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Where to begin… again… ???

It has been so long since I have been blogging.  Since being hospitalized and then diagnosed with MS my world has been a little different.  My main reason for silence here is that I have not had the mental or physical strength to handle my day-to-day life and to share my thoughts with anyone.

Being diagnosed with something that the doctors and scientists don’t fully understand the cause of and have no cure for is a bit odd.  Not only that but this is a disease that is different for everyone.  How exactly this disease will affect me in the future is not known.  I could live a very long and mostly healthy life.  I could have symptoms from this disease that affect me and the life I lead in a very negative way.  There is just no way to really predict the future.

I have often thought of the song by Tim McGraw “Live like you were dying” over these past many months.  There are places I would love to visit and since I don’t know what my future will look like I visited Chichen Itza in November.  My travels have taken me to Cancun and the surrounding areas several times but I have never visited any of the Mayan ruins.  So I went.  And I was blessed to have my dear friend and her husband join me for the trip.

Before that I went to Breckenridge Colorado in October and was blessed to take my parents with me.  It was pure joy to watch my parents as the amazing views of the Rockies showed themselves to us as we drove along.  It is truly an awe inspiring and jaw dropping place.

I will continue to move on with my life and do what I can while I can not knowing what will come in the future.  In other words I will live for today.

I feel like I have been a horrible friend to my dear friends over the last couple of years, and it only got worse (I think) this past year.  I have been all about me.  It is not that I have not wanted to be there for my friends, or to socialize, or to talk about someone elses life other than my own.  It is that I have not been able to.  All of my energy has gone into holding my own life together.  I deeply apologize to all of my friends and am very thankful for everyone that has been there for me.

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Heck of a business trip

I flew out to Indianapolis on Sunday with the intention of teaching a CISSP class.  I never even managed to unzip my suitcase.  That sure did not go the way that I had planned.   I ended up spending my time in Indianapolis in the hospital.  So as my first trip there I really have no idea what the town is like.  I got myself to the hospital and a cab took me from there back to the airport.  Sheesh

It all started when I finally stopped and took a look at my eye in teh hotel mirror.  When I saw that my left pupil was FULLY dilated under a bright light I knew that something was wrong.  The hotel staff at the La Quinta was wonderful.  They helped me find a clinic and the next day the general manager Neal brought me my bags to the hotel.

I did start at a walk in clinic and after the doctor saw me (2 hours later) and took 2 steps back from me with a horrified look on his face I went to the ER.  The ER nurses had a similar look on their face and I began to really get worried.

About 7 hours later the ER P.A. finally tells me that my MRI is showing several things that are all indicative of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and that they are admitting me.

Not how I saw my week going.

Not any kind of diagnosis I would have ever expected to hear.  I have basically been healthy my whole life with only back pain here and there.

And out of town.  And on a trip alone. To a town where I knew no one.  Not what I had planned.

What I am amazed by is that I never felt alone.  I had two brief visitors in the hospital.  The GM from the La Quinta and someone from Alamo collecting my rental car keys.  But I never felt alone.  To tell you the truth it is Facebook and Twitter that made the biggest difference.  Of course my cell phone and emails helped, but the love and support I would never have predicted came from friends that I have met across my entire life.  From before I was in school to some of my students from recent classes that I have taught.  Friends spread around the world from Singapore to Germany to Belgium to England and all over the US and on.

I am also so grateful to work with some amazing individuals.  My business partners back me up every time something in my life happens.  I would do the same for them, any time.

The nurses and the doctors were great.  Every one seemed to know that I was in from out of town on a business trip and they did their best to get me back home as safely and expediently as they could.   To do that though they sure did a lot of poking and prodding to do their best to establish what is going on with me.  So many tests, blood tests, MRI, Lumbar puncture, extensive eye exam, oh my.  Everything seems to point in the same direction.  MS.

We are still waiting on the results of the LP.  That will give a more final diagnosis.  If this is MS it does explain so many little things over the last 1+ year. A little shaky here, a little slurred speach there, a little trouble controlling my bicycle in a straight line, all little things, but strange things that I have noted and wondered and worried a little about.

