Friday, May 29, 2009

I want stuff, and so...

Life is really amusing sometimes. I met with my former coworker/friend last night. A friend of hers adopted my former trouble-child cat; he is on vacation, she is taking care of the cat, and I wanted to go down and visit. We did, and had a nice time. Just sat there for four hours or so, petting and playing with the cat and shooting the bull. We worked very closely together for a little over two years, and I really like her and miss working with her, but she's insanely busy so we tend to just catch up every few months. This was a great excuse to do so; as a bonus, the cat and new owner are a really great fit, which was also heartening to see.

I quit the job where I worked with this gal because I just couldn't handle the stress. It was in the low-income subsidized housing industry. The agency I worked for was a classic nonprofit--chronically understaffed and underfunded--and the boundaries of my job were about as clear as an Etch-A-Sketch someone just shook. I developed severe stomach problems no one could diagnose, and I had every expensive diagnostic test in the free world, including the one where you eat half an egg-salad sandwich with the crusts cut off so the radioactive waves can read how your stomach is digesting it. Those tests determined absolutely nothing.

Then I had what I thought was a heart attack; after a couple of horrible tests where I was shot full of something that made me break out in hives all over my body, they determined there had been no heart attack; by process of elimination, I assume now that it must have been a panic attack.

Almost immediately thereafter, I began to have migraines--to the point where I had to get Toradol shots and lie in a dark room with occasional vomiting episodes for several days. At this point, I had had enough pointed telegrams from the universe and decided not to wait for the lightning bolt and/or death--I quit the job. I tried to work part-time for them for a while after resigning from full-time, but the stress level decreased not one iota. I did do some writing for them--a Standard Operating Procedures manual. My relationship with them as a contractor ended about a year ago. I've stayed on good terms with everyone I worked with there, and kept in touch with my boss and several other folks. A good replacement was made for my position, but they are still understaffed because they have acquired more properties.

So, they are in a bad way and really need some help; according to my friend, they will allow me a key, let me come and go as I please, and work around my schedule. I don't have to deal with people, I'll just be doing paperwork, which is what I'm best at anyway. There aren't a lot of people running around for them to hire who are (a) available and (b) have the training and certifications in this field that are necessary, and hey! I REALLY want a laptop. Preferably a MacBook. I could use a new Ipod, too. And we need the money, period. So I said, what the heck? I'm not earning anything or drawing unemployment so there are no real conflicts if they work around the medical stuff. I emailed them my terms today; they're supposed to contact me Monday. If I get stressed out again? I'm done. No harm, no foul. A little extra cash.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thursday Thunks, last week and this

Thanks to "Through Thick and Thin", I am getting hooked up with blogs with memes on them...like a moth to a flame, I am.

1. Have you seen the new Star Trek movie, and if so what did you think?

I went because I love Mr. Salted. It was just all right for me. (thank you, Randy Jackson)

2. Which popular sitcom character (past or present) are you most like?

I'd say Roseanne, but I don't have any kids. I'm probably more like Jackie, so I'd say I'm a combo of the two.

3. What kind of dreams do you have?

Strange, detailed, thought-provoking, disturbing. Never boring. Wake up scratching my head.


4. Bugger it. Go get a tattoo and come back. Right, now answer me this, what ees eet?


One of my paintings, the eyes of Buddha, and/or a memorial tattoo for my dearly departed friend.

5. Do you think you could be on American Idol with the singing voice you have now without any voice training?

No way.

6. How much wood, would a woodchuck chuck? If a woodchuck could chuck wood?

My answer is always the same--if he's chucking it and I'm not, I could care less!

7. If you were a tree in a Dr. Seuss book, what would you look like?

I'd be shaped like the Lorax.

8. Twilight? I'm addicted/Who cares/What the hell is Twilight?

I've only read the first book, and I have seen the movie. I think they are poorly written; I want to slap Bella upside her head, and Edward is a douchebag.

9. Do you think Kimber and Berleen do a dube while writing these questions?

I don't know, I just started :)

10. What the worst injury you've ever had?

The ankle that I broke 20 years ago that I now have to have reconstructive surgery on. Boo. Hiss.

11. What is your favorite dessert?

Chocolate mousse, apple pie, lemon pie. I'll take things I'm not supposed to eat anymore for $500, Alex.

12. What do you prefer...beach or mountains?


Beach. But I like beaches wear you wear sweaters, like the Oregon Coast.

13. What movie have you seen that still make you cry? Oh, a ton. "The Business of Fancydancing" about killed me.

14. Why are you making me submit a question? Are you too lazy to think of one yourself?

Again, I just started. :)

15. how often do you do laundry?

Pretty much daily. There are always towels and blankets and stuff to wash even if I'm caught up on clothes.

16. What is your favorite movie of all time, and why?

"American Beauty" is one...it's a beautiful illustration of human frailty.

17. If you won a million dollars in the lottery, would you keep working?

NO WAY!

18. If there was a war of the gummies, would you be on the gummi bear side or the gummi worm side?

Bears.

19. What's your favorite comic strip?

I love Pearls Before Swine.

20. Close your eyes… imagine you are in the perfect room/place… describe it.

I'll do a room. Hardwood floors, doors/windows/entryways that are rounded at the top, lots of natural light, built-in shelves full of books, walls a light color, a cool rug, a comfy sofa, a little desk with a laptop, a window seat, a cat or two...

21. How many states have you been in?

WA, OR, CA, NY, ID, MT, CO, NY, VT, MA, CT, RI, NH, VA, DC, FL, IL, NJ, NV...19.

22. If a sexist Man is called a pig, what is a sexist Woman called?

I'm stealing Through Thick and Thin's answer..."smart".

23. You see the one person who you absolutely despise. If you were guaranteed that he/she couldn't say or do anything back to you.... What would you do??

Make his heart stop with the sheer power of my mind.

24. How many states are to the right of you?

All but 4, so...55.

25. You can go anywhere in the world for free. Where are you?

I'm in England. And I may not come back.


26. HOW MANY FINGERS AM I HOLDING UP?


Three.

27. Are you a boxing fan? Do you think there will be a rematch of the Hatton-Pacquiao fight?

No. I have no idea. I feel bad for Mike Tyson because his daughter just died.

28. What is the most disgusting thing you have ever eaten?

Squid. And my grandmother's potato salad. They were nowhere near each other and this did not happen at the same time. She uses Miracle Whip, and that is Just Wrong.

29. Is it cloudy right now?

Yeah, the type that burn off.

30. What is your dream job?


Not really having or needing one...I would (a) seriously pursue writing and (b) go volunteer with animals so I could play with them and walk dogs part-time--after my ankle's fixed and I can walk again.

31. Someone gives you a $500 gift card to WalMart or Target. What are you going to buy? A laptop.

32. When you were little, what did you want to be "when you grow up"? And, how much different is your occupation now from where you thought it would be when you were younger? I never wanted to be anything but a writer. I don't really have an occupation right now so I'll have to get back to you on that answer.

33. what was your favorite toy as a child?

A pen and paper.

34. How do you think these things up??

My mind is quick like a bunny. My body, not so much.

35. Why do you think so many "fake" veterans get away with pretending? Why don't people question them more (especially the media who eats up their stories?)

Because most people would rather believe the best about people, and want to believe heroes exist.

36. What is the last place you had a good cry and why?


At home. It's safe here. And life.

37. What do you mean?

I mean what I say.

38. Which Sesame Street Character do you relate with the most and why?

Cookie Monster. I still want to marry him, but it would be like marrying my Muppet doppelganger.

39. What song one would you listen to over and over if you absolutely had to?

"Scarborough Fair"

40. Did you ever make what you believed at the time to be a horrible mistake - that in hindsight turned out to lead you on the best path in your life?

