Thursday, January 31, 2008

Welcome Back Nourishment . . .

After a good 60 hour drought of any food entering my belly and yet almost 60 straight hours of stuff somehow leaving the same belly (it was like the loaves and fishes miracle without the beach full of supporters or the happy ending) my pouch flu finally officially left me late last night.

I celebrated this morning with a return to nourishment.

With snow days for both Ava and Joy (we got at least 1 FULL inch of snow over night so the state is all but shut down today (and likely tomorrow too)), we had some extra time this morning to just hang out as a family - and we took full advantage.

I had eight ounces of the most delicious skim milk I've ever drank at our family breakfast and I plan to follow that up a little later today with some reduced fat Triscuits and some partial-skim, low fat cheddar cheese.

It's like being a month out from surgery all over again. I'm somehow excited to be able to just drink some milk and eat a few crackers and a chunk of cheese. I can't wait to get on a scale - I hope I lost those last few pounds to get me over the 200 pound mark during my (cue the string section) dire medical crisis (cut the string section) of the last few days.

E-mail Me Directly, Kristin . . .

Kristin -

Got your comment to the blog but your e-mail address was not there.
Glad you were able to find me through the InterWebs and I'd love to type you back.

Send me a direct e-mail, if you don't mind . . .

Hope to hear from you soon!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pouch Flu is Like Stomach Flu, Only WORSE . . .

As I mentioned the other day, little Ava had a mean case of the Stomach Flu Saturday and Sunday and, as I feared, it caught up with me.

My, my, my.

I was hoping, to be honest, that stomach flu was something I would not have to worry about following gastric bypass surgery since my stomach simply makes acid to aid in intestinal digestion of food and does not really collect the muck I eat or the muckery that goes down with it.

I used to get at least one bad dose of stomach flu every winter for a long time and it would put me out of commission for 48 - 72 hours. It started in college and continued through about 2004. I got a good three years off in the mid 00s so I guess I should not complain.

This was bad though. BAD!

First, vomiting post gastric bypass surgery is sort of like a dog that is "all bark and no bite" - I had these horrible pains and my whole belly area would twitch and shake and I gagged and gagged and then - minutes in to the process - I'd throw up about 2 ounces of "stuff." It was annoying and painful but I should have been happy because, a few hours later, the trouble REALLY started at the other end of Sean's Digestive Tract (if you know what I mean - winky, winky).

I was on the bathroom floor and/or the toilet from about 12:00 Monday night until about 4:30 AM on Tuesday morning. I had all sorts of issues (including, uh, "leaking") that I was dealing with and a fever that had me CONVINCED that there were men on the first floor of our house stealing our furniture and making fun of my wife's sense of style/decor. And NO ONE messes with Joy's ability to put a room together, dag nam it! Anywho, my stomach sort of settled at about 10:30 AM yesterday (I took a sick day) and I slept pretty much all day yesterday.

I'm sort of back to "normal" (if I am/was ever "normal" to begin with) today but after 48 hours without any food and having gone 24+ hours without any water at all, I'm very tired and dehydrated today.

I called Techia Palmer at Danbury Hospital for some advice on handling my little "situation" and here is what she told me (through Joy). It might be helpful if any of you get the bug this winter . . .

1 - Do NOT worry about food. You don't really need it in the short run.
2 - DO worry about hydration. You HAVE to keep up with your fluids (even when the sickness is at its worst) but do NOT drink water. Water is the sworn enemy of all stomach flues (like an electrical fire - water just makes it worse).
3 - DO drink protein drinks (if you have them on hand - and you should (tsk, tsk those that don't)) for a while once the storm has passed. When you are still going through the mess, drink MILD tea. Sip it. Constantly. NO artificial sweeteners. Avoid teas with caffeine.

So, that is it. I made it through my first post-surgery flu bug and, God willing, it will be at least another year or so until I get caught up in the sickness again.

For now, I'm back to work. I WILL blog about The Biggest Loser today (or tomorrow - as soon as I get a chance). Last night, long story short, was a pretty good episode and it was interesting to see how the insecurities/confidences are all coming to the surface now that the small teams of two have given way and formed just two big teams. I was glad to see the formerly Orange, Yellow and Black teams are all still in the game and I was not at all disappointed to see one half of the purple team sent packing. I can only hope the other half can join her at home soon!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Super Creepy CNN Workouts . . .

For those of you who don't have time (effort, energy or enthusiasm) to go to the gym or to just plain stand up and move around, has offered a series of workout tips for the office (couch), home (desk chair) and even some stretches and advice for "taking it up a notch" (thanks, Emeril, "BAM!").

I watched all of the segments MAINLY because of the super creepy videos (the tips aren't all that great/original but the instructor is AWESOME!).

Check out the exciting videos and get excercising here!

Weirdest Dream In a While . . .

Perhaps it was that Ava Grace had a world class stomach bug/flu yesterday that saw some of the scariest vomit I've ever seen run from her little mouth and saw us run through eight sets of pajamas on Ava, six outfits on Joy, three outfits on me, nine bath towels, three blankets and a hard-to-explain-how-it-fits-into-the-equation pair of gardening gloves OR perhaps it was the fact that, to sooth her devil-tummy we watched Noggin for 16 straight hours yesterday OR perhaps it was the fact that Joy and I are both sick again ourselves so sleep itself has been in short supply and high demand at the house as of late but I had a dream last night that could only be described as "weird." Allow me to digress . . .

I had a dream last night that the entire world was made of candy. Not just in that "marshmallow world in the winter" or "Candy Land" sense of the idea but more in the first scene inside Willy Wonka's Candy Factory sense. EVERY THING was edible but not for those of us who have had gastric bypass surgery (or those of you who battle diabetes either). Cars were made of Peeps. Clothing was made of finely woven Twizzlers. Windows were made of sheets of hard candy. Phones were made of chocolate. You get the point.

FOR THE RECORD - there were plenty of parts of my "brave new world" that were GB appopriate. Tree bark was made of lean, high protein white meat. The freshly white-washed houses of College Hill were actually Egg White-washed. Magazines and other periodicals were printed on reduced fat Triscuits and Starbucks served a large variety of fat free milk concoctions.

But this sort of dream, in itself, is not THAT weird. I have had the "the whole world is edible" dream thousands of times. In my favorite version the world is made entirely of Fritos, Cheetos, Doritos and HoHos (all my formerly favorite Os).

No - what made the dream head towards weird was that Mika blared through the air (no matter where you were) at all times and no one seemed to notice, except me.

What pushed the dream in to official weird was that no one was super skinny or fat. No one abnormally tall and no one "short." No one ever seemed calm or settled and yet never seemed anxious or agitated either, uh, except me.

What ensconsed the dream in weirdness was that every person I know, have ever known (it's good to have you back with us, Grandmas Amore and Coyle and it is good to get to know you, Grandpa Coyle and to meet you Grandpa Amore) was living in our neighborhood here in Wichita.

The ENTIRE neighborhood was sort of Sean Amore This Is Your Life gone bad/wrong. Vicki, Debby and Rich Morse were lifeguards at the pool at College Hill Park (as they were at Sykes Park back in the day), Justin Williams and I would play tennis at the courts well in to the night (as we did in high school), Drs. Chris and Michele Delenick and their two kids and Mr. and Mrs. Delenick and Mr. and Mrs. Biermann and Karen and Tim Mayo (Michele's sister) and Drew and Darren all lived on North Fountain Street. Father Eagen and Father Lou split duties at the Catholic Church. "Caneyehelpya" manned the grill at the neighborhood Panera. Ben Mufti was the head trainer at the local YMCA. Tom Kelly was the emcee at the local comedy club. Eric Baldwin lived two doors down with his life partner (his name was Todd) and their three brown labs. My brothers (and Joyell and Ryan's new girlfriend who I think goes by Heather) lived over on Vassar in matching cottages. Mrs. Satterly decided to come out of retirement and she taught Ava in 5th grade (another great job helping an Amore find their happiness, Mrs. Satterly - thanks) and Gordon Levitt, a Scottish kid I worked with my first summer at Camp Barton lived two blocks over too.

We all got together the first Saturday of every month. We would take over College Hill Park (we were the neighborhoods only residents so no one really complained) and people would eat the trees and the grass while the kids played on the candy playground and Joy and her "Baltimore Crew" (they were all living with us too) would dance to Mika's My Interpretation while they got a buzz off their candy-flavored cocktails. We'd all take turns playing Mini Golf (the only sport I have ever exceled at that didn't require hours on a couch and cause thumb blisters). We'd laugh and dance and eat and drink and tell stories about life and everyone just got along so swimmingly with our cookie-cutter bodies and shared life.

