Saturday, November 24, 2012

BLANK WALLS AND INSPIRATION


Life has a funny way of pushing me around.  It’s been like that since I was a kid. There are times when I feel like I’m in control, but clearly at other times (like now) someone or something else is at the helm. Control is an illusion, but every once in a while, I get a hint of things to come. 

When we first moved into Pacifica, we’d drive up and down Linda Mar Boulevard. Each time we did, we went past the Sanchez Art Center.  At night, the neon ART sign was on, and I was attracted to it like a moth.  Why?

Well, now I’m working there part time and indulging my curiosity. I’m also working in a way that beneficially combines my facilities experience, my writing, and my art.  I’m learning about operating the building full of art studios.  I’m doing publicity and writing press releases. And soon I’ll learn more about marketing and putting an exhibition together.  These are all compelling subjects that take my creativity to the next level while enhancing my knowledge.

I don’t regret a moment spent in Corporate. The private sector treated me well and gave me professional confidence.  I had our daughter while in private sector, and Leslie had quite a few serious surgeries, too.  None of them cost us a dime.

Now, it seems Corporate has turned its back on me. In the past, getting a job was so easy, and done in just a few weeks after moving cross country. I’ve submitted up to seven resumes on-line a week for almost two years, and have been on only two interviews.  When I lost my unemployment unexpectedly (another story altogether), and put out an S.O.S., two jobs emerged through friends.  Both revolve around my writing. In fact, I’ve been published with a by-line in the local paper.  I even have a writing resume now, which is totally cool.  Life is steering me in a new direction, and it is exciting.

Truth to tell, I don’t want to go back into corporate full time.  It pays very well, but I find it oppressive.  The last job I had nearly tore me apart as I waited to be let go.  Naturally, working in non-profit doesn’t pay as well, but it nurtures my spirit. As I approach my mid-century mark, I need this as much as I needed weight loss surgery.

Last week, I walked through the dark, empty halls at Sanchez Art Center, and I felt completely in the moment.  The Center is between exhibitions, so nothing is up on the walls.  It was a symbolic slice of time carved out of the continuum just for me. Every dark doorway was a possibility, and every blank wall was an inspiration.

I embrace where I am right now, and I want to see what’s behind each and every door.  I want to explore each facet of my creativity, and every career opportunity that knocks.

I want this change.  

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Tracey Loves John


I hated high school.  I don’t mean dislike.  I mean bonafide loathing.  People who consider high school the best years of their life are entirely foreign to me. I just don’t get it.

My first two years in high school were spent staying aloft in the chaos that was my mother’s life, fighting stress, and taking refuge in dancing school. In my junior year, over the weekend of the junior prom, circumstances with my mother and the psychopath she married got violent, so I left to live with my grandparents.
  
I lived with Thelma and Ed on the other side of town, but still went to Jonny Law High.  Each day when school was over, Miss Connie would be outside waiting to give me a lift to her dancing school where I assisted and demonstrated for the classes she taught. She was special to me. She bought me my first car, an old powder blue Rambler I named Gladys after Judy McIntyre’s grandmother. It took me close to a year to decompress after leaving the flea infested hovel my brothers and I lived in with my mother. Some days, I’d get all the way to school, driven by my grandmother; only to feel so burned out I couldn’t handle it. I didn’t bother going to first period when that happened.  I’d call my grandmother, and she never, ever squawked about turning around and driving all the way back across town to pick me up. 

“Okay, honey, I’ll be right there.”

I felt lost in high school. I didn’t fit there.  I bet many kids felt that way, but the only place I fit was at Connie’s school. I was upset, confused, and ever so full of myself. My friends kept me afloat in that sea of turmoil.  I had some good friends.

I hung out in the school library with Tracey.  She was a diehard Beetles fan and was desperately and very seriously in love with John Lennon. I went to her house once after school and was floored by her homage to the Fab Four. She seemed to have the entire upstairs to herself. One room was her bedroom, and the other room, a little bigger than a walk in closet, was devoted entirely to the Beetles. Every inch of every wall was plastered with pictures. It was the coolest, most profound demonstration of true and obsessive love I’d ever seen, and it towered miles high in devotion over my shrine to Dolly Parton, whom I adored.  I’ve never forgotten that room.

Tracy and I would spend entire class periods hanging out in the library’s private reading room listening to John Lennon and Dolly on the record player.  We were juniors when John Lennon was assassinated.  I was sitting on a desk in Advanced Biology, and Tracey appeared at the door with a black band on her arm and fresh tears of mourning streaming down her face.  She’d lost her first true love.  To this day, Tracey still carries a torch for John, just as I will always adore Dolly. Some teenage crushes never go away.

I completely lost track of Tracey after high school.  I got involved with Leslie, and our relationship moved me 3,000 miles across the United States. We had a baby; we’ve bought and sold houses, and moved across country twice.  I’m still here 27 years later.  A few years back, Tracey appeared on Facebook.  It was crazy to hear from her again.  She gave me hell for changing my name because it made me difficult to find.  We’ve been Facebook friends ever since, reliving old times and getting reacquainted.

Tracey has been married to the same man for years. She got her teaching degree and taught elementary school in Floyd County in between having four incredibly beautiful and well-adjusted children. She’s highly opinionated, politically minded, and is an advocate for the LGBT community in the college where she teaches. She runs a learning resource center, and a bunch of people report to her. What’s more, she loves her job and the people who work for her.  She’s a success story.

When my unemployment ended unexpectedly in mid-September and Leslie and I felt the bottom fall out of our financial security, Tracey was one of the few who offered us substantial help.  I got a message from her on Facebook asking me if I wanted to remotely tutor her students.  There were papers to be reviewed, and things to do!  She offered me a temporary, part-time position that I desperately needed.

I talked to Tracey over the phone the other day, and doing so was a blast from the past. She sounds much as I remember her, but she’s picked up a regional accent that I find delightful. I had trouble expressing my gratitude.   

