Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dinner with Co-Workers . . .

We had a "company outing" last night. The account service team (which I am part of because, even though I sit in the PR department I do have my own clients) went to the Granite City Brewery here in Wichita to learn how beer is made and to enjoy a few glasses of the cold, frothy stuff as we chatted about work, ate some appetizers and had a few guffaws.

I'm no newbie to the beer process. My brother Patrick had a Mr. Beer kit when we were in college. He was not yet 21 but my father, recognizing Patrick's passion for beer decided that if he was brewing his own beer it would keep him engaged and active. It actually worked out pretty well, for the record, my brother currently brews beer in the Philadelphia suburbs and has even entered some of his brews in local contests. I've never sampled the goods (as I can't have carbonated beverages, I'm urged to avoid alcohol post surgery and it is FAR to Philly for a beer) but my brother Ryan, a bit of a beer expert himself (smile) assures me that they are delicious pints.

Anywho - I've seen beer made at home. I've been to many a beer brewery in my life. I was a "regular" at the Capital City Brewing Company during my DC days (including two State of the Union "parties" at the place and one somewhat forgotten, and yet memorable, Final Four weekend) and many, many wonderful dinners with my friend Kathryn (who is also a huge fan - try the chicken tender salad, she would advise you) and my favorite beverage for a good chunk of my life was good ol' Magic Hat #9 but I'm digressing . . .

Anyway - the point of the story is that I went out and socialized with my co-workers. Something I've never been particularly good at. I think it is because, once upon a time, going out with co-workers meant eating too much, drinking too much, making a fool of myself and then realizing that I had to see all these people at work the next morning . . . and it would be a Tuesday at that.

I've only been out twice with my current peers (not including last night) and once it was for an awards dinner and once was for a Joe Cocker concert here in Wichita.

I find that going out with my co-workers makes me very, very self concious. It is safe to say that I am my own person and I'm very comfortable with who I am but I don't know how many of them feel about me (and my jury is still out on some of them too (smile)) but I go to these functions and try to not eat or drink anything and hope that the conversation will go well and that I'll get called away before I can make a fool of myself.

Last night though, I must say, went really well. I had some laughs and enjoyed myself and I didn't watch the clock and I felt truly comfortable. I ate (I had a chicken breast with some cheese) and I drank (water - my colleague Jennifer was more than happy to drink my beer samples) and when it was time to go pick up Ava to get her home for bath time . . . I sort of didn't want to leave.

We talked about the experience one of our intern's mothers (SSG (Shiny Shirt Girl) - I INSIST on giving ALL interns nicknames, not sure why)) is having with the lap band and we talked about my surgery and we talked about dieting and excercise and my surgery to have my excess skin removed (they asked, I swear). We also talked about work and life and people's siblings and their significant others and what TV shows we watch and what vacations we like to take, etc. Just good conversation.

I don't know. Maybe I'm finally getting more comfortable in my life here in Wichita (I still sort of feel like an outsider at work) or maybe it is that I'm less anxious to be in a restaurant or a bar than I have been in the last several years or maybe I'm just getting to the point where I feel like being social again. Regardless - I actually look forward to the next time I get to go out with co-workers. I promised to tell several of them the story of why I quit drinking . . . a real crowd pleaser every time (smile).

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

They Try to Make Me Go to the Snack Closet but I Said "CheeTO, CheeTO, CheeTO" . . .

In honor of Amy Winehouse being hospitalized, here is a post that has been sitting in the drafts folder . . . only the subject line is a reference to Ms. Winehouse (in case you are looking for the connection).

Dear Cheetos -

I see you. I hear you. I, depending on the status of the seal on your little baggie can smell you and I, God forgive me, have tasted you in the recent past. You are as deliciuos as I remembered and as UN-nutritious as I always knew you were.

Your insanely brilliant shade of orange appearance masks the real anarchy of your true nature and character. What is it about you that used to attact me? How do you still hold any power over me at all? Is it the maltodexterin you are made of? Is it the thiamin mononitrate that I adore? Is it the 10 grams of fat you have in each little bag?

I hope and pray it is the 2% of my daily suggested phosphorus (where ELSE could I possibly get phosphorus - Chester whispers in my ear to taunt me) or the 4% of my iron? Is it the crusty stuff that collects on my finger tips and lips when I eat Cheetos?

What is it? How am I sixteen months post surgery and still somehow interested in deep fried corn snacks with cheese coating? I've lost 240 pounds. I've gained a lot of perspective. I've learned so much about food. Once upon a time 160 calories and 10 grams of fat was a snack to get me ready for a snack to hold me over to my next snack before the following meal.

As you well remember I was once very passionate about you. I would eat entire FAMILY SIZED bags of you on the walk home from the CVS in DC . . . and the CVS was literally 100 yards away from my apartment . . . and enjoy the second bag of you I had bought later that same day (or early the next).

Anywho - why am I explaining myself to YOU, snack food?! You don't deserve my time or excuses or validation. For people who can eat moderatly and with common sense you are a fine addition to any sandwich, sporting event or impulsive road trip but . . . for me . . . you are poison. You are the first step on a slippery slop and I'm NOT taking that step.

I wish you well, Cheetos. I'll always remember the good times we had (including hanging out with your friends and family) but our time has ended. You no longer hold power over me. You no longer "complete" me. You are no longer part of who I am.

Don't cry. You'll be fine. The other 30+ people in this office and millions around the world will still enjoy you but you can't tempt me any more. Oh and tell your little "buddies" Frito, Dorito, Tostito and Ruffle the same thing!

Best wishes for your future but, please, don't contact me any more. I've moved on and there is nothing you can do to change my mind . . . I hope and pray.

- Sean

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Two Years, Three Very Different Pictures . . .