It was both wonderful and scary at the same time.

I don't know how the dream really ended or what the point was.

I was kicked to the groin at 3:37 AM CT by a feverish Ava who had decided that her sleeping in the exact middle of our bed on top of the blankets was the only way that any of the three of us would get any sleep last night.

I sat up - rubbed the blanket to make sure it was not made of buttered-bread. Kissed Ava and Joy on the cheeks and went back to sleep where I proceeded to dream about competive lawnmower racing.

That's a dream for another day!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Calling All Readers . . .

As I approach the one year mark since my surgery and as I pass the 200 pounds lost since my surgery (2 pounds to go - STILL) and with 107 posts to my crappy little blog behind me, I had an interesting call with my mother last night that got me wondering . . . exactly who reads this thing?

I don't get any reader figures or any real insight in to who looks at the blog from time to time (save for the few comments left by a few of you over the last six months on the blog and a handful of e-mails and phone calls here and there where the blog is mentioned and the people that run the site once told me there were like 100ish link throughs from the hospital website in a month) but I wanted to know who else is looking.

People I know? People I don't know? People I sort of know like Neil Blumenthal, the child hood friend of Brad Bush, a second cousin (third? - I can never tell the rules of cousinal removification) on my mother's side?

So my request is this . . . let me know if you read my blog, please? Post a comment here (you do have to sign up for a stupid google account but you can use any existing e-mail address and it only takes two minutes and you don't get any spam or other annoying e-mails for signing up and once you sign up you can post comments forever without any more hassle) or just drop me an e-mail directly at

Just let me know who you are, what you think of the blog, my musings and how annoying I really am at this point in my life. You can just give me your thoughts or rate me on a scale of 1 to 100 . . . 1 being the Dalai Lama and 100 being Richard Gere talking about the Dalai Lama (or pick any other frame of reference you might be more comfortable with that provides you a sliding scale of annoying).

I have a reason for asking for this information - I'm planning a big blog celebration for my 1st Post Surgery "Birthday" and I am also working on a much more creative project (I hope the rest of the world will see it as creative at least) that I will need people to help me with.

I look forward to hearing from you (all five to seven of you (grimace)).

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I CAN Eat Cereal! . . .

When I first signed up for this whole Gastric Bypass lifestyle - one of the foods I was most sad to be saying "goodbye" to was cereal. I used to like nothing more than pouring half a box of Reese's Peanut Butter Puffs in a bowl, cutting a banana over the top, drowning the contents with milk and eating until the queasies sat in (and that was just one of dozens of my cereal creations).

I knew then what I still abide by now . . . you can not eat and drink at the same time following your surgery and therefore you can't eat a solid that is soaking in a liquid for breakfast, lunch, dinner or your snack.

The other downside to cereal itself, of course, is that the stuff is typically loaded with sugar and it rarely to never had any protein to speak of.

That is - I am pleased to inform you all - a problem of the past.

God BLESS the fine folks over at the Special K research and development lab.

The Amore household (all three of us AND Grandma and Grandpa Amore) are all proud to endorse their latest offering - Special K Protein Plus.

The cereal - when eaten at the suggested serving size of 3/4 of a cup (which is more than enough) with 1/2 cup of skim milk (I let my cereal sit and stew in the milk for a while to get good and soggy and then I just throw away the milk that remains after I carefully "drain" each spoonful of sugar) - contains just three grams of fat, 140 little calories and 14 GRAMS OF PROTEIN.

Special K Protein Plus also has five grams of dietary fiber, only two grams of sugar (it tastes much sweeter) and a ton of vitamins and minerals too.

Welcome back to my life, cereal. I've MISSED you!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Insecurities . . .

I exchanged e-mails with an old friend yesterday for the first time in a long time.

I have completely lost touch with her for various reasons and we don't "know" each other at all any more. I don't know her at least. We have spent NO time together in two years and we have not spoken in almost as long. I have moved a few times and taken new jobs and have had surgery and lost 200 pounds and we became parents and she and her husband moved and recently found out they would soon be parents and blah, blah, blah.

To an outside observer, all of these changes in one side of a friendship are often enough to permanently effect the dynamic of the friendship but when BOTH sides of the relationship go through that many changes, without constant contact and communication and "work" on the friendship - it is just too much.

But when you are inside the relationship - you don't really see it. You don't really understand that all these changes are huge and that the person you know/knew is not the same any more and you are left sort of scratching your head at how you could have been so close for so long and not even know the other person at all. We didn't do the work.

For me, the interactions I had yesterday with her bring up a lot of the insecurities that fueled me as a heavier man and plague me as a man who is getting smaller physically but still needs to grow emotionally and mentally. My estranged friend knew me in high school and all the way through when I first found out I would become a parent (those many years were largely just me gaining weight, getting more depressed and shirking my general responsibilities to be a good person). I have been on the upswing pretty much the entire time we have been apart from each other, frankly.

Little things were said - that maybe it was just assumed that I would never get married and become a parent (my insecurities pounce . . . WHY? Because I was a fat pariah that was unworthy of the love of another or the responsibility of a parent? Because you are sooooo much better than me to deserve and have these things be expected for you?) or that perhaps the "new" me needs to understand that I still have debts to pay and burdens to carry for the "old" me (again with my little, nasty, petty, childish voice . . . WHY? I have lost 200 pounds, moved 1,500 miles, I have a child and a job and a wife that dictate who I am . . . you don't even KNOW me any more - what do I owe you now for what might have happened then? And what the heck do I owe you anyway? What do you want?).

The reality is that those are my just insecurities taking over. No malice was meant in the statements that were made - no harm intended. To be HONEST - the initiation of the exchange was a note telling me that this old friend reads my blog and was saddened by my old post and that she missed me and that she was proud of me and wished the best for me. But my insecurities took over and turned it all around. I blamed it on knowing "her" and that "she" was not being sincere or honest (reminder - I do not know the 2008 her any more than she knows the 2008 me).

Long story long - I didn't read it as such though. I didn't just take it at face value and move on. Was I right? Was I wrong? Hard to say. The "me" of today - the one that is based on the me of 30+ years that has always been fiercely insecure, has always been a "pleaser" until I could take it no more, has always been overly communicative and that has never been afraid of (and, frankly, reveled in) a good fight.

I never trusted people beyond what was in front of my face and I was a "fool me once, I'll CRUSH you" person.

I am having a hard time shaking that. I am having a hard time accepting criticisms of who I was and how I behaved and the lasting impact that has on people who don't know me any more. People that don't know that I can dismiss your actions in the past as being just that - in the past - without it being an attack (because it always USED to be an attack, right?)!

I have a long way to go. I'm not perfect. I'm still very much struggling with the last 30+ years of my life and I am trying very hard to leave all the baggage that I carried and the depression that fed me to 530 pounds of weight and the feelings of guilt and insecurity and self loathing that made even me question if I deserved my wife or Ava when things got bad.

I am trying to forgive and forget and to clear my mind, heart and soul to be a better friend, husband, father, son, brother, uncle and person to those around me. TRYING being the key to that. No doubt I will continue to struggle with my insecurities and my self doubts and my issues of who I was and that I left people with only that taste of me in their mouth (as I've talked about several times here).

I need to truly let go when I say I've let go and I need to give people a chance to do the same. To come to the table fresh and clean and "new" without our previous biases and insecurities.

Anywho, my journey continues. One day and one step at a time.

Lip Gloss . . .

One of Ava's favorite bathtime songs of late is a little diddy called Lip Gloss from New York's own Lil' Mama.

I doubt many of you are familiar with Lil' Mama (you totally should be - your 99 cents on iTunes have never been spent better) or her musical catalogue so let me sort of set the scene.

The song, both utterly annoying and ungodly catchy at the same time, is a 17 year old girl's open love letter to her lip gloss collection and how "all the girls be jealous" and "all the boys be jockin'" because she knows how to keep her lips adequately moist and protected from harsh weather conditions (okay, she doesn't really "say" that is why she loves lip gloss but it is sort of implied).

Regardless, the song is a keeper at the ol' Amore household because if you've never seen Ava dancing, clapping and babbling along with Lil' Mama in a warm vapor bath with a mound of shampoo suds jiggling on top of her head . . . you don't really understand how truly great the song is or how wonderful the joy of youth can be.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I'm Okay, Really . . .

A handful of people have e-mailed and called me in regards to yesterday's post. Joy and I even talked about it last night for a few minutes since she seemed to be a little "concerned" as well.

Let me assure any one that is worried that I am FINE and all of you are FINE too.

