Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Heatin' Up . . .

It is eighty degrees and very windy here today. That is right. Eighty degrees and not quite May yet (we have nearly ten hours of April left, thank you very much).

This time of year, every year, used to make me very, very, very nervous. Traditionally the first day of May was also the first day of the year that I was willing to start wearing short sleeved shirts to work. It was the first day of the year that I was open to the idea of linen pants. It was the first day of the year that flip flops and sandals seemed like a footwear priority.

May first also has the terrible distinction of being the unofficial first day of Fat Person's Inner Thigh Chafing Season. That's right. Largely an "underground" season known of, cared about and observed by only a few, effected individuals (like White After Labor Day Season, College Admissions Season and The NHL Hockey Season), FPITCS is a very, very real thing that plagues more Americans than HIV and Lyme disease combined (that statement is true, I looked up the obesity and disease statistics).

This May first is the first May first since I was a very, very young man that I am not stocking up on "supplies" to get me through FPITCS, also known as Swamp Crotch Season in "hipper" circles. I am not buying Vasoline for overnight moisturizing. I don't have lotion stashed in both cars, in my office, in each bathroom of the house and in my suitcases ready for last minute travel. I don't plan to stock up on baby powder. I am not even going to buy a single stick of Bodyglide this year either.

I am proud to say that I don't plan on "observing" or "participating in" or "suffering through" FPITCS this year. And, truth be told, I won't miss it one bit. I've got bigger holidays to endure this year anyway . . . ILTHPAMESICBBI (I Lost Two Hundred Pounds and My Excess Skin is Causing Belly Button Irritation) Season. I fear no jelly, sav or stick lubricant is going to help me through this ordeal. Perhaps the Excess Skin Ferries WILL!


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Favorite Songs Du Jour . . .

Two songs I've been listening to a LOT lately . . .


Only one is a good lullaby for Ava and only one is good for the gym.

You would be AMAZED of how mellow listening to The Roots makes Ava (totally kidding)!

200 Posts Later . . .

I just realized that this is my 201st blog posting.

Pity the fool that has read all 200 of my prior musings . Sure, I have had a lot of things to say . . . some short, some long, some sweet, some sour, some eloquent, some full of typos and grammatical errors, some instructive, some destructive).

It does, frankly, sort of shock me that I've been able to post that much content and share that much about myself in only eight months. I was soooooo nervous when I started blogging. I didn't want to look like the self-obsessed poster child for gastric bypass surgery. I didn't want to look like a whiny waste of a man who didn't appreciate the chance the surgery had afforded him. I didn't want to look too whipped and too mushy about and by my wife and daugther. I read through a few of the "classic" posts of my blog (looking for inspiration - I've been struggling as of late to come up with stuff to say) and - guess what - I am ALL of the above and much, much more.

I was also sort of suprised and impressed, having read back through my old posts, that I was so honest and uncensored about things in my life. My weight loss. My sagging skin. My efforts to reconnect with friends and family. My insecurities about the life ahead. My depression through the years. My love of Reduced Fat Triscuits and JC Penney's St. John's Bay khakis and The Biggest Loser. My iTunes choices and musical leanings. My obsession with John Candy.

I've shared it all - perhaps too much.

I don't know what the next 100 posts will bring but I promise to keep on telling it like it is (good, bad, ugly) and I'm working on my Mission/To-Do List for the next five months - through my 18-month mark and the "end" of the gastric bypass ride (conventional wisdom is that any benefits you will get from GB come in the 18 months following surgery).

I promise to post that up later in the week and to keep you posted moving forward.

Thanks for reading and, as always, please drop me a line if any of my crap musings are actually of use to you or if you have any suggestions for a future post.

Monday, April 28, 2008

When Weight Loss Is Not a Choice . . .

I read an interesting article in the newspaper today about a man who is in jail, awaiting trial for murder and he's not at all happy that he's lost 100 pounds since being jailed.

I'm not the brighest bulb on the Christmas light strand BUT I know enough to NOT make fun of a man who is facing murder charges so I will stick to the facts of the story and not give too many opinions on the issue.

According to Broderick Lloyd Laswell, he has lost 105 pounds in the eight months since being jailed for his alleged crime and he is LAWSUIT mad over it. Yes. That's right, he is taking the jail to court over the quantity and quality of the food he recieves in jail. It seems that he doesn't get enough calories and he doesn't get hot meals either.

Insert your own jokes, rage and negative reaction to the sense of entitlement of a man who is charged with ending someone else's life feeling that he needs more and better food while he waits to answer the charges against him - I'm staying mum on the subject (the man might have KILLED someone, why mock him?!).

I WILL say this though. Broderick. Dear, maybe-sweet, unlikely-kind Broderick. You've lost 100 pounds. You have lost 25% of your body weight. You've dropped your BMI and have likely reduced your likely co-morbidities. You are going to live a much longer, healthier life because of the crappy food and tiny portions in your jail envirnonment. SURE - if you get a life sentence you might not WANT to live the additional years you are probably adding to your life BUT - what if you are found not guilty?

You will have a whole new lease on life. I know people who would kill to lose 100 pounds (yes - pun very, very much intended). I know people who would love to have a new chance at life (minus the weight or having skated on a murder charge). I know people who would gratefully remove themselves from the temptations of food and to have an environment where they are told what to eat, how much to eat and when to eat it.

It doesn't sound like much of a "problem" you are facing there, Broderick (with the forced diet, clearly the other part of why you are in jail could be a bit of a cracker-jack). Take it from me, sir - as long as your nutritional levels and dietary mandates are being met, weight loss - for a 400+ pound man is not ever really a bad thing.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Care-A-Ton Update . . .

We gave away 1,000 trees in three hours. That is about five a minute for those keeping track at home. We had a great time and the community response was outstanding. Here is a picture of my boss, Shawn, and I.
This is all the smile (and gang sign) I could muster following a 4:00 AM wake up time and four-and-a-half-hours in the 45 degree, SUPER windy Wichita morning weather. Have a nice weekend, yuns!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Care-A-Ton . . .

If you are in the Wichita-area (of if you want to drive or fly in) please stop by our Old Town offices on Friday Morning for our Second Annual Care-A-Ton Arbor Day Tree Giveaway.

