Celebrating the ceiling she’ll never know

IMG_2021My eight-month old granddaughter has no idea what all the craziness on TV has been for the last few days, except for an abundance of the colors red, white and blue and a lot of crazy signs she can’t yet read. But as Hillary Clinton kicked aside giant shards of glass to accept the Democratic party’s nomination for President, I felt hopeful, especially for Sadie. She will never know a time when a woman could not be nominated to lead our nation.

 

 

 

giphyWhat she didn’t hear was the glass ceiling shattering and another wall of sexism falling. What a victory! And while there is another step before we have our first woman President, this is still an amazing milestone – and one that I and so many other women have been working on for far too long.

Sadie’s great-grandmother (my mother) was one of those women collectively called “Rosie the Riveter.” While my father was serving in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific, she worked at the Alameda Naval Air Station, supporting the war effort; as she and many other women took the place of men who were serving in the European and Pacific theaters. When they returned, she was unemployed, but she believed with all her heart that there was nothing a woman could not do. This became one of the most repeated lessons I heard as I was growing up and one I imparted to my own daughters.

images

 

I also believe in putting action and experience behind my words. During my junior year of high school, I wanted to explore a career in law enforcement. I applied for and became one of the first female Police Explorers in the state of California. This excellent training program, previously only open to males, made a significant mark in my pursuit of a career in law enforcement and my education overall. Now, girls fill the ranks of Explorer programs across the country.

 

images

Along with becoming an Explorer, I also volunteered with the Let Us Vote movement, which resulted in the passage of the 26th Amendment of the Constitution in July 1971, giving 18-year-olds the right to vote. Although I was just one of many savoring this victory, I felt I really mattered in November 1972 when I actually got to cast a ballot, something I’ve done every election since.

 

A few years later, I became the first female Police Cadet for the Los Angeles Police Department, another kick at the glass ceiling that came with some challenges. As department brass pointed to me as an example, many of the staff I encountered in the field did everything they could to discourage me from trying to become a police officer. They said women didn’t belong, the job was too dangerous, we didn’t have the temperament, men felt like they had to protect us, blah, blah, blah. Never mind that I was a marksman on the firing range and excelled on the psychological tests. I took that opportunity to learn everything I could about serving the public and 348sworking within the legal system. My street senses were strong.

 

I worked out like a fiend to pass physical tests at the Academy and was on track to go into an upcoming class, but a family crisis changed my mind and I stepped back, but not before nudging open a very heavy door for females that followed me.

 

When I became a mother, I impressed upon my girls their grandmother’s message, that they could do anything they wanted. By that time, smaller barriers were falling by the wayside, thanks to legislation like Title IX and Equal Employment Opportunity, but there were still a few holdouts. Even though people generally said women could do anything, there remained a reluctance to give them the opportunity to lead. Women filled high offices, such as Speaker of the House (which only happened in 2007), Secretary of State (in 1997), but President was out of reach. We’ve made progress, I cautioned, but there is still much to do.

 

For those who think this accomplishment of putting a woman in charge is no big deal, especially if you are female, don’t be fooled. The attack on women continues, from the Republican Presidential candidate to members of Congress (all male) who still believe that they control your body. I remember the days before Roe v. Wade, when coat hangers were the surgical instruments of desperation. And despite legislation that is supposed to protect them, across the nation women earn an average of 79 cents to every dollar paid to male workers. It’s long past time that equality becomes the accepted law of the land.

 

images-1

 

Sadie, the struggle is real, but change is possible. As a nation, we have a lot of work ahead of us, especially in the areas of racism, discrimination and immigration. We need to reestablish respect and civility, kindness and compassion – traits that I know your parents hold dear. We need to spread more love and less hate. Women are good at that.

Right now, those choices are in the hands of your mother and grandmothers, your father, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, friends and fellow Americans. I’m proud of our progress and sincerely hope we don’t screw it up before you join the deciders in a short 17 years.

