Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween . . .

Halloween, frankly, is a holiday that is "lost" on me. I don't think I am a "costume" person . . . but I always WAS a candy person. Maybe it was that I could never wear the skimpy little "fun" costumes (my mother, God love her, hand made all of our costumes for our entire childhood) or maybe it was because, as a "husky" (God curse the person who originated "husky") kid, I was relegated to "creatures" like cows, pumpkins, dragons, Smurfs and bears. I've certainly never really gotten in to the swing of Halloween as an adult.

Halloween, frankly, sort of hangs in infamy for me. It was seven long years ago today, you see, that Jess dropped me off at my apartment . . . late, late in the evening (and on her anniversary, I might add) . . . from having made a last minute trip to Groton with me earlier in the week when my father had his stroke.

I will never forget the day my father had his stroke - or the weeks and months that followed and the chaos that overcame my family in the transition.

I had gone in to work super early that Monday morning (6:00ish) to do some work for a "secret" client and my office phone rang. It was Mr. LaFrance - a known (and beloved) jokester/prankster - at the other end.

"Sean," he said. "You need to get home. Your father has had a stroke and it's not looking good."

My mind raced. Stroke? Father? How did he get my office number?

"Are you serious?" was all I could choke out.

"I'm very serious. Your mother is with him - in the ambulance - now. They are taking him to Cortland and she asked me to call and find you boys and get you home."

I started to cry. I was sure he was kidding. He HAD to be kidding.

I gathered myself, as best as I could. I told him that I would find my brothers and we would all be there as soon as we could. I hung up and freaked out for a few minutes. I didn't own a car in 2001. I didn't have any money in 2001 (budgeting is a strength my wife taught me) and I didn't enjoy flying in 2001 and - in the weeks after September 11th - just hopping on a flight was easier said than done. HOW WOULD I GET HOME? Would Mr. LaFrance come get me?

THANKFULLY, I assumed, Patrick lived in the DC suburbs. I'd call him and he'd come pick me up and we'd zip home (Patrick's lead foot makes me look like a grandmother driving on a Sunday afternoon). I called him. A few times. He eventually picked up. He'd been to a concert and was taking the day off. He asked the same questions I asked of Mr. LaFrance, said he'd get Joyell up and told me he'd see me at home.

But, but, but . . . I thought . . . you are supposed to be my ride. Best not to argue with Patrick. His emotions and brain are different than mine. Let him get home. He can be there in a few hours and help my mother. That was my main concern. I had already, sadly, resolved that the MOST important thing was to get one of us home should "that moment" come before we all got there.

I called Ryan. 20 times. He was in college and he, I am convinced, is a narcoleptic so I eventually had to call University security and have them go wake him up. I called my Aunt Chris. She gathered the family together, picked up Ryan (his college was down the street) and they rolled to Groton.

That left me. 90 minutes after having found out. Still sitting at my desk at work. My "secret" client was not getting the value of my services this particular morning. I did the only thing I could think to do . . . I called Jess.

Jess and I knew from strokes. Her father had had one a few months earlier and the two of us ran home together that day too. Patrick and I, sadly, flew home a few weeks later for his funeral. I was scared to even call her and scared to ask her for help. She was a great best friend that day. She dropped what she was doing and we met at the Metro and - to Groton we went.

For those who have never been through it . . . being far from home when stuff "goes down" is a painful process. You really, really wish that "they" would get off their butts and make that Star Trek "beam me up/down" technology real. You wish that you owned a private jet. You start thinking about the last time you saw your loved one and kissed them and told them you loved them. You vow to never go "that long" again in the future. You are anxious to figure out how to get out of town and yet - if you are me - you worry about what to pack and how long to pack for. It's a disaster for people with my brand of OCD.

Anywho - the point - it was 13 hours later when I completed the six hour trip from DC to Groton. My brothers had been there for several hours. My aunts and uncles had come and gone. My mother looked a wreck and my father, God love him too, was fine. He'd been moved from one hospital to another. He'd been examined and looked after and medicated and sedated and woken up and cathetered and IVed. He was sort of miffed that we all came home and he was apologetic that he was the reason for the trip and the chaos.

I was very, very relieved to be home. To be with my family. To have my father alive and "safe."

Anywho - we stayed for two more days. He was in the hospital all day Tuesday and we brought him home on Wednesday. We spent the afternoon and then loaded the car and headed back to DC.

My father's stroke was my second real "wake up call" about my weight (he was no where near as heavy as me and he had a stroke). The first, ironically, was when Mr. LaFrance had suffered a heart attack in the fall of 1995 (1996?) and my mother expressed concern and fear for me of I didn't figure something out and lose some weight.