While I'm not a true "tree hugger" - I have been a long time fan of the planet earth and am hoping it will stick around for at least the rest of my life and the lives of the generations that I have sewn (breed (in 25 years or so) as you like, Ava Grace).

Anywho, here are the details of the Care-A-Ton giveaway if you are interested . . .

WHO: Associated Advertising, Johnson’s Garden Center, KFDI-FM, Westar Energy and Marketplace Properties LLC

WHAT: The Second Annual Care-A-Ton Arbor Day Tree Giveaway – 1,000 FREE Red Maple Saplings

WHERE: In front of the Old Town Warren on Old Town Square, 2nd and Mead Streets (between Central and Douglas)

WHEN: 7:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (or until our last tree is given away (first-come, first-served))

ABOUT: Wichita area residents who stop by for a free sapling will receive a tree, planting suggestions and instructions and a list of tips to help reduce and offset their carbon footprint. Folks don’t even need to get out of their car (Associated staff will be available for “drive-thru” service). The small saplings fit easily in your car’s passenger or back seat and you can be on your way in seconds.

If you can't get a free tree from us - please DO plant a tree or do something to honor all-things-Arbor this weekend (even if that just means going for a walk and appreciating the returning leaves and blooms of the greenage).

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gastric Bypass Prevents Cancer? . . .

According to CBS news and 60 Minutes, the scientific community is discovering links between gastric bypass surgery and reduced incidents of cancer.

The story does a great job of showing some good success stories but doesn't sugar coat things (it gets in to failure rates and the risks, etc.) and it talks about the well known/documented link between gastric bypass and diabetes BUT this cancer link is new (to me at least).

NOW - as I try to be the voice of reason when people blame gastric bypass for stuff I am going to point out that it is the reduced weight, reduced physical strain and enhanced self-awareness (diet, excercise, etc. etc. etc.) coupled with the reduction in other co-morbidities (high blood pressure, cholesterol, apnea, etc. etc. etc.) that actually LEADS to the lower rates fo cancer BUT - if gastric bypass puts that all in to motion . . . more power to the procedure.

The piece does go in to detail on the differences between gastric band and gastric bypass (again, long term effectiveness and impact is in favor of bypass itself).

An interesting read of the story with some great video footage (likely the entire feature package, it is 13:00 long) is available here. A second video that talks about the differences between band and bypass is also available at the link above.

One great statistic to keep on hand when your critics start piping up . . . only about 1 in 1,000 patients now dies from gastric bypass surgery! That is down from the 1:100 figure that was cited just a decade ago.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Lawn Work and Other Signs of a New Outlook on Outdoor Life . . .

Joy and I spent the better part of Saturday and a good chunk of Sunday working in the lawn. With Ava off to the circus with Grandma and Grandpa, it was the perfect time for us to just get some stuff done and the weather here was glorious all weekend.

We raked, mowed, towed and hoed. We drug the picnic table from the storage shed and we dusted off the grill and lawn furniture. We even trimmed back our pussy willow bush that was eight feet tall and very, very overgrown before getting the "high and tight" treatment from the electric clippers. Not once did I complain. Not once did I try to get out of the lawn. Not once did I question God why (s/t)he(y) had foresaken me to such a punishment. I just enjoyed time out on the lawn.

Not long ago (a year ago) - you could not have convinced me to spend the entire day out in the lawn working. I had just had surgery. I was down a good amount of weight but I didn't feel "good." Heat was the sworn enemy. WORK (as in manual labor) was the sworn enemy. It had been for a very, very long time.

I lived in an apartment in DC. I vowed I would always be an apartment dweller. No driveway or lawn for me (in other words - no shoveling, mowing, raking, etc.). I would assume that having a big lawn and driveway growing up (with lots of mowing, shoveling, raking, etc.) helped fuel my resistance to these perks of "adulthood" in my early adulthood but - before long - my weight held me back. The fact that mowing the lawn for an hour in the Baltimore suburbs, in July, in 95 degree heat and 95% humidity actually left me cranky, dizzy, winded, drenched in sweat and fearing what another 30 minutes might mean for my very mortality quickly became the reason that I hated lawn work and lawns accordingly.

But this year it just "feels different" to be out there. Joy and I bought a fern for the front porch. We sat and chatted Saturday evening while Joy sipped a nice, cold Corona with lime and I drank a Minute Maid Light Lemonade (the official drink of Sean's Summer 2008, by the way (memorabilia to come (smile)). We talked about planning some barbecues with family and friends. We talked about how excited we are to reseed part of the lawn that currently reminds me of Sudan (without the refugees or genocide) and we talked about how great life can be when you have a nice little lawn and a desire to sear some meat and hang out with people you love.

Most springs, we would make these plans early on but - by the time the 60s and low-70s gave way to highs in the 80s (90s and 100s) we were inside as much as possible. Complaining about our lack of central air conditioning (we have that here in Wichita, for the record) and anxiously awaiting the fall season. This year though . . . I belive it will be different.

I'm looking forward to summer. My bike will be getting lots of mileage put on it, the playground in the park will be seeing the Amore family regularly (swings, slides, walking paths and the lawn), the pool in the park will get lots of glimpses of my white, doughy-but-hopefully-tanning-over-time body, the lawn will be kept in tip-top shape and I might even get to a point where I feel comfortable wearing shorts in public (for the first time in over a decade).

Fit Nation Covers Gastric Bypass . . . has been running a series for a while now on America's obesity epidemic and the efforts people are undertaking to lose weight and get more fit (I posted some KILLER in-office excercise tips not that long ago from the series).

I've been wondering how long it would take for them to acknowledge gastric bypass surgery in the series and how they would handle it. My "dream" finally came true this morning. The series profiled a woman named Brandee Howell who has lost almost 240 pounds since her surgery and seems to have been the ideal candidate for the surgery (co-morbidities, etc.) and seems to be the ideal success story (great attitude, has lost the weight, seems appreciative for the new lease on life, etc.). Thanks, Dr. Gupta and congrats, Brandee!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Swimming Lessons . . .

