Two Weeks Post-Op and Happier Than Ever!

I am essentially 2 weeks post weight loss surgery, and and I am thrilled to report that I am feeling great! I am incredibly happy with my decision to do this! My husband said he expected me to somehow be “different”, and actually, I think maybe I expected to be “different”, too, but honestly, I just feel like myself, only freer!

You might be thinking, “How could she possible feel freer? There are so many changes and restrictions that come with weight loss surgery.” And that’s correct, but I don’t really think of them as limitations. Instead, they’re all just tools for me to use. I am not feeling deprived of food. I am not feeling “left out”. In fact, I don’t even really feel hunger. I am sure that will change with time, but so far, I have not really felt hungry at all. I eat my 3 meals a day 5 hours apart because I know I need to, but so far, I have not eaten because I feel hungry. I am fortunate that I don’t really have any issues with food aversion, so it’s not like I am forcing food into myself. I am still eating soft foods, and not much at that! A typical day for me right now looks like 1/2 cup of cottage cheese for breakfast, two eggs made into egg salad or deviled eggs or scrambled with a little cheese for lunch, and 2-3 oz. of finely shredded chicken with some ranch dressing and hot sauce for dinner. I supplement with Gatorade Zero protein during the day to help reach my protein goal of 60 g per day, and as much water as I can to reach my 64 oz of fluid per day (still struggling to meet that goal.). While I may nor be feeling hunger, I can tell when I am full. It’s kind of like a pressure in my chest; it’s not the traditional feeling of fullness I’ve experienced in the past.

I did experience what happens if I eat too fast or eat too much, though, and it’s not pleasant! When I ate too fast, I was playing on my phone while eating, so I wasn’t paying attention to my eating like I should. When I ate too much, I was socializing and not paying attention to my eating like I should. Common thread: not focusing on my eating! It’s very important for me to be conscious of my eating while I am doing it. Otherwise, I get hit with some pretty strong nausea. I’m glad I didn’t actually get sick — but the nausea was enough to send me to lie as still as possible in bed until it passed.

So why do I feel free? Because I don’t feel like I am a servant to food anymore. Instead, food serves ME. Food is fuel for my body, not love or comfort or entertainment. I have a check valve in place that will prevent me from scarfing down copious amounts of food that aren’t good for me — no more eating half a pizza or 3 cupcakes or a dozen buffalo wings or a large order of fries or drinking an entire large chocolate shake. I would be sick, and now that I have had the chance to feel that nausea, I know I DON’T want that! It’s freeing to know that I have a tool in place that will help keep those unhealthy foods and habits in check. Since this surgery, I have been around people eating pizza and McDonald’s, and I was fine. Did the food smell good to me? Sure did. But right now, since my stomach is still healing, I KNEW I absolutely could not have any of it at all, and I found that liberating! Once I am back to “normal”, I could eat it, but only a small amount, and I find that liberating, too!

Two weeks down, a lifetime to go!

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About to Become a Better Version of Myself

Tomorrow, September 6th, is the big day. I am scheduled for my surgery in the morning. I have spent the past 2 weeks following a pre-op diet that has been challenging, to say the least. I figure I have been eating 500 to 600 calories a day. I’ve been allowed two protein shakes a day, 4 oz of solid protein, 1/2 cup of non-starchy vegetables, and then I could supplement that with up to two cups of broth and as many sugar-free popsicles and as much sugar-free Jell-O as I want. It hasn’t been easy, but I have managed it quite well. In fact, I have even found ways to go out to eat.

In those past 2 weeks, I’ve lost about 15 pounds. So I’ve got a good jump start on my weight loss journey.

I’m eager to have a good tool in my toolkit that will enable me to really take control of my own health by giving me control over what kinds of food I can eat and how much. I’m not scared. I’m feeling positive, like I’m about to do something truly for me, to show my body the love it deserves. This body has given me so much: I carried and birthed a child; I’ve run 5Ks, a half marathon, and a marathon; I’ve hiked in the Grand Canyon; I box and do all sorts of other exercises; I came back to somewhat normal after serious complications from back surgery. At any of those times, my body could have just given up. But it didn’t. I owe it to my body to treat it with love and kindness. No more abusing my body with food.

