Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wanna' See a Grown Man Cry? . . .

Watch me watch THIS while thinking about my daughter . . .

Say What You Want but Don't Call Her "Fat" . . .

What is it about talking about Hillary Clinton that makes people want to talk about Bill Clinton that still makes some people want to rant and rave about Monica Lewinsky? Seriously? I don't get it.

I arrived in Washington, DC two-days before Monica Lewinsky became a household name and just months before "infamous blue dress" forever entered our lexicon. Monica, and her relations with then-President Clinton shaped my early DC experience and my perceptions of the city and the people that lived, worked and played there. She EXTENDED my interest in the city and in working in public relations, frankly.

I was every bit as curious about a young woman that had somehow found her way in to worldwide headlines as the next guy (and I do mean the next guy - women never seemed "curious" about Monica . . . other adjectives seemed to apply) but I never really understood one thing . . . what did her weight have to do with it?

More importantly, 10 1/2 years later - what DOES it have to do with it?

Let me explain.

I was chatting with a co-worker yesterday about Hillary's intention and the reason for her scheduled remarks at the convention last night (flawless, loved it, actually CRIED at one point). He didn't get it. This will SHOCK you but Kansas is not exactly Clinton country. Anywho - for NO apparent reason - the conversation turned to Monica Lewinsky and, a few seconds later, for NO apparent reason - the conversation turned to her being "fat."

I bristled - as I always have and probably always will at "fat" comments. I guess my body language sort of said it all and my co-worker sort of moped away.

Well - today - he left me a note to come see him and he apologized for calling her "fat" and then awkwardly tried to make it about me and my weight and that he doesn't think I am fat. Not sure where that came from or where it was going but I just forgave him to end the conversation before it got any more strange.

I explained that it was not such a big deal that he needed to apologize but that a) Monica Lewinsky, while not a "slight" woman at the time was not then (and likely is not now (where do you think she is these days?)) a "fat" woman and that, b) having been a fat (note the lack of quotes) person my entire life - I hated to see people just be labeled as fat and I hated to see people put that part of a person's appearance in to the conversation when it has no place, merit or purpose.
I continued that it is sort of like when you clarify that someone is "gay" or "black" or "Asian" when your story is about the restaurant where you grabbed lunch with that person. It is like saying the guy in front of you in line was in a wheelchair when the story you are telling is actually about how much the barista at Starbuck's stunk-it-up this morning. It is like clarifying a person is Jewish before you talk about how much you loved their ability to speak on world affairs. NONE of it matters. They are just labels. Now - if your story is about how someone could not climb up a flight of stairs because they are obese - fine. If you are talking about how a friend fell down a flight of stairs because he is a clutz - fine.

But - let's just drop the need to physically/racially/religiously/capability clasify people for the sake of throwing it out there.

I'll bottom line you . . . Monica's weight should have ever been part of the conversation TEN friggin' years ago.

Like Hillary said last night - it is time we move on. We need a change. Let's start by letting Monica (who was a junior staffer, NOT an intern at the time (sorry, the Clinton supporter in me can't help himself)) off the hook and THEN let's move on to dropping the word "fat" from the description of a woman who otherwise found herself in the middle of a scandal that had nothing to do with weight or any other part of her phsyical appearance.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bobby Friggin' Crocker Over Here . . .

Nervously, I browsed through the cook-book section of my favorite bookstore here in Wichita. I love reading cook books. I love shopping for them. I love cooking and I love to be in the kitchen and I love to feed people (blame my mother) but this trip was different . . .

My office is having a "Football Kickoff Tailgate Party" on Friday (they LOVE them some college football here in the plains) and I have volunteered to make cookies and brownies for all my rowdy peers.

I've done some baking since my surgery. A few birthday cakes. Some muffins. One failed attempt at a souffle. Some late-night Dutch Oven action to annoy and repulse my wife (don't ask if you don't get the joke). This was different though. I am baking for "strangers" (people that are not my family) and I, for the first time ever, can not sample the goods to make sure that they are, uh, GOODS before serving them to said "strangers."

I will not be detered though. I have my two faithful and expert taste testers at home (smile) so . . . game on.

I distracted Ava with the kid's section of the small store (she is currently obsessed and easily distracted/occupied by Fancy Nancy books and dress up stuff so it was not hard) and did a quick perusal of the cookie/baking books. I settled for the definitive source for all things delicious and appropriate . . . Martha Stewart . . . and Ava and I beat-foot over to Dillon's to do some grocery shopping before dinner time.

That is where it all got a little crazy and my life after surgery - where I actually stop and smell the roses (instead of just the fresh breads) in the grocery store kicked in. WHOA!

Did you know they have NINE types of sugar in the baking aisle at Dillon's? And TEN more options for sugar-free and artificial sweeteners? Did you know that flour comes in seven forms here in Wichita? Cocoa Powder in three different styles (and five brands)? What the hell do we need different TYPES of cocoa powder for? Did you know they sell, including store brand, THIRTY TWO types/flavors/sizes/styles of "chocolate" chips (using quotes because they have peanut butter/chocolate swirl, cinnamon and caramel chips (among others) on the shelves too). Once upon a time - sugar was sugar in my world/belly. Chips were always chocolate (and semi-sweet) and the world made sense. It was sweet and delicious. Last night it was confusing!