I called a nutritionist on November 1, 2001 and started the journey that would eventually lead to my gastric bypass surgery.

Yep, I got home late that Halloween. Ate ALL the candy I had bought for the kids in my neighborhood and then, the next morning, decided to "get serious" about losing weight.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Happy Anniversary, Pezzulloes . . .

I just realized it has been EIGHT years since the Pezzullo wedding. Eight years. My, my, my. Where does the time go when it's not around here!?!

Loyal readers will remember that I had the most awkward clothing experience of my fat life at the occassion and yet I had an amazing weekend with friends and family at the same time.

Happy anniversary, Michael and Nicole!

Stick with the Program . . .

I've always been very upfront about the NEED that I see (in terms of protecting the good name of the gastric bypass procedure and those that have and/or perform it) in having patients be involved in a solid, long-term "program" that runs before and after surgery in terms of success.

Today - I feel a little less crazy (about this one very, very small aspect of my life). According to the ASMBS, there is new and scientific evidence that programs can enable success for patients.

"Those patients who were most compliant with surgeon recommendations after bariatric surgery lost 35 percent more weight the first year and tend to keep more weight off even after five years, according to new patient and bariatric surgeon surveys conducted by Harris Interactive(R), for the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS)."

. . . or so reads the press release the group released with their survey findings.

More importantly, 94% of all survey respondents agreed with me on my claims that programs enable and further success.

Some other interesting survey findings include . . .

"Surgeons believe regular exercise (67%), changing eating habits (58%) and support group attendance (34%) are the most difficult components of aftercare for patients and that while both groups of patients face compliance challenges after surgery, gastric band patients have a more difficult time with it than gastric bypass patients (59% vs. 49%). In addition, surgeons indicate that missed doctor appointments, insurance issues and long-distance travel are the reasons they do not see their patients more often."

and . . .

"According to the survey, surgeons believe patients choose gastric bypass over gastric banding because it results in more weight loss (51%), they knew someone who had it (40%), to lose weight more quickly (34%) and for "better comorbidity resolution" (23%). They say patients choose gastric banding over bypass because it's less invasive (63%), safer (59%), reversible (55%), results in fewer complications (41%) and because they knew someone who had it (25%)."

Long story long . . . get yourself in a program and stay there!

Monday, October 27, 2008

I Love a Good Wedding . . .

I've been a little "blue" lately . . . everything is fine, I guess . . . I'm just a little more emotional than normal and a tinge less smily-happy-bouncy than I like to be.

Anywho, I must be half a mess because this story made me cry this morning. Actual tears. Heart ache type tears. I'm just very happy for the world's heaviest man and the woman who saw through the weight to find a man that she loves anyway.

I'm sure it is obvious why this story would tickle me but, it just reminds me how lucky I am to have found Joy and to have been lucky enough to have her see through my weight.

I don't know what the future holds for Manuel but the man passed on cake at his own wedding reception to stay on his diet. And he looks so happy in the pictures. Anywho, a happy man who's sticking on a diet and loving a woman is a man we can all be proud of and happy for.

Love long, laugh often - Mr. & Mrs. Uribe!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Eagle Comic Search . . .

So this has NOTHING to do with weight loss or gastric bypass surgery or anything else that I normally blog about (and who is NOT proud of me for avoiding talking about the election on this blog for the last several months (and weeks in particular)).

Still with me? Good!

I was browsing, aimlessly, around The Wichita Eagle's web site today (as I am prone to do during my lunch time on a Monday if I'm not super-busy with real work) and I came across a survey to see what people think of the cartoons in the paper. And it made me think about something I've never really pondered. Cartoons - in the newspaper - and if they are funny or not.

Now, I'll be honest . . . I've never really understood The Family Circus (it is about the bible, right?) and while I enjoy the TV specials I never really got Snoopy either (it is also about the bible, right?) and a sarcastic cat that eats Lasagna is not really all that funny - 20 years later - to me either. Maybe I'm not the right guy to be weighing in on these subjects though. I don't exactly rip in to the newspaper every morning to get my daily dosa-funny BUT I think I'm a little behind on the comic "trends" in terms of what the kids are laughing at these days on their iPhones and with their snarky, txt mesig languig and their high top sneakers and Avril Lavigne CDs.