I’m in control now.

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Big Change before the Big Change

I got approval from my insurance company for my surgery, and I have a date: September 6. So I am just a smidge over two weeks away from the biggest change I’ve ever chosen for myself. But before that big change, I’ve got a different big change to make.

Tuesday, I start a two week pre-op diet. Apparently, the liver is right next to the stomach, and in people who are overweight, the liver can be a bit large. So the pre-op diet is going to help shrink the liver down so it is easier for the doctor to do the surgery. But the pre-op diet ain’t no walk in the park.

First, I start taking my vitamins every day Tuesday and for the rest of my life. There are 3 capsules I have to take each day. In addition, I have to take 200 mg of Co Q10 every day. I guess this helps with healing. I am also taking 12-15 mg of Benefiber a day, and if needed, I can also use a stool softener. I am required to get in 64 oz. of fluid a day. As for food, I have to have 2 protein shakes each day as well as 4 oz. of solid protein and 1/2 cup of non-starchy vegetables. If I am hungry between meals, I am allowed to have up to 2 cups of beef, chicken, or vegetable broth as well as sugar-free Jello and sugar-free popsicles. The broth, jello, and popsicles can count toward my 64 oz. of fluid each day. I am allowed 1 8 oz. cup of caffeinated coffee or tea each day, and I can use artificial sweetener and dairy-free creamer in it. All other foods and liquids need to be dairy, sugar, caffeine, and carbonation -free.

That’s it right there for the next 2 weeks. I am nervous about this for a couple of reasons. First, am I going to be hungry? Probably. Part of the reason I got this way is because I eat too much. Am I going to be able to resist temptation? Part of the reason I got this way is because I eat like crap and eat too many fattening foods. I am going to have to keep telling myself that I can’t cheat — if I cheat, I may not be able to have the surgery. I’m also worried about energy. I still have a couple boxing classes to do before the surgery. Plus I am doing Bike the Drive on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. I need to be sure I have the fuel to stay active. Finally, I have some things happening over the next 2 weeks that present eating challenges. For instance, I have a bridal shower to go to. I am already planning on making sure I have a tasty drink with me that I can sip on while others eat. I don’t want to appear rude if I don’t eat at the shower, and I absolutely do not want anyone to alter their behaviors around me because I am doing this pre-op diet (or because of how my eating habits will change after surgery). I do not expect the world to adapt to me — I need to learn how to adapt to the world around me.

So, starting Tuesday, if you see me, feel free to give me an, “Atta girl,” if you’re so inclined. I am so fortunate that I have had so many wonderful cheerleaders in my life; I’m gonna need you all again! I’m ready for the next step!

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Stepping Stones

I am chugging along on my journey toward getting gastric sleeve weight loss surgery! My pre-op requirements include the following:

*Psychiatric clearance
*Pulmonologist clearance
*Cardiologist clearance
*Endoscopy
*One month supervised diet/nutrition/activity
*Pre-op seminar
*Pre-op special diet

I have completed the psychiatric clearance and the cardiologist clearance. My pulmonologist wanted me to do a sleep study to check for sleep apnea, so I did that last week. I also had my endoscopy last week, which was fine/ My surgeon said I have a small hiatal hernia, which is not a problem and he will fix it up when he does the surgery. I didn’t know what a hiatal hernia was; I had to look it up! I’ve always had this little pooch by my upper stomach; now I know what it is! Tomorrow, I meet with the pulmonologist to get those results. I am hoping to get the clearance regardless of whether or not I have sleep apnea (a diagnosis of sleep apnea will not prevent the surgery from moving forward). I’m in the middle of my supervised diet/nutrition/activity, and since the weigh on for that a few weeks ago, I’ve lost 9 pounds. I am tracking all my food, water, and activity. I am trying to keep my calorie intake between 1200-1500 calories and trying to drink 64 oz. of water a day. I am required to lose 2 pounds during that month of supervision, so I should have that done easily since I have exceeded that goal already. I see my surgeon again Friday, so I hope to have more information about the actual date after that appointment. I have 2 events I need the surgeon to take into consideration when scheduling: I am doing Bike the Drive on Labor Day weekend, and I am chaperoning a trip to Washington, D.C., on Columbus Day weekend.