You know, we grow up with certain people in our lives, and they have so much to do with how we navigate our world.  When I was a teenager, my friends anchored me, kept me from floating away, but I didn't expect most of them to hang around for long.  I rarely look to the past for my solace, and have gotten the hang of living in the now.   That’s what makes Tracey so remarkable to me. She wasn’t content to sit in the past on Facebook.  She insinuated herself right into my present, and she did it when I needed her the most.

Thank you, Tracey.

Monday, October 15, 2012

GUARDIAN ANGELS

Leslie at Linda Mar Beach

It's been a crazy few weeks since discovering my unemployment insurance ran out unexpectedly; a real mash up wonderful and difficult that never leaves us bored or needing something to do. I've come to the conclusion that being unemployed is a full time job, particularly when the chips are down and you're scrambling to pay the utilities and mortgage.

All financial dramas aside, I think we're in fairly good shape emotionally. Elizabeth found her groove in school and seems fully recovered from the problem she had with the Cabrillo Bullies and other Malcontents. She's got a darling new beau, one who isn't in a rush to grow up much like she, and rather than inhibiting her creative nature like she was compelled to do last year, she is more herself than ever, right down to the set of Pikachu Power Cheeks.

Leslie is hanging in there.  Being in this transitional place regarding home finances has got to be her least favorite place in the entire universe; yet to her credit, she remains poised and engaged.  There are times when, like myself, she feels like her head might explode, but rather than lighting the fireworks, she simply goes to lie down for a while. Suffice it to say this unemployment adventure has forced us to mature in many unexpected ways.  She and I, and indeed Elizabeth as well, are more a team than ever before. What buoyancy we have in the family is due to efforts by all of us to remain upbeat and positive despite the obvious.

Me?  I'm doing alright. Still losing weight although it's slowed down because I'm not working out much lately. I've been incredibly focused on getting work with little time for anything else, and some opportunities have come forward.  Without getting into details, let me say that Pacifica and it's Art Guild are peppered with Guardian Angels and a very giving spirit. Between that and the Guardian Angels residing on Facebook, I feel incredibly blessed by people who are watching out for us and contributing to our well-being in a substantial manner.

Leslie, Elizabeth & The Joker
I'm still in a holding pattern on the BIG JOB in Redwood City, the one that will pay for Elizabeth's braces at the expense of my somewhat reluctantly re-entering Private Sector servitude.    Until I am thrust back onto that Merry-Go-Round, I'll continue to enrich myself at SAC, doing what is highly rewarding intellectually.  When the irons I have in the fire grow flames, I'll have a better idea of where we stand and perhaps sleep better and have fewer disturbing dreams.

The Art Guild continues to be a source of constant pleasure, and as what I'm doing at SAC naturally intersects with it, it becomes doubly satisfying.  Some members are becoming friends in a truer sense, surpassing mere acquaintances to become something richer. I'm doing alot of writing for the Guild and had a press release with my name in the by-line printed in the Pacifica Tribune recently.  That made me so happy!  Opening night of AGP's Member Exhibition and award show was last Friday, and all three of went and had a great time.  I got a lot of compliments on my piece, and those who didn't recognize my work congratulated me on the article.  It was just what I needed.

Gonna be Pikachu for Halloween!  Woot!
I've said it before but I'll say it again.  We'll be in this place, no matter how difficult, until we are released, and in the meantime, we'll do the best we can with it.  It's a lot like surfing.  Each wave is another economic challenge.

Still, if it weren't for our Guardian Angels and their unending support, it would be so much harder.  Maybe too hard.  Offering the kind of help that my parents and extended family never did (with the exception of my maternal grandparents), they reinforce my faith in the human spirit.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

If It's Not All Well, Then It's Not The End


The last time I blogged I just found out my unemployment insurance was exhausted.  Don’t ask me how something that important could possibly be unexpected, because I’m still wondering that myself.  My head absolutely exploded as Leslie and I teetered on the edge of a very precarious cliff, neither side of which guaranteed any mortgage payments in our immediate future.  Crisis mode!

Since then, a few things have changed.

Immediately after hearing the bad news mentioned above, I sent out an S.O.S. to everyone I know in Pacifica.  I sent them my professional resume and asked if they would share it with work connections, etc.  And one of those people came back with a wonderful little opportunity for part time contracted work at the local art center. This is the place where the Art Guild has most of their shows.  I’ve been attracted to this place ever since we moved to Pacifica, and the woman I’m working with is at a super busy time of the year and feels that I was sent to her.  Kismet!  I’m learning all about running a gallery, and how to keep artist studios rented and full, and how to run their non-profit business.  It’s the kind of work that is good for the spirit, but not so good for the pocket book.

Meanwhile, I’m waiting to hear on another part time opportunity brought to my attention by an old high school chum who was kind enough to respond to the post-crisis freaking out I did on Facebook.  I mean, this really touches my heart.  She’s a fun, crazy person who has raised four gorgeous, smart and talented children, but I’d sort of lost track of her.  Finding her on Facebook (actually, she found me) was a blessing, and we’ve had a lot of fun with one another on-line since. 

Then, a job I applied for in a mid-size accounting firm, one that pays very well, began to gain traction immediately after my employment insurance fiasco.  I found this position through a placement agency.  My resume was put in front of them over a month ago, but I hadn’t heard anything. I thought for sure it was a done deal.  Then, they called me in for an interview, the kind where you sit in a conference room and meet one person after another.  I prepared for two days, so my interviews went very well. I’m hoping to be called back for round two.

Leslie and I find ourselves in the uncomfortable transition between crisis and resolution. While it would be much more comfortable to know precisely where the money for the mortgage will come from, instead we must have faith that all will turn out.  What do they say?  All will be well in the end, and if it’s not well, then it’s not the end.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My Claim is Exhausted and So Am I


I last time I blogged here I wrote about worry.  I was worried (whining) about work and my unemployment benefits ending around December 31 of this year, and all sorts of other stuff.  Imagine my surprise when I found out this morning that my unemployment claim was exhausted, as in no money left … at all.

