release part where the inside of a cake is either blue or pink. Cheesy, probably, but I’m excited.
2. Wedding plans haven’t changed and we will be getting married next year, most likely in May. We are just doing things a little backwards. A house, a baby and then a wedding. Although in 2014, there isn’t really a right way to do things.
3. And yes, Jake is thrilled. He says he’ll be a great big brother as long as the kid doesn’t touch his tennis balls.

So there you go, that’s the big news. Other than that, things continue as usual. Work, speaking, Dare2tri in full swing with racing and our hugely successful 3 day camp.

 It is strange to be around my teammates knowing I won’t be racing anymore this year. No nationals, no worlds and the hope that I can come back stronger next year and be successful post baby. There is still the question of if my category will be included at Rio but we should know in a few months and here’s to hoping it’s a yes. That and a wedding will give me great motivation to get back into shape quick after the baby is born. And rumor is that you get stronger after a baby. Or maybe I just made that up.

We’ve had some great trips these past few months. A favorite was a trip to my parents in SC on July 4, which is our usual destination to see the fireworks. Lots of games, golf, a celebratory bottle of Bourbon (for the guys) and much needed time with my awesome family. With my sister and her 5 kids, I have all the resources I need if I ever have any questions.

And in breaking news, I got a new car! Although the Element will be sorely missed, I love my new Subaru Forester, with embroidered flag headrests and all.

 Until Nov, it’s more of the same. Traveling to speak until I can’t fly anymore, work and visiting friends knowing that things will change come Nov. Although how hard can it really be to change a few diapers… (that’s sarcasm people)

It’s been quite the exciting few months and just when you think things slow down, you realize they might get busier than ever. What a life it is!
So cheers to a new life and the start of our own family. I can’t think of a better father than Brian and hoping I can be just as good of a mother.

Until next time,

PEACE OUT!







Monday, May 26, 2014

A birthday, a President, a mountain bike and America.

How to even begins this one, it's been a jam packed two months and of course, I'm behind in writing any of it down. To avoid anything too lengthy, I'll do a highlight of some of the top events and fill in the rest as I go.

But first, before I go any further, I must start with a Happy Memorial Day to you all. I hope among the BBQ's and picnics and friends, you all took some time to reflect on what this day is all about. It's about giving thanks to those that gave the ultimate sacrifice, that allow us to enjoy those BBQ's and good times we continue to have. Freedom is not free. We should remember that everyday, but today we give some extra thanks. America is the best country in the world and life is good. To that I cheers to you all, in a debt of gratitude for those who gave their lives for our
freedom. Always remember those that gave all.

All right, where to begin. How about with one of the most important events of the year, LITTLE LEG TURNED 10! Can you believe it? 10 whole years since I lost my leg. Sometimes it feels like yesterday, other days I think back on all that's happened since then, and it feels like 10 years. Like every year, a big bash was to be had to celebrate Little Leg's life and all of us. It's a day of being thankful for what we have instead of mourning what we no longer have. A day of celebrating life and all it has to offer. This years slogan was an appropriate, 'A Decade to Remember' and that it's been. When I think back and reflect on the past 10 years I can hardly believe all that's happened. There's been ups and downs, there's been some serious highs and athletic accomplishments and being able to travel all over the world. I've met some of my very best friends that have only known me with one leg and their friendship is as true as they come. I've been able to give back with the Wounded Warrior Project and Dare2tri, hoping that this next generation of wounded warriors or athletes with disabilities can be inspired to dream big and to follow their dreams, whatever they are. I've found a home in Chicago with my trusty 4 legged best friend Jake by my side, and now a fiance that I am beyond thankful to have found and to have in my life. To say life has been good is an understatement, it's amazing. And this year's party reflected just how amazing it's been. It was extra special this year as my parents and my sister Amanda and her husband Gavin came into town. This was a rare weekend for Amanda and Gavin to get away from their family of 5 kids and I know getting here was no easy feat. My faithful Little Leg fans Brandi, Molly, Joe and Lauren came from out of town along with my cousins Tim and Annette who all have made the trip countless years to help celebrate. All of them along
with so many others, at 6 degrees,
our favorite neighborhood bar. Think lots of drinks, lots of dancing on the bar (dad too!), lots of laughs, some serious drinks out of the socket and a good time had by all. I am so thankful. If this next decade is half of what this one is, then I'm in for a treat. And Little Leg, 10 already?! She's growing up fast..  

