Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Hello Darkness my old friend

 There are moments in life that you cement in your memory.  Holding your baby for the 1st time.  Walking across the stage for your doctorate.  Your dad tells you he has cancer.  5 years ago, almost 6 now, my dad started a colon cancer journey that would see him nearly die twice and undergo 3 separate surgeries; each surgery literally taking a piece of him.  

On January 18th, as I was getting ready for work, my dad stopped me and asked me to contact his cancer doctor; he thought his cancer was back.  I stayed visibly calm, said I would take care of it, and then went to my room to cry.  I took a moment or two and then I dried my eyes and contacted the doctor.

We had an appointment for the next week, about a 5-day wait.  We saw the doctor, got a series of appts, and got sent home.  Honestly, I don't think the doctor quite believed my dad about his symptoms.  Then two days later, my dad tells my mom he needs to go to the ER, everything is worse.  They decided to wait until Friday, Jan 26, since I don't work Fridays, so I could go with him and advocate.  That was the last day my dad was in Lufkin.  He has been in Temple ever since and we don't know when he will come home.

He had major abdominal surgery on Feb 15th.  A surgery scheduled for 6 hrs took 18 and landed my dad in the ICU.  That was a hard day, just waiting and waiting.  We were told around 7pm that it would be a few more hours due to an accident during surgery. The accident took 6 hrs to repair and then he had 3 more hours of surgery to complete the fix.  The good news: no cancer!  The bad news: lots of complications.

I got to stay with my dad while he was in the ICU.  I was so worn out by the night before waiting on him to come out of surgery that I actually slept on that tiny guest bed and even slept through the midnight blood draws.  We had to leave Temple for a BJJ tournament on Saturday and I got to see my dad that morning before leaving.  I got to see him get out of bed!  

He has not had an easy time of it this time.  The previous 3 surgeries, he was out of the hospital in 3 days.  This time we are about to be at 7 days and he still can't eat.  They won't release him until he is eating.  He can't eat because his intestine isn't awake yet.  He ran a fever two nights ago and yesterday they placed some tubes into his kidneys.  We are playing the waiting game.  

Yesterday, I was working on something at my desk and decided to check-in on my dad.  I happened to call while a nurse was in the room informing him of the procedure to insert the tubes into his kidneys.  The interesting thing was that as I was listening in, "Pressure Machine" (the song not the album) by The Killers was playing.  This is a pressure machine.  Will I pop or can I hold on long enough to welcome my dad home?

Below is my Facebook status from Sunday, Feb 18:

I'm sitting outside trying to get some sunshine therapy. To say these past 5 days have been hard would be an understatement.
Seeing my dad on a ventilator, watching the agony on his face waiting for the breathing tube to be removed, and then watching the excruciating pain he went through standing for the 1st time post surgery.
I thought I was ready for this past Wednesday. We knew it could be a long day. We knew it could be more difficult than expected but how do you prepare for a surgery that is scheduled for 6 hrs but goes for 18? All we wanted was for a 100% robotic surgery and when they opened him up completely, the devastation was almost overwhelming.
Instead of bringing my dad home today like we had hoped and prayed for, I left Temple yesterday with zero idea of when he is coming home.
There were bright spots. Moments with Ray and the girls but it is hard.
It is hard to balance the little girl who wants to be with her daddy with the woman who has to go to work and run a household while adding in the requirements of managing my dad's health from afar.
I can really feel the pressure when it comes back after a break. Watching Audrey yesterday and focusing down to just being Audrey's mom was a welcomed respite. We walked the Comerica Center laughing and celebrating that I forgot I had left my dad then on the way home I realized I had no idea when I would see my dad again.
While I was sitting in the ICU with my dad there was a young mother in the next room and her 4-year-old kept running and screaming in the hallway. While I question the parenting of allowing such a young child into the ICU, I also understand the needs of that baby. He just wanted his mommy. I hope his mom makes it out of the ICU and back home. I pray for all of the shell-shocked families I saw in the ICU.
For now, my dad is waiting on his body to come back to life. His intestine has been traumatized for the 4th time and the very complicated surgery has made it hard for it to wake up. The doctor said this is normal. Don't worry, yet. This is normal, just give it time. So from 3 hours away, I wait with my phone by my side.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Blaxicanmma is #3! She's #3!