Here are three versions of about the same photo. One was taken minutes after Ava was born, the second on Ava's first birthday and the third just a few hours ago. Which one of us (me, Ava or Joy) do YOU think has changed the most.






I love my girls and I love pictures like this . . . people can change - if they have stability and love and support underneath them.

Happy birthday, Ava Grace! I love you!

Ava and the Cupcakes . . .

While I can't even lick the batters or taste the finished product (let alone lick my fingers during the frosting process) - I am happy to be doing the cupcakes for today's party. We looked at having a cake professionally made but decided it would be more fun (and more in line with the Amore family budget) to make cupcakes instead.

Here is a video clip of Ava after she discovered the "secret stash" (when you are Ava's height, what is on the counter top is technically in a stashed in a secret place).

Enjoy!

video

Happy Birthday, G . . .

Ava turns two today. I can't BELIEVE that it has been two years since I became a father. I have a real post in the "drafts" folder but I'm trying to clean it up (it is a little long, a little rambling and a little "emotional" in its current state) but I wanted to wish Ava a very happy birthday.

We woke up at about regular time this morning (Ava at 6:30, Mommy and Daddy at 7:30) and Joy made the birthday girl some butterfly and flower shaped chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. We opened one gift (there are several more waiting, as you can see) and then we call Gamma and Gampa Amo' to thank them for their gift.

We've baked 36 cupcakes that I'm going to frost during nap time (we are expecting a total of seven cupcake eaters at Ava's party later today so let's assume we're doing some overkill here) and we are going to have some of Ava's favorite foods (hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, fench-fies, chips, appuh juhs, matoes (tomatoes) and zuk-nee (zuchini))

BY THE WAY - a very special happy birthday to Bruce Cohn and Danielle (Magaldi) Dopman, two of my very best friends from college!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Your Table Is Ready, Sir . . .


It was eight years ago this week that I was putting the final touches on one of the greatest bachelor's parties I had ever planned. A three day, two night CELEBRATION of life, friendship and love in Providence, Rhode Island.

It was 2000 and my very good friends from college Mike and Nicole were getting married in late-October. Thinking about the bachelor party got me thinking about the wedding which got me thinking about my weight . . . let me explain.

I was honored to have been asked by Mike (aka Pezzullo, Pez, Pezzu, etc.) to be his best man. It had been a few years since we graduated from college but our group of friends was, at the time, still very close and we all anxiously readied for the wedding with great excitement.

I was sort of nervous as summer rolled on though . . . it was getting to be "that time" of the wedding planning process when I had to go and be fitted for a tuxedo.

And not just any tuxedo. No-no. Nicole . . . who was so in control of her wedding that she actually overruled the slip covers on the chairs for a different shade of "champagne" or "gold" or "wheat" or whatever colort they called it (and more power to her for wanting it HER way, by the way) had decided that she wanted Mike and the other men in the party to wear a very traditional tuxedo (much like the ones worn at her parents and their parents weddings). Yep. We were to wear a traditional, English morning jacket with vest, ascot and flat front, charcoal and pin-striped pants. Bad times were ahead, I dreaded.

You see I had been packing on the ol' pounds in the year 2000. I had gone from a 52 inch waist to a 60 inch waist between Christmas and my birthday (think about that . . . I gained EIGHT inches in my waist in six months) and I was not looking or feeling good at all about having to put on a very formal and very "fitting" tux.

I went and got measured, faxed my measurements to Pezzu's father's cousin (or some relation to the family) who we were renting the tuxedoes from and I heard - through the grapevine - that I was too fat for the tuxedo Nicole had chosen BUT - to not upset the bride (and I do understand this) - the decision was made that the tuxdeo guy would rent the biggest tuxedo pieces he could find for me and I would have to sausage-up that afternoon and just, as Tim Gunn would say, "make it work."

Oh my. So - I had eight weeks from size submission to the wedding. We had the bachelor party. I was working, through my PR firm, on the Hillary campaign, I was traveling for two other clients, I was depressed from graduate school and I was starting to realize my weight was an issue. Instead of DIETING and losing weight, I boarded the plane for the wedding HEAVIER than when I started. I know . . . I know . . .

At the tuxedo try-on I actually cried in the changing room. It was bad. BAD! I couldn't breathe. My shoulders ached as the seams of the coat moaned. Thank GOD for the vest and ascot - I could only button three buttons on my shirt. The pants were so tight my legs tingled as though they were falling asleep from lack of fresh, oxygen rich blood.

I hastily threw the tuxedo back in the bag and just decided that it was ONE day. I would make it out of respect and love for my friends on their wedding day. I spent the next forty-eight hours just FULL of dread knowing that I was in big, big trouble.

It got to be "that time" on Saturday and I had my mother come help me get dressed (my parents were invited to the wedding - she didn't drive all the way to Groton, NY to Fall River, MA just to help me get dressed). I had ripped the pants out at the waist (for some extra room) and I was hoping she could whip stitch them to stop the splitting and I needed help with the process in general. I was crying and boo-whoing and generally hating myself and my mommy was the only one that could make it right (this was pre-Joy Sean when my mother was the ONLY woman in my life (as far as she needed to know (smile))! My mom got me in the geddup and, to be honest, I looked okay. I felt like hell but no one could really tell what misery I was in, I hoped.

I never complained to either of the Pezzulloes. My other friends heard all about it and my dear friend Delenick, when he was kind enough to ask me to be his best man a year later, actually opted for a very simple and boring black tux to make me more comfortable (something that also made me cry out of embarassment but proved to me that Delenick is very possibly the finest person I have ever known in terms of selflessness and taking friendship to the art of brotherhood). I wore that tuxedo from 1:00 PM until about 11:00 PM. I was miserable. Every time I had to stand up, sit down, walk, talk or turn my head (smile) I wanted to scream and cry.

