Associate of Science degree in Network Systems Administration

Back in June of 2013, a month after we’d been married, I’d discovered my 29 year old husband had been sitting on a scholarship fund, doing nothing with it. It would expire and the money would “disappear” (I think it would be returned to the scholarship organization from whence it originated) once he turned 30. At the time my husband Chris didn’t really have a game plan. He wanted to go back to school, but he wasn’t sure what direction to take it.

Because the scholarship was less than a year from disappearing I suggested he look at a vocational school rather than going the traditional jr college to a 4 year school route. Time was something we didn’t have a lot of and I knew that he could get stuck in a 2 year school struggling to get the last required class because of a lack of availability. He decided to pursue a degree in IT and researched several different schools. I spoke with a close friend who worked HR management for an engineering firm. Since she dealt with a lot of people looking for work I wanted her opinion on which vocational schools were taken seriously in her industry. ITT Tech was the stand out of the options Chris was looking at.

He decided to sign up with them and had a two fold goal. First goal was to obtain an AA in IT then go on to a BA in Cyber Security.

My husband flourishes in an educational environment, he absorbs the information and then soars with it. When we first began dating I was far more computer savvy than him. He understood basic office programs, but he had no experience with programming or dealing with hardware or virus issues. Now, he’s so much more educated on computer systems. I’ll sit in awe listening to him break down a computer issue and figure out the best way to fix it.

He started classes almost immediately after signing up with ITT. Every day he’d come home from school and beam about the new info he was learning. He loved school and it showed.

He just finished his AA program. Tuesday he walked in his cap and gown for his Associate of Science degree in Network Systems Administration. We arrived and he was immediately ushered inside the theatre to get instructions on how the ceremony would proceed. As I stood outside, waiting to go in with the rest of the families, and looking for both of our parents, I noticed a girl with her cap and gown as well as a cord and a Salutatorian stole. I knew Chris had a 4.0 grade point and I wondered why he didn’t have at least a cord.

Chris Williams -  Valedictorian - Associate of Science degree in Network System Administration from ITT Tech

Chris Williams – Valedictorian – Associate of Science degree in Network System Administration from ITT Tech.

 

Right about then Chris sent me a text, “So, apparently valedictorian is a thing!”

To which I replied, “uh… yeah?” I thought he was commenting on seeing someone’s stole.

Chris responded with, “Yup, Cause I’m wearing the thingy that says so. Lol”

I was so excited for him I almost screamed, which would’ve been slightly awkward since no one knew me there nor what was being discussed. I did, however, audibly squeal. Luckily, no one seemed to notice.

I was thinking back to high school when you knew who valedictorian was well before the graduation ceremony. We, however, learned minutes before his graduation. His mother learned by reading the program before she found me. Either way it was a very pleasant surprise!

He only had a week between finishing with his AA program and continuing on to his BA program. In order to be present at graduation he was given an excused absence from his Risk Management class that night. I’m extremely proud of my husband. He works very hard, sometimes 6 days a week, plus he goes to school full time at night. He’s very dedicated to his school work and I’m very glad to see he was recognized for it.

Now in all of this excitement, the only decent photo I got of Chris is the one above. He was walking with his class to the front to be seated and couldn’t stop as there was a line of other students directly behind him.

I did take a couple of videos of various points during the ceremonies. One shows all the valedictorians of each class.  This is the shortest, and to me, the most important. It shows my husband walking to receive his well earned degree.

Good job, babe!

Siblings Day

siblings day

As a child this is a holiday I never thought I’d be able to celebrate. I was adopted at birth and an only child for the first 25 years of my life, but now I’m the second oldest of 5 on my birth mother’s side and the eldest of 2 on my birth father’s side. Not to mention all the “adopted” siblings I have in my life.

 

Maternal Siblings

The only time the 4 of us have been together. (L-R) My older sister Betty, younger brother Gene, birth mother KC, youngest sister Gloria, and me. 1999

The only time the 4 of us have been together.
(L-R) My older sister Betty, younger brother Gene, birth mother KC, youngest sister Gloria, and me. 1999

Unfortunately, none of us were raised together. We all have different father’s and did not get the opportunity to grow up together. Also, we all live in different states. As such, it should be no surprise there’s only been one time in all of our lives that 4 of the 5 siblings have ever all been together at one time. Luckily, we have photographic evidence to prove it actually happened. Some day we hope to find our youngest brother, Michael, who was put in foster care at 6 and adopted at age 8.

 

Paternal Siblings

With my younger sister, Rebecca (on the left)

With my younger sister, Rebecca (on the left)

In 2014 I had the incredible luck, and I believe guided help by my birth father on the other side, of finding my younger sister and my birth father’s family. I had been searching for 19 years for them and with an incredible good fortune I was able to make contact within a matter of hours after my birth father’s cousin’s wife added me on Facebook because I’d sent them a letter the week before. It’s an incredible tale, actually, and one I’ll post about on another day, but after a real roller coaster of emotions filled day I was talking with my younger sister who also never knew I existed until that day.