I quit grad school. That was a really good decision.

41. If you could change one thing on your person, what would it be?

Weight. Especially stomach.

42. What’s your favorite show to watch on television nowadays?


"Breaking Bad". It's fantastic.

43. Do you believe there is life after death?

Yes.

"The Emotional First-Aid Kit: A Practical Guide to Life After Bariatric Surgery" by Cynthia L. Alexander, PsyD

This book has an extremely straightforward tone without a lot of touchy-feely. ("You only have one chance for success.") Despite that, I feel it would be invaluable to anyone considering bariatric surgery. The book is meant to be informational for pre-surgery folks and serve as a resource after the surgery as well. It contains a lot of good information, including a list of websites and articles from psychological and medical journals. It walks the reader through the entire before and after process, including sections on deciding whether or not bariatric surgery is right for you, psychological preparation for surgery, self-talk, learning to cope with stress without using food, how to begin a consistent exercise program, behavior modification, weight management, relapse prevention, how relationships may change after surgery, depression after surgery, and unresolved issues that may impede the achievement of success with this surgery. The book is small, a perfect size to keep in a purse or briefcase. I have no doubt I will be carrying my copy around with me for some time. One of the things I appreciate is its reality-check statement of facts: diet and exercise are key, you can't just make the lifestyle change halfway and expect to do well, and unresolved issues need to be dealt with sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Yesterday, a dog

Yesterday, a dog made me happy.

I walked outside to get my mail. I don't go outside all that often on days when I don't have to be anywhere; as I've said before, I have this irrational fear that my neighbors probably all think I'm an agoraphobic drunk.

A couple of my neighbors were talking intently--one trying to explain to the other what his Medicare statement meant. The gentleman who was confused by his mail is quite elderly and not in great health, and he has this wonderful ancient dog that accompanies him everywhere.

She is an Australian Shepherd or some kind of mix of one, with mismatched, floppy ears that only go up once in a while. She also has this mysterious dent in her forehead. It doesn't look like it hurts or came from an injury, so I surmise maybe she was just born that way. I was able to pet her once before, probably a year ago, but I had to really beckon her over; she was timid and only stayed long enough for a perfunctory pet.

Yesterday, the second my feet hit the porch, she saw me and absolutely LIT UP. Her ears went up and she literally galloped over to me like I was a big juicy steak with her name on it. I didn't know this dog had any gallop left in her--she is usually quite meek, plodding along with her person. I don't think I'd seen her put her ears up before, either.

I just couldn't stop smiling at her. I bent down to rub her ears and tell her how pretty she was for a minute or two. She eventually got bored with that and decided to run circles around me while I got the mail, returning to her person's side. The neighbors were still immersed in conversation and hadn't noticed anything the dog had done. I paused when I got back to the porch and looked back at her, and she pricked up her ears and looked at me like she was ready to do it all again if I would just come down the stairs.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Saturday 9: Crank Up the Tunes meme

I'm going back and doing some of these retroactively. They're fun.

1. What is your favorite 50’s band? That’s hard—I guess I would say original doo-wop, the whole genre.

2. What is your favorite 60’s band? The Beatles. Not too boring, right? Second place would go to Simon and Garfunkel.

3. What is your favorite 60’s record album? The Beatles’ “Rubber Soul”, the Doors “Strange Days”, Beach Boys “Pet Sounds”

4. What is your favorite 70’s band? Led Zeppelin

5. What is your favorite 70’s record album? Pink Floyd, “Wish You Were Here”, followed by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s “So Far”.

6. What is your favorite 80’s band? R.E.M.

7. What is your favorite 80’s record album? “Reckoning”

8. What is your favorite 90’s band? Nirvana

9. What is your favorite 90’s record album? “Bleach”, except I think it came out in 1989--but I’m still saying it’s my favorite ‘90s.

Finishing up "Anatomy of a Food Addiction" by Anne Katherine

Tonight is the last meeting for my support group, so the assignment was to read Chapters 8 and 9 in the book. Chapter 8 is called "Help!" and has some basic guidelines for choosing a therapist and finding other resources for outside help.

Chapter 9 is called "Dear Beloved". It is addressed to the loved one of a person who struggles with food addiction. It touches on what food addiction is like and also goes through a day of what it's like to be an overweight person, from the struggle to find something to wear in public to the fear of comments from strangers everywhere he or she goes. It really breaks everything down for easy understanding and includes sections on sabotage, recovery, weight loss and support. Though Mr. Salted is very supportive, he has never had a weight problem, so I think this section of the book will be really useful for him.

I have really been impressed by this book. Before joining this group, I had seen it around and never seriously thought about picking it up. It touches on every conceivable issue imaginable other than weight-loss surgery, but I think that contributes to its effectiveness, as weight-loss surgery is a whole other can of worms. When it comes to addiction and hard-wired, lifelong habits, the brain is the thing that has to be worked on before a lifestyle change can truly be embraced. I'm glad I read this book, but it is a little discouraging to have to admit that my food issues will be something I am forced to wrestle with for the rest of my life, fat or thin--just like any other recovering addict. I also fear cross-addiction, because if it feels good, I like it too much. That's just built into the organism.

The rest of the book deals with anorexia and bulimia, hitting bottom, relapse, abstinence, and concludes with a chapter on fullness. (Fullness as Katherine discusses it means full spiritually and emotionally, not just literal fullness with food.) She suggests that if a relapse occurs, it is simply because there is not enough support in place for the addict, and suggests ways to provide that.

I don't know if I want to continue going to groups, and I definitely don't think a twelve-step group is the answer for me. I'm not a good group person. It's hard for me to look everyone in the eye, and if I feel really bad--like I did on the anniversary of my friend's death--I'm not going to show up at a group session. I would have gone to an individual session, though--I guess there is less pressure to perform in a way--you can be down in your own self-absorbed pit of despair and not have to be polite or empathize with others. Sometimes, I'll just say it--it's a relief to not have to think about other people when you're working through hard stuff of your own.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Frustrated. It started because of a book...

I've had a nice quiet long weekend with Mr. Salted; we went to see "Star Trek" and I didn't fall asleep, yesterday he grilled steaks, etc. etc. My ankle is hurting all the time now, and I'm not doing anything beyond the ordinary. I just take ibuprofen for it and listen to it pop when I walk. My last support group meeting is tomorrow night, and in a couple of weeks I'll have the six-month appointments with the nutritionist and exercise physiologist so we can resubmit to insurance for approval for surgery. I also found another dentist to go to; a friend of a friend is the hygienist. They won me over in part because they don't charge for nitrous. Sure, I have to drive an hour and a half, but if I like the dentist, I don't care! I'm going to try and stop the exercise physiologist visits for a while, at least until after I've had ankle surgery and am coming back from that; the last few months, it feels like I'm just setting fire to the copay money.

So, I read this book in a day and it frustrated me. The book is "Tweak" by Nic Sheff; the subtitle is "Growing Up On Methamphetamines". (His father, David Sheff, wrote a book about his son's addiction and their relationship, called "Beautiful Boy". I haven't read that one yet.)

Let me just say, I applaud anyone who has the courage and takes the time to write the truth about their life. I think the more books are out there that show what the world is really like from different points of view, the better. I wasn't as mad as everyone else seemed to be at James Frey, but I took creative nonfiction classes at university. As a writer, I err more on the side of writing your memoir as you remember and experience than what everyone else tells you happened, but that's neither here or there with this particular book.

The writing isn't bad at all--not terrible, but nothing particularly special, either. However, the attention to detail is fabulous, and it's a quick read. I read another review of "Tweak" on Visual Bookshelf or Goodreads that said every addict's story is the same. There is some truth in that statement, though I find it to be a gross overgeneralization.

