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.”

Toss the salad, gimme the scrambled eggs

Twelve days. Nearly two weeks. Still taking baby steps, but teetering oh-so-close to that edge of just leaping off into a pile of scrambled eggs…..

scrambled_eggs_101_1_vert
This has been my fantasy for the last four weeks. I know. Weird….

Thanks for all the comments and concerns about my health. This adventure comes with some aches and pains, but with more growth (well, mentally. Physically, it’s shrinkage) and changes that will be lifelong.

You’ve asked how I’m feeling. OK. My stomach looks like a drive-by shooting happened in the OR, with four bullet holes in a line just above my belly button. (For the laparoscopic surgery, they put four trocars into your belly, blow your abdomen up with gas and then go to work with a camera and stapler and a hose to get rid of that pesky stomach tissue. You come out of the anesthesia with a drain and three big bandages. I prefer to think of it a crime scene. The “bullet holes” are healing, but underneath, apparently I’m developing scar tissue, because I get a really sharp pain to the left of the navel when I stand up, or when I curl up in the fetal position while I sleep.

adult-black-bat-wings
That flapping sound you hear is just my Batman impression. Do not be alarmed.

They told me there would be loose skin. I’m already starting to see that on my tummy, and now, I noticed my upper arms, formerly referred to as my “flying squirrel” arms, have now shriveled a bit and are beginning to resemble bat wings. While I believe in the dictum “Always be Batman,” I don’t think this is what they meant.

The muscle aches I used to get are going away, even though my weight loss is just beginning (although from my heaviest weight to today, I’m down 44 pounds). This is good because I have to walk or exercise (Aquatic Center lifeguards be warned: I’m coming back for that aerobics class!) and it’s a little easier. That was the point.

My knees, however, have not completely bought in to the program and we may have to have a talk soon. Of all the things that this surgery is supposed to eliminate or soothe, arthritis is not on the list.

Early last week, I thought I’d look on YouTube for a video of my surgery. I watched it and was fascinated! It made so much sense to do the liquid diet before (to shrink the liver) and watching the technique, I was in awe. I got a great mental picture of what I look like inside and it made the baby steps I’m taking now much more clear. If you’re thinking of having the surgery, or if you’ve had it already, I recommend watching the video. I learned so much!

IronHorseTrail
Iron Horse Trailhead. An old railroad bridge from the 1880s. Perfect place to change my own history.

I wear my Fitbit every day and was thrilled to see it logged nearly a mile on my walk today at the Iron Horse Trailhead. For 20 years, I have covered ribbon cuttings at these things, but never set foot on any path. Santa Clarita deserves kudos for the massive amount of trails criss-crossing the city and the scenery along today’s walk was amazing.

I had my follow-up appointment with my surgeon this week and had to wait nearly 45 minutes in the exam room for what I knew was going to be a five-minute visit. When he walked into the room, I told him I didn’t appreciate the waiting, only to have my concerns blown off. He looked at the drive-by site, said the bullet holes were healing and that the stitch of pain on my side was probably scar tissue, and if I moved more, it wouldn’t hurt. I explained to him that I was having trouble with walking by myself – I am much more comfortable sitting at my desk, writing and keeping in touch with the outside world from a keyboard, and am loathe to haul my lazy butt out of the chair to walk around the block. Plus it’s boring. So I have set up walking dates with friends who will make the steps melt away with their companionship. I shared this with the surgeon, and his remark was that I was going to fail if I didn’t exercise. I know this. I was explaining my coping mechanism and he was dismissing me. Again.

It was everything I could do to not use some colorful language and tell him that a good doctor would encourage my “date making” efforts at exercise and tell me to continue. Instead, he made it a negative experience. Really negative. When I began this process, I was warned that he had no bedside manner. I think it’s more than that. He thinks he’s a god. I think he’s a plumber (with apologies to my real plumber, who I love). But this guy goes in, fixes the pipes, then kicks the dog on the way out of the house.

One tip for people considering the surgery who are married or have a partner living with them. Revert back to your college days of marking, hiding or locking up your food. I drove home the other night thinking about the cup of tomato soup I had in the fridge, dreaming about warming it up and dropping in a scant spoonful of cheese and spices, only to open the refrigerator door and see a blank spot where the soup used to be. Apparently my sweetheart had a grilled cheese sandwich that needed company.