 

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.”

 

Feedback is welcome and encouraged! Please be civil, your passion and ideas will be respected as long as nobody’s calling anyone names. Let’s communicate! And feel free to share!

 

 

It’s on the web, it must be true. Aren’t you?

socialPotentially disgruntled journalist. Liberal activist. Occasional snarkmaster. Fierce grandmother and don’t even think of messing with her kids.

Active on social media, posts pictures on foodie pages and contributes to the discussion of local politics with guarded insights from her reporter past.

Casually but frequently promotes caffeine use, positive body image, pit bulls and the correct use of their, they’re and there. Grammatically correct. Politically flexible, but rumored to be a left-leaning conservative. Laughs a lot.

Hates lima beans and intolerance (irony noted).

Frequents live theater, cover band concerts and is a vocal advocate for arts in the schools and community. Writes like a fiend because the voices in her head all clamor to be heard. Looking for the positive is her strongest survival skill. Ambiguously ethnic look.

Guilty?

160612111152-14-orlando-shooting-0612-large-169What would your profile say if you were the suspect in a horrific crime like the slaughter of 50 (and possibly more) patrons of a gay nightclub in Orlando?

Would they look at your name and make assumptions? What can you tell from something as innocuous as Rock? Maiden name? Unpronounceable in some circles, but no clear indicator as to politics or motive. Presumably not Muslim. Definitely Czechoslovakian with a large dose of Irish.

Would we be judged by what we do? Who we friend? Words we post? What we ate for dinner? What events we attend? Our pets? Politics? Passions?

We share our secrets with the world liberally on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other networks; we worry about privacy and identity theft, but don’t consider the overwhelming ability of reporters, politicians and the general public to cull our online pedigrees for accusatory ammunition.

160612054737-orlando-nightclub-shooting-pulse-large-169With breakneck speed, the Speculation Avengers assemble and create a creature that provides “answers” to questions that inquiring minds insist upon, accuracy be damned. In their attempts to scratch and claw their way to be first or on top without allowing time for fact-checking, media outlets post assumptions, generalizations and wild-ass guesses as to the suspect’s background and motivation.

Sadly, with a certainty that drills to our very core, people online eat it up, chew on it for awhile and take their own spins, some with extra vitriol, taking the violence from the blood-stained nightclub floor and spreading it out with their own broad brushes across America.

How the hell did we get here?

What’s even worse, if there is a hint of controversy, the trolls and master spinners work double time, creating poisonous posts and justifying them with their own anger. We know volumes about the American-born-and-raised Muslim shooter in Orlando, but what do we know about the non-Muslim plain white guy who was arrested in Santa Monica early this morning with a carload of weapons on his way to the Los Angeles Gay Pride parade? He came from Indiana, something easy to surmise from the license plates on his car. It’s been hours since he was arrested, and we know nothing about how he got his weapons, potential explosives, who his alleged “friend” that he was meeting might be or gotten a statement from his parents. Biased much?

os-orlando-shooting-pulse-nightclubI have spent far too much time on the train wreck we call social media today, unable to look away (if I did, I would only see the TV playing an endless loop of tragedy). I read far too many vicious comments about discrimination, suggesting that we ban all Muslims or rush to gun stores to arm ourselves so we can shoot back if attacked. There is no good that will come of either of those proposals.

And I’m not going to touch the political commentary; racists taking credit for the terrorism call or homophobic elected officials expressing their sympathy because it’s the right thing to do.

The only redeeming quality of today’s posts were expressions of sympathy and frustration and horror at the events in Orlando. They significantly outnumbered the nastiness, bolstering my faith in the greater good. They all cried for a solution to the violence, to build up love to overwhelm the hate.

In a perfect world, politicians would listen to the people and better the situation. Solutions are hard and require working together toward a better day.

Would that it was that easy. But it’s worth giving it a shot.

moreloveleaahate

I welcome your feedback and thoughts. Solving these problems call for a lot of good communication – why not start here? Thanks for reading. Please share!

