Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Shameless plug

So . . . the Boy has volunteered to jump rope to raise money for the American Heart Association. He thought it was important to try to raise money, since both his GrandDad and Mac (his OTHER grandfather) both have severe heart disease.

He's a good egg.

He has a website for online donations, if you are so inclined. The Boy would be tickled pink, and he'd jump his little fat feet off for you.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Goin' to Carolina . . .

Because I like surprises, I tend to leave my iTunes on shuffle. It's like receiving little presents all day long, because you never know what's going to be served up.

First thing this morning, James Taylor's "Going To Carolina In My Mind" cued up, and I immediately thought of Russell, like I always do when I hear that tune.

Russ really loved going to the mountains, especially the Great Smoky Mtns. Russ loved life. He loved his wife, and his son and his family. He was a happy person, one of those people that just seemed to enjoy his life which, as it turns out, was shorter than anyone would have ever guessed.
Actually, I've been thinking alot about Russ lately. He was on my mind as I stepped through the processes to have my surgery. He was on my mind when I was in the hospital, wondering what the outcome would be, and he was a fairly constant presence when things weren't going well and it seemed a little touch and go.

It's been more than 5 years since he died, and I still marvel at his strength as he faced death. He was the age I am now, with a child the same age as my daughter now, and he faced the end with dignity and calmness and even a sense of humor.

I can remember when he first got sick. We assumed it would pass, like you always do. I remember it took all of us a long time to accept that he really had ALS and he was dying, and each of us did that in our own time.

Dark and silent late last night
I think I might have heard the highway calling
Geese in flight and dogs that bite
Signs that might be omens say I'm going, going
I'm goin' to Carolina in my mind

I watched as his abilities deteriorated, and as he lost the ability to walk or stand or speak or move, he spent more and more time in his bed or motorized chair; it had buttons on the headrest to go forward and turn. He retained the ability to blink his eyes, partially move one foot, and he could still "speak", although it was more like lip-reading. Outside of the limited facial movements, he was completely paralyzed, but was still 100% lucid and aware. That was the most heartbreaking to me.

But damn if he wasn't brave and cheerful. It was an amazing thing to watch him joke with us and see him raise his eyebrows at his wife. His life had flipped on a dime, his future was blown to bits and fragments, his finances were a wreck, and he was dying a slow agonizing death, but he still found pleasure, despite all of that.

Not only was he brave and cheerful, Russ spent his last days helping others. He endured studies, tests, anything that might help doctors. He used a laptop throughout his illness to communicate. Even in the late stages, when he had lost all ability to move anything more than one toe on his left foot, he had a rollerball mouse attached to the footboard of his bed and used the laptop to "chat" with visitors that weren't able to read his lips. He was the most motivated person I knew, and he seemed to have endless hope and enthusiasm.

There ain't no doubt in no one's mind
That love's the finest thing around
Whisper something soft and kind
And hey babe the sky's on fire, I'm dyin'
Ain't I goin' to Carolina in my mind . . .

He had ALS for far, far longer than most patients, which could be considered a blessing or a curse. I remember sitting by his bedside at the hosptital when we were asked to come visit, watching him as he slowly, slowly used the rollerball to type me a message.

this might be it for me

It was just he and I there. Everyone else was outside the hospital room, sobbing, and it was just he and I in that room, chatting about his death.

"Are you ready?" I asked, looking him in the eye. He blinked once - that meant yes. Then he blinked twice - no.


"You want more time." Blink

"Is there anything that you want to do, anyone that you still want to see?" Blink blink

"Just more time, right?" Blink

In the end, he chose the day and the time that his life would end, he allowed his family and friends to gather and say their goodbyes to him as he was heavily sedated to block the pain and his ability to fight against having his ventilator turned off so he could slip away:

With a holy host of others standing around me
Still I'm on the dark side of the moon
And it seems like it goes on like this forever
You must forgive me if I'm
Gone to Carolina in my mind . . . .