There was some weirdness going on with my most recent unemployment payment, and because I was worried about October, I had to talk to someone in the unemployment office.  I’d made a number of financial promises, and we had plans in anticipation of having a third check when usually there are only two.  October just turned out that way, giving us a chance to catch up with a few things. So, I spent the last two days dialing 1-800-300-5616 (dial 1 for English, dial 2 for Spanish, dial 3 to toss your cell phone in the garbage disposal and watch with glee as it’s torn to shreds).  I finally got through to someone this morning at about 8:50 a.m. 

After explaining my problem, I was advised that I had zero dollars left to my claim.  I even have something in writing from the EDD indicating I was good to go until the end of December, but no.  0 + 0 = 0 … you could drive a truck between the vague loopholes in communication from the EDD.  I’m a smart woman, and still I missed the difference between having an open claim and having a fully funded claim.  I was advised of this by a completely apathetic woman, and even as I began to tear up in frustration and feel a little hysterical (no act there), I thought why hadn’t anyone mentioned this?  I’d talked with someone about my problem two times previously with two separate people over the last couple of days and NO ONE bothered to mention “Hey, are you aware that you are down to your last $450?” 

My head exploded.  I mean, really.  It flew apart into a million pieces.  How would I pay the mortgage? Never mind all the other bills. Screw all that. How will we pay the mortgage was all I could think of.  Hearing all this from where she was in the living room, I could hear Leslie’s heartbeat start racing like a runaway train.  She had no chest pain, of course, but I knew the stress would be hard to bear.  How many times had we talked about how lucky we were that we had enough money to cover the mortgage even though I wasn't working?  A day ago, I thought my benefits would expire the end of December, and having a few irons in the fire, I was prepared to do so temp work if necessary.  Now, temp work is urgent.   My next thought was how do we tell Elizabeth? She’s already so good about all this, but now she has to worry about losing her home?  There is no family to call for help. It’s just the three of us and has been for years.  So, it’s up to us to make it work. She knows this.

After the initial shock, and after cleaning my exploded grey matter off the walls, I started writing, networking, to everyone I could think of who might have a tip on a job, and every temp agency I’ve ever done business with.  The opportunity at Redwood Shores ironically gained some traction today becoming a job I am uniquely qualified for. I have a phone interview in the morning. And I’ve got an appointment in the afternoon with a temp agency so I can get some income happening.  Then, we had to go to an eye doctor's appointment that took forever to get and Leslie really needed to take.  I waited for her in the lobby for over an hour, and it was the longest hour of my life.  You know how it feels when you need to be doing something, anything, and all you can do is sit?

When Elizabeth got home, we explained what happened, and she asked questions like “Do I have to worry about being homeless?” and “Do I have to be afraid?”  I explained the difference between sending in resumes over the internet for a permanent job and hearing nothing, versus getting temp work with an agency when you need it.  She understood I would get something soon. She teared up a little, but recovered quickly.  As I exclaimed about what a stressful day it was, she said, “But you’re not being mean.”  That sort of stopped me in my tracks.  She explained that when dealing with the stress of the last job, I was mean at home.  Her words really opened my eyes.  I realized how stressed out that place, my last place of permanent employment, had really made me; how difficult the enduring uncertainty and tension there, the nastiness of people’s behavior, had worn me down. It was so bad that I was angry and upset virtually all the time.  My fifteen year old opened my eyes to this in a way that hadn't occurred previously.  I told her I wouldn’t let that happen again. I'd had plenty of time to rest and bounce back from all that stress, and I told her I was sorry.  She answered, "It's okay, Nana. Can we study my French now?"  Kids.

They say it’ll be alright in the end, and if it’s not alright, it’s not the end.  Well, it’s about 10:30 p.m., and I feel like I’ve been whacked about the head hard with a reality stick.  And when the cosmic joker was done with me, he started whacking Leslie.  We were both feeling stunned, but we stuck together like glue.  Now we’re just tired.

I need to work. I don’t care what it is. If I’m capable of doing it and it’s enough to cover the bills, I’ll do it.  I have current secretarial skills, I’m a good manager, and I’m a good leader with a strong facilities background.  My resume is strong, and I have years of experience.

I’m sending out my need and desire into the ether like it’s a palpable thing. Right now it is.  I send it on Raven’s wings and dragon’s flight, and I know my intent will find its destination … and soon.

It as to.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Worry

Me looking thinner!

I have so much on my mind right now.  I’ve been out of work for almost two years, despite submitting resumes every week and lowering my salary requirements.  I’ve had no more than four calls, and two were from agencies.  The most current was a job I’m perfect for, but the company is giving priority to an internal candidate. My resume hasn’t been rejected, but it’s more than two weeks.  My unemployment insurance ends on December 31, and that’s a little less than four months away, so I’m worried. 

Christmas is coming, too, and when living paycheck to paycheck, it’s more a cause for stress.  Figuring out a way to give my daughter a Christmas occupies a lot of my head space, even though I know that things will turn out alright in the end.  And if it’s not alright, then it’s not the end.

These thoughts strike me as somewhat ironic. When I was working, I had no idea how hard it could be for families out of work.  Well, I’ve learned.  Leslie and I have matured a lot over the last two years. We’ve really identified the line that exists between what we need and what we want, and we rarely cross it.  If we do, it’s for our daughter; and she’s such a team player that she asks for very little.

When I was working, I spent a lot of time pondering the difference between time and money, and realizing I seem to have one or the other. When I was working, I had very little time. Now that I’m not working, I’ve had lots, and I’ve used it wisely.  I’ve made lots of art. Done lots of blogging.  I’m working on and am half way through my first novel, and I’m having loads of fun with the Art Guild of Pacifica. There are a few shows coming up like the AGP Member’s Show (I want to make a new piece for that), and the big Galleria, which showcases open walls and a salon style show.  I really enjoy AGP.  And, of course, I had bariatric weight loss surgery in June.  I’ve lost more than 60 pounds already and am happy every day that I had it done.

At least we’ve always been able to pay the mortgage. I don’t want that to change.

I’ll end up registering with a couple of temp agencies and falling back on the secretarial skills my grandmother (rip) insisted I get coming out of high school.