I really didn't know that as my body melted away - the sharp points and sticky pieces of the real me that hid under the layers and layers of my fat would be exposed and I would actually try to deal with them and, by proxy, see this venue as a way to share the FULL impact of this surgery on my life.

I hope to continue to share things (good and bad) that I remember about my past and that I am going through in my present with this blog and in talking with people and in the way I carry myself and act in relationships moving forward.
For those of you that knew me in DC - don't worry - I didn't expect any one to say anything or do anything to help me out. I lied and hid things and I tried to be happier and I appreciate that many of you were willing to let me live the charade. I also know that my generally "volcanic" demeanor during that time in my life was not exactly welcoming to expressions of concern for my health too.

Stop worrying. KNOW that I'm BETTER than fine and you have nothing to worry about!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Old Friends Found . . .

In the last 24 hours I have made contact with two friends from my DC days. They both found out about my surgery through this-here blog and they are both excited for an happy for me. E-mailing with Josh and talking with and e-mailing with Doug got me thinking though . . .

Josh "Nanny" Nanberg and Doug "Doug" Quenqua (great guy but I was never close enough with him to give him an outstandingly cool nickname like Nanny). Josh and Doug, as DC friends, knew me at or around my heaviest.

I've been drunk with Doug a handful of times and dozens of times with Nas-a-fras (another one of my short lived nicknames for Joshy-pants (oh, SO many nicknames)). They were both at my "lovely" apartment in South East DC at least a couple of times each (ghettocues and the like) and they both probably watched me house thousands of calories in random food when "socializing".

Josh and Doug - and the dozens (dare I go HUNDREDS) of other friends I had in my DC days were all good people. They always accepted me despite my size and my attitude and my behavoir and demeanor. We would go out to dinner and bar hopping and to social events and we would laugh and get drunk and act stupid and run around all hours of the day and night.

I had fun but I don't miss my DC days very often. True - I learned a lot in my time there and I became the professional I am today (for better or for worse (smile)) while I was there and I met my wife there and I miss the people and the friendships I formed but I was not very happy with myself during my eight years in DC (I moved to DC, I realized this morning, 10 years and 2 weeks ago today . . . my how time flies some times)).

But, also true - I don't very much like "DC Sean." The Sean that Josh and Doug knew - let's put it that way.

Josh MIGHT know the Sean I am prouder of - he knew me earlier in my DC days (graduate school time) when things were just starting to get out of control but Doug came later in my stint inside the beltway.

I don't think Doug and I ever hung out that we I didn't get drunk and run up a huge bar tab and stumble out of one bar to go grab food at another. I don't know that we ever just hung out without my drunknen sadness causing some drama with someone or making a good time less good than it could have been. I can't think of many times Josh and I hung out, frankly, that I didn't get drunk or just angry and rude (or all of the above) and ding an otherwise lovely time out on the town.

I was depressed during those years, fellas. Hated myself. I hated how heavy I was but would not really make an effort to lose weight. I was largely resolved that I would die early from my obesity and I was sort of at peace with it. I was tired all the time. I was mean spirited and angry. I was spiteful and bitter and miserable. I put on a GREAT show for some people that I liked myself but that just made me more tired and angry when my "show" was over.

I had a letter written in my bedroom (not a will - but it was written on custom stationery I bought for $200 in my credit card madness days) that detailed exactly what should happen to all my stuff (sorry, Ryan, I lived too long for you to get to keep my CD, DVD and VHS collection (including my porn stash)) and I had letters written to all those that I loved - including people who might not have known they had a letter coming to them - ready to go to explain why I didn't love myself enough to stay alive through my 20s and why I appreciated the friendship and love of "you" anyway when my rotten corpse was discovered.

Talking about how sad I was makes me even sadder than I was at that time. It scares me too. MAINLY because I still had really good friends - really great people - and love and support and I didn't need to be so sad and angry and overfed and miserable. I didn't need to treat the people that loved me the way that I did.

I could have done something then to cut the patterns and change paths. I could have made a million decisions to get healthier and happier and I could have had a very different life.

But that is just it - I don't take any of it back. I like my life. I stand by every mistake I've ever made. I stand by the sadness and the lonliness and the happiness and the laughs. I stand by the credit cards that I have since cut up and paid off and I stand by the positive influence people I knew then had in my life (but maybe didn't realize it until now) and I stand by the friendships I had that were TERRIBLE influences in my life that I have since seen for what they are/were and moved past.
I also appreciate just how much of a difference Joy and Ava have been in my life and I stand by the fact that without the years I had in DC - I would not be the man I am now anyway. I would not be "me."
I am truly sorry for all those that I hurt and all those that watched me harm myself over those years and I thank you for your friendship anyway - ESPECIALLY those that ONLY knew me during my darker days (you know who you are - especially you, my little Corcoran and Day of Fun buddy). I am leaving that all behind now and I know I can't go back and I can't fix it BUT I can live a better life and be a better person to work the kharma off - at least in theory.

I weigh less now than I did when I moved to DC in 1998. I am happier now than when I moved to DC in 1998 (I'm the happiest now I've been since high school, frankly) and I am no longer a binge drinker or a binge drinker. My depression is largely in hand (I know now what makes me sad and I can avoid thinking about it most of the time and when I do think about it I stew on it for a day or two until Joy or Ava will smile just right at me and I will snap out of it) and I don't swear and scream and yell and berate like I used to (I still have ALL my four letter words, I just use them more "wisely").

So, Josh and Doug, and the rest of you - I would love to get to know you again - or rather have you get to know me again (you were fine people then and are no doubt fine people now). At least know that I appreciate your friendship and your support despite and I apologize for not giving you my best in return.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Game Play . . .

The opening theme song of The Biggest Loser asks viewers (somewhat rhetorically) "What have you done today to make you feeeeeeel proud?" and the answer for this season's contestants, based on last night's episode might be a whole lot for some and a whole lotta' nuttin' for others.

I must say last night might have been my favorite single episode of The Biggest Loser to date. That includes all four previous seasons and the thrilling finales/reunions that always touch my heart like only Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls once could.

Last night had it ALL. Touching and tearful letters from home, game play, competitive banter, a small handful of surprise twists and even my main man Paul in a martial arts jumper! It was AWESOME.

The episode started with twist numero-uno . . . the Yellow Team - having finally taken their rightful place as the Biggest Loser Team of the Week was immediately seen as "the" threat in the house - over the orange team AND the black team (who had been at or near the top of the leaderboard all three previous weigh ins). With that target on their backs, Paul and Kelly were voted by the Black, Pink and Purple teams as the team they would most like to send home BUT they didn't go home - instead - they got to play a game of one v. all with the other six teams.

And play the game they DID. My little divorcees came to play, hard core. Paul went in to ninja mode, literally, spouting off about becoming the tiger he always was and threatening bodily harm to all that messed with him and his ex-wife. Jillian seemed both tickled and scared as she reminded Paul that he could not get mad - he had to play the game and had to stay "friendly" towards those that wanted he and Kelly gone. Good advice from a great trainer.

So Paul and Kelly whooped up on the challenge for the week (a pool crossing, peg boarded festival that saw only one pool dive and very little drama) but the team decided to WAIVE their reward (letters from home) and give them, instead, to the SIX other teams. NICE game play, yellow. Now they are all going to be your friends and stuff, right? Errrr, we'll see.

I should stop here to talk about a conversation Joy and I had last night as we watched - you see Joy thinks Kelly may or may not cry too much and get too "woe is me" too often. I agree with Joy that Kelly does not share Paul's attitude when things get tough BUT, as I pointed out to Joy, Kelly is in the LAST place where she should feel like an outsider or the enemy or the butt of the joke or the target - she is SURROUNDED by fat people. They SHOULD all get along. They SHOULD all support each other. Kelly has lost pregnancies and lost her husband and she's sad and she's lonely and she's miserable about being down all the time. She isn't weak - just downtrodden. I would be Kelly too if I had ONE taste of success in my life and I was smacked down for it two minutes later. I feel for her. And I LOATHE the game playing and the stupid Survivor-esque game play that factors in to this game more and more as each season progresses.

So - anywho - the deal with one v. all was that if Kelly and Paul could NOT beat the average weight loss percentage of the other six teams, they had to leave, immediately. If they could beat it - they got to choose who left. Period. So - some of the teams saw OPPORTUNITY in this. IF they "threw" the weigh-in and lost little to no weight, the BLACK TEAM would be a logical target to go home. The yellow team beat the pack (handily, thanks to minimal efforts and water consumption to be safe by at LEAST the team of Camp Counselor and Her-Perhaps-Secret-Lover (purple) and Chastity and Mother Bono (orange) and perhaps the blue team as well (the girl at least)).