Next was a trip to Florida with Brian's family.
The whole family. Mom dad, both brothers, grandma and both nieces. A day at Disney World, one at Sea World and then a few back at Brian's mom's spent by the pool. Now we have been to Disney 3 times in the past year and a half and it's safe to say we are Disney'd out. But to be there with Maddie and Laney, and to see their faces when seeing all the characters and the fireworks show, and to watch them on Dumbo,  and seeing Shamu, it really does put Disney in a whole new light. I feel so lucky that I will have in-laws that I truly enjoy being around. Brian's family is so warm and inviting and included me in everything from the start. Once again, a lucky girl I am.


Now the third main event, but a highlight of the year. The W100. 3 days of mountain biking with President Bush and 20 other wounded veterans. I did this ride 2 years ago with Keri, and this year was just as amazing. To have Brian with me and to show him off to the President and all the staff and volunteers that we knew from the years past.. what a week it was. The trip started out the first morning with all of us ready and the President showing up and saying his hellos. He shakes all of our hands, he gets to me and says, 'Melissa I hear your fiance is with you'  I said, 'yes, sir, he's right back there'. At this point Brian waves and says 'Hi sir'. The President didn't skip a beat and yelled out, 'hey Big Bri, stay in the back would ya!' A fun moment and a new nickname that Brian was affectionately called the rest of the weekend.
Once again, there was a dedicated Team
Melissa, that rode in front and behind me and
helped he up the hills if I needed it. Brian was there and always a bike behind and jumped in to help me more than once. Trek was beyond generous and gave all of us wounded veterans sweet new mountain bikes that we got to bring home with us. The trails of his ranch are amazing and even
more so to think that it is his backyard. There were some good falls and road rash to be had, but what's a mountain bike trip without a few bruises. This was a trip to re-enforce that President Bush is a great man. Here, he brings 20 wounded veterans and invites them to his backyard and his home. Literally. He  shows up and eats dinner with us, he makes sure he spends time and talks with all of us, and he tells us that he feels he is the one with the most responsibility to make sure we are all taken care of. A man and a President that is acutely aware of the decisions he made and the impact they had. A great man, always quick with a witty comment, a quick laugh and a stud of a mountain biker. Not to mention a dog lover and now a new friend for Jake. We are still on a high from the trip. The teamwork and camaraderie of the warriors, staff and volunteers. The generosity of the President and Mrs. Bush allowing us to ride our bikes through their backyard and inviting us into their home. A trip I feel so fortunate to be a part of and once again, a proud American. Thank you Mr. President for your continued support and belief in all of us. Oh happy days.

 And last, but certainly not least, a trip to Washington DC for some sightseeing and a wedding of Jen and Jen, some friends we have met through the small world of triathlon and CAF. This was Brian's first time DC and I was anxious to show him around a city I loved. We walked 7 miles the first day, all over that city, and saw almost everything. The whole mall, Thomas Jefferson, MLK, Iwo Jima and Arlington Cemetery. The next morning we got up for an early morning run on the mall. One I had talked about for months and how peaceful it was to run among the monuments as the sun came up. We didn't know it but we were joined by thousands of other walkers and runners doing the Susan Koman 5K, so not quite like I planned, but still an experience. And then a quick drive to Oxford, MD where we got to be a part of the great love of Jen and Jenn and dancing the night away.  

An eventful couple of months it's been. Our new 
home has come together so well and we love it and calling it home. All the generosity from everyone after the fire helped make it home faster than we ever thought it would. Our home, for our new life together. As usual, things always work out.


My 6 month old post- Ironman blues are still there some days but going away slowly. There or not, I have my first race in Dallas this Sunday. Admittedly, I started getting back into things and hard training a solid 2 months later than I should have. Trying to get back up to par and happy with my workouts has been tough. I'm not sure Dallas will be my best race but I'll do the best I can and be happy with it. At least it will be a good benchmark to see how much work I need to do. 
This year is a little different in the triathlon world as we are moving to a new system of elite athletics and an attempt to make it a fair system. While all new systems always have issues, the basic idea is that we all have to acquire points, which we get by racing in certain races and the better we do, the more points we get. Those points will qualify us for Worlds this year and then half of our points carry over to next year on the path to Rio. While there is still a lot to be decided on, you could say the Road to Rio starts this year. An exciting venture and crazy to think it can be so close. So Dallas will be whatever it is, and then a race in Chicago a month later which I hope to be fully back for. 

Wedding plans have yet to start, but they will soon enough. Can't someone just plan it for us and we can show up and it's amazing?
And as always, Jake always makes our days better. A young six and a half years old with multiple promises by him that he's never going to get old. Or have bad hips. And why would he lie?