I digress . . . once you get past Betty Boop and Judge Parker (that one isn't supposed to be funny, is it?) there are some REALLY funny comic strips that the Eagle wants opinions on (in terms of funny). I used to like The Far Side and my friends Michael and Megan have/had a friend in the DC suburbs that ran marathons and wrote/drew comic books (I bought a large, framed image from the guy at a fundraiser he had for his marathon training) and I have laughed at many cartoons and cartoon movies in my day (South Park comes to mind as does the somehow-I-find-funny-despite-being-"for-kids "The Mighty B" on Nick Jr.) but I have never really laughed/laughed at a still comic before.

I digress again . . . I was surprised to find that I liked a number of the nominees (you can see them all here) but the one that made me laugh, out loud, was Deflocked a hilarious little "strip" (as the industry lingo might call it) about all things funny in the day to day of life.

Anywho, check out the site - have a laugh (or two) on me . . . and Jeff, the guy that actually draws the little pictures and writes the funny lines (and perhaps even does his own coloring - althought Chasing Amy taught me that it takes three people to complete a comic (in the book world at least)).

If you feel so inclined (and live in the Wichita area and/or read the Eagle, faithfully and daily basis (and who DOESN'T?!?!?!)) please take a few minutes to vote on all the cartoons that are up for consideration and please pan every comic that is based on biblical humor. The bible was not meant to be funny or even amusing, was it?! Perhaps I'm behind on what the theologians are laughing at too, come to think of it. And pan anything you don't like beyond that too . . . we need to clear more space for Defrocked in the Mighty Wichi-Wichi's version of the Grey Lady!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Difference of Appearance . . .

We went to the Night of the Living Zoo event tonight. It was our first time going to the event and, boy, was it ever an adventure. We got there at 6:30 (when the event was slated to begin) and the line - while moving quickly - was a few thousand people deep (we saw my fellow Grotonian, Tricia, and her husband and son (Yoda, on that particular evening)). It was 60 degrees when we arrived and barely 50 when we left but Ava and Lexy seemed to have a great time, despite the falling tempurature and the late night for Ava and we had fun.

Anywho, the point . . . we straightened Ava's for the evening. We've long wondered what it might look like straight and she's been interested in Joy's flat iron for quite some time so we figured - why not - most witches don't have big, bouncy, beautiful curls anwyay.

The results were sooooo dramatic in terms of how different Ava looked (not better, not worse, just DIFFERENT) and it made understand how people are shocked at the differences in my appearance in the last year and a half. I've just lost weight - I argue in my mind - and yet just taking the curls out of Ava's hair left me shocked.

Anywho - Happy (early) Halloween!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fall Band . . .

It is 40 degrees in Wichita as we speak. 40. Four. Zero. Ten less than 50. 8 more than 32. Cold. Very cold. Granted - it is late October and these things are to be expected but, walking out of the house this morning made me think of one thing . . . Baldwinsville!

Let me clarify . . . as a high schooler I was (due to limited athletic interest and/or talent and a high interest in music) very, very active in the fall with the real "sport of champions" - field band. That's right. For five beloved years I was a proud fl(a)utist for The Groton Marching Indians (as we were known from coast-to-coast like butter on toast) and I was a pit band (gong, xylophone, etc.) and assistant drum major my senior year.

Truth be told - I loved and MISS field band. To this day a cool, crisp fall evening makes me wonder where my fingerless gloves, custom-made, too-fat-for-the-uniform-company polyester pants (thank you, Mrs. Williams) and my plume are and what crazy, paisley-esque formations we could form while hammering away the score to Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves or the themes to The Flinstones and/or The Jetsons if we got the band back together (which we totally should).

Anywho, back to my original point . . . Baldwinsville. So, I don't know if they still do or when they do it if they do but - when I was in high school, Baldwinsville was the last competition before the state championship at the Carrier Dome. It was always the last Saturday of October and was the night that we set the clocks back. It was always the coldest darned night of the fall and I LOVED it.

My freshman year was a particularly interesting night in Baldwinsville. There was a younger member of the flute section (I shant name names here) who, for whatever reason, did not l ike me. She sort of hated me. Was not sure why. I'm assuming it was my stellar flutin' talent (orrrr not) but we just did not get along. She chose a chilly evening in Baldwinsville to really let me know how she felt. I heard the words "fat," "tub of lard" and "f*ck" used in more creative ways than I ever thought imaginable.

To be clear . . . I was never all that sensitive about my weight in high school or college (as a young professional is when I developed a true self-loathing complex about it all) so it did not bother me to have her dress me down. It actually sort of entertained me. The good news is that some of my section members had my proverbial back and they took care of her for me so I didn't have to use all of my favorite four letter words to return the favor of creative verbal abuse.

