Monday, December 28, 2009

I've Lost, but Look What I've Gained! Part V

Bless me Blogger for I have sinned, it's been 3 weeks since my last post...

[Dear readers, my apologies for not staying on schedule with this series. I do not receive any compensation for my writing other than your love, kindness and interest. As such, my family and personal life will occasionally become a higher priority than my writing. I beg your forgiveness, thank you for your patience and will now commence the 5th installment of this series.]

At the end of the last post, I had met the preliminary requirements for a referral to a bariatric surgeon and was awaiting approval from my HMO. I received my approval in September 2005, and was informed by my primary care physician that I needed to attend an informational seminar held once each month by the surgeon. It was too late to attend the September seminar, so I called and was scheduled to attend the October seminar.

The day of the seminar, I was filled with various emotions. I was excited and curious, nervous, had some low-level fear, and even a sense of marking a milestone. I attended the seminar held in a medical building near the hospital where my surgery would be performed. I took a seat in the back so that I could watch not only the presentation but the other attendees. I noticed that I was one of the smallest attendees in a group of very morbidly obese people. This gave me momentary pause to question whether or not I belonged there or was I giving up my conventional battle too soon? I then reminded myself that I had arrived at my decision soundly and logically and had the support of all who were involved.

The surgeon and her team gave a wonderful presentation. She shared her statistics both good and bad and spoke about the comprehensive end to end programs provided by her office. I learned that most of her patients participate in a study of bariatric patients that is managed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This appealed to me for two reasons. I believe in studies that support ongoing education and provide data to determine best practices; especially in medicine. I also have a fondness for the NIH because I took some courses there back before I abandoned my plan to get my masters degree. I made a decision right then to participate in the study if I was eligible.

Another important fact that I learned at the seminar was that my surgeon's medical practice was one of two Centers of Excellence in bariatric surgery in the Sacramento area. At the time, there were four healthcare systems offering bariatric surgery. Having a surgeon who was recognized by the American Society for Bariatric Surgery made me feel more confident about my surgeon and her practice.

The seminar consisted of the surgeon and her staff speaking and showing power point slides and a former patient who recounted his personal experience with bariatric surgery. An information packet was handed out to all the attendees. The staff also shared that they held monthly support groups for patients. The two types of surgery offered, Roux En Y and Lap Band, were discussed in detail. This helped to solidify the Roux En Y procedure as the one I believed was best for me.

At the end of the seminar, the staff answered questions. The presentation was so thorough that there were only a few questions. I left the seminar feeling satisfied with what I had learned and confident in my decision to proceed with the surgery. The next morning, I called and scheduled my first appointment with the surgeon.

To be continued...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I've Lost, but Look What I've Gained! Part IV

[This is the fourth part of a series on weight-loss; In this installment, I mention the South Beach Diet.  I am a biologist and not a nutritionist.  The information provided here is informational only and should not be considered advice.  I am not receiving compensation in any form for mentioning the South Beach Diet]

At the end of the last post, I was ready to pursue bariatric surgery for weight-loss.  I began to let family and friends know of my intentions and received a lot of support from them.  I made an appointment with my primary care physician for a full physical and consult for referral to a surgeon.

The physical and and laboratory tests were an obvious necessity.  I had to be in good enough health to survive the surgery and the stringent weight-loss regimen afterwards.  My appointment was in June and I learned that my weight was at an all time high- 253 lbs.  I was now more than 100 lbs overweight.  At the time of my research, the basic criteria for surgical candidates was at least 100 lbs overweight or 75 lbs overweight plus at least one weight-related health problem.  My weight-related health problems consisted of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, borderline level of glucose for diabetes, and chronic muscle and joint pain and fatigue.  I was physically a candidate.  Next, my doctor had to determine if I was mentally a candidate.

I was told that one measure of success following surgery was to lose 10% of my body weight while under physician supervision.  I would have to lose 25 lbs before I could move on to the next step in the approval process.   I was also required to meet with a dietitian, fill out a lifestyle questionnaire, and a mental health questionnaire.  The questionnaires were extensive, about 18 pages in all.  If the mental health questionnaire revealed any issues then I would have to meet with a psychologist.  Once those processes were completed then I would be re-evaluated by my primary care physican and a referral request for a bariatric surgery consult would be submitted to my HMO.

I began those processes fully committed.  I understood that surgery was not a cure, but a tool to help me manage my weight in a healthy way for me.  I began the weight-loss process and chose to use the South Beach Diet and exercise.  I chose the South Beach Diet because it is based on the glycemic index and everything I understood about nutrition indicated that it was a very healthy diet.  I also believed that it was a diet that I could use post-surgery to manage my eating.  It took me three months to lose the 25 lbs.

I met with a nutritionist who reviewed my nutrition questionnaire with me.  The meeting lasted approximately one hour and I was told that my understanding of nutrition was sufficient to be approved for the surgery.  My psychological questionnaire and lifestyle questionnaire did not indicate that I needed a face to face meeting with a psychologist. 

Once those preliminary items were completed, I returned to my primary care physician.  He reviewed the check list and submitted the request  for the surgical referral. 

to be continued...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts - Let It Snow

 randomtuesday

The Un Mom is sippin on (no not gin and juice) hot chocolate and peppermint schnappes.  It makes for some "spirited" randomness.

I've beeen writing a series of daily (M-F) posts about my weight loss experience, but today I'm taking a little break for RTT.  I will resume the weight loss posts tomorrow.  In the mean time, if you want to get caught up, you can read I II and III.

It actually snowed at my house on Monday morning.  This was the first time it snowed since I moved here.  Granted, it was only a dusting but still, I found myself in awe.  We prefer to visit the snow and usually have to go a half hour or an hour up the hill to visit it.  But it finally visited us.

Saturday, my baby turned 14 (sniff, sniff).  She had a sleepover with a handful of friends.  All of the girls (including mine) had sweet and innocent personas that they projected until they decided to take a walk around the neighborhood. Then they came screaming and laughing into the house because they had placed two of the neighbor's Christmas reindeer in the humping position.  Ah youth--I gave them a gentle lecture about "other people's property" but couldn't help laughing because my sense of humor is so low brow.

My son started college this week (Yay Bubba!).  He and his wife HA and my granddaughter Miss Honey Bee, are now 1253 miles closer to me but they are still 1771.59 miles away (according to Mapquest).  Like his mother, Bubba got the baby, marriage, college process in reverse order, but hey look how great I turned out (insert your own personal snark here). He did choose wisely though, I adore my DIL and my granddaughter is adorable and sweet.

My oldest daughter HNH is getting her own preview of parenthood.  She adopted a Pomeranian puppy named Tobias and I understand he is keeping her up nights.

My grandmother had her toe amputated last week.  She is a diabetic and 85 years old.  There was concern at one point that she might need to have her leg removed below the knee.  Luckily, it was just the toe.

As I sit here at the desk, typing, away, I'm waiting on the FedEx man to deliver  a new lamp for our big screen TV.  I'm the only one in the house who hasn't missed the big TV.  Surprisingly though, the kids haven't commandeered the other TV, so maybe I'm not the only one not missing it.  My husband, however, is wringing his hands.  He also has a crazy look in his eye and talks about going bowling (who knew that TV withdrawal could lead to a bowling obsession).  If you were going to suggest that I try distracting him with sex, I've already tried that.  If he would pass out like most men do afterward, it would work.  I happen to have married a man who immediately following sex, is always energized and wants to go to Vegas.  You heard me correctly, LAS VEGAS NEVADA.  It's only an 8 hour drive.  Sex doesn't make him beat on his chest and proclaim that he is "the man".  For some reason, it makes him want to gamble.  I have yet to figure it all out.  He has yet to actually ever get up and drive to Vegas after sex, but we have hopped in the car and drove to Reno (only a two hour drive) occasionally.  I don't ask, I just enjoy the "ride" ( I can hear you groaning)

My Christmas tree is nine feet tall and artificial.  Two of my children are allergic to evergreen trees ( a real bummer) and so we've had artificial trees for many years.  I miss the scent of a fresh tree and pine scented candles just smell too much like Pine Sol to me.  

