A Winning Year on the Loser’s Bench

smallermugJust like me, two days late and 96 pounds short.

Still getting used to the last part of that sentence.

Sunday, Jan. 15, was my “surgiversary” – meaning that a year ago, I decided to save my life and had gastric sleeve surgery. Part of my stomach was removed and what was left made into a nice little “sleeve” that doesn’t hold much more than 3 ounces.

Buffets are a waste. “All You Can Eat” is a joke. When I have a drink, it’s one and done.

I have become the cheapest date in town.

I promised I would share my journey with you, the ups and downs, the laughter and the tears. I figure a year out was a good time to bring you up to speed.

Let me get a few things out of the way first.

  1. Yes, it is pretty wonderful to feel good and have energy again.
  2. img_3430No, even though I look like E.T. (see before and after pictures at right), I am not planning on having my loose skin removed. There are a few reasons for this:
    1. Getting “sleeved” is a tiny bit painful, but you get over it quick and I have been told by people who had skin-tightening surgery that it hurts like hell.
    2. The only person who matters (and the only one who sees me naked) is my beloved husband and he loves me no matter how I look.
    3. There is a reason that God invented Spandex.
  3. No, I don’t miss soda or fried food. I do miss rice and pasta just a little. And salad a LOT.
  4. And despite all the ill-informed people out there, weight loss surgery is NOT an easy way out. It requires commitment, sacrifice, holding yourself to a new standard and keeping your promises to yourself. And realizing that there are a lot of stupid people out there. With each pound I released, my (mental) skin got thicker and suffering fools became a lot easier.
14441060_10154551953871057_3674749746533350397_n
All I really wanted to do was show off my cowboy boots, but the size 14 dress helped The Girls show off too…..

As the weight came off over the last year, I went through a lot of mental changes too. When you’ve always turned right to go to the “women’s plus size” section at Kohl’s, it’s hard to make yourself walk straight or turn left and go to the junior or normal size section. It’s also hard not to scream with sheer joy and amazement when you take a size 14 bathing suit into the dressing room at JCPenney and it actually fits.

If I try on a pair of pants and they don’t quite fit around the hips or middle, my inner bitch still tells me I’m fat. Body image is one of the nastiest demons anyone can deal with and unfortunately, this operation doesn’t touch that. Using the tools gained from pre-surgery classes, I’m trying to stifle that voice, but I have a much better understanding of the struggle as my metamorphosis continues.

I do, however, miss The Girls. I mean the ones that gave me cleavage and the comfort that, even if I had been pudgy in the middle, at least I had a decent balcony to perform with (don’t laugh, I thanked them for an acting award I received because they provided comic relief). I am finally to the point where I’ll be shopping for a smaller sized bra, with padding no longer optional.

I have collarbones and hip bones and ribs and ankles that I haven’t seen in years. I touch them with the wonder given a favorite toy brought out of hiding. I have batwings that I flap proudly. I’m still trying to get used to all this “activewear” that shows off my progress. I have donated more than half of the clothes in my closet to charity and, despite worrying that I’d want to keep and have some sentimental favorites altered to fit my smaller self, I have learned to let go of the baggies. My shoulders are not as broad and I actually have a waist I’d like to show off. New, more flattering clothes are slowly replacing the ones that camouflaged.

535273_10153157343706637_8724603796196299860_n
Out watching people eat just before my surgery date with Sadie and my SisterOutlaw and PartnerInGrandmoming
img_3666
A year later, we both look better! And that little squishy on my lap is walking and talking and keeping us busy

It’s been a year of big changes. As things get smaller, some things got bigger. Like my hot flashes. I thought menopausal ones were bad, but they were few and far between. These come on in groups and knock me on my ass. I asked my doctor about it and he said it’s because estrogen lives in fat cells and when the fat cells leave, the hormones go batty. And burps? I used to be rather demure and polite, but now they’re three-dimensional, often with an introduction, first and second act and big finish.