I was frustrated by this book because its author had not only every opportunity in the world and two loving parents, but a seemingly endless supply of family friends and people that just fall out of the sky to help and care about him--and he's too deep into his disease to be cultivating those relationships, they are just there for him whenever he decides to need them. He says at various points in the book that he knows what he's thrown away and who he's hurt and how alone he feels, but then his parents are still there to pay for treatment and therapy and rehab and sometimes college and he still has their connections so that he can go on book tours with his father and have this fabulous career at the end. I felt manipulated when I finished the book--yes, addiction is harrowing, and the drug life is full of unsavory people and needless suffering and death--but how "on the edge" could this person really have been when he had not only a lot of advantages, but his youth as well? It was all just there waiting for him, whenever he decided to start appreciating it--it wasn't like he was just born into a mess he didn't ask for. Coming up from that, if you can, takes decades--and it ain't glamorous. I can attest that there's usually no book tour, with your father or anyone else, at the end.

I think this book frustrated me on a number of levels that have very little to do with Nic Sheff at all. Whether or not every addict's story is the same, every person's story has value. I don't care how rich or famous you are--I don't think anyone is born automatically more worthy or interesting than anyone else. There are a great many of people who could have been contributing more positively to society in any number of ways--if there had been someone there to pay for their rehab, their therapy, or help them to go back to school--or just love them unconditionally and try to keep them safe as they grew up. There are a lot of people who don't even get to breathe anymore because they happened to not be lucky or have the inner strength to keep plodding along through life and trying. The people who get to write these bestselling memoirs are, nine times out of ten, people who had some semblance of a safety net, whether it was parents, husband, Great-Aunt Matilda, or all of the above. I'm not just frustrated because of my own life and its path to date, though that certainly contributes to this rant...I'm thinking of a thousand tragic stories I've heard--and a million more none of us will ever get to hear. It doesn't seem fair that this is true when there is so much to learn from every person's life experience--including that of Nic Sheff.

I want to make this frustration I'm feeling now motivate me to try and do something more with my own talents, much as I have transformed many negative emotions and experiences in my early life into motivation to achieve as an adult. That's what I'm going to try and take away from this today.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saturday 9: Hot Fun in the Summertime Meme

1. Is summer your favorite season? Why?

No way. It's my least favorite. I hate hot weather, I can't be out in the sun because I burn so fast, and I'm never comfortable.

2. Do you exercise more in the summer because you wear less clothing?

No, I exercise less because it's too freakin' hot already. Inside with the A/C on and some ice water is where I probably am.

3. Do you enjoy tanning or are you more concerned about the dangers of basking in the sun?

It is physically impossible for me to get a tan. I'm nine shades whiter than a white person, okay? Frog-belly white. Kraft mayonnaise white. You can see my veins through to the bone. I'm out there with umbrellas, sunscreen, hats. People laugh but I have pretty nice skin for a 40-year-old.


4. You are on the beach when a waiter appears for your drink order. What do you ask for?


Water, probably. I've had a few enjoyable days drinking Mudslides or something lovely like that, but alcohol just makes me hotter.

5. Do you camp in the summertime?

No way. Too old to sleep on the ground. Don't like bugs. Allergic to bees. My idea of camping is a room at the Travelodge.

6. What was your favorite summer vacation as a kid?

They were not my happy time. I'll just leave it at that.

7. Do you enjoy sleeping outdoors?

No, though I have a couple of fond memories of doing it as a kid...in Becky's yard with the boom box on the long extension cord, looking up at the stars and listening to KISW.

8. Do you throw a summer barbecue every year?

You're funny. This quiz is making me feel like the most antisocial misanthrope on the planet. My husband likes to grill. It annoys me because it takes too much effort but I just let him rock on with his bad self. The meat tastes good, anyway,and he cleans up afterward.

9. Have you ever been to a nude beach? If yes, what did you think?

No. It wouldn't faze me, but it wouldn't be anywhere I'd want to be on purpose.

A meme that's about a week late

1. Who do you think is sexy?

My husband, and guys like him—smart, sweet, thoughtful, funny, just plain good people. Good fathers, sons, husbands, friends, brothers. Guys who shovel the walk so you don’t have to.

2. When does it become love?

You just know.

3. Are you a good dancer?

I’m not bad. I have fun. :)

4. What magazines do you read?

People, Utne Reader, Consumer Reports, Rolling Stone, International Figure Skating. I like Bust and a lot of others. Magazines are fun. “Beauty” magazines are verboten chez moi; all they do is tell you to feel insecure so you buy the products they advertise and keep buying their magazines in hope of redeeming your not-nearly-fabulous-enough self. And who the hell needs that? Not me.

5. If you could have any name, what would you call yourself?

The one I have. I picked it. :)

6. Have you ever ridden in a limo? If yes, when?

I never have.

7. What is something you really like to do?

Read, write, take pictures, sleep, laugh.

8. Last chance: Who wins Idol, Kris Allen or Adam Lambert?

Well, as it turns out, Kris! I thought it could have gone either way.

9. If you had to, what animal would you choose to be?

Any cat a certain couple among my friends own. Theirs only drinks Brita water!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Quiet week

The ten-year date from the last blog hit on the day of my group meeting, and I felt under the weather and just didn't want to go, so I played hooky. They had all done a sugar detox, anyway (including no artificial sweeteners) and I was in no mood to justify myself or do much of anything else. I watched bad TV and chilled out, talked to a couple of my nearest and dearest on the phone. It was all good. The last meeting of the group is next week.

The weather has been just beautiful the past few days. I don't spend a lot of time outdoors, but I still appreciate it. It fills the house with natural light; I love to watch the cats jockeying for the sunniest spot under the big living room skylight so they can bake their brains out.

I've been scanning a lot of old pictures for people, and that has been fun. I LOVE to play in Photoshop and can waste hours doing it. I've toyed with the idea of an eventual photo restoration business, but everyone has imaging software now so I don't know how feasible that idea really is. I enjoy it as a hobby nonetheless and have improved a lot of old photos for my friends and family.

I'm eating and feeling well. I'm still eating some things that contain sugar, but not to excess--not even every day. Today I did get a Jet Tea smoothie--something I used to live on that probably has no nutritional value--and am just savoring it slowly, knowing it could be the last one I ever have. That's how I'm looking at it as we use up the last vestiges of things in our house that contain sugar. I know what's coming. I'm researching the food options I will have as soon as I have a surgery date and slowly incorporating them into our pantry and my diet. Asparagus has become my favorite vegetable--fiber AND protein! W00T! Seroquel seems to be working pretty well as a sleep med.

I'm not weighing myself. The only reason I own a scale at all is because we went to Mexico in 2007 and had to weigh our luggage. The ex-bulimic in me still thinks scales are evil, at least for me. I flat-out refuse to let that number tell me what kind of day I'm going to have--or, God forbid, what my worth is as a human being. Unfortunately, that is where my brain tends to go if I get in the habit of weighing in.

The ankle is bothering me a bit; I mostly stay off it unless I have to grocery shop or something. I have to be especially careful on our porch steps--there are four or five. If there is an elevator available, I use it. I have a harder time going down stairs than up them, though I have stumbled doing both directions in the fairly recent past with my ankle issues. I saw the little girl next door staring at me yesterday as I steadied myself with one hand against the wall going down the stairs to my car. (I have this irrational fear that the neighbors think I'm a drunk. I buy a case of beer at Costco for Mr. Salted every now and then--I hate beer and drink NONE of it, and only indulge in booze at all maybe three or four times a year. I rarely leave the house, I keep weird hours, and I always wear sunglasses. I also haven't had a job for a few months. I'm not one to care what the neighbors think, but I have nosy ones, many of whom don't seem to have much to do. Sigh.)