I have cut out almost all diet Coke, which has been easier than I expected it to be. I am trying to eat more slowly, taking 20 minutes to eat a meal. I measure and weigh my food. I am also working on trying to chew food very thoroughly, like 20 times before swallowing.

I have thrown myself full into this. If I’m going to do this, I need to do it right and with enthusiasm. I want to get myself into as many new, good habits as I can before the surgery to hopefully make the transition easier after surgery.

Onward!

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Moms, Can We Do Better?

I am super excited because I am going to be a new grandma in less than a month! It has been so much fun being on this journey with my daughter, Becky! I love seeing all the pictures of her growing belly. I love seeing all the fun baby things she’s getting. I love the glow she has!

But here’s what I don’t love: the calls and texts I get from her when she’s panicked and scared about giving birth and being a new mom.

So, first things first, to all of us (and I include myself in all of this) moms: let’s openly admit that none of us knew how to be a mom when we had our first baby. Maybe some of us had siblings we helped care for, or we babysat, or we had jobs where we worked with kids, but none of that prepared us for what it is really like to be a mom. So I have had to explain to Becky that being scared about being a new mom is completely normal because we all were that way. I’ve told her not to put so much stock in what she sees on social media. All the cute pictures are the result of planning, preparation, and posing. Behind those scenes, there were plenty of crying jags, diaper blowouts, clothes with spitup on them, and moms and dads snipping at each other.

Moms, can we do better? Can we normalize being unsure? Can we avoid saying things that make motherhood sound awful? Things people have said to Becky: Oh you’re tired now? Get used to it. You’re going to be exhausted all the time. Get used to never sleeping through the night. Hope you don’t mind getting puked on/peed on/pooped on because you’ll have that on you all the time! I’ve explained to her that, yes, being a new parent is exhausting. Yes, it can frustrating when you’ve done everything you know to do and the baby is still crying. Yes, it’s exasperating when you finally get the baby to sleep and the moment his cheek touches the crib, he wakes right up again. Yes, you will be peed, pukes, and pooped on. But I told her that for every “negative” thing about having a baby, there are 5 good things, like how good they smell, how they look like you, how sweet they look when they sleep, how their laugh sounds, how soft their skin is, how their little fingers feel when they wrap around yours, how they laugh when you play peekaboo, how your heart leaps the first time they say, “Mama,” how they feel when they fall asleep on you, and the excitement you feel when they roll over, crawl, pull themselves up, stand, and walk on their own. So maybe instead of responding to a pregnant woman’s mention of how tired she is with, “Just wait, you’re going to be tired all the time!”, we respond with, “You’ll still be tired after the baby is born, but wait until they fall asleep on your chest for a nap — nothing feels as good as that!”

Another thing I’ve had to help Becky with is managing the scary birth stories. I cannot for the life of me figure out why, when talking to a pregnant woman, anyone feels the need to share things that are negative. What’s the purpose of telling her that she better not get an epidural because it could cause problems, or telling her she needs to get an epidural because the pain is just too horrible to bear? Why tell her about how you tore because you had a big baby and she better be ready for it?

Moms, can we do better? Instead of sharing the horror stories, how about we share truths? Why can’t you say, “I tore when delivering because I had such a big baby, but that doesn’t happen to everyone.” Why not say, “I actually had a pretty good labor and didn’t need an epidural, but lots of women have them.” Why not say, “I had a complication with my epidural, but they’re not too common. Your doctor will be able to tell you what the risks might be.”

Pregnancy, labor, delivery, and parenting are not contests to see who’s the best, who’s the worst, who had it easiest, who had it hardest. They are all personal and situational. So Moms, can we do better? Rather than pointing out all the hard things about being pregnant and being a mom, can we share the good things, and when we share the hard things, also share how we got through it and offer a hand, ear, or shoulder?