Whatever it takes.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Adjustments at Eight Weeks


It’s been eight weeks since my surgery, the vertical gastrectomy, for weight loss, and I’ve lost a total of fifty pounds exactly.  I’m losing between 2 and 5 pounds a week.  I’ve had to make some adjustments, but I’m excited to be well on the way to achieving my goal: to be thinner, leaner and healthier at 50 years old.  The knowledge that I took significant steps toward that goal is liberating, exciting, and most important confidence building.

My first and most significant adjustment is the loss of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. This is the medicine I was taking for painful joints, but as a category includes ibuprofen, naproxyn, asprin, Celebrex, diclofenac, etc.  These medicines are off the menu for certain because of the stress put on the stomach lining potentially causing ulcers. That would be the worst.  Leslie’s neice, Tami, ended up with an ulcer after the same procedure (for different reasons) and had to tolerate a feeding tube up her nose for six weeks.  I miss these medicines more than ever because we’re working out regularly now (thanks to a good and generous friend).  The three of us go as a family, and I’ve started with 40 minutes of cardio (20 on the bike and 20 on the treadmill). Then, I do some strength training on Nautilus type equipment.  Leslie and I struggle along as Elizabeth smokes both of us jogging on the treadmill like a pro.  She’s an inspiration, and actually got us started on this road to a healthier lifestyle.   By the end of a work-out day, my hips and joints are screaming and 800 mg of good ol' ibuprofen would fit the bill!

My next significant adjustment is something I still work on, and it’s employing an understanding of the difference between head hunger and real hunger in daily eating.  Word is that when you’re feeling head hunger you crave something specific.  Real hunger will be satisfied by eating anything good.  This can lead to eating too much or eating too quickly which has only one result … vomiting, which can stress the internal stitches. So, it’s important to be aware when eating.  Also, anything even remotely resembling raw vegetables causes the same result.  

Heartburn is my latest best friend and with me almost constantly, although my surgeon says it’ll go away in time.  Not soon enough for me thank you.  Ironically, however, there isn’t a bottle of Maalox to be found on the Peninsula.  The pharmacist told us it was recalled. The key is to eat simple foods, so I’m highly focused on getting enough protein and staying hydrated. So far I’m managing at least two water bottles a day.   I want to be thinner, but I don’t want to be a thin person trapped in a bag of wrinkles.  Water is the key to avoiding this personal hell.

I still get a little tired, but I think much of it is continued recovery from the surgery itself.  For example, last weekend we did a yard sale, so I did a lot of  lifting in the sun.  I was knocked out by the end of the day, and consequently received a serious reminder from my general physician. Recovering from major abdominal surgery can take three to six months … so don’t act too butch!

On the flipside, I’m getting into clothes that have been sitting in the closet for over eight years.  This is really what confirms the weight loss to me personally.  I pulled a shirt out of the closet to put on today fully expecting it to be snug still, and lo and behold it was a little big!  Fifty pounds makes a big difference!

Bottom Line:  It’s my 48th birthday, and I’ve taken significant steps toward my 50 year goal.  I feel happy, healthier, and confident, and my entire family is on board reaping the benefits of this change in life.  It feels really good.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

What's the Delay?


I really enjoy blogging. Now that I’m involved with the Art Guild of Pacifica, there are an endless number of people, exhibitions, shows, and art styles to write about.  AGP has a blog on blogger, and while any AGP member can author an article, most people don’t seem to have the time.  I’ve got time on my hands these days, so I’m truly enjoying myself.

But I wonder … is this taking me away from my novel?  I’ve been closed mouth about my fiction novel entitled “Faultlines”, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and something I definitely want to finish before I go back to work.  Time is ticking on that account.  I’ve grown concerned that writing a novel is a little bit like dieting, very overwhelming, and so am I avoiding it? While I found a way to support my efforts at better health with bariatric surgery (vertical gastrectomy aka “stomach staple”), I think the only way to get my novel done is to simply write it.  One step at a time, one page at a time, one day at a time.

So, what is holding me back? What am I afraid of?  I really need to figure this out.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fatigue: Going with it


I’m in the midst of “the hump” as I’ve written previously. This is the weird low energy, even fatigued time that occurs after surgery and before a healed stomach can handle proteins. Confused, the body thinks it’s starving and cycles down to conserve energy.  It’s supposed to be approximately one month post-surgery for the body to figure out what’s happening. I'm beginning my third week post surgery.

I feel like I did when I was pregnant. Really. When pregnant, the body is working so hard it’s the equivalent of climbing a mountain 24/7.  So feeling exhausted is normal, particularly in the first trimester. Now, I am absolutely exhausted 2 or 3 days out of the week and can nap like it’s the end of the world.

My appetite increases gradually, and I’m able to keep more down successfully.  I’ve had good luck with bran cereal, Leslie’s custard (heavenly and nutrient packed), and of course her chicken soup (ditto).  Fails include pastina (too rich) and cream of wheat (despite initial success). There are foods that look and smell divine, yet I dare not eat them because I know what the result will be. However, I’m able to eat more in a sitting. I mean the difference between ¼ cup over a week ago and creeping closer to the 1 ½ cup I’m suppose to consume in one meal. So, I should restrict myself to the prescribed three square meals with no snacks soon.

Here I sit pooped, but not entirely guilt free. Thank heaven I’m not working. Having to get up early and push myself through a day of Corporate clowns would be exceedingly difficult.  I feel extremely fortunate to be in this place and enjoy where I am, while it lasts, knowing it’ll probably be years before I get another chance to rest like this.

So for now … I’m going with it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Hump: One Week After Surgery


My start weight on March 1 was 318 lbs.  Today’s weight is 286.4 lbs.  A 32 pound total loss.

Progress is continuous and that makes this tolerable. I know that every day is a tiny bit easier and brings me a bit closer to recovery.  Each day I can handle a bit more sustenance; of course, I’m talking about the difference between a quarter cup of vanilla yogurt and a third of a cup. I tried Trader Joe’s cream of tomato soup, was in extreme gassy discomfort for about five minutes, and then up it came.  The same thing happened with super mashed/pureed sweet potatoes.  Some foods simply do not want to stay down.   Yet I get hungry and am compelled to try new foods.  Also, my nose works just fine! All food smells heavenly, particularly when I’m hungry.

