Get Real!

I write this blog today in response to the words of a friend that I spoke with yesterday. The man basically was trying to make a statement to me that one expects a higher standard of behavior of those who ultimately are claiming to be people that attend church regularly.

The reason the man said this to me was to call out my actions. I blew a fuse recently over an injustice my anger is ultimately warranted as I have been told. There are things that are not right that make people mad. However, sometimes there are times when things are way too much for anyone.

My reason for writing this is because going to church is not about being some holy rolling pious person for me.

In this lies the problem with the way religion has been presented to the world. Many people assume that all church going folk are there singing in the choir being all saintly. That is in no way me. The reason I subscribe to making this effort is simply because there are often things I hear during sermons that help me survive and make sense of things.

A lot of people have the wrong impression of the Bible and what it says because it has been used to solidify hate in our culture.

This is not done by people with credibility as ministers. The people that do this are like bad teachers that don’t teach their class anything.

A few years ago I began going to seminary. At that time I was in a state of being ready for a life change.

During that time I looked at everything and based on the situation I ended up taking a leave of absence. I decided that I was yet to be done with my prior life endeavor.

Also maybe there was still more I needed to learn how to deal with in my life.

Being compassionate toward children I can do, I can have compassion for the poor because I have been poor, I can be understanding to the disabled I’ve been disabled.

My weakness lies in having compassion for those in leadership positions that don’t appear to be properly accountable.

I know there are these people in the church chain of command structure.

I don’t have the capacity to deal with something that is truly unjust that should be accounted for and fixed properly but always gets swept under the rug and covered up.

I have tried to learn to be a tuned out person to issues of injustice. I have tried to learn to develop objectivity.

As a person that was attending a United Methodist Church seminary which does have an element to its religious doctrine that involves going to a general conference where issues affecting the church were debated I knew I would have to attend one of these conferences if I ever became church leadership.

I recalled hearing my mother return home from deacons meetings from the church she worked at with stories of frustrations dealing with explaining to a bunch of old men the details associated with running a church weekday education program. These men were ignorant about the needs of children and had no idea how much it cost to maintain that program. She would sacrifice much of her salary to help the program just to not deal with trying to get something passed in the budget that the kindergarten needed.

I would have just after awhile cussed them all out and said “listen you damn tightwad mfs come off this damn money so these kids learn to read and ain’t peeing every where when they go to public school” Not mom she was a Saint! 30 years she made it in that situation and the last 12 she had cancer!

How do I follow that??

I have had a lot to think about this year as I have made efforts to fix an issue that does need fixing.

During this time especially after I had the conversation with my friend is that if I ever finish seminary there is no way I could ever be a pious leader in a church.

I could not work for a place where prefect people attended. Simply because I am not perfect. The things is no one else is either and this is the myth that people struggle with when they see church.

It is stated that God uses people where they are at. I am supposed to be delivering a message of hope to a dark world. I have tried my best to act in a hopeful fashion in the face of many things recently.

Being dignified is not easy all the time. How does one be a dignified lady once they have worked in a concrete factory or jumped out of airplanes in the Army??

I keep racing my boat and I wonder if this experience is something that is meant to condition me for my next phase in life.

I will take it this way. I also contemplate the concept that I am supposed to carry a light to others even in the strangest of places. I know I still need work on this. Saints are few and far between.

I felt bad that my friend got the wrong impression that I was some sort of saint that had fallen off some sort of spiritual wagon. I guess maybe I should be flattered that someone would expect a higher standard of me this is really a great form of respect.

All I can really claim to be is a reformed sinner like everyone else. This is no reflection on God or any church in fact these things exist to keep people like me sane and productive in the world.

This is my faith and this is really all I have in the end. Especially when all the things in the world that are supposed to work out don’t.

Advertisements

The table of the meek!

Upon the occasion when all feels lost sometimes a friend will send a message of good news.

In the midst of one of the most upsetting times I got that this week. I was directed to a passage of Biblical scripture from the book of John. In this verse Jesus is being greatly challenged by those in high positions of leadership.

The Pharisees were this religious group that Jesus was ultimately affiliated with. What Jesus was trying to do during his time on earth was basically reform a corrupt human race.