Random schmandom, I've got stuff to do.  See ya later.

Monday, December 7, 2009

I've Lost, but Look What I've Gained! Part III

[This is the third part of a series on weight-loss]

So at the end of the last post I wondered if I would have the courage to actually have bariatric surgery.  I spent a significant amount of time thoroughly researching the surgical procedure and the studies and statistics for the post-surgical outcome.  I actively learned as much as I could about bariatric surgery until I started the new job.  I was not quite ready, however, to actually have the surgery. 

The new job was a completely new type of position for me.  It was a newly created position at a small company.  My background from previous careers made it a great fit.  I had told my then sweetheart (now Hubby) that I wouldn't even consider marriage until I had a job and could stand on my own two feet.  I think I had the job about a week before he proposed.  This job was quick-paced and required long hours.  I often went to work at 7:00 am and left the office at 10:00pm.  It was very sedentary and so the battle of the bulge ensued and I was losing the battle significantly. 

We married in December, right before Christmas.  Our families had already planned a family gathering in Las Vegas, so we decided to add a surprise wedding to the mix.  Our families were thrilled and we had a wonderful wedding.

Back at work after the holidays, my long days resumed.  I tried to compensate for my lack of movement by eating as healthy as possible.  It was a huge struggle and without any real exercise, it became apparent that all I was managing to accomplish was to not gain at a rapid pace.  However, I did still gain.

In March, I attended a meeting at work and the CEO shared the financial reports with us.  The red ink was a big, blaring sign of things to come.  Being the newest employee in a newly created position, the writing was on the wall and by the end of March, I was once again unemployed (so much for standing on my own two feet).

One thing had become very clear during my research.  Surgical intervention was highly controversial and significantly frowned upon by many, including some high-profile personalities. It was a common topic on talk shows, and each one that I watched made it very clear that most people considered weight-loss surgery to be cheating.  It was a judgment that I found unjustified.   My research proved to me that with the right perspective, commitment and expectations, it was a good and life-saving option.  There was one final piece of information that solidified my decision to have the surgery.  It was a story of bariatric surgery performed for a different health problem other than weight-loss.

I read a story ( I wish I could remember now which publication) in a magazine about a family who had a genetic pre-disposition for stomach cancer.  Several family members had elected to have gastrectomies to lessen the potential for cancer.  They had chosen to do this because they believed it would save their lives.  Their decisions could not be reversed, much like  the Roux-En-Y procedure I was contemplating.  This story made me realize that the stigma associated with weight-loss surgery was something that could not stand in the way of my decision.  It made me see that if I felt I was at risk for death because of my weight, then I was fully justified in pursuing the best option (for me) to manage and reduce or eliminate that risk.

I told my husband that I believed I was ready to pursue the surgical option for weight-loss.  He knew that I had been researching bariatric surgery and he fully supported my pursuit; not because he didn't like the way I looked, but because he completely understood how much I struggled and how worried I was that I wouldn't live to see my grandchildren.  I told him that while I didn't plan to stop looking for a job, I would use the time off to see if I qualified for the surgery and if so, plan to have the surgery and recovery while I wasn't working.  Our insurance was an HMO plan, so I knew I had a long road of approval processes ahead of me.  It turned out that it was a much longer process than I anticipated.

I made an appointment with my primary care physician to start the ball rolling.

to be continued...

Friday, December 4, 2009

I've Lost, but Look What I've Gained! Part II

[This is the second part of a series on weight-loss]

When last I left you I had reconnected with my childhood sweetheart and after spending a fun-filled week in Vegas with him, we decided to try to make a relationship happen.  And happen it did!  I was still living in DC and he was living in sunny northern California.  He is a government wank with a pension to beat most and wasn't about to relocate under any circumstances.  I worked for a global company, who's headquarters just happened to sit in the Bay area with satellite offices in the same town as my sweetheart(by the way, he is now my husband and that is another sordid tale I will tell in its entirety in a future post or two).  So after our week in Vegas, we returned to our respective corners of the continent and tried to figure it all out.  Then I got a promotion, almost randomly, that required that I move to California.

In the mean time, I began to struggle up and down with the weight again.  The job change and the move across country brought new stressors to my life.  The changes were positive, but they were still changes.  My eating was good then bad then good again and continued in this vicious cycle.  Exercise was spotty at best.  Six months later I had regained the 30 lbs.  Luckily, my size did not change how my future hubby felt about me.  After the move, I continued to struggle with eating and exercising.  Sometimes, I would be completely diligent and committed.  Other times I ate and sat on my butt with wild abandon.  Stress was still high; the new job began to crush me with tasks about a year after I accepted it.  The company was struggling financially (most were at the time) and even though I wasn't at risk for a layoff, I was required to pick up additional duties as the company "downsized".

I began to struggle not only with my weight but my mental health as well.  I began taking Paxil and Ambien to deal with the stress--two drugs that have potential weight gain as side effects.   It seems that medical professionals might think twice about that when they hand them over to obese patients, but you and I know otherwise.  I also began to take blood pressure medication and it should be noted that I had been using an inhaler for exercise-induced asthma for several years.

My mother bought me a lifetime gym membership for Christmas, and I was thrilled to have it!  I began earnestly exercising and following the diet plan laid out by a professional trainer.  I began to lose weight very slowly.   The job stress escalated to the point that I knew my health was in jeopardy because of it.  So I quit the job.  I whole-heartedly believed in my ability to get another job right away, so I did not line up a second job beforehand.  It took nine months to find another job.

In the mean time, depression and stress from not having a job replaced the job stress.  But, while I was twiddling my thumbs in between job applications and interviews, I began to research weight-loss options in earnest.  Back in the nineties, I barely missed being part of the Phen-fen tragedies--thankfully.  Soon after that, I heard about new procedures for weight-loss surgery.  I remembered back in the seventies, stomach stapling was popular for a while but then it seemed to die out.  I started reading articles and watching news stories and documentaries on the new bariatric procedures.

I wondered if I would have the courage to actually have that type of surgery.  At the time, I wasn't ready to throw in the towel on conventional weight-loss, but I kept the idea in my head and learned as much as I could.  Being a biologist and having worked in the medical field, I knew where to find unbiased information and studies.  I actively learned as much as I could about bariatric surgery until I started the new job.  I was not quite ready, however, to actually have the surgery. 

to be continued...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I've Lost, but Look What I've Gained! Part I

 [This is part one of a multiple installment series]

My weight issues have been almost lifelong.  From a pre-pubescent naturally thin to a post-pubescent ongoing battle with weight gain.  I was an average size baby - 8 lbs (3.6 kg).  From ages 2-12, my mother had great difficulty finding clothes that fit my body both in length and width because I had long legs and a very thin (but still healthy) frame.  Then puberty took over and that was the end of my skinniness for a while.  My mother(who was overweight as a teen) panicked.  She began "helping" me "diet".  This was the good old 70s when fad dieting was really popular.  I tried the "seven foods in seven days" diet, the Atkins diet, a powdered drink/soup mix diet.  No matter what I tried, I'd lose the extra 10-20 lbs, then regain it almost immediately.  This went on throughout my teen years.  Eventually, I became more desperate.  I tried the cabbage soup diet, and eventually, I began fasting. 

The fasting did not lead to anorexia, but it did lead to bulimia.  I would binge, then fast (purging never worked for me, but starving did).  What was really bewildering about my weight struggle was that I wasn't sedentary.  During my early teens, I was involved in sports.  The weight changes took a toll on my knee joints so I gave up sports, but then I joined marching band and danced in school musicals.  We lived out in the country on a farm and I walked or rode my bicycle and helped with farm work--taking care of animals, bailing hay, stacking wood, etc.  Still, I was very fond of just lying on my bed reading or listening to music, and I spent way too much time in front of the television.  All of these things took a toll on my metabolism.  I can only guess that my moderate level of activity kept me from being morbidly obese. 