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.”

 

Taking a trip to Who Knew Me When

keep-calm-and-go-on-a-road-trip-1So I’m hitting the road this week. Me and my Mazda, Pandora on my phone, lots of coffee and water and a protein-heavy lunchbox so I can resist those nasty road snacks. (Hmm. That would make a great band name – “Appearing tonight for one night only, the Nasty Road Snacks!!!”)

But I digress.

I love road trips. When I was dating my enamorada, whose parents lived in SoCal, I thought nothing of throwing a few things in the car and heading down the 5 for the weekend. It was a quick trip from San Jose to Newhall. Had Sunday afternoon return timed perfectly, if I left by 2, I was back in NoCal in time for dinner.

Then came life/marriage/kids and that ultimate closing act, responsibility.

Life is pretty good now and the marriage is running swimmingly after 40 years (yes, he deserves a medal). Kids have spread out – Sacramento, Anaheim and Virginia. Most days, it’s just the sweetie and me and our two fur kids, 170 pounds of pit bull snuggles around the house.

So it’s a travel day, heading north to Tracy and Manteca, which are kind of near the Bay Area. Not close enough to hit The City, but that’s not why I’m going. I’m not a tourist this time.

The 5 to me is a road filled with familiar landmarks. I’m leaving really early, planning breakfast at Harris Ranch and ending up in the land of the Giants (3 World Series titles in five years, just sayin’) around lunch-thirty.

imagesI’m going to visit two women who have more dirt on me than the huzzbee himself; women who knew me when, before kids, before LAPD, before NBC, before journalism and community volunteering and politics.

They remember the rough clay when it was thrown on the wheel of learning. When I was an ardent, unquestioning supporter of what we now call a questionable conflict; when I worked for an underdog Republican challenger to a juggernaut Congressman (yes, he lost), then moved on to work on the Nixon campaign (we all know how that ended….)

Together, we learned to dance, gave each other noogies, protested pollution, held farting contests, sang ditties about janitors, anguished over having a date for the prom, studied, complained about and had crushes on teachers, athletes, and  played baseball in the intersection. We cruised down the street where two of our crushes (students, not teachers) lived in the hopes of seeing them outside, knowing we’d just die if we did.

Image-1The friend I’ve know the longest was deemed a little too risky by my mom and I wasn’t allowed to go away for the weekend with her family, but the other my parents got to know better and mom was more comfortable with. I loved them both.

Both held my secrets, laughed with me at my awkwardness and inconsistencies and all three of us proudly walked out of Washington High School in 1971 with diplomas. I threw daisies over my shoulder as I walked to the stage, which might not surprise people who know me now. But then, I was a rebel.

images-2One of them used to hit the road with me, throwing a sleeping bag in the back of the car and pulling over to the side of the road to sleep under the stars. Yes. We know we were idiots. Thank God for park rangers who kept an eye out for us.

I introduced one of them to her future husband and I was a bridesmaid at their wedding. She chose yellow for my dress in a semi-flattering cut. I still have the dress. They’re still married, and from the pictures and postings on Facebook, it looks like the years have treated them well.

The other started college at San Jose State with me, then her father died suddenly and life turned upside down. Her father’s funeral was the first I ever attended – I had to ask my parents what to do and say. I would deal with the same loss a few years later and I realized it doesn’t matter what your friends say, knowing they love you enough to show up to help you cope with the loss is everything.

I don’t remember the circumstances of her first wedding, but I remember the second one was so much better. They are still married, although that bastard Alzheimer’s is robbing her of his companionship. I see the resilience and strength that she’s always had when we chat online.

images-1That’s part of the reason I decided to make good on the promises I would make when we’d touch base – “We need to get together soon,” “I’m going to try and make it up there sometime this year,” “Gosh, life got busy and time got away from me” were easy to type, but something clicked lately, something that reminded me that life is short, there are far more people that love you out there and we need to make good on those promises. To say I’m excited is a huge understatement.

