The Big Green Monster

Every time I hobble through the kitchen in my home, I have to turn my head away from the window so that I will not catch a glimpse of my nemesis. It is big, it is green, it is frightening, and it is NOT going to go away. But maybe, just maybe, if I don’t catch a glimpse, I won’t be overwhelmed by my feeling that I should be doing something about it.

My arch-enemy is not a big green snake. It is not Oscar the Grouch, or Kermit the Frog. It is the huge, weed-infested yards that surround the home we currently live in. You see, our home was built in the 1950s, and is therefore not restricted by the Xeriscape requirements that most homes here in Albuquerque are. (Xeriscape is landscaping designed around low water use. Think cactus and rocks.) However, by the time we moved into the house 3 years ago, no one had bothered to do anything else with landscaping the home for years. So, when the weather starts warming up again, we wind up in a home surrounded by huge patches of weeds. Where there are not weeds, there is simply good old-fashioned dirt.

In my head, I am the kind of guy who is out every weekend working on his perfectly manicured yard –  a couple of small lawns, some fruit trees, even a garden for fresh veggies. In reality, I am disabled, mobility-impaired, and know nothing about yard care in the first place. So, I should just farm the work out, right? Last week, I attempted to do just that – I spoke with a handyman here in our neighborhood about what it would cost us to rein in my front yard. He took one look at my yard, filled with two-foot high weeds punctuated my 3 dead 10-foot tall trees that would have to be chain-sawed and removed, and quoted me a reasonable price – $60.

But, no matter how I tried, I could not squeeze another $60 our of our household budget. Social Security Disability keeps our household held firmly below the poverty line, and leaves no money for things like contractor yard care. Discouraged, I decided to tackle the problem myself. I spent two hours with a weed trimmer engaged in combat with the front yard. The end result? I was laid out for 3 days from injuring my back and knees. And my front yard is just as ugly as it ever was – now filled with dirt and dead weeds, over which still tower my deceased trees.

So, here I sit, crippled by my two disabilities – the one that keeps me from working (epilepsy), and the one that keeps me from moving (obesity). Between the two, I feel effectively trapped – and that gigantic patch of weeds in the back yard just keeps growing. Unless the Xeriscape Fairy arrives, I can expect that the situation is never going to change – even if I had the energy to take down all those weeds (which I don’t), I still wouldn’t have the money to replace them with something else. The circle of life continues.

Now, the odds are good that weight loss will give me back some mobility. There is even a chance (not a guarantee, but a chance) that weight loss will increase the efficacy of my anti-seizure meds – maybe even to the point where I could look into beginning to work again. But until that day arrives, I will just have to keep on waiting for the willpower to charge out into the back yard and injure myself again reining it in. Knowing all the while that the front yard is once again getting over-grown…

Sighing and Trying Not To Look Out The Windows,

– Hawkwind

The Emotional Pain of Costco

Warehouse store, or den of torture?

Through the last few weeks of evaluation and preparation for bariatric surgery, I have been pretty happy with my mental attitude. I have been looking at the upcoming surgery as an opportunity to get healthier, not something that I am unhappy about or dreading. And I have, for the most part, been looking forward to the life changes that will come along with weight loss. Some sacrifices have to be made, sure, but they are all worth it, right?

Then, I met my emotional Waterloo last Friday, on a grocery visit to our local Costco.

Exploring The Forbidden

At first, it wasn’t too bad.  I decided as we entered, that I would check some of my favorite foods against the pre-surgical diet of 135 grams per day (or less) of Carbohydrates. We walked through the door and were immediately confronted with a rack filled with Costco muffins. Now THERE was something I would never have again, right? I checked the nutritional info, and boy howdy, was I right. Each muffin was 690 calories (1/3 of my daily caloric intake), with 79 grams of carbohydrates – almost 2 full meals worth. I shuddered a bit to think of the number of times I had eaten a muffin (or two…) along with a regular breakfast, and then moved deeper into the store.

