Monday, August 6, 2012

Greedy for Gold

I don't know about you, but in our house, the Olympics have taken over.  Jason and I have stayed up late every night watching the broadcast coverage.  During the day, the kids are enjoying flipping through the other sport channels to watch the events that aren't popular enough for main coverage.  We have all enjoyed watching together, cheering on our favorites, and the kids have loved learning about events they never really knew about.

One of the most popular events in our house has been both men's and women's gymnastics.  Both Sophia and Sebastian are itching to be enrolled in gymnastics, so they were very interested.  Sebastian, watching the men, was fascinated and kept saying, "Will I learn to do that?"  It has been a joy for me as a parent to watch the wonder in my children's eyes at the amazing athletes gathered to compete. 

With that being said, is American sportsmanship dead? Why is gold the only medal that matters anymore? There was a time when it was an honor just to be able to compete in the Olympics and ANY medal won was an impressive accomplishment.  Yet all the commentators talk about is gold.  When Michael Phelps won one of his fifty bazillion Olympic medals it was amidst comments like "He must be so disappointed he didn't get the gold." Guess what - HE DIDN'T DESERVE THE GOLD! HE DESERVED THE SILVER! He didn't come in first, he came in second.  For that race, there was someone better than him.  That doesn't make him a bad swimmer, it doesn't make him a loser, so why do they have to imply that he sucks because he "only" got the silver? And the coverage - as soon as the US men's gymnastics team was obviously not going to medal, they stopped covering them at all.  They went back later and showed the other teams (who did medal), but essentially ignored any accomplishments the US men had.  I, for one, would have enjoyed watching them.  Maybe they weren't the best that night, but they were still good enough to make it to the Olympics which, to me, makes them pretty darn good.

Last night, I was so disappointed in the lack of sportsmanship shown by US gymnast McKayla Maroney.  She was so disappointed that she "only" got silver that she almost couldn't be bothered to even congratulate the Russian who did win.  I understand that she was hoping for the gold but hello - Girlfriend, you fell on your ass.  You're lucky you won the silver.  The Russian was so excited to win the gold (after her incredible vaults) that she was in tears.  When she turned to hug McKayla, McKayla had this horrified look on her face and obviously didn't want anything to do with her.  Then there was a stream of other competitors coming by to hug her and congratulate her on her silver win, and she was so cold that one competitor who tried to approach ended up turning and walking away.  It showed a true lack of sportsmanship and this attitude that gold is the only color that matters.

I know, she is not representative of all the athletes.  For her bad attitude, I have seen dozens of others showing joy and gratitude just for the chance to compete.  And, I must say, I appreciate that Kerri Walsh, after every match, makes sure to acknowledge all the Olympic "staff" that have been present for the match.  After she shakes hands with the judges, she runs all around the court high fiving and thanking everyone who has helped - from the ball boys to the water girls.  She is the only one I have seen do that, and I think that shows that not only is she an incredible athlete, but a kind and thoughtful person as well. Too bad we don't have more like her, not only representing the US, but representing us as PEOPLE.

"For all your learning, all your fame, all your eloquence and power, if you're not humble, you're worth nothing.  Cut out that ego that dominate you so completely - root it out.  God will help you.  And the you'll be able to begin to work for Christ in the lowest place in his army of apostles." - St. Josemaria, The Way #602

Monday, July 23, 2012

Thirteen years

I am not normally too serious or morose, but today is a sad anniversary.  Thirteen years ago, my older brother Gabe passed away very suddenly.  I often find myself wanting to talk to him, so I decided that today, I would write him a letter.  If you like, you are welcome to read it too.  Maybe you will be able to get a glimpse of him and know how much he is loved and missed.


Thirteen years ago today, my life changed.  For the first time, my heart was truly broken, never to be the same. You left us.  Without a goodbye.  A part of me is still so angry that you are gone.  You were there for all these important events in my life and then suddenly, there is an emptiness. 
When Dad called to tell me, I couldn't even figure out what he was saying.
He was very blunt - "Gabe died."
I said, "Who?"
I was sure I had heard him wrong. He had to repeat himself a few times before it sank in.  He had to say "Gabe, your brother," before it registered. 
The next few hours, days, weeks, are all just a blur.  Trying to get a hold of people who should know, comforting others, being comforted.  It was all in a daze.  Having to plan your funeral (which turned into an ugly family fight), figuring out how to explain to your little girl, joking about how many women were going to show up at the funeral and throw themselves on the coffin.  The shock, the pain, the disbelief.  I would look around at everyone - the aunts, uncles, cousins - and I kept looking for you.  There was a blinding rage in me.  I was mad at you, I was mad at God, I was mad at the EMT's for not saving you, I was mad at your girlfriend for not taking better care of you, I was just MAD!
Of course, mixed with all the anger was a healthy dose of denial.  The phone would ring on my birthday and I would expect to hear your voice apologizing for forgetting to get me a present.  I would see someone in the mall that looked like you and I would hesitate and do a double take.  I would make up outrageous stories in my head, stories where you never really died.  But, denial is short lived.
I often wonder what you would think of my life today.  Would you be shocked that I have FOUR kids? I know you would adore them.  Sebastian reminds me so much of you.  You would have so much fun playing with them, teasing them, teaching them, just like you always did for me. 
Would you be surprised that I came back to the Church? Who would have thought that the know it all college girl who didn't have a need for religion would end up married to a future Deacon? You may be surprised, but I think you would also be happy.  You were always a man of great faith and you tried so hard to get me to understand how important it was. 
It is because of your great faith that I can write this letter, write the thoughts and feelings that are inside me, and know that our Lord shares them with you.  I know that we will meet again, in our eternal life.  But be prepared - I will probably need to give you a good punch on the arm since I am still mad at you for leaving too soon. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Unexpected Adventures