But, NBC, always the omnipotent network - gave the Biggest Loser Team of the Week immunity so when the black team lost more weight than any one else (NO shocker there - and for the record if the other teams had voted black to be the outsider team, they would have DOUBLED the weight loss percentage of the other six teams average and been safe either way) they were not sent packing anwyay - defeating the strategy of the yellow team and making the water-drinkers just look like the little people their minds are helping them to be.

SO - long story long - the PINK team got sent off in an ending twist worthy of M. Night Shamylan - the yellow team ONLY considered sending home the teams that voted for them to put them on the outside to begin with and since black was safe and purple made some sort of plea to keep them since they ONLY had fat kids camp to go back to for motivation if they got sent home (or whatever the logic was) - poor Bette-Sue and Alli got sent out.

LOVE the class of the pink team to call out the rest of the teams for their terrible game play and for how unfair their eviction from the ranch was and LOVE that Bette-Sue said that she would be skinnier than all you "fat people" at the final weigh-in anyway.

Another great episode. More tears for me (letters from home kill me every time) and all three of my teams (the yellow, the orange and the black) are still safe and seem to be sailing towards the long haul.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Another One of "Those" Moments . . .

I woke at 6:25 AM CT this morning knowing that this would be no "ordinary" morning.

Joy starts school this morning. Ava has been coughing, sneezing, hacking and wheezing and a light, freezing rain fell over Wichita last evening. Just enough to coat the windows and make the driveways, roads and sidewalks slick and really jam up my morning as I scraped off two cars.

Following a quick tooth brushing and a fumbling search for my glasses, I strapped on my coat, hat, gloves and scarf, a pair of socks and . . . my flip flops.

I was already downstairs. Joy and Ava were sleeping. I was feeling strapped for time as it was (it takes a GOOD 20 seconds to walk up the stairs, grab some shoes/sneakers/boots from my closet and walk back down the stairs) and - still adjusting to the "new" me - I have run many a wintertime errand in just flip flops and not given it a second thought.

This morning was different. VERY different. I slid - literally - from the side door in to the driveway. I slipped and faltered my way around Joy's car (grabbing on several times to avoid falling to the icy driveway below) and I felt, even with my socks, a terrible, terrible chill in each of my ten little toes by about half way around my own car (I cleaned Joy's off first, chivalry is not dead - just very, very old, frail and tired).

The lesson - I can't wear my flip flops outside in the winter any more. Without the 200 pounds I have lost since last winter to anchor me on my flip flops and to insulate my toes, feet and ankles - it is just not safe or practical for me to step out on a January day like I was heading to the beach.

But don't worry - I had promised Joy last at the end of this summer to throw away all of my flip flops anyway in exchange for more "appropriate" (as in age, stage of life and land-locked-state aware appropriate) footwear. Footwear that will leave me safe and secure at any tempurature and on any surface like my still virginal canvas Chucks and a pair of blucher mocs I'm hoping to score for my birthday.
I made good on that promise this morning - for Joy's sanity and my safety.

Fare thee well, flip flops. You've served me well and for that . . . I salute you!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Snacking Behavoir . . .

As Ava continues to be a picky, picky, picky eater we have resorted to increasingly strange "stunts" to get her to eat. The attempts range from plates in the shapes of animals and critters and spoons with glitter and bugs in the handles - oatmeal, peanut butter and honey "dips" on a plate with apple spears as "dippers" - fruit juice, yogurt and ice "smoothies" in sippy cups, crumbled cheese since sliced, block and shredded just don't seem to be the right shapes and consistencies, etc., etc., etc.

The point is that what we have noticed is that the best way to get Ava to really eat (she DOES usually have one really good meal a day but the other two leave something to be desired) is to let her be a free range eater . . . a "grazer", if you will.

We have some food available to her - essentially 24/7 - and she comes over in between trips down the slide in her playroom or in between readings of "Everyone Poops" or in between musical videos on and she'll have a bite of this or a taste of that and, occassionally, a full on smack-down-snack-session.

While this works very well for her (and for us) in terms of getting daily calories and keeping her weight up - this is, as any one who knows anything about gastric bypass will tell you - a TERRIBLE way to eat for most people.

When you are just having a "little" of this or a "bit" of that throughout the day - you don't usually account for those calories on your daily food log (yes - I still keep one - roll your eyes all you want) and you don't usually make very good food choices when you are dabbling in the kitchen.

For long term success after gastric bypass - grazing is pretty much the mortal enemy of the stomach pouch. You can't just have a little of this or a little of that. You have to make a concerted effort to say "I WILL eat three meals and one snack a day and I will not eat any thing else." (or whatever breakdown of meals and snacks work best for you, I suppose).

I'm still pretty good about it but I will admit that I am slipping a little bit - as I mark 10 months and 197 pounds lost since my surgery. My weaknesses are Reduced Fat Triscuits (I'll grab one or two (or three)) when I walk through the kitchen in the evenings and I have a soft spot for sugar free pudding cups too. At 60 calories a cup for the pudding and about 60 calories for a few Triscuits, they are not that terrible for me and am still making sure I only get 900 - 1000 calories per day (with the occassional exception) but since I hardly go a day without one snack or the other (or both) - it is the first sign to me that I need to stay vigilant of the dietary promises I made before my surgery.

As Sheryl Crow once crooned . . . "No one said that life after surgery would be easy but no one said that woven wheat and dulce de leche pudding would make it so damned hard."

Friday, January 18, 2008

New Picture . . .

A handful of you have e-mailed me asking for a new picture of me (Thanksgiving was the last time I posted one and that was almost two months ago already). Since I am usually eager to please - here is one of me and a few co-workers at a press conference we staged this morning for a client. NOTE: I am wearing clothing I bought for my interview here and it fit me quite nicely then (three months ago already) but is WAY too big on me now SO this is not a very flattering (or flattening) of a picture of me, frankly (smile)! I'll post more and BETTER pictures next week (we have a wedding tomorrow for one of Joy's cousins so the camera will be getting its clicks in for sure).

Have nice weekends!

Kansas Lawmakers Look to Mandate Bariatric Surgery Coverage . . .

Looks like I arrived just in time for a battle over the bulge here in the Sunflower State. The Wichita Eagle (our paper of record) ran an article today looking at the battle to mandate insurance coverage of gastric bypass and showing the various sides to the argument.

Let's look at the facts . . .

FACT - Insurance companies cover almost any procedure to overcome life threatening conditions.

FACT - Insurance companies look for procedures and opportunities to cut their costs long term.

FACT - Insurance companies can charge premiums for specific operations, procedures and treatments in most states to help reduce offset costs to other customers.

FACT - Gastric Bypass surgery is no longer the back-alley, dirty, dangerous procedure it once was . . . DECADES ago.

So what is the problem, Kansas?

Set up strong criteria for coverage. Make the mental component important. Make a shown and proven dedication to excercise and diet change an important criteria. Insist on would-be patients looking at and participating in any other form of medicine you are comfortable with (nutritionists, mental therapy, excercise therapy, sleep studies, full body work-ups, etc. etc. etc.) and then - once you have established strong enough criteria - INSIST on coverage.

It should be that simple.

I love, too, the comments from readers of the article that people should just put down the potato chips or go for a walk instead of whining about medical coverage.

I've talked about this several times on the blog but here's what chaps my ample ass about this debate . . . if you are a smoker and you develop lung cancer (and millions do) NO ONE would look at you and ask, cynically, "Why should YOU get coverage? Why should YOU get the best medical treatment you can find? Why should YOU get a second chance at a healthier life?" No one mocks your condition. No one mocks how you got in your situation. We donate millions a year to the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association instead. We have marches and rallies and parades and fundraisers and parties. We CELEBRATE the fact that medicine can knock the crap out of cancer - if caught early enough, given a full thrust of juice and taken seriously.

Why can't the obese - regardless of how we got to that point - have the same options? And the same cheers and celebrations for our success and the same cries that we HAVE to be helped?

So - come on, Kansas, do the right thing!

Click here to read the whole article.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Oh Happy Day . . .

So I'm now officially part of the blogosphere as Al Gore and the other inventors of the Internet and social networking inteded it to be . . . I have made friends with another blogger - and not just a blogger but another blogger who cares about The Biggest Loser and blogs about it.

So we went to lunch on Friday (with a few of my co-workers (she used to work here)) and the White Team came up. It seems for every ounce of loathing and spite I carry for them - my girl Brandi carries another candle of love, burning in her heart. Brandi even spoke with the White Team for her blog. You can read how Tribal-banded-Calf-Neill spun his brief time at the ranch and his weight loss (NOTE - Neill talks (and giggles) about how much better their love life is (tee-hee, tee-hee)) to Brandi here.