I spent over 30 minutes thumbing, anxiously, through the cookie book and looking for matching ingredients for the goodies I want to offer here in the office. In the meantime, Ava (hidden inside the "car" that is bolted to the front of our over-sized shopping cart) had grabbed and opened two bags of marshmallows and - randomly enough - a muffin mix and was just chomping away on the blueberry speckled powder and fluffy sweet chunks in the respective packages.

I waited until after Joy got home last night and she finally got Ava to sleep (I tried, to no victory, for an hour) and I banged out my double-fudge-peanut-butter brownies. I'm told they are delicious (they were sampled for breakfast). Tonight I'll do two more batches of brownies (plain and mint) and then I have pecan bars and four types of cookies (crisy chocolate chip, mini-whoopie pies, ginger horns and colored sugar cookies, I think) to do between now and Friday morning too.

All in all - I will bake and serve well over 20,000 calories worth of "goodness" to my co-workers between now and Friday. Not sampling a DROP, a TASTE, a SPOON or a LICK in the meantime. How can I be around that much sweetness and stay strong? It won't be hard.

I was discussing the "temptation" (or lack of) that came with me doing a one-man-bake-a-thon this week with my co-workers this morning. I realized a very simple thing . . . it is not that I don't miss sugar. It is not that I don't miss baked goods (my love of Murray's sugar free cookies is well documented on this blog). I live in FEAR of sugar and of slippery slopes.

Almost 18-months post sugery I have yet (knock on wood) to experience dumping and I have yet to give in to sugar at all (really - I don't even play the grams-per-serving game (consult your nutritionist for official game rules)) and I don't plan to.

Friday, August 22, 2008

So Sad - All the Way Around . . .

Thanks to my blog-buddy Jen (my fellow Italian-American with whom I agree that SOME people should sleep wid-da fishes), I was made aware of a lawsuit that has come against the Danbury Hospital and Dr. Zuccala - an institution and a man that I feel like I owe at least twenty to thirty years of my life to come to.

A few disclaimers before I get in to why I'm actually addressing this in a post.

1 - I started this blog at the request of the Danbury Hospital and specifically the Center for Weight Loss Sugery at Danbury Hospital. That being said they have never once told me what I can or can not blog about or how I should handle topics or issues. I am NOT a spokesperson for the hospital, my surgeon or any one else in the tri-state area. I am just a man who had gastric bypass seventeen months ago and agreed to share his experience with the world (or those silly enough to read about it).

2 - I have never once (and I have 280+ posts of experience here) ever said that I don't feel bad for people who suffer following gastric bypass (my friend Melissa's husband Joe's experience through the deaths that come as a result of gastric bypass complications.

3 - I do not know Lisa Ann Cataldo or her children or her widower, as far as I know but my deepest sympathies go out to her survivors.

Okay - that being said - I want to be very clear for any one out there that is considering gastric bypass and sees an article about the death of someone who underwent the procedure and it has given them pause.

Don't let this article scare you off!

Let it remind you of just how serious this procedure is.

Let it serve as a primer on just what is on the line when you lay on that table. Let you remember that life is fragile and fleeting and there are no guarantees in life . . . no matter how much you weigh, what you do to control your weight or no matter how far modern medicine has come or goes . . . we're all going to die. And none of us will be "ready" and our families won't be "happy" but you have to do ALL that you can to have the longest, happiest and healthiest life possible.

I won't get in to the lawsuit itself. I'm no doctor. I've never seen the health records and the article and the article doesn't really help me feel "educated" on this case (if ONLY this were an episode of Law and Order (smile)!) it simply an account of the lawsuit and Mrs. Cataldo's surgery through death experience). There is no mention of industry standard practices. No mention that the Danbury Hospital is a nationally-recognized and rewarded facility. No mention of any of the hundreds of successful procedure Dr. Zuccala has under his proverbial belt and no mention of federally recognized statistics on likelihood of death from complications from the surgery, etc.

If you want to REALLY see how hotly contested this procedure is in the public eye - read the comments on the article (80+ last I checked - and they get more "hot headed" the later you go).

Wow! There are some really, really uneducated people out there with terrible things to say about a grieving widower, a talented surgeon, a medical procedure and a deceased, morbidly obese woman who tried one last resort to have a longer and healthier life with her husband and kids. It's just SAD to see the way people tear in to others.

PLEASE - if you have had this surgery, are considering this surgery, are EDUCATED about the procedure or want to share some "love" for Dr. Zuccala in a public forum - post a comment and tell your friends to do the same! Access the comments section of the story by clicking here, scrolling down, registering and posting a comment.

And, PLEASE, my fellow GBers . . . to end the sadness of it all do NOT challenge or take on the stupidity. Try to meet it with some constructive, educated insight and some sympathy for ALL involved - including those who don't get this procedure or morbid obesity and the way it plagues the body in general.

In the meantime . . . I'm thinking happy thoughts for you and I THANK YOU, Dr. Zuccala for all you've done for me and every other patient that has laid on the table under your skilled hands . . . no matter the outcome.

The hospital, based on my experience in public relations, will probably NOT be happy that I'm addressing this lawsuit here. If they INSIST - I will remove this post but not without some hurt feelings and complaining (smile).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mayo Clinic on Gastric Bypass . . .

A nice primer/overview of gastric bypass (for you newbies and the un-oriented) from the fine folks at the Mayo Clinic popped up today on MSNBC.com. Give it a read, if you have a few minutes!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

America's Golden Boy, With Sugar on Top . . .

