The Story of the Ring(s)

The road to obesity is a gradual one – nobody wakes up one day and finds themselves 100 pounds heavier overnight. But, there are signposts along the road, telling us that things are getting more and more out of control. Despite the fact that I have a very poor memory, I will never forget a certain “signpost” day back in 1996. I was at my desk, typing away, and my left hand kept making the weirdest mistakes when typing. After half an hour of curse-worthy Backspace-ing and retyping, I decided to investigate. My keyboard seemed fine, there was nothing wrong with my software…then I realized that I couldn’t feel the tip of my left index finger. The one where my wedding ring lived.

I had weighed right around 150 pounds when I got married in 1988, at 18 years old. I was tiny – at 5’5″ I was only about an inch taller than Lor. But, in 1990, something weird happened: the growth spurt I should have gotten back when I was 13 finally arrived. By the end of the year, I was 5’8″, and weighed in at almost 200 pounds. I was also pretty lazy and had just discovered beer, so the pounds just kept on coming. And now, at 26, I was so heavy that my wedding ring was cutting off circulation to my finger.

I spent several hours (I was a poorly supervised employee) trying to get the ring off my finger, but had no luck. No lubricant, no amount of time under the bathroom sink, no matter how I pulled and tugged, it stayed embedded between the rolls of fat on either side of it. Almost weeping in frustration, I took myself back to Shipping/Receiving, grabbed a pair of metal snips, and cut the ring off of my finger.

I was so disgusted with myself that I stopped wearing rings altogether. When our 25th anniversary rolled around, Lor and I chatted and made the mutual decision to get our “renewal” rings tattooed, so we wouldn’t have to buy new rings. (Now THAT was fun, let me tell you.) I told anyone that asked that it was because I was a guitarist – that rings just didn’t work for me. Not only was this a bald-faced lie (plenty of musicians wear rings), but I had also stopped playing back in 2005. I just didn’t want to admit that I was unwilling to risk having to cut another ring off of myself.

Fast-forward a few years. In January of this year, I was helping my cousin, a world-class silversmith, with setting up his website at ShaneCasiasDesigns. Working with him gave me a chance to look over all his jewelry up close and personal, and I was totally mesmerized by one of his designs, a Crusader Ring:

Ring by Shane Casias, Photo by Rebecca Lowndes

I could not stop looking at it and playing with it, even while the two of us were supposed to be working. We successfully implemented and published the site after a couple of weeks of work, and I went back to sitting around the house, working on my blogs.

A couple of weeks after the site went live, a box arrived at the front door. As a “thank-you” gift, Shane had crafted me a Crusader ring of my own. $500 worth of custom jewelry, made just for me. I could barely stand the excitement as I unwrapped it and tried to put it on…

…and it didn’t fit. The only finger I could get it on to was my right pinky, which made me look like a mob boss. Regretfully, I put it back into its black velvet case, telling myself I would mount it on a chain to wear as a necklace, knowing I never would.

On March 3 of this year, I had my first Bariatric appointment, having topped the scales at 302 pounds a month earlier. Lor and I began the slog toward long-term, permanent weight loss. One of the benefits of the pre-surgical diet is that you do lose some weight on it (which is the whole idea), and just for kicks and grins, after 10 weeks on the program, I decided to try the ring on again.

Guess which picture was taken by a pro.

And THAT, my friends, is worth no coffee, no sweets, and carb-counting till the cows come home. I may not feel like I am making any real progress, but I can slip that ring on my finger at any time to prove myself wrong.

Catch you all next week!

Considering A Skull Ring To Celebrate When I Hit 100 Pounds Down,

– Hawkwind

Dietary Thinking is Painful

Photo Credit: Rachel Cogyddes via Compfight cc

Last night’s experiment with a slow cooker, a package of “Buffalo Chicken sauce” and 12 chicken thighs has left us with 3 pounds (no, really – I checked) of shredded chicken and no idea what to do with it. This is after we created buffalo chicken salads for dinner last night, mind you. Surfing through all the different web pages on how to use shredded chicken, I am struck by how many of these recipes are totally not suitable for our current diet. (So far, 100% of them.) Which has me thinking even more about how difficult this transition from “obese eating” to post-surgical diet really has been.

Take breakfast, for example. Used to be we could pour a couple bowls of cereal, maybe top with a little fruit, and call it done. If we were feeling really ambitious we would assemble all the materials for breakfast burritos: you know, tortillas, potatoes, peppers, eggs, chorizo or bacon, shredded cheese, a little salsa. Half an hour’s work for pure breakfast bliss.