Ninety percent of the food in the fridge is out of my league and he takes my favorite part of the 10 percent! He was apologetic, but take this as a warning: Be prepared to defend your soup, yogurt, pudding and juices against predators.

waterbottles
Sip-sip-sipping away. All damn day…

Having this surgery didn’t take me out of the social circles. Last week, I went to a reunion with a friend from Florida, where delicious and desirable plates were passed before me. I sipped…and when I say sipped, I mean slo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-owly…an iced tea. Took me all night. Needless to say, I’ll be the cheapest date in town from here on out, since I will only be able to consume a few bites. I promise to tip generously, even if I order the child’s plate. And my newest constant companion is my water bottle. Sip-sip-sipping is my new habit.

And the mental games continue. Sometimes I wake up thinking I can walk into the kitchen and make a platter of bacon and cheesy eggs with toast. Then I really wake up and realize that I will be able to have one egg, scrambled (can’t WAIT, that happens Saturday), hold the toast and bacon, and substitute a little fruit and thinly sliced ham. It’s the next step in the new me. In the meantime, it’s time for a new ’do. This redhead is picking up speed and it’s time to sass again.

 

Special thanks to the people on the Facebook Bariatric Sleeve support page. The questions and answers are invaluable. I’ve never felt so much support from a group before and I appreciate each and every one of you.

 

Questions? Comments? Leave me a note, I love to hear from my readers!

No formula for creativity in these boxes

This is how I feel when faced with an excel sheet
This is how I feel when faced with an excel sheet

I don’t do boxes.

There’s a running joke in our family that I do words and my husband does pictures.

I write stories and columns and press releases and articles for nonprofits and clients. He paints pictures and helps find the money that pays the bills.

I do our bills and try desperately to keep us afloat. Being a freelance writer makes that a daunting task, but I make it work.

My desk is covered in scraps of paper with old-fashioned addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. I am putting my grandchildren-to-be on notice right now that NanaRock does not do New Math.

I did have to learn Excel to pass a Statistics class during my recent return to college. God bless the handful of friends who came out of the woodwork from all over the country (no exaggeration here, help came from Virginia, New York, Newhall and Sacramento) to teach me just enough to be dangerous and earn a C in the class.

I knew a little about Excel from some temp jobs in my distant past and have had to use it a bit doing some lists and data management for public relations work.

I even have a copy of Excel 2010 for Dummies on my desk. I swear it has been cracked open, but that program that “everybody loves” is still the six-foot wall I never got over in the police academy.

Recently I was asked to put information that I’ve always put in lists into a spreadsheet.

The mere word gives me the creeps.

AAAAAUGH!!!
AAAAAUGH!!!

Spreadsheet. Numbers. Data. Little boxes in which there is never enough room.

I know, I know, you can make the boxes as big as you need to. What happens then is that you have a spreadsheet (there’s that ugly word again) the size of a set of blueprints. I run out of tape putting them together.

Another task on my plate was to take a sprea- uh, boxy document – that someone had filled out and find missing or additional information.

I marveled at the paper’s variety of colors. I initially appreciated the neat organization of the columns and sections, but was soon overwhelmed by the repetition and brevity.

I had so many questions, but the potential answers hid under earmarks and notes that I couldn’t open.

There are people who have tried to teach me about Excel, but I think I found the problem.

I am wired very differently than those people who zoom through spreadsheets (ick). Like an allergy to peanuts, a gut-slam from gluten, an anaphylactic reaction to stings; I am physically unable to work in the world of boxes.

I have been a writer for too many years to compartmentalize. I practice penmanship and write thank you notes. Why do I want to put names, addresses and zip codes in boxes if I’m going to handwrite – or at least type – a personal letter? There is no warmth in merging columns, but there is in a well-written sentiment.

I am at the age where I want to spend the rest of my time playing in my word garden. Learning them, using them, introducing new ones to the world. Taunting, teasing, tempting readers with promises of interesting verbiage and honest emotion.

I’m too warm and fuzzy for a (choke) spreadsheet.

Seriously, my eyes start to glaze over and my brain, which is usually rational, despite random musical numbers and grand ponderances wandering through, hurts. Physically hurts.

I got through college because I endeavored to persevere, not because I was good at boxes. If I was anything, I was creative. Outside of people like Bernie Madoff, I don’t think anyone is really creative when they work with numbers in boxes, let alone words in them.

One of my mantras is accepting everyone for their own personal strengths. Those people who whip around a spreadsheet at the speed of light I hold in high esteem. Most of them can’t write their way out of a paper bag. That’s my superpower.

So don’t be surprised when the call goes out to assemble, this avenger will show up with a notebook and a pen.

regular or decaf