I think that's it for now. A busy, exciting life it is. Until next time,

PEACE OUT!



Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Diamond in the Rough.


Brace yourself, the last 3 months have been, well, eventful to say the least. This is a long one.

At the end of last year Brian and I began looking for homes to buy in the Chicago area, close to where we currently lived. After a few months of looking we found a great condo, 3 bed, 2.5ba, in a great location and fell in love with it. It was early Jan, we saw the place midday, and on a flight delay hours later, while sitting in Midway airport on our way to Orlando, we made the offer. A big and exciting day in the lives of Brian and Melissa.
 
We continued onto Orlando and our trip to Disney World to once again push our way to the front of Space Mountain and enjoy our times with the great folks from Achilles, Cigna and run in the Disney ½ marathon. Suffering still from the so-called, post Ironman blues, the race was less than stellar but we tried as best we could to make it fun. We made many welcomed stops at ALL the Disney characters to wait in line and snap some pictures. I’ve never been so thrilled to see Woody from Toy Story, among others. In the meantime, we found out that our offer for the condo was accepted, and we started the loan and approval process with a closing date of mid March. Exciting times indeed.

From FL, I flew to San Francisco where I got to hang with one of my besties, Stephanie, for a few days. Sitting outside with our tea in the CA sunshine with her two boys was nothing short of amazing. A second trip to San Francisco happened in early Feb, with a long overdue trip to wine country with two of my other besties, Lauren and Tiffany. Three more days in the CA sun, only this time it included a trip to Napa and Sonoma, too much wine, Chinatown, seafood, walks along the bay and some pretty good laughs with good friends.

Back to Chicago for a few weeks, making sure things were still being set for our new home. The inspection, the VA condo approval, etc. Mid March was still the goal and as we traveled out to Vail, CO for one of our favorite weeks of the year with the Vail Veterans Program, we knew that our days were limited at our old place and we would soon be home owners!

We got the Vail with a small bump along the way, in that United lost our bags to include my skis and everything else we had with us. We got to Vail bag less but thanks to Cheryl Jensen and all the other fine folks at the Vail Veterans Program, we got to ski our first day with borrowed equipment and clothes and enjoy the 30+, sunny days of Vail with 30 other newly injured veterans. This week is a special one, as you literally see lives transform. Newly injured vets that thought they might never ski again, are out proving to themselves what they are capable of. A week or moving and inspiring moments, of meeting new vets, this time my new friend, and fellow AK Rebecca, and remembering to be thankful for what we have.

The first afternoon in Vail, we got an email that no one ever expects to get. To sum it up, it went like this.
“Brian and Melissa, we are so sorry to hear about the fire. The firefighters said they couldn’t find Jake and we hope he is with you. If you need a place to stay, or any clothes, you’re welcome at our place. From, your neighbors.”

Um, what? As expected, this started quite a panic and a brief heart palpitation. First, thinking it had to be spam, but then seeing Jake’s name and realizing these were in fact, our neighbors. Brian made a quick call to our landlord who was sobbing and we knew that this was no joke. A quick call to Alison and Keri, two of my Chicago friends, who made the drive to verify that there was in fact, a fire. They got to our place, saw the damage, were allowed inside to get out my valuable military medals and paperwork and told us that things didn’t look good. The ceiling had caved in, the windows were boarded up, most of our belongings were most likely gone and we could no longer live there. Wow. How to take all this in. Still bag less and now homeless and thinking of all the things we may have lost. 

 Back in our hotel room, we made some calls and decided that since there was nowhere to go home too, we would stay in Vail for the remainder of the trip. After some serious pouting on my part, Brian recommended we go meet up with the group we were there with instead of moping around in our hotel room. So we did just that. We went and met the rest of the Vail Vets program at the bowling alley where we ended up sharing a lane with a guy missing both his legs and an arm. He had given so much of himself for our country and here I was worried about all this stuff we lost. Talk about a lesson in perspective. As much as it was our ‘stuff’, it’s just ‘stuff’. We had our lives and Jake (thank god) and lead a pretty great life. Knowing things might be a little tough when we got back, we made the decision to stay in Vail and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of our trip. We got 2 more sunny days with great snow, learned to ski bike, got to ski with Tiff and Tim, hang out with multiple cardboard Melissa's, slide down the pole at the Vail firehouse and meet some pretty great people. In the meantime, there were many calls to my insurance provider, USAA, which immediately put me at ease. They gave us the steps on how to get our renters insurance money and set us up with a hotel to stay at once we got back. There was truly no better place to be than in Vail, with the Vail Veterans Program, when hearing such difficult news. We eventually got our bags from United and had a stellar few days in Vail before making the trip back to Chicago.