The point of this whole story is that I had no one to blame but myself. That wedding was truly the first time that I realized that I was a HUGE man. They didn't even make a tuxedo big enough to fit me. That should have been my first sign but it was not what really did it for me. I gained another 150 pounds or so before I finally decided something had to give. Something had to change. Something had to be done.

I was MORE than happy to throw the pieces of that tuxedo in the rental bag (not even on the hanger) and give it back. And was even happier in my decision to not become a maitre'd at a fine restaurant or a personal butler!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pictures of the Past . . .

I sent out a note to about 100 people a week or two ago asking them to send me any and all pictures they had of me (I'm compiling them for a special project). My dear, sweet, should-be-sister-in-law Joyell (Patrick's girlfriend of nearly a decade) has sent me a few "keepers" and I thought I would share this one. It was taken, according to the file properties, on May 29, 2004.

Note the bruising around the eyes that only morbid obesity or three rounds with Oscar DeLaHoya could provide. The chin-melting-into-my-chest good looks and the meat-hook hands. At least I had a ton more hair then than I have now (smile).


To see this picture, and pictures like it, is deeply humbling and it reminds me how dangerous the life I was living really was and how very glad I am that I have been given a second chance to do and be and live better.

If you have pictures of me PLEASE send them my way (by e-mail or snail mail).

THANK YOU, Joyelll!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Reuters Picked Up My Blog Post . . .

I typed a post for DietsInReview.com a week or so ago and I just found out the post was picked up by Reuters. Reuters, for those that don't know, is a clearing house of news and information (sort of like the Associated Press but on a very different level). I'm gettin' sorta' famous . . . I can only hope my ego is not inflated by this experience.

I'm kidding . . . my ego could not POSSIBLY get any bigger than it already is!

Monday, July 21, 2008

I Have An Announcement To Make . . .

I was going to hold off on telling the world this for a few more weeks but - since the word is already spreading online - I felt I should tell you, my devoted fans and readers, first hand that I am, in fact, running for President of the United States of America!

NOTE - Click on the link "United States of America" and you will get the joke, Mom and Dad. And PLEASE don't tell your friends I am running for President . . . even if you would be doing so out of pride (smile)!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

16 Months . . .

My surgery was sixteen months ago today.

I spent last night walking around JC Penney (they were having their BIGGEST SALE of this half of July of this year so I could not resist) and trying on clothes and realizing it has been MONTHS since I set foot in the big and tall department of the store (I have a 40 inch waist and a a 17 inch neck, by the way . . . that is like freshman year of high school "tiny") and thinking about where the time has gone.

I can't believe how quickly the time has gone. I was thinking today - as I escaped the 100 degree heat with a trip to the grocery store - that there is very, very little I really remember or miss about my day to day eating before surgery.

Thankfully the aisles of Dillon's would not let me totally forget the foods I used to partake in (to say I "enjoyed" them would largely be a stretch) . . . and for those sorts of reminders - my humble THANK YOU to Dillon's and all other reminders of how far I have come as have the people, places and things that were part of my life before surgery. It is good to still remember where I "came from" so that I can honor my commitment to never really return.

Two months left on this "journey" - much to do. I have 45 more pounds to lose and a ton of work to do on myself (that part of the journey will likely only end when my ashes are gently floating through the breezes of Fuddrucker's in Alexandria, Virginia (smile))!

PS - Special "shout out" to my niece, Lexy's, YMCA Lady Bulldogs. Her softball team capped off an undefeated season in the 100 degree Wichita heat. Nice job, sweets!

Friday, July 18, 2008

It is Official . . .

Well the CDC released its annual Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey results yesterday and it seems that Americans are getting fatter (AGAIN this year). The survey found that 25.6% of all Americans are technically obese (the survey data is based on BMIs so remember that the figure also includes otherwise-skinny-but-extremely-pregnant-women and all muscle-bound strong people too).



27.7% of my fellow Kansans join me in the obese category (I am simply obese now vs. morbidly obese, I'm happy to say) and 21.7% of the people of the great Nutmeg state (Connecticut) are obese.

The report did not really get too much in to the blame game but here are some highlights from an article on the study in today's Wichita Eagle:

- The CDC, in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, said 15.3 percent of American adults were obese in 1995; in 2005, 23.9 percent were. Now, it's 25.6 percent.

- Obesity rates are lowest among those ages 18 to 29 and highest among those 50 to 59. By race, 24.5 percent of whites, 28.5 percent of Hispanics and 35.8 percent of blacks are obese. Rates are lowest among college graduates and highest in those who don't have a high school diploma.

- The CDC's William Dietz said, "We need to step up our efforts at the national, state and local levels. We need to encourage people to eat more fruits and vegetables, engage in more physical activity and reduce the consumption of high-calorie foods and sugar-sweetened beverages."

With that in mind - Joy and I are pledged to go to the gym Saturday and Sunday mornings this week (congratulatory gifts are welcome and encouraged (smile)).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

One Of My Favorite Quotes . . .

I had a client meeting today and thumbing through the DISASTER that is my desk hoping to find lost notes from my last meeting with the same client and, while I did NOT find what I was looking for - I did stumble across a folder of random "stuff" from my previous two jobs that I still carry around with me (don't ask).

Anywho - I stumbled upon one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite people of all time . . . the GREAT Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

"It isn't sufficient to just want. You have got to ask yourself what you are going to do to get the things you want."

That's all. No insight. No "deep" analysis. No reflection on what it means to me today vs. what it meant to me "then" and absolutely NO statements on politics, The Great Depression or how much I miss a liberal administration.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Nuttin' but Mustard . . .