So you've NO DOUBT heard about this kid, Michael Phelps, who won eight gold medals in Beijing to go with his six gold medals from Sydney to make him the winningest gold medalist in the history of the Olympic games and to catapault him to sports-icon-demi-Godary.

Kudos. Really. Congrats. NOTHING wrong with that, Mikey. You swim five or six HOURS a day. Your body is truly a vessel for swimming (just Google him and you can read all about it) but it seems like all YOUR hard work in the pool and you taking a payday because of it (now the REAL American dream comes in to play) has landed you in hot water (and the "pun" makes its first appearance (and pray the last) of this post).

Yep. Michael Phelps has decided to sell his image to be on the cover of . . . no. NOT Wheaties. Corn Flakes and FROSTED FLAKES. And boy is that not guhhrrrrrrr-ate according to childhood obesity experts.

COME ON, people! Please?! PLEASE?! Can we NOT criticize this kid for being on the cover of a box of sugary cereal? Can we NOT give kids sooooo little credit as to assume that they would assume that eating a sugar coated cereal will somehow make them an Olympic-dominating swimmer? I was a fat kid. I ate the CRAP out of Frosted Flakes. I wish Frosted Flakes was the most sugar-loaded sugar I ate. Don't even get me started on my obsession and long, milk coated love affair with Cap'n Crunch and his four-leaf clovered friend Lucky Charms and their sweeter-than-thou pal Cinnamon Toast Crunch!

Regardless - I never ONCE looked at the cover of a box of cereal and thought . . . "Hey, I could someday turn out to be Snap, Crackle or Pop if I eat this noisy crap." or "Whoa - you mean to tell me that if I eat this cereal, I might someday become a Toucan that takes dares?" or "No, seriously, Patrick - if you pass me that cereal box I might turn in to a honey-nut Bee before I turn eight." I don't think, if I could be a child again (dare to dream) that I would look at a cover of Frosted Flakes with Michael Fug-elps on the cover and think "NOW I can be an Olympian" any more than the kids of today think they will become Tony the Tiger when the Phelps photos disappear off the box.

Give the kid (Phelps) and all the kids (obese kids in America) a break and focus on what is actually USEFUL in the fight against child obesity . . . education, physical activity and parental involvement. WORST case - these kids see a box of Corn Flakes and want to hit the nearby pool. BEST case - parents will take the games as an opportunity to talk to their kids about athletics and physical activity and will get them (especially the cute and pudgey ones off the couch). I know that my father and I swam TON in the summer of 1984 as the Olympic games played-out in Los Angeles. Heck I even RAN a little bit that summer. And tried to use a broom as a javelin (sp?).

Now - if you want a reason to challenge Michael Phelps as a conflicted role model for our kids - point to his hardly-discussed and all-but-forgotten drinking and driving arrest and conviction in 2004 . . . or is THAT off limits for America's new golden boy? You're right, obesity critics, best to keep the focus on sugar in our cereals. That will solve this whole epidimic. Of course you'll have to also discuss with kids that Phelps works out and practices so much that he requires 13,000 calories a day (yeah, you read that right) and eats all sorts of junk food to meet those goals (and then just swims the calories right back off). But - then you would have to make EXCERCISE and PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY enter the argument. MUCH better to just blame this whole problem on sugar and cereal makers and Olympians. Right?!

You're all wet (second pun), critics! Let the kid enjoy his golden moments and the money and success that will come from them! He's worked hard and deserves them.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Whoa . . .

As I've talked about many, many times, Ava is not much of a sleeper. Since giving up her P-A-C-I-E (we dare not speak the word) "cold turkey" a few weeks ago she has slept even less than she used to.

Anywho, Joy was at class tonight so I was on (insert dramatic pause here) bedtime duty. I normally just do bath duty and split story duty but Joy does the heavy lifting of actually getting her to bed.

This is not machismo or misguided entitlement on my part. It is a necessity. Bedtime gives me FITS.

Why? I'm a SUCKER father. I have no pimphand. I'm soft. I'm easy. I'm a pushover. I'm weak. I'm wrapped tightly around a very small finger. Etc. Etc. Etc. ALL Ava has to do is look at me with those little eyes and beg to "wock" for a few more minutes in the oversized, purple rocking chair in her room or utter "bahhhk" (which is her way of asking for a longer back run once she is in bed) and I'm alllll over it. I know, I know . . .

So - about 90 minutes in to trying to get Ava to fall asleep (if only long enough for me to run out of the room) I had one of those "whoa" moments that made the whole evening seem easier . . .

I sat on the stepping stool that helps Ava in and out of her "big girl" bed and, in a moment of frustration, dropped my head down and SLAMMED my chin against my own knee.

Yes. I hit MY knee with MY head. I could get my chin to my knee.

Maybe you skinnier people don't see the importance . . . my body is small enough for my body to collapse enough that I finally have to fear a car crash. I might be worried on a roller coaster. I can stop myself from hyperventilating (sp?). I can actively participate in air raid drills should the cold war resume in earnest!

I'm getting skinny.

Anywho, I finally got Ava to sleep and watched part of this week's I Want to Work for Diddy (sadly, I STILL do want to work for Diddy) and felt I would share the good news with anyone that cares enough to read.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Random Photos . . .

I'm not really in the mood to type today (nor am I in the mood to work, focus, think or do just about anything besides run home and join my girls for a morning at the Zoo). SO - instead of an actual blog post . . . this is all you get . . .