People in those days were flat out violent they stoned people publicly for committing adultery and other sins publicly. The people doing the stoning were always the ones who secretly participated in the behavior. However their pious nature and positions of importance had often lead to the finding of a scapegoat to blame etc for the thing that was wrong. Christ made no bones about pointing these things out.

One thing that I have learned during my life is that the picture painted of Christ is often one of some sort of sissy! Christ is shown in all the photographs as this guy sitting with a lamb and a bunch of children by his feet.

This I feel gives the wrong impression. I see Christ as a person that was willing to stand up for what is right. Not what is right in the eyes of the world but what is righteous and just.

Christ was like the guy who was willing to kneel for the National Anthem of a nation that refuses to treat his people with dignity and respect.

Sometimes it is difficult to put actions taken in a prior era and translate what they mean in today’s world.

Some people will read this and possibly disagree with my reference to a kneeling football player but in some cases quiet stances are pleas for justice that go beyond what words are able to say or even loud actions.

As a retired military service member I did not fully agree with the ball player but were his actions Christ like. Yes by all means! The man chose to kneel instead of taking a violent action. He made the statement he wished to make through his action in a peaceful demonstration. I disagree with kneeling for the National Anthem but I see this is a behavior that can be identified as a Christian form of protest.

I struggle with the display of the worlds view Christ like behavior in this day in time.

I curse from time to time and I have become angry about things that are truly unjust.

I went to seminary in an attempt to become a minister.

During that time I had something placed in my path that I saw as needing a just resolve.

Demanding justice in an imperfect situation in an imperfect world is not easy. For as long as I could manage in the situation I made every effort to negotiate and try to amend things in an equitable fashion.

I desired right to be done simply because I knew if I managed to get right accomplished then doors for others would be opened.

I saw misuse and misunderstanding of how to do things correctly be done in a fashion that limited other vets including myself.

I stood up and did what I felt was right though my actions.

There are principles people must fight for to make sure that ethics will be displayed.

There are times when no matter what lengths one goes to their message does not always get heard.

I’ve spent many days praying will my actual statement be heard. I was not an NFL football player with a lot of athletic talent playing in a sport that the entire nation identified with.

If I had the luxury of this sort of talent perhaps my statement would be one that people would say yes I see this or no I do not and support it.

In this moment I read the Bible verse that my friend from Africa texted me this morning.

Then I realized this was not the position of Christ either. Christ was not a recognized football player. He was not a superstar and no most people were skeptical of his claim to be the son of God.

Christ called out corruption in the church and was crucified by his own people.

That is really it. When I read the Bible with this reality in mind then I know that being a Christian ain’t always about the show.

It ain’t always about being the guy that every one hears and is willing to identify the cause or not!

Sometimes one is in a position to be the person that is the smallest person who may not have the desired outcome of their work to make the world better.

My comfort today is that 2500 years after the New Testament was written the story of Jesus is translated into every language in the world!

The guy no one believed at the time of his life everyone now knows about.

Entire academic programs exist to study his life and multiple church doctrines have been derived from his teachings.

This is the same guy who had to stand in a temple and turn over all the tables and call out a corrupt entity while he was alive.

Have a blessed day all

The mountain!

Today, I got up and headed to the top of this mountain. The small village across the river from me was a 4km hike to access the trailhead.

It made sense for me to do this because I had to think about some things. How does one tackle an injustice that is happening around them that directly effects them?

This is not easy. Yesterday, for the 10 time I spoke to the VA adaptive sport coordinator at the national level Micheal Welch. The subject matter of our discussion was simple. I am eligible for an allowance granted by the VA I had to fight to be eligible. I worked to open a door for myself and others. When the final legislation got drafted however an athlete competing in Olympic discipline sport can not get it until they are on the Olympic team. The para guys could get it for being emerging, development and national team members.

Not everyone is injured in a way that makes them eligible for Para sport classification in some sports. My sport was like this. I had done my best to be competitive on my own with the resources I had and I was in debt.

The thing that served to be an injustice was that VA resources equipment etc had been given at the sport organization’s discretion to those that never served at all.

If there were no vets using it then others were permitted to.