I went to my first post-surgery doctor’s visit today. I am in the midst of what I call THE HUMP. I have very little energy. I wake up feeling okay, good even, get my head around the day, ease into something to eat, then something to drink. Taking a shower and getting dressed makes me tired. But I can bounce back from that. Then, if we have errands or an appointment, I’m good until about 1:00 p.m. By 3:00 p.m., I’m completely wiped out. I mean, tired like I used to get when I was pregnant with Elizabeth.  This is the hump. I am in the middle of recovering from surgery, and I'm taking in very little sustenance.  As my stomach continues to heal, I’ll be able to take in more foods, which will provide more energy and so forth.   The doctor said my body is confused. It's not sure if we're starving so it's reserving energy.  This will work itself out over the next few weeks.

In spite of these inconveniences, and compared to a lifetime of  joint pain and health issues related to morbid obesity, this is the most effective way for me to take the reins of my health. I realize that a women’s right to her body type is indeed her right, but to me it’s science. A younger body is more equipped to handle 150+ extra pounds.  Approaching 50 … not so much.  We are lucky that this process, like so many other things, is readily available in our demographic.  To get this started, all I had to do was call the doctor’s office.


Leslie's weight loss is consistent. I'm so proud of her will power.  And Elizabeth is super aware of what she eats, and continues to push us toward vegetarianism.  She gives me these precious looks of pride, though, and every so often asks with great sincerity, "Are you okay, Nana?" My girls make my heart melt.

I’ve dropped down into my body with an audible plop. I’m more aware of my physical self now than I’ve been since I was a teenager dancing five days a week.  My imagination still wanders to and fro with very little fencing, particularly now that I’m not working. But, I am acutely focused. In fact, I’m focused down to the most intense point for me at this time … a small glass of ice water.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Post-Surgery Preamble


I’m home from surgery already.  I can’t believe how quickly time marches by, but it does. It marches on and on and then you turn and look back to see what you’ve done.  Over six months ago, I was at a New Year’s Eve party thinking over the tiniest possibility of having the gastric sleeve, and now here I am.  I just had one.

But it wasn’t all easy.

As when Leslie had her knee replacement, there are some things they just don’t tell you going into this sort of procedure.  Parts of it were really difficult.

Here are some of the highlights, as I experienced them:
  • As usual, it was difficult to find any vein to use for an I.V.  This time the anesthesiologist herself did it. I have veins like my grandmother (RIP), and after taking no liquids for over 6 hours as pre-surgery prep, they were thoroughly and effectively in hiding.
  • When I first woke up in recovery, it hurt.  It really hurt.
  • The first time I tried to swallow something, anything, even the tiniest sip, I erp’d it back up.  And because my stomach was much, much smaller, fortunately that experience has become much, much easier.
  • When I finally could swallow something, I could feel that tiny bit plop into my stomach like a small ball of flame. They call it a belly blast. Luckily, the sensation went away after a day.
  • I’m not a fan of morphine. It’s a good medicine, but it gave me really awful dreams about people I love. Gross. I couldn’t wait to get off it.
  • I’ve lost almost ten pounds being in the hospital, putting me below 300 pounds for the first time in years. Yay! This is a benchmark for me!
  • The nurses in the hospital at Mills Peninsula, with one notable exception (there’s always one), were great.  Given they are in the middle of a strike, I felt like I was in good hands the entire time I was there.
  • When I was released, I was ready to go. No sooner.
  • Last night, the third night after surgery, I was hungry. Sucking on a piece of watermelon was heaven.
  • I’m supposed to drink lots of water and a protein supplement called Isopure. It tastes like a very light juice, and at $11.00 for a six-pack, it’s good stuff. 
  • For dinner last night, Leslie made me a heavenly consomme’.  Six teaspoons was all I could handle.
  • This morning for breakfast we dined on cream of wheat, and it was divine. I had eight teaspoons this time!
  • My total weight loss is twenty seven pounds.

The irony in all this is that prior to my procedure, my stomach was the center of my life. It still is, but in a totally different way.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What a Day (More Adventures in Weight Loss Surgery)

My weight loss surgery, the gastric sleeve, is less than one week away. Today, my family and I attended pre-op appointments at the hospital from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. I met with the head nurse in the Anesthesia Department, and the Lab took more of my blood. We attended a meeting about my surgery’s process and recovery, learned a lot more about what I can and can’t eat at what time in my recovery specifically, and had another hour with a nutritionist.

The surgical process is really cool. It’s laparoscopic, so my abdominal cavity will be expanded with carbon dioxide (the kind we breathe out), to provide the doctor with a clear working area that’s seen through a tiny camera. Then, all the work is done through tubes. In the end, I should have only five tiny incisions. The worst part of all this is that I have to be at the hospital at 6:00 a.m. because I’m first on the table. Gross. I’m no morning person. There’s a video describing the procedure at the bottom of this post.  It's from a different hospital, but it’s instructional without being graphic.

I was very happy to hear that people come from all over the world to get this procedure from my doctor. He’s an expert in his field, which made me feel good. It’s ironic. I picked him because he was closest to our house, and because I know one of his patients.  He's one of the best in the world.

The day was long and when it was over, it brought my commitment closer to home. I found myself needing time alone to “chew” over it all, so I took the dogs to the dog park to get some time to myself. Leslie was home with her foot elevated. She really pushed it too far (read more here). Elizabeth got very concerned about everything and was upset in an indirect manner, which is typical for kids. So to unwind, we spent the evening cloistered in the living room with our dogs. Leslie made a super dinner, and we watched and capped on ridiculous reality teevee shows. Later on, when Elizabeth got the clicker, she and Leslie watched “The Family Guy” which is always good for a laugh. Our daughter made Leslie a convert.