I get asked a lot “what can you eat” – and my answer is “food” – but on the healthy side. Protein is a priority and I dine on a lot of steak or chicken strips, ahi tuna, cheese, almonds and Greek yogurt. It’s kind of the opposite of Weight Watchers – where they have an emphasis on filling up on lettuce and vegetables and fruit, we have to be careful about  “filling up” since we have a much smaller space. Having sleeve surgery is like giving the crankiest restaurant customer a seat in the kitchen – if they don’t like it, it gets thrown. Sometimes up. Gone are the days of giant salads, rice bowls (you don’t want to know), bagels (yikes) or heaps of pasta. I can eat a small salad, but I definitely have to prioritize what goes in first – meat, cheese, vitamin-rich veggies or fruits. And drinks are non-carbonated, low-sugar things like water, tea, water, coffee and more water.

morning-collageI’m a big picture person and every time all my kids are home, we have a family portrait session. I’m talking an hour posing in various parks and other rustic locations in the hopes of preserving our brood in a moment in time. We had a terrific session just before my surgery, but I was so unhappy with that, I asked my photographer pal (jokingly, of course) to photoshop out my double chin and all the extra me that was crowding the frames. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy with how I looked, even though the rest of the family looked fabulous. Once the weight started falling off, I felt compelled to have another photo session, but just for me. One morning in downtown Newhall, a few changes of clothing and my spirits soared. The new pictures made my heart sing and gave me inspiration to keep working hard. Pardon my indulgence, but you have to do whatever works for you.

I do spend a lot of time reassuring servers in restaurants that I am happy with my food, especially if I have only eaten a quarter of the food on my plate (restaurant meals usually turn into three or four after-meals for sleevers). I often have have to hide my look of amazement when I see plates go by laden with so much more than we (and I mean all of us, sleeved or not) NEED to eat at each meal – the amount of food just floors me at some places. Not only is it hard for me to believe that I used to consume exactly that same amount of food – and often, dessert – but it’s also hard for me to understand why people don’t eat healthier because I feel so much better now.

My dogs are thrilled with the new me because, not only am I bringing home boxes from restaurants that often mean it’s snack time, but also because I will make a meal and sit down with what I think is a perfect portion that I am unable to finish. They lovingly and conveniently sit at my feet, because they know they will soon be feasting on the excess. We make sure they get plenty of exercise to work off their “treats,” and so the vet stops calling Gracie “the round one.”

Along with the dietary changes came behavioral changes – I actually enjoy getting outside and moving, and try to walk on a regular basis in the mornings with friends. I have a few angels who make the time and keep me company (and keep up with my non-strolling pace) and I find myself doing a lot of things I wouldn’t – and couldn’t – do a year ago. Just yesterday, I went out in the back yard, cleaned up a lot of doggie doo, pulled up some dead vegetation along with some weeds, moved furniture and swept, staying active for a couple of hours. My dogs were in shock, because in the past I never went out, let alone worked, outside.

14876495_10154662809151057_1293303527508037042_o
Summer, 2015. I was Number 1 all right – Shoes didn’t even fit, and I had a great appreciation for elastic – and lots of fabric
14884542_10154662809746057_5364415536364374564_o
September 2016. A year after that nightmarish flowered dress shot. Just got a new corset for my Voodoo Queen costume. I’m trying to think of excuses to wear it for more than Halloween!

I still love to cook, I just consider it more performance art than participation sport. I love feeding people and baking (I baked more this Christmas than in the last 10 years) and savoring the best part of the dining experience – enjoying the company and really tasting the food instead of just filling up and pushing away from the table. Believe me when I tell you that three bites of the best part of something is WAY better than 10 bites to clean a plate!

Because my job involves spending a lot of time on social media, I have to give a shout out to members of two Facebook pages dedicated to those considering or who have had gastric sleeve surgery. You have become my friends and supporters and I get so much encouragement and support and answers and camaraderie, I feel it’s an honor to give it back. You made room for me on “The Loser’s Bench” and I am proud to sit at your side.

And the best part of all, I have the energy and better health so I can keep up with my inspiration, Sadie Jane. I plan on seeing her grow up, graduate from school, get married and maybe make me a great-grandmother. She’s holding up her end of the bargain, it’s up to me to stay the course and make this life change work.

15129609_10153872375561637_3418670651687622225_o

And she’s worth every little bite.