There will be much laughter, some tears, lots of “holy cow, I forgot about that!” and “Geez, we’re getting old” over the next few days. Like I said, these girls hold the secrets. There is no pretense with them; they know the real me under the smoke and mirrors, and I can’t wait to be reminded.

My point – have that lunch with a friend you’ve been trying to see. Even if you just meet at the Bucks for a cuppa, catch up. Don’t wait until they’re sick or moving or worse. Remind yourselves how good life is and how much you love and are loved.

But now, you’ll have to excuse me. The road is calling and it’s an old familiar song.

images-3

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.”

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.”

Chew, chew, chew – My life on the (lite) gravy train

It has been a month since I decided to get rid of a small bit of stomach for a bigger portion of good health. All in all, it’s been a really good month – the feedback from my friends and colleagues has been positive and it’s looking like this was the absolute right choice for me.

While some may think this was an easy way out, it’s quite the contrary. They tried to warn us about how much detail there is to eating after the surgery. Portions are small and divided between proteins and vegetables/fruits (the only carbs I’m willing to eat) and have to be consumed three times a day. (Meaning I have to stick to something of a schedule)

vitamins
Two iron, two multis, six calcium, two gummies a day, B-12 once a week. Oh, and at all different times in the day. Welcome to my nightmare

Vitamins, once a “leave the bottle next to your toothbrush and take one a day if you remember” ritual, are now essential because I’m not eating as much, and they have to be taken in certain amounts at certain times because of their individual absorption rate. Contrary to what you may have learned on Schoolhouse Rock, all vitamins don’t get along and some are the bullies of the supplement world.

You would think a writer/consultant like me who works out of a home office most of the time would find it easy to remember to take the right pills at the right time, especially those which are taken with meals. Not a chance. Just because they fixed my tummy doesn’t mean they patched together the scattered parts of my brain.

So I have a little note on my office bulletin board – not that it helps. I spend a good amount of time saying “Oh crap, I forgot to take my calcium” or “That feels like too much iron” and swearing about having to chew every pill into powder (digesting pills is something a stomach sleeve has trouble with for the first few months). And chugging water doesn’t happen anymore, either. Sip, sip, sip. Wait a half-hour, then chew, chew, chew, chew – up to 20 times per mouthful. I’m convinced I have jaws of steel now with those workouts, but it’s for a reason. I also realize what meats have gristle in them (had a hamburger pattie and it was a real chore to eat), that make me happy that I’m trying to stick to just poultry and fish from now on.

Screenshot 2016-02-15 12.47.35If I take that “one more bite,” or take in too much liquid at once, it feels like a gremlin living in the center of my chest is kicking and stretching. Members of my support group told me I would know if I’d taken too many bites and they are absolutely right. It’s not like being Thanksgiving full, it’s more like “ow, ow, OW!” and the only thing that will make it better is letting nature take its course. That and sip-sip-sipping water to help things move along.

That said, I have been able to work normal food back into my menu, so long as it doesn’t have skin or casing on it (my grapes must be peeled, which I think is long overdue). It’s something of a challenge when we’re out; last weekend we ventured to two movies and when we arrived at the second theater, we got there just as the previews started to play. Try and find something that’s full of protein at your local cinema. A hot dog – with mustard and relish, but no bun – was the only thing I could find, and yes, the gremlin was busy that night because I didn’t consider the casing….

I even went to Disneyland last week, vowing to find something edible wherever we went in the park. The turkey sandwich at Jolly Holiday – sans bread, lettuce (hard to digest) and mushy tomato – was delicious. Washed that down with an iced tea, but since I can’t drink at the same time as I eat (again, a space issue in the sleeve), it took me about an hour to drink the small cup’s worth. Later on, ice cream sounded good, so I suggested that my ice-cream loving friend stop into the Golden Horseshoe and get a sundae. I was able to eat three bites of ice cream and was completely satisfied. I’ve become the perfect mooch.