What a day.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

File this Under Random Occurrence


Thanks to what I would call a “completely random occurrence”, we've had a crazy couple of days.  Last Tuesday, we were at the dog park in San Mateo when Leslie felt a mild prick on her left foot. Nothing as startling as a bee sting, but it was a feeling she remembered.  By 11:00 p.m. that night, her left foot was on fire and incredibly painful.

We went to the emergency room at Mills Peninsula in Millbrae the next day because Leslie’s pain wasn’t going away, and we’ve had good experiences there.  Unfortunately, due to the nursing strike, it was more like a three ring circus.  The wait wasn’t long, but the nurses and attendants seemed disconnected. Nobody knew what was going on.  They were all convinced Leslie sprained her ankle and kept asking her what she did to it as though she were a 90 year old.  Their patronization was infuriating.  They should’ve canned the small talk completely. A stiff and un-emotional red-headed nurse announced she was going to put Leslie’s foot in a wrap, and considering Leslie couldn’t bear even a sock, that didn’t seem right. Turns out the nurse got Leslie confused with another patient.  The ER doctor had no answers for us despite having the foot x-rayed, and I think the not knowing was more concerning than anything else.  So, after two different nurses tried to give Leslie the same pills, we left the emergency room shaking our heads, with a prescription for pain medicine, and instructions to see a doctor in the next day or so.

And that we did.

Friday afternoon we went to see an orthopedic doctor, who reviewed Leslie’s x-ray prior to the appointment.  Despite having a lousy bedside manner (here we go again), he was very detailed oriented.  He diagnosed Leslie as having cellulitis, trauma to the cells, caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria that crawled into her foot after whatever bug bit her.  Leslie had been taking Augmentin for a recent round of bronchitis, and it’s a good thing she was. Who knows what that bacteria would’ve done to her foot had nothing retarded its progress. 

We left the doctor’s office with prescriptions for two separate antibiotics, instructions to go to the emergency room at Seton should Leslie’s condition worsen, and an appointment for Monday.

Apparently, a bacteria like this, referred to as an MSSA, is not resistant to certain drugs.  If it was, it would be the worst kind of infection, called an MRSA and Leslie would probably be in the hospital already hooked up to IV antibiotics and fluids.  An MSSA is bacteria found in the community. There is a long list of how and where a person can get it, but as far as we’re concerned, it’s something people with pets can get, and it gets into the body through broken skin.  I’m convinced Leslie picked it up at the dog park in San Mateo when we were there on Tuesday.

Leslie is still in a lot of pain, particularly at night. And she has to keep the foot elevated over her heart or it swells quickly, and that hurts even more.  No one in the house is sleeping well because it seems to hurt more at night.  And as you might know, taking a lot of antibiotics reeks havoc with the stomach and other sensitive parts of the human body.  I think more than anything, Leslie is tired of sitting around.  She wants to go the market and do other domestic things, the stuff you don’t appreciate until you can’t do it.   

I’m being Florence Nightingale, taking care of Leslie, cooking for everybody, doing laundry, and tidying up.  There are a million other things I wanted to do before my surgery, but they’ve taken a back burner.  I’m worried about my the timing of my surgery, too. It’s just a little over a week away, and Leslie’s healing process can take up to 10 days.

This will be a close one.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

OPEN A NEW WINDOW


This is the fourth in a series of blogposts about my upcoming weight loss surgery.  The first is here.

"Open a new window,
Open a new door,
Travel a new highway,
That's never been tried before;
Before you find you're a dull fellow,
Punching the same clock,
Walking the same tight rope
As everyone on the block."

These are the lyrics from “Open a New Window”, a song in the American Musical Comedy, “Mame”. It’s one of my favorites, and it's timely and personal.

The full moon, any full moon really, has personal significance, as well.  They tend to move things along for me.  For example, when I was pregnant with our daughter, Elizabeth, she was overdue; and I sat in the lounge chair in our living room for an extra two weeks waiting for her to join us.  The full moon on her birthday prompted her arrival.  So, while it was no surprise that I got feedback on my surgery the day after the last full moon, it certainly was a relief.  I waited three weeks with worst case scenarios twirling about my head, but I got a full approval. No catch, no delay, and I was thrilled!  Like pregnancy, the waiting made it all the sweeter.

Now, I have a series of pre-surgery appointments between now and my date, which is June 26.  There is registration, paperwork, a medical appointment, and probably more blood work.  I have to learn what kind of sustenance I can take in afterward.  I anticipate a liquid diet, followed by soft foods, and then an Atkins like diet of protein, veggies and fruit, absolutely no refined carbs, and very little fat in teeny weeny portions.

All technicalities aside, I feel new windows of opportunity opening before me. 

And these are followed by an understanding of how my weight has inhibited me. 

There is no doubt the last job I had did a number on my professional confidence. I’ve written enough on the subject, so I’ll forego the details.  I’ve been on two face-to-face interviews over the last year despite applying to between five and seven open positions per week.  The last was in an insurance office. I arrived to discover a full flight and a half of stairs, climbed them, and at the top bumped right into the man I was to meet just as I felt I’d choke up a lung.  Great impression.  My procedure will change that in time.

Over the last four years, I’ve considered a career in real estate, but I’d run into lots of stairs there, too.  My procedure makes Real Estate a greater possibility.

How about exercise and activities like hiking? Wouldn’t it be great to hike with my Austrian friend and actually be able to keep up with her? I’ve never attempted it previously, but soon it will be possible.

I grew up doing children’s and community theater, and I’d love to sing again.  I’d love to get back on stage in a musical comedy, and one day take on a favorite role like Mame Dennis or Mama Rose.  I love to tap dance more than almost anything.  Do I dare let all the dance routines I have committed to memory out into my feet again?  Maybe I’ll teach in that adorable little dance studio at the Pacifica Community Center.    

I have other goals, as well, and these won’t go away. I still want to write my novel, do my art, and spend precious time with my family.  Of course, there's no guarantee I will do these things, or the things I've mentioned above ... but no matter because the possibility is there.  