Anywho . . . we were not the best band in the state of New York (we WERE fairly dominant my senior year and got ROBBED at "the Dome" but that is another post for another day) but we were scrappy for a school our size and, frankly, we were a group of about 70 kids that enjoyed the company of each other (and a color guard that we didn't love so much (smile)), had great laughs and adventures on the long, long bus trips (know that just about everything you heard about "one time, at band camp" is not that far from the truth (if those buses could talk (smile))) and chilly practice nights.

I miss fall band. I miss kids like the Williams sisters (the whole Williams family, for that matter), Mel, Kim, Stephen and LoRo that made band what it was for me.

LUCKILY I have 40 degrees in October to make me remember the good times.

AND the fingerless gloves.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Stress = Sweet? . . .

I just read an article (can't link to it here, it is one of those annoying "membership required" things) that Hershey is reporting a 98% boost in 3rd quarter profits over 2nd quarter.

The article didn't say as much but it got me thinking . . . how many people are drinking, smoking and eating more as the economy does it's one-step-forward-two-steps-back dance and the election looms and so on. I'm glad I can't turn to food like I once did and that I stopped really drinking eight years ago and that I've never had a penchant for tobacco products.

All that is left is greying hair, fretting and stewing, going for walks, coloring and playing with Ava, spending snippets of time with my very busy wife and watching terrible, terrible television.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

New Set of Goals . . .

They are long overdue but here is my latest collection of goals. Some are personal. Some are about fitness and quality of life. Most are pretty easy (I'm in a phase where I want to level off vs. just run myself ragged on the goals).

Few, frankly, have anything to do with weight loss. ALL of them come due on March 20, 2009 (if not sooner).

I'll keep you updated on these if you will keep me honest!

1 - Celebrate My Beautiful Wife Graduating From College - In September, 2003, Joy and I were about a month in to our relationship. She came over to the apartment. We cracked the lids on bottled Frappuccinos, put down the tabloid magazines and started talking about goals. They were all over the place but the one . . . the ONLY one . . . that we have not realized together (save for the European Vacation that was on our 10-year goal list) was that Joy wanted to graduate from college. We are just eight short (and yet ungodly LONG and difficult) weeks from that goal. When I say that I'm proud of Joy . . . it is an understatement. I'm in awe of her. When she gets that piece of paper we're going to celebrate. The party, I hope, will be legen-wait for it, wait for it-dary! Farewell, old goals!

2 - Clean Out the Basement Storage Room and Start Painting - If you go down to our basement and bang a left at the bottom of the steps, you will find my least favorite area in our house. It is just sort of a dumping ground. Ava's out grown toys. Boxes of dishes and glasses that we have yet to unpack from the move. A tool table. Another table. Two night stands. Two ottomans. Four random chairs. A fan. Some spray paint. Three televisions we don't want/need/use. It COULD be a good space to paint in. It WILL be a good space to paint in. Eventually.

3 - Communicate, on a 1:1 Basis, with Friends and Family - I blog and I send mass e-mails. That is lame. Super lame. I heard from Corona (a college friend) today and it prompted me to realize that he typed me THREE MONTHS AGO and I still had not responded. So - starting this week - I'm going to start sending personal e-mails and cards (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) and calling friends and family on a regular basis. Which reminds me - I don't know when half of my friends have their birthdays and anniversaries. Tragic, really. I'll rectify that.

4 - Continue My Experiment with "Faith" - I'm dipping my toes. I'm learning a ton. I'm enjoying the time and the experiment and the process. I need to get serious about it though. I need to really commit myself to understanding the journey I am on in terms of my faith. I hope to make it a family affair but I have to make it a personal affair first. This much I know.

5 - Do Another Walk-a-Thon or "Run" - Yep. I am going to walk with a massive collection of strangers again. I might even try to run (there are a few one and two mile races on the horizon here in Wichita that I might want to try). I DOUBT I'll run but - this is goal setting - let's set them high and strong. And chase them (get it . . . HA, I kill me).

6 - Enroll in a Class for Ava and I to do Together - It will likely be swimming again but maybe it will be a dance class or a gymnastics class or some other form of excercise. She and Joy go to gymnastics, ballet, hip hop dance and other one-off classes together. I get sort of jealous. She's at such a "spongey" time. I want to be more of a part of her absorption than just evenings and weekends allow.

7 - Find Dress Pants that Actually Fit - If you look at me naked (please don't) you will notice that most of my remaining weight and all of my excess skin is making a large and unattractive panis (I said pAnis). I loathe it every day but mainly when I'm trying to get pants. I am between waist sizes because of my panis. I can't get lighter-weight dress pants because of my panis. I'm being held back by my panis. Panis. Panis, panis, panis. PANIS.