Ava and I had a swimming lesson this morning. She was the bravest kid in class (and the most talented (it is true, just ask me (smile)))!

It struck me, about half way through the class, that my daughter was chasing floating duckies while I held only her hips to keep her afloat and learning to kick and float on her back unaided and was even swimming under water with the greatest of ease.

She was very brave. She IS very brave. Far more brave than I was at that age . . . or any age close to it. In some ways, relatively speaking, I still don't know if I am more brave.

It made me very proud of her and her bravery! May she always "see" fear but never "know" it . . . that is my wish for today.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Crisis Averted . . .

As I mentioned the other day, I've not been feeling that "shrinking" feeling lately. After putting it off and putting it off, I finally got to the gym last night and weighed myself . . .

The good news is that I'm still losing weight. The better news is that I now weigh 258. The even better news is that, while it took me four weeks longer than I had hoped it would . . . I have lost my 225 pounds since surgery. The best news is that I'm no longer in the high-200s (I was on the cusp at my last weigh in at 267) AND while I'll still be in the mid-200s for a while, I'm only 8 pounds away from being in the lower HALF of the 200s.

I also went to JCPenney last night to get some new pants (yep, the ones I bought six weeks ago are too big again) and I am a 44-inch waist. I have not been that small in a very, very long time and I am very proud to tell you that I bought my pants from the regular part of the store (versus the "Big and Tall Men's Shop Inside JCPenney") for the first time since I was a freshman in high school (they only carried up to a 40 in the regular men's department at that time).

Now that I wear an XL shirt and 44 inch pants . . . I am no longer considered big or tall by MOST clothing manufacturers.

Today marks the start of a whole new era accordingly. That's right. I'm Sean Amore - regular guy! And I'm damned excited to tell you that!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My Friend Bruce . . .

When I arrived at the mighty-mighty-'piac in the fall of 1994, there was a kid who lived down the hall that perplexed me more than a little bit. He was super in to sports. He was super intense about his study habits. He was in to the ladies. He was super funny. He was super quiet. He was super different than all the other kids in our hall.

As with most people, my best friends in college just HAPPENED to be the people that lived on my floor Freshman year (either residential life people ARE experts at matching personalities OR we are, as a society, super lazy about finding people who we enjoy). Bruce was not initially someone that I thought I would be fast friends with but, life is a funny journey.

Bruce, Tom, Chris, Pezzullo and I got to be friends during our Freshman year. When it came time to decide roommates for our Sophomore year, we got locked out of the Sophomore dorms and had to go back to "doubles" in the Freshman dorm. I was placed with Bruce as a roommate and, frankly, it was one of those things that truly impacted and changed my life.

Bruce, for all of his ticks and pops, has the biggest heart of any one I've ever met. He was the first peer I've ever had who had the courage to look me in the eye and ask me what the hell was going on with my weight. He didn't just talk the talk though . . . he walked the walk, literally. Bruce took me on as a project. We went to the gym together five or six days a week. We went for walks together. He eyeballed my meals in the cafe for me. He bought me a walkman for Christmas. He encouraged me and motivated me to work out and to eat better and - much to his credit - it worked. I lost a TON of weight my Sophomore year of college.

I let myself go my Junior year though (I started drinking as a junior in college - I let MOST things go once booze entered my life (wa-wa-wa-waaaaaaaaaaa)). By the end of the year Bruce showed his courage and friendship once again and sat me down to discuss my drinking and how concerned he was for me and how much he wanted me to take better care of myself. That didn't go nearly as well as the after school special inside you probably thought it would BUT he didn't back down and, to his credit again, I took a 30 day "lay off" from booze to prove to him, and everyone else, that I didn't need to drink to have fun in college.
Shortly after college we all went our own ways. Bruce worked first in Boston for a radio station and then for the New Jersey Devils and he now works for the WNBA's Sun team at the Moehegan Sun casino. We stayed close at first and saw each other somewhat regularly in the first few years but - as careers and relationships and life got busy, we saw each other less and less.

A week before I met Joy, Bruce and his (now) wife Erica came to DC for a party I had at my apartment. I hadn't seen Bruce in over a year and I had never met Erica before (I don't think?). Our friend Tom came in for the party too. Bruce and Erica spent the night at my apartment the night before the party and I thought all was well but, shortly after the party started, Bruce and Erica left. Another obligation with Erica's brother, I was told.
A few weeks later - I found out the truth. Bruce was DISTRAUGHT over my 500+ pound body and my drinking and partying and he could not stay at the party for another minute. Delenick flew in from Vermont for an actual intervention (God love you for it, brother) but Bruce, once again, showed his friendship and love for me and set the whole thing in motion.

The last time I saw Bruce was at his wedding (picture above - he's the handsome devil in the tux). It was a month after my wedding, to the day. I'm sad to say that, despite living in the same state (and 30 minutes apart) for over a year - I never got a chance to see Bruce. I shouldn't say "chance" . . . I never made it the priority it should have been to see him. He was there. I was there. We just didn't make a point of getting together.

I'm even more sad that I can't see him now. Suer - as soon as I'm 1,300 miles away I see the priority, right?! I feel like I am finally again the person that Bruce became friends with in 1994. The person he was friends with enough to talk about weight loss and excercise. The person he loved and took care of during my drinking days. The person he was so scared for that he called a mutual friend to try and get me back on the right track a few years ago.

I feel like I owe it to Bruce to let him know that I'm okay and that I've lost the weight and that I credit Joy and Ava first, him second and friends like Chris Delenick and Tom Kelly and Danielle Dopman (Magaldi) and Laura Rendano and Kim Usselman (Ballou) and Melissa Bucknavage (Higgins) closely behind for being such good friends to me over the years and for loving me no matter my weight and for encouraging me and supporting me to get me here today.
I love you very much for your friendship and your concern and for your character and personality, Bruce. I hope you know that my success since surgery and the fact that I was even alive to have the surgery and have a shot at a long, healthy life since the surgery is in no small part BECAUSE of you. You have touched and changed my life - and have touched and changed so many lives. For that, I thank you!

My Mom is Okay . . .