It has been a big week for us here in the Amore household. Ava is finally going "pee pee" on the potty on a somewhat regular basis. She's slept THROUGH the night for three of the last six nights (the other three nights were DISASTERS but . . .) and we officially got rid of her high chair on Sunday (it has been a while since she really sat in it) and she's started to eat with the sort of reckless abandon that makes her Daddy very, very proud.

Anywho - we had a legendary dinner tonight that was complete with music (it motivates her to eat) and dancing (I've mentioned in the past that Ava loves a group called Nuttin' but Stringz and you can see in this video just how much she loves the strings) and mustard eating by the finger and SPOONFUL (and the funny faces that go with eating too much mustard in one sitting).

Ava will be TWO in just 12 days. I can't believe it has been two years since she graced our lives with her presence.

Enjoy a somewhat long - but we think entertaining - video!

video

Monday, July 14, 2008

Is Wall-E a Sizist? . . .

I read a great article this morning about accusations that Wall-E is a sizist (or the people that made the movie are, at least). Now - I saw the movie Wall-E (or about 65% of it at least - Ava and I spent most of the middle of the movie walking in and out and around the theater where we saw it and Joy, Ava and I ultimately just left the theater with about 30 minutes to go). I've seen plenty of movies and I've seen sizism. Wall-E is NOT sizist.

The premise of Wall-E (stop reading here if you are eight years old and are still hankering to see the latest Disney/Pixar film and don't want the experience to be "spoiled") is that humans, having exhausted the earth's resources, are floating around in space while little robots clean up the debris of our lifestyle and occassional ships return to earth to see if carbon-based life has resumed. So Wall-E is a cleaner and he falls in love with Eve (a robot that is searching for and FINDS proof of life) and he makes his way back to the ship, deep in space, where the humans are hanging out. And by "floating around space" and "hanging out" I mean our future generations are literally floating (on these chaise lounge looking things) and hanging out (as in too fat for even their oversized moo-moos).

Yes - ALL of humanity is fat in the movie. Very, very fat. Very lazy too. They DRINK all of their meals because actually eating is just so . . . very "ambitious" - but the movie is NOT saying that fat people are lazy.

The movie is saying that being lazy makes you FAT. The humans have to re-learn how to walk, for instance. They don't have to relearn how to be skinny.

I'm here to tell you though - 32 years of life later- Wall-E could have EASILY been the latest example of a movie where the fat person is the evil-doer, the butt of the joke, the scorn of society or the least-desirable person in the room. Cartoon movies, live action movies, computer generated flicks, NO MATTER . . . we bigguns have been wronged plenty of times in the past.

It is what it is. I'm not complaining about any of those other movies and I won't complain about this one either. ONE thing that I would point out . . . when I first started dating Joy, our niece Lexy was only three (she had JUST turned four when I first met her) and she seemed to be totally afraid of me and would barely speak to me. I eventually assumed - based on a comment she made while we were watching TV together - that my size made her somewhat distrustful of me and might have implied that I was a "bad person" - if I was anything like the fat guy on the TV. Maybe the larger issue is that we need to present images to our young that don't further negative stereotypes and assumptions . . .
I DO think that groups like the National Association To Advance Fat Acceptance need to exist and have every right to go after any movie (or person, or group or whatever) that they think is going after our fellow obese persons - no different than any other group that organizes to help raise the level of all humanity but, in this case, I have to disagree with my fellow "fats" that Wall-E did us any real wrongs.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Guest Blogging - The Shoe on the Other Foot . . .

I was asked, by my friend Brandi, to guest blog for her DietsInReview.com website. I was really honored to do it but found it intimidating.

I am not used to sounding like an "expert" on the topic of surgery or how to have long term success (if you read regularly you know that I'm just sort of fumbling through all of this - day to day).

Anywho, check out my post and PLEASE feel free to surf around the site while you are there. There are tons of really useful tools including recipes, diet tips, fitness tips and lots of bloggers with great opinions and experiences.

You've gotta' have support - as I opine in my post (smile).

Happy FRIDAY!!!!!

Berndana's Recipes . . .

You know that I'm obsessed with Berndana (a.k.a. - Bernie Salazar the at-home winner for Biggest Loser Season 5).

Did you know the guy could cook? Bernie is sharing his post-weight loss journey every Thursday in the Diet Blog at DietsInReview.com and I wanted to share this week's recipes with you here!

His No-So-McMuffin recipe seems like a sure thing for the post gastric bypass diet.

Not-So-McMuffin
Ingredients

* 1 Ezekiel English Muffin
* 1 egg
* 2 pieces of turkey bacon
* I Can’t Believe it’s not Butter spray
* Olive Oil Cooking Spray

Instructions
Spray a small pan with olive oil cooking spray and warm over medium heat. When it is warm place the two pieces of turkey bacon in the pan. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side. (For crispier bacon, try broiling it in a toaster oven or broiler). Remove the turkey bacon and spray the pan again with olive oil spray, away from the flame and replace to the range. Drop your egg in the pan and cook until over medium. While your egg is cooking, toast your English muffin. When the English muffin is done, spray it once on each half with I Can’t Believe it’s not Butter spray. Lay the bacon and egg inside your English muffin and enjoy your own healthier version of America’s favorite breakfast.

Nutrition Facts
119 Calories, 1.3g Fat, 15g Carbs, 2 WW Points

His Tuna and Arugula Salad is probably not best for post GB-living (almost 500 calories and a salad is a lot of food mass, at the end of the day) but, for those before surgery and for those we love after surgery, it is a healthy looking salad. You could always enjoy the salad in smaller portions, I supposed.