Met the kids and my motivation, Sadie, for a visit to the Carthay Circle lounge for an adult beverage – except my beverage was a Two Bill – their name for an alcohol-free iced tea-lemonade combo. A few hours later, for dinner at Café Orleans, I ordered a cup of French Onion soup.

Screenshot 2016-02-14 17.08.58
Cafe Orleans Pomme Frites. One of my former loves, now not so much.

My son-in-love ordered a basket of Pomme Frites for the table, those delicious thin French fries coated with garlic and Parmesan cheese, which I first said I wouldn’t have, but fell victim to temptation and grabbed one – and it tasted awful! They told me my tastes would change and boy, they were right on this one! I guess if I have to lose a craving for something, this one is OK. Now if only the popcorn at the park didn’t smell so delicious.

SadieCmonGma
C’mon Grammy, let’s go ride Big Thunder Mountain Railway!

One of the best things about Disneyland was that I logged 3.7 miles walking between parks and from ride to ride – a short distance from what I hear from other people, but I’m still proud. I’ve been logging at least a mile a day (with housework activity on the weekend) on trails with my friends – even got to walk 1.37 miles along the beach in Santa Monica with a dear friend I hadn’t seen in a long time. Turns out she had some questions about my surgery, which is why I’m including it in my blog subjects (don’t worry, I’m getting ready to jump into the political/election fray soon enough), and you know I’m more than willing to share my experience. I do have more energy and know that moving is critical to my success. I actually think about getting in a walk or some sort of continual movement each night when I plan the following day’s schedule. That’s something I never did before.

A side effect of the surgery, and maybe the weight loss (I am talking to my regular doctor about it today) is that I have developed my own weather system that flips quicker than the heartbeat of a speed freak. One moment I’m fine, then I’m grabbing a sweatshirt (I never used to layer, but now I’m an expert), then I’m stripping off what I can to accommodate a hot flash. Happens 24/7. Chilled to the bone in the middle of the night, huddling close to the pitties for warmth, then throwing off the covers. I may have suppressed the hormone that causes me to be hungry, but I think I accidentally kicked into high gear the hormones I thought I left behind after my hysterectomy six years ago….

And my wardrobe is changing, little by little. I’m wearing my 2- and 3X T-shirts for walking and housework and digging out the smaller shirts from the bottom of the drawer to wear out. Since I have several sizes of pants in the closet, I’ve moved from the biggest to the comfortable ones a size or two down. It’s strange that some of my favorite items now hang or bag a little, at first I was confused, but then I was thrilled! My husband frequently tells me how much difference he’s seeing and that definitely helps me along.

Screenshot 2016-02-15 12.16.49
One step at a time. I can do this.

So the bottom line is that I feel terrific. I have learned a lot about myself, I’m still learning how to live with limitations and I am flabbergasted at how much food is still in the refrigerator (I have to get my hubby to eat more fresh fruit!) because I’m not eating more than a few bites. I learned how to think about what’s on the plate, now I need to learn how to shop for just one and a half people. Either that or invite friends over for my leftovers….thanks all for your support, in person and online.

Now let’s talk about something else that’s eating at me….this upcoming election and what we’re teaching our children…..coming soon!

Can I stomach this big change? Yup.

So, how did it go?

Not too bad. Big change. But not too bad.

Last Friday, I was a guest at Providence St. Joseph’s Medical Center for my bariatric sleeve surgery. I left about 36 hours after I arrived, bearing five war wounds across my abdomen and a significantly smaller stomach.

So many of you have asked questions about my experience, I will share my recollections and revelations here. I hope this openness has sparked some conversations about this tool in so many people’s struggles with weight loss. It’s not for everybody and yes, I have had my moments where I wondered why I wanted to do this. Now that it’s done, I am focused on making the best of this body revision and what it can help me achieve.