8 - Finish my 18-Month Sugeraversary Project and Post It Here - I started a project in JULY that I wanted to have up by my 18-month point. Now, on the eve of my 19-month point, it is still in the early stages. Must finish. Must post. Must cross of the list. Working on it upsets me. I think that is why I'm so hesitant. Must move past/through that.

9 - Go East - I ain't talkin' 'bout El Dorado or Topeka or Kansas City. I'm talking East. Northeast. Must. Get. "Home." Must.

10 - Make This Thanksgiving the Most Thankful Day I've Ever Had - Last year I was the freak show who'd lost the weight. This year, I'm the man who has a blessed life and wants to celebrate that. Be thankful for that. I'm planning two legendary meals for the Terry/Timmermeyer/Amore/Salmans family. I can't wait to cook 'em, serve 'em and just enjoy the day and the long weekend with family. I wish the Amores were going to be here but - you can't have it all. See number nine for how I can be so "glib" about my own family.

11 - Organize My Tie Collection - I have about 40 ties. I love most of them. I want to be able to, at 5:45 AM when I'm getting dressed for work, just grab a tie - wrap it around my tired neck and roll out. I can't do that now. I need to get organized. You have NO idea how much time I waste trying to pick out a matching tie and shirt combination in the morning. Sounds petty but it makes me absolutely crazy.

12 - Read Two Books Before Christmas - I'm borderline eliderate (botched spelling is intended to be funny) at this point. I read magazines. Web sites. E-mails. Never a book. Never just a nice, long, get-immersed-in-a-story, BOOK. I have two started. If I finish both of them, I'll count it as a victory. I have seven other books ready to be cracked too. I'm going to get cracking on the reading.

13 - Start to Curb My Swearing/Cursing/Ranting/Raving - So Ava is "spongey" and that includes Daddy's filthy mouth. Make no mistake - I don't rant or rave or bitch or complain NEARLY as often as I used to (not as angry = not as filthy) and I am not as vulgar as I once was either (maturity alone knocked that around) but I still drop a few too many four-letter-words and let too many things ignite my rage (like Kansas drivers and Kansas voters (smile)). Ava dropped a dollar bill at the pumpkin farm the other day. She picked it up but, in bending over said - clear as day - "sh*t!" That is on me. I must stop teaching my daughter four letter words or letting her think she can use them.

14 - Walk for 45 Minutes a Day, 5 Days a Week - I need to get my flat bike tire fixed and the weather is perfect for walking so . . . let's walk. Five days a week (including our lazy family stroll on Sunday mornings) is managable. I just need to prioritize it. I finally loaded up my iddy-biddy-iPod with walking tunes (14+ hours worth, at this point) so I have no more excuses.

15 - Weigh 200 Pounds by March 20, 2009 - I've got 33 pounds and five months. If I can lose just seven pounds a month (once thought to be a HUGE goal but - since I've had 40 pound weight loss months in recent past it seems very doable) I will do it. I am still not sure how much of my weight, at this point, is excess skin but I know there is still plenty of fat on these bones.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

How to Scare Your Wife and Thrill Your Child . . .

After several rides down the underground slide with Daddy, Ava told me that she was ready to brave the plastic tubes and oiled mats alone. It seemed like a great idea, at the time. So - I kissed her, wished her well and gave her a push.

Clearly Mommy was not expecting Ava to pop out alone at the bottom of the slide.

I've watched this video 1,000 times and I still laugh - as though it was the first time - every time she shouts her concern. Ha. I love it!

Ride 'em Cowgirl (and boy) . . .

Among the many things I did this weekend to get back in touch with my long-gone (but hardly forgotten) childhood, I rode wooden horses with Ava. And taught her how to behave like an "authentic" Cowboy/Cowgirl. She's such a quick study!

Silent Sunday . . .

I am thinner now than I was my senior year of high school. Even in a black tux . . . you can tell I was heavier then. Humbling.

My thanks to my dear friend Melly-Mel for not freaking out when she sees our old prom pic on the World Wide Web.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Guest Blogger - Wifey Talks about the Pumpkin Patch . . .

Ah, I forget.

I forget how different life is now as opposed to two years ago or even a year ago for that matter. Time passes, things change, you adjust and, sadly, you take life for granted.

Then you have days like we had today at Walter’s Pumpkin Patch and you can’t help but feel blessed.

I cannot tell you how full my heart is on days like today. If you could see the sheer joy in my husband’s eyes as he races our little miracle to the slides, you’d feel it too.