A week after our wedding, my husband Chris and I had plans to go to Las Vegas for a friend’s wedding. Turns out my sister lives in Las Vegas as well, so we made plans to meet while we were in town. To finally meet her brought an incredible amount of closure while also opening up so much more to my life story than I ever knew possible.

 

In-Law Sibling

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Michael kissing me after giving his best man speech at our wedding last year. 2014

My baby brother Michael, not to be confused with my birth brother Michael who is also my youngest brother. I call Michael Williams my “baby brother” because he is the youngest of all my brothers though he’s actually my husband’s older brother. I adore him greatly and am quite glad to have him in my life.

 

Adopted Siblings

Me and Bryce 1974

Me and Bryce 1974

Brother from Another Mother

Bryce is a boy who lived two doors down from me. We’re just under 4 months apart in age, and up until our junior year of high school, we were always in the same school. He’s the closest experience I have to understanding what it’s like to grow up with a sibling.
Throughout our childhood we did a great many things together and spent most of our summers in swim classes and hanging out together. One time, during summer break between 4th and 5th grade, I remember he got friends from the next neighborhood to help organize a cross neighborhood rubber band war. Bryce’s house was our fort and our friend Brian’s house was the other team’s fort. We weren’t the kind of kids who got into trouble, we were nerds.

Williams Wedding 2014

Williams Wedding 2014 – (L-R) Seth, Angel, Jeff, Donnie, Michael, Chris, Me, Heather, Teresa, Hilda, Gloria, Kate, Michelle, and Lisa.

Wedding Party

With the obvious exception of my husband (we’re not hillbillies, yo!)  every person in our bridal party were asked because we are very close with them, and to us they are our siblings, by blood or not.

 

In Memoriam

Me and Jim spending new years day at Venice Beach. 1996

Me and Jim spending new years day at Venice Beach. 1996

I met Jim during one of the hardest years of my life. We became very close friends pretty fast, I learned a great many things from him, and eventually we considered one another family. I remember one time, after he had a particularly long conversation with my dad, he told me he regretted not having met my mom (she passed the year I met him). He lived in LA for most of the time I knew him, but for a short while he lived with us in the year before he died in 1996. I will always miss him.

Beef Allergy – It’s Official!

No beef

2 years ago (almost to the day)  I wrote a post about my suspicions that I became Beef Intolerant. Last week my allergist confirmed that in fact I am allergic to beef. Looking back I didn’t document my hospital trips, because that’s so fun to reminisce, right? My last trip to the hospital was during my honeymoon in 2013.

My honeymoon was a real delight, and for the most part I can’t complain… except that part where I ended up in the ER after having one of the most delicious prime rib dinners the day before. We spent the first two night’s of our honeymoon at The Madonna Inn. The last night there we ate at Alex Madonna’s Gold Rush Steakhouse, a genuinely wonderful experience. We left the next morning and took the gorgeous drive up California State Highway 1 from Morro Bay all the way up to Monterey then cut across to get on the 101 to stay with friends in Richmond. The drive up was incredible and gorgeous! I was feeling fine until the last hour of our drive. I wasn’t feeling particularly well and had a small fear I might have food poisoning.

We arrived at our friends’ home where they were kind enough to feed us a delicious plate of lasagna with bolognese sauce. It was late when we arrived so socializing was minimal and everyone soon went to sleep. About 20 minutes into sleep I woke with that familiar pain I’d experienced in April. I figured I could manage my symptoms and went to use the restroom. Things escalated quickly and my symptoms of discomfort quickly turned into anaphylaxis. It was about 12:30am, so I woke Chris to inform him what changed while I tried to down a couple of Benedryl. We had no idea where the nearest hospital was so we had to wake our friends who insisted on driving us in. I spent the next 6 hours in agony. For some reason the 3 different ER Drs who examined me and knew I was experiencing an allergic reaction, but decided that Benedryl was my only hope and didn’t give me epinephrine until I requested it over 5 hours into the agony. Then it was like a light bulb went on for them. As ER Drs, why didn’t any one of the 3 that examined me think of this first? I got a shot of epinephrine and left the ER about 1-2 hours later, feeling exhausted, but no longer suffering symptoms and with a prescription to carry an epi-pen.

My poor husband! He had never experienced such a medical crisis with anyone before and was entirely beside himself on what to do. Also, because they doped me up on pain meds it was not safe for me and my IV to walk to the restroom down the hall unassisted so he got to experience that, over and over and over.  At this point we had barely been living together, just 2 weeks, I hadn’t yet farted in front of this man, and now I’m a terrible physical mess of being swollen with hives, vomiting, and having diarrhea, all while barely conscious. Not really how I had envisioned my honeymoon, ya know?

After that oh-so-fun and exciting experience I was officially off beef. It was the last time I had consumed any. From this point on I needed to be mindful, which was sometimes difficult because it was easy to forget about. My beef intolerance was inconsistent and then it was a full blown allergy. Seriously, who the heck is allergic only to beef and bison?!