Wait? First of all where are all the vets? Second why is a vet standing there asking having to jump through hoops to be continually denied access because as I was told yesterday it was “the law” that I must be on the Olympic team to get the funds. Why can an allowance be made to give equipment to those that did not serve at all but when a vet is there doing what is right asking for help there is none?

This funding was supposed to be for the vets to have a method of recovery and rehabilitation! I don’t call being in debt to the extent of 10000 very therapeutic.

I wanted to scream.

Last year a fellow vet contacted me he had stated that he had gone to the OKC boathouse foundation to try and get a Para canoe. He was told that the one boat available to vets was given to a kid that never served at all and to pretty much get lost.

This was not right. TJ Pendleton had been a United States Marine. He went to an Endevor Games event in Oklahoma and was ID as being talented. OKC boathouse foundation is the place that got VA grant funds for programs in the region.

He went there to be told to get lost. I had experienced the same thing there when I just asked for a boat to demonstrate that I could meet the time standard to get the VA funding allowance.

When I met TJ we were both outside the Voc rehab office in OKC. 2016 Olympic trials was the next week. TJ wanted to prove he could compete. He had borrowed a fishing kayak from a friend and was going to try and race in Slalom Olympic trials.

He said I don’t like being denied access to VA resources and being told there is nothing for me so I will show them how good I can be.

TJ had never paddled in whitewater. I knew that although he was a good athlete and already been to the para games in 2008 and 2012 for archery he still might not be able to learn to paddle slalom in one week well enough to make the point.

Also a fishing kayak was an improper craft. The situation was pretty much ridiculous. TJ and I spoke about what possibilities we had to fix this issue.

We both agreed that the sport organization was ultimately hindering vets from participation when they gave the equipment to others and denied its use to those that had served.

TJ and I called Nico from CAF operation rebound. Nico is a fellow vet. He verified that the OKC boathouse foundation was misusing misallocating our VA resources.

I pushed the complaint up to Steve Russell’s office and I even spoke to Cody Hoffman. These are the representatives at the house level.

One year later the OKC boathouse foundation still has no vets competing and No vets went to Rio in 2016 for the para games.

Flat water sprint got all the VA programing money for vets and yet no one was being pushed up.

All while I had to pay for everything on my own back!!!

This year I hired coaches with the merger amount I get from the VA to try and better my performance level. The Americans with disabilities act is supposed to cover us when we need help. I should not be told that there first is no accomadation for my disability group then when I make an effort to try and compete in the able bodied class I can get no coaching.

The para sport got it all and it was crap.

I had been competing at the international level for the last several years. I slept in a boat bag this season at a world championships event and for half the time I could not afford to eat.

I was blessed that the people of other nations took care of me.

The day that took the cake was the day I stole bread from the workers tent at worlds. I would hide it in my shirt and walk to the area where I was sleeping under the observation platform. It was a week prior to the race.

I called senator Bennet who had been the office where I had put forth the legislation change to get the VA sport stipend fund opened up to vets in Olympic discipline sports. Courtney Bennett’s DC aide picked up. I had been directed to call her by Micheal Welch. She explained that the legislation remains that one had to be on the Olympic team. I said well the para guys don’t have to be formally on the Para team to get the allowance. She explained that the USOC had directed the process when the new bill was being drafted. Wtf the USOC knows how development works. People just don’t get on the Olympic team one has to have support in the other phases.

At that point I said look lady I am sleeping in a boat bag and steeling bread as a vet competing at worlds. Do you know how bad that makes our nation look? It the law there was nothing they could do but attach the present bill to a vehicle bill.

The vehicle bill was to lift the ban on transgender service members. I asked what if the republican majority votes no to this is my legislation scratched. Yes it would be. Great! What had I done wrong here? This was BS that this was my only way to get this funding because my government leadership had screwed up and not done their homework.

I had advocated for several years for that change and the senator questioned me extensively but they did not bother to question the USOC. Why could the USOC have so much power over a benefit for vets anyway.

The day progressed and I went for a walk. On the way back Jess Fox was driving past with her mother and sister. She asked if I needed a ride back to the course. I said sure.

Jess is one of the top athletes and I was grateful for the ride. Her mother asked where I was staying. When I first got to Pau I had been sleeping in the drying room at the venue. Jess found me one morning when she came to get her gear. There was no way to lie my way out of that one. I told Mrs Fox the truth I had moved from the drying room to the area underneath the observation platform.