I have some pictures to work on today and I'll probably do some writing. I feel so fortunate to have all this quiet time before the weight-loss surgery to get my head together. A friend paid me to write a resume for her--bought the groceries this week!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ten years after



"I loved my friend.
He went away from me.
There's nothing more to say.
The poem ends
Soft as it began-
I loved my friend." --Langston Hughes

Today is the tenth anniversary of the date my best friend died. Despite my best efforts not to focus on this, it has been on my mind all week. (I call him my best friend because we were friends from age six on, and the whole concept of "best friend", for me, is very much something rooted in childhood...I have a number of amazing friends and they are all the best in whatever unique way they are. Really, he was more like a twin brother, emotionally speaking.) I think maybe this anniversary has been on my mind because it's two digits' worth of years he's been gone now, and a decade is a long, long time.

He was an absolutely amazing person, someone who still makes me laugh every day in memory. He was smart, sweet, goofy, and kind. I never laughed or cried harder with anyone before or since, and there was no one more fun to go dancing with. He remembered everything, even and especially if it was embarrassing, and he was an incredible mimic. He loved words and could make up parodies of songs at the drop of a hat. He loved classic Looney Tunes, "Dallas", "Golden Girls", and cowboys. He was a nurse by trade, and the letters and cards he had from the families of his patients would make Chuck Norris weep.

When we were both in our late 20s, he left a bad relationship and relocated cross-country, ultimately ending up helping me leave one of my own. After all that happened, he and I were roommates for a couple of years, and we had a fantastic time living together. I'll always, always be thankful for that experience.

I've been trying to write a book about his life and our relationship for the last ten-plus years. I was actually writing about the friendship years before he died, when I was in school getting my writing degree, and I always got positive feedback on that writing. I haven't ruled out fiction--I did publish one short story that was loosely based--but it somehow didn't feel right. Then I thought I would write a memoir--more his than mine--but in writing it, I found that it was as much or more my story as his, which has definitely stalled me at times. (I'm very inspired by Augusten Burroughs and Haven Kimmel's memoirs of themselves and other people at the same time--"A Wolf at the Table" and "She Got Up Off the Couch" in particular. "Angela's Ashes" by Frank McCourt, too. Lots of them.)

So what I have done so far is just write a couple of pages--a vignette here or there, thinking I would try to get them out and put them together later. I feel like I can't write anything else until I get this story written. One day not long ago I wrote the following, thinking it would be the end of the book; maybe it should be the beginning, or maybe it's just me clearing my throat, in the literary sense, and it shouldn't be in there at all.

At any rate, I really wish you could have known him. The world is a better place because he was here for a while.

****

So much is different now, ten years after. So much is the same.

Since you’ve been gone, I’ve had a pedicure, been on a cruise, actually attended and mostly enjoyed a high-school reunion, been divorced, been remarried, had a tubal pregnancy and several miscarriages, had a hysterectomy, gained weight, lost weight, bought and sold a home, changed my address and my job three times, got some medication, lost a couple of cats, got a couple more cats, learned about good tequila, stopped giving a shit, and started giving a shit. I’ve hated myself and I’ve loved myself and I’ve become closer to some people and further away from others and I’ve found some peace, but there’s still so much that I seek and know I may never find. I think sometimes I could have been anything if I’d been born into a different family--but that, I’m afraid, is true of almost everyone who was ever born in the first place.

You never met the husband that I have now. He’s so laid back, gentle, kind, good, funny; I know you would have absolutely adored each other. In almost intangible, subtle, yet not at all creepy ways, he reminds me of you--but I also admit I make a conscious (or subconscious) choice to see you in everyone I hold dear.

At least once a day, I will laugh or become furious at something only you would understand. The world keeps moving, and everyone seems younger, more so all the time. The cracks under my eyes keep getting wider—and so does the rest of me, despite my best efforts to the contrary. I still can’t sleep properly. A lot of the time--perhaps more than I should--I feel really, really old, and really, really tired, so that hasn’t changed. But: I can still hear music, take a picture, smile at a dog, dance, laugh so hard my stomach hurts, give people goofy presents they would never buy themselves, watch bad TV, marvel at figure skating, savor chocolate, maybe even write some words that will, hopefully, mean something to someone besides me one day.

Above all else, I can still love. Most days, I want to live, and even feel lucky to be here. When it comes to your life, all the well-worn clich├ęs apply—your life was too short; a light went out; the good die young. You left forever—-maybe even on purpose. You took your freckles, your laugh, and your dance moves with you. But you know what else? You changed the world. You mattered.

Maybe that means I matter too.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Price-gouging dentist



I went to a dental practice on Friday who fully tried to price-gouge me. I went in there for a routine cleaning and the suspicion of perhaps two cavities. I went on the recommendation of a friend--who goes to see the head dentist--but they stuck me with a new "associate" that was in la-la land. It was just what I needed this week (not). I'm one of those people who needs nitrous for you to touch my teeth at all--which I told them about 50 times--and these fools (the hygienist and the dentist) were digging around in there willy-nilly until I was tearing up from the pain and about ready to punch one or both of them. They kept fluttering, going off to confer together and then coming back to me. "Are you sure you're flossing? Why are your gums this sensitive? Your insurance seems to have an unlimited cleaning allowance...you should come back every three months until we get you up to speed. It's been a WHOLE YEAR since you saw the dentist." (You would have thought it'd been ten years and I had rampant meth mouth or something. It was to laugh. Anyone who knows me knows what good care I take of my teeth--I'm borderline pathological about it.)

They also told me I needed twelve fillings. TWELVE. (They did concede that some of them were tiny, but still oh so urgent.) My maximum dental plan allowance is $2K per year and of course this whole proposed cluster was going to cost $3K. I told them I couldn't afford it. They handed me a loan application. (!) They outlined an entire treatment plan that would have involved cleaning part of my mouth and filling part of my mouth over four appointments, telling me they were trying to save me money so I wouldn't have to pay for the nitrous so many times. I didn't end up with a cleaning or any fillings--"they didn't have time"--but I ended up being there for two bloody hours anyway. They were in their office chattering and eating lunch together before I'd even gotten out of the building.

I told them several times that I had not had a job in months and also had major surgery coming up but they didn't budge on their grand plan. In the real world, no one has four digits to drop on dental care willy-nilly. I said, "Can we not just take care of the most pressing issues now and wait until later on the more minor ones?" Nothing. I heard crickets.

I hadn't slept the night before at ALL and was literally home under a blanket weeping once I got there. My logical mind had left the building. (Sleep deprivation and overload will do that.) I was thinking, What can I sell? What can I do? Why is this all happening? Thankfully, my dear and lovely friend--who also happens to be an RN--gave me a call at precisely the right moment and talked me down. We both know a recently graduated dental hygienist who knows about the dental schools and such, and the hygienist and the RN concurred I was being gouged and I should go elsewhere. I was instructed to get my films (which were only available in digital form) and either come to the practice she works for or find someone more local to me who was based in reality.

The receptionist played dumb ("you need these for your gastric bypass surgery?") but finally emailed them to me. They are interesting, and weird-looking. I thought it looked like my skull was made of smoke and started humming "Within You Without You" involuntarily, thinking of the Beatles in India with the Maharishi and hookah pipes.

All I can say is: thank goodness for good friends.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Susan Maria Leach, "Before and After: Living and Eating Well After Weight-Loss Surgery"

I've been feeling much less "jaggedy" today, thankfully. I've been reading "Before and After: Living and Eating Well After Weight Loss Surgery" by Susan Maria Leach, which I guess is one of the hallmark books in the WLS canon, so to speak. I really liked the first 100 or so pages, which mostly consisted of her journal and journey to before and after, an FAQ-type deal, and the first protein shake recipes. She lost me a bit on her recipe recipes, though. I don't cook at all and am far from a "foodie".(I was serious when I asked why can't I just eat baby food with protein powder. If food's only going to be fuel, do I really care anymore?) She still has great suggestions and insights and it's definitely a valuable book for someone going throught this process--I'm going to get my own copy soon (my nutritionist lent me this one). I think it's definitely worth reading for anyone considering weight-loss surgery. She has a website at http://www.bariatriceating.com/ that looks like a great resource, not only for recipes and such but also because she test-drives protein bars and things like that. I'm really glad that so many things can be ordered online--many products seem to only be carried in the most out-of-the-way places.