It is a picture of Ava and I (which you likely gathered) from last summer (4th of July weekend, to be exact) when we went to Missouri to float with Uncle Larry, Aunt Joyce and the family. Ava was fairly new to swimming (this was her first time in a river) and I was trying to reassure her that it was okay to just lay back, relax, float and enjoy.

She stared in to my eyes and I stared in to hers and gently lowered her in to the water. Two minutes later she was kicking (in the swimming sense - not the "get me the hell out of here, fat man" way) and laughing and having a great time.

This picture, to me, is worth a few thousand words. I had a TERRIBLE time at the beginning of the float. I was still a little too heavy to really navigate the shallower parts of the river. I was too confident that I knew what I was doing (when, in reality, I had NO clue how to canoe in a river v. a wide-open lake) and I was struggling with the fact that we were in Kansas to house hunt and to make a move that would forever change our lives and our course. I swore. I yelled. I cried. I got help and support and encouragement. I figured it out.

By the end of the float I had figured it all out. Joy and I were "old pros" at floating. I had jumped in to a "hot spring" and had run under a rushing waterfall. I had laughed and had fun for the first time in hours and my brain was, for the first time since my surgery, at peace with the struggles of how to figure out the next step in building a life that Joy and I had always dreamed of having. Of how I was ever going to lose all my weight. Of how I was ever going to figure out how to love myself. Of how I was ever going to get down this cursed river without drowning my wife and daughter or horrifying my extended family (if not all of the above).

There are several pictures of us whoopin' it up all along the river from that day. Better pictures, frankly. But this picture is important to me.

When I stared in to Ava's eyes and tried to reassure her that she would be fine and safe in the river . . . I was really thinking that I had to believe that I would be fine and safe in our new, post-surgery life and in our decision to move to Kansas. That I would be fine and safe without my weight to protect and insulate and isolate me. That I could make it down the river despite my weight and stubborn approach. That I would be fine in honoring the promises I had made to Joy and that I would actually be able to protect Ava and keep her safe . . . in that river that day and in all the rivers in all the days of her life to follow.

And you thought I would simply take this opportunity to liken myself to John the Baptist or the rebirth that comes with water going in and out of bodies of water . . . silly blog reader!

HAVE A NICE WEEKEND!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad . . .

Today is the 37th anniversary (I hope I'm right on that number at least) of the day that my mother and father walked down the aisle in their very Catholic church to start their very remarkable marriage.

I love my parents. I admire my parents. I hope that (34 years from now) Joy and I still love each other the way my parents love each other as we celebrate 37 years as husband and wife.

Now, for those that really know my mother and father - they will know that they don't have a typical love. They don't have a typical marriage. Nope. They have a better marriage, in my never humble opinion, than most because their marriage and their love and their shared life are built on, based on and stuck to a very simple premise . . . they love each other and they are best friends and they will get through anything together accordingly.

No matter what trouble comes - three sons who took turns breaking their hearts in their own special ways, career turmoil, arguments, financial concerns, the stress of life, the challenges of learning that you might not know everything you thought you knew about your partner, etc. - they have always stood by each other.
And not just in that baloney, "Tammy Wynette" way either . . . they really supported each other. They really love each other. They let friendship and their shared love for each other, for their children, for the life they created and carved out together and their goals and dreams guide them through the rough spots and through the troubles and through the challenges.
My parents and I talk at least once or twice a week. I used to talk to my parents about every little challenge in my life. Every spat. Every scrape. Every up. Every down. Then I met Joy and my parents, like everyone else in my life, started to fade in terms of being my confidants. They still heard about the big stuff but not in a constant - "I need your approval/advice/help" way. More of a "This is what is happening in my life" way.
I think that is the right thing. It reinforces that maybe Joy and I are doing it right. That our love is the right love. That our friendship and our committment and our vows to see each other through whatever comes is the right promise to make and basis for a relationship. I trust her with my secrets, my hopes, my dreams and my life itself. She trusts me the same way (she just doesn't trust me to help her put together a handbag, shoes and jewelry challenge (smile)).
As I live my post-surgery life and as I find myself with all new things to talk to my parents about (like being a parent or being a spouse or being a mid-career professional, etc.) I get a deeper and deeper appreciation for the way they raised me, the roles of a parent and a spouse and the need to live a long, healthy and happy life based on the right promises, the right actions and the right relationships an support to let you feel protected and loved no matter who you turn out to be when all the twists and turns of life give way.
I love you, Mom and Dad. Happy Anniversary and THANK YOU for inspiring me and for starting me on the path of my life.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Random Photos . . .

"I've been looking so long at these pictures of you that I almost belive that they're real.
I've been living so long with my pictures of you that I almost believe that the pictures are all I can feel."
- The Cure

I've been collecting old photos of myself (thank you to several of you (Joyell, Kim, Delenick, Vinu, etc.)) to use for a project I am working on that SHOULD be ready for sharing in the next month or so.

Here's what I find interesting about them . . . I didn't look sad or unhappy or self-loathing or otherwise miserable in a single picture (okay, I DID look that way in some of ones that were taken after a night/day/weekend/month of drinking but drunk and sad look a LOT alike in hind-sight).

This realization has me thinking about something I've been struggling with as I try to really make a go at this whole "brand new me" thing I'm doing . . . was I ever really THAT unhappy in the first place? Was it something that anyone but me really ever knew about? Was it really as all consuming and destructive as I have thought it was now that I'm on the other side of it?