It seems that someone in the Schalow family must have recently prayed for some patience or strength or something that involved us all being sorely tested.

On this last Tuesday morning, we set out for a small vacation up to the Mineral King area of Sequoia.  Jason and I had camped there about 15 years ago and we loved it.  This time around, rather than camping, we stayed in a cabin in Silver City, just a few miles from the end of Mineral King road.  Our cabin check in was for 3:00, but with Jason driving we got into the area much earlier than expected.  We decided to go into the main park and take the kids to see the General Sherman tree.  A few miles up the twisty mountain road our transmission started to slip.  It happened maybe once or twice then quickly shifted into gear.  Then, it stopped wanting to shift into gear at all.  We pulled over as soon as we found a turnout.  As soon as we stopped and turned the car off, smoke started seeping from under the hood and transmission fluid was pouring out the bottom.  Not good, to say the least.  And of course, no cell signal. 

After a few minutes, a nice couple pulled over to help and offered to find a ranger for us.  Once the ranger arrived, they had to arrange, via radio with the dispatch, a tow truck plus something to do with all of us who won't fit in the tow truck. It was finally decided that Jason and Darian would ride with the tow truck and the rest of the kids and I would catch a ride with the rangers down to the visitor center at the bottom of the mountain.  Once there, we waited, and waited, and waited.  After about an hour and a half, the tow truck was nice enough to drop Darian with us on the way out of the park.  They had to take the van all the way into Visalia.  The driver was very nice and even called the garage ahead of time to ask them to wait for him since it was getting close to closing on the day before a holiday.  Our tentative plan was for Jason to accompany the van, get it dropped off, and hopefully find a car rental (with a car big enough for all of us) to come get us.  We waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Still no cell signal, so no way for me to know what was going on with Jason.  The Visitor Center shop closed.  We were still waiting.  I sat there imaging worst case scenarios - The garage was closed and they had to find somewhere else, the car rental place was closed, they didn't have any cars to fit all of us, something was wrong with Jason's credit card and they wouldn't rent him a car.  After about 4 hours, Jason finally showed up in a very nice rental van and we were able to proceed to Mineral King.  Not an easy feat in itself, since the road to Mineral King, although only 24 miles long, is so steep and poorly maintained that it actually takes at least an hour and a half to get up there.  A nerve wracking drive, but completely worth the stress.

At this point, we only had reservations to stay until Thursday.  But, we weren't going to hear anything on the car until Thursday and they had already advised us that it would take a day or so to fix.  Fortunately, they were able to extend our reservation through to Saturday, so we got a few extra vacation days.  We had a wonderful, peaceful cabin to stay in and we all fell in love with the area.  We went hiking (even me!) and saw so many beautiful things.  On Thursday, we got the bad news that the transmission had burned out (not a surprise considering the amount of smoke we say coming from under the hood).  Our cheapest (and for us only) option was to have them rebuild the transmission.  A cost of a couple thousand dollars and four business days.  A disappointment to say the least, but we did our best not to let it ruin a great vacation. 

On Thursday afternoon we took the kids into the main park to see the Sequioas.  Since nothing is easy, there was road construction that caused hour long delays.  Four excited kids parked in the road on the side of a mountain waiting for construction delays - not fun! Once we made it up, it was beautiful.  My family often camped in Sequoia when I was younger, but I hadn't been to the main park since I was maybe 12.  It's still gorgeous! We parked and took the tram out to Moro rock.  Jason and the kids climbed to the top.  I only made it halfway when my knees decided they would go no further.  Once back down, we hopped back on the tram to the Giant Forest area and did a little over a mile hike.  By the time we were done, we were all exhausted and ready to get some dinner.  Once we got back down the mountain (with "only" 20 minute delays) we stopped at the first restaurant we saw.  Way more pricey that planned, but delicious food.  A quick stop for gas and back up the other side of the mountain to Mineral King.  Finally arrived back at the cabin around 10:30. 