 So I started last year with a commitment to run to help myself get through Blaxican's first year on the BJJ competitive team.  Let me tell you it was quite the year!

To the title:  she finished her Point Muay Thai season as the number 3 fighter in the girls' division behind 2 California girls.  She's number 3 out of PMT girls in both California and Texas.  It is incredible

In BJJ, she became an AGF tri-state champion by winning at Oklahoma State in March, Texas State in October, and Louisiana State back in Dec of 2022.  She also brought home a few golds from a few other competitions.  Probably her hardest-fought medal was a bronze she won at JJWL in Feb of last year.  

All of this while dealing with pain levels of 3 or higher since the end of March.  She is a fighter in every sense of the word.  At Texas State just before her challenger round, she was outside doubled over in pain.  She was at about a 6.  She went in and rolled a very good orange belt and while she lost, she barely lost.  

She also had her first super fight!  She lost to a very strong and lovely competitor.  We really enjoy it when she gets to roll against someone better than her because that is when we see her growing the most.

We are still trying to learn the ropes of raising a fighter.  The bills are beginning to outstrip our income and so we really need to find some sponsors for her but it is a challenge.  We don't want to make fighting her life at this point.  We want her to enjoy it before it becomes the thing she has to do.

To the pain: we have been in and out of doctors' offices.  We thought we had a cause that required surgery.  Had the surgery and we found out that the cause was less clear than we thought.  She does seem to be in less pain and she already has a full February so she is trying to quickly recover and get back out there.  She won't be cleared for contact for another week but then she'll have to hit the mat because IKF is Feb 10 then JJWL the next weekend.  

As much as I want to run a few races, it seems all of Blaxicanmma's events are on race weekends.  Obviously, I'm not going to pull her out of an event for me to run.  I'm never going to go pro as a runner but she really and truly can go pro in these combat sports she loves.  It is scary to watch her fight.  I hate seeing her take hits but she loves it and she's good at it so I just run and keep trying to raise money to pay the bills.  If you know of a business that would like to sponsor Blaxicanmma send them my way!

Blaxican's year:

Feb - JJWL - 3rd place

Feb - IKF - Lost an exhibition fight

Mar - Oklahoma State - 1st in her division, no place in Challenger

April - JJWL - 1st place

May - Chick-Jitsu superfight - lost

June - AGF Bossier City - 2 golds

July - Hard Spar exhibition

September - AGF Houston - 2nd place

October - IFK 3 fights: 2 wins, 1 loss

October - Texas State - 1 Gold, 1 Silver

November - IKF 2 wins

December - Earned her Grey/Black belt

Thursday, December 7, 2023

All is Forgiven by Lilli Lewis

 So let me start with I know Lilli Lewis.  My daughters call her Aunt Lilli so if you are like well Martha can't be impartial then that may be true, but I challenge you to go and listen to the album and then come at me.

Where do I start with Lilli Lewis's new release?  Do I start with the song that I love most? song that makes me dance?  song that makes me question life? I'll go down the song list!

I lied so general feeling first.  I love this album and not just because I've watched Lilli workshop some of these songs over the last year.  I'll be honest there is a track that does not make sense to me for this album but man do I love Lilli's voice.  I am always on pins and needles when I know Lilli is about to release something new into the world.  One, I love Lilli as a human, as an auntie to my girls, as a soul sister to my husband, the list goes on.  Two, because I love Lilli's music, I want others to love Lilli's music.  I want the world to be on fire for her because her music moves my soul.  I'll tell you the thing that worries me about the rest of the world finding Lilli is I don't want to hear covers of her music.  I want Lilli's voice only.  Light (O, Let Your Light Shine) has been covered, and the first time I heard it I was offended.  Like that is my song who in the world had the gaul to sing it!?  Anyways, it's an okay cover.