 

Photocollage and head shot at the top by the amazingly talented Sarah Krieg. Please visit her website at www.SarahKriegPhotography.com

Dear readers –

If you have questions about Gastric Sleeve surgery, please feel free to comment or message me – I am all about education! And if you find this blog helpful or funny or inspirational or just a good positive change from some of the nasty dreck on the innerwebs these days, please share it generously. Thank you!

 

Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

Your comments are welcome and always appreciated. Please share this on social media!

We’ve got to be carefully teaching…

IMG_0065I have a granddaughter. She has two parents, four grandparents, two great-grandmothers, two uncles, one aunt, seven great-aunts, four great uncles, many cousins and a whole village of friends. She’s pretty well-protected. Lots of support, lots of playmates, lots of role models.

She will want for nothing.

I look forward to the days that she and I will talk about art and music and books and why that pesky little kid on the playground pulls her hair or is always there to push her on the swing. I’ll listen to her highs and lows of school life, take her out for ice cream and mani-pedis, be her confidante when her parents just don’t understand. And when she’s old enough, hopefully we’ll pick up each other’s bar tabs.

I can draw on my own experience from raising her mother and aunt and uncle and helping a whole slew of theater and choir kids who depended on me one way or another, whether it was to get a ride home, sew a costume, run lines, figure out a homework assignment or simply sit down at our table for a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. Most of that experience helped me hone my compassion, patience, tolerance and of course, my wicked sense of humor.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 9.44.34 PMAround our house, freak flags flew freely. Language could be appropriately salty, as long as it was in moderation, but there were no fears of reprisal. Above all, there was respect for every person’s opinion, question, feelings and values. There wasn’t always agreement, but everyone got to have their say as long as they were respectful of that right across the board. We made it a point to surround our kids – all of them – with like-minded grownups who set good examples.

I’m worried, though, about the world in which Sadie is growing up. Respect, hard work and tolerance all seem to be going by the wayside, replaced by bigotry, intolerance, racism, hatred and disrespect.

How do we teach the little ones that it’s not nice to call someone names when our presumptive “leaders” are slinging insults around the airwaves to thunderous applause? How do we teach them to share and compromise when the people we elect stomp their feet and refuse to do their jobs because they don’t like someone or their beliefs? How can we imbue them with tolerance and patience when so many people openly embrace discrimination? People cheer the concept of building a wall to keep out immigrants instead of taking that energy and reforming our immigration system – why? How do we teach them to look at the bigger picture, to make the world a better place for everyone when so many focus on one or two insignificant issues that hurt others, while ignoring the critical problems around them?

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 9.59.53 PMWhen did the sense of entitlement take over, pushing aside the needs or acknowledgement of others to favor one person’s mean spirit? When did we pick the “right” side of town? How did we develop a “give it to me, even when I haven’t earned it” attitude, eschewing hard work or service?

What do we tell these precious little ones? How do we tell them all that their lives matter, that there is a level playing field somewhere, that they are entitled to be treated with respect and dignity and that they are responsible to reflect that in their treatment of others?

What happened to punishing bad behavior instead of rewarding it?

And how are our leaders continually getting away with hate?

One of the things I plan on doing with Sadie is taking her to the theater. I am going to make sure one of the shows we see is “South Pacific,” a classic piece by Rodgers and Hammerstein that features a slice of life during World War II. I will tell her about her great-grandfathers who served in the Pacific and we will listen to one of the “controversial” songs from that show that we should probably put on the Billboard charts again. It’s called “You Have To Be Carefully Taught” and the lyrics go like this:

You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,

You’ve got to be taught from year to year.

It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid of people whose eyes are oddly made,

And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late, before you are six or seven or eight

To hate all the people your relatives hate

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

 

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 9.55.08 PMRespect. It’s being kind when being rude or mean is easier. It’s caring for the feelings of everyone affected by a situation. Sometimes it means biting your tongue until it bleeds. It’s loving someone when they least deserve it. It’s being competitive without being hateful or violent; there is no excuse for hurting someone who roots for the opposing team.

I refuse to teach Sadie hate. I refuse to accept it from people wanting my vote or worse, those who are already in office. I will teach her to take action and defend herself when someone wants to take away her rights or the rights of others. I will teach her to listen, to consider, to weigh the pros and cons and be tolerant and patient. I will help her believe that she deserves dignity, but above all, to treat others as she would like to be treated and to be true to herself. Despite the crazy world she lives in, I will teach her that love is much stronger than hate.