Back in Chicago, the next 10 days were a bit of a blur. Seeing our place boarded up and realizing that we did in fact lose most of our belongings. Whether it was the fire itself, the smoke or the water damage, there was little to be saved. We saved what we could, wearing masks to go into what had been our home for the past 2 years. Trying to wash clothes 2-3 times, dry clean them, soak them in vinegar and realizing that the smoke smell is a stubborn one. Being thankful for having at least some renters insurance but wishing we had more to cover what we lost. It’s something you never think you’ll have to use, and if you rent, I recommend you stop reading this and increase your coverage now! Fortunately, we were able to get out many of our valuable items to be restored. An expensive process, but one that was needed on things that could not be replaced. So thankfully, military medals and papers were saved. We were living in a one room hotel room for 10 days, checking over bank accounts and on pins and needles waiting for our VA loan to go through and  
waiting for the news that we could close on our new place, start fresh and have a home again. We would sit at dinner and stare aimlessly at each other wondering what had happened, to joking about the silver linings of all this and that we would no longer need a moving truck, or didn’t have to paint the place back to it’s original color. And who doesn’t want a complete wardrobe update? A full mix of emotions day in and day out, and to be candidly honest, a great relationship tester.
Also a time of realizing how great our family and friends are. I always knew we were lucky, but a tragic event makes you realize just how lucky you are. I will never be able to say thank you enough to all that helped us. From Alison and Keri, who dropped everything to go check on our place, Diana and Hailey who showed up at our door after a facebook request asking for help to get stuff out, Dave Zaro, who came over after a red eye flight and a 13 mile run to help move some heavy items, to Nico and Keri, who insisted that we make a housewarming registry that was resisted at first but has helped immensely. To our friends and people we don’t even know that have bought items off of the registry, or let us keep things in their garage, or the Wounded Warrior Project who sent us boxes of clothes to help start our new wardrobe. And the list goes on. People are so kind and so generous, words will never be enough. Thank you.
 
March 13 was a great day as we got the exciting news that the loan had gone through and we had a closing date of March 17! We were ecstatic. We did some early furniture shopping, fired up the utilities and prepared for a fresh start in our new home that Brian and I bought together.
March 17. We signed too many papers, wrote a check that was too big but were finally given the keys to our brand new home and we were no longer homeless. We. Were. Homeowners! It was already a big day.
We got to our new home, opened the door to our new place, empty and perfect and all ours. Brian had a big box with him and asked me to follow him into the bedroom and open the box. I opened it and saw a box filled with picnic items thinking how sweet it was that we were going to have a picnic on the floor of our new, empty house. As I turned around, I watched in disbelief as Brian got down on one knee, told me he wanted to have a million picnics with me, and asked me to marry him! It was an incredible moment followed by lots of hugs, lots of dancing around our new, empty house and lots of ecstatic phone calls to our family and friends. Of course I said yes, I loved this man!
After weeks of stress and uncertainty, the moment couldn’t have been sweeter. Together for almost 3 years, we had made it through a fire, lost most of our belongings, lived in a small hotel room and bought a home together. If we could make it through that, the sky was the limit. I had a new home and a new fiancé and the opportunity to start this new life with this perfect man that I will soon be able to call my husband. Not to mention a beautiful ring on my finger. It was magical. I still have to pinch myself.

It’s been over a week in our new place and there is a long way to go to make our place really ‘our’ place. Walls to be painted, furniture to be bought, and the list goes on. What I do know is that our place is beautiful, I get to share it with my best friend and soon to be husband and that things can only go up from here. I know they are on their way up because of all things to make it through the fire, my stuffed animal, Woodles the bear was resilient and made it through. After being on my bed for 25 years, not only did he survive, but he smells better than ever and looks like new. Sometimes it’s the little things that matter the most. Long Live Woodles the bear.

This has been long enough and I will end here. With the closing thoughts that perspective and life is a funny thing. We have to except the unexpected and know that things never go as planned. We have to have the strength to overcome hard times and know that it is OK to ask for help. Lean on family and friends knowing that you would do the same for them. Count your blessings and be thankful for what you have, instead of worrying about what you don’t. As we come up on almost 10 years since I lost my leg, these truths ring louder than ever and the small things I find myself worrying about seem so trivial. Life is good, with or without those items I no longer have because I have my life. Life really is good. And I’m going to marry Brian J

Peace Out!