I just got a voicemail from my father. My mother is okay. Her surgery, while much more difficult than they expected it to be, is over. She'll be in the hospital at least six days. I'm just happy her surgery is over. Recover well, dear Mother! I love you!

The Biggest Loser . . .

So the finale was last night. Did you watch? Did you love it? I did and I did. Great stuff. I cried and cried and cried for Roger and Curtis and for Bernie and for all the other folks that lost so much weight and gained so much more from the experience. My friend Brandi was there for the live broadcast and I look forward to a full download from her on the in-person experience.

The only DOWN side to the finale is that I am without my show until at least the fall now. Boo-hoo!

Congrats to Ali for being the first female Biggest Loser and to Kelly for looking so fantastic and coming so close. You're still the man, Roger!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Am I Plateauing? . . .

I haven't been on a scale in almost a month. That sort of worries me. NOT that I think I have gained weight and NOT that I have ever been obsessed with my weight (before or after surgery) but because my body doesn't feel lighter lately.

For the last year I've had this "feeling" - almost on a day-by-day basis, that I was losing weight. Clothes would be looser every time I put them on. My face shape was changing every time I shaved. I got compliments every single day on how I was looking. I felt lighter when I walked around. That I was losing weight was just something that I "knew."

The last few weeks have not had that same feel to them. I have a few theories on why.

1 - It has been a year since my surgery. I have yet to plateau. I've lost 220 pounds. Combine the three and I'm long due for a slow period.

2 - The weather is getting warmer. I don't know how it works for skinny people (having not been this size since early high school) but my swelling, bloating and general "heat" misery begins right around the time the first blooms appear and lasts until that last leaf falls.

3 - I am not nearly as vigilant of what I eat as I used to be. The other night I was feeding Ava and I ate some Cheetos. Just a few, mind you, but Cheetos. The real ones too (v. baked). Let this be a small indicator that my "over the teeth" obsession has faded.

4 - I don't work out as I should. I don't go to the gym three or four times a week. I don't go to the gym three or four times a QUARTER. I go for little walks and I take short bike rides. Excercise is a VITAL component to long term post-GB success. It is time I kick it up a notch accordingly.

5 - My body is getting sort of small. While I'm still a big guy and while I won't soon be confused with an Olsen twin, I am not nearly as large as I used to be. If there is anything that The Biggest Loser has taught me - the bigger the body, the more obvious the subtle changes. I need to weigh myself now to measure change . . . looking in the mirror just won't cut it.

Now, all that being said, I am all but certain that I have continued to lose weight. My pants are way to big for me again. My recent sports coat purchases are getting baggy. I went down another 1/2 inch in my dress shirt size (I can fit in to them - not ready to wear them all day long yet) and my wedding ring is falling off my finger again.

I'm going to go to the gym TONIGHT - long enough to do a quick work out and to jump on the scale. Perhaps weighing myself will be motivation for me to get to the gym. After all, the batteries in our home scale are dead and, having spent the last 20 months changing batteries in Ava's toys on an almost daily basis, I'm exhausted with batteries!

I have two more weight loss goals. I want to be in the low 240s or high 230s by my birthday (I have about two months) and I want to be as close to 200 pounds as possible (I've been told I will likely need surgery to remove excess skin, etc. to get under 200) by the 18 month mark on August 20th. Four months. About 60 pounds. This is going to require some actual WORK on my part.

Let's hope tonight's number reinforces that I'm still losing - slow and steady - and will give me increased motivation to set weight loss goals to get the losing part over with and the maintaining part started!

Monday, April 14, 2008

All Julie Andrews and Stuff . . .

I just read my friend Carrie's blog (I do it daily, generally, but I have fallen behind lately) and she had a great post idea that she stole from someone else's blog so I don't feel bad about stealing it from her (he he, ha ha).

Anywho, with inspiration credit to my friend Carrie, here ten of my favorite things these days . . .

1 - A half-cup of Panera's Black Bean Soup and 1/2 of a grilled cheddar cheese sandwich on multi-grain bread with red onion. Simply delicious and a great splurge meal for my post-surgery pouch (eating bread still makes me very, very anxious). Spring is MESSING with us here in Wichita (here one day, gone the next (it is in the 60s today, it was in the 40s yesterday) so warm soup and gooey cheese is a nice comfort.
2 - Adele's Debut Album, 19. Some people call her "the next Amy Winehouse" but a) I think it might be a little too early for "the next" Amy Winehouse and b) I think Adele is better. She's a great example of how the music industry is moving back to talent v. beauty in deciding who is talented (not that she's not a beautiful young woman, but she's not your textbook "beauty" either). More over, the chip on her shoulder gives a subtle hint that her larger body might have influenced how she views herself and the world and how the world has viewed her. Check out Hometown Glory if you only want to spring for one track on iTunes. You'll be back for the rest of the album though - you've been warned.
3 - Ava's BIG laugh. I need to get a good recording of it to post here. It is hard to describe but she laughs like someone who gets the joke far more than her 20 months of life could allow for and furthers our belief that she's an old-soul in a young body. It is also highly infectious and has a tendancy to make any day better.
4 - Joy's Joy. While never "lacking" for poise, intellegence, grace and wit - coming "home" has done wonders for Joy's self confidence and how she presents herself and how she handles herself. As her husband, I find it sexy. As her friend, I find it highly likable. As an observer, I find it exciting and encouraging that sometimes it is more about one big change bringing about thousands of smaller ones (a la gastric bypass surgery's impact in my life).
5 - Murray's Lemon Sugar-Free Sandwich Cookies. As honesty is the best policy, I must admit that I have to use my daily calorie count as motivation to get me to put down these delicious little pieces of heaven. I will buy a package - pace it out for a week or so and then go a few weeks without them. Danger lurks inside the plastic wrapper but . . . yuhmay!
6 - My bike. I don't ride it NEARLY often enough but I like knowing that it is there, in the back of the garage, waiting for me and ready to take me from "here" to "there" at a moment's notice.
7 - Shopping. The support group before my surgery, Techia presented an article from People magazine about a woman who had gastric bypass and went on to loose her ever-blooming mind shopping. She bought EVERYTHING and LOTS of it. The idea being that the mind has a preoccupation for obsessive behavior and excess and, without food, your mind WILL find something else to cling on to. I used to HATE shopping. Clothes, groceries, household/decor stuff, errand shopping, shoes, etc. NO more. I love it all now. ESPECIALLY clothes shopping. It MIGHT be that I wear a size XL shirt for the first time since my SOPHOMORE YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL and it might be because the word "sale" has replaced the words "super size" in my vocabulary but - either way - I am an unashamed shopaholic. Our checking account balance can reinforce this if any one doubts me.
8 - The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde. Faithful blog readers will know I started reading this book in October. And just lost sight of it in early November (upon arriving here and starting my new job). I'm back on top of it now and ripping through it. I can't wait to finish and start some of Fforde's other books. He's not Mike Manguson but he's on par with Christopher Buckley's books and I am really enjoying the read.
9 - Harold's Tie Table. Oh, sweet mercy of God . . . my tie obsession draws me to this place once every few weeks - the price tags only let me buy once every few months. I love, love, love a good silk tie that is thick enough for a nice fat knot up top. Harold's must feel the same way.
10 - 12 Step Awareness. I've not been going to any alcoholics anonymous meetings nor have I been to over-eaters anonymous or any other "insert problem here" anonymous meetings but I have been doing extensive research on 12 step programs and the way they allow you to sort of rebuild your life. I don't know how much I want to talk with God about where I've been with my eating, depression and general self-loathing over the past decade or so BUT I am on step eight, pushing to step nine in the process (started immediately after my surgery) and I must say that it really is making all the difference in me feeling "okay" about me and where I am today and where I am going from here. I don't look forward to all of step nine but I feel it is really important and I will be going through it accordingly. Don't be surprised if you get "that" call from me accordingly.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Believe and It Can Be . . .