You wouldn’t be able to hold back a smile as you watched him, his cheeks flushed, forehead glistening, heart pounding, and laughing – laughing that sweet, genuine laugh that sometimes adults forget about.

I do my best to look around, to take it all in and savor the moment. It’s not just watching him play with our daughter as she laughs and says “wait for me daddy” that gets to me, it’s watching HIM play. Watching him jump and run and dance and climb, watching him reclaim his childhood.

He told me once that he was either too self-conscious or too heavy as a child to do a lot of the things that most of us take for granted. He watched from the sidelines instead of joining in. I can’t help but think he’s making up for lost time on days like today and I can’t help but say a silent “thank you” to Dr. Zuccala, the hospital, to my husband and his fierce determination and to the universe for making it all possible.

This day I will not forget. This day I will not take for granted.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Nearly Dumping (A Close Call) . . .

As incentive to get her to eat a little more than usual (picture food measured in thimbles), we promised Ava a walk around the park before bath and bed time.

Ava was dining on Macaroni and Cheese and some cold cuts (ham), Joy enjoyed a chicken wrap (made with love) and I enjoyed leftover taco fixings.

We got about 1/2 way to the park. I was feeling dizzy/faint. We got to the park (a block and a half away) and I felt shooting pains in my guts. I started to sweat and I was cramping like Carrie right before the shower (if I remember the movie correctly).

"You okay, sweety?" Joy asked. She sounded like the teacher from Peanuts. She asked again. I waved her off. I was, admittedly, a little scared. I didn't know if I ate too much or if I just really did not want to go to the park this fine evening or if, oh no, was it? Could it be? Had I somehow ingested some sugar? Was this (drum roll please) . . . DUMPING?!

I sucked it up. I tried to man it out. We walked around the park. We kicked the ball. We sat on the bridge and threw stones. All the while, I was in absolute misery. Had to pretend to be strong for the sake of not looking like a total wimp.

We got home 45 minutes later. I could barely walk I was in so much pain. I was starting to wonder if my appendix was somehow on the left hand side of my body. Was it my spleen? Where is the spleen? - I wondered. Surely Taco Night Part Dos, the Beef Continues did not have me on the verge of dumping.

Then, once we were safely back inside, I checked the fridge. A light bulb went off (when I opened the door to the fridge and in my head) . . . taco sauce. Curse you, George W. Bush and your band of sub-prime lenders, oil selling buddies and Wall Street buyouters (for the record - I am aware that many of the financial policies and practices that have our economy where it is today date back to the Clinton era . . . sort of). In my grocery store cheapness I had bought the Kroger brand Taco Sauce instead of the real, Ortega, deal.

There it was. Ingredient number TWO - high fructose corn syrup and ingredient number THREE - sugar. TWO modified sugars, in the top five. 2g of sugar per tablespoon (I am a three to four tablespoon of taco sauce guy at LEAST).

Yes, dear friends, I came THAT close to dumping. At the park. In front of my wife and daughter.

Sunday's grocery list has a new number one item . . . Taco Sauce.

The cramping and awkwardness stopped about three hours after it started. NO "dumping" to speak of. A close-call story to tell is enough though. Oh boy is it enough!

Guest Blogging - Eating Now, Eating Before . . .

My good friend Brandi has lovingly reshapped and reformed her entire web site and I can't encourage you enough to check it out.

The site, as I've mentioned in the past, has lots of diet and excercise tips and Brandi, and her site, are as nuts about The Biggest Loser as I am only with more access . . . Bernie blogs for her. She was at the finale in the spring. She just spoke to Ed. I mean COME ON!

Anywho, part of the terms of my contract of friendship with Brandi is that I have to plug her site, link to it often, post comments on her posts and - every three months - guest blog on her behalf. I kid. There is not contract. These terms are "implied." I kid again.

Anywho - check out my latest eating-before-and-after-surgery brilliance here!

And poke around and enjoy the site while you're there, please.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Fear of Loss . . .

Here is the hardest part about being in Wichita, Kansas when my family is so far away . . . a fear of loss.

I used to live :45 minutes from each of my brothers. I would maybe see them once a week or so . . . and that is probably stretching it. I'll take the heat for it. I was very depressed and very angry about stuff and was not much fun to be around and, well, my brothers aren't exactly touchy-feely "let's talk about our feelings" sorts of people. And I love them and admire them (some days) for that.

I think the first time I realized the urgency, frankly, was when we were headed west to wait for Ava to be born. I had a terrible realization the week before we left that life was very, very different than it ever was before and, frankly, it was about to get more different.

