Thursday, February 17, 2011

Is This the End?

Last week I rolled over a partner’s bony foot. A little while later my right lower rib started aching. It feels like the same injury I got when I first started. Perhaps it’s a reinjury? Anyway, that was a week ago. Ibuprofen knocked the ached down. I’ve been nursing that side in class, making sure not to roll too hard on it.
            Last night I worked with some crushers. (You know, I’d like to see how they would feel rolling with someone twice their weight–over 400 lbs!) I reminded them of my injury and for the most part it was cool. My side did not ache further, and since I’m going on vacation and not doing BJJ for eleven days, I figured it would finally get a good rest. Until . .  . I saw blood in my urine tonight. Now I am worried that I injured my kidney somehow. With any luck it will be a UTI. But if it’s not, will I have to cancel my cruise to the Bahamas?
            The bottom line is that I can’t keep training if my rib cage can’t withstand it. I hope I’m overreacting and this is nothing. I tend to do that when my ability to exercise is threatened. I’m putting this out there (hoping) for some reassurance. While right now I am a little pissed off, I suppose I have answered my question about whether or not I like jiu jitsu. If I didn’t I’d be looking for an excuse to stop.
            Seeing the doctor tomorrow. Boy will she be surprised when she finds out I’m diong jiu jitsu. She wasn’t very happy with my long distance running! If y’all don’t hear from me soon, that’s good news. It means I’m sailing the sunny Caribbean.
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Update 2/19:
No simple answer to share with you but I have been given the "ok" to cruise! Have a great week, everyone!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Dirty Little Secret

My cousin is a blue belt. Before I started jiu jitsu, I asked him what he liked about it. He said that it was the only sport he had tried since soccer that made him feel so alive and invigorated afterward. Recently I have been feeling the same way after my mat sessions. I feel in touch with my body, alert, and powerful. Then why do I feel like my jiu jitsu practice is such a dirty little secret?

I went to class today nursing what I think is a bruised rib from rolling over a classmate’s foot on Wednesday. It’s nothing some ibuprofen can’t handle, but it reaggravates easily. One of the reasons I started jiu jitsu was to distract myself from the blight of winter. I also promised that I would take a warm weather respite to help jump start my mood. Next week Oldest Son and I are going on a cruise to Florida and the Bahamas. (Youngest Son, four, told me that while we are gone, his father is taking him to Wendy’s for lunch. Gloating, he said, “Too bad; you have to go to the Bahamas!”) I won’t have any jiu jitsu for over a week, but it will give my rib time to heal.

My feet were still ragged from their half marathon this fall; toenails cracked . . . well, I’ll spare you all the gruesome details. After class I took a quick lunch and headed to the salon for my first French pedicure of the year (and then some frilly underwear shopping, but I digress . . . ). Rest assured, a pedicure was definitely long overdue. I wouldn’t cut the ship’s “resort casual” dress code otherwise.
            As I sat in the massage chair, I could see the pedicurist wondering disapprovingly at the bruises on my legs. The salon was fairly quiet until a klatsch of middle-aged women swarmed in about the time I sat down at the “foot dryer.” I was indulging in old People magazines and taking deep breaths to assess my self-diagnosed rib bruise. The klatsch surrounded me and I was engulfed by their urgent, idle chatter about such themes as status, wealth, and material goods. I took another deep breath.
These women are my peers. We live in the same town, we go to the same salon, we have children in the same schools, we flip through the same magazines. However, I was keenly aware that they most likely did not have jiu jitsu bruises on their bodies. Would they be mortified if they did? I could imagine the pin-drop silence if I brought up martial arts (unless it had to do with their children). Eleven years ago, when we were looking for a house, Husband eschewed the suburbs. “It’s where people go to die,” he said dramatically. “Maybe,” I said, “but we don’t have to be those people.”