First of all, kudos to the nursing and medical staff at Providence; they were friendly, professional, supportive and made my stay very comfortable, despite the frequent wake-ups Friday evening. It’s good to have people around you that are familiar with your procedure and can gently advise life changes that will make your surgery worthwhile. Got a lot of good information from all my visitors.

PuffySuit
The amazing Bear Paws warm air puffy gown. Whoever invented this deserves an award!

Additional kudos to whoever invented those Bear Paws inflatable gowns with vents where they pipe in warm air. No more freezing on the gurney waiting to go to the OR. I didn’t want to take it off. And now I have a whole slew of silly questions for my friend the surgical nurse (at another hospital) about what else happens after surgery. Somehow, someone got me out of the puffy warm gown and into a cloth gown that wrapped around me comfortably so that I could get out of my bed to do laps around the nurses’ station (required before we could go home) without mooning anyone. That’s definitely a skill!

There’s a huge memory gap that starts when I saw the anesthesiologist, a lovely Irish lass with a beautiful accent, after I shifted to the operating table and ends sometime after I arrived at my room. I remember seeing family and friends waiting there, along with bits and pieces of conversations, peppered with a lot of giggling when I dozed off mid-sentence – over and over again. I seem to remember everyone was happy that I was safe in my room, then they all left to get lunch, leaving me to blissfully snooze.

I think.

SarahWalks
Daughter Sarah took one of the first Friday laps

Later that afternoon, I started my laps, escorted by various friends and family, each making special symbolic marks on my white board to signify completion. I continued the laps after they left, our daughters taking their dad out for dinner and leaving me to rest. Walking past the rooms of fellow bariatric patients (there were four of us that night), we bonded and encouraged each other to continue to walk, because moving more is key to us becoming shadows of our former selves.

It was deja-vu, back to the liquid diet, when they brought me dinner, a tray filled with broth, tea, juice (that had to be diluted) and an orange slushy. Broth, juice and half the slushy went down easily, in little tiny sips and spoonfuls, to accommodate my shrunken stomach. I guess I did pretty good, because they took me off the IV saline that night, saying I was sufficiently hydrated.

SquishyInPink
Who wouldn’t be incentivized by this cutie patootie?

Breakfast the next day was more of the same, as was lunch. I dozed off and on Saturday morning, family arrived to chat me up and keep me company as I walked more laps. My daughters sent pictures of my granddaughter playing at our house as incentive to keep walking and late that afternoon, the nurse brought me an armful of paperwork and we were headed home.

 

Other than feeling a little twinge in my middle from the war wounds (surgery was laparoscopic, four of the holes are from where they put in the trocars that accommodated the camera and surgical tools, the last is where the drain was installed), I felt pretty good. Of course, having Sadie at home to cuddle might have influenced that, but I didn’t have any residual aches or pains. I took the pain medicine prescribed because I thought it would help me sleep, but the constant interruptions of the night before assured I would sleep like a hibernating bear.

I did. Clean sheets and a familiar mattress are simply little bits of heaven.

BreakfastYogurt
Protein-enhanced yogurt. Eaten in little, baby-spoon-sized, tiny bites.

In the last couple of days, friends have been generously bringing homemade soups and asking if I need anything. I asked a friend to find some unflavored protein powder (I have to try and take in 70 grams of protein a day to keep up my energy) because most powders I’ve found are either vanilla (gak) or chocolate (doesn’t mix with chicken broth very well). She arrived with a huge container of Isopure, which is flavorless, but doesn’t seem to mix in very well. Maybe it’s my technique – could be like making gravy, takes an expert mixer.

By the time I figure it out, I’ll probably be on to foods that actually have protein in them, like eggs and tuna.

I think most of the people who have come by are amazed that I’m not more tired or sickly. Honestly, I feel great.

I also think that a lot of the credit for that is the positive reinforcement I’ve received from my readers and friends and people on the Facebook page Gastric Sleeve Support Group who unselfishly share their experiences, challenges and offer solutions for whatever anyone asks. I’ve even heard from friends who had the surgery that never talked about it before, reaching out now that we have a common bond.