The last time I was thin and in shape, I was in high school.  As occupied as I was with family problems, I was too upset to appreciate it.  This time, I will be fully aware of my health and happiness.

I will be present in myself completely and totally … and I will rejoice.

A new window is opening.

Watch me tap dance through it.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Releasing the Past: A Note to My Parents

This post is the third in a series of posts about my upcoming weight loss surgery.  You can read the first post at http://sapphokinesis.blogspot.com/2012/05/positive-change-all-around-is-good.html and the second at http://sapphokinesis.blogspot.com/2012/05/positive-change-all-around-is-good.html.


I’ve spent the day at my worktable making greeting cards and pondering what I’m poised to let go. My weight loss surgery has become symbolic of all I wish to release.  I release this burdensome layer of flesh because I no longer need to feel protected by it.  I release all the bad habits that perpetuate my weight – all of them – even those I enjoy, because they no longer serve me well.  I release fear and whatever damage has been done to my confidence.  I do all this out of self-respect and love, and a desire to reach my potential in all things. In this, I am supported and nurtured by the people who love me.

A year ago this month my grandmother died, and just as I predicted, her passing ended the only thing that kept my extended maternal family together. When she died, all connected to her were cast to the wind like so many leaves. We tumble outward into the universe with no reason to speak to one another, so I find it ever so important to speak these words that need speaking before the opportunity is completely gone.  I had a frenemy who lost that chance when her parents died and, in her anguish, projected all her pain on me.  So, I know the urgency, and I know the danger of waiting, particularly if, like my Leslie, you're the type of person who must get things off her chest.

These words are long overdue.

To my mother ~ Unless there is something I don’t know, there is no excuse for your selfishness. I believe that growing up neglected, abused, or abandoned takes away the ability to be compassionate. Recognition of that and consciously reclaiming compassion often opens the door to healing because we realize we may inflict the same pain on those we love the most.  Yet this didn’t happen to you, did it? You weren’t abused, neglected or abandoned. You simply got married too young and had babies. Then, you decided you didn’t want them any longer and over the next10 years focused your energies on dumping your responsibilities on everyone else.  It is a mother’s responsibility to take care of her children.  I turned my back on you over four years ago because your behavior whittled away at our daughter’s self-esteem.  Now, I pity your concrete heart. But what’s more … Shame on you! Shame on you for moving in with Curtis, driving off his family, the only one he’s ever had, and exploiting his perceptions to your own advantage.  You tried it with me once, years ago, but Leslie got in your way.  Now, Curtis is too confused and needful of you to know how he was used, but you!  You should know better!

To my father ~ I feel your loss and know how much you yearn to connect.  However, your adult life and the decisions you’ve made revolve around the support of your ego and consequently your selfishness. Just before last Christmas, I opened my heart to you and shared my worries, and you reciprocated by withdrawing for seven months, acting the role of absentee father once again. You’ve done this my entire life.  You turned your back on your children to focus on your second wife and her family, and when you did, you surrendered the ability to make demands, to reclaim any connection because you need it in your latter years.  You come and you go, and you are always focused on what you want, completely unaware of what you put us through as you stomp all over my feelings to gain access to your only blood granddaughter. I don’t want this kind of negative interaction. I have self-respect and need and want more from my relationships. 

I’m a bit more than two years away from 50 years old, and as I release my weight, my bad habits, and my fear, I release the last attachments I have to relationships that are painful and damaging.  It is a sad thing, true, and some of you reading this may not understand it, but I stopped being upset and confused about it a very long time ago. Now, I am simply closing the door for good so I can move on with the wonderful changes that are ahead of me.

It’s ironic that in this, I’m exercising the one ability my parents gave to me.  Although I do so out of self-respect instead of selfishness, I exercise the right to walk away . I walk away from bad health, bad habits, and bad relationships. 

And I will not look back.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

BUT WHY SURGERY?

This post is the second in a series about my weight loss surgery coming up.  You can read the first post at http://sapphokinesis.blogspot.com/2012/05/positive-change-all-around-is-good.html.

A year ago, I was reorganized out of my management position with an HR Management Consulting firm in downtown San Francisco.  Thereafter, I found myself using my body more than ever hauling things in and out of the garage for yard sales, selling my action figures at flea markets, and hawking my art at festivals.  These activities required more physical work than I’ve done in years.  It took the past year for my body to truly voice its displeasure.  Joint pain, knee problems, muscle spasms and on-going and increasing issues got louder and louder until finally, at almost 48 years old, I am unable to ignore them.

I was a large woman living a sedentary adult life which revolved around my career as an office manager or administrator and included a lot of staring at the computer.  Being heavy was annoying for as long as it took to walk from the BART train to the office.  That, and when I went clothes shopping. Ironically, I grew up dancing so was svelte and in shape as a young adult, but as the weight went on, I exercised less and less.  I had our daughter in 1997 and grew to my heaviest at that time. Then, I surpassed it, and at 43, I hit my heaviest at 340 pounds on this five foot four inch frame.  Just a month and a half ago I was 318.

Near as I can figure, somehow, somewhere along the way, I managed to hit the “off” switch to my body awareness and ignored the signs of this imbalance.  I knew I’d have to deal with my weight eventually.  I wanted to.  But I put it off repeatedly.  There was stress at work, stress at home, and a million other reasons to put aside making myself healthier.  I’d look in the mirror and focus on my face, and I avoided taking pictures for a very long time.  Time went on, and my poor practices became habits. 

Yet this cloud had a silver lining.  Being out of work, gave me the gift of time.  First, I decompressed. I tackled some things I’d wanted to do. Art things. Then, I slowed down and unraveled, put aside financial concerns and the drama that accompanies unemployment, and my stress slowly dissipated.

In this quiet, the universe began tossing messages at me.  Yes, I’d considered weight loss surgery some time ago, but I was afraid of it.  It seemed unapproachable.  Then, Leslie’s niece, Tami, had “the sleeve” done.  Leslie’s sister, too. They experienced different levels of success with their procedures. Despite some complications, Tami is down at least 100 pounds.  I bumped into a woman at one of our yard sales who was very happy she had it done.  And Lauren, one of the moms I’ve been scrapbooking with, has lost 100 pounds one year after her surgery, and she’s only a few weeks away from having her breasts reduced.