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A Decision

I have spent the past 3 years working my rear end off to recover from the complications from back surgery that have left me with what looks like permanent peripheral neuropathy and foot drop in both feet. My balance isn’t terrific, my gait is kind of lurchy, I have to be conscious all the time of my feet so I don’t trip, and I get tired easily. Can I do the things I used to be able to do before this happened? Yes, with the exception of some things (like jumping rope or wearing high heels — I don’t miss jumping rope a bit LOL, but I do miss heels — A LOT). But even though I can do all the things I used to do, I can’t do most of them the same way I used to. One of those things is exercise. I do go to boxing anywhere from 2-4 times a week, and that definitely gets my heart rate up. But something many people don’t know is how that impacts me when I get home. Many times, I am just flat out exhausted. The exertion as well as the concentration it takes to maintain my balance just wipe me out. I often have burning in my feet or cramping in my feet because of how hard I try to keep my feet firmly planted so I don’t trip and fall during class. I sometimes get leg cramps as well. All of this actually happens with almost any activity I do — boxing, walking, biking, even swimming. I think it’s just a natural result of working those leg and feet muscles so hard to fight against the neuropathy. I wish I could get more benefit out of my exercise. I wish I could exercise easier. I know that if I lose weight, those benefits would come. But I have been struggling the past 3 years to lose weight. In fact, in the past 3 years, I’ve put on about 30 pounds.

Now, I’m not stupid enough to think my weight gain issues are all related to having neuropathy. I know that is only one factor. There are other factors at play — like my age. I am firmly planted on the middle of menopause right now, and menopausal women being unable to lose weight is a tale as old as time. I also know darn well my eating habits and relationship with food plays a role, too. My whole life, I’ve loved eating crappy food. If it’s sugary or fried, it’s in my belly. And it shows. In the past, I have been able to easily (for the most part) to put any weight gain in check — I start to slip back into old habits and patterns of eating, I put on pounds, I step back, get myself on a plan like WW, step up my activity, and the weight comes back down.

That has not been the case these past 3 years. For many months after the surgery, I couldn’t exercise at all. When I could, I did very little. If I took a walk, it was only for 10 minutes. I did boxing one-on-one once a week, and I had to sit for lots of it. It was a very slow progression of gaining weight (after all, 30 pounds in about 36 months is less than a pound a month). And if I am being really honest, food for the past 3 years has been a comfort for me. When I was in the hospital, I ate hospital food every day for breakfast and lunch. I had snacks from people in the room, and every night, Jim would bring dinner to me so I wouldn’t have to eat hospital food again. He didn’t really cook; most of the time, he came straight to the hospital from work, so we had restaurant food. We had dinner together like that every night. Sometimes family or friends would come for dinner, and we would go down to the kitchen area on the OT room and all eat a takeout meal around the table. It was wonderful. Eating together was social, it made me laugh and smile and feel loved and not left out. When I got home, for quite a while, I couldn’t cook, and Jim was so tired when he got home from work, we just ordered food in. All of that food from restaurants was partially a necessity and partially an emotional crutch. It made me think of friends and family and love.

Neuropathy, menopause, lousy eating habits, eating for comfort — combine all that and you’ve got a perfect storm of weight gain. It’s pure luck I don’t have diabetes or high cholesterol or high blood pressure. But if I don’t get a grip on this, I WILL have those things. And listen, I’ve got my first grandchild coming in less than a month. I can’t be the kind of grandma I want to be if I’m morbidly obese and have a whole host of health problems!

So I’ve been doing some research and talking with people, and have finally decided to move in a pretty drastic direction. I am now in process of getting myself prepped for weight loss surgery. I researched 2 different doctors who both have very robust programs; one was just too far away, but the other is out of Silver Cross Hospital, which is pretty close to home. So I have started the necessary steps to get medical clearance for the surgery. I’ve already had a psychiatric clearance to make sure I was a good candidate mentally, and I saw a pulmonologist who wants to err on the side of caution and have me do a sleep study before giving the clearance, so that’s in the works. I’ve got an appointment with a cardiologist coming up as well as an upper GI endoscopy scheduled. Today, I had a meeting to begin a one month supervised diet/nutrition/exercise program. Once I get all my clearances AND complete my one month program successfully, THEN I can be scheduled for surgery.