Here's the bottom line . . . I don't think it was. I really don't. Save for my roommates who dealt with me day after day after day (and God love you for it - Bruce, Delenick, TJK, Michael, Bob and Ben) and my beloved wife . . . I can't think of too many times when people straight up cornered me on my misery (avoided me for it - SURE). I remember Carrie once telling me she didn't want to hang out because I wasn't being "fun" and I remember awkward moments in here and there with folks but that is the up and down of day to day life anyway right? RIGHT!
So here is the new credo (that is technically millions of years old but it is news to me) . . . Happiness is relative. I was actually happy at 530 pounds. I was happy at 500. I was very happy at 480. I enjoyed life at 450. Nothing really worried me at 425. I could have smiled on at 400. There was not a pound in the 300s that made me not want to wake up in the morning. The upper, mid-upper and mid 200s treated me well and now, as I sit on the cusp of the lower-third of the 200s . . . I'm not unhappy either.
I have friends and family that love me now as they loved me then and my life is full of challenges and rewards. I'm happy now . . . and I was happy then. I am just MORE happy now and I'm not hiding the part of me that is unhappy like I used to.

What is the difference between me today and me then? A few hundred pounds and my percentage of happiness. Nothing more - nothing less.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Quite the Spectacle in Beijing . . .

I don't really get "in" to the Olympics.

Maybe it is a life of sedentary activity that leaves me some what skeptical of people who are the embodiment of physical and athletic perfection. Maybe it is that I just don't really enjoy sports. Maybe it is the fact that I'm a total xenophobe (I am NOT a xenophobe, for the record). For whatever reason though . . . I just don't really spend much time every other year on the winter or the olympic games.

ONE exception . . . I love me some opening ceremonies. I love the Cirque du Soleil vibe and the pomp and circumstance of a country struttin' its stuff for the entire world. I found this year's opening ceremony to be particularly note worthy because it was CHINA - a country wellllll known for not wanting people to know too much about what is happening behind the iron curtain . . . er . . . scenes.

I tried to get Ava to watch the ceremony with me on Friday night. She was not having it . . . post-bath and pre-bed time is generally Noggin time and Friday was no exception but we DID watch long enough to see the KILLER drum performance and an adorable and enchanting nine-year old girl sing the national anthem, presumably in front of a BILLION people in China and maybe a few hundred million more around the world.

Welllllll, one problem. She was not really singing at all. Nope. Olympic officials have confirmed that the girl who actually sang was just not attractive enough to represent China on a worldwide stage. I kid you NOT!

It is shocking to me that a) they would do such a thing and b) would admit to it if they did.

You know, I'm sure, where I'm going with this. It makes me think about sizism and other forms of racism and closed-mindedness that still exists in this world.

I'm just surprised that the OLYMPICS, an event that is supposed to celebrate the entire world and all of the world's citizenry would allow a little girl with an amazing voice to be excluded because she's not "pretty" enough. It is just so weird.

I mean I get not letting everyone who wants to compete for the gold participate (otherwise I would TOTALLY be in Beijing right now working on a gold in platform diving or something that would require me to be in a Speedo) but you can't sing the national anthem because of your physical appearance? Really?

I'm sad to hear that - even from a country that is WELL known for violating human rights - this sort of crap still happens in the world.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Another Weekend, Another Sale . . .

I hope you are sitting down for what I'm about to tell you . . . JC Penney had a sale this weekend.

Yep. I'm serious.

And it wasn't just any sale. No-no. It was their . . . wait for it . . . biggest sale of the season.

Take a minute - I'll wait . . . . you ready to continue? Okay, good.

SO - I felt FORCED to take advantage of the BIGGEST SALE OF THE SEASON. I had $225 in gift cards burnin' a hole in my pocket (thanks, AGAIN, Mom and Dad and Mom and Dad for the birthday love) and it was only in the low-80s here this weekend so fall MUST be coming, right? RIGHT!

I did the smart thing . . . I scouted out the sale on Thursday (spent about 90 minutes perusing the fall offerings and looking at the clearance racks) and I sorted through my many, many JC Penney coupons to strategize the best purchasing plan (it was a toss up - do I use the 20% of almost everything in the store coupon or do I just try things on, figure out what I want, and then use a 30% off your purchase at jcp.com with free shipping (knowing the prices on the web site were higher than they are in the store). I opted to buy in-store.

Let the FUN begin. I spent over an hour trying on pants, shirts, sweaters, rugby shirts, ties and t-shirts. I looked at clearance swim trunks. I thought about a few clearance sports coats. It was HEAVEN.

Here's the good news - I am a size 17" neck. I can wear a 32/33, 34/35 or 36/37 sleeve. That means the dozen dress shirts that I bought in the spring are all too big for me so they can be put in the "hand me down" pile and I can restock (I bought NINE shirts yesterday). I wear a size large t-shirt, sweater, etc. I can ALMOST fit in to a large button down shirt (we'll get it in to that later) and I can wear a 38, 40 or 42 pant depending on the cut and brand.

Here's the bad news (and it is not really all that "bad") - I think the ride is over. I think this is it. I am almost 17 months in to my 18 month journey. I have about 40 more pounds that I want to lose. Yep. "Just" 45. Don't underestimate that. That seems like such a TINY amount to want to lose compared to the 285 that I wanted to lose before all this started. And an even SMALLER amount compared to the 330 pounds that I will have lost from my heaviest weight when this is al done.