I'm going to post a very brief recap of last night's The Biggest Loser this morning as I'm a little swamped here.

First - rest easy, my pets, the Black, Orange and Yellow teams are all safe (Yellow was on TOP last night, as a matter of fact) and the Orange team (Chastity Bono and his mother) were once again superior to the black team. Purple team almost went home but - JOY OF JOYS! The White Team was sent packing.

THANK YOU, remaining teams, for getting Neill off my favorite TV show. And THANK YOU for telling him that you were voting him off for his lack of effort and enthusiasm (and I hope at least a little bit for those tats).

Next week should be good - there is a "twist" where it will be one team against all of the other teams. They showed black, yellow and pink (pink had a GREAT mother-daughter moment last night that produced my "tears of the episode" (I do need to find a corporate sponsor for my weekly cry during the Biggest Loser)) as the likely team on their own!

Go Yellow team. Keep love alive, Gary!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hello 280s . . .

I am in the 280s. 288 to be exact. I am five pounds away from my first 200 pounds of loss since my surgery. I will mark 10 months since my surgery on Saturday.

Can I lose 5 pounds in five days?

Is it worth it to try?

Probably NOT., On both counts.

But I'm this close to hitting that 200 pound loss mark and that feels good. Really good. As a matter of fact - when I lose just 2 more pounds I will have a BMI of 39 and will be simply "obese" instead of "morbidly obese" for the first time in a long, long, long time. I will, no doubt, hit that goal by Saturday (even if I have to weigh myself naked in the middle of the YMCA weight room to get there (don't think I'm kidding (KNOW I'm kidding))).

Next goal - 225 by the one year mark. 30 pounds to go! I'll have a BMI of only 35 - and I would barely be eligible for surgery at that weight. Weird that in a year I will have lost enough weight from the surgery that I could no longer qualify for the surgery.

I don't know why I am putting this pressure on myself to lose this weight at this point. I should be perfectly happy with my results to date (and I am) and I think I SHOULD be able to say "it will come over time" and to remind myself that it took me 31 years to get to my maximum weight - if it takes 18 months or even two years (about all the time any one can ever expect to have to lose weight through the surgery) that should be good enough BUT it is not good enough.

I want it over. I want to get to my goal weight as soon as possible (18 months at the LONGEST) and then I want to transition my thoughts and my goals and my strategies and my energies to setting up a lifetime of trying to maintain my weight and battling the pressures that will come with that.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Wilton Villager Article on Gastric Bypass (Featuring Lil' Ol' Me) . . .

I spoke with Frank MacEachern of the Wilton Villager for about 45 minutes last week for an article he was writing on Gastric Bypass surgery at Danbury Hospital. I was nervous to speak with him NOT because I didn't trust him or because I don't like talking about my surgery (clearly my blog would prove I have nothing to hide) but because I was afraid of being presented in his paper as some lonely, lonely fat man who needed surgery to be loved or accepted (some of Frank's questions made me wonder if that was the angle he was working as we spoke).

I thought I had reason to worry. As a person who has made his career working in PR - I am always amazed when I read an article, listen to a radio report or see a TV report about/featuring one of my clients or one of my executives.

Not because my vanity and ego NEEDS to see my work in print (my ego does LIKE that rush though) but because the journalist covering "my" stories almost always focuses on one specific area of comment or one small comment that then turns in to "the" story. It simple amazes me to see what journalists like to focus on when they put together their stories.

My point is simple here . . . I really respect Frank for NOT doing that to me. He did a great job of taking all the many, many, many long, long winded things I said to him (let's be honest - I am a talker and a bit of a blow-hard) and he nicely reflected my entire experience before, during and after my surgery.

Thanks for that, Frank.

The ONLY thing I was not crazy about is that the article (and I feel like I have to address it here) might imply that Joy and Joy's love and role and importance in my life was not enough to motivate me to get healthy.

I might over worry here (my co-worker read the article and did not get the impression I took away and said I was being "silly") because she means the world to me and I love her so very, very much and I don't ever want her to think that I didn't appreciate her love then (as much as I do now) and understand all the sacrafices she made every minute of every day because she loved me.

I had, for the record, this surgery for US, as a family.

Me, Joy and Ava and my commitments to my girls as a husband and father.

I DID say that Joy knew the risks of loving a man my size and I did acknowledge that Ava did NOT but I never meant to imply that - before Ava - I didn't have enough motivation in my life and a person that was worthy of me getting healthy.

I had just been too lazy for "just" Joy. I can see and admit that now and I apologize to Joy on a regular basis for having not done more for her when it was just us. I love you, and I'm sorry, Pop Tart.

Anywho - enough about it for now.

To read the whole article on Gastric Bypass at Danbury Hospital - click HERE.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Swimming and Signing My Saturdays Away . . .

As part of my continued commitment to making 2008 the Year of Happiness - Joy, Ava and I will be starting two new adventures tomorrow morning including another first scratch at one of my life-long itches.

FIRST - At 8:30 tomorrow morning, Ava and I will be in the pool at the YMCA for our first Saturday morning swim around of the New Year. Ava and I have only been swimming together three or four times to date (and we will likely take a formal set of swimming lessons soon enough) but I am very excited to incorporate a weekly swim in to our schedules. I remember swimming ALL THE TIME as a kid. I would be at Sykes Park in the morning for swim lessons - in the pool from 1:00 - 4:00 every afternoon and then 6:00 - 8:30 every night. No exceptions (okay - thunderstorms would keep me from the pool) and I didn't realize it then but, in hind sight, it was the only way for a fat kid to beat the heat AND feel like I was fully flexible and mobile and "lithe". I hadn't swam in many, many years (as my legs got fatter and fatter and my body more and more bulbous and ugly) but I dusted off the trunks two summers ago to swim in Mom and Dad Terry's pool while we waited for Ava to be born and again last summer after my surgery when we went floating with Uncle Larry and Aunt Joyce. I'm very excited to get back in the pool and to make swimming a regular part of my excercise routine and some of the time I spend with my Gracie too!
THEN - Joy, Ava and I will be starting "family sign language" on Saturday morning too. While billed as a way to better communicate with your young child (so far Ava knows how to say "Yes", "No", "Bye-Bye", "Hi", "Mama", "Dada", "Nana" (Grandma Terry's nickname) and "oof-oof" (dog)) but, for me, it is another one of those things I always wanted to do - to know how to sign. When I was living in Washington, DC I would frequently go to Dupont Circle for bar hopping, tea sipping, dinner eating and shopping and there were always students from Galudet University out in groups - just signing away with each other. I think it was my general insecurities but I was always POSITIVE they were talking about me and my friends and making fun of us (crazy, I know) and I wanted so badly to be able to sign so I could just "know". I also have always found it amazing that the lack of hearing could easily remove people from socialization and from having a "normal" life (very much like being obese) but thanks to the wise people who figured out how to make words with their hands and the wise people who can love and accept and befriend a fat person - we can all have a little more "normalcy" in our lives to offset what makes us "different." Anywho, tomomrrow morning we learn to sign and while they will probably only teach us "wet diaper", "more food", "where is my favorite stuffed dog from Uncle Patrick and Aunt Joyell" and "why can't you just get out of the king sized bed that you two are supposed to share so I have more room to spread out despite having my own crib down the hall where I start out sleeping each night but can't seem to finish the night there, mommy and daddy?" I am ALL but sure that I will somehow learn enough that, by my next trip to Dupont Circle, I am able to know that the students at the next table aren't talking about me . . . they are talking about how terrible the sandwiches they ordered are. We'll all feel better (smile).

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Show Me Pictures . . .

Pretty much all of my new co-workers know that I've had gastric bypass surgery and many of them have asked me questions and we've talked about it and they comment on how great I look (for the record - I've only lost 20 or 25 pounds (about 1/10th of my total weight loss) so I don't really understand how/why they say I look great other than they have been socialized to compliment people who have lost weight).

ANYWHO - one of my favorite co-workers DEMANDED that I put together some pictures of me before surgery so she could get an idea of what I used to look like. She then, after picking her jaw off the floor at the difference, suggested I post those pictures here.

Here they are - do with them what you will.

Joy and I, May, 2005, about a week before our wedding. Note how Joy is almost totally hidden in this picture - by my belly alone.