I felt like a huge piece of shit. Mrs Fox was kind and offered to loan me money. I refused this because I knew I may not be able to pay her back. I’ll manage I said. I knew my entire monthly amount had to go to pay for my boat.

I had used my funds this year having to fly back and forth for VA evaluations for my disability Benefits. This was what I had saved up for the season. The VA called me back four times this summer for evaluations that could not be rescheduled.

I was not missing worlds I had worked hard this year for this event.

It rained a lot in the weeks of training prior to the event.

I got a small donation from a friend of 45 bucks and I was able to buy some food. This was not right. Mrs Fox had said this was no way to go into worlds I was a single woman and camping alone kind of was a bit dangerous.

What option did I have at that point. Finally I moved to the team tent area and started camping in there. The event staff found me and was kind and found me a proper place to stay.

I was able to cook and there was food in the house.

Finally Nico of CAF sent me a small reimbursement for some of my expenses.

I was so grateful.

I trained everyday to prepare for worlds. After I slept and did not leave the place I was staying much. I did not want to deal with anyone.

I felt like my country in every way possible had betrayed me. The coaches at assisted me this season. I was grateful.

I had a mountain of debt and the bank was calling. I just prayed please just let me pay off the boat I got so I can keep this relationship positive.

I made it through the event. Not with the result I would have liked but under the circumstance it was a blessing of survival.

My runs were decent not spectacular. After the event I had paid my debt and I was able to ride with a friend to Sort.

I had 10 euros that I bought food with when I arrived.

I made my calls again to the VA yesterday as I stated. Micheal Welch again confirmed that the VA must adhere to the law. Wow! So the law as written was more important than the health and well being of a vet? Wow was this real? I again told him about the issue at the national training facility and now other places. We spoke for a long time. It turned out that yes if there are no vets around then resources can be given away.

I am a vet I am here wtf???

Pray

It’s been a while since I completely blew my fuse. We all have these times when life gets so overwhelming in the circumstance we are in that the only thing that is reasonable to do after it is all said and done is to just speak ones mind.

It was that day for me today.

I have had more than one occasion this year when I have had enough. In these times in the aftermath of such an event where one releases their full fury all that can be done is just say God what do I do here?

It’s the I can’t take any more shit moment! My situation feels impossible to manage and I have held it together for as long as it is reasonable to do so.

It’s the boiling point! 150 degrees! In that moment even the most reasonable person gets pushed to the limit. All one can do is just verbally rip to shreds the known target. The person or thing that stands in the way. The injustice. The BS.

I’ve read about a lot of this recently. Everyone gets there at some point in time.

It’s the 50th time a person asks for help and is denied any assistance from the place that one knows is there to help them.

It’s the insurance company that did not pay for the treatment one needs to keep them alive. It’s the bill the struggling family can’t pay.

It’s the event one trained for that did not win! It is the promotion a person does not get. It is whatever! The snapping point!

How many more times can one call the same people that will do nothing about an issue of importance but say I am sorry?

All I can do on this day is be grateful

for the miles of separation between me and the ultimate source of my outrage.

All I can do is pray. I pray for peace and that is it. I pray for rest and that is it.

Some situations in life a person does not ending up experiencing true justice. One may never get to see right happen. One just has to say I tried and give it to God. That is it.

Some things are not meant to have a resolve that is just.

Hero moves!

Yes this is my boob! So why am I choosing to write about this today? It’s simple I have a friend that is having breast cancer surgery!

This is actually quite terrifying. I know because a few years ago I had a lump that I found in one of my girls. I never told a sole except my family and a few friends. I wanted to show the small scar that was left to remind me of the experience.

I recall being scared to death when I found this. I was 28! At the time my mother had been diagnosed with lung cancer for quite some time. I had watched both her and my grandmother battle this disease.

I have to state that these were two of the most dignified women that have ever been placed on this earth.

Mom was tough as nails though and one would never know from the outside how much she struggled with this. Me and dad knew though.

I would watch her come home from the church kindergarten that she ran and have to lay down. This was a shock because my mother was a woman that had boundless energy prior to getting cancer.

I would go with her to many of these appointments for treatment and leaving them was both a relief and terrifying all in the same breath.