Some of you have been wondering about my March deadline. Give me until June. I’m having too much fun right now with my dirty little secret. Perhaps I’m having fun because it is a dirty little secret. Monday night I will walk on the mat sporting freshly groomed toes and some new undergarments. And by the way, I’m not scared anymore. I feel alive.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Amazing Mile


This week is Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Week. Congenital Heart Defects (CHDs) are the number one birth defect. About one in ten children are born with some form of CHD. Eight and a half years ago, my oldest son was born with one.
            We found out while he was in utero that my son has tricuspid atresia. His tricuspid valve had failed to develop, and as a result only half of his heart would function properly when he was born. Options were presented to Husband and me. We could terminate. I could give birth and we could comfort him while he gradually suffocated to death because his heart was not oxygenating his body. Or we could put our little newborn through a series of heart surgeries that would redirect blood flow so that half of his heart could pump blood to all of his body.
We chose the surgeries. Our baby had heart surgery at one week old. He had open heart surgery at 5 months old and another open heart surgery at three years.

This past fall, our family was sitting around the dinner table.
“How was gym today?” I asked Oldest Son.
“Oh. You don’t want to know,” he replied.
“What happened?”
“Blood,” he said, tapping his nose.
“Blood?”
“Yes. I got a nosebleed.”
“How?” I asked, starting to worry a little bit.
“Well, I had just run the mile . . .”
“Wait,” Husband and I both interrupted at the same time. “You ran the mile today at school?”
“Yes.”
After further questioning, Oldest Son told us he ran the mile in 10:27 and that he was not last. There were several kids after him. My boy with his special heart ran a 10:27 mile. He didn’t even realize how amazing that was.
This happened about two months before I started jiu jitsu. It helped me make the decision to train. No matter what my limitations are in life, I can always challenge myself. It doesn’t matter whether I’m good or bad at it; it matters that I challenge myself. My son is so proud that his Mom “fights” jiu jitsu. I hear him brag to his little 3rd-grade friends. He is one reason I train.
When I doubt whether I can do something, I think of the miracles that have saved my son. When I need the courage to fight, I think of the strength it took to hand over my baby to surgeons that would cut him open and perhaps take him from me forever. When I need inspiration, I look at my boy who is a voracious reader, a gifted math student, and a pretty darn good chess player, and who can play the piano by ear and run the mile in 10:27.

If you know anyone who needs support around CHDs, two great organizations that helped me immensely are Little Hearts and Congenital Heart Information Network.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

First Blood: Part I


The other night we drilled passing each other’s open guard. I practiced with a couple partners, then switched to a third. As I moved in to “attack,” my partner said, “Hey what’s that?” I thought he was trying to distract me—something most easily accomplished.
“Ha! I’m not falling for that!” I replied.
“No, really. You’ve got blood on your gi.”
Blood on my gi? I looked at my left pant leg and sure enough, there it was: a small crimson splatter on the stark white of the canvas.
“Do I have a cut?” I investigated my lower leg, but nothing.
“I don’t think it’s you,” my partner concluded. “Come on, let’s go.”
“Well . . . you should see the other guy,” I said as we engaged for our guard game.

Whence came this blood? Did I scratch a partner in my effort to pass his guard? Memories of my childhood rushed back. My siblings used to call me “The Scrowler.” As the youngest and smallest child, I would shred my brothers and sister with my fingernails when we engaged in the mortal combat of siblingdom. It was almost automatic. Claws came out of their own accord and raked over flesh. “It’s my only defense!” I would cry. I was small, but I was not a quitter, nor afraid. (I was pretty sure Mom had my back.)
The possibility of scratching a partner made me fear: Is my inner Scrowler coming back? Some Scrowler characteristics are good: not being intimidated by obviously stronger and more skilled “fighters,” determination to succeed. They are probably why I started training jiu jitsu. But the part where I unconsciously scratch competitors? I really don’t need that. To be fair to myself, no one said anything about a scratch. Clearly the blood was someone’s but it is unclear whose. Perhaps it was a self-inflicted wound.

After class in the mud room, I commented to one of the guys, “Your wife should come to class.”
“Yeah, I want her to, but she thinks it’s too rough.”
I pointed to my pants blood and shook my head. “Your wife doesn’t want to sign on for this?”
“Shark Girl, there are rules against being too aggressive on the mat,” another guy joked.

That scene from Rambo has been playing in my head. 
 

  
Did I draw first blood? Some of the guys I wrestle with kind of look like Sylvester Stallone. There may be a Rambo-sized retaliation waiting for me!