Yesterday

Yesterday, it all hit me like a ton of bricks: I need two major surgeries, the rest of my year is pretty much shot. I didn't feel like being a g-d grownup about it. I felt like crap, my ankle was throbbing. I was weepy. I wanted my mommy.

Moments like that don't happen to me very often, because I never had a mom. I know there are people in the world who do--sometimes it feels like everyone does, but I know better than that. In reality, hardly anyone has that kind of mommy. But that doesn't mean I can't have a human moment and wish I was one of the lucky ones, even at the age of forty. Because I am fiercely independent and just handle myself--even if I feel barely taped together--I don't think most people I know remember that I'm not just a Kryptonite self-cleaning oven of an individual, even some of the people that are closest to me in the world. It has always been expected of me to be that way.

I tried to tell a close friend of mine how I felt yesterday, and she said, "You'll get through it" and changed the subject. She wasn't having a great day herself, and we talked it through, but I initially felt like I'd been punched in the stomach--it was really hard for me to even confide these feelings in anyone. I would rather die than ask people for help, and have a hard time accepting help when it is offered, so it's partially my own fault.

Mr. Salted is incredibly supportive. He will take every bit of time off work given his choice, but he's the sole breadwinner right now and what savings we have is hemorrhaging to pay medical bills. We are barely squeaking by. All our credit cards are maxed out. I had never been unemployed longer than six weeks in my life before this past year, and it is making me *completely* nuts. I don't mind not working, I mind depending completely on someone else. Seriously--it's my idea of hell, probably because it's never been a viable option for me. Even when I was alone and had my hysterectomy five years ago and had to be home for six weeks, I had a good job and paid leave. I feel incredibly guilty about putting all of this pressure on Mr. Salted, and he is a mensch. "If the roles were reversed, what would you do?" he asked me yesterday.

"Take care of you," I answered. "Without even thinking about it."

He said, "I know that. I love you, and that's what I'm doing. We'll get through this. You are not a burden, you're the best thing that's ever happened to me." Of course, he made me feel a lot better; he is fabulous, I could not ask for a better husband, and I love him so, so, SO much. I am just concerned about actual logistical conflicts--there is no way the man can take a month off work and just hover while I can't walk. (And I hate anyone hovering. Ugh.) I'm worried this place will catch fire and I'll have to scoot out of it on my butt. I'm worried that I'll set fire to it myself after a scorching combination of not enough Demerol and one too many episodes of "Divorce Court".

I'm worried about the fact I can't cook and have to learn how to make all this soup stock and weird food for post-op--can't I just eat baby food? Seriously, I'm going to ask my nutritionist. I'll put some protein powder in it or whatever. Mr. Salted is willing to fend for himself. The post-WLS mantra, after all, is: food is fuel, food is fuel, food is fuel. I'm just so over this food crap. It just isn't worth letting it have all this power over me. None of it tastes THAT good.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Guess who needs reconstructive ankle surgery?

So here's the deal: I had this horrible left ankle fracture when I was 16. The bone was snapped in half and had to be screwed back together. (They removed the screws later.) It's always hurt when it rained and that kind of thing, which I figured was par for the course. Lately, as I've documented here, it has been giving out more and more frequently. I can just be walking along, minding my own business, and it goes over to the side without a warning. Working out on it or a moderate amount of walking causes pain and swelling. Everything hurts it, even just walking around the grocery store. It is one of the reasons I've pursued bariatric surgery with the degree of purpose I have in the past few months.

Back in 1985, when this bone was broken, the orthopedic surgeon just repaired the bones involved--that's what they did back then. They didn't have the technology then to see ligaments or even consider them a problem. I was really young and they probably thought I'd heal up just fine. My ligaments--the ones that provide necessary stability--have long since been shredded. The doctor could tell just by moving my ankle around with his hands that the ligaments there were basically gone and done for; the right ankle, on the other hand, felt just as it should. The difference was obvious in the movement and feeling, especially once it was pointed out and demonstrated to me this way. He said when the bad ankle just gives out now, it's just tearing at existing scar tissue, and the reason I can (thus far) still limp away on my own afterward is because of that scar tissue, but it will still need to be stabilized in a more permanent fashion. Future stabilization = not optional.

Reviewing x-rays taken today, the doctor said, "See now, your bones look gorgeous." (Not a sentence I ever expected to hear...)He could see on the film where the break had been with his practiced eye--right in the ball on the outside.

He said I will have to get this ankle repaired. Not necessarily today, but as soon as I can. It isn't going to get any better on its own, no matter what kind of strength training or exercises I do, and I'm "young" (ha!) and have a long way to go. "You had to know this was coming," he said. Well, yeah, I was afraid it was, but am still "young" (ha HA!) and stupid enough to think that maybe it would fix itself with my eventual weight loss, et. al. Pfffft. What they do is take part of my tendon and reconstruct the stability-providing ligament. I can't walk on it for at least three weeks, but I am allowed to drive an automatic. It's in and out of hospital the same day, no stay. After about a year's time, there is usually a lot of progress that has been made.

So--he said this, and I freaking knew it--walking is no good for me. The ankle can go over at any time--gravel road, crack in the sidewalk, step in a puddle, on a rock, off a curb. The elliptical is no good because you push off from your heel and that can also exacerbate things. Same with the Stairmaster. Since you are usually watching TV or listening to music to provide distraction from the exercise, you're all that much more likely to forget exactly how to compensate for the instability and go boom. I knew this too. Despite the crappy news that I do need surgery, it certainly felt fantastic to be validated. A doctor who listens! We talked about my pending bariatric surgery; he knows my surgeon. He encouraged me to "take care of me first", get stabilized from the GBP, and come in, maybe this fall, and get this taken care of, giving him about a month's leeway. He will write the necessary letters for me and fax his findings from today to my exercise physiologist and bariatric surgeon.

He also said these magic words: "Your weight has nothing to do with this. It is neither here nor there." I wanted to give him a big old hug, kind of like I want to hug the occasional (myopic) cashier who cards me when I buy Mr. Salted's beer at the grocery store. Oh hell, I wanted to kiss him on the mouth, just like a big old grateful hound. Why, thank you, universe! You have dealt me a doctor with a clue!

The bad news is: this puts me out of commission for longer, and I don't know how we will afford it. We'll manage somehow, I'm sure. I don't see what good waiting any longer to fix the ankle would do--it would just mean I had to take time off from a new job (should I be able to find one), and in the meantime, the ankle can still go out whenever it wants to. And it means no school, at least not this year, but I had pretty much given up on that, at least for this year. Maybe the economy will rebound a little by fall 2010.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Chapter 6 Exercises from "Anatomy of a Food Addiction" by Anne Katherine, MA

Chapter 6 is called "How Healing Happens". It discusses dealing with both chemical functioning and feelings, and goes into quite some detail. Again, I recommend anyone who thinks this book can help them to pick it up. This is the assignment for tomorrow's group, and it's a doozy:

6.2 Disease Inventory: Part III (p. 102)

Starting from your earliest memory of bingeing and/or starving, dieting, and/or purging, chronicle your relationship with food.