Things did not get easier once inside. Many of my favorite processed foods called out to me from the frozen section. Frozen hash browns stood out harshly – they are a required ingredient in one of our “staple foods” around here, breakfast burritos. 18 grams of carbs a serving…and a serving was only 3 ounces of potatoes. The last time I put only 3 ounces of potatoes in a burrito would be, let’s see, NEVER. More like three times that amount.  So, 54 grams of hash browns in a burrito…and I normally eat at least 2  burritos for breakfast…that would be 108 grams of carbs, taken out of my pre-surgery 135 gram per day diet, before factoring in any other ingredient! More than two-thirds of my daily carbohydrate diet, gone in 2 breakfast burritos! Once I realized breakfast burritos were going to have to come off the menu, depression began to set in.

We had to pass through the section filled with all the beautiful imported beers I will never have again. Through the aisle containing the Ghiradhelli Brownie mixes I would not be making again any time soon. I had a brief hope when we hit the fruit juices, hoping for some relief here (fruit is healthy, right?), but, nope: a mere 8 ounces of Welch’s Grape Juice was a whopping 36 carbs. No more fruit juice as a Coke replacement for me, then, I trudged onward.

The Cruelest Blow

And then, the breaking point. My nose recognized that strong, earthy scent, and I realized I had arrived at the coffee aisle. We are only a few days now from D-Day (Decaf, that is) here at home, and I simply could no longer bear the thought of what was coming down the road. I have been a habitual coffee drinker since 16 years of age and now it, too, will be making an exit from my life. I suddenly felt like a 6-year-old being hauled through Toys-R-Us and being told firmly to not touch anything. I looked back at the aisles filled with forbidden items, then looked into our cart filled with Kale, Celery, and multivitamins, and had never felt so betrayed in my life.

My depressed mental state lasted all the way home. Once we arrived, I was left to unload the groceries from the car. And, after carrying 3 loads of groceries from car to fridge – a total of maybe 90 steps – I had to collapse on the couch, panting as if I had run a marathon.

Oh, right. That is why I am doing this.

Still Winded,

– Hawkwind

Tech Crisis and Experimentation

While updating today’s earlier blog, I noticed that Facebook, in its infinite wisdom, is no longer producing links to blog titles. After an hour of arguing with the stubborn software, I turned to another piece of tech geekery: “If This, Then That.” Supposedly, this software will put out a Facebook message AND a Twitter message every time I publish. This would remove my having to do this manually every day, so I have attempted to set it up. However, Updating a current blog post doesn’t seem to trigger it – only a new post will do. Hence, this long-winded experimental post to see if the new software solution actually works.

Thanks for your patience while I work this out, and I (hopefully) now return you to your regularly scheduled Misdirected.

Drowning in the Sea of Technology,

– Hawkwind

Not Living, Just Surviving

We’ve had quite a few conversations with friends and family members in recent days, talking about the nuts and bolts details of the upcoming surgeries. While the great majority of these conversations have been strongly supportive, a few have been…less so. One recent conversation with a family member springs to mind.

The family member in question had lots of questions about what I was going to be giving up as a bariatric surgery patient. “So, no more beer, ever?” he asked at one point.

“No,” I explained, “no carbonation at all. It makes the stomach pouch expand, and you wind up right back where you started.”

“So, like, no Cokes either?”

“No, none. I need to avoid coffee too – caffeine is a diuretic, and staying hydrated is super important after the surgery.”

“No coffee!” he exclaimed. “I need coffee in the morning to wash down my breakfast!”

“Yeah,” I explained, hanging on to my patience with both hands. “Can’t really wash things down while eating anyway. You can’t drink while you are eating at all. You need all the space in your stomach at meals for food.”

He leaned back and crossed his arms, clearly disgusted. “No beer, no coffee, can’t even drink when you want. That’s not living, That’s just surviving.”

Now, I personally have a strong opinion on survival – I think it beats the alternative. And, I understand that the relative in question isn’t suggesting I should bite the dust in the name of drinking beer. It is a question of quality of life that is being raised here, not life vs. death. And, as it happens, I have a certain amount of experience in evaluating quality of life. Over a decade of dealing with Epilepsy has had me questioning many times: Is this really worth it? And, despite all the things that Epilepsy has forced me to give up, I have always come back with the answer that life itself is worth continuing, even without the various components that I used to previously enjoy.