Tuna and Arugula Salad

Ingredients

* 1 Cup Arugula
* 3 oz Mahi Mahi Tuna Steak
* 2 Tbs. of Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
* 2 Tbs. Olive Oil
* 1⁄4 avocado

Instructions
Lightly coat Mahi Mahi Tuna with olive oil then season with black pepper and garlic powder to taste. Heat 1 Tbs. of olive oil in a pan, when hot place Tuna in pan and cook 1 1⁄2 to 2 minutes on each side (outside should appear cooked but inside should remain pink). Remove tuna and set to the side. In a mixing bowl combine arugula, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic powder and pepper to taste, mix together thoroughly. Place arugula mixture in heated pan for 1 minute; make sure to constantly stir mixture while heating so that it does not get soggy. Once arugula is heated serve on plate, place tuna steak on top, garnish with avocado and enjoy!

Nutrition Facts
477 Calories, 36.7g Fat, 15.3g Carbs, 12 WW Points

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Quick Post . . .

I'm having a bit of a crazy day so I don't want to spend too much time posting but I did want to mention something that has been heavily on my mind all day today. I am sitting on the board of a non-profit group here in Wichita called The Arc of Sedgwick County and they held a VIP breakfast this morning that I attended.

At the breakfast were a number of parents that sang the praises of the Arc's YESS program (a summer school and socialization program for developmentally disabled kids here in the Wichita area) and many of the parents, often teary, got up and told stories about the difference the Arc and YESS are making in not only their children's lives but in the shared life of their family.

The reason many of the parents were teary was, sadly, because their children are still - in the year 2008 - harassed by their peers mercilessly for being "retarded" or "different" or "stupid" or "strange" . . . the kids that taunt them don't understand their disabilities and the kids that live with the disabilities are often unable too or disinterested in educating their attackers. DISCLAIMER - as a kid (and young adult) I was way too casual with tossing around the word "retard" and labeling things, people and experiences as "retarded". For that I am deeply mortified to this day.

It made me very, very grateful that I was never really a victim of taunting as a kid. I had a few "fats" hurled at me and was the butt of a few jokes and certainly I heard whispers and saw stares from strangers but the world of Groton Central School was very, very kind to this "big boned" boy.
I think my parents had a lot to do with protecting me - I was encouraged to have a healthy self esteem and to not feel limited by my weight. I also think going to a small school where you could actually get to know kids was important too. MAINLY I think it was because that I discovered at a young age that if you are kind and funny and self-depricating enough . . . people will not criticize you for the rest. I know that not all obese children have been so lucky and it breaks my heart that kids still taunt people for being fat or for being developmentally disabled. It makes me sad that their parents don't teach them to love one another without bias and it makes me sad that those kids feel that there is "power" to be found in taking someone's self love away or challenging it.

Any who - one more experience in my life today that makes me grateful for and appreciative of the life I had then!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

250 Posts Later . . .

This post marks number 250 on my blog. I was running through old posts last night and decided to pull together a handful of my favorites - for those who don't want to read ALL 249 of them. Here, in no particular order (actually, they are in chronological order), are some that I am particularly fond of.

Living Large - One of my first handful of posts, the Living Large book is still one of my favorite reads (I've read it twice) and a "must have" for men who struggle with their weight and their perceptions of who they are because of/in spite of their weight.

Five Months Later - The Morning Of - Back when I could still remember the day so vividly (it seems soooooo long ago by now), I blogged about the morning of my surgery and where my head was. I re-read it last night and, I must confess, it made me cry a little bit. I can't believe I weighed 483 pounds. I can't believe that it took me so long to really address the issue. I can't believe I had such a wonderful life and support system then but only really appreciate it now. Coming up on 16 months later . . . I am still very emotional about that day.

What's In a Name - I got in to nicknames and one, in particular, that has stuck with me throughout my life and one that I never realized I hated until it was "too late." Rereading this post reminded me that I have struggled with my weight my entire life and, until I was in a real spot and really in dire straits, it was always made "light" of. Anywho . . .

Long Term Goals Cut Short - The first appearance of Sean's Soap Box. Not the last. Not the best. Not the worst. I am PROUD to tell our guest speaker that I was right and he was wrong . . . at least in my case. The 10% method (lose 10% of my body. Then lose 10% of that body. Then lose 10% of that body and EVENTUALLY lose 70% of the original body) is working quite well.

I've Never Been So Happy to Be So Sick - Another 60 pounds lost since this post, it seems sort of silly that I was so excited at the time but - by 10 more pounds from now I'll think that my current self-amusement is funny. Here's to benchmarks, big achievements and celebrating them!

And Now, A Word from Wifey - If you click on the word "Wifey" on the bottom of any of her posts, you can see all of her posts (almost all, they might not all be "tagged"). Joy is just an amazing woman and this is my favorite of her posts - BESIDES my anniversary post. I love you, Pop Tart. Thanks for taking my breath away on a daily basis - and letting me return the favor every once and a while.

Is It February 7th Again ALREADY - One year after the official scheduling of my surgery, I was looking back on that important day again. Good stuff. I CAN still remember the panic attack and the rush of joy that came from it. May I never forget the emotions that have come from and through this experience.

Every Four Years - I can be silly and make a point while STILL having many, many typos and grammatical errors in a post (and I communicate for a LIVING - how sad is THAT)!

What Are You Going to Do Next? - This was the first time I really realized that this life was FOREVER and that I had to start letting Joy and Ava come first on some things. Even if that meant eating at Pizza Hut

All Julie Andrews and Stuff - Despite some of these favorites no longer being a favorite and despite some of them seeming oftly "simple" of me - it was what it was. I still think Ava's big laugh and a Joyful Joy are two of life's greatest rewards.

Playlist #3 - I've shared plenty of favorite tunes with you, loyal readers, this was my favorite of the playlists I have posted. I have a new obsession, by the way, Rosie Thomas. She's friends with Sufjan Stevens (an absolute FAVORITE of mine) and she's got a haunting voice that makes me want to sip tea and talk about facism (or whatever).