Joy and I on our wedding day, June 4, 2005. Joy and I were pretty sure this is the best I had ever looked (in our time together) and I look at it now and I'm not sure I look good AT ALL. I'm happy - no mistake - but I don't look "good".
Joy and I (and my college friends Chris Delenick and Tom Kelly) at Bruce Cohn's wedding in Rhode Island one month after our wedding. Note how much tighter my suit is - just a month after I wore it to our own wedding. I had gained at least 20 pounds back in the month between the two weddings.
This is Joy on and I about 10 mintues after Ava was born on July 27, 2006. We went home from the hospital that night - exhausted - and started to go through the pictures and I remember being sick to my stomach. Part of it was just a long and emotional day (story for another time) and part of it was the nerves of being a father. The rest of it was just realizing that I weighed over 40x what Ava weighed when that picture was taken - and I was all but sure that I might somehow crush her. True story.
Ava and I in December, 2006 (the day after we attended the informational session on gastric bypass surgery at Danbury Hospital) during our first Connecticut snow. Joy used to always ask me if I was asleep when we would watch TV or a movie together and it always drove me nuts . . . seeing this picture helps me understand. I was so obese in the face that my eyes didn't seem "open" - even when they were. Also, note the t-shirt only attire to go out in the cold December air. The world used to be SO warm all the time.

Atta' Boy, Gary . . .

Those that are faithful to my blog will be as happy as I am today to learn that Gary got his son back. Live long, stay healthy and love that boy, Gary! CONGRATS!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

NEARLY The Biggest Losers . . .

It is Wednesday so that must mean it is time for my thoughts on last night's The Biggest Loser. What a GREAT episode - for showing the very basic truth that goes, hand in hand, with losing weight as a morbidly obese person . . . it is SCARY.

Let's take it team-by-team. First, PINK. Joy's favorite "character" (as in her personality) on the show, Bette-Sue fell off her treadmill with about 20 seconds to go in her workout. It is a basic truth when you are working out for two hours at a time, and you are not that sure of your footwork and your general "position" on a treadmill to begin with (because of your weight) that you are likely going to be SCARED that you are going to fall off, stub a toe, strain a pinkie or just plain pass out at almost any point in time. Bette-Sue bit it - HARD - and then she got right back on the treadmill and walked it out. Bette-Sue 1, Fear 0.

Now, my least favorite players in the HISTORY of The Biggest Loser . . . the White team. I can't tell you enough how little I am rooting for them or just how happy I will be when they get sent packing (disclaimer - I don't "mind" Amanda (she is an enabler but she's at least likable but her husband, Neill (two Ls - I'm surprised his laziness didn't force him to simplify it down to just one) is a whole other story. Neill takes breaks. He half-asses it. He complains. He gets defensive and he pouts and acts like a clown. ALL of which are things that plagued my many, many diet and excercise routines in the past (yes, it is true - I hate Neill because I used to be him (save for the terrible, terrible, terrible and inexcusable tattoos) and Joy, in some instances, used to be Amanda in terms of loving me even when I was breaking her heart). Neill, true to form, got called out by Jillian for wanting to skip a workout to call his son. She pulled him outside and, hoping to reach him, asked him if he was scared. I saw the light go off in his eyes . . . his laziness had found an excuse. Oh - he was SCARED. Whatever. That is where Neill and I part company - I have never been afraid to lose weight and to be a better man. Lazy, yes. Scared, no. Long story short - quitter-Neill got one of the "call home" phone cards and it somehow inspired him and he lost six pounds and poor Amanda (who does work her ass off) lost none but he saved them from elimination - for one more week. GET OFF MY SHOW, NEILL! Neill 0, Fear 1.

Black Team. These boys are for real and are hardcore but, true to the dynamic of family, they are scared. When faced with the food challenge - Jay, scared of what the calories would mean and, as importantly, scared of what his older brother would do to him if he did eat (there was mention of a broken jaw) Jay ate nothing. FEAR moved him away from the buffet. On the other hand Mark took advantage of his older-brother and strong competitor status and ate 925 calories worth of crap. He got scared that the yellow team would win $5,000 from him and that fear forced him to belly up, big time. The black team still lost a fair amount of weight and were safe from the chopping block but fear played a role, for both brothers, in getting them there. Mark and Jay 0, Fear 2.

The rest of the teams don't really provide me with easy ways to carry my "fear" example throughout the episode but the REAL fear came at the elimination block. The brown team (that made me cry almost every time they spoke or were even shown last night because they clearly love each other so very much and clearly wanted to make a go at this so very much) lost out in the narrowest of votes to my sentimental favorites, the yellow team. The fear part was that they were both up for elimination and the brown team feared what would happen after the show (they were dedicated to make it work and they did, based on the follow-up video) but the yellow team, rightly so, feared that they would go home ALONE - they would not have each other (they are divorced) and they would not have the support of the other contestants, the trainer or each other to motivate them. They were scared and it was clear. I HOPE that will motivate Paul to NOT eat the next time they are given a food challenge and I hope that Kelly will start to like herself and realize that even though life has been hard for her - it is not over - and she is capable of great things . . . on her own or with someone. Contestants 3. Fear 1.

Of course the orange team (my favorite color and one of my favorite teams accordingly) was once again on top of the leaderboard and they are proving themselves to be a "legit" threat on the show (even though that Chastity Bono look-alike son still freaks us out) and all three of my favorites (brown, yellow and orange) are still in the mix SO I am happy enough to face another week of the show - knowing that my heart has not been broken . . . yet.

In closing - fear is a STRONG part of why each of us gained all of our weight and a strong reason why we've kept it on and will, for me, be a strong reason why I will continue to lose weight, follow the diet and excercise and maintain my weight (I am NOT going back - this I VOW!) but fear should not govern us. Have the surgery - don't have the surgery - have a cookie - don't have a cookie - go for a walk - sit on the couch . . . but do it for YOU. Do it for the right reasons. Don't do it (or anything (except pay your taxes)) out of fear.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Blowing, Blowing, Gone . . .

While not at ALL related to my surgery, I had one of the greater experiences of my "young" life last night (I would put it top 15 experiences in my life, frankly) . . . I attended my first glass blowing class at a place called CityArts next door to my office.

A Christmas gift from Joy, the class was one of those things that I always wanted to do - to experience. Glass is a "passion" of mine . . . as I have mentioned here on the blog, Joy and I collect fancy glass "stuff" (glass balls, vases, bottles, trinkets, etc.). This obsession works quite well for me here in my new environment.

Wichita, believe it or not, is something of a "hub" for the glass-art world. There is Karg Glass in Kechi (a short drive from downtown Wichita and well worth the trip). There are TWO permanent exhibits at the Wichita Art Museum dedicated to glass and, the centerpieces of the museum (the chandelier in the great hall and the glass "over/under" exhibit at the main entrance) are both works of glass art by David Chihuly best known, perhaps, for his "glass garden" in the Bellagio in Vegas and there are dozens of artisans in this part of Kansas that work with glass.

Anywho, about last night . . . I was in class with just one other person and there were three other "students" working in the studio with us (that have taken classes at City Arts and worked with glass for between two and thirty two years) who were doing AMAZING things with hot, hot glass (made me anxious for how good I might someday become if I am patient and as crafty as I like to think I am).

There were three things last night's class taught me . . .

1 - Patience and Thinking Ahead are Invaluable - The molten glass (that is heated in a 2100 degree "stove" before you "gather" it (that's glass lingo for you - I'm an insider now (smile)) has to stay at or above 1000 degrees for most of the work you want to do with it. So you have to CONSTANTLY watch your "cherry" (the end of the metal rods you use to work glass that gets red hot from the glory holes you use to heat the glass) and spin the rod at a constant rate and speed and keep your rod perfectly horizontal and balance your tools and watch those around you and not burn yourself and think, as you walk to the glory hole, what the next three steps you want to get through are so you can be ready when you get back to the bench, etc. etc. etc.

2 - It is HOT Working with Glass - The oven where you gather glass is 2100 degrees. The glory holes are at least 1200 degrees. The oven where you put your glass when you are done with it are 900 degrees (so they glass can COOL in there over time (they slowly ramp the ovens down to room tempurature over a 10 - 14 hour period). The rods you work with can easily get up to 1200 degrees at the tip and 800+ degrees as far as 18" off the tip (the total pole length is only about five feet so that's a lot of warmth) and the glass you might drop or lose from your rod can actually MELT CONCRETE (forget your shoes and clothes if you step on it or it falls on you). The studio we worked in is an outdoor studio that, on a 45 degree Wichita evening, was over 80 degrees at the coolest spot and was about 120 degrees in front of the glory holes and ovens. I was sweating (some from nerves, some from actual fear of the hot glass and the fires and ovens and glory holes and most from the heat) for the enitre three hours of my class - I'll take a water bottle next week for sure.