Not long before my surgery, Joy nervously approached me to ask me if I would sit down on a Sunday afternoon and watch a DVD with her during Ava's nap. Me, being generally aware of my wife and her "tricks" was immediately nervous. What was she up to? What home movie had she made in college when she was short on cash that had finally made its way to Joe Francis? Had she finally gone out and rented "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" so I had no possible excuse to not watch it with her? Had the movie I made in college when I was short on cash finally made its way to Joe Francis? GULP!

I sat in my oversized chair and waited, anxiously, as the menu screen for our DVD player gave way to the loading disc it spun. And then it appeared . . . and my heart sank . . . The Secret had found its way in to my home.

Now let me be very clear. I love my wife. I would do anything for my wife. I mean that in the slay a dragon or fight a man for her honor or rob a convinience store so she didn't have to make another one of those movies that Joe Francis might some day get his hands on (should I just call this post " Let's Talk About Joe Francis"?). I mean that in the abandon any pre-concieved notions about how my life would play out because I fell in love with her at first glance. I mean that in the stop global warming way. I mean that in the I will sit and watch The Secret on DVD way too. I didn't need the DVD though and, much to Joy's surprise (I'm pretty cynical in 99.999% of my life and its dealings/trappings), I was one step ahead of her on knowing the Secret.

For those who aren't part of Oprah's army and how have been on some sort of Eutopic island for the last 18 months or so - The Secret was a book turned DVD turned YouTube video turned phenomenon that is based on a very simple premise. We, and our thoughts, control our destiny (save your money, folks, that is all the 90 minute video and the multi-hundred page book will tell you . . . again and again and again and again).

It seems that The Secret has been known by every successful person since the dawn of time. Nostradamus (sp?) predicted it, Lincoln knew it (just not at the theater that night), Oprah has lived by it and . . . truth be told, so did I - sort of.

I DO believe that if you expect and demand the best in life, you are more likely to wind out ahead in life. I do not believe that you can cure cancer with happy thoughts and I don't believe that negative thinking or worry has ever cost a woman pregnancies and I don't for a minute think that just being optomistic will get you any of your material goals in life. You're probably going to have to work damned hard for those.

The truth of the secret, in my never humble opinion, is that we are not fully in charge of our destinies but there is not some mythical force bigger than us that is fully in charge either. Scandalous to propose, I know.
OH - and PLEASE save your angry e-mails TOTAL STRANGERS (and people I do know) who've decided that they can talk me out of supporting Hillary or who think I'm a jerk for not crediting God for my struggles and successes in life. If you read this blog you know that, having shed 220+ pounds in the last year it is now official that my stubborness and my self confidence is the last thing about me that will ever change.

Sorry - there IS a point to all of this . . . my mother is having surgery on Wednesday morning. They are taking out part of her big intestine/colon. I'm worried sick about her mainly because my mother has been sick my entire adult life and the last six and a half years have been especially hard on her.

In the days leading up to her surgery, as I was when my surgery was approaching, I would hope that she'd be sitting around a lot thinking and writing and talking with people that she loves and keeping busy to push off too much thought about the surgery. INSTEAD my mother is cleaning out the house, finishing her quilting projects, returning the dining room to food serving condition (my parents use their dining room for all their crafts and hobbies, collections and chaos) and she is making my father take note of who should get possessions in the house "when" the time comes.

My mother needs to refocus her efforts and energies, in my mind. ANY ONE facing any major surgery or health condition or scare in their life needs to.

She needs to KNOW that this surgery could be the last obstacle to her being healthier and her being healthier could empower her to be happier and her being happier will make her healthier and being healthy will make her happy. She can pray to God if she wants to (my mother is still a devout Catholic so let's assume she will (smile)). She can ask for help from her family and friends. She can call and cry and say she's scared. She can e-mail and tell me to mind my own business because she knows the Secret too (she reads the blog - so she MUST know it by now).

I love you, Mom. I am worried about you but I believe you will be fine and I know that Wednesday morning will be the latest challenge to your strength, resolve, humanity and incredible heart and spirit. Like every test before it, you will wake up stronger, better, faster and wiser. BELIEVE that yourself, and it can be!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Biggest Loser . . .

So last night's episode of the Biggest Loser was, like the same episode of each of the first four seasons (the last episode BEFORE the live finale), one of my favorite two-hours of television in recent memory.

Many people call it "just another episode" but I like to call it "I'm going to cry for the next two straight hours, and I'm FINE with that."