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades - Not everything this side of surgery is bright and rosy and I have much work to do. I am working on it though. I will get there.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Camp Barton . . .

When I was in high school, I was a Boy Scout. Stop smiling, it gets funnier. I was really, really in to Boy Scouts. Stop giggling, it gets better. In the interest of full disclosure, I am actually an Eagle Scout. Stop laughing. Yes. Me. Mr. Cynic himself was once a card carrying, badge wearing, oath and law spouting Boy Scout.

While I'm not a huge fan of the politics of the Boy Scouts and, as an act of political defiance, I have since officially "returned" my Eagle Scout status and asked to be excluded from the ranks of the "proud" (I was a young, ambitious, egotistical, liberal in Washington, DC - cut me some slack) - I must say that there is one thing about the Boy Scouts that I really do geniunely miss.

Boy Scout Camp. That's right. I miss it. I said it and I stand by it. I used to not only attend Boy Scout Camp for two glorious summers I was the Handicraft Director (thank you very much) at Camp Barton on the shores of mighty Cayuga Lake. Yeah. Yuk it up. I taught basketry and woodcarving and leatherwork and metalwork for six weeks a summer to brand new Boy Scouts who were not old enough to use the rifle range or brave enough to earn the swimming badges and to the older scouts who just needed some quick badges to get their next rank bump or palm.

I tell you this because, as the summer gets hot, I am reminded of my days at Camp Barton. Being the morbidly obese kid on staff. Being the kid that wore (and by wore I mean stretched 'til the seams almost popped) the 2XL staff t-shirts and the plus sized scout shorts. I remember having friends like Jess and Darcy and Debby come out to visit and late night visits from my father and I can remember care packages from my mother and carpooling with kids who lived in Dryden and friends I made there like Mike Amante (who later dated Darcy and Debby, by coincidence).

I LOVED camp. I learned how to fire a rifle at camp. I swam and swam and swam. I took canoes out in the middle of the night. I snuck off camp to see Jurassic Park. I climbed the tower under the cover of night. I attended dozens and dozens of campfires and was in more skits than I can even remember.

Summer camp was, before this summer, the LAST memories I have of actually enjoying the summer and summer heat. I certainly didn't enjoy the heat as much when I bartended as a college kid or the summer I worked the overnight shift in a factory. I didn't enjoy summers in DC at ALL and our two summers in Connecticut were largely spent here in Kansas (oddly enough). I don't know why the heat didn't bother me more than it did (we slept in tin sided/roofed shacks with only fans and breezes to cool us) and I don't know why I didn't feel more limited by my body (admittedly I was pretty physically active in high school despite my weight).

It wasn't ALL fun and games at camp. Sure there were parts that I hated (like having to take always-cold showers in the off-hours when the campers were not using the shower house) but, by and large, it was a gooood time.

As I start to enjoy summer again though - I miss camp. I miss camping. I miss boating and hiking and running and sleeping in the lean-tos and under the stars. I miss Camp Barton.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Photo Booth Fun . . .

I mentioned we went to Red Robin on my father's birthday a few weeks ago.

While we were there, Ava and I chose to step away from the table at one point (and by that I mean Ava had been sitting, well behaved, for over an hour at the table and was well over "it") and we decided to step in to the photo booth in the lobby to waste a few minutes (and a few bucks).

Ava was enchanted by the "technology" of the photo booth and, thanks to a mirrored surface covering the camera, understood that she needed to smile to make the pictures "count" - after the first pop of the flash she had to investigate (hence the second picture). By the fourth shot - we got it together.



Saturday, July 5, 2008

Blowin' Stuff Up In the Front Yard . . .

We live in/on College Hill here in Wichita. Wichita's "oldest" and "most established" neighborhood. There are lots of really old and really beautiful houses in our neighborhood (our home included) and that is rare for a city that has some very new and very "cookie cutter" neighborhoods that immediately spring to mind when you tell the average Kansan you live in Wichita. Anywho - true to our form - we chose to take a chance yesterday and we did all of our "ground" fireworks here at the house.
Led by the always intrepid Uncle DJ (who has even guided me gently in to the world of fireworks) - we all had a great time. Not everyone participated (Grandma and Grandpa) but everyone else did (including Joy and Stephanie who usually just watch).
Yes - I said everyone. Even the girls. YES - I admit it - I let my 23 month old daughter light off fireworks and play with sparklers in the front lawn . . . and she had a great time and still has ten fingers, ten toes, two working eyes, normal hearing and an inquisitive young mind. So THERE!
DJ, Stephanie, Lexy and I (the rest of 'em stayed home) went to DJ's parents in Park City to blow off all of our aerials after the sun went down. Park City, Kansas knows how to DO July 4th, by the way. MAD props to the city and its fine residents who blow it allllll up from about 8:00 PM - 2:00 AM!

Here are some photos of the fun . . .


























Five Month Goals (Two Months To Go) . . .

This whole post-gastric bypass "journey" will, statistically, be over for me in just two months and two weeks. 75 days from now, if I crunched the numbers correctly. I'm sort of freaked out by that. I had a realization at lunch today that I am 32. I have a LOT of life ahead of me and - in just two short months - this surgery will no longer be able to help me lose or maintain my weight and I have another 50 years or so ahead of me to actually do the WORK of staying "skinny". With that in mind - let me keep myself honest with an update on my goals.

1 - Weight 245 - 240 pounds by June 12th. I missed that goal. I don't know what my weight is today but I HOPE I have entered that window - and will get below it soon!

2 - Participate in a 5K Walk. Accomplished. I had a great walk and a great time a few weeks ago.

3 - Become more serious about bike riding. It has been HOT here lately. I've not been on my bike in a month. I will likely NOT reverse that trend until the fall. A sad excuse, I know, but I'm being honest.