Now to make a schedule for all of those offers to walk. Gotta get those laps in, before I need another nurses’ station. And figure out how to mix that damn powder.

 

I love to hear from my readers – feel free to comment and of course, to share!

 

 

 

 

 

Engaging in some voracious mind games

It’s nice to know I have a few supporters on this interesting journey!

Day 11 of my two-week liquid diet, part of my journey to better health, or as it has become to me, “Better Living Through Chemistry.”

I swore I’d never eat some of the diet things I’ve consumed in the last week and a half, but I have and they didn’t kill me. In fact, I believe they might be working on saving me.

Speaking of saving me, I want to start out this blog post with a giant hug of appreciation and love. I’ve heard from an amazing number of people who shared their support, curiosity, well wishes, enthusiasm and just plain “you go, girl” since posting my first steps into this surgical adventure.

My operation (yes, I’m giggling and thinking of the funny looking guy in the game and wondering if a buzzer will go off if my surgeon touches the wrong thing) will be done in just over three days. When they are finished, my stomach will be more tubular with a tiny pouch that looks forward to little bits of Things That Are Good For Me instead of a giant receptacle of More Than I Need.

shrimpI ate my last fried catfish two weeks ago. And kind of hated it.

Same with the shrimp, prepared by cooks who knew their stuff. I’m sure it was perfect.

But I was disappointed. Kind of disgusted. And happy that it was my last deep fried morsel.

The next day, my final, final big meal wasn’t a go-for-broke belly buster. It was my favorite sandwich from Jersey Mike’s, with chips and a soda. A simple end to a changing habit.

I truly believe that the brain is stronger than we think.

I mentioned that I’d lost about 30 pounds already, most of that just from cutting back my portions. I know some people think if I just keep that up, all the weight will fall off. It might. But I know it would not stay off.

Over the last year, I’ve been doing the bariatric prep dance. Apparently, most of the stuff I learned in class has been sticking and the little voices that say “I’m full” have gotten louder. I have more patience with myself.

I can do a liquid diet. I can do the clear liquid part, too. And even though I swore I’d never do it, I am gleefully dropping scoops of protein powder in a glass of orange juice and enjoying it. I see a gloppy orange drink, but my brain actually thinks I’m drinking a Creamsicle.

And those sugar-free syrups that are so popular at the coffeehouses are not too bad when I’m sick of vanilla anything. Current faves are English Toffee and coconut.

The mind games are quite entertaining.

spaghettiI’m also pretty darned proud of getting through two major food events, one of which my husband and I host and I make my special spaghetti sauce and pasta for about 100 close personal friends. I didn’t even taste the sauce (that’s what daughters and Italian friends are for) and when my husband asked me if the first pot of pasta was ready, I instinctively picked a strand of spaghetti off the spoon, bit it to check if it was al dente and promptly spit it out.

What’s happened to me?

When I was at my highest weight, I was also taking steroids for muscle aches. I looked more like the Sta-Puft marshmallow man than myself and my husband said he missed my face. That might have been the toughest thing to hear, the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and quite possibly the reason I decided to be serious about this.

I’m happy to say that I have my face back. I don’t have to hide from cameras anymore and it’s just going to get better.

nicewordsWhen my house was filled with people this weekend, it wasn’t just the crock pots of bubbling marinara and meat sauce that were overflowing. That night was a banquet of support and, as I sipped my apple juice and downed a chocolate protein drink, I drank in a lot of love and approval, for which I am overwhelmingly grateful.

Excuse me now, I need to go make my list for the drug store. There are some stronger chemicals required for the final stages of surgical prep. I’m looking at it this way: from here on out, getting ready for my periodic colonoscopy will be a breeze!

 

Follow my journeys by subscribing to my blog (click the link above). And please leave a comment! I love hearing from everyone.