The Progression of Powerless Eating

1. When did you first turn to food?

2. Gradually, over the years, your relationship—your intimacy—with food progressed. Chronicle this progression.

3. Include, if relevant, the progression of addiction to sugar and/or alcohol.

4. What impact has the addiction and compulsion had on all parts of your life in the last five years?

5. Be very specific and honest about your present pattern of bingeing and/or purging and/or starving. How much and how often do you binge? What is your volume of food? How frequently do you purge? How often do you starve yourself?

Control Efforts

1. List attempts to control eating—starving, dieting, purging, laxatives, diet pills, prescription drugs, coffee, smoking.

2. Mark the control efforts that failed.

Unmanageability

1. Unmanageability is a part of this disease. Anyone with an addiction finds that her life gets frayed around the edges. What evidence of unmanageability exists in your life?

2. List evidence of unmanageability in:
(a) Emotional state—mood swings, depression, self-esteem
(b) Relationships, social life, sexual relationships
(c) Work. Have you been late or missed work due to a sugar low or due to drinking? Have you attacked coworkers because of sugar anger? Have you sabotaged your own success by not having a clear head when needed or by eating rather than studying or reading or learning?

Adverse Physical Consequences

1. Have you ever risked your life or the lives of others by eating or not eating?
2. Have you damaged your body as a result of your addiction?
3. Include food blackouts. How many times have you found yourself with an empty bowl or bag in your lap and no clear memory of a decision to eat? How many times have you stood in front of the open refrigerator without knowing you were going to walk there? When did you first start having food blackouts? Have these progressed?

Adverse Social Consequences

1. What harm has been done to your relationships?
2. How has your disease affected others? How have the people around you had to adapt because of your disease? In what ways have you abused others because of the influence of this disease?

Adverse Financial Consequences

1. Include adverse financial consequences. How has the addiction kept you poor? How has it deprived you of having money for other things you want to do? Include crazy thinking about money so you could spend it on food.

Adverse Moral Consequences

1. Has the disease made you violate your values? (stealing, concealing) How is your self-respect doing? Have you lost any as a result of this disease?
2. Have you manipulated others so you could satisfy a craving?
3. Include confused priorities—how is food the center of your life? Has it been the center of any of your relationships? What evidence is there that eating has been more important than relating?

Adverse Spiritual Consequences
1. Include evidence of how eating has been more important than your spiritual development, more important than your relationships, more important than your health, more important than your peace of mind.
2. How has this disease affected your choices, your decisions, the opportunities you’ve missed or aborted?

What NOT to do if your kid is fat

a) Don't lock the cupboards or fridge. The food will become like crack and they will find a way to get it, even if they have to steal. Frankly, this is basically not only encouraging, but begging them to steal, in my opinion.

b) Don't eat in front of them/make fun of them. They *will* learn to hate you, even if they love you--trust me on this one. However, they will also be hurt, and ultimately hate themselves even more.

c) Don't berate them about exercising or force them to exercise while you watch. Exercise WITH them. Do active things as a family. Teach them that they have the right to enjoy their body's movement without ridicule, no matter what shape, size, or athletic ability it is. Focus on the body's health, NOT its appearance.

d) Teach them that beauty is more than the size on the waistband of their jeans, and that fat does NOT mean ugly. They don't have to hide or be sorry they are who they are, just be the best them they can be. Don't compare them to their skinnier sister/neighbor/acquaintance/friend. Don't treat them like a freak. Different people are different sizes and no body shape is morally superior to another. I implore you to get some !@#$$%^& therapy if you don't believe this yourself.

e) Deal with your own food issues and prejudices openly and honestly. If your kid sees you being actively bulimic, berating yourself because of your weight, etc., and not actively working to change those negative patterns, it will negatively affect them as well. Showing them your own struggle and humanity would be a gift beyond imagining. If you practice "those who can't do, teach", it is just crazymaking and not good for anyone. And for God's sake, don't make fun of fat people. It isn't any more okay to make fun of fat people than it is people of color, disabled people, gay people or whatever. You should have learned this in grade school or before, but if you're a fat bigot, get over yourself. If YOU have some internalized self-hatred because you're fat, GET SOME HELP and quit poisoning your poor kid so s/he has a chance!

f) Teach them about nutrition. Learn about it together if you need to. It isn't enough to learn about it--buy and eat the nutritious food, too. If you have a house full of Hostess cakes and Doritos and sugared soda and you have a fat kid, what do you expect?

Chapter 5 exercises from "Anatomy of a Food Addiction"

Chapter 5 in "Anatomy of a Food Addiction" is called "Nature's Telegrams" and deals with messages from the body and brain. It talks a lot about feelings, the origin of feelings, and makes a compelling argument for articulating the experience of feelings (through drawing, writing, sculpting, some kind of visceral expression) vs. just thinking about them, arguing that "the symbols [of a/produced by a feeling] are too fleeting for meaning to emerge" if one talks about them, ie, getting feelings out of the mind and experiencing them more clearly.

(I really hope that anyone reading this blog who thinks this book can help them goes out and picks it up. My synopses here do not fully do it justice, but I include them as part of the process I'm going through prior to surgery and lifestyle change so that I can track my assignments and such. There is a lot of detail and great insight in the actual book that is definitely lost in translation!)

In talking about following a feeling all the way through, the example author Anne Katherine gives is that of grieving the death of her close friend. She not only misses her friend and the unique friendship between the two of them--she misses what her friend taught her about life simply by being who she was. By dealing with the full spectrum of losses involved in her friend's death, she was able to articulate her feelings and grieve more completely, surrendering to the grieving process and healing more completely. (As time goes on, the pain became more manageable, but the only way out is through--that was the message I got from it.)

The author shares her personal process in tracing the origin of her feelings. The assignment for my group was to flesh out our "portfolio of beliefs" that are discussed on page 88--the ones that we have held from a very early age, the ones that are probably not working for us now. These are beliefs about ourselves and the world that we have held so long and seen reinforced so often that we believe they are true.

What might be in a portfolio of beliefs? Well, I can tell you what was in mine:

1) There is no such thing as a safe person or place, so I will have to define safety for myself and take whatever measures I deem necessary to keep myself safe, even if they are only in my mind, because no one is ever going to protect me.

(2) The less I need, the less I will be hurt.

(3)People are never nice unless they want something.

(4)I can take care of myself later. My needs can wait.

(5)Know everything you can so you cannot be caught off guard. Be ready to run or fight physically if you have to.


(6) Feeling too much is a sign of weakness, and besides, my feelings don't really matter.

(7)It doesn’t matter who I really am, because no one is watching or listening.

(8)I am ugly.

(9)I have to hurt myself (put myself down) before anyone else can hurt me.

(10)Anger saved my life.

Some of these things are partially true. Some of them are not true at all. Taken at face value in black and white, not one of them is healthy.

Anne Katherine talks about four things that have to happen for a belief to be changed (p. 89): (a) we have to be conscious that we hold the belief; (b) we must see what the real truth is; (c) we must experience the full range of feelings about the causes and consequences of the belief, allowing ourselves to grieve the losses we've suffered as a result of the belief as well as the loss of the belief itself; and (d) we must receive care for the pain we've suffered.

On page 92, she lists some of the things that promote recovery: taking care of unfinished business as it comes up; expose your basic beliefs and fears about yourself and the rules you developed to survive; stop blaming yourself 100% for those beliefs and fears and take a look at everyone who participated in their implementation; protect yourself from people who continue to reinforce those beliefs; expose yourself to people who believe in you and want the best for you; identify which feelings it wasn't safe for you to have; take care of yourself by not allowing any further experiences of deprivation, abuse, or abandonment; hang around healthy people; learn coping and relationship skills; find safe places to start breaking your old, worn-out survival rules.

She also emphasizes how important it is to build a support system if you do not already have one in place. If it helps, make a list of who's safe and who isn't, and keep it in mind when you choose who to spend valuable time and energy with.