The problem is that I can fit in to a LARGE shirt. I can wear pants in the 30s. Not a problem? Maybe not. Time will tell.

I'm fine with where I am and what little more I have to get out but I don't think I'm going to get any smaller (perhaps a few inches off my waist following skin removal). I'm from European stock. BIG European stock. There are NO "slight" people in my extended family. So I don't think I have much more to lose and I don't know, based on that realization, if I am ready to enter the next stage for the "rest" of my life . . . maintenance.

I'm not going to over think it. I just know that I won't be having to go out and REBUILD my wardrobe every three months starting now. I might go up or down a little bit from here on out but what I buy now can serve me for a long, long time. I have not had that knowledge or reassuance ever. EVER. I have not, since I was first old enough to get involved in my own back-to-school shopping, ever once thought about an item of clothing as being something that was for longer than "this season" or "right now". The first 20 years of that trend the sizes were going up and the last 17 months they are going down.

Anywho - I'm starting to get more comfortable in my skin. I'm getting more aware of who I really am and how I really look. I'm getting more used to being sorta' close to being near to almost being able to see myself as skinny.

It is a good day for me to be getting over these hurdles . . . and, believe it or not, I think my random conversation with person x helped get me ready for this weekend's shopping outing. I might have to go reward myself later this week with a shopping excursion to Harold's! I've GOT to have some fall ties and a shirt and sweater vest!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Me-new and Cha-Cha . . .

We had some company this weekend. Our very, very good friend, Vinu (the man that intoduced Joy and me) came from Dallas with his girlfriend Charene for the weekend.

Ava took an immediate shine to "Cha-Cha" (as Charene authorized Ava to call her) but she was not so sure about Me-new (the closest she could come to Vinu) until Vinu busted out the birthday present (a Nintendog that barks and pants and wags its tail when you pet it). THEN - they were friends.

It was WONDERFUL for Joy and I to have some company for the weekend. We laughed and told stories and Joy even whooped it up with a mixed drink called "bong water" (it was a special promotion in the theater where we saw Pineapple Express).
Vinu was one of the many people from my DC days that I adore and yet I never felt I was as good of a friend to him as he was to me. He drove us to the grocery store. He took us shopping in general. He was always down for a happy hour or a night out at the bars. He got us home when we were in no shape to do it on our own and he never complained about the tab or toll of dealing with us.

It was great to see him happy with Charene (she's a total "love" (as the phrase goes)). She's funny and she's smart and she clearly cares for Vinu and she seems like sort of yin his yang needs (take that however you want).

We really enjoyed having the company. It was great to FINALLY see a DC friend, post surgery, and to show them that I'm doing well and that I'm happy and that my life is full and blessed. We can't wait to go to Dallas to visit them and to see how their life really "works" there - it seems like they are wonderfully content.

One other thing that I am particularly excited about from the weekend - Vinu's father had gastric bypass at MAYO about five years ago . . . to this day he has not regained any weight and he is still happy and content in his post-surgery life.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Conversation . . .

Tell me where this (paraphrased) conversation went wrong and what I could or should have done differently.

PERSON X - "So, did I hear correctly that you have had your stomach stapled?"

ME - "Well, it is not really called "stomach stapling" any more but - yes - I've had gastric bypass surgery. I had it about sixteen months ago."

PERSON X - "Wow. That is fabulous. Do you mind me asking how much weight you've lost?"

ME - "No, not at all. I've lost about 245 pounds or so since my surgery and I'm almost 300 pounds lighter today than I was at my heaviest."

PERSON X - "WOW! Wow. WOW! That must be an amazing experience."

ME - "It has become pretty much a day by day life but I feel really lucky to have had the opportunity to avoid a lot of the medical conditions that would have likely ended my life prematurely and to get rid of the physical pain that came with weighing about 500 pounds. The first few months, when I was losing an average of a pound or so a day were amazing. By this point though - my life is pretty 'normal' on this side of surgery and I don't really think about it all that often."

PERSON X - "I guess I don't understand."

ME - "So, my diet is totally different and my behavoirs are totally different but I have been eating and acting and thinking and emoting 'this' way for almost a year and a half. I don't remember what cake tastes like. I don't miss double cheeseburgers. I haven't thought about drinking soda in well over a year. I don't feel depressed and angry all the time any more. It is probably like people who lose a loved one or a limb - or whatever - you eventually just sort of accept and get used to the lossand you adapt and you go on in your new reality."

PERSON X - "Have you ever lost a loved one?"

ME - "Sure. We all have, right? My grandparents are all gone and my wife's grandfathers are gone and I have friends who have lost parents and siblings, etc. "

PERSON X - "And you think that losing weight is like losing a loved one?"

ME - "No. That is not what I said. I said that life after surgery is like life after a death where you eventually sort of have a new reality without the person that you lost. You still think about them and you still think of them and you have memories of life with them and you some days long to have them back, etc. etc. etc. But. No. I don't think that losing weight is the same thing as losing a loved one. I sense I'm not communicating effectively."

PERSON X - "Because, I've got to be honest. You chose to weigh as much as you did and you chose to have the surgery and you chose and choose to lose the weight and change your diet. I don't think we choose our families or choose to lose them."