Of those things, I will make sure she is carefully taught.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 9.43.05 PM

 

Please share this and let me know what you think – I love feedback!

Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

These boots are made for Rockin’

CarolwowmugHoly cow, it’s been a long time.

A lot of things have changed. For the better, I might add.

For one thing, I’m down 75 pounds from that day last spring when I was seriously depressed about my cowboy boots not fitting anymore.

As you can see from the pictures, those babies fit again.

And I am one happy cowgirl.

It has been a really busy four months. Since having the gastric sleeve surgery Jan. 15, mealtime has been very different for me. I’ve learned to slow down and focus on enjoying what’s on the plate instead of trying to finish it in record time. I’ve gotten more in tune with that little voice in my head that says “I’m full,” especially since its backup singer, my highlighter-sized stomach, is sometimes louder, with the familiar chorus “STOP!”

We also had family visiting, numerous trips to The Park (you know, that Disney place) and I worked the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival as an emcee. Oh yeah, and my freelance work.

“Sorry, been busy” should be my new tattoo.

Don’t worry, it’s not all traumatic. It’s just been a big learning process. I never realized how much attention I would have to pay to what went into my mouth.

Some habits die hard. My fridge and freezer are still packed. Even though the kids are gone and our family of five has dwindled to one hungry husband who loves my cooking and two eager pitties waiting for what I can’t finish, my mindset is still “shop for a crowd.”

But to answer those wondering “what can you eat?,” let me offer this:

Gone forever: carbonated drinks. I don’t miss soda, but I do miss Perrier. Water or iced tea for me, thanks very much. And, of course, coffee. Without coffee, adulting is really hard.

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 9.29.44 PMAlcohol is on vacation until November, when I’m going wine tasting with my girl gang – although I know that I’ll be stopping at one glass instead of the “several sips, then why not get a glass or two or three” of the past. I will learn to choose wisely.

Fried foods are verboten. They are so bad for you on so many levels and over my lifetime, I’ve already consumed enough of them to be content with the memory.

Bread, traditional pasta and rice (especially rice) are history. I haven’t had a sandwich since December. Tried once. When you have this procedure, one try is all you need to give you an unforgettable reminder that sandwiches are not your friend. I am discovering the joys of quinoa and farro, some more protein-friendly whole grains. I still need fiber in my diet and they are delicious.

ahi_tuna_pokeAhi tuna and poke have become my new addiction. Chicken breasts and a good steak (gristle makes me very cranky now) or some tender brisket are my go-to. Keep the sides.

If I’m a guest in your house, don’t hide the cookies or cake. Just be prepared to share. I’m seriously good with one bite, just to enjoy the flavors. That’s really all I want.

Two trash bags of clothing have already gone to the Assistance League’s thrift shop and I’m working on the third. I have to find a dress to wear to present scholarships this week and I’m hoping that one or two of those I kept aren’t too big. Isn’t that crazy? Maybe I should wear pants and the infamous boots.

notthereyetbutdown

I’m still walking near the Iron Horse Trailhead at least once a week. I move a LOT more around the house, getting out of my office chair at least once an hour. Walking around Disneyland is a daylong adventure that ends when I want it to (around the 10,000 step mark) instead of gasping and sweating and wondering if they would deliver a scooter to Frontierland so I could just make it to the parking lot. When it gets a little bit warmer, I’ll be back in the pool for water aerobics. I tried Pilates, and I don’t think that’s a good fit; the difference is that I’ve made a deal with myself that if I don’t do the Pilates, I must do the pool. That feeling is definitely new.

SadiekissOf course, my favorite exercise is “weight lifting” and dancing with my 18-pound granddaughter. On one of my support pages, a woman posted a picture of her grandchild, saying that she was the reason she had the surgery. I posted Sadie’s picture and wrote a similar sentiment. Other sleevers (yes, we have a name) did the same and I realized that I was in great company with grandparents willing to make changes for the better to keep company with these little ones for a long, long time.