Following high school, I delayed college for a year and worked as a waitress.  I was bored with school and wanted a break.  At first, the free food that comes with working for a restaurant was a problem.  Being on my feet for my whole shift and staying busy helped a little.  I started noticing when people would order large amounts of food and then consumed all of it.    Observing this behavior started to change my attitude about food and my own eating habits.  I decided to eat healthier and  smaller portions.  Finally, I was eating an appropriate amount of food that balanced with my activity level.  I began taking an aerobics class and soon I lost all of the extra weight and managed to keep it off.  I wasn't thin, I was just no longer overweight. 

I went to college then I quit college, got pregnant and got married.  I gained 40 lbs with my pregnancy but took it all off.  I gained 28 lbs with my second pregnancy but took it all off.  I gained 55 lbs with my third pregnancy, on top of the 10 lbs I gained trying to get pregnant.  I did not take it all off and thus, my struggle with weight began anew.  I tried low fat diets, a physician managed calorie counting diet, and a physician managed liquid diet.  I started college again.  I got pregnant again.  This time, I gained 35 lbs and did not take it all off, so I added more post baby pounds to the ones I was already carrying.  I divorced my husband.  Then my dad (who was my biggest cheerleader) was killed by a drunk driver.  All of this happened while I was trying to go to college full-time, work part-time, and take care of three young children (if you done the math, I had four pregnancies, but my second child did not survive; that story can be found here).  As a typical mom with too much on her plate (no pun intended) something had to give and as is typical of most mothers, my own physical well-being took a backseat to everything else. 

I then got engaged, had another baby and got unengaged.  I only gained 18 lbs with the last baby, but by this point I was obese and 60 lbs overweight.  In 1998, I moved with my children to the Washington DC area to get the best possible job I could find.  Luckily, I began working for a company that had a cafeteria that served healthy food and had a gym on site.  I began eating healthy and exercising.  I decided I wanted to run a 5K race and began training for that goal.  I ate healthy and exercised every day.  The weight came off very slowly.  But if I slipped up at all--with eating or exercising--I started to regain immediately.  This was especially frustrating because I was eating healthy, exercising and drinking lots of water.  It was as if I had no physical ability to just maintain my weight.  I had to be extremely diligent which was really difficult.  I met my goal and ran two 5K races.  I was still 30 lbs overweight, but I felt good and continued to be motivated.  Then my company reorganized some of its departments, including mine.  My job changed significantly.  My good eating habits and exercise fell by the wayside.  Over the next few years, I received two promotions.  My professional life became consuming and between my job and being a single mother of four, once again my body was my last priority.  Actually, it was not even a priority.  My weight soared.

In 2001, I reconnected with my childhood sweetheart. We had not had contact for over 20 years and we decided to meet in Las Vegas to spend a few days together.  I immediately began the Atkins diet (again) and joined a gym.  I DID NOT want him to see me all big and fat. I managed to lose 30 lbs between August and Thanksgiving.  When we met, I was still 30 lbs overweight, but I felt much better about seeing him.  What happened next was almost unthinkable.  We realized that we still loved each other!  But...he lived in California and I lived in DC.  What to do?  Then something amazing happened!  I got a promotion at work that required me to relocate to California.  

to be continued...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts - It's beginning to look a lot like random

randomtuesday

Be sure and visit Keely, she has the gift that keeps on giving.

So...where the hell have I been?  None of your business Just really busy with wrapping up the fall band season and Thanksgiving.  The band championships were held on Saturday night before Thanksgiving and our band won second, but our colorguard won first!  A testament to the fascism teaching skills of me the staff; it's been a wild, chaotic ride this year.  It was followed by Senior circle where all the band seniors watch the band perform the show one last time - except without them.  It's always a tear-jerker, then they eat cake.  So a few weeks off for me then winterguard starts up right after New Year.

Last week, my daughter had her senior pictures taken and took her saxophone along for some shots.  Her quirky wonderful photographer became obsessed with (no, not my daughter) THE SAXOPHONE!  He actually took "extra" pictures of the saxophone!  I wasn't charged for the extra poses of the saxophone, so I didn't roll my eyes all the way back in my head complain. 

On Thanksgiving Eve (yes, it's okay to call it that) our family all got new cell phones and new cell phone service!  Yay!  We are now a Verizon Wireless family.  I do have to say that if you live anywhere near Sacramento, the Natomas Verizon Store has the ultimate in customer service.  Our CSR, Freddie P, was a pure delight and a consummate professional.  After four years with the previous company, we now actually have service inside our house.  It got pretty cold standing on the back patio in my underwear in the dead of winter just so I could have enough signal to actually call someone and have a conversation (nah, I would never do that would I?  I'd at least put on socks).

I have the new Blackberry Curve 8530 in smoky violet (doesn't that sound sexy?)  and Hubby has it in black.  The girls all have the LG enV Touch. I am not being compensated for mentioning any of this; we are just really happy with the service and products.  Customer service ain't what it used ta be, and so I feel compelled to affirm it when it is good.

Thanksgiving Eve night, we went to see the Sacramento Kings play at Arco Arena.  They've had a good season so far and we always enjoy the games.

Me and Hubby at the Kings game - Go Kings!

On Thanksgiving morning, for the second year in a row, my youngest daughter CL, her bff, and I ran  the Sacramento Run To Feed The Hungry 5K.  My goal this year was to improve my time from last year, which was so lame that I should have been able to crawl and beat it.  If you want to read about my experience last year, it can be found here.  The unofficial race results are posted online here.  I was in the female 40-44 age bracket.  Here are my stats:

Place
Name
City
Bib No
Age
Overall
Chip Time
Gun Time
Diff
Pace

94
NeCole Scott
Antelope CA
7810
44
2491
36:20.9
36:29.3
0:08.4
11:43/M

The day of the race, I was listed 92nd and the only thing I can figure out is that two ladies who didn't want to give their ages initially, decided to go to the officials and give their ages so that they could be included in the appropriate group.  SEE, sometimes it's okay to give your real age or you might miss out on something good. 

This year, we arrived early enough to enjoy some of the pre-race festivities.  We met up with a reinllamadeer.

Me and the reinllamadeer

I had my picture taken with the KCRA morning anchor team Deirdre Fitzpatrick and Chris Riva.

Deirdre, me and Chris - Chris let me hold his microphone!


And of course, here I am with my two faithful race buddies (who promptly ditched me after this picture was taken.).

CL's BFF, me, CL - they only look sweet and innocent, ha! 


The race sponsors again provided free drinks and snacks after the race. I love the combination of getting my charitableness on, running (exercise) and hanging out with my kid.  I hope to make this a long-term tradition.  After the race, we went home and cooked a small simple Thanksgiving dinner and watched football.  My husband didn't cook this year, but he did do the dishes (which was even better).

The rest of the week and weekend was low key, I am not a Black Friday adventurer. We did put up the Christmas tree - it's nine freakin feet tall!

So I'll try to be better committed with posting, BTW, thanks to all of you who are reading and commenting.  It's been very encouraging for me and I really appreciate your support and kind words.  That's all of my random for now.  Catch you on the flip-flop.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Great Interview Experiment Hosted by Citizen of the Month - My Interview

As most of you know by now, I signed up to participate in Neil Kramer's Great Interview Experiment (GIE) over at Citizen of the Month.   Danny Miller of Jew Eat Yet was my victim and then I had the tables turned on me by WordNerd of words...thoughts...nonsense.  I hope you found Danny's answers to my goofball thought-provoking questions entertaining and insightful.  Here is WordNerd's interview of me.

WordNerd: One of the first things I noticed in reading your blog is that you seem to have really mastered the art of Everyday Bliss.  Your title seems like a pretty apt description of what your life is really like. What does your IDEAL day look like?

Me: My ideal day is a day relaxing day at home and I have it most Sundays.  I am a true homebody.  Our family is like most other families, and we are constantly on the go.  I try to complete chores, cleaning, errands and other tasks Monday-Friday.  Saturdays are often spent away from home.  On Sundays, if I'm able, I wake up early and have coffee on my patio if it's warm outside.  Then I usually read, do needlework or putter around the garden.  If it's cold, I drink my coffee inside, sometimes in front of a fire in the fireplace and read or do needlework.  When my family wakes, we do relaxing things--watch movies or sports, play games, cook together, make crafts.  I try hard not to leave the house and to have our family together.  I believe it gives us all a chance to relax and become energized for the week ahead.  It's not always possible, but most Sundays are like that for me.  So when I have a peaceful Sunday like I've just described, that is my ideal day.  The only way it could be better is if my other children and grandchild lived nearby and could join us.