I've been thinking alot about what he would do if he could see me today. What he would say to me about having a chance at a new life, at regaining my health, at starting over and doing things differently.

Actually, I already know what he would say. He wouldn't cast blame, and he wouldn't scold for the opportunities lost. He'd celebrate the now, and probably make some plans for a weekend trip to the Smokies.

I want to live well in his memory, and enjoy what I can, in his honor. I'm going to try.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hey! Let me tell you about my kids! Part 2

Piece of good news #2 came to us via the US Mail last week. My sweet girl is attending public school virtually, via the Georgia Virtual Academy. We made this decision after struggling through public school last year.

(sigh) Public school. You know what? I think it's fine for the median, but if you have a kid that performs outside of the median, for better or for worse, in any fashion, you have a constant struggle on your hands.

Talk about struggle: My girl is a trooper. She has endured more than 11 years of public school education, and she is only 13. The system sucked her in at 2, because she was disabled, and it pretty much spit BOTH of us out last year, when I had finally grown weary of fighting for her rights, and for services that she is entitled to.

So, we looked at some options, and GVA seemed like a great one.

I had no idea what a good move it was going to be.

Miss Rachael has wonderful virtual teachers, and incredible curriculum at her fingertips. She has me to help her anytime she needs me, and she has the flexibility to do things in her time, her way.

She has absolutely excelled.

GVA administers tests just like the brick and mortar schools do, so I have been able to compare apples to apples, as far as her performance goes.

I was elated to receive her first test scores back last week. She scored ABOVE average for reading AND math. She has written papers that have received high marks, and every day, she completes online lessons with scores of 100%.

My kids - I am so happy for them both.

Yea us!

Hey! Let me tell you about my kids! Part 1

I am so proud today I could bust!

I was called to a meeting at The Boy's school to discuss his progress with reading, writing, and 'rithmetic. The meeting was called primarily because his teacher last year recommended additional reading instruction.

See, last year was rough. The Boy's teacher was VERY pregnant when we went to Sneak A Peek, so I knew she wouldn't be around for most of the school year, and I was right. She took an early medical leave and an extended maternity leave, leaving my kid with a revolving door of substitute teachers (of varying quality.)

1st grade is a HUGE year. Little people learn alot that year. Well, they learn alot when they have stability and trust in their teacher. My kid had neither, so by year's end, he hadn't progressed as much with his reading as the school thought he should have.

Now, luckily for The Boy, he was born with a brain that naturally takes to math, so he didn't have THAT challenge, like alot of the other kids in his class did.

Fast forward to today. School has been in session for about 6 weeks now, and tests were readministered to get The Boy qualified for the extra help. Except, when they tested him, his test results were surprising. Amazing, really.

He is reading ABOVE grade level now, and his reading grades are very nearly as high as his incredibly high math grades.

There were several of us in the meeting (teachers, counselors, special ed coordinators) and they were each taken aback with his scores and all asked the same thing: "What did you do?"

I wish I had something great to tell them, but the truth is that The Boy spent alot of the summer riding his bike, swimming, and playing computer games and the Wii. Somewhere in there, his reading brain kicked into overdrive.

Hub swears that The Boy was able to read last year, too, but that he likely didn't test well because he didn't like the revolving door of teachers.

Whatever. I am ecstatic, and so proud of him. I mean, I have known he was a MATH genius from birth, but now, he's a reading rock star too!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hell with it, I'm in

Last summer, at an outdoor concert, a gaggle of purple-clad (and more than slightly tipsy) older women sitting near descended upon me to chatter and oooh and ahh over my chihuahua, LilBit. They were flamboyant and uninhibited, dancing with abandon, and with each other and with men that were DECADES younger than they were. I chuckled to myself, recognizing this troupe as part of the Red Hat Society. One of the women there enthusiastically approached me about joining (you have to be 50 to be a Red Hat . . . thanks alot, Drunk Lady), but then she saw the horror on my face and assured me that she knew I wasn't 50 (nice save, Sousearella) and that I would be a "junior member" and therefore, a Pink Hat.