The first time I wanted to figure it all out was when I was laying in my hosptial bed after surgery. That was, in my embarassment, a full nine months later and years and years after I realized what the problem was (me not knowing how to love and ask to be loved by my brothers, namely).

Now we're here. Ava can tell you who Barack Obama is when she sees him on television but she can't always pick Uncle Pah-tick out of a picture. She knows that Elmo and Abby Cadabby live on Sesame Street but she doesn't know where her Uncle Ryan lives.

This concern of mine and, again, I understand that living here in Kansas was our decision - not my brothers (before I get an angry note from my parents or another protector of the peace), is compounded by the fact that my parents live in relatively poor health.

I'm concerned about them. I worry about how much us being closer, with their only grandchild, could do to motivate them to take better care of themselves and to live healthier and with greater self-loving purpose. I hate that I might get a phone call someday, like the one I got seven years ago from Mr. LaFrance when my father had his stroke, and I won't be able to bum a ride home to be there by sundown. I worry that the call will come too late.

I worry, every day, about how my family and friends and loved ones feel about me being so far away and I just try to reassure myself that, in my heart, we're all together and we're all going to live forever in peace and harmony!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

On a Walk. Down. By. The. RIVER . . .

I've been trying to walk more and more lately. I don't walk like one of those crazy, spandex-clad, arms-swinging, in-time breathing, walkman-carrying, sweatband-adorning people though. I just walk. One foot in front of the other. No real agenda. No real "mission." No real "to do" list.

If I can widdle 30 or 45 or - dare to dream - 60 minutes out of a day three or four days a week to just put one foot in front of the other, I'm a happy guy.

When I was in college, my roommate Bruce took me under his very, very fit wing. He got me going to the gym and he got me thinking about how I could put down the box of Cheez-Its and pick up a pair of sneakers and wind out ahead of the game for the time spent.

I walked and walked and walked my Sophomore year of college. It was good excercise for me and I lost a lot of weight in a relatively little amount of time (don't worry, I gained it ALL back during semester break and then gained more than I ever lost that summer).

College was not the first time I was a "walker" - in high school I REFUSED to get my driver's license. I was scared to death to have a car under my control - something I'm sure Joy and most Kansans wish I still feared or at least had a "healthy" level of fear of today). I walked. Everywhere (unless I could get a ride from a friend). I walked to work at the bank after school most days and I would walk to see friends all over town. I would even go for walks in the evening with my friend Melissa and/or any one else that felt like beat-footin' around the boomin' town of Groton.

College was not the last time I was a walker either. In DC . . . until the scales crossed the 400 mark at least . . . I was a walking machine. I would skip the metro and walk to work from my foggy bottom apartment and then I would walk to happy hour or to social events after work. I'd often walk (occassionally drunk) from Capitol Hill back to my apartment too. I even once walked from Union Station to Georgetown on Pennsylvania Avenue just to see how long it would take (the answer . . . just short of FOREVER).

Then I got a car and I just sort of stopped walking. For a while.

Welcome back to my life, walking. I've missed you and I enjoy you more than ever with Ava, Joy and the might Arkansas (that is Ar-Kansas (vs. Ar-can-saw) if you are in Wichita) by my side. The Douglas/Keeper of the Plains loop is a personal favorite of mine!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist . . .

Joy and I ditched Ava with grandma and grandpa today and decided to celebrate her birthday in style following her Saturday morning class.

What constitutes "style," you ask? Well. I'll tell you. We went out to lunch at one of our favorite, but rarely frequented, places here in Wichita - Cheddars and then we went to see a teen-movie. Or something LIKE a teen movie.

The movie was excellent. I mean really, really good. It sort of scared me to see how your "typical" high schooler in the New York City suburbs is portrayed in the movie but - beyond that - it was a fun tale of an all-night romp around Manhattan (and a little bit of Brooklyn, too) and the bonds of friendship and the awkwardness of young love.

All kidding aside - Nick and Norah might be the best movie (that is not a summer "blockbuster" type thrill ride) in a long, long time. Very original. Very sweet. Very enjoyable.

Check it out!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Biggest Loser . . .

I'm way behind on adding my two-cents to the world of The Biggest Loser. It is not that I'm not watching and/or loving the show. I AM (both).

It is the larger issue of a) our current schedule with Joy in school and our DVR allowing us to watch TV on our "time" often moves a Tuesday night show to Sunday afternoon viewing (if not a longer delay) and b) it is really hard to feel emotionally invested in the players so early on.