Wordnerd: Tell us what it was like to lose close to 150lbs?  (how long did it take, what motivated you, how different do you feel, etc)

Me: The weight-loss was a significant turning point in my life.  From my surgery until my final end point, it took just over a year.  I had been struggling with my weight for a long time and there was a genetic component to my obesity.  What motivated me to choose the surgery was that after struggling for so many years, my health was really beginning to suffer.  I took several medications and had chronic health problems.  Now, I don't take any medication and my former health problems are completely gone.  I do take vitamins and supplements.  Now, I feel great and very healthy and am much more active.  I'm currently training for a 5K charity race on Thanksgiving.  It's also been surprising to realize how much discrimination I experienced when I was overweight.  I was aware of it before I lost the weight, but after losing weight, I've noticed a significant difference in how people respond to me.  I'm currently working on a blog post with more details about my weight loss, and I hope to get it up soon.  It will probably be a short series of posts, because I want to share a lot of information about my experience.

WordNerd: You are an amateur organic gardener.  There seems to be alot of buzz about organic food in the media yet there is also alot of skepticism because of price, etc..  Why do you think people should make an effort to eat organic food?  And, what should people start with?

Me: I am a biologist and have been environmentally conscientious since my childhood.  I also grew up with grandmothers who were avid gardeners and I learned a lot from them.  Having access to fresh foods from their farms and gardens meant that I learned to appreciate quality food early in life.  As an adult, I learned that food grown in my own garden could be harvested at the peak of ripeness.  There is a noticeable taste difference between fruit and vegetables that are harvested when they are ripe verses those that are harvested before they are ripe. As I began to practice gardening, I read a lot of gardening literature and determined that I personally felt it was safer to not use chemical pesticides and insecticides.  Unfortunately, because "organic" has become trendy and controversial, it's often difficult to determine if you truly are buying an organic product from a retailer. 

As for organic food being more expensive, that is another reason why I grow my own produce.  I'm a frugal person and by planting my own garden, I saved my family approximately $800.00 this spring and summer and that's after expenses.  I also buy produce that is in season locally.  I found that if I buy organic produce at a farmer's market or CSA (community supported agriculture), the cost is almost identical to what I would pay for nonorganic produce at my local grocery store.  But, even when it is more expensive, I think it's always best to buy the best quality food that I can afford.  I think I owe it to myself and my family for optimal health.

My suggestion to begin eating organic  is to grow something of your own.  Tomatoes are easy and can be grown in a container if you don't have a yard.  Herbs are also easy and can be grown in small containers indoors.  If you absolutely can't grow anything yourself, farmer's markets and community supported agriculture (CSA) are the most economic places to buy organic products--based on my  personal experience.

WordNerd: A lot of different countries are mentioned on your blog, what was your most memorable trip and why?


Me: I haven't traveled as much as I would like, but of the places I've been, my trip to France in 1982 was the most memorable.  It was my first time to travel abroad.  It was Easter and I saw some amazing things.  At that time, I had studied French for three years and was thrilled to actually have a chance to communicate with french-speaking people.  I love history and visiting historical places.  Getting to see the chateaus of the Loire Valley was exciting.  Paris was everything I imagined and more.  I attended Easter Mass at Notre Dame and the Bishop of Paris gave the mass.  The Louvre and Versailles were incredible and breath-taking.  Angers and St. Malo were wonderful places.  Mont St. Michel was fascinating.  I should probably write a blog post in detail about that trip.

WordNerd: What is the first thing you do when you get out of bed and the last thing you do before you get into bed?

Me: This is something that is a little embarrassing for me, but I want to be honest.  The first thing I do when I get up and the last thing I do before I get into bed is the same thing.  I check my cell phone for messages.  My husband is a night owl and comes to bed long after I do, so I kiss him goodnight before I go to bed and then I check my cell phone.  I'm sure many people do this, but somehow it feels like my priorities are askew.


 So now you know way more than you ever wanted a little more about what makes me tick.  Many thanks to WordNerd for interviewing me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Great Interview Experiment Hosted by Citizen of the Month

As I mentioned last week, I am participating in the Great Interview Experiment hosted by Neil Kramer over at Citizen of the Month.  The Karma gods surely blessed me as I ended up in a sandwich between two amazing bloggers, Danny Miller of  Jew Eat Yet and WordNerd of words...thoughts...nonsense.  The premise was that among commentors to Neil's blog, each of us would interview the person who commented before us and be interviewed by the person who commented after us.  It was a challenge to develop thought-provoking and entertaining questions.  It was intriguing to be almost simultaneous interviewer/interviewee.  I am so grateful to Neil for providing this opportunity.  Both Danny and WordNerd are incredible writers and I'm elated to be reading their blogs and honored to be part of the blog community with them.  Here are my questions and Danny's answers.  I will post a link to WordNerd's interview of me as soon as it is available.

Me:You have lots of references and posts about “vintage” television and movie stars.  Do you feel that the stars of the 40s and 50s had more substance as actors and performers or is it just childhood and early adulthood nostalgia that keeps you drawn to them?

Danny:That’s a hard question. While nostalgia obviously plays a role, I think my appreciation of classic movies and the great movie stars of the past is more about preference and quality. Despite the many pitfalls of the old studio system, they sure cranked out a lot of superior product. But in every decade there is always a lot of quality and a lot of trash. My reverence for the Katharine Hepburns and Cary Grants of this world will never change but that doesn’t mean I don’t admire today’s talent also. Currently, actors like Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet will propel me to the theatre no matter what they’re in. Regarding TV, there are some fantastic shows on today but in general I fear we are at a low point and that some of the shows on the air today are so horrific they would make Faye Dunaway’s Diana Christensen from “Network” blush.

Me: You and I are close in age and like you, I watched a lot of television when I was young.  I remember the so-called “experts” lamenting that watching too much television was ruining our generation.  Now, we say that about the video game generation.  How would you compare the two?  Are they better or worse or the same as us?

Danny:I don’t think TV ruined us Baby Boomers as much as was feared. As I was saying on a recent blog post, although I watched a ton of TV growing up, I also spent countless hours playing outside with my friends (seriously, were there more hours in the day back then?). We didn’t have the same problems with childhood obesity in the 60s and 70s because we were still pretty active. Yes, we were watching TV but there were no computers sucking up the rest of our time. I am not a fan of video games at all, mostly because of the content that I see which tends to be hideously violent. Happily, my 14-year-old daughter was never interested and we have no intention of bringing any game box into our house as our baby son gets older.

Me: You are a seasoned blogger and I’m a newbie.  My method of learning to be a better blogger has been to read a variety of blogs and apply the good techniques of others while still maintaining my voice, style and uniqueness.  That being said, as a seasoned blogger what advice do you have for me and others who are new to blogging?

Danny:I am thrilled that people like you are starting blogs. I love that form and while the blogosphere was exploding when I started five years ago, so many excellent bloggers I know have stopped their blogs recently and people seem to be more interested in short-form expressions like Twitter (which I still can’t bring myself to go near). I hope you’ll keep on blogging, the posts I’ve read of yours include everything that is good about blogging—honesty, pain, humor—and my only advice would be to keep writing about whatever YOU are interested in, without obsessing about your audience or “stats.”

Me:  My 14 year old daughter has naturally red hair that appears to be the same color as your daughter’s hair.  Other kids refer to my daughter as a “ginger”.  My daughter wants to know if your daughter is teased incessantly because of her hair color.

Danny:Isn’t that color the best? I was thrilled when my daughter was born with a full head of hair that was exactly the same color as my mother’s and grandmother’s. I love red hair and happily, I don’t think Leah has ever been teased because of the color. If she’s had any hair angst, it’s from her curls and she went through a period where she straightened it. But now she loves the color and the curls, even through her recent lice episode (ugh!).  I’m surprised your daughter is teased over it. But then again, women with red hair used to be burned for being witches! Tell her that when those little biatches are older they’ll be spending lots of money to dye their hair your daughter’s color!