When everybody was home for Christmas last year, we took family pictures. They were wonderful and captured our unique spirit. But when I saw the pictures, I saw how much more there was of me than there should have been. I vowed that after I lost a good chunk of the weight, I would have head shots done, justifying the effort because I can use them for my blog and other marketing purposes.

I did that photo shoot a couple of weeks ago (with the amazingly talented Sarah Kreig, who also did our family shots) and I cannot tell you how much seeing those pictures gave me confidence and boosted my self-esteem. Even after all the doubt and self-examination and “could I have done this without the surgery?”  – I knew I did the right thing and I was so glad I would be able to share that with the world. Sarah did more than just headshots, she shot from top to toe, making sure to capture the slimmer middle, the fewer chins and included my Eight Second Angels with the hearts and scrollwork.

The boots fit. Now it’s up to me to take them in the right direction.

morning collage

 

Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

Teachers, mentors and investing in the future with somebody else’s money

College is expensive. Doing my best to help...
College is expensive. Doing my best to help…

I gave away thousands of dollars in the last two nights. Felt real good, too.

Gonna give away a little more next week. This could become a habit.
Of course, it’s not my money. I’m just doing my part with the local scholarship foundation. I help them evaluate applications and they found out I liked to talk in front of people, so Bazinga! – I became a presenter.
Having sent three kids through the school system and trying to help a couple of them find money to go to college, I remember the uphill struggle. College is expensive – make that EXPENSIVE.
Back in the day when I started my higher education, I was lucky enough to earn a scholarship that paid for classes, books and some of my housing. I went to a state college (now a university), got a whopping $1,800 per year that covered my tuition and books and had money left over.
These days, California state colleges are no longer the cheap alternative. The average undergrad pays more than $6,500 a year, not counting books or auxiliary class charges. Graduate school is even more. Ivy League schools are over the top; parents of students at these schools are basically buying the equivalent of a new car every year, just to keep their child on track for higher education.
So every little bit helps.
Part of the backstory to the scholarship granting process is reading applications. They both inspire you and break your heart. It also brought out my multiple personalities. The writer in me looked for style. The skeptic in me looked for holes in their stories. The supervisor in me looked for reasons to promote each student. The teacher in me looked for lessons they had learned. The mother in me looked for ways to help every single one.

The writer herself back in, well, the Nixon Administration
The writer herself back in, well, the Nixon Administration

And as someone who went through the college experience twice – once when I left high school during the Nixon Administration and again a couple of years age after raising my three children and deciding I really wanted to take “finish college” off my bucket list – I wanted to help each and every applicant have that experience.
The money we gave away came from fundraisers, appeals, memorial contributions; all donations from a supportive community. We wanted to give as many students we could a little bit of help, and those who needed a little more, enough to get them on the path to changing their lives and reaching at least some of their dreams. Not everyone who applied earned a reward, but I hope they learned from the attempt and will be determined to keep asking the world around them not for a handout, but for guidance and support to keep them going.
I got involved with the scholarship group because one of my mentors asked me if I would. Scholarships may be scarce, but mentors are all around us. Mentors can help us no matter where we are in our lifelong education process. I shared my feelings about mentors with the students, asking them to not only find them, but respect them and become mentors themselves.
Mentor is another word for teacher. When kids are small, it’s easy to point to the people who give them knowledge and skills as teachers. When you’re older and out of school, the process changes slightly and fate drops in people here and there to give you more tools and help you mold the way you approach things like working, parenting, growing and succeeding.

But when we’re older, working, removed from school and just keeping up with the band called Life, they become “mentors.” And when we become mentors, we gain the satisfaction that we’re paying back some cosmic debt. I wished I had a chance to tell the students how many times mentors have changed my life for the better. Look for them, I should have advised. They’re kind of like angels, you don’t always know they’re there to guide you until it’s too late.

My alma mater, Washington High School, circa 2011. It's been around since 1891; the facade was rebuilt to mimic the style of the original after it was severely damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Photo by  Whitelily519(AmeliaChu)
My alma mater, Washington High School, circa 2011. It’s been around since 1891; the facade was rebuilt to mimic the style of the original after it was severely damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Photo by
Whitelily519(AmeliaChu)