Wow. What a great thing to see people who have lost no less than 93 pounds each in the last 105 days struggling with who they were, who they are and who they will be as they leave the safe confines of the Biggest Loser ranch (DISCLAIMER - Two of the four were home for between two and nine weeks already during the show and all of them went home for at least one week each during the show's run). I loved seeing the before and after "life size" posters (all of which were well larger than the people really were based on the height differences as they each stood next to their "old-self" posters) and realizing just how much a person can change, physically and beyond in 100 days.

Ava has been out of the womb (I won't argue when she was first "alive" or when her life "began" here out of respect for my Kansas neighbors and their positions on the issue) for about 630 days. I think about how much she has changed in that time and I try to imagine how much she's changed at each "century mark" of days in that time. When was the transition where she first started to crawl? Before 200. To pull up? Before 300. To walk? Well before 400. To run and jump and experiment with her new freedom? About 400. To talk, in a measured and clear and "real" way? About 500. To walk and talk at the same time, while chewing gum? About 600. I don't know - I guess my point is that any one set of "100 days" in Ava's life has made a huge difference and I might not have really taken that for all it is worth - until last night.

I also got thinking about the changes I have been through in the last 380 days. People who saw me before my surgery and didn't see me for a few months after and the reaction. People who saw me a few hundred days in to the last year and their reacion. People who have not seen me in years and what their reaction might be. My OWN reaction to myself through the last year and how little I focus on the physical image of my body as much as I focus on the mental and emotional changes and challenges I have had.

ALL four of the players last night got in to that change - that better self experience - to not just lose weight but to realize who they really were. To have their image match their self-image. To leave the baggage (and the protection) of being large and to be okay with giving up that shield. To be more ready for the world now then they were when they arrived at the ranch.
I could not even look at Roger without crying last night. He talked about his son. He talked about his wife and he talked about his life with them and how much it meant to them that he could be who he wanted to be for them now for the first time ever . . . "My wife finally will get the groom she deserved when we got married," he said . . . and I cried.

Then he said something to Bob that gave me actual chills . . . I may not be the smartest guy or the most handsome guy but you're not going to meet someone who will work as hard as me (paraphrasing).
It sort of reminded me about what The Biggest Loser is really about and what my surgery and subsequent journey has been about . . . it might not make me smarter or more attractive to lose 220 pounds in a year but how much does that result say about my ethic, resolve and commitment and my "work" on me and my journey? I'm as big of a loser as I can be in that context.
Anywho, MUCH props to Ali and Kelly - who WON their third straight weigh-in and who are now, percentage wise, both PRIME candidates to win the whole thing (Kelly, who has been a sleeper the whole show is only six pounds behind Ali with weight loss with LOTS more to lose than Ali does from the show to the finale).
It should be a GREAT night of television next Tuesday. LOTS of tears. LOTS of excitement for the contestants and LOTS of motivation for me to get agressive to see what I can do in the next 100 days to see what changes I can make and what differences I can see
OH - in a great twist, the American public gets to vote on the third contestant in the finale. PLEASE click here and vote.
If you have been watching the show - vote with your heart. If you have not been watching, take my word for it - vote for Roger. He's played a very, very honorable game the whole way through (never yelled at anyone, never lied while swearing on his children's lives and never tried to play mind games with his own team (unlike Mark)) and he is my hero of Season 5. I would LOVE to see him win. OTHERWISE - I'll happily see the first woman winner of the show. Kelly or Ali would represent the honor well!
Great episode, thanks for the tears, NBC!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Listen to the Musn'ts . . .

This is Joy's favorite Shel Silverstein poem. It has taken on greater meaning to me since we decided to become parents (I carry a copy of it in my wallet) . . .

Listen to the mustn'ts, child.
Listen to the don'ts.
Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts.
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me . . .
Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.

-- Shel Silverstein

I Have a Friend . . .

Now that I am more than a year beyond surgery, I have noticed a new trend in the way people discuss my surgery with me. What was once "WOW! How much have you LOST?!" and "I can't believe how wonderful you look." and "How do you feel?" has turned, in some corners, to "So how much more do you have to lose?" and "You still feeling okay?" and "Are you letting up at all on your diet?"

Now - I can understand this trend. I have had friends who have decided to dry themselves up after years of over boozing and we only asked them about it for the first year or so. I've had friends who have lost loved ones and I only ask about them for the first few months and I've had people who have suffered from depression and other emotional set backs and I only ask every "now and again" to show my concern without making it a constant source of conversation.

That being said I do NOT become negative about it. I don't expect my friends are back off (on?) the wagon. I don't assume my friends have forgotten their lost loved ones and I don't just take for granted that depression is once again weighing my loved ones down. I hope for the best. I stay positive. I pray that they are well and at peace with their various demons.

The reality is that I don't care, frankly, about "your one friend" who had gastric bypass surgery and did "really, really well for a 'while' and then gained all their weight back and THEN some." I am not scared off by your co-worker who hates their life post surgery and is back to overeating again. And, while my sympathies go out to the .5% of all families, friends and loved ones that have to endure losing someone due to COMPLICATIONS around gastric bypass surgery and I'll accept that the surgery is "dangerous" or "not worth the risks". A clarification . . . LESS than 1 person in every 200 will die from surgery complications (NOT the surgery, COMPLICTIONS that they brought to the table with them (weak heart, poor circulation, weak lungs, high blood pressure, clotting, etc. etc. etc.)). You find me a morbidity rate for ANY other condition or procedure that involves/circumvents/fights/accepts the co-morbidities that we all fought to get us on the operating table and I'll start to listen to your gloom and doom.

In the weeks before my gastric bypass surgery, when I was more ready for the surgery than I had ever been and when I felt more sure of my decision than almost any other decision I had ever made - I had a family member tell me about a co-worker who had gastric bypass and only THREE MONTHS LATER weighed more than they did before the surgery. Last night my father told me about a friend of my uncle's who did really well for a year and then gained "all of his weight back and then some." I had a co-worker tell me just this morning about their concern that for me personally that I might some day just decide to start eating again.