Me:I showed my daughter your daughter's picture on your blog, in hopes that she would identify with another beautiful young red-head.  Instead, she begged me to ask you that question.  I agree with you, I love the color.

Me: I’ve always tried to instill tolerance and acceptance in my children.  I was blessed to have a good friend in college who was Jewish and I invited her to my home often and especially every year at Chanukah so my children and I could learn about and appreciate Judaism (we were practicing Christians at the time).  Even so, I know that there are still plenty of opportunities to learn and appreciate other cultures and religious faiths.  What is the most notable thing that non-Jews still don’t understand and/or appreciate about Jewish traditions?

Danny:Hmm, that’s an interesting question. There are probably lots of misconceptions about Jewish tradition. Some people mistakenly believe that religious Jews are very serious and dour, but the truth is that Judaism is a very joyous religion. There are lots of rules, yes, many of which seem odd in our current times, but the pursuit of happiness is also written into Jewish law. And while sexism certainly abounds in the ultra-orthodox branches of Judaism, women are also revered and it is stated that a man must make sure his wife is happy and satisfied, if you know what I mean. It is definitely not a prudish religion. Even though orthodox women are prohibited to have sex during their period (and the week that follows), they are strongly encouraged to do so at other times, and not only to procreate! (Yikes, your question had nothing to do with sex…forgive me!)

Me:No forgiveness needed; sex is always a welcome topic here.
 
Me: Losing a child is one of the most emotionally difficult things to experience.  Writing can be cathartic or heart-wrenching or a combination of both.  What has been the most emotionally difficult blog post that you wrote?

Danny:I read your heart-wrenching, poignant post about losing your son and so appreciated your sharing that. I haven’t had the courage or perspective yet to write about my son Oliver’s death last April but the other day I finally wrote some specifics about the earlier part of that day when my wife went into labor at 24 weeks and delivered our twins. I agree that writing can be cathartic and I don’t know how I would have made it through the past seven months without my blog. Having a blog to pour some of my thoughts into is almost as good as therapy, I love it.
 
Me: What or who motivated you to become a writer?

Danny:I always liked to write, and had notebooks full of poetry (oy, I never write poetry anymore!) when I was in elementary school. When I was young I loved Roald Dahl’s books and I wrote to him in England. His personal response to me made a huge impact and I was convinced that he named the character of his next book (“Danny, Champion of the World”) after me. I’d say he was a big inspiration. I also had some wonderful English teachers amidst the not-always-great educators in the Chicago public school system. As someone who had a very hard time expressing my emotions when I was young, writing was the best way to feel like I was being heard, to feel like I mattered.

Me: What is the most significant thing you’ve learned from blogging that you wish you had known when you first began writing your blog?

Danny:I never dreamed that blogging would provide me with such a great community of people like it has. I especially felt that during our recent ordeal with our twin boys. My blog has been such an evolution for me, it has taken on different purposes as time goes by. I guess the only thing I wish I’d realized when I first started was what I told you in question #3 above, to not worry if anyone would be interested in what I was writing about but to just follow my own passions and let the chips fall where they may. That has worked very well for me but I spent a lot of time back in the day worrying about losing readers.

Me: Is there anyone who you respect as a writer but yet you don’t enjoy their writings? For example, I admire and respect F. Scott Fitzgerald as a talented writer, but I don't enjoy his writing.

Danny:I would say that Saul Bellow falls into that category for me.  I think I tried to read "Humboldt's Gift" about five times but never made it past the first 50 pages.  "Herzog" too.  But I haven't picked either book up in years, maybe I should try one last time now that I'm middle-aged!

Me:  Tell me one item from your "bucket list."

Danny:Gosh, maybe my one item should be to create a bucket list, I’ve really never thought about it! I get easily overwhelmed by such concepts but then I remind myself that it doesn’t have to be big saving-the-world stuff. My daughter recently told me that the three things she wants to do before she dies is go through a car wash where you get to sit in your car, wear a hoop skirt, and play a serial killer in a play. Okay, all doable! So on that level, I’ve always wanted to take a driving trip through Europe. I’ve been there lots but always traveled by plane or train, I would love to get off the beaten path and drive around for a while, stopping wherever I like. I’d probably start in France. I’d also love to learn to play the piano and to experience weightlessness.

Again, my thanks go to Danny for his wonderfully candid and enlightening answers to my questions.  If you have the chance go read the other inteviews in the Great Interview Experiment.  They can be found here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts - Chicken Wings Anyone?

randomtuesday

Be sure and hop on over to The Un Mom, she's serving my favorite food--eclectic.

So...my buddy Brian from Life of Brian posted a link on Facebook and it has changed my life.  Seriously, I am a chicken wing addict lover and I love "tha dippin'".  This video shows a great technique to remove the wing bones and have a single whole boneless wing to dip and double-dip and triple-dip (hey, I can if I want, it's my sauce, get your own).  Brian found it on Digg.com and Digg linked back to Bitrebels.com who posted it from YouTube where it was posted by Chef John at Foodwishes.com
Whew!  I'm out of breath from all that link hopping, but I like to give credit where credit is due.  My favorite place for wings is Bully's in Reno, NV.  Luckily, they are close enough to get a fix now and then and just far enough away to ONLY get a fix now and then.  Unluckily, there is a Wing Stop 5 minutes from me.

Wow, I think that last paragraph made me an official link whore.  Yeah, yeah, I 've been called a whore before, don't feign shock and surprise.  It's unbecoming.

Last week, I spiked the ball, slapped my knees together a few times and did the stanky leg dance  (look closely and you can spot my daughter in the video) in celebration of my win in Fantasy Football.  Alas, as I predicted, MadMom slaughtered me this week and she did it without a full team!  Congrats to MadMom on her win.  I also want to thank Momspective for starting and managing our league.  Julie you totally RAWK!  I am really enjoying my first taste of FF and am excited about the playoffs.

"Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, please put a penny in the old man's hat".  Actually, my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, but for the first time that I can ever remember, we are beginning to decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving.  My daughter AB loves Christmas, and this is her last Christmas home before she's off to college so I thought we'd make it extra festive this year.  I must confess though, my favorite Christmas carol is "Grandma Got Ran Over By a Reindeer".  If I don't hear it during Christmas season, I'm seriously bummed.  Christmas is usually really relaxed at our house.  We take the minimalist approach and I have to tell you, it's well worth the peace of mind through the holidays.

For those of you who "play Santa" for your kids, here is a quick easy way to provide a little extra excitement on Christmas morning.  This works best on carpet, but will work on other floor types too; with a little more cleanup effort involved.  Make a very simple paper or cardboard cutout (an empty cereal box works really well) of the bottom outline of a boot.  If you have a boot, just trace around it but if not, just free-hand it.  It will be fine--be sure and make it adult size.  Take the cutout shape and place it on the floor, then sprinkle a thin line of baking soda around the cutout.  When you lift the cutout, a white boot imprint will be on the floor.   Do this repeatedly (to make it look like footprints) in a trail between Santa's "point of entry" and the "cookie plate".  Of course, you want to wait and do this after your children have gone to bed Christmas Eve so that when they wake up on Christmas, they will find Santa's "boot prints".  This has the added bonus of freshening your carpet when you vacuum the baking soda and it's nontoxic.  My kids really dug this when they were little.

So now, I'm off to "haul out the holly, put up the tree before my spirit falls again, fill up the stockings, I may be rushing things but deck the halls again now"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts - As Random As It Gets

randomtuesday

Keely  is deep in denial a pile of words about heaving busts and men in form-fitting attire--no she is not reviewing a workout video--go check out her Randomness.

There's been a whole lot of random in my life lately so get ready for this roller coaster ride!

This week (and for one week only) I am dominating The Momspective II Fantasy Football League.  Yeah! Go me go me! uh uh uh...uh oh, flagged for excessive celebration.  Believe me, my celebrating will be short lived.  MadMom is sure to kick my @ss in our upcoming matchup.  Even if she doesn't, Boston Babe, AlliC, Felicia or Annalise will probably win and eventually, we'll all be tied again and then they will pass me and leave me in the dust.  But for a few sweet days, I OWN THEM, YEAH! 