At 28 I absolutely did not want to deal with this myself. Watching mother and grandmother was enough.

There is always sunshine however in every situation. My mother actually knew how to deal with this because she had already experienced it herself.

For some time she had been encouraging me to have gratitude. I had grown up in an era where personal accomplishment sometimes drove the train a little too much. One either is successful or not. Success was defined as the big house the great job the degree from the right university and of course the ideal husband and 2.5 children.

At the time I had none of those things. I had chosen a life of seeking adventure etc. Believe it or not that was not at all void of the success model. The success model for the outdoor athlete was just different. The right sponsor, the bigger drop in ones boat, the title of world champion etc.

The concept that one would have to have a condition that would possibly limit these activities was devastating to me.

My mothers words on this day were the ones that made the most sense. “It’s not about the big things we do in our lives that matter, these are just small moments in time. It is how one lives everyday that matters most. It is not the big thing that everyone sees that defines us it is the small thing we do that is only maybe seen by a few people that makes us great in the end.”

The thing that my mother did that made her great was survive for 12 years with cancer! This was the image of strength that I grew up with!

It was with this in my heart and mind that allowed me to have the gumption to do the following things:

Jump out of planes for the US Army

Finish two degrees with honors

Race for multiple seasons at the international level in a boat I did not learn to paddle until after I was 38 years old.

Negotiate changes in veterans adaptive sport legislation

These were things I had to fight hard to accomplish. None of them were easy. None of them were ideal things and the situation that I was in during those times were difficult.

With every adversity that I came across in my life I would think back to my mother and her struggle with cancer.

She lived and died with dignity.

Today I will pray for my friend that is getting surgery for breast cancer today. I know in my heart that heroism is not about the great things we do as individuals. It is about the sacrifices made by those that feel like they are doing something small. My mother stayed alive long enough to make sure I would have the gumption to finish college.

In the process she gave me the courage to try a lot of things that were deemed impossible for women to even attempt to do in her generation.

Most all of these things were things I accomplished after I had the lump in my breast removed at 28 years of age!

The trip back

What if? This is the question that everyone always asks themselves. There is always that moment in time where we recall the past and ask: “should I have done things differently?”

I got an opportunity to go back in time a bit recently. Last Monday after all was said and done at the world championships in Pau, France I got in the car with a friend and rode across the Pyrenees on the road to Seu, Spain.

In a few hours we arrived in the small village of Sort. This was the home of a kayak event that I had been to 16 years prior.

I asked my friend to drop me at the campground near the river. I had stayed there years before. I walked in and the campground owner recognized me. We greeted each other and caught up a bit.

As we spoke I recalled the summer evenings when he would play the song by the artist Prince and sing prior to the quiet hour each evening. It was a fond memory.

I had met many people that summer. This was my third year as an international level competitor. It was an experience that one cannot get out of their system no matter how hard they try.

Squirt boating was my event at the time. I enjoyed the whole experience of paddling that small craft. It was somewhat of an art form that not everyone understood.

I had made many friends due to the unique nature of this activity. It was an event where doing my own thing served me well.

In the span of time that had passed between that time and the present much had occurred.

It was as if two separate blocks of time had been joined together when I saw old friends. Although, years had passed we could still recall the past and draw our present meeting into the spectrum of the life cycle.

I often wonder what the point of the chunk of time in the middle of these two trips to Sort actually was?

How does one explain a block of time that was a total divergence from ones prior existence?

Always, there is the moment that these questions are answered. I sat in the evenings at the campground this time talking to my neighbors that were in the site next to me.

The English Land Rover guys I called them were here on holiday to explore the mountains in Land Rover vehicles. In the evenings we would sit and visit.

One of the guys had been a fireman. He spoke with me about this experience. He had been retired for a few years. I shared with him briefly about my other life experience prior to my reemergence onto the sport scene.

It is amazing how some life tasks have similarities that can end up building a connection point between people.

It’s good to be able to process things a bit. I would sit for hours in the evenings talking to the guys. They were regular joes. One guy was a mechanic one a dentist.

Being able to speak to these guys reconnected me a bit with life outside the sport competition bubble.

Was this bubble of competition, the place I retreated to because the trappings of real life were not so appealing? I knew the answer to this.