These annoyances plagued me last evening so I did some googling. I won't bother to site my sources (it is the world wide web, let's assume it is crap anyway) but I found a low of 8% and a high of 32% of gastric bypass patients regain a "significant" portion of their weight. Only between 5% and 15% regain all of it and a lowly 2% to 9% will actually weigh more after surgery than they did before.

I can see all you skinny people shaking your heads and seeing "yeah, TOLD you so" as they worry about the success rate of this surgery. Let me share THIS with you. Of the three major national diet plans, the long term stats are that as many as 80% will regain all their weight and 64%, average, will weigh more after the program than they did before. So, how bad is gastric bypass now when you could just try the "Atkins" method or the WeightWatchers regime? Yeah, that is what I thought . . . nay sayers!

Let me also share this - the increased popularity (for lack of a better word) of gastric bypass surgery has flooded the statistical tables with people who, frankly, should not have had the surgery to begin with. I've always said and maintain that to mentally screen patients for surgery should not only be required but should be STRENGTHENED. I don't want people who are not really ready for the surgery mucking up the public perception on what an amazing procedure this is and all the hope and promise that it offers to those of us who are ready for the changes the surgery requires.

I get e-mails from people every day because of this blog. MOST of them seem like great people who did the surgery for the right reasons and who have a great life ahead of them but every now and again I get a person who's story sort of scares me. I ROOT for them but I am concerned for them. They might have relapsed on old habits. They might be struggling with new variables in their life that make watching their calories and excercise difficult. They might be openly and honestly falling apart.

Will they be part of the percentages? Perhaps. Will I be part of the percentages? Maybe. Am I scared of that? Do I need you sharing your half-baked stories of woe to motivate me? Nope. Save 'em.

Here is what we should all care about (those who have had the surgery and those that love us). We, statistically, will regain, on average, about 10% of what we lost from the surgery. I plan to lose 283 pounds. That means I will regain 30 pounds. I am at peace with that. I can taste the 200 pound mark and if I get back to 230 - such is life. I weighed 230 pounds as a freshman in high school - probably as an eighth grader (I got weighed once a year). That is 300 pounds less than the heaviest I have ever been and is a weight I could grow old and grey at without worry for my heart or my health.

Now - will my 30 pounds coming back on my frame scare people? Sure. Will people assume it is a lot more weight to regain than it really is? Yep. Will it look like I'm heavy again? Maybe. Will people whisper that I didn't have what it took? Yep. Will some of those people be my own family? Yep. One of them has never believed in me and never will. Oh well. I'm at peace with that too. I haven't gone through all of this to impress him or win his favor. I did this for me.

So this is a long rant but there IS a point . . . don't listen to the critics, journey takers, and don't share your critical stories, spectators. It reminds me of one of Joy's favorite poems by Shel Silverstein that I'll post in a few minutes.

We're all going to be FINE - no matter what weight we end out at - as long as we believe in ourselves, have the love and support of those around us and keep fighting.

Friday, April 4, 2008

It's Like Riding a Bike . . .

People always use the expression "It's like riding a bike" to describe way too many things that, once you have the skill/experience, you should be able to revisit the experience at any time in your life. People use this expression for things like picking a lock, finding that little, out-of-the-way Italian restaurant you once at dinner at just off 95 in Providence, Rhode Island or hooking up with a college girl on $0.50 pitcher night (seriously, key board makers . . . bring back the cents-sign).

Well, I've got some sad and hard news for most of you . . . I've never picked a lock, I have NO idea where that restaurant was (it was DELICIOUS though) and I wasn't exactly a lothario in college (I DID love half-dollar pitcher night though - WORD). Even more crusing for me . . . riding a bike is not "like riding a bike" either.

As loyal readers will know - I have been obsessed with getting a bike for about six months now and my in-laws, God love 'em, GAVE me a bike for an Easter/surgaversary present.

Well, two weeks later, I'm wholy convinced that either a) I never KNEW how to ride a bike or b) the old cliche is wrong.

Here are just a FEW of the things I am learning about riding a bike . . .

1 - When riding down a hill, even a small one, don't jam on the front wheel brake. You will find the rear wheel leaving the ground and your heart rate racing as you imagine your head hitting the road in front of you. Slow pressure on the back brake is the way to go. You're welcome.
2 - Don't try to look "cool" when you are 31 years old and riding your bike around College Hill park on a Tuesday evening wearing a long sleeve t-shirt, elastic banded (waist and ankle) sweat pants and a look of sheer terror on your face. You don't look cool and those teen agers pointing and laughing at you while hanging out and emoting know it, hurtful as they are.
3 - Just because you have 18 speeds on your bike does not mean you should try to use more than one of them on a largely flat path. Point of order - until you understand what each speed "means" or "does," don't shift the gears at all. Just focus on trying to stay up on the wheels for now.
4 - Pedaling is, in fact, excercise . . . on a secured bike at the gym or on the "mean streets" of Wichita - expect some wheezing, muscle aches and sweating by 20 minutes in either way.
5 - Water bottle holders on bikes are absurd. There is NO way you can convince me that anyone is ever comfortable enough on their bike to take one hand off the handlebars long enough to sip some water anyway. I mean NO one, right?! Right?! Or are you telling me there is a chance I might eventually have said courage?
6 - The Americans with Disabilities Act is a friend to ALL of us. When I was a kid, I would "jump" on and off curbs with the greatest of ease. Never even thought that the four inch drop might through off my internal gyroscope, to be honest. In the last few weeks, however, I find even the slow rise and fall of sidewalk "ramps" on the corner to be scary, scary, scary.
7 - Practice makes perfect. I've been out a large handful of times on my bike and I must say it DOES get easier. My first three "attempts" at riding never left my driveway/back lawn . . . the most recent one took me across Douglas Ave. to the "north" side of College Hill. Next time, I am biking all the way to Paris with Lance Armstrong . . . or not.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Stressful Times Call for Stressful Measures . . .

I vowed to always be honest on this blog and to share my journey as it is happening so - to that end - I'm going to be honest with you here now about the here and now.

I'm stressed. VERY, VERY stressed. I'm struggling with work (I know some co-workers read this blog so I'll leave it at that) and I'm just not having the time of my life on this particular Wednesday.