Miz Julie is out and about AGAIN!  Julie you is my travel hero heroin heroine.  That's such a weird word, hero should just be a unisex word.  She can still hook you up though, since she is always organized and prepared and leaves behind entertaining prose when she's away. 

Citizen of the Month is holding his third annual Great Interview Experiment.  I signed up this year and am very eager with anticipation to learn what WordNerd wants to know about me and what salacious info salient sparks of insight I can elicit from Jew Eat Yet?  Keep checking back, both interviews are to take place within the next two weeks and will be posted on this blog for your great mocking pleasure perusal.

Yesterday was a typical Madness Monday.  So at the end of the day, I happily joined my husband in the hot tub (yes, we get in nekkid).  As we were getting out, Sarah Dog came trotting over with something hanging out of her mouth.  I was sure it was some dead animal, ewwww.  I told Sarah to drop it, which she did immediately (then she slunk guiltily away).  My husband turned on the back patio light and discovered that it was not a dead bird or lizard, but a CARROT!  My dog dug up a carrot out of my garden.  What can I say, she does love carrots, AND tomatoes which she picked off the vines and ate all summer. So for those of you who lament that your dog or cat brings you dead animals, my dog kills produce and eats it (there's got to be a Cain and Abel reference there somewhere but I just can't figure it out yet).  I'm just so proud.

Sunday, I made a double batch of pear crisp in an 11" x 13" pan.  My husband ate-the-whole-thing!  Yesterday morning, the empty pan was sitting in the sink.  Okay, okay, I'm secretly pleased that he loves my cooking, but you know I must pretend to be indignant.

Shhhhh, don't tell my youngest children (17 & 14) but we are taking them to see Wicked as part of their Christmas gifts!  I can't wait, I've never seen it.  I miss my Kennedy Center membership something fierce. 

I was so impressed with Kirstie Alley's nontoxic cleaning solution (cheap vodka) that I ran right out and bought four big bottles for uh...uh...cleaning, yeah that's it.  Now, now, I do NOT pour some on my cleaning rag and then take a swig.  I do love to make my own nontoxic cleaning products.  Vodka, vinegar and lemon juice really do work.  Also, for those of you with young kids and animals that might accidentally get into the toilet to play and/or drink, Tang breakfast drink makes a great toilet bowl cleaner.  It's also great for sprucing up your dishwasher (just add a scoop to your dispenser and run it through a cycle without dishes).  Vinegar and boiling water are also great for killing weeds that grow in the seams and cracks in sidewalks and driveways.  Last but not least, all of this stuff is much cheaper than commercial cleaning products.

If you want to read a good blog that will make you think and up your intellect significantly, check out my buddy Brian's blog Life of Brian.  He has great ideas and information, and he really keeps me on my toes.

Tonight, Hubby and I are going to the first game in our season ticket package to see the Sacramento Kings.  Go Kings!

Congrats Tonoogle!  She just met a goal and completed an EA Active Sports 5K this weekend.  She is also a worthy adversary in our Fantasy Football league (I bow, I bow).  She gets her Random on too--check out her site.

I confess with some trepidation that I love opera.  I love Mozart operas the most, but I'm an equal operatunist.

Thus ends my random, tune in next time when grandpa says "check out Captain Dumbass and say hello food porn!" (That one is for you Hee Haw lovers, you know who you are)

Monday, November 9, 2009

His Name Was Shaun

Born three weeks before his due date but perfectly healthy...or so we thought.  Eleven weeks and six days later, he was gone.

I found out I was pregnant right after I began a training course.  It wasn't a planned pregnancy and my husband was only working part-time.  Our oldest child, Bubba, was just five months old when I became pregnant with Shaun.  Bubba was born five weeks premature and spent his first two weeks in the NICU at Hershey Medical Center.  At five months, he was thriving, but my husband and I weren't making ends meet financially.  So I signed up for a training course to get a job that paid well.  It was not a good time to be having another baby.

I made it through the training course with flying colors and was offered a job at the business where I interned.  I finished my internship on a Friday and Shaun was born two days later.  I started working right after the New Year when Shaun was almost two months old.

The last week of January 1987, Shaun developed a mild cold.  The cold seemed to run a normal course.  My husband was home taking care of our boys during the day while I worked.  On Friday January 30, my husband went to wake Shaun for a feeding, and Shaun was not breathing.  My husband called 911 and began CPR.  Shaun began to breath, but he immediately began having seizures.  As the ambulance was about to leave to transport Shaun to the hospital, my husband called me at work to tell me what happened.  I told him I would meet them at the hospital.  The fire crew that accompanied the ambulance took Bubba to the fire station to watch him for us until someone could pick him up.

When the ambulance arrived at the hospital, the crew was still working on Shaun because he wasn't stable.  The doctors gave him medication to stop the seizures but it did not work; he continued to have seizures.  Our pediatrician arrived and noted some symptoms that made him suspect the cause of the illness.  Plans were made to stabilize Shaun and then to transfer him to Johns Hopkins Hospital the next morning.  Our local hospital was too small and not equipped to handle his needs.  I stood beside Shaun and talked to him and held his tiny hand as I tried to comfort him.  Shaun finally began to stabilize so then my husband and I left to pick up Bubba and send him with my parents to their home which was an hour away.

My husband and I returned to the hospital.  Shaun had been admitted to the ICU.  I told the nurses that I planned to stay in the waiting room overnight.  They encouraged me to go home and rest because we needed to be ready for the transfer to the other hospital the next morning.  I decided that what they were telling me sounded logical and made sense; so I left with my husband and went home.  To this day, it is one of the biggest regrets of my life.

Just after 5:00 a.m. on January 31, 1987, the phone rang.  A doctor called to tell me that my son "didn't make it."  She was crying, and I was crying as I hung up the phone.  My husband and I dressed and went back to the hospital.  We called our families to tell them about Shaun's passing.  I asked my parents to bring Bubba home.  We also called our pastor and asked him to meet us at the hospital.  When we arrived, Shaun was lying swaddled in a blanket with medical tubes still in place.  The nurse explained that the tubes had to remain attached because our son was a coroner's case.  In most states when a patient dies within 24 hours of arriving at a hospital, he or she automatically becomes a coroner's case.  They did allow us to hold Shaun.  We asked our pastor to baptize him even though baptism is only for the living.  Our pastor was very compassionate and understood the value of comfort that came from performing the baptism on a deceased child.

We left the hospital and went home.  My parents arrived soon after with Bubba.  Bubba became my source of strength and my entire focus over the ensuing days.  There were times when I lay face down on the floor consumed by grief.  I tried not to do that in front of Bubba though.  I cried mostly when I was alone; mostly in the car.  I numbly made it through Shaun's services.  Every day for at least a year after Shaun's death, I walked to the edge of insanity.  My job kept me busy and my family supported me and kept me from going over the edge, but it was Bubba who gave my life purpose and a reason to live.

The autopsy confirmed what our pediatrician had suspected.  Shaun had a disease called Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD).  It is a metabolic disease and has many variants.  In Shaun's case, the disease had been dormant--waiting for a trigger.  His mild cold had activated the disease and then it ravaged his small body quickly.  One of the ways I worked through my grief was to learn as much as I could about MSUD.  I became an advocate to add it to the list of diseases that each child was tested for at birth.  A few years later, I went to college to study biology and chose MSUD as my senior research project.  My husband and I went through genetic counseling to determine if we should have more children.  We were advised that our risk was low.  I had three more healthy children--all girls.  Each was tested for the disease.  Currently, 21 states require testing for MSUD at birth.

For several years, I struggled with good days and bad days.  In 23 years, there have been only a small handful of days where I didn't think about Shaun.  Every year at this time, I struggle just a little as his birth and death dates pass.  Even now, if I let my thoughts dwell on him, I cry easily.  Most days, I just put my hand over my heart and the emotional scar which was left by his short life, is almost palpable.  I shared my story to honor Shaun on his birthday.  I also hope that there may be someone reading this that lost a child and can look at my experience and know that they can survive the loss and eventually find joy and grace.  Those who know me personally say that I am a joyful person.  Grace is another matter, but joy is abundant in my life.