ME - "And I didn't say you do and I didn't blame anyone for my obesity nor do I discount that all of this has been a choice that I made for me and for my family. I guess I don't understand why we are arguing but I apologize if I offended you."
PERSON X - "Well, I just think that some of 'you people' get obnoxious about how important food is and how important you being fat or skinny is. You are not special because you had this surgery. It is sad, frankly, that you had to have surgery to lose weight to look like a normal human being instead of just a blob of a person. What is more sad is that you would actually liken you leveraging medicine to your benefit is anything like the loss of a loved one. It is insensitive of you and sort of reinforces stereo types about fat slobs."

ME - (Internal Monologue) . . . "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Don't do it. Stay calm. Don't take it personally. Talk your way out of this and exit the conversation. Don't take on the baggage. They don't understand. They don't get it. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10."

ME - "Hey, listen. I've clearly upset you in some way and I apologize if you misunderstood what I've said or what I meant. You asked about my surgery. You said that it was "fabulous" that I had surgery. You asked me what life was like now. I chose the wrong example and insensitively likened my experience to a very, very different emotional crisis that people go through every day. That being said, I don't know if what I said justifies your comments about the obese and that they are 'sad' or simply 'blobs'."

PERSON X - "Were you NOT a blob at 500 pounds? Did you not feel sad? You mentioned you were depressed all the time and you mentioned cake, soda and junk food as things that are different."

ME - "I was depressed, I still, frankly, have touches of it and I know plenty of people, across the spectrum of weight, who struggle with depression too. My sadness has been replaced with a life that I am truly happy to live and a wife and daugther and outlook that encourage and inspire and motivate me. You don't get to weigh 500 pounds without eating too much food - and often too much of the wrong foods. Junk food was part of my life. It no longer is. That is a difference accordingly. I'm not sure (voice breaks) what we're even talking about any more."

PERSON X - "Well, I'm sorry if my honesty and reality have upset you. I just think that people who struggle with their weight feel like the rest of us, who can and do eat sensibly and work out and be responsible for ourselves somehow owe YOU something. Do you know what obesity has done to the costs of medical care in America? Do you know what it has done to our world presence? Do you know what impact it has on our families and will have on the future of things like Social Security?"

ME - (More internal reassurance/dialogue. Mental images of Ava and Joy in sun dresses running through fields of barley with a kite and some puppies and a clown and balloons on a warm summer afternoon.)

PERSON X - "Yeah, that's what I thought. Well, congrats on your weight loss. I wish you continued success in your efforts. Nice chatting with you."
I get so sad some days when I realize how oblivious I was to the importance of my weight on how I was perceived and I get more sad when I realize that - no matter my weight (yesterday, today or tomorrow), I will always have the baggage (obesity created or otherwise) of the insecurity that plagued my life for so many years.
PS - How bald do I look in the picture above? And how cute is the dog?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Five Month Goals (Six Weeks to Go) . . .

I just realized that I am behind on checking on my monthly goals. With about six weeks left in my "journey" . . .

1 - Weight 245 - 240 pounds by June 12th. ACCOMPLISHED!

2 - Participate in a 5K Walk. ACCOMPLISHED!

3 - Become more serious about bike riding. Put on hold until the heat dies off and gives way to fall.

4 - Re-establish a connection with God. Improving. ACCOMPLISHED! This whole Kabbalah thing is fascinating. I thought I understood it to be "part" of Judaism that didn't require you to be a Jew to really live by it BUT it is the core of Judaism and you have to be Jewish to do more than just explore Kabbalah. My readings and my exploration have me thinking very differently about a lot of things and it is helping me to sort out "this" part of my life from "that" part of my life and it is giving me great focus.

5 - Take Care of Old Business. ACCOMPLISHED!

6 - See Ten Movies. ACCOMPLISHED! And I plan on checking out number eleven this weekend (or early next week)!

7 - Weigh 200 Pounds by March 20, 2009. In the works.

8 - See My Brothers and Have Them See Their Niece. This, sadly, will not happen. I don't know when I am going to get back east but it won't be in the next six weeks. It saddens me, deeply, that my family is so very far away. Ava's birthday was particularly hard for/on me but I have to believe that we are all happy in our respective lives and that makes me happy accordingly.

9 - Get Rid of My C-PAP. Improving. I am going to have my sleep study later this month. I'm confident that I will be victorious and overcome this hosed beast on my nightstand.

11 - Make New Friends. Improving. We are having a good time meeting some people and trying to socialize. An OLD friend (VINU!) is coming to visit us this weekend too . . . soooooo excited.

12 - Go Floating. This is probably not going to happen either. I WISH we had made plans to go and float but the summer is ticking away and we've done nothing about it. I can't say it will not for sure (time will tell) but . . . it's not looking good.

13 - Become Creative Again. ACCOMPLISHED!

Six goals are accomplished. Three are close to being done. One is on hold. Two are failures. Not bad, all in all. I'm drafting (and will share) my goals for the next six months as my window for these goals closes.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Stress of Life . . .

We felt like we were going to dodge the bullet. The cost of living and the strain of living in Connecticut left behind. The long commutes and gas consumption behind us. The high cost of everything modified. We had left behind the hustle and bustle of "the coast" for the quiet, peaceful and affordable Americana of Kansas.

We were getting out JUST in time, we "laughed" (and by "laughed" I mean wept) as we sold our overpriced and undersized house for the exact amount we paid for it 16 months earlier (after putting almost $50,000 in improvements in to the place) and we would not have to worry about money in the near future.