I swore to myself that the day I became an ANYTHING hat was the day that I resigned myself to wearing polyester mumus and carrying vodka in a Pepto Bismol bottle in my purse. I would have hit full Elizabeth Taylor mode. Hell, I've already got the pocket dog and gaudy jewelry.

Yesterday, I received a "special invitation" from the "Queen" of the North Georgia Red Hat Society via MySpace, again, asking for my participation.

It seems to be a fate that awaits me. Still reluctant and bitter, I visited the site and read this:

When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple
with a red hat that doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
and satin candles, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired
and gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
and run my stick along the public railings
and make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
and pick the flowers in other people's gardens
and learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
and eat three pounds of sausages at a go
or only bread and pickles for a week
and hoard pens and pencils and beer nuts and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
and pay our rent and not swear in the street
and set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

That sounds reasonable, I guess. Now I just gotta find a pink hat for me (and a really tiny one for LilBit.)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Reality check

Sometimes clarity occurs in the strangest places. For me, clarity presented itself in the middle of the Goodwill today.

Day to day, it's been hard for me to tell much difference in my body since my surgery. Even though I step on the scale and see change, I don't SEE it when I look in the mirror. I guess that's why I flipped out so badly when I didn't see any change on the scale for several days. It has been the only concrete evidence that I have had to let me know that I am getting better. That, and being able to stop my medications.

Until today.

I had cleared out alot of the largest clothes from my closet before my surgery, so I haven't really had the experience of purchasing clothes and noticing the sizes.

Again, until today.

TODAY . . . I picked out a few sweaters and pants to tide me over. I picked them out based on the size I thought I would wear. Before surgery, I was a size 26/28, and when I got home from the hospital, I was wearing a few 22/24 items. Today, I found MORE 22/24 things to wear for now, and I wishfully picked out a few tops in size 14/16, and some nice winter weight pants in size 16. My intention was to keep these "small" pieces for cooler weather, thinking I might wear them in January or February.

I decided to try on the clothing that I picked out for "right now" to make sure that I hadn't chosen things that were too small, and I was shocked to see that the first piece swallowed me. I thought "Hmm, well, that's just one blouse, it's probably just cut really large," and I proceeded to try on more things I had picked.

They ALL swallowed me. Every damn one.

It started to dawn on me . . . the clothing wasn't mislabeled. It wasn't "cut big". I was smaller. LOTS smaller. Like . . . 6 to 8 sizes smaller.

I took a risk and tried on the "small" 14/16 items.

And they fit.

They freaking fit.

Damn. It was unbelieveable.

Standing in that dressing room, it dawned on me that I am smaller than I was in the entirety of my 30s, and most of my 20s. I finally realized that my body is responding, and I am getting thin.

Me. Thin.

I thought about that for awhile, standing in front of that mirror. I thought about the years and years and years that I had wished for, begged for, hoped for this day.

For all those times that I lost 20 pounds and gained it right back, for every diet I blew, every promise I made to myself and broke, every dress I loved and bought hoping to "get into" it, for every one of those dresses that I donated to charity when I never got close, for every time I felt like a failure, for every time I endured the embarassment of being told about the latest diet, or sitting through a "heart to heart" with doctors that warned me of the bleak future that awaited me as an obese person, for every nightmare that I have had of dying and leaving my children behind, for every thing I have ever NOT done because I was too fat, for every time I was convinced that my body was broken, for every time I felt "less than" because I was fat, and every time that I felt ashamed of my body . . . this is a sweet, sweet victory.

A moment of clarity. I'm finally winning.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Public Service Announcement

The views expressed in this blog earlier were the rantings of a madwoman.

Rest assured that she has been properly medicated, sedated, and gently shown to her nice, quiet rubber room.

That is all. We will now return to your regularly scheduled program.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Angry Monkey

Man, I am mad today.