Friday we decided to hike from one of the nearby campgrounds to a bridge over the Kaweah river.  It was a nice hike, not to steep, all through forest.  We kept watching for bears and deer, but all we saw were arguing squirrels.  Quite the disappointment since some other hikers we ran into had seen a bear on the trail earlier.  We made it to the bridge and decided to do a little rock hopping to get closer to the water.  All was fine, until Jason slipped on one of the rocks and fell into the water.  The water was rushing quickly and we were fairly close to the edge where there was a waterfall.  The water wasn't deep, but very cold.  Jason needed help and in my rush, I also fell, fortunately on my very padded behind so no injury to me.  But, my feet and ankles got in the water and then the girls and Sebastian all started freaking out and screaming hysterically.  Darian and I were trying to get Jason out of the water, the little ones are in hysterics and I'm yelling at them to calm down.  I can't imagine why we didn't see more wildlife.  I can look back and laugh now.  I don't think Jason is laughing yet though.  His shoes may still be wet.

Thank goodness for rental cars with unlimited mileage.  We had a nice drive home in our very nice rental van.  Tomorrow, we will go pick up the dogs from the Schalow grandparents and sometime Thursday or Friday Jason will drive the rental back up to Visalia and hopefully pick up our newly fixed van.  So goes the Schalow adventures for the summer of 2012.  Pictures to follow when I have time to post them all.

Friday, January 27, 2012


I am a blessed person. I have a wonderful husband and beautiful children. I have a home, cars, and my husband has a job that allows me to stay home and care for everyone. Not a day goes by that I am not thankful for all the blessings God has given me. Would I say that God blessed me with chronic pain? No, I don't think I would go that far.

You see, I believe in a God who loves me. Similar to how I love my children. Would I want my children to have chronic pain? Heck NO! I would not wish chronic pain on my worst enemy and I certainly don't believe that God would wish it for any of his children. God does, however, allow my suffering. In the end, my suffering will benefit me, my family, my friends, and who knows who else. Much in the way that we sometimes need to let our children suffer for them to learn and grow, so God allows my suffering in order for me to learn and grow into the person he needs me to be.

I have certainly experienced many blessings as a result of my illnesses. I have made some incredible friends who suffer the same diseases I do. We commiserate and understand each other. I have a new appreciation for simple things. I don't take any kind of physical activity for granted. It is a red letter day when I can do housework without extreme pain. My illness has brought my family closer together. They are far more appreciative of me when I am able to do things, and my children are learning a compassion and caring that I don't think any other situation would have taught them. My children are all growing up to be great helpers and to understand how to be "gentle" when mommy doesn't feel good. Their understanding of caring for the sick certainly helped this last summer when we were all helping my friend Suzanne. I don't think they would have been half as understanding of all we needed to do if they hadn't already experienced so much of that at home. The more I type, the more I realize that I cannot possibly list all the blessing that have come from my chronic pain.

Even after all the blessings, I still pray every day for this to be taken from me. I never find myself saying, "Thanks God, for that excruciating pain in my hip today!" Instead, my comments run toward, "O.K. God, that was a really painful day. Can we not do that again tomorrow?" So far, the answer has been no. But, you never know if you don't ask. I will continue to ask. And if the answer continues to be no, I will carry on as best I can and be thankful for all the true blessing in my life.

"Jesus suffers to carry out the will of the Father. And you, who also want to carry out the most holy will of God, following the steps of the Master, can you complain if you meet suffering on your way?"
- St. Josemaria, The Way #213

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Pain Free 2012!

Pain free? I can dream, right?

The past few months I have been dealing with my newest medical diagnosis - sacroilitis. After my doc did an MRI on my left hip (where I was having considerable pain) it was discovered that I have "extensive, permanent" damage to my sacroiliac joint. In layman's terms - I have an extreme pain in the ass. My rheumatologist referred me to pain management for treatment. They gave me an SI injection, a steroid injection straight into the SI joint. It was quite uncomfortable and in the end, didn't help enough to make me want to go through the procedure again.

So, here I am, back to being in pain. A pain that can't be fixed with any kind of treatment. It's one thing to have pain from an RA flare. With that, I know that eventually there will be a treatment that will relieve it, whether it is increasing my steroids or juggling my various medications. With this though, this is permanent. Talk about discouraging! Every day is ruled by my ability to deal with the pain. How much can I stand today? Sit? Bend? Drive? All of those things cause pain. Sometimes, laying down helps. Other times, it is when I lay down that the muscles decide to spasm and cramp. Sometimes heat or cold helps, other times it does nothing. The only thing that helps take the edge off? Pain meds.

Thank God for my medications. There are times when I get very stubborn and decide (much to my husband's chagrin) that I am not going to take my pain meds. Just to prove to myself that I can get through a day, or a night, without them. I always get through, just not pleasantly. The truth is, I need my pain medications. They don't completely relieve my pain, it is an ever present part of me. But, they take the edge off just enough for me to function. There are times when I want to weep with gratitude when the medication finally kicks in and I feel this overall peace and relief.

Does that make me an addict? I really don't care.

I am doing what I need to do to get through the next few minutes, the next hour, the entire day. I am doing what I need to do so that I can be the mother and wife that God has called me to be. I try so hard to keep a smile on my face, to walk without a limp, to hug my children without crying out in pain. I am not always successful at all of that, but with managing my pain in the only way I can, at least I know I am successful part of the time.