But why surgery? 

I’ve tried dieting. I’ve joined Weight Watchers twice over the last two years and lost and regained the same twenty pounds twice.   I’ve never been fond of the meetings, not unless the leader is very good at keeping it from becoming a bitch-fest, and even then I got tired of women piling heaps of self-loathing upon themselves for making mistakes.  I’m not heavy because I hate myself, and I didn’t attend Weight Watchers meetings because I need psychoanalysis.

I’ve never been able to make the shift to a healthier lifestyle because dieting completely overwhelms me.  I start with conviction, and then the day to day challenges kick in, and feeling overwhelmed with the struggle ahead, I end up caving in to my old habits.  I need a tool that will remain firm even when my willpower doesn’t.  I want to change my body’s chemistry so I can regain and maintain better eating habits for the rest of my life.

What I need is a complete reboot.

Now, we await word from the insurance company with an approval. Then, I get my surgery scheduled. In the meantime, I’ve stopped eating refined carbs and sugar, and am sticking with protein, veggies, and fruit.  I’ve lost 15 pounds doing so over the last month and a half, and I haven’t started walking yet.  I’ll do that when my body feels better.  Leslie’s lost almost 20 pounds eating the same way I am.  We know from experience that her body scars intensely, so bariatric surgery isn’t the answer for her.  She’s got so much more will power and even more won’t power than I do.  And, of course, we both have our daughter eye balling us like a hawk to ensure we don’t cheat even the tiniest bit.

We don’t want to disappoint her.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Remembering Thelma


Thelma at 19 Years Old

My grandmother, Thelma Marine Pascal, was more a mother to me than anyone. She was always there when I needed her, the last point being from 1980 when I was 16 until I moved out of her house in 1985.  Here is a list of some of my best, funniest, or most poignant memories:

  • When I was real little, she could be found in the garden wearing a wide brim gardening hat and her grey sweats. She needed those sweats to pick blackberries, because the thorns were so big.
  • She threw huge parties back then when the family was still intact.  They were usually on Sundays (I think) and she gave one lucky person a door prize.  It was always an eggplant themed basket of goodies.
  • She came to all my shows in dancing school.
  • She made me practice the piano, even when I hated it.  And I really hated it.
  • She never drank, but she loved to eat.
  • She really enjoyed country music, and thought Ann Murray was awesome, even though no one else in the family understood it.
  • She loved to read, and treated herself to trips to Barnes & Noble on the Boston Post Road in West Haven when she could justify spending the money.
  • Her idea of a vacation was driving five hours to visit her sisters in Utica, New York. She could hit 90 miles per hour in her Cadillac on the turnpike, and always left my grandfather at home.
Thelma and I
Reed Street, Milford

  • She put up with all my strange friends, even the ones she didn’t like.  For example, she loved Jody and gave him pie. She fed him whenever she could.  But she couldn’t stand Gina or Mel for reasons that were her own. She was still polite to them, though.
  • She let me take out her grey Cadillac even though in the end I hit something and destroyed it.  I still don’t drive much.
  • When something terrible and unexpected happened in our lives, Thelma was the one who galvanized resources to clean up the mess.  There was always a mess, at least every couple of years or so, and she was always the one who cleaned it.
  • One summer when we did “Oklahoma” with the local community theater, she sat at her sewing machine with Miss Connie on a long Saturday afternoon and made costumes for all the chorus members.  They were different color prairie type dresses made out of cotton.
  • When I came home to her after dancing in class until 10:00 a.m. on a Wednesday night, she always had something for me to eat. She gave it to me on a teevee tray in the three season room.  We called it “the porch”. I sat there in patio type furniture next to my grandfather eating.  We watched television. Probably  “Magnum PI”.
  • On days when I got to high school and realized I was too stressed or burned out to deal with it, she never hesitated to turn around and bring me home again.
  • She pushed me to go to business school when I was focused on Broadway, which gave me excellent skills and then a career that pays over $100K per year.
  • When I was 20 and had plans to leave for San Francisco to be with Leslie, she asked me with big eyes if I was going to have my own bedroom. I told her “no”. Still, she let me go find my own life without judgment or harsh words.
  • Then a few months later, she came to San Francisco to check Leslie out.  They were friends until she died.
  • Leslie, her mom, and I lived in Connecticut for two years back in the late eighties.  It was a disaster, but Thelma really enjoyed having Leslie’s mom, Gloria, around to talk with while it lasted. 
  • We were all seated around the dining room table once, and Thelma gave us cheesecake.  She pulled it out of the freezer where each triangular piece was individually wrapped and frozen in aluminum foil, and she tossed each frozen piece out on the table like she was dealing cards.  I think she was over it … over everything by then.
  • When she was in the rest home, we arrived there one evening, and she told me I was late for dinner. Then, she asked her aide, “Buttons”, to go down to the kitchen and get the manicotti out of the oven for me.
  • When she was really sick and wouldn’t take her pills, only Leslie could talk her into it. Somehow, being a friend and present willingly gave Leslie more influence than anyone else.
  • Thelma met her great-granddaughter when Elizabeth was in fourth grade and nine years old. She was well enough to know who she was, but could never remember her name. She ended up calling her “Bridget” or “the girl”. 
  • Right up until the end, Thelma would get raging infections that dragged her to death's door and land her in the hospital. Then, she'd wake up the next day fit as a fiddle asking when breakfast was. She blew away more nurses that way.

Thelma and I on Fulton Street
San Francisco 1986
Thelma died in her sleep a year ago this June, and oddly, I feel like she’s still with me.  I don’t miss her the way I think I should.  Maybe it was because I got used to her being so far away in body and mind over the last five years.  Maybe it’s because she’ll always be with me in spirit.

Whatever the case, she was awesome in her way, and I appreciate everything she did.

Happy Mother’s Day, Thelma, wherever you are!
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