I’m planning to have the gastric sleeve procedure, which is what some people refer to as “stomach stapling.” I’ve done lots of research on this and gotten lots of information from the doctor and people I know who have the procedure and feel well prepared for what I am about to face as far as lifestyle changes. I’m grateful the doctor I am seeing has an extensive prep period and a robust aftercare program as well. Additionally, I have my own individual plans to seek out additional counseling to get more understanding about my personal relationship with food.

This is a big decision, but I am pleased with it. I’ve never been someone who plays the victim, and I’m not going to start now. I am thoughtful in my actions and decisions, and this one is no different. But like anything else in my life, I do a lot of processing through writing. So I plan to share my journey — the good and the not so good — right here for anyone who wants to follow along!

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Why I Believe in God

I don’t talk about God too much. Mostly because I think my belief in God is very personal. I’m not writing this post because I feel like I need to justify my belief in God, or because I feel like I need to convince others about the existence of God. I’m writing this because I felt the desire to share it, and I love to write. So don’t look for any deep, ulterior motives because they’re not there.

I have what I consider to be a very fortunate life. I have had so many wonderful things happen, so many incredible opportunities, so many memorable experiences, and so many important connections in my life. I truly feel blessed. I mean, how can one person have so many fantastic things happen in her lifetime — and it’s not even close to over yet! At least, I hope.

My belief in God stems from the connections I mentioned. I think about my parents and grandparents, what important people they are (and were) in my life. I think about my husband. I think about my daughter. I even think about my pets. I find it really hard to believe that such deep bonds can be formed with other humans or even with animals only to have those be temporary, fleeting, nothing. I find it to be unreasonable that we have emotions and form relationships only to have them be nothing more that an event in time. When it comes to love, I just don’t believe that it’s a feeling that is bound to earth and time. It doesn’t make sense to me that such a powerful emotion amounts to meaning nothing. I have to believe that love transcends space and time. That means I also believe that all those people we love and all those pets we dote on will be part of our being again. So that must mean there’s some sort of afterlife. I don’t know if it’s a heaven and hell kind of afterlife, but I do believe that what makes us the people we are doesn’t just die with out bodies. That awareness follows us, and that awareness brings us back into connection with ones we’ve loved. Because of this belief in living beyond our bodies, I believe in the existence of God as well. Maybe it’s a fantasy. I don’t care. Maybe I’m deluding myself. I don’t care. Maybe I’m foolish. I don’t care. That’s why I say my relationship with God is so personal. It’s mine, and it probably doesn’t look like yours, if you also believe in God. It’s okay. We are all entitled to believe what we want about why we are here, and why we have the relationships we have, and why we have the experiences we have. I just choose to believe mine have something to do with God.

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#AtoZChallenge — Politics

I hate politics. I think politics is what is ruining this country. It used to be that political differences — even on big issues — could be discussed rationally and at the end of the discussion, the people involved could still remain friendly. Those days appear to be long gone. Now, people are judged and categorized by their political leanings. I have seen it tear friendships and families apart. It’s sickening. Political lines in the sand have been drawn, and there is an “us vs them” mentality now. Generalizations abound. Bias is accepted as fact. Facts are abridged and questioned. And politicians simply don’t represent their constituents any more. Instead, politicians represent themselves and their own interests. Politicians no longer run for office because they have a desire to serve; they run so that they can get the benefits that come with being an elected politician. Voters no longer vote for the best candidate to represent them; instead, they vote for the person they agree with the most, or they vote against the candidate they hate. Politics has become completely infested with greed, hatred, ridicule, self-service, and narcissism. Maybe it’s always been this way, and we just didn’t see it because that was considered the dirty side of politics. Well, the dirt is what is heralded now; it’s the honesty and integrity that are looked down upon. Looks to me like the politicians haven’t drained the swamp; they’ve polluted the swamp.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

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#AtoZChallenge — Open

For my post covering the letter O, I chose the topic “Open” to write about.