And we didn't. For a while. We enjoyed relative isolation here. While milk is $4/gallon, gas has never gotten that high (I read that Wichita is actually the cheapest city of its size for gas in the country) and my three-mile commute is far better than my old +20-mile commute. Our utility bills, despite having almost three times the house are about the same here as they were there. Groceries are about the same too. Cell phone is cheaper. Our cars are paid off and insurance is cheaper. Blah, blah, blah.

For a while we just enjoyed life. For the first time since we first realized how hard it would be, even with the generous IBM salary, we were breathing a financial sigh of relief. And thank GOD. I had long lived outside of my "means" in DC (before Joy's influence) and the stress of the debt I was carrying furthered my depression and blah, blah, blah. More importantly (and with greater sanity) financial stress was a big factor in Joy's sadness towards and dissatisfaction with life in Connecticut. I was more than happy to take her out of that environment and she has flourished.

None the less - having one income in an economy that is generally "darkening" has been stressful and awkward. Our savings, be it from living two seperate lives last fall (Joy and Ava here, me couch-surfing in and flying back and forth from Connecticut), from me having to constantly change over my wardrobe for the last 16 months, the new costs of parenting (Ava being in day care, etc.) or me not negotiating a better salary when I accepted this job . . . is quickly running away from us and we find ourselves somehow, and sadly, starting to get stressed.
We sat down this weekend and went over the family budget and looked at the forecast for the next few months (yes, Joy is so on top of our budget that she knows the spending trends and can forecast us a few months out). It was sobering.

We'll make it. We know we will. Life has never given us anything we can't handle and it won't give it to us any time soon. Joy and I are firm believers that everything happens for a reason and, while we don't always understand it at the time we will eventually APPRECIATE the experieince and happening.

We had a special, budget-concious "Thanksgiving" dinner last night to celebrate. Some turkey tenderloin from the discount meat (and I had a coupon too) for all and a variety of starches, veggies and even store-brand cookies for dessert for the girls.

We said a special "grace" (Ava even helped) and we focused on all the things in our life that are wonderful and that we are blessed with and we reminded each other that - weighed against all that we DID have, the millions in savings that we didn't have was NOT that important or worth the stress it could and might put on us.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Happy Anniversary . . .

I met my lovely wife exactly five years ago today. We were introduced by our good friend, Vinu (who might even come visit us next weekend - we're soooo excited) and, after a week of e-mailing and talking by phone we decided to meet.
We had dinner with Vinu and my good friend Carrie (at that stage in my life I either needed a crew of several or to be completely alone to feel happy/secure) at Levante's in Washington, DC and the rest - to sugar coat, over simplify and pretend that everything in my life comes with a silver platter, a bow and a sprinkle of pixie dust - is history.

I still remember, having "wowed" Joy by e-mail and phone enough to sucker her in to downtown Washington, DC for dinner, that I would likely not have any sort of chance at a romantic connection (much less a shared life) with Joy.

I saw her on the sidewalk with Vinu (there is a big mirror above the bar) and fell in love with her immediately. She was the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen and she glowed, literally (she's the whitest woman in the history of pale skin (smile)), as she walked.

How could she POSSIBLY fall for someone like me? I weighed 500 pounds. I was a workaholic. I was depresed. I was a mess on legs, frankly.

Somehow, in spite of my best attempts to sabotage myself, she saw through all of it - looked directly in to my eyes and was able to see someone inside me that even I did not see. She saw a husband, a man to raise a family with, a dependable person with a good and honest heart and someone with the potential for greatness.

That night was truly fateful. The world started to spin in different ways by later that same night. I can point to a thousand little and two-thousand big things that changed in my life as a DIRECT result of meeting Joy in person. Some bad - almost all good.

Five years later - I'm still looking in the mirror trying to see the man that she finds in me every day but I swear I'm searching as hard as i can and I WILL find him.

I love you, Pop Tart. Thanks for taking a chance on me!

PS - The picture above, to answer the questions I was sent, is really old. It was taken at the Strauss Radio Strategies, Inc. holiday party in December, 2005. I have NOT gained back 200+ pounds.

In Praise of Meat . . .

Joy, Ava and I were treated to dinner tonight to "celebrate" my Other Mother's union going on strike. I mean - look - it is OVER 100 degrees here . . . all day long . . . and my mother-in-law and her peers work 10 to 12 hour shifts, on their feet, with no real air conditioning or cooling to help and they make far less than other aviation companies here in town. Viva la unions, I say.

Anywho - we went to a little place on the West side called El Gaucho. El Gaucho is an "authentic" Argentinian steakhouse. I don't know how many Argentinians know this - much like I don't know how many Mexicans start all their meals with bottomless bowls of chips and salsa followed by frozen, prickly-pear margaritas - but I don't really care. The place was DELICIOUS!

It reminded me of a similar concept restaurant that Jess, Joyell and I ate at one night in Columbia, Maryland only BETTER because - the last time I ate at the place I loaded up on all the side dishes (they had three types of french fries, if memory serves me correctly). Tonight, I enjoyed NINE types of slow cooked, delicious meats. I over ate (honesty is my only poilcy) but it was soooooooo good - how do you resist?!?!

Anywho, I highly suggest all post gastric bypass patients hit up their friendly, neighborhood Argentinian steakhouse if they want a high protein dinner done RIGHT!

Yuhmay! Thanks for dinner, Mom and CONGRATS on getting some much deserved rest in the hot Wichita summer!