3 - It is TIRING working with Glass - It is mentally tough to constantly be thinking ahead and "dancing the dance" (as my instructor put it) of glass working. You have to watch everything around you and know where you are and where your oven is and where your tools are and where your fellow artists are and where you are going and what you are doing while ONLY looking at the hot glass at the end of your rod and you have to constantly be thinking about what you are going to do next while dealing with the heat and the stress and the physical activity of spinning the rod all the time (it took 25 minutes, eleven trips to the glory hole or gathering hole and thirteen four-letter utterances for me to make a paperweight that will no doubt be embarassingly bad when I pick it up next week at my next class) spinning and spinning and spinning and walking and standing and sitting and moving and sweating and thinking the whole time.

Come to think of it - maybe this is ALL surgery related. A year ago, I could not have had the energy or the physical presence to take the exertion or the heat of glass blowing and my patience was not nearly what it is now either. The thinking ahead part - I had that going for me the whole time BUT - the rest of it - that required the "new me."

So 2008 is only one week in and, already, I've had a first-in-a-lifetime-of-always-wanting-to-do-someting-experience and I'm very, very happy about it.

Monday, January 7, 2008

And Now, a Word From Wifey . . .

Last time she posted here, at least a dozen people e-mailed me or commented to me in person on how good it was to hear from Joy through the blog. I asked her to blog again and, well, a few months later (she’s a lot more busy with real stuff and she's far more shy than I am) she’s back and she's chosen to share the details of a recent moment we shared at the shopping mall. She writes . . .

I make a conscious effort to be truly “present” in my day-to-day life and not just go through the motions ever since the universe sent me a loud reminder of just how short life is.

If you pay attention, you’ll be surprised at just how beautifully mundane every day life is. For example, a recent shopping trip to JC Penney’s truly took my breath away.

You wouldn’t think taking advantage of an after-Christmas sale could bring you to tears. It was brief, but I’m so thankful I was there to share it. Sean was trying on clothes and I was playing gofer – running back and forth for smaller sizes and different cuts, and as I was turning I caught it . . . he was looking in the mirror at himself and he smiled.

He must have seen me watching him out of the corner of his eye, because he turned to look at me and we both just started to cry.

“This looks . . . nice,” he said. I nodded in agreement and mouthed “I’m proud of you” through the tears.

I never thought I’d see that day. I never thought he’d see himself the way I see him, the way the outside world sees him now.

I’m not saying that he suddenly has this super positive self-image and that 30 plus years of struggle and self-image issues have suddenly melted away.

I’m just saying for that moment he didn’t look in the mirror and hate the man that stared back. In that moment he was “normal.”

Friday, January 4, 2008

Dressing for Success . . .

I've decided to up my "work game" in 2008. Joy read my January horoscope this morning and it seems that January is a HUGE month for setting me up for the year ahead (I WISH I was kidding).

I face stiff odds though - only two months in to my job, I'm not exactly suited for a promotion or a raise and I am not about to leverage a coup SO I am focusing, instead, on what I wear to work . . .

The reality is that my office is just not a very "formal" place. Employees are welcome to bring their dogs to work (we have two or three dogs running around here on any given day with dog snacks and toys scattered everywhere) and we are welcome to bring our kids (snow days take on a whole new meaning when you have ten kids of varying ages playing ping pong 20 feet from you and challenging each other to foot races while you are trying to work) and . . . how do I say this . . . the dress "code" (or lack of) is very, very casual.

Our CEO frequently wears jeans and Hawaiian shirts to the office - in the winter. Jeans are the official pant five days a week for many of my peers and t-shirts with crafty sayings and funny pictures are all the norm (especially in the creative department where "too cool for school" is an understatement). When I first arrived on the scene, I tried to maintain the attire I wore to my old job (sports coat, button down and khakis every day - ties three days a week) but, following some criticism and answering my own inner-dialogue to "fit in" - I quickly backed away from the sports coats and the ties and, in some cases, even the button downs (sweaters over t-shirts). I even wore sneakers in here. ONCE. On a Friday. When I was leaving early.

This new environment and clothing ethos for me comes at a uniquely challenging time for me as I am finally starting to feel good about my body and my general appearance and I am also (the REAL issue) FINALLY able to shop in more places than just my big and tall men's stores for the first time in a long, long time.

As part of my continued "2008 is the Year of Happiness" campaign - I have decided to forget fitting in, to kiss "blending" good bye and to embrace my inner "prepster" (as Joy often refers to my sense of style) and I have worn button downs, dressy shoes, dress pants and TIES for the first three business days of 2008.

And it is WORKING. I feel better about myself. I am happy to be wearing my new, better fitting, better looking, appearance enhancing clothes AND I am happy to be doing things my way. Even if "my way" just means pieces of silk tied around my own neck.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

I Experienced Sizeism, as an Outsider, Last Night . . .

Hoping to send my parents back to Groton, New York with the best possible impression of Wichita, Kansas they could possibly leave with, we decided to take them for a "last supper" at a very unique eatery that you can ONLY partake in here in our beloved Wichi-Wichi (and almost 100 other locations in 42 states nationally) . . . P.F. Chang's.

The upscale Chinese eatery prides itself on family style Chinese food in a family friendly environment. Last night did NOT disappoint (the 'rents or the Sean, Joy and Ava Amores). I dined on a partial order of the Shanghai Cucumbers and two steamed shrimp dumplings and I was in charge of keeping Ava's plate full (she whoops it up at P.F. Chang's so it is no small time commitment to keep her culinary options open and stocked).

We had a lovely meal but a weird thing happened on the way to the check . . . our waiter laid down some sizeism - right in front of me.

He was ABOUT to tell a story about how he was once at the airport and he saw a very heavy woman walking up behind him at the ticket counter and he got scared that she would be in his row on the flight BUT Joy (God bless and protect Joy) stepped in and helped gently persuade him to instead make his story about how he felt bad for her that she would have to get on the very small planes that typically service the Wichita Airport. The weird thing is that between my parents and myself - there were three pretty-heavy people at the table (we were at a booth that sat above our bellies so maybe we looked smaller than we are to the standing waiter) and the weirder thing is that we all were uncomfortable from the first word of his story (DISCLAIMER - I got up and left the table with Ava because I felt my forehead getting sweaty and my heart was starting to race a little so Joy had to tell me what he actually said after the fact).

The waiter talking reminded me of the shame that I've felt for the last decade of my life when it was time to fly (for work or for pleasure) and the equal shame I felt in thousands of day-to-day scenarios and situations during that time as well.

Our waiter's insensitive chatter also made me realize that people no longer see me as "that guy" on the plane . . . I'm no longer the threat that looms in the seat next to you. I'm no longer the spill-over on the arm rest or the huffing and puffing behind the belt extender for the whole flight. I'm not the guy you can't share a seat with on the airport shuttle or the guy you have to pull your suitcase closer to you in the terminal because I can't possibly see your luggage laid out on the floor in front of me, etc. etc. etc.

So . . . is this the next phase for me? Will I become a regular witness to OPEN sizeism (versus the years and years and years of witnessing it subtly by being a victim of it)? And do I have an obligation to be polite and endure it as I always have or is my larger obligation (which I feel is much more likely) to defend the larger people in this world that I still very much feel are my peers and are my equals?

After all, I'm still a very heavy man by most people's standards and I hope my mindset never becomes "skinny" in any way.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

It's Back, Babies . . .

Another season of The Biggest Loser kicked off last night. I can't express enough to you just how much I LOVE that friggin' show!

This season is very, very different than the previous four seasons and, I have to say, so far, I think the changes are for the best.

Season 5 of The Biggest Loser finds us with "couples" - sort of a misnomer in that the teams are all coupled off (as in sets of two) but they are not all couples in the "Romantic Couples Getaway Weekend" sense of the word. They are husbands and wives, fathers and daugthers, mothers and sons, EX husbands and EX wives, brothers, best friends and - for one team - total strangers.

Last night's episode started off strong. Here are the things that are important to note if you plan to track the show through my obsession with the show for another season . . .

1 - I felt SO bad for Jenni last night. Jenni, who was on the green team with her father, Lynn, found herself excited at a chance to "bond" with her father (not a GOOD word to hear for a woman in her early 30s talking about her father in his 60s (they have not bonded yet? really?) and good old Lynn found himself less than interested in being on the show at all. He broke promises to his daughter. He, once they were found to be on the elimination block, told the other contestants to go ahead and send them home and - even after they were eliminated, criticized the show and his daughter's want to be there - WITH HIM - to succeed. It reminded me of the struggles I am having with my parents about their diets and weight right now and how badly I want them to be around for 20 more years (if not more) and how scared it makes me that they might not be if their health doesn't improve. I will carry the green torch and I can't WAIT for the finale to see how Jenni is looking and if Lynn seems to get it at all . . .