Stress

How did I end up with so much stress in my life?  How do I reduce it?  It is affecting my health.  I lost a lot of weight under severe stress when my ex walked out.  I gained back a fair amount of it going into the holidays last year under a bunch of stress.  I now have several lesions in my brain that is affecting my ability to see and think straight.

Over 2 years of dealing with ‘our’ bills all by myself.  I have lost so much and I am only starting to rebuild my life.

I have come to the conclusion that I will move back to the DC area as soon as my house sells, but how long will that take?  It has been on the market since January of last year.  I have 4 written offers and the bank is ‘thinking’ about them.  If they take much longer I am afraid that another contract will fall apart, and then they will go back to thinking about the next best offer… and so on.

I also still have so many bills to pay off.

There is also the issue of my Ex not taking any responsibility and not giving me any money, and I mean none, to help pay off ‘our’ bills.

To stop stressing about all of this would help me.   To le go of the worry would help me.   It is so very hard for me to do that though.  Exercise helps so much, but I am not supposed to ‘overheat’ myself.  I am not even sure yet what all that means for me.

Oh my…

P90X Day 33

Getting back to the good hard workouts by moving into Phase II has helped my hope.  I love the good sore muscles I am left with after working out with Tony Horton.  Phase II is full of all kinds of new and different workouts and I love it.

I honestly have not stepped back on the scale since my last post, but I have realized that there are a couple of really good changes happening that I did not really see on Day 30.  Us women have a couple of common problems, one is cellulite.  That obnoxious cottage cheese looking fat deposits and my legs had been showing a lot and it was very frustrating.  I can say… that is gone.  I have also lost an inch or so on my chest measurement which also is great news.  What is not moving much yet is the worst of the normal female weight which around hips and butt.  That will go!

I also had a happy moment when I visited my doctor and I was weighed.  Not normally a happy moment but the woman who weighed me looked at me and said you don’t look that weight!  You look like you are solid muscle 😉

So changes are happening for the better.  I will keep pushing play and today I will do it twice.  I am doubling for Phase II which means an extra cardio workout 3 days a week.

I will be ready for my Red Ribbon Ride in July!  I have started my fund raising and would love to have you support me, even small contributions can make a big difference.  www.RedRibbonRide.org/goto/GwenBettwy My New Bike

P90X Day 30

Uggghhh My weight is not dropping.  My strength is dramatically improving.  I can do more push-ups or more ab work or simply just more every day, but the weight is not coming off.  I can feel my muscles growing.  I can feel my strength increasing.

My diet is great.  I eat well.  I eat good proportions.

The only thing left to change is my stress level.  That is still too high.  It has been 2 years of paying of my ex’s bills and still the creditors are calling.  I have now sent the lawyer after him.  I still don’t understand how a man walks away from the woman he says he loves and leaves her with all of the bills still baffles me.  So I think that might explain a few things.  A body’s response to stress is my real issue I think.

So I will keep showing up, I will keep pushing play on the DVDs, I will do my best and forget the rest and the weight just simply has to come off at some point.

I think now that I am in phase II I will do doubles.  Bring on the Cardio X!!!

CISSP Preparation – Practice Questions

To practice or not to practice… that is the question.

My basic answer is YES.  Do practice questions.

The complicated answer:

You must understand the reason you are doing the practice questions in order to get the most out of them.  So what is the reason you ask? It is to get yourself used to answering questions of this nature.  Most adults do not take exams on a regular basis.  As a result most of us are not used to these convoluted questions.

Before I go further with that I have to add what you are NOT trying to get out of these practice questions.  You are not doing these questions with the hope of memorizing them word for word so that by the time you get to the exam you have seen all of the questions and all of the answers.  Expect that you will not see anything on the exam that you have seen in practice.

One of the most important things that you can get out of your practice questions is to identify why you got the questions wrong.  It is better to identify this now, rather than after the exam.  It is fun and makes you feel good when you get the questions right, but what you really want to be looking for is the questions that you get wrong and then understanding why you got it wrong.

Some of the reasons that you might get the question wrong is to look at it from a technical perspecitve rather than a managerial one.  You might have missed a work (i.e. NOT).  You might have added a word that was not there (i.e. NOT).  You might have missed the actual question embedded within all of the words that they gave you.