I scared my poor friend Lauren to death this morning. We were chatting, and I was telling her that I was SURE that I had done something to negate my entire surgery. I've been watching the scale for 10 DAYS with no change. Not an ounce of change.

None. Nada. Zero.

Nobody stalls out this early. 3 months down the line, maybe 6, you see a slowdown, but most of the people that I have encountered or read about or followed online have steady progress for at LEAST the first two months.

And here I am, dead in the water after 3 measly weeks.

I told Lauren that I am nearly convinced that I will be the one person that this won't work for, that somehow my body has already morphed and adapted to the tiny pouch, and will be able to maintain status quo with the reduced rations.

That I allowed my insides to be Ginsu-ed for a meager 29 pound loss. That I could count 5 abdominal scars and a small weight loss as my consolation for a lifetime of eating food out of ramikens, food the consistency of Teletubby Custard for the rest of my life.

I went on to say that I envisioned that my body will continue to spite me, growing bigger despite my (and modern medicine's) best efforts. That I will be one of those unfortunates that has to have a wall removed from my home to accomodate a trip to the emergency room one day, hauled out by a forklift. Maybe Discovery will do a show on me, and people will gasp when they hear that I actually had gastric bypass in 2008.

Yeah, it's been a rough week.

I am so damn tired. I don't feel well. I still don't feel like I am recovered. Maybe a month is too soon to feel well, but it feels like the world expects me to be healed and over it, already. Next crisis, please. But I'm NOT ready, and I'm NOT able to get over it.

I'm trying. I'm eating the goop. I'm trying to stay active. I'm too tired to walk for a half hour a day. I'm supposed to, but I'm too busy ignoring my side pain and staying in an upright position to strap on my shoes and go for a daily constitutional. 5, 10 minutes, and I am done. I sat outside at our yardsale on Saturday for a few hours, and I had to take a 2 hour nap to recover. When you need a nap to rest from SITTING, you got issues, sister.

Issues that starts with I that rhymes with Pie that spells "you'll never have that again, lardass"

Check back with me tomorrow. I have this wierd laughing and crying thing happening, which I hope will go away before I begin to scare the children.

I'm sore, and I'm upset and I'm scared that this isn't going to get me where I need to be.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Happy Anniversary to me!

Aww, my new little tummy is one month old today. They grow up so quickly, don't they? Gitchy gitchy goo!

Seems like just yesterday, it was overwhelmed by broth and jello, and today, just look at it! It loves the small order of pintos and cheese from Taco Bell, and grits with margarine, and mashed potatoes, and vegetable soup.

Bless its heart, its even bravely tried little bits of chicken salad and scrambled egg. Isn't it so cute when they blurp everything back up! Awww . . . . .

Anyway, yeah, its been a month to the day since I underwent the knife, and the official tally is 37 pounds lost since beginning my presurgery diet, and 29 pounds since the day of the procedure.

Not bad . . . not bad at all.

Strangely enough, I have found myself becoming impatient this past week when I detected a stall in my weight loss. I have been trolling the gastric bypass message boards, and I keep reading that 30 lbs the first month is great, and that everyone sees a stall for a few days here and there, but I can't help but feel a little panic . . . I mean, what if this is it? What if all the sacrifice got me a 30 lb loss, and now my body is digging in its heels?

Crazy talk, I know, but consider the source.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Where's Fall?

I've been trying to plan a day trip to go see the fall leaves in North Georgia. I started thinking about this last month, and thought for sure that I would have gone and returned by now.

We've got nothing.

Where in the hell is Fall? I don't think I am senile . . . I seem to remember seeing fall leaves by the end of September. Oh, Al Gore, I never cared about global warming until it started messing with my fall leaves trip!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Go Scrappers!

Once again, The Boy is playing baseball, much to my delight. I am the first to admit that I probably enjoy Little League baseball games more than the kids do. The whole experience is a thrill . . . seeing your kid play, cheering the team, feeling your chest swell with pride when your kid smacks the ball, holding your breath when they slide for third.