The first two-hour episode, while full of tears and triumphs is mainly just a "gettin' to know you" stroll around the ranch. I can't remember the red team from the brown team with just episode one as a reference point and I never feel all that bad about the first people sent home. I just don't feel like I got to konw them at all.

The second week is when I start to get in to it. And the second episode this different was no different. Our last-season throw backs (the overly thick accented macho men of the Boston suburbs) got bounced off the show.

The third episode though . . . now the third episode I LIKE. And this one was a heartbreaker. Enter the yellow team. A father-daughter team from Ohio with the 51 year old father, a police officer, hoping that his daughter, 24-year-old Coleen, can get a second chance at a life without obesity while Coleen just wants to know that when/if she gets married, her father will be there to walk her down the aisle. Jerry was (I just played my hand) the sickest player ever on The Biggest Loser. He could not participate in the workouts and challenges, he was so sick and his body was so stressed. But he did all he could and he lost 18 pounds in 21 days in his time there . . . and then went home and lost 50 more pounds.

I won't get in to the emotions for me but - knowing what a motivation Ava was for me to do what I've done and to keep the weight off . . . it makes me glad that I will never have to have my daugther look me in the eye and just, through tears, ask that I please be around when she gets married. It was beautiful and wonderful and sticky-sweet all at the same time.

Make no mistake . . . Coleen (who stayed on the ranch because of this week's elimination set up) is a total threat to the rest of the people in the house. She's young, she's losing weight, she's tough and she wants it BUT I have to stand by my favorite color (which is Chastity free this season) and root for this season's orange team, Ed and Heba.

I hope to get more "analytical" and "timely" during this season of The Biggest Loser but, for now, know that I'm watching and rooting for the contestants and know that I'm LOVING that I am lighter than every man on the show and many of the women. It is ODD to be able to say that. ODD, I tell you!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Happy Birthday, Pop Tart . . .

My beautiful wife turns 34 today. Her birthday has always been sort of a "marked" day for us. We've never really celebrated the day or done it up right.

Her first birthday that we celebrated together came two months in to our courtship. She turned 29 (she was so young then (smile)). We had dinner with her friends at a restaurant in Baltimore where I met most of them for the first time. I was very scared. I was the 500-pound boyfriend from DC. They were a clique of very smart, very caustic, very funny people. I don't think I wowed any of them.

Her next birthday was just a week after she got home from the hospital - having almost died. I moved in with her on her birthday. My parents were staying with us (to help take care of Joy while I was at work and to help me move in) and she and I went to a very "romantic" dinner at a restaurant in Columbia. Happy, uh, 30th, honey!

Joy's next birthday came weeks before the second time I was supposed to have gastric bypass in our relationship. The fine folks at Union Memorial had asked me to do a 30 day "fast" to lose as much weight as possible in anticipation of my surgery (as Dr. Liao explained, ever pound I lost was another %-point closer to safety on the table) and I was about 10 days in. I got a special "waiver" to eat something "sensible" that night. The exact meal that was suggested was some grilled fish and steamed vegetables so I dragged Joy to a random restaurant in Glen Burnie.

By Joy's next birthday, we were living in Connecticut and were new parents. We spent her birthday with my parents and Ava at an apple orchard and pumpkin farm eating fresh donuts and drinking warm apple cider. We had dinner at home. And a Mrs. Field's cookie for dessert.

Last year Joy and Ava dropped me off at the airport for me to fly back to Connecticut on her birthday. We went to lunch that day with her family here in Wichita and then cried most of the afternoon as I faced getting back on the plane and leaving my wife and daughter here while I tried to figure out a plan to get back here on a permanent basis.

It is not that I don't love Joy. I adore her. It is not that I don't want her to have amazing birthdays full of spa days and packages with pretty bows (she DOES get gifts every year, I promise) but her birthday just always seems to fall at the wrong time (I blame her parents, really (smile)) and we have just never really hit a homerun on her special day. It embarasses me.

So what will we do this year? Well - we hope to have "taco night" (a favorite for all three of us) before Joy runs off to class for the evening. Yep. Another "classic" birthday for Joy.

There's always next year, right?! Right?! RIGHT?!

In the meantime, I love you very much, Joy. I hope you have a wonderful day and I hope tonight's tacos are the most delicious 4% fat beef, reduced fat, multi-grain, soft tortilla tacos you've ever had. Complete with veggies, reduced fat cheese, low fat sour cream and full-tilt guacamole (nothing but the finest "green dip" for my ladies).

Here's to the day you turn 34 and to 365 blessed and love and laughter filled days to follow!

Happy Birthday!