4 - Re-establish a connection with God. Improving. I am reading my books and I am praying and, just yesterday, I said "God Bless America" without the slightest sense of irony. That must count for something! I'm planning on starting my tour of religious buildings (for services, not just tours) tomorrow morning too.

5 - Take Care of Old Business. Accomplished. My awkward call to an old friend's mother WORKED. He called me at work a few weeks ago. We spoke for about 30 minutes. His exact words were "You might be serious about all this. I hope you are. Call me in six months if you are still serious. Then I will be willing to really accept all that you've said here today." I know that is what he said because I have it written on a Post-It in my wallet. I look at it every day.

6 - See Ten Movies. Almost there. I've seen Iron Man, Indiana Jones, The Happening, Wall-E, The Love Guru, You Don't Mess with the Zohan and Hancock. That makes EIGHT. We already pre-purchased tickets to go see Batman in IMAX in Kansas City so that leaves one more to make good on and I'll have ten. I must say that I'm really enjoying movies this summer.

7 - Weigh 200 Pounds by March 20, 2009. In the works. I've stated above that I am slowing way, way down on weight loss and I am starting to get nervous about the last 20% of the weight I wanted to lose (I've lost 80% of my goal weight already - 240 of 283 pounds). The last 20% is going to be WAY tougher than the first 80% though. I'm realizing that the last few weeks.

8 - See My Brothers and Have Them See Their Niece. In the works. The plan, as of now, is to get back to the Northeast in September. The QUESTION mark is if I will have Ava . . . or Joy . . . with me. This fragile economy, one income, Joy's class schedule and the reason I am going home will all make it a long and hard decision. I WILL see my brothers though.

9 - Get Rid of My C-PAP. Improving. I still haven't scheduled the at-home sleep study BUT I have not used my C-PAP in two weeks and I feel GREAT. I WILL get an official doctor's note to get rid of the stupid thing though . . . one of these days. In the next two months for sure!

10 - Start Writing My Book. Accomplished. I've been writing feverishly while Joy is at class on Monday and Wednesday nights and I have some really good stuff (at least I think it is good) on the hard drive. The challenge I am having is that - if my parents, who were here for the last two weeks, are any indication - I don't think people GET what I have been going through or why I have been doing it the last 16 months. I don't know if writing a book about how you can stare death in the eye and never feel the stare of it and then, once on the other side, just want to go back and really understand and feel what you went through and be more AWARE of yourself, your life, your behavior and the stare of death in the future is going to get me on Oprah's must-read list or not. Time will tell. For now, I am going to just keep writing. And reading. And watching.

11 - Make New Friends. Improving. We went to a birthday party for a 2-year old a few weeks ago and hung out with her parents and other parents. We had Tricia over for dinner. We are having some other friends in one night next week for dinner. We are trying to connect with a few folks here in town for playdates for the kids and I am supposed to set something up for my family and my boss and his family. That counts, right?!

12 - Go Floating. In the works. We didn't make it this weekend BUT we are hoping to get to Missouri and on to the river later this month. Joy is trying to figure it out so we can go at the same time as her cousins and their families. I HOPE we can go. SOOOOOO much fun!

13 - Become Creative Again. Met. I am tapped in to my creative juices recently. I am branching out at work. I gave Joy TWO "good" suggestions on improving the house this week. I am writing. I am feeling good about blogging again. I am telling Ava made up stories. I'm even trying to figure out time to paint again. The ghost of Sean's creativity hath awakened!

So there you have it. Four accomplished goals. Three eminent-to-meet goals. Four gonna-make-it goals. One goal that I am walking away from (my bike) and one that I failed at. Not bad with 75 days to go.
I'm off to get started on the rest of 'em. Wish me luck!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

"Just Another" Holiday Weekend . . .

Today is the unofficial-start of the weekend that unofficially marks the middle of unofficial summer.

That must me just one thing . . . it is hot and sweaty out and we are in Wichita! While it is time to do some swimming, to blow stuff up and to enjoy some family time (my parents went home yesterday and we are missing them already) it is also a time for me to be reflective of what this holiday has become to me in terms of importance.

This July 4th weekend will likely be like the last four July 4th weekends Joy and I have shared in terms of how fast it flies by and how eventful it all seems.

Our first July 4th together (2004), Joy and I were still living seperate lives (me in DC, here in Baltimore). Joy and Vinu had a July 4th party at her house and it was the first time that our social circles mingled in a party setting. I still remember my brother Patrick's friend, Jason, playing a drinking game where you drew circles around your face and talked about "the moon has a big nose, two big ears and . . ." Carrie Clancy was there. Jess was there. Ben was there. Joy's "Baltimore Crew" as we described them (some of them were just short of thugs (smile)) was all there. Joy and I had no idea that the next three months would see us engaged, moving in together and going through our first true "crisis" as a couple. For that fleeting weekend - all we cared about was barbecue, beer and buddies.

By a year later, we were married. We were in Newport, Rhode Island for my college roommate Bruce's wedding and we were preparing for my second attempt at having gastric bypass surgery. That was the last time that Chris, Tom, Bruce and I were together - something that, on the three year anniversary of that occassion, seems really bizarre to me. For all the time we spent together and for as much as those boys mean to me . . . life has truly gotten in the way of what was once "our time." Interestingly - on the drive up - Joy and I decided to just "enjoy" the rest of 2005 and get through my surgery and to do NOTHING important or major in 2006.