Nowadays we look in the fridge, completely perplexed. And frequently just settle for cottage cheese with fruit or yogurt for breakfast, because thinking in the morning is so hard. Bagels, toast, English Muffins – all the easy solutions are barred to us unless we want serious carb restrictions for the rest of the day. Scrambled eggs, you say? Scrambled eggs are just so…meh.

The problem with eating just yogurt for breakfast is that you are starving to death (or, at least you think you are) an hour later. But snacking creates some problems of its own. Firstly, snacks aren’t regulated very well and are an easy way to slip back up into high-calorie eating. But the real problem is drinking. We’re supposed to wait an hour after every meal before drinking again. If we are eating every couple of hours, we have very limited windows for fluid intake (remember, no gulping, only sipping.) And trying to fit 64 ounces of water in every day is tough enough without reducing the amount of time we have to drink.

Lunches, at least, are easier. Our go-to lunch nowadays is deli meat, block cheese, and nuts of some kind, along with a piece of fruit. We had been doing fruit and vegetable smoothies for lunch every day but were “corrected” by our nutritionist. “Don’t drink your calories!” has become a familiar refrain during our nutritional visits. I still think we were getting a greater nutritional benefit from all the fruits and vegetables we were putting into our smoothies, but I am not the one with all the fancy letters after my name, so I am forcing myself to pay attention and be a good student.

But dinners…oh, man, dinners are a stumbling block. Used to be multiple times a week Lor and I would look at each other and simultaneously decide “I don’t want to cook!”. And then we would be off to the closest fast-food joint, ordering (super-sized) value meals and soft drinks. And then wondering why we were hungry again an hour before bedtime.

The era of the value meal has passed. As long as we have planned carefully, everything is ok. But on the days where we forget to plan, dinner time is a furball of frustration, as we attempt to figure out what in the heck we are going to eat when nothing has been thawed out and no meal plan exists. Salads seem to happen a lot. Sounds healthy, but is awfully boring. Not to mention the pile of dishes every single night. (Our dishwasher broke just in time for us to start cooking at home 90% of the time. Of course.)

Don’t tell Lor, but I am soooo looking forward to the all-liquid diet around my surgery. For 4 glorious weeks, I won’t have to think about food. She is very concerned about getting bored with the constant repetition of vanilla/chocolate/vanilla/chocolate. Me, I couldn’t care less. I will be so delighted to not have to plan – it will be like a return to the days of instant gratification at the drive-through window.

Just, you know, liquid. And chocolate or vanilla.

Wondering How To Make Chicken Enchiladas Without Tortillas,

– Hawkwind

Disability Strikes

Photo Credit: nicoletowles via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: nicoletowles via Compfight cc

One day, you are carrying on your life like any normal person. The next day you wake up and discover that your life is no longer your own: you are in the grasp of an adult-onset disability. You have no context – you have not been dealing with this your whole life. All you know if that the life you have known is gone, your freedom is gone, and most of the people you thought were loved ones are somehow gone too.

Welcome to life as a disabled adult.

This was me, back in 2004. I had spent over a decade developing a successful career as a database developer, specializing in converting old, worn-out databases into shiny new relational databases. (The years around Y2K were amazingly good for this kind of work.) In a single car accident, I went from a job worth over $75K a year to moving back in with my parents, who began attempting to figure out how they were going to provide continuous care for me for the rest of my life.

But wait, there’s more!

Now, this is not where my story ended. I was able to get some treatments that restored at least a part of my ability to function. I was able to get married, and take a stab at living without constant care. Thanks to the SSDI I had been paying into my whole working life I was able to provide at least a little income into my household.

I began living by the “box” philosophy: instead of living in a wide open space, I was now living in a box, created by my disability. But there was nothing keeping me from finding out exactly how big that box was, or from pushing against the sides in an effort to make the box bigger. And that is where I thought I would remain for the rest of my life – clinging to the top half of the lowest rung of the Great American Success Ladder.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

At the end of 2015, a new specialist made some recommendations for treatments I had not tried before. Within weeks of starting the new meds, I began to notice changes. Big ones. I was no longer constantly depressed. My health stabilized and began improving. Most importantly – my brain function, so long destroyed by my previous medications, began to return. I was suddenly in possession of nearly the same mental faculties as the people around me. I was still not stable enough to return to the “normal” workforce, but surely there was something I could be doing from home, right?