Real life felt like a derailed train wreck! Not making it past heats at worlds was better than divorce, death of most of ones family, a career ending injury.

The bright spot had been completing a long overdue academic program and a master’s degree.

I had help build a church this was a hi point as well.

Other than this there were things that I just wanted to separate from. The America I had once known had no jobs available and people rioting in the streets. Cops beat people and civil rites had taken a huge backslide.

I had no idea what would happen when I returned home. In some ways I was terrified to go back to the USA.

A few years prior I had come back from a training trip the navel yard shooting had just occurred two weeks prior.

I was exhausted and I picked up my truck at the airport shortly after landing. I began the journey home to my dad’s house. My father wanted to see me after my trip overseas.

I stopped for the night in a hotel and the next day I woke up and called a friend to talk. I then began driving. I ran out of gas in a small town in Virginia. I called my friend for assistance. He lived a ways away. I walked to go get some gas.

I was a long way away from a gas station. I walked a long way I knew my friend may not find me and the situation was a bit weird. The truck had a tag on it that was registered to my dad.

My dad got a call from the police in the area. It turned out where I ran out of gas a person had discharged a firearm the week before. The police were looking for this person. It was not me I had been overseas. The police did not care. They asked my dad if I could be mistaken for a man? He responded well maybe my daughter works out. Then he told them I was a disabled vet. All of a sudden I was the target. I was profiled as a criminal.

My friend and I eventually met up so we could go get some gas. My dad called me on the phone and told me the police were looking for me. I had done nothing at all.

My friend was pulled over and I was taken in the back of a police vehicle to be evaluated. I had done nothing and I was being treated like a criminal. This was permissible under the patriot act.

This was not an America I wanted to go back to at all.

I was released after three days of being drugged nearly to death in a state run psyche unit for people who are being evaluated for being criminals. Seriously no. This was wrong.

My dad drove up and brought me home. The next week I went to a training camp for my sport and I could still feel the effects of being drugged by the cops.

I said nothing to anyone. I just was glad to be back in my boat. I paddled as fast as I could in the camp. That spring I made the US slalom team.

I was back in the safe zone of competition. Then the mess began to boil to the surface. There were supposed to be vets benefits available for people to compete. When I asked for them I was treated again like a criminal. I had served my country and I was being practically spit on by those who were supposed to help.

This was a huge mess I wanted to leave behind.

I spent the season camping with limited food and limited camping equipment. I had left my gear in Prague to go home for a mandatory VA appointment.

I had to go back multiple times this summer. After the final time I never wanted to go back at all.

These are the sections I needed to cut out. The campground was a safe place where my memories were good. No one in this country was treating me like the junk I got treated like in my own country.

To the guy that owns the boat company I buy my boat from a parachutist is a hero. We spoke about it at worlds. He even made a photo of me and put it on the wall with the other team members that are the top people. In America all they will do for a vet is take a person’s photo to raise money for some organization or ones mug shot prior to putting them in jail.

I hated my country for this. It was easier to smile and talk about paddling my boat. I was so scared to go home to the US. A man had just shot a bunch of people in Nevada! What would I be blamed for this time?

No I did not want to ever go home. I was out of money anyway! I could not care anymore how much the VA gave the dysfunctional sport governing organization. I would never get assistance from them.

This part of life I did not want to think about again. I had spoken to my local state leadership on the subject. They were really no help. Democracy was a dead concept all they had were pass the buck excuses defending those that did wrong with veteran funds and telling me why the USOC had the final say about vets sport benefits.

This was the part I wanted to leave behind. It was not possible to leave these parts out of my life but I could move on from them.

I figured no one was going to be looking for me here in this country anyway. I was making no noise and causing no ill will.

I had paid most all my debts from my summer of racing. All I owed was the guy here at the campground my fee which I did not have to pay till I left.

Maybe I would stay the rest of my life here and just leave him the money in my will for the camping. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Was I here in this place for a reason? This week I’ve been asking God to show me my purpose in life.

This is the thing one does after all else fails.

Being a champion racer is a lot better than being some homeless bum on the street. In America that is all that is left for me it feels.

No point in ever looking back only forward.

Perhaps one does not go home they find it.