Last year I began seeing an allergist. I told him about the beef allergy and his eyes lit up. At the ER the Drs had no clue what I was talking about and may have assumed I was full of it, but here, the allergist knew exactly what I was talking about and had an answer for me… Alpha Gal! He also explained that ER Drs aren’t trained to deal with the wide range of allergies so he wasn’t surprised when I told him about my visit to the ER and the confusion on the Drs faces when I explained I thought it might be an allergic reaction to beef.

Galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, or Alpha-Gal for short, is a delayed allergy to mammal meat affecting a growing number of the population. This allergy is initially caused by a tick bite. Since the reaction to eating mammal meat is delayed by several hours, the proper diagnosis is often missed or misdiagnosed. People who are afflicted with the Alpha-Gal allergy have to be constantly vigilant about the ingredients they consume, because an allergic reaction can be severe and life-threatening.

But then we ran into a small problem, to my knowledge I’ve never had a tick bite so it’s all the more unlikely I’ve ever been bitten by a lone star tick, the tick they think is to blame. Also, I can still eat pork, elk, wild boar, and other meats that many other’s can’t. My Dr thinks it’s possible I consumed beef that had been bitten by the tick and by doing so my body created antibodies that way and now I’m allergic to beef.

I get it, it sounds weird. It is weird. Heck, until 3 years ago I could eat beef with no real problems.

Cutting beef from my diet reminded me a bit of quitting smoking. I smoked for 13 years, but I quit when I was 26. The hardest cigarettes for me to quit was the one after dinner and those I’d have while hanging out with friends who also smoked. In like fashion I began to miss cheese burgers, prime rib, corned beef, pot roast, beef ribs, chili, pastrami and Ruben sandwiches… oh the list went on and on. Obviously I had to make adjustments and after 2 years it’s been pretty good. I’ve been able to replace a number of things with turkey, chicken, pork, lamb, or elk. Oh, the first time I had an elk burger it was like having a beef burger, but without all the bad side effects. It was the tastiest damn burger ever!

One of the biggest adjustments was hosting my annual chili cook off. I skipped 2013 because we lost our beloved BigBoy kitty around the time I would normally host the competition and I simply didn’t have the energy do it that year. So last year I hosted my chili cook off, it was our 10th. There was already a veggie/white chili category so at least I was able to enjoy that, but I wasn’t able to try many of the competitors, including the winner for the Best Meat Chili category, and that was just kind of a bummer. I mean, I’m handing out an award with my name on it to the winner of an item I was not able to eat. The silver lining in all of this? My allergy encouraged some extra creativity from competitors so we had more competitors with turkey and even one featuring kangaroo meat.

We live near Little Saigon and the Korean Business District in Orange County and eat at many of the local restaurants so I need to be very mindful of the food I’m eating. I was already allergic to shrimp and now with beef I need to check everything because oddly, beef or shrimp are added to a number of dishes I might not have previously worried about. I just have to ask if either item is in anything because they get slipped into the soup base or inside an egg roll or dumpling. Fortunately, there’s also a lot of vegetarian options at many of these restaurants as well.

This diagnosis also answers the mystery of my ER visit a few years previously. It was before I’d ever suspected beef as the culprit, but I’d been rushed to the ER in anaphylaxis, the same symptoms I had on my honeymoon. We knew it was an allergy, but at the time I thought something I’d eaten earlier that day might have shrimp in it because nothing else made sense. I did however, have a steak. Fortunately, that ER was awesome and immediately put me on an IV of epinephrine, which was the only reason I even thought to ask for it at the ER on my honeymoon. It took a few hours for the symptoms to subside, but they did. For years I had no idea what the allergic reaction was from.

Exhibition: ‘Tattoo’ at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Originally posted on Art Blart:

Exhibition dates: 12th February – 20th September 2015

Because it took such a long time to collate and construct this MONSTER posting will have to last you nearly a week – until next Wednesday anyway.

Although I have ten tattoos by different artists – including a full back job by Alex Binnie of London – and scarification done in 1992, you always remember your first tattoo. I was in my early twenties when I decided to get inked. And the person recommended for the job was the legendary Alan Oversby (aka Mr. Sebastian), an S/M tattooist and one of the primary figures in the development of contemporary body piercing.

I remember travelling down to the East End of London and rocking up to this non-descript office block, climbing to the third floor I think it was, and entering a tiny square room, Alan’s studio. What an experience it was to be tattooed by him. Not so much…

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15 Things All Badass, Fearless Alpha-Women Do Differently From Other Types Of Women

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Originally posted on Thought Catalog:

Shutterstock / brickrenaShutterstock / brickrena

There’s a quote by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich that states: “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” It’s a often posted on Pinterest boards and slapped onto cards with women in 1920s-fashion kicking up their heels in unison. But for me, this sentiment is more than encouragement to go on a girls trip and go wild; it’s a celebration of women who choose to be defined by their courage, bravery and decisions to go after the life they want to live instead of being confined by “appropriateness.” Call them bold, fearless, or powerful, these are women who light up a room with their magnetic energy. They intimidate the close-minded and inspire those who have long hungered for tangible proof that they, too, will serve themselves well by igniting their passions and relishing in their independence. I know a few of them very well and they have changed my…

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