But to All Is Forgiven, the album is well worth your listen.  Like most of Lilli's music, you can enjoy it without listening hard to the lyrics but if you take the time to listen and really hear the lyrics you are in for a soul punch.  Lilli really likes to bring you in for a hug and then whisper in your ear, "Was that action really an act of radical decency or are you being an asshole?"  The funny thing is since she punches your soul in the midst of the hug, you are able to take it for what she is giving which is love.  When so many people are demanding you be kind, Lilli asks are you decent to yourself and others?  Why the difference?  Lilli believes in accountability!

So starting with Sin Eater, she wants you to not be an asshole.  Like I'll give and you take but don't think I don't see you taking more than you should.  To me, all of the kindness is life rhetoric implies taking shit.  Radical decency gives you permission to call out bs.  Also, the tuba/sousaphone if you don't bop to this then I don't even want to speak to you, like for real.

Happy Enough is a song I know from Lilli's The Shiz days.  I did not know she was bringing to this album.  I was shocked and at first, I didn't like it.  I mean where is Liz's voice?  The song feels different but in a good way.  The Shiz's version felt like a challenge.  The Shiz version with Liz on lead vocal is more like Liz was in your face and if answered wrong there was going to be a fight.  Lilli's version is more fun, and less dangerous.  It may be the mellowing of all of us, Lilli, Liz, and myself, all being in our 40s so rather than the need to fight, it is now an acceptance that if I'm not happy enough for you well that is your problem, not mine.

The title track, All is Forgiven, is the best throwback to the 80s.  This needs to be the theme song to a great family sitcom.  I can see Steve Winwood with some amazing backup singers just getting down to this.  Then Whitney Houston would cover it for a retro-film.  Anyway, the point is I like it and it reminds me of the 80s.

Lilli's Just One Ride is a heartbreaker.  I first heard it about a year ago when she was workshopping it.  My immediate thought was this belongs on Grey's Anatomy.  But very specifically over a scene where Dr. Callie Torres (played by Sara Ramirez) finally finds her own voice and takes charge of her life.  I don't know if that scene exists but it should and this song should play over it.  I pray that more people fall in love with Just One Ride.  

If You Really Mattered is a call to action.  It sounds melancholy but again, if you want to be melancholy you 100% can or you can listen to the lyrics and get off your ass.  This is a reminder that we have to practice radical decency with ourselves.  Hold ourselves accountable to be amazing humans with gifts and talents meant to be shared not hidden.  This is Lilli looking at you and telling you, "You are amazing and you are here to do amazing shit.  Get off your ass.  I see you!  I see you sitting!  GET OFF YOUR ASS!"  But in a soft tune so you don't even realize she is kicking you in the ass.

I think Possible is the part II to If You Really Mattered.  "To Trust You Back"  Just that line.  Can you trust yourself?  See accountability!  Get off your ass.  Stop listening to those assholes, you are amazing!

Okay and then you are lead into what feels like an oddball off the wall, WTF in Ciel Eternel.  Don't get me wrong it is beautiful.  If you don't know the ability of Lilli's voice, this shows it off beautifully but what is she saying?  I don't speak French so I don't know.  But it is pretty.

If you make it this far in this blog and the album then you know that you are going back into hell; you are being called back to radical decency.  Drink This Water Child is another slow song with deep lyrics.  Lilli often sings of water and uses water as a metaphor.  I wish she had punched up the vocals because they feel hidden behind the music.  The water is deep and I feel like I don't get the lyrical punch because I struggle to hear the actual words.  

The ending track is a piano-forward song named Firefly.  This feels like a southern porch in the middle of a hot summer night when you are having deep conversations with your best friend.  You are watching the fireflies and realizing that you are the light that this world needs but it is hot and late so you are just going to sit, talk, and drink some sweet tea.  It is a call to action and a reminder to move with intention so that the heat doesn't overwhelm you, no wasted energy.

So that is All Is Forgiven the new album by Lilli Lewis.  She is a profound music writer.  She can take a simple message, practice radical decency, and make it pretty or loud so that it is accessible to everyone.  Listen to it.  Tell me I'm full of it.  I am not a profound writer.  I am not a profound music critic.  This music I like.  I think you might like it too.