I had been maintaining my blogs for years, mainly as a means of demonstrating to myself that there was still a person locked inside this body. Every article was a defiant gesture against my disability – there is still a person locked in here! I began looking for anything I could do somewhere on the ‘net that involved writing. Earlier this year I discovered TextBroker – a site that would pay authors for small “ghost written” pieces. I tentatively accepted an assignment from their website, worked on it for a bit, then turned it in. Astonishingly, it was accepted. I had found a way to begin contributing to my family again that was not only sitting around the house and waiting for the Social Security check to arrive every month. I was, suddenly, a freelance writer!

Wrapping Up

So far, the months have been good to me, and places like TextBroker and Contena are providing new clients and venues for my writing. My fondest hope is that maybe (someday?), I will be able to turn off the SSDI trickle, and create a better life for my family somewhere North of the poverty line. Only time will tell.

If you are a prospective employer, you now know where I was during my 13-year absence from the workforce. If you are another disabled person, the most important thing I can say is: Don’t give up! Keep looking for solutions, keep driving your medical team crazy, keep reminding yourself that you are still worth something, even if the evidence says that you aren’t. And if you just dropped by to say hi: Hi, yourself! Thanks for dropping in.

– Jeremy

Surprise!

Photo Credit: alcowp via Compfight cc

A brief announcement for the loyal followers of Misdirected: Wednesday is about to be cleared from the publication schedule. Why, you ask? Mainly because there are only so many hours in the day, and I will be using the middle day of the week for publication on my OTHER, other blog.

What other blog, you ask? Why, the one located at jeremycschofield.com, of course!

No, it isn’t really a vanity project. A freelance writer just needs a home on the web – a place to keep his resume, his contact information, and some samples of his writing. I considered trying to add all that here, but the software support of blogger.com is unfortunately not quite that robust. Hence, a whole new website. The content there will be entirely writer-related, so may be of limited interested to my loyal Misdirected readers, but feel to drop by if you want to take a look at it!

Not to worry, though – the posts chronicling my journey through Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy surgery will remain here on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday of every week. Thanks again for your continued readership (is that a word?) of Misdirected, and I will catch you all again here tomorrow.

Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel,

– Hawkwind

Deviled Eggs

Photo Credit: All that’s Jas via Compfight cc

I am pleased to report that we got through our multiple-stress day yesterday. Both the Monday weigh-in and the initial round of resistance exercise were successfully survived. Who knew that exercising with oversized rubber bands would be so challenging? This left us with only one more obstacle to overcome: Lor’s final dietary meeting. We have been attending each other’s appointments, getting twice the informational bang for our buck and (I am sure) driving our poor dietitian to distraction.

But at yesterday’s meeting, things got real.

We’ll be spending the 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after our surgeries eating nothing but 3 protein shakes a day. (OK, we can also have one yogurt a day.) For the first week or so we can expect to feel sick, listless and irritable. (Sort of like me in the morning now that I can’t drink caffeinated coffee anymore) Then will come two weeks of pureed foods (baby food, essentially) with one protein shake a day. Then, and only then, we can begin re-introducing “real” foods into our diets.

Since I was busy considering that this might be a very good time to invest in a protein shake company, I was not prepared for what she produced next: three lumps, the size and shape of deviled eggs.

“This,” she said, “will be the size of your meals after your surgery.”

Umm..excuse me? I thought you just said I’ll be living on the equivalent of a boiled egg and a half for every meal. For, like, ever?

But, yes, it is true: a 4-ounce stomach can only hold so much. It was by far the most shocking information in a process that has been filled with nothing but shock piled upon shock. Looking at the tiny handful of food she was demonstrating made me ask myself: What the heck have I gotten myself into, here?

I mean, seriously, I like devilled eggs as much as the next guy. But I am a person who used to eat half a dozen hard-boiled eggs as a snack. There is no way that tiny amount of food is going to keep me alive…is there?

Apparently, yes. But this is why the “protein first” rule and proper supplementation are going to be so important for the rest of our lives. If we slip up, and stop eating dense healthy proteins and nutrient-loaded fruits and vegetables, we could literally start suffering from malnutrition. That is to say: starving to death.

We left the office in a curious shift of moods: Lor was now excited and enthusiastic while I was quiet and reserved. Mainly, the only thing going through my head was some version of “Oh God, please don’t let me screw this up.” We aren’t at the end of the road for our current lives yet, but I can sure see it from here.

Does Anyone Else Remember The Ending of “Thelma and Louise”?

– Hawkwind