Happy Birthday Shaun.  I love you and you will always be in my heart.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Sarah the BlogDog Star


She got wind of my post from yesterday, and now she thinks she's a diva (look how she hogs the remote too, sheesh)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts - Gone to the Dogs

randomtuesday
Check out Keely, she's always good for some RTT



Her name is Sarah...Sarah Dog Scott.  We chose her, but in fact I believe she was waiting for us.  Her arrival story is amazing--to me anyway.  For the first few years of our marriage, my husband said "no pets".  But he looked into the sad, begging eyes of three sweet girls and caved as he almost always does.  He didn't mention anything to me about his change of heart; one day I happened to stumble across the Petfinder.com link that had been bookmarked in our browser.  I spoke to him about his intentions, and he admitted that he had been looking at dogs online.  We talked about what type of dog would best fit into our family.  We completely agreed on all of the important issues.  Well...I agreed with most of the issues and was willing to acquiesce to the rest because I really wanted a dog as much as the kids did.  Foremost, we decided to "adopt" a dog that needed a home.  We tried several times to be approved for adoption, but somehow other applications were always chosen over ours.  Finally, we saw a listing by a non-profit group called HARP.  They had two sweet looking small yellow lab mixes and were hosting a pet meetup at a pet store in a city an hour and a half away.

My hubby, our youngest, and I hopped in the car on a Sunday morning to make the drive to the meetup.  We arrived to find no dogs, but several cats.  We asked about the lab mixes (we intended to adopt both) and were told they had already been adopted, and HARP hadn't had a chance to update the website.  One of the ladies from HARP asked us what kind of dog we wanted.  We gave her a brief overview of size and age and breed.  She mentioned that she was fostering a dog that had been rescued during Hurricane Katrina.  Rescue groups in Louisiana had rounded up abandoned pets and distributed them to various animal rescue groups across the country.  The dog being fostered by the HARP volunteer had come to her via distribution in San Francisco.  HARP had taken several of the Katrina rescue dogs and this little dog was the last of the bunch.  We were told her name was Sarah and that she had a skin condition for which she was currently being treated.  She was not available for adoption until her skin condition was clear, but the HARP volunteer asked if we wanted to meet her, and of course, we did.

We followed the HARP volunteer to her house.  She had several cats which meant Sarah had to be tied in one room to prevent her from chasing the cats (to this day, she will chase a cat at any cost).  The volunteer brought Sarah into her foyer to meet us.  She was a little shy at first, but we soon discovered that she was obsessed with fetching a ball.  Even now, we can throw a ball and she will retrieve it until she literally can't stand up to run after it any longer.  She seemed so sweet and friendly and fun that we fell in love almost immediately.  Her breed mix was thought to be labrador retriever and jack russell terrier and her age was estimated by the HARP vet to be three years.  She was chubby and almost coal black.

The HARP volunteer explained that Sarah had one week left to finish her prescription and then the volunteer would bring her to our house.  She would then inspect the house and yard, and if she found it acceptable, we would then be permitted to adopt Sarah and pay the adoption fee (several hundred dollars).  We were also required to select a vet and provide that information to HARP.  We left the volunteer's home with our fingers crossed and hoping this would go smoothly.

The following week, the volunteer arrived at our home with Sarah.  After a brief tour inside and out, she declared our home worthy of Sarah.  We happily paid the fee and welcomed her.  In her doggy backpack was her blanket, some toys and some starter dog food.  Also included were the documents that provided information from her initial rescue and subsequent veterinary examinations and microchip identification.

Life with Sarah settled into a normal routine pretty quickly.  We found her to be very intelligent and she learned commands easily.  She was expertly house trained and did not have accidents.  We couldn't have asked for a better dog.

A year later, Sarah began limping and appeared to have joint discomfort with her hind legs, hips and back.   We took her to the vet and steroids were prescribed.  She began to get worse and became lethargic and incontinent.  The vet then ran a whole panel of tests and couldn't find anything specifically wrong.  He then decided to test her for diabetes which came back positive.  Sarah would have to have insulin shots twice a day for the rest of her life.  Additionally, our vet told us that Sarah's age was probably closer to seven years.  This seems to be a better guesstimate of her age as she has facial graying as older dogs often do.  Since then, her checkups have indicated that her glucose level is stable.  We have again settled into a normal routine.


Sarah sleeping with my daughter

As for all the house rules established by my husband, HE has broken every single one of them!  When Sarah arrived, she was not allowed upstairs, in any of the bedrooms, on any of the beds.  She was not allowed on the furniture downstairs either.  She was not allowed to watch us eat dinner; she had to lay with her back to us.  My how things have changed!  Now, most nights she sleeps with one of the kids.  Our bed was the last taboo, but even that changed when I had surgery.  Occasionally, when my husband is out of town overnight, she sleeps on our bed with her head on his pillow.  Once in a while, at dinner time, my husband will let Sarah jump on the bench beside him at the table and eat off his plate, albeit after he is finished.  I don't think there is one single piece of furniture she has not been on.  Her favorite spot is lying alongside of whoever sits in the recliner.  She waits until it's pushed back then hops up and slides into her spot.   As I write this, she is napping in an Ikea Poang chair that sits right next to my desk chair.  She is often my blogging companion from her perch on that chair.  She sits in her chair whenever any of us uses the computer.

 
Sarah in her Ikea chair

I could spout philosophical cliches about dogs' lives and the message to humans.  Indeed, the simplest things that we observe in dogs should be applied to our own lives.  If we could focus on our basic needs of food and shelter and then uphold love and companionship as a priority, our lives would not be so complicated and decisions about most things would be easier.  As far as I can tell, Sarah's goal each day is to eat, be comfortable, be happy and share time and space with her pack.  When my life becomes chaotic I try to follow her example.  And you know what?  It works.


Sarah in the garden

So your Random Tuesday Challenge for today is to eat, be comfortable, find something that makes you happy, and share time and space with your pack.  I leave you for now with these dog quotes I found at DogQuotes.com

"You can say any fool thing to a dog, and the dog will give you this look that says, `My God, you're RIGHT! I NEVER would've thought of that!'" - Dave Barry


"Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring--it was peace." - Milan Kundera

Friday, October 23, 2009

Highlights of Houseguests

So here I am crawling my way back into blogland after a whirlwind visit by my Mom and my Auntie Kate.  I had a wonderful time having them here, and I hope they had a wonderful time being here (so far the reviews have been very positive).  As I mentioned in my previous post, they are identical twins.  I, along with the rest of their children, affectionately refer to them as the Twinks and occasionally, the two-headed beast (THB).  Currently, my life is so full that something had to give.  The logical decision was to step away from the computer ( but I was still tethered by the crackberry umbilical cord) to manage my daily life and fully appreciate my visitors.  I have no regrets.

A few of the plans during their visit were up in the air.  Luckily, that worked in our favor.  Auntie Kate's arrival was complicated by some bad weather followed by some bad timing, missed connections, and last minute stand-by rejection.  She and Mom were to meet in Denver and arrive here on the same flight on Thursday, October 8.   Auntie Kate made it to Denver but ended up in a hotel.  The next morning, she called to say that she had been diverted to San Francisco.  It was a fast ball pitched at us, but we swung hard and nailed it.  SFO is a two hour drive from here, but we were happy to have an excuse to go into the city as we love San Francisco.  Plus, my aunt had never seen SF so it was a great opportunity.  My husband is a bottomless pit of useless information a treasure trove of fun and interesting facts about San Fran and knows the city well, so he is the consummate tour guide.  We took Auntie Kate and Mom on a highlights tour then had a good seafood dinner at Fisherman's Wharf.  Very touristy, but for SF first-timers, it's best to see and do those things and check them off the list.

On Saturday, my daughter's high school hosted a band competition.  She is a member of the colorguard in the band (yes, the very same one I teach) and she had to perform and serve as host to a guest band.  My husband entertained the Twinks and brought them to the competition so they could see my daughter perform.

Sunday, I accompanied the Twinks to a swim meet to watch their brother's granddaughter (did you follow that?) swim in two events, followed by a late lunch with their brother and his wife, his son and the granddaughter.