I know what I would have done, once upon a time, on days like today. It would involve at least three trips to the vending machines or snack shops of my office building, a few thousand calories preceeded by "How can I help you?" coming from a loudspeaker on the drive home and, upon arrival home, taking out my stressful day on the one person that has always loved, supported and tried to calm me.

Well . . . some bad news . . . there isn't a gosh darned thing in the kitchen here that I can eat (sugary, fatty, chocolaty goodness, you hold no power over me) and I have a five minute drive home with no one to "help" me along the way. That means just one very sad thing . . . my stress goes home with me.

Some WORSE news . . . the food that I leaned on never stopped the stress from making it all the way home in the past. It made it worse, frankly, as I loathed myself all the more for being so full of bad food and bad mood.

In the last year my FIRST focus (beyond myself) has been making and keeping Joy happy. I've tried to not be the "old me" and I've tried to be more openly appreciative for every thing Joy does for me and to be more honest and open and communicative when my stress does start to bubble up.

I've failed at that lately and I've not been the best husband and friend to Joy. I've worked until seven (and in a few cases eight) most nights the last few weeks and when I do get home I just want to watch bad television and go to sleep before getting up to do it all again the next morning. I don't want to talk about my day and my stress. More over, I don't protect that I want to talk about Joy's day or its stress.

Now I'm a changing man. I'm learning to "own" my stress and my anger from it and to compartmentalize the things I'm not crazy about from the things that I love but that's not always so easy and I'm still in the process of learning how to do this so it is not a perfect system. That just creates tension between us which furthers my stress and her stress. We don't fight, foresay, but we're not really talking or sharing or partnering either.

What is my point? I don't know . . . I guess that I need a good, swift kick in the pants to remind me of what is really important!?! That I need to learn faster and better how to compartmentalize? That is it just plain sad to care as much as I do that the Wichita Wingnuts logo lost an online contest? That I SHOULD figure out a way to go for a walk or a bike ride in between work and home so I can get a boost of energy and peace to share with my beautiful wife?!

I'm sure all of those things would help and they all make total sense to me but they aren't helping me as I sit here at my desk and just wonder why every day can't be as much of a wonderful gift as many of the days of the last year have been.

Regardless, I love you, Pop Tart and I HOPE tonight can be a nice evening at home for all three of us.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Wichita Wingnuts, ONE LAST VOTE . . .

We're in the CHAMPIONSHIP today. Please - VOTE HERE. Thank you!

April Fool's Day? . . .

As today is April Fool's Day (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JOEY WEEKS!), I thought I would share an insecurity I have about a particular prank being pulled on me.

Don't think I'm crazy but I have this re-occuring insecurity that a HUGE joke/prank was pulled on me and that every one was in on the joke but me. What is that joke/prank, you ask? My SURGERY.

Yep, that's right. Once the initial pain of the surgery itself faded - I was all but sure that the whole thing was just a hoax. I had the surgery on Tuesday morning. I refused all pain-killers post surgery (a different story for a different time but assume it had more to do with me wanting to know EXACTLY what I went through to have this second chance at life than it did with any addiction or substance abuse issues in my past). I went home on Thursday. By Friday, I was pain free. Not even sore (except when I sat up, lied down or tried to roll over in bed (oh sweet agony). I remember thinking that that was wayyyy too simple an d wayyy to pain free.

I sipped my protein shakes and waited for Joy or my mother-in-law or heck, for AVA - to laugh and tell me the joke was on me.
I started feeling lighter before I ever left the hospital (yep, I was one of those lucky ones that did not GAIN weight in the hospital due to water retention, etc.). All in my head or was it just eating ice chips and sugar free jello for two days that had me feeling spry?
By the time I returned to the doctor's for my follow-up appointment, my clothes were loose. I sat in the lobby of the surgeon's office just watching the body language of all who made eye contact with me (or did NOT make eye contact with me (a-HA, I thought). Dr. Zucalla saw me. Techia saw me. I sat with Mary Lou. No one cracked. I had lost almost 30 pounds in three weeks. I was STILL all but sure that this was all just a joke. A hoax. A fraud.

"Sure, I lost that much weight - I haven't EATEN in almost a month," I thought. I returned to work and just kept waiting for the other shoe to fall. For someone to laugh and let me in on the joke. I lost almost 100 pounds in the first three months. Still - NOTHING from anyone.

This is one GREAT joke, I kept thinking. Ha on ME? Ha on YOU! I went back for my six month appointments - down 165. Still - nothing but stone faces and "congratulations" from the surgery staff and the medical professionals at the hospital.

I moved to Wichita. I got a new doctor. He saw me and checked my incisions. "You've lost 200 pounds?! That is WONDERFUL" he exclaimed. Did he know? Was he in on the joke?

Was this a vast medical conspiracy? Like the Kennedy assasination or the moon landing . . . was this something that EVERY ONE who needed to "know" was in on but the masses were clueless (DISCLAIMER - I don't believe there was a Kennedy conspiracy (LBJ knew about it but that doesn't make it a conspiracy) and I DO believe we've been to the moon. It's made of cheese.).

More over - how long will this joke go on? How much weight will I lose before SOME ONE tells me what happened? Will I hit goal? Will Joy start feeling guilty and crack under the pressure (If I buy her a new Coach bag, she'll feel OBLIGATED, right?!)? Will my friends Laura or Michele or Chris who are doctors call me one night, a little tipsy, and be like "Pst, buddy, eyegodatellusomefin."?

And, more over, when I am TOLD . . . when this sneaking feeling I have is confirmed . . . will I feel different? Will I immediately go back to eating the way I used to? Will I still lose weight? Will I still avoid sugar like it is the devil himself? Will I still feel good about all the weight that I have lost? Will I feel BETTER about it? Will I resent all those who knew for not telling me? Would I forgive them? Would I THANK them?!

For now, I still take this all one day at a time. I try to focus on the weight loss and the improved mental state and the new outlook I have on life.

Besides - today is April Fool's Day and if you really believe I have doubted the surgery was real for this long and this intensely (I did have a few moments of doubt in the early weeks - it WAS too good to be true) then you are a bit of a fool!
Happy April Fool's Day and thanks for the laughs!