The school district I work for decided to open for in person learning at the start of this school year. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, but I was certain it didn’t matter because I assumed we would have an outbreak of COVID and be closed in 2 weeks. We are now half way through April, and we are still open.

In hindsight, I am thrilled we opened and have stayed open. Even with all the mitigations in place — masks, social distance, constant sanitizing, etc. — it has been good educationally and emotionally for students as well as teachers, I think. Even as weird as things were, there was something to be said for the little bit of normalcy we had being back in school. Yes, we had students and staff who came down with COVID, but we were also fortunate enough not to have any cases directly attributable to spread at school (some people find this hard to believe — and maybe it is — but in my opinion, it’s entirely possible. I have the advantage of being able to visit many classrooms all around the district, and what I can tell you is the teachers and students alike were very good at following the rules put in place, so I think it is entirely possible we didn’t have any transmission at school. Maybe I’m a fool.)

All that being said, I also don’t criticize any schools that stayed closed or teachers who work in other districts who didn’t feel comfortable coming back. The truth is the district I work in had enough physical space to be able to create smaller class sizes to allow for social distancing, and we had enough money to hire extra staff, subs, and custodians as well as to purchase PPE and more sanitizing products than you could imagine. Not all schools could afford to do this, so I refuse to criticize. We were able to make it work; not everyone was able to do that.

Next year looks like we might be able to be back to even a little more normalcy — we won’t have to spread out as much, we won’t have to self-certify our health, kids can do things like P.E. and art. I’m looking forward to it.

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#AtoZChallenge — New Orleans

I am behind on my posts — eek! I will be writing posts for N and O today to get caught up.

My post for N is about New Orleans. My husband and I took our first trip there over spring break. This was more his choice than mine. He mostly wanted to be able to overdose on gumbo. We only spent 2 nights and 2 1/2 days there, so we didn’t get to do everything we wanted.

Not gonna lie, the swam is actually quite beautiful!

For lodging, we decided to splurge since we were only going to be there a very short time. We stayed at a hotel right on Bourbon Street and got a room with a balcony that overlooked Bourbon Street. The hotel was nice and I loved having the balcony. Yes, it was loud because there’s plenty of street noise on Bourbon, even in the midst of a pandemic where the bars gave to close at 11:00 PM. The noise didn’t bother me, though.

We ate at Acme Oyster House and Oceana — both of which were fantastic! we even did dinner once night at Sazerac Fountain Lodge, which was also nice — and of course we had Sazerac to drink! We also grabbed a frozen Irish coffee at Erin Rose since this is the place that inspired the frozen Irish coffee at one of the places we enjoy going to in Key West — Maryellen’s! I can’t say anything bad about the food and drink we had. Jim had his fill of gumbo, so that was a success! I will say that it has been a while since I was in the South so I had forgotten how the service at restaurants can be sometimes — slow, no rush to get things done, long. For someone from the North, this can be frustrating!

We also did a swamp tour, which was really enjoyable! I am so glad we ended up not choosing an airboat tour of the swamp, as those things are so incredibly LOUD! We did get to see alligators and learned a lot. I have to say, the swamp tour was my favorite part of the trip.

Overall, though, I did NOT find New Orleans to be enjoyable, and if I never go back, I’m totally fine with that. I was warned that it was dirty and a bit seedy — and that was 100% accurate! And I couldn’t tell if the ickiness was from the locals or the tourists or a little bit of both. I didn’t mind it during the day so much, but once nighttime came, it really transformed into something unpleasant, in my opinion. And I’m no prude, folks (we did stop in a strip club for a drink — see, not a prude), but the experience on Bourbon Street at night was one that kept me constantly on my guard and trying to avoid eye contact with anyone. AND it wasn’t even that crowded (see aforementioned pandemic). I just felt unsafe, and I got the impression that Bourbon Street was just fine with everything going on.

Our hotel. We had a room on the 3rd floor.

If we do go back, we already decided we would NOT stay in the French Quarter. Instead, we would just Uber in for the places we wanted to go, and then skedaddle out of there once dark fell. All in all, NOLA was quite an experience!

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