Monday, the Twinks entertained themselves at my house by picking tomatoes in my backyard, playing with my dog and chatting with various members of the family as we ran in and out to our various obligations.

Tuesday evening, we all piled into the family truckster (kids too because there was no school on Wednesday, but the dog stayed home) for an overnight trip to Reno to eat at the Sushi Club, and for marathon gambling and antiquing.

Wednesday and Thursday we were back home for more regular daily activities and then Friday, the Twinks went to stay with their brother and his wife.

Saturday, we met up for another band competition.

Sunday afternoon, my husband announced that he thought the adults should go back to Reno just for the evening to play Pai Gow poker as the Twinks did not get to play it on the first trip.  We hopped in the mini-SUV this time and headed up the "hill" (that would be the Sierra Nevada Mountains).  My husband then took a vote to see who wanted a side trip to Lake Tahoe.  All were in favor, so we diverted our trip long enough to show the Twinks, neither of whom had seen it.  We also saw snow (we prefer to visit snow and not have it visit us).  We then headed to Reno and played Pai Gow poker until about 2:30 am.  Pai Gow Poker is a slow table game, so it's easy to sit, play and sip cocktails without losing all your money.  It is a game more geared toward gamers as opposed to gamblers.  My husband and I fall into the gamers category and enjoy the leisurely social aspect of Pai Gow.  

Auntie Kate and Mom at Lake Tahoe

Monday was again filled with regular daily life obligations and the Twinks spent the day organizing and packing for their departure on Tuesday.  Tuesday's departure was bittersweet.  Everyone enjoyed the visit and, we were not ready for it to end, but as always, life's responsibilities called each of us to return to our daily routines. 

In between the comings and goings, I was able to have some great conversations with my mom and my aunt.  I'll admit (selfishly) that is was nice to have their undivided attention and to talk without really being interrupted.  When I'm on their turf, they must attend to their obligations the same way I attended to mine while they were here.  This means that I often have to stand in line and wait my turn to have quality time with them.  It makes me grateful to have had this opportunity to spend the time we had together and I know I will tuck this visit into the fond memories category for years to come.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Double the Pleasure, Double the Fun, Double the Trouble?

Dear Readers (all six of you plus you lovely blurkers--I know you are there), I apologize for being absent this week.  Life got in the way and to cap it all off, my mother arrives this evening, along with my aunt who is her identical twin sister.  They are young and spry at age 63.  I've heard many stories about their mischievous childhood, teenhood and adulthood.  They never cease to create excitement all around them. 

So for the next 10 days or so, I will be wading through the swift waters of my daily life and most likely towing the party barge inhabited by the two-headed beast these lovely ladies.  Indeed, we plan to steal away to exotic locales such as Reno for marathon gambling and San Francisco to be ultimate touristas.  Luckily, my husband is unbelievably patient the consummate tour guide and delights in entertaining crazy in-laws anyone and everyone.  PLEASE PRAY FOR US!  Just kidding.  Indeed, I am truly blessed to have my mother in my life.  She is kind, generous and fun-loving.  I am grateful that we are so close.  I am also blessed to have my aunt.  We have had a special bond since my childhood and my life has been truly wonderful because she is in it.  I wish these blessings of love for all of you.  And with that I may disappear for another week or so, but fear not I SHALL return.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts - If It's Tuesday, this must be Random

randomtuesday

Be sure and pop on over to the Un Mom.  Hopefully you can catch her before she runs barefoot down the street chasing the UPS truck.

While you are out running around in the blogosphere, stop by and check out Momspective's RTT--it's a gas!

As I write this post, I'm drinking the last of my Shui Sin tea from Ten Ren.  It's a loose leaf tea, and it is pretty good.  I purchased it in a variety pack.  My blog is not monetized--I do not receive compensation for mentioning things I like.  That is only a clarification not a criticism.  I think it is great that bloggers have the opportunity to earn a few dollars via their blogs.

I'm also eating applesauce.  Applesauce is so easy and cheap to make (not to mention-no preservatives), both cooked and raw.  Raw applesauce is just pulverized apples that have been peeled and cored, with or without sugar or sweeteners, spices and/or other fruits.  A food processor, food mill or blender is all you need.  I prefer cooked applesauce and it stores wonderfully in the freezer.  It's much easier to cook your own applesauce and freeze it than to can it.  If you are not a well-seasoned canner, it is also less scary to freeze it. 

Today is cool and blustery and will hopefully bring some rain.  I love the heat but like Twenty Four At Heart, multiple consecutive weeks in the 90s and 100s in September brings about a certain fatigue.  So it is a welcome change to sit here in my pullover hoodie and jeans snuggled up with my cup of tea and writing this post.

For parents of young children, hang in there; blessings await you as they grow and become independent.  My 17 year old daughter awoke late this morning--too late to catch the bus.  It was so fantastic to just hand her the car keys, rollover and go back to sleep.  No more jumping out of bed, putting my clothes on backwards and inside out, running in circles trying to find my purse and my shoes while my hair goes uncombed (and sticking out like Medusa's) and my teeth unbrushed as I cuss and hurry my kids into the car in a race to shuttle them to school before the bell rings.  Of course, I rolled over and went back to sleep with one eye open because MY-TEENAGER-HAS-THE-CAR!  It's a trade-off.

A special shout out to Super Jenn, as she begins her first day at home alone with three little ones instead of two.  You can do it Jenn, I had four in the span of ten years.  The youngest is now 13(almost 14--she constantly reminds me) and they are all still pains in the ass healthy and happy.  You can do it!

My overcast, cozied up day has me pondering other food pleasures besides my tea.  When I was a teen, I learned to make hot cocoa from scratch.  As a mother, I found that making my own cocoa allowed me to create savory memories for my children.  When we lived on the east coast and it snowed, my children would almost always come in from playing in the snow to find hot cocoa steaming on the stove.  Even now, if we drive up north to "visit" the snow, I will often pack a thermos of my cocoa.  Occasionally, they will arrive home from school on a cold day to find it waiting.  Here is my cocoa recipe:

In a two quart sauce pan, add one cup unsweetened cocoa powder and one cup sugar.  Add to that one tablespoon of water, one-eighth teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of vanilla extract.  Cook and stir over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is completely blended.  It should look like chocolate syrup.  If it is pasty, add a little more water.  Once the chocolate is blended, add milk.  Reduce the heat to medium low and stir constantly until the cocoa begins to steam.  Do not boil.  I do not measure the milk, I just pour until I have the blend that I want.  Some days, I only add a cup or two of milk which makes it rich and strong (and slightly bitter for you dark chocolate lovers).  Other days, I dilute it with lots of milk so that the chocolate tastes more like an essence.  Your kids will probably like it somewhere in between.  I have not tried sugar substitutes, so use those at your own risk for this particular recipe. 

By the way, this is a dump recipe for me, I measured it so I could share it with others, but it really looks more like this:  equal parts cocoa and sugar-eyeball about a cup of each.  A pinch of salt, a splash of vanilla, a little water.  Cook according to above instructions, dump in as little or as much milk as you want.

One more thing.  Years ago, I picked up a very pretty, discontinued set of Mikasa china at a thrift shop.  It had almost all the pieces for service for ten, plus serving dishes.  Because I invested so little, I do not lose my mind worrying about breakage when I use it.  Thus, letting my kids drink their special homemade cocoa out of a china cup on a saucer made them feel like they were doing something extra special.  Even now, it is easy and inexpensive to pick up a single teacup with a matching saucer at a resale shop.  Collect several cup and saucer sets so that you have enough for your kids and let them have tea or cocoa parties.  I promise, it will create fun memories for them.

Did I seriously just write this warm and fuzzy post?  Okay, fess up, who spiked my tea with happy pills?  Oh wait; it is probably just that I got "some" last night.  But then I get "some" most nights or days as the opportunities "arise".  Okay, do not feign shock and surprise.  If you read my profile, it says that I am satisfied with my life.  How could you possibly not even suspect the source of my satisfaction?  Hello---McFly!

And so on that note, this concludes my Tuesday Randomness.  Now, off with you.  Go see what opportunities of your own "arise".