Pugmania!





Mr. Salted and I went to Pugmania, a benefit event for Seattle Pug Rescue, last Saturday. It was a lot of fun. I am all for anything that benefits animal rescue, and pugs are great dogs. I don't believe any of them have ever met a stranger. I took a lot of pictures, especially of their costume contest, and made friends with one pug and her person. There are more photos on my Flickr site (it can be linked from my profile here).

Mother's Day

Mother's Day is hard for me; I tend to go underground. Like most major holidays in this country, the greeting-card industry beats it to a pulp. I'm not saying moms don't deserve to be celebrated--the good ones deserve that and more--but I find it to be yet another "family holiday" that doesn't have a lot of room for people without families that look at least a little traditional.

My actual mother died in a car accident when I was two years old. This is a loss I am still trying to fully comprehend and grapple with at the age of forty. I think I have missed her more often and more deeply since I was thirty than any time of my life before that. I knew a lot of cool mothers growing up--a lot of my friends have great moms, and I credit a few of them with helping me survive my childhood. I stay in touch with most of them to this day. There are also wonderful women, such as my former mother-in-law, who have been the closest thing to mothers I've experienced in my life. I always try to remember, thank, and celebrate them as well.

I was not medically able to be a mother myself, and I really wanted to for a huge part of my life--in an ideal world, I wanted to have one child and adopt one child. Over the last ten years, I have resigned myself to the fact I don't really have the stamina anymore, my second husband has never really wanted kids, and I'm past wanting to raise a child now; I have accepted that my journey on the planet is a different one. However, since I did try to have a child for years and lost actual pregnancies, a part of me still and always mourns those losses. There is no one more pro-choice than myself on planet Earth that I've ever met, but when I was actively trying, the pregnancies I lost were real to me. Questions that went around my head and heart (things like this are not logical, they just are) included, Am I a mom? Was I ever a mom? If there is a heaven, are my kids there, will I be a mom there? One of my dear friends, one of two or three people I can even I can even mention these feelings to, told me yes, you were; yes, you are; yes, you will. Can I believe these things and still be pro-choice? I think so. It's not a black and white issue, and it gets a lot more gray when you fall into my category (whatever that is) and live a few decades.

Not getting to either have a mother or be a mother, at times I feel shut out of a huge part of not only life, but being female. A woman's life is far from pointless without children, and I am finding out just how NOT pointless it really can be. Society beats that whole issue to a pulp as well, and not just around Mother's Day. I love kids, I love moms, and I love women, but Mother's Day isn't a wonderful celebratory day in everyone's year.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Ankle

I saw the exercise physiologist yesterday. I told him the last session had blown out the ankle so bad (it hasn't been the same since) that I was finally going to bite the bullet and go to a specialist about it. He recommended someone, and I have an appointment with them Tuesday. (More medical bills we can't afford! Whoopdedoo.)

It surprised me how much even the strength training hurts it. My fear is that they won't be able to find anything wrong with it, but something has to be wrong with it, or it wouldn't be feeling like this. I did break it pretty badly back in the day (almost 25 years ago). It has been giving out randomly for the last ten years. The last year, though, it has given out more and more frequently, every few months, and then down to every few weeks.

I have my six-month session with the exercise physiologist next month, and the six-month nutritionist appointment a couple of days later. Then we resubmit to insurance for approval and after approval, I get the pre-surgery stuff done and voila! Surgery should definitely be in early July. I have to miss some fun stuff this summer while I recover, but there will continue to be fun stuff going on in the future--and hopefully, it will be a lot more fun for me because I won't have this permanent case of the drag-ass/lack of stamina that my weight exacerbates now. I was never a super high-energy person, even as a kid, but I have bursts of energy when something fun is going on. Hopefully I will get them more often!

****

I heard an old friend of mine, younger than myself, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer yesterday. This is the third person I know under the age of 40 to get cancer JUST THIS YEAR. I know there are no guarantees in life and all that, but still want to know why all the nice people get cancer while the psychotic jackasses (thank you, "Veronica Mars") seem to live forever.

Edit, a few days later: my friend had a 10-pound benign tumor removed by emergency surgery. Woohoo!!!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Nutritionist appointment, 5 months in



This picture is from my girls' night out last weekend, not the nutritionist...these were Derby Punches, in honor of the Kentucky Derby--bourbon and lemonade from someone's grandma's recipe. The cool glasses had all the Derby stuff on them and you could buy them for a buck and keep 'em, so I bought mine. I have always wanted to go to the Kentucky Derby just so I could wear the big picture hat, but in reality, I think I just want the hat.

***

I saw my nutritionist Monday. She was very encouraging and told me what a great job I was doing, which felt really good...I just feel like I'm treading water so much of the time. I had lost a couple of pounds, which surprised me because I haven't been exercising (my ankle is still popping and sore--my regular doc is sending me a written referral to have it looked at; one of my tasks for today is to find an orthopedist my insurance covers and to make the appointment). I've stayed within five pounds of what I was when I first went in to see her, but I still weigh less than I did at the beginning.

She praised me for using my time well by joining this group and really trying to get to the bottom of everything within me so I can succeed in the long run, and also complimented me on my food journal--its detail and follow-through. All of this just felt really good; too often, I am caught up in feeling guilty for being unemployed/not productive enough, not to mention overwhelmed by all the emotional stuff I'm working through. She kept saying things like how I was "on it" and "ahead of the game". This was my five-month appointment with her, meaning the six-month one is next month (June 12!) and the pre-op stuff can really begin then, if not before. (Another task for today is to contact the surgical center and see if I need to anything to start the ball rolling, as I know there are some pre-op procedures that need to happen--an abdominal ultrasound, bloodwork, etc.)

We talked about what I would be eating as surgery gets closer. I do not have to do a liquid diet prior to surgery as I had previously thought, but I do have to go to a very low-carb diet two to three weeks prior in order to shrink the liver. Low-carb in this case means a total of 40 total grams of carbohydrates per day. Fiber content can be subtracted against the carbohydrate amount. She gave me a couple of sample menus. The daily fiber goal is 25g, and the daily protein goal is 50g prior to surgery, but 60-80g after.

Thirty days prior to surgery, I will need bloodwork done. I also need to make sure my medications can either be crushed or will be available in a liquid form, and that I have vitamin supplements on tap for after--she recommends Bariatric Advantage.

I thought about getting a book on making baby food for afterward, but she referred me to a pureed diet on the Web through University of Pittsburgh Medical Center under "info for patients". She also said netwellness.org was a good resource for pureed foods information, and lent me Susan Maria Leach's book, "Before and After: Living and Eating Well After Weight Loss Surgery". Apparently this book is like the Bible of weight loss surgery, and the author also has a very comprehensive-looking website--I believe it is bariatriceating.com.

We talked a bit about sugar. I have been fairly successful in giving it up and just using artificial sweeteners. While a lot of programs suggest giving those up as well, I don't think it's realistic for me for any number of reasons. My diet is restrictive enough (and going to be even more so)--I don't want to set myself up to fail. I am not keeping it in the house, which seems to be a key point. Times like this weekend, I am always aware that this could be my last piece of pie or my last whole martini, and I have been enjoying those things in moderation and feeling fairly serene about it.

(Apparently the magic amount of sugar that usually causes dumping syndrome is just over 5g, though she cautioned me that this is not an absolute--some people take one bite of cake and that's it.)

I am going to have to discover all the natural stores in the area, which is previously uncharted territory (except for Trader Joe's). I need to start stocking up on healthy protein drinks, for one. Muscle Milk is one she likes, and Pure Protein drinks is another.

I have been using nutritiondata.com for a lot of my nutritional information for the food journal, but my nutritionist also recommends calorieking.com.