One thing that I can promise you is that you will find bad questions.  Questions that make you upset, mad or even angry.  Practice questions are almost always written by people that had the thought AFTER writing a book or a course that they should probably write some practice questions as well, myself included.  As a result they do not get all of the attention that they deserve and they are not evaluated and revised as necessary.

If you are dealing with a bad question what is most useful to you is to identify why it is a bad question.  Was it poorly worded?  Were the answers to close to each other?  Were the answers synonymous? Was a word missing from the question or the answer?  And so on.  If you can explain why it is a bad question than you are showing that you do have a grasp of the topic which is what you need to be ready to take the exam.

So practice away.  Just look for what has you getting the wrong answers in order to get you ready for the exam.

Now the next question I am often asked is which questions should you use?

If you have any of the study guide books there are questions that go along with them.  They are ok.  All of them.. they are ok.  One note is the questions in the All-in-One used to be too long in comparison to the exam, but now they are not long enough.

There are a lot of questions on CCCure.org.  I would recommend practicing at the two hardest levels.  I like these questions because they are free.  I am all about free.  Buyer beware – you get what you pay for.  There are a lot of bad questions in there.  Just use them for practice.  Identify why they are bad questions and let it go.  If there is information in a question that goes against all you have read or learned or all of you own background tells you then let it go as a bad question, or go research somewhere else for more accurate info.

What if you want to spend money on questions.  I would NOT recommend buying the Transender or any other similar questions.  You are just as well off with CCCure.  If you really want some good questions and are willing to pay for them get them from the source, (ISC)2.  They have 300 questions available for purchase.  The difference with these questions is that they went through the same process as the real test questions (minus going in to real exams) and are decent, solid questions. Click here to get to them.

Practice away !!!

CISSP Preparation – Books

Are you getting ready to take the CISSP exam?  Are you wondering where to start?  Are you wondering how you will know when you are really ready to take the exam?  I have some tips that I have found are very useful through my six years of teaching CISSP for (ISC)2.

Lets start with books.

I classify books available for preparing for this exam  into three categories.

Category 1 = Cliff Notes

Category 2 = Full prep guides

Category 3 = Expert books

Category 1 includes CISSP for Dummies and the Passport by Mike Myers.   The passport is currently out of print as I write but perhaps you can borrow one.  I recommend either of these books.  The basic difference between them is a style of writing.  The CISSP for Dummies book is entertaining to boot, but if you are going to be aggravated by funny quips such as the different hash algorithms being compared to the Jackson family then go with the Passport book.

I would recommend using these books as you start your studying, through to the last week before you take the exam.  When you first pick up this book I would take a walk through to start to identify the topics you are familiar with and those that you are not familiar with.  As you identify areas that you need to work on you can then migrate to a book out of Category 2.

Category 2 books include the Official guide from (ISC)2, the All-in-One Exam Guide by Shon Harris, as well as many others.  I recommend that you pick a book here that matches your reading style.  For example the Official guide is a bit long winded on topics and that works great for some people, but not for others.  Most people seem to work well with the All-in-One exam guide.

As you go through the list of topics in your Category 1 book and find things that you are less familiar with or not familiar with at all I would then recommend that you move to your Category 2 book to read more on that topic.  Some people do read their Category 2 book from cover to cover, a couple of times even, although most do not.  I find it to be most useful as a research aide.

Category 3 books include all of the real books out there on security.  These are the books that are written by a subject matter expert on their topic of knowledge.  If you are still left confused by Category 1 or 2 books, this is the place to turn for more detailed, or possibly, more accurate information.  ISC2 has a list of books that falls into this category.  My favorite cryptography books can be found here.

In general these books are too detailed for getting ready for the exam, although they could be very useful when you are looking for that additional information or clarification information for a specific project.

One other note regarding buying books, is that you don’t necessarily have to.  There is free information available on the web.  Just buyer beware you usually get what you pay for.  One place that many turn to is CCCure.  There are several study guides that people have put together and posted on this site. For the most part these are nice study guides and can save you some money.

Good luck 😉 and study hard.

More coming on CISSP practice questions.