It's a rush.

This past Saturday, my boy attended Little League with a potentially sidelining injury. A few days before, he had fallen on his wrist as the teams were switching in between innings, and despite ice and Motrin, he was still in alot of pain.

Despite the pain, he decided to get his uniform on and go to the game, thinking he could at least sit with the team. His coach worked him out carefully, giving him just a few practice swings in the batting cages. The Boy made the executive decision that he could play, and so he did.

I am proud to say that the Scrappers pulled off a stunning victory of 15-12. You have never seen a bleacherful of parents more proud or excited than this bunch was.

To our surprise and delight, The Boy was rewarded for his team spirit and contributions (1 double, 2 singles) by being awarded the game ball! Oh, happy day!

The whole hoopla ended at Dairy Queen. Cones all around, courtesy of the coach (notice that his mohawk recovered in the car on the ride over to the DQ.)

Go Scrappers!

A day of firsts . . .

Zippety do dah . . . it's been a great day.

First of all, I woke this morning pain free after a BIG no-no yesterday. Weenie the Wonderdog is home from the hospital, but she still has little to no strength in her back half, so she tends to just lose control of her back legs. She also seems to want to be at my feet constantly, so when I went downstairs to work yesterday, I thought I had been careful to shut the door leading to the basement stairs. Evidently, I didn't shut it tight enough, because Weenie nudged it open and attempted to come downstairs to sleep on my feet. She made it about 3 steps, then lost her strength, and when I discovered her, she was perched and whining. What to do, what to do? She weighs 35 lbs, and my doctor warned me not to lift more than 10 lbs for the first 8 weeks after surgery.

At first, I thought that she might be able to make it back up on her own, but she had worn herself out trying. Then I thought she might allow my daughter to pick her up, but a growl and a little snap in my daughter's direction answered that. Finally, I thought about using a towel underneath her like a sling, and my daughter and I lifted her that way up each of the stairs. I thought that had distributed her weight enough not to hurt me, but I was mistaken. I was in some pain when we finally got her upstairs, and I was pacnicking, thinking I had ruptured something. I laid down for a couple of hours, and gingerly pressed on all the areas that I thought might have been hurt, but after the rest, I seemed better.

This morning, I felt fine, so I think I escaped without any injury. Wish I could say the same for Miss Weenie. I think we will have to get her a set of wheels if she is going to be able to stay with us - the doctor said she has at least 2 herniated disks in her back, and others look dicey. Poor girl . . . the part of her that is Daschund can't support the weight of the part of her that is a MUCH bigger dog, evidently. I wouldn't mind her rolling around the house at all, as long as she is not in any pain, but the alternative is a $5,000+ back surgery with no guarantees, and as much as I love her, I can't make that level of financial sacrifice from my family's budget for a pet, especially when there are no guaratees that she will benefit.

So, time will tell on that.

Other good things today . . . I added cooked veggies to my repertoire! Oh, how I have missed you green beans! You, too, pintos! At lunch today, I visited a restaurant that has a veggie buffet and I placed the tiniest of spoonfuls of veggies on my plate, carefully sampling and chewing each one, savoring the flavor and remaining hopeful that everything would be ok. My month-old tummy growled in happiness as I sampled the chicken and dumplings broth (no chicken or dumplings, just the broth-y goodness), a half-dozen or so green beans and an equal number of pinto beans. I completed the deliciousness with a few bites of mashed potatoes and gravy, and it was perfect. Not too much, no pain, no stomachache.

This Wednesday will be one month since my surgery. It's gone by really quickly. With nearly 40 lbs gone, I am beginning to notice changes in the way my clothes fit, and the way my back feels, and the way I feel inside my skin. I'm pretty happy already . . . it's hard to imagine what the next few months will hold. I have to keep reminding myself that this time, I will be successful. This time, I will be able to reach my goal. This time, I will get healthier and stay that way.

It's still pretty unbelieveable.
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