More meme-ing

The host of the famous Bravo series, actor, professor and host James Lipton asks actors these 9 questions (among many others).

1. What is your favorite word? This changes all the time, but three favorites I can think of right now are grace, onomatopoeia, and badonkadonk.

2. What is your least favorite word? c*nt

3. What turns you on, creatively, spiritually, or emotionally? Love, rest, quiet, music, animals, humor, kindness

4. What turns you off? hypocrisy, revisionist historians, bigots

5. What is your favorite curse word? the f-bomb!

6. What sound or noise do you love? my cats purring, a kid's laugh

7. What sound or noise do you hate? sirens, kids crying, jackhammers

8. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? I want to be an actual writer who does it for a living.

9. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? What were you worried about?

Meme fun

I'm doing these memes from elsewhere on Blogger until I get caught up with the serious stuff...

1. Do you feel that you have “a score to settle” with anyone? Only me.

2. Do you own anything that you think is unbreakable? My spirit.

3. Tell us about a crazy thing you did in high school. Went to Seattle with some girlfriends, picked up some strange guys at a grocery store and went home with them (?!?!?!)

4. Name the one talent of yours that you think is the best. Writing and photography

5. Who wins American Idol? (if you don’t watch, tell us about a reality show that you do follow.) I think it'll be Adam Lambert or Kris Allen.

6. What is your favorite movie in black & white? Some Like It Hot

7. What is one thing advertised too much on TV? stupid diet crap that doesn't work

8. What is your current favorite TV drama? Breaking Bad

9. What is your current favorite TV comedy? Everybody Hates Chris

Friday, May 1, 2009

Weird week

It's been a weird week. I had one night where I actually slept enough, and I can't remember the last time that happened. I felt fantastic, and met up with two old friends; it was the first time in 22 years all three of us had been together. That was a lot of fun. I was glad the sleep coincided with that day so I could enjoy it. It's been beautiful outside.

I haven't been exercising, which isn't good. My stupid ankle still hurts, but I haven't even done strength training. I don't know what it is. If I know I have to do something and be somewhere, I manage my time a lot better and get up and do things. When I know I don't have to go anywhere, I tend to be a lot less productive. It seems like human nature to me, but who knows?

Today is Day 111 of the blankety-blank food diary. I wish insurance didn't require the stupid thing, but they do. 180 days will be six months, so I guess that's the second or third week of June.

I want to get a move on this surgery process already. I feel like I'm not doing enough, because I'm not working, but I feel like I could never be doing this if I were working, so I'm trying to see the whole situation as a blessing as friends are encouraging me to do. I'm trying not to beat myself up too much over it, but I've been working since I was about nine. (At that age, I remember picking blackberries in what we called "urban renewal", this area of town that wasn't developed yet, and selling them to my neighbors for $2 a gallon.) My logical mind knows what it should know, but it can be difficult to stifle the old tapes in your head. My family always accused me of being lazy growing up; much of the world assumes fat people are that way because they are "just lazy". Physically, I am not the most energetic or driven person, never have been, but mentally is a whole other story. Anyone who knows me at all that I am a worker bee, but I do work to live, not live to work. That can be misconstrued at times. I've probably followed an exercise program for about half my adult life--they just don't seem to "take"--which is a lot more than many thin people I've known.

The support group is great, but emotionally draining. I do get overwhelmed by it; I'm pretty much good for nothing the day after it meets. I can see why I put off dealing with food issues the longest of any others that I've worked on.

A guy I used to work with died this week, which was sad. He was 40, the same age as I, and had a wife and kids. Things like that always make you remember how lucky you are to wake up in the morning.

Steal-a-meme

1. Is there a particular smell that turns you on? If so, what is it? Mr. Salted

2. Have you ever tried or considered trying a Master Cleanse type method to lose weight? I haven't.

3. When you browsing a book store for reading material, do you find yourself checking out a book solely based on the cover design? No, but I do check out books because I like their titles.

4. Which 80's trend were you least happy to see come back this year; big shoulder pads or neon? I didn't know shoulder pads came back. Joan Crawford must be smiling in her grave.

5. How long do you think could you disappear for until someone would notice your absence and start looking for you? If I stopped answering the phone, probably just a few hours.

6. Have you ever walked out of a movie and asked for your money back? Which movie(s) and why? I walked out of "Feeling Minnesota". I didn't ask for my money back, though.

7. Have you ever changed your plans because of something you read in your horoscope?
Nope.

8. If you owned a CB radio what would your "handle" be? Madame Black.

Hydroxycut recall

FDA says dieters should stop using Hydroxycut now

Government health officials warned dieters and body builders Friday to immediately stop using Hydroxycut, a widely sold supplement linked to cases of serious liver damage and at least one death.

By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON —
Government health officials warned dieters and body builders Friday to immediately stop using Hydroxycut, a widely sold supplement linked to cases of serious liver damage and at least one death.

The Food and Drug Administration said the company that makes the dietary supplement has agreed to recall 14 Hydroxycut products. Available in grocery stores and pharmacies, Hydroxycut is advertised as made from natural ingredients. At least 9 million packages were sold last year, the FDA said.

Dr. Linda Katz of the FDA's food and nutrition division said the agency has received 23 reports of liver problems, including the death of a 19-year-old boy living in the Southwest. The teenager died in 2007, and the death was reported to the FDA this March.

Other patients experienced symptoms ranging from jaundice, or yellowing of the skin, to liver failure. One received a transplant and another was placed on a list to await a new liver. The patients were otherwise healthy and their symptoms began after they started using Hydroxycut.

Iovate Health Sciences, which makes the diet pills, said it agreed to the recall out of "an abundance of caution." The company is based in Canada and its U.S. distributor is headquartered near Buffalo, N.Y.

"While this is a small number of reports relative to the many millions of people who have used Hydroxycut products over the years, out of an abundance of caution and because consumer safety is our top priority, we are voluntarily recalling these Hydroxycut-branded products," the company said in a statement on its Web site. Consumers can get a refund by returning the pills to the store they purchased them from, the company said.

Dietary supplements aren't as tightly regulated by the government as medications. Manufacturers don't need to prove to the FDA that their products are safe and effective before they can sell them to consumers.

But regulators monitor aftermarket reports for signs of trouble, and in recent years companies have been put under stricter requirements to alert the FDA when they learn of problems. In 2004, the government banned ephedra, an ingredient in many supplements, linked to heart attacks and strokes.

Katz said it has taken so long to get a handle on the Hydroxycut problem because the cases of liver damage were rare and the FDA has no authority to review supplements before they're marketed. "Part of the problem is that the FDA looks at dietary supplements from a post-market perspective, and an isolated incident is often difficult to follow," she said.

The FDA relies on voluntary reports to detect such problems, and many cases are never reported, officials acknowledge.

Health officials said they have been unable to determine which Hydroxycut ingredients are potentially toxic, partially because the formulation has changed several times.

Public health researcher Ano Lobb, who has studied Hydroxycut and other dietary supplements for Consumer Reports, said the problem may be an ingredient called hydroxycitric acid. Derived from a tropical fruit, it's been linked to liver problems in at least one medical journal study. Lobb said it's likely that other supplements containing the same ingredient remain on the market.

"You really have to be careful about dietary supplements, especially weight-loss pills," said Lobb. "People believe that the FDA has verified that these products are at least safe and effective, and that's really not the case. When you see fantastic claims - that's generally what they are."

*****

How many drugs are they going to kill and/or permanently damage people with before they get it? Remember Phen-Fen?

About Me

My photo
Seattle, WA, United States
This blog focuses largely on a personal journey to and through weight-loss surgery. It's also about reading, writing, animals, photography, love, humor, music, thinking out loud, and memes. In other words...life.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.