And, here’s the thing: Bariatric Surgery may not only extend my life, but it also has the potential to give back many of the things I have lost previously. Reduced weight could increase my activity level enough so that I could start weight lifting again. It could remove my dependence on a machine to help me breathe at night while I sleep. It could mean a reduction in my arthritis symptoms, meaning I am no longer in constant pain. Heck, it even has the potential to reduce the dosage of my anti-seizure meds – meaning that the “brain fog” I am constantly in might be lifted somewhat. Sounds an awful lot like a new lease on life, where I am currently just surviving.

Is that worth giving up Starbucks and Samuel Adams? Yeah, I think so.

Considering Switching to Bushmill’s,

– Hawkwind

PS – If you have a family member who is considering bariatric surgery, be supportive – a good support structure is a necessity to be successful.

A Look Behind The Curtain

Anyone who has spent even a small amount of time following Misdirected knows that I kinda keep things on the DL (Down Low – keeping things hidden, for those who missed the class on Speaking Like The Cool Kids.) I use a pen name, major characters in my life are referred to by nicknames or pronouns, etc. It isn’t that I have any particular desire to remain a secret. Far from it, in fact – those who don’t know me can work out my real name just from looking at my email address over there to the right somewhere. But I have no wish to expose any one else’s life accidentally – as my Mother likes to say, “Those are not my stories to tell.” Where my stories intersect with other lives is where I get real nervous about what is safe to talk about.

Imagine my surprise when the love of my life, Loralia, starts speaking to me last night about bringing up a subject that I have specifically left completely unmentioned thus far. Lor is intimately involved with Misdirected – she acts as my copy editor, thesaurus, and memory bank all rolled in to one person. So, she is well aware of anything that I have said or allowed to remain unspoken in these posts. And last night she mentioned to me that I should talk about something pretty relevant to my recent posts. I countered that the information was not really anyone else’s business. She was firm: “I don’t want anyone to think there is any shame in what we are doing here.” I conceded.

So, the news is this: I am actually not going through Bariatric Surgery alone. Lor is also taking part in the process, with her schedule running about 6 weeks ahead of mine. While my surgery will be taking place in August, hers will most likely take place in June.

Our surgery coordinator and our surgeons are delighted – couples that go through the surgery together have a vastly higher long-term success rate than individuals that have to go it alone. With built-in diet monitors and accountability partners right at home, the temptations to fall off the wagon are greatly diminished. And the support system that is required for encouragement and validation? No further than across the dinner table.

Now, this has created some worries in our household. Lor has been a long-time opponent of body-shaming, and has worked diligently for decades with friends, family members and clients to help them to love themselves as they are, rather than cave in to societal expectations of what a “perfect” body should look like. Lor is beautiful and she knows it, and she has helped so many other women understand the beauty they already possess without diets, without input from Vogue and Cosmo, and without…surgery.

But, the hard truth of the matter is that Lor’s family has a long history of Diabetes. Lor’s family has lost several members to the disease already. And Lor’s case of Diabetes has gotten so bad that she recently had to retire from Massage Therapy – her joints and musculature have atrophied so badly that she is in constant pain, unable to do the work she loves any longer. This is hard news for a young woman with many years of life left in front of her. And, one of the best treatments for this disease is – Bariatric Surgery. The decision, for Lor, was not at all about the cosmetic effects of surgery. Same as with me, Lor wants to be able to have some “quality” restored into her Quality of Life.

The two of us found it very odd that, while I was waiting for my initial appointment to be evaluated for surgery, Lor’s family practitioner suggested out of the blue that Lor be evaluated as well. Lor’s doc was a LOT more aggressive than mine, and moved Lor over into the fast lane, getting her evaluated, approved, and started on the process while I was still waiting for my initial eval. Lor is basically 6 weeks ahead of me on this journey, and I have (selfishly, yes) enjoyed the benefits of being able to see what is coming down the road for me through her eyes.

Thanks again to everyone for your support and interest in this whole process. We both appreciate the encouragement through what has been a pretty mind-blowing process so far.

Envisioning Life Without Diabetes and Arthritis,

– Hawkwind and Loralia