2 - I hate the newleyweds. The white team - Neill and Amanda. I'm not sure exactly what about them gets my goat but, they do. It might be the BAD tattoo that Neill is sporting. It might be just how critical they are, as a team, of some of the other teams and it might just be the smug "we are soooooo in love" vibe they throw off BUT - I can't root for them. I CAN root for the next episode though - it seems like there might be troubles during the honeymoon.

3 - The Black Team, just like in Season 4, features brothers and they are bad assed. Jay and Mark look to be the team to beat and it seems like the black team, with Jillian as their trainer, are on the rise again too. I was, of course, thinking the whole time just how UNLIKELY my brothers and I are to ever do any activities together - much less risk 100 days on a ranch together . . . working out . . . and competing. I love them both but - that is just nutty talk!

4 - My sentimental favorites for the show are the yellow team - Paul and Kelly. Ex-spouses, the couple got fat together and then went their seperate ways. Joy and I suspect that two ectopic pregnancies and three miscarriages were as much the stress as the food and the weight but both factors likely contributed to the other so . . . it is either six or a half dozen, you choose. Anywho, I WANT Paul and Kelly to lose weight, get married again, adopt a half dozen children and live happily ever after. That is my hope for them. The toughest moment of the whole show . . . during the weigh in . . . Sami was questioning if they worked harder on the ranch or at marriage and Paul (who is clearly still deeply in love with his ex-wife) says "One of us gave up on our marriage" and Kelly just started to cry and said "We said we wouldn't say things to hurt each other any more." and it just broke my heart. He kissed her repeatedly on the cheek and whispered over and over how sorry he was - and I believe him. I NEED them to win. I NEED it.

5 - Joy thought Dan (who is competing with his mom as the orange team) was a woman. Look for that to be a reoccuring joke here on the blog for months to come. OH and they are the orange team (my favorite color) so I want them to do well too - if only so I can see bright orange clothing on television (a total rarity).

That is it - another season is upon us. Black looks like the team to beat. Yellow, I hope, is the team to beat and orange is AWESOME.

Did you watch? What are your thoughts?

2007, What A Year . . .

On New Year's Day, 2006, Joy and I sat down and talked about what we wanted out of the year ahead. We had just gotten married (six months earlier), my gastric bypass surgery had been cancelled by my insurance company a few months before, we knew that we would have challenges to starting a family and I hated my job and Joy had left her job and returned to school a full year prior so things were sort of all over the place in our life. We needed to settle in to life.

We had a long talk and made a very simple decision . . . we would do NOTHING major in 2006. NO big changes. NO life-changing events. NO talk about starting a family and NO talk about moving, changing jobs or any thing else for at least a year.

Then, January 11th rolled around. 10 FULL days later. We got a call that changed our New Year's Resolutions and everything else. It seemed there was a pregnant woman in Wichita who wanted to give her baby up for adoption.

What followed was 12 of the busiest, craziest and most important months of Joy and I's joined life. A month later, almost to the day, I was in New York interviewing for a new job. A month later, almost to the day, we listed our house in Maryland (sold it in four days), two weeks later we chose a new house in Bethel, Connecticut, a month later, almost to the day, we moved to Connecticut. Two months later we were in Wichita to wait for Ava's birth and six weeks after that we were driving back from Kansas - as a FAMILY. The week before Thanksgiving I attended my informational session on gastric bypass at Danbury Hospital and announced to my family, the week of Christmas, that I would have gastric bypass in 2007.

So, on New Year's Day 2007 Joy and I sat down and talked about what we wanted out of the year ahead. Shocker of shockers and pattern of patters, we decided to do nothing EXCEPT focus on being a family, developing my career, getting Joy back to school (maybe) and, of course, having my surgery in March.

But, like 2006, our "best laid" plans were all for nothing. By the time I woke up from my surgery on March 20th, we had already started making much, much bigger plans for the remainder of the year.

I lost 40 pounds in three weeks. I went back to work.

I realized the FIRST day back that I was not as happy as I could be professionally (I LOVED my previous job, the people there and the idea of working for one of the biggest companies in the world BUT I hated how competitive the environment was and how insecure it made me feel about myself) and within a month, my new outlook on life had me realizing just how miserable Joy was and how unfair it was to Ava to raise her in a household that was goverened by two people who weren't as happy as they could be at any given moment.

We talked about moving to Wichita in early May for the first time in almost two years. We boarded a plane to visit the Terry family in early July (I was down 100 pounds already) and - by the time we flew back - we had put an offer on a house, I had interviewed for a job and we had called a realtor in Connecticut about getting rid of our dump in Bethel.

Two weeks.

That is all it took - just 14 short days - and we were both able to board the plane back to Newburgh knowing that our happiness was what 2007 would be about.

The rest of the year was all about that happiness and leaving the trappings of the life we lived in Maryland and Connecticut behind us.

I made some wonderful friends through the gastric bypass program at the hospital and I focused my energies on the people at my old job that made me truly happy to go to work. Joy and Ava moved ahead of me to Kansas and I used the next two months - sleeping on sofas and feeling "alone" even though I rarely was without company - to say "goodbye" (literally and figuratively) to the people, places, events and ideas that had let me grow to a 530 pound, very angry and very lonely man (despite having had an otherwise wonderful life) in only 31 short years of life.

I made a secret weekend trip to Washington, DC. I broke in to my old office (security at the building didn't even notice that they hadn't seen me in a year and a half (they DID notice I had lost weight though - thank you very much) and sat in my old chair . . . one last time. I sat on the front steps of my old apartment in DC, hoping the people who live there now would come home and let me in. I walked over to the CVS across the street where I bought all my junk food, bad magazines, bottled Frappaccinos and over the counter drugs for six years and thought of the thousands of dollars I threw away in there looking for some joy. I took the Metro to my first apartment in DC and the dorms at GW where I stayed before that. I walked in to Georgetown. I went to the building where my masters program was housed at GW and sat on the stoop for a minute and reflected on how much I HATED graduate school and how much that time in my life influenced me weight (I gained well over 150 pounds in 18 months). I drove to Baltimore - stopping at a few key spots on the way (Jess and Tim's old apartment complex, the Mall at Columbia, Patrick and Joyell's old apartment, our old house in Halethorpe, the Inner Harbor, Fell's Point, etc.) and then I drove to Patrick and Joyell's other old apartment. I drove through New Jersey and back to New York City. I visited a few of the places where I had gone in my youth - when taking Amtrak to NYC for the weekend meant credit card debt, drunken nights, hotel rooms and time spent with an old flame from DC. I drove to Quinnipiac where I had such a wonderful college experience (but where my weight went up and down and up and up and up) and I drove to Providence, Rhode Island where I had spent many a weekend with Jess and Tim and then, more recently, where we spent a disasterous family-getaway-weekend in February, 2007. By Sunday night, I was in Providence and was exhausted. I had spent a few hundred bucks on motels, gas, tolls, protein bars and bottled water and I still had a two hour drive back to Connecticut before heading to work Monday morning.

I left all sorts of laughter and tears and emotions on the various doorsteps, welcome signs, eateries and crowded streets of the stops on my Weekend of Goodbye. I loaded my car at the end of October fully ready for the 1,300 mile drive ahead of me and with the peace in my heart of understanding all the phases of my life - their importance to me and how I would remember them and what long term value they would hold in the life that awaited me here in Wichita.

I don't know why I'm typing all this. I'm prattling. The point is simple . . .

2007 was - without a doubt - the most important year of my life. It saw my surgery. It saw me lose 186 pounds in nine months. It saw my daughter walk and talk for the first time. It saw Joy and me the saddest and then the happiest we have been (individually and as a couple) since the early, early days when we first met and fell in love. It saw my parents health continue to decline and me, for the first time in my life, being able to criticize and ask questions without feeling like a hypocrite. It saw me say goodbye to the entire life I had lived in the Northeast (the good and the bad) and it saw me start to really look at who I am and who I have been and what parts of my personality I wanted to keep and grow and what parts of my personality I had to get rid of - once and for all.

The best gift of 2007 was that I ended the year with a whole new world around me. People who knew me "when" still in my life (family, close friends, etc.) but - for the most part - a whole new world of people who wouldn't know pre-surgery Sean or any part of him. People who don't think of me as being all-that fat. People who think my only flaw is being from the Northeast United States.

I enter in to 2008 KNOWING that 2008 will be the YEAR OF HAPPY for my family. I will hit my weight loss goal in the next twelve months and start a lifetime of maintaining that weight. Ava will be speaking full sentences by the end of the year. Joy will be three semesters closer to her degree. I will be an established Wichitan and we will be ready for 2009.

That is the plan. For now (at least)!