So - move ahead one year - SO MUCH for our decision . . . we had sold our Baltimore house and we were living in Connecticut. I was working at IBM. My surgery had been cancelled. My weight was at an all time high. Oh and we were going to be parents. We arrived in Wichita at 1:00 AM CT on July 1st in 2006. We had driven from Connecticut to await Ava's birth here in Wichita. I swam, alone, in Mom and Dad Terry's pool at 1:30 in the morning to celebrate being here and to shake off the anxiety I was feeling. By the next day - we were in full-blown holiday weekend mode. With the rest of the family - we swam and drank a few too many beers and mixed drinks and we ate Sonic and we blew stuff up and just waited, anxiously, for the birth of our beautiful baby girl. We had no idea, as anxious as we were the first few days, that we would have to wait until July 27th to get our hands on our bidders but - what a weekend!

Last year we flew out to Kansas, with Ava, and spent July 4th weekend house hunting. I had already lost 115 pounds since my surgery and I was a "new man" and we were starting to move ahead on the new life that came with a new man. We wanted to start living our life on our terms. That had to mean shaking off Joy's misery in Connecticut and getting Ava in an environment where she could have more space than our matchbox Bethel home and where we had more of a support system than my parents, five hours away. Wichita seemed like such a magic place for Joy and I. We had so many great adventures here and memories of our visits and we had family and freedom and excitement.

So - here we are - July 4th weekend, 2008. I weigh 245 pounds. I've lost almost half of my body weight. I have a new job. We have a huge and wonderful house. Ava will be TWO in a few weeks. Joy is well on her way to finishing her degree and she's the happiest now she has been in the five years I have known her. We are the strongest we have ever been as a couple. We are hitting our stride as parents. We are taking care of ourselves and each other and Ava like we always wanted to and always vowed to.

I guess it is overly symbolic of me but I am starting to think they call it Independence Day for very different reasons than I always believed.

Now - let's go blow some stuff up!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Solve the Riddle . . .

Is Brandy76 my classmate Brandy Williams? Solve the riddle - either way - Brandy76. On behalf of my father and I, thank you.

Stop Blaming Gastric Bypass . . .

I was doing some Googling this morning on gastric bypass to see if I could find some updates to some old statistics on the death rates for GB and the other complications and so on.

What I found, as per usual, was a slew of coverage of people who died "from" gastric bypass surgery. I will not be dusting off my soapbox - THIS TIME - but I will, instead, take this opportunity to remind people of a few things.

1 - We all lay on that operating table at our will. Unless dictatorships have started to insist the poor and huddled masses they oversee be thin - we all CHOOSE to have this surgery. We chose to get heavy (no one forced us to eat a thing, no matter what contributing factors you might have faced) and no one forced us to need this resource.

2 - Almost ALL gastric bypass "deaths" are caused by the tired hearts, compromised circulatory systems and weak physical resolve of the people who have the surgery. The laser (or the scalpel) itself has caused very, very, very few lives in the last 20 years. I challenge you to find me ONE instance of death FROM gastric bypass.

3 - The surgery is just four hours of the journey. I would suggest that anyone who doesn't go through a complete PROGRAM (like the one at Danbury Hospital or at Union Memorial in Baltimore (although I think they moved the GB program to another hospital in Baltimore)) is not really doing themselves any favors. Without the months of prep work (consulting with nutritionists, mental evaluations, support groups, blood work, prep tests and exams, time to think, resources to review, peers to get to know, etc.) people are, frankly, doing themselves a great disservice. You can't just decide to have gastric bypass. You have to PREPARE for it and then you need months and years of continued monitoring and support to make a go of it following the surgery.

4 - If you aren't willing to make diet changes - stay away from a surgery that requires it. I can't read ONE MORE article about "Oh, poor me, I can't even have birthday cake with my kid without dumping" or "I had no idea that I could not still eat Fritos and Queso dip on Sunday afternoons." I can't. There are THREE simple dietary rules to life after GB. 1 - Low fat, high protien. 2 - Low-to-no sugar (even "allowed" sugars). 3 - Every calorie counts so you should count every calorie. That's it. Pretty simple. If you are basing your post surgery diet on foods that violate those three rules, you're going to become a statistic. Don't become a statistic.

5 - Get up and get moving. I'm a bit of a hypocrite here. I busted my butt for the first five or six months after surgery and have been very blessed since then to have lost as much weight as I have without more excercise but you can not just have the surgery an chill on the couch and expect long term results and success. You will plateau very quickly. And will start to gain weight from there. THAT BEING SAID - You CAN do everything you should (diet and excercise) and still plateau (just ask my beloved BGBFF Kate) but you are MORE likely to have trouble on the plateau if you don't excercise.

6 - Be Honest. If you are having trouble after your surgery, admit that you probably had trouble before the surgery too and get the right help. I had someone e-mail the other day and tell me that she "never" had knee or ankle pain before her surgery but now she is in contstant pain. That seems odd to me (although my friend Melissa's husband did get extreme gout after his surgery and I passed that news along to my e-mailer) and I suggested that maybe she had pain before the surgery too but didn't acknowledge it. I had pain and never knew it. I was really, really sore (not in PAIN but sore) for the first week after my surgery when I would get up or down from a chair or bed. I never took a single pain killer and I did not have morphine in the hospital. I wanted to FEEL the experience for motivation long term. It was totally managable and any troubles I had were going to get me either way.

7 - Get some help. Stick with your doctors and your health team after surgery. GO TO SUPPORT GROUPS and make a friend in support group. My friend Kate and I don't talk all that often but she's very important to me for having cheered me through the last 15 months and I have helped to celebrate her. I introduced her to Stew Leonard's Chicken Chili. We're friends for life accordingly. Get yourself some support so you can know what to expect and how to deal with it when/if trouble comes.

That's it. That's the rant. I feel TERRIBLE for people who do suffer after surgery and for lives lost but I can't believe how little attention is paid to the benefits and positives of this surgery and how often the negatives are presented as just being "because" of the surgery.